30 April, 2012

Location, location, location! Review of single-vineyard designate Nebbiolos of Palmina

Do you pay attention to where your wine comes from? Not just the country or appellation but the vineyard(s)? And what does it mean if your wine comes from a particular vineyard, and does it really matter? As a part of Wine Blogging Wednesday#75 on wines from single-designate vineyards, I explored these questions and have come up with a tentative answer: Yes, it can matter if your wines come from certain vineyards. To illustrate this thesis I tasted two 2006 Nebbiolos made by Palmina Winery which came from two very distinct vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

I discovered Palmina last year on a trip to the Santa Barbara Vintner's Festival in April and I fell in love with their bottlings of Italian varietals such as Barbera, Dolcetto, Tocai Friulano,Pinot Grigio and Arneis to name a few. Palmina is also known for their single-vineyard Nebbiolos and the winemaker, Steve Clifton, pays much attention to clonal selection, terroir and climate. Nebbiolo is a fickle grape that can be hard to grow. The name may be derived from the Italian word for fog (nebbia)and this grape needs the coolness of foggy conditions to fully-develop. Nebbiolo is the grape used for Barolos and Barbarescos of the Piedmont region of Italy. Palmina has found a perfect place with the right micro-climates and soils of various vineyard sites in Santa Barbara County to grow Nebbiolo and make stunning wines.
Stolpman Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley

We tasted 2 Palmina Nebbiolos side-by-side and here are the tasting notes:
2006 Stolpman Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley
This beauty is deep red with russet edges, with aromas of cherry, cassis, cedar, and tobacco covering subtle notes of violets. The palate is seductive, elegant, smooth and balanced with flavors of truffles and black cherries. It reminded me of an actual Barolo. In the Piemonte region Barolo is referred to as the "King of wines and the wine of Kings." This California Nebbiolo is something I would not hesitate to serve to royalty.

2006 Sisquoc Ranch Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
This wine is an intense purple rimmed with magenta and it seduces your palate with concentrated layers of red fruit, herbs and an earthy finish. However, the fruit is a very high-toned red cherry, with heavy oakiness, high acidity, and strong tannins.
Like all fine Barolos this is a wine made for aging and I may have opened it a little early as I felt it was lacking in the smooth elegance of the Stolpman.

Doing this side-by-side tasting made me question why these two wines were so different. According to Steve Clifton, the Nebbiolos are vinified in very similar ways and both the Stolpman and Sisquoc fruit go through long periods of ageing in upright barrel casks for up to 4 years before bottling. They are both aged in bottle for 10 to 15 months before being released.

The differences could be attributed to clonal variation. However the grapes come from vineyards with vastly different soil types. The Stolpman was an example of Lampia clone nebbiolo grown in sandy loam over a limestone base. The Sisquoc is Michet clone grown in deeper clay soils over a gravel base. The Stolpman exhibits very elegant , perfumed qualities while the Sisquoc shows darker, more masculine qualities. So we can see that the varying terroir of each vineyard can absolutely affect the aromas and flavors of wine. Of course there are myriad other factors that affect wine but how often do you get to compare the same varietal grown in different vineyards that are from the same vintage? The fact that Steve Clifton grows this fabulous varietal in different sites that show such different qualities just sends me to wine geek heaven as I contemplate these delicious differences.
Visit Palmina at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto or go to www.palminawines.com

26 April, 2012

Wine For Every time of the day - Review of Cerruti Cellars

One of the great things about living in the East Bay is the close proximity of great food and wine.  You might not think of the 510 Urban Jungle as "wine Country" but it is home to some great finds.  One that Luscious Lush Thea and I toured recently is Cerruti Cellars.  Built in an old produce cold storage facility, it has thick concrete walls that whisper speakeasy secrets as well as  many wonderful contemporary features made from reclaimed wine items.  Barrel staves and racking shelves are transformed into decorative elements  and lighting fixtures.  So cool! But the real story is the wine. 

2010  Honker Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, California, USA ($13)
Named for the Canadian geese that nest behind the crush pad  where the wine is made in Napa Valley.  A clear pale citrine color with aromas of Asian Pear,  citrus,  tropical hints  and fresh minerality.Lovely fresh tastes of rich pear and sparky acidity touch of honeyed fruit
Lingering changing finish

2009 Tractor Shed Red
Everyday red.  Small Lot efforts with big production.  Fruit comes from various:Sangiovese extreme SoCa,  Zin: foothills Lodi, Merlot:Mendocino,  Cab Franc: Monterey came together in an interesting blend with smoky cherry aromas.  Med+ body and flavors of  dark berry, cedar with briar in the finish

2010 Flat Bed Red
 This turned my preconception of  "California " as designation on its head.  Having a natural terror to most hooch carrying that designation,  I was apprehensive.  But this was very tasty. 95% Zinfandel with 5% Cab Franc.  Deep garnet aromas of red fruit with hint of morning bun with raspberry jam  "History in a bottle" said Thea, of  Luscious Lushes

2008 Tudal Family Winery Napa Valley Cuvee- 
Red blend that includes Petit Sirah,  Malbec and  Zin.  Interestingly like a bright Merlot, this blend reminds me of the Prisoner.  Certain to be a crowd pleaser in elegant bottle at $20 awesome QPR for your wine friends or wino posers alike. 

But don't take my word for it.  Early bird tickets for the Passport to the East Bay Vintners ends in only 4 days.   For $10 extra, you can get a shuttle pass to go from winery to winery with starting points at BART and ferry pickups.  Plan to make Cerruti a stop.  As it anchors what is becoming a Jack London Square triangle of food and goodness what with being across the tracks from Haven and Boca Nova,

or Visit during non-event times
Saturday: By Appointment
Sunday: 12:30PM – 5:30PM
For Private Tastings call Cerruti Cellars at 510-550-2900
100 Webster Street, Suite 100, Oakland, CA 94607
John Tudal entertaining us
History in a bottle says Thea

25 April, 2012

#WBW76 Barossa Boomerang - Cupcake Vineyards 2010 Shiraz

Wow!  Till I read the topic of WBW#76, I hadn't even realized how long it has been since I had an Australian Shiraz.  And that had been my go to pick 2008 - ?  I personally blame it on my obsession with Pinot Noir and Shiny Object Syndrome (Orange wine! Rose!  etc...) So I will be curious to read the wrap up to see how others explain their boomerang whiplash.  For my post, I wanted to focus on a way beyond sub $30, great QPR offering from Cupcake Vineyards.  Recently I was lucky enough to be a guest of Lisa Klinck Shea of Folsom Associates, when the winemaker Adam Richardson was in San Francisco.  So I  got to hear the Cupcake story up close and personal.  Cupcake Vineyards wines are attractively priced and part of the brand philosophy is to provide an everyday treat for its customers.  We tasted through the line with some things that I liked more than others, but all had a freshness and food friendly quality that has made me look for them on my CostPlus World Market wine safaris.  For me the two standouts of the line up were the Shiraz and the Riesling.  And the Shiraz comes from the Barossa Valley, where Adam journeys to make the wine.
Adam, who is a native of Australia, regaled us  stories of his travels in Australia and tried to give us Australian lessons.  Along with that, he answered our questions on how all the wines were made.  Specifically for the Shiraz, when processing the grapes, they take care to gently crush them so they get lots of skin contact without  harshness or bitterness from the seeds.  They apply a specific regimen of malolactic and oak aging. This results in a smooth, gentle wine with flavors of black fruit, tinges of chocolate and a hint of spice.  It had a lovely aromas of mixed berries and dark fruit. It went very well with the pork dish I ordered and ended up being my favorite of all the reds. At suggested retail $13.99, a great deal
And of course, it ends up being a little harder to find than some of the other Cupcake Vineyards Wines.  Luckily, I can drive to  the Underdog Wine Bar ,  access their complete line and see what the folks there pair with it. You can also order it online here:
Cupcake Vineyards reminds us to " Live deliciously "Adam travels the world managing the wine making process so that it's easy and affordable for the rest of us.  Cheers!

24 April, 2012

Taking My Share from the Angels - Two Shepherds Wine Dinner

If you have ever tried Two Shepherds wine you know what a treat we had at the recent Winemaker's dinner at Toast Wine Lounge in Oakland's  Rockridge area. We got to speak with William Allen and hear about some of the philosophy behind his yummy wines. Made in a style he calls Old World, he uses growing techniques like long hang time to control acidity via nature. He gets great food friendly wines, not manipulating them, but rather by selecting great grapes and allowing those grapes to "speak" And if you listen closely they will say "Buy Me"

2010 Marsanne-Rousanne-Viognier, Saralee's Vineyard  Russian River Valley, with Asparagus Soup: Showcases the wine's food friendliness in an asparagus challenge We also got a little snootful of the Viognier which was delightful in its balance--- citrusy, with dash of floral taste. William charms the fruit from Saralee, then treats it carefully to let it find its own expression.

2010 Two Shepherds Syrah Mourvdre, Saralee's Vineyard Russian River Valley Paired with an oniony mushroom Chickpea Farinata which surprised the other Chicks that the the smooth nature of the wine complemented the spice of the food. Unfined and unfiltered with natural yeasts, again a lovely expression of Saralee's vineyard.

You can only visit Two Shepherds by appointment but it is worth looking for them at events like Rhone Rangers:

Find more info at Http://www.twoshepherdsvineyards.com

10 April, 2012

Chateau Baccarat launches a new line of luxury stemware

Many of us serious wine drinkers are familiar with high-end stemware such as Riedel and Schott Zwiesel but there is a new contender on the block: Chateau Baccarat. As in Baccarat Crystal, makers of the most beautiful crystal objects in the world.

Chateau Baccarat, in collaboration with Boisset Family Estates, took their crystal wares on the road and a small group of us met at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco to taste wine from these luxurious verres du vin.

These glasses were designed by an oenologist by the name of Bruno Quenioux who is the Head Sommelier at Maison Baccarat in France. Actually I should say they were engineered and the shape of this glassware was created to enhance aromas and flavors of wine. A little about the shape: Rounded Concave bottom and a wide base create a large surface of contact to better aerate wine; the "closed angle" condenses alcohols to let the aromas better express themselves and the "vertical chimney" at the top apparently reharmonizes the aromas that will soon be penetrating your senses. So does it work? Read on:

We did a side-by-side tasting of three wines: A 2009 Buena Vista Chardonnay, a 2009De Loach Pinot Noir and a Raymond Estates Cabernet Sauvignon which are each at the $20 price point. Each wine was poured in the control glass (a rather small yet typical wine glass you probably have at home) which you tasted and then poured into the Baccarat glass. The difference was quite striking for each wine. Aromas were much more pronounced and the flavors were fuller and richer. It improved the quality of the wine so much that each tasted more expensive. Which is a perk as this stemware is not cheap.

If you must own luxury items this stemware is beautiful and functional and would be worth adding to your collection. In the meantime I will add it to my bucketlist of purchases and save every penny that I can to purchase it. Stemware costs $85 a piece, tumbler is $70 a piece and the decanter is a mere $499. So is it worth the money? If it makes your wine taste like a higher quality wine maybe yes. Especially if it will make my $2 buck Chuck taste like $4 buck chuck!

Anthony Dias Blue led us through the tasting

They also make a champagne flute

Heidi's Napa Appreciation #2: ’09 Pine Ridge Carneros Chardonnay (Dijon Clones)

I had a glass of this Chardonnay last night with Easter dinner, but I was too busy as the host to slow down and really appreciate this wine which I bought in the tasting room last fall. But right now is about spring: Easter, new life, and new buds on the vines. About once a week, I get to drive past the Pine Ridge vineyard on Buhman Road in Carneros, and the region has one of the most stunning displays of the four seasons I’ve ever seen. And right now, it’s all soft green and brown—the perfect setting for an Easter wine.

Tonight I had a couple more glasses of the ’09 Pine Ridge Carneros Chardonnay (Dijon Clones) with leftover pork shoulder roast, a potato/sweet potato/zucchini tian, and asparagus. And wow. This Chardonnay was crisp and bright enough to stand up next to the asparagus, and cut through the fattiness of the pork while lending an ironically autumnal apple and pear compliment. The salt, sweetness, and earthinesss of the sweet potatoes in the tian brought out the honey and lemon chiffon, and orange sherbet notes and softly creamy finish in the wine. I think I enjoyed the leftover food and wine tonight more than when I first served it last night.

As a new Napa resident, I feel both obligated and passionate about exploring the local wines. One of my first weekends of living in Napa, I pulled into Pine Ridge and of all the wines I tasted that day, I was most taken by this Dijon Clone Chardonnay. This is a great wine from one of the classic Napa houses.