Posts belonging to Category Mendocino



Taking Back the “M” Word in 2014

wine futures

wine futures

Hissy fit! Minerality is such an overused term we banned it from the tBoW wine lexicon. Like “it is what it is.” Not on this blog. However, upon consulting with cooler heads and more clear minds the “m” word is back in the game with the caveat that we will only use it to describe wines with high acid and stony character including sulfuric aromatics. High acid and strong citric flavors will not suffice to invoke “minerality.” It’s a new day and we have wines to review.

The Stupid Bore is over. With it the holidays have officially completed. We have a clear pathway to summertime which means Roses and bright summer white wines. It is also means severe drought conditions in California. At least the East and Midwest regions will dry out. Maybe one last crippling character building snowstorm in April. Hope not.

DomaineLA is a somewhat new wine shop on Melrose Avenue in WeHo. They have “more wine and less attitude.” We can say they have wines we are looking for and a highly informed floor person – Courtney – naked-wineWEBwho was able to answer nearly every question we had… about wines. We found the impossible-to-find-on-the-West-Coast Close de la Roillete Vendange Tardive at the shop at a very fair price discounted 10% with overall case purchase. We also found a very decent selection of “natural” wines [ed. new obsession alert!], Burgs and wines from other regions we like including Beaujolais and the Loire. She also had a nice group of Italian wines but not the Sagrantino which Alice Feiring writes about that we were looking for. tBoW also checked at WHWineCo. They have had these unusual wines – specific producers, read the book – but not for several vintages.

The Alice Feiring book “Naked Wine” is exceptionally informative. She covers the original winemakers pushing the “natural” wine movement. She describes their methods and provides a very helpful running discussion of the underlying philosophy and vine to wine values. Feiring is a thorough reporter as well making sure to describe the squishiness of this “movement” and how hard and fast opinions on actions such as using sulfur are actually quite malleable. Still digging it. Here are some wine reviews; not one with minerality.

roty_mars_082008 Roty Marsannay Les Ouzeloy $35: With this bottle and the recent Pataille tasting that featured his Marsannay wines we believe we have a sense of this undervalued and, for us, under-investigated region in the northern Cote d’Or. This wine took 2.5 hours to open. Over that period we saw more action than was taking place on the “most watched TV program ever.” This wine opened masculine and finished that way going from rough and brutish to firm and manageable. This is manly Pinot Noir, sinewy and powerful like the Olympic ice racers [ed. not the “dancers”] we will be watching very soon. Impressive. Roty is a premium producer. Bought from Eno Fine Wine. 13%

deforvill_neb_10WEB2010 De Forville Langhe Nebbiolo $18: Young vine Barbaresco, Rosenthal selection. We had the 2008 version and just purchased the 2011 at DomaineLA. This is a great intro wine to premium Piemonte at a very good price U20 price. Rich and full, middleweight, will take some age to reveal the Piemonte Neb character. We sucked this down after the Marsannay ran out. That helped us through the 4th quarter. We have found older vintages at Liquid Wine. 13.5%

scavino_96WEB1996 Silvio Grasso Barolo Ciabot Manzoni $80: Special meal wine shared by Dotoré. Classic aromas of tar and roses. Meaty yet light on its feet. Boxers – lightweights, welterweights, middleweights – often crowd our consciousness when tasting aged Baroli. This is a Carlos Monzon [ed. Argentine 70s] bottle. Exotic, hitting power, elegance. The wine kept its power and finesse for the entire evening. 14%

nav_gewurtz_2001WEB2001 Navarro Gewurtztraminer Late Harvest Cluster Select $24: Picked off the shelf at Liquid. It is always somewhat of a risk when payng for a dessert wine in a split from a producer not known for such. Weighing in favor of the buy was that Navarro is a very consistent winery and Gewurtz is one of their staple white wines. But could it last 12 years? Poured out dark brown and clear. Looked like root beer without the fizz. The flavors were completely exotic: caramel, coffee and cola. All in harmony and so tasty. A perfect dessert wine for the fresh Meyer lemon possit pudding it accompanied. Spectacular. 10%

The image at top was taken in our local Target [ed. “tar-zjay”] store. The marketing genius displayed… Think about Colonel Kurtz explaining to Capt Willard how… never mind. Will the next generation of these Modern House Wines labels will include “minerality mania” and “natural wonder.” I kid you not: Oprah Favorite.

Recommended reply to the use of “it is what it is”: fuzzy wuzzy was a bear. Try it. Fun.

On the topic of boxers…here is the commentary from the end of the 12th round from the 1962 Emile Griffith vs Benny Paret fight which Griffith won by knockout. Paret never got up. Televised boxing was suspended for a decade. Supposedly Paret had called Griffith “maricon” at the weigh in.

Holiday Road Trip to The City

pray for parking

the dao of parking

It is hard to go wrong with a quick trip to San Francisco. In the Wintertime the San Francisco air is exceptionally crisp. The sunlight can cut glass. What’s not to like? OK. Cars are strongly discouraged. It can cost twice to park overnight as it does to rent for a day. The scene at Union Square is bright and cheery and overly commercial; full of holiday shoppers.

However, if you want to try another cultural flavor the city is hardly bereft of captivating neighborhoods. arlequinWEBThe Mission bustles with local shops and plenty of homeless people crashing in the alleys. The mural filled alleys of the Mission are tourist destinations. Thank you Trip Advisor. Hayes Street Gulch has two blocks of shops, food spots and a very appealing wine shop/bar/deli. The sign says Arlequin. If you like a combo wine shop/deli this should work. tBoW purchased a bottle of Cowan Cellars Ribollo Gialla that came highly recommended as an “orange wine.” This Eastern Mendocino product tasted nothing like oranges but it was pretty cool even though we did not decant as recommended. We opened and poured on the spot.

Cowan-2012-Ribolla_400WEB2012 Cowan Cellars Ribollo Gialla $24: From the website: “Light gold color, brilliant; aromas of apricot, light honey, persimmon, nutmeg and a floral note might give the impression of a sweet wine but the palate is dry; the flavors echo the nose, concentrated texture, lively acids and grippy tannins; good length but needs a year in bottle to become integrated. Should be cellared for at least a year and should drink well for another decade. This wine should never be over-chilled; cellar temperature or warmer for service.” The wine has an orange tint. The winemaker stops fermentation so “retain acidity.” What a great idea! As Kris-B touted, this is a good sign of the thinking winemaker figuring how to make wines more food friendly and generally interesting. As Cowan’s website states “fine wines for lighter meals…if you want a wine of personality and quality at a reasonable price…” We’re convinced. 12.5%

Mission mojo hand

Mission mojo hand

tBoW dined at Foreign Cinema in the Mission. The expansive restaurant is set in an old movie house. A movie plays on the rear wall in the (heated) outdoor patio. The rustic interior hall is noisy and alive. We shared half a fresh Dungeness crab with a glass of Old World white from the more than satisfying wine list. This is how it is in SF dining. In fact, wine is passe. The cocktail culture has gripped on the city. tBoW ordered a muddled something with Bourbon and cane sugar. Yum.

Here are some pretty impressive bottles recently cracked.

TAMI12WEB2012 Arianna Occhipinti ‘Tami’ Nero d’Avola Terre Siciliane $15: Soulful, luscious, inspiring in the most sensual ways. But enough of Arianna Occhipinti. How’s her wine? Blackberry fruit, bright acid, light to middle weight. The label says typical for Southern Italian wine AND at a price everyone can afford? What’s not to like? Ms. Occhipinti is a terrific winemaker. We hope she gets out a little. All that time stirring the cap and beating down the must has to make a girl lonesome. A U20 deal. 13%

PerraudMaconVillages09WEB2009 Domaine Perraud Macon-Villages Vielles Vignes $19: Nobody can say it better. “A wine made by XXX censored2WEB so you can count on lots of oak/batonnage, etc. Whatever they have to do to make it slutty. And they’re not picky about farming practices.” Hey. Don’t shoot the reporter. We thought we were crossing the line sexualizing Arianna O. Slutty wine? We liked this little Chard but we would not buy it again, especially now that we could get herpes or something worse. Screw top Chardonnay [ed. big tip right there] from Burgundy’s bargain basement. I feel so dirty. 13%

2007 Angelo Germano Barolo $34: Entry level Barolo from Germans. Very good buy from Eno Fine Wine. Bro’ in law flipped and the last time that happened with wine was when I showed him the Arianna O googleimages page. Dark red black color, not thick. Anise nose on the open, full of life, could take decanting but it is so exciting right away. Not much chance to see it develop as it got sucked up tout suite. Higher alcohol not even noticed. Listed online for less $$ but not usually in stock. 14.5%

Papa Fred Memorial Saturday.

New World vs Old World: Shifting Fields & Dreams

cupcake batter

cupcake batter

The division between the New and the Old Worlds of wine may be shifting. What isn’t? Not talking NDLS even though Los Doyers are hitting big and takin’ no prizners. We could be talking global warming which may be changing the way the Old World and New World play ball [ed. you had to bring that up didn’t you]. Old World wines may be more fruity than before. Pinot Noir from Germany and Alto Adigio may rival Burgundy. The cooler Willamette Valley may be getting more annual sunny days raising the fruit flavors and alcohol levels for what we consider to be the ablest region for Pinot Noir in the nation. Farmers in the Kohanagen Valley in Canada – recently limited to “ice” dessert wines – are growing warm weather varietals. Los Doyers will play for the National League title. Kiffin is GONE. Do any mysteries remain? (more…)

Napa 2013: Land ‘O Cab Discovers… Pinot Noir??

2000 ft above the Napa floor

2000 ft above the Napa floor

The Napa Valley is where the greatest Cabernet wines in the world are grown and produced. Move over Bordeaux. Lafite, Petrus and Mouton do not command any greater prices than Shrying Eagle or Harlan Estate or a host of ever newer Napa grown ultra-exclusive collectors’ labels. Napa is home to The French Laundromat where a meal for $600 is considered fair market among the 1%ers that populate the valley. Napa has all the excess to match the best that Bordeaux and Michelin have. Robert Mondavi, godblesshim, realized his dream with a vengeance.

Imagine our surprise when we learned that a new wave of non-Cabernet wines has swept through quite a few of the valley’s better know and longer established wineries. We realize that the legacy grapes, i.e., Charbono, Petite Sirah, Zinafandel, planted by the original international farmers have always had a warm spot somewhere in the back of the cellars. And Carneros still grows and produces pretty darn good Pinot Noir. But who knew that Viognier, Sangiovese and Chardonnay were back in the Valley. Or even moreso, that Pinot Noir and Alsatian style white wines are being sourced from the cooler Anderson Valley to the north? Oh yeah. And these wines are very good.

FionaHalCROPWEBLet’s begin with Barnett Vineyards. You will not find a nicer couple atop Spring Mountain than Fiona and Hal Barnett. And you will not find a more spectacular view from their “tasting patio.” They selected their vineyard home in the 1980s, cleared rocks the size of small tractors, and planted Cab and Merlot. The first vintage of Rattlesnake Hill [ed. they encountered 33 rattlers clearing the land] was awarded 96 points by Parker and their maillist filled up. Maybe they got bored with Cab blends. Maybe they figured it was a good winery idea to offer Pinot Noir. I think Fiona and Hal like Pinot Noir. Sometime in the 1990s they started sourcing juice from Donnelly Creek and  Savoy Vineyards in the Anderson Valley and Tina Marie Vineyard in Green Valley. They make between 6,000 and 8,000 cases a year. David Tate is the winemaker.

2011 Barnett Vineyards Tina Marie Vineyard Green Valley Pinot Noir $45: Technically this is Russian River Valley although it is at the northernmost end. Lots of cherry fruit, definitely New World style. But fruit is not so ripe. Sweetness like baked yams. Best of all is the alcohol level is 13.2%.

tasting "patio"

tasting “patio”

2011 Barnett Vineyards Anderson Valley Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir $45: More lean, brighter acid, charcoal toughness. Great style for Pinot. 13.5%

Pride Mountain Vineyards is 500 feet further up the road form Barnett. No winding single-lane driveway here as the winery straddles the main drag on the Sonoma/Napa County line. Pride Cabernets are highly collectible. The place is less haimish than Barnett. They also have a strong maillist. Barnett and Pride are highly “collectible” earning mid-90 scores from whoever awards these vintage after vintage [ed. in the trophy wine world today’s 90 is yesterday’s 87]. And on that score they are downright cheap at $60 and up. However, we found a white wine to be the most seductive.

2011 Pride Mountain Vineyard Mistrelle de Viognier $42: Served chilled. Bright yellow color with a slight spritz. Quince flavors from free-run Viognier juice. The wine is sweet and refreshing given the solid acid spine. But it is NOT late harvest. What a delight. This could give any summer Moscato a run except you could buy 4 bottles of Moscato for the price! I think it may only be available at the winery. You need a collectible mentality to seek this out… and pay for it! 14.1%

anne_grapesWEBAnne Moller-Racke [ed. pronounced ahna molar rake] is the winemaker for three labels: Donum Cellars, Stemmler Vineyards and her own Blue Farm label. Driving out to the Donum estate is a bit like driving through that Wyeth painting Christina’s World. Rolling hills of grass and vineyards. We passed a guy outside his car who was watching a very large snake on the roadside. Wish I had  stopped and taken a picture! It was all forgotten as Anne told us about herself and poured tastes from five bottles of Donum Gold Label Pinot Noir [ed. black label less costly and presumably for earlier drinking]. She is a farmer who manages the vineyards for several clients including those mentioned. She grows and cooks her own produce and raises cheep. Vigneron, farmer, gardener, cook. Think Renaissance Woman.

These Donum wines were highly extracted and very intense. They were all light to middle weight and dark red. The last domestic Pinot Noir wines I can recall like these were the East and West Block vineyards from Rochioli. I was a bit embarrassed when she finally asked me after I commented once again “so intense” whether I liked the wines.  I told her if I had these wines I would not touch them for 5 years. They all tasted like Pinot Noir which is not the case for similarly structured Central Coast Pinot Noir wines which almost uniformly taste like Syrah [ed, Jim Clendenen’s Pinot Noir wines being the exception]. Donum Estate produces about 2500 cases a year. Usually sold out by now.
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2010 Donum Estate Carneros Pinot Noir ~$70: Earthy, spicy character. Dark chocolate color and flavors. Blockbuster. 14.5%

2010 Donum Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ~$72: Intense flavors, dark color. Needs aging. Reminds me of Bergstrom from Ribbon Ridge in the Willamette Valley. If the Carneros is dark choco with the softer fruit this is milk chocolate. 14.5%

2010 Donum Estate Carneros East Slope ~$80: Extracted. I have never tasted a Pinot Noir this s-e-r-i-o-u-s from Carneros. The antithesis of Sainstbury. If McKenzie-Mueller is rustic this is regal. Both need time to mature. Bob Mueller’s Pinot Noirs always pay off after 8 to 10 years. I am certain these will as well. 14.5%

2010 Donum Estate Carneros West Slope Pinot Noir ~$85: The MOST intense and extracted wine yet. Dark, brooding. Rhubarb and red beet flavors. She says they dropped a lot of fruit for this batch. My fave. 14.5%

2010 Donum Estate 10th Anniversary Pinot Noir ~$90: A blend of the best three barrels from the vintage. Anise on the nose and in the mouth.  Maple syrup and pancakes. Yummy good. The most approachable wine form the top fruit. Two barrels came from West Block parcels. 14.5%

Napa is where you can count on finding great wines and Big Reds. It is also still a wine region where things are still changing. Kirk Venge told us there is a “changing  of the guard” taking place in Napa. We visited Charles Krug and you do not get more old-school-stuck-in-their-ways than that. However, the brothers Mark and Peter Jr. have assumed the reins and have made several big moves including building a new storage facility/tasting center. Most importantly, they hired Stacy Clark away from Pine Ridge Vineyards. She had been there for 30 years.

Napa felt more settled this visit. Do not go to Napa for value. Go for the unexpected. Now there’s a change.

in memoriam: tBoW webmeister Al Stone has moved on to a better place. I came across a cartoon he sent me once with the recommendation to use it at an appropriate time. No time like now.

physician-bloggersWEB

Summer Time and Summer Wine

JEff_CasanovaWEB2Dotoré can finally exhale. The summer has arrived. Even though the official Summer Equinox is June 21 ’round these parts shit is here already. Temps in 90s, hot tub running, goff any day we like. It is time to pay serious attention to bright whites, cool reds and pink ladies. (more…)