Posts belonging to Category Sonoma



The Storied Tasting

Picture this…a cooler than normal day in late May.

Wine, cheese and ready tasters.

Bacchus and Mr. Story smiled.

Image result for Bacchus blows clouds

Eight tasters around the table outside the kitchen: Lou, Shag Man, David Mac, Large, tBoW hisself, Mr Story, Dotore and Broki. Five cognoscenti – Cognos and three Ignorami – Ignos. At least ten corks were pulled. The day’s goal was to edjicate Mr. Story about wine. And to chew on cheese.

When one is trying to “get it” about wine, the first lesson is to comprehend the many traps that must be avoided. Such as the 100 point rating scale. Total bullshit. Marketing to sell wines and magazines. When the lowest rating EVER is 87 then the scale is actually 13 points; not 100. Ignore the score.

That was an easy sell. The U20, U15 and U10 ratings defined by Le Large is far more useful [ed. wines that cost “Under” the dollar amount]. Wine is all about the price/quality ratio [ed. see tBoW discussion from waaaay baaaack].

The mission was to provide the Ignos with enough experience to get along on their own in the silly pompous scores-driven world of wine. Where to buy wine? What to buy? How to tell if a wine is good or bad? tBoW’s goal was to keep the table breeze from blowing too hard if ya gets me drift. Here is how it went.

tBoW dug some older wines from his cellar that were beyond their shelf life by about a decade each. These wines were tired and out of synch. The only hints and notes they had were wrong (hints) and flat (notes). Great starters. Dispensed with 15 years of “flawed wine” disgruntlement in 45 minutes.

After the parade of flat , unbalanced and otherwise FLOD wines, the first “best wine” was opened. It was classic, seven year old burgundy from a highly reputed producer and a decent vintage.

2012 Regis Bouvier Clos du Roy, $35 at buy. Lou almost spit it out [ed. she likes wine with fruit]. The rest of the Cognos cooed. The Ignos did not know what to think. This wine opened for at least an hour. Burgs come in two flavors: beets or cherries. This was beety. A discussion about noble grapes erupted and the conceit of the New World to compete with the Old World noble varietals; Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauv, Nebbiolo and Riesling. Why are these grapes “noble?” Because they are! Now stop asking stupid questions. Lou came round in 40 minutes.

Other “star wines” included an Alto Piemonte (north Piedmont) and a Barolo (south Piedmont). Nebbiolo is the noble grape. Conversation focused on how Neb is a single grape wine near Alba (south of Torino) yet is still blended with local grapes in the Alto Piemonte. (north of Milano). The Cognos are fans of the Alto style: lean, low alcohol, lightweight, and simply delicious bending fruit with a distinctive local flavor, i.e., Gattinara, Bramaterra, Choochoo Wassy, etc.

As the second hour arrived it was time to open the guaranteed winner bottle; a single vineyard vintge Oporto. Port is a sweet wine that cannot be tasted until at least a decade passes. This had 25 years on it. It is a desert wine with a charming back story rooted in one of the extended wars between England and Spain. The producer is Martinez. Alcohol is 20% which is typical of port. Transcendent as aged ports can become.

1994 Quinta da Eira Velba by Martinez $35 on futures. The color was rusty brown. The nose showed toffee, coffee and rum. The flavors were true. We should all age so wonderfully. One bottle left in tBoW’s cellar!

But wait! said David Mac. I brought that Alysian Vermouth (17%). Pop goes the cork. The chilled wine was so exotic it challenged description. Oily. Bittersweet. Sorgum and spice. Camphor?  flavors are balanced. Orange peel. Must be therapeutic because I am reminded of my last rubdown. One of the Ignos – Shag Man – said “reminds me of an Old Fashioned.” The real amazing fact was the vermouth is made in Healdsburg! That’s right. Sonoma County. New World.

To summarize, here are some Quick and Dirty lessons for enjoying wine.

#1 Avoid grocery store wines. Unless the store is Gelsons in LA, Draegers in Palo Alto, Flatiron in San Francisco, or AJs in Scottsdale AZ. Forget Trader Joes and Whole Foods although if it came down to those 2? Better shot is Whole Foods.

#2 Identify and shop at a local Wine Store. Here in our neighborhood that is Woodland Hills Wine. The only others are Wine House in West LA, Hi Time in Costa Mesa and Wine Exchange in Santa Ana. Hi Time is best in So Cal. Honorable mention goes to Desert Wine Shop on 111 in Palm Desert [Katie of DWS below].

Katie Desert Wine Shop

#3 Shop online for best prices. This can be tricky. To do this well one must be armed with label, producer and vintage knowledge. The best deals are online. The Cognos cited Wines Til Sold Out (WTSO), Fass Selections and Garagiste. Most of these operations ship 2x/year so when the stash arrives after the summer it is in cases! Easy to lose track of how much you bought! KrisB is an exclusive online shopper. Many Cognos shop online.

#4 Buy the importer. Labels can be confusing. It takes years to read them. Wineries especially in the USA invent terms to impress the Ignos, such as Reserve, Special Select, Single Vineyard and Special Reserve. These mean n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Wait. I take that back. These phrases mean you pay a couple more bucks for n-o-t-h-i-n-g. You can always buy with confidence any wine imported by Kermit Lynch, Neal Rosenthal, Charles Neal or Louis/Dressner.

#5 Old World over New World. Europe and the Continent before Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Canada and Napa.

There were at lest two Dependable Quaffers. Cognos always have a handful of DQs nearby. Pull those U20 corks today. The Chave Mon Couer from the Rhone is always a U20, always balanced and easy to suck down on its own or with cashews. The 2015 Domaine Zafeirakis Limniona from Thessaly is a recent find with teasing exotica. At $17 it is a real deal. We found it at Desert Wine Shop and Hi Time.

Things get wild at Desert Wine Shop! Jump to the 1 minute mark and watch thru the 4 minute mark.

Some Mice! Some Wine! and Thou…

When the Cat Is Away…

[ed. Mr. Story: We are proud and honored to share with you the post below from the expert creator of the award-winning and globally known Mouse Wine Rating Scale, MAUS! Let us all read attentively as the MAUS politely squeaks his knowledge to us…]

A quick reminder about ratings. One MOUSE means I’d proudly serve this wine to anyone; Two MICE, a special occasion wine; three MICE, life-changing. [ed. Mr. Story fantasizes for a moment about how life changing a three mice wine would be paired elegantly with a three mice rated cheese. Oh who needs marriage when you could have that pairing!]

Today we look at SIX wines that total EIGHT mice.

Bacchus seems bearish on California pinot these days. I understand? Kinda? Problem is, they’re not burgundies, and they will never be. Nothing will. But they’re darn tasty.

2012 Onward Hawkeye Ranch (Redwood Valley). OK, I had to look up Redwood Valley, and what I learned was no surprise – Mendocino. Best pinot locale in USA. This wine, purchased for $10+S&H on winebid, is the lightest domestic around. Almost rose-ay. Slightly reminiscent of Marsannay, except Marsannay blows. This shows rose petals, red currant and lemon curd. Problem: it’s gone in 20 minutes.

2012 Inman Family Wine OGV Estate Pinot Noir. $25 plus S&H ($65 at wine shed they sell from). Olivet Grange, their site says, layers both Russian River and Sonoma Coast. Like the previous offering, this is subtle and Chambolley. What am I thinking? Burgundy? Well, this just needs a little spice to pass for the real deal. Bacchus would like. I sent a bottle to my brother-in-law and he flipped. You will too if you try this. More body than the Onward, but subtle as heck. An usually good domestic.

2012 Furthermore Weir Vineyard York Creek Pinot Noir. Pure California pinot in a great way. Lush, medium body, raspberry souffle that makes you want to buy an Alfa Romeo [ed. Mr. Story must contact the wine maker’s legal department immediately because the lack of a warning re this side effect is definitely a risk management issue that should be added to the label]. Another expensive wine (for me) that sold for half price on winebid, $25. York Creek is apparently as north as they grow in ever-loving Mendocino. I’ve never had a better pinot west of Paris. Almost changed my life. [ed. tBoW – I had a heckuvva time finding this winery, never located the particular bottling. These guys are P-R-I-C-E-Y so at $25 on winebid this was a super deal missing an extra digit up front ifyagetmuhdrift…and you like Sonoma Coast Pinot!]

White Interlude……………………

2014 Pikes Riesling Clare Valley. $15.  Aussies, and Kiwis, do a fine job with riesling. This is no exception. 12%, off dry. Lime with notes of petrol. Third glass starts to sear a bit of enamel off the teeth. Drink alone.  Meaning, don’t share. GREAT value. ONE Mouse.

 

 

GREECE! In spring we happened to be in Metsovo, a breathtakingly beautiful mountain village near nowhere. I read about its wine history; it’s boring.

 

 

 

 

2013 Rossiu di Munte Cabernet Sauvignon. I think the actual winery is called something else, but it’s Greek. Purchased in village from small food shop with local gourmet selection. Proprietor was super friendly and begged me try this wine. Perhaps his brother-in-law makes it. Not cheap! 27 Euros. Popped it last month. Had all the characteristics of a Graves but lacked body and depth. Menthol city, however. Superfun, however; the kind of experience that makes traveling a blast. 1/2 Mouse.

2015 Domaine Costa Lazaridi Amethystos. 90 percent cab and merlot, 10% indigenous agiorgitiko. Purchased for 18 Euro at Athens airport. From the northeast tip of the country in a region called Drama. I mean, they invented theater, right? So good that I went online to see if the wine [ed. tBoW; we already have plenty of drama round these parts] available stateside. Yes, about 20 minutes away from me at TotalWine in Milford CT for the same price as airport. Best I can describe: you’re 22 years old and just starting to drink wine that costs more than a movie ticket. You find this, and your whole perspective changes. Wait, there’s more than one flavor? OK, this is rather international in style. But so is Helen Mirren. One Mouse. [ed. tBoW loves Helen Mirren,]

[ed. Mr. Story: All of this mouse talk has Mr. Story thinking about cheese; a hobby he shares with mice. Perhaps Maus could rate cheeses with mice and then provide a rating (in mice) for the wine and cheese pairing.]

[ed. tBoW] The Greek actress, the Greek film, the Greek dance moves that started it all!! If this doesn’t warm you up get in front of a mirror…you may be a ghost.

Presidential edicts, fires in wine country…no wonder we turn to goff

October 10, 2017 – Solano County/Napa County, CA, USA – The Atlas Fire burns east of Woodley Canyon Rd near vineyards late Tuesday evening in Napa County, CA…Long exposure image. ..The Atlas Fire burns in Napa and Solano Counties Monday evening October 10th, 2017. The fire was 3% contained and had burned 25,000 acres. Multiple structures were destroyed as crews battled strong winds and tinder dry vegetation after multiple fires burned in the area. (Credit Image: © Stuart Palley via ZUMA Wire)

We will get to Napa/Sonoma in a few. This was quite a week for disasters.

At the risk of irritating tBoW readers I must say the Big Cheeto is a moron. What? Already been written? What about he’s a f***ing moron? That too already done? We need a drink from a glass jar. Here are some nostalgic millennial thoughts from The Glass Jar

Goff requires focus and determination in very different ways than do other sports. One must analyze the course and put thoughts into their swing for a successful day on the course. These swings should not be interrupted by excessive use of one’s phone. Millennials have demonstrated their need to not only go to new locations but also show their internet audiences their newly discovered party, restaurant, sporting event, etc. This need to show the world every step taken, sight seen and thought thunk will never work on the golf course. Golf requires the mentality of just you and the ball and nothing else in the world. Worrying how many likes your photo gets will never help your backswing.

A round of golf requires a degree of class that seems distant from the millennial generation. The game asks players to show up on time. Oftentimes strangers are asked to play together. Many millennials fail to reach out to the older generations. The atmosphere of small talk with elders is uncomfortably different from daily social networks. Heaven forbid they pay good money to hit a golf ball with an old man who remembers the days of Dwight Eisenhower.

As golf courses present new challenges in staying afloat financially, millennials will likely face a tidal wave of millennial norms colliding against a game of tradition. Without a doubt, the sport will survive yet this upcoming generation will put forth obstacles the game has never seen.

Views from the Glass Jar relax me; give me perspective; reassure me it’s going to be OK. Even though the wine news was bleak this past week. Sonoma and Napa wine towns suffered tremendous devastation. We thought about Regusci Winery. The news pinpointed one of the fires was above the Silverado Trail near many of our favorite Napa wineries. We have written about Regusci in the recent past. We especially like their Rose and special Chardonnay. tBoW is on the mailist.

An email from Regusci Winery captured the terror. The Atlas Peak flames crept right up to their vineyards. The Regusci family worked all day and night to dig fire breaks and put out windborne embers. They saved the historic buildings on their property however they will be recovering for some time. Everyone who lives in one of the most popular wine destinations in the USA (and globally) knows people who lost everything or close to it. One of many lists of damaged wineries can be found here.

We realize this year has been a boon for natural disasters. The Napa/Sonoma fires are the disaster closest to this blog. Visit next Spring. Support the valleys and their hard working winemakers and staff.

For our readers long in the tooth…Spirit sings about a burning Topanga Canyon [click to see].

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

“Erster” Tasting at the Water Grill: Slurp, Sip, Sexitup

oyster_sexyWEBOysters are sexy.How could Georgia O’Keefe miss the inspiration? Orchids and oysters. We get it. Amy Reily makes a living writing about sexy foods and oysters are at or near the top of her list [ed. Amy blows away the competition in the sexy food and wine grouping]. I found myself in splendid company thick and tasty as a miyagi oyster. The event was the 19th Annual Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition sponsored by Taylor Fish Farms in Washington. The gig is more than just promoting the consumption of oysters. It is also about pairing oysters with domestic white wines. Jon Rowley is the architect of this two decade long “competition.” Longevity is a strong marker for interest but not always for quality which is best evaluated with a hands-on evidence based participation observation. This tasting hit both marks.

oyster lovers??

oyster lovers??

We arrived at the Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles at 3:00 sharp, chose a solitary table with 20 empty glasses, and waited for the glitterati to arrive. No disappointments there. Mary Sue Miliken – highly respected cute-as-a-button and sweeeter-than-honey LA food entrepreneur – sat down in an adjacent booth. LA food critic Jonathan Gold sat a few tables across. Apologies in advance for anyone not mentioned. The A-list food writers and job creators was fun. However, for tBoW the matching exercise was quite serious.

Jon officially opened the tasting with a quote from A Moveable Feast which is a collection of unpublished essays published posthumously. In one of the essays he describes chowing down on oysters, slowly, carefully, noting each nuance. For Hemingway the experience is, of course, transcendent. The urge to wonder what further stimulation awaits when pairing the slimy critters with wine seems obvious, no?

We are not strangers to oysters. In fact we love them. Acme Oyster in Nawlins is a must stop when in town. No trip to Seattle is complete without multi-raw dining. We once ate 5 dozen on a beach in Colombia… with another couple. So this was bound to be a treat.

A method was advanced. Chew the oyster first filling mouth with sea-borne flavors. Oysters are no more all alike than are acidic white wines that keep them company. Here come the platters. The first flight of glasses get three-finger fills. Generous. Sniffing before sipping is discouraged. No problem. tBoW powered through each flight directly, chewing and tasting his wine through all 20 wines. In fact, the kumamoto ersters were so delicious we polished off another half dozen for good measure. Forget about Honey Boo Boo. Oyster Boy below knows how to take down a slimy delight then pick thru the detritus for bits n’ pieces.

The kumamoto oyster is briny with a starchy texture and flavor. Each wine was bagged and tagged with a unique letter. Part of the deal is to see how well my oyster & wine palate matches with the other judges. The winning wines are announced but not in ranked order which is certainly the right decision given there is really no quantifiable argument. The only competition that truly matters is how many judges matched winning wines. A return invite could hinge on this outcome.

The tasting takes place in three cities – LA, SF and Seattle. Scores from all three tastings are combined. One LA judge and two San Fran judges matched 8 of the 10 winners. Jon Rowley points out no one has ever matched all 10. I gotta think 8 is pretty dang good. tBoW matched 3 of the top 10 wines which was the lowest matches among the judges. Gratefully, there were two others on the LA judging panel with similarly idiosyncratic palates. I found one pairing elicited a dry gin martini. Four of the top 10 wines were among my lowest ranked. Winning varietals included Sauvignon Blanc (6), Chenin Blanc (2), one Pinot Gris and one Riesling. Wineries represented California, Washington and Oregon.

All I know is this. After all the chewing and coating my mouth, then sipping on wines and spitting, and not taking one single sniff ever, I was left with a profound hunger for sourdough bread. Apparently this is something akin to how the Irish consume oysters. I will stand on Irish tradition any day except when it comes to religion. And Amy Reily walking away in heels should be available on video.

This was a wonderful affair which I hope to repeat. There are a couple oyster bars in LA that I plan to visit including L&E Oyster Bar in Sliverlake and Blue Plate in Santa Monica. The L&E GM was the 8-match dude in our group. It was all over much too soon.

Could be another match for oysters is Blue öyster Cult. Goes with slurpin’ n’ sex, no?