Thursday, March 31, 2005

A Family Affair...

Sarah and I spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in Healdsburg celebrating several family events...the main event being the 60th wedding anniversary of her paternal grandparents. On Monday, we decided to do some wine tasting (go figure! ) and took Sarah's brother and sister-in-law with us. After 4 stops, we took Sarah's brother and sister-in-law back to the house and traded them for Sarah's parents. Below is a list of wineries and wines tasted.

Bella Vineyards
2002 Bella Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Hillside Zinfandel (94% Zinfandel and 6% Petite Sirah) - 87
2002 Bella Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Belle Canyon Zinfandel (100% Zinfandel) - 88
2002 Bella Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Lily Hill Estate Zinfandel (96% Zinfandel and 4% Petite Sirah) - 90
2002 Bella Vineyards Alexander Valley Big River Ranch Zinfandel (84% Zin and 16% Petite Sirah) - 94

All of these Zins were outstanding! My favorite was the Big River Ranch. All had between 14.7% and 15.9% alcohol, but none of them tasted hot. A definite find for all you Zin fans out there! The bottom three are all RP rated wines. We left with some Big River Ranch.

Unti Vineyards
2003 Segromigno (82% Sangiovese, 9% Barbera, 9% Dolcetto) - 86
2003 Barbera (100% Barbera) - 92
2003 Grenache (82% Grenache, 11% Syrah and 7% Mourvedre) - 88
2001 Syrah (100% Syrah) - 88
2002 Syrah (95% Syrah, 5% Grenache Noir - alcohol 14.8%) - 90
2002 Zinfandel (86% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sirah, 6% Barbera) - 91

The Barbera was the darkest Barbera I have ever seen. It could have passed for a Petite Sirah, it was that dark. I loved it! The Zin and the Syrahs were very good. Sarah's brother picked up some Zin.

Nalle Winery
2003 Pinot Noir Hopkins Ranch - 87
2001 Zinfandel - 87
2002 Zinfandel - 88
2003 Zinfandel - 88

My least favorite stop of the trip.

Martinelli Winery
We tried the usual suspects at Martinelli (G-miner, Pinot, Pinot, Pinot and G&L Zin). The 2003 G&L is why we went. Got our 6 bottle limit and left.

A Rafanelli Vineyard and Winery
2003 Zinfandel - 92
2002 Merlot - 92
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon - 93

IMHO you simply cannot beat the consistency of the quality of the Rafanelli line up. We tasted with Rachel (the daughter, now the primary winemaker I believe) who was wonderful to us. The new release letter is due to go out this week for all you mailing list folks waiting to get your offer letter. We buy off the mailer every year, but Sarah's mom and dad got two bottles of each.

F. Teldeschi Winery
1998 Terranova (Carignane, valdiguie zinfandel, and petite sirah) - 85
1996 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley, Lot 1 - 88
1997 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley - 92
1999 Petite Sirah Dry Creek Valley - 89
2002 Zinfandel Port

This place was a surprise. I have never been here nor tried any of their wines. The 1997 Zin she poured for us is one of the best Zins I have ever had. We came home with a couple bottles of it. My in-laws bought some Terranova and Petite Sirah. We had the Petite Sirah with our grilled filet mignon that evening with dinner.

Ridge Winery Lytton Springs
1991 Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains - 88
2001 Mazzoni Home Ranch - 88
2001 Zinfandel Jimsomare - 88
2001 Zinfandel Paso Robles - 88
2002 Zinfandel Lytton Springs - 90
2003 Zinfandel Lytton Springs - 94
2003 Zinfandel Pagani Ranch - 87
2003 Carignane Buchignani Ranch - 85
2000 Cabernet/Merlot Santa Cruz Mountains - 88
2004 Monte Bello Barrel Sample - 95
2002 Zinfandel Pagani Ranch Late Picked - 90

We started with the 1991 (that's right 1991) Chardonnay which was quite good. It had aged very well. Losing some of it's fruit and showing mostly oak, but still nice. The side by side of the 02 and 03 Lytton Springs was great - the 03 won by a mile tho'. And we did purchase some 2004 Monte Bello futures based off of our barrel sample. We were actually voted "Most Fun Group of the Day" by our tasting room hostess.

Optima Wine Cellars
2003 Russian River Valley Chardonnay - 87
2003 Alexander Valley Rose of Cabernet - 89
2002 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel - 90
2000 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - 90

Disclaimer: I am in a play right now with the brother-in-law of the wife of the winemaker (as funny as this sounds, it is 100% true.) He suggested we stop in to see them. I enjoyed the wines here very much. The Rose was made by the winemaker's 15 year old son as a means to purchase his dream car - a 1968 Mustang Fastback. The label is called FASTBACK PROJECT complete with a picture of the car. A friend donated 4 tons of Cabernet grapes to the son to get the project rolling. He was in charge of the entire process with very little intervention from Dad except when needed. He sold enough wine to buy the car and then some.

Del Dotto Vineyards
We stopped in to see our friend ttepper on our way out of Dodge and shared a glass of their recent RP 94 scored 2002 David. It was delicious!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Core Wines Winemaker's Dinner at Biba

The Food:

Antipasti: Bruschetta with mushrooms, roasted red peppers, lentils, onions, and garlic and Pizzetta ai Funghi Misti e Pomodoro - Grilled, small pizza with mixed mushrooms and San Marzano tomatoes

Insalate: Rucola e Radicchio di Treviso con Pere e Pecorino - Arugula, radicchio, Bosc pears, walnuts and pecorino cheese salad

Primi Piatti: salmon ravioli in a butter sauce and ricotta cheese gnocchi in tomato cream sauce

Secondi Piatti (Mrs. Null): Salmon and giant prawns with red peppers in parchment paper, mixed veggies in garlic butter (it was a special)

Second Piatti (Mr. Null): Saltimbocca (Veal Scaloppine with prosciutto, sage and Parmigiano in a flavorful wine-butter sauce served with creamy Parmigiano mashed potatoes)

Dolce (Mrs. Null): La Pere al Forno e il Formaggio - Bosc pears, oven baked in Valpolicella wine served with roasted pecans and Toma Piemontese, a mild, creamy cow's milk cheese from the Piemonte region

Dolce (Mr. Null): Vanilla Gelato with chocolate sauce

The Wines:

2003 Mourvedre Rose - This is a 70% Mourvedre, 25% Cinsault blend. The first whiff off this wine smelled exactly like freshly popped buttered popcorn! But it quickly blew off to reveal a nice perfumy bouquet and subtle fruit. Clean and crisp on the palate and slightly darker in color than any other Rose I have ever had. Although it is unfiltered, so that has something to do with it, I'm sure. BN Points - 89

2002 Core Blend 352 - 52% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah. This is a solid, medium bodied, Rhone blend with plenty of character. Very well balanced fruit and earth on the nose: berry with some plum hints. No shortage of zip on the palate. BN - 91

2002 Hard Core - This monster blend has 55% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. At 15.7% alcohol, this is one beastie of a wine, but without the hottness of a high octane Zin. A great food wine, I first had this with pot roast three weeks ago and it was a match made in heaven. Big, in-your-face, chewy and plenty of black fruit, but without the color. BN Points - 92

2002 Elevation Sensation - I drank this 65% Mourvedre, 35% Grenache blend with my Saltimbocca (Veal Scaloppine with prosciutto, sage and Parmigiano in a flavorful wine-butter sauce served with creamy Parmigiano mashed potatoes) and it was a stunning wine with the veal. Not as big or in-your-face as the Hard Core, but still a sizeable wine at 15.3% alcohol. Again, no hottness. I'm not an expert on Rhone blends, but compared with ones I've had, this is definitely a contender. BN Points - 92

2003 Core Blend Barrel Sample - At 46% Mourvedre, 40% Grenache and 14% Syrah, this wine has tons of potential. It seems a bit more elegant than the '02 and has more balance and definitely more fruit. BN Points - 92-94

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Dinner at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen

Sept. 23rd - Last night, we had the pleasure of dining with some friends at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena. We arrived at 7:30pm. There were 6 of us and myself and Bob Bressler, owner of Bressler Vineyards, each brough 3 bottles of wine. He brought:

  • 1999 Dutschke Oscar Semmler Shiraz
  • 2000 Numanthia Toro
  • 2000 Bressler Cabernet Sauvignon
We brought:
  • 2002 Hanging Rock Shiraz/Mourvedre Blend
  • 2002 Cedarville Vineyard El Dorado Zinfandel
  • 2000 A. Rafanelli Dry Creek Valley Merlot
Needless to say, each wine was exceptional, as was the food and the company. The first pairing were the two Shirazes. IMHO, the Hanging Rock has more fruit and the Semmler was more oaky. Both nice, but my vote is the Hanging Rock. Second was the Cedarville Zin and the Rafanelli Merlot. The 2002 Cedarville Zin is there best Zin to date. A definite buy. Loads of jammy, Zinny characteristics with some licorice and spice. The Merlot is HUGE. Almost Cab-like in structure and finish. Lots of blueberry and dark fruit. Finally we had the 2000 Numanthia and the 2000 Bressler. We have had the Bressler twice before and it shows wonderfully. This was the second time for the Numanthia and what a treat it is. Rich and chewy.

Here's to our next trip on Oct. 2nd to a 2000 California Cult Wine Dinner in San Jose. CHEERS!

Monday, September 20, 2004

Our Trip to Sonoma

The Mrs. and I decided to spend a couple of days
trekking through the Russian River Valley to seek out some places we had never been before...and maybe hit one or two places we always like to stop.

We stopped a couple of places in Sonoma on way through
on Hwy. 12. The first was B.R. Cohn. $5.00 tasting fee with $2.00 extra for the
"limited release stuff". The owner, Bruce, is the manager for the
Doobie Brothers, and of course, the tasting room is adorned with tons of Doobie Brothers memorabilia. The wines were average. Nothing to write home about.

  • 2002 Carneros Chardonnay - 85
  • 2001 Sonoma Valley Merlot - 88
  • 2001 Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon - 86
  • 2000 Olive Hill Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - 85
  • 1999 Special Selection Cabernet - 84

The Special Selection Cab was $100 and I wouldn't pay $40.00 for it.

Down the road a short drive was Arrowood. Also a $5.00 tasting fee, but the
wines were much better here than at B.R. Cohn. The tasting room is very nice. I would recommend a visit.

  • 2003 Russian River Valley Gewurztraminer "Saralee's Vineyard" -
  • 2001 Russian River Valley Pinot Blanc "Sarahlee's Vineyard" - 88
  • 2000 Sonoma County Malbec - 90
  • 1999 Sonoma County Merlot - 89
  • 2000 Sonoma Valley Syrah - 90

Our tasting room host told us about two other places we should hit on out way out - Wellington and Loxton. I walked into Wellington and was met by a rather rude woman who pointed at a large wooden board behind the tasting counter and said (in a not-so-nice tone), "There's what we're tasting today." I said, "Ok" and walked out. We tried to go to Loxton, but it was closed because they also pour their wines in a tasting room and it was their day to pour, so we missed out there.

Feeling a little bummed by our two prior stops, we decided to visit Adam Lee
at Siduri. We missed Adam because he was in a meeting, but we did manage to
taste some wine.

  • 2002 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir - 92
  • 2002 Santa Lucia Pinot Noir - 90
  • 2002 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - 90
  • 2002 Novy Napa Syrah - 89
  • 2002 Novy Rosella's Syrah - 92

The Rosella's Syarh had the funkiest nose - grapefruit! But it was a great wine
and should improve with age.

We drove over to Iron Horse next for some bubbly and Pinot.

  • 1999 Classic Vintage Brut - 90
  • 1996 Brut LD - 88
  • 1995 Blanc de Blancs - 87
  • 1998 Brut Rose - 87
  • 2000 Wedding Cuvee - 89
  • 1999 Russian Cuvee - 88
  • 2003 Cuvee R - 86
  • 2002 Viognier - 87
  • 2001 Estate Pinot Noir - 89
  • 1999 Sangiovese - 90
  • 2000 Cabernet Blend 1 - 88
  • 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon - 86

Our final stop yesterday was Martinelli. I stupidly didn't write down what we
had...but it was 2 Pinots and a white...all three I am sure I had the last time
I was there. :crazy:

Our stay on Thursday night was at the Grape Leaf Inn. I would HIGHLY recommend a stay here. I will have a separate write up on the B & was that nice.

On Friday, we started off in dowtown Healdsburg at Toad Hollow. For those of you that are not familiar with Toad Hollow the owner is one Todd Williams, who has a very famous comedian brother. The wines here were not spectacular, but they were fabulous QPR wines! These wines are not meant to be long aging wines. They are meant to be consumed young. They are what I would call FUN wines!

  • 2003 Chardonnay, Mendocino, Francine's Selection - 88
  • 2003 Dry Pinot Noir Rose, Sonoma, Eye of the Toad - 86
  • 2003 Dry Pinot Noir Rose, Russian River Valley, Eyes of the Toad - 88
  • 2001 Pinot Noir, Russian River, Goldie's Vines - 87
  • 2001 Merlot, Russian River, Richard McDowell Vineyard - 88
  • 2002 Zinfandel, Paso Robles, "Cacophony" - 89
  • 2001 Syrah, Dry Creek Valley, Erik's the Red - 88
  • Amplexus Cremant Brut Sparkling Wine, Limoux, France - 87
  • Risque, Methode Ancestrale, Sparkling Wine - 87

Like I said, these are FUN wines.

J Winery was next on the list. And what a wonderful experience. For $10.00
($5.00 extra for the reserve tasting) they pair 1 sparking and 3 wines with

  • 1998 J Vinatge Brut with Petite Yukon Gold Potatoes with Smoked Salmon and
    Wasabi Tobikko Creme Fraiche - 90
  • 2003 J Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley with Poached Shrimp in Phyllo Cup
    Avocado Aioli and Magno Salsa - 89
  • 2002 J Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley with Sauteed Radicchio and Point
    Reyes Blue Cheese Feuilletes - 90
  • 1997 J Pinot Noir, Nicole's Vineyard with Medley of Olives and Roasted
    Cherry Tomatoes on Crostini - 91
  • 1999 J Pinot Noir, Nicole's Vineyard with Yukon Gold Potatoes with Laura
    Chenel Goat Cheese and Toasted Paprika - 92

We then headed over to Westside Road. Richard at the Grape Leaf Inn suggested a couple of places. First was De La Montanya. This is a fairly new winery just off Westside Road. They are open by appointment during the week and open to the public on weekends. We didn't know that when we stopped, but Greg and Mike were there and took GREAT care of us. Mike, by the way, is the winemaker and also makes a Zin under his own label called Darkhorse, which was poured for us at the B&B. I would give that a solid 92!

  • 2001 Viognier Russian River Valley - 90
  • 2002 Viognier Russian River Valley - 91
  • 2003 Viognier Russian River Valley - 92 (not yet released but will be
  • 2003 Pin Up Rose Sonoma County - 88
  • 2002 Pinot Noir "Tina's Vineyard" - 91
  • 2001 Pinot Noir "Tina's Vineyard" - 86
  • 2003 Flying Rooster Red Sonoma Coast - 88 (if anyone can guess what three
    varietals are in this wine, they will give you a bottle free)
  • 2003 Felta Creek Zinfandel Sonoma Mountain - 90
  • 2003 Primitivo Dry Creek Valley - 91
  • 2003 Syrah Dry Creek Valley - 91
  • 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley - 89
  • 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley (Barrel Sample) - 92-94

This was one great place to stop. A definite find!

Rochioli was next. We were a day early for their Estate Gamay. They start
pouring that tomorrow. Oh well.

  • 2003 Estate Sauvignon Blanc - 88
  • 2002 - Estate Pinot Noir - 91

We then headed to Davis Bynum.

  • 2003 Rose, Cabernet Franc, Dry Creek - 85
  • 2001 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley - 86
  • 2001 Zinfandel, Clopton Vineyard, Russian River Valley - 86
  • 2000 Merlot, Laureles Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley - 87
  • 1999 Westside Road, A Red Meritage, Sonoma County (50% Merlot; 33% Cab
    Franc; 17% Cab. Sauvignon) - 85

A new one for us: Porter Creek Vineyards.

  • 2002 Pinot Noir "Fiona Hill" Russian River Valley - 87
  • 2001 Pinot Noir "Creekside Vineyard" Estate Bottled, Russian
    River Valley - 88
  • 2000 Syrah "Timbervine Ranch", Russian River Valley - 88
  • 2002 Zinfandel, Russian River Valley - 87

Gary Farrell was our last stop of the day. He is no longer bottles the Maple
Vineyard Zinfandel separately. He blends it in with his standard Dry Creek
Valley Zin.

  • 2002 Sonoma County Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - 91
  • 2002 Russian River Valley, Starr Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir - 91
  • 2002 Sonoma County Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel - 89

We tried to hit another new place called Lynmar Winery, but they closed just
before we got there. They have a tasting room in Graton. They specialize in
Chardonnay and Pinot and from what I understand it is pretty good juice. So ends another trip to wine country.


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