Archived entries for Bordeaux Blend

Winebow and Wilson Daniels Wine Portfolio Tours: A Taste of Heaven

Recently I had the opportunity to attend two portfolio tastings that swung through Dallas.  For those of you who haven’t had the chance to attend a portfolio tasting; it’s designed to showcase the wines imported and distributed by the company sponsoring the event.  It is a bit of a “kid in a candy store” experience, with wine buyers, restaurants, sommeliers and other industry wine people together in one place at the same time. 

Winebow was the first to come through town with the Vini d’Italia Tour 2014.  With this tour there was an opportunity to spend a brief period of time with one of my favorite wine people and friends, Melissa Sutherland Amado.  The tour focused on the Northern, Central and Southern regions of Italy and with 35 wineries they brought an array of wines.   

Melissa brought me through a variety of Italian wines.  I enjoyed them all – it was a diverse and interesting snapshot into “off the beaten path” Italian wines.  My favorites included:

  • Valdipiatta (Toscana) Vino Nobile Di Montulciano DOCG – this was 95 percent Sangiovese and 5 percent Canaiolo Nero.  It was elegant and delicious.
  • Giuseppe Cortese (Piemonte) Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva DOCG – this was earthy, rich and fabulous.  I really enjoyed this wine and would love to see what develops in the bottle over time.
  • Tenuta di Fessina (Sicilia) Erse Etna Rossa DOC – grown in volcanic rock, this was a mix of herbs, flowers, oak and black fruit.  I loved it – so different.
  • Altesino (Toscana) Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG – made from 100 percent estate grown grapes, this wine was truly the crème de la crème of the region.  It was stunning.

The next portfolio tasting came from the Wilson Daniels, a company known for its collection of luxury wines and spirits.  When I say luxury, I mean luxury.  Approximately 32 wineries and spirit companies attended and attendees were given several tickets that I soon realized the value of as I walked the floor.  The first ticket entitled us to a generous taste of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Echezeaux, one of the Grand Cru burgundies.  

I quickly learned to hold my other tickets close to the vest as the second one brought me to Domaine Leflaive where I tried the 2009 Puligny-Montrachet.  Whoa.   There I had a great conversation with the rep at the table who guided me toward a small winery purchased by Anne-Claude Leflaive and Christian Jacques in 2008.  Clau de Nell made some great estate wines that are biodynamic.  I had never tried Grolleau, a native Loire Valley wine that I loved.  Seek it out if you can find it.

My final ticket gave me access to the Royal Tokaji portfolio where I was lucky enough to sit down with Ben Howkins, author of Tokaji, “A Classic – Lost & Found” and the co-founder of Royal Tokaji and the Tokaji Renaissance.  He personally tasted me through 10 wines in the portfolio including still and dessert wines that ended up with a spoonful (yes, usually a mother of pearl spoon, but not at a portfolio tasting) of the 1991 Tokaj Betsek, proof that God loves wine.

This was a great week to be a wine blogger – I must say.  The good news is that these importers understand that Dallas wine drinkers expect to have access to great wines – and they are answering the call.

 


A Quick Twitter Trip around Italy, France and Wines for the Holidays

Exhibit A of what not to drink after a Bordeaux tasting

November was the season of Twitter tastings and I was asked to be a part of three tastings – one from #planetbordeaux, the second from #Franciacorta, and a Whole Foods Top Holiday wines under $25.  Lesson learned #1 – if you really want to enjoy the next morning, don’t invite your girlfriends over, taste all the wines and then plan a crazy night out.  Lesson learned #2 – and I should know better – even if you are spitting the wines, tasting eight of them in one evening leads to palate fatigue.

You may remember that I was blown away by the sparkling wines from Franciacorta during the last Twitter tasting.  Let’s just say that “the blush is not off the rose.”  I continue to be blown away by the versatility, complexity and individuality of these sparkling wines.  We tried four during the tasting and they were delicious:

-          Antica Fratta Brut ($25 retail) – notes of green apple, flowers; citrus; bread and a nice minerality.

-          Bellavista Cuvee ($35 retail) – pear, apple, fresh baked biscuits and ginger made this blend in my top #2.

-          Ricci Curbastro Extra Brut ($40 retail) – it was complex with minerality and savoriness; notes of almond, fresh baked bread and pear.  I loved it.

-          Contadi Castaldi Rose ($25 retail) — notes of berry, spice, flowers and bread.

The other tasting scheduled the same night was the Whole Foods: Holiday Wines Under $25 Tasting.  We tried several wines with other bloggers around the country including the following:

-          2011 Grace Lane Yakima Valley Riesling – notes of peach and green apple with spiciness that would be perfect with a holiday dinner – especially turkey.  This was in my favorite two.

-          2012 Tablao Navarra – notes of stewed plum, tobacco and cherry. A nice tempranillo for under $10.

-          2008 H&G Priorat – nice balance with notes of black cherry, vanilla and black pepper.  This was my favorite of the tasting.

-          2011 Les Hauts de Bel Air Bordeaux Rouge – notes of raspberries, blackberries, violet and black pepper.

The final tasting was for “Planet Bordeaux for the Holidays.”  This is #Planet Bordeaux (shout out to Duran Duran’s Planet Earth).

There I said it as it goes through my mind every single time I see the hashtag. We had a line-up of six wines that were all priced under $15 and all were ready to drink today although some may benefit from decanting.

-          2011 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux – red fruit, herbs and oak.

-          2011 Chateau de Camarsac Bordeaux – spice, berry, cassis and plum.  This was one of my favs.

-          2011 Les Hauts de Lagarde Bordeaux – cranberry, herbs, spice and blackberry. Definitely one of the top ones from the tasting for me and many of the participating bloggers.

-          2011 Chateau du Bois Chantant Cuvee Laurence Bordeaux Superieur – plum, soft berry, cedar and mocha.

-          2010 Chateau des Arras Bordeaux Superieur – plum, vanilla, mocha and toast.  This is a fantastic wine for the price (under $14).

-          2010 Domaine de Courteillac Bordeaux Superieur – oak, berry, plum, chocolate and a touch of anise.

To read more about these Bordeaux wines, visit www.planet-bordeaux.com.

 


A Conversation with Lindsay Hoopes: From District Attorney to Vineyard Scion

The story of wine.  That’s the entire premise for why I founded Dallas Wine Chick.  When I received an invitation to meet Lindsay Hoopes, a badge carrying San Francisco Assistant District Attorney who is in process of taking over her father’s wine company, I knew this was going to be one of my favorite stories.

Lindsay and I met at a Favorite Brands portfolio tasting where we tried the line-up of Hoopes Vineyards, Liparita Cellars and Hoopla wines.

The Hoopes Vineyard wines are very well made Cabernets from Oakville that have carried the same $60 price tag since 1999.  Impressive and part of Owner Spencer Hoopes’ dedication to helping people appreciate the terrior and fruit of Napa at a value that is pretty impressive considering their blue-chip neighbors like Screaming Eagle and Caymus Special Select.

The Hoopes Vineyard Cabernet is the flagship wine for the family.  I tried both the 2008 and 2009 and was blown away.  They were very different – both with layers of flavor and depth.  I tasted currant, dark chocolate, tobacco and cherry in the 2009 and more soft blue fruit in the 2008.  They were both fantastic and a great deal at $60.

We then talked about Liparita Cellars, one of the oldest wineries in California dating back to the 1890’s that was wiped out during Prohibition.  A wine from the Liparita vineyard was the very first wine to win a gold medal at the Paris World Fair in 1900 – long before the infamous Judgment of Paris.   For the Hoopes family, this is a chance to get back to the roots “of being a Frontier wine maker” and the bottles sport the original wine label.

We tried the 2009 Liparita Oakville Cabernet ($60), which was full of juicy blue fruit, red cherry, Asian spice, toffee, vanilla and licorice.  It was elegant and could be sipped today or cellared for greatness tomorrow.

Then I had a chance to try the 2010 Liparita Yountville Cabernet ($55).  I tasted plum, black cherry, vanilla and spice.  This is a deal for the price.

We moved to try Hoopla Wines, a project that Lindsay spearheaded to create wines that can be consumed immediately but have structure.  We tried the 2012 Hoopla North Coast Chardonnay, which is done in an Old World style with pear, green apple, tropical fruits and nice minerality.  At $12, it is priced to be your house white.

Like the Hoopes Cabernet, the 2010 Hoopla The Mutt ($28) features a dog on the label.  Sadly, Dante, the family dog, celebrated his last vintage in 2009.  This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80 percent), merlot (10 percent) and petite sirah (10 percent).  This is the first vintage and the blend will change annually.  It was a nice blend of fruit and spice.

You can tell that Spencer Hoopes has a farmer’s mentality in how he treats the grapes, how he maintains his quality and how he insists on maintaining his price point when he could make much more money on his wines.

But his daughter, Lindsay, also has a story to tell.  From her first job on the distribution side of Gallo to being hired at Pottery Barn to source furniture due to her Mandarin language skills, she’s been driven.  Even though she had two fabulous jobs, she knew since seeing a TV show when she was young, that she wanted to be an assistant district attorney.  And she pursued that goal relentlessly – from the time when she found someone to take her to the district attorney’s office when she was in grade school to taking her LSAT to writing a letter to secure a job at the district’s attorney’s office.

And she still holds her badge.  But sometimes life, a family illness and a desire to do your family proud becomes your destiny.   If I were to guess, I’d say the Hoopes Family legacy is in very good hands.


Club W: A PYOW (Pick Your Own Wine) Club

I don’t have to tell you that there are a lot of wine clubs out there – and most of them don’t allow you to pick the wines that you receive. Lately I’ve noticed a trend that puts the consumer in charge.  Club W does just that.  It is a wine club focused on bringing consumers value wines without being pretentious or telling you what you should drink based on some “expert’s” palate.  It allows you to choose the wines based on your taste and have them shipped directly to your door.

Club W asked me to experience why their way of doing things is different.  As part of the process, I filled out a Palate Profile, a questionnaire that helps Club W choose wines matched to my tastes.  Once I submitted the questionnaire, twelve wines were recommended to me and I choose three for shipment.  All of the wines are $13 retail, so your subscription is $39 plus a flat rate of $6 for shipping.  If six or more bottles are ordered, shipping is free.

While one of my original choices was out of stock, there were 11 other wines that I could select.  I ended up with the following:

The club also has wine choices of “still available” from past selections and “curator’s choice,” wines that are offered for $19, a slightly higher price point.  After you receive and taste your shipments, you can post your wine ratings so Club W can further customize your selections.

The mission of Club W is to take the guesswork and pretention out of enjoying wine at a value price point.  You’ll find no jargon or ratings, but the ability to discover what it is that you like without breaking the bank.  Each bottle also comes with a QR code that links back to Club W content, which includes video reviews of the wines that are accessible from the Club W mobile app.

The Club W people were nice enough to offer Dallas Wine Chick readers a free $13.00 credit, which is basically 1 bottle of free wine, if you sign up.  Use this URL and enter a coupon code of 411dallas.

I hope you enjoy the journey.


Sonoma In the City Does Dallas: Day Two

The Taste of Sonoma tour brought more than 100 Sonoma County wines ranging from Russian River Valley chardonnay and pinot noir to big Zin from Dry Creek Valley to rich cabernet sauvignon from Alexander Valley to the Mansion on Turtle Creek.

Yolanda Papapietro

While I did not try anywhere near 100 wines, I was able to find some standouts and see some old friends in the process.  What a surprise to see Yolanda Papapietro from Papapietro Perry pouring her wonderful pinots.  My friend, Jennifer, turned me on to these fabulous wines and I loved being able to try the 2010 line-up from the Leras Family Vineyards, Nunes Vineyards, Russian River Valley and the 777 Clones.  Other standouts included Bella, Sojourn, Davis Family, Flowers, Gary Farrell and White Oak Vineyards.

Me, Justin and Robert 

Then I was fortunate enough to run into Rodney Strong Associate Winemaker, Justin Seidenfeld, along with my friend, Robert Larsen, Rodney Strong marketing extraordinaire.  Justin took me through the line-up and talked about the history of Rodney Strong.  The winery was started over 50 years ago when Rod Strong, who originally had a career as a dancer in America, decided to pursue his wine making passion. Rodney Strong Winery was the thirteenth winery bonded in Sonoma County. The Klein family purchased the winery in 1989 and focused on making single vintage and reserve wines. After working at Iron Horse and Mondavi as a harvest enologist as well as with Constellation wines, Justin joined Rodney Strong in 2010. He told me that he wanted to take great wines and “brighten up” the wine making style.

We tried the following line up:

  • 2012 Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte’s Home – white stone fruit, pineapple, citrus and herb make this a very balanced white.
  • 2011 Rodney Strong Chardonnay, Chalk Hill – old world style with vanilla, citrus and hints of oak.
  • 2010 Rodney Strong Cabernet, Alexander Valley – dense and rich with big berry, plum with a great intensity.
  • 2010 Rodney Strong Symmetry contains all five Bordeaux varietals and the blend changes annually.  Big berry, spice, cassis make up this well balanced red that changes based on the vineyard’s strengths.
  • 2008 Rodney Strong Cabernet, Rockaway – full of raspberry, blackberry, terrior, spice and notes of vanilla.

Justin talked about his ten hour Rodney Strong interview that started out with Tom Klein, the winery owner.  After making it through the gauntlet, he walked into a room that included well-known winemaker David Ramey, where he was asked to create the final blend of Symmetry.  He rolled up his sleeves, took off his tie and blended his way to a new job.

The next day began with a lunch with the Sonoma County Trio of Vintners, Winegrowers and Tourism at Hotel Zaza Art House & Social Gallery.  The event, meant to showcase the diversity of Sonoma, began with a speed tasting concept.  Here is what I learned from sitting down with the representatives which included Guy Davis from Davis Vineyards, Christopher Barefoot from Flowers, Corey Beck from Francis Coppola and Clay Maurtison, from Maurtison Winery, who I had dinner with earlier in the week.

-          Sonoma County is the size of Rhode Island, five times the size of Napa Valley and has more than 60 miles of coastal land off the Pacific Ocean.

-          There are more than 200 different soil types.

-          There are 1,800 wine growers in Sonoma and many of them are multi-generational.

-          Today only 6 percent of the land planted is being utilized.

-          There are 100 wineries and 150 growers in Sonoma County.

-          The first winery was built in Sonoma.

I loved Tim Zahner’s, CMO of Sonoma County Tourism, quote about Sonoma.  “In other places they call it the localivore movement, in Sonoma, we call it eating.  Sonoma happens to be a place for farmers who happen to make great wine.”  I also heard great quotes about Sonoma being “Ag-land, not Disneyland,” a not so subtle snap at another well-known region about 90 minutes away.

Guy Davis

It was also a pleasure to have a chance to catch up with Guy Davis, winemaker and owner of Davis Vineyard, who has always been delightful in my past encounters.  He talked about Sonoma being a region if farmed correctly, Mother Nature takes over.  He planted his wines 17 years ago and has been organic since day one.   The man knows how to work his micro-climates in his Pinots from Soul Patch, Horseshoe Bend and Starr Ridge Vineyards.

Christopher Barefoot

The lunch was a family style affair where winemakers and the media sat together.  The event showcased great food, diversity of wines and great conversation.

My whirlwind experience ended with an event hosted by Amy Gross, a great wine blogger who writes Vinesleuth, who was hosting an event in conjunction with the Blissdom conference with Rodney Strong.  The event brought together some amazing women and we were divided into teams where we blended our own Symmetry wine.  Picture a miniature science lab where we measured, blended, sipped and debated our final blend.  Justin and Robert, graciously hosted the event and Justin judged the six blends.  While we didn’t win, our team, aptly named Cork Dork, had a great time and the conversation and tempo of the tasting was hilarious.

The Sonoma in the City event reaffirmed the diversity of soil and climate.  It’s a region focused on legacy, family, terrior and character.  And I clearly have a lot to learn.


Elyse Winery: Sincerity and Sustainability

Even before I was lucky enough to get on the blogger sample list for Elyse Winery, I’ve been a long-time fan.  I like Elyse’s approach to sustainable wines, their no fuss approach at the winery and the people have always been knowledgeable, passionate and downright nice.  Rick Saunders was our host and we had a ball with him on the tour and trying the Elyse wine line up.

Rick and Molly

In 2012, Elyse celebrated its 25th harvest from its very first crush of 4.5 tons of Zinfandel when Ray and Nancy Coursen made 286 cases of their first wine.   In 1997, the current winery and vineyard was purchased on Hoffman Lane.

Their focus hasn’t changed – great wines prepared with artisan grown ingredients that pair well with food. Today the production is 10,000 cases with international distribution.  The two brands – Elyse and Jacob Franklin are named after their daughter and son.

We tried the following line-up:

  • Elyse Chardonnay 2010 – made in a classic Old World style with citrus, pear and vanilla.  A chardonnay for folks who don’t drink Chardonnay or who love old world style Chardonnays.
  • Jacob Franklin Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – only six barrels are made of this wine and it isn’t distributed outside of the winery.  Classic grapefruit, citrus and minerality.
  • Elyse Le Corbeau 2008 – a 90 percent Grenache and 10 percent Syrah blend.  It had floral notes of jasmine with raspberry and cassis.
  • Elyse Syrah 2008 – notes of Asian spice, mushrooms and berry with a spiciness that would make it a great Fall day wine.
  • Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel 2008 – here’s the terrior wine that originally launched the entire Elyse portfolio.  Love this wine.
  • Elyse Black Sears Zinfandel 2008 – this was a big, big Zinfandel with nice berry fruit, but not a fruit bomb.  Lots of balance, pepper, spicy and juiciness.
  • Jacob Franklin Mon Chou (my sweetheart) 2007 – a nice blend in a Bordeaux style with notes of green pepper, cassis, berry and tobacco.
  • Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – soft fruits, notes of perfume, floral and hints of oak and vanilla.
  • Jacob Franklin Chavez-Leeds Petite Syrah 2009 – blackberry, chocolate, mocha, spice and pepper.  This was one of my favorites.
  •  Elyse 2006 Port Cabernet Sauvignon – this port combined Viognier brandy with great cabernet.  It was another favorite and a perfect cheese/fruit/dessert match.

It was a fabulous end to a behind the scenes trip of good wine, great food and great people.

 


A Behind the Scenes Look at Cornerstone Cellars’ New Releases

Before I delve into my wonderful experience at Cornerstone Cellars, I wanted to give a shout out for a fun and affordable way to experience a Napa driver.  We used My Napa Valley Driver and met Chris Pittman, who was our “cruise director” for the day.  We often try to hire drivers for at least one day because even if you spit, you will have much more wine than you anticipate if you are visiting several wineries.

John and Chris

Here’s how it works.  Your driver meets you and drives your rental car at a rate of $35 an hour.  This way you are being driven around in your car (or rental car).  He even arrived with waters, snacks and took us up to look at rooms at the Poetry Inn because it thought it was one of the nicest places to stay in the Valley (he was right).  I had completely booked our schedule, but his knowledge and connections made me wish that I had another day to just let him take me to “off the beaten path places.” My experience with My Napa Valley Driver and Chris in particular has my highest recommendation.

I also want to give a shout out to a restaurant that we discovered during our Jordan stay.  Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar, is run by a lovely couple, Susan and Jeff Mall.  Susan serves as director of catering and Jeff is the executive chef.  It’s a fabulous menu full of farm to market ingredients and my husband still talks about the reuben sandwich blowing away anything he’s tried from any New York deli (which is a tough thing for him to say).

And now back to our regularly scheduled wine program.  I had a chance to sit down with Cornerstone Cellars Winemaker Jeff Keene who previewed the entire line-up of new wines that have yet to be released until this month.  Jeff started his career as a food scientist in New Zealand where he focused on grape and wine research.  After spending eight years inside a lab, he decided to pursue grad school and became a winemaker.  His first job was at Havens Wine Cellar in New Zealand and he worked at Truchard before coming to Cornerstone.   After 15 years of winemaking, he believes that his science background definitely translates into better wine in the lab and ultimately on your table.

Cornerstone is soon to roll out some new packaging for its Stepping Stone label and I liked the bright, cheery and colorful images that were similar to the Artist Series, which you may recall.  You’ll see them shortly on the White Rocks and Red Rocks labels, which will now come with a screw cap.  Keene reiterated that Stepping Stone is not a second label – it has its own style and character while maintaining the high standards of Cornerstone Cellars.  Both of the wines are designed to speak clearly of the vineyard, variety and vintage for where they came.  All are farmed organically or sustainably.

Here was our line-up:

  • We started with the Corallina Syrah Rose, which had not  been bottled yet.  It was a traditional light, fruity and strawberry blend with a nose of bubble gum.
  • 2011 Cornerstone Sauvignon Blanc – aromatic, creamy, tropical, citrus with great balance.
  • 2010 Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc – green pepper, eucalyptus and blackberry.  This was a classic cabernet franc that was delicious.
  • 2010 Cornerstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – the quintessential delicious cabernet that Cornerstone does exceptionally well with blackberry, raspberry and lots of mocha.
  • 2010 Cornerstone Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – black fruit, smoky and elegant.
  • 2009 The Cornerstone, which debuted last year and I was thrilled to finally try.  This is a blend that changes each year depending what shows the best in the cellar.  Great structure, elegant, black cherries, cassis, spice, coffee and terrior.
  • 2010 The Cornerstone was full of bramble, tobacco and I could really taste the Cab Franc coming through.  Both were fabulous.

It’s rare that I enjoy the entire portfolio of a winery, but Cornerstone Cellars allows nature to take the helm while Keene’s job is to nurture.  And it works perfectly.


Bernard Portet: Conversation with A Wine Country Legend

In another pinch myself moment on the trip, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Bernard Portet, considered to be one of the forefathers of the Napa Valley wine industry , at Don Giovanni.  For almost 40 years, Bernard was the co-founder and wine maker for Clos du Val Winery who helped pioneer and revitalize the American wine industry during the 70s with others like Robert Mondavi, Louis Martini and Joe Phelps.

He came to California in 1968 after studying Agronomy, Viticulture and Enology at Schools of Agronomy of Toulouse and Montpellierto.  After a stint in the army, he was hired by John Goelet, an American descendant of the Guestier wine merchant family of Bordeaux, to search the world including Australia, South Africa, North America and North Africa to find the best region outside of France to plant a vineyard.  Because he knew terrior, the microclimate and soil or sense of place, was so important he found what he was looking for in Napa’s Stags Leap District.  He produced the first vintage in 1972.  During his 40 years at Clos de Val, he knocked on doors to sell wine, planted another vineyard in Carneros and mastered the wine industry.  But he never changed his style and remained true to his elegant approach to a sense of place and balance.

Bernard started by talking about the team spirit back he experience when he first arrived in Napa Valley as the winemakers were willing to share everything that they were doing, since they were working toward a greater good to get California wines on the map.  Fast forward 40 years and he said that spirit of cooperation is still strong.  What has changed is the independence of some of the winemakers as they are now owned by large conglomerates and don’t have the freedom to share as they have in the past.

His retirement from Clos de Val had lasted for about six months when he was approached by a former colleague, Don Chase, at a Napa Valley coffee shop.  That cup of coffee led to the formation of Polaris Wines, who recently launched Heritance Wines.  The name Heritance, which focuses on Napa Valley Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc (signature wines of France) is a combination of “heritage” and “inheritance.”  Since Bernard comes from nine generations of winemaking beginning in the 1600s, his heritage is evident.  He talked about being born in the same bedroom as his father and grandfather in Cognac, France.  “Inheritance” refers to his father, who was the regisseur of Chateau Lafite, one of the most highly regarded estates in the world, who taught him the wine business.

With the understanding that he would only make the wine and not handle the operations, he went about the business of putting his winemaking style, which he describes as “balance, elegance and complexity,” to good use.  This time he sources the best grapes throughout Napa Valley.

We tried the following line-up of the Heritance wines (and in the spirit of full disclosure, I’d buy any one of them):

-          2010 Heritance Sauvignon Blanc, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, this had lots of tropical fruit and was very refreshing.

-          2011 Heritance Sauvignon Blanc, also a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Rousanne.  Bernard described the texture almost as a drop of olive oil and he was right.  It was full of tropical fruit, guava and was very rich and complex.

-          2011 Pinot Noir, the wine was made in a Burgundian style with creamy notes of cherry, spice and great balance.  This is the first vintage of this wine.

-          2008 Heritance Cabernet, delivered with notes of balsamic, oak, black fruit, tobacco and floral notes.

Our last wine was an Argentine Malbec named Nandu.  On one of his trips, Bernard found some great vineyards in southern Mendoza and decided to make a wine there.  We tried the 2010 Malbec that was soft and full of blackberry, herbs, blueberry and cranberry.  I would bet this Malbec would convert non-Malbec drinkers.

Bernard described Heritance as a “virtual winery without walls.”  His goal is to make complex and complete wines that go well with food.  I, for one, am very glad that he didn’t retire. There is a great deal of “heritance” that is still yet to come.


An Evening at Jordan: An Experience for the Bucket List

When I started my blog a little over three years ago, I never expected that it could lead to an invitation from one of the best California wineries, Jordan Vineyard & Winery, to stay at their estate for an evening.  Due to a friendship with Lisa Mattson, Jordan’s head of marketing and engagement, we found that ourselves in the position of winning the wine bloggers lotto.

Approximately five days before we left, my husband tore his Achilles which meant he would be on crutches for the trip and many months to come.  It was touch and go until two days prior to our trip if he was going to be able to make it.  The stars aligned, the doctor gave him clearance, we were upgraded on the flight, and then American lost our luggage.  But more on that later.

 

 

We were met by Sean Brosnihan from guest services who showed us to our amazing suite that was stocked with fruit, water and a lovely bottle of Jordan Chardonnay.  Every detail was handled by Nitsa Knoll, director of hospitality.  Jordan, who absolutely has the art of customer experience down pat, also provided toiletries since they knew we had no luggage.

In 1972, Tom and Sally Jordan shared a love for French food and wine and always dreamed of owning a winery in France.  A glass of Bordeaux-style Beaulieu Vineyard’s Georges de Latour Cabernet during a meal in San Francisco changed their mind and they began to research locations in Sonoma and Napa.  In 1972, the day their son John was born, they bought the Alexander Valley property and began to plant more than 200 acres of vineyards with the vision of making a first growth quality Bordeaux-style wine.

The chateau, which was completed one week before Jordan’s first harvest in 1976, was built modeled on a French chateau with the goal of being a place for winemaking and hospitality.  The Jordan’s brought in the famed Andre Tchelistcheff, who directed the architecture of the winemaking process and brought in Rob Davis to help with the winemaking.  More than 40 years later, Davis remains Jordan’s winemaker.  In 2005, John Jordan stepped in as CEO of the winery and began an effort to make the winery more eco-friendly which included installing hillside solar panels to offset 75 percent of the winery’s electricity usage, irrigating their grapevines with recycled water reclaimed from the winery.

Sean Brosnihan on the Jordan Patio

I talked before about customer experience – and this begins with the people, the beauty of the property and the pairing of food and wine.  After a tour of the breathtaking property, we stopped at a patio to try the 2010 Jordan Chardonnay, which is now 100 percent allocated to restaurants and only sold at the winery.  The wine is made with 100 percent Russian River Valley grapes and was made in an Old World style.  It was full of stone fruit, tropical fruits, slate, apple and had great minerality and acidity.

It was served with curried cauliflower with Maharaja spice and a Zarnicholi with cauliflower puree and green onion with caviar.  Who would have thought cauliflower and caviar would have been the star pairing with this chardonnay?  I bought several bottles to take home.

We then proceeded to tour the inside of the winery – the barrel room, the formal dining room and finally the secret passage door, which led to a VIP tasting room.  There we were treated to a beautiful cheese plate designed to go with the 2003 and 2008 Jordan Cabernet wines.  The 2003 was a beautiful Bordeaux style cabernet that was silky and beautiful.  The 2008 cabernet, Jordan’s most current release, was big, vibrant and soft with lots of cherries and plums.  Just lovely, but very different from the 2003 as the blends change year to year.

We returned to our room to sample the bottle of 2010 Jordan Chardonnay.  The winery even provided a driver to our dinner at Scopa, where we were lucky enough to meet up with Graham, the Wine Czar, who recommended a lovely Salina Bianco wine from Italy that I had not tried yet and matched perfectly with the seafood we ordered.  Our same driver was kind enough to haul our luggage up the 24 stairs to our room, when our luggage finally arrived 12 hours after we had landed.

The next morning, I had the chance to jog around the property and see the vineyards, olive trees and the fruit and vegetable garden that Jordan’s culinary team uses to prepare unique dining experiences on the property, before we were served a lovely breakfast.

If our experience was any indication of what the Jordan’s envisioned for their guests, I can say that it was the quintessential marriage of food, wine, and hospitality making the experience of Jordan stand out in my mind for years to come.


Head East: Steven Kent Wines Ahead

I recently received an invite to attend a Twitter tasting featuring the wines of Steven Kent Winery.  I wasn’t familiar with the wines from Steven Kent, but I’ve been hearing buzz lately about Livermore Valley, so I immediately accepted.  A few weeks later, a half case of wines found their way to my door.

First, more about the Livermore Valley, one of California’s oldest wine regions dating back to the 1760s.  In terms of location, it’s less than an hour east of San Francisco.  Robert Livermore planted the first vines in 1840 and according to the Livermore Valley Wine Map and Visitors Guide, the wineries in Livermore were the first to bottle Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah.  And, the region has also gained recognition for Bordeaux style wines due to similar growing conditions.  There are more than 50 wineries including well-known names like Wente and Concannon and more than 4,000 acres of grapes planted.

The Steven Kent winery was started in 1996 with a single minded goal to make the best Cabernet that rivals its global competitors.  Steven Kent Mirassou, of the Mirassou family brand now owned by Gallo fame, also owns La Rochelle Winery, which focuses on Pinots and Chardonnays, and was with us for the tasting.

From what I could tell, there were about 100 wine bloggers that were online to taste the wine.   Many – especially those not from California – had limited experience with Livermore Valley wines.  And, I would venture to guess that most immediately figured out what we had been missing.

2011 “Lola” (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon Blend) Ghielmetti Vineyard $24 — orange blossom, honeysuckle, lime, floral, minerality and pear.  A perfect patio wine on a sunny Spring day.

2010 La Rochelle Chardonnay, Dutton-Morelli Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley $65 – apple pie spice, pear, butterscotch, white flowers, peach, caramel candy and vanilla.  A very elegant Old World style chardonnay.

2009 La Rochelle Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands $38 – fruit forward, black cherry, raspberry, earthy, very silken with a hint of smoke.

2009 La Rochelle Pinot Noir, Donum Estate, Carneros $75 –  cherry cola, blackberry, oregano, dried cherries and notes of mushroom.  This was the earthiest wine in the bunch.  The Old World Pinot lovers raved and the New World Pinot lovers didn’t in our group.  I liked both the Pinots, but the style was very different.

2009 Steven Kent Petite Verdot, Ghielmetti Vineyard, Livermore Valley $50 –  cocoa, chile, leather, smoke, figs, plum and tobacco.  This was like a spicy fig newton in a glass, but smooth and balanced.  I enjoyed this thoroughly.

2009 Steven Kent Cabernet, Home Ranch Vineyard, Livermore Valley $65, cassis, plum, chocolate, spearmint and oak.  A wonderful representation of the promise of Cabernet.

Perhaps a trip East the next time I am in San Francisco is in due order.




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