Archived entries for Cabernet Franc

June Wine Round-Up: A Few of My Favorite Things

It’s June, it’s hot and it’s time for the round-up of wines that made the grade this month.  It’s a mix of red and whites that consisted of wines from around the globe.  We tried many more than what made this column.

The notable wines from California, Australia, France, Spain and Greece were as follows:

White

2013 Jordan Chardonnay – tropical fruit, a touch of oak, but well balanced with a nice minerality that made it perfect for a seafood dinner accompaniment.

2011 Ktima Tselepos Blanc De Gris Moschofilero – I tried a few Greek wines, but this one topped my favorite list.  Great acidity, citrus and minerality.  It was great.

2013 Palacio de Bornos Rueda Verdejo – Very refreshing with a nice mix of citrus, flowers and fruit.

 Red

2011 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – what can say I say?  Jordan makes delicious wines.  This had notes of chocolate, cassis, blackberry, herbs and vanilla.

2012 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon – big blackberry taste, nicely balanced with notes of chocolate.

2012 Alanera Rosso Veronese – dried black fruit, spice, tobacco and mocha.  This had a great earthiness and nice balance.

2012 Salton Intenso Cabernet France — red fruit, strawberry, tobacco, leather and coffee.  A really interesting representation of Cabernet Franc.


2012 Yangarra Ironheart Shiraz – whoa – deep dark fruit, mocha, blueberry and earth.  This one blew me away.

2012 Yangarra GSM – black cherry, mocha, herbs and earthiness make this another must try red.

2013 Emilio Moro Finca Resalso – a nice tempranillo blend with notes of chocolate, mocha, eucalyptus, licorice and deep black fruit.

2012 Protos Tinto Fino – earthy, black berry, violet and herbs. A good everyday drinking red wine.


March Madness: A Wino’s Perspective

I’ve had so many great stories to tell lately that it has been a while since I’ve done a wine round-up.  We tried ten wines and five made the list of our #thirstythursday tasting group.  I love bringing this group together because it is such a diverse group of palates and it has been fun to see the evolution of several of them as their passion and knowledge of wine evolves.  It also keeps snobbery in check because it’s fun to watch them discover a Zinfandel that makes them want to drink Zinfandels for the first time.

2012 Loveblock Pinot Noir – this New Zealand-based pinot noir was full of red fruit with a funky layer of earthiness.  It was well balanced and a totally different take on pinot noir that I enjoyed.

2013 The Federalist Zinfandel – this was described as “the zinfandel that makes me want to drink zinfandel” by several of the members in our group.  This was loaded with spice, berry and had big notes of mocha.  It was very approachable and drinkable.

1999 Lazzarito Vigna La Delizia Barolo – for many in the room, this was the oldest wine that they had ever tried.  It had a big earthy quality with plum and almost a raisin taste.  It was very good but I wish I had given it some decanter time and had a food pairing to match.  I wasn’t fair to the wine in that aspect.

2012 Cornerstone Cabernet Franc Napa Valley– another great representation of what a cabernet franc should taste like to be bottled on its own accord.  It was full of a balance of green pepper, chocolate and deep berry. 

2012 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – it’s like receiving a gift from one of your favorite and elegant relatives.  You start with looking at the stylish packaging and follow by carefully unwrapping what is inside.  In this wine, I found layers of sophistication and tasted everything from blackberry to chocolate to mocha to licorice.  Intense and delicious.


January Wine Favorites: Top Three that Knocked My Socks Off

Last week’s tasting acutely illustrated the expression that you have to kiss frogs to find a prince. We tried 12 wines.  I’m going to cover three.

White

  • 2013 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone North Coast White Rocks – this wine begs for a pairing with Asian food but is delicious on its own.  You’ll taste jasmine flowers, honeydew, peach and other tropical notes.  Note there is some sweetness, but the balance is countered with a nice acidity.  Definitely a group favorite of all the whites in the tasting and a top three of all wines tasted.

Reds

  • Santa Rita Triple C 2010 – what a lovely red wine!  This elegant blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere brings together black currant, tobacco, blackberry, violet, mocha and chocolate.  It was absolutely delicious and was the first bottle consumed.

  • 2012 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Stepping Stone Cuvée – full of juicy cherry fruit, herbs, earth and balance.  This was a delicious pinot noir and another shining star example of how Cornerstone continues to produce wines that are consistently on my list of favorite wines.

It’s the Holidays: Live a Little

I recently sampled two high-end wines that deserved their own write up.  First, let me say in the spirit of full disclosure, I am not on the Cornerstone Cellars payroll.  I just really like the style and structure of their wines – up and down the value chain.  They are consistently well made, represent the terroir where they are grown and vary from year to year depending on nature.

  • 2011 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – we tried this over a two day period and it really needs a chance for the layers to unravel.  At first sip, it was big and powerful with notes of chassis, mocha and blackberry.  On day two, it was elegant, nuanced and the floral and spice notes really came through.  It was everything a Howell Mountain Cabernet should be.

  • 2010 Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon – a blend of six different Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards and one Cabernet Franc vineyard from the renowned Puente Alto Vineyard in Maipo.  The wine had the juiciness of ripe red fruit, balanced minerality, notes of Asian Spice, plum and chocolate.  Since this was recently named number nine on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list, finding the Don Melchor might become a treasure hunt.  But well worth it. 

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.

 


Cork Wine Bar: Wine 101, 201 and 301 Education Series

I was recently asked to participate in Cork Wine Bar’s series of wine classes — Wine 101, 201 and 301, that was hosted by Stephanie and Jeff Rennells, the passionate and funny owners of Cork.  At each session we tasted six wines from around the world.  I found the wines to be diverse, off the beaten path and came to the realization that Stephanie and Jeff took great care to select wines that they were excited about sharing.  The entire series of three diverse and fun tastings was only $115, which is the deal of the decade.

The Fundamentals of Wine Series 101 took folks through wine producing regions of the world, common varieties, how to taste wine, common flavors of wines, wine ratings and common wine terms.  I was in Palo Alto for work, so I couldn’t attend this one, but the materials that were distributed looked like a great primer for beginners looking to learn more about wine. 

I was able to attend Wine Series 201 where we covered New World and Old World wines.  The format was casual, laid back and fun with wines that were affordable and then sold at a discount that evening.  People asked plenty of questions and the knowledge of the attendees ranged from newbies to serious wine lovers.  We covered how sparkling wines and champagnes are made and then tasted wines and cheeses from around the world – Spain, Austria, France and California primarily.  I loved the Qupe Marsanne which had layers of caramel, butterscotch, almond and a lot of complexity.  Just delicious.  Other stand-outs were The Franc Cabernet France and Chateau Paul Mas Rhone.  We talked wine storage, sustainable wines, tasting and Old World vs New World wines.  

In the Wines Series 301 class, we focused on wines from Italy and France.  They did a nice job in covering the geography of the region, which highlighted the complexities to help attendees understand the differences between the regions of Napa Valley, France (ranging from the Loire Valley to Champagne to Cotes du Rhone to Burgundy to Bordeaux.  Right Bank Merlots to Left Bank Cabernets) and finally Italy.  We talked about pairing food/wine as well as advanced wine terms ranging from unctuous (rich, lush and intense) to volatile (smells of vinegar as a result of a heavy amount of bacteria).  And then, we had a great page of tasting notes of characteristics of red and white wines.  In our tasting, I loved the Antech Cremant, the Val de Mer Petit Chablis, the Langhe Nebbiolo and the Chateau D’Aurilhac Cabernet.

I learned a lot – did you know there were more sulfites in a banana than a glass of wine?  Did you know there was no official certification for natural or sustainably labeled wines?  Stephanie and Jeff reinforced what I am a big believer in personally – try wines you like from lesser known regions.  You’ll find a bargain and you’ll find some wines that you love.    

You will walk away from this class with an understanding of wine varieties and regions, how to identify what you smell and taste, how to spot common defects in wine, how to select wine from a menu, how to read a wine label, and the basics of how wine is made.  There is a lot of information that you will take away from this class, but I won’t be able to bring it all to life the way that that Stephanie and Jeff did.  I highly recommend this wine class series.  It fills a big need in the Dallas market that is currently not filled without taking an expensive certification class.

 

 


Cornerstone Cellars, Elyse Winery & J Vineyards: Samples to Remember

When sample packages from Cornerstone Cellars, J Vineyards and Elyse Winery arrive in the mail, I’ve learned to stand up and take notice. 

I’ll lead with the still wines.  Both Cornerstone and Elyse are known for hand-crafted and boutique wines that express the terrior where they are produced.  I’ve found these to be balanced, delicious and get better and better every year.  The wines are all distinct and differ depending on where they are grown.  Winemaker Jeff Keene who talked about how his wines express their sense of place .

My notes on the wines were as follows:

  • The 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon combines the grapes of three vineyards — Ink Grade on Howell Mountain, Oakville Station in the To Kalon district and Kairos in Oak Knoll.  Tons of blackberry, raspberry, dried herbs, chocolate and mocha.  I had the chance to try this in the spring and it only got better with age.
  • The 2010 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Ink Grade Vineyard on Howell Mountain known for its white soils, which is unique.  This wine had tons of black fruit, spice, flowers, mocha and chocolate.  I loved every sip of this and it was beautiful.
  • The 2010 Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc was full of berries, herbs and the greenness that is indicative of cabernet franc.  It was balanced and delicious.

In the spring, I sat down with the Elyse Winery’s portfolio of wines at the winery.  The Elyse Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel 2008 was impressive then, and the 2009 is impressive now.  I took this wine to a gathering with friends and it was definitely the favorite of the evening.  It was full of red berry, spice, earthiness, plum and coffee. 

And now onto J Vineyards & Winery bubblies.  I had the chance to meet Kathryn Lindstrom, chief operating officer, and Melissa Stackhouse, vice president of winemaking, when they made a trip to Dallas, also in the spring.  Melissa talked about the collaboration that happens with her wine making team of three where there is a focus on the integrity of the grapes and bringing the fruit into the glass.  She views her team’s role as “allowing the wines to find their own happy place” and interfering minimally. 

I tried the J Cuvee 20 Brut which we opened at the turning point of the Auburn game when it became clear we were going to the Championship game.  I tasted almonds, citrus, pear and freshly baked bread.  With our victory solidified and as I made my plane reservations to Pasadena, we turned to the J Brut Rose NV, which was full of luscious strawberry, brioche, raspberry and notes of floral.  Both of these wines stood up to a national championship celebration!  War Eagle!


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.


Corison Winery: A Sense of Place, Time and Terrior

Corison Wines are all about the time and place.  If you have paid attention to the evolution of blue-chip cabernets in Napa Valley, chances are you have consumed a wine that has Cathy Corison’s magic touch.  Cathy, one of Napa’s first female winemakers, started making cabernet in 1978; several years after getting her Master’s in Enology from U.C. Davis.  From 1980-89, she was the lead winemaker for Chappellet Vineyard.  She also made wine for Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch.

In 1987, she decided to focus on her own wine and began making Corison after making a handshake agreement with three farmers, who still provide grapes for her Napa Cabernet.  In 2003, her venture was so successful that she stopped making wines for others.  She originally focused on “100 percent cabernet all the time” and she and her husband, William Martin, purchased the current winery property in 1996.

We were greeted by one of my favorite folks in wine, Hardy Wallace, who manages the tasting room and has his own wine that I’m dying to try.  We talked about Cathy’s philosophy that the winery should be a place to make wine.  Looking around, you see no big tasting salon and no branded merchandise underscoring her philosophy.  During harvest, it’s a three person production crew – Cathy, William and her cellar master – just the way it’s been for the past 15 years.

While Cathy originally started with just cabernet, she was quickly called to be on the wine dinner circuit due to the success of her wines.  Most wine dinners start off with a white wine, and since Cathy used to only make reds, someone else’s wines were usually served first.  After having to drink someone else’s white wine which was not up to her standards, she decided to start making the Corazón Anderson Valley Gewürztraminer.  The 2009 was bone dry with honey, floral notes and tropical flavors.  I now own six bottles.

We then tried the 2008 Helios Cabernet Franc, which had fabulous green notes with vanilla, spice and that chalkiness that defines a cabernet franc.  Cathy makes two barrels a year of this wine.  You may start to notice some Greek influences in the names as well as the fact that the Corison name is only branded on the cabernet which is 100% cabernet (a wine can be called cabernet even if just 75% of the grapes are cabernet).

We then moved into the Corison cabernet vertical line up made from grapes in the Rutherford Bench between Rutherford and St. Helena.  We tried the following:

-          2009 Napa Cabernet – full of berry, cocoa and promise of what magic would happen if you put this wine down for 20 years.

-          2005 Napa Cabernet – berry, fruit forward, cassis and lots of spice and cherry.

-          2001 Napa Cabernet – we actually opened a second bottle of this because it wasn’t showing the true potential and I am so glad that we did.  This was my favorite – it was balanced, earthy and full of blackberry and bramble.  This was truly a hallmark year and Hardy told me was one of Cathy’s favorite vintages.

-          2004 Napa Cabernet – full of flowers, plum, currant and definitely could use some more time in the bottle to show its truest potential.

Our single vintage Kronos line-up included the following:

-          1998 Kronos – elegant, smooth and ridiculously good.  My tasting note was “wow” and that summed it up.

-          2006 Kronos – this was a muscular wine with cassis, blackberry, allspice and chocolate notes.

-          2008 Kronos – cherry, blueberry, plum, allspice and chocolate were all prevalent in this wine.

We briefly had the chance to meet Cathy as her investors were in town and she was incredibly gracious.  If her wines could talk, they would have amazing, complex and unique stories to tell.  She definitely lets the vineyards speak for themselves.


Give Cork A Pop: A Wine Bar Review

It had been a while since I had last visited Cork Wine Bar and it was time for a return trip.  I knew that Cork used Enomatic wine dispensers, and I am a huge fan of the technology.  It allows consumers to try a wide variety of wines while making business sense for wine bar owners.  Thus, I made the journey to the West Village in Uptown.

When I walked in, I saw 48 wine options labeled into categories (big and bold, eight for eight, etc.) along with a variety of computer touch screens giving information about each of the wines along with the price.  You can try in quantities from a one ounce tasting to a full glass of six ounces. 

My friend compared it to a “grown up’s Dave and Busters,” in reference to the card that you buy to insert into the machines as you taste the wines.  We tried wines from several regions – from California to Spain to France to Washington State.  The unanimous favorite for the wine was the 2011 Chateau Guiraud ‘Le G de Chateau Guiraud’ Blanc Sec from Bordeaux, France.  It was a Sauvignon Blanc blended with Semillon and it had flavors of citrus (lemon and grapefruit), thyme and notes of honey. 

Our favorite red was the 2010 Spring Valley Vineyard Kathryn Corkrum Cabernet Franc from Walla Walla, Washington.  This was a well balanced red with flowers, green pepper, raspberries, herbs and some strawberry.  This was a very nice and fragrant cabernet franc that represented the grape well.

I tried six wines for less than $25 and loved the variety of choices.  Cork also designates a certain happy hour section each night and features a retail selection with 350 wines and craft beers.  They also have a selection of appetizers and desserts.




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