Archived entries for Cabernet Sauvignon

What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been: A Conversation with David Ready Jr.

It’s rare you sit down with an individual that saw 175 Grateful Dead concerts, went on tour with them and lived to tell the tale.  Then you find out he’s an esteemed winemaker for Murphy Goode, a newly converted runner (lost 50 pounds since he started), believes in giving back to the community to bring his dad’s legacy to life and is just an all-around cool person. 

David Ready started his career in winemaking in 1985 when his dad strongly suggested getting a job would be a good idea.  He grew up in Minnesota, played in rock band for a time and is a huge Vikings fan.  He worked harvests in Australia and Sonoma.  David moved back to California approximately 20 years ago and it’s been home since.  He worked his way up from cellar master to assistant winemaker and then served as the winemaker for Zinfandel in 1997.  Today he supervises 18 wines.  

David came through town last month to talk about his Homefront Red release, which raised 300K for Operation Homefront, a 501c (3) organization developed to support the families of deployed service members immediately following 9/11.  The organization provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.  And the cool thing is that the distributors and sales people for the winery have chipped in to support the effort as well.

Ready wanted to do this to honor his father who passed away during the fall of 2010.  He pondered what it meant to “do good” with the current owners of the winery.  His father served in Vietnam and his family has a long history of military service.  In his words, “Everyone knows someone who has served.  These kids go off in search of a better life, service our country, get hurt and then they and their families suffer.  No family should ever be left behind.”

He makes wines that he wants to drink and wants to match them with different foods and settings.  “I love a big cab, but not every day,” he said.  We tried a few and I want to continue to drink them too.  Clearly he has found his calling and you can tell he’s passionate about food, wine and socializing. We tried the following:

  • Murphy Goode The Fume Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – citrus, tropical fruit and melon.  A really nice $14 poolside or Texas patio wine.
  • Murphy Goode Dealer’s Choice Alexander Valley Cabernet 2010 – blackberry, herbs, bay leaves and thyme.  A very well balanced and drinkable wine that could age well or be opened today. 
  • Murphy Goode All In Claret Alexander Valley 2011 – a blend of Alexander Valley merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot is full of dark cherry, blackberry, herbs and raspberries.  It was a really great blend.
  • Murphy Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel 2010 – raspberry, Asian spice, black cherry with balance.  This wine called for BBQ but didn’t need it to be appreciated.

Duckhorn Winemaker Tour Rolls Through Dallas

Renee Ary, Duckhorn Winemaker

The Duckhorn Winemaker tour rolled through town this month and featured the launch of the inaugural Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay as well as new releases from Duckhorn Vineyards, Goldeneye, Paraduxx, Migration, and Decoy.

First the chardonnay, Duckhorn started making this wine in 2011, but they didn’t feel like they fulfilled the vision until the release of the 2012 vintage.  It was made in an old world style, had lots of citrus flavor but with the beautiful notes that aging in French oak brings. I was impressed.

I also had the chance to sit down with Duckhorn Vineyards Winemaker Renee Ary, who became Duckhorn’s fourth winemaker in four decades.  She has worked at Duckhorn for 11 years first overseeing quality control, then as associate winemaker, then as assistant winemaker before being named to her recent position.  She was in the Texas market on the tour to debut Duckhorn’s new chardonnay and allow industry folks to taste the latest offerings.

Renee started as a chemistry and art major and then parlayed her passion of wine into a profession when she worked at Robert Mondavi Winery as a chemist.  She combines the creative genius and technical expertise to make some great juice while respecting the craft of winemaking.  And, she’s one of the nicest and most unassuming folks that you’d ever met.

You can tell Renee loves her job and the Duckhorn vineyards.  For her, it’s about making great wine and continuing the legacy of Duckhorn. 

I tried the entire line-up of Duckhorn including the 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, the 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay, the 2011 Napa Valley Merlot, the 2011 Napa Valley Merlot Three Palm Vineyard, 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2012 The Discussion Estate Napa Valley Red Wine.  We also got to try the 2008 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot out of a double magnum, which was exquisite.  Like always, the wines were amazing and I’m excited to see Renee’s continued stamp on the future.

Michael Fay, Winemaker Goldeneye Winery

I also had the chance to talk to Michael Fay, the Winemaker for Goldeneye Winery.  I wasn’t familiar with Goldeneye’s small production Pinot Noirs, but am very glad for the discovery.  I tried the 2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, the 2011 Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard, the 2011 Ten Degrees Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and the 2009 Goldeneye Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard in a magnum.  You could taste the ruggedness of Anderson Valley Pinot and the Gowan Creek had more structure and texture.  These wines were also great.


California, French and Italian Quarterly Wine Update

I had fallen behind on the work #ThirstyThursday events so it was imperative that I grab some co-workers and taste some wines.  This time, we had 14 wines from California, France and Italy.  I’m featuring the nine that made the list which did not, for the record, include the wine marketed to the “inner diva” in me.  If that what my inner diva looks like, I would say that she should stay bottled up.

White Value Wines

California

2012 Jekel Vineyard Riesling – notes of white peaches, apricot and citrus.  I fell in love with this wine last Summer.  It still is great, but something about drinking it on a cold January day vs. pool or porch-side was different. It made me yearn for warm weather.

2012 Bonterra Chardonnay – tropical fruit, almonds, lemon with a touch of oak, but had balance.  A nice chardonnay for those who don’t like chardonnays.

Italy

Bolla Prosecco NV – always a totally quaffable sparkler with notes of green apple and toast.  Drink with OJ or without.

Red Value Wines

California

2012 Artesa Pinot Noir – strawberry, black cherry, oak with floral notes.  Hands down, this was one of the top wines tasted.

2011 Bonterra Zinfandel – was what a zinfandel should be – smoky, spicy and big.

2012 Five Rivers Pinot Noir – smoky, dark cherry, earth and good balance. 

France

2012 Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy Vinsobres — a classic Rhone blend with notes of cherry, spice, herbs, earth and flowers.  This was one of my new value favorites that I will be looking to buy at my first opportunity.

Italy

2010 Bolla Creso Rosso Verona – lots of fruit, cassis, spice and leather.  A good Tuesday night pizza or pasta wine.

Red Date Night (with someone you like a lot)

2012 J Vineyards Misterra Pinot Noir ($50) – a new J Vineyards wine combining Pinot Noir, Pinotage and Pinot Meunier was earthy with notes of herbs, flowers and fig.  I really enjoyed the unique taste and blend of this offering.


Fine Wine On Tap Changes Dallas Wine By the Glass Landscape at Savor (and Beyond)

As I am in technology marketing for my paying gig, I am all about watching innovation and disruption change industries and I love watching transformations.  Google.  Apple.  Twitter. Uber.  All companies that pushed the envelope and changed the way we search, compute, live and ride. 

But let’s face it.  The wine industry has not been known for innovation and there has been a “what’s old is right mentality.” So anytime that I’m pitched a chance to talk to someone in the wine industry that is doing something different beyond a new app, you can sign me up almost immediately.

John Coleman and Dan Donahoe

I had the chance to sit down with Savor’s Executive Chef John Coleman and Free Flow Wines Co-Founder and Chairman Dan Donahoe to talk about their partnership in bringing the first premium wines on tap to Dallas.  It all started with a phone call.  John self-described himself as someone who finds it a challenge to find people who may or may not want to be found.  And, he wanted to bring innovation and “out of the box thinking” to Dallas in the form of premium wine on tap to his restaurant. A long-term friendship and business partnership was formed.

These guys are passionate about their business. And, the business benefits are impressive.  Savor is now the number one stand-alone top volume restaurant for wines on tap in the country.  Yes, Dallas – home of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay playdates and big steakhouse upcharged “premiere brands” – wins in wine innovation. 

Let’s talk about the benefits.  The keg packaging removes hundreds of tons of packaging waste from the environment.  I was there when Republic showed up to deliver the barrels.  At 58 pounds apiece, they seemed as easy as bringing in a few cases of wine.  If you’ve been to Savor, you know they don’t have a lot of space.  What they do with some many diners in such a small kitchen is pretty amazing.  And, the consistency is the real kicker.  Every glass of wine is guaranteed fresh – every single time.  I just had a great glass of one of my French favorites during a business trip to Houston.  It had turned and I sent it back.  That gets expensive for restaurants. 

I had the chance to tap my personal glass of wine.  It was lightning fast and the J Vineyards Pinot Gris tasted exactly like it did when I hung out with Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse from J Vineyards.

Now the brands.  There are some big boys embracing this technology – Arietta, Frog’s Leap, J Vineyards, MINER, Paul Dolan Vineyards, Robert Craig, Trefethen Family Vineyards – even Va Piano, one of my great winery finds in Walla Walla. Right now, 140 wine brands are shipping their juice to Free Flow Wines where they ship to 43 states.  It is pumped into ten staging tanks in a 22,000 square foot facility based in Napa and put into over 7,000 kegs where it is shipped across country.  It gives restaurants and consumers the opportunity to feature more “off the beaten path” wines at little risk.  And, wine geeks like me respond with open arms.

Savor offers eight whites by the glass, half carafe and carafe ranging from $9 for the glass to $44 for the carafe.  The whites include Simi Sauvignon Blanc, Trefethen Dry Riesling, Franciscan Chardonnay and Duchman Vermentino.  There are eight reds including Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Qupe Syrah and Paul Dolan Cabernet offered in the same format from $9 for a glass to $50 for a carafe.  They also feature a list of wines by the bottle. 

This barrel to bar approach is incredibly innovative.  The great thing is that chef and sommelier driven restaurants like Savor are embracing and encouraging this innovation.  Dan talked about several hotel and restaurant chains that are embracing the technology. If you’ve followed my “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain” postings, you know I’m truly happy to see this as I’d rather not have to go taste chain food to make my point.

The only downside that was proactively brought up by Dan is that this technology is not for aging wine.  So, the tradition of an aged bottle and the ceremony around that will continue at Savor as well, but 80 percent of the wines today are sold by tap. 

Being guaranteed a fresh glass of wine with no cork taint (John has never had a corked wine since opening), giving restaurants the opportunity to expand their selections without the risk.  Having the ability to buy a good glass of wine at a fair price and the environmental benefits make this an innovation that is worthy of note.  The future quality, selection and value of the wines you drink by the glass depend on it. 


McGah Family: Football, Family and Fabulous Wine

I originally planned to do a wine and National Football League oriented column, but I find myself writing this over a week after the Big Yawn (Big Game).  And I guess you already lived through that with me with my column around the BCS Championship Game.

I’ve tasted wine from a lot of athletes and as a trend I’ve found that those affiliated with the NFL seem to make pretty good juice by affiliating themselves with great winemakers.  McGah Family Cellars keeps that tradition going with Winemaker Mike Smith.  The McGah family’s Northern California heritage began a century ago when the patriarch, E.W. McGah, came to San Francisco.  McGah co-founded the Oakland Raiders football franchise in 1960 and it stayed in the family until 2005.  Several generations of family members were involved in the winery and today, Sherratt Reicher, E.W.’s great grandson, manages Hudson Companies, a wine portfolio company. 

McGah Family Vineyards, which were purchased by the McGah’s in 1990, is located in Rutherford in Napa Valley.  The philosophy is to create natural wines that are expressive of the terroir and fruit.   They talk about harmony from the soil to the glass.

I had the chance to try two review wines:

2012 McGah Family Cellars 1070 Green Sauvignon Blanc – this was a wonderful white wine with complexity, minerality, lemon grass, green apple and floral notes.  It was acidic and balanced. 

2011 McGah Family Cellars Scarlett Cabernet Sauvignon – blackberry, chocolate, earth, tobacco currants and spice make this a lush, complex and perfectly balanced wine. 

Both of these wines were delicious and I knew that football may be over for the season, but wine drinking is a year long hobby.


Holiday Wine Round Up

It’s a new year and time for a new wine round up of those sampled over the holidays.  This time I tried 18 wines in the $10 to $125 range from California, Chile, Italy and Spain.  Half of them made my list, which excluded some high priced samples:

Whites:

Italy

NV Mionetto Brut Prosecco – the quintessential, easy to drink brunch wine.  Priced at $14, this sparkling wine had notes of green apple, pear, citrus and peach. 

2012 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico ($17) – I liked this wine, but I think it needs to be paired with Italian food.  I got lots of tropical fruit, melon, apple and floral notes. 

Spain

2012 Franco Espanolas Royal White Rioja ($10) – lots of lemon curd, citrus and green apple.  This was a nice aperitif wine that begged for shellfish.

Reds:

California

2011 90+ Cellars Pinot Noir ($16) – a very drinkable wine with black cherry, strawberry, vanilla and earth.   This is a wine club that sources wines from around the world delivered at an “everyday wine” price point.

2010 Wolfgang Puck Red Wine Blend ($14.99) – when a master chef puts his name on a bottle of wine, you know it will be very food friendly.  You taste the berry in the Merlot, followed by the black fruit in the Cabernet, and then finish with the spice of the Zinfandel.  I’d pair this with beef tenderloin.

Chile

2009 Viña Concha y Toro Don Melchor ($125) – this lived up to its billing as Chile’s first ultra-premium wine.  Cassis, berry, tobacco and chocolate notes are showcased in this very well balanced special occasion wine.

Spain:

2009 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($13) – a great value wine with notes of cherry, herb, wood, spice and chocolate. 

2007 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($15) – notes of cherry, rosemary, basil, and tomato plant – this made me crave a margarita pizza.

I’m also going to give a special shout out to one wine that blew me away from the Guarachi Family.  Guarachi, which was previously unknown to me, sources small parcel lots from top vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and makes Cabernet and Pinot Noir.  The winery was launched by Alex Guarachi, a native of Chile and importer of South American wines.  The winery just purchased Sun Chase Vineyard in Sonoma and if this wine is any indication of what is to come, I’m beyond excited.

2011 Guarachi Family Wines Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($65) – this was full of red berries, cherry, floral, earth and cherry cola.  I loved this wine.


Round Pond Wines: A Great Match for the Holidays

Sometimes it’s crazy how serendipity works.  A few months ago I was in Punta Mita, Mexico, at a resort with my husband and some friends where I happened to run into a group of girls celebrating a milestone birthday.  Literally – in an intertube on the lazy river at the Four Season’s Resort.  One of the girls began chatting with my friend about wine.  Turns out she has a sales position for Round Pond Winery, a winery that came across my radar recently because other bloggers have been talking about their wines with my accolades.  I logged on later that day and received an introductory email probably around the time I was drinking cava in the lazy river with my new friend.  Serendipity.

The winery has been operated by the second generation of the MacDonnell family for the past 25 years and with a focus on Napa Valley wines that are sustainably farmed as well as an olive mill and citrus syrups.   The family started as growers 30 years ago and still sell Cabernet grapes as well as produce their own wines. 

I received three samples from Round Pond and decided to bring them to my husband’s family Christmas dinner in Huntsville, AL.  Note that it is rare that I bring sample wines to holiday dinners, but I took a guess that these wines would pair well with my brother in law’s steak grilling abilities.  It was a wise choice.

The three wines that we tried were two reds and one white:

  • We began with the 2012 Round Pond Rutherford ($24) which matched perfectly with the appetizers.  Lots of notes of tropical fruit, peach, apricot, citrus, melon and lemon grass made this wine a perfect aperitif wine to start a fabulous holiday meal.
  • Our second wine was the 2011 Round Pond Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) which had notes of blackberry, black cherry, chocolate, currant and spice.  It was balanced and matched perfectly with the steak.  Absolutely a fantastic special occasion wine.
  • The last wine was the 2011 Round Pond Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), which has lots of red ripe fruit, plum, cassis, flowers and herbs.

These are three highly recommended wines in the $24 to $50 range that will remain on my list of wines to seek out in the future.


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 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.

 


Hardy Wines and Accolade Wine Group: A Match Made in Heaven

Australian wines hit America right around the time I started to drink wine with a cork and figured out that I could afford to buy a case of Lindeman’s.  About 1.6 million cases were imported in 1995.  Today the Australian wine industry is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine with 750 million liters a year.

I credit Australian wine with beginning my long love affair with the grape.  However, along the way what was shipped in by the large wine makers began to lose its luster.  Smaller production companies were acquired and some of the brands languished.  Luckily, that course is starting to correct.

With the acquisition of Hardy Wines by Accolade Wine Group about 15 months ago, there is a renewed focus on bringing the Nottage Hill and William Hill brands back to the US market.   Paul Lapsley, group chief winemaker for the Hardy portfolio wines, came through Dallas to talk and taste about the wines in his portfolio.  Lapsley’s been making wines for more than 30 years and has worked at some of the top wineries in Australia after doing several months in Burgundy.  Hardy Wines have been made since the late 1870s and are one of the long-time family wine making legacies.

We tried the following wines and they were some of the best value wines I’ve tried in a long time:

  • Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2012 – had lots of tropical fruit, peach, nectarine and oak.
  • William Hardy Chardonnay 2012 – loved the minerality and acidity of this wine.  It was made in a very Old World style with tropical fruit, lemon, vanilla and oak.
  • Nottage Hill Pinot Noir 2012 – black cherry, mushroom funkiness, vanilla and herbs.  Quite the bargain at under $10.

  • Nottage Hill Shiraz 2011 – dark berry, spice, chocolate, licorice and herbs.
  • William Hardy Shiraz 2011 – blueberry, plum, blackberry, chocolate and earthiness.

We then moved to the Tintara wines from McLaren Value, which was established in 1861.  These wines were from 2010, what has been referred to by many as a stellar year for Australian wine.  After trying the 2010 Tintara Cabernet Sauvignon and the Shiraz, seductive and lush are the words that came to mind – especially for the $20 price tag.

The grand finale was the Winemakers Rare Release Shiraz 2008, which was made from the best grapes of three wineries.  This was incredible with notes of chocolate, spice, pepper, thin mint Girl Scout cookies (trust me), blackberry, mocha and vanilla.  It had miles of depth, power and complexity.




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