Archived entries for Pinot Noir

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 Wines Under $25

I was falling way behind on my wine reviews so I gathered the work folks together and it was time to celebrate Wine Wednesday.  This time, we were more successful with the wine selection.  We tried seven wines and I’m going to write about five of them.

Sparking:

  • Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling NV – this was a delicious sparkling that could be opened on any night.  It was full of tropical fruit, green apple, baked bread and minerality.  There was a little bit of sweetness, but a very nice balance.

White:

  • 2013 Hanna Chardonnay – full of baked apple, tropical fruit, crème brulee and hazelnut.  This was another well balanced chardonnay that had a nice proportion of oak.
  • 2013 Hahn SLH Chardonnay – also with baked apple, citrus, toffee and lemongrass.  A nice chardonnay for the person who is not a fan of chardonnay.

Red:

  • 2012 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir – lots of deep cherry, black currant, vanilla, spice and cherry cola.  This was both fruity and herbal at the same time.
  • 2012 True Grit Reserve Petite Sirah — this was bold and immense with notes of blackberry, spice, chocolate, mocha, eucalyptus and caramel.  This was a fantastic find.

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.

Twas the Night Before …. A December to Remember? Maybe?

‘Twas the Christmas season and all through the abode, my liver was working overtime to keep up with the load.  Much to my delighted eye did appear, some of the best wines that I’ve seen all year. 

Come Dom, Come Schramsberg, Come Pierre Peters. Come Charles Heidsieck.  As far as the eye can see, there are full tables of delicious bubbly. 

Come Clos Pegase.  Come 24 Vineyards.  Come Terra Valentine.  Come Coquerel. Come Barnett.  Come Caymus Select.  Come Quilceda Creek.  Come Larkmead. Come Tercero.  But I’m not done yet.

The bubbles have sparkled, the magnums shone bright.  The posts have been many – each and every night.  Merry Christmas to all, and in the next year, the added bulge I will fight.


The Art of Davis Bynum Blending: A Pinot Noir Clonal Lesson

Robert Larsen and Me

He just threw the question out, which might as well been rhetorical.  “Do you want to join the trade event or should we do a private one for a few of your wine club friends?”  That’s what Robert Larsen, director of communications for Rodney Strong and Davis Bynum Wines, asked me back in October.  Without hesitation, I gathered eight women and we began a journey led by Robert about Davis Bynum wines, the Russian River Valley and the art of deciphering clones of Pinot Noir.

First, a little about Davis Bynum.  Davis was the first to produce a single vineyard pinot noir from the Russian River Valley in 1973.  I loved hearing about how Bynum, an aspiring winemaker and reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, purchased his first wine, a petit sirah, from Robert Mondavi in 1951.  Other key dates included 1965 when he purchased a warehouse and transformed it into a winery in Albany to his purchase of a 26-acre vineyard in Napa, which he was unable to build due to construction restrictions.  His journey continued taking him to Sonoma in 1973, where he established the winery in Russian River Valley, which became an AVA in 1983.  Here he began his focus on pinot noir and chardonnay wines.  In 2007, he sold the winery to Tom Klein, who has been making wine for four generations and is the owner of Rodney Strong Vineyards.  Forty years later, the focus is still the same and he continues his involvement with Davis Bynum and often has lunch with winemaker, Greg Morthole.

Pinot Noir, a widely known grape, has several sub-varieties, referred to as “clones.”  The seminar that Robert led for us detailed five different clones and what made them special as well as the final Pinot blend – the 2012 Davis Bynum Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir, which shows the beauty of blending the right clones, at the right time and in the right wine.  Clones are described as a group of identical genes, cells or organisms derived from one ancestor.

Grapevine clones are those that have been grown from cuttings from one single “source,” and were found to have interesting or superior qualities.  Pinot Noir aka known as “I’m too sexy for my clone – at least after this tasting” is the grape with the most clones with a total of more than 400.

The clones found in Davis Bynum Pinot Noir are Pommard, Clone 777, Clone 667, Clone 115, Clone 114 and Wadenswil.  Here’s my assessment:

  • Clone 777 – dark, black cherry, earthy, fruit-forward, violet and licorice.
  • Clone 114 – earthy, cola , pomegranate, blueberry and some minerality.
  • Pommard – mushroom, cinnamon and cherry.  This was my favorite with lots of “sex appeal.”
  • Clone 115 – floral, cherry and raspberry. This was more Burgundian in nature than the others.
  • Wadenswil – cherry, rose, herbal with raspberry.  More tannins in this one due to the thicker skins due to climate.
  • Clone 667 – cherry, black tea and earthy. 

What I learned is that each clone has its own unique flavor and the finished blend was where the rubber meets the road and the grape meets the earth.  And, once again, Robert is truly the host with the most as he took us out for an amazing dinner at Dragonfly at Hotel ZaZa after the seminar.


Cornerstone Cellars and J Vineyards Make a Vacation Better

Punta Mita, Mexico.  It’s become the home that I can’t afford away from home – at least on a sustained basis.  Of course there is always a story behind the story.  More than 10 years ago when I worked in a different position, I had to buy trip insurance because inevitably the company that I worked for would force me to cancel my vacations due to a crisis.  In their defense, the company was going through a SEC investigation and communication was very important.

One New Year’s Eve, my husband made me resolve that I wouldn’t cancel vacations anymore.  A few months later, we found ourselves at the Four Seasons Punta Mita.  This was the first time we had gotten away in ages and the first time we left our daughter who may have been 12 weeks old at the time.

We had an amazing trip and after several bottles of wine, we decided we were curious about the Residence Clubs the Four Seasons were building.  In the dark, we snuck under the fence, climbed into the unit and saw how amazing it was.  My childhood trips involved driving many miles in a station wagon, all of us sleeping in one room at the Radisson Inn and nothing that remotely resembled a Four Seasons experience.  Let’s just say that we made the decision to purchase and have not regretted it once.

But, wine is high on my Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and prior to this visit, I found the lack of selection along with the cost to buy imported wine in Mexico to be a hindrance.  I take a lot of care in selecting what we will take to dinner or drink watching the sun set.

Usually, I don’t take samples to Mexico, but in this case, I had great relationships with two wineries that I consider special and who happened to send wines that paired well with my happy experience.

The first is Cornerstone Cellars.  Managing Partner Craig Camp has been a long-time friend of all wine bloggers and I have been lucky enough to be included on Cornerstone’s media samples list.

We tried five wines from Cornerstone.  We began with three Sauvignon Blancs from 2009, 2010 and 2011 made in the Old World style that I love.  It was surprising to taste the changes from year to year.  This is a winery that highlights the terrior, the climate and the strengths of each vintage.  There is no size fits all blueprint for this winery.  Each wine tasted represents the spectrum from older to younger and what happens with a well-made wine with a little age.  Before I tell you how much I enjoyed each of these, the 2009 and 2010 wines are currently available as library wines, which command a premium price from the $30 2011 offering.  I loved each of them – from the complexity of the 2009 with notes of herbs, minerality and lemon peel to the freshness of the 2010 with pear, floral and oak notes.  And then there’s the younger 2012 which is also delicious with great minerality, citrus and melon notes.

My next bottle was the 2012 Cornerstone Chardonnay from Oregon.  This was a great mix of citrus, creamy textures and the steely notes of an Old World chardonnay.  The depth and textures of this wine was like unwrapping a beautiful package and the contents did not disappoint.

The last Cornerstone selection was the 2011 Pinot Noir from Oregon.  This was a great representation of Oregon Pinot with black cherry and herbal notes.

For those of you who have followed this blog, you know that I am a lover of sparkling wine and champagne.  We started with the J Vineyards Cuvee 20 NV Brut, which was delicious with lots of green apple, creaminess and lots of tropical fruit.  It was a perfect wine to sip on the patio while we watched the sun set.

Our final wine was the J Vineyards Brut Rose NV.  This is one of my favorite sparkling wines.  I love the strawberry and cherries, baked French pastry and a silky texture.

Cornerstone Cellars and J Vineyards thank you for making my vacation experience greater and sharing your wonderful wines with me.


October Wine Round-Up

Now that the weather has cooled down in Texas, I’ve been lucky enough to get a number of wine shipments coming my way.  Those shipments led us to another #TipsyTuesday with a group of work colleagues.  Sometimes you have to kiss many frogs before you find your prince, but this time we had a great line-up of wines from around the world.  We tried 15 wines, one was corked and one didn’t make the cut, but the rest were solid wines.

White

In the spirit of full disclosure, these wines were supposed to be part of Natural Chardonnay Day #ChardDay and I ended up having to go out of town for work.  I gave notice to the folks coordinating and they were nice enough to tell me to save them for a rainy day.  Favorites are below (as mentioned, one of the Chardonnay’s was corked, so I won’t talk about that wine).

  • 2012 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay – full of tropical notes, vanilla, orange blossom and floral notes.  This was a great representation of a chardonnay.
  • 2012 Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay – I also got tropical, but there were some notes of spice to this wine along with honey and vanilla.  A totally different chardonnay but also very nice.

The other favorite whites included:

  • 2013 Domaine Begude Sauvignon Blanc – lots of minerality, citrus, lemongrass and grapefruit.  This was a great everyday wine.
  • 2013 Carmel Road Unoaked Chardonnay – notes of citrus and pear.  This was a very crisp Chardonnay.
  • 2013 Carmel Road Unoaked Riesling – notes of orange blossom, honey, floral and apricot.  It was really interesting and I kept coming back to it.

Red

  • 2009 Cune Reserva 2009 Rioja – definitely one of my favorites of the tasting.  Big notes of rich berry, spice and great terroir. 
  • 2007 Montecilla Gran Reserva Rioja – earthy with notes of smoke, pepper, cedar, raspberry, spice and leather. I thought this opened up nicely over the time of the tasting.
  • 1998 Vina Albina Rioja – this wine was full of dried cherry, spice and vanilla.  It was an interesting expression of aged rioja and I enjoyed it.

I always have to call out Cornerstone Cellars wines whenever I am lucky enough to receive them as there is a line out my door whenever they appear and with good reason.  We tried the 2012 Cornerstone Cellars Syrah, which was full of leather, coffee and notes of blackberry.  You could almost taste the intersection of the fruit of the earth with the skill of the winemaker who brought it all together like a conductor’s crescendo.  The second wine was the 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which continues to ‘hands down’ be one of my favorite Napa Valley Cabernets (just do a Google search of Cornerstone and Dallas Wine Chick and you can follow my love affair with these wines).

Rose

  • 2013 Anna de Joyeuse, Camas, Pinot Noir Rose – Lots of red cherries, raspeberries and a freshness and minerality that I really enjoyed.

Dessert Wine

  • Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port – this was a treat for the group.  It was balanced with red fruits, cherry and had a nice finish at the end.  

Rodney Strong Celebrates 25 Years In Style

In July at the #wbc14, I was invited to hang with the cool kids at a special dinner in Solvang to celebrate the Rodney Strong Vineyard Silver Anniversary.  Several months later, I was invited to attend the Rodney Strong Silver Anniversary and James Beard Chef’s Tour Dinner celebrating 25 years of the Klein family owning the vineyard. 

Top chefs in Austin, Healdsburg, Miami and New York, hosted dinners that we were able to watch live on the #rsv25 channel.  There were also nine bloggers who are also fantastic home cooks that hosted mouthwatering dinners in different markets.  And then there were a few like me who don’t cook but were lucky enough to have received the wines so I could taste along.  All of the dinners benefitted the James Beard Foundation, echoing the family’s continuing commitment to give back to the community.

 Owner Tom Klein talked about how his goal was to create world-class wines that captured the essence of Sonoma.  In the 25 years under Klein’s ownership and direction, the winery has expanded, the number of wines offered has increased, the practices have became sustainable and the winery was named American Winery of the Year by the Wine Enthusiast in 2013.

From the Pre-Event at #wbc14

I’ve always said Rodney Strong was one of the top wineries that really understood the power of digital and social media.  They are front and center in raising the bar, making bloggers feel appreciated and understanding that if they get the right people in the room, they can and will out-trend any other wine event.

We tasted through six wines and there was a sense of fun to the entire evening.  The people at the dinners had fun.  The people on social media had fun.  The bloggers like me who were lucky enough to be included had fun.

We had six spectacular wines:

  • 2013 Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2012 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay
  • 2012 Rodney Strong Russian River Pinot Noir
  • 2012 Rodney Strong Symmetry, Alexander Valley
  • 2010 Brother’s Cabernet, Alexander Valley
  • 2008 Rodney Strong “A True Gentleman’s Port (named after Tom’s brother who passed away in 2003

According to Vintank, the undisputed leader in providing social intelligence for wineries, the results were impressive:

  • #RSV25 Trended #1 on Twitter, ahead of an HBO show.
  • When the event began, there was a social post every 12 seconds. Near the end of the evening, social posts were coming in every 6.7 seconds
  • 3,104 posts tagged with #RSV25. Nearly 700 people tuned into RSV25.com for the broadcast
  • Rodney Strong saw more than a 27% rise in its social media footprint.

For more information on the event, check out rsv25.com.

Or search #rsv25 for a glimpse of the fun.  Cheers to the Klein family, the Rodney Strong Vineyards staff and everyone involved in showing how much fun silver anniversaries can be.


A Conversation with Santiago Mayorga from Nieto Senetiner

Santiago, me and Fernando

Santiago Mayorga, the assistant winemaker for Nieto Senetiner, recently came through Dallas with Fernando Salmain, the export director for the winery as well as Kelly Elder, representing Foley Family Wines, to talk about the past, present and future of their wines.

This is a storied winery dating back to 1888, when Italian immigrants founded the winery in Mendoza.  In 1969, the company was acquired by the families Nieto and Senetiner, who brought new world techniques and technology, but kept the old world quality.  In 1998, it was acquired by the Grupo de Negocios de Molinos Río de la Plata, but the family is still very involved.   So you find a mixture of cultures – the Spanish, the Argentinian and the Italian.

The present is Santiago’s focus is the higher end Nieto wines.  He works closely with Roberto González, who has served as the lead wine maker for 20 years.  He brings a boutique perspective from his previous employer.  He joined Nieto Senetiner because it was an amazing opportunity to chart a course for an important winery in Mendoza. 

He talked about his passion for winemaking and how there is “no recipe.”  It’s about the quality of wines and the importance of the terroir over three estate vineyards in three different valleys. 

We tried a line-up of wines, which were all great and the quality for the price was an incredible find.  We started with the 2013 Torrontes, which was a very intense white with notes of rose petals, lemon curd, grapefruit, peach and a richness that kept drawing me back. 

Our next wine was the 2013 Pinot Noir, which was the first Argentinian Pinot Noir that impressed me.  It’s not yet in the Dallas market, but will come soon.  It was full of ripe cherry, cranberry and had hints of the earth.  Niento Senetiner buys the grapes for both the Torrontes and the Pinot Noir, but grows the rest on their own vineyards.

We moved to the 2012 Nieto Senetiner Bonarda.  This was my first experience a 100 percent Bonarda wine, which is the second most planted grape in Argentina after Malbec and is used often for blending.  It was fabulous – intense with smoke, chocolate, raspberry, herbs and oak notes.  Very complex and layered – I definitely want to try more.

The next wine was the 2012 Malbec, a new vintage full of plum, cassis, spice and vanilla.  It was very drinkable – with or without food.  We then moved to the 2012 Cabernet, which was full of blackberry, spice and notes of vanilla and oak.

Our final wines were amazing.  We had the 2011 Don Nicanor, a Malbec Reserve that was named after the founder.  In Spanish, it translates into “of noble origin.”  This wine, which shockingly retails for under $20 at Whole Foods and Central Market, was complex with notes of black cherry, violet, cassis, plum, Dijon mustard (it rocked – trust me) and a nuttiness.  I loved this and will be buying it.

The last wine was the Nieto Senetiner Terroir Blend Malbec, a blend of three vineyards with very different elevations and characteristics.  At $35, it was a special occasion wine without the special occasion price.  It was a beautiful symphony of flavors that brought together the past and the present in a compelling way.  I am looking forward to trying the future. 


Refugio Ranch: A Haven of Calm After the #WBC14 Storm

When Jeff Butler, the director of sales for Refugio Ranch Vineyards in Los Olivos, reached out with a wonderful invitation to experience his special vineyard, he didn’t flinch when the invitation for one grew to an invitation for ten.  If you’ve been following the adventures of the QBP during #wbc14, you’ve realized that we are loud and proud, love wine and long for the ‘off the beaten path’ experiences that are not replicated with larger conferences.

“The more the merrier,” he said – probably not quite realizing what was in store.  We met at the tasting room and tried the 2013 Aqua Dolce de Refugio on the patio.  The wine, which was made of Malvasia Bianca, was very refreshing with notes of honey, orange blossoms, white flowers and nectarines. 

We loaded up the cars and coolers and headed to the winery, where we promptly lost Thea Dwelle, who joined us with her carload of folks a few minutes later.  The winery, which is on private property and not open to the public, is a sanctuary. Imagine flowers everywhere you look, beautiful vineyards, an inviting front porch, a fantastic host and the wines, oh the wines.

Refugio Ranch was originally part of one of the original Spanish land grants.  The Gleason family discovered the property, which was a cattle ranch for several hundred years, in 2005.  They brought in Daniel Roberts from Napa who analyzed the soils and microclimate to discover the winery was ideal to grow Rhone and Sauvignon Blanc wines.

 We tried the following line-up:

  •  2011 Sauvignon Blanc – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with notes of peach, apple pie, citrus, minerality and almonds.  This was a great wine.
  • 2011 Tiradora – a very different version of the same grape with lots of lime, stone, pear, citrus and herbs.  Loved this one too.
  • 2010/2011 Ineseno – a Rhone blend of Rousanne and Viognier with lots of depth.  This was made in a white Bordeaux style – I tasted brown butter caramel, tropical fruits, orange and dried fruits.  I liked them both, but ordered several bottles of the 2011.
  • 2012 Viognier – white jasmine, peach, nectarine, honeysuckle and dried fruit were the primary flavors that I tasted.  Another delicious, complex wine.
  • 2011 Escondrijo – this was a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Petite Syrah with notes of raspberry, cherry, licorice, black tea and spice. Yum.
  • 2010 Barbareno – a blend of Syrah and petite sirah with floral, cherry, mocha and spice.  Great depth and layers in this wine. 
  • 2010 Nectar de Refugio – a honeyed, complex dessert wine that was a wonderful end to a wonderful day.

 

Interesting fact – in spite of a drought over the last three years, the region and vineyard is on target for another great harvest year and no one can explain why.  The climate is unique – Jeff talked about letting the wine “hang out.”  It takes patience, perseverance and confidence, he said, to let the wines do what they do.  And as the former winemaker for Star Ranch, he has quite the resume to understand the entire sales/marketing function and how to uniquely position the value proposition of Refugio Ranch.  As a marketing person, I have to say the tasting notes just rocked as he described the wines in detail as well as the perfect dish to go with every wine.

 

He talked a lot about terroir or a sense of place, which connects wine to the land.  We had a soulful experience with good friends, great wine, tasty food, a few chickens and a very special vineyard.




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