Archived entries for Zinfandel

August Wine Review: A Focus on Napa, Sonoma and Bordeaux Wines

Time for another wine round up focused on wines primarily from California and a few from France – all that were absolutely delicious – and several that were new to me and now on my “go forth and seek out” list. 

Whites:

  • 2013 Murphy Goode “The Fume” – I had the chance to try the 2012 last year when Winemaker David Ready Junior came through Dallas.  It remains a great sauvignon blanc with tropical fruits, orange blossom and melon notes.  And I love his Grateful Dead sojourn story followed by the summons from his dad that got him back into the business.

  • 2013 Galerie Naissance (Napa Valley) – this was full of tropical fruits, floral notes and a very bright acidity.  This was delicious.
  • 2013 Galerie Equitem Sauvignon Blanc (Knights Valley) – this was more mineral in nature, the fruit was more subtle and the layers of flavor and finesse really showed well.  What an elegant and beautiful Sauvignon Blanc. 

Both Galerie wines came with a collection of family recipes from Winemaker Laura Diaz Munoz that showcases her family’s passion for wine and food. 

Reds:

  • 2010 Chateau Jean Faux Bordeaux Superieur – full of black cherry, spice, earthiness, raspberry, anise and licorice.  A great value Bordeaux from a great vintage.
  • 2011 Murphy’s Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel – during my time with David, we tried the 2010 vintage.  The 2011 was just as good with big berry and spice.

  • 2011 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon – Asian spice, red cherry, spice, currant and cedar notes filled out this elegant and well-rounded wine.  I love finding second label wines that are just as good as the first label and Faust is a strong sibling to Quintessa.

  • 2012 Plumpjack Merlot – big fruit, blueberry pie, black cherry, chocolate and smoke make this a nuanced and well balanced wine.  The wine was intense and had lots of layers.

  • 2010 Animo Cabernet Sauvignon – this high-end Michael Mondavi family wine which was named after the Italian word for “spirit or soul” was full of cassis, black cherry, terrior and lots of fruit.  It was well-balanced and while delicious today, would be awe inspiring with some cellar time. 

And based on yesterday’s 6.0 earthquake that happened in Napa, I strongly urge you to buy some Napa wine, plan a wine country trip or do something to support the region.


A Conversation with Chris Hanna: President of HANNA Winery

On my way out of town (literally), I had the chance to meet Chris Hanna, president of HANNA Winery, and another Renaissance woman extraordinaire.  Like me, she juggles a C-level job and works to raise a family – in a world that is often male dominated. 

She’s smart, funny, direct and has a vision for the past, present and future of the wine business.  We talked about her perspective on the most interesting folks in the world of wine. “The most fascinating people in the wine business start with careers outside the business,” she said.  “They intersect expertise in art and science making them more creative in how they think.” 

She is a walking example of just that.  Her original vision was to become an English professor and academic.  When her dad called her in to help interview sales and marketing candidates, she had an epiphany.  “I wasn’t sure how we could claim to be a family business when we had no family members running the business.”  Her dad, Dr. Elias Hanna, a world-renowned cardiac surgeon, was trying to manage the business working primarily from an ER. Three days later she found herself on a flight to a distributor in Chicago as “green as green can be.”

Fast forward 20 plus years and she’s built HANNA into one of Sonoma’s most successful family wineries.  HANNA encompasses more than 600 acres of land in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains.   Chris talked about her journey from when Merry Edwards came in as the first consultant.  “She taught me how to exist in a man’s world and important things like barrel cleaning protocol.”  She asked a million questions and collaborated with other family run wineries in the region and day by day learned the business.

She made some risky judgment calls – from changing the entire Cabernet program to putting screw tops on HANNA’s best selling Sauvignon Blanc (both have paid off).  Chris has written a cookbook, “The Winemaker Cooks,” which celebrates wine and food.

I had the chance to taste through several wines from HANNA.  We started with the 2012 HANNA Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  It had great acidity with tropical fruit, citrus and floral notes.  It was a great expression of sauvignon blanc.

Our second wine was the 2012 HANNA Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  I was really impressed with this wine.  I tasted tropical fruit, almond and vanilla.  I am a big fan of this wine – especially for under $20.

We moved to the 2010 HANNA Red Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley.  I loved the black cherry, licorice, tobacco, plum and big berry taste that I got from this wine.  Five years ago, Chris decided to totally revamp this program and replace the Merlot that was originally blended with Malbec.  It was smooth, easy drinking and a great wine.

We ended our conversation with a discussion about how the industry has changed and how HANNA works with Terlato Wines to gain additional exposure as well as having a robust direct to consumer business through its tasting rooms and wine clubs.  Considering the winery has grown from 1,000 cases to 50,000 cases, it looks like Chris’ strategy is working well.  


World Cup 2014 Recap: May the Best Wine Region Win

Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that the 20th annual FIFA World Cup, a tournament for the men’s soccer (or football) world championship, is currently happening in Brazil and the United States is shockingly still in the game. A total of 64 matches were or are being played in 12 cities across Brazil and this is big stuff. The World Cup is live or die for most sports fans around the world and has been for decades. In the US, we’re far behind the curve in having only a brief, passing interest in previous years but finally, in 2014, we’re catching up! Football fever/ soccer sickness has struck Americans and it may never be the same again for us.

So it’s only fitting that when a mutual friend of ours, Guy Courtin, posted a reference on Twitter to wine and the world cup, copying both of us, we had a great idea for a blog post!

We’ll deem it “she said, she said” with our perspective on what you should be drinking from each country still in the finals.  In some cases, we’ll recommend our favorite wines or the most appropriate ones for the tournament.  In some cases, we’ll tell you to drink something else.  It may be a stretch to find some bottles for the teams you’re rooting for, we’re not seeing Costa Rican wine lighting the import market in the US on fire…

And for you REAL soccer fans, please keep in mind that this is meant as a fun analysis of a game we both admit we know almost nothing about!

 

Argentina

Argentina

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Argentina’s signature wine is Malbec, a red wine originally from the Bordeaux region of France. Argentina has been growing Malbec grapes for 150 years, but these wines gained mass appeal in the last 20 years.  Argentina now produces more than 70% of the world’s Malbec.  The price point is great and the wines are usually consistent.  Grab a wine from Riccitelli, Es Vino, Finca Las Moras or Remolinos Vineyards, crack it open and enjoy the game.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

No offense my dear friend but…yeah, yeah – Malbec, Malbec, Malbec.  I’m not going to argue that it’s at a height of delicious here. But to really show Argentine passion, I’m going to suggest the other grape of Argentina: the white Torrontés. Why? It’s a hybrid of Muscat d’Alexandria and Argentina’s historical grape, Criolla Chica, a red that was brought to South America by the conquistadors.  This highly floral, honeyed, peachy, and acidic white is best when it’s from the province of Salta, which boasts vineyards at 10000 feet or more! Refreshing, delicious and sort of native to Argentina, you gotta do it.

 

Belgium

 

Belgium

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Drink beer.  That’s all.

She Said  (Wine for Normal People):

I agree on that Belgian beer is awesome, but it turns out that they after poking around, I’ve discovered that the Belgians do grow grapes and that it’s a growing industry there. Who knew? While Chardonnay is their big gun, I’m not sure you’ll be able to find a bottle so may I suggest some fine Belgian chocolate with ruby Port? Portugal’s not in it now anyway, so it’s not like you’re being disloyal with this pairing, right?

Brazil

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not had a wine from Brazil.  Just a lot of coffee.  But Bento Goncalves is a wine town in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state of Brazil, and is known to be the wine capital of Brazil. The country has a few things going for it — 150 years of wine heritage and the area’s strong Italian-German heritage.  Drink a sparkling and watch Neymar, he’s been deemed as the next David Beckham.  You’re welcome.

Brasil

She Said (Wine for Normal People)

They’re the host country. They’re favored to win. And they could theoretically celebrate with Brazilian wine (although, like Melanie, I’ve never had it). The far south of the country is making some good efforts at Cabernet/Merlot blends, so if you can snag one, do it. If not, you could always get a Portuguese wine from the Douro that’s massive, brawny and powerful – kind of like Neymar’s leg.

 

Colombia

Colombia

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Another region that I thought primarily produced coffee, carnations, and James Rodríguez (thank you Colombia), has two regions that produce wines – in tropical Sutamarchán known for Riesling and Pinot Noir and Consorcio del sol de Oro, where European specifications are followed to produce Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc wines.  I haven’t had the chance to try Colombian wines yet, but the country appears to be progressing with the wines that it offers and I’m hoping they make it to Texas so I can.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Didn’t know about the carnations — cool fact DWC! For me, aguardiente (made from sugar and anise) is the way to go. That firewater will put you on your a** but is well worth it! Wine just isn’t their forte so I’ll go for the stuff that is.

 

Costa Rica

June Wine and Costa Rica 084-2

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

I spent a week last Summer with my family in Costa Rica and asked the locals if there were any local wines that were worth trying.  They told me that I should drink the widely available Chilean wines … or coffee … or beer.  Okay, I trusted them and anyway I always bring a case of wine on vacation.

 CostaRica

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Coming up with nothing for this. Besides coffee. And it’s almost tasty enough to forego vinous pleasures for.

 

France

France

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

Known for its incredible wines and being the largest producer in the world, France has a history of making wines since 6th century BC.  Bordeaux.  Champagne.  Alsace.  The Rhone Valley.  The Languedoc-Roussillon. The Loire Valley.  Provence roses.  Choosing my favorite would be like shooting fish in a barrel, but if I had to choose, I’d probably go with Champagne from Pierre Peters or Billecart Salmon.  If I had to.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

This isn’t really fair. The wine world is your oyster if you’re a Francophile. Any region really will do. You can’t lose. But my suggestion: go bold and get yourself a wine from Cahors. Mostly Malbec, brawny and bold, and obscure enough so you’d have to really love France to know about it, I’d get one of these dark fruited, coffee, and earth flavored gems. But I agree with Melanie, there’s no beating Billecart Salmon…great stuff!

 

Germany

Germany

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

For me, Germany personifies what a good Riesling wine should be.  It’s floral, fruity and elegant and can range from dry to sweet.  Dr.  Loosen, a family wine dynasty that has been producing wines for over 200 years, makes world class wines.  If I can find one, I reach for the Dr. Loosen Erdener Treppchen Kabinett. Why?  Because it rocks – lots of apple, pear, minerality and a flintiness that makes up this wine works perfectly for my palate.  But, I think we were talking about soccer … Germany is good, but the U.S. did well against them.  I remain hopeful.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Ok, I’m with Melanie on this one. Riesling is the obvious choice and it’s one of my favorite wines (check out these podcasts with Riesling expert Stuart Piggott to hear a dorkfest on it), so I’ll say an off-dry Mosel Riesling with bone-rattling, jaw clenching acid and beautiful lime, peach, and jasmine flower flavors, this will keep you awake and your mouth watering while you’re waiting for that elusive GOOOOOAAAAALLLL!!!

 

Netherlands

Netherlands

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

The Netherlands – specifically Amsterdam – is known for a perfectly legal substance sold in coffee shops.  What does that have to do with football?  Well nothing.  Except maybe you’ll chill out a bit in the rest of the country (where it is illegal) knowing that you won’t be actively prosecuted as an individual user.  As for wine … well … let’s just say the focus is elsewhere.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

Yeah, they make wine in the Netherlands but I think it’s best we stick with their historical ties and one of their awesome contributions to the wine world: draining the Left Bank of Bordeaux so those gravel soils could grow kick ass Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. If you’re rooting for the Dutch, you’re going to be drinking well with this suggestion!

 

Switzerland

Switzerland

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

I didn’t know much about Switzerland other than chocolate and fine watches.  But there are over 40 varieties of grapes that grow in Switzerland.  I have tried none of them.  Valais, which produces approximately half of the country’s wine, is known for having good pinot noirs and is the most widely planted grape. As for recommendations, my experience has been buying several Swiss watches (future family heirlooms) and eating my weight in chocolate.

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

I too am a fan of Swiss chocolate and watches (although I have the cheap Swiss Army ones so they will NOT be heirlooms!) and I did have wine when I was in Zurich but it wasn’t memorable. There isn’t a ton of Swiss wine makes it outside the country’s borders, but that’s changing as import regulations have relaxed and producers need to find markets for their wines. Although most is white, bland, and neutral, there are a ton of native grapes that may make some cool stuff in the future. For now, I’d go for Dôle, a Pinot Noir/Gamay blend that’s light and fruity and can help you maintain a neutral disposition while watching the Swiss play for the win! If you can’t find that, try a northern Italian wine (Switzerland borders Germany, France, and Italy and the Italians are the only ones out) like the sparkling and delicious Franciacorta, from the Lombardia region that borders Switzerland!

United States

She Said (Dallas Wine Chick):

The fact that we are still here and so many Americans actually have tuned into the game is shocking, but pretty cool.  Through my own research and several Wine Bloggers Conferences, I’ve had the chance to try wines from all over the United States.  Choosing would be very hard, but I can tell you that my most recent favorite comes from Larkmead Vineyards, an off the beaten path winery near Napa, where the Solari red blend scored a total GOOOOAAAALLLLL. Sorry – caught up in the moment….

US

She Said (Wine for Normal People):

America is a wine powerhouse and we’re working on becoming a football/soccer powerhouse too. Although it’s American by way of Croatia, I’m still saying Zinfandel is the way to go if you’re a US fan. It’s so American – big, bold, loud, and spicy. Nearly 10% of California’s vineyards are planted to Zin, and if you’re looking for a quick buzz, these are usually pretty high in alcohol too. For nuance and style, I’d stick with one from Mendocino County, where the layers of flavor tend to make wines that are more than just showy fruit bombs.  I love Navarro Vineyards and I’m not afraid to say it!

 ________________________________________________________

You can drink your way around the world with our ideas and if your team gets eliminated, you can move to the next best option and maybe drink even better. The parallels of soccer/football to wine is striking – as the world has become more global, we’re getting exposure to the great wine and great sport traditions the world around.

What did we miss? Drop a comment and let us know what you would have included for your favorite team!

Elizabeth Schneider, who remains one of my favorite winos, is a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Certified Specialist of Wine by the Society of Wine Educators, internationally followed wine blogger and podcaster (both can be found on: winefornormalpeople.com and the podcast is available on iTunes), and owner of the wine education company Wine For Normal People, that specializes in teaching interactive, live online classes. She is also author of the forthcoming book, Wine For Normal People. Elizabeth has an MBA and has lived in Northern California and worked for the largest winery in the world doing marketing and training programs. She has toured wineries around the country and the world from California, to Italy, to France, to South Africa, to her native Long Island, and appears as a wine expert in publications and other media channels. Despite the credentials, Elizabeth considers her most important accomplishment to be the fact that she has managed to remain a normal person, despite her exposure to lots of wine snoots! Follow Wine for Normal People on Twitter @normalwine and on Facebook.

 


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.

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.


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.


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!


Scotto Wines: Fifty Years of Family and New Eye Toward Legacy Wines

When I was contacted by the “biggest winery that I’ve never heard of” last month, it peaked my interest.  I missed Anthony Scotto III, the CEO of Scotto wines, when he was in Dallas last month, so when the winery offered to have Bill Chenault, the national sales manager for Scotto pour the wines for me, I accepted.

Totally unrelated, but interesting. Bill spent some time in Atlanta, where I grew up, and sent his two daughters to Auburn University, where I received my undergraduate degree.  It was an unexpected bonus.

As someone with an Italian heritage, I loved hearing about another successful Italian American dream story. Salvatore Dominic Scotto started a winery in Ischia, Italy, in 1883.  In 1903, the family emigrated from Italy and settled in Brooklyn, NY.

They opened Scotto Liquors, one of the oldest liquor stores in the state of New York, which has since been sold, but is still in business.  The Scotto’s made wine in their home from whatever fruit they could source in Brooklyn and similar to the Gallo family, sold it door to door out of crocks from a horse drawn wagon.  In 1961, they bought a facility in Pleasanton, California, that they named Villa Armando, where they began making their own wine. They created Villa Armando Rustico, one of the oldest US wine brands.  I tried it and appreciated that this was the type of mass production wine that allowed them to build a family business with overall capacity of more than 300,000 cases annually.

They sold this facility in the 1980s and expanded the Scotto portfolio into Lodi and Napa.  Five generations later, they have expanded the scope of their wines to include more than 40 brands sold to customers around the world.  I was honored to try an unlabeled limited-edition, higher-end Napa wine from the Van Der Hayden Vineyard in honor of the Scotto’s family’s 50th California harvest that I thought was fantastic.  The 50 Harvests Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 Napa Valley is a small production wine that will change your image from a mass producer of wine to a winery that takes winemaking to another level.  It’s a blend of 94 percent cabernet sauvignon and 6 percent petite verdot.  The Scotto children rightfully knew that while the value labels are important, this unlabeled bottle would be the one to put them on the map in the wine world.

I tried a few other wines that were made to be fruit forward, drinkable and enjoyed every day.  The first was Scotto Family Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel made with Lodi fruit.  This had a nice spice, lots of red and black fruit and notes of cedar.

The next was the NAPA by N.A.P.A Michael’s Red, the first Napa release from the Scotto family.  The name represents the five siblings: Natalie, Anthony, Paul, Anne (NAPA) and Michael who recently joined the winery. This is a very drinkable every day wine with dark fruit, oak and notes of chocolate and mocha.  Look for it at Cost Plus World Market stores, who pretty much took most of the inventory produced.

We ended with a Moscato wine that was semi-dry, honey-touched and the perfect aperitif to a great meal and conversation at Max’s Wine Dive.


Wente, Garnet and Renwood WTIS Virtual Tasting

Last week, I participated in a virtual tasting scheduled as the welcome reception for the Wine Technology Industry Symposium (WTIS) showcase.  WineTwits, who always does a wonderful job with these tastings, recruited Wente Vineyards, Garnet Vineyards and Renwood Winery to participate.  We had the chance to try one wine from each vineyard.

It was quite the reunion with some of my favorite wine bloggers in participation and quickly the conversation feed launched into some great memories of past Wine Blogger’s Conferences (#wbc) and other opportunities we’ve had to get together over the years.  But the tasting began and we had the chance to focus in on three value wines under $20.

  • 2012 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay (Livermore Valley – $13) – I tasted almond, pear, apple, lemon and toasted oak in this creamy goodness.  Half of the wine is barrel fermented in neutral American, French and Hungarian Oak with the other half fermented in stainless steel.  A very nice, well balanced wine for this price point.
  • 2011 Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir (Monterey, $14.99) – Quite the steal for a Pinot Noir under $15.  This wine had a complexity not usually found at this price point with black cherry, black tea, plum, pine, cranberry and baking spice.  I asked Allison Crowe, the winemaker, and it is not yet available in Texas – I am sure hoping that will change.
  • 2010 Renwood Winery Premier Old Vine Zinfandel (Amador, $19.99) – had notes of molasses, fig, blueberry, pepper, herb and vanilla.  It was a little hot for me, but definitely got rave reviews from many of the bloggers.  This one begged for food that I didn’t have to match.

If you happen to see any of these in the Dallas area, definitely pick up a bottle and give them a shot.


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.




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