Optima Wine Cellars – 2006 Orgaz Zin, Zinfandel Port

May 17, 2011

The Facts:

The Optima Wine Cellars 2006 Orgaz Zin was produced from fruit that aged on the vine approximately four weeks longer than the rest of the Zinfandel. This offering was fortified with Brandy and it was barrel aged for 12 months. This wine is offered in 500 ml bottles and sells for $26. Optima Wine Cellars produces 5,000 cases annually, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel Port. Plans are afoot to start including Gewurztraminer sometime in the next few vintages. Winemaker and co-owner (along with his wife) Mike Duffy has an impressive history that includes stops at Napa Valley stalwart Trefethen and Field Stone, a legendary Alexander Valley producer.

Gabe’s Take:

Deep dark fruit aromas fill the nose of this 2006 Port. Blackberry, raspberry and black plum are prominent, an undercurrent of spice is present as well. Dried Black Mission figs, dates and continued plum flavors are present through the palate with is deeply layered with concentrated flavors. Brown sugar and sweet chocolate sauce flavors emerge on the finish which has terrific length.

This 2006 Zinfandel Port from Dry Creek Valley’s own Optima Wine Cellars is an incredibly impressive new world expression. This wine has the density, complexity and length of palate reminiscent of many vintage ports emerging from the Douro. Many other New World Ports or dessert wines are unbalanced and lack much outside of the initial flash of flavor when you first taste them. At $26 for a 500 ml bottle this wine is also a terrific value. It’s going to be hard resisting once you have it open, so you might want to pick a few of these up. This is one of a handful of best dessert style wines currently available in Sonoma County, I suggest snapping it up before it’s gone.

Wilson Winery – 2008 Late Harvest Zinfandel

September 19, 2010

The Facts:

The Wilson Winery 2008 Late Harvest Zinfandel was produced from fruit sourced at a single site. That location is Ellie’s Vineyard. It’s named in honor of owner and winemaker Diane Wilson’s mother, an Italian immigrant who fostered her love of wine. The vineyard, which sits at an elevation of 1,740 feet above sea level, is planted to both Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. These vines were planted in 1993. This 2008 Late Harvest wine is 100% Zinfandel. It was hand harvested and fermented in open top vats with punchdowns three times daily. Barrel aging occurred in a combination of French and American oak over 13 months. A mere 83 cases of this dessert wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $30.00. Wilson Winery is located at 1960 Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg. They’re open daily from 11 AM until 5 PM. Several tasting options are available (some require a prior appointment). They close on some major holidays so check their website for those specific details or call them at 800-433-4602.

Gabe’s Take:

This wine has an intoxicating and heady nose that combines a compote of berries with a potpourri of spice reference points. Raspberry and cherry elements intermingle throughout the palate. Fruitcake spices add to the layers of flavor. The fruit turns to sweet wild strawberry as things head toward the finish which has good length, and continues to show off lots of spice; a smidge of vanilla bean emerges as well.

This Dessert Wine has a lightness to its overall weight that assures it never overburdens, overtaxes or overwhelms your senses as some Late Harvest Zinfandels are prone to do. This wine can quite easily be dessert all by itself. However it’ll pair well with things like Italian Cheesecake or NY Style Cheesecake, topped with berries. Chocolate based desserts will work nicely as well.

Pedroncelli – 2005 Four Grapes Vintage Port

August 27, 2010

The Facts:

Pedroncelli’s2005 Four Grapes Vintage Port was produced using grapes sourced at a four acre, estate vineyard that they planted in 1995. This wine is a blend of Tinta Madiera, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional and Souza. These are grapes traditionally used for Port production in Portugal.  This release represents the 16th vintage of this dessert wine for Pedroncelli. This selection was aged in mature American Oak barrels for four years. It’s bottled in 500 ml glass and has a suggested retail price of $18.

The Pedroncelli Family has been making wine in Dry Creek since 1927. Their current releases can be tasted daily from 10 AM to 4:30 PM at the Pedroncelli Tasting room located at 1220 Canyon Road in Geyserville. Often times they will also have something older from the library open to taste, so when you go keep your eyes open for that. 

Gabe’s Take:

Pedroncelli Winery was the first producer from Dry Creek Valley that got my attention many years ago. So they’re akin to an old friend, that I enjoy revisiting whenever I can, to catch up with. Their Four Grapes Port has been an excellent value over the years and I’m eager to see how the latest vintage stacks up to its predecessors.

This Port starts off with an intoxicating nose loaded with deep, dark fruit aromas; blackberry and plum are prominent. Throughout the substantial palate, sweet berry fruit flavors abound. Black and red raspberry are joined by subtler blueberry and copious spice notes. The finish has elements of brown sugar and fruitcake spice flavors as well as sweet chocolate notes and black pepper. That finish is lengthy, lusty and impeccably balanced. I paired it with dark chocolate, but honestly this Port is a delicious dessert on its own.

For $18 this Port from Pedroncelli represents an outstanding value. Dessert wines, particularly well made ones such as this don’t often come cheaply. This is a well crafted, age-worthy wine that offers a ton of drinking pleasure. This Port would be a great value if it was in a 375 ml half bottle so typical to dessert wines. But in a 500 ml it’s an even better value. This is no surprise though as the Pedroncelli Family has been making wine at more than fair prices for several generations.

Collier Falls – 2007 Late Harvest Primitivo

June 15, 2010

The Facts:

Collier Falls Vineyards sits up in the hills overlooking Dry Creek Valley. The views from their property are outstanding, and it’s a great visual insight into other parts of the valley. The Collier Falls property spans 100 acres, of which about 26 are under vine. The wines can be tasted at the Family Wineries of Dry Creek Valley Tasting room located at 4791 Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg. This tasting room, and the Family Wineries Tasting Room in Kenwood were both founded by Barry Collier. Each features small, local, artisanal producers.

The Collier Falls Vineyards 2007 Late Harvest Primitivo is the inaugural release of this offering. Fermentation of this wine took place in small 1 ton bins with manual punch downs. Barrel aging occurred over 21 months in French oak. A mere 100 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $28.

Gabe’s Take:

This 2007 Late Harvest Primitivo opens up with a really perfumed nose that shows off raisins, plums and baker’s spice. The palate is solid and rich with sustained bursts of cherry liqueur flavors at its core. Dried raspberry, blackberry and plum chip in as well. Those flavors are followed by chocolate notes that lead to a finish that is as smooth as silk with just a little bite at the end.  As I tasted this wine I was reminded of Mon Chéri chocolates. They would pair well with this Primitivo, as would chocolate based desserts in general.

What I love about this wine is that it’s sweet without being anywhere near over the top. I found that 30 or so minutes of air really helped this Late Harvest Primitivo open up and show off its charms. This new addition to the Collier Falls Vineyard lineup fits right in. As with the other wines in their portfolio this wine is full flavored and intense, but still elegant and under control. This is a beautiful and delicious dessert wine that’s also well priced at $28.

Kokomo Winery – 2008 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc

November 11, 2009

The Facts:

Kokomo Winery was founded in 2004 and named after winemaker Erik Miller’s hometown in Indiana. Their focus is on single vineyard wines from several appellations; notably Dry Creek Valley where their winery, estate vineyards and tasting room are located.

The Kokomo Winery 2008 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc is made from fruit sourced at Timber Crest Vineyards. This offering is 100% Sauvignons Blanc. This wine was fermented in stainless steel. 200 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $28 for a 375 ml bottle.

Gabe’s Take:

Sauvignon Blanc is one of the signature grapes of Dry Creek Valley and undoubtedly the benchmark white varietal of the area, so it’s no surprise that a great number of the dessert wines there are made from it. Having tasted a few of Kokomo’s other offerings at ZinTopia I was eager to sample this Late Harvest Wine.

The effusive nose of this Dessert wine shows off orange blossom notes underscored by flourishes of almond and hazelnut. Peach, honey, tangerine, continued orange and additional fresh citrus flavors are prominent throughout the mouth-coating palate. Honey emerges on the finish along with touches of apricot that linger. This wine is delicious on its own but even better paired with a fresh fruit tart, hazelnut biscotti or Italian cheesecake.

Two things stand out most obviously about this wine. The abundance of fresh fruit flavors, particularly in the citrus family is one. The excellent balance is the other. This late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Kokomo achieves a goal that many set out for but a lot fewer reach. It’s sweet but never cloying, has terrific acidity but it’s not too overwhelming. And the alcohol level is also in check at a modest 11.8%. All around this is a very nice wine.

Please vote for Drink Dry Creek! 

Optima Wine Cellars – 2005 Orgaz Zin Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Port

October 22, 2009

The Facts:

The 2005 Orgaz Zin Zinfandel Port is composed entirely from Dry Creek Valley fruit. This offering is made of all Zinfandel and fortified with aged brandy. Barrel aging occurred over 13 months in French oak. 180 cases of 500 ml bottles were produced. The suggested retail price for this wine is $26.

Optima Wine Cellars produces 5,000 cases annually, focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel Port. Plans are afoot to start including Gewurztraminer sometime in the next few vintages. Winemaker and co-owner (along with his wife) Mike Duffy has a long history that includes stops at Napa Valley stalwart Trefethen and Field Stone in Alexander Valley.

Gabe’s Take:

Blueberry, black fig and toasty oak nose fill the nose of this Zinfandel Port. The palate is loaded with rich, dark, fruit flavors. Black raspberry, plum, blueberry and blackberry dominate. An undercurrent of chocolate sauce underpins everything along with flourishes of molasses, brown sugar and hints of black pepper. The long and layered finish continues the avalanche of sweet, dark fruit. This offering echoes on the tongue and the back of the throat for a nice long time.

The balance and lengthy finish are what most impress me about this wine. Way too often New World Ports are out of whack. This example from Optima Wine Cellars is anything but. The 2004 Orgaz Zin is loaded with big, dark, fruit flavors but it’s also layered and elegant. From a practical standpoint I’m also a big fan of the dessert wines in 500 ml bottles. This has always struck me as a near perfect size; so a couple of points for that too. If you like either Port or Zinfandel, this is a wine well worth a special effort to acquire. It wouldn’t hurt to have some dark chocolate on hand to pair with it either.

Please vote for Drink Dry Creek! 

Forth Vineyards – 2006 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc

July 14, 2009

The Facts:

Forth Vineyards & Winery has been producing wine in Dry Creek Valley since 1998. Jann and Gerry Forth have 10 acres under vine; all organically farmed. They also source some fruit from friends and neighbors. In total they make approximately 2,400 cases of wine each year.  The 2006 Forth Vineyards late harvest Sauvignon Blanc is produced from Dry Creek valley fruit. Residual sugar is 9% and alcohol a modest 13.3%. This dessert wine is bottled in 375 ml splits. The suggested retail price for this selection is $18.

Gabe’s Take:

Truth be told, stand alone Sauvignon Blanc isn’t the first grape I think of when Late Harvest Dessert Wines come to mind. That said I’ve had some fine examples over the years; then again this being a Dry Creek effort Sauvignon Blanc really shouldn’t surprise me at all. I’ve had at least half a dozen excellent wines from Forth Vineyards over the years, but never their dessert wines, so color me curious as I sidled up to this bottle to find out what it was all about.

Honey, and orange peel notes are most prominent in the nose. They’re joined by subtler hazelnut and apple characteristics. This Late Harvest wine has a gentle, light and lush palate that exudes fruit and moderate sweetness. The finish is extremely clean and crisp, with continued fruit and hints of vanilla.  This dessert wine would be an excellent match for a fresh fruit tart.

What stands out to me about this Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc is that it’s sweet but never cloying. The word refreshing kept echoing in my head as I drank this selection. A lovely wine that’s hard to resist indulging in once you’ve taken a sip. The combination of balance and moderate alcohol makes this an easy selection to split amongst two people without feeling overwhelmed. A unique wine, well worth experiencing.

Please vote for Drink Dry Creek! 

Kachina Vineyards – Sonoma County Port

June 19, 2009

The Facts:

Kachina Vineyards currently makes approximately 500 cases of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are their other offerings. The Kachina port was bottled in 2008. This offering is comprised of Syrah (70%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%). The Syrah is from Dry Creek Valley and the Cabernet Sauvignon was sourced in both Dry Creek and neighboring Alexander Valley. A mere 40 cases of this port were bottled. The suggested retail price for this wine is $29.

Gabe’s Take:

As a regular Port drinker I’m always excited to try an offering from a favorite region like Dry Creek Valley. This 2008 bottling from Kachina has strong, intoxicating aromas of ripe, fleshy, dark fruit. The palate is rich and smooth; loaded with kirsch liqueur characteristics. There is a core of pure and unadulterated fruit that cuts through the middle of this wine and lights up your senses as you drink it. Black pepper, chocolate and continued cherry make up a persistent finish. I had this Port with dark chocolate and found that to be an excellent match.

What stands out most to me about this Port is its impeccable balance. This wine is sweet without being cloying. It has finesse and elegance, two things that are often lacking in New World Ports. I find that the Kachina Vineyards Port is true to both California and the intent of Old World Ports. By using Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon this wine highlights two grapes that perform very well not only in California but specifically in Dry Creek Valley. Greg and Nancy have crafted a sophisticated Port that is proportionate in residual sugar, alcohol and structure. In doing so they have set the bar high not only for their own future Port releases but also for other Dry Creek Wineries making port themselves. 

Dave’s Take:

It is very hard to type with your hands tightly clenching onto your wine glass. There is something about Kachina wines that makes me want to run into the closest closet, sit on the floor cross legged, and keep this wine all to myself. Perhaps it’s the fact that they are impeccable, perhaps it is the awesome bottle (always wax dipped as described in our previous article), either way, it’s a bottle that puts a smile on my face. Unfortunately, with wines of this caliber, I will not get to keep my secret long. The nose is knee deep in dark fruit. The palate is wooed by cherry, cassis, and baked fermenting apple. Black pepper, cinnamon, and chocolate notes round out the lengthy finish.

There is an irony in writing about great wine. Your senses are filled, yet they are not at all distracted. Enjoying the moment almost takes precedence over looking for elements of cigar box and black tea. This “lack of distraction” is a huge compliment. This is what I want to serve when I am entertaining family and friends – a wine that is noticed initially because it’s great, but then melts into the background enhancing my experience with both company and food – not “taking over” the event. This Port is a gem. From the packaging to the contents it has the seductive nature of a good romance novel and all of the guilty pleasure.

Please Vote For Drink Dry Creek!

Quivira Vineyards & Winery Ushers in a New Era

There are certain changes a Winery makes on a year to year basis that are transparent to consumers and don’t necessarily affect the wine that ends up on the shelf. And then there are changes that impact every aspect of an operation, from soup to nuts; bringing in a new winemaker is a wholesale change that can have a dramatic impact. Just about a year ago Quivira Vineyards and Winery brought aboard winemaker Hugh Chapelle. About a month ago I had the opportunity to Read The Whole Thing>>>

Wilson Winery – 2009 Sydney Vineyard Zinfandel

The Wilson Winery 2009 Sydney Vineyard Zinfandel was produced from fruit sourced at the wine’s namesake vineyard. This property which was planted in 1989 sits at an elevation of 1,500 feet. The Sydney Vineyard Zinfandel is a 100% varietal wine. Fruit was hand harvested and fermented in open top vessels with punchdowns three times a day. Aging took place in a combination of French and American oak over a period of 18 months. 540 cases were produced.Read The Whole Thing >>>