Dry Creek Vineyard – 2006 Beeson Ranch Zinfandel

June 25, 2009

The Facts:

Dry Creek Vineyard truly grabs the Zinfandel grape by the horns and commits to it. Their selections range from cuvee style offerings to single vineyard designates. The 2006 Beeson Ranch Zinfandel is one of those designate wines. Many of the truly old Zinfandel vines in California were planted by Italian immigrants. An example of that is Beeson Ranch, were 100% of the fruit (all Zinfandel) for this wine was sourced. These vines were planted in 1882. This 2006 Zin was aged for 18 months in French and Hungarian oak; 70 of the barrels were new. 479 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $34.

Gabe’s Take:

When it comes to Zinfandel the term Old Vine is thrown around a lot. In some cases, at some wineries, it’s not much more than a marketing term. You see the term and then find out the vines the juice came from weren’t very old. Dry Creek Vineyard doesn’t do that, they take their Zins seriously. And while the Beeson Ranch isn’t marketed as such, it surely could be. These folks are incredibly dependable producers and when I approach one of their wines my expectations are high.

 Violets, cracked black pepper and vanilla dominate the nose of this classic Zinfandel. The palate is persistent, featuring berry fruit, cassis, and spice all wrapped in a delicious layer of dark chocolate notes. The lengthy finish is loaded with continued black pepper, earth, and bramble. This Zinfandel is intense and layered with good structure and sufficient acidity keeping things in check.

While there are many styles of Zinfandel that I enjoy quite a bit, depending on what I’m in the mood for at any given time, this one hits my sweet spot. The Beeson Ranch Zinfandel from Dry Creek Vineyard is a textbook example of Zinfandel produced from old vines. It’s intense, full flavored and keeps coming at you; yet it’s elegant rather than over the top. This wine is delicious now and I expect it will improve for 3-4 years and drink well for several after that. The trouble is that this Zinfandel is way too tempting not to drink now.

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Michel-Schlumberger – 2008 Pinot Blanc

June 24, 2009

The Facts:

While Michel-Schlumberger was founded in 1979, it underwent some changes in 1993 that helped usher in its current incarnation. Winemaker Mike Brunson joined them as an assistant at that time and has been onboard since and helped guide their modernization, vineyard replanting and overall transformation.  The 2008 Pinot Blanc is composed of Estate Dry Creek Valley Fruit. This wine spent no time in oak. 700 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $21.

Gabe’s Take:

Pinot Blanc is one of those varietals that I only seem to cross paths with every now and then. Alsace, Alto Adige and Oregon’s Willamette Valley are all regions from which I’ve had memorable examples. So truthfully I haven’t really thought of Dry Creek and Pinot Blanc together before now. On several previous occasions I’d had some excellent wines from Michel-Schlumberger, so the opportunity to try their Pinot Blanc was hard to resist.

Meyer lemon, along with touches of vanilla and gentle hints of honey make up the engaging nose of this Pinot Blanc. Citrus and peach notes are prominent through the palate. The finish is zippy and zesty with a touch of white pepper. This wine has excellent acidity and will pair well with a wide array of foods. I had it alongside a cheese and fruit plate and found it worked very well with a broad selection of cheeses. It also drinks incredibly nicely on its own.

What impresses me most about this Pinot Blanc is how amazingly clean, alive and refreshing it is. This is a fun wine for warm weather, yet still a serious and well made one.

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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.

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Lake Sonoma Winery – 2006 Zinfandel

June 16, 2009

The Facts:

Lake Sonoma Winery was founded in 1977. They source fruit from several regions and even make some non Dry Creek wines. However Dry Creek is at the core of their operation. Some of their non Dry Creek designate releases contain percentages of fruit from DCV. The 2007 Lake Sonoma Winery Zinfandel is 87% Dry Creek fruit. 12% of the fruit was sourced in other parts of Sonoma. In addition to Zinfandel (94%), Petite Sirah (6%) is part of the blend as well. This offering was aged in a combination of French and American oak for 18 months. 4,000 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $22.

Gabe’s Take:

Blueberry, black raspberry and gentle touches of vanilla are part of this Zins solid and pleasing nose. A solid core of berry fruit which is rich and vibrant but never over the top makes up the palate which also has bits of cassis and light baker’s chocolate characteristics. Dried fruit notes emerge in the finish along with black pepper and some toasty oak. This wine has firm but yielding tannins and good acidity. This offering will be a good match for roasted meats and other hearty fare.

After drinking a bit of this wine I was surprised to find that it has 15% alcohol. Despite that number being a touch high this wine is very well balanced and doesn’t drink hot at all. At its retail price this Zinfandel is a good value, shop around you’ll find it’s available for $3-$4 less, making it an even better buy.

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Dashe Cellars – 2008 Vin Gris Rosé

June 15, 2009

The Facts:

Dashe Cellars produces right around 8.500 cases of wine per year. They may increase that a little but have no plans to surpass the 10,000 case mark. Zinfandel and particularly vineyard designate Zinfandel is at the core of their business. However they make other varietals and styles of wine. The 2008 Dashe Cellars Vin Gris is a Rosé. This offering is a blend of Grenache (40%), Petite Sirah (40%) and Zinfandel (30%). Using the method most commonly used for making Rosé in France they bled off the tanks. This allowed them to limit skin contact, yet pick up the desired amount of color. This offering was fermented dry and stored in stainless steel until bottling. A mere 102 cases of this Rosé were produced and the suggested retail price is $14.

Gabe’s Take:

The color of this wine is the first thing that struck me. It’s a bit darker in hue than the average Rosé out there, but a lovely color nonetheless. Then again Petite Sirah is notoriously dark so that’s not surprising. The nose of the Dashe Cellars Vin Gris reminds me of a bowl of fresh, red summer fruit sitting on my counter. What follows is an opulent, mouth-filling palate. It’s layered with oodles of rich fruit flavors that keep coming and coming like some sort of Energizer Bunny of wine flavor. These are accompanied by excellent spice elements such as black pepper. Mineral notes, touches of sweet berry fruit and some savory reference points make up a finish that leaves a lasting impression.

What I like most about this Rosé is that the blend of varietals strikes a nice balance of flavors. The Grenache is up front with some nice spice notes, the Zinfandel adds lots of sweet red fruit flavors and the Petite Sirah chips in with structure and bite. French Rosé typically has Grenache in the blend, and of course Zin and Petite Sirah are part of the fabric of Dry Creek Valley. So in a sense the blend of this Rosé bridges two worlds of wine. It does so deliciously by the way.

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Peterson Winery – 2005 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel

June 13, 2009

The Facts:

Fred and Jamie Peterson have earned an excellent reputation in Dry Creek Valley and beyond for making genuine wines loaded with soul and true to the varietal in question.  Fred grows the fruit and his son Jamie makes the wines. The 2005 Peterson Zinfandel is sourced from a vineyard on Bradford Mountain. While there may be a slight amount of Carignane in this vineyard, it’s essentially 100% Zinfandel. This offering was barrel aged for 21 months in a combination of new French oak (20%), new Hungarian oak (20%) and 3-5 year old French oak (the rest). 410 cases of this wine were produced in standard 750 ml bottles as well as an additional 15 cases of Magnums. The suggested retail price of the 750 ml bottles is $30.

Gabe’s Take:

Right off the bat it’s clear that this wine needs some air. It’s tight out of the bottle and 90 minutes or so in a decanter does wonders to help this Zinfandel shine and show its stripes. Once it’s had the chance to breathe this wine is on the attack. Blackberry, cinnamon and light mocha aromas waft forcefully from the glass forcing you to take notice. Taking the first sip it’s immediately apparent that this wine is loaded with intense, layered fruit throughout. Deep, dark berry fruit is joined by intermingling white and black pepper spice. This offering stays persistent and bold in its attack; yet it never comes close to going over the top. Black tea, continued pepper, cedar reference points and light touches of earth make up a lingering finish that’s notable in length. This is a fantastically balanced wine with solid fruit, good acidity and modest alcohol for a Zinfandel.

What is most impressive to me about this wine is how well proportioned it is. Everything about this wine is in check. This offering from Peterson is refined and elegant. It does a tremendous job showing off what can be accomplished when intense mountain fruit is allowed to shine and speak glowingly of its place of origin. Drink this wine now or lay it down for the next eight or so years. In either case, when you pop the cork you’ll be drinking an unadulterated and excellent example of Dry Creek Valley Mountain Zinfandel.

Dave’s Take:

90 minutes in a decanter is a good idea, but 7 hours is even better. I felt that this wine continued to get better over this amount of time. I told Gabe before he tried it… I thought he listened. Instead he drank himself into a stupor for he had no patience. Tsk Tsk Gabe – Mr. 90 minute decant and rant guy. At least I agree with your overall assessment – this wine will age beautifully at least 8 years.

Blackberry and spice notes on the nose drew me in, the abundant, rich berry fruit on the palate had me dancing in my chair, but the earthy peppery oaky finish sealed the deal for me. More balanced than a than a Fox News reporter (ok maybe that’s a bad example), this wine is simply decadent and delicious, but time is required to get to this nirvana in a bottle.

Some women are easy, too easy and too forgettable. This woman is more refined. She requires a little more time to peal off her layers. If you have the patience she will reward you. Take the first woman bowling, take this one to Mom’s house for dinner.

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Dashe Cellars – 2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

June 12, 2009

The Facts:

The 2007 Dashe Cellars Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is produced using fruit sourced at a number of small family owned vineyards in Dry Creek. In addition to Zinfandel (95%), some Petite Sirah (5%) is blended in. This Zinfandel underwent 10 months of aging in oak; 30% was French and 70% American with 15% new overall. 900 gallons of the juice were aged in large French oak casks. 5,967 cases of standard 750 ml bottles were produced along with an additional 297 cases of splits. Suggested retail price for this wine is $24 and $13 respectively.

Gabe’s Take:

Having recently tasted some of the Dashe Cellars single vineyard Zinfandels I was curious to see how this wine, sourced from a handful of vineyards would compare. Single Vineyard wines are often fascinating because they can be such a true barometer of what happened in a specific piece of property in an individual year. Sourcing from different vineyards allows a winemaker to reach into his virtual spice rack and adjust the seasonings so to speak a bit more.

The nose of this 2007 Zinfandel is big, jam laden and demonstrative. This wine leaps out of the glass and draws you towards it with its immense aromas. When I took the first sip I thought of fresh, summer berry pie. Wave after wave of dark fruit such as blackberry, blueberry and black raspberry emerge through the palate joined by chocolate and spice notes including cloves, nutmeg and pepper. Black tea, chocolate truffles, earth, star anise and continued clove notes come out in an above average finish.

Seductive is the word that came to mind over and over when I tasted this wine. It’s dark, delicious and kept enticing me back to my glass for additional tastes. This Zinfandel has good structure and will provide plenty of drinking pleasure over the next 5 years or so. While the suggested retail is $24, you can find it for closer to $20 (possibly less) if you shop around. This wine represents a particularly good value.

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Quivira – 2008 Grenache Rosé

June 10, 2009

The Facts:

The 2008 Grenache Rosé from Quivira is made of all Dry Creek Valley fruit. This wine is a blend of Grenache (88%) and Mourvèdre (12%). Fermentation was accomplished in stainless steel. 378 cases of this release  were produced and the suggested retail price is $15.

Gabe’s Take:

For me, well made, dry Rosé is one of the absolute joys of warm weather. Of course I pop a bottle of Rosé open from time to time in the cooler months, but it’s not quite the same. Certain things go together; Rosé and summer is an indescribably perfect match.

A couple of months ago I had the Quivira Grenache Rosé at the tasting room and recalled really liking it, so the chance to revisit it was quite welcome. This 2008 Rosé from Quivira has a gorgeous Salmon colored hue. The nose is loaded with fresh grapefruit notes. Throughout the palate strawberry and Bing cherry play key roles; they’re supported by touches of nutmeg and white pepper. This forms a very lush middle that really explodes with invigorating flavors in your mouth. The finish on this Rosé is above average in length with a touch of tartness and continued echoes of citrus and berry. This wine is excellent on its own and would also be a good match for many goods; Arroz con Pollo is what I was craving as I sipped this offering.

What stands out most to me about this Rosé is how incredibly refreshing it is. It continually beckons you back to the glass sip after sip. It’s such an inviting and delicious warm season wine that the only surprise is the bottle doesn’t hold up a sign announcing “summer is here!” My advice is to get a bottle of this wine, call out sick to work and hang out on your porch or deck sipping it slowly and enjoying the sunshine.

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Collier Falls Vineyards – 2003 Hillside Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

June 7, 2009

The Facts:

Collier Falls Vineyards produces a total of just under 3,000 cases of wine. Zinfandel, Primitivo, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon are amongst their releases. Collier Falls was built on property Barry & Susan Collier purchased from Ferrari-Carano in 1997. The vineyard was planted to Zinfandel. In 1998 they put their Cabernet vines in as well as several other varietals. The 2003 Hillside Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has 2% Cabernet Franc & Petit Verdot blended in. This offering was aged for 22 months in 100% French oak barrels. 1,100 cases of this Cabernet were produced, making it more than 1/3 of the winery’s total production. The suggested retail price for this wine is $40.

Gabe’s Take:

The hue of this Cabernet Sauvignon is extremely deep; in fact it looks as dark and inky as some Petite Sirahs. I have a particular soft spot for Petite Sirah, so any reminder of them is welcome. The theme of darkness continues in the nose as blueberry and blackberry notes lead the aromatic charge. These are joined by subtler but present black cherry characteristics. This wine is opulent and layered throughout the palate with wave after wave of sumptuous cherry, pepper and light vanilla notes. These all carry through the lengthy finish which also has hints of black tea, earth and chicory notes. This wine has firm but yielding tannins and excellent acidity. A very well structured wine.

Each of the wines I’ve tasted from Collier Falls Vineyards has been a pretty impressive effort. This Cabernet Sauvignon continues the trend of well made, genuine wines that are built with aging potential. At just about 6 years of age this Cabernet is still quite youthful. If you’re going to drink it over the next couple of years I recommend 90 minutes or so in the decanter to let it really shows it colors. If you prefer aged Cabs, this one will go some distance. I wouldn’t hesitate to lay this 2003 release from Collier Falls down. It should improve for several more years and drink well until about 2015.

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Field Days – by Jonah Raskin

June 7, 2009

The Facts:

Jonah Raskin is a Professor at Sonoma State University. He is also the author of several books. Field Days is the most recent of these. While he was born on the East Coast, Raskin has lived in Sonoma for much of his life. This book is available through University of California Press. The list price is $24.95.

Gabe’s Take:

Of course grapes are the first thing that come to mind when most think of Sonoma agriculture. But there is also an increasing number of small farms growing produce and selling it locally either at farmers markets, to local restaurants or on site at their own property. Jonah Raskin spent a year working at one particular farm and speaking to people at a host of others.

Field Days – A Year of Farming, Eating and Drinking Wine in California is a fascinating look at the ever growing small farm movement in general and in Sonoma specifically. What Jonah Raskin describes particularly well is how he threw himself into the local farm world for a year. He seems to have put aside any notions he had going in and simply gave himself over to the local farming life. He does this by literally working at a farm and becoming part of the landscape. Over the course of Field Days it’s clear that a change overcomes him and he is not only researching the local food movement but embracing it. Still and all he manages to maintain his stance as a reporter first and his words remain objective.

What I really like about Field Days is the fact that while he concentrated a large portion of his efforts at Oak Hill Farm it wasn’t his only experience. He visited other farms, interviewed other workers and owners and shopped locally at a host of different places. Still Oak Hill was his baseline and as a reader it was quite interesting to see how he measured the other experiences against it. Raskin also spent time shopping at farmers markets and even places like Whole Foods, examining how a “natural” supermarket such as that still differs greatly in principle and execution from shopping at a local stand where the produce was likely grown on site or perhaps a few miles away.

This being a book based in Sonoma, grapes and of course wine come up. They’re not the focus here but instead come into play a handful of times to help fill out the local Sonoma farming picture that Jonah Raskin is drawing.

If everything about Sonoma fascinates you as it does me, Field Days is an excellent book that provides a really interesting and genuine look at a particular subject. Or if it’s the local food movement that you’re interested in, Field Days will provide a great look at small farms in a specific area. In any case this is a very entertaining read.

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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 >>>