American Wine plus a *NEW* Cava Rose

This week we will sample six wines; three from California, two from Southern Oregon, and a sparkling wine from Spain.


“The Raventos i Blanc estate has belonged to the Raventos family since 1497, and been passed on intact from generation to generation until today. In 1872 Josep Raventós Fatjó made the first sparkling wine second fermentation in the bottle with grapes from the estate.”

From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “Raventos I Blanc produce a clutch of excellent Cavas and in the case of “De Nit,” one of the finest I encountered during my tastings. The estate has belonged to the Raventos family since 1497 and it was Josep Raventos Fatjo who is credited with making the first Cava way back in 1872. Nowadays, it is Manuel Raventos who is both president and oenologist.”

Raventos i Blanc de Nit Cava Brut Rose 2010– Penedes, Spain. A blend of 43% Macabeu, 33% Xarel·lo, 19% Parellada  and 5% Monastrell. “Innovating through the [red] monastrell variety which brings complexity and elegance in colour, maintaining the usual freshness and concentration of our sparklings. The grapes are harvested by hand and rapidly delivered to the winery, where they are processed via a gravity flow system. At each stage of the production process the atmosphere is controlled by dry ice. Assemblage is followed by bottle fermentation and ageing for at least 15 months in the neck-down position.” 2009 93 Wine Advocate- “The outstanding 2009 De Nit (rose) has an almost hypnotic, perfect pale hue that is worth the price alone! A blend of classic Cava varieties with 5% Monastrell, it is sourced from 30- to 40-year-old vines from the estate. The nose is very subtle and very pretty with traces of rosewater, fish scale and Morello cherries, all beautifully defined and drawing you in. The palate is crisp and tense on the entry: a minimalist rose cave that is based on freshness and poise rather than delivering fruit intensity. It is a delicate, very pretty, harmonious Cava rose that is sensual and alluring. Who needs Champagne when Cava can be as good as this? Drink now-2015+.” $24.99

“Tolosa’s sustainably farmed vineyards are located between Santa Barbara and Paso Robles, in the coastal hills of San Luis Obispo. Their goal is to produce a perfectly balanced wine expressing the true characteristic of each grape varietal. Tolosa practices scientifically based sustainability practices in their vineyard and winery. To summarize – sustainability is a comprehensive program that encompasses hundreds of the best management practices in the winery, vineyards, employees, and with neighbors.”

Tolosa No-Oak Chardonnay 2012– Central Coast, California. “This wine was fermented at cool temperatures and aged on their yeast lees for 7-8 months. The fruit for this wine came from three sources. The first was our estate vineyards, the second was Santa Lucia Highlands, and the third and smallest portion was from Monterey County. All of these are excellent areas for Chardonnay, and they combine and complement each other well. The pale color is a clear indictor of quality in this wine. The aroma is beautiful with lemon curd and a white floral tone similar to gardenia. The flavors in the mouth do not disappoint. There is the expected fresh fruit of a young white wine, but there are unexpected layers of richness and sweet honeyed character. The textures of this wine are very broad and reserve like. This is the first of the 2012 Chardonnays released, and is an exciting introduction to a great vintage.” $16.99


“This newest Oregon AVA [Umpqua Valley] is part of the larger Southern Oregon AVA, which was established recently, the Umpqua Valley American Viticultural Area is one of the first AVA’s in Oregon and is located entirely within Douglas County, Oregon. Grapes grown here include Pinot noir, Pinot gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and more.”

“Terry and Sue joined forces in San Francisco in 1999 and a search commenced for the perfect pinot noir location. While on a visit to the Umpqua Valley in 2000 they learned that pinot noir had been grown in Elkton since 1972. In July 2001 they visited Elkton and it just felt and looked right. After extensive homework revealed that Elkton had the perfect pinot noir climate they returned only two weeks later and found their dream. The property is in the coastal mountains, 25 miles to the ocean, at an elevation of 750 to 1150 feet. They handcraft fine varietal wines with minimal intervention to preserve the character of the fruit.”

Brandborg Pinot Gris 2012– Umpqua Valley, Oregon. “Our source for Pinot Gris is the South Fork Vineyard located at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Umpqua River. The site has alluvial siltstone soils deposited over millennias of flooding bringing diverse soils to the mix from the Coastal Range, the Klamaths and the Cascades.2011, being another cool year, the fruit was harvested the same date, October 18 as in 2010. Flavor and aromatic development preceded sugar accumulation and we were able to make this full bodied wine with a moderate 12.9% alcohol. In addition to the more tropical pineapple and banana notes usually associated with the nose of South Fork gris, this vintage has notes of green apple with a huge hit of lemongrass. The wine is dry with texture from lees aging and mixing in the tank. The flavors highlight the green apple flavors with tart and racy citrusy acidic finish. We strive to make our gris the perfect oyster on the half shell style of wine and this version has the clean and bracing qualities that would make that another great pairing, or sushi anybody? Let it wash own the salty minerality and make you happy.” $15.99

Brandborg Benchlands Pinot Noir 2009– Umpqua Valley, Oregon. “We source pinot noir fruit from a number of vineyards for this blend. All have close proximity to the Umpqua River, none more than 25 miles distance from our winery in Elkton. The commonality is that all are bench land type terroirs, ancient river borne deposits. Some sites have stony alluvial soils, some are flood plains and some have sandstone, siltstone sedimentary clays. The 100 Valleys of the Umpqua has a very diverse mix of soil types, the result of soils washed down from three different mountain ranges, with wildly different ages and composition, the Cascades, the Klamaths and the Coast Range. All vineyard sites are influenced by the cool maritime air and fog that are drawn inland daily, preserving fresh berry/cherry fruit and bright acidity. This wine has a lovely garnet color. The wine has aromas of bing cherries with crushed dried tea roses, earth, pomegranate and blackberry candy. The wine coats the palate with sweet cherry fruit, spice and a subtle smokiness. This wine has a pleasing minerality, tannic structure and is balanced with fresh tasting acidity. The aftertaste is quite long and lingering with a mouth coating, supple texture.” $17.99


“With his family’s assistance, Randall purchased property in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a magically quaint area known as Bonny Doon, intent on producing the Great American Pinot Noir. The GAPN proved to be systematically elusive, but he was greatly encouraged by experimental batches of Rhône varieties. The late, great Bonny Doon Estate Vineyard (1981 –1994, a tragic victim to Pierce’s Disease) was eventually planted to Syrah, “Roussanne,” Marsanne, and Viognier and produced achingly beautiful wines, confirming that California’s temperate climate is well suited to the sun-loving grapes of the Mediterranean. In 1986,Bonny Doon Vineyard released the inaugural vintage 1984) of Le Cigare Volant, an homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.”

Bonny Doon Contra Costa Red 2011– Central Coast, Contra Costa Appellation, California. A blend of 56% carignane [from several extremely old (100 year+), nongrafted, dry-farmed head-trained vineyards, located in Contra Costa County], 28% mourvèdre, 9% grenache, 6% syrah, 1% zinfandel. Vineyards: 54% Del Barba, 34% Evangelho, 9% Ventana, 3% Alamo Creek, 2% Rancho Solo, 1% Bien Nacido. It has what Randall Grahm says is rustic elegance, an oxymoron, he notes. Carignan offers a lot of simplistic red fruit; complexity and minerality come from other varieties, notably blueberry from the Mourvedre and a hint of pomegranate from 9% Grenache. This stellar and decidedly quaffable wine needs at least an hour in a decanter to develop its depth. Best slightly chilled. A field blend that contravenes contraindicated convention, with aromas of cherries and licorice, flavorful cassis, blackberries, and silky tannins.” “The 2011 Contra marries the fresh blackberry and cranberry aromas of old vine carignane with the classic old vine mourvedre character of licorice and leather. This vintage provided a bright acidity with black cherry, blackberry, and a mix of spice on the palate. The silky tannins provide this wine with a texture to savor.” $14.99


“Ron Melville, a businessman, and the founder of Melville Vineyards, since 1987 has devoted his time studying viticulture and growing high quality grapes, first in Sonoma County’s Knight’s Valley and now in western Santa Ynez Valley. Ron’s passion for Burgundian wines brought him to Lompoc, located in western Santa Ynez Valley, within the Sta. Rita Hills appellation. In 1996, he developed 82 acres of vineyards in Lompoc where he heavily planted 14 different clones of Pinot Noir and 4 different clones of Chardonnay. Ron also included plantings of Rhone varietals, Syrah and Viognier. This grape production has made it into the winemaking programs of top winemakers in Santa Barbara County from Bonaccorsi Wine Co., Brewer-Clifton, Jaffurs Wine Cellars to Whitcraft Winery. Fourteen years ago, he purchased 100 acres in Cat Canyon which he named Verna’s Vineyard, 2 miles North of Los Alamos in Santa Barbara County, for vineyard development. Cat Canyon is primarily dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah production. The shared enthusiasm of Ron’s sons, Brent and Chad Melville, and winemaker Greg Brewer have sparked a family project — the future success of Melville Winery.”

From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “Winemaker Greg Brewer and grower Chad Melville continue to knock it out of the park with these Melville releases. Focusing on site, if not plot, specific releases, neutral oak, no SO2 until racking and varying degrees of whole cluster are the norm here. The wines have individual characters and, stylistically, lean toward the more complex, finesse-driven side of the spectrum. They “wow” more for their balance and nuance than their power and richness. They also remain reasonably priced!”

Melville Estate Verna’s Syrah 2011– Santa Barbara County, California. “This is 100% Melville estate fruit from our ranch in Los Alamos and is named in honor of Ron Melville’s mother. The Verna’s vineyard syrah bottling is composed of seven different clones: (Estrella, Shiraz 1, Tablas 99, 174, 383, 470 and 877). 40% of the grapes were fermented as whole-cluster and 60% de-stemmed in small 1.5 ton open-top fermenters. Total skin and stem contact averaged 30 days (a 7 day cold soak, 2+ weeks fermentation and 1+ week extended maceration.) From the press, the wine was transferred directly into neutral barrels (10 year old French oak) where it remained sur lie without sulfur until May, when it was racked for the first time and prepared for bottling in August. Immediately noticeable are warm components of roasted marshmallows, molasses, pipe tobacco and dark chocolate while aromas of magnolia, anise, white pepper and chicory float in the background. Deeper impressions of sweet bbq, saddle leather, beef carpaccio, balsamic and iodine also come forward. Texturally, the wine is velvety and streamlined, finishing with intense precision.” 92 Wine Advocate- “Looking at the Syrah, the 2011 Syrah Verna’s is a supple, sexy effort that’s loaded with black cherry liqueur, blackberry, pepper, stem, bacon fat and assorted meatiness on the nose. Filling in beautifully on the palate, with a medium-bodied profile, this knockout, voluptuously textured effort has no hard edges, serious purity of fruit and ripe tannin that emerges through the finish. Taking the better part of a day to shine, this beauty should be given another 2-3 years of bottle age and consumed over the following 7-8 years. Drink 2015-2022.” $26.99

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