This Week’s Wine Tasting
California Wine- Various Producers and Regions
“Pine Ridge founder Gary Andrus, inspired by the illustrious wines ofBordeaux, believed in the Napa Valley’s potential to produce wines of similar stature. [In 1978] He planted the property’s original namesake vineyard on a steeply terraced hillside flanked by a dramatic ridgeline of pine trees in the Stags Leap District. Gary’s pioneering efforts with this first vineyard were met with tremendous success as the Bordeaux varietals he planted – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot – thrived and produced wines of great distinction. In the following years, Pine Ridge continued to acquire exceptional vineyard sites across the region. Today, the Estate’s 200-acres span over five renowned Napa Valley appellations – Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Oakville, Carneros and Howell Mountain.”
“Chenin Blanc has long been the core of this blend and is sourced from the Clarksburg appellation nestled in the Sacramento River Delta. The grapes were harvested at low sugar levels to ensure a bright fruit character and low alcohol in the finished wine. In contrast, the Viognier from Lodi was picked at 24 degrees Brix to capture the floral and spicy nature as well as the viscosity of this grape. After crushing and blending the press wine with free run juice to increase palate weight, the juice was inoculated with two special yeast strains selected to maintain the fruity characters and then fermented cold. The wine was bottled without any oak influence to retain the vibrant and refreshing profile.”
Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier 2013– Clarksburg AVA (Chenin Blanc), Lodi AVA (Viognier), California. 80% Chenin Blanc, 20% Viognier. “Brilliant and refreshing, this bottling of our remarkable blend bursts with an array of delightful aromas, opening with fresh lemon, juicy honeydew melon, pomelo and sweet mango, complemented by soft orange blossom and carnation floral notes. The palate is crisp and mouth-watering, leading with luscious papaya, yellow pear and ruby grapefruit flavors that are balanced by hints of sweet tangerine and white tea. The juicy fruit flavors linger through the clean and lively finish.” $12.99
“Mount Eden Vineyards is a small historic wine estate located on a 2000 foot peak in the Santa Cruz Mountain Appellation about 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Founded in 1945, it is recognized as one of the original “boutique” California Winery properties, focusing on small lots of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mount Eden’s lineage of estate bottled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is the longest in California. Planted in austere, infertile Franciscan shale on a cool, exposed mountaintop, the low-yielding estate vineyards have consistently produced world class wines for over a half century.”
“The Edna Valley Appellation in San Luis Obispo County, along California’s Central Coast, is a growing region profoundly influenced by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. It has one of the longest growing seasons in the world; bud break typically occurs in February, with harvest in October. This slow ripening is especially favorable for the noble Chardonnay grape, which develops great nuances of flavor while retaining its elegant nature.
Jean-Pierre Wolff farms 55 acres of Chardonnay vines in the bucolic Edna Valley, outside the town of San Luis Obispo. Originally planted in 1976 by Edna Valley wine pioneer Andy Macgregor (Wolff purchased the property from Macgregor in 1999), the vineyard is the oldest in the Edna Valley. We have made Chardonnay from these vines since 1985. These mature vines typically yield two to four tons per acre.”
Mount Eden Chardonnay Wolff Vineyard 2011– Edna Valley AVA (San Luis Obispo County), Central Coast, California. “The winemaking process is essentially the same as with Mount Eden’s Estate Chardonnay. After harvest, the fruit is trucked to our winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is pressed without crushing and entirely barrel-fermented in a mix of new, two and three-year-old French Burgundy barrels. Undergoing full malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged eight months in barrel until bottling. Full, lush tropical fruit dominates this wine’s aromas and flavors. Complex and heady on the palate, it is a premier example of Central Coast Chardonnay.” $18.99
Hahn Estate– “Along California’s central coast lies the renowned Monterey County appellation and within that, the Santa Lucia Highlands, home to the Hahn Family’s vineyard estate. Nicolaus (“Nicky”) Hahn and his wife Gaby discovered a love for California wines in the mid-1970’s. A two-year search led them to the breathtaking beauty and ideal growing conditions of Monterey County where they subsequently purchased two ranches on which to plant vineyards and start a winery. Their first wines, released under the Smith & Hook label, received numerous awards and critical acclaim.”
“In the Santa Lucia Highlands, several favorable weather conditions join forces to produce wines of world-class stature. Stiff afternoon winds from Monterey Bay slow down photosynthesis for a long, gentle growing season. This long season allows grapes to develop fruit flavors layered with sweet, spicy and savory notes.
Our SLH Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are truly estate wines. They are produced entirely in the Santa Lucia Highlands where we grow the grapes in our own vineyards, choose the best, hand-sorted fruit, age the wine in French oak barrels in our cellar and bottle it on site. In every phase of grape-growing and winemaking, we are committed to earth-friendly practices and have achieved SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certification.”
Hahn Estate Pinot Noir SLH 2011– Santa Lucia Highlands AVA (Monterey County), California. Smith Vineyard, Lone Oak Vineyard, Doctor’s Vineyard and Hook Vineyard. “The 2011 vintage was renowned as one of the more challenging vintages in recent years. Cold weather during summer and early fall extended the harvest season well into November while simultaneously restricting grape yields. The combination of a longer growing season and smaller crop throughout the Santa Lucia Highlands created fruit of incredible intensity and balance. Hand harvested from each vineyard, the grapes were then manually sorted for quality prior to de-stemming and fermentation. Once fermented the wine was aged in 40% new French oak for 11 months. Aromas of black cherry and dark currant come out of the glass with an initial swirl, revealing this wine’s intense black fruit flavors. A sip reveals a full bodied Pinot Noir imbued with flavors of ripe red plums and flecks of allspice. On the palate a slight acidity balances this wine’s supple tannins and supports its long finish.” $22.99
“Chris Bilbro started Marietta Cellars in 1978, and has been making delicious, affordable wines ever since. His Marietta Old Vine Red (OVR) is considered to be “one of the best red wine values in the country” by wine critics and wine lovers alike. Although Chris still has the final say on all major decisions, his two sons, Jake and Scot are now fully involved in all aspects of the winery’s growing and production efforts.”
From Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate- “One of California’s finest value wineries, Marietta Cellars has been receiving favorable reviews in this publication for many years. My fondness for the non-vintage blend of many vintages and grapes goes back to when I first reviewed the Old Vine Red Lot 14. Production has soared since then, but the consistency in quality has remained remarkably high. These are terrific offerings from this value-priced winery.”
Marietta Cellars Zinfandel 2011– Alexander Valley AVA, Dry Creek AVA, Russian River AVA (Sonoma County), California. “The 2011 vintage is a pure expression of Sonoma County. We blend largely from our Alexander Valley Ranch with fruit from Dry Creek and Russian River to provide a Zinfandel with great fruit, balance and structure. Hints of cherry, cedar and raspberry are prominent from opening with a stone minerality afterward to add to the complexity. The mouth feel is full and juicy, but not heavy. This is a layered wine, with a succulent center, tannins for structure and balanced acidity.” 87 Wine Advocate- “The 2011 Zinfandel Sonoma is a successful effort in what is generally a lousy vintage for Zinfandel. Spicy with abundant red currant and red cherry fruit, underbrush and spice box, it exhibits good richness, medium body and excellent ripeness in this challenging year. Drink it over the next 3-4 years.” $19.99
Neyers Vineyards– “Begun in 1992 by Bruce and Barbara Neyers, Neyers Vineyards produces about 15,000 cases of wine annually.” “In 1999, we purchased and renovated a winery on a thirty-acre parcel in the Sage Canyon area of Napa Valley. Over the next 14 months we built the modern, highly functional winery designed for our traditional winemaking practices. We produced our first vintage in this state of the art facility in 2000. In 2002, Wine and Spirits Magazine named Neyers Vineyards the Artisan Winery of the Year.
About 25% of our production is Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on our 50-acre, certified organic Conn Valley ranch. We purchase additional grapes from a select group of growers, among them the Sangiacomo family of the Carneros District, Will Nord of Napa, the Rossi Ranch of Sonoma County, Markus Bokisch and the Evangelho family.”
Neyers Vineyards Sage Canyon Red Wine 2012– Oakley (Contra Costa County, San Francisco Bay AVA), Lodi AVA, Sonoma Coast AVA, California. Rhône Blend of 45% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre and 15% Syrah. “The total area covered by these individual vineyards may seem large but is actually no larger than today’s southern Rhône, and the wine is to me remarkably similar to the best of what is produced in that region of France.” “The Carignan is from 120-year old vines on the Evangelho Ranch in Oakley, and the Mourvedre is from vines on that same parcel; both are own-rooted (un-grafted) vines. The Grenache is from the Bokisch Vineyard in the Clements Hills area [Lodi AVA]. The Syrah is from the Old Lakeville Road vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA. Each variety lends its singular set of components to the finished wine. Each could undoubtedly exist as a sterling example of its respective variety. The whole, we like to think, is greater than the sum of its parts.” 91 Wine Spectator- “An impressive red that’s rich, dense, focused and layered, with tiers of vibrant red berry, pomegranate, black licorice, spice, road tar and cedar, ending with dry, gripping tannins. Carignane, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Drink now through 2025. 939 cases made.” $20.99
“Laurel Glen Vineyard, a thousand feet up the slopes of Sonoma Mountain, has long been considered one of the iconic Cabernet vineyards of California. Originally planted in the 1880’s, the present-day vineyard was developed in the 1970’s by Sonoma wine pioneer Patrick Campbell. The 1st vintage of Laurel Glen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was made in 1981. The vineyard’s combination of high altitude, eastern exposure, rocky soils, and small diurnal temperature swings combine to produce very distinctive wines. Despite its small production, the wine has received international acclaim for its exceptional balance, elegance and ability to age gracefully.”
“The vineyard sits at an elevation of 800–1000 feet on an east-facing slope of Sonoma Mountain, high above the fog line. This optimal exposure captures the first rays of morning sunlight and avoids the burning heat of late afternoon. The thin, rocky, complex soils of Sonoma Mountain promote efficient water drainage and restrain excess vigor. Production is low, typically two to three tons per acre. As of 2011, the vineyard is farmed organically.”
“2011 was a very cool and long growing season. There were no significant heat waves during the summer, then in September it warmed up with beautiful weather all month. Grapes in Sonoma and Napa were picked at lower sugar levels, meaning that the alcohol content for 2011 wines will be on the moderate side. The cool growing season resulted in one of the latest harvest dates in Laurel Glen’s 30 year history. We started picking the Cabernet Sauvignon on October 21st and finished on November 1st. Yields were low, even for a mountain vineyard, at 2 tons per acre.”
Laurel Glen Vineyard Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon 2011– Sonoma Mountain AVA (Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County), California. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 30% new French oak, 10% new American oak (60% other). “2011 Laurel Glen Counterpoint s comprised of lots from the vineyard which display more forward fruit and softer tannins, resulting in a wine meant to be enjoyed at the time of release. Since final lot selections are not determined until the second year of barrel aging, Counterpoint is vinified using the same practices as Laurel Glen Vineyard Cabernet. [The wine] is filled with scents of tobacco, cherry, herbs and caramel. Silky concentration and ripe red fruit is complicated with spicy oak, olive tapenade and earth. The wine has great freshness and depth, focused minerality and tannins that are firm, round and delicious.” 1,546 cases produced. $28.99