Category Archives: Sonoma County

The Calling – Wine Spectator Grand Tour

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The CallingThis last week I had the pleasure of working the Wine Spectator Grand Tour during its Miami Florida stop. One of three nationwide events including the cities of Las Vegas and Chicago.

From Wine Spectator

An evening of exceptional wines from the world’s best wine-growing regions in three exciting locations. All wines are rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator’s editors. Meet the winemakers, enjoy a delicious selection of food and take home a souvenir Riedel wine glass. 

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This years Wine Spectator Grand Tour was held at the world-famous and historically significant Fontainbleau Hotel located on Miami Beach. The lobby and its bar alone are worthy of a visit, not to mention the beautiful grounds, pools, spa, restaurants and of course its beautiful beach.

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With over 200 wines to sample and explore (wine-list), many with wine-makers and/or winery owners present, this event was a wine-lovers paradise. My assignment for the evening was to represent the California winery The Calling and serve their highly rated, Wine Spectator 91 point, 2015 Russian River Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.

The story of The Calling

It was serendipity that brought Emmy Award winning sports commentator Jim Nantz and wine industry entrepreneur Peter Deutsch together at a restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut where they were each having dinner with friends. Peter had recently read Jim’s book about his father, Always By My Side, and it resonated with him, reminding him of his own relationship with his father. Peter introduced himself that evening.

Jim was at the restaurant having dinner with a friend who had contacts in the wine industry and was working on an idea that had been in development for years. Jim had long held a passion for wine and was exploring how to take the next step in becoming involved in the wine business when Peter stopped by the table. As fate would have it, that chance meeting would spawn a friendship and partnership, the Deutsch Nantz Alliance (DNA).

Theirs has been a hands-on collaboration. Jim and Peter traveled together to California and worked closely with renowned winemakers Dan Goldfield, Wayne Donaldson, and James MacPhail on every step of the wine-making process, from vineyard to bottle. They also poured themselves into the packaging process, working to capture the essence of the brand in the label design. For Jim and Peter, The Calling is about pursuing a passion, inspiring others, and making a great wine.

JamesMacPhailHaving the opportunity to work with affable wine-maker James MacPhail throughout the night and being able to ask questions about the process, vintage, etc was like icing on the cake for this wine geek.  His shared knowledge along with the quality of The Calling Chardonnay made our evening very successful and fun for all. Throughout the night we were surrounded by nothing but praise from the attendees. With many asking where to buy and return visits to our table to let us know The Calling was a favorite of the night.

Aged 11 months sur-lie in french oak, using approximately 35% new oak, with frequent batonage and malolactic fermentation done in the barrel. I found this beautifully rich and balanced Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch Chardonnay to be perfectly made to satisfy the gamut of Chardonnay drinkers. Tropical fruit notes, crisp acidity and its round richness on the palate were attributes and accolades we heard from guests throughout this special tasting event. And I have to admit I agree. With accolades from Wine Spectator; a 91 point score and a spot on their TOP 100 wine list for 2017, this wine deserves all the attention it gets.

To getting The Calling!   ¡SALUD!

The Calling Chardonnay is presently available on-line and at your local Total Wine and More store through their Winery Direct program. Price range: $32-$36.00.

Looking for Inspiration I Found Wine

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2009 MartiniLouis M. Martini 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Little did I know that a quick peak inside one of my wine cellars would inspire me to pick a wine, a theme and the perfect quote for inspiration:

This corpulent, plump, juicy, delicious, hedonistic effort should keep for up to a decade – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

As I went through wines in search of tonight’s perfect choice, the 2009 Louis M. Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon called to me.  I wasn’t particularly looking for a California Cabernet in fact I was looking for anything but.  Yet, this bottle had me at 2009, the vintage.

How had I held on to this bottle for so long? This isn’t a wine I would usually age. Yet here it was. A vague memory told me there was a story and of course there was. Louis M Martini wines, Michael Martini the third generation winemaker (grandson of Louis M. Martini) and even my parents played a part.  Should you be intrigued and want to know more just click on the link provided although it’s not required:

Napa Valley – 2009 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon

Yes, my first inspiration was the vintage. But as I researched the wine itself and came across the Wine Advocate quote, I just knew the wine Gods had pointed me in the right direction: “should keep for up to a decade”, well let’s see about that!

Flash forward:

DAMN! or YES! they were right.  Referring to wine reviews and winemaker notes describing this wine to be big, bold, corpulent, hedonistic, and high-toned it is now interesting to experience and taste how the aging process of ten years enhanced and yet softened this wine.

Notes:

Rich dark dried or candied fruit on the nose; plum, blackberry, prune, raisin. Compote like.  Same on the palate with the addition of an earthy and vegetative taste. Now ten years after harvest, I found it to be as smooth as a big Pinot Noir from Oregon or South America,  yet still a California Cabernet.

Inspiration found, how lucky am I……. ¡SALUD!

Robert Parker 97 pt Rated – Louis M Martini Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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IMG_3252Closing in on 4 years later I finally took Michael Martini’s whispered advice and sampled “the Alexander Valley”. Yes, albeit a different vintage, but yet once again a wine renowned for its quality. With many recent 90pt plus ratings, Louis M Martini wines, from Sonoma to Napa Valley, have been flying off the shelves at our Whole Foods Market. For my 2013 background story click here.  I wonder what  Michael Martini The Wine Whisperer would have to say about his 2014 vintages….

My notes:

Dark ruby-red in color. Luscious and rich fruit on the nose upon decanting with notes of; spice, resinous woods, smoky cedar, leather and a earthy/dusty quality. On the palate; deliciously red and dark fruit forward with strawberry, black currant and blackberry noted.

I have to agree with Robert Parker’s comment: “This is a beauty”.  If this Alexander Valley beauty is available to you, it is well worth the just under $30 price tag. As per The Wine Advocate review will it age well for 20 years? Probably so. But why wait. Don’t think twice. It will not disappoint.   ¡SALUD!

Winemaker notes:

The 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has received high critical praise for its decadent black cherry, black current and blackberry aromas and flavors that weave together with earthy notes of truffle, tobacco and smoky cedar. This expansive wine is dense, rich and well-structured, held together beautifully by assertive tannins that lead into a long, full finish. Its depth and structure give the wine potential to easily age a decade or more.

The Wine Advocate/Robert Parker 97pts.“The bigger, richer 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petite Sirah aged 16 months in 50% new French and American casks. This is a bigger wine and close to 2% higher in alcohol at 15.5%. There are 11,000 cases of this big, full-bodied, boisterous Cabernet Sauvignon that has a dense ruby/purple color, notes of underbrush, forest floor, tobacco leaf and oodles of blackcurrants and black cherries, with a touch of woodsmoke. The full-bodied wine hits the palate with a cascade of glycerin, fruit and purity. This is a beauty – dense, rich, and structured, but capable of lasting 20 or more years.”

 

Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

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Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

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Arrowood Vineyards sits in a beautiful valley of Sonoma County along the two-lane Sonoma Highway. Such a quiet and wonderful  location that I had to take advantage of their cozy front porch and reflect on how lucky I was to be touring wine country. Wine-tasting through Sonoma County, from its mountains and valleys to the breathtaking coastline.

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Driving through Sonoma County.

 

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Arrowood Vineyards front porch with a new friend.

From Arrowood’s organic certified single vineyard varietals to sustainably farmed and certified gems throughout Sonoma, including this Knights Valley Cab, all left a mark not only on my palate but also my trip.

 

 

9 1 points -antonio galloni February 2016 “… superb. Raspberry jam, spice, scorched earth, rose petal, cloves and new leather are some of the signatures. Knights Valley is often noted for Graves-like sense of gravel-infused minerality, naturally allied to a California expression of fruit. That is exactly what readers will find.”

 

 

 

 

 

From Arrowood Vineyards;

Knights Valley Vineyards

Tucked into the foothills of Mount Saint Helena on the remote eastern edge of Sonoma County, Knights Valley experiences a moderated climate, offering a longer and later growing season that develops dark fruit aromatics.

 

 

My notes:

The first thing I noticed was how beautifully balanced this big Cab was on the nose. Earthiness, fruit and spice all coexisting with no one factor overwhelming the other. At the same time; gentle and subtle yet profound.

On the palate the the earthy spiciness [cedar, tobacco box, coffee, eucalyptus] were in the background with rich dark fruit at the front. With medium tannins the finish was spicy and herbal [eucalyptus/anise]. Balanced on the palate as well I would suggest decanting this gorgeously rich Cabernet.

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View from Arrowood Vineyards Porch towards Sonoma Hwy.

 

When I come up with a sentence that includes “gentle and subtle yet profound” you have to know I enjoyed this wine. I can say it left a mark. 

Would I recommend this wine? You bet. Would I buy this wine myself? Oh yeah.

 

In the $40.00 range, it is not an every day wine for most of my customers but it should definitely be on the radar for their holidays and special occasions. For those with a bigger wine budget the Arrowood Knights Valley Cabernet is incredibly well priced and could easily be compared to other wines at twice the cost. Now excuse me as I start planning my next wine trip back to Sonoma or at the very least reliving my memories over a glass of wine. ¡SALUD!

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Arrowood Vineyards tasting room lobby.

 

 

Winemaker notes:

Our 2013 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is bold with black forest fruit and spiced plum, offering undertones of roasted coffee and crushed rock. Caramel and anise come through on the palate accompanied by broad tannins and a rich and persistent finish.