Tag Archives: California wine

Picture It! 1924

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1924

Gnarly Head’s 1924 Double Black Red Wine Blend is an ode to the days of Prohibition. As per the label: “wine’s darkest hour when it was deemed illegal”. Luckily for us, the year 1924 was also when this winery set down their wine roots.

I recently discovered this Limited Edition Gnarly Head production in our wine department at Whole Foods. My beverage buyer had decided to bring it in and create a small display. After sampling this wine, we may want to go bigger.

Having enjoyed Gnarly Head wines, mostly Zinfandel, this Lodi California blend caught my eye. The frosted bottle didn’t hurt either. The fact that it is presently priced under $10 pretty much decided it for me right then and there. Tonight’s wine was chosen.

Slightly chilled to room temperature, remember I live in the tropics, this wine poured a dark rich garnet purple color. The nose boomed with power and excitement of dark fruit such as; blackberry, fig, blueberry, raisin with a bit of cocoa thrown in. The palate was pretty much the same with a bit more chocolate and the addition of caramel.

This velvety fruit forward bold field blend managed to satisfy all my wine needs. This says a lot of a wine at this price point. Luckily I am not alone. Wine Enthusiast rated a recent vintage 90 points and classified it under their BEST BUY distinction. VIVINO app customers also rate it highly. This easy drinker is a secret no more.

I am predicting that with in-store wine tastings our small display will need refilling on a regular basis. A great example of QPR [quality to price ratio] if I ever did see one. Here’s to spreading the wine gospel!

¡SALUD!

 

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SALDO – The Prisoner Wine Company

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whineandcheersforwine.com

This wine has been a house favorite for quite a few years. I do not remember exactly how I came to discover it but most likely the introduction was made by a certain Zinfandel loving pair we call neighbors and great friends. Gotta love it when friends and wine come together.

Originally from Dave Phinney the winemaker/founder for The Prisoner / Orin Swift wines. SALDO is now produced by The Prisoner Wine Company since the sale of the company in 2009. From TPWC:

When we took ownership of The Prisoner and Saldo in 2009 from Orin Swift, we knew assembling the right team would be essential. With more than a decade of winemaking experience at Ravenswood crafting Zinfandel, Jen Beloz was the ideal person to take the lead. In order to remain true to the wine’s original style and vision, Jen worked alongside Dave Phinney, founder of The Prisoner, for the first two vintages.

Interestingly many wine lovers and fans of these wines think that Orin Swift is a real person. In fact the name was created by Dave Phinney himself. Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift his mother’s maiden name.

saldoBefore SALDO the wine gets you hooked, the bottle label or lack thereof grabs your attention. I love the minimalism of the old-fashioned, retro for most, hand embossed label. Customers enjoy not only looking at it but touching and reliving their memories of making their own labels.

From TPWC: The word “saldo” has various meanings throughout the romance languages of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. In Spanish, it mainly refers to “balance on hand,” and sometimes it can also be interpreted “from here and there.”

Most recently vino and friendship crossed paths again and I got to enjoy the 2011 vintage SALDO at a local Miami Beach restaurant with an out-of-town friend. Once I saw it on the wine menu, and well priced at that, the decision was made. This rich, velvety, medium bodied, fruit forward blend of 83% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 6% Syrah paired beautifully with dishes such as; Ropa Vieja [Cuban shredded beef], Oxtail, Beef Tenderloin, grilled brussels sprouts, cheese grits, macaroni and cheese and even tostones [fried plantains]. Heck, it drank deliciously by itself.

whineandcheersforwine.com

Winemaker Notes:

The 2011 Saldo has an intense ruby color and bold aromas of dark berry fruit, blueberry pie, cardamom and baking spice. The entry is rich and full, and leads into a broad mid palate with concentration and density, backed by lively acidity. The texture is soft and velvety, with polished tannins. The finish is long with persistent notes of chocolate, roasted coffee bean and vanilla spice.

I like the consistency SALDO has shown along the way since first produced in 2007. I recommend it regularly at our store and it has become a customer favorite.  This wine is perfect for not only the Zin lovers and grill-masters out there but also for fans of big bold medium bodied, full flavored red blends. ¡SALUD!

Organic Wine – Heller Estate Organic Vineyards: Chenin Blanc

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Heller Estate @WCW2014

The Heller Estate Organic Vineyards are located in the Cachagua (Hidden Springs) region of Carmel Valley, Monterey California.

Officially certified 100% organic by the state of California I appreciate the fact that they offer a copy of the actual certificate on their web-site.  I had never seen one before.

For certification the winemakers and property have to follow methods such as; no use of pesticides. Interestingly no herbicides are employed, and the desired results are accomplished by using the organic matter left following the crushing and pressing of grapes, which is then spread in the middle of the vineyard rows in order to build the matter content of the vineyard soil. Weeds are controlled by the use of cover crops providing a habitat for insects and spiders which are beneficial.  These grapes are also dry-farmed, little to no irrigation is used.

I originally became a fan of Chenin Blanc when I discovered one of France’s earliest official A.O.C. [Appellation d’origine controlee] Vouvray: a white wine region of France’s Loire Valley Touraine district where Chenin Blanc is known as Pineau de la Loire. I later also came to enjoy the Chenin Blanc of South Africa where I was surprised to learn it is the most widely planted varietal and also known as Steen.

This all brings us to California where according to on-line sources:

-During the 1980’s California had more acreage of Chenin Blanc planted than France.

-For most of its history in California the grape was considered a “workhorse variety” that could be used anonymously in bulk and jug blends, ideally partnered with Colombard and Chardonnay.

Luckily for us this changed in the early 2000’s when plantings declined and quality increased.  Heller’s original plantings were done in 1968 with production starting in 1976. The organic certification was granted in 1996 after three vintages of clean farming. The vineyard encompasses 120 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir at an altitude of 1,200-1,500 feet.

As one would come to expect the wines from France are old-world in style, leaning towards soft and delicate.  South Africa and California come across as new-world, filled with boldness and intensity.

My tasting notes included:

On the nose; floral [honeysuckle] with melon [green melon and cantaloupe], pineapple, stone fruit with aromas getting stronger in minutes most likely caused by the warming room temperature.  Medium bodied. On the palate; honeysuckle, melon, tropical fruits such as lychee and soursop with some of the 13.7 % alcohol detectable along with mouth-watering acidity.

Winemaker notes:

Aroma; Honeydew melon, guava and mineral notes with lime and nectarine highlights.  Also look for nice touches of floral components (honeysuckle/narcissus). Palate; Immediate, luscious mouth feel that envelopes followed by perfectly balanced acid components. Flavors of green apple, quince and citrus abound. Lingering mid-palate that extends nicely into a flavor packed finish with just the right touch of bright acidity.

I was very pleased with this wine which is priced in the $18-$25.00 range.   So much so that I would happily serve it again and recommend it to our customers.  We paired ours with ginger grilled swordfish, roasted potatoes and spinach. I especially like the fact that it comes from organic grapes. A fact that automatically garners some wine buyers yet seems to turn others off.  A sort of generalized stigma is applied by some to “organic” wines.  A fact I do not understand and a fact that should not be applied in this case.

¡SALUD!  To fighting the good fight.

Celebrating Holidays or Better Yet Every Day!

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As this years Pumpkin displays turn to harvest motifs with cider, our in-store Halloween candy has changed over to chocolate turkeys and candy canes.

Celebrations are in the air and I have come to realize that the end of the year will soon be upon us.  Of course celebrating with libations shouldn’t only occur once or twice a year. I like to think I celebrate it all whether they be small accomplishments or BIG holidays.

For example just last week Whine and Cheers for Wine passed the 20,000+ visitor mark. This week the well-known California winemaker Michael Martini was nice enough to contact me after being directed to my review of his Louis M. Martini Napa Cabernet.  Yes it’s been a good few weeks and all good reasons to celebrate.

As I went back and reviewed last years holiday post, HARK! The Holidays Approacheth!! I came to realize how much has changed. 2012: I was a Wine Steward spreading my time between a grocery store wine department and their liquor store. 2013: I became a Wine Buyer or better yet a Specialty Beverage Buyer for Whole Foods Market. Regularly teaching classes and planning wine events. I’ve had opportunities to meet wine makers face to face and the good fortune to have my writings shared by wine companies and news agencies on their social media sites.  Yes it’s been a good couple of years; all good reasons to celebrate.

This year I’ve decided to let “the people” pick our top 10 wines for 2013 and the holiday season.  These are the wines that have garnered the most visits and searches at Whine and Cheers. We already know how I feel about these wines. Now you’ll know the wines the public is researching, buying and hopefully celebrating with.

Here you go in no particular order. The Whine and Cheers For Wine Top 10 of 2013 picked by the general wine public. I’ve averaged the top vote getters for the month, quarter and year. Giving a chance to recent reviews that have not had time to garner as many visits as a review posted 9 months ago.   Drum-roll please!!!

Dr Loosen Riesling Just what the Doctor ordered!

Kirkland Signature Bordeaux:  I guess there is something to be said about Costco wine…..

19 Crimes: GUILTY! Great marketing and tasty wine.

Dreaming Tree Crush: The Luck of the Blends. Steve Reeder and Dave Matthews ROCK!

Joel Gott Zinfandel: The 2011 vs. 2009 battle

Chateau Lafitte Marcellin: 2009 Cotes de Bordeaux. 2009 great vintage for Bordeaux.

Winking Owl Vineyards Shiraz: something to be said about Aldi and Trader Joe wines?

Pinot Noir Smackdown: Concannon 2010 Selected Vineyards Pinot Noir

Chateau de Macard Bordeaux Perfect holiday gift wine per the NBC Today Show

Louis M. Martini: 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Go Mike! Martini that is.

A baker’s dozen or runners-up would add these to the list:

Innovacion Torrontes Pinot Grigio Blend: by Argentina’s Santa Julia

HANDS Cabernet Sauvignon: Robertson Valley South Africa

Gran Valle de Niebla Reserve Pinot Noir: Chile

I am glad to see many countries represented on our list; Chile, Argentina, South Africa, USA, France, Australia and Germany!

Speaking of countries, these stats always amaze me, below are the TOP 12 traveling over to this here site for wine information, minus my own USA:

Canada FlagCanada
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom
Germany FlagGermany
Australia FlagAustralia
France FlagFrance
Spain FlagSpain
Philippines FlagPhilippines
Russian Federation FlagRussian Federation
India FlagIndia
Mexico FlagMexico
Denmark FlagDenmark
Netherlands FlagNetherlands

So with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day and New Years Eve around the corner, I wish and hope, that we not only are able to celebrate these obvious big events in our lives but also appreciate and recognize the day-to-day happenings. Events also meant to be shared and noted. All good reasons to celebrate!

¡SALUD! and Happy Holidays

CHAPPELLET 2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – SignatureSeries

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CHAPPELLET  2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon –

Signature Series

Chappellet-2009-Signature-Cabernet

Last year, well actually the end of 2011, we ended the year with a bang. Not having the opportunity to do the same for 2012 due to my holiday retail schedule,  I decided to instead begin the new year in such fashion.

What a wonderful way to start 2013.  Beginning the new year this way also fits right in with one of my New Years resolutions; I will not hoard nice wines!  They are, for the most part, to be enjoyed in the present and not at some future special occasion that never seems to arrive.

Two days into 2013 I seem to be succeeding because this wonderful wine was a recent Christmas present from my oldest friend. Well, he is old but I actually mean I’ve known him a long time 🙂 A wine lover himself we started talking about taking wine classes a very long time ago.

This 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of: 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 9% Merlot and 4% PetitVerdot. Wine Advocate rated it at 93 Points and had the following to say about it; The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Signature is another striking wine. The 2009 doesn’t have the bombastic fruit of the 2010, instead, it stands out for the silkiness of its tannin and pure length. The 2009 Signature is classy and refined from the very first taste. All the elements are beautifully in place in this mid-weight Cabernet. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2029.

Their anticipated maturity of 2017-2029 does not of course fit in with my New Years resolution but I am here to tell that this wine is delicious today. Having enjoyed it as much as we did I may have to invest in a bottle for later consumption under the guise of research to avoid my so-called New Years resolution 🙂 That said, at $50.00 a pop some [including myself] may think twice about popping this baby open on a weeknight. With 7,500 cases produced it is truly
worthy of being enjoyed on any night and yes it is worth its value should you be in the market for a wine in this price range.

“Oh my….” yes I actually wrote down Oh my… on my tasting sheet. Below are my notes:

Beautiful rich dark garnet in color as I poured into my wine glass. In the decanter it was more of dark purple-black shade. On the nose; dark fruit including black currant/casis, prune, plum and cherry. Also oak and some cedar which may actually have been tobacco or cigar box. Beyond my very favorable oh my… reaction I found this Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon to be smooth and flavorful. With fruit and wood very well-balanced. Tannins not heavy on the tongue but yet all-encompassing.

At 20 minutes I detected not much change in the nose but the wine becoming more fruit forward on the palate. As it continued to open, very nicely I might add, an earthy quality started to develop. One I defined as peppery at 45 minutes.

Wine Spectator rated this wine at 90 points and as mentioned before Wine Advocate came in at 93 points. I would have to agree with their reviews not only of this wine but of the exceptional 2009 Napa vintage. I am now intrigued to try their 2010 to compare. Christmas 2013 is just around the corner…. I’ll have to put it on my list!  ¡SALUD!


Wine Spectator Editor’s Note:
Dense and a touch rustic,
with chewy tannins, crushed rock, dried berry, sage and savory
flavors. Maintains its firm, tight focus and appears built for the
long haul. Best from 2013 through 2027. Winemaker
tasting notes:
This wine offers all of the color, concentration and complexity of a classic Cabernet Sauvignon from Pritchard Hill. The nose displays, rich, vivid layers of dark berry, cherry, and sweet oak, underscored by background notes of bay leaf, sage, chocolate and anise. The mouthfeel is powerful, yet rounded, with a silky presence that allows the wine to gracefully support its size, and its voluptuous ripe cherry, berry and plum flavors. Spicy oak notes of cinnamon, vanilla and roasted coffee add nuance and depth, while youthful tannins give a fine grip to the palate providing the structure for long-term aging.

Information from Chappellet: The wine
The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon has been our flagship wine for
more than three decades. It is a benchmark for the long-lived
hillside wines of the Napa Valley; full of structure and ageing
potential, yet seductively forward in its concentrated varietal
character. The dry, rocky soils of Pritchard Hill produce small,
intensely flavorful grapes. Crop thinning allows for full, even
ripening and further elevates flavor complexity.
Winery information It’s been 45 years since Donn and Molly Chappellet fell in love with the rolling hills overlooking Napa’s Lake Hennessey. In 1967 they set up shop on Pritchard Hill inspired to craft age-worthy, and noteworthy, wines. Taking to heart the advice of André Tchelistcheff, they became among the first to exclusively plant on high-elevation slopes. Seems that André’s training and instinct has served the wine world well as the rugged terroir of this location lends an intensity and depth to the finished wines. The generous legacy started by Donn and Molly now includes the second generation of Chappellets – all six children have a hand in continuing what their parents started. Their preservation efforts – from
composting, to solar energy to water conservation and organic
farming – are “embracing the romance of Pritchard Hill” and
ensuring it, and the exemplary wines they produce, will be around
for many generations to come.

Battle of Sonoma Cab’s: Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve vs. Rodney Strong

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Battle of Sonoma County Cab’s: 2008 Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve  vs.  2009 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon

Somehow this Cab “event” just happened over the last week. Originally I was going to write about these in separate posts but realized, as the empty bottles kept staring at me on my desk, that not only had we drank two Cabernet Sauvignon’s back to back [not on same day] but they were both from California’s Sonoma County.

Although I did buy both at a grocery store [Winn-Dixie] and because I realize many if not most grocers do not sell $20.00-$30.00 bottles of wine I have decided not to classify them as such for this post.  As usually happens lately I was attracted to both wines because of their pricing. Not their retail price which runs from close to $20.00 for the Rodney Strong and $28.00 for the Kendall Jackson but their SALE prices.  When I have the opportunity to drink $30.00 bottles of wine @ close to 50% off you bet they get my attention. Heck it actually makes my mouth water if I am being honest. Now if only I could find some $70.00+ wines on sale 75% off… I can dream can’t I?

Notes from the tastings:

2008 Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve  Dark purple almost black in color. On the nose; a very rich overall aroma, very appealing. Noted; vanilla, cedar, tobacco, spices as it opened with berry [casis] coming through. Minerality [clay soil?], leather and mocha were also detected as the wine opened. Tasting added dark fruit [plum, fig] along with black pepper.

2009 Rodney Strong  Purple dark garnet in color. Aroma; abundant.  Interestingly this wine was thought to be a Zinfandel upon decanting by a fellow drinker. On the nose we detected; caramel/molasses, wood [cedar], vanilla, tobacco, pepper, dark fruit [currant], and raisins [dried fruit]. Tasting added an earthy minerality, mushrooms, anise, chocolate with a lingering finish and the wine becoming more tannic as it opened instead of the usual reverse. I would better describe it as a long tannic finish.

Rating tidbits found: Wine Enthusiast rates the Rodney Strong at 87 and the KJ at 90 points. Wine Spectator and their vintage chart rates the 2008 Sonoma vintage at 86 with a Hold suggestion for drinkability and the 2009 vintage although not finalized is estimated to be in the 83-86 range. I found this information after drinking the wines,  I do enjoy researching my wines but prefer to not look too deeply into the ratings until I have my say 🙂 The WS vintage chart ratings seem a bit low to me but that could just be due to the saturation of the market with marketing campaigns quoting 90 POINTS! or higher from all types of sources out there. That said, if any organization out there wants to quote my rating on a wine you know how to reach me LOL.

My opinion on these two wines is close to the Wine Enthusiast rating.  The Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve was bold and consistent throughout the evening, delicious. Something interesting happened with the Rodney Strong. It was incredible out of the bottle and by itself but as soon as we paired it with food [camembert & goat cheese to start with mushroom pesto pizza later] the flavor of the wine deadened. At first I blamed the pairing but interestingly enough about 1-1.5 hours after decanting the flavor of the wine came back close to its original intensity. I had never experienced flavors fading and then returning as the wine breathed.  I should also point out that the KJ being a 2008 may have a maturity advantage over the Rodney Strong.

I have to say I enjoyed both wines. In a blind tasting I probably would have picked the Kendall Jackson but who knows; the Rodney Strong was delicious straight out of the bottle too.  Would I buy these again? Yes! But hopefully at great SALE prices.  ¡SALUD!

Kendall Jackson winemaker notes:

This Cabernet has distinct flavors of blackberry, blueberry, black currant and cassis with enticing fragrances of mocha and nutmeg. Subtle notes of smoke, cedar and tobacco leaf round out the lingering finish.

Grand Reserve is a winemaker’s blend of our mountain, ridge, hillside and benchland grapes grown along California’s cool coastal appellations. We hand select grapes from our best estate vineyards and then monitor, taste and hand-hold each individual lot throughout the winemaking process. Each lot is kept separate, barrel-aged and handcrafted – boutique winery style. Our winemakers have an unmatched palate of flavors, toast levels and terroir nuances from which they masterfully blend these exemplary rich, deep and complex wines.

Blend: 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec

alcohol by volume:14.5%

Rodney Strong winemaker notes:

Aromas of blackberry, cocoa, and currant lead to a rich, layered mouthfeel, replete with black cherry, cedar, and cassis, and structured with lush, mature tannins. Enjoy this seductive Cabernet Sauvignon now and over the next several years.

alcohol by volume:13.5%

Sonoma County 2009 William Knuttel Cabernet Sauvignon

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Sonoma County 2009 William Knuttel Cabernet Sauvignon

Today’s wine comes to us via The Wall Street Journal Wine Club. It is priced at $20.00 per bottle or $238.00 for the case through the club. I am surprised a bigger discount is not offered but this may be fodder for a future post….

William Knuttel is renowned for his work as winemaker for premium California wineries such as Chalk Hill, Dry Creek and Saintsbury. He was also President of the Cabernet Wine Society from 1999-2003. All this before branching out with his own namesake product line.

This particular Cabernet spent two years in french oak barrels prior to its release. It is unfiltered, a factor I tend to appreciate in my wines but could understand where others could feel differently.

Upon decanting I noted strong wood [cedar] on the nose along with tobacco. Fruit detected was slight; dark fruit possibly opening to red fruits as it immediately began to breathe.

At tasting I was pleasantly surprised by the strong red fruit taste [strawberry, red cherry]. The heavy wood on the nose took somewhat of a backseat to the fruit on what I would describe as a dry, tannic heavy wine with a lengthy acidic finish. The experience and my purple tongue reminded me of a Bordeaux before opening completely. The WSJ website suggests decanting for an hour prior to serving but as my notes below suggest; 2 hours would not be an exaggeration.

Additional notes:

@ 30 minutes – Nose softened but wood still overtly in existence, fruit opening but reservedly so.

@ 60-90 minutes – Notable softening on nose and palate; tasty.

@ 2 hours – Jammy.

I am so glad that I was able to continue recording my notes throughout the night. It was truly amazing to see this wine come to life and change in ways that sometimes just doesn’t happen with a wine although I also have to admit we do not usually sit down for a 2-3 hour wine experience at home. Huh, maybe we should 🙂 . This wine was delicious from start to finish but SMOOTH at over 2 hours. If I would not have lasted to this point it would have been my loss and I would have written off this wine as good but overly woody [barreled too long?]. Having made it though I must admit that I would buy and better yet experience this wine again. Note to self; Decant! Enjoy long suppers! Stop and smell the wine grapes! ¡SALUD!

Vendor notes: We’d suggest you decant an hour prior to serving to allow those complex flavors time to breathe.

Deep ruby. Aromas of black cherry, cedar and blackberries with hints of red licorice and classic cigar box. Fine-grained tannins, smooth finish — dominated by dried cherry, cassis and vanilla.