Tag Archives: California

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

Standard

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.”

 

Advertisements

Wine Spectator Top 100 – #6 Machete from Orin Swift

Standard

img_1953The Wine Spectator Top 100 list is a BIG deal every year. Making the Top 10 and being named #6 on that list, well it doesn’t get much better for everyone from the wine makers to the consumer.

As the names and scores are released daily I immediately get questions from customers about their availability. Of course I usually beat them to the punch as I await every daily press release in the hopes that I not only know the wine but have it on my shelf at our Whole Foods Market North Miami. Wine geek much? I guess so..

fullsizerender-2As a big fan of Dave Phinney and his Orin Swift winemaking skills I knew of Machete; a Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache blend, but had not had the honor of trying it due to availability or distribution issues. Well that all changed when earlier this year Dave Phinney announced the sale of Orin Swift Cellars to E. & J. Gallo Wines. Since then I am happy to announce that most if not all of the Orin Swift wines have become available to me [thanks to great distributor relationships] and are flying off the shelf just by word of mouth and reputation. Well, until now of course.

With only 15,500 cases produced, a 94 point score, a TOP 100 and TOP 10 list placement by Wine Spectator the 2014 vintage may not be around for long . Fingers crossed that it is, but I am also excited by the fact that Dave Phinney will be staying on as head of Orin Swift Cellars while benefiting from the power and potential behind a partnership with E. & J. Gallo Wines¦SALUD!

My tasting notes: In all honesty this was a group tasting. Fate had me buying a bottle of Machete, to probably drink/taste alone, on the same night wine loving neighbors in need of brawny men to move a wine cellar fridge called. The stars and planets aligned. Wine cave installed, this wine was a glorious hit with all who imbibed and even garnered me a sale of multiple bottles! Our thoughts; opaque purple-black in color, big & robust on the nose with dark berries, currants, licorice, cloves and white pepper, full-bodied, drinkable now not in need of decanting, great Autumn wine, although big and bold on the nose much softer on the palate, smooth tannins, noticeable acidity.

Wine maker notes:
A nearly opaque color sets in the glass with a hard, red complexion that is almost black. Aromas of ripe blueberries and candied plum mingle with toasted oak and charred vanilla. The entry is soft and inviting which paves the way for a lush mid-palate replete with layers of ripe boysenberry and cassis. The finish showcases ripe tannins and pronounced fruit which frames the two for nearly a minute. **Bottled with 12 Different Labels, you may not receive the one pictured**
Wine Spectator notes:

Generous and expressive, big and brawny, this offers a mouthful of tannins but also brims with flavors and aromas, including Earl Grey tea, dark chocolate, dried violet and toasted gingerbread. Rich notes of plum and black cherry are balanced by forest floor and earth accents, which linger on the long finish. Petite Sirah, Syrah and Grenache. Drink now through 2030.

Machete 2014

fullsizerender

 

 

Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Standard
Arrowood Vineyards Knights Valley 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

 

AWD_KnightsValley_CabSauv_13 (WebLowRes)

 

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.

img_0475

Driving through Sonoma County.

 

5272feb8-eedf-41be-93b5-9704c158903a

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.

img_0523

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!

2img_05262

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.

 

Taking THE SHOW Pinot Noir on the road – from Chile to California

Standard

THE SHOW 2012THE SHOW 2012 California Pinot Noir

Fun fact: I discovered this wine at a local Whole Foods Market a couple of years prior to being employed by them.  I still remember the moment because I was excited to find a Chilean version of a varietal I enjoyed. Now as a Wine Buyer for Whole Foods I get to turn customers on to this reasonably priced wine on a regular basis.

As per my earlier post [see below], this wine caught my attention because it was from Chile. Fast forward a few years: the production of The Show Pinot Noir has moved to California. I have to admit I was a bit concerned at first and maybe even shied away from it for a while fearing a disappointment.  Soon afterwards at one of our many in-store wine tasting events the opportunity arose and we put on THE SHOW.  Both the vendor, who had the same reservations, and I were pleasantly surprised to find this Pinot Noir still as bold and delicious as we remembered. More importantly customers kept coming back for more.

Now it’s time for the true test. A private wine tasting for one at home. Was THE SHOW from California really as good as its Chilean counterpart?  Cork popped and wine served I swirled, sniffed, sipped and took notes prior to rereading my original review. Here we go:

Light bodied as expected from most Pinot Noirs. Earthiness up front on the nose with fruit in the background [plum].  On the palate I detected dark fruit with wood, leather on the mid-palate and red fruit and spice at the finish.

I recall the Chilean version being richer and heavier bodied. Similarities? Bold and flavorful? Yes. But we have to keep in mind that not only are we comparing a wine made in two different countries but also two different vintages. That said I am sure the winemakers have their recipe down for keeping this wine as consistent as possible from year to year.

At under $20 and usually even under $15 THE SHOW Pinot Noir from California is perfect for those who enjoy this fruity varietal with some power. Light bodied? Yes. Light in flavor? Not even close. ¡SALUD!

 

 

2012 Winemaker notes:

The Show Pinot Noir has aromas of ripe plum, dark cherry and raspberry followed by flavors of earthy truffle, blackberry, cranberry, white pepper and spice. The wine has smooth tannins, a velvety texture and a long, lingering finish.

Grapes for The Show Pinot Noir are sourced from prime vineyards in California’s prestigious sonoma Coast and mendocino AVAs. sonoma Coast contains more than 500,000 acres primarily along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean, and extends from san Pablo Bay to the border of mendocino County. Pinot Noir from these regions balance elegance and a sense of place with rich and complex fruit. These wine-growing areas bring dark fruit character and smooth tannins to The show Pinot noir. aged in French oak barrels, this 100% Pinot Noir is a rich and powerful, mouth-watering wine.

 

THE SHOW and tell… 2010 Pinot Noir from Leyda Valley Chile

After recently reading about how promising the Pinot Noir’s from Chile were this lover of South American wines and Pinot Noirs particularly from the Pacific Northwest had his new assignment.

As per previous blogs I’ve always had a problem finding reasonably priced full-bodied Pinot Noirs. Seems my first mistake was starting with $40.00+ wines from Oregon. They were fantastic! What I would call a WOW. For some reason the lower end Pinot Noirs from same regions although likeable lack that WOW factor and for those thinking I may be influenced by the price I should add that I did not know the prices at the time of tasting. I’ve tried the same varietal at $20 or less from France, California, Australia/New Zealand and again; likeable but no WOW’s. My search for an affordable under $20 [heck under $15 even better] full-bodied, flavorful Pinot Noir is  ongoing.

This brings us to THE SHOW Pinot Noir from Chile. After reading the before mentioned articles I happened to come across this wine at our local Whole Food Market. I think it may have picked me but in actuality it was the only Chilean Pinot Noir they stocked. Fate steps in, even better it was on sale for about $10.99. The retail price seems to be closer to $16.00.

At decanting I must admit I was impressed.  My exact first thought was “red berry-licious” which doesn’t actually come to mind very often. As I poured the color varied from red to deep garnet. My next thought was ” I am loving the nose on this!”  I detected; fig, guava, plum, strawberry and cherry with an earthiness that turned to leather as it opened. I decanted for an hour but could have easily started drinking right then and there.  I also noted that this wine tastes just like it smells which doesn’t actually happen all that often to me.

This is a wine I will be coming back to, it made a good impression on me. It may not be a WOW such as my beloved LACHINI, COEHLO Paciencia etc. but it definitely added a bit of a WOW factor to our Wednesday night supper at home with friends.  I wonder how it tastes on Thursdays? 🙂  SALUD!

Winemaker Notes:

The cool winds (from the Humboldt Current) keep the fruit yields naturally to a minimum, giving us wines that have a lot of depth and rich concentration.  That depth is balanced by the refreshing acidity, silky tannins, and good minerality.  The aromatics are of pie spice, wild cherries, red fruit

Organic Wine – Heller Estate Organic Vineyards: Chenin Blanc

Standard

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!

Standard

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

Isosceles 2009 – Justin Vineyards and Winery

Standard

Copyright@WhineAndCheersForWine<br />ISOSCELES 2009 by Justin

A few years back I was introduced to JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvignon by friends and neighbors. It is a dry and powerful wine that sells very well for us in the store. Usually priced in the $20.00 range it is one I recommend often to customers looking for this type of Cab.

With a price range of $60-$75.00 Justin’s the ISOSCELES was often on my radar or I should say on my wish list.  Not an everyday drinker for me but a special occasion wine who’s cork was recently popped.

Justin Vineyards and Winery is located in Paso Robles appellation of California’s Central Coast.  Per their website the “appellation encompasses more than 600,000 acres and is the largest stand alone AVA in California.”  Impressive news to me a big fan of wines from this region.  “The region’s first grapes were planted in 1779 by Franciscan missionaries and today are home to the third highest concentration of wineries in the United States.” When owner Justin Baldwin began with 160 acres in 1981 only 10 wineries existed in the area.  Fast forward to 2013 and being recently named one of the best 75 wineries to visit by FOOD & WINE.

The winemakers refer to ISOSCELES as a “left bank” Bordeaux style wine.  The 2009 vintage, now mostly sold out, was an unfiltered blend of; 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot.

Vintage Notes 
The 2009 growing season began early due to a very warm spring. An early April frost affected parts of Paso Robles, but we were relatively unaffected. Consistently warm summer weather segued into a moderate early fall with some rain, but the vines shrugged off the water retaining great fruit concentration and flavor. Balanced weather through the fall allowed us to pick by flavor profiles without any concerns about excessive temperatures and as a result, our red wines from this vintage show incredible density and power of varietal expression. The style of the 2009 vintage is flashy and intense.

Maturation was over a period of 24 months in 225L French oak barrels (Bertrange, Allier, Center of France); 64% new barrels.  The bottling period was Dec. 12-21, 2011 with a release date of May 1, 2012.

My first observations were as follows: no alcohol on the nose, but plenty of earthiness, dark  fruit sweetness [noted as ripeness] and oak. Along with glass tinting slow legs which surprised me because of the noted lack of alcohol on the nose.  Alcohol reportedly at 15.5% by volume.

On the palate a dark fruit forward blast on the first sip which softened in minutes. Medium body with mid-level yet mouth covering tannins. At the one hour mark I noted better defined new wood on the nose, clove/licorice and fig.  Pepper, vanilla/spices and dark fruit [raisin/prune] on the palate.

I can see why Wine Spectator rated the 2009 ISOSCELES 93 points.  This is what I would refer to as one Easy Drinker!  Next on my Justin wish list? The 2010 ISOSCELES for comparison and Justin’s JUSTIFICATION, just because.  ¡SALUD!  

93 Points Wine Spectator: “Offers a tight, generous mix of raspberry, wild berry and pomegranate. This is pure and focused, gaining depth and velocity, ending with a long, persistent finish.” Drink now through 2022.”  9,000 cases made.

Winemaker tasting notes:

Appearance: Dark ruby in the glass with a violet rim.
Aroma: An alluring, rich mix of ripe black currants and berries faceted with vanilla, cinnamon and cocoa highlights.
Palate: Full bodied, complex black fruit of lush currants, and cherry layered with licorice and vanilla spice with chocolate, roasted coffee, and tobacco. The finish is extremely long and complex, showing firm plush tannins that bring everything together making it easy to drink it now, but implying a great future.

Below is a chart and/or link to a chart that shows Justin wines by production.  I was impressed to find this on their website.

http://www.justinwine.com/images/wines_pieChart_large.gif