Tag Archives: May 23

My St Francis Winery Trio – Sonoma County

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My St Francis Trinity…

Somehow over the last couple of weeks I took a trip to California’s Sonoma County without ever leaving my house. No packing or long airport lines just a corkscrew, three bottles of wine [not simultaneously] and my wine glass.  Of course I wouldn’t really mind the stress of a cross-country trip to sit among the vines but luckily these wines helped me to better understand Sonoma County and its many appellations including; Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and others.

I have had my eye on these wines for a few months hoping for and taking advantage of sales as they came to fruition. All three of these wines were purchased at Winn-Dixie where I am employed as their Wine Steward. Retail prices range from about $13.00 to $25.00 and are also available at other fine establishments including, yes, even grocery stores with fine wine selections.

St Francis Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma 2008

We retail this wine at $22.99 but I just saw it on-line for $24.99. Luckily for me a recent sale brought it down to $17.99. Wish I would have bought more!
This rich dark garnet colored, I actually noted “tar like”, wine showed syrupy looking legs as it was decanted and poured in a glass. Strong vinous aromas to start, with dark fruit, oak, tobacco and what I placed as violet leading the pack.  Very rich in texture this medium to full body wine coats your mouth with long lingering tannins.
Winemaker notes:
The grapes in this classic varietal come from five of the top Sonoma County appellations: Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and one of the most recently established appellations Rockpile. Hand-picked at harvest,  the fully ripened clusters are crushed into temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and fermented from eight to fifteen days. After fermentation, the wine is pressed and then aged in different lots for twenty to twenty – three months in new American and French oak barrels. Once the desired lots are selected and blended, the wine is bottled and held another four to eight months so that it’s fully developed by time of release.

This Cabernet Sauvignon has rich varietal character and body. The wine’s firm structure, generous tannins, and depth of color complement classic aromas and flavors of ripe black currant, spicy tobacco, dark chocolate, cassis and spicy oak.

Awards:

SILVER MEDAL, 2011 SONOMA COUNTY HARVEST FAIR WINE COMP. Built and focused, the black-fruited ’08 St Francis Cabernet exhibits plenty of richness from start to finish; soft tannins in the aftertaste.

Wine Enthusiast review:

Good price for a nicely complex Cabernet for drinking now. Dry and smooth in tannins, it shows ripe blackberry, cherry, licorice and herb flavors, with a kiss of oak. -Wine Enthusiast, 87 Points

St Francis 2010 Chardonnay

This wine retails in the $14-16.00 range but I have seen it recently as low as $12.00.

Medium golden in color this fruity oaked Chardonnay brought stone fruits such as apricots and peaches to my senses along with pears, citrus and a minerality on the nose and palate. Not overly rich,  I would recommend this selection for those who like some oak in their Chardonnay’s but not an overwhelming buttery amount.

It was left-over and appetizers for dinner night at our house and this Chardonnay paired deliciously with this ragtag line up; rotisserie chicken salad with walnuts, smoked crab dip, Cajun smoked salmon dip, triple crème brie and even Gorgonzola. Bet you thought I was kidding….

Winemaker notes:

Our Sonoma County Chardonnay derives its flavor from a unique blend of some of Sonoma County’s finest vineyards. hand-picked at the peak of ripeness, this 100% Chardonnay is whole cluster pressed to enhance fruit character then barrel and malolactic fermented to heighten flavor and enrich the mouthfeel.  Aromas of fresh melon combine with hints of hazelnut and citrus. This  medium-bodied Sonoma County Chardonnay displays fresh flavors of butterscotch and pineapple, followed by crisp acidity and a rich, lingering finish.

Awards:

Sonoma County Harvest Fair – Best of Class

2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – Silver Medal

St 2008 Francis Old Vine Zinfandel

This Zinfandel produced from 55 to 100-year-old vines is priced in the $20.00-$22.00 range with sale prices sometimes bringing it down into the $18 range. I am an Old Vine Zinfandel fan as evidenced recently by my Zin-ful Weekend post so this wine always intrigued me.

Tawny garnet in color I noted this wine was almost brown. It’s ageability of 3-5 years may explain this occurence.  Not super fruity at decanting; wood, spices such as cinammon, nutmeg and clove were detected along with raisins and casis as the wine breathed.  On the palate a spicy dark peppery taste was noted with the wine opening to a caramel, butterscotch delicate burnt smoke taste.  With the ALC level listed at 15.5% I would recommend decanting this Old Vine Zin for at least 30-40 minutes because it truly does soften nicely with the passing of time.

Wine making notes;

The grapes in our Sonoma County Old Vines Zinfandel come from vineyards in Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley and Dry Creek Valley. These vines range in age from 55 to 100 years old, producing low yields of fruit with highly concentrated, intense flavors. All grapes are hand-harvested, gently de-stemmed and crushed before cold-soaking for three days to extract optimal color and flavor. The fruit is then inoculated with many different yeast strains to build complexity, then fermented in separate lots using a combination of pumpovers and delestage to soften tannins. Secondary malolactic fermentation occurs in 50% American and 50% French oak barrels – 25% of which are new.

In closing:

For those who may have thought this post to be about Saint Francis who on July 16, 1228,  was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX and is known as the patron saint of animals and the enviroment I hope you were not too disappointed.  I’d like to think Saint Francis is watching over not only my hounds but me and mine too.

¡SALUD!

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Olympics Opening Ceremony 2012 – Weekend of Wine

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The best things in life are usually unplanned. Having spent my Friday assisting customers with their wine and beer needs for the weekend I felt the urge to do the same. A few e-mails and texts later, it turned out we would be hosting a POP-UP beer, wine, fine cheese and pizza party that same night celebrating the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Spontaneity being the key, a fun time was had by all that partook; imbibing what turned out to be some very nice wines while debriefing each other on the week past and enjoying London’s beautiful Olympic show.

The celebrating did not end on Friday. More get-togethers with great friends continued through Saturday and Sunday all including wine.  While thinking about how lucky we were to all be together, how lucky I am to have friends that enjoy wine as much as I do and realizing we had tried eight different wines in 3 days, I decided to record our imbibing in some form for future reference.  Albeit, reviewing/recording wines experienced in a social setting is not exactly easy.  So, below you will find a somewhat chronological [got fuzzy after a while 🙂 ] drinking diary of our Olympics opening weekend.  Some of the tasting notes are mine and some will be winemaker notes etc.

Fortune was on our side because all were good. We had six red’s, two white’s and I would drink/purchase each of these wines again with no issue. In fact I think I will… ¡SALUD!

Casa Silva Reserva Carmenere 2009

A bold and strong flavored Carmenere. After tasting the Mont Gras [below] I believe this one could use more time in the cellar to mellow. That said, the bottle was emptied quickly by the crowd.

Winemaker’s notes:

Authentic Chilean style. Dark almost purple core with deep sooty red at the fringes. A blend of concentrated blackberry and plum softened by some red fruit character. Distinctive dried herbal and white pepper spice character. A superb balance of full fruit, good acidity, sweet French oak, and full tannins on the long lingering finish. Cutting edge grape coming into its own,  a première producer.

Critical acclaim:

“Purple/black; complex nose of balsamic, herbs, spice box, blueberry; easy-going, no hard edges.”

90 Points The Wine Advocate / Pricing; $12.00-18.00

LaMadrid Reserva Bonarda 2009

I have enjoyed a multitude of different wines from this great winemaker from vintages; 2008,2009, 2010. Never disappointed!

90 points (’10), Wine Advocate:
“nose of underbrush, mineral, plum, mulberry, and violets. Concentrated on the palate with good depth, balance, and length, this flavorful effort deftly combines elegance and power, quite an achievement at this price point.”

Price range; $14.00-$18.00

MontGras Reserva Carmenere 2011

Noted: Surprisingly smoother than the Casa Silva [above] and at a 2011 vintage. I was impressed.

Introduced from France in the 1800s, Carmenère has developed a unique  personality in the “terroir” of Chile, which is today the only  significant source of this uncommon varietal grape. The MontGras vineyards,  in the Colchagua Valley, are in the heart of the Chilean wine country.  The climate is typically Mediterranean, favouring the production of rich  concentrated red wines.

Color: Deep violet red Bouquet: Powerful aromas of spices, wild herbs and  vanilla. Taste:Well-rounded, with subtle fruit flavors and soft tannins  leading to a velvety finish.

Price; $13.00

 Folie à Deux Chardonnay 2010

Noted; a nice golden color. On the nose; yeast/minerality, tropical fruit [pineapple], tree fruit [apple] and melon. Also a slight honey aroma. Its rich flavor supplied nice acidity and a slight buttery taste on the palate with slight oak. As the wine warmed vanilla was also noted.  This is a good chardonnay for those who like some wood and butteriness in their selection.

Composition:100% Chardonnay Oak:Combination of French & American oak barrels (22% new) for five months

Fermented and aged in French oak barrels to preserve the wine’s rich, vibrant fruit character, this quintessential Russian River Chardonnay is a joyful dance of sun, sea and soil. Seductive, complex aromas of honey, green apple, tropical fruits, vanilla and baking bread introduce juicy apple, pineapple and tropical fruit flavors with light butter notes from partial malolactic fermentation and crisp balancing acidity.

Price: $16-18.00

Beringer Chenin Blanc 2010

A tasty treat we served between dinner and dessert. Most expected this to be a sweet wine and were pleasantly surprised that it was somewhat dry instead. I am very impressed with the quality and price point of this wine.

Winemaking Notes Gentle handling and careful attention is given to the Chenin Blanc grapes from the vine to the glass. To retain the delicate varietal flavors, Beringer’s winemakers chill the juices immediately following crush and continue to closely monitor the temperature throughout fermentation.  Just before dryness, they cool the juices even further to halt fermentation and retain a smooth, lush mouthfeel and lingering finish.

Tasting Notes The California Collection Chenin Blanc is a well-balanced wine with aromas and flavors of crisp citrus, melon, and spicy ginger.  It’s meant to be enjoyed with a variety of foods, from Asian and Mexican foods to a casual backyard barbecue with friends.

Price: $5-7.00

Pascual Toso Malbec Mendoza Reserve Barrancas Vineyards 2009

 A well-oaked wine with pencil-shaving aromas yielding to coconut and subtle black fruit notes. The palate is dense, structured and full of cherry, cassis and clove flavors. 

Winemaker notes; This Alta Reserva has a complete harmony of color with a deep, bright red combining with violets hints. Characterized by fruity aromas, blackberry and spices, the mouth has sweet tannins with the presence of spices from oak. All these notes give persistent elegance and complexity to this wine.

Wine Spectator

Quite ripe and flashy, displaying lots of spice, licorice and mocha notes up front, backed by fleshy plum sauce, boysenberry preserve and currant paste notes. Stays nicely layered and focused through the finish. An excellent effort for the vintage. Drink now through 2012. 150 cases imported.

Score: 91. —James Molesworth, December 15, 2010.Price: $18.00

Frei Brothers ReserveFrei Brothers Reserve Dry Creek Merlot 2010

I was glad to see this wine served on a Saturday night dinner outing. We sell it at the store and I have looked forward to trying it. It did not disappoint.  Everything a Merlot should be with the help of a few other varietals to soften the edges [see varietal content below].

The 2010 Dry Creek Valley Merlot captures the rich, ripe flavors of the Dry Creek Valley terroir. Aromas and flavors of red licorice, Satsuma plums, red fruit jam and blackberry meld with hints of toasted oak, milk chocolate and medium-roasted coffee. This medium-bodied wine delivers excellent structure and an elegant finish.

Winemaking Notes

For our 2010 Dry Creek Valley Merlot, we co-crushed the Merlot grapes with Petite Sirah to achieve dark fruit flavors and enhance the overall tannic structure in the wine. The grapes were destemmed, but not crushed, before being cold soaked to extract vivid color and intense flavors. We fermented this wine at warm temperatures, reaching 90°F for a few hours, to create a darker, riper fruit profile. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged on fine lees to soften the mouthfeel. This Merlot was aged for seven months in a combination of French and American oak barrels to impart notes of chocolate and vanilla in the finished wine.

Price: $16.00-$22.00

Technical Notes

Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Varietal Content: 88% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petite Sirah

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

Description;

Alexander Valley Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon  was one of the first wines we produced in 1975 and three and a half decades  later it is still our flagship wine. From the beginning our Cabernet stood apart  from other California cabs because it was an elegant old world style wine.The climate in the southern end of the valley defines our Estate Cabernet  Sauvignon. Warm days during the growing season allow the grapes to ripen evenly  and develop flavor. The fog rolls in before sunrise each morning, lowering the  temperature; which cools the grapes and maintains the acidity. Our estate  vineyards are home to all five Bordeaux grapes, planted on the terraces, bench  lands and hillsides of our valley where the soil is predominately a gravelly  clay loam. Water from irrigation and precipitation drains away quickly, which  allows the vines to be stressed, leading to smaller grapes and lower yields with  more concentrated flavors. Each lot is picked, crushed and fermented separately  to maximize complexity. We barrel age for 14 months, then blend to create a  complex Cabernet Sauvignon that is enjoyable as soon as you pull the cork.2009: 90 points & Editors Choice Wine Enthusiast Price: $22.00

Appellation Alexander Valley
Grape Varietal 92% Cabernet Sauvignon – 4% Cabernet Franc – 2% Merlot – 1%  Malbec -1% Petit Verdot
Barrel Regimen Aged for 14 months in French and American oak, 25% new
Release Date May 2011

Thierry and Guy Fat bastard Chardonnay 2010

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Chardonnay, Fat bastard 2010Thierry and Guy Fat bastard Chardonnay – 2010

This was almost my choice for last weeks Bastille Day 2012 considering its French origin.  A fact that many still do not realize, and I was even surprised to find out last year. Must be the funny name that throws some consumers off, although the french can be humorous, but no matter the reason as the wine maker Thierry himself states; this Chardonnay is a consumer favorite. 

Thierry and Guy get all the credit for developing what Fat bastard has become. They used no malolactic fermentation and the wine is aged on lees to give it “more structure and fruit forward style”. Only 35% is oaked therefore giving it I believe,  a more delicate yet still bold true Chardonnay taste. Those accustomed to oaky California Chardonnay’s may think they are drinking a completely different varietal. I prefer this style of winemaking when it comes to Chardonnay.

I remember friends of mine years ago referring to this wine mostly because of the character with the same name in the Austin Powers movies.  I quite honestly didn’t take the wine seriously [because of the name] but I also didn’t taste it. Fast forward to a couple of years ago when in a rush for a white wine I picked this one off the grocer shelf for a dinner party. It was a hit!  Since then I’ve had it a few times and recently it’s almost become a staple at my house. The fact that it is summer may have something to do with it but us red wine drinkers do have to go white every once in a while….

To craft the Fat bastard Chardonnay, grapes are sourced from all over the Languedoc-Roussillon, from the banks of the Rhone in the east to Carcassonne in the west, and from the foothills of the Massif Central in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south. These different origins give the wine the balanced fruit flavor and acidity that have made it a consumer favorite.

I can see why this winemaker refers to their Chardonnay as a consumer favorite, I find it to be delicious and somewhat bold and delicate at once, the way I feel Chardonnay should be.  Therefore I am categorizing it as a perfect “go-to” wine. Usually priced in the $8.99-$9.99 range,  it is always reliable and a pleasure to drink!  I feel it is the perfect wine to drink during the week at home, to take to friends house and even as a gift. I’d also like to add that I think it tastes like a wine at a higher price point.

My tasting notes: Golden straw in color. Honeysuckle, melon and peach [tropical/tree fruit] on the nose with minerality as it warms. Also the flowery aroma expands as it breathes and or warms. On the palate much the same, with the peach flavor expanding over the others. I would classify this wine as having medium acidity levels and little to no wood influence on the nose and palate. It paired excellently with wild rice and pan grilled chicken.

Interestingly enough my mouth was watering as I typed the above description. I guess I know what I should be drinking tonight 🙂  ¡SALUD!

 Vintage Notes:

A cool spring led to difficult flowering, but the summer was mainly hot and dry so the wines have nice acidity and good body. Harvest was started much later than the previous year, and grapes were harvested at night to benefit from the cooler temperatures.

Maturation/Winemaking

The winemakers work very closely with the growers to determine the start of the harvest. The goal is to seek aromatic ripeness and rich varietal character.  Upon arrival at the winery, grapes immediately go through the crusher-stemmer. The juice is pressed pneumatically and refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours; it is then drawn off to start the fermentation with selected yeasts, at controlled temperatures.

Thierry’s Notes

It was a good thing I dressed in layers while monitoring the grapes for the 2010 vintage. A hot July and then a very cool August produced fruit that had perfect, high acidity while maintaining intense fruit flavors. The goal for me was to incorporate the fruit’s great flavor all the way from vine to bottle.