Tag Archives: Sonoma County

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.”

 

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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.

 

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!

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

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.