Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wine of the Week: 2007 Spring Mountain "Elivette"

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. - Aristotle
I had a chance to sample this wine, just a few weeks ago, while at work. I know poor me, the first time I sampled a wine from this producer, it was just last year, during the Wine Bloggers Conference in Oregon, someone had generously uncorked several high-value labels from the Napa Valley. It was however the 2002 "Elivette" which really caught my eye, a wine that I thought was epic.

This is the kind of wine, you give as a gift to impress friends, or to celebrate special events in your own life, a wine to share with others. It's not a wine, at least for me that would be part of my "everyday drinker" category of wines. After all, I'm no Warren Buffet, with a disposable income, the size of the garden variety third world country. No disrespect, but if you can afford to drink this kind of juice on a regular basis, hey more power to you. I'd do the same if I could.

Now that said; this wine is predominantly a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. And in a word it's a master-piece. You really can't wine much better than this, and their 2007 effort is rock solid great. This wine is one spectacular ride to tasty-town; one where you'll be quite sad once the last drop has fell from the bottle.

Even though this bottle I had sampled [then spit] had been opened the day before, never decanted, [but I'd recommend decanting] jostled here and there, from one wine-shop to another, and it still over-delivered. Nothing but silk, lush but not ripe, structured but not rigid, this wine is like a painting, it takes time for it to evolve in the glass. It could still easily go another 10 years, if you wanted to lay a few down. This wine had unbelievable depth and elegance, like so few wines do. So yes, in this case this wine is well worth the price of admission.

The wine sells for a Benjamin or more, just about any place you go. Honestly there's not much of the 2007 vintage, but I'd grab as many as your bank account will allow. I scored this wine 96 points, one of the highest scores I've ever given a wine.

I've only been by the winery a couple times, I've been to a couple of their neighbors Vineyard 7 & 8 and Fantesca, so I think on my next trip to Spring Mountain, I'll have to make sure I drop by and say hello.

On your next trip to the Napa Valley you should make a point to discover the wonderful Mountain appellations like Spring Mountain, and their neighboring Diamond Mountain and of course what would a mountain-top experience be like without making an appointment with a few producers on Howell Mountain. Give these AVA's a swirl the next time you find yourself in the area, it will be hard to go back to the wineries who dwell in the valley.

Again these are days, where you wish you didn't have to spit. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pinot Report: Top Ten Santa Lucia Highlands [Part 2]

"Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day life more civilized." --- André Simon
So uh-yeah, you've been waiting for part two for sometime, I know, I know. But like your favorite new TV drama or sit-com, you have to wait, for what seems like an eternity for the next installment. So I hope the heightened anticipation, will be worth the price of admission. But if you happen to be new to this whole shebang, then you're in for a treat today. I have [7] seven new, fresh and yes I'll say it fabulous Pinot Noir's sure to rock your wine-world.

4. Sequana SLH 2010 PN: This wine sells for right around $32 retail, but some places have for just under $30. So be smart and shop around. This beauty comes from the fine folks at the Hess Collection, who've decided to dip their collective fingers into the Pinot-Pie as it were and boy I'm glad they have. 

The nose grabs you right away, with a barn-yard, wet earth funk. But as time goes by, each swirl unveils new, more inviting aromas. Baking spices, dark just-ripe fruit grabs your mid-palate, while sweet tobacco wraps around your tongue, laced with firm acidity to hold back the near berry-bramble collision. I was lucky enough to have scored a few [untested] bottles of this wine last year while visiting Hess, and I'm so glad my hunch paid off. My score 91 points.

5. Lucienne Estate SLH Single Vineyard 2010 PN: This wine is only available to be purchased in a 6-pack, but the silver lining is that each bottle retails for right about $35 each. I was told that very little of these 6 packs remained. So after seeing this, you better skedaddle over to the Hahn Estate site to score your own six-pack.  This wine was barrel aged for 14 months in a combination of 35% new French oak barrels, which means unlike some wines I tasted, you get far more expression from the vineyard and far less barrel impression. A silky, rich mouth-watering new world PN in its purest form. The finish just sails on and on. My score 91 points. 

6.  2010 Testarossa "Fogstone Vineyard" Sta. Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir: This bottle is on the pricier side of the equation. At least it's in my book, selling in limit quantities for a hefty $56 each. Not an every-day-drinker for the average vino-sapien, but definitely a great bottle of wine to hold unto for a special occasion. This wine is a suave, thinking man's wine, which carries the ample fruit on a sea of well integrated tannins, with banners of fresh cola, earth, herbal notes and ripe strawberries. I scored this wine 93 points. 
7. Los Gatos Cuvee 2010: I've been impressed with this producer over-all for a long time, but I've always thought their prices have swung toward the higher end of the scale. For me, as an nearly every-day wine drinker, those prices are an unsustainable blow to my wine budget. Part of the reason why I was glad to see they came out with a second value label.

A wine they have dubbed the Los Gatos Cuvee, produced from the Monterey AVA. Produced under a screw-cap indicating, it's made in a drink now and drink often style. It's still has some heft, easy drinking flavors and $23 SRP. I score this wine 88 Points. 

8. Paraiso 2009 SLH Ranch Blend PN: Once more, this producer continues to amaze with the caliber of their wines, especially the Pinot Noir category. This is their entry level PN, it sells for less than $20 and I scored it 90 points. Baked cherry pie, white pepper, sweet tobacco, cola, nice length, well balanced. This wine is an easy every day drinker for the vino-sapiens who would like to dial up the quality, without emptying their bank accounts. Best Buy. 

9. Bernardus 2010 SLH Rosella's Vineyard: A dark garnet color in the glass, a funky barnyard thingy on the nose, nice round yet enticing red fruited berries, cola, herbal, leaving you with a long, yet sumptuous finish. A wine produced from the famed “Pisoni Clone” and Dijon clone 777. This wine is listed as a single vineyard designate and carries a price commensurate with that designation, SRP $65. My score 93 points, sings par excellence. 

10. Bernardus 2010 SLH Gary's Vineyard: Okay folks, this is the last wine in the top-ten list, but certainly not least, by any stretch of the imagination. A huge wine, full of swagger and braggadocio, but you would never know it; by the way it carries itself. It's like they say it's not bragging if you can back it up and this wine certainly brings it. This was one of the very first wines I tasted that day, but my-oh-my it was nearly best of show. 

The nose grabs you right away, by the throat, and whispers in a Batman like voice, I'm Pinot Noir bitch, deal with it! Notes of vanilla, florals, toast, subtle spices, while dark plum and raspberry jam dominate the conversation. The palate is exceptionally full and complex, from the beginning to the last amazing drop. Having to spit really sucks sometimes, if you know what I mean. I scored this wine 95 points. It's a blockbuster, with a price to match SRP $65, ouch.

Perhaps you wondering about all the other wines, which I tasted and didn't make the top-ten list, feel free to shoot me an email and I will then send you a list of those who were left in the also-ran category. Until next folks, remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pinot Report: Top Ten Santa Lucia Highlands [Part 1]

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."  ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

A sentiment I share and one which finds me in hearty agreement, but alas the world we live in today seems to be a bit more caught up in not only in the pursuit of gold, but also vain notoriety [aka, reality TV].  

Now that said, the tale I'm about to tell is simply about "cheer", indeed something we can all 'clink' our glasses together and rejoice. About what you may ask, well finding some superbly well made Pinot Noir, that you should be running out to purchase this very moment [what are you waiting for?].

As some you may know, I've been teasing this out over the last few days; that I would be coming to you with my top-ten SLH Pinot Noir report. So here it's, I just yesterday attended the Santa Lucia Highlands tasting, in Costa Mesa. There was something like fourteen different producers, not that I was keeping score. So I thought I may have a tough time coming up with a top-ten list, luckily that was not the case at all. 

When the average vino-sapien thinks of high-end Pinot Noir; the Santa Lucia Highlands is not the first thing that comes to mind right away. But I'm here to tell you that it should, because there are some extraordinary wines being produced in this area, just south and east of Monterey, Big Sur is directly to the east and the vineyard sites look down into the Salinas Valley. You'll find many of the SLH wineries have a tasting room presence in the city of Monterey. 

As I had tweeted out earlier, some of you may find my top ten report to have a few surprises in the line-up; as I don't always go-in for only touting the usual suspects, nor do I want to only be apart of the hallelujah-PN-chorus. So with no further ado, here's the first part of my top picks from yesterday's tasting. 

1. 2009 Pessagno Central Avenue Vineyard PN, Monterey: The color was very unique, in direct comparison to the many others seen that day. A light colored burnt crumbled brick/strawberry. The nose was captivating, amazing florals, spice, strawberry/cherry. The first slurp, nice weight, structure and vivid acid carrying the fruit. At first slurp cola, near burnt-toast crusted with a strawberry jam. This wine sells for a mere SRP of $17.99, I scored it 92 Points. A best buy.

2. 2009 Pessagno SLH Pinot Noir: Another stunner, recently written-up by WE, I could not believe what my mouth was experiencing. How could I've never heard of these folks before? Not sure, but I'm so glad I had a chance to get acquainted with their wines. We all know about yeasty-beasties and their role in the wine-making process. They use what has been described as a "Burgundian" yeast culture, known for producing bold flavors and aromas, right along side natural yeast fermentation. Again the same color as above, a "sur lees" style that brings an invitation to flavor town. WOW, my score 92 points, the SRP is $28, what?

3. 2009 Four Boys Vineyard PN: This is their flagship bottle and my-god it taste like it, the fellas at WE oozed all over it with 94 points, I really could disagree too much. This wine was the best of show, yesterday, a screaming fast-ball of flavor and finesse knocked cleanly out of the park. This folks is SLH at its best. A PN rumored to be planted to the famous "La Tache" clone, as well as Dijon clones. The barrel-regimen is described as 75% new French Oak, over 11 months.

In the glass a burnt orange/strawberry color, nice barnyard funk in the nose, earthy, candied strawberry/plum and pie crust, nice acid carries the basket of summer fruit, lots of depth and polish. The SRP $55, and my score is 93 points.

I was hoping I would finish the entire list today, but I unfortunately will have break this into a part-one and a part-two. That said look for part two tomorrow, as I have seven more fantastic SLH Pinot Noir wines you won't want to miss. Until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wine of the Week: 2007 Les Jamelles Viognier

It has been said that; "The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.” ~Mark Twain

Well I couldn't agree more with that statement. But one of the funny things I observe, if that if you go to any tasting event, you'll definitely find white wines tend to be the wine, which is left over at the end of the day. Check it out for yourself, the next time you throw a party for a bunch of cork-dorks [a technical term] I believe you'll see that the white-wines will often sadly be the last to go, compared to their red wine counterparts.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the phrase "Variety is the Spice of Life" which is one of my favorite quotes, and one I subscribe to myself. Is not life much better when it is filled with a "variety" of the things we like? Of course it is. It is inevitable that some wines in your life will become boring and your palate will crave new tastes, new experiences, so it's nice to have other wines that you still enjoy to fall back on.

Now there's is nothing wrong with giving the garden-variety Chardonnay a swirl now and then. But it's of course a wine which is very plentiful, one you can find on just about any grocery store shelf. But when you've got to the point, that many seasoned vino-sapiens ultimately get to, the last thing you want is Chardonnay. Especially when the world is brimming over with a virtual cornucopia of other white wines, all sporting many different styles, flavors and aromas.

Wine with Depth: So you think the Miami heat has depth on the bench? Uh-no not compared to this champion with roots in the Northern Rhone Valley of France. It's with the idea of "depth" that I bring to your attention a white wine with some depth, complexity, intermixed with bold flavors and floral characteristics, sure to please even the most discriminating palates, yes maybe even you lurkers out there.

I present to you Viognier [pronounced vee-oh-nyah]. A white wine which has it roots in France's Northern Rhone Valley. In fact, according to one so-called wine expert Remington Norman who has identified two distinct strains of Viognier an "Old World" strain, most common in Condrieu, and a "New World" strain, which is found in the Languedoc and other areas. 

Although made from the same grape, the two strains produce distinctly different wines and Viognier from Condrieu tends to be on the expensive side of the equation. So with that said, you will mostly find the NW strain here in the states, although if you stretched yourself and did some research you could find yourself some of the Old World style Viognier, a feat which to many is not unlike obtaining the holy-grail.

Personality Disorder: Uh-huh, so you thought only people were the only ones with personality disorders? Sadly it too can be said that even your favorite wine can have the same dysfunction. There are a couple styles of New World Viognier to be found and the style you chose depends on whether it has been aged in Oak or Stainless Steel

If the wine has been aged in Oak, it will give a creamy nuances along with its floral expressions you can also look forward to an in heady bouquet of nectarine, lemon peel and lychee complemented by floral notes of lime blossom and honeysuckle. 

But if you prefer the more traditional stainless steel approach or made in neutral oak barrels, look for more clean flavors, higher acid, tending toward a more restrained style and but at the same time more elegant, meaning the wine will be more pronounced on the nose and a feature a bit less weight on the palate.

Aroma Therapy:  Everyone needs a little “aroma-therapy” now and it’s also happens to be in true in Côte-Rôtie [known by many as the roasted slope] because it’s here that the very aromatic Viognier [up to 20% allowed] lends a hand at perfuming the blends of Syrah from this very well known  French wine Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in the northern Rhône wine region.   

The beautiful red wines of the Côte-Rôtie typically exhibit an almost paradoxical combination of meat aromas [including bacon] and floral aromas or as I've heard it liked to as, “the flowers on my breakfast-in-bed tray.” 

Pairing Champion: Viognier is a food pairing champion and can stand up nicely to rich creamy dishes and butter based sauces. It is especially good as an appetizer pairing wine, which pairs ever-so-nicely with lightly toasted French baguette, cut in small bite size slices covered with a base blend of goat cheese, topped with fig paste, orange rind, it's just fantastic. Viognier also pairs nicely with soft and semisoft cheeses: Fresh chèvre [goat cheese], gruyère, aged Gouda, and double and triple creams, give it a swirl, you won't be disappointed.

Other dishes: Foods that I've found pair best with Viognier quite nicely include but are certainly not limited to, Chicken Cutlets based in an anise, tarragon butter sauce, Roasted Salmon covered in a creamy yogurt herb sauce and will also go nicely with any number seafood dishes, shellfish Scallops, lobster, crab, and shrimp.

Shopping Tips: I've gathered a few other selections as well, some great choices that I've run across myself recently, that I'm sure will please a broad range of palates.

K Vintners Viognier 2009 (Columbia Valley; $20). Edgy spices and minerals under honeyed white peach, orange blossom, and apricot. I tasted this one at the 2010 Walla, Walla Wine Bloggers conference this past summer and it's just fantastic. 90 Points

Miner Simpson Vineyard Viognier 2009 [Napa Valley, CA $20] Nice minerality and citrusy yet lush, with white peach and apricot nectar. I've tasted and purchased this wine on many occasions and is for sure one of my go-to labels. Year after year, it's a well made wine. 90 Points

Cold Heaven Viognier 2009 [Sta. Rita Hills, CA $24] Wet-river stone, a bit restrained, with stone-fruit blossoms, juicy citrus, and white peach notes. I've had this wine a few times and for folks who like the "dry" approach this would be a great choice, look for the blue label. 89 Points

Les Jamelles Viognier 2007 [Languedoc-Roussillon, Vin de Pays d'Oc France $10] I uncorked this bottle just a couple of nights ago, it delivered nicely for the meager price. In the glass you have lovely pale gold color core and watery rim. Nose: A rich, very aromatic wine, with lots of characteristic fruity scents, and typical varietal aromas, such as apricots and fresh white peaches a small bit of white pepper. This wine represents a great value. 87 Points

Fess Parker Viognier 2008 [Santa Barbara, CA $20] Fess Parker Viognier's like many others displays great fruit focus, offering peach, apricot and pear notes that are ripe and well-structured, with a supple texture. I've had this wine also on many occasions; folks this wine is a tasty New World style Viognier. 90 Points

Serving Tips: I recommend sipping and slurping these wines chilled, but not too cold, otherwise you'll lock in many of the wonderful perfume like aromas wanting  to escape from the swirl of the glass. I'm thinking about 58 to 60 degrees would be perfect. In my opinion; serving this wine too warm will dull the experience considerably.

From the wonderful folks at Wine Dine TV I present to you the Viognier as the  word of the day. Until next time, sip long and prosper cheers!

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