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

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Roll out the Barrel" Gala for the Make a Wish Foundation

The San Diego "Roll out the Barrel" Gala on May 16th 2009 was another wonderful event in support of the Make a Wish Foundation. This event featured over 30 different wineries and included a few brokers and wine stores representing various labels, local entertainment and Restaurateurs gracious enough to share their wonderful menu items. All the wines represented at this event are available from a local San Diego area retailer, the Meritage Wine Market and Tasting Room.
I arrived about six o'clock and a few places had already quit pouring! Unfortunately I was unable to try all the wine being poured that evening and in recognizing some of labels and producers, I focused on some of the names I've only read about in other blog posts and wine related periodicals to try first.
Some of those pouring which I was the most interested are brokered by Native Wines and of course being a huge Cabernet Sauvignon fan, the wine I was most interested in was the 2006 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon 750ML in which a certain Mr. RP gave the 2003 a whopping 95 points. I do believe this one could not be far from the mark and at over $110.00 per bottle and in my book not your everyday drinker. This wine is definitely built for some aging, so grab a few for a special occasion. The 2006 Buccellas Cabernet is very polished and fruit forward, it is what I would call a cocktail wine! This is the type of wine you would want to pour in the beginning of the evening, it's dressed to impress with well woven and smooth tannins wrapped around an elegant opaqueness in the core and irrepressible full throttled fruit from start to lingering finish. A true whopper of a wine!
This is one of those boutique wineries with a cult-like following. The 2006 Buccella Merlot, was equally as amazing as their 2006 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot was every bit its equal, but had the more round mouth feel, normally associated with Merlot. With the Merlot coming in around the $75.00 price range depending on where you shop, it appears to be easier on the wallet and would pair more easily with food than the Cabernet. Both were 100% varietals. I rated these wines "best of show" and the QPR was excellent for the caliber of these wines.
Chris, the gentlemen from Native Wines was also pouring the 2005 Egelhoff Cabernet and 2005 Lamborn Family Cabernet, while many folks were raving about the Egelhoff and rightly so, I gave the edge to the Buccella!
While I was tasting through the wines from Native, right next to them was MINER FAMILY VINEYARDS , whom I noticed had a new (new to me) label in the lineup. I do love their Simpson Vineyard Viognier very much and will often have a few in the cellar, the 2005 AIA caught my palate's attention. This folks is what I would call a very food friendly red wine. The nose is full and embracing of the senses with brilliant red fruit aromas. The mouth feel was smooth with generous plummy, lavender and cherry notes swirling around smooth tannins. Produced from low-yielding Napa vineyards and composed of 63% Cab. Franc, 17% Cab. Sauv., 17% Merlot, 2% Merlot and 1% Sangiovese. This is a drink now and often wine, but with a price point which discourages that mantra at $33.00 each. I would like to see this wine in the $24.99 price range, which would give it better QPR score. If I were in the ratings biz, a score of 86 is where I would place it, a higher score would be merited with a lower price point.
Another of my favorites from the show was from Viader Vineyards where Tony Soter and Mia Klein help Delia Viader produce this Deer Park winery's distinctive blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Janet Viader was pouring the 2005 Viader, Proprietary Cabernet Blend and the 2005 Dare, Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Blend was decanted for about an hour before I showed and was excellent! In a few words this wine firm, rich and intense with a complex core of currant, black berry and plum framed by toasty oak nuances leading to a long and persistent finish. This wine sells for about $90.00 depending on where you may find it, but while I really liked this wine the price point will keep many from imbibing on the incredible quality of this wine. The 2005 Dare, 100% Cabernet Franc has a much more approachable price, while being an equally well made wine. Tapered and restrained, with notes of cherry and plum built upon fine tannins melding together in long caressing finish. Priced at about $40.00 each, it's a little above QPR ceiling in my opinion. I would like to see this wine in the $29.99 price range, to help it achieve a better QPR score. Both are wines worthy of your consideration and a vote with your wallet.

Last, but certainly not least of my favorites being poured by Eric Reichenback, Shiverick Jones Wine was the 2007 Table Cabernet from the Napa Valley and the 2005 Mirror Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, the Mirror in it's first release from a new kid on the block and the wine making team of Jeff Smith and Rob Lawson. The mirror was intense and concentrated, with layers of ripe currant, plum and subtle notes of sage and leather and framed in a wonderful toasty oak structure. Very approachable now, but it could hang around in the cellar a year or two. Some may recommend longer bottle aging, but I like to consume my wines a couple years after bottling. I would recommend decanting this wine and hour or before imbibing to help unfold the bountiful aromas and flavors. Sitting at about the $75.00 price point this wine is in the correct QPR range for a wine of this caliber and depth! Definitely a well made and hand crafted wine. Conversely, the the 2007 Table Cabernet, rich and intense with potent currant, roasted coffee and small notes of leather leading to a long and persistent finish. This wine has a price point, which will encourage the opening of many wallets, cellar doors and purchases of many cases. Selling for about $30.00 each depending on where you shop. According to Meritage Wine Market you could call for some special pricing available for Roll out the Barrel Participants.
These few wines I've highlighted here only represent a small selection of the myriad labels being poured at this wonderful event dedicated to making dreams come true and giving hope, strength and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions. A big thanks to everyone who participated in this great event and to the Make a Wish Foundation for putting a first class event! A hearty well done, well organized and skillfully produced. I look forward to attending this event again next year, until then cheers everyone!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Witch is In! 2006 Witch Creek Nebbiolo, Guadlupe Valley

A couple weekends ago, my wife finally has a free weekend day off and I plan a trip to Julian for the both of us. My wife who is a big fan of wolves, has been wondering Where have the wolves gone ? Not really, but I thought it would be a great way to sneak the link into my post here. She has wanted visit the Wolf Center in Julian for the longest time, they give talks about Wolves, including the little known Mexican Grey Wolf, where we are allowed to visit them in person. It was a truly unique opportunity. But of course I also wanted to take the opportunity to visit the Witch Creek Winery tasting room in Julian, Ca and sample some of the beautiful red wines they are making from the fruit of the Baja California Viticulture Area of Valle De Guadalupe.
With us both being familiar with Julian, we pretty much knew where the tasting room was, but for those not familiar, the tasting room is kind of tucked away a full story above the street. As we made our way in, we saw this sign on the tasting room door, "the Witch is In" pretty funny! A interesting way to let us know they are open and tastings were in
progress! It was a beautiful spring day in Julian and the place was filling up fast.
Witch Creek offers Chardonnay and a delightful blush wine but it really
emphasizes red wines
. It has quite an array of varietals not found in many wineries such as Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Carignan, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Tempranillo and Cabernet Franc.
Many (locals) folks are familiar with Witch Creek and they have also received some recognition from San Francisco Wine Chronicle, where they were awarded
"best of class in the 2009"
for the wine I am reviewing today. The WitchCreek Winery - 2006 Nebbiolo - Best of Class. This wine is very limited and we were told they were down to their last couple cases.
It is not sold in stores and there is no bar-code on the label, but you can visit them at either the Carlsbad tasting room, where the wine is actually made or you stop by and see the ladies in the Julian tasting room. But if you go to Julian make sure you stop by "Mom's" for some apple pie! Hard to beat!
Upon first Swirl: In the glass this wine has a beautiful light ruby core and fading to an watery cerise colored rim and generous viscosity shown in the legs. Because of the wines age it's missing is the characteristic brick orange colors on the rim.
Upon first Sniff:
What you get is a sense of the coming attractions. It is a gorgeous effort, in the nose are bountiful aromas redolent of crushed flowers, spices, sweet fruit and a just a kiss of menthol.
Upon first Sip:
It is light-to-medium bodied with a nice mouth feel. Its starts off with floral nuances, bacon fat, clove and full red fruit. It is balanced by nice acidity on the palate, and finishes with a marriage of gripping tannins and oak.
The Vineyards:
The majority to 100% of the fruit is harvested from the Baja California Viticulture Area of Valle De Guadalupe. (There is some doubt about validity of this VA).
This wine is 100% Nebbiolo, as far as I am able to ascertain. It is most likely aged at least 18 month in oak barrels. Fewer than 300 cases were made.
Alcohol: 14.0 %
Price Considerations:
It's a little higher priced than where I think it should be @ the $ 35.00 retail price, a little better at the $ 29.75 club member price. But not the QPR champion it could be at $24.99, which is my suggested price.
My Recommendations: I would try to secure a couple of bottles of this wine while you can and try many of the other wines they have on the menu. We really liked quite a few of their other wine, but this one was definitely a favorite. My wife and I also really like the 2006 Tempranillo
which fell in the more reasonable price range for a very well made wine. Stop and see them in the tasting room, because like I said this not available in store and or restaurants.
Other Facts: Nebbiolo is the most prized red grape variety in Northern Italy but is still relatively rare in the United States, but not so in Mexico our neighbor to the south. Nebbiolo is Old Italian dialect for “Noble.” In Italy, Nebbiolo is called the “Wine of Kings.” Most likely because of it is connection to the great Barolos and Barbarescos of the Piedmont region.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Night at the Yalumba Museum" The Stickies!

 The Australians will refer to this type of wine as STICKIES and most likely because if you do spill some on clothing or what have you, it can become a sticky situation rather quickly as this wine is a bit on the sweet side, but is nicely balanced so you won’t wince or go into a diabetic coma.

The Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat from Barossa Valley, which I picked last weekend because we were having guests and we planned on smoking some cigars afterward. I thought hmmm what would be a great after dinner quaff, that would pair nicely with a chocolate themed dessert and a fat-Cuban cigar? An old friend was gracious enough to part with a Cuban from his recent trip there. He picked up a few hand-rolled cigars, of which he gave me one, the Romeo Y Julieta Cuban cigars, Julieta 2 (Churchill) and wow it was a thing of beauty! Everyone who tried it and loved how smooth it was full-bodied with rich complex flavors like the delicious wine which accompanied it.

Many will compare this to a Tawny Port which is a fair statement, as it’s very similar in taste and style, some would even say it compares favorably to a Fonsesa 40 year old Tawny, but without the huge ($80.00) price tag, to which I say possibly as I have never had a 40 year old Tawny it's hard to make a comparison.

Price: Some folks could pay $45 to $250 for a current top release of Sauternes or as much as $1100 for a vintage Chateau d’Yquem if you could find one and I know it’s not on the same level, but you get the point I’m attempting to make here, which is the Yalumba Muscat Museum Reserve will cause the checking account little grief at a paltry $15.95 – $19.95 depending on where you shop and at this price point it makes this wine a serious QPR, champ.

First Swirl: In the glass this wine has a deep amber colored core, with a pale burnt orange rim. It clings to side of the glass, with thick cleaving legs

First Sniff: This wine has some sophisticated aromas roiling around in the glass. Scents of honey, molasses, dried figs and raisins, with some nutty components coalescing into a ever changing bouquet of delight.

First Sip: This fortified wine is perfectly balanced with rich complex flavors of roasted nuts, orange peel, toffee and dried fruits [think raisins and figs] and just a lithe amount of lemony brilliance and acidity to offset the sweetness and long persistent finish. Just a reminder, this wine is meant to be savored, not downed like a shot for maximum enjoyment.

The Vineyards: According to their website, “the grapes are grown in the Rutherglen and other traditional areas of northern Victoria. Dry-grown vineyards in these warm regions whic are ideally suited for producing exceptional ripe fruit.”

Composition: Made from the red and pink clones of the Muscat, a petite grains grape variety, especially adept for producing some of the best dessert wines with very reasonable price points. This wine is fortified with neutral grape spirit and very little fermentation to retain the varietal flavors. This wine is produced in a Solera System a styled blend from many different years and as such is considered NV or Non-vintage, which is re-blended prior to bottling to achieve the amazing complex flavors.

Alcohol: Okay the ABV is 18%, about the same as your average Tawny but not as edgy and by the way it’s an excellent companion to your favorite cigar.

My Recommendation: If you live in San Diego, this wine is carried by Costco for a ridiculous price of $15.95 each so run out and get some today. Keep a few around and have some buddies over to smoke some cigars and enjoy another day in paradise. Everyone else not in San Diego, I’m sure this wine is widely distributed, and can most likely find in your favorite wine shop or of course at your favorite online wine store. It’s is very good and will pair nicely with many chocolate styled desserts. You won’t be disappointed!

Other voices: Considering this small 375 ml bottle received some 97 points of satisfaction from Mr. RP, whose opinions on wine you maybe familiar with already, this alone should be enough to convince you that you will have to give it a swirl.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oregundian Trail: Rex Hill, Pinot Noir 2002 Carabella Vineyard

If you love Pinot Noir as much as I do a trip to what can be affectionately referred to as the Oregundian Trail in Oregon's Willamette Valley is a mandatory trip! You have to see it, experience and best of all taste these wines from what I would call the new "mecca" of Pinot Noir wonder and goodness this side of the pond!

Some may wince at this statement, saying Oregon Pinot has become too fruit forward and syrupy, and we prefer wines with far more restraint and austerity, well okay if that's what you like this review will not change your mind. But for everyone else who actually would like to taste something other than dirt and mushrooms read on.
This particular wine was found sitting clumsily in an old wine barrel at the Rex Hill tasting room, where my wife and I were quaffing our way through the tasting menu way back in 2004, on our own pilgrimage to the Willamette Valley. I queried our tasting room attendant about the "marked-down" bottles and she said, "that is the island of misfit wines", their labels are on crooked or wrinkled, so we discount them. This wine was not available for tasting but upon the word of the tasting room attendant, we decided to take the misfits with us and boy we were glad we did! When we got home we put away all our wine treasures from our Orgundian Trail experience and really forgot about this misfit we purchased until October of 2007. A beautiful fall evening here in San Diego, with a wood fired pizza cooking on the barbie, along side a spinach salad and rummaging around in the cellar, I found the misfit! The Rex Hill Vineyard Oregon Pinot Noir Carabella Vineyard 2002 (USA ...; slumbering gracefully amongst the Bergstoms, Patricia Green and Owen Roes waiting to be opened and relished.
First Swirl: After opening the bottle of misfit wine, this Pinot Noir glistened and shimmered in the glass like gentle rose petals falling upon a silken pillow. The color was a lithe shade of crimson in the core fading to a silky cerise rim.
First Sniff: The aromas of barnyard type rustic smells wafted effortlessly from my glass, with a strong under currant of rich spices and fragrant red berry's enveloped my senses and tempted my palate with forthcoming pleasure.
First Sip: Rich black cherry, raspberry, with a dusting of earthiness. Very sweet, ethereal entry. Seamless, immediately expressive rich sandalwood spice, black cherry, fruit tart explosion. Really nice balance, acidity and elegant mouth-feel, departing with a wondrously long finish.
The Vineyards: A selection of 17 barrels from south and southeast sloping blocks of this vineyard located approximately 5 miles SE of the Rex Hill Vineyards Estate Winery.
Composed of 100% Pinot Noir grapes from the Carabella Vineyard in the Willamette Valley.
Alcohol Percentage: 14.2 % Just a little hot! But after decanting for an hour before consuming it was hardly noticeable.
My Recommendation: This wine is long gone as far as I am able to research, but Rex Hill still has a few of the 2003 which WS says's is even better! WS gave the 02, 87 points and the 03, 90 points. If possible I would grab a couple of the 03's from Rex Hill's library collection. It is definitely worth the $55.00 entrance fee. If you see any other Rex Hill wines give them a swirl, I think you will be glad you did.
Other Voices:

Wine Entusiast 5/06
Wine Spectator “Insider” 5/31/06
: the
The PinotFile Archive 2002 Rex Hill Carabella Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 13.6% alc.. (not sure where he got the 13.6 %, as I still have the label clearly marked 14.2%)· Actually my second favorite of the tasting but not many tasters agreed. This wine had the whole package - five spice nose, silky mouth feel, and a lasting finish of spice-tinged cherries and berries. Reviewed March 27, 2007 ARTICLE »

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A great buy, under twenty bucks! Montes Alpha, Syrah 2006

It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend; one's present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason. ~ Latin saying
In the picture above is the wonderful 2004, but this review I'll cover both the 2005 and the 2006 vintages. Both of which were in my estimation remarkably well made wines, with a QPR score that is through the roof. Now if you are new to my blog or new to wine and are not familiar with the acronym QPR, it's one you may see time to time, tossed around on wine blogs and other publications.

It stands for Quality, Price, Ratio, which means to you, the average consumer of wine that a wine with a high score in this category gives you a lot of "bang for the buck".

Quite often what I look for in a wine is consistency across vintages. In particular consistency in quality, not so much in flavors or aromas, but how well made the wine is overall across vintages. Now having only tasted through the 05 and 06 Syrah, I'm starting to think of Montes Alpha Syrah as a consistently good, well made wine, that would be worthy of a purchase 9 times out of 10. But the jury is still out on that point, but definitely under consideration.

I purchased this wine while out with my old friend and his lovely wife. By the way he's an amazing freelance photographer, check out his work, which can be found at . If you want an event, organizational or ad-copy images to be unforgettable, give him a call!

First Swirl: The color is beautiful in the class, a transparent cerise velvet curtain melding to lighter strawberry color on the rim.

First Sniff: The 2005 Syrah shows a classic Syrah nose of veiled white pepper, mocha, bittersweet chocolate and black cherry, while the 2006 had also wonderful aromas of fig and espresso wafting effortlessly from the glass.

First Sip: The mouth feel is wonderful and shows similar flavors and adds a toasty note and minerality, a crushed rock component on the long food friendly finish, while the 2006 delivered far more fruit forward style and feel, and less of the mineral notes observed in the 2005.

Composition: This wine spent 12 months in French Barrels and contains 90% Syrah 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Viognier which gives this wine the nice mouth feel and smooths out any of the ruff tannic edges. The Alcohol Percentage is barely noticeable at 14%.

Price Range: Expect to shell out between $15.00 to $19.99 a piece or restaurant prices could easily reach an asking price of $45.00 [quite the mark-up huh?]

Pairing Suggestions: I encountered this wine while dining at Rei Do Gado in San Diego, which is a parade of different meats flying by on skewers of which my favorites were the bacon wrapped filet's and the skirt steak. Seriously though this wine will pair with most entrees.
 My Recommendation: If you're foodie like myself (and I know many of you are), this is the kind of wine you could easily buy a case of or two to have as an everyday drinker. It's not the heavy handed type of Syrah you would find from down under, but an articulate food friendly velvet bomb! But before you go buying them all up, please have proper storage. This could be a very long hot summer and I would hate to see all that yummy wine go to waste!

Other Voices: Wine Spectator said of the 2006 "This wine is richly layered, ambitiously styled, flavors of fig, mocha, espresso and bittersweet cocoa, backed by a lush beam of boysenberry fruit. Fleshy and toasty through the finish, with the dark fruit lingering well in the background. Drink now through 2010. 9,000 cases made.
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