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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kronos: Experience A Golden (vint-)Age Of Corison Cabernet

Ordinarily we avoid reviewing wines that sell for over $100 on Cuvée Corner. Today, I joyfully make an exception. Why? For one very simple reason, I am reviewing a wine from Cathy Corsion, a visionary winemaker with a passion for making vibrant wines that feel untouched and express a sense of place.

Passion is an active and occasionally forceful conviction. Cathy Corison discovered hers while reading for a bachelor's degree in Biology (Pomona College in Claremont, CA) and subsequently at UC Davis where she studied for a Master's in Enology. She was inspired by the concept that wine is "alive at every level".  Cathy learned her craft making wine for Chappellet Vineyard, Staglin Family Vineyard, York Creek Vineyards and Long Meadow Ranch but ultimately she needed a canvas with which to express her own voice.

View across the Kronos vineyard property at the Corison Winery

She spent a long time poring over soil survey maps of land throughout Napa before selecting from benchland vineyards between Rutherford and St. Helena. Here the deep, gravel, alluvial soils provide a fine balance between stress and nurture that Cabernet vines find ideal. Kronos, Cathy’s flagship Cabernet, is a single vineyard production, whose vines are nestled in the loamy, stoney plot (approximately 8 acres) surrounding the winery and tasting room

If I may paraphrase the information she sent me - Spring 2010 brought rain that pushed bud break back a few weeks. The cool growing season was interrupted by a heat spike in August that prompted some selective picking, but cooler temperatures continued until an Indian Summer set in in late September and October brought the grapes to full ripeness. The long, cool season yielded a small crop and a wine of uncommon concentration.

Sample provided by Cathy Corison

2010 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - I neatly cut the foil, gingerly prized the cork from its home and poured the contents into a decanter (and a little into my glass).  Then…    …I stuck my nose right into the glass, smiling as I breathed in the nascent volatiles. It felt a little like cheating but I could not wait and I was not disappointed. I did however allow the wine to breathe for over an hour before beginning my review.

From the first sniff, sip and swirl, I fell in love with this wine. From my notes - It feels genuine; suffused with notes of earth and herb, the nose melds black currants and blueberries that are layered upon violets and toasty oak. In a world filled with modernly styled CA Cabernets high in fruit and alcohol and low in acid, Cathy produces elegantly, restrained and yet stunning and fiercely addictive wines. This truly is an outstanding Napa cab. 

The palate is taut, energetic and exciting. The fruit core is intensely focused, integrating layers of acai and blueberry/boysenberry and blackcurrant/cherry in a stream of sensory stimulation.  The dark fruit core is pierced by acidity, lifting them to reveal plum skin, hints of bitter chocolate, spice and espresso. The finish lingers effortlessly, displaying earthy, dusty tannin and white pepper, carried on saline-infused sweet, dark fruit.

The color, texture and flavors are vivid, fresh and wholeheartedly real.  Cathy avoids overripe, high alcohol wines while retaining intensity, laser-edged purity and structure.  The 2010 Kronos sits at a comfortable 13.6% alc, yet there is nothing under-ripe about this or her other wines. Cathy’s philosophy is to allow the vineyards to express themselves, an idea that requires minimal intervention, sustainable vineyard management and ageing in small French oak barrels. 

Corison wines provide an outstanding complement to food, as well as favored company. My wife and I enjoyed the Kronos with wonderful steak au poivre - filet mignon (served rare) dressed in a crushed pepper cream sauce combined with Dijon mustard and a little cognac.  We served it with roast parsnip, sweet potato and carrot.  I hope you can imagine the flavors.  The food was wonderful, and the wine sang beautifully in their company. It was an exquisite way to spend a valentine’s evening together.
A great wine can draw you in. It can capture your attention. Drinking Corison wines can be captivating.  The 2010 Kronos engages you in a conversation that you neither want to leave nor hurry. This is a wine to savor, to share, to contemplate and to know that, over the next ten years, its story will become even more interesting, complex and beautiful. I have been fortunate to try multiple vintages of this wine over the years but the 2010 may be the most memorable yet.

If you have not treated yourself to one of Cathy’s wines before, this would be an incredible wine with which to start. The 2010 Kronos Cabernet sells for $135/bottle directly from the winery (reach out to Corison for information on distribution).

I hesitate to impose a score on such an elegant creature but this has to sit comfortable in the 92-95 point range, and likely leaning towards the upper end of the range as time passes and it gently unwinds. Best after 2017.


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Napa Valley Uncorked: The Tudal Family Winery [Part Two]

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” – Marcel Proust

Never has a statement been more true than this one I shared above. It's far too easy to become jaded and cynical as a wine drinker, and especially for wine writers and wine bloggers like myself. It's too easy to not have new 'eyes' when it comes to places you're already so familiar with, I went to the Tudal Family Winery with new 'eyes' because I wanted to take it all in, with that sense of wonderment and amazement many new to the wine trail have. 

With each article I write, it's my one-man mission to provide readers with current, objective, easily readable content and hopefully even a bit of entertainment about the wonderful world of wine, associated travel, food and wine pairing adventures. So I'm spanning the globe [literally at times] looking for and eventually landing on "the intersection of where great wines meets reasonable prices". 

This article is part two, time to peel back their label once more, and take another peek behind the purple colored curtain, if you will. I'd like everyone to get to know the folks who have not only made wine their business, but also a lifelong passion. I believe I've captured those elements with part one of this two part article about the Tudal Family Winery in the Napa Valley. 

Wine is not just about what is in the bottle, it's about friends and family, it's about the place it came from, and for many it can be about how live our lives. As for me, I had quick but refreshing glimpse into the Tudal Family Winery, and immediately felt right at home myself. I went home with a slice of the "winery-life" that now lays tucked into the good memories of days gone-by, for me personally I felt like I was home, where I should be. I'm grateful for the invitations to return and stay once more. 

Wine is alive, just because it has been bottled, that doesn't mean there's no longer room for it to change, no in fact wine like each of us, continues to change and mature over time. For some of us, it's for the better, yet others may end-up being corked, there are many variables and different paths to take. Each vintage takes part of our collective history and becomes a bit like a time capsule, once uncorked years later. 

As I've already mentioned I did a bit of barrel tasting during my visit, but I had no idea that the consulting Winemaker Rudy Zuidema's dog loved barrel tasting every bit as much as I do. It was a dog-gone good day for tasting wine though. 

Speaking of dogs, you'll be sure to have a visit from 'Sadie' the wonder poodle, who seems to have a knack for knowing someone has shown up on the property, as she runs up to quickly greet you. I was amazed she stood in this pose long enough for me to snap a picture, no sooner than the shutter clicked, she had quickly darted away from me and around the house. I was left thinking, "sheese, something I said" but later that evening she spent a good deal of time sitting near me as I cooling my heels on the plush couch, editing some of the images I'd shot earlier. I'm sure my two poodles at home with Mrs. Cuvee would have been quite jealous. 

           “Color on Pinot is like clothes on a woman, it’s not needed” André Tchelistcheff 

I just had to smile and nod in agreement, when John Tudal told me about this quote he attributes to Mr. Tchelistcheff who he must have met and heard this comment live. I couldn't locate any evidence of the quote being attributed to him, but it does make a lot of sense. 

I've seen many Pinot Noir's that I call "chunky" with crazy color extraction, it makes me scratch my head a bit, making me wonder if this wine in my glass was truly 100% as it had been stated. 

The Pinot Noir you see pictured above is nothing of the sort. In fact its light and lean in all the right places. While sat about chatting during lunch, the abundant red fruit flavors gained new depth and elegance. This is type of Pinot Noir I often associate with fruit sourced from the Carneros region. 

In word this wine is energetic; displaying seeming endless notes of spicy strawberry, raspberry and wet-earth aromas, bound with silky tannins This Pinot which I didn't want to stop drinking, was displaying appealing freshness and elegant floral nuances with each sip, slurp and sadly w/o the ultimate burp. 

I had the opportunity to taste many of their wines while at lunch, of course one of the stand-out is their 2009 Legacy Lot Estate Grown and bottled Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is classic Napa Valley at its best; it was big rich and dense, a bottle worthy a case purchase to lay down and enjoy over the years. 

While more is not alway more, in this case it certainly is, fine ground minerality, the finish is long and lasting. In this wine you'll easily find a crush of blueberries, blackberry and black currant liqueur and tagging along, hints of subtle smoke, subtle vanilla and burning embers. In my opinion folks this how you do it, accessible now with a bit of decanting and worth the price of the $85 admission for those who can patiently cellar this wine in the years to come. 

These two wines above are just few examples of the many very good wines they make, the range of wines they offer are quite diverse, from the Founder's series to their Vineyard Series, there is truly a wine for all price points, styles and preferences. 

Their Tudal Family 50% Napa Valley and 50% Sonoma bring the two regions together like they rarely do in real life. This has to be one of the most creative wine labels I've ever seen. Big kudos to John Tudal who designs all their labels, I think they're all very well done. The story behind this label is quite the funny one, it's the story of two competing labels and then bright idea to make those labels merge, with half of one touching the other to form the one. The TTB had a great time approving this one. 

The Tudal Family Winery has a great winemaking team, with Ron Vuylsteke [seen above] and consulting winemaker Rudy Zuidema who form team Tudal, together they both have a combined 70 years of crush and winemaking experience under their belts and it truly shows. If you'd like to find out more about their great history in the Napa Valley, please be sure to check out their 'about page' here. 

I hope this article has somehow tempted you or at the very least wet your appetite to give Tudal Family Wines a swirl soon, and then contact them for a visit, you'll be glad you did. 

If you've ever wondered 'why' I take the time to write about wine? I wonder about that sometimes myself. But it's a fair question, one which I don't mind answering. For me the purpose is simple, this wine-blog exists to benefit and refresh every palate it touches whether you're advanced wine slurping machine or just the garden variety wine-swirling vino-sapien. It is my hope that the content of this blog will bring refreshment; like a well balanced wine adding value, joy & fun to your own wine, tour and travel experiences. 

Further it's my hope you will take from my meager musings on the subject; the joy of wine drinking, tasting and travel. And also hopefully build that desire within you to explore all the wonderful aspects of this communal experience we have with the vine. Until next folks remember life is short, take the time to sit-back and relax, pop a few corks, chat with your friends and family over a glass or two and as always sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Napa Valley Uncorked: Tudal Family Winery

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. - T.S. Elliot

It's always great to be back in the Napa Valley, visiting old friends or as in this case making new ones. It was my great privilege, getting to know Felicia and John Tudal this past weekend. You'll find their fourth generation winery located on Big Tree Road, located in St. Helena off route 29, just a few miles down the road from Calistoga. It's easy to miss, if you drive too fast, it's the exit before or immediately after the Cal-Fire Station, depending on your direction.  

If you'd like to visit and I suggest you do, it's like taking a step back in time to the classic days of the Napa Valley when things were much simpler, and tasting rooms were not built to resemble the Taj Mahal. Please note, that their tastings are made by appointment only, but that is a fairly simple thing to do of course. Seeing their 10 acre winery is what you'd call off the beaten path, slipping onto their tasting schedule should be a snap, but as always please call ahead. For the more inclement days they have small tasting salon located nearby the Tractor Shed, the outdoor tasting  with the view of the lovely garden and vineyards is ideal. 

The view of the garden above and below the vineyard view. 
Now I could go on to describe my experience here and I will. I was an invited guest, who was there to see, taste, listen, and just drink it all in. Personally, I don't just look at things through the lens of a wine-writer, but I do so more like each one of you, as a wine consumer. One who decides where I want to spend my time and my hard earned dollar, Tudal Family Winery is one of those places. 

That said, what you see is what you get, an historic Napa Valley property one that has much to offer the average thirsty vinosapien looking for something different, than the everyday run-of-the-mill tasting the cattle call tasting rooms. This is an opportunity to sit back and relax, take it all in and enjoy a slice of the Napa Valley as few ever really get to see it. 

In the next picture, you'll see why the voice of previous visitors will ring so much more true, than the words I can convey here in this article. Their guests are invited to write on the door, to share their experiences. As I read through them all, I thought this is the kind of winery I want to visit when I have a long weekend, or just a couple days off from work. 

If you find that you just can't make it all the way to the winery; then join them at their Cerruti Cellars urban wine oasis in Oakland, Ca. located in Jack London Square. It's named in tribute to our patriarch and 1st generation California Grower George “Baci” Cerruti, an Italian emigrant from Genoa that lived to the ripe age of 99 to witness so many of our memorable occasions.

This is a great little spot to sit-back and relax after work, a place where you can also catch a taste of their 'lifestyle' brands, Tractor Shed Red [$12] and their well placed Honker Blanc [$15] which is also seeing some action in the Napa Valley via their keg wine-by-the-glass service.

As you know, I'm not a big fan of Sauvignon Blanc, I tend to prefer Fie Gris or Sancerre version of the grape, and new world styles are often too aggressive and not in a good way. But what I tasted of the upcoming Camp Ranch 2012 SB I'm thinking it's going to be a tasty one [no mal] and one I'd recommend for those who don't prefer too much freshly cut grass and overwhelming grapefruit notes, instead a gentle slap of peach and pineapple.

Riding around on a gator with Felicia Tudal, I had a fun opportunity to take in some of the back roads of the Napa Valley, a brief back-road excursion very few the ordinary visitors have a chance to do. I was able to meet many of their neighbors, friends, growers and vintners. 

I purchased a bottle of Cabernet Franc [on Felicia's recommendation alone] from the folks at Ehlers Estate, who had a very comfy and spacious tasting salon [stay tuned for that review]. Here recommendation reminded me of something she said earlier as I was through a few of their wines at lunch, "Dirt doesn't lie, it's the basis for good wines". Folks there's an undeniable truth to that statement, one I've experienced more times than I can tell. 

My first day on the property, right before an amazing lunch we shared, I had the opportunity to do a bit of barrel tasting, something which I always enjoy. A quick glance if you will about what one could expect from upcoming release. Based on those impressions alone, I'd say that both 2012 and 2013 Tudal Family "Clift Vineyard" 100% Cabernet Sauvignon [clone 337] is going to be a blockbuster. I was especially impressed with the 2013 which is just bursting at the seams with finesse and power. 

But don't get me wrong, the 2012, is a velvet glove, [free-run/press] dark ripe blueberries, mocha, blackberry and a ripe plum laid across canvas of bright acid, making everything pop. The fruit is sourced from a near dry-farmed vineyard, called Clift Ranch. Long time Napa Valley grower Tom Clift, planted the vineyard in 1999, and in its 15th year is really showing its maturity. A delicious single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon designate from a vineyard which is a little less than two acres, located in the heart of the Oak Knoll District of the Napa Valley

There's already quite a bit here, and I've so much more to tell about this amazing Napa Valley winery that's surprisingly still flying under the radar. It's my hope you'll take my advice, book an appointment and meet some great folks behind this great Napa Valley producer. Look for part two tomorrow, until next folks remember life is short, so sit back, relax and uncork a great Tuesday evening cheers!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Wine Writing

"Writers about wine should, at least on occasion, be troublesome, irritating and critical.” ~ Andrew Jefford

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why Plonk Wines Are Here to Stay

“The consumer doesn't know. They think it comes from a guy who farmed his land and made it in his small barrels in his little winery.”

Sometimes when I see folks tweeting about or throwing up a FB posts about seemingly generic mass produced [commodity] wines, like Chateau Two-by-Four [insert mass market label here] Chardonnay for example, I cringe. I believe there are far too many wine blogs accepting these styles of wine for the review process [please stop] and in my opinion that is a real shame. 

When I'm asked to accept a sample of ordinary run-of-the-mill commodity wines like that and review them, again I cringe, and I kindly reply no thanks. If I were to accept plonk or commodity wines as a sample, then I'd feel like I've not done my job properly as a wine-writer. 

I'd feel like I've not shook enough trees, driven down enough winery roads, or have been to enough tastings to let folks know they have alternatives, outside of the fast-food California wine market place. Please don't get me wrong, California isn't the only guilty party here in regards to commodity wines [aka, plonk] all the other major wine producing countries are doing the same thing. I know the opinion I'm sharing here is not popular, but that has never stopped me before. So if this moment of 'frankness' closes a few doors, then I say so be it. 

Let me go a step further in regards to commodity wines; to me those "kind" of wines are all too similar of a choice between two widely different options. It's more like the choice to either buy farm-raised salmon [blech] or instead going for the [pricier] "wild-caught" Sockeye there's no comparison. Why so many folks just settle for the farm-raised alternative when it comes to their choice of wine, strikes me as sadly strange. 

To be completely honest and forthright, those are not the folks reading this blog or any blog for that matter. In fact folks who would describe themselves as commodity wine drinkers don't even care about or even bother to read wine reviews of any kind or related commentary. So why are countless other bloggers and PR agencies spinning their collective wheels attempting to pedal what amounts to be nothing more than plonk? I for once, don't have any quick smartass opinions to offer, but it again it does strike me as strange. 

Personally, I don't mind paying a bit extra for authentic wines with soul, but so many folks do and they'll not even consider purchasing wines costing more than $10. And you know I'm actually glad that the vast unwashed masses of vinosapiens out there in the hinterlands of winedom have zero to no interest in purchasing or experiencing wines costing more than ten dollars.

Going back to the one of the most easily overlooked points of his great article on the subject [which I have linked to below] is, and I'm paraphrasing, because American's as a whole drink so much wine, there is no way the small producers we all know and love could keep up with the demand. 

Just imagine [a nightmare] for a moment if everyone drinking the plonk [commodity] wines today, suddenly decided "you know those 5% wine drinkers are right" and they all decided they'd like to acquire the same wines we all know and love. Egad, the demand for the better wines would skyrocket, the prices would go through the roof, and we'd all experience what many do now because of the Chinese interest in the [high-end] wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, the crazy inflation of wine prices and demand would outstrip the supply. 
According to an article by Keith Wallace in 2009 "How Wine Became Fast Food" [citing the article] "Since most people like to stick with familiar brands and cheap prices, it’s [Plonk] a necessity. Americans consumed 700 million gallons of wine last year, 80 percent of which sold for less than $10, according to ACNeilsen and The Beverage Information Group." Read More.
It's my contention that good food and good wine should not be the rare commodity, but rather it should be a model which we strive to live-by. Sadly tho, very few vinosapiens, will ever want or desire to live their life that way. And I'm perfectly fine with that, please by all means "drink what you like" but expect a bit of [unbeknownst] friendly mockery in regards to your choice to consume the same jug-wines day in and day out, for example wines like La Crema Chardonnay, Menage a Trois, Three Buck Chuck and a bevy of other formulaic wines made in a similar style. 

So it would appear that Plonk Wines actually have a purpose [who knew?] and are needed in the greater wine economy at large. It's a "give the people what they and they'll beat a path to your door type of scenario" one stained brightly with Mega Purple. I'm NOT attempting to be disparaging to that segment of the wine community simply for disparagement sake. 

But these types of wines do provide an alternative to the 95% of wine [plonk wine consumers] drinkers who will not drink wines over $10, which [IMO] are simply nothing but plonk [please just be honest]. Before anyone gets their nose too far bent out of shape, I know there are exceptions to the rule, but as we all know exceptions don't make the rule. Now that said, please join me in a loud hip-hip hooray, cheap pedestrian wines are here to stay, rejoice. Can I get a hallelujah and amen? 

While many wine drinkers/consumers like you [dear reader] and I are the exception, [the 5%] yet I still don't see my choices for discovering wines with soul being limited in anyway. No instead, I actually continue to discover new and exciting regions which produce amazingly affordable wines, which are not produced like a cheap commodity, but are still wonderfully convenient to purchase. So again remember life is short, live well and drink well. Until next time sit back, relax and continue to sip long and prosper cheers! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wine Tasting Not Wine Drinking

Out and about wine tasting? Remember it's winetasting not #wine drinking! — at Mercury Wine.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Do You know the Way to Bordeaux?

“I’m not sure what I'll do, but— well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.”― F. Scott Fitzgerald

A visit to Bordeaux had been and is still high on my lists of places to see and experience [again and again] I can't wait to go back. And last  year my I had the opportunity to see that desire fulfilled. At the beginning of last year I had no idea that I'd be invited to take two different press trips to this amazing wine region, where "things [truly] happen on a big scale".  

That said, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the sponsors of this trip, Planet Bordeaux and Balzac Communications for your kind invitation to be part of this great adventure into exploration and the amazing opportunity I have to now share this experience with all you [my readers] via this blog. 

To say I was ecstatic would be a vast understatement of epic proportions. I'm happy to say it was and is still one of the very best memories from last year, the proverbial capstone of memorable events. But as it's often seen that with great joy, an equally great sorrow will sometimes come along for the ride, some might call this irony. 

Although an opportunity to visit Bordeaux was high on my list, of wine destinations to visit and it was ultimately granted, it was also a very tough year for me personally. It was the year [2013] I lost both of my parents and the pain of that loss is still very real and hard for me to fully grasp. I miss them both very much and the stamp of exploration they both imbued upon me at an early age, is something which still lives within me to this day. I just can't stop exploring, there's far too much to see, to do and to know before my own time on this mortal coil comes to an end. 

Now with that said, let me ask do you know the way to Bordeaux? It's too easy to get lost in the perception of 'Bordeaux' and all the thing many folks imagine it to be. From an outsider perspective, it must seem quite confusing, a old wine region filled with places and names which can be hard to pronounce, full of fancy Chateaux where only the rich and famous live lives of unimaginable luxury and opulence and while some that may be true to some extent, it's not even close to being the whole story

Yes, there are many, many Chateaux strewn about the vine-covered countryside, historic centuries old buildings which easily predate the existence of the country I live in and are located on massive properties which are often handed down from one generation to the next. But again that is not the whole story. 

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley 

As I've stated before, there are real people behind those beautifully sculpted buildings; something I think many folks seem to forget, perhaps bogged down by the weight of perception. Marc Milhade [his sister is seen to his left] the Son of Xavier Milhade, explained to us that life on a Chateau is one that is similar to anyone else running a winery or family business, whether that business is here in the Napa Valley or on the ancient vine-lands of Bordeaux. 

When they say it's family run business they really mean it, it's all hands on deck. On the day we arrive, the sights and sounds of harvest were well underway, it was a hot and very humid harvest [October 2013] the day, when Marc [who you see above] showed up still wearing his crush-pad boots to greet us and welcome us to Chateau Recougne. 

So you want to see these machines in action? Check out the video here.

He went on to briefly explain that while they do embrace the present, its technology and the ability manage such a large endeavor so much easier than in the past, they still hold unto some of the elements of the past, weaving them together to make a bright new future for the next generation. 

Our meeting with them was fascinating, insightful and also very delightful. I was ravenously hungry by time we had arrived and was so glad to hear that 'lunch' would be served with in moments of our arrival. The setting you see pictured below, set the stage for a lunchtime feast I won't forget anytime soon. 
One of the most amazing wine discoveries came the day our team [myself and two other bloggers] visited Chateau Recougne, it was also one of the very best dining experiences I had while I was in France [mind blowing really]. Robert Parker at one time called Chateau Recougne one of the finest of all Bordeaux Superieur [personally I think it still is]. 

It is an estate that has produced wine for over 400 years, and its name is said to have come from King Henri IV in the early 17th century, in "recognition" of the quality of its wine. It would appear that even then, their wines were very well regarded not only for the quality, but for their inexpensive prices. So in drinking their wines it would be safe to say you can actually drink like a king.

Their vineyards [which surround the Chateau and the Crush Pad] were classified under the Fronsac Appellation back in the day, where Merlot is the majority planting taking up 75% of planted vineyard space. Merlot also happens to be very well suited to the terroir, which is then complemented by both Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Cabernet Franc (10%). 

As you can see from the picture above we tasted the 1966, and the 1999 as well as the 2010 [not pictured]. Folks, you may not believe but look closely they have not changed the label too much in all those years. They also have not changed the recipe for producing uber high quality wines that won't break the bank. These wines sell for $15 to $19 each most places. 

These wines are not suppose to age well if you listen to the so-called experts who purport to know all and see all in the wine world. But I'm here to tell you that they're dead wrong. The bottle from 1966, a 47 year old bottle had aged amazingly well, I was blown away by the depth and polish this wine was still displaying. While you can no longer purchase the 1966, it's a reminder to all guest of the great aging potential of their Bordeaux Superior.

The 1999 wow, it wanted to party like it was still 1999. This wine [decanted] still had nice body to it, and smoothly textured; a wine with light tannin and a long finish, tasting of dark plum, under brush, cassis, licorice, vanilla, and toasty oak in the background. Another amazing blast from their past, that I thought had to be from a much finer pedigreed background, but no a Bordeaux Superior drinking like Grand Cru Classe [no I'm not kidding]. 

Their 2010, uh I'd grab all you can and then grab some more because it's off the charts good [to great] and will only get better with some more bottle age. If you have a case or two socked away, you'll will thank me later because it's that amazing. 

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. ~Leonard Cohen

Folks, if you've not encountered their wines before [and to be honest I've never had until that day] you owe to yourself to give their wines a swirl at your earliest convenience. These are wines of real substance, wines with a soul that definitely taste like the region they come from, there's no mega purple here, no fillers just solid well made wines that may not blow your mind, but they will having you believing you really are drinking like a king for a pauper's price [don't doubt me]. So until next folks remember life is far too short to drink insipid commodity wines, please don't settle, expand your vinous horizons and as always please remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Glimpse into the Yamhill-Carlton AVA

"Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life's most civilized pleasures." - Michael Broadbent 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Wine of the Week: Bonny Doon, 2008 Le Cigare Volant

The New California Wine: "The style pendulum may be swinging back toward restraint over hedonism" ~ John Bonne

I think we all like finding buried treasures, sometimes they're a treat and other times, and well you know where that is going. This wine I discovered in my own wine cellar was definitely on the treat side of the proverbial ledger. I had purchased a huge wine cellar last year and had moved everything from my pantry [all eight cases plus] into the what is a cavernous monstrosity sucking down power like no tomorrow [part of the reason I opted for a solar solution]. 

Getting back to the wine, it's a brilliant Rhone style blend from one California's most iconic producers, the eclectic Bonny Doon Vineyards found in the eye-pleasingly beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in northern California, found just a bit south of Napa and Sonoma. 

While I've only had the opportunity to visit this area once, way back 2007 [when I was still working full time] sadly my opportunity to visit Bonny Doon slipped from the itinerary and I missed seeing the vineyards for myself [there's always next time]. That said, Mr. Randall Grahm was gracious enough to have sent me a couple samples to peruse at my leisure, coupled with an invitation to visit next time I'm in the area.

Many vinosapiens get a quizzical look on their face when I talk about the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. I'm sure they must be thinking, "uh, where the *bleep* is that" and then most are not even sure what AVA is anyway. It's the kind of  [nearly useless] knowledge that begs the question, "what are you, some kind of cork-dork?" 

If I had to chance to answer, I'd most assuredly answer with an enthusiastic nod of agreement and say, "guilty as charged". It would be so easy to pick me out of a lineup, purple-teeth and purple stained fingers oh-my, depending on the situation and a crazy collection of old corks.

If you're quite bored and feel like busting out a wine-map or you just want to Google it, you'll find the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is located just south of San Jose, California. This huge appellation represents just over 350k acres. According to Vinogusto, "It's astonishing, given the hardships [in particular the onset of huge fires in 2009] of viticulture in the Santa Cruz Mountains, that this appellation hosts some of North America's most elite wineries, with the likes of Ridge, David Bruce and Bonny Doon and I am a big fan of Byington and Testarossa as well.

So now that you have an idea of where I am talking about in regards to where this wine is from, now it's is time to bring into to focus the subject of this review the Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2008. Literally translated, "Le Cigare Volant" which is French for "The Flying Cigar" or euphemistically speaking, the flying saucer. Sci-Fi fans take note, this is a first-contact wine! 

I finally cracked open the stelvin closure and poured myself a glass just hour before dinner for its first evaluation, passed with flying colors. In the glass a near opaque garnet colored core, giving way to cerise colored rim, then brilliant aromas escaping easily from the glass sporting some brier and underbrush, black cherry and undefinable gamy note. 

What I found was an extremely elegant wine, a Rhone Zone blend I received as a sample long ago. A very soft pedaled blend with Grenache leading the way light cherry, violets and plum, loads of minerality and soft earth. The tannins as tame as your tabby, and will reward all those willing to give it a swirl for themselves.

On the palate, is an impressive concentration, with chewy plum, currant, nice minerality, licorice and tarry notes. Although listed as a California wine, it's is made in an terroir-driven old world style and does not require any long term cellaring, since it is drinking amazingly now and the finish just sails on and on.

With/without Food: This wine was a great quaff just by itself, a sure crowd-pleaser with an appropriate amount of decanting and just a wonderful wine for pairing with many different food combinations. Keep in mind this can't be said of all wines and is a high compliment to the winemaker and the growers of these grapes, well done! Until next time folks remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Good Wine Makes Good Neighbors.

Good wine makes good neighbors.

Robert Frost said “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” but I think he may have been mistaken. Rather, good wine makes good neighbors. There are few better ways to share time with friends, or those you do not yet know well enough to call friends, than over an open bottle of good wine.

In my tweets (@bruisedGrape), I frequently make reference to the #TreehouseBoys but have never really explained who they are nor introduced them.  We are, perhaps, a bizarre collection: academics, physicians, brokers, government contractors, parcel-delivery and wine guys. One might even term us “Brothers in wine”. Ours is a friendship developed over years but I joined later than most and was introduced to the group gradually.

Some years ago, we moved house and our new neighbor, a fellow academic who shared my love for wine, befriended me perhaps entertained by my naïve enthusiasm for grape juice. He had been collecting wine for decades and was passionate about the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace and Mosel. He shared great wines with me from each of these, and other, regions. Many of which were older that I was.  

We tasted wine together every Thursday, and occasionally, we were be joined by someone new: a stockbroker, a physician, a contractor - old friends of one or all of the others.  Then one day I was introduced to the common theme – the wine guy from whom they all bought their 1982 Bordeaux futures.  Let’s call him Mr White (please excuse the Reservoir Dogs reference). The Treehouse Boys had being buying wine from this same source for 30 years and, over a short period of time, our weekly tasting became the excuse we needed to establish a club for big kids.

The quorum was formed and, to this day, we continue to taste, commiserate, celebrate, gossip, argue, laugh and taste some more – each and every Thursday. So why then are we called the #TreehouseBoys?  We were so named by Mr Brown, the wine store manager, because putting us where good wine can be bought is apparently like building a tree house for bunch of mischievous kids and telling them it’s the first day of summer vacation – every Thursday.

We constantly try to outwit and out-taste or simply deceive each other with wine, bringing the old, the esoteric, the new and the classic. The wines are often shrouded in a brown bag until we have all completely lost any shred of the oenophile’s dignity we thought we owned. Everyone, however, returns to “wine genius” status immediately upon the great reveal and we claim to have been just on the verge of naming the region or the vintage.

So back to the point of this blog, my wine of the week, another surprise wine from one of my #Treehouse compatriots.  This week’s wine is the 2004 Justin Vineyard Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.  Justin Baldwin bought the 160 acre Paso Robles property in 1981 and planted much of it to Bordeaux varietals.

Initially, this wine had me confused. The bottle was brown-bagged as usual. The wine was deep purple in the glass with little hint of bricking on the rim but the nose was effusive leathery, tobacco, funky with black fruit. It was reminiscent of a Bordeaux but the fruit seemed a little too ripe for an old world wine. The palate showed black and blue fruit with dark chocolate-covered beef jerky, bell pepper, spice, toasty oak and earthy tannin. The oak might have been a little much for me if the wine was younger but it had integrated a little better with bottle age and seemed less stark that it would, perhaps, have otherwise. 

Needless to say, my initial thoughts were not so structured nor did they lead me immediately to a correct first approximation of the wine’s identity. That said, it was a solid effort, and made all the more enjoyable to have the chance to share it with friends.  The only thing that remained for me was to hurry home with the last of the wine and share it with my wife who, by some miracle of intuition had created an incredible pairing - beef stew beef stew with tomato, carrot and acorn squash in a base of tomato and beef stock.   

It was a wonderful evening that began in the company of friends, and ended by enjoying a great meal with my beautiful wife and the same character-filled bottle of 2004 California Cabernet. As we finished the last of the wine I rotated the cork between my fingers and read:

Just stop
Just sit
Just stay
Just relax
Just reflect
Just remember
Just Justin
Just call 1-800-726-0049

So JUST-IN-case you think that exploring wine with friends is a choice between the stuffy and the uninformative, think of the Treehouse Boys as we pull the cork on another great Thirsty Thursday Night. Go and text your friends or knock on the door of a neighbor. Ask them to drop in and share a bottle with you. Get to know them a little better and have fun with your wine. It will soon be grass-cutting season again and you will see them much more frequently anyway. 

Wouldn't it be so much better, if your Saturday ended with a great bottle of wine and a conversation with friends? So remember what I said – Good wine makes good neighbors, and whether it’s your nextdoor neighbors or other friends life is so much better when you take a moment to chat, laugh together and share something special.

I have no pricing information on this, and as for rating - I won't on this occasion - the wine was not consumed under my standard scoring criteria ( Besides, my Treehouse buddy really did not want it to be scored. Sometimes you simply want to enjoy it - with special people.There's just no way to put a score on that experience.

You are JUSTIN time to pull another cork!


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