To my dismay, very good Merlot offerings appear to be dwindling. The best ones seem to come from dedicated producers of higher end wines. We had a blind tasting in August and the number of winners is tiny when compared to wines made from other grapes. My fear is that winemakers are not necessarily putting in as much effort into Merlot, because their sales are off. I say, make great Merlot and they will come! The best options that I found over the course of the last year are listed below. As you will see, there still is some very nice Merlot out there, but not nearly as many as I would like.
We will start with the Merlot that is consistently near the top of our list. The 2011 Robert Foley Merlot from the Napa Valley comes in at $52. It is Excellent and worth every penny. I awarded this wine 94 points. This offering opens with a fragrant and inviting cherry-cola like bouquet with a hint of boysenberry. You will find it to be full-bodied, balanced, and smooth. I loved its delicious blueberry flavors with notes of nicely integrated oak and hints of black pepper and Dr. Pepper. It finishes dry and its flavors linger and are nicely prolonged. Robert Foley is clearly on top of his game with this Merlot. Find a great steak house and pair this wine with filet mignon.
This year we have two 93 pointers to tell you about. The first is a classic drink-now Merlot, the second one is for stashing away due to its youth. The drink-now entry is the 2009 Pedestal Merlot from the “Columbia Valley” in Washington State. This wine is $55 per bottle. You will find it opens with a very inviting blueberry bouquet. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, extremely well balanced, and smooth as silk. We loved its delicious blueberry and black licorice flavors with hints black pepper, nicely integrated old oak and a touch of minerality. It closed with dry and mild tannins, while its flavors were nicely prolonged. This terrific Merlot paired perfectly with our filet mignon steaks at Ruth Chris in Boston.
Next up is another top performer in this category. The 2012 Plumpjack Merlot from Napa Valley just missed being put on the top shelf. That said, it did achieve a 93 point score. It is a worthy contender and with some time it might even reach the Excellent status. This wine comes in at $56 per bottle. It is not your typical Merlot, as it is initially a bit on the intense side. You will find it to be full-bodied and very fruit forward at first. The flavor profile is initially a rich and concentrated blackberry. As it settles down and opens up, notes of boysenberry, blueberry and gentle minerality start to arrive. I also detected hints of black plum and oak as well. It finishes dry with minimal tannins that fade away nicely. This Merlot definitely benefits from aeration and could become a blockbuster with some cellar time. I would put it away for a year or two and pull it out when all your Robert Foley Merlot is gone.
There are two 92 point Merlots this year. The first one is another drink-now option. I would grab a few bottles and enjoy it before the end of the year. It is impressive! So what is this mystery Merlot? It is the 2009 Northstar “Columbia Valley” Merlot for $40. It is a bargain when compared to the big boys in front of it. There were 8,100 cases made, so several shops still have some on the shelves. You will find it to be full-bodied, very well balanced, and smooth. Its flavor profile is a very ripe blackberry with notes of black licorice. I also detected hints of oak, black currant, and gentle minerality. This wine went well with my ribeye at Smith and Wollensky. This is also that second 2009 vintage Washington based Merlot to appear in our top 5 offerings. Bravo to Washington State!
Our next 92 pointer was just released. The 2012 Shafer Merlot form the Napa Valley is available for $50. This wine opens with a very inviting blueberry bouquet. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, nicely balanced, and smooth. I really liked its tasty blueberry flavors with notes of black plum. I also detected hints of oak, black licorice, and clove mixed in as well. I would pair this very nice Merlot with Theresa’s meatloaf.
We will start off our 91 pointers with the best value in this report. As a matter of fact, The 2010 Merriam Vineyards “Windacre” Merlot for $30 is a great deal. This “Windacre” Merlot is top notch and perhaps Merriam’s best Merlot that I can remember. The winemaker mixes in 25% Cabernet Sauvignon in this year’s wine which gives it very nice structure. The flavor profile is a tasty blueberry with nicely integrated mild oak and hints of blackberry and black pepper. It finishes dry and its medium dusty tannins are sticky and show very good length. This is a very good Merlot that I would also pair with Theresa’s Meatloaf. This one will disappear quickly given its price and that only 210 cases were made.
Our last 91 pointer comes from another high end Merlot producer. The 2011 Duckhorn “Three Palms Vineyard” Merlot costs $90 per bottle. You will find it to be medium-bodied, well balanced and quite smooth. It displays very pleasant black cherry flavors with hints of gentle oak, pomegranate, and a touch of black pepper. The finish is dry and its moderate tannins build up and linger for quite some time for a Merlot. I would decant this Merlot in the near term and serve it with a rib-eye steak with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed red beets.
Dry Creek Vineyard 2011 Merlot (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $25 (90)
This Merlot from Dry Creek was deemed one of the best value Merlots to come out of our big blind tasting. It is balanced and smooth. The panel really enjoyed its mild black cherry soda flavors with hints of cinnamon and faint plum. The panel suggested this would be a very good glass pour and a nice match with frutti di mare.
Merryvale 2012 Merlot “Starmont” (Carneros, CA) $27 (90)
This Merlot from Merryvale’s second label was one of your top performers in our 1st big blind tasting. It is medium-bodied, balanced, and smooth. The panel really liked its tasty black cherry flavors with notes of toasted oak and a touch of blueberry, plum and cola. It finishes with fine dry tannins that show decent length. The panel suggested pairing this very good Merlot with Moroccan lamb stew or filet mignon.
Reininger 2010 Merlot “Walla Walla” (Washington) $39 (90)
For our next Merlot, we return to the State of Washington. This wine is a classic, easy going Merlot. It’s nicely balanced and smooth. The flavor profile is a welcoming cherry and blueberry blend with hints of plum and vanilla oak. Its moderate tannins stick around, but don’t get in the way. Pair it with wild boar ragu over pappardelle.
Merryvale 2011 Merlot “Napa Valley” (California) $48 (90)
This big Merlot from Merryvale is a bit young and perhaps needs more time in the cellar and certainly gets better with some aeration. It is medium-bodied, balanced, bold and rich. Its flavor profile is mild black currant with a mixture of spice, oak, and gentle blackberry. The finish is pretty dry and its big tannins linger for quite some time. The panel suggested pairing this wine with Cajun tuna or fra diavalo.
Hunnicutt 2011 Merlot “Coombsville” (California) $48 (90)
This Merlot from Napa is medium-bodied, balanced, and easy to drink. Its flavor profile is ripe black raspberry with notes of currant, black pepper and a touch of oak. It finishes dry and its substantial tannins are big for a Merlot. I would swirl this wine a lot and serve with a well-marbled ribeye. Another option is to cellar it for about a year or two and see what develops.
Switchback 2010 Merlot “Peterson Family Vineyard” (Napa Valley, CA) $56 (90)
This Merlot from Napa Valley opens with a new leather and black cherry bouquet. It is medium-bodied, balanced, and savory. Its unique flavor profile is a mineral-infused black cherry with hints of oak, black licorice, and red currant. I found it to be food-friendly and I would pair it with beef bourguignon.
Our other Very Good Merlot recommendations:
Ferrari Carano 2011 Merlot “Sonoma County” (CA) $25 (89)
This Merlot is medium-bodied, balanced, and easy to drink. It features gentle black cherry flavors with notes of old vanilla oak and a touch of black currant and black pepper. Moderate sticky tannins are present. Pair with Italian Braciole.
Reininger 2010 Merlot “Helix Stillwater Creek Vineyard” (Columbia Valley, WA) $29 (89)
This second label from Reininger is smooth and easy going. It displays pleasant black cherry flavors with hints of coffee, spice, plum, and oak. The panel suggested pairing it with Hungarian goulash or barbecue burnt ends.
Thelema 2009 Merlot “Stellenbosch” (South Africa) $29 (89)
This Merlot from South Africa was well received by the panel. It is balanced and approachable. Its flavor profile is a black plum and cherry-vanilla blend with hints of blueberry and cedar. Its moderate tannins are rather sticky. The panel suggested pairing this Merlot with beef brisket, lamb chops or a mushroom risotto.
Grgich Hills 2010 Merlot “Napa Valley” (California) $42 (89)
This Merlot was described by the panel as an interesting wine. It was balanced and smooth. The flavor profile was a unique strawberry rhubarb with notes of blackberry, cinnamon, and cedar with a hint of bacon. Try it with bacon burgers or Kansas City style burnt ends.
Columbia Crest 2010 Merlot “H3″ (Horse Heaven Hills, WA) $15 (88)
One of the best values on the lis, this Merlot is medium-bodied, balanced, and very easy to enjoy. I enjoyed its tasty oak-infused black raspberry flavors with a hint of blackberry and touch of red currant. It’s a nice everyday offering that would pair perfectly with a juicy burger.
Lamoreaux Landing 2010 Merlot “Block 137″ (Finger Lakes, NY) $17 (88)
This Merlot from the Finger Lakes got the nod from the tasting panel. It is medium-bodied, balanced, and easy going. The panle liked its mild tart red plum flavors with hints of spice and mild oak. It finishes dry with moderate tannins that are sticky. The panel thought it would be a good match for a sausage and peppers hero.
Oyster Bay 2013 Merlot “Hawkes Bay” (New Zealand) $15 (87)
This Merlot from New Zealand is a good value wine to consider for everyday consumption. It is nicely balanced and easy to drink. It displays gentle black plum flavors with a touch of oak and hint of black cherry. This friendly Merlot is a very nice glass pour or wedding option. I would enjoy it with juicy Angus burger sliders.
I encourage readers to support this noble grape and bring it back to the forefront of wine consumption. I also encourage winemakers to produce very good affordable Merlot for all readers to consume. If you find a Merlot gem in your travels, please post it in the comments section for our readers to discover.
Cheers – Ken
It’s been a long, hot summer this year and we know you’re as excited as we are for the weather to cool down and for fall to roll in. This fall, don’t restrict yourself to your usual wine destinations, try something new and visit one of these wine country hotspots Touring & Tasting has hand-selected for your autumn getaway. What better time to embrace change then with the color of the leaves? So trade in the flip-flops & grab your favorite comfy sweater, because it’s time to fall back in love with the wine country.
The Meritage Collection
For many, fall means curling up by the fire at home and watching a marathon of your favorite TV show. While few things are better than hiding out on the living room couch, visiting the Meritage Collection is one of them. Any of the four outstanding resorts is sure to top your Netflix night by offering a luxurious home-away-from-home experience in some of the best wine country regions California has to offer. The Meritage Resort & Spa is located in the heart of Napa Valley, providing convenient access to the best of the Napa Valley wine country. The top of the line amenities and lavish suites will make it hard to leave the property. The Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara provides the ultimate villa retreat with a secluded resort complete with it’s own private beach, four restaurants, tasting room, and many more luxurious amenities. Balboa Bay Resort is the only full-service waterfront hotel in Newport Beach, and the ocean views, heated pools, and exclusive wine tasting experiences are just a few reasons they should be your next fall getaway. Finally, there is Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, a hacienda-style hotel that represents both elegance and the San Diego charm. Enjoy a wine education class, a unique tasting experience, or relax at their world famous spa. Whichever Meritage Collection destination you visit, you’ll surely fall in love with autumn in California wine country.
Loudoun County, VA is the epitome of autumn. Its picturesque rolling countryside with fire red & orange leaves are straight out of the calendar photo hanging on your refrigerator door. This fall plan to enjoy all that DC’s beautiful wine country is about beyond the photos. Within the seven historical towns there are several family farms and dozens of tasting rooms to visit, each with its own charm and ties to our national history. Enjoy a stroll through the beautiful untouched landscape, or become a part of the longstanding equestrian history by horseback riding on one of the many beautiful riding trails. Loudoun County is the place to unwind this fall season, go see for yourself!
J. Lohr Winery
The beginning of fall means its time to ring in the holiday season and spend time with our family and loved ones. J. Lohr winery has been putting family first since it’s establishment in 1974, and has continued to do so for over four decades of successful winemaking. What better place to bring your loved ones this fall than to a winery that loves its family just as much as what is in each glass? Taste the vibrant fruit forward flavors that make J. Lohr one of the most successful family operated wineries in North America.
van Löben Sels
Kristina and Jim have put their skills together to successfully resurrect their family’s original label and pay homage to the van Loben Sels legacy. Kristina’s expertise in winemaking paired with Jim’s exceptional vineyard knowledge form a deadly duo that is quickly taking the Washington wine industry by storm. Even with only three vintages, they have received praise right out of the gate for their complex and layered Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Watch the seasons change over the Spokane River as you enjoy their tasting room in the historic Cliff House Estate in Spokane, WA.
Paso Robles CAB Collective
The Paso Robles CAB Collective is a non-profit group of the region’s leading wine-growers and producers with a deep dedication to creating high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals that stand out on a global scale. The consistent climate and calcareous soils combined with the positive community farming spirit make Paso Robles the top destination for your next bold red wine tasting experience.
Buena Vista Winery
While every forty-niner was in search of gold during the mid 1800s, Agoston Haraszthy was in search of “purple-gold,” which every wine lover knows is easily the best form of currency. The purple-gold, or perfect terroir, was found in Sonoma, CA and Buena Vista Winery became the first premium winery, and thus launched the history of the California wine industry in 1857. Recently, their historic champagne cellars have been completely renovated and the famous wine caves have been re-opened to the public. This fall, visit the Historical California Landmark that is pouring delicious wines that have withstood the test of time.
Tourism Walla Walla
One of Washington’s five appellations, Walla Walla, is quickly becoming one of the state’s most prestigious wine regions. As one of the most remote and small wine regions in Washington, it offers a wine experience that goes far beyond simply tasting what is in your glass. The small town charm of Walla Walla allows for a wine adventure full of chatting with the winemakers, vintners, and family owners who are eager to share their passion and love for wine. The quaint downtown streets of Walla Walla are filled with antique shops, cafes, delicious restaurants, and of course numerous tasting rooms that are pouring the world-renowned wines that the region is famous for. Get lost in the comfort of Walla Walla, and see what makes this wine country so special this fall.
The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful geographic regions in Oregon and is home to Cathedral Ridge Winery. The region has been shaped over time to create the stunning landscape that exists today, and the various microclimates that exist within it provide winemakers with the opportunity to produce a vast portfolio of complex varietals that keep wine lovers on their toes. Playing with well-known red flavors such as black cherries, blackberries, dark plums, and many more, Cathedral Ridge wines are elegant and distinctive amongst critics nationwide. They have tasting rooms in both Dundee and the Columbia Gorge, and each provides the perfect tasting spot for some bold reds this autumn!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
Summer is the best time to enjoy Sauvignon Blanc. It is one of the most refreshing wines that I cover. It is perfect choice for hot days. In this post, I will highlight be best Sauvignon Blancs that I have discovered so far this summer.
We will start the post with a perennial favorite. The 2012 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley for $32 is a terrific Sauvignon Blanc. The panel awarded this wine 92 points. It was the clear winner in our first big blind tasting. Readers will find it to be full bodied, balanced, creamy, and rich. Its flavor profile is a tasty green melon with notes of banana and lemon. It finishes dry and its flavors last for quite some time. The panel felt this stellar Sauvignon Blanc would pair well with wild mushroom and chicken ravioli smothered with a light cream sauce.
We have two 91 pointers this year. Both are from the 2013 vintage. Both are from New Zealand. The first is the 2013 Saint Clair “Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block” Sauvignon Blanc for $27. This impressive offering opens with a very fragrant ripe yellow grapefruit bouquet with a hint of lime. On the palate it is juicy and shows nice mouth-coating acidity. I really liked its ripe yellow grapefruit flavors with notes of minerality and nectarine with a hint of lime. This is perfect wine to sip poolside. I would serve it with broiled scallops.
Next up is the very well-known 2013 Cloudy Bay from Marlborough in New Zealand. This wine is a nice investment for lovers of the grape that truly enjoy the classic New Zealand style. They made 44,000 cases of it, so it should be easy to find. I found this wine to be light bodied, nicely acidic and mouthwatering. It displays very tasty ripe grapefruit flavors with notes mild minerality. I also detected hints of lime and green apple. It went well with my grilled trout at Legal Sea Foods.
Our list of 90 pointers includes a few really good values under $20. We will start with the 2013 Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. This $10 was my favorite wine from their lineup. It opens with a very attractive and classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc bouquet. It is light bodied and shows very nice balance between its acidity and fruit. It has a very nice mouth presence. I really enjoyed its tasty grapefruit flavors with hints of lime and pineapple. I felt this Sauvignon Blanc is a steal at $10. It would pair well with grilled swordfish with a tropical fruit salsa.
Our next very good value Sauvignon Blanc is the 2012 Murphy Goode “The Fume” for $14. 48,000 cases of this terrific wine were made. It was by far the best value offering from our big blind tasting. It is medium bodied, mouthwatering and a touch acidic. The panel enjoyed its tasty mineral infused pear flavors with notes of pineapple and green apple. The finish is pleasantly dry and brief. The panel could envision this with grilled swordfish, broiled scallops or brie cheese.
Lovers of this grape have fully embraced the classic New Zealand styled of Sauvignon Blanc. The 2013 Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough for $18 puts that style on display. It is crisp, acidic and mouthwatering while displaying tasty tart grapefruit flavors with notes minerality, gooseberry, and Anjou pear. It finishes dry and its flavors and lingering acidity are nicely prolonged. Enjoy this beauty on a hot summer day by the pool.
Our next 90 pointer hails from Stellenbosch in South Africa. The 2012 Thelema Sauvignon Blanc for $20 opens with a fragrant lime and grapefruit like bouquet. It is light bodied, nicely acidic and crisp. The flavor profile is a mineral infused gentle grapefruit with notes of lime and hints of quinine and white pepper. In the end it is dry and refreshing. This wine is a perfect pool wine for a hot summer day. A second glass is a must. I would serve it with bacon wrapped scallops or oysters.
The Merriam 2013 “Danielle” Sauvignon Blanc for $20 adds 6% Semillon to the mix. It is light bodied, balanced, juicy and fruit forward. I enjoyed its ripe yellow grapefruit flavors with hints of orange and a touch of minerality. I would pair this tasty offering with broiled sea scallops.
The 2013 Peju Sauvignon Blanc from “Napa Valley” for $22 is a very nice offering. It is light bodied, acidic and crisp. I really enjoyed its pleasant mineral infused mild grapefruit flavors with hints of tangerine, pineapple and dash of white pepper. It has a long and dry finish. It’s a perfect wine to pair with swordfish kabobs of the grill.
The 2013 Frogs Leap Sauvignon Blanc for $22 is our first and only organic grape offering. It is light bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. I really enjoyed its tasty mild mineral infused Anjou pear flavors with hints of mild grapefruit and white pepper. I would pair it with swordfish skewers.
Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is consistently very good. Their 2013 vintage from Napa Valley is no exception. You will find it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic and citrusy. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused mild grapefruit with notes of green apple. I also detected hints of white pepper and Anjou pear. Another very nice summer wine. This one would pair nicely with a grilled chicken, bacon and spinach flatbread pizza.
Alysian is mainly known for its Chards and Pinots. That said their 2012 “Floodgate Vineyard North Face” Sauvignon Blanc for $25 was very nice. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. I enjoyed its mild mineral infused grapefruit flavors with hints of lime and green pepper. It finishes dry and its flavors and mild acidity lingers long after the wine is gone. It would be perfect with grilled swordfish.
The 2013 Merryvale Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley for $26 is a classy wine. You will find it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. It displays tasty mild grapefruit flavors with nicely integrated minerality and nectarine. Like the Alysian, this Sauvignon Blanc would pair well with grilled swordfish but I would top it off with a citrus salsa.
Our last 90 pointer is from Sancerre. The 2012 Vincent Delaporte 2012 “Chivignol” for $28 was one of our top performers in our first big blind tasting. The panel found it to be light bodied and mouthwatering. They described the flavor profile as a tart green apple with notes of grapefruit and hints of lime. It finishes dry and refreshing. The panel suggested pairing this tasty Sancerre with linguini with steamed mussels and a garlic broth or rosemary chicken.
The remainder to the report is our Very Good Sauvignon Blanc selections that scored 89 points and below. You will find some of the best values in this grouping.
2013 Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc “Winemaker’s Reserve” (California) $12 (89)
This California Sauvignon Blanc is a steal! It can be found online for under $10. The flavor profile is a mineral infused yellow grapefruit and green apple blend with notes of quinine and white pepper. It finishes dry and rather refreshing. I would serve it with bacon wrapped scallops or sesame chicken.
Kendall Jackson 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Avant” (California) $13 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc from KJ was a crowd pleaser. It light bodied, balanced and slightly crisp. We enjoyed its tasty and gentle grapefruit flavors with hints of minerality, green apple, lime, tangerine and a dash of white pepper. It is very friendly. I would pair it with scallops with spinach and orange-saffron sauce.
Ferrari Carano 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Fume Blanc” (Sonoma County, CA) $14 (89)
This Fume Blanc opens with a very fragrant grapefruit and gooseberry bouquet with a hint of pineapple. It is light bodied, crisp and lively and mouthwatering. It displays tasty grapefruit flavors with notes of minerality and hints of pineapple and peach pit. This wine would pair well with swordfish kabobs.
Fire Road 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Marlborough” (New Zealand) $14 (89)
This is very good value wine. It is nicely acidic and mouthwatering. It displays tart and ripe yellow grapefruit flavors with notes minerality and hints of white pepper and tangerine. Pair with popcorn shrimp.
Bayten 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Constantia, South Africa) $15 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc from Bayten is medium bodied, acidic and lively. The flavor profile is tart grapefruit with notes of lime, minerality, tangerine and hints of white pepper. Serve slightly chilled at the beach.
Santa Barbara Winery 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Santa Ynez Valley” (CA) $16 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc is interesting because it has a little oak mixed in. It displays green melon and Anjou pear flavors with notes of minerality with a touch of light oak and mild pineapple. Pair with chicken piccata!
Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Dry Creek Valley” (California) $18 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, acidic and mouthwatering. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused yellow grapefruit with notes nectarine and Anjou pear. It finishes dry and refreshing. Pair with seared scallops.
Kim Crawford 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) $19 (89)
This popular Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is light bodied, slightly acidic, mouthwatering and lively. The flavor profile is a classic tart grapefruit with notes of minerality and lime. Serve as an opener with appetizers.
Handley 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Anderson Valley” (CA) $18 (89)
This wine opens with a very fragrant tropical fruit like bouquet. It displays pineapple and green apple flavors with notes of tart yellow grapefruit, peach pit and a hint of lime. Pair with coconut shrimp and mango sauce.
Atalon 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Napa Valley” (CA) $20 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc is light bodied, slightly acidic, delicate and easy to drink. The flavor profile is a mild pear with hints of melon and green apple. The panel suggested pairing with grilled rainbow trout or steamed mussels.
Amayna 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Leyda Valley” (Chile) $25 (89)
Our first Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is medium bodied, balanced and easy to drink. It displays mild mineral infused gentle tangerine flavors with hints of white pepper and faint lime. Pair well with broiled scallops.
Grgich Hills 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Fume Blanc” (Napa Valley, CA) $30 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc from Grgich is light bodied, tangy and crisp. I liked its tart yellow grapefruit flavors with notes of green apple and hints of pineapple and quinine. Serve on a hot summer day with swordfish skewers.
Joseph Phelps 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “St. Helena” (CA) $35 (89)
This Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc is light to medium bodied and slightly acidic. It displays apple flavors with hints of Nilla wafer and a touch of lemon and honey. The panel suggested serving with mushroom and shrimp risotto.
Starborough 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Marlborough” (New Zealand) $11 (88)
This is a very good value offering. It is light bodied and nicely balanced between its fruit and gentle acidity. You will find a nice blend of gooseberry and grapefruit with hints of minerality, white pepper and lime. Pair with Thai food.
Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Fume Blanc” (Dry Creek, CA) $14 (88)
This Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek is light bodied, acidic and crisp. Its flavor profile is tart grapefruit with notes of minerality and hints of lime and tangerine. This wine would pair well steamed mussels.
Cono Sur 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Reserva Especial” (Casablanca Valley, Chile) $15 (88)
This Sauvignon Blanc from Chile is for fans of wines that love green peppers. It is light bodied, crisp and acidic. It displays pleasant green pepper flavors with hints of peas and minerality. Pair with chicken cacciatore.
Oberon 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Napa Valley” (CA) $18 (88)
Our last 88 pointer is light bodied, acidic and crisp. Its flavor profile is mineral infused lime with hints of gooseberry and green apple. It finishes dry and its acidity and flavors linger. A perfect chilled beach option.
Kendall Jackson 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Vintner’s Reserve” (CA) $13 (87)
This 87 point Sauvignon Blanc is a good value wine. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. It has mild mineral infused tangerine and lime flavors with hints of pineapple. A quaffer for a hot summer day!
I hope you enjoy these Sauvignon Blancs as much as we did. Enjoy the rest of you summer and please share with the group your favorites! Cheers – Ken
Getting tired of the same summer routine? Switch it up with some out-of-the-box adventures and activities that will take the “average” right out of your summer vocabulary. You may be trying to cool off from the hot weather, but don’t look any further than Touring & Tasting’s summer wine country bucket list to add some heat to your next getaway! How many things can you check off before the leaves turn brown and autumn rolls in?
Where to Lay your Head
Accommodations to Watch
1. Spend an entire day in a robe and slippers at Wine & Roses
The name says it all. Between wine and romance, this destination provides guests with an experience that is perfectly rustic and luxurious. The quiet and secluded setting makes the perfect retreat and escape from day to day life, all while still being located in the heart of the Lodi wine country, which is rich with activities and opportunities to spend your day. If you’d rather stay on property during your visit, the award-winning spa, luscious gardens, and delicious restaurant are sure to keep you busy!
2. Cook a homemade dinner and enjoy it by the fireplace at Villa Terra Nova
If you’re looking for a more private vacation destination, Villa Terra Nova in Sonoma County is the perfect place for you to hide out this summer. The luxurious villa and two-bedroom guesthouse can accommodate up to 12 people, and encompass everything you’ve imagined in a fairytale dream house. With 3 acres of enchanting gardens, stone fireplace, a professionally equipped kitchen, and spacious bathrooms, it is guaranteed to be the romantic getaway you’ve been waiting for, and will be your new home away from home in beautiful Sonoma wine country.
Where to Taste
Wineries to Watch
3. Have a picnic at Buttonwood Farm Winery
The owners of Buttonwood are dedicated to preserving and nurturing the land they have been blessed with, and their efforts in sustainable farming as well as maintaining high quality wines are everywhere. From the flowers on the table, to the fresh produce, to the wine in your glass, everything at Buttonwood property is fresh, organic, and grown right on property—try their peaches!
4. Taste a glass (or two) of delicious sparkling wines from Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
For over 100 years, the Ferrers have been sticking to their Spanish roots and producing a portfolio of wines that any true veteran would be proud of. Although famous for their delicious Pinot Noirs, Gloria Ferrer Vineyards is also pouring other unique varietals. Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine is defined by their commitment to Pinot Noir with more than nine sparkling wines. Gloria Ferrer uses a gentle hand when carefully preserving each grape’s unique capacity for reflecting terroir with patience in the methode champenoise. This special care has awarded Gloria Ferrer more than 400 gold medals in the last five years.
Where to Explore
Places to Watch
5. Eat fresh seafood and explore the beach towns of San Luis Obispo County
With over 280 wineries and endless opportunities for exploration along the 80 miles of beautiful California coastline, having your cake and eating it too in San Luis Obispo County is more than possible. Spend the day soaking up the sun and friendly beach vibes in Pismo Beach or Avila Beach, or perhaps hop over to Morro Bay, your one stop destination for water sports and ocean-side adventure.
6. Go on a hike, then reward yourself with a glass of wine in Woodinville Wine Country
Just 30 minutes outside of the bustling Seattle city life, amazing Woodinville has been able to maintain its small town charm, making it the perfect oasis for your next summer vacation. Woodinville is home to over 100 tasting rooms and wineries, and encompasses all the Washington wine country has to offer. After a glass of wine, take a stroll down one of the many trails, relax by the river, enjoy the plentiful land flourishing in fresh produce and lavender, or sit back and listen to some live music. Whatever you decide, Woodinville is sure to meet all of your summer relaxation needs!
7. Watch the winemaking process in action while tasting in the Woodinville Warehouse District
If you find yourself in Woodinville wine country, this is a must-see destination. The old industrial area of Woodinville has been transformed into the new urban hot spot for avid wine-seekers, complete with 55 tasting rooms and a unique atmosphere that visitors can’t get enough of. Taste a flight right in the heart of all the madness of the wine making world, and get a front row seat to how that magical concoction made it into your glass as you watch the winemaking process from start to finish being completed right there in the same room!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
The summer is an ideal time to pull out your dry Roses. I prefer to enjoy them at cellar temperature. (58 degrees) You might like them even chilled a bit more. Either way, the best ones are a terrific option to consider on a hot summer day. Dry Roses are also perfect for the lighter foods you are likely to enjoy near the pool or on the beach. I have covered several options for you to consider. Most are well priced and affordable. So we will start with a 92 pointer from Tablas Creek. The 2013 “Dianthus” for $27 is made from 57% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache and 15% Counoise. It definitely was the one of the best dry Roses that I have covered in a while. On the palate, you will find it to be medium bodied, very nicely balanced and super polished. The flavor profile is a tasty mild mineral infused clementine and gentle strawberry blend with a splash of pilsner beer in the background. It finishes dry and its flavors fade away nicely. You will find this to be a terrific summer quaffer and would pair nicely with a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich.
The next two Roses were awarded 91 points. We will start with the Donelan 2013 Rose for $20. This gem is made from 70% Grenache, 16% Pinot Noir and 14% Syrah. In addition to being a very classy wine, this offering also wins the best looking bottle award. This Rose is medium bodied, balanced and very elegant. It displays tasty mild strawberry and gentle red cherry flavors with hints of oak and watermelon. It finishes dry and gracefully drifts away. If you are looking for a Rose wine that will impress someone, look no further. This one will do the trick. Serve it with light foods.
The 2013 Benovia “Rose of Pinot Noir” for $24 is very good. It opens with a faint red cherry and strawberry bouquet. I found it to be nicely balanced and very smooth. The flavor profile is a tasty mild tangerine with hints of red raspberry. I also detected some gentle minerality and spice mixed in as well. This Rose is very food friendly and like the “Dianthus” would pair well with grilled mahi-mahi.
The next four Roses all scored 90 points. We will start with the 2013 Left Coast Cellars “Rose of Pinot Noir” for $18. This very affordable wine is salmon colored and opens with a fragrant and appealing strawberry bouquet with hints of red cherry and a whiff of pilsner beer. I found it to be light to medium bodied and smooth as silk. It was very easy to quaff. Its flavor profile was a mild strawberry and gentle cherry blend with hints of minerality. Pour it at the beach with friends or serve it with a flaky white fish.
The next 90 point winner is the 2013 J Vineyards “Vin Gris” for $20. This gem is light pink colored and opens with an inviting mild strawberry and gentle wet stone bouquet. This offering is medium bodied and displays nice gentle acidity. It has tasty mild mineral infused and gentle strawberry flavors with hints of watermelon. It finishes dry and its flavors fade away nicely. This Rose is very food friendly and would pair well with many foods. I would pair it with chicken satay.
Blackbird consistently makes very good wines. Their 2013 “Arriviste” Rose from the Napa Valley is no exception and as it was very easy to enjoy. It is made from 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot & 20% Cabernet Franc. It displays tasty strawberry and mild mineral flavors with faint hints of raspberry. I found it to be food friendly. It would pair very well with grilled rainbow trout.
Our last 90 pointer is from Cakebread Cellars. Their 2013 “Vin de Porche” for $25 is made from 86% Pinot Noir with 14% Syrah mixed in. This offering is medium bodied, slightly acidic, lush and really fills your mouth. I enjoyed its mineral infused sweet ripe strawberry flavors with hints of green apple. This dry rose is rather food friendly and would pair well with fried calamari or popcorn shrimp.
Our only 89 pointer is from Andrew Murray. It is a true quaffer. His 2013 “Esperance Rose” for $20 opens with a pleasant strawberry and mild wet stone bouquet. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. The flavor profile is a mild mineral infused red cherry with a hint of clementine. It finishes dry and very refreshing. I would serve it slightly chilled on very hot day. With food, I would choose broiled scallops.
The next set of Roses are our 88 pointers. These are all Very Good and some are really good values. We will do a quick description of each.
Charles Smith 2012 Rose “Charles & Charles” (Columbia Valley, WA) $12
This light pink dry rose is made mostly with Syrah. It is light bodied, balanced and savory. It displays mineral infused strawberry flavors with hints plum and Anjou pear. It’s dry and refreshing. Serve it chilled at the beach.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 “Pinot Noir Dry Rose” (Finger Lakes, NY) $13
This Finger Lakes based Rose from Dr. Frank is made from Pinot Noir. It is slightly acidic and juicy. Its flavor profile is a tangy clementine and strawberry blend with notes of spice and nicely integrated minerality. I also picked up hints of maraschino cherry in the background. I would pair it with steamed mussels.
Las Rocas 2013 Rose “Calatayud” (Spain) $14
This dark pink Rose is made from 100% Grenache. It is light bodied, lively and crisp. Its flavor profile is a mild mineral infused strawberry with hints of red cherry and watermelon. It’s a perfect beach quaffer to be served chilled.
Kanonkop 2013 “Pinotage Rose” (Stellenbosch, South Africa) $15
This dark pink colored wine from South Africa is made from the Pinotage grape. It is medium bodied and easy going. It displays mild mineral infused gentle strawberry flavors with hints of red raspberry. Serve it slightly chilled with bacon wrapped scallops.
Navarro 2013 Rose “Mendocino” (California) $18
This light salmon colored wine is medium bodied and mouthwatering. It displays mineral infused strawberry flavors with hints of red apple and cherry. This is a very nice quaffer for your party on the beach this summer.
Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Rose “Petite Zin” (Dry Creek, CA) $19
This dark strawberry colored wine is made from Zinfandel and Petite Sirah and is very unique. It is slightly acidic and mouthwatering. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused red raspberry and red plum blend with hints of watermelon. This quaffer should be served slightly chilled with bacon wrapped grilled shrimp.
Isabel Mondavi 2013 “Deep Rose” (Napa Valley, California) $20
This Rose is made from mostly Cabernet. It is light to medium bodied, balanced, and easy to drink. I enjoyed its gentle orange and strawberry flavors. It is food friendly. Serve it slightly chilled and with grilled mahi-mahi.
Handley 2013 “Pinot Noir Rose” (Anderson Valley, CA) $22
This dark pink colored wine made from Pinot Noir is light bodied, slightly acidic and has a round mouthfeel. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused strawberry with notes of watermelon. Perfect for salmon kabobs.
The final two are affordable Good Value Roses. Both received 86 point scores.
Barefoot NV “Refresh Perfectly Pink” (California) $8
This light pink colored wine actually has bubbles. It is light to medium bodied, balanced and pleasant. It is slightly sweet with mild red raspberry flavors and hints of cherry and gentle minerality. It’s refreshing!
Artadi 2013 “Artazuri Rosado” (Navarra, Spain) $11
This dark pink colored wine is crisp and displays refreshing acidity. It displays mild mineral infused strawberry flavors with notes of watermelon and a hint of red cherry. It is dry and refreshing. Serve chilled on the beach.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in our busy schedules, and often times we find ourselves staring at the clock, wishing we had some superpower to fast-forward through the workday. While we may not be Superman, we do have wine, which is pretty close. Summer is the absolute perfect time to kick back, relax, and sip on a refreshing glass of your favorite wine. This summer, leave the front porch and try something new by visiting one of the many incredible wine country destinations California has to offer. Sifting through them can be challenging, we know, but Touring & Tasting is your one stop tour guide to showing you the best new relaxation spots this summer. If you’re feeling burnt-out from your exhausting daily routine, don’t wait another minute to plan your getaway! The weather isn’t the only thing heating up this time of year…here is our list of hot wine country finds!
Madera Wine Trail
Since the 1800’s Madera County has been one of the largest premium wine grape-producing counties in California, and over 200 years later, it remains one of California’s best-kept secrets. It’s combination of fertile soil, close proximity to Yosemite National Park, and countless opportunities for exploring in the nearby area make it an irresistible destination for your next summer getaway. While Madera County has typically been praised for their dessert and port wines, they’re no one hit wonder. Over the years, wineries have been gaining recognition and received awards for a variety of different wines. Wine is just the cherry on top to all that this stunning region has to offer. Find your inner adventurer as you hike through the famous trails in Yosemite, or perhaps through the scenic Sierra National Forest. Throw a line out at Bass Lake, or simply spend the day floating on the glassy water. Whatever you decide, it is sure to be an unforgettable summer adventure.
Skinner Vineyards is maintaining a 150-year family legacy by producing Rhone-inspired wines with a California twist. Their location in the Sierra Foothills allows for exciting experimentation with various elevations and soil types that produce unique and diverse wines, which are loved for their complexity. This summer, sip on one of these exciting wines as you enjoy the picturesque steep vineyard and mountainous landscape from the 360-degree views from the tasting room. Invite friends to share stories on the spacious outdoor patio, or plan your trip around one of the many food, wine. and music events they hold throughout the year!
Westerly Wines is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, and sources its fruit from both Crown Point Vineyard and Santa Rita Hills. Westerly Wines are both reflect and inspired by the diversity of Santa Barbara Country, and its winemaker is constantly striving for perfection and improvement, with the current intention of producing a single-vineyard 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Join winemaker Adam Henkel for a friendly and personal tour of the winery, taste the latest samples, and learn about the bright future ahead of Westerly Wines as you explore the beautiful property.
Bodega Bay Lodge
Just 30 minutes away from the bountiful wine regions of Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys, Bodega Bay Lodge is every wine lover’s perfect pairing to their summer weekend getaway. With eight acres of stunning oceanfront property, Bodega Bay Lodge has something to offer everyone. Treat yourself with a massage or facial during day at the spa, or blow off some steam in the state-of-the-art workout facility. Satisfy your cravings with a five star dining experience at The Duck Club restaurant, and savor in the coastal cuisine from which it got its fame as you admire the stunning ocean views. Wind-down after a long day in the luxurious rooms that will make any guest immediately feel at home.
Trinchero Napa Valley
Trinchero Napa Valley Winery has been producing fine small lot wines since 1948, and is known for its success in crafting single vineyard wines. The vineyards sites may be small, but the wines pack a big punch in flavor, each with its own unique taste and distinct terrior. Winemaker Mario Montecelli carefully selects every detail and ingredient that makes his wines unique, and he is eager to share his exceptional wine knowledge with his visitors. If you are looking for something more than a traditional tasting in the quaint remodeled farmhouse, join in on one of their daily seminars that offer in-depth and personal insight into Trinchero Winery, or enjoy a sit down tasting in the cellar room paired with cheeses that have been handpicked by culinary experts.
Michael David Winery
We’ve all been told not to judge a book by its cover, but with Michael David’s visually stimulating labels, this is hardly the case. Feel free to pick up one of their wines purely by the eye-catching appearance, because what’s inside will not let you down. Enjoy a glass of their well-known “7 Deadly Sins” blended from seven different Old Vine Zinfandel vineyards, or try one of their other non-traditional blends. Visitors are invited to picnic on the beautiful pet-friendly property, or they may choose to savor in the fresh ingredients served daily at their restaurant. The names aren’t the only thing catching on at Michael David winery, plan your next summer weekend in Lodi and see for yourself!
Located just 30 minutes outside of the bustling and vibrant San Francisco is the quiet oasis of Tri-Valley. It is composed of 5 cities, (Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon), each bringing something unique to the table while all still maintaining the same small town charm that Tri-Valley is known and loved for. This beloved region stretches it’s way into the 50+ wineries of Livermore Valley, offering a personal tasting experience that visitors enjoy far beyond what is in their glass. Tri-Valley is anything but boring, providing a plethora of activities to choose from including 17 golf courses, beautiful hiking and cycling trails , horseback riding in Sunol, and so much more. Whether you want a quick escape from a stay in the city, or a whole weekend solely to enjoy it’s friendly vibes, Tri-Valley will instantly become your home away from home.
Charles Krug Winery
Charles Krug Winery is the oldest winery in Napa Valley. However, this winery has learned far more than just a few new tricks, using its experience and unbelievable property to evolve and grow with the ever-changing wine industry. While maintaining their legacy with their well-known classically restrained wines and authenticity, they have put a modern twist to the family business with a newly remodeled winery, and a sustainable 3-acre culinary garden that services the Culinary Institute of America. Next time you are in Napa Valley, indulge yourself in the rich history while sipping of one of their classic wines in the Redwood Cellar Lounge. Or perhaps, take your wine to go and enjoy a picnic on property instead.
LangeTwins Family Winery
The LangeTwins, Randall and Brad Lange, are part of a long-running generation of farmers that have been practicing sustainable farming since the 1870’s. They have been recognized for their countless efforts towards protecting our ecosystem, and also for their delicious wines. With the guidance and expertise of winemaker David Akiyosh, formerly of Robert Mondavi Winery, the LangeTwins Family Winery produces an impressive compilation of estate, reserve, and single-barrel wines. Visit the Press Room, LangeTwins Winery’s new sleek tasting room, for a private tour and tasting, but be sure to make an appointment in advance to ensure your chance to experience all they have to offer.
HammerSky Vineyards & Inn
HammerSky Vineyards & Inn is quite possibly the most enchanting stop off of the winding roads of Paso Robles. The century old farmhouse and barn brings a vintage and rustic feel that pairs beautifully with the modern tasting room that is serving some of the most innovative and intriguing blends found in the Paso Robles region. HammerSky is able to offer visitors more than the traditional winery experience by inviting them to stay the night on property in the charming farmhouse and barn. The remarkable landscape makes HammerSky the perfect location for a quite weekend getaway, and especially for intimate weddings and family gatherings. Whatever the occasion, HammerSky will take your breath away with its beauty and charm.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
As we approach summer, I’m starting to think more about grilling. When it comes to grilling, I think about Zin’s and barbecue sauce. Whether its ribs or steak tips, Zin goes great with both. We purposely cover Zins in the winter so we have them all reviewed and posted before grilling season.
Our top Zin comes from one of the famous “R’s” in Zinfandel. The 2011 Ravenswood “Barricia” Zinfandel from the Sonoma Valley is $35 a bottle. I awarded it 92 points. It is made from 75% Zinfandel along with 25% Petite Sirah. On the palate, I found this wine to be balanced, fruit forward and juicy. I really enjoyed its ripe boysenberry flavors with notes of blackberry. I also detected hints of vanilla, oak, wintergreen, and black cherry which really added to its complexity. It finishes dry and its fruit flavors and mild tannins linger for quite some time. Slowly cook up some beef brisket and enjoy!
Our next Zin was a new discovery for me at this year’s Boston Wine Expo. It is just becoming available nationwide and is a steal for just under $20.We gave the 2012 Upstream Zinfandel from Lodi, 91 points. This Zin is not your classic fruit bomb. Instead it is more like a rich blue fruited Syrah styled wine. We loved its very smooth and silky texture on the palate. It displays tasty blueberry flavors with hints of black cherry and a touch of oak and licorice. It finishes dry and its moderate tannins stick around and linger for quite some time. You can pair this Zin with a well-marbled ribeye steak off the grill.
The next three 91 pointers are more expensive, but worthy of your investment. We start with the 2011 Hunnicutt Zinfandel from the Napa Valley. It is 100% Zinfandel and it delivers a full bodied style that is fruit forward, lush and smooth. I really liked its tasty ripe blueberry flavors with notes of boysenberry jam and a touch of plum, pepper and mild oak towards the end. This is a really good drinking Zin. Enjoy it with a filet mignon.
Next up is the 2010 Bella “Rocky Ridge Vineyard” Zinfandel for $45. This pitch black colored gem opens with fragrant blackberry jam bouquet with hints of red currant, pomegranate, and oak. On the palate, it is medium bodied, slightly acidic and fruit forward. It displays a ripe blackberry flavors with hints of black currant, anise, and dried cranberry. This Zin would pair well with grilled salmon.
Our final 91 pointer is another entry from Ravenswood. Their 2011 “Old Hill” Zin from the Sonoma Valley is very good and will appeal to traditional Zin fans. It displays a classic style in that it is medium bodied, very juicy and fruit forward. The flavor profile is an oak infused blackberry with notes of black raspberry. I also detected some minerality, cola and plum. It finishes dry and its fruit flavors last for quite some time. I would pair beauty with barbecue bourbon steak tips off the grill.
Now we have six 90 pointers that I want to tell you about. We will start off with a wine that the tasting panel purchased in bulk after our first Big Blind tasting. The 2010 Murphy Goode “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel for $21 was deemed the best value Zin by our panel. It opens with an inviting blackberry jam and black licorice like bouquet with hints of cherry-cola. The panel described it as medium bodied, slightly acidic and fruit forward with tasty red currant flavors. They also detected notes of oak, red plum, cinnamon and cherry-cola. This is a full blown fruit bomb styled Zin. The panel suggested pairing it with a king cut prime rib.
The next two offerings are both from Ravenswood. (They had a stellar year in 2011) The first is the 2011 “Big River” Zinfandel from the Alexander Valley. This wine is medium bodied, balanced and juicy with ripe red plum flavors with hints of black raspberry, peppermint, coffee, and milk chocolate. A very interesting combination indeed. The next Ravenswood Zin is their 2011 “Dickerson” from Napa Valley. This Zin is acidic and juicy with a flavor profile that is a blend of pomegranate and blackberry. I also detected hints of oak, minerality, and dried cranberry as well. The finish is dry and its fruit flavors linger for quite a while. I would pair both of these Zin’s with braised short ribs. They both cost $35 a bottle.
Peachy Canyon makes the list with their 2011 “Mustard Springs” Zinfandel for $38. This very good wine opens with a fragrant and attractive black cherry and boysenberry like bouquet. On the palate, it is medium bodied, balanced, and savory. The panel really liked its tasty blueberry and cherry vanilla flavors with hints of cinnamon, clove and plum. It finishes dry and its moderate tannins fade away nicely. The panel felt that this Zin would pair nicely with Colorado lamb chops.
Bella’s second entry was well received by the tasting panel. The 2010 Zinfandel “Lily Hill Estate” for $40 is full bodied, fruit forward, and juicy. They enjoyed its very tasty red plum flavors while also picking up notes of rhubarb and black cherry and a hint of cinnamon as well. A second glass is definitely in order declared one taster. They suggested pairing this tasty Zin with a wild boar Bolognese over penne or pan roasted duck breast.
Our final 90 pointer was from a new winery for me. The Dutcher’s Crossing 2012 Zin from the famous “Maple Vineyard” in the Dry Creek Valley was impressive. The panel was mostly impressed by its tasty blueberry flavors with hints of red berries and a dash of black pepper. They suggested pairing this food friendly Zin with filet mignon.
We will close this report with some quick hits on our Very Good 89 and 88 pointers.
Alexander Valley Vineyards 2011 Zinfandel “Sin Zin” (Alexander Valley, CA) $20 (89)
This Zin is balanced and very easy to drink. The flavor profile is blackberry with notes of black pepper, spice, oak, and blueberry. It finishes dry and its dusty tannins stick around for a little while. While this Zin is not overly complex, it is food friendly. We suggest pairing it with a mushroom burger with cheddar cheese.
Ravenswood 2011 Zinfandel “Teldeschi” (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $35 (89)
This Zin is full bodied, acidic and energetic. The flavor profile is an unusual blend of blackberry and cola with hints of oak, pomegranate, and black pepper. The panel suggested pairing this Zin with short ribs.
Dashe 2010 Zinfandel “Todd Brothers Ranch” (Alexander Valley, CA) $35 (89)
This Zin is medium bodied, balanced, and easy going. Its flavor profile is a tasty mild blackberry with hints of black cherry, blueberry and oak. The panel suggested pairing this wine with a roast leg of lamb.
Ridge 2011 Zinfandel “Lytton Springs” (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $38 (89)
This Zin is medium bodied, slightly acidic, and mouthwatering. It displays mild red raspberry flavors with hints of spicy plum and pomegranate. I also detected a touch of oak in the background. This Zin blend is very food friendly. The panel suggested pairing it with slow cooked beef brisket or lamb stew.
Rancho Zabaco 2012 Zinfandel “Sonoma Heritage Vines” (Sonoma County, CA) $15 (88)
This Zin is likely one of the best deals in this report and likely the easiest wine to find. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic, juicy and very fruity. The flavor profile is a blend of ripe red plum with hints of cranberry, red currant and a touch of oak. It would be perfect for braised short ribs.
Edmeades 2011 Zinfandel “Mendocino” (CA) $20 (88)
This Zinfandel based blend from Mendocino is another good value option. It is medium bodied, acidic and approachable. The panel liked its gentle plum flavors with hints of cherry-cola and touch of oak. The panel unanimously thought this would be a perfect Zin to have with your favorite wood-grilled pizza.
Duckhorn 2012 Zinfandel “Decoy” (Sonoma Coast, CA) $20 (88)
This Zin from Duckhorn is medium bodied, balanced, approachable and fruit forward. Its flavor profile is a ripe red raspberry with hints of red plum and gentle oak. I would pair this fruity Zin with some slow cooked beef brisket.
Dashe 2011 Zinfandel “Dry Creek Valley” (CA) $24 (88)
This Zin is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. The flavor profile is a gentle raspberry and tart cherry blend with hints of minerality and faint old oak. This Zinfandel would pair well with a barbecue bacon burger.
I hope you enjoy this group of Zinfandels as much as we did. I am sure these wines will enhance your grilling season and make your guests smile a lot at your summer outings. Please feel free to share your favorite Zins with the group.
Cheers – Ken
Spring is in bloom for April and May flowers. It’s absolutely the perfect time to go visit the vineyards, wine taste under the warm sun, and experience the best of what wineries offer. However, it’s always tough to pick out specific wine country locations. Here is a quick rundown of some of our favorite places and what makes them special.
V. Sattui Winery In 1885, Vittorio Sattui opened a small winery in San Francisco’s North Beach, marking the birth of an Italian tradition in Napa Valley. After four generations, V. Sattui celebrates more than 125 years of winemaking excellence.
Inside Tip: V. Sattui provides a delightful Italian Deli & Marketplace, featuring more than 200 cheeses, meats, breads, and Italian-style delicacies.
Wines: More than 70% of V. Sattui wines are sourced from the winery’s estate vineyards. These acclaimed V. Sattui wines can only be found at the winery, by phone, or through their website.
St. Clement Vineyards Even though the estate was built in 1878, St. Clement’s history began in 1976, when William Casey, a local ophthalmologist, bought the house and built a 10,000-case stone winery in the backyard.
Inside Tip: Architecture buffs and lovers of great wines who visit St. Clement’s main tasting room appreciate the meticulously restored building. The St. Clement name was a tribute to William Casey’s ancestors, who helped found Maryland. The cross on the St. Clement logo is found on the Maryland state flag.
Wines: St. Clement Vineyards has built long-term relationships with some of the best winegrowers in the Napa Valley and continue to build on its legacy of highly respected wines produced in small quantities.
HammerSky Vineyards A strikingly beautiful century-old farmhouse distinguishes HammerSky Vineyards. The pictorial property was tastefully enhanced to be a working winery and inn at HammerSky. The restored farmhouse inn boasts casual elegance, and is often described as the Scarlet O’Hara/Great Gatsby House dating back to 1904.
Inside Tip: HammerSky Vineyards is pouring some of the most intriguing wines found in Paso Robles. Vineyard owners, Doug and Kim Hauck, have moved away from red Rhône wines in favor of Bordeaux-centric, small lot, handcrafted wines.
Wines: The wines range from a 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, called Naughty Princess, to a pungent Merlot, to the fabulous Party of Four red blend, and a wine club exclusive: an ultra-dark and aromatic Cabernet Sauvignon. The portfolio rounds out with a stunning Zinfandel boasting the big, ripe, rich characteristics common to Paso Robles.
Heritage Wine Trail This four-winery itinerary was designed for visitors to the Napa Valley who want to see it all but don’t know where to begin or end. Start in Carneros at Acacia Vineyard, grab your pre-ordered gourmet lunch at Oakville Grocery, drive on to Beaulieu Vineyard, then Provenance Vineyards, and your last stop is at Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga.
Inside tip: Each winery (they’re all top-tier) treats you like a VIP with special tours and tastings. No stop is alike. All you have to do is make a reservation in advance. And it’s just $99 per person!
Wines: The wines are as varied as the wineries themselves—but they’re all among Napa Valley’s best.
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Valeriano Jacuzzi planted a portion of grapes to his open farm fields during the depression and gained a license to make wine for home consumption in 1936. Today, the winery is a beautiful replica of a rustic Italian stone farmhouse in northern Italian Fruili region, inspired by Valeriano’s grandson owner Fred Cline.
Inside Tip: The Jacuzzi Family Vineyards also produces a wonderful lot of olive oil on-site at The Olive Press. Next door in Sonoma County is Cline Cellars, the Jacuzzi vineyards’ sister.
Wines: Jacuzzi Family Vineyards specialize in unusual Italian varietals like Lagrein, Nero d’Avola and Montepulciano, and familiar favorites like Sangiovese, Barbera, Primitivo and more.
Cache Creek Vineyards Bill “Poppo” Van Pelt founded the vineyard in 1997 after he was greeted by a majestic herd of Tule elk when he first set foot on the land. As Poppo cultivated the land and planted his vineyards, he made it his mission to maintain a flourishing environment for the elk and other wildlife.
Inside Tip: Visitors can gather to listen to the running creek and watch for wildlife animals as they sip a glass of award-winning Cache Creek wines. The tasting room also offers local honey, cheeses, picnic supplies, and more.
Wines: Currently, Cache Creek Vineyards produces four varietals- Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Chardonnay. The 2009 Reserve Chardonnay recently won a Double Gold Medal at the 6th Annual American Fine Wine Competition. Cache Creek is opening a new tasting room this spring.
Castello di Amorosa Inspired by Dario Sattui’s Italian heritage, Castello di Amorosa is modeled after an authentic medieval castle. Dario studied architecture for 30 years before he created the 121,000-square-foot fortress, which took 14 years to build, stone by stone.
Inside Tip: The Castello has 107 rooms, 95 of which are used for winemaking and wine storage. Reminiscent of Old World castles, the Castello features a drawbridge and moat, a dungeon and torture chamber, secret passageways, courtyards, loggias, a church, horse stables, and a 12,000-square-foot wine barrel room.
Wines: Italian style wines with unique touring options for all.
J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines Jerry Lohr was among the first pioneers on the Central Coast of California to realize the vast, untapped potential of this now-acclaimed region with the establishment of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines.
Inside Tip: J. Lohr established wine centers in both San Jose and Paso Robles—two great places for lovers of California wine to visit.
Wines: J. Lohr offers diverse tiers of award-winning wines, ranging from wines inspired by the classic Bordeux blends to limited-production wines highlighting the terroir of the most esteemed vineyard parcels to a series of Rhône-inspired wines and select varietals.
Stags Leap Winery The old stone Manor House was built in 1892 by the Chase Family, who named the estate Stags’ Leap. There are many stories of a speakeasy, bootleggers, gangsters, movie stars, ghosts, and gypsies when the Manor House served as one of the Napa Valley’s most prominent country retreats.
Inside Tip: Guests will enjoy an enchanting, intimate 90-minute historical tour and tasting that pairs Stags’ Leap’s legendary history with its handcrafted wines through advanced appointments.
Wines: The soils in this “valley within a valley” are diverse, yet mainly fall under two categories: volcanic, and gravely clay loam. Both soil types are coarse and retain little water, yielding intense fruit and rich wines that show remarkable finesse and intensity.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
California wine country has a history that dates back to the late 1800s and the founding of its first missions. Through the subsequent years, countless individuals and families have made their contributions to the land. Their vineyards and towns have flourished, and so has the lore. With the help of Touring & Tasting, we’ve collected some great wine country stories to share with you.
Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma
This historic winery, located just five minutes from Sonoma’s downtown plaza square was first established in 1857 by Count Agoston Haraszthy. The “Count of Buena Vista” is often referred to as the Father of California Viticulture—for many good reasons. He is credited with creating California’s first gravity flow winery, digging the area’s first wine caves, and importing more than 300 different varieties of barrels from Europe. When you visit Buena Vista’s Historic Press House today, you can take a History and Wine Tour with a guide dressed as a historic figure with many fascinating tales to tell.
Villa San-Juliette, Paso Robles
The story of this stunning winery began in Hollywood when childhood friends and top television producers Ken Warwick and Nigel Lythgoe (American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance) decided to purchase a winery. They interviewed 100 winemakers and settled on Matt Ortman who oversaw the construction of a fabulous new winery last year. Villa San-Juliette offers vista views, seated tastings, fun wine events, occasional A-list parties, and a great list of wines.
Trinchero Napa Valley, St. Helena
Named for its founder, Mario Trinchero, Trinchero Napa Valley has a fascinating story to tell about Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s told in the tasting room with A Taste of Terroir, a horizontal line-up of four of the winery’s single-vineyard Cabernets from St. Helena, Rutherford, Atlas Peak, and Mt. Veeder. By examining the aromas and flavors of these wines side-by-side, guests can detect the differences in these valleys. Daily seminars allow you to dig even deeper.
Demetria Estate, Los Olivos
In Greek Mythology, Demetria is the goddess of the harvest. So it’s quite fitting that John and Sandra Zahoudanis chose the name for their winery, which they started to uphold John’s Greek heritage and the couple’s love of the land. The winery was one of the first in Santa Barbara wine country to use Biodynamic farming practices. Each wine tells a story of the land, the planets, and the moon. Winemaker Harry Waye crafts two distinctive portfolios: Rhône varietals from the estate and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from nearby Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley. The storybook winery is tucked at the end of a long winding road overlooking Foxen Canyon. Well worth the drive!
Villa Terra Nova, Sonoma
This enchanting vacation 5,300-square-foot home is a place where new stories are made. It’s just a short drive from historic Sonoma Plaza, countless wineries, and restaurants. Picture spending the day wine tasting then stopping at the local Farmers’ Market for fresh produce before you head for this splendid home. A massive, professionally equipped kitchen awaits, along with beautiful dining areas both inside and out. Cook together, or rely on Villa Terra Nova’s private concierge service to arrange for an onsite chef. With five bedrooms and a two-bedroom guesthouse, this luxurious property accommodates up to a dozen guests. Ideal for family get-togethers and reunions.
Harney Lane Winery, Lodi
It seems that most Lodi wineries have a multigenerational family to tell, and this one is no exception. Jorja Lerner, a member of the family’s fifth generation, and her husband Kyle are calling most of the shots these days, but the fourth and sixth generations do their part too. They manage every aspect from vineyard, to bottle, to consumer, and amazingly, they still find time to sit by their outdoor fire pit from time to time and enjoy their garden. And their wines, which consistently stand out at the major competitions.
Rancho Caymus Inn, Rutherford
The historic land where Rancho Caymus Inn now stands was once awarded to George C. Yount as part of the Napa Valley’s first land grant. More recently, it was purchased by the Komes family in 1991 and transformed into an elegant retreat in the heart of Rutherford Bench country. Here, each and every suite has a story to tell. Each is named for a pioneer in the Napa Valley, like Robert Lewis Stevenson and Black Bart. Guests can read about them as they settle into their well-appointed accommodations, with dozens of world famous wineries nearby.
If you believe that art tells a visual story, you should know about Peju. This fabulous boutique Napa Valley winery is dedicated to beautiful architecture, art, and wines. Housed in a unique 50-foot tower building, the winery features a manicured garden with enchanting sculptures and fountains. It has been named Top Artisan Winery of the Year by Wine & Spirits Magazine and a Top California Cabernet Producer by Wine Spectator. Family owned and family run, Peju is a feast for the eyes and palate.
Michael David Winery, Lodi
Seven generations strong, Michael David Winery produces premium quality wines with eye-catching labels and great stories behind them. But you couldn’t guess this as you pull up to the winery, located at the southwestern edge of the Lodi appellation. The Michael David tasting room is housed in the Phillips family’s 40-year-old roadside fruit stand. They still sell produce picked in the family’s fields. Plus there’s a great café serving farm-style breakfasts, lunches, and legendary pies. It’s a great place to swap tales and discover some very good wines.
Firmly grounded in the heart of Sonoma County for 30 years, the story of Kendall-Jackson has always been the tale of a family. Winemaker Jess Jackson began the first chapter with a bang: the 1982 Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve. The vintage sold out in a matter of weeks and went on to win the American Wine Competition’s first-ever Double Platinum award. But despite all the accolades, the real story here is about family and the time-honored principles of hard work, quality, and hospitality. A visit to the winery feels more like a visit to the home of a friend who encourages you to walk through the kitchen and check out the garden. The vibe is unhurried and utterly genuine.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine. Cheers – Ken
I get a lot of requests for affordable Cabernet Sauvignon selections all the time. So I thought it would be a time good to do a quick post highlighting the best value Cabs that I found this fall and winter. We will start with the 2010 Joseph Carr “Napa Valley” Cabernet Sauvignon for $19. We scored this wine 92 points. That said, this impressive Napa Cabernet likely almost gone. There are a few prominent online retailers that still have this gem. Be sure to order this one soon. It is medium to full bodied, balanced, and displays tasty blueberry and ripe plum flavors with notes of nicely integrated mild vanilla oak. This Cab would pair perfectly with a New York strip steak. Buy it up before it disappears.
The next two gems both scored 90 points. The 2010 Kilikanoon “Killerman’s Run” Cabernet Sauvignon for $20 is a very good wine. It hails from South Australia. It is medium bodied, nicely balanced, and very juicy. The flavor profile is a juicy blackberry with notes of spice, black currant, and black licorice. There is also some nicely integrated oak intertwined throughout. I would suggest pairing this Cab with Kerrygold Dubliner cheese and stone wheat thin crackers by the fireplace.
The 2011 Don and Sons “B Side” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa for $25 was a very pleasant wine. It is medium bodied, balanced, and very smooth. The flavor profile is a tasty blueberry with hints of black cherry, minerality and boysenberry. Its finish is dry and its moderate tannins stick around for quite some time. This Cab is very food friendly and would pair well with beef bourguignon.
Our 89 point recommendation is the 2010 d’Arenberg “The High Trellis” Cabernet Sauvignon from the McLaren Vale in Australia. It’s a very nice Cabernet for the money. ($20) On the palate, this wine is a fruit bomb and is loaded with ripe black fruit flavors. Those flavors are a blend of blackberry and black currant with hints of mild oak, black plum, and gentle minerality that is nicely integrated in the background. It closes with its flavors and dry moderate tannins stick around in your mouth for a little while. This Cab is foods friendly and would pair well with a juicy Angus bacon burger with sautéed mushrooms.
We will close with four 88 pointers.
2011 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon “H3″ (Horse Heaven Hills, WA) $15
This Cab is medium bodied, balanced and easy to drink. The flavor profile is a pleasant black cherry with hints of oak and red licorice. This is a very good everyday Cab. It would pair well with a Five Guys bacon cheese burger.
2010 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma County” (CA) $16
This Cabernet from Rodney Strong would make a nice by the glass option. It opens with an inviting bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced, not overly complex, but very easy to drink. I enjoyed its mild oak infused black cherry flavors with hints of minerality and a touch of black currant. This is a very nice everyday Cab that would pair well brick oven pizza.
2011 Kendall Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon “Vintners Reserve” (Sonoma County, CA) $19
This Cabernet from KJ is medium bodied, balanced and easy going. The flavor profile is a gentle plum with hints of mild oak, minerality and a touch vanilla. The finish is dry and its moderate tannins stick around for quite some time after it is gone. This friendly Cab would pair well with juicy Kobe burger.
2011 Penley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon “Phoenix” (Coonawarra, Australia) $20
This Cabernet is medium bodied, balanced, juicy and easy to drink. Its flavor profile is a mild plum with hints of black cherry and a touch of oak and acai berry. This Aussie Cab is very easy to drink and a very good everyday red. Pair it with an Angus burger with sautéed mushrooms.
I hope you enjoy these Cabs as much as I did! If you know of other great Value Cab’s please share with the group and post a comment. Cheers – Ken!
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