Category Archives: California

Lupa Pinot Noir Dinner

Recently got together with friends to enjoy Pinot Noir at Lupa in San Francisco. It was a very informal get together. While most of our palates lean toward Burgundy, looked forward to visiting some California Pinot Noir. The star of the night was Calera, where the top two wines of the evening came from this exceptional producer. What made this dinner stand out more than others unfortunately was the unusually high number of flawed bottles!

All wines were served pop and pour, no decanting. Brief notes follow and are sorted by flight in order of personal preference.

White Flight – While the wine theme was basically Pinot Noir, it is rare for us not to start with a few white wines. The 2007 Sheldon was a pleasant, easy drinking Chardonnay. It leaned more toward a candied, sweet, butter style Chardonnay, not crisp and can easily be enjoyed young. Sadly, the 2006 Marcassin Three Sisters Chardonnay was badly corked.

2007 Sheldon Chardonnay
2006 Marcassin Three Sisters Chardonnay

Aged Pinot Noir Starter – The 1987 Calera Pinot was easily my wine of the night. A perfectly aged, perfectly balanced wine. Nuanced raspberry and underbrush, it showed surprisingly youthful. Have had numerous Calera Jensen over the years, and the style is highly consistent. Had this been served blind, would never have guessed 1987!

1987 Calera Jensen Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir Flight 1 -Prior to the dinner, had a little fun with this flight. Noticed a Robert Parker note on two of them, that the 2000 Peter Michael Moulin Rouge “. . . reveals a La Tache-like perfume of . . . ” and the 2000 Kistler Vineyard Pinot “. . . is a Comte de Vogue Musigny-like effort . . . ” At the tasting, they were no where near a La Tache or Vogue Musigny! The Peter Michael had a high alcohol, ethyl acetate nose, clipped finish, nothing really thrilling going on and the Kistler, our second corked wine! To make matters worse, the Swan was disjointed, with notable VA. That left the clear top wine of the flight, a 2000 Calera Reed. Stemy, blue fruits, and wonderful balance, thought it the second best wine of the night.

2000 Calera Reed Pinot Noir
2000 Swan Trenton Pinot Noir
2000 Peter Michael Moulin Rouge Pinot Noir
2000 Kistler Vineyard Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir Flight 2 – Both the Williams Seylem Westside and Rochioli showed well in this flight, the William Seylem, more chewy and sweet, the Rochioli brighter cherry with very good balance. Each was enjoyable and aging well, no rush to open. Sadly, the Williams Seylem Allen was another flawed wine, ethyl acetate.

2003 Williams Seylem Westside Pinot Noir
2002 Rochioli West Block Pinot Noir
2003 Williams Seylem Allen Pinot Noir

Have never attended a dinner, where near the end of the evening, 50% of the wines opened were flawed for one reason or another! Fortunate for us, our good friend Eric Lundblad of Ladd Cellars joined us with two delightful Pinots to the end the evening, a 2008 Ladd Cellars Abigail Pinot Noir and 2008 Ladd Cellars Russian River Pinot Noir. Hopefully the track record of flawed wines this night, does not repeat itself in the future!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Double Blind Bungalow 44 Wine Dinner

This past week, got together with friends at Bungalow 44 in Mill Valley for a Double Blind Wine Dinner. With the exception of the organizer, we knew it would be California and French wines, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Typically not a fan of blind or double blind dinners, this one turned out to be very well organized, interesting and educational. The discussion was fun, guessing the specific wines, years, and regions. In the course of the tasting, found it fascinating how different we each perceived the quality of one wine other another.

Brief notes follow of all wines opened. Within each flight, wines are sorted in order of personal preference, prior to reveal.

Flight 1 – Chardonnay

2005 Rochioli Rachael’s Vineyard – A lovely flinty, sulfur nose that immediately suggested it was a Burgundy A fat, full bodied, creamy sweet palate pointed to California. In the end, guessed it as a Burgundy. Rarely encounter this fantastic flinty nose on a California wine, and guessed our organizer might try to challenge us with a White Burg with California qualities. Thought it was a highly complex gorgeous wine.

2005 Remi Jobard Meursault Genevrieres – Leaner in style, lemon citrus, youthful and tart, a nice firm wine with a touch of cardboard and astringency, but improved considerably with time in the glass. It came across like a 2009 Ceritas Ritchie Chardonnay, a California producer wine made in a Burgundian style. Guessing from this point forward became far easier, went with original instincts!

Flight 2 – Pinot Noir

2003 Kistler Cuvee Catherine – Initially, it was very primary and youthful, it quickly came together. Dry raspberry fruit, in time becoming lightly candied, it kept putting on weight over time. The mouthfeel was full and coating, without being excessive. Overall, it was a highly age worthy and highly complex, the top wine of the flight.

1996 Maillard Corton Renards – At first, thought it was a rather simple wine with light blue fruits and not a lot else going on, with time in the glass however, made a complete turn around. Subtle sweet cake like and barnyard notes, intertwined with blue and black fruits made this highly interesting.

1997 Joseph Swan Trenton Estate Pentagon Reserve – Picked up more cherry fruit in this wine, more concentrated and ripe than the Corton Renards, also, more notable funk. This was a very interesting wine, and enjoyed it a great deal.

2003 Vincent Girardin Charmes Chambertin – Initially liked this wine, twigs and barnyard, easy drinking. In time, became funky, bretty, and vanilla, it seems to have lost the initial qualities that made it interesting. Do not think this one will age particularly well, my least favorite wine of the tasting.

Flight 3 – Cabernet Sauvignon

2000 Lynch Bages – Dusty, Pichon Lalande like, highly age worthy and complex. This was my top wine of the flight and tasting, a complete Bordeaux that had everything in place. Have had this wine at least 5 or 6 times now, and find it highly consistent.

1989 Montrose – Gamey, foxy, earthy, young, sweaty, animal and exotic. Similar to the Lynch Bages, had this wine numerous times, and this specific example showed more youthful than previous times tasted. A fantastic wine, the second best wine of the tasting.

2001 Bond Melbury – Cherry liquor, bright, thick and full bodied, initially thought it was a Shafer Hillside, but then it took on some vanilla qualities, which I never associated with the Hillside Select. Definitely a wine to drink with a big steak, it was huge!

1992 Ridge Monte Bello – Chalky, aged, mineral, sweet, a little simple at first, nuanced and complex later. Really enjoyed this wine, and was more inclined to think it was a younger French wine over an older California. This flight as a whole showed better than the previous two.

Bonus Wines

1991 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet – A wonderful end of meal wine, black fruits, compact, complex, and balanced, had everything that reminded me why I love 1991 California Cabernet.

2009 Oro Puro Vineyards Late Harvest – Thought this was the best Oro Puro I have ever tasted. Bright peach, clean, full bodied, mouth coating, with wonderful balance. Think this will turn out to be one of their most age worthy wines!

Overall, this was a fantastic dinner, and like all good dinners, it ended in planning the next one, tentatively scheduled to be Rhone! Cheers to a great evening!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Wine and Spirits Top 100 Tasting

This past week, we attended the eighth annual Wine and Spirits Top 100 Tasting at City View at Metreon in San Francisco. It is the first time we have attended this particular tasting. The location was excellent for a wine event. Champagne, Sparkling Wines and whites were served on the outside patio, red wines on the inside. The tasting had the feel of a fun cocktail party with nice small bites from local restaurants circulating the room. It was a delightful, well executed event that was a lot of fun to attend.

No tasting notes were taken during the event, only some brief obversations. Wines are sorted in order of personal preference by group. If a wine is not listed, we either did not taste it, or did not find it particularing appealing to our personal palate.

Champagnes / Sparking Wines – The Bollinger Rose was arguably the best wine of the tasting, absolutely beautiful, well balanced and complex, it outshined all other wines tasted within this group. Notable, but not listed were the NV wines, in particular the Bollinger Brut Special Cuvee and Louis Roederer Brut Premier, both enjoyable. Find that the NV Louis Roederer Champagnes often show better than Cristal, which it did in this case. The 2002 Dom Perignon showed very young, would cellar for years before opening.

2002 Bollinger La Grande Annee Rose
2002 Dom Perignon
1997 Iron Horse Green Valley Blanc de Blancs Joy
1998 Gramona Brut Cellar Batile
2006 Gramona Brut Imperial Gran Reserva
2004 Louis Roederer Cristal

White Wines -The Domaine Leflaive was easily our favorite white wine, lovely reductive flinty quality consistent with the wine, and producer! New to Philippe Colin, was highly impressed with both their wines, plenty of mineral, earth, and citrus. They were delicate wines with subtle qualities that were just delightful. Several other producers were new to us, will track over the next few years to see how consistent they are over time.

2008 Domaine Leflaive Pucelles
2009 Philippe Colin Chevalier Montrachet
2008 Tardieu-Laurent CdP Blanc
2009 Robert Weil Kiedrich Grafenberg Auslese
2009 Guigal Condrieu La Doriane
2008 Tardieu-Laurent Saint Peray
2004 La Castellada Collio Sauvignon
2006 La Castellada Ribolla Gialla
2009 Bouchard Meursault Genevrieres
2009 Jadot Puligny Montrachet Les Combettes
2009 Bouchard Chevalier Montrachet La Cabotte
2009 Philippe Colin Chassagne Montrachet Les Chaumes
2008 JJ Prum Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett
2009 C. von Schubert Grunhauser Trocken

Red Wines – Our top wine of this group was easily the Jadot Chapelle Chambertin. The opposite of a fruit bomb, it was restrained, elegant, yet quite approachable given its youth. Stylistically different, also enjoyed the Bond Pluribus. Typically lean toward the Vecina in the Bond lineup, in this case, found the Pluribus superior. It was a big wine, but in no way one dimensional. 2007 Napa Cabernets continue to show very well.

2006 Jadot Chapelle Chambertin
2007 Bond Pluribus
2007 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace
2007 Bond Vecina
2007 Diamond Creek Volcanic
2009 Ant Hill Farms Campbell Ranch Pinot
2008 Cristom Sommers Reserve Pinot
2009 Bergstrom Dundee Hills Bergstrom Pinot
2008 WillaKenzie Estate Yamhill Carlton Pierre Leon Pinot
2008 Cristom Mt Jefferson Pinot
2006 Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili
2005 Ceretto Barolo Brunate
2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards South Block Pinot

Were the wines tasted the Top 100 in the world? Of course not! Were there plenty of very good drinking wines? Absolutely! Cheers to a very good tasting put on by Wine & Spirits!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Fifth Floor Burg Dinner

Being part of a really good wine tasting group has to be one of the great joys of a fine wine collector! You enjoy numerous nice meals, share a variety of interesting wines, and enjoy the company of folks with a similar passion! We got together recently with just such a group. It initiated in Santa Rosa, and has since moved the majority of its tastings to San Francisco. The tasting group is made up of an experienced, sauvy group of well tasted individuals, thoughtful and generous with both their wine and knowledge. The group held its most recent tasting at a fantastic restaurant called the Fifth Floor at the Hotel Palomar. The meal has to rank among one of the best ones we have had this year!

As with previous times tasting with the group, we had a highly interesting selection of wines focused on Burgundy varietals. Very brief notes were taken, and wines sorted in order of personal preference by flight:

Flight 1 – Two champagnes completely new to us, thought the Selosse the superior of the two wines. Awesome balance, nutty, crisp, floral and fragrant. Tasted over the span of an hour plus, kept improving in the glass. The Collin was very nice, a lighter, smooth, easy drinking Champagne. Both proved to be an awesome start to the meal.

Jacques Selosse Initial
Ulysse Collin Extra Brut

Flight 2 – Very excited to see this flight. A previous tasting of the 2000 Dauvissat was one of the best Chablis experiences we have had in a few years, an awesome wine. Unfortunately, this particular bottle showed mature, and in time, took on an oxidative note. Sadly, it did not show well. In contrast, the Raveneau showed extremely well. Lemon and lime citrus, smoke, oak, with a saline quality that made it an outstanding wine!

2000 Raveneau Foret
2000 Dauvissat La Forest

Flight 3 – First time having had a Ponsot Monts Luisants, was impressed by the youth and flintiness of the 1988 in contrast to the young orange citrus and exotic tropical fruits of the 2006. Both wines were outstanding. The 1979 was dry, parafin, and smokey. Showing no signs of oxidation. The separation of which wine showed best in this flight was so close as to be a tossup.

1988 Ponsot Monts Luisants
2006 Ponsot Monts Luisants
1979 Union des Cooperatives Vinicoles de Bourgogne Pouilly Fuisse

Flight 4 – The Corton Charlemagne was a standout in this flight of mostly California. Steely, tight, youthful, nice minerality and a slight reductive quality. Uncharacteristic to its style, was a very nice 2007 Kongsgaard Judge. Tight, slightly sweet and well balanced, slowly put on weight as it sat in the glass. The Peter Michael was true to its style, sweet, floral, cotton candy, powerful with no signs of oxidation. Was disappointed in the Scholium Project, funky, butterscotch, beginning signs of oxidation, it did not show well.

2004 Alex Gambal Corton Charlemagne
2007 Kongsgaard Judge
2001 Peter Michael Point Rouge
2002 Scholium Project

Flight 5 – Moving on to the reds, we started with a lovely bottle of aged Richebourg, sweaty, gamey, nice balance and complexity in a mature ready to go wine. The Clos du Roi was floral and tart, and the Bressandes, raspberry, stems, animal, and slightly oxidized. Just an ok flight overall, had higher expectations.

1979 Laboure Roi Richebourg
1988 Merode Corton Clos du Roi
1982 Merode Corton Bressandes

Flight 6 – The Santenots was a beautiful wine, expresso, mint, clean dark fruits, the top wine of the flight. Interesting, the Lafarge was sweaty saddle leather and somewhat oxidized. Finally, the Clos des Ducs was young and tight. During the tasting, the acid came across as disproportionately high in this wine, to the point of it being a flaw. There was some mixed reaction concerning the acidity on this specific wine.

1988 Jacques Thevenot Machal Volnay Santenots
1998 Michel Lafarge Volnay Clos des Chenes
1998 d’Angerville Volnay Clos des Ducs

Flight 7 – The final flight of the evening and 17 wines later, did not take notes on the final 4 wines. Or at least, did not take legible notes! Recollect however that the aged California Pinot showed far better than the more modern Pinots. Recall a more old school style in both of the aged wines. Having had the 2002 Marcassin Estate Pinot in the past, and highly impressed with the quality, was completely surprised how poorly it showed. The provenance would have been excellent knowing the source, however it showed disjointed and highly disappointing.

1991 Joseph Swan Pinot Noir
1993 Mount Eden Pinot Noir
2002 Rochioli Pinot Noir, Little Hill
2002 Marcassin Estate Pinot Noir

Cheers to a wonderful meal at Fifth Floor with a delightful group of local wine friends!
Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Commonwealth Dinner

A local wine tasting group we are part of recently got together in San Francisco for dinner at Commonweath restaurant. The food was spectacular, and included Black River Ossetra Caviar, Salmon Tartare, Corn Custard Lobster, Veel Cheeks and a few enjoyable desserts. A highly recommended restaurant in the Bay Area!

Wine for the dinner was focused on Burgundy varietals from the United States and France. While nearly all wines were enjoyable, the standout was a bottle of 1945 Beaulieu Vineyards Beaumont Pinot Noir. It was remarkable how youthful the wine looked and tasted. The label said Pinot Noir, but suspect the wine included Gamay, Petite Sirah, or other varietals. Suspicion aside as to the exact varietal makeup, it was an outstanding wine. Brief observations follow of all wine opened.

Champagne Starter – The Krug was extremely young, firm acidity with hardwood, orange citrus fruits and a pleasant yeasty component. Could continue to age this gorgeous wine for a significant period of time. In contrast, the Bollinger RD was far more mature and a little funky. Tending to prefer Champagne on the younger side, did not show as well for my particular palate.

1990 Bollinger RD
1996 Krug

Flight 1 – The Leflaive was fully mature and resolved, in a sweet spot right now. Was interesting to taste next to the Williams Seylem, the color of which was significantly browning, yet showed surprisingly well, sweet, floral and butterscotch on the palate. The Bouchard was very young and tight, could easily continue to age this excellent wine for years. As a whole, loved the flight. At this point, a Ceritas Chardonnay was opened. Had it been served blind, would have guessed a Chablis! Plenty of Oyster shell, steely, and firm acidity, an age worthy wine.

1998 Domaine Leflaive Pucelles
1998 Williams Seylem Hirsch Chardonnay
2002 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne
2009 Ceritas Ritchie Chardonnay

Flight 2 – The wine of the night, was absolutely surprised by the 45 BV Beaumont Pinot. Expected this to be a wildcard wine, probably dry leather, light mineral, and light fruit or perhaps just oxidized and long past maturity, it tasted youthful, structured, full bodied and highly complex, with earth, minerals and an abundance of well integrated dark fruits. The 67 Burgundy was more strawberry, stemy, soy, a cool, clean enjoyable wine. Sadly, the 79 was completely oxidized and undrinkable.

1945 Beaulieu Vineyards Beaumont Pinot Noir
1967 Beaulieu Vineyards Burgundy
1979 Beaulieu Vineyards Burgundy

Flight 3 – All three wines in this flight were excellent. The Bonnes Mares showed blue fruits in contrast to the raspberry fruits in the Cazetiers, and in contrast to both, the Clos Vougeot was leathery and dry. Given the age on the Clos Vougeot, it was a vibrant wine that maintained some subtle sweet ripe fruit.

1964 Jadot Clos Vougeot
1985 Bouree Gevery Cazetiers
1999 Jadot Bonnes Mares

Flight 4 – The Chalone was the youngest tasting wine in this flight, huge tart jammy raspberry fruit, showed superior to a previous time having had the wine. The 99 Calera had the best balance of the group with subtle all spice and steminess. Sadly, thought the 97 Calera was a little disjointed and astringent, it never quite came together. A mystery wine, the 05 Yarra Yering was guessed early on as Australian, big ripe fruit wine from a solid producer.

1980 Chalone Pinot Noir
1997 Calera Mills Pinot Noir
1999 Calera Jensen Pinot Noir
2005 Yarra Yering Pinot Noir

Collectively, the wines for this dinner were very impressive and paired with equally impressive food. Along with delightful company, it was a highly enjoyable wine dinner!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Louis Martini Cabernet Lunch

This past weekend, got together with friends at our place in Sonoma to enjoy steaks and fresh fish from Bryan’s Fine Foods, along with a vertical of Louis Martini Cabernet spanning the 1950’s to the 1980’s. It was a real treat to taste the progression from an excellent California Cabernet producer with a long history in the Napa Valley.

While the vast majority of wines opened were excellent condition, it should be noted that all corks pulled on the 1958 through 1978 were short and the majority, not particularly tight fitting. It is strongly advised when sourcing old Martini to purchase with as high a fill level as possible. Suggest buying minimum base neck fills, anything lower may be ok, but risk increases. Another noteworthy point when purchasing this wine, the 1969 through 1978 bottles opened all had plastic capsules. It was not possible to press down on the cork to access condition.

Brief notes follow of all wines opened. The only wine decanted was the 1966, the rest were pop and pour. Wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Starter Sparkling Wine

1998 Thomas Fogarty Late Disgorged Blanc De Blanc – Yeasty, mango, some oxidation, a medium bodied wine with a mature golden color and some funk on the finish. Found the wine more a curiosity than anything to kick off the lunch.

Starter White Wine

1995 Peter Michael Belle Cote Chardonnay – Firm acid grip on the finish with a distinct honey nose. Initially thought the wine had turned and was disjointed, but got surprising better the longer it sat in the glass.

1950’s Louis Martini Cabernet

1958 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – An exceptional wine! Some bricking, a medium bodied wine with earth, mint, leather, tobacco, and forest floor, all combined with a hint of structure that carried the wine over several hours. Top wine of the tasting!

1960’s Louis Martini Cabernet

1966 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – Sweeter fruit and far more youthful than the 58, restrained, yet showed some nice spice and balance, thought this was a close tie as wine of the flight, but for very different reasons. No rush to open, will continue to age well.

1968 Louis Martini California Mountain Lot No. 1 Special Selection Cabernet – An interesting white pepper Zinfandel like spice, cognac, with bigger, more rounded full bodied fruit. A complete, rustic wine that showed very well, and more mature than the 66.

1969 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – Distinct raspberry fruit, good structure, earthy and subdued. The wine was excellent. Along with the 66 and 68 Special Selection, the 60’s flight as a whole showed far superior to all other flights.

1968 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – Advanced and immediate signs of oxidation. Showed some promise early on and thought there might be a chance it would improve, but sadly, it quickly went downhill. Thought it was an off bottle.

1970’s Louis Martini Cabernet

1973 Louis Martini California Mountain Cabernet – A clean, nice drinking wine, stewed red fruit, fresh cut grass, notable acidity and good balance. Thought this was easily wine of the flight. Second time tasting this wine, showed consistent.

1978 Louis Martini La Loma Napa Valley Cabernet – Tight, closed and green, took a while to open up, once it did, took on a slightly richer liquor quality. If recalled correctly, this vineyard was replanted in the early to mid 1970’s.

1975 Louis Martini California Cabernet – Grassy, not a lot else going on in this wine, it improved slightly in time, but overall, just an ok effort. Expected a lot more from the 70’s flight as a whole, it was overshadowed by the 60’s.

1980’s Louis Martini Cabernet

1985 Louis Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet – The best wine of the flight, also showed the most youthful. Noted almost a barrel sample like quality, a medium body, and slight notes of mint. Thought the wine showed very well and highly enjoyable with time in the glass.

1987 Louis Martini Sonoma County Cabernet – Grassy, somewhat vegetal, green and one dimensional. Did not find the wine particularly enjoyable or appealing. Generally speaking, really enjoy 1987 California Cabernet, but this one was a disappointment.

1986 Louis Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet – More substantial fruit than the 87, but an oxidized component that was distracting and unpleasant. Another really good California Cabernet vintage, thought this was an off bottle.

Finisher Wine

1975 Freemark Abbey York Creek Petite Sirah – Deep purple in color, huge blueberry fruit. One dimension, but gorgeous one dimensional fruit that works for the wine. Served blind, could easily have misidentified it as much younger. Showed surprisingly similar to a lovely 1969 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah tasted some time ago.

Note Taking Wine

1993 Louis Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet – After quite a few wines among eight people in attendance, we never got around to trying Louis Martini Cabernet from the 1990’s to present, so opened one the day after as a reference point. Immediately on opening, noted a pleasant sweet chocolate nose. On the palate, a wine far more extracted and jammy than anything tasting prior, big raspberry fruit dominates the wine. After about two hours, it started to finally balance out, yet remained full bodied. Overall thought it was a delightful wine, though a significant departure from all other wines tasted at this lunch.

Cheers to Louis Martini Cabernet!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Taste of Oakville 2011

The Oakville Winegrowers put on one of the better tastings of the year in Napa Valley when they hold their annual Taste of Oakville. We attended the tasting recently at Robert Mondavi Winery. It was a great opportunity to try current release Cabernets from the Oakville region, and in our case, heavily influences what we purchase in the coming years.

Overall, thought the 2008 vintage wines showed well based on the wines tasted. A vast majority were relatively easy to drink, and for the most part will be enjoyable young. Thought the wines had far more in common with the 2006 vintage, than 2007. When comparing 2007 and 2008 wines, continue to prefer the structure, balance and elegance of 2007 over the riper, more approachable 2008s.
The top wine of the tasting was a beautiful 1994 Dalla Valle Maya. An oustanding wine, it was elegant, earthy, lead pencil, tannic and dusty, with plenty of dark black fruits. Our second favorite wine was the 2007 Harlan Estate Cabernet. It had deep, dark cherry notes, bell pepper, an inky texture, and mint on finish. With some age, should be equally outstanding.
Group 1 – Top Wines

1994 Dalla Valle Maya
2008 Dalla Valle Cabernet
2007 Harlan Estate Cabernet
2008 Screaming Eagle
2007 Swanson Alexis Cabernet

Group 2 – Very Good Wines
2007 Bond Vecina
2006 Bond St. Eden
2008 Dalla Valle Collina
2008 Far Niente Estate Cabernet
2008 Futo Estate Cabernet
2008 Gargiulo Money Road Cabernet
2009 Harbison Estate Cabernet
2008 Nickel and Nickel Blending Iron Cabernet
2008 Nickel and Nickel Rock Cairn Cabernet
2008 Nickel and Nickel Kelham Cabernet
2007 Opus One
2007 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet
2007 Saddleback Cellars Oakville Barrel Select Cabernet
2008 Textbook Mise en Place Cabernet
Group 3 – Enjoyable Wines
2008 Flora Springs Holy Smoke Vineyard Cabernet
2008 Gargiulo OVX Cabernet
2007 Gargiulo OVX Cabernet
2008 Ghost Block Estate Cabernet
2007 Groth Reserve Cabernet
2008 Nickel and Nickel Tench Cabernet
2008 Nickel and Nickel John C. Sullenger Cabernet
2008 Oakville East Exposure Cabernet
2007 Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet
If a wine was not listed, either we did not taste the wine, or in the case of 12 wines, did not find it particularly appealing. Most of the 12 will be revisited again in the future. In a few cases, they were newer producers to us. In other cases, ones we have tried in the past, had a favorable opinion, and did not find the wine appealing in this vintage. For wines Santa Rosa Fine Wine purchases, tend to establish a tasting track record over several years.
Cheers to Robert Mondavi Winery and the Oakville Winegrowers for putting on another very enjoyable tasting!
Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

Aged California Dinner in Santa Rosa

A group of local friends and winemakers got together at Starks Steakhouse in Santa Rosa recently to enjoy an evening of aged California wine. Have been looking forward to this dinner for some time. There is something very special about 30 to 40 year old wines that continue to evolve nicely, and in the case of this dinner, taste surprisingly youthful!

Pictured at top was a really nice 1969 Hanzell Pinot Noir. Found the Pinot Noirs as a whole showed bigger, brighter, and more youthful fruit than the more toned down style of Cabernets. Brief notes follow of all wines opened, and are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Champagne Starter – A lovely start to the evening, the Vilmart Champagne served from Magnum was exceptional. Honey, crisp, and mildly sweet tropical fruits, thought it a compelling wine that kept improving over the span of the evening. It was a young wine that will continue to improve with age.

1997 Vilmart Champagne Couer de Cuvee Magnum

White Wine Starters – Before moving onto Pinot Noir, opened a few white starter wines. The Marcassin was outstanding and youthful. Noted oyster shell, some sweetness and smoke, butterscotch, but in no way oxidized, as well as flint that reminded me of a younger white burgundy. The wine was young, and will continue to age well for some time. In contrast, the Pinot Blanc was creamy with a fat mid palate and short finish. Thought it was slightly advanced.
1997 Marcassin Vineyard Chardonnay
1992 Chalone Estate Pinot Blanc
California Pinot Noir Flight 1 – The two 1969 Pinot Noirs had youthful colors and were both high quality wines. The Hanzell was more raspberry fruit, cleaner, deep and lightly candied, while the Chalone was more grassy and cherry. With some nice menthol and spice, it put on considerable weight in time. Both wines were beautiful!
1969 Hanzell Pinot Noir
1969 Chalone Pinot Noir magnum
California Pinot Noir Flight 2– The 1979 La Crema was the cleaner wine, elegant, spice, good acidity, well rounded. In contrast, the 1977 Chalone was more dark cherry and blue fruits becoming leathery in time. The 1979 Chalone was youthful, raspberry, and jammy. Sadly, one bottle of 1977 Chalone was corked and replaced with a backup bottle.

1979 La Crema Vinera Pinot Noir Ventana Vineyard
1977 Chalone Estate Young Vines Pinot Noir
1979 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir

California Pinot Noir Flight 3– The 1994 Chalone was bright cherry, cola, and surprisingly fruit forward, yet had plenty of structure. Stylistically different, the 1982 Chalone was mineral, earthy, good balance, a pleasurable wine. Thought the 1986 Chalone was more barrel sample like, young, notable acidity, though slightly out of balance. The 1984 Chalone never quite came around, very firm acidity for some time.
1994 Chalone Estate Reserve Pinot Noir
1982 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir
1986 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir
1984 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir
1980 Chalone Estate Pinot Noir Magnum

California Cabernet Flight 1 – After some amazing Pinot Noir, moved on to Cabernet. The 1973 Martini Cabernet was meaty, medium bodied, youthful and had a perfect balance, a lovely classic California Cabernet. Similarly, the 1975 Martini was intense, darker red fruit, and a long finish. The 1974 Martini was surprising light and grassy, not to expectations from a great vintage. After so many bright, youthful Pinots, the wines came across as more toned down and took some time to adjust.

1973 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon
1975 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon
1974 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection

California Cabernet Flight 2 – The 1974 Charles Krug was a beautiful wine. From the Fay Vineyard, thought it was mushroom, meaty and earthy. The 1974 Ridge Monte Bello was nice, far more vanilla. A youthful wine, it showed well in the flight. The 1984 Caymus was surprising tannic, but still enjoyable. Sadly the 1984 Ridge Monte Bello was corked.

1974 Charles Krug Vintage Selection Lot F1 Cabernet Sauvignon
1974 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
1984 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon
1984 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon

Post California Cabernet Flight – The 1970 Joseph Swam Gamay was beautiful. Inky thick, dark black licorice, a very long finish, almost had the consistency of a fortified wine. The Joseph Swan Zinfandel was plumy and in tough company next to the Gamay.

1970 Joseph Swan Gamay
1969-1971 Joseph Swan Zinfandel Lot Z

Late Harvest Finish– As if we did not taste enough already, opened a sweet end of meal wine! Thought the late harvest Beringer was very well made, balanced, paraffin, rich, and sweet. Plenty of age left in this wine.1986 Beringer Late Harvest Special Select Johannisberg Riesling

Cheers to the age worthiness of California wines and a highly enjoyable evening!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

San Francisco Trade Tasting

Attended a trade tasting in San Francisco recently where several nice wines were poured. Having tasted many of them in the past, was a good opportunity to revisit how the wines were aging. In a few cases, was surprised by a high quality wine we have never had before. In particular, referring to an awesome 1989 Vega Sicilia Unico and 1989 Penfolds Grange!

Pours at this particular tasting were relatively small, and only revisited a few of the wines later in the tasting. As a result, no attempt is made at detailed notes, nor ranking the wines in order of personal preference. Nearly all wines showed well, with special mention to the 1995 Krug, 1990 Latour, 1989 Penfolds Grange, and 1989 Vega Sicilia Unico! Brief observations follow.
Champagne

1995 Krug– Crisp, nutty, butterscotch and hazelnut, this was a gorgeous complex and youthful Krug that should be exceptional with a decade or more age.

White Wines

1991 Chapoutier Ermitage Cuvee de l’Oree – Some diesel notes, a flat mouthfeel, and relatively fat on the palate. A fully mature good drinking wine.
2002 Leroy Meursault – Light bodied, some pleasant sweetness, little bit of flint, thought the wine was just ok, expected a little more from this solid producer.
2004 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay – Silky, intense citrus, moving toward a more creamy texture in time. A powerful and well put together Chardonnay.
Red Wines
1990 Chateau Latour – Initially orange rind, sweet, well rounded fruits, revisited later, and shutdown, showed far more tannin. A wine that will continue to improve with age.
1996 Chateau Margaux – More open knit and approachable than the Latour, black cherry fruit, floral, put on weight later in the tasting.
2005 Clos de Papes Chateauneuf de Pape – A very nice wine, big concentrated raspberry fruit, was drinking very well. Far more enjoyable than the Pagau.
2003 Pegau Chateauneuf de Pape Reserve – Have had this wine at least three or four times, have never found it enjoyable. Ripe concentrated plum and prune.
1997 Lisini Brunello di Montelcino Ugolaia – A disappointing wine, grassy, not a lot going on. Did not leave a positive impression.
1989 Vega Sicilia Unico – A young perfectly balanced wine, did not revisit later but suspect it could have easily rivaled any other wine in the tasting in time.
1990 Dominus – Soft, resolved, slightly green, but focused with pleasant mineral and dark fruits. A highly enjoyable well made wine.
1990 Opus One – Have had this wine 5 or 6 times, and this was one of the best showings, thick, ripe, cherry and raspberry fruits, showed far more open than on previous ocassions.
1998 Shafer Hillside Select – Huge wine, mint, black cherry, excellent balance, nice structure and continuing to age beautifully.
2000 Joseph Phelps Insignia – Big wine, similar to the Shafer Hillside, though not as complex. A nice wine with a strong mid palate presence.
1989 Penfolds Grange – Interesting transition on this wine, initially grassy, wheat, cherry and mint, not a thrilling wine, in time, big blue fruits and became exceptional.
2004 Sine Qua Non Covert Fingers – Candied bright red fruits, concentrated, thick full bodied Pinot, showed better on this occasion than other times tasted.
Sauternes
1990 Chateau d’Yquem – Peach, orange, and honey, this sweet, but nuanced wine showed very well, better than the 1986 in the same tasting, but not quite up to the 1988.
1986 Chateau d’Yquem – Orange rind, concentrated and age worthy, the 1986 tasted far younger than the 1990. Continue to age this wine.
Cheers to a very nice wine lineup!
Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

California Dreamin

Recently, we got together with friends in Mill Valley to enjoy some exceptional California wine! With eight of us in attendance, had a perfect sized group to enjoy three flights of three wines of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet.

We ate at a very good restaurant called Dish. The space was casual and welcoming, food was very good, and service was impeccable. As with previous tastings, wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight. The only exception was the Cabernet flight, where all wines were so enjoyable for different reasons, call it a three way tie! Brief notes follow concerning all wines opened:

Chardonnay Flight

2006 Marcassin Estate Chardonnay – Floral, sweet, soft orange rind, stoney, mineral, creme brulee, subtle vanilla, all components perfectly in check. The wine was well structured and should age gracefully for years.

2006 Marcassin Three Sisters Chardonnay – More full bodied than the estate, lemon grass, oily, creamy, wheat, oats, cotton candy and oyster shell. Became leaner as it sat in the glass, but remained a highly enjoyable wine.

2008 Aubert Ritchie Chardonnay – A little astringent on the nose, closed, tart, slightly smokey with an oily texture, had some mid-palate fruit, but came across far hotter than the two Marcassin. A wine to revisit, hopefully will resolve more with age.

Pinot Noir Flight

2003 Marcassin Estate Pinot Noir – Black cherry, spice, oak, forest floor, fruits brighter initially, becoming more restained, balanced and elegant in time. A gorgeous Pinot Noir, evolving nicely when compared to how it tasted near release.

2003 Rochioli West Block Pinot Noir – Pine needles, cranberry, rhubarb, rustic, saucy, mushroom and leather. A lot going on in this compelling Rochioli Pinot. Big fan of the both the producer and the vintage for California Pinot Noir.

2004 Littorai Once Acre Pinot Noir – Initially green, stemy, became more raspberry and fruitcake in time. Youthful, with very nice balance, a compelling and interesting wine. A very good wine, next to two excellent wines.

Cabernet Flight

1997 Dalla Valle Cabernet – Initially tight, with spicey oak, and menthol. In time, dark chocolate and dark fruits became more predominate as the wine sat in the glass. Classic California Cabernet, this was an absolutely beautiful wine.

1997 Montelena Cabernet – Another gorgeous wine, grassy, baked black cherry fruit, restrained, and hard. Had a slight brett funkiness, but it worked in this wine. The wine was compelling and highly interesting. A must revisit wine.

1997 Philip Togni Cabernet – A powerful wine, bell pepper, dirty, red stewed fruits becoming brighter in time, had near perfect balance and plenty of longevity. Like the Dalla Valle and Montelena, a highly enjoyable wine.

Cheers to a very good time!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/