Category Archives: California

Rhone Rangers 2011 in SF

This past Sunday, we attended the 14th annual Rhone Rangers tasting in SF at the Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason. It is a great opportunity to try several hundred California Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and a few other Rhone varietals under one roof!

In a tasting where so many wines are poured, we are not typically looking to capture specific tasting notes, but more so, wines that showed well in the very short time span given each wine. That said, the following are wines that immediately came off as excellent, very good, and worth a revisit. If a particular wine or producer is not listed, either we did not taste the wine, or did not find it particularly note worthy.

Highly Recommended

  • 2009 Arnot-Roberts Hudson Vineyard Syrah
  • 2009 Arnot-Roberts Griffins Lair Vineyard Syrah
  • 2007 Bella Lily Hill Syrah
  • 2006 Cabot Kimberly’s Syrah
  • 2006 Cabot Aria’s Syrah
  • 2007 Cabot Klamath Cuvee Red Blend
  • 2008 Jemrose Cardiac Hill Syrah
  • 2008 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem Blend
  • 2009 Pax Mahle Orra Blend
  • 2008 Pax Mahle Rana Blend
  • 2009 Pride Mountain Viognier
  • 2008 Pride Mountain Syrah
  • 2009 Ridge Buchignani Carignon
  • 2006 Ridge Lytton Syrah
  • 2007 Stolpman Angeli
  • 2009 Stolpman Originals Syrah
  • 2008 Stolpman High Density Syrah
  • 2008 Truchard Carneros Syrah

Recommended

  • 2007 Anglim Mourvedre Hastings Ranch Vineyard
  • 2009 Arnot-Roberts Alder Springs Syrah
  • 2006 Arrowood Red Blend Cote de Lune Rouge
  • 2006 Arrowood Syrah
  • 2008 Bella Lily Hill Grenache
  • 2008 Bella Big River Petite Sirah
  • 2007 Cabot Humbold County Syrah
  • 2009 Jemrose Viognier Egret Pond
  • 2008 Jemrose Foggy Knoll Grenache
  • 2007 Lagier Meredith Mount Veeder Syrah
  • 2008 Lagier Meredith Mount Veeder Syrah
  • 2009 Landmark Espirit du Rhone Grenache
  • 2007 Martinelli Lolita Syrah
  • 2007 Montemaggiore Reserve
  • 2006 Montemaggiore Paolo’s Syrah
  • 2009 Outpost Howell Mountain Grenache
  • 2008 Pax Mahle Sonoma Coast Syrah
  • 2009 Pax Mahle Griffins Lair Syrah
  • 2006 Ridge Syrah/Grenache Blend
  • 2005 Ridge Lytton Grenache
  • 2008 Stage Left The ExPat Red Blend
  • 2008 Stolpman Originals Syrah
  • 2008 Stolpman Roussanne
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel
  • 2009 Truchard Carneros Roussanne

Revisit

  • 2009 Arnot-Roberts North Coast Syrah
  • 2008 JC Cellars Stagecoach Marsanne
  • 2007 JC Cellars Rockpile Syrah
  • 2009 Landmark Steel Plow Syrah
  • 2008 Morgan Double L Syrah
  • 2004 Outpost Petite Sirah
  • 2009 Ridge Lytton Petite Sirah
  • 2009 Stolpman Syrah
  • 2008 Tercero Camp 4 Mouvedre
  • 2007 Tercero Camp 4 Grenache

Some of our top producers: Arnot-Roberts, Cabot Vineyards, Jemrose Vineyards, Pax Mahle Wines, Pride Vineyards and Stolpman Vineyards. One of the top wines tasted among all these excellent producers and wines, a 2007 Stolpman Angeli.

The biggest take away from this tasting was a perceived movement in style towards more age worthy, structured, and restrained wines. Expected to taste quite a few full bodied, candied, high alcohol fruit bombs, but was pleasantly surprised. Generally find cleaner, elegant, balanced wines more appealing, those that will slowly develop and improve over time, and that is what we got for the most part at this tasting!

Cheers to a great event and a quick snapshot of some quality California Producers!

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

San Diego Blind California Dinner

During our recent visit to San Diego, enjoyed attending a California Wine Dinner at Quarter Kitchen. The restaurant was excellent and a great venue for a wine dinner. On this occassion, it was decided to taste all wines blind. The group tasted three flights of four wines, and ranked each wine per flight. It was a larger than normal group, so pours were relatively small not allowing an opportunity to revisit in time and see how they develop.

As often happens at wine dinners, a wine shows up that is not to theme, in this case a few Bordeaux. As luck would have it, a 2000 Cheval Blanc was brought, and turned out to be the wine of the night by a long shot! All wines opened are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Champagne Opener

2004 Taittinger Champagne – Honey, medium bodied, crisp, nice acid balance, touch of creaminess, an easy drinking start to the evening.

Chardonnay Flight

2006 Kongsgaard Judge Chardonnay – Initially very simple, no nose, in time more lemon and lime citrus, a tight young wine that leaned to the white burgundy end of the wine spectrum.

2008 Aubert Hyde and Sons Chardonnay – A close second place, far sweeter, cotton candy, balanced and oily. More creamy and balanced than the Kongsgaard, enjoyable young.

2008 Aubert Ritchie Chardonnay – Similar to the Hyde and Sons, sweeter, but with a little more spice. Some unexpected funk on the finish that never quite went away.

2004 Kistler Vine Hill Chardonnay – Deeper yellow color, full bodied, yeast, hazel nut and mildly floral. Did not find this wine particularly appealing.

Cabernet Flight

2002 Kuleto Reserve Cabernet- Dark berry, minty, spice, soy and chocolate, a very nice drinking wine that had Bordeaux leanings, a restrained and elegant wine.

2006 Ghost Horse Shadow – Tannic, black licorice, bitter coffee, an interesting wine that was quite enjoyable, and not far separated from either the Kuleto or Shafer Hillside Select.

2003 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet – Rich, good tannin and menthol. A very nice drinking wine that was close, but not quite to the level of the Ghost Horse or Kuleto.

2008 12C Georges III Cabernet – Very ripe style of wine, vanilla, full bodied, bright red fruit, a solid representation of the Georges III vineyard. Should improve considerably with age.

Syrah Flight

2006 Myriad Las Madres Syrah – A lovely cold climate Syrah. Clean, pure, stemy, awesome floral aromatics, think Myriad consistently over performs on their Las Madres Syrah.

2005 Grand Reve Reserve Syrah – Far more flashy than the 2006 Myriad, more powerful, exotic, sweet, pure and muscular. Like the Myriad, a gorgeous wine, but for very different reasons.

2008 Myriad 100% Whole Cluster Las Madres Syrah – Similar to the 2006 Myriad, stemy, blue fruits, a little bigger style and more course. A solid showing.

2006 Samsara Alder Springs Syrah – Disjointed, simple, lacking character, one of the few wines I struggled to think of something nice to say.

Bordeaux Finish

2000 Cheval Blanc – Wine of the night by a long shot! Expected it to be way too young, but with a quick decant, and a little time in the glass, improved considerably. The definition of a perfect Bordeaux, perfectly balanced, highly complex, chewy, mineral, leather, meat, exotic. A wow wine!

2000 Pape Clement – Did not particularly enjoy the Pape Clement, just an ok wine. Some animal and game, which is typically a nice thing, but not well put together in this wine. Overshadowed and dominated by the Cheval Blanc.

Cheers to a wonderful tasting with a generous group of friends in San Diego!

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

San Diego Sine Qua Non Dinner

This past weekend, visited wine drinking friends in San Diego. During our trip, we were fortunate to attend two special dinners. The first was focused around the wines of Sine Qua Non, and the second, a blind California Dinner.

At the time of both dinners, minimum wine tasting notes were taken, however as is so often the case, recollect a few impressions of the wines opened. The following is a summary of the first dinner. All wines were served pop and pour, and sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Champagne Opener- This was a lovely wine. Having had a 1996 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, one of the top Champagnes we have tasted, was surprised and excited to see this on the table. It was young, no question, but lovely pear, crisp, and nutty style. Really good structure that will allow this wine to age gracefully for years!

1999 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses Brut

Pre Dinner Rose – This was only one of two Sine Qua Non wines tasted to date that was completely disappointing. Have liked other Sine Qua Non Rose in the past, so would not say it was stylistic, but the wine was spritzy, and lacking any sort of character. If I recall correctly, in the bottom two of everyones list.

2007 Sine Qua Non Strips and Stars Rose

White Wine Flight – Preferred the Hoo Doo Man over The Boot. A young wine, the Hoo Doo Man showed tropical fruits and a nice acidity level. The wine should age well and improve over the next several years. In contrast, The Boot was mature, some butterscotch, hazelnut, and buttery texture. Expected it to be past maturity, but actually showed fully mature.

2006 Sine Qua Non Hoo Doo Man
2000 Sine Qua Non The Boot

Pinot Noir Intermission – A very nice intermission after tasting a few interesting white wines. Thought the A Capella Pinot was the 3rd best wine of the evening behind the 17th Nail and Into the Dark. First time having had this wine, was pleasantly surprised. Recall a gritty, earthy, mineral based wine, with a forest floor nose. A really good drinking Pinot.

2000 Sine Qua Non A Capella Pinot Noir

Grenache Flight – The Into the Dark was a beautiful wine, second favorite of the night. Candied boysenberry fruit, beautifully textured, full bodied, one of the top Sine Qua Non Grenache tasted to date. The Raven was consistant to previous bottles tasted. It was similar to the Atlantis, though far more toned down fruit. A good wine.

2004 Sine Qua Non Into the Dark Grenache
2006 Sine Qua Non Raven Grenache

Syrah Flight – The 17th Nail in the Cranium was the wine of the night. A huge concentrated, and quite approachable Syrah. A pleasant mix of blue and black fruits, had a super long finish, and excellent balance. The Raven Syrah was tight and lacked depth next to the 17th Nail. A good drinking wine, no question, but not in the same league.

2005 Sine Qua Non 17th Nail in the Cranium
2006 Sine Qua Non Raven Syrah

Sweet Finish – My least favorite wine of the evening, the Mr K Strawman was a one dimensional thick sweet wine. Probably not fair to open the wine at such a young age, did not show much in the way of complexity and character.

2006 Sine Qua Non Mr K Strawman

Cheers to our San Diego friends and a very fun dinner filled with lots of laughs, great wine, and wonderful food!

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

Sunday Rhone and Bordeaux

This past Sunday, got together with friends in Napa Valley to enjoy a few special bottles of wine. The theme was great Rhone and Bordeaux. What was particularly interesting about this dinner however was an excellent California wine opened at the end of the evening, a 1969 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon!

At 40+ years old, 12.5% ABV, this wine was simply outstanding! The reference to Medoc and St. Emilion on the pictured back wine label was priceless! In the case of this dinner, did not take notes at the time, but brief observations follow. All the wines were so enjoyable, no attempt is made to identify a wine of the night.

1982 Pichon Lalande – The first time having had this wine, immediately found it a delightful, delicate and elegant wine. Tasted strawberry and sweet raspberry fruit, dry wheat, and some fresh cut grass on the palate. Took a few hours on a pop and pour for the wine to open up and show its full potential. This was an exceptional Pichon Lalande that will continue to age and improve for years.

1982 Ducru Beaucaillou – Another excellent wine, the Ducru was an interesting contrast to the Pichon Lalande. More rustic and old school Bordeaux, the palate was strikingly upfront with stewed baked red fruits and an appealing almost tomato sauce like palate. Immediately reminded of a young 1993 Philip Togni Cabernet. Like the Pichon Lalande, the Ducru will age gracefully for many more years. A beautiful wine!

1989 Jaboulet La Chapelle Hermitage – The two Bordeaux were both excellent, but stylistically different. Such was the case with both Rhones. The Jaboulet was gorgeous, exotic dark fruits, plum, barnyard, asian spice and game meat, had so many dimensions to the wine, it hit the palate in different ways with every taste. An excellent Rhone that is drinking very well now, but could easily continue to age.

1994 Chave Hermitage – Almost polar opposite to the Jaboulet in style, the Chave was pure and clean, with lush bright red fruit, yet restrained and subdued with a rich menthol finish. Aromatically, the wine had an appealing tropical citrus nose that was highly enjoyable. The youngest wine in the group with notable tannin, could easily age this wine for a significant amount of time, and it will continue to improve.

1969 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon – The final wine of the evening, this was a gorgeous old school California Cabernet! Almost a hypothetical blend of a good year BV Georges de Latour, with mushroom, spice and earthiness, with the structure, depth, and darker clean fruits of a well aged Chateau Montelena. The wine showed no signs of oxidation, yet was fully mature and highly enjoyable. Cannot say enough positive things about the quality of this wine!

Cheers to a small but highly enjoyable evening with good food, friends and wine!

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

Palo Alto Burgundy Dinner

Recently, we attended a mid week Burgundy Dinner with friends in Palo Alto. We don’t often get to the southbay, but enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with friends we have not seen in some time and share some very nice wine.

While we rarely do blind tastings in our northbay tasting groups, our southbay friends lean toward this format. All wines, except the Sojourn Pinot Noir and Cabernet were pop and pour, served blind, and sorted in order of personal preference by flight. Brief observations follow:

White Wine of the Night:
2004 Domaine William Fevre Les Clos

Red Wine of the Night:
1998 Domaine Leroy Savigny Les Beaune Les Narbantons

Sojourn Flight

Before moving on to the White and Red Burgundy, Craig Haserot of Sojourn generously poured the current 2009 offering from his winery. All bottles were newly opened just prior to dinner, and served non blind.

2009 Sojourn Cellars Rodger’s Creek Pinot Noir – Hardwood spices, forest floor, firm structure and earthy. Very close call which showed better on this occasion, the Rogers Creek vs Gap’s Crown.

2009 Sojourn Cellars Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir – Clean blue fruits, deep, rich, riper palate and an exceptionally long finish. A friendly and approachable wine that could have easily been the top Sojourn Pinot this evening.

2009 Sojourn Cellars Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir – Initially thought it showed tighter on the palate, picked up steam in time. More blackberry leaning than the others, a complete wine that should age beautifully.

2009 Sojourn Cellars Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – Dusty, bright, creamy, cherry fruit, an easy drinking well made wine. Had a distinct character of its own relative to the other Sojourn Pinot Noirs.

Chablis Flight

Opened the night with three Grand Cru and one Premier Cru Chablis. Unfortunately a bottle of 2002 Vincent Dauvissat Les Preuses was corked and immediately pulled from the flight.

2004 Domaine William Fevre Les Clos – Crisp firm acidity, lime, ocean air, steely, tight, very slowly put on a little more weight over time. Thought the wine showed better than the last bottle tasted a year ago.

2005 Vincent Dauvissat Les Preuses – Full bodied, more intense yeast, salty, mineral, stone, the wine had perfect balance. Should age beautifully and continue to improve in the coming years.

2005 Vincent Dauvissat Les Clos – Similar to the Les Preuses, a much more fully bodied wine than the Fevre. Good acidity, oyster shell, citrus, no question a young wine, but strikingly approachable.

2001 Domaine François Raveneau Butteaux – A medium bodied wine, was more creamy, bread, and more lemon citrus based than the others. The color was advanced, deeper straw colored and fully mature.

Wine Intermission

While the Red Burgundy flight was being organized, a blind wine intermission was opened and shared with the group. In some tastings, it basically becomes a guessing game, what year? what region? etc.? The group quickly called it out correctly as a Rhone.

1997 Tardieu Laurent Hermitage – Animal, game, smoke, menthol and a little brett, the nose on this wine was foxy and interesting, highly expressive. It was a cleaner style Rhone, with good balance. A very nice wine!

Red Burgundy Flight

Similar to the Chablis flight, unfortunately an off bottle of 2000 Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay Clos du Chateau Des Ducs was poured. The wine was funky and chemical, clearly something wrong with the bottle, and quickly pulled from the table.

1998 Domaine Leroy Savigny Les Beaune Les Narbantons – Easily the red wine of the night, showed rich blueberry fruit and mint in a silky, clean and pure wine. Grand Cru quality in a Premier Cru. Simply outstanding!

2002 Frederic Magnien Savigny Les Beaune – Ripe raspberry fruit, full bodied, extracted, nice balance. Showed very well, but a distant second place after the Leroy Les Narbantons.

1989 Louis Jadot Corton – Initially clean, light, and not very inspiring, improved considerably in time becoming more earthy, mineral, underbrush, and tree bark.

1990 Maison Leroy Chassagne Montrachet Rouge – High acidity and funky, did not find the wine appealing. Did not spend a lot of time with the wine.

As we worked toward the end of the evening, tried a few additional wines: 2002 Copain Dennison Pinot Noir, 2002 Faiveley Les Saint Georges Cuvee de Sires de Vergy, 2008 Sojourn Home Ranch Cabernet and 2008 Sojourn Beckstoffer Georges III Cabernet. Like the final Leroy tasted unfortunately, there was not enough time to spend with the wine to give a fair impression!

Cheers to our southbay friends!

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

Ladd Cellars Dinner

Santa Rosa Fine Wine tastes a significant amount of high end wine every year. It influences to a large degree what we buy and recommend to our customers. Sometimes, we will taste wines from smaller producers for similar reasons, to keep a pulse on local wines to potentially offer and recommend to our customers.

This past week, we attended a wine dinner at Fringale Restaurant in SF with Eric Lundblad of Ladd Cellars. We have been looking forward to this dinner for some time having had the wines before at various tastings. With this producer, you get low production wines that are high quality at very reasonable prices. Brief tasting notes follow of all wines opened, sorted in order of personal preference by flight:

Flight 1 – With Hors D’Oeuvres: Foie Gras, Seared Ahi and Pate on Brioche, the two wines were brought by guests to enjoy before the Ladd Cellar wines. The Champagne was a crisp, yeasty young drinking wine that was quite enjoyable. In contrast, the German Riesling was more honey and caramel with a light waxy sweetness. Both were a great start to the evening!

1976 Michael Weber Niersteiner Gutes Domtal Spatlese
1988 Veuve Clicquot Rare Vintage Champagne

Flight 2- With Roquefort & spinach ravioli, toasted pine nuts, basil & cream sauce, tasted two different Russian River Pinot Noir from Ladd Cellars. The 2005 was deep, with raspberry, black cherry, and aged butterscotch notes, a lovely wine. The 2008 was cool and clean, ripe and well balanced, it had a nice bright cherry palate.

2005 Ladd Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2008 Ladd Cellars Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Flight 3- With Poached black cod, potato puree, piperade, artichokes, capers, olive tapenade, found both Moore Ranch wines to have more in common with each other than the two Russian River wines. Both were laser precise, with blue and black fruits, tighter and restrained. Given more time in the glass, would expect the wines to fill out considerably. Both were elegant and refined in style, an interesting contrast to the fuller bodied Russian River Valley wines.

2007 Ladd Cellars Moore Ranch Pinot Noir
2006 Ladd Cellars Moore Ranch Pinot Noir

Flight 4- With Braised veal short ribs, orzo, brussel sprouts, baby carrots, morel mushroom sauce, a red Burgundy side by side tasting with a Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir. Both wines were enjoyable, no question, but for different reasons. The Abigail was bigger, tannic, powerful and expressive, while the Anne Marie was more forest floor, green, and oaky in a more restrained style.

2007 Ladd Cellars Cuvee Abigail Pinot Noir
2006 Domaine Anne Marie Gille Vosne Romanee

Flight 5- After a wonderful meal and several really good wines, enjoyed a final after dinner wine from our gracious host, a bottle of 2007 Ladd Cellars Sonoma Coast! Far lighter and more toned down than earlier wines, it had riper strawberry fruit and minty, very easy to drink.

2007 Ladd Cellars Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

The Pinot Noirs of Ladd Cellars are well made, and definitely recommend them to our customers. We particularly enjoyed the 2007 vintage wines, which we have had the pleasure of tasting on three separate occasions with positive results.

Cheers to our good friends at Ladd Cellars for a highly enjoyable evening of good food, friends and wine!

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

Burgundy Kickoff

A smaller than normal group of us got together in Sonoma this weekend for a Burgundy tasting to kickoff the new year. As always, the group was very generous and brought some excellent drinking wines to the tasting!

Cannot think of a better way to expose an individual to fine wine than to be part of a wine tasting group of like minded individuals. You certainly enjoy good wine across a broad range of producers, but also enjoyable and knowledgeable company! As luck would have it, our Burgundy group will often “go deep” where basically, we dig a little “deeper” than normal into our respective cellars and pull special bottles! Such was the case this evening.

Brief observations follow of all wines opened and are listed per flight in order of personal preference:

White Wine of the Night:
1998 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet

Red Wine of the Night:
2000 Domaine Des Chezeaux Chambertin

White Burgundy Flight

1998 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet – Initially the wine was light bodied, elegant and flinty, yet showed considerable balance and no signs of oxidation. It slowly put on weight over time, becoming far more powerful. The white wine of the night, a gorgeous Leflaive!

2005 Pierre Yves Colin Morey Batard Montrachet Hospices de Beaune – An excellent drinking young wine, showed sweeter fruit, distinct petrol, and firm acidity. Should age very well! Thought it was a very close second to the Domaine Leflaive, but for very different reasons.

1997 Remoissenet Montrachet – Advanced deep golden color, was initially orange peel, honey, and beeswax. Got funky and oxidized shortly after opening. A disappointing wine overall. Have had less than great experiences with this producer in the past. Quickly coming to the view Remoissenet does a far better job with its red over white wines.

Red Burgundy Flight 1

2000 Domaine des Chezeaux Chambertin – The red wine of the night, thought this was a rich, clean, very pure drinking wine with black cherry fruit, cola, and well integrated spice on the finish. An awesome wine!

2001 Drouhin Chambertin – Another very nice wine, had an almost cotton candy nose with raspberry fruit on the palate. Kept going back to this compelling wine, found it nuanced and easy drinking. A solid well made wine.

2000 Domaine des Chezeaux Griottes Chambertin – Initially showed some plum and prune, as well as spice and black cherry, the wine improved considerably in time. While not as strong a showing as the Chezeaux Chambertin, a nice wine nonetheless.

2002 Pierre Gelin Chambertin Clos de Beze – The wine never quite came around through the evening. It was grainy, baked, and funky, thought it may have been an off bottle. Did not think the wine showed well.

Red Burgundy Flight 2

1997 Francois Lamarche Les Malconsorts – A very nice drinking wine, more rhubarb than anything, had firm acidity and a nice medium bodied palate. Based on previous 1997 wines opened, generally do not have high expectations, but this one showed well for the vintage.

1993 Domaine Bertagna Chambolle Musigny – A light bodied wine and grassy, did not find the wine very appealing. Opposite to 1997, generally have a higher than normal expectation from 1993 vintage Burgundy wines, found this one disappointing.

2004 Rochioli West Block Pinot – A curiosity wine opened while we let the second wine flight open up did not show well. Overall, a simple, light and grassy Pinot. Clearly it was in tough company next to the Burgundy. The wine had been opened for some time prior to the tasting, so certainly a good wine to revisit from this solid producer.

Cheers to a good Burgundy start in 2011!

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

1990, 1995 and 1996 Bordeaux Dinner

Recently, a group of us got together in Marin County for an all 1990’s Bordeaux Dinner. In the case of this get together, we decided wine flights would center around three years, 1990, 1995 and 1996. It was interesting to compare and contrast the years, as well as see how each wine was progressing over time!

As a flight, thought the 1996 showed best overall. All the wines were excellent, and not separated by a large margin preferring one wine over the other. Second best flight turned out to be the 1990’s. The 1990 Cos d’Estournel aside, another group of excellent drinking wines. Finally, was the 1995 flight. The wines were all ok, but out classed by both the 1990 and 1996’s.

All wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight. The 1996 wines were decanted, all others, pop and pour. Brief observations of wines opened follow:

California Starter

2008 Ceritas Porter Bass Chardonnay – A medium bodied, lemon, oyster shell and floral wine that was oily in texture, funky on the nose, and spicy on the palate. Thought it was a just ok wine that would be interesting to revisit in the future.

1990 Bordeaux

1990 Lynch Bages – A gorgeous wine with excellent balance and complexity. Had an almost motor oil component to the wine, very dark fruits and copious amounts of cigar, mineral and earth. This was an exceptional wine that will age gracefully for many more years.

1990 Pichon Lalande – Another gorgeous wine! Had baked red fruits that became sweeter and more candied in time with an appealing mint, eucalyptus, and dry tea leaf component to the finish. Swapped back and forth on preference with the 1990 Lynch Bages. Wine Advocate gave this wine a 79? Really? The wine was exceptional.

1990 Troplong Mondot – Aged, animal, raspberry fruit, plum, and some wet cardboard. While the nose was dryer, almost cognac like, the palate did have some pleasant sweetness. Thought the wine was oddly interesting. A good wine, but overshadowed by the Lynch Bages and Pichon Lalande.

1990 Cos d’Estournel – Brett, brett, and more brett combined with some funky animal, grass, and more brett. Thought the wine was pretty much sapped of anything that made the wine interesting, and overall, was dominated by brett. Tend to be more sensative to brett than others, so did not care for this wine at all.

1995 Bordeaux

1995 Leoville las Cases – A great nose hinted at an excellent wine, but it was simply too closed at this stage in its life. Spice, plum, and cedar, had a laser fine precision in a clean wine not remotely ready to drink. Let this one age for many more years before opening.

1995 Grand Puy Lacoste – Good balance in this cool and clean wine with predominately plum and mushroom on the palate. Noted some menthol which was nice and helped the wine, but overall, could not say it was a thrilling experience. Just an ok wine.

1995 Monbousquet – Have tasted only a handful of other Monbousquet in the past, so was curious how this one would show. Unfortunately, found it flabby and sappy, more full bodied than the other two 95’s, did not find it to have a lot of character overall.

1996 Bordeaux

1996 Pichon Lalande – An elegant, perfectly balanced wine with fresh cut grass, a super long finish, and a rich liquor quality with expressive fruit. A very well made wine that showed best among three really excellent 1996’s.

1996 Leoville Poyferre – Far more meat, game, olive, and well aged fruits in this rustic, almost old school bordeaux. Flip a coin, and could pick this vs the Pichon Lalande as wine of the flight. Both were very good, but for very different reasons.

1996 Cos d’Estournel – Similar to the 1990 Cos d’Estournel, picked up brett, but it was very minor. Nice acidity, spice, and fruit balance, another very well made wine that more than held its own against the other two 1996’s.

Sweet Finish

2003 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Spatlese – Clean and crisp with sweet lemon and very light sulfur, this was an excellent wine! Along with Massandras and Sauternes, find sweeter German Rieslings a pleasant way to end a wine dinner!

Cheers to a very enjoyable evening!

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

All French Wine Dinner

This past weekend, got together with local friends in Sonoma to enjoy an all French wine dinner! In the case of this dinner, it was nice to revisit quite a few wines previously tasted to see how they are progressing. As is often the case with French wines, they are progressing slowly!

Wine flights were two bottles each. Find this to be an effective format, if for one reason alone, to hold over a flight into the next and only have 4 glasses on the table. Often times, we do flights of 3 wines, and 6 glasses can be challenging to keep straight!

All wines were served pop and pour, with the exception of the 2000 Bordeaux which were given about an hour decant. As with other tastings, sorted the wine in order of personal preference per flight. Brief observations of all wines opened follow:

White Wine of the Night:
2004 Domaine Leflaive Clavoillon

Red Wine of the Night:
1996 Ducru Beaucaillou

Champagne Starter

2002 Cristal – Nutty, crisp, easy drinking with lemon and orange citrus. Somewhat light in body and certainly light in color, was rather disappointed in the wine. Enjoyed other Cristal Champagnes in the past so had high expectations that were not met in this wine.

Chablis

2002 Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre – Oyster shell and floral with firm acidity and excellent minerality. The wine was full bodied and simply beautiful with a clean almost cool clean ocean breeze nose. A highly complex excellent drinking wine.

2001 Raveneau Butteaux – An interesting contrast to the 2002, was more lemon, pineapple, and nutty in style. Lighter bodied, it had a loamy texture and notable yeast. The acidity on this wine was well buried, and carried the wine well into the evening.

White Burgundy

2004 Domaine Leflaive Clavoillon – Another great Domaine Leflaive. Petrol, sulfur, motor oil on the nose, became sweeter, almost cotton candy like on the palate. An absolutely gorgeous drinking wine that kept improving over the span of the evening.

2007 Coche Dury Meursault – The most “un-Coche” like Coche Meursault I have tasted, perhaps due to its youth. Restrained, very light sulfur, mineral, combined with lemon and caramel. Was far cleaner and laser precise in style than other years tasted. An excellent wine.

A Wine Intermission

1987 Chateau Montelena– Served blind, was grassy at first, had nice tannin, asian spice, anise, bell pepper, dusty stewed raspberry fruits and a deep dark ruby color that convinced almost everyone it was a mid to late 90’s wine. Having had the wine 6 or 7 times now, it was the most mature example tasted to date. No rush to open, has many more years to age and improve.

1998 Mongeard Mugneret Echezeaux Vieilles Vignes – Served for our friends who are not big fans of white wine, was intially light, but put on weight. Noted some light grass, blue fruits with a hint of cola. A clean wine, had nice acidity and a citrus finish. Really enjoyed this wine, but in tough company next to the 1987 Montelena.

1980’s Bordeaux

1989 Pichon Baron – Bacon, fatty, meaty, and raspberry fruits, the wine showed very tight at first, and put on considerable weight in time. A dense wine for sure, with a sweet caramel finish. Showed very well and drank young.

1986 Montrose – A notably aged wine, showed more forest floor, baked red and black fruits, and an appealing barnyard component. The wine was somewhat foxy in a good way, and showed a little rougher than other examples tasted of this wine.

1990’s Bordeaux

1996 Ducru Beaucaillou – The red wine of the night, it was simply outstanding with ripe red raspberry liquor fruit, with a dense full bodied mouthfeel and a long sweet finish. While it was both elegant and refined, was surprisingly ready to drink now. Overall, a wow wine!

1996 Lynch Bages – Far more structured and youthful drinking than the Ducru, was far more shutdown at this stage and more grassy with darker fruits, cigar, earth and an appealing minerality. Had a lovely mint note on the finish. A very good wine that needs additional cellar aging.

2000’s Bordeaux

2000 Pichon Baron – One of the most nuanced wines of the night, noted menthol and mint, chalk and leather, coffee and black berries, all over the place, but in a good way. Decanted the wine for about an hour, and proved to be very youthful. An excellent wine to continue aging.

2000 Calon Segur – Impossibly closed and shutdown, was unapproachable even after an hour plus decant, and additional time in the glass. Noted rhubarb and scorched earth in a wine that is just not ready to go. Cellar for many more years before opening.

Sauternes

1986 Rieussec – Waxy, orange rind, sweet honey, and butterscotch in an easy drinking end of meal wine. Would be an excellent wine to revisit in a few decades!

Cheers to an awesome evening!
Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
http://www.santarosafinewine.com/

Beaulieu Vineyards 110th Anniversary

This weekend, attended a special event at Beaulieu Vineyards to celebrate their 110th year anniversary! As part of the celebration, took part in a Georges de Latour Retrospective and Reserve Room Tasting, as well as an evening 4 course dinner featuring several additional years of Georges de Latour Reserve Cabernet.

Having tasted a significant fraction of Georges de Latour wines over the past 40 years, looked forward to the opportunity to revisit several of the wines and see how they were holding up with age. What better way appreciate the ageworthiness than to taste excellent provenance wines directly from the cellars of Beaulieu Vineyards! As in previous years, the Anniversary celebration marked the release of the current vintage of Georges de Latour, and in this case, the much anticipated 2007! Brief observations follow of several wines tasted:

Georges de Latour Retrospective Tasting

1970 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – Dry tea leaves, smoke, tar, cigar ash, wheat, sugar and caramel, a compelling wine that is clearly aged, but still enjoyable.

1980 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – Brown sugar, raspberry, currant, dry leaves, celery and tobacco. More dense and concentrated than the 1970 with a bigger finish.

1986 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – Blackberry, cranberry, wheat, and vanilla. Was tight and elegant, one of the most closed examples of the 1986 I have tasted to date.

1992 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – Bright red fruits, tannic, and tea leaves. A nice wine that will show better with cellar aging. Did not show as well as other vintages.

2002 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – Currant, vanilla, concentrated, extracted, low acidity, dry tannin and far sweeter than older vintages. Opened up quickly in the glass.

2007 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – Ripe, sweet, bright cherry and strawberry. Soft tannin with huge soaring candied fruit. A wine that could easily be enjoyed young.

2009 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Barrel Sample – Blue fruits and Cabernet Franc like in quality, was rough, course, and primary, too early to predict the future.

Anniversary Dinner at Rutherford House

1987 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – Dark fruits, minerals, dry leaves and spice. Had a lot in common with the 1986, more closed. The wine will age gracefully for many years.

1997 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – Black fruits, considerably shutdown, not as expressive or nuanaced as other years. A wine to revisit in 5 to 10 years.

2007 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour – Same observations from the retrospective tasting, the wine was a wonderful end of meal wine to drink into the evening.

A Special Dinner Wine

1968 Beaulieu Vineyards Beaumont Pinot Noir – Brought a bottle to share with our table at dinner. Youthful in color, the wine was absolutely amazing. Like so many excellent aged Grand Cru Burgundy, the wine showed earthiness, mineral, game meats, dry spice and a rich texture, combined with no signs of oxidation. Opened at the beginning of dinner, this awesome wine remained consistent over the span of the evening!

In the past 40 years, Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour wines have decidedly evolved. When I reflect back on tasting the wines of the 1960’s through 2000’s, see a movement from a French driven approach, wines that benefit from extended cellar aging, to those of today, as seen in the 2007 that are uniquely Californian, ripe, concentrated, monolithic and able to fully enjoy young. Having tasted the 2007 several times this weekend, it will no doubt compete with other modern high quality, high end California Cabernet producers!

Cheers to our friends at Beaulieu Vineyards for hosting a very special evening, and congratulations on 110 years of successful winemaking!

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