Wine Check In

Santa Rosa Fine Wine often attends smaller trade related tastings where we sample wine prior to purchase. It gives us a good sense of provenance and storage of private collections prior to potential purchase. In this particular tasting, we tried everything early in the evening, and toward the end, revisited the ones that made the strongest impression. Detailed notes are not taken, just a quick check in of wines that caught our attention. Top wine of the tasting was easily the 1993 Jadot Estournelles St Jacques. A stunning, if not perfect wine! Highly noteworthy was the 1987 Diamond Creek Volcanic. Have tasted lessor examples of this wine, this particular bottle was very well stored!

Exceptional wines:

1975 Heitz Martha
1987 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill
1987 Chateau Montelena Cabernet
1993 Jadot Estournelles St Jacques
2003 Abreu Thorevilos
2007 Brocard Les Clos

Very good wines:

1978 Leoville Las Cases
1987 Heitz Martha
1988 Leroy Pommard Les Vignots
1993 AF Gros Le Grand Maupertuis Clos Vougeot
1997 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet
2000 Dujac Morey St Denis
2001 Morey Puligny Montrachet Pucelles
2004 Quilceda Creek Cabernet
2006 Sine Qua Non Raven Grenache
2007 Sine Qua Non Labels Syrah
2007 Sine Qua Non Body and Soul

Some ok wines included 1981 Dunn Howell and 2009 Littorai Savoy Pinot and disappointments in 1978 Ducru Beaucaillou, 2003 Chapoutier Ermitage Les Greffieux, 2005 Janasse CdP Vieilles Vignes, and 1990 San Giusto a Rentennano Chianti. Numerous California Pinot showed ripe and not particularly complex, more every day drinkers not listed.

For more detailed notes of wines we sample, generally over the span of hours, visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/santarosafinewine.

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

 

Premiere Napa Valley 2013

Premiere Napa Valley is a trade only wine auction scheduled in February each year. Local producers pour special auction lots of their unique blends and best barrels. It is a great opportunity to taste an early preview of the upcoming Napa Valley vintage. In this case, 2011. Several of the events we attended follow.

For Santa Rosa Fine Wine, the tastings are invaluable and give us a very strong sense what we will purchase in the coming years and advise to our customers. As with other tastings of this nature, pours are small and we are tasting a lot of wine, identifying top wines should be put into the proper context. That said, all wines listed below are the top 5 tasted at each event. They left the strongest positive impression, listed best to very good. We tasted a lot of great wine not listed!

First Taste of Yountville – Held at the Historic Barrel Room in Yountville, and put on by the Yountville Appellation Association, it was the first event we attended. One of the appellations we regularly track, top wines are listed. A special note should be made concerning Casa Piena. It is the third year we tasted their wine, and considered them outstanding! This is a producer we regard and give high praise for properly hitting an excellent balance of fruit, structure, complexity and age worthiness.

2009 Casa Piena Cabernet
2008 Grgich Hills Yountville Selection Cabernet
2010 Dominus
2009 Charles Krug X Clone
2009 Gemstone Estate Cabernet

St Helena Appellation Tasting – Hosted at Charles Krug Winery, another tasting we attend nearly every year. It was a pleasure to run into Ted Edwards of Freemark Abbey, a long time wine maker we respect for consistency and quality at all levels. His talents are evident in one of their newer labels, Josephine!

2009 Freemark Abbey Josephine
2009 Revana Cabernet
2010 Ehlers Estate 1886 Cabernet
2009 Vineyard 29
2009 Trinchero Central Park West Cabernet

Open that Bottle Night – Hosted by Cliff Lede Winery, it is a BYOB Party where the generous host sets a high bar! This year, they opened Magnums of First Growth Bordeaux. The night is centered around attendees bringing a nice bottle from their cellar to share with others. The event is catered by Rosso in Santa Rosa, outstanding Pizza! Our palate is decidedly French, so not a surprise to see an all French Top 5.

1993 Rousseau Chambertin
1991 Ponsot Latricieres Chambertin
1988 Chateau Latour
2001 Chateau Latour
2001 Chateau Mouton

Rudd Center Retrospective Tasting – First time attending this event, it was a multi-vintage tasting of the same wine from 2008, 2009 and 2010 blind in Cabernet and 2009, 2010 and 2011 in Chardonnay. We rated all the wines and at the end, were given a key to analyse. In terms of Cabernet, our palate overall leaned toward enjoying 2009 best, followed by 2010 and 2008. In terms of Chardonnay, it went 2009, 2010 and 2011. Chardonnays were poured on the cold side, a little more challenging to evaluate.

Hudson Vineyard Chardonnay
Pine Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay
Stanton Vineyard Cabernet
Titus Family Estate Reserve Cabernet
Truchard Vineyard Chardonnay

Atelier Melka Portfolio Tasting – The second year for us attending this tasting, was impressed with the overall high quality of wine. Similar to the Casa Piena, think the wines by Kristine Ashe Vineyards (Entre Nous) were outstanding, significant standout wines. It is a producer relatively new to us, but strongly think they are worth keeping an eye on based on the last two years, highly recommended!

2010 Entre Nous Cabernet
2009 Cliff Lede Poetry
2009 Metisse Jumping Goat Cabernet
2009 Brand Cabernet
2010 Gandona Estate Cabernet

House of Cab Stags Leap District – The final event of the pre auction tastings, Pine Ridge Vineyards hosts a fun event. In a lounge type environment, you enjoyed good food, wine, music and conversation! It was a pleasure to meet with winery principles including the delightful winemaker of Clos du Val, Kristy Melton. A relatively new talent to the Clos du Val team, look forward to her future releases!

2010 Silverado Cellars SOLO Cabernet
2009 Cliff Lede Poetry
2005 Chimney Rock Cabernet
2001 Stags Leap Winery Cabernet
1993 Clos du Val Cabernet

We went away from the event still of the view, the more structured 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet was showing better than the more fruit forward 2008. Furthermore, that 2010 in general showed better than 2011. And for a few new friends, 1997 better than 1998!

Congratulations to the organizers of PNV 2013, a fantastic well put together event!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Champagne and Burgundy Wine Dinner

This past week, a small group of us got together for a wine dinner at Caffe Macaroni in San Francisco. Cannot say enough positively things about the quality of the food at Marcaroni, rich and well executed, a restaurant worth seeking out. We requested the chef basically serve a broad selection from their menu at his discretion, and he did a perfect job. The wine theme was Champagne, Burgundy and Rhone. With five of us in attendance, pour sizes were perfect allowed us to revisit the wines throughout the evening. Continue to strongly prefer wine dinners in the 6 person range for this reason.  All wines are sorted in order of personal preferene by flight.

Champagne Flight

1996 Billecart Salmon Nicolas Francois Billecart Brut – Crisp, high acidity, a highly age worthy Champagne. As it opened up through the evening, kept getting better and better, intense notes of fresh baked bread. While at first it was shutdown, in the end showed far superior to the delightful Bollinger RD.

1996 Bollinger RD – Have tasted this wine numerous times, and this was the best showing of the wine to date. Dusty, yeasty, fruit cake and baked bread. Showed its qualities upfront. It was beautiful for a little over an hour before tapering off and loosing some of the qualities that initially made it an exceptional wine. A really nice drinking wine overall, thought the Billecart the better of the two.

Corton Flight 

1990 Bertrand Ambroise Corton Rognet – Barnyard and dirty initally, cleaner with big blue and black fruits later. When the wine hit full stride, it was beautiful, but did not taste like a Corton, or anything remotely Burgundy. It did however go extremely well with the food, and showed very well overall.

1990 Marius Delarche Corton Renardes – A classic drinking Burgundy that actually tasted like a Corton. Raspberry, cranberry, leather, showed some initial plum ripeness that was not altogether appealing. As it sat in the glass, got leaner. Thought it was a good drinking wine, not great.

 Jadot Chambertin Flight

1993 Jadot Chapelle Chambertin – Initally very tight and closed down, got extremely interesting and elegant the more it sat in the glass. Game meats, clean pure fruit, and great structure in a highly balanced and complex wine. An awesome wine worth searching out. No rush to open, will age gracefully and improve for years.

1990 Jadot Mazis Chambertin – Another outstanding wine, very clean blue fruits, showed power, balance and complexity immediately, and for several hours. Another outstanding wine worth searching out. Together, thought the two Jadot combined to make for the flight of the night.

Rhone Flight

1998 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape – Clean dark broading fruits, exceptional balance, this wine kept giving back layer after layer of complexity and kept evolving over time. One of the best CdP we have tasted in a long time. The wine was nothing short of exceptional, and kept showing different nuances through the evening.

1994 Guigal La Mouline – When we think of Rhone, the benchmark wine producer that always comes to mind are those from Guigal. Some of our best drinking experiences have been from this producer. The 1994 was more candied red cherry fruits and smooth with notes of vanilla. A lovely well made wine, no question, thought the Vieux Telegraphe the superior wine in this flight.

Cheers to a delightful evening with a good group of local friends!

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

Southern Marin Wine Dinner

Recently we got together with good friends in Marin for an end of year wine dinner. As always, the food and company were enjoyable, combined with an interesting mix of wine. With the exception of the Italian Flight, all wines were served double blind. This tasting was particularly challanging in that, with nine of us in attendance, pour sizes were very small not allowing to revisit the wine over time. All wines are sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Champagne Starter

1996 Dom Perignon – Remember drinking this wine numerous times when young, and it was very apparent it would be long lived. The wine showed far more mature now, and in a good place. Noted honey, almond, and orange citrus fruit. An elegant and subtle wine.

Chardonnay Flight

2005 Pernot Bienvenues Batard Montrachet – Mature, almost lightly oxidized, some citrus deeply buried in the wine. Correctly guessed it as a Burgundy, but thought it had more age on it than a 2005. An ok wine, not sure it is going to hold up well in time.

2006 Rhys Alpine Chardonnay – Bright, young, almost Aubert like fruit, on the sweet side and a little one dimensional. Thought it might be a 2006 to 2008 Rochioli Chardonnay. Generally like Rhys Chardonnay, thought this one just ok.

Pinot Flight

1996 Arnoux Echezeaux – Light body, elegent red and black cherry fruits, good minerality, and plenty of structure to easily carry the wine into future. Thought the wine representative of Echezeaux in style, and a delightful wine to drink. No rush to open, will continue to age well.

2005 Rochioli West Block Pinot – Big ripe wine, was easy to guess as California. Bright strawberry and cranberry notes, thought it might be from the Russian River. Thought the wine was not particularly complex, more one dimensional, and was surprised on reveal is was a single vineyard designate Rochioli.

Non Blind Italian Flight

1997 La Spinetta Barbaresco Vigneto Gallina – Both of the Italian wines showed qualities we find incredibly off putting. The Barbaresco had a ripe plum prune quality we have never found appealing, in addition to an astringent almost paint thinner nose. A highly disappointing wine.

1997 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo – Similarly disappointing and also showing a quality we find distracting and unpleasant, a high degree of bandaid brett. It was so distracting to make the wine undrinkable. Others at the table were not as sensative to brett, and found the wine enjoyable, though recognized it might not be fully to expectations.

Cabernet Flight

1996 Leoville Las Cases – Easily wine of the night, thought this was a beautiful and highly elegant drinking wine. Dry dusty dark fruits, game meats, menthol, it showed everything we enjoy in an exceptional Bordeaux. 1986 has long been our favorite Leoville Las Case, wonder if the 1996 will hit that same level in another 10 years!

1996 Peter Michael Les Pavot – Another wine we have tasting many times. The interesting thing about the 1996 Les Pavot is how different the fruit intensity has been from bottle to bottle. Most of the time, the fruit is very big and powerful. This bottle showed more shut down this time. A good drinking wine, though not entirely to expectations.

Finisher

1990 Zind Humbrecht Tokay Pinot Gris – Predominately tangerine, and pretty much to expectations. Full bodied, notable sweetness, it is a well made wine and a good way to end the meal. For us, it is a wine to drink in very small amounts.

Interesting to note, in each flight, the French wine was preferred over the California wine by the majority of us in attendance. Cheers to France!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafine.com

 

Small Wine Tasting

It might be said that numerous blog posts are written for an audience of one, the writer! In the case of this post, it is true, a record of wines we tasted for future reference. We recently attended a small sampling of wine in San Francisco. It was a tasting where nice wine was poured, however pour sizes were very small. In this type of tasting, you get a quick sense of the cellar provenance before purchase, and a snapshot view of the wine quality itself. In this particular instance, tasted each wine when first opened, and revisited the majority later in the evening. For Santa Rosa Fine Wine, it is invaluable to taste samples from a private cellar prior to purchase.

Excellent Drinking wines:

1959 Doudet Naudin Volnay
1970 Chateau Pichon Lalande
1978 Mongeard Mugneret Echezeaux
1978 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet
1982 Clos Rene
1984 Dominus
1986 Cos d’Estournel
1995 Harlan Estate
2000 Dalla Valle Maya
2005 Chateau Certan de May

Very Good Drinking Wines:

1975 Leoville Las Cases
1983 Ducru
1989 Hospices de Nuits Les Fleurieres
1993 Calera Jensen
1995 Lynch Bages
1997 Pio Cesare Barolo
2006 Aubert Ritchie Chardonnay

Beyond these, some wines showed just ok: 1978 Jaffelin Chambolle Musigny, 1978 Lynch Bages, 1980 Heitz Martha and 1999 Gemstone Red. Sadly, some bottles did not show well: 1971 Jadot Gevrey Chambertin, 1976 Jordan Cabernet, 1983 Pierre Bouree Corton, 1991 Moraga Bel Air Cabernet, 1995 Chateau Gloria, 1997 Galante Blackjack Pasture Cabernet, 2002 Jones Family Cabernet, 2005 Chateau La Gomerie and 2007 Hartwell Reserve Cabernet. The not so great wines showed various degrees of oxidization, drying out, past maturity, or simply out of balance.

As a general rule, we value balance, age worthiness, structure, and complexity. We do not value, brett (bandaid on any level, barnyard when excessive), obvious flaws (corked, VA, ethyl acetate, etc.), one dimenional wines, as well as those that are past maturity, oxidized, or overly ripe with a plum, prune, raisin quality. Very small samples pose an evaluation challenge, but in the context of writing for yourself, it is certainly helpful!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Super Second Bordeaux Dinner

This past month, got together with a few friends to enjoy a night of Super Second Bordeaux. As luck would have it, there were numerous very nice wines, including a 1950 Pichon Baron. The final wine of a series of 1950’s tasted over the past year from one of our good friends, thought it better than the 1950 Margaux and 1950 Palmer previously tasted. The group was small, and pours large. Brief observations follow, sorted in order of personal preference:

Champagne Starter

Pol Roger Pure – A no dosage Champagne, thought it was an excellent wine. Bone dry, crisp, nice acidity, need to search this out for future tastings.

White Wine Starter

2001 Margaux Pavillon Blanc – Corked! Some folks thought it was not corked, but in our opinion had that tell tale wet cardboard nose and sapped palate. Disappointing.

Super Second Bordeaux Flight

1950 Pichon Baron – Opened early in the evening, the fruit was huge on this wine. Figured this wine would be either dry or perhaps oxidized with a top shoulder fill, was completely surprised how beautiful it was, big fruit, good firm tannin and acidity. Furthermore, it continued to hold up well over the span of the evening, never declining. An excellent wine.

1983 Pichon Lalande – Cannot recall ever tasted a better Pichon Lalande than this bottle of 1983, and that includes that 1982 vintage! No green or grassy quality we so often get from the producer, the wine was clean, elegent, balanced, dark fruit, simply beautiful!

1981 La Mission Haut Brion – Another excellent Bordeaux, refined and elegant, noted eucalyptus, earth, and leather. This was a beautiful wine, layered and subtle, kept giving more the longer it sat in the glass. Highly enjoyable and worth seeking out.

1970 Montrose – A nice wine with good underlying material, jammy, red fruit, thought it showed well initially. As it sat in the glass however, it slowly declined, never showing a great deal of complexity. After some table discussion, think the wine may have experienced a little heat.

1996 Leoville Poyferre – Another dark berry wine, it was in very tough company, overshadowed by all the other wines. Had had this wine before, and it was consistent in style, game meats and earth. A little more lean and higher acidity than expected.

A highly enjoyable evening with good food, friends, and wine!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

Heitz Martha Lunch

This weekend, we hosted a group of friends for an afternoon of wine focused around a vertical of Heitz Martha. With a long history of tasting Heitz Martha, there are few vintages we have not tried. The 1974 and 1985 have been two of our favorites to date, and as luck would have it, would be our first time tasting one of the wines, a 1967 Heitz Martha. For this tasting, it was a smaller group so pour sizes were generous and allowed us the opportunity to revisit over the afternoon. A bottle was opened from every decade Heitz has made wine from Martha’s Vineyard. All wines were served pop and pour, and none of them were flawed. Brief observations of all bottles opened follow:

Champagne Starter

Jacques Selosse Initiale (disgorged Oct 2006) – Served in Riedel Chablis glasses, a smooth easy drinking Champagne. Notable roasted walnuts up front, with yeast and earthy qualities in the background. A mature, balanced, complex wine that drank more like a still white wine than a Champagne. With no signs of oxidation, thought it was absolutely gorgeous, in a sweet spot right now.

Chablis Starter

2002 Jean Marc Brocard Valmur – Fully mature, at first thought this was going to be a very good Chablis. Had a nice crisp oyster shell palate, though pretty light bodied. Did not pickup any sweetness, sometimes apparent with the producer. Revisiting the wine after about 15 minutes on, it began a relative quick decline. Did not enjoy the wine as much as others at the table.

Heitz Martha Flight

1967 Heitz Martha – An excellent, elegant, highly age worthy wine! Heitz Martha is noted for its tell tale eucalyptus nose, and this wine had it, though subtle. Amazing fruit, tannin and acid balance with a mix of herbs, spice, meat and earth. A lighter to medium bodied wine, noted no signs of oxidation. There is no rush to open this wine, several hours after first opening, the wine maintained its profile. It has a long future ahead of it. Overall, thought it was an outstanding wine and wine of the flight.

1977 Heitz Martha – A close second for wine of the flight. Enjoyed it for very different reasons. The wine had a more liquor quality to it, yet with a rustic backbone that became baked fruits in time. A big nose, more powerful fruit in contrast to the 1967, wondered if this wine could be the 1967 with another 10 years of age? Like the 1967, no signs of oxidation, and plenty of potential for continued aging. An excellent drinking wine.

1980 Heitz Martha – Some mint, tight, lean, some background spice, it picked up steam the more it sat in the glass, but never quite achieved the level of complexity or greatness like that from the 1967 and 1977. This was just an ok wine, more one dimensional, it had all the tell tale characteristics of Heitz Martha, just toned down on every front. There would be no additional benefit to continue aging this wine. Overall, just ok.

1990 Heitz Martha – Far riper than the previous three bottles tasted, thought it third best wine of the flight. It had clean, deeper red fruit, some chocolate, and more perceivable eucalyptus than the other wines opened. Maintained a consistent style through the bottle. About a glass remained, and revisited the next day. Still a very big style of Heitz Martha, showed better on day two. The wine will benefit significantly with additional cellar aging.

2005 Heitz Martha – A far different style than any of the wines tasted, more blue fruits than red, big, sweet, almost barrel sample like. Made in a more modern California Cabernet style. Overall, thought it was disappointing from a vintage we have tasted so many nice wines. Perhaps with additional cellar aging, it will come around. A wine worth revisiting in the future.

Bordeaux Finisher

1985 Cos d’ Estournel – Wine the day, thought this was an exceptional wine. Had everything that makes for a great Bordeaux, tremendous balance and complexity! Thought it was a darker fruit based wine than the Heitz, also noted some coffee, dark chocolate, and exotic grainy spice. Another outstanding 1985 Bordeaux!

Last year tasted a vertical of Louis Martini Cabernet (50’s through 80’s), this year Heitz Martha Cabernet (60’s through 00’s), what should we do next year?

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

 

Castagna Wine Dinner

We recently got together with local friends for an informal wine dinner at Castagna in San Francisco. Have been to the restaurant a few times now, and everything served to date has been fantastic, highly recommended French cuisine! For this dinner, four of us got together on relatively short notice. Continue to find these smaller wine dinners are so much more enjoyable than larger ones. You really get to evaluate a wine over time and enjoy a single table conversation.

After a few back and forth e-mails, we decided on a simple theme, Chardonnay, Pinot, Cabernet and Rhone. As sometimes happens, the Cabernet never made it to the table. The 1974 Louis Martini Mountain Cabernet and 1974 BV Georges de Latour will have to wait for another occasion. Brief observations of the wines opened follow:

Chardonnay

2004 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne – An awesome Corton Charlemagne, the wine has not changed significantly from other times tasted over the past few years. Sulfur, flinty, lemon citrus, mineral, floral, and still very firm acidity. Could easily continue to age this gorgeous wine for many more years!

2006 Marcassin Three Sisters Chardonnay – Have had this wine several times recently and this was the best showing. Distinctly California Chardonnay in style, medium bodied, round, nice acidity early on, becoming more creamy in time. Noted pear and vanilla. Even though it was the best showing of the wine for us, overall just an ok experience.

Pinot

2001 Hospices de Beaune Mazis Chambertin Henri Boillot Cuvee Madeleine Collignon – A nice drinking wine, in perhaps five to ten plus years! It was very young, tightly wound, plenty of dark fruits, and very tannic. Everything was in place, but just highly reduced. Suggest letting the wine age considerably longer before opening.

2006 Rhys Alpine Pinot Noir – A disappointing wine. The more Rhys we taste, the more disappointed we have become in their Pinot Noir. Barrel sample like with plum, raisin, some blue fruits, but overall disjointed and simple. Like the Marcassin, distinctly Californian in style. Revisited a few times during the evening, and found nothing particularly appealing.

Rhone

1990 Les Cailloux (Lucien et Andre Brunel) CdP Cuvee Centenaire – Have never tasted a better Southern Rhone than this wine! A seductive coffee, red raspberry nose led into a dense palate of layered rich licorice, chocolate and earthy black fruits. Excellent balance, nuanced, it kept improving over the span of the bottle. Unlike many Southern Rhones tasted, no over ripe raisin and prune notes. This wine showed extemely well, and suspect it will continue to show well for a decade plus!

1983 Paul Jaboulet Aine Hermitage la Chapelle – In very tough company next to the Andre Brunel, far leaner and grassy. Slight oily like consistency, some oak, and earth, do not think the wine will improve with continued cellar aging. Fully mature right now with no signs of oxidation, should plan to drink over the next few years. An ok experience.

A very fun evening, especially one with an eye opening Southern Rhone!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine WIne
www.santarosafinewine.com

California Wine Trade Tastings

Living in Northern California, there are no shortage of wine trade tastings a person can attend. The most recent one was a fantastic event put on by the Rutherford Dust Society. For us, this tasting and others are important to get a sense of a particular wine region and evaluate vintage characteristics. Collectively, the tastings influence what we purchase as a merchant in fine and rare wines!

In formats where you taste a high volume of wine, our approach is to generally sample wines we “track” first, wines we are establishing or have already established a personal record of quality. After which, we usually followup with a round of tasting producers we have never visited before. Given the number of wines, and relatively small pour sizes, at best you get a quick educated impression. We feel rating wines at mass trade tastings with detailed tasting notes or assigning “points” is generally doing an injustice to the producer as well as the potential reader/buyer. That said, the following are wines that made an impression at varous wine trade tastings we attended since the beginning of the year. In all the tastings that follow, if a wine is not listed, either we did not find it particularly appealing or did not taste the wine.

In Pursuit of Balance 2012 – Our first time attending this tasting, the selection of wines is generally what we look for, producers known for making wine that is ageworthy, balanced, nuanced, where character and a sense of place is valued over wine power and intensity. The fast majority of wines poured were California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Top wines:
1995 Calera Mt. Harlan Chardonnay
2009 Hirsch Reserve Pinot
2009 Littorai Charles Heintz Chardonnay

Very good wines:
2010 Anthill Farms Tina Marie Pinot
2010 Arnot Roberts Watson Ranch Chardonnay
2009 Au Bon Climat Isabelle Pinot
2010 Calera Central Coast Chardonnay
2009 Calera Ryan Pinot
2010 Ceritas Porter Bass Chardonnay
2010 Ceritas Heintz Chardonnay
2010 Ceritas Escarpa Pinot
2010 Copain Brousseau Chardonnay
2009 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay
2009 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot
2009 Hirsch San Andres Fault Pinot
2010 Hirsch Estate Chardonnay
2009 Littorai Mays Canyon Chardonnay
2009 Littorai Savoy Pinot
2009 Littorai Cerise Pinot
2009 Littorai Haven Pinot
2010 Peay Pomarium Pinot
2009 Peay Scallop Shell Pinot
2009 Peay Estate Chardonnay
2009 Twomey Sonoma Coast Pinot
2009 Wind Gap Woodruff Chardonnay
2010 Wind Gap Gaps Crown Pinot

Good wines:
2009 Alta Maria Vineyards Chardonnay
2010 Calera Mt. Harlan Chardonnay
2010 Ceritas Annabelle Pinot
2009 Copain Monument Tree Pinot
2010 Failla Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
2010 Failla Hudson Chardonnay
2009 Flowers Sea Ridge View Pinot
2010 Freeman Ryo-fu Chardonnay
2007 Mount Eden Estate Chardonnay

Above the Fog Howell Mtn Spring Tasting 2012 – Another tasting we attended for the first time, went away impressed by several wines poured. Similar to the In Pursuit of Balance tasting, was struck by the age worthy quality of the wines overall, a quality we value over more ripe fruit forward wines.

Top wines:
2005 Dunn Howell Mtn Cabernet
2009 La Jota Merlot
2008 Lamborn Family Cabernet

Very good wines:
2009 Cornerstone Cabernet
1994 Cornerstone Cabernet
2009 La Jota Cabernet
2008 Notre Vin Cabernet
2007 Red Cap Cabernet
2007 Retro Cellars Petite Sirah
2009 Robert Craig Cabernet

Good wines:
2008 Aloft Cabernet
2008 Cade Cabernet
2008 Cakebread Cellars Dancing Bear Cabernet
2007 Charles Krug Rocky Ridge Cabernet
2008 Cornerstone Cabernet
2008 O’ Shaughnessy Cabernet
2007 Roberts and Rogers Cabernet

Passport to Cabernet 2012 – Held at the Bentley Reserve in SF, tasted a wide range of Cabernet from the 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintage, as well as numerous 2011 barrel samples. The 2011 barrel samples were difficult to evaluate at this point in time and ultimately tried very few for that reason. Continue to be impressed with 2007 and 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet, far less so with 2008.

Top wines:
2009 Kristine Ashe Entre Nous
2007 Volker Eisele Napa Valley Cab

Very good wines:
2005 Ackerman Family Cab
2007 Guilliams Vineyard Cab
2008 Keenan Napa Valley Cab
2006 Kristine Ashe Entre Nous
2008 Louis Martini Monte Rosso Cab
2008 Raymond Generations

Good wines:
2007 Ackerman Family Cab
2009 Bell Cab
2008 Bell Claret
2007 Cain Five
2009 Charles Krug Generations
2008 Charles Krug Vintage Selection
2008 Chimney Rock Tomahawk
2009 Cornerstone Howell Mtn Cab
2009 Diamond Creek RRT
2009 Faust Cab
2007 Hidden Ridge Cab
2007 Linked Knights Valley Cab
2009 Louis Martini Napa Valley Cab
2007 Merryvale Profile
2009 O’Shaughnessy Mt Veeder Cab
2007 Peju Napa Valley Cab

Santa Lucia Highlands Tasting 2012 – Year after year we have enjoyed the Chardonnays and Pinot Noir coming out of the Santa Lucia Highlands. It was very clear at this tasting, both the Rosella’s and Gary’s vineyards have established themselves among some of the best vineyards in the US. While we have disliked nearly every pre 2007 Kosta Browne, was impressed with the 2009 vintage wines.

Top wines:
2010 August West Rosella’s Pinot
2009 August West Rosella’s Syrah
2009 Kosta Browne Rosella’s Pinot
2009 Kosta Browne Garys Pinot

Very good wines:
2010 August West SLH Pinot
2009 Bernardus Rosella’s Pinot
2009 Bernardus Pisoni Pinot
2007 Hahn and Lucienne Doctors Pinot
2010 Mansfield Dunne Peterson Vineyard Pinot
2010 McIntyre Estate Chardonnay
2010 McIntyre Block K1 Chardonnay
2009 McIntyre Estate Pinot
2009 McIntyre Block 3 Pinot
2010 Morgan Double L Pinot
2010 Morgan Double L Chardonnay
2009 Morgan Garys Pinot
2010 Pisoni Lucia Soberanes Chardonnay

Good wines:
2009 Mer Soleil Chardonnay
2010 Mer Soleil Chardonnay
2008 La Rochelle SLH Pinot
2009 Miura Pisoni Pinot
2009 Miura Garys Pinot
2009 Sequana SLH Pinot
2009 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Pinot
2010 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay
2009 Testarossa Garys Pinot
2009 Testarossa Rosellas Pinot
2010 Testarossa SLH Pinot

Santa Cruz Mountains Tasting 2012 – We have attended this particular tasting a few years now. It is a smaller tasting, but a worth while visit. None of the wines really stood out as particularly strong, a lot of good wines, no question, but nothing great.

Top wines:
2006 Ridge Monte Bello

Very good wines:
2008 Clos LaChance Pinot
2007 Clos LaChance Meritage
2009 Mount Eden Wolff Chardonnay
2009 Mount Eden Estate Pinot
2008 Mount Eden Estate Cab
2009 Odonata Zayante Syrah
2009 Ridge Estate Merlot
2009 Sonnet Tondres Pinot
2009 Sonnet Nums Pinot
2006 Thomas Forgarty Merlot

Good wines:
2008 Kathryn Kennedy Small Lot Cab
2008 Kathryn Kennedy Contra La Marea Blend
2005 Kathryn Kennedy Estate Cab
2008 Michael Martella Hammer Syrah
2008 Michael Martella Heart Arrow Petite Sirah
2009 Mount Eden Estate Chardonnay
2009 Ridge Estate Cab
2010 Storrs Chardonnay

Rhone Rangers 2012 – Similar to Pinot Days, this is a very large tasting held at Fort Mason in San Francisco focused on Rhone wines. Jemrose and Tablas Creek consistly show well after many years of tasting their respective wines. Additionally, both are reasonably priced. A good venue to taste Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier.

Top wines:
2009 Jemrose Cardiac Hill Syrah
2009 Miner Family La Diligence Syrah
1999 Ridge Lytton Estate Syrah
2009 Tablas Creek Espirit de Beaucastel 

Very good wines:
2009 Beckman Purisima Syrah
2009 Cosa Obra Proprietors Blend
2009 Cornerstone Cellars Stepping Stone Syrah
2009 JC Cellars Rockpile Syrah
2010 Jemrose Egret Pond Viognier
2009 Jemrose Foggy Knoll Grenache
2009 Krutz Stage Coach Syrah
2009 Project 772 Brawler Syrah
2009 Project 772 Instigator Syrah
2009 Sanglier Boars Camp Red Blend
2007 Sheldon Deviant Velocity Petite Sirah
2009 Stephan Vineyards Cote a Cote Red Blend
2009 Stephan Vineyards Estate Cuvee Red Blend
2009 Thomas George Estates Timbervine Syrah
2009 Thomas George Bei Ranch Syrah
2009 Truchard Carneros Syrah

Good wines:
2008 Folin Cellars Rogue Valley Syrah
2006 Kaleidos Reserve Syrah
2008 Martinelli Vellutini Ranch Syrah
2009 Quivira Wine Creek Mourvedre
2008 Skylark Rodgers Creek Syrah
2009 Stolpman Vineyards Hilltops Syrah

A Day in the Dust 2012 – The most recent trade tasting attended, an all Rutherford Cabernet tasting of the 2009 vineyard. Overall, we continue to be a big fan of the 2009 Napa Valley vintage and the Rutherford based wines did not disappoint. Surprisingly, the top wine of the tasting was a 2008! The 2008 Staglin Rutherford Cabernet was outstanding, had all the elements of a great wine, tremendous structure, balance and complexity. Sadly, one of the very few wines not tasted was a 2009 BV Georges de Latour.

Top wines:
2009 Beaulieu Vineyards Clone 6
2009 Freemark Abby Bosche
2009 Quintessa Red Blend
2008 Staglin Rutherford

Very good wines:
2010 12C Georges III
2009 Conn Creek Hozhoni
2001 Heitz Trailside
2006 Heitz Trailside
2009 Martin Reserve
2009 Monticello Tietjen
2008 Sequoia Grove Morisoli
2009 Staglin Rutherford

Good wines:
2009 D.R. Stephens Walther River Block
2009 Flora Springs Rutherford
2009 Frank Family Reserve
2009 Frank Family Winston Hill
2009 Freemark Abbey Sycamore
2009 Hewitt Estate
2009 Honig Campbell Vineyard
2009 Hunnicutt Rutherford
2009 Meander Morisoli Vineyard
2009 Monticello Corley Reserve
2009 Peju Rutherford
2008 Provenance Rutherford
2006 Quintessa Red Blend
2008 Rutherford Grove Once Acre
2009 Trinchero Chicken Ranch

When at various trade tastings, it is hard to not ask the question of producers, what is your impression of the current vintage? As you might expect, especially in challenging vintages, some are very honest, some use carefully chosen words, and others will communicate it is the greatest vintage ever! We typically expect to hear the first two, but in the case of 2008, surprisingly heard the last view more often than not. Begs the question, do California producers say this because they truly value ripe drink young wines or simply a statement to move wine?

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com

Fine Wine Dinner at Cafe Castagna

This week, got together with a few friends at Cafe Castagna in SF to open up some wine with the goal of pulling something rare or exceptional from our respective cellars. What was particularly interesting about this dinner was that we opened quite possibly the best California wine I have ever tasted, a 1974 Joseph Phelps Insignia. I have had this bottle in my cellar for a few years now waiting for a special occasion to open, and this was the night.Four of us attended the dinner allowing for very generous pours, and the opportunity to fully explore how the wine developed in the glass over time. All wines were served pop and pour. Wine tasting notes follow from this highly memorable dinner, sorted in order of personal preference by flight.

Grand Cru Chablis

2001 Raveneau Valmur – An awesome wine, immediately showed very tight and youthful. Acidity was prevalent, however well in check with the fruit. Some notable lemon citrus and subtle oyster shell, found the wine deep and complex. Over time, it very slowly opened up, and revisited the wine frequently over the approximately 4 to 5 hours tasted. One of the most reduced Raveneau I have tasted, could easily continue to age this wine for a significant period of time.

2001 Raveneau Blanchot – Floral, pretty, feminine nose, yet restrained on the palate initially. Had a highly interesting nutty quality to the wine, but not from oxidiation. After a little time in the glass, thought it mature, but hours into the tasting, kept giving up more power and complexity. When the wine hit its peak, noted a pleasant saline quality and custard like mouthfeel. Overall, the Blanchot was rounder, and perhaps flashier, but appreciated more the restrained power of the Valmur.

Rare California Cabernet

1974 Phelps Insignia – The best California Cabernet we have ever tasted! The color was deep, dark and youthful without any signs of bricking. On the nose and palate, a Bordeaux like quality of intense, silky, big dark fruits, mint and lightly floral. Clean and layered on the palate, had power without being overdone, and a stagging finish that was both seductive and structured. From first pour, through the end of the bottle, maintained a consistent style, yet gave layer after layer of complexity. A youthful wine that could be easily aged for decades. Wine of the night, and the most memorable California Cabernet experience I have ever had. A stellar absolutely perfect wine!

1978 Diamond Creek Volcanic – Similar to the Insignia, a very rare wine. Also like the Insignia, showed very Bordeaux like, though dryer and slightly more mature in contrast. It was served a touch warm which took away from the wine, but could still appreciate the underlying material. Also a dark fruit wine, more tart, and showed some bandaid brett, which was distracting to me, not as pronounced to others. Balance, structure and overall density of the wine was excellent. A very good wine!

Bordeaux from the 80’s

1986 Rausan Segla – Another gorgeous wine, showed far more gamey, barnyard and full bodied, with red raspberry fruit and a tomato paste like texture, without being vegital. Distinctly Bordeaux, had a consistent style throughout the bottle. No rush to open this wine, however if done, shows well immediately on opening. Enjoyed this wine slightly more than the Diamond Creek, but not as much as the Insignia.

1982 Lynch Bages – Expected a great deal more from the Lynch Bages. Relatively light bodied, with dry saddle leather, mineral, earth, and very firm acidity. The acidity seem to outweight the fruit, and did not come together in the time we drank through the bottle. The wine may have suffered being next to the Rausan Segla, as it was the most toned down wine of the evening. Based on this tasting, suspect the wine should not be opened for many more years to give it time to come together.

Mystery French Red

1986 Gruaud Larose – Served blind, clear it was a great Bordeaux. The Gruaud Larose had more in common styllistically with the Rausan Segla than the Lynch Bages. After the 1974 Insignia, the second most enjoyable bottle of the night. It was stunning, pencil lead, clean, yet big bold fruit, and forest floor, the wine was balanced, had plenty of depth and the complexity was exceptional. This was a youthful wine that opened up slowly in the glass, could easily age or enjoy in the near term.

This was both a fun and memorable wine dinner. Had everything we enjoy, a small group allowing ample pours, special wines you don’t drink or see everyday, excellent food, and of course, great company!

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine
www.santarosafinewine.com