Tag Archives: Calera

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

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/

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/