Tag Archives: Ridge

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

Double Blind Bungalow 44 Wine Dinner

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

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

Flight 1 – Chardonnay

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

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

Flight 2 – Pinot Noir

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

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

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

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

Flight 3 – Cabernet Sauvignon

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

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

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

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

Bonus Wines

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

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

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

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

Aged California Dinner in Santa Rosa

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

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

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

1997 Vilmart Champagne Couer de Cuvee Magnum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick Wittman
Santa Rosa Fine Wine

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/