Woodinville Wineries: Des Voigne Cellars

October 19, 2014 3 comments

This post is a continuation of the series about my winery experiences in Woodinville, Washington. Here are the links for the first three posts – introduction, Elevation Cellars and Pondera Winery.

… and I entered the world of music at the Des Voigne Cellars. Soft jazz music was playing in the background, as I was greeted by the big white dog – of course I started the visit from getting acquainted with the winery dog first – ear-scratching is usually the best way. Melissa, who owns the winery together with her husband Darren (the winemaker), was smiling with relief from behind the counter, happy to see that we made friends.

There was no doubts that music ruled here – it was not only in the air, but also on the labels and inside the glass:

Des Voigne Cellars Groove White and RedIf you can, spend a few seconds and look at these labels in detail. Both the graphics and the names of the wines are created by Darren, the winemaker, and these definitely join the list of most creative labels I ever saw. And the wines were on par with the labels.

We started with the 2013 Des Voigne Cellars The Groove White Columbia Valley (Chardonnay, Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier) – vibrant and fresh on the nose, and perfectly clean and simple on the palate. This is the wine to enjoy any time, with or without the food – you just can’t go wrong with it, and at $18, it is simply a steal. Well, almost – with 43 cases production, it’s not going to stay around for too long. Drinkability: 7+

The 2010 Des Voigne Cellars The Groove Red Columbia Valley (43% Syrah, 36% Sangiovese, 17% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot) had a very welcoming nose with touch of spice, more spices weer present on the palate with some roasted notes. Another excellent effort, and again a great QPR at $20 (your chances are a bit better with this wine – 210 cases produced). Drinkability: 7+

The next round was very interesting as well – take a look below:

Des Voigne Cellars winesI was trying to figure out if there should be a correlation between the choice of label (a performer or an event) and the wine itself, but didn’t come to any conclusions. If you tasted these wines, I would be interested in your opinion on this subject.

2012 Des Voigne Cellars San Remo Sangiovese Columbia Valley (100% Sangiovese, Candy Mountain Vineyard) – my first experience with Washington Sangiovese – and a very pleasant one. Nice, clean and simple wine, medium body, some interesting cherry undertones. Definitely playful and resembling the original Sangiovese (the Italian version), only in the lighter package and more fruit driven. Drinkability: 7+

2012 Des Voigne Cellars Duke Zinfandel Walla Walla (95% Zinfandel Walla Walla, 5% Malbec Wahluke Slope) – yet another “first” encounter – first time ever I was tasting Washington Zinfandel. Very nice rendition, unusual nose, showing classic Zinfandel’s smokey raspberries on the palate, light, clean and well balanced. Drinkability: 7+

2010 Des Voigne Cellars Montreux Syrah Columbia Valley (96% Syrah Weinbau Vineyard, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon Dionysus Vineyard) – Finally, the first Syrah of the tasting (out of the 3 wineries – somehow, I expected to see it a lot more often) – inviting nose of red fruit, touch of coffee, baking spices and lavender on the palate, overall very clean and balanced. Drinkability: 8-

Do you want to see more cool labels? Here you go:

Des Voigne Cellars Untitled and Duet

2010 Des Voigne Cellars “Untitled” Columbia Valley (57% Cabernet Franc, 29% Syrah, 14% Petit Verdot) – if previous three wines can be characterized as “playful”, these two were the serious hitters. This wine showed excellent concentration, powerful and firm structure, clean Cabernet Franc profile with cassis and bell peppers, as well as grippy tannins. I think it will perfectly open up in about 5-7 years, so you will need to give it time. Drinkability: 8-

2010 Des Voigne Cellars Duet Columbia Valley (94% Cabernet Sauvignon Dionysus Vineyard, 6% Merlot Bacchus Vineyard) – unusually perfumy nose, soft and round on the palate, with good depth – perfectly drinkable now, no need to wait. Drinkability: 7+

So we had the music record, musical events and performers and the musical notations – what’s left is someone to put this all together – The Composer:

Des Voigne Cellars The Composer

2011 Des Voigne Cellars The Composer Wahluke Slope (99% Malbec, 1% Syrah, both from Weinbau Vineyard) – this was a delicious, light and round wine, with good amount of fresh red berries on the palate – simple and very pleasant. Drinkability: 8-

My musical excursion completed, and it was the time to move. The next winery was the only one on my original list, which I planned to visit from the beginning. Short drive around the buildings (moving from Building B to Building E), and I walked into the winery called …

To be continued…

 

Woodinville Wineries: Pondera Winery

October 17, 2014 8 comments

Pondera EntwinedThis post is a continuation of the series about my winery experiences in Woodinville, Washington. Here are the links for the first two posts – introduction and Elevation Cellars.

“What other winery do you recommend I should visit here?” I asked Steve before leaving. “Pondera”, he said. Okay. Short, very short walk from the building A to the building B, and I entered the tasting room of Pondera Winery.

I was greeted by Mel, one of the three owners of the Pondera winery. Pondera is focused on Bordeaux varietals, and it achieved a substantial recognition as a Bordeaux blends producer. As we were woking through the tasting, Mel proudly showed me a collection of gold medal-winning wines – 7 of Pondera wines received double gold medals in the blind tasting competition. Pondera 2009 Prima Donna red wine was recognized as one of the Top 100 wines of Northwest – not a small achievement by all means.

The tasting started from the 2013 Pondera Chardonnay Sagecliff Vineyard Columbia Valley. The wine had a subtle nose of vanilla, and more of the same on the palate. The wine spent 7 month on the lees, and while it had a creamy mouthfeel, the mid-palate was a bit heavy for my taste. Drinkability: 7

The next wine was 2011 Pondera Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley (90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot) – the nose was rather muted, but the palate had a classic cassis and bell peppers – nice, clean and round, with a good balance. Drinkability: 7+

2011 Pondera Entwined Columbia Valley (57% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec) showed as a classic Bordeaux blend – if I would sniff the glass without knowing what is inside, I would definitely think of classic Bordeaux, made in a bit more of a fruit-forward style, but still quite restrained. The wine showed equally well on the palate – cassis, blackberries, touch of chocolate, clean acidity – and asking for a bit of time with very noticeable tannins. The only non-classic Bordeaux component was a beautiful label. Drinkability: 8-

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2011 Pondera SVS Number One Columbia Valley (59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec) was yet another classic Bordeaux rendition. Yes, I’m guilty of abusing the word “classic” here, but this was my true impression. Soft, round, clean and perfectly classic. Drinkability: 8-

2011 Pondera Malbec Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley (97% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon) was, in a word, outstanding. Round, soft, polished, with delicious blueberries and blackberries – this was one of the very few wines I didn’t use the spittoon for in the tasting. Just a pure pleasure. Drinkability: 8+

The last wine was a special treat – 2009 Pondera Prima Donna Columbia Valley (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon) was made only once, in the exceptional year (2009) only from the 2 exceptional barrels. Delicious, classic Bordeaux style, big, powerful, with chewy tannins and long life perspectives in the cellar (if you can get a bottle, there is). Drinkability: 8

Here you go, my friends. A wonderful Bordeaux blend experience – if you are looking for the bright, delicious, cassis-loaded glass of joy, jot down the name Pondera Winery, and see if you can find a bottle or two. Meanwhile, I’m off to continue my Woodinville discovery journey, stepping literally 5 feet to the left into another door…

To be continued…

 

Woodinville Wineries: Elevation Cellars

October 16, 2014 6 comments

Elevation CellarsThis is the continuation of the posts about Woodinville wineries – the first part can be found here.

As I walked out of the car, literally the very first winery sign I saw was for the Elevation Cellars. The name sounded appealing, so it was an easy decision – looks like a perfect spot to begin the tastings.

Inside the space looked very much like an upscale large garage with the nice wooden door, but with the addition of shiny stainless steel tanks, as well as some oak barrels. I asked if I can taste the wines (of course – what kind of question is that if the tasting room sign says “Open”, right?), and also explained that I’m a wine blogger, which was taken somewhat matter-o-factly – but very friendly in any case.

We started tasting from 2013 Elevation Cellars Imperium Riesling Lawrence Vineyard Columbia Valley AVA. The Riesling had a very interesting profile with a touch of sweetness and some interesting minerality – it was actually resembling the Washington Riesling I didn’t appreciate during the pro tasting at WBC14 – however, the Elevation Cellars Riesling had an overall round and balanced profile with pleasant tartness in the finish, so overall I liked it quite a bit. Drinkability : 7+

Next I had the 2010 Elevation Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley AVA – this wine was almost a perfection in the glass, with clean and classic cassis aroma on the nose. On the palate, the wine was restrained, fresh acidity and medium to full body (lighter than most of the California Cabs would be), overall very round. Definitely an excellent wine for all occasions. Drinkability: 8

Our next wine was a perfect Bordeaux blend with the cool label – 2011 Elevation Cellars Jammin’ Red Blend Red Mountain and Columbia Valley AVA. I can’t describe it any better than to say “perfect Bordeaux blend” again – and in need of time. Cassis, touch of green bell pepper, very noticeable tannins in front of the mouth. Delicious and drinkable now, but it will definitely evolve further. Drinkability: 8-

2010 Elevation Cellars Merlot Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley AVA was exactly what you should expect from Washington Merlot – it was bigger than the Washington Cabernet Sauvignon. Coffee and espresso notes, powerful tannins, great depth and again, the need of time. Give this wine 5-6 years, and you will not be able to put your glass down. Drinkability: 8-

I would think you would agree that the tasting looked quite good already, but we continued with more treats.

2009 Elevation Cellars Monolith Bordeaux Blend Hedges Vineyard Red Mountain AVA – absolutely delicious. Again, a clean nose of cassis, concentrated red and black fruit, chewy tannins, round and powerful. I learned that 2009 was an excellent year in Washington, and this wine was pretty much an exemplary rendition of the vintage. We also had an opportunity to drink this wine in the restaurant at dinner other night, and it was an absolute favorite of everyone. Drinkability: 8+

Before I will tell you about the last wine, I have to mention my main treat of the visit – a conversation with Steve Stuart, the winemaker and the owner of Elevation Cellars. At he time of my visit, Steve was working at the winery – there were  some issues in the morning with some of the equipment breaking up and subsequent need of cleanup – but he was asked to talk to me, the blogger, so I felt like a real VIP : ). You can read the full story on the Elevation Cellars web site, but to give you a quick round up, Steve is an engineer, and he still works as an engineer during the week, and spending his weekends at the winery, following his passion. I didn’t want to take up too much of his already busy day, so I only asked Steve if he is using natural or cultured yeast for the fermentation, and he gave me an interesting answer (which makes a lot of sense). As an engineer, he likes to be able to control things, so he uses the cultured yeast. But it is not the need of control for the need of control itself – as a small winery, he really can’t afford for the fermentation to fail. When he is using the cultured yeast, he is certain that fermentation will start and finish. We also talked about few other things, but this was my most memorable takeaway. Then I asked if I can take his picture, and Steve agreed, albeit with some degree of resistance :).

Steve Stuart, winemaker and owner at Elevation Cellars

Steve Stuart, winemaker and owner at Elevation Cellars

The wine which Steve has in his hand, which we enjoyed drinking together, was truly a special treat – 2010 Elevation Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley AVA. Steve found out that one of the barrels of 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was showing substantially better than the others – that barrel was bottled separately to become the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. My notes for this wine are very simple – wow! It was very much similar to the standard 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon – only with all the taste elements greatly amplified. Cassis, structure, balance – simply a wow wine. Drinkability: 8+

This sums up my first experience with the Woodinville winery – more posts will follow. Cheers!

 

 

 

Like A Kid In The Candy Store…

October 13, 2014 19 comments

I’m traveling again (for my daytime job), and of course when I travel, I’m always looking for the local wineries to visit. This time I’m in Washington state, and of course there is no shortage of wineries to visit here. Well, let me critique myself here for that beaten up “of course”. This is not the first time I’m in Washington –  however, last time I was here, I couldn’t think of anything but the Chateau St. Michelle as a winery to visit (which was the great visit, by the way, and I love their wines). While the Washington wineries had been on my radar for quite a long time, there was no realization that those wineries are actually the places which can be visited. Until this time.

First, I tried to arrange a visit to the Quilceida Creek, a cult producer. Unfortunately, they were smack in a middle of harvest at the time of my visit, and said that they allow no visitors at that time (oh well, I will try to time my visit better next time). Then I tried Google, and got back way too many results. My next step was Twitter, where I got some name recommendations and was given a few posts to read – one from the Wild 4 Washington Wine blog (this is not just one blog post, this is a series), and another one from the Jameson Fink blog. Based on all the information, I wrote down the few wineries I wanted to start from, and decided to figure out the rest on the fly. I also only had about 3 hours available to taste.

I had a bit of a trouble programing my GPS, so I just put whatever address it took. When I arrived to the area called Woodinville Industrial Park, and electronic voice proclaimed the familiar “you have arrived at your destination”, my first reaction was “wow”!

At the entrance to Woodinville Industrial ParkHow would you, wine geeks and aficionados out there, feel – greeted with such a view? A Christmas in October? Yay! I was looking for the right way to describe my state of mind once I saw all these signs, and the best I could do was “a kid in the candy store” – wow, I can taste all of these – incredible!

It appears that what started less than 10 years ago from only 5 wineries, finding an inexpensive rent in the Industrial Park, became a 60+ setting now (and there are more than 100 wineries in the Woodinville overall). Going from winery from winery, I met very passionate and very talented people, who are living through their dream. Most of the people I met – winemakers and owners – have another full time job – an engineer, a police officer, a reporter. And despite the fact that winery is “just a hobby” (who am I kidding – it is not, it is a product of obsession), the wines were simply outstanding. I found it also fascinating that at every tasting room I was given a recommendation on what to visit next. I tasted about 40+ wines during this visit overall – and I literally would be glad to drink any one of those wines again and again. Lots of Bordeaux blends, few of the whites, a bit of Syrah – this was a general line up at all the wineries, and again, the wines were beautifully executed, balanced and with the sense of place. The local wines you would be glad to drink all the time.

What I decided to do is not to produce a monster post trying to cram all the impressions into one, but instead, to make a few posts talking about individual wineries. During this trip, I visited Elevation Cellars, Pondera Winery, Des Vogne Cellars, Sparkman Cellars, Guardian Cellars, Fidelitas and Mark Ryan Winery – and this is what you should expect to see coming in the next few posts. Therefore, I’m not finishing up this post, but instead, as they like to say, it is “to be continued…”

P.S. Once I started writing this post, I realized that I was really talking about “local wineries”, and “local” is a theme of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #12, so let it be my entry into that.

Month in Wines – September 2014

October 10, 2014 2 comments

Yep, another month became a history, and it is time to talk about the wine highlights – well, yeah, before this month vanishes too. No generic trends or observations, except of a bit more of the kosher wines than usual due to the Jewish holidays. Here we go.

2012 Terrenal Chardonnay, Spain (12.5% ABV, $4.99, kosher, not mevushal) – Simple, light, easy to drink – well balanced and round, especially for the price. 7+

2012 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc Estate Wine, South Africa (13.5% ABV, 89% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Semillon) – Gooseberry, fresh grass and lemon on the nose, touch of sweetness. Nice zippy acidity on the palate, with fresh lemon and lemon zest. The wine was showing the best on the second day, so you can put it aside for a while. 8

NV Blason de Borgogne La Reserve Blanc de Noirs Brut (12% ABV) – clean, simple, fine mousse, touch of yeast – you get all you want from the simple glass of Champagne, except the price tag. 7+

2008 von Hovel Riesling Kabinett Scharzhoefberg Mosel, Germany (7.5% ABV) – classic. Honeysuckle on the nose, the same on the palate with the addition of fresh lemon and candied lemon peel. Perfect balance, a whiff of petrol. Drinkability: 8+

2013 Terrenal Malbec I.P. Mendoza, Argentina (13% ABV, $4.99, kosher, mevushal) – another excellent QPR – good fruit, tobacco, medium body – perfectly enjoyable. 7+

2010 Shiloh Secret Reserve Shiraz Judean Hills, Israel (14.8% ABV, $38, kosher, mevushal) – concentrated and delicious. Dark chocolate, a touch of pepper, red and black fruit, soft but present tannins – every sip was just full of pleasure. 8

2011 Flam Syrah Reserve, Israel (14% ABV, kosher, mevushal) – a very different case compared to the Pax Cuvee below – this wine needed more time, it was way too early to open it. Dense, tight, firm structure, touch of pepper, very balanced. 8+

2011 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles (14% ABV, $25) – Jusitn is one of my favorite producers, and this wine was very much on par with expectations. Rich,

with dark fruit and tobacco notes, firm structure and excellent balance. 8

 

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2006 Pax Cuvée Moriah Sonoma County (15.9% ABV, 88% Grenache, 6% Mourvedre, 3% Syrah, 2% Counoise, 1% Roussanne) – I’m glad I managed to catch this wine on the way out – if I would’ve waited another year, I think this wine would completely turn over the hill. Brooding and powerful, yet balanced and restrained. 8+

2011 Ridge Three Valleys Sonoma County (13.8% ABV, $25, 65% zinfandel, 20% petite sirah, 9% carignane, 3% mataró, 2% alicante bouschet, 1% grenache) – delicious blackberry nose,concentrated, dark fruit on the palate, dense and delicious. 8

2011 Suertes del Marques La Solana Vino de Parcela Valle de La Orotava DO, Spain (13.5% ABV, $18, 100% Listan Negro) – Outstanding. Touch of barnyard, herbs and earth on the nose. Clean, light, but with perfectly present body. Fresh tart blackberries and blueberries, clean acidity, young tannins. All together, perfectly balanced and elegant. Besides, it is a new grape! 9-

2011 terra de TOUROS Vinha Regional Tejo, Portugal (13$ ABV, $9.99, 50% Touriga Nacional., 50% Pinot Noir) – fresh and bright on the nose. On the palate, a firm structure of Touriga Nacional coupled with open fruit of Pinot Noit. A very interesting wine, with Touriga Nacional and Pinot Noir showing their clean profile literally independently – both components are recognizable individually. 8-

2010 Famille Perrin Reserve Codes du Rhone, France  (13.5% ABV) – soft fruit on the nose, cherries and touch of plums on the palate. Also spices and herbs, excellent balance. 8-

2007 Cantine Paolini Gurgo Frapatto-Syrah Sicilia IGT Italy (13.5% ABV, $14.99, 60% Frapatto, 40% Syrah) – Delicious. Red and black fruit on the nose, spicy undertones of Syrah on the palate, nice earthiness and minerality, firm, medium to full body. 8-

2010 Chateau Picque Caillou Pessac-Leognan AOC, France (14% ABV, $35, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot) – A rare Bordeaux note for the “month in wine”. I just don’t drink that much of Bordeaux in general, as price you have to pay versus probability of just not getting the pleasure, doesn’t make Bordeaux all that appealing. Luckily, this was a good bottle – good fruit, good substance, good balance – very nice package overall. 8-

 

Beer Versus Wine (And Don’t Forget The Cider) + Food

October 9, 2014 10 comments

I don’t know what you think based on the title, but the premise of this [short] post is simple. The Wondering Gourmand has a permanent monthly feature in his blog, called “Beer Versus Wine Pairing Challenge”. In that challenge, you are given a choice of a dish, and you are supposed to come up with the wine or beer (and don’t forget the cider!) pairing suggestion which then gets voted for.

As a lucky winner of the September challenge, I had an opportunity to come up with the new dish for the challenge, and my suggestion was … deviled eggs! So now you can suggest a choice of pairing, and may be then get a lucky challenge of coming up with the next dish suggestion. Here is the link to the official post – use the comments section in the Wondering Gourmand post for your beer versus wine recommendations.

Beer Versus Wine Pairing Challenge – Deviled Eggs

Cheers!

Wines, Wines, Wines – Worldwide Wines Portfolio Tasting

October 3, 2014 5 comments

Every fall I attend 3 or 4 different wine distributor portfolio tastings here in Connecticut. Not this year, though. This year I managed to miss all tasting except one – the Worldwide Wines. According to my friend Zak, the owner of the Cost Less Wines in Stamford, I was lucky, as the 3 tastings I missed were quite mediocre, so I ended up not wasting my time.

The tasting was done in the standard for Worldwide format – 4 hours, 110 tables, roughly translating into 500+ wines. No, nobody can possible taste that many wines in such a little time, so you really have to do two things – 1. Build a plan. 2. Follow the plan. Luckily for me, Zak built the plan, so all I had to do was to follow him. Before I will inundate you with my short, but copious notes on the wines I tasted, let me give you few of my personal experience highlights.

1. Archery Summit wines were delicious – dense, structured, powerful, in need of time and impeccably balanced.

2. Wines from Chappellet were a personal discovery – to be very honest, I’m generally not a fun of Chappellet, but this 2012 release was outright delicious, especially the Chardonnay.

3. Zaccagnini, a well known producer of the Montepulciano wines (I’m sure you are familiar with the bottles with a little piece of wood attached to them), presented a brand new wine – Riesling (!) – and it was delicious. I also re-tasted the Zaccagnini flagship Montepulciano – I have a tendency to avoid this wine because of its sleazy appearance of the bottle, but – it is for sure an excellent wine at $14.99 and definitely worth your attention.

4. I had a pleasure of tasting a RP 100-point wine  – 2010 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon – and … I was not blown away. Moreover, I was not even really impressed – yes, it was definitely a good wine, but to say that it was one of the very, very best wines I ever tasted would be simply not true. The wine was good, but I would never identify it as a “100 pointer” in my book.

5. Be careful with 2011 California red wines from Napa – for sure from Napa, don’t know about other California regions. While the vintage was lauded as “beautiful and restrained”, lots of wines I tasted from the 2011 were simply green and lacked balance. They might improve with time, but based on my experience, nothing suggests that they will. I recommend looking for 2010 or go to 2012 which might be young, but perfectly delicious. Bottom line – don’t buy 2011 Napa reds unless you can taste them first.

6. You know I’m an Amarone geek – and Fumanelli Amarone 2008 was simply outstanding, round and delicious,  and a perfect Amarone value at $54.

Without further ado, let me present you with the list of the interesting wines I tasted. As usual, I’m using the +, ++, +++ and, of course, the ++++ ratings, just to make the rating process simple. Well, you will not see “+” rated wines here, and very few of “++” – the goal is to share highlights and not to drill on what was mediocre. Here we go:

2010 Pahlmeyer Merlot Napa Valley ($76) – +++, restrained
2011 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red Napa Valley ($139) – ++++
2012 Pahlmeyer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($75) – +++, round, restrained
2011 Pahlmeyer Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($80) – +++, round, excellent
2011 Pahlmeyer Jayson Chardonnay North Coast ($52) – ++-|, nice, toasty
2011 Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($75) – ++-|, nice, but QPR is very low at this price

2010 Bodegas Caro CARO Mendoza, Argentina ($43, Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec blend) – +++ delicious!

2012 Fumanelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC ($21) – ++-|, excellent, clean
2010 Fumanelli Terso Bianco Veneto IGT ($30) – ++
2008 Fumanelli Amarone della Valpolicella ($54) – +++, round, balanced, delicious. Outstanding QPR

2013 Zaccagnini Riesling Abruzzo ($15) – +++, excellent
2011 Zaccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo ($15) – +++, excellent

2012 Archery Summit Premier Cuvee Pinot Noir, Oregon ($36) – +++, great QPR
2011 Archery Summit Red Hills Pinot Noir, Oregon ($60) – ++++, outstanding!
2011 Archery Summit Arcus Pinot Noir, Oregon ($70) – ++++, power, finesse

2012 Laetitia Pinot Noir Estate, Arroyo Grande ($20) – +++, excellent
2012 Laetitia Pinot Noir Reserve du Domaine ($32) – +++, excellent

2011 Domaine de Beaurenard Rasteau ($20) – +++, excellent
2011 Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneauf du Pape ($31) – +++, excellent
2011 Domaine de Beaurenard Boisrenard Chateauneauf du Pape ($50) – +++, concentration! excellent

2012 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee ($27) – +++, young, delicious
2012 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($39) – +++
2012 Chappellet Chardonnay Napa Valley ($30) – +++, round, vanilla

2011 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($26) – +++, nicely green, restrained
2012 Clos du Val Chardonnay Carneros ($20) – ++-|, nice, round
2010 Clos du Val Merlot Napa Valley ($22) – +++, round, excellent

2010 Santa Carolina Reserva de Famiglia Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile ($21) – +++, beautiful
2008 Santa Carolina Herencia, Chile ($60, 100% Carmenere) – +++, excellent

2010 Coho Headwaters Red Napa Valley ($33) – ++-|
2011 Coho Summitvine Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain ($42) – +++

2013 Hetz Wine Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($16.49) – +++
2009 Hetz Wine Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) – +++, delicious
2009 Hetz Wine Cellars Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($59) – ++-|, nice, restrained
2004 Hetz Wine Cellars Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($62) – ++++ wow!
2009 Hetz Wine Cellars Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($175) – ++++, tannins!
2004 Hetz Wine Cellars Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($263) – ++, past prime or corked?

2012 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($35) – +++

2010 Venge MaCauley Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($51) – +++, excellent, needs about 10 years…

2012 Shafer Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley ($50) – +++, restrained
2011 Shafer Vineyards One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) – +++, perfect Cab nose
2011 Shafer Vineyards Relentless Syrah/Petite Sirah ($79) – +++, dark, concentrated
2010 Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon ($250) – +++, clean, round

2013 Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($15.49) – +++
2012 Honig Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford ($20) – +++, acidity!!
2012 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($35) – +++, earthy
2010 Honig Bartolucci Cabernet Sauvignon ($62.49) – +++, dense, needs time
2007 Honig Bartolucci Cabernet Sauvignon ($N/A) – +++, excellent!

2010 Boyanci InSpire Cabernet Sauvignon ($47) – +++
2010 Boyanci InSpire ROMAnce Cabernet Franc ($47, Stagecoach Vineyard, 70 cases produced) – +++, tannins!

2012 Far Niente Chardonnay Napa Valley ($45) – +++, round
2012 EnRoute Les Pommiers Pinot Noir RRV ($50) – +++-|, outstanding, luscious

2010 Hooker Blind Side Zinfandel California ($11) – ++, spectacular QPR

2012 Dr Frank Rkatsiteli Finger Lakes ($16) – +++, excellent!
2013 Dr Frank Dry Riesling Finger Lakes ($16) – +++
2013 Dr Frank Gewurztraminer Finger Lakes ($17) – +++
2012 Dr Frank Semi Dry Riesling Finger Lakes ($16) – +++

2012 St Supery Dollarhide Sauvignon Blanc ($36) – +++, very interesting, unusual
2013 St Supery Sauvignon Blanc ($17) – +++
2012 St Supery Virtu Estate Napa Valley ($17.49) – +++

2011 Amisfield Pinot Noir Central Otago New Zealand ($27) – +++, round, perfectly clean

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And we are done here. Cheers!

 

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, WTSO Fall Cheapskate Marathon, Costco Wines and more

October 1, 2014 4 comments

La Rioja Alta 890Meritage time!

Let’s start with the answer to the wine quiz #116: Harvest Time.

This quiz was dedicated to harvests and vintages, and as usual, contained 5 different questions.

Here are the questions, now with the answers:

Q1: Which one is missing:

1928, 1945, …, 1959, 1961, 1982

A1: 1947. The years above represent some of the best vintages in Bordeaux.

Q2: What is common between Vega Sicilia Unico, La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904, Chateau d”Yquem Grand Vin and Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Riserva Barolo?

A2: All of the wines above are made only in the best years – they are not produced every year no matter what.

Q3: This sweet wine is one of the most prized wines in the world, and it had been produced only 3 times in the 21st century – 2000, 2003 and 2011. Do you know what wine this might be?

A3: Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional Port. This Port in not only vintage, but it is also produced only in the exceptional years, without any regards to the Vintage declaration by IVDP. This port was produced only 3 times over the last 14 years.

Q4: Below is the list of some of the exceptionally good vintage years for this red wine – do you know what wine that might be?

1948, 1955, 1964, 1982, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2004

A4: Rioja. The telltale sign here are the 2001 and 2004 vintages, which were generally not the amazing years in most of the other regions, but exceptional in Rioja.

Q5: This wine was released for the first time in 1978, at the age of 100 years. It continues to be released every year since that time, always at the age of 100 years. Do you know what wine this might be and which country produces it?

A5: Seppeltsfield Seppelt Para 100 Year Old Tawny Port.

When it comes to the results, once again, the participation was rather low. But – this was a difficult quiz, so I think 4 correct answers out of 5 is a very good performance, thus we have a winner -oenophilogical, who gets the prize of unlimited bragging rights. Well done!

Now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and the web!

WTSO is on it again – the Cheapskate Marathon. Tuesday, October 14th, starting at 6 AM Eastern in the morning until midnight, the rules are usual – one wine at a time, offered for 15 minutes or until sold out, prices are from $7.99 to $18.99, 4 bottles minimum to get free shipping, no notifications of any sort except twitter. Yes, you know the drill. Happy hunting!

Do you ever buy wines at Coscto? Actually Coscto is the biggest alcohol retailer in US, with the 2013 sales totaling $3.1B, about 50% of which are wine sales. I thought you might be interested to read this interview with Annette Alvarez-Peters, an assistant GM for mechanizing, to learn what sells, what doesn’t sell at Costco, and what the future holds.

Next up – one of my favorite subjects for W’M – wine in numbers. Wine Market Council, a non-profit association, released the research about wine drinkers in the US, just in time for holidays. According to the research, out of the 230 million of adults in US (drinking age adults it is), 35% don’t drink any alcohol at all (if you ask me, I think at least 10% is lying, but never mind that statement). Another 21% drink alcohol, but not wine (pour souls), and only 44% drink wine. Those 44% are divided into two groups – 15% drink wine more than once a week (yay!), and 29% drink wine occasionally. There are more numbers in the research, of course, but I will leave it up to you to explore.

Last one for today is about nanotechnologies. Okay, fine. Wine and nanotechnologies. As reported by Dr. Vino, scientists in Denmark are working on the electronic tongue, which will take the difficult task of analyzing wine upon itself, and you will be left with the like/don’t like results, and of course,  the rating which will make Robert Parker green with envy. Anyway, I will let you be the judge of it.

And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on its way! Cheers!

Restaurant Files: Gastro Bar in Stamford, CT

September 29, 2014 8 comments

Stamford, the town where I live, is a vibrant, “alive”, modern city, with no shortage of the restaurants (according to the Trip Advisor, Stamford, a city of about 123,000 has 390 restaurants – I believe that accounts for McDonalds “restaurants” as well, but still). And nevertheless, when I think about new interesting restaurants or when I’m asked to recommend a restaurant in Stamford, I almost start mumbling – especially, if the request is for the new restaurant. I can easily recommend places in Norwalk and other towns near by, but Stamford is always a challenge. This is why I was very happy when I was invited to yet another bloggers dinner at the new restaurant in Stamford, called Gastro Bar.

I like it when the name of the restaurant becomes part of the experience, as it builds anticipation. Think about it – when you are planning to visit a restaurant called “Corner Cafe” – does it create any level of expectations and excitement? Not unless you do the research and figure out what people think about it and what is served at such a restaurant. At the same time, when you hear the name “Gastro Bar”, such a name right away creates a feeling of excitement, as it hints at the upcoming gastronomical experience.

Gastro Bar is located in one of the busiest restaurant enclaves in Stamford – Columbus Park. From the street you walk into the nicely decorated space – it has charm, but doesn’t overwhelm. The front wall of the restaurant is pretty much made out of glass, so even while you are inside, you have a feeling of the open space and feel connected to the street outside. Bar is very substantial, and looks very appropriate for the place which has the “Bar” as part of the name. As usual, we started our visit from a few drinks. The cocktails list was small, but the drinks were outstanding. Slow & Low (Slow & Low whiskey • muddled oranges & lemon • ginger beer) had delicious fresh orange, very refreshing. Gastro Mule (Hendricks Gin • pineapple juice, triple sec • St. Germain • Rose wine) was my favorite – I really don’t like sweet cocktails, and this was a perfection – very tasty and again perfectly refreshing. Wine list had a good selection, mostly focused on California and Italy. We ended up choosing 2011 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles – the wine was rich, with dark fruit and tobacco notes, beautiful depth and excellent balance; this was definitely a spot on selection for our dinner.

And then there was food. We started with the Fried Calamari (Smoked Aioli) which had a very good texture. Next appetizer was Oysters (Crispy oysters, avocado, pureé, grapefruit & radish), which were deep fried and served in a very unique way, with avocado and grape fruit. We had two pizzas, which were more of a tart style, with a very think and crunchy crust. Fig Pizza (goat cheese, 10 year balsamic, prosciutto, arugula) was delicious with large chunks of prosciutto and fig wonderfully balancing the goat cheese. Mushroom Pizza (mushrooms, bacon, fontina) was outstanding, with each ingredient contributing its own flavor profile, and every bite been cravingly delicious.

Up next – Salmon Tartar (Jalapeños, shallots, crispy potatoes, cilantro) – perfectly salmon, perfectly clean profile with nice heat in the back and textural contrast of crispy potatoes. Brussel Sprout Salad (Shaved Brussel sprouts, truffle oil, lemon juice, crispy risotto cake) was also very tasty, a nice combination with risotto cake. Fried Quinoa (Mango Chutney) had perfect balance of flavor and was quintessentially Mediterranean, very much resembling falafel – and it was very tasty in cobination with the mango chutney. Artichoke-stuffed Portabello Mushrooms also had an excellent balance of flavor, with artichoke complementing and extending the mushroom flavor. Albondigas (lamb meatballs, pomodoro, baby kale) had a clear lamb profile, and the dish worked perfectly with the Cabernet Sauvignon we were drinking. Crab Cake (arugula, fresh tomato, cherry pepper sauce) finished our appetizers selection, and what finish this was! Beautiful presentation, and the freshness of the crab cake was on par with the best crab cakes I had in a restaurant in Chesapeake Bay, made from the freshly caught crabs. Even thinking about this crab cake makes me salivate…

Out entrée started with Panzotti (butternut squash, toasted almonds, brown butter), delicious homey pasta, a perfect comfort food. Baked King Salmon (horseradish, beets, whipped potato, braised celery) was outstanding all the way. While salmon was perfectly cooked, for me the stars of the dish were vegetables – sweet beets and braised celery were just spectacular.

Then Chef Fernando Gomez showed up to personally present the Paella:

Chef Fernando Gomez presenting PaellaPaella (clams, shrimp, chicken, mussels, calamari, sweet peas, chorizo, saffron rice) was excellent, great flavor and texture, very well executed.

After all this food, I’m very glad that dessert was of a reasonable size. The Cheesecake had very nice density – not too hard, but not easily falling apart either. And as I like all the things coffee, the Espresso Crème Brûlée was just a wow finish to this outstanding meal with its clear coffee profile.

As usual, a big thanks to the Executive Chef Fernando Gomez, and I’m also glad that I had an opportunity to include into the picture our tireless guide to all the culinary extravaganza – Lin Kavanagh.

Linda Kavanagh and Chef Fernando Gomez

We are done here, folks. I hope I didn’t make you too hungry. And I’m also glad that Stamford now has restaurants such as Gastro Bar, where classic perfectly mingles with innovation and creativity. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I visited restaurant as a guest of the management. All opinions are my own.

Gastro Bar Stamford
78 West Park Place
Stamford, CT 06901
203-817-0392

http://www.gastrobarstamford.com

Gastro Bar on Urbanspoon

 

Weekly Wine Quiz #116: Harvest Time

September 27, 2014 3 comments

wine quiz pictureThe Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

We might be reaching the logical end of the grape trivia series, at least concerning the individual grapes. Most of the grapes I can think of at this moment would be hard to create a reasonable quiz around. Don’t get me wrong – there are still plenty of the grapes worth talking about – but I need to think of a good approach there.

So for today, as we are in a middle of the harvest (in the northern hemisphere, it is), I thought – why don’t we play around vintages and harvests? Every harvest time is associated with an early assessment of the vintage – how are the grapes? Are they healthy enough? Is there acidity good? Is there good level of sugar and phenolic ripeness? How will this vintage pan out? Will people be actively seeking these wines? Will that be a vintage of the century? Well, I’m sure you got the picture and you are well familiar with it. Below I have the usual 5 questions for you, about harvests, vintages and wines. Some regions and wines are just more associated with all that “vintage” talk, so the questions might be skewed – but you should be the judge of it.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: Which one is missing:

1928, 1945, …, 1959, 1961, 1982

Q2: What is common between Vega Sicilia Unico, La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904, Chateau d”Yquem Grand Vin and Giacomo Conterno Monfortino Riserva Barolo?

Q3: This sweet wine is one of the most prized wines in the world, and it had been produced only 3 times in the 21st century – 2000, 2003 and 2011. Do you know what wine this might be?

Q4: Below is the list of some of the exceptionally good vintage years for this red wine – do you know what wine that might be?

1948, 1955, 1964, 1982, 1994, 1995, 2001, 2004

Q5: This wine was released for the first time in 1978, at the age of 100 years. It continues to be released every year since that time, always at the age of 100 years. Do you know what wine this might be and which country produces it?

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

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