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Daily Glass: Monday Night Escapades

October 17, 2017 2 comments

Is there a special wine fitting every day of the week? I would guess that for many, Friday and Saturday are considered special nights, as it’s the weekend, and people think of drinking something better (higher end). Sunday is still the weekend, so the higher calling might still be in order.

But what about Monday? Does your choice of wine for Monday depend on your general outlook on life? “I love Mondays” … said not that many people, but isn’t it great that it is the first day of the week and we have the whole new week ahead of us, with lots of things to do, places to visit and people to meet? I guess one’s personal take on Mondays does depend on one’s take on life, so I will leave it for you to ponder at and if you have any words of wisdom to share, please do so after the beep  … err in the comments section below.

I have two wine-related experiences from Monday which I want to share. First, I finally got to open the Field Recording’s Can Club shipment. What’s a big deal, you ask?

Field Recordings is one of the most innovative wineries I know. Small winery in Paso Robles, California, a brainchild of Andrew Jones, a vigneron, who started his career as a grape grower, first and foremost. Ever since I tried his Fiction Red, I became a passionate fan and I’m religiously following everything Filed Recordings does.

A few years ago, Field Recordings started experimenting with the wine in the can. Going beyond just the wine in the can, they also finishing their wines with the beer hops which creates truly a different experience. As soon as the “Can Club” was opened, I joined it. The wines were always good, but the shipments themselves went through a number of changes in the format, and pretty much every shipment had some little (and different) issues associated with them. Until now.

Once I opened the box, my very first reaction was “wow”. In my humble opinion, Field Recordings, under their Alloy Works brand, achieved perfection in the packaging of the canned wine. Simple, elegant, sturdy, economical, easy to handle – unpacking this shipment was absolutely a delightful experience. Ask any oenophile, the first thing which gets everyone excited is the opening of those boxes. With this delivery, Field Recordings Can Club achieved shipping nirvana – I hope they will continue it moving forward.

I can’t tell you much about the wines, as they needed to get chilled and went straight into the fridge;  I can only mention that this shipment included 2 cans each of Weissland, sparkling dry hopped Chardonnay; Martian Galaxy – a dry-hopped, sparkling rose, a blend of Gamay and Mourvedre Martian Vineyard in Los Alamos; and Sangria, a blend of freshest, cold-pressed juice cocktail of cranberry, blood orange and lemon from Yes Cocktail Company mixed with Zinfandel from Old Potrero Vineyard. I don’t know about you, but I’m very excited to try these wines – and will report on the experience afterward.

2011 Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon Napa ValleyNow, let’s talk about that Monday night wine. Outside of special events, I never know in advance what am I going to open. Deciding on the bottle of wine is somewhat of a frustrating experience (first world problems, I know). Numerous bottles get touched and looked at, then rejected for a myriad of reasons. Finally, one is pulled out – usually for no other reason than “oh well, maybe this will do”. This time around the bottle happened to be Turley Cabernet Sauvignon called The Label.

Turley is not known as the Cabernet Sauvignon powerhouse – it is a coveted and well sought-after Zinfandel producer for the most. A few years ago, Turley finally got into the Cabernet Sauvignon wines and produced the wine which was called “The Label” – named after the words of Larry Turley, the proprietor at Turley Winery, who always said that Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers simply “drink the label”.

I  don’t know if this should be considered funny or strange, but it appears that 2011 Turley The Label already was my choice of Monday wine – almost 4 years ago, in January of 2014 (here is the post). I really loved the wine then, but it evolved much further this time around. From the get-go, this 2011 Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (13.4% ABV) showed a beautiful medley of the succulent berries, both on the nose and the palate – blackberries, blueberries, and black currant, tastefully accompanied by mint and eucalyptus and supported by clean acidity (Drinkability: 9-). It was reminiscent of a perfect Turley Zinfandel, fresh and playful – with a character of its own. Last time I said I want to taste this wine in 10 years. After almost four we are going in the right direction – I should have one more bottle somewhere so I will have to be careful to avoid any Monday blues prompts to open this wine until its due time.

What is your perfect Monday wine? Cheers!

Month in Wines – September and October 2015

November 4, 2015 5 comments

If there is one neglected topic in this blog, it is the “month in wines” series, which I managed to produce quite regularly during 2014 and before. I will do my best to fix this, so if you see “June Wines” blog post in December, you would know why. This also means that these “caught up” posts will be even longer than usual – but again, now you know why.

There were lots of interesting wines during September and October, so here is a glimpse into what was pouring – well, it is a long “glimpse”, as I’m trying to cover 2 month at once, so please bear with me.

2014 Notte Italiana Prosecco DOC (11% ABV, kosher) – simple and easy, good acidity. 7

2013 Via Semi Sweet Sparkling Wine, Israel (10.7% ABV, kosher, 50% Gewurztraminer, 50% Viognier) – the inner snob said “it will not be good”, and was ashamed. The wine had nice balance of sweetness and acidity, very pleasant and simple. 7+

2013 Fero Vineyards Dry Riesling, Pennsylvania (11.5% ABV) – still need to write a post about visiting Fero Vineyards. In any case, this was nice and classic, good acidity, nice touch of honey and honeysuckle, but just a touch. 7+

2012 Carlisle The Derivative Sonoma County (14.2% ABV, 54% Semillon, 30% Muscadelle, 16% Palomino) – delicious. Bright white fruit on the nose, more of the same on the palate with clean acidity. 8-

2013 Carlisle Compagni Portis Sonoma Valley (13.9% ABV, blend of Gewurztraminer, Trosseau Gris and Riesling) – another delicious Carlisle white. Fresh and bright on the nose, medium to full body on the palate, with an impeccable balance of fruit and acidity. Ahh, and the new grape – Trosseau Gris. 8

2015 The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc Awatere Valley Marlboro (13% ABV) – literally summer in the bottle. Fresh, exuberant, a pure delight. And the first wine I had of 2015 vintage. 8

2014 Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir Willamette Valley (14.2% ABV) – one would never think to find white wine made out of the red grape outside of Champagne, right? This was a beautiful surprise – fresh, vibrant, crisp, good white fruit, medium body, excellent balance and complexity. 8-

It appears that this is all I had for the whites – note to self – need to drink more white wines… Anyway, the rest are the red wines.

2013 Valcantara Old Vine Garnacha, Cariñena DO, Spain (13.5% ABV) – closeout deal at my local wine store ($7.99) – however the wine is outstanding. Classic Garnacha with plums and dark chocolate. Good acidity and easy to drink. 8-

2013 Alighieri Rubino del Marchese Toscana IGP (12% ABV) – another closeout deal, same price as previous wine. There was an interesting bottle variation as the first bottle was just all about acidity and not much about fruit, but the second bottle was much more balanced. Quite enjoyable, especially at the price. 7

1997 Le Ragose Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore (12.5% ABV) – it showed age, but was still well drinkable. Lots of tertiary aromas, touch of dried fruit, but still with a good core of acidity. 8-

2011 ARFI Gabriel Cabernet Sauvignon Judean Hills, Israel (13.1% ABV, kosher) – not a bad rendition of Cab, but was a bit too sweet for my palate – I would like it to be a bit more balanced. 7

2014 The Crossings Pinot Noir Awatare Valley Marlboro, New Zealand (14% ABV) – very good example of Pinot Noir from Marlboro. Good balance of fruit and acidity, all the Pinot traits. 7+

2005 Viña Real Rioja Crianza (13.5% ABV) – classic Rioja, no sign of age. ‘Nuf said. 8

2005 Block 213 Merlot Oakville Napa Valley (13.5% ABV) – was opened for the “Merlot Month”, and I’m glad I did – it was right at the pick, if not starting to decline a bit. Still quite enjoyable, good body, good amount of fruit, cassis. 8-

2012 Nissley Naughty Marietta Semi-dry Red Wine Lancaster Valley, Pennsylvania (12% ABV) – and again inner snob was ashamed. While the wine shows some level of sweetness, it is perfectly balanced with acidity and tannins, very pleasant wine after all. 7+

2013 Field Recordings Hinterland Vineyard Cabernet Franc Paso Robles (14.1% ABV, $18, 88% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot) – nicely polished and very classic. 8-

2013 Field Recordings Tommy Town Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (14.3% ABV, $18, 100% Cabernet Franc) – a bit rough initially, but came down to its senses after time in the glass. 7+

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only a few more, I promise…

2005 Château Gravat Médoc AOC (13% ABV) – still have one last bottle from the case. Only now, 10 years later, this wine is losing the grip of green chewy branches and starts showing ripe fruit and overall power. Patience is a virtue of the wine lover. 7+/8-

2005 Bodegas Ignacio Marin Barón de Lajoyosa Gran Reserva Cariñena DO, Spain (13% ABV, 50% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo, 10% Cariñena, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) – perfectly structured, firm, fresh, dark fruit, delicious. 8-

2009 Wente Vineyards Small Lot Petite Sirah Livermore Valley, California (13.7% ABV, $35) – one of my absolute favorite wines – dark, polished, lots of power and structure, delicious till the last drop. You can get this beauty only at the winery, so if your plans will take you to the Livermore valley, do yourself a favor… 8

2011 Turley Duarte Zinfandel Contra Costa County (15.6% ABV)  – delicious, classic, dark and brooding. 8

2007 Verve Syrah Columbia Valley (14.5% ABV) – spot on – touch of spices, pepper, violet, dark fruit, delicious. This one comes with regret – I should’ve get lots, lots more during Last Wine Bottles marathon… 8

2007 Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.5% ABV, $22) – I don’t care whether this wine contains any of the Harlan fruit or not – this is simply delicious, outstanding California Cab which you can’t beat in value. Classic, clean, loads of black currant, perfect balance. 8+

2009 Domaine Fond Croze Cuvée Shyrus Côtes du Rhône (14% ABV, $29.99/1.5L, 100% Syrah) – delicious rendition of the old world Syrah – pepper, lavender, dark fruit, all intermingled and balanced. 8-

2010 Turley Zinfandel Tofanelli Vineyard Napa Valley (15.8% ABV) – I couldn’t stop smelling this wine for good 10 minutes. I didn’t want to drink it – I wanted for smell to last for as long as possible. Can’t describe it – it had everything the wine lover would want from the glass of wine. There, I said it. Incredible. On the palate, the wine had lots of dark fruit and spices, structure and power. Then is closed up and opened only on the second day. This would definitely evolve – I wish I had another bottle… 8+/9-

2012 Turley Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (14.1% ABV) – an opposite to the previous wine. At first, it was practically closed. After a while, it showed all the traits of the great California Cab – black currant, a bit of dust, firm and delicious. 8

2010 Zaca Mesa Syrah Santa Ynez Valley (13.5% ABV) – if I would have to name 10 best Syrah producers in US, Zaca Mesa would be definitely in the top half of that list. Perfectly layered, with dark fruit, pepper, spices, smooth, balanced and absolutely delicious. 8+

Believe it or not, but we are finally done. What were your wine highlights as of recent? Cheers!

Month in Wines – March 2014

April 4, 2014 7 comments

And the time has come to summarize another month in wines. March 2014 was quite wine eventful, especially from point of view of discovering of the new and unique wines. I already wrote about some of the wines before, so I will not inundate you with the repetitive details, and instead will simply give you the reference to the prior post. All the wines are rated on the 10 points scale, with + and – adjustments. These summary posts only include the wines with the ratings of 8- and higher – in the very very rare cases, I might include 7+ wines if I feel that the wine was simply unique.

Let’s go!

2005 Seven Hills Merlot Columbia Valley, Washington (13% ABV, 88% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 18 month aging in French and American oak) – in a word, spectacular. Yes, I like my wines with a little age – decanters and all are nice, but can’t compare with the wine actually having a chance to age slowly and gracefully. This wine was phenomenal from the moment the cork was pulled. On the nose, it was an aroma exuberance, with lots of different flavors going on – plums, cassis, sweet oak, herbs – everything was happening. And palate followed the lead – silky smooth, with layers upon layers of mature fruit, soft tannins and perfect acidity. Exquisitely balanced, this was a pure pleasure in the glass. I think we got this wine at its peak – and it was my only bottle. Sigh. 9

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2011 Field Recordings “Neverland” Red Wine Grassini Vineyard Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (15.1% ABV, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot. Aging: 50% new French barrels, 25% new American barrels, 25% seasoned French for 18 month) – Field Recordings never cease to amaze. Powerful and delicious. 8+

2012 Cane and Fable 373 Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tempranillo, 5% Petit Verdot. Aging: 225L oak barriques, 25% new, 12 month) – This was very interesting ( in a good sense), and will wait for a while to see it evolve. 8-

2010 CVNE Monopole Rioja DOC (13% ABV, 100% Viura) – Delicious, refreshing – and age worthy. Will get back to it in a few years. 8

2012 Colline de l’Hirondelle Cocolico, France (15% ABV, 60% Chenançon Noir, 25% Grenache, 15% Syrah) – Powerful and different. Unique flavor profile, unique grape. 8-

2009 Pedro Luis Martínez  Arriba Término de Hilanda Monastrell, Jumilla DO (14.5%ABV, 100% Monastrell, 14 month aging in new American and French oak) – One of the very best Monastrell wines I ever tasted. Coffee, dark chocolate and a fruit, all weaved elegantly together in a tight, firmly structured body. 8-

2010 Bodegas Rafael Cambra Soplo Valencia DO (14% ABV, 100% Alicante Bouschet/Garnacha Tintorera, 3 month aging in oak) – Clearly outstanding, with the flavor profile rivaling best Cabernet Sauvignon. 8+

2011 Bodrog Borműhely Lapis Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary (13% ABV, 100% Furmint) – A pleasure in every sip. Different and delicious. 8

2011 Fekete Béla Olaszrizling, Somló, Hungary (14.5% ABV, 100% Olaszrizling) – Another case of absolutely unique wine. Flavor profile is fascinating, with explicit minerality and balance of herbs and fruit. 8

2008 M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Cotes du Roussilon Villages, France (13.5% ABV, blend of Grenache, Syrah , Carignan) – This is consistently one of the best wines for the money – in the $16 range, it is almost unbeatable. Besides, this wine can age very well – this 2008 was spectacular and it could go on and on and on. 8

2006 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir Central Otago, New Zealand (14.5% ABV) – beautiful, simply beautiful. Perfectly clean and delightful Pinot Noir profile. 8+

2007 Krupp Brothers Black Bart’s Bounty Chardonnay Napa Valley (14.8% ABV) – had a very interesting experience with this wine. I had two bottles, and when I opened one recently, I didn’t like it – was too much of the malolactic processing, to me the wine acquires that strange and specific taste. But then I had a second bottle a few weeks after, and it was excellent – balanced, a bit of vanilla and butter, just right, very pleasant. The temperature might be a culprit, or just the difference between the bottles. 8-

2010 Turley Zinfandel Heminway Vineyard, Napa Valley (15.6& ABV) – Turley rarely disappoints, but this wine clearly needed more time… Dark, powerful, concentrated, balanced. 8-

2005 Quinta Ste Eufemia Porto LBV, Portugal (19% ABV)  – classic, with round sweetness of figs and prunes, good acidity, fresh and delicious. 8-

2004 Hobbs Barossa Frantignac, Barossa, Australia (10% ABV) – delicious. Perfectly balanced sweetness and acidity, very fragrant and easy to drink. 8

And we are done here. What were your wine highlights from the past month? Cheers!

Turley The Label 2011 – Sometimes, Words Are Just Not Enough

January 20, 2014 13 comments

Turley TheLabelWine triggers emotions. Emotions become memory knots. Sometimes, just one quick look at the bottle is enough to unleash the memory flood – where, what, how, the images and thoughts are just start coming in. Wine triggers the memory of the moment in the past, and we remember what was happening. But how often do we remember the wine itself? How often do we remember the smell and the taste? Take the wine out of the context of the memorable event, just bring it back to the regular Monday night, just an average, uneventful night – how many Monday (or any other regular weekday or weekend) night bottles can you recall?

And then there are wines which require no memorable setting to be memorable on their own. The wines which don’t bring the memories of the moment, but rather memory of itself. Those wines are rare, few and far in between. But they exist. And from time to time, we are lucky enough to encounter one more. My latest encounter? 2011 Turley The Label.

2011 Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (13.4% ABV) was released in the late fall of 2013, and came out in its traditional simple bottle. Dark garnet color liquid went into the glass. Swirl, another swirl, sniff… OMG. What is it? What is this wonderful aroma, which doesn’t let you put the glass down – nor take a sip – the first smell commands another… and another … and another. At first, you are not even looking for the right words to describe what you smell, you just keep enjoying the aroma. Then the brain starts moving impatiently – “I know this smell, I know this smell, come on, come on”. All of a sudden, the realization comes in – yes, I do know the smell. It is black currant. Bot not the berries. It is the leaves. It’s those meaty, big green leaves on a hot summer day – that’s what it is – and the smell is incredible.

Similar to the fresh meadows of Fiction, or gunflint of Frédéric Gueguen Chablis, those fresh black currant leaves of Turley The Label create an unforgettable image – really a memorable wine in its own right. The magnificent smell was followed by the dark supple fruit on the palate – blackberries and black currant, with firm tannins. It took the wine three days to open up and to actually show what it is capable of, when dark chocolate and espresso joined the profile of much brighter fruit, well structured with supple tannins, good acidity and overall perfect balance. Definitely a great wine which will need about 10 years to really come to its best. Drinkability: 8+

What are your most memorable wines? I would love to hear your stories. Happy Monday and cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #87: How Well Do You Know Your Wines, Part 2

January 4, 2014 16 comments

The 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!

As I skipped the traditional Meritage, I would like to start with the answer to the wine quiz #86, How well do you know your wines. In the quiz, you were given the pictures of the top of the wine bottles, and you were supposed to name the producer or wine based on that picture of that foil top. Here are the answers (and below are the pictures, now with the producer/wine names):

1. Laetitia, the winery in California producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines

2. Cambria, the winery in California, also producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines

3. Wente, large winery in California Livermore valley

4. Turley, California Zinfandel and Petite Sirah specialist (however, the picture was taken from the bottle of Turley The Label Cabernet Sauvignon)

5. La Rioja Alta, one of the best Rioja producers in Spain

6. Peter Michael, California winery producing great Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon

Bonus: Satrapezo, a great wine made out of Saperavi grape by Marani winery in Georgia – I understand that this is a very obscure wine for many, this is why it was set as a bonus question.

Talking about the results – this was a tough quiz, with a few people being able to properly identify Wente, and then some guesses for the #2 being Cline – this is close, but incorrect. The “C” on the Cline bottles is done slightly in the different style.

I still like this quiz, so here comes round number 2 – hopefully you can do better! Here we go:

1. DSC_0302

2. DSC_0305

3. DSC_0301

4. DSC_0307

5. DSC_0295

6. DSC_0298

7. DSC_0286

And the bonus question:

B. DSC_0291

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

Month in Wines – October 2013

November 1, 2013 5 comments
Montesco Passionate Wine

Montesco Passionate Wine

Another month is passing by, and it is the time to summarize the best experiences. Definite highlight of this month were all the wonderful wines I tasted in Portugal – the 1970 White Port is hard to topple –  but there were other great wines…

Without any particular order, here we go:

2010 Montesco Passionate Wine Parral, Tupungato, Mendoza (14% ABV, 40% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Bonarda) – the name says it all. Very inviting nose, layers of fruit, dark cherries, blackberries, supple tannins, energetic acidity and joy in every sip – excellent wine all around. 8+

2009 Turley Zinfandel Tofanelli Vineyard, Napa Valley (15.2% ABV) – dark, concentrated, with the core of traditional Zinfandel’s blackberry aromatics and palate, perfectly accentuated by espresso and dark chocolate notes. Perfectly dry, structured, firm and balanced, with a long finish. 9-

NV Lagranja 360 Cava Brut (11.5% ABV, 70% Xarel-lo, 30% Parellada) – simple and elegant, perfectly refreshing, just a touch of sweetness, good acidity, very balanced overall. 8-

NV Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru, Ambonay (70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay) – a beautiful wine. Touch of yeast on the nose, crisp acidity and noticeable fruit notes on the palate. Outstanding. 8+

NV H. Blin Brut, Vincelles (80% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay) – perfect acidity with somewhat of a medium body, nice mid-palate weight, very round. Excellent. 8-

NV Pierre Gimonnet & Fils 1er Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs Sélection Belles Anneés (100% Charodnnay) – very nice nose of brioche and touch of apple, same on the palate with some interesting mineral undertones. Very good. 8-

2003 Quevedo Colheita Tawny Port (barrel tasted) – mature, dried fruit, like figs and may be dried apricots, but it was very balanced and still perfectly fresh. 8+

1996 Quevedo Colheita Tawny Port (barrel tasted) – outstanding, mature, with the perfect medley of dried fruit, figs, raisins, and excellent supporting acidity. 9-

1970 Quevedo White Port (barrel tasted) – Elegant, complex, somewhat reminiscent of the mature Pedro Ximenez sherry, but with the dialed back sweetness, perfectly mature fruit, hazelnuts and, believe it or not, still very refreshing and all around spectacular. 9+

1974 Quevedo Colheita Tawny Port (tasted pre-bottled) – very complex, with the good amount of dried fruit, that nuttiness which only well aged Port or Jerez can demonstrate, all with still very present acidity. 9

2007 Arrayán Petit Verdot, DO Mentrida, Spain (14% ABV, 100% Petit Verdot) – concentrated, powerful, very dense, firm and structured, but showing some nice blueberries. Noticeable earthiness with some pencil shavings. 8

2007 Jamesport Vineyards Petit Verdot Reserve, Long Island, NY – powerful, all around dark fruit, notes of the dark chocolate, soft tannins, balancing acidity. Needs some time to open. Will age nicely for the next 10-15 years. 8

2005 Jamesport Vineyards Merlot Block E, Long Island, NY (13.5% ABV, 80% Merlot, 10% cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah) – beautiful nose of dark fruit and chocolate. Velvety, silky slick on the palate, layers of supple dark fruit, soft tannins, clean acidity, overall very balanced with long, sexy finish. 8+

2012 Ernie Els “Big Easy” Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa – nice body presence – medium to full body, somewhat plump with white stone fruit notes and soft acidity. Overall, very pleasant. 8-

That should be about all for the month of October. Did you have any memorable wine experiences? Care to share? Cheers!

Zin Versus Zin Versus Zin

June 18, 2013 11 comments

Wine Guerrilla Monte Rosso Zinfandel DSC_0328I was in “zin’s mind” this past Father’s day. I don’t know how did that happened, but when I was thinking what bottle to open for dinner, “how about Zinfandel” thought came over. I had no reason to resist, so Zinfandel was it. And by the way – the title of this post sounds a bit antagonistic – but this is not the idea. I just happened to enjoy recently 3 different Zinfandel wines, hence the wording in the title.

Zinfandel is one of the pretty unique grapes – even if we will count Primitivo as Zinfandel (which technically is incorrect – it is only a very close relative), there are only a handful of places where Zinfandel wines are produced. But – the good news is that California, the primary Zinfandel’s habitat, has no shortage of excellent Zinfandel producers.

If you will take a look at my “Happy Father’s Day” picture, you can see two Zinfandels there – and these are the wines I want to talk about. First, a couple of words about producers. Turley Wine Cellars needs no introduction for any Zinfandel aficionado. Turley produces 28 wines, most of the them are Zinfandel with addition of few Petite Sirah and some others, coming from Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Paso Robles and other primary areas in California. Turley is a “cult” winery, and while their wines can be found in some of the very select wine stores and restaurants, one really have to be on their mailing list to have more universal access to their wines (Turley was the first mailing list I was accepted onto – give me a second and slice of lemon to extinguish smile on my face).

The second producer is called The Wine Guerrilla. While not as well known as Turley, they also produce a full range of Zinfandel wines from the different areas in California. It is interesting to point out that The Wine Guerrilla is the only producer (to the best of my knowledge), which doesn’t make any other wines but Zinfandel. When your slogan is “The Art And Soul of Zinfandel”, I guess this is rather appropriate.

DSC_0640 Turley 2009 PesentiI decanted both Turley and Wine Guerrilla Zinfandel for about 2 hours. Yes, I know this is not typical to use a decanter around Zinfandel, but both wineries make wines rather in restrained style, so I really wanted them to open up. First up – 2009 Turley Pesenti Vineyard Zinfandel Paso Robles (16% ABV). Even after two hours of decanting, the most I got on the nose was a hint of blackberries and some dark chocolate notes. The very first sip of the wine said “I’m big”. The first words which come to mind to describe this wine are “dense”, “firm”, “structured”. On the very firm structure the perfect fruit is weaved (hmm, interesting composition of the sentence – not a typical one for me, but I like it : ) ). More blackberries and dark chocolate on the palate, but also an “old world style” minerality was coming through, and then acidity was all in check. The wine is perfectly balanced, with tannins, alcohol, fruit and acidity being all together, in harmony. Drinkability: 8-

DSC_0638 wine guerillaNow, let’s talk about 2010 Wine Guerrilla Mounts Vineyard Cypress Block Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma (15% ABV, 95% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah, 300 cases produced). The wine showed a lot of dark fruit on the nose, mostly blackberries and cherries. On the palate, the wine was not as structurally dense as Turley, but instead it had layers of fruit with very nice luscious texture – ripe blackberries, cherries and dark chocolate, and a hint of eucalyptus. Very good acidity and overall nice and round wine, excellent balance. Drinkability: 8-

Did you notice a label of another Wine Guerrilla Zinfandel at the beginning of this post? It is there not for the purposes of decoration – it is actually another Wine Guerrilla Zinfandel which I had a week ago. 2010 Wine Guerrilla Monte Rosso Vineyard Block E44 Zinfandel Sonoma Valley (15% ABV, 200 cases produced) was totally unique in its style. To give you an idea, I would call it a Brunello of Zinfandels. After 2+ hours in decanter, the first thing which came to mind after the first sip was “dry”. This wine was soooo dry – uniquely  dry for Zinfandel. It was also very herbaceous for the Zinfandel, with lots of dried herbs aromas, such as sage and oregano. It did show some fruit, but in very restrained, dialed back fashion. Definitely the most food friendly Zinfandel I ever tried, very balanced overall. Drinkability: 8

So I have to confess that I have one regret in regards to three wines I presented to you today. One, but big regret – I really want to taste these wines 10 years down the road! No, decanting didn’t do them any justice. These wines have to mature first, and then they will give you an ultimate pleasure. They were great and very enjoyable wines now, but they would become something much much bigger – if I would only have some spares…

Before we part, I want to share a few pictures from the Father’s day. Few weeks ago, my cousin got for me a new charcoal grill which is called “mangal” and it is mostly intended for making a kabob, but of course can be used as generic charcoal grill. Here are few pictures for you – with the warning – it might make you hungry…

Ribs and chicken

Ribs and chicken

just chicken

just chicken

just ribs

just ribs

That’s all I have for you for now. Ahh, before I will forget – don’t miss the WTSO Cheapskate Wednesday tomorrow, June 19th. Expected to appear are Benziger Pinot Noir, Rioja DOC Crianza, Provenance Merlot, Pomo Nation Cabernet, Expo Cabernet and Edenhall Shiraz, of course in addition to many many other wines. Cheers!

Disclaimer: The Wine Guerrilla wines were provided courtesy of Wine Guerrilla. But of course all opinions are my own.

Expectations, Meet Your Nemesis, Reality

December 6, 2012 12 comments

In the words of my blogging friend thedrunkencyclist, yes, I’m a snob. Actually, in general, I think I’m not – but sometimes, especially when it comes to the ruined expectations, I guess that I’m.

Today I received a shipment from Turley Wine Cellars. Until now, Turley was a well known Zinfandel producer ( they also make Petite Sirah and Charbono). Their wines are reasonably priced, and you really should be on the mailing list in order to get them (practically not available in the regular wine stores).

As I’m on the Turley mailing list, about a month ago I received an offer to buy an inaugural release of 2010 Turley Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, creatively called The Label. I thought that it is definitely worth a try, a brand new wine from a reputable producer.

So the box arrived today. Cut, pull, take out very clever packaging (never saw anything like it), and I grab the bottle. My first reaction – WTF! I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but definitely not what I pulled out of the box. The bottle was very light, absolutely flat on the bottom (bad sign for a quality wine), and with its whole appearance was screaming “Cheap”! Mind you, this is a $40 bottle of wine, and if you will factor in shipping and taxes, it becomes $50 bottle of wine. The closest resemblance – Crane Lake from California, a $3.99 bottle of wine ( nothing against Crane Lake – I was happily drinking it many times). Here it is:

Turley Cabernet

For comparison, here is The Label next to the traditional Turley Zinfandel:

Turley cab and Zin

Note that the foil on top of The Label bottle doesn’t even cover the cork inside! I rest my case…

I’m disappointed and completely flabbergasted. What should possess a reputable company to use that type of bottles? Were they completely out of time, and those bottles were the only thing available? Is this a message to the Cabernet lovers from Zinfandel producer, saying “Cabernet sucks”?

I’m really at loss here. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t judge the book by its cover – I will hopefully give it a try on Friday (need to give the wine a few days to recover from shipping and to avoid the bottle shock) – so once I will do it, I will be definitely glad to tell you what I think about the taste of the wine.

Yes, I’m a snob…

Cheers!

Serious Fun With Wines

July 24, 2012 10 comments

In case you are wondering about the “serious fun” versus “not so serious fun”, somehow this title just got stuck in my head when I thought about this post, and I decided not to fight that. Also, when you have Gaja, Ornellaia, Turley, Bertani and whole bunch of other interesting wines, I think “serious fun” is a good way to put it. And to stress even further how serious the fun was, I’m even using different style of pictures for this post instead of usual “just label” style (and yes, you are right, I also use an opportunity to play with my new camera).

What is your first thought when you see the name like Gaja on the wine list? I don’t know about you, but in majority of the cases I would expect to see a red wine there. Yes, I can think of Gaja Chardonnay, and only because it typically looks at least as an affordable possibility on the wine list, as opposed to the Gaja red wines, which are not. So the wine we had was a white wine made out of …(wait for it)…Sauvignon Blanc!

2006 Gaja Alteni di Brassica Langhe DOC, Italy was a total surprise. Mineral nose, with wet stone, smoke and heavy grass. Touch of white fruit on the palate, more stone, touch of lemon, perfectly balanced. Finish lasted for 3 minutes, if not longer! Very beautiful wine. Drinkability: 9

The next wine we had was also coming from a very respectful Italian producer, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. And the wine was…yes, white again! The grape? Yep, Sauvignon Blanc. 2010 Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia, Toscana IGT was simply delicious, with perfumed nose of lychees and white apple. Palate was exhibiting nuts and ripe apple. Very long finish with some tropical fruit notes coming in later on. Bright, round, amazing! Drinkability: 9

We continued our “whites’ extravaganza” with 2009 Ken Forrester The FMC ( (Forrester Meinert Chenin), South Africa.  This wine was made out of the Chenin Blanc grape. While Chenin Blanc is one of the signature white French grapes from Loire, it also makes great wines around the world. It does particularly well in South Africa, where it is also known under the name Steen. This particular The FMC wine is a single vineyard flagship wine of  Ken Forrester, one of the oldest producers in South Africa. This wine had a beautiful nose very similar to a typical chardonnay – nutty with some acidity, bright yellow color, very round. Drinkability: 8+

Done with whites. Before switching to the reds, we had a different, very unusual wine – as you can judge from the color above, this wine is not called “Orange” for nothing. Orange wine is one of the latest trends, where skin of the white grapes is left in the contact with juice during maceration. This imparts a nice deep yellow/orange color, hence the name, orange wine. This wine also was not some fly by night experimental plonk. 2008 Marani Satrapezo 10 kvevri, Georgia (100% Rkatsiteli grape, all coming from specific block of the Kondoli vineyard) was made in a traditional Georgian style with maceration for 20-25 days in historical clay vessel called Kvevri.

The wine had beautiful orange color. On the nose it had aromas of a bright fresh apricot. Palate was dry, full bodied, vegetative with enough brightness, touch of apricot but no sweetness whatsoever. After three hours in decanter the wine softened considerably – this wine definitely would benefit from a few years in the cellar. Drinkability: 8

Okay, we are finally switching to reds – with it’s own set of surprises. We started from 1997 Estancia Meritage Alexander Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend). The wine had perfect color – dark, concentrated ruby red. Eucalyptus, wet stone, dust and raspberries on the nose. Bright red and black fruit on the palate with cassis, eucalyptus and licorice – perfect balance, nice, soft tannins. Drinkability: 8+

This was probably the biggest surprise of the evening – 1997 Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah California. Generally, Toasted Head makes simple everyday wines – which you generally are not going to age. This wine was simply lost in the cellar, and we opened it to taste but with the full readiness to dump it. To our astonishment  (too strong of a word, but – why not), the wine had perfect acidity, bright youthful color, good black fruit, soft tannins and a touch of cassis. Drinkability: 8

The next wine was Giribaldi Cento Uve – but this will be a subject of a separate post, so I will skip my tasting notes for that wine. And the next wine was the one … we killed – it sounds way too strong, I know – but please read on. Amarone are typically big enough wines, so we decided to decant this wine – without even tasting it first (but the nose was perfect!). This was a [big] mistake. After 3 hours in decanter, the wine became barely drinkable. Another 30 minutes later, the fruit came back, both on the palate and the nose, only to disappear shortly after. Note to self – be careful with decanting. Considering this experience, I will not give this wine any rating – it simply wouldn’t be fair.

As you might expect, we didn’t just drink – we had a lot of good food as well. Just to give you an example, here is lamb kabob in the process of making:

To complement the lamb, we had 1996 Turley Duarte Zinfandel – nice fruit, raspberries on the nose and the palate, hint of jammy fruit later on, plus some eucalyptus. Very good overall balance for the wine at 15.4% ABV. Drinkability: 8-

And then of course there was a dessert – Clafoutis (no further comments, just look at the picture):

This was definitely a great experience. Pretty rare case when all the wines worked very well and were absolutely delightful – if I can only re-taste that Amarone… Well, may be one day. Wishing you great wine experiences! Cheers!

Thanksgiving Wines

November 23, 2011 1 comment

Please let me be unique and different and write a blog post about Thanksgiving wines (duh – I meant let me pretend that hundreds of bloggers and wine writers didn’t cover the subject yet as broad as possible). In essence, I’m not planning to offer you any advice. I think the variety of tastes, favors and simply palate preferences at Thanksgiving table is way to wide to be able to do any essential wine and food pairing. Therefore, I would say that there are no limitations to what wines you should have on your table – you simply have to be able to enjoy them with or without food. As far as this blog post is concerned, as I said, I’m not going to offer any advice – I will simply tell you what I have in plans for the thanksgiving meal and why. I will list here way more wines than we will be actually able to consume, but hey, more is better than less, right?

You can definitely start with sparkler, but as I don’t have one ready, 2011 Beaujolais Noveau will do just fine. Why? It should be slightly chilled (let’s say to under 60F), then it is quite refreshing with all the red fruit and mouthwatering acidity – good way to get ready to Thanksgiving meal.

Chardonnay is a must, preferably one from US. Why? Because Chardonnay is one of the great American wines, producing very good results in all different areas from California to Long Island. I would recommend Chardonnay which was aged in the oak barrels and has some butter, vanilla and toasted oak – not the stainless steel-fermented one, which often tastes indistinguishable from Pinot Grigio. My personal choice is 2006 Cambria Bench Break Santa Maria Valley – this is one of my favorites since I tried that at The Capital Grill, and I’m curious to see how it is developing (I still have few bottles left). Besides, I don’t have Peter Michael as my allocation didn’t come through yet.

The next wine is a 2009 Cazar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Why? 2009 was a great year for California Pinot Noir, and this particular wine is simply meant for the Thanksgiving table with all the fresh and juicy cranberries and perfect acidity. I simply see this wine being great with turkey and many other dishes.

Amarone? Of course. Why? Simply because Amarone is one of my favorite wines, and every time we drink it, it is a special occasion. 2006 Luigi Righetti Capitel de Roari Amarone della Valpolicella is one of the simpler versions of a great wines ( also inexpensive compare to what Amarone typically costs), so I’m curious if it will work with the meal at all.

There can’t be Thanksgiving celebration without Zinfandel on the table. Why? Zinfandel is unique grape which doesn’t grow anywhere else outside of United States (with the exception of the close relative, Primitivo, which grows in Italy). Zinfandel has a unique flavor profile with lots of fresh berries and lots of power on the palate, which should bode well with the festive Thanksgiving meal. 2009 Turley Old Vines Zinfandel from Napa Valley is simply one of the great California Zinfandels, and I’m glad we will be able to share a bottle (it is not easy to get).

Time for desert. I’m selecting Bodegas Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez Triana. Why? First of all, this is the very old wine – as Jerez is made using Solera method, with new wines constantly blended with the older ones, this wine started at around 1750, so it can definitely serve as historic reference to the great holiday. And the second reason – this wine simply tastes phenomenal. I already wrote about it in one of the previous posts – the richness and the balance of this wine should really be experienced by any wine lover.

Will we drink all of these wines? Probably not. Will there be other wines on Thanksgiving table? You bet. Of course I will report on all the wonderful food and wine experience once the holiday is over, but for now I will be glad to hear what wines do you plan to have on your table.

That’s all, folks. Happy Thanksgiving and Cheers!