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Herding Sheep

May 30, 2008
I previously wrote about our trip to Breggo on our last Sonoma visit. We really liked the wines they had to offer and have actually stashed away one of their more pricey Pinots for another day. We also brought home some Rose which I loved at the winery and will be featured in an upcoming project I'm working on...more on that later!

So the wine for the evening was the 2007 Breggo Rose of Syrah. It cost us $20 at the winery, had a real cork closure (with a nifty ram on it), and clocked in at 13.7% alcohol by volume. I think I managed to capture the absolutely nifty melted watermelon jolly rancher color of the wine in this picture (though you can tell me if I'm deluding myself, I know my pictures suck, many folks have pointed that out to me....).

On the nose I found strawberry, lime, some orange type citrus, though I don't think I would call it orange, flowers, and white pepper. The nose on this Rose was very aromatic. I again noted the beautiful color in my notes (must have REALLY thought this was pretty!). In the mouth I found tart wild strawberries. I'm not sure these grow elsewhere, but in New England you could find tiny little patches of wild growing strawberries and raspberries in peoples' yards, and the strawberries were always very tiny compared to what you buy in the store, but they were bright red and tart and delicious. I also got oranges (actual oranges this time), watermelon, and cherries.

Overall, the wine was tart, dry, and very refreshing. It will certainly pair well with the dog days of summer which are right around the corner for us! I served this with cedar planked grilled salmon and fresh corn on the cob. It was a great match with the salmon! I would also recommend it with a spicy bbq though, as the cool, crisp flavors would be very refreshing (not to turn my back on Zinfandel with bbq, because I love me some Zinfandel with my bbq, but as a nice alternative when you aren't feeling the heavy red in the 95 degree weather plus 100% humidity....).

Mixing it up

May 28, 2008

*Disclaimer: I received this bottle of wine as part of a blogger trial of Bottlenotes.

The bottle was a 2006 Catello Banfi Le Rime Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio. I can't say I have ever seen such a mix before, but I was intrigued and couldn't wait to try it. In fact, delinquent blogger that I am, I tried this wine months ago and simply let the notes get lost among the now well over 500 posts on Wannabe Wino.

The wine hails from Tuscany, clocked in at 12% alcohol by volume, and can be purchased from Bottlenotes for $10! I don't think the wine saw oak, though I did see some creamy tendencies in it...maybe it went through a little malo or it's just the influence of the Chardonnay?

On the nose I found creamy vanilla, lemon, tropical fruit, and pineapple. The nose was very light, and it took some serious sniffing on my part to tease out some flavors. In the mouth the wine was crisp and light, it showed a little lemon, peach, pineapple, and tropical fruit. I sort of expected it to be oaky after the creamy nose, so the crisp mouth feel really surprised me. This was an interesting bottle, and for the price, definitely something to be tried for the novelty of the blend.

Can you guess who took this picture? :)

Thin Zin

May 27, 2008
A cool night here and there still calls for a hearty Zinfandel. Though I fear we have truly left those days behind now, as the AC had to come on last night lest we melt into the chairs or couches in our family room.

The wine for the evening was a 2005 Alderbrook Old Barn Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley. The wine arrived in a club shipment, had a real cork closure, and clocked in at 15.3% alcohol by volume.

On the nose I found blackberries, currants, spice, vanilla, and a slight hint of red fruit. The nose did not really translate to the mouth at all. I thought this would be a nice fruity Zinfandel based on the nose, but instead I found it to be tannic and thin. It gave way a bit to some blackberry and red fruit, but overally it was far too thin for me. The fruit was not balanced with the alcohol content.

Christopher Creek Winery

May 26, 2008

Sorry for the silence the last few days! My folks were up visiting from CT for the long weekend and we were busy busy busy renovating a bathroom and having BBQs with the neighbors. Back to your regularly scheduled programming now though. At least for a bit before work ships me off to Atlanta again next week!

Our very very last stop on our Sonoma trip (sob!) was at Christopher Creek Winery. I had read a bit about them before we left and thought we would attempt to visit if the stars aligned and what not. To my surprise, we managed to squeak it in right before the end of the third day, since Christopher Creek is actually quite close to Acorn Winery. Christopher Creek is relatively small, producing between 4500-5000 cases a year.

These vines line the driveway of the winery, however, they actually belong to the lady next door. I didn't get any pictures of the tasting room for Christopher Creek though, so you'll have to settle for this! The tasting room was tiny inside, with a very tall tasting bar. When we first arrived only one other person was there, but as we were two wines in a large group arrived and it was definitely very cozy.

2006 Russian River Valley Catie's Corner Viognier: Stainless steel fermented, pear, apricot, honeysuckle, crisp, nice finish. We took home two bottles.

2006 Sapphire Hill Chardonnay: Apple, cream, not too much oak, lime/lemon.

2004 Dry Creek Zinfandel: strawberry, red berries, raspberries, pepper, fruity.

2004 Russian River Valley Zinfandel: Blackberry jam, pie, big berries, boysenberry, smooth, dark.

2005 Russian River Valley Syrah: Smokey, like a fire, plum, chocolate. I liked this one.

2005 Russian River Valley Reserve Syrah: Blackberry, smoke, leather, nice and fruity.

2004 Dry Creek Valley Finlay's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: Chocolate, spice, berries, blue fruit, cloves.

2005 Russian River Valley Estate Bottled Reserve Petite Sirah: Smoky, earth, blueberry, pie, vanilla, dark, huge and tannic, great Sirah. We took home one.

Late Harvest Viognier: Apricot, tinned pear, orange blossoms.

And again, I wonder about the oddity of taking notes in tasting rooms. Even before I started the blog, I always took notes when visiting a tasting room. (So maybe a blog was a perfect thing for me to start....) I have no idea how you would keep track of what you liked where if you are visiting a string of tasting rooms, each of which, for example, offers a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. But two other guests in this tasting room specifically pointed out that I was taking notes and wanted to know why.

Alexander Valley Vineyards

May 21, 2008
I realized shortly after heading to Sonoma that I had far too many posts left to make from the DC International Wine and Food Festival and the trip to Sonoma was only going to make me further behind on those. I was entirely right and found it more interesting to talk to you all about our actual experiences in Sonoma, so the posts about the Festival took a backseat. I still have plenty of vineyard visits from Sonoma to tell you about, but I'm going to throw one in now from the Festival.

Though to be honest, we actually visited Alexander Valley Vineyards on our very first trip to Sonoma in 2006. I've reviewed some of their wines here before, most recently the delicious Cyrus for Open That Bottle Night. When I saw the vineyard at the Festival I was very interested to taste the new line-up, especially since OTBN had only been a few days before.

2006 Estate Chardonnay: 70% Stainless Steel, 30% Neutral barrel with no maloactic. Pineapple, pear, nicely done.

2005 Temptation Zin: 92% Zin, 8% Sangiovese. Strawberry, spice, dark berries, fruity. Well done, I liked this one.

2006 Sin Zin: Berry, spice, cherry, raspberry.

2005 Redemption Zin: Spicier than the others, with darker fruit, some leather. This one was all from Dry Creek Valley, where the Temptation is Dry Creek and Alexander Valley fruit and the Sin is all Alexander Valley fruit.

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon: Blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Leather, red berries, funk, spicy, layered berries, fruitier as I swirled.

I've quickly learned that if you actually pay attention and are interested in what the wineries have to offer, they like to talk to you and offer to let you taste special wines. With that in mind, I got to taste a special one from Alexander Valley Vineyards!

2004 Top of Crop Cabernet Sauvignon: 200 cases made, aged 18 months in oak, picked specially for the great fruit. This was a big wine with lots of dark fruit, spice, smoke, dark berries and chocolate. Very good.

Perhaps A Bit Pricey

May 20, 2008
*Disclaimer: I received this bottle as part of a sample pack.

I received this bottle of 2006 Staete Landt Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from Bottlenotes as part of their blogger sample program. It had a screw cap, clocked in at 14% alcohol by volume, and costs $24 through Bottlenotes. Now, this was an excellent bottle of wine. I loved everything about it and would happily drink it again and again. I'm just a little concerned about the price point given the wide availability of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs at rock-bottom prices. However, this bottle was more complex, and it wasn't just in your face citrus (though don't get me wrong, I also love those), it was delicate, and blanaced.

On the nose of the wine I found gooseberries, passionfruit, green pepper, citrus, and almost a creamy note, though the wine was unoaked. In the mouth, there was a lot of white grapefruit, followed by layers of tropical fruit and other citrus. It was tart and crisp in the mouth, but not in that mouth puckering way that some Sauvignon Blancs are. I found the wine to be very refreshing, especially with the lively flavors and acidity.


May 19, 2008
The wine for the night was a 2004 Esca Syrah that I purchased in one of my WineQ shipments. It cost me $22.99 (free shipping because I spent over $35 on my order!), had a screw cap closure, and clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume. Esca is in Napa, and I've reviewed their Pinot Grigio previously.

On the nose I found vanilla, chocolate, anise, plums, blackberries and spice. I should really sit around smelling my spice rack as I'm not so great at picking out exactly what spice I find in a wine. I can usually get cloves, cinnamon, and a few others, but the rest I just describe as "spice." In the mouth the wine was full of plums, with fresh blackberries, very dark cherries, and anise rounding out the flavors.

The wine is very smooth and fruity up front with a slightly spice and some tannins in the back of the palate, but it's drinking beautifully now. So serve some up now, before your weather gets dreadfully hot and you run for the white wines!

Into the deep dark Syrah

May 15, 2008
This wine was one of the darkest, if not THE darkest, Syrah I have ever seen. In fact, I think it's intense purple color can only be compared to the teeth staining ability of a a typical Petite was that dark and my tongue and teeth were that blue after drinking my 2 glasses.

The wine was a 2004 Teldeschi Syrah that we picked up at the winery on our recent Sonoma trip. I am still slugging through the posts regarding our various vineyard visits, I certainly have more than a few left to put up for you. The Syrah cost us $32, had a real cork closure, and the bottle got pitched before I could record the alcohol content.

On the nose I found cherry, minty herbs, dark fruit, smoky meat, and purple fruit. This was a great Syrah nose, and by the time I finished sniffing it, Matt was looking at me wanting to pour me a 2nd glass. In the mouth I got dark fruit, blackberries, leather, herbs, and earth.

The wine had big chewy tannins and I fully believe this is capable of staying in the cellar for years to come. The backbone was there for the wine to keep developing and getting better over time. We took the remainder of this bottle outside to hang out with our neighbors, and the neighbor a few doors down also loved this wine...and he's a harsh critic, preferring big, dark, intense reds. So I guess this was perfect for him!

Now, if only I'd had some Salmon

May 14, 2008
As I discovered last year, I love pairing Pinot Noir with salmon on the grill. I look forward to many such pairings as fresh salmon season starts up again this year. Sadly, on the night in question we were only eating a mish mosh of leftovers with our Pinot Noir. Oh well, nothing wrong with clean out the fridge night!

The wine was a 2004 Michel Schlumberger Pinot Noir. I purchased the wine for around $26 at the winery on our latest trip out West, it had a real cork closure, and clocked in at 14.3% alcohol by volume.

On the nose I found strawberry, cherry, leather, earth, spice, violets, clove, and pepper. The wine had a smoky note, but I would also describe it as very perfumed. In the mouth, I got flavors of tart cherries and strawberries, raspberry, cherry coke, and earth. Overall the fruit was quite fresh.

For $26, this was more than an excellent value, it was a great CA Pinot Noir. I have one more bottle in the basement that I look forward to opening, though I think I'll let it live down there for another year or so and see how it develops.

The Wine is Safe (for now)

May 12, 2008
We have a flooded basement. In the 30 years since this house was built, there has been no water in the basement. We've had days of rain before and never a drop of water in the basement. It's been raining here since Thursday around 9pm, and it first flooded on Saturday morning. Not too much, but two spots. This morning, there is at least an inch across the whole floor and two inches at the low spots. Trying to sweep it down the drain is like herding cats....impossible. Especially because it's still raining.

But the wine appears to be on safe ground for the moment. Hopefully it stays that way. Our sump pump is shot, it's not working at all, so I'm trying to figure out if I should get it replaced, or if that's even part of the problem.

Sigh, the joy of homeownership. At least the wine's safe.

An Older Dessert Wine

May 8, 2008
I found this bottle of dessert wine lurking in the cellar during one of our reorganization projects. I purchased it in 2005 from the Williamsburg Winery in Williamsburg, VA back when I lived down there and was a frequent visitor, particularly to scoop up bottles of the Governor's White! This wine was a 2002 Williamsburg Winery Late Harvest Vidal. I bought it at the winery, it had a real cork closure, clocked in at 11% alcohol by volume, had 13% residual sugar, and I couldn't tell you what I paid, though the current vintage sells for $24.

On the nose the wine was sweet, showing honey and apricot. In the mouth, much of the same. It has held up incredibly well over the years, and actually tasted even better than I remember. The color had also intensified, though I can't find the picture of it that I took for you. Given how well it's drinking now, but also taking into consideration that it still had a nice backbone, I'd say this one still has some life for aging in it. I will also admit that it was not stored under perfect lived on my counter wine rack in my townhouse for well over a year, survived a summer in VA in un-airconditioned climate, then lived in the racks in our one bedroom apartment for almost a year before it moved to our house for almost another year. And it still tasted great!

WBW #45-Old World Riesling

May 7, 2008
It's that time of month again, WBW! The event really crept up on me this month, I was down to the wire, just heading out to pick up my bottle yesterday afternoon. Our host for this month is Tim of WineCast, who is pulling double duty this go around as he was also the host for the 2nd WBC, which also crept up on me and I didn't get around to finishing the book for this time. As always, the host is responsible for picking the theme for WBW, the brainchild of Lenn of Lenndevours, and posting the round-up after the event. Tim has chosen Old World Riesling for this month, asking us to pick up any bottle of Riesling from Germany, Austria, Alsace....and a couple of other places.

With that in mind, I set out to find my Riesling. If I were writing this post for just a regular post, I'd have titled it "Old World Riesling with a New World Label." I don't normally go in for the eye-catching wine names/labels, and it actually wasn't the reason I purchased this bottle. The owner of my favorite wine shop recommended two bottles to me and said this one was a bit fruitier than the other one, so I went with it because Matt prefers whites that show a lot of fruit.

The wine is a 2007 "Diva" Riesling from Germany. The producer is Gunderloch and it's a Rheinhessen Riesling Spatlese, which means the grapes are "late harvested" by allowing them to ripen for an extra week or more. It's the second level of quality on the scale of Rieslings produced in Germany. The bottle cost me $24.99 at the Winery in Old Town Alexandria, had a screw-cap closure, and clocked in at 9.5% alcohol by volume.

The nose was reserved, but gave up some lemon, peach, tropical fruit, and minerals. In the mouth this wine was fantastic. I can only describe it as delicate fruit flavors that dance over your tongue with an almost prickly feeling for your taste buds. Particularly I found peach, lots of peach, some tropical fruit, and honey all over the palate.

The wine was smooth, and glass by glass just disappeared in our house without a thought. It was drinking so well, and had wonderful acidity and backbone holding it together. It tasted like really delicious candy and would serve very well as a dessert in and of itself. I served it with baked chicken, broccoli, and homemade applesauce, and the food just overpowered the delicate flavors of the wine. I would say serve this as an apertif or a dessert, or perhaps with a very a cheese tray that wouldn't dominate the wine. I highly recommend this bottle, it's one of the best whites we've had recently.

Thanks to Tim for hosting, and I will be sure to alert you to the round-up when it's posted!

Some Bubbly From Dad

May 6, 2008

When my folks came to visit a couple weeks ago, they came bearing wine...some that I had shipped to their house, and some my Dad picked up from various tastings he attended since the last time we had visited. One of those bottles from a recent bubbly tasting was a Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut. It clocked in at 12.9% alcohol by volume and had a traditional sparkling wine closure.

On the nose I found almonds, toast, nuts, apples, and more toast. The nose of the wine was very toasty. In the mouth the wine was very appley, with a little pear, tropical fruit, and some honey on the back of the palate. The wine was full of dry fruit, with nice bubbles.

We drank this on its own after dinner, and it was a great after dinner treat. It runs around $13-$17 a bottle, and is definitely a fun sparkler in that price range.

More Sauvignon Blanc

May 5, 2008
It looks like summer is here to stay. We skipped straight from cold rainy days in the 30s-50s to sunny and 80...which is lovely, but sadly, won't last long and is just a tease before the 90+ full humidity days settle in perhaps 3 weeks from now.

The wine for the evening was a 2007 Brutocao Sauvignon Blanc from Feliz Vineyard. We picked it up on our most recent Sonoma trip at the winery. It had a plastic cork closure, clocked in at 13.7% alcohol by volume and cost around $14 (last year's vintage price).

On the nose I found lemon, melon, honeydew, pear, and a slightly floral aroma. In the mouth the flavors were citrus, lemon, and pear. I really wish the melon had carried through to the palate. The wine was crisp, tart, and quite acidic. Definitely a refreshing bottle of wine and certainly an easy one to drink on a hot spring/summer night.

I served the wine with baked stuffed scrod, rice pilaf, and corn on the cob. It worked really well with the meal since the stuffing in the scrod was bread crumbs, spices, and butter and needed a crisp wine with lots of acidity to cut through the heavier flavors.

Bye Bye Until the Fall

May 2, 2008
::cries:: This was my last bottle of David Coffaro wine until the fall when my futures case arrives. I wish I could have brought home more, but with the futures case and the 2 bottles I did bring home, I already bought 14 bottles which was more than double the number I bought at any other winery on our trip!

The wine of the evening was a 2005 David Coffaro Zinfandel. I did bring home two bottles of this, but I had purchased one with the intent of giving it to my neighbors as a thank you gift for taking in our mail while we were it was the only bottle I had for my personal consumption! I purchased this wine at the winery for $26, it had a screw cap closure like all of David Coffaro's wines, and it clocked in at 15.2% alcohol by volume.

On the nose I found vanilla, blackberry, cedar, oak, and espresso. It needed a bit of time to open up, so I was glad I unscrewed it a bit before dinner! In the mouth the wine showed black cherry and blackberry, with a little bit of spice and oak. The fruit tasted very fresh and juicy, I loved this bottle of win.

I served the wine with grilled marinated chicken (I promise it just looks burnt, the marinade crisps up like that!), rice pilaf, and corn on the cob. It worked because the chicken was kind of a heavier dish and had a lot of flavor from being marinated, plus, this was a giant knock you down kind of Zinfandel.

(See the pretty flowers Matt brought me?)

Meeting New Wines

May 1, 2008
On our second day in Sonoma, we were lucky enough, as I've mentioned before, to have Patrick of Iridesse Wines showing us around. The second stop of the day was to a group of wineries who share space in the same building complex that I likely would never have found without his guidance. We had intended to go to several of the wineries in the space, but after the first, got a phone call and took a detour for a private tasting over at Michel Schlumberger. Prior to knowing of our detour, Patrick directed Matt, Russ, and I into Camellia Cellars to taste some excellent wines, where we also got to meet the owner!

We tasted through their whole line up (and more, including some wine that won't be released until this fall and came away very happy!

2007 First Kiss: $22, Proprietor's Blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, and Viognier, 12.7% alcohol by volume. Melon, lemon, tropical, floral, crisp, the Sauvignon Blanc really shows through in this one.

2006 Sangiovese: $25. Tart, tannic, tart fruit, cherry, strawberry, nice and fruity after a bit of a swirl in the glass.

2006 Zinfandel: Lencioni Vineyard, $26, 14.6% alcohol by volume. Vanilla, blackberries, dark fruit, tannic, needs time. We took home 1.

2005 Bountiful Zinfandel: $30, 14.4% alcohol by volume. Bigger berries, boysenberry, black berries, currants, fruitier than the '06. Very good, not sure why I didn't bring any home.

2003 Cabernet Sauvignon: $40, 13.8% alcohol by volume. Cream, little funk, bell pepper, herbs, dark fruit, still needs time!

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon: $45, 14.8% alcohol by volume. Vanilla cream, more up front fruit, strawberry, red fruit.

2006 Syrah: Not released until the fall, will definitely be getting some of this though! Vanilla, dark currants dark cherries, dark berries, lots of fruit, very very good, though needs time, a good year or 2.

2001 Diamo Grazie Proprietor's Blend: 65% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Sirah: Dusty fruit, blueberry, peppery, earthy, leather saddle, cherry, strawberry. Yum. We took home 1.

2004 Petite Sirah: $32, 13.4% alcohol by volume. Blueberry, coffee, floral, chocolate, blueberry pie, yum, my kind of PS. We took home 2.

As you can see, Matt and Russ made themselves at home at the bar while we spent a lovely part of our afternoon tasting through a great line up of wines. I'll certainly be looking forward to the release of the 2006 Syrah, it may have been my favorite of Camellia's wines, though the Petite Sirah gave it a run for the money as well. Many thanks again to Patrick for bringing us to this gem!