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November 1, 2008
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Chilling at Chatom

October 31, 2008

I had one full day to spend in Murphys so I wanted to make the most of it. Murphys boasts around 20 wineries these days, which made it impossible to visit anywhere near all of them…but I sure took a shot at it! Sadly, I failed miserably, but the wineries I did manage to visit are certainly all worth a look if you make it out to Murphys.

First thing in the morning I stopped by Chatom Vineyards. Now, as you may recall, I reviewed their 2003 Esmerelda Syrah about a year and a half ago, after my mother in law went to her high school reunion and discovered several of her classmates owned vineyards, one of which is Chatom. So I made sure to stop by there to check out the rest of their offerings.

I showed up to Chatom slightly before they officially open, but as I quickly discovered in Murphys, if someone is at the tasting room, the doors are open for you to come in and taste. Chatom had a gorgeous porch area with tables where it would have been a perfect day to enjoy some wine and a light lunch. The tasting room itself is on the small side, however, the bar is good sized, and as it was just me, it worked out perfectly.

2006 She Wines White: $12. Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend. Pineapple, pear, apple, crisp but seemed to have some sweetness/sugar to it. All the profits from this wine benefit American Cancer Society.

2006 Sauvignon Blanc: $16. Light, tropical, pineapple, peach, crisp, very nice.

2005 Semillon: $16. Pear, banana, apple, light, very different. I don’t think I’ve ever had a 100% Semillon before.

2006 Chardonnay: $18. Nice nose of pear, apple, green apple, green pepper, flowers. Stainless steel fermented. Very well done, I took one home.

2005 Gitano Sangiovese: $16. Strawberry, cherry, vanilla, earthy, nice, light mouthfeel. One of my favorites of the tasting.

2004 She Wines Red: $12. Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Touriga Nacional blend. Raspberry, cherry, red fruit, tart. The profits from this wine benefit the American Heart Association.

2004 Zinfandel: $18. Blackberry, chocolate, plum, fresh tart fruit, slight oak, cherry, red in the mouth.

2004 Merlot: $20. Berries, plums, chocolate, red raspberries, juicy fruit, tannins, yum. I purchased one bottle.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon: $26. Earth, leather, forest, red fruit, coffee, raspberries, tannic.

2004 Syrah: $22. Dark charred meat, slight dark fruit, black cherries, tannins, toasted caramel, dark fruit.

2004 Esmeralda Syrah: $34. Chocolate, red berries, jam, cherry, red fruit, anise, nice finish. I loved this yet again and brought one home.

2004 Vintage Port: $28. Chocolate liquors, Tinto Cao, Sousa, Alvarelho, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barola, Chocolate, candied raisins, light, nice mouthfeel.

Twisted Fricken

October 30, 2008
The Fricken

I arrived in CA on 10.22 and immediately hopped in my (crappy) rental car to make my way up to Calaveras County. Calaveras County you say? Where’s that and why would you want to go there? Easy. Calaveras County is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, about 2 hours slightly north east of Oakland Airport. It’s also a place where some absolutely fabulous wines are being made, in particular from Twisted Oak, the impetus behind my trip.

Twisted Oak

I’ve been a Twisted Few member (thanks mom!) for about a year now and have been drinking the wines since I joined WineQ in ’07. When I pulled up to Twisted Oak, the first thing I noticed was the Fricken. That’d be a frog chicken for those who are uninitiated into the world of Twisted Oak.

A Twisted Tasting Bar

Shortly thereafter Jeff Stai, owner of Twisted Oak, pulled up and we meandered off with Nacha to tour the winery and do a little barrel tasting. I never say no to a barrel tasting! Twisted Oak keeps the barrels in a cave they blasted out during the building of the winery.

A Twisted tasting room

We tasted quite a few things from the barrels, and a couple really stood out to me. The ’07 Spaniard is just going to be a beautiful wine. It won’t be released for a year (the ’06 Spaniard just got released a month or so ago) so I expect it will be even more delicious when it’s bottled. The next vintage of the Pig Stai Port also showed incredibly well from the barrel. I could have stayed all day tasting the sample!
Jeff and the wine thief...

By happy chance, my stay in Murphys coincided with Twisted Oak’s Crush Party, celebrating the fact that all the grapes have been picked and crushed for the 2008 vintage! So the Twisted Crew was kind enough to put up with me crashing the crush party, where of course, Twisted juice flowed! Along with the current releases, some library selections also crept into the mix. I tasted the ’03 Murgatroyd, which may just take the place of my favorite Twisted Oak wine. Drinking beautifully, full of fruit, a full-bodied red that I just wanted to drink more of. The 2003 Grenache and the 2002 Syrah were also amazing, and I think I should just let my Twisted Oak wines age for several more years as they keep getting better.

Granacha Blanc, aka Nacha, Twisted Oak's big white dog. We're tight now.

Many thanks to all the folks at Twisted Oak, especially Mary and Jeff, for being so welcoming and showing me all the hot spots in Murphys ;)

The famous Twisted Oak. Who wouldn't want to picnic here?

Pictures Pictures Everywhere

October 28, 2008
I took 400+ pictures at the Wine Blogger Conference. I'll share a few today from day two of the event.

Sara Lee tells us about her vineyards.

Grapes at Sara Lee's Vineyards (they were tasty I tried them as we hiked).
One of the winemakers talks about his wine at the lunch after the hike.
Jill of Domiane547 takes diligent notes!
The anti conference with Zensolo, WineScholarship, Penny of Coral Mustang, and Thea.

Our fearless leader Joel at the Sebastini dinner.

Russ toasts at dinner.

And that's all for today folks, I'm off to the Culinary Institute of America to taste at a press tasting!

Wine Times

October 27, 2008
I'm not quite sure where to even begin to start talking about the Wine Blogger Conference I just attended. I have so much to tell you about new wines I tasted, new wine services I learned about that you need to know about, sharing the joys of social media with folks who are just starting to dip their pinky toes in, and many many more things.

I will be staying in Healdsburg for a couple more days where I promise I will have even more to tell you about and I can guarantee it will take me weeks if not months to sort through all my notes and experience from this past week.

Some highlights and what you will definitely be hearing about shortly:

*Crush party for Twisted Oak
*Terrorizing Murphys as I attempted to visit as many wineries in 1 day as I could
*Discovering Emtu Wines
*Tasting at C. Donatiello

Stay tuned for even more as I make my way through all of the great info and wines (and I taste even more over the next 2 days!)

But until then, a few photos:

Thea of Vinquire, me, and Shana Ray of Shana; Not out on VHS Yet

Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 enjoys a fresh local fig at Sara Lee's vineyard after our hike.

Thea of Vinquire and El Jefe make nice.

What's a Murgatroyd?

October 24, 2008

Well I have no idea, but it sure tastes good when it comes from Twisted Oak. I picked the 2004 Twisted Oak Murgatroyd to drink on one of the first truly "crisp" days around these parts. Even though the weather hasn't quite caught up yet, I'm feeling the red wine season pull pretty strongly these days. The wine arrived in a club shipment, and I think it cost around $20, but I can't be sure as this vintage appears to no longer be available. It had a real cork closure and clocked in at 14.2% alcohol by volume.

The color of this wine reminded me of squished blackberries. On the nose I found nutmeg, blueberry, vanilla, spice, herbs, mint, and other dark fruit. In the mouth I got cherries, red fruit, blueberries, vanilla, raspberries, spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and plums. This was like drinking comfort food in a glass of wine. Definitely perfect for what I was looking for that night: A layered red, with nice complexity in the mouth, and big spicy fruit. YUMMY!

Overall, the wine was quite dark in the mouth, though the fruit seemed very tart. The wine showed smooth and is drinking really well right now. So if you've been hanging onto this bottle, I can easily recommend pulling it out and drinking it this fall/winter.

Rose, Rose, I Love You

October 23, 2008

I pulled out the 2007 Thomas Fogarty Rose of Barbera from Fiddletown Vineyards to drink the other night. I picked this up at the winery while Russ and I were tasting for $22. It had a real cork closure and clocked in at 14.1% alcohol by volume. I loved this at the tasting and the fact that it was made from Barbera grapes intrigued me, so I took a bottle home!

All I can say at first about this is wine is YUM! And I loved the bright pink color! On the nose I found slight cream, lime, strawberry, cherry, watermelon, and spice. The nose smelled refreshing and I couldn't wait to drink the whole glass and then some. Overall, the mouth showed the same flavors as the nose, though I got even more red fruit, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, in the mouth than I did on the nose.

In the mouth, the wine showed dry as a bone. It's a crisp Rose with racy acidity. I wish I had found this one when the weather was more suited for Rose as it's just fantastic! I end with the same sentiment I started with: YUM!

Whosit? Whatsit? The Great Whatsit!

October 22, 2008

You may be wondering, what exactly is The Great Whatsit? And where does it come from? How did I get it? Well I'll answer all that for you! The Great Whatsit is a Domain547 selection and this year it is a 2005 Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley. Domaine547 intends to have a Great Whatsit bottled every year, though there's no telling Whatsit will be from year to year! I purchased this wine from Domaine547 for $20, it clocks in at 14.9% alcohol by volume, and comes under a screw cap closure.

On the nose I found plums, cinnamon, baking spice, cobbler, pie, blackberries, licorice, espresso. It smelled like my kitchen when I've been baking, a veritable buffet of my favorite fruity cinnamony desserts all wrapped up into the nose of a wine! In the mouth I got flavors of black cherry, plums, bitter coffee, blackberry, and spice.

Overall, the wine had some tannins to spare, so let it air a bit or save it for a year. This is a dark wine, big and fruity, with a nice finish. Quite yummy! I think it might be up to $25 as I got it at an introductory price, but as with many of the wines Jill has recommended for me, this is great at the price point!

Leaving On A Jet(Blue) Plane

October 21, 2008
My long-awaited trip to CA for the Wine Blogger's Conference is finally here! I am joining 173 bloggers, wine folks, and other industry participants for 3 days of tasting, blogging, and good old fashioned fun in Santa Rosa.

Being that my trips to CA are few and far between, I've decided to take a few days of vacation before and after the conference and will be doing some exploring. I'm first heading up to Calaveras County to impose on the hospitality of El Jefe at Twisted Oak. I'm hoping to check out Twisted Oak and a few of the other wineries in the area before meandering down (across?) to Santa Rosa for the conference where I'll be splitting a room with Taster B!

After the conference, I'm taking advantage of Patrick and Genevieve and will be staying with them in Sonoma for a few days! During that time, I'm doing a tasting with Thea and others at Titus and attending a press tasting of St. Helena wines at the Culinary Institute of America!

Quite a busy week planned and I'm quite excited! I hope to blog live quite a bit from the conference, but will be pre-scheduling some posts to go up here while I'm gone just in case internet access is spotty.

I'm sure I'll have lots of new wineries and information to report to you when I get back!

The Last Hugel

October 20, 2008
*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Bin Ends Wine so I could participate in Twitter Taste Live

Ah, the last of the Hugels. I've written about the other 3 bottles we tasted for Twitter Taste Live, so it's time to round that out with the fourth Hugel wine from the Bin Ends Wine tasting. While this is the last wine I'll write about, we tasted it second the evening of the Twitter tasting. The 2005 Hugel Gewurtraminer may have been my favorite of the "regular" level Hugel wines that we tasted that evening. It either had Diam or a real cork, clocked in at 13% alcohol by volume, and you can purchase it for around $17.

In the glass, this Gewurztraminer showed as a very pale, almost translucent color with just the slightest tinge of a straw color. You shouldn't be fooled by the pale color on this one though, the aroma just wafted across the room, huge! I found lychee, ginger, mango, bread fruit, spice, and roses. Just a gorgeous perfumed nose. In the mouth, I got flavors of white pepper, orange, lychee, ginger, and honey.

Overall, I would describe this wine as dancing in the mouth and quite alive. I found the wine refreshing, fun, and very tasty. This could easily be a go-to wine at the price point, and would make a really good Thanksgiving wine.