Archive

Posts Tagged ‘California wines’

A Taste of Napa’s Growing Regions

February 26th, 2014 No comments


What makes Napa Valley such a renowned area for growing wine grapes? It all comes down to the dirt. There are more than 30 types of soil in Napa Valley. The chemistry of this soil is the most important factor of what the French call “terroir,” the distinctive tastes and aromas that an area’s specific conditions impart on the wine.

An understanding of Napa Valley’s geography can go a long way in helping you choose wines from the region that you know you’ll love. Here’s a basic rundown of Napa’s microareas and the flavors their conditions give the finished product, using that perennial favorite, cabernet sauvignon, as an example:

St. Helena: St. Helena climate and soils are very different from those of the surrounding regions. While the western hills warm and protect the area, breezes from the Pacific do reach here earlier than they do other regions. Cabernets from this area are ripe, round and fruity, with a “chewy” feel on the palate.

Rutherford: One of the least mountainous areas in the Napa Valley, Rutherford’s soils don’t drain as much as do the hillier vineyards, meaning that soil minerals remain in the area, and even grow more concentrated over time. The cabernet is earthy and high in tannins.

Spring Mountain: An extreme area for wine-growing, with sparse soil that drains quickly and is blasted all day and all night with chilly temperatures. The cabernet from Spring Mountain is as extreme as its conditions, rich, powerful and concentrated.

Yountville: The soil types here are varied, with a mix of sand, loam, silt, and others. The area is cooled by breezes from San Pablo Bay, not far away, meaning that the grapes can mature on the vine for a bit longer. The resulting cabs from this area will be smooth and boldly fruity, with dark berry aromas.

Mount Veeder: This mountainous area is above 2,400 feet above sea level, very high for vineyards. The steep slopes mean that soils are thin and vines are stressed for nutrients. That results in smaller crops from this area, but the grapes that make is are intensely colored and powerfully flavored, with great complexity. Wines from this area are great candidates for the cellar.

Howell Mountain: This region is similar to Mount Veeder, but since its temperatures run a little warmer, its cabernet is even more bold and concentrated.

Stags Leap area: The vineyards here are located in hills that cool off every afternoon. This, combined with its well-drained soil, gives the area’s cabernet highly perfumed, velvety wines big on flavor but soft on tannins.

 

 

 

Wine Review: 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

August 30th, 2013 No comments

For many years, experts thought that the only worthwhile wines in the world came from Bordeaux, France. All that changed in 1976, at a wine competition in Paris known as the “Judgement of Paris.” There, French judges did a blind taste-test that pitted Bordeaux wines from France against Cabernet Sauvignons from California. Much to everyone’s surprise, the California wines blew away the competition.

Since the Judgement of Paris, California has been recognized as one of the world’s best wine regions. One grape California is especially known for is Cabernet Sauvignon. Different California regions produce different kinds of Cabernet Sauvignon. The hillside vineyards in areas like Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder have thin, less rich soils, producing intense wines that, very like the wines of Bordeaux, need to be aged for years to come to maturity. In contrast, wines from the more mountainous vineyards are often big, bold, and fruity, with deep, dark colors and intense berry characteristics.

In Healdsburg, California, above the Russian River Valley, below the hills of the Mayacamas Mountains, and east of the ocean, sits Clajeux Vineyards. Well-drained, rocky, volcanic soils and cooling breezes late in the day make this area a fantastic producer of Cabernet Sauvignon.

One wine that truly showcases this area is the 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has aromas of red licorice and black fruits that are sweet like jam or preserves. There is a hint of flowers: violets and roses. On the palate, the 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is loaded with blackberry and black cherry. The finish is long and complex, with solid but soft tannins.

The 2008 Creō Clajeux Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a rare wine that is suited to both be drunk while young, and also being aged for several years. If you want powerful fruit, drink it now. However, this is also an age-worthy Cab from the Mayacamas, and is likely to benefit from six to eight years in the cellar. For maximum enjoyment, purchase a case: drink one now, and open another every couple of years to experience how this wine changes with age and judge when it has matured to perfection.

 

Two Wines Reviewed by Chris Noel of Vintage Cellars

July 2nd, 2013 No comments

For me, going wine tasting to me is like heading out to find new friends. You will find plenty that you only keep around for a short time, but every now and then you find those lifelong relationships that you want to last for years. I had the fortune to attend a wine tasting a few weeks ago, and just so happened to come across a couple of those wines I want keep around for a long time.

The first was the 2002 Lail Vineyard J. Daniel Cuvée. Lail Vineyards in California’s Napa Valley, and can trace its origins back five generations to 1879. Their 2002 Lail Vineyard J. Daniel Cuvée is made from lots of Cabernet Sauvignon. Abundant sunlight this season allowed the grapes to get extremely ripe. 900 cases of this wine were produced.

The wine is elegant and stylish, with a delicate, creamy texture leading to a tasty core of mocha-laced currant, anise, wild berry and plum flavors. The tight focus keeps the flavors flowing on a long luxurious finish. If you’re not in a hurry to enjoy this lovely wine, I would recommend laying it down for another 3 to 5 years to see its full potential.

Montalcino Italy

Montalcino, home of Brunello wines

The second wine that I enjoyed was a Argiano 2001 Brunello di Montalcino from Italy. Montalcino is well-known for its Sangiovese grapes. What might not be familiar to some is the name, “Brunello di Montalicino,” which is a red wine produced from grapes grown in the vineyards that surround the town of Montalcino, in the wine region of Tuscany. Originally, it was thought that a unique type of grape grew in this area, and it was given the name “Brunello.” But in 1879, experiments showed that Brunello grapes were, in fact, Sangiovese grapes, and now, “Brunello” means that the wine was produced with 100 percent Sangiovese grapes.

When tasting the Argiano 2001 Brunello di Montalcino, I received intense aromas of fresh raspberry and sliced mushrooms and a hint of black olives. The wine is full-bodied, with chewy tannins. It’s long and structured. This wine would pair perfectly with a hearty Italian gravy over your favorite pasta on a Sunday afternoon with family and friends. I really enjoyed this selection.

If you’re looking to add some new wines to your cellar, you can’t go wrong with these two choices. Cheers!

Upcoming California Wine Events

July 24th, 2012 No comments

Good morning, wine lovers! At Vintage Cellars, we know you love wine, and we’re pretty sure you love California, too (we sure do!). There are dozens of fantastic wine events in California–in fact, you could probably go to a different California wine event every day for the rest of the summer if you really wanted to. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like us, you simply don’t have the time for a wine event per day. But we’re here to help. Here’s a list of some upcoming California wine events you might want to visit.

  1. Magic & Wine: Really! On August 5 in Malibu, you can hit a wine tasting followed by a David Minkin magic performance. This unusual wine event only has a few tickets left, but other dates are available.
  2. Make a Wish: Drink wine for a good cause. On August 12 in Ventura, you can taste from a list of 100+ wines and bid in a silent auction, all to benefit the Make A Wish foundation.
  3. Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival: From August 9-12, the LA Food & Wine festival will be dishing out fabulous food and wonderful wines. Wolfgang Puck is already sold out, but there’s lots of other options available including Asian themed and caviar events. Check out the lineup–this is about 15 wine events in one!
  4. San Diego Wine Classic: Right here in San Diego, this one’s a bit further off but that just gives you time to plan! November 14-18 in San Diego, it’s billed as being the largest Southern California wine event. There’s a detailed calendar on the website, and it looks like there’s something for everyone.
  5. Cabernet: If you’re into Cabernets, this one might be for you. It’s a pre-release tasting of two 96 point Cabs: the 2009 Robert Craig Mt. Veeder and Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignons. August 29 in Carlsbad.
  6. 5 Course Dinner Tasting: Also on the 29th, Groth Vineyards is having a 5 course dinner and wine tasting in the Normal Heights area of San Diego. Also heavy on Cabernets!
  7. Foxen Winemaker Dinner: August 12 in San Diego, Wine Vault & Bistro is hosting a tasting dinner. The food and wine menu are both available and it sounds like a truly delicious evening.

If you’re looking for a great wine event in southern California, these are all great picks. There’s also an extensive calendar of SoCal wine events (as well as other regions) at this website.

Have you been to a recent wine event in California, or know of a San Diego event we missed that’s a must-drink? Tell us about it in the comments!

Jake Checks In from Dubost Winery!

May 13th, 2011 No comments

Vintage Cellars’ own Jake Austad checks in with us again from his California wine tour, telling us all about his latest find.  “I stumbled upon Dubost on the west side of Paso Robles,” says Jake.  “Sure, the sign said tasting room open, but after a half mile trek down a one lane dirt road, I was unsure.  Once in the gravel parking lot, the only car there, I met Curt.  Fourth generation on the family ranch, Curt had to get off the tractor and take off his farmers hat to put on his wine hat and pour.”  Curt made the atmosphere of Dubost very pleasant, sharing numerous stories with Jake from his 60+ years of experience.  Of the wines he tasted, Jake found the Granache and Zinfandel to be his two favorites.  “The zin was accompanied by a story of how the family stumbled upon the 2 tons of fruit from the cushion vineyard near the now famous James Berry Vineyard by Saxum,” relays Jake.  “It was a gem of a Zinfandel for the Dubost family.”   Jake, well aware of the recent trend to label yourself “boutique” in the wine world, believes the term aptly applies to Dubost.  “The wine was the very definition of boutique. All small case lots of 100 to 200 cases were made for each varietal.”  Summing up his positive experience, Jake had the following to say: “If you want family owned where you can taste the passion in each wine, if you want to search out the very definition of boutique winery, you can find it at Dubost.”  And Jake also recommends trying their estate olive oil, too!  “It’s worth the trek down a single lane dirt road for the wine, olive oil, and stories…”

Dubost Zinfandel

Jake Tours Paso Robles

May 11th, 2011 No comments
Turley's Tasting Area

Outside of Turley's Tasting Area

Vintage Cellars’ very own custom cellar designer Jake Austad is currently touring the wine country in Paso Robles, California.  Some of the wineries is visiting include “local favorites” like Justin, Denner Vinyards, Turley, and Tablas Creek.  Jake checked in on Monday with an exciting discovery claiming, “I think we may have found the greatest $10 wine ever made!”  Apparently, this wine is not on the tasting list at Turley, but it is available if you ask to taste the “table wine.”  This mysteriously good $10 wine is actually Pesenti Red Velvet Zinfandel.  In Jake’s words, “Imagine blackberry jam on buttered toast with a smooth velvety finish.  Make this your table wine of the summer as BBQ, pizza, burgers, brats and the classic American hot dog will all shine with this everyday wine…”  Sounds good to me!  I’m very curious to see what other affordable gems Jake will find on his travels.

Pesenti Red Velvet Zinfandel

Delicious wine!

Incidentally, if anyone has been following the BBC show “James May’s Road Trip”, where a BBC documentary host and wine newbie tours wine country and learns about wine from expert Oz Clarke, the most recent episode was May and Clarke touring Paso Robles. May’s goal for the California leg of their trip (they started in France) was finding good wines that can be had for under 10 pounds (somewhere in the $20 range)…but I don’t think they tried the Red Velvet!

Fotinos Brothers Presents the 2007 Pinot Noir, and a Sale!

April 28th, 2011 No comments

The 2007 Pinot Noir from Fotinos Brothers proudly hails from Napa Valley. (The 2007 is the second offering from the inaugural release in 2006.) For a second vintage, this wine is impressive, and Jake Austad from Vintage Cellars had the opportunity to taste and review it. “The upfront is pure cherry,” he recalls, “and a smooth mouth feel is followed by a taste of more ripe cherry and sugarplums.” The wine also possesses an enveloping, soft finish that “gives way to a secondary taste of raspberry.”

The Fotinos Brothers Vinyard

Fotinos Brothers is tucked away in the Los Carneros region of Napa.  All the fruit is entirely estate grown, hand picked, and double sorted. The family’s wine-making tradition extends back to Greece, but came to the U.S. in the early 20th Century via immigration. Thus, the family legacy continues in America!

The Fotinos Brothers Los Carneros 2007 Pinot Noir opened to great reviews, and was awarded a Gold Medal at the 9th Annual Pinot Noir Shootout. This wine will also be showcased during the annual Pinot Noir Summit in a blind tasting courtesy of Affairs of the Vine and CRN Talk Radio.

An invitation is extended to our blog readers (this means you!) to join Lot 18 for fantastic deals on premium wines, private flash sale discounts, and more. (Lot 18 is a membership-by-invitation website that features coveted wines at appealing discounts.) For a very limited time, Lot 18 members can even purchase the 2007 Pinot Noir at a discount nearing 50%. So, go ahead and try the Fotinos Brothers Los Carneros 2007 Pinot Noir. With this wine, you are in for an ambrosial treat!

Fotinos Brothers Winery - Pinot Noir