Saturday, March 24, 2012

'07 SCM Cab Blind Tasting - 3/16/12

A group of us got together to check in on the state of some of our local Cabs. In all, we tried 18, 15 from the Santa Cruz Mountains and 3 more from just outside. One surprising thing we realized is there were at least six more from within the AVA we could've tried to hunt down, as well as several more proximate in the Santa Clara Valley.

We tasted in flights of three, then voted on our top 3, with 5 points for 1st, 3 for 2nd and 1 for 3rd.

A) Nose - cedar, classic, cherry, redwood, good complexity. touch of black pepper.
Nice, smooth, classic, mouth-filling, cherry and redwood, touch of cocoa. Ready to drink, should hold well to '22. 93 pts
Guess: Maybe Woodside
'07 Mount Eden Estate (SCM)
Excuse for guess: Same (Margaux) clones, softer expression than old school Mount Edens, and well, it tastes like what I like from Woodside Vineyards Cabs.

B) Nose kind of dull/shy, soft, hints of yerba buena, cinnamon stick.
Nice soft cherry and black currant, touches of mint and cinnamon stick, redwood. Drink '12-'22. 91 pts
Guess: Santa Clara Valley
'07 Cooper-Garrod George's Vineyard (SCM)
Verdict: Lower elevation and in both regions.

C) Nose - jalapeno and roasted tomato.
Smooth, mucho jalapeno, pert full cherry and black currant. Lip smacking. 88 pts
'07 Chaine d'Or (SCM)

D) Nose - smooth, complex, peppery black currant and plum, redwood.
Forward full spiced red fruit. 92 pts
'07 Kathryn Kennedy Small Lot (SCM)

E) Nose - initially showing sweet super-ripe candied spiced plums, deep. Ridge-y oak. With time the ripeness on the nose receded, leaving a gorgeous, broadly complex wine.
Nice complex oak spices, full fruit, lighter body, gritty tannin, classic cedar, black currant and plum. Drink '18-'38. 95 pts
No Question: Monte Bello
'07 Ridge Monte Bello (SCM)
Note: it was clear a few people didn't get this. A decant would've helped.

F) Nose - cinnamon and cherry wood, red fruit and cocoa.
Grippy tannin, cherry and cedar, smooth, plum, good structure. Drink now-'17. 91 pts
Guess: Cooper-Garrod
'07 Martin Ranch Therese Vineyards Estate (SCM)
Excuse: similar profile.

G) Nose - green pepper, deep cherry, high toned spice.
Tart redwood and cherry, some blackberry, good complexity and structure, touch of mint. 92 pts
'07 P*M Staiger (SCM)

H) Nose - Dark, brooding, a bit shy, black plum, cedar, smoke.
Ripe boysenberry and plum, pert, fine tannin. 92 pts
Guess: Lonehawk? (The nose had reminded me of the lat time I had the Ridge Estate)
'07 La Honda Lonehawk Vineyard (SCM)

I) Nose - deep, dark, Margaux clone-like, hints of mint and licorice, cedar, black plum/black currant/cherry.
Soft, good fruit, SCV-like, full cherry, hints of black currant and green olive. 91 pts
Guess: Uvas (Nose was saying Mount Eden)
'07 Stefania Santa Cruz Mountains
Excuse: Palate was showing soft, like San Martin area fruit. Did get the producer right, and some of the fruit is from down there.
Note: Would've rated it higher if those notes from the nose came through.

J) Nose - soft, subtle but growing, cinnamon and black plum, hint of green peppercorn.
Forward sweet red fruit, a bit sharp, spicy, blackberry and raspberry. 92 pts
'07 Ahlgren Bates Ranch (SCM)

K) Nose - weird, smoky, mushroom, cherry hard candy.
Woodsy, mushroomy, sharp, forward cherry and raspberry. 88 pts
'07 Stefania Uvas Creek (SCV)

L) Nose - barnyard, leather, full.
Nice level of leather and barnyard, bright cherry and redwood. 90 pts
'07 Woodside Estate (SCM)
Note: First time having brett in one of these. I rated non-infected bottles much higher. Need to check on another bottle.

M) Nose - smoky black plum, cinnamon, a bit flat, hint of menthol.
Simple, sweet plum and nutmeg, redwood, spicy, dusty, builds up well. 89 pts
'07 Thomas Fogarty (SCM)

N) Nose - classic leathery plum, hints of cinnamon and redwood.
Round, simple leathery black currant and plum, some iodine and lime zest. 87 pts
'07 Domaine Eden (SCM)

O) Nose - deep plum and dill, intense underlying black currant.
Timid wild plum, dark/gritty/woody tannin, cherry, galangal. 86 pts
'07 House Family Old Oak Vineyard (SCM)
Note: Perhaps shut down. Previous bottles have shown quite well.

P) Nose - whole wheat, muted plum, cinnamon, smoky, hint of jalapeno.
Round plum and jalapeno, cinnamon, good grip.
Originally rated 89 pts, this majorly improved, filling out over 2 hours into a quite nice wine. 92 pts.
'07 Ridge Estate (SCM)
Note: This could clearly use some cellar time or a good decant, but I'd be weary about aging it very long.

Q) Nose - forward, hedonistic, full, well spiced, plum, smoky, inky, toasty, cherry wood.
Intense, smooth, ripe black plum, lovely spice, well framed, good complexity, vibrant. Drink '12-'30. 94 pts
Martin Ranch Therese Vineyards Dos Rios Vineyard (SCV)

R) Nose - deep, dark, inky, black and red licorice.
Flat, drying, black plum, dusty/woody tannin, heat, hint of green bean.
'07 Creekview Vineyards (SCV)
Note: My notes make it sound awful, but it wasn't.

Bottling Day - 3/21/12

Ginny joined Burt and I to bottle the Mandarin (Rangpur Lime) wine. The problem with citrus wines is the acidity is so high. With the right flavor concentration it won't ferment. The fermentation with this wine stuck very early on and Burt had to add water to get it going again. This diluted the flavor a bit. Even so, it stuck again at 3 brix. Not a problem since it needed to be sweetened again anyway. We're guessing it's about 11.5% alcohol.

Tasting at its dryish state is was quite tart, with good mandarin flavor with a bit of a chemically note - an effect of the concentration and acidity. Gradually adding sugar the tartness was countered first. It took 2 cups of sugar per 5 gallon batch to be rid of that off note. The result is a refreshing one note spiked mandarinade. A nice summer sipper.

After bottling, we check in on our barrel of serious wine. After deals to secure Cabernet and Pinot Noir, both from Santa Cruz Mountains fruit, both fell through I secured a deal to get some Santa Cruz Mountains Syrah. The vineyard is off Skyline in Los Gatos and seemed like a good site. Barrel samples of the wines they've made were good. The only issue was with such a light crop year is was difficult to guess if the 2 rows of Syrah would be enough for a barrel or not. (I've since heard the nearby Rhys vineyards were down 60-70%.) As it turned out: Not. This was really the end of the season, so other option were pretty much gone. My contingency was to round it out with some of their Sangiovese fruit. Not my favorite variety, but seemed like it would blend well.

So, our 2011 wine is 64% Syrah and 36% Sangiovese. The nose is classic cool climate Syrah - stony, peppery, intense. In the mouth its a different story. The Sangio tames it, making it more accessible, as well as adding notes that pay well, broadening the complexity. I was surprised at how good it is. The only thing missing, something for our group to think about in a few months time, is a little oak spice. (Did *I* just say that???)

We also checked in a bottle of Burt's (sweeter) version of the '09 Elderberry wine. Seems to be at its peak, showing softness and evolved complexity. Burt thinks it could be sweeter, I'd prefer it fully dry. I'll have to visit one of my bottles soon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

'68-'79 Ridge Geyserville - 2/16/12

Last night out tasting group got together for the first of a 4 part series tasting almost all of the Geyservilles produced. With wines this old we were lucky all of the bottles showed well. The first vintage of Geyserville was produced in 1966 and was Ridge's first non-estate wine.

Ridge '68 Geyserville (Sonoma County)

Nose - soft, fruitcake and tobacco.
Light tart tobacco-y red fruit, strawberry and cinnamon. 92 pts

Ridge '70 Geyserville (Sonoma County)
Nose - black cherry, dark chocolate, smooth, cinnamon.
Super-smooth, sweet black cherry, quite ripe, touch of raisin, hint of fudge. 89 pts

Ridge '72 Geyserville (Sonoma County)
Nose - cherry wood, toasty baguette, redwood, haw fruit.
Cherry, haw, toasty baguette, clean, hint of tobacco. 92 pts

Ridge '74 Geyserville (Sonoma County)

Nose - sweet red cherry, mint and dill, touch of fudge.
Sandalwood, red cherry, lemon zest and pith, fudge, tangello. 91 pts

Ridge '75 Geyserville Late Picked (Sonoma County)

Nose - tobacco ash, black olive, funky leather.
Suede with cherry, redwood, lime zest, hint of barnyard. 90 pts

Ridge '76 Geyserville (Sonoma County)

Nose - dusky cola, dark cocoa, dill, cherry.
Dark dusky mahogany, ripe black cherry, hints of cinnamon hard candy and lime zest. 91 pts

Ridge '77 Geyserville Late Harvest (Sonoma County)
Nose - sweet strawberry, cocoa, brandied cherry.
Sweet delicate strawberry and cherry syrup, allspice and redwood. 93 pts

Ridge '78 Geyserville Late Picked (Sonoma County)

Nose - toasted baguette, summer savory, cherry.
Full lovely savory spice mahogany, red cherry, redwood. Still young and continued to improve over time. 95 pts

Ridge '79 Geyserville (Sonoma County)

Nose - sweet pickle, cherry, silky.
Spicy cedary cherry, cinnamon, fresh/vibrant, hints of tangerine juice and zest. 92 pts

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ridge Visit - 2/10/12

One of my out-of-state wine friends comes here on quick business trips a few times a year. He usually has time to join a bunch of us for dinner, but had never had the time to visit any wineries before. This time was different, and my standing offer was taken. As a fellow Ridge fan his priority was clear. Ridge now offers limited weekday appointments - two seatings of a themed tasting at a communal table. I made the 2 pm appointment and decided to play the rest by ear.

Our rendezvous, with another local friend joining us, was at the Big Basin Vineyards tasting room in downtown Saratoga. No notes taken, in keeping with being a good sociable host. Our favorite was the '09 Lester Vyd. Pinot Noir, followed by the '07 Rattlesnake Rock Syrah.

Next stop was a quick visit to The Mountain Winery. Great view. The tasting room is now inside the restored historic former Paul Masson Winery. We tasted the '09 Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This is the fourth vintage from the replanted La Cresta Vineyard. The Chard is fresh, expressive and ready to drink. The Pinot seems a bit problematic. The grapes want to be made into an age-worthy wine, but the nature of the venue is for these wines to be mostly consumed at their events. It showed deep but closed down - dull. I think it will come around in a few years to show its pedigree, but its potential is greatly compromised by a failed attempt to make it approachable young. Previous vintages of these two wines showed the greatness of the site - why it was considered one of a handful of American grand cru vineyards - why Paul Masson was able to charge several times the amount of other top wineries for his wines. This is really disappointing, especially considering how great 2009 was for others in the area. Try Ridge's Monte Bello or Estate Chardonnay or Mount Eden's Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. All stellar!

From there we zipped across and up to the Ridge tasting room. As we hit Montebello Road we entered and ascended a fog shrouded mountain. The road was wet and the view non-existent. We shared a table of 8 with people from 3 different parts of the country. There was bread and 4 artisan cheeses to enjoy while tasting. (I waited til I was done taking notes.) After tasting we were led up into the vineyard to check out the old vines, cover crops, training method, lack of view.

From there we drove back to the sun at Cooper-Garrod. Our favorites varied, but we all loved the Viognier. The Cabernet Franc was a fave for one. My easy favorite was the Syrah, though I don't think my friends share my passion for the peppery cool climate expression of this grape.

For dinner we joined a larger group for fresh crab and bacon-wrapped filet mignon. Holy moly was that good porky beef! We found an excellent Vouvray to be the perfect pairing with the crab. Wine of the night was the '81 Monte Bello our guest picked up from the Ridge library, followed by the '08 Mount Eden Estate Pinot Noir (which needed a few hours air to really soar).

Ridge '10 Chardonnay Estate (SCM)

This was bottled just the day before.
Nose - musky, round, loquat, soft spice.
Musky, viscous, under-ripe peach, tart, subtle spice, very young. (91 pts)

Ridge '09 Chardonnay Mikulaco (SCM)

Nose - notes of fontina and prosiutto, white peach, brown spice.
Soft round meaty peach, good supportive minerality, long finish. Younger drinker. 90 pts

Ridge '09 Geyserville (Alexander Valley)

(74% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 1% Mataro)
Nose - deep intense plum, purple fruit, quite heady, marachino.
Lovely intense plum and marachino, fine dusty tannin, wild huckleberry. 93 pts

Ridge '05 Grenache Lytton Estate (Dry Creek Valley)

(88% Grenache, 6% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah)
Nose - smoky dark savory plum, touches of redwood and nutmeg.
Lighter body, dark dusky fruit, light dusty tannin, wild plum, huckleberry, white pepper, lime. Drink '14-'22. 92 pts

Ridge '08 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (SCM)

(75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc)
Nose - classic black currant, smoky black pepper, cherry wood.
Black currant, plum, tellicherry, firm gritty tannin, cherry wood, cedar. Drink '20-'35. 93 pts

Ridge '08 Monte Bello (SCM)
(72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot)
Nose - lovely floral fruit, boysenberry, cherry, black pepper, lavender, plum.
Firm gritty/dusty tannin, plum/black currant/boysenberry, tellicherry, cherry, draper perfume. Tight. Drink '22-'52. 94 pts

Ridge '10 Monte Bello (SCM)
Nose - Wow! Onderful heady perfum and spice, meaty, smoky violet, soft purple fruit.
Lovely plum and black currant, dine dusty tannin, boysenberry, violet. Drink '20-'50+ 96 pts

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

SCM Trade Tasting - SF 2/7/12

Yesterday Dave and I drove up to San Francisco to sample some new and upcoming releases from several of the Santa Cruz Mountains producers. I followed a strategy to go from white to light to darker reds, with an emphasis on Pinot Noirs, so I bounced around quite a bit. (Notes are posted in order of tasting for your inconvenience.) As always, there wasn't time to get to everything. I skipped Ridge because those are wines I'll be trying Friday when visiting with an out of town friend. Unfortunately, Kathryn Kennedy had packed up by the time I was ready to try them. (The crowd had died down quite a bit near the end, so perhaps they just decided to finish pouring what was open and then take off.) Anyway, tasted a lot of excellent wines...

River Run '10 Viognier (Santa Cruz County)

Nose - clean, hay, sweet pea, touch of lemon, pith.
Pert lemon, sweet pea, hay, pith. Nice early drinker. 88 pts

Quinta Cruz '10 Verdelho Silvaspoons Vyd. (Alta Mesa)

Nose - rich, custardy, nutty.
Lovely, rich, nutty, lemon custard. Trails off. Young? 87 pts

Mount Eden '09 Chardonnay Estate (SCM)

Nose - full, elegantly rich, hazelnut, lemon custard, complex spice.
Gorgeous, packed, good acid,lemon, sour grass, nutmeg. Just so complex! Very young. Drink '22-'36. 96 pts

Fogarty '08 Chardonnay (SCM)

Nose - smooth, creamy, notes of anise, lime and lemon.
Smooth but flat, awkward blend of grass, lemon, spice. 86+ pts

Fogarty '09 Pinot Noir (SCM)

Nose - good intensity,lovely savory herbs.
Peppery, rhubarb, white pepper, pith, button mushroom. 89 pts

Bargetto '09 Pinot Noir Reserve (SCM)
Nose - shy, dusty/smooth, refined spice, dark fruit.
Smooth tannin, dark fruit, refined complexity, touch of graphite, black cherry, dried leaf, chamomile. Touch of bitter herb on the finish. Drink '14-'20. 92 pts

Sonnet '09 Pinot Noir Muns Vyd. (SCM)

Nose - reserved, rich, custardy, peppercorn.
Custard, white pepper, cherry, nutmeg, cinnamon. Lingers well. Drink '12-'18+. 92 pts

Mount Eden "09 Pinot Noir Estate (SCM)

Nose - gorgeous heady cherry and spices.
Lovely cherry, dark mineral, savory, gorgeous complexity, violets. Drink '12-'27. 95 pts

Domaine Eden '10 Pinot Noir (SCM)

Nose - heady cherry and strawberry, elegant, hint of star anise, white pepper.
Lighter body but intense. Cherry, strawberry, good mineral, violet, white pepper. Drink '12-'16. 92+ pts

Sonnet '09 Pinot Noir Tondre Grapefield (Santa Lucia Highlands)

Nose - nice full SLH expression, with red clay, cinnamon, redwood.
Dark plummy, lots of nutmeg, dusty tannin, clay. 90 pts

Storrs '08 Pinot Noir (SCM)

Nose - creamy, bright, strawberry, vanillin oak spice, dark plum.
Vanillin oak spices, confectionary plummy fruit. 91 pts

Clos LaChance '08 Pinot Noir (SCM)

Nose - smooth plum, raspberry, flan.
Smooth rhubarb, smoke, creamy oak spice, brambly, good mineral. 90 pts

Odonata '11 Petite Sirah Rose

100% pressed juice, barrel fermented. This will be an April club release.
Nose - gorgeous intense strawberry, cherry, plum wine, touches of cinnamon and anise.
Clean gorgeous Strawberry, cherry, plum and lemon. Touch of papaya on the finish. 91 pts

Odonata '09 Pinot Noir Domani Vyd. (SCM)

Nose - heady savory deep fruit, hint of cinnamon.
Lovely spices and savory dragon fruit, hints of cherry, rhubarb, lemon, strawberry. Drink '12-'18. 91 pts

Odonata '09 Malbec Silvaspoons Vyd. (Alta Mesa)

Nose - deep jujube, plum, anise, custard.
Full dusty plum, dragon fruit, hints of cinnamon and cardamon. 91 pts

Odonata '09 Syrah Zayante Vyd. (SCM)

Nose - intense meaty minerally plum, hints of galangal and patchouli.
Lovely savory plum, dark mineral, smoked meat, violet, white pepper. 93 pts

Odonata '09 Petite Sirah Machado Creek (Santa Clara County)

Nose - intense porty blackberry, cinnamon, marachino liquour.
Ripe blackberry, porty cherry, hint of heat, cinnamon, good acid. 90 pts

Damselfly Cellars '09 Sangiovese Machado Creek (Santa Clara County)

(This is Odonata's second label.)
Nose - escorial, delicate slightly meaty red fruit.
Bright cherry and strawberry, dusty tannin, delicate spice, slight meat. 90 pts

Damselfly Cellars '09 Petite Sirah (Monterrey County)

Nose - boysenberry with orange and strawberry.
Tart fruit follows through, ash, fine/dusty tannin. 88 pts

Mount Eden '08 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (SCM)

Nose - dark smooth black currant, blackberry, savory spice, lint of licorice.
Lovely brambly blackbeery and black currant, elegant spice, flan, savory, hint of orange zest. Drink '12-'22. 92+ pts

Domaine Eden '08 Cabernet Sauvignon (SCM)

Nose - smooth intense plum and black currant, hints of cedar and redwood, very classic expression, hint of white pepper.
Classic cedary black currant, smoky plum, good mineral, hints of licorice and violet. Drink '12-'16. 91 pts

Quinta Cruz '09 Tempranillo Pierce Ranch (San Antonio Valley)
Nose - lighter red fruits.
Strawberry, dragon fruit and mango, smooth soft tannin. 89 pts

Quinta Cruz '08 Tempranillo Reserve Pierce Ranch (San Antonio Valley)
(Includes some Touriga and Graciano)
Nose - savory, smoked alder, blackberry, cinnamon, kirsh.
Round soft kirsh, blackberry, cinnamon, red plum. 89 pts

Quinta Cruz '09 Touriga Pierce Ranch (San Antonio Valley)

Nose - lovely cooked orange, plum, kirsh, allspice.
Lovely pert plum, lemon, orange, ginger, cinnamon, Cotlets. 93 pts

Quinta Cruz '09 Graciano Bokisch Vyd. (Clements Hills)

Nose - soft cherry and tellicherry, smoky tea.
Plum, soft peppercorn, raspberry, cinnamon, toasted rice. 90 pts

La Rustican d'Orsa '07 Cinque (SCM)

(These are blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, made by Jeffrey Patterson.)
Nose - deep fruit, redwood, jalapeno.
Soft full plum and black currant, green peppercorn, redwood, some frosting on the finish. Drink '12-'14. 90 pts

La Rustican d'Orsa '08 Cinque (SCM)

Nose - smoky rubber/tar, deep fruit, hint of red plum, sweaty.
Smoky savory soft plum and black currant, touches of boysenberry, lavender and rosemary. Drink '12-'14. 91 pts

La Rustican d'Orsa '09 Cinque (SCM)

Nose - deep savory soft fruit.
Soft plummy black currant, hint of tellicherry. Drink '12-'15. 90 pts

Nauman '07 Merlot (SCM)

Nose - roasty, meaty, savory, saline plum.
Smoked grain, savory plum, dusty/gritty tannin, roasted pork. Drink '12-'18. 90 pts

Nauman '09 Tre Rosso (SCM)

(60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc)
Nose - tellicherry, soft plum, lavender.
Soft savory plum, hint of jujube, lavender, roasty. 90 pts

Fogarty '06 Merlot (SCM)
Nose - smooth smoky cherry.
Smoky peppery cherry, alderwood, hint of bitter herb. 87 pts

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Mandarin Wine - 8/11/11

Four years ago Burt and I made wine from my Rangpur Limes. Burt was over recently and saw the tree was full, so suggested doing it again. We stripped the tree clean, then spent the next few hours juicing the fruit. In all, we yielded 3.4 gallons of juice from 4 bins of fruit.

Amit joined us to adjust for fermentation. We added water and sugar to 15 gallons, adjusting the sugar up to 21.5 brix. It tasted great! Rangpur Limes are very intense in flavor. The only question was acidity, which tasted perfect. We didn't want to dilute any more than necessary. It tested out to .86% TA.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Racking the '10 Syrah - 5/3/11

Amit, Burt and I got together to rack our group's '10 Syrah. We cleaned the tank, pump and tubing, transferred the wine off its lees to the tank, cleaned the lees out of the barrel, then back to the barrel it went. Then we cleaned again, before sitting down to taste the wine. It's coming along well.

Barton Orchard '10 Syrah Coastview Vineyard (Monterey County)
Sulfur is minimal and color is darker.
Nose - dark, rich, soft, more integrated, lovely black and red fruit from blackberry to cranberry, good smoky character, hint of bacon, clean mineral sense.
Grippy tart blackberry, juicy, a bit of pith and plum skin, good mineral - granite and graphite, hints of meat and mushroom, orange zest. Lighter on the finish, with a touch of bubblegum, purple basil, thyme, violet, savory and passionfruit.