Archive for the ‘Alexander Valley’ Category

Pellegrini Family Vineyards – 193

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

It was not easy getting a photograph of Robert Pellegrini at the Word-Up tasting. He had been receiving accolades and congratulations from all sorts of people, but there was just enough time for me to grab this quick picture with his prized offering, the 2006 Milestone. I did not have an opportunity to speak with any Pellegrini representatives, so the only information I have is what I can read on their website.

But I can tell you about the wines for which I made tasting notes…

2007 Pinot – Classic cherry. And, I’m afraid to say, rather flat an uninspired. A rather insipid entry and biting finish.

2007 Zinfandel – Dark and chewy, a bit more structured than the Pinot with chocolate and deep blackberry fruit.

2006 Cloverdale Cabernet Sauvignon – Still very young and tannic upon entry

2006 Milestone – It was this wine that showed me why Robert Pellegrini was getting all the attention at this tasting. 55% Merlot, 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon, and small amounts of Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. This was a well-blended, smooth offering showing defined plum and black fruit components. I detected a noticeable herbaceousness in the core, with a long, luscious finish hinting at cinnamon.

Pellegrini Family Vineyards ~ 4055 West Olivet Road ~ Santa Rosa ~ 95401 ~ 800.891.0244

Captûre – 190

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Yes, there a diacritic circumflex above the “u” in this wine’s name and there is a reason for it. Benjamin Sharp, President of Captûre explained it to me at the Word-Up tasting held at Fort Mason. (By the way, Word-Up stands for the Winemakers of the Richmond District, Upper-panhandle and Presidio).

While they apparently specialize in several Bordeaux varietals, all from their Alexander Valley vineyards, it was their Sauvignon Blanc that was being poured and tasted and — after an hiatus of more than four years — brings me back into the world of wine writing.

A stupendous wine, its pale thin yellow belied a huge, fat nose of yuzu and Buddha’s Hand citrus; strong elegant lemon and a hint of clean floral notes. Entering the mouth with force and vigor, this was not the strident, cat-piss Sauvignon Blancs which have become the norm. This glorious wine showed depth and length and was one of the truly swallow-worthy samples tasted at this particular event. I am still remembering it.

And the circumflex? Well, it is a reflection of the image on the label of both the Pine Mountain estate where their vineyards lie as well as a Rorschach-like inkblot of the embrace of a man and woman, the latter hearkening to the great love given in making this wine. Tasting this wine and chatting with Benjamin about the passion they exude in this single offering makes me that much more intrigued to taste the rest of their line-up. Partnering with Denis and May-Britt Malbec, winemakers, and Mike and Carol Foster, proprietors, this is an organization to keep an eye on.

Captûre ~ Post Office Box 1820 ~ Healdsburg ~ CA ~ 95448 ~ 707.395.0457

Selby – 186

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

Selby_bldgDowntown Healdsburg is a lovely place to visit; full of quaint shops, delightful art galleries, enticing restaurants, and a handful of tasting rooms. However, if you limit your jaunting to only the square, you will undoubtedly miss one of the best selections of wines — not only in the neighborhood — but in California. Selby Winery has their tasting room a few blocks off the main shopping drag and is definitely worth looking for; almost hidden by overgrown trees just a few doors down from the fire station.

Selby_tasting_roomI was there on a week day and the tasting room was bustling! Full to the brim, Amanda was aptly handling the large crowd. I was patient and waited for it to quiet down. I was fortunate to taste through the entire line-up of Selby wines for a related article I’ve been working on, as well as having the opportunity of meeting Susie Selby in person.

SusieShe is diminutive in stature and has a personal warmth that immediately exudes charm and grace. She initially came to Northern California to help her father out in a small custom-crush winery (those are the kind where serious amateurs make wine for fun). Susie got so enamored with her father’s obsession, that it encouraged her to get a job in a local tasting room. When the bug really hit her, she began serious studies while working as a cellar rat, eventually becoming an assistant winemaker. Now with her her own label, she is entirely self-taught, learning the entire wine industry from the ground up, literally.

Selby_artSince her first vintage in 1993, she has built a reputation that includes having her wine served at the White House on multiple occasions. Robert Redford is so impressed with her winemaking style that she has been contracted to produce the Chardonnay for Redford’s Sundance resort. She has a tasting room (decorated with fabulous art by Clay Vajgrt), and a thriving winery producing 15,000 cases. What impressed me more than anything is the overall quality and integrity of the wine and the fact that Susie is not afraid to take chances as is depicted in experiments along the likes of a Malbec and a Syrah rosé, wines that are just plain fun to drink.

2004 Sauvignon Blanc – Crisp, clear kiwi and pineapple tones without being harsh or strident. $13.00

2004 Rosé of Syrah – The color of a sparkling, almandine garnet. An enchanting rosé because of its varietal integrity, Laura makes this wine solely because she likes to drink it (god bless her!). Explosive cranberry and pomegranate flavors behind a fresh, clean berry aromas with hints of white flowers. Nothing cloying or sweet, this wine is clean, fresh, and crisp. $13.00

2004 Chardonnay, Russian River – Intense nose of kiwi and white melon with a whisper of white peach. Crisp entry and some cream on the mid-palate that is opulent and engaging. Going away from the more butter-rich Clone 4, this is a wine made from the muscat chard of Dijon and Spring Mountain. $28.00

2004 Pinot Noir, Russian River
– Heady perfumey aromas of cinnamon, clove, and cherry. The mouth fills with spicy, cinnamon-covered red hots that is teasing and playful. The spicy fruit flavors are well-defined and invigorating. $32.00

2002 Malbec, Alexander Valley – I am such a huge Malbec fan and this does not fail to impress. Chewy tobacco with layers of soy and miso in the nose. The flavors are redolent with dark fruit, tiered with a rich mineral core. $28.00

2002 Merlot, Sonoma County – With 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Cabernet Franc. Redolent nose of black cherry and licorice with a whisper of dried herbs in the back of the nostrils. Black fruit and black pepper enter the mouth, teasing with a touch of plum liqueur. Big, chewy entry is smooth in the center with a perfectly balanced finish. $24.00

2002 Syrah, Sonoma County – 4% Viognier provides a hint of sweetness in this rich, sweet boysenberry wine. Jammy entry with a core of licorice and spice, medium-bodied and easy to drink. $24.00

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County – 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Malbec. Medium-bodied, terroir-driven aromas show herbs and cherries. Rich, sweet entry is smooth and toasty. Not overly complex or chewy, but great body and flavors. $24.00

2002 Zinfandel, Sonoma County – From 65 year old vines. Rich vanilla tones in a smooth, dark entry that displays sultry plum and spice notes. Jammy, spicy, toasty, and a hint of earth. $24.00

2002 Dry Creek Syrah, Vesenaz Vineyard – Only 150 cases made. Terroir-driven aromas with a heady liqueur of blackberry. Inky black red with an even, spicy core and supple, velvety finish. $32.00

2002 Sonoma County Zinfandel, Bobcat Vineyard – Leaving the grapes on the vines a little longer than usual, this is only the fourth vintage of this wine which has a tiny amount of residual sugar. Dark and spicy, the smooth and velvety mouthfeel is ever so slightly sweet, but not enough to coat the teeth. Smooth and intense, the flavors are defined and intense; quintessential zinfandel and after most of the tasting, a culmination in the example of the style that is Susie’s wine. $32.00

2000 Sweet Cindy – This wine is an homage to Susie’s dearly departed sister-in-law, Cindy. It is a blend of late-harvest Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc with grapes that are fully botrysized. Intense, dark gold orange color, there are hints of earthy, rustic honey with a core of pear. While the wine is sweet, there is a heightened acidity that provides perfect balance and clean flavor.  A bargain at $12.00

Selby Winery ~ 215 Center Street ~ Healdsburg ~ CA ~ 95448 ~ 707-431-1288
$5.00 for four tastes, although many additional bottles are often open and offered.

Foppiano – 169

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

Foppiano_signMy love of history brought me to Foppiano Winery and Vineyards. Someone told that it was the oldest family-owned winery in California. Well I knew it wasn’t true (that honor belonging to the Bundschu family, dating their grape-growing history to 1850), but was still intrigued with the lineage which dates back to 1896 when Genoa native Giovanni Foppiano purchased and already working winery named "Riverside Farm."

Foppiano_tasting_room_1Louis M. Foppiano, Jr., who took over the wine-making reigns from his father, still produces a second label wine under the Riverside name (although I didn’t taste any). Much of the existing historical buildings can still be seen, as can a Southern Pacific Caboose (apparently the last of its kind), which has been converted to office space.

Foppiano_inside_tasting_roomThe tasting room is well appointed with many historical photographs and a very pleasant, helpful staff. The walls are bedecked with ribbons and behind the pouring counter lies the family history in bottles. In visiting this area, what I found most enjoyable was the effusive quality of the Petite Sirah — three different wineries within a cat’s throw all presented exceptional quality juice that I had to buy!

2002 Russian River Pinot Noir – Warm berry and sweet candy shop aromas. Easy mouth entry that is smooth and balanced with a bit of minerality on the finish. Medium-bodied and quaffable. $23.00

2002 Alexander Valley Sangiovese – Earth and cranberry and touch of funk. I think it was corked. $17.50

2002 Dry Creek Zinfandel – Warm, rich, sweet spice of cinnamon and clove. Pomegranate flavors on the mouth entry in this medium-bodied offering. The entry seems at first a bit soft but expands to s

how warmth and integrity. $15.00

2003 Russian River Petite Sirah, Bacigalupi Vineyard – Medium red color with some cloudiness. Blueberry liqueur and smoke in the nose. Easy entrance of blueberry that is dry in the mid-palate and tangy on the finish. $17.50

2002 Russian River Petite Sirah, Estate – Rich, dark blueberry. Intense, dark and hefty extolling virtues of smoke and spice and well-integrated oak. Complex and rich, the finish is brooding and hefty. $23.00

Foppiano ~ 12707 Old Redwood Highway ~ Healdsburg ~ Ca ~ 92448 ~ 707-433-7272

J Vineyards & Winery – 166

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

J_signFrequent readers will recall how impressed I was with Mayo and their sumptuous food pairing. Working hard at experimenting and learning about good food and wine pairings, I am becoming more and more impressed with those wineries that go the extra step to showcase their wines with a savory morsel or two. And I’m not talking just a glorified cheese plate. Cheese plates are good and all that, but can actually detract from a wine by virtue of the fact that cheese coats your tongue and can conflict with a wine’s taste. And I’m a huge cheese proponent.

J_bldgBut arriving at J, which shares a large entrance way with Rodney Strong, I had no idea that food was what lay in store for me. I was simply impressed with the entrance; a bridge over a small creek leading to the front door. The building itself is partially overgrown with vines and while the landscaping seems wild and unkempt, actually alludes to a state of elegance and artistry that await within.

J_wall_artThere are a number of levels of tastings available at J and all of them involve food pairings. Not having an appointment for a sit-down tasting, the main retail room and bar is the beginning of what is a truly exciting experience. Of course the artist in me could not help but excited by the massive wall which stands behind the bar. Produced by Gordon Heuther, the giant wall is a seemingly constructed slab of brushed copper. Irregular and jagged holes exist through which protrude sharp, icy slabs of clear glass. Trying to concentrate on my wine, I was drawn to the wall and realized later that it was Heuther’s work at Artesa Winery that had first drawn me to his work.

J_sparkling_cevicheWhile gazing at the wall, a nice young man behind the counter started the tasting service. This was where the pairings came into play and surprised and enticed. Starting with their signature sparkling wine, the 1999 J Vintage Brut ($30.00) was served with small, crispy cups filled with shrimp ceviche. The wine is a cuvée of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay grapes. The wine had hints of white stonefruit on the nose. White pear presents itself more in the mouth with a rich, creamy mouthfeel that sweetens when paired with the slightly spicy ceviche. A brilliant pairing.

J_reserve_room_1While a more substantial pairing is available in a sit-down setting in the adjacent, Bubble Room, I continued with our progress. The second food and wine combination was a miniature cherry tomato, its top third sliced off to accommodate a dollop of rich, creamy hummus made with McEvoy Ranch olive oil paired with a 2004 J. Viognier, Alexander Valley ($30.00). Yet another inspiration. I somewhat suspected that the Viognier would be too sweet for the acidity of the tomato.  The Viognier is slightly viscous with a light peachy color, providing sweet, crisp aromas of orange blossoms, peach, and white flowers. The mouth entry was initially exotic with a touch of sweetness. What surprised me was how the hummus killed the sweetness and expanded the wine’s richer flavors. Alternately, the wine tamed the smokiness in the hummus.

J_view_to_production_1The next step in our tasting involved walking upstairs to a small, dark alcove that overlooks the production area. The third in our tasting series was a 2003 J Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($28.00) paired with small ovals of creamy polenta topped with sautéed crimini mushrooms which were cooked in a Pinot Noir reduction. The polenta had been prepared with a bit of jack cheese and the earthiness of the mushrooms was the perfect complement to the Pinot. The wine itself was a classic offering showing dark cherry and a hint of floral. The fruit flavors seemed more concentrated with the initial mouth entry and the earthiness expanded with the mushroom flavors from the polenta.

J_zin_tastingThe last of our four-part tasting was a soon-to-be-discontinued 2003 J Zinfandel, Russian River Valley ($35.00). It seems this was the third production of a Zinfandel and each time, the fruit had to be sourced from different growers and that a consistent supplier never materialized. The Zinfandel was served with small crostini of Fromage Fort, a very creamy, strong-tasting cheese that had been piped onto the toasts, topped with thin slivers of Coppa salami. The wine is delightfully spicy with white pepper and cinnamon with a medium bodied core of dark red fruit. The finish showed a hint of smokiness and all the rich flavors, well integrated and balanced, paired perfectly with the strong, spicy bite of the cheese; the saltiness of the salami counter-balancing the pepper in the wine.

Truly a grand adventure to be had for a mere $12.00. The Bubble Room tastings are slightly more expensive; $35.00 for the sparkling vertical or $25.00 for the Pinot Noir vertical. Must go back often, as the menu changes seasonally, to try the others.

J Vineyards & Winery ~ 11447 Old Redwood Highway ~ Healdsburg ~ CA ~ 95448 ~ 707-431-3646