Archive for the ‘Dry Creek’ Category

Amista Vineyards – 189

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

Amista_bottleI love discovering new players in the wine field. Through a series of articles I have been writing on women-owned wineries, I was fortunate to sit down and interview Vicky Farrow of Amista Vineyards; to learn her story and taste her wine. Amista means “making friends” in Spanish and that is the core philosophy behind the genesis of Amista Vineyards. For the Farrows, it is a social beverage that is all about sharing and romance.

Amista is the realization of an 11-year dream for the Farrows which actually started out as husband Mike’s dream. While living in Saratoga, they decided to re-landscape their backyard with 130 Cabernet Sauvignon vines. This was in 1994 and at the time, there was no thought about what to do with the grapes. Knowing that a first year’s grape growth is usually insufficient with which to produce wine, they purchased an additional 1/2 ton and some close friends helped them to make their first batch for fun: a barrel and a pony keg’s worth.

Vickie_farrow_2_1Vicky’s work with Sun Microsystems provided an opportunity to move to New Jersey but they brought their un-bottled wine with them and as Mike enjoyed the fruits of retirement, began to look for vineyard property as an investment, the dream never wavering. After searching on the internet, they found 27 acres in the Dry Creek region. For the first three years, they worked the vineyard remotely, selling their fruit to Rodney Strong Vineyards.

By 2002 Vicky and Mike could fight it no longer – starting to restore a 1908 cottage that sat in the middle of the vineyard, they decided to make that their home and become full-time, permanent residents. As soon as they landed and Mike’s feet hit the ground, he wanted to be more than a mere grape grower — the passion of his initial winemaking coming back to him. Against common sense, he produced six barrels from first leaf of recently replanted 8-acres of Syrah.

Supplementing their Syrah and Chardonnay vineyards with additionally purchased grapes, there is hopes of growing into Cabernet and Zinfandel. With many, many friends helping them along, the Farrows passion is less in the growing and producing than it is in the sharing and helping people learn about the entire wine experience. Chris Wills, known for winemaking at Kenwood and Lake Sonoma is advising and if the Syrah I tasted is any indication, this will be a winery to watch.

2003 Amista Syrah, Dry Creek, Morningsong Vineyards – Initial smoky aroma with deep core of blackberry and boysenberry. Faint hints of star anise and classic, dusty Dry Creek heather. Upon first opening the bottle, there were young, hot, tight flavors of blackberry and chocolate liqueur with dried roses and deep spices. After letting the bottle open, redolent vanilla aromas appeared with a heady, erotic, exotic flavors indicative of the grape showing amazing balance and a long, luscious finish. No price obtained.

Amista Vineyards ~ 3320 Dry Creek Road ~ Healdsburg ~ CA ~ 95448 ~ 707-431-9200
No tastings yet available.

Zahtila – 187

Saturday, October 29th, 2005

Zahtila_signIn the past, I have mentioned a great admiration for women winemakers. I have now started an investigation into women-owned wineries. I am very intrigued with the trials and tribulations facing women in what is generally considered a male-dominated industry. For this visit, fate has brought me to visit Zahtila Vineyards, located just a hundred yards north of the Silverado Trail and Calistoga’s Lincoln Road juncture, to chat with Laura Zahtila personally.

Zoe_comes_to_greetDon’t drive too quickly on the main road – the entrance to Zahtila is just on the right and almost hidden by large trees and brush. It would be very easy to drive right past it and head onwards toward Hidden Valley. After parking, I was immediately and warmly greeted by Zoe, the winery dog, who does her duty well as goodwill ambassador. She will guide you up the walkway, past the rose-covered house that acts as the office and administration building, towards the back of the property where the tasting room lies.

Tasting_room_3Laura is relatively new to the wine world. Having done well during the dot-com boom, a passion for wine brought her to Napa when she purchased her first vineyard from the Traulsen family in 1999. This had been a family endeavor with her husband, but they soon realized the passion was all hers and parted ways.

Laura_best_1Laura now has complete control and the business is hers and hers alone and she is learning the business from the ground up. While not having any formal winemaking  training, she relies on a consulting winemaker for much of the technical aspects but ultimately makes all of the blending decisions. The wine has her name so while the buck stops here, she has every reason to be exceptionally proud of what she has created in such a short time! Now moving beyond her own Calistoga vineayrd, she has started contracting for additional grapes and this year released her first Chardonnay.

2004 Napa Valley Chardonnay – From Bocannon fruit, this was a decidedly good first attempt. Clean, crisp grapefruit core with bright citrus pineapple. Very bright, clean entry showing green apple and carved, distinct fruit. $18.00

2003 Zinfandel, Dry Creek – Red berry black fruit with dusty floral tones. Brambleberry dominates the rich mouth entry and shows a hefty chocolate mid-palate. Clean and round, the full flavors produce a distinctive, spicy finish $20.00

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – From Conn Valley fruit, 30% new American oak. Rich ruby red to the edge produces earthy, erotic, smoky bouquet with hints of sage and dried herbs. Medium-bodied, the expansive crisp fruit shows heightened acidity and perfectly integrated tannins. The palate is layered with earth and dark fruit and shows touch of smoke on the finish. $33.00

2002 Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignon – From Rutherford fruit, this dark magenta wine produces intense, rich plum aromas with layers of spice, black currant, and a touch of vanilla. Hedonistic in the mouth, the flavors are smooth and complex, a bit sweet on the entry, but rounding out to show opulence and immense quality. Needs to cost more… $48.00

Zahtila Vineyards ~ 2250 Lake County Highway ~ Calistoga ~ CA ~94515 ~ 707-942-9251
$5.00 tasting

Simon Levi – Cuttings Wharf – Pour la Vie – 180

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Slc_signSimon Levi Cellars is located on the main road that stretches between Santa Rosa and Sonoma in a community known as Kenwood. It is a small, two-lane road peppered with small tasting rooms, tiny restaurants, and an occasional shop or two. One of the main draws for me, after driving past a number of times, was a sign that said Champagne.   Now I know darn well that Champagne is made in France and that California makes sparkling wine, but vernacular aside, wine with bubbles is a really great thing, whether it is sparkling from California, Prosecco from Italy, Champagne from France, or Cava from Spain. I also tend to forget that there are more and more wineries producing sparkling wine, getting into my own rut of drinking from my personal Big 5 (Chandon, Mumm, Taittinger, J, and Schramsburg).

Slc_bldg The building is very reminiscent of an old-style school house; probably because it was red and shingled and quaint. A few picnic tables on the surrounding wooden deck invite guests to relax and stay a while. While there, taste from four different labels. The three made under the Simon Levi auspices is SLC (Simon Levi Cellars), Cuttings Wharf, and Pour la Vie. (The fourth label will be its own blog entry.)

Slc_tasting_roomThe Pour la Vie label is the name given to the sparkling wines and is made in three flavors; a Grand Cuvee, Almondine, and Framboise. I wanted to get a good cross reference to all the offerings and did not bother tasting the almond or raspberry sparkling, although others in the tasting room seemed to enjoyed it. The tasting room has some lovely things as well — take a look at the suspended model train that runs above the pouring station! Open and spacious with some wonderful discoveries to be had.

2003 Cuttings Wharf Chardonnay – From Carneros fruit. Creamy tropical, kiwi nose with a bright, crisp entry. Not overly buttery or oaky, this fruity, balanced wine is easy to drink. $25.00

2002 Cuttings Wharf Pinot Noir – Light red color belies with intense, fruit-forward, fresh aromas of cherry and strawberry. Substantially more body and structure in the mouth with a defined, sculpted mineral mid-palate. $25.00

2003 Simon Levi Dry Creek Syrah – Dark, plummy colored wine. Smoke and candy dominate the nose. A tad hot on the mouth entry, flavors of spice and earthy mint tease until the slightly dry finish. $28.00

NV Pour la Via Grand Cuvee – 100% Chardonnay. Nutty, creamy, and slightly sweet on entry (probably because I was tasting it after the reds). Hints of light kiwi. $18.00

Simon Levi Cellars ~ 9380 Sonoma Highway ~ Kenwood ~ CA ~ 95452 ~ 707-833-5070
No charge to taste.

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

St. Francis – 143

Friday, August 19th, 2005

Sf_signSt. Francis Winery is one of the larger, more well-known wineries established in the Sonoma area. It is a winery that was started in the early 70s and has grown exponentially, now negotiating grapes from top-shelf growers from all over Sonoma.

Sf_bldgAs an homage to St. Francis of Assisi, for whom the winery is dedicated, the buildings are distinctly modeled after the classic California missions that speckle the state. The facilities include three separate wine-tasting bars, visitors center, and surroundings gardens. The winery hosts of a variety of events including aroma workshops and taste explorations.

Sf_tasting_roomThey offer three different tastings; the Classic Wine Tasting is $5.00 which is much of the standard wine found in larger grocery stores such as their Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, the Reserve Wine Tasting priced at $10.00 includes many of the more obscure grapes such as Viognier and Syrah, and a special Reserve Wine & Food Pairing which occurs every hour on weekends for $20 for four tastes and four bites.

I opted for the Reserve Tasting but plan on going back for the Wine & Food Pairing.

2003 Chardonnay, Behler Reserve, Sonoma Valley – Extremely lemony color shows tremendous, almost viscous buttery entry that has layers of green apple. The finish heightens with acidity and lemon tones. $22.00

2002 Pinot Noir, Neras Family Ranch, Russian River Valley – A potentially single offering of this varietal – the grapes were offered and because St. Francis had never produced a Pinot before, instead of adding to the expense of presenting a Pinot in a properly shaped Burgundy bottle, they instead simply bottled it in a Bordeaux-shaped bottle. Classic aromas of integrated earth and cherry, although the cherry seemed darker and a bit more cooked than usual. The mouth entry was initially sweet but blossomed to demonstrate darker mushroom qualities with a spicy, mineral finish. $30.00

2002 Petite Sirah, Zichichi Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley – Astonishing liqueur-like nose of a Zinfandel port. Intensely sweet nose of cooked black fruit with deep earthy notes. Balanced and well-integrated with a distinct, long finish. $40.00

2002 Zinfandel, Bacchi Vineyard, Russian River Valley – From 75 year-old vines. Jammy, smoky blackberry starts the bouquet which finishes with distinct minty eucalyptus and a depth of chocolate. Sweetish entry shows tastes of a tangy chocolate Andes mint. $35.00

2002 Zinfandel, Pagani Vineyard, Sonoma Valley – From 117 year-old vines. Lighter bodied than the previous offering, with bright, dusty violet aromas. Supple mouth feel that has a heightened acidic mid-palate but finishes long and smooth. $45.00

2001 Anthem Meritage, Sonoma Valley – A blend of Petite Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot (in no particular order or volume). Aromas of intense spicy blackberry jam and dusty floral. While the aromas were exotic and enticing, the mouth entry is more simple and basic – a slight disappointment considering the aroma. Easy with some deep, well-developed herbal qualities. $55.00

St. Francis Winery ~ 100 Pythian Road ~ Santa Rosa ~ CA ~ 95409 ~ 707-543-7713