Archive for the ‘Russian River 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

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.

Paradise Ridge – 185

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

Pr_sign_1Barbara Drady, who owns Affairs of the Vine and the famous Wine Boot Camp, asked me to help her out this week run a corporate training, team-building seminar which is impressive on its own right. Ms. Drady sets these events up at various wineries but this particular training seminar was being held a winery I had yet to blog, Paradise Ridge Vineyards and Winery — and what better excuse for me than to go early and check it out!

Pr_sculpture_001Getting to Paradise Ridge is a fascinating trip in that one drives around the recently-developed foothills of Santa Rosa, through industrial parks and track homes, by a large hospital and several hotels. Then there is a large, bent-metal sign with a road that suddenly manifests cows as voyeurs on your journey. Meandering and rugged, the landscape is suddenly rural, boasting large trees and native chaparral. Shockingly, set amongst the drying grass and native evergreens, sits a very bizarre sculpture — a large bottle shaped out of copper or bronze from which prodtrudes a branch of tubes, culminating in bright blue hands… How very odd, one thinks. For me, how very exciting! I love stumbling on art, especially in unexpected places. As you continue to drive towards the winery, the collection grows as a large field on your left displays two 8-foot high pieces. Then another on your right – and another!

Pr_sculpture_002_ice_creamHave I discovered a secret garden of visual delights? Apparently so, but it is hardly a secret. Paradise Ridge’s owners, Dr. Walter Byck and his wife Marijke Byck-Hoenselarrs have established this Sculpture Grove as an extension of the winery experience. From Gretchen Giles’ article in Metroactive, “Involving some 12 Sonoma County arts organizations and 17 separate events… “Spectrum” – “Sculpture Sonoma” was conceived to be by artists, for artists. Byck and his wife asked more than 120 local sculptors to name those North Bay artists who most influenced them and whose work they most admired. From that list came the slate of professionals gathered in the “Spectrum” show. “Rather than let a curator decide, I let the artists decide,” Byck says.” Now here a reason to go back yearly! These are are not permanent sculptures, but a yearly installation.

Pr_bldgContinuing through the expansive art collection, the road  culminates atop a hill where the winery tasting room sits alongside a few more additional permanent sculpture installations. However, an even better surprise awaited me. I had all this great art, I thought, how could it get better?

Pr_history_wallHistory! That’s how… Paradise Ridge sits on the site that was once the historic Fountain Grove winery, noted for having been established and run by Kanaye Nagasawa, the distinguished Japanese winemaker in 1875. The champagne cellar of the current building houses archival pictures and a few artifacts and is a must-visit location for anyone fascinated with pre-Prohibition California wineries.

Pr_tasting_room The Paradise Ridge tasting room is located on the upper floor of the two-story building. Practical, it is a room that is often utilized by wedding parties (and where our corporate event took place) so the tasting room easily expands into a banquet area. It has a fabulous view of the surrounding Santa Rosa valley and offers yet another surprise — a sparkling wine!

1999 Blanc de Blanc – Only available at the winery, a slightly toasted, yeasty nose shocks with a clean, bright mouth entry of pineapple and lychee fruit. Slightly creamy finish delights. $25.95

2004 Sauvignon Blanc, Grandview Vineyard – Their first segue into the screw-top model of closures. Fruit forward with pineapple, pink citrus, and honey blossom, the dry, crisp entry is surprisingly round. The aromas hinted towards a strident harsh wine but the mouth feel is lush, round, and easy to drink. $21.95

2002 Syrah, Ladi’s Ranch – Massive wild berries sits at the core with a whisper of spice in the nose. Medium-bodied, smooth and supple tannins continue the berry flavors with tiers of mineral and sage. $25.95

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rockpile Vineyard – Young wine showing green olive and tobacco. $33.00

2002 Zinfandel, Hoenselaars Vineyard –  Dense, dark aromas of sweet black licorice and black plum. Juicy and smooth with a well-integrated structure that will easily age. $25.95

2002 Inspirations – A fabulously expressive wine of 50% Petite Verdot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. Jammy and Petite Sirah-like in its dark blueberry core, but with considerably more richness. Smooth and velvety, this is a fascinating blend that is exceptionally easy to drink and appreciate. $40.00

Paradise Ridge ~ 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive ~ Santa Rosa ~ CA ~ 95403 ~ 707-528-9463
No charge for tasting.

Christopher Creek Winery – 170

Friday, September 30th, 2005

Cc_sign_2I can thank the guys at Foppiano for directing me towards Christopher Creek. As they are located on a side road near Healdsburg, it is not a main drag of wineries that would normally see tourist traffic. However, some recent Wall Street Journal press provided accolades so that when I arrived, I was surprised to see a bounty of guests already camped in around the tasting bar.

Cc_bldg_1Entrance to the winery is up a dusty dirt road that leads to a cluster of rustic, dark brown wood buildings. One is a home which I can only guess houses the owners of the winery. However, the other building is a large complex which contains the tasting room and the wine-making facilities.

Cc_tasting_roomChristopher Creek is known for Rhone varietals and even though Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines were available for tasting, I wanted to jump right into their specialty wines. It was not a mistake — the Syrah and Petite Sirah were excellent examples of the local terroir and showed great deft and skill of the winemaker.

2004 Viognier – No malo and no oak, this wine showed a sweet nose of fresh apricot and a pale hint of spice. The mouth feel is rich with a reflection of the spice expanding to show white flowers and white fruit (peach and pear) in complex layers. $27.00

2002 Dry Creek Zinfandel – Medium body, showing a bouquet of strawberry, dark earth, and a bit of white pepper. A bit of funk of dusty twigs in the initial taste which was a tad on the hot side. On the young side. $26.00

2001 Russian River Zinfandel – Made from 30% Old Vines, this interesting wine contains a field blend of Zinfandel along with some Carignane and Alicante Bouchet. It is a medium-bodied Zin was extremely bright and young. Sweet jammy berry notes toyed in the nose, teasing with red candy apple aromas. Flavors of simple cherry that are easy and smooth. $26.00

2003 Estate Syrah – The nose fills with smoky black fruit; plum and blackberry. Flavors of black licorice and earthy dark fruit dominate. The earthy flavors combine some cocoa and and minerals, making an easy-drinking, medium-bodied Syrah of nice quality. $23.00

2003 Russian River Reserve Syrah – Intense dark spicy nose that continues into the mouth showing rich, rustic flavors of dusty floral and smooth, complex black fruit. $30.00

2003 Russian River Estate Petite Sirah – Rich, sweet aromas of smoky blueberry and cassis liqueur. Concentrated flavors of sweet blueberry with layers of tobacco and terroir. $30.00

2002 Russian River Estate Petite Sirah – Intense, dark purple color with magenta tones. Smoky aromas are complex and intense. Dark blueberry core of flavors easily displays how well this wine will age when tasted next to the ’03. Similar flavors, but incredibly more defined and sculpted. Sold out.

Christopher Creek Winery ~ 641 Limerick Lane ~ Healdsburg ~ CA ~ 95448 ~ 707-433-2001

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