Archive for the ‘Mass Tastings’ Category

Pinot Days

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

19_corks_3Pinot Noir has been in the news a lot lately – I guess we can thank the movie, Sideways, for the new-found attention. But for those of us that have known and loved the wine before the Sideways-effect (as it is now known in the industry), Pinot is a lovely wine that can cause an otherwise rational human being into committing seemingly irrational acts (like quitting your job to learn to make wine). Delightfully, these affects were witnessed by a large group of people at the commencement event of the Pinot Days event.

Steve_r_1Steven and Lisa Rigisich were the brainchildren behind the event, through their Bay Area Wine Project organization, which has coordinated a number of tastings, but nothing quite on this grand scale. Now that they have established such an amazing following, more will undoubtedly be expected and I have no doubt they will live up to the expectation.

11_jamie_and__2It took me far too long to document this event as it happened almost
ten days ago… I was unable to attend the Saturday mass tasting but
enjoyed the Friday evening kick-off event, a tasting that showcased the
Pisoni, Garys’, and Rosella’s vineyards. It was well-attended by almost
eighty devout Pinotphiliacs who enjoyed not only exceptionalPinots, but
were witness to the affects that this chimerical grape has had on the
likes of Gary Pisoni, Brian Loring, Jamie Kutch, and more who were all
in attendance, like priests worshipping at the grand altar.

23_gary_laughingThe difficulty in transcribing the evening is less the quality of the wines tasted than the characters that filled the room. It felt more like we were the supplicants, drinking from the Cup of Truth and paying homage to the High Priest, Gary Pisoni and his anointed ones, Adam Lee from Siduri, Brian Loring, James Hall from Patz & Hall. Young initiates Andrew Vingiello of AP Vin and new-to-the-order novitiate, Jamie Kutch, just to name a few.

06_gary_pisoni_3The evenings’ tastings were done in four different flights; two different flights from the Rosella’s vineyards and one each from the Gary’s and Pisoni vineyards. To explain much of his own history and expand on the differences in the vineyards, was Gary Pisoni himself. Contrary to popular belief, the vineyards were not named after Gary’s first name and his last name, but his partner, Gary Franscioni being the Gary’s Vineyard. I’ve often wondered why it wasn’t Pisoni Vineyards and Franscioni Vineyard…

15_mac_mcdonald_2Mac McDonald of Vision Cellars brought the most levity to the evening – with his trademark straw hat, he told of stories of being invited to Spectator tastings, but showing up in his denim overalls and never being invited back… It is an obvious impressive background and history – not to mention wine!

09_scary_brian_loringI’m sorry I didn’t commemorate the love fest between Brian Loring and Adam Lee – although Brian did offer an especially good shot for me, it was quite touching that Brian commended Adam for opening up his heart and winery to help teach Brian. That torch is being passed as Jamie Kutch is following a similar path with the help of Kosta Browne  but that’s another story, still in the writing…)

03_crowd_1What was truly astonishing was not only the accessibility of the growers and winemakers, but the inspiration provided by those well-established in their art to those just setting out on the path. There is a false belief in the corporate world that the secrets of success are meant to be hidden and kept secretive, lest some young upstart rise above and stomp the competition. In the world of Pinot, it is exactly the opposit. The well-established craftsmen across the board are opening their doors and sharing the wealth of knowledge to those who have a passion – and it isn’t just for those who have travelled the path of the school-educated winemaker. These are just common folk who are leaving their corporate lives in pursuit of a dream; a liquid, red-colored dream, filling a glass and warming the soul.

The First Flight:

2003 Vision Cellars, Rosella’s Vineyard – Garnet and dark purple in tone. Dark fruit presents early and hangs on. Plus and round, brighter in fruit than in other dimensions.

2003 Miner Family, Rosella’s Vineyard – Brownish tint to the edges. Intensely elegant wine showing spices like cardamom, with layers of dusty herbs. Warm entry that displayed the layers of brambleberry fruit with bright acids. Almost erotic in its layered complexity.

2003 August West, Rosella’s Vineyard – Immediately astringent in the nose with candy-like aromas. Some swirling showed more intense dried cranberry qualities, layered with dried flowers and hints of cocoa. Mineral tones in the mid-palate with a slightly metallic finish.

2003 Siduri, Rosella’s Vineyard – Cloudy red with some brick on the edges. Candy shop aromas that subside to show raspberry and hints of minerality.Initial entry of dark, deep fruit. Slightly acidic in the mouth with goes away quickly but leaves a mineral finish.

Second Flight:
2003 ROAR, Rosella’s Vineyard – Bricky orange with thin, herbal entry that blossomed into somewhat harsh smokiness. Metallic and thin and not very balanced comparatively.

2003 Morgan, Rosella’s Vineyard – Bright, medium red in color. Thin, metallic entry warmed with darker berry fruit. Coffee and cocoa showed in the mid-palate and deepened to display a menthol finish.

2003 Loring Wine Company, Rosella’s Vineyard
– Murky, dark red with a pink edge. First aromas show concentrated strawberry and brambleberry tones with layered smokiness. Mouth entry at first produced classic dark fruit as it opened to display eucalyptus and darker brett-like tones with a decidedly fruity mid-palate.

Third Flight:
2003 Lucia, Gary’s Vineyard – Purple. High alcohol. Nice, fruity entry. Evenly balanced with clove in the mid-palate.

2003 A.P., Gary’s Vineyard – Brett and eucalyptus. Mint mushrooms. Hits in the 3rd eye. Higher acids but even with harsh, thin, finish.

2003 Testarossa, Gary’s Vineyard – Pale red and thin looking. Eucalyptus with some cranberry. Heightened cranberry on entry. Simple. Light thin.

2003 Tantara, Gary’s Vineyard – Funk – roasted. Roasted fruit that is easy. Balanced and fruit-forward. Turns out from having tasting other tables’ offerings that our tables pour might have been heat damaged.

The Fourth, and favored flight of the evening, possibly for being a bit more fruit-forward and opulent in their presentation.

2003 Pisoni Estate, Pisoni Vineyard – Purple and inky dark in color. This is a young wine that is still hot with alcohol. Aromas include exotic incense and dark spices behind the smoky cherry. Cranberry on the entry surprises as being brighter than the aromas indicate with a floral finish that is lush.

2003 Roessler Cellars, Pisoni Vineyard – Purple in color. Eucalyptus on the forefront with a layer of candy shop and wild strawberry that showed sweetness. Thin entry was slightly acidic which expanded into a complex strawberry floral finish.

2000 Arcadian Pisoni Vineyard – Orangey red. Earthy berry showing dark fruit with some herbs. Brett that is warm and sexy. Thin up front but balanced after opening with an herbal mid-palate.

2003 Patz & Hall, Pisoni Vineyard – Purple amethyst color. Dark plum and berry fruit with layered spices in its jammy entry. A Syrah-like smokiness in its exciting finish.

Pinot Days Festival

Thursday, April 28th, 2005

Logo1 This is my first and probably only plug I’ll ever make about an event; the First Annual Pinot Days Festival! Yes, I realize there is now a backlash AGAINST Pinot because of what is now known as the Sideways effect, but I was a known Pinotphiliac before the movie and continue to be one.

Organized by my friends Steve and Lisa Rigisich of the Bay Area Wine Project, the three-day festival is kicking off at Fort Mason in San Francisco on Friday night, June 24th with a taste-off comparison of The Best of the Santa Lucia Highlands featuring wines from The Pisoni, Gary’s, and Rosella’s Vineyards. The cool part about this is that the winemakers’ themselves will be at hand for questions, schmoozing, and general camaraderie. Saturday’s event is a tasting from seventy (70!) different Pinot producers along with some demonstrations of how this illustrious grape is so carefully handled. The finale of the weekend a Pinot-producer brunch in an intimate setting in Marin where *other* wines besides Pinot will be tasted (that’s not to say there won’t be Pinot available as well!)

I am looking forward to this event and hope it is the first of many!

Pinot Paradise

Sunday, April 17th, 2005

HarvestsmallPinot Paradise, held on April 10th, was the first annual event put on by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association intended to showcase the Pinot Noir produced by their members, some of whom produce only Pinot and many who produce other varietal wines as well. Knowing that I was going to have to spend some time blogging the wineries of Santa Cruz, it seemed reasonable to tie in attendance to this event as well. With the rise of Pinot sales and interest (now known as The Sideways effect), it was no surprise that the event was extremely well-attended having sold out three weeks in advance.

Pp_testarossa_dudeHeld at the stunning Testarossa winery, the organization pulled out the stops to promote the event to the media, starting with an inviting and cordial introduction by Dave Moulton of Burrell School Vineyards and Winery, Rob Jensen of Testarossa, and Michael Martella of Thomas Fogarty Winery and Vineyards.

Pp_dave_moultonMichael was the one expanded upon the specific of the region, explaining that of the 1,200 acres of vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 300 acres is donated exclusively to the Pinot grape. The soils are "medium" in density, meaning not too rich in that much of it lies on top of shell and fractures of limestone and sandstone which provides excellent drainage. The roots subsequently work their way into a more minerally substance which is evident in the flavors of the wine; "more about the soils than the bright fruit = more in balance."

Pp_aptosAllowing us a little head start before the rest of the public, I was able to start tasting with ease, starting off the bat with Aptos Creek, tasting their 2001, 2002, and 2003 (barrel sample) offerings. The 2001 was their first release and was entirely dry-farmed. In it, I found decent color and bouquet with classic mineral and cherry flavors. The 2002 offered warm, dark berry and spice qualities on the nose. Bright and engaging fruit with more spice on the finish. The 03 barrel sample was intensely fruit-forward with substantial oak aromas that will undoubtedly subside with age.

Pp_alfaroNext along the table-line was Alfaro Family Winery, pouring several 2003 offerings; Schultze Family Vineyards from Windy Oaks which I found extremely smooth, even, and balanced with mineral and berry qualities. The Alfaro Estate seemed a tad harsh next to the Schultze. Lastly, I reveled in the Gary’s Vineyard which was dark and elegant, with dark raspberry, cinnamon, and clove on entry and an expansive, balanced mineral finish.

Pp_bargettoI was beginning to figure out the alphabetical system as the next table I hit was Bargetto pouring their 2003 Trout Creek. I loved talking with these folks and regretting not jotting down their names. For years the Bargetto family were wholesale fruit growers who decided to make some wine themselves, now producing 5,000 cases under the Bargetto name, but also producing under a number of different labels including Chaucer’s, LaVita, and Coastal Cellars. I found the Trout Creek to be surprisingly fruit-forward considering the more mineral qualities evident in the previously-tasted wines. There was substantial dark berry and a tad uneven which might smooth out with age.

I was greatly looking forward to tasting the Burrell School after meeting Dave Moulton. They were also pouring past, present and futures of their Pinot offering. The 2001 Santa Cruz Mountain was surprisingly hot with alcohol but exhibited stunning cherry aromas that also paralleled in the mouth entry. I liked the textured mineral qualities and the silky, cherry finish. The 2002 had similar cherry notes but layered with some raspberry. The tannins were well-integrated and the finish even and smooth. Some 2003 barrel samples were provided but I was a bit overwhelmed with the sulpher which was too prevalent.

Byington was tasted next and impressed me greatly. In tasting the 2002 Estate Pinot, I was swayed with a great, heady nose of dark berry, an even, balanced entry, and a long, spicy finish. An interesting contrast was the 2002 Van Der Kamp Pinot from Sonoma. Differing from the normally bright, mineral qualities of the Santa Cruz Mountain Pinots, this was intensely dark and fruit-forward with port-like qualities on the back palate.

Pp_chocolate_dudeTempting fate (and potentially my palate), I could barely resist the offerings of Cocoa Pete, one of my favorite confectionery. Much has been written about the compatibility of Pinot with food and some amazing local eateries were also in attendance offering some fabulous munchies. The downside seemed to be the growing attendance which must not have been anticipated caused many restaurants to run out of food within an hour or so of the event’s start.

As the crowds were growing exponentially, it was significantly more difficult to get into taste or write notes. I did get to taste offerings from Cinnabar, (2003, bright fruit and signficant mineral) Clos La Chance, (2001 Erwin Vineyard, medicinal; 2002, some raspberry and very nicely balanced) and Clos Tita (1999, oxidized with Band-Aid and medicinal qualities; 2000, green bell pepper and brett; 2001 Estate, fruit-forward with hints of medicine) before heading to the first of several scheduled break-out sessions offered.

Pp_jeffrey_1Jeffrey Patterson of Mt. Eden Vineyards was the first of five break-out sessions but I was especially anxious as I had met Jeff the previous day at his estate (to be blogged later). He is eloquent, soft-spoken, and extremely passionate about his estate and his wine. During his talk, several vintages were offered for tasting as well. The 2000 was extremely soft and elegant with a hint of smoke on the entry. Exotic, incensey perfume exuded in the bouquet. The 2001 had more mineral qualities. The nose was elegant showing spicy, smoke, and balanced fruit. The mouth entry was a tad thin compared to the 2000. The 2002, however, was heady and elegant showing very bright fruit. Hints of cinnamon and mineral on the finish provided texture and depth. I love these wines…

After Jeffrey’s talk, I started to head back towards the tasting area and was surprised at the number of people eating and drinking wine in an adjacent parking lot. My surprise gave way to disdain as I attempted to re-enter the tasting area when I realized the crowds had swelled in my absence. A few attempts were made to taste the Pinots of Woodside (2001, some mineral – harsh entry) and Trout Gulch (1990, earthy, old, and past its prime; 2000, showing earth and brett, lively tantalizing) before I completely abandoned the idea for want of any reasonable space.

I did witness some attempt at organizers to gather glasses from wineries (apparently, they were not supposed to have them for tasting) as it became painfully obvious the event was either over-sold or simply better-attended than anticipated. I believe the space was well-laid out, even though I prefer having food booths far away from wine pouring booths – something that is rarely done at mass tastings and I feel the aromas of cooking food interferes with quality wine evaluation. Despite that, it seemed as though the space would have been perfect for 300 to 400 attendees and there were clearly more along the lines of 700+. Not wanting to brave the crowds for the dozen or so wineries I had yet to taste, I decamped… but look forward to future events.

Rhone Rangers

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Well, the time has come… I am veering off the path of the single-minded winery tastings at last. It was finally brought to light by a very dear friend that I participate in so many extraordinary wine-tasting events that are not getting documented. There is also so much I am missing out by limiting my format to only reviewing wineries which I hope to rectify. Today, I start a new topic of Mass Tastings – something I do at least on a monthly basis at some place or another. I also coordinate and attend some astonishing Food & Wine pairings at various restaurants which will become its own category (a Pinot dinner at Manresa is coming up next month!). Most notably, I am looking forward to participating in Wine Blogging Wednesday which was started by Lenndevours. But first I will backtrack a bit to last Saturday’s Rhone Rangers tasting held at Fort Mason in San Francisco:

03 Grenache – Lively and bright. Still young.
03 ‘Other’ Petite Sirah – Deep and dark and plummy.

03 Syrah – Massive black raspberry nose. Smooth entry. Exciting mid-palate with spicy finish.
02 Syrah – Dark and elegant. Spicy fruit with balanced acidic mid-palate.

03 California Bugchignani Carignane – Immediate aromas of mineral and vegetable tones. Sharp entry with a dry finish.
01 Syrah/Grenache Blend – Exciting and bright fruit. A tad young but it moves briskly in the mouth with a dry end.
01 California Lytton Syrah – Even and smooth. Very enticing.
02 Lytton Petite Sirah – Tight and chewy
02 Lytton Syrah – Tantalizing aromas which evens outs to full, ripe berry.

02 San Francisco Bay Cote du Bone – Bright and easy to drink.
02 Syrah – Wow factor in the nose. Jammy, chewy aromas which parallel the mouth entry.
[Exclaim] 03 Petite Sirah – I love a wine you can’t see light through… Inky purple with black raspberry and black plum nose. Sweet entry which explodes with fruit and spice. Killer wine for $19!

03 Grenache – Candy shop aromas. Smooth entry which expands and fills with more tannins on the finish.
[Exclaim] 03 Syrah, Alexander Valley – From the Broken Leg vineyards. Elegant with dark, dark fruit aromas. Intensely smooth, even entry. Killer for $25
[Exclaim] 03 Syrah, Gary’s Vineyard – Amazing, deep, complex bouquet. Stunning layers on the entry with coffee tones along with the amazing fruits. $30

03 Cuvee le Bec – Candied red-hots in the nose. Spicy entry with full mouthfeel.
02 Syrah – Classic dark berry. Even entry with balanced fruit and layered, acidic finish.
03 Grenache – Candy shop, floral aromas. Full, even entry which explodes with stunning balance.
03 Syrah Clone #1 – Inky dark color, Thick, dark opulent aromas with dark, dark full mouthfeel.

Andrew Murray
Esperance – A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah. Port-like candy aromas. Truly bizarre sensation of Sweet & Sour in a single sip. Intensely l-o-n-g finish of both Sweet AND Sour! [puzzled]
03 Syrah – Bright and evenly tannic. Enticing plum and cherry.
03 Estate Syrah – Elegant and even Oriental spices combine with the plum and berries to produce a long, dry spicy finish.
02 Hillside Syrah – Port-like aromas that fade to eucalyptus and mint. Seems to enter the mouth like a port as well…

Tablas Creek
04 Roussane (from the Barrel) – Kiwi and bright fruits (one of three whites I tried because it was poured before I could tell them not to — I liked it better than I thought I would!)
02 Cotes de Tablas – Candy shop aromas and sweet-ish on entry. Dry, tannic mid-palate.
02 Esprit de Beaucastel – Intensely ripe strawberry but overtly mineral mid-palate.

[Exclaim] 01 Del Rio Syrah – Like a hunk of smoky, BBQ meat. Aromas and tastes of cherry and cedar. Earth and chocolate. Long and distinctive.
02 Seven Mills Syrah – Unlike the previous, overtly jammy, fruity offerings, this is one of the first wines to smell like, well…. WINE! No jam but earthiness that is rich and bright. Not brett, though! Engaging but still a bit tight.

Edmund St. John
[Exclaim] NV(?) Shell & Bone – So called from the limestone. Another white I was talked into but jeez, was I ever glad! Kiwi and peach aromas that were intensely exciting. Mid-palate of honey’d peach. Complete wow factor. $25
04 Roussanne – Slightly grassy aromas. Creamy finish.
01 Syrah – Dry and vegetal. — Honestly, I somewhat slammed for that note when it got posted on a wine site. I’m chalking it up to a tired palate and look forward to tasting ESJ wines again shortly as the rest were phenomenal.
01 Los Robles Vejos – Elegant fruit, well-balanced with both dark berries and earth that ended in a bit of a jammy tease.

[Exclaim] 03 Petite Sirah – Amazind cedar bouquet. Smoth and bold entry. $26

00 Carignane – Candied cinnamon gives way to strawberry.
?? L’Atitude – Dry, mineral, and thin.
01 Syrah – Jammy nose. Nice swallow (the only trickle that went down my throat by accident…)
00 Syrah – Spicy cedar which slightly paled in the mouth.
00 Petit Syrah – Great, dark, fruity nose with a slightly dry mid-palate.
00 Max – Huge, plummy and big.