Posts Tagged ‘Zinfandel’

1999 Biale Old Crane Ranch Zinfandel, Twelve Years Later – 136

Friday, May 28th, 2010

I visited Biale Vineyards back in 2005, when I was living in Napa. It was part of the WineBlogWednesday which seems to be dormant these days. Back then, the intention of that day was to taste a wine from as close to your home as possible. Living in Napa, I couldn’t throw a dead animal without hitting a vineyard but I did some investigation to determine that the closest vineyard to my house was owned and operated by Biale. I had a great visit and tasting all those years ago so it was several years later, when I spied an older Zinfandel available in an auction that I went ahead and picked it up; a 1999 Old Crane Ranch Napa Valley Zin.

A nose slightly reminiscent of spun sugar, or that smell when you start to caramelize sugar on the stove and it is just beginning to turn golden brown. The wine was even and smooth and very easy to drink. With very faint hints of dark chocolate and subtle dried, dusty herbs those flavors were not enough to detract or dominate. It has aged well and is a joy to drink. Rich and redolent without burning of alcohol or youth, there is so much to be said for the grace of aging a zinfandel.

Surprisingly sweet entry in the mouth, almost like candy. But it contained flavors that expand into enticing concentrated tones of plum, prune, and dried fig with a back palate of blackberry and boysenberry. Still very rich and dark ruby in color with no hint of brickiness. Showing lots of legs, the wine’s only display of age is its incredible soft palate. With fruit and balance, it is smooth and elegant in its boldness.

I imagine that ten years ago, it was a bold representation of heady fruit and alcohol that was best decanted for several hours. Here there is a refinement. A complete and utter joy.

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

Robert Craig Wine Cellars – 160

Friday, September 16th, 2005

Rc_bldg_entranceI’ve know about Robert Craig Wine Cellars for a while, in a back-handed sort of way… When I was working up at Ladera, Robert Craig’s winemaker, Chad, would come over and visit as he and Tres are really good friends. I’ve been privy to a tasting now and then but never got to visit the actual facility up on Howell Mountain. Fortunately for me — and now for you! — they have opened a tasting room in downtown Napa, making it a lot easier for all concerned except for maybe Chad, who still drives up the mountain to make their extraordinary wine.

Rc_tasting_roomThe downside to the tasting room is that it is quite off the beat-and-track. Although technically downtown, it is located in a small building essentially surrounded with some of the more downtrodden Victorians (although there is hope as signs of renovation abound). An additional note on the tasting room; because of its slightly remote location, it is technically appointment-only, Tuesdays through Saturday. Although Rachel Miller, their manager, assures me that she tries her best to never turn anyone away.

The day of my visit was a special open house so there were some munchies and Ms. Lynn Craig there to welcome visitors. Rachel advised me that normally the table is set-up for a more informative sit-down tasting which is always complimentary (yet another rarity in Napa!). And knowing my penchant for mountain wines, how could I not be impressed…

2002 Syrah – Rich, sweet aromas of smoke and bacon with a tease of mint. Chocolate taste at first, then dark fruit streaks of blueberry, blackberry, and plum. Rachel explained this was a the blend of two vineyards; a cool Los Olivos and a warmer Paso Robles. Being younger than I normally drink Syrah, I was impressed that it already showed supple, smooth characteristics. Medium-bodied, it was not over-the-top with heat or alcohol, but already well-developed. $28.00

2000 Affinity – Their name for the Bordeaux blends that are made, which are mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. In this case 76% Cabernet, 22% Merlot, and 2% Petite Verdot. The wine displayed some dark, twiggy, rustic brambleberry aromas with a whisper of chocolate. Initially sweet on the entry, an earthy core was balanced with dark blueberry and a rich, long, silky finish. Sold Out

2001 Affinity - 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 2% Pertite Verdot. Intensely rich dark core of blackberry and smoke with a hint of sweetness on the back of the nose. Tight entry blossoms to show bright, engaging fruit with some oak and a currant finish. $Available only as part of a vertical

2002 Affinity – Over-the-top black fruit with tones of black licorice. Bright, sweet entry is concentrated with layers of herbs. Darker finish with a touch of cocoa. $40.00

2002 Mt. Veeder Cabernet – 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. Classic Veeder with tons of dark cherry, leather, and tobacco. A touch of hot twig and herbs showing the wine’s youth. Mouth entry has tons of up-front fruit with flavors of dark cherry and cranberry. $50.00

2002 Howell Mountain Cabernet – Purple in color, spice dominates the intense dark fruit aromas. Silky smooth entry is velvety and rich with developed structure and perfectly balanced tannins. Supple. Wine club members only.

Robert Craig Wine Cellars ~ 880 Vallejo Street ~ Napa ~ CA ~ 94559 ~ 707-252-2250

Napa Cellars – 157

Saturday, September 10th, 2005

Cd_signI have long admired the Napa Cellars‘ logo. The clean pen-and-ink drawing of an up-turned hand, scrolled elegantly upward. It is the type of script that makes me believe it actually says something, but I’m not brilliant enough to see it. What is the orb floating above the hand? A grape? The world? Is the hand waiting to grasp what is plunging downwards towards the grasp or has the hand just flung the sphere into the air? Questions like this plague me, I’m afraid and I doubt I will ever have a definitive answer. But I like it, regardless.

Cd_bldgNapa Cellars is one of the first wineries that greets visitors entering the Napa Valley via Highway 29. The building is a Bucky-Fuller geodesic dome (albeit a slightly squashed, low-slung dome). It is one of the rare down-valley wineries boasting a public picnic facility — something of a rarity I have come to learn.

Cd_tasting_roomDespite the impression that the building is mildly squat, the interior tasting room is surprisingly open with its vaulted ceilings and sky lights. During my visit, some first time wine tasters were visiting from out-of-state and the pouring staff were extremely helpful in the instruction of Wine-Tasting 101. This is actually rather refreshing as I have witnessed far too many occasions where those just starting out were treated with more condescension instead of congeniality. Easy to drink and affordable, Napa Cellars is a great place to begin when first visiting the Napa Valley.

2004 Vin Gris – An odd rosé blend of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Pale, pink color with fresh berry aromas that is only a tad sweet on entry. Surprisingly integrated and not too tangy. Fresh finish. $14.95

2002 Napa Valley Zinfandel – From south St. Helena, this produces a rich, soft nose of dark spice including nutmeg and clove that just barely hides a hint of black pepper. Chocolate entry sweetens in the mid-palate to a long, dry finish of cocoa. $19.75

2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Toasty nose with a touch of green bell pepper. Dry entry produces cedar and dark berry. The finish was a tad thin. $25.75

2001 Napa Valley Syrah – From a north Napa vineyard, only 500 cases were produced. Sweet licorice and blackberry liqueur show richness and complexity. Chewy mouth entry expands with dark fruit and vanilla. $32.50

2001 Late Harvest Zinfandel – Full bodied and rich, a medium amount of herbs keeps it from being overly sweet. Integrated fruit and cocoa. $29.75

Napa Cellars ~ 7481 St. Helena Highway ~ Oakville ~ CA ~ 94562 ~ 707-944-2565