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John On Wine – Spotlight Winery: Brutocao Cellars

Originally published on Thursday, February 12, 2015 in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper

I like pretty much everyone in the wine industry, but some folks stand out as favorites, and Hoss Milone, the winemaker for Brutocao Cellars in Hopland, is definitely one of those. Competency without crushing seriousness, affable, likeable, even irreverent at times; when crafting wines, Hoss is all business, making wines that are big, deep, possessed of weight and intensity.

We met at the Brutocao tasting room in Hopland at the Schoolhouse Plaza (Brutocao has another tasting room in the Anderson Valley), and Hoss poured me through his current releases, ably assisted by tasting room host Monica Almond.

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First up was the 2013 Brutocao Chardonnay, Hopland Ranches, $17. In a world of Chardonnay trending leaner and unoaked, this was a weighty wine, 100% barrel fermentation and 100% malolactic fermentation. Barrel fermentation means a wine was made in the barrel, malolactic fermentation is a secondary fermentation that converts malic acid green apple and tart notes to lactic acid cream and butter flavors. I picked up lemon citrus, and tropical banana notes, plus a warmer apple. Hoss told me the wine spent nine months in barrel, and had a sur lie stir every couple of weeks. Sur lie is French for “on lees’ and lees are the spent yeasts after they have converted sugar into alcohol, heat and co2. Holding a wine sul lie can add a textural mouth feel richness, and create a deeper wine flavor profile.

Regarding his Chardonnay, Hoss shared it is made from “five blocks, each subdivided, and different oaks [for the barrels], one to two different yeasts, a spice rack [for blending] fruit and mouth feel.”

Next was the 2012 Brutocao Reserve Chardonnay, Estate Bottled, $25. With over one year barrel time, and made, “primarily out of Dijon clones,” this was surprisingly delicate, clean, lovely, and showing lots of apple, pear, vanilla, and caramel.

Hoss told me that the Brutocao Sauvignon Blanc has sold out, and a new one, plus a new Rosé, would be out this spring.

Red wine time, and the list is lengthy.

2010 Brutocao Reserve Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $38. Classic Pinot notes, on a weighty wine, deep cherry cola, forest funk, oak, raisin, herb, licorice. Two years in barrel.

2010 Brutocao Quadriga, Hopland Ranches, $24. A Quadriga is a Roman chariot drawn by four horses, and this chariot’s four Italian horses are Sangiovese, Primitivo, Barberra, and Dolcetto. Darker herb, multi noted, fruit basket, cherry, plum, violet, orange, more cherry, blueberry, raspberry, oh, did I say cherry already? Hoss told me, “Sangiovese is the glue that holds the other varietals together.”

2010 Brutocao Primitivo, Contento Vineyard, $24. Spice, but not peppery, lighter raspberry fruit nose, nice mouthfeel, a little weightier in the mouth with darker raspberry and cassis. “American oak works with Zinfandel, but [although DNA Identical] Primitivo hates it,” Hoss explained, pointing out differences between the two varieties.

2010 Brutocao Zinfandel, Hopland Ranches, $24. The bottle says Zinfandel, but could accurately say Zinfandels, as Hoss said there were, “two vineyards, each split north and south, and three to six yeasts, then differing oak regimens; many notes for blending,” the many resultant Zinfandels into this one Zinfandel. Deeper styled, pepper, leaning to raspberry, oak, cherry, and nuanced rather than a two by four to the head.

The 2009 Brutocao Reserve Merlot is sold out. Hoss said of the reserve wines, “many are available only at the tasting rooms, and still sell out too soon.” In place of the 2009, Hoss poured an early taste of the 2011 Merlot with grapes off the Bliss Vineyard. The grapes were picked the third week of September, well before rains fell in the first week of October that year. This was a really drinkable wine, plummy berry, and soft.

2012 Brutocao Cabernet Sauvignon, Contento Vineyard, $24. Released in June last year, will not last until next release. Blackberry, bright lively acid, anise, oak.

Hoss and I got into a discussion of oak barrels, French and American, and eastern European, but what I noted most was Hoss’ animation, his Italian coming out, as his hands were flying in aid of his words.

2010 Brutocao Uber Tuscan, Hopland Ranches, $24. 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Cigar, deep red fruit, anise, raspberry, spice, herb. Terrific wine.

2009 Brutocao Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Bottled, $38. Lovely purple violet color. Floral noted fruit nose. Blackberry, currant, bright herb mouth. Integrated. Big. Hoss goes through all of his wines for a reserve release, and selecting the best barrel of varietal juice for his wine, as barrels unblended yield different wines. As an example, it took a week for Hoss to taste through his 68 barrels of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.

2010 Brutocao (Zinfandel) Port, Mendocino, $24/375ml, $38/750 ml. Sweet plummy licorice and blackberry.

NV Brutocao Tawny Port, Estate Bottled, $26/500ml. Solera styled (a little of each vintage is reserved and blended into the next vintage, and so on with each vintage, until the wine you hold is a look back through many previous vintages as well as the current one) going back to 2010, with classic Portuguese grapes and a helping hand from Germain-Robin distillation.

Describing his winemaking influences, his philosophy, Hoss explained, “I’ve been in the vineyard since I was five years old. The taste in the vineyard should be the taste in the bottle.”
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In addition to his winemaking duties for Brutocao, Hoss is actively involved in the Coro Mendocino wine program, and is the winemaker blessed with marketing oversight. The Coro group have pulled back the curtain, inviting a wine writer to join the group for the collaborative blind tastings, in an effort to get the word about Coro out to the greater public. John Compisi is that writer, and his multi part series on Coro is being reposted online at my site, JohnOnWine.com, as well as John Compisi’s pages at Examiner.com.

The 2011 vintage Coro Mendocino wines will be poured at special multi course Chef’s Wine Dinners at Crush Italian Steakhouse in Ukiah on Wednesday March 18, 2015, and Crush Italian Steakhouse in Chico on Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

The 2012 vintage release dinner will be held in June, with the location moved from the Mendocino coast to San Francisco. I will be attending, and will write more about the dinner as we get closer.

For more information about Brutocao Cellars, visit brutocaocellars.com; to reserve seats for the Coro dinner at Crush, call 707.463.0700; and for more information about Coro Mendocino, read archived stories at JohnOnWine.com or visit coromendocino.com.

 

ZAP. For Bay Area wine lovers, especially those with a fondness for Zinfandel, those three letters forming that one little word bring an automatic smile. ZAP is short for Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, a wine industry group dedicated to the promotion of Zinfandel wine and the Zinfandel grape, and although they are attempting to brand their January event as the Zinfandel Experience, or #ZinEx, for many their big January event is also referred to as ZAP, as in, ”I’ve got my tickets to ZAP, I can’t wait to get my Zin on.”

#ZinEx is not a single January event, but a series of events held over four days. This year, on Wednesday, January 29, a trade and media tasting event was held away from the crowds at Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda. I did not attend this event, but my friend John Compisi did attend and I’ll link his recap here for you to read about it.

For me, #ZinEx started Thursday night, at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio in San Francisco with Epicuria, an evening of wine and food pairings, where top chefs from restaurants, catering companies, and culinary colleges create delicious bites specifically intended to complement the flavors of Zinfandel wine. 32 wineries and kitchens were represented.

Here are some pairings I enjoyed immensely:

2013 Carol Shelton Wines Wild Thing “Old Vines, Mendocino County with Ruth’s Chris Steak House of San Francisco and Walnut Creek’s Double Chop Lamb Lollipops with Veal Demi Glaze.

Yes, that is a Ruth's Chris double lamb pop and Carol Shelton Wild Thing Zin

1995 Old Hill Vineyard from Ravenswood, poured by Joel Peterson; Zinfandel plus 40 other varieties from a vineyard planted in 1862 and replanted in 1885. Paired with a Lamb Merguez Sausage with Mango Chutney, Paprika Spiced Onions and Italian Giardiniera Peppers from Rosamunde Sausage Grill in San Francisco.

1995 Old Hill Vineyard from Ravenswood, poured by Joel Peterson. Zinfandel plus 40 other varieties from a vineyard planted in 1862 and replanted in 1885.

Pacific Fine Food Catering of Alameda stepped up at the last minute, filling in for a fail restaurant, and had every taster talking about their amazing ribs, which I paired with the 2014 Mendocino County Fair wine Competition’s Best of Show Red, the 2012 Artezin Zinfandel, Mendocino County.

Artisan ribs with Artezin Zin. Retasting the 2014 Mendo Wine Comp Best of Show Red Wine

Seghesio Family Vineyards’ 2012 Rockpile paired perfectly with the Seghesio Zin and cherry glazed St. Louis Ribs prepared by their executive chef, Peter Janiak. Perfect smoke bark, delicious.

2012 Seghesio Rockpile with Seghesio Zin and cherry glazed St. Louis Rib

2012 m2 “Old Vine” Saucie Vineyard, Lodi paired with the San Francisco Cheesecake Company’s Dark Chocolate m2 Zinfandel SF Cheesecake and their Wild Huckleberry m2 Zinfandel SF Cheesecake were wonderfully creamy and lovely bites with sips.

2012 m2 old vine Zin with SF Cheesecake Company's treats

I paired a barrel sample of 2013 Andis Wines Amador Zin with Santa Rosa’s Flavor Bistro Sweet Potato Timbale with a trio of Cheeses garnished with Alba Mushrooms and Redemption Glaze and the Presidio Social Club of San Francisco’s Sea Salt Roasted Devil’s Gulch Pork Leg.

2013 Andis Wines barrel sample with Flavor Bistro sweet potato timbale with a trio of cheeses garnished with alba mushrooms & redemption glaze

The 2012 Dry Creek Vineyard Wallace Ranch Estate Zin with the Bistro Boudin of San Francisco’s Braised Beef Stew was my last bite and sip and, with apologies to all the unsipped and untasted treats remaining, I was delighted with everything that passed my lips.

2012 Dry Creek Vineyard Wallace Ranch Estate Zin with Bistro Boudin Braised Beef Stew.
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Friday morning, I attended Flights! at San Francisco’s Four Seasons hotel, a seated panel tasting with an educational component. This year’s Flights! Tasting would feature three panels of winemakers with wines from three different American Viticultural Areas, AVAs, for an exploration of the area specific characteristics, or Terroir based differences, that result in the Zinfandels produced from these three very different areas.

Readying bottles for Flights!

I was seated at a table with Joel Butler, MW. MW is the designation for a Master of Wine, which means that Joel has a remarkable palate and an amazingly encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s wines.

Flights! was moderated by a personal hero of mine in the wine world, Joel Peterson of Ravenswood. Joel told those assembled that, “we’re going to be talking about Zinfandel, the shape shifter. As we go on, you’ll see what I mean,” and, “the driver of difference is place; it has a wider range of growing locations than almost any other grape, we’re going to watch it change colors.”

The first panel focused on the Zinfandel of Contra Costa County, and Joel told us, “Contra Costa County is really sandy…the sands are really amazing. Phylloxera cannot live on sandy soil; these Zinfandel are planted on their own roots.”

Contra Costa

John Kane poured the 2012 Carla’s Reserve from Rosenblum Cellars, and painted a picture of the vineyard near the Antioch bridge, a K-mart, rail road tracks, in the middle of town. The wine was marked by notes of light tar, caramel, cherry, chocolate and salt, and was made using 3-4 styles of yeast, 15% new oak, micro bin small lot whole cluster fermentation, and had Mourvèdre (also known as Mataró) from the field in the blend.

Nathan Kandler poured Precedent Wines’ 2012 Evangelho Vineyard Zinfandel, running 75-80% Zin, with Mataró, Carignane, as well as two white grapevines, Palomino and Muscat, also in the block. Nathan described the vineyard, planted in 1890, with delta drift sands 30-40 feet deep, and said “sandy soils give bright acidity, fruit driven, suave tannins.” The wine tasted of ripe bright strawberry and raspberry fruit. Nathan used no new oak, but used French Chardonnay barrels.

Charlie Tsegeletos offered up his 2012 Big Break Vineyard Zin from Cline Cellars, and described the, “very, very deep sand,” and, “roots penetrating 30 feet.” Charlie told us the, “old vines [were] planted when Woodrow Wilson was in office, when Henry Ford established the assembly line.” With no fining, this was essentially a vegan wine, and the vineyard relies on “dry farming in these near desert conditions and sandy soil.’ The result was a darker, but balanced, multi-noted, meaty wine, plummy with cassis and a touch of mint,

Matt Cline poured the 2012 Three Wine Company Zinfandel, Live Oak, a vineyard with about nearly equal parts Zinfandel, Carignane, and Mataró originally planted mid 1888, with less than 10% Mataró and Carignane remaining today. There is also some Alicante planted perpendicular to the vineyard block. Matt humorously noted, “I’ve been making wines for about 30 years, and I think I’m the only one doing it right. Listening to these new guys, I think they’re coming along.” Matt added the river influenced winds of Contra Costa’s delta to the list of influences, and noted the “many droughts in the last 125 years, and these dry farmed vines in sand just keep going.” Fermenting in the 60’s, cool temperature wise, using a mix of American and French oak, 30% new, the sandy soils and wind resulting in “dusty berry earth,” notes, I picked up herbal blackberry, sweet tart black cherry, and floral raspberry notes.

Last up for Contra Costa County was Shauna Rosenblum, who of course started at her parents’ winery Rosenblum Cellars before creating wines at Alameda’s Rock Wall Wine Company. Shauna poured her 2012 Jesse’s Vineyard, which is also planted to Carignane and Mataró, “old school field blends,” harvested and co-fermented. About the vintage, Shauna shared the words of a sage industry friend, “2012 is a one in a hundred year vintage.” About 2013, she shared, “2013 is a one in a hundred year vintage.” Using multiple yeasts, including sparkling wine yeasts, 15-20% new oak, Shauna let the fruit show. The wine had a dessert custard nose, and notes of pepper, salt, tobacco, cocoa, blackberry, and a raspberry chocolate brownie flavor.

Joel Butler asked the panel about low pH and TA for Contra Costa wine, and Joel Peterson followed up asking if the sandy soil and deep roots or the climate were responsible. Matt Cline suggested the Contra Costa’s grapes are within ½ mile of water, so much cooler than the 1 ½ mile from water people typically think of when they think of Contra Costa locations, and this water is a cooling influence.

The second panel featured winemakers from Amador County. Amador County is made up of granitic soil, and is sometimes rocky, with Joel describing, “decomposed granite, low humidity, high luminosity, with 65 acres of vines 65 years or older.

Amador

Scott Harvey was up first with his 2012 Vineyard 1869 wine from his eponymous winery. The vineyard is, “the oldest document Zinfandel in the nation,” relying on, “a mining claim identifying one plot corner as being this vineyard planted to Zinfandel,” as the documentation for the claim. Scott described higher altitude planted vines, leading to higher tannins, a warm region, old vines with no irrigation, running out of available moisture at the end of vintage, higher alcohol wines, a touch green, from dehydration of the grapes, the best wines come from grapes picked after the first rain, and a second ripening. The wine showed tea, meat and soil, and raspberry.

Paul Sobon of Sobon Estate poured his 2012 Rocky Top. I visited Sobon perhaps a half dozen times in 2000 and 2001, when matriarch Shirley Sobon would order books and imprinted corkscrews from me, back when I worked for the Wine Appreciation Guild. When Paul described, “pretty intense volcanic mud flow, and solid, solid, solid rock,” I could picture it clearly. Paul also talked about ‘tractor blight’ as some near vertically horse or mule planted vines were taken out by less nimble tractors. 30-35% new oak, 16-18 months, 3-5% Carignane in the mix, the Rock Top showed familiar Amador dry Amador spic, clove, woody, and red fruit notes, almost structural.

Chris Leamy brought the 2012 Terra d’Oro, Deaver Vineyard, Zinfandel. 20 acres, 1881, swailed horseshoe shaped, the vineyard presents many different sun exposures, which makes an already uneven ripening variety an even greater challenge. Chris described Deaver as, “a really high acid vineyard,” that shows Amador clove, allspice, and cinnamon, and tends to tannin. To bring fruit forward, Chris ferments in stainless steel, drains and puts back on top of the skins, presses sooner, so the tannins don’t catch up, seeking balance. The wine showed a nice floral perfume. Chris also spoke to the lack of moisture in Amador vineyards, “because they start running out of water, you just have to make a call and go with it, because then you find – in 2002 – you should have picked 3-4 days ago; you really, really should have picked.”

I knew the next winemaker, Randle Johnson, because his 2012 Artizen Zinfandel, Mendocino County had been judged the Best of Show Red Wine at the 2014 Mendocino County Fair wine competition, and I have tasted it often. Today, he poured the 2012 Artezin, Esola Vineyard Zin. Planted own roots vs. root stock, Randle noted that like Contra Cost’s sandy soil, Amador’s volcanic soil allowed Vitis Vinifera’s own stock to survive Phylloxera. “We have water issues, and Zinfandel loves to set a second crop, but we have the money at esola to cut the second crop which helps with water,” explained Randle, adding,”a little rain, I just love fall rain for any non-irrigated Zinfandel vineyard grapes.” Randle also shared, “we try not to add any Jesus units,” and uses 100% French old Cabernet barrels. The wine through perfume, soft floral, and was surprisingly light in body considering the 15.4$ abv. There was abundant cedary red fruit.

The 2012 Turley Wine Cellars, Sadie Upton Vineyard Zin was shared by Tegan Passalacqua, who said, “Amador does get cool at night,” leading to, “higher natural acidity.” Again, the vineyard is ‘own rooted’ which became a bigger buzzword than ‘old vine’ at the tasting. Planted in 1922 by Sadie Upton, Tegan said, “not once have we had dehydration issue in this vineyard.” 20% new oak. There is Cinsault co-planted, and “we take everything in the vineyard and throw it in the fermenter.” Tegan shared a classic description of Amador Zin, “Tastes like it was poured out of a miner’s bucket,” with natural acidity and tannin from granitic soil. I tasted a bright, ref fruited, rose, tar, spice, cherry, strawberry, raspberry wine. Amador’s “wines are very serious, not for noobies, and demand food,” was a final thought shared by Tegan.

I found all five Amador wines threw minerality.

Chris Sawyer, sommelier and writer, asked about the characteristics shared by Amador Zins, and the panel spoke to a combination of tannins and low pH that allow Amador wines to hold up, reduce oxygen absorption, and retain ‘zinniness.’ They also talked about the advantage that comes with using old vines. “Young wines do not develop the character of old vines. An 85 year old guy knows his neighborhood better than a 12 year old. Young vines do not go as deep and do not pick up [as many] flavors [from the soil].”

The last panel of winemakers represented the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, the area I visit the most often among the three, largely because I grew up nearby in Santa Rosa, and it remains the closest of the three areas to where I now live in Ukiah. Joel on Dry Creek Valley: first planted in 1869, dominant grape is Zinfandel, cooler than Amador or Conta Costa. Many series of soil, loam, yolo. Warm days, cool nights. Four of this panels wines were on St. George, with only one on own roots.

DCV

The first Dry Creek Valley winemaker was Tim Bell of Dry Creek Vineyard, coiners of the term “old vine” and Tim brought the4 2012 Beeson Ranch Zin. Tim first described the dry Creek Valley, a “long and narrow valley, almost two different regions north and sounth, sixty miles long by two miles wide, warmer in the north, cooler in the south, with a marine influence, fog, and red and brown soils.” About Beeson Ranch, Tim said it is a “field blend vineyard, to me it feel like a lot of soul,” with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Grenache, Trousseau Gris, Alicante Bouchet, and St. George. In general, Tom said Dry Creek Valley fruit shows, “cherry, raspberry leather, rose petal, with spice laid over the top of it.” About this Dry Creek Vineyard wine, I picked up floral perfume, cherry, raspberry, rose petal, and earth. Tom found, “the wine has distinctive fruit, white pepper, coriander.”

Jamie Peterson, the next winemaker, is no relation to Joel Peterson, but was likely not alone in wishing Joel was his uncle. Jamie poured his 2012 Peterson Winery “Tradizionale” West Vineyard Zinfandel, planted 6’ x 6’ (pre-tractor, which sees 8’ x 8’ spacing) in 1902, and made using, “native yeast when applicable, letting the site express itself,” showing, “lots of complexity and balance,” and, “always ripens a little on the later side, looking at acidity, sugar, flavor,” remarked Jamie about his wine. The vineyard has 5% ‘other’ including Alicante and even Concord. Jammy fruit, spice, herbal, dark cherry, a touch of funk, almost Pinot-esque but on steroids and covered with muscles.

The 2012 Quivera Vineyards Zinfandel, Katz Vineyard was presented by Hugh Chappelle, who described temperature swings in the vineyard of up to 50 degrees, and the soil of the Dry creek Valley as clay loam. “Old vines are truly special…it is just wonderful to capture that in the glass,” enthused Hugh, adding, “deciding when to pick Zin, the lack of uniformity, finding that perfect mix, is quite hard.” According the the Sonoma County assessor’s office, these grapes were planted in 1900, and are a field blend vineyard, including 2$ white varieties. Hugh uses a light touch of oak, “typically French, 20-25% new,” and the wine showed flora rose perfume, and deep rich layered raspberry and chocolate notes.

Glenn Proctor brought the 2012 Puccioni Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel. Of the 40 acres planted by 1911, today just 3 ½ acres are old vine. Relatively warm, by late afternoon that temperature is lost. 7’ x 7’ mule and plow farmed until 1968, “old vine is history; wine is more than the wine; it is the experience, the history,” said Glenn, a fourth generation winemaker, who will see his son become the fifth generation winemaker on the land. The wine had a nice edge, rhubarb, deep reduced strawberry and cherry jam, and herb notes.

Kerry Damskey rounded out the final panel with his presentation of his 2012 Dutcher Crossing Winery Maple Vineyard “Bill’s Block” Zin. The vineyard was planted in 1940 on the Dry Creek bench, by Lytton Springs, in gravely loam; dry farmed, head trained, a field blend with 82% Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah, Carignane, Alicante, and a single Ruby Cabernet vine making up the balance, and co-fermented. Kerry explained, “when you co-ferment, it helps the fermentation to finish. It always gives a nice integration. Maple Vineyard makes itself.” About the temperature, Kerry said, “Dry Creek does get quite warm and really gets cold at night.” 3.7-3.75 pH, not that low, pushes cherry – black cherry flavors, and Kerry uses 30% new tight grain oak, with 10 months in barrel. I picked up notes of black cherry, strawberry pie, basil herb, and cedar.

Cheese and DCV Wines

I love Flights!, because I love learning, and being able to taste how each area produced wines that were distinctively expressing terroir, while winemaking allowing differences, was a terrifically worthwhile way to spend a morning.
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There was a fancy dinner Friday night, featuring large format bottles, and while I found the bottle room, I was not able to attend the event. One day.

Large Format Bottle storage
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For most folks ZAP brings to mind the insane crowds that used to pack first one, then two enormous halls at Ft. Mason in San Francisco. I used to attend these events, and loved them, but started attending in the early trade and media hours and then abandoning the event when the doors were opened to the hoards.

For the last two years, I have attended a much nicer event at the Presidio in San Francisco. Not as crowded, the folks at Zinfandel Advocates & Producers clearly are selling fewer tickets, and the quality of the event has skyrocketed.

The Tasting on Saturday features 116 wineries pouring Zinfandel. I intended to taste all of the wines made from Mendocino County’s grapes, but I pretty much already had, and reviews of those wines have been featured in previous articles in the Ukiah Daily Journal. This Saturday, I simply let myself taste in a more delightedly haphazard fashion, with little concern for where the grapes came from.

First up, I visited the Bedrock Wine Company table. Pouring were Chris Cottrell and Morgan Twin-Peterson (Joel Peterson’s son). I first met Morgan at a previous Flights! tasting panel tasting, and consider him a young superstar winemaker. Great place to start, I figured.

Morgan

2013 Bedrock Old Vine, California – 75.6% Zin with Carignane , Mourvedre, and Alicante. Bright strawberry, lovely cherry, herb, and mint.

2013 Bedrock Evangelho, Contra Costa County – This wine is from the same vineyard that Nathan Kandler presented the day before at Flights! A little closed, a wine to lay down. Deeper sniffs pulled spice, wood, clove, cranberry. Nice acid.

2013 Bedrock Heritage, Sonoma Valley – 1888 vineyard, 24 interplanted and co-fermented varieties. Native yeast and fermentation. No racking until bottling. Loved this wine. Just so multi-noted. Fruit basket roll up. Depth, layers, plenty of tannins, but soft. Ageable.

2012 Ballantine Old Vine, Napa Valley – Frank Ballentine poured his three vineyard blend. Ripe, ripe, ripe fruit. Raspberry and chocolate.

2012 Beltane Ranch, Estate, Sonoma Valley – I first tasted Joy Wesley’s wines when I visited Beltane Ranch last summer, with my friend Serena Alexi. This wine was a little tight then, but has opened up and now shows deep warm pie baking spices, dark blackberry, currant, jam, and herb.

Joy Wesley

2013 Beltane Ranch, Estate, Sonoma Valley – Clearly a year younger, a touch lighter, less deep notes now, redder fruit, cedar, spice, herb, raspberry.

2011 Dashe Cellars Dry rose of Zinfandel, Todd Brothers Ranch, Alexander Valley – Mike Dashe poured me his “very dry” blush Zin, made from 50 year old vines, barrel fermented, and native. Lovely, light, but flavorful, balanced, citrusy, dried mandarin orange, persimmon, spice, herb.

2012 Andis Wines, Amador County – Really delicious, balanced, earthy, dry cherry, raspberry, clove spice, great integration.

2012 V. Sattui Winery Quaglia Vineyard Ancient Vine, St. Helena – First, I should note, the folks at V. Sattui have been very kind to me over the years. I attended their 125th anniversary lunch at the North Beach Restaurant in San Francisco and sat directly across from Dario and Yana Sattui, Dario has been generous with quotes, and V. Sattui Winery regularly sends review samples of new release to me. All that said, these are uninfluenced notes: Firm, dark, deep, rich, cocoa spice, raspberry reduction, soft but abundant tannin, well balanced.

2012 V. Sattui Winery Crow Ridge Vineyard Ancient Vine, Russian River Valley – orange, eucalyptus mint, black pepper spice, cassis, persimmon, integrated, lively.

2012 V. Sattui Winery Black-Sears, Howell Mountain – Lovely nose. Got into a conversation with Jim Goodman, a Zinfandel Enthusiast, then came back and smelled again, “ahhhh.” Cola, cherry, berry, cassis, great drink!

2013 Jeff Cohn Cellars The Imposter, California – A cellar blend…blends work! Chocolate, smooth spice, layered smooth balanced fruit, raspberry and cranberry, really terrifically integrated wine.

2013 The Prisoner Wine Company Saldo, California – I LOVED Jenifer Beloz’s two wines. Saldo is latin and refers to “from here to there” and this wine takes grapes from Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Mendocino County, Lake County, Sierra Foothills, Contra Costa County, and Lodi. Three Mendocino County vineyards are Mattern Vineyard, Dark Horse Vineyard, and Tindall Ranch…see, I was able to get some Mendocino County love into this piece. 85% Zin with Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Mourvedre. More Zin than a Coro, but similar. So good. Chocolate wrapped raspberry, cherry, and berry.

Jennifer Beloz

2013 The Prisoner Wine Company The Prisoner, Napa Valley – First, this wine knocked my sock off. 44% Zinfandel, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petite Sirah, 16% Syrah, 2% Charbono. This Napa blend, based on Zinfandel was just incredibly balanced and so nuanced. What a great wine! Blackberry, cranberry, persimmon, floral, rose, spice. Love, love, love. Jennifer Beloz, the winemaker, is incredibly personable, which was wonderful as well.

1997 Ridge Vineyards, Jimsomare – I walked up to the Ridge table and all I saw was the word Jimsomare and my heart started beating a little faster. I didn’t even see the 1997 vintage date when I asked for a taste. A great vintage, and my son’s birth year, the fruit might be a little in decline, but there was still plenty of bright raspberry and cranberry fruit, and spice. A real treat tasting this blast from the past.

97 Jimsomare

2013 Ridge Vineyards, Barrel Sample, Pagani Ranch, Sonoma Valley – 83% Zinfandel, 16% Alicante. I think the remaining 1% might be love. A terrifically lush and drinkable wine, great berry cherry fruit. Young, will benefit from age.
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To finish my The Tasting experience, I attended an exploration of what Randy Caparoso described as “under-appreciated Zinfandel areas” sponsored by the SOMM Journal.

Rich and Chris

SOMM Chris Sawyer led a quick look at Lake County’s Jelly Jar Wines and Mendocino County’s McNab Ridge Winery, using them to talk about the larger areas.

Chris shared that the Lake County AVA is above the fog line, high elevation, with intense sun exposure mitigated by the largest lake in California pulling in cool temperatures at night. Mendocino County is closer to the ocean, hotter, with a maritime channel bringing a diurnal swing draft, and influences are the Russian River and gravelly alluvial and volcanic soils.

2012 Jelly Jar Wines Old Vine, Lake County – Growing up, the jars that jelly came in were called jelly glasses at our house, because they so often served as glasses for red wine at the table. In a nod to the same experience, the folks at Jelly Jar Wines knock the pretension of stemmed glasses, that all too often get knocked over and break, right out of what they do, embracing the wine glass of choice in our past, the humble but virtually unbreakable jelly jar. 50+ year old grapes from the Nova Vineyard on the Kelseyville Bench, up at 1,500-1,600 feet in elevation. Andy shared that the vineyard location and elevation brings frost worries and a late October pick, and the wine is imbued with late growing season attributes. Winemaker Andy Pestoni shared his Goldilocks wine, not too jammy, not too lean, but just right. Dusty cocoa powder, pretty elegant strawberry, raspberry, and dark cherry notes. Soft, smooth, with nice tannin.

2012 McNab Ridge Winery, Cononiah Vineyard, Mendocino – I tasted through all of Rich Parducci’s wines recently, and ran a feature piece on McNab Ridge Winery. I wrote then that I like Rich and his wines, and nothing has changed in the week since that was published in the Ukiah Daily Journal. Rich, and his wines, are a terrific representation of Mendocino County. 35 year old vines, Ed Berry is the grower, rocky volcanic soil, vineyard gone through multiple times for uniform fruit, Chocolate, strawberry jam, and white pepper spice.

2012 McNab Ridge Winery, Old Vine, Mendocino – A little more rocky soil, 75 year old vineyard, about 1½ tons per acre. Minerally, perfumed, rich fruit.

Rich shared a great compliment from Paul Draper, the God of Zin from Ridge, who upon tasting Rich’s Zin shared, “great job, you’ve done justice to these grapes.”
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To say that I had a great time, and am grateful to Zinfandel Advocates & Producers for their media invite, would be an understatement. Thank you!

I love single vineyard Zinfandel, and 100% Zinfandel, but I came to reinforce my greater love for blends, whether field blends or cellar blends, and in much the same way came to really appreciate some of the California blends that took advantage of the very different and distinct notes each different growing area pushed into the vines that grow there, so that the resulting blend was so much better than any individual wine might have been. What the House of walker does incredibly well with blended scotch, often sourcing from 40 individual single malts, winemaker Jennifer Beloz did with her wines at The Prisoner Wine Company. Not alone, there are other winemakers picking and choosing the best grapes for their California blend Zinfandels. Where once California on the label was a way to hide a bad source of grapes, now often it presents an invitation to something wonderful.

I fell in love with wines from Contra Costa County and Amador County, reconfirmed my love for wines from Dry Creek Valley and Mendocino County, and found new appreciation for wines that just said California.

Bottom line, if it says Zinfandel on the label, buy it and enjoy it. You are supporting family farming and passionate winemakers with each bottle you consume.

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John On Wine – My favorite Crush Chef’s Wine Dinner yet

This piece originally ran in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, February, 5, 2015

The recent Chefs’ Wine Dinner at Crush Italian Steakhouse in Ukiah featuring McFadden Farm in Wednesday, January 21st 2015 was special for me. You have read six previous posts where I spread my love for these dinners all over the page, and we were finally going to be doing one for McFadden. What a treat.

First dose of love goes to Gracia Brown from Visit Mendocino County; Gracia brokered the deal between Kevin Kostoff at Crush and me at McFadden, bringing us together in joyful partnership, so McFadden’s top awarded and highly rated wines could be paired with Chef Jesse Elhardt’s unrivaled cuisine to offer inland Mendocino a premier event during the Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Fest.

The dinner would also be special, because it would mark Guinness McFadden’s first major public outing after heart surgery at the end of November.

Tickets for the dinner sold faster than any previous Chef’s Wine Dinner at Crush, without Crush getting to send an email invitation to their previous dinner attendees, thanks to you, the readers of John On Wine in the Ukiah Daily Journal and the Wine Club Members and other McFadden newsletter subscribers. Kudos also to Nick Karavas, the exemplary bar manager at Crush, who talked up the dinner in house, and sold quite a few tickets as well.

Reception

The evening started with a reception appetizer of Dungeness Arancini with panko, saffron-sherry aioli, fried dill sprig. These rice balls, topped with crab were wonderfully delicious, and paired perfectly with the 2013 McFadden Chardonnay (90 Points – Wine Enthusiast Magazine); a perfect way to kick off the evening.

Arancini

After the meet and greet reception in the dining room bar area, Kevin invited the full house to move to the private glass-walled dining room and find a seat for the rest of the night’s dinner, served family style, which I love as it makes for a much more social evening.

Guinness

Once seated, owner Doug Guillon welcomed everybody to Crush and promised a wonderful evening for all, a promise kept. Chef Jesse described the appetizer course previously enjoyed, and the various dishes we would all soon enjoy. Guinness McFadden talked about his McFadden Farm and how his land influences the grapes that make the wines that would be served. Guinness introduced me and challenged me to be as brief in my remarks. I described our appetizer wine, and the two wines chosen for the first course.

Bacon wrapped, crab stuffed, shrimp

The first course dishes included Nueske Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Jumbo Prawns with dungeness mix, bistro sauce, buerre monte, and chive; 1914 Crab Louie Salad with butter lettuce, endive, marinated tomato, avocado, orange, and haystack; and Crab “toast” with garlic, reggiano, basil, lemon aioli, chili, and olive oil.

Crab Salad
Crab Toast

Many said that the first course was so rich, that by itself, the meal was complete, and every other dish was a bonus. The bacon wrapped prawn with crab was a meal highlight, although the crab salad showing notes of bright sweet citrus and the crab toast (think garlic toast but with crab, so a million times better) made the plate a celebration of delicious taste experiences.

Very happy guests

The first course featured two wines: NV McFadden Cuvee Rose (Gold Medal – 2014 Mendocino Wine Competition, Gold Medal – 2014 Grand Harvest Awards, and Double Gold Medal – 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition); and the 2013 McFadden Pinot Gris (90 Points and Editor’s Choice – Wine Enthusiast Magazine) – Guinness’ favorite wine. The Brut Rose showed lovely ripe red fruit notes of strawberry, cherry and watermelon, and the Pinot Gris is a lighter wine with pear and apple flavors richer than ordinary for the variety. The two wines, each in their turn, brought out the subtle, and not subtle, flavors of Jesse’s dishes.

Crab!

Plates cleared, Jesse introduced his second course: Garlic Roasted Whole Crab with lemon, olive oil, and fresh herb; Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs with 4 hour natural jus, baked carrot purée, crispy shallot, and micro intensity; Roasted Jumbo Delta Asparagus with shallot sea salt, balsamic reduction, and chive; and Potato Gnocchi Gratin with fresh herb, cream, caprino, and house made bread crumb. I introduced the 2012 McFadden Old Vine Zinfandel (95 Points – Just Wine Points/Wine X), possibly the only Zinfandel light enough not to overpower crab, yet flavorful enough to stand up to Zinfandel braised short ribs. Every bite of food was a delight, but gnocchi speaks to my Italian heart, and I loved Jesse’s version…and his dedication, having handmade 1,500 individual gnocchi for the dinner.

Zin braised short ribs
Asparagus

Gnocchi

For dessert, by request, Chef Jesse recreated a much loved pairing from his December 2013 wine dinner that featured Coro Mendocino wines, a Butterscotch Budino with dual chocolate and butterscotch layers, chocolate pearls, salted butter crunch, toasted crab & coconut crumble (okay, the toasted crab and coconut crumble were a new crab-centric addition for tonight’s meal), paired again with the 2011 McFadden Late Harvest Riesling (Best of Class – 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, 4 Star Gold Medal – 2014 Orange County Fair Wine Competition, Double Gold Medal – 2014 Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition).

Dessert

The dinner was so good, the service so excellent, that although the ticket price for a crab dinner with wine was higher than any previous dinner (still a bargain at just $75), and included tax and tip, attendees spontaneously passed a collection basket for the servers to increase the tip, with the basket filling with $20 bills.

The owners' toast

The evening was great, and I want to thank everyone at Crush, from the folks who ordered our wines (thanks!), to those that cooked the dinner, and from those who served us all, to Doug and Debbie Guillon, our fantastic hosts for the evening. All night, and again all the next day, person after person told me how enjoyable everything about the evening was.

If you missed out, and many did – we could easily have sold out two nights – don’t fret, there are more Chef’s Wine Dinners planned for this year, and the next will feature the 2011 vintage of Coro Mendocino, the county’s flagship wine, a Zinfandel dominant red wine blend. The Coro dinner at Crush is going to be on Wednesday, March 18, 2015, and will likely feature the winemakers of Barra, Brutocao, Clod du Bois, Fetzer, Golden, McFadden, Parducci, and Testa, with wines big enough to allow Jesse to showcase the depth of his ragu and other hearty Italian fare. To reserve your seat early for the March 18 Coro dinner at Crush, call (707) 463-0700.
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This weekend, on Saturday, February 7, join me at the 10th annual International Alsace Varietals Festival for a full day of events in the Anderson Valley, with many Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, and Riesling wines, starting with an educational session in the morning, the big grand tasting in the afternoon, and a winemakers’ dinner in the evening. For more information, visit www.avwines.com/alsace-festival.

 

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The Passport to Dry Creek Valley online ticket store opens at 10:00 am PST on Sunday, February, 1, 2015.

PASSPORT to DRY CREEK VALLEY DATES: APRIL 25 & 26, 2015

NEW: PRELUDE TO PASSPORT: APRIL 24, 2015

Tickets are sold first-come-first-served starting Sunday, February 1 2015, at 10:00 a.m. PST…AND THIS EVENT DOES SELL OUT.

For more information, and to get your tickets beginning Sunday, February 1 2015, at 10:00 a.m. PST, visit http://www.drycreekvalley.org/events/passport-to-dry-creek-valley.php

To get an idea of what the 2015 Passport to Dry Creek Valley’s 26th Annual Celebration is like, check out my recaps of 2013’s Passport to Dry Creek Valley and 2014’s Passport to Dry Creek Valley.

Over one weekend, Passport guests are welcomed into 45+ wineries throughout Dry Creek Valley, each offering a unique pairing of premium wine, gourmet food and entertainment. Take a vineyard tour for a grape-to-glass look at Dry Creek Valley wine. Sample exclusive vintages, rarely available to taste. Meet winemakers and grapegrowers – the generations of people behind the wine and magical ‘Dry Creek Valley spirit’. Savor exquisite food and wine pairings from acclaimed chefs.  Delight in discovering each winery’s unique Passport “theme,” a tradition of the event. The possibilities are as varied as the wineries themselves and promise a fun, unforgettable weekend. Enjoy!

Passport to Dry Creek Valley® was introduced in 1990, by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley®, as a time every year when the winegrowing community could come together to celebrate the generations of farmers, vintners and families that are the roots of the Dry Creek Valley wine region. Over the 26 years since, the event has become a beloved tradition among wine lovers who enjoy a world-class tasting experience with a festive twist, all within the idyllic Dry Creek Valley.

NEW for 2015: PRELUDE TO PASSPORT FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2015 – Select vineyard tour lunches and winemaker dinners hosted by Dry Creek Valley Wineries and Growers

Kick off Passport to Dry Creek Valley weekend with a vineyard tour lunch or winemaker dinner. This is your opportunity to enjoy carefully selected wine and food pairings and spend time with your favorite winemaker or learn about grape growing directly from the source.

Tickets are limited and are available on a first-come-first-served basis February 1st at 10 am pst.

LUNCHES

Cast Wines 
- Cast Wines is pleased to welcome Passport guests for a vineyard lunch at our Grey Palm Estate. Enjoy a sumptuous feast inspired by the bounty of Sonoma County and expertly paired with Cast Wines while seated among the vines in the shadow of our majestic Canary Island date palm. Hosted by our Winemaker, you will get the opportunity to ask questions about our winemaking and viticulture programs, and learn about the history of Dry Creek’s newest and most romantic new winery.

Collier Falls
 – Visit Collier Falls and learn about inter-planting Zinfandel and Primitivo. See a vineyard converted from head pruned to trellis canopy management. Enjoy lunch with Barry and Josh on the deck overlooking Dry Creek Valley and enjoy our Hillside Estate wines with a view.

DaVero -
 Enjoy a truly farm-to-table experience in a spectacular setting! Owners Ridgely Evers (winemaker) and Colleen McGlynn (chef) will give you a guided tour of our certified Biodynamic farm. You’ll taste some very special wines straight from barrel, understand the importance of Biodynamic farming as well as its impact on flavor, and learn how to chose and use olive oil in your own kitchen. Then you’ll sit down to a magnificent meal set in our garden that weaves our delightful Italian-varietal wines and olive oils with our own Spring lamb and fresh produce.

Pillsbury – Join us for a casual lunch on our deck (weather permitting) overlooking the beautiful Dry Creek Valley. Our property was originally part of the Rancho Sotyome and then owned by Charlie Rose, (once called the Rose Ranch). We are in the shadow of Bradford mountain with 14 acres of vineyard dry-farmed Zinfandel, managed by Paul & Zuriel Bernier. We will serve local wines from our cellar with lunch.

DINNERS

Amista Vineyards
 – Come celebrate the newest in our collection of gems! Be among the first to experience the debut of our ruby-toned sparkling Grenache. Join us and our winemaker, Ashley, for a candlelit evening of sparkling wines and red Rhone varietals. Each course will be whimsically paired with cuisine from one of our favorite local chefs. Vicky & Mike Farrow, Proprietors

Fritz Cellars
 – Join our Winemaker Brad Longton for a truly unique experience as he walks you through the intricacies of creating a perfect blend. You’ll taste, measure, blend, evaluate and blend again to create your perfect Pinot Noir. You’ll have an opportunity to order bottles of your own custom blend to commemorate your newfound blending prowess. Dinner paired with Fritz Pinot Noirs and our Fritz Dry Creek Estate wines will also be provided as you view our special 120 acre estate from our patio and newly remodeled tasting room.

Lambert Bridge Winery
 – Together with Dry Creek Valley winegrowers, Dani Gasparini and Alyn Beals, Lambert Bridge Winery with winemaker, Jennifer Higgins welcomes you to our first ever “Dinner in the Vineyards”. Just a stone’s throw away from our own estate vineyards, we will all dine al fresco with a one-of-a-kind menu that will pair perfectly with the vineyard views.

Palindrome Vineyards – 
We could use cliches to describe what will happen at this dinner, but your cliches are probably better than ours. So, let’s just say you’ll have a memorable time.
Great food . . . prepared by the owners of Palindrome Vineyard.
Great wines . . . provided by Kokomo Winery.
Great venue . . . at our house on Dry Creek Road.
(Wine talk optional)

Pedroncelli Winery
 – Third generation member/owner Julie Pedroncelli will host the group in our Heritage Room for an intimate dinner seated at a dining table made from Redwood wine tanks. Catered by Chef Brian Anderson of Bistro 29 guests will enjoy a five course Italian feast paired with Pedroncelli wine.

Ridge Vineyards
 – Join winemaker John Olney for a delicious wine dinner at our Lytton Springs Estate. The dinner will be crafted by Chef Jesse McQuarrie and will feature his delicious, locally-sourced fare paired perfectly with our single-vineyard wines. Join us and learn about our “Pre-Industrial” winemaking philosophy and how a true old-vine field-blend vineyard impacts the final wines you’ll be tasting. We will be featuring our Lytton Springs and Geyserville bottlings (as well as a few surprises) each of which is sourced from a century-old vineyard. We look forward to seeing you on April 24th!

Vineyard of Pasterick
 – Gerry, Diane and Alexis Pasterick invite you to join them for a formal Candlelight Dinner in the PASTERICK WINE CAVE on the evening before Passport. Come and enjoy the limited offering of their Estate Viognier paired and served with passed appetizers of Cornets with Scallop and Smoked Salmon along with Crostini topped with Bacon Jam and Laura Chenel’s Chevre. At your sit down dinner in the Candelight Wine Cave you will be served Estate Pasterick Syrah 2010 paired with Coco Rubbed Beef and Bordelaise Sauce with side offerings of Potato Gratin, Sauteed Marsala Mushrooms and Boursin Cheese Creamed Spinach. Dessert is a special Apple Tarte Tatin with a Dollop of Chantilly. This menu is a Pasterick favorite pairing well with our Estate Wines. It will be a pleasure to share this evening with you.

West Wines – 
Have you ever been to the Nobel Awards Banquet? Here is your chance. In the home of West Wines’ owners, located in our upper vineyard with magnificent views of Dry Creek Valley, the three course dinner served at the Nobel Prize Awards Banquet 2010 will be reenacted by a master chef. West Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve was selected, in a blind tasting as the first ever American wine to be served at the Nobel Banquet in 2010. We are serving this wine and other rarities from our own wine cellar to enjoy with the original banquet menu.

THIS IS A SELL OUT EVENT. BE PART OF A DRY CREEK VALLEY TRADITION. I HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE! -JOHN

 

EPICURIA, the amazing Zinfandel and food pairing tasting is tonight, Thursday, January 29 at The Golden Gate Club in the Presidio of San Francisco, 135 Fisher Loop, San Francisco, CA 94129

ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, member tickets are just $105, and non-member tickets are just $130, and are available online through the #ZinEx website.

Epicuria

Here is what is on the menu tonight from 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm:

Sweet Potato Timbale with a Trio of Cheeses Garnished with Alba Mushrooms & “Redemption” glaze from Flavor Bistro with Alexander Valley Vineyards Zinfandel

Smoked Duck Breast with Caramelized Onions, Bleu Cheese, and Aged Balsamic Reduction from Stanley’s Steakhouse with Andis Wines Zinfandel

Duck Rillette with Black Mission Fig & Balsamic Jam from Estate Chef with Artezin Wines Zinfandel

Tiramisu (made with Zinfandel) and a Delicious Chocolate Pepper Cupcake with Zinfandel infused Bacon from Sonoma Cake Creations with Barefoot Cellars Zinfandel

Sea Salt Roasted Devil’s Gulch Pork Leg from the Presidio Social Club with Bella Vineyards Zinfandel

Lamb Lollipops with Veal Demi Glaze from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse with Bonneau Wines Zinfandel

Texas Wild Boar Chili- Slow-Braised Spicy Chili with Sour Cream, Green Onion and Cheddar from Sauce with Brazin Cellars Zinfandel

Chilled Red Beet Soup, with Zinfandel Creme Fresh from Pegi Ball Catering Company with Carol Shelton Wines Zinfandel

Spicy Olive Flatbread & Fig Soppressata Flatbread from SF Local with D-cubed Cellars Zinfandel

Braised Beef Stew from Bistro Boudin with Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel

Duck Tacos with Mole from City College of San Francisco with Four Vines Zinfandel

Pork Tostaditas from Cindy’s Back Street Kitchen with Hendry Zinfandel

Mystery Treat from Trabocco Kitchen with Jeff Cohn Cellars Zinfandel

Baccalou Cumber Rounds & Savory Cream Cheese on Baguette from Breadfruit Tree with Jessie’s Grove Winery Zinfandel

Dark Chocolate m2 Zinfandel SF Cheesecake & Wild Huckleberry m2 Zinfandel San Francisco Cheesecake from San Francisco Cheesecake Company with m2 Wines Zinfandel

Arrabiata Penne and Braised Beef Bourguignon with Bacon and Mushrooms from Estate Chef Charles Nelson with McCay Cellars Zinfandel

Shrimp Cocktail from Swan Oyster Depot with Peachy Canyon Winery Zinfandel

Bisou Group Small Plates from Chez Papa Bistrot with R&B Cellars Zinfandel

Muleheart Farm Fresh Ham Bocadillo from Central Market with Ravenswood Winery Zinfandel

Pastrami Duck Breast from Schroeder’s with Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel

Dried Fig & Marcona Almond Chicken Salad on House Made Bread from Scolari’s Good Eats with Rock Wall Wine Company Zinfandel

House Made Chocolate Salumi with Assorted Cheese and Fruits from Kuleto’s Italian Restaurant with Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel

House-made Cracker, with Ciccioli, Stone Ground Mustard and Pickled Onion from Longomare with Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel

Lamb Merguez Sausage with Mango Chutney, Paprika Spiced Onions & Italian Giardiniera Peppers from Rosamunde Sausage Grill with Saddleback Cellars Zinfandel

Slow smoked St. Louis Cut Pork Ribs with a Zinfandel Preserved Cherry Glaze from Winery executive chef Peter Janiak with Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel

Classic Chocolate Salad – spring mixed baby spinach medley tossed with crumble Gorgonzola sundried cranberries brownie crouton crumbs drizzled with a chocolate raspberry rice wine from A Winechef For You, LLC with St. Amant Winery Zinfandel

Fennel Olive Oil Pound Cake from Taste with Terra d’Oro Wines Zinfandel

Hanger Steak with Watercress Aioli and Red Wine Onion Jam on Housemade Potato Chip from Mustard’s Grill with Tres Sabores Zinfandel

Savory Sicilian Cannoli with Wild Boar-Mascarpone Mousse and Marjoram & Mini Tiramisu’ of Angel Wings (fritters) and Espresso Sauce from Canneti Roadhouse Italiana with Three Wine Company Zinfandel

Rolled Housemade Bresaola and Arugula with Lemon Aioli and Parmigiano, Crostini with Housemade Mozzarella, Olive Tapenade & Roasted Tomatoes & Crostini with Housemade Sausage, Caramelized Onions & Roasted Peppers from Winery Executive Chef with V. Sattui Winery Zinfandel

Roasted Beet Salad with Grains and Herbs from Chef Tyler Stone with XYZin Wines Zinfandel

­­John On Wine – Spotlight winery: McNab Ridge Winery

This piece will run in the Ukiah Daily Journal weekly wine column on Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rich Parducci has a famous name, not just in Mendocino County, but in the world of California wine. John Parducci founded Parducci Wine Cellars, and was a genuine icon in the wine industry before his passing.

Together, after losing control of the eponymous winery, John and Rich Parducci started McNab Ridge Winery, and today Rich is both the winemaker and chief salesperson, traveling the country and pouring his wines for buyers.

I met Rich for a tasting of current releases at his beautifully appointed tasting room, a large yellow building with lots of warm wood, comfortable couches, and art on the walls, located on Highway 101 in downtown Hopland.

Let me start off by saying that I like Rich and I like his wines. Here are some brief tasting notes along with conversational snippets from my visit:

2013 Sauvignon Blanc – Grapefruit, pear, melon, grass, ultra ripe. Classic. White Oak Ranch.

Wine inspires conversation, and among the many topics we covered, Rich advocated cunjunctive labeling for Mendocino County wines, as is required in Sonoma County, to better let folks in the marketplace develop a greater awareness of Mendocino County as a wine region. With so much of Mendocino County’s grapes purchased by Napa and Sonoma County wineries for their wines, labeling some of the wines that are made here as Anderson Valley, or Redwood Valley, or as coming from an individual vineyard, rather than using Mendocino County on the label, hurts all the County’s wine makers. Like in Sonoma County, the more specific or smaller American Viticultural Area designation can be used, but only in addition, rather than instead of, the larger County appellation designation.

2013 Chardonnay – 100% barrel fermentation, 100% malolactic fermentation. Cream, butter, oak, nice apple and pear fruit. Napoli vineyard.

Tine’s White – Sweeter, but not too sweet, about 1% residual sugar, nice balancing acid, showing stone fruit nectarine, spicy floral notes.

2013 French Colombard – Rich described this wine, coming from 40 year old, head pruned, old vine Redwood Valley grapes, as “a patio pleaser.” Riesling-esque, Patty, our tasting room host, had my mouth watering as she described pairing it with a lemon grass and coconut scallop soup. Niemi Vineyard.

2012 Pinot Noir – Lighter styled, cherry, perfume, cigar, from a Russian River Valley vineyard near John Ash.

Fred’s Red – A dead solid, inexpensive everyday red wine for enjoying. Blackberry, Raspberry, Blueberry. Spice. Herb. Oak.

I asked Rich, noting the presence of oak in many of the wines tasted, about John’s general preference for minimally oaked or unoaked wines. Rich told me, “a lot of times, I would just do it and beg forgiveness later. John’s style is my style, showcase the fruit. If you mask it with oak, are you really being true to the grape? When you buy it, I want it to be enjoyable, approachable.” Rich has found a nice balance with his wines, and where oak is used it does not dominate the fruit, but adds a layer of flavor or body, in support of the wine.

2012 Pinotage – Smooth red fruit, dark berry, strawberry, rose. Napoli Vineyard.

Rich talked about the 2014 vintage: “some varieties sugar ripened so quick, fruit couldn’t keep up, herbaceous. A little more time, flavors matured.”

2011 Merlot – Soft, lovely Burgundy color, herb, spice, plummy cherry and soft berry.

2012 Zinzilla – 95% Mendocino, 5% Lodi. Spiced raspberry juice. Begging for burgers, brats, any grilled meat.

2012 Mendocino Zinfandel – Darker, pepper, lovely nose. Rich ripe berry fruit mouth.

2012 Cononiah Zinfandel – Lovely red purple color. Bright rich fruit. Oak.

2012 Old Vine Zinfandel – Bar-X Ranch, planted in 1939. Blackberry and raspberry, dusty cocoa.

2013 Old Vine Zinfandel – An early taste. LOVE IT. At 16% alcohol, I would often be a little scared, but this wine has fantastic balance and numbers mean nothing in the face of the lovely raspberry and strawberry fruit notes.

Rich commented, aware of my pleasure, “If you don’t have good grapes, you aren’t going to make good wine…it is the grapes.”

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – Oh, I wanted a plate of roast beef to enjoy with a glass of this dark red wine. Blackberry, cassis, dusty cherry, toasty oak.

2012 Mendo Largo – This reserve wine from Ruddick Vineyard spent 20 months in French oak, and is very nice, but tight. More bottle time will yield great rewards. Cocoa, thick, rich red.

2012 Petite Sirah – Rich told me, “my favorite is Petite.” This Petite has a great nose, shows tannin, and is decidedly dry. Dark, dark, dark. Earthy, berry and spice jam.

2013 Carisma – Juicy cranberry with a citrusy floral finish. Low achol, 9%. Second bleed off after fermentation on skins. 100% Syrah.

Rich described the Carisma as “a sweet, slightly effervescent red wine, meant to be chilled.”

2009 John Parducci Signature Series Port – Yummm. Sweet, not hot. Deliciously rich and complex. Bonus points for a Port made from Portugal’s grape varieties: 44% Touriga Nacional, 17% Touriga Francesca, 16% Tinta Barroca, 12% Tinta Cao, and 11% Tinta Roriz.

Torte Chocolate Port – Deep, delicious fruit, married to a tootsie roll. A Port blend similar to the one just described, but infused with premium chocolate.

For more information, visit Denise or Patty in the McNab Ridge Winery tasting room in Hopland for a wine tasting, or visit http://www.mcnabridge.com

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Rich is also a Board member of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, ZAP, the industry’s promotional organization for the Zinfandel grape variety and the wine it makes.

Rich will be pouring at ZAP’s Zinfandel Experience at the Presidio in San Francisco this weekend, on Saturday, January 31, from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm, and I will be there to taste all of the wines made from Mendocino County’s grapes, plus Zinfandel made by some of my favorite producers from outside the area.

The Tasting is a great opportunity to taste an astounding assortment of Zinfandel wine, poured by winery owners and winemakers, and tickets are still available at http://www.zinfandelexperience.com/#!purchase-tickets/cnye with prices ranging from $70 to $170 for a day’s tasting.

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John On Wine – The results are in …

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, January 22, 2015 by John Cesano

2015 SFCWC Logo

The 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition was held Jan. 5-9, and the judges tasted their way through 6,417 entries from wineries in 25 states before announcing awards for the very best wines in the country. Here are the awards for wines made from Mendocino County grapes:

BEST OF CLASS

• 2013 Balo Vineyards – Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, $24; and • 2013 Castello di Amorosa – Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, $39.

DOUBLE GOLD

• NV McFadden Farm – Sparkling Cuvee Brut Rose, Potter Valley, $32; • 2012 Seebass Family Wines – Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Mendocino, $34; • 2013 Angeline Winery – Reserve Pinot Noir, Sonoma-Mendocino, $18; • 2013 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards – Estate Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge, $30; • 2012 Campovida – Pinot Noir, Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County, $45; • 2012 Roadhouse Winery – Platinum Label Pinot Noir, Weir Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, $79; • 2010 Ledson Winery & Vineyards – Estate Petite Sirah, Redwood Valley, $42; • 2012 Navarro Vineyards – Mourvedre, Mendocino, $20.

GOLD

• 2013 Bink Wines – Randle Hill Sauvignon Blanc, Yorkville Highlands, $22; • 2013 Navarro Vineyards – Chardonnay, Mendocino, $19; • 2012 Husch Vineyards – Special Reserve Chardonnay, Mendocino, $26; • 2013 Navarro Vineyards – Premiere Reserve Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, $25; • 2013 Seebass Family Wines – Family Chardonnay, Mendocino, $30; • 2012 Artevino – Chardonnay, Maple Creek Estate, Yorkville Highlands, $36; • 2013 V. Sattui Winery – Riesling, Anderson Valley, $25; • 2013 Rivino Winery – Estate Viognier, Mendocino, $25; • 2013 Handley Cellars – Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, $20; • 2013 Navarro Vineyards – Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, $19.50; • 2011 Handley Cellars – Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $32; • 2013 Paul Dolan – Pinot Noir, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $30; • 2012 Balo Vineyards – Estate Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $45; • 2012 Bink Wines – Pinot Noir, Thomas Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $45; • 2012 McNab Ridge Winery – Zinfandel, B Var X Talmage, Mendocino County, $26; • 2012 St. Anne’s Crossing – Zinfandel, Mendocino, $28; • 2012 Trinitas Cellars – Zinfandel, Mendocino, $28; • 2011 Sanctuary Wines – Zinfandel, Butler Ranch, Mendocino, $39.99; • 2012 Graft Wines – Conviction, Mendocino, $36; • 2012 Bonterra Vineyards – Merlot, Mendocino County, $13.99; • 2012 McNab Ridge Winery – Merlot, Mendocino County, $16; • 2012 Seebass Family Wines – Grand Reserve Merlot, Mendocino, $38; • 2013 Kimmel Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon, Potter Valley, $13.99; • 2013 Lucinda & Millie – Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County, $14.99; • 2012 Brutocao Cellars – Cabernet Sauvignon, Hopland Contento Estate, $19.99; • 2012 Urban Legend – Cabernet Sauvignon, Gusto Vineyard, Mendocino, $34; • 2012 Topel – Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino, $38; • 2012 Sunce Winery & Vineyard – Alicante Bouschet, Dempel Vineyard, Mendocino County, $28; • 2013 Husch Vineyards – Old Vines Heritage, Mendocino, $30.

SILVER

• NV McFadden Farm – Sparkling Cuvee Brut, Potter Valley, Mendocino, $40; • 2013 Yorkville Cellars – Sparkling Malbec Brut Rose, Rennie Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, $36; • 2013 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery – Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino, $18; • 2013 McFadden Farm – Sauvignon Blanc, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $16; • 2013 Paul Dolan – Sauvignon Blanc, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $18; • 2013 Campovida – Reserva Campo di Stelle, Mendocino County, $36; • 2013 Yorkville Cellars – Eleanor of Aquitaine, Randle Hill Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, $28; • 2013 Kimmel Vineyards – Illuminate Chardonnay, Potter Valley, $9.99; • 2013 Girasole Vineyards – Estate Grown Chardonnay, Mendocino, $13; • 2013 Toad Hollow – Francines’s Selection Unoaked Chardonnay, Mendocino, $14.99; • 2013 Brutocao Cellars – Chardonnay, Hopland Estate, $17; • 2013 McFadden Farm – Chardonnay, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $16; • 2013 Rivino Winery – Estate Chardonnay, Mendocino, $22; • 2013 Handley Cellars – Estate Chardonnay, Anderson Valley, $25; • 2013 Navarro Vineyards – Estate Bottled Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, $19.50; • 2013 Handley Cellars – Riesling, Anderson Valley, $22; • 2013 V. Sattui Winery – Dancing Egg Riesling, Anderson Valley, $24; • 2013 Bonterra Vineyards – Viognier, Mendocino County, $12.99; • 2013 Campovida – Campo Dos Roble Viognier, Mendocino County, $34; • 2013 McFadden Farm – Pinot Gris, Potter Valley, Mendocino County, $16; • 2013 Philo Ridge Vineyards – Pinot Gris, Nelson Ranch, Mendocino, $20; • 2013 Campovida – Rose di Grenache, Trails End Vineyard, Mendocino County, $34; • 2012 Brutocao Cellars – Estate Slow Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $28; • 2012 Husch Vineyards – Estate Bottled Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $25; • 2013 Navarro Vineyards – Methode a’l Anciene Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $29; • 2010 Panthea Winery & Vineyard – Siren Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $32; • 2012 Calista – Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $40; • 2013 Castello di Amorosa – Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $49; • 2012 Handley Cellars – Pinot Noir, Hellava Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $42; • 2012 Handley Cellars – Reserve Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $42; • 2011 Husch Vineyards – Knoll Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $40; • 2010 Nelson Hill – Pinot Noir, Deep End Vineyard,Anderson Valley, $42; • 2010 Panthea Winery & Vineyard – Estate Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $42; • 2013 V. Sattui Winery – Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $42; • 2010 Woodenhead – Pinot Noir, Wiley Vineyard, Anderson Valley, $60; • 2013 Navarro Vineyards – Zinfandel, Mendocino, $19.50; • 2013 The Organic Wine Works – Zenful Zin Zinfandel, Mendocino, $14.95; • 2012 Paul Dolan – Zinfandel, Mendocino County, $25; • 2012 Cesar Toxqui Cellars – Split Rock Zinfandel, Mendocino, $30; • 2011 Seebass Family Wines – Old Vine Zinfandel, Mendocino, $37; • 2012 Campovida – Primitivo, Dark Horse Vineyard, Mendocino County, $36; • 2012 Wattle Creek Winery – Primitivo, Yorkville Highlands, $30; • 2012 BARRA of Mendocino – Estate Grown Sangiovese, Mendocino, $18; • 2013 Sottomarino Winery – Sangiovese, Mendocino County, $28; • 2012 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery – Anna Mac Syrah, Mendocino, $19.99; • 2009 Bink Wines – Hawks Butte Syrah, Bink Estate Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, $30; • 2012 Seebass Family Wines – Grand Reserve Syrah, Mendocino, $38; • 2011 Seebass Family Wines – Syrah, Mendocino; $43; • 2012 McNab Ridge Winery – Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, $18; • 2012 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery – Jon Vincent Grenache, Mendocino, $22; • 2013 Navarro Vineyards – Grenache, Mendocino, $27; • 2012 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards – Estate Merlot, Mendocino Ridge, $27; • 2011 Albertina Wine Cellars – Cabernet Sauvignon, Zmarzly Vineyards, Mendocino , $28; • 2010 Rivino Winery – Estate Cabernet Franc, Mendocino, $36; • 2009 Terra Savia – Meritage, Sanel Valley Vineyards, $22; • NV Bliss Family Vineyards – Estate Blissful Red, Mendocino, $9.99; • 2012 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery – Farmhouse Red, Mendocino, $14.99; • 2013 Navarro Vineyards – Navarrouge, Mendocino, $16; • 2012 Post & Vine – Old Vine Field Blend, Testa Vineyards,Mendocino, $28; • 2011 Soda Rock Winery – Entourage Red Blend, Mendocino County, $26; • 2009 Bonterra Vineyards – The McNabb, McNabb Ranch,Mendocino County, $49.99; • NV Cesar Toxqui Cellars – Multiple Vintages Heirloom Cinco, Mendocino, $35; • 2011 McFadden Farm – Coro Mendocino, Mendocino, $37; • 2012 Topel – Estate Blend, Mendocino, $38; • 2012 Stephen & Walker – Chardonnay Botrytis, Mendocino Ridge, $65; and • 2013 Jaxon Keys Winery & Distillery – Elle Port, Mendocino, $35.

There were also 53 Bronze Medal winning wines, many stellar. For the complete list, visit JohnOnWine.com and scroll down to January 13th’s post. Congratulations to all the winning wines, and the growers who make the awards possible.

John Cesano writes the popular wine blog John On Wine at www.johnonwine.com

 

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