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John On Wine – Second Annual Anderson Valley Barrel Tasting

 

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, August 7, 2014
Written by John Cesano

John Cesano of John On Wine

John Cesano of John On Wine

 

Last weekend, I visited a dozen winery tasting rooms in the Anderson Valley during their successful Second annual Barrel Tasting Weekend. This barrel tasting weekend is held later than is typical for other areas, but lets the Pinot Noir made in Anderson Valley by most producers show a little better — worked for me. With oaks on one side and redwoods on the other, the vineyards of Anderson Valley are well framed by nature. Throughout the rest of this column, if I write Pinot then you may assume I meant Pinot Noir.

• Foursight – Joe Webb poured me his 2013 “Zero” Pinot that will be bottle late in August, held in oak 2-7 years (zero new oak), with about a third whole cluster fermentation, it was delightful with bright fruit notes and showed well. Next, he poured his 2013 Charles Vineyard Pinot, the same in all other respects, but with one-third new oak barrels, a firmer wine that paired well with salumi. Finally, Joe poured his 2013 Foursight Clone ’05, a Pinot using Pommard ’05 clone on 50% percent new oak; I loved this wine, showing the herbal undertones that make for a memorable sinuous vinous Pinot.

• Philo Ridge – 2012 Marguerite Vineyard Pinot was woody, cherry fruit, pretty straightforward, good acidity. 2013 Estate Pinot (AV) – Barrel sample could be wine now, close to finish. Drinking great. Winery chef K.C. McClure prepared a watermelon gazpacho that paired brilliantly with the bolder flavors of a 2013 Testa Primitivo. K.C.’s mushroom tartlets were delicious with the poured Pinot.

• Seebass – Newcomers to the Anderson Valley, Seebass grows grapes near Talmage on their own 100-acre farm. Tasting room manager Jill poured a sample of Mysteriös , a blend being bottled as we speak, and due out this November. The wine may be a blend of vintages, 2011 and 2013, and varietals, possibly Zinfandel, Merlot, Grenache, and Syrah, lush, juicy, bright, yummy, and fun.

• Lichen – Owner Doug Stewart produces a Solera, a multi vintage wine, and the sample of one due in September was gorgeous. Rich, ready, cherry berry fruit, layers of flavor, herb, twenty kinds of yum. In addition to great Pinot, some of my favorite in the valley, I bought a sparkling wine, bright mineral steely fruit, clean crisp, refreshingly delicious; and tasted a blend white, lush juicy stone, pear, grapefruit, lovely acid to fruit.

• Balo – I tasted finished wines, no barrel samples, and all were good, but my focus was barrel samples, so I left – but not before tasting a slice of pizza fresh from the oven, made simply with San Marzano tomatoes, cheese, and basil on a crust so delicious it could be served undressed as artisan bread. Balo does stand out for hospitality and thoughtfulness, offering free bottles water, immaculate bocce courts, lavender, pet-friendly fenced poop-pen for dogs – an enjoyable place to visit!

EDITED TO ADD: Okay, I wrote for the newspaper column that Balo was not pouring barrel samples, but I was wrong. I only visited the tasting room, and didn’t check out the obvious place for barrel samples: the barrel room in the adjacent winery building, down slope from the tasting room.. Oops.

The lovely lavendar gardens at Balo Vineyards

The lovely lavendar gardens at Balo Vineyards

• Greenwood Ridge Vineyards – I was fortunate to have Buzz pour for me, he was knowledgeable, passionate, and enthusiastic. Owner Allan Green deserves credit for the best named wine I tasted: 2012 Hundred Point Pinot Noir. Buzz told me that, “Allan makes his Pinot more in the traditional manner, less fruit,” and, “2012 was good, but 2013 was perfect. We picked early because the grapes were ready then.”

The bridge at Greenwood Ridge Vineyards

The bridge at Greenwood Ridge Vineyards

• Handley Cellars – Travis Scott poured two barrel samples; 2013 Vittorio Vineyard Primitivo, Redwood Valley perfume, fruit and 2013 Vittorio Petite Sirah, remarkably soft, light for a Petite. Vittorio is an early generation Testa family member. Travis also poured 2010 Vittorio’s Selected Red Table Red, light, super easy to drink, herb garden and berry patch, 13.5 percent alc.

• Phillips Hill – Buildings are an old apple drying facility. The 2013 Oppenlander Pinot was spectacularly drinkable right now, if a tiny bit green. Cherry, spice, herb, will be bottle March/April 2014. The extra time in barrel will yield acid integration, and structure will become more silky. Aromatics will become more pronounced. At Phillips Hill, they pick at lower Brix, have higher acid, the fruit is there, but the alcohol is lower; instead of a higher alcohol wine that overpowers food. I loved all tastes.

• The Apple Farm – Travis Scott at Handley sent me on to Phillips Hill where I tasted my day’s favorite wine and where I asked Toby if I could come back for a more comprehensive tasting. Margot at Phillips Hill sent me on to The Apple Farm where I bought a case of Bates & Schmitt organic apple juice. That’s how you do it!

• Edmeades – 2013 Zinfandel, Gianoli Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge – fruit slightly muted in nose, but nice weight coming on, depth, roundness, dark as opposed to bright, brambly raspberry, spice; 2013 Zinfandel, Peril Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge – more integrated. The Gianoli is good, but I like this better. Edges have been softened. Rounder; 2013 Syrah, Perli – black pepper, first and foremost, then vegetal and herbaceous undertone supporting dark fruit. Food included a ground lamb slider and pasta salad of orzu, basil, sun dried tomato, goat cheese, zucchini, hazel nut, and sherry olive oil.

• Gowan’s Oak Tree – I bought a mixed bag with four different squash, a dozen ears of white corn, a bag of mixed fruit, plots, plums, peaches, and apples, and a bottle of water. Water is always good on a 100-degree day when tasting wine.

• Toulouse Vineyards – Vern Boltz, owner, winemaker, was as cordial as his tasting room was comfortable. He poured me his 2013 Pommard ’04 clone Pinot; deep, gnarly, cheery fruit with a sexy hint of green, herbal, loamy, a beautiful Pinot in the barrel.

Pinot Noir grapes growing at Toulouse Vineyards

Pinot Noir grapes growing at Toulouse Vineyards

• Baxter Winery – Owners Claire and Phil Baxter poured their 2013 Vlenti Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge, a note of brown sugar, light in mouth, soft; 2013 Weir Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands, 30 percent whole cluster fermentation, more red than purple color, expressive fruit while elegantly light, candied cherry and rose petal; and 2013 Langley Vineyard, Anderson Valley, cranberry, strawberry, and finally cherry, lighter end of the spectrum fruit flavors, but a nice little basket of mixed fruit, a little herb and floral and earth in support of fruit, well integrated. These three will be bottled later in 2014 and ship May 2015. Baxter is making elegant wine I enjoyed.

• Elke Vineyards – 2013 Boonville Barter, simple, direct, bright cherry noted. 2013 Blue Diamond picked two weeks earlier, more Burgundian, focused more on dirt than fruit. 35 percent new oak, 11 months on oak. 2 years in bottle before release. I loved this wine. Hard candy cherry fruit.

 

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John On Wine – 2014 Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition results

NOTE: This piece will run on Thursday, August 14, 2014 in the Ukiah Daily Journal. Ordinarily I post here, archiving a column, after it runs in the newspaper. Because folks come to my site for news on Mendocino County wine, I have posted here online, before it runs in the paper, today.

The 2014 Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition, thanks to the hard work of the competition committee and judges, saw Mendocino County’s best wines win deserved recognition.

To see the complete results, head over to JohnOnWine.com where the awards are broken down three ways.

Since consumers already know what they like, Chardonnay or Zinfandel, Pinot Noir or Sparkling Wine, the first set of online results are broken down by category. Look for the variety of wine that you like most, and the County’s best will be listed with the top awarded wines at the top of each wine variety list.

Wineries want to know what awards they won, so the second set of results are ordered alphabetically by winery.

The third list is for the sports fans, folks who love competition, and lists wines by medal won; first Best of Show, then Double Gold medal, then Gold, and finally Silver.

At this competition, I always look to see whether Graziano Family of Wines or Navarro Vineyards, each with seemingly thousands of entries, takes the most Gold in a year. This year was a bit of a push. Navarro took nine Gold Medals or better and Graziano only took seven Gold or better, and while four of Navarro’s wines took Double Gold and only two of Graziano’s wines took Double Gold, one of Graziano’s Gold medal winning wines was also judged Best of Show White Wine – one of the competition’s two top honors. To me it is a tie, certainly both wineries have to be incredibly happy with the results.

Graziano’s Best of Show White Wine was the NV Saint Gregory Sparking Brut, Methode Traditionnelle. The John Parducci Best of Show Red Wine award winner went to The Hess Collection’s 2012 Artezin Zinfandel, Mendocino, a wine available in Napa and made from Mendocino County grapes.

Double Gold wines are wines that received unanimous Gold votes from the panel of judges seated for that flight, and were awarded to Navarro Vineyards (4), Husch Vineyards (2), Handley Cellars (2), Graziano Family of Wines (2), Artezin, McFadden Vineyard, Milano Family Winery, and Zina Hyde Cunningham.

Gold medals were awarded to Handley Cellars (5), Navarro Vineyards (5), Graziano Family of Wines (4), Brutocao/Bliss (3), Greenwood Ridge Vineyards (2), Tahto (2), Saracina Vineyards (2), Husch Vineyards, Jeriko Estate, Lula Cellars, Maple Creek Winery/Artevino, McFadden Vineyard, Meyers Family Cellars, Mud Pie, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Seebass Family Wines, and Testa Vineyards.

The day following the competition, I was pouring for and chatting with one of the judges, Mike Dunne of the Sacramento Bee. Mike shared that one of the biggest surprises of the competition was the strength of the Cabernet Sauvignon. I have previously written that Mendocino County can put out some great Cabernet Sauvignon, but we are not thought of as a Cab growing area. The judges got the message this year, with Husch Vineyards taking Gold, Brutocao taking Gold for the second consecutive year, and Milano Family Winery taking a Double Gold.

The Double Gold medal winning 2007 Milano Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Hidden Hawk Vineyard was moved on for the John Parducci Best of Show Red Wine award consideration, and all of the judges tasted it then. Mike said that the wine was spectacular and many judges were talking about it – while still tasting it blind.

Dessert White was an incredibly strong category, with three Double Gold and two Gold for six entries, and the Double Gold medals spread around to wines made from grapes grown in three different areas of the county.

Some days, a wine just doesn’t drink as well as it should, and without taking away anything from the wines that took higher medals from the judges, I think Navarro’s Rose of Pinot Noir is a Gold medal worthy wine, even though it only earned a Silver. Same with the NV McFadden Sparkling Brut which, after taking a Best of Show at the California State Fair, only took Silver.

What do medals mean? How does a judge decide between voting Silver and Gold? Great question, I’m glad I asked it for you. One of the judges told me that as he tastes a wine, if he would like a case, if it is worthy of spending money to purchase in case quantity, then that wine gets a vote for Gold. If the same wine is tasty enough to inspire a purchase, but only a bottle or two, then that wine gets a Silver vote. Wines that make you want to finish the glass get a Bronze and wines that make you not want to finish the glass get a No Medal vote.

For you, I urge you to head over to JohnOnWine.com and find the complete list of winners, print it, and then go wine tasting, using the list as your guide. Then you can cast your own votes, buying a bottle or case, essentially casting your own vote on Mendocino County’s wines.

••••••••••

Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, ZAP, is holding a Simply Summer Celebration on Saturday, August 16, 2014 from noon to 3:30 pm at Lytton West Vineyard, 1040 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg, California 95448. Tickets are $45 for ZAP members and $60 for non-members, and available on ZAP’s webpage, Zinfandel.org, with over 50 wineries participating, including Artezin who took the John Parducci Best of Show Red Wine award at the 2014 Mendocino County Wine Competition, Edmeades from Mendocino County, and Carol Shelton Wines with their Mendocentric Wild Thing Zin. Tickets include ½ pizza and salad from Pizza Politana and there will be music to enjoy. I’ll be there, I hope you will too.

I spent the last weekend barrel tasting at some Anderson Valley winery tasting rooms, a guest of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association. By Friday, I will have taken the VERY RAW notes below and, with a little polish and serious editing, will turn in something tighter to run in Thursday, August 7’s Ukiah Daily Journal as a finished wine column.

I’ll provide all of the pictures below and let my editor use what she prefers. I’ll delete use of the F-bomb, still quite intact below, and try to paint a mini portrait of each place I visited. I would love to return and write some single winery spotlight columns.

Anyway, I thought I would give my online readers a glimpse into how a column is created, with a before (these notes, cut and pasted directly from my tablet) and after (the column I’ll post after it is published).

Cheers!

Foursight

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2013 ZERO New Oak Pinot delightful! bright notes! fruit showing well.

33-35 whole cluster, 13.3-13.5 alc, 2-7 year barrel. Bottle 27 and 28 of August.

12, 13, 14 all easy to make, un memorable because of no challenges.

2013 Charles Vineyard Pinot – Same wine but with 33% new oak

Little higher tannin with 2/6 barrels new, makes acid (brightness) less perceptible. Oak offers or brings out a smoky note. Firmer. Paired with Salumi straightens this right out, demonstrating once again the incredible food pairing magic found with Pinot. Instant yum.

2013 Foursight Clone 05 – Pommard 05 on 50% new oak.

Showing the herbal undertones that make for a memorable sinuous vinous Pinot.

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Kristy Charles, Joe Webb.

Anderson Valley, where oaks meet redwoods, with grapes providing the bridge.

Philo Ridge

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2012 Marguerite Vineyard Pinot woody, green (in a good way) cherry fruit, pretty straightforward. Dry farmed above the Holmes Ranch, good acidity.

2013 Estate Pinot (AV) – Could be wine, close to finish. Drinking great.

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Watermelon Gazpacho is fanfuckingtastic, but mushroom and Pinot are the better pairing.

2013 Testa Primativo Philo Ridge’s first Primitivo. Stands up nicely to the intensely spicy gazpacho. Recipe in pic.

K.C. Is the caterer. McClure Fred and heather’ winery Chef.

Seebass

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TR Mgr Jill initially overwhelmed by tasters. Carboy samples of the Mysteriös are being bottled as we speak and released Nov. Greg made, NV, 2011 and 2013. Zin, Merlot, Grenache, Syrah blend. Lush, juicy, bright, yummy, fun. $45

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Lichen

slope sandy loam nutrient poor, nutrient added through irrigation. Incredibly low vigor, crappy land, so we plant incredibly densely, per vine yield is super low, but high skin to pulp, 4000 vines per acre, yield ends up good, and flavors are ideal. 1000 case per year. Moving forward, all the sparkling will be estate. Bubbly is done right here

Dan: 60 Noir 40 Gris white blend. 2013 is so similar to 2012, 2011 was miserable. Lush juicy stone, pear, grapefruit, lovely acid to fruit.

Bubbly, williamette Valley. Bright mineral steely fruit, clean crisp, refreshingly delicious.

Two vintage Solera with three vintage due September. 2011-2013 Solera is gorgeous. Rich, ready, cherry berry fruit, layers of flavor, Herb, twenty kinds of yum.

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Doug Stewart, founder and previous owner of Breggo

I work for a place that makes the best bubbly in the county, and I have tons at home, and I don’t have a winemaker’s salary but a Hopland tasting room manager’s salary, so finding myself buying a bottle of Lichen’s Bubbly tells you all you need to know about how good if is.

Balo

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Washed glass with water…2012 Pinot Noir Blanc. Still white from Noir. Floral perfume, surprisingly sharper edge in mouth than nose suggests, crisp, pear apple .

2012 Pinot Gris grapes from Mary Elke. Spice, mellow, round. A touch of funk nose and finish.

2013 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir. Dry. Lovely salmon color, same funk.

Jerry Garcia and Dawg mandolin David Grisman’s Shady Grove playing. Pizza tapes?

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Pizza is from San Marzano. Salt, tomato, cheese, crust. Delicious enough it doesn’t need meat, but a touch salty. The crust was great, even without topping, similar to a air pocket blessed sourdough or pretzel, this was an artisanal bread all by itself.

Didn’t find any barrel action.

Free bottles water, immaculate bocce courts, lavender, pet friendly fenced poop pen for dogs, really just super enjoyable place to visit.

Greenwood Ridge Vineyards

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2012 hundred point Pinot Noir – same as 2012 GRV estate below, but with 7 months longer in new French oak. “Allen makes his Pinot more in the traditional manner, less fruit.” – Buzz  (Best name ever.)

2012 was good, but 2013 was perfect. We picked early because the grapes were just ready then.

2013 GRV Pinot Noir bottle sample of barrel pull, lovely vibrant burgundy color. Dry cherry, pepper spice. No idea when will be bottled…”in the next year, I suppose” – TR Gal

2012 GRV Pinot Noir green, mildly astringent, herbal, firm tart cherry.

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Hurray for Buzz, the great TR guy at GRV, who called me on my inland Mendo focus, not enough love for 128. I told him about my mission statement from early on, to write about the area Wine Spectator ignores. He nodded his assent that a Wine Spectator cover for Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is greater than a focus on inland Mendo in an inland Mendo newspaper. I’m just been trying to cast a light on an area that otherwise gets no press.

Handley Cellars

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Barrel Samples poured by Travis Scott

2013 Vittorio Vineyard Primitivo, Redwood Valley perfume, fruit,

2013 Vittorio Petite Sirah, remarkably soft, light for a Petite.

2010 Vittorio’s Selected Red Table Red (finished wine example)

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Vittorio is an early generation Testa family member.

Light, super easy to drink, herb garden and berry patch, 13.5% alc.

All French Oak Barrels at Handley. About $1,400 each.

Exclusive Tasting Menu

Chocolates that pair with reds

Barbeque on the patio

Sausages.

Many happy people in them lovely, cool, comfortable tasting room.

Phillips Hill – Must Return for a feature!

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Buildings are an old apple drying facility

2013 Oppenlander (Comptche – 10 miles east of Mendocino) Pinot Noir – spectacularly drinkable right now, if a tiny bit green. Cherry, spice, herb, will be bottle Mar/Apr 2014. The extra time in barrel will yield: Acid and brightness will integrate and structure will become more silky. Aromatics will become more pronounced.

1,400 cases all in.

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At Phillips Hill, they pick at lower Brix, have higher acid, the fruit is there, but the alcohol is lower; instead of a higher alcohol wine that overpowers food, this wine – the 13.5% alc 2011 Oppenlander still has earthy floral tobacco notes, plenty of character. Completely unfair, because it is finished, not a barrel sample, but best wine of the day.?

Toby was welcoming. Pointed out how lovely the open air tasting was, the breeze making moot the 100 degree temps everywhere else.

Margot Federkiel, asst winemaker was my pourer and a wealth of helpful info and passion.

The Apple Farm

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>>>>Travis Scott at Handley sent me on to Phillips Hill where I tasted my day’s favorite wine and where I asked Toby if I could come back for a more comprehensive tasting. Margot at Phillips Hill sent me on to The Apple Farm where I bought a case of Bates & Schmitt organic apple juice. That’s how you do it!

Edmeades

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2013 Zinfandel, Peril Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge – more integrated. The Gianoli is good, but I like this better. Edges have been softened. Rounder, but less distinct.

2013 Zinfandel, Gianoli Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge – fruit slightly muted in nose, but nice weight coming on, depth, roundness, dark as opposed to bright, brambly raspberry, spice

2013 Syrah, Perli – black pepper, first and foremost, then vegetal and herbaceous undertone supporting dark fruit.

Lamb burger – way yummy. Thank you!

Pasta salad – basil, sun dried tomato, goat cheese, orzo, zucchini, hazel nut, , sherry olive oil.

2010 Perli Zin – perfume, lighter styled, not over powering, almost delicate.

2011 Champ de Reves Pinot Noir 14.5 certainly lighter than the Zins and beastly Syrah, brighter balanced candied cherry, light herb…at least that is what I’m getting after the fully flavorful lamb slider.

Shyla poured barrel samples and brought out food. Best, most engaging member of the staff.

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Beautifully manicured property, one of my favorite winery views anywhere, terrific food, interesting wines.

Gowan’s Oak Tree

I bought a mixed bag with 4 different squash, a dozen ears of white corn, a bag of mixed fruit, plots, plums, peaches, and apples, and a bottle of water. The water is always good on a 100 degree day tasting wine.

Toulouse Vineyards

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What a comfortable tasting room, wine barrel stools and tables, everyone can sit and relax. Thoughtful.

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2013 Pommard 04 (heat sterilized version of the 05). Oh, I get why my favorite Pinot at last year’s Mendo Wine Comp was from Toulouse. Deep, gnarly, cheery fruit with a sexy hint of green, herbal, loamy, a beautiful Pinot in the barrel.

Vern knows the Pommard is showing great, but having separate lot Pinots makes for separate open bottles for tastings and isn’t ideal for a smaller winery…but he might bottle a barrel of this. Look for it.

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Vern Boltz, owner, winemaker, was as cordial as his tasting room was comfortable.

Baxter Winery

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2013 Valenti Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge, 4 miles from coast, 12.5% $48 the brown sugar on your breakfast oatmeal. Light, light, light in mouth, soft, not quite enough fruit or depth today.

2013 Weir Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands $48 30% whole cluster fermentation leading to redder than the previous wine’s more purple color. Okay, liking this one more, better more expressive fruit while still elegantly light. Candied cherry and rose petal.

2013 Langley Vineyard, Anderson Valley $48

These three will be bottled later in 2014 and ship May 2015. Cranberry, strawberry, and finally cherry…lighter end of the spectrum fruit flavors, but a nice little basket of mixed fruit, a little herb and floral and earth in support of fruit. Well integrated.

Claire and Phil Baxter doing the pouring.

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BricChickXan was here, we talked about our love of more elegant wines. Baxter is making them. Turns out, we both enjoyed some 2011 vintage treats amidst the cries of Hugely Overextracted Overoaked Oversugared High Alcohol Fruit Jam Bomb fans.

Elke Vineyards

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2013 Boonville Barter, more CA styled, $20 everyday wine – ready to drink in Oct or Nov after Sep bottling, simple, direct, bright cherry noted.

2012 Boonville Barter bottled deeper with age, and a teeny bit of funk…or that could be the sweat of the people in this little hot box of a tasting room. A surprising depth and complexity, considering the straightforward simplicity of the 2013.

2013 Blue Diamond picked two weeks earlier, more Burgundian, focused more on dirt than fruit. 35% new oak, 11 months on oak. 2 years in bottle before release. Loved this. One of the nicest wines of the weekend. Hard candy cherry fruit

2011 Blue Diamond – Holy fuck, this has a dose of that funk that Pinot is known for. I have tasted, by and large, some pretty funk free wines over the weekend, but I’m finishing on one with tons of unapologetic edge. No apologies needed, this is some seriously flavorful juice, with a showing of slightly more vinous tinged cherry and strawberry fruit.

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Great Gris packaging, boxless bag, greener and possibly avoid the stigma.

The Second Annual Anderson Valley Barrel Tasting Weekend is so big that it isn’t just Anderson Valley wineries involved.

The wineries along Hwy 128, from Yorkville Highlands up through the Anderson Valley, will be having a Barrel Tasting weekend this Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27 from 11-4 each day.

From the Anderson Valley Barrel Tasting website:

Final AV Barrel Tasting Poster 2014 optimized

Enjoy unprecedented access to winery cellars, taste yet-to-be-released wines, and purchase futures of your favorites at a special barrel tasting weekend price! Explore the area, discover new wineries, and enjoy a beautiful summer weekend in Mendocino’s Pinot country!

Participating wineries will feature previews of new wines, from Pinot Noir to Zinfandel, along with current releases. Attendees will receive a logo glass and a wristband, which grants access to the events for both Saturday and Sunday.

Participating wineries for 2014 include: Balo Vineyards, Baxter, Bink, Brutocao Cellars, Edmeades, Elke, Foursight Wines, Goldeneye Winery, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Harmonique, Husch, Knez, Lichen, Lula Cellars, Meyer Family, Maple Creek, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Phillips Hill, Witching Stick and Yorkville Cellars.

Check out their special offers HERE.

We encourage you to taste responsibly and to book your trip with one of the transportation companies listed below. Designated drivers are welcome to attend the event, free of charge.

You are also encouraged to bring a picnic lunch with you – participating wineries will have limited food, and what better way to enjoy the scenery at one of our beautiful wineries and tasting rooms than to eat alfresco? You can pick up a prepared lunch at one of the cafes listed below.

TRANSPORTATION COMPANIES
Riley Cab Company
Vintage Vine Tours
Mendocino Wine Tours

LUNCH/CAFES

Boontberry Farms (707) 895-3576
Mosswood Market
The Boonville General Store
Lemon’s Philo Market

Why a summer barrel tasting? Aren’t most held in the spring?
The majority of our wineries produce high-end Pinot Noir, and Pinot really tastes best right before bottling time. By holding a barrel tasting in the summer, attendees will be able to evaluate the wines in a nearly finished state, instead of young wines that will change dramatically during the aging process.

So, when you buy futures, you know exactly what you’ll be receiving the next year!

Map of Anderson Valley
Okay, the folks over in the Anderson Valley said it well, but let me say that the wines, the Pinot Noir in particular, produced there is spectacular. Barrel tasting events are an interesting experience for folks new to the format, and a terrific opportunity to take advantage of sizable sales offered on purchases of futures, wines before release, based on tastes at these events for seasoned tasters.

$20 is a more than fair price, especially considering that all of Hwy 128’s winery areas are represented and that each winery is  doing something special.

Here are the specials to be found at each participating winery, with purchase of a $20 ticket:

Purchase yours Here!

ANGEL CAMP – Please join us inside the Balo Winery to taste barrel samples of our 2013 Angel Camp Estate Pinot Noir and our new release, 2013 Les Amoureuses Estate Pinot Noir. We will be offering 20% off and free shipping for case purchase of 2012 Estate Pinot Noir and 2013 futures.

BALO – Come sample our 2013 Estate Pinot Noir and 2013 Suitcase 828 Pinot Noir from the barrel, which is proving to be a stellar vintage. Enjoy a picnic with pizzas from our wood fired oven and play a game of Bocce. Enjoy 20% savings on your wine purchase and sign up for our futures program and Wine Club

BAXTER  – Meet winemaker Phillip Baxter as he personally guides you through barrel samples of his 2013 Pinot Noirs. Compare the vineyards directly with the current vintage and sign up for futures with complimentary shipping. Our stylish tasting room is on the West side of 128 in downtown Philo. 707 895 3173.

BINK is offering barrel samples of 3 different Pinot Noir clones and a daily raffle for a bottle of Reserve Thomas Vineyard Pinot Noir.  There will be summer wine specials as well.  Join the Wine Club and receive 25% off.

BRUTOCAO invites you to “be a king for the day”. All tickets holders will receive a 25% discount. Taste 2013 Primitivo from the barrel and purchase futures at a special price.

EDMEADES invites you to sample two of our 2013 vineyard-designate Zinfandels from the Mendocino Ridge AVA.  We will be pouring wines from both the Perli and Gianoli vineyards paired with small bites.

ELKE – TBD

FOURSIGHT will offer a special preview of the fantastic 2013 estate Pinot Noirs out of barrel, alongside current releases and small bites.Futures of the 2013 Pinots will be available at a special barrel tasting price.

GOLDENEYE WINERY will be offering the following discounts: 10% off 6 packs and 15% off 12 packs!

GREENWOOD RIDGE – In addition to 2013 barrel samples, we will pouring our 2012 Hundred Point Pinot Noir along with local cheeses.

HANDLEY CELLARS will be offering barrel samples, an exclusive tasting menu as well as Barbeque on the patio.

HARMONIQUE – Meet Winemaker Bob Klindt and owner Moira Conzelman. Preview 2013 Vintage Pinot Noirs and taste the newly released 2009 un-oaked Chardonnay.Karina Lyons of Heritage Oak Barrels will also be on hand to discuss the art of the barrel. Finger foods served

HUSCH VINEYARDSis excited to debut a barrel sample of 2013 Old Vine Heritage. Be among the first to try this special wine and purchase futures at a 20% discount. A barrel sample of our Estate 2013 Pinot Noir will also be offered. Enjoy complimentary tasting from our collection of award-winning wines paired with home-made hummus on the back deck. Relax at one of our picnic tables amongst the vineyard and winery.

KNEZ will offer 2013 Barrel Samples of Cerise and Demuth and discounts of 15% off 11 bottles or fewer, 20% off 12 bottles or more!

LAZY CREEK –  TBD

LICHEN ESTATE will be offering up to 20% savings plus free shipping (on full case purchases) on 2013 Pinot Noir from the barrel.

LULA will be offering futures on 2013 Pinot Noir, a contest each day to win a magnum of our 2012 Pinot Noir, food and fun!

MAPLE CREEK will be sampling out of barrel our 2013 Pinot Noir’s (Weir Vineyard, Yorkville and Anderson Valley vineyard) and our 2013 Estate Chardonnay along with various library wines. We will offer a 20% discount on all wines to the ticket holders and we will have some artisan cheeses to sample as well.

MEYER FAMILY CELLARS invites you to sample our latest barrels of Cabernet and Syrah. On Saturday we’ll have wood-fired pizzas from our earthen oven and on Sunday, local gourmet food-pairings in the tasting room.  Enjoy our grapevine shaded picnic tables, green grass lawn and bocce court.  15% discount.

PHILLIPS HILL – Join the winemaker for a tasting of 2013 barrel samples and current releases paired with some amuse bouche. Futures of 2013 Pinot Noir will be offered at a special price

PHILO RIDGE will offer 2012 Pinot Noir from the barrel with food pairings of Pennyroyal goat cheese, crostini and mushroom cream cheese spread.  Futures pricing on the 2012.

SEEBASS – TBD

YORKVILLE CELLARS will be offering futures and tasting barrel samples our 2012 Richard the Lion-Heart, a unique blend we put together of the six Noble Red Grapes of Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carmenere and Cabernet Franc). You can also taste each of those wines as a separate varietal and be treated as a club member for the day enjoying special savings. Our Wine Club members will receive additional discounts. Organic vineyard tours available.

Did I mention that you get a collectable logo glass for the event at check in? This is another “must do” event brought to you by the folks at the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association.

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John On Wine – ­ A Mendo bubbly fest recap

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on April 10, 2014
Written by John Cesano

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Last Saturday, April 5th, I attended the inaugural Celebration of Mendocino County Sparkling Wines. I was not alone, more than 150 people showed up at Terra Savia in Hopland. Many were readers of this column who were kind enough to say hello, some were wine club members of the tasting room I manage, and some were brand new to me ­ but not brand new to having fun as they clearly knew what they were doing.

Alison de Grassi and Gracia Brown, the wonder twins from Visit Mendocino responsible for events and marketing, attended as did Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster. The support for this great event was really impressive. The day was beautiful; I parked a short walk away from the site, and saw workers raking muddy leaves into a pile, the scent earthy, almost mushroomy, and wonderful.

A Gathering of friends

Birds were chirping many different songs in the trees around. The sky could not have been more blue or clear. Terra Savia operates from a large yellow metal building filled with art and custom handcrafted furniture of immense proportion. Within the space, a dozen tables were set up in a circle, each table a microburst of activity, color, and energy as each participating winery created their own presentation space.

Here are a few definitions for bubbly-centric wine terms that may prove useful as you read on: Brut means dry. Cuvee means blend. En tirage means time yeast and lees spend in the bottle before disgorgement. Lees are spent yeast, yeast that converted sugar into alcohol, heat, and carbon dioxide during fermentation. Blanc de Blanc means white of white and suggests that Chardonnay is the grape the wine is made from; as opposed to Blanc de Noir, a white wine made from red wine grapes, typically Pinot Noir, but given no time on skin after crush, so no color. A magnum is a bottle twice as large as normal, 1.5 L. vs, 750 ml.

Bubbly Gathering

Graziano poured their Cuvee #10 Sparkling Brut, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc from the 2010 vintage that spent three full years en tirage. This bubbly had the most clear lemon note of the sparkling wines being poured at the event, balanced by a rich yeastiness. Both Greg Graziano and Bobby Meadows poured for the assembled crowd.

Handley poured a 2003 Brut, made from 60 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent Chardonnay, with flavors of steely mineral lemon and vanilla apple.

Guinness McFadden and Judith Bailey poured the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition double gold medal winning 2009 McFadden Reserve Sparkling Brut, a blend of 50 percent Chardonnay and 50 percent Pinot Noir that spent more than two-and-a-half-years on yeast and lees in the bottle before disgorgement. The flavors are bright, showing apple and grapefruit tempered by brioche and nut.

Nelson poured a nice NV Blanc de Blanc with bright lemon, pear, and apple notes.

I really liked the Paul Dolan NV Brut, a cuvee of 45 percent Chardonnay and 55 percent Pinot Noir, with 100 percent of the grapes from McFadden Farm. Bright, unapologetically crisp, with green apple, grapefruit, and pineapple.

Rack and Riddle poured for sparkling wines. I tasted their NV Brut, showing orange, cream, apple, and lemon; and a Brut Rose that was dry, dry, dry with strawberry over ice crispness.

Ray’s Station’s NV Brut offering was 65 percent Chardonnay and 35 percent Pinot Noir and was fairly broad and round with apple, pear, and bready notes. Although Brut suggests dryness, this seemed a touch sweeter ­ at least in comparison with the wine tasted just before this one. Margaret Pedroni captivated attendees as she described the wine she poured.

Roederer Estate poured from 1.5 liter magnums, which is nicely showy. Their NV Brut tasted of pear, green apple, nut, and lemon; the NV Brut Rose showed lovely balance and flavors of apple and strawberry.

Scharffenberger’s NV Brut tasted of dry yeasty ginger, citrus, and apple.

Signal Ridge garnered a lot of buzz from attendees, with tasters elevating the apple, almond and mineral flavored Brut into their top three tastes.

Terra Savia, the host for the event, poured their lovely 2009 Blanc de Blanc, showing bright apple and lemony citrus notes.

Yorkville Cellars doesn’t grow Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, the grapes typically found in sparkling wines, but Bordeaux varietals instead. Previously, Yorkville made a Sparkling Rose of Malbec, the only one I had ever tasted, and it was good. The current release I jokingly refer to as the cuvee of crazy, because the blend was unimaginable prior to it being poured for me: 51 percent Semillion, 24 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25 percent Sauvignon Blanc. The result isn’t crazy at all, but rounder than is typical with the Bordeaux varietal fruit offering up flavors of grapefruit and cranberry.

Bubbly Feast

The food for this event was spectacular, and one of the most enjoyable aspects of the event was random pairings of different foods and sparkling wines. Some pairings elevated both the food and beverage, while other pairings oddly diminished the wine being tasted. There will be a Mendo Bubbly Fest next year, and I’ll attend again, but get out of your house and into the tasting rooms of these wineries to taste their sparkling wines this weekend, or soon, and bring a bottle or two home ­ not to serve on a special day, but to make a day special by serving them.

 

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John On Wine – Wine Tasting in March

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on March 6, 2014 by John Cesano

This Saturday, Hopland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day a little early with participating winery tasting rooms serving up a little Irish cheer, and homemade Irish dishes, to pair with terrific wines and big savings from 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. St.Patrick’s Day is the day that Rich Parducci and Greg Graziano are as Irish as Guinness McFadden; everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

McNab Ridge will serve up Irish Stew, Irish soda bread, and Bailey’s Irish whipped cream.

McFadden will have corned beef and cabbage, cooked in McFadden Gewurztraminer and McFadden organic herbs. Ray’s Station is going with Reuben meatballs, Irish cheese, and Irish short bread. Cesar Toxqui Cellars will have Italian food. Naughty Boy and Graziano will also take part in Second Saturday fun.

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Saturday, March 8 from 1 -4 p.m. ­ Little River Whale Festival benefiting MAPA ­ the Mendocino Area Parks Association, and the Van Damme State Park. This is a passport style event over three hours with eight locations. Tickets are $25 in advance and can be purchased by calling Little River Inn at 937-5942 or $30 at the event. Specialties from eight local gourmet chefs and local wines! Participating wineries include Alder Vineyards, Edmeades Winery, Graziano Family of Wines, Handley Cellars, Lichen, Lula Cellars, and Stevenswood Wines. Dessert & locally roasted coffee by Thanksgiving Coffee at the Little River Market & Deli.

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The Wine Road is a Sonoma County winery tourism group run by Beth Costa and includes the Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, and Alexander Valley, all of which surround the town of Healdsburg. Wine Road puts on the Barrel Tasting Weekends with more than 100 participating wineries in and around Healdsburg.

From the Wine Road website page dedicated to the Barrel Tasting Weekends: “Barrel Tasting is not a food pairing or themed event. It’s all about the wine … many wineries offer “futures” on their barrel samples. This is a chance to purchase wine now, often at a discount, then come back to the winery when the wine is bottled, typically 12-18 months from now. Many wines are so limited, buying futures is your only chance to purchase them. Attendees are encouraged to pack a picnic, as most wineries will not have food for this event. The ticket price includes the opportunity to sample wine from the barrel and in most cases also trying a limited number of current release wines.”

Did you notice that they mention that there is no food at the event and encourage folks to bring an entire picnic of food? That is to counter the only negative attached to the event: it has picked up a bit of a reputation as a drunk fest ­ but a very successful drunk fest. I remember attending more than 25 years ago. Barrel Tasting used to be just one weekend and it was free. Alexander Valley opened up Friday night and I would visit there first, with Dry Creek Valley and the Russian River Valley for Saturday and Sunday. The event was largely attended by folks in the wine industry and wine enthusiasts. The event has grown, and gone from free to $5, then $20, and now $30; and from one weekend to two. With 8,000 folks on the road, racing from winery to winery, trying to taste at over 100 and get value for their ticket price, there are horror stories of inebriation. Imagine it, and the reality is 10 times worse. That said, it really is just a few horribly bad apples gaining all of the notoriety, and the event really is otherwise spectacular. The final weekend of the 36th annual Barrel Tasting are this weekend, March 7-9, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Advance ticket sales have ended, but wineries will sell tickets at the door. For a map of participating wineries, visit http://bit.ly/1cA956P.

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Saturday, March 22 from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. – Saracina’s Old Soul Red Blending Party. I’ve written before about how much fun a wine blending party can be, I’ve attended the Testa Barn Blend Party two of the three years it has been held, and was able to be one of three judges to help Maria and rusty choose a winner last year. Nelson, McNab Ridge, and now Saracina also have wine blending events, and all are worth attending. Saracina winemaker Alex MacGragor will lead folks through the art and science of wine blending, and then set you loose to help fashion or inspire the next vintage of the Saracina Coro Mendocino. Oops, a rose by any other name. I should have said that you have the chance to blend your own version of the Saracina Atrea Old Soul Red.

Everyone who attends and participates is a winner, as events at Saracina are known for being memorably top notch. After the hard work (it isn’t really, it is big fun) of wine blending winds down, you get to relax and enjoy Saracina wines and a family-style lunch of wood-fired pizzas and gourmet sides prepared by farm-to-table chef Olan Cox.

Given the hands-on nature of this experience, space is very limited. Please call (707) 670-0199 to grab your ticket now. Saracina is located 1.5 miles north of Hopland at 11684 South Hwy 101.

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I fly to Phoenix for the weekend. Perhaps, I’ll review coach class airline wine and airport hotel lounge wine for next week’s column. In the meantime, why don’t you get out this weekend and taste some wine? There certainly are ample opportunities for a great wine weekend close to home. Cheers!

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John On Wine – Celebration of Mendocino County Sparkling Wines

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on February 27, 2014 by John Cesano

Destination Hopland, the non-profit group charged with promoting tourism for the Hopland area wineries, is sponsoring a new event on Saturday, April 5 and invited participation from sparkling wine producers from throughout Mendocino County. A “Celebration of Mendocino County Sparkling Wines” will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at Terra Savia, 14160 Mountain House Road, Hopland. Eleven local producers will come together at Terra Sávia winery in Hopland to showcase their finest offerings. Great and classic food pairing treats for sparkling wines will be served, like smoked salmon, local oysters, pate, canapés, fresh strawberries, artisan breads and, for dessert, delicious lavender infused sponge cake. Classical guitarist Joel DiMauro will be performing. Participating wineries include:

Graziano Family of Wines

Handley Cellars

McFadden Vineyard

Nelson Family Vineyards

Paul Dolan Vineyards

Rack & Riddle

Ray’s Station

Roederer Estate

Scharffenberger Cellars

Signal Ridge

Terra Savia

Tickets are $55 and available online at mendocinosparkling.brownpapertickets.com.

The folks at Wine Enthusiast magazine taste a lot of wine, well over 10,000 wines each year, I am sure. Last December they announced their Top 100 wines of 2013, and the #1 wine of the year was the 2004 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage. The 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, with 5,825 wines entered, was the largest judging of American wines in the world. The only winery in the nation to win two Double Gold Medals (unanimous Gold from the judges) for sparkling wines was McFadden Vineyard for the NV McFadden Sparkling Brut and the 2009 McFadden Reserve Sparkling Brut.

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Bubbly in Mendocino County is spectacularly good, the quality high, while the prices are remarkably affordable. Far too many people open a bottle of sparkling wine only to celebrate a special event, when a good quality bubbly is an absolute delight when enjoyed as a before-dinner cocktail, or when paired with a host of foods from oysters to salmon bagels and poached eggs with caviar to chicken breasts in a citrus glaze.

Some sparkling wines that will be poured have notes of green apple and grapefruit, unapologetically crisp, while others will showcase a bready, yeasty, brioche character. Lemon, hazelnut, and toffee are notes you might taste in a sparkling wine, or rose petal and strawberry notes from a sparkling rosé.

Cuveé is a word that you will see on more than one label. Cuveé means blend, and a sparkling wine with a cuvee designation is likely a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, with perhaps a small amount of Pinot Meunier.

You will also see NV on a bottle or three, and this is also a blend, but a blend of different vintages. NV means non-vintage. The folks who produce sparkling wines in Mendocino County scrupulously refer to our bubblies as sparkling wines and never Champagnes. Practically the same thing, but we respect that real Champagne comes from Champagne, France. That said, most of us understand and do not mind when our customers use the terms sparkling wine and Champagne interchangeably.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch into how sparkling wine is made: Grapes for sparkling wine are picked earlier than for still wine, at lower sugar, usually in August. Chardonnay is picked for a Blanc de Blanc, Pinot Noir is picked for a Blanc de Noir, and a blend of the two is often picked for a Brut or Brut Rosé. After crushing the grapes for juice, the wine is made in the bottle, rather than an oak barrel or stainless steel tank.

A little active yeast in the bottle feeds the sugar – this is fermentation and where the alcohol comes from. The fruit notes come from the grapes. The wine spends time with unspent yeast, and spent yeast, also known as lees and picks up some yeasty or bready notes.

By tilting the bottle toward a neck down position, and giving the bottle little turns, the yeast and lees collect at the neck end of the bottle. This process is known as racking and riddling. The neck end of the bottle is submerged in a below zero freeze bath so a solid plug of yeast and lees can be formed and removed.

A second fermentation happens when a small dose of sugar, or dosage, is added to the wine and the cork and cage are affixed to the bottle. A small amount of unspent yeast remains in the bottle and eats the dosage, resulting in carbon dioxide, the bubbles that make sparkling wines so fun. This is how good bubbly is made. I hope you’ll get a ticket to the inaugural Mendo Bubbly Fest; If you do, then I’ll definitely see you there. Cheers!

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John Cesano pouring one of two Double Gold Medal awarded McFadden Sparkling Brut wines.

 

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