Tuesday Quick Sip – 2006 Merryvale Starmont Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Merryvale Starmont Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine Information –

Region: Napa Valley
Vineyards: Merryvale Estate Vineyard (St. Helena Appellation), Bayview- Oakville & Oak Knoll
Grapes: 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 % Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot
Oak: 15 months in French Oak (20% new)
Price: $25 – $30

My Tasting Notes –

nose: interesting “raw pumpkin”, fresh cut tobacco, cassis, blackberry
taste: blackberry, black cherry, cedar, vanilla bean, clove
mouthfeel: full body, leathery tannins
finish: dusty dry finish

The nose was a bit tight, as it took a minute to open up. The palate was very nice and full bodied with a smooth vibrant finish. Nice Cab – that wasn’t too oaky, with nice fruit and secondary flavor and aroma characteristics that don’t usually show up until the wine is a little older.


Categories: $20-$30, napa, wine review | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Quick Sip on a Wednesday with the 2006 Elizabeth Spencer Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Elizabeth Spencer Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Wine Information –

Appellation: Napa Valley

Sub-Appellations: St. Helena, Howell Mountain, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, and Mt. Veeder

Grapes: 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc

Cooperage: 20 months in 100% French Oak

Price: $32

My Tasting Notes –

Nose: boysenberry, black currant jam, roasted meat, brown sugar and suede

Taste: blackberry, sweet cedar, eucalyptus, mocha, black currant

Mouthfeel: full body, leathery to dusty tannins, just a bit spicy

Finish: long and tight – black currant flavors dominating the finish

The Cab was very good and I have enjoyed almost all of the Elizabeth Spencer wines I’ve tasted. The 2006 Napa Cab is still young though it is does taste good now. The structure just needs a little more time to balance out, as it is still a little rough around the edges.


Categories: $30-$40, cabernet, napa, wine review | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Tuesday Quick Sip – 1998 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

1998 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Wine Information:

Appellation: Napa Valley, California (Calistoga)

Grapes: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Oak program: 18 – 20 months

Price: $30/ 375ml bottle

1998MontelenaMy Tasting Notes:

Color: dark brick red, slightly brown at the edges

Nose: slightly oxidized and “portish”, fresh corn tamale, tobacco

Taste: raisin, blackberry, suede, red clay, and tart cranberry at the back of the palate

Mouthfeel: full body but on the lighter side, still velvety rich tannins and “spicy” acidity

Finish: long with dark fruit and leathery notes

This is my first time tasting a Chateau Montelena wine as well as my first time tasting a ’98 Napa wine. Although slightly oxidized on the nose, it blew off after while and gave way to interesting corn tamale and tobacco notes. I was impressed with the structure, still alive and well but on the down side for sure. I have another bottle of this that I’ll probably drink very shortly, and will be excited to see if it will show as well.


Categories: $30-$40, napa, wine review | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

PeWho? Peju! 2005 Estate Bottled Napa Zinfandel

Megan and I picked up the 2005 Peju Estate Bottled Napa Zinfandel during our trip to the valley back in November.  We stopped in for a quick visit, trying to kill a little time before our scheduled visit with Christophe at Titus Vineyards. We were in luck because on our random visit we were treated to a unique tasting experience by the famous “Yodelmeister” himself Alan Arnopole. Check out Alan in action on in Wine Country for an idea of what our tasting experience was like.


On to the Zinfandel…


pejuzinThe 2005 is 100% Zinfandel and was aged for ten months in American Oak, ten percent of which was new. The remaining balance was aged in a mix of one to four year old barrels before being bottle unfined.  Although it was a pretty high octane wine at 15.7% alcohol, there was no heat on this wine and it was very nicely balanced.


Nose – plum, boysenberry, Cinnabon™ (yes I spelled it right, it smells like the smell that emanates from the Cinnabon™ store), raisin and fig

Taste – blackberry, pepper, pine and black tea

Mouthfeel – full body, good acidity, and leathery tannins

Finish – long and dry with a nice black tea taste


While I am not usually a huge fan of Napa Zin, I was utterly delighted with this wine. Lots of dark fruit, and fun sweet cinnamon notes on the nose, balanced with earthy pine and black tea on the palate. The acidity and firm tannins nicely complemented and helped to balance the superb richness of the wine. At $28 this wine is a bit pricey, but I think it is of comparable quality to some of the Zins in the same price range from the Dry Creek or Russian River Valleys.  Give this wine a try if you come across it out there–it could improve your perception of Napa Zin, as it did for me.



Categories: $20-$30, napa, wine review | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Tasting in the sun at Titus Vineyards


Arriving at Titus Vineyards on our last day in California wine country I wasn’t exactly sure we were in the right place. The small white country house, at the front of the vineyards seemed out of place compared to the gigantic wineries that dot the Napa Valley.  In fact Titus doesn’t have a regular tasting room, but Christophe was gracious enough to host us in an environment reminding me of tastings that we did in Northern Italy last year.


I have to admit I had little familiarity with Titus until earlier this year when Christophe and the Titus team decided to take the leap into social media. Using the online steaming video service Ustream, filmed interactive daily sessions of their harvest. During which I had the opportunity to ask questions directly to Phil and Eric to get an in depth perspective on their winemaking style, philosophy and culture that they create at their winery.  After watching a weeks worth of video, I was hooked and knew that I had to visit and taste these wines that I had learned about. (you can also follow Christophe – @corkdork – on Twitter for action at Titus Vineyards)

Ustream Media Cart

Ustream Media Cart

We sat at a picnic table nestled among some olive trees directly across from the 40+ acres of vines that make up Titus Vineyards. The brothers Titus, Phil and Eric, run this small, 8000 case, second generation family winery.  Phil is the winemaker and Eric is the vineyard manager, although both do no operate as separate entities, they work hand in hand to make the quality product that is Titus wines. 



The Wines


2006 Zinfandel $27 (comes from 10 acres of vines that were planted in the 1970s)

Nose – slightly tight with black currant and strawberry jam

Taste – blackberry, boysenberry, toast, chocolate

Mouthfeel – medium body, good acidity but still nice and round

Finish – long and dry with dried cranberry flavors


2006 Cabernet Franc $36 (75% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 4% Merlot)

Nose – leather, black cherry, vanilla, cooked greens

Taste – blueberry, dried herbs, lots of cherry and a hint of green olive

Mouthfeel – dusty, full bodied and leathery dry tannins

Finish – still going


2005 Cabernet Sauvignon $41 (79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec, 1% Merlot)

Nose – violet, raspberry, earthy, smoke and eucalyptus

Taste – bright red fruit, tobacco, and allspice (interesting)

Mouthfeel – very round, hint of spiciness, fairly subdued tannins but still there

Finish – long, with some earthy, raspberry notes


2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon $60 (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc)

Nose – toasty oak, meaty/bacony, green beans, cherry

Taste – blueberry, black currant and red currant

Mouthfeel – smooth round up front with fuzzy tannins at the back

Finish – long with dried fruit flavors


2006 Petite Syrah $36 (100% Petite Syrah)

Nose – pine nut, leather and blackberry

Taste – blueberry, brambly fruit, tomato and red cherry

Mouthfeel – big full body, round lush tannins

Finish – medium to long, lots of dark fruit flavors


walking-in-titus-vineyardsNeedless to say Megan and I really enjoyed all the wines and I would have bought a bottle of each, but being at the end of the trip, we were already over our allotted wine budget. We did pick up the Cab Franc and the Cab Sauv though, the Cabernet Franc being our clear winner for the day. I wish all tastings could be this picturesque, sitting steps away from the vineyard where a wine is made is definitely one of the best ways to enjoy it. After we had finished tasting we filled our glasses with our wine of choice we took a stroll through the vineyards. We picked shriveled grapes off the vine and tasted what had been missed during the second pick and got a more in depth explanation of the plantings at Titus.


Thanks again to Christophe for hosting us, it was truly a pleasure.




Titus Vineyards
PO Box 608
St. Helena, CA 94574

Tel: 707.963.3235
Fax: 707.963.3257

Categories: napa, wine tasting | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Triple M – Martin Ray Merlot

From the unpredictable 2003 Napa vintage comes this Martin Ray Napa Valley Merlot.  This powerhouse reminded me of some of the Merlots that I have tasted from Washington State with its dark round fruit flavors, good structure and firm tannic grip.  In a world that is finally starting to warm back up the shunned grape post the Sideways phenomena, this Merlot definitely delivers.


We had this last night with what we call “poor mans” casserole. It is a baked gooey goodness full of veggies, soy ground beef, noodles and cheddar cheese that paired very nicely with the Merlot. The 2003 is blended with 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc sat in French Oak barrels for 30 months, but the oak was integrated very nicely into the wine and was barely present in the flavor profile.


My Tasting Notes

Nose – Blackberry, fudge, vanilla, anise, rhubarb

Taste – cherry, blackberry, leather, mint

Mouthfeel – smooth and round at the beginning with a quick change to fuzzy tannins

Finish – long with flavors of cherry and cola nut


This was a great value at $17, although I am not sure how much of the 2003 is still in stores and I was actually surprised to see this in our local wine shop. If you can find it give it a try!



Categories: $10-$20, merlot, napa, wine review, wine tasting | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment


For those of you that read my blog you know how much I enjoy Grgich Hills for who they are, where they came from and the wine making philosophy they stand for. I got my first taste of what Grgich was all about not through a bottle of wine but by listening to a Graperadio podcast. The two part (Part 1 and Part 2) series introduced us to Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and how he first gained international notoriety after his Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won the 1976 Paris tasting. After learning about how Mike came of age as a great winemaker in Napa Valley I learned of his quest to keep on top of the best vineyard practices, ones that are good for the wine as well as the land. Being intrigued, I went out and got the book “Judgement of Paris” by George Taber and learned more about Mike Grgich as well the history of how Napa Valley came to be the wine mecca it is today.

I wrote a little while ago about the 2001 Grgich Cabernet Sauvignon that I was slightly disappointed with, mostly because of my preconceived notions of how I thought it should be and how I remembered it was from my visit to their tasting room in 2004.

Recently I pulled another Grgich out of the Cellar, this time it was the 2002 Merlot, about the same price point as the Cabernet, around $50. This was what I remembered about Grgich wine, a truly fabulous expression of the grape from start to finish.

My Tasting Notes

Color – Very dark ruby red

Nose – Cedar, pine, cherry, pomegranate, black tea, vanilla, corn husk

Taste – Black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, cardamom, cinnamon, under ripe green grapes

Mouthfeel – Full body, spicy yet soft and polished across the tongue

Finish – LONG, with the tannins leave a nice fuzzy feeling in the mouth

This was a big, complex, layered Merlot that shows the best of what California Merlot has to offer. Definitely on the New World end of the spectrum but not over the top displaying lots of great earth flavors layered with the fruit and spice. I would definitely recommend this wine if you are looking for a “BIG” full bodied Merlot. This is up there with the Northstar Merlot I had a few months ago from Washington State, but the Grgich offered more spice and a more tannic finish.


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Categories: grgich, merlot, napa, wine review | 3 Comments

Wine Tasting – 2000 Big Horn Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grand Reserve

Megan and I picked this wine up at the Wine Cellar (of course) after we tasted it in one of the Friday night tastings a month or so ago. It normally retails for $50 but was on special for $25 so after we tasted and enjoyed that Friday, we brought it home.

A bit of background on the wine –

The Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Big Horn Cellars is always made from grapes grown in their Coombesville Vineyard, which is in the Napa Valley. The wine consists of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that has been aged in 100% French Oak barrels for two years and clocks in at 15.2% alcohol.

My Tasting Notes –

Nose – Mushroom, blackberry, cocoa powder, leather

Taste – Raspberry, cranberry, bell pepper

Mouthfeel – Medium to full body, bit of spice, very smooth but strong tannins on the finish which was slightly surprising for a 2000.

Finish – Very long

This was a really great Cab, aged perfectly. The tannins were nice and soft through the beginning and mid palate of each sip but really took hold at the end with a nice firm grip. After being aged for 7 years the fruit was still very present, and it walked the new world, old world line very well, popping in hints of mushroom, leather and bell pepper.

The wine was quite a bit fruitier than we had remembered from the tasting a while ago (not that we minded). It was a great wine and although we only paid $25, which I will admit was a steal; I could definitely see paying $50 for it.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Categories: big horn cellars, napa, wine review, wine tasting | 5 Comments

Wine Tasting – 2004 Seventy Five, Amber Knolls Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon


picked this up from the Wine Cellar about a month or two ago, just wanting to pick up a real good “everyday” Cab for the wine stock at home. I had heard great things about the wine, and these were confirmed by my favorite Wine Cellar employee Hunter who had just tasted the wine recently. I was a bit skeptical though because Mr. Wine Library himself, who I love, had knocked the wine down a few notches a couple of months prior on his video blog. He still thought it was a good Cab, just not worthy of the 90+ point ratings that it was carrying around. (click here for that episode) But as Gary will tell you, he is giving his opinion based on what he likes and dislikes, so take it with a grain of salt.

A bit of background on the wine:

 From the 75wine website –

“This hand-selected, hand crafted vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignon hails from the Amber Knolls Vineyard. The Beckstoffer family purchased this property in the late 1990’s after determining that the soils and microclimate were perfect for growing ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes. The property is showcased by its deep, red hillside soils that are heavily laced in obsidian.”

The vineyard itself sits on an East facing slope with varying altitude from 1200 to 2000 feet. The average daytime summer temperature is 84 degrees with average nighttime temps of 51 degrees, allowing for the 2004 Vintage to be harvested at 23.8 Brix.

My Tasting Notes:

Nose – Ripe blueberry, tar, and bacon

Taste – Maraschino cherry, canned artichoke hearts, espresso

Mouthfeel – very smooth with velvety tannins and medium body

Finish – Nice with a decent length and blackberry flavors lingering

I liked this wine quite a bit. I thought it to be more towards the new world style of Cabernet Sauvignon with a lot of ripe fruit coming through on the nose, but had some nice meaty aromas to balance it out.  Interesting vegetable flavor notes – I think the reason I wrote canned artichoke hearts is because the wine had a slight metallic taste to it, but not in a bad way. Not an inexpensive wine (at around $18.95), but a good middle of the week kick up a notch Cabernet.

If you have had this or have it in the future, let me know what you think

Categories: cabernet, napa, wine review, wine tasting | Leave a comment

Day 2 – Napa Valley

After waking up and heading for a run in the Sonoma Valley State
park, just down the road from our lodging in Glen Ellen, we headed to the Glen
Ellen Grocery for a small to-go breakfast and a few bottles of water for the
day ahead.

Day 2 was our day to explore the Napa valley. Primarily we stayed
in northern Napa, above Yountville, around the St. Helena/Oakville area. We
took the Oakville Grade road over from Sonoma to Napa which is a fun very windy
road over the mountain that seperates the two valleys. The road just begs to
be driven in a Ferrari, not in our Mazda rental car. haha After you cross the
mountain you are graced with beautiful views of the Napa vineyards. Check out
the picture below.

Stop 1 – Grgich Hills

Grgich has a lot of history behind it, as their winemaker Miljenko
“Mike” Grgich was responsible for make the winning white at the
famous 1976 Paris Wine Tasting. He worked for Chateau Montelena at the time,
but he as definitely brought his experience and expertise with him to his own
winery at Grgich. Grgich believes in Biodynamic farming, and working in a way
that sustains an environmentally friendly vineyard environment, which he believes
is the only true way to sustain long term growth. He actually paid a visit to
the tasting room to say hello, what an experience.

Their were fives wines up for the tasting but we got a couple of extras thrown
in. First up was the 2005 Fume Blanc, a great classic style showing honeydew
melon, pineapple, mineral and not too acidic; very yummy. Second was their 2004
Chardonnay which was medium bodied with subtle oak, lemon and apple. Third,
was the 2003 Zin (100% Estate Grown), fairly light bodied with raisiny fruit
flavors, and a slight peppery finish. A great “beginner” Zin. Fourth
up was a wine not on the tasting sheet was the 2003 Miljenko Old Vine Zin made
from 115 year old vines. This had a great full bodied mouthfeel with rich blackberry
fruit flavor, extremely smooth and a nice chocolate finish on the back palate.
Very Yummy! Next was the 2002 Merlot, classic cherry aroma and flavor, dried
cocoa and a smooth long finish. A great Merlot. Sixth was the 2002 Cabernet
which had just been released, very peppery for a Cab Sauv, lots of great raspberry
and was still a little tight on the finish. It was just release about 1 month
ago. Although it was slightly out of order she did let us taste the 2003 Chardonnay
Paris Tasting Commemorative Napa Valley-Carneros. Wow this was a great Chardonnay
– beautifully complex with tons of subtle oak and nutty flavors, pear, apple
and little bit of honey. Very good, but we couldn’t fork over the $110 price
tag. Yikes!

For the day, we took home only a bottle of the 2002 Merlot which is only available
from the tasting room. We actually have a couple bottles of Grgich Cabernet
here at home, and both that and the Chardonnays are fairly easy to find as well
as the Fume Blanc.

Stop 2 – Sullivan Vineyards

Sullivan wine tastings are by appointment only but don’t let
that scare you away, they have great wines and a beautiful facility and welcome
anyone wanting to taste their wines. Sullivan is fairly small by Napa standards
only making around 8000 cases (maybe 6000 my note scribble was a little fuzzy).
They gained major notice in the mid 80’s for their Cabernet Sauvignon and have
continued to make outstanding wines. First up for tasting was the 2005 Chardonnay,
great apple and pear aromas, flavors of toasted nut and good acidity. Pink Ink
was the second wine of the day, which was a dry Rose that was a free run juice
of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was very nice. Next up was there Red Ink,
a blend of Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. A delightful easy drinking
red, again very nice for the price. The 2003 Merlot came next, Cherry and canned
pineapple on the nose, earthiness and great long finish. To compare we also
got to taste the 2003 Merlot Reserve which they only make 200 cases of. Great
Cherry aromas with blackberry on the palate, and a touch of cinammon on the
finish- it definitely was a better Merlot than the non reserve, but it came
with a hefty price tag. We had the same horizontal tasting with the Cab. Sauv.’s
tasting both the 2003 regular and reserve editions, both were excellent, the
non reserve had light fruit flavors of red raspberry and a bit of asparagus
on the tounge, but was extremely smooth and yummy. The reserve had darker fruit
notes of Blackberry and cinammon, with a finish of dusty tannins, that was too
overpowering but could use some more age. We also tasted the Coeur de Vigne,
which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot primarily with a splash of
Cab Franc and Petit Verdot thrown in. It was really good with tons of layered
fruit, nice tannic structure and smooth slightly spicy finish. MMM Our tasting
associate let us try blending options to see if we could make a better blend
with the Cab Sauv. and Merlot, Megan and I decided on a 70/30 mixture….ours
wasn’t as good but definitely a good effort. haha We also had a special taste
right out of the barrel of the 2006 vintage of Chardonnay, it was good, still
all bubbly and yeasty from fermentation. Sullivan was really fun, and it is
another definite recommendation for a trip to Napa.

Lunch – St. Helena

For lunch we ate in St. Helena at Pizzeria Tra Vigne. Ohhh,
it was good I highly recommend it. Cheap good pizza with interesting topping
combinations, and a good ambience for catching your breath and refreshing the
palate for more wine tasting.

Stop 3 – Caymus

Most people have heard of Caymus, they are very famous for their
Cabernet Sauvignon. We are huge fans of their wine, although we can’t afford
very much of it, this is our second trip to the Caymus Winery. Their tastings
are free and by appointment only, they have 2 per day and both times we have
been scheduled for the 1:00pm tasting. You are seated with a group in a beautiful
room around a dining table, where the glasses for the 3 wines you will be tasting
are displayed in front of you. We had 6 other people tasting with us, which
is fun, because it is always fun to discuss the wine with more people around.
Our tasting guide was Laura, and in addition to the tasting gives a good history
of how the Wagner family came to create the Caymus winery and be as well known
was they are in the Napa Valley. First up for our tasting was the 2001 Sauvignon
Blanc (only available from the tasting room), which is made slightly different
than most Sauv. Blancs. First, it is aged (notice the 2001 vintage) and second,
it is oaked. It is a very good, wine but this vintage almost tasted more like
a Viognier to Megan and I. A nose of honeysuckle and apricot, apricot, lemon
and a slight toastiness on the palate, and a great rich mouthfeel with nice
acidity. Second, was the 2004 Zin (only available from the tasting room also),
and is done in “Charley style” after Charles Wagner which equates
to a rich and supple wine. The nose was full of black fruit, spices and nuts,
on the palate we were treated with raisiny dark cherry and plum, and a slightly
hot, full bodied mouthfeel and a long finish. We asked if there was anything
blended in and they said a very small amount of petite syrah. WOW!! Third is
a wine that is not normally on the tasting sheet at Caymus, and that is the
Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, normally it is the current release of
Cabernet Sauvignon which is also fabulous! But today the 8 of us were lucky
because we were poured the 2003 Special Selection, and holy cow was it amazing.
The nose was fantastic with Raspberry, pomegranite and cinammon; tobacco, black
raspberry and earth on the palate, and the mouthfeel was just weighty in the
mouth, smooth and long on the finish. It is just a great experience at Caymus
everything is top notch, and the tasting experience is cozy, informative and
delicious…you can’t beat that!!

Vines at Caymus

Stop 4 – Pride Mountain

Pride Mountain is located just outside of St. Helena on the
top of Spring Mountain and their winery is a Napa address but since their property
stretches over the mountain they have vineyards both in Napa and some in Sonoma.
Hearing a podcast of Bob Foley is what first drew me to the name of Pride and
their wines. Listening to him talk about his philosophy of winemaking, taking
a very wholistic approach from the vineyard to the cellar, I became interested
in tasting his wines. Well the tasting did not dissappoint. First was the 2005
Napa Chardonnay, nice honey apple and slight oak, very well balanced and great
Chardonnay. 2005 Cabernet Franc was next, it was 75% Cab Franc and 25% Cab Sauv.
Excellent cherry, earth and rose on the nose, cedar “warm” fruit and
silky mouthfeel. Third was the 2004 Merlot 100%, with dark cherry fruit, slight
toasted notes and a smooth finish. 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) was next with
black raspberry, tobacco, and cinammon notes with very long finish. Really outstanding.
We got a sneak peak at the 2004 Cab Sauv that had only been released to wine
club members, and it was still a little young, but had a nice spicy fruit character
to it. Another special addition was the Mistelle de Viognier, an apertif that
was fortified with Graten. Pretty high residual sugar but it was a fun sipper,
with lots of floral notes and the sweetness wasn’t overpowering or cloying.
For the day we took home the Cabernety Sauvignon and the Cabernet Franc. The views from Pride are great, the tasting room staff was fun and jovial, and the wines were fantastic, truly a don’t miss on your Napa trip. They do require an appointment also, but again don’t let that scare you off.

Vines at Pride

Last Stop of the Day – Hess Collection

We primarily went to Hess for their great art collection, although
we have had their wines and have liked them, we heard that they had a great
contemporary art collection. So we headed back down the valley towards downtown
Napa to get to Hess. We decided to check out the gallery first as it was closing
in 30 minutes. The art was amazing, lots of big name contemporary artists, Megan
was in heaven….great art and wine in the same place!!! After browsing the
wonderful we headed down to the tasting room, for a few sips although our palates
were fried. We tasted 7 wines – 2005 Chardonnay (oak, pear, light bodied), 2004
Chardonnay (honeysuckle, pineapple, well balanced, yummy), 2004 Artesian Zin
(fruity, light body, cinammon, cocoa) 2004 Small block Cab Franc (rapsberry,
cherry, dusty tannins), special treat – 2002 Lion Reserve with 98% Cab Sauv,
1% Malbec, 1% Petite Verdot (lots of fruit flavor, excellent full body, and
very smooth) We probably would have taken this home, but it was over $100 and
we had already purchased one that pricey from Caymus. We also tasted the 2004
Petit Verdot and the 2003 Cuvee which was also very good, the black fruits,
spices, good structure and nice complexity. Our choice of the day was the 2004
Chardonnay, a really fun well balanced Chardonnay that we can’t wait to drink.
I highly recommend Hess, the wines are good and if you are into art, the collection
is awesome, and the grounds at Hess are really worth seeing as well.

Entrance to Hess

After Hess we headed back down the road to Sonoma, back to the
Glen Ellen Inn to rest before dinner. We didn’t have far to go as we had decided
to eat at the Glen Ellen Inn restaurant. Dinner was excellent and the restaurant
was quiet and cozy, just what we needed after a long day of tasting.

Stay tuned for Day 3

Categories: caymus, napa, sonoma, travel, wine country | Leave a comment

Napa Trip – Day 1

Megan and I just got back from Napa/Sonoma valleys, where we had an awesome trip exploring tons of wineries and loving every minute of it. The next few blog posts will outline our 3 days there and will have lots of pictures and information about all the wine tasting that we did, as well as about our cottage we stayed in and the restaurants were we dined. ENJOY!

Going over the Golden Gate Bridge

which way to Ferrari – Carano?

Day 1 – We left San Francisco, minus our luggage that did not arrive with us the night before, enjoying the beautiful views of the San Francisco bay…eagerly awaiting our first tastes back in the California Wine Country. On our way up to the Russian River Valley, we stopped in Healdsburg to get some lunch goodies from the Oakville Grocery. It is a great market with tons of cheeses and fresh made to order sandwiches, that are great for picnic supplies

Oakville Grocery Store – Healdsburg

Stop 1 – Our first stop of the day was Ferrari – Carano (you might have heard of it). As you can tell from the pictures below, their winery is palatial. Upon entering the tasting room we discover that they have two tastings, one for $5 dollars that tasted most of the wine they regularly distribute and then a $15 dollar tasting of wines down in the barrel room that includes reserve wines and wines that only go to wine club members and or tasting room patrons. We opted for two of the $15 tastings and split the list of 8 wines. The room that the tasting was conducted in was beautiful and adjacent to one of their barrel rooms, with lovely wood furniture and ornate iron chandeliers. Here is a list of what we had for tasting 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, 2004 Forella Chardonnay, 2004 Tre Terre Chardonnay, 2004 Reserve Chardonnay, 2003 Zin, 2002 Syrah, 2003 Sangiovese, 2002 Tresor. All of these wines were fantastic but I will comment on the 3 we purchased all of which are not distributed to the east cost for wholesale. The 2005 Sauvignon Blanc was great and is different from their Fume Blanc you may have seen on the shelves, and includes in addition to the Sauv. Blanc a bit of a Muscat Clone. It offeres great apricot and floral notes with peach and honeydew following in the mouth, with a very smooth mouthfeel and not as tart as some Sauv. Blancs. Our 2nd favorite/purchase was the 2003 Sangiovese which is completely dry farmed for that extra umph. It was delicious with blueberry, blackberry toast with a nice slightly spicy finish. 3rd favorite/purchase and these are not in any order of preference (just of how I wrote them down) is the 2002 Tresor which is a blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot with Cab Franc and Petit Verdot in the mix as well. The 2002 Tresor had 20 months in oak and aged 24 months in the bottle. Cocoa and Eucalyptus on the nose with a yummy taste of blackberry and raspberry layered nicely with a mild earthiness and a smooth tannic finish. It was an awesome wine!! Megan and I both definitely recommend the extra money for the reserve wines, they are all amazing and most are hard to find on the East coast.

Above are all from Ferrari- Carano

Stop 2 – Yoakim Bridge Winery
Yoakim Bridge is a small 2000 case winery (so everything is sold from the tasting room or wine club) in the Dry Creek Valley, just a ways down the road from Ferrari-Carrano. They have estate grown Zin and purchase all of the other grapes from local Dry Creek growers. The winemaker and owner is David Cooper who does everything in the winery by himself which is truly amazing. Check out the picture below of Megan and David in the winery, where he is displaying his beautiful Cabernet that is needing another punch down. David only has red wine and they are all fantastic. For tasting were the 2002 Zin, 2004 Merlot, 2003 Cuvee (Cab. Franc, Merlot, and Cab Sauv.) 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2002 Syrah. Our favorite and purchase from Yoakim was the Zinfandel. Beautiful with spicy raspberry that wasn’t too jammy, great chocolate and long finish. The Zin was estate grown, and blended with 6% Cabernet Sauvignon from Wallace Creek Vinyeard.

Megan with Yoakim Bridge winemaker – David Cooper

Stop 3 – Seghesio
Seghesio is another winery that most of you have probably heard, and there Sonoma Valley Zin is usually a staple on a lot of wine lists. Well Seghesio was tasting 5 wines that day, but we got to taste a few extra due to our enthusiasm and great discussion we were having with the tasting room associate who was a Seghesio herself (daughter of the current winemaker). Again, all of the wines we tasted were fantastic and here is a list of what we tasted. 2005 Pinot Grigio (light fruity and crisp), 2004 Costiera Pinot Noir (blackberry, cherry, not too earthy), 2004 Sangiovese (spicy, tobacco and earth), 2004 Cortina Zin (jammy dark fruit, spicy followed up with cocoa) and the 2004 Old Vine (black raspberry, not as spicy, smooth). Those were the 5 wines that everybody got, the next 3 are ones that we got to taste special – 2004 Saini Zin (similar to the Cortina, with lots of rich chocolate and raspberry), 2004 Home Ranch Zin (1896 Vines, smoother than the other zins, still spicy, with jammy dark fruit flavors), and 2004 San Lorenzo which wasn’t even for sale (a great wine probably the “lightest” zin of the bunch, a great Zin for beginners. Seghesio was great and all of there wines were fantastic, we signed up for their wine club so we will be getting 2 bottles qtrly. 2 of which are already on the way. Yummy. We also ate our lunch at Seghesio with a nice bottle of water due to all the wine we had been having (I needed to drive some more haha). They have a beautiful picnic area and it was a beautiful sunny California day.

Megan at Seghesio

Stop 4 – Landmark Winery
We hit Landmark was me made our way South through Sonoma county towards the Glen Ellen Inn. Landmark is most famous for the Overlook Chardonnay that you might have seen at Costco. Our favorite and the bottle we purchased was the 2004 Damaris Reserve Chardonnay. It was lovely with nice light fruit aromas accented by apple and pear with a great taste of hazlenut and caramel, a truly yummy chardonnay. Our other favorite was the 2004 Syrah that was completely organic. It seemed lighter than most Syrah’s (which we like) and was filled with aromas of black raspberry, a smooth mouthfeel and a spicy finish. Landmark is farely small by California standards producing around 15,000 cases. They have beautiful surroundings and are a great place to have a picnic. (although we didn’t).

Tasting bar at Landmark, with a beautiful mural

We headed on down the road to Glen Ellen which is about 12 miles North of downtown Sonoma. We had eatin at the Glen Ellen Inn last year when we were in wine country and remebered that they had six cottages out back along the creek for guests to stay. You check in at the bar in the restaurant and get your key. We were in Cottage number 2. Check out the pictures below, isn’ t it awesome.

Top picture of our cottage, bottom is of the courtyard out of room

That night for dinner we dined in the downtown Sonoma at the Girl and Fig, a great cozy restaurant that focuses on fresh local ingredients which is always great, especially when you are a vegetarian. I definitely recommend them, and they are a well known fixture in the Sonoma Valley.

All of the wines that we purchased on the trip were wines that you are not able to purchase back in Richmond. So even if we went to larger wineries we purchased the small lot stuff, that we knew would be a special addition to our “wine cellar”. All in all we came home with 2 cases of wine, stay tuned for Days 2 and 3 to come in the next week.

Swirl, Sniff, Sip.

Categories: napa, sonoma, travel, wine | 5 Comments