Posts Tagged With: wine tasting

Revisiting some Kluge Wines

Being an owner at a wine shop has many advantages, one if which is tasting A LOT of wine. Most of what I taste is from all over the world with a small percentage of it being from here in Virginia. ( I should write a post about that!) Recently a new “rep” for Kluge winery presented myself and my staff with their current lineup. Having not had it in quite a while I was eager to give them a taste.  Over the years I have enjoyed Kluge wines but have had certain concerns in the past. One was their pricing when they got started about 5 years ago – they were crazy! That was quickly and thankfully corrected and I think their prices are excellent for the quality the wines deliver.  The second is the sort of sterile turn the tasting room took with the presentation of their wines. When they first started the wines were tasted with an associate in nice stems. Now they are handed to you with a tasting sheet and served in tulip shaped test tubes, seriously. So needless to say, it is hard to really “evaluate” the wines. Last I checked that this was still the case.

That being said I was glad to taste them in my “home” environment in decent glasses with a person who was well versed in their juice. My two standouts were the 2005 Kluge Estate New World Red ($25) and the Kluge Estate SP Blanc de Blancs ($28). The New World Red is a traditional Bordeaux blend of mostly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and a splash of Malbec. It has some good age on it, and the tannins show it as they have integrated very nicely. A fruit forward style, especially for Virginia, with a nice balance of leather and dried herb notes, graced by a hint of mocha.  The Blanc de Blancs is a traditional Methode Champenoise made from 100% Chardonnay.  Lots of straw and sourdough notes mostly on the nose with rich pear, apple and persimmon notes on the palate. Balanced structure and beautiful tight bubbles.

Needless to say these are two wines I’ll most likely be adding to the Virginia Wine wall at the shop.


Categories: $20-$30, virginia wine, wine review | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

TasteCamp 2010 – Experiment gone awry!

I love wineries who get inventive with their tastings. Whether it’s cool flights, vintage comparisons or in this case comparisons between oak aging, it always brings out the geek in me. Unfortunately this was an experiment gone awry! Instead of one over oaked Chardonnay, this winery had three, well really four.  The cool experiment was three identical Chardonnays, the only difference being the oak they were aged in, French, American and Hungarian.  Sounds cool right?  I think the winemaker achieved his goal, we were evaluating wood, not wine.  We would have been better off sticking chunks of barrel in our mouth and topping it with an eyedropper of Chardonnay.  Honestly the oak was so overpowering, that was all I tasted.  Sounds harsh I know, but this could have been a really cool exercise.  But instead of evaluating the flavor of the wine, I was evaluating the flavor of the oak. To me it seemed that the oak was the focus, not the wine, and that’s where I think it went awry. I have been to plenty of tastings that mirror this type of experiment and it can be a really great learning especially when done blind.

Oak or no oak it’s a personal choice, just give me a little fruit to go along with it.  I didn’t see a whole lot of oak mis-treatment over the weekend in the Finger Lakes, but Chardonnay and Merlot seemed to stand out as two varieties that can’t handle new wood.  Not sure why that is!  It would be great to see Chablis style Chardonnays out of the Finger Lakes.  With the acidity and minerality that the Rieslings show, teasing/expressing those in a Chardonnay would make a great wine.  Obviously this is my opinion, and plenty of people like OAK BOMBS, but I prefer a little more subtlety.


Categories: Taste Camp | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

TasteCamp 2010 Day 1: Part 1

Driving up the East side of Keuka Lake I was engrossed with the beauty of the Finger Lakes region, which I continued to soak in for the next three days. This drive took me to our first stop for Taste Camp 2010, Heron Hill Winery, for our first Grand Tasting and our first sample of what the region has to offer.  We had 9 wineries pouring for us and I am happy to say I was able to make it through all the wineries, giving ample time to diagnose each one.  Rather than bore you with 50 tasting notes, I’ll hit you with the highlights of the day. I would first like to thank Heron Hill for hosting us and providing a fabulous lunch (in conjuction with the Finger Lakes Wine Country).  Thanks also to all the wineries that poured their juice. I always admire wineries willing to show themselves to “critics” eager to pick apart their hard work and dedication to an art they devote so much time to.

As as side note, I will say the weekend as a whole provided the opportunity to taste a slew of new grape varieties, helping add some slots to my Wine Century Club checklist.

On to my highlights…

Heron Hill 2002 Riesling – aromas and flavors of petrol, lime, slate and pear juice; full bodied and still providing gripping acidity. I liked this wine a lot but the finish could have been a bit longer.

Keuka Spring 2007 Epic Reserve (Cabernet Sauvigon, Cab. Franc, Merlot) – nice red fruit with hints of cherry, spice, mocha and smoke. Full bodied and quite smooth with leathery tannins at the finish.

McGregor 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve – Big notes of black fruit including black cherry and plum with hints of fig and a good dose of red currant running through the mid palate. All of this complimented with nice “green” edges and a delicate, yet full bodied structure.

Imagine Moore 2009 Sauvignon Blanc – whoa, did I step into New Zealand for a second? Notes of grapefruit, cat pee, asparagus, citrus and mineral overtones. Wow, impressive! Razor sharp acidity.

Interesting varieties that I tried that didn’t knock me over were: Vergennes, Noiret, Valvin Muscat, and Vignoles. Of all of these that I tried the Valvin Muscat impressed me the most. I felt the variety was a bit too “soapy” though, and reminded me of my grandmother’s bathroom. After talking to Evan, he said it reminded him of a “potpourri box” which was spot on description of the varietal.

All in all the first two hours of TasteCamp were a taste of a great weekend to come, with wonderful wines and regional personality. I couldn’t wait until the nest stop on our Finger Lakes adventure.

Stay tuned to Anything Wine for more TasteCamp stories.


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“Killing it” with 2004 MonteMaggiore Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah

2004 MonteMaggiore Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah

About this time last year I visited and wrote about MonteMaggiore Vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County. When I have wines from California (or elsewhere) that I know I can’t get easily, it makes it hard to drink it. Well, I had two wines left from MonteMaggiore, one being their 2004 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah, which I opened last night.

After I pulled the cork I noticed a good 1/8th of an inch of sediment on the end of it, so I made sure to run it through the little mesh screen as it went into the decanter.

Check out the details:

Varietal Blend: 95% Syrah, 5% Cabernet

Appellation: Dry Creek Valley

Average Sugar at Harvest: 27.0° Brix

Alcohol: 4.7%

Cooperage: 70% French, 30% American

Percentage New Oak: 48%

Cases Produced: 400

This wine was just jumping out of the glass, I believe my tweet about it last night was precisely that “the ’04 MonteMaggiore Syrah is killing it!” Well it kept killing it with rich, layered, Syrah goodness leaving me both happy and sad, realizing with each sip I was closer to the end of my last bottle of this wine.

My Tasting Notes:

Nose: blackberry, bacon, black currant

Taste: cassis, black currant, cinnamon, cedar black pepper and “suede”

Mouthfeel: full body, rich, leathery tannins that are starting to settle down, but still going strong

Finish: long

If you have a bottle of this, or can find a bottle, it is drinking great right now and I highly recommend it!


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

Weekend Palate Wrap Up

For Monday I think I will start a new series in which I review everything I drank, tasted, sipped from Friday through Sunday and where I had it. Friday’s will be padded because of the tasting at The Wine Cellar.

At the Wine Cellar

J Cuvee 20 Brut Sparkling – yeasty sourdough bread, apple, pear and citrus, crisp with pretty tight bubbles, medium bodied – very nice

2007 Helfrich Pinot Gris Vin D’Alsace – melon, almond and a hint of petrol with a hint of lemon zest towards the finish and a touch of sweetness.

2006 Schloss Reinhartshausen Old Vine Riesling – petrol and slate laced with light fruit notes of apricot, peach and Asian pear.

2007 Carmel Road Pinot Noir Monterey – plum and cherry up front on the nose with a mixture of cedar, plum and raspberry on the palate. Medium to full bodied.

2006 J Lohr Fog’s Reach Vineyard Pinot Noir Arroyo Seco – beautiful aromas of cola, raspberry, dried cherries and mint. Full bodied palate filled with cedar, vanilla and more dark fruit flavors of black cherry, boysenberry and cola again on the finish.

At Tandoori Tikka and Kebab Indian Restaurant

2008 Covey Run Riesling – fairly simple effort, apple and apricot notes with a hint of petrol. Medium bodied with a good off dry sweetness that was perfect for the spicy Indian food.

At Home

2008 Valley of the Moon Unoaked Chardonnay – aromas of apple, pear and slight hints of tropical fruit. Light and fairly simple medium bodied palate of apple and honeydew melon, crisp and clean finish.

Cafe Catura

Southern Tier India Pale Ale – light amber color, beautiful hop and slight malt aromas, fairly fruity and nice bitterness. Paired well with our vegetarian chili and veggie panini.

At Home

2006 Terlato Pinot Noir – Aromas of sweet campfire, blueberry, Indian spices and vanilla. Flavor profile dominated by plum, fig and tangerine with interesting notes of tamarind, sage cola and cherry.

In green were my favorites.


Categories: Weekend Palate Wrap Up | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Trained wine tasters think more about their sips

After reading the story in the Wall Street Journal about “Why wine ratings are badly flawed?” it got me thinking. Not about wine ratings because that part of the article I agree with, wine ratings are subjective, and can generally be inconsistent across various types of “raters”. I’ve always thought it weird that one wine in Spectator can get a “90” and then in Enthusiast receive a “78” or vice versa.

There is a rich history of scientific research questioning whether wine experts can really make the fine taste distinctions they claim. For example, a 1996 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that even flavor-trained professionals cannot reliably identify more than three or four components in a mixture, although wine critics regularly report tasting six or more.”

The above comment is the one that got me thinking and one that I disagree with. Personally I know that I can taste more than 3 distinct flavors in any wine. Also, my years working in Sensory Research did many studies with trained panelists in which they identified more than three components in a mixture. I tried to find the study with no avail and was kind of disturbed that the author of the article in the WSJ didn’t put in any reference to the exact article. So, I couldn’t look at that particular study and examine exactly how that experiment was conducted.

In searching for some rebuttal papers I came across a cool article that I remember reading years back in the Journal “NeuroImage”. Using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) this study showed that trained wine tasters, in this case 7 sommeliers, showed higher brain function when it came to tasting wine versus untrained wine consumers.

A larger and well-defined cerebral network elicited by wine tasting was identified in sommeliers compared to naïve subjects that included the left insula and adjoining caudal orbitofrontal cortex, the left putamen, the right inferior frontal gyrus (opercular portion), and the inferior portion of the middle frontal gyrus in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) bilaterally.”

…A final intriguing finding was the consistent activation in sommeliers of the inferior DLPFC. In this region the BOLD signal time-course peaked initially during the taste period and then well after the cue to swallow had been given, suggesting higher cognitive processing modulated by expertise.”

So basically the paper is saying that people trained in wine tasting have a additional cognitive processing that is linking both taste, olfactory and somatosensory sensations together to evaluate the wine. Pretty cool! With all this extra brain functioning going on, I don’t know how someone who is a trained taster could not detect more than three flavors in a wine or a mixture.

If anybody knows the exact journal number that was referenced in this WSJ article let me know, I would love to look at it.



MLODINOW, LEONARD. “A Hint of Hype, A Taste of Illusion.” Wall Street Journal 14 Nov 2009,

Castriota-Scanderbeg, Alessandro, Gisela Hagberg, Antonio Cerasa, and Giorgia Committeri. “The appreciation of wine by sommeliers: a functional magnetic resonance study of sensory integration.” NeuroImage. 25.2 (2005): 570-578.

Categories: wine education | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Holiday Wine Tasting at Enoteca Sogno

A couple weekends ago, Gary York from Enoteca Sogno invited us to his holiday open house and wine tasting. We went of course, I mean come on, great Italian wine and food who wouldn’t!




Two of our favorite appetizers were out to share, the crostini with white beans & arugula and the roasted red peppers & fresh mozzarella along with 4 or 5 great cheeses. 11 wines were out for us to serve ourselves with that Gary had ordered in a nice progression that we followed. It was quite relaxing, and a great way to spend a Sunday evening. Plenty of table space for you to take your glass of wine, grab some apps, and sit down and discuss the wines.


The Wines –


Cantina Montelliana Prosecco (Veneto) $10 – very nice apple and yeast aromas, tight crisp bubbles with nutty and slight caramel notes on the palate


2006 Casamatta Vermintino (Tuscany) $13.50 – violet and almond on the nose, apple and pear flavors, very round – could’ve used a bit more acidity


2007 Cantina del Taburno Falanghina (Campania) $18 – mineral, tropical fruit and honey on the nose with similar flavors and a dash of almond. Rich flavors but crisp refreshing mouthfeel.


2007 Caldaro Lagrein (Alto Adige) $13.50 – espresso and dark fruit on the nose, black currant and black cherry flavors, medium to full body with fairly mellow tannins


2006 Cantele Primitivo (Puglia) $13 – blackberry, plum and suede on the nose followed by a hint of cabbage, cranberry and cherry. Good long finish.



Tweeting the action

2007 Domaine les Grands Bois Cotes du Rhone “Cuvee les Trois Soeurs” (Rhone) $13 – anise and dark fruit up front, black currant, leather and black pepper flavors led to the wonderfully spicy finish


2006 Felsina Chianti Classico (Tuscany) $21 – raisin, tomato juice and chocolate on the nose with nice sweet cedar, pine and green pepper on the palate. Medium body, nice and well balanced structure


2004 Corte alla Flora Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Tuscany) $23 – dirt, earth, leather and raspberry on the nose with toast and cranberry flavors and a very dry long finish.


2006 Vajra Langhe Rosso (Piedmont) $13.50 – black peppercorn, and ripe red fruit on the nose that switched to darker flavors of fig and blueberry on the palate. Nice easy drinking, well balanced red.


2006 Sori Paitin Barbera d’ Alba Serra Boella (Piedmont) $18 – blueberry and cherry nose with red currant, baby spinach leaves and clay flavors. Nice Barbera, had an interesting touch of effervescence on the tongue.


2003 Guido Porro Barolo Vigna Santa Caterina (Piedmont) $36 – very “rustic” in nature, raspberry, leather and cooked greens on the nose with similar flavors laced with a hint of bacon and red currant. BIG tannins, needs a couple more years or some time in the decanter




We had a great line up as you can see and thus a fabulous time as always. The prices next to the bottle names are all retail. In case you didn’t know (I didn’t) Gary sells all the wine on his wine list at pretty amazing prices. There aren’t too many places in town, especially restaurants, that you can get a great Barolo for under $40.


Make sure to keep an eye out over on Grove Avenue for Gary’s newest restaurant Coast which he “hopes” to have open in a few weeks.




Enoteca Sogno

2043 West Broad Street

Richmond, VA 23220

Enoteca Sogno on Urbanspoon

Categories: wine tasting | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Back Vintage Bordeaux Tasting at Bella Vino – December 18th 8:00-9:00

This Thursday Brad and the team at Bella Vino Stony Point have pulled together some great back vintage Bordeaux bottles for you to try.



Here’s the list:


Chateau Ducasse Bordeaux Blanc 2007
Chateau Simard St.-Emilion 1998
Chateau Le Castelet Pomerol 1998
Le Pardre de Haut Bailly Leognan 2001
Chateau Les Ormes de Pez St.-Estephe 2002

*Palate Cleanser*

Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac 1999
Chateau Lagrange St.-Julien 2005
Chateau St.-Pierre St.-Julien 1985


Tickets are $20pp or $32 for two


If you are free this Thursday December 18th from 8:00 – 9:00, don’t miss a great opportunity to taste some rare finds from the Bordeaux region.


Make sure to call and let the shop know you plan to attend.

Bella Vino Stony Point
(804) 272-3202



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A Krazy visit to KAZ Winery and Vineyard


We visited Kaz Vineyard and Winery on our first day in Sonoma and it was by far the smallest winery that I have visited in California. Producing around 1000 cases on average, Kaz focuses on small lot bold red blends and unique grape varietals all with their own zany Kaz twist. Owner and winemaker Richard Kasimer (Kaz) says this is a complete family operation, with some part of the winemaking process is handled by a member(s) of the family, right down to the website.




Despite Kaz’s crazy persona, his wines are no joke. Kaz is located in the beautiful Valley of the Moon, in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. During our visit both Kaz and his son were on hand to take us through the tasting of 12 of their hand crafted wines.


2007 Trixies Secret Nebbiolo Rosa (Rose style wine from the Nebbiolo grape) – nice pink color, aromas and flavors of strawberry with flavors of watermelon jolly rancher, with nice minerality and a touch of spice at the finish


2005 Hooligans (100% Grenache) – smoke, red currant and roast beef aromas, with similar flavors laced with vanilla and leather


2005 Sarah Nader Zinfandel – cocoa and blueberry with dry herbs and cocoa at the end with a peppery finish


2005 Plunge (100% Sangiovese) – very nice mouthfeel and tight acidity with cherry earth and cinnamon flavors


NV Kazorouge (red blend) – nice easy drinking red with nice chocolate aromas on the nose, raspberry and cherry flavors


2005 Bob’s Aria (100% Barbera) – very round and full mouthfeel, nice red fruit and a healthy dose of earthiness, very nice


2005 Melodrama (100% Malbec) – predominately smoke and earth on the nose with lots of dark fruit flavors on the palate highlighted by black currant


2005 Say Rah (100% Syrah) – blueberry, blackberry and boysenberry flavors and aromas, nice acidity and mouthfeel and a hint of olive at the finish


2005 Outbound (100% Cabernet Franc) – cherry and spicy green pepper, with nice eucalyptus and cranberry flavors


2003 Champs (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) – huge tannins, chocolate, spice, black currant and touches of tobacco leaf


White Port (Chardonnay) – nice almond, vanilla and butterscotch, yum!


Red Port (Barbera, Zin and Cabernet) – mocha, raisin and fig



We enjoyed all the wines in the line up and it was an extreme pleasure to taste with Kaz and his son.  Kaz is a hoot to taste with, a total ball of energy that could get even the casual winery goer fired up! After we tasted, Kaz walked us around the facility, Megan and I even got to punch the cap on some fermenting Zin.  Next time you are in the Sonoma Valley make to take time and taste Kaz’s small artesian wines. You can also check out Kaz on Wine Biz Radio with friend and show host Randy Hall.




KAZ Winery

233 Adobe Canyon Rd.
Kenwood, CA 95452

Categories: sonoma | 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

Tasting in the shipyard – A visit to Rosenblum Cellars

Driving towards the ship yards on the island of Alameda across the bay from San Francisco isn’t a typical venue in which to find a winery. Our GPS assured us that we are in the right spot, as we round the corner and see our destination. Rosenblum Cellars originally started in a small building on the streets of San Fran and after moving to their current location in 1987, is now one of 6 wineries producing and bottling wine in Alameda.  Rosenblum built a name for themselves making single vineyard Zinfandels, sourced from all over California. Committed to quality, Kent Rosenblum keeps his eye on each of the vineyards they source from in order to produce a product that has garnered countless accolades.  

Farley and Megan

Farley and Megan

I was really excited to try the wines because we don’t get much of the single vineyard ones distributed here in Richmond, and I never see any of the white wines.  Lucky for me, the tasting room manager at the Alameda location is fellow blogger and friend Farley who offered to give the wife and I tasting and tour of the facility.  What a great way to start our California vacation, tasting and geeking out about wine an hour after our plane landed


The Whites


2006 Fess Parker Rousanne – rich in honey and pear juice, floral notes and fairly viscous – yum

2007 Kathy’s Cuvee Viognier – tons of apricot and peach on the nose, good combo of acidity and rich exotic mouthfeel, nice nectarine finish – double yum


The Reds


2005 Richard Sauret Zinfandel – raisin, fig, chocolate and black currant

2006 Kontrabecki Zinfandel – blueberry, blackberry with spicy black berry and dry finish, fairly big tannins – very nice structured Zin

2005 Harris Kratka  Zinfandel – more red fruit with red currant jam notes, touches of floral and a spicy leathery finish


rosenblum_barrelroom1At this point Farley thought it would be a good time to fill up our glass and explore the facility, and do some barrel sampling before we finished up on the tasting menu.  The barrel rooms were a flurry of activity, getting ready for their open house event that was coming up that weekend. Over here on your right are some barrels and over to your left are some more barrels.  After peaking in on the bottling line that was finishing up bottling of the new vintage of the chocolate dessert wine Desiree, we started our barrel sampling.


Barrel Samples


Richard Rhodes Carignane (sorry did jot down the vintage) – cherry, red currant tomato and all spice.

2007 Harris Kratka Zinfandel – lots of chocolate, raspberry and toasty oak at the finish

2007 Patio Vineyards Mourvedre – espresso, chocolate and black raspberry

2007 England Shaw Syrah – butter cream, smoke, black currant and spice, very nice


The Reds Continued


2005 England Shaw Syrah – cooked fruit, cooked veggies and a hint of funk, tasted a bit off

2006 Rominger Syrah – hint of banana, chocolate liquer, blackberry and green bean, slight leathery aromas

2006 Rockpile Syrah – coffee, chocolate, cranberry sauce, black currant jam, green pepper

Desiree – chocolate and vanilla extract goodness



rosenblum_meganjohnAlbeit an unusual location for a winery, the wines are extremely good and I wish we could get more of the small lot ones here in VA. For lovers of California Zin and new world style Rhone varietals this is a must stop for you, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  In addition to the Alameda tasting room, there is also a tasting room on the square in Healdsburg.


Thanks again to Farley for being a great host and giving us the VIP treatment, we had a great time, as I said what a perfect way to start a vacation.




Alameda Tasting Room

Open daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
2900 Main Street in Alameda
Minutes from San Francisco
Phone: 510-865-7007
Fax: 510-865-9225


Healdsburg Tasting Room

Open Daily 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Center Street
Healdsburg, CA  95448
Phone: 707-431-1169
Fax: 707-431-0508

Categories: wine tasting | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Wine Tasting at MonteMaggiore with Lise Ciolino

After leaving the directions back at the B&B and missing the turn-off twice, we made our way up the windy hillside road to MonteMaggiore. We parked at the winery, which is on a hilltop perched above the town of Healdsburg, and has a magnificent view of the Dry Creek Valley and surrounding mountains. 


We walked through the giant steel doors which were custom-made for the winery, and were greeted by winemaker and owner Lise Ciolini, who was gracious enough to give us a personal tasting and tour of the winery and vineyard.  Immediately our glasses were filled with the 2005 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah and we made our way up to the top of the vineyard at an elevation of 750 feet.  Lise explained the history of the vineyard which she and her husband purchased in 2001 as a 55 acre estate with 10 acres of planted vines—5 of Cabernet Sauvignon and 5 of Syrah.  In 2002 they replanted about 2000 vines of Syrah, naming it Paolo’s Vineyard, the first vintage of which was bottled in 2004. Currently the vineyard is primarily Syrah, with a small amount (I think around 1 acre) of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is primarily used for blending. 

Lise atop Paolo's Vineyard

Lise atop Paolo

Standing in the unseasonably warm weather atop the vineyard was a beautiful experience. Drinking wine in the vineyard where it was born is something magical that even non wine geeks should experience sometime in their life. Paolo’s vineyard, named for Lise’s 6 year old son is managed by her husband Vincent. The vineyards at MonteMaggiore are completely organic, right down to their lawnmowers, which are 12 sheep that roam the property. MonteMaggiore (great mountain) a truly fitting name for this hilltop oasis is named for the small hilltop village in Italy where Vincent’s family farmed the land.



montemaggiore_tastingHeading back down into the winery, we gathered around the small tasting table which was back dropped by a Hercules basket press, the Roles Royce of basket presses.  Surrounded by barrels, we were poured glasses of the 2004 Superiore (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah). The glass was filled with aromas of chocolate, blackberry and green bean, and flavors of blueberry, eucalyptus and chalky spicy finish. 


As we imbibed the wonderfully dark elixir, Lise filled us in on her early experiences with wine and her initial romance with the wines of Hermitage after a family trip to France. This love of the Syrah-based wines from the Rhone valley led to the focus of MonteMaggiore on the varietal. Family, quality and a minimalist approach to winemaking are what lead to the great small lot bottlings of Lise and her husband Vincent at MonteMaggiore.


The 2004 Paolo’s Vineyard Syrah was even better than the 2005, which surprised me as it was from younger vines.  The 2004 had more dark fruit and meaty flavors on the nose versus the 2005, with red currant, black pepper and mentholyptus on the palate, followed by great spice, a good acidic grip and mellow tannins at the finish.


Before we left, we tasted the wine that brought me to MonteMaggiore in the first place. After having the 2005 Nobile (60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah) at the Wine Bloggers Conference, I knew I had to visit the site where these grapes were grown.  The nose was filled with predominately bright raspberry and cinnamon, followed by rich mocha, blackberry, eucalyptus, and pine on the palate. The mouthfeel was smooth and round with well integrated tannins, and a long chocolaty finish. 

It is impressive what Lise and Vincent have done at their winery in such a short period of time. Their commitment to quality is evident, and Lise’s passion bleeds through the dark juice that fills the bottles bearing the winery’s label.

winery tank room

winery tank room




Thanks to Lise for taking the time to give us a tour and tasting of their wines—Megan  and I had a great time.




2355 West Dry Creek Road

Healdsburg, CA 95448

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

A Picture Is Worth a 1000 Words – or 3 Cases of Wine!

Megan and I just got back from California so a plethora of posts for our trip are forthcoming. We had a great time (how could you not) and some great visits with some other bloggers (Patrick and Farley) and various winemakers. Not to mention a whole host of wonderful tasting room associates.  Below is a picture of our haul from the trip, three cases of wine and a bottle of olive oil.





Here is the list of wineries that we visited, from Santa Cruz to Sonoma and Napa Valley, and some in between.



Savannah Chanelle


V Sattui

Gloria Ferrer

Bonny Doon

Thomas Fogarty







Eric Ross

Ehlers Estate

Elizabeth Spencer






Papapietro Perry



Stay tuned…



Categories: wine tasting | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Riding the Rhone train, Organically!

Finding a really good Rhone wine for $15 dollars or under can be a hard enough challenge, but finding one that is $15 and organic would seem near impossible. Not that I went looking for a wine that fulfilled these two requirements, but it did peak my interest when I saw an organic Cotes du Rhone at a Barrel Thief tasting back in June. We decided to pull out the 2006 Perrin & Fils Cote du Rhone “Nature” with some of our Tofu Parmesan the other night.


The fully organic Ecocert certified grapes come from a single vineyard located in the commune of Tulette. Soil on this site consists of a chalky clay consistency and lies at an elevation of 144 meters. The 2006 “Nature” is a blend of primarily Grenache (95%) and Syrah (5%).


My Tasting Notes

Color – garnet

Nose – Boysenberry, spiced meat, barny, marshmallow, suede

Taste – Eucalyptus, cherry, plum, thyme

Mouthfeel – Medium body, dry smooth velvety tannins

Finish – lots of cherry flavor, and long in length


This was a great wine, and a great value, and a bonus for this tree huggin’ environmentalist that it was produced organically. Not that I think it tasted better because it was organic, but I just appreciated that it was. This was the 7 layer cake of wines, dark fruit, good earthy “stinkiness”, herbs, and vegetables and even the unusual marshmallow note. Not a bad deal for fifteen bucks. This is very well distributed so you should be able to find it in your local wine shop.


Categories: $10-$20, Rhone Wines, wine tasting | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Wine Blogging Wednesday #48 – Back to your roots! – Happy 4th B-day!!

This Wednesday WBW celebrates its 4th birthday and befittingly the founder of WBW (Lenn Thompson) has selected the topic for this month, Back to your roots. For #48 Lenn wanted us take a trip down memory lane and find the wine that started our journey into the wine world, re-taste it and of course right about it, then and now.


I had a hard time with this one, first because I forgot about it (not the first time) and second because I really can’t pinpoint my “Ah Ha” moment with wine to a single bottle.  So I veered off topic slightly here, but my magic bottle is more like a magic experience.  I had heard of this magic thing called “wine tasting”, where you could visit a winery, taste their wines, talk about them with the winemaker perhaps and see exactly where the grapes came from that provided the juice for your glass of wine.  I was in disbelief but soon found out that this was in actuality happening all over the state and all over the world. So with my in-laws and my wife we proceeded West to the Monticello region of Virginia to partake in some wine tasting.


On that day we visited one of the largest and probably the most celebrated winery in Virginia, Barboursville Vineyards. It opened my eyes completely to the scene of “wine enthusing” and I have been hooked ever since.  An addict for information, I was amazed at all that I could learn about who, what, when and where when it came to what I was drinking.


So at the time I didn’t take notes, so I don’t have anything to compare notes to, but I did drink a Merlot while I was there, and I luckily happened to have a bottle in my cellar from a visit a few months ago. If I did have notes, I am sure they would have been something like this: “um, it’s red, tastes pretty good, I like it” or something to that effect. Haha


My notes on the current 2006 Barboursville Merlot

Color – Garnet

Nose – Blackberry, cherry, vanilla, leather, tomato paste

Taste – Blueberry, cherry cola, kale, black peppercorn

Mouthfeel – medium body, decent amount of acidity, smooth tannins

Finish – Medium to long in length with thyme and cherry tomato and clove flavors lingering on the palate 

This was a great Merlot in a world that has been harsh to the varietal lately.  Barboursville produces a very approachable version, that is definitely ready to drink now but could hang around for a few more years if you can resist temptation.  Fruit forward but not in your face, with good vegetal and herb notes providing complexity and depth not often found in a Merlot costing $14.99 from Virginia.


So Happy Birthday WBW!!



Categories: $10-$20, virginia wine, Wine Blogging Wednesday, wine review | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments