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Date: Sunday, 28 Sep 2014 01:32

box_o_wine.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week's samples included the inaugural releases from a new project out of the Thomas Fogarty Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Known primarily for their Pinot Noir, which has become exceptionally good under the careful hand of winemaker Nathan Kandler, Fogarty has now embarked on a new Bordeaux varietal program under a label called Lexington. Their initial wines look quite promising in their restraint. They're so new, however, that there aren't sources to purchase it online.

For whatever reason, California Chenin Blanc is quite a rare thing, but if there was one brand that would do this variety justice, it would be the Cabernet-Franc-centered Lang & Reed wine company. Their newly released Chenin Blanc is a wonderful mouthful of everything that makes Chenin enjoyable.

Look for these, as well as a couple nice Pinots from Dutton-Goldfield, and a couple of hefty Cabernets below!


2011 Lexington "Gist Ranch Estate" Cabernet Franc, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of plums and Nutella. In the mouth flavors of crushed nuts, chocolate, and plum skin mix with a faint earthiness. Excellent acidity makes for a juicy plum skin zap to the flavors, and a nice medium body makes the wine easy to drink. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45

2013 Alpha Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Florina, Amyndeon, Greece
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of gooseberries and green apples. In the mouth an interesting combination of green olive and gooseberry flavor has a distinctly saline cast (adding to the sensation of green olive). Excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20 click to buy.

2013 Lang & Reed Chenin Blanc, Mendocino, California
Palest blonde in color, this wine smells of cooked quince, baked apples, and lemon juice. In the mouth quince and lemon juice flavors have a wonderful bright minerality and a great length. A challk-dust dryness lingers in the finish. One of the better Chenins from California quintessa_2011.jpg I've had. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9 . Cost: $25 click to buy.

2012 Dutton-Goldfield "McDougall Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of fresh raspberries and black raspberries. In the mouth, rich raspberry, cherry, and cranberry fruit has a wonderful brisk mineral backbone to it and excellent acidity. Darker than in the last few vintages, the wine is nonetheless quite tasty. Long finish.14.1% alcohol Score: around 9. Cost: $45

2012 Dutton-Goldfield "Fox Den Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Green Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and raspberry leaf. In the mouth, subtle raspberry flavors are shot through with wet stone and green herbs. The wine has a wonderful balance between fruit and more savory herbal notes, and a stony tightness that may need some time in the bottle to blossom. Very pretty and restrained. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2011 Lexington "Gist Ranch Estate" Merlot, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and black plum with hints of green herbs. In the mouth, black cherry, green herbs, and a nice stony quality mix under a gauze of barely perceptible tannins. A savory sour cherry note lingers in the finish. Very tasty. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $??

2011 Lexington "Gist Ranch Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black olive, black cherry, and cedar. In the mouth, savory cedar, black cherry and a hint of raspberry fruit has a wonderfully bright acidity and mixed herb quality that is very charming. Understated and beautifully balanced. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??

2011 Lexington "Apex" Red Blenf, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, cherry, chocolate, and crushed herbs. In the mouth, wonderfully savory black cherry and woodsmoke. Fantastic savory notes linger in the finish with fine grained tannins. This wine is 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Merlot. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

2011 La Jota Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of ripe cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, rich cherry and black cherry fruit mixes with a touch of graphite, green herbs, and wet stones. Restrained and mineral, as one might expect from a colder rainy year, but as far as I am concerned, much the better for it. Excellent. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $70 click to buy.

2011 Quintessa Proprietary Red Wine, Rutherford, Napa, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and woodsmoke. In the mouth, rich black cherry, cocoa powder, and new oak flavors are nicely knit together under a blanket of fleecy tannins. Excellent acidity and the restrained ripeness of a cooler year makes for a very nice package. The vanilla of new oak lingers in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $155 click to buy.

2011 Flora Springs Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, rich, and faintly sweet black cherry, tobacco, and cola flavors have a nice smoothness to them. Faint, powdery tannins dust the palate, and the wine has a wonderful plush quality going down. Rich and ripe, especially for a cooler year. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $115



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Author: "--" Tags: "Wine Reviews"
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Date: Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 04:35

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It is with great pleasure that I announce the official publishing and general availability of my book The Essence of Wine. It arrived at the warehouse a few days ago and is now available for purchase here on Vinography for $75 plus shipping costs.

The road to get to this point has been a long and occasionally tedious one, but I'm thrilled to have completed this odyssey of self publishing, and with a product of which I am very proud. The book is gorgeous and everything I hoped it would be. I hope you'll agree.

BOOK SIGNINGS!
I'm going to be doing book signings, beginning with the most logical place, Omnivore Books here in San Francisco. Omnivore is ground zero for food and wine and culinary books of all kinds in San Francisco, and I'm thrilled to be holding my first signing of the book there.

I'll be there on Saturday October 4th, from 3 to 4 PM. There will be wine to drink and books to buy and get signed if you so desire. Or you can just stop by and say hi!

There will be other signings, too. In Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, and more.

Thank you to all of you for your support through this process, whether you were one of my Kickstarter backers, or just one of my readers that cheered me on.

Hope to see you next weekend!



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Author: "--" Tags: "Ramblings and Rants, The Essence of Wine"
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Date: Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 03:42

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Spring Carpet
A carpet of green sits under vines after a wet winter in Sonoma County as the sun sets into the fog.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops.

To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these.

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Author: "--" Tags: "Vinography Images"
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Date: Wednesday, 24 Sep 2014 05:27

California is by most measures, the eighth largest economy in the world. And of the state's $2.05 Trillion domestic production, wine makes up more than $51 Billion, or about 2.5% of the economy.

As we might expect, the California state legislature, therefore, pays some serious attention to the wine industry. Occasionally they do quite well by the industry. Such as the recent and incredibly sensible bill that would allow students who are not yet of drinking age, but who are enrolled in wine studies classes to actually taste wine without fear of arrest for them or criminal charges for their universities. It's hard to argue with the logic of that.

But then there are times that you are left scratching your head and wondering what in the hell the folks in Sacramento could be thinking.

Witness this summer's complete fiasco with Proposition 65. This proposition, officially known as "The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986" has one main implication for California citizens. It forces the state government to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or harm fetuses, and also forces all facilities who use, store, or sell those substances to post public notices that they are harmful.

Perhaps you've seen one of these at your local gas station?

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That's all fine and dandy when we're talking about gasoline vapors or toxic chemicals right?

Well, it turns out that one of the substances known to cause cancer or "reproductive harm" in the State of California happens to be alcohol.

And that means, according to the law, that every business or person "who manufactures, produces, assembles, processes, handles, distributes, stores, sells, or otherwise transfers a consumer product" containing alcohol is LEGALLY REQUIRED to post the following sign at a size of no smaller than 5 inches by 5 inches by every point of sale:

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This means that every restaurant, every retailer, every tasting room, every winery, every warehouse, every distribution center, any place that is involved with the sale of wine needs to have these notices posted.

That's definitely more than a bit onerous, of course, but being forced to put up these signs isn't the real problem with the law. The real problem has nothing to do with putting up the signs, and everything to do with who is liable if they are not put up.

You see, you might imagine, if you were an eminently logical person, that had a restaurant or liquor store failed to post this legally required warning, they might be penalized by the state.

But in fact the retailers aren't on the hook for the penalty, THE PRODUCER IS. Yes, you heard that right. If your local wine shop sells you a bottle and they are found to not have their prop 65 sign up at the right size, in the right place, whoever made that bottle of wine can get sued or fined (if they have more than 10 employees).

Some idiot actually designed the law this way, thinking that the best people to put on the hook for violations were the manufacturers of those horribly dangerous substances from which the law is designed to protect us.

Needless to say, the California wine industry wasn't too happy about this when a lawsuit filed this summer brought the whole situation of liability to light.

Various industry bodies managed to negotiate a court judgment that all wine producers can opt into, but they must pay a fee to do so (based on the size of their production). If they don't opt in and don't pay the fee, they remain liable for any and all lawsuits filed because retailers fail to post the proper signs.

The kicker to all of this? Because Proposition 65 was a ballot proposition, the state government can't actually amend the law to have it make more sense.

It's enough to drive you to drink.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Ramblings and Rants"
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Date: Tuesday, 23 Sep 2014 06:29

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Winemaker Erich Krutzler has carried a lot of baggage in his life. At 46 he is still a relatively young man, but when he smiles from under his mop of slightly graying bangs, you can see the miles he has traveled in the corners of his eyes.

Even leaving aside the difficulty of purchasing vineyards in the very limited market of Austria's Wachau valley, beginning a wine label wasn't going to be easy for Krutzler. For starters, there was the long shadow of Blaufränkisch to step away from. Krutzler was partners with Roland Velich when he began the MORIC project, and thanks to the remarkable wines, his name had become synonymous with Blaufränkisch.

"People would say 'Oh, here comes Mr. Red Wine from Burgenland,'" laughs Krutzler. "And look, he's with Mrs. Pichler, the posh lady from Wachau."

Marrying the daughter of FX Pichler, arguably the most famous winemaker in the Wachau, added its own set of expectations and pressures. And that was before he and his wife moved in with her parents.

"It's not so easy to live in the same house as FX Pichler and do your own thing," says Krutzler, who has made a conscious effort to forge his own style of wines, even under the watchful eye of his father-in-law. "It's hard. I've known her father 15 years longer than I've known my wife."

The wines of FX Pichler resemble the bold, modern winery a few kilometers down the road, whereas the wines that bear the names of his daughter and her husband more resemble the quiet garden behind their stately salmon-colored home just off the main thoroughfare in the village of Oberloiben.

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"I began making wines with my brother at our family winery, Krutzler in 1986," explains Krutzler. "This was a good time. We were a small family winery with three brothers. The youngest, he was the one with the education, so it was always clear that I would leave."

Without the family winery to run, Krutzler cast about for another place to indulge the passion for winemaking that had been cultivated since childhood. With his good friend Uwe Schiefer, he talked about maybe moving to Hungary and beginning a wine project there.

Two possibilities appeared almost simultaneously, and the brash young Krutzler embraced them both. The first was the work in Burgenland that would become the MORIC project in partnership with Roland Velich. The second was the opportunity to begin a winery in Slovenia on the site of an old monastery.

It quickly became apparent that Krutzler couldn't do both.

"I was putting 60,000 kilometers on my car every year. I left the MORIC project before harvest in 2003 to focus on Slovenia. It was a good project. I thought I would stay my whole life there."

After replanting 90 acres of vineyard and building a winery on a 50 Million Euro budget, Krutzler found himself the director, the winemaker, and the salesman for a project with big ambitions, but headed in a decidedly more commercial direction than he desired. Sensing his discomfort, the project backers brought in another Austrian to make and sell the lower-end wines, with the hopes that Krutzler would focus on the top end, but his heart was not in it.

"That was the year my daughter was born," recalls Krutzler, "In 2006 I was sitting in an office without any wine."

After leaving that project Krutzler again found himself unmoored for a time. "All my friends had started much earlier, and were on their way. I was thinking I might do something with my family. My father told me I needed to just make some wine, and we found some Blaufränkisch, and that was our first idea."

But within a year Krutzler had begun consulting on another Slovenian wine project. "I would leave [the Wachau] at 4:00 AM and drive 300 kilometers to go to work. It was crazy," says Krutzler, shaking his head.

"But then FX came to me and said 'I will help you find some vineyards in the Wachau' and that, in a way, was his permission to do something else."

Krutzler and his wife, with the help of his father-in-law, secured leases on several acres of vineyards in select parcels in nearby villages and in 2007 began making small quantities of wine in a tiny rented cellar in nearby Unterloiben. The facility is so small that they had to rent another small cellar space to hold their few thousand bottles.

"Now I am in the vineyards and with my kids instead of in the car," smiles Krutzler, who transitioned to being purely a consultant on his last Slovenian project in 2010.

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In 2012 Pichler-Krutzler bought a few small vineyard parcels, including some 60 year-old vines in the well-known Pfaffenberg vineyard, bringing the project's total acreage to about 25, and the total production to about 4800 cases of wine, split across six Grüner Veltliners and seven Rieslings.

"We are still on our way, but we have found our way," muses Krutzler, perfectly capturing the confidence and presence of his wines, while at the same time clearly understanding that he and his wife are at the beginning of their journey as a winery.

The sensibility into which he has settled will make fans of many who delight in the understated and restrained side of the Wachau. "I am the more old fashioned Wachau," says Krutzler. "I want to go back to the late Eighties and early Nineties."

Krutzler prefers acidity to ripeness. ("We had 7.7 grams of acidity in my Trum Riesling, and so I couldn't even sell it as Federspiel") and aims to keep his wines in tank and barrel on the lees as long as possible. He likes to keep them in bottle as long as possible before releasing them to market as well ("We would like to sell our wines even later, but even selling them in October, we are almost the last to sell"). Krutzler also aims for a slightly more oxidative style of winemaking, eschewing sulfur additions during fermentation, and using a mix of native and cultivated yeasts as he does a mix of stainless and large barrel fermentation vessels.

When I ask Krutzler how he came to this more traditionalist approach, he laughs. Describing his first harvest he recalls, "My wife came to me and said 'why are you starting harvest today!?' and I realized I was coming from the red wine [which is usually harvested earlier than whites]."

He shrugs. "My wines from those years are a little...." He completes his sentence by making a serpentine motion with his hands. "But now I have found my way."

Krutzler is basically a one-man cellar crew. His wife Elisabeth takes care of sales, but helps him with "all the major decisions" with the wine. He has "a couple of guys from Macedonia" that help him harvest, and if he's lucky, his mother-in-law will also help manage things in the vineyards.

Now with seven vintages under their belts, Krutzler says he is happy with their size and their style. "We want to build a new cellar, but it is hard to find a place and I'm not sure I want to do it," says Krutzler. "A little improvisation and I'm fine."

Seventy percent of the couple's production is exported, and the thirty that remains in Austria has slowly gained acclaim. "It's all slowly starting to work in Austria," says Krutzler admitting that, "Our names have been slightly counterproductive." But that's one piece of baggage he's unlikely to ever get rid of.

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TASTING NOTES:
These wines have not yet been released in the US. You can find some earlier vintages online, but sadly none of the 2010s.

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Durnsteiner Frauengarten" Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of pears and linalool and wet stones. In the mouth asian pear and wet stone mix with faint floral and citrus character. Nice acidity and brightness.12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $26

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Loibner Klostersatz" Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of pears and green apple, with a hint of lemongrass. In the mouth pear and lemongrass flavors shift to green apple skin and pink grapefruit. Good acidity. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $26

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Tank Sample - Supperlin" Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of white peaches and wet stones. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful silky presence with crystalline flavors of pear, white peach and a hint of white pepper on the finish. Gorgeous acidity and length. Excellent. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $26

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Tank Sample - Loibenberg" Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of pear and apple with wet stones underneath. In the mouth, juicy pear and asian pear mix with a hint of chamomile and wet stones. Good acidity and depth. Long finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $36

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Tank Sample - Steiner Pfaffenberg Alte Reben" Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria
Light greenish-gold in the glass, this wine smells of white peaches and pears. In the mouth the wine is broad and powerful with broad pear and pear skin flavors mixed with pink grapefruit. Nice wet stone minerality, good acidity and long finish. 60 year-old vines. Score: around 9. Cost: $46

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Tank Sample - Kellerberg" Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria
Light gold in the glass with a hint of green, this wine smells of linalool and pear and wet stones. In the mouth slightly spicy pear cobbler flavors mix with wet stones and quince paste. Notes of lemongrass linger in the finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $36

2012 Pichler-Krutzler "Fass No.43" Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of oak and flowers and honey. In the mouth, flavors of sweet oak, vanilla, pears, and strong honeysuckle mix with a rich silky texture. Because of the fact that this wine went through full malolactic fermentation the acidity is softer, and doesn't have the edge I would like.. This wine was aged in a 600l liter barrel with no sulfur on the fine lees and bottled with only a tiny bit of sulfur at the bottling but no fining or filtration. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $??

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Trum" Riesling, Wachau, Austria
Palest blonde in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers and linalool. In the mouth, the wine has electrically bright lemon-lime flavors mixed with wet chalkboard. Pink grapefruit and lime zest linger in the finish. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $23

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Pfaffenberg" Riesling, Wachau, Austria
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of pink grapefruit and green apple. In the mouth, bright, even searing acidity makes flavors of green apple and pink grapefruit all but electric in the mouth. A deep wet-chalkboard minerality leaves a chalky tart finish lingering for a long time. 12.5% alcohol.. Score: around 9. Cost: $37

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "In der Wand" Riesling, Wachau, Austria
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of pears, apples, and linalool. In the mouth, gorgeously balanced flavors of pear, apple, and pink grapefruit have a fantastic crackling brightness to them that is totally disarming. It's hard not to swallow this wine. Long and bright and juicy. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $23

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Tank Sample - Loibenberg" Riesling, Wachau, Austria
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones, white flowers, and a hint of white peaches and pear. In the mouth bright and crisp pear and unripe peach flavors have a gorgeous crackling acidity and great mineral depth. Long and lean. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $27

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Tank Sample - Steiner Pfaffenberg Alte Reben" Riesling, Wachau, Austria
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle and wet stones. In the mouth the wine has a light sweetness with a great mineral depth to it. Flavors of honeysuckle and asian pear seem glassy and clean with wonderful brightness thanks to incredible acidity. Made from 60 year-old vines. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $37

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Tank Sample - Kellerberg" Riesling, Wachau, Austria
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and honeysuckle with hints of pink grapefruit. In the mouth bright apple and pear flavors have a deep stony quality to them. Wet chalkboard lingers in the finish with top notes of honeysuckle. Pure and quite beautiful with fantastic acidity and a long finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $27

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Tank Sample - Rotenberg Reserve" Riesling, Wachau, Austria
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of honeysuckle and green apple. In the mouth bright green apple and white flowers have a faint sweetness to them, though most people would think this wine was dry. Excellent, racy acidity and stony minerality round out a very delicious package. Moderate finish. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $57

2010 Pichler-Krutzler "Supperin" Grüner Veltliner, Wachau, Austria
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of elderflowers and chamomile with a hint of warm bread. In the mouth flavors of clover honey and chamomile have a bright juicy quality thanks to excellent acidity. A faint yeasty note lingers in the finish along with a taint, chalky tannic grip. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $27

2010 Pichler-Krutzler "Loibenberg" Riesling, Wachau, Austria
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones, cucumber, and candle wax. In the mouth, tart green apple flavors mix with white flowers and phenomenal acidity. Bright, but also deep and resonant thanks to excellent minerality. Wet chalkboard and pink grapefruit pith linger on the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $27

2013 Pichler-Krutzler "Loibenberg" Riesling TBA, Wachau, Austria
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of dried apricots and clover honey. In the mouth, the wine has a thick satin texture and flavors of clover honey, dried and fresh apricots and ripe peaches. Excellent acidity keeps the wine fresh and not too cloying. Very sweet. 10% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

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Author: "--" Tags: "Boutique Wines, Undiscovered Wines, Whit..."
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Date: Saturday, 20 Sep 2014 17:21

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The 2014 harvest is under way in California, but in Napa, instead of enjoying a beer in between loads of processed fruit, many winemakers are rushing back to their offices to speak with accountants, lawyers, and insurance adjusters. On Thursday 11 September, while the country was remembering a national disaster of larger proportions, the Obama Administration officially declared southern Napa County a Federal Disaster Area, clearing the way for federal funds to flow to the region.

When the largest earthquake to hit California in 25 years strikes a few days before the beginning of harvest, all hell breaks loose for everyone but the luckiest.

Saintsbury co-founder and managing partner Dick Ward may or may not be one of the lucky ones depending on your point of view. The damage to his Carneros winery will likely be somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000, thanks to the destruction of his water storage system, the loss of approximately 400 bottles of library wine, and the breakage of a few barrels in the cellar. 'Basically we ended up with some serious pre-harvest irrigation', jokes Ward, as he describes how 21,000 of gallons of water poured down the hill into the vineyards as his water tank toppled off its perch. 'We were actually planning on beginning our Pinot harvest the next night', continues Ward, 'but obviously that didn't happen'.

Read the rest of the story on JancisRobinson.Com.

This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is available only to subscribers of her web site. If you're not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It's only £6.99 a month or £69 per year ($11/mo or $109 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Ramblings and Rants, Wine News"
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Date: Saturday, 20 Sep 2014 05:56

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A Sea of Blue
A tumbling sea of blue grapes moves through the destemmer at harvest in Sonoma County.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops.

To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these.

PRINTS:
If you are interested in owning an archive quality, limited edition print of this image please contact photographer Andy Katz through his web site.

ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES:
Vinography regularly features images by photographer Andy Katz for readers' personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Vinography Images"
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Date: Saturday, 20 Sep 2014 05:34

box_o_wine.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included one of the best Xinomavros in existence. What's Xinomavro, you ask? A lovely, dark grape from northern Greece that can do great things in the right hands, and this is a prime example. If you haven't tried it, go out and get yourself a bottle!

Winemakers in California seem to be backing away from the oak barrels when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, which means more and more of them are nicely balanced and quite refreshing. There are a few excellent examples below.

Cornerstone Napa Valley has been hitting their stride, and their basic 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect example of how they're making wines of wonderful balance and finesse.

Blogger-turned-winemaker William Allen has a thing for Grenache Blanc and so do I. It's one of the world's most underrated white wines, and Allen's example is a fine one.

Finally, I was introduced this week to a tiny little wine project run by a journalist who sources some fruit from near Petaluma and who has appropriately named his wines Fourth Estate.

All these and more below. Enjoy!

2013 Dry Creek Vineyard "Fume Blanc" Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, California
Palest gold in color, this wine smells of kiwi, gooseberries, and green apple. In the mouth, crisp green apple, cut grass, and cucumber flavors have a sharp snap to them thanks to excellent acidity. Bright and lean and refreshing. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $12. click to buy.

2013 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California
Near colorless in the glass with only the barest hint of gold, this wine smells of green apple and vanilla. In the mouth, silky flavors of green apple, white flowers and a hint of grassiness linger through a pretty finish that has a faint sweetness to it. Nicely balanced. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $22 click to buy.

2012 Keenan Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, Napa, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of roasted nuts, buttered popcorn, and candied lemon rind. In the mouth, pink grapefruit mixes with pineapple and juicy lemonade flavors tinged with toasty oak. Excellent acidity. Unfortunately the oak is the dominant flavor in the finish. cornerstone_10_cab.png14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32 click to buy.

2010 Dutton Goldfield "Angel Camp Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cranberry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, faint velvety tannins wrap ghost-like around a core of black raspberry and cranberry fruit tinged with a hint of woody earthiness. Nice acidity, balance and length. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $55

2010 Alpha Estate "Hedgehog Vineyard" Xinomavro, Amyndeon, Greece
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright cherry and mulberry aromas. In the mouth, lean and slightly tart flavors of cherry, mulberry and blackberry mix beautifully under a gauzy throw of powdery tannins. Gorgeous acidity and length. A very, very fine rendition of this grape. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20 click to buy.

2010 Clos du Val Merlot, Napa Valley, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plums, cherries, and mixed green herbs. In the mouth, cherry and plum flavors are tinged with green bell pepper and a hint of graphite. Nice acidity and finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $22 click to buy.

2011 Blackbird Vineyards "Illustration" Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cocoa powder, nutmeg, and dark cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry, cocoa powder, cola, and an herbal note merge nicely while being edged by faint leathery tannins. A blend of 75% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $115 click to buy.

2010 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, plum and tobacco. In the mouth, juicy and bright plum and cherry flavors have a nice cola and cocoa powder high note to them. Fantastic acidity and length. Juicy and very light on its feet. Faint earthy tannins linger in the finish. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5 . Cost: $55 click to buy.

2012 Clos du Val Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers, lemon pith and golden delicious apples. In the mouth, a lovely combination of lemon and golden apple flavors has a zingy brightness to it thanks to phenomenal acidity. Crisp, bright, and with just a hint of saline savoriness on the finish. Excellent. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $18 click to buy.

2010 Trefethen Dry Riesling, Oak Knoll District, Napa, California
Palest greenish gold in color, this wine smells of paraffin, green apples, and exotic citrus. In the mouth, bright appley lemon flavors have a simple, cherry brightness thanks to excellent acidity. Lean and juicy, but without a lot of complexity, this wine is quite easy to drink and tasty. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20 click to buy.

2012 Two Shepherds "Saarloos Vineyard" Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of pears, apples, and Rainier cherries. In the mouth flavors of ranier cherry, peach and green apple have a silky brightness to them as well as a hint of saline. Great acidity makes the wine quite mouthwatering. 13.4% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25 click to buy.

2008 Vinoptima "Ormond Reserve" Gewürztraminer, Gisborne, New Zealand
Medium gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey and lychee fruit mixed with candied orange peel. In the mouth, candied orange peel mixes with dried mango and other dried tropical fruit flavors that have a faint sweetness. The acidity is good, but this wine is definitely made in the richer Alsace style. Bergamot and orange peel linger in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38

2012 Fourth Estate "La Cruz Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberries and cherries. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit and raspberry fruit has a slight spiciness to it that turns to a bit of alcoholic heat in the finish. Decent acidity keeps the wine fresh and lively in the mouth, but the flavors lean slightly towards the jammy side of life, and lack some complexity. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38

2010 Fourth Estate "La Cruz Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright raspberry and strawberry fruit. In the mouth, bright raspberry fruit has a sweetish complexion with good acidity and length. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $38



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Author: "--" Tags: "Wine Reviews, Wines under $20"
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Date: Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 07:11

Many things motivate the ambitious wine lover, but the curious joy of discovery often ranks highest among the forces that drive us to drink widely. Few things compare to the electric thrill of opening a completely unknown bottle or taking up an inscrutable glass only to be rewarded not just with something tasty, but something fantastic.

This feeling remains one of the main reasons I continue to dutifully work through all the unsolicited wine that comes to my door. Because for all the mediocre and totally uninspiring wines I get, there are gems. This is the story of one of those gems -- the tale behind some curious looking bottles with wildly beautiful labels each sporting the tiny silhouette of a man bending over a shovel.

Many winery owners claim with varying degrees of credibility that their odyssey into wine began by accident, but when David and Anna Delaski say they became winegrowers by accident, they mean it quite literally. They met through friends, and quickly became biking buddies, and then a little more. David's first move into more serious territory was the suggestion that they ride a century together.

"We set a date to do it, and we were doing a warmup ride through wine country and she completely wiped out," remembers Delaski. "We definitely couldn't do the bike race. She didn't have any broken bones but she wasn't in any shape to do it."

Their hopes dashed, the two found themselves on a hill looking out above the Sanford & Benedict vineyard. "We fell in love that weekend," says Delaski, and with more than each other, it seems. "We never forgot that moment above the vineyards," he says. "We just kept returning to it."

Two years later, the couple married and returned to Anna's home country of Austria, where Delaski fell deeply in love with Grüner Veltliner and the Austrian wine culture. The two finished their honeymoon with a bike ride around wine country, and at one point they were drinking a glass of Grüner together at a cafe in Paso Robles, when Anna suggested that the two of them might think about making some wine.

"We were on the last day of our honeymoon, and decided to figure out how we could make a barrel of California Grüner Veltliner together," recalls Delaski. But the two really had no idea what they were doing. "We basically ended up just asking a bunch of people who their favorite winemaker was, and a lot of them said Steve Clifton, so we just went and looked him up."

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Let that be a lesson to never underestimate the power of naiveté. By the end of their conversation with Steve, which involved their story, deep tangents into the independent and electronic music scene (Delaski wrote and performed, Clifton used to be a promoter and nightclub owner), and a glass or two of wine, Steve Clifton had signed on to make their wine.

The couple was stunned. "We even asked him 'Steve, why do you need us?' and he said 'You've got a story,'" remembers Delaski.

They magically had a winemaker, but then there was the little problem of the grapes.

"We literally couldn't find any way to buy any Grüner Veltliner," laughs Delaski. Undaunted, the couple also began looking around the region for a house to buy, figuring that it made sense to live closer to wine country than in Los Angeles, where they both were at the time.

"We went around with this realtor, and we eventually got shown this house on four acres in Los Olivos that came with three acres of Syrah in horrible shape," says Delaski. "We called up Steve and said, 'hey, what if we did Syrah instead?'"

Clifton came out to take a look at the vineyard and agreed it was in pretty bad shape. "But he said he could make it work," says Delaski.

Then, just as harvest was beginning, Delaski got a call from someone who had heard he was in the market for Grüner Veltliner, and offered to sell him a single ton.

"We had our barrel of Grüner, but we also had eight tons of Syrah," says Delaski. "We were in much deeper than we had anticipated."

Little did he know. He would find out a little while later that Anna was pregnant with their son, Linus.

They may have been in deeper, but the two were undaunted. With Clifton's help, the couple made their inaugural wines, under the label they decided to call Solminer, a reference to mining the power of the sun. Anna is trained as a forest biologist and one of the first things they did when they bought the house was to throw solar panels up on the roof.

Next they went about getting some cuttings of Grüner Veltliner in order to grafting over some of their Syrah. While they were at it, they also found some Blaufränkisch cuttings and thought, "well, what the hell?"

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Sitting with Delaski, it's hard not to share in his near-childish delight at what clearly is an adventure of grand proportions with the love of his life and their young son in tow. His eyes sparkle under bushy eyebrows and above rosy cheeks that miraculously seem to have some baby fat in them despite the graying goatee they frame.

Delaski grew up in Virginia, the son of an Armenian mother and American father, whose career as an accountant took a turn for the prosperous when he decided to write a piece of software in the 80s that became the basis for a very successful company that the family sold in 2005. The improvement in their fortunes allowed Delaski's father to dabble in new hobbies, one of which was wine collecting. Delaski grew up with wine in the house and enough experience to know the good stuff from the bad stuff. He enjoyed drinking it with his father, but it wasn't inspiring to him in the same way that it was to his father.

As his father was falling in love with wine, Delaski was falling in love with film. After film school, he worked in Hollywood and did music on the side, but after a while, the music took over his life. He joined a band (Electric Skychurch), got signed to a record label, began making soundtracks for movies, created his own record label (Ball of Waxx Music), and built up a publishing catalog of music that eventually began to generate royalties.

An early player in the electronic music scene, Delaski finds lots of parallels between music and wine. "Sommeliers are the DJs of today" he jokes, but then turns serious. "I've never put commerciality in front of what I wanted to do in music," he says, "and the same goes for wine. My tastes lean towards the underground or the obscure in music, and it's the same thing for wine."

When the Delaskis approached Clifton, they made it clear that they wanted to make wine as simply and as naturally as possible. They hardly had the words for what they wanted to do, but as far as they were concerned, they wanted to avoid adding anything to their wine if at all possible. Clifton was more than happy to take a non-interventionalist approach, which has ended up meaning minimal sulfur usage, all native fermentations, and no fining.

"Coming from the world of music, and the creativity that goes with that, we didn't feel like we have to control the wine" says Delaski. "Mistakes are just an expression. From year to year you're going to get these different things happening."

"It's important to me not to be too dogmatic," continues Delaski. "If someone wants to sell my wines as 'natural' wines, I could certainly back up that claim, but you won't hear me pushing that. We started with our Rubellite wine and people said 'Oh you're doing the low alcohol thing,' but we were just doing what we liked. We didn't set out to be part of a movement, or to make our wines resemble anything we saw out there on the market. We just like old world style wines. There aren't red wines over 14% alcohol in Austria."

Delaski decided to take a bunch of enology classes at U.C. Davis last year. "I learned an inordinate amount last year, and then had to come back and basically unlearn all of it. There's a set way to do things at Davis and step one is almost always 'add sulfur.' That's the last thing we want to do. It comes down to your focus."

Delaski seems nothing if not focused. He reminds me of some of my friends (and perhaps a little bit of myself) that I see become obsessed with something they love and devote all their energy to it in a passionate frenzy. But unlike some of my friends, who move on from one shiny object to another, Delaski and his wife seem smitten to the core. They have the spring in their step that many have on the beginning of a long and exciting journey.

"We're just starting out with this lifetime pursuit," confirms Delaski. "We've got time to become master winemakers, to become biodynamic freaks, whatever we want to be," he says before going on to tell me his plans for improving his composts next year. But at this point I'm not really listening to him, I'm paying more attention to the wine in my glass, which is wordlessly confirming the honesty of Delaski's enthusiasm.

Plenty of people strike out for a second career in the wine business after some success in another field, but the wines they end up producing look like trophies on a shelf: glossy, brash, and attention-seeking. Delaski's wines couldn't be farther from these products of vanity. They are humble and no-nonsense, and even slightly rustic at times, but have a purity to them that is admirable. I highly recommend them.

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TASTING NOTES:

2013 Solminer "Delanda Vineyard" Gruner Veltliner, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of apple and linalool. In the mouth, a creamy texture delivers flavors of bright apple, lemongrass, and white flowers with a nice appley pear flavor in the finish. Good acidity and length. 13.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25.

2012 Solminer Dry Riesling, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and candle wax scented with citrus zest. In the mouth, beautifully zingy pomelo zest and orange peel flavors have a wonderfully bright stony quality. Definitely delicious. 13.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost $25. click to buy.

2013 Solminer Riesling, Santa Barbara, California
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apple, peaches, and citrus zest. In the mouth, bright peachy flavors have a citrus zest edge, and the wonderful pure crystalline stoniness that seems to be a hallmark of these wines. A blend of two vineyards, some fermented in steel, some in neutral oak. You'd never guess this was 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2013 Solminer "Linus" Rosé, Santa Barbara, California
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and berries layered over wet stones. In the mouth lean bright berry and cherry flavors mix with a hint of citrus brightness. Clean bright finish and wonderfully easy to drink. Excellent. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2013 Solminer "Rubellite" Syrah, Santa Barbara, California
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of berries, a hint of leather, and black pepper. In the mouth, spicy black pepper, cherry, and berry notes have a lean brightness and a faint woodiness to them. Excellent acidity. Contains 5% Grenache and 1% Riesling. 13.4% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $26. click to buy.

2012 Solminer "Full Moon" Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California
Medium garnet, this wine smells of brilliant forest berries and cherries, tinged with bright floral fruit. In the mouth the wine has a wonderfully elegant lightness to it, with bright mixed berry fruit and a sour cherry tartness that lingers in the finish. Juicy acidity and lean, faint tannins. Excellent. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $34. click to buy.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Boutique Wines, Undiscovered Wines"
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Date: Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 06:27

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Swift Work
A worker moves quickly through a vineyard during harvest in Sonoma County. Vineyards throughout the state are full of workers at the moment, who are bringing in the 2014 vintage.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops.

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Vinography regularly features images by photographer Andy Katz for readers' personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Vinography Images"
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 05:38

The other day I found myself contemplating the question of how Australian wine lost its footing after being so popular for so long, and what it could do to recover. I'm not close enough to the wine trade to have my finger on the pulse of what people say when they're perusing the aisles of wine stores and are pointed in the direction of Barossa Shiraz by a clerk. Clearly they're not as amenable to that suggestion as they have been in the past.

Australian wine sales have fallen significantly in the US (and in the UK) over the past five years. Depending on whose statistics you believe, the numbers may be as high as an average of 16 to 20% drop in sales across all price points.

But why, exactly, have Americans so quickly fallen out of love with Australian wine, and what can be done? While I have some opinions about the matter, I thought to ask the many thousands of wine lovers I'm connected to on Facebook, and wouldn't you know, they had some very interesting opinions.

So here, for your reading pleasure, is what the social media universe things of Australian wine.

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Now there's an answer for you. Care to add your own opinion?



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Author: "--" Tags: "Ramblings and Rants"
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 05:52

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There is no single recipe for greatness when it comes to Napa wine, but starting with a great plot of land can take you a long way. The only problem is, a lot of people don't necessarily know a great plot of land when they see one. Sometimes these plots of land can be hidden in plain sight until the right person comes along to notice.

When Jeff Smith's father moved the family to St. Helena in 1964, he wasn't thinking about wine, he was thinking about real estate development. He was also thinking about the tiny trickle of tourists that were making their way up from San Francisco to visit Napa and then turning right around at the end of the day and driving back home since there weren't really any nice places to stay. Without any real idea of whether it would work, he turned a beautiful old home into the Wine Country Inn, and very quickly learned the meaning of "build it and they will come." The Inn ran at around 95% occupancy the first year it opened.

When the neighboring parcel of land came on the market, Jeff's father snapped it up with the idea of building a home on it, and because he liked Zinfandel, he planted a bit of it on the hillside behind the building site in 1977. His way of thinking about the 4-acre vineyard was "landscaping that could pay for itself." He gave most of the grapes to friends in exchange for bottles of wine made from them in return, and sold the rest.

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Jeff's father passed away in 1990 and within a year, the vineyard succumbed to phylloxera, and had to be pulled out. Jeff's mother was making ready to sell the property just as Jeff was getting interested in the wine business, but his entreaties to keep the property and replant to see if they could start a small winery weren't convincing. As a last ditch effort, Jeff talked a buddy who was in school at U.C. Davis to get their top viticulture professor to come down and take a look. He did, and in the process of telling Jeff, his friend, and his mother that this was quite possibly one of the best Cabernet vineyard sites he had ever seen, he also pointed out that it sat at the narrowest point of the hourglass-shaped Napa Valley.

The vineyard, needless to say, was not sold. It was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, and enlisting the help of a family friend, winemaker Bob Foley, Jeff launched Hourglass Wine to nearly instant acclaim.

From that 4-acre vineyard, Hourglass produces about 600 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon that are snapped up the moment they are released to the mailing list, and thousands of people wait patiently for their chance to get on that list.

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After a few years, Jeff and his wife Carolyn started thinking about buying another piece of land, but faced the difficulty of needing a vineyard that could both compete at the level of quality they already had, and that would be distinctive enough to merit being bottled on its own, as they had no intention of diluting Hourglass.

Over the years, they nearly bought several properties, but backed off each one when they got the feeling it wasn't quite right. They looked pretty hard for almost three years, and gave up. Growing up in the valley, Jeff knew that the kinds of vineyards he wanted were not common, and all the examples he knew about were unlikely to be sold anytime soon, or for a price anywhere near what he could afford to pay.

But then one day, on his way to the dump in early December, he saw a For Sale sign on a piece of property he had driven by thousands of times without a second thought, and something clicked. Across the street from the famed Three Palms Vineyard, this piece of property sits at the neck of Dutch Henry Canyon, and defines the transition zone between valley floor and the hillsides above. Covered in alluvial gravel and cobble, the property is essentially an overlap of two alluvial fans created by the wanderings of the two blue line streams (year-round streams that are marked with blue ink on topographic maps) that drain the hillsides above.

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With the help of some investment from friends and family, the Blueline Estate was born, giving Hourglass its own winery facility for the first time, and offering a distinctive new set of vineyard designated wines. The Blueline property was replanted over the past 6 years, bringing about 22 of its 44 acres into full production.

The winery produces a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, a Cabernet Franc, and unusually, a Malbec. The estate recently began bottling a Sauvignon Blanc as well.

Until 2011 the wines were made by Bob Foley, but recently he has been replaced by Tony Biagi, who left Plumpjack winery to take over as winemaker at Hourglass. The wines below were my first taste of what Biagi is up to, and I'm pretty excited about the results, which are balanced and very pretty, especially considering Biagi is just getting to know the property.

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TASTING NOTES:

2013 Hourglass Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
Palest gold in the glass, this wine smells of cut grass, green apple, and a bit of green melon. In the mouth, the wine has a wonderful balance between green apple and green melon flavors, and the hint of vanilla from a kiss of oak. Juicy acidity and excellent length. A tiny hint of bitterness and sweetness tussle in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40. click to buy.

2012 Hourglass Blueline Merlot, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright plum and cherry fruit with an undercurrent of oak and mint. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful bright freshness and fantastic acidity that makes for a lean and mineral quality to the plum and black cherry fruit. The taut, very fine grained tannins have a kind of canvas-in-the-wind snap of a cool breeze. Long finish. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2012 Hourglass Blueline Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of hazelnuts and green-herb-tinged cherry. In the mouth plush tannins have a velvety feel and wrap gently around flavors of black plum and cherry and chocolate. Notes of dark chocolate linger in the finish along with a bitter cocoa powder note. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2012 Hourglass Blueline Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry, green herbs, and a hint of dark earth. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and bright fresh cherry fruit are welded to very supple powdery tannins and a touch of wet loam. Juicy and fresh, but with a dark chocolate and cocoa powder finish. 14.8% alcohol.Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $125. click to buy.

2012 Hourglass Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and chocolate with hints of wet earth. In the mouth black cherry, cassis and a touch of oak blend beautifully with suede-like tannins. A smoky note emerges with some time in the glass. The finish is wonderfully earthy with cocoa powder and loam. 14.8% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $125 . click to buy.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Boutique Wines, Wine Reviews"
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Date: Sunday, 07 Sep 2014 06:06

Folks in Napa and its surrounding areas are still cleaning up after the earthquake that struck the region two weeks ago. The piles of toppled barrels are being picked apart barrel after barrel to salvage those that remain intact, and repairs are being made to homes and wineries that suffered damage.

The after-effects of a disaster like this are usually quite predictable. Losses are tallied, tears are shed, and people move on.

But something unusual is going on in Napa in addition to all the typical fallout from a serious earthquake. Things are getting wetter. A lot wetter.

According to the Press Democrat, as well as winemaker Carole Meredith, whose Facebook post alerted me to the situation, the earthquake has resulted in dramatically increased stream flows throughout Napa and Sonoma, with some levels approaching the kinds of flows only seen in Spring.

Apparently increased flow from springs and changes in groundwater availability are common following large earthquakes, and don't often last. Calling this a silver lining to an otherwise unfortunate situation might be going a bit far, but in this time of unprecedented drought, no one is complaining.

Read the full story.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Ramblings and Rants"
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Date: Saturday, 06 Sep 2014 07:54

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Just One
A single red grape shows nestled among its green siblings on a vine in Sonoma County.

INSTRUCTIONS:
Download this image by right-clicking on the image and selecting "save link as" or "save target as" and then select the desired location on your computer to save the image. Mac users can also just click the image to open the full size view and drag that to their desktops.

To set the image as your desktop wallpaper, Mac users should follow these instructions, while PC users should follow these.

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If you are interested in owning an archive quality, limited edition print of this image please contact photographer Andy Katz through his web site.

ABOUT VINOGRAPHY IMAGES:
Vinography regularly features images by photographer Andy Katz for readers' personal use as desktop backgrounds or screen savers. We hope you enjoy them. Please respect the copyright on these images. These images are not to be reposted on any web site or blog without the express permission of the photographer.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Vinography Images"
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Date: Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 06:48

box_o_wine.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of nice red wines from Napa and Sonoma. Anakota is a brand owned by Jackson Family Estates, and represents one of their terroir-driven, single-vineyard projects, notably made by winemaker Pierre Seillan, who also oversees the remarkable Verite wines, which are some of the best reds made in California each year. These two wines don't rise to those heights, but that's also true of their price tags as well. But they are both tasty and restrained examples of excellent Knight's Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.

I've been a fan of the Blackbird wines for some time, as well as the work of winemaker Aaron Pott in general, and the 2011 Arise doesn't disappoint. While on the subject of Blackbird, their rosé also showed nicely this week.

Finding a great Chardonnay for $20 can seem like hitting the jackpot, especially when talking about domestic wines here in the U.S. That's just what the Adelsheim Willamette Valley bottling came across as this week. I'd be quite happy to drink it by the glass in any restaurant.

Finally, who doesn't like a nicely aged Mosel Riesling? For some reason the Germans keep sending me an older bottle every once in a while, and you won't hear me complaining. Cheers to you Dr. Bergweiler!

All these and more below. Enjoy!

arise_2011.jpg2012 Recuerdo Torrontes, La Rioja, Argentina
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of ripe peaches and honeydew melon. In the mouth, bright green apple, honeydew, and white peach flavors have a nice brightness to them and a slightly salty snap. Good acidity, crisp finish, but then the faintest lingering heat, despite the modest 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $13 click to buy.

2012 Adelsheim Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, lemon pith and pink grapefruit. In the mouth, lean pink grapefruit flavors have a juicy brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Mouthwatering and fresh, if a bit straightforward, but who cares at $20? Tasty, with hints of nuttiness linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20. click to buy.

2013 Ma(i)sonry "Hudson Vineyard - Sans Chene" Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of green apples and gooseberries. In the mouth, the wine has a sweet cut-grass and green apple complexion, with a silky texture that is quite appealing. The acidity is perhaps a little softer than it could be, but has enough bite to make the wine refreshing. 14.2% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28 click to buy.

2013 Blackbird Vineyards "Arriviste" Rosé, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherries and strawberries. In the mouth, faintly sweet strawberry and cherry flavors have a nice silky texture and a bit of lift thanks to excellent acidity. The fruit has a density that makes this a more serious wine, along with some nice mineral undertones. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20 click to buy.

2011 Medlock Ames "Kate's & B's" Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, rich black cherry and tobacco flavors mix with a hint of earthiness. Good acidity and length. 13.8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $75

2009 Anakota "Helena Dakota Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco, with cassis and cola overtones. In the mouth powdery, chalky tannins wrap around a core of black cherry and tobacco tinged with earthy savoriness. Good acidity and length. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2009 Anakota "Helena Montana" Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, Sonoma, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of rich black cherries, cassis, and blueberries. In the mouth black cherry, cassis, and blueberry flavors have a slight herbal note as they are wrapped in powdery, fine grained tannins. Good acidity and length. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2011 Blackbird Vineyards "Arise" Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black plum and black cherry with a hint of herbal brightness. In the mouth a mix of black cherry, chocolate, and green herbs settles nicely on the palate beneath a suede blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity. Good length. 14.2% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $45 click to buy.

2009 Dr. Pauly Bergweiler "Wehlener Sonnenuhr" Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of mandarine zest and honey. In the mouth candied mandarine segments honey and white flowers have a light sweetness and the faintest hint of diesel fuel as they linger with bright mineral sharpness through the finish. 8% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30 click to buy.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Wine Reviews, Wines under $20"
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Date: Monday, 26 May 2014 07:17

I first met Craig Camp in Oregon, where he was running Anne Amie vineyards, and where he had already proven to be one of the most internet-savvy individuals I had ever seen in the wine business. An early industry blogger, Craig was just as earnest in person as I found his writings to be online. I got to know Craig in fits and starts, as online interactions and occasional meet-ups in Oregon migrated from acquaintance to friendship.

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And then one day, Camp announced he was coming to Napa. I must admit to being slightly shocked at the news, so deeply did I associate Camp with the Willamette Valley. But having gotten to know the dedication and passion that Camp brings to his work, I trusted that whatever he was doing, it was going to be interesting.

Sure enough, a few months later Camp let me know he was now managing a label in Napa called Cornerstone Cellars, which had been around since the early Nineties, but which I had never come across. A few weeks after that, and every few months since, samples from Cornerstone have shown up at my doorstep. As a result, I've been able to both watch the evolution of this winery under Camp's leadership, as well as taste its progression towards the vision that Camp has for its success.

After spending a college semester abroad in Salzburg, Austria, and as he describes it "drinking my way through Austria and France," Camp got his start in the wine business on the sales side, first working for auction house John Hart, and then soon after co-founding the Direct Import Wine Company in 1979. He represented a large book of business ranging from Becky Wasserman's Burgundy portfolio to Neil Empson's Italian wines to California stars such as Shafer, Spottswoode and Calera. When that company was sold to Paterno, he packed his bags for Italy.

"I stayed there for three years. I hung out in Barolo doing dirty work, working the cellars, translating, doing anything I could do to learn winemaking," recalled Camp when I sat down with him this winter to talk about where Cornerstone was headed.

After his three year ramble through Northern Italy, Camp returned to Oregon where he joined Anne Amie Vineyards for several years before moving to Napa. While in Oregon he happened to meet Jeff Keene, a New Zealander who at the time was working for Havens winery in Napa, specializing in cooler climate wines with an unusual amount of restraint for their New World origins.

"When I landed at Cornerstone and decided to look for a winemaker, Jeff was an easy choice, because I already knew that we spiritually agreed," said Camp.

Keene, a self described "military brat" grew up mostly in Auckland and trained as a food scientist. He worked in a lab in New Zealand for eight years doing research on many things, including Sauvignon Blanc.

"I got bored of working in a lab," recalled Keene. "Two years before I got to that point my boss had left and set up the first postgraduate program at Lincoln Univeristy outside of Christchurch. I thought to myself, 'well, I've got a science background, why shouldn't I go learn winemaking and viticulture?'"

A year later, Keene had finished that postgraduate degree and was getting his feet wet at Dry Lands Estate in Marlborough.

"I was in my mid twenties and I wanted to get where I wanted to get quicker. I was on the fast track," said Keene. "I always wanted to work at places where I could get exposed to everything. At Dry Lands I did the night shift. There were only a handful of us there, so they taught us everything."

Keene then looked overseas, and thanks to a classmate, got an introduction to Havens winery, where he started as an intern and over eight years eventually rose to be the winemaker. From Havens he made the easy jump to Peter Franus winery, whose wines were made in the Havens facility.

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In 2008 Keene got the call from Camp, and he joined in time to help finish the blending for the 2007 vintage. Keene arrived to find a winery undergoing serious change.

Cornerstone Cellars was founded in 1991 by two doctors from Memphis Tennessee, one of whom, Michael Dragutsky, now owns the winery. An accomplished physician and professor of Internal Medicine, Dragutsky built his Gastroenterology practice into something of an empire. He now runs the 12th largest GI group practice in the country, and somehow in his free time he also started a company that does high-end system integration for custom home entertainment systems.

A lifelong wine lover, Dragutsky came to Napa following a dream of having his own tiny wine label. From its founding in 1991 to about 2007, Cornerstone's production grew from about 300 cases to 1500 cases. As with many such projects, making the wine was the easy part. Selling it was another thing entirely. Dragutsky finally realized he needed to bring in some outside help, and found his way to Camp through a "friend of a friend."

Cornerstone's production now sits comfortably around 10,000 cases, and bears almost no resemblance to the winery's earliest incarnation. No longer just a boutique label owned by absentee proprietors, Cornerstone has become a well-recognized brand, and a consistent producer of high quality wines across a spectrum of price points.

More importantly, and much more interestingly, Camp and Keene have gradually and carefully been dialing the winery into their vision for what Napa's next generation wine might look like.

"First and foremost, I wanted to make wines I could drink," said Camp, who freely admits his palate is Euro-centric. "We're looking for balance, finesse and elegance. We want acid, structure and lift, and playfulness on the palate."

"This is a challenge in Napa," added Keene. "We want, when you taste the wine, for it to come alive in your mouth. But we've got lots of extremes of weather to deal with here, so we're finding vineyards that work for the style of wine that we're making."

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The two have settled on about 5 core growers that supply most of the fruit they work with, as well as the teams to manage them. Camp and Keene continue to work with these growers to refine their approach, and feel that with the 2010 and 2011 vintages, they finally have wines that represent what they are trying to achieve.

And what might that be? Well, to my palate, these are wines that have a buoyancy to them, and a brightness that can sometimes get lost in the thick richness of dark power that comes with many a Napa Cabernet in particular. Keene's cool climate background certainly shows through, as the wines have excellent acidity and don't shy away from an herbal savory component. Many of the wines also tend to have quite restrained oak signatures.

Rather than just a single proprietary cuvee, the winery now has a broad portfolio of wines across a large number of price points, and from many different grape varieties. This variety has, at times, seemed somewhat confused.

"This is an evolutionary process," said Camp in his defense. "We have been willing to go where the wine takes us. I didn't want to write a business plan based on specific grapes and wine profiles. We simply decided we were going to grow and explore and see when we get to a set of wines that fit our vision for what we want to make and sell."

For what it's worth, that vision seems to be settling towards a solid portfolio of Bordeaux grape varieties, with an expected emphasis on Cabernet Sauvignon, along with an increasing focus on Syrah.

Oh, and then there's the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

You can take the boy out of Oregon but apparently you can't take the Oregon out of the boy. Shortly after he took over the reigns at Cornerstone, a series of conversations with winemaker Tony Rynders led to the creation of a set of Cornerstone Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay, which continue to be made by Rynders each year.

Cornerstone continues to evolve, but like the rapidly shortening line of a tether ball accelerating towards the pole, the wines of Cornerstone are beginning to gravitate towards a quality and consistency that is quite admirable, and the equal of any of Napa's stalwart producers. Camp and Keene seem to be laying the foundation for becoming a fixture in the valley. Their Yountville tasting room has already become one of the town's most visited, and thanks to Camp, the winery has quickly become among the most successful industry players in social media and new internet technologies such as geofencing.

It has been a great pleasure watching Cornerstone Cellars coalesce over the past few years, and it will be even more fun watching it shift into high-gear now that it has seemingly settled into a comfortable groove. If you don't know these wines, I highly recommend you find some of the 2010s in particular.

Full disclosure: some of the tasting notes below were made from press samples I received from the winery.

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CURRENT RELEASES:

2012 Cornerstone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of golden apples, and candied lemon rind. In the mouth, bright juicy lemon rind and a hint of wheat and golden apples mix with a beautiful bright acidity and good length. Aged in 2-3 year old used French oak barrels. 900 cases made 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $30 click to buy.

2011 Cornerstone Cellars "Stepping Stone" Syrah, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass. This wine smells of beautifully aromatic black pepper, cassis, and crushed dried flowers with a hint of red apple. In the mouth, lean cassis and black cherry fruit have a nice herbal brightness to them mixed with a bit of green wood. Faint, leathery tannins linger on the finish along with that woody character. Includes 5% Merlot from Carneros. 40% new French Burgundy barrels. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35

2011 Cornerstone Cellars "Stepping Stone" Cabernet Franc, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed hazelnuts, dried flowers, and dusty farm roads. In the mouth, gorgeously bright cherry, tobacco, cocoa powder, and crushed green herbs have perfect balance, and wonderfully silky texture. Poised, and elegant, with excellent acidity, this is a characterful and delicious rendition of Franc from Napa. Outstanding. 50% new French oak. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $40

2011 Cornerstone Cellars "Stepping Stone" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of wet earth, tobacco, and bright cherry fruit. In the mouth, beautifully bright cherry and tobacco flavors mix with cocoa powder and a hint of black licorice as the wine finishes. Excellent acidity and very good length, with notes of dried herbs on the finish. Delicious. Wonderfully light on its feet and eminently drinkable. Faint dusty tannins. 50% new French oak. 14.3% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40

2010 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of wonderfully bright cherry and tobacco and cedar notes. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful claret brightness and fantastic acidity, delivering flavors of cherry, crushed green herbs, tobacco, and cedar. Juicy notes of cherry, with hints of fennel seed and wet earth linger in the long finish. Comes from fruit on Howell Mountain and Oakville. 65% new French oak for 22 months. Includes 13% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $54 click to buy.

2010 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dusty earth and dark black cherry. In the mouth powdery muscular tannins wrap around a core of black cherry and bing cherry fruit tinged with cedar and cocoa powder. Rich and dark without being overripe or thick. Burly but not fat, this wine will do nicely with a couple of years in the bottle, though it is quite tasty now. Includes 10% Merlot from Carneros. .75% new French oak for 22 months. 14.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $69 click to buy.

2010 Cornerstone Cellars "The Cornerstone" Red Blend Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dusty earth, bright cherry fruit, and wonderful floral notes weaved in between the dark fruit and hints of tobacco. In the mouth violets and licorice mix with dark cherry fruit and gorgeously supple tannins that caress the palate, shifting like a gauzy veil across the face of the bright fruit. The wine has an effortlessness to it that is quite juicy and delicious. There's a stony quality to the wine that is quite compelling. A blend of 82% Cabernet from the Oakville Station. 11% Merlot from Carneros, and 7% Cabernet Franc from St. Helena. 100% new French oak. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150 click to buy.

2010 Cornerstone Cellars "Corallina" Rosé of Syrah, Napa Valley, California
Pale coppery pink in the glass, this wine smells of candied orange peel, dried berries, and dried herbs. In the mouth it is silky and juicy with bright strawberry jam and cherry flavors. Dry and crisp and just what you want from a rosé. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $13 click to buy.

2010 Cornerstone Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light ruby in the glass with purple highlights, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry with hints of cedar. In the mouth, wonderfully bright raspberry and cherry flavors have a green herbal note that seems tied to the supple, rippling tannins that firmly grasp the edges of the mouth. Excellent acidity and notes of forest floor and citrus peel linger in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50 click to buy.

2010 Cornerstone Cellars "Stepping Stone" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cranberry with hints of cedar. In the mouth, excellent acidity brings flavors of cherry and raspberry to life, wrapped in a fleecy blanket of fine-grained tannins. Bright flavors of citrus peel linger with raspberry in the finish. Tasty. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32. click to buy.

2010 Cornerstone Cellars Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells a little of the mineral waxiness of Chapstick mixed with lemon pastry cream. In the mouth wonderful grapefruit and cold cream flavors mix with a stony underbelly of the wine that is prickly thanks to excellent acidity. Lean and cool, with a slick silky feel, this wine has a wonderful reserved quality about it. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40 click to buy.

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OLDER VINTAGES:
Here are some of the tasting notes from my archive of tasting notes on Cornerstone wines made in the last three or four years.

2007 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Medium to dark ruby in color, with a hint of purple, this wine smells of cherry fruit and candied violets. In the mouth flavors of cherry cola and cassis mix amidst bright acidity and faint but muscular tannins. The cassis is the dominant flavor in the finish, which is nice and long. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2009 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry fruit and cassis. In the mouth, dark cherry, cassis, and licorice notes mesh with a creamy coffee quality that is tied to the very well integrated new oak flavors in the wine. Muscular but not bulky tannins ripple beneath the dark surface of this wine, while cocoa powder lingers in the finish. Excellent acidity. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2009 Cornerstone Cellars "Stepping Stone" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and violets with hints of green herbs. In the mouth the slightest hint of green bell pepper mixes with cherry, plum, and lightly tacky tannins. Good acidity makes this wine quite drinkable, as cocoa powder and plum linger in the finish. 14.25% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $34. click to buy.

2009 Cornerstone Cellars "The Cornerstone" Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth, smoky flavors of black cherry and tobacco are gripped by thick, drying tannins while scents of sweet new oak ride somewhat roughshod over the fruit. The oak dominates the finish as the tannins dry out the mouth. Good acidity. Seems like it would have been a nice wine with a bit less oak. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $250. click to buy.

2009 Cornerstone Cellars "Stepping Stone" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark black cherry fruit and a hint of licorice. In the mouth black cherry fruit and black licorice flavors mix with cocoa powder and muscular tannins. Good acidity, but the fruit and tannins are quite powerful. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2009 Cornerstone Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of brown sugar, raspberries and cedar. In the mouth, the wine offers strong raspberry flavors with juicy acidity and a hint of earth to keep the wine from being too fruit driven. Long finish. Very pretty. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50

2006 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of black cherry, wet dirt, and pipe tobacco. In the mouth it has excellent acidity, lightly drying tannins, and flavors of wet dirt, black cherry, and hints of fennel seed that linger in the finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2005 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of rich black cherry, wet earth, and cassis. In the mouth it is broad shouldered and burly, with aggressive, leathery tannins that wrap around a muscled core of black cherry and leather. Notes of cedar and a light sense of candied lavender emerge on the finish. Score: around 9. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2007 Cornerstone Cellars "Stepping Stone" Grenache, Red Hills, Lake County, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, raspberry, and cedar. In the mouth it is velvety with nice acidity and soft tannins that grip flavors of cherry, wet earth, and chocolate. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $35



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Author: "--" Tags: "Ramblings and Rants"
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Date: Sunday, 25 May 2014 06:22

box_o_wine.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included Clos du Val's 2009 Stag's Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, which was as wonderfully balanced and restrained as it always is, ready to age for the long haul.

In the Cabernet department I also received the latest release from Mt. Brave, made by the talented Chris Carpenter. This wine is more ripe and modern than the Clos du Val, but still a model of restraint compared to some in Napa. I loved its juiciness.

I get a lot of samples from MacPhail Family vineyards and often find the wines to be over-oaked, so I was thrilled to taste the 2011 Flyer and find it balanced, juicy and delicious. And while we're talking about Pinots, the Adelsheim is definitely worth seeking out for its unusual herbal character and overall complexity.

Finally, one of the best surprises this week was the dry Gewürztraminer from Gundlach Bundschu. Bright, light, and missing the bitter edge that can often accompany this grape, this was one of the best domestic renditions of the grape I've had in some time.

All these and more below. Enjoy!

2010 Monteverro "Tinata" Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis and black cherries with a hint of violets. In the mouth bright violet and cassis flavors mix with the sweetness of new oak, that also brings with it some drying tannins. The fruit is so pure and bright however, that it's hard not to like this wine, despite its very modern, polished stylings. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $95. click to buy.

2012 Ridge Vineyards "Benito Dusi Ranch" Zinfandel, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of licorice and blackberry pie. In the mouth, juicy blackberry and blackberry bramble lean towards the herbal side of things as a leafy 09_sldcs_bottle.jpgnote complements the pure blackberry jam fruit. Faint, dusty tannins, and good acidity. 14.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27. click to buy.

2010 Mt. Brave Red Blend, Mount Veeder, Napa, California
Inky garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, black cherry and tobacco. In the mouth rich black cherry, graphite, tobacco and the vanilla of new oak mix with a smoky espresso quality that is quite compelling. Rich, dark, and woodsy, this wine nonetheless has excellent acidity that cuts through the fine grained powdery tannins that coat the mouth. 14.4% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. click to buy.

2011 Macphail "The Flyer" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of struck match and cranberry compote. In the mouth, cranberry and cherry flavors have a bright juiciness, thanks to excellent acidity. The faintest of tannins dance in the background. A citrus note lingers in the moderate finish. Tasty. 14.1% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.

2013 Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford, Napa, California
Palest gold, near colorless in the glass, this wine smells of cut grass and gooseberries. In the mouth bright green apple and gooseberry flavors have a lime zest sharpness to them, and the acidity cuts like a knife. Lean and angular. 12.9% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $17. click to buy.

2011 Adelsheim Vineyards "Ribbon Springs" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of marijuana resin, raspberries, and green herbs. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful balance between green herbs and raspberry fruit. A hint of tomato leaf lingers in the finish along with a peaty quality that is quite arresting. Excellent. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $68. click to buy.

2009 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag's Leap District, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of green herbs, black cherry, and wet earth. In the mouth, dusty tannins surround a core of graphite, black cherry, and wet earth that is tinged with green herbs and a faint cedary quality. Gorgeous acidity and lovely texture round out a pitch perfect performance. Outstanding. 13.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2010 Vidigal "Brutalis" Red Blend, Lisboa, Portugal
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of woodsmoke, black cherry, and cassis. In the mouth, massive black cherry flavors are surrounded by muscular, grainy tannins. Decent acidity keeps the fruit from being flabby, and notes of cedar and licorice emerge in the finish. Doesn't show much of its 15% alcohol, and therefore doesn't quite live up to its brutal name, which is just fine with me. A blend of Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50.

2012 Gundlach Bundschu "Estate Vineyard" Gewurztraminer, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma, California
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of rose petals and lychee. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful delicacy, with excellent acidity and beautiful lychee and orange peel freshness that sits on top of a mineral core. Outstanding. Completely dry and refreshing. 14.5% alcohol Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Wine Reviews"
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Date: Saturday, 24 May 2014 05:29

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Sunlit Canes
A vineyard in Sonoma County ready for winter pruning catches the evening light.

INSTRUCTIONS:
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Author: "--" Tags: "Vinography Images"
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Date: Friday, 23 May 2014 05:55

This week a bottle of 1995 California Rosé sold at auction for a winning bid of $37,200.

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Go ahead and pick your jaw up off the floor. It took me a while to recover from this news myself. As much as I would love to trumpet this sale as the ultimate proof that rosé has finally earned the respect it deserves as a world-class wine, the fact remains that this absurd price merely proves what we all knew already: namely that the fine wine auction market is ridiculously out of touch with reality, not to mention any truth about what wine really means.

The specific wine sold was a bottle of Sine Qua Non's Queen of Hearts, a limited quantity wine produced by oddball winemaker Manfred Krankl. Krankl's idiosyncratic wines are among the most sought-after California wines thanks to a combination of their scarcity and their critical acclaim by critics, in particular Robert M. Parker, Jr.

While Sine Qua Non wines trade at elevated prices on the auction market, sometimes up to more than $2000 per bottle, this particular bottle marks an astronomical apogee for the winery.

Does this sale really represent anything different than a bottle of DRC selling for tens of thousands of dollars? Not really. While this sale price represents an oddity, both for the fact that the wine hails from California, and that on top of that it is a rosé, the reason for the ridiculous price here is the same.

Whoever bought this bottle obviously didn't buy it to drink. It will sit on a shelf somewhere in someone's collection, likely next to a complete set of other Sine Qua Non wines. This bottle was the equivalent of the 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card.

But unlike baseball cards, which have no other value or meaning apart from being collectible, wine has another purpose. I've tasted a bottle of Krankl's rosé, which I recall not caring for very much. But irrespective of how I felt about that wine, or any other Sine Qua Non wines, they are made to be consumed, and achieve whatever potential and intent their maker had in that moment of consumption.

Treating wine as a trophy is sad.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Ramblings and Rants"
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Date: Friday, 23 May 2014 05:23

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On Saturday May 17th, 2014, wine writer Tim Patterson died of complications from brain cancer following surgery to remove a brain tumor. Regular readers will know that Tim was the co-editor of the book review section here on Vinography, and author of a good share of the book reviews that were posted on Vinography.

In fact, the whole idea to review wine books on Vinography was Tim's idea. We met several years ago at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, and he proposed the idea to me over a glass of Zinfandel.

Our irregular collaboration over the past few years was a great source of pleasure for me, and more than a little humor. Tim possessed a sharp and very sly wit, as well as an excellent ear for prose, as his last review of a couple of wine and food pairing books so beautifully demonstrates.

Tim's writing on Vinography was almost certainly the most inconsequential part of his substantial body of work, which included regular columns in Wines & Vines, and the widely praised Home Winemaking for Dummies, among many other bylines.

Tim's garage wines were well known among the community of Bay Area wine writers, and many of us got a chance to sample them each year at the Wine Writer's Symposium, often with pleasure. His yearly bottling parties were all but legendary.

I knew Tim's health wasn't so great, but his death came as quite a shock to me this week, and I sorely regret the fact that I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to someone I considered to be a truly wonderful human being, and was happy to call a friend.

Tim was remembered by several others this week, including his editor at Wines & Vines, Jim Gordon, and his friend and fellow writer Frances Dinkelspiel, from whom I've stolen this lovely image of Tim above. I encourage you to read both of their pieces, which speak better than I can about his full career.

Goodbye friend. Enjoy the endless harvest.



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Author: "--" Tags: "Ramblings and Rants"
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