Thursday, December 18, 2014

October 24, 2014 – Wine: 2005 Bell Cellars Talianna Red Wine

This wine is an unusual blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Syrah (rather than your typical Bordeaux-style blend).  It also happens to be the flagship red blend of Bell Cellars.  I first discovered the 2002 vintage of this wine shortly after joining the Bell Cellars wine club during a tasting visit at the winery.  This wine stood out for its remarkable depth, balance, and flavor.  I bought a bottle of the 2002, and later a bottle of the 2004 after tasting each.  When the 2005 was released, I bought a bottle of it too (without tasting it first) and held onto it until tonight.  This wine seems to enter a special drinking window that starts about eight to ten years after harvest.  Tonight, I decided it was time to open this bottle of 2005, and even though it was one of my more expensive bottles, I felt it was time to give up on waiting for a reason to pull the cork.  The wine offers a fantastic nose, a nearly rich palette, wonderful depth and balance, and terrific complexity, weaving red fruits will all kinds of other sensations.  This bottle is one of my top ten favorite Cabernets from the 2005 vintage.
2005 Bell Cellars Talianna blend

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Provenance Vineyards – October 20, 2014

I like to take people to Provenance Vineyards to show off the quality of their wines.  Folks who enjoy white wines often take a liking to one of the three Sauvignon Blanc wines they make there.  And for those that enjoy red wines, there is a good variety, including some outstanding Merlots.  Lately I have found myself encouraging people to try the 2010 Three Palms Merlot because I was so impressed by it.  More often than not, the folks I encourage end up taking a liking to this wine too.  I also stopped by to pick up my September wine club shipment.  But after learning what was being shipped, I opted to replace my shipment (too many Malbecs) with other wines, which required that I contact the wine-club representative (who had already left for the day because of illness).  I guess I’ll just have to come back again to get my wines.
The completed tasting patio at Provenance Vineyards

I worked my way through the new releases of some of my favorite Cabernets that Provenance offers.  I started with the 2010 Three Palms Cabernet Sauvignon, which is still young and a little reserved (but showing promise).  I next tasted one of my favorites, the 2010 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Select, followed by the 2010 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon 2 (aka TK2), and the 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.  Of these, the TK2 Cabernet was my favorite, but the Barrel Select Cabernet is the best value.

A full review was written already about Provenance Vineyards during my visit on February 8th, 2012.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

October 13, 2014 – Wine: 2005 Ramey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (750ml + 375ml)

Last month, during my travels in Seattle, a dear friend who moved there invited my mom and me to dinner.  My friend would be cooking salmon, and he gave me the task of bringing the wine (which I gladly accepted).  (Later it would turn out that I would be grilling the fish, too, but that is my pleasure.)  I know that the fashionable pairing with fish is a white wine, and Salmon would have demanded a full bodied Chardonnay with higher acids.  But my favorite wine to pair with salmon is Napa Valley Cabernet.  Of course, my friend’s first comment was that I, a typical Californian, had so predictably picked a Napa Valley Cabernet over all the terrific wines made in Washington.  But this was a 2005 Ramey that I had tasted when younger, so I confidently ignored my friend's comment and simply popped the cork.   That shut my friend up, who ended up fighting with my mom and me over the last few ounces in the bottle.  The wine went perfectly with the gorgeous fillet of salmon I was grilling up too.  The wine was still plush like a younger 2005, with all of its fruit intact, but with ideal balance and showing some of the best red fruits that 2005 had to offer.  I had to reveal the store where I purchased the wine so my friend could pick up another bottle.
The big bottle of 2005 Ramey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Of course, that Seattle bottle got me thinking about the 375ml bottle of the same wine that I had slumbering in my basement (for six years now).  So, I relented and popped the cork tonight on this bottle.  The similarities between the two wines were not surprising, but the subtle differences were remarkable.  Whereas the 750ml bottle featured a palette of beautiful red fruits, including cranberry, currants, blackberry, as well as subtle minerals and leather, the 375ml was actually more complex.  In the half-bottle, I noticed much of the same flavors, but also noted more prominent black fruit flavors which were more subtle in the 750ml bottle.  Usually, I prefer the performance of the half-bottle to the full-bottle of the same wine because it has developed more character, but this time I was enamored with the lush red fruits of the larger bottle.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Saint Clement Vineyards, October 20, 2014

Next stop on the agenda was Saint Clement, after stopping to pick up some sandwiches at Ranch Market Too in Yountville.  My hope was to sit under the oaks on the patio and enjoy our lunch as we tasted wine in this glorious weather we were enjoying.  But, when we arrived at Saint Clement, they directed us to the next level above the patio, set out a red table cloth across the picnic table, and gave us a private, sunny tasting experience overlooking Napa Valley.  My guests really enjoyed picnicking with our delicious sandwiches, our spectacular view, and our wine tasting selections.  It was during this visit that I learned that the tasting room at Saint Clement will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays beginning November 1, 2014.  This will impact when I can come to pick up my wine club shipments as I prefer mid-week visits.
The fine picnic tables at Saint Clement Vineyards

Before taking our wines out to the picnic table, I was poured a taste of one of the wines in my wine-club shipment, the 2011 Johanna red blend.  Then, at the table, I tasted the 2009 Napa Valley Merlot, the 2011 Oroppas, the 2010 Steinhauer Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2010 Armstrong Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.  Of all these wines, the Steinhauer Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon stood out as my favorite.  The interesting thing is that during my last visit, this same wine was less impressive, a little thinner, and shorter finishing.  It is amazing how much a wine can develop in just a month or two.  My guests enjoyed the 2012 Abbott’s Vineyard Chardonnay so I bought a bottle to take home with us.

A full review was written already about Saint Clement Vineyards during my visit on May 12th, 2012.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 24, 2014 – Fall color is fleeting

I spent the day in Napa Valley and was fortunate to find that much of the brilliant foliage was still clinging to the vines, but not all of it.  Most of the vines lost up to half of their leaves in last Thursday’s rain and wind event, suggesting that the fall-color peak was last Wednesday.  With the brilliant sunny weather we are enjoying this week, now is your last opportunity to take in this spectacle of color.  Many of the younger vineyards were already stripped of their leaves, but those that still had leaves were shimmering in the low afternoon sunshine.  Grab a camera and head up there.

The view from the deck at Miner Family Vineyards

Half-naked vines bask in the autumn sun at Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards

Sunday, November 23, 2014

October 11, 2014 – Wine: 2009 Savannah-Chanelle Russian River Pinot Noir

While tasting recently at the Savannah-Chanelle winery (and hoping they had some good stuff on sale), I noticed a case of the 2009 Russian River Pinot Noir marked down about 30%.  I was able to taste the wine and decided that, at just over $20 a bottle, this wine would be great to bring to parties.  The 2009 vintage was highly praised for its Pinot Noir wines, and Savannah-Chanelle consistently releases quality wines that improve with some time in the cellar, so I felt safe making this purchase.  Besides, the 2009 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir was performing grandly right now (and I have just one bottle remaining now).  Now, ten months later, I opened a bottle and was quite pleased.  The wine is taking on many of the fruit qualities in the Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, but retaining more of the classic Pinot Noir characteristics of being a controlled, balanced, and thought-provoking wine.  I am looking forward to opening my next bottle.
2009 Savannah-Chanelle Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hess Collection Winery, October 20, 2014

Whenever I am entertaining new visitors to Napa Valley, I like to start off my visit at Hess Collection.  Visually, this winery has so much to offer.  Starting with the long walk past the coy pond, into the three-story modern addition to the original stone winery building housing the tasting room, to the two floors of quality art work occupying the top two floors of the addition, this winery is an eyeful of treats.  Today I was entertaining a special guest from Mexico, so we started here.  Unfortunately, the stylish tasting room in the old stone winery was cordoned off, and we were directed to the third floor to taste in the art gallery.  It would seem that Hess’ stonework was one of the victims of the earthquake last August.  I was told that the masonry had shifted and was in need of engineering work, but the winery expected to be able to repair the damage.  (I also heard that Trefethen’s operations building had suffered damage in the same earthquake.)

One of my favorite pieces on display at Hess Collection

The good news about the wine is that the majority of it survived the earthquake.  Because there were four of us tasting today, we decided each to choose our own wines from the lengthy tasting menu and share our favorites.  (That’s why I have more than four wines listed.)  I started off with the 2012 Artezin Zinfandel Esola, and moved onto the 2011 Petite Syrah, the 2010 Auction Lot 11 blend, the 2010 Block 19 blend, and the 2012 Allomi Cabernet Sauvignon.  But my favorite wine was the sip I had of the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, which was the nicest of the white wines we would taste this day.

A full review was written already about Hess Collection during my visit on May 12th, 2012.