Tuesday, September 30, 2014

August 22, 2014 – Wine: 2004 Merryvale Profile

I have always said that if an expensive wine fails to impress you when young, lock it away in your cellar and forget about it for a while.  Such is the case with this wine.  I was absolutely spellbound by the 2001 Profile in its youth.  I sought out nine half-bottles in an auction and began working my way through them.  But, like most 2001’s, the Profiles gradually lost what made them special and settled in to become merely nice wine.  By contrast, the young 2004 Profile could not hold a candle to the 2001’s, and having bought six half bottles, I set them in a remote spot in the cellar wine collection and forgot about them.  When I opened bottles in 2010 and 2011, the wine was medium bodied and nicely balanced, but it lacked any kind of wow! factor.  Now, three years later, I open the next bottle and was pleasantly surprised.  The wine has put on weight and developed incredible complexity, both on the nose and the palette.  I noted primarily flavors of pencil lead, black plums, dark currants, minerals, and baking spices.  Now I have to wait a little while longer to open the one remaining bottle, knowing that this wine has begun overachieving.
2004 Merryvale Profile

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Provenance Vineyards, August 11, 2014


Here is one nice feature about buying wine from a winery …  Provenance put one of the single-vineyard Merlots (a 2007) on sale for 50% off, making it the perfect wine for entertaining.  The first bottle I uncork failed to please my guests, and only a few sips were ever taken.  Sure enough, the wine had developed badly.  The wine was not corked, but it had a certain bitter quality that made it undrinkable.  (In fact, the ounce that I tried ended up giving me a headache the next day.)  After all the bottles I have opened from Provenance, this was the first off bottle.  So, I called the winery, they brought in a replacement bottle from the warehouse, and held it for me to pick up at my convenience.  (That’s the nice feature.)  So, today I was picking up that bottle.  I had another opportunity to check out the garden reconfiguration going on, and it looks like it will be nice when it’s done.
The new front yard at Provenance Vineyards is well underway.

For my tasting flight, I decided to start with the 2013 Rose of Malbec, since it was included in my last shipment.  Next I moved onto the 2011 Winemaker’s Reserve and the 2010 Three Palms Merlot, which is showing very nicely right now.  Following that I was able to compare the 2009 Three Palms Cabernet Sauvignon to the 2009 To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon.  Finally, I could not resist an opportunity to try the now rare 2004 Hewitt Cabernet Sauvignon, which was special.  Of these, the 2009 To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon was my favorite, followed closely by the 2010 Three Palms Merlot.

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

August 8, 2014 – Wine: 2002 Macauley Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

I first discovered this wine in a grocery store in Napa back in 2009 and opened it a few months afterward.  Regrettably, the wine was delicious and the store had sold out of the half-bottles that I fell for so strongly.  The wine was flashy and young, a great specimen of the 2002 vintage from Napa Valley.  Three years later, while visiting the new Macauley tasting room just outside of Saint Helena, the winemaker indicated that they still had a handful of half-bottles of this 2002 vintage remaining, so my friend and I snapped up a few of them.  Of the four bottles I brought home and opened, this last bottle was far ahead of the others.  The balance was nearly perfect, with good structure remaining.  Not quite rich, the palette can only be described as delicious, with great red fruit flavors including cranberry, pomegranate, red currants, pencil lead, baking spices, and minerals.  Check out my notes from September 22, 2013 for a comparison.

2002 Macauley Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21, 2014 – A New World Record

I have been drawn to electric vehicles since I first encountered a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle in a downtown Los Gatos store one Sunday morning in 2007.  I did some research and found that the car lacked enough capability for my daily needs.  But it kept me interested.  Then, I learned of Mitsubishi’s plans to build a capable electric vehicle, which I followed until the 2012 Mitsubishi i‑MiEV landed in my driveway.  I have remained fascinated by these cars and thoroughly enjoy driving electric. 

Each September, the Electric Automobile Association of Silicon Valley holds and electric car rally, which I have attended faithfully since 2012.  This year, I learned (on Wednesday) of an attempt to assemble the largest parade of electric vehicles the world has yet seen.  Naturally, I could not pass on the opportunity to occupy a spot in the record books, however briefly.  The last record was 481 EV’s set in May in Germany.  This time, we sped past that record to 507.  I later celebrated with a half-bottle of 2006 Shafer One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon.  Read about it on my other blog:  http://livingwithmiev.blogspot.com.
The official world-record certificate on display at the event

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Saint Clement Vineyards, August 11, 2014


Saint Clement was patiently holding onto my July wine-club shipment, so the primary motivation for my trip today was to relieve them of my shipment.  (I had until the 23rd before they would ship it and charge me extra.)  When I arrived at the winery, it seemed as though I was the only guest.  Even so, I was directed up to the winemaker’s studio to conduct my club-member tasting, which was great for me because it meant another tasting under the oaks that gently shade the patio there.  There is an indoor tasting option at the studio for when Goldilocks would be unhappy (“too hot” or “too cold”), but Goldilocks was nowhere to be found on this beautiful summer afternoon.  Always looking for creative ways to make use of old wine barrels, a small display had been set up with some summer flowers in a small vase on the old barrel to soften the atmosphere there.
The late afternoon view from the Saint Clement patio

My club pickup included the 2011 Napa Valley Merlot and the 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, so I was eager to try these wines.  I was convinced to start with a sample of the 2012 Abbott’s Vineyard Chardonnay.  I followed this by the 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (which I won’t be giving away) and the 2011 Oroppas blend.  Then I tried the two mountain Cabernets, the 2010 Steinhauer Ranch (Howell Mountain) and the 2010 Armstrong Ranch (Diamond Mountain).  I have long been a fan of the Howell Mountain Cabernet from here and this was again my favorite wine of the lineup.  (Of course, I went home with a bottle of the 2010 Rutherford Cabernet, which is drinking wonderfully now.)  I guess I’ll have to try the 2011 Merlot on my next visit.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

August 2, 2014 – Wine: 2010 Neal Family Zinfandel

When guests show up on short notice after dinner, Zinfandel is my go-to wine for pop-and-pour performance.  I had seen the name Neal Family Vineyards and suggested to my friend that we visit the winery while on Howell Mountain.  I knew they made a noteworthy Cabernet, but I was surprised by the Zinfandel they sell.  (My friend bought a bottle of the 2011 after tasting it.)  After my visit, I found a few bottles of the 2010 Zinfandel and snatched some up.  I really wanted to hold onto this wine for two more years before opening it, but then I remembered I bought this wine to “sacrifice” while the bigger Cabernets lay in rest.  Tonight, the wine performed remarkably, with flavors of dark cherries, dark chocolate, earth tones, and subtle minerals all woven together nicely.  This is a more elegant style of Zinfandel that is still full of body.

Cuvaison Winery, August 11, 2014

Winery - 8 / Wines - 7
Range:  1 to 9 (9 is best, 5 is average)
Exceptional autumn views.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Cabernet.

My sister was the one who first convinced me to visit Cuvaison winery.  As a fan of bubbly wines, she had been visiting Domain Carneros and spotted the entrance to Cuvaison while leaving.  She immediately joined Cuvaison’s wine club and invited me to come along.  I ended up bringing home a number of her wine-club shipments for her during my visits to Napa Valley.  Then, her finances changed and she dropped her wine club membership.  Years have elapsed since then, so I decided it was time for a return visit.  Being in Carneros, Cuvaison’s vineyards tend to cling to the last of the morning’s fog, and today the skies were just beginning to clear as I arrived at noon.  The weather and the setting combined to give me a glorious experience there, with spectacular views, very agreeable weather, beautiful architecture, and tasty wines.
The Cuvaison Winery Carneros tasting room

To get to Cuvaison from Napa, you will drive west on Highway 121 and then turn left onto Duhig Road.  (Domain Carneros should be visible before the turn.)  The driveway entrance to Cuvaison is well marked, directly across from Domain Carnero’s entrance.  You will drive about ¼ mile up a driveway to get to the tasting room.  The tasting room and operations buildings are done in a modern style with redwood integrated into the sides, large windows overlooking the vineyards below, and exposed metalwork.  Inside, the modern elegance continues the woodwork throughout the interior of the tasting room.  A number of tasting tables have been set up around a large rack of wine bottles in the center of the room.  Most of the room’s floor-to-ceiling window panels swivel 90-degrees to bring the beautiful weather indoors (or shut out the bad stuff).  Tasters are welcome to sit outdoors under the extended roof or exposed to the afternoon sun.  I chose to sit indoors as there were already a number of guests outside.
Inside the tasting room at Cuvaison Winery

My tasting flight started out with small plans but grew as I talked with the sales associate.  I started off with the 2012 Kite Tail Vineyard Chardonnay, and followed that by the 2012 Estate Pinot Noir.  Next, the sales associate convinced me to try the 2011 Mariafeld Pinot Noir.  Next on the tasting menu was a Syrah that I never got to.  Upon learning that I enjoy elegant Zinfandels, she poured for me the two Zinfandels from their Brandlin label, the 2012 Estate Zinfandel and the 2012 Bald Mountain Zinfandel.  I finished with the 2011 Brandlin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.  I ended up bringing home a bottle of the 2012 Estate Zinfandel.
The vineyard view from the Cuvaison Winery tasting room

Based on this experience, I would rate the winery an 8 and the wines a 7.  This is consistent with my prior visits.