Sunday, July 20, 2014

Twomey Cellars, Russian River, July 2, 2014

Winery - 8 / Wines - 7
Range:  1 to 9 (9 is best, 5 is average)
Modern beautiful tasting room with great vineyard views.  Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Merlot.

Twomey Cellars operates two tasting rooms: one in Calistoga in Napa Valley, and this one in the Russian River Valley.  The Calistoga location is designed after a classic farmhouse, while the Russian River location is a modern design with a curving room and sweeping, panoramic view of the vineyards just outside.  The Russian River Valley tasting room was acquired by Twomey when they purchased the Roshambo Winery operations (in 2006).  My first visit was in 2007 and I quickly fell in love with the place.  I have returned nearly every other year since then to explore their amazing Pinot Noir wines.  Depending upon when you visit, you may have an opportunity to explore as many as four different Pinot Noir growing regions side-by-side.  Twomey produces Pinots from Santa Barbara County, the Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, and the Russian River Valley, allowing the taster to learn the influences each region may have on the wine from the same grapes.  And, yes, there is a noticeable difference between them.
The courtyard entry to Twomey Cellars

Driving up the Westside Road that hosts most of the wineries along the Russian River, it is easy to miss the Twomey Cellars tasting room, so watch carefully for the driveway entrance (which is well marked).  The winery building is on the downside of a small hill and easily missed, but certainly worth the extra effort to find it.  There is a courtyard leading to the front door with a handsome fountain sporting the winery’s name.  The exterior (and interior) is modern, finished in concrete with neutral warm tones and large walls of glass facing the vineyards.  Inside, the tasting room is a long, high space with a gently arching ceiling finished in in rich wood planks.  The flooring is a glossy dark brown with off-white walls along the interior.  Floor-to-ceiling glass lines most of the tasting room offering view onto the vineyards just outside.  I large patio sits just outside the tasting room and is furnished with a number of elegant patio tables fitted with umbrellas, which is where you really should be tasting in this glorious weather that the Russian River offers most days.
Walls of glass bring the outside in at Twomey Cellars.

My tasting flight began with the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp version of this wine.  (I am starting to miss the beautiful 2012 Sauvignon Blancs as they were truly magnificent.)  Next I enjoyed a side-by-side comparison of the 2012 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and the 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir, both of which were delicious.  This was followed by the 2009 Merlot.  As luck would have it, they had a 2007 Merlot open from earlier that was tasting deliciously, with a subtle richness to it.  My favorites were the two Pinots, and I brought home a bottle of each.

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

May 24, 2014 – Wines for a party

It was time for my sister’s birthday.  She was giving a back yard BBQ party with ribs, and the guests each brought something to complete the meal.  One guest brought a cake, others brought salads and slaws, there were the twice-baked potatoes, and I helped cook skillet potatoes.  And I brought four nice bottles of wine.  There are thousands of wines you can buy for under $20, but I was able to shop sales to bring some amazing quality to this party.  Everyone’s favorite wine cost me $21, but the other three ranged in price from $13 to $19.  Both my sister and my mother are big fans of Cabernet Franc, so I brought a 2010 Provenance to satisfy them.  Here is the list of wines:

2010 Provenance Cabernet Franc (everyone’s favorite)
2008 Boete Cheval Rouge (a Meritage-style blend)
2010 Saint Clement Napa Valley Merlot (my favorite)
2010 Angel’s Secret Petite Sirah (the best value)


Sunday, July 13, 2014

May 14, 2014 – Wine: 2012 Blackbird Arriviste Rosé

Okay, so I am usually the first person to try to trade a rosé wine in my wine club shipment for something red or white.  But this was a half-bottle of rosé, and I can probably work my way through a (shared) half-bottle of nearly any good wine.  The fact that Blackbird made this wine made it even more attractive as I am a big fan of their quality.  When the impending heat wave was announced in the news, I tossed this bottle (and a split of Sauvignon Blanc) into the refrigerator, and tonight opened it cold to enjoy on the back deck as the temperature dropped outside.  This rosé is different from most in that it was made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes (rather than Syrah, Pinot Noir, or Zinfandel).  It was delicious, with flavors of sweet plum, strawberry, pink grapefruit, and subtle cherry notes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ridge Winery, May 25, 2014

It was time once again to preview Ridge’s flagship wine, the 2013 Monte Bello, at the Final Assemblage tasting event.  I enjoy attending this event as it helps me to learn how young wines evolve.  During the component tasting in March, you get to learn how each of the four grape varietals that make up the Monte Bello tastes and how they might taste when added together.  (Though here the total wine is much greater than simply the sum of its parts.)  This time, the grapes have had another two months in barrel, and there has been careful consideration of each lot’s contribution to the final blend.  The result is a 2013 Monte Bello that already tastes like a great wine, with much potential to develop further.

As is customary during these Monte Bello events, you are handed a glass with a taste of the 2012 Estate Chardonnay as you sign in for the event.  As the weather was tending towards warm, this was a welcome opener.  Inside, the 2013 Monte Bello is accompanied by four other wines, as well as some cheeses, bread, and tasty salami.  I started with the 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (which is performing better than I had expected), the 2011 Torre Petit Verdot (which is a rare release), the 2013 Monte Bello final assemblage, and the 2010 Monte Bello.  While the Petit Verdot was interesting, my favorite wine was the 2010 Monte Bello, followed very closely by the 2013 final assemblage.  It is remarkable how much progress has been achieved in the two months since the component tasting event last March.

The new garden wall welcoming visitors to Ridge's Monte Bello estate.

A full review was written already about Ridge Winery during my visit on March 3rd, 2012.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

May 4, 2014 – Wine: 2003 Saint Supery Elu Meritage

After tasting the impressive 2010 Saint Supery Elu Meritage at the winery last week, I decided it was time to open another of the superb 2003’s from my collection.  Make that the last half-bottle from my collection.  This wine has always impressed me, especially this vintage.  It was my good fortune that this wine is probably at its peak right now.  There is terrific balance, nice nose, and a beautiful palette featuring flavors of sour cherry, currant, ripe tomato, and minerals.  I will certainly miss this wine, as it was also the last vintage bottled in 375ml bottles.  I may have to get a full-bottle of the delicious 2010.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

April 25, 2014 – Wine: 2005 Carter Cellars Truchard Vineyard Merlot

This was the wine that introduced me to Carter Cellars’ wines.  I came across a half-bottle online and ordered one.  Then I opened it right away to see what it was like.  Immediately, the nose was pronounced and gorgeous.  Then came the first sip … gack!  Way too tannic, but all the right stuff for aging.  That was in 2008.  Six years later, this wine is really coming into line.  One thing that hasn’t changed much, is the nose, which remains as prominent as ever.  On the palette is where you’ll find the biggest changes as the tannins have mostly softened and integrated, and the flavors have developed a wonderful complexity including flavors of dark cherry, pomegranate, anise, clove, and graphite.  I have just one half-bottle remaining, and judging from the state of the wine today, I can probably keep it another five years.
2005 Carter Cellars Merlot

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Provenance Vineyards, April 26, 2014

Okay, so this winery was largely responsible for the timing of my visit this month.  And, rather than coming during normal tasting room hours, I am here after hours for dinner.  … a lobster dinner.  Provenance announced its first lobster feed at the winery and I decided to give it a try.  Lobster and wine … what’s not to like?  Upon arrival at the tasting room, you are signed in for the dinner, then directed into the cellar where you get your first taste of wine.  Then you hang around in the tasting room chatting with other guests, or you can try your luck at a ring-toss game set up to give away a couple bottles of wine.  Once dinner is ready to be served, all of the guests are brought outside under the new crushpad roof (which ensured a measure of protection against any rain).  Each guest was then served a small baking tin replete with one medium-sized lobster, a few shrimps, potatoes, and some green vegetables.  Each table was staged with sourdough bread that outshined the meal itself.  (I would have been nearly as happy to enjoy the wine and the bread alone.)  The one element that the open crushpad could not protect against was the wind, which had whipped up briskly just in time for dinner.  I was grateful to be wearing a leather jacket. 
Provenance Vineyards at dusk.

As I usually sober up during dinner before the long drive home, I had to carefully monitor my intake of wine at Provenance.  So I set my sights on quality to resist the quantity.  Upon arrival, two wines were being poured, the 2013 Malbec Rose and the 2011 Sleeping Lady Cabernet Sauvignon.  (Because of the magnitude of the event, they were pouring into small wine glasses rather than the usual varietal-appropriate stemware used in the tasting room, so I borrowed one of the tasting room glasses and transferred my wine there.)  Next, I chatted briefly with the assistant winemaker who suggested I should taste the 2011 Hewitt Cabernet Sauvignon (which was not one of the wines being offered), so he poured me a taste from one of the last bottles open from the day’s tastings.  With dinner, I enjoyed the 2011 Cabernet Franc and the 2011 Winemakers Blend.  My favorite was clearly the Hewitt, but all these red wines were amazing (especially considering the nature of the vintage).  I did notice that they were very careful not to pour any other vintages, thus avoiding comparisons with the richer 2009 and 2010 red wines.  I enjoyed these wines over two and a half hours and was good to drive by the end of the event.

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