Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lunar eclipse entertains local vines tonight

The lunar eclipse is nearly at its peak here in California.  Fortunately, I live just south of the fog line and was able to grab a shot of the last sliver of light emanating from the full moon.  I struggled for some time trying to capture a good shot, but every picture seemed blurred on the camera's LCD display.  Then I found this shot and looked at it on my laptop and was surprised.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Tonight's lunar eclipse just moments before its peak.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

March 1, 2014 – Wine: 2006 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Something about the 2006 vintage rubs me the wrong way.  When you read the harvest reports for the vintage, there is much mention about the abundance of winter rains, and the luxurious hang time that the vines experienced.  And yet, there is no mention of the week-long period of 100+ degree (F) temperatures, culminating in three days of 115 degree heat.  (I recall how grateful I was to be invited to Lake Tahoe during those three days where the temperature fluctuated between 77 and 90 degrees.)  Every vintage has its characteristic (2007 was blueberry), and I believe that this heat wave left a steely acidic note in the grapes that many wine makers tried to oak out of the wine.  I tasted this in Pinot Noirs, Cabernets, Merlots, and even some white wines.  (Syrah, Zinfandel, and Sangiovese seemed to fair much better.)  So, I decided to only accept wine-club shipments for that vintage, and I only opted to purchase a handful of 2006’s.  This Corison Cabernet was one of the wines that I opted to acquire a few extra bottles of.  Tonight I am so glad that I did.  This wine has evolved beyond the vintage, with a complex mixture of delicious red fruits including cranberry and black currant, as well as leather, tar, and mineral notes all wonderfully balanced and ever so subtly rich (sans steel).

2006 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Saint Clement Vineyards, February 22, 2014

After telling my friends about the terrific deals at Saint Clement during my visit in January, I was asked to order for some of them some of the same wines on special.  I also wanted a few more of these well-priced bottles and ordered more for myself.  Since I was practically across the street at Freemark Abbey, I figured it made sense to stop by Saint Clement and pick up my wines.  I was directed from the tasting bar inside classic farmhouse back to the winemaker’s studio on the patio behind the farmhouse.  The winemaker’s house is what I would describe as Yosemite-modern style, with an emphasis on stone and wood in the d├ęcor.  Some of the wine club’s events take place in this same building, and as I recall, the main entertaining hall is quite a comfortable place, including a fireplace and leather lounge chairs.  But this time, I was continuing my enjoyment of the fantastic February weather (about 68 degrees outside) and sat down on the patio to enjoy my pours.  There were a number of folks also outside, and I struck up a conversation with some of them.
The patio outside the Winemaker's Studio at Saint Clement
I really wanted to try all the single-vineyard Cabernets that they had open that afternoon, but I had to limit my intake after the generosity at the release party just prior.  So, I chose two wines from the menu that I knew I would enjoy, and allowed the staff to twist my arm ever so slightly to try one new Cabernet.  I started with the 2010 Star Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (from Rutherford) which has been my favorite in many vintages.  I followed with the 2010 Steinhauer Ranch Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon (from Howell Mountain), and was easily coerced into trying the new 2010 Paras Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (from Mount Veeder).  Of these, the Star Vineyard Cabernet continues to be my favorite and is delicious.

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

Sunday, April 6, 2014

February 27, 2014 – Wine: 2007 Honig Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine fits right in my price sweet-spot.  I regularly open a half-bottle of red wine that costs about $20 or less.  A trusted friend of mine had recommended Honig Cabernet, so I sought out a half-case of half-bottles of the 2007 vintage.  The way that all the 2007’s were turning out, I really couldn’t lose.  At first (in 2011), this wine was jammy, then tannic, then it started to come into balance.  Tonight, though, this wine strutted its stuff like never before, as all the elements came into ideal balance and the tannins had integrated nicely.  The wine has always expressed vintage-typical fruit, and tonight it delivered with flavors of blackberry, blueberry, black licorice, tea, and minerals.  Luckily I managed to save two more to enjoy later this year.  This wine was well-worth the time and the money.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Freemark Abbey Winery, February 22, 2014


This is the reason to join a wine club.  The discounts on the wine are a terrific economic incentive, and the exclusive attention in the tasting room may be another.  Only a few wine collectors like me tend to join for the member-only wine releases.  All of that is nice, but the wine release party for the flagship wine is probably enough to make joining the wine club worthwhile.  When I arrived, I first picked up my shipment and returned it to my car (after tasting a couple of gems).  Then I headed down to the large lawn tucked away behind the two tasting rooms.  There, in the glorious sunshine, a band played a number of fun tunes from decades past.  Just beyond the band was the portal to the lower level winery operations floor, where they were pouring their flagship wine, the 2009 Sycamore Cabernet.  Even better than the wine were the h’orderves being shuttled about.  They had a lamb dish, a chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce garnish, and my favorite, a pulled-pork on polenta dish that drew me back for more.
The lawn at Freemark Abbey under spectacular skies
Of course, the event was not about the h’orderves, nor the music, but the wine.  Upon entering the winery operations area and registering, you are handed a pour of the newly released 2009 Sycamore Cabernet Sauvignon.  Then, at a second table, they were pouring a short vertical of the 2004, 2005, and 2006 vintages.  Many people favored the 2006, but I preferred the 2004 as a close second to the 2009.  Then, the staff mentioned that these recent vintages were all on sale at 25% off the price of the newest 2009 Sycamore, so I headed up to the members’ tasting room to try the 2007 vintage.  This wine was by far the tastiest of the five vintages, and I bought a bottle.  (I may have convinced a couple other people to follow my lead too.)  I am pleased to have the 2007, 2008, and 2009 Sycamore Cabernets in my collection now and am eagerly looking forward to opening them all.

A full review was written already about Freemark Abbey during my visit on December 28th, 2012.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

February 21, 2014 – Wine: 2005 Carter Cellars Revilo Cabernet Sauvignon

Like many wines from the 2005 vintage, I was impressed by this one when it was first released, but after about two years, the wine had shut down so much that I was beginning to feel that I had been taken advantage of (especially at $50 per half-bottle).  So, I followed my own advice and let the remaining half-bottles sit in the cellar untouched.  Tonight I opened the second bottle and was surprised and quite pleased with the results of my patience.  The first bottle was unbalanced and noticeably disintegrated, but tonight the wine was beautifully balanced with resolved tannins and nice presentation of vintage-typical red fruits.  I noted deep flavors cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, leather, and controlled minerals.  I now feel as though I am getting my money’s worth.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Goosecross Cellars, February 22, 2014

Winery - 4 / Wines - 6
Range:  1 to 9 (9 is best, 5 is average)
Fun outdoor tasting with friendly staff.  Cabernet, Petite Sirah, and whites.  Reservations requested.

I was thinking of calling this the “Goosecross Redemption”, since my first attempt to visit the winery failed.  After consulting Google Maps, it turns out that the gated and secured winery I originally tried to visit was Kapscandy Family Winery, makers of 100-point wines that sell for many hundreds of dollars.  Had I driven another half-mile up State Lane outside Yountville I would have found their neighbor, Goosecross Cellars.  And Goosecross is vastly more welcoming than Kapscandy, accommodating most guests with less than a moment’s notice.  In good weather (which is about 85% of the time), you may have the opportunity to sit outside next to the vineyards and be chatted up by either the tasting room manager or by the vineyard operations guy (as was the case during my visit).  As I was travelling solo, I joind a group of four others and had a very enjoyable visit.
Outside Goosecross Cellars by the patio
Goosecross Cellars is another authentic winery in Napa Valley.  They know how to deliver what matters – they serve good wine in a comfortable environment.  You won’t find luxury, architecture, or works of art here to distract you during your visit.  They let the wine do that.  In the event that the weather is not very accommodating, you can taste indoors.  Inside their cozy winery operations building, a wine bar has been set up that runs half the length of the building.  There is room for about six to eight people there.  Behind the guests are stacks barrels of wine, slowly waiting to complete their aging process before being bottled up.  The walls are a light shade of putty, with warm oak used in the tasting bar.  Outside, the building is rather plain, resembling a large two-story home painted white with dark chocolate trim.  There is also a patio set up with a bar for tasting outdoors in nice weather, and some tables set up along the vineyard edge to have an intimate tasting with the vines.  (This is where I was seated.)
Inside the tasting room and barrel storage at Goosecross Cellars
My tasting flight consisted of five wines.  I started with the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and followed it with the 2010 Chardonnay.  Next I moved on to the red wines, enjoying the 2010 Merlot State Lane, then the 2009 Cabernet State Lane, and the 2011 Petite Sirah.  I enjoyed tasting the 2009 Cabernet, especially knowing that it abuts acreage with the Kapscandy wines.  But the surprise of the tasting flight was the 2011 Petite Sirah, which tastes ripe, complex, and nearly elegant.

Based on this experience, I would rate the winery as a 4 and the wines offered as a 6.