La Crema - 2009 Monterey Pinot Noir

Winery: La Crema

Varietal: 100% Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2009

AVA/Appellation: Monterey AVA

Alcohol: 13.9%

Cork: Real 

Tasted: 3/23 - 3/27

Aroma: Dark berries, spice.

Taste: Dark berries, plum, spice, well-integrated oak.

Structure: Medium body for pinot, rich and balanced, silky. 

Tannins: low, soft.

A’s summary: Good acidity, balanced and tasty. Rich, lush berries with good spice and oak. Very nice and a great deal for under $20.

Overall score: 4/5

Purchase price: $16 

Retail price: $16-24

28 March 2012           Reblog    
90+ Cellars - 2009 Carneros Lot 31 Pinot Noir

Winery: 90+ Cellars

Varietal: Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2009

AVA/Appellation: Carneros AVA

Alcohol: 14.2%

Cork: Composite 

Production: 3850 cases

Tasted: 3/19 - 3/22

Tasted by: A and Q

Aroma: Cherries, oak.

Taste: Strawberry, cherries, barnyard, cedar, oak.

Structure: Light body, silky. 

Tannins: low, soft.

A’s summary: Nice pinot on the lighter side. Strawberry and fruit on the front, with cedar, oak, and barnyard on the finish.

A’s score: 3 - 3.5/5

Q’s score: 3.5/5

Overall score: 3.5/5

Purchase price: $11 

Retail price: $13-18

24 March 2012           Reblog    
Ridge Vineyards

Ridge is one of the most well respected wineries in all of California, and for good reason. Ever since their inception in the early 1960s by some Stanford engineers, they have consistently produced mature, sophisticated wines. Their flagship wine, Monte Bello, is a bordeaux-style blend that is built for the long haul. However, they are also one of the original purveyors of Zinfandels, due to winemaker Paul Draper’s appreciation of the grape. Ridge produces two estate zinfandels, Lytton Springs and Geyserville, both located in northern Healdsburg, as well as a variety of single vineyard zinfandels from areas like Sonoma, Napa, and Paso Robles.

While their estate zinfandels are produced at their Lytton Springs winery, their historical (and original) Monte Bello winery is located in Cupertino, much closer to home. We visited the tasting room on a cool Saturday afternoon. Here are some of the wines that we tasted.

2009 Ponzo Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel $28 - My favorite zinfandel we tasted at Ridge. Lush, rich raspberries, on the lighter side. Touch of vanilla oak at the end, with moderate tannins. Yum! score 4.5/5

2009 Buchignani Ranch Zinfandel $28 -  Compared to the Ponzo, darker and more extracted. Bigger, vine-y tannins, pepper at the end. score 4/5

2009 Geyserville Zinfandel $35 - Rich cherries, darjeeling tea, spice, fine tannins. Elegant and delicious. score 4.5/5

2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $40 - Rich, dark fruit, earth, vanilla, spice. I am not a big cab fan, and I really enjoyed this one. Could sell for way more than $40. score 5/5 

2008 Monte Bello $150 - My palate is really not developed enough to appreciate this wine, but it was delicious. To be honest, for me, the Estate Cab was 99% as enjoyable (at least in the tasting room format). But getting to taste this was pretty cool. score 5/5

All of the wines we tasted at Ridge were delicious. I appreciate that Ridge veers away from making zins and cabs that are overextracted, sweet, fruit/oak bombs. If you’re in the bay area and looking to go wine tasting, make sure to check out Ridge - either in Cupertino or Lytton Springs.

21 March 2012           Reblog    
Ravenswood - 2008 Barricia Vineyard Zinfandel

Winery: Ravenswood

Varietal: 76% Zinfandel, 24% Petite Sirah

Vintage: 2008

AVA/Appellation: Barricia Vineyard, Sonoma Valley AVA

Alcohol: 14.5%

Cork: Real 

Production: 1000 cases

Tasted: 3/14 - 3/18

Tasted by: A and Q

Aroma: Blackberries, light oak.

Taste: Rich berries, lush raspberry, nice acidity, good complexity, vanilla, pepper.

Structure: Light to medium body, lush, silky. 

Tannins: low to moderate, fine tannins.

A’s summary: Very sophisticated and complex zin. I really enjoyed this one, particularly on the second day. Balanced and quite enjoyable.

Overall score: 4/5

Purchase price: $22 

Retail price: $23 at the bevmo ($18-35 elsewhere)

20 March 2012           Reblog    
Carruth Cellars

My buddy Bryce and I recently found out about a new local winery called Carruth Cellars, so we decide to check it out. 

Carruth Cellars was started about 18 months ago by Adam Carruth in the downtown area of Solana Beach. While I haven’t been that impressed with the wineries in the Temecula area, Carruth sources all of their grapes from northern California, so we were hopeful about this new winery. The winery and tasting room are located in the downtown (or business) district of Solana Beach, where tastings are $10 for about 7-8 tastes.

Here’s a recap of the wines we tasted.

2011 Lake County Clear Lake Sauvignon Blanc $23 - Crisp and refreshing. Honey and acidity. score 3.5/5

2010 Russian River Valley Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay $35 - Butter, butter, oak, butter. I just don’t like the butter/oak bomb Chardonnays. Maybe this was a good one, but… score 2/5

2010 Russian River Valley Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir $40 - Earthy and tart nose, tart cranberry and orange flavor, subtle tannins. Not a typical Russian River Pinot. score 3/5

2009 Dry Creek Valley Chiquita Ranch Road Zinfandel $35 - I am a big fan of Dry Creek Valley zinfandels, but this one tasted more like a Russian River zin (which I also like). Floral, good acidity, cherries, pepper. score 3/5 

2008 Lake County St. Olaf Vineyard Malbec $40 - Bryce and I thought that this was the best wine that we tasted. Lush, rich berries and fine tannins. Very hearty wine with a good finish. Although, $40 for a Malbec is a bit on the pricey side. score 4/5

2008 Red Hills AVA Fortess Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon $30 - Tasted more like an heavily extracted zin. Deep blue color, berries, with some sweetness. Tannins were on the smaller side for a cab. score 3/5

2008 Paso Robles Solana Vineyards Petit Sirah $35 - I also wasn’t a huge fan of this wine either. Chalky and unbalanced acidity. Tannins were big but didn’t integrate with the wine well. score 2/5

Overall, we were satisfied and pleasantly surprised with the quality of the wines. Who knew that San Diego had a good winery? The prices are on the expensive side, likely the due to the cost of shipping grapes from up north, so don’t go expecting to get an awesome QPR wine. However, if you want to do some neat wine tasting and don’t want to drive all the way to Temecula, check out Carruth Cellars.

20 March 2012           Reblog    
Papapietro Perry

Next up in the winery trip - Papapietro Perry

Papapietro Perry is a smaller winery (~8000 cases annually) located in the Dry Creek Valley, focusing on Sonoma County Pinot Noirs and Zinfandels. Their pinot noirs are well regarded, following in the trend in California to produce pinots that are very fruit forward. The tasting room was extremely busy when we visited and we only had a limited amount of time so my notes are not as detailed, but here are the wines we tasted.

2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir $46 - Sweet cherry aroma, very concentrated fresh cherry front, slight tartness, cola, sweetness, light tannins, alcohol a little high on the end. My favorite of the Papapietro Perry pinots, very fruit and nice. Almost like a dessert pinot. score 4/5

2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $46 - Did not like it a much as the Russian River - I felt it was a somewhat unbalanced, tasting on the acidic and young side. score 3.5/5

2009 Nunes Vineyard Pinot Noir $54 

2009 Leras Family Vineyards Pinot Noir $54

The last two pinots that we tasted were also Russian River pinots, and while I liked them better than the Sonoma Coast pinot, they weren’t as good as the less expensive Russian River pinot - the flavors were similar but not quite as balanced. While the wines that we tasted at Papapietro Perry were quite good, I preferred the style of pinot (more reserved, subtle, less fruit bomb) that Kokomo featured in their tasting room.

13 March 2012           Reblog    
Cameron Hughes - 2009 Lot 271 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Winery: Cameron Hughes

Varietal: Pinot Noir

Vintage: 2009

AVA/Appellation: Russian River Valley AVA

Alcohol: 14.4%

Cork: Composite 

Tasted: 3/10 - 3/12

Tasted by: A and Q

Aroma: Cherry

Taste: Cherry, tart, fruit, cola, spice, clean.

Structure: Light and delicate, not very complex, palate lacking some depth, alcohol a little strong.

Tannins: Soft.

A’s summary: Tastes like a Russian River pinot, with nice, clean flavors, but those flavors are somewhat muted. For $13 its an enjoyable and a good buy.

A’s score: 3.5/5

Q’s score: 4/5

Overall score: 3.75/5

Purchase price: $13 

Retail price: $15 at the Cameron Hughes

13 March 2012           Reblog    
Kokomo Winery - 2009 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

Winery: Kokomo Winery

Varietal: Zinfandel

Vintage: 2009

AVA/Appellation: Dry Creek Valley AVA

Alcohol: 14.4%

Cork: Real! 

Tasted: 3/6 - 3/8

Tasted by: A and Q

Aroma: Dark blackberries, spice.

Taste: Juicy blueberries, cherries, cinnamon, black pepper.

Structure: Rich and lush, balanced, good acidity.

Tannins: On the bigger side, but ripe and give good structure.

A’s summary: I visited Kokomo a few weeks back with my family and friends, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite wineries. This is their lowest priced zinfandel (their Winemaker’s Reserve Dry Creek Zin is amazing), but its still great. It has tons of berry fruit on the front (and a touch of sweetness) balanced by good spice and moderate to big tannins on the end. The lower alcohol is much appreciated, with good oak integration that is light at finish (which is exactly what I like). Quentin didn’t like it as much because it was lacking in oak and sweetness for him. So if you’re looking for a sweet zin with lots of oak, you should probably go for something like the Brazin Old Vine (which I reviewed earlier). But if your looking for a more classic Dry Creek zin, than look no further.

A’s score: 4 - 4.5/5

Q’s score: 3/5

Overall score: 3.75/5

Purchase price: $18 

Retail price: $26 at the winery ($18 at Bacchus Wine Market)

8 March 2012           Reblog    
Four Vines - 2009 Old Vine Cuvee Zinfandel

Winery: Four Vines

Varietal: Zinfandel

Vintage: 2009

AVA/Appellation: Mendocino, Amador, Sonoma, Paso Robles, and Lodi AVA

Alcohol: 14.4%

Cork: Composite 

Tasted: 2/29 - 3/2

Tasted by: A and Q

Aroma: Oak, earth, berries, dirt.

Taste: Black berries, earth, a little spice, and oak at the end.

Structure: Light body (for a zin), low alcohol content means there is no burn at the end, soft and silky.

Tannins: supple, nice tannins.

A’s summary: Quentin really liked this for its fruit forward start and oaky finish. I didn’t like it because it is far to oaky for my tastes, and the fruit was pretty monotone. For me, it was just too boring and didn’t have much to offer - but people who like simple, on the verge of sweet red wine might actually like this one.

Fun Fact: Wilfred Wong gave this wine a score of 91. He gave the Sextant Central Coast Zin a score of 90…

A’s score: 2/5

Q’s score: 4.5/5

Overall score: 3.25/5

Purchase price: $8 

Retail price: $8-12 ($10 at bevmo)

5 March 2012           Reblog    
Au Bon Climat - 2009 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

Winery: Au Bon Climat

Varietal: 76% Pinot Noir, 24% Mondeuse

Vintage: 2009

AVA/Appellation: Santa Barbara County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Cork: Real 

Tasted: 2/26 - 2/28

Tasted by: A and Q

Aroma: Fresh cherries, spice.

Taste: Strawberry, bing cherries, crisp and acidic, spice, slight oak finish.

Structure: Light to medium body, very balanced, fresh fruit but not overwhelming.

Tannins: Silky tannins.

A’s summary: My favorite pinot so far this year - its fruity, light, acidic, and very well balanced - its very easy to drink and would go well with a lot of foods. Not the most complex pinot - but it doesn’t try to do too much and excels at being a light, fresh pinot.

A’s score: 4 - 4.5/5

Q’s score: 4/5

Overall score: 4/5

Purchase price: $19 

Retail price: $15-22 ($20 at bevmo)

5 March 2012           Reblog