Archive for March, 2012

Two Italian Wines That Will Benefit From Some Age

These two wines both require short-term aging.  This was the first bottle we have drunk from Montesecondo.  From an estate that has undergone a large transformation over the last decade, this is a wine worth following.  If you do purchase a bottle then stick it in the cellar instead of pulling the cork!  We were first introduced to Ronchi de Manzano just last month when we drank the good 2009 Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso.  The Brauros bears some similarities due to the purple flavors, pepper notes, and cool aspect but reveals more structure.  If you are new to this producer or region then I would recommend you first purchase the less expensive Refosco before trying this selection.  These two wines are currently available at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Azienda Agricola Montesecondo, Toscana Rosso IGT – $19
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.  This wine is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Canaiolo sourced from biodynamically farmed 15-year-old vines, fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged for 12 months in oak.  There was a light nose.  In the mouth the gently, structured red fruit was elegantly balanced with prickly acidity on the tongue, sticky tannins on the roof of the mouth, and a hint of spice.  This need one to two years of development to realize its potential.  **(*) 2014-2017. Find it at Add to Cart.

2008 Azienda Agricola Ronchi di Manzano, Brauros, Rosazzo Rosso, Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC – $22
Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  This is a blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 33% Refosco.  The fruit is sourced from vineyards planted in the 1970s on the hills of Rosazzo where there are marln and sandstone soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel then aged for nine months in small French oak casks.  There was a young nose of purple fruit and a suggestion of pepper.  In the mouth the tight purple fruit makes way to tart red flavors with a fine texture, tannins, and a cool inkiness.  The drying tannins mix with a touch of sweet spice and spicy quality.  There was serious intent for this wine to age.  **(*) 2015-2019.

Walking and Drinking in Seattle

March 16, 2012 3 comments

In walking from my Downtown hotel to Capitol Hill I prefer to cut through First Hill. Located east of downtown and south of Capitol Hill, First Hill was a wealthy 19th century Seattle neighborhood. Many wealthy families built homes on this 300+ foot hill in the 1880s and 1890s. In the early 20th century many hospitals were built such as Grace Hospital (1908, predecessor to Swedish Hospital) and Virginia Mason in 1920. With the construction of I-5 in the late 1950s and early 1960s First Hill became cutoff. Zoning changes resulted in many tall post-war buildings being built. In 1976 Freeway Park covered a portion of I-5 bringing some connection across it.

Freeway Park in Foreground with First Hill in Background

From my hotel one simply crosses over I-5 on Seneca Ave walking a moderately flat block past the Freeway Park with the Convention Center in the background. This is where the terrain and buildings become interesting. The first several blocks are increasingly steeper. Some section are so steep as to easily swallow an 8+ story building in one block.

Remains of the Alfaretta

The hills and moderate density over 100+ years have left an interesting array of nooks and crannies in the form of underpasses, garages, and forested areas.

Deep Parking

Parking Under the Convention Center

A Sally-Port in Capitol Hill

With the steepest blocks ascended the crest is marked by numerous Virginia Mason building of various heights and vintages. There are several interesting buildings within a tight radius of each other. The Blackford Hall from 1946 evokes a pre-war decade to me but it’s proportions work next to the deeply colored brick Cassel Crag building from 1925. An utilitarean building lies around the corner with interesting medical bas reliefs.

Cassel Crag and Blackford Hall

Medical Reliefs, 1944

Medical Reliefs, 1944

Continuing another block north on Terry Ave entices you with the Terri Ann apartments situated by an impossibly steep wooded ravine. Turning ones head to the right is the Talisman Condominiums designed by John Graham and built in 1965. He is one of the architects of the Seattle Space Needle which was completed in 1962.

The Terri Ann Apartments

The Talisman Entrance, 1965

The Talisman

Two nights ago I went to John’s hotel where Brian met us to kick back and try the 2009 Fidelitas, Cabernet Sauvignon. Drunk out of glass low balls this showed it’s appealing nature after half an hour. While the wood influences are marked, they are purposefully present with control. At $17 it is a good value and would make a pleasing wine at a restaurant. After a few glasses we walked across the street to Tango for dinner. While the wine list stated the 2005 Pinyolet, Seleccion the 2009 vintage was actually stocked. Having never drunk either vintage and anticipating an hours wait for our paella I quickly accepted the wine. There was enough time for the wine to open and I particularly liked the minerality of the wine.

Last evening the rain finally stopped, the sun broke through, and I was hungry. I finally realized that the restaurant which I always wanted to eat at, but had incorrectly recalled was The Apartment, was actually Dinette and very much in existence. The walk over left me thirsty for a cocktail so I picked my favorite, the Manhattan. With a life-long love of Maraschino Cherries (including the original, dark, dense, less sweet jarred cherries from Italy) I also like a rich rye that is sweet in my Manhattan. This was drier with a refreshing citrus note. Many thanks to Heather for making me feel relaxed.

Bar Ferdinand

2010 Correggia Anthos and Catnip Salmon for Our Cat

The clouds lifted and so did the temperature. I walked back a slightly different route which took me past Melrose Market where Bar Ferdinand is situated. This pocket-sized wine bar and wine store had a good buzz of people drinking wine. When I spotted the Fatalone, Teres on the menu I professed my enjoyment of the wine and asked for something different. One sniff of a sample pour of 2010 Matteo Corregia, Anthos was all that was required to order a glass. I drank this last glass of wine, pleased after looking at buildings, thrilled to have discovered a new wine, and ready to fly home.

2008 Pendulum Winery, Pendulum, Columbia Valley – $15
This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Malbec. It underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 32 months in 25% new American oak and 75% in various second and third use oak. Last tasted this past September, this immediately showed more restraint than the endowed 2006 vintage. With a mixture of red and dark red fruits this showed some structure and barrel influences, in a dry, and pleasing manner. Good value. ** Now-2015. Find it at

2009 Fidelitas, Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley – $17
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from 25% Gamache, 20% Boushey, 20% Lady Hawk, 15% Hightower, 10% Discovery, 5% Champoux, and 5% Red Mountain vineyards. It underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 22 months in 50% new French and American oak barrels. The nose revealed dark red and blue fruit which was sweet. In the mouth there was dark red fruit with initial subtle sweet spices with a softness to the text but still plenty of enlivening acidity. There was just a hint of tart red fruit before fine+ ripe tannins came out in the finish. There is black fruit in the aftertaste. With air this shed some baby fat to reveal more structure with dark red fruit and vanilla notes in the aftertaste. **(*) 2014-2017. Find it at

2009 Pinyolet, Seleccion, Montsant, At Tango – $20
Imported by Peninsula Wines. This wine is a blend of 80% Garnacha and 20% Carinena that was aged for eight months in two-year old French oak. The Garnacha was sourced from vines planted in 1945 and the Carignena from vines planted in 1928. After one to two hours of air the nose revealed red fruit and raspberry candy. In the mouth there were initial flavors of red fruit, minerals, and citrus acidity. This wine became focused with stone flavors in the middle before turning blue in the finish. There was gentle weight, gobs of acidity, along with raspberry and cherry flavors in the aftertaste. *** Now-2017. Find it at

NV Manhattan, At Dinette –
This cocktail is a blend of Rye whiskey, muddled oranges, raw sugar, brandied cherries, and bitters. An oxidized blood-orange color with machine-made ice. A citrus nose with undertones of bitters and a hint of sweet rye. In the mouth cool flavors immediately make way to less sweet (dry) orange-citrus right before rye notes come out. The citrus fades as the rye stands out with a minerally, cola, and stone vein in the aftertaste. There is a floral perfume to this refreshing cocktail with an underlying darkness. Now.

2009 Sozo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Contribute, Columbia Valley, At Dinette –
There is a sweet, slightly scented grapey nose. In the mouth there is forward red and grapey fruit with a touch of darkness. With respectable acidity, this wine has a bit of everything but there is some roughness and heat. ** Now-2014. Find it at

2010 Matteo Correggia, Anthos, Rosso, At Bar Ferdinand –
This wine is 100% Brachetto. There was a medium-strength nose of perfumed, delicate berries and pastilles with a bit of grit. The strong nose entices one to take a drink. In the mouth powdery red fruit is tart with Myer lemon and floral Lavender flavors. This fun and fresh wine finished with floral herbs. *** Now. Find it at

The 2010 Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso

Earlier this week I grabbed a bottle of the 2010 Terre Nerre, Etna Rosso to go with a simple salad.  I tried the wine a few times that evening and was generally unimpressed after having enjoyed the 2009 Etna Rosso last May.  In my limited experience, I have been a fan of the 2009 vintage in Sicily.  In typical fashion I shoved the cork back in, stuck it in my hotel refrigerator and got back to it two days later. It was much better and interesting but still tight.  So if you pick up a bottle then definitely cellar it for a year or two.  If you drink it now double-decant it several hours ahead of time.   This selection is available at Whole Foods in Seattle.

2010 Tenuta delle Terre Nere, Etna Rosso, Sicily – $17
Imported by Marc de Grazia.  The wine is a cranberry garnet color in the glass and a pure cherry-popsicle nose.  In the mouth there was brighter red fruit with a sandy texture, a touch of dark fruit with a hint of perfumed ripeness.  This subtle wine leaves a coating of fine to medium grapey tannins with a good amount of acidity.  The finish is drying with red tart acidity.  This needs some short-term aging to open up.  **(*) 2014-2016. Find it at

A Pair of Affordable Spanish Wines

I occasionally try $10 bottles of wine to see if they are appropriate for daily drinking or larger-scale entertaining.  I can certainly think of several $12 wines that have personality and are tasty, which I have personally served at our house.  However, the $10 range is a bit tricky.  This bottle of 2010 Pinol, Ludovicus is priced at $10.  While I did not mind it, Jenn did not want to drink it.  The notes of pruned fruit and impression of softness were too distracting so I would pass on this one.  We have drunk the Maurodos, Prima before but somehow I never managed to write down a tasting note.  Though priced a few more dollars than I would prefer, it is still a respectable buy for a wine which requires time to develop for a few years.  These selections are currently at MacArthur Beverages.

2010 Celler Pinol, Ludovicus, Terra Alta – $10
Imported by OLE Imports.  This wine is a blend of 40% Garnacha, 20% Syrah, 15% Carinena, 15% Tempranillo, and 10% Merlot.  The fruit was sourced from vineyards at 1,200 feet on soils of  clay and brown limestone.  It was aged for four months in French and American oak barrels.  There was tighter, structured blue fruit with a floral hint at first then some pruned fruit flavors as wood tannins and spice come out.  The fruit is a bit soft in how it feels but eventually develops some texture.  There is a bit of freshness in the finish.  ** Now-2015. Find it at Add to Cart.

2009 Bodegas y Vinedos Maurodos, Prima, Toro – $17
Imported by Grapes of Spain.  This wine is a blend of 90% Tinta de Toro and 10% Garnacha which aged for 12 months in oak barrels.  There was a subtle nose of mixed fruit.  In the blue flavors of blue and red fruit are ripe with a gentle spice.  There is a tart lift in the middle with cherry flavors (and something like blue candy) along with some dark spice.  This need a few years to open up but has potential.  **(*) 2014-2019. Find it at Add to Cart.

The Jolly Roger Wine List

March 14, 2012 2 comments

A group of us were at The Collins Pub in Pioneer Square, Seattle last night for some pre-dinner pints.  After drinking the Boundary Bay IPA and the Russian River Brewery, Pliny the Elder I took a walk around.  To my surprise I found pages from The Jolly Roger menu.

The Jolly Roger, 1935, Image from Shoreline Historical Museum, Under a Creative Commons License

There is a rumor that the Jolly Roger operated in Lake City Way during prohibition.  Apparently people would stand watch in the tower for any police activity and if needed alert the patrons.  They could then leave through an underground tower.  According to Paul Dorpat of The Seattle Times, it did not even exist during Prohibition.  The plans for the building were presented by the architect on Dec. 15, 1933, a week and a half after the repeal of Prohibition.  Originally operating as the Chinese Castle it became The Jolly Roger when the original license was revoked after two years.  In 1979 it was designed a Historic Seattle Landmark and eventually burned down in 1989.  If you poke around the web you can find Jolly Roger menus for sale from several different decades.

The Jolly Roger Menu

The prices on the wine list are interesting.  The cheapest wine listed is the Claret for $1.25 per bottle with the most expensive being the “Imported Burgundy Macon Brand” for $3.50 per bottle.  Particularly interesting are the bottle and glass prices.  A $2 bottle of wine could also by had by the glass for $0.15.  So either the bottles were big or the glasses were small!

Closeup of The Jolly Roger Wine List

The Very Young 2009 Fondreche, Persia

Several years ago Jenn and I drank quite a lot of the 2004 Fondreche, Persia.  Circle Wine sold it at $15-$20 per bottle so not only was it a satisfying drink but was friendly on the wallet.  I happily picked up this bottle last month from the shelves at MacArthur Beverages.  On the first night this wine was unyielding and just not fun to drink so I put some gas in and popped it into the wine fridge.  We went out to dinner the next night so I did not get to taste it again until the third night.  It certainly changed for the better.  There is very strong potential in this wine but it really needs age.  I would recommend buying a few bottles then trying one in five years.

2009 Domaine de Fondreche, Persia, Ventoux – $23
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is a blend of 90%  Syrah and 10% Mourvedre with the Syrah sourced from 30-40 year old vines.   It was aged for one year in barriques and demi-muids.  On the third night the nose revealed red fruit and roast earth.  In the mouth there was lovely black fruit and licorice which were flavorful and clean.  The compact flavors were structured and left a coating of fine, perfumed minerality on the lips.  There were very fine tannins with integrated acidity and perhaps a touch of warmth in the aftertaste.   **(*) perhaps **(**) 2017-2025. Find it at Add to Cart.

Notes from the 27th California Futures Tasting

March 13, 2012 4 comments

Washington, DC home of the 27th California Futures Tasting

This past Saturday Lou and I attended the 27th California Futures Tasting organized by Andy Creemer of MacArthur Beverages.  This event is sponsored by MacArthur Beverages for the benefit of The Addy and Bruce Bassin Memorial Cancer Research Fund.  Held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel the room easily holds the 40 wineries with such spacing that the wait at a table is never that long.  In the 2.5 hour time span of the tasting it is impossible to taste all of the wines with any consistent degree of concentration.  We decided to focus old favorites, new attendees, and those which people were buzzing about.  In the end I wrote 41 tasting notes on wines from 17 wineries.

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel

The typical format for this tasting is for a winery to present at least one wine from a finished and bottled vintage along with the subsequent vintage sample which is still being raised in barrel.  Most of these wine samples will not be bottled until the fall.  These barrel samples were collected between two days and three weeks prior to the tasting.  Of these samples some represent final blends whereas others represent approximate blends.  There is some variation in the quality of the wines due to their state which seemed apparent in a few wines.

Barrel Sample from Ridge

In general the finished wines were from the 2009 vintage and the barrel samples were from the 2010 vintage. There was some variation with Dunn showing the 2009 barrel sample and Ridge showing both 2010 and 2011 barrel samples.  If I grossly generalize the 2009 were riper whereas the 2010 were more structured for aging.  I also found the 2010s to have spicy tannins but this might just be a result of the barrel samples.  Unfortunately, I did not take detailed notes the past two years for comparison sake.

Barrel Sample from Tablas Creek

It is hard to venture a list of favorite wines but my distilled impressions are that the 2010 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel and 2010 Ridge, Monte Bello were excellent at the less riper end of the spectrum.  While the Ramey Cabs stepped it up I found the Syrah a refreshing break during the middle of the tasting.  And how can you not like the $22 Mark Herold Wines, Flux?  The 2010 Kamen Cabernet had an interesting array of Indian spices.  The 2009 Hensley Family showed really well for an inaugural vintage.  The Pahlmeyer and Staglin were very good, a bit more restrained with the Pahlmeyer showing sweeter and the Staglin more classic.  Surely the best buy of the evening and a simply outstanding wine was the 2009 Dunn, Howell Mountain.  I anticipated tasting it after loving the 2008 from last year and was impressed again.  At the high-end the wines of Morlet were consistently very good wines needing age.  The 2009 Bure Family, Duration was really very good with  the 2010 Thirteen close on its heels.  But the 2010 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, To-Kalon was a stunner.


Arietta was founded in 1996 by Fritz Hatton along with John and Maggy Kongsgaard.   The original parcels were purchased at Hudson Ranch with additional purchases at Howell Mountain in 2003 and 2004.  Fritz and his wife Caren bought out the Kongsgaard’s in 2005 and brought on Andy Erickson as the winemaker.  Andy Erickson has worked at both Harlan Estate and Staglin.

2009 Arietta, Cabernet Sauvignon – $125
This wine is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Merlot sourced mostly from Coombsville along with Calistoga and Carneros.  It was aged in 75% new and 25% second-use French oak.  This showed saline, red fruit with alcoholic heat coming through the structure.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Arietta, Cabernet Sauvignon – $125
This was more floral on the nose with purple fruit.  In the mouth this showed better balance than the 2009 with sweet spice, a wood note, and some spicy heat.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Barnett Vineyards

Barnet Vineyards was created by Fiona and Hal Barnet in 1983.  Originally focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon wines the estate vineyards are located on steep terraces at the top of Spring Mountain located at 2,000 feet. Today they produce a variety of white and red wines with fruit sourced from estate and single-vineyard fruit.

2009 Barnett Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain – $60
This wine is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petite Verdot that was aged for 22 months in 65% new and 35% once-used French oak barrels.  This was unique with a nose of oysters, seaside, and the woods.  There was ripe fruit in the mouth along with sweet cinnamon and maple.

2010 Barnett Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain – $60
With a touch more Petit Verdot there was not much on the nose.  In the mouth Eucalyptus notes and red fruit mixed with orange-juice acidity before the tangy finish.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Barnett Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rattlesnake – $120
This fruit was sourced from volcanic soil and was aged for 22 months in wood.  This was the most perfumed with lavender, red and black fruit in the mouth.  Lively on the tongue it took on red grapefruit and orange citrus tannins.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Bure Family

Valeri Bure, Bure Family

Valeri Bure developed a passion for fine wine and food over the ten-plus years he played hockey.   Luc Morlet is the winemaker with the wines made at Chateau Boswell Winery.

2010 Bure Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Thirteen – $135
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Red Barn Vineyard.  The nose was inky, dark.  In the mouth there were gobs of brambly, deep fruit which slowly unveiled and expanded in the mouth.  There were sweet spices, very fine tannins, and racy perfume.  Very good and should get better over the year.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2009 Bure Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Duration, Oakville – $175
There are 100 cases of this wine.  It s a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon from Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard and 20% Cabernet Franc from Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard.  The nose was interesting.  In the mouth the flavors were initially quite creamy, though more tannic than the Thirteen, there was a balanced vein throughout.  The flavors turned towards bright red fruit in the finish as it explodes in the mouth.  The aftertaste left impressions of orange peel and nuts. Young.  A lot going on, very good.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Bure Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Duration, Oakville – $150
This showed more lift to the nose as compared to the 2009.  The perfumed, tart red fruit flavors mixed with purple flavors and show more restraint.  The tannins were the most drying and there was a hint of heat.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Crocker & Starr

In 1971 Charlie Crocker purchased the historic Durell & Sonw Winery which was established in the 1870s.   In 1997 Pam Starr joins Charlie to create Crocker & Starr where she is the manager and winemaker.  After graduating from UC Davis Pam worked at Edna Valley Vineyard and Carment Winery.    In addition to starting Crocker & Starr Pam started consulting to Adastra Vineyard, Gemstone Vineyard, and Garric Cellars.

2009 Crocker and Starr, Stone Place, Cabernet Sauvignon – $81
The nose was restrained with red fruit and barrel notes.  In the mouth the tight flavors mixed with perfume which turned to incense and old-style perfume in the middle.  There was a smooth mouthfeel.  This needs time to come together.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Dunn Vineyards

Mark Longsworth, Country Vintner

Dunn Vineyards originated in 1978 when Randy and Lori Dunn purchased 14 acres on Howell Mountain.  Since 1982 they have produced two wines which are both 100% Cabernet Sauvignon: the Napa Valley and Howell Mountain.

2009 Dunn Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley – $65
The nose was beautiful with underlying brambly fruit.  In the mouth there was an immediate lovely mouthfeel, inky notes, ripe sweet fruit which turned cool in the middle.  The beautiful spices mixed with depth and controlled power. The finish and aftertaste wrapped up with creamy, ripe cherries.  Again, outstanding.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Mark Herold Wines

Mike Loberg, Assistant Winemaker, Mark Herold Wines

Mark Herold started working in the wine business as a Research Oenologist at Joseph Phelps Vineyard.  After his own 1998 Merus he started a consulting business where he has worked with Kamen, Kobalt, and others.

2009 Mark Herold Wines, Flux – $22
This is a blend of 68% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 12% Carignan, and 5% Petite Sirah.  The nose revealed scented red and blue fruits.  In the mouth the red fruit was mouthfilling with some vanilla, a bit of weight, and a spicy, ripe finish.

2010 Mark Herold Wines, Flux – $24
The Petit Sirah was very dark with this vintage so less was used as compared to the 2009.  The nose was darker and more concentrated over the 2009.  There were tart, purple grapey flavors with a tart middle and very fine, spicy tannins in the finish.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2009 Mark Herold Wines, Acha – $40
This wine is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 12% Grenache, 9% Carignan, 5% Graciano, and 4% Petit Sirah.  There was a nose of red fruit and subtle spice.  In the mouth there redder fruit had power with very fine drying tannins.  Very young.

2010 Mark Herold Wines, Acha – $36
This wine is 100% Tempranillo.  The nose revealed delicate perfume.  In the mouth the red fruit was tart and inky with a dark fruited finish.  The ultra fine tannins slowly build in the mouth.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2009 Mark Herold Wines, Collide – 
This is a blend of 40% Petite Sirah, 35% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa.  The brambly nose was blue and bright.  In the mouth the weightier flavors started with initial acidity then it was smoother and dark with even more fine, drying tannins than the Acha.

2010 Mark Herold Wines, Collide – $26
Unlike the 2009 this wine has some Syrah in it.  The nose was tighter yet retained some lift.  There was red fruit, low-lying dark flavors, and fine drying tannins.  Young and playing it close right now.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Mark Herold Wines, “B” Cabernet Sauvignon – $70
The fruit is sourced from Stagecoach vineyard along with Bennett and Rochas vineyards in Coombs Valley.  There were cassis flavors along with greenhouse florals which started off as round in the mouth.  The wine becomes a bit spicy with dense weight, and a good mouth feel.  The mouth follows the nose.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Hensley Family Vineyards

Mike Hensley, Hensley Family

Hensley Family Vineyards was founded by Mike and Carol Hensley and first released a wine in 2009.  Mike is a resident of Houston, Texas where he owns and operates a commercial printing business.  After many years of visiting Napa Valley he decided to enter the wine business.  Jeff Fontanella is the winemaker.

2009 Hensley Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hillside, Napa Valley – $49
The nose showed blue fruit.  In the mouth the structured blue and black fruit expanded in the mouth and was racy throughout.  The flavors became bluer before taking on red fruit in the aftertaste.  A good wine for the inaugural vintage!  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Hensley Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Hillside, Napa Valley – $49
From a sample collected three weeks earlier.  The flavors showed greener with a bit of spritz.  The red fruit was supported by a sweet underlying suppleness before turning red in the finish with acidity.  There was an inky aspect with red fruit and smoke in the aftertaste.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Paul Hobbs Wines

Matt Hobbs, Paul Hobbs

Paul Hobbs Wines was founded in 1991 and produces small production wines from fruit sourced from the highest quality vineyards.  Today he also produces wine in Argentina under the Vina Cobos label and additionally imports wines.

2010 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $65
This wine has been a blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot sourced from four vineyards that was fermented in closed-top stainless steel fermenters using indigenous yeasts and underwent malolactic fermentation.  The wine is typically aged for 20 months in 74% new French oak barrels. The nose revealed dark fruit and pure aromas of leather.  In the mouth the weighty dark fruit and more leather with a creamy mouthfeel.  A very up-front personality to this very good wine.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, To-Kalon – $195
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was fermented in closed-top stainless steel fermenters using indigenous yeasts and underwent malolactic fermentation.  The wine is typically aged for 20 months in 100% new Taransaud French oak barrels. The nose was quite complex and beautiful with purple fruit, lavender, spices, and violets.  The flavors step up with additional depth, riper, and floral in flavor as well.  There is a red vein of flavor, a licorice note, and powerful fine tannins in the long aftertaste.  Quite nice, outstanding.  Find it at Add to Cart.


Audra Chapman, Hourglass

The Smith family had been involved with orchards and vineyards since 1976.  After Jeff Smith met Dr. Kliewer, the Dean of Viticulture at UC Davis, he planted four of the best acres with Cabernet Sauvignon.  With Bob Foley was the winemaker they released their first vintage with the 1997.  In 2006 the Smith family along with their friends purchased a 41 acre property which they transformed into the Blueline Vineyard.  All five Bordeaux varietals are grown at this vineyard.

2009 Hourglass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Blueline – $125
The nose was of red candy, raspberry pastilles, and floral aromatics.  In the mouth this felt heavily supple with sweet nose,a  little inky aspect in the middle and some lift.  Perhaps needing a touch more acidity, the aftertaste was drying with some heat.

2009 Hourglass, Merlot, Blueline – $75
The nose was very sweet, with purple fruit underlying.  In the mouth this saline wine revealed old ladies perfume with a very ripe and sweet finish.

2010 Hourglass, Merlot, Blueline – $66
This had a familial sweet, textured nose.  In the mouth the flavors attack with better ripe flavors, a racy vein, and a dark flavored lift in the finish.  There were buttery flavors in the mouth.  Not my type of wine.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Hourglass, Cabernet Sauvignon, Blueline – $110
The flavors were austere but creamy.  It began with tart red fruit but left the impression of being about the mouthfeel.  There were very fine tannins.  Find it at Add to Cart.


Katty Wilson, Associate Winemaker, Kamen

Robert Kamen is the screenwriter of movies including the Karate Kid, The Fifth Element, The Transporter, and Taken.  In 1980 he purchased a 280 acres estate on the southwestern slopes of the Mayacamas Range.  Viticulturalist Phil Coturri was brought in and the fruit was initially sold to wineries.  A devastating fire in 1996 destroyed half of the vineyards and the Kamen’s home.  After replanting the vineyards Kamen produced their first estate wine in 1999.  Kamen aims for ripe fruit, low yields, and high quality.  Mark Herold is their winemaker with the goal of producing “intense, high extracted, terroir-driven wines.”

2009 Kamen, Cabernet Sauvignon – $75
The ripe and dark nose mixed with tobacco aromas.  In the mouth there was a ripe burst of flavor, almost saline before taking on a weight that draped on the tongue.  The finish was primary and sweet.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Kamen, Cabernet Sauvignon – $75
This was more floral with a greenhouse nose.  The flavors show restraint instead of ripeness,with  fresh red fruit, Indian spices, and teeth coating tannins.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Larkin Wines

The Jack Larkin estate is named after Sean Larkin’s son.  The Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from Pritchard Hills Melanson Vineyard which is farmed by John Arns.  The Cabernet Franc is sourced from a family vineyard just north of Napa.  Unfortunately the barrel samples had been finish by the time we came around!

2009 Larkin Wines, Cabernet Franc – $55
This wine has been a blend of 75% Cabernet Franc, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 2% PEtite Verdot aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak.  The gritty nose contained blueberries and herbs.  In the mouth there was ample purple fruit, dried herbs, and old perfume.  There was a little obvious structure and spices coming out in the finish with a dark aftertaste.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2009 Larkin Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – $55
This wine has been a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 4% Petite Verdot aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak.  This was blue in flavor with sweeter spice, a cool expansion with creamy blue fruit in the middle.  It was a bit racy, which I liked.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2009 Larkin Wines, MacArthur Beverages Red Wine – $30
This was quite different showing red berries and red grapefruit tilting toward the tart.  A bit laid back with finer, more obvious tannins and red fruit in the aftertaste.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Morlet Family Vineyards

Though Luc and Jodie Morlet only purchased their historic estate in August 2010, they have been producing wines under the label since 2007.  Luc  graduated with degrees in Enology and Wine Business and beging a series of internships in 1988.  Since then he has worked at Chateu Dauxac, replaced John Kongsgaard at Newton Vineyard, worked at Peter Michael Winery, and Staglin.  Over the last five years he has also been the winemaker at Vineyard 7 & 8, Bure Family Wines, and Carte Blanche.

2009 Morlet Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mon Chevalier – $140
This wine has been a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot, 2% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot sourced from a hillside in Knights Valley.  The medium strength nose was of scented ripe fruit.  In the flavors were upfront in the mouth with an expansive beginning followed by a creamy finish, marked by grip, and wrapping up with fine+ tannins.  Very good.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2009 Morlet Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Coeur de Vallee To-Kalon – $140
This wine has been a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Cabernet Franc sourced from the famous Beckstoffer To-Kalon vineyard.  The finely textured nose had feint notes of spearmint.  In the mouth the up-front flavors were purple with a supple texture, an inky Cabernet Franc finish, and sweet spices in the aftertaste.  Very good.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2009 Morlet Family Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Passionnement – $185
This wine has been 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the Oakville bench.  This concentrated wine showed structure and restraint with a racy finish containing cinnamon spices.  Definitely young and made for age with potential.  Find it at Add to Cart.


Cleo Pahlmeyer, Pahlmeyer

Pahlmeyer history begins when Jayson Pahlmeyer and his friend John Caldwell traveled to Bordeaux in 1972 where they acquired cuttings from five varietals. The Caldwell family owned a 55-acre parcel where they set about creating a vineyard.  It took six years for the vineyard to be productive.  The history is marked by amazing connections such as Randy Dunn’s period as winemaker, Bob Levy work with Chardonnay, and Helen Turley’s period as winemaker.  Today Helen’s assistant Erin Green is now the winemaker.

2009 Pahlmeyer, Proprietary Red – $110
This is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec.  The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts, underwent malolactic fermentation, then is typically aged for 18 months in 75% new French oak.   The subtle purple nose had a ripe red fruit note and sweet spice.  In the mouth the flavors were supple with sweet, floral fruit, and a little wood box component.  Very good.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Ramey Wine Cellars

George Staikos, Ramey

Davie Ramey graduated from UC Davis in 1979 then worked for the Moueix family at Chateau Petrus.  Upon returning to California he helped established Chalk Hill, Matanzas Creek, Dominus Estate, and Rudd Estate.  Davie and his wife Carla founded Ramey Wine Cellars in 1996.

2010 Ramey, Syrah, Rodger’s Creek, Sonoma Coast – $50
This wine is 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier which was cofermented using indigenous yeasts.  In the past it has been aged for 28 months in 75% new barrels.The nose was flora with blue fruit, perfume and some ripeness.  In the mouth this weighty wine was ripe yet cool with good perfumed flavors and concentration.  Drunk halfway through the tasting it was refreshing, very good.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Ramey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pedregal Vineyard, Oakville – $180
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot sourced from the lower slopes of the southeastern Oakville hills and fermented with indigenous yeasts.  In the past it has been aged for over two years in completely new barrels.  There was a light, restrained nose.  In the mouth the ripe, deep fruit bceame structured in the middle with wood notes in the finish as the black fruit flavors mixed with fine+ tannins.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2010 Ramey, Cabernet Sauvignon, Annum, Napa Valley – $90
This is an “appellation wine” which has been produced from mostly Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the J.H. Davies Vineyard and Petit Verdot from the estate’s Pedregal Vineyard.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts and has been aged for over two years in new barrels. The dark nose made way to a good, concentrated, dark red fruit in the mouth.  There was some grip, a saline aspect, pleasant structure, good acidity, and a long aftertaste.  Very well done and ready for aging.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Ridge Vineyards

Eric Baugher, Winemaker and Michael Torino, Sales Manager, Ridge

The Monte Bello vineyard was originally planted in 1886 in the Santa Cruz mountains.  The vineyard fell into disrepair during Prohibition and was essentially abandoned in the 1940s.  In 1949 eight acres of Cabernet Sauvignon were replanted with the rest of the vineyard  following suit.  I recommend that you read Building Monte Bello: The 2011 Assemblage at the Ridge blog.

2010 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello –
This sample was collected on March 2, 2012.  This is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc.  The nose was floral with greenhouse notes.  In the mouth the red and blue fruit was beautiful and balanced by good acidity.  Medium in weight there were fine, integrated tannins.  Very good.  Find it at Add to Cart.

2011 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello – $85
This sample was collected on March 1, 2012.  This is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc.  Very different from the 2010 in that it was more aromatic with aromas of roasted earth.  In the mouth the flavors were grapey and forward with less weight and more overt tannins.  The Cabernet Franc component shines through.  Needs to settle down.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Staglin Family Vineyard

Ron Brooks, Winebow

Staglin Family Vineyard originated with the purchase of the Rutherford Bench estate in 1985.  Today it is very much a family run winery.   The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a high-end offering.  The 2008 vintage was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot which was aged for 22 months in 95% new and 8% used French oak.

2010 Staglin Family Vineyard, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – $185
This sample was bottled six days prior to tasting.  The low-lying and complex nose revealed sweet fruit.  In the mouth the wine was dense with good depth yet remained light on its feet.  The blue and red fruit was very concentrated in flavor with persistent dark red flavors in the aftertaste.  Well-integrated and beautiful, very good.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Olivier Lotterie, Vineyard Brands

The fruit for the Esprit de Beaucastal is sources from vines propagated from budwood cutting from the Chateau de Beaucastel estate in the Rhone.  The 120 acre vineyard is certified organic.  The fruit is fermented in open and closed stainless steel fermenters using native yeasts.  The wines go into barrel then are blended and aged in 1200-gallon French oak foudres.  This blend was finalized just under two weeks ago.

2010 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Esprit de Beaucastal – $45
This wine is a blend of 45% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache Noir, 21% Syrah, and 4% Counoise.  There was a nose of delicate red fruit.  In the mouth the brighter red fruit was concentrated and scented with nice, grapey tannins, wrapping up with a fresh, lifted finish.  A very good wine.  Find it at Add to Cart.

Lou and Aaron After the Tasting

Tasting Wines with Nancy Priest of Frederick Wildman

A week and a half ago Lou and I went down to MacArthur Beverages to purchase some wine and taste a selection of wines poured by Nancy Priest of Frederick Wildman & Sons.  Nancy is the Fine Wine Manager for the mid-Atlantic region.  I tasted the white wines out of the little plastic cups so my impressions for those wines are brief.  We did switch to wine glasses for the red wines and I very glad we did.  For the nose on the 2001 Baron de Lay was in full-glory.  It overshadowed the other wines with its complexity, depth, and engaging personality that floated out of the glass.  This alone was worth the trip.

2009 Domaine Faiveley, Montagny Blanc – $17
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was aged for 10-12 months in tank and neutral barrels.  There were flavors tilting towards cool with greenhouse and floral notes, a creamy mouthfeel, and turning citric-tart in the finish.  Precise and nice!

2009 Maison J. J. Vincent, Marie Antoinette, Puilly-Fuisse – $18
Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons.  This wine is 100% Chardonnay vinified in stainless steel with 25% of the wine touching wood.  This bore subtler yellow fruit, as compared to the Montagny Blanc, with notes of stone.

2001 Baron de Ley, Gran Reserva, Rioja – $40
Imported by Frederick Widman & Sons.  This wine is 100% Tempranillo which was fermented in stainless steel before aging for 24 months in used French and American oak.  All of the fruit is from Baja.  There was a strong nose of red fruit, cedar, wood notes becoming minerally with red fruit and aged aromas.  In the mouth the wine was slightly juicy with red cherries and a tart acidity that ran through the finish.  Fresh in the mouth, it should drink well for some time.

2009 Hect & Bannier, Cotes du Roussillon Villages – $22
Imported by Frederick Widman & Sons.  This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre and Lledoner Pelut.  It was aged 40% in demi-muids, 30% in tank, and 30% in stock vat.  This showed delicate, dark fruit, notes of lipstick, and a textured finish.  Just a short note as I recently posted about this wine here.

2009 Paul Jaboulet Aine, Domaine de Thalabert, Crozes-Hermitage – $52
Imported by Frederick Widman & Sons.  This wine is 100% Syrah vinified in neutral casks then aged for 12 months.  The nose was dark and tight.  In the mouth the dark fruit became dark blue fruit in the middle with compact, linear delivery that gave the impression of cool, strength and precision.  A bit spicy with a wood note.  The fruit, acidity, and tannins were taut and clearly needs to age for the mid-term.

We Try the Sagrantino Grape from Montefalco

Montefalco is located between Florence and Rome in the region of Umbria.  The red wines of this area may be made from the grape Sangrantino.  This grape is generally found only in the towns surrounding Montefalco.  While there are different views about its origins it was first specifically mentioned in a document from 1598.  Grown for centuries on the local hillsides, the Sagrantino grape was typically used to make a sweet passito wine or fortified wine.  In the 1990s several winemakers started producing a dry red wine which was complex and long-lived.

The Italian Appellation system includes table wine: Vino da Tavola (VDT),  Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), along with quality wines from specific origins: Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).  These apellations require increasingly specific vineyard origins, permitted grape varieties, and  production requirements.  Today there are several different types of wines made around Montefalco including several Umbrian IGT and a Montefalco Sagrantino Passito DOCG.  The two red DOC and DOCG certified wines are Montefalco Rosso DOC and Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG.  Montefalco Rosso DOC is an earlier drinking wine made from 60-70% Sangiovese, 10-15% Sagrantino, and 15-30% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.   Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG is comprised over 500 hectares of vineyards and accounts for 6% of the Umbrian wine production.  These wines must be made from 100% Sagrantino which is aged for 30 months, 12 of which must be spent in wood.

I really enjoyed both of these wines.  The Cantine Novelli, Montefalco Rosso DOC is definitely a more approachable, earlier drinking wine.  The Colpetrone, Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG ratchets up the flavor and concentration. While it is quite enjoyable with just a few hours of air this wine will certainly age and develop for many years to come.  I believe both of these wines represent a good introduction to two styles of wine from Montefalco and are good value for the price.  Both of these wines, along with several others from Montefalco, are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2006 Cantine Novelli, Montefalco Rosso DOC – $17
Imported by Red Ink Imports.  This wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese,15% Sagrantino, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Merlot.  The fruit is sourced from a vineyard on soils of clay with a pebble/gravel mixture.  The varietals are fermented separately, undergoes malolactic fermentation, with 15% aged in oak barriques.  Ont he second night there was a light nose of jammy, red fruit.  In the mouth the red fruit had a bit of lift before making way to cool blue fruit with a racy middle.  The flavors were slightly jammy in the finish, with stone-like flavors, and gutsy acidity which picked up.  This was fresh and enjoyable.  *** Now-2017.

2007 Colpetrone, Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – $26
Imported by Vias Imports.  This wine is 100% Sagrantino which was aged for 12 months in French oak barriques.  The fruit is sourced from 35 hectares of vineyards on soils of limey soil with clay deposits at 350 meters.  This slowly opened over several hours.  There were focused, black fruit with air, stoney ink flavors, and a hint of licorice.  Towards the middle there were concentrated red fruit flavors, leather notes, and a little wood box to this wine where power lurks.  The finish revealed lifted, blue fruits which were racy and inky.  This young wine has an expansive finish with fine ripe tannins and some warmth.  ***(*) Now-2022.

The 27th California Futures Tasting, this Saturday

Tomorrow Lou and I will attend the 27th California Futures Tasting organized by Andy Creemer of MacArthur Beverages.  This event is sponsored by MacArthur Beverages for the benefit of The Addy and Bruce Bassin Memorial Cancer Research Fund.  Lou had been attending the barrel tasting for several years when three years ago he suggested that I might want to join him.  I have greatly enjoyed myself in the past, there are both outstanding wines and food to try.  Held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Washington, DC there is an ample selection of meats, charcuterie, finger foods, and dessert.  We will be attending the 6:30-9:00pm tasting so if you spot us please say hello!  If you have not already purchased your tickets both the 12:30-3:0pm and 6:30-9:00pm tickets are available at the door.

In looking at the list of attendees, here are the wineries that are making their first appearance at the tasting:

  • Arietta
  • Bure Family
  • Croker & Starr
  • Hensley Family
  • Hourglass
  • John Anthony
  • Staglin Family
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