Thursday, November 29, 2007

Buttonwood Pomegranate Festival Dec 1st and 2nd

Another great wine event up in Santa Ynez. Stop by Buttonwood this weekend and check out the Pomegranate Festival. It looks like they will be pouring " BW" a new signature wine for Buttonwood Farms. Betty Williams, the owner and "BW" herself will there to sign bottles and chat. Say Hello to Graham, their tasting room manager, for us before he's becomes a famous rock star with his band, Kinothek.

Out of the current Buttonwood lineup, I really enjoyed the 2004 Buttonwood Merlot. A blend of Merlot and Cab Franc, this is a lovely Medoc inspired wine. The dry gravel/ minerality reminds me of Chateau Greysac. Its dry, with earthy,i.e. dirt notes, tobacco, leather, and cedar. Our favorite Buttonwood wines in the past have been the incredible 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1999 Trevin. I'm really looking forward to the new winemaker, Karen Steinwach's vision for Buttonwood. She's definitely a winemaker to watch.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WCWC Wine Bargain: Pillar Box Red Table Wine

Big bold, fruity Australian Shiraz. For about $9-11.99 its a great mid week wine or bottle #2 with guests. You might like it so much it becomes bottle #1. This is a fun fruity wine.
I had this wine first at Paradise Wines Saturday tasting in Ventura, CA. Downtown Ventura has quite a few notable wine bars to check out on a lazy Saturday. We also enjoyed our visit to Westside Cellars.
Back to to the Pillar Box Red. I ran into it again at Bevmo and couldn't resist picking it up for $11.99. I just checked and its even cheaper at K&L ! ($8.99) Dang Bevmo! Robert Parker gave the 2005 Pillar box 91 points and the previous vintage 90pts. For $9 bucks, its worth checking out.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wine Events for Sat Dec 1st: Wine Wonderland

I found out more scoop on this Saturday's Wine Wonderland in Santa Maria. Amazing Stuff for $30 a person. Fax in your order here for tickets.
Each winery will be featuring some unique activities:

  • Costa de Oro- Pouring Library Wines, live music, light snacks
  • Cambria- holiday snacks and special discounts
  • Ken Volk- snacks & special discounts
  • Cottonwood Canyon is pouring their 2000 Blanc de Blanc Sparking Wine and 2005 Dessert Syrah and having a book signing by Janet Penn Franks.
  • Rancho Sisquoc is having an art show featuring local artist Betsy Jones and offering special discounts.
  • Chef Rick's is not only pouring a bunch of great( and hard to find) wines, he's also making his famous Fried Chicken! Not to be missed, you'll know why when you have it.
  • The Wine Cottage will also be serving up some food samples and having a BBQ (for purchase) and live music.

Monday, November 26, 2007

WTDOMN, Alma Rosa Pinot Gris 2006

We took a trip up to Santa Ynez Valley for Thanksgiving weekend and stopped by the Alma Rosa Tasting Room on Santa Rosa Road. It is beautiful, a fantastic place to stop for a picnic. Alma Rosa Winery is the source of our chosen wine for "What to drink on Monday night"(WTDOMN). The 2006 Alma Rosa Pinot Gris: Lovely floral nose, crisp acidity, an eclectic mix of ruby red grapefruit, meyer lemon, with a touch of pear on the finish, and a nice well rounded mouth feel. All of this for $16. A wonderful food wine. We recommend pairing with Thai food & enjoy something besides turkey for dinner tonight.
side note: the bottle & label are lovely, great packaging: A thoughtful holiday gift.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. The Navarro Edelswicker( $12) was a big hit and I used some to deglaze the roasting pan for the gravy. A blend of Gewürztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris it has lovely floral aromatics and was quite pleasing with our meal. We went with the J Wilkes 2005 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir Hillside Blend to pair well with the more earthy elements of the meal. This Pinot is one of my favorites and is well balanced and more reminiscent of a french red burgundy than a California Pinot. Our turkey came out great. We used a blend of sage and thyme in butter and worked it under the skin of the turkey. We also basted our turkey with the rest of the blend. We never did get to the EOS Late Harvest Muscato but it is a delicious dessert wine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday Edition #39

I'm about to head into the kitchen for a day of baking and prep work for thanksgiving. I think baking activities will pair well with a bottle of local Laetitia Brut de Noir we still have leftover from our wedding.
did manage to procrastinate this morning and read the WBW roundup over at Brooklynguy's Wine and Food Blog. Its a good read and you might find some bargain burgundy. I 'm taking some notes and going over to my local wineshop to try some of these finds. I hope to participate in the next WBW at Wannabe Wino. I'll start looking for a Petit Syrah or I will be durif...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

We're Jammin: 2005 Brochelle Zinfandel

Continuing the Mountain terroir theme but in a different AVA. The Westside of Paso Robles brings us another wonderful Zinfandel. Brochelle Vineyards, 2005 Zinfandel is Zintastic. Score 1 for the westsiders in the east vs westside Paso debate.
This wine hails from the Brochelle Vineyards. A 20 Acre steep mountainside vineyard with head pruned zinfandel and dry farmed vines. The commensurate lower yield from these techniques pays off in the intense flavors of this wine.
Tasting Notes: Ruby color. Lovely nose of spice, strawberry, cherry, dark chocolate and a touch of vanilla. Taste: Jammy strawberry and cherries, dark chocolate, a bit of a zing, and a nice note of vanilla on the finish. I suppose what you smell is what you get with this wine.
This wine definitely benefited from decanting. The mouth feel developed beautifully and was pleasantly well rounded. Prices for this wine vary in the $20-$30 range, see Winesearcher or K& L
Wine Geek Facts from their website :

  • Harvest date 9/1/05 Brix 25.8 • Alcohol 15.6%
  • • 1590 cases produced
  • • Aged Seventeen months in 80% French (10% new), 20% American oak barrels
  • • Appellation: Paso Robles, Estate Grown
  • • 98.5% Zinfandel, 1.5% Syrah

Monday, November 19, 2007

What to drink on Monday Night: St Francis Rockpile Red

In honor of the number of people who arrive at this site by googling the exact phrase " What to drink on Monday night", I think we may start a new tradition and recommend a new wine each Monday. I am a bit concerned about how many people are so despondent about going to work on Tuesday that they are googling the phrase "What to drink on Monday night" but hey working for living can really be a grind. A friend of mine and I used to call it " Avoid Tuesday" and predictably after "Avoid Tuesday" revelry we would be a bit tired for work on Tuesday.

Anyway, in honor of the all of you who got through Monday, WTDOMN 's (what to drink on monday night) recommendation is : St Francis Rockpile Red 2004. I opened this bottle and before I even got a chance to pour it, the room smelled like banana bread. Pretty amazing for a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. After letting the wine sit for 15-20 minutes. ( I only have so much patience), it was quite satisfying. Great acidity for pairing with food, lovely fruit that was reminiscent of plums and currant, on the nose... banana ( so cool!) and a nice bit of spice on the finish. So if you are looking for " What to Drink on Monday Night" look no further...

Cool Facts:
Rockpile is an actual AVA , that was recognized in 2002. Its located on a mountainside in the Northernmost corner of Sonoma County by Mendocino County. 2000 Ft above sea level therefore too far from the fog in Sonoma, these grapes see lots more sunshine and are sourced from Rod & Cathy Park’s Rockpile Vineyard. The 2005 vintage sells for $45 dollars on the St Francis website.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving Wine Recommendations

Over at Domaine 547, they are selling wine blogger selected wine packs. I loved the idea so much, I decided to put a local Santa Barbara county spin on Brooklynguy's Loire Valley selections. I'm recommending two wine bargains for thanksgiving.

White: Foxen's 2005 Chenin Blanc Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard "Old Vines"Santa Maria Valley ($20). Lovely acidity, notes of pear, and nice touch of honeysuckle on the palate.

Red: Carr Vineyards 2004 Cab Franc Santa Ynez Valley($22) I just had this recently at Bellavino and it is just delicious. Lots of cherry, chocolate and just yummy. Hopefully they are selling it at their shop by the bottle. I need to pick up a bottle or two.

These two wines are a bargain and great local finds. I hope our turkey comes out as good as last year. ( see picture) We seasoned him up with salt, pepper and shoved, I mean massaged gently, a blend of thyme, sage, and butter under the skin before roasting. This way I don't have to bother basting. To keep it moist,the secret is to use aluminum foil on the turkey breast till the last hour of cooking.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Tasting Room Recommendation: Domaine Chandon Napa Valley

A big surprise for us on our Napa tour was how much we loved Domaine Chandon's Tasting room. Champagne or Sparkling made in the Méthode Traditionnelle.. (don't want the french cracking down on me), is a great respite from red wine tasting. It wakes your palate back up and gets your brain enjoying something different. The grounds here are of course beautiful but we really loved the tasting room. Ground to ceiling windows showing off the grounds, lots of different sparkling tastings, small bites to order, and table where you and your group can enjoy a bottle of champagne. Very knowledgeable staff, great small bites menu, and the food order arrived quickly and was delicious. The fleur de sel on my sandwich's crust was such a nice touch and really paired well with the wine. We would have hung out all day if we didn't have a food and wine pairing appointment at St Francis.

We've vowed to come back to check out this place in the evenings when they serve champagne cocktails and it turns into a lounge. Bubble Hour features 1/2 off Chandon wine and $5 sparkling cocktails from 6-7 pm. The lounge is open till 10pm. Considering how quiet wine country is a night, this would be a great place to unwind in the evening. Hwy 29 Yountville.

Coturri Winery: Tasting at Wade's Wines

Stop by Wade's Wines in Agoura Hills this Saturday Nov 17th from 2- 6ish to try Coturri Wines. We went Friday night and it is worth the trip. I'll will update with a full report soon. The Sangiovese is something to meditate over... Amazingly thought provoking. What more can you ask for in a wine. Tony their winemaker will be there for questions.

From Wades' site:"Coming from a long history of winemakers, third generation Tony Coturri has been making organically farmed wines since 1964, including CabernetSauvignon, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Albarello, and a Cabernet Port."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Grgich Hills Tasting Report

We managed to head over to the Wineyard and it was crowded!
They were pouring the new releases. Overall, I 'd recommend the Grgich Chardonnay but I have to say I have some concerns about their price points these days. As I browsed the back of the store with my glass, I noticed that Chard's I enjoy, like Domaine Alfred's Chamisal vineyards, were priced at $23.99 while the Grgich was running for $38.99.. Of course it depends on your preference. I do admire the Grgich style of inhibiting malolactic fermentation to allow the varietal to come through, but their price is starting to become a bit inhibitory for me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Grgich Hills Estate Wines Tasting Thursday Nov 15th

The Wineyard in Thousand Oaks will have Grgich Hills pouring their new vintages of the chardonnay, merlot, cabernet and zinfandel this Thursday. I've missed this tasting before when it came into town. Hoping to go tommorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Santa Maria Wine Wonderland December 1st 2007

Wine Wonderland in Santa Maria, CA is Dec 1st and its only $30/person for all of these options! If you don't have plans for Dec 1st this is a great way to get some holiday shopping done on the wine trail.

Chef Rick's will be pouring : Ambullneo Vineyards,Waltzing Bear,Native 9,Alta Maria,Tantara

Wine Cottage Bistro will feature: Casa Torres Vineyards,William James Cellars,Vaquero Cellars,Wildhorse Vineyard, Riverbench Vineyard

Participating wineries are: Foxen, Addamo Vineyards,Costa de Oro,Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Rancho Sisquoc,Cottonwood Canyon,McKeon-Phillips,Cambria

Monday, November 12, 2007

Linne Calodo The Outsider

We enjoyed a bottle of the 2005 Linne Calodo Outsider. The name refers to the limestone soils on the west side of Paso Robles. Within Paso there appears to be some sort of wine gang war between the east side and the west side with both claiming superiority. Since I have enjoyed wines from both sides of the 46 I'm not going to weigh in on that argument.

As for the Linne Calodo Outsider, a blend of 70% Zin, 27% syrah, and 3% mourvedre it is quite pleasing. At 15.6% alcohol, be wary of drinking too much less you become the Outsider.

Tasting Notes: Dark Ruby Color. Nose of black cherry, anise, with a touch of vanilla. The vanilla makes me assume it was aged in American oak.

Taste: juicy fruit, smoky, a touch of pencil shavings. Nice plush mouth feel and it lingers nicely without any bitter aftertaste. Despite the higher alcohol content, it is simultaneously light as a feather in your mouth and feels full and well rounded. This is one of my favorite qualities in well made wine.

Take a look at Linne Calodo's site for some great harvest pictures In some of those pictures they showed perhaps why their wines have such a great mouth feel and a good tannin balance. They are using a techniques called délestage to aid in tannin management. Délestage involves draining the fermenting tank out the bottom through a screen to remove some of the seeds. The juice is then held in an intermediate tank. It is then pumped, and thus aerated, into a second tank. During this time the cap is left in the first fermenting tank. Finally the juice is pumped back over into the first tank without breaking up the cap. This technique is meant to aerate the must which should enhance the final aroma profile. It also should allow for greater color and flavor extraction from the cap ( skins, seeds). This process also removes some of the seeds which tend to impart bitter or harsh tannins in wine.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Oregon Pinot Noir Riedel Glass: Great branding or a real tasting improvement?

Score 1 for great branding of the Oregon Pinot Noir. See the second glass pictured on the right. Its so special it gets its very own Riedel glass. From reviews I read, people swear it does make a difference.
If you want to try it out for yourself, you can buy it here.

I wondered why its specific to Oregon Pinot so I looked up the info at the Riedel site and the low down on the original burgundy glass:"The Riedel Vinum Burgundy/Pinot Glasses, Set of 4 is excellent for full-bodied red wines (more than 12.5 percent alcohol) with high acidity and moderate tannin. " So perhaps, the implication is that fine oregon pinot's have less alcohol or are not as full bodied and are enhanced by having the aroma concentrated by the new tulip shape.

I've seen this tulip style used years before in Domaine Alfred's tasting room and I was a big fan of their 2002 Estate Pinot Noir.
Anyone out there tried out these glasses yet and seen a difference?

I actually love these for the price

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Small Big Wineries: Why small winemaking styles are taking off at big wineries

Wines and Vines has an interesting Article on how big producers like Louis M. Martini and Rodney Strong are setting up boutique wineries within the winery or WWW. A great scientific experiment to show why certain winemaking methods while not scalable are preferable for the more sophisticated consumer.

Some Highlights from Tina Caputo over at Wines and Vines

  • "Small-production winemaking is driving the growth of the U.S. wine industry.
  • Half of the wineries in North America are producing less than 15,000 cases per year.
  • Today's more sophisticated wine drinkers are seeking out limited-production labels.
  • Louis M. Martini and Rodney Strong wineries have created smaller wineries within their main facilities for making higher-end, limited-production wines."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

J. Daan: Bargain Oregon Pinot Noir

This was a great find during our tour of the Willamette Valley. After tasting this pinot at the Carlton Winemakers Studio, I was shocked to glance down and see that it was only $22 bucks.

J Daan 2005 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley is a lovely well balanced pinot noir with a lighter burgundian style. Amazing pinot for the price.

The Carlton Winemakers Studio is a great place to stop in Oregon Wine Country. Check out the "green" construction" and the diverse selection of wine. Wine cooperatives are a great place for winemakers to get their start without all of the overhead of building their own winery. The camaraderie and cross pollination of techniques makes cooperatives incubators for the next up and coming winemakers for the region. Get the wines now while they are still a bargain. A great example of an alumni is Scott Paul Wines now making fabulous wines nearby.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Less is More: 2007 Santa Barbara County Vintage Predictions

Fall is my favorite time to go up to Santa Ynez. Fall is the one season I tend to miss from back east and Wine country is the place to go for a taste of fall in California. The grape vines are all turning golden and getting ready to go dormant for the winter.

Check out this article from the SB Independent discussing the smaller harvest and what it means to the 2007 vintage.
"Because the yields were low – in some places even 35 percent below normal – winemakers say the vines delivered stronger flavors to the grapes, which could make for the best vintage in county history"

Here's to 2007!
photo courtesty of SB Independent.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bargain Napa Cab:Bennett Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

I had tried the 2003 Bennett Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon in Scottsdale,AZ at the Roaring Fork. Great food and we really enjoyed the wine. I ran into again in our local Bevmo and gave it another shot. I was surprised to see how inexpensive it was for a Napa Cab. $ 25 bucks is a steal.

Wine Impression Notes: Nose of black cherry cola, with notes of pencil shavings and a big cocoa finish. The taste: Bright cherry candied fruit, reminded me a bit of jolly rancher red, and the chewy tannins gave it a nice mouth feel. A great Cab for the price.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Taz Vineyards

Another female winemaker is making her mark with the Taz label.
Natasha Boffman was previously at Stag's Leap and Meridan before arriving at Taz in 2005. Her 2006 Taz Chardonnay is excellent, the varietal characteristics are well preserved. Nice tropical fruit and pear notes with a slightly creamy mouth feel. Nice refreshing acidity.

The Taz Pinot Noir from Fiddlestix vineyard is delicious. Basically, if you see Pinot Noir from the Fiddlestix vineyard, I'd suggest giving it a try. Its right across from the famous Sanford and Benedict Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills AVA.

While Taz is backed by big bucks Beringer, these wines are sourced from very special vineyards and are worth the try.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Aroma Card from

If you've taken a wine tasting class or read up a bit, you're probably familiar with the aroma wheel from UC Davis. Alder Yarrow from has a great printable aroma card you can take with you when you taste. Check it out here. This site's also now featured his wine blog list. Thanks, Alder!

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