Sunday, November 4, 2018
Ceja Vineyards is a Latino family owned winery located in beautiful Carneros. The Ceja family produces a wonderful selection of varietals from whites to reds to blends and even a dessert wine coming from their vineyards in Sonoma and Napa. The owners are first generation Mexican - American winegrowers. They understand the land, soil and the grapes which transfers to every barrel of juice they create and a true expression of the vineyards from which they care and harvest.
The 2012 Pinot Noir is pouring nicely with aromas of ripe plum, cherry preserves with earthy tones and flowering herbs. So pleasing on the nose.
The mouth is spectacular with clusters of wild red berries rolling across the tongue with intermingled accents of dried herbs, black tea and barrel spice. Bright, elegant rich flavors with a soft lingering finish. This is 100% pinot noir aged 24 months in French barrels from their Las Amigas Road vineyard. Beautiful expression of pinot noir and Carneros.
Wanting to taste some Ceja wine then I recommend stopping by their tasting room located in Sonoma (click the link for directions and the address). Have you already tasted and found your cellar is missing their wine then click the shop link and head right to their wine page to order yours today.
Sunday, October 28, 2018
What a great evening celebrating the heritage wine grape Zinfandel in the first ever tweet up for the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers @TheZinfandelOrg. Having an opportunity to taste and discuss wines from the following areas Dry Creek Valley, Contra Costa, Lodi and Alexander Valley, we tasted several distinct characteristics of each vineyard. The wineries showcased this evening included Pedroncelli Winery and their 2016 Faloni Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Courage Zinfandel, Three Wine Company 2015 Zinfandel Live Oak Contra Costa County, Oak Farm Vineyards 2017 Zinfandel Mohr-Fry Ranches Block 417 Vineyard Lodi and last but not least the 2014 Alexander Valley Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel Alexander Valley.
How about some fun facts about Zinfandel before we jump into the tastings. We can date the first Zinfandel grapes and vines back to 1829 but it was around 1850 when first found in California with the first wine produced around 1857. Today 10% of vineyards in California plant Zin. The grapes historically produce a robust wine with the grapes high in sugar content and can be fermented into 15+% alcohol wines. The climate also influences the flavor profile with more red berry flavors in cooler regions and darker fruit in the warmer regions. I have no idea why this grape and wine is not celebrated more as it's broad range flavor profile can treat the palate of any wine lover.
We start the evening with the 2016 Courage Pedroncelli Winery Faloni Vineyard. Zinfandel has been farmed on the Pedroncelli estate since 1906 and in the family for over 91 years. 33 acres of 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation vines grow on the hillsides of Sonoma county. The Falonia Vineyard has been farmed for 3 generations since 1928. Quote from Julie or Ed "Dry Creek Valley's climate is unique because of the fog that blankets the valley through summer nights thereby the ripeness and acidity- Zin loves hot days and cool nights". The wine is named "Courage" because it takes a lot of courage to grow and produce this grape. Something tells me Ed was behind this name. The nose shows aromas of blackberry, dark cherry, cloves, wild violets, baking spice and a hint of vanilla bean. The mouth is full of rich fruit with raspberry and cherry with dark fruit intermingled and jammy. Mocha with cloves and baking spice lead to a velvety elegant finish. Aged 16 months in American oak this beauty clocks in at 16% alcohol. Julie and Ed a wonderful start to the evening.
Second wine of the evening is the 2015 Three Wine Company Live Oak Contra Costa County. This wine is a blend of 78% Zinfandel, 4% Mataro, 5% Carignane, 12% Petite Sirah and 1% Alicante Bouschet. Matt Cline starts us off with the fun fact the vines are 130 years old and the old gnarly vines are grown in sandy soil. The live oak vineyard was first planted in 1885 and consists of 2 small blocks divided by Live Oak Road. The vines produce small dark berries with intense flavors and a rich intense mouthfeel. I asked what he liked best about working with the Zin grape and vineyard..... "the dirt, the microclimate and the human influence". Zin thrives in Contra Costa due to "the sandy soil, max uv, rain shadow of mt diablo, afternoon winds and dry farming". The nose shows aromas of blackberry, raspberry, dried herbs, pepper and black licorice. Allow this wine to open and its amazing how the raspberry becomes the key fruit aroma with a hit of wildflower. The mouth is rock solid with concentrated red and black fruit, herbs and white pepper. Just 776 cases produced and clocking in at 15.3% alcohol. A beautiful expression of Zin Matt.
Third wine of the evening is the 2017 Oak Farm Vineyards Block 417 Mohr-Fry Ranches Zinfandel from Lodi. Block 417 was the first vineyard in Lodi to be deemed Lodi Rules Certified (2005) as well as Historical Vineyard Certified. The vines were planted in 1945 and the soil is sandy loam. I bet you didn't know that Lodi produces over 40% of the premium Zinfandel in California thus it is known as the Zinfandel Capital of the World. Sierra Zeiter one of the winemakers at Oak Farm gave us some background on what takes place in the vineyard. To make the best possible wine they shoot thin, cluster thin and pull leaves to help concentrate the flavors and fully ripen the grapes. They tried to capture the full terroir of Lodi by making this wine light and bright unlike many bold Lodi Zinfandels. The aromas on this wine I love how the ripe cherry and floral notes come racing out of the glass. The mouth shows beautifully with cherry and plum followed by a nice splash of herb spice. In a blind taste I would have a hard time telling anyone this is Zin. Complete different character than the other 2 wines. Beautifully made and small production with 245 cases. You had me at cherry Oak Farm.
The final wine of the evening the 2014 Alexander Valley Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel. Katie Wetzel Murphy joined us from AVV telling how the Russian River makes the southern Alexander Valley is perfect for growing Zin. Warm days give way to the cool down nightly by the fog rolling in. The winery has been producing Zin since 1978, The grapes for this wine was picked from a 55 year old single vineyard located on a hillside. The giant gnarly vines are head trained and spur pruned which tends to produce small concentrated yields. These types of clusters produce some if the best wines we consume. The nose shows a concentration of dark fruit clusters along with plum and blueberry draped with a fresh pepper spice. The mouth is very elegant not over the top and shows plum, blueberry, raspberry highlighted by vanilla, pepper and a dusting of cocoa powder. Beautiful wine Katie. 313 cases produced.
I can't believe how fast the hour went but we sure were treated to some wonderful expressions of the Zinfandel grape. I hope you will click the links to the wineries splashed throughout the write up and visit their websites to learn more about their wines and purchase a bottle or 3. Many thanks to Robert Larsen, The Zinfandel Advocates and naturally our friends at Pedroncelli Winery, Three Wine Company, Oak Farm Winery and Alexander Valley Vineyards for including us in this celebration of Zinfandel.
Saturday, October 13, 2018
You hear of beautiful wines coming from Spain, proud winemakers who learned from the ground up what it was to make wine. They will tell you the wines are born in the vineyard and today's sample is no exception. Grapes are hand picked and carefully transported to the winery in small batches to ensure the grapes and clusters remain whole.
The rose is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha from the family's estate owned vineyards. The nose shows loads of red berry clusters cherry, strawberry and raspberry with fresh clipped rose pedals rounding out the aromas. The mouth is all about the red fruit with mouth watering strawberry, juicy raspberry and cherry. Nice clean finish with an ample amount of acidity. Very nice Rose.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
It had been a while since I stopped into my friends local wine store (Traci might have wondered if I had quit drinking) and I was on a mission for some Italian Wine. So chatting with her husband Ron (she was MIA which I made sure to point out to her) I told him I was looking for some Barbera. I've fallen in love with this varietal since eating at Ruscianos.
Scouring the shelves here was a 2015 Scarpetta Barbera del Monferrato which was recommended. It was a solid find let me tell you. Monferrato is the birthplace for Barbera. While made in many other areas of Piemonte, Monferrato is where you will find the perfect balance of fruit and acidity in the grapes harvested for this wine. The Northern Italian hills produce some of the most requested wines in the world.
Pull the cork from this beauty and the fruit aromas explode from the glass. Clusters of red fruit cherry, raspberry and plum with dark fruit clusters as well (blackberry, blueberry). A hint of tobacco and earthy forest notes along with a puff of cedar.
The mouth is so lush and elegant. The red and dark fruit intermingle throughout the taste from cherry to raspberry to plum and blueberry to blackberry. Lovely bursts of the fruit clusters with just a hint of earth, leather and cedar on the finish. I picture myself sipping this wine overlooking the Italian hills while enjoying a traditional meal. I might even drink this for breakfast if I could get away with it. I need more of this.
Saturday, October 6, 2018
I am blown away by the consistency of Pedroncelli Wines each time I taste a vintage or varietal. Elegant or full bodied their lineup offers value to every level of wine aficionado. Tonight we tasted 3 silky smooth wines in the 2016 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, the 2016 Bench Vineyards Merlot Dry Creek Valley and the 2014 Dry Creek Valley Estate Vineyard Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon. We paired the Merlot and Wisdom Cab with the slow cooked beef over pasta with porcini mushrooms.
The house was smelling like the holidays with beef in a rich broth making it's way to every corner of the house. We were instructed while cooking to pop open the 2016 Pinot Noir. No need to twist my arm. As folks from across the country and Ed and Julie at the winery started conversing, we learned this wonderful Pinot was sourced from 4 different growers and was picked in the first week of September. The nose shows nicely with ripe cherry and fresh sliced strawberry. Hints of rose pedals and earthy tones and a splash of molasses. The mouth is a blast of red fruit with tart cherry, cranberry and strawberry with a splash of plum. Sprinkle in a kiss of vanilla and toasted oak and you have one delicious Pinot Noir. The wine went down way to smooth!!! I think Ed knew something starting us off with this wine.
Next up was the 2016 Benchland Vineyards Merlot which was also part of the dish. Now I would love to see this wine in a blind taste because I bet 50/50 they can't guess Merlot. Not a plum bomb but a wine which shows plum and cherry wrapped around dried herbs and baking spice finishing with a dollop of vanilla crème. The Pedroncelli's would tell you this is a Cabernet Lovers Merlot. Yep that nails it. This wine works well with the beef and the merlot infused mushrooms. I asked Ed if I could have more and his response "I know where you can get more!" He is one smart guy.
On to the last wine the 2014 Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon. From the minute you open the bottle plum and blackberry race from your glass followed by currants, a hint of thyme and pepper notes. The mouth is rich with dark fruit and the pepper spice and that kiss of herbs and toasted vanilla. The dark fruit works really well with the beef also. Eating and drinking like a king with this wine and dish. While I'm a huge Pinot fan I found putting this wine down was difficult. Might have been my favorite of the night.
I now have another recipe to use courtesy of Julie and 3 more favorite wines thanks to Ed including me in this tasting. Spoiled my palate again! Folks these wines are a must for your table and dinners.