Monday, June 28, 2010

Stepping Stone Wines by Cornerstone Cellars TasteLive

What an awesome opportunity in conjunction with WBC 10 to taste excellent wine with attendees and other fellow bloggers around the country.While it was a late night honestly the wine was well worth the wait. Tonight we will enjoy 5 wines from Stepping Stone: 09 Sauvignon Blanc, 09 Corallina, 08 Syrah, 08 Cabernet Franc, 08 Cabernet Sauvignon. Stepping Stone is a sister label to Cornerstone, "conceived from the beginning to be wines that weave elegance, complexity and a more forward character into wines you don't have to wait to enjoy".

First wine of the night was the 09 Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh melon and tropical fruit aroma. Crisp and the smell of citrus. In the mouth what a nice melon fresh fruit flavor. Juicy lemon on the finish that lasts long. Flavors are well balanced refreshing. Excellent wine to start the night off.

Second wine of the evening was the 09 Corallina Rose. Strawberry and rose pedal on the nose with a hint of spice. All I can say is wow. Strawberry at the beginning, cranberry in the middle and the finish is a cinnamon spice with heat. Nice long finish and a flavor packed wine. I'm a big fan of the Corallina.

Wine three was the 08 Syrah. Nice deep color with the aroma of dark berry and an earthy spice. Getting a little pepper on the nose as well. Can you say keeper and from tonights comments the winner and a steal at $20. Dark cherry, dark berry, pepper spice and a long finish. A hint of plum in the middle. Flavors flow perfectly start to finish. Grapes are from Carneros one of my favorite places in Nappa Valley/Sonoma. I had a friend who is a big fan of Syrah also taste and the big thumbs up from him as well.

Wine four was the 08 Cabernet Franc. A wine which I have the least exposure, I really enjoyed the wine this evening. Raspberry and cherry are the first aromas followed by a blackberry/blueberry combination. My curiosity grows as I taste this wine. Cherry, raspberry, blueberry, a hint of blackberry and a nice finish of spice. Why the hell haven't I been drinking this wine before.

Final wine of the evening was the 08 Cabernet Sauvignon. Definate dark berry and spice aroma and to me a classic cabernet. Black raspberry, dark cherry and spice/oak. Finish was silky with a little bite. Very good cabernet and one where I would like to hold onto a bottle for a couple years and compare the taste. I think it will get even better over time. One of my "wine group" buddies also was impressed with this wine and loved the flavor. There will be a purchase from the folks in Iowa shortly.

Five tremendous wines this evening and a must in your cellar. Craig thank you very much for the opportunity to taste and enjoy Stepping Stone Wines from Cornerstone Cellars. You have 4 new fans here in Iowa and I'm sure more to come across the country. Thanks to TasteLive for allowing us to participate as well. I had the opportunity to hook up with some great bloggers during this event.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

2008 Ceja Vineyards Bella Flor Rose Sonoma Coast

One of my favorite stops recently on our trip to Napa, friends bragged that Ceja Vineyards produced a knockout Rose which sells quickly. Having the opportunity to taste this wonderful Rose wine with owner Amelia Ceja, it took approximately 2 seconds to determine the wine would be purchased and headed back to Iowa.

Love the aroma on this wine. First a hint of fresh strawberries followed by juicy cherry. Next fresh cut roses so elegant. I caught myself continuing to swirl and smell without tasting.

Wonderful fruit and so many refreshing flavors. Cherry started the wine off nicely followed by a hint of what I identified as cranberry. Nice combination and so crisp. In the middle the strawberry appears and lasts through the finish with a hint of red berry. I enjoyed this wine alone and also with some turkey taco's, cilantro, lime juice and a touch of salsa. Loved how it complimented the food and highlighted the cilantro.

Another excellent wine from the folks at Ceja Vineyards. Check out your favorite wine shop for Ceja wine. Join their wine club or order directly from the winery website. Don't miss an opportunity to enjoy these wonderful wines from Amelia and the fine folks at Ceja Vineyards in Carneros.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Three Sticks Wines TasteLive Event June 17

Imagine my excitement having the opportunity for the first time to participate in a tastelive event featuring Three Sticks Wines in Sonoma California. Once chosen, I visited the Three Sticks website to learn more about the winery, winemakers and the wines produced. What an awesome chance to taste wines produced by Head Winemaker Don Van Staaveren who for over 30 years has been creating award winning wine. His 1996 Chateau St Jean Cinq Cepages named Wine Spectators No 1 Wine in the World 1999. I'll admit goosebumps. Tracey Bledsoe Assistant Winemaker has 8 years experience recently with Artesa Winery producing world class Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Kudos as well to Vineyard Manager Steve Hill and Durell Vineyards Owner and Founder of Three Sticks Bill Price. Picture a kid opening up a christmas present thrilled to death and that would have been me when the wines arrived for the event.

Participating with my fellow tasters from across the country and even my wine friend Grace in DesMoines Cellarmistress, the excitement built as we all logged on. Winemakers and winery staff were online to particpate in the tasting offering advice on the wines as well as answering question about the winery and the wines produced. How cool is that!

First up the 2006 Three Sticks Pinot Noir Durell Vineyards. I decided to taste this wine with a hand tossed sausage pizza on the advice of Don. The aroma of this wine was an excellent ripe cherry and and perfect balance of spice. Wonderful color. I could smell this wine all day. My comments along with other tasters were a big thumbs up on this first offering. I love the juicy cherry/spice combination and the finish is long but silky smooth. Amazing fruit flavor on the front of the wine. Perfect Pinot Noir!

Second wine of the evening was the 2007 Three Sticks Pinot Noir Durell Vineyards. Different than the 06 this Pinot on the nose exhibited dark fruit. First aroma was the dark cherry followed closely by the black raspberry. Wonderful spice finished off the wine. My first taste as I anticipated with the aromas was a more full bodied Pinot Noir. Definate rich flavor from the dark cherry, black raspberry and spice but when I reached the finish is was so smooth just like the 06. I commented about buying a bottle of the 07 and drinking it one year from now to see how the wine may change which I love to compare. Both wines the flavors marry together and a seamless transition flavor to flavor. At this point I am blown away at the quality of these wines. We were enjoying the Pinot's so much we lost track of time and up next the Cabernet.

Last wine of the evening was the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley. I opened this wine well before the tasting to allow it to breathe. Excellent nose on this wine as well. Huge red berry aroma with raspberry coming to the front. Spice and a hint of earth rounded out my aromas. The flavor combination on this wine is perfect. I believe my comment "This is liquid heaven" describes this wine. The black cherry/chocolate combination (and I also had a piece of chocolate with my wine) along with a hint of oak was harmony in the mouth. Unlike many Cabernets I have tasted, the finish was so soft for a wine with huge fruit at the front. 

I asked a couple of my friends to taste the 07 Pinot and the 05 Cabernet to see what they thought of the wine without any of my comments( call me selfish but the 06 I drank all by myself). As anticipated they had the same thoughts with respect to aromas and flavors as I tasted and smelled. Once I told them these were the wines I tasted for the event all suggested Three Sticks Wines were excellent choices to drink. Couldn't agree more with their thoughts except amazing would be my description.

Thank you TasteLive and Three Sticks Wines for allowing me an opportunity to be introduced to wonderful wines. Bill, Don, Tracey and Steve along with all the staff at Three Sticks thank you for producing some of the best wine I have ever tasted. I loved being able to bounce questions off you all during the event and just tell you how much I enjoyed the wines. You have a new fan here in Iowa.

Dan "The Iowa Wino"

Eric Ross Winery Visit Sonoma County


Eric Luse winemaker and owner of Eric Ross Winery is lets say a character (and a fellow Iowan). I knew when planning my trip missing this stop would mean a lost chance at tasting some excellent wine (that and about 100 of my favorite california wine friends bragging him up). My friend Grace Cellarmistress bragged about Eric's wines so they must be top shelf.

Walking into the tasting room there is that face behind the bar. I was meeting the real Eric and he was meeting the real Dan for the first time. We chatted for a few minutes traded some jabs and then it was time to taste some wine. Eric even encouraged me to spit/dump as he tastes with his wines all day long. Spitting is for wimps but then I remembered how day 1 concluded, worn out so dumping it will be.

I had the opportunity to taste each of Erics wines from the Albarino, Struttin White and Red, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Syrah and Port. What I found in each was an excellent display of fruit flavor/aroma all in perfect balance and each finish begging you to drink more. Eric offered up the fact fruit makes all the difference and he is particular about the fruit for each of his wines. I'll add his passion for producing quality wine is a big factor in the final product. While I purchased 2 Pinots both bottles Eric signed for me, I can't brag enough about the quality of the wine he creates.

Eric thank you so much for the memorable visit my friend. The conversation and wine were both awesome. I would like to see more of your wines for sale here. Wine lovers are missing alot if they are not drinking Eric Ross Wine. Maybe one of our wine shops in Cedar Rapids could host the winemaker at a tasting. You and I will share a couple bottles and a story or 2 if you make it back this way.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Passaggio Wine Visit Silverado Trail Napa Valley

I heard Cindy Cosco had been making great Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, Passaggio Wine at a custom facility on the Silverado Trail called Crushpad which is also home to several small production wines. Incindently she is also the lab manager there at the facility. Cindy and I had the opportunity to talk on twitter and when I said I was coming out for a visit and wanted to meet she didn't hesitate.

Arriving at Crushpad in the morning, Cindy and I took a quick tour of the tasting room which happened to be occupied that day by another small producer (shared tasting room) as well as the lab where Cindy works her magic. Chatting with her I was floored when she signed 2 of her bottles of wine for me as a gift. I asked how many cases she produced per year and I swear my mouth hit the floor when the answer was 125! When she becomes really famous I get to say "I knew her in the beginning days" :). A meeting was being held over at the "cave" where the barrels are stored just down the lane from the tasting room so we chatted close by a small vineyard. I knew my first bottled opened when home would be one of these gems and I could hardly wait.

My first bottle opened was the 2009 Passaggio Pinot Grigio. What a great wine this is on the nose with a citrus explosion and crispness of a great white wine. The lemon-lime hits my nose first, followed by the pear an excellent combination of aroma's. Next I get the hint of grapefruit followed by more lemon-lime. Beautiful color now time to taste this wine.

Great refreshing pinot grigio and so crisp. I love the first taste of both red apple followed closely by green apple. I've never had that combination so pronounced in a wine before. Next the pear and a quick hint of grapefruit rounds out the flavors of the wine. Each taste begs you to drink more and the flavors are in perfect balance. Awesome refreshing wine and one I need to speak with my wine friends about putting in their shop to sell here in Iowa. Maybe a tweet up here in Cedar Rapids at a tasting!

Cindy thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet. I can't thank you enough for the time we spent in Napa and the wonderful wine gift :). A bottle of Iowa wine will be on the way shortly to you for enjoyment.
Wine lovers you really need to check Cindy's website out and order a bottle today and see for yourself why others along with myself say this wine is so very good. My little cellar will always have a bottle or 2 of Passaggio Wine ready to share with friends.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hook & Ladder Winery Visit Russian River Valley

A few corks in the road so to speak but finally we arrived at Hook & Ladder Winery. We had the pleasure of meeting Jason Deloach and his wife for a tour and tasting. Talk about someone with a high energy level and a passion for wine making you have a description of Jason.

We started tasting Chardonnay and Jason informed his marketing director that not only was I a big Pinot Noir fan but the first person following them from Twitter that had ever visited the winery. I wear the title proudly! Next Jason poured me a couple Pinot Noirs which were very awesome and ended up being purchased (like I would leave there without Pinot). We ended the day in the tasting room with a Gewurztraminer.

The tour was very interesting and started with showing us the huge tanks for fermenting wine to the barrels being cleaned out and prepared for new wine. We found it interesting how they determined when a barrel was ready to be replaced and the life span can be quite long. Jason even went through how the area was prepared for harvest time and you could hear the excitment in his voice as he went through the process.

Next was the barrel room and he asked if I would like some samples from the barrel. Before I could say yes I have my first taste, a pinot ready to bottle in July. Could really tell this wine was close to consume. Several barrels later and ending with a port I had an absolute blast and Jason's energy about how he thinks wine should be is contageous (climbing up and down the racked barrels providing samples I had to laugh).

We couldn't thank them enough for taking time out of their busy day to taste some great wine and learn more about Hook & Ladder Winery. They just closed on a new home and for them to stop and talk with us was very appreciated. Jason you are an awesome winemaker and I will have Hook & Ladder wine on hand for my friends to enjoy. We should be carrying this wine in Iowa so I'm on a mission :). Wine lovers this is a must stop in the RRV.


Titus Vineyards Silverado Trail Visit Napa Valley

Prior to our visit to Napa Valley I knew little if anything about Titus wines. Talking with my friend Matt in Florida mmWine about my visit he put me in touch with Christophe cork_dork one of 2 employees and director of marketing (along with many other duties), and the taste was set up. Talking with both my wine store friends here in Iowa both said Titus wine is awesome and its a great opportunity to be introduced to their wines.

Titus happened to be my 4 visit of the day. Still feeling the effects of the travel from Iowa to California (lets not blame anything on all the wine I had tasted so far today) I was excited to see we would be sitting outside tasting wine under a nice shade tree looking out over the vineyard. Friends of Christophe's were there as well tasting and at times the jabs were flying leading to a very relaxed tasting (you could even call it comic relief).

We started with a Sav Blanc (my purchase) and worked out way through Merlot, Cab Franc, Zin, Cabernet and finished with a Petite Syrah.  We had a few bonus pours in the mix due to some wine club members visiting earlier and as as Christophe put it "They didn't drink it all so you get too". Loved the complexity of the fruit flavor in all the wines and the finish on each begged you to drink more. The Cabernet Sauvignon with its blackberry, cherry, raspberry flavors perfectly balanced to the Cabernet Franc with its blueberry and oak combination really finished my day 1 tasting nicely. I loved his explanation on the Petite Syrah pour "Now time for purple teeth". I even asked for a second pour as we headed out to look at the vineyard.

Really cool to walk out into the vineyard and see the buds starting to dry up and soon replaced by fruit. The weather had been very rainy and the hope now is for the rest of the summer to be hot and dry. I admired how clean the vineyards were with the area in between rows plowed and free of weeds. I also found it interesting how fast picking crews can get the fruit off the vines and ready for wine making.

Glad we had the opportunity to taste Titus wines with Christophe (an excellent host) and introduced to their history. I asked the fewest questions on this visit of any and focused more on how the wines tasted. I'm usually not that quiet but it had been a long day tasting. Thank you very much Christophe for the time you took and making us feel welcome. Absolutely fell in love with each wine and as I said earlier to you I'll be keeping more Titus wine on hand to drink. I do hope you get a chance to come to Iowa either for a tweet up at one of our local wine shops to introduce others to Titus wines or to visit and drink the wine produced here from Iowa wineries. Either way we will hook up and I'll share a bottle or two with you.


Friday, June 11, 2010

St Supery Napa Valley Visit in June

I owe Rick Bakas a million thanks for introducing me to St Supery wines. Several months ago talking with Rick on Twitter he offered some samples to me and as a result of my young blog. His samples started a chain of contacts offering me an opportunity to taste other wines from California, Oregon, Washington, Iowa and Illinois. I even had a friend bring me a bottle from Georgia. While I apologized for running late to my visit I am glad Rick still had time to chat with me. One of my must visits.

Walking into the entrance of the winery and just off the tasting room I could not believe the marquee welcoming my wife and I to St Supery. Talk about chills and being completely surprised/humbled.  On the opposite wall inside the entrance is a beautiful picture of the St Supery Vineyards.

I finally had the chance to meet Rick in person talking about how my wife completely surprised me with this trip and how she was able to keep a secret. You would think we had been friends for years. So very excited to see the winery but first things first.

Once at the tasting bar I was fully ready to taste the Un-Oaked Chardonnay. The wine was excellent and exceeded my expectations. The wine was purchased before I left. Next a Cabernet and the ever popular Moscato (never turn down an opportunity to taste this wine). Plenty of St Supery "swag" is available in the tasting room for purchase.

Rick took us back into the production and barrel rooms of the winery. While my wife snapped a picture from behind I swear my mouth was hitting the floor admiring the amount of equipment St Supery owns to produce outstanding wine. The barrel room was as if I walked into heaven with so much wine aging and evolving into juice we can all enjoy. Rick explained in great detail the process of St Supery in making wine. I can only imaging the hustle at harvest time and the many hours spent producing great wine.

Impressed with California barrel tasting. How cool for Rick to allow me an opportunity to taste wine in succession from bottled to not even close to being ready. Each barrel had an abundance of fruit flavor and each had a level of bitterness unique to its age. I was completely blown away by the difference in each barrel. He truly spoiled us at this visit.

St Supery produces great wine and with each vintage I become more impressed with them. Rick took time out of his busy day to make us feel welcome. We can't thank him enough and appeciate having the opportunity to meet him and discuss St Supery wine. He said he has the best job with the best boss and it shows. A must stop for any wine lover is St Supery, I'm sure you will agree.  I hope you get that chance to come to Iowa for a tweet up and tasting at 1 of our local wine shops here in Cedar Rapids Iowa Rick. Its time St Supery wine gains popularity here.  I'll have a couple bottles we can sit down and enjoy. My treat this time.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ceja Vineyards Carneros Visit & Tasting

The beauty of Ceja Vineyards was our second visit in wine country. Amelia Ceja President and I had conversed many times on twitter and facebook including receiving some very nice samples to taste. I always told her if ever in Napa Valley I would stop by for a visit and she extended the offer.

My wife took some beautiful pictures of the landscape around Ceja Vineyards prior to us entering the tasting area, and hustling some wine into the car was Armando the winemaker. Once inside Amelia was finishing with some tasters but stopped momentarily giving us a big hug as if we were family.

Sitting at the tasting bar and starting to enjoy some very fine Ceja wine, Amelia talked with us giving the history of the family and vineyard. We could feel the passion she has for creating great wine complimenting any food it's served with but more importantly how much family plays an important role in the success of the winery. Heading out to an event was daughter Dalia Ceja who stopped to chat with us as well.

So what wine did we taste...... all of them to be exact. Each glass brought an explanation and an occasional taste by Amelia. We started with the Sauv Blanc (a purchase) moving gracefully to the Vino De Casa White, Chardonnay, Rose (purchase), Pinot Noir (another must purchase), Vino De Casa Red, Merlot and Cabernet. Talking to us as family and not like customers you can't help but enjoy the warmth of the tasting area. What a perfect way to enjoy great wine.

Soon the vineyard will be bustling with the creation of a new state of the art production facility. All tasters are encouraged to visit the tasting room Ceja Vineyards operates in downtown Napa. I would love to be able to visit at the grand opening of the new facility.

To the Ceja family we thank you for allowing us to visit your beautiful vineyard and the creation of great wine. You made us feel part of your family,  something we will always remember. Readers I encourage you to pick up a bottle of Ceja wine and taste for yourself excellent wine. If in Napa be sure to stop downtown at the Ceja Tasting Room. Salude Amelia!


Cuvaison-Carneros Tasting Room & Vineyards

What a beautiful drive up the lane towards the tasting room with the rolling hills of grape vines at my first stop Cuvaison. I paused a few moments after getting out of the car to admire the beauty of the vineyards and commented to my wife how peaceful and relaxed the scenery made us feel. We both agreed what a beautiful place.

Once inside we were greeted by Austin a young man who would be our host for tasting. Gentleman knows his wine and asked us to take a seat outside and he would start the tasting.

What impressed me most with each wine I tasted and all were excellent (Chardonnay, Pinot, Cabernet), Austin explained every detail first including where on the property the grapes were grown. Built your excitement with each wine I had the opportunity taste and enjoy. The tasting flowed methodically one wine after another and I felt relaxed and never rushed. Yes Cuvaison I could sit there all day drinking great wine and admiring the beauty of your vineyards. Upcoming in a future blog post will be the review of my purchase for the day the F5 Block Pinot Noir.

Thank you Austin for starting our tasting tour with some great wine, your knowledge of both the wine and vineyards. You were a great host. Thank you Cuvaison for continuing to make great wine. My compliments to the winemakers. Readers if you are in Napa for a visit I highly recommend Cuvaison as a must stop for tasting!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Napa In June What An Experience

Just back from a great trip to Napa with my wife, incidently her surprise to me and our first trip alone in 23 years. I thought on the plane ride about many different ways to capture our trip and present the material to all the readers. Should I tell them about the many wines I tasted or would they really be interested in my visits to wineries and the people I had the pleasure of meeting. I'm choosing the latter to include pictures taken at each visit. Each stop was interesting in its own way but also similar in the passion by the winemakers/owners and staff.
Yes the wine was excellent but the conversation and the fact I felt at home on each visit was most important. Over the next few days my posts will include stops at Cuvaison, Ceja Vineyards, St Supery, Titus Vineyards, Hook & Ladder, Passaggio and Eric Ross Winery. I hope you enjoy.