Archive for the Category ◊ Varietal ◊

29 Oct 2009 Barrel tasting the remaining 2008 vintage wines

I did barrel tasting from the remaining 2008 wines in barrel with some wine club members on Tuesday.  The wines tasted were: 2008 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast; 2008 White Hawk Vineyard, Sangiovese, Santa Barbara; 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville Vineyard, Napa Valley; 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rafael Vineyard, Napa Valley.  All of the wines are tasting very good! :)

I was quite happy at how all of the wines showed.  Here are some tasting notes:
The 2008 White Hawk Vineyard, Sangiovese was tremendous!  It has great concentration with aromas and flavors of blue fruit (blueberry, boysenberry) and cherry.  The wine is not as classic as the 2007 Sangiovese is but I think a bit of blending with Sangiovese from the Stophlman vineyard will bring in a the lovely sour cherry flavor one looks for in Sangiovese.  Also, a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon will give it a long and lovely finish.

The 2008 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, which has had its primary blend done already is very similar to the 2007 Pinot Noir with the exception of more smoke, earth and hints of spice.  The acidity on the wine might need a slight tweek just before bottling but seems very good during my quick taste.  If you liked the 2007 Pinot Noir, I think you will enjoy the 2008 version very much.  I will be doing the final blend of the 2008 Pinot Noir to have it bottled in time for Christmas but not Thanksgiving. 

The two Cabernet Sauvignons are amazing!  The wine is concentrated, rich and complex.  The fruit flavors of the Coombsville vineyard is quite striking — lots of cassis with some nice middle-palate fruit and a long finish.  The Rafael Vineyard fruit tastes of dense raspberry jam.  It is not typical for Cabernet Sauvignon to have a raspberry flavor but the combination of the two wines will be very good.  I will be looking to blend in some petite verdot to add complexity with a spicey and tannic element and some Cabernet Franc for aromatics.  The resulting blend will be powerful wine with some nice aging potential.

02 Jul 2009 Boeger Real Deal Red Lot#1, El Dorado

Deep ruby w/purple hue core transitioning to ruby rim

Clean, medium intensity aromas of cherry (red and black), cedar, forest floor, mocha and vanilla

Medium soft tannins; medium acidity; medium- body; medium+ intensity flavors of cherry (red and black), mocha, milk chocolate, vanilla and oak/cedar; The flavors are nicely layered / complex with enough oak to make it enjoyable but not overwhelming.

Good quality wine well suited for summer BBQ and easy drinking events.  The wine is a very enjoyable easy quaffer.

The wine is a blend of 55% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The alcohol is 14.1%

02 Jul 2009 2007 Boeger Pinot Gris, El Dorado
 |  Category: Varietal, Wine Review  |  Tags: ,  | Leave a Comment

Bright, medium- lemon green core transitioning to water white rim

Clean, medium intensity aromas of pear, green apple, hint of mineral, hint of mineral

Medium+ intensity flavors of pear, green apple, apple blossom, hint of nuttiness; medium+ body — great mouthfeel; medium+ length with a slight tartness on the finish; medium acidity

The wine is a very nicely balanced Pinot Gris that is best served with a slight chill and served with a Waldorf Salad.  The wine is a wonderful summer wine.

19 May 2009 Spring Blending Update

Spring blending is underway at Lionheart Wines!  I have been working on blending the following wines:

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2007 Roaring Red, California
2008 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
2008 white Rhone blend (we can not use ‘The Angel’s Share’ anymore due to a trademark issue…if you have a suggestion for what to call the wine, please let me know)

The blending has gone very well.  I really enjoy working on blending the wines as you get to “fine tune” the work started way back at harvest of the grapes.   I have a wine style in mind which I try to reach in the final blend but do not artificially impose my will on what the wines are showing as their best qualities.  I want to make the best possible wine given the base blending components.

The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is looking to be a different style than then 2006; the 2007 has more ripe cherry / plum fruit which the blending will need to tone down.  I am going to be doing blend tests with Petite Verdot (to add spicyness and warm baking spices), Cabernet Franc (to add some floral aromas and more velvety tannins) and a bit of Malbec (make the wine more interesting, more layered in aromas and flavors).  The exact blend has not been worked out yet; the primary blend should be done by the first week in June.  The primary blend will then be put back in barrel to let it integrate before any final adjustments and bottling later this year.

The 2007 Roaring Red has been a bit of challenge this year.  I had to do a fining trial to get the tannin profile in line with the target wine.  The fining trial was done by taking equal volume samples of the current blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley and Kiona, Washington) and Dry Creek Syrah and adding 1 egg white worth to one sample, 2 egg white worth to another sample, etc and then left in a refrigerate to cold stablize it for a week.  The results from the fining trial indicated that about 1.25 egg whites per barrel seemed to get the proper tannin softness and structure for the wine.   After the actual fining is completed, the last part of the primary blend will be done.  The blending wines to be tested are Eaglepoint Grenache (for spiceyness and addition of light red fruits (currants, strawberry, etc) ), Contra Costa Mourvedre (for aromas and flavor complexity) and Petite Verdot ( for spiceyness and warm baking spices).

The 2008 Pinot Noir primary blending was very easy — equal parts of the Bohemian Vineyard and Gap’s Crown vineyard.  The blend was really nice and very similar to the 2007 Pinot Noir.   The blend will be topped with some of the Bohemian 777 clone from the second pick to add a bit more concentration to the wine as it integrates.   I am very happy with the base wines from these two vineyards!

The 2008 Saralee’s Vineyard, White Rhone Blend (formerly ‘The Angel’s Share’) blending was a several hour and over 15 blends tested for the primary blend to be determined.  The blend components all look very good by themselves but when properly combined you get a really lovely wine.   The final blend should be very similar to the 2007 White Rhone blend.   The 2008 primary blend is going to be 48% Roussanne / 50% Marsanne / 2% Viognier.    It was very cool to  be able to tell how the wine was going to evolve given this would be the third vintage — remember what the wines were like when initially blended versus the current state of each vintage.   I really enjoy working with the white Rhone varietals as the flavors and aromas are very complex and beguiling.  The white Rhone wine maybe bottled near the end of June depending on how the primary blend stablizes in tank.

19 May 2009 New Releases Coming Soon!

Lionheart Wines will be releasing several wines soon!  We are looking at releasing the following wines:

  • 2008 Angel’s Blush Rose, Santa Barbara (very limited only three cases have not been spoken for yet)
  • 2007 White Hawk Vineyard, Sangiovese, Santa Barbara
  • 2007 Syrah, Dry Creek Valley

The Rose has been a huge hit with everyone that has tried the wine.   The Rose has already been picked up by two restaurants and one market.  It is something very special that I am looking to do again in 2009 given the overwhelming response.  The remaining Rose will be offered to wine club members on an allocated amount — the announcement will be coming soon once the release date of the Sangiovese is set.

The long awaited release of the 2007 White Hawk Vineyard, Sangioeve, Santa Barbara is nearly here.  The wine has been in bottle for two months and recently labelled.  After the wine has come out of bottle shock, the wine will be released.  The Sangiovese is a great food wine; it just begs to be had with a rich tomato-and-meat based sauce pasta dish!   The wine should be ready to release by the end of the month but may not be able to ship it until early fall due to temperature issues.  I will be checking the wine consistently for when it is out of bottle shock.  I want you to get your wines soon, so you can enjoy it!

The 2007 Syrah, Dry Creek Vineyard, has developed into a huge wine!  The Dry Creek Syrah is very concentrated and dense.  The final blend on the wine includes Grenache, Petite Sirah and Viognier.  The wine could be from the Rhone given the flavors and aromas in it but with the power for ripe California fruit.  The wine will need to be in bottle for several more months before release to let it integrate and come out of bottle shock.  Your patience (and mine) will be very well rewards!

26 Feb 2009 2007 Seawind, Pinot Noir, Split Rock Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

Appearance: clear, deep ruby with slight purple hue core transitioning to ruby rim

Nose: clean, medium- intensity with aromas of red fruit (cherry and cranberry), cola and a slight aromas of wet pine.

Palate: medium+ acidity, medium tannins with slightly chalky tannins, medium length, medium to medium+ alcohol, flavors of red cherry, candied rose petals, cola, cedar and a hint of warm spices. 

The wine is very young and will benefit from a minimum of 6 months of bottle age.  The palate on the wine will improve as the tannins become more integrated, acidity soften slightly and the aroms/flavors integrated.  As the wine has been open for 30 minutes, the palate is softening and the flavors are more pronounced.   The wine is clearly showing terroir of the Split Rock Vineyard; I would like to see the wine blended with more clones/blocks from the Split Rock Vineyard.

I would recommend that you cellar the wine for 12 months before opening your bottle(s).

05 Feb 2009 Vintage 2008 Barrel Sampling results

I have been tasting through my 2008 barrels to see how the vintage is coming along.  So far, the vintage looks to have promise — the final wines could be very impressive but it will take some careful work with them to make it happen.   At the moment, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese are looking very good.

2008 Combsville Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Appearance: opaque red/purple core -> purple rim
Nose: medium+ intensity; coffee/espresso, cedar, black currant, boysenberry, herbs
Palate: Acidity = high; tannins = high, grippy; Flavors = black currant, boysenberry, cedar; Intensity = pronouned; alcohol = medium+, length = medium+
This wine is going to be the backbone of our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon — it is off to a great start and I can not wait to see how it evolves in barrel.

2008 Rafael Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Appearance: opaque- ruby/slight purple hue core -> purple rim
Nose: pronounced intensity; red fruit (cherry, pomegranite, strawberry, slight sour cherry), black currant, fresh raspberry
Palate: intensity = pronounced; acidity = high; tannins = medium, fine-grained; flavor = black pepper, red cherry, strawberry, red curants, slight espresso; length = long
This wine will be the “fruit” component to the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon blend.  It tastes lovely now with a lot of complexity already.

2008 White hawk vineyard, Syrah, Santa Barbara
Appearance: opaque purple/ruby core -> purple rim
Nose: intensity = medium-; violets, plum, rhubbarb, slight cedar
Palate: intensity = medium+; tannins = medium; length = medium+; flavors: espresso, strawberry, pomegranite, cedar (on finish), slight black pepper on finish; alcohol = medium+

2008 Thompson Vineyard, Syrah, Santa Barbara
Appearance: opaque ruby/purple core -> purple rim
Nose: intensity = pronounced; oak, coffee/espresso, red fruit (cherry, currant), slight floral, black fruit (olive and cherry), green olive
Palate: acidity = medium+; tannins = medium+ grippy; length = long; alcohol = medium+; flavors = olive tempanda, black pepper, oak, rhubbarb (red savory), star anise; finish = slightly bitter

2008 Bohemian Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley/Sonoma Coast
Appearance: medium ruby with slight purple hue core -> pink rim
Nose: intensity = medium+; toasted oak, red cherry, fresh strawberry, violets, slight espresso, smoke
Palate: Acidity = high; tannins = medium-, soft; length = medium+; concentration = medium-; flavors = cherry, strawberry, watermelon, smome, white pepper on finish (slight bitterness with a bit of angular acidity).
This wine is quite different from prior vintage: prior vintage= long even growing season, this vintage = short growing season with heavy frost damage early in the vintage.

2008 Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
Appearance: deep ruby/purple core -> pink rim
Nose: intensity = medium+; sulphur, black fruits (cola, cherry, currant), anise, warm spices
Palate: acidity = high; tannins = medium, slightly grippy; length = medium+; flavors = dark cherry, cola, earth, slight pomegranite, dried strawberry
This wine was sulphured two days before I tasted the wine, so nothing to worry about here.

2008 Saralee’s Vineyard, Marsanne, Russian River Valley
Appearance: light gold core -> water white rim
Nose: intensity = pronounced; mineral, white floral, tea, honeysuckle, pear blossom, pear, asian pear, fresh cut grass
Palate: Acidity = high; length = medium+; flavors = mineral, honeysuckle, bosc pear, white pepper on finish; concentration = medium-
This wine is off to great start.  The concentration/body weight is a bit light right now but the stirring program has just been started.  The palate weight will improve as the lees are stirred (once every two weeks).

2008 Saralee’s Vineyard, Roussanne, Russian River Valley
Appearance: light gold core -> water-white rim
Nose: intensity = medium+; mineral, white floral (apple blossom), perfume, green fruit (pear), warm spice
Palate: acidity = medium+; intensity = medium+; length = medium+; concentration = medium+; flavors: mineral, white floral, pear, fuji apple, cardamon
This wine is turning out very nicely.  The wine did not go through malolactic fermentation to help retain the natural acidity.  The combination of the Marsanne and the Roussanne should make for another lovely white Rhone blend, The Angel’s Share!

05 Feb 2009 Zinfandel wine tasting dinner with friends in So. Cal – Jan. 31
 |  Category: Varietal, Wine Review  |  Tags: , ,  | Leave a Comment

Jen and I flew down to Los Angeles to surprise some of our friends at a zinfandel wine tasting dinner after the ZAP trade grand tasting.  The surprise was fantastic!  The excitement and look on each of their faces was tremendous. :)

Our friends get together once a month to do a blind wine tasting for a particular varietal or a wine region of the world.  This month the theme for the tasting was zinfandel.  The tasting evaluation approach is random for each person at the dinner.  After all the wines have been tasted, each person is asked for their top three wines.  The top wines are then tablulated and read aloud.

The following wines tasted were:
#1: 2004 York Creek, Ridge, Zinfandel (zinfandel and petite sirah blend) — $23
#2: 2006 SinZin, Alexander Valley — $14
#3: 2005 Biker, Four Zines, Paso Robles — $20
#4: 2006 Dover Canyon, Reserve, Paso Robles — $25
#5: 2007 Cujo, Dover Canyon — $23
#6: 2005 St. Francis, Old Vine Zinfandel — $25
#7: 2006 St. Francis, Old Vine Zinfandel – $17
#8a: 2004 Zinfandel, Agua Fulce, Angeles Crest — $5
#8b: 2007 Nine Gables Vineyard, Fiddle Zin, Late harvest Zinfandel — $23
#9: 2005 Biauchi, Zen Ranch Vineyard, Paso Robles — $10
#10: 2006 Artezin, Mendocino — $18
#12: 2002 Collins Vineyard, Limerick Lane Vineyard, Russian River Valley (in a magnum) — $60

The voting for the best wines was:
1st place: 1 (6 votes), 7 (2 votes), 10 (2 votes), 12 (2 votes), 2, 4
2nd place: 12 (6 votes), 7 (5 votes), 4, 10
3rd place: 12 (3 votes), 1 (2 votes), 6 (2 votes), 2, 4, 5, 7, 10

Clearly, the 2002 Limerick Lane and the 2006 St. Francis zinfandel were both very well received.  Here are some notes on these wines:

  • 2002 Collins Vineyard Zinfandel rated 92 Points in the December 15, 2004 issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

    “A great Zin, rich and opulent. Floods the mouth with briary blackberry,
    blueberry, cherry chocolate and pepper flavors that just take over the
    palate. Yet the wine is dry and balanced, with firm, ripe tannins. One of
    the best Zins of the year.”

  • 2002 Collins Vineyard Zinfandel ranked #21 of the top 100 wines of 2004 in the December 15, 2004 issue of Wine Enthusiast Magazine
  • 04 Feb 2009 19th Annual Zap tasting at Fort Mason – January 31, 2009

    It was a beautiful day in the SF Bay Area!  The tasting event was really quite nice as we got in with the trade (it is much more sane than the general tasting….1500 vs. 10,000 people).  The 2006 vintage appears to be fairly good with some standouts especially in the Mendocino region.  Zinfandel has a very wide range of aroma/flavor descriptors which range from a earthy, spicey (fresh cracked black pepper) to jammy, intense fruit (often with dried fruit characteristics).  At the ZAP grand tasting, the range seems to be best described by the Bradford Mountain Winery 2006 Grist Vineyard on the cracker pepper range to the Calcareous Vineyard 2006 Kate’s Vineryard, Paso Robles.  The overall vintage of 2006 seems to be above average.  Mendocino had a very good showing in the 2006 vinetage while Napa Valley did not show terribly well based on my limited tasting.  Note: Given the number of tastings in short period of time — as it has been said, “your milage my vary”.  Please consider this a relative rating of quality.

    Favorite wineries:
    Bradford Mountain Winery
    Calcarerous Vineyards
    Selby Winery
    Storrs Winery
    Renwood Winery

    The scale is based on 5 stars being the best possible.  Normally, I would do a 100 point scale or a WSET based detail wine description however I did not have time to do that type of analysis. 

    Artezin Wines (
    3.5 stars — 2007 Mendocino County, Zinfandel — $18
    Aroma: raspberry, cherry; Palate: medium- body, light and pleasing.  This is a light  body wine that is nice now but will probably not hold longer than 12 to 18 months from now — a great summer BBQ wine.

    Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves (
    2.5 to 3 stars — 2006 Lily hill vineyard, Dry Creek Valley — $25
    Aroma: banana, blue fruit, baby powder; Palate: similar to aromas plus dried bananas but has a medium+ concentration.   The wine could have been much more given the concentration but the banana flavor/aroma is distracting.

    2 stars — 2006 Dry Creek — $35
    Aroma: sulphur and wet cedar on the nose; palate follows the nose.

    Bradford Mountain Winery – Healdsburg, N. Sonoma (
    3.5 – 4 stars: 2006 Grist Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley:
    Aromas: cracked black pepper, baking spices, red fruit; palate: medium body, medium+ length, flavors: cracked black pepper, baking spices, red fruit

    4 stars: 2005 “El Grandate”, fortified wine, 18.5%abv, 10% residule sugar (100 grams/liter):
    Aromas: raisin, fig, dried currants, dried fruits; Palate: raisin,s fig, dried currants, medium+ concentrations.
    This is a very nice, balanced fortified wine — good example of what can be done with zinfandel made in the port style of fortified wines.

    Calcarerous Vineyard – Paso Robles, Central Coast (
    3.5 – 4 stars: 2005 “Twisted Sisters”, Kate’s Vineyard, Paso Robles — $29
    Aromas: meat, soy sauce (slight), black fruit; Palate: red cherry, pomegranite, chalky/mineral, slightly dried fruit, medium+ concentration.

    4 stars: 2006 Kate’s Vineyard, Paso Robles — $30
    Aromas: pronounced intensity — blue fruit (boysenberry, blueberry); Color: opaque Ruby core -> ruby rim; Palate: blue fruit (boysenberry, blueberry), light baking spice; medium + concentration.
    This wine has a nice level of fruit intensity, layered flavors, medium+ palate intensity.  The wine will evolved into something really nice over the next 2 years.

    Cosentino Winery — Yountville, Napa Valley (
    2.5 – 3 stars: 2006 Estate, Ancient Vines, Lodi — $40
    Aromas: red fruit, very ripe fruit bordering on dried fruit; the fruit is a bit too dry and does not bode well for the longevity of this wine.

    Dancing Lady Wines — Healdsburg, N. Sonoma (
    3 stars — 2006 Old Vine & Old Vine Clone, Della Costa Family Vineyard, Alexander Valley – $20
    Aromas: medium+ intensity, black fruit, red fruit; Palate: medium- tannins which are a bit drying.
    The wine is definitely a drink now as the fruit is starting to taste dried up.  It is nice now but will not hold more than 12 to 18 months.
    Note: this wine won a silver at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine competition.

    3.5 – 4 stars — 2007 Old Vine, Della Costa Family Vineyard, Alexander Valley — $30
    Aromas: sweet mincemeat pie, cranberry; palate: concentration medium+, flavors: cranberry, cherry, strawberry.
    The wine as a nice concentration, balance of aroma/flavor intensity and balanced acidity.  The wine is drink now but can be held for 2 to 3 years.
    Note: this wine won a gold at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine competition.

    D-Cubed Cellars — St. Helena, Napa Valley (
    3 stars: 2006 Napa Valley — $27
    Aromas/Flavors: dried red cherry, red fruit

    Downing Family Vineyards — Napa, Napa Valley (
    2 to 2.5 stars — 2006 H & H Vineyard, Oakville — $29
    Aromas: dried fruit, prune, diacyel (buttery); Palate: dried red fruit, oak. 
    The wine tasted like it had been added a bit too long in oak as the fruit was starting to dry out vs. the tannins in the wine.  The wine should be drank now and not held.

    Edmeades — Redwood Valley, Mendocino (
    4 – 4.5 stars: 2005 Piffero Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge
    Aromas: pronounced intensity, ripe fruit, floral, cedar; Palate: red cherry, raspberry, cedar, with smoke on the finish; medium+ concentration, very balanced wine.

    4 stars: 2007 Zinfandel, Mendocino County — $18
    Aromas: blueberry, dark cherry, perfume; Palate: blueberry, dark cherry, perfume — layered, complex and very well balanced; medium+ length.
    This wine is a great value for the money! It is smooth, easy drinking with a surprising level of complexity for low priced premium level wine.

    3 to 3.5 stars: 2006 Ciapusci Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge, Ciapusci, Mendocino Ridge — $30
    Color: medium ruby; Aromas: perfume, blue fruit; Palate: tart red cherry, blueberry, mineral.
    This is a lean wine with more of an old world style which is suprising for Edmeades.

    4 stars: 2006 Zeni Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge
    Aroma: smoke, violets, Rainier cherry; Palate: black fruit, Rainier cherry; Medium+ concentration

    Four Vines Winery — Paso Robles, Central Coast (
    3.5 stars: 2006 Maverick, Amador County
    Aroma: violets, red fruit; Palate: Medium+ concentration; flavors — red cherry; medium- tannins.
    The wine is at its peak from now until the next 6 months — do not cellar this wine!  If you have this wine, please break out and enjoy!

    2.5 to 3 stars: 2006 Biker, Paso Robles
    Aroma: slight soy sauce, red fruit; Palate: medium- tannins which are drying on the finish, red fruit, cranberry.

    Note: I have really enjoyed the Four Vines wines in the past several years.  However, the quality of the wine seems to have slipped a bit.  I was disappointed with the wines I tried.

    Gamba vineyards and Winery — Fulton, N. Sonoma (
    3.5 stars: 2007 Estate Vineyard, Old Vine, Russian River Valley — $45
    Aromas: Medium intensity; red currant, cranberry; Palate: red currant, red cranberry; Medium+ acidity.
    The wine was nicely balanced with lively acidity that should help it age.  The style of this wine is a change from the previous two vintages which is more concentrated, fruit bomb old vine.  I would like to see Gus (the winemaker) take the style to between the 2005 and 2007 vintage — it would be more elegant and complex.

    3 stars: 2007 Moratto Vineyard, Old Vine, Russian River Valley — $45
    Aroma: dried red fruit, hint of cracked black pepper; Palate: medium slightly drying tannins, flavors = dried red fruit, slight cracked black pepper.

    Hendry — Napa, Napa valley (
    3 stars: 2006 Block 7 & 22, Napa Valley — $30
    Aroma: medium+ intensity, slightly lactic, red fruit; Palate: black cherry, blackberry; medium+ acidity, medium+ length.
    The wine was not a good as the last several vintages of the Block 7 zinfandel.  The wine is enjoyable now but will not hold more than 2 years.

    Howell Mountain Vineyards — Rutherford, Napa Valley (
    2.5 stars: 2006 Black Sears, Napa County, Howell Mountain — $38
    Aroma: medium+ intensity, dried red and black fruit (raisin, prune); Palate: Medium+ drying tannins, flavors of dried fruit, prune. 
    This wine is clearly made from mountain fruit given the tannins.  The fruit seems to have been left too long on the wine given the dried fruit characteristics coming through so strongly.

    Klinker Brick Winery — Lodi, Central Valley (
    3.5 to 4 stars: 2006 Old Vine, Lodi — $18
    Nose: floral (violet), fresh bread (brioche), banana, red fruit, cola, root beer; Palate: flavor matched the aromas, medium+ concentration, very balanced.
    This is a great value, easy to get and good with so many different foods.

    Ledson Winery & Vineyards — Kenwood, Sonoma Valley (
    3 stars: 2005 Old Vine, Mendocino County — $36
    Aroma: red fruit; Palate: medium+ fine-grained tannins, flavors: cherry, baking spice

    2.5 to 3 stars: 2005 Old Vine, Sonoma County — $40
    Aroma: concentrated fruit, savory; Palate: Medium+ intensity; flavors=red and black fruit, boysenberry, savory, black fruit

    Limerick Lane Cellars — Healdsburg, N. Sonoma (
    3 stars — 2006 Collins Vineyard, Zinfandel, Russian River Valley — $30
    Aroma: slightly reduced, black & red fruit, slight black pepper, earthy; Palate: slightly drying tannins; red druit, black fruit, black olive, tangy finish.

    This wine was not as good as prior vintages which is unfortunately as Limerick Lane Cellars makes tremendous and distinctive tannins — velvety soft tannins, blue fruit on nose/palate, and explosive in the mouth.

    Mauritson Family Winery — Healdsburg, N. Sonoma (
    3 stars — 2006 Cemetery Vineyard, Rockpile — $39
    Aroma: floral, red fruit, cedar; Palate: medium+ concentration, red fruit; medium+ tannins (noticable)

    Mazzocco Winery — Healdsburg, N. Sonoma (
    4 stars — Pony Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley — $32
    Aroma/Palate: red cherry, raspberry; Palate: medium+ concentration, round mouthfeel, silky tannins –> overall very balanced

    Novy Family Wines — Santa Rosa, N. Sonoma (
    4 stars: 2006 Papera Ranch Vineyard, Russian River Valley — $33
    Aroma: toasted oak, carmel, blue fruit (boysenberry, blueberry); Palate: medium+ concentration, medium, silky tannins; flavors: christmas cake (cloves, allspice), blue fruit, toasted oak

    Opolo Vineyards — Paso Robles, Central Coast (
    3.5 to 4 stars: 2006 Summit Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, Westside — $19
    Aroma: black fruit( cherry, currant), floral; Palate: medium+ concentration, flavors: caramelized sugar, jammy, red & black fruit; medium+ acidity

    Outpost Estate Wines — Angwin, Napa Valley (
    2.5 to 3 stars: 2006 Outpost vineyard, Napa valley, Howell Mountain — $45
    Aroma: oak, cedar, red fruit (raspberry), black pepper, violets, yellow mustard; Palate: oak, cedar, raspberry, spicy and tangy acidity on finish
    The yellow mustard aroma is quite distracting.

    Perry Creek Winery — Fair Play, Sierra Foothills (
    2 stars: 2006 Zinman, Sierra Foothills — $14
    Aroma: sulphur, herbaceous; Palate: herbaceous; length: medium-
    The wine was on the thin side and not nearly as good as the last few vintages of this wine.

    Renwood Winery — Plymouth, Sierra Foothills (
    3.5 stars — 2006 Jack Rabbit Vineyard
    Aroma: light intensity; red fruit, sweet spices; Palate: light body, Medium+ length

    3.5 stars — 2005 Grandmere, Amador County — $35
    Aroma: medium+ intensity — Cherry, cola (nearly pinot noir); Palate: red cherry, pomegranite; medium- concentration.

    3.5 stars — 2005 Old Vine, Amador County — $18
    Aroma: red fruit (currant, cherry), medium intensity; Palate: medium- tannins, flavors: red fruit, cherry, raspberry, red currant –> light, clean finish

    Rosenblum Cellars — Alameda, Bay Area (
    4 stars — 2006 Rockpile Road Vineyard, Rockpile — $35
    Aroma: pronounced intensity; aromas: maple syrup; Palate: blackberry, blackberry, baking spice, black cherry, boysenberry; medium+ concentration.
    This is a made in the typical Rosenblum fruit bomb style of wines.

    Selby Winery — Healdsburg, N. Sonoma (
    4 to 4.5 stars: 2007 Bobcat, Sonoma County — $34
    A bit closed down on the nose; Aroma: blue fruit, raspberry; Palate: blue fruit, raspberry
    This is a very balanced wine with good concentrated but not great concentration.

    3.5 to 4 stars: 2007 Old Vines, Sonoma County — $28
    Aroma: boysenberry, red cherry, black cherry; Palate: eucalyptus, blue fruit; medium+ concentrated

    Carol Shelton Wines — Santa Rosa, N. Sonoma (
    2.5 stars: 2006 Wild Thing, Cox Vineyard, Mendocino County — $28
    medium balanced, middle of road but has a poor finish (overly cedar)

    2.5 stars: 2005 Maple Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley — $33
    Aromas: violet, perfume, cherry, cedar; Palate: cherry, cranberry, lactic finish

    St. Francis Winery & Vineyard — Santa Rosa, Sonoma Valley (
    2.5 stars: 2000 Reserve, Old Vine, Pagani Vineyard, Sonoma Valley
    Aromas: wet wood, black currant, warm spices; Palate: savory, red fruit, slightly drying tannins with a bleu cheese finish (this is very unpleasant)

    Storrs Winery & Vineyards — Santa Cruz, Bay Area (
    3 to 3.5 stars: 2005 Lion Oaks vineyard, Old Vine, Santa Clara County — $35
    Aromas: lavendar, anise, black olive; palate: light body, red fruit, medium length pleasant finish

    4 stars: 2005 Rusty Ridge Vineyard, Old Vine, Santa Clara County — $30
    Aroma: slight dried fruit, rose petal, red fruit, baking spice; Palate: medium+ concentration; flavors: raspberry, cranberry, pomegranite, slight cedar; medium+ length

    Stryker Sonoma — Geyserville, N. Sonoma (
    3 stars: 2006 Estate old vine, Alexander Valley — $26
    Aroma: floral, sweet olive, raspberry, currant; Palate: raspberry, red currant, warm splices

    Taft Street Winery — Sebastopol, N. Sonoma (
    3 stars: 2007 Cobblestone Vineyard, Sonoma
    Aroma: prounounced intensity; fresh raspberry, allspice; Palate: cranberry, drieed raspberry

    Terra d’Oro — Plymouth, Sierra Foothills (
    3.5 stars: 2006 Amador County — $18
    Aroma: medium intensity; ripe fruit and slightly dried red fruit; Palate: medium+ concentration; flavors: red fruit (cherry, currant)

    29 Jan 2009 Judging Pinot Noir at the 2009 Pinot Noir Shoot-out

    I was asked to be a judge at the final round of the 2009 Pinot Noir Shoot-out held at Boudin’s bakery on Fisherman’s wharf.  The “Shoot-out” tastings are organized by Affairs of the Vine.  Currently, there are “Shoot-out“s for Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and region comparisons. 

    Each winery submits 4 bottles of the same wine for consideration.  On the appointed day, the preliminary round of tasting is done on the wines to see which wines should be considered for the frinal round of judging.  There were 267 entries for the 7th annual Pinot Noir Shoot-out in the initial round.  The final round had 64 wines in it.  The final round wines were broken into two tasting groups — blue and green.  Each group was tasted by 8 or 9 judges.  The judges were asked to taste the wines in their group in flights of 8 wines and rate the wines on a 100 point scale.  It took 2.5 hours for the tasting to be completed.  The scores for each group per wine will be tabulated based on sex on the judge and then overall winners determined.  The final results will be posted in the near future. 

    When the results become available, I will post a link to the results as well as do a comparison of how my scores compared to the averaged scores.  It will be an interesting test to see how my palate compares to professional wine judges, critics and journalists.  There is an interesting article in the current journal of Wine Economics, “An Examination of Judge Reliability at a major U.S. Wine Competition” by Robert T. Hodgson.   Hopefully, I fall into the 10% that can reliably score a wine given several chances to score the same wine in a blind setting…I guess time will tell. :)

    There were a few surprises in the tasting for me.  In my group, there were three wines that we nearly undrinkable.  The judges were not allow to discuss the opinions of the wines during the tasting but afterward the judges in my group all agreed these 3 wines were bad.  Out of the group of 32 wines I tasted, three wines were in the top tier.  It is hard to determine quality of the wine because it depends on several factors: wine style, wine made to represent a specific terroir, balance, food-friendly vs. cocktail wine.  In this blind tasting, you did not know the region so you did not have to judge the wine to see if it is representative of a regional style which did make it a bit easier.  

    Pinot Noir is hard to judge as it has a large range of styles, flavors and aromas.   Pinot Noir tends to be a love it or hate it type wine.  If it is made well, the wine can be very seductive and velvety smooth — what is not to like there. :)   However, Pinot Noir tends to either be very good or bad with very little in the middle.  I am always a bit reticent to try low-cost (< $10) Pinot Noir as the fruit for that wine tends to be low-quality with a resulting wine that is less than enjoyable.

    It was a great experience being a judge and really helps to keep you focused as a winemaker to think about how your wine will be received by a judge vs. a consumer.  Judges and consumers are looking for different things.  As a winemaker, you need to be mindful of how to balance your wine to please both judges and consumer while respecting your personal style.  It is a hard tight-rope to walk at times!