After Sunset in the Vineyard, hosted by Jeannie Carpenter for the Assistance League, I kept in touch with a few of our local winemakers. One, Roman Weiser, aka “Wine Bordeaux”, suggested an idea for my readers. Wade through our wine soaked journey below and send me your thoughts.
Vineyards are getting ready for dormant stage. The leaves will soon fall and vine growers sharpen their pruners as this will be time to give our beloved vines a healthy ‘haircut’. And then we wait while continue racking the wines and taste them carefully to see if the oak is at bay and the wine continues healthy upbringing.
Eve, we are planning many new things and we will inform you about them as they crystallize.
In the mean time, I have suggestion for your column. This would involve local wine merchants, exciting reviews, great fun source of wine educations for your readers, promote local business and interest in wine in general … let me know if you are interested to hear more
To: Wine Bordeaux From: Eve
Peak into your cellar.
This little idea could be a fun theme for a weekly column don’t you think? Your readers would write in about the wines they believe people don’t have in their cellar with brief, geographic info about the region, description and maybe few tasting notes? Your readers will be surely compelled to write in and show off a little. This could be a great fun source of wine education as well! Good thinking Eve. Let’s give it a little test:
I think you don’t have any Alsatian wines… Am I right?
Alsace is located in North East of France, between the Vosges and the Rhine river. All wines planted are white. The grapes in Alsace are: Riesling (23% of Alsace wines), Pinot Blanc (20%), Gewurztraminer (18%), Tokay Pinot Gris (13%), Sylvaner (12%).
The best producers: Albert Mann, Zind Humbrecht, Barmes-Buecher among others. I love Albert Mann’s Riesling and Gewürztraminer. They are semisweet and oh so seductive!
OK, you are on – what wines do you think you have that I don’t?
From Eve to Wine Bordeaux:
No, I don’t have any Alsace in my cellar, I think, at the moment. But I’ve had them! Does that count?
I bet you don’t have the inaugural year of Agua Dulce’s (AD) champagne! I have a list…wait…ok so my husband has it hidden from me…don’t know why…but I know for a fact I have an 1986 Lynch Bages (LB)…the rest I’d have to look up. Gee talking to you is like talking to COC’s Wine Classic wine chair Jeff Jacobson.
From: Wine Bordeaux To: Eve
LB 1986 scored well on Parker – 92 pts and it can be a good bottle to open now, and next 10 years. I have large collection of Bordeaux wines, they are my passion.
I didn’t even know AD makes sparkling wines (Champagne only comes from Champagne France)
Oh yes I do know Jeff Jacobson. We are friends. I always assist him pouring wines at the Wine Classic.
From Eve to Wine Bordeaux:
Yes, I know AD’s is a Sparkling, damn!
From: Wine Bordeaux To: Eve
We are printing tasting sheets, maps of the lowlands and highlands of Scotland and deciding if we want to use our many existing wine glasses or purchase some new Double Old Fashioned glasses. Either type can be used; depending on how serious we want to get.
I am working on a Holiday Wine Report covering all things Kosher and not, all things champagne and sparkling…throwing in some Bordeaux in the mix. I will take any reader suggestions on that but my deadline is in two days – so get on it!
I also attended an event at Vino 100 that benefited Circle of Hope, a local charity whose mission is to financially and emotionally assist uninsured and underinsured individuals with breast cancer in the Santa Clarita Valley. (http://www.circleofhopeinc.org/)
They served Hope wines, appetizers and helped me fill the balance of gifts still to check off my holiday list.
The crowd of well-wishers were thrilled with a wine that had the same belief system: 50% of their sales profits go to charity. The ones served today, of course, went to breast cancer research. (http://www.hopewine.com/about_us.html) A decent 101 wine, and a great gift for those with charitable souls, most found the Shiraz quite palatable. I bought a few as thank yous for the wonderful ladies that helped me with my first big at-home tasting that benefited my local Unitarian Universalist church this past October.
(One of the guests let me photograph her hot-off-the-tattoo-parlor grape bunch design she had on her foot. An area that looked like a painful choice. But who am I to complain as to what we wine freaks will do for our passions?)
Lastly today I have to tell you that I couldn’t wait to watch the countdown of the top ten wines of the year in my e-mails from the Wine Spectator magazine. I have bought as much of the inexpensive #10 wine: Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County 2007, 93 points, 68,000 cases made that my local Vino 100 could sell me and the last 3 bottles of the more expensive #8 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2005, 96 points 15,000 cases made, from Valencia Wine Company. I’m on the lookout for any of the others, so feel free to let me know if you’ve seen them offered locally. The list, which goes up to the 100 best wines tasted in 2008, can be found here: http://top100.winespectator.com/
Now I realize that if you don’t have this particular phone you may not care about this particular program, but with the way technology is headed your own cellular phone will probably be offering something better than this, or has already.
Think of it this way: You are at a friend’s house, a wine bar, or a wine event and you are not a wine writer so you don’t have a pad and pen handy to jot down notes about a wine you tried and liked. You can 1: Buy the wine right then if it’s available. Or 2: Commit the wine to a memory dulled by said wine.
One of the pitfalls, and there are many, is that if you don’t record what you liked, or didn’t like, you may remember the label anyway. So the next time you are at Bev Mo for the 5 cents sale you will dawdle over a choice as you simply can’t remember if the wine you are considering was the one you liked it or didn’t!
The program records the Varietal, Name, Winery, Region, Tasting Notes and takes a photo. I tell you the photo part is the best. Because if you have a memory like mine, the label is the part you normally do remember. So I record the wines I like, and the wine I surely don’t want to forget that I didn’t like!
I started with it about two weeks ago and have recorded about a dozen bottles. Friends can’t help but lean in and see why I am photographing a label, and then to give their opinion of the wine…and the phone. One more way to converse about wine and make memorable times more memorable.
Unrelated Plug/Post Script: I just got interrupted from writing this to answer my doorbell. The UPS man brought something addressed to Eve’s Wine 101!!! You know what that must be! Something I can take a picture of with my phone! The enclosed brochure suggested that “Because wine is among one of the most appreciated gifts, we’re happy to make available to you Grape Crusader’s offer for Holiday Wine Gifts.” I can tell you this – wine is the most appreciated gifts for wine writers and wine drinkers alike: www.grapecrusader.com. Capiche?
This 4th installment was a testament to proprietor Guy Lelarge’s wine influence in the Santa Clarita Valley. And, being the forth time around, wine, guests and good times quadrupled. Enough so that the wines sold, offered at a discount to attendees, were sure to be a hit at many holiday tables in the next few weeks.
And if you’re unsure about what to serve this season with your special meals, use this tasting as a gander into the Valencia Wine Company “store”. I dare you not to add a few delectable wines to your holiday planning list. Your company will know that you have done your research. So let’s get started, or as Simon from the American Idol show says, “Off you go”.
“I went to the first event, 4 years ago, we had 4-5 distributors, and that was a great event,” So stated frequent taster Tim Dixon. “There are so many high-end retail bottles being poured, wines that you never see at a tasting. And year after year it keeps improving. No one does tasting better, no matter where you go, than Guy Lelarge.”
“We did it again,” Lelarge explained. “The finest, the most high end, the best variety of wines from around the world are here.” I had to agree. Guy knew what to serve for the holidays.
My own tasting notes marked several high priced wines that I’ve never seen poured at a tasting before and included, but weren’t limited to (as I might have missed something): Chateau Fonplegade St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe 2005, Bourgogne Clark En Bollery 2005, Pope Cabernet Reserve 2005, Robert Summerland Pinot Noir Nugent 2005, M. Coz Meritage 2005 from Mitch Cosentino’s own property and his Cabernet Reserve 2004, Nickel & Nickel Medina Vineyard Chardonnay 2006, Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 and Chardonnay 2007, Ken Brown Syrah 2003 and Pinot 2005, Dampierre Grand Cuvee Champagne NV and his Blanc de Blancs, Bodegas Mauro 2005, Jocelyn Lonen Napa Cabernet 2005, Gaja Promis 2006 Montes “Napa Angel” Cabernet 2006… no less than17 pages of wines.
“My favorites so far are everything at Mitch Cosentino’s table,” Said guest Oliver Thomas. I’d drank with Oliver at the Wine Company on occasion and knew his tastes, not always on his native France, to be impeccable. “I recommend that you try the Bodegas Mauro as well.”
The Mauro was a favorite for Sandi Gordon too, “It fits my tongue like a glove”.
From there guests Paul and Jo Ann Vindigni suggested the Chateau Trocard Bordeaux Blanc 2007 reasonably priced for less than $20. Denise Hollert like the La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdei 2001, again for less than $30. There were to be plenty of wines available, and just as appreciated, as their more expensive counterparts.
Paul Young, selling his Rhone varietals exclusively to Lelarge in Santa Clarita, had made a fan of local sommelier, George Skorka, with his Schoffit Pinot Blanc 2005 that Skorka simply described as ‘gorgeous’. I thoroughly enjoyed a decanted wine not on his list: Clos St Jean Chateauneuf du Pape 2006 created by winemaker Philippe Cambie.
From France we traveled to Australia and happily sampled Schild Barossa Shiraz 2006 that consistently had been awarded 90 – 96 ratings from Wine Spectator (WS) magazine throughout the years. Then while trying a Cigale Meritage we were told, by an unassuming 21 year-old taster, Anthony Storniolo, that the Wayne Thomas Petit Verdot 2005 was “A fruit forward wine with just enough tannin and dryness at the end.” I queried Storniolo as to his wine knowledge and he credited Certified Sommelier Instructor, DiMaggio Washington, and the class he had taken in wine appreciation that I keep meaning to take.
In New Zealand, John Adams lingered over the Hinton Pinot Noir 2004 with my husband Eddie before they moved onto a Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage 2007 from France. I savored the dusty Tohu Sauvignon Blanc 2007 run by the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, while Darlene Gandara enjoyed her Italian wine, Gaja Promis 2006, “It’s a staple in our cellar”.
Mark White, who always promises a donation to his local Rotary club every time his name is mentioned in a story, gave local California vintners, Summerland, an ‘A’ for their Pinot Noir Santa Rita 2006. He also accompanied many of his favorites from the Southern Wine & Spirits table with a surprising giggle. His wife Julie, who I thought was coming to his rescue, wanted us to try her own pairing suggestion of brownies with a Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee 2001. I could see where the giggling in this relationship might have started. It was a fun pairing. The only one Lelarge didn’t personally arrange.
Other domestic wines we enjoyed were the Sbragia Merlot Home Ranch 2005, Pope Napa Valley Zinfandel 2005, Angeline Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and a Bridlewood Estate Syrah 2004 that well deserved its 92 WS rating.
Running into local winemakers, Tomas and Jenny Lukas, I decided to taste with them for awhile. Tomas especially enjoyed the Ken Brown wines, finding “The Syrah nose has pepper, mint, fruit undertones, stiff base…makes me want to eat something roasted.”
Tomas introduced me to his friends, Derrick and Maureen McKaughan, the former described as a drinker and wine expert while the latter said that she knows a good wine when she drinks it. We debated the rating systems between the different experts and preferred to rely on ourselves today.
Well, maybe not exactly on ourselves. Once again, we trusted Guy Lelarge to hold our one free hand.
60 people are due here in three hours. Who would have thought that as hard as it was to ask people to donate to an event, the amazing amount of support seemed endless? The proceeds, well over $2000, was going to our local Unitarian Universalist church.
Before I ramble on any more I want to thank the generous businesses, in and out of Santa Clarita, that donated to our event.
First came the wine donated by local businesses: Guy Lelarge, my wine guru and owner or Valencia Wine Company donated a Tomero Cabernet, Cathy MacAdams, co-founder of Agua Dulce Vineyards, was more than generous not only with 3 ½ cases of wine but with 72 wine glasses, Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier owners of Vino 100 gave an Abundance Syrah and John Kelley poured and supplied Raven Oaks Vineyard’s Syrah and Cabernet Franc.
Then came the food: Fiona Soukup, owner of Fresh Xpress Produce Delivery, prepared her stuffed red ‘sweet ‘n piquant’ peppers from South Africa. George Thomas, owner of Route 66 Grill, offered the tasty chicken strips. Maria’s Italian Deli gave us a couple of huge platters of, you guessed it, the marinated olives that we love as well as some great sharp cheeses and deli meats.
Dream Dinners Valencia provided several pounds of beef tips, noodles and stroganoff sauce. Tamra Levine, private chef, caterer, event stylist, culinary educator, professional wine consultant for Heritage Lane Productions – wow let’s just take a breath here – made savory vegetarian Palmiers.
Lima Limon Peruvian Restaurant, in Saugus, is coming to our house to prepare Ceviche, a cheese salsa for dipping sticks of cooked corn into and Alfajores cookies (described to me as two butter cookies romantically joined by caramel.)
Church members Gerri and Mattie Brehm are bringing their slightly spicy Italian meatballs. Susan Hauptfeld had graciously created, for the first time, a chocolate Panini for dessert. Other church friends that helped make our event special included Trish Lester, Trish Paioni, Deana Perozzi, Rich and Pam Jaffke, Carol Winkler, Maya Loch, Ingrid Armour, Kirby Petersen, Evelyn Carpenter, Lucy Bates, Bill Gregory and Reverend Ricky Hoyt.
DiMaggio Washington, sommelier and winemaker, coming straight from teaching a real wine class at Tournament Player’s Club, had agreed to help me answer any questions about wine above my 101 level. We had some other experts, local vintners Chris and Jeannie Carpenter as well as Kerry and Susie Clark. Both also donated wine. (Ed and I are going to “Sunset in the Vineyard” that both the Carpenters and the Clarks will be serving their own home made wines at to benefit our local Assistance League.)
Jeff Jacobson, wine chair for the annual Santa Clarita Wine Classic (save the date for 2009: May 30. scvwineclassic.org) was responsible for the Black Chook Shiraz everyone will surely enjoy at our evening’s end.
We had door prizes and raffles that included several eclectic items from the obvious (wine) to the not so obvious (wine glasses hand crafted for any occasion).
Kirby made a donation of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon Whiskey complete in a basket that included two tumblers filled with wrapped chocolates, a large Melmac bowl with autumn leaves motif and a bag of gourmet popcorn.
A chocolate ice bucket with rock candy ice, a chocolate champagne bottle filled with caramel, two white chocolate champagne glasses and gold foiled chocolate eggs came all wrapped up with a bow all the way from New York, from chocolatesbylorigailinc.com.
Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur & recipe cards didn’t come cheap. This amazing 56 proof liqueur produced in France is an infusion of crystallized handpicked baby Chinese ginger, Tahitian vanilla, Provencal orange blossom honey, sugarcane and VSOP Cognac. An award-winning new taste with limitless possibilities. I know because it was my bottle. I still have a half one left to make an excellent martini, or two.
Eddie, almost-willingly, donated two of our cellared wines: Nickel & Nickel Dyer Vineyard 2004 Syrah and a Joseph Phelps 2005 Le Mistral.
The door prizes included Six Heroes 2003 Memorial Merlot generously donated by George Bacon for Six Heroes Wine & Friar’s Choice North America LLC and “A Toast to You!” decorated wine glasses were created by two local business women, Eileen Elliott & Carolyn Goedike, from Inspired-Touch.com.
In conclusion, a word I didn’t use in my Wine 101 speech, let me apologize for not inviting you, dear reader, into my home. But I do have a solution. Next year, if I can convince Eddie to make it an annual event, we’ll hold it at the much-larger-than-my-home Signal offices. As long as the presses aren’t running of course, it interferes with the nose.
Valencia Wine Company’s Annual Tasting Event at TPC on Saturday, November 15th is the wine affair of the season. Hundreds of wines will be featured from French Burgundy, Argentine Malbec to New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.
Along with the comprehensive tasting, the musical genius of Gerry Rothschild and Lynn Woolever will be providing vocal and instrumental jazz and pop for the guests.
Entrance to this event also allows the opportunity to order wines at a substantial holiday discount – 15% off 6 bottles and 20% off twelve bottles. Tickets: $70 Call: 661.254.9300 to reserve your space.
Also appearing at the Valencia Wine Company is the Awesome Helen LaPrairie Band on 11/21, playing your favorite classic rock tunes.
Salt Creek Grille has weekly wine specials: Monday’s offer all wines priced under $100 are half price, “wine down Wednesdays” have all wines by the glass discounted and happy hour Monday through Thursday from 4:00 – 6:30 pm, and all house wines by the glass are $4.
John R. Kelley, of Raven Oaks Vineyard’s, poured 2001 Cabernet Franc and 2001 Syrah in the cool interior of Bella Sport. Both varietals were grown in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California. Vino 100 owner Lil Lepore, alongside John, served the aptly named Hope Chardonnay and Shiraz. Hope wines give 50% of their sales, twice a year, back to charitable causes, and Lil contributes as well. We enjoyed all of the wines while Peter “the Goose” Goosens strolled over and helped fill in.
Lee’s Wine Bistro patrons were handed stemless wine glasses for their choice of three from the four varietals offered: a unique Wolfgang Gru-Vee Gruner Veltliner white wine from Austria, St. Francis Chardonnay, Kenwood Pinot Noir and Kenwood Meritage. The Gruner Veltliner being the perfectly crisp apple I needed in the heat of the day, followed by the pleasant bouquet of the Meritage.
Loose Goose wines sparkled beside the elegant jewels of Ro, Ma in the Goose’s large logo goblets. April Price chatted while pouring a delightful King Frosch Riesling, then a Stonewood Chardonnay, Leona Valley Cab, the count-on-it smooth Silkwood “Red Duet” with its blend of 50% Cab and 50% Shiraz and finally a Craneford Allyson Parsons Shiraz that April knew I would love.
Salt Creek Grille’s Greg Amsler was on hand to help serve a Coppola Chardonnay, Pepi Pinot Grigio and a Sterling Cab. The Pepi Pinot Grigio, new for me, was delightfully refreshing. The Sunday Brunch crowd didn’t take notice of the new crowd of wine drinkers eavesdropping on their live band, and live WAVE radio coverage, that promised to go as long as the event.
Sisley Italian Kitchen served up their private label, Maddalena Vineyard, of Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet. South Pointe Grill served their house wine, the Argentinean Trapiche, a Chardonnay, Malbec (Malbec is a good South American wine varietal) and Cabernet. Vines also served their Michael Mondavi developed wine, exclusive to the Hyatt, the Canvas bottling of Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet.
Valencia Wine Company, always doing it right, didn’t stick to the plan of offering 3 tastes. Guy Lelarge, on his normal Sunday off, shone in what sippers Pam and Rich Jaffke thought was an intentionally matched sapphire blue silk shirt and watch…it must have been the wine. We were offered no less than 10 pours of everything Tobin James Cellars had to offer: Merlot, Cab, Syrah, James Gang Zinfandel, Liquid Love alongside Handley’s Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling.
At 4:30 the raffle held at Ro, Ma got started. Guy bought one ticket and headed over to check it out with everyone else. He was surprised to win a trip for 4 to a winery, and in front of everyone, Guy realized that he didn’t need to win and gave it back.
That’s what it’s all about.
That said I thought more people may have visited the Historic caves, I know I had seen some press on it, than the newer Estate caves. I wanted to see for myself why a cave tasting would be the best way to spend a day in Napa. Having had barrel tastings in the past I thought I was prepared. Not a chance.
My husband Eddie and I were greeted by Del Dotto’s conversant winemaker Gerard Zanzonico. While I was reluctant to leave the ornate tasting room, I was drawn into the caves by the flicker of the Venetian glass chandeliers and marble floors.
“We sell our wine by bottling it, as it’s sold, from the barrel our guests tasted it from,” began Zanzonico. “And being the only winemaker besides one guy in Italy using clay pots, we are unique in Napa in providing a tremendous encounter for the consumer.”
Zanzonico, a UC Davis grad, has experience spanning over 30 years. “I don’t make wines by committee; I do it all.”
“In one barrel I may try different yeast, in another, different oak, one from the east side of the vineyard, and another from the south, one barrel was made from 8 grape clusters while others may contain 22 to 26. All in all we have 54 different wines from 2006 alone. So here you get what you like from your own taste buds.”
At this point in the tasting I was writing blindly on my note pad, saturated with semicircular red wine stains. Zanzonico used a large glass wine thief (I told you in a previous column that this is like a turkey baster) to draw out the wine from the barrel and into our glasses. I tried my hand at it, fearing I would break the thin glass vessel, so once was enough.
I poured out so much wine I felt guilty, while Eddie kept the pace with Zanzonico, I had a column to write and had to maintain some objectivity.
We worked our way to the back of the caves and behind an ornate black rot iron gate to where the clay pots were stored. I was getting excited about trying something I hadn’t never tried as well as being drawn into my surroundings. In another time it would have been a monk tasting the wines; not a blond from Santa Clarita.
You really had to just hold your nose above the glass to smell the aroma, first taste: clay. Zanzonico encouraged us to swirl and try again: less clay. Third swirl: the beginning of an interesting wine.
I marked my favorites and fantasized about having a barrel, or clay pot, of my own one day. But only if Zanzonico is there.
It has been awhile since I attempted to taste more than the 54 wines Zanzonico poured the day before, but Eddie and I once again faced the challenge for Signal readers.
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, held this past Labor Day, was anchored by a plethora of wine and food. Tented tasting areas were devoted to different Sonoma valleys: Alexander, Dry Creek, Russian and Sonoma.
Readers, that sent suggestions to me, I was more than happy to oblige and limited myself to: Amphora’s 06 Pinot, Carica’s 06 Syrah, Chalk Hill’s 03 Cab, Chateau St. Jean’s 04 Cab, Cline’s Syrah, Gerrari-Carano’s 05 Cab, Landmark’s 05 Steel Plow Syrah, Ledson’s Merlot, MacMurray Ranch’s Russian River Pinot, Matanzas Creek’s 04 Merlot, Papapietro Perry’s 06 Pinot, Seghesio’s 06 Zin, St. Francis’s 04 Cab/Syrah blend and Trentadue’s 06 Sangiovese.
I really wanted to take the Reidel “Sensory Evaluation” class but we missed it. We wanted to do the MacMurray Ranch tour and learn how actor Fred MacMurray made the ranch his home; too late. And of course I wanted to eat and drink everything too; simply impossible. Looking back I recall two different gazpachos: one with watermelon and the other cucumber. And my favorite appetizer of the day had to be from local restaurant, “the girl & the fig”: warm fig and walnut crisp.
But, during the heat of the day, somewhere between the tents for Alexander and Russian we simply just had to sit and recharge. We watched a few minutes of the Steel Chef Competitions before settling in for a hands-on lecture in the “Crush Pad”.
Members from the Sonoma Valley Vintners board showed us the de-steming and crushing process for the first phase of winemaking. Remarkable to us was how grape juice alone, without added yeast, became denser and more interesting in the process.
The “Bubble Lounge” that we noticed at the entrance we visited on our exit. I had dumped my Sangria snow cone into my glass, nibbled on a few elegantly crafted hor d’ourves and crash landed onto a waiting couch. It was downtime.
The stats: Over 4000 attendees attended the weekend events, which grossed a total of 1,570,705 to benefit charities. More than 120 wineries and 60 chefs offered their wines and foods for sampling in the 29th year of this event. Seminars, freshly harvested grape tastings, hands-on winemaking, and a top chef competition gave visitors a sampling of the diversity and quality of Sonoma County. The success of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend 2008 is far reaching and will be anticipated as a highlight again in 2009.