Friday, October 29, 2010

Pinot Evil Pinot Noir Hungary

In my quest for Halloween wines, I received a sample of Pinot Evil Pinot Noir in the cool Octavin Home Wine Bar. Looking at the label with it’s familiar Three Wise Monkey Proverb, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, I find I have an evil confession to make; I don’t love Pinot Noir wines, ok I said it. And while I’m at it, I didn’t like the movie Sideways. I wanted to, but I just didn’t.
So now that it’s out in the open here’s why I don’t like all Pinot Noirs. I find too many of them to be a little thin and lackluster. I give kudos to any grape grower who takes on the daunting task of growing and cultivating these finicky little grapes. I give even bigger kudos to those who can turn those grapes into a fabulous tasting wine. I have had some of those fabulous bold Pinot Noirs but unfortunately I find many to be just too light for my palate.

So where does that leave me and my feelings on Pinot Evil’s Pinot Noir?

Aromas are light but I detect cranberry and blackberry. The flavors are a little tart, almost like cranberries and the body is very light. I found the wine was better with food and after sitting in the glass for awhile.

Appellation - Hungary
Inaugural Release - Over 40,000 cases produced
Alcohol - 12.0%

I do think this would be a good wine for people who haven’t embraced the big bold reds just yet. I’m also curious to see if the wine softens a bit since the Octavin is the equivalent of 4 bottles and I’ll have it around for awhile.

I don’t know how the rest of you spend your Halloween while passing out candy but in my neighborhood, those of us without kids sit out in the driveways while enjoying some adult beverages. Any of the Octavin Home Wine Bars would be perfect for such an occasion. I use plastic wine goblets so I don’t have to worry about glass in the driveway but I always kept the bottle inside. With this set up, I can just keep it on the driveway or on the back of the car….now that is a treat!

Pinot Evil Pinot Noir retails for $21.99, remember the Octavin Home Wine Bar is the equivalent of 4 750ml bottles. Now time for some ghoulish times.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

2007 Ravenswood Barricia Single Vineyard Sonoma

The last few days have been more than surreal. Ranging from sitting across Ravenswood’s winemaker, Joel Peterson, talking about wine, meeting the Ravenswood Single Vineyard growers and their families, to an aerial tour of Sonoma and Napa Valley, I feel I have had some once in a lifetime experiences. When I started writing about wine a year ago, I never imagined the places it would take me or the wonderful people and paths I would cross.

It’s a magical time in Sonoma as harvest is all but complete. There are still berries hanging allowing me to sample straight from those great old gnarled vines. There is something to be said about grape vines as far as the eye can see, the dirt beneath your feet and the smell of the terroir as you sip a beautifully crafted glass of wine.

This past week saw some much needed rain to the dry and crispy grass but rot threatens the remaining fruits. I’m told 2010 has been a challenging growing season and wine production will be strikingly low. Cooler temps in the summer forced growers to thin the clusters in an attempt to allow more sunlight to kiss the grapes. No sooner had thinning been completed, the sun came out big and bright and fried the berries. As with any agricultural industry, the growers and winemakers soldier on.

California Zin vines conjure up many images in my mind. From the beauty of the old heritage vines basking in the sunlight to the spooky images of a moonlit night, shadowy figures and ominous big black birds in the back ground. My latest sample of 2007 Ravenswood Barricia Single Vineyard is a reminder of how much history those wonderful old vines hold.

Aromatic spices combine with blackberry preserves, more spice and a hint of smoky flavors. The berry flavors hit the front of the palate with a burst of flavors but seem reigned in for the duration of the finish. The tannins and fruit are well balanced and finish lingers with a nice spicy punch.

Blend – 76% Zinfandel, 24% Petite Sirah
Appellation – Sonoma
TA – 6.35g/l
pH – 3.53
RS – 1.0g/l
Alcohol – 14.5%
Price - $35
Drink now or hold up to 10 years

Located in Sonoma, the Barrica vineyard is known for old vine Zinfandel. Due to age of the vines and the dry farming practices, the Barricia vineyards yield low crops leading to intense wine flavors. The vineyard uses sustainable farming practices and is hand-harvested each year. The 2007 vintage produced just 1,845 cases.

On the flight home I reminisce on the winemakers and growers I’ve met over the past few days and try to sum up my thoughts. They’re dedication to the land, the tradition and history of the old vines shines through in the meticulous care and nurture they give to the vineyards. Like any other farmer, there are good years and bad years, they persevere and continue doing what they love.

Each vineyard tells a story, it’s sometimes a sad tale but still a story. Like those vineyards, each bottle you share with friends or family can lead to a well beloved story or even a new tradition. So raise those glasses to some great Ravenswood Single Vineyard Zinfandels and let your story begin.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

2006 St Francis Winery RED

Halloween is the perfect time to have some fun with those red wines. Not that any wine can’t be fun no matter what the time of year but winemakers and marketers are creative folks and have a way with taking those innocent looking reds and giving them a menacing look. Halloween is the perfect time to have some fun shopping by label and name. Take for instance my sample of St Francis Winery’s Red. The label shows what appear to be red splashes of blood, although I suppose it could be the result of a sloppy wine drinker too.

Aromas of oak, vanilla and spice mix with flavors of blackberry, cassis, more oak and spices. As soon as the first sip washes over my palate, I know there is no turning back, I’m now on a mission. Tannins are well structured and bold leading to a haunting finish.

When I finally come to my senses and put the glass down, I’m surrounded by red stains, the color of blood. The flavor and adrenal linger and just won’t die. I’m forced to pick up the glass again and again until finally I have fulfilled my mission; I’ve killed the bottle.

I feel no remorse as I spy one last drop perched on the rim of my glass. As I watch it slowly drip down the curve of the glass, I have to cave to my temptation…slurp. All evidence of has now been eradicated.

Blend make up – 48% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 3% Zinfandel and 6% Mixed Blacks.

Don’t be confused if you see this wine in store with different labels. There are currently twelve labels, all designed by Jeffery Caldewey but the only difference to the wine may be the vintage.

This wine retails for around $9.99.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

2009 Cupcake Vineyard Central Coast Chardonnay

It must be fate, first I receive a sample of Cupcake Central Coast Chardonnay and now, Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee wine lovers can BOGO Cupcake Vineyards at Publix until Wednesday. I picked up my bottles already and may go back for a few more today.

Aromas of banana and honey mix with flavors of apple. Creamy floral notes filled with jasmine trigger a familiar and comforting feeling. Malolactic fermentation in oak barrels provides a nice smooth finish. Borderline high residual sugars make this an easy sipping wine for summer or fall nights. The wine is not overly complex, just smooth which is nice after a hectic day.

Varietal – 100% Chardonnay
Appellation - Central Coast
TA - 0.65g/100mL
pH – 3.76
RS – 0.48g/100mL
Production – 100,000 cases
Retail price - $9.49

Located in California’s Central coast, the Cupcake vineyards benefit from the cooling breezes coming off the Pacific Ocean which allow the grapes to flourish in the sun filled days. Combined with the nutrient rich soil both provide optimum growing conditions to produce well balanced Chardonnay.

I was recently asked if I had a list of go to wines, meaning the ones I just want to drink and not have to note on. I do and Cupcake Vineyards is on that list. So even though I receive samples of the wines, I do still buy them to enjoy at my leisure.

We paired the wine with homemade smoked Sockeye salmon fish spread and a baguette.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

2008 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Merlot

The name Horse Heaven Hills invokes images of rolling green pastures where both horses and people can run free. I can almost feel the wind in my mane, err I mean hair and smell the grassy scents as I run up and down the hills. I’m tired after all that running and I’m thirsty. Good thing I brought a picnic basket to my fantasy world and it contains a sample bottle of 2008 Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills Merlot.

Aromas of earthy berries, vanilla and tobacco tantalize the senses. Flavors are full of blackberries and chocolate, loads of berry flavors lends itself to a slightly sweet finish. A very nice, easy drinking wine.

Blend - 92% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, A "kiss" of Syrah
Total Acidity - 0.56 g/100ml
pH - 3.70
Alcohol - 14.5%
Barrel Aging - French & American oak (14-18 months)
33% new, 67% older
Price - $15

My vision of Horse Heaven Hills, known as H3, was slightly off, there are no longer horses roaming freely but the region does have 30% more wind than any other Washington State appellation. That wind is helpful in controlling the vine canopy as well as cooling temps in the hot summers. The H3 vineyards are located east of the Cascade Mountain range, providing another benefit as the high mountains block most of the wet weather systems moving in from the east.

The region was first discovered by James Kinney in 1857. After finding his horse grazing on the grassy hillside, he dubbed the area Horse Heaven. Home to Columbia Crest since the 1980’s, the H3 tier is the winery’s contemporary interpretation of the classic varietals grown in the H3 region.

I look forward to sampling the rest of the Columbia Crest line and reporting my findings and wine fantasies to you soon, so stay tuned.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Perfect Halloween wine if you like embalming fluid, Gnarled Vines Zinfandel

So what’s the scariest Halloween wine you can think of? I’ve got one, it’s the one I thought would provide a great Halloween wine but instead turned out tasting like embalming fluid, 2008 Gnarled Vines Zinfindel.

The color is a deep almost blackish Garnet; aromas are red berries and candied fruit. Flavors of cheap hard cherry candy mixed with some Robitussin. Thin and not much going on other than artificial blackberry in the end. Seriously it tasted like someone tried to make wine out of Welch’s Red Grape Juice.

I did a write up on 2007 Gnarled Vines Zinfandel just last year and thought it was just fine. Has my palate evolved that much, was 2008 just a really bad vintage, did I get a bad bottle. How could I have enjoyed this wine so much last year, yet now I find it undrinkable.

I think my palate is evolving, I’ve had a lot of wines that are in the $20 and up price range in the past few months and I think I’m now able to tell the difference between those wines and those priced under $10. It’s sad but I do think it’s true.

I’ll continue digging around for some great tasting Halloween wines. In the meantime, check out some of my articles from last Halloween by clicking on the links below.

2009 Halloween Wines
2006 Temptation Zinfandel
2008 EVIL Cabernet
2007 Black Vines Cabernet
2008 Crow Canyon Cabernet
2007 Vampire Merlot

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

2007 Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel

Can you feel it, that hint of cool crisp air coming across in the autumn breeze? Makes me want to start the fire pit and grab a glass of wine. While it’s still too warm for the fire, wine doesn’t care what the temp is outside but when temperatures drop I do tend to change my wine choice to those bold reds. To celebrate the arrival of fall, I’m reaching for another sample of Ravenswood, this time the 2007 Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel.
Aromas of black pepper and blackberries carry over to the flavors. Red ripe fruit up front, well structured tannins rounding out with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon.

Composition – 76% Zinfandel, 8% Petit Sirah, 8% Carignane, 8% Mixed Blacks
Appellation – Sonoma County
Aging – 18 months in 100% French oak
Total Acidity - .63g/100ml
pH – 3.58
Alcohol – 14.5%
Price - $17

"No Wimpy Wines” is Ravenswood’s motto and a common thread in their wine series. The County Series sources grapes from Sonoma, Napa and Lodi regions with a focus on the Sonoma County heritage. Ravenswood joined with UC Davis and ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) to preserve California Zinfandel heritage selections, the oldest vines planted in California.

Thought to originate in Croatia, Zinfandel was once “king” in California vineyards but now represents approximately 10% of the planted vineyards. Those that have remained are there for a reason: location, location, location. Susceptible to rot if too much rain falls, the Zinfandel vineyards that have survived are planted in the perfect micro-climate and farmed well.

As I enjoy the cool autumn air with the breeze flowing through the open windows as I type, I’m dismayed it’s too early in the morning (even I have drinking standards) to enjoy another bottle of Ravenswood.

Ravenswood is hosting me and a handful of others at the end of October to be inducted into The Order of the Raven. Be on the lookout for more Ravenswood wine write ups.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2008 Henry’s Drive Vignerons Morse Code Shiraz Padthaway Australia

A few months ago I stumbled upon a wine in which I was not familiar, Henry’s Drive Morse Code from Australia. The label with its little Morse code dots and the attractive price tag of $7.99 drew me in. After keeping it around for sometime, I finally got around to cracking it open.

Aromas of spicy black pepper and dark red fruits carry over to the flavor. Black pepper on the front of the palate is followed by a gamey mineral taste. Mouthfeel is a little rough with some high unrefined tannins and the finish is a bit on the jammy side.

The winery takes its name from the proprietor of the 19th century mail coach which once ran through the Padthaway, Australia property. Mark and Kim Longbottom planted their first vineyards in 1992, bottling their first vintage four years later. In 2008 Mark passed away and Kim has kept up the tradition of winemaking to honor his memory.

Located on the Limestone Coast in South Australia and known for its rich red loamy soil, the area has six wine regions. The region benefits from the winter rains and the warm sunny summers which all work in combo to produce well structured grapes.

The wine’s not horrible and at least there’s no little critter on the label. Now that we’ve been formally introduced, I don’t think I need to re-visit this wine.

2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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