Grapelive Latest

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Grapelive News

As the economy gets bleak and the dollar becomes even weaker we need something to smile about, and the magic of Spring and wine do just that. Now we’ve had a pretty nice bit of weather, though some cold nights have played havoc with some vineyards with wide spread frost damage cutting down the crop level as much as 20% in some areas, we are still at some really nice fruit sets, so keep your fingers crossed. But, I am grateful for the longer days and clear sky, as it has brightened my spirits and then there is the amazing array of beautiful wines coming to market. Check out the Reviews Page for the latest!

Local to me, here in Monterey there has been some great news and events happening and the wine business here has been buzzing for the last month. The new Pebble Beach Food & Wine event went off without a hitch and has shown what can be done when your heart is really in it, so kudos to the people behind it for their faith and hard work, it paid off for sure. It was amazing to see the greatest figures in the food and wine biz all out on the town here on the Monterey Peninsula, especially for me when I got to meet up with a couple of my hero’s like Mike Etzel of Beaux Freres, and August Kesseler, of August Kesseler, Germany to to name a few. That was some week here and I’m glad to report that it is going to go on for many years to come.

As for great news, Talbott Vineyards just announce they hired Dan Karlsen as winemaker! Dan is great talent and a super person and I was very happy to hear of his appointment as consulting winemaker at Talbott. Talbott has been know for fantastic Chardonnay, really world class stuff, but have at times really missed the mark on their Pinot Noir and with Dan on board this looks to be a thing of the past. Dan’s touch with Pinot and his vast vineyard skills will surely produce whole new era at Talbott, and I can’t wait! Here is Talbott’s Press Release in full:

TALBOTT VINEYARDS NAMES DAN KARLSEN
AS CONSULTING WINEMAKER

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. – April 21, 2008 – Effective April 21, 2008, Talbott Vineyards is pleased to name Dan Karlsen as consulting winemaker. Karlsen will be working with the Talbott Vineyards team for at least the next year, guiding the winery’s acclaimed winemaking program following the departure of retiring winemaker Sam Balderas.

Karlsen brings three decades of experience to his role as consulting winemaker for Talbott Vineyards. He began his career in 1980, working with David Stare at Dry Creek Vineyard. Throughout the ’80 and ’90s, Karlsen honed his skills making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir working at Dehlinger Winery, and later as the winemaker for Domaine Carneros. In 1998, Karlsen was named winemaker and general manager for Monterey County’s Chalone Winery, a position he held until 2007, when he left to focus on his own small label. In addition to farming his Monterey County vineyard and making his own wines, Karlsen is also the winemaker for Graff Family Vineyard.

“Dan is a gifted winemaker,” says founder Robb Talbott, “with a reputation for excellence. He also has a deep understanding of Monterey County winegrowing. His handcrafted approach to winemaking and his background working with exceptional estate-grown fruit makes him a natural fit for Talbott. We are thrilled to name him as our consulting winemaker.”

Talbott Vineyards was founded in 1982, when Robb Talbott personally planted his mountainous Diamond T Vineyard to the Corton-Charlemagne clone of Chardonnay. Today, Talbott Vineyards’ acclaimed estate program encompasses two of Monterey County’s most esteemed winegrowing areas: the Santa Lucia Highlands, where Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow and River Road vineyards are located, and the Carmel Valley, which is home to Diamond T. From this world-class palette of estate fruit, Talbott Vineyards crafts Burgundian-inspired Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that have earned a reputation for elegance and aging potential. Talbott Vineyards produces these wines under four labels: Talbott, Logan, Case, and Kali Hart.

Contact: Michelle Armour
Michelle@jam-pr.com

415.495.1107

 

 

Grapelive Latest: Santa Cruz Mountains

s5002379.jpgTouring the beautiful and mysterious Santa Cruz Mountains is too often an overlooked pleasure and after a wonderful spring Sunday in the green hills I am again a true believer! Without a doubt this is a rugged and raw wine region that offers scenic vistas and remote vineyard sites across a great area from Watsonville in the Southern most part to Woodside in the furthest Northern reach. Starting the lazy drive at Fins Coffee House on Ocean Street, downtown Santa Cruz we twisted and turned our way up Highway 9, seeing wildflowers and ranches all the way to the remote estate vineyard of David Bruce Winery, before going up Skyline and Highway 35 and on to Thomas Fogarty Winery. The views are amazing and there plenty of great areas to stop and take it all in, plus tons of great hiking trails to explore or to picnic on. The is also Castle Rock, a place for serious rock and boulder climbing. The distractions are many and varied in this most natured of wine county settings, with a more earthy and laid-back feel than Napa or Sonoma even. So expect glamor up here or lots of creature comforts, but be prepared to be awed by the shear beauty of the place, especially on a day like we had, where you could see forever and was without any sort of crowds. One thing to know going in, there are lots of cycles up here, both with either foot and horse power, so keep your attention dialed to the task at hand, trust me. It was a real Santa Cruz event, from driving a bio-diesel VW, dodging flying mud crusted Subarus driven by bearded smiling locals at lethal speeds, to watching turtles sun themselves in a pond, it was relaxing and a refreshing day, well except for all the driving on twisty roads. The first stop was David Bruce Winery on Bear Creek Road, a beautiful location with wisteria extra fragrant waiting ats5002371.jpg the tasting room, this was a nice way to cut the coffee buzz and really start the day afresh! David Bruce is one of the pioneers of Pinot Noir in California, only following a few notables like Chalone, Martin Ray, Joseph Swan, Walter Schug (while at Joseph Phelps) and Hanzell in this pursuit. He firmly believed in this wonderful grape and made his name on it and still makes a very good one indeed. We were well treated and serve at this out of way local and enjoyed their 2004 David Bruce Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains made from local vineyards, it showed an earthy richness and soft almost silky fruit profile very much in classic Pinot style. I will also mention their 2002 David Bruce Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, because it was full and chocolate like with an inky dark color that made us smile, so there you go. Both the those reds were very nice and well made, the same was not true of their 2003 David Bruce Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains, this wine was not drinkable and I have to be honest here, it was terrible with a dead sherry like tone that told you right away this wine was well on its way to vinegar. It is funny, because I do remember a time long ago when the Wine Spectator pulled not punches regarding a vintage of David Bruce Chardonnay calling it something close to cow dung! In fact a co-worker at the wine merchant where we worked just had to try it s5002392.jpgafter that, and even if that didn’t seem nice or fair after trying it ourselves, I was reminded of that here. So we bought a Pinot and a Petite and forgave them their pouring of the Chard and we went on with our day unharmed and happy. After some hair raising goat tracks and some avoiding vintage Triumph motorcycles, cruised along Skyline, then up Highway 35 to Thomas Fogarty Winery. Even before setting foot on the property, you can feel it is going to be a well worth stopping kind of place, it is a stunning and breathtaking location for a winery and tasting room with panoramic hilltop views of the whole Peninsula and sloping vineyards. With lots of wild and native gardens to enjoy as well as Mortimer the winery cat, even they didn’t make good stuff I would still come here, but luck was with us and the wines were all lovely. Doctor Fogarty is highly regarded in the medical community for his skill and his inventive mind, having invented many specialized surgical tools and the Fogarty catheter, as well as teaching at the famed Stanford Medical School. The family has a love for car racing, in fact I had met his sons during their racing careers and Jon still races today, while his older brother Thomas teaches race driving. That was when I first tried their family’s wine during the late 90’s, thoughs5002396.jpg that was in a past life. Nowadays there are lots of choices from this winery, like: A wonderful Chardonnay, a lush Pinot Noir, a chocolate and stylish Meritage, a couple of nice Cal-Itals from the Sierra Foothills, a Sparkler, a Napa Cabernet, a Port, a white Pinot Noir, a super Merlot based red, and best of all, a dry and perfumed Gewurztraminer, yes I said Gewurztraminer! On this day it was perfect and we took one, along with the Pinot Noir. I must say the 2005 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains may have been the best wine though, and I did a have a couple of maybe I should turn around and go back moments! Alas I didn’t, though I’ll go back to watch turtles, hang with Mortimer and get a few bottles of that Chardonnay. Then it was off to explore some more back roads and torture my friends tires on the fun winding paths that were more suited to pack mules than her Passat, what a day. Oh, and before I fade out, see below for another stunning wine from this fast becoming my favorite region.

For more info on Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries and Tasting Rooms Please visit the Santa Cruz Mountains Wines Website.

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s5002340.jpg 2006 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir “Wild Yeast”, Schultze Family Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains (Est. $55.00)
Kudos to Jim and Judy Schultze, they have again proved that their vineyard produces wonderful fruit and they let the terroir sing its lungs out in making their lovely wines. Small lots of Pinot are allowed to go through natural fermentation aided only by native yeasts, and this shows in the difference between this wine and the others in their impressive line. There is more to this wine and it seems a little deeper and more layered, also there is certain sexier and prettier nature here. That said I love all their wines, even if I might prefer this one. There is plenty of zesty raspberry, cherry and fresh plum fruits that go on and on. The depth is impressive now, but should develop nicely for a couple of years. Its sublime balance shades the sweet fruit and firm textures and the touches of spice, earth and minerals all fold together smoothly. Enjoy now, though I will put one away for a couple of years. 93-94 Points, grapelive
www.windyoaksestate.com

Grapelive Latest: Napa The Splendor & The Silliness


Napa Vines in springNapa Valley is wonderful in the springtime with the first leaves on the vines giving a lovely green liveliness and the lack of crowds really makes it almost perfect. The sun helps too, and we found some at the outdoor patio of Tra Vigne making for an extremely joyful lunch. There are few places to hang out on a lazy wine filled Sunday more pleasurable than Tra Vigne in St. Helena, and this visit will be remembered fondly. Jay Smith, the Wine Director at Tra Vigne knows his stuff and has created a fun and vast list of top Napa Valley gems along with a fine selection of Italian regional wines of which I sampled with my panino and awesome fresh local mozzarella on crusty bread with a rosemary sprig, how can something so simple take your breathe away? Of course, Jay brought something special to taste, that being the new release of 2005 David Arthur Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, and all I can say is thank you Jay! This vintage has smooth chocolate-like tannins and perfect fruit balance which make it a winner right now and with any luck get even better of the next 5-8 years. The finish was amazing with savory currants, cassis and tangy blackberry lingering on and on. As for the Italian vino at lunch, there was an impressive Feudi San Gregorio Falenghina, a bright and pleasing Tebbiano, a fruity and lush Primativo and a blueberry and vanilla laced Nero D’Avola from Sicily that was the star. Tra Vigne has remarkable olive oil and fresh produce that makes everything taste great!s5002311.jpg

Whetting the appetite driving into Napa, knowing that an Italian lunch lunch awaited, we did a drive by Luna Vineyards and sampled their Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese and looked out across their vines, it was an inspired choice and the wine tasted even better for being fresh on the palate with good mouthwatering acidity and bright flavors of spring. Back in the car we raced out the Silverado Trail and up to Stags’ Leap District to check out Cliff Lede Winery at the former site of S. Anderson on the Yountville crossing. Cliff Lede has made a big splash with this property and with David Abreu and Michel Rolland consulting for him, he looks to keep turning heads. Lede a Canadian businessman and rock music fan has spared nothing money-wise to build one of the best winery’s in the Valley, and the wine is right up there with the top echalon. Cliff Lede inheirited some of the S. Anderson sparkling wine which they continue to pour at their tasting room, and this of course was a great palate cleanser before driving into the Cliff Lede reds. The sparklers were very nice and well made with a real Champagne feel to them, but I was there to lose myself in the Cabernet and was luck they have a few bottles left of their wine! They produce a wonderful Claret, one of the best Napa values ever and a choice of three limited production Cabernet Sauvignon based wines, all of which will blow your mind, though sadly they sell out fast. I sipped on their 2004 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain, Napa Valley of which is only sold at their tasting room. This Cabernet has wonderful intense mountain fruit and powerful tannins all done with finesse and sublime care. The black fruits, spicy red currant and plumy body are hedonistic and the finish is long and vanilla filled.

Castello di AmorosaAnd now for the silliness, as a wine professional and as someone that can usually find the hidden gems while flying under the radar, can for the most part avoid the garish and Disneyland-like places with posers and snobby-types, but I walked right into my worst nightmare with a smile. Castello Di Amorosa, the newest brainchild of the V.Sattui empire, looks like a castle plucked right out of Tuscany, though it looks more amusement park than Siena. At first with good humor I approached, but this faded into terror and disgust fairly quickly, almost the same feeling I get entering a Costco! There is a big attitude in the air here and it kind of sends the wrong message and I personally did not like the tacky buy a ticket to ride game they force on you here, though for some it might be okay. I just am not big on buying a ticket and being herded into a pre-paid pen, but I will say the place was packed and the cash register was singing away. Just because I kept thinking about Pirates of the Caribbean instead of Super Tuscan style wines doesn’t mean you won’t love the place, sorry I mean Castle, oh my I mean Castello! It made me really want to go back to Italy and the real hills of Chianti, so that is what I’ll save for for.

After Casello di Amorosa, I felt the need to clear my mind and refocus on the beauty of the day and of Napa, so I took the Oakville grade over the mountains, enjoying the amazing vistas and stopping for wild flowers in bloom, now this is my kind of Napa and I was refreshed and happy again. There is something special seeing mountain vineyards, nature, and the quiet that makes me profoundly happy, and you can still find it in Napa, even if you will be subjected to some silliness too.