Grapelive Latest: April 15

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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full_thumbnail.jpg2007 Calera Pinot Noir DeVilliers Vineyard, Mt. Harlan. (Central Coast)
This new single vineyard Pinot from Calera is fantastic and in my mind the best young Calera Pinot Noir I’ve ever had! While Calera Pinot always seem to become outstanding wines with age, they rarely taste this good on release and I think the vintage may have helped, but I am very impressed by this vineyard and recommend Pinot lovers rush out and grab it by the case at the release price! The nose is full of fruit and flowers and the flavors explode on the palate, even though most people compare Calera to great Burgundy, I think Burgundy would be very flattered to be talked of in the same breath! This is the real deal and a remarkable Pinot Noir with depth, style, vibrant flavors and layers of complexities, plus it is still young and will only get richer and more vivid! Roses, violets, black currant, cherry, plum and mixed berries all come flowing out on the nose and palate. The mouth feel is wonderful and ripe with a background of savory spice, lavender and smoky sweet oak notes with everything balanced to near perfection.
($38 Est.) 94-95 Points, grapelive

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If you are interested in this wine, just email me and I’ll help you get it

kerry@grapelive.com

Grapelive Latest: April 14

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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bcsrhchard081.gif2008 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay “Sweeney Canyon” Sta. Rita Hills.
Okay, right off the bat, I’ll tell you this Chardonnay is not for the Rombauer crowd, it is more for a select few of enthusiasts that go for Chards that don’t really taste like run of mill Chards. This vintage is like Chablis Grand Cru meets Riesling from Alsace! It sounds crazy and geeky, but this wine is cool and seductive, I could not get enough of it and look forward to trying it again! Steve Clifton told me that there was a trace amount of Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc in this vineyard and all the grapes are picked like a field blend, which is why it is so unique, even though there is at least 90-92% Chardonnay in the final wine. Steely with honeysuckle, jasmine, apricot, pear, mineral spices. Edgy and bright though opens up with time to reveal apple and lemon, with brioche and quince. I love this wine, might just be my personal favorite, I could easily rate it a few points higher..

($57 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

*If you are interested in Brewer-Clifton wines drop me an email, and I’ll help you get them!

kerry@grapelive.com

Or Visit:

www.brewerclifton.com

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Grapelive Latest: Brewer-Clifton Release Lunch

Grapelive Latest: Brewer-Clifton 2008 Releases
By Kerry Winslow

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Brewer-Clifton Wine Lunch at Spruce, in San Francisco, April 12, 2010

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bc4.jpgIt doesn’t get much better than this, sitting next to Steve Clifton of Brewer-Clifton Winery, the hot and highly prized Santa Rita Hills Pinot and Chard producers, and having his wines with an amazing lunch at Spruce Restaurant in the City, I mean these are the kind of food and wine events you dream about. I had never been to Spruce, though I had heard great things, and it lived up and surpassed the high praise it receives, no question. As for the wines, well, let’s just say they were near perfect and the word fantastic comes to mind. Plus, the bonus was that the staff at Spruce was warm and professional, they deserve to be mentioned in the highest regard for their quality and manner. The food was beautiful and tasted out of this world, so if you haven’t been to Spruce in San Francisco, go, and there is no doubt in my mind you’ll love the food, the place and the people. Sometimes we get jaded, I mean, I get to a lot of wine lunches, tasting and dinners, more than my fair share I’m sure, it though sometimes gets to be all the same and it is hard to not get burnt out on them once in a while, but I am so glad I braved the pouring rain and traffic to attend this lunch. Not only was it a lovely and interesting selection of wine and terrific food pairings, I really learned a lot and time just flew by.

Brewer-Clifton started in 1996, Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton, friends, winemakers and partners found a way on a shoestring budget to form a new winery and craft some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot on the Central Coast. From the start they shared a vision and made a plan to focus on the region, which would become known as the Santa Rita Hills, or Sta. Rita hills if you want to obey copyright laws! With the help of the Santa Barbara Futures program through the famed Wine Cask Restaurant and Wine Shop in Santa Barbara, Greg and Steve were able to showcase their talents and build their brand, and getting the money up front helped secure them as a viable operation, in fact as Steve tells it, they had to sell their wine on futures from the barrel, because they had no money for labels, corks or for grapes! And that is why they did the wax capsules and still do, they couldn’t afford the set up costs.

bc3.jpgVery quickly, word of mouth and restaurants had Brewer-Clifton rolling and these two stars were born and the area soon was the rage and everyone was buzzing about the Santa Barbara and especially the new Santa Rita Hills region. Before these guys, there was a few names that got press and nice reviews, these included Sanford, Byron and Ojai, now only Ojai is in the quality league as both Byron and Sanford got taken over by big wine companies that just wanted them as labels. This was before the movie “Sideways” made the Santa Rita Hills the most sought after wine area in the world, but of course the extra hype after “Sideways” was icing on the cake for Brewer-Clifton and they have never looked back.

Greg Brewer also is the head winemaker at Melville Winery and Vineyards where his talents again have made them almost as famous, and maybe even more, While Steve and his wife Crystal have their own project making some of the best Italian style wines in the States under their Palmina label. But it is the Brewer-Clifton wines that is the core of their passions and the region that holds them true, they now source only from the top sites in the area and have a bigger say in the farming, which really shows in the latest wines and gives them more security for the future.
I met Steve and Crystal about ten years ago, and have been luck to have had most every vintage of Brewer-Clifton since 2000, when they were able to release enough, wine not bought in futures, to get them out on the market. They as people, Greg, Steve and Crystal, and as winemakers have always impressed me, with the Brewer-Clifton label ranking right up there with Rochioli in my personal favorite wines.

bcpic1.jpgAround the 2000 vintage, they got the stunning endorsement of famed wine critic Robert Parker and have regularly seen 90-95 Point rating from him, making them very exclusive wines to find and help push them to the top of their field. None of their overwhelming success has gone to their head(s), in fact they all seem even more down to earth and playful than ever, and are very easy to talk to and eager to learn about their own wines and how everyone sees them. Steve and Greg have changed next to nothing about how they make the Brewer-Clifton in the last 10 years or so, except a tweak of yeast and going from 25% new oak to zero new oak in the barrel regime, it has really been focus on the vineyard that has been where they have done the most. I guess you’d call them traditional in their approach, and certainly it is far from modern to not use new oak, and in most cases the kiss of death in the ratings game where lots of sweet toasty new oak gets more attention and better reviews. But, sticking to their core values and wanting to show the fruit over oak and terroir over the latest craze has worked for these guys. Now they have been modern in terms of high alcohol, in fact they have had Chardonnays topping out in port like range, at well over 16%, though with their new found control of the growing side of these the percentage of alcohol has been dropping by a big margin, with the latest wines closer to 14%, and I am loving the wines even more. This crop management has done wonders, allowing better overall ripeness of the grapes and stems, plus balancing the naturally high acidity from this very cool climate region, and I believe this will take Brewer-Clifton to the next level and lead them to even greater things in the future.

bcpic2.jpgBrewer-Clifton’s Mount Carmel vineyard is the ace up their sleeve, it is a top site and it is all their own, they are the only ones that get fruit from here and they control the whole thing. This “Monopole” is the wineries showcase, like Kistler Vineyard, Maracassin Vineyard, or Pisoni Vineyard (even though Pisoni sells some of his fruit of course), these vineyards are like the American Grand Cru super sites, producing top Chardonnay and Pinot Noir together. In Burgundy, there are only two Grand Cru vineyards that give both Grand Cru white and red, Musigny and Corton, so it is rare for a single vineyard to produce such high quality of both the grapes, even though Pinot Noir and Chardonnay enjoy the same climate and soils, and most often grown close to each other, but we are talking about the best of the best here. Mount Carmel is a challenging place for growing grapes and gives a few hair-pulling moments, according to Clifton, but it really gives fantastic fruit and I can attest to the sublime and deep flavors the wine shows year after year. I can say I have tasted many Mount Carmel Chardonnays that rivaled or reminded me of Batard-Montrachet, one of the greatest Chardonnay vineyards on earth. This for sure is a special vineyard, and I find the Pinot Noir almost as exciting as I do the Chardonnay from Brewer-Clifton’s Mount Carmel. The combination of exposure, soils, which include limestone and botella clay, steep slopes and unique clones all play a part in making Mount Carmel the magical spot it is.

bcduck.gifThe 2008 vintage seems to be somewhat overlooked so far and underrated, but in most cases, in the best areas, I am finding them even better than the stellar 2007’s with more perfume, deeper complexities and more vibrant flavors. This goes especially true in the case of Chardonnay, as the 2007 seem fat or sweet, somewhat dull when compared to the 2008 vintage. Maybe the 2008’s didn’t show well in the barrel? I can only tell you they are coming on strong now and the Brewer-Clifton wines across the board are all, in my opinion, much more interesting than the last two or three vintages and I firmly believe will just get better over time. Both Steve and Greg (who was not present at Spruce) echo this on their own and Steve thinks 2008 was his best year and line up to date, even though he is sentimental for his early efforts, as anyone can well understand. Overall 2007 was excellent with big rich wines, I’m not knocking it, I have plenty stored away myself, but I am a big fan of the 2008 vintage for Pinot Noir on the Central Coast, from the Santa Lucia Highlands to the Santa Rita Hills, while their was some fire problems in the North and customers will have to really be careful of some areas like Anderson Valley and the Sonoma Coast, no such worries for Brewer-Clifton that is for sure.

bcspuce.gifBrewer-Clifton also has two sublime value wines available, a cuvee of selected vineyards for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both were taken from their finished single vineyard selections and blended, these coming from the best lots, nothing from seconds or barrels that didn’t go into the single vineyard wines. These under $40 wines are as good as anything they do, though they maybe lack a bit of the unique quality of the single site terroir, but that said I bet most people would like these as well if not more in most cases. So far Brewer-Clifton has released a select few of their 2008’s, and what I tried today (April 12, 2010) were the spring release: 2008 Santa Rita Hills Chard & Pinot, 2008 Sea Smoke Chard, 2008 Sweeney Canyon Chard, 2008 Mount Carmel Chard, 2008 Ampelos Pinot, 2008 Mount Carmel Pinot and the 2008 Melville Pinot. All of which topped 90 Points in my notes. It was hard to pick a favorite wine of the day, but I narrowed it down to three wines from the 2008 vintage: The Sweeney Canyon Chardonnay, the Mount Carmel Pinot and the Melville Pinot. That was tough, as all the wines were amazing and who knows, I may end up rating them different the next time I try them! When all is said and done, the vintage was a huge success for Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton, with stunning and pure wines and an even better future to look forward to in the coming years, these guys aren’t going anywhere but up.

Quick Wine Notes

2008 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills.
White flowers, lemon curd, fig and kiwi all going nicely with core peach and pear fruit. Bright, perfumed, tangy with citrus notes, subtle oak and mineral. I was quick to rate this wine, and after going back to it, I might be well served to raise the score, this is a very pretty and complex wine that is only going to fill out in the next year…. Note to self, revisit soon…
($36 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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2008 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay “Sea Smoke” Sta. Rita Hills.
smoky, with nice oak notes, hazelnuts, rich apple and pear fruits, lemon cream, full-bodied, nice mineral edge and some fig. Needs time to show all that is here…. Maybe I should give it a better score?
($53 Est.) 92+ Points, grapelive

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2008 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay “Mount Carmel” Sta. Rita Hills.

Lemon, verbena, lime tree, white peach, pear and apple with touches of clove, spice, mineral. Rich and full, but vibrant and racy. I can’t wait to try this beauty in the years to come, it should get lots better still, but it is so good now…

($57 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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2008 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay “Sweeney Canyon” Sta. Rita Hills.
steely with honeysuckle, jasmine, apricot, pear, mineral spices. Edgy and bright though opens up with time to reveal apple and lemon, with brioche and quince. I love this wine, might just be my personal favorite, I could easily rate it a few points higher..

($57 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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2008 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills.
whole cluster spicy with grenadine and rose petals, black cherry, red plum and berry fruit, silky and round with long finish. Will great potential to get better!
($36 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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2008 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir “Ampelos” Sta. Rita Hills.
Biodynamic, sweet and funky to start, but opens up nicely with lovely texture with pomegranate, currant, plum and raspberry plus a red cherry fruit core. Some Asian spices, and a long lingering finish. 828 clone, unique and intriguing.
($53 Est.) 93-94 Points, grapelive

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2008 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir “Mount Carmel” Sta. Rita Hills.
A perfected mix of clones gives real depth and complexities, floral perfume, rich body, pretty color, hints at violets, roses, black cherry, plum with bright lively flavors, all vibrant with hints of apple skin, spices. Long fruit sweet finish.
($57 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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2008 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir “Melville” Sta. Rita Hills.
bold, intense, young and layered with black and dark fruit all through, rich palate, great depth, plum, cherry, currant, black fig, firm structure, but very long on the finish. Wind swept site planted to 114 and 115 clones, long hang-time adds complexities and the wine seems darker in color.
($57 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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*On a side note, I want to thank Spruce and its staff for the extra care and personal service, it just added to the wonderful food that dazzled us at the tasting, and a thank you to Steve and Crystal Clifton for their time and effort in presenting the Brewer-Clifton wines. They also opened three library wines from their own stash, a 2000 Marcella’s Chardonnay (93-94), a 2002 Mount Carmel Chardonnay (94) and a 2004 Cargasschi Pinot Noir (95), all showed well, great in fact. I am most grateful.

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 Brewer-Clifton

www.brewerclifton.com

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Spruce
www.sprucesf.com
3640 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94118
(415) 931-5100

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Full notes and ratings to follow

Grapelive Latest: Vinitaly Report

 Grapelive Special Report From Vinitaly 2010

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“What’s old is new again!” (A View of Southern Italy)
By Brandy Falconer, grapelive guest columnist

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mastro_grecov.jpgThis year marks the 44th edition of Vinitaly, the largest wine expo in the world with over 4,200 exhibitors here to present their wines. Here in Verona, the weather is beautiful and sunny, a welcome change from the typical rainy 5-day event. Perhaps the change in weather is a symbol for the change in attitude of the winemakers from “how to survive the crisis” to “looking toward the future.” Yes, there are a lot of smaller wineries up for sale here and around the world at the moment, but others with their eyes forward are planning their futures, strategically.

With a more precise plan of attack this year, and armed with a newly acquired press pass, the event from the outside looked much more manageable this year.  That was, until I left the blue sky and sunshine and stepped through the door of the first pavilion.  The instant change left me feeling like Alice in Wonderland, so I got my bearings and quickly made my way to the stand of Iris Vignetti where I was met with the friendliest of greetings and a glass of bubbly from my friend Isabella Spagnolo. Her beautifully presented line of Prosecco is the perfect start to fun and adventure.  Let the tastings begin!

Just like discovering the centuries-old treasures of Italian cities, like the famous Roman arena at the heart of Verona, Southern Italian wineries are presenting and releasing some treasures that many would believe had been lost to time. The news that peaked my interest first about this year’s Vinitaly is the presentation of older wines from Sicily and Campania. Reading this in California, you may wonder why it is such a big deal to talk about, say, 10 year old wines. Well, it’s not if you are talking about a barrique-aged Taurasi from Campania, commonly referred to as the Barolo of the South. But when you are talking about 10-year-old white wines, or when you are talking about the much hotter climate in Sicily for example, this is big news. What it means is that the wineries are making great wine, with healthy grapes, properly using and expressing the terroir, or territorio as they call it here. This is a great sign for those who are tired of the all-too-common comments of wine critics who think southern Italian wineries do not produce with enough consistency yet to be competitors in the worldwide market. It is also great news for those looking to discover a new favorite in an agreeable price bracket.

treehugger.jpgMy first official stop was Mastroberardino, where they are excitedly launching their newest line, “Vintage” and an Aglianico Cru made from clones of 100+ year-old vines. The new Vintage line is a very exciting project for many reasons. The wines being presented are a 2002 Greco di Tufo DOC, one of Campania’s great whites, and a 1998 Aglianico IGT. Before even tasting the wines it is important to recognize that only a winery which takes great interest in the territorio, and takes great care of the grapes, both on and off the vine can produce a wine that is fresh and enjoyable after eight or ten years in the bottle, especially when made with the intention of drinking as opposed to ageing. The 2002 Greco di Tufo is an eyebrow-raiser when mentioned to restaurateurs, and the first sip brings a smile of amazement. That is because this eight-year-old white wine, aged only in stainless steel, not oak, is still fresh, layered, and with a complexity that reveals everything about the land where the grapes are grown. The presence of minerality and a balance of acidity make this wine one to enjoy with complex and savory fish dishes where a simple white might get lost or fall flat.
Coming from California, I wondered what was really the big deal about a 12-year-old Aglianico, but what I learned is that this wine was made as an every-day wine, as opposed to a Taurasi; simply as an aglianico, not aged for years in barriques, but only 12 months in larger barrels. The result is a complex, flavorful wine with aromas of tobacco and cherries soaked in spirits. Not an aged wine that needs excuses, this vintage Aglianico is ready to drink and enjoy; the flavor is still fresh with ripe cherries and I can imagine enjoying it sip by sip with roast lamb and rosemary potatoes on a long cold evening.

vinredimore.jpgSwitching from older wines to older vines, I am introduced to the new Aglianico Cru crafted from a new biotype of Campania’s flagship red grape. What’s old is the biotype: vines that survived the phylloxera attack in the late 1800’s because the soil and locality were not ideal environments for the pest to thrive, as agronomist Antonio Dente explained. It is important to know that the wine is produced not from the ancient vines themselves, but from the clone of this older biotype, planted in idyllic Aglianico territorio at the estate in Mirabella Eclano. This is where history meets innovation: the result is the 2008 Redimore Irpinia Aglianico DOC, with its playful label showing a king on a horse with a chalice in hand. I was surprised taking my first sip of this wine because I am used to the strong tannins of the Taurasis, but Massimo Di Renzo, the winemaker at Mastroberardino explained that this particular type of Aglianico was used 100 years ago by the local population to make an every-day drinking wine. This explains the lovely roundness of the wine, balanced and flavorful, which I found to be a very enjoyable expression of the grape. For those of you who have shied away from bold Taurasi in the past, this single-vineyard cru is worth trying.

degust2.jpgFrom Mastroberardino, I headed off to the conference rooms for a much-anticipated tasting, “Sicilian Wines Challenging Time, Vintage 2000.” The organizer, Chronache di Gusto, was very enthusiastic about the top producers of Sicily presenting their 10-year-old vintages and shared his hopes of the wines becoming ambassadors of the beauty of Sicily. As mentioned previously, these wines were not necessarily produced for ageing, so it is big news to share them with press and critics. Most of the 180 tasting stations were filled which is a good sign that more people are watching the work being done in Southern Italy, as I believe they should be. Of the twelve wines, one was white, eight were red and three were Marsala and passito dessert wines.

We started off with Planeta’s Chardonnay, and the winemaker Alessio Planeta commented about the need to make durable wines, and in fact had written in his notes that this wine would age for six to eight years, so he was pleased to see it drink so well at ten. With aromas of tobacco and cooked pineapple, the optimum pairing for a wine like this would be a rich saffron or truffle risotto. My two favorites of the reds were the Barocco Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOC from Ragusa, an area called the “Mesopotamia of the Romans” and the Bordeaux-style Ceuso Custera from Trapani.  Avide’s Barocco Cerasuolo di Vittoria, made from 60% Nero d’Avola, the flagship red grape of Sicily, and 40% Frapatto for structure, with its deep blood red color is normally sold 6 years after harvest, so it was probably the most prepared for this tasting. With earthy-woody aromas and flavors of pomegranate and blackberry, this wine will best complement tasty, savory courses.

degust1a.jpgThe Ceuso Custera, presented by Ceuso Azienda Agricola is made from an international blend of 50% Nero d’Avola, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon for structure and 20% Merlot for smoothness. This was the freshest tasting of all the wines presented, which wasn’t surprising considering the use of Cabernet and the ageing that takes place before the bottle leaves the winery; first in cement casks, then wood, then in the bottle. The aroma and taste is of ripe cherries and black currants and maybe I have been away from California for too long because I am longing for steak.

Though there are opposing views about looking to the past to see the future, I believe the Sicily and Mastroberardino tastings proved that if we look at what these southern Italian wineries were doing ten years ago, we can be sure of a bright and delicious future and more treasures to come. These wineries have definite plans and are crafting wines for the competitive international market. My definite plan after the tasting was to find a quick panino which to me can never be considered simply fast food because the bread is so artisan-delicious and the prosciutto is always just-cut fresh. Then to the Foreign Trade VIP lounge to discretely brush my teeth and lose that purple tinge. The secret? Brushing with baking soda leaves your mouth clean and with the mineral-salt finish, ready to enjoy the next wine. I should send that one in to Martha…tips for the all-day wine taster.

Salute! From Verona.

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Brandy lives and teaches in Italy, writing and studying about wine along the way. Based in Naples, she covers the Southern Italian wine scene and has been interviewed many times in the Italian media and presented stories to selected publications and TV.

Grapelive Travel

Grapelive Day Trip: Anderson Valley and the Sonoma Coast
By Kerry Winslow

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andersonvalley.jpgAfter moving to Sonoma County about a month ago now, I decided it was time to explore further and headed north and the drive to Mendocino to take in the sights and a few wines in Anderson Valley. The beautiful spring day encouraged me and I found the long drive very pleasant and inspiring as I flashed by green hills, rolling vineyard landscapes, redwood groves, rock strewn meadows, babbling creeks and much, much later the intensely blue Pacific Ocean, I mean this is why I live on Northern California’s rugged coast now. I had been out this way only once before, in the pouring rain and in the middle of a dark winter, so this was pure heaven, and even better was the lack of traffic as I twisted and turned my way to Boonville and Philo in the Yorkville Highlands AVA in the Anderson Valley.

Finding friendly and easy going wineries with picturesque settings is not too difficult here and I recommend getting up this way, especially if you like mostly organic and cool climate wines, with Pinot Noir leading the way for reds and Chardonnay for the whites, though I always find the Gewurztraminer to my favorite from the region. This trip found me at Yorkville Cellars, in a slightly warmer area of the valley, where they do elegantly styled Bordeaux varietal wines. I enjoyed their Semillon, Cabernet Franc and a special meritage that included the original six Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and the rare Carmenere that is now mainly found in Chile. Yorkville Cellars offers a peaceful place to stop and the wines are solid and easy to drink, defiantly worth the stop and free tasting.

yorkvilleview.jpgMoving on down the winding road, I ended up at Londer Vineyards tasting room and was lucky to find Shirley Londer herself running the tasting bar and pouring some of the wineries finest wines. I had met the Londer’s while visiting Pisoni Vineyards many years ago, and had remembered their enthusiasm and warm nature. Londer started producing wines in 2001 with the help of ex-Flowers wine guru Greg La Follette and they have been rolling ever since with outstanding Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the aforementioned Gewurztraminer. Shirley and Larry Londer still have a talented winemaker in Rick Davis, and were thrilled when Wine Spectator gave them the highest score they have ever given for an Anderson Valley last year for their “Corby Vineyard” Chardonnay, which got an impressive 95 Points. I must say, for me, it was the dry Gewurz that made me smile most! That said, I was very happy with the Ritchie Chard, and the stylish 2007 Pinots, the Ferrington and the Parabol, of which I rated the Parabol the highest for the potential it shows and the long silky finish.

navarro.jpgNo trip to Anderson Valley or Mendocino can be done without dropping in on Navarro Vineyards, a tiny winery that normally only sells direct or at selected restaurants. Navarro does a nice selection of small production wines that are of great quality and sell them at equally great prices! This place is beautiful with lots of charm and friendly staff, as well as a small herd of sheep to keep the weeds down near the vineyard that make for good photo ops and give small children something to take in while the grown ups taste the wines and or picnic on the scenic deck area. This time I tried a couple of wines that I hadn’t tried here before, a crisp and surprising Chenin Blanc and a bright and fresh Mourvedre that tasted like a cross between Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, and I mean that in a good way. I also enjoyed their Alsace white blend called Edelzwicker, a cuvee of Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris that on this warm sunny day really hit the spot, plus I had to try the famous “Methode A L’Ancienne” Pinot Noir from the 2007 vintage, another fine and elegant example of this grape. Navarro also sells some of the area’s cheeses and munchies to be sampled there or taken on the road, but I suggest carrying away as much wine as you!

sonomacoast1.jpgLeaving Anderson Valley and hitting the rugged Sonoma Coast takes you through old growth redwoods and amazing vistas along West 128 to Highway 1, and from there you can quickly get to Mendocino or Fort Bragg. I did a quick spin around the parts, before taking the long way home down the coast, hitting small coastal hamlets and State Parks along the way. If you’ve been to Big Sur then you’d get an idea of this stretch of coastline, though it is more varied and in some areas even more dramatic, if a bit lonely and more remote. I was blessed with a lack of RV’s and only a slight breeze to deal with as I stopped many times to marvel at the majestic and breathtaking scenes. High cliffs, cypress and redwoods on steep hillsides, windswept coastal meadows, old seaside farms and ranches, some long abandoned others still in use, and rocky coast vistas that words could never due justice in describing here. I did this 250 trek in an afternoon, but it was a crime not to take a bit more time and explore the area much more in depth, and I suggest a full weekend or a week even, as there is some much to see and experience here. I can’t wait to take my someone special up this way and really share it all and soak it all in again.

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Yorkville Cellars
Highway 128 between Cloverdale and Boonville
www.yorkvillecellars.com

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Londer Vineyards
14051 Highway 128,
located in downtown Boonville across from the Boonville Hotel
(open Thursday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
www.londervineyards.com

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Navarro Vineyards
5601 Hwy 128 · Philo, CA
www.navarrowine.com

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Plus don’t miss:

Breggo Cellars, Roederer Estate and Goldeneye while in Anderson Valley!

Grapelive Weekend

Grapelive Weekend Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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navarropn07.gif2007 Navarro Pinot Noir “Methode A L’ Ancienne” Anderson Valley, Mendocino.
Though Anderson Valley is remote and takes a while to get to, it is a great place to visit and Navarro Vineyards is a most see and taste kind of place. All the Navarro wines are well made and fairly priced, in fact they continue to offer some of the best wine for the money in California. Their 2007 “Methode A L’Ancienne” Pinot is lovely and elegant, very much in the Burgundy style with pretty fruit, soft texture and medium body. The nose is slightly floral, the palate is silky with strawberry, raspberry and a solid core of cherry fruit, with a touch of plum, spice and vanilla. Everything is balanced and bright making for a great drinking wine anytime. This is not a full blown Grand Cru or California Pinot, but an easy and lovable wine that has nice depth and classic character that can be enjoyed over the next 3-5 years.
($29-31 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

www.navarrovineyards.com

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Grapelive Latest: April 9

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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tinto.gif2007 Casa Nuestra Tinto, St. Helena, Napa Valley.
This dark and full red has lots of sweet intense fruit and savory spices with thick texture and ripe tannins, making it a really interesting and layered wine, much like if you crossed Zinfandel with a classic Rhone blend. The blackish hue and perfumed nose will entice you, and the lush and robust palate will intrigue you, and the long finish with seduce you and make you want more. This fun field blend has the kitchen sink in it, Carignane, Petit Sirah, Mourvedre, Pinot Noir and Charbono just to name a few of the grapes, and nothing feels out of place and it flows smoothly in balanced harmony. While this type of wine is not common these days, it is a very welcome addition to my cellar and I hope you get a chance to try it yourself. ($32 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

www.casanuestra.com

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Grapelive Latest: April 8

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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mortet07gcvv.gif2007 Domaine Denis Mortet Gervrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, Red Burgundy, France.
Without question this is a super wine and a great effort, considering the serve selection the vintage demanded of the winemakers in Burgundy and it seems almost pure fruit, and very clear and clean. The nose is roses and red berries, and the palate is very direct and focused with lots of bing cherry, raspberry and soft tannins. This may not last forever, but it is very pleasing and elegant with less earthy and gamey flavors than is per usual. There is some smoky wood notes and creamy textures, along with a mineral note and lengthy finish, all is all a lovely wine. Sadly it is a big jump in price due no doubt to the tiny amount of grapes they had to sort through, but still in such a vintage it is hard to justify the price hike.
($162 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: April 6

Grapelive Daily Review

By Kerry Winslow

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chenin091.gif2009 Casa Nuestra Chenin Blanc (Dry) Napa Valley.
This hard to get white is crisp and bright with lovely citrus, peach and apricot nectar fruit and a real stony, mineral character that gives this wine its balance and depth. The nose is steely and has hints of white flowers and green apple, and then the peachy fruit takes over on the palate before a chalky, earthy rocky side comes across in the background. The finish is tangy with lemon/lime and very dry, though some white peach lingers on. When Chardonnay is too heavy and Sauvignon Blanc is too sharp and herbal, then this wine will be just right, and it will go with most everything, especial a warm spring or summer day. I hope to try it out with Hog Island Oysters soon, but it is great with creamy cheeses and fruit too. This wine offers a great value too, and that is why it sells out so fast, so visit Casa Nuestra soon, before it is gone. ($24 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

www.casanuestra.com

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Grapelive Latest: April 5

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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batard05coff.gif2005 Morey-Coffinet Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru White Burgundy, France.
Michel and his wife Fabienne are both from Burgundian wine heritage, he from the famed Morey family and she from Pillot clan and formed their own Domaine in the late Seventies from a dowry of vineyard plots with extensive histories and known for quality. Their wonderful and still very tight and youthful 2005 Batard-Montrachet is the pure essence of this fabled site and will not disappoint even the most seasoned of Grand Cru lovers with its lovely fullness and striking minerality. The nose is still subtle and fresh with citrus and stones, but once the air starts to breathe it really puts on a show, with lots of pear, apple and peachy rich fruit. There is a zesty lemon curd and clove spice, plus the liquid mineral feel that adds complexity and depth to this balanced and well crafted Chardonnay. The only downside, as it is with all great wines and especially Grand Cru Burgundies, and that is the price, you will pay for it being rare and good every time. ($180 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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