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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Grapelive Special Report

Casa Nuestra Winery: Another Side of Napa Valley

By Kerry Winslow

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genekw.gif

Sometimes you want to just get away from the crowds, the sameness and find something completely different, peaceful and down to earth, in Napa Valley. And recently I did just that by visiting Casa Nuestra, located in the eastern part of historic St. Helena on the Silverado Trail. Now, I have wondered in here a few times in the past, though this spring day in March was quite special as not only did they have their fabled Chenin Blanc in stock and were pouring it, but they had the owner himself tipping the bottle and even manning the cash register, this time I got to meet the man behind this small unique winery, Gene Kirkham. Gene is a real down to earth guy with a big grin and humble as can be, and he’s been on the Napa scene with Casa Nuestra since 1979, and is celebrating 30 years of his dry Chenin Blanc, one of the best Chenin’s in the states and a white wine that has an intense following. It seems every time I drop in it is sold out, though I was in luck on this day and my mouth was watering just thinking about it, a real dry, Vouvray or Loire style wine that also has its own terroir and stamp as well.
Before getting to the Chenin, I tried to get a picture of the whole place that is Casa Nuestra, and listened to Gene tell his happy customers and fanatic wine club members a little of the history.

oldfieldblendvines.gifWhile Casa Nuestra was formed into a winery in 1979, the Kirkham family bought a vineyard in Oakville, one of the first hillside plots there in 1956, an old style vineyard that was planted the “blacks” or know as a field blend site, it had Charbono, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Pinot Noir and more all mixed through out the vineyard and these red grapes were all blended in a Tinto wine. These wines went out of fashion and most growers ended up ripping up most of their vines and replanted to a single varietal, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Merlot, but the Kirkham’s understood the old style field blend was going to be lost here in California, so they kept them and then in 1994 grafted many of their original vine cuttings to the St. Helena property to keep the heritage going. All the vines the winery uses are organic and farmed to low natural yields to give the truest sense of the terroir and the grapes, and the winemaking as reflects a kinder and more gentle approach as well, as they take great care in the handling of the grapes and use traditional methods, like basket presses and special low impact pumps, then use the best suited oak from both France and America to age the wine.

nuestrawines.gifCasa Nuestra has had lots of critical acclaim, it is not like I was the first one to sing their praises, but you’d never know that by seeing the smile on Gene’s face when I was cooing over the beautiful Chenin, and impressed by the reds as well, he is all enthusiasm and the was a sparkle in his eyes that shows he loves to make people happy and enjoys his wines and the direction he has taken. Now, Casa Nuestra does make Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc too, and they are very worthy wines, so don’t think they only do the geeky stuff, even if that is what I was really interested in on this given day. I made note of some stars in their line up other than the Chenin and the Tinto (field blend) those being the dark and thick Charbono, one of the nicest I’ve tried in fact, the Petit Sirah, a black/purple monster that really delivers vibrant fruit and almost a chocolate like feel, and I liked the estate semi-dry Riesling that was bright and fresh with just a hint of sweetness. Even though the Rosado, Cabernet Franc Rose was not quite to my taste it was good and all the wines were very well made and of high quality, making Casa Nuestra a great place to visit and take friends as there will be something for everyone here. It is great to see a winery like this doing so well, especial in these tough times, and I’ll be heading back again soon to refill on that amazing Chenin Blanc!

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chenin09.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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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 2

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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perrotminot07morey.gif2007 Domaine Perrot-Minot Morey-St.-Denis “En la Rue de Vergy”, Red Burgundy, France.
Chistophe Perrot-Minot must have made some of the best wines in 2007 that he has ever made, and this from a tough vintage to boot, and I can say they all were stunning Red Burgundies from this Morey to his three top Grand Cru wines, all were deep and pure with real class. This wine, one of the less expensive of his line up really delivers the value and I was intrigued with the power and richness it showed, while still being elegant and true to its terroir. The nose is perfumed with flowers and red fruit, with a mouth full of cherry fruit and silky textures, while added layers of smoke, plum, raspberry and tea spices all give a nice frame to the pure Pinot character. If you are looking for a real Burgundy and want the best deal you can find, then this might be the wine of the vintage!
($66 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: No April Fooling!

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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perrotminotaligote06.gif2006 Domaine Perrot-Minot Aligote (White) Burgundy, France.
This fresh and crisp white is a steal, and I at first thought I misread the label vintage thinking it must be 2008, not 2006, as it was so bright and clean, but no this is just a super Aligote that has lots of life. The palate is green apple, citrus and white peach and it just screams for seafood or creamy cheeses. I have enjoyed Aligote many times, but this really is something very special, and comes from one of the best Domaines in Burgundy no less!

Aligote lovers unite and take over, this is your wine! So I would try Aligote if you have not, instead of a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, and if you can find this one, I’m sure you’d be very happy.
($21 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

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Grapelive Latest: March 30

Grapelive Daily Pick

By Kerry Winslow

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balletto07.gif2007 Balletto Pinot Noir “Winery Block” Russian River Valley, Sonoma County.
I have seen this wine just hitting the shelves in wine markets, and even drove by the winery a few times, but this was my first taste, and I’m very impressed. This is a serious Pinot that shows its terroir and has really good clean flavors. The nose is a bouquet of flowers, spice, red fruits and smoky sweet oak, and the palate is big and round with nice depth and a creamy texture, with lots of juicy red berry, cherry and plum fruit in smooth layers. The hints of Asian spices, lavender, fennel and warm vanilla all just add to the goodness here and everything flows in balance and the finish is long and rich. Only 300 cases were made in this super vintage.  ($34-40 Est.) 92-93 Points, grapelive
Balletto Vineyards

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