A lovely tour of the Corralitos wine route, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, another visit to my home base Carmel Valley, and a fun Pinot quest in Carneros and Sonoma, all in a week! Richard Alfaro gave me a tour of his amazing estate and showed off his vineyards and his new releases. His Alfaro Family Vineyards label is in Corralitos and is a beautiful spot, especially for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but I found his estate Syrah and even his estate Merlot well worth the trip. This area is on the rise with some remarkable wines and vineyards getting huge acclaim and rewards. I have spotlighted Richard many times, but he is just blowing me away with his talents with every new release and vintage, and I think this area is the place to watch in the next couple of years. With the vines and wineries getting some age and time under their belts has proven this, and I can recommend all of the Alfaro Family Vineyards wines, in fact every wine I tried from his latest line up scored 90 Points or better! The 2006 Alfaro Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Lindsay-Page, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains is a beautiful and awesome wine with huge flavors and lush textures with lots of depth and elegance. Definitely my favorite Chardonnay of the year from California, and his Pinot Noir, the 2006 Alfaro Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Lindsay-Page, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains is not far behind and is a great effort with layers of pretty dark fruits and sublime balance and complexity. Then there is the estate Syrah, 2006 Alfaro Family Vineyards Syrah, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains, which has black fruits, smoke, spice and mocha on the full palate. This is a wine to enjoy now, but should develop even more complexity and depth over the next few years.
Spending time in Carmel Valley, where I grew up, is really easy and I try to make regular visits to my hometown friends, like Galante Vineyards and Parsonage Village Vineyards to keep up with their wines in barrel and bottle. Last week it was back to Parsonage, and wow just a few months have gone by and great things are going on. Especially the remarkable 2007 vintage “Grand Kids” reserve wines in the barrels, I was amazed at how good these wines have got, I mean they are filling out and bursting with amazing fruit. Bill Parsons showed me the wines named for his grandchildren, “Dario” a Merlot based red, “Bixby” a Petit Verdot based red, “Tanner” a barrel selection reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, and “Rocco” a barrel selection Syrah, all of which are great all ready and could yet again surpass the previous vintages. Sadly the 2007 vintage was a tiny crop, so about 70 cases of each are all that is going to be available. which is really a shame as these are so good, even as young as they are. I recommend you get on Bill’s wine list and hope those all ready on it don’t take it all! Also, check out his tasting room in the Carmel Valley Village, they have two new Snosrap, their second label, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir, both of which I rated over 90 Points in barrel. I just tried both in bottle, both from the 2007 vintage, and they are even better now. The Chardonnay is rich, pure and textured, and the Pinot Noir all ready is showing dark sweet fruits and nice smoky oak notes. Both of these wines will get even better too, so for about $25 each, they are steals!
I checked out Sonoma and Carneros on a quick trip through the south end of the Sonoma Valley. My friend Brad Gray, who runs his own public relations firm and writes for various wine and lifestyle magazines, (including grapelive.com) showed me around and let me in a couple secret finds and made a great host for my adventure. He brought me to the Sonoma Farmers Market and turned me on to some of the nicest produce I’ve ever seen, including some intensely colorful heirloom tomatoes. This is a fun event, every Tuesday, where the locals come and picnic in the park on the Sonoma Plaza, near to where California’s bear flag was first raised. I didn’t have much luck finding interesting wines at first; in fact I was very underwhelmed with my days haul until I found a great new co-op tasting room Sonoma Grange. This is a place if you get up to Sonoma you must visit, I can tell you this place has small producers and a incredible selection of fantastic wines. John Matthew Green is the very well versed General Manager, from an old Napa family, but is world of knowledge about wines from everywhere. He puts on a great show and has picked out some passionate and talented winemakers to display. I picked up some super Pinot Noirs, one from Harrington Vineyards and one from Hientz, both of which showed real depth and class. I’ll definitely go back to try some more of his selections, you should too. Grange Sonoma is an easy find, as it is right across the street from Gloria Ferrer on Hwy 121.
Alfaro Family Vineyards New Releases
2006 Alfaro Family Vineyards Pinot Noir “Lindsay-Page Vineyard” Santa Cruz Mountains
This richly colored and flavorful Pinot Noir has good depth and grip in its youth, but really opens up nicely in the glass with lovely fruit and bright flavors. Wild flowers, spices, and pretty berry fruit up front, leads to a ripe cherry core on the palate. This wine is layered and has very good focus with smoky sweet wood notes that gives hints of vanilla and smoothes it out. I should think a year in bottle will do wonders, but can I wait that long, not likely. Even though it will be better with some age, I like it now and will just have to buy a few bottles more! ($40 Est.) 93+ Points, grapelive
2006 Alfaro Family Vineyards Syrah, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
This wine is ripe and direct on the nose with violets and cassis, but is all class on the palate with delicate layers and beautiful pepper spices at first, then bang it gets up and goes with rich and full black fruits and thick textures. It reminds me of Hermitage or a really good Crozes-Hermitage with hints of game, mineral and blueberry adding to the complexities. There are subtle wood notes that are matched up perfectly with the fruit and acidity. Syrah seems to like the Alfaro estate, and I can tell you that this wine deserves attention. I plan to follow this one closely and hope you get a chance to try it too. ($35 Est.) 92+ Points,