2009 Merry Edwards Meredith Estate Pinot Noir

Pinot Revels In Its Roots

Is there anything better than a single-vineyard Pinot Noir? I feel like Pinot is the grape perhaps most-benefitted by the single vineyard wine. Chardonnay tastes a lot like Chardonnay from vineyard to vineyard in the same region, and style is more a product of winemaker intervention than terroir. Cabernet Sauvignon? Better when blended, in my opinion. Sure, all wine is different from vineyard to vineyard, at least to some extent. But it is in Pinot Noir that I personally feel those differences most stand out. There's maybe no place in the United States where this fact is more obvious than in Sonoma County's magnificent Russian River Valley. Here, wineries like Merry Edwards (and many others) make a half-dozen or more different Pinot Noirs. Why? Because the individual vineyards they have access to produce such different fruit that it's worth it to produce a wine from each one. Sure, these wineries also produce blends. Merry Edwards, in fact, makes a Russian River Valley-designated Pinot Noir, along with a Sonoma Coast designate. But the six different single vineyard Pinot Noirs are what the winery is perhaps most known for. And this, in my opinion, is one of the best. The Meredith Estate vineyard is the southernmost of Merry Edwards' properties, located just southwest of the city of Sebastopol. A heavily-fogged 24-acre parcel, wine from Meredith Estate is complex, yet subtle. The wine is gorgeous in the glass. A ruby red core that lightens only slightly to the edges. On the nose, hints of berry mingle with a dose of earthiness. No alcohol heat, here. Take a sip, and the first thing that pops out to you is the velvet texture of the wine. Smooth, silky, but with a robustness to its body. This isn't a simple wine. There are dimensions here. Palate notes include strawberries, dark red stone fruits, a hint of plum and a dash of welcome earthy richness. It's delicious. It's not simple, but neither is it unapproachable. The 2009 Meredith is a wine that longs to be drunk, and I assure you, you'll be ecstatic to oblige. I recommend this wine without an associated pairing. Drink it on its own, with friends, and celebrate something. You won't regret it. Price Point: $70
Verdict: A-

2010 24 Knots Monterey County Pinot Noir

Bargain-Priced Pinot Noir Won't Blow You Away

My wife and I spent a weekend in Monterey, California recently. While there, we tasted some local wine, and found several bottles that really impressed us. I'll be writing about some of those wines in the coming days or weeks. ~ 2010 24 Knots Monterey County Pinot Noir When we got home, I realized I had just received a couple sample bottles of a Monterey County Pinot Noir. One of the wines we particularly loved while in Monterey was a Pinot, albeit labelled with the more specific Arroyo Seco AVA. So I figured, "Awesome! Maybe I'll fall in love with the whole way the area does Pinot Noir!" Yeah. Well, to be fair, the $17 price point on 24 Knots means it's cheaper than almost any Pinot Noir you're going to find. And it isn't bad, per se, it's just... it's just not much of anything, I'm afraid. A very pretty light ruby in the glass, the color of the wine doesn't change much at the edges, owing in part to its young age. On the nose are a hint of chocolate, a little barnyard, and a sort of twiggy underbrush that reminds me, in the way a bad impersonation only reminds you of the original, of the Burgundian style. The wine is light-to-medium bodied, and while it shows some slight berry notes, and features the label's promised long finish, there just isn't much here. And I have to say, given the appellation and the price point, I can't imagine that time is going to do 24 Knots any favors. I can't really recommend this wine, unles you are dying for a Pinot Noir (and it does exhibit some classic Pinot style) and want to spend less than $20. Price Point: $17

Verdict: C

2009 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

A Subtle Napa Valley Cab

It's common for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to have a reputation for bombast, for explosive fruitiness. Fruit-bombiness, if you will. With their 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet, Sequoia Grove Winery brings you something less common in Napa: subtlety. ~ 2009 Sequoia Grove Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Nestled among its namesake sequoia trees, Sequoia Grove Winery prides itself on an "atmosphere of unassuming sophistication." That seems like a reasonable thing to be proud of. Probably something lots of wineries strive for, and don't quite hit. But it's also a reasonably-accurate way to describe this, the 2009 vintage of their flagship Napa Valley Cabernet. In the glass, the 2009 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is dark purple at its core, lush and inviting. It lightens to a brick red edge, maintaining its gravitas. On the nose, the fruit you'll notice is primarily blackberry and black cherry. After that are less fruity notes, I picked out cedar, white pepper, and a cooking or baking spice, perhaps nutmeg. A very well-balanced nose, that should give every Cab drinker something to like. On the palate, more cooking spices, more dark fruit, a bit of a cigar box, cedar/tobacco element. Similar to the nose: balanced, and subtle. As I hinted above, there is no bombast here; no mortars fly forth. The wine features soft tannins, and a finish shorter than I would have liked. Despite the short finish, this is a very nice wine. It's not massively remarkable. It's not something I can say oh my! Go out, now, drop what you're doing, go get some! But I can recommend it, especially to those who prefer a less-fruit-forward cabernet that still "feels" like California. Price Point: $28-$40

Verdict: B

Top 10 Movie Quotes About Wine, Part II

The Sequel

I have decided that, like basically everything Hollywood-related, ever, my post of the Top Ten Movie Quotes About Wine is getting a sequel. Deservedly, or otherwise. ~ a reel of film Sure, there will be some more Sideways and Bottle Shock quotes, but I'm including a few different films, as well. Well, without further ado... Lloyd, Dumb and Dumber (1994)
I'll tell you where. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I'm talking about a little place called Aspen.
Miles, Sideways (2004)
Stick your nose in it. Don't be shy, really get your nose in there. A little citrus, maybe some strawberry... passion fruit... and there's the faintest soupçon of like... asparagus... and just a... a flutter of a nutty Edam cheese.
Steven Spurrier, Bottle Shock (2008)
"Wine is sunlight, held together by water." The poetic wisdom of the Italian physicist, philosopher, and stargazer, Galileo Galilei. It all begins with the soil, the vine, the grape. The smell of the vineyard -- like inhaling birth. It awakens some ancestral, some primordial... anyway, some deeply imprinted, and probably subconscious place in my soul.
Waiter, The Muppet Movie (1979)
Sparkling Muscatel. One of the finest wines of Idaho.
Miles, Sideways (2004)
It tastes like the back of a fucking L.A. school bus. Now they probably didn't de-stem, hoping for some semblance of concentration, crushed it up with leaves and mice, and then wound up with this rancid tar and turpentine bullshit. Fuckin' Raid.
James Bond, From Russia With Love (1963)
Red wine with fish. Well, that should have told me something.
Chet, Kicking and Screaming (1995)
If Plato is a fine red wine, then Aristotle is a dry martini.
Maya, Sideways (2004)
You know, the day you open a '61 Cheval Blanc... that's the special occasion.
Porthos, The Three Musketeers (1993)
The picnic was delicious, the wine was excellent, remind me to send the Cardinal a note.
Brennan, Step Brothers (2008)
It's the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer!
And, like last time, a bonus quote from television... Homer Simpson, The Simpsons: "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment", (1997)
To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems!

2010 Artesa Limited Release Alexander Valley Cabernet Franc

Where Dark and Spicy Meets Lush and Round

In Los Carneros there sits a bunker atop a hill. Really, it looks like a bunker, but it's a tasting room. This avant-garde hilltop compound is a sight to behold, and one you shouldn't miss. Welcome to Artesa. ~ 2010 Artesa Limited Release Alexander Valley Cabernet Franc I find Cabernet Franc to be pretty hit-or-miss. I've had some I really like, from France, California, and Washington. And I've had some I really didn't like, from all those places as well. On the Sonoma trip I've referenced in recent pieces about wine from Ledson, VJB, and Nicholson Ranch, we actually began our day at Artesa Vineyards and Winery in Carneros. It's a ridiculous place. Ridiculous in its uniqueness, in its view, in its architecture. But quite serious about its wine. Which is a good thing; while we who drink it should keep wine lighthearted, those who make it should treat it like a serious thing indeed. A wine that is both serious and fun is this, an Alexander Valley Cabernet Franc that is part of Artesa's Limited Release selection. The wine is 98% cabernet franc with a 2% blend of cabernet sauvignon for balance and complexity. The grapes are crushed whole cluster, and the juice spends 18 months in just 35% new French oak, so the wine definitely shows off more of the grape itself than a lot of hands-on winemaking. In the glass, the wine has a purple core that lightens to pink at the edges. On the nose is a bit of that almost-vegetal "bell pepper" scent I've gotten used to from Cab Franc, along with some cooking spices, clove, and pepper. Luckily, the vegetation does not follow through on the palate. This wine bursts with dark stone fruits, plum, black and red cherries, blackberry, and pepper. The wine is big, it is bold, and it finishes strong and long. The finish, especially, is impressive. I'm not sure how much I would want this wine with dinner, trying to pair its level of bombast with my food. But as a wine to drink with friends, conversation, and good times, you would be hard pressed to do better. Fantastic, and easily recommended. Price Point: $40

Verdict: A-

The Champion of the 2013 Meritage Madness Tournament Is…

Cabernet Sauvignon!

Congratulations to the King of Bordeaux, the Emperor of Napa, the Champion of Chile-- really, the most popular red grape on the planet-- Cabernet Sauvignon, for winning the 2013 Meritage Madness Tournament! cabernet sauvignon grapes And it wasn't even close. In a mud-stomping blowout, Cabernet Sauvignon beat up on its own mother (in a sense), Sauvignon Blanc, to the tune of 91-9 to take the title. Here's the final bracket as it played out. Well, that was fun! That wraps up this little experiment, and I think in general it was a success. People voted, seemed to enjoy the concept, and I'll be sure to bring it back next year. Rather than go red-vs-white like this year, I'm thinking that the 2014 Tournament will be an expanded affair, with 32 grapes from 4 geographically-aligned regions duking it out. I'm thinking the four Regions will be France, Spain, Italy, and Elsewhere. But then, I also have until next March to figure it all out. Thanks to everyone who voted! Tomorrow we will return to your regularly-scheduled Notes From The Cellar programming with a review of our champion's father (in a sense), as I profile a Cabernet Franc from Sonoma.

2013 Meritage Madness: The Championship

There Can Be Only One

Well, folks, it all comes down to this. In the real world, the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has inched its way into April (can it still be called March Madness?) and has its Final Four. Here in fantasy wineblogland, we have our Championship Matchup set in the 2013 Meritage Madness Tournament. ~ take the shot! Let's cut straight to the chase, shall we? In the Red Region, the #1 seed, Cabernet Sauvignon, has never really seemed threatened during this whole tournament, and that includes its 75-25 victory over third-seeded Zinfandel. Not surprisingly, Cab Sauv storms through the Red Region and will be the red grape in the Championship matchup. On the other side of the bracket, things have not looked so easy for Chardonnay. And, in fact, it just took a beating in this Regional Final. By a more-than-convincing 82-19 margin, Sauvignon Blanc has beaten Chardonnay, and will represent the White Region in the first-ever final matchup. So there you have it. The weeks-long process of narrowing down our favorite wine grapes has come down to this: Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Sauvignon Blanc. A pair of Bordeaux grapes, although Sauvignon Blanc perhaps finds its greatest individual expression on the islands of New Zealand. So, in that sense, this is also (a bit) of a New World vs Old World matchup. So who will it be? Voting ends Wednesday evening, so get your opinion in! (Sorry, voting has closed)