Napa’s Royal Cabernets: The Wines of Oakville


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While often considered a single “place” when it comes to wine, Napa is hardly a monolithic growing region. Each of its 16 established AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) lays claim to a separate identity, characterized by geology, microclimate, and different histories of production.

The Oakville AVA has one of the most storied of such histories. It is home to the famed To Kalon Vineyard, purchased by H.W. Crabb in 1868, shortly after the installation of a railroad stop made the tiny village of Oakville spring to life. In 1876 Crabb’s neighbor John Benson bottled his inaugural vintage of Far Niente wine just down the road.

By the year 1880 the Oakville area had 430 acres under production, and these would nearly triple to more than 1000 acres in the next 10 years and continue to grow until Prohibition turned off the spigot in the 1920’s.

In 1965 Heitz Vineyards made …

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/26/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a number of decent white wines from near and far.

Let’s start with the more familiar — a Chardonnay from one of the top growers in the state, Dutton Ranch. I tend to review a lot of the Dutton Goldfield wines, but this is the wine from the other brother, Joe Dutton. It’s named after Joe’s oldest daughter who is carrying on the family’s business these days.

In addition to this Chardonnay I’ve got a nice Viognier from Domaine Terre Rouge in the Sierra Foothills. Made by Bill Easton, this wine comes from the Fiddletown area of Amador County, which is a higher elevation area and that fact no doubt helps …

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/19/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week continued the rosé onslaught that marks spring wine releases everywhere. For starters, I’ve got a somewhat unusual pink from Laurel Glen vineyards, which has three rows of old-vine “mixed blacks” that they harvest every year and blend with Cabernet to make this rosé.

Randall Grahm sent along his consistently crisp Vin Gris de Cigare, which is done in the Rhône style and includes some white grapes as well as a mix of reds. Grahm uses a little Vermentino which no doubt helps with the citrus kick. I’ve also got a nice rosé of Nerello Mascalese from Tasca d’Amlerita in Sicily, which offers a taste of Sicily for summer.

In addition to a …

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Chile Continues to Punch Above Its Weight


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Amidst all the romance and storytelling in the wine world, it’s easy to lose sight of one of the most important aspects of wine: value for money. I’m certainly guilty of overemphasizing the latest tiny producer making wines in minute quantities that are difficult to obtain. While such wines are fascinating and exciting and often have great stories behind them, they don’t relate much to the everyday drinking goals of many people who enjoy wine.

Sometimes you don’t need a wine with an incredible story behind it. Sometimes you just want a $20 wine that tastes like a $50 one.

While the sommeliers on Instagram gush over “unicorn wines” — wines that are so rarified or obscure that you’re lucky if you ever get to open a single bottle in your career — sometimes it can feel like great wine values are equally as scarce, especially from California, the source …

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/12/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included all sorts of interesting stuff.

Lets start with a shockingly good and quite unusual wine. Pepe Raventos is a name known to wine geeks. He started the now quite well-known Raventos i Blanc project, which is making some of the highest quality and stunningly terroir-driven Sparkling wines in the traditional Cava region. Except they’re not Cava. Raventos decided to leave the appellation so that he could make wines true to a specific patch of soil that is the Raventos estate, which has been in the family since 1497, and is in the area known as Conca del Riu Anoia. Always an innovator, Raventos recently started a separate “garage” project a couple …

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 5/5/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of interesting white wines from the Central Coast. The first, the Estate Chardonnay from Calera, needs little introduction for long-time California wine lovers, though arguably Josh Jensen’s Pinot Noirs (see below) are more famous than his Chardonnays, but both benefit from the unique limestone outcrop that is his Mount Harlan estate.

Even farther south, Chalone vineyards has been making interesting wines on their volcanic terroir for a long time, including small quantities of Chenin Blanc, which to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever had. This version is more in the off-dry style that would make it a delightful accompaniment to something with a bit of spice.

Before we …

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Review of Matanzas Journey Red Blend & Chardonnay


This post is by Marisa D'Vari from Wine Region Travel & Reviews: A Wine Story


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Matanzas Creek Experience

Matanzas Creek Experience

Today I received three fabulous examples of red wine (as well as the expected Chardonnay, since the AVA is Sonoma) coming from Matanzas Creek Winery the Bennett Valley area in the Sonoma AVA.

This is one of the most picturesque wineries in Sonoma.

You will find beautiful gardens and great views.

Since its launch in 1977, the winery has built its reputation on Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot grape varieties.

These two varieties that thrive in Sonoma’s temperate climate.

Today the winery is owned by Jackson Family Wines.

The winemaker is Marcia Torres Forno.

All of the winery’s fruit comes from sustainable – farmed, estate vineyards scattered throughout the mild interior and cool coastal AVAs of the county.

Let’s start with the Chardonnay first,

2016 Matanzas Winery Journey Chardonnay

Marcia Torres Forno has been at the helm at the Matanzas winery since 2010.

More than 25 years ago, …

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 4/14/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of world-class values in addition to some tasty wines.

Let’s get started with the Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, which you can find just about anywhere, and is as satisfying a Sav Blanc as you could ask for at 11 bucks, all green and zippy as you want.

Its partner in crime, so to speak is the Primus Red Blend, which has morphed a bit over the years as the folks at Veramonte play with the blend, but this Carmenere inflected Cabernet always punches way above its weight, and is about as good a wine as there is on this planet for $15 — (List price is 19 but you can …

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Delicious Pinot Noir Rose from Jackson Family


This post is by Marisa D'Vari from Wine Region Travel & Reviews: A Wine Story


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 Delicious Pinot Noir Rose From Jackson Family  

3 Jackson Family Rose wines

3 Jackson family rose wines

April is a lovely month to taste exciting new wines.

I love red wine, yet spring is the time to really get into the spirit of the season and try new styles of rose colored wine.

Of course, you can find rosé wine made from red grapes all over the world.

Often, it’s difficult to “blind taste” a wine and decide which grape variety it comes from.

So what is the characteristic of a rosé wine made from Pinot Noir?

As a general rule, a rosé wine made from Pinot Noir is often very aromatic, with notes of red flowers as well as small red berries.

The shade – or hue – of the wine depends on the techniques at the disposal of the winemaker. It is often dictated by fashion and the marketing department.

Jackson Family Wines

 2018 Yamhill-Carlton Oregon Gran Moraine Rose of Pinot Noir

Wine News: What I’m Reading the Week of 4/7/19


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Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.

This California Winery Is Opening a Massive Sculpture Park With Works by Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama, and More Blue-Chip Artists
Looks to be quite the installation.

As Chinese Buy French Vineyards, Names Like Château Imperial Rabbit Rattle Purists
But it sounds so much better in French!

Jeremiah Tower on Champagne in Restaurants
Really the first restaurant to serve Champagne by the glass? Really?

Weighing Up the Value of Biodynamic Wine
If only our scales could tell us….

Napa Staff Shortages Hurting Wineries
In the tasting rooms, now too.

Napa’s Problem is Cars, Not Drought
Yes, but does the board of supervisors know …

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/31/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of heavy hitters, but before we get to those wines, let’s talk about the opposite of heavy hitters, the light, fresh, crisp ethereal beauty of Riesling.

Two beauties showed up this week, both from Germany. The first, a beautifully dry rendition of Riesling that tastes just like taking a big bite out of a perfectly ripe Asian pear. This Morstein bottling from Driessigacker in the Rheinhessen is everything you want a dry Riesling to be. Deeply mineral and refreshing it will delight anyone who is a fan of the grape.

Likewise, the Kabinett-level Riesling, just slightly sweet, from Dr. Hermann is another excellent example of the form. From the …

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/17/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a really lovely riesling from the recently anointed Petaluma Gap AVA in Sonoma, just across the top of the San Francisco Bay. Made by Dutton Goldfield it has a wonderfully dry citrus crackle to it.

Dutton Goldfield also sent through one of their classic Chardonnays from their estate property in the Russian River. It’s pretty much a bullseye for those looking for the latest (more restrained) version of California Chardonnay.

Sticking with the Chardonnay theme, I’ve got a bottling from one of the Russian River Valley’s best vineyards, the Ritchie Vineyard, by Ten Acre. It’s a little awkward, but still a pleasurable glass of Chardonnay.

Headed towards red, let’s pause for …

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/10/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a bunch of fun wines from near and far.

Starting on the white side of the spectrum, the Anaba Viognier is a very crisp and tasty rendition of a grape variety that is much abused in California, often made as an unctuous, bitter, peach-flavored syrup rather than the crisp and fruity wine it could be. This one has all the acidity it needs to escape that trap.

Speaking of escaping from a trap, the Airfield Estate’s “Donald” Chardonnay successfully avoided over-oaking its Chardonnay, much to my delight, and the delight of those who prefer their Chardonnays taste like fruit instead of wood.

Moving on to the reds, I’ve got a few …

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Vinography Unboxed: Week of 3/3/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a couple of supremely good Napa Cabernets.

Let’s start with the Spottswoode Lyndenhurst, which is that small estate’s “second label” wine — less expensive and generally a little more open and accessible upon release than the estate’s flagship Cabernet. But don’t let that lull you into thinking it’s a frivolous bottling. This is serious and seriously good Cabernet. While we’re talking Spottswoode, they also sent through their Sauvignon Blanc, which is a blend of fruit from Napa and Sonoma Counties, and pretty much everything you want a California Sauvignon Blanc to be, but without the surfeit of oak that often accompanies such wines. It’s fantastic.

Speaking of fantastic, I continue to …

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Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillo


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Abacela Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, Oregon

While everyone and their wine-loving aunt Jeannie are busy going gaga for Oregon Pinot Noir and, increasingly Chardonnay (both deserving to be sure), another grape has slowly been building a track record that is now too good to ignore. Oregon Tempranillo deserves your attention, but give it quietly please — it’s generally still an amazing bargain, thanks to being largely off the radar for most wine lovers, even those who live in Oregon.

Oregon Tempranillo languishes in obscurity primarily due to the fact that with a couple of notable exceptions, it’s largely been planted in the wine growing areas of Oregon that are not the superstar successful Willamette Valley. But in places like the Umpqua Valley and Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley, this Spanish grape variety has convinced many a winemaker of its virtues. Now it simply has to convince consumers — no mean feat …

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Pasqua 11 Minutes Rose TreVenezie IGT


This post is by Marisa D'Vari from Wine Region Travel & Reviews: A Wine Story


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Pasqua 11 Minutes Rose TreVenezie IGT

Lucky to expetience these two wines on Saturday night!

The Pasqua 11 Minutes Rose TreVenezie IGT was one of the better Italian rose wines I’ve had.

It is a blend of Corvina (50%) and Syrah (15%) along with an unexpected lift from Trebbiano di Lugana (35%) and Carmenere (10%).

This wine had the “tannic bite” I like in a rose wine, PLUS the romantic label and unique bottle shape (rendering it a fitting Saturday night wine). 11 minutes for skin contact, hence the name!

THEN there was the sparkling Passionesentimento Prosecco Treviso Spumante Brut, from the Glera grape.

Here the bottle is lit in such a romantic fashion (candle light) it may be difficult to see the gorgeous Pasqua label.

Yet the beauty of the label, and also the superior taste of the wine (LOTS of freshness) made it a real winner.

… …

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 2/3/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included all sorts of goodies, all of them red.

Let’s start with what might be one of the best wines made by cult Pinot producer Williams Selyem, their Rochioli Riverblock bottling. Just down the road from Rochioli, Williams Selyem has been buying fruit from this legendary Pinot vineyard for decades, and makes a select few bottles of it each year. This site tends to get pretty ripe so this bottling ends up being on the richer side, but it’s always beautiful, and in my experience, very age-worthy.

Moving on, I’ve got a couple of wines from Chappellet vineyards, a stalwart producer up on Pritchard Hill above Napa. This week I’ve got their …

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An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux


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The World Atlas of Wine describes it as the “largest fine-wine district on earth,” and while we make a big deal in the wine world about the link between geography and flavor, in Bordeaux the Atlas notes that “no where else in the wine world is the link between geography and finance so evident.”

Bordeaux is certainly the most famous wine region on earth, having captivated everyone from poets to politicians for centuries. But for many wine lovers, especially Americans, it remains one of the most difficult wine regions to understand and enjoy.

The Cabernet and Merlot dominated wines of the region have long been benchmarks for the grape variety, but if your first taste of these varieties came from California, chances are that the more savory and tannic renditions from Bordeaux might seem fierce and unforgiving. While the region’s wines have become more approachable over the past few …

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Visiting Clos Pegase Estate Winery Calistoga Napa Valley


This post is by Marisa D'Vari from Wine Region Travel & Reviews: A Wine Story


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Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Visiting Clos Pegase Estate Winery in the Calistoga AVA of Napa Valley

When people think of Clos Pegase Estate Winery in the Napa Valley, they think of mainly three things:

  1. Clos Pegase Chardonnay
  2. Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon
  3. The famous architecture of the Clos Pegase Estate Winery, and the art collection within.

My recent visit to the Hess Collection Winery, with its extensive art collection, alerted me to the presence of another winery with an impressive art collection: The Clos Pegase Estate.

Origins of the Clos Pegase Estate Winery

The original owner and creator of Clos Pegase was Jan Shrem.

He was born in Columbia to Jewish-Lebanese parents.

After emigrating to the USA as a child, he made his way through the University of California, at Los Angeles selling encyclopedias.

Then he parlayed this experience into …

Vinography Unboxed: Week of 1/27/19


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bigstock-box-of-wine-on-the-plain-backg-26760620.jpgHello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included a number of wines from the folks at Williams Selyem, who have been making highly-sought-after Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County for a long time. Williams Selyem, in fact, might be called the first “cult” producer of Pinot Noir in California, having begun to allocate its wines to an oversold mailing list of customers before anyone else, despite not having a winery of their own to call home.

These days, Williams Selyem has a gorgeous winery on Westside Road outside of Healdsburg that members of the winery’s mailing list can visit with an appointment, and they continue to make a dizzying array of wines from …

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