Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sterling "Three Palms" Merlot 2006

For some reason I've been on a bit of Merlot kick lately and Sterling Vineyard "Three Palms" is just the latest to be on my list. After stellar 2004 and 2005 vintages it was interesting what this "youngster" brings. While not up to the heights of its older siblings, it's still a good wine. Dark cherry red with a broad core in the glass the nose is pretty loaded with black cherry, raspberry, a touch of cinnamon, some cocoa, a little oaky vanilla and just the slightest pinch of earthiness. Medium/(+) bodied, this wine is pretty well balanced with decent acid, smooth tannins that dust up in a medium length fruity finish. While it won't create any huge excitement it is a good wine that should enjoy a broad, amiable reception and easy to pair with food.

Good now, should be enjoyable for at least a couple of years.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 20

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chateau Vrai Canon Bouche 2008 "Canon Fronsac"

Here we have a lovely, affordable Right Bank Bordeaux wine, a blend of about 98% Merlot and 2% Malbec, that was a delight to sample. Now you might think "2008 Bordeaux, isn't a bit young?" but this wine was one that is enjoyable now and should have a good cellar life. Deep inky purple in the glass the nose was loaded with blueberries, blackberries, hints of wild flowers and even a bit of charcoal. Full bodied, good acid, excellent black and blue fruits, and surprisingly polished tannins with just the slightest bit of grip at the end this wine produced a long, lingering finish. Would be hard to find something as from Bordeaux for $25 a bottle.

Drink now, should be lovely at least through 2016.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 19

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2006

If you like the warmer climate, style of Sauvignon Blanc then you'll love this little gem. The nose is loaded with peach, nectarine, a touch of pineapple, pear, and just the slightest bit of grassiness to remind us it's a Sauvignon Blanc. Very well balanced, good but not racy acid, nice ripe fruit that give a lovely medium/(+) length finish. The use of new oak is detectable but not distracting, they did a good job with it and made for an enjoyable experience.

Drinks wells now and should make you happy through 2012 or even 2013 if properly stored.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 18

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot "Indian Wells" 2008

Forget Miles, I love Merlot, either as a single varietal or a blend like we have here (roughly 78% Merlot, 18% Syrah and just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec). It's the nice, comfortable Bordeaux friend who often makes his siblings more palatable. In this bottle we have a young one that while good now should be better next year. Dark and rich looking, we get a nice aroma of red and blue berries (plum, blueberry, a touch of currant) that lets us know there is something warm and inviting awaiting up. The wine is med/(+) bodied, good acid, smooth tannins with a touch a grip at the end. All of this comes together to give a nice, smooth finish that picks up a hint of pepper at the end. Not terribly complex but just a damn fine little wine and at this price (about $15/bottle) doesn't hurt the wallet.

Drink now, should continue to evolve a little through 2011 and be enjoyable at least through 2012.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 17

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saintsbury Pinot Noir 2007 "Carneros"

I have to say, this was a little different style than I've had lately. Due to the malolactic fermentation and use of small oak barrels there is something rather interesting in this wine. Unlike many of the big jammy wines on the market this is a nicely balanced Pinot Noir, a good combination of smooth tannins, solid but not racy acid, and lean red fruits this is a good, everyday Pinot Noir. Not complex but does show some characteristics typical of Burgundy more so than New World Pinot Noirs.

Drink now through 2012.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 16

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Edwards Cellars Tasting Room Opening

I like surprises and when it comes to wine California continually surprises me. For the vast majority of people California wine is Napa and Sonoma. For those who like somewhat independent films, Sideways introduced the Santa Ynez area. Those of us who get around a bit have found certain specialty areas in both central and coastal California (Amador and Mendocino immediately come to mind) and living in San Diego I have tried to be an honest cheerleader for Temecula Valley. So when my friend Bairbre Aine told me of her sister's winery opening a public tasting room in Ramona I was immediately intrigued. Ramona? As in "somewhere between Poway and Julian, that Ramona"? Yep. A little research showed me how limited my overall knowledge of California AVAs is. Just take a look at the number of members in the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association. So with me firmly put in my place I was off to the opening of the tasting room for Edwards Vineyard and Cellars.

It was definitely worth the trip. I was introduced not only to Victor and Beth Edwards but several other local wine makers in the area and it was an education listening to them talk trade. That alone would have made the trip worth it, but for this blog it's all about the wine so let's get to that. Simply put, they do not make bad wine here and there is a detectable style preference in the use of oak. From what I can tell at this point in time they a focus on three varietals: Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. While all of the wines were expressive none would be what I call big (Beth used the expression "the softer side of big" and I agree). For the opening here is what we tasted:

Valley Of The Sun Red, Red 2005: This is a Syrah/Petite Sirah blend that is medium intensity red with a broad core in the glass. The wine is quite aromatic giving me notes of blackberry, violet, and hints of smoke. Medium bodied with smooth tannins that have a slight grip at the finish and nice acid you get some oak spiciness carrying through a medium length finish. I can see this being a good summer BBQ wine. Should hold up well through 2012.

Syrah 2004: The first of two offerings of Syrah we again got a medium intensity board core wine in the glass. Here I got a mix of blackberry, "smoky meat", and a underlying floral tone with a touch of spice. Medium bodied the wine is expressive in the mouth delivering black fruit, medium acidity, smooth tannins and peppery spice in the medium/(+) length finish. Easily drinkable I think it will continue to taste well into 2013.

Syrah 2005: The slightly younger sibling we get somewhat what we would expect, a little tighter version of the 2004. For me it was showing to be a touch more fruit and spice forward than the 2004 and showing the similar components as the 2004. Quite nice now, give it another year to ramp up and I would expect easily a wine that will do well through 2014/2015.

Petite Sirah 2005: From those who know the Edwards offerings there was considerable excitement about what was coming up next. Limited in supply they knew what they were going to get. Quite a nice offering of a Petite Syrah giving us notes of blackberry, violets, a touch of cherry and peppery spice, solid but smooth tannins, nice acidity and a dry med/(+) length finish that begs to be paired with roasted meats. I don't think supplies will last but if you can find a bottle through 2013 you should be quite happy.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: Not yet released this is one that I will definitely be looking for when I hear it is. Ripe black fruit, currants and blackberry, hints of spicy vanilla that all get delivered with smooth tannins and nice acid with a little nip of spiciness at the end of a pretty long finish. A good example of a warm area Cab I can see this easily holding its own through 2014.

So if you're around Ramona make sure you stop by and give them a try. I'm definitely looking forward to further explorations in is area.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 15

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fess Parker "The Big Easy" 2007

Fess Parker has been one of my personal favorites for a long time and the other night I was treated to another one of their scrumptious wines, a Syrah/Grenache blend named for one of my favorite cities, The Big Easy. The 2006 vintage was highly rated so it was nice to find the follow up was delightful. Very dark, purple in the glass this wine had a lovely nose of black berries, black currant, vanilla, a little pepper, and just a touch of lavender. Medium/(+) bodied the wine had smooth tannins, nice acid, and delivered black fruit, pepper, and a touch of cinnamon that bound together to give a medium/(+) length finish. I think this wine will continue to develop at least through 2012 and be enjoyable through 2014.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 10