Write about Wine. Read about Life. WineWonks, the Wine Blog Community.
are for relationships, not wine." --- Sir Robert Scott Caywood
Join me as we take a trip over to the Iberian peninsula and grab some vino from Bodegas Roda. A gorgeous bodega located in northwestern extension of the Rioja region in Barrio de la Estación, at the town of Haro, in the sub-zone of Rioja Alta. Which sits on the the south bank of the Ebro River andis associated with some of the greatest wines of Rioja as well as some of its most venerated bodegas [wineries], many dating back a couple centuries.
For those of you not familiar with theRioja region of Spain, it's a place guarded by mountains on all three sides, the region itself takes its ancestral name from a tributary of the Ebro, called the Rio Oja.For the history buffs in the audience, therehas been vineyard activityin this regionsince the times of Roman occupation [talk about your ancient vines].
But it was during the French Phylloxera [vine destroying aphids] crisis that many grape growers and winemakers from France settled into northern Spain and brought with them many of the similar wine making practices we see in France today [like knowing a wine by its region and not its varietal].
For those you traveling outside the comfy confines of lets say California, you will find that the Rioja region is a lot different than what you may be use to here in California'swine-country, because much of the regions small growers sell their grapes to merchants or co-operative cellars instead of vinting and bottling their own juice. But this is a trend that is changing for many producers.
Fact-finders have indicatedthat avast majority [75%] of the vino produced in this region is red wine, is produced primarily from the Tempranillo grape. While some of the better wines will be composed of a blend of small amounts of Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuelo. Speaking of blending, many wines labeled Rioja thatyou encounter on wine store shelves todaywill be a blend of one of the Rioja's sub-regions, the Alavesa, Alta and Baja and the capital is La Rioja.
About Roda: Their objective was to create high expression wines in a modern stylewhile still being reflective of the Rioja region’s micro-climatic [terroir]spectrum of soil, orientation, elevation, climate, vintage year and traditional indigenous varietals.RodasetBordeaux as their benchmark of technique and quality.
Hopingto evoke the fullest reflection of place in the wines, focused their efforts on old vine vineyards capable of best expressing the terroir of Rioja. They started Bodegas Roda in 1987, but they found that the 1992 vintage quality was far off the mark, so they soldoffthe first winesto thebulk market [like the former two-buck up-chuck].
Provingtheir commitment to quality and their goals of making high expression wines, itwasn't until1996, that Roda'sfirst release hit the market with 30,000 bottles of Roda I and Roda II.
2006 Roda RiojaReserva: This wine is truly is expression of those stated lofty goals above and I want to salute them for a job well done in producing a wine with some substance, something sadly lacking in so much vino today. This wine is a blend of 94% Tempranillo, 4% Garnacha and 2% Graciano, and was aged for 16 months in 50% new French Oak and spent 20 months in bottle before release andhas a SRP of $45.
What are the pairing possibilities? I'd say endless really, but shorten that list some, it pairs well with a variety of grilled meats [I had it with Spanish seasoned grilled Pork-Chops] and sauteed veggies, a perfect wine-dinner with friends or family as this wine comes to dressed to impress.
Sniff, Swirl and Slurp: At first glance, a nearly opaque ripe-plum colored core. Sticking my fat half-Irish nose into the glass to get my first whiff,bright and intense aromas of sweet, ripe, dark-plum and black currants are married with notes of licorice, mocha andfresh Cubans in a cedar box.
Abeautiful marriage of new andold world styles meld the darkfruit flavors, a nice slap of well integrated spicy oakall over my palate, finishing in a big and silky expression of minerality and a earthy elegance. I gave this wine a score of 92 points and a hearty buy recommendation. If you'd like to graba few bottles of this winefor your own cellar, I know the folks who can make that happen for you and at the right price.
Other Voices: The Drink Hackerhad this to say, "A rare Rioja: Fruit-forward, lush, and easily drinkable without requiring a big hunk of meat to back it up. Blackberry and fleeting Port-like characters play with hints of tar and tobacco. Moderate body, but smooth, and with a pleasing, rounded finish. Really lovely. I'm guessing that is a endorsement? But it's does seem a little vague, but at least you can see the folks at Drink-Hacker did at least think it was lovely.
Full Disclosure: This was sent as a press-sample [last year]for the review process.
The hopeful take-away from reviews like this;is to primarilyis to encourageyou toexpand your own vinous horizons and the Spanish wine scene is a great place to make that happen. There's so much wine fromunexplored regions of the world and Spain has so much to offer; to even the garden variety vino-sapien.
And no I'm not just talking about "bulk" Rioja that you may see at places like Trader Joe's for example. Oh-no do yourself a favor, get yourself to a tasting or two, at your local wine store [and no grocery-stores don't count]. Speaking of tastings, I was just at a Italian portfolio [Vias]tasting in Beverly Hills, [wines from the Toro region] that made my face melt off [to borrow an expression] because the juice being slurpedwas flat-out winetastic [a technical term]. So until next sip long and prosper, cheers everyone!
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don’t have to be clinically insane to make Pinot, but it’s a distinct
advantage.” ~ Michael Hill Smith,
Shaw & Smith winery
I recently read with a bit of amusement; seeing it took a so-called panel of "experts" to come up with just five picks from the vast Oregon Wine Scene. But with only four days [the time I spent there just last month] I was able to come up an overflowing list of top-rated must-haves labels.
By the way; these are all wines presently sitting in my own cellar, because as it's said, "there is nothing like putting your money where your mouth is" and this mouth has had lot of amazing Oregon Pinot swirling about in it recently. So now is the time, to spill the beans and name, names.
A few of the names you will see on the list below, are wines I've already reviewed, but compiling them all here in a nice tight list, just may be a bit more helpful for the thirst vino-sapien in search of a shopping list. If you have any trouble finding any of these wines yourself, I know someone who can make your shopping experience so much easier.
5. Bergstrom Wines: 2009 De Lancellotti Vineyard Pinot Noir. A stunning example of Oregon PN from the Chehalem AVA, immediately accessible and supremely enjoyable. I know it may seem an impossible task, but wait, it will improve immensely with just another year in the bottle. 93 Points.
6. Bergstrom Wines: 2011 Shea Vineyard: At first blush, this wine is chock full of sweet baking spices, red currant, dried cherry and savory herb thing, wrapped around well integrated tannins. Definitely one for the cellar, hold. 92 Points.
7. Bergstrom Wines: 2009 Oregon Pinot Noir: Another amazing offer from this great producer; dark ruby colored in the glass, aromas of dark cherry and blackberry entice the first slurp. A quick swirl on the palate reveals sweet spice and fresh cherry baked pie-crust, I can still taste it. 90 Points.
8. 2009 Dukes Family Vineyards: Pinot
Noir "Charlotte" Eola -
Amity Hills AVA: Here's another very nice example of Oregon Pinot Noir, with a
lot going on. I just uncorked this bad-boy the other night, wowsers [technical
term] an intense, ripe youthful aromas of dark cherry, red raspberry draw you
in for the first slurp, sweet spices, red-berry flavors, wrapped around the
smooth rich tannins. Balance is excellent, length good and final impressions
delicate, plus complex equal smiles all around. 90 Points.
9. 2009 Wahle Vineyards and Cellars Pinot Noir: Another Holme Hills gem from the Eola Hills. What else do you need, an immediately approachable wine boasting layers of ripe fruit, outstanding volume, vibrant acidity, and a lengthy, velvety finish. At a SRP of $36 it's a best buy. Score 91 points.
10. The Eyrie Vineyards 2010 Dundee
Hills Estate Pinot Noir: Mrs.
Cuvee and I ran into this bottle over dinner at the very popular "Thistle"
restaurant in McMinnville, OR. They had this fantastic, food-friendly Pinot
that just screamed Oregon.
A pioneering producer on the Oregon Wine Scene, before everyone else hopped on
Color was hard to come-by, but a light
cranberry color. Lovely nose, rich earthy aromas and bouncy red fruits, a nice
pop of morello [a chef’s go-to] cherries on the palate, and spices, baked crust
and wet forest floor playing in the back ground. Spread across a canvas of
firm, yet silky tannins. Score 91 points. SRP on this wine is $36
Bonus: 2009 Hawks View Pinot Noir: Hello Chehalem
MountainsAVA. You can see that review here.
If this list wet your appetite and you'd like to know about a few more fantastic
sources for Pinot Noir, then please as they say, stay tuned! As I'm going back to the SLH Tasting once more, in
a couple of weeks and I can't wait to let you know all the gems I'm sure to
find there. Until next sip long and prosper cheers!
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“If you can't fly then run, if
you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you
have to keep moving forward,” ~ Martin
Luther King Jr.
We did a bit of crawling last night, as we got off to a rough start, and this was suppose to be the wine that would kick off the inaugural #WineStudio event last night, but because of its potential mass popularity, twitter decided to bump our event to next week, and in part because there was some other event going on yesterday, involving the President which seemed to take priority.
But that, said as many of you may already know our very first Wine Studio 'live' will have to start next Monday, the 28th starting at 6PM [PST]. I hope to see as many of you there as possible, ready to get your Rhone on. As I've indicated this is going to be a five-week journey into this amazing region and you can expect us to stay right there in France, as we will be covering most of the major players and few unexpected regions.
First up in that regard, we are going to focus on the white wines of the Rhone. The kind of white wines that any vino-sapien would be happy to be sporting in their glass. It's time to say goodbye to wimpy white-wines and say HELLO
to some of the amazing Rhone-Zone blends; like Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne and
Viognier #WineStudio Monday's 6PM PST via Protocol Wine Studio.
don't drink a lot of white wines myself, but when it comes to white wines like
the one pictured above, I'm all about it. This wine has the amazing structure
and complexity and some nice weight to it as well. It has a great vein of
acidity running through the ample fruit. The abv is a surprisingly low, but
welcomed 12.5%, considering the blend 60%
Marsanne, 20% Roussanne and 10% Grenache, produced from vines 50 years and
The color as you can see is quite
striking, grabbing you by the nose is just hint honeyed wet stones aromas and
white peach, which don't really jump from the glass, but still gets your
attention. This wine offers up an inviting lychee nut, a bite of almond,
white-currant liqueur, bit of chalk, and apricot marmalade spread on toast.
This wine is really stunning, honeyed, and a bit flamboyant [but without the
open shirt and gold medallion].
This wine is very clean, and focused. It
would pair nicely with many foods, but something like a delish white-sauce
pasta dish would be a good match and I found one here that sounds fantastic. If you like get
a bottle or two of this wine for yourself; you can do via Protocol Wine Studio they are
selling it for $34 each. I scored this wine 91 points and highly
recommend that you give it a swirl yourself very soon, until next time, sip
long and prosper cheers!
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"The wine cup is the little silver well, where truth, if truth
there be, doth dwell" ~ William Shakespeare
It's great to be in the right place at the right time. This is exactly
how after scoring two bottles of the “Inaugural Release” of the Manifest
Destiny label. It just so happened
that Mrs. Cuvee and I were in the Carlton Winemakers Studio early last month, talking it over and thinking about which wines we might like to purchase, before leaving. As we were thinking, the gentlemen [Jeff
Woodard] at the tasting bar recommended that we wait a bit as his winemaking
sister Lindsay Woodard was on the way with her own wine, so we waited [we weren't in any hurry].
Once she arrived, we offered to help bring in what I think
amounted to just about nine cases, but we were waved off. Now I'm pretty sure
there is more at the winery, but if you're reading this now, don’t be hesitant
another second about grabbing some for yourself. A bottle was quickly opened
and Mrs. Cuvee and I chatted with Lindsay a moment, while the glasses were
being poured. After a few swishes and me spitting, I was thinking wow this
going to be good, but having not been bottled too long ago, it was a bit stiff. At this point I was not jumping up and down with excitement, but something told
me, that I better grab a couple, and I'm so glad I listened to my gut.
Now having got the two bottles home and
nicely tucked away in the cellar for just over a month now, the Mrs. and I uncorked
a bottle the other night. We paired this
alongside a small slab of herb crusted [wild-caught] Sockeye Salmon [grilled] and a tasty mushroom
risotto, infused with tiny bits of bacon, oh-my.
Wowsers this is superb Oregon Pinot Noir.
The depth, rich earth, the pleasing bright cranberry, dark cherry and dusty
baking spices aromas widened both our eyes as we both went in for the first
slurp. In the body of this wine is a terrific core of energetic fruit,
complexity, well integrated tannins and a very pretty finish.
Bang, bang this wine is Oregon Pinot at
its best, a wine produced with assistance from consulting winemaker Eric
Hamacher and one any vino-sapien would be proud to have in the cellar. Well
done, Lindsay, well done. What a great showing on your inaugural release, two
thumbs all the way up and the awarding of 93
In my opinion this wine will put Manifest
Destiny on the map of great Orgundian wines which need to be collected,
cellared and properly consumed. The wine sells in the CWS for $45, but if
you get six, there’s incentive for 15% worth of savings, plus no sales tax as a
bonus. Until next time folk remember sip long and prosper cheers!
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“That which we obtain too
easily, we esteem lightly. It is dearness which gives everything its value.” ~Thomas
I know I've indicated thatthere was going to be some majorspanning the globe stuff, to bring you the constant variety of vino, that the world has to offer. So with that in mind and the fact that just next week the brand spankingnew #WineStudio is about to launch upon an unsuspecting world, here is just ataste of things to come.
Perhaps, you're thinkingandscratching your head over the fact that many of last yearsposts were centered on plenty of domestic juice, with the usual suspects. But as you know,all ofthat is about to change, so bamit's time for a visit to the RhoneZone via #WineStudio.
That said, "you're now traveling through another wine country destination, a destination not only of sight and sound but of the vine; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of export. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, theRhone Zone. —Rod Serling
Isn't that how Mr. Serling introduced the second season of the Twilight Zone, a timeless showwhich was way ahead of its time in many respects. A show that made many take pause and perhaps even some thought about thismortal-coil that we all tread upon. Okay yes, I took some artistic-license with the opening monologue [so sue me]but I did so for a very good reason.
That reason to transport you ever so briefly to another time and place. One you may have no doubt heard of before,but one youmay nothave had that much experience with on a regular basis. The boundaries of export, meaning as a serious wine shopping kinda guy, I don't see asmuchvino fromthe RhoneZone as I would like to see in the US wine market place, but when you have a chance explore, explore this vast and luscious wine landscape.
The Rhone Zone: This is one area of France which is fast becoming one of my all time favorite regions and not just for the red wines either. as the white wines from the RZ are every bit as fantastic as the reds. It's split up with south and north and each has its own climate and interesting topography. There's the sign post up ahead you are about to enter the Rhone-Zone.
TheNorth: It's hilly, is influenced by aturbulent, strongwind, called theMistral and according to their strict wine laws, there a good number of the northern appellations that can ONLY be planted with Syrah. Within the borders of the North you have the Cote Rotie, where up to 20% of the Syrah can be juiced with Viognier [syrah-perfume]. They also have a super-star [think Jerry Maguire] within its borders, named the Hermitage home to some of the world's finest vino, where bacon fat and pepper aromas are coaxed from steep hillsides.
It's also home to some big red monsters who lie in wait in the Coronas appellation, dark, rich, brooding wines who bite at the heels of their neighbor in Crozes-Hermitage which produces a lighter more subtle style of vino, where rich raspberry, earthiness and silky tannins dominate the more value oriented red wines from the north.
The South: Is by contrast to the north, considered the "flat-lands". It's much warmer and the vineyards riseout of land covered by some strange stones called"galets" which make a significant contribution to the"uniqueness" and great quality to Southern Rhone wines.
The Southern Rhone is home to the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape [new castle of the pope]. These wines typically are GSM blends, but can be blended with up to 13 different grapes,but Grenache is the king-pin grape here. This is the place you will find bottlesbrandishing alavish Coat of Arms just above the label, indicating that these wines are Estate grown. They also have a super-star in their midst, known as Chateau de Beaucastel.
The Murkey Middle Lands: This is the place where you have a blending of both regions, known to many as Cotes du Rhone encompassing the dual Rhone's largest production areas, producing a broad range and styles of wine. While the Villages designation on the bottlewill typically mean, the wines lean toward a higher quality standard.
Swirl, Slurp and Gulp: I brought home this beauty from the Rhone-Zone just a few weeks ago to let it nestle in my very cool, dark pantry [my cellar is maxed out]. Uncorked a few nights ago, I poured myself a nice two ounce pour, watching a plush dark ruby core fill my glass. I took the first sniffy, to find a wonderful bouquet of fresh-market strawberries, white pepper, lavender and cigar box draw you into this vibrant blend.After a good swish-about, I found this wonderful wine offering bright flavors of red raspberry, kirsch, andlicoricefilling out afleshy mouth feel, supple tannins and a long lingering richness round out the plush finish.
What's in It: The 2007 Domaine du Grapillon D'Or Gigondas is a wonderful southern Rhone blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah and weighs in with a New World leaning 14.5% ABV [just my impression].
Price and Purchase Location: So you wanna know how you can get your hands on this bad-boy or something like, well stay tuned as I and the team from Protocol Wine Studiocan help you fill that Rhone Zone craving you may be having at the moment and beyond.
What's the Score: Hmmm, in thinking about how wonderful this wine is for the price I gave it 93 points. It's solid well made wine showing a good deal of generosity and richness, smooth tannins and a firm structure. A super star of value at the $25 price point, this wine drinks like a $45 to $60 westside Paso Robles redblend.This is awine which is drinking so very nicely now, but I believecould improve with just a bit more time in the cellar if you can wait.
Other Voices: I found an abundant amount of other voices for this wine over at Cellar Tracker, whose average score had this wine weighing in at 91 points.Swill Powerhadthis to say,"rocking from the first pour. Very up-front blue fruit, with a savory note and a full, delicious mouthfeel. After 2+ hours, this feels as much like a stylish zinfandel as anything, with great dark fruit, a touch of cedar, and a nice umami/soy note as well. Overall, a really enjoyable drink, and a sweet QPR at under $20. Blows away most Rhone players at twice the price.[ Btw, RP gave this wine 92 points.]
My Recommendation: If you have been getting notices from your favorite wineries about the upcoming spring shipments from your favorite Syrah-Moved providers, I would ask that you give somepause to thethought of jumping into an order, until you had the opportunity togive theRhone-Zone aswirl, I would say you may want to decant an hour or two before enjoying for maximum enjoyment, but will still impress greatly at first pour. Until next time, sip long and prosper, cheers!
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“All the knowledge I possess everyone else can
acquire, but my heart is all my own”. ~Johann von Goethe
For everyone who follows me on twitter, first thank you and
second, I'm not sure why you do, but that said your Monday nights are about to
get a boost! So as you may have heard, I and the brilliant pair [Dynamic
Wine-Duo] from the Protocol
Wine Studio Guy and Tina, will be joining forces this year, to present each
vino-sapien with an unique twitter opportunity via#WineStudio
to focus-in on wine regions, wine styles and hopefully take your palates to
places they've only dreamed of going before.
Instead of the typical shot-gun approach,
Protocol Wine Studio and I will stay on a region for five weeks at time. The
first thing coming up to bat in the rotation is going to be the mighty Rhone region
There's so much to see and do within this fabulous region, even a five week,
one hour examination every Monday evening, will barely scratch the
Of course if all this wets your appetites
for more, and you find yourself like the young Oliver Twist asking, "oh Please, sir, I want some more." There will be opportunities made available for you to do just that, so
But it's our hope that as we discuss each
region, you will perhaps seek wines out from the region before the discussion
gets going, as a way to help broaden your understanding of the types and styles
wine offered in this fantastic region. There will also be an opportunity
available to those interested in acquiring some classical styles of wine from
these regions, a sampler-pack [for purchase], designed to give the everyday vino-sapien a
better grasp of the region and the wines made there.
Logistically speaking; #WineStudio will be
hosted each and every Monday, by either Tina, Guy or myself. Always starting at 6PM PST and ending approximately one
hour later. The official launch is going to be January 21, 2012, I look forward to seeing you all there.
The three of us will be gathering at their Protocol Wine Studio
here in San Diego
for the fun and informative discussions. The role of moderator will change week
to week, so that way there's an unique opportunity to get many different
perspectives on the same topic. A calendar will be posted here on my blog [I
will make a new page] so everyone can be prepared head of time, to know what to
expect from each session.
Now of course with me involved their will
be a degree of irreverent commentary now and again, but the main focus will
really be about not only increasing our head knowledge, which is a great thing,
but at the same time giving some needed depth to our palates. And I say
"ours" because as they say it's about the journey, not the
destination that counts. There will be no pontificating from our Purple Wine
Tower, just lots of
sharing and having fun, after-all this is just a beverage.
Perhaps you're already there, you've
arrived, then this conversation may not be for you and that is okay, that's why
there's #sommchat a great place for those who are already mightily in the know
to talk among their selves. But if you find, that like Tina, Guy and I, that
you'd strike out on the voyage of discovery and you weren't sure which way to
set your sail, then I'd say #winestudio is going to be the place for you. This is
the place to ask questions and get serious answers, without the dismissive
attitude. We don't have all the answers of course, but let's take this journey
together and see where it goes. Until next remember to sip long and prosper
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"Come, come, good wine is a good
familiar creature if it be well used; exclaim no more against it." ~
Well it has been quite some time since
I've had a wine of the week, falling behind a bit, but this wine in today's
spotlight really had my attention from the first whiff to the last drop. Even
though I wasn't drinking that day, I just tasted. This wine really struck-me as
the kind of wine I want to bring to your attention, something completely off
the beaten path.
With that idea in mind comes this wine from an area in France, one of which I was completely unfamiliar with and
I will confess I couldn't have pointed it out on the map either. But what I do
know is that this very inexpensive bottle of wine from the small appellation of
Quincy in the Loire Valley,
a dry white wine will knock your socks off. You won't be able to put it down, its
exciting fresh and most likely as new to the average vino-sapien as it was to
me on Wednesday afternoon.
If you've been reading this blog for any
length of time, you know I'm not much of Sauvignon Blanc fan by any stretch of
the imagination. This is why you may find it quite ironic that, I’m jumping up
and down with excitement about this fantastic expression of Sauvignon Blanc,
oozing with a honeyed, full-bodied texture and a just a pinch of lemon-peel oil
Oh you could just keep on drinking the
garden-variety domestic Sauvignon Blanc or you could step outside the box for
once to experience something completely new. A wine selling most places for $16
to $17, a wine I've rated 93 points, it's a wine you need to try for yourself
to see what all the fuss is about. I'm on a course of wine-diversity and want
to drink better. I want each of you to join me on that path to discovery; I
want you my readers to drink better as well.
I'm told that the appellation of Quincy was the 2nd appellation in France to be
recognized in 1936, second only to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where many of the vines
are over a century old, while some have been more recently planted in the
One of the more compelling reasons for
adoring this wine so much is because it really didn't have many of the usual
suspects in the nose or on the palate. I was immediately surprised by the nose, aromas
of white-flowers, honeysuckle, white peach, sweet-quince and whiff of bell
pepper which quickly fades to the background.
Then jumping into the wine itself, wow,
again the mouth-feel is flamboyant, intense aromatics, honey, wet-stone, [the
whisper of lemon oil] is followed by a full-bodied, exuberant, dry white wine
that must be tasted to be believed. I suspect this offering has some aging
potential, but why risk it when this wine is drinking ever so nicely right now.
In fact I wondered silently if the wine I tasted
was Sauv-Blanc at all. How could a wine raised in stainless steel and enamel
tanks and had its fermentation kicked off with indigenous yeast have this much
body and substance to it and yet not have the typical lean flavors which drive
me away like a pack of ravenous hyenas . I just kept looking at the bottle,
snapping the picture you see above and tasted it twice just to confirm my
impressions and flummoxed with my own delight. But there it's, try it for
yourself soon, I look forward to hearing thoughts and impressions. Until next
time sip long and prosper cheers!
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first it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” ~ Ibn
Many folks are starting to think about
their early spring vacations and or weekend get-away plans. And who can blame you, especially if you plan to be in California next weekend.
So if your plans happen to involve visiting wine country, may I suggest to a trip to one
of my favorite wine destinations in California,
A great little town, just north of Santa Barbara County, easily located right off highway
101. If you plan to leave from San Diego, may I suggest an early AM Sunday
launch time, if not then take the I-5 and cross over on the 46W, it may take a
bit longer, but you'll thank me later.
Mrs. Cuvee and I go to Paso Robles pretty frequently, not
as much as we would like to, but we were fortunate enough to visit twice last
year. We had such a good time, discovered some new favorites and became
reacquainted with others. We found a few new places to eat and also found a great spot to
grab some sack time after a long day on the wine trail.
I've recently been
asked by a couple of my friends, torecommend the what Ilike tocall hot-spots for wine-ing and dining. But, if you're a fan of sweet and simple [as 90% of the country seems to be] wines, then this list will not be for you. So look away before it's too late.
So I've compiled a list of the places I
like to go and want to share that list with you today.
Per Cazo: Just call ahead to let them know you'd like to
visit. Their Petite Sirah is flat out amazing, a real high-light. A sit-down tasting is just the thing and the pairing with the cheese is excellent.
Tablas Creek [Rhone Zone] So many favorites it's hard to name
Justin: The Savant and Justification [100% First-Run
Cabernet Franc] are among my favorites each year.
Alta Colina: Their Syrah really takes flight, oh-my.
Bodegas Paso Robles [downtown
tasting room] Some very good Spanish wines, I highly recommend giving a swirl,
don't doubt this tip.
Lone Madrone: Their Tannat is among my favorite wines being offered, along with their outstanding 2006 Bolla, a 100% Nebbiolo. Tablas Creek and LM share the same winemaker.
Calcareous: Driving up [the long and winding road] to the
tasting room, leaves little doubt about where winery got its name. Again the
views from this winery are quite stunning and you'll love Syrah and Grenache.
Herman Story: Tasting room on the east side of tracks in town.
You’ll will easily get into the nuts and bolts of why their Grenache is so fantastic
and other Rhone-Zone favorites not to be missed.
Jada: Another Rhone-Zone stop that will not disappoint. Ask for the "Passing By" it's sensational juice.
DAOU: The view from the tasting room is quite stunning and the wines ranging
from Zinfandel to Cabernet Sauvignon are all quite good. You may even meet
Daniel, theirwinemaker who's often found in the tasting room entertaining guests. All of their wines are
Sextant Wines: Is just to the south in SLO, but worth the drive,
so worth it. If you visit their Edna
Valley tasting-room, you
simply must do the cheese and wine pairing, you won't regret it. There are so many
great wine choices here; it’s hard to pick just one.
Turley: If you like Zinfandel, then a trip to Zinfandel Lane is
the place to be. Many of the 2008's are tasting fantastic at the moment. You
have to be a member to purchase wines outside the tasting room. So if you go,
prepare to take as many with you as possible.
L'Aventure Winery Stephen does an amazing job,
please don't miss an opportunity for a visit, you'll be tempted to take cases
of his wine home. But your wallet may have a hard time accepting that
Vineyards: Which shares a tasting room with Lone Madrone, a two for
one bonus. Again another stop not to be missed.
Cellars: A winery known for producing seven to ten blends per year;
some are heavy in Zinfandel, while others rest in a more traditional Rhone blending style. Visits are by appointment only, but
worth the effort.
Vineyards [Make an appointment] the owner Ron Denner is a great, the
wines produced there, are in many cases stellar! Rhone-Zone and some very nice
Cabernet Sauvignon as well, like the Mother of all Exiles.
Vineyards & Wines The tasting room is located in what
resembles an old school house. I know this is huge brand, if you are already a
fan, a visit will only further cement that sentiment. One of the few east-side
wineries I recommend.
RN Estate: Please don't miss an
opportunity to visit Roger and the beautiful RN Estate [the view is amazing],
call-ahead or email for the sit-down tasting. You can expect to find alluring
Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and unique Paso blends, just waiting to tempt your
Wine Company It's a fun tasting experience and they have a GSM
[Elephant in the Room] which is out of this world-good.
Now if you want to go to Opolo
[okay] their Summit Zinfandel is very big, super aggressive [high abv] but
blackberry jam tasty. If you happen to visit on a Saturday they often [not
always] have a barbeque just out-side the wide tasting room entry way, with
many tasty treats that in my opinion pair ever so nicely with the wines being
offered to sample.
The Paso Robles Inn: Is a great place to grab a steak for dinner or to
have that evening night-cap. Bonus: If you bring a bottle of Paso Robles Wine
with you to dinner they waive corkage and the best spot in town for a quick
Cow Girl Cafe: Great for Breakfast and very large portions.
Artisan: Wow fine-dining to be had here, a great place to
eat, they have a little bit of everything, with a reasonable corkage fee.
Bistro Laurent and Wine Shop: Wow, if you bring a bottle of wine in, they will
pair a dinner around that wine. Great French style and flavors at its
Il Cortile Ristorante: One of the very best Italian dining experiences,
outside of Italy.
Order a bottle of the Grechetto Bianco with your appetizers.
Thomas Hill Organics: Farm to table at its best. But please be advised
[IMO] the portions are small and they don't offer bread. If you want my advice
order some appetizers.
Villa Creek: Has bit of everything and food is freaking
Now if you're looking for some low-key
dining options, there are also many to be easily found in and around the
down-town [aka, the park] square, along with great local bars to help quench
Where to stay:
For me I like to stay at the Paso Robles
Inn and I always choose the spa rooms. Everything downtown is within easy
walking distance from the Inn, the pricing is reasonable. Do be aware that the natural
spring Spa-Waters do have an uncomfortable smell, but once you put in the
bath-aroma they offer, it's pretty fantastic. And as a bonus free wi-fi is
If you do choose to stay there, ask for
the rooms with the balcony over the big conference room. These rooms offer more
privacy, more square feet, comfy beds, etc. If you want to use the spa, it
takes at least 30 min for the tub to fill-up. And don't bother with the instructions, they seem to be a bit out of date.
Now if you want a more upscale experience
[there are many to choose from], Per Cazo has a lovely bed and
breakfast, nice and quiet. The rooms are well appointed and logistically it's
much closer for visiting wineries. They're located about 15-20 min outside of
I hope you find these recommendations helpful, please let me know how they turn out for you. Until next time, here's to travel and exploration, sip long and prosper cheers!
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Life is too short not to make the best and the most of everything that
comes your way everyday. - Sasha Azevedo
So you want to
know the score huh? Most folks want do want to know the score, especially when
it comes to their favorite team, but we as vino-sapiens like to know the score
on lots of things besides wine. We rate or score every thing from cars to
coffee, so should it be any surprise to find scores attached to wine. But for
some when it comes to scoring wine; some folks begin to get a little squeamish
and will loudly voice their opinions about how 'unfair' it's. The say, "well one man's
perfectly ripe green apple, is another man's tart and bitter experience'.
there's one thing we can all agree with; when it comes to 'scoring' something like wine it's partially
subjective and to many it's imprecise at best. While
I may find some agreement with that statement and with a few of the "points" haters positions, I don't find any
of their arguments compelling enough to not use the 100 point scale. But I have altered some of its meanings and changed a few of the definitions to make it a bit more fun.
After all we’re talking
about a 'sensory' experiences and not everyone has the same experiences that we
do. Even Mrs. Cuvee and I can differ on some wines to my surprise, because
mostly we are aligned. But still there are those outliers which defy my
understanding and hers. But that said, let us take chocolate for example
everyone [nearly] loves and appreciates it, some have no interest in it at all,
but those folks are what we call the exception. You can't make a set of rules for
the exceptions, you simply must discount their interpretation.
So when you take the odd
exceptions out of the scoring equation, you'll find that the points really
start to make sense and that they become a good barometer. The scoring system
in place [the 100 point scale], used by the major publications works for
everyday folks who don't taste hundreds of wines each and every year. The best
advice about the whole point’s scheme [yes, it's a scheme oh-my] is to find someone who closely matches
their own preferences in wine, [yes, mentioned before] especially when in doubt about a certain producer or region of unfamiliarity.
For example; I was in Oregon
last year for the Wine Bloggers Conference, I went to what I've dubbed as a
"Blending Camp" at R. Stuart
and Co. When it came time to make a team to for what would be the final blend of
Pinot Noir, we chose teammates that we knew had a similar palate to our own. Having
done that, we came to a quick and ready blend [by comparison], which I thought
was superior to the other tables. The name of our teams wine was, “Reverence” a fantastic Oregon Pinot Noir.
Now, if you
have ever wondered how I come up the scores for the wines that I review, well
then you are in luck. Because today, I'm going to spill the beans, as it were.
Perhaps you may have been wondering what a certain score means. If you've ever
had either of those questions, but some how never made your way over to my
"about the review process" page, I've decided to put it out here,
front and center. That way, there's no question about what the points mean and
what they will mean to you, if you happen to be silly enough to follow my
The score: Yes, I use the
100 point scale, if this makes you unhappy or you disagree with
that method, well that’s unfortunate. Sorry to say, there will be no smiley
faces, stars, cartoon wine glasses, or A,B, C grades, nope just cold hard numbers [ouch]. The score of wine will break down this
way; I give every wine a base point score of 50 points and then I add the following:
Color: Up to 5
Aroma: Up to 10
Flavor: Up to 10
Texture: Up to 10
Overall: Up to 10
also use QPR [the quality, price, ratio] score of up to 5 points.
What the scores mean:
95-100 Epic: Will you
marry me? Let's run off to Vegas together!
Juice: Wanna meet my folks?
85-89 Very Good: Hey,
can I call you tomorrow?
80-84 Okay: Oops,
looks like I lost your number.
75-79 Marginal: Um
what was your name again? [will not be reviewed]
50-74 Dreadful: Um,
why was this bottled? Not even recommended for Vinegar. [will not be
reviewed] After all life is too short to review bad wine.
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“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
While some wine-writers only sit in front of their computer screens giving their opinions about the wines sent to them from PR agencies, still others venture out to see the place where the wines are made, speak with the wine-makers, taste the wine out of barrel and trod upon the soil where the vines grow. Travel gives writers unimaginable perspective, one simply unattainable by simply reading a book, the back label or a mere web-page. Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to do just that last year, travel, quite a bit and in more locales than I thought imaginable. I hope to do more of the same this year.
In fact I went to Oregon twice last year, to get a closer survey of the wine-scene, one which is ever changing, but in some ways it's staying the same. I'm hoping to head out to Oregon again this year, I've an invitation for the harvest on the table and I can barely contain my excitement over the prospect, so I look forward to making my way back to Oregon once more in the near future.
Now about the winery in today's spotlight Matello Wines. I was given the heads up by a good friend, his name is Frank Morgan, all around nice guy, and fellow wine-blogger of Drink What You Like fame. He said, "Bill, if you're going to Oregon [lucky-dog] then you need to check Matello Wines and speak with Marcus Goodfellow. So because I trust Frank, I make the appointment and I was so glad I did. Wow, I was very impressed by the overall quality of the wines presented that day and I'm sure you will find something that you just can't be without yourself.
Marcus, opened at least 7 different bottles of wine that afternoon and each one of them had an enjoyable quality, I really wanted to take one of each home, but Mrs. Cuvee was there to make sure I showed some restraint [buzz-kill]. And besides I had limited return space in my checked-luggage, even with the addition. We got to taste the Vio, Riesling, a White Pinot, a four different Pinot Noir's. The Riesling, made is a dry style was very good, pear, apple, wet-stone and well balanced.
But their 2010 Duex Vert Vineyard, Viognier really wowed me, I'm always a sucker for this varietal, but find it's rarely done right. But this wine had me at the nose and it really delivered on the first quaff, boasting of ample structure and natural acidity. This wine had some very sexy aromatics, fresh peaches and a pop of white flowers. The first slurp was, wow a pitched-tent of near summer-ripe nectarines, citrus and white peach flavors which combine for a suave blend of richness and energy, coupled with great length. I scored this wine 91 points, it's really out-standing example of cool climate Viognier.
I know my friend Frank is partial to the Durant Vineyards and I can see why, but my palate told me that the Whistling Ridge was the place I needed to be and took two of those bad boys home. The 2010 Whistling Ridge Pinot Noir
This wine offers generous
upfront fruit, right along its exceptional structure. Factors that will easily make
this wine a keeper for my collection, but it’s sufficiently balanced in its
youthful exuberance that it could be enjoyed immediately. The wine is fruit
forward, but without being over-opulent. It hits your mid-palate and digs a
well of elegant, and yet persistent flavors, baking spices, rich earth,
The tannins are nicely integrated and the finish long and
lasting. I scored this wine 93
points, this wine is a prime example of what Oregon Pinot can deliver in the
right hands. Selling for just under $40 is an amazing deal. Not sure he has
even released this wine yet, but stay tuned folks, because once he does, this wine
will sell quickly, don’t miss out! Okay folks like I said, if you don't know about this producer, in my opinion you should, if you've not sampled his wines yet, I'd beat a path to his door quick, make an appointment if possible or just wait until he releases the wines I mentioned, you won't be disappointed. Until next time, slurp long and prosper cheers!
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“I like stepping into the
future, therefore, I look for doorknobs.”~ Unknown
As many of you know I spent four fantastic
days last December exploring Oregon Wine Country. Most of those travels took me
really no further than an hour to hour an half depending on traffic away from downtown Portland. It would
seem that our trip occurred during the very last of the fall weather, as it
began to snow at Youngberg Hill the very next day after we left.
While many folks will normally associate Oregon with ‘rain’ and
boy did we see plenty of it while we were there; but in reality it only
qualified as drizzle for most part. Oregon is about far more than rainy damp weather, there's a whole other-side just waiting to be explored. But it did seem like we brought some of that cold
wet-weather back with us [Mrs. Cuvee and I] to San Diego, needed yes, but unexpected
none-the-less. In fact the rainy wet-stuff here just cleared away, leaving us
with crisp, clear blue-skies [I know you’re jealous].
Second if you ask most vino-sapiens what
Oregon is well known for, they would most ultimately say Pinot Noir. What you
may not know is that Oregon
also has a vast, growing foodie-culture, there’s a food revolution sprouting up
everywhere, collectively putting them on the gastronomical globe. A fact to
which I could easily attest to, coming home a few pounds heavier, than when I
If bourbon or beer is your thing, you’re
in luck because there are numerous distilleries and breweries [really too many
to count] located in the environs of downtown Portland, situated just minutes away from
their well organized airport.
But for the vino-sapiens in the audience, Oregon is known for its rich
wine-making tradition. But what many folks may not realize is that no-one
really started making wine until the 19th century, when cherries,
apples and pears were the mainstay. Then keeping with Oregon’s pioneering spirit in the early 20th
century, the modern wine-making industry we know today, sprang to life around
the grape we all know and love, Pinot Noir.
One of the places I didn’t get to visit
the last time I was in Oregon; is Ken Wright
Cellars in downtown Carlton.
Their tasting room is located in an old train-depot; the winery itself is
located about a block away. Mr. Wright previously only offered visits by
appointment only and purchasing of his wine was done through a futures program.
And now if you’d like to purchase any of
his current release outside of the 2010 KWC PN Willamette Valley, it will have
to be done by the six-pack. And no it
can’t be a mixed half-case either; you’ll need to show some commitment to your
favorite wine in the tasting or go home empty handed. Now you can find single
bottles of Ken Wright Cellars PN in a few retail stores, but you may not find
the one you recently sampled.You can also easily find
his wines online at the Oregon Wine Merchants, where they can be purchased in
singles, mix and match, coupled with a reasonable shipping charge.
But unfortunately you can’t taste them
first; you’ll just have to take your chances. I tasted through four of his
Pinot’s and ended up favoring the 2008 Savoya Yamhill-Carlton AVA, which is now
sold out. I alsotasted the 2008 Carter, Canary Hill and the 2009 Guadalupe, which were good, but not $60 a bottlegood in my estimation. Be sure to sample their relatively new Tyrus Evan label [seen above], there's a 2007 Ciel Du Cheval Claret [$35], not to be missed.
The 08 Savoya offered up power, grace and
elegance. A substantial wine, red cherry and baking spice dominate, while dried
herbs and forest floor flavors play in the background. Fine grained tannins are
well integrated and wrap this wine up in a pretty bow, suitable for gift giving
or for spoiling yourself. This wine sold
for $65 in the tasting room and new vintages can be found online for $48. I
scored the wine I ended up taking home, 93 points, it’s pretty amazing juice
really. Until next time folks, continue to sip long and prosper cheers!
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"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance...it is the illusion
of knowledge" ~Stephen Hawkins
Well, well welcome to the brave new world
of 2013, I hope everyone had a brilliant holiday season and are now ready to
face the New Year. With all the new hopes, dreams and aspirations, whatever they may be
and where ever they may take you, I wish you all a prosperous New Year.
Opening my twitter account today; really
for first time since the beginning of the New Year, I came upon a conversation
[which you should read]with the well-known NYT Wine Critic Eric
Asimov. I missed the opportunity to interact in the conversation, but was
still able to take a look at how it unfolded.
Here's one of the more interesting
exchanges I saw today, Megmaker
asked via Twitter, "Do you prefer to be called a "wine writer"
or a "wine critic and why? Mr. Asimov's reply, "Honestly don't care.
Way too much energy spent on that question. Critic has specific NYT meaning, so
am proud of title"
Wine Critic or Wine Writer hmm, it’s a good
question, but to be honest not one I think about too often. I just don't take
myself all too serious and neither should you. I write from my heart, I use my
instincts and couple those insights with my experience, to give what I think
are solid, fact based recommendations. The only real caveat hereis; you
need to have a similar palate to my own. I tend to follow reviewers advicewho I've
tasted with before, compared notes and found we tend to like similar styles of
wine. That said, if you read this blog, you would do well to do the same.
There was another comment in that same
thread which stated [not sure who it was attributable to] "Writer"
connotes a more open mind and palate, which I believe is essential to conveying
passion". A statement to which finds me nodding in complete agreement. Take a
look at my new logo for example, the one on my twitter profile [and biz-cards],
you'll see it says 'wine-writer'. After all I do write and it's about wine, what
else should the title be? I think it is sufficient, after all this is just a
But in reading this blog,
you will come to one immediate conclusion; I'm NOT a classically trained writer
by any stretch of the imagination. So for the purist out there, this blog is
NOT for you. But if you want the scoop, on what I think are some the best wines
available today, please stay tuned, you'll be glad you did. Has my blog become more readable than it was it 2008, well I'll let my stats do the talking for me, you can find them just to theright and below ifyou're truly interested.
Here was another question ask by Megmaker, "Please say more about
your view of wine tasting notes, and how best to achieve
"context-sensitive" wine writing" and Eric Asimov's answer, "Hard to
account for context in notes. I think general stylistic characteristics are
better than overly precise".
Again, here I find myself in agreement
with Mr. Asimov's point regarding wine writing in general. I think some folks
try way too hard to impress others with their wine-knowledge [aka, geekiness]
and end up coming off as the garden variety snob. Honestly folks, who even
thinks of things like "context-sensitive" wine writing? I had to chuckle
a bit to myself seeing that and winced a bit reading it, breathing an
"oh-brother" out loud.
C'mon folks let us all just get over
ourselves, write about what you are passionate about [whether it's wine or
Frisbees] and keep writing to improve howyou communicate about that passion.
And like Mr.Asimov tweeted today;
"Write, write, write! If you want to be a writer, that's what you must do,
regardless of pay". And to that I say a hearty amen brother! I know my writing
in November and December has been far less productive than normal, but look for it to
return in the coming months.
For me personally, I'm more of a
spectator. I seldom get my hands dirty [little grape picking], on my journey of wine discovery, oh
perhaps the splash back from the spit bucket and the occasional sporting of the
glaring purple grin now and then. But there's no actual sweat on my brow, as I
bang on the keyboard. So whether you think me a wine writer, critic or just the
garden variety run of the mill opinionated vino-sapien, my only goal is the
help you drink better and for a whole lot less when possible.
With that said, there are going to be some
changes this year regarding my wine-blog. Number one, I will no longer accept
samples for review; I'm done with that scene [If a wine was submitted for review last year, there's still a review pending]. Number two, I will no longer
accept advertising of any kind, I'm done with that scene as well. And number three, look to see some [not saying
how many] tweet-up events that will not be sponsored by anyone, but perhaps
hosted by a San Diego group who will remain nameless for the moment.
will be one of the very few which will be completely 'independent' and that my
fellow vino-sapiens is really something to think about, as we move forward. So until next time remember life is too short to drink bad wine and too short to drink wines with no real sense of place. Just say to no to "Cheap, Homogenized, Lifeless Commodities" found on the bottom shelvesof places like your local wally-world. Instead say yes, to exploring and keeping an open-mind, open heart and above all an open-palate, there's a world of wine waiting for you to explore, so get busy and as alwaysrememberto slurp long and prosper cheers!
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“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead to where there is no path
and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Jazz is like wine. When it
is new, it is only for the experts, but when it gets older, everybody wants it.
*The info-graphic above is provided courtesy of Beringer Vineyards
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