Saturday, March 22, 2008

California Wine Fair Preview – March 18, 2008

Now before you go toddling off to the California Wine Fair (April 28 at the Royal York in Toronto and other venues across Canada), let me tell you what to expect … well for starters there will be more than 400 wines to taste; and if you think you’ll be able to taste your way through that – not only do I wish you luck, but I think you best forego taking a cab or public transit to the event and opt for an ambulance, because if you get through that many wines they’ll need to pump your stomach on the spot.

Lucky for you uncle Mikey (aka The Grape Guy) got a first hand sneak peek at what’s coming from Cali-forn-I-A and will point you in the right direction of some good Cali-wine. Tonight’s tasting was done blind in 9 flights (A thru I) and took us through Sauvignon Blanc territory, into the Chardonnay sea, poked around the Pinots, zipped through Zinfandel, careened into Cabs and finished off with a veritable cornucopia of blends – here’s how the whole thing shook out: I’ll give you my top three choices in each category, and briefly review the number one, thus leaving the door open for you to have your own experience with these wines.

A – Sauvignon Blanc …

#3 Schug Carneros Estates 2007 Sauvignon Blanc - $27.95
#2 Honig Vineyard & Winery 2006 Sauvignon Blanc - $28.95

#1 Vina Robles 2007 Sauvignon Blanc - $19.75 (Consignment – Glen Ward Wines Inc.)
Different than the rest, bubble gum and tropical fruit nose … reminded me of chewing Trident tropical fruit gum, and for some reason I just found it very enjoyable.

B – Chardonnay (presumably unoaked) …

#3 Summerland Winery 2006 Chardonnay - $13.95
#2 Wente Vineyards 2006 Morning Fog Chardonnay - $16.05

#1 Francis Ford Coppola 2006 Diamond Collection Chardonnay - $19.95 (Vintages April 2008)
The nose keeps tropical fruit at the fore-front with slight vanilla nuances; it’s pleasant vanilla and buttery smoothness kicks the palate into gear and has a good steady stream of acidity that keeps the mouth watering and wanting more. Excellent length of finish.

C – Chardonnay (presumably oaked) …

#1 Clos LaChance Winery 2006 Glittering Throat Emerald Chardonnay (n/a)
Too much similarity in this category led to bland wines – but this one stood out with it’s dedication to the combination of balancing fruit and wood. A touch oaky but tons of tropical and peachiness mix in with the vanilla … buttery joined the above flavours on the tongue … one drawback, short finish.

D – Pinot Noir …

#3 Schug Carneros Estates 2006 Pinot Noir - $31.95
#2 Cuvaison Estate Wines 2006 Pinot Noir - $34.95

#1 Tandem Winery 2005 Van der Kamp Pinot Noir - $54.95 (private order – Kylix Wines)
Lovers of Burgundian Pinot best look elsewhere, California is all about the fruit, not the earth nature of this grape. Tandem mixed the best of both worlds here, though they keep the fruitiness elevated. A nose of sweet vanilla and cinnamon with cran-strawberry nuances. Red fruit comes through in the mouth with a slight hint of earthy and a good finish. I truly enjoyed sipping on this one.

E – Zinfandel …

#3 Ironstone Vineyards 2005 Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel - $29.00
#2 Tamas Estates 2005 Tamas Estates Zinfandel - $14.95

#1 Michael-David 2006 7 Deadly Zins Old Vines Zinfandel - $24.95 (Vintages)
Many know that I am a Zin-fan (not the sweet pink stuff) these wines just have such character. Sure 7-Deadly is commercial, from the packaging to the wine, but who cares when it’s this tasty. A beauty of a nose that’s loaded with cherries and plums. In the mouth, there’s plenty going on, from oakyness to tannins, red and black fruit and some walnut shell on the finish … nice!

F & G – Cabernet Sauvignon (broken down into 2 flights, 14 wines in total)

#3 Sterling Vineyards 2004 Vintner’s Collection Cabernet Sauvignon - $29.75
#3 Ridgeline Vineyards 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon - $39.95
#2 Lucus & Lewellan Vineyards 2004 “Valley View” Cabernet Sauvignon - $18.65
#2 Hanna Winery 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon - $34.95

#1 Treana 2005 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon - $16.85 (Vintages)
#1 Peju 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - $59.95 (consignment – Le Sommelier Inc.)
The Treana is simple yet enjoyable with chocolate and blackberries on the nose, sweet blackberries, chocolate and cassis in the mouth … its easy drinking nature is capped off with a nice, pleasant finish. Peju, on the other hand, was a little more complicated adding a spiciness to its black fruit and cinnamon nose … the mouth proved equally as complex with juicy blackberries that didn’t just mingle but actually fought for dominance of your taste buds with the spices and tannins – easy a-three-plus star wine.

H – Red Blends …

#2 Newton Vineyard 2005 Claret - $26.95

#1 Miner Family Winery 2003 Oracle - $77.95 (consignment – Barrique Wine Imports)
A blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot – the other grapes aren’t mentioned in the notes – this wine has character (and at least a year more ageing than the others in this category), red fruit with rum and cola aromas plus the addition of sweet herbs and vanilla – all moved from nose to tongue where the oaking also came through – a quick finish kept this one from being more than a 4-stars recommendation.

I – Other Red …

#2 Hahn Estate 2006 Cycles Gladiator Syrah – (n/a)

#1 Christine Andrew 2004 Malbec - $24.95 (Lifford Wine Agency)
This category was a mixed bag of Merlots and Syrahs, but the one that stood out was the Malbec for its red-fruited pepperyness.

I’ve given you a good jumping off point, now the rest of the wines you try are up to you.


1 comment:

Nanook said...

Thanks for the recommendations!

We're headed to the Ottawa show tonight. While I can't taste everything, I've hilighted a few you've recommended. I've got a few of my own that I want to try and I'm sure there will be a few surprises.