Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Report from ... California Media Preview - March 1, 2011

Well ... after tasting through the 66 wines at the Media Preview tasting for the upcoming annual California Wine Show (April 4, 2011 at the Royal York) - I think I can safely say that the Golden State has given up on trying to impress us with Cabernet and Chardonnay and instead is focusing on little known, little used grape varieties and wacky / Meritage blends.  Why do I say that?  Because 1 of 8 Chardonnays was impressive enough to give a score to and only 9 of 27 Cabernets were.  While Pinot Noir and Zinfandel garnered a 50% scoring ratio, the "others" and "blends" categories picked up 100% of the slack, not only impressing, but making you want a second and third glass just to make sure.  The California industry is mastering the art of the blend, using whatever is on the pantry shelf, and I for one am enjoying it.

Chardonnay ...

Patz & Hall Wine Co. 2008 Chardonnay (Private Order) - sweet fruit with a touch of caramel, butter and pear, nice blend of fruit with the barrel notes. (*** 1/2)

Pinot Noir (top 3) ...
Lucas & Lewellan 2008 Pinot Noir - Goodchild High 9 Vineyard (Private Order) - sweet cherry, raspberry and vanilla on the nose; ripe cherry and vanilla on the palate. (****+)
Santa Barbara Winery 2009 Pinot Noir (Consignment) - quiet nose with nice fruit flavour and good acidity. (****+)
La Crema 2009 Pinot Noir - Russian River (Consignment) - sweet fruit flavour, very red and very yummy. (****)

Zinfandel (top 3) ...
Cline Cellars 2008 Big Break Zinfandel (Private Order) - this one's got the goods, big fruit, plum, cherry, chocolate ... lots of plum though, plus 15.5% alcohol. (****+)
Pedroncelli Winery 2008 Zinfandel, Mother Clone (N/A) - fruit is there but leaves grit and tannins behind; think dark plums and black cherries with vanilla bean grit, another biggie at 15.7% alcohol. (****)
Seghesio Winery 2009 Home Ranch Zinfandel (Vintages) - heavy on the raspberry and chocolate; big fruit with raspberry and pepper on the palate. (****)

Cabernet Sauvignon (top 4) ...
Freemark Abbey 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Consignment) - stood heads and tails above the competition, with a bonus, it's already 8 years old.  Juicy with concentrated cherry, strawberry, mocha and toast, still with good tannin backbone. (**** 1/2+)
Trinchero 2008 Napa Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (Vintages - July 2011) - jammy red fruit, cherry, raspberry, more cherry and some cocoa. (**** 1/2)
Lucas & Lewellan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Private Order) - nice mix of red and black fruit with chocolate/mocha backing. (****)
Oakville Ranch 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (N/A) - sweet black fruit, chocolate and plum, big 15% alcohol; tasted more Zin-like than Cabernet. (****+)

Blends (top 4) ...
Paul Dolan 2008 Deep Red (Consignment) - a cool blend of bio-dynamically grown Petite Sirah / Primitivo / Syrah and Grenache; chocolate, cherry, plum, black fruit with nice tannins on the finish, gritty but good; and nice length too. (**** 1/2+)
Miner Family 2006 The Oracle (Consignment) - chocolate and dark fruit, nice heft that allows it to age well, wait 2-3 years before popping the cork; blend uses all 5 Bordeaux varieties. (**** 1/2)
Dry Creek Vineyard 2006 Mariner (N/A) - another 5 Bordeaux varietal blend, raspberry and cherry with a mocha fruit. (****+)
Hess Collection 2007 19 Block Cuvee (Vintages - April 12, 2011) - a different kind of blend using Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec / Syrah / Merlot and Petit Verdot there's a complexity here that makes it very appealing; mocha, coffee, blackberry and a decent, yet not too astringent amount of tannins. (****)
Special Mention: Snap Dragon 2007 Red Blend (LCBO - $13.95) - sweet sipper for around the BBQ this summer, pick up a few and enjoy. (*** 1/2)

Others ...
Foppiano Vineyards 2008 Petite Sirah (Vintages - Fall 2011) - rich raspberry with a touch of white pepper; big tannins with a jammy finish.  Lush and fun at 15.2% alcohol. (****+)
Duckhorn 2008 Merlot (Vintages - April 2, 2011) - not sure when Merlot became such an also-ran but this is textbook Cali-Merlot: smooth and supply with lovely cherry and blueberry notes; a totally sippable and indulgent. Merlot. (****+)
Quady 2009 Elysium Black Muscat (N/A) - great dessert all on its own sweet, supple and seductive; total panty remover at 15% alcohol. (****)


1 comment:

Dean Tudor said...

My take...

**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Duckhorn Merlot 2008 Napa, $56.95 Vintages
-Michael David Winery Petite Syrah/Petit Verdot 2008 Lodi, Dionysus
-Wente Chardonnay 2009 Riva Ranch Monterey, $19.99 from Churchill
-Trinchero Family Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Cellars 2008, $24.95 Vintages July 2011
-Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Paso Robles, $24.95 Vintages May 28
-Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Napa, $33.95 from B & W
-Bennett Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 Napa, $55 from Mondia Alliance
-Paul Dolan Deep Red Biodynamic Mendocino 2008, Calibrium

***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Francis Ford Coppola Winery Diamond Syrah-Shiraz 2008, $24.95 Vintages
-Kenneth Volk Chardonnay 2007 Santa Maria, $19.95 from Grape
-Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay 2009 Russian River Ranches, $24.95 Vintages
-Cuvaison Chardonnay 2009 Napa, $27.95 from Prevedello & Mathews
-Kendall-Jackson Jackson Hills Chardonnay 2008 Santa Barbara, $34.95 Vintages
-Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir 2008 Goodchild High 9 Vineyard Santa Barbara, $20.95 from Schiralli
-Gloria Ferrer Pinot Noir 2006 Carneros, $26.95 Vintages
-Siduri Pinot Noir 2009 Russian River, $39.95 Vintages Aug 6
-Galante Almond Flat Pinot Noir Carmel Valley 2006, $47.35 Le Sommelier
-La Crema Pino Noir 2009 Russian River, $29.95 from B & W
-Cline Cellars Big Break Zinfandel 2008 Contra Costa County, Vinexx
-Pedroncelli Zinfandel Mother Clone 2008 Dry Creek Valley, Grape Expectations
-Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa, $24.95 Vintages
-Anders-Lane Artisan Waterstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa, $33.85 Small Winemakers.
-Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Oso Vyd Napa, $47.99 from Mark Anthony
-Cuvaison Brandin Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa, $85.95 Vintages Sept 3
-Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa, $110.95 from B & W
-Heitz Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard 2005 Napa, $220 Lifford
-Vineyard 7 & 8 Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa
-Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 SLD Napa, Mark Anthony
-Hess Collection 19 Block Cuvee 2007 Napa, $58.95 Vintages Apr 2
-Miner Family The Oracle 2008 Napa, $74.95 Profile
-Dry Creek Vineyard Mariner Meritage 2006 Dry Creek Valley, Vinexx

*** Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Foppiano Vineyards Petite Sirah 2008 Russian River, $24.95 Vintages Fall 2011
-Lockwood Vineyards Chardonnay 2009 Monterey, $15.75 from Ruby Wine
-Irony Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Napa, $19.95 Vintages July
-Merryvale Starmont Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa, $21.99 from Profile
-Peju Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa, $65 Vintages
-Villa Mount Eden Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve 2006 Napa, Profile