Saturday, April 30, 2011

Report from ... California Wine Fair 2011 – April 4, 2011

Lots of glad-handing and back-slapping on this day … the LCBO thanked California wines for making them so much money … California wines thanked the LCBO for making them a lot of money … and it was quite a different lunch time keynote than I expected.  In past years it has been a winemaker or winery owner with vision or insight (or both) speaking about the past, the present and/or the future of the California wine industry.  Instead, today’s lunch featured Lindsey Gallagher (Director of International Marketing) who told us what is to come in the marketing of California wines as the Californians strive for world domination (when it comes to wine anyway); instead of just being satisfied with their number one status in the LCBO’s Vintages section (first time ever that France has not been top of the pops).  I found this year’s lunch and speech disappointing, but the wines I tried more than made up for the mediocre lunch and sis-boom-bah rah-rah-rah-Cali-Forn-Ia talk.

With well over 450 wines in the room there was no way to try everything, but I tried something from each table (or so I though) and here are my findings, listed alphabetically by winery (with selected notes) …

Key to the stars:
3.5 (Good) – 4 (Very Good) – 4.5 (Excellent) – 5 (Outstanding)
bold denotes favourite

Artesa Winery 2009 Carneros Chardonnay – vanilla and peach take hold here, the fruit and the wood are very much in unison. (****)
Artesa Winery 2007 Elements Cabernet Sauvignon – delicious Cab with lots of red and black fruit. (****+)
Bell Wine Cellars 2007 Big Guy Red – a blend of 57% Syrah, 25% Merlot and 4 other grapes … very fruit forward. (*** ½+)
Bennett Lane Winery 2006 Maximus – chocolaty note with soft black fruit and a hint of spice. (****)
Bogle Vineyards 2007 Phantom – lots of spicy tannins, like this wine every year, it's fun blend of Petit Syrah, Zinfandel and Mourvedre. (****+)
Bonny Doon Vineyard 2009 Contra, Carignane Blend – rich in fruit like blackberry with nice spice and good acidity to balance out the playful fruit. (****)
Darioush Winery 2007 Merlot – juicy red fruit, lovely. (****+)
Delicato Family Vineyards 2009 Gnarly Head Zinfandel – vanilla and cherry cola notes. (****+)
Delicato Family Vineyards 2008 181 Merlot – juicy black fruit with nice spice. (*** ½)
Dry Creek Vineyard 2008 Heritage Zinfandel – plum, black cherry, cassis, a little bit of an herbal note and some nice spice. (****)
E&J Gallo Winery 2009 Apothic Red – this is such a playful bottle of wine for any occasion, the blend is Syrah, Zinfandel and Merlot, lots of raspberry/strawberry on the nose; palate is chocolate and red fruit, juicy and jammy … delicious and uncomplicated, don’t get hung up here that it keeps a little sweetness amongst the fruit, this is just a fun wine, period the end. (****+)
Eberle Winery 2008 Syrah – black fruit and smoke, a little leathery on the finish. (*** ½+)
Ehret Family Winery 2006 Bella’s Blend – 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, the rest equal parts Merlot and Cabernet Franc; chocolate, smoke and black cherry. (****)
Folio Fine Wine Partners 2009 Spellbound Chardonnay – vanilla, pear, peach and apple; this is a fruit bomb in Chardonnay form. (****)
Hess Collection Winery 2009 Artezin Zinfandel – back to form from the first year I tasted it: black cherry and vanilla take center stage. (****)
Justin 2008 Syrah – sold out at the winery and no wonder, this wine is really very good, so good I wrote very good twice. (****+)
Kenneth Volk Vineyards 2008 Enz Vineyard Zinfandel – made from 113 year old vines; lots of plum and vanilla. (****+)
Lockwood Vineyards 2008 Block 7 Pinot Noir – nice alluring red fruit nose, strawberry fruit flavours, real nice. (****)
Lucas & Lewellan Vineyards 2008 Goodchild High 9 Pinot Noir – stunningly good red fruit flavour here with lots of juicy cherry. (****+)
Lucas & Lewellan 2007 Syrah – blackberry, white pepper and a little smoked meat. (****)
Paul Dolan 2008 Deep Red – lots of interesting grapes: Petit Sirah, Primitivo, Syrah, Grenache; matches with the interesting flavours dark fruit, cherry, vanilla, cinnamon and spice. (****+)
Peachy Canyon 2008 Westside Zinfandel – spice and red fruit lead the charge. (****+)
Peachy Canyon 2008 Incredible Red Zinfandel – smooth and plumy. (****)
Peachy Canyon 2009 Chronic Cellars Zinfandel "Purple Paradise" – this is a fun label with a lot of tasty wines under its belt and what about that name - Chronic in one hand, good times in the other. (****)
Pedroncelli Winery 2008 Mother Clone Zinfandel – red plum, spice and vanilla. (****+)
Pedroncelli Winery 2007 Alto Vineyards Sangiovese – red fruit and mocha notes. (****)
Peju 2006 Merlot – juicy middle with a spicy finish. (****)
Perry Creek Vineyards 2008 Zinman Zinfandel – plum and vanilla, though not heavily fruity like many Zins. (****+)
Peter Franus 2007 Brandlin Zinfandel – made from 80 year old vines, raspberry, plum and vanilla with a cherry-vanilla finish that has enough spice to keep it interesting. (**** ½)
Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery 2008 Zinfandel – raspberry, chocolate, plum and black fruits galore. (****+)
Stags’ Leap Winery 2007 Ne Cede Malis – a blend of Petit Sirah, Syrah, Genache and Viognier; nice floral notes with some smoked meat and black fruit. (****+)
Chimney Rock 2007 Tomahawk Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – only 250 cases made of this lush single vineyard Cab. (****+)
Vine Cliff Winery 2007 Rock Block Cabernet Sauvignon – dark fruit, vanilla, plum and delicately spiced. (*** ½+)


1 comment:

Dean Tudor said...

My take...

**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Knights Valley
-Landmark Overlook Chardonnay 2008 Sonoma County/Santa Barbara, $32.95
-Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa, $34.95
-Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa, $141.95 Halpern
-Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars SLV Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa

***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Artesa Winery Chardonnay 2009 Carneros, July Vintages, $25
-Bogle Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 California, $18.95 Abcon
-Castle Rock Chardonnay 2009 Central Coast
-Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Dry Creek Valley
-Rancho Galante Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Carmel
-Heitz Chardonnay 2008 Napa
-Heitz Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Napa
-Ironstone Reserve Estate Grown Meritage 2006 Sierra Foothills, $44.95
-Michael David 7 Heavenly Chard Chardonnay 2009 Lodi, $24.95 Dionysus
-Miner Family Viognier 2009 California
-Nichols Merlot Reserve 2000 Paso Robles Vinas del Sol, $42.88 Le
-Nichols Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Paso Robles Vinas del Sol, $52.50
-Paul Dolan Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Mendocino, $24 Calibrium
-Peju Merlot 2006 Napa
-Perry Creek Altitude 2401 Viognier 2009 El Dorado
-Ravenswood Barricia Zinfandel 2007 Sonoma, $33.95 Vintages
-Robert Mondavi Merlot 2007 Napa
-Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 Napa, $139.95
-Schug Carneros Estate Chardonnay 2009
-Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Alexander Valley, $81.95 Halpern
-Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa
-Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Fay Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa
-Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Karia Chardonnay 2008 Napa
-Vineyard 7 & 8 Chardonnay 2005 Spring Mountain, $40 East West Wine

*** Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Firestone Chardonnay 2009 California
-Foley Family Chardonnay 2008 Santa Rita Hills
-Paul Dolan Chardonnay 2009 Mendocino
-Schug Carneros Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Sonoma