Posts tagged ‘California Wine’

October 20, 2010

Prolonging Summer with Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc


God I love Indian summer. I love the toasty smell of fallen leaves, the chill mornings lit by the glow of Venus and Orion, the top-down heat of the afternoon sun that beckons me to stare into the brilliant blue of the cloudless sky just a little bit longer transported back to dreamy, lazy summer vacation days. It’s a cheat. Its summer reincarnated just weeks after it left. Don’t ya feel like you’ve been given a second chance? I do.   

This summer I wrote about my love for Sauvignon Blanc on a hot day in the post Suitable Wines for a Summer Romance. Even though summer has officially graduated to fall, this little taste of Indian summer is a perfect excuse to break out a light, crisp bottle of liquid sunshine. Beautiful Wife and I visited Cakebread Cellars last summer and stashed away a bottle of 2007 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc for just such an occasion.

Cakebread is a family joint in the heart of Napa Valley started in 1973 by patriarch Jack Cakebread. It’s known for delectable Cabs, Chardonnays and the aforementioned Sauvignon Blanc. Cakebread grows most its Sauvignon Blanc grapes in Rutherford with some sourced in other various vineyards in the Napa region.

Mother Nature has some fantastic building blocks to create tasty wine in that blessed valley in California, but it’s nothing that couldn’t be enhanced by a little artistry. Winemaker Julianne Laks blends 4% Sauvignon Musqué and 7% Sémillon in the Sauvignon Blanc for enhanced aromatics, softer acidity and brighter citrus. Cakebread further coaxes complexity and intensity from the grapes by fermenting and aging the wine in a combination of tank-fermentation and in neutral French oak barrel aging; fermentation and aging in barrel; and tank-fermentation with no barrel aging. 

That seems like a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

Look Harvest moonbeams in a glass slipper, staying at the party well past midnight.
Smell Flinty oyster shells and lemon rind left on the plate after a picnic. Plenty of grapefruit and kiwi left for desert.
Taste Intense as an Indian Summer that knows its days are numbered. A rich harvest of melon, grapefruit, lemon zest and honeysuckle with a nice balance of crisp mineral with an undertone of vanilla oak for a lasting finish.
Price $26

Yankee haters across the nation, put on you rally caps because we are going to stretch this summer into extra innings.  If you want to hold on to that summer ease for just a little longer, give this Cakebread a try. You’ll feel like going for a swim in the lake before you finish the second glass.

What are you drinking?

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July 25, 2010

I totally struck out with my wife


Sometimes I get a little romantic when I shop for wine. I look for a bottle that I think will warm the cockles of Beautiful Wife’s heart. Last night I found one that instantly made me think of her. A 2001 Chateau Potelle Cougar Pass. I know what you are thinking and you’re right. Beautiful Wife is much too young to be a cougar. That’s not it. The hook is that we went to Chateau Potelle on our honeymoon. It’s a gorgeous property sitting at about 1,800 feet of elevation with spectacular views. It’s a bit off the beaten path west of Yountville, CA. It’s a stunning drive of about 5 miles straight up Mt. Veeder on a winding road.

 The memory of being there in our new marital bliss is one thing, but they also make decent wine. They also have a sense of humor. The higher end wines are designated “VGS,” or Very Good Shit. With all of this in mind, I presented the bottle with a gleam in my eye, knowing that it would stir loving emotions in Beautiful Wife.

 Cougar Pass is an interesting blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. Sounds like a party. Oh the anticipation.

 With the first swirl and sniff my heart sank. It was corked. Blast it. By “corked” I mean that it was tainted with TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole). If you’ve ever had a cork tainted wine, you know what I mean. It smells bad and the fruit flavors are muted, hidden under stench. Beautiful Wife took a sip, frowned and handed her glass back to me. This wasn’t VGS. It was VBS; Very Bad Shit.

 I dumped the entire decanter full of wine down the drain. Strike one.

 2001 Chateau Potelle Cougar Pass Paso Robles

Look Deep dark garnet like the shadows of Mt. Veeder.
Smell The first scent was a big dog wearing musty cardboard boxes followed by faint leather and blackberry.
Taste It tasted like I was drinking it out of a dirty leather work boot. You know what really sucks? I could partially detect what the wine was supposed to be with lush blackberry, gentle tannins and I wanted to march back to the store for a replacement bottle to taste it like it was supposed to taste.  
Price $15

 Knowing that it was too late to go back to the store, I turned to the wine rack and selected a 1998 Domaine Benazeth from the Minervois wine appellation in the Languedoc region of France. How could I go wrong with picking a wine made the year that we met? I could see the Mediterranean Sea breeze tussle her hair as I opened the bottle.

We’re typically fans of Rhone style wines. This wine is driven by Syrah and Mourvèdre, but is also a hodge podge of grapes typical in a southern Rhone including Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Lledoner pelut, Piquepoul and Terret.

I handed a glass to Beautiful Wife. She smelled. Ah, not corked. She sipped. She set the glass down and reached for a bottle of vodka to make a mixed drink. Strike two and no opportunity for a third pitch. I struck out tonight.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with this wine. I thought it was delightful. It just didn’t suit her tonight. Sometimes it’s like that.

1998 Domaine Benazeth Minervois

Look Opaque as the plum colored Mediterranean at midnight.   
Smell A gardener’s delight with fresh turned soil, sweet rose petals and black currant.
Taste It is floral, with muted fruit and stoic minerality. Plum, currant, cinnamon and violet, finishing with the lingering taste of a limestone cave.
Price $14

 The second wine somehow tasted like rejection as I sat there drinking it by myself. A gift scorned. A lover’s advanced rebuffed, standing dejected still in the buff. I drank it knowing there would be another chance tomorrow.

July 4, 2010

Reliving the Honeymoon


Dead soldier

My beautiful wife and I got married in the vineyards of Gold Hill Winery in Coloma, California. A fantastic setting to begin our life together. We decided to go back to wine country to celebrate our 10th anniversary and visited wineries in Napa, Alexander and Anderson Valleys.

We absolutely love the quiet ease of the Anderson Valley wineries, the friendly charm of the people and the gorgeous landscape. It reminds us a bit of the Willamette Valley in Oregon – great wine without the congestion of throngs of tourists like in Napa. We had rented a lovely house on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific in Irish Beach, just south of Mendocino, so the trip over to Anderson was convenient. Lost in the romance of the moment, we made a rookie mistake – and mind you we are not wine tasting rookies. We joined the wine club at the last winery we visited at the end of a long day of sampling fantastic wine.

Husch Vineyards has a charming little tasting room in a rustic converted pony barn. The grounds have the graciousness of an antebellum plantation guarded by majestic, centuries old redwood giants. The wine tasted fantastic. We went through the entire roster and into the library wines. All of them delicious.

Doesn’t all wine taste better after you’ve already had 15 glasses?

Not long after we got home, we received our first club shipment from Husch. A nice enough selection of reasonably priced wines. Last night we popped opened one of the gems, a 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir. Here are the winery’s tasting notes. This wine was like a big budget Nicholas Cage film. It had promise. I approached it with the anticipation that a known star deserves. But, it was a Nicolas Cage flick. Shoddy acting, weak plot and thin entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but it didn’t live up to expectation.

Instead of velvet, the mouth feel was thin. I wanted a glass full of bright cherries, but got aged fruit. In place of a vanilla kiss of French oak, it brushed me with smokey coal.

This bottle retails for $35. My advice, take that cake and go buy 2 delicious Spanish reds for $17 each instead. If you are ever in Northern California, make the effort to visit the wineries in Anderson Valley, and don’t miss Husch. You’ll love it in person.