Tag Archive | "california wine"

2006 Opolo Summit Creek Zinfandel

Winery Website: www.opolo.com

California is no doubt the leader of Zinfandel – it is truly both an icon to that state’s wine industry and to the American wine industry at large. There are few other regions which attempt to produce it as it can be a difficult one to master. 

Click to Enlarge

Opolo Vineyards, located in heart of California’s costal region, has been producing quality wines in a distinctly California fashion since 1996 and have a nice loyal following amonst wine-lovers in that region. 

Its Summit Creek Zinfandel comes from grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Mountain region – a rang of mountains that run from Montery southest for 105 miles to San Luis Obisbo – the highest summit is Junipero Serra Peak at 5,850 feet. This means, that the Zins from this region will be distinctly different than those grown in places like Lodi Valley and other parts of  the greater Napa/Sonoma area.

Technical Data:

  • Appelation: Paso Robles
  • Alcohol: 16.2% pH: 3.87
  • Cases Produced: 14,000
  • Harvest Method: Hand Harvested
  • Varietal Composition: 97% Zinfandel, 3% Petite Sirah TA (g/100ml): .56
  • Brix at Harvest: 26.0
  • Barrel Aging: 10 Months in American Oak
  • Price: $19

Nose: Ripe plums, blackberry and black cherry on the nose with tons of toasted oak on the backend. I get some toasted almonds, a touch of smoked paprika and leather belt.

Taste:  Lots of deep blackberry on the backend stuff with oak chips – this is an overoaked zin which all too many zinfandels fall into the trap of. The finish lingers on good, however, it’s nothing but oak and I’m not at all a huge fan of that. There are other Zinfandel wines in this price range which I feel offer more complexity and better overall experience for the money.

W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, ZinfandelComments (0)

2006 Ventana Vineyards Rubystone

Winery website: www.ventanawines.com

Based in the Montery California area, Ventana Vineyards has been producing wine in that region for decades – their know-how when it comes to producing top-quality wines from top fruit have garnered wide accliam from wine lovers and the wine media-folk. 

Click to Enlarge

They produce a wide variety of wines from whites to reds – today I’m looking at its red called “Rubystone” – a blend of the Grenache and Syrah grapes. For those not used to these grape types, what we have are two very common ones which got their start in the Rhone region of France. What we typically find are wines that are more mellow on the palate without that massive fruit attack you’ll find in many of the Bordeaux-style grapes.

  • Appellation: Arroyo Seco AVA – Monterey, California USA
  • Varietal: 62% Grenache Noir and  38% Syrah
  • Vineyard: 100% Estate Ventana Vineyard
  • Barrel Selection: French and American Oak
  • Total Acidity .64 g/ 100ml
  • pH 3.71
  • Alcohol 14.3%
  • Suggested Retail: $18.00

Nose: Take a bowl of dried cranberries and LOAD THEM UP WITH black and white pepper – then toss in some fresh cedar chips. 

Taste: Floods of cranberries, rhubarb, cherries, soil, forest moss, minerality, wet socks and a butt-load of pepper – Holy Lord is this wine zesty!  I’d hit it with any sort of smoked chicken, smoked pork or beer-can chicken and it’s a no-brainer with Cedar plank salmon as well. The finish is quite long and lasts for days – it’s a remarkable bottle and for the money, one of the better wine experiences I’ve had – HIGHLY recommended.

W.E.P. Rating: 120%

Posted in California Wines, Grenache, Reviews, SyrahComments (0)

Meyer’s Family Cellars Port Wine

Winery Website: www.meyerfamilycellars.com

I’m sure many of you have heard of the Meyer’s family out of California – if not, you’re almost certain to have heard about their work on making the Silver Oak brand synonymous with best-of-class California Cab. This family has a tradion steeped in wine making and has been involved with producing high quality wines for several decades. 

Matt and Karen Meyer met while working together at an Oregon vineyard, got married and not too long ago launched their own winery. Matt’s experience of growing up in the then-great Silver Oak days proved to be essential to his passion for making the best of what he can – year in and year out.

Karen is from the land down-under and has a similar background in the wine-making business there – both her and Matt share an unadultered passion and zeal for wine making – they both work on the wines they now make.

For those who might be new to Winefoot.com – let me get this off my chest – I LOVE ZINFANDEL. There, it’s out in the open – it truely is a grape that America owns – we do it better than anyone else and having it made into a port wine like this one shows how great it is – even in a variety of ways.

Meyer Family Port Facts:
Appellation: California
Grape Varieties: A solera-style blend, primarily old-vine California Zinfandel
Spirit: Pot-Still Alembic Zinfandel Brandy
Residual Sugar: 8%
Alcohol by Volume: 18%
Age at Release: 8 Years
Bottle Size: 500 ml
Price: $35 

Smell: black plums and black cherries coupled with some home-made fruit-cake action and spice. 

Taste: massive blackberry and plums coming thru across the plate which ends very nicely with some sweetened holiday spice action. If you took some black cherries and shoved them inside of a piece of fruit-cake, added in hints of pepper – you’d pretty much have this wine. Excellent finish that simply begs you to take another sip – I’d recommend putting on a seatbelt as this wine will certainly take your tastebuds on a killer journey.

Would pair great with:
– dark chocolate
– stinky cheeses
– BBQ Ribs

W.E.P. Score: 100%

Posted in California Wines, Port, ReviewsComments (0)

2006 Girasole Vineyards “Organic” Zinfandel

Winery Link: www.girasolevineyards.com
Winery Phone #:(707) 485-0322
MSRP: $13.00

There’s been a pretty big push over the last couple of years by some wineries to go organic – from the grapes to the type of yeast used. It sounds good on the surface, but really, when was the last time you had a stellar organic wine (seriously, email me and let me know) – dp (at) winefoot.com)?

Girasole Vineyards, based in Redwood Valley California, uses its own vineyards out of the Mendocino AVA and has been producing organic grapes since its founding in 1955. The folks behind the organic movement claim that it best represents the terroir of the region which I wouldn’t argue because certain chemicals and/or yeast products can influence the overall “terroir” profile.

I found this Zinfandel at a local store and thought I’d give it a whirl.

Technical Data;
Appellation: Mendocino
Fruit Composition: 100% Zinfandel
Harvest Brix: 22
Alcohol: 13.5%
Cases Produced: 1,673

Nose: Crimini mushrooms covered in plums and black cherries, bell pepper and white peppper and bacon fat.

Taste: Good fruit-foward action which seems to taper off a bit too quickly on the back-side of the mid palate. I get the pepper, blackberries and plums, however, the mouth-feel is too flimsy for me. The finish is way too short and a bit too hot.

Overall Summary:
There are other Zinfandel wines in this price range which are frankly more appealing to my palate and those would include some of the ones from Montevina and Rosenblum. If you have allergies to wine then this organic kind might be your ticket, however, if you want a better bottle of Zin for the money, it’s not hard to come by.

W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, ZinfandelComments (0)

2007 Ventana Gewurztraminer

Winery Website: www.ventanavineyards.com
Winery Phone #: 831-372-7415
MSRP: $16.00

Ventana Vineyards, located in the greater Monterey California area, has won so many awards for its vineyard that it literally is the most award-winning vineyard in the USA and this wine completely backs that up.

All to many people kick Gewurztraminer to the curb during the year and tend to only pick up a bottle during Thanksgiving – screw that. If you’re into the Thai-style cuisine or any sort of spicier foods then you really should be picking up more Gewurztraminer and enjoying it more often.

Technical Data:
Appellation: Arroyo Seco AVA – Monterey, California USA
Varietal: Gewürztraminer
Vineyard: 100% Estate Ventana Vineyard
Total Acidity .64 g/ 100ml
pH 3.30
Alcohol 13.5%

Nose: Holy Lord and all that’s pure, holy and sacred – there’s a TON of obnoxiously-good fruit going on here with mildew-laden footlocker with floods of pears, green apple, cinnamon and some lightly toasted pistachios – I’m also picking up hickory wood mixed with pear, lemon zest orange peel and apricot. Hints of cinnamon and nutmeg round out the back-end of the nose.

Taste: Excellent mouth feel with superb acidity and a great lingering finish..nice lemon-lime action on the back-end and some peach-skin. A huge, long finish that’ll still be there a week later – helping you feel the love.

Overall Summary:
Ventana has really made this wine extremely food friendly – it’s easily the best Gewurztraminer I’ve had, period – in fact, I’m not sure I can think of any that I’ve had recently which come close.

This wine absolutely rips it up and takes your senses for a joy-ride – there aren’t too many Gewurztraminer’s you can find that beg you to do nothing but sniff them for an hour before you even taste it.

So stop being a hater and enjoy a bottle of Gewurztraminer today – if you find the 07′ Ventana you and your palate will thank me.

W.E.P. Rating: 130%

Food I’d hit with this wine:
Spicy Thai
Turkey and gravy
Spicy sausage in a home-made mac&cheese
Roasted chicken in jerk rub

Posted in California Wines, Gewurztraminer, ReviewsComments (0)

2007 Whitman Cellars Viognier

Winery Link: www.whitmancellars.com
Winery Phone: 509-529-1142
Related Articles: Steve Lessard Interview

I really think that over the next 3-5 years we’ll see Viognier step up on a very national and global scale of being one of the big “go-to” grapes as a very food-friendly white wine choice. It has the complexity we love, the fruit we cherish and has tons of potential for even further greatness. Once more drinkers catch the “Viognier bug” we’ll see it really pick up. My wife and I have been diggin’ on Viognier for several years now – it really is the perfect migration wine for those who are burnt-out on Chardonnay.

Whitman Cellars in Walla Walla Washington has received a large number of accolades since it launched in 1998 by founders John Edwards and Larry * Sally Thomason. They hired winemaker, Steve Lessard in 2002 and haven’t looked back since.

Steve’s ability to churn out quality wines at the prices Whitman sells them for has proved to be a good model for the company overall as his efforts provide – what most folks think – is a good balance of quality and price. His background at top California producers like Stag’s Leap paved the way for his passion to take the best fruit he can get his hands on in Washington and make wines from that fruit that’ll strike a chord with people.

Technical Data:
*  Blend: 100% Viognier
*  Vineyard Source: Cougar Hills, Willard
*  Total Acidity: 0.68 grams/100ml
*  pH: 3.52
*  Alcohol: 13.8%
*  Aged for 2 months on New French Oak
*  Production: 497 Cases
*  Price: $19.00

Nose: Lemongrass with hints of marshmallows, lavender, Post Grape Nuts cereal, some beach sand and spice and Kiwi peel.

Taste: Grapefruit pulp, white concord grape skin, starfruit, kiwi and a hint of toasty lime. Incredibly clean finish which lingers quite nicely with spice and tropical fruits. Excellent balance of acidity, fruit and oak.

Overall Summary:
There will be some folks who don’t like this wine – the kind of folks who are now what I call “stainless purists” and that’s fine. Personally, I prefer low oak and this wine pleases me because it doesn’t have too much oak – just enough to give it that ever-so-slight texture and toastiness. It has a good mouthfeel, good flavors and would be a natural pairing for spicey foods and shellfish.

At $19 it’s priced at a point of many Washington Viogniers we see coming out right now and I fully understand that for most people,that’s a bit on the high side for their white wine purchases. However, I think it does a very good job of delivering “the goods” for its price and would easily recommend it to folks.

W.E.P. Score: 100%

Posted in Reviews, Viognier, Washington WinesComments (0)

WA vs CA – “Cheap Merlot” Shootout

This is a review I’ve actually been looking forward to for quite some time now and not because we’re dealing with cheap merlot here but because it’s WA vs. Cali. Washington produces more Merlot than any other red grape but California has been at it a lot longer. Both states have incredible wineries doing a really good job with this grape and each also have large-scale wineries which churn out wines for the cheap-skates.

For this review – I went to a local store and snatched up four bottles – two from each state and the only criteria is that they had to cost under $8 as we wanted to see what was possible from each state at this given price point.

I conducted each of these tastings completely blind in that I had someone else pour each wine and bring it out to me – one at a time, so I had no clue as to which wine I was drinking at the time.

2005 Hogue Cellars Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 10%

* The fruit was harvested between September 5th and October 24th at an average 24.7°Brix.
* The base wines fermented primarily with Pasteur Red yeast for an average of five days at a peak temperature of 91°F.
* After pressing they were all inoculated for malolactic fermentation and allowed to reach dryness with frequent racking.
* Once dry, the wines were aged, with oak exposure for up to ten months with the goal of preserving fruit and mellowing the wine.

Technical Data
* Appellation: Columbia Valley, Washington
* Varietal Percentages: 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot
* Brix at Harvest: 24.7°
* Total Acidity: 0.63/100 ml
* pH: 3.77
* Alcohol: 13.9% by volume
* Release Date: June 2006

Nose: Shoe polish, leather straps and blackberries and my dad’s smelly socks..

Taste: A really unbalanced effort that’s completely disjointed for me. It’s fruity, it’s dry and really makes me wish I had those 10-seconds of my life back… The tannins completely overpower the fruit here.

2004 “Two-Vines” Columbia Crest Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 70%

* Grapes were destemmed, crushed and inoculated to begin fermentation.
* Fermentation lasted 7-10 days on the skins, with a twice-daily pumpover regime.
* The wine aged 12 months in French and American oak barrels.

Technical Data
* Total acidity: 0.53 g/100ml
* pH: 3.66
* Alcohol: 13.50%

Nose: Dark plums and pepper-coated sued pants – some subtle hints of blueberry as well..

Taste: Cherry-coke without the fizz but mixed with white pepper and black raspberries and black plums. I also get the ramblings of some leather components as well and vanilla. Once again, the finish is too short and a bit too hot.

2003 St. George “Coastal” Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 70%

Technical Data
* Appellation: California
* Alcohol: 12.3%
* Total Acidity: .61gm/100ml
* pH: 3.4
* Residual Sugar: .20

Nose: Not a strong nose here – I do pick up hints of cherries and tobacco with a slight twinge of white chocolate.

Taste: Serviceable – plums, black raspberry with hints of fruity pebbles. I get some dill pickle action on the end with a hot, short finish.

2005 Bohemian Highway Merlot: W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Data
* Alcohol: 13%
* Residual Sugar: .5
* Total Acid: .63
* pH: 3.50

Nose: This wine has the most “grassy” smell out of the four – there’s some good vegetal action up in my grill like, tomato, asparagus and TONS of bell pepper. Blackberry and black plums round things out – this one definitely has the best nose of the bunch.

Taste: Will the person who left this piece of oak furniture in my glass please come forward? Huge vanilla notes which do come across as WAY over-oaked… Insane amounts of blueberry and blackberry for days.. Not a bad finish – it lingers on for a bit and isn’t too hot like the other wines. Nice peppery finish..

Overall Summary:
So I really wasn’t a huge fan of any of these four wines – the one I had the best hopes for, the Bohemian, has a tub of oak in it which killed it for me and the others were just rather uneventful. There are far too many other wines for the $8 mark which I’d easily gravitate to, the likes of most are from Argentina.

If you’re after an affordable Merlot then do yourself a favor and don’t be such a cheap-skate, spring for a couple more dollars or look to other producers and get something better.

Posted in Merlot, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2003 Mankas Cabernet Sauvignon

Winery Link

Whoever said we shouldn’t be drinking red wines during the warm months of summer was greatly mistaken! I love my reds year-around and in the spirit of that bring you my take on this 2003 Cab out of California. While there’s no doubt California does Zinfandel perhaps better than any other region in the world, the other king-grape that put California on the map back in its day was the noble Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cab is still one of the most sought-after of all the bordeaux grape varieties – especially here in the USA where we love our beef and want a delicious red wine to wash it down with.

One of the pitfalls all too many California producers have fallen into with this grape is finding ways to keep it tasty and affordable. The demand on the region’s cab and the fact that there is no more room to plant grapes in Napa have really driven the cost for most of them into the stratosphere. In fact, I was just reading a popular wine forum today where folks were complaining how they couldn’t find a good Napa-area Cab for anywhere under $30.

Mankas Hills Vineyards is aiming to cut right through that stereotype with its 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon made from its own estate vineyard. Located in eastern Napa, this winery specializes in making really good, affordable wines.

Technical Data:
Vintage: 2003
Appellation: Suisun Valley, California
Release Date: September 2004
Varietal: 100% from 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown at our vineyards
Ageing: 6 months in a mix of small French, European and American oak barrels
Brix at Harvest: 26
Alcohol: 13.9%
PH: 3.4
TA (titratable acidity): 5.7 g/l
Cases Produced: 3500
Winemaker: Jef Stebben
Price: $10

Nose: Cherry, raspberry and a vinyl beanbag chair, cedar plank and saddle soap with white pepper and rose petal and cocoa puffs for days. Slight hints of charred bell pepper and a Gym locker room.

Taste: Peppered cherries, blackberry jam and dark plum. There’s a good amount of vanilla as well from the oak and cedar box. It finishes off nice w/ black cherries and plums in a very dry fashion with good tannins. The mouth-feel is a bit thinner than what some may like in their cabs and that’s because it was only on oak for 6months.

Overall Summary:
A very solid bottle of wine for only $10 – yeah, I know it says $12 on the winery’s website, however, you should easily be able to find it for $10 at retail. This would make a very good table wine and glass pour at a restaurant. It has good structure and is pretty well balanced for its price range. If you’re at all a fan of Napa-style Cabs, want a “daily drinker” than seek this wine out.

Foods to pair with:
Cedar Plank Salmon
Prime Rib

W.E.P. Scale Rating: 120%

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, ReviewsComments (0)

Rose’ Round-up

We’re well into the throws of the 2008 summer and there are plenty of great reasons to keep reaching out for a glass of wine over beer; one of them is Rose’ (or Rosado). Depending on what part of the world these blush wines come from, they’ll be called either Rosado or Rose’ – both names imply the same thing – a blush-wine which screams summertime, picnics, patio parties and bbq.


Click image to enlarge

I got a hold of four bottles in this round-up, all of which are under the $15 mark (at the store) and should be somewhat accessable for most folks out there who are interested. This was a very fun review for me to do as it’s not too difficult to get talked into drinking crisp, dry wines on sunny days.

2007 Columbia Crest 2-Vine Vineyard 10 Rose': Price $8 W.E.P. Scale Rating: 90%

Columbia Crest looks to tap into the Dry Rose market by offering a very-well priced product that’s solid and is a very decent wine in its own right.

Technical notes:
– Grape Variety: Syrah
– Select Syrah fruit was de-stemmed and crushed into refrigerated tanks for a 24-hour cold soak to extract the desired color.
– The wine then underwent a long, cool fermentation.
– To enhance the fresh fruit aromatics, a small amount of stainless steel fermented Viognier was incorporated into the final blend.
– Total acidity: 0.74 g/100ml
– pH: 3.33
– Alcohol: 12.5%

Nose: Strawberries in dirt with a touch of cherry liquor and sweaty gym shirt. Star-burst candy.

Taste: Fresh strawberries with faint touch of lemondrop with obvious cherry components on the back end with hints of white-pepper. The finish seems to give up just before reaching the back of the palate – a bummer because the fruit-forwardness on this wine is pretty good.

2006 Mouton Cadet Rose’- Price: $10 W.E.P. Scale Rating: 90%

This wine comes from a huge, french wine producer and is made by the infamous Baron Philippe De Rothschild. It has extremely wide availability here in the USA and is priced in such a way that it sells very well.

Technical Notes:
– Grape Varieties:Merlot (65%), Cabernet Franc (20%) and Cab Sauv (15%)
– Vinification: The grapes are vatted and macerated on the skins for 12-24 hours. Alcohol fermentation at controlled temperatures is followed by partial malolactic fermentation.
– Appelation: Bordeaux, Bordeaux Superieur and premieres of Cotes De Bordeaux.

Nose: Some cherry kool-aid action on the nose – raspberries as well as hints of orange peel. A slight hint of medicine cabinet on the very back-end. A slight hint of medicine cabinet on the very back-end.

Taste: Nice, dry wine with floods of strawberries – some hints of cherry and grass-hay coming thru as well. Good, off-dry finish clealnly, however, not quite as long as i’d like for.

2007 Ventana Rosado: Price: $15 W.E.P. Scale Rating: 120%

Ventana Vineyards is located in the Monterey California area, has its own estate fruit and if this Rosado is any indication of its overall quality, then I’m very excited to keep a solid eye on these guys.

Technical Data:
– Appellation Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California USA
– Grape Variety: 90% Grenache, 10% Syrah
– Vineyard: 100% Estate Ventana Vineyard
– Barrel Selection: Neutral French Oak
– Total Acidity .65 g/ 100ml
– pH 3.32
– Alcohol 13.6%

Nose: Dried cherries, plums and apricot. Some nice granny footlocker action as well on the nose. Hints of raw venison as well. Some gravel dust.

Taste: Explosive cherries on the pallet, hints of caramel, watermelon and peach skin. A huge finish that lingers cherries for days. This wine absolutely rips and – to me – defines what a good Rose should taste like. I’d hit this up faster than Mike Tyson would host an ear-biting contest.

Los Rocas 2006 Rosado – Price: $9 W.E.P. Scale Rating: 20%

Straight out of Spain comes this affordable Rosado wine which has a trendy-label and has great color to it.

Technical Notes:
– Varietal: 100% Garnacha (Grenache)
– Vinification: Fermented in tank, bleed.
– Elevage: Aged in stainless steel for 5 months before bottling.
– Price: $9-$13

Strawberries and watermelon with white pepper – cantelope rine.

Taste: White pepper-laced watermelon with a hint of salt… Add in a floral strawberry component on the end and you have this wine – a very bone-dry finish; however, its extremely disjointed and a bit too “hot”.

Overall Summary and my picks:

My picks – in order would be the Ventana, the Mouton Cadet and Columbia Crest would tie – at this time, I’m going to pass on the Los Rocas. It was amazing to me how vastly superior Ventana’s 2007 Dry Rosado was to the competition. It was the only wine in the round-up which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up to attention just from its aroma – it’s too bad they don’t make a woman’s perfume from it.

As with any review on wine, you still owe it to yourself to try all of these wines as your palate is sure to differ from what I may like or dislike – always embrace your own palate.

Foods to go with these wines:
Cold Fried Chicken
Potato Salad
Any picnic foods

Posted in California Wines, French Wines, Reviews, Rosé, Rosé, Rosé, Washington WinesComments (0)

Jordan 2006 Chardonnay

Not to be at all confused with the infamous basketball player, Jordan winery was started by Tom Jordan in the Sonoma region of northern California back in 1972. Its owner has always held the ambition of making world-class wines from that region which would easily go toe-to-toe with the best in the world.

It’s that same spirit of drive that he and his winemaker, Rob Davis, share and try their best to have the wine they produce reflect that character. This was my first time with Jordan wines so I was – of course – delighted to check them out.

APPELLATION: 94.1% Russian River Valley / 5.9% Alexander Valley�
BLEND: 100% Chardonnay
PH: 3.38
BOTTLING DATES: June 12 – June 28, 2007
OAK: 100% French for 5 months
TIME AGED Sur Lie: 2 months

Nose: Mineral-covered lemon drops backed up with hints of pear and some melon rine.. Some toasted nuts do lace the background, however, don’t dominate the fruit coming through.

Taste: Layers of starfruit and lemon drop with slight hints of toastiness.. This is a lightly-oaked chardonnay which really lets the full fruit still be the rock-star. Hints of key-lime pie..edlerberry.

It’s a solid effort by Jordan, however, it’s nothing you can’t find in other Chardonnay’s below it’s pricetag. For $30, I’d rather have two bottles of Terra Blanca Chardonnay. If you can find this for around $20, I’d give it a go, however, at its price of $29, it just doesn’t have enough to win me over.

W.E.P. Scale Rating: 70%

Posted in California Wines, Chardonnay, ReviewsComments (0)

2004 Brutocao Quadriga Hopland Ranches

I must admit, this is my first experience with a wine which features both barbera and Dolcetto grapes – so far I’m really enjoying what it offers. Straight from the heart of Italy, comes this small, family winery with a big heart and a huge passion for producing wines which reflect the owner’s homeland, Brutocao Cellars – based in Hopland California – makes a wide variety of wine and has a great emphasis of developing wines which stay true to their traditions.

Blend – 35%Sangiovese, 31% Primitivo, 18% Barbera and 16% Dolcetto
Alcohol: 13.9%

Nose: Deep cherry and fresh blueberry smell mixed with a touch of shoe leather doused in baby powder and vanilla.

Taste: Explosive cherries, blueberries and charcoal – rounded off with milk chocolate. Very well balanced across the mid-palate and rounds out to a good, long, lingering finish.

I really like this wine a lot – it’s one of the more interesting ones I’ve had lately and that’s mainly because of its rather disitinct blend of excellent italian grapes. For under $24, this wine is a complete no-brainer for me when I think of an excellent Italian-style red wine to go with any great pasta dish.

It has the complexity in wine I love, a long finish and an excellent overall mouthfeel. There are not many Italian wines I’ve had in this price-range which can match what Brutocao has been able to pull off here.

All of this, of course, is my opinion and you should really seek this wine out and try it yourself – embrace your palate as it’s the only one you have.

Would go good with:
– Veal meatballs with marinara sauce
– Lasagna
– Spaghetti
– Veal Marsala

Posted in California Wines, Dolcetto, Primitivo, Reviews, SangioveseComments (2)

Zinfandel – WA vs. CA – QPR

One of my favorite food and wine pairings is big, bold, jammy Zinfandel with my home-made fajita’s. The offset flavor components and complimentary ones of both – to me – are one of the best pairings going. Think of grilled peppers and onions with cumin and coriander topped with your favorite meat (we use chicken and skirt steak). Then add in a huge jam-berry-peppercorn flavor from Zinfandel and you’ve got it.

raven_maryhill_back_05_s.jpg raven_maryhill_front_05_s.jpg

There’s no question that Zinfandel is indeed California’s darling grape – even more so to me than Cabernet Sauvignon and here’s why. They’ve been growing it longer than anyone else and by all accounts have almost perfected the process. The vines they have down there are older than sin and quite frankly create some of the most complex new-world wines I’ve ever had. There’s something about Zin that really rocks my boat and more importantly, my palate.

If you’ve been watching my latest interviews with several winemakers from the state of WA, then you’ve probably noticed question to them regarding WA as having the ability to produce Zinfandel on a truly competitive nature. It seems right now the thoughts are about 50/50 – some feel we can do it while others think of areas like Lodi County as being the cornerstone of that grape variety.

Maryhill 2005 Zinfandel – $14-$19
I happened to have snagged a case of Maryhill Zinfandel last year from my local wine shop and had a bottle that’s been laying down since that time – the 2005 Zinfandel which I really didn’t care for much at first in contrast to the 2004’s we’ve had from them.


I reviewed its Proprietors Reserve awhile ago and thought it completely rocked it out of the park – so today, I’m going for a more QPR (Quality – price – ratio) with their “cheaper” Zinfandel which you can easily find for under $20 – I think I paid about $14.

This wine was made using 30% new French Oak and 70% French/American Oak which were 1yr old. It has a rated Alcohol of 15.5% which is very typical for Zinfandel. There were 1900 cases made, so availability should be very good – ask your local wine ship to order it or simply call the winery.

Nose: blackberry jam, peppercorn, baseball mitt leather, black cherry, tar.

Taste: Explosive tar-dipped blackberry jam and spice.. great finish that lingers longer than I thought it would. little bit of heat on the backend but it’s reasonably balanced.

Maryhill Zin Impressions:
I’m really glad I had a bottle of this which had some more age on it as I think it was entirely way too immature last year compared to what I’m feelin’ about it now. This wine is a serious contender and is one you need to really seek out and compare it to the likes of what CA is doing. It has a great finish and I’d hit it all day long with BBQ Ribs, pulled-pork, Fajita’s, and smoked meats.

Ravenswood 2005 “Old Vine” Zinfandel – Lodi County – $15
Ravenswood has been producing wines since the 1970s and has done a remarkable job of kicking out wines which are affordable and tasty while also doing some “higher-end” stuff to boot.

I know there are wine-snobs out there who’d turn their nose at this stuff and in the spirit of full-disclosure, I was one of them. Comon, a “grocery-store” brand? Really? I hadn’t give Ravenswood a good, concerted try for awhile as my last experience with them was less-than-positive. But like wine, people change, our palate’s chagne – the entire wine experience is one that’s chocked full of change – embrace it.


Ravenswood actually does a blending process for this wine which consists of 84% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Sirah and 2% “mixed blacks”. Kind of sneaky, but I think the overall flavor profile is going to appeal to those who are new to Zin and may not appreciate having their palate’s ass kicked quite as hard by something like the Maryhill.Nose: Jammy, Peppercorned cherries on top of shoe leather with hints of tobacco and menthol

Taste: Tastes like it smells – completely… Huge cherry component with peppercorn, chocolate and shoe leather. The tobacco hits on the back-end of the palate. Jammy. Nice finish but it doesn’t seem to hang out quite as long as the Maryhill Zin.

Ravenswood Impressions:
This is a very fruity wine when tasted side-by-side ot the Maryhill – it’s so ripe with cherries and strawberries that it almost reminds me of a Cabernet in that aspect. It does have some of the jamminess I adore in Zin as well as a slight vegitel component. I can see this wine having a broader appeal to the folks who lend a bit more old-world. It’s not near the powerhouse as the Maryhill but a very enjoyable wine nonetheless.

The Final Word:
Each one of these wines brings some great Zinfandel goodness to the able – but for me and where I’m at right now, I’d take the Maryhill. I really appreciate it’s ability to tackle your tastebuds quicker than Michael Jackson does little boys. It can easily power through any hearty southwest-inspired foods, a hearty peppercorn steak or – if you’re up to the challenge – on its own merits.

If you’re new to Zins and want a good first entry into the wonderful world of what they’re all about then I’d easily recommend the Ravenswood Lodi County – it’s super smooth mouth-feel – I know – will cater to a broader audience.

This little test showed to me that Washington can compete when it comes to Zinfandel and do a great job of it. If you have access to both of theses wines, I’d highly encourage you to try them both – then you can go with me on what’s been a fun journey of two excellent wine regions producing a slightly different style of one of my favorite red grapes.

Foods I’d pair with these:
BBQ anything
Steaks with a peppercorn reduction
Smoked meats
Tex-mex foods

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, Washington Wines, Zinfandel, ZinfandelComments (3)