Archive for April, 2011

26
Apr
11

saturday at martinelli winery

So, it’s Saturday we got up early to partake in the free breakfast fare at our hotel before heading off to Sonoma for our visit to Martinelli Winery. I had my route all mapped out and so off we went. After our first encounter with Mayacamas mountain roads last year it was decided that we’d head down and around and then up the 12, however my GPS had other ideas and continued to force me over to the 101 via 116. Now, this was our first time venturing into Sonoma beyond Sonoma Square, so in the end I let my GPS be the guide. But soon enough the large red barn of Martinelli revealed itself from behind the trees and we knew we had arrived.We were scheduled for their VIP tour at 11:00am and we eventually arrived at just about 20 past! We were warmly greeted and taken to the tour already in progress. The day was beautiful, warm and sunny with some morning clouds still hanging around, but no rain in sight! The tour started at the foot of the Giuseppe and Luisa vineyard. We were then taken over towards the crush pad where they talked about their process of harvesting, processing, and making of the wines, interlaced with wonderful family stories.


We tasted a lot of fantastic wines, 8 or 9 in total if a recall but our favorites were the 2009 “Vigneto di Evo” Zinfandel, which was a big bold and juicy zin, with tones of black fruit flavours and just the right amount of sweet tobacco spice. The tannins are really quite smooth and help to round this juice out. It’s a great entry-level bottle (only $30 and 627 cases produced) for those who love a darn good Martinelli zin!


We enjoyed our’s back at the hotel!

Our other favorite was the 2008 “Zio Tony Ranch” Pinot Noir. This pinot brings both power and grace to the table. The nose is warm and welcoming with notes of baking spice mingling with aromas of red cherries and plum. The palate is treated to a full-bodied array of ripe raspberry and black cherries. Once this one opens up the tannins really integrate into the whole structure and are smooth and silky. The finish reveals the hints of vanilla-oak from a year of sitting in 75% new French Oak barrels with it’s gross lees and lasts forever! We saved our bottle for Easter Diner and had it with a traditionally prepared Spiral cut ham that was marinated overnight with pineapple and 7up and then slow roasted with a brown sugar glaze. The pairing, in my opinion, was divine!

All of the wines were fantastic but then again with Helen Turley and Bryan Kvamme behind the winemaking you really can’t go wrong! If you’re ever out that way you really need to pay them a visit!

18
Apr
11

a day at failla

Our trip to Wine Country began early Friday morning as we checked out of our hotel in Fisherman’s Wharf and into an estate car back to the airport to pick up the rental car (one of the limitations of booking with United Miles). From there it was a fairly easy drive over the Bay Bridge and up I80 through Oakland, with a quick job over to 29. We stayed at the new Best Western Ivy Hotel at the northern end of Napa. After we checked in and got settled we headed to our first winery of the trip: Failla. This a beautiful little winery nestled at the base of the mountains in the Northeastern corner of St. Helena off the Silverado Trail.When we arrived we were greeted like old friends. On the walls of the entry way stood proud but empty reminders of festive holiday parties past, including old Failla Jordan labels (would have loved to have been able try one of those Syrahs!). We were taken into what will eventually be the living room of the family home once the new caves and tasting rooms are completed just up the hill. The feeling was very warm and cozy with a large river rock fireplace and a decidedly Adirondack feel!


The river rock fire place.


A view if the porch.

We were to be joined by one other couple, so while we waited we were poured some of their 2009 Sonoma Coast Chard, which was just lovely with nice pear notes and a lovely and crisp acidic finish. Since Erhen Jordan spent quite a bit of time making wine in Rhone, his wines are decidedly Old World in personality with a nice balance of New World terroir. We were also treated to a taste of their very limited production (185 cases) 2009 Edna Valley Viognier, Alban Vineyard, of which the French Laundry gets but one case! It had a wonderfully floral nose and bright yet round palate and clean finish. I would have bought a bottle if they had any! Once the other couple arrived we got to revisit the Chard and tasted two Pinots and a Syrah.


The Chard and Viognier.

Both of the Pinots were exceptional. The first to be tasted was the 2009 Sonoma Stage that had a nose of autumn leaf and spice, with a rich, lush and spicy palate. The tannins were silky smooth and the finish lingered on like a fond memory of camping on a brisk fall weekend. The second Pinot we tasted (and the one we brought home) was the 2007 Peay Vineyard, which hails from the Sonoma Coast near Mendocino. The nose was ripe with spiced cherries and hints of leafy smoke. The mouth was treated to a lush palate of red fruits and velvety tannins and a finish that brings tart cranberry and crisp strawberry flavours. The last wine we tasted was the 2009 Phoenix Ranch Syrah, which I absolutely loved with it’s big warm nose of spiced dark fruits and sweet tobacco leaf and rich palate of plum and blackberries, aggressive tannins and velvety chocolate finish.


The tasting line up.


The spoils of tasting.


Sipping the Peay Vineyard pool side.


The Estate Chardonnay enjoyed at home.

If ever there was a way to kick off a weekend in wine country this was definitely it and we can’t wait to return. Not only to taste more of Failla’s wonderful wines but also see the new caves and perhaps sit on the inviting porch and sip some vino in the crisp and clean St. Helena air. Visit them online at Failla Wines

18
Apr
11

an 89 for fog crest’s laguna west pinot noir

There’s nothing better, more gratifying than to find a write-up of one’s favourite wine in any respected wine publication. Thus was the case with my beloved 2008 Fog Crest Laguna West Pinot Noir, which received a respectable 89 point score in the latest edition of Wine Spectator!

15
Apr
11

A reflection on a visit to Fog Crest

I have been back in Chicago for almost two weeks now, yet my mind and my soul (and my heart) are still on that warm and sunny hillside in southern Russian River Valley. I’m standing with my family at the head of a row of Chardonnay vines looking out over the valley sprawling before us into the sunny distance. The rows upon rows of vines – just at the point of bud break – roll and undulate in parallel unison with the land. There’s a gentle afternoon breeze whispering softly through the pine trees on the hill behind us that cools the back of my neck. I can smell the warm earth under my feet and the glass of Chardonnay we’re drinking suddenly becomes the perfect summation of where we are. What could be better than the perfect wine at the perfect moment? It is soul soothing and spirit lifting when such a connection is made between the wine lover, the wine and the land where it came from. That, to me any way, is the essence of true terroir – it is a connection, it is a transportation of mind, spirit and soul, and in some cases of body. Everything makes perfect sense. Everything becomes crystal clear and the wine not only tells a story but draws you in and makes you a part of the story to the point where the story becomes yours – yours to continue and to share.

13
Apr
11

2008 Fog Crest Laguna West Pinot Noir

2008 Fog Crest, Laguna West, Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

Spicy red berries, blackberries and cherry cola (ala Dr. Pepper) on the nose with hints of vanilla oak and baking spices. Lovely medium bodied palate full of darker fruit cola flavors balanced by a silky smooth tannic structure, warm oaky notes and ribbons of white chocolate that lead into a long and satisfying finish of chocolate covered strawberries. There’s a nice level of acidity that keeps the overall character of this pinot on the lighter more elegant side to pair well with lighter dishes while still remaining bold and confident enough to hold up to more robust dishes.*

We had the first bottle with pasta shells with spinach, homegrown sun-dried tomatoes, roastrd whole clove garlic and peas in an arrabiata sauce and the match was made in heaven.

*Just a sidenote on these tasting notes for the second bottle, which was poured through our Vinturi aerator into the decanter while the first bottle was decanted without the use of the Vinturi. The first glass of the first bottle was still a bit tight but did open up nicely after a half hour or so…just in time for dinner! The first glass from the second bottle was amazingly smooth, like the last glass from the first bottle, and only got better as it sat in the decanter.

11
Apr
11

2007 Fog Crest Estate Bottled Chardonnay

So the first bottle to be cracked is one of the 2007 Fog Crest chards.
Beautiful bright nose full of lovely tropical fruits hints of hazel nut, oak and cool stoney minerality. The mouth is treated to more crisp yellow fruit flavors with more touches of oak and hazel nut. The finish is long and structured with some warm peach notes, lovely acidity and minerality.
 
I thought I prefered the bigger rounder whites but this one left me breathless. The balance of lush fleshy fruits and the cooler nuances of the stoney minerality, that recalls memories of sitting stream side just after a spring rain, and the crisp acidity really made me rethink what my palate really wanted. This chard is an old world style for the new world lover and vice vera. There is just enough of the toasty oak and hazelnut notes to keep the balance and structure in near perfect harmony. This first of the two bottles we brought back was paired with finger foods such as spinach and artichoke dip, cheese quesadillas and loaded fries with cheese and giardiniera. The toasty elements complimented the creamy elements of the food, while the minerality and acidity offered a nice contrast to the spicier elements. The second bottle was paired with blackened tilapia and sweet potato mash and again the warm toasty notes complimented while the acidity and structure brought contrast.

05
Apr
11

Fog crest vineyards

The Highlight of the weekend for us, hands down, was Fog Crest, sitting on the hill off Occidental Road in the Russian River Valley! After being stopped by a fill-in postal worker wanting a signature for a package, we continued down a gravel drive that wound its way through the vineyards.


There we were greeted by Jim Manoogian, one half of the husband/wife owner/vintners team! It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the 70’s and barely a cloud in the sky! He started us of with the first of two Chards and then walked us down to the vines where the chard grapes are grown and bud break was in full force.

We tasted both the 2007 Laguna West and 2007 Estate Vineyard Chardonnay. The Laguna West was a richer and rounder chard with lush pear falvours intermingled with hints of peach and baking spices that led into a nice mild and toasty hazelnut finish with a pleasant touch of crisp acidity. The Estate Vineyard chard was a bit more old world in style exhibiting lemon floral and soft hazelnut aromas on the nose that led into a palate of crisp apple and citrus notes on a cool base of minerality and nuanced oak flavours. The finish was warm and bright with just the right amount of cool acidity

We then headed back to the barrel room to taste the pinots. With glasses in hand Jim lead us over to the upper estate pinot vines, where he talked about their pruning process and how they will eventually drop double buds.

Here we tasted the 2008 Laguna West Pinot Noir that welcomed you in with a warm and spicy nose with notes of dark and bright cherry cola. The palate was rich and smooth with a base of silky smooth tannins supporting a chorus of ripe red berry fruit flavours accompanied by nuances of anise and lush plum. The finish added more dark fruit and cola flavours that tapered slowly off with light acidity.

Once we were hooked Jim then capped off our tour with a barrel tasting, or thieving as he called it! My very first! He treated us to a preview of their 2010 Upper Estate Pinot Noir that was barreled last October. Though it was still young with lots of green notes you could tell that this was going to develop into a very lush and complex wine as it was already exhibiting the signature berry flavours and soft structure of the 08 Laguna West.

After all was said and done we walked away with two bottles each of the 07 Estate Chard and the 08 Laguna West Pinot and I guarantee we will be ordering more! If you get a chance I highly recommend that you try to visit them! http://www.fogcrestvineyard.com/