Yes, it is 26 minutes long and very few of you are going to have the dedication for that. And don’t think I am trotting this out as a slam-dunk on the argument. Just an interesting piece about 5 years old which needs to be dredged out occasionally. Nothing ground-shaking here–more about marketing than anything. Anyone who has ever had a 1985 Napa Cab and a 2005 Napa Cab and a 2015 Napa Cab and wondered what happened should watch this. Anyone who enjoyed Sonoma Zinfandel in the 90’s and has tried Paso Robles Zinfandel today should watch this. It is in-depth enough the serious wineNerds will enjoy it and if it just plants the seed of “Why?” in the minds of the not-so-wineDork, then I have done my job. Read your labels, people.
Here is the video:
I think the video does a good job of defining the territory – and, perhaps as was noted, the younger generation (Millennials) and beyond will move to new ways of discovering wine. And remember, the oldest Millennials are nearly 40. That said, if the Parker favored style is not to your taste, there are plenty of options – but you will have to become educated about them.
As I often say in this blog – wine is about enjoyment, and the depth of knowledge of any wine lover only needs to be sufficient to allow the level of enjoyment desired. We don’t need to be experts to enjoy wine, but it is good to have information like this as wine consumers.
The other day, I was joined by Sonic Nourishment (LINK) musicians Erika Luckett and Lisa Ferraro for a day in western Sonoma for some wine tastings and lunch. It was a perfect day weatherwise, and we began with a drive out to Iron Horse Vineyards (LINK)near Sebastopol.
Known for their sparkling and white wines, Iron Horse consists of just over 100 acres of vineyards. We opted for two tastings, with Lisa getting the sparkling wines and me getting the white wines (Erika was our designated driver). The sparklers were all well-crafted (with the exception of one that turned out to be a bad bottle – when we pointed it out to the tasting room personnel, another one was opened, which was fine). I am not a huge sparkling wine fan, but I do appreciate the bubbly from time to time, and these were all very drinkable to me. Lisa said that she was overall less impressed than on a prior visit to Iron Horse.
The whites, all Chardonnays, were equally well-crafted, especially the 2012 Rued Clone Chardonnaywhich was especially well-crafted with a nose of white fruit – pears and apples – with a hint of caramel. Very nice. We did not taste any of their Pinot Noirs, saving our strength for the long day ahead.
One note – the tasting notes pages at Iron Horse said nothing about the wines, only naming some suggested food pairings. Since there was no food available, I did not find this very helpful. On the other hand, the tasting room staff was very helpful and paid attention to everyone.
Next, we headed into Healdsburg (LINK) for lunch and to hit a couple of tasting rooms there.
After a healthy lunch at the Oakville Grocery, we headed over to Banshee Wines(LINK), for some Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc,Pinot Noir, a Cabernet and a red blend. Banshee sources fruit from a number of Sonoma coastal and inland vineyards. They produce wines that are more Californian than Burgundian in style, which is not surprising. Lisa and I each did their basic tasting (there is also a reserve tasting), of three Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs. They were all well-crafted and very good (think somewhere between oaky and stainless steel for the Chardonnays; the reds were very nice with one exception – The 2013 Mordecai Red Blend, made up of 9 varietals, had such an off-putting nose (think swampy) that neither Lisa nor I could get to the tasting. We asked the tasting room staff if this was a bad bottle, and were told that it was fine. We dumped that one.
Otherwise, the Banshee Wines that we tasted were enjoyable. Like many smaller producers in the area, their price points are a bit high for the average buyer – but if you like the wines, you will buy them.
Our final stop of the day (we needed to beat the traffic back to the East Bay), was Thumbprint Cellars (LINK), whose tasting room is just off the square in Healdsburg. I had some of their wines a couple of years back, when they were regularly featured on the Wines Till Sold Out (www.WTSO.com) site, and liked them very much. When I mentioned that to the tasting room staff, I was told that those were special blends made just for WTSO at the time.
We started with their 2013 Arousal white blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, a floral nose, very rich mouth feel, and smooth finish on this one. We also tasted the 2011 Climax red blend, a mix of 44% Syrah, 26% Merlot,
20% Zinfandel, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Viogner. This one is very smooth and complex (as you might imagine), but well-balanced. Very nice. I brought a bottle of this one home; so did Lisa. The 2011 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon was everything you would want in a Sonoma Cab – rich, spicy, bold, and lots of dark fruit, but with an elegance that is so often missing in “big” wines.
So that was our day in Western Sonoma. Like all such tasting outings, we had a great time and missed a lot of wineries. But that gives us something to go back for.
The For Sale sign is up in front of the house. Dozens of folks are streaming through our completely staged home – meaning that it looks pretty much like we don’t live here. Every morning, we hide all of the evidence of our occupancy and we depart whenever the realtor notifies us that a showing is happening. Fortunately, that has been happening very regularly of late.
We will be heading to Europe for a while, no fixed address, probably for most of 2015 and maybe beyond. I am looking forward to sampling more of the wines of Spain, France, Germany, and Austria (at a minimum), but what to do about our wines in our home cellar?
Now, when I say “cellar,” I should note that we live in a suburban tract house. No basement. Our “cellar” consists of a number of stashes around the house, where lighting is minimal and temperature is fairly steady. The really good stuff is in a wine refrigerator in the garage, but there are bottles on a rack in our utility closet, another rack in a hallway, another on the cabinet in our dining room (French only!), and more on a small rack built into our kitchen breakfast nook.
When the move was being planned, we had about 350 bottles in total. We rented a locker at CELLAR MASTERS in Newbury Park, CA, where we put a dozen cases right away and where the remainder will go when we leave.
The focus now is on drinking wines that will not age well, or that are at or near their peak now. We are also supplementing with some purchases of whites, which we do not tend to keep over time for the most part. Our wines are mostly from California, with the Central Coast and Napa and Sonoma well-represented; plus a couple of cases of French wines, and a few Australians and one or two from British Columbia’s Okanagan Region.
So, our case of ARTISTE wines, our CLENDENDEN FAMILY WINES and the AU BON CLIMAT are being consumed, as are our STOLPMAN and some CABERNETS. Our French wines, mostly Bordeaux, will age well, as will the Burgundies. We will keep some of the newer CLOS PEPE Pinots, which should last a few years, and we will have a lot of assorted CABERNETS and MERLOTS from California to keep.
I expect that we will be down to about 200 bottles when we depart sometime in mid to late February. At some point, we will likely have the wines shipped from the storage facility to wherever we land, or sell it off. It is both fun and a bit sad to be consuming some of the bottles that we obtained from the wineries or through friends. But, there are worse things that one has to do, right?
Last week, our friend Mary Stec held the first of a series of cooking classes at her home. Dorianne went over to do dishes as the evening progressed. I, of course, offered to be wine steward, assuming that we would be pouring Richard (Mary’s husband and our wine co-op winemaker) Clark’s wine.
Dorianne and I arrived a bit before the students and I examined the bottles of wine co-op red wine that Richard had set out. There were red blends, a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Syrah. Once everyone arrived, I poured them each a glass and Richard and I headed down to the den to await further instructions, expecting that as each course (Tuscan Autumn Cooking) was completed, we would receive a sampling.
Did I mention that Richard and I were drinking, well, let’s say different wine from the folks upstairs. I brought a 2007 Au Bon Climat White Table Wine, which was not chilled and had been stored in the refrigerator. Richard told me to select a wine from several cases that he had recently obtained – cases of VERY nice wines. I pulled a 2009 Kistler Cuvee Elizabeth Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Bottle #16586; you know, something nice, but not at the top level of what was in those cases, so as not to appear greedy.
So we opened the Kistler – heaven! We sat back to watch a football game. The wine went down smoothly, but, after a glass or two, I began to wonder when the morsels of food from the cooking class would arrive. I asked Richard about it, but he was clearly on orders not to disturb the goings-on in the kitchen for ANY reason. So we finished the Kistler.
After a few minutes of sitting with empty glasses, I boldly went up to the kitchen, circled through the living room so as not to walk through the class, and entered the back near the refrigerator. Nothing resembling completed food was in evidence. Coolly, I slipped the Au Bon Climat from the refrigerator and retraced my circuitous steps to the lower den. We opened the bottle and basked in the explosion of perfectly aged wine with strong fruit, great structure, and nearly perfect balance. Food, what food?
Oh, food – getting hungry – it’s almost 8:30. Not even an appetizer in site. A friend, Keith, taking the class, passes through the den on the way to the rest room. “Food?” we ask. “You want some food? Sure.” So after completing his mission, Keith goes upstairs and gets us some crackers and a kind of cheese dip. We are in good shape.
The Au Bon Climat is soon almost gone, and we are called upstairs to pour wine for the dinner. After completing that duty, we again retire to the den with plates heaping with amazing Tuscan delicacies. We finish the white wine and the evening is declared a success.
Oh, I’m fine with no one at the cooking class knowing that we did not drink the co-op wines. AND I want to stress, that my commentary in no way indicates anything negative about Mary’s Cooking Classes – they are amazing.