Provence. Cassis and Bandol. Chapter 1

You may be familiar with Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy but, have you heard of Cassis?  Not many people know that Cassis was the first Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée in France.  So, it is only fair that we begin our adventure in Provence, in Cassis.  We stayed in a cute farm-house surrounded by vineyands, in the valley between the Medieval towns of Le Castellet and La Cadiere d’ Azure.  Our friends, Kim and Todd found the house on VRBO.  It is in the heart of Bandol and the perfect location for our base of operation.

Le Castellet

Le Castellet

 

 

 

Cassis Harbor

Cassis Harbor

 

 

Cassis is located on the French Riviera.  It has some nice beaches and it  is  surrounded by cliffs known as the Calanques.  The Calanques provide spectacular views of private beaches only accessible by boat.

Calanques

Calanques

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wines of Cassis

The red and rosé wines are Grenache based blends, with Syrah and Cinsault.  The white wines are a blend of Ugni Blanc, Clairette, Marsanne and Rollé.

Domaine du Bagnol.  White wine: Marsanne, Clairette and Ugni Blanc, aged in stainless steel.  This one reminded me of a Sauvignon Blanc from Cuvasion, Napa Valley.  The rosé is 48% Grenache, 34% Mourvedra and 18% Cinsault.  Domaine Bangol produces 100,000 bottles per year.  Our next stop was Domaine du Paternel.

Domaine du Paternel produces approximately 450,000 bottles per year.  They produce a GSM + Cinsault and Rollé aged in stainless steel.  Their Blanc de blanc is a blend of Clairette, Marsanne, and Ugni Blanc.  Their red is a blend of Grenache and Mourvedra aged for one year in oak.  Our final stop of the day was at Le Moulin de la Roque.

Moulin de la Roque was established in 1950 and it is located in the AOC of Bandol.  They produce 1.3 million bottles per year.  They are a co-op of different vineyard owners.  They bottle under five different labels to showcase their five different terriors.   In the Bandol AOC, the red and rosé wines has to be a minimum of 50% Mourvedra.  The Blanc is made of Ugni Blanc and Clairette.  The rosé is Mourvedra, Grenache and Cinsault.  The red is 90% Mourvedra, 10% Carignan.  They have a second blend of 95% Mourvedra and 5% Carignan.  I found the Mourvedra in this region to have a lot of minerality , lite fruit hints and tannins from the mid pallet to a short finish.  Our host was Tim, was kind enough to give us a tour of their facility.

Moulin de la Roque

Moulin de la Roque

We ended the day with fine dining at a Michelin Star restaurant Todd found.  Le Goguette is located in the Medieval town of Le Castellet.  Dinner was superb.  Wine with dinner was Domaine Richaud ,Cairanne 2015.  A well balanced blend of Claret, Bourboulenc, Roussane, Vigonier and Marsanne.  The red was from La Sagesse.  A blend of 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah.  I highly recommend Le Goguette and Domaine Richaud’s Cairanne 2015.  Perfect paring.

Carrot puree with lemon vinegar. Artichoke with mushroom and carrot puree. Fras Gras with strawberries and basil. poisson of snapper. Chocolate cake with ginger ice cream.

Carrot puree with lemon vinegar. Artichoke with mushroom and carrot puree. Fras Gras with strawberries and basil. poisson of snapper. Chocolate cake with ginger ice cream.

Au Revoir for now.

Silverado Trail Challenge 2017

Last year I had high hopes of visiting half of the wineries  on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley.  Unfortunately, that lofty  goal was not realized….not even close. But, 2017 is a new year and an early start. The rest of the our group had prior plans and could not start the wine adventure just yet.  I am sure they will join me on the next excursion. So, I grabbed a couple of friends that never say no, we all need friends like that. And we headed up to Napa Valley.  Our first stop was Judd’s Hill.

Judd"s Hill

Judd”s Hill

Judd's Hill

Judd’s Hill

 

Judd’s Hill is by appointment only so, call ahead.  We didn’t know that when we arrived.  We were met by a staff member who politely told us they were by appointment and they did not have an opening until 3 pm.  A current release tasting is $25 and a Reserve tasting is $45.   It was 1 pm when we arrived.  He then offered to pour for us on the patio.  Fortunately for us, there was a break in the weather and it was a beautiful day.  A little chilly but beautiful non the less.  We accepted his kind offer and sat down by an outdoor heater.  His polite kindness and the quality of their wine would earn them a new wine club member.  The first wine he poured was their 2013  Reserve Chardonnay.  I have to admit that I am not a big Chardonnay fan but this one was exceptional.  It was fruit forward and not buttery.  It had aromas of citrus and pear, and was lightly oaken.  At $50 it is an expensive Chardonnay.  The price point reflexes how unique this Chardonnay is.  The next one was their 2009 Meritage.  The Meritage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petite Verdot.  Black cherry jam notes on the front, light oak, and a hint of vanilla on the finish.  Also $50.   2012 Syrah.  Well balanced acids and tannin’s with notes of Blackberry, jam and tobacco. $42.

We were treated to an additional tasting of their 2013 ZSM.  If you like a well balanced, complex and layered wine, with dark berry fruit,  and balanced tannins, You will love this one.  It had to come home with me.  $40.   2011 Founder’s Art Reserve Cabernet.  I found it to be a complex and full bodied wines.  Well balanced with notes of dark berry fruit.  $85.  I have to admit, I enjoyed every wine we tasted.  Which is very unusual and a credit to the quality of wine being made at Judd’s Hill.  The price points are in the range of  wines in Napa Valley.  These wines are exceptional and I look forward to another tasting flight.

Regusci Winery

Regusci Winery

 

Next up, Regusci Winery.  Well, you would have thought we would have learned from our experience at Judd’s Hill, to call ahead.  Regusci Winery is also by appointment.  Lucky for us, they were also gracious enough to accommodate us.  The tasting room has a great vib and it was an enjoyable experience tasting there.  The first wine on the list was the 2013 Merlot.  Black berrry and black cherry on the tongue with notes of tobacco and chocolate.  Full bodied and well balanced. $55.  2013 Syrah.  Full bodied, well-balanced with black berry fruit and smooth finish.  $60.  The Elder’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Full body,  Black berry fruit with notes of vanilla, typical tannin structure and spice on the finish. $65.  2013 Patriarch. The Patriarch is a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  I experienced aromas of red fruit, charred oak, smoke and coffee.  On the palate you may experience red fruit, leather and vanilla. $90.  Angelo’s  2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is a big full-bodied Cab with bold dark fruit and tannin’s.  $140.  The wines were enjoyable but, the price points were a little more than what I would feel comfortable paying.

Regusci Winery

Regusci Winery

 

All in all, not a bad start for 2017.  Stay tuned for the next stop on the trail.

Salute

 

 

Sonoma Getaway

Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros

I found a Sonoma getaway on Groupon and booked the date.  With great anticipation,  Hill and I loaded up the Monsters and headed up to Sonoma to experience their wines and hospitality.  We stayed at the dog friendly Best Western Plus Sonoma Valley Inn.  It was an above average room located within walking distance of the town square.  There was a dog park and walking trail right off of 1st St. W., also within walking distance.  You can spend the whole day at the tasting rooms just off the square.  We found one of our favorites from Healdsburg had opened a tasting room of the square.  MacLaren Tasting Lounge has some of the best Syrahs I have tasted.

On the drive up to Sonoma from the bay area our first stop was at Domaine Carneros.  Hill loves the bu20140223_125007bbly and Domaine Carneros was a recommended stop.  I enjoyed the Brut rose. It was fruity, flora with a hint of tangerine on the finish.

We left Domaine Carneros and drove across the street to Cuvaison.  What an unexpected surprise. Our Pour Guild was Pina, Patty, and Paul.  They were awesome. Very attentive, knowledgeable, Personable.  I learned a lot about Cuvaison wines from them and from tasting.  Their 2011 Kite Tail Chardonnay has aromas of citrus, popcorn and butter, with mineral, lite fruit and floral notes on the tongue.  The 2012 Estate Pinot Noir was floral on the nose, with raspberry, strawberry and a little spice on the tongue.  Tannins and acidity balanced remarkably. One of my favorites.  The 2011 Brandlin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is 85% Cab, 9% Petite Verdot, 6% Cab Franc.  It has good legs, nice black cherr20140223_141017y color and lots of dark fruit on the tongue.  It is well balanced with hints of caramel and toffee. 2011 Estate Syrah has long legs and deep dark color.  It is smokey, peppery with hints of bacon and black cherry and supportive tannins.  2010 Estate Merlot is 86% melot, 14% cab.  Jalapeno pepper on the nose and palate, long legs, dark color.  Smooth and silky.  The Noblesse Desert Wine has a nose of apricot and Meyers lemons.  It is not overly sweet with a lite lemon finish. The price points for Cuvaison are right on. I enjoyed all of their wines and Cuvaison is now on our “To Join” wine club list.

We said goodbye to our new friends at Cuvaison and headed to one of favorites, Patz and Hall.  They have just opened a beautiful tasting room in Sonoma.  We were greeted by Ross who made us feel at home and set us up with a bowl of those delicious truffle oil almonds.  We started with the 2011 Hyde Vineyard Carneros.  It has aromas of orange and white flowers and a palate of crisp acidity and minerality. Lite oak and spice on the finish. $58.  2011 Zio Tony Ranch, Russian River Valley Chardonnay has aromas of citrus and green apples.  On the palate it is well balanced with acidity and minerality with a hint of butter and oak on the finish.  $60.

 

Schug Winery

Schug Winery

Day Two

After taking the doggies for a walk, we headed to Schug Winery.  Schug Winery is a 50,000 case producer.  The winemaker, Walter Schug, is a 3rd generation wine maker.  His life story, growing up in Germany and emigrating to the US, is very interesting.  We started with the 2012 Chardonnay Carneros.  It was well balanced with a lite butter finish.  The 2011 Pinot Noir Carneros is their Flagship.  I found it to be fruit forward and lite tannins. Price points for both wines is acceptable. The 2011 Pinot Noir, Carneros ”Schug Estate” was quite nice.  I found it to be smokey, dark fruit notes, well balanced acidity and tannins.  The 2010 Cabernet Franc is 70% Cab Franc, 25% Cab Sav. On the palate it was a little dry with dark berry fruit.  2012 Late Harvest Riesling has aromas of honey suckle and bees wax.  It is sweet but not over the top with notes of apricot and honey. Its also lite on the tongue and not syrupy.  Price point a little high for the smaller size bottle.  The 2010 Rouge De Noirs, Carneros, Sparkling Pinot Noir was a nice surprise.  It reminded me of a bubbly version of the 2011 Pinot Noir Carneros with a little more character.  I enjoyed all their wines and I think it id definitely worth a visit.  Schug also has a self guided tour of the Estate which provides some really nice views.  Gloria Ferrer was our next stop.  Gloria Ferrer has a nice 2010 Brut rose that reminds me of citrus and raspberries.  The 2008 Jose Ferrer Pinot Noir was my favorite.  Its long legs and ruby color hinted of the complexity of the tannins and the flavors of raspberry and cherry.  At $42 a bottle I could not resist.

20140224_131928

We headed back to town to continue tasting on the town square.  We wondered into Walt and it was a great find.  Walt features Chardonnaya and Pinot Noir.  Heaven….  Jerry was great.  I felt like we were old friends hanging out at a barbeque.  The 2012 “Blue Jay” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is a four vineyard blend.  It has a nice lite color, good legs and blue fruit, black cherry is smooth and easy on the palate.  We did a side by side comparison of the “Blue Jay”, “Hein Family” and “Savoy”.  The “Hein Family” vineyard is located closer to the coast.  It gets less sun and cooler temperatures.  The “Savoy” is mid-valley and has the best qualities of “Hein Family” and “Blue Jay”, which is the furthest from the coast.  “Savoy” was definitely my favorite but out of my price range at $60. I enjoyed all the wines at Walt and are my recommended stop in Sonoma. Jerry suggested we stop by MacLaren Tasting Lounge.  I remembered visiting him when he was pouring at Talty Winery in Healdsburg.  By the time we got to MacLaren, they were closing up but, they were willing to pour for us.  So, they unpacked the bottles and we got to taste some really good syrahs.  We were poured four wines; 2010 Judge Family Vineyard, Bennet Valley, 2010 Drouthy Neebor, Sonoma County, 2009 Drouthy Neebor, Sonoma County and the 2010 Samantha’s Vineyard, Russian River.  My favorite was the 2009 Drouthy Neebor.  It had a big fruity nose and was well balanced.  And, the price points are reasonable.

Sonoma was a really nice wine tasting experience.  Everyone we met was really nice, engaging and more than willing to carry a conversation and joke with us.  Can’t wait to go back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annual Paso Robles Trip

 

 

This weekend we were off to Paso Robles to explore some more of their 250+  wineries.  Friday we re – visited some of our favorites. Terry Hoage, Kukkula, Hearthstone.  We stopped in at Whalebone and Niner.  Saturday we used A Safe Way  Limousine Service as our designated driver. We wanted to spend the day exploring new wineries.  We started at Robert Hall followers by Mitchella, Vino Robles, Denner, Jada, and Arroyo Robles.

Did I say I love Paso??  Well, I love Paso.  I love the wines, the great people we have met and the wine tasting experience that is Paso. Robert Hall Winery was the first stop of the day and it didn’t disappoint.   Christina welcomed us and introduced us to Robert Hall wines.  When she found out it was our first visit to the winery, she gave us a tour of the their wine making process.  Robert Hall has a 19,000 sq ft. cavern underneath the tasting room.  There are 4,000 barrels of wine stored there.  And, it is available for event rental. There are two tasting list.  The House Tasting is $5 and the Reserve Tasting is $10.  The fee is applied towards any wine you purchase.  Since it was our first time, Hill and I decided to do both list.  The House Tasting had reasonable priced quality wines.  My favorites were the 2012 Viognier. The aromas of honeysuckle and orange gets your attention. But it is the flavors of tropical fruits, apricot and peach on your tongue that makes you think of summer. $20 retail.  The 2012 Zinfindel, 2012 Cuvee de Robles and 2011 Syrah are all worth a taste.  On the Reserve Tasting list there are 5 wines you have to try.  I couldn’t decide between them so I ended up buying one of each.  The 2011 Cavern Select Grenache is a even balanced, well structured wine full of flavors of plums, cherries and spice.  The 2011 Pape de Robles is a GSM blend with a twist of Petite Sirah.  Flavors of Blackberry, pepper and spice, made this my favorite on the list.  The 2011 Meritage is a Bordeaux style blend.  My tongue enjoyed the flavors of plum and lite tannins. Let’s not forget the 2010 Vintage Port.  It is made from five traditional Portuguese grapes. It’s not heavy and syrupy.  It is fruity with a velvety finish.

Christina was nice enough to suggest some of her favorite wineries.  One of which was  Mitchella.  Mitchella just happened to be located right behind Robert Hall.  Sherri and Laurie welcomed us in.  They were fun and funny.  I had fun talking about their wines and enjoying the day.   I thought the wines at Mitchella were decent wines that were reasonably priced.  I liked the 2011 Cheap Bastard, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2011 Rambunctious.  The 2010 Innuendo Noir was my favorite but at $45, I thought it was a little too expensive.

Next on our list was Vina Robles.  Vina Robles has a 2012 Vermentino on the tasting list.  It is an Italian varietal that you don’t see very often.  The bouquet of pears, cantaloupe and citrus was delicious.  At $18 I couldn’t say no to a bottle.

Halftime

Doc and Troya brought the cheese and crackers and I bought the Chemay (blue label).  It was the perfect break from wine tasting and we finished just in time for our 2:30 appointment at Denner Vineyard.  Denner has a Comus” theme.  I won’t ruin it for you.  You will have to go and investigate on your own.  Denner also has a four bedroom B & B where the rooms are named after their wines.  Speaking of the wines,  most of their wines are Rhone blends.  The 2012 Theresa is a white varietal Rhone blend.  The 2012 Viognier is 100% Viognier, 2011 Ditch Digger is a GSM with Cinsaut and Counoise.  The 2011 Dirt Worshipper is Syrah and Viognier.  I enjoyed their wines but I thought they were over priced.  The Ditch Digger was my favorite but at $63 I had to pass.

On our way to Arroyo Robles we came upon Jada and decided to stop in.  This is why I love Paso so much.  Its like a box of chocolates……. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by Ari.  Ari has a wealth of knowledge about Jada wines and he was very engaging and personable. Jada has two tasting list.  The Reserve tasting is $10 and the ”Signature Series” is $15.  Along with your tasting you get a cheese pairing with the wine.  Ari brought me up to speed on the use of concrete in wine making. My favorites were their 2012 XCV is a white Rhone blend that is fermented in concrete.  That’s right, no oak and no stainless steel, concrete.  The 2011 Hell’s Kitchen is a GSM with the Spanish varietal Tannat added.  2011 Stratys is a Bordeaux style wine, the 2010 Malstria is also a Bordeaux style with a little Tannat added.  I enjoyed all of their wines.  I think they are priced a little towards the high end but I couldn’t leave without taking a few bottles home with me.

Last stop of our tour was at Arroyo Robles.  There were seven wines on their tasting list.  A 2011 Albarino, 2008 Chardonnay, 2009 Viognier, 2007 Tempranillo, 2007 Petite Sirah, 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2007 Blend called “Little Star”  made of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and Merlot.  Arroyo Robles also has a Grand Cuvee sparkling wine and an Almond flavored sparkling wine.  I wasn’t a big fan of anything that was being  poured.

The Nuggets

Jada, Robert Hall and Mitchella Vineyard are the  ”need to visit” wineries we discovered this weekend.  I enjoyed the tasting room experience and the wines.    Robert Hall’s 2011 Papa De Robles, 2001 Meritage and the 2011 Strayts from Jada were my favorites of the day.  I’m always interested in hearing about your experiences

Ciao for now

 

 

And The Winner Is…..

wpid-2013102095194341.jpgFor those of you that attended our 2013 Santa Clara County Rosѐ Challenge, or Throw Down, thank you for making this a great event. For those of you that missed it, your loss. The Hayes Mansion provided a great location and hospitality for the intimate event. We purposely invited a variety of wine palates to the event so we would have a good cross section of society to judge the wines.
Although I am not usually a big fan of Rosѐ, I do like them with a picnic style lunch or light summer dinner. They generally come in two styles, “old world” or European Rosѐ lean towards the dryer side, and “new world” Rosѐ lean towards the sweeter side. Rosѐ has recently become much more popular here in the US and a lot of wine makers are getting creative with its production. From single varietals to blends to secret fomulas, it is often the wild card in their lineup.
So who was the big winner at our event? Well congratulations to Solis Winery for getting both the highest number of first place votes and the highest number of overall votes. A nicely balanced “new world” style Rosѐ, it is not too sweet to pair well with a number of different appetizers or light meals. After Solis our crowd went back to the “old world” style giving Aver Family Vineyard the second most first place votes and Jason Stevens (my first choice) to most second place votes. Interstingly we had a tie for third place between the secret formula “old word” style Thomas Kruse Winery and the “new world” style light but flavorful Clos La Chance.
So there you have it, we tasted seven different Rosѐ from Santa Clara County, some sweet, some light, some balanced and some with a very tart, dry finish. Overall a good cross selection of what Rosѐ can be. Thanks again to all our judges and the staff at Hayes Mansion for making it a night to remember.