Tag Archives: California wine

Wine O’Clock: Cannery Row Cellars Chardonnay 2008

28 Jul

Another pick from my Wine Insiders haul, this Cannery Row Cellars Chardonnay hails from my old stomping grounds just outside of the Monterey Bay area of California’s Central Coast.   Central Californian Chardonnay has quickly become one of my favorite wines of Summer with plenty of bright tropical fruit and crisp acidity to cut through the humidity and pair with a wide variety of summer foods.

I may not have stepped foot on Cannery Row since I was wearing Ninja Turtle underwear, but at least now I can drink wine vinted in the foothills of one of this country’s truly spectacularly scenic places.

Cannery Row Cellars Chardonnay 2008

Varietal: 100% Chardonnay

Vitals: 12.6% abv

Company Line: “Fresh fruit aromas herald delicious flavors of apple, nectarine and ripe melon.  Oak aging adds depth and complexity with hints of toasty oak and vanilla.  Balanced acidity makes this wine particularly refreshing.”

My take: pale straw yellow in the glass.  Nose opens with sharp apple and tropical fruit flourishes ensconced in a veil of soft vanilla.  Apple and citrus blanket the palate with a satisfying acidity.  Body is emboldened with rich oakiness which also serves to taper the acid in the finish.

This sits right in the middle of the California Chardonnay spectrum between intense tropical fruits and buttery oakiness.  While I certainly wouldn’t call this example buttery, it’s oaky and vanilla softness acts as a nice counterbalance to the fresh fruit that dominates the front of this wine.  A nice summer drinker with the versatility to pair with poultry, fish, cheese or fruit and pastry-based desserts.

Wine O’Clock: Fair Oaks Ranch Zinfandel Reserve 2005

26 Jul

Yes, I’m still alive and YES, I’m still drinking wine.  Here’s proof – an empty bottle of Fair Oaks Ranch Zinfandel Reserve 2005.  A recent local Groupon deal netted me $75 at Wine Insiders, an online wine-monger with a similar price-vs.-quality philosophy as Barriques, for only $25.  I ended up with 6 bottles in the $10-$12 range for only $30, including shipping.  While I wasn’t familiar with any of the wines I ended up with, at $5 a bottle, I wasn’t out much either way.  After Sumptuary opened my eyes to the raw power of the California Zinfandel, I had to delve deeper into the grape.

Fair Oaks Ranch Zinfandel Reserve 2005

Varietal: 100% Zinfandel

Vitals: 12.5% abv

Company Line: *crickets*

My take: deep ruby in the glass.  Jammy blackberry and black cherry play off spice and cedar in the nose.  Wild berries and bramble dominate the fore-palate with leathery tannins and a hint of pepper bringing home a long, dry finish.

This Zin is a lot tighter and dryer than I tend to prefer, but it nonetheless hits the standard notes of the varietal.  Probably not an example that I’d revisit, but more accessible for those who prefer a more straightforward, mellowed-out red.

Wine O’Clock: Bighorn Cellars Camelback Vineyard Chardonnay 2007

22 Jun

Chardonnay exploded onto the California wine scene in the 1970’s with the hometown boys of Chateau Montelena besting the French in the famous Judgement of Paris in 1976.  By 1988, plantings of Chardonnay in California surpassed those in all of France.  By 2005, California-grown Chardonnay accounted for 100,000 acres or 25% of the world’s Chardonnay plantings.  Those Left Coasters know their way around the grape.  I have come to love Chardonnay from Sonoma and Napa since I poured a Sonoma vs. Napa tasting at Barriques in Middleton  a few months ago.  The best examples I have tried have expertly balanced New World-style tropical fruits with soft, buttery oakiness for a sublimely complex-yet-smooth experience.

The Bighorn Cellars Camelback Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 comes from the Los Carneros AVA, which is in the Sourthernmost extent of Napa.  As such, the grapes are soothed by ample coastal fog and bay breezes that allow the grapes to develop complexity without ripening too quickly.  This offering is currently a tasting selection at Barriques Wine & Spirits in Middleton.

Bighorn Cellars Camelback Vineyard Chardonnay 2007

Varietal: 100% Chardonnay

Vitals: Los Carneros AVA (Napa); 14.4% abv; ~$25/bottle

Company Line: “Our 2007 Camelback Vineyard Chardonnay is an exquisite example of the varietal, showcasing an excellent range of fruit on the nose from pineapple and tropical fruits to ripe pear, orange-blossom and brioche. The palate is tantalizing, lush and full bodied with flavors of grilled pineapple and apricot…

Gold Medal Winner – 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Tasting

My take: pale lemon yellow in the glass.  Nose exhibits ample overripe tropical fruits with an undercurrent of caramel apple and braised pear.  Full-bodied on the palate, bringing fruity notes of overripe pineapple, dried apricot and bright citrus over an undercurrent of smooth, understated buttercream.  Finishes clean with a mild lemon twist.  A highly drinkable chardonnay exhibiting the balance of fruit and oak that Sonoma and Napa examples are known for.  Reminds me of the fantastic La Crema Chardonnay from Sonoma that I poured during a recent early spring tasting.  I don’t think anyone does balanced, well-composed chardonnay like Bay Area winemakers.

CLIFhanger: The Climber White 2007

14 Apr

Like energy bars and wine?  Who doesn’t?!  The folks at Clif Bar read our minds and now finally produces both.  Yeah – I had to double-take when I saw that the Clif Bar people were making wine, too.  As white wine season slowly inches its way in, my palate craves crisp, fruity wines with bright acidity to refresh and pair with the grilled fare that dominates my summer diet.  The Climber would seem to fit that bill nicely.

Clif ‘The Climber’ White 2007

Style: White table wine

Vitals: 13.5% abv; Blend: 81% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Pinot Blanc, 4% Chenin Blanc, 3% Muscat (Pinot Blanc and some Sauv. Blanc Organically-sourced); Bottled January 2008; retails for ~$14/bottle

Company Line:

Our 2007 blend is a unique blend of our favorite white varietals. Sauvignon Blanc makes up the backbone and structure of the wine with purity of fruit. Pinot Blanc adds a fleshy and tropical note. Chenin Blanc increases the purity and acidity of the blend. The Muscat adds a sweetness of tropical fruit, increased terpene aromas and richness in the mouth. 100% stainless steel fermentation and lack of malolactic fermentation enhances the purity of the fruit, classic varietal notes and crisp refreshing mouthfeel.

My take: light lemon yellow in the glass.  White peach and lemon/lime zest dominate the aroma and foretell the light stone and passion fruit nectar and pinpoint acidity of the palate.  Crisp on the tongue and clean in its lightly acidic finish, The Climber makes for a great warm weather drinker and would pair beautifully with grilled white meat and seafood dishes.  Who knew creating a better energy bar to get you through a tough run would translate into a penchant for crafting fine wines for cooling off afterward?

Wine O’clock: Sumptuary Amador County Zinfandel 2007

12 Feb

Tonight’s wine comes with an interesting story.  I’ll let one of the big men behind the Barriques empire, Finn Berge, set the scene:

Sumptuary.  Kinda like Sanctuary but not.  That is of course unless you’re a trademark lawyer.  This will come as no surprise to any of you but I am not a lawyer and therefore when I heard about the David versus Goliath struggle between Tom Meadowcroft(David) and Brown Forman(Goliath) I just shook my head.  However, I stopped shaking my when I heard the end of the story where poor David lost the battle with Goliath and was ordered by the courts to sell off 900 cases of very spectacular Zin at lower then rock bottom prices.  Sniff, sniff…ah, opportunity!  But let’s back up a second.

Tom Meadowcroft operates a small 15,000 case a year winery in Cali.  They produce 4 different specialty wines including a Zinfandel called Sumptuary from Amador County.  Sumptuary comes from ancient Greece and Rome referring to laws controlling extravagance and morals of social hierarchies in society.  Brown Forman on the other hand, is one of the largest liquor and wine companies in the world.  They produce a wine called Sanctuary which is a compilation of juice from various appellations in California.  Now I’m betting that you wouldn’t confuse the two wines pictured below.

Sumptuary ZinfandelSanctuary

The lawyers for Brown Forman disagreed and forced Meadowcroft to stop selling the Sumptuary.  He was given 90 days to unload his remaining 900 cases which is where we left off.

Tough break for the little guy.  The least I could do was grab a bottle at what amounts to little more than half of its pre-litigation selling price.  This is my first time with a zin.  I hope she’s gentle.

Wine: Sumptuary Amador County Zinfandel 2007

Vitals: 14.9% abv; Region – Amador County, California; Grapes – 100% Zinfandel

Company line: sealed by court order or something.  There’s nothing.  Really.

My take: sits a vibrant, translucent  ruby red in the glass.  Nose explodes with blackberry and currant – extremely ripe and juicy.  Palate is brash with semi-sweet dark red fruits, brown sugar and spice.  Mouthfeel is juicy with a powdery finish that coats the mouth and demands another sip.  Sumptuary is fruity, warming, and pulls no punches.  A lot of wine for $10.99 (or $9.29 if you e-mail the big man asap).  Don’t worry, big guy.  Dudes can drink zin, too.  This ain’t no Franzia.

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