Tag Archives: California wines

Celebrated sips: California’s Central Coast

Living in the Napa Valley, I’ve become accustomed to high-end wines crafted by celebrated winemakers known throughout the world. So when I had the chance to try three wines of the Central Coast, I was a bit skeptical. With Thanksgiving nearly here, I decided to first try the 2015 tangent Albariño of Edna Valley ($17), mainly because I enjoy this Spanish varietal and realize it is sparsely planted in California.

The Niven family’s estate vineyard, Paragon, revels in its SIP™ Vineyard Certification (Sustainability in Practice). The grapes for tangent grew in the Edna Valley, halfway between Monterey to the north and Santa Barbara to the south, mimicking the Rías Baixas climate in the province of Galicia.

My first pour enlightened me on the idea that you really can bring a taste of Spain to California, even with American soil and cultivation. The nose on this wine proved citrus clean and fresh, and the taste was pure Albariño, dry and light with medium acidity. When you buy this wine, try it with sushi (ahi tuna) and you will not be disappointed. In fact, you can drink this wine alone and be perfectly happy.

Next, I tried a 2015 Zocker Grüner Veltliner of Edna Valley, a really good pick to bring to your host for Thanksgiving dinner ($20). These Grüner Veltliner and Riesling grapes are grown in the same region as the tangent Albariño, and is also SIP™ certified. Also, both of these white wines were aged in stainless steel tanks without ever sitting in an oak barrel. And both are screw caps.

Aromas of pepper, tastes of minerality and melons set the stage for a winning wine crafted by winemaker Christian Roguenant. Kudos!

The quote on the label of my final wine review of this area says it all: “Her Secret is Patience”. The 2014 True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon ($24) of Paso Robles is a glowing representation of what Mother Nature can do with finesse. Its motto is “Taste and Believe” and I am on board as a believer! With just enough oak to create cherry and vanilla notes, and a light spice finish, this smooth cabernet sauvignon I sipped has only one drawback for me… I wish I had saved it to enjoy it even more in a few years. Stock your wine cellar with this one, and you won’t be sorry!

Lesson learned: Central Coast wines are worth sipping, and even though the pricing is less than the majority of Napa Valley wines, it doesn’t mean they are lesser in quality and taste!

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The wines of BottleRock Napa

Since I was only 6 years old during Woodstock, it is obvious that I didn’t attend this historical music festival. So, the next best hippie chic music experience I deem close to what I’ve heard regarding Woodstock is #BottleRock Napa, a 3-day musical playground with culinary chef demos, and yes… lots of wine. The event is, after all, in the Napa Valley, and it draws in 150,000 attendees in a 3-day period.

Coppolla bubblesInspired by a cloud of soap bubbles from the tent of Sonoma-based Coppola Winery, my first stop was in front of the tent for Domaine Chandon, where I happily sipped Chandon Rosé bubbles. I wasn’t even concerned about the plastic cup it was served in…it was that good.

A walk in the nearby Wine Garden, is where I sipped Napa Valley white wine, Dissonance. I was told this is the label of Foo Fighters, ‘so I couldn’t wait to sip this rock star wine. But, unlike the awesome rock band’s stellar reputation and performance on Sunday, May 28, Dissonance fell a bit short, or sour to describe the taste. It was a bit too acidic; perhaps with a plate of fries. Next time, I’ll try the merlot, which is what Blackbird in French means, and what has put this label on the oenophile map.

I later realizeBlackbird Dissonance Wine Labeld that there were distinct Foo Fighter wine labels for Blackbird Vineyards:

  • 2016 Foo Fighters Rosé | Central Coast, California ($24) Farmed from vineyards along the slopes of Mount Diablo, winemaker Aaron Pott intentionally crafted an elegant, dry rosé to appreciate at every occasion from the mundane to the extraordinary.
  • 2015 Foo Fighters Cabernet Sauvignon | Red Hills, Lake County ($35) Crafted by winemaker Aaron Pott from 2,400 ft. high vineyards in the Red Hills of Lake County, this ten barrel Cabernet Sauvignon commemorating BottleRock 2017 is steadfast in its character.
  • 2011 Foo Fighters Proprietary Red Wine | Napa Valley ($60) This four-barrel Signature Series Cuvée is hand-tuned to express the lithe structure that only comes from exceptional fruit.

Like missing out on Woodstock, I missed out on sipping these Foo Fighter wines and will always wonder how these small-run labels performed on the palate.

Channel your inner queen at The Palace

Life in Northern California offers endless opportunities for day trips and weekend visits to explore small coastal towns or big cities like San Francisco.

So, I spent a night in San Francisco following a short visit to a friend’s house in Sacramento. The first thing I did was relax with a glass of Magnolia Grove 2013 California Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Magnolia Grove 2013 California Sauvignon, priced at just under $10 a bottle.

This wine is an average, well-priced garnet-toned Cabernet made from grapes of Sonoma County. I wouldn’t complain about it – it was tasty! — but there really wasn’t anything complex about it.

For my palate, this is a drink-alone, medium bodied, great all-around table wine.  The Magnolia Grove of Chateau St. Jean would be the perfect spot to sip this berry and cherry-flavored wine.

Although I was not in Sonoma when I drank it, I was enjoying my first experience exploring San Francisco. This bottle of Magnolia Grove was left as a gift during my stay at the Palace Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel. This was the start of channeling my inner queen.

Cowgirl CreameryA round of Cowgirl Creamery cheese was left with an assortment of crackers. Yes…

My room at the Palace Hotel, which, by the way, was originally built in 1875, was so inviting, especially after a long evening enjoying the company of good friends and perhaps too much wine the previous night. I would have been perfectly happy to crawl under the crisp, clean sheets and watch the big screen TV and sip wine paired with Cowgirl cheese and crackers. But…I was in San Francisco for only one evening, so the plan was to explore the dining scene. I had already spent the afternoon in Fisherman’s Wharf, which was amazing if only to watch the seals compete for space to sun on the dock. I wasn’t hungry, but if I were, it would have been a great place to select any number of culinary delights — from seafood to burgers and chowder, and lest not forget See’s Candies or Ghirardelli Square, the latter a stone’s throw from the area.

I can now say that I rode the cable car in San Francisco, and I live to tell the tale. I had no idea it would be so thrilling, and quite similar to a roller coaster in that you creep uphill in a struggle; fortunately you do not coast downhill, but it is a steep slope and the struggle of the car to keep a slow speed conjured up thoughts of broken cables and a runaway car from movies and televisions shows I’ve seen. Now that I’ve done it, I don’t need to do it again.

My day was full, I was tired, and when I stepped into the Palace Hotel, I wanted to remain there for a few days…at least. Why wouldn’t I? The lobby entrance was palatial, keeping in line with the theme of ornate interior design. Inside my modest, but very comfortable room, a toilet with options! A warm spritz later, I was out on the town — to Telegraph Hill to enjoy an Italian dinner at Original Joe’s in North Beach, with the Rat Pack overhead. Before I knew it, my virtual crown was left behind and I was on the rode again. San Francisco, I’ll be back soon!

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At Original Joe’s.

 

 

Turning Leaf wines: Low priced, yet flavorful

 

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Turning Leaf Chardonnay

Without being pretentious, Turning Leaf wines score for spring sipping and affordability. Although each of the four bottles I tasted were priced at $7.99, the guess was about $15 a bottle when put to the test.

Take, for instance, the Turning Leaf Merlot, with its earthy tones and hint of mocha — great to pair with a BBQ. Its texture is smooth and creamy, and this is a well-balanced wine with a complex, good tannin structure. There is no vintage on the bottle, so assume this wine, and in fact, all of the four I tasted, are a blend of fine years gone by.

Easy and inviting, Turning Leaf Chardonnay is perfect to pair with Brie cheese and apples, or grilled pork chops with ginger pear glaze. This wine offers a moderate finish, and its a bottle to use as an everyday pick that you don’t have to contemplate opening. Just do it and enjoy it.

Now, about the reds. Turning Leaf Pinot Noir is simple, and expressively boysenberry and pomegranate, with a hint of cooking spice. Open a bottle with a homemade pizza or roasted portabella mushrooms – perhaps sushi would work best. You decide.

Finally, the Turning Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon proves a wine doesn’t have to sit in oak for months to be good. The grapes speak for themselves in this jammy, meaty wine that works best with a good grilled rib-eye steak or prime rib — both with potatoes.

Perception is everything, and these wines with the simplistic labels and winemaking process prove that it’s all about the grapes. Visit www.TurningLeaf.com for more information.

Wines to try from the Central Coast, California

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I have a lot of respect for the pinot noir grape and for the winemaker who can turn these delicate grapes into a sensational, elegant wine. Edna Valley Vineyard’s 2011 Central Coast Pinot Noir ($20) proves my loyalty. From the opening of the bottle, a first pour brings forth aromatic delights of rose petals and earthy minerality. The smidgen of zinfandel added gives this wine a bit of a spice, adding complexity. Edna Valley Vineyard grapes hail from the Central Coast of California, five miles from the Pacific Ocean in one of the coolest and longest growing seasons in the state. When I served this wine with chicken dinner, I realized it would pair well with almost any entree.

A nice white selection from Edna Valley Vineyard is the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($15) made with grapes from the Central Coast of California as well, but in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties. Like a traditional sauvignon blanc, this wine offers notes of melons, a strong minerality and sweet fruit. It’s full-bodied and has a long finish. Oh, and this is a screw-cap wine, easy to take on the go to serve with brie and bread, chips or any hors d’ouevres.

Hitched on Bridlewood wines

I’ve been enjoying Bridlewood wines for years, so it’s always exciting to open a new vintage. Adding to the excitement of drinking Bridlewood wines is the fact that I once dined with the winemaker at Harvest Restaurant in Cambridge.

Browsing through a wine list at a restaurant, it’s a thrill to identify the wine with its winemaker, and when a new vintage is released, the excitement is re-lived. I recently shared four new releases with friends, and here’s what we noted:

#1 – Bridlewood 2011 Central Coast Blend 175 ($15)
This is one of my all-time favorites of Bridlewood, mainly because I enjoy a good blend of reds. This one has syrah, cabernet sauvignon, viognier and petite syrah grapes picked from the Central Coast, California. The process of the winemaking for this blend is intricate, racking off of gross lees and again at six months to allow the rich fruit flavors to open fully – you may not understand the process, but you’ll appreciate the end result. Dark, jammy fruit flavors with a touch of oak and a nice smooth finish.

#2 – Bridlewood 2011 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
There is nothing quite like a good glass of cab, and for this one, the feedback was comprehensive: Very dark purple, very long legs, smells insanely delicious, like plums, prunes, dark purple fruits – with a vanilla scent. Very light on first sip, but then … the finish was long, smooth, satiny on the palate – tasty and sweet. Suggestions from this sipper on pairing: a contrasting dish of garlic-base and sautéed spinach – maybe with a nice herbaceous steak (black pepper, garlic). In the meantime, this wine was enjoyed on a cool afternoon watching the boats on the harbor and listening to nearby musicians playing soft music at the yacht club. Life is good.

#3 – Bridlewood 2011 Monterey County Chardonnay ($15)
Monterey County’s Pacific breezes and sunshine set the stage for this tropical fruit flavored wine mixed with oaky notes of vanilla and spice. If left for a year or two, this wine will open up with caramel aromas and add more complexities to its taste. Great pairing with chicken, fish, cheeses…

#4 – Bridlewood 2011 Monterey County Pinot Noir ($18)
Now for my favorite of the four 2011 releases. Perhaps it’s knowing that the pinot noir grape is so delicate, and harvesting these grapes is an art form in a sense. The end result is worth the effort, as the freshness of the fruity grapes and the perfectly oaked notes of vanilla and caramel give this wine a good standing with intense, rich flavors. But wait, there’s more! The pinot noir grapes did not stand alone in this wine. A small percentage of zinfandel grapes were added to enhance the mouth feel and add more structure. So that’s how they did it…

For more information, visit www.BridlewoodWinery.com.Image