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Wood Family 2018 Zinfandel “Big Wood Zin” – When the Meal Requires Zinfandel

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Starting off the afternoon around 4 pm, my wife let me know a Louisiana Jambalaya was on the docket for dinner. Started thinking about what wine to pair and I was a bit befuddled. Then did a little research and believed the consensus was Zinfandel. Then the beads of sweat appeared on my brow as I did not believe we had any Zinfandel in the cellar!  Now it is not an issue of whether I like Zinfandel or not, but many folks in our community do enjoy Zinfandel and regularly bring it to dinner.  That said Zinfandel is also not one of my go to wines either, with lots of choices in the cellar of many different and unique red wines.

I looked in the log book and to my amazement I actually found a whopping 4 bottles of Zinfandel, from four different wineries.  The one selected, as I remembered was a filler on a case procurement from Wood Family Winery about 6-8 week ago. Seemed like I enjoyed it at a tasting so mentioned to the GM, throw a bottle in to round out the case of wine. Logged it into the computer but obviously I had forgotten all about it. Turned out I was more than delighted to have found this “lost treasure”.

The meal recipe called for Creole seasoning, skinless boneless chicken thighs, cooked Andouille sausage links, red bell peppers, chopped white onion & celery stalks, minced garlic, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, long grain rice and sliced scallions. For good measure she added some dry red chili flakes for additional “heat”! All of this was cooked in a slow cooker for six hours.

The Zinfandel was amazing with the dinner. First on the eyes, it was opulent dark red and medium-heavy viscosity. On the nose, blackberry and boysenberry were the first aromas discovered. Then on the palate, is where this wine stood apart from so many “Amador fruit booms” as they are called and profoundly available in the Sierra foothills. Here spices of cinnamon, vanilla, herbal qualities and a dusty earthiness develop while moving about in the mouth. Definitely fruit forward with flavor but not “syrupy”. The wine presented other notes of chocolate and mocha. The softer tannins were a welcome treat to the “heat of the meal”. The finish was long lasting and with the various fruits which again counter balanced the spiciness of the meal.

This is one of the two Zinfandels that the Wood Family Vineyards offers. The “Big Wood” is 97% Zinfandel and 3% Petite Sirah. 700 cases were produced and it has a high 16.8% alcohol level. The “Big Wood” Zinfandel currently sells for $34/bottle per their website.

I am heading down to Livermore this week and will stop by to get a “few bottles” of the “Big Wood” as we seem to be having more and more spicy meals. The Wood Family Zinfandel is a beautiful match for these occasions.

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://woodfamilyvineyards.com

A Wide Variety of Wines Recently Enjoyed

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Here are some excellent wines we have enjoyed over the last week (one in December). I have written previous stories on the wine or the winery and wanted to share these with you. I have referenced the link to previous stories.  Enjoy!

Tate Wines – 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt Veeder.  An excellent wine representing this well-known region within Napa Valley. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/10/07/2015-tate-wines-merlot-a-muscular-merlot/

Borjón Winery – 2017 Petite Sirah Reposado. From Amador County in the Sierra Foothills. Known for their Barbera’s and Petite Sirah’s. A mouth filling wine with character. See: https://www.facebook.com/mkellywine/posts/10218046643373388?__cft__[0]=AZUhIua3SeCOzc1EFBAQcIxLsxUJKmBvmD11tqdfj12czfcG949p_1ZN6s2JlcMtr0HimsITW9tmJzlE4DEOFwVznI7n7ongI3i7EMteiQYACuBsL4Sxb7LgzlM4bZKk-A4&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

Smith-Madrone – 2016 Estate Riesling. An unusual wine dry farmed from Napa Valley on Spring Mountain. Minerality ++ and more on the dry side of Rieslings. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/01/28/2016-smith-madrone-vineyards-riesling-and-firecracker-chicken/

Alaya Tierra – 2016. A wine from Spain that is a deep red, almost black, Grancha Tinotorera. One of my annual imported favorites. Actually no previous story but has made my Best Wines of the Year of Imported Wines!

Yorkville 2016 Carmenere. An unusual variety, called the lost varietal of Bordeaux or 6th wine originally from this iconic French region. Now grown on estate in Mendocino County, California. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/09/07/2016-yorkville-cellars-carmenere-a-special-treat/

Mendel Malbec 2018. From the well-known and respected winemaker and producer in Argentina. This Finca Mendel, wine is spicy and rich. Pairs well with so many foods. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/12/29/carne-asada-and-malbec-wine-the-challenge-and-experiment/

LangeTwins Midnight Reserve 2015. Opened two nights ago and what a wonderful “Bordeaux style” blend from Lodi, California. It has aged gracefully and with rigor. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/03/10/2013-teroldego-single-vineyard-from-langetwins-family-winery/

Enjoy these wonderful wines!

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

Narmada Cabernet Franc Reserve – From India with Love

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Narmada Winery located in Amissville, Virginia participated in the December 2nd, National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition. The Competition was hosted by California Wines and Wineries at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, California. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges (Professional and People’s Choice) in different areas of the event. Narmada Winery 2016 Reserve won Bronze and Silver Medals.  Their 2017 Reserve also won identical Bronze and Silver Medals   Wines were submitted from 14 states and numerous AVA’s from around the United States. For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/12/04/national-cabernet-franc-wine-competition-results-are-in-happy-cabernet-franc-day/

The Winery

(Sudha Patil)

This winery is new to me, so after talking with Jim Hollingshead, the winery manager, some interesting facts came to light. The winery was founded by Pandit and Sudha Patil. They were both originally from Mumbai, India. After each had a successful education with Pandit earning a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and Sudha getting BS in chemistry and her DDS, specialty in Endodontics from the Georgetown University , towards their retirement, they had always been interested in wine. Thus the first wines were planted in 2004 and the winery opened a few years later in 2009. Sadly, Pandit passed in 2018. Tom Payette has been the consulting winemaker assisting Sudha for many years. They are producing today approximately 3,000 cases a year. They also produce Petit Verdot, Viognier, Merlot, Chambourcin, Chardonel, Merlot and a port.

I was curious as to the name Narmada and Jim told me about the background. Pandit who was awarded a full scholarship to the University of New Mexico while living in Mumbai  India, could not afford the plane ticket to attend. His mother Narmada, hearing this great news of a full ride, decided to sell off her family jewelry that had been passed down generation to generation in order to get Pandit a ticket to attend college. Fast forward after a successful career for both of them, knowing that the start of their journey began with the love and generosity of his mother Narmada, it was an easy choice to honor his mother. Today the centerpiece of the wine portfolio is called “Mom”.

The Wine

The 2016 and 2017 Narmada Cabernet Franc Reserve wines were tasted last evening. The bad news is that the 2016 Reserve is now completely sold out!  The good news is that the consensus of us who tasted both, preferred the 2017 Reserve. One of the contributing factors of the purple hue is most likely due to 6% Petit Verdot being in the mix. As you can see the color was a deep purple in the glass with a medium viscosity. On the nose spices and violet flowers abounded. On the palate a joyous melding of raspberry, Bing cherry, soft leather and a hint of tobacco. The finish was spectacularly round, soft and with a forest meadow earthiness. This wine was in barrel for 30 months.  Narmada Cabernet Franc vintages have won over 40 Gold Medals at various wine competitions! The 2017 Reserve will not be “generally released” until the fall of 2021 as they are currently re-releasing their 2014 Reserve which has been in barrel for five years!  The 2014 is listed for sale at $48 and the 2017 will be sold at $50.

The Food and Wine Pairing

The wine was paired with a beautifully BBQ’ed filet mignon steak, garlic baked scampi, fettucine Alfredo with Gruyère cheese and a fresh garden salad (sorry no pictures!).

One of the fascinating takeaways from last evening for those “hooked on California wines” was the exposure to the excellent quality of this Virginia Cabernet Franc. In the conversation with Jim, there are approximately 350 wineries in Virginia with a majority making Cabernet Franc.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://narmadawinery.com

3 Steves 2019 Reserve Chardonnay – A New Addition to the Cellar

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A refreshing change up to our normal “everyday Chardonnay”. Just picked up some 2019 3 Steves Reserve Chardonnay. A light golden straw color on the eyes and light to medium viscosity. A mild bouquet on the nose, with white fruit and extremely soft citrus. On the palate, mild acidity and oak with an almost old world (non-buttery) taste in the mouth. It provides a mouthful sensation due to not being filtered or fined before bottling. The finish is extremely clean, crisp and creamy.  Definitely a new wine to be stocked in the cellar for our warm summer months while sitting on the patio (assuming Covid is contained by the summer months!).

The next big question is what food pairing will work well with this wine?  Stay tuned.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://3steveswinery.com/

2012 Sarocka Cabernet Sauvignon and Fat Tuesday Fofas!

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The Winery

Sarocka vineyards is located on the top of Spring Mountain. In 2020 with the devastating Glass Fire in Napa Valley, it was reported that they lost all their vineyards and all other structures on the property burned except the home and guest house survived. It also is the home of Irene Scully and family. I have not heard if they will be replanting. It was an amazing 2.5 acre property grandfathered from county ordinances with slopes greater than 30 degrees. It sits at 1200 feet elevation. Well known and respected winemaker Michael Hirby (Realm and Husic wines) today is making this exquisite wine. Typical vintages were typically between 100 to 150 cases each year.

(Photo from Sarocka Wine. no copyright infringement is intended)

The label and name is to honor Irene’s Lithuanian heritage. The label is modeled after an artwork she purchased from a Lithuanian street artist. It represents the “tree of life” in agricultural mythology in Lithuanian. Sarocka is Irene’s Lithuanian maiden name.

The Wine

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable wines tasted in the past few years! The last time I tasted this wine was in 2020 and it was another vintage. This 2012 is one of 8 bottles left in the cellar. It was on the “Drink in 2021 List” and I was pleased beyond belief as it was fabulous. I still have some 2013’s and 2014’s left in the cellar but have yet tasted them! I have been purchasing wine from this boutique winery since they opened. Knew the 2012 would improve with aging, but this became even so much better than anticipated.

The 2012 was almost black with a dark red tint around the edges with medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, floral aromas, soft licorice and pepper. On the palate blackberries, dark cherry notes, vanilla, soft oak, cinnamon, chocolate and sweet tobacco abounded. An almost never ending long finish, with rounded smooth tannins and a firm structure showing its pedigree was evident. The wine aged gracefully with new vigor and life. Made with 85% of estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc.  They show on the second label Scully website the2017 Sarocka being offered at $135.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Unbeknownst to me a tradition exists in the Azores Islands (Portugal), where on Fat Tuesday, Fihos a traditional pastry is made and given out that evening. Filhos are fried and require yeast, sugar, butter, flour and yeast. You need to wait for the dough to rise and then they are fried in oil. Our local “Portuguese fairy” (name withheld) phoned and stated she would like to give us a Fat Tuesday sweet.  Fofas only take flour, milk, eggs, oil and are baked in the oven. Then a sweet coating on top. Apparently in the Azores, it is similar to New Orleans where you “party on the tables until midnight” when the Lent season begins at midnight to start Ash Wednesday leading up to Easter.

I can report no dancing on any tables occurred but when paired with the wine, if we had opened more, shoe scuffs marks would have had to have been removed from a few tables!!  It certainly was a great surprise to be presented with this wonderful tasting dessert/tradition and the wine was simply amazing.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

http://scullywine.com/

2016 Smith-Madrone Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – An Uncommonly Smooth and Mouth-Filling Cabernet

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The Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards is located on 200 acres on top of Spring Mountain west of St. Helena with 38 acres planted in vineyards. The vineyard elevation ranges from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. The founder, managing partner and enologist is Stuart Smith, Charles Smith is the winemaker and Sam Smith is the assistant winemaker. Truly a family affair! All the wines are estate and dry-farmed on top of the mountain. Annual production is between 3,000 to 4,000 cases a year. Currently they are producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and their iconic Cooks Flat (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc). A note on the September Napa Valley Glass Fire: No vineyards or buildings were damaged, although there is repair work going on to restore fences and gates. The winery’s tasting room hasn’t yet reopened but they welcome sales through their website or over the phone.

(Photo taken by Matthew Denny)

The Wine

The 2016 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon provided a unique perspective to Cabernet Sauvignon’s from Napa. While I have enjoyed many Cab’s from Spring Mountain, I suspect it is the dry farmed quality that presents such a welcoming twist. First on the eyes a deep red crimson color, along with royal purple hues, presenting a medium heavy viscosity, intrigues your visual awareness. On the nose raspberry, dark Bing cherries, vanilla pipe tobacco waft up to stir up your excitement. Then once in the mouth dark fruit and leather weigh in with the fulfillment of the aromas previously mentioned. On the finish, which is smooth and silky at first, but later puffs out its structure and tannins as a proud authentic wine. Also traces of minerality provide a complete and enjoyable wine. The wine contains 89.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.4% Merlot and 6.4% Cabernet Franc. It spent 19 months in barrel, 45% new French oak and 55% neutral oak.  Smith-Madrone made 1,375 cases and this is a solid mid-priced wine at $58 at the winery!  I have had many others wines much closer to $100 that did not provide the balance, fullness and enjoyment that this did!

The Food and Wine Pairing

Since the weather was clear and sunny although a cool 54 degrees, decided to BBQ. Paired with a marinated and seared tri-tip steak, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with Blue cheese and steamed broccoli and tomatoes. The tri-tip was garnished with small pieces of Point Reyes Blue cheese making it so delicious with the wine.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.smithmadrone.com/

2017 LangeTwins Petite Sirah from One Hundred Acre Vineyard

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The Winery

Established in Acampo (north of Lodi in the Central Valley of California), they have been around since 1870 as farmers and purchased their first vineyard in 1916. They have historically made some delicious wines but wanted further to enhance their presence in the market with an offering called their Single Vineyard Series. The winery has vineyards in Jahant, Mokelumne River, Clements Hills Appellations of Lodi as well as Clarksburg. The desired goal of the Single Vineyard Series is to make a wine that expresses the character and “terroir” of a specific area and their agricultural skills of sustainability and care.

 

The Wine

This is the first vintage Petite Sirah from the One Hundred Vineyard by LangeTwins. The Jahant AVA is the smallest of Lodi’s seven AVA’s. This area is unique as it sits on a river terrace and old flood plain with rich soils and deposits. The first thing you notice is the immensely deep color and the lushness of the viscosity. On the nose, aromas of blackberry and blueberry abound and beckon the first sip. Once on the palate, violet and bittersweet chocolate swirl with delight. The aging in both French and American oak adds just enough influence and spiciness to make a long and enjoyable lasting finish.

As an educational note, Petite Sirah is not a “smaller” version of Syrah as it is a wholly different varietal. The background on Petite Sirah is that it is the offspring of Syrah and Peloursin (a scarce and almost extinct grape).

The Food and Wine Pairing

Last evening pairing with the LangeTwins Petite Sirah was a pork chop sautéed in garlic, white wine and ground coarse black pepper. Accompanied with a fresh garden salad and Yukon Gold potato. I did a thin glaze of Tabasco on top of the pork chop and the Petite Sirah with its fruit was a smooth and soothing wine!

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://langetwines.com

2019 Wood Family Vineyards Para Mas Amigas Chardonnay – A New Twist

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The Wine

A regular for summer time crowds is Wood Family Vineyards 2019 “Para Mas Amigas”, means “for more girlfriends”. This was not on purpose, but some rusty Spanish made it thus! She was trying to say “for my girlfriends”. She has made many friends, of both sexes, all enjoying her Chardonnay. Rhonda Wood who for three years in a row has won either a Double Gold Medal, Best of Class, Gold Medal from the SF Chronicle Wine Competition and who knows how many other accolades, recently release her 2019 Chardonnay.

On the eyes a deep golden color and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose green apple, toasted almonds and soft lemon fragrance. This wine, different from her iconic past phrase of previous vintages of “crackerjack flavors” this added a citrus note. The finish was long and with complex layers of intrigue. This Chardonnay has many of the familiar characteristics of previous years. The wine has lingering tropical fruits, with peach and pear on the palate. In a recent conversation, Rhonda stated she blended her Chardonnay from both “tightly grained barrels and loosely grained barrels” into the final production wine. For the 2019 Chardonnay, she incorporated a higher mix of new French oak barrels, which imparted a new twist on an already exquisite wine. A little bit less “buttery” but the same big mouthful feel/texture and imparting some mild “Sauvignon Blanc type” lemon citrus for enjoyment. The previous three years this wine made “The Best of the Year” on my annual report. Destined to win many more awards in the coming months.

The Food and Wine Pairing

A meal this week consisted of a lemon chicken Piccata breaded in Panko, cooked in white wine, butter, lemon juice and capers. Served with just a small amount of fresh squeezed lemon juice on top of the chicken and on a bed of lemon slices. Accompanied by a mixture of brown long and short grain rice and sautéed asparagus. The wine with its “Sauvignon Blanc” characteristics matched up fabulously with the lemon and butter on the prepared chicken.

Conclusion

Admittedly I was a little hesitant with Rhonda’s 2019 as it departed just a bit from her consistent award winning Chardonnays for the last 3 years. That stated, I believe this wine with its“ new characteristics” will enhance even more food pairings. Looking forward to the next meal with this Chardonnay.

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://woodfamilyvineyards.com

Meyer Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon – #8 of Wine Spectators Top 100 (2017)

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(picture from Hestan Vineyards)

I had been purchasing both Hestan Vineyards and Stephanie labels for some time and one day, the tasting room manager suggested I try Meyer Vineyards. All of these are owned by Stanley and Helen Cheng who purchased the property in 1996 as a former cattle ranch. Fast forward after planting the vines, in 2009 well known winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown joined their team as winemaker. I purchased several bottles and two weeks later, it was voted #8 of Wine Spectators Top 100 (2017). I called to see if any more were available and they sold out in a matter of hours after the news release!

Had a very enthusiastic wine critic over for some wine the other night and opened this bottle. Wine Spectator rated it 95 points and Parker in the 90’s. Meyer Vineyards fruit is on the hillside estate vineyard and aged 18 month in French oak barrels. On the eyes it is a very deep crimson color and heavy viscosity. On the nose dark fruits and chocolate waft into the senses. But similar only in the analogy of a circus clowns coming one after another from a tiny car, this wine continues to unfurl with flavors, layers and aromas. Dark cherry is prominent along with vanilla pipe tobacco with a finish of black licorice and long lasting enjoyment.

No food was tasted with this wine, just simply to enjoy sipping for the evening which we all did!!

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.hestanvineyards.com/about

2018 Rosa Fierro Cellars Zinphony – A Symphony of Flavors

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Rosa Fierro Cellars

Rosa Fierro opened Rosa Fierro Cellars in 2014 and recently left her full time job and career as a legal assistant to concentrate 100% on the winery. “Rosie” as she is called, had worked in tasting rooms, made port in her garage and eventually worked with many of Livermore’s better winemakers at a production facility in Livermore. The winery is 100% woman owned and operated with women staff. Rosie specializes in hand crafted, limited production wines. Her grapes come from both Livermore and Napa Valleys and other select areas. One of the key points of making wine was instilled in her to work in the vineyards to select the best grapes. Each varietal is limited to 50-200 cases each. Those wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay (both oaked and unoaked versions), Merlot, a Rosé (from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes), Zinfandel, Primitivo, a Red Blend and her latest being the Cabernet Franc. Her total production is approximately 1,000 cases.  She has won many awards in a relatively short time. The tasting room is located at 2245 South Vasco Road, Livermore. The backgrounds on her and her staff on the website are especially creatively done! Rosie’s other passion is photography and her pictures adorn each unique label.

2018 Rosa Fierro Cellars Zinphony

This wine is from Sophia Favalora Vineyards in Oakley in Contra Costa County. This is her first vintage using these grapes as previously she used a Livermore vineyard. First on the eyes, a very deep color and medium-heavy viscosity. On the nose soft floral notes with scents of raspberry and blueberry. On the palate, this Zinphony comes to life, like Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, with soft spice notes of vanilla and cinnamon. This coupled with fruit tastes makes the presentation of the wine, rounded and soft as Rosie mentioned to me her view of “feminine”. The finish was mid-length and beckoning yet another sip. This was essentially a dry Zinfandel but with a “sukoshi” of the fruit providing flavor but not sweetness. This is not your fruit bomb Zinfandel, it is dry, structured and on point as a flavorful representation of tried and true California Zinfandel. The wine was in both American and French barrels and only 50 cases produced. Today it is available for wine club members only.

The Food and Wine Pairing

A fabulous food pairing was prepared with Zinphony last night by Susan Kelly. Sliced smoked chicken sausage with habanero and green chili and whole grain penne pasta. The dish was prepared using garlic, white wine, small amount of chicken broth, sliced white onion and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Lightly sautéed broccoli was added and topped off with a combination of Parmesan, Romano and Asiago shaved cheeses. The warmth of the meal was complimented with the fruit of the Zinphony for a wonderful meal.  The second glass was also enjoyed after dinner and provided a deeper peak into the depth of the structure and flavors of this Zinfandel.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.rosafierrocellars.com/