Month: September 2019
Some meals are more elegant than others but matching a simple pizza with a Nero d’Avola was heavenly. Pulled from the cellar, this Nero d’Avola is “almost black” and considered one of the most important grape in Sicily. The name comes from the town of Avola in the far south of Sicily. It is also known in Italy as Calabrese. This is a blend mostly of Nero d’Avola varietal with some Merlot and Malbec blended into the Cuvee. The grapes were brought in from Sicily almost 18 years ago and planted in Calistoga. On the eyes, this is a dark almost black sea of delight with medium heavy viscosity. On the nose and palate, it parlays one back to old world Italy/Sicily with a dusty and rustic taste with blackberries, plum, cherries and dark chocolate. This is a wine that pairs well with sausage and a simple steak. Pizza with sausage and pepperoni was spot on!
Last night had a bacon wrapped venison tenderloin with whole grain mustard potatoes, baby carrots, Swiss chard and mushroom demi. Meal was at the Copper Grill at The Golf Club at Copper Valley. Paired with Wood Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “Especial”. It possessed a dark purple & red color which was lush with a medium body on the eyes. On the nose dark cherry was predominate. Upon entry to the palate, it opened up to caramel, chocolate and spices. The finish was smooth and elegant and picks up the French oak it was aged. This won a Gold Medal at the 2109 Alameda County Fair Wine Competition. It also was awarded 90 points from Wine Enthusiast. Their 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Especial” won Best of Class at the 2019 SF Chronicle Wine Competition. This was a great pairing sipping and savory the venison.
This wine comes from Ribera del Duero D.O. in north central Spain. An enjoyable wine from Spain with a deep red color. The wine consists of Tinto Fino (Tempranillo 95 percent), Merlot (3 percent) and Albillo (2 percent), made from the old vines of the winery’s own “La Planta” estate. Due to the harsh growing conditions (geography, weather & altitude) the yields are scarce and very concentrated. This wine has “hearty tannins” that fill the mouth but still fruit persists. On the nose and palate, vanilla & floral notes rise up to greet you. On the palate, a soft sweetness of smoke and earth are present. Spice, oak and tannins are ever present on the finish. Arzuaga Reserva is aged for 26 months in French and American oak barrels. This was paired with a marinated ribeye steak in a peppercorn and bourbon sauce and then Bbq’ed. The wine was decanted almost 2 hours before serving.
Most local (Northern Californian) wine folks know that Sonoma (coast & Russian River), Santa Cruz Mountains, Livermore Valley & Napa Valley (Carneros Region) make some of the best Chardonnay wines from these vineyards. This is due to the cooler temperatures of the Pacific Ocean, the Russian River, San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay drawing the fog into the regions. No exception is the 2014 Alyris Audition Chardonnay. Always one of my personal favorite Chardonnay’s, regardless of price. The wine is put in 50% new French oak barrels. On the eyes a light straw color, but it holds a punch. On the nose, honeysuckle and traces of pineapple are the two main aromas that waffle into your senses along with floral notes. On the palate, these two flavors explode into ripeness with spices of nutmeg and allspice in the background. Always a great soft finish with just a touch of minerality. This wine won Double Gold Medal at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Paired with some fresh sushi of Maguro, Sake and Hamachi made a perfect lunch. Normally $45, on their website it is listed for $38.25……definitely worth grabbing a bottle or two!
Hard to believe but this was a new wine for me! Our friend brought over this bottle to try with a BBQ New York steak. What a nice treat for sure. Red Mare is owned by Jim Striegel and Anne Vawter. She is also the winemaker at Red Mare. Anne got her training at UC Davis in enology and viticulture philosophy. She worked for wineries in Washington, California and Chile and then settled down in Napa. In Napa, she was the assistant winemaker under Heidi Barrett at Paradigm. She is also the wine maker at Hoopes Vineyard where I was doing a story recently but more on that in a different review. Red Mare, an artisan wine comes from vineyards across the street from Opus One. It is 85.6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petite Sirah, 4% Malbec and .4% Petit Sirah. She ages it in 35% new French oak barrels for 20 months. On the eyes it is a dark purple/red hue and medium body viscosity. On the nose and palate, blackberries, cocoa and vanilla are the prevalent aromas and tastes. A smooth and easy drinking wine with soft tannins and a lasting finish. A bargain pedigree wine.
Pulled this out of the cellar. The wine is simply a wonderful expression of a Bordeaux style wine. North of St Helena and south of Calistoga this is one of the premier vineyards in Napa Valley. Using 100% Estate grown grapes they combined 42% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. They aged it for 20 months in 49% new French oak barrels. This produced on the eye, a dark ruby wine and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose and in the mouth a complex collection of sweet pipe tobacco, blackberry, floral notes, raspberry and black cherry. The finish had a definite chocolate taste and an extremely smooth ending. The texture and structure was also intriguing due the varietals used. This could have been cellared for another 10 years!
Last night 36 members of the Saddle Creek Wine Society and guests were served some of the best wines and a spectacular meal at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, California. Assistant Winemaker Tana Cole along with Suzanne Burns (co-owner of Jessie’s Grove Winery) presented five wines to match with an exquisite food assortment. Chris Cox, Executive Chef at The Golf Club at Copper Valley, paired each serving with imaginative food and with an artist presentation. Jessie’s Grove makes award winning wines and you can read more about them from a previous article at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2018/04/26/jessies-grove-winery-and-vineyards/ . On their property exists 130 year old ancient vine Zinfandel as well as 120 year old Carignane vines!
The first course was a creative in house made butternut squash ravioli, with brown butter and fried sage. This was paired with a 2016 Chardonnay (unoaked) which was a silky smooth, full-bodied wine with a light golden color, inviting baking-spice aromas, ripe and concentrated fruit flavors and an especially rich mouthfeel.
The second course was a unique arugula salad with duck confit, roasted goat cheese stuffed plum, and a strawberry-rhubarb vinaigrette. This was served with a 2015 Carignane Reserve which was intense and with freshly crushed berry aromas. Flavors seem to light up this full-bodied, bold and ripe wine. The fruit flavors were focused and pure and the texture is vibrant, giving the wine a lot of life.
The third course was a bit daring and perhaps a bit avant-garde for the evening! However I think trying something “out of the box” was a great way to show his creativity. Chris Cox prepared baked salmon with scallop mousseline, wilted cabbage with a Petit Verdot sauce. This was paired with one of the best wines of the evening (in my opinion), a 2013 Petit Verdot. This dark dramatic and inky-colored wine has tight aromas of pencil lead, blackberry and mint followed by extremely concentrated flavors like berries, black cherries and black pepper, but with lighter floral accents (violets), too. The structure is huge due to very firm tannins and robust alcohol.
The fourth course which “blew away everyone in the room” was a peppercorn crusted venison tenderloin, with whole grain mustard smashed potato’s, Cover’s Farm Heirloom vegetables, wild berry compote and red wine demi! If a blind food pairing was held, most would think of it as a $65 filet mignon as it was tender and cooked to perfection. This was served with a 2015 West Wind Zinfandel with aromas of berries and chocolate covered cherries with a hint of black pepper. Finishes with berry fruit and leather flavors. At our table, a few folks were hunters and many had eaten venison, but no one had venison like this before! This was an award winning entrée and wine pairing.
The dessert by sous chef Janet Weissbeck featured a unique and beautifully plated fig and honey mascarpone shortbread tart. This was almost “too gorgeous to eat” but we continued steadfastly and consumed the last morsel on the dish. This was paired with their 2013 Tokay port which was airy and light compared to many ports. This wine had a luxurious mouthfeel and hints of butterscotch and crème brûlée.
At the conclusion, each person left pleasantly pleased respecting the creativity and artful presentation by Executive Chef Chris Cox and Sous Chef Janet Weissbeck. Simultaneously, the guests, whom most had not tasted Jessie’s Grove wines, ordered many of the wines served! Tana Cole gave a complete and insightful expression as to why each wine paired appropriately with each course. A special note of thanks on the detailed and pleasing table arrangements by Tammie Littlefield, Food & Beverage Manager. Winemaker dinners are to feature and showcase both the best wines from the winery and creative food dishes from the restaurant. They both deserved a stand up ovation for a job well done!
Note: Wine tasting notes provided by Tana Cole.