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2010 Larkmead Firebelle

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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!

Slainte,

Michael
https://californiawinesandwineries.com

Saddle Creek Wine Society Features Jessie’s Grove Winery & The Golf Club at Copper Valley.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Slainte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com
https://www.coppervalleygolf.com/
http://www.jessiesgrovewinery.com/

Note: Wine tasting notes provided by Tana Cole.

 

2014 Shadybrook Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

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2014 Shadybrook Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon and charcuterie plate offered at the winery. Spent a couple of hours with winemaker Rudy Zuidema talking about his journey in making wine (more later). The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is a smooth and layered wine. On the eyes it is dark and enticing. A cacophony of flavors from sweet pipe tobacco to plum to blackberries delight the senses. A pleasing finish with mocha and velvety tannins. #redwine #napacabernetsauvignon #shadybrookestate #redwines #napacabernet #napavalleycabernetsauvignon
Slainte,

Michael
https://californiawinesandwineries.com

Unique or Uncommon White Wines Last Night For Wine Society Board Meeting.

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Held the monthly meeting of the Copper Valley Wine Society Board last night. Hosting house gets to choose the wine for the evening for pre & post meeting social hour(s). Last night we hosted and rather than a varietal, stated we should have “unique or uncommon white wines”. Each couple on the Board also brings an appetizer that pairs with their wine. The white wines last night were: 2016 Pazo Sendrans Albarino (Spain), 2017 Cococciola IGP Terre di Chieti, Ferzo (Italy), 2018 Acquiesce Roussanne (Lodi), 2018 Harney Lane Albarino (Lodi), 2018 Hughes De Beauvignac Picpoul De Pinet (France), 2017 Harken Chardonnay (California Central Coast), 2018 Anderson Conn Valley Pinot Blanc (Napa), 2017 Mettler Family Vineyards Albarino. Positive feedback as many board members tried wines they would ordinarily not purchase. Sorry the scrumptous appetizers were consumed so fast, so no chance of a photo. Post party including a “few red wines” also!!

Slainte,

Michael
https://californiawinesandwineries.com

Zuidema Wines – 2015 Grenache

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Had this spectacular wine the other night with mesquite marinated BBQed chicken, a corn salad with purple onions and tomatoes. The wine was an excellent complement to the slightly spicy chicken. Rudy Zuidema’s 2015 Grenache is his second release. You can read more on the background of this project at https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2017/12/13/zuidema-wines-old-world-techniques-in-a-new-napa-vineyard/ . Suffice to state his Clone 515 Grenache from Chateauneuf du Pape heritage continues to produce a delightful summer wine. Minerality and a rustic flare still persists in the wine, but the 2015 is aromatic with black cherry and as Rudy states “notes of cocoa and fig newton”. Add to this plum and soft tannins it surrounds the spicy edge of the mesquite spices. A wine very worthy wine to have in the cellar for these types of meals.
Slainte,
Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com
https://zuidemawines.com/

Pillitteri Estates 2012 Cabernet Franc Riserva Famiglia – AMAZING!

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Sorry to start off an article with the word amazing, but it is only appropriate for this wine. Having been a collector of Cabernet Franc for 30+ years I am fairly discrete about those Cabernet Franc’s which I enjoy. Most of which have been premier high end Napa Valley Cabernet Franc like Trespass, Crocker & Starr, Detert, Barnett Vineyards, Viader, etc. When it was mentioned to me by Sam Jonas from Toronto, Canada that Pillitteri Estates made the best Cabernet Franc in the world I was obviously extremely skeptical. I have visited and tasted wines from Niagara on the Lake area in the past.  In fact, I simply ignored the claim. Finally after months of persistence, I had this bottle of 2012 Pillitteri Estates Cabernet Franc. All I can state, is that my “Napa centric” world view finally failed me! This wine was breathe taking and awesome. My own “world wine view” caused me months of not enjoying such a remarkable wine. It now rates in my top 10 of all Cabernet Franc’s consumed regardless of price! That is a bold claim for the wines I have had the pleasure to enjoy.

I have never met the folks who make this wine, but research shows a beloved history on their pride in making this exquisite wine. They make this reserve wine in a traditional appassimento style as done by Gary’s ancestors in Italy. Grapes are hand harvested and allowed to air dry naturally in racks. This removes 15-20% of the grapes moisture which enhanced flavors and aromas. In 20 years making this wine, only 6 vintages have been deemed Reserve.

This wine had spot on appropriateness of sweet tobacco, cherry, plum and black licorice on the nose. On the palate it possessed heavenly tastes comprises a symphony of vanilla, mocha, raspberry and green bell peppers. The oak and tannins were silky with no residual sharpness. Simply a perfect “10” on my scale.

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We paired this wine with a seared and Bbq’ed Tri-tip steak, twice baked potatoes and asparagus with fresh bacon. A perfect compliment for this wine.

At $78 a price point so much lower than some of the tradition Napa Valley prized Cabernet Franc’s, you should really try this wine quickly. I know this just made my list of the best wines tasted in 2019 and will be on my end of year recommendations. Now the hard part, getting more wine from Ontario, Canada to California to stock my cellar!!! Thanks Sam Jonas for pushing me.

Slainte, 

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com 

https://www.pillitteri.com/

Plavac Mali in California??

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Plavac Mali in California? Actually no, to best of my knowledge 99% of Plavac Mali grapes are grown in Croatia and 1% in Bosnia. That said, one can now find some great examples of this desirous grape being imported by Topochines in Napa, California (https://topochines.com) .
A little background on this grape varietal. Plavac Mali is Croatia’s most planted varietal. This grape produces wines which are dense, dark colored on the eye. Aromas of black cherry flavors, pepper, smoke and exotics spices fill the glass. The grape thrives on the Dalmatian Coast with low yields providing concentrated wines. Mali means small as in the berry size and plavac refers to the blue color of the berries. These small berries however punch a wallop! Originally thought to be related to Zinfandel, but Mike Grgich with the help of UC Davis, were able to discover they are not identical but were linked genetically.

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On two different evenings a Plavac Mali wine was tasted and paired with varying foods. First was the 2015 sv Roko. This is 100% Plavac Mali and aged in small oak barrels. This comes from an extremely steep hillside with the fertile soil, beneath a covering of limestone. This is a great example of a spicy Plavac Mali and with heavy tannins. This is almost a “chewable wine”. Rich in black berries and blueberries and extremely dry. The finish was a dry and earthy. Paired with taco salad, this wine enjoyed the moist tomatoes, lettuce, seasoned beef, cheese and purple onions.

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The other wine consumed was the “For Inspiration” Stina 2015. This comes from the island of Brač. This island is known for its white stone (Stina). It holds a special place for Croatians for its beauty and hardship in viticulture. This wine adheres to its roots of being powerful and strong. It is again dark colored, almost a royal red/purple on the eye. On the nose and palate, cranberries, smoke and cinnamon along with plums engulf the mouth. The finish was much smoother and less earthy than the sv Roko. This was paired with a simple BBQed hamburger and fries. Our version of Croatia mets Mexico! The next bottle of this wine will be with a beef filet, tri-tip steak or rib eye steak.

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Should you desire a big, bold wine old world wine far beyond what we in California think of as “big & bold”, try a Plavac Mali wine and you will be amazed at the complexity, strength and character of this varietal. Truly one of the more enjoyable wines tasted in recent years. By the way, these were not samples but purchased.

Slainte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://topochines.com/