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Wineries to Watch: Tamber Bey Vineyards

Tamber Bey Vineyards

Tamber Bey Vineyards

Barry Waite purchased his Yountville Ranch in 1999 for the primary purpose of raising his beloved horses. The name is after his first two Arabian endurance horses, Tamborina and Bayamo. But the fertile Yountville land called to him and before long he was planting grapes alongside the pastures, the Deux Chevaux Vineyards. He teamed up with winemaker Thomas Brown for his inaugural vintage and has been rocking since then. Brown has an impressive background in the wine industry including a little project known as Schraeder ($350/bottle).

Thomas Brown brought on “apprentice,” Mike Smith to help with the production of Tamber Bey. Smith is no slouch though, he has worked for a number of labels including Myriad. Barry later added a property in Oakville where they have been making a single vineyard Cabernet. The Tamber Bey wines overachieve given the price/quality ratio. Barry has strived to keep his price points reasonable, since this is not his primary business. These wines are under the radar and not submitted to press for ratings, relying on more word of mouth and delivering a high quality product. They make 3 wines: 2 from the Yountville and one from Oakville, all 100% estate wines.

Our favorites from Tamber Bey include: Tamber Bey Deux Chevaux Cabernet, Tamber Bey Deux Chevaux Rabicano, Tamber Bey Oakville Estate Cabernet.

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Winery Review: Silver Palm

Silver Palm WinesGrapes from premium vineyards across the North Coast, a winemaker with over 20 years experience, and artisan winemaking techniques usually translates into a $40-$50 bottle of wine…especially when that wine is Cabernet or Chardonnay from California. But Silver Palm has managed to accomplish all of those items and keep its wine reasonable – very reasonable.

It’s been our go-to table white and red for months, but after having it with dinner over the weekend (and being reminded just how good it is) I decided to take a deeper look at the winery. Silver Palm is owned by Kendall Jackson, but unlike its parent, the goal of this winery is to produce small-lot wines that will best be served at a high quality restaurant or connoisseur’s table rather than used as stackers in a grocery store. Melissa Bates, winemaker, sources fruit from only the best vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties to create complex and well-balanced wines. Currently the winery only produces two wines: Cabernet and Chardonnay which are crafted to pair perfectly with traditional cuisines for these grapes.

Cabernet Sauvignon
A blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cab Franc, 4.2% Merlot, 2.6% Petite Sirah, 2.2% Petite Verdot, the fruit is sourced from 50% Mendocino, Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and the Sonoma Coast. Surprisingly, it is also a blend of vintages (2007 – 2009), but with 95% of the fruit from the 2008 vintage it is bottled as such.

The wine shows a brilliant, purple color and shows aromas and flavors of dark cherry, blackberry, spice and toast. The medium tannins provide a backbone without the drying and bittering feeling of some bolder wines.
$18

Chardonnay
A blend of 98% Chardonnay with 2% Viognier from Sonoma County and Mendocino County, this vintage is the premiere of the Chardonnay for Silver Palm. The wine is fermented entirely in stainless steel, preserving the fruit characteristics to showcase the strong aromas of tropical fruit (pineapple, melon) paired with hints of apple and pear that is the Chardonnay grape’s signature. Of the wine, Bates says “For the premier release of our Chardonnay, I chose to present the varietal in a chic and elegant manner.” Elegant and chic it is.
$18

Wine Review: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Hands of Time, 2008

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Hands of TimeStag’s Leap Wine Cellars is one of the most storied wineries in the Napa Valley, most famous for their wine in the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris. The most important tasting for American wine history celebrates its 35th anniversary this year and I thought it appropriate to feature one of Stag’s Leap’s wines in honor of the anniversary.

After their success at the Judgement of Paris (they won the Cabernet Sauvignon category with a 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet, it is the part left out of the movie about the tasting, Bottle Shock) the winery became one of the top premium producers in the valley. Through their history a number of influential winemakers, growers and industry leaders have helped shape what the winery is today. In 2003, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars celebrated those individuals through a Hands of Time memorial which showcases the hands of each at the winery.

The 2008 Hands of Time wine is a reflection of those people and is dedicated to the winemakers whom were raised in the Stag’s Leap cellars. Some notable faces include: Bob Sessions (1973, Hanzell), John Williams (1975-6, Frog’s Leap), John Kongsgaard (1977, Kongsgaard Winery/Arietta), Richard Ward (1978, Saintsbury), Ricardo Hererra (1986-1994, Screaming Eagle), Paul Hobbs (1994-5, Paul Hobbs Winery), Michael Silacci (1995-2001, Opus One), and Abe Schroener (1998, Scholium Project). Not too shabby of a list.

The 2008 Hands of Time is equally impressive. The blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 3% Syrah provides a solid backbone with a smooth finish. Vibrant red fruit flavors precede cocoa and nutmeg that lead to a vanilla and spicy finish. The fruit is entirely from the Stag’s Leap vineyards, often called one of Napa’s ‘first growths,’ produced in the premium style of the winery but at a very friendly price point – $30. We don’t plan on seeing this wine for long, but we will definitely take all that we can get.

4th of July Picks: Charles & Charles Rose and Red Wines

Charles and Charles Rose 2010It was June of 2009, Al and I were in the midst of a road trip across the country (10,000 miles to be exact) on a venture that would end in our new home – Naples, Florida. Along the way we had stopped at multiple vineyards, wine stores and wine bars doing ‘research’ for our new business venture…Decanted. We found hundreds of great small production gems and value wines along the way in Napa, Sonoma, Oregon, and Washington. But we never expected to find our favorite wine of the trip – Charles & Charles Rose (2008) –  in Louisville, Kentucky.

We stopped in Louisville for the weekend to meet up with my sisters and her boyfriend at the time (will be become her husband this weekend!) After some research, we decided on an impromptu gourmet dinner at the highly recommended Proof on Main. It was hot and we were all tired from a day at Churchill Downs, so we decided on a crisp and light rose to start the evening. The waiter’s suggestion turned out to be a good one, and four bottles of it later we had bought out the restaurant of its supply.

Charles & Charles is a joint venture between two of our favorite wine makers – Charles Smith and Charles Bieler – made from 100% Syrah grapes from the vineyards of Columbia Valley, Washington. Smith has described the wine in past vintages as a “crisp, jolly rancher.” This vintage? Smith says, “Remember Jolly Ranchers? Hold that thought…grab a bottle of this wine, open, pour, sniff, swirl, taste. Now…dontchya think that this wine is the way-evolved, been-around-the-world-a- few-times, insouciantly hip, cool-as-the-other-side-Charles & Charles Red 2009of-the-pillow, casually bad a** son of Jolly Rancher? Yeah, we thought so, too.” We don’t think there is a better way to describe the wine, or the winemakers. That refreshingly bad a** approach to a style of wine that has maintained an inferior reputation for a number of years in the U.S., gives us hope for the future of rose.

I often tell people there are a lot of things that go into how good a bottle of wine is. And for those bottles of 2008 in Louisville it was a combination of discovering something new, a great wine, great winemakers…but most likely it was the situation and the people. In 2009, we were slightly disappointed by the wine not living up to our insane expectations (how could it?) However this vintage, 2010, is our favorite to date.  Complex yet crisp, I haven’t found a domestic rose that can top it. Al and I actually fought over the last glass the other night, which rarely happens. Oh yeah, and if I forgot to mention…it’s only $13.

And for those non-rose believers, we have a new addition to the store…Charles & Charles Red. A blend of Cabernet and Syrah, the project uses some of the very best grapes from the Wahluke Slope and delivers a slamduck table wine at an affordable pricepoint ($13).

Wine Review: Hewitt Cabernet

Hewitt is not a new wine to us, but with a recent deal we’re offering on the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon I decided to revisit – and re-taste – this Napa big boy.

A closer look at Hewitt Vineyards

The vineyard that is now Hewitt was planted originally in 1880, it was one of the few that actually survived the Prohibition area and even one of the fewer that admits it did it by shipping grapes to home winemakers on the east coast (a not so technically legal practice). The property borders the original Ingelnook vineyard (now Rubicon Estate) in the Rutherford district of Napa, known for its high quality fruit and its signature ‘Rutherford dust.’ In 1962, William Hewitt – a former head of John Deer Company – from the daughter of the original vineyard owner. He immediately enlisted the help of his neighbor, Bealieau Vineyard’s winemaker, André Tchelistchef, to replant the site with Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2001, Hewitt produced its – and the vineyards – first single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

2006 Hewitt Cabernet Sauvignon

Hewitt produces only wine one each year – it’s single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  The goal of the wine is to highlight the storied terrior the fruit comes from only the best fruit available.  Winemaker, Tom Rinaldi, says “I get to select the exact rows I want from our spectacular vineyard.” Qualified selection such as that comes at a price to pay – low production numbers. It is a limited edition wine with production often times in the 5,000 case range.  The 2006 exhibits flavors of red currant, rustic earth, sage, and licorice. The wine is full bodied with a full fruit flavor balanced with tannins that will help the wine to continue to develop until 2016.  Receiving a rating of 92 points, Wine Spectator calls it “Intense and full-blown, rich and concentrated, with a rustic, earthy edge to the dried currant, sage and underbrush notes.”

Winemaking practices

The wine begins with an extreme selection of only the best grapes in the vineyard. The wine is typically 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but at times other grapes are blended to add complexity and body.  The grapes are destemmed before crush so at least 30% of the fruit goes through full berry primary fermentation

Hewitt Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006
Regularly $105, Sale $75.00 

Feature Winery: Nickel & Nickel

I was asked by a customer of ours the other what my favorite Cabernet is.  That’s a hard decision to make, especially when you are staring at a wall of such deliciousness.  But after some thought I responded, “I don’t have a favorite single Cabernet, but overall I appreciate the Nickel & Nickel cabs the most.”  To me, Nickel & Nickel represents California winemaking at its best representing the true structure of the varietal and illustrating how much terrior can change a wine.

Nickel & Nickel was founded by the partners of Far Niente in 1997 (what we call a sister label), with a task to produce 100% varietal wines from single vineyards across Napa Valley.  President and winemaker, Darice Spinelli, explains how N&N selects their vineyards…”We’re not just seeking out any vineyards. Every aspect of each vineyard must be top-notch, including the soil and the climate, but we also want to know the site is proven ground. We look at who the neighbors are, who is the vineyard manager, and will that grower be willing to do whatever it takes to make the best of the vineyard.”

The top notch vineyards that N&N has selected spans six sub-appellations of Napa Valley for Cabernet.  They also produce Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Syrah from vineyards in Napa and Sonoma counties.  Nickel plans to continue their growth into over 25 single varietal and vineyard wines.  Here’s an overview of the Cabernet Vineyards that we rotate in the store.

Oakville, Napa Valley

  • John C. Sullenger Vineyard: The home vineyard of Nickel & Nickel, situated behind the winery.  Deep, sedimentary soil leads to black fruit flavors with a balance of velvet and chewiness in the body.
  • Tench Vineyard: Red, rock soil of clay and volcanic rock.  Grapes in this vineyard rapidly develop color and flavor right before harvest.  Dark berry flavors with a hint of blueberry, silky tannins with a toasty oak finish.
  • Rock Cairn Vineyard: At the southern edge of Oakville, just east of Highway 29 and north of Yountville.  The vineyard is named ‘cairns’ for the piles of rocks left by the Indians during their passage through (rocks were a symbol of the route being safe).  Deep gravel with western exposure, concentrated dark cherry flavors with some earthy notes on the finish.
  • Branding Iron Vineyard: Located in western Oakville, close to the Mayacamas Mountains, the area has a relatively warm growing climate that is perfect for slow ripening the fruit.  Bright and ripe cherry flavors.  Juicy and soft.
  • Kelham Vineyard: Located at the base of the western hills, well drained clay with a perfect canopy allowing ideal growing conditions for the grapes.  Ripe, jammy blackberry and cassis flavors with a long, concentrated and weighty finish.

Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley

  • Copper Streak Vineyard: Located in a protective area at the base of the palisades, gravel mixed with red (copper like) streaks.  Dark fruit flavors with hints of earth and tea, very indicative of this area of Stags Leap.

St. Helena, Napa Valley

  • Dragonfly Vineyard: One of the most, and hard to find, located at the base of Spring Mountain in St. Helena the Dragonfly Vineyard is located in the “Banana belt” area named for its ideal microclimate of summer temperatures.  Deep gravel soils lead to flavors of red fruit, wild strawberry and floral notes.

Howell Mountain, Napa Valley

  • Vogt Vineyard: High, shallow rocky vineyard atop Howell Mountain on the northeast edge of Napa.  Typical, distinctive fruit of Howell Mountain.

Rutherford, Napa Valley

  • C.C. Ranch: Located in Rutherford, just west of the Silverado Trail gravel soils lead to dark cherry flavors with the signature “Rutherford dust.”

Yountville, Napa Valley

  • State Ranch: My personal, new favorite 2007 is just the second vintage of State Ranch.  Located just northeast of Yountville, the vineyard is made of rock, loam soil.  Flavors of dark cherry, this juicy wine is soft with a long, luscious finish.

But how do you choose between them all?  I say, you don’t.  I think the best wine tasting party is tasting a few of the Nickels side by side.  It is the best way to understand the true intent of Nickel & Nickel and the strong differences that lie in the soils and areas of Napa Valley.

Exclusive for blog readers, use code “NICKEL” on any purchase of 6 bottles of more Nickel & Nickel Cabernets this month and the price for each is only $70/bottle (regularly $90, savings of 22%!)

Mendoza Magnifico

Harvest and a backdrop of the Andes

Argentina has multiple wine growing regions, but Mendoza is the shining star, producing more than 60% of Argentina’s wine. Argentina itself is the 5th largest wine producing country in the world and they have been making wine since the 1500’s. Up until the 1990’s Argentinians have been more focused on quantity rather than quality, with 90% of wine produced being consumed inside the country.  A shift in thinking and desire to capture a lucrative export market has driven many wine makers to begin producing quality wines at higher price points. With the devalue of the Argentine Peso in the early 2000’s, tourism has increased due to the country’s affordability for Americans and Europeans. This has allowed wine tours to become increasingly popular and has created a growing awareness of Argentina’s wine region.

Mendoza lies 500 miles Northwest of Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires. The region is tucked up against the dramatic Andes Mountain Range. Due to high altitude and low humidity of the region, the vineyards in this region rarely face issues with fungi, mold, insects and grape diseases that other countries deal with. This allows for little to no pesticides for the majority of the vineyards and offers ease of producing organic wines…good news for the sustainable wine enthusiast!

A Typical Argentine Bodega

Another aspect that the vineyards at the base of the mountains have in their favor is the use of spring run-off. Dating back to the 1500’s the Argentinians began building complex irrigation canals to channel snow melt from the Andes to sustain the vineyards and agriculture. Once the irrigation systems are in place, the grapes have a metered water supply.

The most common grape you are likely to find when shopping for wines from Mendoza is the Malbec. Malbec was introduced from France and has been found to thrive in this particular region. Other popular varietals is the Italian Bonarda grape, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay.

What may come to a surprise is actually how large of a region Mendoza is, meaning they have micro climates, just like Napa and Sonoma. You can get a good idea of what characteristics your Malbec is going to have by where it came from. Agrelo and Lujan de Cuyo are located in the warmer Northern region of Mendoza, producing Malbecs with rich, muscular profiles and black fruits. In the South, areas of the Uco Valley such as Tupungato and La Consulta are cooler and tend to produce Malbecs with vibrant fruit and minerality. Remember, when you move North within the country, you are heading to warmer climates, South is cooler. The Argentine snowbirds head North for the winter!

If you visit Mendoza, keep in mind that the growing season is opposite than the Northern Hemisphere. Grapes are starting to bud in October with harvest usually beginning in February. That means the best time to see the grapes, green leaves, warm weather and jump into the tasting rooms is during summer, Oct-Feb.

Now that you are probably thirsty, here are some delicious thirst quenchers straight from Mendoza.

Nieto Senetiner Bonarda Reserva 2007 – $35

Lujan de Cuyo – Bright, saturated ruby. Brooding aromas of crushed blackberry, leather, tobacco and smoky oak. Sweet and primary, with nicely concentrated flavors of crushed dark berries. Finishes with ripe, fine tannins and a note of dark chocolate.

Antigal Uno Malbec 2007 – $20

Tupungato Valley – Intense fruits with significant hints of oak. Silky but concentrated with a balanced and elegant finish.

Domaine Jean Bousquet Malbec 2007 – $15

Tupungato Valley – Made with organically grown grapes. Opaque violet, almost black in color. Ripe plum and chocolate flavors with a soft, supple mouthfeel. Voted a Wine Spectator Best Buy.

Buy these wines at http://www.decantedwines.com and receive a 10% discount on a case! Or shop in-store at Decanted Wines, 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Suite 21, Naples FL 34108.

Sun of the Mountain

Ninquen was founded in 1998 by brothers Eduardo and Hernan Gras and Cristian Hartwig when they boldly sowed Chile’s first mountain vineyard. Ninquen translates to  “Plateau on a Mountain” in the ancient Mapuche language. They specialize in three wines at their winery; a red blend, a Syrah and a Cabernet Sauvignon – Carmenere blend. The Antu Niquen Cabernet Sauvignon- Carmenere is a beautiful and uncommon blend, especially in terms of our domestic wines. Chileans have been working with Carmenere since its rediscovery in 1994. See The Lost Grape. Because of the combination of these two specific grapes with their own unique qualities, this wine has a deep complexity. It boasts the dry tightness of a Cabernet and the peppery finish of a Carmenere. This wine is dusty with firm tannins, black fruits, mocha and spice.

Antu means “sun” in the Mapuche language. With the combination of Antu and Ninquen, this wine loosely translates to “Sun of the Mountain.” Fitting, as this shining star stands out among Cabernet blends. Even the marigold colored label emits a sense of warming and draws your eye to it as it stands out on the shelf.

The vineyard is at 1000 ft elevation and the grapes that thrive in that climate is Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah and Petit Verdot. One of the best things about this winery is their sustainability practices. The wine makers feel they are a part of a special place and have been accepted by the rough and rugged landscape. They believe in the importance of understanding the terrior and being in harmony with their surrounds versus trying to take control. They state: “Our policy has always been to not attack or alter nature in its wild state. Instead, we want to become part of it as we want to share the value of its natural state.”

Wine for Easter

Photo courtesy of delish.com

If you are like many people, you have your Easter menu planned well in advance, or in most cases, you have a traditional family meal that’s always prepared. But with all the advanced preparations, have you thought to chose  the right wine to accompany your meal? Now, the “right wine” is subjective. It’s all a matter of personal preference. Some of you may only prefer a sweeter style white wine, and some only drink red. We have some suggestions to satisfy those differentiating palettes at your dinner table.

If you are serving ham this Easter, there are numerous wines you could serve. Many people choose a sweet topping or glaze to counter the saltiness of the meat. In that case, a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer are going to be your best option. Both wines have a dry fruitiness that is both refreshing and palette cleansing. The sweet, round mouth-feel compliments any sweetness in the topping and the acidity will balance the salt of the meat. If you prefer a dryer style Riesling, try a Washington State Barnard Griffin Riesling $13 or Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl $17. For a more fruit forward, sweeter style Riesling, try an Alsatian or German Riesling such as Fritz’s Riesling $14. For a lighter, aromatic and elegant Gewürztraminer, try Villa Wolf Gewürztraminer $15. If you are a Chardonnay drinker, try a lightly oaked style like White Rock Chardonnay $32.50.

For the red wine drinkers, depending on how you present your ham, you could pair either a Zinfandel or a Pinot Noir. With the sweet glazed ham, a red fruit forward, low tannin Zinfandel would handle well, such as Axis Zinfandel $15. For a spicily prepared ham with cloves and herbs, an Oregon Pinot Noir would be fantastic. Try Archery Summit Premier Cuvee $48.

Lamb and sheep are often associated with spring. Maybe it’s the fact they give birth in the spring to wobbly little babies and springtime in itself is associated with new life. In any case, lamb is another popular choice for Easter dinner. Lamb is a fairly robust meat and should be paired accordingly with a red wine that can handle its full flavors. This wine should have decent tannins, a fair amount of fruit and a lengthy finish that won’t be overpowered by the meat. There are a number of red wines that can accomplish all of those qualifications, from a Cabernet to a Malbec, Merlot and Tempranillo. Try

Jax Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $40
Volver Tempranillo, La Mancha, Spain $16
Stags’ Leap Winery Merlot, Napa Valley $22

Argento Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina $12

If you are feeling that you really want to get in the spirit of Easter and embrace the roots of Easter’s Israeli heritage, try a kosher wine from Israel – Recanati Chardonnay and Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon $17 each from Galilee. The Chardonnay is a California style oaked style with a smooth buttery finish. Their Cabernet is fruit forward with soft tannins, easily paired with the traditional lighter dishes of Easter.

Monticelli Brothers – Bending the Rules

These days, with so many wine makers trying to differentiate themselves, the Monticelli Brothers are no exception…or are they? Mario and Massimo Monticelli have done something that bends the rules – that extend past the guidelines of traditional wine making. Their non-vintage blend encompasses three years of harvest and can be described as Bordeaux meets Chianti in a bottle. This blend was named after their great uncle Rolando, who taught them the Italian art of blending multiple vintages. With uncle Rolando’s help and a unconventional combination of Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese, they created a California wine like no other. The Rolando Rosso holds the smooth maturity of an older vintage, and the fruit of youth. This wine is a blend of 50% grapes from 2000, 25% from 2001 and 25% from 2002. The Monticelli Brothers settled on a medley of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Sangiovese, 5% Cab Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, making it both complex and one of a kind. Because of their originality and ability to carry over at least 50% of the same grapes from the previous production, you will find each new release more consistent, year after year, then a single vintage blend.
Monticelli Brothers Rolando Rosso, Napa Valley – $36