Blog Archives

Bordeaux the new Napa? Napa the new Bordeaux?

It’s no secret that while Bordeaux’s temperatures have been rising, California has been struggling for sunny days. I hadn’t thought much of France’s weather conditions, since we have been so focused on Napa given our recent trip until the topic was brought up by Juelle Fisher, Fisher Vineyards, at a recent tasting we had with them. The discussion was that if France endured warmer temperatures similar to typical Napa weather, and vice versa would we experience a stylistic flip-flop in Cabernet from the two regions?

As most of us know, there is a lot that influences the style and flavor of a finished wine: land (most importantly), grapes/clones, viticulture, winemaking, climate, and weather. So would a change in weather conditions change a wine so much that it actually reflects another region all together? I would venture to say no, but it would make an impact. How interesting would it be to see a fully-ripe, higher alcoholic Bordeaux and a restrained, complex and earthly Napa Valley Cabernet? The French (and more likely British) would surely freak out but it is full to imagine.

Yes, the weather situations in both regions are going to present growers and winemakers with problems they have only read about. Each region will have a different approach and different technologies to correct those problems, but I do expect that the 2010 and 2011 vintages from both regions will be a unique spin on the typical styles that is sure to interest the curious wine consumer.


Wine Not? Spring Mountain, Napa

I’ve dug up a video from our trip out to Napa at our visit to Barnett Winery. Here we talk about the differences in vineyard management on a hilltop/mountain vineyard versus being down in the Valley. Some beautiful views on this one! And as a sidenote, we just brought in Barnett’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which can be found here and here!

Wine Not? Wooden Valley, Napa

We’re continuing our travels throughout Napa County and while visiting one of our favorite vineyards (Hestan Meyer) yesterday, we found a little pocket that we never knew existed. Wooden Valley, although not a recognized AVA, is a unique microclimate housing a few vineyards that specialize in Cabernet (another one you might know is Altamura). The temperatures are much warmer (it was 95 vs. 85 yesterday) than Napa Valley itself. Take a look…

Wine Review: Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter CabernetI’ll start this post with a quote from my sister, Jackie, (and fellow blog contributor for the ‘Cooked’ section), “that wine was so good, but it went so fast.” The true sign of a good wine? It is consumed fast and fights break out over the last drop. It has happened on more than one occasion between Al and I, but I’ve never seen it occur with more than a group of four. Now I won’t call it a fight but over dinner with my sisters, my sister’s new husband, his parents, Al and I all seven of us did reach for that last drop.

The Mad Hatter is the second label of Dancing Hares. Dancing Hares Vineyard is an impressive team with Andy Erickson (Screaming Eagle, Favia, Leviathan) at the helm as head winemaker with assistance from Michael Rolland and renowned vineyard manager David Abreu. The 2007 Dancing Hares Proprietary Wine is an exquisite blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 37% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, at about $125 per bottle. Exquisite, yes but not quite your every day drinker.

The Mad Hatter is a similar blend at a friendly price point – about $60 per bottle – that is if you can find it. The vineyard itself seems to produce impeccable Cabernet Franc and Merlot which balance each other perfectly in the blend and give only the best characteristics of each varietal. In taste, the Cabernet Sauvignon almost seems subdued and restrained allowing the other varietals to come through. Erickson says, about the wine:

“The 2008 Mad Hatter is a bold, ripe expression of the vintage.  Those lots from our estate that show upfront fruit, soft tannins, and immediate appeal form the core of this wine.  This vintage is enjoyable from the outset, with plump, ripe fruit character and a lingering intensity.  Notes of darjeeling tea leaves, ripe blueberries, brown sugar and cream lead the way for this hedonistic wine.”

It’s a wine worth grabbing, enjoying and fighting over if the situation presents itself. And, I am proud to say I did get the last drop.

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 

I Will Not Drink Bad Wine, I Will Not Drink Bad Wine

cc: Cabernet

CC: Cabernet, I Will Not Drink Bad Wine

It’s not often in life that you find a bottle of wine that completely sums up your philosophy.  We were fortunate enough to be introduced to such a bottle by one of our customers (thank you Bill!) last week.  It’s called simply “I Will Not Drink Bad Wine.”  There you go, our philosophy on life (well at least how its related to wine).

I Will Not Drink Bad Wine is produced as both a Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from Napa Valley & Monterey respectively and retails for $25 (Cab) and $17 (Chard).  Although the label is catching on its own, the best part about this wine is that it really is that good for the price point.  The proper name of the wine is CC:, but we like to call it by its nickname.

After a perusal of their website (which is fun just to visit, click here), I found out that the wine is produced by Betts & Scholl.  Betts & Scholl is a partnership project between Richard Betts, Master Sommelier & Wine Director at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado (just one more reason we love Aspen so much) and Dennis Scholl, a wine collector and enthusiast who splits his time between Aspen and Miami (kind of like us!)  Betts & Scholl is dedicated to premium wines from only the best land and best fruit, their wines typically range from $40 – 70 per bottle.  So for them, CC: is kind of second label.  A second label we’d put up against any value wine in the store though…

The Chardonnay is crisp and clean with the characteristic fruit you should enjoy from a Chardonnay.  Produced entirely in stainless steel there is no oak or butter to get in the way.  The Cabernet has great fruit and a well balanced – soft but complex – finish.  CC: claims the fruit comes from a famous vineyard off of Route 29 in Napa Valley – Hall perhaps, Grgich Hills, Whitehall Lane, even Far Niente/Nickel & Nickel?  I guess we’ll never no.  But the most important part, is that this wine is definitely not bad.

CC: Chardonnay (I Will Not Drink Bad Wine)

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%!)

Food & Wine Pairing: Stone Crabs

It is winter in Florida which means many things, one of which is Stone Crab season.  Tonight we are very lucky to get a fresh batch of Stone Crabs from a local fisherman.  So the question at hand is what wine to pair with them?

I always believe when it comes to food and wine pairing, you not only need to take into account the protein (in this instance Crab) that you will be eating but also the spices and flavors.  Stone Crabs are served fresh and chilled with no seasoning, but we will be making a number of dipping sauces that include horseradish, stone ground mustard, and even a bit of butter.  With the combo of the delicate flavors of the Crab and the heavy flavors of the sauces, I steering in the white direction so as not to overwhelm the crab but have also selected wines that have enough flavor to stand up to the sauces.

Wine #1:  Red Hook Chardonnay
From: Brooklyn, New York
About: Made by Robert Foley, this wine really is made in Brooklyn….however the grapes are grown in Long Island and then trucked into the city.  Foley went the California direction with this wine aging it in new oak barrels and allowing the Chardonnay to ripen fully and then undergo malolactic fermentation.  Basically, it is California style Chardonnay made out of Long Island grapes in Brooklyn…very Robert Foley.  And very good.  I’ve been tentative about New York wines, but this is one of my favorite new Chardonnays – New York or not.
Price: $48

Wine #2:  Robert Foley Pinot Blanc
From: Napa Valley, California
About: Let’s just call it a Robert Foley night…but he is a great winemaker and adventurous when it comes to whites.  Complete opposite of the previous, this wine is all fruit…no barrels or malo.  This 100% Pinot Blanc is very dry and crisp with strong floral flavors.  Perfect to counter balance the spiciness of the horseradish.
Price: $18