Monthly Archives: April 2018

Springtime for Rose’

 

Although modern rose’ wines are designed to pair with food and be enjoyed year-round, they still come to mind when the spring air

Chateau d’ Esclans in Provence

begins to warm.  While some are “bled off” from juice destined for a red wine, a process known as the Saignee method, others are planted and field blended specifically for the rose’.

While Provence remains the world-wide leader in the production of fine rose’, I have discovered several releases from California and

the Pacific Northwest that are composed of Burgundian, Rhone and Bordeaux varietals.

I first tasted the Whispering Angel rose’ from Chateau d’ Esclans at a 2006 tasting of Cote de Provence wines.  A blend of grenache, cinsault, vermentino, syrah and tourben, the Chateau d’ Esclans Whispering Angel 2017 ($22) is clean with dense flavors and a

Chateau d’ Esclans “Rock Angel” Rose’

rich mouthfeel, the result of regular lees stirrings. Another release, the Chateau d’ Esclans Rock Angel Rose’ 2016 ($35) has an herbal/mineral character that is exceptional with food.

From Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the full whole cluster pressed 2017 Gran Moraine

2016 Gran Moraine Rose’ of Pinot Noir

Yamhill-Carlton Rose’ of Pinot Noir ($28) is crafted from designated stock in two vineyards.  Once it opened up in the glass, the floral hints in the bouquet heightened and the crisp, complex berry and melon flavors were revealed.

Grenache is among my favorite varietals, as a red wine, in a Rhone blend or as a rose’. Recent tastings of grenache rose’ from Santa Barbara, Napa and Sonoma counties showcase the grape’s adaptability and the welcoming terroir throughout California.

From the estate Colson Canyon Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, grapes were purposely harvested early to retain the bright acidity in the 2017 Tensley Colson Canyon Grenache Rose’ ($22).  Nicely structured, it

Carol Shelton Rendezvous Rose’

expressed complex, balanced tropical fruit, melon and citrus flavors.

Sharon Kazan Harris sources the grapes for her Rarecat Rose’ 2017 ($36) from a Davis, CA vineyard with, as she describes, poor, rocky soil, perfect for the core grenache.   Aside from the soothing salmon color, the floral aromas are pronounced and pink grapefruit dominates the palate.  It has a noticeable acidity that will compliment seafood and shellfish.

I’m told that the inspiration for the 2017 Limerick Lane Rose’ ($24) came from eating mussels and drinking rose in the village of Cassis, along the French Meditteranean, something I can relate to.  The syrah (62%) and grenache (38%) grapes for this Russian River Valley blend were specifically designated and harvested. The rich citrus and strawberry flavors set up a nice, long mineral finish.

Produced from Mendocino County carignane grapes that are bled off after three long days with skins, the 2017 Carol Shelton “Rendezvous” Rose’ ($15) has a darker red color than most.  There are spice notes on the nose and rich, expressive fruit flavors that peak through the finish. It pairs well with Thai food or BBQ, but I prefer it by itself.

2017 St. Supery Napa Valley Rose’

St. Supery Winery, in the heart of the Napa Valley, has produced a variety of Bordeaux-style wines for nearly three decades.  With a darker cherry color, the St. Supery Rose’ 2015 ($29), a merlot-dominant blend, features five Bordeaux varietals that covey elegant flavors of red berries, currants and herbs.  It pairs well with seafood and rich sauces.

Bandol, in southern France, is one of the premier wine regions in Provence with soils and climate fitting for the mourvedre grape that imparts structure to wine.  All red and rose’ wines from the region must contain at least 50% mourvedre. The highly acclaimed 2016 Domaines Ott “Château Romassan” Bandol Rosé ($47), is 60% mourvedre with added cinsault, grenache and syrah  Earning reviews in the mid-nineties, the bouquet is a scented flower garden and the vibrant hints of pink grapefruit remain

2016 Dunham Cellars/MacLachlan “Pursued by Bear” Rose’

throughout the lush finish.

From Washington’s Columbia Valley region, the 2016 Dunham Cellars/MacLachlan “Pursued by Bear” Blushing Bear Columbia Valley Rosé $28

is another grenache-dominant release with strong support from cinsault and mourvedre.  “Pursued by Bear” is actor Kyle MacLachlan’s label and he, apparently, was personally involved in the development of this wine. I found it clean and balanced with a diversified and opulent flavor profile.

This list hardly scratches the surface of what is available.  Whatever suits your palate, new rose’, with all the complexities of red wine, is something that should not be overlooked.

Vineyards in Bandol

 

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Calistoga Culinary Getaway

 

Not having spent time in Calistoga for years, I recently stayed a few days to discover some wines and enjoy the vibrant, emerging local restaurant scene. The following is a small taste of what we enjoyed.

Breakfast options includes Sarafornia, an old-style cafe with classic comfort food or Bella Bakery for those seeking coffee and an artisan

The Grade Cellars “Sea Fog” Sauvignon Blanc

pastry.  My favorite for atmosphere and menu was Sam’s Social Club east of town, where I enjoyed an omelette of cultivated, wild mushrooms, gruyere cheese, black truffle oil and scallions.

We had the opportunity to taste two local sauvignon blanc releases; both impressive, but very different.  The 2015 Petit Coquerel

Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc ($20) had shades of grapefruit on the nose and during the long finish with a dry crispness in the middle.

From the producers of fine Calistoga cabernet sauvignon, The Grade Sauvignon Blanc “Sea Fog” 2015 ($28), barrel-fermented in all neutral oak, delivers a pleasant acidity with degrees of citrus and stone fruit flavors and a soft wet stone finish.

Lovina Restaurant

Formerly Calistoga Kitchen, Lovina is a new restaurant in the old building at the corner of Cedar Street and Lincoln Ave.  The new creative ownership team identifies with being a uniquely suited, diverse group of friends. The menu is also diverse, with vegetarian friendly and gluten-free options available.  Uniquely good was the Grilled Cheese with Chestnut and Celery Root Soup and the Warm Duck Confit Spinach Salad, which we shared along with a special Chicken and Dumpling Soup.

Lovina is open Thursday through Monday for lunch/brunch and dinner.  Their wine list features a variety of North Coast selections and they celebrate “No corkage Thursdays.”

Visiting the historic Chateau Montelena Estate always reminds me of their 1973 chardonnay release that led to an Independence Day

1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay

for California wines after winning the famed 1976 Paris Tasting. The 2014 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay ($58), is aged ten months sur lee in oak with no malolactic fermentation. I found complex aromas, crispness and a rich finish of stone fruit and spice flavors, all welcomed by my palate.  The earthy 2014 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel ($39) also stood out with coffee bean, chocolate on the nose and jammy, ripened fruit flavors throughout.

We first discovered Brannan’s by accident, seeking a place to have lunch in town, and were

Bar at Brannan’s Restaurant

delightfully surprised by their imaginative small plate dishes.  I joined co-owner Ron Goldin at a recent event while chef Colin Curtis prepared farmhand (vegetarian-based), briny (seafood) and chow (the meats), small plate dishes that included Curried Crab Tacos, Moroccan Lamb Chops, Salt and Pepper Scallops and Wild Mushroom Risotto.  Appetizers like Smashed Avocado Toast and Ahi Poke Spoons added to the feast. In an older building on Lincoln Ave., Brannan’s has a large, historic bar, full array of cocktails and an ever-changing menu.

Over thirty years ago when Rich and Carolyn Czapleski purchased the land for their Canard Winery, they got a call from Robert Mondavi, urging them to retain some of the oldest zinfandel vines in the Napa Valley,

Canard old vine zinfandell

dating back one hundred years.  Today, the dry-farmed vineyard continues to produce the 2013 Canard Zinfandel ($45), a balance of strength and elegance.  Smokey flavors of raspberry and spice lead to a rich mouthfeel through the finish.

I tasted the Fairwinds 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve ($110) deep inside the extensive cave system at Fairwinds Estate Winery. It originates from the volcanic soils of the local Kenefick Ranch Vineyard that sources Bordeaux grapes to many top producers. The fruit flavors are intense and opulent, but nicely balanced with the complex spice elements that dawdle on the finish.

Tasting in the caves at Fairwinds Estate

For another special dining experience, I recommend the highly reviewed Solbar, at the Solage Spa, east of downtown.  Fresh dishes classically prepared by chef Massimo Falsini like Tamales Bay Mussels, Petrale Sole Tacos and Steak Frites appear on Solbar’s lunch menu. Seasonal Cheeses and Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras begin the ever-changing entrees like Sautéed Wild Steelhead with Foraged Mushrooms and Crispy Liberty Duck with Abalone-prosciutto ragu.

Aside from health and recreation, the Calistoga experience offers an array of fine wines and prodigious culinary choices at all levels.  For a get-a-way, it has it all.

 


Donum Estate Pairs Wine With Art

 

A mid-week pinot noir tasting at Donum Estate, in the heart of the Carneros, quickly turned to an experience that exceeded all my expectations. Entering the property from Ramal Road, we were greeted by Sanna, Giant Head, a huge white sculpture by Jaume Plensa that was peaceful and welcoming. Today would be about pinot noir and art, the latter in the form of magnificent sculpture gardens. As

Sanna, Giant Head by Jaume Plensa

a special treat, we had the opportunity to walk the estate with President/Winegrower Anne Moller-Radke.

Mollar-Radke first arrived on this property in 1981 after German investors purchased what was then the Buena Vista Winery.  In 2001, she sold Buena Vista and began Donum Estate with the single focus of making extraordinary pinot noir and chardonnay in the Burgundian-style.  Since the purchase by investors in 2011, Donum Estate, with Anne still at the helm, has evolved to produce highly reviewed wines from vineyards in three distinct appellations and assemble sculptures by world-class artists like Yayoi Kusama, Ai Weiwei and Louise Bourgeois.

Anne Mollar-Radke, President and Winegrower

Before tasting the pinot noir, we were welcomed with a glass of 2015 Donum Estate Carneros Chardonnay to accompany our walk through the vineyards and grounds.  The only chardonnay produced, this vintage is aged in 40% new French oak with no malolactic fermentation, but stirred on lees regularly over four months. With citrus and floral hints on the nose, the rich stone fruit flavors finish with pleasant honey notes.

Glass in hand, we walked to the “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” by Ai Weiwei, with the carved head of each symbol atop a pole in a circular ring of wild grasses and daffodils.

Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads by Ai Weiwei

Before entering the small building that solely housed Bourgeois’s haunting “Spider,” we passed by the compassionate “Care For Oneself,” a large stainless steel depiction of a strong, healthy man, holding his sick, weakened self.

“Care For Oneself” by

Inspired, we trekked up the hill to sculptor Richard Hudson’s “Love Me,” a huge stainless steel, three-dimensional heart that mirrors back alluring distorted images of the surrounding terrain. Returning to the modern, chic tasting center by way of the “Contemporary Terracotta Warriors” by Yeu Minjun, we met up with our host, Phillipe Herrarte, who would guide us through today’s pouring. The afternoon sun was warm after a light morning rain, so Phillipe opened the entire south-facing wall exposing a view of vineyards, outlaying marshlands and, in the distance, the new San Francisco skyline. I can get used to this.

All the Donum Estate pinot noir that we tasted was exceptional, but that would and should be expected from a team with this pedigree. Today was special.  At one sitting, we savored and

“Love Me” by Richard Hudson

compared flavors and nuance from three-fifths of California’s best pinot noir producing regions:  Carneros, the Russian River Valley and the Anderson Valley to the far north.

We began with two releases from the Carneros estate.  The 2014 Donum Estate Carneros Pinot Noir is blended from the best of three blocks while the earthy, single block 2014 Donum Estate Carneros West Block Pinot Noir, from arguably the best terroir in the appellation, delivered a spiced, red fruit and cherry bouquet with rich, layered flavors and a drawn-out finish.

Farmed by Anne since its inception in 1997, the Winside Vineyard is the source for the

Donum Estate pinot noir

2014 Donum Estate Russian River Reserve Pinot Noir, combining Pommard and Dijon 667 clones, aged in 71% new French oak.  Very aromatic, the red fruit flavors are acute, but nicely structured with a forest floor element through the finish.

Mendocino County’s Angels Camp Vineyard, near the Pacific Ocean, is planted with ten different clones, seven of which were used in the 2014 Donum Estate Angel Camp Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.  Aged separately, the best barrels were selected and blended before bottling. The rich flavors were ripe and spirited with definite

Donum Estate vineyard

oak influences. I would definitely recommend all the wines, but when asked, I chose to re-visit the Russian River Valley Reserve.

Donum Estate is building a new production facility that will bring the entire operation on-site.  The experience here is rare; there is no other like it in the region.  It also brings the exclusivity that befits such a property.  Due diligence is required to decide if it’s all for you.  As for me, I want to go back soon.