Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Intimate Russian River Pinot Bind Tasting

Two of our three kids were going to be gone over the weekend, one in New Orleans and the other in Chicago. Both their trips sounded fantastic, much better than anything we had planned for the weekend, which was nothing. I knew the Farrells were going to be in town, so Thursday night I asked if they wanted to do a last minute blind tasting over the weekend. Ted replied they were in. I pinged Jose to see if he was available. He was, but unfortunately Lili was visiting her sister. Now all we had to do was figure out what to taste.

I put all my wine into VinoCell. It showed me what options I had. I initially offered to do a 2014 Gap's Crown tasting, trying different Wineries' take on the fruit.

Saturday morning Ted countered and we agreed on Russian River Pinots. I let Jose know what the plan was and made certain he knew he didn't have to bring anything, given we were starting in six hours.

The weather was nice, blue skies and 70s. We set up outside with a hodge-podge of glass types as I was too lazy to open up all the burgundy wine glasses.

We started with a lovely 2015 Freeman, Ryo-Fu, from the Green Valley of the Russian River. It was nice. Shannon really liked it.

As we tasted, I noted all of the wines were great, but three of them I would take home and sleep with, they were that good.


B - 2014 Paul Hobbs, Katherine Lindsay Estate, Russian River Valley came in first place with an average of 4.05. Sue and I brought this. It cost $135. We bought this while tasting at their Vineyard Designate Experience. Truly decadent pricing for a Pinot and a tasting. The tasting began at 10:30 in the morning. I texted with Carlos and Ted after the introduction Champaign, asking if $120 was too much to spend on a Chardonnay. The answer is yes, but I bought a couple to share. In my defense, I didn't buy either the $300, $400, or $500 cabs.

A - 2014 Kosta Browne, Keefer Ranch, Russian River Valley came in second place with an average of 3.85. Sue and I brought this. It cost $90. I bought one from my Kosta Browne allocation. Next offering I may have to buy 2.

E - 2014 Dehlinger, High Planes, Russian River Valley came in third place with an average of 3.66. Ted and Shannon brought this.

D - 2014 Macphail, Dutton Ranch, Green Valley of Russian River Valley came in fourth place with an average of 3.30. Ted and Shannon brought this.

C - 2015 David Bruce, Russian River Valley came in last place with an average of 2.60. Jose brought this. Jose remembered that Michel liked David Bruce Pinots.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

SLH Birthday Tasting

After a water break we continued tasting four Santa Lucia Highland Pinots.

While tasting with Ted and Shannon and others in Los Olivos I met a character in the The Los Olivos Tasting Room & Wine Shop. He gruffly expressed his strong opinions on Pinots, one of which was that Santa Lucia Highland produced the best Pinots. Given I haven't explored much of the Pinots in the region, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to give some a try. It was my birthday, which excused the K&L bill and besides, The Emperor of Pinot demanded it, or so I told Sue.


C - 2013 Kosta Browne, Rosella's Vineyard came in first place with an average of 3.70.

D - 2015 Kosta Browne, Pisoni Vineyard came in second place with an average of 3.64.

A - 2012 Kosta Browne, Gary's Vineyard came in third place with an average of 3.29.

B - 2013 Kosta Browne, Santa Lucia Highlands came in last place with an average of 2.96.

I didn't set out to taste only Kosta Browne SLHs, but I wanted all the well known vineyards, all with a similar, drinkable vintage. These seemed the best options K&L had.

Monday, March 26, 2018

45th Birthday Tasting Revisited

As planned, I brought out the Pinots we tasted at my 45th to taste again, 3 years older.

Unfortunately, we had to set up inside due to the rain and cold. My birthday is alway hit or miss weather-wise. It's a little cozy indoors, but we make it work. Plying everyone with wine can't hurt this cause.

The tree out front was certain it was spring and cheerfully greeted our guests.

We started off with one of the Kosta Browne 20th anniversary wines: A magnum of 2015 Bootlegger's Hill, Russian River Valley, Chardonnay.

It was a beautiful wine with a surprising amount of schmutz at the bottom for a white. Its dark color surprised me given it's age. Is this a result of the oak fermentation? It was interesting to read Bootlegger's Hill is a selection of Wente clone from the Hyde Vineyard. The Patz & Hall, Hyde, Chardonnay is one of my favorites. I'll have to investigate what clones it uses.

We tasted the four Pinots while Sue filled us with bacon wrapped potatoes and pot stickers.


C - 2012 Kosta Browne, Russian River Valley came in first place with an average of 3.98.

B - 2012 Thomas Fogarty, Rapley Trail, Henry Ayrtons’ Block, Santa Cruz Mountains came in second place with an average of 3.85.

A - 2012 Halleck Vineyard, Estate, Sonoma Coast came in third place with an average of 3.65.

D - 2012 Patz & Hall, Pisoni Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands came in last place with an average of 3.49.

Amazingly the Kosta Browne took first as it did in the original tasting. The average rating improved from 2.98 to 3.74. The bottles were pretty young when we originally tried them. Three years later, it was hard to pick a winner.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 SF Chronicle Wine Competition Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Medal Winners

The 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition results are in. Congratulations to the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA winners.

Pinot Noir: $28.00 – $31.99

  • 2014 Sones, Thuy's Vineyard $29 - Bronze

Pinot Noir: $32.00 – $35.99

Pinot Noir: $36.00 – $39.99

Pinot Noir: $40.00 – $43.99

Pinot Noir: $44.00 – $47.99

Pinot Noir: $48.00 – $54.99

Pinot Noir: $55.00 – $64.99

  • 2015 Bargetto, Mount Eden Clone $60 - Gold

Pinot Noir: $65.00 & Over

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Paul Hates Sonoma Coast

Paul has never had a Sonoma Coast wine he liked. We decided to put it to the test.

It was a hot summer day when we met to taste Sonoma Coast Pinots. The wines were definitely warmer than the ideal tasting temperature, but the heat didn't stop us from enjoying the company, food, and wine.

We started with some lovely Sonoma Coast Chards: 2015 Littorai Sonoma Coast, 2015 Flowers Sonoma Coast, and a 2015 Failla, Fort Ross-Seaview, Estate. We picked up the Littorai on our last adventure in Sonoma to party at Kosta Browne. The others I grabbed at K&L. The Littorai was my favorite, but they were all very nice.


F - 2013 Jayson, Sonoma Coast came in first place with an average of 3.59. It cost $56. Bob brought this. It was the most highly rated wine he could find from a NY Times tasting.

D - 2014 Macphail, Sonoma Coast came in second place with an average of 3.54. It cost $35. Ted and Shannon brought this. They first had this wine at Cin cin, discovered the winery, and joined.

G - 2013 Kosta Browne, Sonoma Coast came in third place with an average of 3.52. It cost $64. Sue and I brought this. We enjoyed our first Kosta Browne years ago at a wonderful dinner in the swan room of Aureole. We couldn't see the wine angels, which is why we came, but the food and wine were excellent. Since then I've been buying 3 to 4 bottles a year; it's expensive and there isn't much in our allocation. This tasting seemed like a great chance to share some with friends.

H - 2011 Fort Ross, Reserve, Fort Ross Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast came in fourth place with an average of 3.30. It cost $70. Carlos brought this. It was one of two bottles recommended, the other being Flowers. He thinks he would have won had he brought the flowers.

A - 2015 Peay, Sonoma Coast came in fifth place with an average of 3.16. It cost $45. Paul and Jennifer brought this. It was recommended by the Dreagers wine guy. It is a small lot vintage and scored 93 points.

B - 2015 Mario Perelli-Minetti, Sonoma Coast came in sixth place with an average of 2.95. Mac and Rebecca brought this. It cost $30 or so. The man at the store picked it.

E - 2009 Cobb, Coastlands Vineyard, Sonoma Coast came in seventh place with an average of 2.64. It cost $65. Jose and Lili brought this. Jose googled the best years for Pinots. 2009 came up as a great year, so he looked for a highly rated 2009 Sonoma coast wine. This one had a 94 wine spectator rating.

C - 2014 Gary Farrell, Russian River Selection, Russian River Valley came in last place with an average of 2.61. It cost $44. Michel brought this. He wanted to bring something that he already had before and knew he and others enjoyed. It was disqualified from the tasting, since it didn't say Sonoma Coast on the label.

We continued sharing Sonoma Coast Pinots well into the night while enjoying the feast Sue made for us.

I think it's safe to say we convinced Paul about the great wines of Sonoma Coast.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Best Santa Cruz Mountains Value Pinots (Under $30) - Round 5

On my birthday we were joined by our friends for the fifth and final tasting of Santa Cruz Mountains Pinots under $30.

It rained days before and there was a chance of rain on the 25th so we decided to have it inside. In the end it turned out to be a beautiful, cool spring day.

Unfortunately, outside was cold and a mess from the storms. We would have to make inside work. Sue planned well. She had rented smaller chairs to fit everyone in. It was tight, but would have to work.

Since it was my birthday, I thought it a perfect time to open some of the larger bottles in my cellar. I opened and chilled a magnum of 2014 Rhys, Bearwallow, Chardonnay to start. It was like unwrapping my first birthday present of the day. A beautiful bottle in a beautiful package.

I was worried I had frozen and possibly destroyed it when I noticed a large chain of wine sediment, but judging from its taste my worries were for naught. I don't usually see a lot of sediment in whites, but perhaps that's because I don't normally age them. We definitely opened it before its prime. We're still holding the first white we bought from Rhys, waiting for their vintage chart to indicate they recommend drinking it. The Bearwallow hasn't even showed up on their vintage chart yet, but Sue and I thought it was ready to drink a year or so back when we tried and fell in love with it. Maybe we'll wait to full maturity on our other bottle.

I got out the wine charms and chose the purple koala. Silly, but fun.

I followed this up with another one of my favorites: A Patz & Hall, Hyde, Chardonnay. Mmmm.

Sue lovingly presented all my favorites starters: Bacon wrapped potatoes, pork dumplings, and meats and cheeses. One of the best parts of your birthday is getting to pick all your favorites. It's good to be the birthday boy!

We had a great time tasting and enjoying each other's company. Lots of love and not a lot of politics.

After the tasting, I opened more big bottles: A magnum of 2012 Patz & Hall, Pisoni Pinot, a magnum of 2012 Windy Oaks, Proprietor's Reserve Pinot, and a double magnum of 2011 Silvertip, Estate Pinot. There wasn't a shortage of good wine.


A - 2013 Bargetto, Pommard Clone, Santa Cruz Mountains came in first place with an average of 3.38.

C - 2013 Windy Oaks, Tera Narro, Santa Cruz Mountains came in second place with an average of 3.30.

D - 2011 Ser, Santa Cruz Mountains came in third place with an average of 3.13.

B - 2012 Byington, Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains came in fourth place with an average of 3.00.

E - 2012 Russian Ridge, Santa Cruz Mountains was unfortunately corked. If we do another tasting of all the winners, I may try and throw in a bottle of this.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Gifts for a Wine Snob - Opening Wine

After breaking a few Houdinis I realized it was time to investigate a more reliable alternative. Friends I trust to know recommended Screwpull/Le Creuset.

This works great. I highly recommend it.

I'm hard on wine openers and eventually wore mine out, so I upgraded to the metal version.

It is exorbitant, but well worth the price, if you need an industrial strength wine opener. It has a 10 year warranty. My only complaint would be the plastic defoiler that comes with it. I broke it and replaced it with this beauty. It feels good in the hand and does a great job cutting foil.

I also have a defoiler that I don't need to worry about losing. I take it on picnics and when traveling. If it breaks, $12 to Amazon and it shows up wherever I am two days later.

I wanted to like the Vacu Vin, but could never figure it out. It looks cool, I'll give it that.