Sunday, August 28, 2011

8/28/2011 - Pick of the Week

My Pick of the Week
Sue's Pick of the Week
Weekly Indulgence
  • 2007 Silver Mountain Vineyards, Estate, Pinot Noir
  • 2007 Gatos Locos (aka Vine Hill), Los Carneros, Scintilla Vineyard, Pinot Noir
  • 2004 Silver Mountain Vineyards, Alloy
  • 2008 Bargetto, Santa Cruz Mountains, Reserve, Merlot
  • 2007 Silver Mountain Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Muns Vineyard, Pinot Noir
  • 2007 Silver Mountain Vineyards, Santa Cruz Mountains, Miller Hill Vineyard, Pinot Noir
  • 2002 Silver Mountain Vineyards, Santa Clara Valley, Wiedeman Vineyard, Zinfandel

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Silver Mountain, Bargetto, & Vine Hill

Ever since finding out Silver Mountain Vineyards was off of summit road a couple of weeks back I have wanted to try it out. We were lucky, it was the third weekend of the month, which allowed us to add Vine Hill to the the list. I brought along the addresses of Bargetto and Pelican Ranch, two other wineries we have yet to visit, just in case Sue and I were in the mood for more.

This way to Silver Mountain Vineyards

Silver Mountain Vineyards

We arrived at their closed gate a little after noon. Fog was everywhere and the temperature was in the low 50s, far from ideal wine tasting weather. We called the number on the call box, they opened the gate, and said they would be at the tasting room in 5 minutes.

The tasting room was all fogged in

After looking around the fogged in event area, Jerold O'Brien, the founder and winemaker, greeted us at the door. I asked about the strange weather and how it was affecting the vineyard. He told us the weather supported the growth of powdery mildew and they would be spraying that day with a common fungicide approved for organic crops to prevent it.

He said he worked with a team on the wine, but the buck stopped with him when it came to things, referring to the sign on Harry S. Truman's desk.

Jerold believes the winery is the most sustainable wineries he knows of. He took us out back and showed us the operation. The operation included the impressive Triple Green, a 6000 square foot roof covered in solar panels. It's called the Triple Green, because it does three things: 1)Provides a massive amount of shade, reducing refrigeration requirements and wear and tear on equipment. 2)Provides 46 kilowatts via the 263 solar panels. 3)Collects rain water for operations and domestic use. Jerold also told us about how the winery had been practicing organic farming methods since before he knew it was called organic farming.

Silver Mountain focuses on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Alloy, their Bordeaux blend.

Jerold O'Brien pours us a taste

First we tried 3 of the Pinots. I liked both the Miller and the Muns, which Sue thought smelled like a Hawaiian lei. The Tondre didn't work for me, which was perplexing since I really like other wines made from these grapes. I was even more perplexed when Jerold told us that they made the Tondre Pinot for Tondre Wines, a bottle I knew I enjoyed just a couple of weeks back. I wish I would have asked him what was difference between the wines. We also tried the delicious Alloys and their Chardonnay.

We tasted and talked to Jerold for close to two hours. He was incredibly friendly with a vast knowledge base and a willingness to share it. I don't think we've ever stayed so long at a tasting, nor talked about so many different subjects. It was truly a pleasure.

After picking up a couple of our favorites and a couple we hadn't even tried, we headed to Vine Hill.

Winery Details

Bargetto Winery

The GPS went crazy on the way to Vine Hill. For some reason it thought we were in the middle of a forest, without any roads visible on the display. I knew we were heading south on Soquel, but wasn't certain which road we were supposed to turn on. Thankfully, it corrected itself when the address for Bargetto was entered, so we headed there instead.

Bargetto's tasting room

Bargetto had a nicely decorated, good sized tasting room. I wasn't sure we'd enjoy it, because an unruly group of birthday celebrating ladies were causing quite a racket. I'm all for people having a good time, but these ladies were out of control and ruining the tasting experience for everyone in the place. Thankfully they left five minutes after we arrived. Tasting rooms should have plans to take care of these problems or risk loosing customers.

Sue and I enjoy our tasting

Sue and I chose to taste the premium wines for $10 for five wines. Skip and Carl kept the wine flowing as they joked around with each other and us tasters. These guys were really fun. Carl poured more than five tastings, always wanting us to comment before he revealed the wine. A wedding was going on out back and my wife would sneak a peek in between tastes. She wished the bride a sweater every time she saw the cold bride to be.

The wine tasted very good, but was expensive. It ranged in price from $40 to $60. This was probably our fault, since we decided to go with the premium wines. The non premium tasting was $5 and the most expensive wine on that list was $28. We'll have to check that tasting out, if we're ever back.

We picked up a couple of our favorites, the reserve Merlot and the La Vita, thinking we were already invested $10 in a couple of bottles. After signing, I was shocked to discover that they didn't refund the tasting fee with the purchase. How lame! This policy will make me think hard before I head back.

Disappointed, we headed out in search of the elusive Vine Hill Winery.

Winery Details

Vine Hill Winery

The GPS regained its sense, and guided us up a winding, often one lane road to Vine Hill.

The Vine Hill tasting room

They were pouring fours wines paired with el Salchichero salami for $5. The wine was good and the salami was delicious.

Our pourer told us they were known for their cheese parings on passport days. I asked if they got many visitors, being so far out and only open one weekend a month. She said that they usually got a good flow of people. When we entered she said she didn't recognize me, making me think that they mostly saw club members. She also mentioned that they would be opening a tasting room at Surf City Vintners end of September or sometime in October. This will definitely make them more accessible.

Sue enjoys the view from atop the hill

After finishing our tasting, we headed outside to check out the grounds. Outside was a nice area for a picnic. Up the hill a little further was an even nicer picnic area with a lovely view. I'm sure it's even nicer when fog isn't preventing viewing of the ocean.

The view from atop the hill

On the way out, we chatted a bit with Nick Guerrero, the wine maker. He told us about Pinot clones, saying there are more than a thousand, but under fifty of them are really used. He explained how different clones were known for different qualities. It was interesting and always fun to learn a bit.

Dana Sharma, a fellow taster and owner of Wine d'Tours, gave us her business card and told us to look out for a groupon coming the next week.

Winery Details


Winery of the Day: I have to give the nod to Silver Mountain Vineyards; it's hard to imagine beating the experience we had.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

8/21/2011 - Pick of the Week

My Pick of the Week
Sue's Pick of the Week
Weekly Indulgence
  • 2007 Artezin, Mendocino County, Zinfandel
  • 2007 Storrs, Wildcat Ridge, Pinot Noir
  • 2007 Poetic Cellars, Serenade
  • 2006 Paraiso, SLH, Wedding Hill, Syrah
  • 2008 Coterie Cellars, Russian River Valley, Saralee's Vinyard, Pinot Noir
  • 2006 Burrell School, Estate, Pinot Noir
  • 2009 Coterie Cellars, SLH, Tondre Grapefield, Pinot Noir
  • 2008 Skov Winery, Santa Cruz Mountains, Pinot Noir

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Burrell & Storrs Club Pickup

    Burrell School was having their Sipping Session for the August club wines. I contacted the other club members to see who was doing what. Bob and Carolyn were interested in going as well as making their Storrs club pickup. I wanted to try something new, so I suggested we also hit Poetic.

    Burrell School

    The School House

    We were the second party to arrive, minutes after the event started at one. Burrell holds its club events in its gazebo, a beautiful garden area behind the school house. The area has a nice view of the vineyard. An acoustic guitar player provided pleasant background music as we tasted. They had a nice assortment of crackers, cheese, bread, vegetables  purple potatoes, sausages, and shrimp po'boys to snack on in between tastes.

    An acoustic guitarist plays in the gazebo

    Burrell was tasting the new club releases: 2009 "Teacher's Pet" Chardonnay, 2009 "Extra Credit" Cab Franc, and the 2009 "Spring Break" Syrah. The Chard may have been drinkable, but the other two needed more time. Ironically, the tasting notes said the exact opposite. The pourer noted many times that we needed to decide when they were drinkable, depending on our tastes. This was an easy decision: Cellar them!

    Trying the new club releases

    Burrell was also tasting futures. Dave, the wine maker, entertained and informed as he poured the 2010 "Teacher's Pet" Chardonnay, 2010 Old School Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 "Honor Roll" Estate Merlot, and 2009 "Dean’s List" Cabernet Sauvignon. Futures are a great deal at 50% off, if you can cellar them for a couple of years. None of these wines are on my favorite list, so I only tasted the two cabs on Bob's insistence. Bob preferred the "Dean’s List" Cab over the Old School. It wasn't clear to me which was better.

    Dave pours tastes of futures

    We made a quick stop in the tasting room so Bob could taste the Cab Franc where we found coupons for a free tasting for two at Poetic. Burrell's tasting room has a nice porch area with a beautiful view of the vineyards. We usually eat lunch here, but since no one was ready for lunch, we decided to head down the road to Poetic.

    The view from the porch

    Winery Details

    Poetic Cellars

    20 or so minutes later we arrived at Poetic. On the way Sue noticed a winery sign pointing to Silver Mountain. It wasn't in my wine app, so I made a mental note to look it up when I got home.

    Walking down the hill to Poetic (action shot)

    Poetic had a spacious, inviting tasting room. There were tables inside, where patrons could sit and enjoy a glass of wine. The future wine was visible behind the tasting bar, aging in barrels. Outside they had a nice patio area.

    Zack, the wine makers son, poured us tastes and answered our questions. When pouring the Petite Syrah, Zack noted hints of blue berries and leather. Carolyn asked, "What do you do? Throw in a leather strap?" Zack smiled, and said it was from the boots used to stomp the grapes.

    A lot was going on at Poetic besides wine tasting. Artists were selling paintings, jewelry, and jams. Everyone else tasted the jams and goat cheese from Friend in Cheeses. Sue really liked the lavendar plum jam with chevre cheese. She took some home along with a jar of Pinot Noir cherries.

    They were also voting on the finalists in their cutest pet contest, Pets for Petite. The winner would receive a case of Petite Syrah. I voted for the only non dog, a bunny named Pirojok. The voting brought in a bunch of guests with their dogs, presumably to vote for them. The dogs erupted in bark fests from time to time, which was somewhat annoying.

    Pets for Petite finalists

    We enjoyed lunch outside with a bottle of their Pinot then headed to Storrs.

    Winery Details

    Storrs Winery


    Storrs' tasting room is a tad small. If you get more than a couple of groups in there, it can get a little crowded. Large groups are requested to make reservations where I believe they are served in a larger room.

    Tasting at Storrs

    What the tasting room lacks in size, the winery makes up for in varieties of great, mostly reasonably priced wines. We tasted six wines, but there were twenty-one on the menu ranging in price from $15 to $42. They have five Pinots and two Zinfandels! There were 3 to 4 other groups tasting, so the service was a little slow, but adequate.

    We took home some 2007 Wildcat Ridge Pinot, which was given the Best Pinot Noir of Region at the California State Fair 2011, and 2006 Rusty Ridge Zinfandel. Good stuff, Maynard!

    Winery Details


    I followed up with Silver Mountain Vineyards. It turns out they have been there since 1979. It's open from noon to 5 on Saturdays. We'll be sure to hit it the next time we're in the area.

    Wine Watch : China Awash With Counterfeit Vintage Wine

    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    Coterie Cellars Living Social Deal

    My wife bought a living social deal to taste at Coterie Cellars, an urban winery in San Jose. I had never heard of the winery and was eager to try their wine.

    The winery was in a clean industrial park area, just south of where 87 intersects 280, easy to find with GPS assistance.
    Unit 110 - Coterie Cellars
    The tasting event took place in the winery's warehouse like, all purpose room, which could comfortably fit 20 to 30 people. There were barrels, cases of wine, and wine making equipment all around. A nice plate of cheese and crackers were available to enjoy as Ken poured a taste of 5 wines.

    There was a wide variety of participants, ranging from young to old, serious to not so serious wine enthusiasts. The wine maker, Kyle Loudon, worked the room, entertaining group by group with wine talk. He was very inviting and spoke passionately about his wine.

    Ken served up 5 wines to taste
    The wine was very good. Ken started us off with a chilled 2008 Rose made from Syrah. We both liked it, but the finish didn't work for me. Next Ken served us a 2009 Roussanne, a white wine served at room temperature. I don't recall ever having this varietal before. It was a dryer wine, but I didn't get a lot of taste out of it. We were then served two Pinots: 2008 Saralee's Vinyard from the Russian River Valley, and 2009 Tondre Grapefield from the Santa Lucia Highlands. We asked Ken what was up with the Tondre. He told us that the farmer had a field of carrots, a field of broccoli, and a field of grapes. After tasting the wine, I knew this was an incredible field of grapes. Sue could not get over the nose of the this Pinot; she smelled fertilized fields and soggy grass. I hoped I wasn't smelling that. I knew I was enjoying the taste. It really exploded in the mouth as it warmed up. Lastly we were served the 2008 Syrah, which was also very good.

    The leaving part took a while. I kept waiting for the line to die down, but it never seemed to. Why is it that tasting rooms are usually very good at serving tastings, but rarely good at selling the wine? 15 couples in the room, mostly finishing up at the same time, and trying to purchase wine from one seller is not efficient. It wasn't quite that bad, but close. No complaints though, it "forced" us to take another try of the Tondre and the Syrah.

    We spoke with Kyle as he assisted with the back up. He told us how the winery was owned by him and his wife. He told us how he and his wife, Ken, and the lady working the register did a range of jobs, depending on the day. He said, "We keep it in the family." I asked if they were all related. They laughed and said they were related by wine.

    The spoils
    We left the enjoyable tasting, eager to try the wine later.

    Winery Details


    When Sue saw the Tondre she thought we had seen it before. It turns out that this is one of the Pinots we purchased at A Taste of Monterey a couple of weeks earlier. I'll keep my eyes peeled for these wonderful grapes used elsewhere.

    I contacted Tondre Wines. They said they sell 80% of their grapes to wineries.

    Silver Mountain Vineyards also has a Tondre Pinot we found at the Los Gatos Whole Foods. I've got to get over there.

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Wine Read : Cork fights back in the War of the Stoppers

    Ted mentioned seeing a news piece on how Portugal was hurting due to less cork usage, but my searches only found the following, which seems to suggest otherwise.

    I also found an interesting study on screwcaps, which makes some of them look pretty good, if it's to be believed:

    The take away:

    • Screwcaps can be as good or better than natural cork
    • Not all screwcaps are created equal