Friday, July 31, 2020

2020 SFCWC SLH Chards Gold or Better

Every year I look at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition results and usually am inspired to a blind tasting or two. This year wasn't any different, outside of being the worst year ever. Inspired by our love of Testarossa's Rosella's Chardonnay, I found a tasting of 5 wines in Santa Lucia Highland's Chards that won a Gold medal or better.

The wines were:
  • 2017 Bernardus, Sierra Mar Vineyard
  • 2018 Barton, Secret Garden
  • 2017 Calerrain
  • 2018 Tondre, Tondre Grapefield
  • 2018 Soquel Vineyards, Partners' Reserve Lone Oak Vineyard

I had never heard of Barton, or Calerrain. It's always exciting to try new wineries.

It took me a couple of months to gather up all of these wines, with some mishaps along the way. At one point I was moving the Bernardus, Sierra Mar Vineyard and realized it was red. I had mistakenly ordered the Pinot from wine.com instead of the Chard. Luckily Bernardus was kind enough to find the Chard, even when the website said it was sold out. Barton too found enough of the Secret Garden after the website listed it as sold out. Reaching out to the wineries, before using 3rd party sellers, is something I'll do in the future.

Tondre was harder to acquire than you would think. The site did not reply to my inquiry, but I was able to find a wine shop in Fresno that helped me out. It seemed a little silly that I couldn't find some place closer, and maybe I could have. As it was, Tony at Bella Vino Cellar took good care of me.

Thankfully, I had friends that were excited to try the Chards. A couple of the usuals were not interested.

I defoiled and bagged all the wines.


Kait randomized and left them in groups so no one knew what letter corresponded to what wine.


We zoomed, enjoying the company and wine.


We used a Coravin, as did the Fosters. Bob gave me one of these years ago for Christmas. I never thought I'd find a use for it, but the virus and remote wine tastings have given the gift purpose. Rebecca's Coravin was fancy compared to ours, leading to envy, planned future investigation, and possibly purchases. They had pimped their Coravin with an aerator.


Results




A - 2018 Soquel Vineyards, Partners' Reserve Lone Oak Vineyard came in first place with an average of 3.84. It costs $12.50 as a special if you buy 6, but normally costs $25 for wine club members.

D - 2017 Calerrain  came in second place with an average of 3.57. It costs $35 directly from the winery.

E - 2018 Barton, Secret Garden came in third place with an average of 3.36. It costs $40 directly from the winery. This turns out to be from Boekenoogen vineyard, which is a coincidence, since we just tried a Boekenoogen from Wrath.

C - 2018 Tondre, Tondre Grapefield came in 4th place with an average of 3.22. It costs $30.

B - 2017 Bernardus, Sierra Mar Vineyard came in last place with an average of 2.90. It costs $35, club discounted down from $50.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Dry Creek's Best Zinfandel

We've tried the blends from Dry Creek Vineyard, but we've never really tried their best. I sent them an email asking what they considered their best Zinfandel. I received a reply from their Direct to Consumer Manager, Michael Longerbeam.

Our best Zinfandel? That’s a tough question to answer since we make so many, and they are each so different from one another.

I’ll highlight 3 of my personal favorites.


If your preference is a fruit forward Zinfandel with a nice long finish, this is your best bet


A beautifully balanced Zinfandel made from four different Zinfandel clones


Our mountain Zinfandel. The flavors are full bodied due to dry farming and vines grown at high elevation

With Kaitlynn's help we randomized these and I distributed them. Ted and I shared some confusion around the tasting, but in the end we figured it out.


We zoomed, enjoying the company and wine. It was nice to have Paul and Jennifer.


Results





A - 2017 Vogensen Ranch Zinfandel came in first place with an average of 3.97.

C - 2017 DCV2 Four Clones Zinfandel came in second place with an average of 3.25.

B - 2017 Somers Ranch Zinfandel came in last place with an average of 2.91.

All the wines cost $44.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Michel's Remote Cab Tasting

Michel sent out his proposed rules:

We will taste 3 DIFFERENT wines 😊  Like we were suppose to do last time.


I can pick the 3 wines or someone can bring their own choice, if they would like.   The wines must be Cabs and must be between $35 and $50 approximately.   If someone wants to bring their own, they have to bring me 4 bottles of it (or I can go pick it up at your place).


I will then create 4 packages of three bottles, all in brown bags, with marked corked top, and bottles will be marked A, B and C, because I would like for all of us to taste the same bottle together.


I will deliver each of you a package of three bottles, some days ahead of the tasting, which could be on Saturday May 23rd.    


If that date works for you and you would like to chose a wine, please let me know ASAP, so I don’t buy more than needed.


I thought Ted and I were going to submit bottles. In the ends Michel supplied two and I supplied one. I chose from the SF Chronicle's Wine Competition Cabernet Winners.

Michel graciously picked up my wine and delivered the set to everyone. Ted's rocket ship wasn't necessary.

Jose texted that he was ready days before.


We zoomed, enjoying the company and wine. Michel told everyone that the wines were from three different regions: Napa, Livermore, and Paso Robles. Ted and Shannon tried to get everyone to guess what regions each of the wines were from.


Results




B 2016 Justin, Isosceles, Paso Robles - came in first place with an average of 3.76. It cost $47. It is usually priced out of the range, but a friend, who is an owner of a wine store, gave it to him at cost. It's listed as a Bordeaux blend. At a bigger tasting, price or blend might have disqualified it.

A 2016 McGrail Vineyards, Reserve, Livermore Valley - came in second place with an average of 3.58. It cost $48.

C 2016 Peju, Napa Valley- came in last place with an average of 3.13. It cost $41. Michel likes it for the price.

Our wine was too hot when we tasted it, but a later retasting at proper temperature confirmed at least the ones we liked the most.

Everyone having the same labeled wines I think helped. I'm not certain the aluminum foil was worth it, but it did hide the cork until extracted.

Vinvino came up as a source of future tastings. It scored the Justin a 4.5, the McGrail a 4.1, and the Peju a 4.2. Vivino's top rated Cabs from $30 - $50 looked like an interesting tasting to me.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Halleck Vineyard's Virtual Tasting

On a whim, I ordered a Virtual Tasting from Halleck Vineyards. Stop me if you've heard this one before. By on a whim, I mean I received an email offer at 11:30 after enjoying a couple bottles of wine, not wanting to go to bed because that would mean having to get up and go to work. I asked Sue if she was interested. She of course was. Shannon's birthday was right around the corner as was Sue's. I decided to buy two one for us and one for the Farrell's. We could partake somewhere in the middle of the two birthdays.

I ordered the Mother's Day Virtual Tasting, but in retrospect I could have investigated a little more before I purchased. I'm pretty certain we didn't need the embroidered apron and wine opener to say the least.

The tasting included
  • 2019 "Not Your Mother's" Dry White Zinfandel
  • 2017 Three Sons Cuvee Pinot Noir
  • 2016 The Farm Vineyards Pinot Noir
I added a bottle of 2016 Haas Vineyard Pinot Noir. We have tasted at Halleck before, but never this wine.

The tasting included two different cheeses from Valley Ford and some chocolates. Instead of a White Zinfindel, we were shipped a Sauvignon Blanc. We scheduled the tasting for Friday at 5.

Halleck supplied materials to print out if you wanted and instructions on when to take the wines out. At 5, we were all set up.


Stephanie Culen was our host. She was excellent! She walked us through the 5 Ss: See, Swirl, Smell, Sip, and Savor. She made a short presentation on the history of Halleck. She guided us to the cheeses that paired best with the wine we were trying. She was very informative and answered any of our questions.



We had a great time.


All of the wine tasted great. The Farm was our favorite. Ted's favorite was the Haas.

I would recommend this experience to anyone.

In retrospect, Sue does make good use of the apron.


Saturday, May 9, 2020

Jose's Remote Zin Tasting

Jose broached the idea of a remote wine tasting while everyone was sheltered in place. We talked about it for 3+ hours. Weeks later he sent out an email.
  1. Vote on the type of wine we’ll taste. I narrowed the choices to three: Zins, Malbecs, and Pinots. My vote is Zins. Please reply to this email confirming your participation and with your vote.
  2. Each tasting party suggests 1 or 2 wines to include in the tasting. Please make sure that the wines you suggest are available in quantities of 3 or more. Please reply to this email with your suggestions by Wednesday April 29th.
  3. Once we have the list of candidates we’ll have a Zoom meeting to randomly choose only 3 wines from the suggested wines.  I will write the names of the wines in identical pieces of paper, drop the individual papers into an opaque container, shuffle, and draw from the container 3 choices, these will be the wines we’ll taste. Tentatively, we can have the wine drawing meeting on Thursday April 30th.
  4. Each tasting party buys the chosen 3 wines. If one of your suggested wines is part of the 3 wines we are tasting, please provide the information where to buy that wine by Friday May 1st.
  5. Once all parties have the same 3 wines at home we will schedule the Remote Tasting Meeting.
  6. Some notes on how the tasting can be blind, specially when only one person is at home. My plan is to remove the cork wrapping, and paper bag each bottle as soon as I get them. Blind shuffle the bottles each day until the tasting day. On the day of the tasting uncork the bottles and shuffle then one more time. Finally, write a number on the bottles from 1 to 3. You should also number your covered bottles. Our numbering will not map to the same wines, but that is OK, when the tasting is done we’ll add each other’s rating per wine, not per number.
We agreed to Zin, knowing Jose's love of the varietal.

Our wine suggestions were:

1)We've tried the lower end from Dry Creek Vineyard. Why not try what they consider their best? I asked them. Here's the reply I received from their Direct to Consumer Manager, Michael Longerbeam We would choose one.

Our best Zinfandel? That’s a tough question to answer since we make so many, and they are each so different from one another.

I’ll highlight 3 of my personal favorites.

2017 Somers Ranch Zinfandel

If your preference is a fruit forward Zinfandel with a nice long finish, this is your best bet

2017 DCV2 Four Clones Zinfandel

A beautifully balanced Zinfandel made from four different Zinfandel clones

2017 Vogensen Ranch Zinfandel

Our mountain Zinfandel. The flavors are full bodied due to dry farming and vines grown at high elevation

2)Robert Biale "Black Chicken"

I found this in a light article, titled "5 California zinfandels you’ll want to drink right now".

"During Prohibition, when customers of the Biale farm ordered produce over the unsecure telephone party line, “black chicken” was code for a jug of zinfandel."

Sounded interesting.

Michel's suggestions were:

1 - Ridge Geyserville

2 - Rombauer Zinfandel N.V.

As the process progressed, the rules were changed so only three of the four tasting parties were able to pick a wine. I volunteered to not pick. Ted volunteered to disperse the wines, giving him more time to drive his new car. I was thankful, because I couldn't justify driving around for wine for a wine tasting as essential.

Ted's path to delivery was complicated, 6 steps long, but he pulled it off in record time.

After some discussion of tasting on Cinco de Mayo, which I thought was trouble, since it was a work night. We agreed to taste on a Saturday night at 8.

We got all set up. Taking the wines out of the cellar 2 and a half hours before, and pouring the wines into decanters an hour before. Alex didn't do as much homework as she should have, but came anyway. What a treat!


Jose had been ready since 5:30.


We zoomed, enjoying the company and wine. After we had settled on scores, Shannon guided us through an attempt to align our randomizations. Our A, was Michel's C, etc.


Results




B - 2013 Seghesio, Old Vine, Sonoma County took first place. It cost $30, including tax.

A - 2017 Rombauer took second place. It cost $35, including tax.

C - 2017 Rombauer took third place. It cost $38, including tax.

Unbelievably, two of the same wines were picked. Better yet, we all thought they tasted a little different. I wrote down sickening sweet as a descriptor for both of them, but I thought one was jammy, so what do I know. Alex had said how much she liked Rombauer zin during the tasting, but she's not certain which one her and her friend usually drink. Sometimes they enjoy El Dorado "Twin Rivers" Zinfandel.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Thomas Fogarty Winery Online Tasting Experience

On a whim, I ordered a Virtual Tasting from Thomas Fogarty Winery. By on a whim, I mean an email offer came to me at the right time during the shelter in place. A lot of wineries have discovered the right time recently. I'm sure my name is on a list that people pay good money for. I imagine this list is titled, "Send this guy an email. He'll buy your wine, sometimes if he's never even heard of you before. Discounts help".

The virtual tasting included two bottles of Pinot, cost $109, and included free shipping.

It started on Friday at 5 PM PST.

We joined a zoom session and enjoyed an hour of discussion of the two wines and interesting tidbits about the vineyards, including some fun pictures. Tom Fogarty Jr, winemaker Nathan Kandler, founding winemaker Michael Martella, and wine director and sommelier at Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay John Toigo did a good job entertaining us and answering questions people typed in the chat.

I wasn't sure if there was going to be face to face communication during the zoom. There wasn't. I felt bad that Sue got all gussied up, from the waist up, and even put on make up. She looked great, but no one but me could see her.


We tasted the 2016 Razorback Vineyard and 2016 Rapley Trail Vineyard. We both enjoyed the wine and the experience.

I think the experience could be improved by giving more of a deal. $109 may have been a deal, but it didn't feel like it to me. Even without a reduction in price, I still would do it again if Sue wanted to.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

50th Birthday COVID-19 Interrupts

2020 was a special year for us. It was my 50th birthday and our 30th wedding anniversary. We thought this was a pretty good reason to do something big, and we planned to go to France, the birthplace of Pinot. Unfortunately, COVID-19 happened, and everything was delayed. While we were unable to go to France we still feel incredibly lucky to have a job and our health, knock on wood, in these trying times.

Because it was the "end of the world" and we weren't in France, I decided to have a tasting of White Burgundies, even if it was only going to be Sue and myself. I used KnL's website and chose one White Burgundy from each of the regions they had available. It turned out to be only four appelations: Chassagne Montrachet, Corton, Meursault, and Puligny Montrachet. We had them delivered.

Spring did not stop for COVID-19, it came as usual around my birthday.



We had the tasting on the Friday after my birthday and only invited our kids and their significant others given the shelter in place and social distancing.

I wrapped all the bottles, but we didn't use go so far as decanters for a double blind system.


Alex, the only one of our three children that drinks, agreed to participate. I used an aerator to pour the wines into the glasses.


Given the small number of participants, I wouldn't rely on the results, but we all enjoyed trying the wines. I would have liked to involved all my friends as well, but it was nice to be with family.

Results




A - 2017 Ballot Millot Meursault 1er Cru "Perrières" came in first place with an average of 3.83. It costs $150. This was Alex's and my favorite.

C - 2017 Domaine Bouchard Père et Fils Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru came in second place with an average of 3.20. It costs $200. This was Sue's favorite.

B - 2017 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Folatieres" tied for third place with an average of 3.00. It costs $120

D - 2017 Domaine Marc Morey Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru "Morgeot" tied for third place with an average of 3.00. It costs $95