Wine Briefs: Earthquake Petite Sirah 2012

Now that I have this new briefs section of the site, I will kick it off with by mentioning this great wine.  I’ve been meaning to tell you all for a while how much I enjoyed it. Drinking it was a tasty culmination of much ado among family, friends, and customers about Michael David wines. My dad’s a tough nut to crack when it comes to wine. When I asked what he did like, he said Seven Deadly Zins first. Then I had a customer rave about many of their wines, one of which was this lovely Petite Sirah. Coincidentally my daughter’s boyfriend’s father is a huge wine enthusiast and after I gifted him some favorite wines last Christmas, he shared a bottle of one of his favorites, which just happened to be this wine. Following all this fuss I not only extensively researched this favorite winemaker for my own curiosity’s sake, but also opened the bottle post-haste. Tasty, tasty stuff.  Mostly PS with a bit of Cab in the blend. Lots of black fruit to balance the tannins and ready to drink.  2012 was a great year in California. Will have to pick up more, but this time I will have to pay for it! He has many wines including the enticingly-named “Lust”, “Freakshow”, “Rapture”, “Sloth”, “Rage”, “6th Sense Syrah,” “Petite/Petit”, and of course “7 Deadly Zins”, which is the ‘gateway red,’ to their wines, as my customer put it. Not in any derogatory way whatsoever though. Only that this is the most well known and accesable of the Michael David wines, and a fan would soon find their way to the others.

More info on the this wine here. The ratings are very kind to it as well, but taste and decide for yourself.  It’s about $24.



Beaulieu Vineyard “Beaurouge” Napa Valley 2010

Beaulieu Vineyard "Beaurouge" Napa Valley 2010

Beaulieu Vineyard “Beaurouge” Napa Valley 2010

Lately there’s been a whole lot of Napa wine in my life. After several weeks of negotiation and rushing samples here and there with the help of my team, I successfully outfitted a fancy New York Wedding with 14 cases of a nice 2009 Napa blend. I have also tasted a good number of other Napa wines lately for more customer recommendations. And so it only seemed appropriate at the time to go in on this half-price special on Last Bottle Wines with my co-worker. I think I paid a ridiculous $15 a bottle after the sale.

Native Frenchman Georges de Latour (edit: NOT related to Bordeaux’s Chateau Latour, despite the name or history of quality winemaking – forgive the confusion) fell in love with Napa on first sight and supposedly exclaimed “beau lieu!” or “beautiful land,” giving birth to the winery and vineyard name. One of the oldest in the region, It helped pioneer the development of Cabernet in the region and has had no shortage of 90+ wines to brag about since.

The nose has aromas of currant, plum and cocoa leaping from the glass, with the oak actually put in its place by all that’s going on in this blend. Normally I find a Napa red to be an oak bomb, but here the grapes do the talking, and for this reason, this is a Napa red I can really appreciate. Nothing at all against the successful formula employed for generations around the world, but to me oak should compliment and round out the wine, not personify it. The winemaker is Jeffrey Stambor, who studied here under Latour’s original winemaker André Tchelistcheff, and has been making wine here since 1989.

Today I’m very happy to not be paying $100+ a bottle for one of their wines. And what an interesting wine it is. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Touriga Naçional, Tempranillo and Charbono, it’s incredibly dark, rich and complex. It also carries a 14.5% abv. But what did I really think? The drink-by date was 2017 but both bottles are gone by the time of this writing.


Celebrating the 4th with Sangria and Wine

Jonata the Pairing GS 2010

Jonata the Pairing GS 2010

Though the actual 4th of July was far too rainy thanks to our friend Hurricane Arthur, by July 5th the sun was shining, and the grill and fire pit were ready to go. We whipped up a lovely sangria for the occasion, and homemade chimichurri for the grilled steak. For the red wine, I needed something that would also please my father. He’s quite particular but I was confident this great wine will do the trick. Purchased from Last Bottle Wines,  Jonata The Paring GS 2010 is a red blend from Santa Barbara County, California. I believe I paid $25 a bottle, of which I bought three. It is a Bordeaux-inspired blend, the 2010 being made up of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Sangiovese, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Syrah.  This blend varies from year to year, and sometimes includes other grapes like Grenache. It’s aged in a combination of new (55%) and neutral (45%) French oak for 22 months. For this vintage there were just 4,685 cases produced. They also make a white blend. It is made from the vineyard blocks that are younger or don’t fit the style of the highly prized Jonata wines, in Ballard Canyon in Santa Ynez by winemaker Matt Dees. They are made in the spirit of experimentation and the joy of winemaking at heart.

Nassau Valley Vineyards True Blue Blueberry Wine

Nassau Valley Vineyards “True Blue” Blueberry Wine

In the glass, it pours a deep ruby — it is too young for any rim variation. On the nose: ripe, concentrated and jammy plum and redcurrant. There is a pepper spice from the Syrah and discernable hints of oak, but the fruit overpowers it. On the palate, mouthfilling and fruit everywhere. I picked up the Sangiovese more in the finish with its cherry notes popping out and lingering a while.  The great news is dad loved it too! There should be a rating scale just for him, forget Parker!  At 15% abv, its no lightweight, and a juicy steak was a great pairing.

For our sangria, we used a bottle of Delaware’s Nassau Valley Vineyards “True Blue” Blueberry Wine. We visited this vineyard a few years back, and while its a very tasty and interesting wine on its own, I thought it would be just about perfect for sangria. With the addition of some fresh blueberries, peaches and sparkling lemonade we had a winner. It was very refreshing — the sweetness really worked here. Happy birthday, America! More info on the Pairing here. You can find it around the same price at wine searcher.

Laurel Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir

Laurel Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir

Laurel Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir

If you know me you know I worship Pinot Noir. And if you know me well, you know I love Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. And since those wines sent me into a full-on frenzy of tasting Pinots from around the world over the following years, I discovered many other regions where they were producing amazing results (Burgundy aside). The region this one is from may be an obvious one to many a Pinot-lover, but for me all of this discovery happened more recently. Lately I’ve really been honing in on a second-favorite region for Pinot Noir, California’s Russian River Valley (though Carneros is not far behind). While I’m plotting my first Rochioli purchase, I drink a lot of this stuff and I need something a little more friendly to my budget.  Enter this lovely Laurel Cellars Pinot Noir. My colleague at work lives nearby and so we frequent the same shops. You know, for when I need something not from my company’s line… She recommended this one knowing my love for the grape, and this bottle I’m reviewing is actually my second. I drank the first one before I got around to writing about it. Again, I am down to the end of this bottle and just making absolutely sure I get to it this time. But that in itself is compliment enough.

On the nose there is smoky cedar, wild red berries and some leather and even a gamey meat note.. pancetta maybe? On the palate, there is cherry pie, wild raspberry, white pepper and more wood. The fruit is ripe yet expressive and complex, the acids and tannins very well-integrated, and the body and finish a happy medium. It is developed even more today, the third day since I opened it. A lovely wine and the reason why these never last in my house. Abv is 13.5 pct, and at $20, a great value to get such a delicious example of what’s being done in this region.

Wines That Rock: Rolling Stones 40 Licks Merlot 2010

Wines That Rock Rolling Stones 40 Licks Merlot 2010

Wines That Rock Rolling Stones 40 Licks Merlot 2010

Knowing me also as a musician and music lover, a co-worker gave me this wine as a gift.  Having read about this line of wines a while back, I was definitely intrigued, if not a little skeptical. Although, there are wines and producers out there with novelty marketing approaches that are a quality product/line. One example that comes to mind is the amusing, and tasty, “Goats Do Roam” wines. I was quite fond of their ‘Bored Doe” and the empty bottle still sits at my desk and brings me a chuckle when I look at it.  It also reminds me that wine can be fun, and shouldn’t need to be snobby. This brand has had a few vintages now and seems to be off to a good start, so I was eager to get to the bottom of this question, and the bottle!

What I found surprised me. Deep ruby in color, the bouquet on this wine was very expressive. The aromas of rich plum, cherry and smoke and toast from aging in American oak permeated, and it was a very pleasant nose indeed. Definitely reminiscent of those I enjoyed on the right bank of Bordeaux last October, with the exception of the American oak notes. On the palate, soft and beautifully balanced tannin and acidity made it a smooth drink, with more red and black fruit, vanilla and smoke accents. The body was a medium plus and the finish was longer than expected. This is a great little Merlot. Lately I haven’t had many California Merlots that have made an impression on me (I’m probably just looking in the wrong places) but this one was delicious.

The wines are all made in Mendocino County, California by the Mendocino Wine Company. This area is in the Northern Coast region, north of Napa and Sonoma. The line has several wines, with other wines/varietals named after The Police, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, and a Woodstock-themed wine with labels to match. I will have to try them all. I’ve heard better reviews of some than others, but at the end of the day it comes down to personal taste.  They have won a few awards to date and while of course making a quality wine is the ultimate goal, the mission is also to make drinking the wine an experience. To quote: “Wines That Rock is meant to be fun, a conversation starter, an eye popping party gift that makes you do a double take once you actually pop the cork and taste what’s inside. ”

Also noteworthy is all the wines are made with sustainable farming practices as well as green energy and eco-friendly packaging. In fact, in 2007, Mendocino Wine Company became the first winery in the United States to achieve carbon neutral status and have won Governor’s awards for these practices and achievements.  And, partial proceeds from every bottle sold goes to music’s largest charity, the T.J Martell Foundation to Give Back. They also have contests on the site, including a current prize of a Keith Richards-autographed guitar and a $1,000 Amazon gift card. They provide the wines for the Rolling Stone wine club and the Guitar Aficianado wine club, true to their mission. They even poured their first vintages backstage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden, while Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, U2 and Mick Jagger were playing.

I paired it with a freshly grilled cheeseburger and potato salad. The wine paired perfectly with my BBQ fare. I also listened to the album ’40 Licks’ as suggested while enjoying my first taste. For a moment I felt connected to the winemaker Mark Beaman, and the process. After all, he too was listening to it while making the wine, hoping to express the essence of the album through wine, if that is possible.

This bottle having been a gift, I looked up the pricing online and the average retail price is $16. I think this is worth it, it was a very enjoyable wine. Mick and the boys would be thrilled that their wine did indeed rock.

Visit them at

Evening Land ‘Celebration’ Gamay Noir Beaujolais-Villages 2009

Evening Land 2009 'Celebration' Gamay Noir Beaujolais-Villages

Evening Land 2009 ‘Celebration’ Gamay Noir Beaujolais-Villages

A few weeks ago I wrote about a nice Julienas Beaujolais Cru that I had. And gave a little lesson. Do you remember? If not, you can brush up here. Based on that wine, I know 2009 was a good year here. And it’s still summer, and these wines are a great red for the hot weather, which is hovering in the high 90s and up all week. You can serve them a little cooler and they will be refreshing yet still complex and satisfying.

In Beaujolais-Villages wines, the grape might be Gamay, but the winemaking methods and intended flavor is more along the lines of red Burgundy (Pinot Noir). What’s interesting about this one to me is that it’s made by an American producer who also has vineyards in my beloved Willamette Valley, Oregon (including one in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA) and Edna Valley and Sonoma Coast, California. Willamette is where my favorite Pinot Noir is made and Edna Valley is producing some amazing wines as well as Sonoma. So this producer is a win-win for me to discover. The wines from their various international vineyards range from $22.50 for an Oregon Pinot Noir to $150 for a Clos Veugot Grand Cru. In fact they have many great Burgundies on their website that have me equally intrigued and a bit excited. Pouilly-Fuisse, Romanee-Conti, Meursault, and Côtes-de-Nuit Villages are just some of the French wines they produce.

To quote: “Evening Land Vineyards produces terroir-driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Burgundy, France, and the three great growing regions of the American West.

While the Gamay for this wine was actually grown, vinified and bottled in Beaujolais-Villages, they also make a Gamay Noir grown and made in their Eola-Amity Hills vineyards. I would love to, and likely will do a side-by-side comparison of the terroir at work.

This wine poured a deep ruby in the glass and on the nose were bounds of red fruit – strawberry, cherry, and baking spice from a little time in French oak to round it out. A bit of white pepper also adds to the complexity. For a moment this truly smells like a Burgundy Pinot Noir. On the palate were more of the bright fruit and spices, well-balanced acidity and a lush body. And here’s where you get into the true Gamay… a low-tannin, easy drinking beauty. At four years old, this is a good age for a nice Gamay.

This wine currently averages around $17 online but thanks to another great deal from Last Bottle Wines, I paid $12 each and got free shipping because my co-workers and I ordered 6 altogether to waive the shipping. Thank you again Last Bottle for introducing me to another great wine.

Go drool over their selections too at

Big Names in California Wine, Part 3: Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

First off, Happy National Wine Day to all my readers in the USA! This is definitely something I can and will celebrate on this dreary rainy day.

In part three of this series, I enjoyed Beringer’s 2010 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Beringer is one of the renowned Napa, California wineries, established in Victorian times by German winemaker Jacob Beringer. He and his brother purchased the first property in 1875 after a short time in New York where the climate was not what they were looking for. The warm climate and rocky, well-draining soil in Napa County was more like their homeland in the Rhine Valley and hence they settled and started their American dream here. Workers who had just helped build the trans-continental railroad, dug the tunnels where they still store and age their wine. They then built a mansion house that was a reconstruction of their home in Germany, called the “Rhine house.”  Today, they have vineyards up and down the valley from Howell Mountain to Carneros. They are the longest continually-running vineyard in the valley, surviving the dark days of prohibition. Currently under the helm of Winemaker Laurie Hook and Winemaker Emeritus Ed Sbragia, they are doing delicious things.

This particular wine comes from their Knights Valley vineyard which is located 17 miles north of the winery just over the border in Sonoma County. They grow and vinify several Bordeaux varieties here and have named a few wines after the alluvial soils the vines grow in. This vineyard has been active for three decades and makes excellent Bordeaux-style wines.

This is a very nice example of Napa Cabernet. It is deep ruby in color and on the nose are blackberry, anise, cinnamon and pepper as well as subtle toasty oak aromas. The fruit is very ripe, and with the nicely balanced tannins and acidity, this is a fine wine indeed that I suspect would age well long after the roughly 3 years this one lasted!  It has a medium plus body and finish, and is very elegant. Definitely in the class of equally-priced Bordeaux. I am so glad I have given some of these larger California wineries another chance to impress me. There is some really fine wine being made here, even if they’re not cult/boutique (read: very expensive) wines. Plus, I’ve learned a lot about their history which has brought me new-found respect for them. At $33 it is a premium wine, but not unreasonable for a quality wine from this region. Perhaps I should have shared this one with my friends, but at least I shared it with you, my readers…

Next week, I will conclude this series with a Chalone!