Pinot Noir

Wine Review | Robert Mondavi 2010 Pinot Noir | Carneros

Wine Review | Robert Mondavi, 2010 Pinot Noir, Carneros

2010 carneros

2010 Pinot Noir, Carneros

According to the literature supplied with this review sample, 2010 was “an exceptionally chilly, wet spring followed by a cool summer of no summer”.  The season was characterized by below average temperatures, a small heat wave in August and heavy rains in October.  Again, according to the literature, the yields were “significantly lower than average.”

One of the things I noticed on a trip to Howell mountain in June of 2011 was how far behind the mountain fruit was compared to the fruit of the valley floor.  I would imagine the same effect with the 2010 Carneros vintage.  The result would be low yield, high intensity berries.

This 100% Pinot Noir has a restrained nose of blackberry and spice.  The palate is  rich with raspberry and an almost pine like forestyness to it.  There is enough acidity and backbone to make this a solid wine, a wine that a Cabernet drinker might get into.  There is a hint of toasty oak owing to 7 months aging in 34% new French oak. Alcohol weighs in at 14.5% which was a little surprising, not too much heat on the palate although the nose was hot yet vibrant.  For those wine drinkers who have not yet experienced “heat”  try adding vodka to Capri Sun in quantities that it begins to sterilize your nostrils and mouth.  Thats heat.  This wine doesnt have that, don’t worry

The suggested retail price on this wine is $27, although most retailers will probably have it at around $20.  As far as California Pinot Noir goes, this is a decent value, and if you can pick it up for $15 or less it would be a good deal.  I’m not a huge fan of the varietal in general, although some of the best wines I have ever tasted have been Pinots.  This wine is a decent effort.  If you’re looking for something better than average, without breaking the bank this is it.

Weekly Wine Journal Rating: 88 points

Brancott Estate | Marlborough

Brancott Estate, Marlborough New Zealand

2010 Sauvignon Blanc | 2010 Pinot Noir

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a private wine tasting for wine industry sales people and among the selection were two wines from New Zealand’s Brancott Estate.

Brancott estate wineBrancott Estate Wines started in 1934 as Montana Wines, but recently changed their name to Brancott Estate.  The Brancott vineyard was their flagship vineyard and so they thought it appropriate to make the change.

Brancott were among the first to plant pinot noir in the Marlborough region and also among the first to recognize that Sauvignon Blanc was going to be huge for New Zealand.

Speaking of the Sav-blanc, here’s the info:

The wine has a pleasantly ripe aroma and palate.  Tropical fruit intermingled with lemon grass spice.  And I mean exactly like dried lemon grass spice.  I actually have a bottle of this spice on hand to help people understand wine terminology.  The wine is straight forward, uncomplicated but not flabby or boring.   I think this is a pretty good deal at $10 to $15 retail depending on where you shop.

The pinot noir was interesting.  I am so much more used to the various flavor profiles of California pinots.  This one was quite a bit different.  Not as complex as some of the big names, but I think it’s quite a steal at $10 to $15 retail.

Aromas of cherries and strawberry with a fruit forward palate with the nice little added kick of cinnamon spice.  The big difference with the majority of California Pinots is that this wine had a decent funky earthy quality to it.

Weekly Wine Journal rating on both wines: 89 points

Wine Review | Cameron Hughes Lot 176

Cameron Hughes Lot 176 | 2008 Pinot Noir, Los Carneros

Lot 176 wine bottle

Cameron Hughes Lot 176, Los Carneros

Cameron Hughes is well known for his Cabernet’s but he is starting to gather accolades for his Pinot Noirs as well.  Lot 176 was sourced from a large wine consortium with facilities in California, Oregon and Washington State.  The fruit for Lot 176 is 100% Pinot Noir from Los Carneros.  On the technical side the alcohol weighs in at 14.5% and production was 2,750 cases.   Cameron has quite a bit of information on his website about the harvest process and cooperage…

“…moon harvested, hand sorted, gentle destemming, 8 days cold soaking… aged for 8 months in 40% new French Oak”

glass of wine

Lot 176 in the glass

On the nose: cinnamon and spices, with a hint of heat.  This is not the unpleasant type of heat the comes from a poorly made high alcohol wine.  Rather it adds a level of vibrancy and vigor to the nose.  The palate is rich with Cherry and Strawberry with a nice strong backbone of acidity which helps balance the ripeness on the finish.  Another fantastic deal for only $16

Wine review | J Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

J Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, Sonoma Countyrussian river pinot noir

Judy Jordan, of Jordan Winery fame, decided to branch out on her own more than 20 years ago to make site specific cool climate wines.  Since then J Vineyards has grown into one of the largest estate vineyards in the Russian River Valley with 274 acres planted to vines.

The 2007 offering of J vineyards Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley starts out with a beautiful floral nose of violets and roses.  The palate is quintessential Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, with bright cherry and strawberry fruit with cinnamon and clove notes backed up by solid oak tannins.

The alcohol comes in at 14.3% which is fairly high for a Pinot Noir, but there is little in the way of alcoholic heat.  This wine is a Cab drinkers Pinot, it has solid enough tannins from 15 months in 30% new French Oak.  The suggested retail on this wine is $35 which is right in line with high quality wines from this region.  14,500 cases were produced so it shouldn’t be too hard to find at your local specialty shop, or you can order direct from the winery HERE

Verdict: 4 out of 5

*disclaimer this wine was received as a sample

Seasons 52, Biltmore Phoenix

Seasons 52 at Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix, Arizona is set to open on October 25th, 2010.  The Weekly Wine Journal was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the menu and wine list at a VIP event this past Saturday.  Seasons 52 features an all star cast including Master Sommelier and CWE George Miliotes.  Upon arriving guests were greeted with a fantastic glass of Champagne- Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne, Champagne NV!  A little background on this wine:  Chartogne-Taillet has had vines in Champagne since 1683.  They are a fairly small producer, producing only 16,000 cases of wine each year and about 7,000 cases of this particular wine.  This was a nice dry champagne with fine bubbles.  So right away I knew I was dealing with something out of the ordinary in Seasons 52.


The Chef's Table


I quickly joined onto a tour of the restaurant and during this tour I noticed the Mesquite grill in the kitchen.  Another sign of good things to come as I have really enjoyed the Mesquite grill at FnB in Scottsdale.  The rest of the tour took us through the dining area and to one of three private dining areas.  The first one has full video capabilities with a screen that drops down out of the ceiling.


Private Dining Room #1


The other two private dining rooms can be joined together to make a nice big room that looks onto the Biltmore courtyard.  After the tour guests congregated in the bar area while listening to pianist vocalist Rebecca De La Torre.  I chatted with Master Sommelier and director of beverage and hospitality for Seasons 52, George Miliotes for a few minutes before we all were invited back to the big private dining room.

We were treated to a fantastic 5 course meal as well as in depth back ground information on the preparation, ingredients and the wine pairings.


Lump crab haas avocado


To start we had a simple Amuse-bouche of lump crab and Haas avocado paired with Aveleda Vinho Verde 2009 from Portugal.  The wine was light and crisp and fermented in stainless steel.

Next up was Wild King salmon and lemongrass sea scallop roasted on a cedar plank.  This was paired


Shrimp and scallop on cedar plank


with Mer Soleil 2008 Chardonnay from California’s Central Coast.  I was ecstatic to see wild salmon on the menu.  One thing I can’t stand ( it makes me crazy like Frank Booth in Blue Velvet ) is farmed salmon.  Add salmon snob to my list of short comings or strengths, depending on how you look at it.  The cedar plank was a really nice touch, it gives the food an extra level of flavor which is uncommon.  George Miliotes informed us that The Mer Soleil Chardonnay was fermented in the very best oak and also aged in oak.  This wine had an incredibly supple mouth-feel.


Salad in a cylinder


Next was a salad featuring Earthbound farm organic greens with oak-grilled mushrooms, toasted pistachios and truffle dressing.  The salad came on a plate inside of a clear cylinder.  Suddenly the servers lifted up the cylinders and the salad came out of the bottom and was spread around the plate, a very interesting touch.  Everyone went “ooooo”.  The salad was paired with Sinkskey Pinot Noir 2007 from Los Carneros.  A very nice Pinot Noir which also happens to be organic.


Sonoma goat cheese ravioli


Continuing right along, the next dish consisted of one big ravioli.  Sonoma goat cheese ravioli with roasted garlic, basil and a light tomato broth.  This was amazing.  Soft and creamy and the tomatoes added the perfect hint of sweetness.  This was paired with Retromarcia Chianti Classico.  This wine is a little “rough around the edges” as George put it, to be drunk by itself, but it is the perfect accompaniment to rich foods.


Mesquite grilled rack lamb and quail breast


The main course followed.  Mesquite grilled lamb rack and Manchester farms quail breast, mashed sweet potatoes and grilled Brussell sprouts in a bourbon chili glaze.  Once again, fantastic!  This dish was paired with two big red wines in very different styles.  First we had Markham Petite Sirah 2004 from Napa Valley.  This wine has matured in the bottle quite nicely from the last time I tried it back in 2008.


The wines


It’s rich and ripe and juicy. The second wine was De Toren Fusion V from Stellenbosch South Africa.  George Miliotes is a big fan of South African wines and actually helped develop Indaba Chardonnay which Robert Parker ended up calling one of the best values in French style Chardonnay out there.  De Toren Fusion V is one of the best wines out of South Africa.  It is an amazing Bordeaux style blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  This is another small production producer, only 3,600 cases of the 750ml bottles were produced for 2007.

Last but not least were the “Mini Indulgences”  see this quick 10 second video for a quick rundown because it’s much better than anything I could write!

The desserts were paired with Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2006.  Say that 10 times really fast!  According to George and most people in the know the 2006 vintage for Germany’s dessert wines is one of the best of the last 50 years.  This wine was no exception, it was the perfect pairing for the indulgences.

After lunch I managed to get a one on one interview George Miliotes in the Chateau, the place where they keep the wines.  See that video on the Weekly Wine Journal’s Youtube Channel HERE.

For more photos of the event, check out the Weekly Wine Journal’s Facebook page HERE

Featured Personality: Brian Loring, Loring Wine Company, Part two

Here is part 2 of a 3 part series on Loring Wine Company.  In this segment Brian Loring talks about the Loring Wine Company’s style.  How much fruit, how big and bold, what they are meant to pair with, and how much oak the wines get.  He also talks about Garys’ Vineyard.  Yes that’s apostrophe S, not a misprint, and he explains why.

Featured Personality: Brian Loring, Loring Wine Company part one

I recently sat down with Brian Loring of Loring Wine Company.  Sandy from a previous episode (Greg Grazianno interview) helped conduct the interview.  I have broken this interview down into three parts here is the first part:

In the first video Brian talks about why he chose to make Pinot Noir, and about how Loring Wine Company got started.

Interview with Jeff Mangahas, wine-maker Hartford Court Wines

The Weekly Wine Journal was lucky enough to catch up with Jeff Mangahas, wine-maker for Hartford Court Wines at a recent tasting at AZ Wine Company in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Jeff Mangahas Wine-maker

Jeff took over as chief wine-maker in April of 2006 and since then he has managed a seamless transition.  The 2007 Land’s End Pinot Noir and the 2007 Velvet Sisters Anderson Valley Pinot Noir both received 94 points from Wine Enthusiast.  The 2007 Arrendell Vineyard received 95 points from Wine Enthusiast.  The 2007 Four Hearts Chardonnay received 96 points from Robert Parker.  These are some seriously impressive results from a fairly shy and very humble guy.  I wanted to use my brand new shiny flip cam for the interview, but Jeff was a little camera shy, but he kindly allowed me to record the audio of our conversations so I could transcribe them later.  He did allow me to film his address to all the attendees of the wine tasting, which you will find directly below.

How did you get into wine?

“… growing up once I got out of college I started to earn some money, started to eat out at restaurants in Seattle and it was just sort of a natural extension…both my parents were great cooks so I leaned how to cook at a young age, and going out to restaurants with my then girlfriend, now wife…we would go out to eat and order wine…and having a scientific mind I said “wow this is cool I can taste these different flavours and it was very interesting so started to dig deep a little bit more and started to read wine magazines and at that point I just said “wow I want to learn more and more about the process” and I became more and more interested..that kind of developed over 9 years, and I would go up to Woodinville and taste different wines from Washington and then began investigating Oregon Pinot Noir and all these other wines that were nearby.  And then I started to collect wines and actually travel more…the great thing about moving out East was the great wines available in the great restaurants of New York City and being exposed to the whole world of wine.  Not just the Washington State wines but all the wines.  Not long after I graduated from college I travelled to France and I went to Bordeaux! To taste wines! And I was 22 years old!  So basically I had a real sincere interest in wine.  I had a good career as a researcher, published papers ect but then decided I needed something a little bit more…I thought what else can I do…I love wine, love food, love eating and decided to go back to and get a degree in wine making in about 1999/2000 and my wife and I moved to California, and I got a masters degree.

Did you find your Biology background really helped?”

Jeff: Absolutely, really really helpful actually.  The UC Davis program where I went is very scientifically orientated and you need a lot of biology and chemistry in order to get into the program.  And I had all of that but I needed to learn about the craft and get out into the world and work the harvest and learn about real wine making.  And even today I’m really into the numbers, but the more and more you get into it, it’s more about the craft of wine making.  If anything, having a science background has taught me to have a very detail orientated approach, making these wines is very detail orientated, and that’s a good trait to have.

Explain the concept of High risk high reward

Jeff:  That’s a term that we use that’s sort of akin to people in the sense that sometimes you have to undergo some kind of adversity to be who you are today, in order to grow as a person and be wise

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

Jeff:  Ya exactly. And high risk high reward is along those lines, where when the grapes grow in very risky places like where a lot of our vineyards are…very cold, wind swept, challenging, low vigor, and out of that you can make some of the very best wines

So if it works then it really really works, and if doesn’t then just don’t use it

Jeff: Exactly.  I like using that analogy of people, where you’ve got to struggle to create character and it’s totally true in wines, and Pinot noir is along with Chardonnay, one of the greatest variety’s to be, that can be so expressive of place.  Certainly the structure of Pinot noir, its not super big with dark fruits

So that leads me into my next question, do you think it’s a characteristic of the grape, the Pinot Noir, or is it more to do with the location…that that location is the only location the Pinot will thrive?

Jeff: It’s definitely the area and the soil because, there are so many different effects, for example if you’re in a cold spot the fruit set can be very different, and how much drainage there is in the soil can determine how concentrated the fruit can be. Soil has the biggest influence in quality of the wine and the personality of the wine, by far.  And my job as a wine maker is to listen to what that particular vineyard has to say based on all its influences, its Terroir, and listen to what it has to say express that and not mask it with my skills as a wine maker

So your job is to sense the Terroir and go with it instead of trying to force into a direction you want it to go

Jeff: Exactly and each year it’s different, the weather and the soils and the climates are a little different depending on how much rainfall we get in a particular year, all those things can influence the vintage

Has there been a lot of rainfall this year?

Jeff: This year we’re actually normal, the past 3 years have been extreme drought years, that’s changed the complexion of the wine, subtly, but enough that I can taste that in a wine

Would you like more rain?

Jeff: Great wines are about low vigor and getting concentration in the wine and generally we don’t want overly rainy, it’s great when we get a lot of rain in the spring time but you don’t want rain in the summertime, bottom line is you want stress on the vines to make the best possible quality

Besides wine, what other adult beverages do you enjoy?

Jeff:  I enjoy a lot of things…during the wine making process we drink a lot of beer…there’s a saying that it takes 5 gallons of beer to make 1 gallon of wine…

You drink beer to..?

Jeff: It’s refreshing

Clears up your palate a little?

Jeff: No its more just for fun,  I also like a lot of Bourbon’s, single malt’s.

So overall how did the 2007 vintage go?

Jeff:   The growing conditions throughout the season were perfect, it was a drought year, 2007 was a drought year, there was moisture in the ground, but not an incredible amount.  There were no issues with flowering so we had good fruit set, we had an ample amount of fruit on the vines, not too much, not too low.  The early growing season was perfect, it was a long season, there was no rain through the growing season and during the harvest there was no rain, so basically we could pick when we wanted to.  Typically there are actually some heat spikes in the beginning or end of August or early September where it’s like you panic a little bit and you don’t want the fruit to become too too ripe…so when you don’t have these huge fluctuations in temperature you can harvest when you want to in the most optimal and most pristine conditions.  That’s what made the vintage spectacular, the growing conditions, the harvest conditions, everything was ideal across the board.

Visit Hartford Court Wines here

Little Black Dress 2008 Pinot Noir, Vin de Pays d’Oc

Name:  Little Black Dress

Varietal: Pinot Noir

Where from?  Vin de Pays d’Oc, France

How much?  Normal price $12.99  On sale price: $4.99 at Fry’s Grocer.

12.5% alcohol

Corporate literature: “Aromas of cherry and clove with light floral notes. A light bodied wine with a lingering finish of strawberry jam and pomegranate.”

What on earth would possess me to buy a $5 wine you might ask.  I’m not really sure myself actually.  I was at the grocery store buying some ingredients for a spinach chicken salad and like always I end up cruising through the wine section.  I guess I thought I would try something completely different. This wine fits that bill on multiple levels.

1. Terribly cheesy feminine label

2. Pinot Noir…I have been on a big bold kick lately

3. French.  I have been on a California kick lately

4.Extremely cheap. I have been spending far too much money on wine lately

The last time I tried a $5 wine it was absolutely terrible.  It smelled like Methylethylketone (trust me you never want to smell that stuff).  So I wasnt too keen to try anything in the under $10 category ever again.  But I did.

I was really really surprised.  I opened the bottle poured a glass and gave it a big sniff.  There was actually a nose!  There was a faint hint of cherry and clove, very faint, but it was there.  And no solvent smell.

I took a sip and I was surprised again, it was robust.  The tannins were right there, not overly aggressive but right up front.  More than I would have expected for a 12.5% alcohol Pinot Noir.

The finish was like watered down pomegranate juice.  Like last summer when I was so broke I mixed all my fruit juices 50/50 with water. yea. good times.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised.  Why?  Because there was nothing that was actually BAD about this wine.  I had very low expectations and they were exceeded.  I did not expect there to be a nose, or if there was I expected lots of heat.   On the palate I expected nothing and I expected a lingering  industrial solvent finish.  But it just wasn’t there.  I could actually drink this wine and very well might drink it on a more regular basis, just as a sort of filler.  A wine to drink in between the really great ones.  I have been buying beer as a back up incase whatever wine I’m drinking is undrinkable.  But now, for $5 I know I can drink this.  The only hangup I have is the label.  I am not going to be caught dead in public with a bottle of  “Little Black Dress”. I will have to drink it in the privacy of my own home, alone,  and then hide the evidence in the bottom of my blue box.

What say you?  What is the cheapest yet still drinkable wine you’ve tried?

Wine and Champagne for New Year’s Eve

It’s hard to believe that we are already celebrating the arrival of 2010.  It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were getting panicky about Y2K and the impending end of civilization.  So lets celebrate that not happening!

I know times are tough, but you know what?  Sometimes you just have to go out and treat yourself!  Plus the economy depends on it.  So I suggest that everyone spends at least 2 times what they would normally spend on a bottle of wine or champagne.   You only live once, you can’t take your $$$ to heaven and numbers like 2010 don’t come around very often.

In no particular order: (I’m not going to get into flavor profiles, because these suggestions are all based on “prestige, $$$, and point scores) Those are the things that you are going to  brag about at your New Year’s parties when someone asks you what you are drinking.

1. d’Arenberg “The Dead Arm”  Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia.  Retails for around $60 (US). Consistent 94,95 point scores.  Big bold Shiraz

2. Elderton Wines, Barossa Command Single Vineyard Shiraz. Saw it at Costco for about $80. 97 points Robert Parker.  Buy one for New Years, and hold the other because they say it’ll be good through 2035.

Those are two good suggestions if you like big bold wines and Shiraz in general. But what if you don’t?  How about something like a Cabernet Sauvignon then?

1. Chimney Rock, Stag’s Leap Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Retails for around $50. Nice 90 point wine, great with grilled meat, or by itself.

2. Spring Mountain Vineyard, 2004 Cabernet.  Great for drinking slowly over the course of the night, maybe get two bottles if there is more than one true wine lover at the party.  Retails for around $60

**Note** I would be suggesting the much less expensive  Cameron Hughes Wines but they are not available at most retail outlets, so I’m just going with wines everyone should be able to find at their local wine merchant.  If your local merchant doesn’t have these wines, it might be time to think about shopping elsewhere. (wow how wine snobby does that sound?!)

Okay so Shiraz and Cabernet are still just to big and acidic for you.  You need Pinot Noir.  You still want to be featured on Robin Leech’s Life Styles of the Rich and Famous though, so don’t be skimping and buying a regular $15 bottle of Pinot okay?

1. Hartford Court, Pinot  Noir, Land’s Edge, 2005 Sonoma. Retail $55.  96 points

2. 2006 Cambria “Julia’s Vineyard” Santa Maria Pinot Noir.  Retail $25.  I know this one isn’t that expensive but the accolades are impressive.  93 points, Editors Choice and #1 wine of the year in Wine Enthusiasts top 100 for 2009.

Okay on to Champagne!  What no white wines?  Yup thats right. No whites.

If you want to make a big impression and look like a super star you need to pick up a bottle of Dom Perignon.  And if you want to take it even farther and really rock it this New Year’s you need to pick up a bottle of Cristal.

1. 2002 Louis Roederer “Cristal” Brut Champagne.  98 points about $200+  but I have seen it at Costco in the metro Phoenix area for $167.  Nothing says “It’s good to be the King” like Cristal.  Name that quote…

2. Okay so the Cristal might be a couple bucks too much so try Louis Roederer Brut Premier instead.  90 points and about $40.  42,000 cases were imported so if your local wine merchant doesn’t have it then maybe it’s time to find a new place to buy your wines.

2010 will hopefully be a better year than 2009.  Let’s drink to that this New Year’s Eve.  Or if you had an awesome 2009 then drink to that.  All joking aside, I am serious about laying down some serious dough for some seriously good wines this NYE.  We all deserve it!  You can’t just keep squeaking through life missing out on the finer things, something has to eventually give!

Cheers, Happy New Year!