Napa Valley

Affordable California Cult Wines, part 1 | Robert Young

wine labelA while back I attended a wine tasting billed as “5 Affordable California Cult Wines”.  Affordable and Cult?  This I had to see. Below is the first of a five part article series reviewing these Cult California labels that I was impressed by.

The first of the wines sampled was the 2006 Robert Young Reserve Chardonnay. According to the label, Robert Young Estate Winery, “Is a tribute to our heritage as fourth generation farmers deeply rooted in the Alexander Valley since 1858″.
I needed to dig a little deeper.  According to Susan Young Sheehy, Robert’s daughter, the history of her family in the Alexander Valley started with her great grandfather, Peter Young, who moved to California from upstate New York in the 1800’s and bought a farm. Robert Young was born two generations later in 1919. After The Great Depression which almost saw the family to lose the farm, the Young family eventually hit its stride. In 1963 Robert Young planted the very first Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the now well known wine region of Sonoma’s Alexander Valley.  The first crops were more successful than anticipated and Robert began tearing out the prune orchards.  By 1967 he had planted Chardonnay. In 1976 Chateau St. Jean put the Robert Young name on their label, making the specific vineyard designation a first in American wine. Today, the vineyard produces 14 premium varieties, producing nearly 2,000 tons of grapes. Only 75 tons of these grapes are reserved for the Robert Young Estate Chardonnay, sourced from the very best vines. Their 130 acres of Chardonnay consist of two clones (#17 and #26) which were sourced from Burgundy vines and developed by Robert Young in collaboration with UC Davis.  Many people consider the #17 clone (or the “Robert Young Clone”) to be the very best American Chardonnay.  In 2008 Robert and his son Jim were recognised for their significant contributions to Sonoma County Viticulture and were awarded the Viticulture Award of Excellence by the Sonoma County Wine Grape Commission. Robert Young passed away on June 19th, 2009 at age 90.  What an incredible life! Something to think about while sipping this fantastic Chardonnay:
2006 Robert Young Reserve Chardonnay.  100% Estate grown in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.  This wine saw 14 months in 40% new French oak, 100% barrel fermented with full malolactic fermentation.  Alcohol weighs in at 14.3% and production was 3,285 cases.  At my favorite wine shop it is selling for $23.99.  This wine was rated 90 points by Wine Spectator and 92 points by Wine Enthusiast. Most of the previous vintages have scored 92-93 points, the exception being the 02 vintage which scored 89 points from Wine Spectator.  However, the 01 vintage received 96 points, Editors Choice and best White Wine of the Year from Wine Enthusiast.
Fans of  rich, full bodied, dry and oaky Chardonnay will love this, with its multi-layered mid palate displaying a nutty and fig like component with a creamy finish.
If you are looking for something a little more “cultish” you could try to track down a bottle of the Robert Young Cabernet “Big Block”, with only 145 cases produced.  If that is still not cultish enough you could try their 2007 Barrel Select Chardonnay which was aged in 2 Seguin Moreau French oak barrels, only enough to make 48 cases.
Though it sounds like an oxy-moron, the small production and long history behind this label make Robert Young a contender as an afforable, California Cult wine. Do you have any personally crowned, affordable California “Cult” wines?
Edited by Jon Troutman

Women in Wine | Cathy Corison | Corison Winery

wine bottle wine glassesTwo of my three favorite things in the world, women and wine, came together one recent fateful evening at Fleming’s Steakhouse in Scottsdale, Arizona. Their “Women & Wine” dinner featured three of America’s top wines, all of which are produced by, you guessed it… women. Like my recent five part series focus on affordable California Cult Wines, I’ve opted to give each of these fabulous females their time in the spotlight.

The first winemaker needs little introduction for many. Cathy Corison is widely considered a pioneering presence for women in the Napa Valley. And boy, can she make wine. Corison has been a winemaker for more than 3 decades, putting her hand behind legendary names like Chapellet and Staglin during the early and mid 80s. She’s quick to point out that a strong support system has been essential to her success, attributing her husband’s work on equipment maintenance and bookkeeping as the backbone behind her accomplishments.
Corison Winery’s inaugural vintage was in 1987, with a focus on elegant, finesse-driven Cabernet  from benchland vineyards located between St. Helena and Rutherford. A great winemaker requires great vineyards to make great wines, and Corison is the first to acknowledge this. Her vineyards are composed largely of stony, alluvial soils. She explains that while these vineyards produce “some of the most concentrated and superbly ripened fruit anywhere”, her wine making philosophy is “traditional, using only small oak barrels”. It is her job to let the vineyards speak. They don’t just speak, they roar.
The 2000 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is a great example of Corison’s lofty reputation, currently showing at its peak with soft, elegant tannins and ripe, complex fruit. Hands down one of the best wines I’ve tasted this year, James Laube of Wine Spectator rated it a conservative 90 pts back in 2003. Like he suggested, the 2000 vintage was a tough one that would require 10 years to show its merits. If this wine is any indication, Laube is spot on. Luck for us, this and many other older vintages are still available from Corison’s Library Collection.
Cathy Corison has raised the bar high for fellow females in the California wine scene. Stay tuned to see if the other two ladies featured that evening could live up to Corison’s legendary status.

A modest 3,200 cases were made of this wine. Also still available in magnum format for $240, this is the perfect bottle to buy for anyone looking for a long term cellaring, “cultish” California Cabernet.

Edited by Jon Troutman

Wine Review: Grgich Hills Estate, 2006 Zinfandel, Napa Valley

Grgich Hills 2006 Zinfandel


Alcohol: 14.9%

Blend: 95% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah

Aging: 15 months large French Oak Casks

Production: 5,784 Cases plus 558 cases of 375ml bottles

Price: $30.99 at AZ Wine Company

The Nose: Raspberry and spice

The Palate: Tart, chewy, Black Tea

Finish: Juicy and mouth-watering

I tasted this wine at a wine tasting, so the sample that I made this review from was rather limited.  My reviews usually consist of consuming the whole bottle…half one night, and then the other half 24 hours later…Tim.

Wine Review: Grgich Hills Estate, 2007 Fume Blanc, Napa Valley


Alcohol: 14.1%

Oak and aging:  6 months in neutral french oak

Production: 11,800 cases, as well as 1,385 cases of the half bottles (375ml)

Price: $26.99 at AZ Wine Company

Nose:  full blown sweet aroma of flowers.

Palate: Ripe juicy grapefruit.  The kind that you love to have for breakfast, nice and juicy, ripe, yet has enough acidity to make it tart.  There is a little bit of minerality which adds a nice bit of complexity.

Finish: Smooth soft and silky mouthfeel.

This will be a great summertime wine, or spring time in warmer climates.  Great afternoon wine, before dinner.  Maybe great at night after a hot summer day.  Refreshing, clean crisp but really not overly acidic.

I tasted this wine at a wine tasting, so the sample that I made this review from was rather limited.  My reviews usually consist of consuming the whole bottle…half one night, and then the other half 24 hours later…Tim.

UPDATE: I liked the wine so much I picked up a bottle and re-tasted it on Friday Night!

It's best to consume the whole bottle

This time around, with much more to sample I really noticed the lemon grass aspect as well as the ripe juicy grape fruit. I paired this wine with chicken fettuccine alfredo with diced pancetta and red pepper, topped with finely grated Parmesan Reggiano.

On Saturday afternoon I paired the remainder of the wine with a mexican style lunch. Started with a giant flour tortilla from Carolina’s, (who by the way make the best hand made tortilla’s in Phoenix) then spread Diced Roma tomatoes, onion and garlic, with salt pepper and a bit of lemon juice mixed in with shredded chicken sprinkled with a chipotle rub. Sliced avocado and cheddar, warmed in a pan to melt the cheese and flipped it once to get both sides of the tortilla a little bit crispy. The wine went VERY well with the spiciness of the food.

Cameron Hughes Lot 116, 2007 Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon

Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: 1012 Cases


From the company literature:

“Deep, dark brooding Cabernet, ruby-plum color with deep crimson rim. On the nose blackcurrant hits you right between the eyes with Cassis intermixed with blackberries, chocolate, and damp earth.  Nuances of moist underbrush are braced by cedary oak and excellent fruit purity…charming texture…rich mid-palate tannins…lingering finish and full-bodied elegance…”

Once again this is another wine sourced from an $85 dollar bottle-program.  The wine maker sourced the blend from the vineyards in Mount Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, and Spring Mountain.  Under it’s original label it receives consistent 91, 92 and 93 point scores.  And this is the really GOOD part… many of Cameron Hughes wines are made from leftover barrel lots from high-end wineries, however, this wine is the actual bottling blend.

It’s tough to decide which one I like more, Lot 164 or Lot 116.  Lot 164 is immediately amazing whereas this wine becomes more and more amazing over several hours.  Until it reaches a peak which I enjoy more than Lot 164.  Great nose of blackcurrant, doesn’t quite hit me like I expected.  And I’m glad it didn’t, I don’t really want to be completely whacked in the face by the wine. Not right away anyways…

definitely rich mid-palate tannins.  And later on they become richer and richer, until the concentrated chocolate is so awesome it literally began to give me goosebumps!  I had this wine with slow cooked Tri-Tip, sautéed mushrooms in worchestire sauce, a green salad and a little bit of Quinoa.  It was awesome!  The wine really came alive and made my steak taste better too. In fact it made it taste so good that I ate a second steak!  It’s the kind of wine that turns you into a ravenous carnivore.  And later on I had to bake some chocolate chip cookies.  I am putting this wine in my top 5 favorite wines of all time right now.  Wow!  Incredible, and by the end of the bottle I was wishing for more, but alas it was about 2am.


2nd tasting:

I paired it with a slow roasted Filet Mignon.  Once again, it really made the steak come alive.  Rich rich mid palate tannins, but not harsh tannins.  Very well done.  2nd night of the 2nd tasting is fantastic as well.  The blackberries and cedary oak are coming through and it has now been 24 hours since I opened the bottle.  Still no trace of alcohol!