Chardonnay Smackdown #1 | J Vineyards | Cupcake Vineyards | Catena

In this review: J Vineyards 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Cupcake Vineyards 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay, Catena 2008 Chardonnay Mendoza Argentina.

I received the J Vineyards and Cupcake vineyards wines as samples and I decided to purchase the Catena and batch taste all three, to get a relative sense of how they compare.  I tasted all three wines over a six day period tasting a half bottle each night, starting with J Vineyards  and finishing with Catena.

J Vineyards 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Production: 6,000 cases

wine bottle picture

J Vineyards 2008 Russian River valley Chardonnay

Alcohol: 14.3%

Aging:  100% barrel fermented in 60 gallon Burgundian Oak, 40% new. 6 months of malolactic fermentation. 1 year of rest between bottling and release.

Lemon and honey on the nose, the palate is smooth and creamy almost like Creme Brule.  There is a hint of toasted oak, or almond on the back-end.  I was quite surprised with how well-balanced this wine was.  Not that I was expecting it to be out of balance, but it was just really nice to have a great balance of fruit, oak, acidity, all the aspects that need to come together to make a wine enjoyable.  The retail price of $28 might be a little steep when compared to equally great wines from other regions of the world, but compared within the Russian River Valley and Burgundy it is quite reasonable.  I would purchase this wine for a special occasion.

Cupcake Vineyards 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay

cupcake wine bottle

Cupcake Vineyards 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay

Production: 100,000 cases

Alcohol: 14%

Aging: 9 months in American Oak

I think of myself as generally a nice guy and so I find it difficult to be critical, having met wine makers and knowing how much of their heart and soul they put into their work.  However, this wine fell far short of what I could call enjoyable.  I could barely pick up anything on the nose, maybe citrus and oak?  The palate was weak, one dimensional and thin.  There can be no missing the oak, if you like lots of oak and butter this might be more your style.  I don’t know what’s going on here but I far prefered the Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc.

Catena 2008 Chardonnay, Mendoza Argentina

Catena Chardonnay wine bottle

Catena 2008 Chardonnay

Production: N/A

Alcohol: 14.2%

Aging: 9 months sur la lies in 100% French Oak, 35% new

On the nose this wine is very aromatic.  Almost explosively floral with spicy green apple citrus aroma that you can actually feel attacking your nostrils (in a good way) and even on the second day.  On the palate this wine is deliciously juicy, rich and complex.  Weighty in texture like cream, with a nice long smooth finish.  Definitely the clear winner out of the three and at $13.99 it is an insane value.  Interesting to note that the fruit for this wine comes from 3 vineyards ranging in elevation from 3,000 to 5,000 feet. I would like to try more high elevation Chardonnay and see if it is all this impressive!

Conclusion:  Catena was the clear winner because of its richness and complexity and great value.  Not far behind was J Vineyards.  If you like your Chards a little less over the top, lighter on the oak and butter then you might even place this wine above the Catena.  Cupcake Vineyards has a bit of work to do for the 2010 vintage in order to compete.

Review: Fleming’s Women and Wine Dinner

Steakhouse dining room

Fleming's on North Scottsdale Road

Last week Fleming’s Steakhouses across the country hosted their “Women & Wine” dinners.  At the events guests were treated to some amazing wines made by some legendary women in the wine world including Cathy Corison, Kristin Belair and Janet Myers.

Cathy Corison wine

Corison 2000 Cabernet

We started out the evening with swiss cheese puffs and house cured salmon, citrus creme fraiche and crispy wonton.  These were paired with Cathy Corison’s 2000 vintage  Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa valley.  Cathy Corison is a legendary wine maker having made wines for over 30 years for brands like Chappellet, Staglin Family, York Creek and Long Meadow Ranch.  It was very nice to taste a wine that has had significant time to age in the bottle.  This  wine was very refined with beautiful and mature tannins.  It paired very well with the food as it was soft and gentle enough as to not overpower  the food.

Next we enjoyed Butternut squash bisque with Danish blue cheese fondue and bacon herb bruschetta.  This was paired with Honig, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa.  Kristin Belair is the wine maker at Honig and has been since 1998.  This wine is much bigger and bolder, younger than the Corison.  It displays notes of sage and currant as well as a pronounced creamy vanilla which only really came out after the Lamb chops served next.  The wine manager for this Fleming’s location, Tony Novak suggested we save a little of the Honig to try later after the main course, to see how it changes with the main course.  And it did.  I thought it was delicious to begin with, but actually found it tasted better with the rosemary Lamb chops which is what we enjoyed next.

05 Magnificat

Rosemary-scented lamb chops on parmesan risotto with maple roasted parsnips and a red wine demi glace.  This was paired with Franciscan, Magnificat 2005 from Napa.  This wine is made by Janet Myers who joined Franciscan Estate in 2003 and began winemaker in 2005.  Janet is also the winemaker at Mount Veeder winery. The ’05 Magnificat is a blend of 73% Cabernet, 23% Merlot, 2% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc.  This wine is loaded with dark fruit, powerful and a made for red meat!

During the dinner we watched on a big flat screen some short videos made by Wine Spectator which gave us a little insight into the wine makers and the wines, including interviews and scenery.  I thought that was a nice touch.

My favorite part of the dinner came next: dessert!   Thick and rich caramel pudding with crumbled Heath bar on top with shortbread cookies on the side. The dessert was pretty big and I was unable to finish it all, but I kept going back and nibbling on it, I couldn’t stop myself.

At the end of dinner each table was presented with a special gift.  A set of nice big red wine glasses with the Fleming’s “F” engraved on it and a bottle of the 2005 Magnificat.  That was really an amazing touch because the wine alone retails for about $55 a bottle.  Guests enjoyed an amazing meal, amazing wines, and then were given a whole bottle and two glasses for later…all for $95 a plate.  It’s these  extras that can really make a merely good evening into a great evening.

*Disclaimer*  I attended this event as a guest of Fleming’s and Tin Can Marketing.

Titus Vineyards Andronicus, 2006

According to Eric E. Titus, vineyard manager, this is their first release of Andronicus.  As a side note Titus Andronicus is supposed to be Shakespear’s earliest tragedy and is a tale of bloody revenge. As a side side note, I have not read it, and there is a 92% chance that I never will, although I think having just blogged about it maybe that chance is now 80%.  In fact it will probably gnaw at me for the rest of my life, so i better put it on my big huge to do list.  Actually I need to put “create big huge to do list” on my regular to do list…aah maybe later.

Okay, where was I? Thats how this wine is.  Nice segeway eh? Yes I would say that.  Multiple layers of blueberry and blackberry created an interesting effect in that each time I took a sip, it tasted different.  That might be because of the make up.  77% Cabernet, 9% Malbec,  6% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cab Franc.  The only thing missing to hit for the cylce would be some Carmenere. Thats a baseball reference for all you hockey fans. But it’s just fine without it.   I really liked this wine.  It’s ready to drink now.  There were no tasting notes to compare my notes with, and there is also no information on their website so I dont know how much it costs or how much they made, or anything other than the breakdown of grapes, which I found posted on Snooth.

UPDATE: 2/12/2010

I had a glass of Andronicus with filet Mignon at a restaurant last night and it was absolutely fantastic.  Pairs very well with the red meat.  It’s not a fruity jammy California Cab.  Much more nuance but still big and bold, nice solid tannins, long finish.  Black currant cool mint eucalyptus.