All posts by Mark Stitt, B-21

Going Bam Bam for Bedrock!

Tasting these spectacular offerings from Ravenswood creator Joel Peterson’s über-talented son, Morgan, will give you a sense of his respect for California’s historic vineyards. It borders on a devoutness that is nearly evangelical. His is a quest not only to save our collective vineyard heritage, but to do so by crafting wines that are seductive, serious, approachable and sublime. According to Robert Parker, these aren’t simply good, they are “wines that deliver phenomenal quality for the money.” His “Heritage” labels are pretty much a classic, old-school California field blend of grapes (22 to be exact) that were planted ages ago, most predating Prohibition. Much like the U.S. it’s a tapestry yielding a distinctive whole with layers and layers of dark fruit, hints of herbs, and touches of silk. When Joel visited at the end of last year, he was shocked to see a bottle of 2010 Heirloom at the store and bought a bottle for us to try. The proud father gave his approval.

 

2011 Bedrock Pagani Ranch
Heritage Proprietary Red

…Black fruit, tar, smoke, licorice and asphalt burst from this deep, muscular, Zinfandel-based wine. Imposing and intense, the Pagani boasts stunning depth and richness for the year. This is a serious red…

 

2011 Bedrock Kick Ranch Syrah

…bursts from the glass with a rush of expressive dark fruit. Creamy and resonant… Savory herb and floral notes develop in the glass, but the Kick Ranch is really an immediate wine built on fruit….

 

 
2011 Bedrock Saitone Ranch
Zinfandel

…jumps from the glass with juicy dark cherries, violets and cloves. A rich, sumptuous wine, the Saitone Ranch boasts stunning depth and richness, but no excess weight at all….

 

2010 Bedrock Heirloom
Proprietary Red

…Dark black cherries, plums, graphite, mint, wild herbs and licorice are woven together in this gorgeous, finely sculpted wine. Layers of sweet, perfumed fruit develop in the glass, adding lift and freshness….

 

Carneros Pinot – Donum is World-Class!

Donum (meaning “gift of the land” in Latin) was created in 2001 when Buena Vista Winery was sold to Allied Domecq… but retained 120 acres of vines that had been meticulously replanted by Anne Moller-Racke, vineyard manager at Buena Vista for 15 years, for a special Pinot noir project she had been working on while at the winery. She took over the winemaking responsibilties and started touting the Carneros region as a premium site for Pinot Noir. The 2010 estate, comprised of the best of 4 different lots, is a tremendous effort considering the challenging vintage so only a limited supply of 589 cases were produced. Anne has been at the forefront of putting Carneros on the map as a serious Pinot Noir producing area and has she ever succeeded!

 

2010 Donum Estate Pinot Noir

…raspberry and black cherry flavors that are ripe and seductive, with spice, loam and sandalwood details. Notes of cassis, raspberry jam and red licorice crescendo on the long finish, with very refined tannins….

Peter Michael’s Big-Name Neighbor Scores Big!

Picking the best grapes from some of the 30 year old Cabernet vines in their Knights Valley vineyards, Beringer decided to release a “Reserve” bottling in 2008 to complement its regular KV release. The 2009, which was Wine Spectator’s #8 on the Top 100 of 2012, and according to senior writer James Laube “…the best Beringer Knights Valley wine I can recall and one of winemaker Laurie Hook’s best efforts,” is already starting to reach cult status. The 2010 takes it up a notch as both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker score it 94 points. Amazingly rich and elegant, it definitely approaches Peter Michael’s bottlings (the vineyards are right next door) at half the price. Only 5,000 cases were produced and the buzz surrounding this release has been overwhelming. Beringer continues to produce high quality wines at every price level and really shines on this new effort.

 

2010 Beringer Cabernet
Knight’s Valley Reserve

…Blue and black fruit, grilled herbs, tobacco, sage and rosemary are all layered into this relatively succulent, round Cabernet… Sweet floral notes along with a hint of tar and violets add complexity on the finish….

Best Syrahs In America – Reynvaan Reigns!

Matt Reynvaan’s trio of syrahs serve notice that this young producer has a knack for the variety: all three display their share of power and dense flavor, with plenty of savory attributes coaxed from the 17-acre, cobblestone-laced “In the Rocks Vineyard” at the base of the Blue Mountains known around Walla Walla for the soil’s similarity to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The rocks absorb sun and radiate warmth to the vines through the cool nights. The Reynvaans have entrusted their entire operation to neighbor and Washington cult star Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards. It is the only winery with which he consults because he has been given carte blanche to go for the best, and it shows in the Syrah-based wines’ vibrancy and unmistakable minerality. In less than 10 years, Reynvaan has already reached cult status. The winery is already sold out of its current vintage. No need to say anymore. It will be your only chance to grab these classics. World-class Syrah in Washington!

 

 
2010 Reynvaan In The Rocks

Polished, open-textured and compelling, with roasted beet, licorice, crushed rock and smoke accents surrounding a core of pulsing cherry and plum fruit, lingering intensely on the impeccably balanced finish….

 
2010 Reynvaan The Contender

Firm in texture, showing dense tobacco and brown sugar accents to the blackberry and licorice flavors, which linger against lightly crunchy tannins on the intense, deftly balanced finish….

 

 
2010 Reynvaan The Unnamed Syrah

Vibrant and crisp, with ripe currant and dark plum flavors washing over the crinkly tannins as the expressive finish takes hold. Hints of licorice and black olive lurk in the background….

 

Insignia Trifecta! 2008, 2009 & Presale 2010

Proudly wearing its own insignia since 1974, Joseph Phelps Insignia was the first proprietary Bordeaux blend wine produced in California. Nearly four decades later, the flagship wine is recognized as one of the world’s greatest wines. Since 2008, when Ashley Hepworth was promoted to winemaker after the retirement of Craig Williams, quality has not taken a step down but we see a more consistent blend. The trifecta of vintages share an average blend of 87% Cabernet, 10% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and remainder Malbec, verging towards the more savory, earthy “Bordeaux-esque” style of the first growths. These iconic wines are available at unbelievable prices for a short period and don’t forget to reserve your 2010 which should arrive in September. Insignia is truly a representative of great American wine that stands the test of time.

 

 
2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia

…a towering, statuesque wine bursting with blackberry jam, tar, spices, leather and licorice. It shows fabulous depth and richness backed up by serious, imposing tannins that suggest it has a long life….

 
2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia
…tannic wine that’s rich in blackberry jam, black currant, blueberry, raspberry, dark chocolate and spice flavors. …Just gorgeous now, and it should develop bottle complexity for at least the next 10 years.

 

 
2010 Joseph Phelps Insignia

…core of blue and black fruit, licorice, spices, smoke, and melted road tar as this stunning wine opens up in the glass. …Hints of menthol, violets and crushed rocks all flow through to the incisive, vibrant finish….

 

Life Beyond Beringer – Ed Sbragia Scores High!

Ed Sbragia, iconic winemaker for Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnays in the 80s and 90s, has always been a country boy from Sonoma. As he was producing world-class chardonnay in Napa, his heart’s always been in Dry Creek where he grew up, raised his own family and has his own label and winery. Family vineyards, too: Home Ranch is exactly that, where he grew up and where his father made wines; the cab grows at Doc Andolsen’s, the family doctor. And the chance to make wines with his son Adam was his dream. I like family stories, but the wines are the point. Pure Dry Creek, extremely fresh and juicy cabernet, remarkably elegant and sophisticated merlot and chardonnay that is full and rich. His latest release of Home Ranch Chardonnay and Merlot are tremendously outrageous values; the chard is expressive but not showy, the merlot is rustic, but elegant and spicy.

That’s a happy family right there. So salute them and we’ll let you in on one of Sonoma’s best small wineries.

 

2011 Sbragia Chardonnay
Home Ranch

…drop-dead gorgeous. Crushed rocks, butter. white orchard fruit and spices meld together in this harmonious, beautifully crafted Chardonnay… very 2011, which is to say focused and energetic…

 

2010 Sbragia Merlot
Home Ranch

An impressive wine. Ed Sbragia wrestles that famously briary Dry Creek rusticity to the ground, forcing it into refined elegance. With straightforward blackberry, cherry, mocha and cedar flavors…

 

 
2010 Sbragia Cabernet
Andolsen Vineyard

…utterly impeccable from start to finish. Firm mountain tannins… Iron, tobacco and licorice notes dominate, while the fruit takes a little longer to become evident. With time in the glass, the wine gets better and better…

 

 
2009 Sbragia Cabernet
Monte Rosso Vineyard

…hits the palate with juicy dark berries, grilled herbs, cedar and tobacco. There is lovely purity to the fruit backed up by pure, distinctive Monte Rosso tannins. A big, powerful finish rounds things out in style….

 

Big Bad Cabs – California’s First Growth Gems

During the course of the year, we get offered a lot of great wines but some in very limited quantities. Basically take what we can get. Many cult wines stopped offering us an allocation years ago but now we can get our hands on a few. So here are some of big bad California Cabs that really can be compared to Bordeaux’s classification of first growths. When I’ve had the rare chance to taste these in the past, they were memorable experiences that were never forgotten. But beware, they are very limited. So hurry up and treat yourself to one or two of these big bad gems. You will never forget.

 

2010 Caymus Cabernet
Special Selection

…plum and black cherry notes, with floral scents and spices, turning creamy and gaining a mocha-espresso-vanilla scent that’s enticing. Finishes with a smooth texture, fine-grained tannins…

 

2009 Araujo Estate Cabernet
Eisele Vineyard

…brings together gorgeous aromatics, juicy, expressive red fruit and silky tannins. …totally sexy Cabernet endowed with stunning depth and a rich, enveloping personality….

 

 
2009 Altagracia
by Araujo Estate

…rich, textured wine layered with perfumed red fruit. Ripe, silky tannins frame the long, exceptional finish. The 2009 impresses for its breadth and volume, all while maintaining a very classic profile….

 

 
2010 Paul Hobbs Cabernet
Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard

…rich, sumptuous and totally striking. …expressive aromatics, silky tannins and voluptuous fruit… Juicy dark cherries, roses, sweet spices and crushed rocks are layered into the expressive finish….

 

 
2009 Peter Michael Winery
“Les Pavots”

…absolutely fabulous. Mocha, espresso, spices, plums and blackberries are just some of the many notes that jump from the glass in this seamless, striking wine. …textural finesse and tremendous class….

 

 
2009 Schrader Cellars Cabernet
RBS Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard

…dark, plush and inviting, but with greater inner focus and minerality than some of the other wines here. Graphite, smoke, tar and licorice are some of the notes that wrap around the intense, juicy finish….

 

The Original Single-Barrel Bourbon Gets 97 Parker Points!

The finest bourbon in the world comes from a single barrel. That’s the way Colonel Albert B. Blanton first bottled his private reserve bourbon nearly a century ago. Blanton believed the “center-cut” or middle sections of Warehouse H were the best for aging his bourbon. Personally tasting and choosing each barrel, these barrels were reserved and bottled for ambassadors, dignitaries, family and friends becoming the world’s first single barrel bourbon. His time-honored tradition lives on today as only a handful of barrels from the center of Warehouse H are selected to become Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon.

Here at B-21, we tasted numerous barrel samples and received the original barrel with our order’s arrival. The finished product was truly golden in color and smooth and flavorful with no hot aftertaste, even at the high 93 proof. An utterly incredible sipping whisky, from our table to yours. Robert Parker reiterates what we already told you, “…this is one of the most complex of the Kentucky bourbons I tasted.”

 

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon

Smoky, woodsy, caramelized flavors of brown sugar, honey and maple syrup include a hint of wood. With a light to medium amber color, a full-bodied, gorgeously textured, fleshy, broad, savory mouthfeel…

96pt Cote Rotie and 95pt Pomerol – Made in America!

Where is this country would you be apt to find a world class syrah and merlot? Napa or Russian River? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you… Santa Barbara and Columbia Valley. Well, Columbia Valley is not that much of a surprise as Merlot put Washington State on the map, but consumers still don’t realize that it’s probably the best this country has to offer for the varietal. But Syrah from Santa Barbara? Ojai has been churning out top notch syrah for 3 decades now, and the 2008 Roll Ranch is what American syrah is all about – rich and ripe, with the right balance of fruit and power. Even though Pedestal has only been around for 10 years, the pedigree behind it indicates world class. Pomerol vintner and international consultant Michel Rolland partners with Washington State wine visionary Allen Shoup to produce what in my humble opinion is the best Merlot made in America. This wine hit Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list last year at #11 and we were able to secure the last bit of the vintage. Both these wines are very limited but the rewards are immense.

 

2008 Ojai Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard

…rich and remarkably composed Syrah of keen focus and real sophistication. It is at once substantial and exceptionally well-balanced with incisively fruity flavors and layers of interest even at this early age…

 

2009 Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot

This red is round, generous and expressive, offering plum, loganberry, cherry and clove flavors that pick up hints of loam and floral character as the finish tightens its focus. Impressive for its length and deft balance….

 

 

92-Point Wine from Caymus: Meiomi Pinot Noir!

Meiomi (pronounced may-OH-mee) means “coast” in the language of the Native American Wappo and Yuki tribes. A benchmark under-$20 fruit-forward California Pinot Noir if ever there was one. With its screw cap and reliably delicious personality, Joe Wagner (son of Charlie, founder of Caymus Vineyards) has found a groove with this bottling that’s been consistent over the last five years. While Caymus specializes in Cabernet only, the Belle Glos winery (a family name) was founded in 2001 and specializes, making only Pinot Noir. Meiomi came about in 2007 to fill the void in quality Pinot at a bargain basement price. The 2011 is its best to date. Full bodied, exuberant and distinctively Pinot in character. The true Wagner family style. Why should we expect less?

 

2011 Meiomi Pinot Noir

Dark and rich, showing toasty mocha oak flavors, with a beam of wild berry, raspberry, cola, vanilla and spice. Long on the finish. Drink now through 2020.

Great Walla Walla Cab – 92 Point Tamarack

Founded in 1998 by Ron and Jamie Coleman, Tamarack’s first vintage consisted solely of 300 cases of Merlot. The goal was to make elegant, balanced, delicious wines and offer them at a fair price. Years later, and now up to 20,000 cases each year, the focus remains the same…outstanding quality for unbelievable prices!

Named after the tamarack, a coniferous North American larch tree that surrounds the area, they don’t have a foo-foo looking chateau and no, they do not sit on a hill overlooking pristine and perfect movie set vineyards. Located in the old World War II Army Airbase fire station at the Walla Walla Airport, this winery is all about expression, passion and character – with no pretense. The 2009 vintage rivals the ’07 as the greatest growing season in the short history of Washington wine and it shows in this meticulously made Cab. Composed of portions of fabulous vineyard sites like Ciel du Cheval and Tapteil on Red Mountain, Seven Hills in Walla Walla Valley and DuBrul in Rattlesnake Hills, aged 22 months in new French allier, delivering one of the best Cabernets Washington state has to offer. Full of high toned herbal notes, cherry, and pepper, the palate is loaded with sweet cherry flavors and a firm backbone of tannins. A tremendous value in top notch Cabernet.

More than half of Tamarack’s production is the Firehouse Red which features multiple grape varieties, including cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, cabernet franc, among others. A symphony of flavors with no one variety dominating the flavor profile, the 2010 is a real steal.

Tamarack’s no nonsense approach has been a simple philosophy that I wish more wineries would follow… making great wines that everyone can afford.

 

2009 Tamarack Cabernet Sauvignon…Carob, cocoa powder, pistachio and almond extracts, cassis and cherry dominate… hints of fruit pit bitterness and skin tartness enhancing the stimulation derived from a long, luscious finish….

 

2010 Tamarack Firehouse RedFresh and inviting, with vibrant dark berry, guava and floral flavors that keep dancing through the long and peppery finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and others….

 

Joseph Swan is Back With 94 Point Classics

In 1967, at the age of 45, Joseph Swan, a retiring airline pilot, bought a run-down Zinfandel vineyard, barn and house in the Russian River Valley. The house had been the general store for the tiny town of Trenton which is no longer in existence. A self-trained winemaker, Joe’s first commercial wine was the 1968 Estate Zinfandel which created a stir for its intensity, balance, and purity. Joel Peterson of Ravenswood fame actually used Joe’s vineyards for his first zinfandel. Later these vines were ripped out and on the advice the legendary BV winemaker, André Tchelistcheff, thought this location would be ideal for Burgundian varietals, and Pinot Noir and a little Chardonnay were planted. At that time there were very few Chardonnay or Pinot Noir vines planted in the area. Swan made his first Pinot Noir in 1973 and his first Chardonnay in 1974. From the very beginning the vines produced very low yields and grapes with very high natural acidity.

Joseph Swan, who died in 1988, is quietly considered the “Father of Pinot Noir,” and passed on his vision to his son-in-law Rod Berglund, who was the original owner and winemaker of La Crema Winery before he sold it to Jess Jackson. He continues the tradition Joe promulgated, opposing over-the-top, high extract, high alcohol, over-oaked, “tailgate” wines, still making wines traditionally, very burgundian and age-worthy.

The flagship wine remains the Trenton Estate Pinot Noir. Half of the vineyard replanted in the mid-90s, the youngest vines have now reached maturity enough to utilize the grapes of all of the blocks in the vineyard. Rod describes the character of the vineyard as “spice, earth, and concentrated fruit, with a slight tannic edge that softens with time in the bottle.” A tour de force in the classic pinot style. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Joseph Swan wines in these parts, but thankfully we can bring these classic wines back to let you see what you’ve been missing.

 

2010 Joseph Swan Vineyards
Chardonnay Saralee’s Vineyard

…attaining true complexity is something else…. elaborate, dry and rich in green apple, mango and orange flavors. The acidity is just about perfect, giving the palate a tart zinginess….

 

2007 Joseph Swan Vineyards
Syrah Great Oak Vineyard

The explosive blackberry, wild berry and raspberry flavors are snappy and vivid, deeply concentrated and sharply focused. Ends with a long, pure, spice- and berry-laced finish. Drink now through 2022….

 

2009 Joseph Swan Vineyards
Pinot Noir Great Oak Vineyard

…smell and taste… Flavors of earth, mushroom, decaying tree bark and pine needle are all present, and the notes of cherry, cola and pomegranate are intense…. fairly tannic, with a crisp edge of acidity….

 

2010 Joseph Swan Vineyards
Pinot Noir Trenton Estate Vineyard

Tannic and tightly wound… Intense notes of raspberry jam, cherry pie, anisette, Dr. Pepper are all present, and a rich, sweet jacket of smoky sandalwood adds further complexity….

 

Superb Napa Cab for $12? Talk About Irony!

images/irony-cab-napa-b.gifSo you take selected grapes from low-yielding Cabernet vineyards predominantly from Wooden Valley, a cooler growing region within Napa Valley, just east of the town of Yountville, and a smaller portion from Pope Valley, a warmer region in the northeast section.

And therein lays the ultimate irony – that wines so consistently true to their prestigious roots could also be so wonderfully approachable and inexpensive. It is almost unbelievable to say that it shows true Napa pedigree, full-bodied with black fruit flavors and fine dusty tannins. The 2010 Merlot is the best example of this overlooked grape I have tasted in years. Not many producers from this country have been able to do what the Indelicato Family have done to make superb quality and value in winemaking. Dare to try a little Irony.

 

 

2010 Irony Napa Cabernet

Serious cabernet, serious Napa cabernet.  This has Napa pedigree in a super vintage.

 

 

 

 

 

Pinot Noir SoCal Style

The longer growing season of 2010 produced some of the best Pinot noirs to date in the typically warmer climate regions, like Santa Rita Hills and Arroyo Grande. Unlike 2009 which produced riper, fleshier wines, 2010 produced more elegance and finesse with finer tannins. Only 60 miles separate these two great estates; Talley in Arroyo Grande, Melville in Santa Rita Hills, and these top-notch Pinots really express the characteristics of the land and climate. Both are 100% estate grown and produced. 90% of Talley’s comes from the highly regarded Rincon vineyards, from the winery’s first plantings in 1982. Wine critic Stephen Tanzer claims it to be “the best version of this bottling I’ve yet tasted from Talley.” Melville uses multiple varietal clones with 40% fermented as whole-clusters and 60% gently de-stemmed. This labor intensive task gives the wine true grip and harmonious flavors. 2 great Pinots; 2 great Pinot regions, both tremendous values. How can you go wrong?

 

2010 Talley Vineyards Pinot Noir

Vivid red. Heady, exotic bouquet evokes candied red fruits, potpourri and spicecake, with a mineral topnote. Fresh, penetrating raspberry and bitter cherry flavors show impressive clarity and put on weight…

 

2010 Melville Pinot Noir

Tight and fresh, with vivid wild berry and raspberry character that’s pure and spicy, with a stemmy edge, yet it works well, as the fruit density and tannins fold together in a pleasing way….