Monthly Archives: December 2016

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 tasting

In November I attended a Napa Valley tasting at K&L Wine merchants in San Francisco. The theme was Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and we tasted some high profile producers and wines.

I have to be honest and say that I am not the greatest fan of powerful Cabernet Sauvignon with high levels of alcohol and oak influence, and this tasting did include several wines in this category. The wines we tasted had been double decanted 3 hours before the tasting. Below are my tasting notes.

My favorite wine in the line up was Dunn, mainly because of a strong personality and profile, but I think Lewelling, Joseph Phelps and Mondavi also are worth mentioning.

2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Dense but rather well integrated palate with cedar, blackcurrant, graphite, blueberries and blackberries but also vanilla from oak and a hint of barnyard notes. There are also notes of menthol, mint and an ok acidity that adds freshness. At the moment the nose is very muted but it show similar notes as on the palate. Rather inky finish with a salty touch. This is a very dense and heavy wine but not completely without balance.

2013 Caymus “Special Select” Cabernet Sauvignon

Thick heavy fruit on the palate with an abundance of Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blackcurrant, cedar, plum and vanilla from oak. More careful on the nose but it has a heavy denseness. There is an acidity that adds some freshness, but it is not enough to create a balanced wine. The wine is completely dominated by the heavy fruit notes that almost gets jammy. Extremely generous but over the top according to me.

2013 Robert Mondavi “To-Kalon” Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Rather soft fruit on the nose, dominated by darker fruit like blueberries, but also with clear nots of toasted oak that encapsulates the nose. Denser fruit on the palate but also an inkiness and salt, and in the finish there is some bitterness from oak. The wine start rather soft on the nose but it get more sharp with acidity and inkiness along the way. The wine has some elegance but unfortunately the oak does not give it a chance to shine.

2013 Cardinale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Nice fruit core on the nose, dominated by black fruit like Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blueberries and blackcurrant, but also some oak notes. An explosion on the palate with an abundance of fruit but also a rather energetic acidity which creates a mouthwatering expression of the wine. After a while some more peppery notes appear and In the finish there is more ink and saltiness. This is a very powerful and heavy wine but still manages to keep an ok balance.

2013 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red

Very ripe and heavy fruit on the nose but also some menthol, spices and oak notes. Very jammy and almost thick on the palate with an abundance of blackcurrant fruit and leafs but also green paprika. The finish leaves a rather inky impression. This is extremely heavy and concentrated wine that does get rather overwhelming and I lack something to balance all the fruit.

2013 Ramey Pedregal

A very fruit forward wine with an abundance of Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blackcurrant and plums but also some tobacco and vanilla from oak. The palate has a rather fresh acidity and nice fruit behind all the oak and we get some rather chewy tannins. The alcohol also comes through on the palate together with ink, cedar and some menthol that adds a little freshness. The finish gets rather dominated by oak.

2013 Dunn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon 2013There is a slightly funky barnyard note on the nose but it does not get dominant and we also find earthy notes, nice blueberries, spices and blackberries. Good balance on the palate with restraint but dense fruit, an earthiness, mushrooms, cedar and a precise and energetic acidity that carries the wine well. After a while som blackcurrant appear and stays with us in the finish. This wine will be interesting to follow over the years.

2013 BV Geogres de Latour

Rather closed on the nose but still with a restraint denseness with notes of cherries, cedar and blackberries. Inky and slightly salty on the palate but with a fresh acidity. Rather sharp at the moment, and will need some time to get balanced. Some young but mouthwatering blackcurrant notes appear after a while on the palate and stays in the finish.

2013 Lewelling “Wright Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon

Pure brimming fruit notes dominate the palate, mainly from blueberries, cherries, blackberries, cassis but also some herbal notes appear after a while. A juicy fresh acidity drives the palate and combines well with the fresh fruit. Some inkiness appear in the finish together with warm alcohol notes. Nice fruit driven wine with a fresh acidity.

2013 Araujo “Altagracia” Cabernet Sauvignon

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec.
Soft ripe dark fruit, marsipan, vanilla from oak, cedar and some black currant on this rather forward nose. Again dense on the palate and with a soft acidity. The finish is surprisingly short for such a dense wine and there is an inkiness. Big and generous wine.

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Visit to Hartford Family Winery – A young Sonoma winery with an impressive range of single vineyard wines

Introduction to the Hartford Family Winery

Hartford Family Winery was founded in 1994 by Don and Jennifer Hartford, and is based in Russian River Valley in Sonoma. They produce wines from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel and focus on single vineyard bottlings.

A few short notes about how Hartford Family Winery produce their wines:

  • Usually they use a cold soak of approximately 5 days for Pinot Noir
  • The absolut majority of the Pinot Noir is de-stemmed
  • The Chardonnays always go through malolactic fermentation
  • The Chardonnay is aged on the lees and are stirred approximately twice a month
  • French oak is used. Usually between 30-50% new and for between 9-15 months

Tasting notes for the wines from Hartford Family winery

2015 Hartford / Hartford Court Chardonnay Four Hearts Vineyards

35% new oak for 11 months. 14,5% alcohol.

Well balanced Chardonnay with yellow apples, white floral notes and tropical fruit both on nose and palate. The acidity is rather racy and with a citric expression. The texture is slightly oily and there is a clear oak influence but it does not take over the wine. This is a generous Chardonnay or good quality.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Chardonnay Seascape Vineyard

100% French oak; 32 % new for 16 months.  Alcohol: 14.2 %.

Very bright fruit notes on the nose with peach and other stone fruit combined with green apples. Similar fruit on the palate but with a rather slim profile and with a fantastic precise acidity. This is a great wine that will develop very well over many years.

 

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Sevens Bench Vineyard

100% French oak, 21% new for 16 months. Alcohol: 14.7%.

Very intense and rather dominant cherry notes but also smoke, marzipan, tea, some earth notes and herbs. The fruit is very ripe, especially on the palate and there is a slight bitterness in the finish. There is also a tannic structure to the wine.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Far Coast Vineyard

Alcohol: 14,8%.

The nose is dense and contains an abundance of dark cherries but also chocolate and herbal notes. Similar on the palate but there is even darker cherry and some alcohol. The acidity is rather low but and there is a velvety tannic structure.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir MacLean’s Block

100% French oak, 36% new.  Alcohol: 14.8%

Beautiful nose with cherries, spices, earthy notes and forrest floor. On the palate the wine shows more red fruit with strawberries and raspberries, but also cherry notes. There is a nice and precise acidity that is rather careful. This is a well balanced, rather dark Pinot Noir.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Jennifer’s

100% French oak; 39% new. Alcohol: 14.6%.

This is a dense wine with blueberries, orange peel, some red fruit and some spices. The acidity is of good quality but stays in the background and there is a velvety tannic structure. On the palate the spices comes forward even more, together with some orange juice. This wine will take some time to develop but has good potential.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Zinfandel Old Vine Fanucchi Wood Road Vineyard

100% French oak; 51% new

Great Zinfandel with an abundance of dark cherries, blueberries and pepper. The character is dense and compact but there is also a nice acidity that adds energy and freshness, especially to the finish. The tannic structure is grippy and tannins are of good quality.

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Zinfandel Old Vine

100% French oak, 41% new for 9 months.

Great fruit notes both on nose and palate, containing cherries, ripe strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. There is also pepper on the palate together with some rather velvety tannins. The acidity is fresh and has clear lime notes.

2007 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Late Release Far Coast Vineyard

Great nose with blackberries, lingonberries, asian spices and some orange peel. The palate is similar but there is also a slight sweetness. Acidity is careful but enough to balance the wine.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Hartford Family Winery

The wines from Hartford Family Winery has a high and very even quality level. The character of the wines are rather opulent with dense notes, ripe fruit and rather high alcohol levels. The Pinot Noirs are dark and has an abundance of cherry notes. My favorite among the Pinot Noirs was the “MacLean’s Block” where the fruit notes were complemented by some more earthy notes. I was positively surprised by their old vine Zinfandels and I think the Chardonnays performed well, especially the “Seascape”.

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Visit to Ridge Vineyards – A treasure of old vine vineyards

Ridge Vineyards has a long history, dating back to 1885 when the vineyards at Monte Bello Ridge where first planted. Since 1959 a group of Standford University researchers took over the Estate and later also the vineyards of Monte Bello and later the Lytton Springs estate in Sonoma.Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello

Their philosophy is described as Pre industrial, and examples of their approach includes: Trust tasting more than measurements and reduce additives and interventions both in cellar and vineyards. For me their true treasure is their vineyards with very old vines. My impression when tasting their wines is that they harvest amazing fruit, giving a dense and complex expression.

I would also recommend everyone to visit their fantastic website where they have an abundance of information about their history, philosophy, vineyards and wine making principles.

Below are tasting notes for the Ridge Vineyard wines

2014 Ridge Chardonnay Estate

This is a generous and opulent Chardonnay both on nose and palate. The fruit is ripe and dominated by pineapple, stone fruit, melon, but also some lemon. The acidity is rather careful but of good quality and balances the fruit well. There is also rather clear notes of oak both on the nose and palate, especially in the finish. This is a good quality Chardonnay without major surprises.

2014 Ridge Lytton Springs

Very forward on the nose with brimming bright red fruit on top of a base of blueberries. The body is slightly slimmer and have darker fruit notes. There are sandy tannins that gives good structure and there is a good fresh acidity to balance all the fruit. I do get a slight green note in the background. This is a generous wine that still keeps balanced and it should develop well with time.

Ridge Vineyards Perrone2013 Ridge Merlot Perrone Monte Bello

This wine offered an abundance of dense blue fruit and has a very juicy character on the palate. There are some tannins and a rather soft acidity that takes a back seat to the fruit. Some oak notes adds extra sweetness to the wine. This is a very opulent wine.

2014 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch

Extremely dense layered dark fruit on both nose and palate but also some spices, minerals, game and vanilla from oak. Example of fruit notes are ripe plums, cherries and blueberries. There is a good tannic backbone to the wine. This wine is dense and powerful but still avoids getting too heavy.

2013 Ridge Monte BelloRidge Vineyards Monte Bello

This year has less Merlot then usually. Aged on 100% new American oak.

This is a opulent and powerful wine that still manages to stay intense. The nose and palate contains an abundance of cassis, cedar, vanilla, violet and blackberries. The acidity is rather soft and stays in the background, still the wine keeps a rather intense expression. Tannins are grippy and rather sandy at the moment. I think the wine is surprisingly approachable already but it should be stored.

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello2003 Ridge Monte Bello

There is an intense fruit in this wine, but also an abundance of cedar, graphite and a vanilla from oak. The fruit contains plums, ripe cherries, blackberries and blueberries. It still has a grippy tannic structure that is of good quality and an intense fresh acidity that gives a rather energetic expression for this otherwise heavy wine. Still needs much more time before it peaks.

1993 Ridge Monte BelloRidge Vineyards Monte Bello

Very earthy character and there is an abundance of blueberries, cedar, mushroom, graphite, vanilla, but also some leather notes. The fruit is ripe and almost dry in the character. The palate has a round and soft feeling with silky tannins and rather low levels of acidity. This is a wine that shows clear effects from aging, resulting in a complex nose and palate but also a lack of energy, and I would be hesitant to store it longer.

Summary of impressions from the Ridge Vineyard wines

Ridge vineyards produce dense and powerful wines and they use a lot of new oak and some of it American, resulting in sweet vanilla notes. Personally I wish they where more careful on the usage of new oak. Still their amazing fruit shines through in the wines and they manage to keep a rather vibrant and energetic expression. For me the 2013 Ridge Monte Bello stood out, but I was also positively surprised by the 2014 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch and the 2014 Ridge Lytton Springs.

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2005 Marshand-Tawse just shows theirs great development

Recently, several 2013 and 2014 bottling from Marchand-Tawse were released at the Swedish monopoly by curtsy of importer Vinitor AB. 2005 is a great vintage in Burgundy, but one that needs it time to come around for sure and for the crus, it is not yet prime time. This producer is biodynamic, conduct 100% destemming, five days cold soak, only one racking before bottling and they don’t use any new oak at all. This bottling was made from fruit from primarily better slopes in Pommard. Apparently, the latter bottling is a totally other blend.

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2005 Bourgogne “pinot noir”, Marchand-Tawse

This is a village blend that has just started to reveal typical Burgundy nuances e.g. sweet marzipan and obvious Asian spices. In addition a lot of compact red candy too and molasses. Nose is fine, but even though overly dominated by mandel icing and marzipan there are still complex notes that slips through.

On the palate, fruit is ripe, opulent and part of a creamy dessert wrapped in fine, complex minerals. It is delightful, but a little one-dimensional, simple and short. However, it is still an interesting village.

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Oddero’s Vigna Rionda 11 years on..

If you ask me, the Vigna Rionda is probably the best vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba, Barolo. However, you still need a skilled producer to make it justice. It is certainly not an easy wine, but one to be patient with and that is why most producers release it very late. Usually at its 10 years birthday and Oddero is no exception. We met up with them back in 2013 and you can read about our visit here.

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2005 Barolo “Vigna Rionda”, Oddero

As always less transparent with dense, ruby red colour.

The perfume is immediate, intense and compact with a noble combo of wood glue, dried flowers (lavendar, peony roses, lilies), bergamot, under vegetation, pine tree and exotic spices; mainly nutmeg and clove. Follow this wine for some hours, because it is rewarding. The terroir is very unique here and on the nose it is surprisingly much like the structured 2006 vintage.

On the palate there is gravel, earthy muchrooms and dry spices. It is compact, deep and well structured. The 2005 vintage is ok, but normally not for the long run: It was rainy and too little sun, so sometimes it lacks structure, fruit and can be perceived as diluted and unbalanced. This is far from dilution and it got pleanty of structure. However, tannins are still massive and it is not even near integrated either, so this will need plenty of more time in the cellar still. It may not be the most balanced wine and texture is displeasing, but I think it is rich offering a lot of terroir and the acidity is just enough to keep it fresh wrapping bergamot in the very dry finish. It is certainly not a main stream wine for the crowd, but it is from a very unique terroir. Open in 2022 is my educated guess after tasting wines from this vineyard. Tasted on the 2/12-2016.

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A traditional Chilean producer that caught our attention

This time we are definitely outside of our comfort zone, but every time we are and we taste a wine we enjoy, we learn something new and at best we enjoy a new, unique terroir in the world of wine. Today we just stumbled upon something that just happened to be apparently one of the oldest wineries in Chile that leans towards tradition but also as it seems keen on new techniques as well. The firm was established by the Italian Pietro De Martino Pascualone in 1934 in Maipo, Chile.

They prefer amphora vats and as is the case among many producers in Priorat, and more so in Sicily, they are dedicated to true terroir, i.e. affecting the wine at a bare minimum that is a current trend across the globe. Furthermore, they employ a week’s long cold soak and a 40 days extraction on the skins.

The vineyard, Las Cruces, is located in the Coastal Range, in the area of Pichidegua. It was planted in 1957 and it is a field blend of 75% Malbec and 25% Carmenere. It features granite soils and clay. We read that this is 140 km south of Santiago. The wine makers are Marcelo Retamal och Eduardo Jordan.

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2013 Las Cruces, De Martino

Obvious deep purple core with pink edges.

Obvious chewing tobacco, broken granite stone, bay leaves and after some hefty airing, a lovely perfume too.

Immediately reminds me of a combo of Cornas and Priorat at the same time! Dark fruit with thick skins are framed by tiny complex minerals and fleshy tannins. It is generously long and voluptuous, but just lacks some precision. A sappy, fruity wine framed by soft, fleshy and thick tannins. Tasted on 2/11-2016.

90-91p/100