Monthly Archives: March 2017

Visit to Inglenook – Part of Napa Valley history

Introduction to Inglenook

Inglenook was founded by the Finnish sea captain Gustave Niebaum and has had an impressive history since the first harvest in 1882. The estate plays a central role in Napa’s history and has had different owners during its lifetime. Today, the estate is owned by the Coppola family and in 2011 they also bought back the historic name of Inglenook.

In 2011 Philippe Bascaules, with a background from Chateaux Margaux in France, was appointed General Manager. Unfortunately, for Inglenook, Philippe will now return to Chateaux Margaux, but he will stay on as a consultant for Inglenook.

For a longer historic overview I recommend the Inglenook website.

A few short notes about how Inglenook produce their wines

  • Since 2003 the whole estate is certified organic.
    Everything is done by hand and they are approximately 30 fixed employees in the vineyard and winery.
  • They do green harvest to control yield.
  • Irrigation is kept to a minimum.
  • Most of the fruit for the red wines are de-stemmed.

Since Philippe Bascaules joined he has implemented some changes. Below are a few examples:

  • More focus on freshness and lower alcohol, rather than big powerful wines.
  • Harvest personell is today getting paid per hour and today a first selection of grapes is made in the field.
  • Smaller bins are used at harvest, to reduce the amount of grapes that risk getting crushed.
  • Yields have been raised to control ripeness

Tasting notes for the wines from Inglenook

2014 Inglenook Blancaneaux

Rhone-style blend of estate-grown Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier. Has not gone through malolactic fermentation.

Fresh nose with yellow pears, green apples, stone fruit and some minerals. Citric acidity with lemon and grapefruit, but still the wine keeps a soft expression.

2014 Inglenook Zinfandel Edizione Pennino

Dense dark fruit with boysenberries and blueberries. On the palate we also get some strawberries and vanilla oak notes. Good acidity and fine grained tannins. This is a rather concentrated and dense Zinfandel.

2013 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford

18 months in 90% French oak, 10% American oak. 50% new oak.

Dark fruit with mainly black currant and blackberries but also graphite and some oak notes. The acidity is rather soft but fresh and enough to balance the wine ok. There is a sandy tannic structure and herbal notes on the palate. This is a rather dense and heavy Cabernet Sauvignon but it is still not overpowered.

2013 Inglenook Rubicon

This iconic wine has been produced since 1978. All lots are vinified separately and then a blend is made. Aged in French oak where 75% is new.

Classical Cabernet Sauvignon nose with graphite, cedar and currant but also some blueberries and blackberries. Fresh palate with a cool acidity and a fine grained tannic structure. There is an oak influence but not dominant. This is a well balanced wine with a fresh juicy character in the mouth.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Inglenook

The wines from Inglenook all radiate quality and refinement. It should be said that these wines are still rather concentrated, but I was positively surprised about the new Rubicon that had a slightly slimmer profile than for example the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Zinfandel. It will be very interesting to follow the development of the Inglenook wines in the future. It is probably not surprising that Rubicon was my favorite but I also think the Blancaneaux was a positive surprise.

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Tasting of Cobb Wines at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco

I previously visited Ross Cobb and wrote a post about this visit, which can be read here. In this post you will find some introduction to Cobb Wines and how they produce their wines.

This post is from a tasting of Cobb Wines at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco and I have only included notes from the wines I had not tried before.

Tasting notes for the wines from Cobb Wines

2014 Cobb Chardonnay Mariani

Fresh nose with pears, apples and some stone fruit. The acidity starts off rather soft but then increases and balances the wine well. On the palate the stone fruit takes over but is also complemented by some lime and lemon. Well made Chardonnay with good balance.

2014 Cobb Pinot Noir Jack Hill Vineyard

The nose is initially very careful but then some dense red and dark fruit notes appear. Extremely smooth and silky on the palate but also with rather dense fruit from cherries, some soft blueberries and fresh notes from spices. This is a very elegant and precise wine, especially on the palate where everything comes together.

2013 Cobb Pinot Noir Jack Hill Vineyard

The nose opens up quickly with an abundance of red and dark fruit. I mainly find cherries and blackberries on both nose and palate. On the palate there is a tartness on the fruit which also stays in a rather long finish. This is a very generous Pinot Noir, and I would have guessed it was higher in alcohol than what the 12.8% it says on the bottle. I think the nose was great, but I lacked some precision on the palate. Still a great Pinot Noir.

2013 Cobb Pinot Noir Rice-Spivak

This wine has intense fruit notes with some ripe raspberries, strawberries and cherries. Acidity is rather smooth but with good precision and the tannins are velvety. This is a very generous and opulent wine but still with elegance. Hard not to like.

2009 Cobb Pinot Noir Rice-Spivak

Initially some ripe fruit notes from raspberries and cherries dominate, but then some herbal notes, earthiness and hints of petrol and bay leaf also appear. Rather intense and mouthwatering tartness on the palate where we get more raspberries but also blackberries. Fresh and energetic wine even though it has a rather ripe initial style.

Summary of impressions from the tasting of Cobb Wines

I had tried some of these wines before, but in this tasting I was introduced to one new vineyard; Jack Hill Vineyard, and I had a chance to compare some vintages. Jack Hill Vineyard is close to the Emmaline Vineyard but there is a clear difference in the wines, where Jack Hill Vineyard produce more generous wines, but both are very elegant and precise. I also had a chance to compare vintages in this tasting, especially 2013 and 2014 and my favorite is the 2014 that is more precise and energetic on the palate where the 2013 is more fruit forward and feels a bit heavier. On the nose the 2014 can have a tendency to close down, where the 2013 has beautiful brimming fruit notes.

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Visit to Mount Eden Vineyards – An important part of history in Santa Cruz Mountains

Introduction to Mount Eden Vineyards

During my visit I met with the well spoken and thoughtful Jeffrey Patterson in the beautifully situated estate with an amazing view. Jeffrey talks about the history of Mount Eden Vineyards and his own philosophies about winemaking.

We talk a lot about the replanting of vineyards since all of the vineyards have been replanted during Jeffrey’s time at the Domaine. Being from Europe where old vines are worshipped I cannot resist asking him if he ever wish he would have kept at least a few of the older vines. Jeffrey is very firm in his belief that the replanting was the absolute best decision and his argument is that the old vineyards were not well structured, did not produce well and were very tough to manage. I ask Jeffrey when he thinks the vineyards will be replanted the next time and he laughs and says it will not be within his lifetime. He also points out that he expect it to be replanting of individual vines rather then a complete replanting in the future. 

If you are looking for a more detailed description of the history of Mount Eden Vineyards I will recommend a good source. It is well documented and I will not make a better job than what they already have done:)

Link to Article: http://www.princeofpinot.com/winery/757/

I still think it is worth mentioning a few important things, like that fact that Jeffrey has been the manager (and later majority owner) of the Mount Eden Vineyards since 1981 and he took over after a period where there had been many changes in management. This makes him one of few persons among California winemakers to have such a long history in the same place. I personally consider this extremely valuable since winemaking at the absolute top level requires detailed knowledge about the vineyards and their personalities. The most amazing wines I have tasted have been a result of long periods of small optimizations from the same group of people or family. Perfection cannot be rushed.

A few short notes about how Mount Eden Vineyards produce their wines

  • Jeffrey strives to create wines with long age ability. He points out that this can make the wines less accessible in their youth.
  • They do dry farming
  • The chardonnays go through malolactic fermentation
  • Natural yeast is used
  • 75% new oak is used for aging of the Estate Pinot Noir
  • Some American oak is used for the Cabernet Sauvignon. To avoid vanilla notes they only use oak that has been dried for 3 years.

Tasting notes for the wines from Mount Eden Vineyards

2013 Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains

This is a rather round and generous Chardonnay with an abundance of yellow pears and apples but also some Asian spices. Very smooth an slightly oily on the palate with a soft but tingling acidity and some ripe tropical fruit also appear on the palate together with some slight notes of oak.

2013 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir

Approximately 30 percent whole clusters.

Intense nose with dense fruit from mainly dark cherries and raspberries but also some earthy undervegetation.  The palate is smooth with a soft but fresh acidity and layered fruit notes. I also get some herbal notes in the finish. This is a well balanced Pinot Noir that I would like to have spent more time with.

2014 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir Domaine Eden

Approximately 15 percent whole clusters.

An abundance of fresh red fruit, mainly from raspberries and strawberries. Rather light on the palate and with a cool acidity and some young fruit that is slightly sweet. Very fresh and energetic Pinot Noir with a light body.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Mount Eden Vineyards

Jeffrey Patterson is a good representative of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with his long experience from working the same vineyards and his ability to communicate the history of the region. His wines are extremely well made and all have a great balance and depth. My favorites were the Pinot Noirs where the cool acidity adds energy to these rather complex wines. These are definitely wines that will have a long life ahead, but I already find them surprisingly approachable.

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The price tag-wise impressive Oregon pinot joining up with a nebio from Giacosa

Oregon is a young wine region, but certainly an interesting one for sure. Throughout his now half-year time in California, Andreas have confirmed that the most Burgundy-like, coolest and most balanced pinots are found primarily at Sonoma coast or in highest part of Santa Rita hills, but obviously they are found in Oregon. Oregon is further up north on the west coast and as long as there is a cool breeze at nights and great sun exposure, naturally Oregon should have even better conditions for producing less sweet, less alcoholic and more balanced wines. In the last years, several domains in Burgundy has bought land in Oregon because of this and sent their young ones into a somewhat new wild west for wine making.

This time I just happened to be pairing up a newly released easygoing and price-worthy Oregon pinot with a simple nebbiolo from the iconic Piedmont producer; Bruno Giacosa. Even Though, an alternative from Burgundy sound like the obvious choice, It proved out to be a ingenius combo that opens up a door for likeness. 🙂

2015 Acrobat, “Pinot Noir” Acrobat wineries Oregon, USA

Beautiful and opaque red orange and red purple core with pink-cerise edges.

A lovely perfume of thyme, earthy qualities and notes of underbrush at the base as well as normally sweet red berries, but not the normal kind from California or any other new world. Moreover, delicate, quite intense top notes of high-pitched tulips and mesmerizing peony rose petals. There is absolutely a fragrant and lovely Chambolle-like note in here, but with a certain underbrush and divert mineralic twist.

Very silky, very fresh and as its name suggest, a truly impressively balanced wine. Fruit contains some sweet, highly concentrated, ripe wild strawberries, but combines this with cool, aromatic guava and rhubarb fruits. It is a very focused, superslim, generous and a gentle wine tiptoeing its juvenile, pristine and immaculate aromas in a fresh, juicy acidity elegantly to the finish line. It deserves the big Burgundy balloons or the Zalto glasses. Its only backside is its slightly sweet tone, but otherwise we love it! However, its youthfulness shines through with less precision, but the price tag at this quality-level is irresistible (SEK 165 kr, ~€17.30, $18.20) and impressive! (tasted 2016-03-08)

88+p/100

2014 nebbiolo d’Alba, Bruno Giacosa

Red orange, transparent and glowingly core with orange cerise edges.

The classic notes of leather, tar and lovely Ingrid Bergman roses, but here very subtle. Notes of cinnamon, cookies and dog rose too.

Well balanced and dense. Tannins are, of course, youthful but at the same tasty and quite soft considering its age. As always, even her, the precision is amazing at this price level for a non-barbaresco wine. It needs some more time to marry the tannins with the fresh, balsamic and lively acidity. Precision is a notch up compared to the Acrobat, but price is higher at SEK 289 kr (€30.30, $32) (tasted 2017-03-08)

87-88p/100

Visit to Matthiasson Winery – Firmly based in the vineyards

Introduction to Matthiasson Winery

Matthiasson is a small family winery managed by Steve and Jill Matthiasson who both have an agricultural background. Their focus is primarily on the vineyards with an hands off approach to wine making. Steve also works as a consultant for other land owners, managing their vineyards. The relationships he has developed through these assignments and the knowledge about the vineyards in the area has been important for their ability to source high quality grapes for their own production.

A few short notes about how Matthiasson’s wine making

  • They produce wines from a wide variety of grapes. Some rather unusual in the Napa region, like Ribolla and Refosco.
  • They never do cold soak before fermentation. Steve thinks it can be a good method for some wines, but because they rent space in a winery time is limited instead he prefers leaving the skins after the fermentation if extra extractions is desired.
  • External yeast is used. Also this decision is partly related to the sharing of facilities with other producers. Some yeast strains can be dominant and taker over from others, so you are not sure the yeast from the grapes will have any effect on the specific wine. Therefore Steve prefers adding yeast that will not get dominated by other type of yeasts and thereby he gets better control over the process and the end result.
  • They are moving towards organic practices and will certify their own vineyards. In addition, they also consider and evaluate biodynamic practices.

Since they have such diversity in their types of wines and grapes, the process is adapted to each wine. Therefore I have added this information in each wine section, respectively.

Tasting notes for the wines from Matthiasson

2015 Matthiasson Chardonnay Linda Vista Vineyard

The fruit is harvested at five different occasions to get different expressions, where the first adds acidity. Approximately 50% of the wine has gone through Malolactic fermentation. Fermented and aged in neutral barrels.

Fresh and forward wine with apples, pineapple and stone fruit but also a very citric profile especially on the palate. The acidity is racy and slightly harsh, but this should improve with time. The wine needs some time to integrate but it is a great Chardonnay with some attitude.

2014 Matthiasson White Wine

Blend of: 50 % Sauvignon blanc, 25 % Ribolla gialla, 20 % Semillon, and 5 % Tocai friulano. Co-fermented in 20 % new Boutes barrels, and aged on its lees, with no stirring. The wine has not gone through malolactic fermentation.

Rather fruity expression both on nose and palate, with apricot, apples and some pineapple, but also white floral notes. There is also a slight oak influence and notes of flint on the nose. Medium acidity with a fresh citric expression. Well balanced wine with a fresh and fruity expression.

2013 Matthiasson Ribolla Gialla Matthiasson Vineyard

Fermented with whole cluster in a open-top tank for two weeks. Aged sur lees for 20 months in neutral barrel.

Initially honey and white flowers dominate this generous nose that has a sweet touch. Then we also get oranges, orange peels and some lemon notes. On the palate the wine gets a dryer expression and has a rather soft style with a careful but good acidity. This wine has a strong personality and would be great to pair with food.

2014 Matthiasson Zinfandel Limerick Lane

95% Zinfandel and 5% Petite sirah. Aged in neutral barrels for 18 months.

Very pure and fresh fruit notes open up the nose, containing blueberries, blackberries and some raspberries. This is transfered to the palate where we also get a cool and fresh acidity and a soft tannic structure. This is a very energetic Zinfandel.

2013 Matthiasson Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Includes 9% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot. Fruit is from seven vineyards. Aged for 20 months in French oak (20% new). From the warm 2013 vintage.

Initially rather fruity with blackberries and dark cherries, but then some cedar, graphite and leather appear on both nose and palate. The wine has a rather fresh acidic expression on the palate and a good tannic structure. Well balanced Cabernet Sauvignon that should have a long life.

2012 Matthiasson Merlot Red Hen Vineyard

They have made this wine since 2003 and Jill says, it is the reason we started our winery.
The fruit was fermented in a small, open-top tank and punched down by hand two to three times a day. Aged for 20 months in oak barrels, where 1/3 where new.
Pure and intense fruit notes with blueberries, blackberries and cherries, and on the palate we also get a slight marsipan note. There is a sandy tannic structure and a fresh acidity. The wine already drinks very well but should develop good with time. Very good and well balanced Merlot

Summary of impressions from the visit to Matthiasson

Matthiasson has an exciting range of wines, some of them very unique, which makes the tasting very interesting. Steve is also very insightful when it comes to both the work in the vineyards and in the cellar. He is very open about his opinions. The meeting with both Jill and Steve was very educational.

I was also impressed by their wines that all had their own personality. My personal favorite was the Red Hen Merlot but I was also positively surprised by the pure and fresh Zinfandel, the Ribolla’s amazing personality and the price worthy Linda Vista.

Matthiasson has been getting a lot of attention lately, which is well deserved.

 

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