Author Archives: Andreas

Visit to Anthill Farms – A young producer that already have a dedicated fan base

Introduction to Anthill Farms

In March I visited Anthill farms during one of my day trips to Sonoma. Before this visits I had only tried two of their wines, both Pinot Noirs. The reason Anthill Farms ended up on my list of producers to visit is that they seem to have a very dedicated group of followers. Several persons have recommended their wines passionately and one person even gave me a bottle to taste.

This is a young producer, founded in 2004, which is part of the New California movement making wines that are less ripe and with a transparency towards vineyards and vintages. They use very little new oak, harvest relatively early and intervene as little as possible in the cellar.

Tasting notes for the wines from Anthill Farms

2015 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

40 percent whole clusters, no new oak and they have gone through a cold soak.

Fresh and juicy Pinot Noir with an abundance of bright red fruit where raspberries dominate. The acidity adds a coolness to a palate that is slim and precise. Some herbal notes appear both on nose and palate.

2015 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Harmony Lane Vineyard

This wine has two different styles; a rather fruit forward nose with quite ripe strawberries and raspberries, and a palate with a citric acidity that is slightly harsh at the moment. This results in a wine that is both generous and energetic, but at the moment it is not in perfect balance. There are also some bayleaf notes on both nose and palate.

2015 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch Vineyard

Young red fruit, mainly from raspberries, combined with some eucalyptus notes results in a fresh expression. On the palate the wine gets some attitude with a tannic bite and some energetic acidity. I recognize this style from my tasting at Kutch wines. I think this wine will develop very good and if you are not sensitive to tannins and a sharp acidity it is a good food wine already today.

2015 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Peters Vineyard

From 30 year old vines.

Dense and layered fruit notes with blackberries, blueberries and an abundance of strawberries opens up this wine. On the palate a nice and precise acidity balances the fruit notes and we get a sandy tannic structure. The finish is mouthwatering and this wine is very approachable already now but should also have a long life ahead. Great wine.

2015 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Tina Marie Vineyard

Green valley. Fertile soil and high humidity.

Expressive nose with intense berry notes, mainly from dark berries, but some red also appear after a while. The acidity has some lemon notes and gets slightly harsh and they dominate the wine in the finish. This wine is not in perfect balance yet, but hopefully this will improve with some time.

2015 Anthill Farms Chardonnay Peugh Vineyard

This is an intense Chardonnay with an abundance of green apples, some stone fruit and fresh lime fruit. On the palate the lime fruit takes a more dominant position, especially in the fresh finish.

Summary of impressions from Anthill Farms

I am very impressed with the high and even quality level at Anhill farms. These are wines that are made to last and they will develop with time, still they are approachable and pleasant to drink already today.

The Pinot Noirs have pure and intense fruit notes that shows a rather dense profile on the nose, but then on the palate the acidity gives a more slim expression that stays is a fresh finish. The wines are more dense than I expected considering that this is a producer going for early harvest and lower alcohol levels. None of the wines have showed any signs of being under ripe. I look forward to tasting some of their wines with some more age.

I only tried one Chardonnay and it was fresh and energetic and reminded me of Chardonnay from Chablis.

My favorite wines in the tasting were the Pinot Noirs from Peters Vineyard and Campbell Ranch Vineyard

 

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Visit to Sanford Winery – with a treasure of vineyards

During my stay in Santa Barbara I visited the tasting room of Sandford Winery in the city center. This was not planned ahead so I did not book a meeting with anyone working with their vineyards of in their cellar. Still the tasting gave a good presentation of their wines and I was able to get answers to my questions about the wines.

Some short facts about how Sanford Winery produce their wines

Chardonnays:

  • They go through 100%  malolactic fermentation
  • Approximately 14-15 months in oak, of which 40-50% are new

Pinot Noirs:

  • Fermented in stainless steels
  • 100% whole clusters
  • 12 to 15 months in oak and approximately 40% new

Tasting notes for the wines from Sanford Winery

2013 Sanford Chardonnay La Rinconada Vineyard

14,5% alcohol and aged in 40% new oak.

Nice nose with apples and pears combined with pineapple, spices and hints of vanilla. Smooth on the palate with a careful but citric acidity, containing lemon and lime. The acidity gets more intense in the finish. This is a nice Chardonnay with some energy from the acidity and denseness in the fruit, but it lacks some elegance and precision for a top score.

2013 Sanford Chardonnay La Entrada

14,5% alcohol and aged in 40% new oak.

Green pear, apricot, spices and alcohol notes on the nose. Some juicy lemon acidity takes a dominant role on the palate. This is a juicy and rather fresh Chardonnay that unfortunately lacks some precision and focus, especially on the acidity.

2013 Sanford Viognier Sanford & Benedict Vineyard

Very fresh expression, especially for a Viognier. Some stone fruit, green apples and fresh white flowers. Soft and elegant on both nose and palate. Great balance on this rather slim Viognier.

2014 Sanford Pinot Noir La Rinconada Vineyard

Rather warm on the nose, with mainly red fruit from lingonberries and raspberries but also some dark blackberry notes appear. Dense and dark on the palate, especially compared with other Rinconadas I have tried. There are also some pepper notes. Acidity is good and with some lime notes.

2014 Sanford Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard

13 months in French Oak (40% new)

This wine has layers of fruit notes from boysenberries, strawberries and blueberries, but also some herbal notes adding a freshness. The palate is well balanced with a lime acidity and a velvety tannic structure. In the finish some spice notes also appear. This is a rather complex wine with good balance between the dense fruit and the acidity and structure.

Summary of impressions from visit to Sanford Winery

Sanford Winery own the famous Sanford & Benedict Vineyard and the La Rinconada Vineyard, ensuring them access to amazing fruit. They therefore have a very interesting line up of exciting wines. In general they are rather ripe and dense and show some oak notes.

The Pinot Noirs are rather dark and dense in their character with some notes of alcohol and pepper. The level of acidity is not super high but for the wines I tasted it was enough to create an ok balance.

The different white wines I tasted were quite different in style and my favorite was the Viognier that was surprisingly lively and energetic. The Chardonnays had potential, but I lacked some balance.

My favorites were the Sanford & Benedict Viognier and Pinot Noir, with the Chardonnay from La Rinconada not trailing far behind.

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Visit to LUTUM wines – Single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with strong character and sense of place

LUTUM wines is a cooperation between entrepreneur Bill Price and winemaker Gavin Chanin. They produce single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from quality vineyards in California and the ambition is to convey the terroir of the vineyards.

I tasted these wines together with a tasting of the Chanin wines, where Gavin also is the winemaker. You can read about the Chanin wines here.

A few short notes about how LUTUM produce their wines

  • They use only native yeast
  • In the cellar, gravity is used as much as possible in the process
  • The wines are 100% destemmed
  • They use a cold soak for 4-5 days
  • No other additives other than a small amount of SO2
  • No filtration
  • Aging in French oak, of which approximately 25% are new.
  • Grapes used: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Tasting notes for the wines from LUTUM

2014 Lutum Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard

Generous nose with notes of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries and a juicy palate where the dark fruit dominates. The tannic structure is sand and after a while some licorice and eucalyptus appear. Nice cool acidity to balance the darker notes in the wine.

2013 Lutum Pinot Noir Bien Nacido

Their Bien Nacido is from the older blocks in this huge vineyard that includes both sand and clay, and the latter dominated where this fruit is from.

Rather dark fruit notes from blackberries and blueberries but also some fresh raspberries. Similar on the palate where we also get a nice and precise acidity, some earthy notes and hints of oak and in the finish the alcohol comes through slightly. I would wait a while before opening this wine but the potential is good.

2014 Lutum Chardonnay Durell Vineyard

An abundance of green apples and lime on both nose and palate. The acidity is juicy and the fruit is slightly more ripe on the palate where there also are some slight oak notes. This is a rather classical Chardonnay but with a fresh juicy expression.

Summary of impressions from the visit to LUTUM

The Pinot Noirs from LUTUM wines show dark fruit notes, spices and sometimes licorice and hints of oak. This could result in a rather heavy profile on the wines but they are nicely balanced by a racy and precise acidity. My impression is that these wines will need some time to integrate and smoothen the edges, but the potential is great. The Pinot Noirs are also very different depending on vineyard, especially since grapes are sourced from both Sonoma Coast and Santa Barbara county.

This is an interesting producer with quality wines with both strong character and ageability.

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Visit to Tyler wines – Wines from Burgundian varieties with attitude and energy

Tyler Winery was not a producer I knew about when I went to Santa Barbara, but their name kept being mentioned when I spoke to different people in the business, especially when I described my preferences.

Tyler Winery sources all their grapes today, but they recently purchased some land and have planted 26 acres, so they will make estate bottling in the future. When sourcing fruit they look for close cooperation with the growers and they specifically search for vineyards with old vines.

Today they produce approximately 5000 cases in 12 different bottlings.

In the tasting I tried three Chardonnays and four Pinot Noirs, all but one was from the 2015 vintage.

Some short facts about Tyler Winery

Chardonnays

  • All Chardonnays go through malolactic fermentation.
  • Natural fermentation
  • Fermented in barrels
  • Minimal stirring of the lees.
  • Aging: Approximately 20 percent new oak for 10-12 months.

Pinot Noirs

  • Open top fermenters
  • Natural fermentation
  • 15-20 percent stems.
  • No cold soak or extended masceration.
  • Aging: 15-20 percent new oak. 10-12 months.

Tasting notes for the wines from Tyler Winery

 

2015 Tyler Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard

Pineapple, flint and yellow apples on both nose and palate. The palate is rather tight with young fruit and a racy citric acidity, mainly from lemon. This wine is slightly dominated by lemon notes on the palate today but with time this should calm down.

2015 Tyler Chardonnay Zotovich Family Vineyard

Fresh wine with a nice minerality and some young stone fruit, apricot and a hint of yeast notes. The palate is slim and has a razor sharp lime acidity and again some green apples. This wine has an energetic expression and an amazing precision. Makes me think of Chablis.

2015 Tyler Chardonnay La Rinconada

Rather shy nose but still with some layers in the fruit notes with soft tropical fruit and lime. Will probably open up more with some time. The acidity is citric and juicy in the expression and on the palate we also get som peach and minerals. This is a pretty and elegant Chardonnay.

2015 Tyler Pinot Noir Block Five Dierberg Vineyard

Rather dense and dark fruit notes with blackberries and blueberries, but also an abundance of herbal notes. Slight sweetness on the palate combined with some dark minerals, cherries and spices. This is a dense and dark pinot noir but still with a coolness and rather herbal expression.

2015 Tyler Pinot Noir Bentrock

This wine has a dense and chewy profile but without sweetness and jammy notes. There are also some earthy notes and mushrooms combined with some dark minerals and herbs. The tannic structure has firmness and the acidity is cool and well needed to make sure the wine stays energetic. This is a very dense and complex Pinot Noir, especially considering that this is a producer that avoids overripe fruit.

2015 Tyler Pinot Noir La Encantada

Fresh fruit from both red and dark fruit where the red fruit is young and fresh. I get raspberries and strawberries combined with some cherries but also some sweet notes from marzipan. The acidity is slightly citric and there are some velvety tannins. For a dense wine it has a rather fresh expression and some herbal notes appear in the finish.

2014 Tyler Pinot Noir Old Vine Bien Nacido Vineyard

This wine has a very Burgundian profile with restrained but fresh fruit, mainly from raspberries, but also some earthy notes. The texture is extremely silky with a precise but careful acidity that adds a coolness to the wine, especially in the finish. This is a very well balanced wine that should develop beautifully with age.

Summary of impressions from Tyler Winery

My impression of Tyler Winery is that they produce great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but that these wines need some time in the bottle to calm down. Today the 2015s have some rough edges, but they show good potential, so some patience will pay off. It should also be mentioned that I tried these wines when they were babies.

The 2015 Pinot Noirs from Tyler have dark and dense fruit notes, but not jammy or sweet, and some of them have a touch of earthiness. The fruit gets balanced by a fresh acidity, making sure the wines are never overpowered. With this denseness combined with a rather low alcohol level I would have guessed they had extra time for extraction before or after the fermentation, but this is not the case. I like the complexity of the wines and they will be interesting to follow when they age.

The Chardonnays have a very acidic profile with an abundance of citrus, making them juicy and mouthwatering. The fruit notes are rather careful and there are some mineral notes in some of the wines.

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Visit to Chanin Wine – Silky and elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Barbara

During our short stay in Santa Barbara county, Chanin Wine was one of the producers I really wanted to taste, since I have been impressed with their wines before. During the visit we also tried their “sister winery”, LUTUM, but I will make a separate post about those wines.

Chanin Wine source all their grapes and they are working with vineyards that are farmed organic or sustainably and have older vines. The winemaker Gavin Chanin is definitely a rising star in the region and he focuses on making elegant wines with good balance.

A few short notes about how Chanin Wine produce their wines

  • The only use native yeast
  • Use gravity as much as possible in the process
  • Their Pinot Noirs include approximately 20% new stems
  • They use a cold soak for 4-5 days
  • No other additives other than a small amount of SO2
  • No filtration
  • Aging in French oak, of which 15% are new.

Tasting notes for the wines from Chanin Wine

2014 Chanin Pinot Noir Los Alamos Vineyard

Los Alamos is their warmest vineyard with a dominance of sand. Planted in 1969.

Fresh red fruit with a dominance of strawberries initially but then some darker fruit appear on the palate together with some notes of smoke and spices. There is a citric acidity and the texture is smooth. This generous Pinot Noir has a juicy expression with strawberry dominance.

2013 Chanin Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard

Their Bien Nacido is from the older blocks in this huge vineyard that includes both sand and clay, and the latter dominated where this fruit is from.

Nice red fruit from raspberries and wild strawberries and with a slightly sweet touch. Some spices and smoke appear on the palate together with a soft but precise acidity and a very silky tannic structure. In the finish the fruit gets darker and more dense. This is a well balanced and elegant Pinot Noir that is easy to enjoy.

2014 Chanin Pinot Noir Sanford & Benedict Vineyard

Pure red fruit of raspberries and wild strawberries but also some floral notes. On the palate we get asian spices and minerals together with the young red fruit. Acidity is very precise and cool which gives the wine a fresh finish. This is a beautiful wine that drinks well already but should develop great with age.

2014 Chanin Pinot Noir La Rinconada Vineyard

Very close to Sanford & Benedict but cooler and more exposed to wind.

Light red fruit and some lime notes on this pretty and elegant nose. On the palate some asian spices appear together with a precise acidity and very silky tannins. This is such an enjoyable wine with the silky texture and the pure fruit. Hard to stop drinking.

2014 Chanin Chardonnay Los Alamos Vineyard

This wine opens up with ripe pear notes and tropical fruit and on the palate a rather racy lime acidity results in a mouthwatering expression. This is a ripe Chardonnay with a rather high alcohol level, but still there is some energy in the acidity which makes it a very nice wine.

Summary of impressions from the visit to  Chanin Wine

The Pinot Noirs from Chanin are very elegant and have a silky and smooth mouthfeel but also a precise and fresh acidity. The fruit is mainly young, red, slightly sweet and accompanied by asian spices. The density of the wines are rather different depending on vineyard and vintage, as expected, with the La Rinconada being very light and the Sanford & Benedict having a rather dense profile, even though these vineyards are neighbors. Their Los Alamos Chardonnay manages to combine a generous and round expression with a rather racy citric acidity.

Chanin is definitely one of the top producers in Santa Barbara county, especially if you are looking for wines with precision and elegance.

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Visit to Clos Du Val – Where France meet Napa

Introduction to Clos Du Val

Clos du Val was founded in 1972 by John Goelet and winemaker Bernard Portet and is still under the same ownership. The ambition has from the beginning been to make wines with a French influence. The winery also became world renowned when they took part in the 1976 Paris tasting with their Cabernet Sauvignon and achieved eighth place.

Tasting notes for the wines from Clos Du Val

2014 Clos du Val Estate Chardonnay Block 5A Carneros

Extremely aromatic and floral nose combined with some green apples, oak and ginger. On the palate the fruit is more tropical and there is a lemon acidity. More floral and aromatic than any other Chardonnay I have tried.

2014 Clos du Val Pinot Noir Estate Pinot Noir Block 73

An abundance of cherries but also some smoke and graphite. On the palate we also get raspberries together with a good and juicy acidity. In the finish, the oak notes take a more dominant position. A generous and dense Pinot Noir.

2013 Clos du Val Merlot Estate Merlot Block 6

An abundance of blackberries both on the nose and palate but also with a rather energetic and mouthwatering acidity and a surprisingly strong tannic bite on the palate. Very full bodied on the nose but slimmer on the palate.

2012 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

The wine shows rather fresh dark berry notes where blackberries dominate but there is also some sweet marzipan notes and green pepper. The acidity is vibrant and adds some tension to the wine.

2013 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District

Dense dark berry notes with a soft expression. I find blueberries, currant and blackberries, and on the palate we also get some sandy tannins and a nice acidity that balances the fruit notes well. After a while some more herbal notes appear and there is also some well integrated oak notes.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Clos Du Val

The wines from Clos du Val are rather fruit forward but they also have a fresh and precise acidity to balance the wines. The fruit is mainly dark in the red wines and there are some oak notes but it never gets overwhelming. The Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District with its complexity was a clear step up from the other wines.

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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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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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