Category Archives: California

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.

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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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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Visit to Kutch Wines – Producing age worthy wines from colder climates

Introduction to Kutch Wines

Kutch is a young company, founded by Jamie Kutch and producing their first vintage in 2005. They do not own their own vineyards but instead source the grapes. Jamie’s long term plan include acquiring his own vineyards, but the first steps is to move to his own production facility.

Jamie comes across as an analytical person with a strong mind. He has clear opinions and these are based on facts gathered for example from other producers. His ambition is to make wines with a long life.

I think it is worth recommending their website that has a good presentation of the vineyards (with visuals) and a vintage chart with recommendations for the individual wines. Hope more producers will start presenting this information about their wines.

A few short notes about how Kutch Wines produce their wines:

  • Almost always use 100% whole clusters for Pinot Noir which is rather unique. Jamie’s reasoning behind the decision is that the best and most long lived wines use whole cluster fermentation and that the conditions in California, which a warm climate, almost always ensure ripe stems. The stems add a tannic structure to the wine, something not so common in wines from Californian since the warm climate reduces the amount of tannins in the grape skins. The other option would be to add tannins via oak, but since they use neutral oak this is not an option.
  • Stomp down done by feet twice a day during fermentation.
  • For Pinot Noir the use only neutral oak and for Chardonnay the use 20% new oak. The neutral oak he buys from other producers, but always barrels that have previously been used for Chardonnay.
  • No racking of the wines.
  • No cold soak. They actually heat the juice to initiate the fermentation.
  • 8-14 days of fermentation.

Tasting notes for the wines from Kutch Wines

2014 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Blend of Sonoma Coast vineyards with high elevation and sandy soil.

Intense, mainly dark, fruit with plums, blackberries but also some strawberries and hints of marzipan that adds some sweetness. Rather careful acidity but with a fresh and cool expression, and a rather soft tannic structure. On the palate there is also an abundance of cherries. Well balanced and pleasant wine.

2014 Kutch Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch

Vines are 15 years old. Soil: Graywacke, sandstone

Rather dark but vibrant fruit notes, dominated by blackberries and cherries. There is a rather tannic structure and good acidity, resulting in a well balanced wine with lots of depth and complexity. Some Gevrey Chambertin vibes to the wine.

2012 Kutch Pinot Noir Falstaff Vineyard

Vines are 13 years old. Soil: Marine quarts sandstone, Goldridge

This is a soft and rather round wine with a fruit dominance, especially on the nose. The fruit has a bright expression and contains both red and dark berries, with raspberries, blackberries and cranberries. Both acidity and tannins are rather soft but definitely present in the wine. A very accessible wine.

2014 Kutch Chardonnay

From two vineyards, and vinified separately. Mallo started but not completed.

Fresh green apples, citrus and some floral notes dominated the nose. On the palate there is a juicy but rather soft acidity with some lemon notes. The finish has a fresh expression of minerality. Great and well balanced Chardonnay.

2015 Kutch Pinot Noir Rosé

Has not gone through mallo.

Young raspberries, strawberries and water melon dominate the wine that also has a fresh acidity. There is a slight sweetness on the nose and palate.

2016 Kutch Pinot Noir Sans Soufre

Carbonic masceration and no added sulfites.

Very fruit driven wine with some fresh and slightly sweet red fruit from mainly raspberries and strawberries. Light on the palate but with some tart fruit note. Too early to say what the wine will develop into.

2015 Kutch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Tasted from the tank right before bottling.

17 months in neutral oak. 12,9%.

This is a rather fruit forward wine with young and slightly tart red fruit from strawberries and cherries, but also some herbal notes and ginger.The acidity is vibrant and very good. This wine needs some time to wind down but has good potential and will drink well rather soon.

2015 Kutch Pinot Noir Falstaff Vineyard

Tasted from the tank right before bottling.

12 months in neutral oak. 12,3%. This vineyard has the coldest climate of the Kutch Vineyards.

This is a very tight wine with a strong tannic bite and razor sharp acidity. The fruit contains mainly young and slightly tart raspberries but there is also some spices and an abundance of minerals. I think the acidity is fantastic and it will ensure a long life ahead for this wine. Great potential but let it age a few years first.

2015 Kutch Chardonnay

Tasted from the tank right before bottling.

Dry farmed vineyards planted in 1971-1972.

Intense notes of green apples but also stone fruit and lime. The vibrant acidity has great precision and gives a mouthwatering feeling. This is a great Chardonnay in a classical style.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Kutch Wines

I think the Kutch wines seem hones and transparent towards vintage and vineyards, resulting in clear differences between the wines I tasted. They have both attitude from the tannins (the reds) and acidity, and elegance from the fresh fruit notes.

Even though Jamie use stems in all the Pinot Noirs, I do not detect any green notes and the wines do not get overly herbal. Still you get a distinct tannic structure and the wines do require some food pairing when young. In general the Pinot Noirs has a dominance of rather young red fruit, especially the 2015, and combined with a good acidity this results in fresh and energetic wines. It will be interesting to see how the wines age and if a more complex expression will emerge with time.

The chardonnays were both good, but my clear favorite was the 2015, that had more energy and precision.

 

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The 2015 Littorai Les Larmes is truly elegant and made with finesse

Ted Lemon is the owner of the estate and the winemaker focusing on wines low in alcohol, balance and with finesse. They are obsessed with sustainable farming and biodynamics. Furthermore, Ted has worked at several of the top producers in Burgundy, e.g. Romanée Conti, Roumier and Bruno Clair, so the wines are obviously made in a Burgunish way and with a non-interventionist approach. This wine is from the cool coastal  area of Anderson valley in California.

2015 Les Larmes “Andersson Valley”, Littorai

Notes of clove, herbs, dog rose, some more spice. Its inner perfume emerges much later with fresh red flowers, underbrush. It is currently a truly slow, but it is so young.

Soft, slightly sweet but clean fruit, mainly a unique combo of wild strawberries, sloe berries and lychee fruit, infused with gravel and herbs. Super-smooth, pliant and truly elegant wine with a lot of finesse and its absolute only downside is its just a little short and slightly dry finish. The latter might be because of its youth. (Tasted 11/2-2017)

93-94p

Visit to Joseph Swan Vineyards – A pioneer in Russian River Valley

Introduction to Joseph Swan Vineyards

Joseph Swan Vineyards was founded approximately 50 years ago by Joe Swan who before that had a career as a pilot. In 1967 he bought some Zinfandel vineyards in the Russian River Valley and shortly after he started replanting some of these with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay by imported clones from France which in fact are some of the oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in the area. Joseph Swan Vineyards is a rather small estate in terms of volume, but it has had an important role in the development of the wine region. Joe Swan passed away in 1989 and since then Rod and Lynn Berglund run the estate in line with the principles established by Joe Swan.

A few short notes about how Joseph Swan Vineyards produce their wines:

  • They do not control temperature during fermentation and this results in a natural cold soak since the fermentation will not start immediately.
  • Approximately 30 percent of their grapes come from owned vineyards.
  • Approximately 20 percent whole clusters are used in the Pinot Noir wines.
  • They use 20-25 percent new oak for most of their single vineyard Pinot Noir wines.
  • Neither fining nor filtering is used.

Tasting notes for the wines from Joseph Swan Vineyards

The whites

2014 Joseph Swan Vineyards Viognier “Catie’s Corner”

Dominated by apricot both on nose and palate but there is also some pineapple and green melon. Oily texture on the palate and it does get rather intense and shows some warm alcohol notes. This is definitely food wine.

2014 Joseph Swan Vineyards Grenache Blanc Catie’s Corner Vineyard

Fresh notes of both green and yellow apples on both nose and palate but also with some peach and green melon. There is a fresh acidity that adds some direction to the wine.

2014 Joseph Swan Vineyards Chardonnay “Kent the Younger”

The nose is more forward than the palate, showing apricot, green and yellow apples and some slight tropical fruit notes. There is a slightly oily expression on the palate and the acidity is rather careful.

The reds

2013 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Saralee’s Vineyard”

Very fruit driven Pinot Noir with cherries, raspberries and some rather ripe strawberries. On the palate the wine is very juicy and fresh and has a slight herbal note. The acidity is good and adds some energy. An easy to like Pinot Noir of good quality.

2013 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Suicide Hill Great Oak Vineyard”

Very intense fruit aromas with raspberries, strawberries and cherries, combined with a cool and fresh acidity and some minerals. There is a herbal and minty element to this wine and some violet notes. Almost no structure. The wine has a unique coolness and a pure intense fruit.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Trenton Estate Vineyard”

Brimming fruitiness with cherries, blackberries and raspberries but also some intense blue floral notes. On the palate there is a slight marzipan sweetness as well as some herbal notes. It will be very interesting to see how this wine develops with time. This is a wine with a very strong personality.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel “Zeigler vineyard”

Brimming high pitched fruit notes on the nose and a vibrant acidity and fresh fruit on the palate. Some herbal notes in the background. There is also a silky tannic structure. Surprisingly slim Zinfandel.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Tannat “Matthew’s Station vineyard”

Intense black and red fruit with an abundance of cherries and blackberries. There is a good tannic structure and a slightly harsh acidity. This is a wine with strong personality.

2012 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir “Trenton View vineyard”

Bright red fruit with a rather sweet touch. There are an abundance of cherries but also orange peel, marzipan and strawberries. On the palate the wine is rather sweet, juicy and with a very silky texture. The acidity is soft but good. This is a generous and forward wine but slightly one-dimensional at the moment.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Joseph Swan Vineyards

Joseph Swan Vineyards has an exciting range of wines, some of them from old vines and some

I did bring my assistant to this tasting…

from more unusual grapes like Tannat. In general, the wines of Joseph Swan Vineyards have an abundance of personality and the tasting never gets predictable.

Their Pinot Noir wines are characterized by an intense bright fruit expression, often with cherry and intense violet notes, that I find similar to what I sometimes experience in wines from Lafarge in Volnay. Despite the fruity expression the wines never get dense and heavy, but rather has a refined expression. They also seem very transparent to the vineyards and vintages.

My favorites from the tasting were the Trenton Estate Pinot Noir and the Suicide Hill Pinot Noir, but I also enjoyed the slim Zinfandel Zeigler and the pleasant Trenton View Pinot Noir.

 

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Visit to Cobb Wines – A star in the Sonoma Coast region

Introduction to Cobb Wines

The Cobb Wines estate was founded in 2001 by Ross Cobb and his father David Cobb. Ross is a winemaker and David works in the vineyard. Cobb Wines have their own vineyards, where the oldest were planted in 1989, but they also source grapes from other growers in the region. Cobb Wines focuses on Sonoma coast vineyards with its cool climate in order to render elegant and refined expression of their pinot noir wines.

During my visit I met with Ross Cobb who comes across as very knowledgeable but also very humble and constantly searching for new ways to improve his wines. Ross has experience from other producers in the region but he has also done extensive traveling to Burgundy and shows great interest and knowledge about how they work in Burgundy.

A few short notes about how Cobb Wines produces their wines

  • They select cool sites and harvest early to ensure wines with a lighter and more refined expression.
  • They use lightly toasted and fine grained oak to ensure the wine is not overtaken by oak flavours.
  • A minimum of 22 months in oak, often beginning with a higher amount of new oak and then reducing this depending on how the wine develops.
  • Ross is also experimenting with up to 30 months in oak but then with a less percentage of new oak.
  • A rather long cold soak of 2 weeks, beginning with whole grapes, and then approximately 9-14 days of fermentation.
  • They use dry farming when the vines are old enough to handle it.
  • When they buy grapes they always have longer relationships and full right to decide the vineyard management
  • They do no filtration.

Tasting notes for the wines from Cobb Wines

2014 Cobb Pinot Noir Emmaline Ann

Vines planted in 1998 and Cobb has worked with them since 2006.

Careful and elegant nose with an almost sweet red fruit, marzipan and some Asian spices. Soft but very nice acidity and a juicy expression on the palate. Again some Asian spices but also oranges on the palate. This is an elegant and soft wine with good balance.

2014 Cobb Pinot Noir Rice-Spivak

Vines planted in 1998, Cobb has worked with them since 2003.

Brimming red fruit with raspberries, cherries and lingonberries, but also some spices. There is a silky tannic structure and an energetic acidity. The fruit is slightly tart on the palate. This is a forward wine with a vibrant expression and great fruit. Will have a long life ahead.

2014 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard: 1906 Block Pommard

There is fresh red fruit on a basis of darker fruit where blackberries dominated. The palate is surprisingly slim with vibrant and tight acidity and young dark fruit. There are also spicy notes and a slight earthiness. This is a complex wine that will need time do develop completely and find its balance, but the potential is great.

2013 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard: Diane Cobb

Complex nose with rather dark fruit, like blueberries, cherries and blackberries, but also lingonberries, earthy notes, minerals and some herbs. Very juicy and fresh acidity with a mouthwatering feel. On the palate we also find orange peel and again herbal notes. For a rather forward and complex wine it has a slim and fresh finish. This is a fantastic wine.

2012 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard: Old Firs Block

This is an intense wine with a rather dark expression on the fruit notes, an abundance of earthiness but also a slight oak influence. There are dark cherries, blueberries, minerals and some lingonberries. The tannic structure gives some backbone and there is a good acidity that prevents the wine from getting heavy. Will need much more time to peak.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Cobb Wines

You can probably tell from the tasting notes that I was very impressed by the wines from Cobb.
Two things stand out for me: 1. The great balance in the wines, already at this young age; 2. The complexity and multi layered expression, where the fruit is just one component. Even though it is not the ambition of Ross to make copies of the wines from Burgundy the kinship is very apparent.

My favourite at this tasting was the 2013 Diane Cobb, but I was also very impressed by the even quality and I think it is worth mentioning the energy in the Rice-Spivak, the completeness of the 1906 Block Pommard and the complexity of the Old Firs Block. This is a great line up.

I will definitely follow the development of Cobb Wines with great interest also in the future. Well done so far!

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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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