Tag Archives: California

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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Visit to Dunn Vineyards – The legendary producer from Howell Mountain

Introduction to Dunn Vineyards

The estate was founded in 1979 by Randy and his wife Lori and they released their first commercial vintage in 1981 (this was the 1979 vintage). Since then they have gained a loyal following and Dunn is one of the names everyone brings up when I ask for recommendations of Napa-based producers matching my preferences for more transparent wines. This is a family business involving their children Mike and Kristina and they own their vineyards around Howell Mountain. They produce one Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain, but also one “Napa Valley” bottling that also includes some fruit from the Napa Valley floor sourced from other vineyards. The exceptions to this rule are the vintages from 2009-2011 that was produced only by Howell Mountain fruit.

When it comes to their vineyards it is worth mentioning that in spring 2014 they replanted their older parcel (Trailer Vineyard) and in the 2013 vintage this fruit was bottled as a single vineyard wine that is not yet released. So the 2012 Howell Mountain is the last vintage including the old vine fruit from Trailer Vineyard.

If you want to read more about their vineyards they have a good presentation on their website: http://www.dunnvineyards.com/vineyards/

During my meeting I met with Ben Hiza (working with all types of tasks, depending on season:), Mike Dunn and briefly with Randy. Their welcoming was amazingly friendly and you can definitely feel that this is a family business with an atmosphere of openness and jokes. We talked about everything from children (I had brought my one year old daughter to the meeting) to politics, differences between Scandinavia and the US, etc., but we also had some time to talk about vineyards, wines and the work in the cellar:)

A few short notes about how Dunn Vineyards produce their wines

  • The fruit is crushed and destemmed
  • Fermentation takes between 10-13 days
  • They press very lightly
  • Malolactic fermentation is done in barrel
  • They use 100% new oak
  • Wines are racked every 6 months
  • The wines are not allowed to go above 14% in alcohol. They take measure in the vineyard to ensure a lower alcohol level, but if needed they will do a de-alcoholization
  • The grapes from Howell Mountain has higher level of tannins than grapes from the Valley floor, but they never try to adjust this. Therefore their wines often are considered rough in the youth
  • Picking decisions are still made by Randy and it is based on tasting the grapes

Tasting notes for the wines from Dunn Vineyards

2011 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Restrained but intense wine with fresh currant notes, especially on palate but also on the nose. There are also some notes of cedar, blackberries and menthol. The acidity is incredibly cool and vibrant and tannins are fine grained but still very grippy. The wine is already approachable but will definitely improve with age and has a long life ahead. Would be very interesting to taste in 15 years from now.

2012 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

On the palate this is a rather lush wine with layers of both dark and red fruit and we find currant, blackberries and some blueberries. The nose is more careful than the palate but we find the same notes. There is a juicy and slightly broad acidity and tannins are sandy and very present. At the moment there are some oak notes but they are well integrated in the wine. I would expect this wine to integrate more with time and it is a great representation of Cabernet Sauvignon.

2010 Retro Cellars Petite Sirah

Very dense and pure fruit notes of mainly dark fruit, containing blackberries, cherries, blueberries. The tannins are grippy but of good quality and there is a juicy acidity. This is a rather fruity and dense wine but still with good balance.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Dunn Vineyards

We only tasted two wines from Dunn and one made by Mike Dunn under the name “Retro Cellars” (http://www.retrocellars.com). Still, these two wines was a great demonstration in how great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon can be. The wines are fantastically well balanced and shows both energy and complexity. I have heard several times that the Dunn wines are rough and not approachable in the youth, but my opinion is that the two Howell Mountain wines I tasted are surprisingly approachable already, but they will require some decanting and a food pairing. My personal favorite of the two wines was the 2011 that showed more precision and attitude.
In the future I hope to be able to taste some of the older vintages from Dunn Vineyards. If you are in the Copenhagen region on the 18th of March you have a unique opportunity to taste the vintages between 1979 and 2013 at one of Scandinavias best restaurants, Geranium. Unfortunately I am still in the US then, so I will not be there.

 

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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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Tasting of DuMOL 2014

I attended a mini tasting of the DuMOL wines in November, which gave a good introduction to their wine. It was the 2014 vintage that was on display, a vintage where winemaker Andy Smith Is very pleased with the results.

My impressions after the tasting is that this is a producer with a high lowest level. All wines showed a god balance and the most common denominator was a fresh and energetic acidity.

At the end of the tasting my favorites where the “Isobel” Chardonnay and the “Ryan” Pinot Noir.

2014 DuMol Russian River Valley Chardonnay

This is a rather forward Chardonnay with lively but broad acidity, an abundance of ripe dense tropical fruit and some notes of oak. The denseness in the fruit is lower on the palate than on the nose. The finish is dominated by acidity but there is also an ever so slight bitterness.

DuMOL Isobel 20142013 DuMol “Isobel” Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

A very generous wine with layered fruit, where stone fruit dominate, on the nose but also a waxiness and some herbal notes to give a freshness. The acidity is mouthwatering and well integrated with the wine. There is almost a sweet touch on the palate of the wine.

2014 DuMol Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

A rather dense nose with both black and red fruit with a fresh expression. On the palate a precise and energetic acidity take the front seat and the red fruit dominates the black. This is a good wine characterized by fruit and a fresh acidity.

2014 DuMol “Ryan” Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot NoirDuMOL Ryan

Complex nose with bright red fruit but also dense blueberries and marzipan. Great acidity on the mid palate but unfortunately with a slight slight bitterness in the finish. Some herbal notes also appear on the palate. Need some time to integrate but this is a good Pinot Noir.

2014 DuMol Russian River Valley Syrah

I find the wine light for at Syrah both on nose and palate but there is no lack of fruit, where the red fruit dominate. I would have preferred some more nuances and perhaps an earthiness for a more complex expression. Still this is a quality wine with good energetic acidity.

 

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

Introduction to the Hartford Family Winery

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

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

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

Tasting notes for the wines from Hartford Family winery

2015 Hartford / Hartford Court Chardonnay Four Hearts Vineyards

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

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

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Chardonnay Seascape Vineyard

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

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

 

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Sevens Bench Vineyard

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

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

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Far Coast Vineyard

Alcohol: 14,8%.

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

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir MacLean’s Block

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

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

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Pinot Noir Jennifer’s

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

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

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

100% French oak; 51% new

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

2013 Hartford / Hartford Court Zinfandel Old Vine

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

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

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

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

Summary of impressions from the visit to Hartford Family Winery

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

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