Tag Archives: Chardonnay

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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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 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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Califermentation 2016 – A California natural wine fair in San Francisco

Last Saturday I attended the Califermentation 2016 tasting at Terroir wine bar in San Francisco, where 20+ producers with a natural wine profile presented their wines.

My impressions were somewhat similar to what I have experienced previously in European tastings of natural wines. There are many wines with very strong personality, but quality is somewhat uneven. My overall impression were positive and it was a great introduction to the natural wine movement in California.

When evaluating the wines you have to respect that many of the producers have started their production the last few years and when it comes to quality and finess it is not fair to compare them with 3rd generation Burgundy producers that have 30 vintages with the same vineyards under their belt. Many of the producers at an event like this have only produced a couple of vintages and are still experimenting with new grapes, methods and vineyards.

An important difference compared with many natural wine makers I have met in Europe is that most producers here source the grapes from growers. I find this a bit problematic since everyone seems to agree that the most important work of winemaking is made in the vineyards. Still my impression is that many of the producers I met have a rather close cooperation with the growers and they have a good influence on the work in the vineyards.

Some other short observations from the event are:

  • There were less wines with brett then I expected and have experienced in similar events previously.
  • These wines were much more energetic and with better acidity than many of the wines I previously have tried from California.
  • There is a treasure of old vines in California. This was perhaps not news to me, but it was an important reminder that you should search beyond Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir when looking for quality wine in California.

I did not make extensive notes about each wine I tasted, but the following are som short comments per producer.

Black Trumpet Wine

http://www.blacktrumpetwine.com

Rather thick and intense Syrah wines with an abundance of dark berries, but also a good acidic backbone to ensure the wines do not get heavy.Black Trumpet Wine

Donkey & Goat Winery

https://www.donkeyandgoat.com/

A rather juicy Pinot Gris with a slight oxidative style and a rather broad citric acidity. They also presented a Syrah and Merlot wine, both with a rather dark fruit but also a very present and driving acidity.

Enfield Wine Co.

http://enfieldwine.com/

Their Chardonnay had a good juicy character on the nose and palate but there was a slightly oaky bitterness in the finish. The acidity had clear notes of grape fruit. They also presented a Pinot Noir with a rather energetic style dominated by the acidity and some young red fruit.

Frey Vineyards

http://www.freywine.com/

I only tried their Chardonnay, which had an oxidative character and notes of grape and oranges on the palate. I would have preferred more acidity in this wine to give some tension.

Haarmeyer Wine Cellars

I only tried a Chenin blanc pétillant that had a very soft profile and lacking acidity.

Halcón Vineyards

http://halconvineyards.com

Their Pinot Noir had some slight brett notes on the nose but on the palate it showed nice red fruit and a good acidity. I also tried their Grenache Mourvedre and Syrah mix and their Alturas which is only Syrah. The latter was my favourite, showing both bright fruit, an earthiness, minerals but also a very vibrant acidity. Very interesting wine.Halcón Vineyards

Hatton Daniels

https://www.hattondaniels.com

I only tried their Rousanne and Marsanne blend that had a rather broad fruity nose with a fresh expression. On the palate it was more fruit driven and with a very soft acidity.

Hobo Wine Co.

http://hobowines.myshopify.com/

Good and well balanced wines. Their Chardonnay had a racy acidity, good personality and showing nice fruit notes on the palate. The Pinot Noir was rather fruit driven but not without layers and complexity. They also presented a Syrah wine with fresh fruit and nice perfume on the nose.Hobo Wine Co.

Holman Cellars

http://www.holmancellars.com

They presented two white wines, one blend and one Grenache Blanc, both showing a rather fresh but dense fruit that was well balanced by the acidity. The Grenache Blanc had some oak notes on the palate. The red wines were based on Merlot and Primitivo (zinfandel) and both had a rather energetic and driving acidity but also a pure bright fruit.Holman Cellars

Inconnu Wine

Their wines had a profile with rather bright young fruit and a vibrant acidity. There where also some rather green notes in the Cabernet Franc and some green peppers in the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Kirchhoff Wines

https://www.kirchhoffwines.com

They offered a fresh and mouthwatering Albarino wine and two versions of their Barbera, one with and one without SO2 added. The Barberas had great fruit and acidity on the palate but a slight brettiness on the nose. They also had a blend of Merlot, Barbera and Petite Sirah that was rather dense and had some notes of ink.Kirchhoff Wines

Les Lunes & Populis

http://www.lesluneswine.com

I only tried their Chardonnay and the Rose based on Carignan. My favourite was the Chardonnay that had a rather complex expression with, racy acidity, minerals and fresh mouthwatering fruit notes. Very charming wine. The Rose also had a fresh expression and with a slight strawberry note on the palate.

Methode Sauvage Wine Co.

http://www.methodesauvage.com

This producer presented wines base on the Loire grapes Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. I was impressed by their wines that had good balance and precision but also personality. There was a clear connection with the wines from Loire. Methode Sauvage Wine Co.

Old World Winery

http://www.oldworldwinery.com

A producer based in Russian River Valley where they own and cultivate their vineyards themselves. Their wines showed great intensity on the fruit and acidity. My favourite was their Syrah wine named Flow. It had dark and dense fruit but also a precise acidity.Old World Winery

Ruth Lewandowski Wines

http://www.ruthlewandowskiwines.com

They presented a white Grenache Gris from old vines and with a oxidative style. This wine had a strong personality and for me it would require some food. They also presented a blend of Carignan, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon with a rather dense and dark fruit.

The Scholium Project

http://www.scholiumwines.com

Presented two well balanced wines from very old vines of Cinsault and Zinfandel. I was surprised to notice that the Zinfandel was my favourite, showing a rather dense fruit core that was carried well by the acidity, resulting in a powerful yet fresh wine.The Scholium Project

Ser Winery

http://www.serwinery.com

Presented a fresh and forward Chardonnay dominated by its acidity, and two red wines, one Syrah and one Cabernet Pfeffer, also with an energetic acidity but also with bright fruit notes.

Stirm Wine Co.

http://www.stirmwine.com

This producer focus on Riesling wines and presented three wines from 2015 and one 2014 for comparison. I was impressed by their wines that showed great fruit notes, good personality and a rather careful but good acidity. I was also happy not to find a dominance of petroleum notes which I feared from a warm region like California.

Wine tasting at Califermentation 2016

Unturned Stone Productions

http://www.unturnedstonewine.comUnturned Stone Productions

Presented two vintages of a wine based on a Bordeaux blend. Both wines had a rather youthful character and would probably integrate better with time. There are green paprika, cedar, black fruit, but also a racy acidity and some grippy tannins. These wines and the producer will be interesting to follow.

Vinca Minor

http://www.vincaminorwine.com

Presenting one Carignan and two Cabernet Sauvignon wines. I liked the two Cabernet Sauvignon wines very much and they showed a rather dense concentration on the fruit, some green paprika and a mouthwatering acidic expression.Vinca Minor

There were a few more producers represented but unfortunately I did not get to taste them this time.

Finally I would also like to say thanks to the Califermentation team and Terroir for a great tasting.

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Weingut Wittmann – Stellar performance in 2015

In July we visited Weingut Wittmann and was guided both in the vineyards and in the cellar by the Cellarmaster Georg Rieser. We also had the chance to taste a large range of their wines.

We spent quite some time visiting their different vineyards. Georg got very en gaged when we talked about how they work in the vineyards to produce the best possible grapes. He pointed out that this is where the great wines are created, not in the cellar.

weingut wittmann vineyard

Our daughter Iva showed great enthusiasm during the visit:)

Weingut Wittman perform green harvest but the timing and the amount removed depends on the vintage. In a cold vintage they do an early green harvest to ensure faster maturation of the grapes. Another important task in the vineyard is the removal of leaves around the grapes. They need to avoid getting grapes wet, since this could result in botrytis, but they also want to reduce the amount of sun directly on the grapes. Therefore they cut more on the side that has morning sun, and less on the afternoon side since this is more intense. They perform several harvests per vineyard to ensure clusters/berries are picked at optimal ripeness.

Weingut Wittman has been biodynamic since 2004 but before that they had a long history of organic viticulture that started in 1980. By 1990 they where 100% organic.

weingut wittmann vineyardIn the cellar they have some beautiful large oak casks that are over 100 years old. Some of the Großes Gewächs (GG) wines are stored in the old casks but some are in the stainless steel vats. Georg also comments on the importance of maintenance of the old wooden vats to ensure freshness. They do have some barrique size barrels but these are used for red wine and for some Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. New wood barrels are never used for the Riesling wines since they do not want any wood notes on the Riesling.

Since some years back they use a sorting table for selection before the grapes are pressed. This is one more initiative to heighten the level of quality in the fruit that goes into the wines. Gravity is used as much as possible instead of pumping when moving the must from pressing to fermentation and then on to storage. As Georg puts it: “The wine has to be handled gently”.

Wittman uses natural yeast and spontaneous fermentation in most cases, but sometimes they need to add some yeast to ensure the process finishes in time. If possible they do not want the wine to be fermenting during the winter. In colder vintages with less opulent fruit they use longer maceration times to add depth to the wines.

They vinify different harvests and plots separately and then later make blends based on the quality and personality of the wine and vintage. They have a tasting with more than 90 different wines where the staff and the family takes part, and based on the impressions and opinions they decide on a blend for the vintage. This means that there are no pre-decided vineyard sections for each type of wine.

The wines we tasted at Weingut Wittmann

2015 Wittmann Riesling trocken

Slim nose with yellow apples and tropical fruit. Fresh citric acidity with minerals and a grippy and almost a bit salty expression.

This is an energetic and precise wine and a very good entry level Riesling.

87

2015 Wittmann Niersteiner Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly red slate, situated close to the Rhein.

Ripe notes of yellow apples, apricot, an abundance of tropical fruit but also some fresh young green apples. Rather broad acidity but with good structure and grip.

The wine has a generous and juicy expression.

87

 

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly limestone.

Tight fresh fruit nose with apples, pears and some slight stone fruit.  Very pure and precise acidity that also has a juicy expression.

Mouthwatering and well balanced wine.

91weingut wittmann vineyard

2014 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

Rather ripe tropical fruit notes, apples and some petroleum. Juicy but not very precise acidity that stays in a rather long finish.  A rather generous and opulent wine.

87

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Aulerde Riesling Großes Gewächs

The soil in Aulerde has less limestone than Kirchspiel and Morstein.

Rather broad and open nose showing tropical fruits like apricot and lychee. The acidity is juicy and stays in a long finish.

This wine has a very generous expression and good structure.

91

weingut wittmann vineyard

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Kirchspiel Riesling Großes Gewächs

Compared with Morstein, the Kirchspiel wines are usually more open and ready to drink early and is often showing notes of grapefruit. The soil is similar to Morstein.
Very fresh nose with white stone fruit, lots of lychee and some young apricot and pears.

The acidity is amazing with a very energetic and firm expression and an abundance of minerals. Some fresh fruit notes balance the acidity well.

At the moment the wine is slightly dominated by the acidity but it should develop fantastically with time. A great wine with fantastic potential.

95

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Großes Gewächs

The wines from Morstein usually has a lot of citrus and acidity. The soil has clayish marl and limestone on the upper layer and more limestone in the subsoil.
There are multiple layers of fruit on this dense and concentrated nose, but it never gets overly dominant. We also find some very slight flint and yeast notes and white flowers.

Juicy and mouthwatering acidity with a grippy expression showing both lime fruit and lemon. Again the fruit is dense and complemented by some herbal notes.

The wine already has a good balance between the acidity and the fruit and it manages to combine generosity with elegance. A truly fantastic wine.

96

2014 Wittmann Weissburgunder Weißer Burgunder Reserve

Aged in new oak barrels of 600l.

Fresh young apricot dominated a rather opulent nose. There are also oak notes on both the nose and palate but they do not get dominant. Good acidic bite and minerals on the palate where we also find some nice fresh fruit.

This is a rich and charming Pinot Blanc.

88

2014 Wittmann Chardonnay Reserve Trocken

Rather slim palate with tropical fruit and som notes of oak.

The wine has a rather energetic acidity and juicy pineapple notes on the palate. Will require some more time to find the right balance.

89

2015 Wittmann Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 120.

Rather slim on both nose and palate with young tropical fruit and honey, combined with a rather juicy lime acidity.

Fresh Auslese with good precision, but rather one-dimensional.

87

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 125.

Lots of young stone fruit and pineapple combined with honey and floral notes.

Energetic Auslese with a grippy acidity and a good mineral structure.  Should develop fantastically with time

91

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel

A rather spicy nose with stone fruit, herbs, apricot, bees wax, white flowers and lime.

Dense and multi layered palate with similar notes as on the palate but also a fresh acidity and mineral structure.

Fantastic Auslese that should be kept in storage for a long time.

93-94

Overall impressions of Weingut Wittmann in 2015

We were very impressed with Wittman’s wines from the 2015 vintage. They have a complexity and depth in combination with a precise and very energetic acidity. The Kirchspiel and Morstein GG wines are truly amazing and we would recommend anyone to stock up on these, but also the other wines keep a very high quality level.

One last note

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