Friday, October 20, 2017

Let's just talk about California wine, including some world-class Zinfandel, the best I've ever had

It is impossible to write a wine blog, or just enjoy wine, without being aware of the devastation that has occurred in the Napa/Sonoma wine region the past couple of weeks. With several wineries completely destroyed, and more than two dozen wineries damaged or destroyed, (here is an updated list), the destruction has been unparalleled.

We are members of four California wine clubs. Three in Napa (Robert Mondavi, Turnbull Cellars, Joseph Phelps) and one in Sonoma (Hartford Family Winery). We know that all four of them have escaped any significant damage to their wineries and most of their vineyards. Turnbull has suggested there may be some damage to their Amoenus Vineyards near Calistoga. As the fires still burn, we know that we have not yet heard the final tally of the damage, but it seems as if most wineries and vineyards miraculously escaped total loss. For a region that relies on wine as their most significant source of revenue, the news is generally positive. Pretty extraordinary when you think about it.

One of the wineries that did NOT survive, Signorello Estates Winery, has already vowed to rebuild. Good for them.

As of this writing, I'm told that 95% of businesses in the affected counties are open. I've received Emails from all my wineries sending the same message: please help us.

From Robert Mondavi:

We are happy to announce that we are open and want to welcome you back! While our beautiful valley may not look the same as the last time you visited, you will be greeted with an even stronger sense of hospitality as we all come together to support our friends and neighbors. During the month of October, all locals and first responders are invited to join us at Robert Mondavi Winery for a free wine tasting.

Between now and the end of October, we are proud to donate 10% of our tasting room and online wines sales to the Napa Valley Community Fund.

Many of you have asked how you can help. Here are some options:

Give back! Here is the Charity we recommend: Napa Valley Community Fund

Come see us! Plan a visit to wine country and help support our community by staying at our beautiful hotels, visiting our neighbors, and enjoying delicious meals at our world-class restaurants.

Buy Napa and Sonoma Wines! And keep buying them from all your favorite Napa and Sonoma wineries, online, in stores and in restaurants. Share them with friends & family...this is one of the best ways you'll help us rebuild our beautiful wine country! 

 So I am dedicating this blog post to bringing as much attention to California wine as I can. I had promised a huge catch up entry of some wine that we've enjoyed while I've been writing my Okanagan trip reports; this is that, focusing just on California wine. I'll have another entry with everything else later this weekend. And it would be remiss of me to not give a nod to the incredible first responders who's tireless work undoubtedly saved many lives, many wineries, and many acres of grapes.

Let's get to it!

First let's start with an oldie but a goodie; our dear friends held a Graduation party for their two daughters a couple of months ago, and one of them (a budding oenophile) just happened to be born in 1994. The day after we knew the confirmed date of the party - THE DAY AFTER - I get an Email from wine.com advertising this:

Silver Oak 1994 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($84.99 USD)

Intense, brooding, provocative nose of leather, tobacco, clove, black cherry and spice. Given the age, there is a stunning amount of fruit left, sweet raspberry, toasty oak and black cherry mingling with the earthy and tobacco flavors you would expect from a 23-year old wine. Delicious and probably has another 5-7 years left in it. 93.

I wish *I* was able to taste a wine that was made the year I was born. But I am just too f*****g old :)


Hartford Family Winery 2010 Fog Dance Chardonnay ($65 USD direct from winery)

Arresting nose featuring caramel, baked apple, citrus and nutmeg. Bold with bright, vibrant acidity. Flavors of butterscotch, baking spice and a very long, persistent finish. When you open up a Hartford Chardonnay you know you are going to get a very good wine, a great wine, or a life-changing wine. There are no other options. 93.






Robert Mondavi 2013 Carneros Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc ($65 USD direct from winery)

63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Cabernet Franc

Complex and intense aromas of mint, pencil lead, black licorice, black raspberry, plum and tobacco leaf. Blackberry starts it off, leading to a juicy mid-palate featuring black licorice and cassis. Rich and luscious mouthfeel, the only thing keeping this from true greatness is a medium finish. Even so, it's terrific. 92.




Miner Family 2010 La Diligence Syrah ($32.99 USD from wine.com)

We tasted the '09 vintage of this on our trip to Napa a few years back, and loved it so much that when we found it here in a Liberty Wines store, we went and bought them all. I was beyond excited when I happened across this new vintage on wine.com.

Unfortunately, it's nothing like the '09. Sourced 100% from the well-known Stagecoach Vineyard. Aromas of black and green olives, leather and blackberry give way to flavors of black cherry and forest floor. The finish is weak and unimpressive. It's not a bad wine, but given our love of the '09, a disappointment. 88.


Robert Mondavi 2014 Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Fumé Blanc ($52.00 USD direct from winery)

Beautiful asian pear, peach, pineapple, thyme and slight perfume aromas. Tropical fruit, white plum and thyme flavors. Impressive minerality and a full, rich mouthfeel. Delicious. 92.




Hartford Family Winery 2012 Outer Limits Syrah ($55 USD direct from winery)

We've been big fans of this winery for years and I had no idea they even made a Syrah. Sourced from a vineyard just four miles from the Pacific Ocean, this beauty features brambly black fruit, forest floor, blueberry, charred meat, lilacs and vanilla on the nose. Dark chocolate, black plum, blackberry, cassis, blueberry, leather and a touch of black pepper on the palate. Just delicious. 93.





Hartford Family Winery 2014 Warrior Princess Pinot Noir ($70 USD direct from winery)

California winery, but the fruit is sourced from the famous Zena Crown Vineyard in the Eola-Amity sub-appellation in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Aged for 16 months in 100% French Oak, 32% new. Aromas of black cherry, cedar and dried rose petals. Red cherry, blackberry, blueberry, nutmeg and juniper berries on the palate. Terrific. 92.


And, last but certainly not least........

Hartford Family Winery 2014 Highwire Vineyard Zinfandel ($60 USD direct from winery)

From a 100+-year-old-vineyard in the Russian River Valley, and aged in 100% French Oak (45% new) for 10 months. Deep and impressive aromas of licorice, blackberry, white pepper and black cherry. Black fruit dances on your palate, joined by some rich, luscious dark chocolate. The finish goes on longer than Pinocchio's nose in that Geico commercial. I honestly can't imagine that Zinfandel gets much better than this. I hope I get to find one even better one day. It won't be easy. 96.



That's it for today, please dear readers, if you are going to open up a bottle of wine tonight, or hit your local liquor store to pick up a bottle or bottles, make it something from California. They need us.



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