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Saturday, 08 March 2014 02:12

March 7, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week


Hogue Cab S bottle

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon


Hogue Cellars

Columbia Valley (Washington)

Alc.: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $10


“Though we're familiar with this Washington winery and have sampled earlier vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignon, today's 'Pick,' the 2011 bottling, was a pleasant surprise when we encountered it last night. Meeting an old friend at Cafe Bernardo in Davis, California, I took his suggestion to try the house wine at happy hour. A glass of wine for three bucks is a rare find these days. You couldn't go wrong on price and Tom said it was a pretty decent pour, too. It was.

"We each had a couple of glasses at happy hour prices and another when the cost went up to the normal $5 afterward. This was not a great Cabernet, but it was a very respectable glass of wine. To find a palatable glass of wine at $5—let alone $3--is rare and Cafe Bernardo deserves a bouquet for providing such. Some traditional Cabernet Sauvignon characteristics of cassis and black cherry were there, but those aromas and flavors seemed muted. Our samples were from both an already-opened bottle and another bottle freshly opened in front of us. Perhaps a little more time exposed to air would have caused the wine to 'open up' and evidence more of those qualities. But sometimes being 'true to type' isn't the most critical consideration. As more than one colleague has said to me, does the wine taste good is the primary question. The Hogue Cabernet contains 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and just 1% Merlot. It's packaged with a screw cap, which may be slightly cheaper than cork. However, that didn't seem to be the primary consideration when I tasted with the winemaker and few wine writers at the Hogue winery in Prosser about three years ago. The winery feels the screw cap gives their consumer a more consistent quality and our collective tasting seemed to support that theory. This is a solid value from a winery that has built a reputation for good wine at fair prices.”

Food Affinity: “My friend and I drank the 2011 Hogue Cabernet Sauvignon with a small pepperoni pizza and two little roast beef sliders—those snacks certainly worked, but they wouldn't be the only possibilities. Could be good with a pastas in Bolognese sauces, grilled calves liver with onions and grilled burgers, topped with a teaspoon of crumbled blue cheese and a thin slice of Torpedo Red onion.”

Saturday, 14 December 2013 14:58

December 13, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Dry Creek 2010 Cab S Picmonkey

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon


Producer: Dry Creek Vineyard

Appellation: Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $25


“Over the years this Sonoma County winery has been better known for its Zin and Fumé Blanc, but it also makes an agreeable Cabernet. Their 2010 bottling is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon with lesser amounts of grapes frequently included in blends from France's Bordeaux region; Merlot (9%), Malbec (4%), Cabernet Franc 2%) and Petit Verdot (2%)

"This Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet has more going for it than the casual taster might recognize. At the time of tasting (early December, 2013) it's still a young wine and will develop to be even more pleasing in a few years. The nose shows aromas of cherries and raspberries, which is predictable enough, but there is also a subtle and elusive herbal quality that really is intriguing. It's not the same as the 'Rutherford Dust' found in Cabs grown in that region of the adjacent county, but it's a little bit like that.

“More cherry follows in the taste, along with darker fruit aspects (blackberries, plums). This medium-bodied Cabernet has a smooth, silky feel in the mouth and its long finish reveals just a bit of cocoa. More subtle and sophisticated than it is powerful and dominating, this wine will be harmonious with many food pairings.”

Food Affinity: “In truth, most red wines will go with most red meats (among other dishes). If we were attempting to 'dial it in' further, we'd look to pair with some meats prepared with cherries or raspberries—perhaps duck breasts or venison. Roast turkey would ordinarily get a white wine recommendation from us, or maybe a lighter red like a Gamay or Pinot Noir. However, this might be a winner with the bolder flavors of turkey rubbed/stuffed with sage and garlic, then cooked outdoors in a Weber over mesquite or coals augmented by some fruit wood chips.”

Friday, 18 October 2013 00:07

October 18, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Munselle Vineyards Cab S bottle Picmonkey

 2006 Coyote Crest Cabernet Sauvignon


Producer: Munselle Vineyards

Appellation: Alexander Valley

Alcohol: 14.8%

Suggested Retail: $65


“Fine example of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from a family that has been farming in this region since 1876. The Munselles grow grapes for some of the best wineries in Sonoma County, including Coppola, Ferrari-Carano, Simi, Kenwood and Jordan.

“Putting nose in the glass the first impression seems slightly herbal, with pronounced dark cherry characteristics. There's also some dark chocolate and, curiously, a subtle, dusty, mocha-like aroma in the background. The flavor is powerful and redolent of blackberries. It's a very big wine (14.8%!), but doesn't seem unbalanced--perhaps because it has a little more time in bottle than most of the currently available Cabernet, it seems lush yet very smooth. Long and pleasing finish, too.

“The Munselle Cabernet Sauvignon probably isn't expensive enough to be called a 'cult wine,' but it certainly has the scarcity factor. The wine isn't in general distribution, but sells through a mailing list or by visiting the website www.munsellevineyards.com.”

Food Affinity: “Deserves something special like an aged prime rib roast, served with truffled mashed potatoes."

Friday, 06 September 2013 19:37

September 6, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Col Crest Cab S Picmonkey

2010 Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon


Columbia Crest

Appellation: Columbia Valley (WA)

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $12


“Columbia Crest produces other, more expensive bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon, but the Grand Estates label is their flagship product. Washington state's Columbia Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) is huge, but the winery sources these grapes mostly from two areas (sub-AVAs) within this appellation, the Horse Heaven Hills and the Wahluke Slope. It opens with lush aromas of blackberry and blueberry, preceding flavors of more dark berries and black cherry. There are also a some cola-like qualities in the background of this deeply-concentrated wine. There is surprising complexity for a wine at this price, though as wine was eventually consumed with dinner following the tasting, we wondered if the oak might be masking some of the fruit.”

Food affinity: “Proved a winner with a grilled New York steak and big baked potato, but would also be fine companion to slow-cooked ribs and red meats that might show a little smokiness.”


Sunday, 25 August 2013 12:34

August 23, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week


Bottle Amici CabSauv NoVintage Picmonkey

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon


Amici Cellars

Appellation: Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $45


“Joel Aiken, winemaker (and partner) at Amici Cellars, was BV's winemaker for 27 years. Who has greater experience with quality Napa Valley Cabernet than that? It will be interesting to follow Amici's path as they pursue some single-vineyard bottlings that necessarily will be more expensive the Napa Valley definition we review today. Most of the fruit for this Napa Valley label was sourced from Rutherford (75%), the balance from Yountville, just a few miles to the south.

“We found it dense in flavor and not yet yielding the subtlety and nuance it will show will show with a little more age. Dark fruit predominates—Santa Rosa plums, blackberries and black cherries with just a bit of cassis. There are also some licorice and light chocolate notes in the background. At $45, this is a relative bargain for quality Napa Valley Cabernet.”

Food Affinity: “Cabernet Sauvignon is a natural with almost any red meat dish. We'd suggest decanting to aerate for at least half an hour, then pouring with some substantial autumn fare—maybe that French classic Boeuf en Daube ?

Sunday, 18 August 2013 00:57

August 16, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week



Vino de Eyzaguirre Cab S from Chile Picmonkey

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon


Vino de Eyzaguirre

Appellation: Colhagua Valley (Chile)

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $9


“We encountered this wine in a Basque restaurant. Though from Chile, not the Basque Country of France and Spain, the name looked appropriate and the restaurant price seemed moderate. The flavors included dark cherries, plums and some bittersweet chocolate. We found it to be a solid wine—no flaws, some good fruit and at an alcohol level that encouraged serving with food. Interesting sack packaging didn't enhance the flavor of wine inside the bottle, but didn't hurt it either.”

Food Affinity: “Could work pretty much as any Cabernet Sauvignon. We enjoyed it with prime rib and thick loin lamb chops.”


from TASTE News Service

Scott Harvey in front of Vineyard Picmonkey"balance is critical . . . " --Scott HarveyLower alcohol wine represents Napa Valley winemaker Scott Harvey’s commitment to making wine that is drinkable, enjoyable, and enhances good food. At last, new tastes in wine are catching up to Scott Harvey’s training.

The winemaker is not alone in his views about the superiority of lower alcohol wines. According to Richard Halstead, CEO of global market research Wine Intelligence, “Alcoholic strength of wine is an issue that consumers take seriously across the world." According to Drinks International, "there has been widespread criticism of 15.5% alcohol blockbusters and requests for winemakers to aim lower."

Trained in Germany in the Old World style, Scott believes that balance is critical to good wine making results. In a recent interview with Dan Berger, writer for the Sonoma County, California – based newspaper and online site, Press Democrat, the writer explored the winemaker’s perspective on the place of alcohol level in wine making. “Balance is the key to all great wines, said Scott Harvey. “I prefer to make my Napa Valley Cabernets come in at 13.5%.” Many Napa Valley cult wines come in with labels from 14.5% to 15.5% “although from the way they taste, they could well be at least 1.5% higher.” said Scott.

“I pick wine grapes when the grapes still taste like Cabernet grapes or Zinfandel grapes—rather than like raisins. Most winemakers are afraid to pick this early, but I listen to the grapes.” Scott picks Cabernet grapes at the moment when they are red fruits, not black fruits, turning into raisins. It’s what Scott calls “The Perfect Moment” in his video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br9H29iYsC8

A lower alcohol wine can be an award-winning wine. For example, Jana Cathedral Napa Valley 2006 ($65) has an alcohol level of 13.5%. This limited production Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the winner of a double Gold Medal at the America Fine Wine Competition. “I made this wine in the European style with low pH and low alcohol, so it pairs very well with an elegant and rich meal,” Scott explained. “I named it for Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona, where I proposed marriage to Jana.”

Another Scott Harvey award-winner, with a 13.5% alcohol level, is Scott Harvey 2009 J&S Reserve Barbera, which was singled out at the California State Fair with a Gold Medal - 94 Points. “The rich full flavors express both the varietal and the terroir of Amador County,” explains Scott. “This Barbera is a blend of the Spinetta Vineyard and Vineyard 1869 of the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County, California.”

Lower alcohol and more balanced results have been more achievable with the more recent cool vintage releases of 2010 and 2011. “It’s the lower temperature vintages that produce less sugar, and with less sugar comes lower alcohol," said Scott.

Scott Harvey Signs Bottle PicmonkeySigning a medal winnerOn the white side, Scott is known for his European Style Riesling, which previously has had alcohol levels as low as 9.5%. Scott will have a new release of his Mendocino Riesling in June. He is also a celebrated wine blender, originally known as the creator behind the popular Ménage à Trois. Most recently, Scott brings his blending skills to his latest award-winning white wine blend, Primero Beso (First Kiss.)

The World Wine Championships, run by Beverage Testing Institute, has just awarded 91 points (rated Exceptional) to Scott’s Primero Beso 2011 White Blend, ($18), with a 12.5% alcohol by volume. The judges rated the blend for its “pale golden yellow color. Aromas of dark fig-date bread and honey with a soft, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a tangy apple, peach, starfruit and lemon tart accented finish. Very refreshing and lively as a sipper or to pair with spicy Mexican foods.” 4/13/13

About Scott Harvey WinesHandcrafted wines from Napa Valley and Amador County, Scott Harvey Wines produces wines under three labels: Scott Harvey Wines, Jana Winery and InZinerator. Established in 2004, Scott Harvey Wines features Vineyard 1869 Zinfandel, Napa Valley Cathedral Cabernet Sauvignon, Amador County Barberas, Zinfandels and Syrahs along with a variety of one-of-a-kind white and red wine blends. Creator of “niche wines that over deliver,” Scott Harvey, owner and winemaker, has been making quality wines for over 30 years.

Editor's note: Planning a visit to the Napa Valley? You'll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options there, as well as links to all of Napa's wineries at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

Thursday, 14 February 2013 19:37

February 15, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

Grgich Hills Cab S bottle shot  Picmonkey

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon


Producer: Grgich Hills Estate

Appellation: Napa Valley

Alcohol: 14.6%

Retail Price: $60


“Another fine effort from one of the Napa Valley's most reliable producers. Legendary winemaker Mike Grgich--though nearly 90 years of age--is still involved, but the day-to-day winemaking chores are now handled by his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, who has overseen the move toward use of only organic and biodynamicly-grown grapes.”

“Aromas of blackberry and dark cherry most obvious, but a little spice and powdered chocolate touches become apparent after wine's been in glass for a while. There's a plush feeling in the mouth as flavors of blackberry and black cherry come immediately to the forefront. Later, a hint of spice shows and wine finishes long with subtle influences of the oak.”

Food Affinity: If the reviewer knew more about Croatian cuisine, one of that culture's favorites would be suggested to honor Mike and Ivo. Failing that, a rich and slowly-cooked dish like osso bucco or roasted lamb shank would do nicely.

Friday, 25 January 2013 22:18

January 11, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

Camelot Cab S bottle Picmonkey



Cabernet Sauvignon (N/V)


Producer: Camelot Vineyards & Winery

Appellation: California

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $7


“Actually, this is a pretty nice Cabernet in a lighter style. Slightly herbal overtones with predominant blackberry and cherry flavors. Good value.”

Food affinity: “Stuffed breast of veal, Grilled chicken marinated in oil and vinegar dressing with red pepper flakes.”

Friday, 25 January 2013 22:07

December 28, 2012 Wine Pick of the Week


MET cab 09 bottle Picmonkey


2009 Cabernet Sauvignon


Producer: Mettler Family Vineyards

Appelleation: Lodi


Suggested Retail: $24.99


“A big wine and an attractive one. The Lodi appellation has long held a fine reputation for Zinfandel, but Cabernets like this show the region should not be dismissed lightly when considering their other varieties. Composition is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petite Sirah, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. We have tasted several vintages of Mettler Cabernet and this one seems the best yet.”

“Big—lots of fruit. Blueberry and plum qualities with some cedar and leather aspects.”

“More power than finesse, but a good example of the powerful, fruit-forward style at a decent price.”

Food Affinity: Many bold, red meat dishes come to mind. How about some prime rib beef bones slowly roasted in the oven or a Webber kettle?”

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