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Friday, 31 May 2013 18:55

May 31 Wine Pick of the Week



J Pinot Grigio bottle Picmonkey

2012 Pinot Gris


 J Vineyards & Winery

 Appellation: California

 Alc.: 13.8%

 Suggested Retail: $15


“Most will recognize J Vineyards as the producer of outstanding California sparkling wines—those in the elegant bottles with the spare label featuring the letter “J” in script. Indeed, the winery was founded by Judy Jordan (she of the Jordan Winery family in the Alexander Valley) just to produce the bubbly product. Eventually, J brought out still wine bottlings of high-quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.

“More recently the winery has also been making a delightful Pinot Gris. It's from the same grape some will know as Pinot Grigio (what it's called when grown in Italy). California wineries may use that phrasing, or follow the French tradition by calling it Pinot Gris. The Healdsburg winery has been sourcing their fruit from the Clarksburg area (33% this vintage), Russian River Valley (32%), Lodi (30%) and Monterey (5%).

“The wine shows aromas of white peaches and apricot with maybe some tropical fruit and citrus. It tastes of melon, pineapple and more citrus (mostly lime). Remarkable, though, is the texture of this wine. It might almost be called 'slippery.' Though that descriptor that may not sound appealing, the quality is absolutely elegant on the tongue. Nice acidity in this one and a long finish. A caveat, however. Don't pour this Pinot Gris straight out of the fridge or the ice bucket. Too much chill will shut down some of the flavor and much of the aroma—let it get halfway toward room temperature to appreciate its charms.”

Food Affinity: Would be a fine aperitif, but also good pairing with grilled white fishes accompanied with fruit salsas. Might be intriguing with grilled chicken that's been marinated in citrus and red pepper flakes.

Tuesday, 09 April 2013 23:59

April 5, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week



Cinq Cepages 2 Picmonkey

2009 Cinq Cépages


Producer: Chateau St. Jean

 Appelleation: Sonoma County

 Alcohol: 14.4%

 Suggested Retail: $75


“Our sample bottle had been opened for about an hour when first tasted. What a disappointment it seemed. Yes, there was a lot of big California fruit, but where was the complexity, the layered flavors, the subtlety that was expected?

 “This Cinq Cépages, a blend of five Bordeaux grapes, was a wine I'd loved from earlier vintages. The 2009 edition is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (77%), Merlot (12%) and Cabernet Franc (8%), but there are small percentages of Malbec (2%) and Petit Verdot (!%), too. Other reviewers had also liked Cinq Cepages, maybe even loved it, over the years. So why didn't the reviewer appreciate its charms? Was December of 2012 too early for the winery to release this big red wine? Had it not had enough aeration/time to 'open up'? Another possibility was 'operator error.' Twenty-five years of reviewing wines, doesn't mean you can't have an off-day as a taster. Some of the bottle was drunk with dinner the night it was opened. The cork was put back into the bottle so that the balance could be retasted.

“Revisiting the wine four or five days later, it was everything I had hoped it would be when first opened. Beautiful aromas of blackberry, a tinge of spice (clove/cinnamon?) and dried herb and some cherry are there. Flavors of blackberry, blueberry and cherry follow. But there is more—there has been a faint mocha component from the beginning, but now there seems to be more of a dark or bitter chocolate presence, as well as some roasted Italian coffee. Layers of flavor, degrees of subtlety—the wine will be better with more bottle age, of course, but what I'm tasting now is splendid, an example of the whole being more than the sum of its (component varietal) parts. The 2009 Cinq Cépages is recommended. Best practice is to lay a few bottles down for drinking in years to come. However, it can justify a worth placement on your table now. We do strongly suggest decanting early.

Food Affinity: We originally poured with a London Broil roast of Wagyu beef and reduction of shallots, mushrooms and red wine, accompanied by fresh Stockton asparagus. We hold that is a pretty good combination. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013 23:06

March 29, 2013 Beer Pick of the Week

Black Racer IPA Bottle Picmonkey

Black Racer IPA


Producer: Bear Republic Brewing Company

Location: Cloverdale, California

Style: Black IPA

Alcohol: 8.1%

IBU's: 75+

Serving Style: 22-ounce bottles and in draft

Availability: Limited seasonal distribution on the West Coast and in some national markets beginning April 1st.

General Background: Co. HQ in Cloverdale, but their brewpub is in Healdsburg.


Appearance: “Black”

Aroma: “Too many smells coming from food cooking in the (adjacent) kitchen to be able to tell.”

Taste: “Has a creamy, Guinness-like style with the kick of an IPA—or vice versa. For a fan of British ales, it's a nice transition beer.”

Food Affinity: “I'm not very good doing beer and food pairing. But it does go well with those macaroni and cheese ball appetizers the kitchen is doing tonight.”

Al Eno Beer Reviewer Picmonkey



Reviewer Al Eno lives in Sacramento, California

and works for Apple in computer support.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013 17:32

March 15, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

Dry Creek V 2010 chardonnay rrv btl xlg Picmonkey


2010 Foggy Oaks Chardonnay


Producer: Dry Creek Vineyard

Appellation: Russian River Valley (Sonoma County)

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail $20


“Several of our staff liked this one. Sourced from the cool (and often foggy) Russian River Valley in the western part of Sonoma County, this Chardonnay delivers a lot of character for $20. There's plenty of fullness/richness from mostly malolactic fermentation (85%) and oak aging, but it doesn't stint on the freshness of the fruit. Appealing citrus and pear aromas, followed by flavors citrus, pineapple and a bit more pear. This Foggy Oaks wine is in the full California Chardonnay style, but still exhibited aspects of cool-climate acidity and restraint.”

Food Affinity: We found that the Foggy Oaks Chardonnay held up well when we poured it to accompany a spicy Peruvian roast chicken dish.

Friday, 01 February 2013 16:55

January 25, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

J Brut Rose Picmonkey

J Brut Rosé (N/V)


Producer: J Vineyards & Winery

 Appellation: Russian River Valley

 Alcohol: 12.5%

 Suggested Retail: $38


“Attractive packaging—clear glass bottle adorned by the simple scripted J, shows off the wine's pink/coral hue. Predominantly Pinot Noir (64%), this rosé is lighter and more sophisticated than most. There's another 2% of red juice from Pinot Meunier, the other traditional red variety in Champagne, but the Chardonnay component (34%) may be what gives such elegance to this wine.”

“Aromas of strawberry, peach and maybe a little green apple. Crisp flavors of raspberry and strawberry follow with a hint of fresh lemon zest. There's a subtle yeasty presence which evokes more France than California.”

Food Affinity: Champagne and good sparkling wines are more versatile and food-friendly than many realize. This rosé could accompany anything from filet of sole through poultry dishes and even many veal preparations. Of course, oysters are always a good idea and if you can find a restaurant serving Lobster Newberg, that classic from a bygone era, the J rosé would be a wonderful accompaniment.

Friday, 25 January 2013 22:24

January 18, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

tudal-pinot Picmonkey


2009 Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir


Producer: Tudal Winery

Appellation: Russian River Valley

Alcohol: 14.1%

Suggested Retail: $42


“The winery calls this 'Burgundian-style Pinot Noir.' While we don't agree with their characterization, we think it's a high quality representative of this varietal as grown in one of California's premier Pinot Noir regions. It's big—maybe even powerful, but not overpowering. Lots of black cherry fruit, but has some of that earthiness that is the hallmark of Burgundy and, at times, good California and Oregon Pinot Noirs.

Food Affinity: “Pair with something rich and flavorful. Maybe slow-roasted lamb shanks or a rolled pork loin stuffed with fresh sage and toasted walnuts.”

Friday, 25 January 2013 22:13

January 04, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

Dry Creek 2011 Chenin Blanc Bottle Picmonkey

2011 Dry Chenin Blanc


Producer: Dry Creek Vineyard

Appellation: Clarksburg

Alcohol: 12.5%

Suggested Retail: $12


“Dry Creek Vineyard is situated, fittingly enough, in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, but for years the winery has sourced Chenin Blanc grapes from an area more than a two-hour drive to the southeast. Clarksburg's vineyards lie along the banks of the Sacramento River just south of the State Captiol. Other grape varieties grown there produce good quality wines, but Chenin Blanc is the star of their show. Once very popular in California when made in a slightly sweet style, Chenin Blanc fell out of favor a couple of decades ago. What a shame. Wines like this dry Chenin Blanc merit comparison to examples from France's Loire Valley. They're worthy alternatives to the ubiquitous Chardonnay and much more affordable, but they deserve recognition for their own qualities.”

“The 2011 Dry Creek Chenin Blanc exhibits aromas of melon, with a little peach and citrus. Crisp and clean favors reminiscent of apple and citrus are there. Serve chilled, but not too col, so that the minerality will show through.”

Food Affinity: Would be fine with many chicken and fish dishes and even lighter treatments of veal. It's an absolutely wonderful choice with oysters and has been a frequent winner in a nationwide oyster and wine pairing competition sponsored by Washington's Taylor Shellfish Company.

Friday, 25 January 2013 21:55

December 21, 2012 Wine Pick of the Week

Dry Creek 2008 meritage btl xlg Picmonkey



2008 Meritage


“Bordeaux Blend”


Producer: Dry Creek Vineyard

Appellation: Sonoma County

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $30


“Meritage is a term created for wines made of one or more of the grapes typically grown in Bordeaux in the southwest of France. Though made from grapes grown in Sonoma County, this wine contains all five of the predominant red varieties native to Bordeaux—Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Merlot (30%), Cabernet Franc (17%), Malbec (14%) and Petit Verdot (6%). Wines made from blends of more than one grape are perceived by many as being more complex than those vinified from just a single variety.

“While the 2008 Meritage from Dry Creek Vineyard is a blend of grapes native to Bordeaux, it's unmistakably Californian--big, powerful. It will please drinkers with “a California Palate” right now, but will likely gain finesse with a few more years of aging. The “nose” is unusual. There's the aroma of blackberries, which is appealing though not so uncommon. Intriguing is the subtler aspect of the faint dustiness of finely-ground black pepper. The first taste fills the mouth with flavors of plum and cassis and a toasty background resultant from its oak aging. Thirty dollars is a fair price for a wine of this quality (and might seem a very good price if one lays some away to revisit as it reaches its potential in years to come).”

Food Affinity: The wine needs bold flavors in whatever dish you choose to pair with it. Maybe a grilled New York steak with a slightly spicy rub or finished with a dollop of blue cheese?

Friday, 25 January 2013 17:58

December 7, 2012 Wine Pick of the Week

2012 Nouveau image Picmonkey


2012 Nouveau

Rosé of Pinot Noir


Producer: River Road Vineyards

Appellation: Russian River Valley

Alcohol: 12.5%

Suggested Retail: $14.95


“This wine is a riff on a French tradition. Each year at the third week of November, Beaujolais Nouveau is released. It's a red wine made from Gamay grapes that were still on the vine a couple of months earlier. Supposedly an early indicator of quality of the vintage, it's also something of a marketing triumph. The fervor has quieted these days, but plenty of Gallic hype used to go into the race to see which cafes and bistros in Paris could have the product available on the first day it was legal to sell (until a couple of unfortunate accidents happened in the pursuit of this November dash). Not intended as a 'serious' wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is actually a pleasant drink—light and full of fruit. And it's a killer pairing with roast turkey.

“Our Wine Pick of this Week is the 2012 Nouveau from Russian River Road Vineyards and Winery. Unlike the aforementioned Gamay Beaujolais, it's not a red wine but is a rosé—and a pale one, at that. What it does share with it's French cousin is a fresh and easy-to-drink style. We found it had subtle aromas and flavors of watermelon and strawberries. The wine was thoroughly chilled when we first tasted it and we were initially a little disappointed, thinking there just wasn't enough personality there. However, returning to the bottle when it might have been described as 'cool' rather than 'chilled,' made quite a difference. The Nouveau's charms, still more subtle than forward, began to show. Strawberry aromas could be detected and a nice round feel in the mouth showed itself.

“At $14.95 it's a little steep when you consider that there are many nice French (and Spanish and Italian) rosés for less, but it's a style—and a tradition—that should be encouraged in California. Winemaker Joe Freeman plans to make a Nouveau for release the first week of every December.”

Food Affinity: The wine was tasted on its own and later paired with a fettucine and poached salmon dish, served in a light creamy sauce. It worked well.


Region: North Coast     City: Bodega     Contact: www.winecountryfestivals.com

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