La Clarine Farm Syrah “Sumu Kaw” 2013

I was looking through some of my recent tasting notes and realized that I rarely sip Syrah from outside the Rhone and Languedoc-Roussillon regions in France.  I think this has a lot to do with value; often I spend $20-$40 for domestic bottle and feel like I don’t get a lot of drinking pleasure for the buck.  However, my palate was awakened when I poured a glass of La Clarine Farm Syrah “Sumu Kaw” last weekend.

La Clarine Farm is located in the Sierra Nevada Foothills and they make all of their wines as naturally as possible.  The grapes hail from the Sierra Foothills “Sumu Kaw” Vineyard, which is known for its volcanic loam soils.  100% whole cluster fermentation, foot-stomping, and native yeast fermentation are all part of the process that makes this unfined and unfiltered Syrah.

La Clarine Farm Syrah "Sumu Kaw"
La Clarine Farm Syrah “Sumu Kaw”

We opened it a couple of hours before dinner but the wine was still tight.  We decided to wait until the next evening and it was beautiful!  The nose draws you in with its smoky, herbal aromas.  The palate is complex, balanced, and nicely structured.  Notes of dark fruit, olives, and smoke are woven with abundant minerality.  Savory and delightful…I am absolutely in love with this Syrah! (13.5% alcohol, $26)

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2014 Donkey & Goat Lily’s Cuvée Chardonnay Petillant Naturel

Lately, I just can’t help myself…if I see a bottle of Pet’ Nat somewhere, I have to buy it!  The latest victim of my recent obsession is Donkey & Goat Lily’s Cuvée Chardonnay.  Donkey & Goat is based out of Berkeley and run by husband and wife team Jared and Tracey Brandt.  They make natural wines and focus on Rhone varietals, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.  Lily’s Cuvée is a blend of predominantly Chardonnay with a splash of Roussanne from Anderson Valley.

2014 Donkey & Goat Lily's Cuvee Chardonnay Petillant Naturel
2014 Donkey & Goat Lily’s Cuvee Chardonnay Petillant Naturel

This cloudy, yeasty wine is slightly sweet with fine bubbles.  There are harmonious flavors of grapefruit, lemon, honey, ginger, and minerals.  A bit green, but according to Donkey & Goat, the sweetness will mellow out and the wine will become more carbonated if held on to for a little while.  Delicious, intriguing, and definitely fun to drink!

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Tendu 2013 California Red Wine from Matthiasson

I love drinking Matthiasson Wine, but due to the price (their Napa reds are often upwards of $60 a bottle), I generally only enjoy the wines on a special occasion.  Given Steve Matthiasson’s recent project called Tendu, this has all changed.  Tendu is Matthiasson’s version of an everyday table wine.  Made with grapes from less expensive growing regions in California, the wines are both delicious and affordable.

Tendu 2013 California Red Wine
Tendu 2013 California Red Wine

Tendu Red is a blend of Aglianico, Montepulciano, and Barbera.  The wine is aged in stainless steel, fermented with native yeasts, and is bottled unfiltered.  The nose offers aromas of bright red fruit and a bit of earthiness.  The palate is filled with vibrant cranberries, cherries, and raspberries.  There are also herbal undertones along with healthy acidity that balance the fruitiness of the wine.  So juicy and delicious, you will have a hard time putting down your glass.  Brilliantly bottled in a 1 liter size, this wine is perfect wine for a family style Italian meal or burgers! (12.5% alcohol, $19.99, serve slightly chilled)

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Holiday Food Pairing: Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay and Baked Eggs Florentine

The holidays are upon us and many of us are tasked with putting together menus that will impress our family and friends.  Brunch with friends is a must in our household during the Christmas season so I was really excited to see that Wente Vineyards partnered with America’s Test Kitchen to put together a fantastic brunch pairing; matching their 2013 Morning Fog Chardonnay with a delicious Baked Eggs Florentine recipe.

2013 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay opens with aromas of green apples and citrus.  The palate is lively with fresh tastes of lemons, green apples, and hints of oak.  Balanced and perfect for brunch.  Pairing this with Baked Eggs Florentine is sure to make a great holiday brunch!

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay
Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay

For more great holiday wine pairings, visit Wente Vineyards.

Eggs Florentine Recipe from Wente and America’s Test Kitchen:

In order for the eggs to cook properly, it is critical to add them to the hot filling–lined ramekins quickly. Use 6-ounce ramekins with 3¼-inch diameters, measured from the inner lip. It is imperative to remove the eggs from the oven just after the whites have turned opaque but are still jiggly—carryover cooking will finish the job. We developed this recipe using a glass baking dish; if using a metal baking pan, reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees. This recipe can be doubled. If doubling, bake the ramekins in two 13 by 9-inch dishes and increase the baking times in steps 3 and 4 by 1 minute.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
¾ cup half-and-half
10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and
squeezed dry
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)
Salt and pepper
⅛ teaspoon dry mustard
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil spray
6 large eggs

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to
500 degrees.
2. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add
shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3
minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Gradually whisk in half-and-half; bring mixture to boil, whisking constantly.
Simmer, whisking frequently, until thickened, 2 to
3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in spinach, Parmesan,
¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, mustard, nutmeg,
and cayenne.
3. Lightly spray six 6-ounce ramekins with oil spray. Evenly
divide spinach filling among ramekins. Using back of spoon,
push filling 1 inch up sides of ramekins to create 1/8-inch-thick
layer. Shape remaining filling in bottom of ramekin into 1½-inch
diameter mound, making shallow indentation in center of mound
large enough to hold yolk. Place filled ramekins in 13 by 9-inch
glass baking dish. Bake until filling just starts to brown, about 7
minutes, rotating dish halfway through baking.
4. While filling is heating, crack eggs (taking care not to break
yolks) into individual cups or bowls. Remove dish with ramekins
from oven and place on wire rack. Gently pour eggs from cups
into hot ramekins, centering yolk in filling. Lightly spray surface
of each egg with oil spray and sprinkle each evenly with pinch salt.
Return dish to oven and bake until whites are just opaque but still
tremble (carryover heat will cook whites through), 6 to 8 minutes,
rotating dish halfway through baking.
5. Remove dish from oven and, using tongs, transfer ramekins to wire rack. Let stand until whites are firm and set (yolks should still be runny), about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Follow recipe through step 3, skipping baking of lined ramekins.
Wrap ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
To serve, remove plastic and heat lined ramekins, directly from
refrigerator, for additional 3 to 4 minutes (10 to 11 minutes total)
before proceeding with recipe.

*Media Sample

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Cabernet Values for the Holidays!

A lot of people struggle to find a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to bring to a holiday gathering that is well-priced and actually tastes good!  Here are two different styles of Cabernet, 2012 Rickshaw Wines Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, that are both great values!

2012 Rickshaw Wines Cabernet Sauvignon

Rickshaw Wines Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, and 4% Cabernet Franc from California.  Smooth tastes of raspberries and cassis mingle with notes of plum and coffee.  Minimal intervention in the winemaking process allow the pure tastes of the grapes to shine through.  An excellent Cabernet for the price! (13.8% alcohol, $15)

2012 Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Parducci’s Mendocino County True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 5% Syrah that opens with aromas of dark berries, dark cherries, tobacco.  The palate is medium-bodied with tastes of cassis, dark chocolate, and smokey tobacco along with hints of vanilla.  Balanced in alcohol and not over-oaked, this Cabernet is very food friendly! (13.5% alcohol, $30)

*Media Sample

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Broc Cellars 2013 Love Red “Part Deux”…Seriously Good!

If you are looking for a highly quaffable wine for around $20, look no further than Broc Cellars Love Red “Part Deux”.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the winery, Broc Cellars is an urban winery with a tasting room in Berkeley producing seriously good, minimally manipulated wines.

Broc Cellars Love Red "Part Deux"
Broc Cellars Love Red “Part Deux”

The newly released “Part Deux” version of Love Red is a blend of 83% Carignan, 14% Valdiguie, and 3% Petite Sirah from Frei Vineyard in Solano County.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel and then racked down to 20 year-old 600L German casks for 10 months.  Native yeast fermentation, unfined, and lightly filtered.

Love Red “Part Deux” is incredibly bright and vibrant.  The palate is flavorful yet light with tastes of red berries and spicy anise.  With plentiful acidity and a juicy finish, I could drink this wine all day.  Grab a couple of bottles while this wine lasts!  (13% alcohol, MSRP $20)

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2008 Thralls Syrah Alder Springs Vineyards

During the Wine Bloggers Conference a couple of weeks ago, our palates were bombarded with 100s of wines.  Over the course of the weekend, a few wines really stood out from the rest; one of them being 2008 Thralls Syrah Alder Springs Vineyards.

Thralls Family Cellars is the project of winemaker and owner Ed Thralls.  Ed has a really cool story surrounding his journey to become a winemaker.  After being a bit unfulfilled by a successful career in financial technology, he began pursuing his passion for wine by making it in his garage in Atlanta.  Ed followed his passion cross-country to Sonoma and now produces both Pinot Noir and Syrah for Thralls Family Cellars.

Thralls Syrah Alder Springs Vineyards
Thralls Syrah Alder Springs Vineyards

Technical Stuff

100% Syrah from Alder Springs Vineyard in Mendocino County.  The wine was aged 19 months in a 50% new/50% 1 year old (Zebra) barrel before bottling in May 2010.  There was minimal intervention in the winemaking process.  13.8% alcohol and a retail price of $34.  

Tasting Notes

Thralls Syrah pours an intense blackish-purple color in the glass.  The nose offers rich, enticing aromas of blackberries, smoke, and lavender.  The palate is smooth and nicely structured with tastes of ripe blackberries, plum, black pepper, and sweet tobacco.  Well-made, sophisticated, and balanced!

For more info, visit Thralls Family Cellars.

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2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

A couple of weeks ago, a group of wine bloggers and wine lovers got together on Twitter to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Caymus Vineyards Cabernet with Total Wine and More.  Caymus Vineyards began in 1971 when Charles Wagner and his wife Lorna Belle Glos Wagner asked their son, Chuck Wagner, if he wanted to join them in starting a winery.  The Wagner family decided in advance to sell their Napa Valley property if Chuck refused their offer, which he instead accepted.  This was the start of Caymus Vineyards, which is still 100% owned by the Wagner Family.

The Wagners produced their first Cabernet in 1972, so the 2012 vintage celebrates the 40th anniversary of this iconic Cabernet.   I joined in on the Twitter tasting, uncorked a bottle of 2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Cabernet, and fired up a grill full of steaks!

2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Tasting Notes

2012 Caymus 40th Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is deep reddish-purple in color.  Rich aromas leap out of the glass and include notes of cassis, blackberries, anise, and warm spices.  On the palate, there are intense flavors of black fruit, oak, dark chocolate, herbs, and spices.  The wine also has ripe yet smooth tannins and soft acidity.  I think fans of big California Cabernet will enjoy this vintage of Caymus.  This wine is still a baby; if you can wait a few years, you will be rewarded!

14.6% alcohol.  Retails for $60/bottle.  For more info, vist Caymus Vineyards.

*Media Sample

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Enjoying National Chardonnay Day with Wente Chardonnay

Yesterday was National Chardonnay Day and I had the opportunity to take part in a Twitter tasting hosted by Wente Vineyards.  We had a chance to taste through three of Wente’s Chardonnays and chat with Karl Wente, 5th generation winegrower and winemaker at Wente.  The tasting was a lot of fun and each bottle was incredibly different.  Here are my tasting notes from the event:

Our lineup of Chardonnay from Wente
Our lineup of Chardonnay from Wente

Wente 2012 Eric’s Small Lot Chardonnay

Eric’s Small Lot Chardonnay was my favorite Chardonnay of the tasting by far.  The wine was fermented in stainless steel did not undergo malolactic fermentation, making the flavors clean and vibrant. The nose shows floral and apple aromas and the palate offers tastes of green apple, Bosc pear, and spice.  A really nice wine! (13.7% alcohol, SRP $25)

Wente 2012 Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay

This bottle was fermented in 50% neutral oak and 50% stainless steel so there is definitely more of an oak influence.  The texture is creamy and there are notes of apple and pear.  Not a bad option for the price! (13.5% alcohol, SRP $15)

Wente 2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay

This wine was aged for 8 months in French, American, Eastern European, and neutral oak so it was definitely the most “typical” California Chardonnay we tasted.  Notes of butter, lemon, tropical fruit, and oak shine through in the palate.  A little rich and buttery for my taste but a lot of other bloggers preferred it.  (13.5% alcohol, SRP $22)

*Media Samples 

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Broc Cellars 2012 “Vine Starr” Sonoma County Zinfandel

I started to convince myself that I really did not like Zinfandel.  Every time I uncorked a bottle, the only adjectives that came to mind were big, jammy, fruit bomb, or overpowering (most of the time, all of the above). Thankfully, as with most things in life, there are exceptions to every rule.  This time, the exception comes from Broc Cellars.

Technical Stuff

100% Zinfandel from Sonoma County.  Naturally made with 12.7% alcohol.  Retails for $26.99.

Tasting Notes

Broc Cellars 2012 "Vine Starr" Sonoma County Zinfandel
Broc Cellars 2012 “Vine Starr” Sonoma County Zinfandel

Broc Cellars 2012 “Vine Starr” Zinfandel opens with aromas of black cherry,  earth, and black pepper.  The palate is elegant and vibrant with fresh flavors of dark fruit, anise, black tea, lavender, and spice.  Flavorful, refined, and compelling.  Throw everything your taste buds know about Zinfandel out the window…this stuff is awesome!

Broc Cellars

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