Rosenblum 2002 Richard Sauret Vineyard Zinfandel

Its becoming very predictable which is all the more reason we have to point out the newest release from the Rosenblum Richard Sauret vineyard in Paso Robles. It is really a prime example of a good Zinfandel, which Rosenblum tends to do. More importantly, its a really good example of a California style wine. The aroma is great. You can catch a wiff of the chocolate and cherry smells. The first sip hits you Cali-style with bold plum and black cherry tastes which lingers with a chocolate finish.

A great wine if you want to know what a Zin should taste like. We did notice it is a little over tannic but if you open it and give it a little time to breath the exposure to oxygen chills that out very nicely. Not to mention that this also means it will age well. Wine Spectator rates it 92 and San Francisco Chronical Wine Competition awarded it a silver metal. At about $17 a bottle, we have to recommend it as a great value and an excellent way to introduce you to how Zinfandel should taste without breaking the bank.

Enjoy the Wine Life!

A Wine Shop on The Row

Vintage Wine Merchant is a wine retailer that we thought we’d take a minute to highlight. While it seems every wine merchant coming about it trying to add some sort of value-add to make thier store a notch or two above just a liquor store or market, Vintage has a couple things going for it that we love.

First, location. Its located in the Santana Row shopping complex in Santa Clara, CA. For those not familiar with this shopping center just think Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade meets Boston’s Newbury Street. A high-end shopping experience with top notch restaurants that maintains a local feel by incorporating local retailers. It attracts all sorts of visitors from everywhere in the SF Bay Area. And Vintage was smart enough to pick this location and one can easily grab a nice bottle of wine after shopping so you can take it into a restaurant with you (most of the restaurants have corkage fees but thats a small price to pay for having exactly the wine you want).

Second, price. While Vintage has exceptional wines and very impressive decor the prices of the wines are very competitive for a retail wine shop. Even the most exotic wines are discounted quite a bit. This is from the owners heritage of dirt cheap prices when working and frequenting The Wine Club – a discount wine retailer in CA. The Wine Club, rumored to have suppliers in the “grey market” of wine, is a no-frills retailer that offers killer deals on top wines. All the owners of Vintage either worked at or visited The Wine Club frequently. The pedigree brings a discount business model to an upscale wine retailer resulting in some great values.

So if you’re looking for an upscale wine at a very competitive price should swing by Santana Row’s wine retailer – Vintage.

Vintage, thanks for helping us all Enjoy the Wine Life!

Syrah Night in Walnut Creek

Tuesday, September 14th was 2nd Annual Syrah Summit at Prima’s in Walnut Creek. Quite a night really. The night included a three course dinner of solid selections that were not particularly memorable. Good, but not food I would run out to tell my friends about. The highlight of the evening was a selection of 7 Syrah’s of an interesting mix. This was easily the best part of the night as tasting Syrahs side-by-side really gives you an opportunity it understand how the differences in regions, growing conditions, wine makers, etc. can make a wine from the same grape taste very different. If you’re looking for basic knowledge of wines this is easily the best way to get into it – take the same wine from many different places and make note of the variations in flavor, body, and nose. Anyway, on to the best part!

First, a little about Syrah. If you live in Australia you drink Shiraz and if you live in other parts of the world you drink Syrah. Same grape, different name. FYI, Petite Sirah is a completely different grape. In California, the grape grows well in most of the popular growing regions, and in the full spectrum of climatic influence. Of all red wines, Syrah has a comparably broad array of aromas, flavors and textures. The tasting night at Prima’s was a prime demonstration of that…

There were seven Syrah’s that were served but my two favorites I thought would be worth sharing because they are most certainly a part of Enjoying the Wine Life!

2001 Hamel Syrah, Sonoma County
Hamel Wines is a small, Syrah-only winery that has been producing wine for the past 9 years. The 2001 vintage is their 8th and a blend of grapes from Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley.

This Syrah has a fruity, blackberry aroma. When you first taste it, the black berry flavors hit you followed by a little more pepper and herb taste. No taste in it really overwhelms which makes it a good choice to go with food – something with a bit of fat to tame the tannins (pairing note: Fat contained in food reduces the acid and tannin affects of wine. Hence the reason many people pair wine and cheese) but not necessarily too bold of a Overall a good wine with a balance of fruit and spice that pairs pretty well with red pasta sauces or lighter beef dishes.

2001 Livingston-Moffet Syrah, Mitchell Vineyard, Napa Valley
Livingston-Moffet is a relatively small, family owned and operated winery out of Napa that produces premium wine. The 2001 Livingston-Moffet Syrah comes from the Mitchell Wineyard, a four-acre site located mid-valley on alluvial soil(soil that is deposited by river run-off). This Syrah has a very interesting twist – the wine maker blended 5% Viognier into the wine which is apparently a practice taken from Northern Rhone Syrah wineries in France. This gives it a a very interesting fruit quality – almost like a hint of Lychee. Thats a wierd description and until I lived in CA I didn’t even know what a Lychee was. But I still think this is the best description for it.

This Syrah was definitely one of my favorites of the night, though it didn’t pair particularly well with the what was served, I probably would suggest pair with a flavorful chicken dish because it wouldn’t quite stand up well to the stronger tastes that are associated with red meat.

Enjoy the Wine Life!

2001 Livingston Moffett Mitchell Vineyard Napa Valley Syrah

2001 Hamel Syrah

Paul Hobbs 2002 Chardonnay (Russian River Valley)

This Chardonnay is pretty hard to find but here is a site where you can buy it. It’s a bit more expensive then the value wines I normally try to hunt down, but this is worth the extra $20. At around $40 it tips the Vivi’s scale for value wines but this is a value even at that price.

We tasted this wine recently and it is definitely on our highly recommend list (even at $40). Wine Spectator rates this wine 95 and its clear why. If you are hesitant to change over try whites or are fairly new to them then this is the white you need to try at least once and use as a baseline for future tastings. Pour it into the glass and almost immediately you smell the vanilla and melon aromas. The wine is really very bright and delicious upfront with a toasted vanilla taste and yet maintains fruit flavors mixed in. When wine “pros” refer to “well structured” wines this is a standard for Chardonnays. Buy one (or many if your up for it) if for no other reason other than to have a clear understanding what a Chardonnay is supposed to taste like.

Like I said, pricey for the Vivi’s value recommendation standard but it is surprisingly good. Easily as good as a wine twice the price (hard to say that about a California wine these days).

Splurge a little, give it a try, and remember to Enjoy the Wine Life!

Justin Obtuse 2002 (Port)

Interesting thing about Ports, many people who drink Cabernets and Zinfandels often say “Oh, no thanks. I’m not into Ports”. If you fit in that category (normal person who drinks red wine but isn’t really into Ports), then the Justin Obtuse 2001 or 2002 should be the first Port you experience. I haven’t run into someone yet that has tried this wine and hasn’t been roped in. Its as if the Justin Winery created this wine to help people transition from regular wines to dessert wines.

Here is how the Justin Winery describes the wine:

Obtuse is JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery’s American-style Port made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. We adhere to traditional vinification and maturation methods to make this wine. In cooler growing seasons, color extraction is often more difficult and may require the addition of pectic enzymes that help free color from the grape skins before fermentation. Once fermentation begins, the juice is pumped over the cap several times per day to extract color and flavor from the skins. The sugar concentration of the fermenting must is closely monitored. When it reaches the desired level of residual sugar, typically in 3 to 4 days, the fermenting must is pressed off and fermentation is stopped with the addition of 170° proof unaged grape brandy. At this point, the wine is adjusted to an alcohol content of approximately 20%. After the fortification process, the Port style wine is placed in large neutral French oak barrels called puncheons, which are twice the size of traditional 225-liter barrique barrels. The wine is then racked once every three to four months during the one to two-year aging period for a natural clarification and to allow for maturation and integration of the brandy and the wine. This wine is unfined and unfiltered.

Whoa…Thats a mouthful. What that breaks down to for you and me is simply a full-bodied dessert wine that has plum and cherry aromas and tastes like a deep plum jam. Its always surprising how good it is no matter how many times I’ve tried it. Justin Winery makes this port out of 100% Cabernet grapes so the foundation is already there if you’re into Cabernets. Could be part of the reason the transition to this Port is so easy.

My wife, Kelly, was one of the people who I talked about before. So I tripped her out by giving her a taste of this with her dark chocolate (she’s a dark chocolate fanatic). She fell in love with and now I have to chase it around the Internet to keep a healthy stock in our wine fridge. (I’ll make it easy on you though; you can pick up a bottle here or at the winery’s website here).

One of the coolest things about this wine is that with proper storing you can keep it for a while, figure a couple of months. Over time, it develops a sort of nutty flavor on top of the already delicious plum-jam flavor. If you have two bottles you can try storing one after you open it and one day open another and compare. Storing an open bottle is not too different from storing a sealed bottle. Temperature should be around 60 F degrees and you shouldn’t store it too close to anything with a real strong aroma. If you’re into it, its worth a try. If not, just grab a couple half bottles and bring them with you to parties to impress your friends, especially those who aren’t “into Ports”.

Have fun and remember to Enjoy the Wine Life!

Yangarra Park 2001 Cab

I recently had a couple bottles of Yangarra Park Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Appellation Series 2001. This is a great wine at $17 a bottle. Wine Spectator gave it a 90 rating so at sub-$20 a bottle I decided to check it out. Needless to say, good call by me. This is a wine from Australia that you wouldn’t be able to tell it wasn’t a California Cab if I didn’t tell you. Very fruity tasting – plum and black cherry tasting. One of my favorite features? 14% alcohol so you can get your buzz on tasting this beauty 😀

Pick some up and try it for yourself!

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