Wine & Travel

Snooth User: vin0vin0

Sonoma Barrel Tasting with two Napa Days

Posted by vin0vin0, Mar 5, 2017.

The CFO and I and four others are back in CA doing a weeks worth of tasting.  Today is the Sonoma Barrel tasting to be followed by a couple more days in Sonoma and two days in Napa. Reports to follow.

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Replies

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Reply by vin0vin0, Mar 5, 2017.
Must be Spring break for the East Coasters with RBA in the NW and us in Sonoma/Napa for the week.
 
Got a bit of a rough start with our friends flight from Pittsburgh delayed by two hours causing us to postpone our first tasting which was to be at Laurel Glen in Glen Ellen. Hopefully we can reschedule that visit for later in the week.
 
Heading to the Sonoma Barrel Tasting today, starting at Carol Shelton and then planning on finding a few new places and maybe an old standard or two.
 
Will report back later.
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Reply by outthere, Mar 5, 2017.

Holdredge! When you get there ask for John and tell him you want tto hang out in the lounge! It's for wine club members only but I hear if you let him kiss your wives he'll let you in. Tell him I said that! John s a riot and his wines are great. 

 

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Reply by outthere, Mar 5, 2017.

Oh, and what's with all the rain you brought with you? We were just drying out.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Mar 5, 2017.

Yo, B, thought you folks were in a drought so we brought you some relief, actually I'm seeing (almost) Carolina blue skies right now.

We'll be downtown tomorrow and will try to drop in at Holdredge. Looks like he enjoys making some wines from odd Italian grapes so this could be really fun.

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Reply by outthere, Mar 5, 2017.

If you go tomorrow he won't be there. He is doing this for Barrel Tasting Weekend only. His tasting room  should be open Monday but he'll likely be at his day job.

 

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Reply by vin0vin0, Mar 6, 2017.
Great 1st day.  Weather was off and on all day, showers, sun, hail, more rain, cool, warm, ...
 
Here's what the six happy travelers did today:
Martinelli
Carol Shelton
Inspiration
Benovia
Joseph Swan
Moshin
 
Barrel tasting started at 11am but since we're still kind of on East Coast time we all woke up early and were ready to go well before kickoff.  We looked for a place that opened their tasting room prior to our check in time and found that Martinelli opens at 10am.  
 
I remember from that last time we visited Martinelli that they tend to produce wines with significant amounts of alcohol, they are still holding true to that philosophy with several zins clocking in well north of 16% and one at 17.3% ABV.
 
Not being shy, this group dove in, tasting through the entire lineup. Thank goodness I had my spit cup and made good use of it! Surprisingly enough, none of the heavy weights appeared to be overly hot or extracted. Don't get me wrong, these zins are big wines but they carried their weight fairly well. The syrah, pinot and chardonnay offerings were more typical.  We purchased one of the chardonnays.
 
 
Off to the barrel tasting. We've done a good number of barrel tastings over the years and always enjoy the experience to smell and taste a wine along its path to the maturity.
 
We've enjoyed a few Carol Shelton's zins over the years, especially her Rockpile Vnyd Rocky Reserve. Carol and her husband were in attendance, always a bonus to get to talk with winemakers and owners. Started off with a really nice carignanne (70+ yr old vines) that was really nice, with a touch of raspberry. Three zins and a petite sirah were also thiefed out of barrels. Along with the barrel tastings they were also pouring the same wine out of bottle from the previous vintage. Very cool to be able to make the comparisons side by side. Naturally, for me the standout was the Rocky Reserve but there wasn't a weak wine in the bunch.
 
 
We then wandered down the parking lot and found Inspiration Vineyards where we found the owner/winemaker Jon pouring his entire lineup. Again, we tasted barrel samples side by side with the current releases. Also again, the spit cup and dump buckets were our friends as Jon must have poured us almost a dozen different tastes (x2, barrel and current). The surprise of this tasting was the Cab. I figured the grapes were sourced from Alexander Valley as that is where most of the really good Cab comes from. I was wrong - Dry Creek Valley and most excellent at that.
 
 
After a quick lunch we were back on the road to Benovia.  We've tasted here before and were excited to introduce our friends to these wines. On offer today were mainly pinot and chardonnay with one zin. The pinot here is really good, the price point is a little steep but worth an occasional splurge.
 
 
Next on the itinerary was Joseph Swan. Here we tasted from barrel a pair of zins, two syrahs and an orange Grenache Blanc. The GB was quite interesting and seemed to be read to go. The reds on the other hand didn't appear to be anywhere near as ready as the barrel samples at the other wineries. However, the current releases were awesome.
 
 
Last stop and definitely the most fun place we visited was Moshin. We've been enjoying these wines since our first trip out here many moons ago. After sampling a really nice sauv blanc and two pinots from barrel we headed into the tasting room where Rick Moshin poured through a significant number of samples. Moshin makes a small amount of a lot of different wines. Their order sheet has fourteen different pinots, each with multiple vintages to choose from as well as chards, zins, blends, merlot, petite sirah and a couple dessert wines. A perfect way to end Day One.
 
 
Cin cin!
 
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Reply by outthere, Mar 6, 2017.

Rod poured me some of that Grenache Blanc when I dropped by a month or so ago. I loved it. I was going to raise hell if you weren't wearing the orange vest! Nice report. I'm still getting over a bug we picked up last week so I'll wait til Wednesday to see you. Looking forward to it.

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Reply by amour, Mar 6, 2017.

Now Vin0Vin0....that is what we call POSTING!!!

TYANKS SO MUCH...I could almost TASTE THEM!

VIRTUALLY!

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Reply by amour, Mar 6, 2017.

IMPRESSED WITH ACTIVITIES AT MOSHIN!

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Reply by outthere, Mar 6, 2017.

Look who made the Joseph Swan Facebook Feed

 

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Reply by vin0vin0, Mar 6, 2017.

Hey, I didn't authorize use of my image, I'm gonna sue, bet it's worth at least a case a year.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Mar 7, 2017.
Day 2 is again in Sonoma, mainly focused on downtown Healdsburg.
 
We started out by meeting up with our friend Frankie Williams at her Toad Hollow tasting room.  First off, Frankie is as down to earth as they come, she came right out and told us that she doesn't want to be rich but just wants to make good wine and hopefully live a comfortable life.  With that in mind, she is producing some great wines at incredibly affordable prices.
 
 
After lunch at a really good Mexican restaurant, we had an hour before our next appt. so we sauntered int Pezzi King where we went through a significant number of zins.  For the most part the entire lineup was quite solid. We were even given a few barrel samples leftover from the day before. Consensus was for the Hunny Hill reserve and the barrel taste of their Rockpile, both of which sell out to their wine club members.
 
 
On to our 2pm appt. at Ramey. Wow, just wow. Four fantastic chards, one of the best pinots we've encountered on this trip, a very interesting syrah and two excellent cabs were waiting for us as we entered their private tasting room. All four chardonnays were mouth watering, exhibiting layers of lemon, pineapple, keylime and medium to high acidity. The RRV designate was lean and crisp and the Vineyard designates took on more layers of spice and minerality. It would be tough to pick a favorite so we bought two.  The reds were equally outstanding, culminating in the Annum, a blend of 91% cab and 9% cab franc, all Napa fruit. For a 2013, this is ready to go now but I'm guessing could easily handle a dozen or more years on its side. If you ever get a chance to do this tasting, do not hesitate.
 
 
We had a bit of time before dinner so we decided to check out Seghesio. The CFO and I had been here before and really enjoyed the experience.  Maybe it was the fact that it's Monday after Barrel tasting weekend, or that the winery had been sold a couple years ago to a big investment firm or that we had just come from the great tasting at Ramey but we were not impressed.  The wines were just ok, nothing exceptional, and the tasting room staff were nice enough but less than engaging, nuff said.
 
Still, all in all another great day!
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Reply by dmcker, Mar 7, 2017.

Great reports, Vino, thanks. The readings on the likes of Seghesio are also worthwhile and appreciated.

Sounds like a very good time was had by all.

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Reply by outthere, Mar 7, 2017.

I enjoy tastings like Ramey where all the wines are poured and you can go back and forth comparing different aspects of each.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Mar 8, 2017.
Day 3, just when you thought it couldn't get any better.
 
Yesterday was a hell of a day, great wine, great people and a lot of fun.
 
Today we headed over the hill to the "other side" where we met up with Robin Akhurst, winemaker extraordinaire and just an all around great guy. We met Robin two years ago thru no other than our favorite local expert, OT, when Robin was working out of the Envy Winery in Calistoga.  He's now working with Swanson Vineyards in Rutherford but still producing his own "Apsara" label. As gracious a host as ever, he poured us two syrahs (one Northern Rhone style and the other a whole cluster wild yeast ferment) as well as his two cabs one of which was a Napa Valley with grapes from St. Helena and Calistoga and his single vineyard Amoenus. All four are from the 2014 vintage and are extremely delicious wines.  The crowd was split on the syrahs, half favoring the more focused, lush and dark Northern Rhone, while the others went after the more rustic, black cherry and tar of the whole cluster offering. Both are incredible values at under $40. The cabs are a whole other story. Big but not overly extracted, full of rich ripe dark berries, tar, leather and lots of layers. Both can be consumed now but the Amoenus is going to get significantly better with some lay down time.
 
 
Since we were at the Swanson Vineyard winery, the Swanson folks were kind enough to offer us a complimentary tasting of their lineup - very nice gesture that we obviously took advantage of. We started off with a really interesting rose of sangiovese (made by Robin) that was refreshingly clean and crisp with notes of watermelon and red cherry. This was then followed by a pinot grigio that had some chardonnay blended in. Definitely not your typical grigio as the chard added some body and depth that melded with the floral and citrus notes. Next up was Swanson's signature wine, a layered, nicely textured '11 merlot that showed red and black berries along with some baking spices and a really nice smooth mouth feel. A lot of merlot that I've had have tended to be flat and one dimensional, not this. Last was their '12 Alexis cab, another excellent wine that had Robins fingerprints on it. Loads of dark fruit, graphite, grippy but fine grained tannins and a long finish. Thanks to both Robin and the Swanson folks for the generous hospitality and the first class wines. I think we walked away with about a case or so in the trunk.
 
Next up was a visit to Merrill Lindquist to taste her EMH Black Cat cabs. Merrill greeted us at her front door and graciously welcomed us in. We sat down to a great tasting of her Black Cat '09, '11 and '14 and also her Special '14. All of these cabs are made in a more restrained, elegant style, slightly lower in alcohol with less new oak. Aging was noticeable in the '09 with fairly resolved tannins and a bit more earth tones. The '11 was the crowd favorite, fresh and vibrant with red and black cherry, slightly grainy tannins, nice acidity and a fairly long finish. The '14s were no slouches either, ready to go now but going to get better with a few years sideways, as evidenced by the '09. I added a couple more bottles to my BerserkerDay order and we all departed with smiles on our faces.
 
 
Last stop of the day was at our wine club - Spring Mountain Vineyards. Our host Rick met us at the yellow cabin with a big smile and glasses of their '13 sauv blanc, which is blended with a bit of semillon. Aged a few months in neutral barrels, this SB is really nice, more melon and meyer lemon vs grapefruit. We then headed to the manor for a sit down tasting featuring two cabs ('01 and '08) and two of the Bordeaux blend Elivette ('05 and '09). We had been tasting some extraordinary wines today and these continued the streak. Personnally, I loved the older vintage, some earthy and spicy notes with plenty of dark, dark fruit (ripe black plums) still hanging around. Fully resolved tannins gave this a smooth feel in the mouth with plenty of acid still prevalent and a long, long finish. The '08 cab came out of the glass with an interesting smokey nose and flavors of ripe black cherry and chocolate. The Elivette's are a notch up in quality, which isn't easy here. Both offerings were in great places with the '05 starting to show some of its darker side and the '09 still full of fresh berry fruit and acid.
 
 
All in all a most excellent day in Napa! (insert cheesy closing shot of Napa Valley sign here)
 
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Reply by outthere, Mar 8, 2017.

Most excellent review!

 

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Reply by Really Big Al, Mar 8, 2017.

V V - a most excellent assessment of your tasting experiences.  These are all new wineries to us.  We are thinking about a visit to Napa and Sonoma in 2018; our last visit was in 2012.

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Reply by JonDerry, Mar 8, 2017.

Thanks for the reports VV, sounds like a fun trip.

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Reply by rckr1951, Mar 8, 2017.

Wonderful thoughts on the wines and appreciate the notes for future reference.  Thanks for this.

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Reply by MJET, Mar 8, 2017.

Excellent report of a couple of my favorite wineries. Thanks VV! 

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