Scenic Root Wine Growers Tasting

Friday, 11/11/16, night at Wine Country Bottle Shop, we hosted a tasting showcasing some wines I have fallen in love with over the last two years. The Textbook and Forager wines. Forager is a more recent crush but I’ll been really into the Textbook wines for a while. We wanted to show everyone what Jonathan and Susan Pey are capable of while producing a range of wines that can appeal to any wine drinker. Who are these two and why should you know them?

Jonathan has lived, learned, and worked with some of the industry’s biggest names and leaders. He’s gotten to work with Domaine Louis Jadot in France, Robert Mondavi, Schramsberg, Penfolds in Australia, and even some Bordeaux chateaux. Susan comes from the service side of the industry and works as Wine Director for a large Bay Area restaurant group. Both are a huge part of what makes these wines great.

Initially it was the Textbook wines that really caught my attention because of their Merlot. I constantly preach about Merlot being overlooked and bastardized when the truth is that it is a phenomenal grape. I really pay attention to a winery that produces a Merlot that is just as well constructed as their Cabernet. Textbook definitely does it. So any project of theirs, I’m pretty much all in.


So what did we taste? We tasted though the 2014 Forager Chardonnay, 2014 Forager Pinot Noir, 2014 Textbook Chardonnay, 2013 Textbook Merlot, 2014 Textbook Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2013 Textbook “Mise En Place” Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. Here’s what I thought:

Forager Chardonnay, Los Carneros, Sonoma 2014 $23

Nose: Fresh cut apples, a little bit of lemon peel, and some baking spices

Taste: Stone fruit, sharp apple flavors, medium + acidity, and checked baking spice

This is a great Chardonnay to have pair with since the oak isn’t as prominent. It does have some extra zip with the acid so it’s perfect for fish or a fruit and cheese plate.

Textbook Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2014 $25

Nose: Baked apples and baking spice

Taste: Sweet brûléed apples, fresh cut Granny Smith apples, lots of baking spices, medium acidity

Here’s more of “textbook” Napa Valley Chardonnay. It drinks easy with more weight than the Forager. It has much more New World characteristics.

Forager Pinot Noir, Sonoma 2014 $26

Nose: Cherry, cola, pipe tobacco, and slight decay

Taste: Cherries and cola come through, medium + acidity, French Oak hints on the back end

This shows a lot of the Burgundy experience Jonathan Pey has while retaining its California fruit. It drinks the way a Pinot Noir from the area should without being an over extracted fruit bomb.

Textbook Merlot, Napa Valley 2013 $25

Nose: Blackberry bramble, briar, vanilla

Taste: Black fruit, blackberry, sweet vanilla tobacco, medium bodied, medium + tannin, medium acidity

I love this wine. The fruit is balanced with the spice and body. The tannins won’t let you forget you are drinking it. This is a steak wine all day long.

Textbook Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2014 $31

Nose: Blackberry jam, currants, tobacco

Taste: Black currants, vanilla oak, medium + tannin, full bodied

The fruit pops a lot more on this Cabernet than the Merlot. Not in a sweet way, it’s just much more forward and works in tandem with vanilla spice from the oak. The tannins are big but very well integrated. Velvety smooth.

Textbook “Mise en place” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2013 $73

Nose: Blackberry, blueberry, briar, dark chocolate 

Taste: Dark chocolate, black currant, medium + tannin, full bodied

Mise en place is probably one of my favorite phrases. It is a French culinary phrase that means “everything in it’s place” which can apply to just about anything in life. In my opinion, in this situation it’s a reference to where this wine comes from. Mise en place’s grapes are sourced from areas right next to Screaming Eagle, To-Kalon, and Paradigm. It’s a massive wine in flavor with an elegant density. The tannins are big and fine. It’s like they are constantly tapping you on the shoulder saying “remember me? I’m still here.” The alcohol was really in check when I tasted it because it had been double decanted 3 times. And y’all, it still could have used another hour or so in the decanter. The wine will hold up for years and would be a great gift for a collector. If you have the patience to hold it, try to for atleast 4 years. 

It was really fun and a great experience to taste all of these wines together. I have tasted them separately over the last year or so but it was really interesting to have them side by side. I’d urge you to try any one of these that tickles your fancy. Look for more tastings at the bottle shop coming up! 

(Prices included in this article are an estimation and not exact) 

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An Accidental Dinner With Arcadian Wines

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I wasn’t expecting Wednesday night to end the way it did. I had my weekly meeting at work with the owner and other managers to discuss the last week’s numbers and a plan going forward through the rest of this week. After starting the day off and moving through the rest of it, I managed to get invited to a meeting where one of my wine reps was going to showcase some Arcadian wines at Lucky Palace with Kuan Lim. I had to accept.

  

What you need to know: Arcadian Winery was started by Joe Davis and is known throughout the wine world for making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in California that could easily be mistaken for the holy grail of those variteals, Burgundy. He started working for California’s Morgan Winery and then went on to work for Domaine Dujac in Burgundy before Arcadian. When he returned to the United States, he brought back with him the methods of the world renown Burgundian wine making philosophies. Now we have Arcadian. Back to dinner.

Now, I’ve had many of the Arcadian wines before and I’ve really liked them. But these were different. Older vintages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that are consider “library wines.” 2008’s and 2009’s. That may not seem like that old with those 2009 and 2008 Cabernets held in such high esteem, but most people will turn the other cheek when they see a 2008 Chardonnay on the shelf that’s not from Burgundy or some Cali producer like Far Niente. 

These Chardonnays… Were intensely delicious. The “Seirra Madre” Chardonnay saw 3 years in French oak and the “Sleepy Hollow” saw over 4! I was completely wrong in my thinking about what the oak would do. I thought it would’ve created these oaky monsters but what it did was make a soft around the edges, creamy Chardonnay with subtle but very present oak. Joe Davis refers to this as the “boomerang effect” where the oak hits its peak after a certain time and then eases back up on the oak flavors as time goes on. It’s all about finding the sweet spot.

  
The 2009 “Sierra Madre” with 3 years of oak had an earthiness on the nose that reminded me of some mustier older French wines I’ve tasted. The drinkability of this wine was way too easy. Spiced apples, balanced acidity, and a creamy finish.

  
The 2008 “Sleepy Hollow” had to be my favorite. 4 years in French oak(which Joe actually goes to France every year to pick out his trees for barrels) completely changed this one. The nose was completely different and had multiple layers of spice and stone fruit on it. It honestly reminded me of Puligny-Montrachet. Very elegant and firm.

Next we had the Pinot Noirs: 2008 Santa Lucia Highlands and 2008 “Gold Coast Vineyards” from Santa Maria. These areas are already my favorite in California for Pinot Noir so I was beyond stoked.

The Santa Lucia Highlands was, in my opinion, the most Burgundian of the 2. It has bright cherries, big acid, and just a touch of forest floor on it. This is truly a Pinot that you could blind taste a Burgundy enthusiast and they would not be able to tell a it was actually Californian.

The “Gold Coast Vineyard” truly captivated me. It’s so rich without being boastful. It has the elegance and grace of a red Burgundy and the flare of perfectly picked California fruit. The mouthfeel is full and bursting with Bing cherry, light tobacco spice, and an exacted balance of acidity to fruit to body.

  
I want to thank Kuan Lim and Brian Gibbons for letting me join in on the tasting. It wastrels a learning experience and would suggest any one of these wines to Burgundy drinkers as well as loyal California drinkers.

Cline Cellars Tasting

Yesterday I was able to sit down with the regional rep for Cline Cellars. Now, a lot of people know Cline because of red blend called Cashmere. Cashmere has kind of been the iconic Cline wine in this area of Louisiana over the last couple of year. It’s a blend of mainly Mourvedre(53%), Syrah(25%), and Grenache(23%). Cashmere is so named because of how silky, smooth it is. It absolutely lives up to the name. It also is a wine with a cause. Fred and Nancy Cline have donated over $270,000 to breast cancer research and have an active partnership with Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

Since I’ve sold Cashmere for years, I was looking forward to tasting some of the other wines I’d never had. I was very pleasantly surprise at their drinkability and value.

ClineLineup

First off, lets take Rosé. It’s made from Mourvedre and is part of their “Ancient Vines” series because the vines have been producing fruit for 80-100 years. Super impressive for it’s price point. It has balance to the extreme. Beautiful acid structure complemented with fresh strawberry. This little ditty definitely falls into the Patio Pounder category. For around $10, it’s tough to beat.

Cline also makes a pretty tasty Pinot Noir as well as a Chardonnay. The grapes for both are Estate Grown in Sonoma. Which means Cline actually grows and maintains the grapes on land they own. They aren’t buying their grapes from another winery. Aaand fun fact: La Crema sourced their Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit from Cline until very recently. So that means that if you dig on La Crema Chard or Pinot, you should try Cline’s. 

The Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is a crisp one. No oak or butter bomb. Light vanilla and baking spice paired with that golden apple flavor. It’s kinda Cali Chard 101. A good, everyday value for a Cali Chard drinker priced around $12.

ClinePNPinot Noir. Every one loves it so every one wants to grow it. Unfortunately, not every one does a good job of it. That’s not the case here. Cline’s Pinot Noir really delivers for under $15. It’s got all the things I love about Pinot without punching me in the throat. Cola, cherry, and a hint of smokey bacon fat(yeah, I said it) with a silky pajama pants finish. Definitely my favorite of the group.

Fun fact: La Crema used to source their Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit from Cline. So that means that if you dig on La Crema Chard or Pinot, you should try Cline’s.

Give me shout if you’re into or have questions about these wines.

2014 Top 10 Thanksgiving Wines

Over the last couple of months, I’ve tasted a ton of new wines. Some that I’ve tasted in the past but the current vintage has given it new life or a new rockstar producer that is delivering the goods in a big way. That gives me a mental catalog of wines that I can suggest for any occasion. I’m no Sheldon Cooper with an eidetic memory but if it stands out to me, I can usually pull it out my back pocket and deliver a palate tingling experience for the drinker that will have them begging for more… Or at least say, “Oh yeah, that was good.”
This is a list of some great wines that I truly believe will set your Thanksgiving feast apart from years past. So here is my Top 10 Thanksgiving Wines:
10) 2012 Newton “Red Label” Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA, $16.99
Newton Red Label has been a constant in Wine Country for years. It always delivers that richness and creaminess that we demand of a classic Napa Chardonnay. This is a Thanksgiving no brainer.
9) 2012 Canvasback Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, Washington, $49
In the first ever offering of a Washington State property, Duckhorn really came to play ball. Classic Washington state style. Hints of vanilla, dark cherries and dried cranberries. Perfect with dressing and cranberry sauce.
8) 2013 Charles Smith Winery “Kungfu Girl” Riesling, Washington State, $14.50
This little gem also graces another list you may have heard of: Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines. Coming in at #43, Charles Smith has created the equalizer in Rieslings. Perfect for a hardcore Riesling drinker but anyone can drink and enjoy it. So if your worried about what to get for multiple white wine drinkers, look no further. Perfect if there is something spicy or tangy on your Thanksgiving table.
7) 2013 Henri Perrusset Macon-Village, Burgundy, France, $18
Its always so hard to find a great white Burgundy without spending crazy money on it. Henri Purrsset(imported by Kermit Lynch) nails it. Crisp, zesty citrus flavors with slightly creamy mouthfeel. Perfect to start holiday get togethers.
6) 2013 Lewis Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley, CA $56.99
If you are a fan of over the top oaky, buttery-deliciousness then Lewis Cellars makes the perfect Chardonnay for you. They pull no punches on their Napa Chardonnay. The finish will make you think you are at a movie theater chowing down on some buttery popcorn.
5) 2013 The Prisoner, Napa Valley, CA, $41.99
Formerly of Orin Swift, now standing on its own, The Prisoner has already left a legacy on Wine Country patrons and continues to. Lots of red fruit and super easy to drink. Velvety isn’t a word I like to throw around alot but I’ll just leave you with that idea. Oh, and perfect if vension or beef tenderloins are on the menu. Trust me.
4) 2012 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel, Sonoma, CA, $18.99
I know I’ve been slamming you with Seghesio for the last couple of weeks but I can say that it would really add something special to your table. Having tasted it so much recently, it’s made me think about all the great pairings that it can stand up to. Rich fruit mixtures of blueberry and raspberry with smoke and oak make this a great addition to turkey or anything that has a demi glace or a sweet glaze on it. Side bar: It’s normally $26.50 per bottle, once we run out of our current stock it will go back to that price. That means if you buy a case of it, it’s $16.20 with our 10% case discount.
3) 2007 DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc, Columbia Valley, WA, $43.99
Hailed by at least 2 long time Wine Country guys as “the best bottle of wine in the shop,” this Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend is divine. Tropical fruits are held in check with a beautiful oak presence that makes me think of high end Bordeaux whites. The best thing about this wine is that the flavor hits like a 18-wheeler but feels like a feather.
2) 2006 Rocca Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA, $59
Wait….. An older vintage of one of the most rock star wineries in Napa for $59? Hell yeah! Dense. Big. Beautiful. Silky textures will grace your lips followed quickly with classic Napa flavors of red currant, raspberries, tobacco, and oak. Tannin textures on the back end will have you remembering this one even after the bottle is gone. Suggestion: Decant while you are powering through your first plate, grab a glass and fill it up when you head back for seconds to give this Rocca time to show itself.
1) 2011 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, San Andreas Fault, $57.99
Hands down my favorite for Thanksgiving. Hirsch gave us a RIDICULOUS Pinot Noir with depth, punch and versatility. Layers of tobacco, cherry, plums and just a hint of smoke from those gorgeous oak barrels. Its ready to drink as soon as you open it. Make sure you have more than one bottle so you don’t feel bad about sharing and get a little extra in your glass.
Honorable Mentions and stuff you need to know about:
Textbook Merlot, Rutherford, Napa Valley, $25
Insanity in a glass. If you’ve been burned by Merlots in the past and think the only good stuff out there is Shafer Merlot or Duckhorn Merlot or even right bank Bordeauxs you can’t even think about buying without feeling bad, chin up. I was blown away by the richness and depth of this Merlot. It’s silky with blackberry, pomegranate and  hints of cassis and saddle leather(Think the way a new baseball glove smells). Seriously worth a non Merlot drinkers time and definitley something a Merlot drinker shouldn’t pass up.
2012 Priest Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $45
Craig Becker of Somerston Winery describes his Priest Ranch Cab as “The glass is full of dark fruits, spice, and the glamour you expect of a great wine.” We are excited to have it in the shop. It’s small production and his previous vintages have gotten 93s and 94s from Wine Advocate. Definitely something you’ve got to try.