Archive for Pinot Noir

2006 Chronicle Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: The perfect pairing

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Chronicle Wines, and secure the final cases of their softly elegant Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, for our exacting Operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Chronicle Wines

Wine Subject: 2006 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Winemaker: Ted Lemon

Backgrounder:

The pairing of Chronicle proprietor, Mike Hengehold with master winemaker, Ted Lemon, is a potent one. By releasing limited quantities of spectacular wines, Mike is fulfilling his commitment to releasing wines that reflect the true terroir of select wine growing regions along California’s North Coast. Ted Lemon is a recognized as a modern master of Pinot Noir, both in California, and in France, where he received a great deal of his winemaking experience.

The Sonoma Coast AVA is the 750 square mile area with the Pacific ocean on its western boundary, the San Pablo Bay to the south and Mendocino County to the north, headed inland to the other designated AVAs in Sonoma County. The region is heavily influenced by the cooler ocean climate, increased rainfall and fog that lingers long on the coastal mountains. The specific climate suits the demanding Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay very well.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Perfect ruby hues with perfectly even color, from the clear red core of the wine, right out to the edge of the glass. The wine has a softly weighty look when swirled. The wine bounces around in the glass and then settles quickly. Several second later, small tears appear high up on the wall of the glass. They hang there for a moment and then, in unique fashion, begin to move slowly down the glass.

Smell – Lush and very full on the nose, with young strawberry, Bing cherry and soft cranberry are the first to greet you. These are followed by soft spice, subtle cedar and a hint of gunpowder.

Feel – Ultra-soft on the tip of the tongue and across the mid-palate. After a moment, the wine seems to gain some weight, settling on the mid and back palates, where it coats the mouth. Soft tannins add a gentle and very gradual spreading dryness. After the wine breaths for some time, a slight spiciness emerges at the rear palate, with a softly warm intensity that adds character.

Taste – Delicious and flavorful, with Bing cherry, strawberry and cassis, balanced with dried violets, earthen black cherry, soft spice and a hint of black tea. Flavors seems to increase after you swallow a sip.

Finish – Long and bright, with flavors that start with bright cherry and transmute to darker and more earthen, with a slate minerality and very mild spice.

Conclusion – This is one elegant Pinot Noir! Super soft and velvet-smooth, as soon as this wine hit your tongue, you feel your palate relax – and your senses open up. The soft feel carries soft flavors that grow in intensity, even after your sip is gone from your mouth. Aromatics are true Sonoma Coast, with bright fruit that is tempered against a soft earthiness. The gunpowder aroma is one that I always take delight in. With its bright acidity, this Pinot makes for an easy companion to most foods. I had mine with a wild mushroom risotto with freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano, which was absolutely perfect. Drinking beautifully right now, we recommend that you buy enough bottles to last you through the year.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Mike Hengehold, Owner, Chronicle Wines

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Be Patient

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: March 2008


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Mike. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Chronicle One Hundred Year Old Vines Zinfandel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

MIKE HANGEGOLD: Thanks, Agent Red. It is our pleasure to showcase our Zinfandel with you, today.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

MIKE: Living in Europe for six months while I was in college, and immersing myself in all of the fascinating and varied cultures of food and wine across Europe. It was an absolute blitz of the senses!

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

MIKE: Ted Lemon of Littorai.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

MIKE: Foodies and wine geeks!

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

MIKE: The Sonoma Coast has been getting a lot of attention lately, as one of the trendiest and most desirable regions for cool-climate Pinot Noir. The 2006 Chronicle Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is sourced primarily from McDougall Ranch, located on a ridge 3.4 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, northwest of the town of Cazadero. 2006 provided the ideal conditions in this area for crafting a balanced, elegant, and altogether harmonious Pinot Noir. Those who appreciate Pinot from the North Coast have been seeking out wines from 2006, as among the best in recent memory.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

MIKE: There are so many great options with this wine – I particularly like it with grilled salmon over spinach, and with wild Chanterelles sautéed in butter.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sonoma Coast so special?

MIKE: The Sonoma Coast terroir is so distinct – the cool temperatures and long growing season are ideal, and I am fond of the flavor juxtaposition of the traditional red fruits, bing cherry with rugged qualities of forest floor and sandalwood.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

MIKE: We are nurturing the 2010 Pinots along while waiting patiently for the release of the 09’s this fall.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

MIKE: Recognize that they are cool climate wines, featuring good natural acidity and balance to complement a variety of cuisine. These wines are best enjoyed over a meal.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

MIKE: Salud!

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the WINERY can be seen in this satellite photo.

Amorosa Bella Mendocino Sparkling Brut

Posted in California, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Bubbly for Mom!

Operative: Agent Sparkle

Objective: Find a perfect Sparkling Brut in anticipation of Mother’s Day.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Amorosa Bella

Wine Subject: Mendocino Sparkling Brut Sparkling Wine

Winemaker: Kenneth Juhasz

Backgrounder: Mendocino County, just north of Sonoma County has numerous great wineries most notably towards Ukiah and along the Russian River Valley inland as well as the Navarro River along Anderson Valley. The sparkling wine tradition int he region dates to the early 1980s when Champagne Louis Reoderer invested in 500 acres int he cooler Anderson Valley. Since that time, this area has been a secret ‘mecca’ for wines of the champenois tradition.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Bright and inviting, this pale straw yellow sparkler has excellent clarity and as its mousse fades it leaves behind trails of medium sized bubbles that twist their way to the surface.

Smell – Light and fresh with a medium intensity, showing aromas of Anjou pear, sweet & tart grapefruit and sweet tropical fruit. Framing the vibrant fruit is a toasted buttered biscuit, orange blossom flowers and honey and a subtle nutty component.

Feel – This medium-bodied sparkler is Brut-dry with vibrant effervescence that compliments its lively acidity and a crisply textured minerality.

Taste – Inviting flavors of both green and ripe Anjou pear, tart citrus grapefruit, tropical melon toasted vanilla and biscuit, orange blossoms, crisp minerals and subtle nutty, creamery notes that balance the tingly bubbles.

Finish – Medium in length, very clean and crisp with the tree fruit and toasted biscuit and vanilla fading first followed by the citrus and minerality and lively effervescence that invites another sip.

Conclusion – The Amorosa Bella Mendocino Sparkling Brut is a lovely sparkler that is deliciously elegant, smart and crisp on the palate with a vibrant effervescence that tickles the palate. Perfect to enjoy with brunch, lunch or as we did watching the sun fade into the horizon with fresh schucked New England oysters on the half-shell.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

Mother’s LOVE sparkling wine!

Dr. Charlyn Belluzzo, internationally recognized health and wellness expert, author, and owner of Amorosa Bella Winery is back with one of her award winning sparkling wines.

Mother’s Day is closely approaching, Sunday, May 8th. It is the perfect time to reignite all of your senses with Dr. Belluzzo’s light and luscious sparkling wine!

In Italian, “Amorosa Bella” means beautiful lover. The love affair is with life!

Literally speaking, Amorosa Bella beautiful bottled sparkling wine is the essence of experiencing the full spectrum of “sensuality” using all six of your sense: sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, and intuition.

SUBJECT: Dr. Charlyn Belluzzo

WINE EDUCATION: Though classically trained in an academic sense, Dr. Belluzzo has made it her mission to expand our path on the road to wellness by living a sensual life. Dr. Belluzzo and talented winemaker, Penelope Gadd-Coster, handcraft uniquely sensual wines exclusively for Amorosa Bella.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: “Wine is relationship!” True to Amorosa Bella’s Italian family heritage, wine is blended to bring greater pleasure to everyday living. Through a luscious alchemy of elements, wines awaken your senses create intimate personal moments and enliven all gatherings.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Living with passion requires igniting the spark. Our sparkling wines flicker, then burst into flame!”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 23 October 2009


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Charlyn. We are thrilled to be showing your Sparkling Brut NV today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

CHARLYN BELLUZZO: It’s my pleasure!

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

CHARLYN: As a scientist and a medical researcher, I am fascinated by the science of our senses. Our senses are primal and have been essential to our survival dating back to the dawn of humankind. As we refined our intellect, we lost touch with our ability to “feel”. Rediscovering your senses is exciting! Wine, particularly sparkling wine, triggers all of your senses.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

CHARLYN: The characteristics of Amorosa Bella wines please some of the most sophisticated wine aficionado, yet the romantic sensual nature of our wines and the enjoyable lifestyle we purvey attracts a new class of young wine enthusiasts.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

CHARLYN: Our Sparkling Brut NV is alluring and elegant. This sparkling wine evokes the delicacy of Asian pear and the finesse of white fig, brioche and hazelnut. Amorosa Bella Sparkling Brut is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The bright fresh fruit is followed to the finish crisp and clean. Like twilight itself, the small lively bubbles are full of light and mystery.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

CHARLYN: Summertime is Sparkling wine time! This time of the year, Sparkling wine is ideal for everyday enjoyment; lower alcohol and no residual sugar.

Chill down Amorosa Bella Sparkling Brut wine as a refreshing drink alone or a perfect match for many dishes from salads to spicy outdoor barbeque dishes! Try sparkling wine with salty foods like potato chips or popcorn.

A bowl of fresh fruit or berries, drizzled with sparkling wine becomes a light appetizer or desert. Place your Sparkling Brut fruit bowls in the freezer and create a fruity wine slush—perfect for an outdoor appetizer on a warm summer evening.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?

CHARLYN: Amorosa Bella wines are conceived in the heart of Sonoma County, California, nestled along the famed Russian River, where the beauty of lush hillsides laced with delicate rows of grapevines and alluring aromas fill your senses. Temperate weather; warm sunny days and nights cooled by the ocean fog as it rolls in most summer evenings infuses the grapes and the people living in the region with a unique sweetness that is intoxicating making easy conversation with friends and lovers.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

CHARLYN: Springtime and early summer at Amorosa Bella is buzzing! We are currently bottling the 2010 white varietals.

As you all know, the process for producing Amorosa Bella sparkling wines is much different from our still wine portfolio. Wine created from our 2010 harvest, destine to become sparkling wine was just placed in the bottle for the first time!

We will now let these bottles “rest” with their very first corks for six months, waiting their first disgorging. Our sparkling wine is made in the traditional riddle method, periodically hand turning each bottle, disgorging three separate times before the final cork is placed, eighteen to twenty-four months after harvest.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

CHARLYN: Get to know yourself and explore your own tastes and style as you experience wine. Discover your wine preferences using all of your senses. Consider which wines you would select for yourself to enjoy when no one else is watching. There are no wrong wine choices if your senses are pleased.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

CHARLYN: Ask your mother, friends, and even yourself what would the best wine be for celebrating this season. We invite you to pop a cork on Amorosa Bella Sparkling Brut and raise a glass to toast your love affair with life!

2007 Ceja Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , , on April 27, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Familia

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Ceja Vineyards and secure an allocation of their exceptional 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir, an Operative favorite

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Ceja Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2007 Carneros Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Armando Ceja

Backgrounder: Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the Carneros viticultural area, a winegrowing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir which thrives here. Ceja Vineyards is a Wine Spies favorite and we are proud to bring you another successive vintage of their wonderful Carneros Pinot. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report to learn more about this fantastic wine.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Cherry red hues with perfect clarity through the darkening core. Color is dense and concentrated, all the way out to the fine pink edge that rings the glass. On swirling, medium-width, wine-stained tears begin high on the glass and meander slowly downward.

Smell – This wine leads with a earthy dark cherry note. This gives way to aromatic young strawberry, sweet wood, dried orange peel, tomato stem, India black tea, and a hint of gunpowder. After some swirling and sipping, additional aromas of red plum and soft spices emerge.

Feel – Cool and light on the attack, with a bright acidity. The wine becomes softly grippy on the mid-palate as fine tannins introduce a slowly spreading dryness. This soft dryness begins at the edges of the palate and spreads inward, eventually drying the lips and cheeks.

Taste – Earthy cherry, young strawberry, red rose petals and sweet woods sit atop subtler tomato vine, soft oak, dried black tea leaf, tender savory herbs and soft spice. At the end, slate and a hint of truffle join in as fruit flavors tail off.

Finish – Long and flavorful, with a crushed velvet feel that shows up at the tail end. As the fruit tapers off, soft truffle and slate complete the experience.

Conclusion – Once again, we are so pleased by another great Ceja Pinot Noir. Allow the wine time to open up, by decanting, and you will be rewarded with more authentic fruit and a Fuller, more elegant feel. Rich with flavor and expressive aromatics, this well-rounded wine is a fantastic example of Napa Carneros Pinot Noir. Complex and interesting enough to enjoy on its own, this wine was really built with food in mind. A perfect companion for nearly anything. We paired ours with corn crust pizza with generous tomato sauce, salty Kalamata olives and feta cheese. It was a perfect pairing, with the wine enhancing the meal and offering a tasty cleanse of the palate between bites.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Armando Ceja

WINE EDUCATION: My wine education started immediately upon my arrival here to the US from Mexico. I immigrated in 1967 with my family when I was seven years old. We settled in north Napa where I started working alongside my parents and siblings in the vineyards. Over the years I fell in love with the grape growing process and eventually decided I would make a career out of it. I worked at various wineries throughout high school and even had the chance to make my first barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon at the age of seventeen before I headed off to UC Davis where I received degrees in oenology and viticulture. I was on my way!

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: After college I worked for Kenwood Vineyards in both winemaking and vineyard management before joining the management team at the Christian Brothers winery on Mt. Veeder. After a few years at Christian Brothers I decided it was time to strike out on my own; I formed Vina Del Sol (Vines of the Sun), my own vineyard management company.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Grow the best fruit possible in the vineyards and let nature take its course in the cellar utilizing gentle wine-making techniques.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: Wine is not a lifestyle, it represents life itself.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1998, Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Armando Ceja. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Sonoma Carneros Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

WINEMAKER: Thanks for spreading the Ceja love. Can I have a cool “Agent” name, too?

RED: We’ve already given you one, Agent Carneros! Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

WINEMAKER: Having been born into a seasonal farm-working family, I had no choice but to work in the vineyards of Napa as a child. During harvest I would follow the grapes to the winery, curious to see how the grapes would end up. That curiosity still leads me to the cellar today.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

WINEMAKER: I was fortunate to have Gino Zepponi of ZD Wines as mentor growing up.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

WINEMAKER: Mother Earth

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

WINEMAKER: ou are featuring our signature 2007 Carneros Estate Pinot Noir from our Vina del Sol Vineyard, located in the heart of the Carneros appellation. We grow 15 acres of Pinot Noir made up of two clones: Dijon & Pommard. This wine is light in color and texture, feeling silky and tasting of cherry, currant & plum, with hints of loamy earth and rose petal on the polished finish. It’s one of my favorite vintages that I’ve ever produced.. enough said..

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

WINEMAKER: This wine pairs beautifully with so many types of dishes. Considering the nice weather that we’ve been having some of my favorite pairings involve grilling outside. Grilled chicken, grilled skirt steak and grilled vegetables paired with our Pinot Noir is a killer combo!

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Carneros region so special?

WINEMAKER: The proximity to the cool fog and breezes from the bay makes the climate in Los Carneros cooler and more moderate than the wine regions further north in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The cooler climate has made Carneros attractive for the cultivation of certain varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (two of our flagship varietals). I will always consider Carneros such a special appellation because it’s also the first acreage we acquired purchased in 1983.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

WINEMAKER: We’re finalizing 2009 Pinot Blends for the Estate Vineyard wines & blending our our 2010 red varietals to make our new red “Vino de Casa” blends. Let’s not forget tasting, and re-tasting all of the lots, that’s probably the most important aspect in the cellar right now.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

WINEMAKER: With a wine glass and corkscrew!

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Winery Check:

The location of the Ceja Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Vina Del Sol vineyard and Ceja Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

2008 Encanto Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , on April 23, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Me Encanto Esta Vina

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Track down winemaker Rudy Zuidema on and acquire his first Pinot Noir release.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Encanto Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Rudy Zuidema

Backgrounder: Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the independent Carneros viticultural area, a wine growing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. Originally designated in 1983, the region’s distinct Terroir and cool climate make it one of the best regions for the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The first grapes were planted here in the early 1800s by missionaries. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Pinot thrives here.

Today’s Carneros Pinot Noir is made by our good friend and rising star winemaker Rudy Zuidema who also makes wine for White Cottage Ranch has worked at some of Napa’s best wineries such as Robert Craig, Honig and St. Clement and also consults for several other wineries.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark garnet in color with ruby streaks and a subtle violet tint that shows when poured into the glass. When swirled, tightly spaced and fast pin-thin legs ring the glass.

Smell – Fragrant aromas of black cherry and other red and black fruit blend with exotic spice, smokey oak and soft earthy notes. Hints of flowers, cocoa and anise also emerge giving this wine a lovely but approachable complexity.

Feel – Ultra smooth, this dry and medium-to-full bodied Pinot is expansive on the palate and has fine but sturdy tannins that are framed with lively acidity and textured minerality that grasps the fruit and lingers into the finish.

Taste – Ripe black cherry, red raspberry and some strawberry lead off with notes of toasted oak with toasted vanilla reflexes, exotic spice, sweet herb and soft earthy notes. The subtle anise and cocoa from the nose also make an appearance on the palate.

Finish – Very clean and medium in length with the spice and minerality lingering just longer than the bright ripe fruit and other flavors.

Conclusion – For an inaugural release, the 2008 Encanto Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir is a delicious example of why Carneros is one of the top regions for the varietal in California. A lovely nose, smooth and expansive on the palate and great fruit and other complex classic flavors all work in unison. For a youthful wine, it is drinking very well right now and should continue to develop for many years to come. A sturdier Pinot with good acidity, this wine will pair well with many creative kitchen creations and it was a big hit with diners at Pimento’s Restaurant in Exeter, NH where Agent White covertly enjoys great local New England food with an international flair.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Rudy Zuidema

WINE EDUCATION: BS Degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Patz and Hall, Robert Craig, Ehlers Estate, White Cottage Ranch, The GRADE.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I would like to act as a historian through wine. Showing what mother nature brings to each vintage and making sure the wine speaks clearly of it.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: It takes a lot of beer to make wine.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1996 Robert Craig Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Rudy. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Encanto Vineyards Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

RUDY ZUIDEMA: I am so happy to be featured on your site today. It is one of my favorite sites to keep up with the pulse of the industry.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

RUDY: I will always remember the epiphany I had drinking the 1987 Jordan Cabernet. It was the first time the nuances and subtle flavors that my mentors were describing actually popped out for me.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

RUDY: There are so many. Ben Riggs from Australia taught me about wine work integrity and how just “good enough” is absolutely not good enough. Auraujo wines to me are the most authentic that come out of Napa Valley. I want to my wines to be similar in how they taste like farming, not winemaking.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

RUDY: I make wine that my wife and I can enjoy anytime, anyplace. My wines should go just as well with a friend and a sunset as they do with at five course dinner.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

RUDY: This is my very first effort at making Pinot Noir. After 20 years of winemaking it finally happened. I took a pretty conservative approach to making this to make sure that the elegance, grace, and finesse that I love about Pinot Noir were present. I am very happy with the complexity of the aromas and the layers of spicy fruit. My proudest accomplishment of this wine is the refined balanced finish and its velvety texture.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

RUDY: I just made a scallion and chanterelle mushroom risotto using some of Napa Style’s truffle salt and fresh Parmesan from the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufactory here in St. Helena. I haven’t had that full of a belly in quite some time.

RED: In your opinion, what makes Carneros so special?

RUDY: Carneros is known for its heavy soils, cool nights and mild days allowing for harmonious ripening of delicate grape varieties. This particular vineyard is indeed very cool but with rocky well drained soils that brings out darker, deeper fruit and more crisp acid. The finish is soooooooo long.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

RUDY: Spring has sprung so a am wearing my farming hat. The plentiful rainy season has made it very easy to open up the soils waking up the plants. I have been on a tractor for the last few days mowing the legume based cover crop down to decompose. We’ve also begun our first biodynamic tea application.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

RUDY: With a sense of ease and confidence. I know not everyone will love this wine, but I am sure that many will. So keep putting it in your mouth if you like it, and go find something else if you don’t. Perhaps a beer??

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

RUDY: Just to never get too set on the same wines from the same producers. There is so much out there to be discovered, the wine adventure never ends.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

RUDY: Always a pleasure fellas!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Encanto Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.

Mumm Napa Valley Demi Sec

Posted in California, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: The Better Half

Operative: : Agent Red

Objective: In time for Easter and Mother’s Day delivery, return to our dear friends at Mumm Napa and procure an allocation of their latest winery-only Demi-Sec, a softly sweet and deliciously crisp bubbly for our Operatives celebrations

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Mumm Napa

Wine Subject: Napa Demi-Sec Napa Valley

Winemaker: Ludovic Dervin

Backgrounder: For today’s selection, we sent Agent Red out in search of a sparkling wine worthy of being served at the Easter and Mother’s Day celebrations of our Operatives around the country. After an arduous search, Red returns with a secret cache of Mumm Napa’s delicious Demi-Sec, a crisp, softly-sweet and delicious sparkling wine. Read Red’s detailed tasting notes and mission report below, which includes an interview with Mumm winemaker Ludovic Dervin

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Light golden, with an energetic cascade of columns of fine bubbles. These closely-spaced columns swirl around each other in a lively dance that never seems to abate – even after the wine has sat in the flute for a long period of time.

Smell – Fresh orange blossom and acacia flower yield to white peach, green and yellow citrus with hints of pear, yeasty bread dough and vanilla custard.

Feel – A soft flume of bubbles form on the front palate and the mousse expands slightly. Across the mid-palate the wine feels smooth and wet. After a moment, an soft dryness eases its way around the palate. Overall, the wine has a very elegant and plush feel that invites repeated sipping.

Taste – Delicious, soft and slightly sweet, with flavors of yeasty sweetbread, citrus, melon, vanilla and the faintest hint of soft cinnamon.

Finish – After the rush of the mousse fades, the wine becomes light and smooth in the mouth. A moment after swallowing, a very easy and very gradual dryness spreads around the palate, sustaining soft flavors of citrus and yeasty sweetbread.

Conclusion – We loved the previous (2010) release of Mumm’s exciting Demi-Sec, and this newest offering has us even more excited. Where last year’s wine had something of a bite to it, this semi-dry sparkling has a softer, sweeter and more elegant demeanor. We are thrilled to have maintained such a close relationship with this fantastic winery, and we are very proud to be granted access to exclusive wines. Today’s lovely Demi-Sec is the perfect wine for those that don’t enjoy the bold and harder style of Brut sparkling wines. Today’s wine has just a touch of sweetness, balanced against just the right amount of easy dryness. Stock up, now, for Easter, Mother’s Day or you post Tax-day celebrations!

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

LUDOVIC: The Mumm Napa Demi Sec is a deliciously light, fresh and fruit-forward sparkling wine. It is a lovely way to start off a Spring or Summer soiree or is the perfect finale to a special meal. Perfect for sipping today, the profile will broaden with one to two years on the cork. As the sugar continues to caramelize over time, this wine will develop even more complexity, richness and creaminess.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

LUDOVIC: This is a great spring-time wine especially for Easter and Mother’s Day Brunches. We get the family together and enjoy this fresh style with waffles with strawberry compote, goat cheese and arugula frittata or eggs Florentine. In the evening, I try pairing it with blue cheese stuffed figs with balsamic reduction, sweet and spicy stir-fry or drizzling it over fresh fruit for a light summer dessert.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Carneros District so special?

LUDOVIC: The Carneros District, with its cool evenings, foggy mornings and warm days, provides the best climate around for producing the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. When we go out tasting the grapes, we’re looking for even ripening, while maintaining high acidity and moderate sugar levels. These qualities are what create elegant, ageable sparkling wines that we can enjoy through the years.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

LUDOVIC: We are celebrating our Napa Green Certification and are going through our annual ISO certification audits which measure our standards for quality, safety and environmental. We are very proud of these accomplishments and put a lot of effort in maintaining these international standards of quality. We’re also busy in the vineyards, watching the crazy Spring weather unfold before us with ample rain and spots of sun and warmth. We’re just seeing some bud break and hoping that the frost is behind us.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The gorgeous Rutherford, California location of the Mumm Napa winery and vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.

2007 Kastania Vineyards Jaden & Keira’s Cuvee Estate Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , on April 11, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: How many sips?

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Infiltrate Petaluma Gap winery, Kastania Vineyards. Procure an allocation of their best single vineyard Pinot Noir for our demanding Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Kastania Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2007 Pinot Noir – Sonoma Coast

Winemaker: Leslie Sisneros

Backgrounder: The Sonoma Coast AVA is the 750 square mile area with the Pacific ocean on its western boundary, the San Pablo Bay to the south and Mendocino County to the north, headed inland to the other designated AVAs in Sonoma County. The region is heavily influenced by the cooler ocean climate, increased rainfall and fog that lingers long on the coastal mountains. The Petaluma Gap encompasses a small, verdant are at the southern edge of the appellation. The specific climate there suits the demanding Burgundian varietal of Pinot Noir very well. Made by wine legend, Leslie Cisneros, today’s wine is a delicious treat that is well worthy of your consideration.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Beautiful, concentrated ruby hues at the center of the wine fade to a fine pink at the edge of the glass. Swirl the wine, and a cascade of wine-stained tears form quickly and then run quickly down the edges of the glass.

Smell – Sweet Bing cherry, black cherry, red plum and cedar shavings. These are followed by softer notes of oak, raspberry and hints of gunpowder with subtle pepper and clove.

Feel – Velvet smooth on the initial attack, then soft and round across the mid-palate. As the wine settles on the tongue, it becomes softly grippy, adding a spreading dryness. Supple tannins eventually give the wine a crushed velvet feel.

Taste – Ripe red cherry and Raspberry and black cherry out in front. Then dark cranberry, red plum and are accompanied by soft black pepper, cinnamon and clove.

Finish – Very long and very flavorful, the finish leads with red fruit and then goes softly spicy, with pepper, cinnamon and clove. At the very end, the wine shows a soft minerality and the subtle flavor of dried red flower petals.

Conclusion – This is a delicious, juicy and elegant Pinot Noir that excited our tasting panel with its bold fruit, earthen notes and bright acidity. The nose is bold and inviting. The flavors of the wine are natural and representative of the terroir of the Sonoma Coast. With bright red fruit and and softly earthy backbone, this is an excellent food wine. We also enjoyed it all on its own. Enjoy with a garlic rubbed steak or a grilled chicken with spicy BBQ sauce!

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Leslie Sisneros for Kastania Vineyards

WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis, Viticulture a very long time ago

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Haywood Winery, Chateau St. Jean, Rodney Strong, Kendall Jackson (13 Harvests, Varietal Winemaker for KJ Pinot Noir for 8 years). Started my own brand and consulting in 2005.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Make wine to please yourself and if some else likes it – great.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: Life is too short to take yourself so seriously.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 2004


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Leslie Sisneros. We are thrilled to be showing your 07 Kastania Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

LESLIE SISNEROS: My pleasure.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

LESLIE: I received my Plant Science, Viticulture degree in Davis and during that time of intense learning I fell in love with the whole process of nurturing a vine to produce such a complex and diverse end product as wine.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

LESLIE: I would say Kerry Damskey has always been my mentor and the strong women in the industry have highly influenced me, such as Merry Edwards and Helen Turley.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

LESLIE: I make wine to challenge myself.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

LESLIE: This 2007 Kastania Pinot is what I consider to be a classic Sonoma Coast Pinot. It shows bright fresh red berry flavors enhanced by a balanced acidity and soft oak notes. This vintage was also one of the most stellar years for Pinot and Kastania was no exception.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

LESLIE: This wine always shows well at Thanksgiving Dinner – turkey, yams, cranberry – all the fixins.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sonoma Coast, Petaluma Gap so special?

LESLIE: I believe the micro climate in the Petaluma Gap is very unique and the flavor profile from the wines in that particular area have delicate but complex characteristics exhibiting bright natural acidities along with balanced fresh flavors of raspberry and Bing cherry. The fog and wind combined with the soil profiles create conditions that are different to the Russian River Valley, therefore creating wines that are authentically distinct – crisp and elegant.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

LESLIE: Blending trials, blending and writing up tasting notes from the previous vintage.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

LESLIE: Pinots are easy drinking, approachable and versatile with just about any food, except maybe Ramen. I like to change up the amount of oak I put into different blends so the consumer may prefer one Pinot over another for the amount of oakiness on the palate, among other things. I always encourage people to give a wine time to breathe – not just five minutes. Sometimes it tastes more complete after 2-3 hours or maybe the next day if it is a new vintage.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

LESLIE: I think it is important for the consumer to explore the boutique wineries these days and support the local growers. In these difficult times several small wineries are being taken over by the “big guys” and their diverse flavor profiles previously showcased in their small lots are being diluted into large non-descript blends. The small wineries do not have the resources to promote or advertise as the large wineries so it is up to the consumer to open their minds to new brands and help the boutique premium brands survive and thrive.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Kastania Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

2008 Artesa Vineyards and Winery Carneros Estate Reserve Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , , , on April 6, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Romancing Carneros

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Acquire a special allocation of Artesa’s Napa / Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Artesa Vineyards and Winery

Wine Subject: 2008 Pinot Noir Reserve – Carneros Estate

Winemaker: Mark Beringer

Backgrounder: Artesa Winery, in the Carneros region, is a Wine Spies Operative favorite. Wines from this exciting producer are commonly top-sellers, selling out quickly. Now under the direction of Michael Beringer (yes, from that Beringer family), Artesa’s winemaking takes a great leap forward. Their wines continue to improve, and they continue to hold a special place in our hearts.

Some of our favorite California Pinot Noir comes from the independent Carneros viticultural area, a wine growing region which straddles the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. Originally designated in 1983, the region’s distinct Terroir and cool climate make it one of the best regions for the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The first grapes were planted here in the early 1800s by missionaries. The cool Carneros region provides ideal growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Pinot thrives here.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Like a fine French burgundy, this wine exhibits gorgeous tones of lilac and ruby. The core darkens slightly, but is perfectly clear. At the edge of the glass, the finest ring of pink runs a glinting circle around the wine. Swirl the wine, and skinny tears, stained the color of the wine, move swiftly down the glass.

Smell – Bold intensity, with red cherry, raspberry, cranberry, cassis, young strawberry and supple leather, out in front. Behind these, and as the wine opens up, bramble, dried earth, subtle fennel and soft brown spice are revealed.

Feel – Cool and light, at first, then quickly grippy. Plush tannins and a bright acidity add some excitement. After a moment, the dryness spreads outward to the lips and cheeks, where the create a mineral-laden dryness.

Taste – Cherry cordial, young strawberry, blackberry and dark plum take the lead. These primary flavors play with an underlying layer of clove, cinnamon, soft oak, subtle espresso and a hint of anise.

Finish – Very bright and focused, with red fruit, minerals and spice that tail off very slowly. As flavors subside, the wine has a mouth-watering effect that encourages you to have another sip.

Conclusion – The 2008 Artesa Vineyards and Winery Pinot Noir Reserve – Carneros Estate is a bright, flavor-filled and delicious wine that would be a perfect companion for many foods. Red fruit and earthen qualities create a very balanced experience. The long finish had our tasting panel really taking their time between sips. This wine is ready to drink now, but we are holding on to a few bottles for the next few years. Pair with a pan-fried pork chop, a pulled pork sandwich or a bowl of summertime chili.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Mark Beringer


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Mark. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Artesa Reserve Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

MARK BERINGER: Thanks, Agent Red. We’re happy to be with you, today.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

MARK: Not particularly. I am a fifth generation winemaker who was born and raised in the Napa Valley. Winemaking has always been a way of life in my family, so I am just doing what comes naturally to me.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

MARK: I spent a number of years working with Tom Rinaldi as his assistant winemaker. He taught me a lot about working with difficult varieties such as Merlot. He was also close friends with Bob Levy who was the winemaker for Merryvale at the time. I always enjoyed listening to Tom and Bob debate over winemaking philosophies. Of course, Bob went on to become the winemaker at Harlan Estate and makes some of the best wines in California.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

MARK:I really just make wines the way I think they should be made. The most important thing to me is that you see the vineyard in the wines.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

MARK: The 2008 Artesa Estate Reserve Pinot Noir is very expressive of the Carneros region. When I think of Carneros Pinot, I want to see red fruits like cherries, strawberries, and raspberries. The wines from this region also express a nice floral component of rose pedals or lavender. The key is to keep the oak influences on the light side and allow the fruit to express itself fully. This offering has all of the nice fruit un front with the light toasty of the new French oak barrels in the background.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Carneros region so special?

MARK: The Carneros region is located very close to the San Pablo Bay (San Francisco Bay) and is known for being the coolest region in Napa Valley. The proximity to the bay lends morning fog and cool afternoon breezes that help the grapes retain their natural acidity. Our estate property is some of the highest elevation vineyards in the area. We have well sloped hills that have a high level of gravel that adds a minerality to the wines which in unique in Carneros.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

MARK: We are currently in our blending season. This is the time of the year when we sit down and taste all of the individual wine lots and determine their quality. When then begin blending them together in the lab in a multitude of different concentrations in order to determine which components combine to make the best wine. During these several months, we will taste around a dozen wines several times per week.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

MARK: Although several of our wines are built to age, the majority of them are meant to be enjoyed in their youth. They are fruit forward and delicate in style. They can be enjoyed both with food or just by themselves.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

MARK: Artesa has one of the best visitor’s centers in the area. We have a spectacular view of the rolling hills of Carneros with the bay beyond. On a clear day we can even see downtown San Francisco from our view deck.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Artesa Vineyards and Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

2009 Mahoney Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , on April 1, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Poor Tortoise!

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Wine Spies favorite, Mahoney Vineyards, substantiate reports that they’ve crafted a worthy follow-up to their last Haire Vineyard Pinot Noir with the latest vintage.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Mahoney Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Ken Foster

Backgrounder: The Carneros region, which straddles Napa and Sonoma Counties, is famous for producing incredible wines, particularly Pinot Noir. We were fortunate to showcase a Haire Vineyard Pinot from Mahoney a few years ago and we were thrilled to learn that they finally released another one, this year. Agent Red was dispatched to investigate. Read his tasting profile and Winemaker interview, below, to learn what makes todays wine so special

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Cherry red, with a darkening ruby core. The wine maintains evenly concentrated color, right out to the very edge of the glass. After a hearty swirl, tall, skinny legs move swiftly down the inside of the glass.

Smell – Bright cherry, cassis and cranberry lead the charge. Layered just beneath, are bramble, soft spice, young raspberry, subtle cedar and a hint of leather.

Feel – Round on entry, then the wine transforms from high and bright (acidity) to more soft and plush. After a moment, a soft dryness spreads around the entire palate, eventually drying the lips and cheeks.

Taste – : Loaded with flavors, including dusky red cherry, young blackberry, young strawberry, cedar and young sweetwood. Just below these, follow-on flavors of subtle fresh salad herbs, flint and bold black pepper linger into the finish.

Finish – Starts sweet and then goes brightly tart. This brightness is sustained and then the flavors soften and slowly dwindle as the edges of the tongue enjoy a spreading dryness. At the very end, a lovely hint of black pepper and flint round out the finish.

Conclusion – Another fantastic offering from our good friends at Mahoney! We love Mahoneys wines and we love Carneros Pinot Noir, so getting the two in one is like Christmas around Wine Spies HQ. Youthful and bright, this wine is ready to drink now and we can’t help but this that it will only continue to improve over the next few years. We advise that you enjoy a few bottles now, but also squirrel a few away in your cellar – or dark, cool closet! The bright acidity makes this an easy companion for food. We’d recommend a seafood favorite or a nice pulled pork sandwich. Or, enjoy it all on its own. Either way, Yum!

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Ken Foster

WINE EDUCATION: On the job. Ongoing.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: 2002 to present: Mahoney Vineyards, Napa, CA; 1987-2002: David Bruce Winery, Santa Cruz Mtns.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: To express unique qualities of site and varietal without overbearing intervention from oak and alcohol.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Wine, first and foremost, is made from fruit, and should taste like it. It’s easy to overwhelm it in the cellar with heavy handed extraction and lots of new oak in the name of ‘maximizing the potential’. Restraint is essential, especially with delicate varieties like Pinot Noir. My goal is to preserve the quality and essence of the fruit from vineyard to bottle.”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1988


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Ken, and welcome back to The Wine Spies! We’ve missed you. We are thrilled to be showing your 2009 Haire Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

KEN FOSTER: As always, I appreciate your interest, especially in our very limited production bottlings!

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

KEN: I think it dates back nearly 30 years now, when I first tasted two single vineyard Zins, same vintage and maker, and had the realization that the wines were somehow an embodiment of the place they were grown. I had never heard the term Terroir at that point, but I was hooked by the transformation of site into flavor, and have been chasing those wispy connections ever since.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

KEN: No single wine, no single winemaker. More the realization over time that great wines come from great fruit, and good winemaking is realizing your very limited role in that greatness and accepting it. Countless discussions with other winemakers have shaped my decisions, of course, but I gravitate toward those who share that sense of humility toward a winemaker’s potential influence relative to that of the fruit.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

KEN: Sometimes I’m driven by my own curiosity, other times gratified when I realize what we make can bring happy moments into other lives. It depends on where I’ve been hiding… in the cellar, it’s generally about feeling that connection back to the vineyard, and doing justice to the site. Out in the real world, it’s about happy consumers.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

KEN: You are featuring a very limited bottling of 2009 Carneros Pinot Noir from Jim Haire’s Vineyard that straddles the Napa/Sonoma county line. This block happens to sit on the Sonoma side, meaning it can also be called Sonoma Coast. So much for appellation names. This is an unusual clone of Pinot called Jackson 16, and it’s planted on a really steep slope with crazy terraces. It looks like a thumbprint on a map, rather than the neat blocks of straight rows that are more common. We find a ripe, darker berry fruit with interesting underlying herb notes, a soft but structured feel, and nice acid/tannin balance. We opted to bottle it after 10 months in older French oak, while the fruit was still vibrant, and it has had about six months in the bottle to knit together. Pretty tasty, and likely the only pure clone 16 Pinot you can buy… if you’re into that stuff.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

KEN: It’s a pretty versatile sort of wine, like most soft, fruit forward pinot is… Can’t go wrong with pork loin, or duck breast, or Carbonara, salmon on the grill… you get the idea….

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Carneros region so special?

KEN: Carneros, very generally, is special due to fog and wind influence from both San Francisco bay, and the Pacific Ocean winds via the Petaluma Gap, depending on site. But to say anything meaningful, we can’t talk about whole appellations, or even whole vineyards. Site is extremely specific, and subtle changes in soil type, exposure to wind and sun, etc. can happen in a matter of rows or feet, and profoundly change the fruit. We are lucky to have vineyards with great drainage from sandy, gravelly loam soils, where much of Carneros is heavy clay.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

WINEMAKER: We’re finalizing 2009 Pinot Blends for the Estate Vineyard wines, and bottling 2010 white wines. Vermentino is already bottled, and we’re getting our Albarino and Chardonnay ready. Soon we will start to get the 2010 Pinots divided up into Estate and other blends, and work on the Italian reds for 2009 like Nebbiolo and Montepulciano.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

KEN: Armed with a knife and a corkscrew, sneaking up on them from the back-label side so they don’t see you. Beyond that, I hate to think people need to be conscious of an approach. There’s not really anything to KNOW, you know? Try it. If you like it, try more. We really try to make likeable wines, not preachy ones, or wines that try harder to be impressive than to be pleasant.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

KEN: You mean, besides all the other wines we make? Sure.. The key to Mahoney Vineyards is that we are grapegrowers at least as much as we are winemakers, and our goal is to express the qualities of the site. This drives our style toward fruit driven wines with minimal influence from new oak. We also pride ourselves on affordability, refusing to sell a wine for more than we’re willing to go out and spend ourselves… and we’re pretty thrifty folks here. So I think we give an honest expression of our terroirs, at an affordable price. I hope you agree.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Just for fun, we present our original mission report, when we first infiltrated Mahoney, back in 2008:

I make no bones about it, I sometimes find Agent White’s discussions on upgrading our W.I.N.E. (Wine Internet Nexus Engine) system, frightfully boring. The W.I.N.E. system is our proprietary and top secret system that, in simple terms, assists us in finding superior wines for our Operatives.

Making my way to the computer lab, I took a deep breath and braced myself for another of Agent White’s endless soliloquys.

Agent White was grinning widely. A bad sign to be sure.

“Ready to begin?” he asked.

“Uh, sure,” I lied.

“I’ve been working on a new algorithm that will make it easier to determine the likelihood that future vintages of particular wines will be better than previous vintages.”

“Wonderful,” I said. “Sounds great! Let me know know how that turns out.”

“Let S be any finite set, ƒ be any function from S to itself, and x0 be any element of S. For any i > 0, let xi = ƒ(xi−1). Let μ be the smallest index such that the value xμ reappears infinitely often within the sequence of values xi, and let λ (the loop length) be the smallest positive integer such that xμ = xλ+μ. The cycle detection problem is the task of finding λ and μ.”

I blinked at him, suddenly realizing that the blank expression on my face probably revealed my disinterest.

He went on: “I call this my Tortoise and the hare algorithm.

’Hare’… ‘hare’… That reminded me of a well-regarded vineyard I had recently heard of, Haire Vineyard.

Perking up, I grabbed my spy-handheld and, pretending to take notes as Agent White droned happily on. I punched in “Haire Vineyard” and set the Nexus to work. In an instant, a few wines and wineries were revealed. I narrowed my search based on my own favorite search criteria and was presented with a single result:

Mahoney Vineyards. 2004. Carneros Pinot Noir. Haire Vineyard.

As I read about the wine, I nodded and made “mmm, hmmm” sounds. The wine seemed fascinating and I logged a mission request with HQ.

I’ll spare you the rest of Agent White’s discourse. Needless to say, if it hadn’t been for his lecture, I never would have found today’s really superb Pinot Noir.

The Carneros region has consistently wowed me with its quality wine production – particularly Pinot production. Today’s wine is a beautiful example of delicious Carneros Pinot.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Haire Vineyards can be seen in this spy photo.

2008 Armida Winery Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , on March 29, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Kiss of the Wolf

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Infiltrate Armida Winery and secure a limited allocation of their newly released Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Armida Winery

Wine Subject: 2008 Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Brandon Lapides

Backgrounder:

The Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County, produces Pinot Noir of remarkable distinction. The cooler maritime conditions of the region make the Russian River Valley ideal for growing Pinot Noir. The Russian River Valley in Sonoma is particularly well suited to producing exceptional Pinot Noir. This AVA was officially designated in 1983, but many of the wines in the region used the designation as early as the 1970s (early in California’s wine history) with the many of the vines having been first planted in the early 1900s.

Today’s Pinot Noir comes hails from grapes grown by the world renown Bacigalupi family, whose vineyards in the Russian River Valley are legendary

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Bright ruby red in color with a clear light core that glistens when held to the light. Along the edges the color becomes a ruby-pink and when swirled evenly spaced thin legs ring the glass.

Smell – Rich, abundant and complex with notes of earthy red and black cherry and other rip red fruit layered over familiar aromas of baking spice, vanilla toast and floral violets. A touch of mushroom and black tea linger just under the fruit.

Feel – Smooth and dry, this full-bodied wine has vibrant acidity, dusty minerality and finely grained tannins that soften and evolve as the wine aerates.

Taste – Great complexity for a young Pinot with restrained red cherry, sweet raspberry and strawberry layered over baking spice and earthy notes that include forest and mushroom. Throw in some floral violets, black tea and cola all framed by toasted vanilla and oak for Pinot perfection.

Finish – Long and super clean with its red fruit and toasted oak gently fading as the spice and earthy notes linger with the dusty minerality and acidity.

Conclusion – The 2008 Armida Winery Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a delicious wine that, despite its youth, shows great complexity on both the nose and palate with a sturdy but approachable structure and a long lingering finish. Reminiscent of a nice Burgundy. Perfect to enjoy by itself, this wine’s vibrant acidity also makes it a great food wine. Enjoy this wine with a selection of fresh goat, sheep and cow’s cheeses now or cellar for up the the next five years.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Brandon Lapides

WINE EDUCATION: BS. Fermentation Science University of California at Davis

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Internships: Testarossa Vineyards, RH Phillips, Brancott Cellars; Assistant Winemaker: Peachy Canyon Winery, Dutton Goldfield Winery

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Lets bring back the old school philosophies, using as little new technology as possible.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Fill up my cup, Mazeltov.” – Black Eyed Peas.


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

Below is a transcript of Agent Red’s interview with winemaker Brandon Lapides when we featured Armida’s delicious 2008 PoiZin.

AGENT RED: Greetings, Brandon. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 PoiZin today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

BRANDON LAPIDES: No problem, you caught me at a good time before things start getting crazy with harvest.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

BRANDON: Growing up I was mystified that when our whole family would get together, there would be many lengthy discussions about different wines. My curiosity then led to my eventual love of wine.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

BRANDON: ’61 Latour. My grandfather had enough foresight to start buying Bordeaux wines in the late 60’s. I have been fortunate enough to have a few bottles over a span of 10 years. The wine has been the only wine that I have tasted that has ever lived up to its hype. The balance and complexities in the ’61 Latour after 40+ years of aging influenced my winemaking to try to have as much longevity in my own wines.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

BRANDON: This pinot noir is the essence of the Russian River Valley. Bright cherry acidity and silky tannins dominate the wine’s profile. Early morning picking and meticulous attention to the winemaking and barrel selections make this wine special and unique.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

BRANDON: I love to pair this wine with summer-fresh bruschetta. The acidity of the tomato, along with the richness of the mozzarella and toastiness of the bread match many of the same flavor profiles of the wine.

RED: In your opinion, what makes Russian River Valley so special?

BRANDON: Russian River Valley is special for pinot noir. The cool, foggy nights and warm, bright sunny days allows for beautiful fruit flavors while retaining the fruits natural acidity.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

BRANDON: These days we are evaluating barrel selections in our current 2010 wines. Once the barrels are evaluated we will rack the wine from barrel to tank and then return to our selected barrels.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

BRANDON: I always recommend that consumers accompany our wines with food. Our wines pair well with a variety of foods and should be consumed with family and friends.

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

BRANDON: I would love to invite any of your readers to come visit our vineyards, winery and tasting room right outside of Healdsburg. We have a beautiful patio with an incredible view overlooking our vineyards and manicured gardens. There is also a bocce ball court to test your skills after a glass of wine.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Armida Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

2008 Fess Parker Winery Ashley’s Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County with tags , , , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: The Lady Ashley

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Fess Parker Winery, procure the latest vintage of their always stunning Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir – for our Fess-loving Operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Fess Parker Winery

Wine Subject: 2008 “Ashley’s” Pinot Noir Sta Rita Hills

Winemaker: Blair Fox

Backgrounder: The Wine Spies have been featuring some really incredible Pinot Noir of late, but we are quite taken by Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir – so we sent Agent Red back to Fess Parker Winery, to retrieve their high-scoring, award-winning, attention-grabbing, Ashley’s Pinot Noir.

California’s Central Coast region, and specifically Santa Barbara and San Luis Obisbo County has become one of the state’s premier regions for Pinot Noir. The generally warmer climate, moderated by the coastal fog, its sandy and clay loam soil, and broad exposure results in Pinot of exceptional purity.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Striking beautiful ruby hues, right through the perfectly clear heart of the wine. Color is concentrated, right out the the very edge of the glass, where the wine shows off a soft pink hue. A flood of the thickest legs we have seen on a Pinot, go gushing gown the glass.

Smell – Arousing and foreboding, with dark earthen cherry, raspberry, strawberry and vanilla. As the wine stretches out after some good swirling, brown spice, India tea leaf, flint, soft cedar and the slightest hint of eucalyptus emerge.

Feel – Mid-weight on entry, then silky across the mid-palate, this wine quickly becomes more weighty as fine tannins and a bright acidity combine to drive a mouth-coating, flavor-filled experience. Slowly, an easy dryness begins to spread, starting at the tip of the tongue, eventually drying the entire palate.

Taste – A bounty of flavors, this wine drinks somewhere between a French Burgundy and high-end Cali Pinot. Lush flavors red cherry, dusky strawberry, cassis, flint and dried purple flowers lead the charge. These are balanced against more subtle flavors earthy black cherry, tea leaf, brown spice and hint of hard leather.

Finish – Extra-long, with flavors that evolve and change before they diminish. Red fruit easily yields to earthen characteristics, dark fruit, minerals and soft spice. At the very end, a subtle minerality and black pepper hang around with black cherry until, eventually, the flavors tail off.

Conclusion – This delicious wine has the longest finish of any Pinot Noir we have tasted this year. For such a youthful wine, we were thrilled to find that it is absolutely raring to go – and ready to drink. We featured the previous vintage of this wine, from our good friends at Fess Parker Winery, and we love to see how successive vintages progress – and improve. Kudos to winemaker, Blair Fox, for crafting another high-scoring – but more importantly – delicious and exciting Pinot Noir. Built for aging, but ready to drink now, be sure to pick enough bottles for both instances. Enjoy!

Mission Report:

With bottling underway, we were unable to spend time with winemaker, Blair Fox. Here for your information, is our previous interview, in which Blair discusses the 2007 vintage of this great wine:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Blair Fox

DATE OF BIRTH: 10/74

PLACE OF BIRTH: Santa Barbara, CA

WINE EDUCATION: B.S. Viticulture and Enology, UC Davis

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Enologist for Fess Parker Winery ‘99, Winemaker Sunstone Winery 99-02, Consultant winemaker fess Parker Winery 02, Vintage Winemaker- Haselgrove Winery- McLaren Vale South Australia 03, Associate Winemaker in charge of the Rhone Varietal programs at Fess Parker 03-05, Head Winemaker for Fess Parker Winery 05-present

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I spend a lot of time in the vineyard because I feel that wines are truly made in the vineyard. I try to show the different qualities of the different vineyards and create wines with distinct varietal character.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: I have always been particularly fond of Syrah.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Travelling throughout the Rhone Valley in France and tasting some of the best examples of Syrah and other Rhone varietals the world has to offer.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: I feel privileged to work with some of the best vineyards and fruit in Santa Barbara County.


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Blair. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Ashley’s Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

BLAIR: Thank you for showing my wine today.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

BLAIR: My parents were always traveling the globe and bringing home wines to be drunk around the dinner table. I was planning on going to medical school to become a doctor but was lured into the Viticulture and Enology program at UC Davis.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

BLAIR: I really enjoyed the viticulture side of the program, but then fell in love with the enology courses and being able to see the conversion of grapes to a final wine.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

BLAIR: I feel the best wines are made in the vineyard. You have to be diligent with your vineyard practices to grow grapes worthy of making great wine. It is all about fruit quality, canopy management and managing your yields to produce the most exciting wines possible.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

BLAIR: I am impressed by all great wines made around the world. I have gained experience making wines in two different hemispheres and like a sponge have absorbed as much knowledge from every winemaker I have ever worked with.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

BLAIR: This will be my 14th vintage.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

BLAIR: I make wines to be enjoyed by all. At Fess Parker Winery we specialize in the production of Burgundian and Rhone Varietal wines. I create these wines to be balanced with intense fruit character, rich mouthfeel and beautiful aromatics.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Santa Barbara so special?

BLAIR: Santa Barbara is a very unique region. We have very cool areas such as the Santa Rita Hills, which is the ultimate place to grow high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and we have the more interior Santa Ynez Valley where some of the most exciting Rhone varietals in the world are grown.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

BLAIR: We are in the middle of racking and blending a lot of our wines right now. I taste every barrel for quality and defects to make sure only the best wines are produced.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

BLAIR: It is our 2007 Ashley’s Pinot Noir sourced entirely from the cool, Santa Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara County. This vineyard was planted over 10 years ago and produced an average of less than 2 tons per acre in 2007. Six different clones of Pinot Noir were hand-picked, hand-sorted, fermented in small tanks, basket pressed and aged in French Oak for sixteen months before being bottled.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

BLAIR: Blackened Salmon

RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

BLAIR: I am very casual about my approach to wine. I feel wines are best drunk with food, but are also great as an aperitif or after dinner. I feel you should drink what you enjoy regardless of price or region. It is fun to be adventurous with wine and see what else is out there.

RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?

BLAIR: I love Syrah and would choose something like an old Grange from Penfolds or Cote Rotie from the Northern Rhone.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

BLAIR: Thanks!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Fess Parker Winery in Santa Barbara’s famous Foxen Canyon can be seen in this satellite photo.

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