Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wines from organically grown fruit, great for the palate and the land

Wines produced from organically grown fruit are not only great tasting wines, but good for the environment and the winegrower as well. 

At the recent Organic Grapegrowing Conference, grower Ted Hall said that the fundamental objective of organic farming is to create a healthy plant.  “We’re trying to create a plant that is balanced and appropriate for its site, slope and conditions.  A healthy plant can produce fantastic flavors at full physiological ripeness without practices like water stress and long hang-time that can weaken a plant.” 

Winegrower Lou Preston is a great advocate of organic farming.  He feels that the living soil is the epicenter of sustainable farming.  Lou says, "Our program starts with the annual application of hundreds of tons of compost which we think of as yoga for the vines.  We buy compost and we make compost from our farm and winery waste combined with manure from a local organic dairy.  We grow winter leguminous cover crops that contribute nitrogen naturally as well as carbonaceous matter to feed the soil microorganisms.  All that growth is then tilled into the soil with heavy cultivation equipment that use to be the norm in vineyards, but hasn't been used for years because of the trend to chemical culture."

Organic farming builds a healthy environment for the vines.  Building a strong community of worms, insects, fungi and bacteria will produce the natural nutrients necessary for the vines.  Also, these communities create an environment inhospitable to pathogens, increasing plant resistance to disease.

How can you tell if the wine is made with organic grapes?  Check the label to see it if includes the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) seal (if grown in California), or the USDA Organic seal if grown elsewhere in the USA. Other countries have similar seals.  The term organic is often confusing in the wine industry.  There are many wines that are produced with certified organic grapes, but the wine itself is not certified organic.  This is because it is difficult to produce wine without the use of sulfites.  While there are just a few organic wineries, there are many more wines that are produced with organic grapes.

Try some of these fine wines and learn that going organic is a great choice.  Bybee Vineyards and Habitat in Russian River Valley produces the 2007 “B” Pinot Noir.  This wine is a ruby colored Burgundian style Pinot Noir with aromas and flavors of plum, dark berries including black- berry and black cherry, violets and characteris-tics of earth and minerals.  It has a nice balance of acidity and tannins with a long pleasant finish.

Preston of Dry Creek has the 2007 “Syrah-Sirah”, a blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah.  This wine is brimming with the aromas and flavors of plum and black cherry with a complex structure of pepper, minerality, various spices and earthiness. 

The Syrah and Petite Sirah grapes were grown side-by-side in 100% certified estate vineyards.  Lou Preston has been a leading advocate of organic farming for years.  Not only does he grown organic grapes but also organic vegetables, olives and much more.  His tractors have been converted to run on vegetable oil to reduce pollution and dependence on fossil fuels. 

For more information:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hidden Creek Wines

Hidden Creek Wine is a small boutique winery in Livermore Valley that produces small lot wines from independent vineyards around Northern California.   Their new tasting room is next door to their crush facility at 5937 Graham Court in Livermore.  The tasting room is opened Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4:30 p.m.

They work closely with the vineyards to harvest the grapes when they reach their maximum flavors and intensities. 

The 2006 Hidden Creek Chardonnay from Berry Lane Vineyard in Napa Valley has great fruit flavors of apple and citrus with a full body and good finish.  The price is $18 per bottle.

The 2006 Merlot from La Cerezas Vineyard in Napa is a nice dry, easy drinking wine with red fruit, cherry and a touch of spice and chocolate.  Price is $24.
From Livermore Valley they offer the 2006 Syrah, ripe in raspberry and blackberry with good doses of spices including white pepper.  The tannins balance nicely and deliver a long finish.  Price is $24.

Hidden Creek’s 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is a great representative of this classic Bordeaux wine.  It is blended with Merlot and Petit Verdot bringing out flavors of cherry, raspberry, cassis and cranberry.  You will enjoy the touch of spice and balanced tannins.  The price is $28.

For more information:
Hidden Creek Wine

Monday, October 25, 2010

Red Feather Winery - country hospitality in Livermore Valley

Red Feather is a family run winery near the end of Greenville Road along the countryside of Livermore Valley.  As you drive up to the winery your feel that you have arrived at a country farm.  You are invited into their tasting room where you are sure to meet Dan and Connie Davis, proprietors of Red Feather winery.  Red Feather is a symbol from Dan’s family heritage.  The feather symbolizes his Native American heritage and was the name of his dad’s construction company. 

Connie runs the vineyard and Dan is the winemaker at Red Feather but watching them in the tasting room it is obvious that this is a shared family adventure.  The opened Red Feather four years ago and were bonded almost three years ago.  They have 23 acres on the property, of which 6 ¼ are planted in vines.  They produce approximately 1200 cases per year.

The Red Feather 2008 Estate White Cabernet Sauvignon is a favorite made entirely of Cabernet from the estate vineyards.  It is dry and crisp. The price is $20.

Red Feather’s 2007 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a Silver Medal winner and the pride and joy of the estate.  It has aromas and flavors of dark fruit and pepper with a nice full bodied mouthfeel and moderate finish.  The price is $35.

The 2005 Razzmatazz from Livermore Valley is named after their Labrador Retriever.  It is a great field blend of Syrah, Barbera and Mourvedre with dark fruits, white pepper, and a natural earthiness that you would expect from this blend.  It is a great wine for a summer barbeque.  It is a nice blend for only $28.

For dessert, look for the Red Feather 2005 Jaiden’s Dessert Wine in a port style with Livermore fruit.  This is a late harvest wine with a nice blend of blackberry and black cherry.  This is delicious to drink on its own or to pour over a dessert of poached pears.  The price is $30 for a 325 ml bottle.

For more information:
Red Feather Winery

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rubicon Estates 2006 CASK Cabernet Sauvignon

Rubicon Estates epitomizes the history of Napa Valley. This is one of the most historic wineries not only in Napa Valley but in California as well. The property was first established as a vineyard in 1871 by William Watson who names the farm Inglenook, a Scottish expression meaning “cozy corner.”

Finnish born Gustave Niebaum made his fortune in the Alaskan fur trade but had dreams of producing world class wine that would compete with the great wines of Europe. In 1880 the young independently wealthy Niebaum purchased the 78 acre Inglenook land plus an additional 124 acres nearby to start his dream. Niebaum spared no expense to make this a world class wine estate, planting the best varietals and designing the winery as the engineering marvel of the age, including the beautiful Inglenook Chateau completed in 1887. The winery faced hard times after Niebaum passed away in 1908, but resumed three years later, only having to close wine production in 1919 with passage of Prohibition.

After over a decade of only selling grapes, Inglenook resumed wine production and sales in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed. By now the winery was under the management of Niebaum’s grandnephew John Daniel, Jr. Daniel continued with the same determination as his granduncle in making this a world class winery. However, in 1964 he had to sell the brand and most of the vineyards to Allied Grape Growers, later becoming part of Heublein.

The next stage of the Inglenook estate began in 1975 when filmmaker Francis Coppola purchased the estate including the Niebaum residence, renaming the property Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery. Like Niebaum and Daniels before him, Coppola was determined to make this a world class winery again.

It took Coppola over twenty years to reunite all of the original vineyards and by 2002 winemaking returned to the Chateau with the opening of the Rubicon Winery. By 2006 he retires the name Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery and opens the exclusive Rubicon Estate.

The CASK Cabernet Sauvignon was first established with the 1995 vintage and pays homage to the highly stylized Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Inglenook during the John Daniel Jr. era. Rubicon CASK Cabernet epitomizes the kind of Rutherford wine that inspires and stimulates debate among connoisseurs. Using only Estate-grown fruit, CASK Cabernet employs a traditional barrel aging regimen, spending 28 months in 500-L American oak puncheons.

The 2006 CASK Cabernet Sauvignon is produced from grapes grown exclusively in two estate vineyards, Chateau and Cohn, both 100% organically certified. The grapes from these vineyards are renowned for producing Cabs with great depth, rich color and prominent berry aromas. The California Wine Examiner Tasting Panel loved this wine. The aromas and flavors delivered luscious red and dark cherry, blackberry, plum, cocoa, leather and tobacco. The tannin structure was very well balanced making it drinkable now. The finish was not as long as we have seen on other fine Rutherford Cabs but we expect that this will age beautifully and that finish should improve with time. The structure, tannins, fruits and acidity indicate great ageability. This is the special wine to serve with a roasted or grilled beef meal. The suggested price is $75.

For more information:  Rubicon Estates

California Pinot Noir is in many premium wine regions

Pinot Noir is often described as being a “difficult” grape to grow, to deal with in the winery, and to find truly great examples of, but fans are passionate about this variety, as sensually expressed by the dialogue between Miles and Maya in the 2004 movie “Sideways”. The Pinot Noir that gets the most attention is associated with the delicate, yet powerful wines of the Burgundy region in France.

Difficulties plague Pinot Noir at every step, from propagation to even its bottle-aging characteristics. The same genetic instability that has resulted in so many progenies also means that the parent vine may produce offspring that bear fruit that is nothing like the parent’s in size and shape of the berry or cluster and will frequently even have different aromas, flavors, and levels of productivity. In the vineyard the Pinot Noir grape is susceptible to spring frosts due to its early-leafing characteristic. The vines are not prolific and the lack of canopy often leaves the berries as a snack for the birds.

Great Pinot Noir creates a lasting impression on the palate and in the memory. Its aroma is often one of the most complex varietal and can be intense with a ripe-grape or black cherry aroma, accented by a pronounced spiciness that suggests cinnamon, sassafras, or mint. It is full-bodied and rich but not heavy, high in alcohol, acidic or tannic. The most appealing quality of Pinot Noir may be its soft, velvety texture. When right, it is like liquid silk, gently caressing the palate.
River Road Vineyards 2007 “Essense” Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley has a red cherry color and exhibits the great cherry and strawberry aromas and flavors expected from Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The balance of acidity and tannins leads to an exceptional finish. They produced about 100 cases and the price is $33.

River Road Vineyards has been a family farming company for years, growing the grapes used by winemakers in the area. Farming is always unpredictable and the family decided to open a small winery to use much of their fruit from their 12 acre vineyard. This is a special cuvee of 4 barrels made from selected lots.

The Whitcraft Winery 2006 “FI” Pinot Noir from Morning Dew Ranch in Anderson Valley is a fine Pinot Noir has a lighter cherry color with a nose of strawberry and plum that carries through to the palate with good acidity and a rich full mouth feel. It has a nice long finish. They produced 140 cases and the price is $33.

Morning Dew Ranch is a vineyard owed by Burt Williams of Williams-Seylem fame. “FI” stands for Fred’s influence. Fred was Burt’s son who passed away, but he told his dad to plant clone 23 (“Mariafeld clone”) which is the primary grape in this Pinot Noir.
Downhill Wines 2007 Pinot Noir from Peter Martin Ray Vineyards in Santa Cruz Mountains has dark earthy qualities reminiscent of black tar and sandalwood. As you taste the wine you will enjoy the aromas and flavors of cherry cola and significant spices including pipe tobacco, cinnamon, cloves and anise. The finish includes blackberry and forest floor. The price is $3328.

Martin Ray began planting grapes in the 1940’s in the Santa Cruz Mountains, sites which now include the Mountain Winery and Mount Eden Vineyards. His son Peter has maintained the tradition and still farms many of the same vines his famous father planted in the hills above Saratoga.
For more information: