Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge Pinot Noir

Maker: Rivers-Marie, Yountville, California, USAwp-1475111484518.png

Place of origin: Occidental Ridge Vineyard, Sonoma Coast AVA, California, USA

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 13.8%

Price: $50 (winery)

We received a complimentary tasting and tour of the winery at the time of purchase.

Appearance: Dark ruby.

Nose: Dynamic. Red raspberry, crushed blueberry, wet oak, smoke.

Palate: Pomegranate, tart cherry juice, old oak, leather, morel mushrooms.

Finish: Mixed fruit jam, crimini mushrooms, custard, oak. Softly lingers f0r a moderate length of time.

Parting words: This wine is from our (Mrs. Sipology’s and mine) trip to NoCal a couple years ago. I wrote up the trip here. Rivers-Marie produces (or at least produced in 2012) two single vineyard Sunoma Pinots, Occidental Ridge and Summa ( the latter owned by one of the co-owners of R-M) as well as a general Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

Four years in the bottle have turned a good wine into a great one. Rivers-Marie makes some of the best Pinot in California. It’s fruity, earthy and bold without being too aggressive and killing the beautiful character of the grape. If you can find some, buy it. Recommended.

 

Wente Vineyard Riva Ranch, 2013

Maker: Wente, Livermore, California, USA20160224_170838-1.jpg

Place of origin: Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey, California, USA

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for around $20 (lost the receipt)

Appearance: Light gold,

Nose: Canned pears, lychee, dab of brown butter.

Palate: Medium sweet. Golden apples, then buttery with a little bitter oak on the back end.

Finish: Oak, then green apple with a little bit of butter, then acrid oak.

Parting words: I don’t remember where I picked this up. It may have been Trader Joe’s. Before I dove into Michigan wine, I used to buy a lot of California Chardonnay, especially Wente. It’s nice to go back and check out a wine like that, especially a line extension like this Riva Ranch Single Vineyard. Riva Ranch is a Wente family owned vineyard.

It’s firmly in the California style, of course, Wente being one of the inventors of that style. Going by memory, it’s more intensely flavored than Morning Fog and as it warms up some unpleasant bitter tastes creep in, but overall it’s a tasty wine. I would appreciate more fruit, but those who enjoy the oaky/buttery style of Chard will probably enjoy this more than I.

The price is fair (though I wouldn’t pay much more than $20) and it’s nice that it’s single vineyard. Wente’s Riva Ranch Single Vineyard is recommended.

¿querry?, 2013

Maker: Bonny Doon, King City, California, USA2016-02-16-18.01.30.jpg.jpeg

Style: Pear/apple/quince cider (62%/36%/2%)

ABV: 6.9%

Purchased for $12

Appearance: Light gold

Nose: Canned Bartlett pears, apple juice from concentrate, leather, fresh fig. As it warms, a faint varnish aroma emerges.

Palate: Tart up front, then the pear and what I assume are tannic quince flavors take over. Some apple juice in the background.

Finish: Tannic, then tart. Long-lasting.

Parting words: Bonny Doon is best known for their cigare volant wine series. Those have weird, UFO-themed packaging, but are serious, delicious wines. Here the weirdness is all in the bottle, not on it. Querry is simultaneously very tart and very tannic but with enough sweetness to keep it drinkable. It’s too extreme to be a go-to, but as an occasional cider or something to share with adventurous friends it works. Pretty food friendly too. 2013 is the current release. A sparkling 2011 is also listed on the Bonny Doon website. Querry is recommended.

Elyse Winery Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel

Maker: Elyse Winery, Napa, California, USAwpid-img_20150802_182610.jpg

Grapes: 87% Zinfandel, 13% others (Muscat, Syrah, Carignane and more). Field blend.

Place of origin: Morisoli Vineyard, Rutherford AVA, Napa Valley, California, USA

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 14.6%

Price: $45 (We think. Didn’t save the recipt)

Note: Not sold in Michigan retail stores but they do ship.

Appearance: Dark crimson.

Nose: Blueberry jam, wild blackberry, cherry, toasted oak, a squirt of Meyer lemon

Palate: Full bodied. Jammy but well balanced with oak, clove, black currant, black and blueberries with a little burn on the back end.

Finish: Medium long. Chewy oak tannins, dried fig. Clean, but leaves me craving another sip.

Parting words: Elyse Winery is a small family located near Yountville, California that draws from vineyards in other sections of Napa Valley, including this one from the also family-owned Morisoli Vineyard. Morisoli is 57 acres located at the base of Mt. Saint John at the southern end of the Rutherford AVA. The vineyard is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, but Zinfindel is grown there too, and has been for over one hundred years. Elyse has been working with the the family for decades and has produced a Morisoli Cab and Zin every for every vintage back to 1986.

When my wife and I were contemplating tacking on a trip to Napa to a trip to Northern California for my cousin’s wedding (see “Two Days in Napa”) Elyse was recommended to us by our friends Jessica and Brian who have been members of their wine club since a trip to Napa they took a few years ago. The experience at the Elyse tasting room was a contrast from the big, slick tasting rooms that take in most of the wine tourist trade in Napa. It’s in a small, no frills white building and the pourers were all family members or winemakers. The only wine we picked up there was this one, but they were all quite good and reasonably priced, for Napa.

We were saving it for a special occasion so when we finally sold our tiny old house last month, we decided that was the perfect special occasion. I grilled up a couple T-bone steaks in my cast iron grill pan to go with the wine and it all worked together perfectly. Sometimes a great wine and a great piece of meat is all you need for a great meal.

The price is reasonable for a single vineyard old vine California Zin of this quality. It could probably have been cellared for another two or more years, but it is drinking beautifully now. Elyse Winery 2009 Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel is highly recommended.

Germain-Robin Alembic Brandy Reserve Vine & Table batch 2012F

Maker: Germain-Robin, Ukiah, California, USAwpid-20150219_171845.jpg

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: $50

Appearance: Burnt orange with a long, persistent necklace.

Nose: Alcohol, raisins, prunes, mincemeat, black tea.

Palate: Full-bodied and rich. Prune juice, star anise, passito wine, oak.

Finish: Dry and spicy. Fruitcake or mincemeat spices, raisins.

Parting words: Co-founded by a man from a distilling family in Cognac, Germain-Robin is probably the U.S.’s finest producer of brandy. They’ve been in business since 1982 (an eternity in micro-distiller years) and were favorites of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, among others.

This is very much in the style of Cognac but better than most in its price range. As a whiskey drinker primarily, it makes a very pleasant change of pace. I haven’t tried V & T’s other batch, 2012E but I have heard excellent things about it too. Something this tasty at this price is not something I would mix. It’s an excellent value from an excellent maker and an excellent retailer. Germain-Robin Alembic Brandy Reserve Vine & Table batch 2012F is highly recommended.

Junipero

Maker: Anchor, San Francisco, California, USAJunipero

Style: Dry gin.

ABV: 49.3%

Michigan State Minimum: $30

Appearance: Clear, with a nice thick pearl necklace.

Nose: Monster hit of juniper on the nose followed by a bit of alcohol. Citrus peel in the background along with anise and earthiness.

Palate: Full bodied and dry on entry. A fleeting taste of fruit and then burn. The fruit lingers longer with a splash of water.

Finish: Dry and spicy. Orange peel, potpourri and heat.

Mixed: Does OK with tonic or in a Tom Collins, but the sharpness of the juniper gets a little muddled. Does very well in higher end cocktails. Great in a dry martini and in a cocktail I tried called a Colony Club made with anisette (I used Herbsaint instead) and orange bitters. The Princeton was good also.

Parting words: I like this gin a lot. Never before have I gotten such a huge nose full of juniper, except for one time when I was riding my bike and crashed into a shrub. It’s not one I would be inclined to drink neat but it shines in drinks in which it’s almost neat. As strong as the juniper is, it plays very well with other strongly flavored ingredients.

The price is good for a high end, micro-distilled gin. As a martini gin, Junipero is recommended.

Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc

Maker: Joseph Carr, Healdsburg, California, USA

Place of Origin: Sonoma County, California, USA

Vintage: 2012

ABV: 13.5%

Purchased for: $14Josh SB

Appearance: Light straw with

Nose: Apricot, pear, mandarin orange, pineapple.

On the palate: Medium dry and mild. Unripe pear, not much else other than a little sweetness and an herbal touch as the wine warms up.

Finish: Sweet, fruity and mild. a little sweetness lingers in the cheeks for a while and then slowly fades.

Parting words: When I saw the Josh Cellars display at a local grocery store, I thought “Well, it looks like it will be pretty dull, but I have to buy some and post notes, right?” Right.

 Sauvignon Blanc is a grape I have grown to appreciate after having some really tasty New Zealand ones. I’ve had some good California SBs too, but most of them have been very dull. This one falls into the dull category. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, and it has a very nice nose, but it falls flat on the palate and it has no finish to speak of. It works best well-chilled with poultry or mild seafood.

The price is not good, but if you can find it for closer to $10 it might be worth a try. Otherwise, grab a Joel Gott or one of the cheaper brands from NZ.  Josh Sauvignon Blanc is mildly recommend.

Buehler Zinfandel

Maker: Buehler Vineyards, St. Helena, California, USA

Grape: Zinfandel

Style: Red

Region: Napa Valley AVA, Napa County, California, USA

Vintage: 2009

ABV: 14.5%

Appearance: Dark, deep plum.

Nose: Black currant, oak, blueberry jam, whiff of smoke.

On the palate: Fruity, strawberry. Lightly sweet, a bit fleshy.

Finish: slightly tart, leather, a hint of oak smoke.

Parting Words: At its best, California Zinfindel is something like this. It has the finesse and complexity of a red Burgundy and the drinkability of a Côtes du Rhône. This is a fairly complex, but easy-going wine, a bit surprising for something with its ABV percentage. It goes well with food but its more subtle notes might get lost in the shuffle. Not much else to say, but Buehler Zin comes recommended.

Trader Joe’s Reserve Syrah

Maker: ???

Grape: Shiraz/Syrah

Region: Mendocino Valley AVA, California, USA

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 14.7%

Notes: Certified organic, single vineyard.

Appearance: Deep purple.

Nose: wild blackberries, black currant, hint of leather

On the palate: Medium-bodied. Mixed berry jam, blueberries, chewy, some tannin.

Finish: Jammy then dry, much more tannic than on the palate, lingers for a while then fades rather quickly.

Parting words: Trader Joe’s Reserve wines are never bad, but they can occasionally be dull. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this one dull, but I’ve had more interesting Syrahs. For what it is, it delivers. There is lots of varietal character and it did well with corned beef. It would probably pair well with other rich red meats. For the price, it’s a good wine. Trader Joe’s 2007 Reserve Mendocino Syrah is recommended.

Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc

Maker: Joel Gott, Napa, California, USA

Grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Region: California, USA

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 13%

Appearance: Pale gold with slow, thick legs.

Nose: Tangerine, Clementine, apricot, basil.

On the palate: Medium-bodied. Slightly sweet, grapefruit, peach, orange, delicately dry.

Finish: Orange, lemon, dry, fading into pleasant grapefruit bitterness.

Parting words: I bought this wine because it was the cheapest one on a list a of great California Sauvignon Blanc. I was a bit reluctant, since I generally only drink New Zealand Sauv Blanc. This one did not disappoint, and has all the citrus notes I love in New Zealanders. That said, the Joel Gott Sauv Blanc is no transplanted Marlbourgh. The herbal notes are much more subdued here and the grapefruit is more present in the finish than in the mouth. Lots of orange (and relatives) and apricot. An all around delicious wine with or without food. This would also be a good turkey (or tofurky) wine. Highly recommended.