Monday, 26 April 2010

Sonoma Part 5 - Cline Cellars

Our last stop for the day was Cline Cellars, set in some very pretty gardens.

Here, the tasting menu has around 15 wines which are free to try. The menu says you can try 5 of these but as our very helpful guide Rene put it "no-one really counts". Following this are a further 8 or so which cost $1 each, which is waived if you buy any of the wines.

In the end we tried 13 different wines.

First up was a 2009 Viognier which was drier than expected, with peach and apricot flavours and a nice crisp finish.

We skipped over the rest of the whites and went straight for the 2008 Ancient Vines Carignane, tasting of red fruit and plum, with a peppery finish.

The 2007 Cashmere was next. This is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre and tasted of rich red fruit with hints of chocolate, and the slight spiciness we were coming to realise features in many Californian wines.

Next we had another Ancient Vines bottle, the 2008 Mouvedre, which had lots of rich ripe chery fruit, a nice bit of spice and the smokiness you expect from Mouvedre.

A trio of Syrahs followed, starting with the 2007, a wine with cherry flavours and a hint of spice.
We compared this side by side with the 2007 Cool Climate Syrah which was much more intense, tasting quite jammy and with blueberry and blackberry flavours. The final one of our trio was the 2006 Los Carneros Syrah which was even richer still, with even more jammy richness and blueberry flavours and some oak. Rene told Mike he had "a very good nose" when he picked up on the French oak.

Zinfandel was next and we tasted 5 in a row, starting with the 2008. This had flavours of berry fruits, particularly raspberry and a nice hint of black pepper spice. The 2008 Ancient Vines Zinwas richer and darker, tasting more jammy and with more black fruit flavours, but still with hints of raspberry and a slightly sweet finish.
The 2008 Big Break Zin had flavours of cherries and black fruit, and a really interesting herbaceous, eucalyptus smell to it. When we mentioned this to Rene we discovered the vineyard is surrounded by eucalyptus trees.
The 2007 Live Oak Zin had a sweet edge to it, with lots of black cherry flavour and a bit of spice.
Finally, we tried the 2007 Heritage Zin which is a blend of the Big Break, Live Oak and also Bridgehead (which we didn't taste). This was delicious, rich and intense spice, with dried fruit flavours which reminded me of Christmas pudding.

We finished up the tasting with a 2006 Late Harvest Mouvedre which was really good, tasting of raisins and rich sweet spice.

A bottle each of the Heritage Zin and the Mouvedre were added to our growing collection as we left.

Sonoma Part 4 - Anaba

For our next stop we looked at the map and decided to pick a smaller winery which none of us had heard of before. This lead us to Anaba
Here you can taste the wines inside the tasting room, or the friendy staff are happy to bring the wines to you as you sit on the covered patio and admire the scenery - we chose the second option!
The tastings are $10 each, but the fee is waived if you buy anything. There are 6 wines to try, and then you pick one dessert wine from a choice of three to finish with. As we had 3 people tasting, we each picked a different one and got to try them all.

We started with the 2009 Sonoma Valley Pink, made form 100% Grenache. It was very light and fruity, tasting mainly of strawberries and pink grapefruit.

Next was the 2008 "Coriol" White made from an interesting blend of 48% Rousanne, 30% Viognier, 12% Mersanne and 10% Grenache Blanc which gave nice melon and peach flavours with a hint of lemon.

The 2007 Voignier followed, which was suprisingly dry to the taste but also had nice peach and apricot flavours, with a slight hint of dried fruit.

The 2007 Chardonnay was also surprising, due to the spiciness. It was very full bodied and quite lemony and quite crisp and clean.

Following on from that were two reds, the first of which was the 2007 "JMcK" Pinot Noir. This was very rich and quite jammy, with ripe red fruit, particularly strawberries and cherries, and a nice spicy finish.

Next, the 2007 "Coriol" Red was as interesting a blend as the white - 38% Grenache, 27% Mouvedre, 25% Petite Sirah and 10% Counoise. It has a lovely ruby colour with lots of black fruit and plum flavours, and a peppery finish.

To finish, the 3 dessert wines kicked off with a 2008 Late Harvest Viognier which is made from Botrytis affected grapes so has really intense, rich flavours. It's very honeyed, with flavours of apricot and hints of orange and a flowery note.
The White "Aero" Port is made from Viognier and aged in French oak for 3-4 years. It has rich peach flavours and hints of raisins.
The Red "Aero" Port was also delicious, tasting of rich ripe cherries and toffee. It's made from Syrah grapes.

We bought a bottle of the White Aero Port and the "Coriol" Red, which meant the tastings were complimentary, bargain!

Anaba also have a Port Chocolate Sauce which we all loved, and would be perfect on ice cream or cheesecake.

Sonoma Part 3 - Robledo

When we arrived in San Francisco on Friday night, our friends opened a bottle of Robledo Pinot Noir. It went down very nicely so Robledo was the next obvious stop on our mini tour.

The Robledo tasting room is set right in the middle of the vineyard and you can get right up close to the growing vines. Here there are 2 tasting menus to choose from, one at $5 for 7 wines and the premium menu at $10 for 7.

We chose the Premium menu, which started with a 2007 Chardonnay This was very crisp and fresh, with lots of green fruit flavours.

Next was a 2006 Pinot Noir (the same one we tried on Friday) which had a slight spiciness to it along with nice ripe red fruit, particularly strawberries.

This was followed by a 2008 Tempranillio which we were intrigued by as we didn't know Tempraillo was grown in California. It was quite spicy, with oak flavours but also some sweet vanilla notes along with red cherries.

The 2007 Merlot was next. This tasted of rich black fruit with hints of spice and was followed by the 2005 Cabernet from Napa, the most expensive wine we tasted. It was very rich, with nice blackberry flavours with a hint of green pepper and a bit of spiciness on the finish.

We moved onto a couple of Ports to finish, firstly a White Port made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. It had a lovely golden colour and was very honeyed with flavours of tropical and green fruits.
The Red Port smelled and tasted just like strawberry jam. I didn't pick up on any of the more sophisticated tasting notes!

Sonoma Part 2 - Buena Vista

On the advice of the lady at Ravenswood and with the help of a "2 for the price of 1" voucher, our next stop was Buena Vista. The tasting room is set in a lovely wooden building surrounded by trees, a nice spot for a picnic as demonstrated by the many people with picnic baskets who passed us on our way out.

Here we tried 7 wines for $10. The tasting menu only had 6 on it but while Mike was chatting to the very knowledgable girl who was serving us she mentioned another wine which he said sounded interesting so she let us try that too.
The first five wines were all from Ramal Vineyard and first up was a 2006 Clone 17 Chardonnay
I'm not really a fan of Chardonnay but I'd say this was the most interesting one I've tasted, mostly because it didn't taste much like Chardonnay! It had a lot of stone fruit and sweet spice flavours and even hints of caramel.

Next was a 2006 Chardonnay which was more of a traditional Chardonnay taste, citrusy with hints of green apple. It was slightly oaky but had a good balance of fruit and acidity which meant it was quite light.

Then we moved onto the reds, starting with a 2006 Pinot Noir. This had quite a flowery, perfumed smell and tasted of raspberries and plums with a bit of spice.

The 2005 Syrah was next and I found the smell of this really interesting. It's the first wine I've tried which I could say smelled of blueberries. It tasted very fruity, lots of black cherry and the peppery-ness you expect from Syrah.

The 2006 Merlot was very jammy, with hints of chocolate and black cherry. The tasting notes also mentioned tobacco, soy and ginger, none of which I could taste but other people did pick up.

Finally on the reds was a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Buena Vista's sister winery Atlas Peak
This had lots of black fruit and blueberry with a nice hint of vanilla.

The "bonus" wine was a 2008 Carneros Rose of Syrah which actually has 4% Chardonnay in the blend. It has a very light colour, due to only being in contact with the skins for 8 hours and smells quite floral, almost like turkish delight. It's very dry and quite light bodied but with a nice refreshing taste of raspberries. We bought a bottle of the Rose.

Wine tasting in Sonoma - Part 1 Ravenswood

At the monent, we're in California, staying with friends in San Francisco and yesterday we took a trip to Sonoma to visit some vineyards.

Our first stop was Ravenswood In the UK we only see one of their wines, the Lodi Zinfandel which I like so I was keen to see more.
The tasting room is on top of a small hill, with a long bar to stand at while you taste and helpful staff. The lady we spoke to helpfully gave us discount vouchers for a few other wineries, which definitely influenced the itenerary!

There are 2 tasting menu options. We tried the Single Vineyard Designate Tasting flight, choosing 5 wines out of the 7 to taste for $15. The other option is the County Tasting, 5 wines for $10.
Skipping over the Chardonnay, we headed straight for the first of a trio of Zinfndels, the 2007 Chauvret (100% Zin). This was lighter in colour and body than you'd expect but full of sweet cherry flavour and with a spicy finish.
The 2007 Big River Zinfandel (100% Zin) was a much more "typical" example, lots of black cherry and very jammy with a nice hint of spice and oak. This was my favourite of the three.
The third one was Mike's favourite, the 2007 Belloni. This has 77% Zin and the rest is mixed black grapes which obviously add to the complexity and in this case, the tannin as well. It tasted very rich and juicy, with spicy black fruits.
Next up was the 2005 Bedrock Cabernet. The tasting notes described this as smelling like cherry liquer which was quite accurate, it had the slightly honeyed notes of a dessert wine but on the taste was all blackberries and spice.
The final we tried here was a dessert wine, the 2008 Moscato Leggaro, which was delicious. It was very slighty sparking and smells of pineapple with just a hint of green apples and tastes of rich ripe tropical fruit and honey. Just the thing for drinking on a warm summer's day. We liked this so much we bought a bottle.