Friday, June 27, 2008

Mayacamas Sauvignon Blanc 2006 – California

Mayacamas is known for big, age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and (at least in the past) some monster Zinfandels. The winery is old (parts built in the 1860s), most of the winemaking tasks are still done by hand, and even some of the huge oak casks are from the late 1800s. On this trip to the tasting room (appointments necessary; and leave a trail of breadcrumbs to follow on the twisting, convoluted drive) we were intrigued with the Sauvignon Blanc. This is a big, rich style (more than 15% alcohol) – you’ll never confuse this with a New Zealand Sauvignon or most California ones. It opens with a huge apple and floral nose. The tastes are smooth, rich, and integrated. This, to us, is a very French white Bordeaux style. It has a long, delayed finish. It could easily be confused with a lightly oaked Chardonnay. This is the type of wine, and the type of winery, we want to support. Wines are still made rather like they were half a centaury ago – a good thing. Even if we weren’t in love with every particular Mayacamas wine, their traditional winemaking skill and care shine thorough. Yes. $30

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lost River Cedarosa 2005 – Washington

This Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend has a wonderful deep cherry nose. Rich character, earthy, with a “dark” taste. Spiciness and pepper on the finish. Very smooth and integrated. Yes. About $15.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Red Diamond Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – Washington

A curious wine. When we like a wine from a winery we don’t know much about, we usually try other wines from them also. We really like Red Diamond’s Syrah, so decided to try this Cabernet Sauvignon. This has a nice, smoky, fruity nose. But then the tastes come on very soft, with some plum notes, almost like a Merlot, and it finishes with a bit of dry tannins. To test our taste buds, right after this bottle we opened a Columbia Crest Merlot-Cabernet, and the two wines tasted darn near identical. Maybe. $8 on sale, usually 12.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tasting Room Notes

Tasting Room Wines & Tasting Notes
Wines sampled in winery tasting rooms always taste different than when you have them at home. The wines are usually at a different temperature than your preference (whites, especially, are generally poured a bit warmer than most folks normally drink them); the occasion is special; and you’re tasting several different wine styles over a very short period of time (reds and whites, sweet and dry, etc.). Thus, we generally try to only review wines we’ve purchased and then evaluated at home. Look for our Tasting Room Notes icon on these reviews, and on posts regarding wine tasting and winery visits.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Loxton Rose 2007 – California

We really wanted to like these wines a bit more than we actually did. We did like the Loxton wines, but we were hoping for just a little “more” from this winemaker who grew up in an Australian wine-growing family. The wine opens with a mild floral and berry nose. The tastes are quite dry, almost like a French vin de pays. This is nice, but just not a “lot” of anything. It’s to us a bit better slightly above refrigerator temperature. Yes/Maybe. $17

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Small Winery Wine Prices

We’re back from our wine adventure, and will have lots of wines to review in the near future.

We were recently reading one of our favorite travel bloggers, who was mentioning a way to earn frequent-flyer miles by joining a particular wine club. He said something to the effect of: “I’d never pay $10 for a bottle of wine, but that’s up to you.”

We didn’t know what to think. He’s obviously not a wine drinker, for which we feel sad. Yes, there are a lot of great wines available for less than $10 (and we’ve reviewed many), but it’s highly unlikely you’ll find any from the small, unique wineries of the world.

On our trip, we found that, generally, the minimum price at a small winery was about $15 – which we thought was a bargain. These may not be quite “mom-and-pop” wineries (if such a thing can exist in today’s marketplace), but they make in a year what Gallo (or even Mondavi) makes in a day.

We want to support the small wineries, which is why we recommend that if you go to a small winery’s tasting room, if at all possible buy at least one bottle. You’ll generally find something fun, unusual, and possibly unique.

Old Zinfandel Vines, Napa, California

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wine Tasting & Travel Tips

We had a great quick trip to several wineries in California, Washington, and Oregon. We’ll post reviews of many wines and wineries in the future, but thought we’d start with some ideas about how to make the winery wine-tasting experience the best possible.

  • Make some choices before you go. If this is your first trip to wine country, you might want to go to some of the big names – for example in Napa you might visit Mondavi, Sterling, and Beringer.
  • Visit some smaller wineries. Even if you’re a wine-tasting newbie, take some time to visit several smaller wineries – at the smallest ones you’ll have a good chance that the winemaker/owner will be pouring in the tasting room, and you’ll have some great conversations.
  • Make appointments. If there’s some place you really want to see (especially small wineries) make an appointment in advance.
  • Don’t try to do too much each day. We found that three to four wineries in the morning, and another three or four in the afternoon, were more than enough.
  • Buy some wine. Unless the wine just isn’t enjoyable, purchase at least one bottle of something you enjoyed at the tasting room. It will support the winery, and be a wonderful memory of your travels.
  • Don’t be afraid to pour. Even the small tasting amounts can add up. You’re there for wine tasting, not wine drinking. The pour bucket is totally acceptable to use.
  • There are no “bad” wines. A wine might not be to your tastes, but don’t say, “that’s awful.” If you need to express a negative opinion, just say that the wine isn’t your style.
  • Be prepared to pay. Many wineries, especially in Napa, now charge for tasting. Some apply the tasting fee to purchases, others don’t. Also in Napa, be prepared for the “Disneyland” experience – at some big and popular wineries, it’s now become industrial tourism, with complimentary souvenir tasting glasses (after you just paid $10 for tasting), huge cheese and gift shops, and tour busses lined up outside.
  • For the big wineries, go early. And at any time of day, if there’s a tour bus in the parking lot, go elsewhere, fast.
  • Take a tour or two. We’d suggest taking one “big” winery tour, and a smaller one. On this trip, the big tour was at Benziger in Glen Ellen (Sonoma Valley), where the 45-minute tour goes through the vineyards, the production facility, and the cellars, ending with a tasting. Our small tour was just the two of us (the other three guests were late) at Mayacamas (outside Napa Valley). There, we witnessed what winemaking was like a half century ago – not much has changed, and that’s all for the best. Note that the small Mayacamas tour and tasting was free, and the big Benziger had a charge. Both were excellent tours, nonetheless.
  • Explore not just smaller wineries, but smaller regions. We found several good wineries outside Hood River, Oregon, and wanted to spend a lot more time at the wineries in Amador County in the Sierra Foothills.
  • Be enthusiastic and appreciative. You just might be offered a special wine, or be offered to taste the whole tasting list, rather than just the limit of four (or however many) for free.

Outside B.R. Cohn winery, Sonoma