So the two of us are driving north to Calaveras County on California highway 99, and we’re looking for a good spot to snag some lunch, stretch our legs – the usual sort of road trip stop. The 99, if you’ve never been on it, runs up the middle of the San Joaquin Valley (aka California’s Central Valley), to the east of Interstate 5, which also runs through the San Joaquin Valley. This is the state’s massive agricultural region, and they’re growing a little bit of everything out here and lots and lots of raisins, fruits, nuts, cotton and
Continue reading A Central Valley Surprise, Mariposa Wine Company
Courtesy of Kenneth Volk Vineyards
Negrette is a true Oddball Grape if ever there was one. It’s not seen that much outside of France – or even within France. It is a French grape, but if you’re going to find it, it will be in the southwest of France, in the Toulouse region.
Kenneth Volk’s negrette has the deep red, almost black, color of a syrah. The nose has cedar, earth and dark fruits similar to blackberries. This is a textbook example of that perfect balance of acids, tannins and alcohol that create a whole that is better
Continue reading Kenneth Volk Negrette – Tasty and Odd
Label art courtesy Kenneth Volk Vineyards
This wine deserves to be enjoyed at the drop of a shrimp fork.
Seriously. There’s a strong core of minerals in the flavor that brings almost a briny character to the wine.
Verdelho is perhaps best known as a Portuguese varietal, mostly because it’s one of the components of Madeira and often used in that other Portuguese classic fortified wine Port. In France, however, it is fermented into a crisp, dry white.
The Kenneth Volk version has a clear yellow color, and the honeysuckle in the nose (aroma) is delicate and not
Continue reading A Shrimp-Loving Verdelho
Ken Volk doesn’t know this yet, but in a way, he is a major inspiration for this site. The president and director of winemaking for Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Volk has a long history of experimenting with grape varieties that no one else has even heard of, let alone tasted.
Ken Volk with his negrette (Photo courtesy of Kenneth Volk Vineyards)
Some years back, when Volk was still at Wild Horse, the Paso Robles winery where he made a name for himself, there was this little red called blaufrankisch. Most folks were a little wary of it. We dove
Continue reading From Whence Comes the OddBallGrape
The tasting calibration continues with the Blackstone Winery 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. And again, this isn’t about us telling you what we think this wine should taste like. This is about you tasting this or a similar wine so that you know what we’re talking about when we mention, say, hints of cassis, one of the “standard” flavors for cabs.
So what the heck is cassis (pronounced cah-seess)? Well, turns out it’s a black currant plant, currants being the small, dark berries found on this particular shrub. The French make a liqueur from them called creme the nose, although it’s
Continue reading Calibration Time, Blackstone Cabernet Sauvignon
Overall, the Fetzer Vineyards 2008 Valley Oaks Chardonnay is a pretty basic chard. It’s light – the sort of wine that’s good with salads, a simple roast chicken, perhaps, or a light sole or even some creamy pasta sauces. You just don’t want to pair it with anything terribly strong-flavored, like a dish heavy on the garlic.
Here’s what we found:
The color was a clear, straw-colored yellow. The nose (or aroma) turned up some hints of melon, a little bit of citrus and light oak. The mouthfeel was fairly lush – it’s not the sort of wine we’d
Continue reading Syncing up with Fetzer Chard
The winery’s tasting notes called the smell in their wine “gaminess.” Michael wrote down “barnyard.” Anne just wrinkled her nose and said, “Ooo. Ick.” Someone could have said, “Wow, that’s great!”
All of us would be right. Or correct.
Tasting wine is an inherently subjective process. And Napa-centric snobs notwithstanding, any wine you like makes it a good wine. True, there are certain characteristics that most people seem to agree make wine taste good. And there are certain smells and tastes that distinguish different grapes (aka varietals). But the way we might describe a basic cabernet sauvignon is not
Continue reading It’s Calibration Week! Start Your Bottles
The thing with Ceja’s 2005 Vino de Casa is that it’s a basic, food-friendly, delicious little red. Nothing pretentious. Even the name just means “house wine.” Who’dathunk that it would come from 62% pinot noir and 38% Syrah? It’s hard to imagine two more different grapes. Pinot noir is, of course, the heartbreak grape. Notoriously finicky, unless conditions are perfect in the vineyard and it’s treated with the right respect in the winery, you’re going to get crap. And usually expensive crap at that. Ask us how we know. Syrah, on the other hand, is hardy and usually as
Continue reading Ceja’s Vino de Casa, Not Your Ordinary Blend
Sauvignon blanc is finally developing a following for the right reasons as opposed to being the Anti-Chardonnay. Lean, citrusy and crisp, it’s a great summer wine, and the Ceja 2007 sauv blanc, out of the Sonoma Coast region, fires on all the right cylinders. If harvested and made with slightly underripe grapes, sauv blanc can have a distinctly “catbox” aroma. If overripe, it goes soft with melon and pineapple/tropical fruit aromas and taste. It is in that thin middle ground that its characteristic grapefruit aroma and crispness really gets to express itself. Although, too much grapefruit and the wine
Continue reading Ceja Summer Sipping
This is the American story. In the early to mid 1960s, Pablo Ceja joined thousands of his country-men to leave their native Mexico and work in the brasero program in California, picking crops and otherwise working in the fields. Ceja landed in St. Helena, picking grapes across the Napa valley and dreaming of owning his own vineyard.
The family, including mama Juanita, immigrated to the U.S. in 1967, and Pablo’s two sons, Pedro and Armando, caught the dream from their father. In 1983, Pedro and his wife Amelia, pooled resources with their parents and Armando, and the family bought
Continue reading An American Winery, Ceja Vineyards