Vergari 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Type: Dry red

Made with: Cabernet sauvignon

Plays well with: Meat, meat and more meat

 

Please don’t think we’ve sold out the OBG mission of highlighting lesser known varieties. We also promise to highlight smaller producers who we believe deserve attention. So, that means a Napa cabernet is bound to turn up in these posts once in a while, especially since with Vergari Wines, there is no winery to find or visit. And, thanks again to winemaker David Vergari for finding us.

The Vergari 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon shows the same attention to detail that Mr. Vergari brings to his pinot noir, including the same deep ruby color from good fruit. The nose is a combination of cherries, berries and rose petals. Michael found himself taking several deep sniffs to get all these aromas because they were almost as good as the flavor.

 

The first taste showed good acidity and a lush mouthfeel, with a lingering finish that displayed well-balanced tannins that didn’t dry out the mouth. The concentration of fruit and the light use of oak as a spice makes this a decent cocktail wine, if you’re so inclined to drink it by itself.

We’re not so inclined.  The wine was so nice and rich we think it would be wasted by itself. Pair it with prime rib, steaks or stews. The alcohol, at a slightly high but acceptable 14.5 percent, will not interfere with the enjoyment of your meal.

 

Vergari Wines

It happened a few months ago, but one day, Michael gets an email in his personal box inviting him and a guest to a tasting at a local contractor’s store near us.  Huh?  It was from David Vergari – a winemaker who lives in Sierra Madre in Southern California, but makes a collection of red wines out of a custom crush facility in Sebastopol, California.  They’re mostly cabs and pinots – varieties we don’t usually focus on here at OddBallGrape.

But what makes Vergari’s operation a little more up our alley is how he’s selling his wines – through a series of open houses that he uses to build his wine club list.  Such as the one we attended.  The contractor specialized in high-end kitchens, so among the counter top samples and tile books, there was a small jazz combo.  The caterer was using the contractor’s demo kitchen to heat hors d’oeuvres and chill the couple whites Vergari had purchased for those who like whites.

Vergari told us that he likes to make his cabernet sauvignons with a “pinot sensibility.”  Either way, his wines feature excellent acids and good balance.

“I’m not in an arms race,” he said when we asked him about the lower alcohol levels in his wines.  “I like acids.”

And we liked his wines.  You can get them via his website, VergariWines.com

What we still can’t explain is how Vergari got Michael’s email address. We think it happened through Facebook.

Irish Family Vineyard “Pog Mo Thoin”

Type: Dry Red
Made: In Calaveras County, California, With cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and malvasia grapes
Plays well with: Beef, lamb, winter stews, on its own

The Irish Family red blend called Pog Mo Thoin – Gaelic for “kiss my ass” – was a sample we tasted from the tank in April 2009 at the winery in Vallecito, CA. It’s pronounced Pog (with the long o sound), Mo (another long o) Hoyn (no t or th).  A blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and a bit of malvasia – a OBG grape if there is one – it’s now available for sale.

As noted in our previous post, we tasted this one right from the fermenting tank and this is the kind of special treat that is well worth it. From the romantic tradition of a barrel sample to the more modern steel tank, getting the invitation to try something before anyone else – except the dozens, hundreds or thousands of club members or visitors before YOU walked in – is insanely cool. The only catch is that what we tasted that day might be somewhat different if you buy it, (which you can by going to the winery website).
The wine had a brown sugar sweetness and lots of fruit in the nose. Those same red fruits turned up in the glass along with gentle hints of oak in the background. But the most impressive part of the wine was the balance. All three elements – alcohol, tannin and acid – were in perfect balance so that no one quality stuck out. Which augers well for the recently released bottles.
How to enjoy? Beef, lamb or winter stews come to mind. This is also one of those wines that can be enjoyed by itself as a cocktail. The level of alcohol was not recorded but we remember it being modest. We haven’t tried it since it was bottled last summer and it may be a different vintage than what is available on the website.

Eden Canyon 2005 Jolie Bordeaux-Style

edencanyonjolieThis is a classic Bordeaux-style wine, made with 88 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 12 percent Petit Verdot. this is no heavy fruit bomb, but it’s no lightweight, either, even with only 13 percent alcohol.  Which means you get the flavors of the wine without the “hot” alcohol taste.

It has a rich ruby color with a deep cherry fruit nose and French oak perfume. The acids are centered with some softer tannins and no residual sweetness. There’s a dry fruit taste and a very good finish. Match it with a nicely grilled steak or herb garlic-crusted prime rib.

Calibration Time, Blackstone Cabernet Sauvignon

s6300012The 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 not too heavy. That’s the cassis. Michael also picked up some dark cherry in the smell, as well. The color is a really dark ruby.

Michael also caught some bing cherry on the back of his palate. At the same time, there was that light drying effect from tde cassis. Currants also taste a lot like raisins, in our humble opinion.

In fact, you can get some of that almost raisiny scent in he tannins in the wine, which is often described as “cleansing the palate.” The finish was decent, the flavor lingered for about 10 seconds. And overall, there’s a bit of oak in the wine, but not enough to get in the way of the fruit. That being said, the wine isn’t a fruit bomb, either, meaing all fruit and little else.

We figure this will do nicely as a food wine, maybe with a steak or a nice garlicky stew. But there is enough fruit that it does stand on its own – what we usually will call a cocktail wine. In fact, Anne argues that it’s closer to a cocktail wine.

So let us know what you come up with. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Anne Louise Bannon
Michael Holland

It’s Calibration Week! Start Your Bottles

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 necessarily the way you would describe it.

So this week  we will be doing a calibration tasting.  We have purchased two wines that should be available around the U.S. (we got them at Target – although we recognize not every state in the Union allows wine to be sold there).  The first is a Fetzer Vineyards, Valley Oaks Chardonnay, 2008.  It should retail between $10 and $15,  unless you catch it on sale, like we did.  The second (coming in around the same price point) is a Blackstone Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.

You are invited to buy the same wines – or as close to them as you can get and taste along with us.  On Wednesday, we’ll post the chardonnay notes and you can compare what you tasted to what we tasted.  The idea is that if we say, “this chard has a nice pineapple tang,” and you tasted peach, then you’ll know that when we say pineapple about some other chardonnay, you’ll probably taste peach.  And if you like peach, then you’ll possibly like that wine.  And, of course, Friday, we’ll do the cab sauv.

Now, what if you taste the wine and you taste… wine.  It’s good, or possibly not.  But peach?  Pineapple?  Barnyard?  Bacon fat?  What in bloody tarnation are these wine geeks talking about?  It’s wine, for crying out loud.  Exactly, we say.  Seriously – the genius behind our tasting notes is Michael.  Anne can seldom taste all the more subtle flavors.  That doesn’t mean she can’t tell a good wine from a bad wine – or more importantly, that her impressions of a wine are any less valid.  It just means that she evaluates a wine in a different way.

So the first thing to remember is that tasting notes are supposed to be fun.  Unless you’re judging wines for a competition (something Michael has actually done many times), the only real reason for tasting notes is to communicate something – usually to yourself and/or life partner.

Maybe you just want to remember what it was about that syrah you tasted at your local wine bar that made you want to buy the bottle.  Maybe you want to pretend you’re Uber-critic Robert Parker.  And why not?  He is, in our not so humble opinion vastly over-rated.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you get to choose what words you use, your preferred short-hand, whatever.  Just write down your impressions.

Then we invite to post your comments so we can all share what we thought about the wine.  Just remember, no snarking on anybody else, because all of our impressions are valid.  And maybe we’ll come up with a new way to describe that soft, creamy feeling on the back of the palate as something besides buttery.

Slainte!

Anne Louise Bannon and Michael Holland

Heavens to Twisted Oaks 2005 Murgatroyd

2005_murgatroydWe love blends. They can express the full palate of a terrior – think Burgundy or Bordeaux. They can also demonstrate the combined skills of a winemaking team that includes vineyard staff and cellar rats alike. As a bonus, every winery has the option of creating its own brand of cola product.

As in Twisted Oak’s Murgatroyd (and if you know the cartoon reference, post a comment). The wine is a blend of four varietals and five vineyards: two cabernet sauvignons (accounting for the extra vineyard), a petit verdot, a tempranillo and a grenache, which means there’s a potential range of aromas and tastes the could include violets, blackberries, molasses, plums, tobacco, blueberries and bell pepper.

In this case,the resulting aroma is licorice/anise with some berries. The first taste was that of spices like black pepper and cloves. Dusty fruit, or a ripe taste that’s not overly sweet, is balanced with less acid and more tannins, thanks to a combination of American, Hungarian and older French oak barrel aging.  There is some noticeable dryness from the tannins that would cut through the weight and richness of a steak, a savory winter beef stew or some lamb chops medium-rare with some pinkness at the bone.

You could age the wine for another year or so.  It would be interesting to see if it improves.  That being said, it’s darned tasty now.