drink me

Hegui holding our bottle of Wine Spectator's 2011 wine of the year with the magazine article about Kosta Browne

Hegui holding our bottle of Wine Spectator's 2011 wine of the year with the magazine article about Kosta Browne

I’ve been shying away from our “drink me” category for a while. There’s just way too much competition to sustain it. But since it’s not every day that we try a bottle of Wine Spectator’s “wine of the year,” I couldn’t resist.

That’s right: wine of the year! Drum roll please…

I was delighted when WS named the 2009 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir its number one wine. Mostly because I had three bottles of it stashed away in my cellar. A work friend signed herself and her husband up on Kosta Browne’s purchasing wait-list about six years ago. Both names advanced to the active member list last spring, right around the time I was getting into pinot. So she offered to let me buy one of the shipments. That first one had the Sonoma Coast bottling. Wow. It was like winning the lottery twice. First, I got some of this hard-to-get wine at a good price and then the WS decision in 2011.

Despite the thrill of victory, I’m still a bit skeptical about the idea of naming a top wine. Really it is a bit silly. There are many good and great wines, but part of what makes them good is that they’re distinctive, and thus, hard to compare. What do you think?

Perhaps ranking things this way is an American obsession? Or maybe it has a sales element? According to CellarTracker, the price per bottle almost tripled after the WS announcement. That’s good for business.

Wine of the Year  2009 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Wine of the Year: 2009 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

We opened this winner for Easter dinner and shared it with our friend and fellow wine-lover, John. All of us (maybe not Hegui, who isn’t too into pinot) were expecting fireworks and to uncontrollably gasp, “ahhhhhhhh!”

It didn’t happen. John’s immediate response, “How can this be wine of the year? I think some of the Williams Selyem pinots are better, don’t you think?” pretty much summed up what we were thinking and feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, this wine is tasty. My work friend suggested that perhaps we had drunk it too young. Could be? Though the WS people drank it even younger than we did. I don’t know. How could the wine live up to all the magazine hype? That’s a lot of pressure.

It was a ruby color with a nose of red berries. Full bodied with red fruit, mineral and a long finish; it was rich and smooth—almost cabernet like in texture. We drank it all, that’s true. Plus I saved the bottle for my “trophy” collection, mostly because this was Wine of the Year!!!!!!

I’d say this one is worth trying, and it is. Though now that the price has skyrocketed, perhaps something else?

{ 1 comment }

Okay, I admit it: I’m a Williams Selyem fan.

some gorgeous grapevines in fall colors at Williams Selyem

some gorgeous grapevines in fall colors at Williams Selyem

I first heard of them from a dear friend, Kathleen. She’s a real estate agent to the stars, collects tons of fabulous local art and best of all, buys entire wine cellars off Craig’s List for fun. We love her! I’ll never forget that stunning champagne party that she threw a few years back. Apparently the seller only had sparklers—hundreds of them. She invited about 50 people to her flat for a champagne only cocktail party. Wow. Until then, I’d never really appreciated the stuff.

I could probably write the same about pinot noir. It’s so easy to get cheap, bad quality pinot, I’d begun to think that that was all there was in the world. But Kathleen opened my eyes one evening. We were attending a private party that she hosted at a local restaurant. She had decorated the place with select pieces of her already mentioned fabo art collection and among other treasures, poured a bottle of Williams Selyem pinot noir.

I can’t remember the year or vineyard—it was a single vineyard pinot, I’m sure of that at least. What I do recall was that the wine was breathtaking! I’d never considered such a thing possible. The tastes swirled in my mouth in a kind of vinous ecstasy. That was the beginning for me. Since, I’ve been writing about Williams Selyem a bit obsessively on our blog. Look here, here, here, here, here, here and here to see what I mean. These folks really are good!

it really feels like fall with the drizzle, chill and reds and yellows on the vines

it really feels like fall with the drizzle, chill and reds and yellows on the vines

Williams Selyem is one of those lucky few wineries that have a wait list to join. I signed up immediately and waited about 18 months or a bit more before I got on the purchasing member list. But it was worth it. Every spring and fall they offer the latest vintage for sale to members of the list. Then you have a month to frantically buy, before someone else on the list does. I always order the full allotment of reds the first day. VISA be damned!

Then, as part of the fun, you go pick up the wine at their new winery facility in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. And that’s what Hegui and I with a few dear friends, both old and new, did the other week.

The weather was uncooperative—rainy and cold. Too bad, really, as the vineyards were all so beautiful, decked out in autumn yellows. With a clear sky and bright sun, our pictures would have been out-of-this world. Oh well.

Usually on one of these pick-up weekend visits you can try some of the current releases, occasionally a barrel sample from the following year’s vintage and once in a while buy a bit more wine right there on sight, including library wines. That’s especially inviting for guests who may not yet be members. We arrived too late for all the magnums, which I found tremendously disappointing. I’d love to have one or two of those in my cellar. You Williams Selyem guys should offer large formats more regularly to your faithful customers (like me!)

Anyway we were thrilled to taste some of the new wines and excited to introduce our friends to that Williams Selyem magic.

sipping the 2009 Williams Selyem Drake Estate chardonnay with friends

sipping the 2009 Williams Selyem Drake Estate chardonnay with friends

2009 Drake Estate Vineyard Chardonnay: A pale greenish yellow with a pleasantly grassy and vanilla nose, led to tart apple and green grapes with a somewhat creamy texture and long oaky finish.

2009 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir: This was poured by John Bucher himself, which I thought really cool. To me, it was showing best of all the 2009 pinots that day. A raspberry red color with a jammy aroma of strawberries, loam, mulch and musk; led to cranberry, sour cherry, an ashy mineral quality with medium body and a lingering finish.

2009 Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir: A purple red color with a nose of dark currant, paraffin and barnyard, this was bolder and smoother, with caramel, red fruits, and a fuller minerally body.

2009 Eastside Road Neighbors: This is a blended pinot made from grapes from several vineyards along Eastside Road. Purple red with a nose of Morello cherry, cherry jam and molasses, this was more full bodied yet, with rich fruit, mineral, bitter chocolate and hickory notes with a long finish.

2009 Papera Vineyard Zinfandel: A dark purple with ultra ripe plum, cracked pepper, and chicken feathers leading the way to olallieberry pie, with really rich bright fruit and mineral notes. This was full bodied, jammy and excellent now.

it seems so serene here

it seems so serene here

2007 Sonoma County Pinot Noir: A pale transparent red with a nose of horseshit, gum Arabic, straw with medium body, pleasant red fruit and mineral notes leading to a peppery finish. We all enjoyed this and I bought a couple bottles right there.

2007 Weir Vineyard Pinot Noir: A pale transparent red with an earthy, even leathery nose, this was much fuller than the Sonoma County, with a smoother texture, raspberry fruit, mineral and medium to full body with good heft. I got a couple of these for good measure too.

So that’s it for now. Look for the spring 2012 update sometime soon!

{ 2 comments }

Les Secrets de Pignan is the first Châteauneuf-du-Pape that Hegui and I tried and really noticed, if you know what I mean. It was the 2004. We were with these lovely friends who grew up in a French speaking part of Africa, so to show off a bit, we went to a little French bistro near our house, and randomly ordered off the wine menu. I don’t quite know how we settled on the 2004 Pignan, but I do know that I didn’t like it one bit; yet Hegui was in raptures. The waiter exclaimed that we made a good choice, though have you ever heard a waiter say otherwise? Me, neither.

2007 La Bastide Saint-Dominique Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Secrets de Pignan

2007 La Bastide Saint-Dominique Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Secrets de Pignan

To me then, it was way to tannic and drying. Hegui seemed to perceive something else. I was just getting excited about wine then, so looked around and bought three or four bottles, which I cellared for a year or so. Wow! What a difference a day makes! When we brought out the next one it literally blew both of us away: loaded with fruit, elegantly textured and with that curious Secrets de Pignan terroir, for lack of a better word, we were floored.

So we’ve become fans of the wine.

I’ve been wondering a lot about wine quality lately, ever since I read that Robert Parker biography. He’s the famous American wine critic who put the 100-point wine rating scale on the map and is so looked to for wine reviews that supposedly Bordeaux producers are reluctant to release their wines until he’s had a chance to taste and score them. Apparently the price changes so much with a favorable number that his comments are worth their weight in gold.

The book has this one anecdote in which Manfred Krankl sent his first ever bottle of what became the cult-winery Sine Qua Non to Parker in Maryland. The critic liked the wine. Allegedly he called Krankl to praise it and recommended that he get a business number and address before the next edition of the Wine Advocate was released, as he suspected that he’d be bombarded by requests and telephone calls. Krankl did, and was, and now is famous. He even appeared on the cover of Wine Spectator, that other wine magazine, last year.

Beyond the idea that people are influenced by numbers and famous critics, is another part of the wine-lovers story. Parker liked Krankl’s and in effect promoted it. He did this with modern styled Bordeaux, especially certain winemakers from St. Emilion, the so-called garagistes. He’s a huge fan of Northern Rhône, particularly the fairly-obscure-until-Parker-started-writing-about-it-like-crazy Guigal Côte Rôtie wines, like La Mouline, La Landonne and La Turque. Never produced in large volumes, the prices of these wines sky-rocketed once Americans listened to Parker’s advice. But my point here is that according to the book, Parker likes the Guigals, buys them for his own cellar and drinks them with pleasure year after year. So these wines are good, but also seem to have an emotional resonance with him.

And that is how we feel about Secrets de Pignan. We’ve learned with the 2004, been dismayed by the 2005, and have begun to enjoy the voluptuous 2007. The wine is good. But in addition to that, it seems to play a role in our vinous emotional lives.

We had a bottle of the 2007 last Saturday as a celebration for the completion of the semi-annual “heavy cleaning.” Hegui and I take the beds apart, move all the furniture out of the way and he steam-cleans all the carpets. We’ve wall-to-wall in most rooms plus about five medium to largish oriental rugs. It is a real ordeal deserving of a medal and a night on the town, though we’re always too tired for anything more than a simple meal and some wine.

This bottle opened with a funky aroma that, thankfully, dissipated. It was slightly fizzy right form the bottle but settled down with decanting. It had a good aroma of ripe berry, cherry. These carried over to the taste, with the addition of some juicy pomegranate notes. I read on Cellartracker some commentator describing the end of the mid-palate taste like ruby red grapefruit—which I sort of get. This wine consistently has an unusual taste that is hard to pin down. Full bodied, and almost thick, with a good finish, I’m glad that we ordered a case of this to watch it develop.

{ 1 comment }

2010 Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône

by Stevie on September 7, 2011

The 2010 Saint Cosme has arrived! Hurrah!

This wine is always such a delightful crowd pleaser. We finished all of our 2009 a few months back, so you can imagine how excited I was to spy the 2010 at K and L recently. I bought a test-bottle which we drank that very night. And you know what? I think this one could be better than the amazing Oh-nine. I immediately ordered two cases the next day.

2010 Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône

2010 Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône

Still 100% syrah, this is an every-day red that’s easy in the glass and on the wallet. An opaque purple black with a rich nose of cherry, leather and wet rusted metal, it is lip-smacking good; full of chocolate, cherry, metal/mineral notes with medium to full body and a lovely finish. Hegui exclaimed, “It tastes like something I like!” Well, there you go.

{ 0 comments }

2007 Calera Pinot Noir Reed Vineyard

2007 Calera Pinot Noir Reed Vineyard

I’m all about Calera pinot lately. Their 2008 central coast pinot was a delight, and a real bargain. The 2007 Ryan Vineyard was breathtaking. I’ve heard that 2007 was an especially good year for California pinots in general. It shows here in this Reed Vineyard bottle, also from Mt. Harlan.

My fascination with pinot noir still seems funny to me. I used to hate the stuff; it always tasted too light and acidic. I was much more into rich, full Napa cabernets and Sonoma zinfandels. Those are still good wines, but somehow, after discovering more interesting pinot, I’ve gotten the bug. There’s something almost poetic and seductive in a good bottle of the stuff that you just don’t experience with other varieties. Matt Kramer frequently writes about this, but until the past year or so, I’d always thought he was a bit of a loveable crack-pot. Who knew? I guess tastes do change after all. Do you like pinot noir?

Calera has several vineyard designated pinots. Follow this link to see a helpful map from their web site. Their wines aren’t cheap exactly, though they’re not as ungodly expensive as some that I’ve seen either. I have trouble finding them here. I think they must sell out fast. So I joined their wine club earlier in the year. This bottle of Reed came from The Wine Club in San Francisco. (That’s not a club at all, but it is a great place for hard-to-find vinous gems. Well worth checking out if you’re local.) If you’re looking and can’t find Calera at your wine shop, I’d suggest the Calera web site. It really is good stuff!

This is a sensational transparent burgundy red with cherry, herbal and smoky aromas leading to delicious cherry and mineral notes with medium to full body, and a delightful creamy long finish. Mmmmmmmm!!!!

{ 0 comments }

2010 Hillgate Roussanne Lake County

2010 Hillgate Roussanne Lake County

It is not every day that we’re in praise of a white wine here at weirdcombos. But we’ve always had a soft spot for Southern Rhône whites. Hence our annual multi-case purchases of Domaine de la Becassonne. What a surprise, then, to come across this really good and very affordable bottle of Hillgate Roussanne at our local Trader Joe’s the other day.

Tablas Creek, a Paso Robles winery, has a really informative article about Roussanne. As a variety of grape, it is fairly obscure: mostly limited to parts of France. They think that the Rhône is the likely original source for this grape. Roussanne is difficult to grow. Perhaps that explains its relative obscurity: too bad, as this makes an excellent, rich, creamy, memorable white.

Roussanne is difficult in other ways. Apparently the first vines planted in California were shown later to be another Rhône white, Viognier. To me the two taste and smell so differently, I’m hard pressed to believe that nobody noticed this for many years, but there you go.

This Lake County Roussanne was a bargain at something like $6.99 a bottle. Sadly, I can’t find any info about Hillgate winery on line. But CellarTracker, my new darling source for wine information, knows this one. Their readers give it an average score of 86.5/100, if scores meaning anything to you.

We thought this was delish! Transparent pale golden yellow, it starts out powerfully with lots of peaches, pears, and sweet smelling muscadet on the nose. The wine is full bodied with minerally, flinty notes, lots of cream but no butter, and a hint of bitterness on the long, luscious finish.

This is a wine well worth stocking up on—I just hope it’s not Viognier in disguise ;)

{ 2 comments }

2007 Adelaida Version

by Stevie on March 23, 2011

2007 Adelaida Version

2007 Adelaida Version

To me, this is the most special wine that Adelaida produces. It’s a Paso Robles Rhône style blend that we’ve been enjoying for several years over a few vintages. It sells out quickly, according to their web site, so I guess the secret is starting to become common knowledge.

Paso Robles is about a four-hour car ride from San Francisco, so doable but not really a day-trip kind of event. We’re lucky to have great friends whose parents retired to Cambria, a quaint coastal town just over the mountains from Paso. The folks have a very large, elegant home with extra guest rooms. We just stayed with them for the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival last weekend. Thanks again, Linda and Ken! That was an incredible time, so more to come.

Today, I’m pouring Version to get your taste buds stimulated for more Paso-liciousness:

This is an opaque purple with a nose of red fruit, tar, coffee, dried herbs and blood. Luxurious, in a bold, take-no-prisoners-style with a long exciting finish; this is chock-full of jammy red and black fruit, chocolate, and leather. It has classic Paso Robles terroir. If you’re unfamiliar with the region, or an old hand, this is worth seeking out.

{ 3 comments }

2008 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Eastside Road Neighbors

2008 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Eastside Road Neighbors

Thus far, we’ve enjoyed this Eastside Road Neighbors best of all the 2008 Williams Selyem wines that we’ve tasted at home. Blended from several vineyards along Eastside Road in the Russian River Valley, this is also our first blended pinot from WS.

Their website gives a lot of technical info, their taste impressions and Wine Spectator’s score (94 if you’re interested. I think that’s an incredible rating for the magazine, as they tend to be cheap with big numbers for pinot, devoting all their most lavish praise to Napa cabernets. Maybe it is just me thinking that? Personally, I believe that the magazine would improve if the professional tasters focused more on particular varieties of grape rather than region. That way, you’d really see how various wines fare throughout the world. Wine shopping would become less challenging and, hopefully, less devastating.)

The ERN is a transparent cherry red with bright red fruit, especially raspberry and cherry, and hints of forest floor, mushrooms and nail polish on the nose. This is smooth going, full of red berries, cherry lollipop, tobacco, tar, chocolate, caramel with a lingering peppery finish. Good juice!

{ 1 comment }

1996 J Fritz Winery 80-year old vines Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Rogers’ Reserve

March 16, 2011

This was another exciting zinfandel find by our BFF, Chris S. He’s already wowed us with an older Hop Kiln zinfandel as well as a late-harvest zin from the same maker. This J Fritz, then, is part of an intriguing series of aged zinfandels. I’ve been trying to learn more about these wines as they […]

Read the full article →

2008 Tensley OGT Syrah Santa Barbara

March 16, 2011

In January we went to this really interesting panel discussion at the San Francisco Public Library about food and wine blogging. Four bloggers spoke, including the delightful Sabrina from The Tomato Tart, whose food blog I really enjoy (hope that vegan cleanse thing is going o.k., S!) Alder Yarrow from vinography represented wine. Among other […]

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Read the full article →