Sonoma County: Diverse by nature plus California, Italy and others in VINTAGES Oct 27th

Taste of Sonoma – Diverse by Nature

Related – WineAlign Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Preview – Oct 27th, 2018

In last week’s preview covering the October 27th release it was John who wrote about the “Premium Parade.” John has reminded us all, as did David in his previous report for October 13th that VINTAGES likes to roll out the big guns in the two months leading up to the holiday season. What a shocker. I’m pleased to follow-up on the theme with more than a few overflowing handfuls of high-end wines that settle with great weight and density into a more than similar ilk.

It’s more than just a late October release that delivers gifts of such hedonistic and full character flavour. The Sonoma County Vintners came through town just last week with armfuls of the good stuff. There was a trade and media walk-around tasting in the afternoon of the 16th followed by a VINTAGES supported consumer affair in the evening. Thirty-three producers showcased 75 wines and it is safe to say that Sonoma knows how to put on a show. What piqued my interest the most was a Masterclass/Tutored Tasting titled “Diverse by Nature” and hosted by none other than WineAlign’s John Szabo. My notes on the wines poured are featured just below. All of the 75 wines continue to be available for purchase on the VINTAGES Shop Online site.

The VINTAGES opinion is one that states “Sonoma County is predominantly family farmers who produce some of the world’s best grapes and wine and have done so for generations. It’s also the first wine region in the US to commit to becoming 100% sustainable by 2019.” They noted that the event features “a bounty of stellar Pinot Noirs, full-bodied Cabernets, stylish Chardonnays and spicy Zinfandels – most with 90+ scores.” This is nothing but truth. I scored all 10 wines I tasted at the Sonoma seminar at 90-plus.

Greg MacDonald, VINTAGES Category Manager, New World Wines, North America (excluding Ontario) & South Africa, explains where Sonoma stands in the current pantheon of California wines. “I would agree that many top wines from Sonoma can stand toe-to-toe with their Napa counterparts on quality and while many offer relative value, there are now iconic wines from Sonoma that can and do command similar top-tier price points. What Sonoma can still offer that Napa can’t anymore (for the most part), is wines at more approachable price points for everyday consumers – the sheer size of Sonoma County makes this possible.  This means it’s a win for both collectors and consumers. I don’t consider Sonoma an emerging region for California as a buyer – it’s arrived.”

John Szabo M.S.

So what is so special about Sonoma County? First look at its size. With approximately 75,000 planted acres only Bordeaux is bigger (much bigger) and Sonoma easily outgrows Napa Valley, New Zealand, Bourgogne and the Okanagan Valley. Nearly 500 wineries grow a multitude of varieties but there is some definitive concentration and specialization. In terms of hectares chardonnay is king, at 6,500 while pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon follow closely at roughly 5,400 each. The next four most planted grape varieties are zinfandel, merlot, sauvignon blanc and syrah.

Five distinct soils make up the multifarious terroir of Sonoma; Francisco Complex covers nearly half of the west and northern territories. Then we find Salinia, Glen Ellen Formation, Sonoma Volcanics and Wilson Grove Formation. The coolest spots and perfect for chardonnay are Green Valley and Carneros while it is the pinot noir appellations of Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley that bridge the gap to a moderate climate. In that mid-temperature category we see the merlot high ground of Chalk Hill and Bennet Valley.

Both chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon work well in the moderate to quite warm spots of Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma Valley. Slightly warmer are the zinfandel hot spots of Rockpile and Dry Creek Valley. The warmest areas that are best suited to cabernet sauvignon are Alexander Valley, Fountaingrove, Knights Valley and Pine Mountain-Cloverdale Park. Let us not forget the rest of the Sonoma County AVAs, Moon Mountain, Northern Sonoma and Petaluma Gap.

Most important these days is what’s found inside and within these distinct regional territories. In Sonoma they like to call them “neighbourhoods,” micro-climates like Middle Ranch and Laguna Ridge in the Russian River Valley. These are akin to the Villages of Bourgogne so consumers can now begin to seek out varietal specificities with which to align from these hoods.

These fantastic humans helped to bring the excellence of @sonomacountyvintners to Toronto today. And it was great ~ @california.wines #sonomacounty #sonoma #sonomavalley #alexandervalley

Don’t look for a singular regional-varietal character, but rather look at the towns, a.k.a in that Bourgogne sense of the ideal, the Villages. Look back to 1857, to the story of the Buena Vista Count, collector of European grapevines (mainly in Vienna) brought back to California. This got everything started, including the Croatian variety zinfandel which at the time was being cultivated as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Look at the transfer from bulk to premium wine in the 1970s and the infamous moment at the Judgement of Paris when Chateau Montelena was the shocking victorious wine.

John mentioned last week that the main VINTAGES theme for October 27th is in fact Italy and not California and so David and I offer up some critics’ love for the great wines of that vast producing country. We take you to Umbria, Veneto, Toscana (including Chianti Classico) and Piemonte for some stellar choices. We wrap up the selections with some miscellaneous wines from around the globe, including some homegrown picks just a jog down the QEW and onto the Niagara Peninsula.

Sonoma Chardonnay

Sonoma Picks

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, California (VINTAGES, $79.95, WineAlign)

From the confluence of three appellations, coast, valley and mountain, not to mention a combination of rock and soil in ratios that as assets determine influence. Buttery and if aromas were textured this would be viscous, licked up from the thickness of fog filling in the mid-palate. Notable is that here the change in Sonoma styles over the past decade is arriving at this gate of transparency. Sharper now and gummed by less glück is the simplest way to sum it all up. Expressive in the ways of varietal and place is the bigger picture summarized. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018   threestickswines  halpernwine  @ThreeSticksWine  @HalpernWine  @threestickswines  @halpernwine

Patz & Hall Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, California (VINTAGES, $65.00, WineAlign)

Much more direct, sharp, pinpointed and poignant for modern day chardonnay, with ripe orchard park flavours, high acidity and great internalized impression. Five vineyards get together in this perfectly tidy house conglomerate and added up the stylistic is expressly P & H. From many famous Sonoma vineyards sometimes, often but not always inclusive of Sanchietti, Parmalee Hill, Pleasant Hill, Gap’s Crown, Dutton Ranch and Durell. A necessary parts when integrated are counted as contributors to the whole. Drink 2019-2022.  Tasted October 2018   patzhall  philippedandurandwines  @PatzHall  @Dandurandwines  @PatzHall  @VinsPhilippeDandurand

Ramey Wine Cellars Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, California (VINTAGES, $57.99, WineAlign)

Wild ferment and thrown in to bottle, literally. From Goldridge, those parochial, sought after soils, composed by 70 per cent Martinelli Charles Ranch and (30) Platt Vineyard. Rich without weight, texture without acting overly creamy. A beautifully balanced wine. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted October 2018   rameywinecellars  liffordgram  @RameyWineCellar  @LiffordON  @RameyWineCellars  @liffordwineandspirits

Siduri Pinot Noir Parsons Vineyard 2015, Russian River Valley, California (VINTAGES, $70.00, WineAlign)

Just west of the winery is the flat topography characterized by compact clay soils of Parsons’ Vineyard on the Santa Rosa Plain. The 2015 pinot noir is one of high energy ripe fruit but also beautiful acids. This is the ripe pinot noir we’ve come to know from the last 20 years and occupying a chair at the hyperbole of thought and execution. Such a guarantee of what to expect from the Russian River Valley. Strawberry jam, cola and the artfully managed barrel dodger. Broad and velvety. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018   siduriwines  halpernwine  @SiduriWines  @HalpernWine  @halpernwine  @Siduriwines  @halpernwine

Chalk Hill Estate Pinot Noir 2015, Russian River Valley, California (VINTAGES, $80.00, WineAlign)

Broad, even riper, of real lush texture and a bit ferric. Tart, tight, intense with at the edge evolution, development and ripeness. This is the trimmer set to the finest setting, allowing some room for growth but also leaving behind a stylish, nearly clean to the skin style. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018   chalkhillestate  liffordgram  @ChalkHillEstate  @LiffordON  @chalkhillestate  @liffordwineandspirits

Deloach Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate 2014, Russian River Valley, California (VINTAGES, $70.00, WineAlign)

The organically and biodynamically farmed Olivet Ranch Vineyard estate block has been owned by Boisset Family Estates since 2003. In 2014 this is bigger, fuller, taller, riper and certainly imbued with more wood influence. This from the J.C. Boisset stable is almost a throwback to innocent and precocious times. While the acidity in this vintage carries the dark fruit to terrific heights, it really is impressive how this works the glass and the room. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted October 2018   deloachvineyards  jc_boisset  jcb_collection  liffordgram  @DeLoachVineyard  @JC_Boisset  @LiffordON  @deloachvineyards  @BoissetCollection  @liffordwineandspirits

Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2015, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California (VINTAGES, $55.00, WineAlign)

Shows an extreme ripeness of being reaching to the breach and teetering on the edge while so successfully camping there. Dark fruit, nearly dusty and so filled in. Ripe, figgy and raisined with managed acidity to keep things in swimming balance. Berries of varying ripeness on old vines make for the great multi-juxtaposed connections. The 22 per cent petite sirah increases the curiosity, that plus three types of oak. So much going on and a good vintage for this OV zin. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted October 2018   drycreekvineyard  wineloversca  @DryCreekVnyd  @WineLoversCA  @drycreekvineyard  @WineLoversCA

Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel 2014, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California (VINTAGES, $55.00, WineAlign)

From 1972 planted vines on Cortina soil and yet curiously not referred to as old vines. The high-toned dark fruit does in fact present a curious juxtaposition, ripe and hematic but also savoury, dusty and mineral. This is just around the corner from entering into the perfect window of its life, integrated and in delivery of its gravelly-loam origins. Only identifiable as Seghesio and always on point. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted October 2018   seghesio  pellerwines  @seghesio  @APImportAgency  @seghesio  Andrew Peller Import Agency

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (VINTAGES, $118.95, WineAlign)

Take some time to allow Silver Oak’s cabernet to settle in and you might just smile a bit more. Here we are at that point, certainly glued to a house style, big in barrel with American influence and set up with Daniel Baron’s signature passed on through Nate Weis, most recent accomplice as Director of Winemaking. Pencil shavings and early harvested balance plus some wood waiting out of that wood means you are given some Alexander Valley grace at this stage of fine tannin development. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted October 2018   silveroakcellars  halpernwine  @SilverOak  @HalpernWine @SilverOakCellars  @halpernwine

Rodney Strong Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Rockaway Single Vineyard 2013, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (VINTAGES, $100.00, WineAlign)

This is the “lay down in the third bed and it was just right” Rodney Strong cabernet sauvignon from half new French barrel and nicely integrated at this point. Here the darkness of fruit and tighter if rounder structure comes from mountain fruit. Dusty dark black with briny Mediterranean accents leads this down a spice route road. In a delicious spot right now with a finishing bite of very dark, high cocoa content chocolate. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted October 2018   rsvineyards  markanthonyon  @rsvineyards  @MarkAnthonyWine  @Rodney.Strong.Vineyards  @MarkAnthonyWine

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES Oct 27th

California Picks

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2016, Contra Costa County, Central Coast, California ($24.95)

Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California ($39.95)

Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley, California ($49.95)

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley, California ($74.95)

Italian Picks

Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2016, Vento, Italy ($18.95)

Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, IGT Toscana, Italy ($28.95)

Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2014, Tuscany, Italy ($47.95)

Castello Della Sala Cervaro Della Sala 2016, Umbria, Italy ($68.95)

Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($69.95)

Ca’ Romé Romano Marengo Cerretta Barolo 2012, Piedmont, Italy ($72.95)

Grillesino Battiferro 2016 Morellino di Scansano, Tuscany, Italy ($18.95)

Miscellaneous Picks

Thelma Mountain Vineyards Sutherland Pinot Noir 2015, Elgin, South Africa ($19.95)

Redstone Chardonnay 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($19.95)

Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 2017, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($27.20)

José Pariente 2016 Verdejo 2016, Rueda, Spain ($19.95)

Echeverria 2015 Gran Reserva Syrah, Maipo Valley, Chile ($15.95)

André Brunel 2015 Cuvée Sabrine Côtes du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($15.95)

Stoller Family Chardonnay 2016, Dundee Hills, Yamhill County, Oregon ($27.95)

Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2016, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($29.95)

Luigi Bosca Terroir Los Miradores Malbec 2014, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($32.95)

I’ve been in fervent travel mode, scrambling voraciously around the globe gathering as much knowledge as my brain can handle. I’m also on the constant tasting and discovering lookout for gems to add into the WineAlign Exchange. Recent trips have taken me to Chianti Classico, Nova Scotia and Niagara. I’ve also recently judged with David Lawrason at the Great Kitchen Party (formerly Gold Medal Plates) in Toronto. I’m off to Argentina, followed by Chianti Classico and Piemonte. There will be no rest when there are so many wines to discover! Until later,

Good to go!

Godello

Taste of Sonoma – Diverse by Nature

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Three times three vertical with Laurel Glen Vineyard, Jordan Winery and Korbin Kameron

one-vineyards-cover-crop-is-another-mans-salad-laurelglenwine-organics-sonomamountain-cabernetsauvignon-sonoma-california-califwine

One vineyard’s cover crop is another man’s salad @LaurelGlenWine #organics #sonomamountain #cabernetsauvignon #sonoma #california #califwine

Sometimes the muse strikes when you least expect it. I was on the Frankfurt-Toronto leg on my return from Tuscany last night when it hit me. This time last year I was in Sonoma as part of a group invited by California Wines and tasted three vintage verticals (2012, 2008 and 2004) with three crucially constitutive California wineries; Laurel Glen, Jordan and Korbin Kameron. We were hosted (and benevolently fed) by Bettina Sichel, proprietor at Laurel Glen.

We also walked through Laurel Glen’s wondrous vineyard, a thousand feet up the slopes of Sonoma Mountain. In the pantheon of exceptional sites for cultivating cabernet sauvignon, Laurel Glen’s was pinpointed early and their first vintage was produced in 1981. The 16 acre vineyard was developed in the 1970’s by Sonoma wine pioneer Patrick Campbell. It is now farmed organically and is planted in particular to the Laurel Glen clone of cabernet sauvignon, certified as unique unto itself by the University of California at Davis.

The Laurel Glen vineyard was replanted to cabernet sauvignon in 1968 by Carmen Taylor at a time when such a proliferation was about to burst into an explosion. The grapes were sold for several years to Chateau St. Jean and at one time provided the backbone of Kenwood’s Artist Series. In 1977, Ms. Taylor sold the property to Campbell, who took cuttings from the existing three acres of cabernet vines to develop the modern vineyard.

I feel for you Canada. It's pretty cool in Sonoma too. Guess that's why the wines are so good.

I feel for you Canada. It’s pretty cool in Sonoma too. Guess that’s why the wines are so good.

Founders Tom and Sally Jordan established Jordan Winery in the Alexander Valley in 1972 so referring to them as Sonoma County pioneers is hardly a stretch. The first vintage was 1976, released in 1980. Second-generation vintner John Jordan and winemaker Rob Davis continue to craft the Healdsburg winery’s wines.

Jordan’s vineyards include estate blocks, which have more clay-rich soils similar to the Right Bank of Bordeaux, as well as well-drained, mid-slope grower parcels with mineral-rich soils more reminiscent of Bordeaux’s Left Bank. Rob Davis had this to say about the 2012 vintage. “The 2012 vintage validates our decision to elevate the black-fruit intensity in the wines without abandoning our house style. I didn’t think a wine like this was possible for Jordan twenty years ago.”

Korbin Kameron is the new kid on the block, or in their impressive 2,000-plus feet of altitude case, the mountain. Moon Mountain that is, a steep and picturesque, difficult to farm Mt. Veeder ridge that straddles the border between Sonoma and Napa counties. It is a family affair for Mitchell and Jenny Ming on their 186-acre estate, with their children Kristin and twins Korbin and Kameron.  The viticulturist is Phil Coturri and the winemaker is Timothy Milos.

The vineyard (referred to as both Korbin Kameron and Moonridge) sits on the ridge of the Mayacamas Mountain Range and straddles the Napa/Sonoma county line at 2,300 feet in elevation. It resides in both the Moon Mountain District and Mt. Veeder AVAs and is southwest facing, making it ideal for growing high quality Bordeaux varietals; cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot. Korbin Kameron also farms sémillon and sauvignon blanc.

Laurel Glen, Jordan and Korbin Kameron share few connective commonalities and each came to make their cabernet sauvignon from three unrelated paths. Sonoma Mountain, Alexander Valley and Moon Mountain are non germane to one another. So what is the learned significance of such a three times three tasting of seemingly disparate and at the surface, unconnected Sonoma County wines? Putting a finger on the associations between three vintners is like trying to get a musical grip on an “adventurous jazz drummer/composer whose own music walks the line between atmospheric contemporary jazz and aggressive post-bop.” As in Birdman and Three Times Three composer Antonio Sanchéz. What was the point?

The answer lies in a three-pronged composition; varietal, practice and vintage. The choice of Bordeaux as the launching point is not new to California, but in these three pockets of Sonoma the French left bank ideal is the thing. It has always been and will not be displaced any time soon. Mimicry and loyalty to common ground agricultural practices are abided, shared and repeated. The tenets are all so similar; low yielding vines, organics, planting of cover crops and tilling those organics back into the earth. And finally it is the three by three vintages that forge the final act of cahoots. This quick and obvious look at 2012, 2008 and 2004 is a glaring gaze straight into the mirror of Sonoma’s recent past. The thread speaks to clarity and obviousness, of richness, challenge and pleasant surprise. Three vintages.

sonoma-vintners

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (Winery, Approx. $80, WineAlign)

The vintage saw late bud break and therefore an abbreviated growing season with a long veraison to an early harvest. The highest yields of the recent past meant quality not seen for Jordan in forever. This ’12 signals to turn on the light of red fruit epitome, picked at a lower than typical brix, high in acidity and simply rocking red cabernet. Red currants of a precise sort of ripeness with the crushed fresh bursting seeds of pomegranate and citrus but in its very, very own unique way. This can only come about in a way specific to place with sheer deliciousness from Jordan. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2016  @jordanwinery

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (Winery, $59.95, WineAlign)

The retreat in time is as much the reason, though not entirely, for the gritty, darker, somewhat secondary though not nearly tertiary taste of 2008. A strike of flint and smoke clouds the air above the glass. The smoke gassed into acidity acts vinyl reductive, high-toned and yet submits to grit performing the play of gravelly soil. The last acts are a tragicomedy by wood and from chocolate. Gets the heart pumping with excitement at this eight year mark, looking back at the challenge of the vintage. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2016

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California (Winery, $59.95, WineAlign)

More than conceptually speaking this really fun and vitally alive look back 12 years solicits quick appreciation. The reference point is in reminiscence to left bank Bordeaux, capitulated into the geology of well-drained Sonoma County vineyards with mineral-rich, gravelly soils. Retroactive to and foreshadowing to what will come later in ’08 and ’12, the 12 year-old Jordan cabernet sauvignon holds firm and clear at 13.5 per cent alcohol, with a good cabernet franc component, for ripeness, for thoroughfare and for consistency. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2016

Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Moon Mountain District, California (Winery, Approx. $80, WineAlign)

Korbin Kameron hails from the Moon Mountain District, a unique California locale that straddles Napa Valley and Sonoma County. This is my first rapport with this cabernet sauvignon from the 2100 foot, west facing ridge of Mt. Veeder, with views of both the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. It hopefully will not be my last. Fruit grown here faces much maligning and in requiem of major effort repelling mildew pressure so Korbin Kameron faces it head on by farming organically. They also have to deal with erratic coastal influences. The plantings were done in 2000, 2002 and 2013, First Bordeaux reds and then Bordeaux whites. The locale determines long hang time and high acidity, 3.4 to 3.6 pH and alcohol levels between 14 and 14.5 per cent. The geology is mostly well-draining, gravelly and clay loam. Such florals nosed with eyes and mouth wide-open are character separating, notable from dry-farmed, arid brushy aromatics. A mountain sensation noted is due to minimally irrigated, tiny berry goodness, thicker skin tannins and a very delicate chocolate. Very long, conifer driven aromatics. Just a terrific discovery.  Drink 2019-2027  @KorbinKameron

Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Moon Mountain District, California (Winery, Approx. $80, WineAlign)

As far as California vintages go 2008 was not one for the ages and the cabernet sauvignon continues to make development haste. Only five kicks at the can in there is pleasant surprise in Korbin Kameron’s 2008 try. There is something about the altitude-affected, Sonoma-Mt. Vedder coupling that while not yet really understood, it is a story that will begin to take great shape in a few year’s time. Here at the eight year summit the yet young fruit still intensifies with a bit of rubbery reduction and slathers of chocolate ganache. What holes exist are eco-rich in oak. A bit of smoke-injected northern California unorthodoxy in cabernet sauvignon hangs in with life but the wane is certainly in. It’s much more than a matter of preponderance and curiosity. We should all be so fortunate to grab a taste like this. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted February 2016

Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Moon Mountain District, California (Winery, Approx. $80, WineAlign)

Korbin Kameron will put cabernet sauvignon and other Bordeaux variety wines for Moon Mountain District on the map but for now, looking back to the first vintage, it’s all about a work in progress. The essential family tenets of know-how, determination, creativity, vision, compassion and exuberance are but a twinkle in the eye. This 2004 is quite advanced, with dried fruit aromas and flavours, fig, even a bit of prune. Tannins are persistent, acidity still apparent and fruit waning. Sharpness of the vintage is nicely integrated into facets of earth and brush, chocolate and game. There is much appreciation for the gastronomy of this wine. Drink 2016.  Tasted February 2016

Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Sonoma Mountain, California (392217, $62.95, WineAlign)

From 100 per cent, planted in particular to the UC Davis confirmed Laurel Glen clone of cabernet sauvignon, acidity is the defining factor here. As it essentially is with respect to all Sonoma Mountain Cabernet, from a place of diffuse morning light and immune to the hot afternoon sun. Laurel Glen’s carries in its genetic make-up a VA expertly nurtured and managed well within the acceptable and appreciated threshold. There is no shortage of 2012 ripeness, exfoliated and at cross-purposed beneficence with tart berries and sweet currants. Quite the creamy chocolate finish and a very balanced wine. The silky tannins prepare it for early and repetitive accessibility. A fine example of how a structured wine that drinks early will also age with grace. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2016  @LaurelGlenWine  @Smallwinemakers

Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Sonoma Mountain, California (392217, $62.95, WineAlign)

Laurel Glen’s unique clone and exceptional vineyard-designate cabernet sauvignon is one of the winners from the challenging vintage in 2008. Sonoma Mountain has much to do with this eight years later retrospective perspective, now in secondary life, not just because of time. Yes, it may be a cliché but the reason is noted by fruit aromas that have dehydrated, into fig and yet the acidity is striking, piercing, and in your face. This is Laurel Glen’s calling card and what a dichotomous spin. The vintage made many sing “oh, what a tribulation.” Not so for Laurel Glen. This ’08 is rich and espresso dusty, of lava flowing, volcanic dust. From the Sonoma fire vintage but I think this wine is immune to that effect. Also remarkable balance from an imbalanced vintage where sugars spiked at harvest and in which flavours were dragged and lagging behind. “Forget your troubles and dance. Forget your sorrow and dance.” Cabernet Sauvignon to make Them Belly Full. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted February 2016

Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Sonoma Mountain, California (392217, $62.95, WineAlign)

From 100 per cent, planted in particular to the UC Davis confirmed Laurel Glen clone of cabernet sauvignon, acidity is the defining factor here. As it essentially is with respect to all Sonoma Mountain Cabernet, from a place of diffuse morning light and immune to the hot afternoon sun. Laurel Glen’s carries in its genetic make-up a VA expertly nurtured and managed well within the acceptable and appreciated threshold. There is no shortage of 2012 ripeness, exfoliated and at cross-purposed beneficence with tart berries and sweet currants. Quite the creamy chocolate finish and a very balanced wine. The silky tannins prepare it for early and repetitive accessibility. A fine example of how a structured wine that drinks early will also age with grace. Drink 2018-2028.   Tasted February 2016

hey-bret-really-lovely-little-drop-of-92-laurelglenwine-tnx-bettina-you-rock-califwines_ca

Hey Bret really lovely little drop of ’92 @LaurelGlenWine tnx Bettina you rock @CalifWines_CA

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

California stars in VINTAGES March 5th

The mustard in Napa Valley

The mustard in Napa Valley

Having recently returned from a week spent sizing up Napa Valley and Sonoma County it is personally apropos for VINTAGES to roll out this California release next weekend. Like any high quality engrossing preoccupation, the trip changed everything. Whatever I thought I knew or felt about the California wine industry now needs to be rewritten. The most pertinent question now in my mind is this. Can European wine keep up with the fictionality of North American reality?

For more on California and the VINTAGES release – WineAlign Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – March 5, 2016

When you travel to wine regions in Europe you can’t help but be struck by history, tradition and a general sense that things are the way they are because, well, just because. California reinvents the wheel. It shakes the foundations of thought. Forget Socratic maieutics. Questions that probe assumptions, implications or consequences are so European. You don’t ask a California winemaker “are you picking earlier to preserve acidity or because of global warming.” Ripeness is everything and a given.

Prices are not cheap when it comes to great wines made anywhere but in the case of California the outrageousness carries many meanings. The cost of land, labour and water sends grape purchasing through the roof. You are not being hosed by California wine. It costs what it costs for many good reasons. I will expand on all this in 10,000 words or more coming soon. For now, here are eight beauties in VINTAGES March 5th.

VINTAGES March 5th

VINTAGES March 5th

Frei Brothers Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (91025, $26.95, WineAlign)

Very ripe Pinot Noir from winemaker Scott Kozel, to no one’s surprise. What is surprising is the level of tension and soil tang, exposed in tone that is elevated above and beyond the rich, bing cherry fruit. This is true aggregate, composite, regionally amalgamated Pinot Noir made in large batches for commercial amassment and appeal. It works dutifully within the framework and the intent. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted February 2016  @gallocareers  @GalloFamily  @sonomavintners

The barrel cellar at Frei Brothers

The barrel cellar at Frei Brothers Ranch

Treana White 2013, Central Coast, California (11247, $29.95, WineAlign)

In which Marsanne and Viognier co-exist for pure, unadulterated pleasure. While the former does not dominate the latter, it does win the aromatic tug in floral inertia and gaseous minutia. A very golden California sun worshipping Rhone-ish blend with a candied flavour and texture tang. Certainly warm and blustery in style. A char on Char or shellfish would hold up well to its unctuous demand. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted February 2016  @hopefamilywines  @TrialtoON

Macrostie Chardonnay 2013, Sonoma Coast, California (244467, $35.95, WineAlign)

Sonoma Coast Chardonnay in definition and carefully realized misty commotion, raised with classic barrel toast and celebrating expertly gaged ripe fruit out of a foggy, cool-climate California shell. The fruit is viscous and elastic, gaining texture because of that wood, along with spice and exoticism. Finishes with beneficial bitters. Nothing shocking and everything excellent pulled from expectation. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted February 2016  @MacRostie  @sonomavintners

Cuvaison and Brandlin winemaker Steve Rogstad

Cuvaison and Brandlin winemaker Steve Rogstad

Brandlin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, California (340513, $54.95, WineAlign)

This walks a lovely mid-point between two styles of Napa Cabernet. It is neither stark nor blowsy, currant-focused or mocha chocolate obsessed. At $55 it marks the exact twain, exhibiting aspects of both camps and is regionally exacted for the Mt. Veeder appellation. Cabernet Sauvignon can sing like this sometimes. “Got my indignation but I’m pure in all my thoughts. I’m alive.” Brandlin’s sings like a Vedder ballad, with solemnity and hope. It may lack the Pearl Jam swagger but it’s stripped down beauty maintains an exceptional level of integrity. Guaranteed. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2016 @BRANDLIN_wine   @LiffordON  @NapaVintners

Storybook Mountain Mayacamas Range Napa Estate Zinfandel 2012, Napa Valley, California (682989, $69.95, WineAlign)

Warm berry, bramble and Red Twizzler Zinfandel secured with full and necessary extraction. The pool is wide and deep for Mayacamas run-off, coruscation and welcome alterity. Appreciation must be afforded the red ochre aspects, from soil through crusted fruit as this Zinfandel stops well short of over-exposure and over-wrought tonality. It’s well judged mired within the accountable coffers of its bigness. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted February 2016  @StorybookWines  @TheVine_RobGroh  @NapaVintners

Jonata Todos Red 2011, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County, California (218941, $79.95, WineAlign)

The 2011 Todos by winemaker Matt Dees at $80 dares a superfluity of surfeited California peers to hold water, weight, candles or dovetail to match up against its prodigious abilities. Blending never tasted so worthy. Syrah (75 per cent), Merlot (7), Cabernet Sauvignon (7), Sangiovese (4), Petit Verdot (4), Viognier, (2) and Cabernet Franc (1) add up to something fine. Better than Morocco, “the dreams are rolling down across the places in my mind.” Anise and charcoal mark the entry, ripe berries fill in early, expert acidity gains control and sweet, charred, fine-grained tannins take hold. This is warm but within reason and the length is exceptional. Love the bitter finish. Like early Jackson Browne. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2016  @WoodmanWS

Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California (932400, $83.95, WineAlign)

This is a welcome respite from heat, alcohol and maximum extraction. The fruit is ripe and just because there is an underlying green note it should not be perceived as unripe. The current rings a bell and draws red currants through. The spice is wood-derived and complimentary. This wine is lauded for its antidisestablishmentariansim. Give it some love. It has fine tannins and plenty of life ahead. And it will drink with different and alternating strokes for five to ten explicitly characterful years. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted February 2016  @frogsleap  @rogcowines  @NapaVintners

Kistler Mccrea Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, Sonoma Mountain, California (353706, $120.95, WineAlign)

To my mind the McCrea Vineyard is the coolest climatic Kistler, a Sonoma Mountain parcel that exudes a gemstone and tart orchard fruit personality. The ripe, ropey phenolics and slick barrel impart run from strength to strength, with a piercing sensation zip-lining in ascension through and carrying along the generosity of aromatics. Here we find Kistler at its juicy, mineral best. This is a striking Chardonnay with impressive, 25,000 bottle quantity produced length. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted February 2016 @TheVine_RobGroh  @sonomavintners

Good to go!

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October surprise

Beef shank, romano bean and lentil soup, tomato, basil, nasturtium

Beef shank, romano bean and lentil soup, tomato, basil, nasturtium

Just over two weeks separates us from another federal election, a national concern in address of criminal activity. Criminal because the choice, at least in the hazy, politically discharged context of my age of voting lifetime, has never been more difficult to make. This I can say. If any of the three leaders pulls out an October surprise from their proverbial political hat, I’m calling their bluff.

Political theory and editorial aside, the one organization that clearly invokes the OS trump card repeatedly and with outright conceit is the LCBO. The operating system is predicated on spin tactics to influence booze czars and to turn business reports inside out. Every month of the year can be aligned with surprise, to make certain the Province of Ontario and whichever elected (or keys to the castle given) Premier stays on the lee side.

Ontario beer, wine and spirit commentary aside, the VINTAGES release calendar continues to cycle on through with expert efficiency and en ever-increasing delightful, thoughtfully purchased and seemingly never-ending supply of quality wine. In 2015, the October surprise is one I can get behind, support and outright cheer for. Finding 10 wines I’d feel honoured to sip, pour and relegate to the mid-life crisis racks of the cellar is nothing short of shooting fish in a barrel. For October 3rd, here they are.

From left to right: Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013, Stephane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte Du Py 2012, Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec 2012, Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2013 and 2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2012

From left to right: Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013, Stephane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte Du Py 2012, Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec 2012, Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2013 and 2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2012

Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (391995, $19.95, WineAlign)

Another notch on the Escarpment knows Cabernet Franc totem, with similar if deeper, earthy red fruit character in 2013 for the Cave Spring. The tonalities are further elevated in a vintage that should offer more balance. That it does in terms of handling ripeness in opposition to acidity but at a young age it is further from its intended truth than was the ’12. This may be a better, bigger and deeper CF of potentiality but it’s awkward right now. Give it a year plus to answer the bell. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted September 2015  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh

Stephane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte Du Py 2012, Ac Beaujolais, France (424804, $19.95, WineAlign)

Like dark cherry for freshness, maceration for thickness. Entirely, satisfyingly and flat-out rung up in juicy Côte de Puy. Meaty and leaning to roasted, this consistent Morgon makes an honest bedfellow with the Cru. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted September 2015  @Nicholaspearce_

Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec 2012, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (366005, $22.95, WineAlign)

Tremendously different Malbec, within the context of largesse. Deep, natural funk, like Syrah of meaty, smoky, porcine intent, from the northern Rhone or Franschhoek. But as Malbec, to Cahors, or not, it is simply cimmerian, intense, of iodine and blood, of minerals not often sensed. Well scripted by a big box outfit with much on its plate. High commendation to be sure. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2015 @ALHmalbec  @winesofarg

Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2013, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (427534, $25.95, WineAlign)

Cabernet Franc moving with all the correct intentions. Plods a disciplined direction of self-harnessing variegated power out of the ripening challenges abetted by The Bench’s rolling hillside vineyards. Esteemed of low alcohol, on a knife’s edge verge of ripe, ripe fruit and with tannin to add necessary stuffing. Depth of Cab Franc terroir clay, simulating the beautiful rascal flats of the lakeshore, here up higher, crusted by the Escarpment, combining for depth and matter. This matter. This bottle matters, this varietal necessity, this excerpt. It has meaty, smoky, binging bent. It will age for a minimum five and likely, efficiently, for an excavating seven or eight. Drink 2015-2023.  Tasted September 2015  @Rosewoodwine

2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Fox Croft Block Chardonnay 2012, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (421362, $30.00, WineAlign)

In the hands of winemaker Kevin Panagapka, Craig Wismer’s fruit retains un underlay of power not recognized in other Foxcroft Chardonnays. Neither Thomas Bachelder nor Ross Wise (Keint-He) make anything near spirited as this 2027 take. Chardonnay loves the sun in the Foxcroft Block and Panagapka loves to see that sun hook up with the inside of a barrel. This ’12 makes a nice date for a wood wedding. A product of the Dijon 96 clone, the reduction in this Chardonnay drives its fresh, spritely if mettlesome nature, with a bark and a barrel bellow, but longevity will not suffer as a result. This could take 30 years to oxidize, it’s that audacious and also courageous. Let it and its buttered popcorn rest a while. Drink 2017-2025. Tasted May 2015  @2027cellars

From left to right: Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2013, Vina Real Gran Reserva 2008, Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2013 and Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013

From left to right: Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2013, Vina Real Gran Reserva 2008, Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2013 and Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013

Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2013, Coonawarra, South Australia (509919, $34.95, WineAlign)

One thing is certain, never judge a Penfolds by its cover, in its youth. Here Shiraz is meaty and pepper laces the brawny fruit. A purely bovine expression with enough ganache to ice a birthday cake for 50. But the level of structure, brick laying foundation and utter momentous occasion means this must be assessed with a waiting for the compression to emerge, from out beneath the cumbrous suppression. In time, that it will. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2015  @penfolds  @alyons_wine

Vina Real Gran Reserva 2008, Rioja, Spain (280545, $36.95, WineAlign)

Highly volatile at this stage and perhaps will be at further stages, but the fruit slinging to acidity bringing it to and from tannin is immense and beautiful. Big structure, stuffing and stage one temper. Has every right to fly its name up high because this represents firm 2008 Rioja with distinction and is as real as it gets. Needs three years to settle down and play a proper, righteous Rioja tune. Wow. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted September 2015  @Cvne  @vonterrabev

Kenwood Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California (944843, $39.95, WineAlign)

Always fruitful, full and necessary. No holes, plentiful in high quality chocolate and bountiful by way of stuffing. Deep and intense. Big tannins. Tells it from Sonoma Mountain in the way the author would have prescribed. In the proper function of Cabernet, “to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” Persists as a top under $40 California Cabernet, as it always has. A London for the 10-15 year haul. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2015  @KenwoodVineyard  @sonomavintners

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley (349019, $44.95, WineAlign)

No combination of ripeness and desert derived concentration can be found in any Cabernet Franc, not just in this country but really anywhere. That the Owl can achieve such massive structure and red fruit containment is remarkable, unparalleled and in singular ownership of style. Extraction clearly matters, layering is key and quality must ride with ripeness. “You know what I’m saying baby,” this is a sky rocket of a Cabernet Franc. Full on, flat-out expression, without compromise.  Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted September 2015  @BurrowingOwlBC  @LeSommelierWine
Owl - Sky Rocket

Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013, Rhône, France (700922, $58.95, WineAlign)

A thankful. restful and wistful return to form, away from heat and into perfume. Cherry melting into garrigue, beautiful musty wood, the way things were, not so long ago, when the evening meal and the garden mattered. As things do and will again. This Donjon will be a part of future’s past. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2015  @VINSRHONE  @RhoneWine

Good to go!

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