Visiting Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs

One of my pet peeves about websites is when they contain outdated information. Such was the case of Ridge Vineyards at Lytton Springs. The website says it has no tasting fee. Well, they do. We asked if they waive the fee if you buy wine, no dice. Oh well, we went ahead with the tasting anyway, and thankfully, our attendant ended up not charging us for the fee when she rang us out. Yay!

My impressions of the tasting room: The tasting bar was fairly large and very high off the ground. The interior really lacked any personality, I would say it was sterile and cold. Not really any decoration. I like to see something in a tasting room, especially if it’s not a busy day for the tasting room I like to wander around and look at pictures of the vineyards and such. Their overall wine list made my jaw drop. I had NO idea that their wines went for so much money! Not the ones that were being tasted, the ones for sale!

2004 Geyserville Zinfandel: $33. Blackberries, cherries, spicy, cracked black pepper.

2004 Lytton Springs Zinfandel: $33. Vanilla, blackberry pie (blackberry desserts and vanilla were common wine experiences for me this trip…), blueberries. This wine was very juicy. Matt’s favorite from this stop, we took home 1 bottle.

2004 York Creek Zinfandel: $28. More peppery than the Lytton, and the fruit had a darker quality. Blackberries and jucier than the Lytton. This was my favorite offering at Ridge and we took home 2 bottles.

2003 Lytton East Zinfandel: $30. Younger tasting fruit than the previous offerings, oddly enough given that it was a 2003. Juicy fresh blackberries, vanilla with a pepper note.

2002 Lytton Estate Petite Sirah: $30. Alcohol on the nose of this one, I had trouble getting past it. Cracked pepper, blueberries and blackberries.

WineQ Hits Another Homerun!

This bottle of Twisted Oak 2005 Verdelho arrived in my very first shipment from WineQ. I have been meaning to try the wines from Twisted Oak for quite some time now, but let’s face it, I’m a bit lazy and I can be forgetful (yet another reason WineQ works really well for me, I don’t have to think much about it beyond adding more wines to my queue, minimal effort is excellent) so I hadn’t gotten around to it. But now I have and I can say for certain this will not be our last bottle of this one or from Twisted Oak in general….I have my eye on the Petite Sirah….

Anywho, onto the wine. Screw-cap (which actually came off the bottle without Matt having to take the pliers or a knife to it, thanks Twisted Oak!), 13.2% alcohol by volume and cost $15.99 (free shipping!).

The nose of the Verdelho was very aromatic. It started out with a strong sense of pineapple giving away to apple. Flowers then dominated the nose. In the mouth there were pears, apples and peaches. The wine had excellent acidity and structure.

I served it with parmesean breadcrumb baked tilapia and leftover risotto. Some kind of vegetable too, though my memory is foggy and I couldn’t take a picture of the dinner with the wine as you couldn’t see the bottle up against my pile ‘o junk. The light flower and crisp fruit flavors in the wine paired well with the light flaky fish and the acidity did well up against the creamy cheese risotto.

Overall, we loved this wine. The flavors and aromas were great for the summery weather we’ve been experiencing here and the value was excellent.

Disintegrating Cork

This bottle was a nightmare. I picked it up in Pasadena at Chronicle Wine Cellar. The wine caught my eye as it was from Kunde Vineyard, which someone had suggested I visit in my post about vineyards to hit in Sonoma. We weren’t going to be able to make it there, but I still wanted to try the wine, as the Zinfandels seemed right up my alley.

The wine was a Kunde 1998 Shaw Vineyards Zinfandel. It cost $19.95 at Chronicle Wine Cellar. It was a lone bottle on a shelf and I grabbed it the second I saw it. The problem came when I went to open the bottle. I stuck my corkscrew in and the cork was soft. I went to pull it out and it broke. Undaunted, I tried again. What remained of the cork crumbled into a million little particles and fell in my wine, rendering it temporarily undrinkable. I had to strain each glass. And even that didn’t get it all because some of the pieces were so miniscule they fit through the strainer. I wasn’t too hopeful at this point for how the wine was going to taste, given that it indicated to me that the storage of the bottle had been less than ideal (it was 9 years old after all).

Thankfully, I was wrong! The wine was perfect. In fact, it could have aged even longer in my opinion, though I’d be wary of the cork….

On the nose there were aromas of toast, oak, blackberries and currants. The wine had a very pleasant nose and Matt’s friends were laughing at me as I just kept sticking my nose in the glass. I love the aroma of a good Zinfandel. At 14.1% alcohol the wine was on the lower end alcohol-wise of the Zinfandels I see now. In the mouth there were big gobs of dark fruit, spice, currants, blackberries and red cherries. Overally, it left an impression of dark fruit and spiciness with me. I very much enjoyed the wine in the bottle, once I got it open, and hopefully the cork added to my fiber intake for the day.

But tell me, how do you handle things if a cork goes horribly, horribly wrong?

VIsiting Seghesio Vineyards

Our very first stop on this trip to Sonoma was at Seghesio Vineyards. Unfortunately, I left my camera at our B&B and didn’t take any pictures. The tasting room is fairly close to the center of Healdsburg, so is a great stop for after lunch in town, which I would have thought of had I actually mapped everything we wanted to get to in relation to each other rather than making individual maps for each thing! Enough of that. I loved the yard in front of the tasting room. It had a single row of vines growing up close to the property line and was very well manicured with flowers all in bloom. Inside, the tasting room was very spacious, with a long tasting bar against the back room. I thought it was great that through the windows behind the bar you looked directly into the barrel room which was dimly lit so you could see all the barrels lined up (I’m a little fascinted, oddly enough, by wine barrels).

Our tasting room attendant was very friendly, he encouraged us to come back on Friday for the food and wine pairing they offer, but we weren’t able to swing back by. Sorry about that! He chuckled at my note-taking, but said he’d check out my blog, so hopefully he will and catches this post! We tasted through 6 wines, following are my brief notes on each.

2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Grigio: $19.95. Light and crisp, lemon and vanilla flavors, nice finish. Good summer wine.

2005 Costierra Pinot Noir: $38. Raspberries, cherries, spicy. Very young. Seems like it should age very well.

2004 Sangiovese: $28, 14.8% alcohol by volume. Very pleasant aroma, juicy black fruit, very well done. This was Matt’s favorite of the tasting, we took home 3 bottles.

2004 Cortina Zinfandel: $36, 15.3% alcohol by volume. Pepper, blackberries, juicy, good structure.

2004 Old Vine Zinfandel: $33, 15.3% alcohol by volume. Blackberry tart, vanilla. Juicier than the Cortina. This was my favorite of the tasting, we took home 1 bottle.

2005 Home Ranch Zinfandel: $36, 15.3% alcohol by volume. Earthy, dark cherries, slight hint of vanilla.

Overall, a very nice choice for a first stop. The wines were a little pricier than I would have liked, but were all very well done.

Run Rabbit Run!

We had a bottle of Rock Rabbit Winery 2005 Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc while out visiting the in-laws in California. I picked the bottle up at Gouda and Vines in Montrose, CA for $9.95. It had a real cork closure and clocked in at 13.8% alcohol.

The style of this Sauvignon Blanc was completely different from the Matua from New Zealand we had consumed the night before. While still crisp and full of acidity, it didn’t have the same “zing” that the Matua did. I enjoyed both, but I really do love the New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc.

On the nose I found apricots, lemon, melons and hay. In the mouth I found peaches, limes and pears. We drank this on it’s own one evening, though I would pair it with a nice white fish or crab legs. Overall this wine was crisp and had good structure in the mouth. The value was good as well, though for my tastes, I prefer the Matua at $7.95!

Wine Gifts are Great!

Tonight we drank one of the bottles of wine that my mother in-law sent us. As I mentioned before, when she went to her high school reunion in CA she discovered that several of her classmates own vineyards and she decided to send me a bottle from each to try. The first one we have consumed is a 2003 Chatom Vineyards Esmeralda Syrah. From the website I can see that it runs $34, is 14.5% alcohol by volume and has a real cork closure. Chatom Vineyards is located in Calaveras County in Esmeralda Valley from which this wine takes its name. It also appears that this Syrah won a bronze medal in the 2006 San Fransisco Chronicle Wine Competition. I believe this is my first bottle of wine from Calaveras County, though it won’t be my last as I’ve got a Twisted Oak Verdelho that just arrived from WineQ waiting for me!

Oh yes, the wine! Decant it. The alcohol on the nose took quite a while to blow off, over an hour in the glass I’d say. I served the wine with some freshly made tomato sauce, pasta and parmasean cheese. Aromas of cherries, spices, oak and dark chocolate could be found on the nose. The nose was complex, with the aromas showing better after sitting out and more layers appearing over the next hours. In the mouth, the flavors were cherries, raspberries and plums, with a lingering spicy note. The finish was long, lasting at least 10 seconds or so.

Overall the wine was a good match for the dinner, with the spicy notes complementing my sauce nicely. I liked the style of the wine, it was quite well balanced and I think I would serve it with roasted lamb or a nice bbq if I had another bottle.

Trying not to be selfish

Although I had planned where we wanted to stop, sometimes you just have to explore new things. I tend to think you run across great finds that way, as was the case here. As the title implies, I almost don’t want to share this find because it was SO good. The outside doesn’t look like much, and the website isn’t all that functional yet, but what was inside these wines makes up for any aesthetic shortcomings. The winery is new. Really new. It’s called Mounts Family Winery. While the vineyard has been growing grapes for over 50 years, they just opened this spring as a winery producing their own wines. We were leaving our one appointment of the day and it was early, my list was going to be done well before the day was even remotely over. I drove us by this winery with a plastic banner and a few lonely balloons and we decided to turn in.

The driveway is long. It runs you right up through the vineyards to this old barn. There was a woman in the driveway, but no one else, and no cars. I thought maybe we were at the wrong place, so I rolled down my window and asked the woman if she was having tastings. She seemed really excited and told us to come on in. It turned out we were her first tasters ever. Literally. She told us that she was officially opening the place for business on that Saturday but on a whim had stuck out a balloon to see if anyone would stop. Apparently Matt and I are easily lured by balloons.

The tasting room, if you can call it that, is actually down in the basement of that old barn, down around the back. The owner had to pull out glasses from brand new boxes for us to use and open each of the four bottles, comprising their entire current line-up. Matt could barely fit in the room and it was packed to the gills with barrels, which I eagerly looked at and was interested to find that they were all different. The owner informed me that her husband likes to try different barrels from many different manufacturers. Overall, the winery is at a current production of 500 cases and does not appear on the old map, so make sure you get a 2007 copy if you want to find them.

It was really a ton of fun to be someone’s first tasters ever. The owner was so excited to tell us about her wines and to let us taste them. And they were so good. Really really good, I was sad that I was the driver and had to spit them out.

2005 Syrah-$22, 15.2% alcohol by volume. On the nose, oak and cherries. In the mouth, an earthy flavor with deep red fruit, cherries and plums.

2005 Cabernet Franc-$28, 15.5% alcohol by volume, only 85 cases made. Spicy, tobacco and blackberry on the nose. Blackberry and bitter chocolate in the mouth.

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon-$26, 14.8% alcohol by volume, only 50 cases made. Raspberry, chocolate and leather on the nose. Smooth in the mouth with raspberries and a leathery hint. We brought 2 bottles home.

2005 Petite Sirah-$28, 15.2% alcohol by volume, 180 cases made. Absolutely the star of the show in my opinion, though everything was just delicious. Blueberry pie, vanilla on the nose. Full of fresh, dark berries in the mouth, a little spicy with hints of cracked pepper. If you are a Petite Sirah fan, do yourself a favor and get a bottle of this. We took 2 bottles home.

Mounts was by far the best discovery of this trip. The wines were delicious, the owner was so friendly and so eager and it was a blast to be someone’s first tasters. It may look humble, but the wines are anything but. I look forward to the Zinfandel they anticipate releasing in future vintages.