My First Barrel Tasting!

So does that belong in a scrapbook next to “My first steps” and “My first birthday cake?” As a wine enthusiast, I certainly think it might take a place among those milestones 😉

While in Sonoma, Matt and I were lucky enough to be shown all over town by Patrick (more about Patrick, his wife Genevieve and their wines later) of Iridesse Wines. We were also joined by Russ, the Winehiker himself, for all of one day and part of another. It was so much fun to meet more wine folks, and especially to finally put faces and voices with people’s internet personas. We couldn’t have asked for a better host, and I find it to always be great to go out and about with someone who lives in the area you are visiting…not only did we have great wines, we also went to fabulous restaurants! We met up with Patrick and Russ at the Flying Goat in downtown Healdsburg, and Patrick quickly whisked us away to Chateau Felice, where we were fortunate enough to be offered the chance to taste everything (and I mean everything) that was in the barrels.

Aside from the sheer joy and fun of being up close and personal with wine barrels and getting to taste the wines in their various states of development, the wines were really good. I also got to spit on the ground for the first time…..my pants may have come out a little bit worse for wear from that experience! As you can see, the grounds at Chateau Felice were absolutely picturesque. I can see why it’s a popular place to have a wedding. Before we tasted, Patrick showed us all around the vineyards.

All of these were barrel samples:

2007 Chardonnay: (Clone 76) Apple, tropical fruit, crisp, not oaky at all, pineapple, great acidity, yum.

2007 Chardonnay: (Clone 96) Pineapple, little creamier than the 76, a touch of toast and butter, peach, the wine was definitely still in the maloactic stage.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: Dusty blackberry, cherry, strawberry, white pepper, baking spices, very nice, layered, cherry, layered, definitely needs some more time.

2006 Cabernet Franc: Herbal, berries on nose, boysenberries, nice strawberry in the mouth with licorice and milk chocolate. Very well done.

2007 Merlot: Chocolate berries, plums, nice fruit, very good structure, kick on the end.

2006 Syrah: (out of tank) Peppery, vanilla, black fruit.

2006 Zinfandel: (out of tank) Peppery, light color for a Zin, vanilla, spice, red fruit, a touch of blackberry.

2007 Zinfandel: Chocolate malt, herbs, boysenberry, sweeter than 2006, still prickly from being in the barrel.

2007 Zinfandel Port: Very much like a late harvest Zinfandel, syrupy, boysenberry, blackberry, high residual sugar.

Filling the Basement

This is what our basement looked like before our 2008 Sonoma trip and before the great Reorg of 2008.

During our reorg. We pulled out all the wine that was there, and opened all the boxes that arrived yesterday.
We organized everything into varietals so that we would find things easier…well, that’s the idea.

And after! We completely filled up the 9 racks we had, plus a styrofoam case we had been previously using, and had to add 6 more styrofoam shipper halves to contain it all!!
Hours later, we are done, and exhausted!

Gnarly Friends



I am fascinated by grapevines. These gnarly old Zinfandel creatures were living on the side of the driveway up to Christopher Creek Winery, though they apparently belong to the lady next door!

Bud Break!!!



So I guess this confirms my status as a total wine geek (as Lenn just asked about), but I have never seen bud break before so I was super excited to be in Sonoma for it this year! We didn’t see any on our first two days, but finally, on the 3rd day (March 18) we witnessed it! These shots were taken at Acorn Winery where Patrick told us we should definitely not miss a tasting (and I agree, highly recommend the place.) These are, if I remember correctly, the Sangiovese vines.

Literally In the Saddle

*Disclaimer-I received this bottle of wine as a sample from WineQ because I am a member of their Beta Club.

The wine for the evening was a 2003 Sky Saddle Zinfandel from Twin Oaks Vineyard in Sonoma County. It clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and can be purchased from WineQ for $25.99.

I would suggest opening this bottle a half hour or so before you want to drink it, it needed to open up just a touch before I really got the full aroma and flavor from it.

On the nose the wine showed perfumed spices, lavender, rosemary, other spice, earth, dark cherries, and blackberries. The nose had a floral characteristic and lots of fruit came shining through. I thought the aroma was really complex and layered for a Zinfandel, in addition to being quite enticing; it made me want to jump right in. The mouth followed through on the nose, complex and layered, the flavors kept coming. I found black cherry, blackberries, chocolate, spice, earth, leather, rosemary, and yummy chocolate covered fruit. The mouth also had a similar floral characteristic to the nose.

I served the wine with pizza, and while it was fine with my homemade pizza, I must say, I truly enjoyed the glass I savored after dinner. This wine had so many flavors and layers that I really didn’t want any food aromas interfering with my enjoyment of the wine! As I finished my 2nd glass, the wine continued to smooth out of the next hour or so, leading me to believe this wine could hang out in the cellar for a couple more years, though is drinking great if you give it a half hour now!

I know Farley of Behind the Vines reviewed the same bottle about a month or so back, you can read her take on the wine here! And in fact, I liked the wine so much that I added a bottle to my Q over at WineQ and a bottle of the Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. If they are half as good as this I think I’m in for a treat.

Drinking Local

The wine for the evening was the 2006 Rappahannock Noblesse Blanc Table White from a winery we visited in Virginia recently. The bottle ran us $16.50 minus a 5% discount, had a real cork closure and oddly didn’t list the alcohol content on the label.

The wine smelled sweet, with aromas of apricots, tropical fruit, and pineapple dominating. In the mouth, I found mandarin oranges, pineapples, and other tropical fruit. The wine had a tangy element to it, a bit prickly, almost like the sensation slightly overripe pineapple leaves in your mouth.
It had good structure and acidity and would be really nice chilled for a summer quaffer.

Saddles Up

Sorry for the silence around here! I had no way to hook my computer up to the internet since Wednesday and am just getting back online today! We should be back to your regularly scheduled wine programming from here on out, no vacations for the Wannabe Winos for quite some time! I have lots to report on from our Sonoma trip, great new wineries, restaurants, more wine….! All in all, an excellent time was had by all and I really enjoyed getting to meet some of the wine bloggers I’ve been chatting with for a couple of years now! More on that later.

As for the wine of the night, it was a 2006 Twisted Oak Verdelho from Alta Mesa Silvaspoons Vineyards. The wine arrived in my very first Twisted Oak club shipment, along with Bob my chicken 🙂 It can be purchased from Twisted Oak from $16, clocked in at 13.4% alcohol by volume, and had a screw cap closure.

On the nose I found cream, white pepper, tropical fruit, cantaloupe, peach, and flowers. The wine was very aromatic. I also loved the pale straw color of the wine. In the mouth the wine showed pineapple, peach, citrus, and melons. The wine was surprisingly crisp and very refreshing. We quaffed it on an unusually warm winter evening in the DC area, on its own, and it was perfect.

I’ve previously reviewed the 2005 version of this wine, which you can read here.

Grower’s Reserve

Giving away a little bit of how behind I am on posts, we drank this 2004 Mauritson Grower’s Reserve Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley on Super Bowl Sunday. This will also show that while in theory I like the concept of pairing food and wine, really I just like the drink what I like with what I like to eat, though I will occasionally comment on whether or not a pairing worked for a wine.

Point in case: I served this Zin with a mish mosh of Super Bowl type appetizers- cheeses and crackers, various chips and dips, bourbon chicken, etc. It didn’t work, but no one much cared as the wine was good and the appetizers yummy!

The wine clocked in at 15.5% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, cost us $26.40 in a club shipment, and only 275 cases of it were made in a mix of grapes from 3 vineyards.

My first note on the wine was that the juice was not as dark as I thought it would be, based on it being a Zin and all the other Zins I have consumed. On the nose I found pepper, jammy blackberries, vanilla, and other dark fruit. It had a very nice and aromatic nose that didn’t seem to succumb to the alcohol content at all. In the mouth, the fruit was incredibly juicy with blackberries and blackberry pie being dominant. It also showed all spice and had a peppery kick on the back palate.

Overall, a very tasty Zin, and a good value for the money.

It’s Magic!

The bottle for the night was the 2006 Hocus Pocus Syrah. I picked this bottle up from Domaine547 for $17.99. I know it had a real cork closure, and I didn’t write down the alcohol content, but I believe it was somewhere in the low-14% range. The wine hails from the Central Coast of California.

On the nose I found cobbler, both blueberry and blackberry,
with cedar spice (and by that I do mean spiced Cedar wood, neither one nor the other), vanilla and pepper. In the mouth there were dark berries, especially blackberries, and it was a woody wine, in the sense of a dark forest. The wine was dark, silky, and well balanced.

I thought this wine was an excellent value for the price tag, and I loved the cobbler on the nose!

Blogging From the Road

AKA-Live in Sonoma County! Our bed and breakfast (at least the one we are in tonight) has free wireless so I am able to keep blogging for you while we are away!

The wine for the evening was the 2003 Lava Cap 2003 Reserve Merlot from El Dorado. It clocked in at 15.1% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and cost us $19.99 from WineQ (free shipping!).

On the nose I found berries, plums, spices, dark fruit, currants, and chocolate. In the mouth, more berries, currants, and plums. The wine was fruity with a bit of a darker earthy undertone, and still had a bit of a tannic edge.

I thought this was a really fun, fruity Merlot, and another great effort from Lava Cap. For this price, I would definitely get this again and consider it as a staple for serving with pizza or tomato based pasta dishes.