Halls of Exzellenz

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Hall Winery

Oh the excellence or Exzellenz of Hall. I wrote about the 2006 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon a couple months ago. I loved that wine. Well, that’s an understatement….I adored it.  Since then, I’ve actually had a chance to visit Hall Winery (both the St. Helena and Rutherford locations) and I will need to tell you about that soon.  For our anniversary, we decided to crack open the other bottle that Hall sent me as a sample to toast our 3rd year as a married couple. The 2006 Hall Exzellenz is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but my understanding is that Hall wanted the flexibility to change it to a blend in the future.  I walked through the Sacrashe Vineyards at the Hall estate where the grapes are gone and heard from the Vineyard Manager about the farming.  The Exzellenz had a real cork, clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, and retails for $150.

On the nose I got black cherry, earth, spice, forest, fresh figs, cinnamon, dusty chocolate, and some red fruit hanging out in the background–I want to say some red berries.  In the mouth I found black cherry, spice, black currants, black plum, dark chocolate, anise, earth, and a bit of blackberry.  The fruit in the mouth showed as really juicy black with tannins to spare.  Of the two Hall Cabs I’ve tried, the Kathryn Hall was much more approachable as a very young wine, and if I were to pick one to drink now, that would be it.  If I wanted a wine to cellar and hold for years to come, I’d pick the Exzellenz and tuck it away for 15 years.

Sacrashe Vineyard


Bubbles In My Glass

We brought some bubbles with us to my parents’ house last week to enjoy as the weather was supposed to be scorching. I’m glad we did…apparently it was the warmest weekend all summer! Thankfully, we had bubbles and a pool…and my parents just put in central air. Of course, I lived there for 19 years and we didn’t have central air. Anyway, we packed the N.V. Scarffenberger Cremant into the car and popped it in the fridge when we arrived.  I purchased this at the winery for $25 and it had a typical Champagne cork closure.

On the nose, the wine smelled waxy. I’ve used this description before, but it’s only the second time I’ve found this box of Crayola crayon type smell.  I also found yeast, slight citrus, and a little raspberry. A fairly reserved nose. In the mouth I got raspberry, orange, yeast, and citrus. Overall, the wine was light and crisp, with tingly little bubbles.

Ante Up

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Sort This Out Cellars.

Well, I don’t play cards. And I don’t gamble.  But I’d suggest you gamble on this bottle of wine, as it’s a solid bet.  Tonight we opened the 2005 Sort This Out Cellars Ante Up Syrah. It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume, and retails for $24. We had it after dinner since I really wanted a Syrah but we were having a creamy casserole for dinner that wouldn’t match well!

On the nose I got plum, black cherries, pepper, vanilla cream, black currants, blueberries, juicy black fruit, anise, and herbs.  Those nose just smelled fresh.  In the mouth I found tart black fruit, black cherries, black plum, spice, herbs, anise, and black currants.  Really, it tasted like I bit into a black cherry! The wine had nice acidity and structure and would be great with a roast.

Not Crushing It

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Don Sebastiani and Sons.

The Crusher series of wines is one of several labels from Don Sebastiani and Sons. It falls under the Three Loose Screws brand and is intended to be a line of affordable single varietal wines mostly from Clarksburg, CA. I wrote earlier about the Cabernet Sauvignon that didn’t much taste like Cabernet Sauvignon. This time I have the the 2007 The Crusher Viognier.  It had a plastic cork, retails for about $12, and clocks in at 14.9% alcohol by volume…pretty high for a white wine.

I wanted to like this wine. I really did. In general, I love Viognier. But I didn’t love this.  The nose showed banana, flowers, honey, lemon, melon, pineapple cream, underlying yellow apple, and pear.  A good start. But in the mouth I found it to be very bitter and acidic.  I also got vanilla, pear, peach, some oak, cream, apricot, and a spicy aftertaste.  I see other reviews around the wine blog world that really liked this.  NMS.

The First Fall Wine

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Sobon Estate.

Several months ago, I connected with Sobon Estate on Twitter. As I’ve mentioned before, if I’m out and about shopping for wine, and I’m looking for new stuff to try, I’m much more likely to choose a wine from a winery I’ve connected with on Twitter or seen on a fellow wine blogger’s site if one is available. I guess connecting with the folks behind the winery on Twitter makes me more interested in seeing what their brand has going on. In that vein, I purchased a bottle of Sobon’s Sauvignon Blanc and as I Twittered and wrote about it, the folks at Sobon offered to send me a couple of their Zinfandels to try!  We cracked open the 2007 Sobon Estate ReZerve Primitvo from Amador County to try the other night. It retails for $24, clocks in at 15% alcohol by volume, and had a real cork closure.

So let’s just get this out of the way: I loved this wine. Absolutely adored it and imagined myself drinking it by the fire in the fall. On the nose I found pepper, smoke, blackberry, licorice, earth, herbs, wood, plums, and overall sense of jammy fruit.  In the mouth I got tart blackberry, plums, boysenberry, lots of tart fresh fruit, black fruit, herbs, and pepper.  On the palate, this was all juicy and just delicious. We ate it with my homemade pizza and it sang.

The Last Wine Book Club

Last year Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20 proposed the idea that every month wine bloggers would get together, choose a book on wine, and all read it and review it. Initially I was excited because I have a ton of wine books sitting around.  But then reality set in and in all honesty I have neither the time nor the energy to make it through a book a month.  It’s a sad state of affairs, I’ll admit, but 3 years out I’m still recovering from the nightmare that was law school which zapped any desire to read I had. Couple that with a job that has me reading a ton of technical publications on a daily basis, and my avid wine blog reading, and I just couldn’t do it.  I participated a couple times, and thought, since I already have this month’s book and had read it, that I’d participate in the final edition of WBC.

Dr. Debs chose A Vineyard in Tuscany by Ferenc Máté for the last WBC. I purchased this book in December 2007 from R.J. Julia’s in Madison, CT. I actually read it ages ago, though apparently I never wrote about it for some odd reason. I truly thought I had. Last winter/spring I went through a period where I actually was reading a book a week…on the plane to and from Atlanta where I was detailed for a work project and had to travel to and from every week or so.  It’s possible the post got lost in the transition from Blogger to WordPress…I had some issues when I moved.

A Vineyard in Tuscany is a fairly quick read. I polished it off on the round trip flight to Atlanta from National Airport…about a 1.5 hour flight each way.  Then again, according to Matt, I’m the only person he’s ever met who reads faster than he does (a skill that did serve me well in law school!).  Or perhaps the book went fast because I wanted to gobble up the story of the Máte family as they purchased a vineyard, planted it, got through their first harvest, and bottled the wine.

Not only did they purchase a vineyard site, but they purchased a ruin site…that they fully restored. My favorite bits were when Ferenc insisted on chasing down ancient beams to restore the ceilings to their former glory as well as an old front door. I loved the dedication to making the restoration truly authentic and not just substituting modern materials.

I was as drawn into the restoration of the ruins as I was into the planting of the vineyard. Of course, the stories were interwoven, but at times, it seemed as if the focus was mostly on the house.  I think I would have enjoyed a bit more info about the vineyards and how they chose to plant the grapes they did.  At the same time, I cheered when they harvested their first grapes after 3 years of getting the vineyard ready and restoring the ruin.  And, the descriptions of their Syrahs made me want to hunt one down just so I could try it!

Overall, I loved the idea of building something from scratch–making it totally yours and just the way you want it.  The fact that it was a vineyard of course made it more appealing to me, seeing as how I still harbor the seemingly impossible dream of someday owning my own vineyard!

Many thanks to Dr. Debs for her efforts with the WBC, and my sincerest apologies for not being a better participant.

Wiping the Slate Clean

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from the PR company for Wines of Germany.

Searching for an inexpensive, tasty, easy to drink Riesling to add to your everyday wine line up? Look no further, I’ve found it for you! Although I wouldn’t spend a lot of time contemplating this wine, if you were sitting outside for some simple grilled chicken or white fish, I’d recommend slurping on this bottle of 2007 Clean Slate Riesling. It has a screw cap, clocks in at just 10% alcohol by volume, and retails for under $9!

On the nose I found lemon, pineapple, almonds, tropical fruit notes, tart apple, pear, and peach.  In the mouth I got citrus, peach, lemon, apple, white peach, honey, nectarines, and a bit of tinned pears.  Overall, the wine is clean, crisp, dry, and presents loads of yummy fruit flavors. All for under $9.  Add this one to your summer line up of fun, fruity whites and hopefully, like me, you’ll forget about the humidity for a moment while sipping it.

A New Winery

The final request for wineries to taste while we were in Murphys for the pre-Wine Blogger Conference came, surprisingly, not from me.  And it’s not a winery I was at all familiar with!  Liza and Thea had visited Renner on a trip up to Calaveras earlier this year.  They both wanted to taste the wines again.  Renner is actually located outside of Murphys.  The winemaker made a special trip over to have dinner and pour his wines for us!  Lucky wine bloggers are we!

We tasted through 4 wines before we had our dinner and blending session at Twisted Oak. As I tasted, I became extremely jealous of the excellent deal Thea and Liza got on Syrah when they visited earlier this year!

2007 Viognier: $22. Nilla wafers, pear, peach, caramel, stone fruit, crisp, pear, full mouthfeel.

2006 Canterbury Vineyards Syrah: $18. Black cherry, vanilla, black currants, black plums, cream, black fruit, anise, dark fruit, great structure.

2006 Canterbury Vineyards Shiraz Cabernet: $18. Raisiny, a little sweet, milk chocolate, nice in the mouth, blackberries, tannic.

2005 Syrah: $25. Oakier, black cherry, creamy nose, little anise, black fruit, dark, tannic.

Overall, I found these to be some really nice wines. I’m happy Liza and Thea asked for them to come out to us or else I would never have had the chance to taste them! Many thanks to Renner for visiting the rowdy wine bloggers at Twisted Oak!

Just Keeps Getting Better

This wine feels like an old friend. Whenever it comes around I’m delighted to see it and I’m sad when it’s gone. I wonder when I’ll see it again.  The 1999 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut is way out of our normal price range,we paid $60 at the winery for this bottle, so we don’t drink it as often as I would like. Though I see you can now find it at various online shops for as low as $40. At that price, I would drink it more often! I have no idea for how much longer this wine will continue to improve, but I’d be happy to keep drinking it for some time!

On the nose I found lemon! Lots and lots of lemon…some had a more herbal quality like lemon verbana and some a sweeter note like meyer lemon.  I also found minerals, yeast, spicy herbs, and peach.  In the mouth I got tart lemon, tart melon, yeast, meyer lemon, green apple, and prickly pear.  I also got an overall sense that the wine seemed a bit doughy.  I love how sprightly this wine is, even after 10 years, it’s crisp with great bubbles and a lovely mouthfeel.

If a Woodchuck Could Drink Wine

As I played around with my blog this weekend, I got to thinking about how much wine I taste and/or drink every year.  Before I started the wine blog, I would have categorized myself as a casual wine drinker.  I would mostly split a bottle with Matt on Friday or Saturday nights or if we went out to a restaurant.  Of course, my friend Kim and I had our own tasting every Tuesday night where we alternated houses and introducing each other to different wines. See, I was pretty much a white wine only person and Kim was decidedly in the red wine only camp.  We made a good pair and generally made our way through mounds of junk food and several bottles of wine while we watched Gilmore Girls and Supernatural. Man I miss those nights!

Then came our first trip to Sonoma and I got bit hard by the wine bug. And it didn’t hurt that I then had 12+ cases on hand plus more arriving all the time from the 10 or so wine clubs we joined.  Soon, wine became a part of our dinner, the meal didn’t seem complete without it.  Over the last 3ish years, I’d say we probably open at least 5 bottles a week, and sometimes more if we have company or I decide to go on a tasting spree to clear out some samples. Otherwise, the basement starts to look like this:

The wine monster.

The wine monster.

So I decided to do some quick tallying of wines since I started the blog.  I’ve written about at least 630 individual bottles of wine in less than 3 years. I’ve visited around 70 vineyards and/or wineries. I’ve gone to dozens of wine tastings.  If I had to guess I probably taste around 700-900 or so wines a year if you combine all tasting formats.  I think that’s pretty decent given I’m just one person, I buy most of our wine (thinking about that, I would guess I buy about 20 or so cases of wine a year, sheesh!), and I only manage maybe 2 wine country trips a year! But what about you? How many different wines do you taste a year? Do you think you taste enough to keep developing your palate? Where do you taste the most wines, at home, at tastings, vineyards?  Do you think the different tasting formats affect your experience with the wine?