Back to the Ranch

Sorry for the radio silence this past week. Mr. Wannabe Wino and I took our annual trek out to Sonoma last week and I tried (as much as possible for someone as addicted as I am) to disconnect from the computer. Helped along by spotty wireless, it wasn’t that difficult! To start back down the Sonoma trail, I thought I’d tell you about a wine I had recently that was just absolutely lovely. Lurking in my basement was the 2008 Bella Ten Acres Pinot Noir Dunah Vineyard. I purchased this wine in club shipment, it clocked in at 14.6% alcohol bu volume, and had a real cork closure.

Four takeaways from this wine:

1.) Bella’s specialty is Zin, but this wine showed the depth of their wine-making program.

2.) In an attempt to find out more about Dunah Vineyard, I learned that the family makes it’s own wine as well. I must try it soon.

3.) Russian River Valley Pinot Noir rocks.

4.) Despite the higher alcohol content, this wine was very well balanced.

On the nose I found cedar, smoke, warm from the sun raspberries, chocolate powder, herbs, sage, and cherries. In the mouth I got pepper, black cherry, raspberry, herbs, more cherries, and a chocolate note. The wine had great acidity and I found the fruit to be fresh and juicy.




Loving on Russian River Zin

By my own admission, what lead me to a love of red wine was Zinfandel. Specifically Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. Which, truly, I still love, adore, and consume with great frequency. However, after that initial lightbulb of “wow, I actually like red wine” went off, I quickly moved to anything and everything red under the sun. In doing so, I also learned an appreciation of what different AVAs can do with the same grape. This brings me back to the subject of today’s post: my love of Russian River Valley Zinfandels. The Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley are neighbors. You wouldn’t think the Zinfandels would be THAT different, right? Oh, but you would be wrong. The cooler climate and the fogs that help define the Russian River Valley produce an entirely different kind of Zinfandel. And it is delicious. Tonight we opened the 2006 Bella Russian River Zinfandel. The wine retails for $30 (I paid a few dollars less in my club shipment), had a real cork closure, and clocks in at 14.9% alcohol by volume.

On the nose, big blackberries jump out, followed by pepper, cinnamon, black currant, pomegranate, milk chocolate, smoke, and blueberry. This had one of those scrumptious noses you would like to just keep sniffing, but that would mean you’d miss actually tasting the wine. In the mouth I got blackberry, black currants, black cherry, and chocolate notes. Smooth, with well integrated tannins and beautiful fresh fruit, this wine is very ready to drink.

Fancy Decanting

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful….a night that cried out for a Zinfandel, one of my favorite winter red wines.  We dug into our own stash for this wine, looking for something that would warm us to our bones. I pulled out the 2006 Bella Big River Ranch Zinfandel.  I can’t recall what it cost, though I would guess in the $35 range with my club discount, it had a real cork closure, and clocked in at 14.8% alcohol by volume. A word to the wise on this one: leave it in your cellar for a while longer. It’s still a baby and needs a few more years of age to really reach its prime. We stuck our Soiree wine decanter on the bottle and ran it though that, which helped, but it still needed time in the glass to really open up.

On the nose I found raspberry, fresh blackberry, clove, baking spice, pepper, spice, dark fruit, and earthy notes. After a run through the Soiree and some time in the glass, the wine had a great nose that you could get lost in…or could stick your nose so far into that you end up with a red tipped nose! In the mouth I got the same raspberry, blackberry, and dark fruits as I found on the nose, spice, pepper, and charred meat.  I found the palate to be quite spicy and peppery and redder than the nose, and definitely thought it deserved some more bottle age.


Winter turns my mind to dessert wines. Often very sweet and heavy, I don’t tend to drink them at all in the summer/warmer months. Thus, they start to pile up in the basement. We probably have a good 20 or so bottles of dessert wine hanging around, ranging from port-style wines to Ice wines.  Also, with just the two of us, a bottle would hang around for a little while as they are just a bit too sweet for me to enjoy more than a cordial glass or so at a time.  Matt really likes them though! Since my parents were visiting, it seemed like a great excuse to break out a dessert wine and we chose the 2007 Bella Late Harvest Zinfandel. We purchased this at the winery, though I can’t recall now what we paid for it.

On the nose I found blueberry, blackberry, blue fruit, spice, bittersweet chocolate, and blueberry pie filling.  In the mouth I got blueberry pie, spice, blackberry, and a slight hint of chocolate.  While sweet, it wasn’t too sweet for my tastes and I enjoyed the long finish. Everyone loved this bottle and it wasn’t long before it was only a memory.

Bella, How I Love Thee, Let Me Count The Ways

Bella has to be one of my favorite vineyards for big red wines. I regret the day I ever had to cut their club and am VERY happy to now be a member again. On the other hand, joining up again means that if I want another club I have to give up one that I already have. Ack!

I still have massive numbers of tomatoes in my garden (seriously, I think I grew mutant tomato plants, we must have picked hundreds of tomatoes and are still picking them) so I whipped up some fresh sauce, tossed in a bunch of basil and parmasean cheese, cooked up some pasta and called it a meal. With the dinner, I picked a bottle of the 2005 Bella Hillside Cuvee to drink. We picked up 2 bottles of this on our latest trip to Bella and received a 3rd in a club shipment. The wine cost $28 minus a club discount, clocked in a 14.9% alcohol by volume, and had a real cork closure. The Hillside Cuvee is a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 10% Petite Verdot.

On the nose of the wine I found espresso, dark cherries, blackberries, plum, chocolate, brown sugar, currants. The fruit struck me as big and dark, with lots of hints of other enticing aromas. In the mouth I got flavors of blackberry, plum, currants, boysenberry, blueberry, spice, and a bit of chocolate. The fruit came through as fresh and tart.

Overall, the wine seemed a bit tannic, and it had a little bit of heat. I think this one needs some time, so I’ll hang onto my other two bottles and will report back over the next couple of years as we drink them. Not such a great match with my pasta dinner, but made for an excellent after dinner drink!

Beautiful Bella

On our last trip to Sonoma, one of my absolute must visits was to Bella Vineyards. I fell in love with Bella on our honeymoon and we joined their club at that time. However, when we bought our house, we had to make some sacrifices and I had to give up my membership. It was a difficult choice, and I was determined to rejoin as soon as we could.

We twisted Russ’ arm to come to Bella with us on our last day in Sonoma (trust me, it didn’t take too much convincing!) and off we went, to meet him as soon as the place opened. We expected it to be a slow day, since we were there first thing, and it was a weekday morning, but alas, that was not the case. The cave was packed! I think Bella gets specific accolades from Russ though, as it was the only winery we visited where Russ bought wine!

Somehow, we carved out a tiny spot for ourselves at the tasting bar, and eagerly jumped into the current line up of wines.

2006 Dry Creek Zinfandel: $25. Peppery smoke, blackberries, dark berries, smoky fruit, toast.

2005 Big River Ranch Zinfandel: $36. Bark berry, blueberry, peppery, vanilla, fruity, oak, cinnamon. Very good.

2006 Belle Canyon Zinfandel: Sweeter nose, floral, chocolate, chili pepper, tannic.

2005 Hillside Cuvee: $28. 50% Cabernet Sauvigon, 50% Zinfandel, some Petite Sirah, some Petite Verdot. Big fruit, dark, plum, bold fruit, currants, earth, tannic, a little red fruit. We took home 2 bottles.

2007 Late Harvest Zinfandel: $24. 375 mL. Chocolate milk, earth, plum, blackberry, very nice.

After a lovely visit, I am very happy to be a member of the Bella Wine Club again. We received our first shipment about a month ago and I look forward to many more in the future. If you haven’t had a chance to taste Bella’s wines, you should seek them or stop by the vineyard if you have a chance!

More Dessert Wine

And just a very quick review as I seem to have misplaced the picture for this bottle!

The wine was a 2005 Bella Vineyards Late Harvest Zinfandel from Big River Ranch Vineyards. It clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and cost us $20.40. I can’t recall if this came in a club shipment or if we picked it up at the actual vineyard.

We drank this for dessert on Christmas (did I mention that I got really backlogged on wines over December?) with various cookies and puff pastries. On the nose I got blackberry and spice. The nose was sweet and very pungent. In the mouth, it tasted like blackberry wine and was quite sweet.

Easily Confused

I thought this wine, was the same Bella Zinfandel I’ve already reviewed and I was going to review it again since it’s been 6 months or so since I drank it. However, I was wrong. As I went back to look at my old post, I realized the labels are slightly different and this is a completely different Zinfandel.

What I have here is a Bella Big River Ranch 2004 Alexander Valley Zinfandel. And I’d been avoiding drinking it because I thought I already reviewed it! Apparently it is sold out through the winery, but when we got it, it cost $34 minus a club discount, weighs in at 15% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure.

On the nose there were gobs of dark fruit. Blackberries and black cherries with a hint of spices, vanilla and a cedar hope chest, along with black currants showing later. In the mouth the wine was quite tannic. I suggest decanting or holding off for a few years on this one. After the wine sat out, the flavors smoothed and the air certainly helped enhance the fruit, showing blackberries, other dark fruits and hints of oak. Once it aired, this wine showed the potential to be a very complex Zinfandel, with spicy earth undertones. I would definitely say hold on to it or let it decant before you consume!

Same Name Different Zin

Another 2004 Zinfandel by Bella, but sourced from a different vineyard than my last two reviews. This is a 2004 Lily Hill Zin. A big wine…15.5% alcohol by volume, a real cork and cost us around $22. The label says it can age for 7-9 years easily. I’m not sure I agree. It was a little tannic, but I doubt I’d let it hang around much longer than another 2 years.

On the nose, there were big blackberries and a bit of a flowery scent. In the mouth there were more blackberries, and as it opened, currants, earth, wood and a hint of vanilla.

As I said, it was a little tannic, and could age. Or you could decant it and it would be beautiful now. After a few hours of being open, this was a smooth wine, with an easy finish. Towards the end, this wine really opened up and showed a big chocolate finish.

I served it with yet another homemade pizza, plain cheese this time, as I had made an extra ball of dough for our company and needed to use it up!

Same Wine New Review

I reviewed this same bottle a little over a month ago, at this post.

It’s a 2004 Bella Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. I’m reviewing it again because this bottle tasted different. I don’t know if it was the food or the month lapse or perhaps just the bottle. Instead of blueberries and cherries, this time I got black currants, blackberries and sour cherries. I wrote in my tasting notes that it was a little understated and needed more time to come into its own. As we drank the bottle it opened up, but overall it was much more reserved than the last bottle we drank.

Overall, it worked very well with dinner. I made a pan seared filet mignon with a red currant zinfandel reduction served over a bed of 3 cheese risotto with broccoli florets. Having put the zinfandel in the sauce and then serving the same bottle with dinner seemed to really make the whole dish come together and I really actually liked it with the creamy risotto since I didn’t get the huge fruit I usually find in a CA zinfandel.