Adventures in Foreign Lands

As you may have read here on ye olde wine blog, I recently went to Portugal after winning a contest sponsored by Enoforum Wines. Enoforum Wines is an interesting company that I’ll have more to say about in a future post, but suffice it to say for the moment that they exist to produce and place Portuguese wines in foreign markets. A worthy goal for sure if what we tasted during our time in Portugal is any indication of the overall QPR of Portuguese wines. Enoforum’s purpose in bringing bloggers to Portugal is not only to expose them to the wines, but to immerse them in Portuguese culture. To that end, we played tourist for a week, seeing many of the highlights of the Lisbon area over our visit as well as playing enotourist by visiting wineries.

Since this is a wine blog after all, I’ll first tell you about one of the wineries we visited, Carmim Winery. Carmim Winery is a Coop, as are all 6 wineries from which Enoforum procures its wines. Carmim’s member farmers boast a total of 3600 hectares or approximately 9000 acres of panted vineyards. Like most of the land in the area, the vineyard land is multi-use, with sheep grazing among the vines, rows of olive trees planted among the rows of vines…etc.  600 farmers sell grapes to Carmim. I’ve previously only seen one other production that was on scale with the production at Carmim. The bottling lines at Carmim bottle between 9K to 11K bottles per hour, under 20 brand names.

Some of Carmim's many facilities

More of Carmim's many facilities

In addition to producing wine, Carmim produces olive oil. Yum. We tasted the olive oil a little later over lunch. I could have sat all day with crunchy bread and olive oil, but then you would have had to roll me home! While at Carmim, we tasted through part of the Enoforum line of wines as well as a few of the wines that Carmim produces. All of the wines from Carmim are available in the US, and Enoforum expects that its wines will be on shelves here soon. I will update you when they are as they represent some excellent QPR, with the most expensive coming in at $20, but all but a couple falling under the $15 price point, and many under the $10 price point.

Olives on the trees!

2008 Real Forte White Wine: Roupeiro, Arinto, Diagalues grapes. 13% alcohol. Expected retail: around $6.99, Tropical, start fruit, pineapple, lemon, citrus, crisp, light, slightly salty edges. (Enoforum Wines)

2007 Porto do Castello White: Antão Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro grapes. 12.5% alcohol by volume. Expected retail: around $7.99, Light orange, citrus, flowers, lemon, slight tropical notes. Would be great with seafood. (Enoforum Wines)


2008 Régia Colheita Reserva: Antão Vaz. 13.5% alcohol by volume. Toasty, caramel, spice, apple, slight malo, apple flowers. Nice structure and acidity, light oak treatment. (Carmim Wines)

2008 Real Forte Red: Aragonez, Castelão, Trincadeira. 13% alcohol by volume. Expected retail around $7.99. Fruity, red berries, black cherry, tart plums, balanced, slight green notes, baking chocolate. (Enoforum Wines)

Old Amphora at Carmim

Old Amphora at Carmim

2006 Porta de Castelo Red: Trincadeira, Tinta Caiada, Touriga Nacional. 13% alcohol by volume. Expected retail around $8.99. Bright berries, raisin, mint, fig, plums, more complex, some spice, and herbs. (Enoforum Wines)

2006 Além: Syrah, Touriga Nacional. 14.5% alcohol by volume. Expected retail around $16.99. This was my favorite of the Enoforum Wines. Smoky, plums, blackberry, earth, meat, black cherry, nice finish, good structure/acidity. A steal for the price point. (Enoforum Wines)

Tasting Room

2008 Monsaraz Premium: Trincadeira. 14% alcohol by volume. Very smoky, black fruit, vanilla, bright black cherry, violets, nice finish, blackberry, cherry, some tannins, very young. Not yet released in the US. (Carmim Wines)

2003 Garrafeira Dos Sócios: Trincadiera, Cabernet Dauvignon, Tinta Caida, Alicante Bouschet. 14% alcohol by volume. Licorice, flowers, black cherry, black fruit, dark, cedar, big tannins, bitter chocolate, very dark. (Carmim Wines)

2007 Carmim Syrah: 13.5% alcohol by volume. Smoke, meat, berries, black cherry, plum, earth, mint, smooth, very nice, dark.

2007 Reguengos Reserva Red Wine: Trincadeira, Aragones, Tinta Caiada, Alicante Bouschet. Raisin, spice, plum, black berry, very very dark, tannins, black fruit, deep dark, spice, pepper.

Enoforum Wines

Quite a tasting and an introduction to Portuguese wines. I think this counts as the kick off to my goal of getting to know Portuguese wines in 2010!  Due to the rain, this was the only day we got out into the vineyards and I peppered the winemaker Rui with questions about vineyard practices and such. It seems that mechanized pruning and harvesting is the method of choice in Portugal as you can see from the photos. On average Carmim harvest 5,000 kilos/hectare, though that varies depending on what wine they are making from that vineyard.  Over the days we were in Portugal, I believe more rain fell than usually falls annually in Portugal. The rain could make for an interesting year for the vineyards, so I guess we’ll see as this year’s harvest approaches.


Visiting Corison Winery

IMG_2293Ages ago after I wrote a piece about the appellation St. Helena tasting I attended last year, I received an email from Cathy Corison. One of her wines was among the offerings at the media tasting that day and she offered to have me stop by her winery on my next visit to CA. Due to very conflicting schedules I missed out on visiting her on my next two CA trips, but was finally able to catch up with her on my final day in Napa after the 2009 Wine Blogger Conference.


My friend Loweeel is a HUGE Corison fan (though he bemoans the fact that the Petite Sirah vines were removed from the property), so I’d heard much about the wines, but had only tasted the one Cabernet Sauvignon involved in the St. Helena media tasting. Thea, Ashley, & I arrived at Corison in the midst of bottling day, wow, what a busy place! And Cathy took time out of the madness to give us a tour of the facility and taste some wines with us.


Cathy has been bottling wine under her own name for 24 years. She makes 2 Cabernet Sauvignons, a Gewurztraminer, and a little Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé for fun. Her winery sits on 8 acres of vineyards representing some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the Napa Valley at between 36-37 years old.  This is the Kronos vineyard where the extremely small lot Kronos Cabernet comes from. The grapes for the rest of her wines are sourced from various vineyards Cathy had become familiar with over her years in Northern California. Cathy held the position of winemaker at several well-known Napa wineries from pretty much the day she left college and has been in the business in area for over 30 years now.


2006 Corazón Gewurztraminer Anderson Valley: Spice, white pepper, lime, orange blossom, lychee, citrus.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé: Strawberry, lime, currants, dry, floral, bright red fruit, bone dry.

(The really fun part…a vertical of Kronos Cab!)

1996 Kronos Cabernet Sauvignon: Amazing nose, currant, blackberry, strawberry, herbs black cherry, red cherries, plums, raspberries, gorgeous structure and acidity.

1997 Kronos Cabernet Sauvignon: Raspberry cream, chocolate spice, tarts, leather, spice, cedar, raspberries, little black fruit, blueberry, violets, rose petals.

1998 Kronos Cabernet Sauvignon: A little funk, saddle leather, raspberry, spice, cream, anise, tannic, more blackberry, darker.

My favorite of these was the 1997, but they all seemed still so young with so much life left in them. I would love to go back and taste the 1997 in another 5 years or so.

2004 Kronos Cabernet Sauvingon: Pomegranate, red fruit, cranberry, red cherry, bright red fruit, spice, red berries, cinnamon, plums, little brown sugar.

2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Mint, eucalyptus, spice, spicy berries, red fruit, cinnamon, peppermint, pepper, blueberry, more fruit forward, tannins.


Overall, I’d highly recommend a visit to Corison. The wines are pricey, but if you have the patience and a love of Cabernet Sauvignon, they are well worth your time and dollars to lay down in your cellar. Not to mention, go meet Cathy Corison…who after being up and running around the winery all day for bottling seemed to me to possess enough energy to go run a marathon. Plus, talk about someone with a passion for what she does!

Down these fine Halls

Tasting Room Ceiling!

I must admit, I am EXTREMELY late in finishing up my last few posts from my trip in Napa after the Wine Blogger Conference.  On our last very very busy day in Napa, Thea, Ashley, and I had signed up to attend a blogger event at Hall Winery. Now, I’ve written about some of the Hall Wines in the past, you can read those posts here and here. I really enjoyed the wines and couldn’t wait to visit the winery to taste the other offerings. After an extremely restful night at the Napa Valley Marriott (which by the way, I loved, but that’s for another post) we headed out bright and early to Hall.

We arrived first and explored the tasting room and started the day with a taste of the 2008 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Wine at 9am? Sure!

2008 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc: Citrus, melon, tropical notes, grapefruit, white pepper, lemon, tart crisp, lemon grass, orange zest, nice structure and acidity.

The remainder of the bloggers arrived via shuttle and we were off for a tour of the winery. We climbed up on the catwalk, went into the barrel rooms….omg, SO many barrels and learned all about how Hall makes wines.  Hall Winery recently became the first Gold LEED certified winery in CA and are making progress toward achieving organic certification. I liked that most of the winery is covered in solar panels, supplying about 35% of the winery’s energy needs.

After touring the facility, we headed to the vineyards that surround the Hall home in Rutherford. The vineyard manager walked us through the wines and talked to us about owl boxes, pruning, decisions on when to pick, and pretty much anything we wanted to ask about the vineyard practices.

We settled in for a wonderful lunch, of which I will leave you with pictures, and a tasting of two more Hall wines.







2006 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon: Black cherry milk chocolate, roses, perfume, black currants, spice, earth, cocoa powder, espresso notes, pepper, spice, and dark fruit.

2006 Hall Napa River Ranch Merlot: Bright plum, spice, herbs, some red berries, pepper, tannins, anise, soft plum fruit, pepper, dark chocolate, red berry edges.

Following lunch, we descended into the wine caves where we were joined by

Ambassador Hall

Ambassador Hall as we played winemaker in a blending experiment. Ambassador Hall impressed me. She was really interested in us, and seemed to have done her homework on who we were, our blogs, and our backgrounds. In a previous career, Ambassador Hall was an attorney, so she spoke at some length with Amy and me about our work, and also talked to the group about being raised in a California wine family and the work she does with charitable organizations in Napa.



Although we took our leave before the end of the blending, I came away fully impressed with Hall Winery and I hope to visit again when they have completed the restoration of the original Bergfeld building on the Winery property. Also, the art all over the winery was extremely cool…the Hall’s are avid patrons of the arts and everywhere from the caves to the tasting room you could find unique and interesting pieces!


Pig Roast!

The Matthiasson Vineyard

After the Wine Blogger Conference, the Matthiasson Family kindly hosted a pig roast for any wine bloggers who still happened to be in the area.  Our favorite meat being roasted in a pit and the Matthiasson’s wines? Thea and Ashley and I were there, along with several other wine bloggers who we convinced to make the trek over to Napa with us!

Now, I’ve written about the Matthiasson wines before, and I maintain that their white wine is absolutely the best white wine I’ve tasted all year.  Hands down.  You can read my review of it here. However, with the roasted pig, which was divine, by the way, I would recommend one of the Mattiasson Red wines, probably the red blend.  But that didn’t stop me from enjoying just a little bit of the white wine at the pig roast….but not much seeing as how I was our designated driver!

Wine Country Dog LOVED the pig roast. Clean plate club!

Instead, I took some pictures, walked in the little vineyard that backs right up to the Matthiasson’s house, and chatted with some of the many wine folks the Mattiasson’s had invited to the party, including Judd of Judd’s Hill!  Who kindly invited us all back to his tiki lounge for drinks, but the merry band of wine bloggers was exhausted and in need of some R&R before another big day in Napa the following day.  I didn’t manage to snap a shot of the final roasted pig, so you’ll have to ask Ashley for that!  I highly recommend the Matthiasson White Wine for your upcoming Thanksgiving feast, though you’ll have to act fast to get any of it since they produce all their wines in extremely limited quantities.

Tasting Bradford Mountain

After tasting at C. Donatiello, we scooted next door with Chris to try the wines from Bradford Mountain Winery.  The label is produced on the C. Donatiello property with the tasting room also located behind the C. Donatiello tasting room. It’s a little difficult to spot, but a few people wandered in while we were there.  Chris jumped behind the bar to pour for us and tell us a little about the winery.

2007 Healdsburg Ranches Chardonnay: Pear, green apple, crisp, cool, lemon, tart, tropical notes.

2005 Bradford Mountain Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel: Spicy, pepper, black cherry, blackberry, juicy, black fruit.

2005 Bradford Mountain Grist Vineyard Zinfandel: Oak, cedar, spice, perfume, red fruit, big juicy fruit, pepper, tart berries.

2005 Bradford Mountain Grist Vineyard Syrah: Oak, spice, white pepper, violets, dark, tannic, juicy, black plum.

2007 Healdsburg Ranches Cabernet Sauvignon: Pepper, green peppers, black fruit, mint, herbs, tart fruit.

2005 Bradford Mountain El Grandote Dry Creek Creek Valley: Blackberry. syrup, blue fruit, chocolate, nice structure. My favorite.

I’ve tried some of the Bradford Mountain wines last year when Chris sent them to me as samples and I thought you could really see the winery finding a style as the years went by. My favorite out of those was the 2005 Syrah, which I also enjoyed again at this tasting.  I actually still have one set of Zins in my basement that I still need to try, I left them down there to see what a year of age would do to them.  I’ll haul them out soon and report back!

I Dream of Pinot

Chris gets animated in the garden

Chris gets animated in the garden

After the Wine Blogger Conference, Thea, Ashley, & I did a whirlwind tour of Sonoma and Napa.  And I really do mean whirlwind….on one day we did both Sonoma and Napa in the same day and STILL managed to stop by to see Patrick and Genevieve and their adorable new son.  Our first stop after lunch was a must visit for me after I learned of this winery at last year’s WBC. Oh, and by the way, I still adore those glasses and am now the proud owner of my own pair…you might have seen them popping in pictures over the last 8 months or so! I’m talking about C. Donatiello Winery.  If you haven’t been here before, go! Not only are the wines great, but the grounds are worth a trip on their own.  I wrote last year all about the aroma garden, which we toured again this year. I found it interesting to see it 3 months earlier in the year since so many different things were in season….I even got to eat some fresh raspberries right off the bush.

I like trees.

I like trees.

However, before touring the facilities (still the CLEANEST winery facilities I have ever, ever visited) we got to sit down for a private tasting with Chris Donatiello.  Chris is one of the most animated people I’ve ever seen when he’s talking about his wines.  It’s hard not to catch his enthusiasm as he talks about his winery and winemaking and everything else that goes on at the estate.  I think Thea and I may have been the only repeat visitors from last year’s blogger visit to C. Donatiello, but we were happy to spread the word to all our new friends and bring them along with us!

And grapes.

And grapes.

2008 Russian River Valley 809 Clone Chardonnay: $32. Lemon, pear, apple, fairly crisp, nice fruit, lemon, citrus, nice acidity, spice, stone, peach.

2006 Russian River Valley Chardonnay: $28. Spice, little bit of wood, cream, apple, golden apple, little chewy, nice fruit, round, spice.

And flowers.

And flowers. Which I swear smelled like chocolate.

2007 Orsi Vineyard Chardonnay: $38. Cream, much rounder, oak, tropical, green apple, tart pear.

2006 Russian River Pinot Noir: $48. Cherry, spice, herbs, raspberry, tart, cranberry, spice, tannins, little pepper.

Thea gets friendly with celebrity wino Hardy Wallace

Thea gets friendly with celebrity wino Hardy Wallace

2007 Maddie’s Vineyard Pinot Noir: $62. Strawberry, violets, tobacco leaf, raspberry, roses, tart red fruit, refined. I bought a bottle to add to my 2006 Maddie’s…I hope to amass a vertical and share them with some very lucky winos in about 5 years 🙂

2007 Floodgate Block 15 Pinot Noir: $55. Black cherry, pepper, spice, raspberry, fruit forward, spice, on the finish, red fruit, tannic.

Even Twitter celebrity Wine Dog made an appearance!

Even Twitter celebrity Wine Dog made an appearance!

I highly recommend a visit to C. Donatiello next time you are in the Russian River Valley area. Make sure you leave some extra time to enjoy the beautiful grounds, and don’t be afraid to taste and smell things from the aroma garden…that’s why it’s there!

Shana, Ashley, Thea, & I pose in the vines.

Shana, Ashley, Thea, & I pose in the vines.

Dry Creek Vineyard Luncheon

Thea surveys our seating options. We were first to arrive & quickly snagged a shady table!

Staying in CA after the Wine Blogger Conference certainly has its perks.  I’m not sure that food ended up costing Thea, Ashley, and me a dime for the 2 days we spend criss-crossing Napa and Sonoma since so many wineries were hosting after after after WBC events…we tried to attend as many as possible…but I can only drive so fast!  Out first after the WBC event occurred at Dry Creek Vineyard.

Dry Creek Vineyard, along with Gustafson Family Vineyards and Rued Wines hosted a lunch on the property of Dry Creek Vineyard. In addition to some very yummy food and wine, they held a drawing for Passport tickets, won by my friends Shana and Russ! Now, the only problem was that it was hot hot hot that day. SO HOT.  And shade was limited so the wines I think suffered due to that..the reds were warm and not showing well due to the heat. For that reason, I’m just going to tell you about the two wines that were kept on ice as they were served at a decent temperature.

2008 Gustafson Rosé of Syrah: $20. Strawberry, cranberry, lime, crisp, dry, floral, light. Very refreshing on this extremely hot day.

2008 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc: $16. Melon, lime, citrus, orange blossoms, floral, light, tropical notes, guava.  Enjoyed this one.

Dry Creek also set up a wireless signal that broadcast over the whole lawn, which many of my fellow winos really appreciated as they Twittered away on their iPhones. Not that I was/am jealous or anything.  Nope, not at all. In our info packet from the lunch was a nifty corkscrew that I absolutely adore…it’s become my go-to waiter’s corkscrew!

Someday soon I will finish telling you about my California trip. Still to come: C. Donatiello, Cornerstone, Hall, and Corison. Stay tuned!

WBW #61 At the Source

Oh yes folks, it’s that time of the month again: Wine Blogging Wednesday! I’m trying my best to participate in as many this year as I can, I’ve done a fairly decent job since I started the blog, though some months just get away from me or I can’t find a suitable bottle for the topic.  This month, our fearless leader Lenn has taken back the reins for the 61st edition of WBW. Ever the champion of local wines from the New York area, he has set us to the task titled “At the Source.” By this, he asked us to go taste wine at a vineyard local to us and write about the experience.  I almost didn’t think I could make this happen.  While the vineyards aren’t TOO far from  my house in VA, it’s still a 45 minute -1 hour drive each way to the closest ones depending on traffic. And yes Virginia, your traffic is still miserable on the weekends.  So I really have to plan to be able to get out, I have to cajole the husband into going, and he seems to think that the several trips I/we take to CA each year should satisfy my vineyard visiting desire…silly man.

Fate intervened and the heavens smiled down and I had the happy circumstance of connecting with Rappahanock Cellars on Twitter (though I had visited in the past), my brother in law(BIL) and sister in law (SIL) visiting, and a husband who didn’t mind driving us that day. Rappahannock is about an hour and half from where we live, so a bit of a hike. But all in the name of wine and WBW, right? Turns out, the voice behind Rappahannock Cellars on Twitter is actually Allan Delmare, one of the 13 12(yes, 13 12) children of the Delmare family, the owners of Rappahannock Cellars.  We arrived promptly at 11:30am on Sunday morning, found Allan and were whisked down to the cellar. Very exciting and different for my BIL/SIL who had never been in a winery cellar before nor had a winery tour! Allan had set up a table in the cellars with 3 glasses each, water bottles, and what looked like a case or more of wine.

While we tasted through the wines, I peppered Allan with questions (poor guy) and he did a fabulous job of explaining the operation especially to my BIL/SIL who weren’t so familiar with winemaking and cellaring and all the goes into the production of wine.  The Delmare family hails from Santa Cruz where they owned a vineyard before moving to VA in 1998 and purchasing the property in Rappahannock County.  They built the vineyard from the ground up and released the first vintage in 2000 with purchased fruit. I learned that about80% of the fruit Rappahannock uses comes from either Estate vineyards or vineyards they leased, planted, and manage from other folks.  They have 30 acres of vineyards and produce between 6,000-8,000 cases of wine a year.

Now, the wines. Overall, Rappahannock Cellars is producing an extremely solid line up of wines. They seem to have really figured out what works in VA and what isn’t so hot. Our climate here is a little tough on most vinifera grapes, though folks persistently grow them, with mixed results overall. Rappahannock seems to even have that down, refusing to produce a wine when the fruit isn’t perfect. For example, the 2007 vintage is the first Cabernet Sauvignon they have produced since 2000! (I know, you’re thinking, Cab Sauv from VA? But I promise, it was actually a very good effort.)

2008 Seyval Blanc: $17. Orange blossom, orange, lemon, citrus, crisp, dry, light, refreshing. A great picnic wine.  VA does really well with hybrid white grapes.

2008 Viognier: $22. Floral, apricots, honeysuckle, crisp, citurs, orange, grassy. I’m extremely pleased to see so many VA wineries getting serious about Viognier. They produce some fantastic examples of the grape…I’d say it should be the flagship wine from VA, though I know everyone seems to think that’s Cabernet Franc. We purchased two, and the BIL/SIL bought a chilled one for us to drink over lunch.

2007 Chardonnay: $22. Grass, pear, apple, flowers, butter, creamy on the finish, mid palate shows crisp apple.

2007 Headwaters Vidal Blanc: $16.50. Sweet on the nose, honey, candied orange, lemon, a little sweet. This has a touch of residual sugar, but isn’t overwhelming n any way.

2008 Noblesse Viognier: Another wine with some residual sugar. Candied sugar, apricot, candied honey, honeysuckle.

2007 Claret: $20. Raspberry, spice, pepper, strawberry jam, very light, red fruit.

2007 Cabernet Franc: $24. Raspberry, pepper, oak, cedar, roses, tight, raspberry, tannins, spice, peppery. We bought 1 bottle.

2006 Meritage: $29. Pepper, smoky, dusty, blackberry, black cherry, juicy, spice. BIL/SIL purchased one of these.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: Honestly surprised by this one. I didn’t expect much, but really, well done.  Vanilla, cream, smoke, spice, mulberry, juicy, raspberry, nice acidity and structure. Certainly not a monster Cab Sauv, a totally different style.

2008 Chapellet Charlemagne Chardonnay: Pineapple, tropical notes, pears, orange, orange zest, lemon. I liked this best of the two Chards, this one was done all in stainless steel.

2007 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon: From what I understand, a family member owns a vineyard out in Mendocino and sends fruit back East for this wine. It’s 97% Cab Sauv, 3% VA Cab Franc. Spice, pepper, blackberry, cedar, spice, big nose, herbs, red fruit, tannins to spare.

2008 Norton: Chocolate, spice, mint, juicy, tannic, big fruit.

2008 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc: $18.50 375 mL. Pear, pineapple, apricot, honey, peach, pineapple, tropical fruit.

2007 Port Style Wine: $39. Raisin, sweet, chocolate, blackberry, Welches grape juice. You’d have to taste this to believe it. We bought a bottle for my dad.

Solera: $32 375mL. Quite possible the oddest wine I have ever tasted. This is made by placing barrels of wine on the roof of the building and letting them bake in the summer sun. Then all the barrels are mixed together and one full barrel is pulled out to be put into next year’s wine…that way there’s always a continuation of vintages. Toffee, maple, nutty, almonds, caramel, pecan pie, peanuts. Goodness, not my thing at all, I hate nuts, but it sure lingered in your mouth and nose.

After we finished up our tasting, Allan toured us around the facility where we saw barrels, lots of cases of wine, a destemmer, and lots of other fun wine related things.  We made our way up to the tasting room to make some purchases and headed outside to one of the many tables to enjoy the picnic lunch we packed. While Rappahannock sells cheeses and crackers in their tasting room, they also let you bring your own lunch to enjoy outside.  The weather was perfect, and we lounged outside enjoying the chilled bottle of Viognier and our picnic lunch. The vineyard cat even joined us and politely waited until I’d finished my rib before jumping onto the table, grabbing the entire bone and running off with it. Never seen that before!

Brazen kitty.

Brazen kitty.

All in all, a great day. Thanks to Lenn for kicking my butt back out to the VA vineyards. If Rappahannock is any indication, things have come a long way since I last visited VA wine country about 2 years ago. I’ll have to get out some more this fall to see what everyone else has going on!

Visiting Cuvaison

Prior to the Wine Blogger Conference, I had not heard of Cuvaison. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise as I’m not terribly familiar with many Napa wineries…I’m just dipping my toes into Napa in the last year.  After we boarded our bus from the Culinary Institute of America, we were told we were headed to Cuvaison for lunch. Unfortunately, a snafu with scheduling/directions/communications landed us at Cuvaison’s Calistoga tasting room when we were intended to be at the Carneros tasting room….40 some odd minutes away on the other side of Napa.  Which I unhappily discovered being the first to run into the tasting room searching for a rest room.  Now, happy go lucky wine bloggers that we are, we made the best of the delay and tried to quiet our rumbling tummies with wine and chatter and the occasional song.

We eventually arrived at Cuvaison’s Carneros facility, a new tasting room for them, set among sweeping views of their vineyards.  We were greeted with glasses of the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc as we stepped off the bus and quickly made our way to an upstairs meeting room where lunch awaited.  While we lunched, the Cuvaison folks gave a presentation about Cuvaison’s green efforts and the history of the vineyard. (Some folks noted it was amusing we got printed out handouts for the green presentation…) Cuvaison has been around for 40 years and produces about 60 thousand case of wine a year from the 280 acres they have under vine.  We tasted through some of the current line up as we enjoyed lunch, and were each treated to a bottle of wine as a parting gift. I chose the Pinot Noir so I’ll have a more in depth post about that wine in the coming months.

2008 Carneros Sauvignon Blanc: $20. Grapefruit, grass, hay, green pepper, white pepper, cantaloupe, tart, crisp, light. Perfect after getting off the bus!

2007 Carneros Chardonnay: $22. Lemon butter, lemon, apple, spice, pear, round, lemon, pear butter, wood.

Thea probably wont like this one.

Thea probably won't like this one.

2007 Carneros Pinot Noir: $32. Raspberry, strawberry, full red fruit, little earth, cedar, red currants, pepper, tart red fruit, great acidity, red berries, little cream on the nose.

2006 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon: $45. Black cherry, pepper, green pepper, blackberry, spice, dark red berries, tannic, chewy, black finish, drying. Really young.

Carneros tasting room. Not Calistoga.

Carneros tasting room. Not Calistoga.

Overall, a solid line up. I was sad to have our time at Cuvaison cut short. I would have liked the full tour we were supposed to get, and I would have liked to have taken a few more notes on their practices, but I was extremely hungry and really needed to eat rather than put pen to pad.  However, many of Cuvaison’s practices are outlined on their website and blog, so I suggest you check that out.

Wine Bloggers mug for the camera

Wine Bloggers mug for the camera

*As you can probably tell, I’m finally getting around to my posts from my last trip to California. I try. Sorry for the delay.

Dear Virginia:

You are joking right? What exactly is the legal difference between a winery shipping to me and a winery using a third party provider to do their order fulfillment? Wineries, big and small, often cannot keep up with the logistics of packing and filling orders in their own facilities. There are issues of storage for all the wine, keeping up with compliance requirements, and being able to dedicate a full time employee to managing such matters. I understand that it can be less expensive and more convenient to pay other folks (fulfillment houses) to do this for you.

I tried to order from Wine Woot yesterday. I’ve ordered from them in the past, with no issues. Yesterday, I noticed Virginia was not on the list of approved shipping states. Baffling. Then I thought back to someone who tried to ship me samples last month…after shipping to me many times, they could not ship to me any longer. I didn’t think much of it at the time, it was an anomaly.  But now, after further investigation, I see that the Virginia ABC issued a circular to all wineries and other business licensed to ship alcohol to VA.  The circular basically states that it is not legal to use a 3rd party fulfillment house to ship wine into the Commonwealth (remember, we are a Commonwealth, not a state, something that routinely trips prospective lawyers up on the Bar…despite it being called the Virginia State Bar, you ought not to refer to VA as a state in your essays!) and all orders must be taken and fulfilled by the entity licensed to ship to VA.  You can read the memo over on the Ship Compliant Blog.

Apparently wineries and other wine industry groups have asked for clarification..or a change.  The Ship Compliant Blog reports that the VA ABC is well aware of the issue but will not budge in its interpretation of the law.  Though it may consider withholding the clarification ruling until 2011 in hopes the VA legislature will act and clarify the law.  Until it issues a new circular, the ban remains in effect.

I’m pissed. This is utter bullshit. Sorry, but it is.  I cannot fathom why VA would object to wineries using a 3rd party TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE IN COMPLIANCE WITH VA LAW.  Needless to say, my state representatives are getting emails from me.  If you live in VA, I urge you to do the same.  Until then FREE THE GRAPES.