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!