A Collaboration – At a Whole Foods Near You

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | 1 Comment
A Collaboration

A Collaboration

If you happen to live in Southern California, and you find yourself in a Whole Foods, you have an opportunity to purchase wine as part of an effort to celebrate a partnership between Whole Foods Market and Santa Barbara County wineries. My assumption, though it’s not called out anywhere, is that this is a “Buy local” program.

The project is called “A Collaboration” and is currently a partnership between Whole Foods and (at press time) two well-known wineries: Margerum Wines and Hitching Post Wines. The first wine, from Margerum, was available on September 30th and I acquired a bottle for free through a P.R. firm representing the effort (I have to tell you that, but I would have anyway).

The 2009 A Collaboration with Margerum label contains backstory which is remarkably similar to Margerum’s well-known M5 (and even goes so far as to say M5 Red Wine right on the label):

Five Grapes ~ Six Vineyards ~ One Wine
51% Syrah (53% Colson Canyon Vineyard clone 877, 37% Great Oak Ranch Vineyard and 10% Purisima Mountain Vineyard that was pulled from a new Francoise Freres barrel), 32% Grenache (58% Alamo Creek Vineyard and 42% Grundoon Vineyards), 11% Mourvedre from Camp Four Vineyard, 3% Counoise from Camp Four Vineyard and 3% Cinsault from Camp Four Vineyard.

For me, this wine has amazing “bones” but seems to be lacking in a serious case of “living up to its potential.” Then again, I kinda felt that way about M5, too. As a general rule, I favor fruitier red wines to minerally red wines, and am especially not enamored with Napa Cabernets because of that dusty, chalky thing everyone loves so much. To me, the Margerum wines seem to be reaching for Napa (and falling short) instead of embracing what makes wine from Santa Barbara County and the rest of the Central Coast so unique and enjoyable… the fruit. I consider the other wines coming out of these vineyards, made from the same grapes (Tensley, Qupe, Tercero, Epiphany, and Beckmen come to mind), and I’m disappointed in the lack of body, the lack of anything interesting happening on my mid-palate, and the short finish.

The Hitching Post collaboration is a completely different animal. All of the things that we love about Santa Ynez wine and winemaking are typified in this bottle of wine and it was an exciting bottle to drink. The label is chock-full of information (yay!) to help the consumer get a better sense of what’s special about this wine:

This collaboration celebrates:
A Place
– Terravant Wine Company in Buellton, CA, where Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini of Hitching Post Wines are writing the next chapter.
A Story
– of making wine since 1979, in a garage, a shed, a co-op, and now this ultra-modern winery. From humble beginnings to high tech, Hartley Ostini continues to created traditional wines of balance and finesse.
The Fruits
– This is a 22 barrel selection blended and handcrafted by Gray Hartley and Frank Ostini, and includes 73% Valdiguie grown by Hank Ashby at French Camp Vineyard near Shandon, and 27% Syrah grown by Loren Colahan at Alisos Vineyard in the hills above Los Alamos.

My husband says to me, “What’s Valdiguie?” My reply? “I think it’s an Italian varietal.” Yeah, um, notsomuch. It’s actually a French varietal from the Languedoc-Roussillon region in Provence. When we opened the bottle, poured the glasses, and took a deep analytical inhalation, we were impressed with the textured, deep fruity aroma. What surprised and impressed us even more was the less-fruity palate as well as the incredible balance and structure of this wine. We like many Hitching Post wines, but for me, this is one of their finest “collaborations.”

2007 Las Rocas Totally Rocks

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes | Comments Off on 2007 Las Rocas Totally Rocks
Dark ruby-colored, fruity deliciousness!

Dark ruby-colored, fruity deliciousness!

As we've covered in previous posts, wines from Cost Plus World Market can be very hit or miss. In general, I have had great luck with their wines, and since I had a coupon for their Friends and Family 25% Off sale, I thought I'd do a little shopping and buy some new bottles and test my luck.

2007 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha, from the Calatayud region of Spain, is one of the wines I picked up. It's a 90-point Wine Advocate/Parker, and deliciously drinkable now and over the next three years.

I'm not very familiar with Grenache (in Spanish, Garnacha and Garnatxa in Catalan), but it was first cultivated in Spain and is arguably the most abundantly planted grape on the planet. Although it is used on its own to make 100% varietals, it is frequently used to “fill out” other reds, including the bulk of Rhone and over 80% of Châteauneuf du Pape.

This particular bottle is 100% Grenache/Garnacha. It's an absolutely gorgeous deep garnet red in the glass, with a smokey bouquet mixed with red berries and just the tiniest tinge of alcoholic heat. On the tongue, my first taste was of grapefruit! Other imbibers agreed that this was present, although no one else found this to be the principle taste. We all agreed it tasted of smoke and lush berries. Although slightly lightweight (some might say watery), I found this wine to be absolutely scrumptious. It would make a delicious table wine.

From The Wine Advocate:

There are 18,000 cases of the delightful 2007 Las Rocas Garnacha, a wine sourced from Calatayud vineyards ranging in age from 70 to 100 years. Dark ruby in color, it delivers alluring aromas of spice box, mineral, cherry, and black raspberry. Layered on the palate, it has superb depth, succulent flavors, and a pure, lengthy finish. It will provide pleasure over the next three years. (02/08)

From Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar:
Deep ruby. Rich kirsch and blackberry aromas are complicated by mocha and licorice. Smoky dark berry aromas pack serious punch and are supported by suave tannins. Finishes clean, lively and persistent. As usual, this is a great bargain. (9-10/07)

At $10 – $12 per bottle, the 2007 Las Rocas de San Alejandro is also a great buy. It's not always easy to find a highly rated wine for such a low price. This wine is ready to drink now and seems to be universally declared as delicious! If you don't like it, I'll finish it for you.

Cheers!

The Weekly (almost) Wine Tasting @ Literati

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes | Comments Off on The Weekly (almost) Wine Tasting @ Literati

Gordon and I live near each other, and there's a cafe at the intersection of the busy streets where he goes home in one direction and I go home in the other. And they have lovely food and a nice wine list at very reasonable prices. So, guess where we have our semi-weekly meetings? It's called Literati2 (a spin-off of the very successful Literati Cafe next door).

Literat2's history is lackluster. When they first opened a few years ago the food tasted like the cafe food next door but at 3 times the price. This is a restaurant with very bad parking, so they need to be providing great food and great value if they want to sustain themselves. I think they figured this out about a year ago and did a huge remodel and reworked their entire menu, too. The only thing they seem to have forgotten is to promote this massive transition in the neighborhood (where people can walk to the restaurant and skip the parking hassle) since we all thought it was that stuffy old over-priced joint it used to be. At any rate, the food is yummy and VERY reasonably priced… as are the wines! They pick great wines for the list (which they offer by the glass and carafe) and it gets refreshed every so often.

Since we're meeting to talk about our wine blog, we incorporate a wine tasting into each meeting, and I've been remisce in uploading the results of the tastings… so here goes! (What's very interesting to me is how different my palate is from Gordon's. We always try the same wines and rarely have the same flavor profiles jump out at us.)

  1. 2007 Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay
    Jess: Tingly, oaky on the nose. Very oaky in the mouth with a hint of fruit/citrus (specifically apple and grapefruit). This is a “safe wine” for me. I know I can order it, any vintage, and get a decent but oaky chardonnay.
    Gordon: Acidic nose. Dry start, sweet finish. Nice finish, long.
  2. 2006 Bex Riesling
    Jess: Light nose, appley and sweet but not too sweet. I would consider buying this, and I'm not a fan of sweet wines.
    Gordon: Tangy, honey, fruit on the nose. Viscous, sweet silky mouthfeel. Apricot. Gordon said he would buy this.
  3. 2006 Trefethen Chardonnay
    Jess: Woody and the smell of shrimp on the nose (I sometimes smell “ocean” in my wines). Balanced, fresh, medium-length finish.
    Gordon: Acidic, bright on the nose. Dry at first, has a sweet finish with licorice and lemon.
  4. 2007 Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
    Jess: Green fruit on the nose and tangy grapefruit in the mouth. A mild Sauvignon Blanc which makes me like it more than an average Sauvignon Blanc.
    Gordon: Light nose. Lingering bitter and citrus finish.
  5. 2007 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio
    Jess: I have a love-hate relationship with this wine. It was one of my favorites in my early wine-drinking days but seems to have gone downhill in quality/taste as its product volumes have risen. Good for their business in general, but not great for me. I ordered a glass for tasting anyway… Pineapple and apple on the nose. Light and bright taste, open at the front of the palate, sweet in the mid-palate, and a rounded but acidic finish (which is where my love affair ends).
    Gordon: I seem to have lost Gordon's notes from here out… hazard of drinking too much wine! Oh darn!
  6. D'Arenberg Grenache (a red!)
    Jess: Smells like a cabernet. Red fruit (is there such a thing?) and earthy. A little mushroomy at the back of the mouth and a bit gritty. I thought it was okay, but better with food.
  7. 2007 Brander Sauvignon Blanc
    Jess: I REALLY liked this wine. I'm going to hunt it down at the grocery store on my next wine-buying trip. Very bright, apple on the nose with a little bit of lemon. Smooth mouthfeel and I tasted watermelon in the well-balanced finish. There was a hint of zest or rind at the back of my mouth, but that went away when the Tiger Shrimp, Pesto, and Sun-dried tomato pizza arrived. And then I ordered a second glass!
  8. 2006 Bridlewood Viogner
    Jess: I'm a fan of Bridlewood wines, despite the fact that they're owned by Gallo. It's good wine at a good price. I've been drinking their Syrahs for a few years, I like their Syrah Port (which isn't truly a Port), and now, I like their Viognier. I smelled lavendar and oak on the nose. The wine was vanilla and spice with a touch of oak. It had a gentle love-bite and a smooth finish. Yum. I'll be looking for this at the grocery store, too.

I'll keep updating this post as time goes by. Maybe next time we'll get to some more reds!