Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dehlinger Weekend

Yesterday we had the treat of being invited to the Dehlinger pick-up weekend by one of the winemakers, who Joe used to work with. I had never been to the facility - a very unobtrusive building that reminds me very much of Anderson Valley. No bling. No flare. Just a practical facility for making wine.

We sampled the 2005 Pinot Noir, a 2000 Pinot Noir, two of their Chardonnays, a Syrah and their Claret. I have to say, I was impressed. There were no hard angles on these wines, nothing out of place. They were well balanced, oak was obviously a winemaking tool and not a major flavor component, they drank well but still had moderate acidities and the fruit was evident in both the nose, mouth and finish. (Too many wines these days have completely muted and blank noses, even after early release bottle shock is over - it's one of my pet peeves. Our wines will always smell like something, I promise.)

I loved the 2000 Pinot Noir especially, as it had aged gracefully and was displaying some delicious earth notes alongside the berry fruit.

The atmosphere was more a locals' gathering place than allocated winery party. The food was delicious but fairly simple, and buckets were placed on the group for spitting and dumping, alongside "take your own glass" racks.

I promptly signed up to be placed on the list. Who knows how long it will take to actually get an allocation, but you can't go wrong when you like every single wine being poured.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Grand Tasting

On April 5th we organized a group and hosted a competitive Pinot Noir tasting, to test our palates, judge our wines, and enjoy good food, wine, and company. We had two flights, double-blind -- one with all 2006 Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs and one with all 2006 Russian River/Sonoma Coast Pinot Noirs. At the end, we took a vote on everyone's top three favorites in the flight. Here is what we found:

1) Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs - all pleasant, fragrant, nice wines. A lot of similarities between the wines - enough so that we all had a very difficult time picking our favorites.
- 2006 Londer Vineyards Paraboll
- 2006 Copain Kiser En Bas
- 2006 Papapietro Perry Charles Vineyard
- 2006 Breggo Cellars Ferrington Vineyard
- 2006 Charles Vineyard home wine (the ringer)
- 2006 Brogan Cellars Morning Dew Ranch
- 2006 Foursight Wines Charles Vineyard

The results? Brogan Cellars was the clear winner of the group, with concentrated fruit in the nose and mouth and comments ranging from strawberry, cherry and chocolate to simply "yum." This was followed by Londer, Copain, Breggo, Foursight, Papapietro Perry, and the home wine. I was very proud to say that I picked out both the Papapietro Perry (from our vineyard) and the Foursight Pinot as my favorites. I just knew, when I tasted that hard-candy strawberry and cherry and the purity of the fruit (and no overbearing oak) in both bottlings that they came from our vineyard.

We also took a look at the price per bottle. All of these wines were well over $50 a bottle, with the exception of the Papapietro Perry at $49 and the Foursight at $46 (as it's our first vintage, we priced ourselves deliberately lower than virtually any other single-vineyard bottling from Anderson Valley). Regardless of the quality of the wine, you have to build your reputation first. Oh, and the home wine was priced very fairly at free.

2) Russian River and Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir - overall, a lot more alcohol and oak than on the Anderson Valley flight. In fact, "hot" was the number one descriptor for this flight of wines, even though we had some list-only heavy-hitters in the group.
- 2006 Joseph Swan Cuvee de Trois
- 2006 Kosta Browne Russian River
- 2005 Charles Vineyard home wine (a ringer)
- 2006 Kastania Vineyard Reserve
- 2006 Loring Wine Co. Graham Family Vineyard
- 2006 August West Graham Family Vineyard
- 2006 AP Vin Kanzler Vineyard

The winner was the AP Vin, followed by the Loring Wine Co. The fruit was well balanced, no overbearing oak as compared to many in this flight, nice mouthfeel and lingering finish. Overall, nicely made wines. These were followed by the Kosta Browne and the Charles Vineyard home wine, then the Kastania and a tie for the Swan and August West.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ice-Covered Vines

The last few nights have lingered in the mid-20's. In other words, painfully cold for a vineyard. Frost sprinklers have been turned on at 10-11:00 p.m. - a record for us as freezing temperatures usually arrive in the 3-5 a.m. range. The other morning my father, Bill, didn't turn off the sprinklers until 9:30 a.m. It was still that close to freezing outside.

Joe took the opportunity after one of these ridiculously cold nights to snap some photos of the ice in the vineyard. They're beautiful in a frightening way. Every time I see this it's hard to imagine that these tiny leaves are safer encrusted with ice than just hanging out there on their own.