Thursday, December 31, 2009

Petite Sirah - Day 2

Continuing my quest for Petite Sirah's on the East Coast, I have tasted three more provided by the generous members of PS I Love You.

We alternate every Christmas between the US with my family and Switzerland with my wife's family. This year, we stayed in the States. But as a tradition in Switzerland, we served up a fondue chinoise along with 4 different home-made sauces to my brother's family. The day before, my wife prepared the stock which the thinly sliced meats would ultimately be cooked in by each family member in the fondue pots. With pork, beef and chicken on the menu and sauces ranging from a mild basic sauce to garlic to curry, I thought a nice Petite Sirah would be the call, especially since I just received numerous bottles to try.

2007 Line 39 by Cecchetti Racke - Roy and Rachel Cecchetti started the Cecchetti Wine Compay in 2007 and earlier this year merged with Racke USA. Prior to this venture, Roy had co-founded the Cecchetti Sebastiani Cellars in 1985 with his brother-in-law Don Sebastiani. The name of this wine, Line 39, refers to the latitude of Lake County where the grapes for this wine were picked. This wine started with a great bouquet of fresh juicy red berries with a small amount of oak. On the palate, the flavors were more jammy blackberry, blueberry and black cherry with some oak and tobacco. This medium to full bodied wine with a 14.5% alcohol content had great structure along with rich acidity, a long finish and relatively smooth tannins. Be sure to decant this Petite Sirah for 30+ minutes before serving. This was a big hit. Roy Cecchetti is also a Director of PS I Love You. For $10, this is a steal.  A Must Buy!!
Follow-up: We just had a second bottle of the Line 39 with a homemade pasta and this bottle was as good, if not better than, the first bottle. This is a great Petite Sirah.

Over the holidays we shared two other bottles with guests.

La Storia 2004 by Trentadue Winery - Winemaking in the Trentadue family goes back several generations. The 2004 is the second vintage bottled under the La Storia label and is a blend of 90% Petite Sirah and 10% Syrah. The wine was made by Miro Tcholakov who joined Trentadue in 1999. Miro was born and raised in Bulgaria in a winemaking family and has now gone on to win many awards for his excellent wines. The La Storia Petite Sirah came from the Alexander Valley Appellation. This dark garnet colord wine has nice aromas of blueberries, blackberries and plums along with some toasted oak and coffee. The flavors from this full bodied wine were black fruits along with some cedar, white pepper and oak. It was aged for 16 months in 20% new European and French oak barrels and the remainder in 2-3 year old mixed American and European oak. The tannins were slightly firm and the alcohol is slightly high at 15%. The Wine Advocate rated this 88 Points. I would agree with this rating. Although it drinks well now, this will be a good wine to hold for another 5 years. Again, be sure to decant this wine prior to serving. Overall, the consensus was very nice wine. The La Storia 2004 retails for about $15.

Pedroncelli 2006 -This Dry Creek Valley winery is a family owned and operated winery that dates back 1927 when John Pedroncelli Sr bought a small vineyard and winery. In 1963, John's two son's Jim and John Jr. purchased the property from their father. The third generation joined the family business in the early 1990's and are now heading the charge. The petitie sirah vines were first planted on the property in the early 1900's. The 2006 Petite Sirah is a dark purple wine that is a blend of 89% Petite Sirah and 11% Cabernet Franc. This wine was aged for 12 months in American and French oak barrels, one quarter new oak with the balance in seasoned oak barrels. The aromas are rich in black fruit along with the earthy tones from the region and a slight herbal note. The flavors were full of fresh black fruits along with some spicy cocoa, vanilla and the earthiness from the terroir. The Cabernet Franc was very visible, but also really tasty. There was nice complexity with pretty round tannins. The alcohol was only 13.9% which was just perfect for this wine. The finish was a little short but overall a nice wine. We came back the next day and tasted it again and it had evolved even more. As with the others, this is a young Petite Sirah that needs to be decanted for at least a half-hour or more if you have the time. Better yet, stick it in the cellar for a few more years and then pop the cork. The Pedroncelli 2006 Petite Sirah retails for about $15. Give this one a try.

Stay tuned for more of my/our Petite Sirah tastings.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Petite Sirah - Day 1

Petite Sirah is a wine that is hard to come by on the east coast. Several retailers told me recently that they won't stock this because people don't know this type of wine and when they are looking for a "big" CA wine, they go straight to Cabernets. I suggested maybe doing a tasting of several so that this great varietal will get the recognition it deserves. Although the berries are "petite", the wines are not. I have previously posted the incredible Girard Petite Sirah and the Vina Robles Petite Sirah. With the help of some great PS I Love You members, I have had the opportunity to try some others with more in the cellar to taste. Last week while hanging out by the fireplace at the family ski house, I broke out the following CA Petite Sirahs to share with family and friends. These are great wines for grilled meats, beef stews, and chili.

Parducci 2007 - This family (Thornhill and Dolan) owned and operated winery from Mendocino County are not only striving to produce nice wines but is committed to sustainable wine growing practices. In fact, Parducci is the first carbon neutral winery in the US. The 2007 vintage was just bottled in November 2009, after being aged for 22 months in American Oak and in Redwood tanks. This ruby red Petite Sirah started with a relatively tight nose with some cherry and blackberry. The dark fruits followed through on the palate along with a small amount of pepper. It was a medium bodied wine with smooth tannins, but lacked the structure I was expecting. The acidity was low and the flavors on the mid palate and back end were short. Additionally, it had a slight bitter aftertaste. It was tasted again the next day and it was a little better. The overall consensus was fair. I have a second bottle that will be tried at a later date to compare and then post again. The 2007 Parducci Petite Sirah retails for $11.
This past weekend we opened the second bottle of the 2007 Parducci and it unfortunately followed suit with the first bottle. This is a pass.

Concannon Conservancy 2007 - The Concannon winery was started by James Concannon, an Irish immigrant, in 1883. Although the winery was sold to The Wine Group, Jim Concannon has been at the winery for more than 50 years now and his son John is now learning the business. Concannon Winery was also the first in the US to plant Petite Sirah grapes in 1961 and the first vintage was bottled in 1964. The Conservancy winegrowers place their land into a conservation trust that preserves it against development forever. The 2007 Conservancy petite Sirah is a blend of 97% Petite Sirah and 3% Petite Verdot. This inky colored full bodied wine started with rich aromas of cherries, pepper and some smokey oak. The intense flavors were more plums and blueberries along with some chocolate, black pepper and oak. It was aged in both French and American oak. The acidity was relatively high and the finish was long. However, the tannins were quite chewy. It too was just released in the fall, so hopefully the complexity of this wine will come together over time. The overall consensus was to put this away for at least 5 more years and then try it again. The 2007 Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah retails for $15.

Glen Ellen 2007 - This recently released Petite Sirah is also produced by Concannon Vineyards in Livermore, although the grapes for this wine come from both the Central Coast region and the North Valley region of CA. This was the complete opposite of the Concannon Petite Sirah as it lacked the complexity and structure found in the Concannon. It was medium bodied with plum and black cherry aromas and flavors along with some tobacco and a hint of spices. The acidity was similar but the finish was lacking. The tannins were soft. In fact, it was more like drinking juice. The overall consensus was fair. I have a second bottle that will be tried at a later date. Any changes will be posted. The 2007 Glen Ellen Petite Sirah retails for $10.

I will be posting the Day 2 tastings soon. Lots of Petite Sirah postings to go. Check back soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday and a healthy and prosperous New Year. Safe travels for all of you heading out to visit family and friends over the holidays. Remember, wine gets better with age, so take your time and get there safely.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Vina Robles Winery - Paso Robles, CA

I would like to personally thank Vina Robles Winery for their generous contribution to a charity event. I have previously posted in the blog my high praises for their Petite Sirah. Additionally, their Suendero (Cabernet and Petite Verdot blend) recently beat out over 1,850 other wines from 14 countries for the grand championship at a Houston competition. Ok, maybe I am biased since I am married to a wonderful Swiss girl and the Owner and Winemaker are both Swiss, but these are very good wines. Give them a try. I don't think you will be disappointed.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Carpineto Dogajolo 2007

The Carpineto Winery is special to us as the Chianti Classico Riserva was the first bottle of wine my wife and I shared together nearly 15 years ago on one of our first dates. I don't remember what vintage it was as my attention was more on her than the wine, but it was a really nice wine. We had many more bottles of it while dating. We even made this a stop on our first trip to Tuscany 7 years ago. Needless to say, we left with a nice bottle to share at the hotel.

Last night we opened a bottle of the 2007 Dogajolo which is a "Super-Tuscan" blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this dark red wine was a little pungent with old dried cherries and dried plums with some stale coffee. The taste was not much better as the oakiness and tobacco overpowered the fruit. The tannins were relatively smooth with some mild acidity. I think this wine might develop with a few more years of aging, but I still probably wouldn't buy it again. After having the Chianti Classico Riserva, the Brunello di Montalcino and the Farnito all from Carpineto, the Dogajolo would be last on my list. But be sure to give Carpineto wines a try. The 2007 Dogajolo retails for about $10.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quattromani Merlot del Ticino DOC

When you think of Switzerland, your first thought is probably of the magnificent Alps and skiing and not of palm trees. Mine too. However, there are plenty of palm trees in southern Switzerland in the canton of Ticino. To get to Ticino from the north you pass through the Alps via the St. Gotthard Tunnel, which is the longest tunnel in the world at 15.3 miles. This was a little uneasy feeling till we came out again. But when you do come out, you are in a region that is more tropical with palm trees and flowers that generally bloom year-round. It has even been called the Swiss Riviera. This small southern Canton is actually surrounded by Italy on the west, south and part of the eastern side. As could be expected from its northern Italian surroundings, Ticino has 2,500 acres of vineyards, of which nearly 85% are planted with merlot grapes. This beautiful setting overlooking Lake Maggiore is where we had one of our favorite Swiss wines, the Quattromani Merlot del Ticino. Quattromani means "four hands" which best describes the four wine makers (Claudio Tamborini, Feliciano Gialdi, Angelo Delea and Guido Brivio) who produced this outstanding wine. This medium-bodied, deep garnet colored wine is 100% merlot that has been blended from merlot grapes from each of these wine makers vineyards. It has wonderful aromas of dried cherries, plum and pepper with a hint of roses. On the palate, you will also pick up blackberry and mild oak along with the cherries, plum and pepper. The acidity is well balanced along with smooth tannins and a wonderful long finish. This wine will cellar well for 5-10 years. The Quattromani Merlot del Ticino will pair nicely with a carpaccio appetizer or white meats such as the traditional Swiss sausages (Bratwurst) and Swiss cheeses (Appenzeller, Emmentaler, and Gruyere).

This merlot will hold its own to any merlot in the world. The Ticino merlots have won many international wine competitions. Unfortunatly 40% of the wines from this area stay within the Canton, 55% get shipped throughout Switzerland and only 5% get exported thoughout Europe and to the US. THIS IS A MUST BUY IF YOU CAN FIND IT. It retails in Switzerland for about 55 Swiss Francs ($55).

Don't mistake this for the Italian Quattro Mani Montepulciano d'Abruzzo that retails for about $10-$11.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sierra De Viento Tempranillo and Garnacha

Last week, I was invited to a tasting of two wines produced by Bodegas San Valero, a cooperative located in north-east Spain in the province of Zaragoza. This cooperative was established in 1944 with 60 vine growers from the Carinena region. Today, there are over 700 members with over 3,500 hectares (8,650 acres) of vineyards.

The first wine we tasted was the 2008 Sierra de Viento Tempranillo. The grapes for this 100% tempranillo wine have made picked from 20-25 year old vines. This unoaked wine has a crimson color with an intense aroma of fresh red fruit and some floral notes. On the palate, it was fruitier than most other tempranillo's that I have tasted. In fact, it was too much. Although the flavors lasted for a while, the back end was a sour cherry flavor that didn't entice me to drink more.

Next up was the 2007 Sierra de Viento Garnacha Old Vine which was produced from grapes harvested from 30+ year old vines. This garnet colord wine was fermented in new French oak barriques for 3 months and then transferred to American oak barriques for 5 months. Following this, it is aged in the bottle for an additional 12 to 15 months. This was an interesting wine. Upon the inital opening and pouring, it had a big oak and vanilla aroma. But, within 5 to 10 minutes, this vanilla aroma mellowed and I started picking up more dried fruits, some toast and tobacco. The flavors were more blackberry and currant along with some oakiness. The Garnacha had mild acidity, but did have some chewy tannins.

Overall, neither of these wines were that impressive. As of now, the cooperative has not chosen an importer or distributor for these wines. When they do finally hit the US shelves, they will likely retail for $10-$11. Even with these prices, I think they will be difficult to sell.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Robert Gilliard Fendant Sion Les Murettes 2008 & 2006

Last night we attended a school function for our oldest son.  They were serving the traditional Swiss raclette (melted cheese and potatoes) paired with the Robert Gilliard Fendant Les Murettes 2008.  This family run winery dating back to 1885 is located in the Valais region of southwest Switzerland, near the borders of Italy and France.  This is the largest wine growing region in Switzerland.  It is made from the Fendant grape, which is also known as Chasselas.  This is a nice straw yellow wine with flowery aromas along with some soft citrus.  On the palate, it has a crisp flavor of white peach, pear, apple and an abundance of minerality from the slate and rock in the region.   If you don't believe that terroir has any impact on wine, try a bottle of Fendant.  It has a very unique flavor.  There is a crisp acidity and long lasting flavors to this dry wine.   When we returned home, I opened the 2006 and quickly noticed the dull and flat flavors in this vintage.  The 2008 was 12% alcohol and the 2006 was 11.8%.   This is a wine to drink and not put in the cellar.  It will not get better with age.  The Gilliard Fendant is aged in stainless steel and is unoaked.   We always have some on hand for our raclette and fondue dinners at home.  It can also be enjoyed as an aperitif.  It retails for about $25.  The Dole from Robert Gilliard is very nice too, but that will be a separate post.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Domaine Du Bagnol Cassis 2005

This deep golden colored wine comes from the Provence region of southern France, about 15 miles south of Marseilles. Cassis was historically an old fishing village along the French Riviera with some of the highest and most picturesque cliffs in all of France. Today, there are a handful of small wineries in Cassis, although not many of the wines actually get imported to the US. The 17.5 acre Domaine Du Bagnol winery, which dates back to 1867, was purchased by Jean-Louis Genovesi several years ago and is popular for their Cassis Blanc and Rose wines. The 2005 is a blend of Marsanne, Clairette and Ugni Blanc. We opened a bottle tonight before going out to dinner and we were disappointed. It has a relatively light nose of pear but the aromas of grass and nuts overpowered the fruit. On the palate, it was quite flat with some apricot and honey flavors along with the nuttiness and a little spice. The rocky-limestone terrain was also picked up in the flavor. I would have thought the alcohol content would have been higher than the 12.5% based on the blend, as Ugni Blanc and Clairette are usually higher than this and are typically used in Brandys and Cognacs. The acidity was high though and almost had a burning sensation. This Cassis must be kept very cold. Based on our tastes and, more importantly, the $30 price tag we would not purchase this again. If you have it stored, I would serve it with a Meditteranean fish or maybe a lentil soup.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

White X 2008

While I was preparing the Thanksgiving feast for the family, I opened a bottle of the White X from the X Winery in CA. Yes, those are the actual names. The X Winery was started in 2000 by Reed Renaudin who at the time was an MBA student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Although he was relatively young in age, his background and education was well seasoned having worked for some of the top names in Sonoma and Napa including Gallo and Heitz as well as Cape Clairault Wines in Australia. In addition to X Winery, Reed also started Amicus Winery.

The White X is a blend of 57% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Muscat Blanc, 19% Chardonnay and 4% Roussanne sourced from 5 vineyards throughout the North Coast region. This crisp white wine had a great nose of citrus, white peach, pear and a little nuttiness. The palate was led by some nice exotic fruits along with apricots and green apples, as well as a hint of minerality.  The Sauvignon Blanc and the Muscat Blanc are stainless steel fermented while the Chardonnay and Roussanne are barrel fermented. There is nice acidity with a long finish.  Overall, from the initial aromas to the long lasting flavors, this is a really nice wine with lots of complexity.

Only 580 cases of this wine were produced. Not only is the bottle memorable for the big X, but the X is actually silk screened onto the bottle in place of paper labels. If you can spot the X, be sure to pick some up. This is a serious wine with a simple name. It can be enjoyed on its own or paired with many entrees from simple meats and cheeses to spicy entrees. It retails for $14. Great Buy!