Saturday, January 28, 2012

Brian Arden Cabernet Franc 2008

Could the Cabernet Franc live up to the Brian Arden Zinfandel or the Syrah that were previously posted?  Unfortunately no.  Then again, that is like following Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell in the Pirate batting order.  Cabernet Franc is typically more of  a blending grape, including one of the Bordeaux blending grapes.  This 2008 BA wine is a blend of 97% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The initial aromas that we loved so much on the other two wasn't present in this one.  It was a little tighter on the nose.  The initial aromas were dried plums and raisins along with some peas.  I also thought there was some old burned wood smell, that I sometimes get from the patio grill.  The initial taste was of the dried fruits along with some earthiness and asparagus.  It ended with a subtle spiciness on the back end.  Other Cabernet Franc's that I have drank have also had a vegetable side to them.  The 2008 Cabernet Franc is leaner than the other two Brian Arden wines previously reviewed and the flavors faded quickly.  This medium bodied, garnet colored wine also had more tannins.  Be sure to give this 20 minutes to open before drinking.  This would pair nicely with lamb chops, pork tenderloins or even a burger.  Don't pair it with any bold or spicy flavors.  Overall, it was OK but would certainly pick the Zinfandel and the Syrah over the Cabernet Franc.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Treat yourself to a first class trip around the world of wine at the 5th Annual New York Wine Expo, March 2nd - 4th. The Grand Tasting offers attendees a chance to sample wines from nearly 190 wineries from around the globe. The Expo is also an opportunity to talk directly with wine makers and pick up tips on serving, pricing and selecting the right vintage. The New York Wine Expo will be held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. The latest in wine accessories and specialty foods will also be on hand at the Grand Tasting. “The New York Wine Expo features wines from the greatest wine-producing regions of the world,” said Ed Hurley, New York Wine Expo Show Director. “But the Expo also includes the biggest trends of the year ahead from smaller local wineries, to organic wines to off beat varietals that you’ll want to pour time and again.”

The show will run from 6-10 p.m. on Friday and from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available online. Use promo code: CORKEDWB and you will receive a $15 discount on the price of a Friday ticket (listed below).  I hope to see you there!

Standard Ticket Prices (without the discount):

Friday, March 2
$75 through 2/24
$85 beginning 2/25

Saturday, March 3 
$85 through 2/24
$95 beginning 2/25

For tickets, updated seminar schedule and event information visit or call 800-544-1660.  Note: The Wine Expo is not open to the general public on Sunday.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brian Arden Syrah 2008

After tasting the Brian Arden Zin (previous post), I couldn't wait to pop the cork on the Syrah.  Syrah was originally from the Rhone region of France and is used by many winemakers as a blending grape.  But not by Brian and Burt.  The 2008 Syrah is 100% syrah and is from the Masked Man Vineyard in Mendocino, CA.  Unfortunately, this was the last vintage from this vineyard as it has been pulled out and replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon vines.  Last night we made home-made pizzas, including the dough, topped with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, Italian salami and some sliced New Mexico peppers, along with a home-made tomato sauce.  What better to go with the peppers and tomato sauce than a tasty syrah.  Upon pouring the first glass, it had a nice deep red color along with a blue tint.  The aromas on the Brian Arden Syrah were as wonderful as those from the Zin with black cherry and plum, along with some green herbal notes and some espresso.  On the palate, the fruit was forward with both cherry and some blueberry flavors along with some subtle white pepper.  I also picked up some slight earthy/stoney flavors. Although syrah's are typically full-bodied and bolder wines, this one was medium to full bodied but is well structured with subtle tannins and acidity.  Again, the flavors lingered for some time.  Overall, another spectacular wine from the Brian Arden Wines.  My wife said "they are in a league of their own".  What a way to start the new year. These will be tough to follow.  As previously mentioned, the Brian Arden Wines are only available in Napa restaurants.  Hopefully soon, it will be more readily available.  Stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Brian Arden Zinfandel 2009

This is a name you all need to remember as it is a relatively new winemaker from Calistoga that you will be hearing rave reviews about in the near future.  The Brian Arden wines are produced by a father (Arden "Burt") and son (Brian) team.  Brian previously worked for the world famous Brix Restaurant where he was introduced to many industry icons.  In 2006 he moved to Calistoga starting in the cellar at Terra Valentine where he worked along side some of the most respected names in Napa winemaking including Kirk Venge, Michael Hirby, Sam Baxter, Bob Engelhoff and Jack Stuart.  Brian also had the privilege of sharing winery space with such luminaries as David Phinney of Orin Swift (WS #7 Best Wine in the world - Prisoner 2005), Steven Hall (Biale), Ray Coursen (Elyse & Falcor), Mark Jessup (Jessup Cellar) and Mike Farmer (Opus One).  The 2008 harvest was their first for Brian Arden wines. Burt also grew up in the farming business where his father (Burton of Burton Ranch) ran a commercial farming operation in the Central Valley including vineyards, prunes, pears and walnuts.

Last night we had our good friends Louise and Jonas, along with their children, over for dinner.  My wife made a braised chicken which was braised in a tomato sauce with pancetta and mushrooms.  The first thought was an Italian red because of the braise.  However, a nice zinfandel with some spice was the perfect pairing.  Burt suggested opening for 15-20 minutes before serving but after popping the cork, I had a hard time letting it sit.  The nose was incredible with dark fruits (black cherry and blackberry) along with some chocolate and cedar. There was also a hint of clove.  After these aromas, it had to be a great wine.  And it was!!!!  The black jammy fruits were followed by some licorice and chocolate and then some spicy pepper on the back end.  This zinfandel was not the typical dark, bold, in-your-face zin that many CA wines are, which was what I really liked about the Brian Arden.  It was structured so well with minimal to medium acidity, some soft  tannins and flavors that never ended.  Although it has a 14.7% alcohol content, it was well disguised. This wine wine made from 100% zinfandel grapes that had been harvested at the Burton Ranch Pump Block from ancient vines, with some dating back to 1886 which produce only 1-2 bunches per vine.  The grapes are smaller than those from the newer vines.

The wine received rave reviews at dinner.  I personally have not tasted a better zinfandel than this one.  If this had been a blind tasting, I would have expected a top name winemaker as opposed to the new kids on the block.  Presently, the Brian Arden wines are only being sold to restaurants, but this will likely change in the near future.  The next time you are in a restaurant in Napa, be sure to order a glass.  I can't wait to try the other Brian Arden wines including the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabernet Franc, the Syrah and the Sauvignon Blanc.