A Recommendation of Exquisite Burgundy…

Burgundy, or in its native tongue, Bourgogne, is a historic wine province made up of more AOCs than any other part of France. Burgundian winegrowers focus heavily on creating true reflections of their unique and rich terroir…

So with this in mind, we’ve scoured or cellars for some of the most interesting wines that truly champion this terroir-driven wine region. Before we can tell you about these amazing gems here’s some more background on Burgundy.

The earliest historically recorded plantings in the Burgundy region date back the 2nd Century AD, although it is believed the Celts may have been practising viticulture in the area long before this, perhaps even back in the B.C. era.

Much of Burgundy’s wine history comes hand in hand with its religious history – the Roman Catholic Church had an enormous impact on the success of Burgundy as a wine region. By 910, The Benedictines or ‘Black Monks’ had possession over a significant amount of vineyard land and would maintain this ownership for centuries. In 1098, another order of the Roman Catholic Church was established in France – the Cistercians – and their Monastery was situated in Burgundy. This order dedicated themselves to wine and quality viticulture. In 1336, they created the Clos de Vougeot, a prestigious walled vineyard that is still operational today. With such immense dedication to the art of winemaking, the Cistercians soon noticed how vastly different wines could be coming from different growing areas. This was to be the foundation for the later establishment of the Cru titles and the region’s renowned understanding of terroir.

Today, Burgundy resembles the quintessential vision of France. It is romantic and nostalgic – dubbed by some as the land of fine art and living. Life is fun and beautiful, yet without rush, and the locals believe this is down to the excellent food and even better wine.

The region links the Paris Basin to the Saône River corridor, and many of the vineyards are spread over undulating hills and banks. Part of the appeal of Burgundy, and the reason it is home to so many different AOCs, is its soils and lands are so diverse – even within itself. So much so, that even grapes from the same singular vineyard sometimes produce different results.

To learn more about this diverse and stunning wine region, click here.

2010 Domaine Jean Michel Gaunoux Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres

“Perrières might well have been classified as a Grand Cru…” – Jancis Robinson. No truer words can be said about this amazing slice terroir…

2013 Domaine Bertagna Les Cras Blanc

Famously producing this Chardonnay from their Les Cras plot within Vougeot, a rare white wine in this Grand Cru vineyard dominated by Pinot Noir.

2014 Domaine Alain Gras Saint Romain Village Blanc

Powerful and sophisticated nose, with a hint of nuts, toast and vanilla beans. Expressive palate, full and supple. A wine with minerality, an elegant touch of oak, and a beautiful, long finish.

2014 Domaine Pascal Bouchard Chablis Les Clos

Les Clos is the most famous Grand Cru vineyard in Chablis. Displaying a beautiful fragrance, filled with slate and apple, leading to a vibrant, yet rich, mouthful of mineral and citrus flavours.

2015 Domaine Morey-Coffinet Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Cailleret

You can really taste the thin stony soil of the steepest vineyard in Chassagne Vineyard.

2010 Domaine Michel Magnien Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru Les Chaffots

Glued to the vast Clos de la Roche, classified Grand Cru, Les Chaffots is a 1er Cru climate of 62 hectares on which the Magnien estate cultivates Pinot Noir. The plot is found on fossiliferous limestones on a steep slope.

2013 Domaine Bertagna Clos de Vougeot

This walled vineyard is overlooked by Clos Blanc De Vougeot Castle. Delicate and nuanced with lingering notes of dark morello cherry.

2014 Domaine Olivier Le Temps des Cerises Santenay Village

Originating from different plots around Santenay, this appellation is known for supple and fruity wines with a beautiful plush mouthfeel.

2014 Domaine Moissenet-Bonnard Pommard 1er Cru Les Charmot

The most feminine of the Domaine’s Pommards, having an alluring, rich character, with dense, silky tannins, a floral note of spicy roses, and a long aftertaste that is delicate and very sensual.

Focus on SMWE – Wines of Columbia Crest Grand Estates and H3: Horse Heaven Hills

Columbia Crest

Nestled alongside the Columbia River in eastern Washington, Columbia Crest winery opened its doors in the heart of the acclaimed Horse Heaven Hills in 1983. Year after year, the winery maintains its commitment to quality, heritage and innovation in grape growing and winemaking to craft exceptional wines.

Washington State and the Columbia Valley represent the perfect grape-growing climate, from the weather to the soil to the vineyard sites, and Columbia Crest’s 2,500 acres of estate vineyards are some of the best. These growing conditions, along with outstanding viticulture and winemaking practices, allow Columbia Crest to create high-quality wines that are true to their varietal character and represent the unique terroir of the region.

From the vineyard to the glass, Columbia Crest wines are an extraordinary expression of craftsmanship. With a large body of acclaim, Columbia Crest winery delivers a steadfast promise with each bottle—world-class wines from a world-class wine region.

Visit Columbia Crest’s Site


H3 – Horse Heaven Hills

H3 Wines were created to celebrate the winery’s rich heritage in the Horse Heaven Hills in Washington State as well as its innovative spirit with regards to winemaking and viticulture practices. Grapes from this distinctive appellation produce bold, well-balanced and seductive wines. Great care is taken to ensure that the uniqueness of the appellation’s terroir is expressed in each bottle of H3.

Visit H3’s Site


Some Key Wines from these Washington Producers

 

2014 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay

The perfect balance between rich and fresh, boasting melon and apple with hints of butterscotch.

 

2014 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot

This wine is complex, dark and rich with distinct notes of cocoa and black cherries.

 

2014 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon

This bold wine displays lush berry fruit and plum with a subtle creamy twist at the end.

 

2015 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Syrah

Rich and ripe, this wine is elegant and smoky with hints of black pepper.

 

2015 Columbia Crest H3 Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon

Black fruits complimented by earth and mineral notes, framed with creamy hints of vanilla.

Focus on SMWE – Wines of Erath

ERATH

Erath wines are an expression of the land that the winery has cultivated for more than 40 years, longer than any other winery in the Dundee Hills of Oregon. The red, iron-rich Jory soils, combined with gentle breezes and warming sunshine of a marine climate, have bestowed upon Dundee a terroir of note.

Dick Erath, the engineer-turned-viticulturist, was first inspired to pursue winemaking in 1965 after an early garage experiment. After completing coursework at UC-Davis in 1968, Erath relocated his family from California to the untamed red hills of Dundee. An unheated logger’s cabin on 49 acres would serve as home – and ad hoc winery – for several years.

“Our Oregon wines display the signature Erath profile: fruit- forward, ideal for everyday drinking.”


2015 Erath Pinot Gris

Green Gold, with lifted aromatics singing of this unique slice of Oregon

Andrea Sartori – The Driving Force behind Sartori di Verona

Blonde, blue-eyed Andrea Sartori, president of Sartori di Verona enjoys Cuban cigars, has a mean golf swing, and even speaks with a slight Midwest twang. All three characteristics were honed over two decades of travelling throughout the US – but belie his heritage as a scion of one of Italy’s most influential winemaking families.

Andrea is the great-grandson of Pietro Sartori, who founded the Sartori di Verona winery in 1898. Today one of the Veneto’s “Big Five” wine producers, Sartori di Verona has expanded significantly under Andrea’s leadership. It is a testament to Andrea’s success and to the reputation he enjoys throughout the Italian wine industry that he was called upon to serve an unprecedented two terms as president of Italy’s principal wine producers’ trade group, the Unione Italiana Vini (Italian Confederation of Vine & Wine), from 2004 through May 2010. The UIV represents some 60% of the Italian wine industry by turnover. In his dual capacity as owner of a major Italian winery and former head of the UIV, Andrea has benefited from an eagle-eyed view of the wine business in Italy and the world. “There is little demand for good quality wines. Today they have to be very good indeed!” Sartori drily observes.

Andrea’s global perspective started early. After three years studying business at Verona’s University of Economia e Commercio and attending the Cuoa business school in Vicenza, Sartori perfected his English while attending classes at New York’s Columbia University. Back home Andrea started selling Sartori wines in the Italian market, but the world beckoned. Before long he hit the road, helping to expand markets in the US, Canada and Europe. In 1998 he was appointed Managing Director of Sartori di Verona and was named President of the company in 2000.

Soon after assuming the reins at Sartori di Verona, Andrea embarked on an ambitious range of initiatives designed to help Sartori stay ahead of the global competition. Early in the new millennium, Sartori di Verona joined forces with Cantina Colognola to assure a reliable supply of high-quality grapes. The high-profile enologist, Franco Bernabei, was recruited to consult. Sartori and Bernabei collaborated on the launch of a new premium collection of wines from a Sartori owned estate in the Mezzane Valley, followed by the acquisition of the pioneering Mont’Albano winery in Friuli to act as the anchor for its collection of organic wines.

Washington State Wine Country – Syrah is delicious

Columbia Tower, Seattle WA

Washington State Wine Country – Where are you and how do you get there?  Located in the great Pacific Northwest – From Seattle, cross the Cascade Mountain Range, heading east, inland to one of the finest grape growing areas in the USA and second largest next to California.

Unlike many wine regions, Washington cannot be defined by a single grape or even a group of grapes. While Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Riesling and Chardonnay are the most common in terms of production and plantings, nearly 70 varieties are planted and experimentation continues.

Chateau Ste Michelle Wine Estates (Columbia Crest)

Wine Tip – Washington State Syrah – this variety continues to thrive here and show its diversity.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are the top red and white grapes planted and there are plenty of great examples across the region to show why.  Washington State is a warm, dry climate and many of these wines have a similar level of fruit ripeness, concentration and oaky style that once in the bottle, tend to look all the same.  This is a positive in many respects, the quality is always consistent and customers feel confident about their style preference from vintage to vintage with very little change.  This may also be why Syrah gets noticed, while stylistically these wines tend to be deeply coloured and fuller bodied, there is a broader range of alcohol levels, acidity and flavours, especially more savoury notes that differentiate the wines from each other.

Horse Heaven Hills AVA in the distance (photo taken in Red Mountain AVA).

Washington State is a distinctive and diverse growing region, with a range of soil types.  There is a large diurnal shift which preserves natural acidity great for balance.  The grapevines here are own rooted, which make this another unique feature of the region.  Like many wine regions, there are some big players, but also a legion of small, family producers to discover.

Snake River in the Columbia Valley

Key areas where Syrah performs best are Columbia Valley AVA, Naches Heights AVA, Red Mountain AVA, Wahluke Slope AVA, Walla Walla Valley AVA, Horse Heaven Hills AVA, Yakima Valley AVA.

Hedges Family Wine Estate in Red Mountian AVA

Winegrowing – How is Syrah made here – Syrah continues to impress and makes a strong case for the best value for money Syrah on the planet in my mind.  21,300 tons were crushed in 2016.  8% of total crush.  So plenty of potential for growth.

Syrah is Washington’s third most planted red grape after Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  7% of all vineyard land planted in the region.  There is a diversity of styles from dark fruit, such as blackberries, to blueberries and cranberries as well as savoury, espresso notes.

Viognier is occasionally co-fermented, giving these wines a distinct floral uplift.

Alcohol levels can range anywhere from under 13.5% to 16% based on the warmth of the growing region and the style the winemaker is looking to achieve. Winemakers in Washington follow traditional methods with Syrah, ageing the wine in small French, and sometimes American, oak barrels for often 14 months or longer. Many producers frequently limit their use of new oak compared to other varieties, with some recently using concrete fermenters and ageing the wines in neutral oak barrels and puncheons.  Here are some of the standout Syrah Producers from this trip:

Columbia Crest – based out of the Horse Heaven Hills AVA – especially their Grand Estates range. For the money these wines are fantastic value and regularly receive strong accolades for their work.  A most impressive winemaking facility – a must visit.

K Vintners – run by the man himself, Charles Smith, who is based in the famous Walla Walla AVA – regularly listed at the top of many critics list of Syrah producers in the region. These wines are deep coloured, picked very ripe and made with low intervention, often without destemming.

Hedges Family Wine Estates – also a highly regarded Syrah and Bordeaux Blend producer, making old world, classically structured styles based in Red Mountain.  A really lovely family who farm using organic and biodynamic principles.

a’Maurice – are making elegant, savoury Syrah showing reductive, smoked meat and olive tapenade-like flavours with perfume and floral characters that I love in Syrah.  Delicious.

Efeste – out of Yakima Valley, hit the blueberry, juicy fruit and mineral edge of Syrah, sleek and terroir driven.

L’Ecole – in the Columbia Valley are a renowned Syrah producer, very reliable showing spicy, rich and complex styles.

Charles Smith of K Vintners at his tasting room in Walla Walla

 

Puneet in California: Day 5

California Day 5 – Napa to Sonoma Coast

A great drive from Napa to Sonoma Coast through such A.V.A’s as Alexander Valley and Russian River. The drive along the Sonoma Coast is quite awesome, with the eerie mist swirling around you, next to steep drops to the sea. We arrive at Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast, make our way up Timber Cove Road and into Seaview Rd (Flowers is at No.14500 Seaview Rd). As if by magic we pop out of the Ocean Mist. Immediately the sun and temperature hit us.

It’s quite impressive, The vineyard sits on either side of a canyon which is literally the San Andreas fault line. The soils are multiple including a lot of soil similar to Burgundy – Volcanic Schist, but also red iron/clay. The steep hills are not terraced but instead close planted straight down the steep slopes. The whole site is farmed Biodynamically. Every 15th row is a crop of flowers with various functions for the eco system, and multiple cover crops. The site we have come to is the Camp Meeting Ridge site – 35 acres, elevation 1,400 feet. The Sea View Ridge is about 10km south and can be seen in the distance from Camp Meeting Ridge.

 

We walk onto the back deck of the house for the tasting, and what an incredible view.

 

 

2016 Sonoma Coast Rosé
Provencal style  – light onion skin, well balanced, light red and raspberry fruits, gentle vanilla touch of spice – very good.

 

2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
9-11 months oak – hints of wet stone and shortbread – citrus and stone fruits – some hazelnut and light toast – delicious.

 

2014 Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay
19 months oak – 1,000 cases per year – more fatty creme brûlée – second half shows the classic sea salt mineral oyster shell aspect – exceptional.

 

2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Distinct mossy character – clean red fruit ripe and integrated tannins – seamless – strong pinot noir typicity.

 

2014 Camp Meeting Ridge Pinot Noir
Beautiful warm brown earth notes, exceptional fragrance and perfumed notes – which takes this into Premier Cru + territory.

 

2014 Seaview Ridge Pinot noir
Meatier – took a while for the nose to open up, also more acidity – bigger all round – concentrated red fruits. Will please those Otago Pinot lovers. (The vineyard is higher elevation and iron rich).

 

That evening I revisit the 2013 Hirsch Chardonnay – clearly a cult wine here, almost the younger protegé of Flowers (although the two vineyards are not connected in any way). It is expensive – but quite possibly even more Burgundian in style than Flowers. It is not quite as fatty as flowers and the palate broadens out as you taste – with more mineral and saline elements. Anyway, I managed to finish a bottle of it, and then thought I saw the coming of the New Messiah as the sun set over the Pacific – so it must be quite good.
 
THE END OF THIS CALIFORNIA WINE EXPERIENCE

 

Puneet in California: Day 4

California Day 4 – St Helena to Geyserville

 
The day begins at Coppola – Dhall and Nash’s first winery from California.
It’s busy – memorabilia meets wine. But similar to Bogle, literally behind all the glitz is a 2 million bottle a year operation – Coppola is now the 12th largest wine producer in America, and of course privately owned by Francis Ford Coppola. His aura is everywhere, from his wines and film memorabilia to his favourite dishes on the restaurant menu.

 

Emily and Amy meet me and we taste some wines from the large range…

14 Votre Sante Chardonnay – Large mid palate – cream and then more cream.

 

15 Rosso & Bianco Cabernet Sauvignon – A hint of eucalyptus, some stalk but not displeasing.

 

13 Elanor – Petite Syrah / Zinfandel – Lovely aromatics – blue black fruit and spice.

 

13 Archimedes – 80% Cabernet Sauvignon / 10% Cabernet Franc / 10% Merlot from Alexander Valley. 21 months in new French oak. Lovely tannins – a sign of good Cabernet here – not too soft – still grainy but ripe and integrated.

 

15 Diamond Claret – I find the eucalyptus again – red fruit – more aggressive tannin.

 

Excited to be hosting Emily in New Zealand again sometime between June and August, and also to have their consent to start trading Coppola in Australia.

 

In the afternoon we visit Spottswoode – what a joy.
10,000 cases a year produced vinified off of 28 blocks in one site in St Helena. We meet MaryPat and also the owner Beth. Beth’s mother and father had upped sticks and moved to St Helena from Southern California in 1972. Beth’s father was a Doctor and wanted to have a house for his five children somewhere rural where he could work a tractor. In 1972 The valley was much more rural and still not focused on wine growing – many other crops were grown including walnuts and prunes. In1975, Beth’s father died unexpectedly aged just 44. Beth’s mother Mary was left with 5 children and a ship to run – For a few years, Mary sold their fruit to prominent vineyards to survive. In 1978, Mary’s friends the Duckhorn family and the Schafer family told her that the Estate Cabernet was just too good, and they encouraged to bottle under Spotswoode and join them in a similar adventure. Following this their early winemaker Tony Soter (now in Oregon and with high acclaim) encouraged the estate to go organic in 1985. As you can imagine, this was quite a big step at that time. People who went organic were seen as crazy.

 

I tasted the wines as Beth regaled this story to me,

2016 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc
Fermented 60% stainless steel / 35% new and used oak and 5% concrete
Bloody nice – a rockiness to the wine that I really like together with a ‘leesy’ texture and good acid

 

2014 Lydenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon
Before the estate was owned by the Spotswoode family, it was owned by the Lyndenhurst family 100+ years ago. 20 months French oak (40% new) 90% cabernet sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec, 2%merlot
Oh so yummy and approachable.blueberries, blackcurrants, cassis, leather, fireplace ash, ripe powdery tannins (now when I taste a good cabernet, the tannins are ripe and integrated with a fresh palate – no coarseness whatsoever, regardless of youth) – just exceptional – nothing at all like this in New Zealand.

 

2014 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
100% French oak (60% new) – aged 20 months 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot
Oh wow! First of all, cellar this! great tannins, oh so fresh, beautiful fruit – incredible integration between fruit and secondary characters – as if they are one – jeepers this is so good.

 

Later that night, we are gifted with a bottle of 2013 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon. Can a day get any better! We get Taj to sleep – room service! The special of the house truffle chicken – 2 hour cook time. I crack open the Duckhorn – all I can say is – yes it is that good!
Tomorrow we head to Spring Mountain to visit Schweiger – and to the West Coast and visit Flowers

Puneet in California: Day 3

California Day 3 – Clarksburg to St Helena

 
A crackerjack day. I thought I was walking into the hangars for the new Boeing 777 – But no – it was the Bogle Barrel room – 7-8 rooms – each larger than an aircraft hanger – approximately 1 kilometre long. You could not see from one end to the other – the horizon was in the way. 12,000 barrels per year – Thousands upon thousands of Barrel ferments – each vineyard – vinified separately – incredible. The rooms are specially designed to cope with the massive CO2 emissions during ferment, as well as the massive temperature rise of so many fermenting barrels. The attention to detail is impressive. Anthocyanin and tannin count, mass spectrometers for acids. No sugar or acid additions. The guy doing the lees stirring looked more like a guy off of an Ebert building site –  but then no wonder – he had to traverse barrel mountains like girders on a skyscraper. This new winery was established in 2009 – it really does incorporate all of the modern technology and is a sight to behold – the wines, for example, are gravity fed with minimal intervention… The walkway for the tall tanks is the highest elevation in Clarksburg. The American flag together with the Bogle flag flies proudly from the centre of the winery. The Bogle wines truly do over deliver for the cost.

 

We drive for an hour and twenty minutes into Napa. We arrive at HdV. After Bogle, we are not sure if we have driven into someone’s back yard by accident – which happens to have a couple of tanks and barrels in the back. Little did I know what a sensational tasting was in store. Guillaume the assistant winemaker is busy racking a couple of barrels, and James the Manager meets me. Other than the two of them there is Stephane the chief winemaker – and of course, Aubert…he may not be there but his presence is every where. The first thing that James tells me is that Aubert is an extremely humble person. For him a winery is a winery – no time for flash ‘add ons’ – everything is about the vineyard and the wine expression – we sit in the tiny room adjacent to the winery. I’ve already noticed that they love their Fuders’ – several big barrels in dark dingy corners of the room. Theo Gisen told me that Fuder’s were German – Aubert de Villaine believes that they are Burgundian…

 

The Hyde vineyard is in Carneros. It is 150 acres in total supply several of the greatest wineries in Napa and Sonoma. 23 acres are specifically for HdV. The first vines were established in 1978, and although not certified – Organic practices are 100% employed. The vineyard contains a shallow alluvial soil and then hits heavy clay. Larry Hyde has helped the natural drainage by building larger drainage channels throughout the vineyard to alleviate any high water issues. This has created the phenomenon that is the Hyde Vineyards.

 

We proceed to taste a truly exceptional lineup:

 

2014 De la Guerra Chardonnay
20% fermented in concrete egg – no new oak, The vineyard was planted at the north end of the Hyde vineyards in 2010. Only 250 cases are produced annually with 80 cases for export. I can’t believe the vines are so young – James simply smiles. He does that a lot over the course of the tasting – the knowing smile of someone who knows that you are experiencing a sensory euphoria. The mealy taste I know so well comes through, the balance a mid palate of cream texture, a rounded wine and grace and length – exceptional – and this is the quaffer.

 

Guillaume tells me that 2013 was a great year, but 2014 was an incredible Chardonnay year, possibly the best ever in Napa. An early Spring leads to an early bud burst for Chardonnay and a very long ripening period. Concerns about a drop off in acidity towards the end of ripening due to the length of the season did not eventuate, creating amazing flavour profiles in the Chardonnay. On top of this, there was an Earthquake on August 24th.

 

2014 HdV Chardonnay
Wow – 20% Malo, 20% new oak, 11 months in barrel, 4 months in tank, 1 year in bottle. The wine has lilts and phases – The bouquet is truly aromatic – Guillaume says that all wines are aromatic if you pick at the right time – early stone fruit, through the classic mid palate roundness and cream, constant hints of gunpowder flint (from a purposeful slight reduction technique during the 4 months in tank, through to a beautiful minerality and salinity, with lingering finish. You can taste the vineyard. Superb.

 

2013 Ysabel Pinot Noir from the Van de Camp Vineyards in Sonoma (150 cases produced)
Elevation is high for this vineyard at 1700 feet. Aubert had been resistant to make pinot noir in California for a long time. Rightly so, he did not want to make anything which might detract from the almighty DRC. However, this vineyard changed his mind. It’s not in the Hyde vineyard stable in Carneros, but from the oldest and highest vineyard in Sonoma (planted in the early 1960’s)
The wine is beautiful and rustic with a textural richness. The aromatics sing (something in common with all HdV wines).

 

The Ygnacia we did not try but this is planted from much younger vines planted in 2010 from 7 ‘secret’ sites around the region. The wine shows violets and bright fruit and is as different to Ysabel as one can get. Both are worthy enough for Aubert.

 

2014 Californio Syrah
Oh my God moment! Maybe I do love Syrah after all! 350 cases produced. Some production was lost in the 2013 Earthquake. Violets, all the way through blue fruits to cocoa powder, spice box, and powerful with terrific length – ‘off the charts’ good. selected from 2 blocks in Hyde and 3 clones.

 

2013 Belle Cousine
I now find out the Pamela Hyde (Aubert’s wife) is actually Larry Hyde’s cousin. Larry and Pamela are the same age and grew up together – hence Belle Cousine. 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Red and blue fruits, aromatics bursting, fresh yet rich – will age to plush no doubt. Guillaume stresses that whilst many neighbours add acid, their natural acidity helps the wines to age incredibly. The wine reminds me of the Dominus we had recently – then I am told the Merlot is the same clone. These guys have taken a slice of California with a touch of Pomerol and the result is magnificent.

 

Then I fall off of my seat – the last wine.
2015 Vinehill Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from Yountville.
This vineyard is owned by the Phillips family and is used for the top Harlan wines. It dates back to the 1880’s.  The wine is clean as a whistle, cassis, blue and red fruits, graphite all the way through – beyond good! Only 2 barrels made and already sold to Aubert’s friends and the most wealthy wine collectors in the World for an undisclosed price. It was a ‘you had to be there’ moment.

 

Tomorrow – Coppola, Spotswoode and possibly Schweiger – a strong tip from James at HdV for incredible Cabernet at very reasonable price.

Puneet in California: Days 1 & 2

California – Day 1 – Sacramento

 It turns out that Sacramento, 90 miles North East of San Francisco is the ‘farm to fork’ capital of America. The city boasts some 1.5 million acres of farm land surrounding the region – many of which are artisanal producers, and the restaurants are proud to source prolifically local.

 

My first wine of the trip – I pick up the menu – ‘eenie, meeni, minie, mo’ – my finger lands in the Cabernet section – lucky! A glass of the 2014 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon at USD$26.  A good start – blueberries, velvety, simple, not a million miles from our Cupcake ‘Red Velvet’, although with more power and structure.

 

It wasn’t till a few moments later as I tucked into my ‘Grange Burger’ (medium rare) – that I realised quite how amazing my choice of meal was – Sacramento immediately vindicated its ‘farm to fork’ status to me. Tomorrow I visit Jody Bogle.
 

California – Day 2 – Clarksburg

Bogle is in Clarksburg. Clarksburg is a small picturesque farm community of 300 and dates back to the gold rush. The soils are heavy clay on a flood plain, protected by levees. The river was a prime trade route in the late 1800’s and the first half of the 20th Century – there is an old time worn picture of a thousand ducks all heaped on each other being barged down the river towards the coastal cities. At the entrance to the tasting venue is Jody Bogle’s grandfathers 1918 Ford Model T Truck. It’s not the only old truck you see as you drive around this agricultural heartland. The place really is beautiful; splendid trees, along babbling streams, brooks and rivers – hills in the distance and exceptionally fertile soils. In fact Dana the winemaker tells me that Vigour is the issue here. The vines themselves are big and bushy – no issues with fungal disease in this dry, breezy environment.(The Delta Breeze keeps the area on average 5-8 degrees Celsius lower than surrounding regions including Napa) environment.

 

We meet Jody, all smiles and warmth in the beautiful garden behind the tasting barn. Jody gladly informs us that Dhall and Nash are now Bogle’s leading importer in the World having just muscled ahead of Japan. We get to tasting:

 

2012 Bogle Blanc de Blancs – a lovely creamy mid palate – would you expect anything else!
2015 Bogle Reserve Chardonnay – 100% oak aged / 100% malo / 24 months on lees / batonage for every barrel every 2-4 weeks. 80% American Oak / 20% French Oak.

 

We spent some time discussing the American Oak – one of Bogle’s secret weapons. They use an American Oak called World Cooperage from a Cooper called ‘1912’ – The oak is heavily fired to its smoke point.
We also talk about the Batch selection for the Reserve wines. Every vineyard is vinified separately, and the best barrels selected for the Reserves. Winemakers Dana and Eric make the first cut and the final selection is done by a larger team including the family. The family work with their own vineyards and growers in 9 A.V.A’s;

 

Clarksburg – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petite Sirah
Mendocino – Petite Sirah, Pinot noir, Zinfandel
Russian River Valley – Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc
Sonoma – Cabernet Sauvignon
Oakley – Old Vine Zinfandel, Old Vine Mourvèdre
Lodi – Old Vine Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah
El Dorado County – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Amador County – Old Vine Zinfandel
Monterey – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc

 

 We continue to taste;

 

2014 Bogle Viognier – Perfumed, fragrant – tangerines, hint of cream – a must have.

 

2015 Russian River Pinot Noir – Toasted characters mix with light spice and earth (I must confess my pinot noir radar has been off recently – the nose felt a little closed but it could have been me.)

 

2012 Bogle Sonoma Reserve Merlot – Very plush indeed – but still with enjoyable graininess from the tannins – very nice.

 

2014 Reserve Zinfandel – Amador County (Amador and El Dorado are in the foothills and completely dry farmed and certified sustainable). Juniper, concentrated and rounded – a must have.

 

2014 Malbec – Monterey – plush again – some cedar notes.

 

2014 Reserve Petite Sirah – Toasted, spicy plum.

 

2013 Phantom – Zin, Mourvèdre blend 2-3 years in oak – tannins – less fruit secondary characters – more coarse.

 

2014 Petite Verdot – El Dorado County – Possibly one of the most unique wines I’ve tasted and could only be from America – Chargrilled flavours, spice box like the mix rub for your deep south pork ribs – a must.

 

2014 Reverence – Bordeaux Blend – Michael was asking about the Reserve Cabernet – well this has become the Reverence – blended with other Bordeaux varieties – well balanced  and elegant – must have

 

Tomorrow I visit the Bogle winery to meet the two brothers Warren and Ryan, and also Chief winemaker Eric and to see the legendary barrel room. I also head over to Carneros and meet James at HdV

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