DOMAINE LAROQUE Cite De Carcassonne CABERNET FRANC 2015



“I think there’s a reason why wine figures into so many religions.  There’s something transcendent about it.  It’s sort of the way that music is more than the sum of its parts.  You have all these elements that make up the terroir that wine can communicate.” …. Maynard James Keenan




Ah, Cabernet Franc!  You have enjoyed it from the cool growing area of the Loire Valley in France and from the Finger Lakes AVA in New York.  Lighter. Fresh. A good call for transitioning from winter’s heavy reds to summer’s lighter ones.  And this too is from France, so it must be the same as the Chinon from the Loire that you are so used to.  Except it’s not.  Not better. Not less better. Just different.  It is, after all, from the south of France where the climate is Mediterranean. Different terroir. Different wine.  But try it with an herb crusted rib eye steak and tell me it’s not very good.


It’s also amazingly priced with an ARP of $10.

Aromas of black licorice, rose, sweet black raspberry and kirsch. On the palate: raspberry liquor. Red berry fruit, ripe but unsweet. A tone of mashed, cooked fruit and vanilla. Finishes with tannins just enough to be noted while coating the back of your upper teeth.

The 150-acre Domaine Laroque has been making wine on the rocky hills just outside the fortified city of Carcassonne (a sub-region of Languedoc-Roussillon) in southern France) since the sixth century.  It is 100% Cabernet Franc, a not-too-common offering when unblended from France. Unique in the concentration of its fruit, the area is known for producing wines with dusty rose characteristics.  Tasters often refer to this wine’s notes of red currant, cranberry and tobacco with earthy and herbal notes and a hint of black pepper.  Some pick up notes of caramelized tomato paste. 

Whatever you detect, if you enjoy Cabernet Franc, this is one you won’t want to miss.

Sante!
………….Jim  

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ETCETERA
ALC:                       13.5%
Imported By:      Aquitaine Wine USA (Berkley CA)
Classification:     IGP



 







Z. ALEXANDER BROWN “UNCAGED” RED BLEND 2015


 “I’m sure wine snobs look at me and think, how dare you.” …. Drew Barrymore


Good for Drew, whatever she was referencing.  That’s how I think about this wine.  It was one I poured last year at a retail outlet and I have to confess, before then, I never heard of it. That’s the danger of being a wine snob. People still ask me why I continue to pour wine and I continue to answer, “Because it’s fun.”  It exposes me to wines I might otherwise not encounter.  Wines I might walk past at a retail outlet where I become a prisoner of my own palate’s GPS.

Pouring wine requires tasting (oh, the sacrifice!).  I’ll make short notes about my impression and share those thoughts with the people interested in a tasting.  Generally, these are “grocery store wines” - not those I get invited to as a reviewer/critic attending a nice meal and sampling wines, meeting with the winemaker on tour and, hopefully, writing about their wine.

And no, I’m not a fan of the label.  At least the back label which, in my regimented stick-in-the-mud-old-fashioned frame of mind is a waste of space.  No detail.  The wine is a red blend.  What are the varietals? Never disclosed. Instead, we are told the winemaker is also “uncaged” and that the owl (depicted on the front label) is a “guardian of the vine”.  Who cares?

Turns out Zac Brown (Z. Alexander Brown) is a country & western singer of notoriety. And he teamed up with the resources of Delicato Family Wines and Napa Valley winemaker John Killebrew to make this wine: a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon.   I’m also not a fan of “celebrity wines” but – acknowledging that it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts – I am a fan of this wine.

Well balanced, smooth, easy drinking, ripe and juicy, this is an excellent everyday wine priced for the rest of us.  Cranberry and dark chocolate on the nose. A little smoke and leather. Blackberry, plum and baking spice balance out the presentation. On the palate it’s mouth filling, rich and creamy. Bing cherry, plum, cranberry, blackberry, dark chocolate and black currant; a little vanilla and pepper. A hint of toasted oak balances surprising but subtle notes of earth. I don’t expect this at less than $18 (sometimes 16% less) a bottle.

This is sometimes cooler growing, later ripening North Coast California fruit, aged just nine months in one-third new French and American oak that comes together deliciously under winemaker John Killebrew and is budget friendly priced.  Made for today’s palates, enhanced with delicate notes of lilac, cedar and white pepper, it’s a wine that is case-worthy to buy and keep available for everyday use.

Cheers!
……………… Jim
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TECH SPECS & ETC.
Z Alexander Brown:        http://www.azlexanderbrown.com/
ALC:                                       14.5%
PH:                                         3.7
TA:                                         .57g/100ml

BORSAO TRES PICOS GARNACHA 2014


“Scores do not reveal the most important facts about a wine. The written commentary (tasting notes) that accompanies the ratings is a better source of information than any score regarding the wine’s style and personality, its quality level relative to its peers, and its relative value and aging potential.” – Robert M. Parker, Jr

I love Grenache however it is known.  Garnacha in Spain, called Cannonau in Sardinia.  And wherever it’s from: France, Spain, Italy, California, Australia - I’ve enjoyed them.   Prices for cult unblended varietals and Grenache-blended Châteauneuf-du-Pape can exceed $600 per bottle.  But I can’t tell you anything about those because I’ve never had one. What I generally enjoy are wines from $15-$50.  “Enjoy” being a relative term and understood to mean some more than others.  What I can say, definitively, is that at $12.99, I have enjoyed no Grenache more than Tres Picos.

Bodegas Borsao is in the Campo De Borja, a D.O. (Denominacion de Origin) in the province of Zaragoza, Aragon in northeastern Spain.  Written records about winemaking in this region date back to 1203. Grapes are grown on bush-trained vines averaging 35 – 60 years of age (with some dating back to the 1920s) on stony clay and limestone soil on the slopes of the Moncayo Mountains at elevations of 600 – 700 meters (1969 – 2297 ft.). 

Garnacha (Grenache) was the red wine grape of Spain, and even in the late 20th century was the second most planted world-wide.  But with the European Union’s pull scheme, by 2010, Garnacha had fallen to 7th place (4th in Spain after Airen, Tempranillo and Bobal).  With Airen being a white wine grape for bulk and blending use, Tempranillo became the new king of Spanish red and has been received well internationally.  By some tastes, Tempranillo is less rustic.  And while I respect that all palates are personal, I just can’t imagine Tempranillo being used as a blend in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. There’s room for Garnacha.  When I’m posed with the dilemma of being marooned on an island and asked what one varietal I would chose, I answer “water”.  Pity our world should our choices ever be limited to just a few grapes that corporate behemoths have analyzed as the most cost effective to utilize.     
Medium bodied wine, Tres Picos is 100% Garnacha and bursting with cherry from the glass.  Floral notes join aroma of red berries on the nose.   The cherry carries from the nose onto the palate with tastes of licorice, blackberry and plum with hints of leather, though cherry (for me) is dominant. The wine is silky textured with soft tannins, juicy but made complex with garrigue and spice.  A slight smoky minerality adds to the enjoyment.

This is not intervention wine.  Juice is aged in tank and neutral French oak for ten months.  This is wine that begins in the farm on old vines properly managed for low yields (less than two tons per acre) and sited in the best areas.  Tres Picos means “Three Peaks.”  And I’d have to say if Quality, Value and Price were the three peaks of smart wine buying, Bodegas Borsa has achieved the summit.



Salud!
………………. Jim
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ETCETERA
Bodegas Borsao:     http://bodegasborsao.com/
Alc:                         15%
Imported by:           Atlas Imports LLC, Chicago IL.
Scores: 91               Wine Spectator
(Also Ranked #39 of “Top 100” 2016        
                    90 Robert Parker
                                92 Vinous/Antonio Galloni

Not a one-hit wonder, Tres Picos has a history of high scores with Parker assigning 91 points to its 2015, 90 for the 2013 and 92 for the 2012 vintage.  With an ARP of $17, an amazing value.

Pairing: Just about any red meat, beef or lamb. A grilled hanger steak, barbecued or not. Crostini with trimmed pieces of short rib, Cambozola cheese and cherry jam.

ARCHERY SUMMIT PREMIER CUVEE WILLAMETTE VALLEY PINOT NOIR


“It’s sex in a glass, so seductive, it’s hard to say no.”Madeline Triffon Master Sommelier

She was speaking about Pinot Noir.  And I can think of no other varietal that so flames the passion of oenophiles.   Last year, while pouring wine at an event, this wine (2014 vintage) was one of five I was assigned to serve and was quickly tasted out.  No wonder.

I love Pinot Noir from Oregon.  Taste-wise, it often strikes me as a mid-point between the fruit of California and the earthiness of Burgundy. Same grape. Different juice.  Though Oregon has, in parts, somewhat similar terroir to that in Burgundy, it’s different enough to make the difference that your palate, on occasion, wants.  In fact, Burgundy itself is different enough even within Burgundy - given all is climats - to make for different wine.   So, while I enjoy all three – counting Burgundy as one - (and those from New Zealand which I didn’t but should have mentioned), that little difference of the mid-point is what makes the Pinot Noir of Oregon so fun.  


Tasting this wine, you wouldn’t know it is Archery’s entry label. It’s a powerful package. Subdued yet present fruit, not as forward as California, less elusive than Burgundy – that mid-point I referred to.  Aromas of violet with hints of chocolatey plum, black licorice and coffee. Cherry (it’s Pinot Noir after all) and blackberry on the entry. But the cherry is more black than red and it’s briary, weighting the tone.

Grapes are estate grown and from six vineyards; five within the Dundee Hills sub-AVA and another within the Ribbon Ridge sub-AVA of the Willamette Valley. Vines are densely planted on soil of a volcanic and marine sub-base limiting yield and assuring more concentrated fruit. 

Mid palate, the wine continues to open, revealing notes of red fruit, cherry, red plum, some kirsch and a hint of white pepper.  A touch of citrus lifts the presentation.  Body is medium and - it’s Pinot Noir, remember - so tannins are silky.  The finish is medium and enriched with notes of dark chocolate. The wine should be drinkable through 2022, but I doubt you’ll hold on to any that long.        

Pinot is so perfect with duck breast – sauced in a cherry reduction or a pomegranate and citrus glaze, or duck confit. Enjoy this bottle with herb roasted pork tenderloin.  Coq au vin is a natural. All sorts of mushroom preparations work nicely (bruschetta?) Goose and quail work nicely.  For cheese, consider Brie on toast with mushrooms. Want something lighter?  Pair this Pinot with a vegetable tart made of eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini.  Oregon Pinot often present a cleansing acidity that makes it not just “food friendly” but food versatile; brighter and less earthy.  And you’ll find this Pinot working nicely with wild caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon also.

Cheers!
……………… Jim
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TECH SPECS AND ETC.
Archery Summit:              http://www.archerysummit.com/
Varietal:                               Pinot Noir
Hand Picked & Sorted
Farming:                              Sustainable
Clones:                                 Pommard, Wadenswil, Dijon 667,
                                                777, 115, 114, 113, ASW2, Mariafeld
Fermentation:                   Oak & Open-Top Stainless Tank
(With Punch Down Up to 3x Daily)
Ageing:                                 8 Months, French Oak (36% New)
ALC:                                       14.5%
ARP:                                      $49
92 Points:                            Wine Enthusiast
91 Points:                            Wine Spectator

MALENE ROSE 2016

Rosés are some of the easiest wines to like for their fresh, fruity flavors and their crisp appeal. They can match well with a wide variety of Mediterranean cuisines, from roasted fish to poultry."
–Kim Marcus, managing editor, Wine Spectator, from the video "Summer Pinks"

People ask why I pour wine and I continue to answer, “It’s fun. Meeting people and talking wine never gets old and it exposes me to wines I might otherwise walk past.  This Malene rose is a good example. Great wine. Nondescript label. And with so many wines displayed on the shelves of larger retail outlets, it’s easy to walk past something unfamiliar. 

Last August at the Medinah Country Club, I poured five wines, this being one of them.  With summer eventually coming again despite current temps, I’m reminded of rose and this one in particular.  And I’m reminded too that walking past this one ‘twould be a pity.  It was one of the best rose wines I’ve ever tasted.  And it’s from California’s cool Central Coast, not Provence or Tavel or other areas that serious wine people justly admire.

Malene Rose is a blend of five grapes. 

59% Grenache
13% Cinsault
13% Vermentino
12% Mourvedre
3% Counoise

The blend is not for show or to grab your attention.  It’s not even printed on the back label.  It is for taste, and taste well this wine it does. This is classically made wine. Grapes are hand-picked and hand sorted in the cool early morning temperatures of harvest day.  80% is whole cluster pressed with the balance having 24 hours of skin contact.  Pressing is very gentle; similar, in fact, to that used in Champagne in order that skin extraction is minimized. Fermentation is at cool temperatures to preserve freshness, fruit and aromatics as well as varietal character. It – and aging – involve tank (74%), oak puncheons (19%) and 1200-gallon French oak Foudre (7%) adding complexity in texture and taste.  Prior to blending, the wines are aged for six months on the lees in their respective vessels which adds to both complexity and mouthfeel.  And there’s more, but you’re more interested in drinking the wine than making it.
 
I suggest you do.  Light pink in the glass, it is everything
you want in a dry rose: mouth filling, creamy textured yet crisp. Seductive notes of rose petal on the nose. A complex wine. Honeydew and strawberry aromatics contributed from the Grenache. Weight is balanced by the Vermentino and offers lift and notes of white flower and lychee. Mourvedre imparts a savory character and a flinty minerality contributing to the wine’s length on the palate. Cinsault adds additional fruit (strawberry, cherry) and a zesty freshness.  The wine delights with limestone minerality. Its finish is crisp and cleansing.    

The blend was adjusted for 2017.  This is a common practice in winemaking, necessitated by a season’s weather and its impact upon the harvest. Such fine tuning is a testament to both the winemaker’s skill and palate and his/her commitment to producing a quality blend.  Most adjustments are typically within plus or minus 7%.   Having made an effort myself at blending wine, I learned that little changes make big differences.    For 2017, the blend was:

53% Grenache
19% Mourvedre
16% Cinsault
13% Vermentino (Rolle)
5% Syrah

Malene has to be dedicated to making exceptional rose.  It’s the only wine they make.  Its name is inspired by the semi-precious gen tourmaline which exhibits a watermelon-pink hue, like the wine itself.

Cheers!
……………. Jim
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TECH SPECS:
ARP:                      $20.
ALC:                       13.1%
PH:                         3.25
TA:                         6.6g/L
Appellations
45%                        Santa Ynez Vlly
29%                        Paso Robles
13%                        Rus Rvr Vlly
10%                        Monterey
3%                          Edna Vlly

91 Points             Wine Enthusiast
Malene Wines:  https://www.malenewines.com/

BRUNO MICHEL BRUT CUVEE ROSE (ROSEE)


“Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s champagne!” –Winston Churchill, British statesman and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Champagne is season less.  While I may change my preference from red to white wine, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sauvignon Blanc depending on the season and what I’m eating, I can enjoy Champagne in every season.  In all weather. At all times.  And, if I put some thought into it, I can pair a Champagne to every meal. Each course!

But as with most wines (remember the Merlot crash after “Sideways”?) Champagne too has its trends.  “Pet Nat” was hot.  That alone is interesting given that Pétillant Naturel is an ancient technique (méthode ancestral, otherwise known as rurale) of making sparkling wine and it long pre-dates modern, twice-fermented Champagne.  While I have no concerns with people preferring the taste of wine that has not yet completed its first fermentation, has not been disgorged and may not have been filtered, I’m not jumping on the hipster bus just because some influential SOMM has discovered it in the 21st century.

Another hot issue with Champagne drinkers is Recolant-Manipulant, known as “Grower Champagne.”  These bottles are identified by the abbreviation “RM” or the full wording on the label. It refers to a grower who makes and markets Champagne under their own label, from grapes of their own vineyards and processed on their own premises.  Conversely, the initials “NM” stand for Négociant-Manipulant.  These are the large Champagne houses that source a majority of their grapes rather than growing them.
  
Frankly, I’ve always been impressed by the wizardry of these Merlin-like Master Blenders for these large houses. Working with different growers, and perhaps even some estate grapes, and always different vintages, and reserve wines, they develop a house style that remains consistent year after year.  Weather is variable.  The wine is not.  Such skill is to be admired; not brushed aside casually because of a transient trend.

And as with still wines, grapes being estate grown is no guarantee by itself that the wine will be superior to that made from sourced grapes.   While estate grown grapes assure choice selection and other benefits, there are many wineries with huge numbers of fans that make consistently highly awarded wines from grapes that have been sourced.  So, if I haven’t blathered on too long already, let me just add that it’s really all about the wine, not the fashion.  It’s about what’s inside the bottle. And it’s either good or it’s not.  And most times, in these sophisticated times, with all of technology’s exactness, it is -  more so now than in the past.

I suppose that should position me well, or at least objectively, on the subject of Grower Champagne.  That said.  This wine is good.  And its price point (with an ARP of $42) is sounding the bargain gong.  Perhaps the ARP has to do with the layers of cost add-ons and not having to buy grapes.  And since I haven’t tasted all the Grower Champagnes out there, whatever my opinion should not be extrapolated to cover all such labeling.

Bruno Michel also produces a Cuvee Blanche brut, which I do think is the best value out there (at $39.99) for brut Champagne. But that’s just my personal palate. With few exceptions, I prefer “white” over rose.  And if I find occasion to open his Blanc de Blancs Cuvee “Pauline” (a vintage Champagne and aged in barrel), I suspect I’ll be singing its praises too.

The rose is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Meunier from the estate’s organic, biodynamic vineyards and made organically in the saignee winemaking method. In the glass, its color is assertive as is its aroma.  Notes of rose and vanilla waft from the glass joined by a faint taste of orange.  Others enjoy tart cranberry, pomegranate and spice.  On the palate, cherry and vanilla strike, followed by strawberry mid palate. Others enjoyed raspberry joined by tastes carried from the aromas.  This is very easy drinking and smooth. Unlike his Cuvee Blanche, fruit dominates in the rose, subduing – even obstructing – its autolytic character.  There’s a clean somewhat sweet lemon-lime hint (as in the soft drink) that make this wine perhaps too easy drinking for me.  But I suspect it is also what would make it perfect for those who do not relish the yeasty side of Champagne.

This is fresh, clean and fruity.  Light and fun.  Easy drinking.  The snobs may translate these references as pejoratives, but here it from me: it ain’t meant to be so.  It is meant to describe a Champagne that certainly does well as an aperitif, and pairs well too with a dessert made with red berries or a crumble of rhubarb and strawberries.  In between, consider it a natural for tuna, shrimp, duck breasts sauced with cherries. A beet risotto course, roasted chicken (red meat) or chicken sofrito (even better).  Consider it the bottle you want to keep chilled and at the ready when time is being strained by commitments and you need to put things together quickly.   A simple plate of vegetables and dip, joined with another of fresh and dried fruits, caramelized pecans and slices of cheese.  In between, conversation and sips.  Finish with a custardy tart with fresh berries.  Critics talk about complexity.  I found this wine a simple joy.  The innocence of just being happy for a moment.  Anything wrong with that? 

Sante!
……………. Jim

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ETC.

Bruno Michel:    http://www.champagnebrunomichel.com/en/portfolio-items/rose-2/
ALC:                      12%

Imported By:      Terraneo Merchants
RS                         6g/L                                                                               



        






DOMAINE ZIND HUMBRECHT MUSCAT GOLDERT GRAND CRU 2011


“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”…….. Henry Miller

Alsace: that area somewhat north in eastern France, adjoining Strasbourg and bordering Germany.  People there often speak both French and German.  Depending on where they reside in Alsace, and their age, someone may speak Alsatian or Swiss-German or in a Baden-Wurtemburg dialect also. So, wines from Alsace are French but German influenced – or may it better be said that they are German in character but French influenced? The bottles are shaped in the German style after all. And labeling is by varietal, not by area as it’s done elsewhere in France.  Meals in Alsace very often incorporate pork made in a Germanic culinary style and sauerkraut (though in a unique style).  And there’s sausages and beer!  But Alsace is well known for its white wines also (as is Germany).  And the wines of Alsace are unique; truly unlike those from anywhere else. They need to be experienced.   

Varietals may be produced from ten allowed grapes (though if labeled as a varietal, the wine must be made from 100% of the grape named).  Only four grapes, however, (Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat) are considered “noble”. I’ve long enjoyed the Gewurz and Riesling of Alsace. Lean, and (despite climate change) dryer than their counterparts from elsewhere, they’re focused and exceptionally crisp. But the Pinot Gris and Muscat have been, for me, just occasional enjoyments.

This has changed with the Domaine Zind Humbrecht Muscat Goldert Grand Cru 2011.  Muscat is not a grape, but a family of closely related grapes.  More than two hundred varieties of Muscat are within this Vitis vinifera species.  And the 2011 Goldert Grand Cru is 90% Muscat d’Alsace (more commonly known as Muscat a Petits Grains) and 10% Muscat Ottonel. Under direction from Oliver Humbrecht, M.W. , the domaine has been replacing Muscat Ottonel with the Petits Grains as the small berry variety is better adapted to warm vintages while yet retaining its acidity.


The nose is vibrant with gooseberry and floral notes of lime blossom and honeysuckle. On the palate, the Goldert terroir moderates the varietal’s fruit with limestone minerality.  Intertwined tastes of creamy lemon, then lime. Dry, tart, mouthwatering, yet creamy, then tart again with apple. This is a stage production on the palate. Notes of tomato leaf. Underneath it all: tangerine, cantaloupe and unripe papaya whisper.  The texture is slippery while the wine finishes cleanly with lip smacking acidity.  Referring to the 2011 vintage, Oliver Humbrecht noted, “It doesn’t take much for this wine to keep some sweetness, but in 2011, the fermentation went slowly to the end leaving little sugars.”   With residual sugar of 6.5 g/L, I wouldn’t think that “little”, but on the palate you wouldn’t know it.  While some sweetness can be detected, it is indeed just a little – just enough to add texture and balance the acidity.

The Humbrechts have been winegrowers since 1620. In 1959, the families of Zind and Humbrecht merged and the label has since reflected that. Their wines consistently impress which accounts for my writing about them so often.  And thanks to them, I have a new way of seeing Muscat.

I paired this wine with what I had on hand: some sausages and kapusta that I had made the day before, and some other tasties.
If you’re in the mood to show this wine in its best light, however, consider pairing it with a terrine or pate, roast pork, white meat poultry, or “white” fish and shellfish in butter sauce, root vegetables; even some Asian stir-fries (provided they’re not very spicy).  

G’sundheit!

…………………. Jim

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TECH SPECS AND ECT.   
Imported By:             The Sorting Table
Bottled:                        February 2013
ALC:                           13%
ARP:                           $48
Indice:                         1
RS:                              6.5 g/L
pH:                              3.2
Drink Thru:                2025
Avg Age Vines:          24 Yrs
Soil:                            Oolithic Calcareous, East Slope
Robert Parker             93 Points
Wine Spectator           91 Points






RODNEY STRONG 2007 BROTHERS RIDGE CABERNET SAUVIGNON


 “Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read” …. Athenaeus

The wine was not released until March of 2011.  In May of the same year, Wine Enthusiast reviewed it saying “… bone dry, very tannic and nowhere near ready.”  BUT, that same review awarded the wine 93 points referring to its “Intense flavor of blackberries, black cherries, cassis, cola and herbs mark(ing) this fine ageable wine.”  Tasting ahead is talent.   But tasting back can be a pure joy.   

This year, I worked on St. Patrick’s Day (pouring wine) so the corned beef and cabbage was made later.  Then my computer had a snit and then this old critic simply forgot to post the review.  Not everything about being old is a blessing, but tasting this wine, now eleven years post vintage, certainly was.  Rodney Strong is often referred to as “a winery within a winery.”  I heard that reference from people that worked there when I visited in 2011.  And I took that to mean the winery is a huge operation; their labels being available across the whole spectrum of retail outlets and at many on-premise locations.  But within that large production facility is the other winery.  The one making limited production fine wine from selected grapes of single vineyards.  Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon is that.

The Brothers Ridge vineyard is toward the northern end of Alexander Valley in Sonoma.  Soils are well drained loam supported by sandstone, fractured shale and ancient greenstone.  Elevations (on some blocks) can exceed 1,000 feet.  Cool breezes keep the vines healthy.  Elevation makes for diurnal temperature drops. But with vines planted on west facing slopes, their grapes absorb the warmth and light of the afternoon sun. The result is a yield of richly developed berries with all the black fruit and chocolate character that makes the varietal so prized.

Rich, deep luscious cassis on the nose with black cherry, accented by black pepper and nutmeg.  Carried onto the palate, the cassis and spices are met with black cherry that has just a hint of sweetness and merged with a subtle hint of vanilla and toasty oak.

The texture is rich and silky.  Tannins are glycerin-like and glide across the palate unobtrusively and in harmony with plummy fruit.  This is a wine of balance, made even better by the phenolic compounds polymerizing with time in the bottle.  

If you’re lucky enough to find a 2007 (or have one) I suggest drinking it now.  Although reputed to be drinkable for another 3-4 years, I think it’s time has arrived.  Besides, your own storage conditions (and those in various retail stores) are all different.  Don’t fret, however, over not finding this vintage on the shelves.    Wine Spectator ranked the 2014 vintage at 91 points for Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma and 92 points for 2012, each better than 2007.  Wine Advocate ranked as follows: 2015/93.  2014/93. 2013/94 and 2012/93.  Yet, if it’s one thing this old critic has not forgotten, it’s that certain houses working with particular vineyards have a tradition of making quality wine vintage after vintage, and Brothers Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon from Rodney Strong is an example.  Congrats go out to Rick Sayre, David Ramey and Tom Klein for their efforts.

So the time for celebratory corned beef has come and gone and, hopefully, digested without incident. Summer is knocking on season’s door and your grill is on your mind. Fire it up and enjoy this wine with any steak.  It’s perfect for brisket (slow cooked indoors, not BBQ).  And if it’s still too cool outdoors for you, consider this wine with braised short ribs.  It can work with the red meat of duck (though I prefer Pinot Noir) and Lamb (Syrah).  But you can also lighten up with a salad of arugula, grilled radicchio and sliced steak.  It also does well with aged Gouda cheese.   

Cheers!
…………Jim

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TECH SPECS:

Composition:     98% Cab Sauv., 2% Cab Franc
ARP                   Varries Widely - $55-$75
Winery:              Rodney Strong  http://www.rodneystrong.com/our-story/vineyards/
Vineyard:           Brothers Ridge, Blocks 5,1a,8a,8d
Elevation:          400-1030 feet
Ageing:              25 Months 100% French Oak, 49% New
Avg Brix Harvest: 27.6
TA:                    .63 g/100ml
pH:                     3.61
ALC:                  15.1%