Category Archives: Tasting

“Stalking” up on wine: A new interpretation at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting

nerdA very special guest accompanied me to the San Francisco Wine Competition Public Tasting over Valentines Weekend: The Nerdstalker himself, AKA Adolfo Foronda. He chronicled our adventures with audio winemaker interviews and photographs on his home page and various other social media.

The Nerdstalker:  Be sure to continue following his exploits, to keep in tune with your inner nerd!

The Majesty of Zinfandel

To celebrate the recent Zinfandel Experience 2015 and the San Francisco Chronicle Public Tasting happening at Fort Mason on Valentine’s Day, below are my notes from some of the delicious Gold ZAP3Medal winners in the under $30 category I judged at the #SFCWineComp in early January. Don’t forget to also visit my Pinterest: The Zinfandel Experience album to enjoy some pictures from the fantastic ZAP events and check out the great article my friend  Julie Santiago of Examiner.com, who  wrote about the events in San Francisco: ZAP 2015 – An Epicurian Celebration of Zinfandel. For more information about the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (a.k.a ZAP), visit www.zinfandel.org and www.zinfandelexperience.com. ______________________________________________________

For the Love of Zinfandel

Amador Cellars 2011 Zinfandel, Amador County ($28): Vibrant combination of ripe cherry, raspberry and blueberries accented with notes of wild herbs, mineral, fresh ground black pepper, cocoa, roasted walnuts, chewy tannins, and a lingering finish. Double Gold. www.amadorcellars.com / www.amadorwine.com. Mazzocco 2012 Reserve Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley ($28): Made by talented winemaker Antoine Favero, this wine features a classic “field blend” combination of 76% Zinfandel and 24% Petite Sirah. Enchanting aromas and deep flavors of black raspberry, boysenberry, fresh currants, peppermint, allspice and a burst of fresh acidity of the long, refreshing finish. Best of Class. www.wilsonartisanwines.com / www.wdcv.com.

Pezzi King 2012 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley ($25): Another gem from the Dry Creek Valley appellation. This mixture of fruit from old and younger vines creates a playful profile with sweet core notes of brambly blackberry and raspberry, spicy flavors of clove, pepper and blood orange peel, and a rewarding combination of structure, acidity, and balanced tannins. Gold. Also worth noting that the winery’s more limited release counterpart, the Pezzi King 2012 Row 14 Reserve Zinfandel won for the Sweepstakes Red Wine for the competition. Overall, a great showing for the brand! www.pezziking.com / www.wdcv.com

McNab Family Reserve 2012 Zinfandel, Old Vines, B-Bar-X Ranch, Mendocino County ($26): At the main ZAP Tasting event in late January, I had the great opportunity to do a seminar with Rich Parducci, whose family has been making wine in Mendocino County for four generations. As a result, we were able to pour this limited release wine (239 cases made) for a wide range of members of the media, trade, and curious consumers who were able to enjoy the lavish flavors of wild berries, white pepper, and chocolate bark this wine has to offer. It’s a fantastic food pairing wine as well, especially with heavy red sauces. Kudos to the Parducci family for another great accomplishment! Gold. www.mcnabridge.com / www.mendowine.com.

Opolo Vineyards 2013 Mountain Zinfandel, Summit Creek, Paso Robles ($29): Medium to full-bodied wine with aromas of wild berries, violets, licorice, and hickory smoke. Bright fruit-driven flavors of ripe plum, raspberry, and hints of boysenberry jam, sweet potato, black pepper, and a long spicy finish. Unique and distinctive. Double Gold. www.opolo.com / www.pasowine.com.

Earthquake 2012 Zinfandel, Lodi ($26): From Michael David Winery in Lodi, the new release of the Earthquake Zinfandel features enticing aromas and concentrated flavors of dark cherry, raspberry, boysenberry, blueberry, wild herbs, cocoa, and a long, dry finish. The original fruit for the blend was made with berries from vines planted in 1906, the same year the famous San Francisco earthquake occurred. In addition to helping preserving these old vineyards and promoting sustainable farming practices in the region, the winery has also become an integral part of enhancing the true wine country experience for consumers who visit the Lodi appellation over. The commitment to quality shows in this wine. Gold. www.MichaelDavid.com / www.lodiwine.com.

Miro Cellars 2012 Zinfandel Reserve, Wolcott-Bevill Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley ($28): This fantastic single-vineyard designate is made by my fellow wine judge Miro Tcholakov, a Bulgarian native who made his first splash in the US while working at Dry Creek Vineyards. Today, his latest offering from his Miro Cellars label is loaded with deep aromas of ripe dark fruits and berries, roasted espresso beans, and savory spices. On the palate, the wine delights the senses with integrated flavors of blackberry, dark cherry cola, wild strawberry, vanillin, sarsaparilla and dark chocolate. Dazzling from start to finish. Double Gold. www.mirocellars.com / www.wdcv.com.

Pozzan Gold Series 2012 Zinfandel, Back Barn, Oakville ($25): This gracious wine made by Michael Pozzan Wines features sultry aromas of ripe berries, sandalwood, and smoked meats. In the glass, the wine continues to expand with deep flavors of dark plum, huckleberry, boysenberry jam, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cracked black pepper, and finishes with a tingly sensation at the tip of the tongue that makes you want more. Made with pure Oakville fruit, this Zin is a fantastic bottle at only $25 per bottle. Gold. www.michaelpozzanwinery.com.

For more information about the Zinfandel Advocates
and Producers (a.k.a ZAP), visit www.zinfandel.org
and www.zinfandelexperience.com.

#ZinEx #ZAP #Zinfandel @TheZinfandelOrg

Here Comes ZAP!

It is that time of year again, the Zinfandel Experience in San Francisco happens January 29-31!

ZAP-Postertop

Not only will you get to taste a slew of amazing Zinfandel, but also the opportunity to learn about a collection of appellations through their Sommelier & Winemakers Terroir Workshops on Saturday January 31, at the Presidio, Golden Gate Club & Film Centre.  Be sure to make time for my 2pm Workshop about Lake County & Mendocino AVA!

Purchase your tickets online!

ZAP-bottles

Holiday Wine Joy: Grand Harvest Awards Announces 2014 Winners

So there we were: Twenty wine judges tasting through the over 70 Best of Class gold medal winners at the Sweepstakes Round of Vineyard & Winery Management’s 24th Annual Grand Harvest Awards. It was so quiet in the room you could hear a pin drop and an occasional chime of two glasses making incidental contact. But when all the contenders were tasted, the Best of Show wine was the fabulous Miro Cellars 2012 Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley ($30).

The Madara Horseman on the label of the Miro Cellars 2012 Petite Sirah is based on a Bulgarian monument carved in bas relief on a cliff twenty three meters above ground. This mysterious sculpture was created at the beginning of the eighth century during the birth of the Bulgarian nation.
The Madara Horseman on the Miro Cellars label is based on a Bulgarian monument carved in bas relief on a cliff twenty three meters above ground. This mysterious sculpture was created at the beginning of the eighth century during the birth of the Bulgarian nation.

In hindsight, I remember our panel tasting this wine and thinking how generous the fruit was, the layers of flavors and spice, and that long smooth finish. So once the winner was revealed, I wasn’t surprised that this magnificent Petite Sirah was made by Miro Tcholakov, one of the great winemakers of Sonoma County who tends to roll under the radar. After coming to California from his home country of Bulgaria, Miro worked at Dry Creek Vineyards and eventually became head winemaker at Trentadue Winery in Geyserville. On the side, Miro and his family started making Miro Cellars wines in 2001. Coincidentally, the debut release was…Petite Sirah, of course. For more info on Miro’s new releases, visit www.MiroCellars.com.

sweepstakes

 

From a pool of nearly 1100 entries, the other awards included 82 Best of Class, 39 Double Gold, 161 Gold, and 450 Silver medals. Judges included winemakers, wine buyers, distributors, media personnel and other wine industry professionals who not only recognized the best wine submissions but possessed the level of knowledge and expertise needed to assess the wine’s terroir.

 

The following wines took best their categories:

Best White Wine: Hunt Country Vineyards, 2013 Seyval Blanc, Finger Lakes ($10.99)

SawyerSomm notes, as tasted with fellow judges Alisa Nemo of Handley Cellars and Thrace Bomberger of Walt Wines: Seyval Blanc is a French-American hydrid created by Frenchman Bertille Seyve around 1920. Made in stainless steel, this bright and expressive white wine has lively floral aromas of spring flowers, geranium and citrus. On the palate, a mixture of ripe melon, papaya, grapefruit, mineral, and a long graceful finish. Pairings: gourmet salads, grilled fish, chicken skewers with tangy citrus aioli. www.HuntWines.com.

Best Rose Wine: Truett Hurst Winery, 2013 Salmon Run Rosé, Dry Creek Valley ($18)

SawyerSomm notes, as tasted with fellow judges Alisa Nemo of Handley Cellars and Thrace Bomberger of Walt Wines: Not to be mistaken with Pink Zinfandel, this is a fantastic example of a classy dry Zinfandel rosé with fragrant aromas and lively flavors of wild strawberry, peach, plum, red cherry, anise and orange rind. Pairings: tangy cheeses, fresh berries, tostadas, Paella and spicy Indian cuisine. www.TruettHurst.com.

Best of Show and Best Red Wine: Miro Cellars, 2012 Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley ($30). www.MiroCellars.com.

Best Sparkling Wine: Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyard, 2006 Royal Cuvee, Carneros ($37). www.GloriaFerrer.com.

Best Spirit from Grapes: Petroni Vineyards, Grappa di Lorenzo, Sonoma Valley ($45) . www.PetroniVineyards.com.

Best Fruit Wine: Heritage Vineyards, Jersey Blueberry, Outer Coastal Plain ($10.99). www.HeritageWineNJ.com.

Best Late Harvest/Dessert Wine: Stephen & Walker Winery, 2012 Chardonnay Botrytis, Mendocino Ridge (Tbd). www.trustwine.com.

For more juicy information…

Sonoma Valley represented: Hamming it up with Winemaker Michael Muscardini of Muscardini Cellars and Winemaker Katie Madigan of St. Francis Winery.
Sonoma Valley represented: Hamming it up with Winemaker Michael Muscardini of Muscardini Cellars and Winemaker Katie Madigan of St. Francis Winery.

Established in 1990, Grand Harvest Awards seeks to uncover the distinctions of terroir by grouping wines for evaluation by appellation and variety. Wines are judged in the context of their viticultural regions in order to recognize the complexities and nuances of regional wines, and also to observe the influence of regional soil and climate characteristics on the taste and quality of individual wines.

Dazzling  Judges Dinner menu prepared by Rosso Pizzeria at Paradise Ridge Winery.
Dazzling Judges Dinner menu prepared by Rosso Pizzeria at Paradise Ridge Winery.

“This unique wine competition showcases the diversity of terroir and we are pleased to be part of the research and promotion of allits regions in the U.S. and beyond,” said Robert Merletti, President and Publisher of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine.

And as the official GHA spokesperson, here’s my quote on the awards press release: “For decades we have been trying to interpret the styles of wines made in America. Now, thanks to the use of new technology and fruit from more mature vines, the unique flavor profiles are becoming more defined. For those reasons, it’s exciting to see that the diverse list of winners at the Grand Harvest Awards 2014 really demonstrate how terroir makes a difference in the flavor profiles of grapes planted in special regions across the nation.”

Full results for the competition are posted on www.winecompetitions.com, a website developed by EnofileOnline for Vineyard & Winery Management to house all six of its wine competitions, and on www.enofileonline.com.

Official sponsors of the competition included Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, Penta Ultra-Purified Water, Graber Olives, Wine Country Shipping, Alsco, Costeaux French Bakery, Lagunitas Brewing Company and Sonoma Cider. And last but not least, great thanks to my good friend Debra Del Fiorentino, who did a great job as the Chief Judge at this year’s competition. See www.vwmmedia.com for more information.

Next Up: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, January 6-9

Stay tuned for news from the upcoming San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2015, the largest competition of American wines in the world, January 6-9. To enter wines in the competition before the deadline on December 10th or for information about the special early bird’s ticket price to the SFCWC Public Tasting on Saturday, February 14 which ends on New Years Eve, visit www.winejudging.com.

Talking turkey in the foothills.

Yes, we can see them here in Northern California Wine Country crossing roads, displaying feathers, and sharing feed with cows in the field on a regular basis. But I am talking about the upcoming feast that leaves them gobbling in terror!

Have you ever gone to the Sierra Nevada Foothills for Thanksgiving? LRVwine12We have spent much time there, particularly along Ebbetts Pass and found it to be a great place to initiate the holiday festivities. One memorable holiday meal was spent with my mother, brother and late Grandma Joanie, at the historic Murphys Hotel. Murphys is a pleasantly social foothill town sporting oodles of Tasting Rooms: As in wine! Waddle around town after your turkey stuffing right into a glass of Zin.  Hovey, Lavender Ridge, Newsome-Harlow, Twisted Oak are just a few examples of the hospitible local flavors to sample along the main strip.

The line up at Newsome Harlow Tasting Room in Murphys.
The line up at Newsome Harlow Tasting Room in Murphys.

Among the multitude of destinations heading north from Ebbetts Pass, along the historic Highway 49, another great stop for wine is the quaint town of Nevada City.  Also with a handful of Tasting Rooms sprinkled throughout the short downtown strip (some delicious restaurants as well).  For some suggestions on the offerings visit this blog from our favorite lodging there, The Outside Inn. Wherever you decide to explore, enjoy your meal!  And be sure to confirm tasting room hours before planning your trip.

Happy Holidays!