There are some wines that are just so refreshing and delicious that you never get sick of drinking them, and these two Pinot Noirs from WesMar fall into that category for me. I find that sometimes even though wines are well made and a good example of their varietal, after the first glass or two it's possible to not really want to drink more. This is definitely not the case here.
The WesMar name is a combination of the two owners, wife and husband Denise Mary Selyem and Kirk Wesley Hubbard. Denise is the daugher of Ed Selyem, and the couple worked at Williams Selyem until it was sold in 1997. In March of 2000, WesMar winery was started in an old apple processing warehouse in Sebastopol, CA. These wines are made with a focus on balance and aren't your super-extracted, candied alcoholic cocktails that have become all too common in California but instead showcase soaring aromatics and a refreshing flavor profile with snappy acids that make them great for the dinner table.
Aside from being well priced and very good, Denise and Kirk have some of the best customer service I've encountered. I originally planned to let these wines sleep for a while longer, but I received an email with a generous offer to mailing list members --- In part due to these economic times, WesMar was offering a number of free bottles depending on the size of your order. If you ordered a six pack, you'd receive one free bottle of their "sur lees" Pinot Noir. Order a case, and you'd receive three free bottles. That's the first I've heard of any winery with such and offer, and I was impressed. Now all I needed to do was open a few bottles of what I already had to determine if I'd like to order more.
2006 WesMar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir:
Translucent but not overly light strawberry color in the glass. The nose on this wine is very expressive with aromas of pure strawberry fruit, some interesting minty accents, and secondary notes of freshly tilled damp soil. On the palate are bright red fruit flavors, bordering on the lighter bodied side with fairly high acidity and a crisp, refreshing medium length finish that includes just a little tannin. The mouthfeel on this wine is all just silky bright fruit. This is definitely a wine I could not get sick of drinking, just so pure and refreshing... Showing well and this should have a nice long life ahead of it
2006 WesMar Russian River Valley Pinot Noir:
A little darker than the Sonoma Coast, showing a ruby colored robe, this wine seems a little closed right now. The nose is not giving much up but a little sneak preview of the potential with aromas reminiscent of brown sugar mixed with molasses, some spices that make me think of Christmas, and darker red fruits such as raspberry. While not as showy as the Sonoma, I can only hope the nose comes alive with time, and if it does I could get lost in those scents for hours. On the palate there is more weight, showing a medium bodied wine with great mouth coating texture and flavors of red fruits and spice that lead into a long finish.
November 16, 2008
September 22, 2008
When it comes to QPR in wine, you'd be hard pressed to come up with better wine than what Carlisle has to offer, across the board. In fact, for the 2006 release of this wine, I believe that they even rolled back the price, which is virtually unheard of in this day and age. It's too bad for the average consumer that Carlisle wines are somewhat scarce and the wait time to buy directly from the winery is a few years at the least, but the savvy shopper can usually find a few of these wines scattered amongst select retail shops in major cities. If you do find them, I'd advise you to snag them quickly, because they don't last too long on the shelves.
The first vintage of Carlisle was 5 gallons of Zinfandel, made in owner Mike Officer's kitchen in the late 1990's. Today, that number has grown to around 2500 cases of various Zinfandel and Syrah blends and single vineyard bottlings from some of the best vineyards in Sonoma. This particular blend comes from about 6 different vineyards in Sonoma and has a dollop of Petite Sirah and Alicante thrown in which definitely makes things interesting. I'm completely guessing here since I have no clue what the initial blend tasted like or the reasoning behing the Petite Sirah addition, but I feel like I could have done without it. Petite Sirah seems to have such an overwhelming flavor profile and tannic structure that for my palate, and what I look for in Zinfandel, it's not needed. Even though that thought comes to mind, I'm going to believe the winemakers judgement that it does in fact improve the blend. Regardless, this wine is a star today on top of being a screaming bargain. It makes me ecstatic that I have a handful of them tucked away, because I won't touch any more for another year, at least.
Dark, almost inky black color with reddish purple highlights towards the rim with a nose that oozes ripe cherries, plum, and raspberry dusted with black pepper as well as brambly spices. As the nose indicated, the palate holds gobs of fruit, balanced with adequate acidity and iron clad tannins that clamp down on the spicy finish. This is not a Zinfandel for early consumption, and needs at least another year in the cellar in my opinion. It was much better on day 2, which might indicate it has a long life ahead of it. A wine that will reward patience.
Price: About $20
August 24, 2008
I try not to buy into the "vintage-chart mentality," and completely write off troublesome vintages. I think in those years you definitely need to be selective and do your homework before spending a lot of money, but many producers still manage to turn out great wine in tough scenarios. I have a feeling 2003 will continue to surprise people with the way they've been drinking lately. Definitely not a vintage to stock the cellars with for 20+ years, and somewhat irregular, but many top wines are excellent and have been drinking well early. This is one of the denser and concentrated wines I have had from this vintage.
Owned by David Ramey and his wife Carla, Ramey Wine Cellars is located in Healdsburg, Sonoma, but they purchase fruit from various vineyards around Napa Valley. Their Cabernet, for whatever reason has never been on my short list of wine to buy every vintage, but I’ve always been impressed by each bottle I’ve had- this being no exception. These wines are made in a style that mixes the new with the old, and what I mean by that is in his Cab's you will find big sexy fruit, as well as the balance and finesse many say are lacking in the California wines. I find many Bordeaux type aromas and nuances in these wines; the cassis, the graphite/ pencil lead, and the worn leather. All of these tend to excite me and make me happy. Fortunately of unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the Ramey label does not seem to carry the same draw as some of the "culty" wines. Maybe it's because they don't charge a gazillion dollars for them, or maybe by producing over a thousand cases the scarcity factor is diminished. Either way, I don't care. Simply put, David Ramey is the man, and makes some killer wines that deserve to be sought out.
And for any Francophiles on the ledge, terrified of trying a wine from Napa, don't be too scared... This winemaker has spent time training at Chateau Petrus and obviously learned the craft well.
Tight as a drum upon the first pour, but a 1 hour decant had this wine singing. Showing a dark, thick and concentrated red-black color in the glass, initial aromas present dark cherry fruit, currant, and a subtle herbaceousness as well as chocolate. As time went on, notes of graphite and spice revealed themselves. The palate shows nice layers of deep and intense dark fruit, weary old saddle leather and spice with good length on the finish. Medium acidity and a strong tannic spine that is easily tempered with a bit of food makes this a perfect companion with any grilled or oven cooked beef. Has the stuffing to go for years and should only get better.
June 14, 2008
Deep in the industrial "wine ghetto" of Lompoc, California are a few guys making some extreme and sometimes controversial renditions of Pinot Noir. If you are a lover of California Pinot Noir, I'm sure you've already heard of Brewer-Clifton, and if not, please allow me to introduce you. A few years ago, wine critic Robert Parker did something that was a bit unusual, by proclaiming Brewer-Clifton the "single greatest revelation" of his 2001 tastings, and comparing the wines to one of the most famed of French Burgundies-- Romanee Conti. As you might suspect, this drew loads of attention and many varied opinions from Pinotphiles and score chasers everywhere. If you haven't had these wines before, I'm going to ask you to try to not compare them to anything, except maybe other Brewer-Clifton's...
Greg Brewer and his partner Steve Clifton run the winery, and while I believe they have now moved out of the humble industrial park affectionately dubbed "the wine ghetto," the Pinot is still the same. Pushing the limits, many Brewer-Clifton wines contain alcohol contents close to 16%, using whole or half cluster fermenting (leaving the stems in). The obvious reason for whole cluster fermenting would be that it adds additional texture, aromas, and flavors to the wine, resulting in more complexity. In the attempt to achieve full stem ripeness, sugar levels will be higher, and many times the end result is a high alcohol wine (in simplified terms). This can be risky, and the results can range from disastrous to utterly sublime. Now, the question by many is what happens to the alcohol when the primary fruit fades away? That's a good question and a valid concern. I'm happy to report that I consider myself to have a sensitive palate to alcohol, and while it was slightly apparent in this wine, it wasn't obnoxious or overbearing one bit.
Nearly all of Brewer-Clifton’s grapes come from cool-climate vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills or surrounding regions of Santa Barbara, California. Clos Pepe, Rozak Ranch, Rio Vista, Ashley's, Cargasacchi... Plenty of central coast Pinot producers source fruit from these vineyards, and one of my favorite things to do is line up 4-5 bottles Pinot from the same vineyard but different producer in any given vintage and taste through them, as there can be some distinct similarities and striking differences in the wines. For an interesting perspective, try lining up a bottle of Clos Pepe from both Brewer-Clifton and Arcadian, in any given vintage, and tell me what you think.
As if they didn't have their hands full with Brewer-Clifton, like many winemakers, both Greg and Steve have started their own labels. Palmina is the creation of Steve and his wife Chrystal, a winery born out of a passion for the Italian lifestyle and wines, putting a Santa Barbara spin on Italian varietals. Some of the red wines they produce are Nebbiolo and Barbera as well as white varietals such as Pinot Grigio and Tocai Friulano, a white wine often mistaken for Sauvignon Blanc.
On top of being winemaker at Melville, Greg's project is named Diatom, and focuses solely on naked, pure, unadulterated Chardonnay. Greg's goal here is to produce wines that transcend grape and place, never putting them through maloloactic fermentation, or oak barrels (at least new oak.. Neutral oak may be a possibility,) and letting the vineyard speak through the wine. These are some of the most radical Chardonnay's produced in California.
I love a good well made stemmy, funky wine, which is probably one reason why I'm a big fan of Brewer-Clifton. These wines still have plenty of fruit, but there are many other intriguing components to them that can be very unique, and so much more interesting to me aromatically and texturally than just bright, simplistic cherries and strawberry.
Translucent burgundy color close to auburn near the rim. Lots of dark, rich, almost candied cherry and strawberry buttressed by damp, dank earth and wood spice aromas. Full-bodied palate that is intense and vibrant with lots of spice and earth with dark berry fruit on the back end. There are still quite a bit of drying tannins on the finish. This is a very impressive wine that has years of potential ahead of it. I'd like to revisit this wine in 3 years and see if these tannins have melted away.
May 18, 2008
The wily charms of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir have wooed me many times in the past, but the most recent and glaring example would have to be this particular bottle from Lynmar Estate. This was a spur of the moment purchase from Whole Foods of all places, who has a suprisingly good, albeit small selection of wines. Normally I wouldn't drink a bottle so young (who am I kidding,) but after stumbling upon this in the store felt it was my duty to save it from the un-temperature controlled confines of Whole Foods, and pop it open with a nice dinner. On this particular night I was looking for something rich and generous that would provide instant gratification after a long day. Something that comes wrapped in the package of a Russian River Pinot Noir. Yet again, Lynmar did not let me down.
I challenge anyone to dispute that Lynmar is highly overlooked as a serious Pinot Noir producer by many, because when compared with some of the highly touted "cultish" Pinot Noirs from the same region their wines definitely hold their own, and in fact prevail against many. Founded in 1990 by Lynn Fritz, Lynmar produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with fruit sourced from the Russian River appellation. Their Quail Hill Vineyard has some of the oldest Pinot vines in the Russian River. Hugh Chapelle is the winemaker here, and has worked with Napa and Sonoma fruit for over a decade, at various wineries including Flowers and Madrona Vineyards. It probably also doesn't that they have Paul Hobbs as a part of their winemaking team. Paul has been consulting winemaker for a number of vintages now.
To be honest, I can't recall a Pinot from the Russian River that I have disliked. I'm sure if I thought hard enough I might be able to name one, but they seem to be far and few between. While I was thinking of that, my girlfriend's nose finally came away from the glass, and the first thing out of her mouth was "this is why I love Pinot." I can't think of a better endorsement than that.
This wine is sort of a "middle of the road" Pinot... Not too light, and not to extracted, while holding a striking shade of red-violet in the glass. Perfectly ripe, but not overdone pure fruit aromas leap out the glass- cherry, raspberry, citrus, a little clove and a touch of mint making an attractive and fruit forward nose. Full bodied on the palate with much of the same cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Beautifully balanced with good acidity, well integrated tannins and a half minute finish, this might become a little bit more interesting in a year or two, but I don't see any reason why you should avoid drinking it now.
14 Months in French Oak
Cases Produced: 3,196
May 9, 2008
Apparently I'm averaging about 1 blog post per month, which is pretty sad considering there's bloggers out there that blog daily. I'm still drinking plenty of wine but just haven't had the time or made the effort to write about it. Hopefully I can update this thing at least once a week, and with that being said I bring you a post about Rose! And what better wine to blog about than one from the combined efforts of Dan Kosta and Michael Browne? I usually drink Rose within the first year of release, but this one somehow managed to evade me and hid in the cellar, only to be discovered amidst new deliveries and a long overdue organization. I love those sly bottles that hide amongst everything else, trying to stretch out their lifespan until they're either over the hill or just begging to be drank...
As the days begin getting hot here in Southern California, Rose makes the perfect companion to a nice summer afternoon. I won't even begin to go into the differences between the horrid blush adomination that is white zin or whether drinking Rose is acceptable for men, and will instead assume those reading this are all on the same page. If not, you're missing out, and you probably stoppe drinking Merlot circa 2004. Rose wines are some of the most versatile, delicious quaffers to pair with food.
The 2006 Kosta Browne wines have been an issue of some discussion in various wine circles and internet message boards. Some feel they are a step down from the highly touted 2005's, describing them as out of balance and hot. I subscribe to the notion that bottle shock is a real phenomenon, however I do not think that unbalanced wines will magically come together years down the road, although anyone who's been privileged to sip a '47 Cheval Blanc might disagree with me. Could this Rose be a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the 2006 KB's or is it just a bottle at the end of it's life giving us it's last dying breath?
In the glass this wine is a nice light red color with a nose that's packed with scents of strawberries, watermelon and some sweet soil with flashes of cinnamon and spice. I was concerned from others notes there would be significant heat but served at cellar temp I found none. Interestingly enough I found a bit of petillance on the first sip, which quickly went away with air time. This was definitely thinner than previous Rose's I've had from KB, but carried pleasant flavors of strawberries, raspberries and cream mixed with a bit of watermelon. Lacking a bit in the acidity department and the finish is rather short, but a very pleasant wine that I think would be great with some food out on the patio on a lazy afternoon.
100% Pinot Noir
April 11, 2008
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted any new blogs and there’s a few reasons for this #1 being that I haven’t been drinking any alcohol for about a month. Thinking of which wine I wanted to crack open to get back in the saddle, a few crossed my mind…
’82 La Lagune? 94 Montelena ? Tempting, but no… ’76 JJ Prum? Hmmmm. To be honest, I do not drink a ton of white wine, so I figured why not pop this open? I recently acquired a number of older wines and this happened to be one I have multiples of. I must say, there’s something very special about aged Riesling, and this wine just cemented that fact for me. All the usual descriptors ran through my head: Ethereal, elegant, complex… My bank account will surely thank me for even more wine purchases I now have my eye on. C’est la vie.
First, a little background on Mr. Johann Josef Prum and these wines. When you hear the topic of a wine conversation turn to Riesling, the Prum estate is a name that’s bound to come up. This family has been making wine for many years, harvesting grapes along the Mosel as far back as the 17th century. Started by Johann and currently run by Dr. Manfred Prum, the estate owns roughly 34 acres of vineyards planted almost exclusively to Riesling. Located upon the steep and rugged banks of the Mosel, two of the more famous vineyards in the estate are Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Graacher Himmelreich, two vineyards that thrive in the mountainous clay-slate soils and are known for producing wines of astonishing quality.
1976 was a good year. Fleetwood Mac recorded “Rumours,” The Eagles released “Hotel California,” and lots of great Auslese wines were made. This was a year hailed by many in Germany as “vintage of the century.” I don’t think that’s the case, but there were some ridiculous sugar levels in the grapes and amazing wines were made. The quality was so high that some producers had more Trockenbeerenauslese than they knew what to do with (TBA is basically the pinnacle of sweet wine in Germany). Some of the lesser wines were marred with very low acidity making this a vintage where careful selection was key, especially for long term cellaring. As a result of the low acidity, some German wines from this year might be over the hill, although I’m sure many wines from top producers are still good and will continue to get better. If you’re not up on German Riesling, do your self a favor and pick up a handful from the 2005 vintage.
A beautiful honeyed amber color in the glass, from beginning to end this wine is just amazing. I found the nose to be very complex and focused with aromas of apricots, green apples, spices and cream with notes of pine sap and slight petrol. Tasted blind I might guess this wine to be only a decade old. The palate is honeyed, powerful and intense with pure fruit, a slight minerality and flavors that for lack of a better word were just ethereal. It's presence in the mouth was just absurd, closing with fine acidity and a stunning finish that seemed to never end. Almost impossible to describe with words, this is one of those wine experiences that hits you like a ton of bricks and stays with you for the rest of your life. Flirting with perfection, it’s the type of wine that will turn a casual wine fan into a fanatic.
February 24, 2008
When people ask me where to find the best values in wine, one of the first regions that come to mind is usually Spain. You can still get an unbelievable wine for under $20, and when compared to other major wine regions, that's no easy feat. Many Spanish wines have shot up in price and popularity, but you can still find delicious wines for a fraction of the price you'd pay for an equal wine produced in say, Oregon. Some might argue that with all the attention Spain has received in the past few years, the style has been incresingly leaning towards the "new world," with jammy, alcoholic fruit bombs. I think for every fruit bomb there's another Spanish wine that still carries the charm and elegance that drew outsiders to the regions different wines in the first place…
I won't pretend I dislike over the top and powerful wines. I do, and they make up a good chunk of my cellar, but I also love and seek out wines packed with subtlety, nuance, and even more important- a sense of place. For instance, I don't think anyone can argue that one of the hottest Spanish reds (El Nido Clio) is a bit over the top and a monster of the wine at the moment. But it's done so well, and it's a great wine at a lower price than many of it's peers. Rotllan Torra does an excellent job of straddling the line, achieving wines that meld power, grace, and tradition. The result is intoxicating wines with bold aromas and flavors that are shockingly silky on the tongue.
Located in the heart of Torroja del Priorat, Rotllan Torra is a family run winery that began in 1984 but never released it’s wine until 1995, an outstanding vintage in Spain. Many of the vines are about a century old, planted in soils composed primarily of slate, as well as younger vineyards with a number of different grapes including Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, and Pinot Noir. The winery is an old farmhouse turned winery by monks back in the 16th century, now updated with modern equipment while still preserving much of the original décor. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks and wines are aged in French and American oak barrels, depending on the wine.
Amadis takes it's name from a noble knight, and is a blend of Carignane, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. Most of the grapes are harvested from 100-year-old vines and aged in French oak. Each bottle is hand numbered prior to release and aged 10 months in French oak. Along with Amadis, Rotllan Torra releases a number of other blends, as well as various dessert wines, some of which look very intriguing. This is a wine I'd like to revisit each year for the next decade or so, and see how it changes over time. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, it's drinking great right now but will only get better and more complex with time.
Almost as dark as black coffee with a ruby tinge to the rim, the nose attacks your senses with chocolate, coffee, dark sour cherries and a juicy kiss of oak. Red berry and currant flavors coat the mouth with well integrated tannins and just the right amount of acidity. Hedonistic but restrained, Amadis evolves very well over time in the glass. I think this wine will appeal to those who enjoy fat and opulent wines that can still be paired with food and really shine.
25% Grenache, 25% Carignane
25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, and 10% Merlot
Aged 10 Months in French oak
About 2,300 cases produced
February 19, 2008
This blessed plot. This earth. This realm. This.... Wine? When Shakespeare wrote this, I wonder if he ever thought the passage would appear on the side of a bottle of wine from Napa Valley? Probably not, but I’m sure if he was able to drink wine of this quality back in those times instead of Malmsey and Canary, he might have penned even more compelling plays and poetry. Either way, with only a few vintages under their belts, Realm Cellars is a relative newcomer to Napa Valley, but the wines certainly seem to be blessed.
Juan Mercado, Wendell Laidley, and winemaker Mike Hirby started Realm Cellars with the 2002 vintage. Back in the 90's, Juan was overtaken by his passion for wine, and soon enough decided to move up to Napa. He started working in a wine store, where he met Wendell and Mike Hirby, and between the three of them, Realm Cellars was born. The trio set out with the mission of producing handcrafted Bordeaux styled wines with fruit sourced from some of the most prestigious Napa Valley vineyards. So far, the results have been nothing short of excellent. The debut 2002 vintage received high marks all around, scoring in the 90's, and things looked fantastic for the 2003 vintage, until it was destroyed in a warehouse fire.
I don't know how I'd feel if I worked on something so hard for over a year to only have it destroyed in a blaze of fire. I imagine it would be a mixture of shock, sadness and disbelief. Back in 2005, Realm Cellars, along with numerous other wineries and private collectors, had thousands of bottles of wine destroyed in a three-alarm fire at Wine Central, a storage warehouse in Vallejo, California. Before being used for wine storage, Wine Central was actually used by the military to hold torpedoes and possibly bombs, thus making it quite fortified, as well as very difficult to fight fires in. I believe the entire 2003 vintage was destroyed, along with the remaining reserves of 2002. That's just about any wineries/ winemakers/ owner’s nightmare, especially after hand crafting wines that they were proud of.
Fortunately, they were able to put that behind them, and continued to produce exceptional wines with the 2004 vintage. I really enjoyed these wines, and the wines of 2005 look to be even better. For any Angeleno's interested, there will be a release party for the 2005 wines held on Feb 27th, at Craft, a restaurant near Century City. With a low cover charge of $20, it’s a great chance for anyone interested in Realm Cellars to taste some of the wines they might not be able to find at retail.
An opaque maroon, inklike color in the glass, this wine is very concentrated and big. Aromas of ripe raspberry and cherry mix with a little leather and mocha. After some airtime in the glass, the alcohol is apparent. On the nose and in the mouth, this wine moves around slightly like a clumsy youngster. Bold and a little brash, there are attractive plummy, cherry flavors with traces of chocolate. Medium length finish that is slightly hot with soft tannins.
60% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Petit Verdot
524 Cases Produced
February 15, 2008
If you're anything like I am, you'll jump at the chance to partake in a tasting that includes wines such as Colgin, Araujo, Phelp's Insignia. These are just a few of the wines being poured at a tasting in Glendale tonight at local wine shop, Red Carpet. I've been to quite a few tastings here and they're definitely a good time. Very nice people, great atmosphere, and plenty of good wine to go around. Friday nights can be a bit rowdier and more crowded than Saturday, so if you plan to go tonight I'd advise getting there a bit early. It should be a great time at a very reasonable price...
2003 Napa Valley Cabs
Taste all 6 for $60
Colgin Herb Lamb
Taste all 6 for $14
2005 Harrison Clarke
2005 Andrew Murray
2004 Ojai Thompson Vyd
New Releases & Staff Favorites
Taste all 6 for $12
NV Il Conte d’Alba Stella Rosa
2006 Mulderbosch Rose South Africa
2006 Grand Veneur
2004 Bailly-Lapierre Rose
2006 Kali Hart Pinot Noir
2005 Valdicava Rosso
Red Carpet Wine: www.redcarpetwine.com
Friday, Feb 15th - 4:30pm to 8:30pm
Saturday, Feb 16th - 3pm to 8pm
Red Carpet Wine & Spirits
400 E Glenoaks Blvd
Glendale, CA 91207