November 28, 2007

2005 Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa CA

Wow. What an amazingly stellar young cab from Switchback Ridge. This wine went through more changes in the glass than any wine I've had in quite some time but there's still something that makes me cringe about opening a relatively high priced Napa cab that is so young. I had the pleasure of drinking a few Switchback wines quite some time ago but I don't think I was able to appreciate them due to my palate being exhausted. There are some who don't see what all the Switchback hype is about and some that can't stop raving about these Cabs. I fall into the latter category, as I think these wines are delicious.

Switchback Ridge focuses on 3 varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Sirah, sourcing their fruit exclusively from the Peterson Family Vineyard. The total cases produced each year of all varietals is usually pretty small. I think the 2005 Cabernet only produced about 300 cases. They're also lucky enough to have Bob Foley working with them! Bob is the man, and has worked with Hourglass, Pride Vineyards, and bottles his own high alcohol, flavorful wines under his 'Robert Foley' label. Bob has long been considered one of the top winemakers in Napa Valley.

I was lucky enough to score a bottle of this with the plan of drinking it soon and purchasing more if I fell in love with it. Best young cab I've had in a long time, but my plan seems to have failed and this wine is sold out as far as I can tell. You can probably find a bottle or two on wine searcher for over $100 but it other than that it's not looking very good. C'est la vie. Maybe next year I'll be able to nab a 6-pack or so and cellar it if I can keep myself from drinking it. Any Merlot fans should seek out bottles of Switchback's Merlot and scoop them up, they're an excellent value.

Tasting Notes:
Right off the bat this wine has an amazing bouquet. Over a hour or so of drinking it seemed to never stop evolving in the glass. Lots of red fruits, licorice, chocolate and dried cranberry on the nose. Garnet to the rim with enticing flavors of currant, cherries, spice and teasing notes of clove on the endless finish. Classic, high octane Napa Cab with well integrated tannins. I would love to taste this in 7 or 8 years and see how it performs.

Score: 94

Price: $80

November 23, 2007

Paraduxx Winery, Napa Valley CA

Ever since I popped open a bottle of the '04 Paraduxx I'd been eagerly anticipating my visit to the Paraduxx Winery, which is located along the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, just a bit north of Yountville. This was my favorite wine tasting of our entire trip. As soon as we walked in we were greeted with smiling, friendly faces and a glass of Parajaxx Rose, which I had no idea they even made and doubt you can purchase it anywhere outside of the winery. Once we finished the Parajuxx we were given the option of being seated at the indoor tables or the nice comfortable looking wicker couches outside. We chose to sit outside amongst the beautiful surrounding scenery which include rows and rows of grapes, flowers, and gravelly trails.

I have to give Paraduxx major points for their attentiveness and overall happy attitude towards pouring their wines. I called two weeks prior to make an appointment and casually mentioned I was interested in their more limited 'Postmark' label wines, which are technically sold out. (Thanks to a tip from Trevor at the Cork Board). Barbara, whom I spoke with on the phone walked out to greet us with a huge grin and let us know that since I mentioned it on the phone, they had popped open a Magnum of the 2004 Rector Creek Postmark, and had been pouring it as a bonus with every one's tastings for that day. It was very refreshing to see a winery take that attitude towards a limited production wine that was sold out (except for about 8 magnums). After I thanked Barbara we sat back and relaxed in anticipation of our wine flight. It was an amazingly sunny fall day with birds chirping. I could have relaxed here sipping wine all afternoon if it wasn't for our other appointments we had for the day. The wines were brought to us on a silver serving tray along with some tasty Mimolette and another nice local artisan cheese which I didn't write down and can't remember the name of. Our particular tasting was a Paruduxx vertical with the Rector Creek Postmark and another eclectic new blend named Canvasback to finish. The wines are served in contemporary Reidel "O" stemless glassware and there was no spit bucket, which was fine by me.

Tasting Notes:

2003 Paraduxx Red Wine: This wine is a blend of 63% Zinfandel, 33% Cabernet, 2% Merlot, and 2% Cab Franc coming in at 14.5% Alcohol. Dark color in the glass. Aged 18 months in oak, this wine exhibited pleasant aromas of cherries, raspberries, and toasty oak. Nice mouth feel with flavors of jammy dark berries and a slightly unpleasant taste of cedar. Medium - high tannins and a mild spice finish. Score: 88.

2004 Paraduxx Red Wine: Nice blend of 65% Zinfandel, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Merlot. 14.5% Alcohol. Aged 18 months in oak. Very nice inky black color in the glass with scarlet at the rim. My favorite Paraduxx wine of them all. I've had this wine a number of times and on this gorgeous fall afternoon it did not disappoint. Strong aromas of blackberries and pepper. Hints of cherry and spice. Great mouth feel, very smooth. I'm loving the Merlot in the one. This vintage seems a bit more complex than the others to me. Nice long finish. Score: 91

2005 Paraduxx Red Wine: 60% Zinfandel, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 2% Cab Franc. 14.5% Alcohol. Unlike the previous two vintages, this wine was just released this month and is too young to drink in my opinion. I'm not sure what it is but the '05 is doing something funky right now and hasn't quite come together yet. They also switched up the oak where the '05 is 40% new and 60% second vintage in comparison to the previous two vintages that were 70% new, 30% second. Needs up to another year I think before it will be barely ready to drink and show us it's true colors. Explosion of darker fruit on the nose with plums and dark cherries. Nice flavors of raspberries and secondary layers of chocolate but we both felt it was fairly awkward. Needs more time. Score: 87

2004 Postmark Rector Creek Red Wine: A blend with slightly more cab than the others, this wine is a blend of 62% Zinfandel and 38% Cabernet. 18 Months in all French oak. Jet black in the glass, this wine had much darker fruit than the others with the exception of maybe the Canvasback. Strong aromas of blueberries and boysenberries which carry over into the palate with cherries, a little oak and strong tannins. Very good wine and our second favorite of the bunch. We brought home a magnum of this and wanted to wait to drink it but just couldn't and popped it open on Thanksgiving. Delicious wine. Score: 90.

2004 Canvasback Red Wine: 62% Syrah, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Grenache. 14.5% Alcohol. 15 Months in oak. Canvasback is the misfit and lone duck of Paraduxx, striving to make it's own mark with a distinctive flavor profile when compared to the others. This is the first release of Canvasback and I see some great potential. I'm looking forward to next years release that will include about 20% Grenache and a dollop of Mourvedre. This wine was inky black in the glass with maroon at the rim. Earthier aromas of bramble brush, cherries and dried cranberries. Dark berry fruits on the palate and a pleasing finish. Quite different from the other Paraduxx releases and very interesting. I'm looking forward to next years blend. Score: 87

In conclusion, the visit to Paraduxx was an awesome experience. All of the tasting staff was amazing and made our time there a memorable one. I think the winery is going through some interesting changes right now. David Galzignato has taken over the winemaking duties from Bill Nacarrow, who is now the executive winemaker at Duckhorn. Paraduxx is a refreshing winery in the land of the big Napa Cab. They're creating uncommon blends, breaking free from Duckhorn's seemingly French oak only policy and mixing it up different styles and exciting new blends. I'm a little disappointed I wasn't able to try their 2004 Postmark Cabernet Sauvignon/Zinfandel, which is a reverse blend of 61% Cab and 39% Zin, but I thoroughly enjoyed everything else they had to offer. This is a winery I highly recommend visiting if you have the time!!!

November 13, 2007

2005 Poggiarellino Rosso di Montalcino

During the past few weeks I've been drinking a lot of the $20 and under wines, saving pennies for my yearly trip to Napa (only a few days away). While roaming around the bargain bins and hunting for good deals, I came across a great food friendly wine for about $18 bucks. Baby Brunello. Rosso di Montalcino. Rosso di Montalcino wines are made from the Sangiovese grape and are not subject to the same excessive aging of their bigger bro, Brunello. Brunello's are required by law to undergo aging in wood for at least 28 months before they are bottled which ultimately results in much darker, complex, expensive wines whereas Rosso di Montalcino's are young fruit driven wines that are not well suited for long term aging and meant to be drunk within a few years of release (seems I've had a lot of these lately). Montalcino is a sub region of Tuscany and takes its name from a variety of oak tree that once covered the terrain. I don't have too much information on Poggiarellino other than that it is a smaller, boutique style winery in Montalcino run by Anna and Loduvico Ginotti. This is a wine that is great with food! I had it with some very good homemade lasagna with basil leaves and crusty, garlicky bread and together, they were divine. I would love to drink this wine with a big chunk of aged Parmeggiano-Reggiano and just might buy a case to keep on hand for dinners as well. I'm not sure what the availability of this wine is across the US but I think it's worth trying to track down for the price considering what high quality Italian wines are going for. Good Italian wine without the pricetag of Barolo and Brunello. There's an old Italian saying... "Vino al sapore , il pane all'odore." This translates roughly into "Wine to the taste, bread to the smell." This wine will be a favorite to serve with food over the next year.

Tasting Notes: Nice dark color with a maroon edge to the rim, there are lots of earthy aromas and fruit coming across on the nose. Almost as if I'm smelling the terrior of Montalcino. Vibrant and slightly heavy but nicely balanced in the mouth, there is some lovely fruit - raspberries and dark cherry. Finishes mildly tannic.

Score: 88

Price: $18

November 11, 2007

2005 Justin Cabernet

What a delicious wine for a low price. I've had the 05 Justin Cab numerous times and it never fails to disappoint and is always a favorite amongst guests. Located in Paso Robles, California, Justin Vineyards focuses on making Bordeaux-style blends and single varietals at a reasonable price. The property was founded in 1981 by Justin and Deborah Baldwin when they planted their 160 acre property to the major Bordeaux varietals and created their Estate vineyard. Since then Justin and Deborah have produced and experimented with nearly every varietal known to man including Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc, Cab Franc, Deborah's Delight Orange Muscat, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo, Viognier, and Zinfandel. That's quite a list! I'm always a little wary of wineries that crank out so many different varietals but from the few Justin wines I've had they just might be the exception to the rule. It should also be noted that the varietals listed above are not all produced every year. One other interesting thing to note about Justin Vineyards is that there is a luxurious European inspired Inn with four fairly priced suites on the property as well as a dining room. I have a trip planned here in the spring and will make sure to post a full review. I've had the 2005 Justin Cab right out of the bottle but on this particular evening I decanted for 6 hours before drinking.

Tasting Notes: Very dark body with a lighter shaded rim, fruit forward nose jumps out at you with dark aromas of plum, cherry and slight oak. In the mouth the wine is delicate with a fruit forward entry only to finish with beautiful soft round tannins and hints of spice. A versatile wine that pairs well with food or can be enjoyed alone. This wine drinks well young but will improve with a few years of bottle age. Very good Cab at a great price.

Score: 89

Price: $21 Continued...

November 4, 2007

2004 Paraduxx Napa Valley Red Wine

For the past few weeks I've been on a bit of a Duckhorn kick and I have to say it's been great and doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon considering I have an appointment at one of the Duckhorn vineyards in about a week. I love this wine. I had it the other night and it's probably my favorite out of the various bottles I've had recently. The 2004 Paraduxx is composed of 65% Zinfandel, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Merlot. It was picked a bit early for a harvest in Napa (Aug) and aged 18 months in oak (65% American/ 35% French). There is definitely an explosion of fruit on the nose - cherry, raspberry and a hint of vanilla. A little bit of heat on the nose. In the glass it's a very dark, inky wine with beautiful scarlet at the rim. Very intense in the mouth, very velvety and smooth with a nice finish. After some time in the glass I could taste more oak but it wasn't overly oaked by any means. It's an interesting blend and right up my alley. I love jammy Zins and together with the complexity and structure of Cabernet it's a beautiful thing. This is a wine meant to be drunk young or within a few years of release. After 1 glass I had this wine with a nice chopped up block of Gruyere cheese and it wasn't a perfect pairing but they complimented each other very nicely. This wine will hold a nice memory of relaxing in front of a great fire on a beautiful Fall evening with delicious wine and cheese. I'm very excited to try the 2005 in a week or so and had to hold myself back from buying it at my local shop last Friday. Seek this wine out.

Score: 9/ 10

Price: $40 Continued...