The 12th Day arrives…2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Panoplie & Duck

Assorted cheeses with the 2009 Tablas Creek Panoplie

The 12th Day of Wine demanded digging in the cellar for something special and Michael perused the Tablas Creek Wines that we patiently wait to open, allowing them to age as we gaze longingly at the Vintage chart waiting for them to be in their prime.

It’s worth noting that as we gazed at the Vintage Chart, we opted to open the 2009 even though it is listed as “Drinking Well: Youthful”. The 2010 that we have is in a closed phase.  We probably could wait another 5 years to open this bottle and have it in a “Drinking Well: Mature” stage, but…life is short.

Tablas Creek 2009 Espirit de Beaucastel Panoplie
Tablas Creek 2009 Espirit de Beaucastel Panoplie

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2009 Esprit de Beaucastel Panoplie

What makes the Panoplie different from the other Esprits?  Well this is the most age worthy wine they make.

“sourced from the most age worthy lots in the cellar and blended for intensity and balance.”

Tablas Creek (from the bottle!)

This is why this wine that is almost 10 years old, is still drinking “Youthful”.

This vintage had the Panoplie blend at 65% Mourvèdre, 26% Grenache and 9% Syrah.

Tablas Creek Vineyard Winery in Paso Robles Adelaida AVA
Tablas Creek Vineyard Winery in Paso Robles Adelaida AVA

Monica from Tablas Creek was kind enough to send me a link to a post Jason Haas had done a few years ago “We Warm-up for the Holidays with a Vertical Tasting of Panoplie, 2000-2015”

This was written in December of 2016 (so 2 years ago).  In it Jason describes how the 2009 Panoplie was showing then.

2009 Panoplie (65% Mourvedre, 26% Grenache, 9% Syrah): A very cool, savory, and exciting nose of dark blue/black fruit, seemingly less about Grenache than the 2008. The fruit is fresh but concentrated, cherry and plum, with a powdered sugar character to the tannins that we often see in great vintages.  Some cocoa powder on the finish, which is still youthfully grippy and fairly primary.  It’s still quite a young wine, from a powerful vintage, and may also still be emerging from its closed phase.  Should make great drinking over the next decade.

Jason Haas from the Tablas Creek Blog December 2016

What to pair?

We looked at options for pairings, and while Neil Collin’s recipe for Boeuf Provençale looked wonderful, I am beef stewed out this holiday season.  So…we opted to go for something celebratory, like duck!  And for an extra bit of celebration, (and to be sure I didn’t mess up cooking the precious duck), we chose to pick up some superbly made duck dishes from Cured & Whey and eatt  here in Las Vegas.

Cured and Whey – Duck Reuben

Duck Rueben from Cured & Whey
Duck Rueben from Cured & Whey

I have been meaning to try this great sandwich from Cured & Whey and managed to be on this end of town today to stop by and pick one up. Rocksan was kind enough to have them prepare it for me uncooked, so I could grill it at home for Michael and I for dinner. What’s in it you ask? Hudson Valley Duck Ham, Swiss Cheese, Sauerkraut, Dijon and house sauce.

Cured & Whey Gourmet Market and sandwich shop storefront
Cured & Whey Gourmet Market and sandwich shop storefront

Cured and Whey is a great little gourmet/sandwich shop created by Chef Michael Stamm. They are in a warehouse area, but don’t be afraid, they are well worth searching out. They get busy at lunch time, because they are so good. So plan ahead and leave enough time to order and sit with your eyes closed soaking in each and every bite.

6265 S Valley View Blvd Ste K Las Vegas, NV 89118 | 702-429-3617

eatt – Duck with sunchoke three ways & black currant sauce

The Tablas 2009 Panoplie with Slow Cooked Duck Breast and sunchokes 3 ways
The Tablas 2009 Panoplie with Slow Cooked Duck Breast and sunchokes 3 ways
Eatt Gourmet Bistro
Eatt Gourmet Bistro

eatt is a neighborhood restaurant in Vegas that is serving amazing Michelin Star worthy food. The duck is “Slow cooked and seared served with
sunchoke three ways and a black currant sauce” The chef was kind enough to prepare it for me slightly deconstructed, so that I could warm the sunchokes and duck later for Michael and I to enjoy. The 3 ways for the sunchoke were confit, puree and chips. Sadly my plating is probably no where near as beautiful as it would have been had I enjoyed it at the restaurant.

You can find them at:

7865 W Sahara Avenue Suite 104-105
Las Vegas, NV 89117 702-608-5233

Funny Coincidence. When I told Rocksan that I was picking up her duck sandwich and then heading to eatt for their duck dish, she asked if I was basing this on Michael’s article in the RJ on duck dishes. Nope! I had missed that, but you know what they say about “great minds”! (Looks like there are a few more places I need to hit up!)

Article in the RJ on Duck Dishes around the Valley
Article in the RJ on Duck Dishes around the Valley

The Pairing

Ah duck…so adorable, but so delicious. The wine took a bit to open up. I suggest decanting an hour before (which I did not do, so we waited for it to open in the glass.)

The pairing was divine. The duck breast melted in your mouth and the sunchokes were the perfect companion adding a bit of brightness to the rich and beautiful duck. The currants set the dish off with that sweet/tart/acid component and made the pairing with the wine even better.

We moved on to the duck rueben…mmmmm…great flavor without being too overpowering. I had worried about the sauerkraut with this, but it was perfect. And I have to do a shout out on the tiny pickle medley that accompanied the salad. Mini gherkins, and tiny grape size and smaller tomatoes along with some heritage tomato slices in the lightest of pickling that were perfection (where can I get more of those Rocksan?)

A surprising pairing with goat cheese

Honeyed goat cheese with cherry preserves and rosemary
Honeyed goat cheese with cherry preserves and rosemary

One last surprising pairing. We still had some goat cheese around from other pairings and I had thrown together a cheese plate. The goat cheese with cherry preserves and a bit of rosemary was really nice with this wine, as did the Haymarket Goat Cheese I had picked up at Cured & Whey.

Want some?

This particular wine is sold out on their site. The idea with these wines, is to get them when they are released and then sit on them while they get tastier and tastier. So…go find a bottle on their website https://tablascreek.com/story/vineyard_and_winemaking/our_wines

You really should go visit

Make your way to Paso Robles. There is wine in abundance. Take the time to make the drive out to Tablas Creek. I really believe that these are some of the finest wines being made in this country. And…you can learn all about all of the Rhône varieties here

Tablas Creek Vineyard
9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: 805.237.1231

More Info…

We have tons of information on our site about Tablas Creek. They really are an inspirational winery. There is a whole page of information, posts and a great series of interviews that we did with Jason Haas the GM for you to check out!

Want more?  Click through to all of our 12 Days of Wine posts!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

What is Terret Noir?

Wine & Cheese Pairing with Tablas Creek Terret Noir 2105

Terret Noir

Terret Noir is a Rhône Valley Grape that is dark but thinned skinned and produces a light colored wine. It is one of the 13 grapes permitted for blending in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, although it totals just 2 acres of vineyard in the region. Like Grenache you will also find Terret Blanc and Terret Gris the other color variations in the grape. Terret Noir is thought to be originally from Languedoc where Terret Gris was once grown widely and used in the production of vermouth.

This grape buds late (which is great, so you don’t have as much frost worry with it), produces abundantly and brings a freshness to other varieties when blended.

Terret Noir in Paso Robles

Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles brought this grape in with their program to bring all 13 of the Châteauneuf-de-Pape grapes to their vineyard.  We had the opportunity to taste a single varietal of Terret Noir in their tasting room and took a bottle of the 2015 with us. (They made this as a single varietal in 2013, 2014 & 2015)

It was indeed a light colored wine, transparent cranberry red, leaning more toward orange than purple in my glass.  On the nose you get bright red fruit and spice with dried strawberries and brambles, like a walk in a meadow in summer after rain as you get all the lush green grasses drying in the sun.

In your mouth it is pomegranate and bright spices and the flesh of a bright red plum.

We paired it with a cheese and charcuterie plate and found it made the parmesan cheese taste sharper and less salty.  The dry Italian salami brightened the fruit in the wine while the wine brought out the savory tones in the salami.

Tablas Creek plans to use this as a blending grape. Watch for it to appear with Syrah and Grenache in a 2016 blend.

I always enjoy exploring those underappreciated grape varieties.  It widens your palate and reminds you that there is so much more out there than Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

This wine pairs well with braised vegetables, grilled eggplant and salty meats and cheeses.

Come back and see what other great wine varieties we are tasting. Keep up to date on all of our posts by following us on Crushed Grape Chronicles  .  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

West Side Paso Robles – the Highlight Reel!

Moonstone Beach Sunset in oil
Daou Over-Look

Daou Over-Look

We spent the weekend in Paso Robles arriving mid-afternoon at DAOU where they were having music out on the patio. The views from this vineyard are incredible.

It is 360 degrees of the Paso Robles area from the top of a mountain on the West side.  Watch for a slide show of amazing photos of the view coming up this next week!

Tablas Creek Wine Walk

Tablas Creek Wine Walk

The end of our day was filled with a Vineyard Walk at Tablas Creek. The walk was led by Tablas Creek Viticulturalist Levi Glenn.  We and about 50 other wine lovers hiked through the vineyard tasting wines as we walked learning about the vineyard and the grapes and then enjoying small bite pairings prepared by Chef Jeff Scott.  We watched the sunset by the head-pruned Tannat.  This was just a joy. We promise a video in the next week or so to let you enjoy the walk with us vicariously!

The next morning found us up too early again, so we roamed the West Side hills enjoying the views.

Lone Madrone Tasting Room

Lone Madrone Tasting Room

We started our day of tasting at Lone Madrone’s new tasting room across from the Adelaida entrance.  This is Neil Collins’ winery (the winemaker at Tablas Creek).  The renovated barn is beautiful with great art.  Inspired by this little bit of Paso Robles 6 degrees of separation we headed to Le Cuvier.  Okay, let me double back and explain.  When Neil first started in Paso Robles he was working at Adelaida for their winemaker at the time, John Munch.  Tablas Creek stole Neil away from Adelaida and then John Munch left Adelaida. He now is the co-owner and winemaker at Le Cuvier.

Le Cuvier View

Le Cuvier View

So after an evening a Tablas Creek, a tasting at Lone Madrone where else could we go but Le Cuvier.  They do small pairings with all the wines here. John Munch is an exceptional character and his wines are unique.  His flamboyant writing style makes his blog well worth the read!  You can look forward to a fascinating blog post on this fascinating man.

Jada Patio

Jada Patio

Our next stop was Jada on Vineyard Drive where they do cheese pairings with all of their tastings.  The hospitality here was exceptional.  We were greeted downstairs and guided up to the tasting room and offered a table on the patio.  They brought us our cheese and they came around with each wine. This is a young winery, but the staff is knowledgeable and thoughtful and really made this a great experience.

Vineyard at Proulx

Vineyard at Proulx

On our last trip we had stopped by Shale Oak and I found that Kevin Riley their consulting winemaker had his own winery called Proulx (pronounced: Pru).  We stopped by to find Kevin and his wife Genoa running the tasting room and were able to taste their wines and have a great conversation with them.

Halter Ranch Dinner

Halter Ranch Dinner

This day finished with the Vineyard View BBQ at Halter Ranch.  We were early, so we sat and enjoyed a glass of wine on the patio by the tasting room and then headed up for the dinner.  The food, the wine and the view were all perfect.  To top it off we were seated alphabetically which put us next to the Sass family and we enjoyed the evening chatting with the winemaker, Kevin Sass’ parents, brother and sister-in-law.  Good wine and good company…that’s what this is really all about.  You can expect some great photos and a blog with more details on this wonderful and relaxing dinner.

Sunset Moonstone Beach

Sunset Moonstone Beach

Our final day saw us paying homage to the sea, which brings the climate that allows all of these grapes to thrive.  We headed out to the coast and drove from Morro Bay to Ragged Point enjoying the views along the way.

So that’s the highlights!  Stay tuned for photos, videos and more detailed blog posts!

A weekend in West Side Paso.

Paso-Robles-Feature

Our trip to Paso this time is a little more focused as we hit the North end of Vineyard Drive and the West end of Adelaida Road.  The big events we are attending are a Tasting through the Vineyard with Neil Collins (winemaker) and Levi Glenn (viticulturist) at Tablas Creek and a Vineyard View Sunset BBQ at Halter Ranch.  So our other tastings we chose to keep in the neighborhood.

Tablas Creek and Neil Collins you will find plenty of blog posts on.  They are perhaps my favorite winery on the planet.  This event will give us the history of the vineyard and winery as well and learning about the farming techniques and tasting grapes on some of the blocks and then the wines that have been made from them.  There will also be small bites to pair.  Really, this sounds like heaven to me and I can’t wait to tell you all about it when we get back!

Halter Ranch Spring Vines

Halter Ranch Spring Vines

At Halter Ranch we will enjoy a Vineyard View Sunset BBQ on the deck of the new winery.  The dinner line-up sounds amazing, and the views are sure to be spectacular.

At some point there will be lunch at Kukkula.  The name means hill or high place in Finnish. The vineyard is on 80 acres overlooking the Adelaida schoolhouse.  The tasting room is beautiful and modern and built into the hillside.  It was designed to be energy efficient.  They serve lunch on the weekends so this looks like a perfect spot.

We also plan to get out to DAOU which we missed doing on our last trip.  They will have music Friday afternoon, so the goal is to make it for that. This winery is perched at 2,200 feet on the hills on the south side of Adelaida Road.  The views from their Spanish Colonial style winery are spectacular.  An anomaly in this area of the valley, they grow and focus on Cabernet!  The property, the Hoffman Mountain Ranch was originally found by non other than Andre Tchelistecheff.  Dr. Hoffman purchased it in 1964 and this was the first commercial winery in Paso and…they grew Cab.  We will enjoy some music, taste some Cab and learn more about this amazing property!

Lone Madrone is Neil Collins personal label and he has a new tasting room across from Adelaida.  This is perfect to keep his tasting room and Tablas Creek close.  He sources grapes from small, locally owned and sustainable vineyards on west side Paso, working closely with the vineyards.  The new tasting room is in a converted barn and has two patios where you can enjoy the wine and the view.  I am hoping that we can also taste some of the Bristols Cider that Neil makes.

Jada, which is on Vineyard Drive, offers cheese pairings from Vivant, and how can you pass that up!  They have an open air tasting room and you can reserve tables on the patio.  They focus on Rhone and Bordeaux style wines here.

After reading Alice Feiring’s book “Naked Wine”, I felt I had to plan a visit to Carmody McKnight!  Gary and Marion Conway purchased this land near Justin more than 40 years ago and have been making “Natural Wines” here ever since.  Soil studies on the property show that there were once three volcanoes here and the soils here have been dubbed super soils and wonder soils that are seen nowhere else on the planet. So…we will taste their natural wines and learn about the super soils and get some of their opinions on “Natural Wines” which is a pretty hot topic these days!  Oh and on the celebrity side, Gary Conway began as an actor and artist and Marian McKnight Conway is a well-known former Miss America.   Their daughter Kathleen is the winemaker.

In all the times that we have been to this area of Paso Robles, we have never managed to stop at Pasolivo the olive oil company.  The trees here are over 15 years old and they are an award winning olive oil company.  With a variety of flavored oils I may just stock up!

Winemaker Kevin Riley is the consulting winemaker at Shale Oak and several other wineries locally.  Proulx (Pru) is his own winery with his wife Genoa.  The vineyard here is 55 years old.  In addition to their own fruit, they source from the best Paso vineyards.  This tiny winery produces just 1500 cases yearly.  Maybe, we will get lucky and Kevin will be around and we can talk winemaking with him!

And it’s close to harvest so we hope to get lost of great shots of grapes ready to pick, maybe some harvest action and get to speak with fabulous wine makers!

Yes, it’s an ambitious trip and while we want to fit lots in, we will stop along the way to smell the wine.  We will sadly have to edit stops on the way so that we can spend time and fully appreciate the places we do stop.  You can look forward to great blog posts on our return!

One facet of Paso Robles “Terroir” – lets start with the dirt.

Tablas Creek Soil

There are so many variables in wine and plenty just within the vineyard.

A Vineyards “Terroir” or sense of place come from the weather, the location of the vines on slopes for more or less sun, coastal influences, temperature fluxuations, cover crops, and soil.

After our recent trip to Paso Robles I was curious about the calcareous soil and the differences between the soil types for east side and west side vineyards.  So we will explore that here today.  The subject is complex and I will only deal with some of the basics, but I will happily provide links for further information.

Paso Robles sits south of San Francisco and North of LA.  Well, that’s pretty basic isn’t it?  This area is considered California’s Central Coast.  Paso’s west side begins just 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  The Santa Lucia Mountains give us the western border.  The AVA is about 35 miles east to west and 25 north to south.  That encompasses 614,000 acres of land about 26,000 of that planted in vineyards.

There are over 45 different soil types found in this area and they tend to be mixed!  You can find vineyard blocks whose soils vary row to row.

Tablas Creek Soil

Tablas Creek Soil

So what makes the really good stuff?  Well these days in Paso especially on the west side you will hear quite a bit about the Calcareous soils.  This soil is limestone based and comes from this land at one time being an ocean floor.  Whale bone Winery is named for the actual whale bones that they unearthed when they were planting their vineyard.  All of this ancient sea bed was pushed up with the mountain ranges by the geological plates.

On Paso’s westside you find huge chunks of limestone.  As the limestone gets wet it becomes softer and chalkier and the roots of the vines can then push through and did deep to get to water.  The limestone rock also holds heat from the 100 degree days keeping the vines warm at night when the temperatures drop to 45 degrees.  This soil type is similar to that of Chateau-neuf de Pape which is what brought the Perrin Family here with the Haas family to grow Rhone varietals here in California at their Tablas Creek Winery.  These Calcareous soils also have soil pH of 7.4 to 8.6 and this is not found in other areas of California.  This higher pH is helpful in that it increases the availability of phosphorus and nitrogen. Calcium based soils retain water well but do not become water logged during heavy rains.  High pH in calcium rich soils has been shown to help maintain acidity late in the growing season.  So you can increase the hang time to get riper fruit without sacrificing acid!

On the east side of Paso you find loamier soils due to the Salinas River that runs between the east and west side.  With fewer hills this soil tends to be more fertile and easier to cultivate as the hills roll rather than having steep hills.  With less limestone in the soils the pH is lower and as such more hang time can compromise the acidity of a wine.

Okay, so I sound like a commercial for Calcareous soil.  Now let me tell you a little about the east side soils.

There is still calcareous soil on the east side, but it is mixed with clay and sandy loam.  Gravely and clay loam make for great drainage and cause low vine vigor which intensifies the flavor in the berries. Nacimiento – Los Osos complex  soil is found often on the east side.  These complex soils are well drained but are relatively poor and have chalky or gravelly components.  Due to the heat on this side you find more of the big bold varieties grown here such as: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Sirah.

So is one soil type better than another?  It depends on the grape, the vineyard climate and sun, and the winemaker.  Soil is another one of the many components in creating wine.

For more information on the soils of Paso Robles look for the book Paso Robles: An American Terroir or just about anything written by Dr. Thomas Rice who teaches at Cal Poly.  Some of his work can be found here http://works.bepress.com/trice/

Springtime in Wine Country – Santa Barbara to Paso Robles

Santa Barbara
Stearn Wharf Sign

Stearn Wharf Sign

Drawn to the coast we began on the beach in Santa Barbara wandering Stearns wharf and then tasting at Municipal Winemakers on Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail in “The Funk Zone”.  Au Bon Climat called and we strolled up the beautiful State Street with bougainvillea petals blowing on the breeze to taste there. Jim Clendenen’s wines lived up to the hype in my book. Then it was just a beautiful drive up 154 to Los Olivos past Lake Cachuma to taste at Qupe/Verdad/Ethan in Los Olivos see some of the amazing wines Bob Lindquist creates.  A relaxing tasting on the back patio at Carhartt slowed our pace and had us waxing poetic on the glorious fragrances of Brooke Carhartt’s wines.  Dinner of small plates and a wine wall where I could enjoy tastings or a glass at Avant Tapas and Wine ended a perfect day one.

In the morning we caught the marine layer drifting through as we headed north into Foxen Canyon stopping for a great tasting at Zaca Mesa.  The property here is beautiful.  This is the winery that turned out both Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist as well as numerous other amazing winemakers.  After our tasting here, we headed North to Arroyo Grande and enjoyed a tour at Talley.  As we toured the winemaker Eric Johnson stopped by on a couple of occasions to say hello and answer questions.  Now it was on to our final destination of Paso Robles.  We tasted at Booker which is off of 46 West and were greeted by the winery dog who is the spittin’ image of our dear Mojo from Miramonte!

Day 3 began at Bella Luna, a tiny winery south-east of Paso, where Sherman, the winemaker was pouring their Italian style wines. Staying on the East Side we drove on to Sculpterra with their amazing sculpture garden live accordion music and lovely wines.  We made our way back to the West side of the 101 to Vines on the Marycrest where they were hosting a “Songwriters at Play” event.  The sun filtered through the tasting room windows and the music filtered in from the patio while we enjoyed a great tasting and conversation with Jennifer while Vic the winemaker and a sound engineer busily took care of cables, mic stands and making sure the sound system in the tasting room gave us the best mix.  Our day ended strolling downtown where they were having a wine and art event.  We were drawn into the Parrish Family Vineyards elegant tasting room where enjoyed tasting the Parrish Family wines with a cheese pairing from Vivant cheeses and I was treated to a wonderful conversation with winemaker David Parrish regarding yeast!

Another beautiful morning saw us enjoying a drive in on Vineyard Drive from the south. Shale Oak is a newer winery in Paso and I had been lucky enough to stumble across them on Cellar Pass.  The peacefulness of this spot in the morning with its stunning architecture topped by it’s eco friendly stance made for a beautiful start to the day.  We added a little adrenaline to the morning with a drive out Peachy Canyon Road.  The twists and turns put this West Virginia girl right at home.  We stopped at a small winery called Stacked Stone.  Winery owner and winemaker Donald Thiessen saw us pull in and came out to open the tasting room to pour for us.  The property is in a lovely wooded area landscaped with “stacked stones”.  Back up Peachy Canyon we headed toward one of the highest limestone plateaus on the West side of Paso Robles 1200 feet above the Salina Valley.  Here at Lloyd’s Lookout sits the Calcareous Winery and tasting room.  The views are amazing.  We enjoyed a tasting followed by a lunch pairing with food by Thomas Hill Organics.

Mid day saw us heading North and East to San Miguel and tasting at family owned and run Locatelli.  Raynette Gregory the co-proprietor poured for us.

From this small family owned winery, we headed further east to the big new tasting room on this block, Nigel Lithgoe’s Villa San Juliette.  The drive out is lovely with expansive views of the East side hills and the property itself is impressive.  Photo’s to come!  From here we were a little wined out…so time for a little pacific coast palate cleanser.  We headed to the coast and dinner at Moonstone beach.  We finished dinner and drove partway back to Paso to pull off and wait to watch sunset.

Our final day started with tour at Tablas Creek.  We are loyal members here and took a tour before our tasting.  The place has grown so much since our last trip here.  We saw Bob Haas arriving for the day, and while we did not see winemaker Neil Collins, we did get to hang with his dog Millie!  From here we had a little time before our tour at neighboring Halter Ranch and made a stop at Adelaida to taste the wines, the almonds, see the sheep and alpacas and meet Addy the vineyard cat.  We headed back to Halter Ranch to do our tour and tasting, and fell in love with the place.  The new winery here is state of the art and stunning.  We ended our trip here on a high note.

So that is the quick view, watch for detailed posts and pictures from these amazing wineries over the next few weeks.

My cellar and how I keep track

Wine Bottles

Often we start out as wine enthusiasts by mistake.  We head to wine country on vacation and come back with a mixed case, and while we were there we joined a couple of wine clubs.  Then we travel to a different part of wine country and do it all over again.  Before you know it we have a cellar.  Well…if you call a few cardboard boxes full of assorted wines a cellar.  Where do we go to from here?  I mean we are members of a wine club (or two or 5 or so) and more wine will be coming.  So we stick the boxes in the back bedroom.  If we are lucky, we have a spare bookshelf that we repurpose for wine storage.  Maybe just having a spare room is lucky! This blog post is to tell you my story of cellaring.  It is not in it’s completed form.   I like most of you am on a budget and can’t afford to have a special climate controlled wine cellar built into my home with the perfect temps for different varieties and electronic tags to let me stroll with my tablet and see what is ready for drinking.  So…I will share with you my story. And while I’m at it, I will do a bit of research to see where I might head next with my goal to keep and preserve the wine that I have until it’s perfect apogee.

Aha!  Apogee!  So I searched through online systems for setting up my cellar and for doing tastings and came up with Vinocella.  Vinocella has a great term that they use which is apogee.  They have a place to enter what they call “advices”.  These include “Maturity from” and “Maturity to” as well as “Apogee from” and “Apogee to” . In the program (which you can use on an I pad or I phone, you can sort your wines by Maturity so that you can find the wines in your cellar that are ready to drink.  Those wines are “Perfect…Apogee”  or at their peak.  This is of course based on the noun meaning at their farthest or highest point.

So our wine cellar has been growing since our first trip to Temecula followed by the trip to Napa and the trip to Willamette OR and then back to Temecula and to Sonoma and to Santa Barbara and back to Los Olivos, a little dabble in Virginia Wine Country and then a stop in Missouri…well we got hooked.  And as we got hooked we ended up with multiple wine clubs, plus many bottles that we returned home from trips with.

We were lucky enough to have a spare bedroom.  It had bookshelves and we cleared one out and make it work for wine.  We kept the room cool in the summer and closed the vent to keep the heat from hitting this room in the winter.  As the number of wines grew, we picked up a small wine fridge for white wines and sparkling wines that we keep in the dining room and then we realized that we need additional space.  Well for us a mounted wall rack did the trick and had plenty of room.  So…as we moved wines and filled it and updated the Vinocella database with wine placement I realized that we had all these wines but they were really difficult to sort through.  Yes, I had the iPad with the database, but would we ever keep that up to date?  And did I have maturity dates for any of my wines in there?  So I embarked on a project to research and find the maturity dates for the wines and to tag them, so when on the spur of the moment we needed a wine for dinner, we could choose one that we ought to be drinking!  The cellar as you can see is not glamorous but it is functional!

Not the most glamorous wine cellar

In doing this I searched through winery websites (some of which like Tablas Creek are full of great information and gave me everything I needed).  Sometimes I hit cellartracker.com to find what the drinking window was according to others who owned this particular wine.  On a side note, I have spoken to many who love Cellar Tracker for keeping track of their wines.  I also find that I have a need for an app that can do tasting notes.

When I didn’t find what I needed on websites I went to the wine club notes and often found great information there (like Tobin James for instance).  When both of these options were exhausted I took to e-mailing or facebooking the wineries to see if they could provide me with their insights on cellaring and the perfect drinking window for their wines.

I received many prompt and very informative responses.  Some of these were directly from the wine makers which upon occasion made me swoon!  So now I was able to put this information into the Vinocella program and I added tags to each bottle!  We had already divided our reds going from light to heavy, similar to a tasting order in our rack.  So now I added red tags with the winery name the vintage and the wine with the drinking window at the bottom.  So even if we didn’t have the ipad out, we could find a bottle that needed drinking!

This is just the beginning.  I have completed my research on my wines, now it is time to research about cellar practices and maybe find some tips that would work for us…stay tuned!

Wines I can’t forget, part two

More on great wines that I can’t forget.  We started this in the last blog with my list of the 15 wines that I want to drink again.  These are wines that stand out in my memory.  Most were tasted at the winery and perhaps some of why I like them is because of the atmosphere or the day.  Any way we are back with 5 more of those wines and today we begin with

Grgich Hills Fume Blanc

Grgich Hills if I remember correctly was only the 2nd winery we visited in Napa.  The experience was good and informative (when I say informative you can read: Robin liked the people in the tasting room!).  We left with a split of the Fume Blanc and directions to Gott’s Roadside with directions to pair with the Ahi Burger.  It was raining and we were in the tent with tables behind the place and I was very happy.  Perhaps I was just really hungry, perhaps it was that I love ahi, perhaps because I was just learning about pairings and the guidance made me a little giddy.  At the time I only new a little about Mike Grgich (like that when you watch bottle shock…he was the winemaker behind that historic wine!) and I knew nothing about Joel Gott.  This was a memorable wine for me, I think, due to the place and time in my wine education.

Carhartt Pinot Noir

Carhartt Vineyards patio at the "Worlds Smallest Tasting Room" Los Olivos California

The tiniest tasting room on the planet is in Los Olivos, CA and I have waxed poetic on this place quite often.  So yes…the atmosphere and the people play a big part in why I love this wine.  But this one I will go on the record for saying, even if you take all that away, I would still be enamored by this wine.  I love bold Pinots with smoke, meat and barnyard.  This Pinot on the other hand was elegant and delicate and smelled of violets.  I was completely taken off guard and transported.  I adore this wine and cherish the experience of this tasting.

Tablas Creek Vermentino

Tablas Creek Tasting Room Paso Robles, CA

 

So this wine we did not taste at the vineyard!  I love Tablas Creek and we have been there twice and are very proud to be wine club members, but this particular wine was given to me as a gift from a friend.  I cannot thank Laurie and Al enough for giving me this glimpse into Vermentino.  This simple Italian white is not fancy but really fulfilling.  We make sure to pick up a bottle whenever we visit now.

Terry Hoage Syrah

View from Terry Hoage Vineyards Paso Robles CA

We stumbled upon this vineyard at the recommendation from someone in another tasting room.  The property is lovely as you can see by the vineyard view. They are on a hilltop with chickens running free and a lake on the property.  Terry Hoage played footbal at the University of Georgia in the 80’s and then played 13 seasons in the NFL as a free safety.  They moved to Paso to build a home and put in a small vineyard for landscaping.   That evolved into a love for growing grapes and then making wine. The tasting room was elegant and the staff well educated on wine.  This was the last wine we tasted that day and we left with a split that I covet in my wine cellar.  I’m afraid to drink it!  I don’t want it to be gone!

Vino Robles Petite Sirah

Vino Robles Paso Robles CA

 

It’s a struggle to get me on the Petite Sirah bandwagon. I find it often inky and sometimes cloying.  Our tasting at Vino Robles included the cheese pairings and that might have set me over the edge.  It was heaven.  I know it is here in a previous blog post, but we had a cheese with coffee and lavender that was stunning and this Petite Sirah was gorgeous.  Was I affected by the elegant surroundings, by the informative and friendly staff, by the gorgeous cheese, by the comradery with other patrons during our tasting?  Perhaps, but I still want to drink this wine again.

Stay tuned for the last 5 of my wines I can’t forget in the next post!

 

Wines that I can’t forget, part one

Michael and I do quite a bit of wine tasting on our vacations.  As you know if you have read our blog before, we love to visit wineries taste and get the feel of a winery.  Often you can get caught up in the moment (and the wine) and join a club or buy several bottles to take home.  On other occasions if you have flown in and it’s the wrong time of year to have wine shipped, you go home empty handed.  Today I want to explore the wines I remember and still want and maybe some of the why’s to that.  Was it the location, the people, the wine itself or a combination.

I started this by just going through by memory of some of the wines that as we traveled and tasted stood out to me.  Wines that I want to drink again.

Stoller Tempranillo,  Lange Pinot Noir,  Hart Family Vineyards Syrah and Chardonnay,  Argyle Black Brut,  Longoria Lovely Rita,  Grgich Hills Fume Blanc,  Carhartt Pinot Noir,  Tablas Creek Vermentino,  Terry Hogue Syrah,  Vino Robles Petite Sirah,  Lone Madrone The Will,  Veritas Cabernet Franc, Wildhorse Unbridled Bien Nacido Pinot Noir and Trisaetum Riesling.

As you can see the list is long and this is just me quickly running through this in my brain, not going back (as the wine geek in me so desperately wants to) and scanning all the wineries that we have tasted at in all the different areas we have tasted.  You will also note that I didn’t include  years.  I’m trying to keep my list short and I would have to research to remember the years and that would make my list grow!  So we will try to keep this simple. I have a list of 15 wines that off the top of my head I loved and want to drink again.  My list leans toward Syrahs and Pinots and then expands to many different varietals and includes a blend.  So….with a list this long I will break it up into groups of 5 (cause I will want to wax poetic on each and you don’t want to be here reading all day!).

Stoller Tempranillo

Stoller Vineyard Circa 2011 Dundee Hills Oregon

Stoller Vineyard Circa 2011 Dundee Hills Oregon

Stoller is located in the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  Tempranillo is definitely not the first wine you would think of there.  I was a bit taken about when I heard they grew it right there by the winery.  The climate is much cooler than you would expect for a Tempranillo.  It was enchanting.  Dark and rich and a big contrast to the lighter more delicate Pinot Noirs we had been tasting.  Also my friend Adam was with us and he knew the person doing our tasting.  She was talking about her boyfriends new restaurant that he was opening and telling us about the bee hives they had in the blackberry patch in the middle of the vineyard and the blackberry honey they looked forward to getting.  So….the atmosphere had me pretty enchanted also.  Adam left with 3 bottles of the Tempranillo, so I will have to check with him to see if the wine lives up to the memory I have of it.

View from Lange Winery

Lange Vineyard, Oregon 2011

Lange Pinot Noir

Jack_the_cat_at_Lange

Jack the Vineyard Cat at Lange 2011

This particular Pinot that I remember was a blend of several vineyards and had a smokiness that I love.  I had researched Langebefore going there and was exited to see Jack the cat. He actually greeted us at our car.  There had been a blog post about Jack who they had adopted as a stray and named Jackie, only to find he was really a Jack.  They had won Snooth’s winery of the year distinction earlier that year and I was excited to see the small family winery that I had heard so much about.  They are again in the Dundee Hills.

Hartford Family Syrah and Chardonnay

In my research for our trip to Napa/Sonoma I had come across Hartford Family Vineyards who were doing a fund raiser while we were there for a local food bank.  They were serving an appetizer to pair with their chardonnay and the proceeds from the appetizer would go to the food bank.  Great food and wine pairings and for a charity?  I was in.  So we stopped by on a rainy December day to their beautiful Estate and had the crab cakes paired with their coastal Chardonnay.  The pairing was perfect…the wine seemed to have a slight salinity that spoke to the crab cakes.  I actually tried to order this wine once when I found it on a wine list to pair with seafood, only to have the waiter come back and tell me they were out!  In addition we had a wonderful Syrah that smelled like bacon in the glass.  I was enamored.  One of the guys working in the tasting room was full of fantastic information and was so passionate speaking about the wine…I felt sure that we were looking at a future superstar winemaker.  We did leave with a bottle of the Syrah and I long for more.

Argyle Black Brut

Argyle Winery Dundee Hills Oregon

Argyle Tasting room Dundee Hills Oregon 2011

Michael does not like champagnes or sparkling wines usually.  He says that the effervescence mutes the flavor for him and he has been known to allow a sparkling glass to sit and go flat before tasting it.  Me…I like my bubbles.  So Michael tasted Pinots and Chards and I tasted the bubbly when we got to Argyle.  Argyle has great appeal because Rollin Souls is just so cool!  He is microbiologist who was roomates with Lyle Lovett in college.  The tasting room is lovely with a big wrap around porch and the tasting room staff were down to earth.  When they poured the Black Brut for me I was in heaven.  Think cherry cola elevated to an extreme.  I still dream about this deep dark sparkler.

Longoria Lovely Rita

Longoria Tasting Room

Santa Barbara and the Santa Rita Hills are known for great Pinot Noirs and Longoria makes some of the best.  This tiny tasting room in Los Olivos is in a historic building.  I had read about Richard Longoria in Steve Heimoff’s book, “New Classic Winemakers of California”, so my expectations were high.  I was surprised when I enjoyed the Lovely Rita more than the vineyard designated Pinots.  We left empty handed since we had flown in but this is one wine that is on my list to order and have shipped to me this fall!

Okay….that’s a start.  If you enjoyed this and are interested in the other wines I can’t forget, stay tuned for the next couple of posts!

Wine Geekdom, and Media Technology

Media technology is amazing.  So is wine geekdom.  I realized this morning that I was currently reading 3 books.  I picked up a beautiful hard backed copy of Kevin Zraly’s Complete Wine Course the 2012 edition for my birthday.  I have downloaded a sample of Matt Kramer On Wine on my phone and on my Kindle I have a copy of Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking by Michael Gelb.  I have links to all my favorite Wine Blogs on my cell (Steve Heimoff, Terroirist, Vinography).  I check my e-mail on my phone as soon as I get up and I get the my daily fix of 1 Wine Dude and  get my FeedBlitz for the Tablas Creek Blog.  On Facebook I am friends with all my favorite wineries and even have some of them grouped into lists by regions.  I love when the Food and Wine Magazine comes each month and love it even better when I can steal Michael’s iPad and read the online version.  I love being able to click through and get more information.

Now I have other hobbies and other passions, but it was a little overwhelming to find that technology had me swimming in all kinds of information on my favorite subject anywhere that I was.  I’m constantly working on databases for different wine regions that we would like to travel to.  I am a research junkie.

I troll sites for new videos, like the Wine Down or the Lone Madrone site for Conversations with a Winemaker.  Yesterday I got sucked into research on the Mozart Effect and how that can tie in with wine tasting and making wines taste better (inspired by a chapter in the Michael Gelb book).  I was looking into the history of Virginia Wineries yesterday  for an upcoming trip and found the amazing website for the Virginia Wine Organization, beautifully laid out and with tons of easy access information on varietals being grown in Virginia that I have never tasted!

I started out being a little embarrassed by my geekdom, but as I look at it my pride is growing a bit.  I love this subject and I immerse myself in it and learn as much as I can, and yet I still feel like a novice.  I don’t think that will ever change.  There is too much to learn, too many opinions to read and see if I agree with and too many wines to taste.  Those we won’t ever run out of!

Lone Madrone and Conversations with Christian Tietje

On my first trip to Paso a friend suggested that I stop by Lone Madrone. We did, and it was actually after a stop at Lone Madrone, and we fell in love. Jackie, Neil’s sister was pouring that day and we tasted and continued to fall in love. Neil Collins is the winemaker at Tablas Creek. If you love Rhone varietals, I need say no more. These are some of the best in the US. Their sister property is in Chateau-Neuf de Pape in France at Chateau de Beaucastel. At Lone Madrone, Neil adds, in the words of Christian Tiejte, “The Funk”. This tasting room is built on the old Bonny Doon site as well as the Sycamore Farms herb gardens which are now Fat Cat Nursery. They share a tasting room with the incredible Kenneth Volk.

Christian Tiejte is the founder of Four Vines. After selling the name “4 Vines” he started Cypher. These are “Freakshow wines” based on the Anarchy, Peasant and Phoenix wines. He signs his posts as ” Winemaker, Troublemaker, Firestarter” if that tells you a little.

Bless you Neil Collins for starting your Conversations with a Winemaker. This 6 part video (parts are around 15 minutes each) are stellar! I love the opportunity to hang with you guys and listen in. For a wine geek, this is heaven.

So my friends, I had an extraordinary afternoon enjoying these. If you are a wine geek, you will love these too. Start here http://www.lonemadrone.com/videos/index.php?category=9

 

Tablas Creek, Part two

This years crop (2011) was low similar to 2009.  But the fruit they did get was high quality.  They lost all of their Viognier to a spring frost in late April.  They turned on the fans to bring down the warmer induction layer of air, but all the air was cold.  There was nothing to be done and they lost a good portion of grapes that had budded out early.

We went down to the old nursery.  All the vines here were originally from Chateau de Beaucastel and were grafted here onto American Rootstock.  He showed us the grafting machine which cuts and omega shaped cut out of the vine stock, you make another cut into an american rootstock of the same diameter and put them together.  They typically wax this connection to protect it while it heals together.  They are placed in a callous greenhouse room which is maintained at 85 degrees and 85 percent humidity, then move to other green houses to slowly bring down humidity about 3 to 6 months.  These are then planted.  The post hole digger goes down about a foot and the rootstock is dropped it with most of the vine underground also so that only the top of the newly grafted vine stock is sticking out from the earth.

We talked about grapes and climate and the microclimates that they have here.  Steve mentioned a trip to Spain and his worry that the wines would be big bold high alcohol warm climate wines.  He found that they were not!  They were nuanced and often aged much longer before release than standard wines.

We went into the winery and looked at the tanks.  They have quite a few stainless steel tanks which are 3000 gallons (3.5 times a waterbowl Zu folks!)  They also have standard barrels, Cuvee which are 1700 gallon wood tanks, larger barrels at 2.5 times the size of a standard barrel and the Foudres which are 1200 gallons.  The 120 Gallon Barrels ar called Puncheons , the 160 gallon size are called Demi-muides, roughly double and triple size of regular barrel, so you get a greater ratio of volume to surface area, which means less oak in the wine, and the barrels tend to last longer then smaller barrels.  When we had walked in the girl in the tasting room had mentioned that often it felt like the wines were not put into a container by specific design, but rather by need, as there was no where else to put the juice.

Finally filled with tons of fascinating information, it was time to taste.