Reserve: 2011 L’Autre by Terre Rouge.

Tonight’s occasion: 2011 L’Autre by Terre Rouge. This is a GSM – Grenache, Syrah, Mauvedre. A red blend from one of our favorite winemakers. Warm rich nose, with lots of cherry and plum wrapped in just the right amount of oak. Earthy mineral terroir is nicely expressed. Body is all business. Very structured, complex and balanced. Just the right amount of acid, tannin, fruit, oak, and terroir. A vibrant finish plays back and forth with tannin and spice, finally relenting to long lasting tannic grip. Once opened up, the tannins begin to spread from the finish to the back of the body, slowly dominating the entire experience reminding you that even though this is the 2011 vintage, it is still young and nowhere near it’s fullest expression.

We opened a 1992 GSM by this winemaker earlier this year. It was a true honor to partake in such a well built well preserved wine. So tonight we continue to explore this winemaker’s craft and how it evolves. There are moments where we feel fortunate to indulge in such art in a bottle. This would be one of them.

Reserve: 2008 Red Label Pinot Noir by Roessler

Tonight’s occasion: 2008 Red Label Pinot Noir, Sonoma County by Roger Roessler of Roger Roessler Wines. After opening up for at least 15 minutes it reveals a well balanced nose with that signature Sonoma earth, a little oak and berry. The body remains vibrant with a hint of fruit, good acidity and ever so faint spice heading into the finish which fades away into the sunset from there on.

I am down to just one of these Red Labels. It amazes me every time how his Pinot ages oh so gracefully all the while remaining so approachable over such an unusually long life span. This vintner’s wines may be drinkable now, but the real reward is years or even a decade later. This is a bittersweet occasion but one I’m so grateful for.

Gary Farrell, Russian River Valley

Gary Farrell was my first stop as I wandered through Russian River Valley in search for Pinot Noir that I felt was representative of the region.  Before I continue, I feel I must inform you that their tasting is by appointment only. This creates an atmosphere of calm and serenity devoid of any noisy crowds and distractions. Combined with the hilltop view of the valley below it creates an environment ideal for focus and reflection on what you are tasting. I think for the discerning palate this presents good value as you explore this region and what it has to offer. I will surely make an appointment on my next visit to this region.

The grounds were impeccably maintained, minimalist architecture and clean balanced interior decor really complemented the overall energy and experience. The staff were very warm and courteous and although I did not have an appointment they did go out of their way to at least get me a sampling of two of their Pinot Noirs from the region. They also offered to add me to their up-coming wine tour/tasting session however I was pressed for time. Very gracious indeed.

That being said, I was perfectly content sampling two of their Pinot Noirs as this would give me and quick idea of the caliber of the wines on offer. I must say, I was not disappointed. I instantly thought to myself, “this is what I came here for”. Rich, layered, complex, structured Pinot Noir. Further review of their menu revealed more Pinot Noirs from some of the most coveted vineyards all up and down the West Coast. I selected one of their Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley which I will be reviewing tonight and will post my thoughts.

Have you visited this winery? What did you think?

Gracianna Winery, Russian River Valley

This weekend I finally got around to exploring the Russian River region. After a weekend of camping in Bodega Bay with friends it seemed only fitting that we make a slight detour through Russian River on our way back to Sacramento.

I have had some amazing Pinot Noir from this region and I was eager get out there and get a sense of what it is about. I wanted to personally see what it is about this region that produces such great Pinot Noir.

As I meandered through the winding back roads sometimes almost getting lost, I wished for something off the beaten path. Small, family owned and operated wineries. No sooner than the thought crossed my mind, I noticed the sign to Gracianna Winery. I did not recognize the name. It did not show up on my google map search. I thought to myself, this could be precisely what I was looking for.

The grounds were neat, uncluttered, minimalist and generally understated. The Winery sits lower in the valley and is very easy to completely overlook. As I pulled up I had no expectations whatsoever. I merely wanted to taste some Russian River Pinot. The tasting room is one of the more interesting ones (read cool) I’ve seen in a while. It is and indoor/outdoor setup, welcoming you in one side and leading you to a terrace/patio and into the vineyards where your detailed tasting happens among the vineyards.

On the tasting menu were the following wines with some of my initial notes.

  • 2018 Arozza Rosé – Rose was delicate, smooth and buttery.
  • 2018 Sauvignon Blanc – Oakey, smooth, mild acid, hint of citrus, gentle overall.
  • 2015 Chardonnay – Beautiful, delicate, buttery great floral notes, complex.
  • 2016 Pinot Noir – More Burgundian style, crisp clean nose, subtle oak, subtle acid, hint of spice, delicate balance. What I was looking for.
  • 2014 Pinot Noir – More of a big California style Pinot albeit restrained. Once opened huge earth/terrior dominates the nose, beautiful, perfect balance of jammy fruit, berry, bold tannin for a Pinot especially from this region. Rich. Should lay down a little more to fully develop. I will have to revisit this.

It is difficult to do an in-depth tasting on site while tasting other wines. So I picked up a bottle each of the Pinot Noir, one of which will be tonight’s occation and will post my thoughts shortly.

The Tasting was conducted by staff with extensive knowledge on the wines and the region at large. This really helped guide the tasting and added great perspective. The tasting was occasionally punctuated by the owner Trini who’s warm lively energy I found very reassuring as he shared the history of the winery going back generations. Equally impressive was his son’s ventures into viticulture and enology. This family is truly all about the love and passion for making great wines. It was a truly special and personal experience.

Thank you Trini, Fernando and the entire Gracianna Family. I look forward to seeing you all gain.

Wine Review: 2013 La Stupenda, Barbera by Peterson

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 La Stupenda, Barbera by Peterson, Mendocino, California. Courtesy of Casemates who invited me to review tonight’s offering. I am writing this as I begin my review. My initial impressions right out of the bottle are very dark and inky for a Barbera. Barbera typically run on the lighter, ruby side of the spectrum like a classic Sangiovese or Pinot Noir. The twist-off held a very tight seal all these years and despite its journey. Making the first pour I got hit with big spice and a hint of raisin. I typically don’t care for raisin in my wines however I am pleased to confirm this rapidly dissipated. This tells me the wine is very much alive.

I was met with a medium-to-big nose, full of subtle oak, hint of berry and at least another floral note I cannot pinpoint (lavender comes to mind, not sure why), perhaps you can help me here. A hint of minerality come through after a few hours. The attack is fairly fruit forward but restrained. Up front, as with most Barbera, the body comes with noticeable spice and acidity which easily gives way once your palate adjusts after a few sips.

After about 15 minutes the body quickly becomes buttery smooth, adding the faintest hint of caramel into the mix. The finish, without doubt is a big one, starting out hot and spicy and as it opens, develops more tannic grip albeit restrained. This is by any account a big Barbera especially at 13.9% ABV. For a single VARIETAL Barbera, it is surprisingly layered, complex and balanced. A testament to the winemaker’s craft. I can appreciate its richer tone as I feel in this case it balances out the acidity typical of the varietal. Once opened up the acidity is quickly tempered by a creamy buttery expression.

This wine shows great maturity. This Barbera is well built. It commands your attention. It is aging much more gracefully than a typical Barbera. I feel like it’s time is now. It’s a somewhat different take on Barbera from a region off the beaten path that has had time and patience to fully develop. I think it presents a tremendous value. Please visit Casemates to take advantage of this deal before it’s gone. Fred and Jamie Peterson, after twirling it for a couple hours now, I like it! Estupenda!!!

Reserve: 2008 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir by Hitching Post

Tonight’s occasion: 2008 Hitching Post, Bien Nacido, Pinot Noir. Yes folks. I had to stop by the Hitching Post while exploring Santa Barbara wine country last year. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to really sit down and do this place justice. I ended up literally rushing through on my way out at the end of my visit. If you’ve never been to the Hitching Post, they have a mouth-watering assortment of Pinot Noir. Staggering. You would need an all-day visit to do it justice.

The Bien Nacido came highly recommended. This 2008 does not disappoint. Great earthy nose, smooth, buttery, well balanced body (especially for a Pinot of 14.5% ABV), a testament to the winemakers skill. It’s obvious this wine started off big and bold for a Pinot but has had time to balance out. It’s deep dark blood red color is the first indicator. I think a lot of folks such as myself take this place for granted until you open up your first bottle. This is my second and it is simply exquisite. Great job guys!

Reserve: 2015 Resolute by Iron Hub

Tonight’s occasion: 2015 Resolute by Iron Hub, Amador County, California. This wine inched ever so slightly ahead of their Esola Zinfandel. Both capping a respectable lineup of well built wines. It has a restrained nose with a suggestion of oak. If you don’t like big earthy noses, but like a big wine, you will like this one. It is somewhat fruit forward but not as much as one might expect from the region.

The body has a really good balance of acid, spice and fruit, quite impressive when you consider it has a 14.7% ABV. A testament to the winemaker’s craft. The finish is smooth with a healthy amount of tannic grip. It’s a great sipper, a high quality conversation wine. Several days ago I explored the obscure Italian varietal Aglianico. Little did I know I would encounter it this weekend. This is a refreshing, surprisingly approachable take on that grape. Well done guys!