Monthly Archives: July 2018

Borderless Wine from Harvest Ridge Winery

Straddling the border between Delaware and Maryland along the Mason-Dixon line lies Harvest Ridge Winery. Whereas the winery and a majority of the estate vineyards reside in Delaware, a significant block of estate vines are planted in the Free State. In fact, one of the original Mason-Dixon witness stone and crown markers, number 47, is located on the property. After fifteen years of home winemaking, Chuck Nunan converted his family farm to an estate vineyard by planting a series of vinifera grapes in 2011.

After the winery opened in late 2013, he expanded the original planting of Chardonnay, Viognier, Malbec, and Merlot to include both Cabernets, Chambourcin, Vidal, Barbera, and several other grape varieties. He also hired Jason Hopwood, who had experience in Sonoma and the Finger Lakes, as the head winemaker. This growth enables Harvest Ridge to provide over fifteen wines in their tasting room as well as a new cider brand Rebel Seed.

I arrived on a Friday just after noon (Friday – Sunday they open at 12) and several visitors had beaten me to the tasting room. Harvest Ridge offers three different flights of eight wines for $7 (dry, sweet, and the mixed variety). There is also a cider flight at the same price and additional samples can be purchased as well as wine and cider by the glass or bottle. Children and outside food are allowed inside and on the outside courtyard but you will need to keep your dogs leashed outside.

I chose the mixed flight in order to gain an appreciation for the winery’s many styles. For dry whites, they offer two styles of Chardonnay ($22), one unoaked, the other barrel fermented. I was more intrigued with the 2016 White Wine No. 47 ($17) – note the marker reference – that is a 90-10 blend of Vidal Blanc and Chardonnay. The wine has depth you normally don’t associate with Vidal combined with the characteristic floral and spice profiles. A nice summer-beach wine. Similarly the 2016 Red Wine No. 47 ($17) is light and refreshing.

This blend of Chambourcin, Barbera, and Landot Noir can also be served slightly chilled as there are few tannins. And as a single varietal wine, the 2016 Barbera ($25) shows excellent promise. It is, again, light bodied with subtle spice, moderate tannins, and abundant acids. Harvest Ridge offered two rosé wines with the Rosé of Chambourcin Country Bloom ($16) included in the tasting. The grapes macerate on their skins for 48 hours providing a blush like color and this clean wine is targeted more to that style with its 5% residual sugar. Also high in sugar is the 2016 Blue Hen Blue ($16) a blend of blueberries and concord grapes. Because of the berries acidity I was attracted more to this wine than the rosé as the grapey character of the concord was also restrained.

Finally, I was able to sample three dessert wines starting with the Portella ($18) made from a Muscat descendant Aromella — which was recently bred at Cornell University. The wine possesses a raison-fig profile with a strong floral and spicy aroma. The 2015 Chamfort ($22) is a Chambourcin based ruby port styled wine fortified with neutral grape spirits and exuding chewy blackberries and chocolate. Last up was the 2013 Late Harvest Vidal Blanc ($15) that reminded me of the Tokaji styled dessert wines with the strong apricot flavor combined with smoked almonds. Quite Nice.

The DelMarVa Coast’s Salted Vines Vineyard & Winery

The DelMarVa coast is not only beaches, boating, and fishing. There are a plethora of craft beverage producers in the area such as Delaware’s Salted Vines Vineyard & Winery. The establishment operated for five years on Route 54 as Fenwick Wine Cellars on Route 54. by 2015 they had outgrown that location and found a 26-acre parcel near Frankford that now houses the winery — rebranded as Salted Vines. The estate vineyard was first planted with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines and has slowly expanded with more two additional acres of grape varieties planted each year.

Salted Vines encourages families to visit as children are allowed in the tasting room and leashed dogs are allowed on the outside grounds. They also host a summer concert series on weekends with popular local bands and food trucks. We’ve already missed the lower case blues and Love Seed Mama Jump shows – but that demonstrates the caliber of the lineup.

At the tasting bar, the winery provides fifteen wines — all included in the $10 tasting fee (that includes keeping the glass). Some of these wines are hold-overs from the Fenwick Wine Cellars brand and they range from dry to semi-dry to sweet. Until their estate is completely utilized, most of the fruit is sourced from various regions particularly for the labrusca based wines of Catawba ($15), Niagara ($15), Steuben ($15), and Concord ($15).

These wines were clean and well-made despite their inherent funky and jammy characters.  However, the dry Traminette ($19) and semi-dry Riesling ($19) and Reflections ($17) were my preferences. The first two were very representative of their respective grapes whereas the later was a refreshing summer beach wine.

As for dry reds, their Chambourcin ($22) shows off quite nicely.  And if you do prefer a sweeter style, their Fredonia ($15) and Ambrosia ($18) are good choices.  Unfortunately, they do provide the dreaded wine slushies, but I guess these have a market. Besides that, this is an enjoyable stop at the Maryland and Delaware beaches.  Cheers.

Wine Review: Quilt Wines, Paskett Vineyards and de Lorimier Winery

Joe Wagner Continues His Winemaking Skills, Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa California

Joe Wagner, grandson of premiere Napa Winemaker Chuck Wagner (Caymus) who sold his own winery, Meiomi Wines to Constellation for $315 million was not exciting enough, he launched another winery. This is called Copper Cane Wines and Provisions in Napa. His brands include Elouan Pinot Noir (Oregon), Belle Glos Pinot Noir (California coastal), Beran Zinfandels (California) and others from Sonoma County. The one that has captavated me is his Quilt 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Joe’s Napa Valley Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon is a patchwork of six Napa Valley AVA’s (thus the graphics on the bottle). By blending Cabernet grapes from these six AVA’s, he like his grandfather, is provided the raw materials to make a consistent and quality wine year to year. Quilt is making hand crafted wines for the consumer.

His 2015 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon possess a dark red color in the glass.  The aromas consist of “blackberry preserves and a hint of licorice, with strawberry & vanilin”.  On the palate, one gets a mouthful of dark chocolate, molashes and brown sugar. This is not an average Napa Cabernet Sauvignon!  The finish is seamless and long lasting with perfect balance and a wonderful fruit forward that lingers. Paired with hard cheddar, Roquerford, Irish cheedar, etc., this is a stand out wine.

Currently listed at $59 per bottle. They have three club levels which will allow you discounts from 15% to 25% discount.  Still in his mid thirty’s, Joe has a bright future ahead as a winemaker!

Summertime Treat 2016 Verdelho by Paskett Vineyards and Winery, Lodi, California

Perhaps for many an unknown but delcious wine for the summer is Verdelho. Paskett Vineyards and Winery in Lodi AVA, produces a wonderful Verdelho. Paskett has a remarkable sense of history and desire to farm the land. This grape comes from Portugal, specifically the main island in the Archipelago of Madeira. This white wine is fairly obsucre in the United States producing only 3% of world wide production. Portugal is number one with 57% and Austrailia with 37%.

The 2016 Paskett Verdelho is a perfect warm weather companion with distinct guava, pineapple and red apple aromas and flavors. Paskett description includes “bursting with lemon, lime and orange blossom for a crisp refreshing wine”.  The wine is left in 100% French Oak barrels until release from grapes grown on the estate.

This is a perfect accomanyment on a warm afternoon or evening. A nice alternative to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. For such a “light colored wine” it packs a big punch! So much in fact that it won Best of Class at the Sunset International Wine Competition. Food compatiability is similar to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc and recommended pairings include salads, spicy Thai food, Asian dishes and even smoked chicken.

At $26 a bottle it is a most enjoyable alternative. It recently received 91 points from Wine Enthrusiast. A wine club members allows a discount on the wine. So the next patio gathering this summer, try the 2016 Paskett Vineyards & Winery Verdelho and surprise your guest with a delightful new wine.

A long name and a good wine: de Lorimier 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Warm Springs Ranch, Dry Creek  Valley, Sonoma, California

One of the reasons each bottle has such a “long name” is that de Lorimier Winery uses five distinct areas to produce their arsenal of wines. They are: Crazy Creek, Preston, Smith Orchard, Stone and Warm Springs. Each bottle is a vineyard designated wine. de Lorimier is located in Geyersville in the heart of Alexander Valley. With so many areas they offer a large selection of wines from each vineyard. Their wines for sale include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Primitivo, Meritage, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose Melbec, Cabernet Franc and an assortment of blends and Meritages.

This wine is hold a deep ruby color in the glass and aroma’s include dark fruit and soft violet on the nose. On the palate one can pick up cranberry, black tea and boysenberry. A lingering flavor is a combination of various woods (cedar, oak, eucalyptus) and a tart berry. This wine pairs well with gruyere cheese or a hearty spicy beef or stew.

The 2013 de Lorimeir 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Warm Springs Ranch, Dry Creek  Valley is a much desired wine. It is offered at a reasonable price of $46 as compared to some of their reserve Cabernets Sauvignon’s which fetch $110. The facility is warm and inviting with availability of special events to attend or to hold. Club membership allows for a handsome discount.

Wine Review: Runquist Winery, Tate Wines and Allegorie Wines

“R” Is For Relax and Drink Runquist Grenache, Plymouth, California

Jeff Runquist’s 2016 Grenache Silvaspoon Vineyard (Lodi) is just the ticket to relax this summer with friends on a deck with some aged hard cheese. It was not that long ago, Grenache was the most widely planted grape in the world. Today it is number five. Grenache is variable from a Rose to white to its deep red.

This Grenache is a fruit forward with a bright look in the glass. Cooled down it is a summertime pleasure. The color is a purple garnet of medium depth. The aroma is jammed pack with red fruits: raspberry, strawberry and cherry. The bouquet is fragrant with fruit and warm nuts. The impact of cherry hits ones palate and delivers a mouth full of lingering flavors.

This wine is only $24 and club members are allowed to purchase it for $20.40. The tasting room is spacious with plenty of light to enjoy the wine experience. Also on display are some intriguing art work and rack of awards which Jeff has won in numerous competitions.

Take some time, cool down a Runquist Grenache this summer with friends!

 Announcing Merlot by Tate in Their New Tasting Room, St Helena, California

Suzanne and David Tate have just opened their tasting room in St Helena. It is down an alley on the main street. Advanced reservations are required by definitely worth the effort. David Tate is a well-known international winemaker and makes exquisite wines in Napa Valley. They purchase various Cabernet Sauvignon’s and Chardonnay besides this Merlot.

The Merlot is a far cry from your grocery store Merlot! David has experience and won awards with his Merlot’s.  The 2015 Spring Street Merlot possess a deep ruby hue. The nose provides ample sweetness and aromas. Cherry or cherry tart is the overwhelming single taste on the palate.  This is a medium oak flavor and medium to medium heavy viscosity. Tate wines are hearty, yet light enough to compliment many food choices. This wine goes for $50 and considered a bargain for a world class winemaker like David Tate.

Next time in the Napa Valley, plan a trip to St Helena and make your reservations. You will be hosted by Suzanne Tate and your experience will be like no other in Napa Valley with warmth and of course great wines!

 Allegorie Wines– a True Tempranillo in Murphy’s, California

Winemaker Jonathon Phillips and Chef Jeannie Hebel have taken over a 1920’s barn in Murphy’s which serves as a tasting room and production facility. This facility is called Val Du Vino Winery. Not content to focus just on Rhone varietals, they started another brand called Allegorie with a tasting room on Main Street. Here they feature Viogneir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, a Red Blend and Tempranillo.

The Tempranillo is a classic Spanish varietal with striking bold black cherry with notes of licorice. The wine is medium to medium heavy body, but when tasting it you will want to “chew it” as it provides such a robust taste and earthy aroma.  One also gets a hint of vanilla and toasted oak mix in the long lingering balanced finish. This is one of the best tasting Tempranillo’s outside Spain in years!

Now here is the kicker – the price is $30 and club members can purchase it for $25.50. They will certainly run out of this amazing wine shortly. Plan a trip to Sierra Foothills town of Murphy’s and your palate will be thrilled with this truly rich Spanish Tempranillo.

Michael Kelly, https://californiawinesandwineries.com

Wine, Olive Oil and More with Bella Grace Vineyards

One of my favorite parts of attending events like the San Francisco Vintners Market, is that I get to learn more about wineries I’ve tasted wine from but haven’t had a chance to visit yet. Bella Grace Vineyards, located in Amador County is one of those wineries. Their vineyard and wine cave are in Plymouth and they have a separate tasting room in Sutter Creek. In addition to their wines, they also produce olive oils and vinegars, they even have a club for it!

NV Rosé Spumante
This was my favorite of all the wines I tasted from Bella Grace Vineyards. It is a blend of imported Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and Merlot (20%) from Italy. It smelled far sweeter than it tastes. There were notes of red licorice and strawberry. I’m of the opinion that sparkling wine, pairs with literally everything and this is no exception. They also offer a Prosecco and Brut wine. The Rose Spumante wine retails for $25.

2017 Bella Rosé
This Rosé had a distinctive floral nose, but the taste was much more similar to raspberries. This would pair very well with hot weather and a leek quiche. The Bella Rose wine retails for $26.

2017 Sauvignon Blanc
All the wines were good, but this wine, like the Rose Spumante was a stand out. It had a nose of minerality and kiwi but tasted perfectly citrus, with a predominantly lime flavor. This wine would we best paired with a lemon or orange chicken dish. The Sauvignon Blanc wine retails for $18. This wine is no longer on their website and may be sold out.

2015 Barbera
Although this wine had an aroma of raspberry its taste profile was all spices, especially nutmeg. This wine would work favorably with any lamb dish. The Barbera wine retails for $25. This wine is no longer on their website and may be sold out.

2014 Reserve Zinfandel
Zinfandel is one of my favorite varietals because of the depth of its flavor. I had the opportunity to taste this wine at a Zinfandel Advocates and Producers tasting and it was a delight to taste it again. The nose reminded me of sarsaparilla, but the taste was reminiscent of cranberries. The Reserve Zinfandel wine retails for $49.

These wines were all enjoyable and well-priced for their quality. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to go to Amador soon and visit their winery in person soon.

A Taste from Pierce Ranch Vineyards

At the San Francisco Vintners Market, I had the pleasure of drinking several wines from quite a few different wineries. One of those wineries was Pierce Ranch Vineyards, which is family owned and based in Monterey, California. I’ve had their wines before, and passed their tasting room many times, but I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting them. They focus on Spanish and Portuguese varietals and their tasting room is near Cannery Row. Next time I’m in Monterey I’ll make sure to stop by for a tasting. Below you will find my thoughts on their 2016 Albariño, 2015 Graciano, 2015 Touriga, and the 2015 Petite Sirah.

2016 Albariño

Albariño, is a varietal that does not get enough attention. It is incredibly food friendly and pairs with a wide variety of foods. This wine possessed both a nose and a taste of stone fruit, that was predominately peach. I think this Albariño would be best paired with poached cod or another white fish.  Most of Pierce Ranch Vineyards wines are sold direct to consumer, but you can occasionally find them online or in local wine shops. This wine retails for $18.

2015 Graciano
Presented in a Rioja style, they aim to keep this wine light and dry, to make it more versatile with food. Its nose reminded me of red cherries and its taste was reminiscent of white pepper. I’d be inclined to pair this with a smoked turkey leg. This wine retails for $28. They also have a 2016 Graciano Rosé wine that retails for $22.

2015 Touriga
Their Touriga is a blend of 10% Touriga Francesa and 90% Nacional. Although Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional are different varietals, they are not differentiated in the United States. The nose was heavy on black pepper. It tasted a little green, and I’d recommend cellaring this wine a little longer before consuming it. I think it would pair best with roasted peppers and lamb. This wine retails for $28.

2015 Petite Sirah (Lot 2)
This Petite Sirah had a nose of chocolate with a jammy finish on the palate. They also have a Petite Sirah from Lot 1, however it was not being poured the day I tasted. I’d want to pair this with carnitas or pulled pork. This wine retails for $38.

All of these wines were delightful and well-priced. I really appreciate that Pierce Ranch Vineyard’s head wine maker is a women, Sarah Harris. Next time I’m in Monterey, I’m going to make it a priority to visit their tasting room near Cannery Row. If you are interested in learning more, they have a variety of Wine Club options with both shipping and pick up options.

David Hill Vineyards: Old Vines, Beautiful Wines

David Hill Vineyards & Winery is located along a few miles of twisty gravel road near the extreme northern edge of the Willamette Valley, just outside Hillsboro. Don’t let the crunch of gravel and the rising plume of rock dust put you off: at the end of the trail waits a beautifully restored 1883 farmhouse, surrounded by 40 acres of grape vines dating back to the 1960s, when founder Charles Coury was among the first wave of winemakers discovering Oregon’s climate and terroirs.

Visitors to the tasting room have a choice of the Estate Tasting ($10), which includes five wines produced from estate-grown vines, or the Old Vines Tasting ($14), which offers seven wines from some of the oldest vines on the property, including Gewurztraminer ($20, also available on the Estate tasting) made from vines planted in 1965, and now covered with moss as a sign of their age.That wine is produced in a completely dry style, more like an Italian Gewurztraminer than the more typical German (or Californian) style. It’s tart and very refreshing, but with the varietal’s classic spicy notes on the palate. The creamy aroma carries hints of tropical fruit, with lychee, papaya, and banana candy on the nose leading to a puckery grapefruit finish on the palate. We can’t wait to pair this with maultaschen, a Bavarian dish that combines filled pasta with sauerkraut and layers of melted Gruyere.

The Estate tasting is almost a misnomer, as the five wines highlight the older vines as well; in addition to the Gewurztraminer, this flight offers their 2017 Pinot Gris and 2016 Chardonnay ($20 each). The ‘16 Estate Chardonnay is 100% fermented in stainless steel, aiming for a Chablis-style wine; the aroma of tart green apples and Bartlett pears makes this almost a champagne without bubbles. Crisp vegetal flavors combine with the tart fruit essences to make this an ideal pairing with oysters. The ‘17 Pinot Gris offers green olive aromas over pear and apricot, with a very slight bitterness that makes this an especially refreshing white.

Reds on the Estate flight include two Pinot Noirs, one each from the 2014 and 2015 vintages ($24 each), which make an interesting comparison of two recent vintages. The ‘14 comes across with more acidity and minerality, delivering spice and a hint of forest leaves, cedar, and blood orange, with robust acidity (great for pairing with salmon, for example, or pork roast) but very soft tannins. The ‘15 presents as a creamier wine, with scents of earth in the nose, and very delicate on the palate. Compared to the ‘14 it showed more earth and very little fruit, almost reminiscent of the ‘11 and ‘12 vintages in structure, but softer and more approachable. The ‘15 finished with hints of anise, black pepper, and allspice.

The Old Vines tasting flight ($14 for 7 wines) starts out with a 2017 Estate Rose of Pinot Noir ($20). Very pale pink color, more cotton candy than strawberry, precedes the aromas of persimmon and pomengranate on the nose of this totally dry, Provencal-style rose. We wanted to serve it alongside cold prawns, butter clam ceviche, or any cold shellfish.

This flight then proceeded to David Hill’s 2015 Estate Reserve Chardonnay ($24), which immediately signaled its fermentation in French oak with a glorious aroma of buttered toast. The palate opens up to hints of cured meat, followed by ripe fruit and butter. We wanted to serve this with a more fully-flavored white fish; opinions ranged from simple broiled lobster with drawn butter, to grilled whole sea scallops with their roe. It’s even a big enough Chardonnay to stand up to plain baked Chinook or King salmon (though we’d save their Pinot Noir for the more fully-flavored sockeye from the Keta or Copper Rivers).

The 2016 Estate Riesling ($20) is described as medium-dry, and that’s a good assessment. We found an aroma of jasmine on the nose, with ripe apples on the palate, distinct from the tart apples of some of the other whites. It did present good acidity along with the approximately 1% residual sugar, suggesting something like crab Benedict where the sugar would pair nicely with the sweeter seafood and the acidity would balance the buttery, egg-yolk-rich Hollandaise.

Red wine lovers who choose the Old Vines flight get to sample the 2015 Estate Pinot Noir, described previously, but they can then compare it with the 2015 Estate Winemaker’s Cuvee ($50), representing barrel selections from the same vintage. We found a wonderful aroma of toast from the French oak barrels, with hints of spice cake and savory elements; it’s a classic Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from the lighter end of the spectrum, soft and elegant but with good acidity and structure.

The final red from the Old Vines tasting is their 2015 Tempranillo ($30), sourced from the Quail Run vineyards in the Rogue Valley. This wine spent two years in American oak, with the result giving an aroma of black fruit, leather, chocolate, cloves, and allspice. In the mouth, these blossom to include black pepper, stone, and black figs. We’d pair this with a good charcuterie plate, especially with Spanish chorizo, jamon iberico, and of course a salty, robust Manchego cheese.

The Friends of David Hill Wine Club offers benefits at two levels: the Cellar Sampler (2 bottles quarterly) or Cellar Builder (6 bottles quarterly). Either level includes complimentary tastings for up to four people, discounts on wine purchases (15% for Sampler, 20% for Builder) and for onsite merchandise, and savings on glass pours in the tasting room. Combined with the stellar views and lovely grounds, David Hill Vineyards & Winery represents an attractive destination for summer picnics in a quiet, idyllic setting for those looking to expand their winery haunts beyond the usual southern Willamette Valley wineries.

David Hill Vineyards & Winery

46350 David Hill Road

Forest Grove, OR 97116

Hours: 11 AM – 5 PM daily except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day

https://www.davidhillwinery.com

Apolloni Vineyards: A Taste of Tuscany in the Northwest Woods

We first encountered Apolloni at an event called “Italy in the Valley,” which celebrates producers of Italian-varietal wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, so we expected to find Sangiovese and Nebbiolo on the wine list. But it was a beautiful surprise to turn off Oregon’s busy highway 6 at the northern edge of the Willamette Valley and find an ochre-colored, Tuscan-styled winery set amid the Oregon maples and Douglas firs, with two full-size bocce courts just athwart the entrance.

The estate vineyards face south, with enough eastern exposure that the morning sun warms the vineyards and dries any evening mist from the vines, an important factor in promoting healthy plants. Plantings on the property include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Viognier, with most of their Italian varietals sourced from AVAs in eastern Washington state. And in the shade of some of those glorious Oregon maples, which could almost be stand-ins for the ever-present plane trees of European vineyards, there’s a lovely patio with a water feature made from wine barrels — a restful spot for us to sip a couple of glasses of their wine while enjoying a sunny midsummer Saturday.

On entering the tasting room, visitors can choose between two flight options (either waived with a $50 purchase, and complimentary to Cellar Club members). The basic wine flight tasting, at $10 per person, offers two whites — currently the 2016 Pinot Blanc and 2016 Estate Chardonnay — plus a 2017 Rose of Pinot Noir and a 2012 Estate Pinot Noir. Their Rose was noteworthy for blending Pinot Noir with Viognier, lending strawberry and watermelon notes to a rose in line with southern French production.

In addition, two red blends in the Italian mode are included: the non-vintage Fiasco Vino Rosso, named after the straw-covered bottles familiar from Italian wines of yore, meant to be a quaffing wine for hearty food. Their Soleggio blend (from the Italian word for sunshine; $29/$24.65 club) receives a vintage designation and varietal percentages; we tasted the 2013, with a blend of Sangiovese (59%), Cabernet Sauvignon (24%), and Merlot (17%) that couldn’t help but remind us of the Bordeaux varietals planted in some parts of Tuscany. In the glass, the Soleggio hints at the cherry-like character of some Sangiovese, but with complexity from the Washington-grown Cabernet and Merlot.

Their Premium Wine Flight ($15 per person) starts off with a 2015 Blanc de Noir ($18/$15.30 club), a white wine made from Dijon 115 clone Pinot Noir extracted with no skin contact and fermented in stainless steel. It’s reminiscent of a blanc de noir sparkling wine, unsurprisingly; in aroma and flavor, it’s crisp, with mineral and herbal components, and a meaty, mouth-filling character that suggested persimmons.

Their 2015 L Chardonnay (named in honor of Laurine Apolloni; $26/$22.10 club) shows time spent in neutral French oak, offering toast and butter on the nose. In the glass it shows classic Chardonnay flavor and very mild tannins, refreshing and crisp. Their 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir ($50/$42.50 club) included in this flight represents select barrels from the vintage, and shows up as a classically light Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, smoky and delicate but with good structure and an herbaceous nose, which the tasting room staff suggested might come from the Wadenswil clone prominent in this Pinot.

Three Washington-sourced wines, all from the 2011 vintage, round out this tasting; the Sangiovese ($60/$51 club) hails from the Ciel du Cheval vineyard, and displays classic Sangiovese strength, with moderate tannins. The Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($35/$29.75 club) displayed that rich, meaty aroma that the French call “animal,” opening to classic Cabernet flavors of dark cherry, tobacco and anise. Scrupulously dry in spite of the strong fruit component, this suggested pairing with a pepper steak.

Their Nebbiolo ($41/$34.85 club), from the Klipsun vineyard in the highly esteemed Red Mountain AVA, delivered dark plum, cloves, and blackcurrant pastilles.

We sipped a glass of their rose and Soleggio, first near the water feature and then while playing a few rounds of bocce. It’s a charming, idyllic setting, and we left refreshed.

Apolloni Vineyards

14135 NW Timmerman Road

Forest Grove, OR 97116

Hours: 11 AM – 5 PM daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

http://apolloni.com

 

Comstock Winery – One Family’s Vision to Grow and Source the Best Sonoma Has to Offer

Comstock Winery is a family affair that was inspired by the fundamental passion to grow and source the best Sonoma County has to offer and transform grapes into wines that are as delicious as they are memorable.  It truly is a family affair.  Bob and Sandy Comstock began growing grapes in Dry Creek Valley in 2002 and over time decided they wanted to start a winery, which they acquired in 2012, and opened in 2015.

Their daughter, Kelly Comstock Ferris, who was our host and is the General Manager, told us about the 17-acre vineyard that yields Zinfandel (some of their Zinfandel vines are 115 years old), Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay.  Winemaker Chris Russi took us through the winery and into the vineyards where I may have gotten a little too zealous about checking out the soil when he mentioned dry farming.  One hose off later and we were back on the tour.  Chris talked about helping to build the winery from the ground up as “a winemaker’s dream.”

How Is the Wine

This was a favorite of our group during the trip and I personally shipped home a case.   Since it’s been about two years since I’ve personally visited, I wanted to list what is currently available. Many of these wines weren’t around when we tasted, so it’s time for a follow up visit.  My standouts were the Viognier (notes of orange blossom, stone fruit and white flowers), the Sauvignon Blanc (tropical fruit, grapefruit, citrus and a nice minerality) and the Zinfandel (spice, deep berry, earth).

  • 2016 Viognier, Russian River Valley (wine club exclusive)
  • 2014 Zinfandel, Rockpile (wine club exclusive)
  • 2017 Rose, Sonoma County (new release, wine club exclusive)
  • 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley
  • 2015 Merlot, Dry Creek Valley (first vintage)
  • 2014 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
  • 2014 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
  • 2013 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley
  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

 Atmosphere:

The winery truly is a place where the Comstock’s want wine lovers to gather.  From the pizza ovens on the patio to the annual Easter egg hunt to bocce ball on the lawn, it is a place that encourages gathering over a great glass (or two or…) of wine (and I tried and took home many of these wines).  They served us an amazing lunch and we got to live the motto — “We are All Comstock Wines.”

Pricing and Availability

The wines range from $28 to $65 and several are wine club exclusives.

Daily Tasting

Each Tasting Flight includes a selection of five current release wines.  Available Daily: 10:30a-4:30p. Classic Flight: $20 per guest | Red Flight: $20 per guest (Complimentary with wine purchase).

Terrace Tasting

The Terrace overlooks Comstock’s Estate Merlot Vineyards.  Enjoy a private tasting of six wines.  Available Daily: 11am, 1pm, 3pm. $35 per guest/$20 per Wine Club Member.  Add a Charcuterie Plate to any tasting for $30.

Wine & Cheese Pairing

This private, guided tasting includes a selection of four of the region’s best artisan cheeses, chosen to compliment the flavors of the wines.  Available Daily: 11am, 1pm, 3pm. $45 per guest/$25 per Wine Club Member.

Brunch White Flight

Enjoy a flight of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, paired perfectly with seasonal brunch bites.  Available by appointment. $50 per guest/ $45 Wine Club Members. Limited to 20 guests.

Wine & Pizza Pairing

Enjoy an afternoon of great wines, grand food and good games!  Experience a unique flight of Comstock Wines paired perfectly with pizzas prepared in their Mugnaini Woodfired Oven.  Then get your game on and enjoy their regulation size Bocce Court. Available Each Saturday (Beginning March 3): 12pm & 2pm, or by appointment. $50 per guest / $40 Wine Club Members.

Blending Seminar

Join veteran winemaker, Chris Russi, or one of their Wine Educators and learn what it takes to make the perfect blend.   This is a unique opportunity for wine lovers of all levels to enjoy a one-of-a-kind tasting experience.  Tour Comstock Wine’s state of the art facility, and then take your shot at becoming winemaker for a day as you assemble your own blend.  Available by appointment. $75 per person/$60 for Wine Club Members.

Winery Tour and Taste

Learn about Comstock’s history, philosophy and winemaking techniques, along with their commitment to sustainable farming on a tour of their winemaking facility, located on Comstock’s seventeen-acre estate in the bucolic Dry Creek Valley.  Explore the estate vineyards and learn about vineyard practices, winemaking techniques and Comstock’s commitment to excellence in winemaking.  Available: By Appointment.  $45 per guest / $25 Wine Club Members. Reservations required.

Winemaker’s Table

Join Comstock’s winemaker and hospitality team members at the open table for a casual tastings and an organic experience and discussion about wine.  Taste 5 wines along with charcuterie bites.  Available by appointment. $50 per guest / $45 Wine Club Members.

Picnic with Comstock Wines

Relax and savor the wine country!  Enjoy a flight of Comstock Wines and a picnic basket, which includes salami, cheese, crackers, olives, chocolates, dried fruit and nuts (vegetarian options available as well). Linens, stemware, cutting board and knife are also provided.

1290 Dry Creek Road

Healdsburg, CA 95448

(707) 723-3011

Hours:

Open Daily: 10:30am -4:30pm

 

Wine Clubs:

MICRO Club (Pre-Selected)

10% Discount on Wine Club Shipments (3 Bottles Per Shipment / 12 Bottles Per Year) and Additional Wine Orders.

MESO Club

15% Discount on Wine Club Shipments (6 Bottles Per Shipment / 24 Bottles Per Year) and Additional Wine Orders.

MACRO Club

20% Discount on Wine Club Shipments (12 Bottles Per Shipment / 48 Bottles Per Year) and Additional Wine Orders.

The Superb Wines of Evening Land Vineyards

Winemakers Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr are pseudo celebrities (in my eyes). From hearing their interviews with Levi Dalton on the “I’ll Drink to That” podcast, to reading about them in every wine rag, these guys are everywhere. I first heard of them when Sashi gave the “viticulture” talk to my WSET Diploma class in 2015. I was instantly captivated with his philosophies when it came to grape growing and winemaking. He’s a bit of a purist and (in my opinion) has a “zero f*cks given” approach. He’s certainly not afraid to voice his opinions and I found him to be honest, refreshing, and not ego driven, as some in this industry can be.

Evening Land fruit comes from Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. It was planted in the early 1980s.  The portfolio here is very tight. They only produce Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a tad of Gamay Noir. The wines are elevated and for the sophisticated palate. Very understated and subtle. Old-world in style. For quality wines in the Willamette, I highly recommend a visit to Evening Land Vineyards.

2014 Pinot Noir, Seven Springs Vineyard $45
Pepper, earth, and muted red fruit on the nose. This wine has a pungency (a good one) with notes of game and mushroom. On the palate this wine is spicy and leather-y. It bounces on my tongue a bit. This was my favorite of the Pinot Noir selections we tasted. You’ve got to work harder for it. It doesn’t rest on its laurels. My kind of wine.

2014 Pinot Noir, Seven Springs Vineyard, La Source $75
These vines are at a higher altitude than the others and are more stressed as the soil is less fertile and rocky. 25% whole clusters included.  A beautiful wine with red fruit (cherry), pungent spice (black pepper), baking spice (cinnamon), and an earthy forest floor note.

2015 Gamay Noir, Seven Springs Vineyard $35 
This is a special wine. They only do a 600 annual case production. In fact, only 7 producers in the Willamette Valley even grow Gamay. Fun fact: part of the Gamay vineyard was planted in 1983, which makes them the oldest Gamay vines in the US. Whole cluster carbonic in concrete.
This wines has notes of red fruit (cherry, cranberry), pepper, and the requisite bubblegum note from the carbonic maceration. Raj is showcasing this wine because it’s unique and fun. The industry buys it up. Exhibit A: I bought a bottle.

2014 Chardonnay, Seven Springs Vineyard $45
Wine Deets (aka nerd talk): Aging in 30% new oak, and then stainless steel tanks to rest. Organic/biodynamic farming and wild/native yeasts used. This wine goes through full malo (though spontaneous). No sulfur is used at press, just some at bottling. All their Chardonnay’s are made in a reductive style (in an environment that lacks oxygen). The first exposure of oxygen to this wine is when the bottle is opened. I’d call this a low intervention wine.
My Notes: This wine is delightful. Meyer lemon and a doughiness on the note. A pleasing, creamy palate. But not gratuitously creamy.

2014 Chardonnay, Seven Springs Vineyard, La Source $75
This wine has everything you’d want in a Chardonnay. Biscuit, dough, and yeast on the nose, with green fruit (green apple and pear) on the palate. Also a distinct flint/matchstick flavor characteristic, reminding me of a Chablis.

2014 Chardonnay, Seven Springs Vineyard, Summum $100
Wine Deets: The soils in this vineyard are the least fertile of the bunch. Major vine stress here. 100% new oak. Yeasty notes on the nose with a round, full, and creamy body. A great spice character as well.

The wines of Evening Land Vineyards are sure things. If you can get your hand on a bottle, it will be a treat. And if you can make it up to the Willamette, I highly recommend a visit to Evening Land Vineyards. You can taste in the “no-frills” tasting room in Dundee, or visit the vineyard in Salem.