NV Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut

Price: $36.99 @ Friend/Gift imported by Clicquot Inc.

What They Said:

Per wine.com “One of the world’s favorite Champagnes. Rich, nutty, and complex non-vintage Brut.  From one of the most prestigious Champagne houses, this Brut is the gold standard for non-vintage Champagne year in and year out. Deliciously rich on the nose and palate, with almond croissant and suggestions of Calvados in the aroma and flavor. A fuller-bodied style, creamy and round, with a long, lingering nutty finish. The best Champagne in a recent tasting. Simply superb!”

What I Think:

That same friend that was kind enough to invite us over for fresh tuna also sent us home with what must have been at least a 5lb piece for our continued enjoyment. How could you say no? From there we picked a few lucky friends to help us work through the cut. The couple that had joined us had bought this champagne for us when our son was born. As it was still chilling it seemed like as good of a time as any. I am not much of a champagne guy so you’re not going to get tasting notes from me. What I will tell you is that I want a bottle of this in my house at all times because if I am going to celebrate this is how you do it.

Rating: Wow!

2004 Sausal Century Vine Zinfandel

Price: $30.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “The Century Vines Zinfandel is made from estate-grown Zinfandel vines planted along Sausal Creek prior to 1877. These vines are still producing juice Sausal considers as having the truest varietal characteristics of any they have sampled.

The 2004 vintage’s dark, ruby color is soon followed by a rich, full nose of chocolate and cherry aromas with a subtle yet distinct vanilla spice. The full flavor of the wine comes out as soon as it hits the palate; candied cherry and soft hints of spice create a full mouthfeel. Well structured tannins lend themselves to a long finish, contributing greater depth to an already full-flavored, full-bodied wine.

The 2004 Century Vines Zinfandel is definitely great now, but with a few more years in the bottle will offer an even greater reward. Whether now or later, pair this wine with a juicy steak, wild game, or marinated pork tenderloin.”

What I Think:

First and foremost, in the spirit of full disclosure, as mentioned in a previous post, I am a member of the wine club at Sausal. I enjoy all their wines due to their reasonable price to quality ratio. but especially the Zinfandels for which they have built their reputation on. They have four different bottlings. This is the crème de la crème. And is followed by the Family Reserve ($24), Private Reserve ($18) and down to the Cellar Cats ($12). I think all are made from estate fruit with the main difference being the age of the vines from which the grapes for each bottle are harvested.

This was the first time I had this offering outside of the tasting room and boy was it a learning experience. Given that I have had wine from a 130 year old vines about zero times in my life I wasn’t exactly sure how much my expectations should change from that of a typical high class Zinfandel offering, The steaks were marinating on the table, so it seemed like a prime opportunity to find out. I pulled the cork out of this one and was greeted with loads of cherry and plums on the nose, with a mint/methyl aroma lingering in the back ground. In the mouth it has excellent structure as the cherries were again out in force. As the mid-palate began to fade this wine teased you as if some spice were going to appear but nothing but the lightest of tannins were perceptible as the fruit lasted to the end. You could certainly lend credence to the age of the vines. This was a polished, well rounded and perfectly integrated bottle. That said it was not your typical Zinfandel. In a word, it was mellow. The boldness you may have expected on opening this bottle never appeared. Given the high quality of this offering I must credit that affect to the age of the vines. Hopefully my one year old will start to mellow a little earlier!

We tried this one along side the Beringer Clear Lake Zinfandel which gave me some context, but next time I want to do it with the basic Sausal Zin, Cellar Cats, offering. This should offer the best insight. Given that I have another bottle of this one I will get me chance. That said I am going to let it lie for a year or two but given how polished this is I can’t see what there is to be gained by waiting but I’ll defer to the ones that know better for the time being. Maybe later I’ll try to pass judgment. Given that you are unlikely to track down this bottle I would recommend trying a wine that comes from old vines. It is an eye opening experience.

Rating: Wow!

2004 Navarro Mendocino Pinot Noir

Price: $14.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “This declassified wine from a great vintage is actually better than pricier Pinots from more difficult years. It may be labeled Mendocino but it tastes and smells like Anderson Valley Pinot. Whiffs of ripe cherry, lavender and cedar followed by a crisp finish will make you think you are drinking a much more expensive bottle. Because of the continuing rise of Pinot prices we have less to sell this year than last and probably even less next vintage. Don’t wait too long! Moderately priced Pinots are getting as rare as family-owned farms. Gold Medal winner”

What I Think:

I opened this wine after having a bit of a let down when trying the 2005 bottling of the same wine. Given that I had a half glass of that left and knowing that I bought a case of this wine I found myself suddenly worrying about a case of buyer’s remorse. With the opportunity to alleviate that concern in the name of a vertical taste comparison I headed straight downstairs, grabbed a bottle

Given my experience with the last two bottles of Navarro I opened this one 7 hours before we ate to give it ample breathing time. Immediately on opening these two you could easily identify differences between the two. The 2004 was much richer, more supple with darker fruits forward. There were boysenberries that lasted well through the mid-palate and it was a very well integrated effort. Buyers remorse is now in the rear view mirror.

So this brings the questions. Could one year really have made that much of a difference? As Navarro publishes the specs for their wines I checked the two and found not much difference but when reviewing the winery notes on the bottlings I think I found the clue. Specifically on the 2004 which refers to it as a “declassified wine labeled Mendocino but it tastes and smells like Anderson Valley Pinot” or so I thought until I saw the ’05 mentioned this “89% of this wine was grown right here in the Anderson Valley.” Oh well perhaps it is personal preference….

By the way the winery called this one “Family Farmed”. This one certainly brings the “Wow!” factor out for me. Glad to have some more around.

Rating: Wow!

2005 Rosenblum “Heritage Clone” San Francisco Bay Petite Sirah

Price: $14.40 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “The vineyards are located at the foot of Mt. Diablo at the edge of San Francisco Bay. This wine exhibits a great jet black color with aromatics and flavors of ripe blackberries, plums, chocolate, black pepper, violets and spice. This is the perfect wine to pair with hearty fare such as barbecue smoked prime rib, leg of lamb with thyme or grilled sausages. Drink now or cellar for 3-10 years.”

What I Think:

Before we get too far on this one, especially considering my recent comments in regards to Rosenblum, I want to quickly disclose that I have nearly three cases of the 2004 of this wine in my cellar, which accounts for roughly a third of the total quantity. By the way, I recently pulled a few out so maybe you will be seeing that write up soon. I’ll save my big spiel on what attracted me to this wine initially for then.

Now that I have highlighted my bias, let’s get on to this wine. As my wife was making me a nice steak dinner for Father’s Day this seemed like a good bottle to grab.  After popping the cork and pouring it in the glass the first thing you immediately notice is the color, actually I’m not sure that is it. I actually think that you notice the density, or perhaps viscosity. I am not even sure what it means as I say it but this wine seems thick. On the nose you get loads of blackberries with darker things that I have difficulty, with cheating from above maybe it was the chocolate, identifying lingering in the background. On the tongue you are immediately hit with a burst of dark fruit that slightly sours to plums before again rounding out in the mid-palate and giving way to a combination of smoke, spice and vanilla. This trio, along with a bit of tannins, makes for a long, smooth (and again) dark (or thick) finish. At this price point not sure you can hope for much more

My initial reaction was that I should have grabbed a case at the tasting when they were offering 25% off. The winery listed this at $18.00, even with 25% off, I would have saved $4.50 a bottle, the price would have been $13.50. Given that K&L has it for $13.95 I am not as disappointed as I thought I may have been.

I feel as if my wine budget is pretty close to tapped based on recent spending but I think I will dig a little deeper, initially for at least a few more bottles. I need to try this side by side with the ’04 to see if it is as good as the previous vintage. Ideally the results there would leave me wanting more and I could start a nice library of these bottles as they seem to age for some time. Try a bottle of the rich, layered, luscious wine if you have a chance. And if you do let me know your thoughts because I think this is something special. Especially at this price point!

Rating: Wow!

2004 Sausal Old Vine Family Zinfandel

Price: $18.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “The youngest of our Old Vine Zins from vines 50 to 60 years old, this wine distinguishes itself with aromas of blackberry, cherry and nutmeg. With fruit forward flavors that pair nicely with creamy cheese pastas.”

What I Think:

Talk about starting behind the 8 ball. We opened this one the same night we opened the Ridge. In hindsight it would have been more intelligent to base line that wine (and later this one too) against a more moderately priced Zinfandel, say the old faithful Cline from TJ’s. That being said this was a very good wine, it certainly came into its own towards the end of the bottle. It was very full bodied with deep, dark fruit and well integrated tannins. The structure was round and polished in the mouth. Had I been more intelligent I would have saved myself a glass or more to taste sans the Ridge. Don’t have many specifics for you but this was a very good, not spectacular or remarkable in comparison. In the interest of full disclosure I am a member of the Wine Club at Sausal . They are known for their old vine Zinfandels and find me as a fan due to their reasonable pricing. This is the second to last tier on their later. The make a low cost, Cellar Cats ($12), followed by this one before the Family Reserve ($24) and the Ancient Vines ($30). I have enjoyed all of this and it is a great place to taste if you find yourself in Sonoma. On an interesting side note, I wasn’t aware that this wine was available retail until I randomly saw it on the shelf at the Bell Market near my house on the 24th Street. I would prefer not to rate this based on the lack of attention I paid to it, forced to I say, Wow! Why did I open it again! Disappointed in myself there.

Rating: Wow!

2003 Holbrook Santa Barbara Syrah

Price: $12.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Cory Holbrook, former winemaker and proprietor of Bridlewood Winery, makes this intense, richly fruited syrah. Full of freshly picked boyenberry, slathered in vanilla-y oak and spiced lightly with just the slighest pinch of lavender this is a wine for any fan of domestic or Australian Syrah. (Bryan Brick, K&L) 90 points

“Smart Buy” in Wine Spectator: “A forward, ripe and fleshy style, compelling for its supple mix of wild berry, boysenberry and blackberry fruit and pretty toasty oak shadings. Drink now through 2011.” (3/31/07)”

What I Think:

So K&L convinced me to buy this one when they highlighted it in their monthly news letter. I had never heard of the winemaker nor the winery mentioned so what was it that drew me to this one? Two things, I always want to try (and further more) to like wines from the Central Coast and two, I really want to like Syrah. Hmm, looks like it is pretty easy to catch my eye. So we cracked open the screwtop on this one and were hit by loads of light fruit on the nose with some woody overtones adding some spice and tannins to the bouquet. In the mouth it showed a nice, polished round structure balancing the fruit and tannins of the barrel nicely and lingering on the tongue through the finish. Finished with it that night we twisted the screwcap back on and let it sit for a few days. Wow! By day three this showed great layers of complexity! I was amazed by how a good wine had become so much more. Does it need to aged? Or does it just be open for a while? For the next three days I had small sips of this lamenting the day when they would come to an end…I even shared the last sip with a friend who likes to spend money on his wines and he was a bit surprised as he does not tend to care for syrah. Sadly that night the bottle ended.

I would love to compare this to the Columbia Crest Syrah they had at TJ’s a while back for $6.99 that I enjoyed so much. I am pretty sure this would blow it out of the water but it is always nice to have it side by side with something you consider your base line. Wish there was a way you could easily save taste of these wines so I could pull it out of the cabinet and have them side by side now….

Not sure if I will really buy this one as it is at a tricky price point for me but if the stars align I certainly wouldn’t mind finding it in the rack again…

Rating: Wow!

2005 Rosenblum Richard Sauret Vineyard Zinfandel

Price: $25.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “This is a rich and exotic fruit-packed Zinfandel. A bouquet of ripe black currant and blackberry with creamy ripe cherry essences is followed by flavors of currant and vanilla with hints of briary spice and cracked black pepper. We expect it to age gracefully for 5-7 years, but the opportunity to enjoy it in its youth shouldn’t be missed. Pair it with steak Diane in chive sauce, or a chicken liver pilaf with cherry tomatoes and mushrooms.”

What I Think:

The final blend includes 75 percent Zinfandel and 25 percent Petite Sirah. Not sure that is significant here but it does remind me of my love for field blends but we can cover that some other time. Received this one as part of my most recent wine club shipment. This starts with loads of dark fruit on the nose seemingly fading to blueberries, a real nice bouquet. Makes you look forward to your first sip. On the mouth it is full and rich and packed with fruit flavors that last before slowly fading and letting a brambly, spicy and peppering finish linger. This bottle was worthy of drinking now but it seems that with as much as it had in the bottle now it would be best served with some time to meld it all together. I would recommend laying this one down for at least 4 years to get to the wineries period of aging gracefully.

Rating: Wow!

2005 Groth Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Price: $13.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “All of the Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon was whole cluster pressed. Whole cluster pressing gives us juice of incredibly high fruitiness and softness. 30% of the blend is fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks; this aging process allows the juice to retain its fruitiness, flavors and aromas. The remaining 70% of the juice was moved to small oak barrels where it was put through a long, cool fermentation. Within two weeks, the wine completed fermentation and were allowed to age “sur lie” for a total of five months in the small oak barrels. This fermentation and aging program adds rich complexity to the aromas and flavors.”

What I Think:

We had some friends bring this over for dinner the other night so I wasn’t able to take as good of notes as I liked. This was the one of two bottles they brought over and it was the first to be opened. I had long wanted to try the Groth Sauvignon Blanc but had yet to have a bottle make it to the house so I was certainly happy to see it. This wine is very fresh and dry in the mouth, quite refreshing. The nose and palate are zesting with mainly lemon and perhaps a trace of apples coming to the front. I wasn’t even able to identify the semillon until after I checked my tasting notes. The winery said this vintage is a “keeper”. If you want to spend some money on a bottle of sauvignon blanc, especially from the US, I couldn’t think of another one to get!

Rating: Wow!

2004 Navarro Gewurztraminer Estate Bottled Dry

Price: $14.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Exceptional. Perfect floral, spice and rose petal/gardenia aroma. Drier than most prior vintages, a classic. Do not miss. Winery only. Gold Medal Winner. – Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences, July 21, 2005.

Wine of the Week. An off dry, showy, spicy gewürztraminer. Has a good concentration of peach and citrus fruit. Aroma of rose petal. A lively, refreshing finish. Great pick for Thanksgiving dinner. – Santa Rosa Press Democrat, November 9, 2005.

What I Think:

This is a bottle that I always look forward to opening. Navarro makes their gewurzt in the Alsacian style so it is not of sweet variety that you typically find when grabbing a local bottling of this grape. It has a very nice boquet of flowers that I can’t distinguish but you can recognize the mineral undertones even in the nose. We typically pair this with a spicy dish, something Indian or Thai and it is wonderful, though given its dryness it has far more versatility than your typical Gewurzt. Keep your eye open for this bottle in the local San Francisco ethnic restaurants I have seen it quite a bit. If you find it order without hesitation and enjoy!

Rating: Wow!

2006 Rosenblum Kathy’s Cuvee Viognier

Price: $18.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “The Viognier grape produces a wine that is both exotic and seductive. The grape originates from the tiny and very steep hillside appellation of Condrieu in the Northern Rhône Valley of France.

This Viognier possesses beautiful aromas of apricots and peaches gently touched by vanilla and cinnamon. A palate loaded with honeyed apricots, rich vanillas, subtle hints of tropical fruit and just a touch of toasted oak complete this elegant wine.

This wine is perfect as an aperitif; or will accompany grilled swordfish or frogs legs in cream sauce.”

What I Think:

Got this as part of my last wine club shipment and was looking forward to opening it up. Being recently back from Australia I was certainly impressed by what a little bit of this added to Shiraz was able to produce and this sure didn’t disappoint. The texture was thick in the mouth and it gave you the idea that it wanted to be sweet but wasn’t. An excellent wine. Seems like it is difficult to find these in a reasonable price range which makes it harder to gauge on a value basis but I sure would love to have another bottle of this one.

Rating: Wow!