Hungry Hollow Wines

Hungry Hollow WinesAs you might have read here Hungry Hollow is the latest label from one of my long standing favorites; Navarro Vineyards (reviews). As the story goes this is an old railway that used to run lumber from the town of Navarro to be loaded on ships bound for San Francisco. The most eastern end of that track resided in Hungry Hollow where the “wine flowed freely in boarding houses and dance halls”. Previously sold off in bulk Navarro (thankfully) decided to recognize the state of the economy and introduce a new line of “local wines at prices every thrifty and hard-working man or woman can afford.” I applaud them for doing so. The initial release consists of a Riesling, Gewurztraminer and a Syrah. Best of all those interested in trying it can get a sample pack of all three for $30 with one cent shipping which I strongly recommend you do. But first some thoughts on the wines…

  • 2010 Hungry Hollow Riesling ($10) – From Navarro’s fifteen year old Campsite vineyard this one is made from three clones, each barreled separately, spanning three different countries of origin. Juicy and rich on the palate with loads of green apples and a moderate acidity that keeps it crisp throughout. A dry version with (thank goodness for me) not even a hint of sweetness making this extremely food friendly. True to their goal this one is a good working man’s Riesling.
  • 2010 Hungry Hollow Gewurztraminer ($10) – Gewürztraminer is Anderson Valley’s most respected grape and this one is a blend of Navarro estate fruit and the neighboring Valley Foothills Vineyard. Crafted using a blend of modern techniques and ancient methods this one has crisp, floral nose with tropical fruits. Lush and full with more tropical fruit on the palate and a spiced acidity that lasts through a crisp, lightly sweet, finish. If you are a fan of this varietal you’ll want to stock up!
  • 2009 Hungry Hollow Syrah ($12) – Made from two Australian clones (labeled as Shiraz Down Under) of purchased Mendocino County fruit, some from seventy year old vines, this one is bold from the get go. Nice, dark, chewy fruit on the palate with lively, bright acidity leading to a rich, chocolaty finish that lingers pleasantly. Big and balanced enough to remain food friendly. Reminiscent of cool climate Syrah demanding twice the price tag (or more) this one is ready to drink now and it’s worth stashing a few more in the cellar.

So there you have it. Given you can try all three for $30 with one cent shipping I think this offer is almost too good to pass up. Give them a try! And if you do be sure to let me know what you think…

2009 Hungry Hollow Syrah

Again if you are new to Hungry Hollow it is a label from Navarro Vineyards billed as a line of “local wines at prices every thrifty and hard-working man or woman can afford.” You can try their first three offerings; this Syrah, the Riesling and the Gewurztraminer, for $30 plus one cent shipping. Feel free to click on over there and order this now but if you need further proof to inspire you read on…

2009 Hungry Hollow SyrahPrice: $11.99 @ Navarro Vineyards

What They Said:

Per Navarro Vineyards “The vines that produced this Syrah are an Australian selection, which would be labeled as Shiraz Down Under. The vines are trained to an old-fashioned goblet that works extremely well for Syrah grown on the Rhône as well as in Australia. We like the wine produced from these vines and have been lucky enough to purchase these grapes for several years. The berries are small and the clusters compact; the wine produced is darkly colored with complex tannins and delicate aromas of violets and cherry. The wine was aged in seasoned French oak barrels for ten months and aged in the bottle for another year in our temperature controlled cellar. The polar opposite of the 2010 Hungry Hollow Riesling, it is 14.1% alcohol with deep lingering flavors to match; a bold, chewy wine sporting flavors of black cherry, loganberry jam and currants backed up with hints of caramel and bittersweet chocolate. Serve with duck with olives, grilled burgers, shitake mushroom risotto or your favorite juicy steak.”

What I Think:

(14.1%) Nice, dark, chewy fruit with black cherry and currant on the palate. Lively, bright acidity and black olives notes on the mid-palate which lead to a rich, chocolaty finish with oak spice that lingers pleasantly. Tightly wound but food friendly, punching well below its 14.1% weight class. I like the prospects of this one given some short term aging. Well worth the $12 price of admission especially if you are a fan of cool climate Syrah which is hard to find at this price point.

Wine Geek Notes: 1,422 cases made; Sugars at harvest: 24.9° Brix; Made with Australian clones; Aged in seasoned French oak barrels for ten months and aged in the bottle for another year.

Rating: Buy It

2010 Hungry Hollow Gewurztraminer

If you missed the upfront on Hungry Hollow Wines from my last post let’s cut to the skinny. Hungry Hollow is a new label from Navarro Vineyards and is billed as a new line of “local wines at prices every thrifty and hard-working man or woman can afford.” You can try their first three offerings; this Gewurztraminer, the Riesling and the Syrah, for $30 plus one cent shipping. If you are a fan of wine I recommend you click on thru and order this now but if you need further proof to inspire you read on…

Price: $9.99 @ Navarro Vineyards

What They Said:

2010 Hungry Hollow GewurztraminerPer Navarro Vineyards “Gewürztraminer is Anderson Valley’s most respected grape for white wine; the fruit for this bottling was grown by Navarro Vineyards and neighboring Valley Foothills Vineyard. We blended modern technology with ancient winemaking: the wine was fermented and aged in seasoned oak ovals which have been fitted with modern stainless steel cooling panels inside the casks so that the winemaker can control fermentation temperatures. After fermentation, we adhered to traditional practices by allowing the wine to rest for seven months on the yeast that was generated by the fermentation. Gewürztraminer’s signature aromas and flavors are of lychee, grapefruit, ginger and cardamom which are enhanced with hints of bread pudding and toast. A full, spicy wine that particularly complements piquant foods: Indian curries, Asian spicy sesame noodles, carnitas with green salsa or blackened rock fish.”

What I Think:

(13%) Crisp, floral nose with tropical fruits. Lush and full on the palate with lychee and peach flavors. From there a spiced acidity drives through a touch sweet, a touch bright but still crisp finish. A wine I could drink regularly. Given the difficulty of finding an enjoyable sub $10 Gewurzt I’m tempted to stock up. If you are a fan of this varietal I would do so.

Wine Geek Notes: 797 Alcohol cases made; Total Acidity: 7.2 g/L pH Level: 3.37; Residual Sugars: 0.5%

Rating: Buy It

2010 Hungry Hollow Riesling

Hungry Hollow is the latest label from one of my long standing favorites; Navarro Vineyards (reviews). The reference is to an old railway that used to run lumber from the town of Navarro to be loaded on ships bound for San Francisco. The most eastern end of that track resided in Hungry Hollow where the “wine flowed freely in boarding houses and dance halls”. Previously sold off in bulk Navarro (thankfully) decided to recognize the state of the economy and introduce a new line of “local wines at prices every thrifty and hard-working man or woman can afford.” I applaud them for doing so. The initial release consists of a Riesling (review below), Gewurztraminer and a Syrah. Best of all those interested in trying it can get a sample pack of all three for $30 with one cent shipping. I’m enjoying the Gewurztraminer as I write and looking forward to the Syrah soon but in the meantime here are my thoughts on the Riesling…

2010 Hungry Hollow RieslingPrice: $9.99 @ Navarro Vineyards

What They Said:

Per Navarro Vineyards “Navarro’s Campsite vineyard is out favorite source of Riesling. It was planted fifteen years ago on gravely soil to three different clones, each one a preferred choice in three different countries: clone 49 from Alsace, Neustadt 90 from Germany and FPMS 9 from California. We kept the lots separate during winemaking as they ripened at different rates. This vintage was the coolest on record, the grapes ripened very slowly and it was late October before the grapes had turned from green to gold finally signaling that the grapes were ripe. Clone 9 we discovered had less sugar than normal and produced a wine with very low alcohol reminiscent of German Rieslings from the Rheinpfalz. The pretty aromas are of jasmine, green apple and apricot. Pippin apple dominates the flavors with suggestions of lime zest and peach. The finish is remarkably dry due to high natural acidity and the restrained alcohol of only 11.3% keeps it refreshing. This is a light, crisp wine to serve before supper or to accompany crab, abalone, clams, halibut or your own version of fisherman’s stew.”

What I Think:

(11.3%) Citrus, banana and apricot on the nose. Juicy, rich palate with loads of green apples backed up by peach flavors and moderate acidity that keeps it crisp throughout. Including through the citrus driven finish which is short but refreshing. This is a dry version with (thank goodness for me) not even a hint of sweetness. While I’d like a bit more acidity this is certainly fairly priced at $10. My recommendation is to drink this a touch colder than your typical white. Either way Riesling is by nature extremely food friendly and this is easy to recommend with salads, seafood, Asian dishes and more.

Wine Geek Notes: 22.4 brix. Residual Sugar = 0.9g/l. Bottle says 12.5%abv web says 11.3%. Made from a blend of three clones; clone 49 from Alsace, Neustadt 90 from Germany and FPMS 9 from California.

2007 Navarro Edelzwicker

2007 Navarro EdelzwickerPrice: $13.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per Navarro Vineyards “A specialty of Alsace is a blend called Edelzwicker; literally a mixture (zwicker) of Alsace’s noble (edel) grapes: Gewürztraminer (34%), Riesling (32%), Pinot Gris (29%), and Muscat (5%). The price may be small but the flavors and aromas are generous and world class.”

What I Think:

I have many previous disclaimers on my love of Navarro, where I am approaching my ten year anniversary as a member of their wine club (interesting post on this in the future), as well as my love of the Alsace since Hubert Keller long ago culinarily romanced me at Fleur de Lys here in San Francisco. With those facts on the table it should come as a surprise to no one that I have been a long time fan of this offering. That despite its lofty, for me, $13 price tag. On the palate you are greeted with some crisp apple, peach and nectarine flavors that quickly become fuller bodied as we head for the mid palate. Here the fruit becomes more delicate and leads to a sweet, honey finish that lingers nicely, inviting you back for your next sip. There are also pretty floral notes throughout. While I agree with Steve Heimoff that this is good on its own or with spicy food; don’t feel the need to define it so narrowly as the sweetness is balanced by acid. This combination makes it food friendly so feel free to pair this across a wider spectrum of cuisines. Think this one is only available from the winery so if you want some you have to go to the source…

Rating: Wow!

2006 Navarro Brut Sparkling Wine

2006 Navarro Brut Sparkling WinePrice: $25.00 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per Navarro Vineyards “Most winemakers focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for sparkling wine but Navarro admits to a rebel streak. In 1989 we made our first sparkling Gewürztraminer and fans still ask when we’ll make more. This is our third bottling. We don’t make it every vintage because most years we are fairly confident that we will get our grapes to 24° Brix, perfect for our signature still Gewürz. In 2006 we weren’t sure. The vintage was cold and late and the grapes had already turned a lovely ripe, russet color at only 20° Brix. Just as importantly, it was one of the rare vintages where we had several blocks of Gewürztraminer with no millerandage; all the berries were normal-sized two-seeded berries. The ratio of free-run juice to skins was high, promoting fine flavors, clean aromas and high natural acidity, perfect for sparkling wine. We decided to celebrate with this bottling. We blended 10% Chardonnay into the cuvée to strengthen the wine’s backbone. Delicate peach and spice in the aromas and flavors combined with fresh baked-bread yeastiness and a dazzling citrusy finish. Silver Medal winner.”

What I Think:

Gewurzt, interesting. This one came in my last wine club shipment, only the 3rd time they’ve actually made it since 1989. Offers a nice sweetness that isn’t quite as cloyey as usual. Fizzing and yeasty with a bit of citrus on the backbone. Hints of crisp apple notes appear sporadically throughout. Full disclaimer, I’m not a huge fan of Champagne so dropping $25 is pretty much never in the picture. If that seems reasonable to you, definitely get this one. Certainly enjoyable, I’d just rather buy a nice bottle of red…

Rating: Pricey

2002 Navarro Anderson Valley Pinot Gris

Price: $12.60 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery Refreshingly vibrant, with lovely floral aromas of creamy nectarine, with a touch of fresh grain and fennel. Crisp, dry and intense, with pear and orange fruit and a finish that fans out. – Wine Spectator, May 15, 2004.

What I Think:

Had this one nearly a month ago when friends came over for dinner. As I was in charge of cooking I missed the majority of this wine as it was served with snacks/appetizers. That said, I put my friend Paul in charge of writing this one up. Here is what he had to say:

Light nose, hint of lychee (his favorite descriptor by the way)
Strong citrus with sharp lemon on the start
Fade reveals hint of strawberry lingering longer than a typical white.

What I didn’t get him to do was rate and score it. That said I’ll repeat my rating from last time I had this wine and call it “Pricey”.

Rating: Pricey

2005 Navarro Mendocino Chardonnay

Price: $13.30 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “There is a distinct reason that winemakers like making Chardonnay. It puts their craft, and consequently them, front and center stage. Unlike other white varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, which is herbal and grassy or Gewürztraminer, which is heady with floral aromas, ripe Chardonnay is more chameleon. That means the winemaker’s choices in the cellar become paramount. These decisions include whether to encourage a secondary malolactic fermentation that adds buttery tones, the length and temperature of the fermentation and perhaps above all the choice of oak cooperage including which cooper, which forest the wood should come from, how long the wood should dry, the toast level, whether to toast the head of the barrel, not to mention how long the wine should rest on the yeast, if it should be stirred and how much time it should spend in oak.

This Mendocino bottling is less buttery than the Première Reserve and the lovely apple-melon flavors and moderate price tag entitle Navarro’s winemaker Jim Klein, to take a bow. Gold Medal winner.”

What I Think:

Another bottle from Navarro, as many of you I am a big fan of theirs (full disclosure: I am a member of their wine club). They called this one “What’s the difference?” My history with their Chardonnay’s has been decent. Given that I don’t have an inclination to this style to begin with they haven’t been able to create one for me. Given that I use their basic Mendocino Chardonnay as an annual benchmark to make sure that my overall opinion towards these wines hasn’t evolved since our last encounter. That being said, they have an Anderson Valley Reserve label that I have been showing to the cellar for the last three or four years, maybe one of those could change my opinion.

Now, let’s get back to this bottle of wine. On the nose you think typical chardonnay; there is butter at the forefront followed by the aromas of the barrel with some fruit lingering way off in the distance. On the tongue, it dances a little before starting to show some apple flavors. The wine is rich and full bodied through the mid-palate before finishing slightly tart on the backbone. A nice wine to drink but given my general disdain for the butter and barrel that dominate these wines I won’t be signing up for more. Above you can see some of the many decisions that go into making these wines. I wonder how they could be made to suit my palate profile. Seems like me the first thing I would do is barrel them in stainless steel. I have had a few of these unwooded chardonnays that let the fruit do the talking and while I haven’t loved them I have enjoyed them better than most. Let the fruit do the talking! The second thing I may do is skip that secondary malolactic fermentation which introduces the buttery tones. Once I get a hint of these I think I almost mentally shut down on giving the wines a real chance, quickly chalking them up as typical. Lastly, I’d play with the degree of toasting. I am guessing that for me less would be more. No all I have to do is get someone to hire me as a winemaker and we could my theories to practice. Who’s got connections for me?

Rating: Pricey

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 Navarro Anderson Valley Riesling

Price: $14.25 direct from the winery

What They Said:

Per the winery “Navarro’s Riesling style has evolved over the last thirty years thanks to the increasing availability of better clones in California. When we started growing Riesling in the 70′s there wasn’t much choice of what to plant. Historically many California clones of this variety had been selected for high yields rather than high wine quality. We planted our first clonal trials of Riesling in 1990 when the nurseries started to have a wider choice available and now Navarro’s fields are planted to some of the world’s most flavorful clones. 84% of this wine was produced from Navarro’s expanded plantings; there’s bright apple and stone-fruit flavors that are reminiscent of ripe German Rieslings from the Rheinpfalz. Because we are now starting with more flavorful grapes, we’ve found ourselves crafting drier versions of Riesling but a drier finish requires careful winemaking in order to avoid extracting astringency from the skins, seeds or stems. After destemming, the free-run juice was cool fermented in oak ovals where it rested on the lees for six months, contributing to a rich mouth feel and hints of charcuterie.

There is a tad of residual sugar but it’s just enough to balance Riesling’s naturally high acidity; the wine finishes deliciously tart and dry with no perceptible sweetness. The captivating floral bouquet has just a touch of Germanic petrol and the lush flavors hint at apple, tangerine and apricot. Try it with thinly sliced Westphalia ham on pumpernickel. Prost! Gold Medal winner.”

What I Think:

The winery called this one “Quest” in reference to their long journey towards developing the desired style for their bottling. I left the majority of what they said though it wasn’t directly related to this wine as I found it interesting.

This wine was very pale in color, on opening like the Pinot I had a few day backs, this one didn’t jump out of the bottle at you. It took the subtler approach and grows on you over time. What do you reckon that means, when the wine shows such a drastic improvement with just a bit of air? Should Navarro have kept these out of the bottle for a bit longer? Should I have kept it in the bottle a little longer? Or would neither have mattered and the wines just needed air… This always makes me wonder if I catch a wine at an “in-between” time. This is purely conjecture but I think when some wines are bottled they offer a drinking window before closing up to become to age a bit, again becoming drinkable at a later time. That wouldn’t seem to make sense here as it is such a young wine. It was bottled only 10 months ago. Back to the wine, one interesting thing was that it never had much of a nose at all. In fact I was trying so hard to pick something up I got my nose wet a few times. Initially the taste was hard to discern but there was certainly a tart, racy finish. It seemed a bit of lemon leading on to a mineral like finish. As it opened this went from the dominant force in the wine to a mere afterthought as the texture became more supple apples, pears and a hint of peach (or is apricot, nectarine…) came to the front before fading to that same tart, minerally end. . Looking above I see a mention of tangerine; have to remember that one moving forward.

Hmm, now for the rating part. This is a really nice wine. It was great with the Asian fare and held up to some Mexican a few nights later. Just not sure that I am willing to pay this price unless my socks are knocked off. Especially with the similar structured and tasting Marcel Hugg wines available at TJ’s. I feel like I am slighting this one by calling it “Pricey”. Maybe the winery should have called this on “Tough break”.

Rating: Pricey