As I sit down to write this post, the pressure’s on to make it a good one—given that it comes after a month-long blogging hiatus and will be one of my last, at least for a while…. Luckily I’ve got some good material to work with: notes on over a dozen Chardonnays, which we uncorked and tasted blind over the weekend.
Peter did a preliminary tasting of all the wines, proclaiming 10 to be worth a second pass. The thing that I found most notable about our results was that we both picked the same wine as our favorite. And, in a sea of Chards ranging in price from $13 to $48, it was the least expensive.
The winner: the 2009 L de Lyeth Sonoma County Chardonnay (the Sonoma County designation just means that the wine was made from grapes grown in different areas of the county, rather than just the Russian River Valley, say, or just the Sonoma Coast). It was more vegetal than fruity on the nose, with notes of straw and caramel. This unusual wine was delicately prickly on the palate and had a long and pleasant finish.
Runner-ups in the 2009 vintage included Kendall-Jackson’s Avant California Chardonnay ($14, medium-bodied and smooth, with a nice aroma of tropical fruit) and Clos du Bois’ Russian River Chardonnay ($18, lemon on the nose, lots more citrus on the palate, and great balance). In the 2008 vintage we liked Kendall-Jackson’s Grand Reserve Monterey/Santa Barbara Chardonnay ($20, a figgy aroma and notable residual sugar), Cambria Estate Winery’s Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay ($22, nicely balanced, with a bouquet of straw and a rough-silk mouthfeel); Mantanzas Creek’s Sonoma Chardonnay ($29, banana on the nose, light and smooth); and Waterstone’s Carneros Chardonnay ($18, grapefruit aroma, light and creamy).
Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve has moved on to the 2009 vintage, but given its impressive 2008 showing, the new vintage is well worth a try. And if you do try it, consider drinking a toast to Jess Jackson, the California wine industry giant who passed away on April 21st.
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Believing in the mystical significance of the number 47 was practically a graduation requirement at the college I attended. So when I brought a bottle of 2008 47 Friends Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($18) to share with some college friends on a recent Saturday night, I was pretty sure the label alone would favorably predispose them to the wine.
Yet another college friend had tipped me off to the 47 Friends label—she had seen them on Facebook and knew instantly that there had to be a connection. Sure enough, 47 Friends is the “little sister” winery—read less-expensive wines and a Millennial-friendly Web presence—to Ancient Oak Cellars, a Santa Rosa winery owned by Pomona grads Melissa and Ken Moholt-Siebert.
But back to Saturday. We all enjoyed the 2008 Pinot; not terribly Pinot-y and the aroma was somewhat muted, but it had nice red fruit on the palate and made for extremely smooth drinking. And Peter—who never says this—said it seemed worth the price.
Still, our favorite 47 Friends so far are the blends — simple red and white table wines that sell for $10 a piece. On Tuesday we opened the red, which Peter guessed was bulk Merlot. It’s actually a Cabernet Sauvignon blend with some Zinfandel and Syrah in the mix—all of which make for a ripe wine brimming with blackberry and other dark fruits.
Remember that I spent four years of writing a column about $10-and-under wines, and based on that experience, cheap California reds make me nervous. That’s why this one was such a pleasant surprise: mellow, moderate alcohol content (13.8 percent), and versatile enough to pair with a wide variety of foods.
Thursday we opened the white blend, and Peter was redeemed when he immediately pegged it as Sauvignon Blanc (it’s got a bit of un-oaked Chardonnay as well). It had a strong, really nice aroma of melon and freshly cut grass, and it was light, tingly, and delicate on the palate.
Pairs perfectly with an early spring heat wave.
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Posted in Tasting Adventures, Winery Visits, tagged C. Donatiello Winery, Days of Wine and Lavender, Healdsburg, lavender, Matanzas Creek WInery, Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley, Russian River Valley Winegrowers' Millennial Council, Santa Rosa, Single Night, Williams Selyem on May 24, 2010|
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With Memorial Day’s late arrival next week, summer is finally upon us, and the month of June is book-ended by wine events offering the chance for celebration. The first, on Saturday June 5, comes courtesy of the Russian River Valley Winegrowers’ Millennial Council, and it’s been cleverly branded Single Night. This tasting of Russian River Valley single-vineyard wines (big names like Merry Edwards and Williams Selyem are among the participating producers) and single bites of local culinary specialties will also feature a DJ and dancing and an auction of Russian River Valley “group adventures.” Single Night takes place from 6:30 to 10:00 p.m. at C. Donatiello Winery in Healdsburg, with the option of luxury bus service from (and back to) San Francisco. Tickets are $45 in advance and online only at www.rrvw.org.
It’s entirely possible that you’ll need two weekends to recover from your Single Night hangover… but by Saturday, June 26, you should be ready for a slightly more sedate but no less enticing day of eating and drinking at Matanzas Creek Winery in Santa Rosa. Matanzas Creek’s Days of Wine and Lavender festival features a lavender-laced menu created by the winery’s estate chef, a bocce ball contest, vineyard tours, wine education seminars, and live music. The winery’s 1-acre lavender garden should be reaching full bloom just in time for the party, which takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets are $95 per person; visit www.matanzascreek.com for more information.
Russian River wines...
... and Santa Rosa lavender
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