Tuesday, July 31, 2012

El Dorado Hills: Jack Russell Brewing

Arm wrestling their way in
From Crystal Basin Bistro, we moved on to Jack Russell Brewing, which brews apple cider, wines and beer!
The tasting cave
The cider and wines were separated from the beer. Obviously.
Wine and Cider man
We began with cave tasting of ciders and wines.
All the tasters in shot sized plastic cups
As you can see, it was rather difficult to have a proper tasting of the wines when they are not served well. It makes such a difference when served properly! Just ask the beer non-snobs! Thus, no notes taken but plenty of debaucheries!

Happy tasters with apple cider
Many of us were very attracted to their Jack Russell labels though. And their apple ciders were pretty decent! Although Julian hard cider still triumphs.


Happy Cidering
We got to the beer room, had a couple of their beers, which were not too bad. San Diegans will always be snobs about beers. Oh well.
Happy Campers

Jack Russell Look-alikes

Then these doggies turned up!

Next we head for more wine tasting at Madroña!

Monday, July 30, 2012

El Dorado Hills: Crystal Basin Wines, Apple Hill

Bleu Cheese stuffed Endives
From Lava Cap Winery, we headed to Crystal Basin Bistro for lunch and more wine tasting. We began with lunch where I had a delicious stuffed endive plate. They had curry cheese log for samples with fresh bread and pretzel with a house made spiced BBQ dip. YUM.

Pulled pork sandwich

After lunch, we proceeded to the little designated corner for the wine tasting. Looking at the names of the wines and labels, I could not help but think they don't want to be taken seriously.

Tasting room in the restaurant
Well, the wines were not great. In fact, I did not take notes because they were pale in comparison with both Grace Patriot and Lava Cap, although they were not the worst wines I have tasted. The man who was pouring also served a bubbler first, which made it rather difficult to taste the rest of the wines. All in all, not a great experience although lunch was wonderful!

Crystal Basin Lineup

Interesting labels

Next up, we head to Jack Russell Brewing!

El Dorado Hills: Lava Cap, Apple Hill

Front of the barn

After some nice wine and history at Grace Patriot, we headed to Lava Cap Winery. The tasting room and outside patio was very busy such that we had to squeeze our way through and some just had to stay away from the bar.

Busy tasting room
Lava Cap Sauvignon Blanc Estate bottled 2010
This was sweet for a Sauvignon blanc with plenty of residual sugar. Easy, simple and smooth with a sweet citrus nose, this had good acidity with notes of tropical fruit longan and citrus grapefruit. $16 OOO

Lava Cap Battonage Chardonnay 2010
Not the overly oaky Californian style Chardonnay, this was well-balanced and smooth with notes of green apple and pear. $18 OOOo

Lava Cap Viognier Vinehill 2009
This is a refreshing Viognier with a nice floral nose. Well balanced with good acidity, great notes of peach and honeysuckle. Standard well-made Viognier athough I do not know about paying $30 for a bottle. OOO
Decorated with ribbons

Lava Cap American River Red Celebrated Cuvee 2009
With a nose of berry jam, this simple wine has notes of rich berry fruit and is easy with a little spicy kick. Smokey finish that was rather enjoyable. $18 OOOo

Lava Cap Syrah Estate bottled 2009
I do not understand what is going on but the rubber smell is back yet again! This was decently balanced with juicy notes of good spice and berries. OOOo

Lava Cap Cabernet Sauvignon Estate bottled 2009
Nose of caramel and blackberries, this was well balanced and not the big, bold Napa Cab. Relatively easier to drink than a typical Cab with notes of plum and berries, this had a lighter mouthfeel than usual.    Perhaps it is the lack of tannins that makes it different although it could have been aged well in this three years. It is hard to tell. But for $22, a ready to drink Cab is not too shabby. OOO

Lava Cap Barbera Estate bottled 2009
Fruit forward with notes of cherry and plum, there was a touch of residual sugar which made it pretty juicy. I enjoyed the soft tannins and the note of spiciness. $25 OOOo
Grand display of ribbons

Lava Cap Zinfandel Reserve Estate bottled 2008
This had sharp, obvious tannins although there was a good note of berries. Easy typical Zin with more tannins than usual. $20 OOO

Lava Cap Petite Sirah Estate bottled 2009
Fruit forward, unlike any Petit Sirah i have had. Plush and juicy with notes of berries, plums and good herby spice. I liked it so much that I invested the $30. OOOO

Lava Cap Muscat Canelli 2009
Notes of tropical fruit, Guava! Smooth but was a little difficult to taste properly due to time constraints and tannins overload from the last few wines. $16 OOOo

Grown on volcanic rocks
Great tasting! I enjoyed everything and there was nothing bad about any of the wines tasted. Definitely very impressed by Lava Cap, especially by their great prices!

Next we head to Crystal Basin Bistro for lunch and wine tasting under the one roof!

Friday, July 27, 2012

El Dorado Hills: Grace Patriot Wines, Apple Hill

Tasting List
Pretty entrance

We set up camp last night next to the river, shared beer with new campfire friends and woke up to a good breakfast! Now, we are all ready for a day of wine tasting!

First stop, everyone is excited, we arrived at Lewis Grace's Grace Patriot Wines in Apple Hill. This place as name suggest is full of history, the family has ancestry in the revolutionary war. Modern tasting room facing the vineyards and nice patio sitting outside.

Barrels in the back room
Viognier 2009
This tasted like a standard Viognier, although it did not have much nose, which is disappointing because it is something to look forward to when tasting a Viognier as they are known to be floral and wonderful scenting. It was overall decent tasting but not smooth. $22 OO

Hip Hip Rose
Made from a blend of Pinot Gris and Syrah, this had an interesting rubber scent and nose of strawberries. Plenty of residual sugar with notes of refreshing watermelon and strawberries. $18 OOO

Pinot Noir 2009
Standard Pinot with cabbage, vegetal smell, this was simple with good acidity, a little on the tannic side. The fruit was slightly overwhelmed by the tannins. $24 OOo

Syrah 2006
Smokey nose with hints of dark cherries and spice, this was very fruity with notes of berries, oak, smoke and obvious tannins. Flat bland finish. $25 OOO
Patriotic Wines

5pm 2006
A blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and what they call "secret sauce". Toasty nose, this fruit forward wine had obvious tannins with notes of dark fruits, toasty nuts and spice. :) OOOo

Tempranillo 2006
The rubbery nose is back! This was very tannic overwhelming the fruit. Hints of leather. OO

What we tasted!
Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
This was a surprise. For some reason, we did not think Cabernet would not do well here but we were proven wrong with this one! Good Cabernet with an interesting strong nose, which I am not sure about. Well balanced wine with good layered tannins with notes of berries and oak, very enjoyable complex wine that could age to soften the tannins. Nice lingering finish. OOOO

Vitis Vinifera
Decent wines, much better than I expected! Steve Grace, the great grand child of Lewis Grace (who served in the revolutionary war in Virginia), was pouring and talked about the history of the vineyard and his family. He showed me the back room where they had the oak barrels and talked through old pictures on the wall. Very friendly people, fascinating history and good wines! Will definitely visit again!

Next stop, Lava Cap Winery!
Healthy Cabernet Sauvignon

The group

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hungarian Irsai Oliver in Davis

After the Russian River trip, we heading out for our white water rafting trip out East at American river. On the way, we stopped for dinner at Seasons, supposedly best restaurant in Davis, all dressed casually (which was great because everyone there was old and appropriately dressed). 

The menu featured plenty of locally sourced food and everything sounded unique, from pork cheeks tacos to baked peaches. 

They had a wine menu that had mainly local wines with some notables. This one caught my eye.

Irsai Oliver, Szőke Mátyás, Mátra Hungary 2011
A Hungarian white grape Irzai Oliver. Another for the Quest List! This had an amazing floral nose with notes of minerals and reminds me of a sweet plum wine. The smell kept me at it for awhile. Smooth and well balanced, it was refreshingly fruity and floral with notes of lychee (kind of like a Gerwürztraminer), and juicy peaches. Slightly bitter mineral end with a floral touch. The food definitely brought out the acidity of the wine. OOOO

Little Davis calf

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Russian River: DeLoach

With just enough time for one last tasting, we headed to DeLoach, which I found out about from the Hook and Ladder Winemaker dinner. I was disappointed to find out that the DeLoach family did not own this place anymore but the name carried on. 

De Loach
When we arrived at the tasting room, it was fairly busy and we waited a little before getting some space at the tasting bar. 

DeLoach Chardonnay Hawk Hill Vineyard 2009
This oaky Californian style Chardonnay was too much for me, although it was clean refined with good acidity. If I were more objective, I would have like this, but nope, I like my not-overly-oaky-more-European-style Chardonnays. I just wish it had more to it than oak. If anything, the oak overpowers everything when excessive, which is pretty sad because I am sure there is more to it! OOo

DeLoach Russian River Pinot Noir 2010
Decent nose with the typical cabbage vegetal smell as usual for a Pinot. Simple, fruity and lightly spiced, I like that it had a certain nut roastiness to it like roasted hazelnuts! OOO

DeLoach Pennachio Pinot Noir 2008
Standard Pinot but more fruit forward than the last, this had notes of leather and toasty butterscotch. It reminds me of a cherry pie with nice crisp browned crust. OOO

DeLoach Maboroshi Pinot Noir 2008
Cabbage notes, this was lush with high alcohol content and taste like it will go easy with food. Fruit forward with hints of plums, this was well balanced. OOOo

DeLoach Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008
Again, typical Pinot with the vegetal smell, this had interesting hints of game in the nose. Fruity with a good balance, it had notes of smokiness, game and spicy especially in comparison with the last few Pinots. OOOo

DeLoach Zinfandel Forgotten Vines 2008
Fruit forward with notes of plums, this was an easy Zinfandel but I don't know when I have ever had any Zins that are not easy to drink. This was well balanced with a good tannin structure with a little spice. OOOo

DeLoach Late Harvest Gerwurztraminer Russian River 2008
I haven't had a Late Harvest Gerwürztraminer (Noble Rot!) so this was interesting considering that the grape itself is already very floral and flavorful. This had a great nose like other Gerwürzt I have tasted, full of lychee notes and sweet honey suckle. This was definitely sweeter than a regular harvest but not that much. It had good minerality and had more body than other Gerwürzt with more residual sugar. OOOo
De Loach tasting room

Grape looking good
That was the last stop for wine for the day, marking the end of the Russian River trip! Overall, DeLoach had standard wines that were well made but did not blow me away. It was great to taste the Pinots back to back though. I have a difficult time benchmarking Pinots and it makes the OOOOs I give inconsistent sometimes. More on that later!

I was sad that we did not get to visit Hook and Ladder but maybe next time. The wines that really stood out today was the Chardonnays from J Wines. But there were also plenty of Pinots which I have trouble with.

All in all, great tasting trip!

Now onwards to Russian River brewing in Santa Rosa for dinner!
Russian River

Beer tasting board

Russian River: Copain

From J Vineyards and Winery, we head South on Eastside road to Copain!

Situated on top of a hill, their tasting room was elegant and modern. It was not busy when we were there, with only one other couple. The room was quiet and could use some music to lighten up the otherwise dim, almost somber room.

The winemaker, Wells Guthriewas french trained (Rhone) but creates his wines with a firm Californian roots. 

Copain Chardonnay "Tous Ensemble" Anderson Valley 2010
This was fermented in stainless steel to achieve the Burgundy style of Chardonnay, crisp and not oaky. Indeed, there was more crisp green apple and wonderful minerality to this wine with a good balance of acidity. Great job overall although it had less depth than the oaky buttery Californian Chardonnay (especially the Jewell Ranch from J!). OOOo

Copain P2 Anderson Valley 2011
This was an interesting blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Light in body, this had notes of raspberry, although it was more spice than fruit. Good crisp acid but it just did not fit very well with me. OOo

Copain Les Voisin Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2009
Les Voisins meaning the neighbours, since these are sourced from neighboring vineyards. This was a light-bodied standard Pinot with a typical cabbage vegetal smell. It had good tannins and acid that reminds me of red apple cider vinegar (?) along with spices that lingers. I did not think it was worth $40. OOo

Copain Les Voisins Syrah Yorkville highland 2009
Another from the Les Voisin series, this had a great juicy nose with hints of spice! With plenty of dark cherry fruit and spices, this had strong obvious tannins which probably needs some time to soften a little.  OOO

Copain Eagle point ranch Syrah 2007
Sourced from Mendocino County, this had a great fruity nose with hints of spice. Notes of dark chocolate, tobacco and black cherries. This was very tannic with plenty of black pepper spice and hint of oak. $50 OOOo

The guy who was pouring advice that we take a walk to enjoy the view along with the wines and so we did! Lovely place indeed!

Adirondacks at Copain

Next up, DeLoach!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Russian River: J Vineyards and Winery

From Healdsburg, we went to J Vineyards and Winery on Eastside road down South.
J Winery
Grand modern entrance. The tasting room itself was very modern and spacious with a high roof, making it very comfortable except for the price tags. Tastings were $20 for five pours. We shared ours and got much more than five pours.
Grand Entrance

J Vineyards Chardonnay Jewell ranch 2010
This is the most amazing Chardonnay I have ever tasted although I have not tasted much and I also do not like the oaky California style Chardonnays that are popular. Thus, there will no doubt be disagreements. Well, this one had a great floral nose with minerality and butterscotch. Smooth with amazing balance of acid, there was still plenty of butteriness to go around with tropical fruits like papaya and pear. It was fresh with a perfect balance of oak that gave hints of vanilla. The creamy finish lingers on for awhile with touch of minerality. If only I had the money, there would be cases of it at home now. $45 OOOOO

J Vineyards Russian River Vin Gris 2011
Taste list
Rosé made from all Pinot Noir. Sweet smelling, reminds me of butterscotch or caramel (somewhere along that line), which is strange! Perhaps it the Jewell Ranch Chardonnay lingering in my mouth. This was crisp and refreshing with green apple and tart cherry. It would be wonderful for summer. Interesting metallic finish that was a little tart. OOO

Hoot Owl Vineyard Viognier Alexander Valley 2011
Wonderful nose of bouquet, tropical fruits like longan and minerals. Great balance with good acidity, this was smooth and fresh with hints of papaya, longan, roses and minerality. OOOo

J Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2009
Made with grapes sourced from 14 different vineyard, this was well balanced with fruity notes of dark cherry, leather and spices. Although well made, this did not stand out. $35 OOOo

J Pinot Noir Nicole's Vineyard Russian River Valley 2009
Although this was flat, lacking in acid, it was fruity with hints of spice and a good nose with notes of spice. Light, the berry flavor lingers. OOOo

J Vineyards Pinotage Russian River 2010
Fruit forward with hints of sweet plums, there was obvious tannins and good acidity. Notes of blackcurrant with a wonderful lingering finish. This well balanced easy to drink wine reminds me of a Zin. Could definitely use a little aging on the tannins. $45 OOOo

J Vineyards Brut Rose Russian River NV
J wines
Made from blend of 64% pinot noir 34% char 2% Pinot Meunier, this fine bubbly goodness had bouquet hints of hibiscus and roses. It was medium dry leaning towards the sweet side. Arrr fine bubbles! Yummmmy. I never knew there was good bubblers produced here! OOOO

J Vineyards Brut Russian River 2005
Made from mainly Chardonnay with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier thrown in, this had fine bubbles as well with more distinct notes of green apple and pear. OOOO

J Chardonnay Barrel 16 Russian River Valley 2009
Made using full french oak, this Chardonnay was not as refined as Jewell ranch although I just had some bubbles, which makes tastebuds a little off. This also had similar buttery smoothness with good minerality. It smells oaky but was not overly oaky in taste with notes of tropical fruit papaya, pear and apricot. Another well made, well balanced Chardonnay with wonderful nose and taste that lingers!

That was 9 pours for $20. I don't know if they intended to pour that much but perhaps because we were taking notes? If that is the case, damn, I will be taking notes everywhere I go!

Overall, this place had wines that were definitely to my taste. It will be on my to-go list next time I visit!  Very friendly and knowledgeable staff too!

Next up, we go further South on Eastside road to Copain!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Russian River: Healdsburg

Food first!

With time between 4th of July in the Bay area and weekend white water rafting out east, we headed up North for some wine tasting! Duh!

First, pitstop for lunch to make sure our stomachs were filled. We had wanted to go Bovolo in a bookstore for some Pork cheek sandwich but we found it to be closed down! So instead, we went to the new Affronti food and wine bar. They had a good concise menu  on which everything sounded great to us. The portions were small as expected but enough to fill both of us before winetasting!
deviled eggs
crisp brushetta
First stop was La Crema, right next door from Affronti. Very convenient. The tasting room was very modern and not too crowded. We got attention immediately and the lady our coupon for 2-for-1 tasting. Yeay! We are off to a good start!
La Crema tasting room
La Crema Carneros Hills Chardonnay 2008
This had good nose although a little too oaky for me. It was very buttery with hints of apricot and bouquet but it was too much oakiness to the extend where one could not taste much of the fruit. The taste lingers which was nice. OOO
Tasting list

La Crema Chardonnay Russian River 2010
This was again overly oaky for me but there was more fruit with good minerality and was crispier with a little more acid than the last one. Odd but this seem to have a creamier finish than the last. Again, the taste lingers. OOO

La Crema Pinot Noir Russian River 2010
This had a good nose with the light cabbage smell of Pinot Noirs that some people describe as smell of feet. With hints of vanilla and berries, this had more spices than a typical Pinot. Well made standard Pinot with good tannins. OOOo

La Crema Pinot Noir Los Carneros 2008
This had more of a stronger fruity nose. Fruit forward with hints of berries and cherries, this was a little flat and could use more acid especially with the strong tannins and good spices. Lingers for awhile. OOO

La Crema Pinot noir Carneros Hills 2008
Good nose. Light and smooth with hints of dark cherry, minerality and spices. This was overall great except for the good finish with bitter tannins. OOO

Perhaps there are things about Pinot Noirs that I just do not understand yet but these Pinots received great reviews on Snooth! Oh well, Pinots confuses me.

La Crema was a little disappointing although I am glad for the experience. Now on to Bear Republic for some beer! Well, I did not drink any beer but someone else did! I took a walk to check out the local wine scene since wineries like Toad Hollows (Had the Eye of the Toad Rose once) and Ferrari-Carano were all close by. 

Bear Republic
Beer Flight
Drunk bears
Toad Hollows