Handcrafted Organic Wines With An Expensive Taste

Horse and Plow

Chris Condos and Suzanne HaginsHorse and Plow is a small husband and wife run winery in Santa Rosa that focuses on making handcrafted wines exclusively from organic and bio-dynamic grapes. Chris Condos (winemaker/partner) started his career at Pine Ridge in 1995. He is also the day-to-day winemaker for Kathryn Kennedy winery. His wife, Suzanne Hagins started her career at Comte Armand in Pommard and made wine at David Bruce and Golden Eye. They both get down and dirty behind the “Horse and Plow” label.

Horse and Plow 2010 Harvester Red, North Coast “Certified Organic”
This is a red blend of Old Vine Carignane, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Charbono, & Zinfandel from select vineyards in the North Coast. The grapes were picked by hand, de-stemmed without crushing, and cold soaked for 5-10 days. The wine offers a bold aroma of bright red and black stone fruit and a whiff of barely. On the palate this bold red value red showcases more bold, lush and ripe fruit and nice integrated silky tannins. Easy drinking!

Horse and Plow 2010 Chardonnay, McFadden Mendocino “Certified Organic”
This farm, owned by Guinness McFadden is a real jewel! This wine runs nicely over the palate were apricots, Fuji apples meet in a gorgeous medium bodied palate that is smooth and pure. The wine is elegant and not overbearing. Three year old barrels were used to minimize exposure to toastiness and only 20% of the wine went through malolactic fermentation keeping in nice and elegant. Only 275 cases produced.

Horse and Plow Syrah 2010 Grist Vineyard Dry Creek “Certifiied Organic”
The Grist vineyard is situated 1000 feet above Dry Creek Valley on Bradford Mountain. For years Turley has been buying this fruit! This wine shows a true expression of Syrah. A touch of bacon fat, black pepper, a touch of spice cabinet. This wine if full-in body with good complexity and taste like a big more expensive Syrah. The finish is long with a touch of licorice at the end. 100 cases produced.

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Peter Michael & Carte Blanche winemaker ROCKS again! 95+ Points Parker!

Morlet Family VineyardsLuc Morlet has an amazing portfolio.  Replacing John Kongsgaard at Newton at one point, winemaker at Staglin, and of course Peter Michael was the big “ticket” on his portfolio.  Today he acutually consults at Peter Michael for his brother Nicholas Morlet.  Today he of course is known as the winemaker for Carte Blanche,  Vineyard 7 & 8 and of course his OWN label MORLET!  Luc has a nose for great vineyards and he only uses the best in his own label.  I tasted with him a few days ago and came away with WAW (What a “bunch” of Amazing Wines!), and a nice guy on top of that!

Morlet 2009 “Coeur de Vallee” Beckstoffer-To-Kalon (95 Points RP)
I know it is expensive, but this is in the range of the BEST Bordeaux’ and top-notch collectibles you have ever tasted.   The Coeur de Vallee translates to “the heart of the Valley” and it really is the heart, the very best! This vineyard is of course unique and “famous” for its prime location and many great wines that have been produced from this estate.  This 2009 is probably one of the most complex wines from Napa to date!  Full in body, an amazing palate that is lush, gorgeous and complex.  The start to finish is more like reading  a long complex book with many intriguing chapters along the way.  The nose is expressive, the flavors elegant and complex the finish long and sensual.  The production very small!

Morlet 2009 “Mon Chevalier” (95 Points RP)
Mon Chevalier (or my Knight) is located on the hills of Knights Valley, near Calistoga.  This wine has a real dark hue of purple.  It is very intense on the nose and palate.  Loaded with complex black stone fruit, chocolate, anise and a hint of lavender.   Amazingly full bodied, complex yet extremely well-polished and elegant.  The wine dances over your palate like a top-notch ballerina in Swan lake.  The hillside tannins are complex yet elegant.  This is a wine that will last a good 15+ years!

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Value Napa Cabernet “rocks”!

Culler Winery

Culler Winery “Casaeda” 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Culler "Casaeda" 2008 Cabernet SauvignonKaren Culler has been at it for a long, with great success. The 2008 vintage (77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Petit Verdot) produced wines of great depth and color, and also a fresh, soft texture.  The Cabernet Sauvignon has aromas of chocolate, game, anise and blackberry, and a palate of elegant, and rich tannins. The Petite Verdot gives the wine an unctuous and juicy mid palate to create a long mouthfeel.  The resulting blend is both approachable now, but has the depth to age.  The wine was bottled, unfined and unfiltered. Only 174 cases were produced!

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Stunning Grand Cru Chablis-style Chardonnay at Bargain Price!

Clos Pepe Vineyards

Steve and Catherine PepeClos Pepe is a family-owned vineyard and winery set in the heart of the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County, California. Of the 29 acres planted in vines, 25 acres are planted to Pinot Noir, and 4 acres to Chardonnay. They sell more grapes than what they produce into wine, thus the production is only about 800 cases of Estate Pinot Noir each year, 100 cases of Chablis-style Chardonnay. All stunning! Some wineries that get fruit from these great vineyards are: Siduri, Loring Roessler Brewer-Clifton, Diatom and Tyler to name a few.

Harvesting at the Clos Pepe VineyardClos Pepe 2009 Estate Chardonnay – Santa Barbara

This gorgeous, well-structured wine has a light straw color and spent 11 months in neutral French oak. On the nose one is greeted by Asian pear, green apples, hazelnuts and a touch of chalky minerality. Hints of California style integrated with a very complex and enticing Chablis-like structure and character. On the palate you’ll encounter a clean lean on entry package developing into nice richness at the end. This wine is bright, elegant and compact. Even if it underwent 100% malolactic fermentation, this wine is not a big butter ball but an elegant well-priced version of a great “West Coast” Chablis. Only 400 cases produced!

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A must have Cabernet!

Obsidian Ridge Vineyard

Eleven years ago when Peter laid out the blocks to be planted at Obsidian Ridge, he singled out a notch at the highest elevation with the hope of making a vin de garde. At 2,640′ elevation, this vineyard may produce the only wine made in California at a half-mile high. Planted with Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and, of course, Cabernet Sauvignon, the block distinguishes itself with one variety in one year, and another in the next.

Obsidian Ridge 2009 "Half Mile" Proprietary RedObsidian Ridge 2009 “Half Mile” Proprietary Red

This blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvigon and 16% Petit Verdot blew my mind the other day. The winemaker Michael Terrien (responsible for the Kenzo Venture) crafted one of the most amazing wines I have tasted in a long time. On the nose gorgeous aromas of ripe black stone fruit leap out of the glass. The palate is framed by a gorgeous body of chocolate, black currant and a hint of cinnamon and clove (from the Tokaji barrels used to age this very small production wine – 260 cases). This wine is all about the “terroir” of this ½ mile high wine. Concentration, yet balance, are the first impression but this wine provides more than that. This resembles a first-growth Bordeaux! It is old-world meet new-world, really! This is not a wine for wimps (sorry I don’t want to ever offend anyone – I should say, not a wine for beginners), this is a wine that requires a good hour or two breathing time (I had a bottle open for 4 last night, and it was lovely by the time we polished it off) or could benefit from a year or so in the cellar. I can tell you that this one will age nicely as well. Again very limited!

New York City Wine Tasting

We are bringing California Wine Country to New York City!

Join me on May 29, 2012 to meet the owners and winemakers of:
Coho, Hilliard Bruce, MilAnge (Frank’s own label), Cornerstone, Paul Lato, Dragonette, Sans Liege, Tofanelli, Solitude, Garric, World’s End, Monthuys Champagne, and others to taste their latest releases.

We will be pouring 30+ wines and serve up a great dinner (buffet style)

Tuesday May 29, 2012 from 5:00 P.M – 8:00 P.M.
Alfama Restaurant
214 East 52nd Street  New York, NY 10022


Tickets: $75.00 per person or $120.00 for two people (@$60.00 per person)
RSVP: 415-337-4083 or frank@goldengatewinecellars.com

Or purchase online at http://www.goldengatewinecellars.com

Stunning Pinot Noir throws many big ones a curve ball.

The Peay Vineyards TeamI spent the morning tasting with Andy Peay, the owner of Peay Vineyards and his line-up was stunning! What really stood out was the 2010 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Later in the day I tasted with my wine group (22 wine professionals) and we each bring our “favorite” wine – that week was Pinot Noir week, so I opted to bring a bottle of Peay. I really impressed and surprised many of my friends. Some big names, Martinelli, Rochioli, Pisoni, Auteur, William Selyem and Kosta Browne were in the line-up. My little guy (FYI, the wine maker is a nice lady Vanessa Wong who crafted many great Peter Michael wines until she met Andy Peay and became Vanessa Peay, winemaker at Peay!)

Peay 2010 Pinot NoirPeay Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

The wine offers amazing depth and ballast while remaining very feminine and seductive (not overblown, not a fruit bomb). The color is a beautiful see-through red hue. The engaging aromas of citrus, duck sauce and red cherry flow out the glass. On the palate this well-structured ballerina offers modest weight and great expression of a-typical Pinot Noir characters, a touch of earthiness, cinnamon stick, cherries and a hint of cinnamon on the long finish. The wine is young and exuberant and will age nicely.

White Burgundy in the Napa Valley!

Rosseau In Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Three Musketeers, D’Artagnan fell for the beautiful and mysterious Milady. This French style inspired Chardonnay is Yannick Rousseau’s Lady – “Milady” – Susanna’s favorite aphrodisiac! It comes from the highly acclaimed, 1800 foot elevation Godspeed Vineyards.

Rosseau 2009 Chardonnay "Milady"Rousseau 2009 Chardonnay “Milady” Mt. Veeder

This is (White) Burgundy WEST! A very limited production (195 cases) Chardonnay sourced from this stunning Godspeed vineyard, high-up Mt. Veeder. On the nose peaches, vanilla and a touch of ginger mingle on the nose with hints of orchard fresh fruit. This naturally fermented wine (native yeast and no-malolactic fermentation) was aged in only 20% new oak to showcase its unique character. This wine is very distinct and complex. Along the medium-to-full-bodied palate this “Milady” is gorgeous and well balanced with a gorgeously textured richness without being flabby. This is a wine that will go over very well with Dungeness crab or a juicy roasted chicken with Herbs-de-Provence tucked under its skin. I am getting hungry just writing this!

Stunning Pinot a must have wine!

Pillow Road Vineyards

This is a real sleeper hit! Sourced from their estate properties in the Russian River Valley, Pillow Road Vineyards consists of two plots located in Sebastopol on the southern edge of the Russian River Valley. In total, both vineyards are planted to 20 acres of Pinot Noir clones 4, 115, 777, Swan and Calera. Situated only 15 miles from the coast, the valley’s calm foggy mornings, clear afternoons and cool breezy nights provide an idyllic climate for growing Pinot Noir. Pillow Road’s vineyards are nourished by the rich Gold Ridge sandy loam soils. The sand allows the soils to drain quickly during a wet spring, while the loam holds on to a marginal amount of water to self-irrigate the vines throughout the growing season, without either over-invigorating or stressing the vines.

Pillow Road 2009 Pinot NoirPillow Road 2009 Russian River Pinot Noir

This 2009 Pinot Noir is a gorgeous wine with an amazing expression of TRUE Pinot Noir characters and flavors. I could call it pretty, sexy, voluptuous and one would think that I am a sexist type of guy, but I am not. This is the description of this stunning wine. On the nose one will meet the strawberry, raspberry and hints of earthy, spiciness that spiral out of the bottle. On first impact this silky, yet full bodied wine is bright and silky with an amazing balance and tons of flavors. The (crisp) acidity provides for an amazingly long, complex finish that will satisfy even the harshest critics of this fragile varietal. Only 400 cases were produced of this well-made wine!

Boutique Gem turns heads!

C Beck Wines

In a 5 winery blind tasting (Montelena Estate, Roy Estate, Buccella, Caymus Special Selection and C-Beck) this little gem surprised the group of 30 tasters. Not only did it come in first in the tasting, it also surprised the group in the final average price score (we “guess” the price of each wine and average it out). C-Beck came first and Montelena last. Not small meat and potatoes here. I have become a big proponent of blind tastings as you are tasting on merit and not the packaging!

C-Beck 2008 Cabernet SauvignonC-Beck 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Corey Beck (C-Beck) was born and raised in Calistoga, where from the age of twelve, he spent his summers working alongside his grandfather, who was the vineyard manager at Chateau Montelena. Those summers with his grandfather inspired Corey’s love affair with wine. Upon graduating in 1990 from UC David, he returned to Montelena as Cellar Master. Four years later he joined the winemaking team at Rubicon Estate, where he met Claudia, who was then Chateau Director. Claudia, whose family has owned the world-renowned Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford for the past 25 years as well as Napa’s Angèle Restaurant, acquired a passion for wine and haute cuisine at an early age. Her European background and appreciation for how wine and food should complement one another has greatly influenced the style of wines they produce.

C-Beck WinesWine makers notes:“The 2008 vintage offered a long cool growing season with moderate temperatures and a very dry winter. The drought like conditions helped regulate berry size and thus we ended up with smaller than average clusters and berries. As winemakers we love this because smaller berries means more concentration. Harvest for our Cabernet officially started in mid-October and after a long superb growing season we had another stellar vintage in the winery.”

Frank’s Notes:

The Barlow vineyard is a great vineyard and the source for this stunning Cabernet. On the nose the aromas of ripe black stone fruit jump out of the glass. The lush, full bodied wine is oozing with concentrated, yet well-balanced fruit and the right amounts of acidity. Layers of chocolate, espresso beans, black berries with hints of sweet vanilla lead into a long, silky finish. Only 175 cases of this gem were produced!