95 Point “Classy” Chardonnay & 95 Points “Expansive” Pinot Gem

Last week I spent the  morning tasting with Andy Peay, the owner of Peay Vineyards and his line-up was stunning! What really stood out were the 2015 “Estate” Chardonnay and 2015 Pomarium Pinot Noir. Later in the day I tasted with my wine group (12 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 (Bondi 97 Points), Rochioli, Pisoni, Aubert , William Selyem and Kosta Browne were in the line-up. My little guy came out ahead of the pack. (FYI, the wine maker is Vanessa Wong who crafted many great Peter Michael wines until she met Andy Peay’s brother Nick and became Vanessa Peay, the winemaker at Peay!). My group also tasted the Chardonnay and was equally impressed!

Peay 2015 “Estate” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
Retail 60.00 – GGWC 54.99 or 49.99 on 12 bottles (solid)
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code PEAY during checkout

OK to mix with Peay Pinot Noir

Galloni 95 Points: “The 2015 Chardonnay Estate is laced with the essence of slate, stone fruit, mint and white pepper. Bright, sculpted and nuanced, the 2015 screams with class. The 2015 deftly manages to be rich and intense, but not at all heavy. A hint of reduction adds nuance without being overpowering.”

Peay 2015 “Pomarium” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
Retail 67.00 – GGWC 63.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code PEAY during checkout

OK to mix with Peay Chardonnay

Galloni 95 Points: “The 2015 Pinot Noir Estate Pomarium brings together all the elements of the house style. The creaminess of Ama meets the more tannic profile of the Scallop Shelf in a vivid, nuanced Pinot Noir that hits all the right notes. Dark cherry, plum, rose petal, lavender, licorice, spice and new leather infuse the creamy, expansive finish. In 2015, the Pomarium is a winner.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Killer Napa Petite Syrah


Over a century of grape growing and wine production hints at the amazing history that has transpired on our ranch. From its days as part of Rancho Caymus in the early 1800s, through the wine production period of the late nineteenth century, and then as source of high quality Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, through the twentieth century, The Terraces has been at the heart of the history of Napa Valley.

The Terraces 2014 Petite Sirah, Estate, Napa Valley 
Retail 45.00 – GGWC 42.99
FREE SHIPPING on SIX
Use code TERRACES during checkout


This is a HUGE wine! Deep purple. Rich, ripe aromas of blackberry, cassis, licorice, and black pepper. Palate is mouth-coating with continued flavors of ripe blackberry, blueberry, black currant with lingering sweet spices and leathery tannins. Big finish. Drink now to 10-15 years.

Be sure to check out the Terraces 2013 Zinfandel as well!

Click here or on the links above to order!

A GREAT NAPA UNDER $50 CAB BLEND BY “SCARECROW” DISCIPLE

In 1999 Mary Rocca and Eric Grigsby purchased the 21 acre property after a 3 year search for the “ideal” vineyard site.  Mary called upon renowned winemaker Celia Welch, then Celia Masyczek to produce the label’s first vintages. The debut bottling was the 2000 Syrah, a varietal which to this day garners praise and awards for the Rocca family.

But Rocca really got on the map in 2002, when its Grigsby Vineyard Cabernet came in #1 in a blind tasting of 12 Rising Star Cabernets. Later, the wine was taken with a group of 12 other Cabernets to show in France’s 12 Best Cabernets from California. It came in #1 over there as well. Finally, those same 12 Cabs had another blind tasting competition in SF to see how they would rank by American consumers. It came in #1 again! Rocca’s star was rising fast. But so far they have been much under the radar, but I have a feeling that this will change soon. The current winemaker Paul Colantuoni worked for many years under Celia Welch (Scarecrow) and has taken a few pages out of her “note book” and it shows with the new wines.

Rocca 2014 “Vespera” Red Blend “Estate” Napa Valley 
Retail 52.00 – GGWC 49.99
FREE SHIPPING ON 6 or more
Use code VESPERA upon checkout

It will come as no surprise but the Vespera 2014 Proprietary Red Blend is  a real crowd-pleaser. The wine is forward, easily accessible, immediately delicious and enjoyable young.  As soon as it’s poured, the wine comes across as warm, rich and inviting. There are deep layers of dark ripe blackberry, cassis, and black cherry aromas here, comfortably interwoven with subtle hints of oak spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chocolate.  On the palate this is a gorgeously soft, smooth blend that lushly coats the entire palate without a hint of heaviness or astringency.  It ends with a long, complex but silky tannin finish.  This is a wine that’s ready for full enjoyment right out of the gate.

Click here or on the links above to order!

A decade in retrospect, the 2007 Vintage from Frank’s Cellar

On Saturday, March 11, we tasted 10 wines from the 2007 vintage and shared them with a crowd of about about 35-40 guest in our tasting room.

The 2007 vintage lineup included the following:

  • Ramey “Hudson vineyard” Chardonnay, Carneros
  • Walter Hansel “Cahill Lane” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
  • Lioco “Carneros” Pinot Noir
  • Paul Lato “Sine Cera” Fiddlestix Vineyard
  • Page Proprietary Red, Napa Valley
  • Trespass “Rendezvous ” Cabernet blend, St. Helena, Napa
  • Ramian “Chapter 7” Cabernet Blend, Mt Veeder Napa
  • Kamen “Estate” Cabernet, Sonoma
  • Coho “SummitVine” Diamond Mt, Napa
  • Malk “Estate” Stag’s Leap, Napa

All the wines showed well and everyone had different favorites. The vintage didn’t fail nor show lackluster after a decade in my temperature-controlled wine cellar.

The “winners” if we were to crown them, were the following:

Coho & Kamen Cabernet: both of these showed gusto, great body and flavor with ample “mountain” tannins.  I’d say both wines could be drunk till 2020-22.

Trespass Rendezvous: this estate grown Cabernet blend (FYI next door to Spottswoode), benefited from a good 90 minute decanting before we served it, or it might have been a bit too tannic if we didn’t. The blackstone fruit was still as gorgeous as upon its release a good 8 years ago!

Paul Lato Pinot Noir:  the Fiddlestix is always an early ripening vineyard source.  This wine reminded me of a great Burgundy.  Not as bold as Paul’s other Pinots, but a Well-crafted gem at the hands of one of best winemakers in California.

Ramey Chardonnay: the Hudson Ranch would be a Premiere Cru if it was in Burgundy, and that wine was probably the crown jewel of the tasting, surprising everyone. No one believed a California Chardonnay could age this nicely!

Not to take away from the other wines, as Hansel Cahill Lane still had good fruit, with a slight hint of oxidation.

The Lioco might have been a little tired, but was still liked by everyone.

The Page, Malk, and Ramian still have a lifespan of about 3-5 years left; Ramian even a little longer, for those who still have some of these wines in their cellar. The Malk showed some leathery, tobacco flavors alongside its nice dark berry fruit.  The Page was very silky,  courtesy of the large dose of Merlot in this blend. The Ramian was still “in-your-face” bold, intense mountain grown fruit that wowed everyone and was agreed upon that it would drink well for another 5-8 years.

The next vintage perspective will have to wait a few years – 2009 and 2010 vintage will be on the docket. In the mean time, be sure to take a look at the current vintages from each of these winners and I am certain that you will not be disappointed!

Happy Sipping!

Your Patron Saint of (soft) Tannins.
St. Frank

97 POINT PINOT STAR

 

The Martinelli family has been growing grapes in the Russian River Valley since the 1880’s. At the ages of 19 and 16, Giuseppe Martinelli and Luisa Vellutini eloped from their small village in the Tuscany region of Italy, making their way to California looking for land to farm and start a winery.

In 1918 Giuseppe died, leaving Luisa with four children and the farm to care for. Their youngest son, Leno was twelve years old at the time and had wanted no other career in life than to be a farmer. Leno’s two older brothers wanted nothing to do with the impossibly steep hillside, so after completing the eighth grade, Leno finished school and took on the sole responsibility of farming the Zinfandel vineyard. His family told him that only a jackass would farm a hill that steep. Hence, he and his vineyard earned the name Jackass Hill.

In 1973 Lee Sr. took over management of his Uncle Tony Bondi’s estate, which was comprised mainly of apple orchards, and began planting vineyards in the rich soil of the Russian River Valley. Soon considered a premium grape grower, Lee’s fruit was in great demand from many wineries. Lee and his wife, Carolyn, realized the exceptional potential to create superb wines from these grapes, and decided to start their own winery, and the rest as they say…. is history.

Martinelli 2015 “Bondi” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 
Retail 75.00 – GGWC 71.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code MARTINELLI during checkout


Galloni 97 Points: “The 2015 Pinot Noir Bondi Home Ranch, from Martinelli’s coolest Pinot site, is another stunner. Silky, nuanced and wonderfully expressive on the palate, the 2015 possesses remarkable intensity but in a decidedly mid-weight style by Martinelli standards. Dense and compact in its center, the 2015 needs at least a few years to open up. Even today, though, it is dazzling. Early to bloom and late to ripen, Bondi Home Ranch enjoys an especially long growing season.”

Make sure to check out the not so shabbily rated 
MARTINELLI 2015 ZIO TONY PINOT NOIR, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY, 96 POINTS
MARTINELLI 2014 PINOT NOIR “BONDI RANCH” 96 POINTS PARKER

    
Martinelli 2015 Zio Tony Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley  
Retail 75.00 – GGWC 71.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code MARTINELLI during checkout


Galloni 96 Points: “The 2015 Pinot Noir Zio Tony Ranch is another fabulous wine from Martinelli. Dark, round and inviting, the 2015 possesses striking depth and intensity. Succulent black cherry, plum, spice, leather and rose petal shape this utterly compelling Pinot. Sweet floral notes add attractive aromatic lift and refinement.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

TRULY, A MUST HAVE 94 POINT PINOT!

 

Patricia Green Cellars is located in the Ribbon Ridge Appellation of the Willamette Valley on a 52 acre estate purchased in 2000 by Patty Green and Jim Anderson. The winery, and thus the two friends and business partners, are noted for producing a tremendously broad selection of Pinot Noirs from several vineyards representing some of the better sites in the Willamette Valley with a particular emphasis over the years on Ribbon Ridge, Dundee Hills and the Chehalem Mountains appellations. Ribbon Ridge is a 3.5-mile long by 1.75-mile wide ridge that extends from the Chehalem Mountains. The ridge rises 683 feet from the Chehalem Valley floor, giving it an island-like appearance.

Patricia Green 2014 Pinot Noir “Old Vine” Estate 
Retail 45.00 – GGWC 41.99
FREE SHIPPING on SIX or more
Use code PG14PN during checkout

Winemaker Notes: ”The difference between the older and younger blocks here is always pretty amazing to people. As the vines continue to age these older vines continue to sink deep root systems into the soft sandstone sub-soil. Our water is spring fed and very minerally in nature. That is what these older vines have tapped into and that is what they pull up and put into the fruit. Savory and bringing in both black and red fruit spectrums so this has a wide range in the mid-palate. Ultimately this wine is defined by the mineral laden “ribbon” that intertwines the fruit and carries the flavors onto the sinewy tannin structure underlying the wine. This is refined and elegant while still being surprisingly broad shouldered.”

Galloni 94 Points: “Dark red. Lively, sharply focused aromas of fresh raspberry, candied flowers and spicecake, backed by a zesty mineral nuance. Juicy, incisive strawberry, bitter cherry and peppery spice flavors deepen and gain sweetness with air while maintaining urgency. At once concentrated and nervy, finishing with excellent focus and suave, late-arriving tannins.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Phenolics in Wine

“It’s Greek to me!”

You might hear winemakers talk about phenolics and to the general wine drinking population, they might as well be speaking Greek. But a little knowledge can a long way towards your general understanding of why wine looks and taste the way it does, as well as make you stand apart from the oenophile pack.

Phenols and phenolic acids are found in the pulp, skin, seeds and stems of grapes.  They are chemical compounds that effect aroma, flavor and texture. While the chemistry is complex, they are benzene rings. Many other compounds can hang off of them and that is what makes wines taste different from each other.

Phenolics are leached out when grapes are macerated and pressed. Longer maceration periods and harder pressings will create higher concentrations of phenolics. As such, red wines have greater phenolic intensity but skin fermented white wines also have a lot.

There are hundreds of phenols in wine. Flavonoids are the most important and within this group there are three principle types: anthocyanins, tannins and catechins.

Anthocyanins are largely responsible for the pigmentation in red wine. They do not add to the aroma or flavor. A wine’s color is in part determined by the ionization (the basic high school chemistry definition of ionization is the loss or gain of electrons to form a positive or negative charge) of anthocyanins of its pigments.

The basic wine colors

Here’s the tricky part. Wine has three pigments, red, blue and clear. Wines with higher acidity have a higher occurrence of ionization that creates a brighter red hue. On the other hand, wines with lower acidity are not as ionized and will have more of a purple color. Over time, anthocyanins react with other compounds to cause wine to turn more of a brick color and eventually, brown.

Tannins are what cause wine to seem astringent and they effect both the flavor and mouth feel. They are present in skins, stems and pits. Naturally occurring tannins are considered proanthocyanindins because anthocyanins are released as they heat up in an acidic solution, which is what happens to wine as it ferments. As wine ages, tannins form long polymer chains. You might hear people say that tannins break down over time but the opposite actually occurs and they become too large for people to perceive so they seem to soften. Also, anthocyanins and tannins create polymers that continue to grow until the whole molecule becomes unstable and falls out of the solution. This is how sediment is formed.

Oak has hydrolysable tannins that are created by ellagic and gallic acid found in wood and this is one of the reasons why winemakers ferment and age wine in oak barrels. New barrels or barrels that have only been used once have the highest level of tannin.

Vineyard fog

Catechins are the third component of the trio.  They are mostly in seeds and account for their bitter taste. In combination with anthocyanins and tannins, catechins stabilize color. Importantly, they play a role in fighting microbial activity in diseases such as downy mildew. Grapes from cool damp climates have evolved to produce more have more catachins than those from hot, arid areas.

Two important non-flavonoid phenols are stilbenoids and hydroxycinnammic acids. Of the hydroxycinnammic acids, tartaric acid is the most discussed as it plays a crucial role in the stabilization of wine. You will sometimes notice tartaric crystals (tartrates) in your glass or on the cork. These are formed during fermentation when tartaric acid attaches to lees and other particles. They are harmless.

Resveratrol is the most common stilbenoid. It is found in grape skins so there is a higher density in wines with increased skin contact. Like catechins, it provides defense against hostile microbes, especially those found in – you guessed it – cool, damp regions.

As mentioned, there are many other phenolics found in wine but these are the ones that are the most valuable for your own knowledge and will score you points if you want to impress a winemaker!

Frank Melis
Golden Gate Wine Cellars

P.S. As always, I am here to assist you and answer any questions that you may have about wine! Please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 415-337-4083 or email me at frank@ggwc.com.

97 Point rated Gem

 

Bibiana González Rave is the founder and winemaker of Cattleya Wines. She is also the wife of star winemaker Jeff Pisoni.  Born and raised in Colombia and trained as a winemaker in France, she moved to California in 2007 to settle into making extraordinary wines.  In her words: “Since my early teenage years, my dream has been to make wine. At a very young age I was fortunate enough to begin learning how to make wine in France. I trained myself while working with some amazing winemakers who showed me the importance of loving the land, how to respect the farming itself, and to focus on the many details that go into making each drop of wine in each and every bottle.”  She is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay winemaker at Pahlmeyer and produces “Shared Notes” wines with husband Jeff Pisoni.  All those ingredients together and you have one of the best winemakers in the country!

Cattleya 2014 Syrah “Soberanes” Santa Lucia Highlands 
Retail 80.00 – GGWC 74.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code CATTLEYA during checkout

OK to mix with other Cattleya wines

The wine offers up an amazing bouquet of exotic fruit that jumps out of the glass. The color is bold and intense and the flavors on the palate just reflect the same – intense black stone fruit, a touch for floral quality and a hint of meaty-bacon fat.  Densely concentrated, yet incredibly elegant at the same time.  The flavors go on and on into a gorgeously long finish with silky tannins!

Robert Parker 97 Points: “Possessing a touch of La Mouline-like violet and floral characteristics, the utterly sensational 2014 Syrah Soberanes Vineyard offers decadent notes of jammy blackberries, creme de cassis, vanilla bean, damp earth and pepper to go with a full-bodied, layered, beautifully pure and seamless style on the palate. It has a wealth of fruit, yet it also has a great mid-palate, building, chalky tannin and a terrific finish. This gorgeous effort has both richness and elegance, and will drink well for a decade or more. Pure class.”

Make sure to check out the other highly rated Cattleya wines:
CATTLEYA 2014 CHARDONNAY “PRATT VINEYARD” – 95 POINTS PARKER – GGWC WINE OF THE YEAR
CATTLEYA 2013 “DONUM” PINOT NOIR CARNEROS 95 POINTS
CATTLEYA 2015 “ALMA DE CATTLEYA” CHARDONNAY

Click here or on the links above to order!

WHITE BURGUNDY MEETS CALIFORNIA = FREE SHIPPING

 

This small winery in the Santa Rita Hills is the brain child of Jeff and Nikki Nelson.  Their wine maker is Brandon Sparks-Gillis (the “man” behind the Dragonette success).  Their wine-style is based and named in honor of the chalky white hills of Chablis and diatomaceous earth of the  Santa Rita Hills.

Liquid Farm 2014 Chardonnay “Golden Slope” 
Retail 55.00 – GGWC 52.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code SLOPE during checkout

Subtle aromas of raw honey, beeswax, baked sourdough and white flowers. The palate gives flavors of quince, tangelo, and creme fraiche with subtle hints of nutmeg and cardamom. A very long, lingering finish with flavors of marzipan and green pineapple that leaves your mouth-popping and (at least for us!) craving another sip.

Galloni 94 Points: “The 2014 Chardonnay Golden Slope is one of the richer, creamier wines in the range. Orange blossom, crème brulee, apricot jam and buttery notes are fused together. The Golden Slope will appeal most to readers who like more overt, flamboyant Chardonnays. Today, it is absolutely striking.”

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The Ten Most Important Things to Know About Wine

The 10 Most Important Things
to Know About Wine

1) Be honest. If you like something, even if your wife think is it smells like the trashcan, that is your opinion and there is no right, wrong, good or bad. Being truthful about what you like will also help those who are assisting you in a wine shop or restaurant find a wine that is to your liking.

2) Trust someone. Whether it’s a critic, sales person, sommelier or your next-door neighbor, find someone or even better, a few people who seem to share your sensibilities.

3) What’s for dinner? Wine and food go hand and hand, and it is helpful to know what you’re eating so you can choose a wine that matches the meal. Sometimes you might want to get a wine to drink as an aperitif. In this case, opt for a wine that is a little bit lower in alcohol if you know there are going to be more bottles to come.

4) Proper serving temperature. In general, reds should be served at room temperature. Some reds are better with a slight chill. Lighter, fruit driven reds such as Beaujolais and some Pinot Noirs are especially good after 20 -30 minutes in the fridge. White wines, on the other hand, are often served too cold. This will mask the flavor. Crisp white wines that don’t spend time in wood are better on the colder side but fuller bodied and barrel fermented ones should be chilled, but not cold.

5) Aeration. Giving wine some room to breathe is almost always beneficial. When wine is exposed to air it open ups, revealing more aroma and flavor. Some wines need just a few minutes while others can take hours. However, wines that are decades old have received plenty of oxygen exposure through the cork and don’t need to aerate. You should decant them for sediment but do this right before you are ready pour yourself a glass.

6) Good wine does not need to cost and arm and a leg. You’d be surprised how many wines sell for under $50 that are quite tasty and in the $25 – $50 range there are not just good wines, but great wines with the capacity to age!

7) Budget. Most people have a budget for wine, even if it is not written down. You might have a set amount for what you spend every month. Figure out how much of that you want to age and how much you are going to drink in the near future.

8) When to pull the cork? Most wine that is sold is consumed within 24 hours after purchase. However, a lot of wines need time. Of course there are those such as California Cabs that often take years to develop but wines that have recently been transported or bottled might be a little disjointed and need a few weeks or months to settle down. Always ask the sales person how well the wine is drinking.

9) To cellar of not to cellar? Not everyone is interested in aging wine but if you are make sure it is a wine that is worth cellaring. While many bottles are consumed too young, people often put away wines that don’t need that much time. Do your research. And keep in mind, some of us like wine that is youthful and zesty whiles others prefer the secondary or tertiary characteristics so think about your preferences when you’re stashing away that Russian River Pinot.

10) Know your sources. Especially when you are buying older or rare wines, make sure that you are getting them from a reputable company. Wine fraud has become a big issue over the last few years. You also want to make sure that the wine has been stored well. Inspect the bottles when you get them and make sure that the fill is as advertised.

11) Because we can’t stop at only ten! Enlist an expert. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 415-337-4083 or send an email to frank@goldengatewinecellars.com if you ever have any questions about wines. Simple or complex, we are here to help!