And the Blind Tasting Winner is….

In a recent blind tasting of domestic Rhone Varietals Law Estate 2015 Sagaciousbeat out some amazing players. The line-up included:

  • Epoch “Sensibility” (95 Robert Parker/96 Vinous)
  • Booker ‘Vertigo” (95 Robert Parker)
  • Tablas “Panoplie” (96 Vinous)
  • DuMOL “Eddie’s Patch (98 Jeb Dunnuck)
  • Torrin “Maven” (95 Vinous)
  • Aaron “Trespasser” (94 Vinous)
  • Sanguis “Bossman” (97 Jeb Dunnuck)
  • Jonata “La Sangre” (96 Vinous)
  • Law Estate “Sagacious”


THE WINNER === LAW ESTATE!!

Law Estate 2015 Sagacious
GGWC 79.99
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Scott Hawley, winemaker at famed Torrin (many 95-98 point rated wines) is the skipper at the helm of Law Estate in Paso Robles. 80% of the estate is planted to Syrah and Grenache, while the rest of the property consists of Mourvedre, Petit Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon Tempranillo and Carignane.  This winery is doing amazingly well, so get on board now before this becomes the next Sine Qua None (that would mean “None” for you if you don’t bite now).

Vinous 95 Points: “Sagacious, as complex as the dirt it’s grown in, channels southern Rhone vibes and a romantic Old World-like structure. More than ten blocks of varying Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre clones are used to capture the vineyard’s individuality.  Mourvèdre is the obvious key player, conveying notes of savory charcuterie and dried herbs. The Grenache’s pop of bright acidity and the Syrah’s pepper notes create an incredibly round structure. With only 28% new French oak in barrel, foudre and puncheon, Sagacious is significantly advanced in its fruit profile.”

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96 Point STELLAR under $35.00 RED


A British couple settled in the hills of Mendocino where they found  land with schist-like Cote–Rotie soils on a windblown cool mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which would become their “estate” vineyard.   With the assistance of Justin Smith (Saxum), Crole Meredith  & Steve Lagier (Lagier-Meredith), Mike Officer (Carlisle) and Wells Guthrie (Copain) they set out to plant what has become a much regarded Rhone-varietal vineyard.  Wells helped develop and maintain the vineyard.  Under the tutelage of the great Roar winemaker (Scott Shapley) they have put some very good quality and well-priced wines on the wine map!

Halcon 2016 Petite Sirah “Tierra”
GGWC 32.99
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Deep rich ruby color. Nose of graphite and black fruits. Silky smooth mouthfeel, flavors of black plum, black cherry and roasted meats. A supple, well balanced wine. Fermented and aged in neutral French oak puncheons with native yeast and 50% whole cluster. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.

96 Points by Jeb Dunnuck (formerly of Robert Parker): “The 2016 Petite Sirah Tierra Theopolis Vineyard is another straight up fabulous wine from Paul Gordon. Its deep ruby/purple color is followed by gorgeous notes of black raspberries, lavender, flowers, and honeysuckle. Perfumed, elegant and already surprisingly forward, it still packs tons of fruit and richness on the palate, with vibrant acidity and a great finish.”

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96 Point, Brilliant Pinot Noir

Land’s Edge Pinot Noir is sourced from vineyards located at the ‘Land’s Edge’ of the Sonoma Coast AVA. The vineyards are driven by a maritime influence, producing a small but concentrated crop of Pinot Noir that is harvested in late September through mid-October. The foggy coastal climate preserves natural acidity in the grapes and helps delineate the purity of fruit flavors and expression of the unique coastal terroir in this wine. Balanced acidity, layers of complexity and firm tannins will allow for long and graceful aging of Land’s Edge Vineyards Pinot Noir.

Hartford Court 2015 “Land’s Edge” Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
GGWC 49.99
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WA 95 Points: “One of the brilliant efforts from Hartford Court is the 2015 Pinot Noir Land’s Edge Vineyards. From a site located only four miles from the Pacific Ocean, this wine has a saturated ruby/purple color and a beautiful concentration of blueberry, black raspberry and black cherry, some crushed rock and spring flowers. The terrific fruit on the attack and mid-palate, the full-bodied finish and intensity are all promising in this brilliant effort. Drink it over the next decade.”

WS 96 Points: “This is comprised of fruit from two coastal sites, but it does not hold back on flavor or complexity. A juicy entry of spicy red and blue fruit is surrounded by moderate structure and an imprint of rose petal.  Lasting in intensity and acidity, it’s dotted in citrus and polished tannins”

Winemaker Notes: “The nose leads with black cherry & black raspberry, balanced with aromas of crushed quartz & dried rose petal. The layered flavors of dark berries, licorice & dried flowers lead to a mid-palate with elegant & polished texture. The wine ends with a lingering mocha & mineral finish.”

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Scarecrow Winemaker’s Prodigious New Cabernet

Celia Welch does not need an intro, but in case you wouldn’t know who she is – She’s the brainchild behind many highly rated and highly regarded wineries including Scarecrow, Corra, Barbour,  Keever, 2480, Kelly Fleming, Rewa, Castiel, etc.  For the past couple of years she’s been involved with a new project called YOUNT RIDGE. The property is based in Oakville, I know with a name like Yount Ridge, you’d think Yountville!  I was excited to taste the latest release and was completely infatuated by the wine.

Yount Ridge 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Napa Valley
GGWC 94.99
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The 2015 Yount Ridge Cabernet is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.5% Malbec and 0.5% Merlot.  Goregous dense ruby/purple color. The wine has a lovely nose loaded with dark fruit, plum and blackberry.  On the palate you are greeted by fresh, deep, dark and rich black stone, dark chocolate, anise and a touch of spice  flavors that roll over your tongue.  The wine is robust in body, yet very-well put together, well-balanced fruit to acid ratios. The Yount Ridge Cabernet is a very sophisticated wine that show class, balance and finesse!  This is Celia at her best’ wine!  The wine finishes with seductive and silky grained tannins.

Winemaker Notes: “Very forward aromas of spice, earth, root beer and raspberry show the range of Cabernet dimensions in this bright, ripe rendition. Broad at entry, the mid palate shows black cherry notes, along with cola, warm baking spices, cassis and red currant flavors. The finish is long and structural, with a fresh natural acidity. Dense, supple and sinewy.”

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CHARDONNAY VALUE OF THE MONTH, 94 POINTS, 25% OFF

Walter Hansel has become synonymous with great quality at a great price!  Year after year these wines seem to impress me and my clientele alike.  The first vines were planted in 1978 just a up the block from Kistler!  The actual winery did not start till 1996 when they produced 3 barrels of Pinot Noir and 10 barrels of Chardonnay, and the rest as they say, is history!  Stephen Hansel (Walter’s son) had one of the best winemakers as his tutor (Tom Rochiolli) so it is no surprise that they are still putting out great wines decades later. Year after year this winery has produced amazing “Dollar Cost Average” under priced wines!

Walter Hansel 2015 “North Slope” Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
Retail 43.99 – TODAY 32.99 (on 12) & FREE SHIPPING!
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Robert Parker 94 Points: “The 2015 Chardonnay North Slope Vineyard has a very sultry nose of apricots, green mango and grapefruit with touches of croissant, honeysuckle and chalk dust. Medium to full-bodied with a sexy, satiny texture and tons of citrus and stone fruit layers, it has a nice long, savory finish.”

Vinous 93 Points: “The 2015 Chardonnay The North Slope Vineyard is one of the more lifted and aromatically bright wines in this range. Candied lemon peel, tangerine and white flowers give the 2015 an attractive upper register that balances the overt fruit that is typical of these Chardonnays.”

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Musings On Grenache

Musings on Grenache

Contributed by David Morrison
The Wine Gourd

I have always thought that one of the most intriguing grapes is the one usually known as Grenache. This is because you can make such a wide variety of styles and make them all well — everything from strong and tannic (eg. in Priorat), through herbal and spicy (eg. southern Rhône), to soft and fruity (eg. Barossa), and on to rosé (eg. Tavel and Provence), as well as dessert wines (eg. Banyuls). To me, very few of the usual rosé grapes can make a fine red wine, and few of the red-wine grapes can make a good rosé — it is “horses for courses”, except for Grenache.

This musing was inspired by reading two wine articles in the same week, one extolling the virtues of Grenache in California (How California’s Central Coast winemakers are making grenache their own) and one extolling the virtues of Grenache in South Australia (Great groovy grenaches). These articles embody two different approaches to the topic of making wine from Grenache, but they both focus on making mono-varietal wines. of which we are seeing more and more these days.

Traditionally, in southern France Grenache is combined with Shiraz, and sometimes Mourvèdre / Mataro or Carignan, while in Rioja it is blended with Tempranillo. All of these blends are excellent uses of Grenache, but it can easily stand on its own if handled correctly. Mind you, Grenache can also make some pretty uninspiring wines, if you don’t pay attention to what you are doing, especially regarding over-cropping.

To quote the Australian article: “Lighter-bodied, lower-tannin, soft, fruity, early-drinking red wine is in vogue everywhere, and is being promoted by a younger generation of winemakers who need to sell their wines young. In places … where they can’t do much of consequence with Pinot Noir, astutely produced Grenache can perform a similar role.”

To quote the US article: “Vintners … are shedding that [jug wine] baggage. They’ve optimized viticulture and dialed back the tonnage to produce varietal Grenache as nuanced and delicious as top-shelf Pinot Noir — often at half the price. Winemakers explore both the rich, ripe side of the grape, which retains acidity deep into the harvest season, as well as lighter, fresher expressions that play up floral aromatics and taut textures.”

Formally, the grape’s name is Grenache Noir, to distinguish it from the white-wine Grenaches (Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris). However, since the variety most likely originated in the region of Aragon in northern Spain, we should probably use its Spanish name: Garnacha Tinta. It has even been suggested that the Aragonese (who use the Catalan name: Garnatxa Negra) originally got the grape from Sardinia, where it is called Cannonau. However, it was apparently first recorded in Spain in 1479, in Sardinia in 1549, and in France in 1780.
 

 


The grape ripens late, and so it is widely grown in areas that are too warm for, say, Pinot Noir, with which it is so often compared. The above map is taken from: Distribution of the world’s grapevine varieties (produced by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, 2017).

Winemakers worldwide often comment on the “malleability” of Grenache, as well as on its ability to express terroir. It is less distinctive as a grape than are many other varieties and so, as noted above, it can make a wide variety of styles. It is thus somewhat surprising that PlantGrape lists only 23 approved clones in France, compared to 20 for Cabernet Sauvignon but 47 for Pinot Noir.

There are a number of examples where Grenache has been used to make interesting vinous comparisons. For example, in Australia The Artisans of Barossa Grenache Project involved six winemakers each taking a row of Grenache from the same Barossa Valley vineyard in 2017, and then applying their own vinification and maturation approaches, thus producing six different wines. These wines were released as a 6-pack, thus allowing wine lovers to make the direct comparison of wine-making versus terroir. In that regard, Max Allen noted: “10 months after vintage, the winemaking influence is far more obvious than the vineyard-derived characters that all six wines should, theoretically, share.”

With a somewhat different objective, in Spain Celler de Capçanes produces a 4-pack of wines called La Nit de les Garnatxes (this is Catalan; in English, it would be: The Night of the Grenaches). These are Grenache wines produced from grapes grown on each of the four different soil types in their Priorat vineyards: limestone, clay, slate / schist, and sand / alluvial. In this case, the same wine-making technique is applied, so that wine lovers can make a direct comparison of the four terroirs.

Check out these great Grenaches we currently have in stock

PAUL LATO 2016 GRENACHE “ORA LABORE” BIEN NACIDO
AARON 2014 SAND AND STONE PROPRIETARY RED PASO ROBLES
BECKMEN 2016 GRENACHE SANTA YNEZ VALLEY
HERMAN STORY 2015 CASUAL ENCOUNTER GSM , SANTA BARBARA
KEPLINGER 2015 “HANGMAN’S” HUDSON VINEYARD CARNEROS  99 POINTS
GROUNDWORK 2015 GRENACHE, SANTA BARBARA
SANS LIEGE 2015 PICKPOCKET TEMPELTON GAP, PASO ROBLES
SANS LIEGE 2015 “THE OFFERING” SANTA BARBARA
TORRIN 2013 “BANSHEE” GSM CENTRAL COAST – 95 POINTS PARKER

A Cult Production Napa Cab under $40

About the Band: Born from a monthly tasting group of seven Napa Valley wine & taste makers—Barrett Anderson from 100 Point wineries (Lokoya & Cardinale), Mark Porembski (formerly Araujo, makes Anomoly & Zeitgeist), Jason Heller (Master Sommelier with a CV at Harlan, Bond & Dana Estate), Cameron Hobel (Hobel Winery), Brennan Anderson (Foley), Dan Petroski (Larkmead 100 Pointers) and Stephane Vivier (Hyde de Villaine)—each highly regarded among their peers for their contributions to the wine profession. Together, they pooled their resources, talents and relationships to access some of Napa Valley’s best, sustainably-farmed fruit and all the winemaking necessities to get their wine into bottle.

Band of Vintners’
Consortium 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
GGWC 39.99
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Consortium is a delicious symphony of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon combining sustainably farmed grapes from a variety of high-quality growers, spanning the Napa hillsides to the valley floor, at a price that is music to everyone’s ear. Blend of 92% Cabernet, 6% Merlot & 2% Cabernet Franc.

Winemaker Notes: “Two-thousand-sixteen was a perfect vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon. A cool, wet winter led to deeper, darker skins and a warm spring / summer fostered slow, balanced ripening and vibrant, red fruit. This wine leads with blue and black fruit on the nose, and with a little time in the glass, develops notes of graphite and violets. A cassis-like viscosity coats the entire palate, unveiling Morello cherry and the ripe flesh of a plum, finishing with a hint of bay leaf. The acid and fine tannins will allow for complexity to develop over the next 3-5 years in bottle, but the overall balance of the vintage allows for this wine to be enjoyed now.”

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Exceptional Cabernet by an almost perfect (99 Pts) Winemaker!


A striking hillside property, Cornell is located on Spring Mountain, not too far from Togni, Pride and Paloma. In 2013, proprietors Henry and Vanessa Cornell hired winemaker Françoise Peschon (Araujo & Vine Hill Ranch) to oversee a complete makeover, and create the first estate grown wine from their then 10 year-old vineyard. Peschon brought in vineyard guru Phil Coturri (Kamen, etc.), who created the plan to redevelop the property and convert the estate to organic farming. The wines are made in the contemporary, classically leaning style that has brought Françoise Peschon so much acclaim at Araujo Estate and Vine Hill Ranch. Quite simply, these are gorgeous mountain Cabernets endowed with real class and pedigree.

Cornell 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
GGWC 149.99
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Galloni 96 Points: “The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is every bit as impressive as it was last June, when I tasted it just after bottling. Dark, sumptuous and alluring, the 2015 captures all the best qualities of the year. Super-ripe dark cherry, plum, licorice, dried flowers and mint are some of the many nuances that flesh out in this decidedly flamboyant Cabernet. Even with all of its richness, the 2015 retains the very classic sense of structure that is such a signature of Françoise Peschon’s wines.”

Winemaker Notes: ”The mountain immediately begins to reveal its many layers through the rich aromas of red fruit, a mix of dried and fresh herbs and graphite. The barrel influence is a subtle backdrop to the layers of fresh forest floor, wet stone and black currant. Red plum and fresh blackberry fill the mouth leading to the rich and classical structure.The wine’s refined texture and elegant tannins belie its youth. Approachable now, the 2015 Cornell Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon will age with grace and will continue to reveal its layers for many years to come.”

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All Oaks Are Not Alike

Why Not All Oaks Are Alike For Wine

By Tom Mullen, Forbes


The possibilities appear endless.

Consider, for a moment, the multiple factors that influence how the wine we sip eventually tastes: grape type, altitude, latitude, climate, slope angle and aspect, soil type, wind direction and speed, cultivation techniques, fermentation length and aging.

Next, consider the multiple factors influencing the aromas that emanate from an oak barrel, including: type and age of oak, grain tightness, seasoning, type of ‘toasting’ and surface area to volume ratio.

Finally, do the math: when you marry wood and wine by aging vintages in a barrel, you blend these two separate universes of variable factors in a way that can produce—literally—millions of possible combinations. From these come the taste of what you eventually swirl around your Zalto glass or plastic cup.

In the same way that French, Austrian, Californian or any wine can be better understood by first breaking it down into component grapes—whether Pinot Noir, Riesling or a blend of Zinfandel and Merlot—oak used to age wine can also be broken down into constituent species. There are basically three, which can be subdivided into two major categories—American and European. First, American oak species Quercus Alba grows on the American continent. Barrels made from this wood generally provide strong aromas and flavors to wine, including coconut and vanilla.

European oak includes two species, which give different characteristics to wine. These are Quercus robur (pedunculate oak) and Quercus petraea (sessile oak). We’ll refer to them here as ‘robur’ and ‘petraea.’ Here are two important points: First, most European oak forests include a mixture of both. Second, robur generally provides more heft to wine, while petraea gives more elegance. Specifically, petraea generally has higher levels of sweetness from triterpenoid compounds,  tighter grains and slower growth, which can boost aromatic concentrations.

These characteristics relate to oak from Hungary.

Managing Director of Kádár Hungary cooperage, András Kalydy, explained when we spoke.

All over Europe there are only two species used for the barrel industry—Quercus robur and Quercus petraea. They’re different species—like a cherry and apricot. Both are good, but different. Most forests in Europe are mixed and the two species grow together and are willing to cross breed each other, producing hybrids. The result is that different forests in the same countries have different oak tree characters. There are a number of famous forests in France, such as Tronçais, Allier, Nevers, Vosges. There are also famous forests in Hungary. The most prestigious forests are those that, usually, have more Quercus petraea oak. The difference between species is the aromatic profile and tannin content. Quercus robur usually has more tannins and is less aromatic. Therefore, Quercus petraea is the more prestigious species. The most expensive barrels are produced from petraea.

In this regard, Hungary is very special. Some parts of the country are geologically very young—6 to 10 million years old. ‘Baby age,’ geologically. Additionally, the region has a continental climate. These conditions together result in forests that are about 100 percent Quercus petraea, which is extremely rare.

In total, petraea comprises 52% of Hungarian oak, with the greatest densities located in the North Hungarian Mountains in the northeast of the country, close to Tokaj.

These mountains are very young geologically, so the slopes are steep, the soil thickness thin, the climate is continental with cool winters and hot, dry summers. Altogether the conditions are harsh. These mountains include a quarter of the total oak in the country.
Here, robur is overwhelmed by petraea, which can adapt better to challenging conditions.

Although current trends favor wines that are less oaked in taste than a decade ago, demand for Hungarian barrels is increasing for wines that aim for longevity and complexity. As for quality control, Hungarian oak forests have been managed since the 16th century.

Hungary sells 35,000 to 45,000 barrels a year, of which California purchases about 40 percent. Spain, Italy and France are also purchasers within Europe. Other clients are located in Australia, China, South Africa and, to a lesser extent, other nations that produce wine.

The high agricultural use of land in Hungary results in only 21 percent of the territory being covered in forests. Of that, just over a million acres (430,000 hectares) are comprised of oak—which is greater in size than the U.S. state of Rhode Island but smaller than Delaware, or about half the size of the island of Corsica.

Kalydy, who studied metallurgical engineering and economics, is fascinated by properties and propagation of both oak and barrels. He is also surprised by the general lack of knowledge about this wood within the wine industry. He noticed how many in the trade mention how they know the characteristics of oak from Hungary. However, after speaking with several, Kalydy found that few do. He enjoys spreading what he has learned!
 



Would you like to see for yourself how different oaks impact the flavor of various wines? Or perhaps get some hands on tasting training and suggestions? Give us a call at 415-337-4083 and we’ll point you in the right direction! Or come in and join us for one of our weekend tastings! Details at http://ggwc.com

California’s Liquid Gold under $40!

 


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 “White Hills” 2016 Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills
Retail  44.00 – GGWC  39.99
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The White Hills Chardonnay is very Chablis-like in style. It highlights the unique salinity that comes through in the ancient soils of Sta. Rita Hills.  Offering up aromas that are very floral and fragrant, fresh tangerine, beeswax, jasmine. On the front-palate one is greeted by up front minerality followed by a slightly creamier mid-palate with hints of baked lemon curd. Finishing long and elegant!

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