Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Winemaking step #7: barrel tasting

It's been more than six months since our 2006 Crushpad Cabernet Sauvignon Ink Grade Vineyard had been aging in a new Sylvain barrel and it was time to check how the wine had evolved. So last Monday, I had an appointment with our winemaker Kian Tavakoli to taste the wine.

Wow! Six months in new oak and the wine had turned into a truly magnificent teen with a deep, inky purple color and an intense nose of blackberry liqueur. The palate was concentrated, woody, and tight with tannins. After five minutes in the glass, the rich dark fruit aromas became more peppery, spicy. Kian was also very pleased with how the wine had aged so far. And then we tried another Ink Grade Cabernet from an adjacent barrel, a wine with a different set of winemaking parameters and that had been punched down. Surprisingly, the wine was very different. The nose was minty, more herbal than fruity. On the palate, the oak seemed less integrated, with a noticeable acidic finish. I am glad to say that so far, ours was the best!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

No Man's Land: a wine from Bulgaria with a story

Last weekend, my friends David and Sylvie brought us a red wine from Bulgaria with an interesting name and label. They found it at a small Palo Alto food store specialized in world products, including some delicious French frozen desserts and various wines from Eastern Europe.

The wine was called No Man's Land. According to the label, No Man's Land is a 5 mile strip of land in Southwest Bulgaria that used to separate the worlds of Socialism and Capitalism. During the cold war, it was a horrific place for those who dared to escape the Socialist Countries, hoping for a better life in the West. Nowadays, it is an environmental paradise — pollution free and a preserved wildlife — where the vines have grown free.

The wine is produced by Damianitza, a winery established in 1940 and located in the Struma river valley in Southwest Bulgaria. The Struma river valley is a warm and dry region with hilly terrains of volcanic origin, maybe one of the best wine regions in the country. The 2003 No Man's Land Silver Label is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. It had a dark color and a mix of herbal and dark fruit scents on the nose. On the palate, it was medium-bodied and bone dry (we were afraid it would be sweet). The wine worked nicely with our grilled lamb chops and tasted better served slightly chilled.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

WBW #34: 2002 Stella Maris Red Columbia Valley

Oh my! The June edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday is today! This month, the world famous tasting event is hosted by the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman and the theme is of course a Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon.

Therefore, for tonight's dinner, I chose a Cabernet blend from Northstar, a winery located in Walla Walla. “Walla Walla is culturally the anti-Napa — it's cozy and familiar — with an amazing camaraderie among the growers and winemakers.” says the winery website.

The 2002 Stella Maris Red Columbia Valley is a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 5% Malbec, from selected vineyards in the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley. “Stella Maris” means “Star of the Sea” in Latin and refers to the Virgin Mary. The wine is affectionately called “Stella” by the winemaking team and is considered the little sister to Northstar's flagship wine, the Columbia Valley Merlot. It has a dark red color and intense aromas of sweet fruit and leather on the nose. The palate is tannic but juicy with a long earthy and minty finish. Stella Maris, you're a real star!

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

A classic Napa Cabernet: the 1999 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Clos du Val

I remember the first time I tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon from Clos du Val. It was in the early 90s, our first trip to the Napa Valley, although I don't remember why we stopped at the winery. Maybe we had heard that it was a good place to visit, maybe we just liked the French sounding name. Anyway, we really liked the wines, which pleased the tasting room staff. They proudly told us that the Cabernet Sauvignon was made in a true Bordeaux style as the winemaker and winery co-founder was French. Obviously, Bernard Portet's winemaking style must have pleased more than a couple of European palate: his 1972 vintage (and first vintage) was selected for the 1976 Paris Tasting, won first place during the 1986 rematch, and fifth place in 2006, beating the four Bordeaux wines.

According to the winery's cellar notes, the 1999 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc. The alcohol level is a reasonable 13.5% (compared with 14.1% for the 2002 vintage) maybe thanks to a long and cool growing season. The wine drinks very well now but it could be kept in the cellar for several more years. Showing a dense purple color, it displays layered aromas of cassis, blackberry, and mocha. The palate has fine-grained tannins nicely balanced by a lively acidity. The finish is long and slightly bitter. I told you: a truly classic Napa Cabernet.

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