Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wine Tasting at Ridge Vineyards

After our visit to Cinnabar, we took the windy Monte Bello road up to Ridge Vineyards. This was a Saturday and the tasting room was very busy but luckily, we found a good spot at the bar and a friendly staff that knowledgeably answered all our questions. We decided to take the $10 Summer Wine Series and tasted the following 6 wines.

Vineyards at the top of Monte Bello Road

2006 Carignane Buchignani: 100% Carignane from Sonoma County. Dark wine, tight and concentrated, rather overwhelming for me.

2006 Ridge Zinfandel Ponzo Vineyard: 95% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah from the Ponzo Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. The Russian River Valley's cooler microclimate ripens this wine shortly after Lytton Springs and Geyserville. Berry on the nose, nice complexity on the palate, long earthy finish.

2005 Ridge Lytton Springs: 77% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, 6% Carignane from Ridge's Lytton Springs vineyard. Fruitier than the Ponzo, rich aromas on the palate, juicy, tasty.

2002 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate: 76% Syrah, 21% Grenache, 3% Carignane from Ridge's Lytton Estate. Young Syrah vines. Dark color, black berries on the nose, good acidity.

2002 Ridge Syrah II Lytton Estate: 76% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 2% Viognier. Older vines, more pepper and fruit, some tannins but well balanced. Excellent

2005 Ridge Syrah Lytton West: 94% Syrah, 6% Viognier from the West side of the Lytton Estate. Aromatic nose, concentrated, rich.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

2007 Cinnabar Rosé: a taste of Provence in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Last weekend, with some good friends visiting from France, we decided to taste some local wines in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Our first stop was the roomy Cinnabar tasting room in the quaint village of Saratoga.

One of the best wines we tasted was the 2007 Cinnabar Rosé Paso Robles, a 100% Valdiguié wine from the French Camp Vineyards in Paso Robles. Valdiguié is a not particularly well-renowned red varietal that originates from the South of France and has been known as Gamay Beaujolais or Napa Gamay in California. According to the Cinnabar winery website, “Valdiguie is well served by the growing conditions of French Camp Vineyards. The arid climate buffers vines from rot and mildew while the high elevation intensifies the fruitiness of the grapes and brightens their acidity.”. The wine is lightly filtered and bottled with screw cap closures to retain freshness. In the glass, it displayed an eye-catching salmon-pink color and a nose of red berries, citrus and a touch of honey. The palate was dry and crisp but with a pleasant glycerin feel. Overall, I would have easily mistaken it for a Côtes de Provence.

The other wines we tasted were pretty good too and remarkably affordable:
2006 Cinnabar Mercury Rising Blanc: aromatic nose, crisp, medium-bodied on the palate, creamy mouthfeel, herbs and bitter orange peel on the finish.

2005 Cinnabar Mercury Rising: black color, red fruit on the nose, good acidity, well crafted.

2005 Cinnabar Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley: ripe fruit on the nose, full bodied, well balanced, although 15% alcohol.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Wine made in Tahiti, can you believe it?

It's not a joke and here is the story: we just spent a week in the paradisiac island of Bora-Bora and on the very first day of our stay, we were lucky to attend a small wine tasting event. Surprisingly, the tasting was about Polynesian wine.

Making wine in French Polynesia seems like a crazy idea but that was a dream that entrepreneur Dominique Auroy was able to realize after a decisive meeting with Bernard Hudelot, a viticulturist in Burgundy and professor at the University of Dijon.

It took several years of research to successfully grow vines in French Polynesia. The project started in 1992 when the first grapevines were brought from Europe to Polynesia where they faced many challenges including weather and soil acclimation, and problems associated with high humidity, diseases and insects. Different locations and soil types were tested for the project. At the end, the best growing conditions were found in atolls thanks to their coral-rich soils and salty sea breezes.

Today, the wine is produced on the atoll of Rangiroa, 355 km (220 miles) from Tahiti, the main island of French Polynesia. The vineyard is located on a motu (or small islet), in the middle of a coconut grove, between a tropical lagoon on one side and the Pacific ocean on the other side. Because there is no cold season and no latency period, there are two harvests per year. The grapes are brought to the winery on the main island by boat.

More than thirty different grape varieties have been tested in order to identify which ones would successfully adapt to the particular soil and climate of the island. At the end, only three varieties were selected: Carignan, Black Muscat or Muscat de Hamburg, and Italia, a Muscat-derived white variety. These three are now used to respectively produce a red, rosé, and white wine.

Honestly, this is an interesting story but I was not convinced by the Polynesian wine. The white, which I think was the best of the lot, was rather dry, aromatic, lacking acidity on the palate, but overall pleasant. The rosé had an intense fruity nose with aromas of strawberry candy and a rather soft palate. The red was obviously oxidized and not really drinkable. Maybe the bottle had been exposed to heat or maybe this was what the wine was supposed to taste.

On the other hand, Hinano, the beer from Tahiti was absolutely delicious, especially after a snorkeling trip to the coral garden!

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