Archive for August, 2010

Cowan Cellars Beginnings – August, 2010 update

Jim Cowan and Russell Bevan

Jim Cowan and Russell Bevan (Photo by Bruce Leiserowitz) Click to enlarge

(See August, 2010 update below)

In the fall of 2005, Russell Bevan gave me a call. Russell and I had been friends for almost a decade, wine buddies from the start. I had visited countless times and been a guest at his house on several occasions. But this call wasn’t about a party or a tour; this was a request to come out and help work the harvest for his new enterprise, Bevan Cellars. I am retired so I had the time. As it turned out, it was the beginning of my interest in starting my own label, Cowan Cellars.

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Six from Doña Paula

Click image to enlarge.

South American entrepreneur Ricardo Claro, winemaker Stefano Gandolini and viticulturist Edgardo del Popolo continue to turn out very good to excellent wines at the Doña Paula Estate in Argentina’s Mendoza region, and their second label Los Cardos is also a solid performer in the value-oriented category. Doña Paula owns 1,878 acres of vineyards and the state-of-the-art winery facility is capable of producing over 1 million liters a year. Our friends at Vineyard Brands sent us 6 of their latest efforts to try, and here are our impressions of what we tasted.

2010 Doña Paula Mendoza Sauvignon Blanc Los Cardos, 12% alc., $8.99-9.99: Medium straw color, with a good dose of boxwood/cat spray dominating the flavors and aromas, along with some underlying minerality; medium bodied, with ample acids and a slightly bitter finish. A solid everyday Sauvignon that would be even better with a little more depth of fruit. I’m pretty sure that this is the first wine from the 2010 vintage that we’ve had. Find this wine

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5 From Cornerstone Cellars

We got our first taste of wines from Cornerstone Cellars‘ second label, the mid-range priced Stepping Stone brand, last October, and we liked what was in those two bottles. So, when I got an email a few weeks ago from Cornerstone General Manager Craig Camp telling me that five new releases were on their way to us for review, I perked up and took notice, looking forward to seeing what these would have to offer. As previously reported, pretty much everything these folks turn out has been first rate, and for the most part, the new batch lives up to that standard. Here are our impressions:

2009 Stepping Stone Napa Sauvignon Blanc Cuveé Musqué, 13.9% alc., $16.00: Clean, somewhat intense medium straw color, with creamy grapefruit flavors and aromas shaded with herbaceous, grassy undertones; medium-to-medium-full bodied, with good acidity and length.  A nice expression of this distinctive sub-variety. Find this wine

2009 Stepping Stone Lake County-Red Hills Corallina Rosé, Grenache/Syrah, 13.9% alc., $16.00: Strawberry pink color; rich and fairly ripe, with strawberry and raspberry flavors and aromas, some subtle mineral underneath and just a hint of wood from the 132 gallon mature puncheons.  Medium bodied and then some, with ample acids and good length.  A little more fruit forward than many of it’s southern French cousins, and perfectly enjoyable, this offers good value for the price and is welcome at our table any time.  A blend of Grenache and Syrah from a vineyard at an elevation of 3000 feet in the Red Hills appellation of Lake County. Find this wine

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Alan Kerr’s August 21st, 2010, Vintage’s Release – Tasting Notes

“New World Wonders,” ten iconic varietals is the theme of the August 21st release. Often this time of the year the wines at Vintages tend to be on the blah blah side, but this Saturday, there are several tasty wines worth seeking out. Some fit the pocket book with ease and for some, one has to dig deep. Sadly not all the wines were sent for the tasting, but I did get notes on a good many of them. In addition to the new world wine, there is a sub release entitled “Germany decoded.” Naturally this features mostly white wines which will indeed make tasty summer sippers. Oh, and I should mention that I tasted one of the best new wines I have sampled in a long, long time? Well better read on then yes?

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Florida Jim Cowan’s 2010 Tasting Notes Archive-Part One

Jim Cowan - photo by Allan Bree - Click to enlarge

The 2010 archive is presented by date the notes were compiled and submitted.  This is Part 1 of the archive.  Part 2 may be found here.

August 7, 2010

2007 Francois Cotat, Sancerre Rose:
Very slight residual sugar, pleasant aromas and flavors of strawberry and melon, good acidity and balance and a medium finish. A nice wine but not even in the same world as the 2009 Tempier, Rose. 13% alcohol. find this wine

2002 Francois Chidaine, Montlouis Les Choisilles:
Sour to begin with but it comes around with airing; a nice balanced chenin with good fruit, light complexity and decent length. Nothing to write home about but better than quaffable. find this wine

2005 Rochioli, Pinot Noir Little Hill:
Although obviously a fine wine, this did not open completely over the course of an evening; so if you have it, hold it. 14.2% abv with a slightly sour but very expansive nose; excellent fruit flavors with gentle oak, some finesse and good length. It will be more than it is now. find this wine

2006 Overnoy, Arbois-Pupillin (rouge):
What it always is – a conversation stopper. Served to a bunch of CA wine geeks that initially didn’t like it – “where’s the fruit?” By the end of the evening, three out of four were converts. Looks and smells old, more savory than fruit driven with both elegance and rusticity and a fine grained finish that lasts. I love this wine and to see such CA centric folks wind-up digging poulsard – ‘gives me hope. find this wine

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New from Wyncroft

Jim Lester - (file photo)

Two of our very favorite people stopped in to visit last week, and as is so often the case when we get together, corks were popped and glasses of good wine were poured and enjoyed with some excellent food. Jim Lester was in town showing his latest Wyncroft wines to prospective buyers, and after he was finished with his day, he brought them over to taste with us as well.

Claudia Tyagi - (file photo)

We were joined by Master Sommelier Claudia Tyagi, who always makes any gathering more fun. The bonus was the fact that Jim has been threatening to cook dinner for us for some time now, and he showed up with grocery bags full of yummy delights (steaks for the grill and mushrooms and veggies for a stir fry) to go with his wines. In that regard, he acquitted himself admirably, revealing yet another talent that he possesses. Add some vintage Steely Dan on the stereo, and what more could we ask for?

We got things started with a worthy companion the Hofer Gruner Veltliner that we like so well. This was only my second or third time tasting Zweigelt, a variety developed in Austria in 1922, by Fritz Zweigelt, who crossed Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent. Based on this one, there’s bound to be plenty more of the stuff in our future!

2008 Bio-Weingut H. u. M. Hofer Zweigelt Niederosterreich, 1L, 12.5% alc., $13.99: Medium garnet color, with earthy cherry and plum flavors and aromas and a hint of pepper on the finish. Medium bodied, with moderate structure and very well received by all four of us. Likes a bit of a chill. About it, Jim remarked, “At first whiff, it reminds me of a cross between Dolcetto and Cotes du Rhone.” More, please! Find this wine

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Blog Watch: Simmer Down!

Noëlle Lothamer - Photo courtesy of Marvin Shaouni

We first met Noëlle Lothamer through her postings on Gourmet Underground Detroit (GU Detroit), an online group of food and drink professionals and serious enthusiasts “dedicated to the propagation of gastronomic knowledge.” Like many of the GU Detroit denizens, Noëlle authors a blog and hers is smartly named simmer down!

Noëlle’s cooking style is similar to mine so I’m right there diggin’ all of her food posts and I think the Gang community might like them too.  The photography is excellent and the articles are cleverly written.

She’s also an avid collector of cookbooks and books about food and pens a book review page that I hope continues to grow.

Recently, another GU Detroit participant, Evan Hansen, filled in as guest blogger and wrote an excellent primer on building a basic home cocktail bar – it’s a worthy read even for us winos!

When Noelle isn’t “trying to make a difference one delicious bite at a time,” she is playing drums and singing in her band Scarlet Oaks.  Note the photo at left of the two drum stick styles!   – photo by Marvin Shaouni

Hope you check out and enjoy simmer down!

New Wines from the Perrin Family

Since we started regularly reviewing wines made by the Perrin family in the fall of 2006, we’ve gotten to taste quite a few and our impressions have almost always been to the positive. In fact, the worst notes I can remember posting are of the luke-warm variety; I don’t think we’ve ever actually had a bad wine from them. We recently tasted through six new samples, and guess what? Nothing has changed. There may be a few surprises, but the wines all range from pretty good to very good, and if there are no real knockouts, there’s something to be said for consistency. Here are my impressions of this latest batch.


2009 La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Luberon Blanc, Grenache Blanc 30%, Bourboulenc 30%, Ugni Blanc 30%, Roussanne 10%, 13% alc., $7.99-8.99: Clean, medium color, with white tree fruit flavors and aromas; moderately ripe fruit and quite food friendly, with very good acids and intensity. Find this wine

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