Archive for July, 2017

Zinfest 2017

(Editor’s note: On Saturday, July 22nd, our friends Joel Goldberg and Michael Schafer staged an amazing Zinfandel tasting at Chez Goldberg that Kim and I would have loved to have attended. Sadly, due to previously scheduled engagements, we couldn’t be there, but our partner in crime, Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan had the date open, and has dutifully filed the following report.)  Click images to enlarge.

I love blush wines too,” is an answer I commonly hear when I proclaim Zinfandel is one of my favourite varietals. Or, “Yeah, Zins are tasty, but they don’t age well.” Well as it turns out, thanks to the courtesy and kindness of both Joel Goldberg and Michael Schafer, I was able to taste some fabulously aged Zins, none of which had anything to blush about, and with the exception of one, were all really exemplary examples of how super tasty and age worthy this grape can be. I have deciphered some of my scribblings of the wines I tasted and here are my thoughts.

ZINFEST 2017: A Gold/Schaf Production

1986 Ravenswood Canard: I have never heard of this Vineyard, but the resulting wine has lots of tomato and red fruit aromas, a solid palate with notes of plum, chocolate and some dusty tannins. Find this wine1989 Topolos Rossi Ranch: Mineral, parsley stems, plum, blueberry, cherry and leather all come together nicely and are holding up very well. Find this wine

1993 Marietta Angeli Cuvee: Sweet spice and caramel, plenty of toasty oak; tasty, but the fruit is fading slightly. Find this wine

1995 Marietta Angeli Cuvee: Layers of youthful fruit featuring black fruit, black raspberry, some chocolate and a long creamy finish. Find this wine

2000 Marietta Angeli Cuvee: Metallic and mineral aromas, massive tiers of fig, plum, black raspberry and black cherry. The finish is fruit driven and still showing plenty of tannins and spice. Find this wine

1993 Gary Farrell Collins Vineyard: A blast of pepper and stewed fruit balanced by clean acidity, but starting to fade on the finish. Find this wine

1993 Topolos Ultimo: Even though the colour is light, there are gutsy flavours of red cherry, blueberry, cake spice and forest floor. Nice brambly fruit on the palate, a solid finish and showing very well. Find this wine

1994 A. Rafanelli: Sadly corked. Find this wine

1995 Topolos Pagani Ranch: Wow, what a treat! An amazing blend of Asian spice, mineral, slate, licorice Allsorts, mint, mocha and a whack of dark fruit. It could live on for a few more years. Well done. Find this wine

2001 Seghesio Old Vines: Also youthful, offering up layers of blackberry, cola, bramble, spicy oak and lovely tingly acidity. This could go on for a few more years. Find this wine

2002 Seghesio Old Vines: Notes of bramble, blueberry, star anise and smoke. Lovely texture, dusty tannins, full bodied and also a babe. Find this wine

1977 Montevina Amador County: Caramel, dark fruit, iodine, seawater and cedar and there is still life in this forty year old fella. It reminds me of a dry Port, with dried fruits and dusty chocolate. Find this wine


Many moons ago, I had the chance to travel with friends to Healdsburg in Northern Sonoma. Here we spent many a day touring and tasting in these bucolic and serene parts of California. Our daily routine would start at the original Lytton Springs Winery because after our first visit, we quickly learned how amazing this little parcel of land really is. We constantly tasted many great wines from both the original Lytton Springs Winery and Ridge Vineyards. Ridge at the time had purchased the winery and still produce amazing juice from what are now 115-year-old vines. The property is now home to Ridge’s Dry Creek tasting room and its Dry Creek winery. Thus, this was an amazing opportunity to taste wines from the same vineyard by two producers some twenty years later.

Lytton Springs Winery

1987: Allspice, mineral, a medicinal note and spicy pepper; quite juicy, it finishes with a little heat, but that does not retract from the enjoyment it gives. Find this wine

1988: Bright and vibrant; some forest floor and earthy notes, with plenty of juicy fruit and a lovely finish. Find this wine

1988 Private Reserve: This truly warranted its Reserve designation, and such a treat to taste the two next to one another. It carries an amazing display of purity with concentrated aromas of dark fruit, blueberry, plum and cherry. The mouthfeel is luscious; there are still dusty tannins that will carry this wonderful wine for a few more years. Find this wine

1989: The 89 is starting to maderize and showing some brett. However, it is from a vintage that Californian wine makers from that time want to forget and it was the only wine well past its prime. Find this wine

1990: Very vibrant; a bit of a fruit bomb, but a nice backdrop of terroir with super sweet, but well balanced fruit. Find this wine

1993: Amazingly youthful, showing blueberry, Ribena, red currant and dried floral aromas. Well balanced with some spicy notes; surprisingly a little lighter than expected on the finish, but nonetheless, still bloody tasty. Find this wine

1994: A little oxidized note at first, but it still shows a nice blend of dark and red fruits. Although the palate on first impression is tasty, the fruit does give way to tea-like tannins. Find this wine

Ridge Vineyards: Lytton Springs
1985: Sweet Moroccan spice, some clove, dark plum, lavender and cola. Palate is clean, with juicy fruit that carries right through the finish. Some tannins are still present, but they are integrated nicely. Find this wine

1990: Rich ripe Draper perfume explodes, along with mocha, sweet red fruit and balsa. A lovely bright palate, some caramel notes, gentle tannin and a grand finish! Find this wine

1991 Lytton Estate: Smoky at first, showing cigar leaf and charcoal, but the concentration of fruit explodes and is backed up by dried leaves and green tea. Lovely dark cherry and blackberry flavours, so vibrant and still bursting with energy. Find this wine

1998: More Draper perfume, with notes of mineral and green tea, but this is still quite tight and tannic on the palate. If it was open for several hours, I am sure there would be more fruit showing. All the wines were opened just prior to tasting to prevent excess aeration for the older wines. However, I must add, having a glass or two at a later point in the evening, I can say they were all majestic. Find this wine

1999: Another monster, laden with black fruit, Moroccan spice, leather, Dutch licorice and mineral. The youthful palate offers up a mix of blackberry, cinnamon and candied red fruit. This wine is drinking superbly right now. Find this wine

2001: A little odd at first, as notes of gun smoke and oak seem to be the only aromas present. However, with coaxing, layer after layer of juicy black fruit and leather soon appear. The mouthfeel is delightful; acidity is in perfect harmony with the red currant and cherry flavours. Still a hefty level of tannin, but the powerfulness of the fruit keeps them at bay. Find this wine

There were several dessert wines opened, but at this point all I could manage to taste was one! I had finally had my fill!

1971 Ridge Essence: A forty six year old wine that is still showing life. Its level of sweetness is perfect, the chocolate, caramel and acidity all balance well. Paul Draper’s comments on the back label suggest aging for a few years. Mr. Draper hit the nail on the head with this one. Find this wine

Many thanks to Joel and Mike and to Jay Baldwin as well, who had also contributed a few wines.


A Box of Tablas Creek

So we got this box of six late model wines from Tablas Creek Vineyard several weeks ago, and, as always, we were delighted to once again have the opportunity to taste what’s new from our favorite Paso Robles producer. Everything these folks turn out is exceptional, and they do it in a manner that is always impressive without any of the over-ripe, over-oaked excesses you get from far too many Californian producers, in my not-so-humble opinion.

We gave the wines three weeks in the cellar to settle down after their cross-country journey, and then began our investigation with the two selections of the pink persuasion.

2016 Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Rosé Paso Robles, 73% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre, 6% Counoise, 4% Syrah, 13.0% alc., $25.00: Pale peachy pink in color, with mineral-laden watermelon and strawberry flavors and aromas, more in the French style than Californian; medium bodied, with racy acidity and good length. The minerality is what strikes me most about this wine, as it may be more upfront than any TC rosé I can remember, and that’s a good thing in my book.

TC: The bulk of the Patelin de Tablas Rosé is Grenache, picked and direct-pressed into stainless steel tanks with minimum skin contact. The small Syrah component was treated similarly. These were supplemented with saignée lots (bleedings) from Mourvèdre and Counoise in the cellar to provide some color and structure. Only native yeasts were used in the fermentation. After fermentation, the wines were blended and cold-stabilized, and bottled in February 2017. Find this wine

34% Grenache and Tablas-clone Mourvèdre from Hollyhock (El Pomar)
18% Grenache from KamRidge (Creston)
12% Greanche from Starr Ranch (Adelaida District)
11% Syrah and Mourvedre from Derby (Templeton Gap)
8% Grenache from Beckwith (Adelaida District)
7% Grenache from Cass (El Pomar)
6% Counoise from Clautiere (Geneseo District)
4% Grenache from the Tablas Creek certified organic estate vineyard

Read the rest of this entry »

Rockin’ Red Number One

It was just Kim and me for the 4th of July. We didn’t want to do anything “special,” so it was nice to simply relax at home, grill a C. Roy steak for two, along with some corn on the cob and see what this old friend from Mr. Ridge had to offer. We’ve had it several times before (here’s one time, and here’s another), but not in quite a few years, so we figured it had to have gone through some changes for the better in the intervening years.

Guess what? It has!

1997 Ridge Geyserville Sonoma; 74 % Zinfandel, 15 % Carignane, 10 % Petite Sirah, 1 % Mataro, 14.9% alc.: The cork broke while I attempted to pry it from the bottle, so we had to excavate it and carefully decant through a strainer. Once we got past that, it was all good. There’s more than a hint of brick to the otherwise clean, dark color, and it’s slightly funky on the nose at first, but leather, berry and plum shine through with some swirlatude. Big, rich, luscious and silky smooth in the mouth; there’s definitely some secondary action going on here, mostly leather with a hint of mahogany, and the big core of fruit wears it so well, all with a nice, earthy base underneath. You can certainly tell that this is a Ridge, but I wouldn’t characterize it as having what we often refer to as “Draper perfume.” That’s a descriptor I usually reserve for younger wines. Utterly delicious; this is why you lay these babies down with confidence for 20 years, because they usually evolve into things of beauty. This one is in no danger of fading anytime soon, so you can leave it alone for five-to-ten years or more, but it’s so good now, I’d have a hard time keeping hands off, if we had more. Sadly, this was the last one. Find this wine

I stated at the beginning of this blog entry that we didn’t want to do anything special on this 4th of July, but now that I look back, this amazing wine was something very special indeed. If you have any of this in your cellar, chances are very good that yours will be very special too.

Reporting from Day-twah,


Rockin’ Red Number Two

That ne’er-do-well Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan showed up at our door last week for our annual pre-Electric Forest dinner. Chef Kerr has been my accomplice for the last four EF festivals, proving that old dudes like us can indeed find fulfillment each summer with all “the hippies and dub-steppers and the techno-matic freaks” that I sing about in my song, “In My Element.” I don’t know about him, but it’s my best four days of every year. He keeps coming back for more, so I’m guessing that he enjoys himself too.

We kept things simple. I ran for a couple of pizzas, some meatballs and a roasted beet and arugula salad, and after enjoying a bottle of the 2008 Cantina Sociale Cooperativa Copertino Riserva that I reported on most recently, Alan pulled this little beauty out of his bag of tricks. I’ve had plenty of Bandol in my day, but very little from Domaines Ott, those being a red and a rosé. Nevertheless, I had the feeling that we might be in for a treat, and I wasn’t wrong.

1999 Domaines Ott Bandol, 13% alc.: Clean, dark color, with little, if any, bricking to speak of at this point; aromatics reminiscent of leather, tobacco and a bit of the barnyard carry over onto the palate, where they grace a huge core of big, earthy black plum. This is a big red, still substantially structured and not close to its peak, but it’s already delivering ample pleasure at 19 years of age, and it works well with Bigalora Bacco Sausage and White Anchovies Pizzas. CZ added, “The tannins are nice and silky.” Find this wine

It was a great way to start another extended wild weekend in the Forest, and the last wine I would drink until the following Monday.

Reporting from Day-twah,



Rockin’ Red Number Three

As previously mentioned in these pages, our new go-to restaurant in the greater Day-twah area is Otus Supply, in Ferndale. Owners Thom Bloom and Scott Myrick have created a spacious, well-appointed venue that we’ve been hooked on since we paid our first visit late this past winter. (It should also be mentioned here that we directed our partner-in-crime, Alan Kerr aka Canadian Zinfan, and three of his Niagara College chef-type colleagues, to stop in to Otus during a recent visit, and they were just as jazzed with the place as we are.) The staff is very well trained and knowledgeable, the food is uniformly excellent, and the small wine list looks to be composed of high quality bottlings, but, truth be told, we haven’t been able to tear ourselves away from our initial selection noted here to try any of the others, because we like it so well.

2008 Cantina Sociale Cooperativa Copertino Riserva, 95% Negroamaro, 5% Malvasia Nera, 13% alc., $40 restaurant, $20 take out: Clean and dark in color, with a lovely nose of mahogany, tobacco, dried cherries and leather; rich, earthy and intense, the flavors echo and expand beautifully. Full bodied, but not “heavy,” and still structured for several more years of aging and development, this is drinking very well right now, which is why we order another bottle every time we dine at Otus Supply, where it pairs so well with the Wagyu Beef Tartar, Filthy Animal Pizza (pesto, pine nuts and guanciale) and Rigatoni Alla Norcina. Find this wine

Imported by Banville Wine Merchants, North Bergen, NJ

Reporting from Day-twah,





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