Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Four Wineries and a Detour/Tasting Trip no. 5.0

Alexander Valley
Jen’s Notes

Lancaster Estate

The initial raison d’etre for this trip was the release party for the 2002 Lancaster Estate, a Bordeaux-style blend that neither of us had ever tried before. They were also offering barrel tasting (another first), a barbecue lunch and a live jazz band. As it turned out, the food and music were more enjoyable than the wine.

They poured the 2004 (barrel tasting), 2002, 2001 and 1999 vintages. The 2002 was about the best of them. Unfortunately, it was served too cold. After it reached a more appropriate temperature, we noticed rounder fruit, with hints of spices. Even so, the wine lacked the structure and complexity that you would expect from a wine in this price range (around $65). The 2001 was quite a bit flatter and had barely any tannins. We also noted that the 1999 had a slight taste of green peppers, suggesting that the fruit was underripe.

The 2004 barrel tasting was an interesting experience – though clearly a work in progress, underneath the vanilla and oak from the barrel, there were hints of riper, sweeter fruit than in the other vintages we tasted.

Alexander Valley Vineyards

We left the release party and headed for Alexander Valley Vineyards. Shane had been a fan of their wines for some time and was curious to see whether he still liked them. I had only tried their entry-level cab, which I liked, and was anxious to try more of their wines. Across the board, these wines are quite affordable and most offer a good value.

2003 Estate Viognier ($25): tropical fruits and lemon flavors; steely, dry finish.

2003 Reserve Chardonnay ($20): beautiful straw color and vanilla bean aromas. Full-bodied, with creamy, tropical fruit flavors mingling with intense nutmeg/spice notes and vanilla.

2003 Estate Pinot Noir ($20): Bright, strawberry fruit, cocoa and hints of vanilla. Slight palate reverb. Good flavors, but they disappear quickly.

2003 Sangiovese: an unfortunate “no” - flabby and simplistic, with aromas of overripe fruit.

2003 Redemption Zin ($25): while not a fruit bomb, this wine did boast nice blackberry flavors with intense pepper. Dry finish. Good flavors. Unusual and interesting. The winery recommends that the Redemption follow their Sin Zin, which of course makes sense. With a Redemption this good, it might be more fun than the Sin!

2002 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($20): smooth, classic cab, with just the right amount of oak. Moderate complexity, including cherry, licorice and tobacco flavors.

2001 Cyrus ($50): this Bordeaux-style blend was intense and focused, with a velvety mounthfeel. It had nice, firm tannins, rich berry flavors, and an overlay of peppery spices, which seems to be a hallmark of this winery. Unfortunately, there was also a slight taste of bell peppers, usually a sign of underripe fruit.

2000 Cyrus ($50): showing much better than the 2001. Similarly structured, but riper (no bell pepper). Flavors are deeper, more intense, and better integrated. We enjoyed this one at home as well; the wine was even better than we remembered. Serious structure and finesse; more spicy and earthy than fruity, although there are definite cassis notes underneath.

Clos du Bois

Next on the agenda was Clos du Bois. This was another historical wine for both of us. In our early days of wine drinking, Clos du Bois was at the top of our list. We were delighted to discover that they are still producing solid wines at excellent prices. This tasting highlighted wines at every level of the winery’s portfolio.

2004 Pinot Grigio ($15): Zesty citrus. A light, easy drinker with a touch of spritz. Flinty, steely notes lend seriousness to this casual white wine.

2003 Fume Blanc, Reserve ($16): 10% Semillon softens this Sauvignon Blanc just a touch. Pretty floral aromas and a hint of graphite. Gently oaked, balanced against characteristic smoke and grapefruit.

2000 Flintwood Chardonnay ($22): Partial malolactic and a touch of oak. The buttery/vanilla flavors are well balanced against fresh acidity and bright citrus flavors. Surprisingly spicy flavors echo the coffee cake aromas. Complex, concentrated, and succulent. Tastes like a $40 Chardonnay.

2003 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Reserve ($22): Very Burgundian. Super-sweet strawberry fruit, spiked with tobacco and cedar. This is a serious Pinot; very well made. Only a slight palate reverb. The bottle we opened at home was even better, showing more reverb and elegant, refined structure. A superb value.

2002 Merlot, Alexander Valley, Reserve ($23): Beautiful color, pretty floral aromas. A smooth, classic Merlot but definitely with backbone. All about finesse. A bit of spiciness on the finish.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon ($18): This is Clos du Bois’ entry level Cab, almost universally available. Unfortunately, the weakest wine of the tasting. Flat and a touch vegetal. It is, however, not overoaked and there are nice spicy notes.

2002 Marlstone Meritage, Alexander Valley ($50): Disappointing. Insufficiently complex for a wine at this price point. Lacks grip and power.

The Detour

On the hunt for a nice way to end the trip, we accidentally went to Trentadue. We were lured there by the sign on the road which indicated that they were pouring Ports. We started off with their complimentary tasting (the Port tasting was $5). The first pour we chose was their sparkling wine, made by Wente from Lodi fruit (French Colombard and Chenin Blanc). It was too sweet, too bubbly, and bore no resemblance to the finer California sparkling wines. We tasted two more wines which were absolutely awful and do not merit reviews. Suffice to say, we had no intention of trying the Ports and left the winery when the pourer’s back was turned.

Lingering Finish: J. Winery

Safely in the car, we were still at a loss as to our final winery of the day. We decided on J. Winery, whose bubbly I had seen in one of my favorite wine shops, but which I had not tasted. We got a bit lost but eventually arrived in the parking lot of this very cool property. The architecture reminded me of Domaine Chandon’s – that more elegant version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed prairie style. Inside, I felt like we were at a hip SOMA bar, with a striking metal and glass panel behind the tasting bar, and elegant food pairings on sushi plates.

Our palates were overstimulated so we dispensed with notetaking and just enjoyed their wines. The highlight of the tasting was J’s sparkling wine: light, zesty citrussy, and very enjoyable. It was a lovely way to wrap up our trip


Post a Comment

<< Home