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March 2008

March 3, 2008

Bianchi Winery Heritage Selection 2005 Zinfandel-Zen Ranch, Paso Robles

Bianchi Heritage Selection
2005 Zinfandel—Zen Ranch, Paso Robles
Paso Robles, CA

For more than thirty years, winemaker Glenn Bianchi and his family have been involved in the wine business, producing award-winning vino in California’s Central Valley and, more recently, in Paso Robles. Bianchi Winery’s estate is made up of four distinct ranches, where only the varietals best-suited for the local weather and soil are grown. Varietals grown at these ranches make up Bianchi Winery’s Heritage Selection, and are allowed to develop in indirect sunlight to achieve the best balance of sugar and acidity. Signature Selection wines, in contrast, are made from grapes purchased from reputable local vineyards. At the Lakeside Ranch, Creekside Ranch, Sunrise Ranch and Zen Ranch, Bianchi Winery grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel respectively. The dark ruby-colored 2005 Zinfandel from Zen Ranch reveals spicy earth flavors layered with ripe, dark berries, plums and currant. On the finish, this hand-crafted wine exudes an aroma of cassis and pairs well with chicken, turkey and lamb.

Rating: 14.5/20
Price: $24

Other Zinfandels we have tasted
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March 10, 2008

Reserve Series Argyle 2005 Nuthouse Chardonnay

2005 Reserve Series Argyle Nuthouse Chardonnay
Dundee Hills, OR

In 1987, American winemaker Rollin Soles and his friend, Brian Croser, the founder and winemaker of Petaluma Winery in Australia, founded Argyle Winery on 350 acres of Oregon’s hills. The winery produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and makes sparkling wines by the traditional method. Argyle Winery pays special attention to the process of harvesting and pressing the grapes after they ripen. All of the grapes are handpicked, placed in small baskets and stored overnight at the winery at a temperature just above freezing. Though labor-intensive, the process limits oxidation and helps preserve the grapes’ flavor. The winery’s meticulousness to the winemaking details is evident in the 2005 Nuthouse Chardonnay, named in tribute to the winery’s previous use as a hazelnut processing plant. This Chardonnay, fermented in French Vosges barrels using proprietary yeast, perfumes the nose with aromas of white peach, pears, roasted hazelnut and vanilla. The vino displays creamy and juicy textures along with flavors of peaches and pears, and a long spicy finish. Shrimp, lobster and chicken all pair well with this wine.

Rating: 14.5/20
Price: $30

Other Chardonnays we have tasted
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March 17, 2008

Whitestone Winery's N.V. Pieces of Red-Columbia Valley

N.V. Whitestone Winery Pieces of Red
Columbia Valley, WA

Whitestone Winery, located along the shores of Lake Roosevelt in Washington’s Columbia Valley, has a unique microclimate for growing grapes. Although there are no other wineries within a hundred miles, this family-run business has been able to benefit from the distinctive environment, spending several years selling their harvests of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes before finally going into wine-making themselves in 2005. Michael, son of founders Walter and Judy Haig, now runs the estate, and other family members assist with the tasting room, bottling, events and blending parties. A good way to sample the winery’s offerings is through the second version of their non-vintage Pieces of Red, which is a Merlot-based blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. For this particular vino, of which only 500 cases were made, Michael mixed and matched barrels of the ’03, ’04 and ’05 vintages. Since the vineyard is next to the largest lake in Washington, the local climate conditions yield cool summers and warm winters, which give the grapes a longer maturation. This Bordeaux-style red displays considerable structure with large tannins, combining flavors of tart berries and pomegranate with earth tones of coffee and chocolate. The wine can be sipped now or aged, and pairs well with steak or lamb.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $20

Other Red Blends we have tasted
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March 24, 2008

2005 Donati Family Vineyard Claret Estate Vineyard Paicines

2005 Donati Family Vineyard Claret Estate Vineyard Paicines
Paicines, CA

When Matt Donati and his father, Ron, first bought 1,000 acres of land in California’s Central Coast region for their start-up winery in 1998, neither man had much experience in winemaking. Matt had graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in Sports Administration, and coached high school baseball teams before taking an interest in farming vineyards. Ron, an entrepreneur and former CPA, owned an electronics business before selling it in 1997 to invest in the family winery. What both men lacked in winemaking experience, they made up for through their drive to succeed. The Donati’s vineyard, cooled by breezes from Monterey Bay, is one of only a few in the Paicines appellation, a growing high-end grape region. The Donati’s 2005 Claret displays many of the vineyard’s estate-grown varietals with its fruity, Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot. While ripe red fruit perfumes the nose, this vino exhibits dark fruit, chocolate and dusty notes on the palate along with well-integrated tannins. The red is enjoyable now, or in several years, with red meats like grilled steak and venison.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $22

Other Meritage and Bordeaux we have tasted
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March 31, 2008

2006 Olsen Estates Rouge des Coteaux, Columbia Valley

2006 Olsen Estates Rouge des Coteaux
Columbia Valley, WA

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Olsen family’s residence in Washington’s Columbia Valley. In the past century, the family went from the ten-acre homestead settled by Martin Olsen, who first came to the area in 1908, to an apple and cherry farm run by the Martin’s grandsons. Now Martin’s great-grandsons run a full-fledged winery, which farms 756 acres of vineyards northeast of Prosser, Washington. Using only their estate-grown grapes, the Olsen family produces varietal wines as well as Rhône and Bordeaux-style blends. Their 2006 Rouge des Coteaux, of which only 156 cases were made, is a testament to the family heritage in farming the soils of the Columbia Valley. This Rhône-blend mingles 33 percent Cinsaut, 27 percent Mourvedre, 27 percent Grenache and 13 percent Syrah, and was aged for fifteen months in French oak barrels. Revealing delicate aromas of strawberry and rose petals, this red displays flavors of fresh berries, spice and black pepper. The wine pairs well with grilled steak and lamb.

Rating: 14.5/20
Price: $37

Other Rhone Varietals we have tasted
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