November 2, 2009
BUDGET-FRIENDLY CROWD PLEASER
This environmentally friendly family-run estate is a true pioneer among California wineries. Founded in 1973 in the Golden State’s somewhat untamed Mendocino County, Navarro Vineyards is renowned for its sustainably grown wines and non-alcoholic wine grape juices. The winery was instrumental in establishing Mendocino’s wine country as a tourist destination and is probably best known for its Gewürztraminer. It also produces Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat and several interesting blends. Their 2008 Edelzwicker is a traditional Alsatian blend of Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat. While the sort of aromatic low-alcohol wine that we recommend for a picnic or a cozy evening in front of the fire, it is also an outstanding choice for a big holiday season feast. Affordable but well balanced, faintly sweet yet fresh, it’s a crowd pleaser that won’t break the budget. Pair with a traditional turkey or ham and all the trimmings.
Other White Blends we have tasted
Check out our guide to California
For more information, visit www.navarrowine.com
November 9, 2009
DARK AND EARTHY
2007 Lucia Highlands Vineyard Pinot Noir
Santa Lucia Highlands, California
Stephen Pessagno’s dream of having his own boutique winery began in 1974, when his grandfather introduced him to the craft of winemaking on their family ranch. After stints at Jekel and Lockwood, Pessagno, along with two close friends, founded his namesake winery in 2004. Located in the Santa Lucia Highlands region of California’s Monterey County, Pessagno now boasts its own inn on the vineyard estate. While well known for their single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, Pessagno also produces Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel, Riesling, Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and a Port-style wine. The 2007 Lucia Highlands Vineyard Pinot Noir is a dark, concentrated wine. Up-front fruit aromas and flavors include cherry, raspberry and black currant. Earthy violet and bark notes mingled with tart acidity balance the fruit’s richness and sweetness. Oak influence adds just a hint of burnt caramel to round out the palate. Pair with fall flavors like roasted squash with earthy goat cheeses, pork loin with dried cherry sauce, or veal with wild mushrooms.
Other Pinot Noir we have tasted
Check out our guide to California's Central Coast
For more information, visit www.pessagnowines.com
November 16, 2009
FRENCH-AMERICAN RED BLEND
2004 Élu Napa Valley Red Wine
Napa Valley, California
Located in Napa Valley’s famous Rutherford region, St. Supéry is held in high regard in the California wine industry. Its owners, the Skalli family, have a multi-generation history of winemaking in southern France. During the 1970s, they discovered Napa Valley and felt an affinity for its climate and culture. However, it wasn’t until the following decade that the Skallis planted their property there, choosing to highlight the noble Bordeaux varietals based on the California climate. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, the winery is noted for its Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Élu, a Bordeaux-style red blend. Their 2004 Élu is a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a touch of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The blend makes for a classic and juicy Napa Valley red wine. On the nose, Élu‘s plum and anise aromas are distinct and straightforward. The wine is voluptuous in the mouth, with plum and blackberry flavors, dusty tannins and a hint of spice. Its finish is lengthy, comprising vanilla and dried fig notes. Pair it with hearty winter meals like traditional pot roast, short ribs and creamy polenta, or sea bass with braised celery.
Other Meritage & Bordeaux we have tasted
Check out our guide to Napa Valley
For more information, visit www.stsupery.com
November 23, 2009
FESTIVE AND ROSY
Matanzas Creek Winery
2008 Rosé of Merlot
Bennett Valley, California
Matanzas Creek Winery, which is owned by Kendall-Jackson, put Sonoma County’s Bennett Valley on the winemaking map. While the region was alive with vines during the pre-Prohibition era, in later years this area boasted a different assortment of crops. However, in the late 1970s, Matanzas Creek began to replant the grapevines and the region was rediscovered for its fine soils and hospitable climate. Along with helping to revitalize the Bennett Valley agricultural community’s passion for winemaking, this winery has become recognized as one of Sonoma County’s most reliable fine wine producers. Matanzas Creek, best known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, also produces Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, several blends and this Rosé of Merlot. Raspberry and cranberry aromas make the 2008 Rosé of Merlot meld seamlessly with Thanksgiving flavors. On the palate, it is lightly sweet with red berry, tart pomegranate and a hint of lemon and orange zest to give it an acidic zip. The pink wine is served best slightly chilled, and will pair beautifully with a traditional turkey dinner. Be sure to save a glass for the pumpkin pie; with its up-front hit of sweetness, this Rosé will carry nicely right into dessert.
Other Rosés we have tasted
Check out our guide to Sonoma County
For more information, visit www.matanzascreek.com
November 30, 2009
Vignerons de la Méditerranée
Les Petits Grains Muscat de St. Jean de Minervois
For those of us used to the U.S. winemaking system, this dessert wine’s origins require a little explanation. While produced by a sizeable cooperative of vintners (Les Vignerons de la Méditerranée), the vino itself comes from a tiny appellation of less than 700 acres (St. Jean de Minervois in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region). The vintners of “Méditerranée” are passionate about keeping up the traditions of winemaking and showcasing regional terroir. Where the goal of many large winemaking entities is to mass-produce, this group’s collaboration is a means of survival for winemaking operations too small to achieve distribution outside of their region. Less than 2,000 cases of this Muscat are imported to the United States, making it a treasure. Its grapes are grown in limestone soil, which lends minerality to the palate. During production, the wine is fortified, which adds body while keeping the sweetness at a pleasing, not too sugary level. The Muscat exudes orange blossom and honey aromas. Citrus carries through on the tongue along with apricots and a mineral note at the back of the palate. Serve after dinner with a bread pudding or holiday pumpkin pie. The wine also pairs beautifully with an afternoon tea or plate of aged goat cheeses.
Other Dessert & Sweet Wines we have tasted
Check out our guide to Languedoc-Roussillon, France
For more information, visit www.valorbieu.com
about the wine world's most influential critic: Robert