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September 2009

September 7, 2009

Chehalem 2004 Ian’s Reserve Chardonnay

2004 Ian’s Reserve Chardonnay


Chehalem, a Native American word that roughly translates as “valley of flowers,” bases its philosophy on taking care of the land. Toward this end, the small, Willamette Valley, Oregon winery has heavily invested in sustainable winemaking practices. This includes everything from minimizing irrigation to eliminating Styrofoam in wine bottle shipping. The resulting wines are widely recognized for truly reflecting the distinctions of the individual vineyards and the region. The winery is best known for its Pinot Noir, but also produces critically acclaimed Chardonnay as well as Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and dry Riesling. The 2004 Ian’s Reserve Chardonnay makes a very good example of the reflection of terroir in Chehalem’s wines. The 2004 vintage offers the distinctive, acidic bite of a cool-climate Chardonnay. Its aromas and flavors are direct and intense with dominant yeast and roasted nutty notes, hints of citrus blossom and thirst-quenching lemon and lime zest. On the palate, the wine offers a seductively oily texture and nice weight. We would like to see a little more length, but otherwise, we find the wine to be an impressive effort from what can be a difficult grape-growing region. A fairly subtle style of Chardonnay, the Ian’s Reserve is delicious on its own but will make an elegant pairing to white fish in butter sauce, cream-based pastas and pretty much anything topped with cheese.

Rating: 14.5/20

Other Chardonnays we have tasted
Check out our guide to Oregon
For more information, visit

September 14, 2009

Villa San-Juliette 2006 Pleasant Valley Pink Rosé

Villa San-Juliette
2006 Pleasant Valley Pink Rosé

Paso Robles, CA

Villa San-Juliette is one of Paso Robles’ newest wineries and among California’s most talked-about recent culinary ventures. That’s because the winery is the latest production from two of Hollywood’s hottest creative types, Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick. You might have heard of a little project of theirs called American Idol. However, the pair’s pop cultural success is of little value in the wine country, where the grape vines can be more finicky than the television-watching public. To assist in their transition from hit-makers to farmers, the duo has employed veteran winemaker Adam LaZarre, who is best known as the former winemaker at Hahn Estates as well as owner of LaZarre Wines. Although the 2006 Pleasant Valley Pink was produced before LaZarre joined the company, the wine exhibits the potential of Villa San-Juliette’s vineyards. The Pink is a lovely light-bodied Rosé, and just the thing to quench a late afternoon thirst on those last hot days of the year. Its flavors are straightforward but juicy, featuring fresh strawberry, red currant and rose petal with an interesting note of minerality on the finish. Pair it with pulled pork and sweet corn on the cob, steamed shellfish or an elegant brunch of smoked salmon and eggs.

Rating: 13.5/20

Other Rosés we have tasted
Check out our guide to Paso Robles
For more information, visit

September 21, 2009

Sierra Madre Vineyard 2007 Chardonnay

Sierra Madre Vineyard
2007 Chardonnay

Santa Maria Valley, CA

Sierra Madre has quite a quirky history. It was first planted in 1971 by grape grower Harley Martin, but was purchased in 1975 by Prudential Insurance as an investment property. Dale Hampton, Prudential’s Superintendent of Farming Operations, along with his partners television producer Doug Cramer and developer John Cushman, purchased the property from Prudential in 1986 and nurtured its reputation for highly touted fruit. Robert Mondavi himself bought the property a decade later. Finally, in 2003, it was purchased from Mondavi by strawberry grower Doug Circle, who released the first Sierra Madre Vineyard-branded wine last year. Circle and winemaker Steve Rasmussen currently produce small batches of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the famed vineyard. The 2007 is a richly textured, full-bodied Chardonnay. The oak influence is perceptible but not overwhelming, both on the nose and palate. Other flavors include crisp apple, Asian pear, vanilla and an interesting bitter edge of toasted hazelnuts. Contrast the wine with buttery foods like fish in beurre blanc, a potato gratin or scallops in brown butter. Alternatively, try complementing its toasty, nutty flavors with hazelnut-crusted white fish or a plate of mild cheeses and roasted almonds.

Rating: 14/20

Other Chardonnays we have tasted
Check out our guide to California's Central Coast
For more information, visit

September 28, 2009

Quivira 2006 Wine Creek Ranch Mourvèdre

2006 Wine Creek Ranch Mourvèdre

Dry Creek Valley, CA

Quivira is one of the first family-owned, biodynamic wineries in California’s Sonoma County. Known for terroir-driven vino, the company focuses on estate-grown wines in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley appellation. Although it is the goal of Quivira’s owners, the Wendt Family, to make excellent wines, they refuse to do so at the risk of the environment. The Wendts view farmers as stewards of the land, and as such have taken every step possible to produce their wines sustainably, including growing organically and using solar power. Quivira’s 2006 Wine Creek Ranch Mourvèdre is a surprisingly rich, ripe wine, made from a grape that is most commonly grown in the south of France (where vines rarely see the hot summer temperatures of the Dry Creek Valley). The result is a wine that is distinctive for its region, with dark plum and berry flavors and Middle Eastern spice hints on both the nose and finish. With its smooth tannins and approachable berry flavors, this wine can easily be appreciated by less adventurous wine drinkers, yet it still has some of the earthy, gamey qualities Mourvèdre drinkers appreciate. Pair it with venison sausage over mild sauerkraut or a plate of hard cheeses and assorted dried fruits.

Rating: 13.5/20

Other Reds we have tasted
Check out our guide to Sonoma County
For more information, visit



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