Posts Tagged ‘Domaine Chandon’

Napa in the AM

April 6, 2013

It’s Spring.

One of the many perks about teaching is that Kara and I always get a week off for Spring Break.

One of the many perks about living in the Bay Area is that we are a short drive to some of the greatest wine growing regions in the world.

This past Wednesday, Kara and I decided to drive on up to the Napa Valley to get our taste on.

Now… If you’ve ever been tasting in Napa on the weekends, you know how crowded it can get (both in the tasting rooms, and on the highways). On Saturdays and Sundays, it’s a must to get into Napa by 10:00am (when most wineries open) to beat the rush.

But…

On a lazy Spring Wednesday, it’s really fun to get to Napa early just so you can take your time rolling from one tasting room to the next.

When we first arrived in wine country at 10:00am, we decided to start the day with some sparkles…

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Drinking Bubbles at Domaine Chandon

You know that I’m a fan of Domaine Chandon (What? You didn’t? Click here). Their tasting lounge in Yountville is beautiful and relaxing. I decided to do their Classic Tasting to give you the lowdown on their wines that you should be able to find at a wine shop near you…

The Brut Classic is loaded full of lemon and apple fruits. The Blanc de Noirs (the wine that got me into Domaine Chandon) has some good acid with fruits of cherry and red currants. The Rose was my favorite of the flight. Fruit of red apple with a great minerality. The Extra-Dry Riche had some sweetness of honey and peaches, but was balanced out with herbs of eucalyptus and spearmint.

Not a bad start to the day.

Next, we headed over to the iconic Cabernet Sauvignon producer, Silver Oak in Oakville, where Kara and I were treated to a VIP tour and tasting.

When Kara and I first arrived, we were greeted with a taste of the current release of their Alexander Valley Cabernet…

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Silver Oak 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the “entry level” wine from Silver Oak. It consists of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from various vineyards throughout the appalachian (including their own). The wine is aged on 50% new and 50% once-used American oak for 24 months before bottling. The wine was then bottle-aged for another 15 months before release. It retails for $70.

Color: Dark ruby red.

Nose: Fruits of raspberry and cranberry with hints of buttered toffee and menthol.

Taste: Fruits of cranberry, raspberry, and red currant are rounded out with notes of leather and menthol.

Score: This wine is big and tasty on the palate. It’s an easy 91+ that should get much better with a few years of aging.

While tasting the wine, we got the opportunity to hang out with their library and large format wines in the big glass display case at the front of the winery…

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Check out these bottles…

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And these ones!

Next, we got a taste of the 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet…

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Silver Oak 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet

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Oh man!

Whereas the Alexander Valley is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend that could be considered Silver Oak’s ode to Bordeaux. The 2008 edition consists of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. It is aged in 100% new American oak for 24 months before another 20 months of bottle aging. This wine runs for $110.

Color: Darker than the AV Cab, but still in the ruby red category.

Nose: Beautiful nose of blueberry (I’m a sucker for blueberries), raspberry, and boysenberry fruits wrapped up in that sweet American oak.

Taste: Fruits of cranberry, blackberry, and blueberry fruits. This wine has some very nice, soft tannins, and a good acidity. It’s beautiful.

Score: You know… When you talk about a wine that rolls in at $110, the first thing you may wonder is whether or not the wine is worth it. This wine is Shakespearean. It’s got an approachability that will please the masses. It’s got the ageability that will turn on the collectors. It’s got the depth that is thought-provoking enough to excite any wine geek. Is it worth it? Yes… Yes it is. 92

While tasting the Napa Valley Cab, we got a chance to check out more of the winery.

If you haven’t been to Silver Oak in a while, things may look different. They had to rebuild the winery after a fire in 2008, but have done a great job of honoring its history. Here’s the memorabilia room…

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They say that this double rainbow over the winery during the rebuild was a signal from late winemaker Justin Meyer that everything was going to be okay.

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The Silver Oak Time Capsule

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An article referring to the 1972 Silver Oak as overpriced at $6 a bottle.

After looking at some of the history of Silver Oak, we got us a taste of the 2008 Twomey Merlot…

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Twomey 2008 Merlot

Twomey is the sister label of Silver Oak. With a slogan like “Life is a Cabernet”, it would be kind of weird to see a Silver Oak Merlot or Pinot Noir. This Twomey Merlot is their ode to the great wines of Pomerol in Bordeaux, France. As such, this wine has been aged on French oak. It costs $50.

Color: Lighter ruby red.

Nose: Blackberry fruit with hints of vanilla and spice.

Taste: Massive blackberry and blueberry fruit, balanced out with a good acidity and herbaceous notes of black tea.

Score: Yes. The Napa Valley Cab is worth it at $110, but the Twomey Merlot at $50 is a steal. 92.

Next, we took a stroll through the winery facilities…

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Fermentation Tanks

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These are barrels of “Growers Lots”. Winemakers will hold on to wines from individual lots to see how these wines age over the years. This helps them predict how certain blends will age over time.

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American Oak Barrels Stacked to the Sky

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This year, Silver Oak is experimenting with barrel size. What I wouldn’t give to aid in this research.

We ended the tour with a taste of one of their older vintages, just to see how well these wines do age…

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Silver Oak 2002 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $100

Color: Nice and dark.

Nose: Dry herbs, tobacco, and menthol.

Taste: I love the way that wines age over time. I love the transition of bright fruits to herbs. That is just what this wine does. There are still some nice juicy plums on the front palate, but they give way to these tasty, earthy tobacco notes.

Score: Just beautiful. 92+

Here’s the thing I love about Silver Oak. In a world where EVERYBODY knows about your wine… and most folks rave about it, they could probably get away with being all stuffy and pretentious…

But…

They are far from it.

When the folks at Silver Oak talk about their winery and their wine, they light up. There is a strong sense of family among their coworkers. That feeling of family rubbed off on us the moment we walked in the door.

Their goal is to make consistently good wine every single year and to share it with the folks they love.

That means you.

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Life is a Cabernet… and some really good Merlot made by a sister label.

Not a bad morning in the Napa Valley.

Not bad at all.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Be sure to check back next time to see what happens to Jeff and Kara when they check out more of Napa in the PM.

Have you ever had any wines from Domaine Chandon, Silver Oak, or Twomey? What did you think? Leave a comment and let us know.

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It’s Saturday. Why not celebrate?

March 12, 2013

Saturday night, Kara and I just had a hankering for sushi.  We’ve been fans of CreAsian in Morgan Hill for a while, but recently learned that their corkage fee for wine is only 8 bucks.

I’ve been meaning to do a sparkling wine and sushi pairing for a while, so we picked this up at Trader Joe’s just before we hit up the restaurant…

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Domaine Chandon NV Brut Classic

It’s funny… you know…

Domaine Chandon makes a solid California sparkling wine at $15.  Great lemon and mineral characteristics.  Festive and lively color and effervescence.

But…

At the end of the day, it’s just a $15 wine.

And yet…

When you walk into a restaurant with a bottle of sparkling wine, heads turn.

The family sitting next to us mentioned that we must be important people if we were rolling into the place with “Champagne”.

Our waitress asked us if we were celebrating anything special.

I told her that of course we were… “It’s Saturday!”

Here’s what we ate…

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Seaweed Salad

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Sashimi Tacos… A must!

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From Kara to Jeff… Lemon Drop, Fuji Mountain, and Godzilla Rolls.

The truth is, as food-friendly as sparkling wine is… as good a job as these wines do with elevating the already sky-high flavors of sushi… and with as many good-quality California sparklers as there are in the 10 to 20 dollar range…

Why wouldn’t you drink sparkling wine more often?

Let’s all celebrate Saturdays more often.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

What’s your favorite sparkling wine and food pairing?  What’s your favorite sparkling wine in the 10 to 20 dollar range?  Leave a comment, and tell us about it.

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Stay rad, Napa… Stay rad.

November 13, 2011

You should know that although Kara and I have only been married for a little over a year, we have been in a relationship for a LONG time.

Yesterday, we took a quick trip up to Napa in celebration of being girlfriend/boyfriend for 9 years.

Here’s what went down (along with some quick tasting notes)…

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We started our tasting adventure at Etude Winery in the Carneros region of Napa...

Etude 2009 Carneros Estate Chardonnay: Pear with floral notes  Nice acidity and minerality.  Good stuff.  88+

Etude 2008 Carneros Pinot Noir: Fennel and cherry.  Good spice and oak.  89

Etude 2008 Deer Camp Pinot Noir: Lots of Earthy blueberry fruit with hints of cola.  The goods.  90

Etude 2007 GBR Estate: A dope blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Malbec.  There is this beautiful berry pie nose to this wine.  Lots of plum and black olive (a characteristic that I am learning is quite common to Merlot)  Did I mention that this wine was dope?  91

Etude 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Berry and cherry nose.  Dark fruit on the palate with powdery tannins.  Amazacool!  92

Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir: Though we had reached the end of our flight, our server hooked us up with a quick splash of their Heirloom Vineyard Pinot.  I forgot to write down the vintage year, but I am sure you could look up the current vintage on Etude’s Website.  This single-vineyard Pinot Noir had a good berry nose.  It was very juicy on the palate with leathery and peppery tannins.  DeeeeeeeeeLish!  92+

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Next we headed down the street to Bouchaine... Another Carneros winery, specializing in all things Pinot.

Bouchaine 2010 Rockin’ H Vineyard Rose of Syrah: Lots of strawberry and minerality.  87

Bouchaine 2010 Las Brisas Riesling: With about 1.5% residual sugar, this would be considered an off-dry Riesling.  There is a nice, dancing acidity.  It’s just a little too sweet for my liking.  86+

Bouchaine 2010 Las Brisas Pinot Blanc: Pinot Blanc is, in fact, a red-skinned grape that is used to make white wine.  Consider it a cross between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir.  It has a very floral nose.  There are hints of juicy red fruit on the palate.  87

Bouchaine 2009 Rockin’ H Vineyard  Pinot Noir: Cola.  Eucalyptus.  Mineral stone.  Red apple.  Very cool.  90+

Bouchaine 2009 Gee Vineyard Pinot Noir: The Gee Vineyard is one of just a few places that dry farm their Pinot Noir.  The result is a highly concentrated, tannic, and ageable Pinot.  Cranberry and red apple dominate this wine.  Cool, as well.  90+

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After our morning in the Carneros region, we headed up highway 29 towards Yountville to get some bubbles at Domaine Chandon.

Domaine Chandon Reserve Chardonnay Brut: Yeast and butter for days.  I haven’t described many sparkling wines as having butter characteristics, and yet… butter is what I’m getting.  90-

Domaine Chandon Reserve Pinot Noir Brut: Our server informed me that the Reserve Pinot is his go-to wine.  I can see why.  It is nice and nutty.  90

Domaine Chandon Reserve Pinot Noir Rose: Good black cherry fruit.  Velvety mouthfeel.  Very nice.  89

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A bit further North, we found ourselves at Turnbull Wine Cellars in Oakville.

Turnbull 2010 Viognier: Coconut and papaya transitions to cheese.  It was okay.  86+

Turnbull 2007 Fortuna Merlot: Juicy red apple, black olive (there it is again), and black tea.  89

Turnbull 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Good body and fruit of raspberry and blackberry.  Dry tannins.  Good stuff.  89

Turnbull 2007 Cabernet Franc: Blueberry and bike tires.  Very nice.  89+

Turnbull 2008 Syrah: Inky blueberry fruit.  88+

Turnbull 2007 Oakville Merlot: Cranberry and sun-dried tomato fruit.  Fun and thought-provoking.  90

Turnbull 2009 Old Bull Red Wine: Mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a good table wine.  I’d tell you more about it, but the only note that I wrote was the score.  Take this 88 for what it is, and move on.  I have.

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Once we got back to the car, we decided to dive into a seaweed salad from CostCo. This thing was F-ing delicious! 97 points!

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Next, we hopped over to Franciscan Estate to get our Cabernet and Giant Pumpkin on.

Franciscan 2010 Sauvignon Blanc: Guava.  Papaya.  Green apple.  It is what it is.  86+

Franciscan 2009 Chardonnay: This chard spends 7 months on french oak.  Lots of cream… and apple… and cheese.  This is a crowd pleaser.  89+

Franciscan 2007 Merlot: With 14 months on french oak, this Merlot has a BIG blackberry nose.  The palate is loaded with black olive (again) and green pepper.  89

Franciscan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon: 20 months on french oak for this bad boy.  Dried plums.  Cola.  Tobacco.  89

Franciscan 2007 Magnificat: Dark in color.  Boysenberry and oak.  Fun, lingering tannins.  Dope.  90

Franciscan 2007 Port: Cedar box.  Chocolate.  Grape.  Shoe leather.  As I read through my notes, I realize that I did not give this one a score.  Just trust me that is was okay, but I’ve had better.

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Our last winery of the day was Louis M. Martini in St. Helena.

Louis M. Martini 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon: This Cabernet was dry and fruity.  Loads of cranberry.  89

Louis M. Martini 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Big, dark plum and soft, round tannins.  This wine drinking great right now.  90+

Louis M. Martini 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Raisin and prunes, with a hint of dried cherries and tobacco.  88+

Now that we were done with the day’s tasting, we headed over to check in at The Napa Inn bed and breakfast.  Sure enough, once we got settled, look what they offered us in the lounge…

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Port and Sherry. So good, it's scary.

For dinner, we headed over to Tyler Florence’s Rotiserrie and Wine in downtown Napa…

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To drink, we got a bottle of Spellbound Petite Sirah.

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Kara ordered some deviled eggs. Considering my history with eggs, these things looked pretty good.

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I got some dope grilled artichokes. Dope!

For the main course, I got a rotisserie chicken... Duh!

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Kara got some gnocchi. I got kinda jealous.

After dinner, Kara and I took our wine out to the patio of Rotisserie and Wine. The restaurant provided us with a beautiful view of the river walk... That, and blankets.

So, there you go.

Kara and I have been taking trips to Napa for a while now, and I do have to say that this was one of the best trips we’ve had there.

Stay Rad, Napa.

Jeff


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