Posts Tagged ‘Grand Tasting’

Organized Chaos: A wonderfully mad tasting at Rhone Rangers San Francisco

March 25, 2013

More and more, I find myself gravitating toward Rhone wines (made of grapes typically grown in the Rhone Valley of France). California gets a lot of love for it’s Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and Burgundy (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) grapes, but it’s the Rhones (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Petite Sirah) that I really think are bringing it these days.






I’m loving me some Rhones!

This past Saturday, Kara and I took a quick trip to the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco to attend the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting as members of the media. Needless to say, we were hella stoked.

You may recall from my ZinFest post, that when you come to these events, you’ve got to have a plan.  We thought about going alphabetical.  We thought about just focusing on Petite Sirah.  We thought about doing a Syrah vs. Grenache showdown.


After entering the  Festival Pavilion, and seeing all the wonderful wines to taste, we decided to bounce around to as many tables as possible…


Inside the Pavilion

I know that this may seem like a chaotic approach to wine, but the goal is to get a good overall picture of what these Rhone varietals (Take that 1 Wine Dude.  You just got Frogged.) have to offer.


Let’s grab our glasses and go.


Take your pick.


Zenaida Cellars 2010 Syrah from Paso Robles brings some bright red fruit, leather, and herbs.


I love me some Wrath! The 2010 San Saba Vineyard Syrah brings some of that big tobacco that I love. Let me say love a few more times. Love. Wrath.


VINTUS Wines brought a bunch of French Rhones from E. Guigal to compare against the American wines. I’ve gotta say that they were all killer. The 2009 Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde was clean and elegant. It had nice cherry and tobacco notes.


I was lovin’ all of the wines from Villa Creek Cellars. I really liked the 2010 La Boda, a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Mourvedre with delicious dark plum notes, spice, and rubber. Mad tasty.


Terre Rouge brought plenty of delicious single-vineyard Syrahs from Amador County. The 2008 DTR Ranch Syrah was big and lovely. By the way, their white Rhones are killer too.


When I think of American Rhones, I think of Tablas Creek Vineyard. The 2010 Espirit de Beaucastel, with its reserved, yet powerful, cherry fruit and tobacco flavors was fantastic, as always.


Skylark Wine Company is an urban winery in San Francisco that does some great single-vineyard Syrahs. You know I love Stagecoach Vineyard fruit, so I jumped at the 2009 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah. 32 months on oak gave the wine a nice, vanilla flavor matched up nicely with the tobacco notes on this Syrah.


Rosenblum Cellars showed up to the party with the 2008 England-Shaw Syrah. The wine was super clean with bright plum fruit.


Yeah… I write about Ridge Vineyards a lot. That’s because they f-ing rule. Take the 2008 Lytton Estate Syrah… Actually… Give it back. Those blueberry and blackberry fruit notes are just great.


Eric Kent Wine Cellars offered up two vintages of Kalen’s Big Boy Blend Syrah. The 2010 vintage was loaded with red fruit, tobacco, and jerky. The 2011 barrel sample had a gamey flavor with touches of blueberries. Just thinking about this wine makes me want to give them a visit real soon.


Not only was the Folin Cellars bringing some tasty 2009 Estate Syrah from Oregon, but look at their glass closures! This wine has some super legit red fruit.


I was a big fan of the Hug Cellars 2008 El Grande Syrah. It’s a bit of a fruit bomb, but so tasty.


JC Cellars was my favorite winery at ZinFest, so I had to see what was up with their Rhones. The 2010 Rockpile Vineyard Syrah was loaded with big, bright, red fruit, tires, and chalk. You know I love chalk.


This is the 2009 Peasant (MGS Blend) from Cypher Winery. It’s a big, ripe, dark, fruit bomb. Not bad.


The 2010 Stepping Stone Syrah by Cornerstone Cellars has some good cranberry fruit.


Here’s a couple of big, inky Petite Sirahs from Clayhouse Wines of Paso Robles. Both were quite tannic and concentrated.


This is the 2008 Cigare Volant from Bonny Doon Vineyard. You know I love Bonny Doon. This Rhone Blend has the perfect balance of fruit, tobacco, herbs, and acid. I love this wine.

After tasting through 50+ wines from 17 wineries, our palates were getting a bit burned out, so I put the notebook away, and we strolled around the Pavilion and tried whatever wines looked appealing.

What follows are my pictures from what Martin Redmond of Enofylz Wine Blog would call the “freestyle portion of the program.”


Prospect 772 Wine Company 2010 “The Instigator” Syrah


Landmark Vineyards 2011 Steel Plow MGS


Chateau Ste. Michelle 2010 Wahluke Slope Grenache


Miraflores Winery 2009 Estate Syrah


Two Shepherds 2011 Saralee’s Vineyard Syrah and 2011 Saralee’s Vineyard Grenache


Martian Ranch 2011 “Red Shift” Syrah


I dig Rhones.

How ’bout you?

Stay Rad,



Tasting My Way through #ZinFest2013 from A to Zin

February 6, 2013

Zinfandel gets a bad rap.

People who aren’t much into wine often think that Zin is supposed to be white… and that’s disrespectful.

Some folks who say they are way into wine think that Zin is just a high alcohol fruit bomb.  They won’t even touch the stuff… and that’s hella disrespectful.

Luckily, the fine folks at ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) have made it their mission to give Zin the love and respect that it deserves.  For the last 22 years, they have been putting on the annual Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco.  It is currently the largest single-variety wine festival in the world.  This past Saturday, I got to attend the Grand Tasting at The Concourse event center as a member of the media to see what was up with America’s Heritage Wine…




The Concourse is a HUGE event center… and the Zinfandel Festival is a HUGE event.  With just around 200 of the best Zinfandel producers in one place, you’ve got to have a plan.  My plan is a three-parter…

Step One: Eat.



Eat a lot.

Say Cheese!

Say Cheese!

Step Two: Spit.


Step Three: Pick one winery for each letter of the alphabet.

Start with A, and work your way to Z.


Let’s Begin!

A is for:


Adelaida Cellars from Paso Robles: This 2010 offering from Michael’s Vineyard brings some delicious blue and black fruit.

B is for:


Bedrock Wine Company from Sonoma Valley: Winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson made a delicious, high-toned wine with this 2011 Saitone Ranch juice.

C is for:


Chateau Montelena Winery from Calistoga: Probably better known for their Cabs, and a certain Chardonnay that won the Tasting of Paris in 1976, the magnum of their 2009 Estate Zinfandel brought almost a Bordeaux like quality to the palate. Mad earthy tobacco. Nice!

D is for:


Dashe Cellars from Oakland: This was the first of many urban wineries from the East Bay that I had the pleasure of tasting. This 2009 Louvau Vineyard Zinfandel had some tasty tomato and tobacco notes to it.

E is for:


Edmeades Winery from Mendocino County: The 2009 Shamrock Vineyard had a nice balance of bright and dark fruits.

F is for:


Frank Family Vineyards from Calistoga: Tomato. Tobacco. Plum. Soft tannins. A great Zin from the Napa Valley.

G is for:


Grgich Hills Estate from Rutherford: From the winery of the winemaker from Croatia that made a certain Chardonnay for a certain winery that won the Tasting of Paris in 1976, Grgich Hills makes a bright leathery 2009 Zin…


They also know their history. Plavac Mali is the Croatian Godfather of Zinfandel. This 2008 PM is super clean up front with dry, tart tannins.

H is for:


Hunt Cellars from Chatsworth: The 2007 Rocket Man Zin is super jammy and raisin-like with bright acidity.  It’s $75.  It’s also the cheapest Zin they listed in the tasting program.  Most wineries were bringing quality juice at half that price.  Just sayin’.

I is for:


Ironstone Vineyards from Murphys: This 2009 Reserve Rous Vineyard was very bright and balanced.

J is for:


JC Cellars from Oakland: Another great urban winery. The 2010 Impostor had these great dusty tannins to round out its tasty cranberry fruit. Fantastic! JC Cellars was one of my favorite producers of the tasting.

K is for:


Klinker Brick Winery from Lodi: Bright fruit. Powdery tannins. Not bad.

L is for:


Lava Cap Winery from Placerville: Even some of the better Zinfandel makers can go a little overboard.  Lava Cap did a great job showing how tasty a Zin can be when restraint is used.  Good cranberry fruit.  Tasty minerality.  Vibrant.

M is for:


Mauritson Family Winery from Healdsburg: This barrel sample of the 2012 Rockpile Jack’s Cabin Zinfandel brought some beautiful notes of orange zest and chocolate. Yum!

N is for:

20130206-185952.jpg from The Internet: These guys sell wines for a bunch of small producers. I didn’t like any of the wines they brought, but you may find some gems on their website.

O is for:


Ottimino from Occidental: The 2009 Rancho Bello Vineyard brought some good dark fruit and tomato flavors. Really good.

P is for:


Pech Merle Winery from Rohnert Park: The 2010 Treborce Vineyard has an oily raspberry type of feel. Very interesting.

Q is for:


Proulx from Paso Robles: Look… There weren’t any Q wines. Another P is close enough. I’m glad I hit up this winery. The 2010 Reserve Black Label Willow Creek Farm Zin is big, but has mad balance. This is a confident wine.

R is for:


Rock Wall Wine Company from Alameda: Another fantastic urban winery, Rock Wall makes some killer, single vineyard Zins. The 2010 Harris Kratka has some delicious bright berry fruit.



Rosenblum Cellars from Napa: The 2009 Monte Rosso Reserve has some massive bright candy fruit. Hella concentrated. Hella delicious.

S is for:


Saldo by Orin Swift from Napa: The 2010 issue of this Zin blend is loaded full of concentrated dark candy.

T is for:


The Prisoner by Orin Swift from Rutherford: Another Zin blend from Orin Swift, but so different. The 2011 Prisoner has bright red fruit with a rich body. Nice. Yes… This wine should be listed under P… But if you don’t like it, you can sit on a tack.

U is for:


Turley Wine Cellars from Saint Helena: The 2011 Hayne Vineyard Barrel Sample is super deep and lovely. I’d love to taste this when it’s finally released.  Yes… U is the second letter of Turley, and that’s close enough for me.

V is for:


V. Sattui Winery from Saint Helena: The 2012 Crow Ridge Vineyards Zin is packed full of bright fruit goodness.

W is for:


Wine Guerrilla from Forestville: The 2010 Monte Rosso is a fantastically reserved interpretation of a typically concentrated vineyard. I loved it.

X is for:


Mazzocco Winery from Geyserville: X marks the spot, and everyone in Northern Sonoma County knows that this is the spot to try a ridiculous amount of tasty Zins. The 2010 Maple brings some massive fruit. Very nice.

Y is for:


McNab Ridge Winery from Ukiah: Y? Why not? The 2009 Zinister had a great contrast between bright and dark fruits.

Z is for:


Zin Alley Winery and Vineyards from Templeton: These guys are a super small producer in Paso Robles. The 2010 Zin is big on fruit, acidity, and alcohol.

And that’s the Zinfandel Festival from A to Zin.

After tasting through 27 wineries and 74 wines…

I needed a drink.


Ridge Vineyards


Stay Rad,


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