Saturday, May 31, 2014

Arista Winery – Healdsburg, California

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The Winery and Vineyards

 

Arista Winery is located on 36 acres along Westside Road in the Middle Reach sub-region of the Russian River Valley in Healdsburg. It was founded in 2002 by Al and Janis McWilliams and their emphasis is on vineyard-designate wines of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer produced in lots of 80 to 300 cases with a total annual production of about 6,000 cases.



Arista has 12 acres planted to heritage and Dijon clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and they source Pinot Noir from several vineyards and appellations including Bacigalupi, Toboni, Mononi, Perli, Ferrington and Ritchie. In addition, they acquired the Martinelli Road Vineyard in 2012, which is planted to 5 acres of 130-year-old Zinfandel, 2 acres of 20+-year-old Pinot Noir and 8 acres of 30+-year-old Wente clone Chardonnay.



The Japanese Gardens



Arista has a small tasting room within a Japanese-styled house with is surrounded by beautiful Japanese gardens. As you wander around the small paths through the garden you’ll find ponds with trickling water falls that descend into other ponds, surrounded by picnic tables and lush green lawns that are perfect for picnicking. This is then surrounded by the estate vineyards with a beautiful view of the mountains in the background.

 

The Wines

 
One of the advantages of tasting at Arista Winery is that they produce numerous Pinot Noirs sourced from quality vineyards from up and down California as well as Oregon. So, it is an excellent place to learn the distinctiveness of the terroir of these different appellations.


2013 Ferrington Vineyard Gewurstraminer, Anderson Valley


This is a clear white wine, pale straw in color with minor tint of green on the rim and low viscosity. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of spiced apples, canned pears, ripe peaches, lychee, and jasmine. On the palate it is dry with medium acid, medium body and a long finish with lingering tropical notes. This wine sells for $28 per bottle.


2012 Russian River Chardonnay


This is a clear white wine, straw in color with moderate intensity and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean with medium intense aromas of fresh peach, yellow apples, tropical fruit, guava, caramelized pears with hints of marshmallow, butter, caramel, butterscotch and lingering notes of coconut oil. It is dry with a medium+ acidity, it is medium bodied with medium+ alcohol and a long finish. This is definitely a California-style Chardonnay and yet it is well balanced and not overly oaky or buttery. This wine sells for $46 per bottle.


2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

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This is a clear ruby wine of moderate intensity and medium viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of black cherries, hints of earth, clove and spice. On the palate it has medium- tannins, medium+ acidity and a medium length finish. It is often said that Pinot Noirs from Oregon can seem like a wine that has one foot in the Old World (like Burgundy) and one foot in the New World (like California), but from my experience in traveling through Oregon this isn’t always the case. Many Oregonian Pinots can seem very much like wines from Sonoma, Mendocino or the Russian River. Although it is a very fine wine this Pinot doesn’t have the hallmark Oregonian traits that I look for in wines from the Willamette Valley. This wine sells for $36 per bottle.

2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir



This is a clear ruby colored wine with medium intensity and moderate+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate aromas of ripe strawberries, plums, cherries with hints of clove, root beer, cinnamon, and spice. On the palate it is dry with medium tannins, medium+ acidity and a moderate length finish. I preferred this wine to the Willamete Valley Pinot Noir as it is more complex with a touch more spice and at $38 per bottle it is an excellent value.



2012 Longbow Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley


This is a clear ruby colored wine with medium intensity and moderate+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate aromas of strawberry preserves, dry cinnamon stick, decaying roses, damp forest floor, clove and a hint of black pepper. Of all the Pinots I tasted, this was the earthiest in the line-up. It is dry with medium tannins, medium+ acidity and a medium length finish. This was my favorite wine in the line-up so I brought one home for $54.



2012 Mononi Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley


This is a clear ruby colored wine with medium intensity and moderate+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate aromas of raspberries, cherries, plums, dry cinnamon stick, roses, clove and a hint of black pepper. It is dry with medium tannins, medium+ acidity and a medium length finish. This wine sells for $60 per bottle.
To see more pictures of Arista Winery check out Erik Wait's Photography at the following link:



To visit or for more information:



Arista Winery

7015 Westside Rd

Healdsburg, CA 95448

Phone: 707-473-0606

Friday, May 30, 2014

Twomey Cellars – Healdsburg, California



The primary regions in California for producing premium Pinot Noir include Santa Barbara, Monterey, Santa Cruz Mountains, Los Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Mendocino and along the Russian River. Of all these I tend to prefer the Pinots from the Russian River as they tend to have more than just fruit and spice but additional notes of root beer, cola, sassafras, clove and the earthy notes that are often lacking in the more fruity California Pinot Noirs of other regions.

Lately I have been enjoying bottles of Pinot Noir from the 2008-2009 vintages that I collected during my travels in both California and Oregon. Consequently my inventory is in need of replenishing. So, I am now again on the hunt for good vintages of Pinot Noir beginning with the Russian River and I hope to make another trip up to the Willamette Valley in Oregon later this Summer or in early Fall before the harvest.

I had not been to Healdsburg and the Russian River since July of 2012 so the during the Memorial Day weekend I returned and visited two wineries – Twomey Cellars and Arista Winery.

The Winery
Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer
Twomey is the child of the Silver Oak Cellars family, an iconic winery in the Napa Valley established in 1972 by Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer that focuses on premium Cabernet Sauvignon.

After graduating of high school Justin Meyer (11 November 1938 – 6 August 2002) became a monk of the Christian Brothers and taught Spanish at a Christian Brothers high school in Sacramento. In 1964 he was an apprentice to winemaker Brother Timothy at their winery in St. Helena in the Napa Valley. In 1972 he left the Christian Brothers and became president of V&E Consulting and Management Company.

Raymond Twomey Duncan (born 1930) is an American entrepreneur and vintner who was originally involved in oil entrepreneurship in Colorado and founder of Duncan Oil.

In 1972 Justin Meyer met Ray Duncan who had purchased a 750 acre plot of land in the Napa Valley which was formerly the Oakville Dairy farm, as an investment in growing and selling grapes. Together Justin Meyer and Ray Duncan then founded Silver Oak Cellars. Today Silver Oak has two wineries; one in Oakville in the Napa Valley and one in Geyserville in the Alexander Valley.

In 1999 the Duncan Family established Twomey Cellars which is named after Ray Duncan’s mother, Velma Marie Twomey Duncan.  Whereas Silver Oak Cellars was established to produce premium Cabernet Sauvignon the goal of Twomey Cellars is to craft fine wines from other varietals beginning with a Merlot produced from the Soda Canyon Ranch Vineyard.


In 2000 Twomey acquired the West Pin Vineyard in the Russian River Valley and began making Russian River Valley Pinot Noir in addition to the single vineyard Napa Valley Merlot. As production of wine continued to increase they decided to establish Twomey as a separate winery.

In 2003, the Duncans purchased Stonegate Winery in Calistoga, surrounded by a Sauvignon Blanc vineyard, which then became the home of Twomey’s Calistoga winery.

In 2006, the Duncan family purchased Roshambo Winery in Healdsburg to establish a second winery for Twomey which is dedicated to the production of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

In 2007, Ben Cane was hired to oversee the production of Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

In May 2012, Jean-Claude Berrouet joined Twomey as winemaking consultant, working closely with Director of Winemaking Daniel Baron in the production of Twomey's Napa Valley Merlot. Jean-Claude Berrouet served as the winemaker and technical director at Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix for 44 vintages. During his tenure at Etablissement Jean-Pierre Moueix, he was responsible for the production of their line-up of wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion, including the Chateau Petrus.

Twomey is currently operated by Ray Duncan’s sons David Duncan, who serves as the President and CEO, and Tim Duncan, who serves as Executive Vice President.

The Wines
In my recent travels in the Napa Valley many wineries are now charging anywhere between $40 and $90 for tasting fees which are not refunded with purchase. One of the reasons for these seemingly astronomical fees is that the Napa Valley has become the #1 tourist destination in California and many tourists visit the valley to go wine drinking (not merely tasting) and are not purchasing wines to take home. Unfortunately, for those who are seeking to buy and not just taste wines such costs become prohibitive to visiting the valley and they seem out of place in comparison to other California wine regions that charge on average only $5 - $10 for tasting which is often refunded with purchase. Fortunately the Russian River wineries have not yet bought in to the exorbitant charging fees and yet they produce some of the best Pinot Noirs in the entire state. Twomey Cellars charges a nominal fee of $10 for a tasting of 5 wines.

2013 Estate Sauvignon Blanc
This is a clear straw-yellow wine with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has pronounced aromas of white grapefruit, guava, green apple, and lemon blossoms. On the palate it is dry with crisp and refreshing medium+ to high acidity, it is medium bodied with a medium+ length finish. An excellent example of a California style Sauvignon, it sells for $25 per bottle.

The next three wines were all excellent representatives of their respective appellations. While the differences in their aroma and flavor profile may be subtle, they are unique enough to be distinguished in a blind tasting. This makes Twomey Cellars an excellent place to learn about how the differences in the terroir of the Anderson Valley, Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast have an impact on Pinot Noir.

2012 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
This is a clear ruby red wine of low intensity and medium viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of raspberries, ripe cherries, strawberries and a hint of spice. On the palate it is dry but fruit forward with bright acidity (medium+), it is medium bodied and has a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $46 per bottle.

2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
This is a clear ruby red wine of low intensity and medium viscosity. On the nose it is earthier than the previous wine with subtle aromas of strawberry preserves, black cherries, root beer, cola, anise, clove and cinnamon. It has medium+ acidity, medium tannin, it is medium bodied and has a medium+ length finish with lingering notes of strawberries and spice. This was my favorite in the line-up, so I brought two bottles home for $50 each.

2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
This wine is very similar to the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, but with just a touch more earth and dried floral aromas. It is a clear ruby red wine of low intensity and medium viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, dried roses and a hint of spice. On the palate it is dry with medium+ acidity, medium- tannin, it is medium bodied and has a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $50 per bottle.

2009 Napa Valley Merlot
Whereas most wineries clarify their wines by fining using filters, or fining agents, Twomey uses a more traditional and labor-intensive form of racking known as soutirage traditionnel to produce its Merlot. It aged for 18 months in French oak barrels and during the aging process the wine is moved from barrel to barrel using gravity rather than a pump, which is gentler handling of the wine. This process softens tannins and clarifies and enhances the aromatic qualities of this wine.

This wine is somewhat opaque, dark ruby at the core with minimal rim variation and medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of black cherries, blueberries, cherry-cola hints of mocha and subtle notes of damp earth. On the palate it is dry and very soft on entry with refined moderate tannins, medium+ acidity, medium+ body and a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $50 per bottle.

I have been to Towmey Cellar’s Calistoga winery a few times and I have always thought of them as a Merlot focused winery that “Does with Merlot what Silver Oak Cellars does with Cabernet.” Now having visited the Healdsburg winery I see them more as a Pinot Noir focused producer than a Merlot-based winery and a “must visit” for anyone who loves Russian River Pinot Noir.

To visit or for more information:
Twomey Cellars
3000 Westside Rd
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Phone: 800-505-4850

Friday, May 16, 2014

Charles Krug Winery – St. Helena, California


My last California Winery Review article was posted about 8 months ago in September 2013. In October 2013 I began going through the Intensive Sommelier Training at the International Culinary Center in Campbell so I was not traveling around California (or Oregon) on the weekends as I was too busy studying for Unit exams and I graduated on March 12, 2014. Two weeks later I passed the Certified Sommelier Exam for the Court of Master Sommeliers on March 26th. During that time I was posting my notes and reviews of the wines we tasted in class in the World of Wine Review and I am now posting notes on that site for wines that I taste in preparation for the Advanced Sommelier Exams.


In May 2013 I was re-visiting a number of Mondavi-family related wineries such as Robert MondaviWinery, Opus One (founded by Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild) and Michael MondaviFamily Estate. I was planning to visit Charles Krug Winery (which is owned by Peter Mondavi) but at the time it was undergoing renovation. The restoration of the historic winery is now complete and the new tasting room is now open so with sunny weather in the forecast I decided to return to the Napa Valley and revisit the winery.

History
Charles Krug
The winery was founded by Charles Krug (1825-1892) who was one of the original pioneering winemakers of the Napa Valley. Charles Krug had first visited the United States from Prussia in 1847 and in 1851 he served as an apprentice winemaker for Agoston Haraszthy, the famous founder of Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, before establishing his own winery. He then became a U.S. citizen in 1852. In 1860, eight years later, he married Carolina Bale the day after Christmas. His wife was the daughter of early Napa Valley pioneer and miller Edward Turner Bale who gave her a dowry of 540 acres north of St. Helena. In 1861, a year after they were married, Charles Krug planted a vineyard on the estate, founded his winery and began making wine using a cider press.

In 1894, following Krug’s death, the winery was purchased by James Moffitt Sr. but due to the prohibition (1920 to 1933) it became a non-operating winery. 
Cesare and Rosa Mondavi
Ten years later, in 1943, Robert Mondavi persuaded his parents, Cesare and Rosa Mondavi, to purchase the inactive winery from Moffitt for $75,000.
 
Peter and Robert Mondavi
Cesare died in 1959 leaving Rosa as President with sons Robert as General Manager and Peter as Vice President. In 1966 Robert Mondavi left the family business and founded his own winery further south in the Napa Valley in Oakville. In 1976 Rosa’s passed away at which time Peter became President of the winery.

Marc Mondavi and Peter Mondavi Jr.
Peter Sr. and his sons Marc and Peter Jr. continue to improve the family business which was initiated with a  9 year, $22 million investment program. 

This included replanting over 400 of the winery’s 850 prime acres in Napa Valley and a renovation of the winery, which was complete in 2013, which included a restoration of the historic building with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment and a new tasting room.
 
The Wines

Charles Krugg winery offers three flights, a Classic Tasting which consists of 5 of their more widely distributed wines, a Family Reserve Tasting which consists of 5 of their small production wines and a Limited Release Tasting which consists of 5 of their best Cabernets. I chose to taste the Family Reserve wines as it offered their highest quality wines with a wider selection of varieties.
2012 Estate Sauvignon Blanc

This is a clear white wine, youthful and brilliant with moderate viscosity. It has almost pronounced aromas (but it is not as powerful as your typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc) of grapefruit, green apples, lemon-lime, white flowers, lemon pith and a minute amount of chalk but nearly as much as a Sancerre so it is clearly a New World styled wine. On the palate the nose is confirmed, it is dry with mouth-watering medium+ acidity, it is medium- in body with moderate alcohol (12.5 abv.) and a medium+ length finish. It is well balanced and refreshing, one of the better Sauvignon Blancs I have tasted from the Napa Valley but it is also one of the more expensive as this wine sells for $35 per bottle.
2012 Dr. Galante Pinot Noir – Russian River


This is a clear ruby-red wine, low concentration with moderate viscosity. On the nose it has medium intense aromas of ripe cherries, intense strawberry preserves, dried roses, a hint of mocha with a seductive bouquet of smoked bacon, dried meat, damp earth and a hint of spice. On the palate it has medium- tannins, medium+ acidity, it is very soft with a full mouth feel and moderate++ to high alcohol (15.3 abv.) and a very long finish. A lovely wine and my favorite in the line-up so I brought one home. This wine sells for $50 per bottle.
2011 Zinfandel – St. Helena
This is an opaque dark red wine, purple at the core to violet-pink at the rim with medium+ viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of dried plums, raisins, ripe cherries, raspberry jam and a hint of black pepper. On the palate it is dry with medium to medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium+ body with high alcohol yet it is well-balanced without any excessive heat and it has a moderate length finish. It is definitely a better-than-average Napa Valley Zin but a bit steep at $60 per bottle.
2011 Family Reserve Generations

The first vintage of Generations was in 1991, a blend crafted by Marc Mondavi. This wine is a Bordeaux style blend with 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, and 3% Merlot. It is opaque, dark ruby-red at the core with only minor rim variation and moderate+ viscosity. On the nose it is clean and the first thing you pick up are green notes of bell pepper, green herbs, mint and eucalyptus followed by an under layer of black currants, dusty black cherries and a minute amount of black pepper and only a miniscule amount of vanilla. On the palate it is dry with medium+ tannins, medium+ acidity, medium body, moderate+ alcohol (13.9 abv.) and a long finish. The year 2011 was a very cool vintage and many wineries were challenged to get sufficiently ripe grapes so the green notes are not a surprise. With swirling the green notes diminish and the fruit comes to the front. If you don’t mind a little green in your Cabernet blend this wine is actually fairly well balanced as it doesn’t come across as overly oaked even though it was aged for 20 months in new French oak. This wine sells for $55 per bottle.

Lot XVII Zinfandel Port
The final pour was a Port-style wine made from 100% Zinfandel made in a Solera style processing resulting in a blend of sixteen vintages aged in French and American oak. This wine is opaque, dark purple at the core with no rim variation and high viscosity. On the nose it has moderate intense aromas of raisins, boysenberries, dark chocolate, maple and dates. On the palate it is sweet (RS: 7.56 g/100ml) but not cloying or syrupy, it is soft and silky with a moderate+ length finish. Personally, I prefer Port wines made with the traditional Portuguese grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz and Bastardo as they tend to have more complexity, especially when aged. This wine sells for $35 per 375ml bottle.

To see more pictures of Charles Krug Winery, check out Erik Wait's Wine Country Photography:


To visit or for more information:
Charles Krug Winery
2800 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (707) 967-2200