2009 Red Knot Signature Cabernet Sauvignon

A recent find at Total Wine. Quite familiar with the Shiraz, but the first time seeing the Cab, so at $10 it was worth a try. After removing the Zork (a unique closure to say the least), I was immediately met with a rush of black cherry and a hint of clove. Intense black fruits on the palate, medium tannins, and a hint of spice and chocolate on the finish. Kept having to remind myself that it was only $10.

Is it a huge Cab? No, but very impressive for the price point. Went very well with my Capriotti’s cheesesteak yesterday and with chocolate chip cookies today. Would be amazing with a meaty chili (beans optional).

2005 Robert Biale “Zappa” Proprietary Red

Who knows why this is labeled as “Red Wine”; even their website admits that this could technically be labeled as a Zin - 76% Zin, 12% Syrah, and 12% Petite Sirah. As any Zin enthusiast might expect, Biale has another winner with this one.

The color is a deep blackberry and the nose exudes rich black fruits with a hint of licorice. Black cherry and plum dominate on the palate with a hint of spice and pepper. The spice and medium heat linger awhile on the finish; alchohol is 15.6%.

If you can’t find Black Chicken or Monterosso, this one will do just fine…. Votre Sante.

2005 Mathis Sonoma Valley Grenache

An offering from a previous head winemaker for Ravenswood, I picked up a couple bottles at — believe it or not — a small shop on the concourse of the Oakland International Airport. We were returning from a weekend trip to the Bay Area.  and I struck up a nice conversation with the clerk. Always a fan of Rhones, this one is a blend of Grenache (84%), Petite Sirah (11%), Carignane (4%), and Alicante Bouchet (1%).

The color is a deep raspberry and the nose is  black cherry and cranberry. The palate is a nice blend of strawberry and pomegranite with a hint of dark chocolate and black pepper. It paired well with pork loin chops off the “barbie” the first night and burgers the second. I gotta say it got better as time went on. When it comes time to open the second bottle, I will be sure to let it breathe a bit longer than this one.

2004 Groom Barossa Valley Shiraz

Picked this one up at our local Costco for about $20. Color is deep purple and the nose is rich in red fruits (blackberry and plum) with maybe a hint of leather. I got cherry, plum, and vanilla on the palate along with a touch of pepper. Finish was moderate; the cherry still there with the hints of leather and spice.

The tasting notes state this one received a 94 from James Halliday and an 87 from Wine Spectator. I think I tend to go along with WS; it’s decent but not outstanding.

2005 Solune Barbera

I cannot believe I haven’t posted this one yet; I am on my third or fourth bottle and have two left. The vintage is from a small winery in the Sierra Foothills, if you are familiar with the Colfax and Grass Valley areas of California.  You will notice a few Sierra Foothills wines (Solune, Nevada City, and Indian Springs) posted below.

The 2005 Barbera from Solune is luscious & rich, with intense cherry/raspberry/plum notes, low tannin and a velvety lingering finish. This wine pairs well with grilled meats (just had it with a tasty sirloin and baked sweet potato) or even stands well on its own.  Sadly, this vintage is sold out (Solune is one of many small wineries in the area and their productions are low) but the 2006 was recently released — will post that one when the bottle is opened.

Nevada City Rough & Ready, Cask 206

This newest edition of Nevada City’s Rough & Ready Red (Casks 204 and 205 are posted below) is predominantly Merlot with, in decreasing percentages, Zin, Cab, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Sangiovese. The characteristics are that of plum, cherry, spice, and red licorice, with a hint of oak. The tannins are soft and alcholol is at 14.5%.  All in all quite acceptable for pizza and pasta although the Cask 205 remains my favorite of the three.

If you find yourself in the Sierra Foothills of California (Nevada City, Grass Valley, Colfax) just east of Sacramento off I-80, spend some time in the area and you will be quite surprised by the number and variety of wineries — check out  http://www.nswinecountry.com/. Offerings from a few of those are posted below; more will be added as the bottles are opened.  A Votre Sante.

2005 Nevada City Contour

Actually labeled as Directors’ Reserve Contour, this is a Bordeaux blend consisting of 76% Cab, 7% each of Merlot, Cab Franc, and Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot.  With an alcohol level at 14.2% and a price point of $25 at the winery, a quite acceptable offering.

The color is a deep black raspberry with legs that go on and on. The nose is full of black fruit, clove-cinnamon, and a touch of leather. Black raspberry and black cherry are evident on the palate along with vanilla, clove, and (again) a touch of leather. Smooth tannins combined with vanilla and coffee linger on a lengthy finish. Enjoy….

2003 Indian Springs Barbera

Venturing into yet another corner of Nevada County and the Sierra Foothills, I came across Indian Springs Vineyards.  Again, another small producer with unknown (to me) distribution depth. Discovered them on a recent visit to Nevada City, California where they have a tasting room; their winery is a few miles to the west in Penn Valley.

I found this offering to be quite acceptable, showing many of the typical characteristics. The color leans toward a dusky strawberry; I remember reading somewhere that Barbera does brown slightly with age and this is an ’03. Strawberry, cherry, and currant come thru on the nose and continues to the palate with an additional touch of toast. The medium tannin finish brings lingering plum and slight smokiness. The alcohol is at 14.5% and the price point at the tasting room was $19.

2004 Solune Sierra Foothills Cabernet

Tucked away in the Sierra Foothills between Colfax and Grass Valley California you will discover a real gem, Solune Wine Growers (http://www.solunewinery.com/). There is truth behind the cliche “good things come from small packages”.

If you are a fan of those monster Cabs from Napa, save a few dollars and stop by Solune while this one is still available (going fast, small volume). At $21 this one is worth much more. The color is deep raspberry; the nose bursting with black currant, leather, earth, and a touch of mint. The palate is a wonderful collection of black fruits, leather, slight oak, and the bell pepper common to classic Cab. The finish is long with mild tannins, vanilla, leather, and smoke. As Jacques says, “A votre sante` !”

2005 Nevada City Zinfandel

Yet another post for a nice product from this winery in the Sierra Foothills.  Their Zin is a blend of 84% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 4% Syrah, and 2% Mourvedre.  The color is deep blackberry with legs that go on and on (14.7% alcohol).  The nose is blackberry, raspberry, black pepper, and a touch of clove. All that continues on to the palate with some medium heat.  The finish is medium and decent.  Not my most favorite Zin, but for the price point ($16 or so) it is worth a try.

2005 Nevada City Tempranillo

Actually 97% Temp and 3% Sangiovese, this one was awarded Double Gold and Best of Class at the 2008 New World International Wine Competition. Quite a feather in the cap of this small winery in the Sierra Foothills with limited distribution. The price point is around $19; I picked up a few on a recent visit to their tasting room.

The nose exudes black cherry and tobacco. The dark fruit and tobacco continue on the palate with the addition of leather and earthiness. The finish is medium with the tobacco lasting thru to the end. As with most Temps, this pairs well with meats off the BBQ yet even works well on its own.

Nevada City, Rough & Ready Red, Cask 205

Where the Cask 204 (posted below) is predominantly Zin, this one is 41% Syrah, 31% Zin, 10% Petite Sirah, 10% Cab Franc, 5% Cab, and 3% Sangiovese. The 205 had a production of 966 cases and stands at 14.5% alcohol. I found this one at the local Trader Joe’s for $10.

The descriptors on this one are similar to the 204, but I got a bit of coffee on the palate and finish. Overall I liked this one a bit more than the 204. Not a great one, but good with pizza and pasta or simply relaxing with a touch of dark chocolate. For the price, it is well worth a return visit but I wouldn’t cellar for an extended time frame. Enjoy….

2004 Nevada City Syrah

My second venture into regional wines from the Sierras, this Sierra Foothills Syrah proved to be quite nice. Blackberry, dark chocolate, and a touch of smoke on the nose leads to a more intense blackberry palate with hints of leather and spice. The smoky notes continue in the finish where the chocolate lingers for awhile with a touch of heat.

The 2004s seem to be getting short in supply with the 2005s soon to hit the store shelves in our area.  Nevada City is just a couple hours away, so a visit to the winery and tasting room may be in our near future. I am eager to try more of their offerings; their Tempranillo sounds promising.  Stay tuned…

2005 Rosenblum Rockpile Zinfandel

If you check out October 2006, you will see that Dave posted notes on the 2004 Rockpile. The 2005 can be summarized in much the same way. Deep raspberry in color; black cherry, vanilla, and mocha on the nose, cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate, with a bit of spice and leather on the palate, and the dark fruit and leather on the finish. Dave’s comments then still hold true with this one… a very good Zin but about $10 over priced (I paid $35 for this one).

Nevada City, Rough & Ready Red, Cask 204

A recent transplant to Northern Nevada, I decided to try something from a regional winery. Nevada City is just a ways “over the hill” from here so their wines are plentiful in our area. This one is a blend of 40% Zin, 22% Petite Syrah, 15% Syrah, 10% Cab, 8% Sangiovese, and 5% Cab Franc. The wine is named after one of the early gold towns of the 1850s. Cask 204 appears to be their way of saying 2004.  With a lot of 1860 cases, this wine tops at 14.7%.

The color is a deep plum with a slightly clear rim – it is a 2004 afterall. The nose is vibrant with plum, cherry, and clove. On the palate the cherry and plum grow, the spice is joined with a bit of pepper with a hint of red licorice. The finish is nice and spicy with soft tannins.

My first venture into regional wines and I would have to say this one is a winner.  At only $12 this one begs for repeat purchase.  There is also a Cask 205 (you guessed it, 2005) with a different blend that sounds promising; haven’t located that one yet.  When I got this one, I also picked up a Syrah of theirs so stand by for a future post on that one.

2004 Yalumba M/G/S, Barossa Valley

The oldest family owned vineyard in Australia comes thru again. This wine is one of their Hand Picked series and is a winner. A blend of 60% Mourvedre, 22% Grenache, and 18% Shiraz, this Rhone from “Down Under” deserves your attention.

The color is a rich, deep purple. The nose exudes white pepper, black cherry, and a hint of herbs and spice. Dark fruit, leather, creamy milk chocolate, and a hint of coffee combine on the palate. The finish is long with more leather, fruit, and spice.

This definitely deserves repeat purchase. Although quite enjoyable now, 3-5 years in the cellar are not out of the question. Enjoy….

Garretson 2004 Mon Amie Syrah, San Luis Obispo County

Just as I was losing faith in screw caps, along comes a wine that makes me hesitate on totally giving up on them…

Actually a blend of 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier, this selection boasts 14.5% alchohol and is a limited production of only 250 cases. Named for and dedicated to the winemaker’s wife, this wine also boasts a 94 rating from Robert Parker.

The color is a deep, dark, inky blue-black. The nose is rich with dark fruits, cassis, graphite, smoke, and a hint of pepper. Those dark fruits (blackberry, plum, currant), smoke, and yes the pepper too, continue thru the palate with a hint of leather. The finish is long; the smoke and leather diminishing as the pepper takes over.

Do I have any regrets at all?  Yep, it could have cellared another couple years.  To be honest, I just didn’t trust the screw cap… been burned too many times. This is a winner.

2004 Stolpman Hilltops Syrah Estate Grown

Got this one on a recommendation at a local wine store.  After a brief discussion about my preferences (no slander to be given here), he steered me in the direction of a few choice selections; one was this most excellent product from the Santa Ynez Valley. Research shows a rating of 95 from Robert Parker and I totally agree with it.

Complex and full bodied, this wine is dense purple in color with notes of blackberries, blueberries, cassis, licorice, vanilla, oak, and pepper. Gotta love the heat (15.2%) and the finish is long. As memory serves, this one was priced around $35 and well worth a second purchase.

2002 Paulo Cabernet Sauvignon

OK, so this was a pleasant surprise… On the label, this is subtitled a “Father and Son Cuvee” from Messina Hof Cellars in (are you ready for this?) — Texas. Checking their site, I discovered this one is a blend of 90% Cab and 10% Merlot and a limited production of only 2,688 bottles.

Not what I would call a great Cab, definitely not a big, bold, full bodied monster… but not bad at all. On a 20 point scale I would rate this around 15-16. Has an aromatic nose; lots of dark fruit with a hint of vanilla. The fruit follows on thru the pallate with a hint of red apple or tart plum. I got this along with some questionable bottles and honestly didn’t know what to expect; as stated earlier… a pleasant surprise.

2002 Oakley fiveREDS

My experience with Cline Cellars has not been on the positive side. So, when we opened this one last evening at a family get together, I really wasn’t expecting a lot. Well, this one was a great surprise!

As the name implies, this one is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignane, and Grenache. If you are saying to yourself that it sounds very Rhone-style, you are correct. At a price point of $8, this one will blow you away. All the typical Rhone descriptors are there; dark fruit, leather, tobacco, and vegetables. From nose to finish, this one is amazing…. absolutely worth a re-purchase.