June 22-24 , 2007
2007 WINE & FIRE - Sta Rita Hills

Having attended the first annual 2006 Wine & Fire event, there was no way we were going to miss this year's event.


June 16 , 2007

With the recent popularity of "pay it forward" events (SQN, Aubert, Kosta Browne, Loring, etc.), several OC locals decided we ought to organize one for the wines of Bob Foley (Pride, Switchback Ridge, Hourglass, Robert Foley). The challenge was accepted by Steve and Teddie Christle, with the dinner held at Antonello Ristorante, near South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

Flight 1: Whites
Carpaccio of fresh Hawaiian center cut swordfish, drizzled with lemon and olive oil, sprinkled with capers, and topped with baby arugula

  • 2004 Pride Mountain Chardonnay Vintner's Select Cuvée Mountain Top Vineyard - Sonoma County
    Lots of lemon, lime rind and citrusy qualities in the nose, along with the certainty of oak - but nicely integrated. Dances on the palate, with elegant nuances of fruit and background notes. I thought this was an impressive nose; less so mouthfeel.
  • 2005Pride Mountain Viognier - Sonoma County
    Nose of clover, peach, and floral aromas. Big and blousey in mouthfeel, very chewy, with notes of white and yellow peach. Nice, if a definite departure from Condrieu.
  • 2006 Robert Foley Pinot Blanc - Napa Valley
    Nice nose, with touches of boxwood and leaf. Good mouthfeel, nice aftertaste. Decent stuff, but seemed a little uninspiring.
Flight 2: 1990s
Porcini mushroom risotto with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1999 Switchback Ridge Merlot Peterson Family Vineyard - Napa Valley
    Big rich nose of dark fruit, toast, and a blast of chocolate. Big, rich and nicely ripened on the palate, with very good balance and texture and nice long finish.
  • 1999 Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley
    Interesting nose, with a light herbal note of Cab Franc and some beet root (I liked it). Kind of steely on the palate - could be tight, could be just the fruit has taken a hike.
  • 1997 Pride Mountain Reserve Claret - Napa Valley
    Lovely chalk-scented tannins accent the refined cassis nose. refined and elegant on the palate, with still evident structural elements of backbone, though the finish rounds out with nice smooth fine-grained tannins.
  • 1999 Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - Napa Valley
    Gorgeous nose of cassis, with hints of spice and vanilla, dusty tannins and the sense that you'd just walked into a bakery. Big, but with lovely balance, texture and mouthfeel, and long seamless finish.
  • 1999 Robert Foley Claret - Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    For me, this was even a shade better than the preceding wine. Completely melded together, the parts we almost inseparable. Bordeaux-like nose of dusty cassis, with bits of tobacco and leather. Silky texture on the palate, and flavorful long finish.
  • 1999 Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Peterson Family Vineyard - Napa Valley
    Slightly riper and sweeter than the preceding '99s, this one also carried more cocoa/chocolate scents and flavors. Seemingly bigger and richer in mouthfeel, I think it was just the overtly sweet fruit and oak that delivered the pleasure here.
  • 1999 Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley
    Slightly less sweet than the Switchback, there was also a fascinating soy/caper/juniper quality here that bordered on a CF-based Bordeaux. Very nice flavors, balance and finish, I found this more "serious" than the it RP score of 92 would dictate.

My favorites in this flight were: '99 Switchback Merlot; '99 Switchback Cab; '97 Pride Resv Claret; and '99 Hourglass Cab.

Flight 3: 2000s
Fliet of beef tenderloin with a rosemary brandy sauce, served with creamy polenta
  • 2004 Pride Mountain Merlot Vintner's Select Cuvée - Sonoma County
    If anything could be called a Cab of a Merlot, this was it. Big framed, great structure, filled with off-sweet fruit and spice, this was a perfect match for the beef tenderloin. Excellent balance and very long finish.
  • 2004 Switchback Ridge Merlot Peterson Family Vineyard - Napa Valley
    A more subtle version of the previous wine, this was stealthier in its appeal. Here, the fruit and spice crept up you quietly, until at the finish and aftertaste, you're left wondering - what the heck was that! Beautifully spiced dark fruit, just the right amount of ripeness, excellen balance and lovely long finish.
  • 2002 Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley
    Almost Medoc-like in the nose, with tobacco and leather scents woven into the cassis. Smooth and almost surprisingly soft on the palate, very good balance and smooth long fiinish.
  • 2004 Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Surprisingly light in appearance, this also carried through in both aromas and textures and somewhat underfilled finish. This seemed to be a victim of the hot vintage, and more of an aberration of the usual style.
  • 2003 Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - Napa Valley
    Rich, nicely ripened fruit, creamy textures, beautiful balance and long seamless finish. Very, very nice throughout. Still has plenty of life, but drinking beautifully now.
  • 2003 Robert Foley Claret - Napa Valley
    This was like walking into a pastry shop. There was lovely ripe red and black fruit, baking spices, croissant-like aromas and a faint wiff of French Roast coffee. The flavors didn't quite follow, but these olfactory qualities accented the fabulous textures, taste and finish of this wine. Still carrying a bit of oak, the wine was neither candied nor cloying, but just flat-out delicious from front to back.
  • 2003 Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley
    I though this wine got a bad rap, both from RP (87pts) and from others at the event. I enjoyed the hint of cocoa to the red fruit, and thought the balance was very nice. It was a bit of an oddity, considering the rest of the '03s were so well done. So, let's just say I felt sorry for the wine.

My favorites in this flight were: 04 Switchback Merlot; 03 Pride Resv Cab; 03 Foley Claret; and 03 Hourglass Cab.

Flight 4: Syrah & Petite Sirah
Grilled New Zealand baby lamb chops, peppercorn sauce and sautéed spinach
  • 2001 Pride Mountain Syrah - Sonoma County
    Given that it's more about the fruit and spice, one would never mistake this wine for Old World. Packed with black fruit and baking spices, along with nuances of licorice, this wine just seems too big for it britches - that is to say, it's spilling out of them. I suppose the spice adds some refinement to the fruit and the oak to the texture, but in the end there's really nothing subtle here. It's just a big ol' chunk of blackberry pie - not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • 2003 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah Peterson Family Vineyard - Napa Valley
    Well, take the Syrah above and add a more brooding and darker quality, and you have a sense of this wine - and maybe all Petite Sirah for that matter (can you guess how I feel about Petite Sirah - or, "Pets" as their aficionados call them). Big, thick, inky, plodding, and seemingly incapable of provoking discussion about nuances, there just isn't anything left but to quaff the stuff. Is it well made? Definitely. But, just because they're grapes, doesn't mean you should make them into wine.
  • 2003 Robert Foley Petite Sirah - Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    If the Switchback was the appetizer, this was the entree. It smelled and tasted like the color black. Okay, there were some redeeming qualities. It did taste a bit like chocolate licorice-flavored Port.
  • 2004 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah Peterson Family Vineyard - Napa Valley
    Another entree of a wine, yet I actually found some small details in here. There was a very nice underlying floral scent, that also seemd to come across on the palate. Nicely balanced (see, I can be nice) and I actually got some flavors on the extended finish (slipped back).
  • 2004 Robert Foley Petite Sirah - Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Okay, this is a little better. Something high-toned seems to peek through the black curtain here, and there is more than just impenetrable black fruit here too. Touches of espresso, chocolate, and spice make the flavor and finish almost delightful.

My favorites in this flight were: 01 Pride Syrah; '04 Robert Foley Petite Sirah.

An arrangement of assorted cheeses, candied walnuts, and white and dark chocolate

Afterthoughts: interestingly, I found a decided preference for each of the non-Pride Robert Foley projects. Assuming Bob approaches each of these labels with a winemaking style that places the emphasis on the terroir of the fruit source, I have to assume that I like the sources for Switchback and Hourglass better than those of Pride - in general.

I also wish, in retrospect, that we hadn't tried to combine Bordeaux varietals and Rhone varietals in the same tasting. For one thing, I'm not so sure the Rhone Valley is Bob Foley's strong suit, and I'm frankly not a big fan of Petite Sirah anyway (maybe you already discovered that?). But, all of that said, the wines were well made, and in many ways the Petite did work well with the candied walnuts and chocolates served at the end of the meal. As to why winemakers want to work with it...who knows.

June 7-9 , 2007
(Auction Napa Valley photojournal)

Once again, Grape Radio was in attendance at the annual Auction Napa Valley. Arriving late Wednesday, we immediately headed for Taylor's Refresher before heading to the Silver Rose, our B&B in Calistoga.

Thursday began with a full-on tour/tasting at Schramsberg. We'd arranged to film there as well, so our guide/winemaker Craig Roemer pulled out all the stops as we experienced everything from riddling to bottling to sabering a bottle of sparkling wine. From here on, it was Auction Napa Valley time.

June 1-2 , 2007
(Walla Walla photojournal)

GrapeRadio attended Vintage Walla Walla, a wine and food festival that showcases the vineyards and wineries of the Walla Walla Valley, an AVA that straddles the states of Washington and Oregon.

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