July 28, 2007

Again, as part of the "pay it forward" concept (those on a mailing list supply wines for an open tasting), Ryan Curry organized a Rivers Marie dinner and tasting at Sage restaurang in Newport Beach. Twenty of us sat down to go through several flights of Rivers Marie Pinots and a couple of Cabernets, thanks to the donations of several in attendance.

Veuve Cliquot Rose, which was a very nice way to start the evening off. I found it quite crisp and refreshing in the late afternoon (bright) sun. Also, it paired nicely with the spicy ahi spring rolls that were being passed around.

Assorted Hors d'oeuvres
Spicy Ahi Spring Rolls
Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

  • 2005 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Mount Carmel - PLenty of citrus (lemon, lime) and tropical (pineapple, kiwi) influences here - in both nose and mouth. Not shy on oak, with a beautiful smoky quality. Nice juicy finish - if a bit short.
  • 2005 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Sweeney Canyon - Less personality than the Mt. Carmel - more restrained. Nice nose and flavor profile, long juicy finish.

First Flight - served with:
Grilled Portabello Mushroom
Rosemary goat cheese polenta, roasted tomato coulis

  • 2002 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Summa Vineyard - 88 cases produced. 50% new French oak. 13.3% alcohol. Nose of wild strawberry and dark cherry. Plenty of acids here, but the fruit seesm to be able to stay with it. Amazing mouthfeel for its otherwise light body, and the whole package has lots going on. Time should even this out quite a bit.
  • 2002 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Old Vine Summa - 44 cases produced. 100% new French oak. 14.4% alcohol. Sappy and sinewy in the nose, there is an obvious sense of "old vine" spice here. Beautiful mouthfeel and flavors, with wild strawberry, cherry, and hints of citrus. Vibrant long finish.
  • 2003 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Summa Vineyard - 101 cases produced. 50% new French oak. 13.3% alcohol. There was an odd vinyl aroma in the background, but the citrus and fruit come through nicely on the palate and long finish.
  • 2003 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Old Vine Summa - 44 cases produced. 100% new French oak. 13.8% alcohol. Fascinating aromas cherry, rhubarb and wet leaf. Slightly bright in mouthfeel, with a nice meatiness through the long finish.

Second Flight - served with:
Pancetta and Panko Crusted Wild Alaskan Salmon
chanterelle mushrooms, fresh lima beans, agretti, pinot jus

  • 2004 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - 180 cases produced. 50% new French oak. 14.2% alcohol. Huge nose, deep and rich, with dark cherry, tree sap, and earthy notes. Slight sour cherry-flavored dark fruit, beautiful balance and very long delicious finish.
  • 2004 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Summa Vineyard - 130 cases produced. 75% new French oak. 14.1% alcohol. Similar to the Sonoma Coast, but with more subtle tones of brown spice, juniper, and au jus. Nearly meaty in flavor as well, with a beautifully melded compote of meat and fruit.
  • 2004 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Old Vine Summa - 60 cases produced. 100% new French oak. 14.2% alcohol. Ripe nose, with and interesting asphalt/licorice hint - almost, dare I say, Syrah-like scent. None of these traits seem to be noticeable in the mouthfeel, where the fruit and citrus work together in beautiful balance.

Third Flight - served with:
Roast Duck Breast
roasted root vegetables, arugula, dried cranberry port sauce

  • 2005 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Occidental Ridge Sonoma Coast - 140 cases produced. 67% new French oak. 14.2% alcohol. Nice meaty quality to the cherry nose, with a goodly amount of spice. Chewy mouthfeel, delicious flavors - almost a prime-rib back note, great balance and long finish.
  • 2005 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Summa Vineyard - 45 cases produced. 100% new French oak. 13.7% alcohol. The nose of this wine screamed "juicy acids," and if anything could be Pavlovian, this was it. Mouthwatering citrusy notes throughout, maybe a bit more tart than desirable on the palate, but nice long finish. This ought to be interesting in a few years.
  • 2005 Rivers-Marie Pinot Noir Old Vine Summa - 54 bottles produced. 1 new quarter barrel. 14.1% alcohol. Obviously, at 54 bottles, this was a wine that very few of us were offered to buy (duh!). So, it was with "god, I hope I don't like this" enthusiasm we all sat waiting patiently for our pour of this wine. Effusive, perfumy, nice sap and loam notes, with lovely brown spices. Ab Fab nose! As lovely and almost femine as the nose was, the mouth was a whole 'nother beast. Huge and chewy, with a mouthwatering balance of acid and fruit, impeccible balance and finish. Well, as we used to say in the hot rod world, this completely blows the doors off the rest of the competition.

Third Flight - served with:
Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs
cavolo nero kale, cipollini onion, roast carrots, romano beans, red wine beef jus, dijon horsradish cream

  • 2003 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon - 50 cases produced. 100% new French oak. 14.9% alcohol. Not a easy task - seguing from Cab from Pinot. But, this was a very nice Cab, and although I longed to dance once more with the '05 OV Summa, that ship had sailed, and it was time to look at other things. Dark dusty currant, with light notes of toast and vanilla. Very nice concentration and fine-grained tannins in mouthfeel, excellent balance and finish. No milkshake here, this is honest to goodness Cab, the way Cab ought to to smell and taste.
  • 2004 Rivers-Marie Cabernet Sauvignon - Unfortunately, one of the two bottles was corked. Fortunately, I got some that wasn't. This wine exceeded my expectation - especially considering the vintage. Rich, ripe, dark and dense in the nose. For all the accolades I heaped on the '03, this is better.

Dessert Flight - served with:
Spiced Fig Cake
chocolate port syrup

  • 2003 Château Suduiraut - Lots of pungent spice to the candied citrus peel, good balance and finish. Still a little young to show its stuff, I thought the finish might have shown a bit more oomph.
  • 2003 Château Climens - Similar to above, but a litle more honeyed, these two just seem to be too young to escape that clunkiness.

July 19, 2007

We were very fortunate to have Richard Geoffroy, the Chef de Cave of Dom Perignon, in our studio. But, we were doubly fortunate to have him bring along the current vintage releases of both the 1999 Cuvee and 1996 Rose for us to enjoy while we talked about Dom and the Champagne region.

Dom Perignon is no doubt one of the most recognizable names in the world. Made by Moet et Chandon since the late 1920s, this prestige cuvee was named for Pierre Perignon, a Benedictine monk, who legend has it, came out of the cellar one day yelling to his Benedictine brothers "I am drinking stars!" Many myths abound about Dom Pérignon, such as he was blind (he was not - he merely blind-tasted the wines), and that he introduced blending to Champagne wines (he actually innovated the blending of grapes prior to sending them to press).

Richard Geoffroy has been the cellar master for Dom Perignon for over a decade. He has a medical degree from the University of Reims, but never entered private practice, preferring instead to get an additional degree in enology and return to the roots of his family - winemaking. Join us as Richard gives us a little history lesson of the region, as well as a prognosis of its future. And of course, our visit wouldn't be complete without giving us a tip or two about drinking Champagne, as well as his own philosophy about terroir, winegrowing, and Champagne-making in this wonderful region. (link added )

July 3 , 2007

We held a blind (wines are bagged to avoid label bias) tasting , and I have to admit some surprise at not seeing any dups. Interestingly, bagged is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to find.

  • 2005 Fess Parker Pinot Noir Ashley's Vineyard - Santa Rita Hills
    Ripe, but also a bit pinched (not expansive) in nose and mouth. Mouthfeel seemed oaky and showed slight heat.
  • 2005 Eno Wines Pinot Noir Fairview Road Ranch - Santa Lucia Highlands
    Herbaceous - interesting in a clinical way, but really odd. Very ripe mouthfeel, and very sweet to the taste.
  • 2005 A.P. Vin Pinot Noir Kanzler Vineyard - Sonoma Coast
    Light berry and nice wiff of citrus. A bit bitter in mouthfeel and finish. Very nice nose - less so on the palate.
  • 2005 Kutch Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - Russian River Valley
    Ripe nose, with hint of citrus. Bitter-sweet ripeness, with a definite heat-spike on the palate.
  • 2005 Villacana Pinot Noir - Webster Vnyd, Paso Robles
    Interesting, "fresh fruit" aspect to the nose, with a light floral note. Good mouthfeel and ripeness; odd finish and aftertaste. Better nose than palate for me.
  • 2005 Sojourn Pinot Noir - Sonoma Coast
    Very grapey initially, but seems to get more expansive and complex with time - dark fruit, nice toasty element. Juicy mouthfeel, nioce balance, very tasty, with a hint of citrusy dark berry. My #3 wine of the evening.
  • 2005 Babcock Pinot Noir Cargasacchi Vineyard - Santa Rita Hills
    Nice, slightly meaty and herb-tinged nose. Good mouthfeel, balance and finish. Nice wine!
  • 2005 Leigh Cellars Pinot Noir Silacci Vineyard - Monterey
    Big effusive nose, lots of dark fruit, touch of citrus, very good balance, and wonder of it all - it actually tastes like Pinot!
  • 2005 Siduri Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard - Sonoma Coast
    Light candied-cinnamon hint to the nose. Somewhat sweet and candied mouthfeel, medium body, clean finish with just a trace of heat.
  • 2005 Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Mount Carmel - Santa Rita Hills
    Definite whole cluster scent to the red and black berry here. Intriguing to keep coming back to it, sniffing before swirling; then after swirling. The whole cluster quality really comes through on the palate, and I can see where this will/would be off-putting to some -- but not to me! My WOTN.
  • 2005 Ketcham Estate Pinot Noir - Russian River Valley
    Grapey nose - nice enough, but seems overblown. Rich mouthfeel, but chunky (think Skippy Chunky rather than Smooth) and lumpy in texture. Good balance, and the finish is nice - not overblown.
  • 2005 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County - Sonoma County
    Loaded with coffee/espresso, the cooperage seemed to take center stage here. However, just off to stage left was a light weedy note that I didn't warm up to. Nice taste, mouthfeel and balance.
  • 2005 Alta Maria Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard - Santa Maria Valley
    Fascinating spiced cinnamon, smoke and faint wiff of sage in the nose. Seemed like some % of whole cluster here. Excellent mouthfeel and balance, and smooth throughout. Could've used a slightly longer finish, but I'm picking nits here. My #2 wine.
  • 2005 Drew Family Cellars Pinot Noir Gatekeepers - Santa Rita Hills
    Light traces of oak in the nice strawberry and cherry fruit. Nice ripeness and flavor, but also a little sweeter than I like.
  • 2005 Lucia Pinot Noir Garys' Vineyard - Santa Lucia Highlands
    Odd, sharp high-toned nose of red and black fruit. A bit pinched on the palate, with an acid-dominated mouthfeel and balance.
  • 2005 Taylor Volante Pinot Noir - Malibu?
    Slightly oaky nose of dark fruit. Off-sweet mouthfeel, mineral-laden dark fruit taste, long finish. Interesting wine, made even more so when we learned of its pedigree (Emilio Estevez).
  • 2005 Miner Family Pinot Noir Garys' Vineyard - Santa Lucia Highlands
    More than a little Corked.
  • 2005 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Russell Family Vineyard - Paso Robles. Nice - very smoky, almost charred meat scent. High on the acid scale, but nice mouthfeel and very tasty.
  • 2005 Siduri Pinot Noir Rosella's Vineyard - Santa Lucia Highlands
    Nice red and black fruit, with light complex touches. Off-sweet and meaty taste, good texture and balance. Didn't wow me, but I liked it. Would've been #4 on my hit parade.
  • 2005 Roar Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands - Santa Lucia Highlands
    Sort of a junior version of the Siduri Rosella's in my book - which, in retrospect is may be something of a major shift in style, as my impression of Roar has always been that of a powerful wine. Nonetheless, this was tasty, if a bit sweet on the palate.
  • 2005 Rideau Pinot Noir Clone 115 Rancho Santa Rosa Vineyard - Sta. Rita Hills
    To paraphrase Dean Wormer, "Hot, disjointed, and fumey is no way to go through life, son." I dunno, maybe this was an off-bottle, but it wasn't working for me. Imagine my surprise to hear the wine came in #2 of the night!
  • 2005 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County Jalama Vineyard - Central Coast
    Big dark fruit, with a touch of toasty aromas. Mouthfilling fruit, nice balance and texture. Ironically (though probably not), this vnyd seems to produce bigger more assessible wines than the SRH one.

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