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What I’m Drinking Now: WOW wine!

Man there is some good wine out there!

The last weeks I have had the opportunity to taste some great wine, often when I least expected it.  I noted the fantastic Leonetti we had at dinner the other night.  That was just the tip of the iceberg of the wine enjoyed over the weekend at the TexSom conference and more.  Some options have been sent for editorial consideration, others I just love.

Brenda and Clay Cockerell came over for dinner the other evening and (to my delight) brought some of their extraordinary Terrior Coquerel. A very French style Sauvignon Blanc filled with subtle citrus, with solid minerality and herbal notes.  The Terrior is all estate grown fruit from their vineyard in Calistoga, and aged in new French oak for 8 months.

When the Sigel’s on Inwood closed last year I stocked up on some great wines, including a 2004 Kenneth Crawford Blue Fin Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley which we opened Sunday night.  Aged 18 months in French oak, this is an extremely easy drinking Syrah filled with bright fruit flavors.  I love a Syrah with smoky, meaty notes that many of them have.
This one is not that, and instead is a juicy, but not jammy, blend of blackberry, black cherry and blueberry with black pepper and earth on the finish.  A delicate, delightful wine.

We grilled steaks the other night and served them with a simple Caprese salad.  To pair with it we tried a few different selections including a 2005 Clos Du Val Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon.  Wow indeed.  86% Cab, with a hint of Merlot blended in to round out this powerful wine.  Black fruit blended with coffee and spice with subtle hints of chocolate and nutmeg.  A restrained 13.5% alcohol level allows the flavors of the wine to come out without masking it with high alcohol levels.  The Stags Leap District of Napa Valley really exemplifies why Americans love California Cabernet so much and this is an excellent example of that.

We also tried a solid Italian option that evening as well with our steak and salad, which was a tasty pairing. 2006 Villa Antinori Rosso Toscana IGT.  Created from some of Tuscany’s best appellations, and completely made of Antinori estate grown fruit, this blend of predominantly Sangiovese, with 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and 5% Syrah is a balanced and refined wine filled with blueberry, blackberry and subtle hints of caramel.  Some Italian wines can be a bit harsh or overly tannic.  This is a spot on example of good Italian wine, at a price that won’t break the bank (about $23 retail.)

The TexSom Conference had incredible wine at both the sessions, as my colleague Andrew Chalk, posted earlier, and at the Grand Tasting Monday night.

One of my favorites was in a session about the wine of Washington State.  The session’s lessons on topography, and how the soil of a vineyard above a floodplain will give completely different characteristics to the soil of a vineyard below a floodplain, even if those two pieces of land are right next to each other, was insightful.  TexSom organizers James Tidwell and Drew Hendricks brought in Dr. Kevin Pouge Pogue PhD, a professor at Walla Walla Community College Whitman College, to discuss the land that makes the vineyards of Washington State so different and the soil so expressive.
And then we tried some wine.

One favorite winery in the region continues to be Spring Valley Vineyards.  We tried the 2007 Nina Lee Syrah, named after the wineries mother who successfully ran the family ranch for 21 years on her own after her husband died.  Only 500 cases of this Syrah were made from 100% estate grown fruit which truly expresses the vineyard.  The philosophy, like many winemakers in this region, is to let the fruit stand on its own and represent Walla Walla.  Slight minerality and earthy notes are wrapped with bright cherry, and blackberry jam flavors.

At the Grand Tasting over 100 wines were poured, and some were just stellar.  Hanzell Vineyards, one of the oldest (and finest) in Sonoma County makes two spectacular Chardonnays and one luxurious Pinot Noir.

Hope Family Wines was there pouring both their excellent Treana White and Treana Red, but also a new (or re-introduced) Westside Red – a Rhone style blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache, this wine is 100% estate fruit from Austin Hope’s vineyards in Paso Robles, CA.  Not what you might expect from a Rhone style wine, this one definitely has attitude – smoky, spicy and juicy all in one balanced blend.  Very drinkable on its own, but can see it with a big plate of ribs just as easily.

My favorite on the night had to be the Poetry from Cliff Lede in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley.  I wrote about Rocca Family Vineyards last week.  Cliff Lede is directly across the street from their Grigsby Vineyard, and is just a beautiful, tranquil winery.  I visited the winery a few years ago over Thanksgiving and fell in love with both their peaceful, art filled gardens and their huge, inviting fireplace in the tasting room.  Then add a rock star Cabernet to the mix and you have happy guests.
Poetry is their signature wine, deep black fruit with licorice, leather and floral hints.  Dried figs, black cherry and plum flavors are mixed with creamy chocolate and cedar. Silky tannis lead to a long finish.  I am such a fan of the 2006 Napa Cabs and this one shines as one of the best I have tasted recently.

And finally, we saw a dreadful movie last night…just dreadful….so to make the evening not a complete bust we stopped into Veritas Wine Room on the way home for a quick glass.  Little did I know we were in for a taste sensation.  The highpoint for me had to be the O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery 2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.  Only 2500 cases made of this bold wine of predominantly Cab with hints of Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Carmenere, Cab Franc and St. Macaire blended in to round out the flavors a bit.  Add in 20 months in French oak and you have a ripe cherry, currant and black plum wine filled with structure and harmonious elegance.

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