Let’s get this out of the way up front. Petite Sirah and Syrah are not the same grape. They’re not even spelled the same. However, they do have a few things in common. Both are native to the Rhone,in France. Both go by different names in different parts of the world, most notably, Australia, where Petite Sirah is known as Durif, and Syrah is called Shiraz. What’s more, in 1996, genetic testing determined the Syrah is actually one of the parent varieties of Petite Sirah, the other being the nearly extinct grape, Peloursin.
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about Petite Sirah from Suisun Valley. What? Where? Wait, you’ve never heard of Suisun Valley? You’re not alone. But you’ll be hearing that name more and more as this up and coming region makes its mark on the wine world.
Suisun Valley is located in Solano County, California, which is adjacent to Napa County. Suisun Valley is just a 30 minute drive southeast of Napa, and shares a similar climate with Napa. However, the soils here are more welcoming to what has become Suisun Valley’s signature grape, (drum roll, please): Petite Sirah.
As a lesser known region, Suisun Valley lacks the notoriety, traffic, crowds, and high prices of its northern neighbor. Instead, small family farms, many of them generations old, dot the landscape. Tasting rooms, too, are family owned and offer a casual and inviting tasting experience. Suisun is also very accessible, just off I-80 in Fairfield, California. (If you’ve been to Napa via I-80, you’ve driven through Fairfield.) There are currently 12 wineries in the valley, with just 3,000 acres under vine. Sounds delightful, no?
We had the opportunity to sample the wines from five Suisun Valley producers. The Suisun Valley Wine Co-op assembled this sample pack of 2 oz. tasters to tantalize our taste buds and leave us longing for more. It worked.
The following wines were provided as media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.
Caymus-Suisun Grand Durif Petite Sirah 2018
Inky purple color. On the nose, blackberry, plum, and black pepper. These continue on the palate, with “cabinet spice”, cedar, and tobacco. Full body with vibrant acidity and medium tannins. Long finish with black fruit, tobacco, smoke, and spice.
Mangels Vineyard Reserve Petite Sirah 2018
Bright purple color with a ruby rim, Nose of boysenberry, blackberry, and black cherry. On the palate, bing cherry, raspberry, and blackberry. Chalky texture and tannins, soft acidity, and a long finish of black and red fruit.
Tenbrink Vineyards Estate Grown Petite Sirah 2016
Deep purple with a ruby rim. Nose of blackberry, green pepper, and jalapeno. On the palate, blackberry and cherry, with a surprise guest: black olive. Full body, edgy tannins, and medium acidity. Nice, long finish.
Suisun Creek Winery Estate Grown Petite Sirah 2017
Inky purple color, with ruby rim. Nose of blackberry, stewed prune, and boysenberry. On the palate, black cherry, plum, and blackberry. Smooth tannins, medium acidity, and as expected, a rich, full body. Pleasing, smooth finish.
Wooden Valley WInery Lanza Family Petite Sirah 2018
Deep purple color. The nose is vegetal, with notes of blackberry and bramble. On the palate, bright blackberry, Marionberry, black cherry, jalepeno, and our new friend, black olive. Full body with drying, grippy tannins, bright acidity, and a long, smooth finish.
We enjoyed each of these samples, and it was very interesting to experience the diversity of style and character, considering each sample was the same grape, from the same small region. We look forward to the opportunity to visit Suisun Valley to taste more of the wines coming from this emerging region.
We head back to Spain this week for our Wine of the Week. This time we are exploring Ribera del Duero. Though red wines from Ribera del Duero feature the same Tempranillo grape as the arguably more famous Rioja region, there are subtle differences between the wines from the two regions. Ribera del Duero is at a higher elevation, cooler climate, and receives less rainfall than Rioja. As a result, the grapes tend to be smaller, with thicker skins and a more concentrated flavor. With less stringent rules on aging, Ribera del Duero wines can be fresher and lighter, and less acidic, with bright fruit flavors.
In our previous Wine of the Week from Spain, we reviewed Asúa Rioja Crianza 2016, part of the CVNE family of wines in Rioja. This week’s wine is a CVNE offspring, from Bela wines. Bela strives to emulate CVNE’s commitment to quality in Ribera del Duero. The official spec sheet explains the three stars on the Bela label represent the three children of CVNE’s founder, Sofia, Áurea, and Ramón. Sofia was known as Bela.
In the United States, Bela Ribera del Duero is distributed by Arano USA. Their website shares a few historical details about Bela. The winery was built in 1999, and the 74 hectare vineyard planted in 2002. The Bela Ribera del Duero 2017 is 100% estate hand harvested Tempranillo. After fermentation, the wine spent six months in new French and American oak barrels, followed by one year in neutral oak. The care and attention to detail in the wine making process shows clearly in the resulting wine.
Deep garnet color. Aromas of blackberry, boysenberry, vanilla, and baking spice. On the palate, blackberry, blueberry, cassis, plum, vanilla, and black pepper. Medium body with smooth tannins and fresh acidity. Soft and delicious, great with flank steak.
Next time you’re looking for a quality Spanish Tempranillo, give Ribera del Duero a try. The Bela Ribera del Duero 2017 is a shining example of what this region can produce.
As many people already know, Paso Robles is trending in the wine world. Many consider it the next up-and-coming wine region; an underrated hidden gem. Despite all this, we regrettably have not explored the wines of Paso Robles much, and have never been wine tasting there. There are many good wineries in Paso Robles, and our friends who have been have given us dozens of recommendations. As happens every so often…so often it can seem a little creepy…we had been discussing Paso Robles with some friends not long ago, and the very next day we received an email offering us a sample of Robert Hall Paso Red 2018, from Paso Robles. After tasting the wine, our resolve to get to Paso, and soon, was dramatically intensified.
The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.
Robert Hall was a successful businessman in St. Paul, Minnesota. After developing a taste for wine, he made his way west and founded his namesake winery in the heart of Paso Robles wine country. From the beginning, winemaker Don Brady has been leading production of a portfolio that now includes more than a dozen wines.
The Robert Hall Paso Red 2018 is a multi-award winning blend of grapes from all 11 sub-AVAs in the Paso Robles region. It is a wine that truly captures the essence of Paso Robles. Petite Sirah (43%), Syrah (21%),and Zinfandel (19%) drive the blend, supported by Petit Verdot (10%), and splashes of Grenache and Mourvedre filling it out. Sounds pretty good to us!
A rich, big, bold red blend. Vibrant deep purple color. The nose is filled with ripe black fruit: blackberry, boysenberry, and Marionberry, with smoky notes. On the palate, blackberry, black cherry, plum, tobacco, baking spice, and black pepper. Full bodied, with fine, smooth tannins and ample acidity. The finish is long with black fruit and spice. Excellent with baby back ribs.
Truth be told, we’ve found a lot of California Red Blends to be on the jammy side. When we tasted the Robert Hall Paso Red 2018 with our ribs, we thought it would be a bit jammy without food. Yet this wine is so well structured it holds up after dinner as a very nice sipper. Beware: this big wine sports an ABV of 15.5%! But why would you drink a big, bold red like this without food anyway? The food enhances the wine, and the wine enhances the food. Yin. Yang.
Did we mention the value quotient? Robert Hall Paso Red 2018 retails for just $20! You really need this wine in your life. It’s available at select retailers, or online at the Robert Hall Winery website. Try this, or any of the wines, and let us know what you think.
As the days grow longer and warmer, our thoughts turn to crisp, refreshing, white wines. Who are we kidding? We enjoy white wines all year round! But the onset of spring brings a sense of newness, hope, and anticipation. We look forward to shorts and t-shirts, summer vacations, and afternoons on the patio with friends and a good glass of chilled white wine.
Wine can also evoke memories, and this week’s Wine of the Week did just that. Though we did not visit Vriniotis Winery during our Big Fat Greek Honeymoon, we did fall in love with Greek wine, and every bottle we open brings us back to that trip. Keeping with the theme of warmer weather, summertime also reminds us of the warm days on the Greek islands, and our time at the beach on the Aegean Sea.
We picked up this bottle of Vriniotis Winery White 2018 from Uncorked Greeks. Vriniotis Winery has become one of our favorite producers of Greek wine, and Uncorked Greeks carries a wide selection of their wines. The White 2018 is a blend of two indigenous Greek grapes, Malagouzia and the more widely known Assyrtiko. Malagouzia was nearly extinct until 1983, when winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou planted the variety in his vineyard at Epanomi. The grape is often blended with the lighter Assyrtiko to provide body.
Vriniotis Winery is located in the town of Gialtra, on the island of Evia (also known as Euboea), overlooking the North Eviokos Gulf, about three hours north of Athens. They are a family owned winery, with 100 acres under vine, and absolutely stunning views. Check out their gallery on their website! We need to go there! Until then, we can enjoy the wines at home.
Outstanding Greek white blend. Golden color. Aromas of pear, citrus, floral notes, and the saline nose we appreciate about Greek wines. On the palate, citrus, green apple, pear, and tropical fruit, with that saline and minerals. Medium body with fresh acidity. Perfect with garlic shrimp or any other seafood dish.
We look forward to the day when travel restrictions have eased, and we can once again move about the planet. We have many new places we want to visit, but Greece is definitely on our return-visit list!
Sometimes, the search for fine wine is like an expedition; studying wine reviews like they were scouting reports, patiently stalking the aisles of the wine shop, asking the advice of the local guide (wine shop staff), and occasionally checking in with your fellow hunters to see how they’ve done.
Other times, it lands on your doorstep, unannounced and unexpected. So it was when the UPS driver left a distinctive, single-wine-bottle-sized package on the porch a few weeks ago. Upon opening, we discovered a bottle of Salengo Grenache 2018, with its beautiful watercolor art label, and a note indicating the wine was sent at the request of friend and wine broker, Bill Tobey.
We’d never heard of Salengo, but fortunately the box also included a spec sheet, and bio of winemaker Nicole Salengo. In addition, we reached out to Nicole via email, and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions and fill in some additional detail.
The Salengo Grenache 2018 is from Yolo County. Wine lovers may be familiar with wines from Clarksburg…a designated AVA also in Yolo County. Yolo County is in the Sacramento Valley, just west of Sacramento. Its bordering counties include Solano to the south, and Napa and Lake Counties to the west, all known for quality grape and wine production. The fruit for the Salengo Grenache 2018 comes from the Coble Ranch in Winters.
Nicole Salengo is the winemaker at Berryessa Gap winery in Winters. She has nearly 20 years of wine industry experience, including time in Napa and New Zealand. With the release of the Salengo Grenache 2018, Nicole is realizing her long-term dream of having her own label.
The first thing we noticed when we looked at the bottle was the very light color of the wine, noticeable even through the green glass. We are big fans of Grenache, and have had many Grenache wines from numerous regions, but had never seen one this light in color. During our initial email exchange, Nicole said her goal was to model the wine in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style; light and elegant, yet complex, and with lower alcohol.
In Nicole’s bio, and on the back label on the bottle, there is reference to Nicole’s origins from New England. We were intrigued by this, partly because Robyn is from Boston, and partly because one doesn’t often think of New England heritage when discussing wine. So after we tasted the wine (more on that in a minute), we reached out to Nicole again with some follow-up questions. In reply, she said she was born in Vermont and graduated from high school and college in upstate New York. Not Boston, but cose enough!
Beyond that, Nicole responded to our other questions…(warning: wine review spoiler alert!)
AfW: What brought you from New England to Northern California? Other than the weather, of course.
NS: You said it…the weather! I don’t like being cold!
I would call it ‘opportunity’. I’ve always been driven and when I was 8, I told my mom I wanted to move to California. I wanted to go to college here but that didn’t work out so I moved here after college. I had an aunt and uncle living in Davis and they offered to let me come stay with them. So the same year I graduated from college, I had $1,000 and a suitcase (almost like a dollar and a dream) and got on the plane to Sacramento. The rest is history. Once I was here, I worked in a lab and eventually quit to work in a wine shop. That’s where I learned about wine, and then was hired at my first winery. I went back to school at UC Davis for the Winemaking Certificate.
AfW: Your wine is exceptionally light and elegant. What was your process? Length of skin contact, stainless vs oak, oak selection and aging?
NS: Thank you. I try to allow for the variety and place where it’s grown express itself. Grenache is like Pinot Noir in that you can have a lighter expression or a darker, heavier expression. It also has a tendency like Zinfandel to creep up in sugar content once it’s in the fermenter (something I want to avoid). So I wanted to pick it earlier than other red varieties to maintain the acid profile and a lower alcohol level. Other things that I think contributed to the lightness and elegance of this wine are the way it was farmed and the area it was farmed in. 2018 was a year with a large crop so we had more fruit. So all of the energy of the vine was distributed among more grapes resulting in lighter color. In addition, the grapes are from the Coble Ranch Vineyard in Winters (owned and farmed by Berryessa Gap) where it has a warm, Mediterranean climate. Warm weather creates less anthocyanins (color compounds) and can result in lighter-colored wines. Both of these factors contribute to how light and elegant the wine turned out.
I visited the South of France (Châteauneuf du Pape) when I first was starting this project and had the most amazing 100% Grenache: light in color and body with nuanced complexities that really made you think about the wine and every sip was a different experience. My Grenache is modeled after that beautiful wine I tasted out of the barrel in France. I remember thinking that it was the perfect wine. And it liked that it wasn’t showy, it was just being itself, something I strive to do in life. In other words, the wine really spoke to me and created inspiration. The grapes in that French wine were grown on similar soils that give it a nice minerality, so that’s what is creating much of the texture (rather than the skins or barrel) of the wine. The Salengo Grenache was aged in old, neutral barrels so I think that also contributes to the lightness of the wine as well and allows for the fruit to be accentuated. Also the light color: as a young red wine ages, it reacts with the oxygen getting into the wine through the oak staves in the barrel and the wood tannin which can help to stabilize color. This wine was aged in very old barrels, that kept the color light too.
The juice was on the skins for about two weeks, just enough time to ferment but not get any over-extraction. We performed manual punch-downs twice a day, pressed it and aged it for 18 months in neutral oak, as mentioned. The wine really blossomed as it was aging and it was so exciting to taste it along the way to see it open up and release all of these yummy flavors.
AfW: How long have you been making wine? Where did you start, history?
NS: This year will be my 17th harvest. It’s basically been a process of elimination and me trying to prove people wrong and find a career that keeps my attention. I’m hard-headed and have a good palate which has a lot to do with why I’m making wine. It’s been a lot of hard work, and sometimes I try too hard and have too high of expectations and it makes me discouraged but it’s a fabulous combination of art, science, tradition with possibility of great things in the future. That is why I’m a winemaker.
The whole story is I worked at a Belgium-style brewery in college which started to develop my palate. I always had an interest in science, particularly chemistry and geology. I was made wine buyer at a wine shop which expanded my palate significantly when I was an age where I couldn’t afford fine wines. Then, I was hired at a start-up winery and discovered my love for making wine. I fell in love with it the first day of my first harvest. I went back to school, got promoted to assistant winemaking positions, did harvests in Napa and New Zealand and was hired as head winemaker at Berryessa Gap in 2013. I’ve now worked with over 50 varieties and have fulfilled my dream of having my own label. It’s a very fun industry to be a part of.
AfW: What is your wine story? That first bottle that got you hooked?
NS: The wine I referenced earlier has been a part of my inspiration to want to make wine. This is going back to my early twenties when I was a wine buyer. It was a bottle of 1995 Chateau Rayas, Pignon. That wine is 100% Grenache like mine and it’s the same winery I referenced above where I serendipitously saw the small rusty sign while in the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 2016. I was by myself and didn’t speak French but after an afternoon of waiting, I had a tour with the winemaker Emmanuel Reynaud and tasted the 2015 Pignon from barrel.
I also recall tasting some really amazing Pinot Noirs from Willamette that really moved me early on. Then some Tempranillos form the Ribera del Duero that were really amazing. There are lots of great wines out there and I just love the ones that take you to a place. There are times when I taste a wine and I almost feel transported to that region where it was grown and made, those are the very special ones for me, the ones that take you on a mini-vacation and get your imagination going. You know a truly great wine when you taste it, so I just keep tasting.
So it turns out that New England isn’t the only bond we have with Nicole. Kent’s start in wine was with a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir; from St. Innocent. Turns out Nicole knows St. Innocent, too, and loves their wines. It’s always good to make new wine-friends!
So what about the wine? Very impressive! It’s a wine that gets better with each sip. Honestly, it’s a wine for wine geeks, like us, but not for everybody. We have a number of wine friends who favor jammy fruit bombs. Salengo Grenache 2018 is not that wine. It is a sophisticated wine with layers of complexity. Here’s our review:
Very pale ruby color, with an almost tawny port rim. The nose is unique, with subtle raspberry and red cherry notes, with dusty, earthy notes. On the palate, raspberry and cherry, cherry cola, and licorice notes, with hints of smoked meat and black pepper. Tannins are soft and smooth. Bright acidity, excellent balance, and a medium finish of red fruit and a bit of licorice. We paired with brats, which complemented nicely and drew out even more earthiness. This is a very sophisticated wine that grows on you the more it opens up!
Are you ready to try an out-of-the box Greneache? You can find Salengo Grenache 2018 online at the Berryessa Gap Winery website. Of course, if you’re in NorCal, please stop by the winery and give it a try. Tell Nicole that Kent and Robyn sent you!
We all have our own, individual wine stories. Stories of how we got on this wild journey into wine. That first, really memorable taste, the evolution of our palates, and other influential moments along the way. These stories are often fun to share and compare, when socializing with fellow wine lovers. David Klein compiled his story into a book: Sipping Away: 30 Years of Unique Wine Experiences.
The following book was provided by the author as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.
Sipping Away is David Klein’s 30+ year wine story. His story starts out like many others of the day; memories of gallon jugs of Carlo Rossi wine on the table, alongside lovingly home-cooked meals, and surrounded by family eager to enjoy the meal.
The son of an Italian mother and Jewish father, David grew up in Queens, New York. He shares early memories of those food oriented holidays, filled with delicious dishes prepared from family recipes handed down from generation to generation.
David’s father, Howard, worked on Wall Street as a stockbroker. That is, until the firm’s funds were embezzled, and Howard was out of work. He learned about a neighborhood liquor store that was for sale. Howard knew nothing about liquor stores, but was willing to give it a try. Soon, David began working in the store while attending Chiropractic College. It was there that David’s wine journey began in earnest.
Sipping Away is a tale of discovery, blossoming passion, friendship, and sophistocation. David shares his tales of wine groups and tasting parties. Some members of his group have been with David for more than 30 years. He also shares tips for finding relative bargains from top growth producers, and what to do in a restaurant if you receive a faulty bottle. David presents all this information in an entertaining, engaging style, though stories of his own experiences.
Want to learn more about David’s wine journey? At just 132 pages, Sipping Away is a great read for a quiet weekend, or on a cross-country flight. Sipping Away is available on Amazon.com. Check it out. I bet you’ll learn a thing or two. I know I did!
I’m very excited and honored to announce that the good people at Wine Tourism in Portugal asked me to write a guest post. I’m now officially published on a professional wine website! Please check out the article and let me know, in the comments, what you think.
What do a Norwegian ship owner, a verdant Chilean valley, and sustainable farming have in common?
What did you think we were going to say? This is a wine blog, afterall.
More than 25 years ago, Norwegian Armador (that’s “ship owner” in case you were wondering) Dan Odfjell discovered the Maipo Valley in Chile. Well, not discovered in the Viking explorer sense; he found it for himself. Dan fell in love with this little corner of the planet, far from home both in distance and climate. He settled in the valley, and began pursuing his passion for wine.
Today, sons Laurence and Dan Jr. are at the helm, managing 284 acres of 100% certified organic and biodynamic vineyards in the heart of the Chilean wine country. They carry on the family mission of producing unique quality wines in a sustainable way.
Recently, we were given the opportunity to experience their craft. Odfjell Premium Organic Wines are offered in three different tiers, with labels representing Land, Water, and Fire. We were fortunate to receive samples of each.
The following wines were provided as a media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.
I really don’t know what happened to our photos. Sorry, but it’s your loss. The marinated flat iron steak was delicious with this Cabernet!
2016 Odfjell Armador Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $15)
From the website: In the bygone days of sailing ships, wine was the drink of choice on long voyages. Today Dan Odfjell, a Norwegian shipowner, perpetuates his legacy by making wines to sail from Chile across the seven seas.
Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Ruby-red in color with a hint of violet. Red-fruit aromas recall strawberries and plums, along with notes of licorice and anise. Perfectly balanced on the palate with ripe tannins and a long, refreshing nish.
Here’s what we thought:
Inky purple color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry, bramble, and cassis. On the palate, there are flavors of ripe blackberry, raspberry, bramble, black currant, and cherry, with oak, cedar, tobacco, and black pepper, with earthy notes mid-palate. Tannins are firm and chewy, balanced with bright acidity. Full bodied with a long, spicy finish of black fruit, earth, and smoke. Outstanding paired with balsamic marinated flat iron steak.
2017 Odfjell Orzada Carignan (SRP $23)
From the website: When the Norwegian shipowner Dan Odfjell founded our winery, he embarked upon adventure filled with challenge and promise. Orzada is a nautical term for sailing up against the wind before setting a direction. Our Orzada wines reflect our staking a course in pursuit of a beautiful and memorable wine.
Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Dark red in color. Intense and complex on the nose, with spices and ripe red fruits such as cherries, raspberries, and plums mixed with aromas of blackberries and anise. The palate is juicy and powerful with velvety-soft tannins and a long finish.
Now we’re talking!
Here’s what we thought:
Deep purple color with a brick rim. Aromas of fresh-picked cherry, oak wood, and spice. On the palate there are flavors of raspberry, boysenberry, tart cherry, licorice, cedar, and black pepper. Soft tannins, medium body, and bright, lively acidity. The finish is long, with red and black fruit, oak, and spice. We paired this with grilled, chili-rubbed pork chops and it really complemented the meal nicely.
2013 Odfjell Aliara (SRP $44)
From the website: In the age of sail ships, safe and healthy provisions were crucial for the success of the adventure. A “liara” was a tin cup measurement for the crew´s daily ration of wine. Our Aliara is an assemblage made in small and precios quantitites as a tribute to this tradition.
Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Concentrated deep violet in color. The nose is attractive and intense with a range of aromas from the different varieties in the blend, including nuts such as hazelnuts, dates, and dried figs, as well as floral notes recalling jasmine and roses. The palate is sophisticated, intense, and juicy and complemented by chocolate, coffee, and tobacco leaves. The finish is long with ripe and velvety tannins. An unforgettable experience.
That’s some dark, inky wine.
Here’s what we thought:
A blend of 65% Carignan, 20% Syrah, and 5% Malbec. Deep, inky purple color. Aromas of blackberry bramble and plum. On the palate, flavors of blackberry, cherry, blueberry, and plum, with white pepper and cedar. Tannins are big and chewy. Medium acidity. Long finish of black fruit and black pepper. Outstanding with spice-rubbed grilled steak tacos.
The Odfjell is doing some remarkable things with organic, biodynamic wines in Chile. If you get the opportunity to try these wines, don’t let it pass you by!
Our exploration and appreciate of Port wines continues. Recently we reviewed a Reserve Port, that we enjoyed as the late summer evenings started to cool. That one was a non-vintage, as most Ports are. Yet many Port makers also produce a Late Bottled Vintage, or LBV Port. As luck would have it, not long ago, we received a sample bottle of Dow’s 2012 LBV Porto for tasting and review.
When I posted a picture of the bottle on Instagram, one of the most common questions I received is: “what does it mean to be ‘Late Bottled?’” Frankly, I wasn’t sure myself, so I consulted my trusty wine research expert…Google. According to Wine Enthusiast magazine, the official definition is “a ruby Port from a single year, chosen for its high quality and bottled after aging for four to six years in wood.” So LBV is a high quality Port, vinted from a single year’s harvest, and aged prior to release. As such, they are ready to drink upon release and do not require additional aging to be enjoyed.
Dow’s Port house has been in operation since 1798. Unlike most Port merchants, who exported their products to the thirsty masses, founder Bruno da Silva emigrated to England and set up shop importing his wines from Portugal. He assimilated into London society, marrying an Englishwoman, and established a thriving business. During the Napoleonic wars, da Silva was granted permission to arm his merchant ships, and thus became the first and only Port producer to ship its wines under their own armed protection.
da Silva’s son, John, took over the business, and through several partnerships and mergers – including one with George Acheson Warre, of Warre’s Port, built the success and reputation of the company. In 1877, John and his partners merged with Dow & Co. Although Dow & Co. was smaller they had built a strong reputation with quality vintage ports, so the decision was made to use the Dow name, and Dow’s Port brand was established. Since 1961, Dow’s has been a part of the Symingtons Family of Port producers.
Now that you know the story, let’s find out about the wine. Many Port houses release LBV every year, but Dow’s only produces LBV Porto in the best vintages. With the bar set with high expectations, what did we think
The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All review, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.
Deep, inky purple. Aromas of bramble, blackberry, vanilla, and smoke. Flavors of ripe blackberry, black cherry, mocha, caramel, vanilla, and smoke. Mellow, smooth, and soft, with a luscious, round mouthfeel. Long, dry, smoky finish with black fruit. Less chocolate than many ports, and distinctive in its drier profile. Definitely a dessert wine, but not as sweet as others. Elegance in a bottle.
With an SRP of $24.00, and available at major retailers for less, you owe it to yourself to grab a bottle, settle into your favorite, comfortable chair, and enjoy a glass.
Most wine geeks know the name Chateau Montelena. For those who don’t, allow me to inform you. Chateau Montelena is the Calistoga, California, winery that produced the Chardonnay that beat out Burgundy, France, in the famous Judgement of Paris in 1976. The Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay put Napa on the wine map, and forever changed the landscape of California wine, both literally and figuratively. (Been to Napa lately?)
Would it surprise you to learn that Chateau Montelena is more than world class Chardonnay? Of course being in the Napa Valley, they produce a stunning Cabernet Sauvignon. But did you know they also make a spectacular Zinfandel?
Zinfandel is often thought of as “America’s grape” although genetic testing has determined that the grape originated in Croatia. Nevertheless, Zinfandel is associated with California due to its historical roots to the Gold Rush. Most people associate Zinfandel with Lodi, Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, or perhaps the Sierra Foothills (some of my favorites), but many forget that Napa Valley produces some impressive Zinfandel.
Zinfandel is a hearty grape; a survivor. The vines can live much longer than many other vines, and still produce stunning fruit. Some would say Old Vine Zinfandel is better, softer, and smoother than wine from younger vines. From my tasting experience, I’d have to agree. Zinfandel is also drought tolerant, and thrives in warmer climates, where some other grapes would suffer.
I had never really thought of Napa Valley or Calistoga for Zinfandel, much less Chateau Montelena, known for its Chardonnay and Cabernet. So I was intrigued when I received a sample bottle of Chateau Montelena Calistoga Zinfandel 2015. Winemaker Matt Crafton says of this wine: “…the 2015 vintage showcases [the survivor] quality beautifully. There’s something hallowed in the old, war-torn vines that have endured many challenging growing seasons coupled with the vitality and exuberance of younger plantings that allow us to create this truly compelling wine.”
The 2015 is crafted from fruit harvested from Estate vines that were among the first planted the year Jim Barrett founded Chateau Montelena, 1972, blended with grapes from younger vines. This blend provides the best of both worlds; the soft, smooth qualities of Old Vine Zin, with the youthful fruit and zip of newer vines. 2015 was a very dry year, as California suffered through one of the worst droughts on record. Trees and other vegetation suffered, but the sturdy Zinfandel vines took it in stride, producing rich, intense fruit resulting in an exquisite wine.
This wine was submitted to me as a media sample for review. I received no other compensation. All thoughts, opinions, and tasting notes are my own.
Chateau Montelena Calistoga Zinfandel 2015
Medium purple color with ruby rim. On the nose, more earthy than other Zinfandels I’ve had, but all the fresh blackberry bramble and fruit aromas I expected. On the palate, fresh blackberry, blueberry, cherry, and spice, with dusty chocolate notes, and secondary flavors of vanilla and leather, with smoky notes on the finish. Tannins are bold and chewy; balanced with light acidity. Served with grilled pork chops, the food tames the tannins and really brings out the character. The finish lingers, enticing yet another sip. Perhaps another bottle.
This Zinfandel is truly one of a kind. I’ve tasted dozens of Zinfandels over the years; it is one of my favorite varietals; and this one is definitely unique. It’s bigger, earthier, and with more structure and tannin than many other Zinfandels. If you get the opportunity to try this spectacular wine, take it!