Archive for May, 2012

East Bay Urban Winery Spotlight

May 17, 2012

The lure of the  East Bay urban winery scene is as simple as five P’s — Proximity + Promise + Price = Plenty of Pleasure.

There are 23 members of the East Bay Vintners Alliance which has been active since 2005.

The largest, Rock Wall Wine Co., is probably the biggest winery with the longest history, having its origins in Rosenblum Cellars — the first urban winery in the East Bay.

I recently enjoyed a lovely Pinot Noir from the group’s newest and smallest member, Stomping Girl Wines. The husband-and-wife team of Uzi and Kathryn Cohen are owner-operators

I discovered the wine — a blend  of fruit from Petaluma Gap, Carneros and the Sonoma Coast — at the annual Passport to the East Bay Wine Trail tasting last weekend. The event featured tastings at 10 different member wineries.

The Stomping Girl 2010 Unhinged Pinot Noir is a cherry bomb, with vivid red fruit to spare. There’s enough acidity to keep the fruit from overwhelming the palate. I’d pair this with something simple, especially smoked meats and mild cheese.

White Wine Standouts

Two white wines stood out from the pack.

Stage Left Cellars 2006 Viognier presented a pleasantly floral and fruity take on this shy varietal.

I like the citrus highlights and wildflower nose from this Viognier, which is made from grapes grown at Kiler Canyon Vineyard in Paso Robles. Only 73 cases were produced.

The winery is only open to the public on the first Saturday of each month. The tab is $5 and the next chance you have to visit is June 2.

The 2007 R& B Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is another great white wine and a great value, too!

Winemaker Kevin Brown , whose primary focus is vibrant red wines, was direct in his intent with this paler varietal.

“When I think of Sauvignon Blanc, I want to drink French,” he said. “I want that crisp French style.”

The wine is crisp with a nice citrus core — perfect for a late Spring picnic or as an aperitif

Supplies are low, so check with the winery to see if there’s any left at the $10 a bottle/$60 a case price.

Kenefick Cab Franc Stands Out

May 11, 2012

I tasted all of the current releases from more than 40 members of the California Cabernet Society and the belle of the ball turned out to be a Cabernet Franc from Calistoga.

The 2007 Kenefick Ranch Winery Caitlin’s Select Cab Franc was outstanding.

Historically, Cabernet Franc is used in Bordeaux-style blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. On its own, it can sometimes be a shrinking violet, but not in this case.

Tom Kenefick, Kenefick Ranch Winery

I found the Kenefick Cab Franc ($52) to be the most complete and ready to drink wine of the tasting, which was held earlier this week at the Bentley Reserve in San Francisco.

It was round with sweet red fruit countered by a nice level of tannins. A bit of oak, but not too much, was the crowning touch on this red cherry-scented wine.

Dr. Thomas Kenefick, a retired San Francisco neurosurgeon, is the winery founder and namesake.

Kenefick started his second career with the purchase of vineyards in the northern end of the Napa Valley.

The 125-acre  Kenefick estate features vineyards planted along the edge of the Palisade Mountains.

The retired surgeon picked a great spot, adjacent to the Arajuo Estate, which produces elegant world-class Cabernet Sauvignon from the esteemed Eisele Vineyard.

Kenefick operates mostly as a grower.

He only entered the winemaking side of the business in earnest in 2002 when a couple of his clients opted out of their contracts and he had to find something to do with those grapes.

Entre Nous – Between Us

There was a wave of good Cabernet Sauvignon in the tasting, but one really stood out from the pack.

The 2009 Entre Nous Cabernet Sauvignon from Kristine Ashe Vineyards is a spectacular bottle of Napa red wine. 

Winemaker Phillipe Melka — who also has worked for Lail,Vineyards, Bryant Family, 100 Acre and Vineyard 29 — has crafted a memorable wine here from hand-picked and hand-sorted grapes grown in one-acre “micro blocks” on  the 25-acre Ashe estate in Oakville.

The Entre Nous (which means “between us” in French) is a vivacious mouthful of deep purple juice.

The taste of this $120 wine lingers in the mouth for what seems like forever.

The wine is a swirl of rich red fruits and soft tannins that begs for another sip… and another.