Posts Tagged ‘roadhouse winery’

Pinot Dazed & Amazed

June 21, 2012

I’m a fan of American Pinot Noir, whether it strives for a New World vibrancy or tries to emulate the leaner Burgundian model.

I recently got a chance to taste some of the best Pinot Noirs made in this country at the 8th annual Pinot Days event in San Francisco. Click here for an event preview.

Fast and Furious

There were 134 wineries listed in the Pinot Days 2012 tasting guide and festival officials promised at least 500 different wines would be poured.

From that massive list, I tasted 84 wines last Saturday afternoon at Fort Mason. I think it was a pretty good sample.

Quality overall was good, with a high middle ground between my top picks and the least favorite from the tasting.

Most of the wine was from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages and most of the wines were Californian. There were a few entries from Oregon plus a handful of French and German wines.

The majority of wines come from small-volume operations.

The Road to Good Pinot Noir

Roadhouse Winery, a small outfit based in Healdsburg, poured two of my favorite wines from the tasting — the 2009 Russian River ($44) and the 2010 Sonoma Mountain ($48).

The Russian River bottling boasted sweet red cherry fruit and a fuller, rounder profile than its sibling, which comes from the hotter Bennett Valley.

The Sonoma Mountain featured strawberry/rhubarb flavors and was made in a leaner style than the Sonoma Mountain.

Look for amiable winery owner Eric Hall if you visit the Roadhouse tasting room, which is open daily just off the Healdsburg Square.

I’ve enjoyed other bottles from Roadhouse, which started up in 2010. Here’s a link to a previous Pinot Days review.

Another Familiar Favorite

I’ve enjoyed Martinelli Pinot Noir since tasting their wines at another pinot event a few years ago. Here’s a link to my blog about a visit to Martinelli in 2010.

The 2010 Zio Tony Ranch “Grace Nicole” Pinot Noir was a great example of well-rounded Russian River wine featuring fine cherry fruit balanced by enough acids to keep the sweetness in check.

It was the fifth vintage in a row for the Zio Tony Ranch wine — one of nine different Martinelli Pinor Noirs currently in distribution — to win a 90+ rating from Wine Spectator.

Good Wines Galore

There were several really good wines that just missed the top three spots on my list and there was one great buy — a $20 wine that comes from the 2011 vintage.

Here are some great suggestions for near-term enjoyment:

Black Kite Cellars “Stony Terrace” 2009 ($52) is  another example of pure red fruit that lingered for quite a while on the tongue. It really worked well with a bite of Dubliner cheese.

No 7 JCB  by Jean Claude Boisset, is a 2010 Sonoma Coast bottling from a French winemaker who showed a deft hand with this very dark red wine. This fruit forward $50 wine tasted of sweet red cherries with a hit of cranberry and some nice spicy notes.

Meomi Winery’s $20 2011 blend — made from grapes grown in Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Monterey counties — is an instant favorite at a great price! Tasty from the first sip, with a touch of mulberry against the nice cherry core, I found it amazingly approachable for such a young wine.

The  2010 Belle Glos Taylor Lane Vineyard bottling — one of the last wines I tasted — proved to be a well-balanced mouthful of moderate red fruit from the Sonoma Coast with a hint of mint that lingered pleasantly in my mouth as I headed for the exit. Full retail is about $40+.


Where’s the Prime Pinot?

June 25, 2011

Only a tiny percentage of U.S. beef earns a prime rating and it was no different with the wines I liked at Pinot Days.

There were about 200 wineries pouring multiple wines apiece at the event last weekend.

From a personal tasting of 104 wines, I found three that were superlative. But, a lot of others left me wanting more.

Where’s the Rank?

Why can’t buying wine be more like shopping for a good steak? I know what I’m getting when I pick out a juicy rib eye steak, based on a USDA inspection and rating.

There are eight levels of beef quality based on marbling, color and maturity.

Only the top three grades — prime, choice and select — usually make it to retail butcher shops and supermarkets.

The government doesn’t get involved with wine like that.

Who, What Where

Wine labels must adhere to industry standards regarding the type of grapes inside the bottle, the place of origin and the name of the seller and/or producer.

There can be lots of other details. Like, vineyard name, geographic location, AVA (American Viticultural Area), sub-appellation plus any organic or bio-dynamic explanations.

As far as wine taste and quality go, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is no higher standard.

The name on the label is important, but it’s only one indicator. Bigger impacts come from weather and the myriad man-made decisions affecting the growth, harvest and production cycles.

All of those impacts shone favorably on the wines below, which I ranked highest in the Pinot Days tasting last Saturday (June 17) at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Joseph Swan Vineyards

Joseph Swan Vineyards started production in Forestville in 1968. The name has long been associated with ground-breaking pinot noir and one of their pinots was my top pick at Pinot Days.

I liked the Swan 2008 Trenton Estate Vineyard ($52) from Russian River Valley for its complexity and brilliance, like a star you notice in a sky full of stars.

Everything seemed to rise up another notch with this wine, including the deeper color and lovely finish. I tasted sophisticated dark cherry with baking spices and smelled a pleasant forest scent. The red fruit lingered for a beat longer than I expected. It was wonderful.

Clos Pepe

Wes Hagen, winemaker and vineyard manager, showed an artist’s touch with an alluring 2008 from the Clos Pepe estate vineyard in Santa Barbara.

This is  lighter, and a bit more feminine style than the Swan.

“A delicate little creature, for sure,” Hagen told me after pouring me a taste of his $54 wine. The color is like reflected light through a garnet gemstone.

The taste is light cherry with some spicy aromatics and a trace of minerality.


It’s a completely different ballgame with the 2009 Roadhouse pinot noir.

This is a bolder mouthful with decadence dripping off of every drop of Russian River Valley juice.

The color is deeper, the flavors are bolder. There’s a swagger to this wine that’s engaging. Even the black-and-white label makes an impact.

Only 120 cases made. Wine club only, but maybe you can pick up a bottle ($54) at the winery/tasting room/pool hall in Healdsburg.