Posts Tagged ‘stagecoach vineyard’

Get Crushed Here

May 28, 2010

For many aspiring winemakers, a custom crush facility like Vinify in Santa Rosa is a place where they can get their feet wet without getting in over their heads.

Vinify provides the structure — and all of the equipment — of a working winery without the overhead and other headaches involved in becoming an independent producer. The model is being repeated across California’s wine country where the dream of making wine permeates.

I’ve written in the past about Crushpad, another custom winemaking facility that started in a San Francisco warehouse and is now moving operations to Napa.

The dream of independence can also be strong, but it requires major investments in plant and property to become reality.

Just ask the owners of Urban Legend, a husband-and-wife team that opened a small winery near Oakland’s Jack London Square in April. They’re losing money on every bottle until they can boost production past a couple thousand cases.

Custom Vinification

Back at Vinify, Hillary and Justin Lattanzio have set up a production facility  in a row of warehouses just off 101 in Santa Rosa that more than 20 winemakers turn out a wide variety of wines under one roof. Production can run to hundreds of cases of each wine, depending on the winemaker’s whimsy, financial backing and access to high-quality grapes.

In today’s wine market, prices are down across the board, not just for finished wines, but also for the raw product — grapes. Even small producers, it seems, are finding supplies of really good grapes to help them make higher quality wines.

I was impressed by the overall quality of the wines produced at Vinify. They ranged from triple-digit priced, high-grade Napa cabernet to everday rose’ for less than $10. Most wines encountered at a Vinify tasting last weekend ran $30-$50.

Bevan Cellars

The most expensive wine came from Bevan Cellars, another husband and wife team (Russell Bevan and Victoria Decrescenzo) that migrated to Wine Country from Minnesota. Their $150 cabernet sauvignon (vintage 2007) is sourced from thehighly-regarded Showket Vineyard in Oakville, right off the Silverado Trail. It’s everything a Napa cab should be and has the high rankings from both Wine Spectator (96) Robert Parker (95+) to rank it alongside some of the great wines of the valley.

But it was Bevan’s sauvignon blanc (Maria’s Cuvee) that really made my mouth water. This white wine ($28) is unfiltered so it’s not crystal clear in the glass, but it tastes great. It’s refreshing with a citrus twist and a mouthful of other exotic flavors that keep piling on. There’s no residual sugar, so it’s the sublime fruit (from  Sonoma’s Kick Ranch) that makes it taste so good.

Marvelous Marsanne

I liked another white, a marsanne, from Olson Ogden, for different reasons. This marsanne ($35), made from a grape with origins in France’s Rhone Valley, is rich in texture and tastes of peaches within a nice oak framework. The grapes come from Napa’s Stagecoach Vineyard, from which Olson Ogden also makes a very good syrah ($52, 2007). I also admired the winery’s touch with pinot noir, especially the 2007 Sonoma Coast  bottling — a class act, starting from the rich red color through to the classic cherry fruit profile.

Bargain Bottles

At a lower price point, it would be hard to find fault with the 2006 Whitehawk Vineyard syrah made by Cinque Insieme. This $20 wine — sourced from fruit grown in Santa Barbara — is an inky-dark bargain with overtones of blackberries and pepper. By the way the name of the winery (a collaboration of five friends) means “five together” in Italian.

For hot-weather sipping, stock up on the Bjornstad Cellars 2008 rose’ at $7.50/bottle or $90 case. This bargain of a pink wine, made from pinot noir, is available online through the winery. Bjornstad also makes a fine lineup of of highly rated red pinot noirs and some chardonnays that are worth checking out, too.


Wonderful Wine With a Woman’s Perspective

November 6, 2009

I discovered Jocelyn Lonen wines almost by accident, but it’s the kind of accident I’d like to repeat over and over again because the wines are so good and reasonably priced.

The winery is an all-women affair. Brandi Jocelyn Pack manages the winery with a lot of help from winemaker Alison Green Duran, who also makes wine for the Hill Family Estate. Brandi’s mom, Susan Curtis, is a partner and Angela Herrera Lockhart is the national sales manager.

I was introduced to the winery at a tasting earlier this week at the Alameda Wine Co., where I found Angela pouring two reds and a white.

Brandi stepped into a leadership role after the death of her father, winery founder Lonen Curtis, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2004.

Brandi Jocelyn Lonen

Brandi Jocelyn Lonen

“This was our  dream… but I had no idea what I was doing,” Brandi said. “But, it’s really been an interesting process. I threw myself into it and tried to learn everything I could.”

The winery produced a terrific 2006 cabernet sauvignon, ($35) with a large portion of the grapes coming from the prestigious Stagecoach vineyard on Atlas Peak.

Here’s how Brandi describes it:

“I like upfront fruit, strawberry/cherry fruit,” she said. “I like the big California cabernets, with their big-bodied style. My parents tried to get me into French wines, but it’s so foreign to my palate. I just love that big, lush California cabernet and that’s what we are going for.”

The  2007 Jocelyn Lonen chardonnay ($26) is another winner. I enjoyed this wine for its butterscotch undertone and tropical fruit flavors plus a long, creamy finish. The reserve cabernet franc ($60) is delicious, but less than 100 cases were made and you’ll  have to join the Jocelyn Lonen wine club to get a bottle.

The wines are made at a custom crush facility. While there is no physical winery to visit, there are plans for a Napa tasting room to open next spring.

Warning: Wine Holidays Ahead

Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda is holding its annual holiday open house on Saturday (Nov. 7) from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets   are available online for $35 or $60 at the door. In addition to the wide array of Rosenblum wines open for tasting, there will be music and appetizers, including zinfandel ice cream. Rosenblum’s reputation was built on top-grade zinfandels (their 2007 Rockpile zin won a 90-point score from Wine Spectator), but they also make some highly rated syrah and petite sirah wines.

Just a hop, skip and a ferry ride away from Rosenblum, at Dashe Cellars in Oakland, they will be celebrating the holidays on Saturday with a different twist — a paella party.

Dashe, located just off Jack London Square, will be showcasing some of the winery’s award-winning zinfandels alongside giant servings of paella prepared by well-known chef Gerard Nebesky.

The event runs 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. On tap for tasting will be barrel samples of the 2008 vintage along with some very special zins from the 2007 vintage, including wines made from the Florence and Louvau vineyards.

Ask for a taste of the late harvest zinfandel from Dashe, which won high praise in a recent review by the Wall Street Journal.