Joel Vincent

Technology. Wine. Family. (maybe not in that order)

JuiceCowboy’s January Tasting Roundup

That time of the month folks. Round up of tasting notes that I’ve seen for the month. These come to us from any number of sources. I just generally run across many interesting notes from different sources in my seemingly never-ending quest to find that perfect combination of perfect wine for a reasonable price.

That combination takes alot of searching….

Here are the ‘fruits’ of that labor for this month:

From Wine Lover’s Page:

E. Guigal 2000 Saint-Joseph Blanc ($24.99)
Clear gold in color, bright and showing no sign of age, this rich white Northern Rhone is probably predominantly Marsanne, although neither the label nor the Website discloses the blend. Its delicious and complex aroma features mixed white fruit with hints of almonds, honey and tobacco leaf. Full-bodied and rich in flavor, there’s a pleasant whiff of toasted almonds behind abundant fruit, with plenty of zippy acidity for structure and food-friendliness. US Importer: Ex Cellars Wine Agencies Inc., Solvang, Calif. (Dec 31, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: This rich white would go well with a broad range of poultry or pork dishes and flavorful preparations of seafood and fish. It also made a fetching companion with a vegetarian dish from another part of the Mediterranean: Tuscan-style white beans long-simmered with fresh sage.

Domaine Leon Barral 2001 Faugères Jadis ($19.99)
Blackish-purple, opaque. Ripe plum and black-cherry scents dominate a fruit-forward aroma, but there’s plenty of earth to carry an Old World style: Leather and pleasant “barnyard” notes add complexity. Full-bodied, juicy and tart flavors, fresh black fruit and a hint of dark chocolate, nicely structured by crisp acidity; smooth tannins emerge as a cleansing astringency in a long finish, with a distinct whiff of fresh herbs and earthy grace notes that mirror the nose. US Importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif. (Jan 5, 2005)

FOOD MATCH: Although the wine’s full body could stand up to grilled red meats, its complexity rewards pairing with more subtle flavors. It was a great match with rollatini de versa e maile, Marcella Hazan’s pork-stuffed cabbage rolls in a light tomato-and-onion sauce.

From Vinography:

2002 Saxum Vineyards “Broken Stones” Syrah, Paso Robles, California

Since the age of 10, Justin Smith has been growing grapes in the same place in Paso Robles. At that tender young age he was planting grapes on the hillsides and ridges that his family still farms today. He has lived his life on this hard calcerous soil, kicking his feet in the dry dust, and unearthing his share of ancient petrified whale bones from the cement, hard ground, sometimes with the aid of a jackhammer.

…read more description and background…

This particular wine is 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache. The fruit comes from three different vineyards: Denner, Heartstone, and James Berry Vineyard, all of which share the proliferation of broken rock that gives the wine its name.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is dark black-ruby in color, perhaps one of the deepest shades of red I have ever seen. Its nose is remarkably high toned, probably owing to the Grenache, with aromas of candied violets and blackberries with some earthier hints of tobacco. In the mouth it is rich and full with a gorgeous, satiny mouthfeel and flavors of blackberry, tar, and cassis, that taper into a long, lasting, and very satisfying finish. Weighing in at nearly 16% alcohol this wine is incredibly smooth and shows no heat or effect of its high octane nature.

Food Pairing:
I tasted this tonight with a great beef daube, which was nearly a perfect pairing for the rich flavors of the wine.

Overall Score: 9.5

How much?: $35

2002 Spann Vineyards “Mo Jo” Red Blend, Sonoma
Filed under: Red Wine , Undiscovered Wines , Wine Reviews , Wines under $20

Everyone comes to the wine business from different places and for different reasons. Peter and Betsy Spann describe their entry into the wine business as “a combination of stupidity and bad real estate decisions.” Peter had worked in the wine business for years – in retail, wholesale, marketing, you name it – when he and his wine decided to move to the Bay Area for work during the height of the boom. They couldn’t afford to buy a house anywhere near San Francisco and so started looking farther and farther north until they found themselves visiting properties that came with vineyards in the back yard. Thinking that the grapes could be a source of additional income, they purchased a property outside of Glen Ellen and attempted to sell their first vintage just as the bubble was exploding. No one would buy. So they did what anyone else who harbored a love for wine would have done in that situation. They made their own wine.

Read more background…

…In addition to this wine, I’ve also tasted their “Mo Zin” and can say that if these two wines are any indication, they’ve succeeded at their goal.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a medium ruby color in the glass and has a rich nose of coffee and chocolate with some slightly floral overtones. In the mouth it is dense with exotic tea flavors that wrap around a core of brilliant cherry fruit and taper into a long finish of Indian spices that trail off for a good long while. It is well balanced and sits right on the edge of the divide between old world and new world in style.

Food Pairing:
While it goes against some traditional notions of food and wine pairing, I’d actually serve this wine with this soy glazed red snapper with sautéed vegetables and sweet potatoes. The soy glaze and the sweet potatoes require a wine that has a little bit of earth and spice to it but the wine is delicate enough not to completely obliterate the taste of the fish (any more than a soy glaze does already).

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $20

These wines can be tricky to find as they are made in quantities below 400 cases. Their “Mo Zin” Zinfandel is available online, but so far I haven’t been able to locate this wine at a retailer (other than in an obscure wine bar in Park City Utah).

2002 Tulip Hill “Old Vines” Zinfandel, Lake County, California
Filed under: Red Wine , Wine Reviews , Wines under $20

I’ve been curious lately about some of the more fringe appellations of Northern California, such as Lake County. A lot of grapes are being grown there, but not a lot of wine shows up with Lake County as its appellation on the bottle. What does this mean? Mostly that juice from these grapes is being blended in with juice from more “fashionable” appellations by wineries big and small in quantities below the 20% level that would require them to disclose their origin.

Read more background….

…This particular wine is made from a single vineyard site at the base of the Mount Konocti volcano in Lake county.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is light garnet in color and has a nose of stewed prunes and blackberries. In the mouth it is rather light for a Zinfandel — less concentrated than one would expect — with surprising flavors of strawberries and raspberries and a decent amount of acidity. Ruth liked this wine a lot, and I found it refreshing, even pleasurable, but not particularly complex or dynamic. This is a good wine for afternoon drinking and for those who are wary of Zinfandels that are full of spice.

Food Pairing:
This wine would go particularly well with light cheeses as well as lightly spicy foods. Try it with these smoked rib-eye and goat cheese empanadas.

Overall Score: 8

How Much?: $18

This wine can be purchased directly from the winery by giving them a call, or you can check their Web site for distributors in your area.

2001 Clos de la Coulée de Serrant “Becherelle” Chenin Blanc, Savennieres (Loire), France
Filed under: White Wine , Wine Reviews

One of the things I love about the world of wine is the sheer size and mystery of it. There are so many wines out there, and no matter how many times I taste what various winemakers do with a certain varietal, one day or another I come across a wine that makes me reassess what I think a particular grape can taste like. Perhaps I will feel differently when I’ve been seriously drinking wine for 40 years but I hope not.

…Read more background…

I don’t know in what quantities this wine is produced, but given its availability, I would guess there’s quite a bit of it.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a surprisingly cloudy brown-gold in color, reminding me of the hue of minerals like citrine quartz or topaz. Its nose seems right out of an old haunted house, a combination of ancient leather books, browned butter, and dog carried in from the rain, yet somehow despite these aromas normally associated with age, you don;t get the feeling that this is an old wine (although perhaps I am subconsciously influenced by the date I can see clearly on the label). On the palate it is just as unique, with dominant rich flavors of wet blackboard, chalk dust, and if you can believe it, roast turkey. The rich mouthfeel of the wine is kept from becoming syrupy by a modicum of acidity. The finish is substantial but not impressive. Truly, this was one of the most unique wines I have ever had, and encourage anyone to try it for that reason, however, I suspect that many will not like it.

Food Pairing:
After that description? It may sound strange but I think this wine would be an excellent pairing with stronger flavored seafood, shellfish, and even sushi. Go crazy, make an Uni (sea urchin) soufflé and try it out.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $23

There’s at least one merchant out there on the Internet that carry this wine, and probably more if you hunt for other vintages.

2003 Caves Plaimont “Colombelle” Blanc, Vin de Pays, Gascony, France

A few weeks ago I came across one of the best values in red wine I have encountered in a long time, and it seems this week I am bringing you its mate in the white wine category. What do I look for in a value white wine? Something that has enough complexity to warrant sipping on its own and something that pairs well with food.

Caves Plaimont has managed to meet both of these criteria with a wine they call “Colombelle” which is a play on the primary varietal used in the wine, Colombard. For many, including myself, this varietal, as well as its homeland, Gascony, France are off the beaten path and relatively unknown.

…more background…

Tasting Notes:
Pale, light gold in the glass this wine has a pleasant nose filled with aromas of green apples wet stones, old parchment, and a hint of mint. In the mouth it has primary flavors of pears and apples with a decent amount of acidity. It is balanced well until the finish, which while being lengthy, has a slightly hot end to it which marred an very good overall performance.

Food Pairing:
This is one of those drink with anything white wines, that could easily be just the bottle that you keep in the fridge for when you want something refreshing to drink. I’d say it would go well with this cream of cauliflower soup that has a hint of saffron.

Overall Score: 8.5

How much?: $6

This wine is available from several Internet merchants. Find one in your area.

VineSugar does several per day. I recommend heading over there to take a quick look at it if you have a particular varietal in mind. It is basically the author’s preferences determining the rating so thats pretty much the same as the Robert Parker Wine Enthusiast description we wrote about not long ago…trust it at your own risk!

Normally I would put one from Wine Enthusiast next but I didn’t see any worth persuing.

An article about not only the wine but the whole experience of the tasting room from SF Chronicle Wine section:

Take small sips of fine wines in a big red barn

You’re driving along a rural road and you spy two huge red barns with a sign advertising wine tasting, so you pull in.

Muscat the cat lies asleep in front of a gas fireplace inside a room stuffed with unusual food products – cranberry shallot relish and Chardonnay artichoke salsa are among them, etc. – along with cooking equipment, glassware, T-shirts and tchotchkes. The wine tasting counter is in the next room.

“You here to do some tasting?” the woman behind the counter asks, as other customers partake from a communal plate of goat cheese and crackers.

Stop right here. How expensive, and how well-made – a completely unrelated question – are these wines going to be?

After all, you’re in a barn. The restrooms are outside, a fairly distant walk away in a squat little red brick building. There is a lot of road noise, no view and no architectural pretension whatsoever. There are no tours and no activities, though they do invite you to walk through the Syrah vineyards out back on your own. You could be in a winery in Indiana.

Give up? The answers are, the wines are fairly expensive, but they’re very well made.

That’s because you’re not, thankfully, actually tasting wines in Indiana – you’re on River Road in Windsor, at Martinelli Vineyards and Winery, a 109- year-old family-owned business that had the good sense and fortune to hire the celebrated Helen Turley as winemaker. …

Read more of the article…

That’s when the red-barn, down-home family-business image finally connected with the experience. Martinelli has no marketing or public relations representative and no informational pamphlets. The Web site (martinelliwinery. com ) is rudimentary. Despite the neophyte visitors I encountered, it’s not really a good winery for non-aficionados.

But for fans of Turley, it’s worth dropping by. It’s astonishing to find famous, sought-after wines these days in such unimposing surroundings.

And it’s shocking to taste them for free. Sometimes a little bit of Indiana in Sonoma County is a good thing.
Martinelli Vineyards and Winery

3360 River Road, Windsor

(707) 525-0570

10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily



FOUR STARS……..Extraordinary

THREE STARS…….Excellent


ONE STAR……….Fair

BOX …………..Poor.

Ratings are based on an anonymous visit by a Chronicle staff member, and include atmosphere, value, staff attitude and the variety of activities available to the public.

Enjoy the Wine Life!


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