Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Napa by Appointment: Burgess Cellars


Back in February when Paul and I visited Burgess Cellars. This visit was made possible by a friend of mine Elizabeth Werner Miller who had just relocated out to Napa from the Hudson Valley. I’ve been trying to get Elizabeth to be a judge at my wine competition for the past few years, but vacation always got in the way, and now she moved across the country to work for Burgess Cellars. Guess it wasn’t in the cards. What was in the cards was a wonderful tasting experience with beautiful views of Napa Valley at Burgess. You would of never known it was Elizabeth’s first week on the job.



Burgess Cellars dates back to 1885 when Swiss-Italian immigrants built the mountainside winery. From 1943 to 1971 is was known as Souverain Winery and in 1972 Tom Burgess, a former Air Force pilot and former corporate pilot for IBM purchased the Souverain Winery and renamed it Burgess Cellars. Tom was one of the pioneers of Napa Valley, back then at the time there were only about 20 to 25 wineries in the valley. The property is one of the oldest hillside vineyards in Napa Valley. They now call it Winery Ranch Vineyard at 27 acres. They also have another vineyard on Howell Mountain called Haymaker at 32 acres.



I was fortunate that Steve Burgess and Winemaker Kelly Woods stopped in on their way to an event. I found out when Tom worked for IBM he lived in the Hudson Valley town of Hopewell Junction until 1972 when he left NY for California. Small world.

The current winery building dates back to 1870 and the tasting was held in one of their active four cellars. Here are my tasting notes from the visit.

2015 Chardonnay,Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. This is the only wine that doesn’t come from one of their estate vineyards. Lime with a hint of butter, melon and pineapple. Nicely balanced with an elegance about it. SRP $42
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyards, Napa Valley. This wine is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest Petit Verdot, Malbec and Merlot. Very complex with black currants, cassis, cherry, Soft on the mouth and strong tannins SRP $54
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. This wine was aged in half new French oak. Notes of cherry, licorice and black cherry stood out in this wine. Very strong bold wine. SRP $120
2013 Merlot Triere Vineyard. This was one of their vineyards and the last Merlot produced from it before they sold it. Notes of cherry lavender, blackberry, plum, and mocha. Lots of tannins SRP $36
2013 Syrah Estate Vineyards, Napa Valley. Very elegant with notes of violets, boysenberry, hint of blueberry and black pepper on the finish. SRP $42
2011 Cabernet Franc - this was a special tasting. The vines these grapes came from were planted in 1978 and 1979. This was the last vintage from these vines and they have since been ripped up and replanted. The pepper on the nose was incredible. A really nice wine!

Enjoy the pictures from the trip!



Friday, August 11, 2017

The Other Side of Paso Robles - The Unexpected


Paso Robles is an area in California north of Los Angeles and south of San Francisco. When I visited it last they referred to the are the east side of 101 and the west side of 101. Today it is the third largest wine region in California and there are 11 viticultural areas within the AVA of Paso Robles. What is different about the region is all the areas have different terroir; climate, rainfall, temperatures, topography and soil. It has some of the most calcareous and siliceous soils of all the California AVA’s
When you think of Paso Robles you think of Zinfandel, that is what the region is known for. However, today there are many other other varieties planted like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Viognier and Roussanne. Paso has the largest acreage of Syrah Viognier and Roussane which are all Rhone varieties. It’s becoming known for non-traditional blends that you wouldn’t expect. These are proprietary blends, blending the above varieties into wine and bringing it to market. Consumers are just loving them, as I did during this tasting.
I will begin with the two unexpected wines that really surprised me. I would never think of blending these particular varieties in each of these bottles.

2016 Vina Robles White 4 SRP $16 Estate bottled these grapes were harvested at night to preserve the fresh flavors of the fruit. They were pressed and fermented separately in stainless steel tanks each with different strains of yeast that will bring out the best characteristics of the variety. After fermentation the wine was blended. The blend consists of 45% Viognier, 27% Sauvignon Blanc, 17% Verdelho and 11% Vermentino. Aromas of sweet floral notes, lemon bartlett pear and ginger escape from the glass. Flavors of pineapple, apricot and peach filled my mouth in layers. The finish had a bit of citrus peek that had a slight bitterness that faded fast.

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2016 Patelin de Tablas Blanc SRP $25 - This wine is a blend of five Rhone varieties. This is my first time with the Clairette Blanche grape. Not knowing much about it, my friends at Tablas Creek pointed me to a post about the grape that you can read here. The Clairette Blanche accounted for only 3% of the wine in the blend, the rest of the blend is made up of 52% Grenache Blanc, 24% Viognier, 12% Roussanne and 9% Marsanne. These 5 grapes are sourced from 9 different vineyards all who take great pride in what they grow. Here is a nice video showing who is involved with the production of Patelin de Tablas Blanc from the vineyard to the cellar.


Patelin Project from Shepherd's Films on Vimeo.

Now to the blend in the glass. Complex aromas of wet stone,a bit of grassiness and straw lead to a layer jasmine and passion fruit. The palate was just as complex with lemon zest, peach, wet stone minerality, pineapple and tropical notes with sweet spice that explodes on your palate on the finish and leaves you with a smile.

2016 Justin Vineyards & Winery Rosé SRP $22.50 Cabernet Sauvignon is the signature grape at Justin so it’s only fitting that they produce a Rosé with it. These grapes are specifically harvested for the production of Rosé. The crisp dry Rosé has a beautiful soft salmon color with aromas of peach and orange lead way to some minerality, and layers of cherry, peach, strawberry and watermelon. Very delightful and food friendly.

Adelaida Chardonnay HMR 2016 SRP $40 HMR is the initial for Hoffman Mountain Ranch where the grape are grown in calcareous limestone soil. I was quite surprise at this Chardonnay. Many times I think of California Chardonnay as over oaked, but this Chardonnay was very well balanced with the oak and acidity. The first sip was butterscotch but I had to let the wine open a bit to really get the true characteristics of what was in the bottle and I was amazed on how wonderful it was. There was lots of lemon curd notes,with apple, honeydew melon, hints of toasty brioche with a soft butterscotch finish.

After tasting these wines I realized it’s been to long since I was in Paso Robles and need to go back and visit to see how the region has changed. All these wines are affordable and food friendly. They may not be your ordinary blend but you won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Wine Education with Winephabet Street - B is for Beaujolais


In June I partnered with Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines to bring you some quick at times witty wine education and began with the letter A for Albarino. In July we brought you the letter B for Beaujolais. Now Beaujolais is not only referred to as a wine, but it is a wine region in France.

In case you missed our conversation about Beaujolais and the Gamay grape, you can watch it below or listen to it as a podcast.

It's fun and we explore:

  • The general characteristics of the grape / region
  • The history of the grape / region
  • Food and wine pairings
  • 5 quick facts
  • What Beaujolais is in our glass.
Plus you'll get to listen to my dog Summer howl throughout the entire video or podcast. Now I know what goes on when nobody is home.

I hope you enjoy it and join us Monday, August 21 at 8pm as we explore the Letter C - for Carmenere. You can register for the Letter C - for Carmenere here.







Listen to Winephabet Street Podcast 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Tellus Unoaked Chardonnay from Umbria


I always love when I get to go to a restaurant where I can BYOB. I like to grab something from my wine cellar and then pair dinner with it. Last weekend I found myself going to a restaurant and we weren’t quite sure if it was Italian or Mediterranean because the restaurant use to be Italian but they said the kitchen was being run by another restaurant that was serving Mediterranean food. Of course there was no menu online.

The wine I chose to pair dinner with was a 2015 Tellus Chardonnay from the Umbria region of Italy. This region of Italy is the only region in Italy that doesn’t border the sea or another country.

This wine has a unique label that was created during a crowdsourcing contest in 2008. I can totally relate to this. The event took place in Rome where painters were paired with wine lovers to translate the crowd’s wine impressions into visual form. The end result were the labels. Pretty cool! Some of the best labels come from events like this.



The wine was aged in stainless steel and was crisp with notes of lemon grass, citrus, honeysuckle and wet stone. On the palate flavors of apple, pear and hints of citus and nice acidity. This wine paired really well with the Watermelon and Feta salad I ordered as an appetizer. The wine is a great value at $12.99

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Conn Creek Small Lot Wines



Conn Creek Winery a winery I have passed numerous times on the Silverado Trail and have never stopped in. Why? I don’t know, but after this #winestudio program you bet I will be stopping by the next time I am in Napa.

Conn Creek was founded in 1973 and is named after a tributary of the Napa River that flowed through the vineyard. (They have since moved their operation not far down the road from the namesake creek) Their first vintage was released in 1974, Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon which received accolades by Robert Parker. They focus on small lots producing high quality wine from the Bordeaux 5 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

They grow grapes as well as source them from different sub-appellations throughout Napa. Since the Napa Valley is so diverse they feel they can capture the character and expression of each of the sub-appellations where they complement each other and create a complex layered wines. Their signature Cabernet Sauvignon is Anthology.

At Conn Creek they like to try new things and that is why the produce wines in small lots. This gives them a chance to experiment and try new things without a big commitment. The 2016 Antica Vineyard, Atlas Peak Napa Valley Rosé is just one of those small lot experiments. This is Conn Creek’s first year producing a Rosé and they chose the Malbec grape for their small lot experiment, producing only 67 cases. It was a success, so you can expect to see 100 cases produced next year.



The Malbec grapes for the Rosé come in and are sorted by an optical sorter. This automated sorting system uses a camera and sorts each berry by specific parameters; color, size and shape. Then the whole clusters are pressed and fermented in stainless steel tanks. This produces a beautiful light salmon colored Rosé with a floral aromas and light minerality leading to flavors of raspberry, pomegranate, wet stone and a hint of fennel. We paired this with poach fish and sausage. SRP $24

Friday, July 28, 2017

Argentina Wines of Distinction - Bodega Colomé

Last year I reviewed wines from Bodega Colomé a member of Hess Family Estates (read the review http://hudsonvalleywinegoddess.com/secret-high-altitude-vineyards-argentina) I spoke about the wines from the Salta region of Argentina and how the high altitude makes them special. What exactly does growing grapes at high altitude differ from growing grapes in the valley? This is what I am going to discuss today.

As you climb up a mountain to a higher elevation, the sunlight becomes more concentrated. Because of this intense exposure to the sun, the grapes develop a deeper pigment concentration in the form of a thick, tough skin leading to a deep intense color and strong tannins. The cooler nights improve the acid levels in grapes and there is low humidity. Due to the wide range of temperature the plants aren’t to stressed. This allows the grapes to concentrate on th color, aromas and flavors.

Every vintage brings a new wine. This year brought me the 2014 Bodega Colomé Malbec and the 2016 Bodega Colomé Torrontés. Both very nice wines. Torrontés aged in stainless steel is a good substitution for Chardonnay in my opinion.

2014 Bodega Colomé Malbec was slightly different than last year. The color was dark and intense almost like Coca-Cola. Complex aromas of coffee, black cherry, mocha, chocolate covered cherries and a hint of burnt toast escaped in layers from the glass. On the palate was both red and black fruit. Plum, red raspberry, black cherry, cherry mocha and a hint of spice on the finish. I served this with lamb burgers with Moroccan spice and the Malbec really brought out the cinnamon spice of the burgers. I should not that Wine Spectator rated this a 92. It’s a great value at a SRP $25

2016 Bodega Colomé Torrontés aged in stainless steel had a floral nose of honeysuckle and jasmine leading to flavors of apricot, lychee and citrus on the finish with nice acidity. This was a beach picnic wine that I had with tofu quesadillas. SRP $15

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reclaiming Galilee

I recently attended an Israeli wine tasting and it’s the first time I’ve tasted wines from Israel. I went in with an open mind and wasn’t sure what to expect. In my mind I was thinking Israel = Kosher = Manischewitz = Mevushal Wine (Wine that has been flash pasteurized to allow non-Jews to handle it)

Well, what an eye opener. There are an increasingly large number of kosher wines that are non-mevushal. No flash pasteurization. How is the process different and is it still Kosher? Yes. All the workers involved in producing non-mevushal wines need to be orthodox Jews. They do process a little different, like use Sturgeon proteins to fine the wine and no use of flour products that can sometimes be used in the making of the barrels.

At the tasting I had the privilege to interview Micha Vaadia, the winemaker of Galil Mountain Winery located in the Northwest corner of Israel on the border of Lebannon in the Upper Galilee mountain range. History has it that over 2,000 years ago, the mountain range was a prime location for grape growing. Today Micha and his team are trying to reclaim it to the region it once was. Established in 2000 they have replanted 70% of the vineyards with vinifera. He wants to bring the terroir into the glass and reclaim the Galilee region as the winemaking region it once was.

Galil is a 87,000 case production where 40% of the grapes come from vineyards that are managed by them. The remaining 60% come from vineyards they have long term contracts with. In these contracts they pay based on the quality of the grapes. It makes the vineyard owner take pride in what they are doing and producing.

Here are some of the wines that stood out from Galil Mountain Winery. I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up a bottle for the upcoming holidays.




2015 Galil Sauvignon Blanc Very nice flavors of fresh citrus, white grapefruit and pineapple.
2014 Galil Ela A blend of Syrah, Barbera and Petit Verdot. Dark and inky. You can smell a bit of the spice aroma coming from the glass. Lots of black fruit and a soft spice finish.
2014 Galil Yiron A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot. Lots of black fruit, nice finish with the Petit Verdot being dominant.

Grab a glass, sit back and listen to my interview with Micha Vaadia the head winemaker at Galil Mountain Winery.