Monday, August 30, 2010

Honoring a Great Wine Institution

Multi-generational businesses (especially in wine) are rarer and rarer these days. Rarer still, are businesses in which the people on the selling end are treated with great respect and kindness. Just a couple of reasons why it was such an honor to be invited to Joseph George's 70th anniversary tasting for his best customers at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga yesterday.

Back in 1966, my family started distribution of its wines in California, and Joseph George was our first. Over the years, we've maintained contact with the George family, especially with Bert George (pictured, right) who opened the family wine shop in San Jose in 1997. Bert George is one of those legends in Bay Area wine, and his wine shop is home to the rarest and best wines from California.

Under normal circumstances, getting owners (especially those from Napa) to attend tastings is extremely rare, but on Sunday there were many wine stars present pouring their wines. Though, I didn't get to taste as many wines as I wanted, a couple that stood out for me were the 2006 Lewis Cellars Cabernet and 2006 Portfolio (made by Genevieve Janssens).

We had the great fortune of having tables for La Rochelle and Steven Kent, and we poured, among others, the 2008 Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir and 2007 Clone 4 and Clone 30 Cabs (Gregory Peebles, our Sales Manager pictured, left).

The evening was terrific: a beautiful venue, great wines, and a great family. Here's to another 70 years!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Friday's Snippets

From the department of "be careful what you wish for" came this weather forecast from the center of the Earth:
Monday - 99
Tuesday - 107
Wednesday - 105

Luckily for all of us, and the was much cooler later in the week 75 and wind gusts like the remake of Mary Poppins on Friday.
Check out videos on Block 30 Cabernet here, the variability of Veraison here and Ghielmetti Vineyard here. If I seem out of breath in some of these...I was. It was about 105 degrees, and I'm out of shape! Hopefully the content is interesting.
Writing the notes right now for Fratello, our annual Tasting Room team blend put together to benefit breast cancer research. This year, we focus attention on men who have the honor of one of our own recovering team members, Domenic.

This wine is a blend of Barbera, Petit Verdot and Merlot and was put together by members of our Tasting Room team. Fratello will be available starting September 2, 2010. Help us to help breast cancer research...and get a great wine as a thank you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Did someone say Cab?

Last night at our winemaker's pairing, Chef Neil Marquis dazzled 30 guests with his cuisine which he paired with our La Rochelle 2009 Pinot Gris, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Home Ranch Vineyard, and two soon to be released Single Vineyard Cabernets for Steven Kent; 2007 Smith Ranch and 2007 Ghielmetti Vineyard. The pairing was wonderful and we enjoyed another evening of fine food, wine and friends. Pictures are up on our Facebook page if you're interested!

If you didn't get a chance to sip on these wonderful Cabernets, we invite you to come out to the winery on Thursday, September 2nd from 12-4:30 for #Cabernet Day! This day is devoted to the King of all Grapes and lover's of this varietal will be tweeting and status updating for 24 hours singing it's praises! In honor of the day we're offering a special one day menu in the Barrel Room with the three Cabernets from our pairing as well as another new release for us, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley.

Click Here for the deets

Hope to see you at the winery!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday's Snippets

Just bottled the 2008 Premier Cabernet Collection - Ghielmetti Vineyard, Clone 337. Due for March 2011 release, this is the first time this clone has ascended to the top of the Cabernet mountain. Beautiful fruit on entry, mid viscosity, and focused tannin on the finish, this wine will be a favorite. Available to order in September, only two barrels this time around. A few three-packs of the spectacular Clone 30 are still available. Reserve one before it's too late!
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Traveled to Atlanta earlier this week to meet with a great retailer in the metro area, Chris Hinton, whose store - Hinton's Wine Shop, is noted for having one of the best selections of high-end wines in the area. Chris and his crew (Keith, Richard, and Cory) liked the wines and will hopefully become a flagship location for Steven Kent in the near future. 
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For those wondering about the lateness of the growing season, given all the rain we had in the winter and spring, and the cool temps so far in summer...ripening is not just about heat, it's also about the amount of solar radiation, or sunshine, the grapes get. Cooler temperatures generally mean less smog hanging around and clear skies means more sunshine. Steve Heimoff notes this in a recent blog post. The cool growing season has many people optimistic, however.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

'Cabernet Day!'

'Cabernet Day!'
Click on the link to read about our special Cabernet Day menu at Steven Kent on Thursday, September 2nd!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

If it's Saturday, It Must be Blending Day...

For those of you who have tuned in to my Blog or Facebook, you know, I'm sure, that the time spent blending in the cellar is nearly as good as it gets.

Saturdays before and after harvest are the perfect time to go through barrels, talk to myself, whoop (when the barrel is whoop-worthy) and generally celebrate all things vinous. I'm alone, I have 800 barrels of wine in various states of readiness and a list of wines I want to put together.

Today, the attention was focused on 2009 Sangiovese...the 100% offering that goes to our Collector's Circle members, the blend of Sangi and Cab (Vincere) that's for the Future Release Program and the Single Vineyard Series Cabernet Sauvignon - Home Ranch that is for everyone who loves great wine!

After tasting through 22 barrels of Sangiovese and 17 barrels of Cab, I messed around with specific barrels until I got what I wanted for three different wines. The 2009 vintage of Home Ranch Cab and Sangiovese are lovely. The SVS Cab is outstanding, very lush, very black-fruited, and with another year in barrel, the wine will be rounded out, ageable and delicious.

The Sangiovese was a little more difficult. I thought the newer barrels showed barrel than the second-use did. There is enough fruit in the wine to compensate for the more obvious wood notes... in fact, the new French oak barrels highlighted the fruit, adding structure along the way.

I am very excited about the wines...2009 Vincere, 2009 Sangiovese, and 2009 Single Vineyard Series Cabernet - Home Ranch Vineyard...and hopefully over the next two release years, you'll be as excited as I am!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Radius 5 - What Our Club Members Thought

Radius 5, a blend of 75% Cabernet and 25% Syrah was released last weekend to our Future Release Program club members. Looking for feedback and an interesting way of sharing comments, we asked members to jot down words to describe their reaction to their new wine. Thanks to everyone who played along.

To the right, you'll find a wordle of those comments. The wordle assigns weight to the font based upon how many times a word is used. As you can see "smooth" and "sexy" were repeated a number of times. "Mo-better" and "yum-mo" were used less frequently but with every bit as much panache.

Single words work better for this exercise, but we want to leave you with a few comments about Radius 5:

"If I took it to dinner...we'd make out."
"It is so good it makes me want to cry." And, finally,
"I joined the club. Need I say more?"

Click here to learn more about Steven Kent's wine clubs.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The First Hints of Color

The first hints of color in the Home Ranch vineyard are a very welcome sight. Due to a very rainy and cool early Spring and current temperatures hovering in the high 70's, this growing season is off to a very slow start.

If this were Bordeaux where harvest-time rains are a common occurrence, being at least 2 weeks behind would be cause for much hair-pulling and Gallic consternation. But this is California, land of sunshine and perpetual optimism (only way to survive in the wine business!), and more than likely late August and September heat will rapidly decrease the gap between where we are and where we should be.

The photo above on the left is Sangiovese, the first grape to be harvested from the Home Ranch. You can see many more berries on this bunch are beginning to go through veraison, the time of year where the grape skins turn from green to red, berries soften up, and the cells of berries begin to size up.

Below to the right is Cabernet. Only the row along the side of the drive shows any color at this point, due probably to the fact that more light (and consequent higher temperatures) can penetrate to the fruit zone on the road side. Cabernet will be picked last from the site in a normal year.

Thus far, the season looks to be a good one. Volumes are about average and there appears to be far less shatter among our blocks most prone to this problem (Merlot, for instance). There are reports of fairly widespread mildew challenges in some Livermore vineyards. Thankfully, Ghielmetti and Home don't show any signs of it.

As the season progresses, look to our blog for more updates.