Showing posts with label California. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California. Show all posts

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Dao. Burgundy. Lodi. A Trio of Reds

Dao. Burgundy. Lodi.

A Trio of Reds
Casa de Mouraz 2011 (DAO), 13.5%, €17.50 Mary Pawle

The grapes for this excellent red come from several vineyards of Casa de Mouraz “some of which are mentioned in documents from the 16th century”. They were no doubt organic then and are organic now.

The wine has been matured in fine Nevers oak for 8 months and is a blend of local grapes: Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and the almost unknown Agua Santa.

It is an intense red colour with violet hue and the legs are in no hurry to clear. You’ll find ripe rich fruits in the aromas. It is smooth, spicy, with a lovely mineral streak, and a lasting finish. A serious drop indeed and Highly Recommended.




Ambroise Lettre d’Eloïse Coteaux Bourguignons 2013, 13%, €17.85 Le Caveau

The wines of Maison Ambroise, certified organic since 2013, are regarded as classic Burgundy “with distinct terroir influenced personalities”. This, new to the Le Caveau range, is 100 per cent Pinot Noir and has been aged in 400l barrels, two to five year old, for ten months. No fining or filtration has been applied so be sure to decant. 

By the way, did you know that synonyms for Pinot Noir include Pinot Nero, Pinot Negro, Spatburgunder, Blauburgunder.

Colour here is a pale ruby; red fruits in the aromas, most noticeably cherry. It is wonderfully fresh, the lively fruit flavours well matched by the acidity, a perfect balance, plus an excellent finish.  Highly Recommended.

Saw a few matching suggestions and the one that made most sense was Roasted duck breast with plum sauce. One from BBC Food here.
Jewel Collection Old Vine Zinfandel 2012 (Lodi, California), 14%, €16.90 Karwig Wines

Interestingly, this was “tested” on a Friday, then the Vacuvin was applied. The bottle was finished off on the following Wednesday and a small improvement was noted! The vine is made by a cooperative of growers from “gnarled 40 year old vines”.

Ruby is the colour, tending towards violet. And there are rich jammy aromas, plus vanilla. All that rich fruit appears too on the warm palate but nicely balanced by the acidity, some spice too, vanilla again, plus a decent finish. Pair with hearty dishes of beef, pork, fowl and various game. Recommended.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

California Wines at Ballymaloe. Variety Under The Sun

California Wines at Ballymaloe
Variety Under The Sun

 No less than eight grape varieties featured as Liam Campbell, in association with Wines of California, presented a very interesting and high quality tasting at the Grainstore in Ballymaloe last Wednesday.


The big “spread” was no accident as Liam deliberately chose to show that the Sunshine State can grow any variety under the sun. “No matter what variety, you can be sure that someone in California is experimenting with it.”
When you think of California, you bring up some lovely images: “Tee-shorts, shorts, flip-flops, beach, laid-back, easy-going. And the producers embrace that friendly attitude and praise one another’s wine.”

He started the whites with Paul Dolan’s 2012 organic Chardonnay from Mendocino. Classic Drinks are the importers and rrp is €26.99. The Dolan family has a Waterford connection. This “is totally dry but fruity with medium acidity”. It is full-bodied, with a persistent finish. Dolan is a leading proponent of biodynamic and organic grape farming, according to Wines of California (2014). This was my favourite of the three whites.


The Benziger 2012 Sauvignon blanc, imported by Febvre (rrp €24.99), “has quite a European accent”, according to Liam. “Great acidity with lemon, lime and apple characteristics, a very versatile food wine”. It certainly went well with the St Tola Ash Goat Cheese.

Benziger, not to be confused with the Beringers, are another vineyard that use natural farming methods and to quote from Wines of California: “The rolling hills of their Glen Ellen estate are home...to..sheep, cattle, and a host of bugs and birds that keep the vineyard in balance."

In between the whites and the reds, Liam spoke about the Morgan Bay 2014 Zinfandel Rose that we had started with as we took our seats in the grainstore. At 10% abv it is a light drink, also a little bit sweet. “But like Blue Nun, it gets people into wine; it is fresh and fruity and a great cheese partner.” Now it was time “to move on to the dark side”.

The reds started with a Pinot Noir, the La Crema (Monterey) 2012, imported by Celtic Whiskey & Wines with an rrp of €31.99. Liam praised it for its high acidity, a great summer wine, versatile and very good with food, not just red meats but may be served cool with poultry, fish and so on. Again, the vineyard is sustainably farmed. 

Wines are produced in four quality levels. We had an excellent example in Ballymaloe but apparently the Point Noir to watch out for is the third tier Russian River Valley 2011 from the Appellation series.

Liam continued his exploration of the many varieties when he next introduced the Barbera 2010 from Montevino (Spanish for mountain wine). “It has  a gentle ruby colour, looks very young for a 2010, plummy aromas now..mouth-watering, gentle tannins, high acidity that cuts the fat in your chorizo!” Sure did. It is imported by Findlaters and rrp is €14.50.

Wouldn't be a Californian tasting without a good red Zinfandel and our example was a Bonterra 2013, with a big abv of 15%, imported by Richmond Market, rrp €18.00. This has a pale-ish ruby colour with black fruits and gentle tannins and was a perfect match with that delicious Mossfield cheese. Bonterra, well known for their Merlot, are the leading producer of organic wines in California.

The Delicato Vineyards are one of the leading family vineyards in the US and produce under a variety of labels including Gnarly Head that you will see in Ireland. We enjoyed their First Press 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, imported by Cassidy Wines and with an rrp of €26.99 .This is ageing well, “a perfect ruby to the edge” and went down well. Liam’s tip here was to decant!


We finished on a high note with a Syrah, the Tepusquet 2013 from Cambria. You'll find it in O'Brien’s at €24.99. The Tepusquet vineyard has been replanted over the past 20 years. Liam: “The nose is subdued but there is a deep mine of flavour, black fruit characteristics and great acidity. Great with steak… but try it with fried calamari! The temptation is to use it now but it will age well.”

It was quite a tasting with nine wines in all. Thanks to Liam, Justine Adams from Wines of California and to Colm McCan of Ballymaloe. Thanks too to Ballymaloe for their terrific matching bites all through.

Some very recent post on California and its wines.
1 - California Trio. Zin, Zin and PN.
2 -Wines from California. Serious. Cheeky and Over Here




Wednesday, March 2, 2016

California Trio. Zin, Zin and PN

California Trio
Zin, Zin and PN

Zinfandel now has a birth cert. Until only recently, it was California's "mystery grape" because its origins were unknown. 


DNA fingerprinting has confirmed that Italy's Primitivo and Crljenak Kastelanski, an ancient Croatian variety, are genetically identical to Zinfandel grapes. However, differences in vine vigor and cluster size separate Zinfandel from its genetic twins, and further differences in cultivation, terroir and winemaking combine to give Zinfandel its own particular flavor profile with a truly American name, history and style. On wine labels, U.S. regulations require that Zinfandel and Primitivo be identified separately. Read more...

California Wines – Less is More is the title of a Wine Tasting  in Ballymaloe next week (9th) and I’d bet that a Zin or two will be featured.



Clos du Val Napa Valley Zinfandel 2013, 14.5%, €29.95 O’Brien’s
From the very first sip, there was no doubt but that this Zinfandel was going to get a Very Highly Recommended. The drinking was spread over two days: it just got better.

Color is a rich purple and the vibrant aromas are not at all shy: dark frit and more. It is magnificent on the palate, with its warming mouthfeel, full of red fruit flavours, vanilla too, some spice as well, fine tannins. It is rich and full bodied, elegant and refined, with a lingering finish. And, yes, Very Highly Recommended. 

The wine is produced in California but the the food match was made in Douglas. I bought the wine in O;Brien;s there and paired it with a gorgeous Pork and Prune Terrine from On the Pig’s Back. On the second day, it went very well indeed with mousaka. 

Clos du Val was started by John Goelet in 1970 and it was quality from day one. Wines of California, an excellent recent book on the area, particularly recommends their reserve Napa Cabernet Sauvignon (2008) and the Carneros Reserve Chardonnay.


Dancing Bull Zinfandel 2012 (Lodi, California), 14%, €10.00 on offer and widely available.

This is a wine for the barbecue, before during and after. A fun wine. Pretty good fun though and Highly Recommended. Generally, it seems that a fun wine in California is well removed from a poor wine.

Rioe fruit notes, particularly strawberries, dominate the aromas.No shortage of fruity flavours on the palate and there are vanilla notes too. Intense enough with traces of spice and pretty good length as well. Small amounts of Petite Sirah and Tempranillo have been added “for increased intensity and dark fruit characteristics”. Most of the Zin fruit comes from Lodi, the self-proclaimed “Zinfandel Capital of the World”.

Lodi has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California, many dating back to the Gold Rush of 1849. Lodi’s wine industry continued to flourish through Prohibition, thanks to farmers who maintained their crops for legally sanctioned “home winemaking.” Today, Lodi is Wine Enthusiast’s 2015 Wine Region of the Year and a leading producer of California’s top varieties. However, with over 100 varieties now in production, Lodi offers a vast portfolio of diverse and interesting wines, all of which thrive in the region’s Mediterranean climate of warm days and cool nights. More on Lodi here.

Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir, Central Coast 2013, 13.5%, €18.00 Bubble Brothers

Pinot Noir hasn't the best of reputations on the vineyard: capricious, a prima donna. But this is a delicate delight, Californian by birth but strong traces of a Burgundian accent, and is Highly Recommended. Cooperage: 40% new French oak, 60% neutral oak. The winery recommends pairing it with porcini and cremini mushroom risotto or roast rosemary chicken.
It has the typical light red colour, cherry to medium garnet. There is a beautiful red fruit nose, cherries plus berries. Fruit flavours follow through on the vibrant palate, restrained spice, fine tannins too, a lovely balance to this easy-drinking medium-bodied beauty and an excellent finish to boot.

Some 40,000 acres of Pinot Noir are now grown in California, well up on the 25,000 acres of 2004. Its popularity, according to the Wines of California, “is due to the general trend towards lighter, higher-acid food-friendly wines”. This lively Gladiator is certainly one of them, a good juicy one at that.

I bought this one from Bubble Brothers in the English Market and got good advice from Paddy. Must also say that the company's website is excellent, giving good detail on a big range of wines from around the world.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wines From California. Serious. Cheeky. And Over Here.

Wines From California
Serious. Cheeky. And Over Here.


California Wines – Less is More is the title of a Wine Event in Ballymaloe next month and here, by way of introduction, are three wines from the Golden State. Two are reasonably serious players, the other not serious at all!
Still on the lookout for Californian wines, so let me know if you have a tip!


Joel Gott Chardonnay (California) 2013, 13.8%, €14.99 Bradley’s, Cork.


This has a bright golden colour, micro-bubbles clinging to the sides of the glass. Aromas of white fruits, blossoms too. Fresh and fruity on the palate, tingles as it spreads its lively acidity, all combining in a really long finish. This elegant wine is unoaked and Very Highly Recommended.


The grapes come from three different counties of California; from Monterey (which enhances the acidity) and from Sonoma and Napa (for better concentration). It is all stainless steel after that with some time sur lies to “improve viscosity”.


The Gott family have been making wine in California for five generations and are also well known for Gott’s Roadside where you can get “great burgers and milk shakes” according to Wines of California which itself has Joel's recipe for Fish Tacos (paired with Sauvignon blanc). Watch out too for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Alakai (a red blend).
See the maker’s short video on the Chardonnay here.  
Wilson Vineyard The Crusher Chardonnay (Clarksburg) 2011, €16.90 Karwig Wines

Another with a bright golden colour, tints of green too. Aromas of white fruit, blossoms, even hints of herb. Great mix of fruit on the fresh palate, nicely restrained though, beautiful rounded mouthfeel, enough acidity to balance and a long engaging finish.

This well balanced wine is “a perfect candidate for a bevy of dishes. Try pairing with halibut with lemon butter atop of rice pilaf or a delicious vegetable stir-fry with soy sauce”. There is, by the way, a small percentage of Viognier included.

The Crusher, from Clarksburg (beginning to emerge on the wine scene), captures the freshness of this world-class growing region, and is Very Highly Recommended.
Barefoot Merlot (California), 13.5%, €10.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licence

“Wine tastes better in a tee than in a tux” is the motto, one of them anyway, for Barefoot who pride themselves on making wines “free from the tyranny of all wine snobbery”.  Jennifer Wall, their winemaker since 1995, is best known in-house as Pinky Toe and, with some 2,000 medals to her credit, Pinky is quite a success story. Barefoot is part of E & J Gallo since 2005.

Merlot, of course, is also quite a success story in California. In 1990, 15,205 tons of Merlot were crushed here and that had risen to 282,300 by 2014. In the US overall, consumption figures for the grape are 2.8 million cases in 1990, 18 million in 2014.

This Barefoot is a fun wine with 76% Merlot and 24% other red wines. The Merlot grapes were harvested from select vineyards in The Central Valley, at the mouth of the Sacramento Delta, a location which provides beautiful warm days and cool breezy nights that foster ideal weather conditions for perfect fruit ripeness.

Colour is purple and there are red and dark fruit aromas (mainly plum, cherry). This medium bodied wine is smooth and warming, full of raspberry and blackberry flavours, mild tannins, well balanced too and with a decent finish. It is an easy-drinker, good value and Recommended. One half of the house is more inclined to make that Highly Recommended, so I used my casting vote! It is versatile too and Barefoot say it may be served with beef, poultry, pasta (with tomato sauce), cheese and dessert.
Merlot. And Barefoot friends





Thursday, February 4, 2016

California Wines – Less is More; The Golden State at Ballymaloe

California Wines – Less is More
The Golden State at Ballymaloe
Grainstore at Ballymaloe


California Wines will be visiting East Cork on Wednesday, 9th March for a
tasting of California Wines. Liam Campbell, wine editor of The Irish
Independent, will conduct the seminar. Ballymaloe House will host the
tasting in The Grainstore at Ballymaloe.


The theme of the evening will be: California Wines - Less is More -
reflecting the new evolving style of more subtle flavours and balancing
alcohol. Less is More will focus in particular on Sonoma and Carneros,
because, as the coolest subzones, they are excellent examples of elegant
style, with their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs - among the most foodfriendly
and versatile of grape varietals.


The California Wines Tasting takes place in The Grainstore at Ballymaloe
House from 7 – 8.30pm on the evening of Wednesday 9th March. Liam
will guide his guests through eight elegant wines and explain why they
work well with suggested food pairings.


Tickets for the event are €10, including tastings and canapes, and available directly from Ballymaloe
House. Please book early to avoid disappointment. Please contact
Ballymaloe Tel 021 4652531 colm@ballymaloe.ie www.ballymaloe.ie

Press release

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

California Cheering. Star Reds: Predator and Rhiannon

California Cheering
Star Reds: Predator and Rhiannon


Rutherford Wines Predator Old Vine Zinfandel 2013, 14%, €25.99
(Stockists: independents including D6 Wines, Donnybrook Fair, Clontarf Wines, Matsons Cork & Bandon, Ardkeen Waterford.)


The cup that cheers comes from the California, not quite from the West Coast but from inland Lodi, known locally as the Capital of Zinfandel mainly because there are some two thousand acres of Zinfandel old vine planted here.


Colour of the Predator is violet and so so bright and healthy looking. The berries are prominent in the inviting aromas. Colour and aromas may well lead one to believe this is a lightweight. But the first attack, rich and full of flavour, announces that this a serious wine. Aged in French and American oak, it has fruit and spice and fine tannins too, a delightful balance and a lingering finish and is Very Highly Recommended.

You don't see Zin very often around here but you have more than likely heard of it. It is the red grape of California, even if it apparently came from Croatia via Italy (Primitivo). Wines from the old vines have more flavour and intensity. For a Californian viewpoint, check here.

The Predator refers not to some large monster of the place but to the humble Ladybird (Ladybug in Lodi). This little bug is encouraged in the vineyard and rewards the winemakers by feasting on the destructive aphids, one of many eco-friendly strategies adopted by Rutherford Wines.
Speaking of feasting, they recommended trying it (the wine, not the Ladybird!) with short ribs or a juicy burger. My tip (from experience!) is Poulet Basquaise.

Rutherford Wine Rhiannon 2012 red (California) 13.5%, €25.99.
(Stockists: independents including D6 Wines, Donnybrook Fair, Clontarf Wines, Matsons Cork & Bandon, Ardkeen Waterford.)


This is a blend of Petite Sirah (44%), Syrah (42%), and Barbera (14%); proportions can vary from vintage to vintage. The Petite Sirah is a half brother of the Syrah and the Petite refers to its grape size.


Deep ruby is the colour and there are quite intense aromas (cherry, blackberry). Rounded fruit flavours in the palate, tannins too; it is smooth and elegant with a lush mouthfeel, beautifully balanced and with a long finish. Continuous pleasure from vibrant start to refined finalé. Complex, yet so approachable. Very Highly Recommended.


Rhiannon was a Celtic goddess - magical birds and horses featured in her portfolio - and she is used here “in homage to our family’s Welsh roots”.  Use it to accompany grilled meats and chicken. Divinely (of course!) delicious as a glass on its own.