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It almost sounds like a set up for a bad joke, “What happens when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a segregationist governor walk into a bar?” But it’s actually a great story, and I’ve included a link for your to enjoy it yourself this holiday, recounted in Doc Lawrence’s “pull up a log and set a spell” natural storyteller’s voice.

From: “A WINE TASTING FOR THE AGES: DR. KING AND FINE WINE: A HISTORIC MEETING”  by Veteran Atlanta journalist and broadcaster DOC LAWRENCE and his wonderful Sips Across America column and blog.

 

“On a rainy night in Atlanta, four men met somewhat accidentally in a wine store with a rear lounge. One was the great Civil Rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Another was the segregationist governor of Georgia. They were joined by the Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper editor Ralph McGill and the store owner, Jim Sanders, the foremost wine importer in the South at that time. Sanders, a gifted writer, recorded the events of that evening, typing everything on his ancient Underwood typewriter.”

As he approached death in 1999, Sanders told me the story and entrusted me with his manuscript. I promised to share it with the world and to this day believe it to be one of the most fascinating tales involving wine and its potential for peacemaking.

I read Sanders’ transcript of that historic evening on my Atlanta radio show and proudly share it as Jim Sanders intended. I hope you join in sharing this with others.

There are many things to love about this odd evening of wine and conversation, and how, in a small, intimate moment over fine wine (a rosé, a sauternes sampling and a 1957 La Tache –Now selling for $3000-4000 a bottle, if you’re having a REALLY festive MLK day) these four men from very different perspectives and walks of life were able to civilly converse, and put aside their differences if only for a moment. One of Dr. King’s gifts to this country is, he helped get us to a place where the conversation lasted a lot longer and the civility took root in our hearts not just on the surface. In the spirit of a life well-lived and a philosophy of which we are the lucky recipients, here’s some ideas for wine and food pairings you can try for Martin Luther King Day.

If you’re feeling expansive (and fully recovered from Christmas and New Year’s excess) by all means, follow Dr. King to the mountaintop of deliciousness and indulge in a Southern feast fit for a King (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

This is a great post from RJ Reeves Jr. in Scrumptious Chef “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Favorite Foods: Celebrating The Great Man On His Birthday.”

However, The Sonomaist is endeavoring mightily to keep up her New Year’s Resolution of simpler and lighter, so y’all will have to let me know how those southern fried delicacies worked out! As an alternative to RJ’s righteous blowout, here’s an easy, light Southern Butter Bean Soup Recipe from Elizabeth Kelly that is both a tribute to Dr. King, and, bonus, a great pair with an “unassuming and flavorful little rosé”  of the type that was on the menu at Jim Sander’s wine shop that fateful evening. Since the name of that particular wine has been lost to history (and let’s face it, do you really want a 50 year old rosé? Didn’t think so.) Here are three choices from blowout to bargain —

2010 MacPhail Pinot Noir Rosé ($20) Crisp with a funky, barnyard-y strawberry nose. Nice barnyard finish that pairs well with the earthiness of the butter beans. (87 pts.) * Link is to the 2011 vintage.

N.V. Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé ($33) OR the 2007 Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé  ($42) Both are toasty bright strawberry inflected sparklers, but the 2007 vintage has a bit more gravitas than the more straightforward but perfectly enjoyable non-vintage offering which tends more towards the berry and less towards the rose petal and smoke of the 2007. Let’s put it this way, the N.V. is brunch and the 2007 is dinner. (N.V. 86 pts./2007Vintage 89 pts.)

2009 Inman Family Brut Rosé Nature Sparkling “Endless Crush” ($68) If you really want to blow it out big (It is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, after all) you can’t go wrong with this incredible 100%  Russian River Valley Pinot Noir stunner. Bone dry but with beautiful mineral, yeast and raspberry notes, followed by a bracing key lime acidity on the back. This is a gorgeous wine to cellar for a few years, or, break out this MLK day, even better! (94 pts.)

It is well-documented that Dr. King’s absolute favorite food was pecan pie, a difficult food to pair with wine to be certain, but I think it’s interesting that Mr. Saunder’s recounts in his memoir that Dr. King came to the wine shop searching for Sherry and ended up sampling three Sauternes, both a bit off the beaten track, but great matches for, you guessed it, pecan pie! Here’s a great post from Wine Peeps with some fantastic pairings (Sherry and Sauternes, natch) for that most quintessentially Georgian desert.

I find that legendary historical characters are far more interesting when we can look at them as ordinary people who did extraordinary things (doesn’t that make them even more extraordinary? If they don’t have capes and still perform amazing feats of strength?) That’s what I love about Saunders’ tale, it was a small intimate moment in a larger-than-life man’s existence. I like to picture Dr. King checking his watch and hurrying home after this strange evening at Sanders’ wine shop and recounting to Coretta the crazy night he had, perhaps over a nice glass of Sherry and a generous slice of  homemade pecan pie. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day everyone!

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In keeping with my New Year’s resolution I’m going to endeavor to make more easy healthy dishes and pair them with weeknight wines that won’t break the bank. Since I’m an avid cook, but certainly no recipe writer, I get by with a little help from my fellow bloggers. One of my absolute favorite blogs is Homemade With Mess. What better way to recover from holiday excess than with her light and easy take on a creamy Indian curry, Healthy Chicken & Butternut Squash Korma

The korma was easy to prepare and lightened up considerably with yogurt replacing cream and butternut squash in the place of some of the meat.

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The wine I chose to pair was a Trader Joe’s 2010 Cosmia Sonoma County Chardonnay ($5.99) It opened with a bright lime zest nose leading to a light body and tropical fruit flavor more akin to a warm climate Sauvignon Blanc than a typical “large and in charge” California Chardonnay. Pineapple, green mango and a bracing acidic green apple back. This was simple, easy to drink and would pair nicely with even spicier Asian foods (the curry was quite mild.) The tropical notes of the wine married well with the sweetness of the butternut squash, while the generous acidity was a good counterpoint to the creamy sauce and almonds.

The Trader Joe’s write up describes it as “oaky and buttery” but I didn’t get a lot of that on the bottle I tasted. I will admit though, that there can sometimes be larger variations between TJ bottlings than those of more mainstream wineries. This was a decent (82  pts.) wine  at a great price point! And the Korma was fantastic!

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New Year’s resolutions tend towards the simple. Rarely do people stuff their January 1st intentions with closets full of Birkin bags, Lamborghinis or vows to best Kobayashi in competitive eating endeavors. The vast majority (and easiest to keep) are the basics, eat a little less, spend time and money more wisely. An extra hour on the treadmill, ten more bucks a week to the 401k. Make time to slip out early as to not miss that dance recital or Pop Warner game.

In this spirit of simplicity, one of my resolutions is to include more “weekday/weeknight” recipes and tips. Ideas that can be integrated into the routine to compliment the more fanciful entries about Sonoma travel and tastings. Of course, there will always be the whimsey…So in the spirit of both simplicity and fancy, let’s talk about Arista Winery…

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Tiny waterfalls, mossy rock formations and stunning Japanese Maples placed with a minimalist’s eye combine to create this serene, Zen retreat overlooking valley vistas. You can rest your weary mind and even picnic here (customers only, please.) It’s a beautiful spot to slowly exhale…That is, once you’ve inhaled the gorgeous aromas of their impressive slate of reds that echo the elegant simplicity of the physical plant.

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Belly up to the small and often crowded tasting bar in a spartan converted farmhouse and enjoy the warm, laid-back hospitality of the McWilliams family who are often on hand to pour and talk about their wines, and always eager to point visitors in the direction of local tasting rooms with similar concepts (the fine folks at Arista are responsible for hipping me to Benovia, C. Donatiello and V.M.L. in the past, as well as others yet unvisited that are at the top of my wish list since they’re batting .1000 in their advice!)

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While the entire tasting is really fantastic, standouts included the 2010 Perli Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino Ridge ($52) The Mendocino Ridge is more than 1500 feet above sea level, so the grapes grow above the fog line, offering constant sun exposure, yet, it’s still cool enough because of the elevation that they get the slow, gentle ripening that yields exceptional pinot noir. The Perli opens with a full nose of farmyard and Bartlett pear, a medium body full of raspberry, licorice and wet concrete dusted with white pepper and a whisper of French oak. This is drinking beautifully now, but hints at an even more auspicious future given a few years of cellar time. It would be an amazing pairing for salmon in a potato crust.

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Having long been a fan of Arista’s pinots, I sometimes forget that they do a wonderful “pinot take” on what I consider a difficult to love varietal, zinfandel…

Their 2010 Smokey Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($36) is one of those zin exceptions that, for the most part, defies my low expectations of the grape. The huge nose of black pepper, Smuckers strawberry jam and lime rind are certainly zin-ny. As is the “drink on a weeknight at your own risk” 15.9% alcohol content. But on the palate is where it diverges from its peers. The strawberry fruit is bright and fresh, not dense, jammy and cooked like many zins. And the slightly tannic cocoa powder finish gives it gravitas to balance out the mouthwatering berries.  This is a zin touched with Arista’s zen. A lucky wine indeed!

RATINGS 1-10 (1 = Give it a miss. 10= Move heaven and earth to make this a part of your journey!)

INTERIOR = 6  EXTERIOR/VIEW = 9.5  WINE QUALITY = 9

OVERALL RATING = 9.2 *

 
Arista Winery
7015 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 473-0606
 
Open Daily 11-5
Tasting Fee $10
 
*Dogs are welcome, bachelor and bachelorette parties are not. That alone gives them an extra bonus point in my book!
 

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De Loach Winery is always a tasting room stop we make. It’s a testament to their consistently well-made wines (The legend, Greg La Follette, was their winemaker for many years and since 2008 his protégée, Brian Maloney has been at the helm.) The tasting room itself hits all the “correct” notes, some library bottles and chachkis, but there is a bit of a coldness there. I don’t know if it’s because DeLoach is under corporate ownership (Boisset purchased the winery in 2003) or if the tasting room had a stand-offish vibe even back when it was family owned (all that wine has dulled my memory!)

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I am certainly not one who revels in the “Party Bus” experience in a tasting room (to get a taste of that, try Merryvale in Napa after 6pm.) But I always find it pleasant when the employees seem engaged and interested and/or there has been some thought put into the layout of the tasting room, an attempt to infuse some personality into the experience. Unfortunately (and it really is, because the wine is terrific) the De Loach tasting room seems to be simply “going through the motions” on every level.

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The wines are what bring us back, and if you have time and aren’t just trying to hit a “best of” list, then De Loach is definitely worth a stop. Their Pinots are exceptional, from the rich, voluptuous, 2010 De Loach Estate Collection Pinot Noir to the 2008 De Loach Van Der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir on the other end of the spectrum with its more austere profile wrapped in yeasty smokiness. See more DeLoach wine reviews here.

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Some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had has been served under flickering fluorescent lights on chipped formica tables. Would I have preferred linens and low lights? Of course. Do I wish De Loach Winery had a tasting room personality that matched the magic they’re putting in their bottles? Sure. But sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and enjoy the moo shu in front of you.

RATINGS 1-10 (1 = Give it a miss. 10= Move heaven and earth to make this a part of your journey!)

INTERIOR = 5 EXTERIOR/VIEW = 7 WINE QUALITY = 8.5

OVERALL RATING = 6.8

De Loach Winery
1791 Olivet Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Phone: 707-526-9111
 
Taste 5 wines for $10
Picnic basket for two $30
Vineyard designate wines by the glass $12
Wine and cheese plates, tours and special experiences available to book online.

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 De Loach Vineyards 1791 Olivet Road  Santa Rosa, CA 95401. Phone (707) 526-9111

2009 Hawk Hill Vineyard Chardonnay ($50) Well balanced, refreshing bracing acidity and apricot. Not a lot of oak or butter. Very crisp. Would be a perfect pairing with quiche. 91 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2010 De Loach O.F.S. Chardonnay ($32) The O.F.S. is a multi-vineyard blend. A buttery nose and tart green apple midpalate cuts through the malolactic creaminess. A well-made wine. 89 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2009 De Loach Green Valley Pinot Noir ($45) Blackberry, blueberry and marzipan tart. Not completely integrated yet, needs time. 89 Pts.

2010 De Loach Estate Collection Pinot Noir ($50) The first vintage of a relatively new vineyard planted in 2007. Rich baking spices and plush plum. Smooth and well-integrated now with plenty of time to evolve even more. 92 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2008 De Loach Van Der Kamp Pinot Noir ($45) Planted at a 1200 ft. elevation in the Sonoma Mountains. This has a resinous, rosemary nose. Eucalyptus and tart red berries abound. Natural yeast adds an ethereal smokiness. 93 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2008 De Loach Forgotten Vines Zinfandel ($36) These vines were planted in the early 1900’s prior to Prohibition (hence the name.) A strawberry soda nose carries through on a simple berry basket mid-palate. 85 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2008 De Loach Nova Vineyard Zinfandel ($32) Made from Lake Country Zinfandel from dry farmed grapes planted in the early 1960’s. Cigar box nose, plums and dried apricots. Well balanced with a healthy does of acidity. Would be lovely with a fruit and nut cheese platter. 87 Pts. (Tasted 11/12)

2006 De Loach Pinot Noir Van Der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain ($42) Spicy, eucalyptus peppermint, red cherry fading to black cherry.93 Pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach Pinot Noir Masút Vineyard Redwood Valley ($45) Big black cherries. Super barnyard nose carries through on the finish. A manly, incredible pinot! 97 pts.  (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach Chardonnay Golden Coast ($45) Not much nose here. Perhaps it was served too cold? Super buttery, but with a nice acidic back. 88 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach O.F.S. Chardonnay ($?) The butteriness of the Golden Coast Chardonnay but more filled out with oak on the back. 89 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

2007 De Loach Green Valley Pinot Noir ($45) Eucalyptus, spice, cola, black cherry, This has an amazing nose and a beautiful earthiness. Classic Russian River Valley flavor profile, the forest in a glass! 93 (Tasted 9/10)

2006 De Loach Pinot Noir Sonoma Stage ($60) Mushroomy, loamy nose. Super smooth. 94 pts. (Tasted 9/10)

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Virginia Marie Lambrix has stellar wine making bona fides (U.C. Davis, Lynmar, DeLoach) and it shows, in her elegant, yet reasonably priced ($20-45) wines. This sophistication with a nod to the mysteries of the natural world that conspire to create such an ethereal beverage are reflected in the tasting room. The tasting counter is housed in half of a spacious renovated barn style room filled with natural light. The back section gives way to charcoal colored walls, dark wood, fireplace and  a feminine take on leather club chairs. As someone who never would have been invited into the always alluring British men’s clubs of a century ago, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps, Ms. Lambrix, who has managed to excel in the “men’s club” of wine, made this “club” for the ladies.

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A porcelain phrenology head emblazoned with butterflies, antique chemistry bottles and scented candles bearing the detailed, evocative etchings that grace every well-crafted bottle of wine peek out from mantle and shelf. In fact, the various label designs are so beautiful, one would be tempted to take a couple bottles home for the stunning visuals alone. Luckily, what’s inside matches, if not bests, its packaging. Every wine, from the Gewürtztraminer to the multiple expressions of Pinot Noir are excellent. Two particular standouts were the 2010 Boudreaux Vineyard Pinot Noir ($45)  full of tart red fruits, spice and rubber with a zingy acidity that does nothing to take away from the full, voluptuous mouthfeel, this is, in a strange way, a pinot that drinks like a Montrachet.

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The real revelation was the 2011 Late Late Harvest Desert Wine ($30.) More often than not I find desert wines to be a bit of a mediocre afterthought, even at some of my favorite wineries. This was an exception, however. The honeysuckle and orange blossom nose leave you wondering whether you want to drink or dab it behind your ears (my advice, do both!) The nectarine and cream honey is balanced beautifully by a vivid acidity and a wet quartz gravitas on the back. This wine demands a hard cheese and Marcona almonds, and who am I to deny it?

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The property is just as pedigreed as its current namesake. It was formerly Belvedere and most recently, C. Donatiello. But Ms. Lambrix has made it into something that amplifies her refined aesthetic.

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The gardens and picnic area continue the exacting attention to detail and design. The interplay of mosses and stone, water and reeds. This is a spot created to envelope you in something quiet and magical, and that it does.

RATINGS 1-10 (1 = Give it a miss. 10= Move heaven and earth to make this a part of your journey!)

INTERIOR = 8.5 EXTERIOR/VIEW = 9 WINE QUALITY = 8

OVERALL RATING = 8.5

V.M.L. Winery
4035 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA. 95448
Phone: 707-431-4404
Fax: 707-431-4402
 
Open 11-5 Daily
Wine Flights $10 (waived with wine purchase)
Cheese and Wine Pairing $25 ($10 waived with wine purchase)

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Chalk Hill Winery 10300 Chalk Hill Road Healdsburg, CA 95448. Phone (707) 657-4837

2007 Chalk Hill Sauvingnon Blanc ($28) Chalky, minerally, rich for a sauvignon blanc. No Green-ness whatsoever. Tasted blind I might mistake this for an un-oaked chardonnay. 93 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2007 Chalk Hill Chardonnay ($45) Buttery, just short of flabby, this is missing some necessary structure, but it does go down quite smooth. 87 pts. (Tasted (3/10)

2006 Chalk Hill Pinot Gris North Slope ($40) Tropical typicity. Nice mineral backbone. 89 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2005 Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) Carmel nose. Ready to drink. Very smooth, no green-nes to it. Lots of fruit. Not a woody or leathery cab, primarily fruit driven. 88 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2006 Chalk Hill Merlot ($50) Green, young, needs some time. You can taste the rich mocha underneath all the green veggies that will probably be revealed in 1-2 years (2011-12) This is a massive wine. 90 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

2006 Chalk hill Botrytised Semillon ($80/375 ml) A desert wine without much to offer but an over-the-top cloying sweetness, no real  complexity here. 86 pts. (Tasted 3/10)

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