A Tale of Two Elizabeths and Bee Hunter Wine

Reception
Photo by Sommelier Christpher Sawyer (http://sawyersomm.com/)

As luck would have it, it was a very cold night for the kickoff reception and dinner at the 13th Annual Anderson Valley Aromatic White Wine Festival hosted by the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association. However, it was under the warmth of a heater, accompanied by delicious wine and food, where the two Elizabeths, one from Philo and one from Napa, would first meet and discuss the magic of their name, which comes from the Hebrew word, elīsheba`, meaning God is my oath.

Philo Elizabeth
The next day, Napa Elizabeth entered the festival’s grand tasting, and before her very eyes stood Philo Elizabeth (also known as Alisa or Ali Nemo) and her partner, winemaker André DuVigneaud (Andy), who beckoned her to taste two of the rieslings from Bee Hunter Wine, their winemaking project featuring a range of whites, a rosé, and reds from the hidden gem vineyards of Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. Like a bee is always hunting for the perfect garden, Bee Hunter, a word from Boonville’s own language dialect, Boontling, is always searching for lesser-known, sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyards from which to source their grapes.

Boont Berry
Napa Elizabeth’s mission: to find the festival’s perfect pairing for their 2015 Wiley Vineyard Riesling ($24), whose slight effervescence gave it a unique Pét-Nat or cider quality. She buzzed around the room (pun intended), stumbling up on the small plates prepared and served by Boont Berry Farm Store, which featured locally sourced foods like smoked salmon, turkey, avocado, mushroom, sweet onion, and cranberry. The winner: the plate that Andy fondly called “deconstructed Thanksgiving”, featuring the turkey, onions, mushroom, and cranberry cream cheese spread. Better grab this wine for your Thanksgiving table before it is gone.

Yorkville Highlands
The two Elizabeths would reunite that evening at Bee Hunter’s pop-up tasting at Aquarelle Catering & Events in Boonville. Napa Elizabeth tasted through their available portfolio and could not get enough, so returned once again the next day to discover that not only is Andy a winemaker, but he is a chef, making his own brisket sliders and BBQ tacos, surprising those who ventured in to taste. He made a special-order plate for Napa Elizabeth that fit her wellness lifestyle. The wine pairing: Bee Hunter’s take on Bordeaux, the Yorkville Highlands blend of 50% cabernet sauvignon and 50% merlot ($48), which showed off its higher-terrain terroir in unison with the rich, fatty brisket.

Pinot Noirs Together
Napa Elizabeth was sad to depart Boonville, but Philo Elizabeth said that she and Andy would be in Napa soon, the following Thursday, in fact, and the two reunited for a wine club pickup at Mumm Napa. As they said goodbye, Philo Elizabeth handed Napa Elizabeth two open samples, the 2014 Bee Hunter Mendocino Pinot Noir ($48) and the 2014 Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir ($60). She returned home to taste with her cat, Einstein, by her side, and spoke to Philo Elizabeth and Andy via telephone the next day to get the rest of the story.

As always, your palate may vary.

Mendocino
2014 Bee Hunter Mendocino Pinot Noir
With grapes sourced from three vineyards in Mendocino County – Wiley, Docker, and Oppenlander – this wine is aged 20 months in a mix of 20-25% new, tighter grain, French oak barrels, and the remainder used one to four vintages. This oak regime, longer extraction time, and a blend of vineyard sources renders this wine very fruit forward and aromatic, a delight for even the most sensitive wine drinkers. A light garnet color in the glass, this wine shows juicy, sweet berry fruit like black cherry on the front of the palate, finishing with a tart berry mélange of redcurrant and cranberry with a backdrop of black tea.

Oppenlander

2014 Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noir
Made the same as the previous wine, but sourced from one vineyard, Oppenlander Vineyard, located just north of Anderson Valley and east of the coast, but close enough to enjoy the cool, foggy coastal influence, this pinot noir is the dark and brooding sibling to the Mendocino. A medium garnet in the glass, this wine is creamier, more weighty on the palate, and reveals an intense, brambly fruit profile of blackberry, blackcurrant, and black raspberry. The zingy acidity and spice are notable, the latter of which reminded me of my favorite cinnamon tea. If you spend any time with Philo Elizabeth and Andy, you may hear this wine referred to as “Guns & Kittens”, a throwback to their first vintage meeting with the growers in their 1860-era farmhouse and its plethora of vineyard kittens and 30 long guns, which precariously found themselves together in a closet during this fateful visit. The following year, one of the vineyard kittens, Baxter, found a home with Philo Elizabeth and Andy, joining family members Cleo and Puff.

Thankfully for us, this is only the beautiful beginning of the tale of two Elizabeths and Bee Hunter Wine. Visit their website, where you can purchase wine, learn about their Bee Hunter Brand Ambassadorship program, book a tasting event, or become a Bee Hunter club member yourself. Stay tuned and always bee huntin’.

Cheers!
Napa Elizabeth

 

 

Dutton-Goldfield Winery

2013 Cherry Ridge Vineyard Dutton Ranch Syrah
2013 Cherry Ridge Vineyard Dutton Ranch Syrah

Once you visit Dutton-Goldfield Winery in the Russian River Valley, you understand the significance of the phrase ‘cool climate’ with regard to winegrowing and winemaking. It is indeed quite chilly in the mornings, with moderating breezes throughout the day. I must confess that if I were not living in the Napa Valley, I would love to call Sebastapol and the Russian River Valley home.
*CLICK HERE TO READ*

April 2016 Samples Roundup

As promised in my previous post for Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #24 (#MWWC24 – have you voted yet?) there will be fewer isolated sample reviews and more meaningful experience reviews, so that wines I taste have both a story and a better sense of time and place. However, I am finally catching up with some samples I received last fall and thought I would share these with you. Some were reviewed on Delectable and Vivino as well, which for me, are easy, uncomplicated outlets in which I can post.

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Cave de Turckheim Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2012, Alsace

Cave de Turckheim Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2012, Alsace, France
It’s not often I have the opportunity to taste Grand Cru Alsace wines, so I was thrilled to receive this sample from Cave de Turckheim’s sales and marketing teams, Preston-Layne & Partners, Inc. and Alliance Alsace. I decided to taste this sample to celebrate the end of March wine club month at my day job and it did not disappoint. What I love about Alsatian wines are the brilliant acidity and minerality, which are showcased in this wine. Citrus and tree fruits permeate the senses. This riesling is clean, crisp, and refined. It is approachable now, yet age worthy, too. Suggested pairings include shellfish, but I paired this with Asian food and it worked splendidly. Riesling goes with everything, yes? (sample, $55)

Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Bernau Block 2012, Willamette Valley
Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Bernau Block 2012, Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir Bernau Block 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon
It has been a while since I had a non-California pinot noir. My immediate reaction to this single-vineyard block offering from Willamette Valley Vineyards is clean, structured, and pretty, with an interplay of fruit, earth, and gravel. Tart plum and red berry flavors are present, but exist in harmony with terroir-driven minerality and delicious acidity. (sample from the winery, $55)

Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor Malbec 2012, Agrelo, Argentina
Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor Malbec 2012, Agrelo, Argentina

Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina
Deep purple-red in color, this malbec from Bodega Nieto Senetiner smells of fresh violets. On the palate, very fruit forward, blueberries and blackberries abound. Not complicated and easy to drink. It’s calling for carne asada. (sample from the winery and Big Bang Wine, $20)

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Nieto Senetiner Malbec 2013, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina

Nieto Senetiner Malbec 2013, Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina
This malbec is dark purplish-red in the glass, floral on the nose, and round on the palate. Dark berry flavors, combined with a hint of vanilla and soft tannins make this it easy to drink. This is summer barbecue ready. (sample from the winery and Big Bang Wine, $11)

Nieto Senetiner Camila Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina
Nieto Senetiner Camila Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina

Nieto Senetiner Camila Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina
This is the softer side of Malbec, with rich color, yet a lighter body and gentle tannins. On the palate, it tends toward more tart fruit flavors like plum and red berries. (sample from the winery and
Big Bang Wine, $13)

Cheers!
Beth

A Couple of Weekend Whites

2014 Cave du Roi Dagobert Riesling Racines et Terroirs

It’s been a crazy busy month, so much so that almost all of my posts were written prior to March 1 and scheduled in advance. Originally my plan was for March to be a dry month. However, early on, I changed my mind. I was thirsty to try new wines. Below are a couple of weekend whites, ready for spring and summer sipping.

2013 Coquerel Terroir Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Coquerel Terroir Sauvignon Blanc

I’ve become picky about sauvignon blanc since I moved to the Napa Valley. Many of them are produced like chardonnay and they turn out overripe and overly oaked. I’m happy that the 2013 Coquerel Terroir Sauvignon Blanc, Walnut Wash Estate Vineyard, Calistoga, is not either of these. Sure, it has some welcomed creaminess from seven month of oak aging and weekly stirring of the lees, but right out of the gate springs vibrant acidity and a burst of bright, tart citrus. The added time in the bottle has made this wine better, a playful balance of texture and fruit.  It’s fantastic. I paired this with amazing veggie pizza from Pizzeria Tra Vigne. Coquerel only produced 145 cases of this wine, so if you want any, it won’t last much longer. ($32, sample)

2014 Cave du Roi Dagobert Riesling Racines et Terroirs
2014 Cave du Roi Dagobert Riesling Racines et Terroirs

A couple of months ago, a wine business peer in France contacted me about sampling a wine that’s recently secured distribution in California, the 2014 Cave du Roi Dagobert Riesling Racines et Terroirs, Alsace AOC. Cave du Roi Dagobert, founded in 1952, is a collective of 250 producers and almost 1000 hectares of vineyards. I rarely mention the bottle label, but you can’t help but notice the beauty of this one, which depicts the four soil types from which these riesling grapes originate: marl, limestone, clay, and sandstone. Although this wine has 3.2 g/l of residual sugar, you won’t notice it with this wine’s brilliant acidity and striking minerality. Stainless steel production fermentation and aging allows lemon verbena and tart citrus to shine on the nose and palate, making this a perfect match for seafood, especially shellfish. ($15, sample)

In closing, have I said how glad I will be when March is over? I am thankful that there are only 13 more days remaining. April can’t get here any sooner.

Cheers!
Beth

 

What’s in my Glass: Ferrari-Carano and Old York Cellars

Ferrari-Carano Wines
Ferrari-Carano Wines

The past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to participate in two virtual tastings, one with Ferrari-Carano on November 12 and one with Old York Cellars on November 19. I always enjoy these tastings because the participants interact with winemakers, ask questions, taste the wines, share opinions about the wines, and suggest food pairings. Below are my thoughts. All were provided to me as samples. For the Ferrari-Carano tasting, two of my work colleagues, Bradley and Cole, joined me, so these notes reflect our collective perspectives. I also re-tasted the Ferrari-Carano wines alone at home after being opened a couple of hours.

2012 Ferrari Carano Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley Carneros
2012 Ferrari Carano Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley Carneros

2012 Ferrari-Carano  Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley Carneros, SRP $38
We are not ABC (all but chardonnay) tasters, but all three of us were a little wary of this wine initially because we were afraid of the production style. However, I am happy to report that we found this chardonnay to be well made. It is definitely a California-style chardonnay which sees 100% malolactic fermentation and sur lie aging in French oak, then an additional five months in neutral oak. However, this robust chardonnay exhibits fruit flavors such as green apple, stone fruits, and sweet citrus, accompanied by oak-influenced flavors like caramel and nut, and a creamy, rich mouthfeel.

2013 Ferrari Carano Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley
2013 Ferrari Carano Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

2013 Ferrari-Carano  Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County), SRP $36
The three of us chose this wine as our favorite of the tasting, as well as the most indicative of its growing region, Anderson Valley. The grapes for this wine come from three ranch vineyards in Alexander Valley and are hand harvested and sorted. The production includes cold soaking, fermentation in open-top fermenters, and 10 months of aging in a combination of new and neutral French oak. This wine has all of the characteristics of a cool-climate pinot noir: earthiness, spiciness, a firm backbone of acidity, and fruit flavors such as cherry, currant, and plum.

2012 Ferrari Carano Trésor
2012 Ferrari Carano Trésor

2012 Ferrari-Carano Trésor, Sonoma County, SRP $52
The grapes for this blend of 71% cabernet sauvignon, 9% petit verdot, 7% malbec, 7% merlot, and 6% cabernet franc , are hand sorted, fermented in stainless and oak, then aged in new and older French, American, and Hungarian oak barrels. The resulting wine is quite balanced, with a silky mouthfeel and soft tannins. Aromas and flavors of baked blackberry and blueberry dominate, supported by oak-imparted flavors such as caramel and spice. My cohorts and I thought this wine was palate friendly enough to be enjoyed by drinkers who might typically be afraid of red wine because the tannins are well integrated.

Old York Cellars Sweet Riesling and Merlot
Old York Cellars Sweet Riesling and Merlot

NV Old York Cellars Merlot
(only available pre-release as part of a two-pack with the sweet riesling, price of $28 for both bottles)
In this offering, Scott Gares, the winemaker at Old York Cellars, decided to create a blend of two vintages, 2013 and 2014, to achieve the tannin structure and body of the 2013 and the bright fruit characteristics of the 2014. The resulting wine is one that is easy on the palate and the wallet. This merlot shows mostly sweet fruit flavors such as black cherry, raspberry, and pomegranate. Virtual tasters paired this wine with cheeses, Cabot White Oak Cheddar (aged cheddar), Thanksgiving-inspired recipes, and even chocolate.

2013 Old York Cellars Sweet Riesling, SRP $17
(part of a two-pack with the merlot, price of $28 for both bottles)
I usually do not gravitate towards the sweeter side of riesling, unless it is German. However, in this case, the wine is really not that sweet, more of a medium sweet, and that sweetness co-exists with good acidity. Aromas and flavors of crisp, ripe apples come together with citrus to create a juicy, mouthwatering, food-friendly wine that will liven up rich, holiday meals, as well as pair with soft cheeses, Cabot Monterey Jack cheese, and even cheesecake (as suggests the bottle’s back label). Just say cheese.

Tasting fun with my co-workers!
Tasting fun with my co-workers!

I am happy to announce that I will be participating in two more virtual tastings this year, a tasting of the current release of Hope Family Wines Troublemaker 9, a wine (Troublemaker 8) I have reviewed previously, on December 9, as well as a tasting of Trump Winery sparkling wines as a participant in #vawinechat on December 10. I hope that you will join me!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Beth

Kemmeter Wines

My visit to Kemmeter Wines
My visit to Kemmeter Wines

On August 1, 2013, just over two years ago, winemaker and proprietor Johannes Reinhardt opened his own winery, Kemmeter Wines, to the public after being the winemaker at Anthony Road Wine Company since 2000.

To read the rest of my review, CLICK HERE, and enjoy my first contribution to American Winery Guide. Thank you for your support and for reading.

Cheers!
Beth

Got #hashtags?: #VirtualVines, #ZinEx, and #BWETaste

This past week and a half, I had the good fortune to participate in three events, two virtual, one live: #VirtualVines with Old York Cellars (January 29), Zinfandel Advocates and Producers’ (ZAP’s) annual #ZinEx, Zinfandel Experience (January 31), and #BWETaste (February 4), a virtual tasting with Hope Family Wines, a sponsor of the Boston Wine Expo, which I attended two years ago. Here is my roundup of the wines and events.

Old York Cellars Southpaw Collection
Old York Cellars Southpaw Collection

#VirtualVines with Old York Cellars
As you may recall, Old York Cellars invited me to participate in a similar virtual tasting a few months ago, which resulted in my first experience with New Jersey wines. When they asked me again to taste their port-style offerings, I couldn’t refuse, even though I don’t typically drink port-style or fortified wines because of my palate sensitivity to alcohol. The samples were provided by Old York Cellars. Below are my thoughts.

2012 Old York Cellars Southpaw White
2012 Old York Cellars Southpaw White

2012 Southpaw White (port-style Riesling)
Bronze Medal: US National Wine Competition
20.6% alcohol, 7.5% residual sugar, $24.00 (500ml bottle) at the winery
Can be cellared up to eight years.

The wine was gold in color due to longer, stainless-steel aging. The wine spent a year to a year and a half in the tank before bottling. Without food, aromas and flavors included baked apple and peach and honey. It had low acidity, a long finish, and noticeable alcohol. With vanilla bean ice cream, the dairy softened the presence of alcohol, while the sweetness of the ice cream enhanced citrus fruit flavors on the palate. The alcohol should integrate with more time in the bottle and as the wine opens up by exposure to air.

2012 Old York Cellars Southpaw Red
2011 Old York Cellars Southpaw Red

2011 Southpaw Red (ruby port-style Maréchal Foch, a hearty, hybrid grape)
20.57% alcohol, 5% residual sugar, $22.00 (500ml bottle) at the winery
Can be cellared up to nine years.

This wine was garnet in color and barrel aged. It was drier than the white, with a burst of candied cherry and plum flavors, a light oak quality, low acidity, and noticeable alcohol. My food pairing choice was blue cheese, a classic, contrasting palate pairing. The cheese enhanced the fruit forwardness of the wine. Again, the dairy softened the presence of higher alcohol. This wine will also soften with more bottle ageing and after being open for a while.

If you have a sensitive palate like me, you might prefer these wines with more bottle age and/or paired with food.

D-Cubed Zinfandels, Napa Valley
D-Cubed Zinfandels, Napa Valley

ZAP’s #ZinEx
I was supposed to attend the Saturday tasting last year, but my big move to Napa got in the way. Lucky for me, ZAP and their public relations company, Elemental Meme, gave me a second chance to attend. I was a little wary, as I prefer small, intimate tastings, not large public tastings, but I said yes. I rented a car and headed to the Golden Gate Club on the most gorgeous day of 2015 to taste some Zinfandel. I am a lightweight, partially because of my aforementioned palate sensibilities, but I tasted around 25ish Zinfandels in four hours, which didn’t even scratch the surface. My key takeaways from the event were:

2013 Bedrock Wine Company Old Vine Zinfandel
2013 Bedrock Wine Company Old Vine Zinfandel

This was the most organized public tasting I’ve ever attended. Entry was allowed in increments, so not everyone was there at once. People flowed in and out, which helped greatly with crowd control.

The event provided ample water, spit cups, dump buckets, bread, and cheese. There’s really no reason that anyone should have left the event impaired, unless they didn’t take advantage of what was provided. Always remember: equal parts wine, water, cheese, spitting, and dumping.

1997 Ridge Jimsomare Ranch Zinfandel, Santa Cruz Mountains
1997 Ridge Jimsomare Ranch Zinfandel, Santa Cruz Mountains

There were barrel samples, current and upcoming releases, and some library offerings. The 1997 Ridge Jimsomare Ranch Zinfandel , Santa Cruz Mountains, was a show stopper. I was amazed at how this wine held up, still with great fruit and acidity.

2012 Mazzocco Warm Springs Ranch Zinfandel Reserve, Dry Creek Valley
2012 Mazzocco Warm Springs Ranch Zinfandel Reserve, Dry Creek Valley

Not all Zinfandels are big, jammy fruit bombs. In fact, none of the ones I tasted from Ridge, D-Cubed, Miro Cellars, Hendry, Bedrock Wine Company, Mazzocco, or Four Vines fell into that Zinfandel stereotype. Zinfandels, when well made, are food-friendly wines with a balance of fruit, spice, acidity, and tannin.

2012 Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel, Amador County
2012 Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel, Amador County

Many Zinfandel producers add a small percentage of another grape variety or varieties, the most common being Petite Sirah, to give the wine a boost. The most different blend I tasted was 2012 Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel, Amador County, with 10% Barbera, a wild berry child with ample acidity and spice.

2013 Miro Cellars Alegria Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley
2013 Miro Cellars Alegria Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley

Zinfandels are produced in a variety of climates and AVAs, but the most unique came from Miro Cellars, two single-vineyard, Russian River Valley Zinfandels (upcoming releases). The cooler climate produces fruit with more acid, red berry flavors, and a peppery zing.

2012 Hendry Block 28 Zinfandel, Napa Valley
2012 Hendry Block 28 Zinfandel, Napa Valley

Ahem, Napa makes more than just Cabernet Sauvignon. Just ask D-Cubed and Hendry. Just sayin’.

Hope Family Wines Selections
Hope Family Wines Selections

#BWETaste
This was not my first Boston Wine Expo tasting, but it was my first experience with Hope Family Wines based in Paso Robles, California. I was impressed with the variety and quality of the three samples provided to us by our sponsor: 2013 Liberty School Merlot, Troublemaker Blend 8, and 2012 Treana Red. The social media representative from Hope Family Wines was a riot and there was lots of fun camaraderie during the hour-long tasting. Below are my reviews, originally published on Vivino.

2012 Liberty School Merlot, Central Coast
2012 Liberty School Merlot, Central Coast

2013 Liberty School Merlot, $16.00 from the winery
Throw out all of your biases and past experiences with Merlot. This baby is dark and dense, with blackberry, blackcurrant, and black cherry flavors, accompanied by a kiss of vanilla, a hint of spice and a touch of red berry acidity on the finish. Pair this with steak, burgers, or pork.

Troublemaker Blend 8
Troublemaker Blend 8

Troublemaker Blend 8, $20 from the winery
Here comes Troublemaker Blend 8 (2011, 2012, and 2013), a Rhône-style blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, plus Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Floral, fruity, and spicy, with aromas and flavors of violets, black cherry, raspberry, cocoa, baking spices, and pepper. It finishes with nice acidity. Oh, and it’s sassy, just like me.

2012 Treana Red, Paso Robles
2012 Treana Red, Paso Robles

2012 Treana Red, $45 from the winery
Treana is Hope Family Wines’ flagship brand. Treana Red is comprised of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, and is deep purple in color. It dazzles the palate with a velvety mouthfeel, dark, rich plum and blackberry flavors, and a peppery, spicy finish. It’s bold, yet refined. I’d pair this with hearty meat dishes and strong, pungent cheeses.

A big thank you to Old York Cellars, ZAP, Elemental Meme, Hope Family Wines, and Boston Wine Expo for the opportunity to taste lots of different wines and participate in these events. It’s been a wine-tastic week and a half.

Peace out,
Beth