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Tasting some new releases from St. Francis Winery

Date: Tue, Mar 23, 2010 Wine Tasting

While we were staying at the ski cabin with friends this weekend, we tasted a couple of newly released wines from St. Francis Winery & Vineyards that delicious life PR had sent me.

Located in Kenwood at the northern end of Sonoma Valley, St. Francis winery produces big, full-bodied wines from a variety of vineyards through out Sonoma County. What I particularly appreciate about St. Francis is the fact that since 2004, the winery is engaged in serious green and sustainable practices, including the installation of solar panels on the roof of the winery, the use of electric cart for the maintenance crews, water conservation programs in the vineyard and the winery, and several recycling programs. “With success comes responsibility to future generations who will live and work here as well”, says Christopher Silva, President & CEO of the winery on the company's website. “Engaging in green practices is the right thing to do, which makes it the right way to run a business.

We first tasted the 2006 St. Francis Merlot Sonoma County with a assortment of country pâté and cheese. The wine is a blend of valley and mountain grown grapes, hand harvested and aged in American and French oak barrels for 23 months. Showing a dark red color, the wine had aromas of sweet blackberry and vanilla on the nose. On the palate, it was full-bodied and still young and tannic with a pleasant lingering finish of spices, pepper and earthy flavors. The wine was good with the pâté but the best match was with the surprisingly sweet (for the season) strawberries that we had for dessert.

The other wine was the 2007 St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel Sonoma County. This “Old Vines” blend is made of grapes from at least 50 year old dry-farmed vines with many as old as one hundred years old. These vines come from small family-owned plots dating from the early 20th century and planted with a field blend of Zinfandel intermixed with some Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet. The grapes are hand-picked and aged in new American oak barrels for twelve to fifteen months.

The wine had a deep color and a nose of red berry and citrus. On the palate, it was full-bodied, strong, and sweet, with floral and sour cherry notes. It was a good accompaniment to our Pasta Bolognese, especially after I added a handful of black olives to the sauce.

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Napa and Sonoma trip: Dutton-Goldfield Winery

Date: Thu, Mar 18, 2010 Wine Tasting

After a nice lunch in Forestville, we met Valerie Wathen from Dutton-Goldfield at the winery's tasting room that it currently shares with Balletto Vineyards on the outskirts of Santa Rosa.

Dutton-Goldfield is the partnership of grapegrower Steve Dutton, a fifth generation farmer in the Russian River Valley, and winemaker Dan Goldfield. The winery's main focus is to produce cold-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and also a bit of Zinfandel, Syrah and Pinot Blanc. Most of the fruit is sourced from the various vineyards of Dutton Ranch in the Russian River Valley AVA


Russian River Valley AVA


With Valerie, we tasted the following wines:

2007 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Dutton Ranch: a blend of five Dutton Ranch vineyards from the coolest part of Russian River Valley. My notes: ripe apple and pear on the nose, creamy and lush on the palate with some good acidity, elegant finish.

2007 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch: a blend of five Dutton Ranch vineyards from the Russian River Valley. My notes: sweet and spicy cherry aromas on the nose, bright and fruity on the palate, earthy finish.

2007 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Freestone Hill Vineyard: farmed by the Dutton family, the Freestone Hill Vineyard overlooks the tiny town of Freestone located between Sebastopol and Bodega Bay. This cold-climate wine is bottled separately only in years when the fruit stands out as truly unique. My notes: exotic spices on the nose. On the palate, herbs and licorice flavors, very distinctive.

2007 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Devil's Gulch Vineyard: located on a steep hillside near the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, the Devil's Gulch Vineyard is farmed by local grower Mark Pasternak, a viticultural pioneer in Marin County. My notes: deep color, red and black berry aromas on the nose, rich and complex on the palate, lingering finish.



2007 Dutton-Goldfield Zinfandel Morelli Lane Vineyard: planted with Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Morelli Lane Vineyard lies just north of the town of Occidental in the Russian River Valley. My notes: nose of sweet blackberry, lots of fruits on the palate, lively acidity.

My favorites were the Freestone Hill and the Devil's Gulch Pinots and I bought a few bottles of each to bring back home. These wines should age well, said Valerie, so I am looking forward to retasting them in a few years.

Related posts:
Napa and Sonoma trip: visit of Quintessa
Napa and Sonoma trip: Hanzell Vineyards
Napa and Sonoma trip: Emeritus Vineyards

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Napa and Sonoma trip: Dutton-Goldfield Winery

Date: Thu, Mar 18, 2010 Wine Tasting

After a nice lunch in Forestville, we met Valerie Wathen from Dutton-Goldfield at the winery's tasting room that it currently shares with Balletto Vineyards on the outskirts of Santa Rosa.

Dutton-Goldfield is the partnership of grapegrower Steve Dutton, a fifth generation farmer in the Russian River Valley, and winemaker Dan Goldfield. The winery's main focus is to produce cold-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and also a bit of Zinfandel, Syrah and Pinot Blanc. Most of the fruit is sourced from the various vineyards of Dutton Ranch in the Russian River Valley AVA


Russian River Valley AVA


With Valerie, we tasted the following wines:

2007 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Dutton Ranch: a blend of five Dutton Ranch vineyards from the coolest part of Russian River Valley. My notes: ripe apple and pear on the nose, creamy and lush on the palate with some good acidity, elegant finish.

2007 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch: a blend of five Dutton Ranch vineyards from the Russian River Valley. My notes: sweet and spicy cherry aromas on the nose, bright and fruity on the palate, earthy finish.

2007 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Freestone Hill Vineyard: farmed by the Dutton family, the Freestone Hill Vineyard overlooks the tiny town of Freestone located between Sebastopol and Bodega Bay. This cold-climate wine is bottled separately only in years when the fruit stands out as truly unique. My notes: exotic spices on the nose. On the palate, herbs and licorice flavors, very distinctive.

2007 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Devil's Gulch Vineyard: located on a steep hillside near the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, the Devil's Gulch Vineyard is farmed by local grower Mark Pasternak, a viticultural pioneer in Marin County. My notes: deep color, red and black berry aromas on the nose, rich and complex on the palate, lingering finish.



2007 Dutton-Goldfield Zinfandel Morelli Lane Vineyard: planted with Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Morelli Lane Vineyard lies just north of the town of Occidental in the Russian River Valley. My notes: nose of sweet blackberry, lots of fruits on the palate, lively acidity.

My favorites were the Freestone Hill and the Devil's Gulch Pinots and I bought a few bottles of each to bring back home. These wines should age well, said Valerie, so I am looking forward to retasting them in a few years.

Related posts:
Napa and Sonoma trip: visit of Quintessa
Napa and Sonoma trip: Hanzell Vineyards
Napa and Sonoma trip: Emeritus Vineyards

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Napa and Sonoma trip: Emeritus Vineyards

Date: Thu, Mar 11, 2010 Wine Tasting

After a solid breakfast in downtown Sonoma, we drove towards Sebastopol in the Russian River Valley for our appointment with Chris Mattson, National Sales Manager at Emeritus Vineyards. The winery occupies a functional warehouse-like building on Highway 116 and was not easy to find.

Most of our time with Chris Mattson was spent in the winery's home vineyard (also called Hallberg Vineyard). We looked at how the vines had to be pruned and trained, and discussed weather, soil, and experimentation with dry farming.


In the vineyard with Chris Mattson


Planted exclusively to Pinot Noir, the 100-acre Hallberg Vineyard is located on Sonoma County's Gold Ridge, a ten-mile-long low ridge running from Sebastopol to Forestville. The area is characterized by well-drained soils made of fine sandy loam and a cool climate thanks to Pacific Ocean breezes and late afternoon fog that stays untill mid-morning during the growing season. Sonoma's Gold Ridge is also called America's Cote d'Or and is home to many top-flight Pinot Noir producers.

Then it was time to taste some wine and meet winemaker Nicolas Cantacuzene. The French-born and American-trained Cantacuzene had recently replaced Burgundy-trained veteran winemaker Don Blackburn, who sadly passed away last April.

While we tasted and compared several barrel samples, from lots with different soil types or different watering levels, including one completely dry-farmed, Nicolas Cantacuzene explained to us how he will blend these wines in order to achieve a desired style of complexity and elegance.

I really enjoyed that visit. This is where we had the most informative discussions regarding vineyard management and winemaking. But it was already lunch time and we had to find something to eat before our next appointment at Dutton-Goldfield.




Related posts:
Napa and Sonoma trip: visit of Quintessa
Napa and Sonoma trip: Hanzell Vineyards

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Napa and Sonoma trip: Emeritus Vineyards

Date: Thu, Mar 11, 2010 Wine Tasting

After a solid breakfast in downtown Sonoma, we drove towards Sebastopol in the Russian River Valley for our appointment with Chris Mattson, National Sales Manager at Emeritus Vineyards. The winery occupies a functional warehouse-like building on Highway 116 and was not easy to find.

Most of our time with Chris Mattson was spent in the winery's home vineyard (also called Hallberg Vineyard). We looked at how the vines had to be pruned and trained, and discussed weather, soil, and experimentation with dry farming.


In the vineyard with Chris Mattson


Planted exclusively to Pinot Noir, the 100-acre Hallberg Vineyard is located on Sonoma County's Gold Ridge, a ten-mile-long low ridge running from Sebastopol to Forestville. The area is characterized by well-drained soils made of fine sandy loam and a cool climate thanks to Pacific Ocean breezes and late afternoon fog that stays untill mid-morning during the growing season. Sonoma's Gold Ridge is also called America's Cote d'Or and is home to many top-flight Pinot Noir producers.

Then it was time to taste some wine and meet winemaker Nicolas Cantacuzene. The French-born and American-trained Cantacuzene had recently replaced Burgundy-trained veteran winemaker Don Blackburn, who sadly passed away last April.

While we tasted and compared several barrel samples, from lots with different soil types or different watering levels, including one completely dry-farmed, Nicolas Cantacuzene explained to us how he will blend these wines in order to achieve a desired style of complexity and elegance.

I really enjoyed that visit. This is where we had the most informative discussions regarding vineyard management and winemaking. But it was already lunch time and we had to find something to eat before our next appointment at Dutton-Goldfield.




Related posts:
Napa and Sonoma trip: visit of Quintessa
Napa and Sonoma trip: Hanzell Vineyards

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Napa and Sonoma trip: Hanzell Vineyards

Date: Wed, Mar 3, 2010 Wine Tasting

In 1948, James D. Zellerbach, a former US Ambassador to Italy, acquired 200 acres on the Mayacamas slopes above the town of Sonoma and founded Hanzell Vineyards, Hanzell as a contraction of Mrs. Hana Zellerbach's name. Five years later, the Zellerbachs planted 6 acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir — now the oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyard in the new world — and in 1957, they created their first vintage.

We met with Estate Educator Ben Sessions at the historic winery building that the Zellerbachs built in 1956 and modeled after the 12th century press house at Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy. Ben Sessions is the son of Bob Sessions, who was winemaker and general manager of Hanzell Vineyards from the 1973 harvest until his retirement in 2001. After a tour of the original Zellerbach vineyard and after admiring the wonderful view overlooking the Sonoma Valley, we visited the old winemaking facility in the historic winery and finally sat with winemaker Michael McNeill to taste a sample of the Hanzell Vineyards production.


The historic winery building



Hanzell's former winemaking facility, now a tasting room



The original Zellerbach vineyard at Hanzell Vineyards

There were two glasses of Estate Chardonnay from the 2006 and 2007 vintages and a glass of 2006 Estate Pinot Noir. The 2006 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay had a bright golden color and a nose of ripe pear and spiced apple aromas. On the palate, it was boldly creamy and nutty with a ripe, fruity finish. In comparison, the 2007 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay was young and big but not as polished and slightly more unbalanced.

The 2006 Hanzell Vineyards Pinot Noir had a medium garnet color and a sweet black cherry nose. The palate was full-bodied, rather oaky with tannins and an earthy finish. More powerful than elegant, it was not my prefered style of Pinot Noir, but maybe the wine was simply too young.

After admiring one more time the sunset over Sonoma Valley, we were driven to one of the guest houses hidden in the vineyard where we would spend the night, a well deserved rest as we had more scheduled visits the day after.

Related post:
Napa and Sonoma trip: visit of Quintessa

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Napa and Sonoma trip: Hanzell Vineyards

Date: Wed, Mar 3, 2010 Wine Tasting

In 1948, James D. Zellerbach, a former US Ambassador to Italy, acquired 200 acres on the Mayacamas slopes above the town of Sonoma and founded Hanzell Vineyards, Hanzell as a contraction of Mrs. Hana Zellerbach's name. Five years later, the Zellerbachs planted 6 acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir — now the oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyard in the new world — and in 1957, they created their first vintage.

We met with Estate Educator Ben Sessions at the historic winery building that the Zellerbachs built in 1956 and modeled after the 12th century press house at Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy. Ben Sessions is the son of Bob Sessions, who was winemaker and general manager of Hanzell Vineyards from the 1973 harvest until his retirement in 2001. After a tour of the original Zellerbach vineyard and after admiring the wonderful view overlooking the Sonoma Valley, we visited the old winemaking facility in the historic winery and finally sat with winemaker Michael McNeill to taste a sample of the Hanzell Vineyards production.


The historic winery building



Hanzell's former winemaking facility, now a tasting room



The original Zellerbach vineyard at Hanzell Vineyards

There were two glasses of Estate Chardonnay from the 2006 and 2007 vintages and a glass of 2006 Estate Pinot Noir. The 2006 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay had a bright golden color and a nose of ripe pear and spiced apple aromas. On the palate, it was boldly creamy and nutty with a ripe, fruity finish. In comparison, the 2007 Hanzell Vineyards Chardonnay was young and big but not as polished and slightly more unbalanced.

The 2006 Hanzell Vineyards Pinot Noir had a medium garnet color and a sweet black cherry nose. The palate was full-bodied, rather oaky with tannins and an earthy finish. More powerful than elegant, it was not my prefered style of Pinot Noir, but maybe the wine was simply too young.

After admiring one more time the sunset over Sonoma Valley, we were driven to one of the guest houses hidden in the vineyard where we would spend the night, a well deserved rest as we had more scheduled visits the day after.

Related post:
Napa and Sonoma trip: visit of Quintessa

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Napa and Sonoma trip: visit of Quintessa

Date: Fri, Feb 26, 2010 Wine Tasting

Time flies so fast that I haven't had the time to blog about a trip to Napa and Sonoma that I did before the holidays. The trip was particularly interesting as it was organized by a friend that works in the restaurant business. Thanks to him, we enjoyed a VIP treatment at the wineries and even stayed overnight as guests at one of them.

Our first meeting was at Quintessa on Silverado Trail in St. Helena. It's a beautiful 280 acre property that includes a valley, a lake, a river, five hills, four microclimates and numerous soil types. 170 acres of vines are planted to the classic Bordeaux grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon (129 acres), Merlot (26 acres), Cabernet Franc (7 acres), Petit Verdot (4 acres), and Carmenere (4 acres). Thanks to the diversity of the microclimates and soil types, 40 different wines lots have been defined from 26 different vineyard blocks.

We were welcomed by Niesa Granger from the Quintessa Hospitality team, who had prepared for us some wine samples and documentation.

We first tasted two 2008 Vineyard Block Cabernet Sauvignon barrel samples. One was from the cool Bench block. The wine had a rather closed nose with lush, sweet berry flavors on the palate. The other one was from the Cruz del Sur block, a warm area without much water. The wine was very different with a more expressive nose and enticing minty and cocoa aromas.

We also tasted the 2005 and 2006 Quintessa. Quintessa is a meritage blend of multiple vineyard blocks. Fruit from each block is harvested, sorted, and fermented in either oak or stainless steel tanks. Then each block wine is aged separately for up to two years in French oak barrels. Finally, the components are brought together to create the final Quintessa blend.

The 2005 Quintessa had an fragrant nose full of minty and tobacco aromas. The palate was rich, full-bodied with sweet tannins and a peppery finish. The 2006 Quintessa looked more tight with toasty oak aromas and firm tannins, definitively too young to be drunk now but promising.


Tasting with Niesa Granger from the Quintessa Hospitality team


We ended our visit with a tour of the property. As we reached a scenic spot overlooking the lake, we stopped to have a sip of the winery's Illumination Sauvignon Blanc. The place was idyllic and it was quite unfortunate that we couldn't stay longer but we had to drive over the Mayacamas Mountains to the Sonoma side for our next appointment: Hanzell Vineyards.


View of the lake at Quintessa




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Napa and Sonoma trip: visit of Quintessa

Date: Fri, Feb 26, 2010 Wine Tasting

Time flies so fast that I haven't had the time to blog about a trip to Napa and Sonoma that I did before the holidays. The trip was particularly interesting as it was organized by a friend that works in the restaurant business. Thanks to him, we enjoyed a VIP treatment at the wineries and even stayed overnight as guests at one of them.

Our first meeting was at Quintessa on Silverado Trail in St. Helena. It's a beautiful 280 acre property that includes a valley, a lake, a river, five hills, four microclimates and numerous soil types. 170 acres of vines are planted to the classic Bordeaux grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon (129 acres), Merlot (26 acres), Cabernet Franc (7 acres), Petit Verdot (4 acres), and Carmenere (4 acres). Thanks to the diversity of the microclimates and soil types, 40 different wines lots have been defined from 26 different vineyard blocks.

We were welcomed by Niesa Granger from the Quintessa Hospitality team, who had prepared for us some wine samples and documentation.

We first tasted two 2008 Vineyard Block Cabernet Sauvignon barrel samples. One was from the cool Bench block. The wine had a rather closed nose with lush, sweet berry flavors on the palate. The other one was from the Cruz del Sur block, a warm area without much water. The wine was very different with a more expressive nose and enticing minty and cocoa aromas.

We also tasted the 2005 and 2006 Quintessa. Quintessa is a meritage blend of multiple vineyard blocks. Fruit from each block is harvested, sorted, and fermented in either oak or stainless steel tanks. Then each block wine is aged separately for up to two years in French oak barrels. Finally, the components are brought together to create the final Quintessa blend.

The 2005 Quintessa had an fragrant nose full of minty and tobacco aromas. The palate was rich, full-bodied with sweet tannins and a peppery finish. The 2006 Quintessa looked more tight with toasty oak aromas and firm tannins, definitively too young to be drunk now but promising.


Tasting with Niesa Granger from the Quintessa Hospitality team


We ended our visit with a tour of the property. As we reached a scenic spot overlooking the lake, we stopped to have a sip of the winery's Illumination Sauvignon Blanc. The place was idyllic and it was quite unfortunate that we couldn't stay longer but we had to drive over the Mayacamas Mountains to the Sonoma side for our next appointment: Hanzell Vineyards.


View of the lake at Quintessa




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Tasting the Slovenian wines of Ivan Batič

Date: Tue, Feb 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

Last month, I was invited by Frank Dietrich of the Blue Danube Wine Company to a special tasting of Ivan Batič's wines at the newly opened restaurant Hibiscus in Oakland. Ivan Batič and his son Miha were present to talk about their wines and winemaking philosophy while we were sampling the restaurant's delicious Caribbean specialties.

The Batič winery is a 18 hectare estate located in the Vipava Valley, a narrow valley in the western part of Slovenia connecting the Friuli lowlands to central Slovenia. The valley is renowned for its quality wines, mostly white, as it enjoys a submediterranean to continental climate with dry and warm winds coming from the Adriatic sea. The valley grows a mix of indigenous, Italian, and international grapes.

For Ivan and Miha Batič, the best wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cellar. They pay the greatest attention to vineyard management and employ the same viticulture methods that were used hundred years ago. The vineyard is farmed organically, although it is not certified as such. Grapes are harvested manually and selectively, fermentation occurs with native yeasts, and wine is aged in Slovenian oak barrels, some of them older than one hundred years old.

White wine accounts for nearly three-quarters of the production. White grape varieties include the native Pinela, Zelen, Vitovska, and Rebula (known as Ribolla Gialla in the nearby Friuli) as well as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Red grape varieties include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.


Opening the Batič wines



Ivan Batič



Miha Batič (left)


Here are my notes:

2004 Batic Pinela: golden color, flowery nose with notes of pineapple, luscious and thick on the palate, rich aftertaste.

2005 Batic Sauvignon Blanc Reserve: deep color, mineral nose, notes of citrus, some fullness on the palate and crisp acidity on the finish.

2007 Batic Zaria: an amazing field blend of Pinela, Rebula, and Zelen. Orange color, mineral and herbal notes on the nose, dry, nutty on the palate, slightly oxidized character that reminded me of some of the white wines from the Jura.

2005 Batic Rosso: a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc made only in the best years. Deep red color, forward nose with red berry aromas, full-bodied on the palate, tasty and well-balanced with some good acidity on the finish.

“You can open a bottle of Rosso Batič at any time, all you need is good company and time, as the wine keeps developing and growing in the glass,” recommends the winery website, “Should you choose to open a Rosso in the time of the old moon, a most special taste will evolve – the Rosso Batič taste.”

Related posts:
The wines of Slovenia
Wines of Germany and Eastern Europe class: Croatia, Slovenia and Romania

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Tasting the Slovenian wines of Ivan Batič

Date: Tue, Feb 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

Last month, I was invited by Frank Dietrich of the Blue Danube Wine Company to a special tasting of Ivan Batič's wines at the newly opened restaurant Hibiscus in Oakland. Ivan Batič and his son Miha were present to talk about their wines and winemaking philosophy while we were sampling the restaurant's delicious Caribbean specialties.

The Batič winery is a 18 hectare estate located in the Vipava Valley, a narrow valley in the western part of Slovenia connecting the Friuli lowlands to central Slovenia. The valley is renowned for its quality wines, mostly white, as it enjoys a submediterranean to continental climate with dry and warm winds coming from the Adriatic sea. The valley grows a mix of indigenous, Italian, and international grapes.

For Ivan and Miha Batič, the best wines are made in the vineyard, not in the cellar. They pay the greatest attention to vineyard management and employ the same viticulture methods that were used hundred years ago. The vineyard is farmed organically, although it is not certified as such. Grapes are harvested manually and selectively, fermentation occurs with native yeasts, and wine is aged in Slovenian oak barrels, some of them older than one hundred years old.

White wine accounts for nearly three-quarters of the production. White grape varieties include the native Pinela, Zelen, Vitovska, and Rebula (known as Ribolla Gialla in the nearby Friuli) as well as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Red grape varieties include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.


Opening the Batič wines



Ivan Batič



Miha Batič (left)


Here are my notes:

2004 Batic Pinela: golden color, flowery nose with notes of pineapple, luscious and thick on the palate, rich aftertaste.

2005 Batic Sauvignon Blanc Reserve: deep color, mineral nose, notes of citrus, some fullness on the palate and crisp acidity on the finish.

2007 Batic Zaria: an amazing field blend of Pinela, Rebula, and Zelen. Orange color, mineral and herbal notes on the nose, dry, nutty on the palate, slightly oxidized character that reminded me of some of the white wines from the Jura.

2005 Batic Rosso: a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc made only in the best years. Deep red color, forward nose with red berry aromas, full-bodied on the palate, tasty and well-balanced with some good acidity on the finish.

“You can open a bottle of Rosso Batič at any time, all you need is good company and time, as the wine keeps developing and growing in the glass,” recommends the winery website, “Should you choose to open a Rosso in the time of the old moon, a most special taste will evolve – the Rosso Batič taste.”

Related posts:
The wines of Slovenia
Wines of Germany and Eastern Europe class: Croatia, Slovenia and Romania

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For Beaujolais, a "Villages" is the way to go

Date: Tue, Feb 9, 2010 Wine Tasting

It is unfortunate that over the years, the wines of beaujolais have developed a negative reputation among consumers that tend to associate them with the sweet cotton candy and banana gum flavors of Beaujolais Nouveau. That's too bad because wines from the Villages appellation or one of the 10 Crus are definitively worth checking out.


Beaujolais Wine Region


Beaujolais is a large wine region located south of Burgundy, along the Saône River between the towns of Mâcon and Lyon. The Beaujolais AOC is the broadest appellation covering 60 villages, with nearly half of the crop being released just a few weeks after harvest and sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.

Beaujolais-Villages covers 39 villages located in northern Beaujolais. It is a more hilly region with soils containing more granite and schist. Due to better growing conditions, the Beaujolais-Villages wines have more complexity and depth.

The finest wines come from the 10 Crus of Beaujolais located in the foothills of the Beaujolais mountains. Seven of them (Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié) relate to actual villages. Côte de Brouilly is grown on the volcanic hillsides of Mont Brouilly and Brouilly is found in the flatter area around it. Moulin-à-Vent, a more serious wine with great aging potential, is named for the last remaining windmill in the Beaujolais.

Ninety-eight percent of the area is planted with Gamay, a grape with a thin skin and low in tannins. Gamay ripened two weeks earlier than Pinot Noir and is less difficult to cultivate. It produces a light wine with a bright and fruity style.

I recently tasted the 2008 Beaujolais-Villages Louis Jadot that was sent to me by Kobrand Corporation. Maison Louis Jadot is the largest Negociant in Beaujolais that purchases grapes instead of juice or must in order to keep full control over winemaking decisions. Half of the wine is matured in oak barrels and the other half in stainless steel. The final cuvée contains up to 40% of declassified wines from the various crus of Beaujolais.

The wine had a bright color with red cherry aromas on the nose. On the palate, it was light-bodied and juicy leaving a clean and fresh aftertaste. Try it with a Frisée aux Lardons Salad, one of the classic Bistro specialties from Lyon.

Now for your February 14th dinner, why not share a bottle of Saint-Amour with your Valentine?

Related post:
Visiting Fleurie in Beaujolais

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For Beaujolais, a "Villages" is the way to go

Date: Tue, Feb 9, 2010 Wine Tasting

It is unfortunate that over the years, the wines of beaujolais have developed a negative reputation among consumers that tend to associate them with the sweet cotton candy and banana gum flavors of Beaujolais Nouveau. That's too bad because wines from the Villages appellation or one of the 10 Crus are definitively worth checking out.


Beaujolais Wine Region


Beaujolais is a large wine region located south of Burgundy, along the Saône River between the towns of Mâcon and Lyon. The Beaujolais AOC is the broadest appellation covering 60 villages, with nearly half of the crop being released just a few weeks after harvest and sold as Beaujolais Nouveau.

Beaujolais-Villages covers 39 villages located in northern Beaujolais. It is a more hilly region with soils containing more granite and schist. Due to better growing conditions, the Beaujolais-Villages wines have more complexity and depth.

The finest wines come from the 10 Crus of Beaujolais located in the foothills of the Beaujolais mountains. Seven of them (Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié) relate to actual villages. Côte de Brouilly is grown on the volcanic hillsides of Mont Brouilly and Brouilly is found in the flatter area around it. Moulin-à-Vent, a more serious wine with great aging potential, is named for the last remaining windmill in the Beaujolais.

Ninety-eight percent of the area is planted with Gamay, a grape with a thin skin and low in tannins. Gamay ripened two weeks earlier than Pinot Noir and is less difficult to cultivate. It produces a light wine with a bright and fruity style.

I recently tasted the 2008 Beaujolais-Villages Louis Jadot that was sent to me by Kobrand Corporation. Maison Louis Jadot is the largest Negociant in Beaujolais that purchases grapes instead of juice or must in order to keep full control over winemaking decisions. Half of the wine is matured in oak barrels and the other half in stainless steel. The final cuvée contains up to 40% of declassified wines from the various crus of Beaujolais.

The wine had a bright color with red cherry aromas on the nose. On the palate, it was light-bodied and juicy leaving a clean and fresh aftertaste. Try it with a Frisée aux Lardons Salad, one of the classic Bistro specialties from Lyon.

Now for your February 14th dinner, why not share a bottle of Saint-Amour with your Valentine?

Related post:
Visiting Fleurie in Beaujolais

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Wine and Neuroscience

Date: Wed, Feb 3, 2010 Wine Tasting

In his book Proust Was A Neuroscientist, journalist and author Jonah Lehrer has a whole chapter explaining the neuroscience behind our sense of smell and taste. He describes how Escoffier invented the veal stock, therefore the secret of deliciousness: the denatured protein from the bones, the burned bit of meat in the bottom of the pan are full of L-glutamate, which is now known as umami. Additionally, we enjoy food that smells good. According to Neuroscientists, up to 90 percent of what we perceive as taste is actually smell.

But our sense of taste and smell, says Lehrer, is greatly influenced by subjectivity. “Impressions are always incomplete and require a dash of subjectivity to render them whole. When we bind or parse our sensations, what we are really doing is making judgments about what we think we are sensing. This unconsious act of interpretation is largely driven by contextual clues.”

That's because the olfactory bulb is flooded with information from higher brain functions, like the memories of past experiences.

To illustrate this point, Lehrer describes a couple of mischievous experiments conducted by Frédéric Brochet, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Bordeaux. In the first test, 57 wine experts tasted a white wine and a red wine and were asked to describe them. Adjectives like "fresh, dry, honeyed, lively" were used for the white wine, whereas the red wine was found "intense, spicy, supple, deep." In reality, the two wines were identical, the red one was just dyed red.

In the other experiment, tasters were given two wines in two different bottles, one labeled as a cheap table wine, the other labeled as a Bordeaux Grand Cru. The Grand Cru was characterized as "woody, complex, and round" and the cheap wine as "short, light, and faulty". Here again, the two wines were the exact same mid-range Bordeaux.

“What these experiments illuminate” says Lehrer, “is the omnipresence of subjectivity. Our human brain has been designed to believe itself, wired so that prejudices feel like facts, opinions are indistinguishable from the actual sensation. If we think a wine is cheap, it will taste cheap.”

“Without our subjectivity we could never decipher our sensations, ” concludes Lehrer, “ and without our sensations we would have nothing about which to be subjective. Before you can taste the wine you have to judge it.”

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