Sonoma State Sensory Evaluation Workshop

Staying ahead of flaws in the cellar and quantifying perceptual differences and consumer preferences are critical to a winery’s bottom line.  Following our return from New Zealand, Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute will partner with VESTA to again offer this popular workshop focusing on sensory evaluation and sensory test methods.

The workshop will cover a number of topics in the arena of sensory evaluation, including tasting methodology, wine components, a special emphasis on wine flaws, errors in the perception of wine and sensory test methods, including difference and preference testing.

The workshop will weave lectures with practical tasting exercises, including a myriad of wine flaws, varying levels of wine components and a sampling of divergent styles of wine from around the globe.  Likewise the modules on sensory test methods will employ hands-on activities to teach participants how to conduct difference and preference testing at the winery.

The workshop will be held in Sonoma County at the Shone Farm on April 20 and 21.

Pre-registration is required.  For more information, visit Sonoma State online or contact Contact Dana Swilley, or 707.664.3347.

Following is the beginning of a list of the wines that we will taste during two of the seminar modules.  These particular tastings will focus on regional wine styles and preference testing using rank sums.  Many more wines, commercial and doctored, will be tasted during the modules covering tasting methodology, sensory components and wine flaws.

Kim Crawford, Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Produced and bottled in Huapai in Auckland 12.5% purchased for $11.99 at Bottle Barn Kim Crawford

Domaine André Vatan, Sancerre, Les Charmes 2011 This has been a consistent, value-priced Sancerre that I have often reached for since a visit with Andre in ’98. Mis en bouteille au domaine a Chaudoux, Verdigny-en-Sancerre in Cher 13% purchased for $15.99 at Bottle Barn

My notes from a prior vintage: the nose features grass, lemon, minerality and perfume. In the mouth it is bracing with a sense of freshly squeezed lemon juice – very nice.

Mulderbosch, Western Cape, Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Notes from the previous vintage: The nose shows a strong sense of herbaceousness, fresh bell pepper, sliced open and in hand. In the mouth it is dynamic, quite fresh and as in prior vintages, assertive in its herbaceous and acidic profile – delicious. The notes for this wine have yet to be posted yet I expect that there is a touch of RS in the background adding the roundness that you experience on the palate.

2011 vintage: Produced and bottled Mulderbosch 13.5% purchased for $14.49 at Bottle Barn Mulderbosch

Sutter Home, California, Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Vinted and bottled in Napa 13.5% $4.49, purchased at Bottle Barn Sutter Home Winery

Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Notes from a visit to the winery to taste the 2008 vintage: bright citrus marks the nose and repeats in the mouth. There’s plenty of the acidity that you would expect as well as a richness as in the previous vintage, owing to some barrel fermentation, Semillon and a touch of RS – very nice.

2011 vintage: produced and bottled in St. Helena, 13.5% purchased for $23.99 at Bottle Barn Duckhorn Vineyards

Fâmega, Vinho Verde, Vinho Branco 2011 Notes from the 2009 vintage: The nose speaks of lemon and lemon zest. In the mouth it is zippy with acidity, light-bodied and tart with a light bit of sparkle, further enhancing its refreshing character – very nice. This is the first bottle I’ve had a chance to taste from the new vintage. The bottling code is #L10049.

This is a more traditional blend from the region rather than an Alvarinho-only Vinho Verde.  There are four grapes: Loureiro, Trajadura, Pedernã and Alvarinho. Bottled and shipped by Caves da Cerca, a negociant located in Amarante, within the VV production zone, along the Tamega River just northeast of Penafiel.

2011:  Bottled under a screwcap closure, bottling code 12148, 10.5% purchased for just $6.69 at Bottle Barn.

Sutter Home, Fre, Chardonnay 2011 The alcohol has been removed from this wine and it is bottled with the statements ‘contains less than 0.5% alcohol by volume’ and ‘a grape beverage with other natural flavors’.

Spinning cone is the process behind this beverage. It contains 24% juice and includes a full list of ingredients and nutrition facts as you find with other foods and non-alcoholic beverages. Made and bottled in St. Helena. Purchased for $4.79 at Bottle Barn fre Wines

Elena Walch, Alto Adige, Gewurztraminer 2011 Notes from an earlier vintage:  Lots of spicy rose, broad and with a touch of classic Gwz bitterness.

The 2011 is produced and bottled in Tramin 14% purchased for $16.49 at Bottle Barn Elena Walch

Domaine Weinbach, Alsace, Reserve Personnelle, Gewurztraminer 2011 Notes from a previous vintage:  Awesome in that this wine combines candied roses with honey and a rich mouthfeel with a few percent of residual sugar that is crying out for choucroute.

2011: Mis en bouteille in Kaysersberg 14% purchased for $24.49 at Bottle Barn Weinbach

Domaine de Triennes, IGP Mediterranee, Rose 2012 Cinsault is the starring grape behind this pink wine. Mis in Nans-les-Pins in Provence 13% purchased for $11.99 at Bottle Barn Triennes

Balletto, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, Estate Grown and Bottled, Rose of Pinot Noir 2012 Fruity and dry rose for the upcoming heat! Grower and Proprietor John Balletto, winemaker Anthony Beckman. Grown, produced and bottled in Santa Rosa 13.4% purchased for $11.99 at Bottle Barn Balletto

Vietti, Barbera d’Asti, Tre Vigne 2010 The grapes are sourced from younger vines in and around Agliano d’Asti. The wine is aged in a combination of French oak barrels and Slavonian oak casks for 12 months. 

Notes from the ’08 vintage:  In the nose you’ll find black fruit, green herbs, earth and chocolate. In the mouth there is Barbera’s acidic trademark, with density of flavor and a fair amount of tannin – very long.

Unfiltered and estate bottled in Castiglione Falletto 14% purchased for $14.49 at Bottle Barn Vietti

Vietti, Barolo, Castiglione 2008 100% Nebbiolo from the municipality of Castiglione Falletto. Unfiltered and estate Bottled in Castiglione 14.5% purchased for $39.99 at Bottle Barn 

Prior notes from the archives: the newer vintage of 2004 smells of brown spices and licorice cast on a very tannic frame that is balanced by acidity and extract. There’s lots of black licorice here as well in the 2003 and a similar palate where the acidity is right in time with the tannin – just a baby yet Vietti

Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan 2006 When this wine was tasted three years ago at the winery, the smells in the nose included raspberries, cherries, leather and the sweetness and toastiness of oak. In the mouth it was earthy and smoky, exhibiting complexity and a supple texture – very approachable.  Let’s see where it has evolved to in 2013

Smith Haut Lafitte 06 Rouge et 07 BlancThe grapes behind this wine are 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. The wine is unfined and aged for 18 months in French oak, 80% of which was new. It is also unfiltered, explaining the propensity for a consistent note of leathery complexity in the wine across the many vintages.

While Pessac Leognan is the more specific appellation available to this wine, that place name is featured on the back, rather than the front label. The appellation, while established over 20 years ago to further define the wines from the 13 local villages, still lacks the fame of the larger appellation known as Les Graves. Thus you will find on the front label the earlier honor of Grand Cru Classe de Graves.

Mis au chateau by the Cathiard family, proprietaire a Martillac 13.5% purchased in March 2013 at Bottle Barn for $67.99 Smith Haut Lafitte

Besides the consistent and top drawer red wine, the Cathiard family has developed a spa that Linda described as first class. There is a sense of stylish luxury throughout the estate. The property is adorned with art and beneath the tasting room lies a special cellar that James Bond might wish to explore.

Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Tio Pepe, Fine Muy Seco, Palomino, Fino, nv The nose features a nice sense of the traditional bruised apples, coupled with fresh apples and minerality. In addition there is nuttiness and spicy floral notes – very complex. In the mouth it is quite dry, combining the tartness of green apples and the grip of the apple skins themselves.

This wine is crying out for a bit of Jamon Serrano which I don’t have at hand. It is brilliant, however, with those cured anchovies, which are in the refrigerator tonight, the ones that are quite pricey yet so vibrantly acidic.

The grapes are all Palomino. Bottled in Jerez de la Fronterra 15% a media sample and purchased again more recently for $13.99 at Bottle Barn Gonzalez Byass

Chateau Les Justices, Sauternes 2006 The property is planted to 85% Semillon, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Muscadelle. Mis en bouteille par Julie Gonet-Medeville, viticultrice a Preignac 14% purchased for $20.49 (375ml bottle) at Bottle Barn Chateau Les Justices

Blandy’s, Madeira, 5 Year Old, Malmsey nv This wine is quite consistent in displaying complexity, sweetness and balancing acidity.  Again today’s bottle wraps caramel and butterscotch into a good value fortified dessert wine. For me it makes one of the ideal pairings with Roquefort. Produced and bottled by the Madeira Wine Company in Funchal 19% purchased for $19.99 at Bottle Barn in March 2013 Blandy’s

Fonseca, Porto, 10 Year Old Tawny My notes over the years show a consistent theme of sweetness and creme caramel – delicious and nutty with noticeable warmth. This wine was aged in small casks in Vila Nova de Gaia.

When this post was first entered, the sample tasted was bottled in 2007. In November of ’08, the sample we tasted was correspondingly bottled in ’08. In March 2010 the sample tasted was bottled in 2009.

Manoel Pedro Guimaraens founded the winery in 1822. It is now run by the same family that oversees Taylor Fladgate. The current wine was bottled in 2010 in Oporto by Fonseca Guimaraens 20% and purchased for $26.99 at Bottle Barn Fonseca

Posted in Albariño, Alsace, Alto Adige, Andalucia, Barbera, Barbera d'Asti, Barolo, Bordeaux, California, Chardonnay, Cinsault, Dealcoholized, Fortified dessert, France, Gewurztraminer, Graves, Italy, Jerez, Madeira, Malmsey, Malvasia, Marlborough, Merlot, Napa County, Napa Valley, Nebbiolo, New Zealand, Palomino, Pessac-Leognan, Piemonte, Pinot Noir, Port, Portugal, Provence, Rosé, Russian River Valley, Sancerre, Sauternes, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Sherry, Sonoma County, South Africa, Spain, Tawny Port, Var, Vinho Verde, Western Cape | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cyrus 1998

Cyrus Bordeaux blendAlexander Valley Vineyards, Cyrus 1998 14 years on this wine is looking youthful in the glass, with hues of red and just a hint of orange at the edge.  In the nose an oaky expression entices with an expectation of richness. On the palate the wine is supple, a swatch of velvet with flavors of toffee, caramel and chocolate.

This Bordeaux-blend is on top of the curve of a wine’s life, in a beautiful period for enjoying this holiday season.

If you’re having turkey over Christmas and the New Year, you might not consider a Bordeaux blend to be a fitting accompaniment.  Yet as they age, with the right amount of maturity, they can have the stuffing to make a good partner to a bird. Give it a try.  I’ve been opening some of these mature gems alongside roast chicken to great enjoyment.

$55 for the current release 2008 vintage, the bottle in hand was the gift of a friend. Alexander Valley Vineyards

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Reata Chardonnay 2010

Reata, Carneros, Chardonnay 2010 The nose features freshly baked biscuits horse on propertydabbed in butter topped with peaches – you get a sense of the fruit accentuated by the winemakers touch. In the mouth the texture is luscious, buttery with the freshness of stone fruit – very nice. 

Reata ChardonnayThe wine was fermented in a combination of 41% oak and the rest in stainless steel.  100% of the wine went through malolactic. 63% of the wine was aged in neutral French oak for about 9 months. Vinted and bottled in Napa 14.3% $20 suggested US retail, a media sample Reata

Reata is the Spanish word for lariat.

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Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs

Lucien Albrecht, Cremant d’Alsace, Brut, Blanc de Blancs nv In the nose there are fresh fruits like pears and yellow apples.  In the mouth this wine is fruit-forward, moderately acidic with some creaminess, like one finds with the domaine’s rose – a nice value as well.

The grapes behind this wine are all Pinot Blanc. Proprietor and winemaker Jean Albrecht. Produced in Orschwihr 12%, a media sample available for $19.99 at Albrecht


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Sonoma State Cellars

Wine MBA students and alumni labeling the first releaseWe spent the morning at Kokomo Winery today, putting the final touches on the first release from Sonoma State Cellars.

If you’re in Dry Creek Valley on Saturday, join the party that we’re throwing at Timber Crest Farms.  Bastille Day is a fitting day to celebrate this little revolution, the creation of this new brand of wine called Sonoma State Cellars.

2010 Dry Creek Valley Cuvee

Erik Miller and the team at Kokomo and Ruth Waltenspiel and the team at Timber Crest Farms, have been drivers of this project and most generous in partnering with the Wine MBA students to make this brand a reality.  Follow the link below to read more about the wine that will share the center stage with the students on Saturday afternoon, July 14 in Dry Creek Valley.

A limited quantity of wine is available to the public.  To order the wine and join the party on July 14, visit Sonoma State Cellars Allocation.


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Bollinger La Grande Annee 2000

Bollinger, Champagne, La Grande Annee, Brut 2000 The nose is nutty, featuring dried fruits, oranges with brown spices and a note of mushrooms sauteed in butter. In the mouth this vintage is elegant, with subtle orange and apple flavors, and long, lingering acidity.

The grapes for this vintage are 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chardonnay sourced from 76% grand crus and 24% premier crus.

Primary fermentation took place in small French oak barrels. In the cellar, the wines rest for at least 5 years after the secondary fermenation. Produced in Ay, NM-121-001, 12% purchased some time ago for $102 at Bottle Barn  Bollinger

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Wines of British Airways first class

During a trip to Italy and Slovenia we had the opportunity to sample a number of delicious wines while in the care of BA. First up was a tasting of 2 bubblies in the lounge at Heathrow.

Pol Roger, Champagne, Extra Cuvee de Reserve 1999 In the nose this Champagne is quite biscuity, with notes of herbs and flowers, yes spicy flowers, and nutty too. It is rich in the mouth, with some creaminess yet plenty of green and red apples. Yes the fruit is there with all of the complexity described in the nose – an elegant sparkling and a very special treat.

At Pol Roger this is known as their Brut Vintage. The grapes are 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay from 20 grand and premier cru vineyards. The wine was aged for 7 years before release. Produced in Epernay, the alcohol is 12.5% and the retail price at the time was $79.99 at K&L.  The 2000 vintage is now available for the same price. Champagne Pol Roger

Bollinger, Champagne, La Grande Annee, Brut 1999 The nose features brown spices and earthiness. In the mouth it is rich, perhaps lower in acidity than I might have expected, a broad mouthfeel with the development of non-fruit flavors, even light mushroom, very complex.  It’s not thick or viscous, rather it is broad and complex – delightful.

In the cellar, the wines rest for at least 5 years after the secondary fermenation. Produced in Ay, NM-121-001, 12% the 2002 vintage is currently available at K&L for $114.99 Bollinger 


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Falesco Vitiano 2005

Falesco, Umbria IGT, Vitiano 2005 This wine is showing nicely at a point in its evolution over 6 years since the grapes were harvested. It is light-bodied as expected, as it was in bottles tasted early on. Yet what we have now is complexity beyond the primary fruit aromas that we experienced in the early days.

It is always a pleasure when an economical wine gains in its ability to give pleasure with longer innings in the game; maybe more so because we often don’t expect so much from the wines that are offered at value prices.  Bottled in Montecchio 13% purchased for $7.99 at Bottle Barn some years ago.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Italy, Merlot, Sangiovese, Umbria | Tagged | 2 Comments

Bonterra Chardonnay 2010

Bonterra Mendocino Chardonnay 2010Bonterra, Mendocino County, Chardonnay 2010 The nose features fresh stones fruits and a splash of new oak.  In the mouth the fruit expression is quite lively, citrus, apricots, peaches and the freshness of summer sunshine.

Besides the Chardonnay, the grapes behind this wine include 4% Muscat and 4% Viognier, 100% organically grown. The residual sugar is just 3.9 grams per liter which accentuates the fruit without tasting overtly sweet. Winemaker Robert Blue. Produced and bottled under a screwcap closure in Hopland 13.5% available directly from the winery for $11.99, a media sample. Bonterra

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More Red Wines of Lake County

Bell Hill, Lake County, Merlot 2005 When first tasted in July 2009, I wrote: the nose features sweet notes of vanilla and cherries while the mouth repeats with ripe tannins, just to let you know they are there – very nice.

Tasted again in May 2012, the tannins have resolved a bit further and the fruit still shines. This wine displays the softness that we associate with the grape without being innocuous. In a time when people are still bashing Merlot, it is a pleasure to revisit this one.

The grapes for this wine were sourced from Bell Hill in Big Valley, on the south side of Clear Lake. P&B in Kelseyville 13.5% $30 at the Blue Wing Bell Hill

Gregory Graham, Red Hills Lake County, Crimson Hills Vineyard, Syrah 2007 Like other wines from Greg, this is lush, filling out the whole palate with flavor – yum. Grown, produced and bottled in Lower Lake 14.4% $35 for a full bottle at the Blue Wing Gregory Graham Wines

Shed Horn Cellars, Lake County, Zinfandel 2009 The nose shows a big heft of oak, preparing the way for a rich experience in the mouth of black fruit, sweet oak and chocolate. This is a full-bodied Zin with ample tannin to pair with that steak you’re planning to barbecue tonight – nice. Cellared and bottled in Middletown 14.4% $28 at the Blue Wing Shed Horn Cellars

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