Too Much Wine Too Little Time

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Wine Grape Harvest Season

Another summer is coming to a close and the fall season is around the corner. While I always hate to see summer go fall is one of my favorite times of the year. Everything just appears to slow down a bit from the hectic rush of summer, the heat and humidity dissipate and the air is clear and crisp. As a wine lover this time of year is exciting in that the harvest of wine grapes for a new vintage begins.

Yes, every year at this time the harvesting of grapes usually starts with sparkling wine producers who pick in mid to late August. Labor Day is usually the start of harvest for early ripening varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. Depending on the weather harvest can continue on through October with the big reds like Cabernet left to hang as long as possible to get full ripening. Weather is always a major factor determining when the grapes are picked; cold, heavy rain or frost could destroy a crop. It is always exciting to know that a new vintage of my favorite wine will be bottled after the wine makers spin their craft. I can’t wait to hear the reports of barrel tastings of these new vintages. While as a consumer I am aware most of these new wines will not hit the market for a couple of years, I am sure some more excellent wine is waiting to be tasted.

I have not yet visited my favorite place, during harvest as I can’t take crowds; I have been to a few grape crushing events and can imagine the smell of grapes in the air and the celebration as tons of grapes roll up to the crush pad. Yes another harvest season has begun and if you are a true wine lover go visit your local vineyard, some even allow volunteers to help pick the grapes and the crush is an experience you won’t forget.

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2006 Bogle Phantom

2006 Bogle Phantom is here!! We anxiously await the arrival of the new vintage release of Phantom each August and it arrived this week on the shelf at Liquor Outlet, our favorite wine shop. Bogle produces this “scary” good blend each year in somewhat limited quantities. While you can purchase more than just a few bottles, when it is gone, it is gone until next year. The red blend is always comprised of 3 varietals, Petite Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel & Old Vine Mourvedre with the percentage of each varying in each vintage.

The 2006 current release is 49% each of Petite Sirah and the Zinfandel, with the remaining 2% Mourvedre. The prior vintage was 54%, 43% and 3% respectively. While I am a huge fan of the bold, spicy, complex flavors the Phantom wine has to offer each year, I believe I like this year’s vintage a bit more than the last. Aged in 1, 2 and 3 year old oak barrels there is just enough vanilla and oak imparted to offset, as well as compliment the black pepper flavor from these varietals well known for their spicy richness.

The wine can stand up to your most hearty dishes without going overboard. Phantom is reasonably priced around $20, but you can find as low as $15.99 per bottle. While the 2006 is very approachable, it will continue to age in the bottle for years to come. Remember to stock up now before it is gone.

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Saddleback Cellars

Our last stop of day four was another return visit and by chance turned out that we got to meet one of our favorite winemakers; Nils Venge. Back down Silverado Trail we headed to Saddleback Cellars located in the heart of Oakville. Saddleback is owned by Nils Venge; a name we had run into on numerous occasions during our trip, including finding out at our earlier tasting with Fortress Vineyards that Nil’s is a consulting winemaker for them.

While we love Saddleback wines, and we were so excited to meet Nils, this was simply a bad choice for us as a last stop. The taste buds were burnt out from a long day of tasting and we should have known better. Next time we will visit Saddleback early in the day so as to appreciate the fantastic wines that Nils makes. We did walk away with two bottles of the 25th Anniversary 2006 Special Barrel Selection Cabernet. One bottle was to drink at dinner that evening and the other is resting comfortably in our cellar waiting for an occasion worthy enough to open a special wine such as the Anniversary Cabernet is.

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Annual Frank Family Vineyards Visit

Our next stop was an old favorite and was just a matter of changing rooms. We left the Frank Family VIP room and headed over to do a tasting of their reserve wines in the newly renovated tasting room. Frank Family has been one of our many favorites and we return each year to try the latest vintages of their reserve wines and champagne which are not sold locally. Shortly after our visit last year Frank Family opened their new tasting room in the original Craftsman House on the property.

The former residence of the original winery owner was lovingly restored including a brick fireplace that was found underneath layers of plaster and paint. I will admit for a moment I did miss the old neat “no frills” tasting room, only for a moment though. The new tasting is beautiful and definitely an improvement. Frank Family Chardonnay is one of my favorites and the reserve Chardonnay was outstanding this year along with the reserve Cabernet and Sangiovese. I think it goes without saying that we never leave without a case or two being sent back home and this year was no different.

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Fortress Vineyards

After leaving Silver Oak we headed up to Calistoga for our appointment with Fortress Vineyards. Fortress does not currently have a tasting room of their own, so they hosted us in the new Frank Family VIP tasting room. My brother-in-law found Fortress while researching places to visit on our day trip up to Lake County which is where the vineyard is located.

Owner Barbara Snider was our host for the tasting and I can’t say enough about how good the Fortress wines are. We came away with two new favorites; the Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Syrah, with the Petite being one of the best I had ever tasted. I will not go into a lot of detail on Fortress as a forthcoming write up will be posted on our Unique U.S. Wineries page in the near future. However, I will say that Fortress was one of our favorites of the week and reminds me why it pays to research and try new and unique wineries.

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The Commonwealth Polo & Wine Event at The Plains

The Great Meadow Equestrian Center just west of Washington DC will host the pairing of two great events. The 24th annual Commonwealth Cup of Polo and the Wine Festival at The Plains. The event will showcase Virginia’s locally grown award – winning wine and one of the oldest Polo matches in the country that will pit the US Military Combined Services against the British Combined Services team. The marquee match will be held on September 13th 2009 at 3:30PM. The wine festival will host tasting rooms from all corners of the state for a grand celebration of harvest. Select wineries will showcase over 250 locally grown wines. The event will feature gourmet cuisine prepared by the area’s best chefs, wine and food pairing, and tasting demonstrations and much more. The benefit event will support the Great Meadow Foundation and British and American servicemen and women through the Wounded Warrior initiatives.
Dates: September 12th – 13th
Time: 11:00AM – 7:00PM each day
For more information or to purchase discount tickets on line visit event websites at www.commonwealthcup.net or www.winefestivalattheplains.com.

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Silver Oak Cellars

Day 4 began at one of our old favorites, Silver Oak Cellars. We headed out to the Napa tasting room located in Oakville. As you may know, there is also a tasting room in Sonoma County where you can sample the latest Silver Oak vintages, but we were all very excited to get to the new Napa Valley winery and tasting room as the rebuild had been completed since we last visited. While the new tasting room made its debut almost a year ago now in late September our last visit to Silver Oak was in May while everything was still under construction.

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We entered the tasting room through the massive cellar doors to an elegant, yet, cozy tasting room complete with a fireplace that looked well broken in. The room is mostly limestone with a tasting bar crafted from white oak brought in from an 1820 barn in Missouri topped off in steel. Behind the tasting bar there is the most gorgeous hand carved wooden replica of the Silver Oak emblem. A massive piece of art leaving out no detail that is stunning to look at. The tasting room has some of the original pieces, such as the tables and old tasting bars that adorn areas of the room.

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The wine speaks for itself of course; so I don’t feel the need to go into much detail as it is always outstanding. I do feel the need to tell you about our host, an older gentleman named Deke. He was fascinating. His stories were amazing, his knowledge of the winery, the wines, the valley and simply his life itself were truly incredible. After purchasing a few memento’s and a large format bottle to ship home we tore ourselves away from the tasting bar and Deke’s stories with a promise to return again next year which has yet to be broken for many years running.

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The Great Wine Escape Weekend

Monterey Wine Country’s 13th annual Great Wine Escape Weekend celebrates the magnificense of harvest. World class wine and food will be featured with winemaker dinners, “be a winemaker for a day” seminar and Wine Enthusiast’s 2009 Signature Dinner. Visit Monterey’s wineries and vineyards and so much more.
To be held Friday November 13th through Sunday November 15th 2009.
For event times, information and tickets visit: http://www.montereywines.org/wine_events_the_great_wine_escape_weekend.php
Or call: 831-375-9400

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Mounts Winery Dry Creek Valley

Our intension after Raymond Burr was to head back to the Inn. Well, plans change and we came upon a sign with balloons on Wine Creek Road which is just off of West Dry Creek Road, announcing Mounts Winery. Of course we decided to check it out so up the long driveway past rows of vineyards we went to the top of a hill with a beautiful view of the surrounding vineyards. Mounts is family owned and operated and we were greeted by the family themselves, and welcomed to the tasting area set up outdoors on the patio for the holiday weekend. The set up was complete with a barbeque, including ribs that were some of the best I have ever tasted. Rich Mount and his son David are the owners with Rich doing the farming (he is also responsible for those fantastic ribs) and David the winemaker. Growers of premium grapes for three generations and over 50 years, the Mounts opened their winery in 2007. We tasted a selection of five wines, all very good yet we were really impressed with their 2007 Estate Syrah and 2007 Estate Petite Syrah. Both of these wines are young and on the tannic side, have big, bold, complex flavors with a dark inky color and should mellow and age well. Both are small production with 475 cases of the Petite Syrah and 175 cases of the Syrah produced. All agreed this was another great find and that Mounts will be added to our list of favorites for a revisit in the future.

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Histoire Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Mendocino

We recently sampled a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon called Histoire by Forth Vineyards in Healdsburg, California. Besides the wine, I love the label, it reads histoire means story…..every wine has one…..every life has one…stories tell us who we are and who we can be…..stories told around the table bind us together….to learn the story of this inviting Cabernet, chapter one, and to share your own story with us visit www.histoirechapterone.com How intriguing, how true. It makes you want to try the wine, it makes you want to visit the website, not just drink the wine, educate yourself on the wine and maybe have a little fun telling a story on their website. This Cabernet drinks more like a Napa Cabernet than one from Mendocino. It is a must try offered just at the $20 price point. It is for anyone who appreciates a big Cabernet without the big price tag. While the wine is full bodied, it is not overly tannic and offers layers of ripe fruit and I also detect a hint of vanilla and cinnamon.