Archive for the Info on Wine Category

WINERY VISIT #3 – KAPCSANDY FAMILY WINERY

Posted in Info on Wine, Kapcsandy Family Winery, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by ballymote

We awoke early on Wednesday morning (Oct 6th) and drove to Yountville for a quick breakfast at Bouchon Bakery before heading up to meet with Lou Kapcsandy at his State Lane property. This was a visit I had been looking forward to with great anticipation. Kapcsandy Wines are quickly becoming one of the new California “cult” wines and everyone who has visited and posted reports of their visit on the wine boards seems to come away totally impressed with Lou and his operation.

 We arrived exactly at 10:00 A.M. and Lou was there to greet us and show us the grounds. His passion and pride was immediately apparent as he related how through persistence and a bit of luck he was able to purchase the former Beringer property back in 2000. Soon after purchase, and with the help of famed winemaker Helen Turley and her husband, John Wetlaufer, he replanted the entire vineyard and set about working toward his goal of producing world-class wines. His first few vintages, beginning in 2003, began to draw notice and good reviews and in 2007 he brought on Denis Malbec, winemaker at Chateau LaTour in France to work his magic. The results were almost immediate. Recent vintages of the Kapcsandy Cabernet Sauvignon, State Lane Vineyard (2007) and Roberta’s Reserve Merlot have, according to noted wine critic, Robert Parker, achieved perfection and Lou’s goal of having his wines reach the level of the First Growth’s of Bordeaux has been achieved. You can tell though that Lou is not about to rest on his laurels as he is as committed as ever to turning out the best possible wines each and every year.

We moved inside to the tasting room and Lou began pouring virtually the entire line-up including a 1995 Beringer Cabernet from State Lane that had served as a mentor wine for him. Lou, by the way, was, and continues to be a collector of fine wines and has a cellar that would make anyone envious. I was already aware of how good his wines were but it was a treat to watch the others in our group as they sampled one after another of the Kapcsandy wines. Naturally, the highlight of the tasting was the 100 point 2007 State Lane Cabernet Sauvignon but I think what stayed with everyone even more than the lingering finish of each of those wines was the cleanliness of the entire operation.

As Lou escorted us from one area of the plant to another it became apparent that what is clean by other’s standards is downright filthy by Lou’s standards. Every inch of floor space is immaculate to the point of being able to eat off it. The stainless steel sparkles. The barrels are spotless. Lou would have it no other way. His attention to the minutest detail is meticulous. He could be described as being a stern task-master except that he has an obvious softer side and a sense of humor. The two hours flew by and all of us learned so much and were totally impressed by the man and his wines. We made some purchases, begged to be remembered when the 2008’s were released for sale and thought that was the conclusion of our Kapcsandy experience. It was not.

On Friday, Gerry B. and I drove back up to Kapcsandy to pick up our wines. Much to our surprise and delight, we arrived just as last night’s harvest of merlot grapes was being sorted in the plant. Lou took us over and we had the opportunity to watch as the grapes were de-stemmed and moved slowly along the conveyor belt with nine pickers on each side scanning the grapes closely, removing the imperfections. By the time the grapes dropped gently onto the next area where they were gently prodded and suctioned into the tanks, they were perfect. It was fascinating to watch and observe as the climax to a year of growing took place. So much goes into the end product that we see as a bottle of wine. It starts in the soil, gets nurtured by Mother Nature, receives good “parenting” from Lou and his team, a touch of magic from Denis Malbec and all we see is the finished product on a shelf.

Thank you so much, Lou, for allowing us for taking the time during your busiest of seasons to both enlighten and entertain our group. Keep up the great work!!

WINERY VISIT #2 – ALPHA-OMEGA WINES

Posted in Alpha-Omega Winery, Info on Wine, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , , , on October 12, 2010 by ballymote

Tuesday morning, our intrepid group of wine lovers set out from Sonoma for our appointment at Alpha Omega which sits just off Route 29 in Rutherford. There is a beautiful view of the vineyards and fountains from the front deck but we ventured inside to meet with Rick Patton, the Tasting Room Manager.  Rick looks very much like a Hollywood character actor and his outgoing personality was perfect for an early morning tasting. He poured us a couple of A-O Chardonnay’s, an unoaked and an oaked version. Our group voted unanimously for the oaked version which had the more creamy mouthfeel due to under-going malolactic fermentation. We liked it so much that we purchased almost two full cases. As we moved into the reds, Jean Hoefliger entered straight from the fields. Harvest is late in many areas of Napa this year and several vineyards were picking this week. Jean is the winemaker at Alpha-Omega and when he speaks of his wine it’s easy to detect his passion for his craft.

“Liquid poetry”, is what he associates with a well made wine. He believes in letting the vines and the soil do most of the work in creating his wines. With that in mind, I asked him why he felt he needed to consult several times a year with Michel Rolland, noted wine blender who travels the world teaching wineries how to blend wines that will score well in the ratings. Jean replied that he simply uses Michel as a sounding board. He says he needs “a doubter” to provide him with options so that he doesn’t become complacent over time. Jean has practiced his craft in wine regions all over the world and his talents are evidenced in the wines he produces.

Jean spent about 40 minutes with us and then it was back to the harvest and Rick continued the tasting and tour leading us into the Barrel Room and outlining the A-O fermentation process. One of the distinct highlights of the tour was an opportunity to taste their flagship wine, in this case, the 2008 not yet bottled ERA. The barrel sample we enjoyed really was “liquid poetry” with a floral bouquet on the nose and rich blackberry fruits intertwined with cedar and licorice with great structure already evident. As a consumer, it’s hard to justify paying $185.00 for a bottle of wine but this one may just be worth it.

Alpha-Omega is a beautiful property in a great location producing wonderful wines, red and white. It’s clear that Jean Hoefliger can read the pulse of wine lovers and his attention to detail and love of the land has resulted in a group of wines that are both elegant and delicious. Thank you, Jean, for taking the time to make our visit a memorable one.

REPORT ON A WINE PILGRIMAGE

Posted in Info on Wine, Napa/Sonoma Trip October 2010, Napa/Sonoma Winery Visits Oct 2010 with tags , , , , , , on October 11, 2010 by ballymote

Returned yesterday from a wonderful eight days and seven nights in Napa & Sonoma. My wife, Kathy, and I, our good friends, Joe B. and his wife, Carol and Gerry and JoAnn B. spent a glorious week in Wine Country with a taste of San Francisco thrown in as a diversion.

Quite honestly, we did not get to nearly as many winery visits as I had anticipated but the ones we did were absolutely fantastic. We had great weather, drank great wines and enjoyed some fabulous food each evening of our trip. There is so much to write about that it’s difficult knowing where to start. I think I will separate the wine from the food and do individual reports on each of our wine exploits because each one was truly memorable.

Prior to the trip there were three individuals from Napa that I wanted very much to spend some time with. I knew them from not only their wines but their interaction on the various wine boards. Each one seemed unique yet outgoing in their passion for their wines. I wrote to each and as I had anticipated, all three were gracious and offered a personal visit to their property. I will begin tomorrow with the first of our appointments and that would be a warm and wonderful two and half hours with Merrill Lindquist at EMH/Black Cat Wines in Calistoga.  Next will be a report on our visit and tour with Jean Hoefliger at Alpha-Omega in Rutherford and the third will be a very informative and personal experience with the amazing Lou Kapcsandy at his State Lane Vineyard. Each one remarkable in its own way and a marvelous learning experience for each of us. See you all tomorrow!

PRE-TRIP UPDATE #5 (FINAL)

Posted in Info on Wine, Pre-Trip Update #5 (Final) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2010 by ballymote

A trip that we began planning over a year ago is now just a few short days away. The research is over, the reservations have been made, dinners arranged and winery appointments scheduled. I have always believed that much of the enjoyment of travel was in the planning and this was certainly no exception. I have had a blast during every phase of the research process. With hundreds of great wineries in Napa and Sonoma to choose from it is no easy process to come up with the very few we will have time to visit during our week. I’ve tried to concentrate not just on places with great wine, but more importantly, places with great people. 

 

We arrive in San Francisco on Saturday morning and after a full day tour of the city we will be dining at Rue Lepic on Nob Hill. On Sunday morning we will make our way to Sonoma, stopping for breakfast in Tiburon and checking into the Renaissance Lodge at Sonoma, our home for the week. After freshening up we plan on driving to Santa Rosa for the final day of the annual Sonoma County Harvest Fair, and after a healthy sampling of the wines competing for medals at the fair it will be time for dinner at Cole’s Chop House in Napa. Next Saturday, after making our way back to San Francisco, we will tour Alcatraz and enjoy dinner at Izzy’s Steaks and Chops before four of us head for the airport and our flight back home. Gerry and JoAnn will remain in the city by the bay for another 3 days.

Monday thru Friday will be our days for wine visits. It’s an exciting time of the year in Wine Country as the harvest is taking place in many of the areas we will visit. Here is  what our week may look like. Not all of these are booked or will take place, but it’s a nice outline of what the week may look like. Thanks,Gerry, for putting this together:   

Monday, October 04, 2010            8:45 AM      Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    40 miles ~60 mins to   10:00 AM    EMH Wines, 25 Rosedale Rd, Calistoga

Travel         02 miles ~05 mins to   12:00 PM     Vincent Arroyo, 2361 Greenwood,Calistoga

111 miles     04 miles ~10 mins to   2:00 PM       Chateau Montelena, 1429 Tubbs Ln, Calistoga

167 mins     07 miles ~12 mins to   3:30 PM       Larkmead, 1100 Larkmead Lane, Calistoga

                    36 miles ~48 mins to   5:30 PM       Ar Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

Wineries                                          7:00 PM       Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

Visited         22 miles ~32 mins to   8:00 PM       Dinner at Ad Hoc, 6476 Washington St,

    4                                                                      Yountville

                                                                                ____________________________

Tuesday, October 05, 2010            10:00 AM    Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    28 miles ~40 mins to   11:00 AM    Alpha-Omega,1155 Mee Lans, Rutherford

Travel         22 miles ~31 mins to   12:30 PM     Chalk Hill, 10300 Chalk Hill, Healdsburg

127 miles     17 miles ~25 mins to   1:30 PM       Mayo Family Tasting Room, 9200 Sonoma

202 mins                                                             Hwy, Kenwood-7 course wine/food pairing

                    16 miles ~25 mins to   3:00 PM       Swanson, 1271 Manley Lane, St Helena

Wineries      21 miles ~35 mins to   4:00 PM       Ravenswood, 18701 Gehricke Rd, Sonoma

Visited         03 miles ~06 mins to   5:00 PM       Ar Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

    5                                                  6:00 PM       Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    20 miles ~40 mins to   7:00 PM       Dinner at Bottega, 6525 Washington St,                                                                       Yountville

                                                         _________________________________________

 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010       9:00 AM      Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    24 miles ~36 mins to   10:00 AM    Kapcsandy Winery, 1001 State Lane, Napa

Travel         07 miles ~12 mins to   12:00 PM     Robert Baiale, 4038 Big Ranch Rd, Napa

57 miles       08 miles ~15 mins to   1:30 PM       Truchard Vineyards, 3234 Old Sonoma Rd,

93 mins                                                               Napa

                    07 miles ~13 mins to   3:00 PM       Del Dotto Cave Tour, 1055 Atlas Peak Rd, Wineries                                                   Napa

Visited         11 miles ~17 mins to   5:30 PM       Ar Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

    4                                                  7:30 PM       Dinner at Sonoma Renaissance Resort

                                                         _________________________________________

 

Thursday, October 07, 2010          9:00 AM      Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    42 miles ~65 mins to   10:15 AM    Bodega Bay

Travel         11 miles ~15 mins to   12:30 PM     Jenner

171 miles     16 miles ~30 mins to   2:30 PM       Armstrong St Prk, 17000 Armstrong

260 mins                                                             Woods Road, Guerneville

                    19 miles ~36 mins to   4:30 PM       Thumbprint, 36 North St, Healdsburg

Wineries      40 miles ~60 mins to   6:30 PM       Ar Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

Visited                                             8:00 PM       Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

    1              43 miles ~54 mins to   9:00 PM       Dinner at Cyrus, 29 North St, Healdsburg

                                                         _________________________________________

 

Friday, October 08, 2010               8:00 AM      Lv Sonoma Renaissance, 1325 Broadway

                    29 miles ~39 mins to   9:30 AM      Whitehall Lane, 1563 St Helena Hwy S,

Travel                                                                 St Helena

63 miles       08 miles ~15 mins to   11:30 AM    Paraduxx, 7257 Silverado Trail, Napa

93 mins       02 miles ~03 mins to   1:30 PM       Silverado Vineyards, 6121 Silverado

                                                                            Trail, Napa

Wineries      01 miles ~02 mins to   3:30 PM       Hartwell, 5795 Silverado Trail, Napa

Visited         23 miles ~34 mins to   6:00 PM       Dinner in Sonoma

I will certainly be busy writing restaurant and winery reviews in the days and weeks following this trip and I am looking forward to that challenge. My wife, Kathy, and myself are fortunate to be making this trip with four of our absolutely favorite people, Joe and Carol B. and Gerry and JoAnn B. The weather looks good with warm days and cool nights and we are psyched for a fabulous trip!

SHOULD NAPA BE WORRIED ABOUT NEW JERSEY WINES?? I DON’T THINK SO

Posted in Info on Wine with tags , , , , , , on September 22, 2010 by ballymote

This past Sunday, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story in their South Jersey section titled “New Jersey’s Wine Market is Aging Well”. The piece was written by staff writer, Chelsea Conaboy and featured the Sharrott Winery in Atco, NJ. I wrote about this winery earlier this year and even went over to Hops n Grapes and purchased a bottle of their award-winning Cabernet Franc. I had it at Siri’s in Cherry Hill and even gave it a slightly favorable review. It was hardly a wine that would have me choosing Garden State wines over those of Napa, Sonoma, or just about any AVA in California. Therefore, when I read Sharrott winemaker Tom Sharrott declaring this years vintage in the NJ Outer Coastal Plain, “Napalike”, and fellow vintner, Louis Caracciola of nearby Amalthea Cellars stating “New Jersey wines will eventually emerge as a competitor to California in quality, if not in quantity”, I have to add my two cents to the equation.

Let’s begin with the “Gold” medal that the Sharrott Cabernet Franc won at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The statement on its own makes it seem like the Sharrott wine was the best, or at least, the best of the Cabernet Francs in the competition. That would be news to the Cabernet Francs produced by Big Dog Vineyards, Dusted Valley Vintners, Imagery Estate Winery, or any of TWELVE other Cab Franc producers who ALL won a “GOLD MEDAL” at the same competition. It would REALLY be news to Cosentino Winery and Zerba Cellars who both won “DOUBLE GOLD MEDALS” for their entry, and absolutely shocking news to DH Lescombes Winery of New Mexico which took the top “BEST OF CLASS” prize at that competition. So, as you see, there is just a little less luster to the Sharrott “Gold Medal”. Is it meaningless, certainly not, it’s better than the Silver and Bronze medals won by the 47 other Cabernet Francs in that same voting. Let’s just say that many Wine Competitions are generous in their distribution of medals.

In her article, Ms. Conaboy interviewed Vladi Nickolich, the Wine Manager at Wine Works in Marlton, NJ. He stated that many wine buyers who sought out local wines were looking for the familiar blackberry, cranberry, “name your assorted fruit” sweet wines. Some of the other wines which are seeking credibility are at price points that simply make choosing wines from California, Oregon, France, Argentina or any one of the other wine growing regions who are producing better wines for less money, a better choice.

Certainly, there is a place for local wines, and for some of the better ones, I understand why they have to charge what they do to make a profit. I’m simply saying that the use of terms such as “Napalike” is a bit premature. For casual wine drinkers, a day spent visiting the local New Jersey wineries can be fun and informative. They might even consider capping off the day with a nice Napa Cab at a local BYOB.

WINE WORKS – MARLTON, NJ

Posted in Info on Wine, Wine Marketing with tags , , on September 20, 2010 by ballymote

I’m not sure the exact date of the opening of Wine Works in Marlton, NJ; I know it was sometime prior to the start of summer. I had been meaning to get up there and although I had made a couple of trips to Canal’s BottleStop during that time, one thing or another (maybe I can blame tremendous road construction in the area) had kept me away. Last week, I finally made my first visit. There was an element of surprise upon entering when the first face I saw was not Max or Felipe, but Vladi, my wine guy from Hops n Grapes. He had not been there long but explained that he was happy to be a part of WineWorks and hoped to do his part in making the place a success. Vladi is one of the good guys in the business, he knows wines and offers personable and helpful suggestions.

WineWorks is the new venture for Max and Felipe Cammarota owners of Terra Nova Restaurant in Sewell and the Landmark Americana in Glassboro, NJ, who sold there very successful, Hops n Grapes store in Glassboro, NJ at the end of last year. Their new location in the old Two Guys Shopping Center on Route 70 in Marlton, NJ faces a host of challenges which will keep them busy as they strive to make in-roads in an area ripe with competition. Perhaps their biggest challenge is that they are within a stones throw of Canal’s BottleStop. There is another Canal’s not far away on Rt. 73 and a host of other wine outlets sprinkled along Rt. 70. If it were not for the presence of Canal’s BottleStop, I would say they would have an excellent chance of leaving all the others in the dust.

A walk around the store reveals a nice selection of wines with very competitive prices. They had several items that I have not seen available elsewhere and that is something I am always on the lookout for whenever I visit a wine store. It looks like they are targeting some of the items that are the daily e-mail specials for Canal’s BottleStop and trying to go under them. It would seem consumers can benefit from any price war that takes place in the coming months. Long term though, they have their work cut out for them. The selection and service at Canal’s BottleStop, under the leadership of Charlie Beatty, will be tough to top.

Wine Works offers some modern features such as their “Taste The Harvest”, a selection of approximately twenty wines available in one ounce pours thru use of their “Enocard”. If you go to their website to find out how to get an “Enocard” or how much it costs, good luck. As far as I can tell, and I spent way too much time trying to find out, there is nothing there that gives you this information. In fact, their website needs quite a bit of work. The link for “BROWSE WINES”, which I foolishly thought would show me their wine selections in-depth, actually shows four wines. They are the same four wines shown on another link that purports to tell you how to match wines with food, but does not. Come on guys, I know there is a lot to do in opening a new store of this size but I would think the website has to be right up there in importance.

They offer a large selection of artisan cheese and fine cigars. Wine Works is a nice looking store in a very competitive area and I wish Max and Felipe the best of luck.

OH WHAT A NIGHT – A GARDEN PARTY FOR STEFANIA WINES

Posted in Favorite Wines, Info on Wine, Stefania Wine Party, wine blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2010 by ballymote

A year ago, I had never heard of Stefania wines. Fellow blogger, Mark Jahnke, who writes the entertaining and informative Jersey Foodies blog, along with his lovely wife, Pam (link is in the column on the right)would post glowingly on the wines whenever he opened them. After reading several of these rave reviews I signed up on the mailing list. Stefania wines are not available in the local wine shops and can be purchased only thru the mailing list, which is currently filled, but has a waiting list.

Paul Romero is shown answering questions from a couple of male wine-lovers while Stefania does the same for two interested female guests.  The Romero’s, who make both their home and their wine in San Jose, California, are both passionate about their craft. As with any daring venture, becoming successful winemakers involves overcoming a great deal of obstacles, and both Paul and Stef enjoy telling the stories that brought them to where they are today. From those first 50 vines planted next their hot tub (Haut Tubee to Stefania fans), they now have an array of wines that are priced well below wines of comparable quality. I had tried most of their varietals prior to last evening but this was my first time sampling their very tasty Pinot Noir with it’s nose of garden flowers and sweet cherry cola. Get on that waiting list!!!

In addition to the great Stefania wines, all of the guests brought a bottle from home and later in the evening, Mark generously opened some fantastic wines from his own collection. I was thrilled to once again try the 2005 Lillian, Whitehawk Vineyard, Syrah and this was followed by a 2007 Sine Qua Non, “The Raven”. So many wines that it was hard to keep track of them but I do know we started in the late afternoon with one of Mark’s magnums of 2006 Sea Smoke, Chardonnay and later I had a small glass of the wine I brought with me, a 2006 Kongsgaard, Chardonnay. Both of these whites were crisp and delicious but none could ever replace a really good red wine. I know there was a 2007 Lafond, Pinot Noir and that my last wine of the evening was a 2005 Andrew Murray, Oak Savannah Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, Syrah.

Was there any food you ask? I’ll just say that anyone who left Mark and Pam’s charming backyard bistro hungry has no one to blame but themselves. There was a veritable orgy of food available including some the tastiest sliders with beef from Flannery’s, I believe. A terrific brisket prepared in Mark’s new smoker and rubbed with Pam’s super-secret seasonings, barbecued chicken and plate after plate of side dishes to go with the meats.

As with any party of 40 people it’s difficult to meet everyone but in addition to the guests of honor, Paul and Stefania Romero, I enjoyed having the opportunity to meet another dynamic duo of food bloggers, John and Lisa Howard-Fusco who do a fantastic job on their very popular “Eating in South Jersey.”

John and Lisa put a lot of effort into their blog and have some great interviews with chefs (i.e. Paula Dean, Ted Allen), restaurant owners and others involved in fresh food and produce throughout the area. There is always something new on their site and it’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the Jersey food world from the seashore to the city. It’s obviously a labor of love and I totally enjoyed having the opportunity to spend some time with both of them in a great setting.

One other couple that deserves mention, simply because they were charming, would be Tom and Denise DeBiase. These Central Jersey wine-lovers will be out in Sonoma next month at the same time as my wife and I and two other couples who will be joining us. It would be nice to meet up at some point with Tom and Denise whose son is out in California pursuing his dream of becoming the next Paul and Stefania. From what I hear, he is off to a good start.

Paul and Stefania’s east coast trip took them to Washington DC on Thursday and Friday and they will be in New York City tomorrow. They had a great dinner the other night on the banks of the Potomac and I’m certain NYC will provide another super backdrop. Last night’s garden party, hosted by Mark and Pam, was a first-class affair and hopefully will provide the Romero’s with fond memories of the new fans they have made for themselves and their wines when they return to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Thank you, Mark, for the invite.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers