Archive for 2008 Alpha Omega ERA

SOLA – (2nd Review)

Posted in Sola (2nd Review), Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , on February 13, 2011 by ballymote

 Dinner for four on a Saturday evening at a very classy BYOB on the Main Line. My friends Gerry and John and I had just visited Sola a few weeks ago and we were impressed enough that Gerry and I were returning with our wives for a 5:30 P.M. reservation. It wasn’t very crowded when we arrived but the tiny dining room quickly filled as the evening progressed.

Our server from our previous visit ( Marie) remembered us but on this evening we had Tom taking care of us. Tom proved to be equally capable and he did a nice job all evening being attentive to our needs, which almost always requires additional wine glasses. Sola, by the way, features nice stems and charges a $2.00 corkage fee per bottle, which is certainly reasonable and I thought I read somewhere that the money is donated to a local charity.

 Speaking of wines, we had some good ones with us. Gerry had brought two of our recent Napa trip favorites. The 2007 Del Dotto, Vineyard 887, Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the special blend that Del Dotto had created for a Las Vegas party hosted by Donald Trump. We liked it when we sampled it at the Del Dotto caves in Napa and it was just as good with dinner at Sola. Gerry also had another bottle of the monster  wine in the monster bottle, the 2008 Alpha-Omega Era. This ia A-O’s top of the line offering and even though we could easily be accused of infanticide for popping these so early it’s actually hard to believe they will actually be better in years to come. I went lighter just in case we had some dishes that cried out for something slightly less hearty and went with an excellent 2006 Antill Farms, Demuth Vineyard, Pinot Noir. The light strawberry and floral notes were perfect with several of our items.

 One of the highlights of Sola is their food presentation and it was evident in virtually all of our dishes. Gerry began his meal with the Pan Seared Foie Gras, medjool date wrapped in cured duck prosciutto, apple butter, toasted pistachio and port reduction. He loved it.

His wife, Joann, chose the Carmelized Onion & Gruyere Cheese Tart, baby frizee, pancetta lardons, aged Jerz-hazelnut vinaigrette. She really enjoyed this appetizer and raved about the flavors. Nobody can make something sound better than Joann does when she gives compliments.

 My wife, Kathy, went the simple route and selected the Sola Chop Salad, cucumber, avocado, tomato, blue cheese, bacon and Fuji apple with petite mixed greens in a honey Dijon vinaigrette. Even this not-so-simple salad was beautifully presented and Kathy was quite pleased with the start to her meal.

Only I was slightly disappointed with my appetizer and it was certainly not Sola’s fault. For some silly reason, I decided that I wanted one of the “specials” as  my opening treat. I chose the Quail with sausage and field greens. I should have thought it out more but obviously, I am not a quail guy. I don’t care for several foods that, in my estimation, require too much work for too little food. We can now add quail to that list. I might add that the sausage was good and what little meat I inefficiently pulled from the bone wasn’t bad. Just not the right choice for me.

 I fared much better with my entree, the Seared Diver Sea Scallops, carmelized salsify golden raisins, Meyer lemon, Israeli cous-cous, with a smoked tomato butter, pine nuts and shaved botarga. Beautifully presented, the sauce was wonderful, and the scallops perfectly done. Just a real first-class dish that shows off the obvious skills of the chef.

 Gerry, showing no imagination at all, except for a passionate love of good lamb, selected the same entree he had when we first visited Sola a few weeks ago, the Australian Lamb Two Wats. braised shoulder, hand-made gnocchi, English peas, ricotta, grilled loin-ratatouille and maple chutney. Gerry was raving about the dish before it even arrived at the table and continued with each bite. No doubt this is one of his favorite dining spots.

 The ladies both chose an entree that I was giving serious consideration before I settled on the scallops. They ordered the Hawaiian Butterfish, Jerusalem artichoke puree, fingerling potatoes, lobster fritter in a lobster reduction sauce. Kathy gave me some of hers and I agreed with both of them that the fish was delicious and everything on the plate worked well with each other. Each of us was thrilled with their entrees and the wines were just an extra plus to this great meal.

We each finished off our meal with a different dessert, Gerry chose the Individual Key Lime Tart, graham cracker crust, meringue and gingered blueberries.

 I had the Chocolate Gelato with strawberries and a caramel dipping sauce. Perfect ending, in my opinion.

 Joann finished with the Warm Chocolate Gateau, malted milk ice cream and raspberry coulis. What’s not to like about that?? Another nice presentation.

 Last, but not least, Kathy ended her meal with the Frozen White Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse, dark chocolate cake, Valrhona chocolate ganache.

Another great meal with great friends and great wine in a great atmosphere.


Posted in Favorite Wines, Tasting Notes, Wine Dinners with tags , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2011 by ballymote

 In writing this blog, and in having the opportunity to dine out weekly at many of the wonderful BYOB’s in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area, it also presents an opportunity to taste a lot of different wines. Some dinners there is the surprise of discovering something really good. Once in a while the same dinner will present two wines of note. I must confess that I don’t get too many dinners where SIX of the wines were exceptional. Our dinner at Salt and Pepper in South Philly, which is reviewed elsewhere on this blog, is one such instance where the wines were all top-notch.

Now, it should be noted that one observer’s definition of top-notch may well differ from another’s and my wallet and the wallets of my friends may preclude some of the world’s best wines from our table but, the six we had on this cold January evening were just fine with all of us present. Additionally, there were some other wines on the table that I didn’t sample  for one reason or another. Here is what we enjoyed in no particular order:

 2007 B. R. Cohn, Silver Label, Cabernet Sauvignon

On plenty of other occasions this could have been the best wine at the table. Tonight, despite some nice black cherry and spice nuances, and a pleasant oak treatment this one was slightly lost in the presence of some real heavyweights. Still, at a price point in the $20.00 range, this North Coast cab from the excellent 2007 vintage offers great value.

 The 2005 Shirvington, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia is one of those wines that is always welcome at any table where I am eating. Once again, none of the recent vintages will ever match Sarah and Sparky’s magnificent 01 and 02 effort and, in fairness, that could well be because they are no longer responsible for Shirvington wines. Still, it always brings intense shiraz flavor and although it isn’t perfect with a lot of foods, it’s still a great wine for sipping and conversing and will work with many heavier meat items.

 2007 Domaine Drouhin, Pinot Noir, Williamette Valley, Oregon. My affection for Pinot Noir isn’t shared by many of my wine-drinking friends. I do try to convert them every once in a while when I have a Pinot that I think is outstanding. This was one that they all seemed to enjoy, especially with the lighter foods on the menu. This 90 pointer exhibits a great nose of spring flowers and raspberries and soft flavors of cherry and spice. It is currently available as a Chairman’s Selection in the PA State stores for $29.99 which is almost $20.00 less that its normal retail price.

 2007 Mauritson,Rockpile Ridge Vineyard, Zinfandel. My wife, Kathy, has become a Zin-lover. She has become a zinfandel lover without being exposed to the really good 40.00+ wines that are available. In fact, this may have been her first. The rich blackberry flavors, the baked-pie with hints of Asian spices and the overall structure and balance of this wine made it, for both of us, our Wine of the Night. Considering the competition this was no small accomplishment. It may have been that I wasn’t expecting it to be so good and I knew the others would be.

2007 Kapcsandy, State Lane Vineyard, Estate Cuvee. I opened my first bottle of this superb wine at the end of the summer and was slightly disappointed because I expected more. In retrospect, it may have been my fault as I didn’t give it enough time to breathe before serving. This time, we had our server decant the wine for about 90 minutes before we could hold out no longer and started sampling the deep purple nectar. Much better this time and reminiscent of our sampling it last October with Lou Kapcsandy at his Tasting Room in Yountville, CA. This red blend which garnered 96 points from Robert Parker consists of 46% Cabernet and 46% Merlot with equal blends of Cab Franc and Petite Verdot. Made in the true Bordeaux fashion this is one terrific wine as evidenced by these remarks on Cellar Tracker

  Tasted by etherscreen on 1/29/2011: With such great Cali Cabernet produced by the likes of Rivers Marie, Lewelling, Karl Lawrence, and Stefania to name a few, available way below a c-note, why should one really look to those priced out of reach for many of us? Ok collectors (read not drinkers) can stockpile screaming eagle, harlan, etc., but those wines are nothing more than a distant dream to the vast majority of us. With this in mind, I am not looking to acquire many Cali Cabs north of $100, save Shafer Hillside Select and a few others. Why should we pay more???

Well my friends, the Kapcsandy 2007 Estate Cuvee State Lane Vineyard is one profound example of why to pay more! This wine exemplifies the perfect marriage of Napa fruit with a Bordeaux sensibility. It’s color is nearly alive in the glass. Nose of cassis, wet earth, pencil lead, cigar box, minerals, and menthol. Powerful, but with restraint on the palate. Well proportioned. Finish captures the wonderful aromas noted on the nose as well a some chocolatey oak that sails a nice distance.

I spoke with Lou for a fair amount of time discussing his wines, his history, and his philosophy. He struck me as an extraordinary guy with a clear vision and purpose in his wine making. While I am not in the business of drinking over priced Cali Cab, I am, from this point forward, in the business of cellaring and drinking Kapcsandy wines. (137 views)

  Tasted by Wine-Strategies on 12/25/2010 & rated 97 points: opened on Thursday, tasted (yikes, this is young!) and re-corked for Saturday’s Christmas dinner. Let me begin by saying this is the finest North American wine I’ve ever had, and I’ve had lots. Shafer, not even close. Araujo, whatever. Abreu, Colgin, etc., nah. This wine is like one of the first dates you ever had, with the girl you just knew was for you; when you knew in your heart that the feelings would run deep, and the experience was one you’d never forget. A medium-weight entry gives way to a full-bodied, sophisticated and regal mouthfeel. It’s as if this wine weighs nothing and is as dense as a star, all in the same moment. The structure and blend (they nailed it) is fit not for kings or gods, but for the purest of the pure. The chosen. Loving, caressing, layered in purity and focus. This is worth every penny, and then some. Highly recommended. Drink thru 2030, approx $135, 14,1% abv (576 views)
  Tasted by hrl on 12/24/2010 & rated 95 points: From 375. This is just stellar. Very classy and complex nose that comes across like classified Bordeaux. The palate is very ethereal as the wine is powerful yet restrained. This is a great meeting of Napa ripeness and restrained French winemaking. As someone who finds many of the Napa cults far too big and ripe, this is ideal. My first bottle from this estate and I plan on buying many more. (635 views).




2008 Alpha Omega ERA. We barrel tasted this wine during our October California visit and my friend, Gerry B. decided right there that he had to have this when the folks at A-O finally bottled it. From the monster-size impressive bottle to the equally impressive juice contained therein this is one major red wine endeavor. Certainly this was too early to be opening a wine of such magnitude but one sip and you can already see the lushness and velvet texture of this wine. It will be even better in five or ten years but it delivers much even at this early stage. This is not only a great wine but if you are ever out Napa way, Alpha Omega should be near the top of your “Must Visit” list not just for the great wines but it’s in a beautiful location and the folks, headed by the charming Jean Hoefliger and his entire staff, make you feel totally welcome.

So, there you have them. A great beginning to 2011 and if once a month brings wines of equal quality, it will be a wonderful year.


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.