Browsing the blog archives for May, 2010

Varietal Voyage No.22 – 2006 Rosenblum Cellars Pickett Road Petite Sirah

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Varietal Voyage

VV22 marks the final leg of the Varietal Voyage where Sue and I will explore the last grape variety on our tick-list…petite sirah!

Petite sirah is often mistaken for other varieties and has a rich and interesting history.  Petite sirah is actually a synonym for a variety called Durif, a cross between peloursin and syrah, discovered by a French botantist, Francois Durif, in 1880.  The word ‘petite‘ comes from the fact that the berries are very small giving a higher ratio of grape skins to juice.  The result is anything but petite, yielding powerful, inky wines with an aggressive tannic structure.

The 2006 Pickett Road Petite Sirah is the second wine from Rosenblum Cellars we have tasted on this journey.  The first was the 2008 vintage of Kathy’s Cuvée (viognier) tasted for VV10.  The Pickett Road Petite Sirah is one of Rosenblum’s seventeen “Vineyard Designates”, wines produced from distinct vineyards intended to showcase the uniqueness of their terroir.  As the name suggests, the fruit for this wine comes from the Kenefick Ranch, just off Pickett Road, near Calistoga. Of the 125 acres at the Kenefick Ranch, a little over 10 precious hillside acres are planted with petite sirah specifically for Rosenblum Cellars.  Sheltered by the Palisades at the northern tip of Napa Valley, this vineyard’s warm weather and rocky, volcanic soils are well-suited for petite sirah.

This is probably the second or third petite sirah that I have tasted in my lifetime, but this is the first that I have given any real attention.  Knowing from past experience that these wines are quite tannic, I opened the bottle several hours ahead of time to help soften it a bit (decanting wouldn’t hurt either).  This vintage has an extremely dark, almost opaque ruby hue with intense dark berries aromas and layers of musky spice.  The full-bodied flavors are chewy and echo the aromas with the addition of some dark cherry and vanilla.  But this wine isn’t just about the fruit.  There is plenty of acid to stand up to the ripe fruit and the round tannins build up as it fades off into a soft chocolaty finish.  Over the course of the evening, the tannins continued to soften, allowing more of the peppery spice to show through.

Just a few words of warning. If you are on a first date, do not order this wine unless you think your significant other can deal with stained lips, teeth, and tongue!  Fortunately Sue and I have been married long enough that something like purple teeth only elicits the occasional awkward snicker!

2006 Rosenblum Cellars Pickett Road Petite Sirah ($30)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Varietal Voyage No.21 – 2007 Etienne Pochon Crozes-Hermitage

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Varietal Voyage

The final syrah on the journey takes us back to France and the northern valleys of the Côtes du Rhône.

Crozes-Hermitage is the northern Rhône’s largest appellation covering almost 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of rolling hillsides surrounding Hermitage. The names may be similar, but Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage produce very different wines.  Hermitage produces some of the most sought after wines in the world, often long-lived, very tannic, and worthy of cellaring. On the other hand, the producers in Crozes-Hermitage create wines that are known for their consistent quality and approachability and intended to be consumed early.  The proximity to the Rhône River has given this region a wide range of soil types (loess, clay, alluvial sands and gravel) which vary dramatically depending if you are in the valley or on the hillsides.

For generations the Pochon family has farmed vineyards in Crozes-Hermitage, selling grapes to the local cooperative in Tain l’Hermitage.  In 1988 that all changed when Etienne Pochon began managing the domaine and started producing wine with the family’s own fruit.  Domaine Pochon produces wines that are painstakingly crafted, reflecting the terroir of Crozes-Hermitage. Unlike many producers in the region that focus on quantity over quality, Domaine Pochon creates separate wines from the best hillside plots and carefully blends them together to create this juicy and earthy syrah.

The first things we noticed about this wine were the heady aromas of blackcurrants, cherries and faint hints of earthy tobacco.  Its youthful ruby color carries prominent black and red fruit flavors with some prickly spice and the classic gamey or meaty signature of syrah.  Full-bodied and silky on the palate, it has young, aggressive tannins that build up through the lingering finish.  If you have a decanter (even a water pitcher will do), make sure to use it.  This wine will benefit from some exposure to oxygen to soften its tannic aspects.

2007 Etienne Pochon Crozes-Hermitage ($22)

  • 100% syrah
  • Crozes-Hermitage, Côtes du Rhône, France

Stay tuned for the final variety on the voyage…petite sirah!

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…

Sample Packs – Try Before You Buy!

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News and Events

Try before you buy…I’m shocked that with so many great wines out there, somebody has picked up on this sooner!  There are tasting rooms all over “wine country” and thousands of wine shops around the nation.  But what if you don’t have access to these resources or your local wine shop doesn’t carry the wine you want?  The profileration of internet has completely changed wine sales and created new opportunities for many producers and winery owners, especially the small guys.  Perhaps the biggest obstacle for the small producer has been getting their wines to market and finding opportunities for consumers to taste their products.

I don’t’ know about you, but I have a hard time imagining what a wine tastes like based on written descriptions alone.  Many people are reluctant to spend their hard earned money on a bottle of wine that the might not enjoy. Personally, I would much rather have a sample to form my own opinions.   Two new companies have emerged to help address this challenge., an offshoot of Crushpad in San Francisco, has stated selling and shipping “Tasting Packs.”  With the the help of a company, aptly named, Tiny Bottles, Crushpad’s winemakers can package and sell collections of small 50 ML samples of their varietal wines.  There are many different tasting packs to choose from allowing the consumer to explore a wide range of wines without spending an arm and a leg in the process.  For a different tasting experience, Crushpad also sells a product called Fusebox, which allows you to blend your own custom wine in the comfort of your own home.  I’m interested in getting a few of these for a wine tasting party! is operation that is catering to larger, more well-known producers, but the concept is very similar to Brixr’s.  At the moment, the number of producers they represent is small, but the number is growing consistently.  Shipping is another story.  Currently they can only ship to a small number of states, but this number is growing quickly as well.


2007 Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse

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Tasting Note

When you hear the word “Burgundy”, you might think of red wine or pinot noir.  But what many people do not know is that Burgundy can also be synonymous with white wine, in particular, chardonnay.  From Chablis to the Côte de Beaune to the Mâconnais you’ll find a wide variety of white-burgundies at an even wider range of price points.  Examples of the world’s best and most expensive chardonnays come from these regions as well as many outstanding wines with affordable price tags!

The vineyards within the appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé (pronounced Poo-yee Fwee-say) are scattered about the craggy hillsides and valleys found in the southern half of France’s Mâconnais district.  The soils here are well suited to chardonnay being composed mostly of limestone, slate, and clay.  Despite the fragmented geography of the area the appellation still manages to produce around 500,000 cases per year and is the source for many affordable Burgundian chardonnays.  Maison Louis Jadot has cultivated relationships with many growers in the region, providing equipment, barrels, and winemaking expertise. The wine that these growers produce is destined to be bottled under the Jadot label.  Maison Louis Jadot receives wines from the individual producers and carefully blends them together to create a style of wine that reflects the essence of Pouilly-Fuisse.

Tasting Notes

The Louis Jadot’s 2007 Pouilly-Fuisse ($22) has a light golden tone with vibrant aromas of grapefruit, lemon and toasty almonds.  Zesty citrus flavors intertwined with a firm backbone of minerality are supported by the structure of careful oak fermentation and aging.  Its medium body and clean, silky finish makes this a good partner for seafood and poultry.

Varietal Voyage No.20 – 2007 d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viogner

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Varietal Voyage

Our second syrah is an Australian shiraz.  Yes, syrah and shiraz are the the same grape.  Even though there are many theories, nobody really knows where the name shiraz (rhymes with pizazz) came from.  So, in the Aussie spirit (and for the sake of simplicity) we’ll stick with shiraz for this post!  When in Rome…

d’Arenberg has made wine in Australia for almost one hundred years.  The winery was founded by Joseph Osborn in 1912, but the d’Arenberg name didn’t come about until Francis d’Arenberg Osborn created his own label in 1959 to honor his mother, Frances Helena d’Arenberg.  Now, in the fourth generation of family ownership, they are guided by Francis’ son, Chester d’Arenberg Osborn as chief winemaker and viticulturist.

The 2007 Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viognier ($20) comes from d’Arenberg’s Osborn Estate in the heart of South Australia’s McLaren Vale.  Brought to Australia in the 1830′s it has become the most popular grape down under.  McLaren Vale has a warm, Mediterranean climate, perfect conditions for heat-loving shiraz.  The soils in this area are a mixed bag of terra rosa, chalk, with sandy or clay loam depending where you are in the valley. Viognier, a white grape that also thrives in this climate, is a variety that has made its way from the Rhône valley and is growing in popularity around the world.  Viognier, with its peachy tropical fruit aromas,  is often added to the wine to boost the aromatics of the shiraz/syrah.

In the glass this young shiraz has a lovely ruby color with intense aromas of stone fruits, blackberries and black cherries.  After a short time, tobacco and cedary cigar box aromas unveiled themselves.  Spicy, dark cherry flavors and subtle amounts of blueberries and plums are balanced with mouthwatering acidity.  This medium-bodied shiraz has a soft, tannic edge that finishes off quickly and cleanly so it won’t overpower your palate.  We paired this with a hearty pizza and the Italian spices really helped accentuate the soft tannins in the wine.  I can see this going really well with a grilled burger or steak.

2007 d’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz-Viogner ($20)

Varietal Voyage – See how it started…