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Zinfandel of the Month – 2015 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi

Zinfandel of the Month is a regular feature on Zinfandel Chronicles. Keep in mind that although the Zinfandel of the Month might be an older bottle, the current vintage will be one you can find at retail or via the mailing list.

The November Zinfandel of the Month is the 2015 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi.

Ravenswood was founded in 1976 by Joel Peterson. The winery is a pioneer in producing single vineyard Zinfandels from some of Napa and Sonoma’s most treasured vineyards, including Dickerson, Old Hill, Cooke and Belloni. I used to visit Ravenswood in the summer, when they released their single vineyard wines. Back in the day they also served delicious barbecue on the deck out behind the winery. Great wine, great food and great memories.

The 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi is 79% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah and 1% Alicante Bouschet.

Crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. Savory nose of black fruits, flowers, plums and pepper. Medium to full body with medium acidity. Rich, smooth and easy to drink. Cherry liqueur, blackberries and cocoa powder on the palate. The wine finishes strong. Delicious, affordable Zinfandel that will be at it’s best over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 90 points.

Ravenswood is widely available at retail the winery and via the mailing list. The ’15 version of the Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi will only set you back about $15. Even better, the grocery store down the street likely has this wine.

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2010 Thomas Pinot Noir Dundee Hills – Bottle Notes

The 2010 Thomas Pinot Noir Dundee Hills was the winning bottle in the October Installment of Pick My Next Bottle. The wine was opened and served shortly thereafter.

One of the most collectible Pinot Noirs made in all of Oregon is from a winery you’ve probably never heard of: Thomas Winery. Located in Carlton, Oregon, winemaker John Thomas has been releasing small amounts of wine from the Thomas Vineyard since 1988. I don’t recall ever seeing ratings from the Wine Advocate or the Wine Spectator, and I don’t think Thomas has ever hosted a public event. The winery has achieved cult like status among wine collectors.

Very light red in color. Almost translucent. 13.1% ABV. Stunning nose of red fruits, earth, minerals and a little bit of baking spice. Light to medium body with loads of acidity. Very complex. Given the color I anticipated a delicate wine but instead it is surprisingly powerful. Bing cherries, black raspberries, mushrooms and soil on the palate. The finish is long and spicy. If you typically wait for Thomas to reach 10 years of bottle age before pulling a cork, I would suggest opening a bottle sooner rather than later. Entering what should be long drinking window. Best over the next 4-6 years. Oregon Pinot Noir at it’s finest.

My rating: 95 points.

Thomas Pinot Noir makes a brief appearance at Portland-area shops soon after release, and is priced right around $65 per bottle. The 2015 was recently released to members of the mailing list. If you want to put your name on the mailing list you will need track down the winery address and send John a letter. I’ve had the opportunity to taste bottles going back to the late 90’s, and think the wine shows best 7-10 years past the vintage date.

I’ve blogged about Thomas previously in The 2017 Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings and Thomas Winery: The Best Pinot Noir You Have Never Heard Of.

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The Week in Zinfandel (10/23/17)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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2011 Outpost Zinfandel Howell Mountain – Bottle Notes

Outpost Wines was established in 1998 and sits on a pristine piece of land atop Howell Mountain 2200 feet above Napa Valley. Thomas Rivers-Brown has been the winemaker from the start and has gained further acclaim making highly sought after wines for Schrader, Rivers-Marie and many others. Besides Zinfandel, Outpost also produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.

Magenta in color. 15.3% ABV. Sensational nose of juicy red fruits, flowers and white pepper. Full bodied with mouth watering acidity. Big and bold with gobs of fruits. Well balanced. Cherries, plums, chocolate and a healthy dose of Howell Mountain pepper on the palate. The finish is extraordinarily long. Super Zinfandel that will drink well for another 4-6 years.

My rating: 93 points.

Outpost wines are only available via the mailing list and sell out quickly. Even at $50 this Zin is a buy for me year in and year out. Don’t miss the Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from True Vineyard. Highly recommended.

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Devastating News from Cayuse

Official email from Cayuse about not releasing most of their 2015 vintage is below.

Dear Tom

Since 1997, we at Cayuse Vineyards have been dedicated to creating world-class wines. We are committed to biodynamic farming and our mission is to produce wine that is the best possible representation of our unique terroir. We simply will not release a wine that doesn’t meet our rigorous standards.

Earlier this year, in preparation for the May bottling of many of our 2015 wines, we purchased the highest quality corks from our long time supplier. Despite taking every possible step to ensure that we are crafting the best wines possible, during bottling we discovered paraffin particulates caused by faulty corks.

We stopped bottling immediately and we contacted the cork supplier right away. They told us they knew what the problem was with the first lot of corks and they assured us we could proceed with bottling the rest of the wines using a second separate lot of corks.

After bottling, we checked periodically to be certain there were no problems and to see how the wines were developing. When we discovered the presence of paraffin and an oily film in the wines bottled with the second lot of corks we decided to bring in industry experts to help analyze the wines. Their analysis included a Military-Style Protocol Sampling which confirmed the entire bottling was defective. We agree with the conclusions of the experts and as a result we will not be releasing any of the wines from our May bottling.

We have been working diligently with our insurance company to ensure that each customer receives a full refund for the following wines as soon as possible:

2015 Bionic Frog Syrah
2015 Cailloux Vineyard Syrah
2015 Camaspelo
2015 En Cerise Vineyard Syrah
2015 En Chamberlin Vineyard Syrah
2015 Flying Pig
2015 Impulsivo Tempranillo
2015 Wallah Wallah Special Syrah #8 Magnums
2015 Widowmaker Cabernet Sauvignon

We are devastated at the loss of these wines which includes 2,995 cases (750ml) and 2,678 magnums. As you all know, there is considerable anticipation for the 2015 vintage from Cayuse Vineyards and the wines were outstanding prior to that bottling in May. In March, just two months before that bottling, Jeb Dunnuck of The Wine Advocate tasted barrel samples of these wines and scored them between 93 and 100 points. We are extremely disappointed to have produced such beautiful wines that we are now unable to release.

Not all is lost. The rest of the 2015 vintage (bottled in August 2016 and July 2017) remains pristine. The following wines will be distributed, as planned:

2015 Edith Grenache Rosé
2015 Cailloux Vineyard Viognier
2015 God Only Knows Grenache
2015 Armada Vineyard Syrah
2015 The Lovers

Cayuse Vineyards is passionately committed to creating world-class wines. We thank each of you for your ongoing loyalty, support and understanding. We know that you share our disappointment. Obviously this was beyond our control and we’re very sorry.

We really appreciate your ongoing trust.

In Vino Veritas.

Christophe Baron
Vigneron

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Pick My Next Bottle – 2010 Pinot Noir

The October Installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on great bottles of Pinot Noir from the 2010 vintage. This vintage was very good in both Oregon and Sonoma and it is certainly time to check in on some of my favorite producers. The idea for this installment was crowd sourced from some of my favorite followers on Twitter. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened this weekend and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.

The Contenders:

  • 2010 Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir – This is Rochioli’s estate Pinot—without a vineyard designation. It’s a fabulous wine, showing the winery’s signature power, complexity and balance. The flavors are rich, with notes of red berries, persimmons, red currants, bacon and cola. Absolutely delicious now, and it should gain traction and change interestingly over 6–8 years.  95 points from the Wine Enthusiast.
  • 2010 Dehlinger Pinot Noir Goldridge Vineyard – Deep ruby. Complex scents of red and dark berry preserves, smoky herbs and cola, with a spicy overtone. Pungent and palate-staining raspberry and blackberry flavors are buoyed by a zesty mineral nuance. The dark berry and cola notes resonate on a long, smoky and appealingly sweet finish. Plenty rich but comes off balanced and quite pure.  92 points from Stephen Tanzer.
  • 2010 Thomas Pinot Noir Dundee Hills –  Vivid ruby. Pungent earth- and spice-accented black raspberry and cherry-cola aromas are lifted by a suave floral quality that gains strength with air. Deeply pitched, energetic dark fruit flavors take a brighter turn with air and pick up spicecake and anise nuances, along with a hint of smokiness. Chewy and penetrating on the strikingly persistent finish, which features supple tannins, lingering spiciness an a touch of smokiness. 95 points from Vinous.

Which 2010 Pinot Noir Should I Open?

  • 2010 Thomas Pinot Noir Dundee Hills (49%, 20 Votes)
  • 2010 Dehlinger Pinot Noir Goldridge Vineyard (27%, 11 Votes)
  • 2010 Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir (24%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 41

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the November installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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2012 Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc – Bottle Notes

Spottswoode is a family owned winegrowing estate located on the western edge of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. The 46 acre estate, established in 1882, is distinguished by the historic Victorian home depicted on the label. Its entrance is graced by classic formal gardens, while the vineyard stretches behind to the Mayacamas Mountains.

The Spottswoode Estate was bought by Jack and Mary Novak in 1972. The first Cabernet Sauvignon was produced in 1982. Spottswoode also makes an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, a second Cabernet named Lydenhurst and a Rhone blend known as Field Book.

Golden in color. 14.1% ABV. Fantastic nose of stone fruits, green apples, grass and minerals. Medium body with acidity in spades. Pink grapefruit, mango and papaya on the palate. The finish is long and spicy. Always one of the best Sauvignon Blancs made in Napa Valley. Drink over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 91 points.

The 2016 vintage was released recently and is readily available. At $40 it is fairly priced given the pedigree.

I blogged about Spottswoode previously in Overlooked Wines from Great Producers.

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The Week in Zinfandel (10/16/17)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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2011 Sleight of Hand Cellars The Archimage – Bottle Notes

Sleight of Hand was founded in 2007 by Jerry and Sandy Solomon, and Trey Busch. The formula at Sleight of Hand is high quality wines from Washington’s most exceptional vineyards. Sleight of Hand produces a full range of red and whites and without question has one of the top few tasting rooms in both Walla Walla and SoDo.

Crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. Merlot and Cabernet Franc in just about equal parts. Red fruits, leather, cigar box and spice on the nose. Big, structured and silky. Cherries, cassis and smoked meats on the palate. The finish is long with a healthy dose of drying, green tannins. This bottle was a magnum, but it feels like more time in the cellar would be beneficial. Drink over the next 4-6 years.

My rating: 91 points.

The wine is fairly priced at $52 via the winery and retail.

I’m not a big wine club guy but if I had to pick one from Washington, Sleight of Hand would be at the top of my list.

I wrote about Sleight of Hand previously in New to Washington Wine? Check out Sleight of Hand, Gramercy & Force Majeure.

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2014 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay – Bottle Notes

Grgich Hills Estate, in Rutherford, in the Napa Valley, was founded in 1977 by Mike Grgich. Grgich earned fame in 1976 when the Chardonnay he produced as winemaker at Chateau Montelena won first prize among white wines at the now famous Paris Wine Tasting. The estate has 366 acres of vineyards in American Canyon, Carneros, Yountville, Rutherford and Calistoga and is still best known for its Chardonnays, which consistently earn accolades from wine critics. Grgich also makes Fume Blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and dessert wines.

Golden in color. 14.1% ABV. Gorgeous nose of tropical fruits, lemon oil and peaches. Rich and creamy with just the right amount of acidity. Lush and decadent. Pears, creme brulee, minerals and a kiss of toasty oak on the palate. The finish is long and spicy. The best Chardonnay I have had from Grgich in recent memory. Drink over the next 5-7 years.

My rating: 93 points.

This wine is widely availed for right around $45 per bottle.

Grgich Hills is one of Napa’s iconic wineries and one of the few wineries in Napa that has a white program that rivals their red program. Hard to go wrong here. Consider stopping by when you next visit Napa Valley.

This review was based on sample provided by the winery.

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