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Posts tagged ‘Switchback Ridge’

2004 Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard. The property, located just off the Silverado Trail between St. Helena and Calistoga has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Kelly Peterson along with her father John founded Switchback Ridge in 1999. She is responsible for all aspects of the business, including all sales, marketing and hospitality functions. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage.

Purple in color. 15.7% ABV. Soaring nose of red fruits, creme de cassis and a newly opened box of Whitman Sampler. Richly textured, plush and chewy. The balance is notable give the high ABV. Currants, raspberries, cassis liqueur and dark chocolate on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long with fine grained tannins. This wine has a spot in my cellar but you have to pick the right spot when opening. I’d advise against opening this with your friends who prefer old world style wines. Not for the faint of heart. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 92 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list. The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon will be released to mailing list members this fall at around $85 per bottle.

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2010 Switchback Ridge Merlot – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

Purple in color. 14.2% ABV. Amazing nose of blue fruits, crushed stones and flowers. Big, dense and complex with a sweet fruit profile. Currants, cassis liqueur and cocoa powder on the palate. The finish is long and silky with fine grained tannins. At first blush this wine seems to be slightly less concentrated than previous vintages but it picks up weight with time in the glass. The nose itself is worth the price of admission. Classic Bob Foley and a benchmark for California Merlot. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 92 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list. The 2014 Merlot was released to mailing list members last fall and is fairly priced at $70 per bottle.

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2003 Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

Violet in color. 14.8% ABV. Stunning nose of cassis liqueur, molten licorice, Whitman Sampler and scorched earth. Complex, layered and fabulously hedonistic. Cassis, currants, cherry truffle and earth on the palate. The finish is exceedingly long with silky tannins. Gorgeous Cabernet Sauvignon and everything I look for in a Bob Foley wine. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 94 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list. The offer for the 2014 version came out just a week ago. The Cabernet Sauvignon is pretty compelling at a price of $95.

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2005 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

Inky purple in color. 16.4% ABV. Chocolate, black fruits and melted licorice on the nose. Dense and full bodied with medium acidity. Blackberry liqueur, white pepper, black cherry and raisins on the palate. Chalky tannins on an exceptionally long finish. This is a very big wine so pick your spots wisely when opening. Drink over the next 5-7 years.

My rating: 91 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list. The Petite Sirah is a buy for me every year at a mailing list price right around $55. On a short list of the very best domestic Petite Sirahs.

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2004 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

Opaque purple in color. 16.4% ABV but the wine shows not even a trace of heat. Blue fruits, crushed stones and baking spice on the nose. A complete blockbuster. Full bodied, mouth coating and powerful. Blueberry liqueur, iron, licorice, cassis and white pepper on the palate. Chalky, omnipresent tannins. The finish is endless. Drink anytime over the next decade.

My rating: 95 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list. The Petite Sirah is a buy for me every year at a mailing list price right around $55. On a short list of the very best domestic Petite Sirah’s.

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2005 Switchback Ridge Merlot – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

Opaque purple in color. 14.8% ABV. Aromas of cherry, lavender, leather, kirsch and evergreen soar from the glass. Full bodied and plush on the palate. Unmistakably a Bob Foley wine. Currants, cassis, blueberry liqueur, chocolate ganache and raspberry on the palate. Consider blending the chocolates from a Whitman Sampler and you are on the right track. Over the top but that is what I both wanted and expected. The finish is long and supple. Great now but will surely continue to develop for 2-4 years.

My rating: 94 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list. The Merlot is a buy for me every year at a mailing list price right around $65.

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2004 Switchback Ridge Merlot – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

Opaque purple in color. 15.5% ABV. Nose of cassis, tar and dark fruits. Plums, currants, blackberry, raspberry, vanilla, leather and smoke on the palate. Silky tannins and a long, lush finish. Massive wine. Big and extracted. Full bodied, rich and unctuous. This is a Bob Foley wine through and through. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 93 points.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list.

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In Defense of Merlot

It’s become fashionable to bash Merlot.

Will Lyons of the Wall Street Journal wrote: “What struck me was how different the vintages were in style, how poorly some of the Merlots showed and just how stunning the Cabernet Sauvignons were.”

From Tim Fish of The Wine Spectator: “The 2010 California Merlots just aren’t much fun to taste. Another tough day in the tasting room.”

I get it. There is an ocean of mediocre Merlot, not only in California, but also in Washington. Fellow wine blogger Cliff Brown  sums up the biggest issue with Merlot: “There are simply very few, if any, Merlots in the $20-$30 price point that are worthy of your attention.”

What’s lost in the bashing is the fact that there are some simply breathtaking Merlots being made in both Washington and California.

To prove my point, here are recent tasting notes from some of my favorite Merlot producers including Leonetti, Switchback Ridge and Force Majeure.

  • 2004 Leonetti Merlot – Crimson in color. 14.1% ABV. 97% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit is sourced from Canoe Ridge Estate, Sagemoor Farms and Wallula Vineyards. Black fruits, pencil shavings and vanilla on the nose. Cherry liqueur, cassis, spice, anise, leather and chocolate on the palate. Exceptionally long finish. Fine grained tannins. Drink over the next 2-4 years. My rating: 93 points.
  • 2007 Grand Reve/Force Majeure Collaboration Seriers IV – The wine is a gorgeous ruby red in color. Heady aromas of cherries, pencil and cedar. Blackberries, blueberries, cherry liqueur, currants, anise, graham cracker and leather on the palate. Sexy and hedonistic with lush, silky tannins. The wine has great mouthfeel and texture. Drink over the next 5-7 years. My rating: 94 points.
  • 2006 Switchback Ridge Merlot – Dark, brooding and jammy. Layers of raspberries, cassis, cedar, chocolate, spice and currants on the palate. Just a hint of toasty oak rounds things out. The wine is lush with rich, creamy, hedonistic fruit. The finish is exceptionally long and sweet. Enjoy this wine over the next 3-5 years. My rating: 92 points.

Other Merlot producers making exceptional wines include Pahlmeyer, Pride, Blackbird, Paloma, Blankiet and Robert Foley. Unfortunatly, to Cliff’s point, most of these Merlots cost upwards of $50. Nonetheless, don’t give up on the varietal just yet!

What are some of your favorite high end or value Merlots?

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1999 Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon – Bottle Notes

Switchback Ridge wines are sourced from the Peterson Family Vineyard in Calistoga. The property has been in the Peterson Family since 1914 and was replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah in 1990. Bob Foley has been the winemaker since the inaugural vintage in 1999.

My last bottle of the first vintage of Switchback Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon. I decanted the wine briefly and served with some great steaks. A modest 14.5% ABV. Opaque purple in color. Blue fruits, leather and a hint of mint on the nose. My first though upon tasting was: “Is this really 14 years old?” Like all Bob Foley wines this Cabernet has great mouthfeel and texture. Rich and unctuous. Cherries, cassis, cinnamon, cedar, spice and cocoa on the palate. The finish is long, lush and creamy. This wine is shedding its baby fat and aging gracefully. Drink over the next 3-5 years. My rating: 94 points.

As an aside, at 14 years of age this wine was still just a baby. Sometimes I wonder if we underestimate the aging potential of the current crop of California Cabernet Sauvignon producers.

Switchback Ridge wines are only available via their allocation list.

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Petite Sirah: California’s Most Age Worthy Varietal?

Petite Sirah was first bottled as its own varietal by Concannon in 1961. The wines made in these early years were huge, tannic, extracted wines. Some of the better examples like Ridge York Creek, Freemark Abbey, Stags’ Leap and David Bruce were thought to be wines capable of aging for 30 or more years. Therein though was the problem as most consumers don’t buy wines to cellar for that long and these wines were almost capable of ripping the enamel off your teeth if you drank them upon release.

When I first started buying and cellaring wines in the early 1990’s the appearance of Petite Sirah on the shelf at a wine store was a rare occurance. The varietal was on the verge of irrelevance. In 2002 Diaz Communications began a campaign to resurrect Petite Sirah. Through relentless marketing and promotion Petite Sirah has staged a comeback. Longtime producers like Ridge and Stags Leap have been joined by hot wineries like Outpost, Turley, Carlisle, Foley and Switchback Ridge. All the while wineries like Bogle, Concannon and Foppiano continue to produce staggering case volumes of Petite Sirah year in and year out.

Another factor in the renaissance of the varietal was a concerted effort on behalf of producers to make wines that are more user friendly. Better tannin management has supposedly made the wines more approachable in their youth.

I decided to put this premise to the test by pulling some bottles from my cellar:

  • 2004 Outpost Petite Sirah Howell Mountain – The wine has an an amazing nose of fresh, ripe raspberries. On the palate there are jammy raspberries and cherries with a strong dose of pepper and anise. There is no getting around the wall of tannins on this wine as well. The wine has a long, tannic, jammy finish. My rating: 91 points
  • 2005 Switchback Ridge Petite Sirah – Sit tight. 16.4% alcohol by volume. Cherry liqueur on the nose. Massive structure but in no way hot or over-ripe. Chocolate, cherries, prunes and blackberries. There is simply a massive amount of fruit on this wine. Perfect acidity keeps everything in balance. Drink over the next 20 years. Wow. My rating: 94 points
  • 2004 Turley Hayne Vineyard Petite Sirah – Still opaque purple in color. Raisins and blackberry liqueur on the nose. Blackberries, raspberries and chalk on the palate. Their is a unique sweetness to this wine that is irresistible. The finish is long and sweet. A massive, port like wine. My rating: 95 points

My takeaway from opening these bottles? Many of the Petite Sirahs produced today still have the capacity to age for 25 or more years. That being said, they can also provide immediate enjoyment if you choose to open a bottle now.

This is a unique varietal that deserves space in your cellar. I’m on the hunt to add more Petite Sirah to mine. Who are your favorite producers?

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