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Sunday, August 18, 2019

Wine Each Week – Ramey 2016 Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay


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It’s good to be a master of your domain. For David Ramey that domain is Chardonnay. Long considered one of the masters of Chardonnay in California Ramey has seven iterations of Chardonnays to offer. His 2016 Ford Ross Seaview Chardonnay is the ninth vintage he has produced using this fruit, but the first to labeled as such, and offers amazing aromatic complexity. Not only do you get delicate caramel and butterscotch, but you get this bright acidity that opens up to notes of lemon verbena, lime kefir and mandarin orange. There are back notes of guava, white peach, sugared almond and amber with a hint of spring wildflowers. This is all Chardonnay, a smattering however of different clones. The wine was pressed whole cluster, which adds a bit more structure and appropriate tannin from the stems, and aged one year with just 12% new French oak. Immensely food compatible, this Chardonnay hits all the right notes. 3,017 cases.
ORIGIN: Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast, California
ALCOHOL: 14.5%
PRICE: $42/ 750ML
SCORE: 90 POINTS

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Single Prop Rum Takes Flight


August 16th is National Rum Day. Yet rum suffers from the perception as a meager beverage only good for the ubiquitous rum and Coke, and sticky sweet cocktails sipped at idle vacation resorts. Clearly most people think of rum as a mass-produced, sweet spirit with a cartoony character on the label. But rum, not unlike wine, actually can have a sense of place, assuming you drink the good stuff. The sugar cane, the water source, the barrels, all have an impact on how rums can taste.
Taking that a step further Single Prop, a new rum on the market named for the type of plane that scoured the Caribbean Islands in search of rum, uses coconut water as its base. It’s a novel idea and one that works. This is white rum, not aged in barrel. Using coconuts from Nicaragua and rum from both Nicaragua and the Virgin Islands, the use of coconut water might, at first, seem like it would overwhelm the rum. But here the coconut water lightly registers so for folks who want a tropical island feel, this works well, not to mention that the coconut water provides a smoother viscosity. There is a definably sweeter profile, but it’s not overwrought. Though this sips nicely on its own, with a single ice cube, it will also make a great mixer for cocktails - a few ideas are presented below. SingleProp Rum retails for $22.99 and would a make a great addition to your cocktail rotations.

Air Mail
2 Parts Single Prop Rum
1 Part Honey Syrup*
1 Part Fresh Lime Juice
Sparkling Rose
-Add Single Prop Rum, lime and honey syrup into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain over ice into a Collins glass. Top with Rose Champagne. Garnish with a lime or orange twist.
*Honey Syrup made with equal parts water and honey

Melon Daiquiri
2 Parts Single Prop Rum
1 Part Cantaloupe Juice
1 Part Simple Syrup
1 Part Fresh Lime Juice 
-Combine all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into coupe glass. Garnish with a cantaloupe sliver and dash of orange bitters.

Sun Soother
2 Parts Single Prop Rum
1 Part Aloe Vera Juice
¼ Part Rose Water
½ Part Honey Syrup
1 Part Fresh Lime Juice
-Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Wine Each Week: 2016 Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon


As you traverse through your wine life you realize there are a handful of producers who, over the course of your tasting their wines for years, perhaps decades, actually never seem to fail. Such is Spottswoode Winery in Napa Valley. I’ve had the pleasure of tasting their wines for years, meeting with winemaker Aron Weinkauf at their Napa Estate, and the truth is there is never a bad wine from their portfolio. Their secondary label, Lyndenhurst - a reference to the property being named such for a time back in the early 1900’s, provides the quality of the Spottswoode wines at a lesser cost.
This is a seamless wine, embracing all the elements of great Cabernet, wood, fruit, acidity, soil and a deft touch of winemaking know-how. It is both elegant and gently aggressive. Comprised of Cabernet with small amounts of (in descending order) Petite Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. It offers black cherry, black berry, light blueberry, rose water, sandalwood, raspberry, vanilla, cedar and a hint of tobacco. The tannins and acidity support the structure of the wine without compromising it. This is a wine that commands attention but not in a bellicose way, rather it nods and smiles at you from across the room, drawing you close for a personal conversation. 1,826 Cases.
ORIGIN: Napa Valley, California
ALCOHOL: 14.5%
PRICE: $85/ 750ML
SCORE: 92 POINTS
Aron and I at the Spottswoode Estate

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Wine Each Week – Raeburn 2017 Pinot Noir


Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a dime-a-dozen, so to speak. There are so many producers here because the geology, climate and soil are ideal for growing great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Many of these wines will bust your wallet. But Raeburn’s doesn’t. At a mere $25, this is a terrific Pinot Noir, worthy of your cash.
There is a wonderful acidity from this Russian River Valley fruit that supports black cherry, blackberry, red raspberry, blueberry, light cranberry and a light-roasted hazelnut, and vanilla. Because this wine is so balanced in terms of fruit, wood and acidity, it will make great companionship with the foods on your table. Aged just 11 months in all French oak barrels, a quarter of which were new barrels, it was also fermented in small open top bins. This allows for more fruit structure to come through - and there were two punch downs daily (where the must on top is pressed down into the juice below extracting tannins, flavors and color – in essence mixing it all together). This ends up being a lovely wine that you can afford. The Raeburn is a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that hits every note: flavor, structure, food-friendly, price, and makes you happy that you love wine.
ORIGIN: Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
ALCOHOL: 14.5%
PRICE: $25/ 750ML
SCORE: 91 POINTS

Monday, August 5, 2019

Wine Each Week – Newton 2016 Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon


Too many Napa Cabernet Sauvignon suffer from a character flaw: they want to be big, bold, and brash. But Napa Cabs that assault you are just that: assaulting. Then, Newton walks through the door. What’s interesting about the 2016 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon is that it provides all the Cabernet qualities you want but in a much more subtle and subdued package. The oak treatment is not nearly as obvious, the fruit is more restrained yet a little brighter. It’s a big Napa Cabernet without being a big Napa Cabernet. To put it in a theatrical perspective; many Napa Cabs act like Jack Nicholson busting down the bathroom door with an ax in The Shining. Big, bold, brash. Certainly entertaining. But Newton is a Cabernet that is far more nuanced - not Jack Nicholson, but Tom Hanks tapping on the bathroom door with a pen, slipping a note under it.
The 2016 offers beautiful notes of huckleberry, blackberry black cherry, raspberry, and boysenberry. Pulling fruit from three distinct sources – Spring Mtn., Yountville, and Mt. Veeder, this is comprised mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon with less than 6% of Petite Verdot and Merlot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. Eschewing a big oaky style this had a mere 14 months of oak aging with just 15% new French oak. That it is unfiltered adds to its quiet generosity.
ORIGIN: Napa Valley, California
ALCOHOL: 14%
PRICE: $59/ 750ML
SCORE: 94 POINTS

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Old Vine Cline: “Ancient” Wines from Cline Cellars


We all know that some wines are meant to age. But in the plant-based world grapes can be an outlier in that they can live for well over a century and still produce quality fruit. A few years back I was in Portugal and visited head trained vines that were 136 years old and still a workhorse. So when Cline Cellars released their Ancient Vines series it intrigued me because this allows you to literally taste history. That their wines are priced between $18-$23 also offers an incredible value for the experience you can have. In California there are very few vineyards that are truly historic properties, meaning the vines have been in the ground for over 100 years, and are own-rooted, as opposed to being grafted. The Historic Vineyard Society (HVS) group is dutifully reviving and preserving these historical vineyards. For example, in California, Sausalito Canyon Vineyard (San Luis Obispo County) was planted in 1880 and still produces fruit today. Other HVS registered and non-registered vineyards from the 1880s include Bechthold (Lodi), Cazas (Temecula), Martinelli (Russian River Valley) and the truly one of a kind Grandpere vineyard from Deaver Winery in Amador County planted in the 1860s! What this means is that you can experience fruit that still makes wine, and a wine you can drink. Maybe most of us can’t drink a wine that is 100 years old, but we can certainly drink wine that is made from 100-year-old grapes. Now, the term “ancient vines” has no real definition, but typically refers to vines that are over 75 years old. Just like us humans, vines lose their vigor (strength, vitality) as they age and many of these wines have some complexity to them, but are less powerful and robust than younger wines. The complexity often comes from roots that are 30 – 40 feet deep as most of these historic vineyards have always been dry-farmed, meaning no irrigation is provided, the vines themselves need to seek out water.
Cline offers their 2017 Zinfandel, Mourvèdre, Carignane, and their 2018 Mourvèdre Rose from Contra Costa County, the northern portion of the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay area. These are uniformly lighter style wines but definitely show characteristics familiar with their grape type, and all provide that most unique of pursuits – a sense of immortality.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Wine Each Week – Roar 2017 Chardonnay SLH


ROAR launched their first wines in 2001 with a focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from higher altitude plantings along the eastern slope of the Santa Lucia Mountains overlooking the Salinas Valley. Their 2017 Chard not only provides a smooth, velvety viscosity, but there is lovely subtle and light notes of guava, white peach, honeydew melon, lime Kiefer, butterscotch, lemon verbena, caramel, browned butter, sweet dogwood, and Werther’s Originals. A comprehensive acidity fleshes out the experience. Using three clones including 96 – which typically translates to a more texture driven wine - they utilize multiple sources of French oak including Cadus, Latour, and Francois Feres to add deftly nuanced oak. This is one of those Chardonnays that works perfectly by itself or with food. Either way it drinks well. 303 cases.
ORIGIN: Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey, California
ALCOHOL: 14.5%
PRICE: $35/ 750ML
SCORE: 92 POINTS