Grape of Kings

Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of grapes, but Pinot Noir is the grape of kings.

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Today’s Story: Wild Hog Vineyard

Wild Hog Vineyard is a small and family-owned operation, and one whose wines I’ve been eager to try for some time now. While the winery opened in 1990, the Schoenfeld family started producing wines in 1977 on their property on the Sonoma Coast. The vineyard is located at 1,400 feet elevation and is 5 miles from the ocean, with the Pinot Noir coming from 3.5 acres of organically farmed vines certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers.

Another fact I love about Wild Hog, and producers like them, is that the co-owner, Daniel Schoenfeld, is also the winemaker. Even more importantly, his view on winemaking is to let the fruit speak for itself and produces all of his wines unfiltered. This is one of those wines you can taste and truly appreciate the dedication to quality, stemming of course from the winemaker.

For more on their incredible story and farming methods, visit their website http://wildhogvineyard.com/.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Pinot Noir Fort Ross-Seaview

100% Pinot Noir; 15% ABV

2013 proved to be a fantastic vintage for Californian wines, with the growing season long and sunny. It would also mark the first of the drought years (2013, 2014, and 2015). In sight, this wine is deep ruby at its core with some rose petal variation toward the rim of the glass. I let this wine open in the glass for about 30 minutes, with the nose characterized by notes of cranberry, cherry, strawberry, forest floor, smoke, and charred oak. In the mouth, the palate showcases bright red fruits (like cherry, raspberry, and strawberry), jammy blackberry, baking spice, rocky earth, and underbrush. This Pinot is medium- to full-bodied with high, juicy acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish. The high ABV is apparent, hence I believe this needs a couple more years of aging to better integrate.

Price: $30. This is right in the sweet spot for quality Pinot Noir for me (high enough price point to be hand crafted and not mass produced, yet low enough to drink more regularly). I do like this wine but I think the ABV detracts from it a bit. Pair it with gamey smoked meats.

Calistoga Royalty

Today’s Story: Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena found its origin many years ago, in 1882 to be exact, but experienced short-lived winemaking prowess thanks to the onset of Prohibition during the early 1900s. The winery passed hands several times until, in 1968, Lee and Helen Paschich purchased Montelena with Jim Barrett (who some of you may already know) as partner. Winemaking resumed in 1972 and within years Montelena became one of the most important estates in California, and quite possibly the world…

The year of 1976 proved pivotal for Californian wines, thanks to an unlikely event in a faraway place: the Judgment of Paris. The competition was a blind tasting organized by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, in an attempt to pit the best wines of France against the best wines of California. Up against some of Burgundy’s best white wines (Chardonnay), Chateau Montelena took 1st place with their 1973 vintage Chardonnay and shocked the world. Popularity of Californian wines exploded and Napa Valley became what it is today–a tourist destination filled with some of the best grapes producing world class wines.

Though I am not reviewing their Chardonnay today (I will in the future), I find their Cabernets quite interesting as well.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

99% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc; 13.5% ABV

A tough vintage for California, 2011’s are starting to become some of my favorite wines since they truly demonstrate a winemaker’s skill. In appearance, this beauty is still a youthful ruby/purple with no variation toward the rim of the glass. On the nose are aromas of blackberry, blueberry, leather, white pepper, cigar box, chocolate, and dried herbs. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of redcurrant, dried earth, pepper and baking spice, licorice, and green herbs. Full-bodied as most Cabs tend to be, this 2011 shows medium (+) acidity, moderate tannins, and a medium (+) length finish accompanied by notes of iron.

Price: At $130 per bottle, this is not an everyday drinker. While I do like the wine, I think you can find better QPR (quality-to-price-ratio) elsewhere. I recommend this bottle for a special celebration, perhaps over a classic steak dinner.