Tasty Bordeaux Blend to Broaden Your Palate

Today’s Story: Viñas de la Erre

Viñas de la Erre is a family owned and operated winery established in Valle de Guadalupe in 2009. The Erre family acquired the Hacienda San Martín Caballero back in 1985, however it functioned mostly as a family farm and way for the family to expand their legacy in Guadalupe. In 2008, however, Claudio met Rogelio Morales who was then cellar manager and assistant winemaker at Spring Mountain Winery in Napa and they struck up a friendship. When Rogelio and his family visited the Erre’s in Valle de Guadalupe, Rogelio realized the potential of the land for winegrowing and offered to help mentor the change from farming to winemaking. Since fully launching in 2014, Viñas de la Erre practices full estate bottling (similar to Spring Mountain) and winegrower Ernesto I. Rocha, enologist Rogelio, and vineyard manager Claudio work to craft premium estate wines. Together as a team they sustain the vineyards, hand harvest all fruit, and monitor the winemaking process from fermentation to barrel aging and bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Selección de Tintos Reserva

68% Cabernet Franc, 16% Petite Verdot, 12% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.8% ABV

The 2013 Selección de Tintos Reserva is opaque deep ruby in color. I recommend giving this a good 45 minute decant before enjoying. The nose showcases aromas of black cherry, blackberry, tobacco, scorched earth, dried herbs, black pepper, chocolate, and oak. Once on the palate, I get notes of black plum, blackcurrant, black raspberry, anise, sweet tobacco, rocky earth, underbrush, and light baking spice. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) finish.

Price: $31. This drinks right around it’s price-point, but I’d love to see this closer to $22-25 per bottle. I noticed during some research this sold for $42 at one point, which I believe is definitely too high. Pair with roasted pork, beef burgers, or pepper-crusted steak.

Premier Napa Valley Rosé

Today’s Story: Blankiet Estate

Blankiet’s roots start with Claude and Katherine Blankiet, a couple who spent years searching for land conducive to grape growing on the western foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains. Finally, in early 1996, an agent working with the Blankiet family showed them an undeveloped property above the famous Napanook vineyard (and Dominus Estate) and the Blankiets purchased the land on site. From the onset of their search, Claude and Katherine desired to create world-class, high-quality, small production Bordeaux style wines and now, with ownership of the land, set right to work. During development of the vineyards, the Blankiets brought in famed viticulturist David Abreu and winemaker Helen Turley for their expertise. The terroir of Blankiet consists of three volcanic knolls with alluvial deposits between them thanks to water flowing down from the mountains. The vineyards are broken into four sections, each with a unique subsoil and microclimate, and they used root stocks from First Growth Bordeaux estates to get the ball rolling. Today, they produce 5 wines from the Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.

Blankiet farms their vineyards utilizing organic methods (they are Napa Green Certified) and their position on the hillsides in depleted soils requires a great deal of manual work but results in intensely flavored fruit. During the winter, Blankiet Spur prunes their vines and as they grow throughout the spring and summer vineyard workers thin out buds, flowers, leaves, and grape clusters to reduce yields and enhance the wine’s concentration. During harvest, Blankiet completes up to 32 “mini-harvests” thanks to their array of soils and microclimates between and amongst the four varieties they grow. Though the estate examines sugar levels, acidity, and pH to help in their picking assessments, most of the fruit is harvested by taste tests of the berries and any deemed ready are de-leafed and trimmed of damaged clusters that afternoon. Harvest begins at 4am the following morning so workers can pick fruit in cooler temperatures and avoid the 50+ degree temperature swings common in Blankiet’s vineyards from day to night as well as fruit flies that are inactive at night. All fruit is carried to the winery in small baskets before being destemmed by a gentle machine and sorted by two state-of-the-art optical sorters. A few employees manually check and sort the fruit at the end of the process. After sorting, Blankiet adds carbon dioxide ice which maintains the fruit at a cold temperature while displacing oxygen and this is then gravity loaded into small fermentation tanks to begin cold maceration.

During the actual winemaking process, each pick is fermented separately and cold maceration lasts generally a week which allows enzymes to soften the fruit’s cellular structure but inhibit alcoholic fermentation due to the temperature. Once cold maceration is complete, Blankiet slowly warms the temperature of the fruit mass so alcoholic fermentation can begin and they closely monitor temperatures to help the yeasts thrive. The winemaking team checks each tank two times each day, with pump-overs a result according to taste. When the wines are ready for malolactic fermentation, they are moved to new French oak barrels in a warm cave for several months until they are ultimately moved into the cold aging caves where they call home for the next couple of years. Unlike many wineries today, Blankiet steers clear of adding sulphur dioxide (SO2) to their wine barrels when natural evaporation eventually takes place but they instead refill this open space with more wine. When the wine is ready to be bottled, it is done so on-site without fining or filtration.

I previously wrote about Blankiet in Fit for a King when I reviewed the 2014 Blankiet Estate Paradise Hills Vineyard, and you can also check out this prior post for a description of my visit to the property in September, 2019. For the source of today’s information and more for you to explore, check out Blankiet’s website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Prince of Hearts Rosé

Predominantly Merlot, with some Cabernet Franc (no tech sheet); 14% ABV

The 2016 Prince of Hearts Rosé is medium salmon/copper in color and transparent. On the nose, the wine showcases aromas of white peach, ripe melon, cherry, dried herbs, dried rose petal, white florals, cream, and stony minerality. On the palate, I get notes of muddled strawberry, wild raspberry, peach, red apple skins, tropical citrus, white and red florals, white peppery spice, mineral, and a hint of oak. This wine is medium-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity into a bright, crisp, and refreshing medium length finish.

Price: $100 direct from winery. This will be difficult to come across if you’re not on Blankiet’s mailing list, however it is worth trying if you find a bottle. Though this is the very expensive end of Rosé, it certainly is the best from California that I’ve tried. Pair this with melon and prosciutto, shrimp, salmon, or a salad with grilled chicken.

Utterly Complex Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Franc

Today’s Story: Jonata

I previously wrote about Jonata twice, first in Why Wait for Screaming Eagle? when I reviewed the 2005 El Corazón de Jonata and then in Santa Ynez Sangiovese when I reviewed the 2010 Tierra.

Long story short, if you haven’t read these prior posts, Jonata is owned by Stan Kroenke who also owns the LA Rams and Screaming Eagle. Kroenke bought 586 acres of property, though only 84 acres are planted under vine, and like many wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley Jonata found success planting Rhône varietals such as Syrah but also grows Sangiovese and Bordeaux varietals. For more I’d steer you to my prior posts, particularly “Why Wait for Screaming Eagle?”.

Today’s Wine: 2006 El Alma de Jonata

95% Cabernet Franc, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Merlot; 14.9% ABV

The 2006 El Alma de Jonata is opaque deep ruby in color. This needs some time in the decanter to fully blossom, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of blueberry, black raspberry, black cherry, cassis, black licorice, cedar, tobacco, graphite, chocolate, mild herbs, and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, this gorgeous wine offers notes of blackberry, blueberry, plum, violet and rose, cigar box, pencil shavings, wet rock, scorched earth, blood, and exotic spice. This wine is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. Utterly complex and constantly evolving in the glass, this Cabernet Franc is drinking beautifully now but has the structure to go another 7-10 years at least. 426 cases produced.

Price: $155 library release direct from winery. Jonata is producing arguably the best wines from the Santa Ynez Valley and for their complexity and rarity the price demonstrates that. Pair this with grilled steak, peppered chicken, or lamb.

Howell Mountain Elegance

Today’s Story: Viader

Viader was founded in 1986 by Delia Viader (first commercial release in 1989) and is located on the slopes of Howell Mountain 1,300 feet above the Napa Valley floor. Delia was born in Argentina and came to the United States as a post-graduate student, and she holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from Sorbonne University in Paris and studied Business in the US at MIT. While Delia served as the founding winemaker of Viader, her son Alan later picked up the torch and acts as winemaker today. Alan started working in the vineyards at the age of 9 and pursued his passion for grape growing after high school by attending a program in Sonoma and attaining a Viticulture Management degree. In 2002 Alan became the vineyard manager at Viader and in 2006 the lead winemaker.

As winemaker, Alan is said to be more hands-on and an experimentalist. For instance, he tries a range of organic, biodynamic, and sustainable practices in farming the vineyards and producing wine, seeking to strike a balance to produce the highest quality wines possible. Additionally, Alan experiments in the cellars with different blends, yeasts, fermentations, and barrel options.

Viader produces relatively small quantities of wine across four bottlings. Their signature, the Viader Red Blend, is always a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and was 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Cabernet Franc in the 1989 inaugural release. They also have the Viader Black Label (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot), Viader V (Cabernets Sauvignon and Petit Verdot), and DARE (Cabernet Franc).

Fun fact: For over a decade, Viader produced wines at Rombauer Vineyards prior to construction of their own winery. Back then, Rombauer functioned as a custom crush winery for many now-prominent Napa Valley vintners.

Today’s Wine: 2007 Viader Red Blend

71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Cabernet Franc; 14.8% ABV

This wine is medium to deep ruby in color and almost completely opaque. I filtered and decanted this due to some fine sediment in the bottle, and the decanting helped a bit of the alcohol blow off the nose while bringing out some of the wine’s complexities. On the nose I get aromas of jammy blackberry, anise, cigar box, dark chocolate, vanilla, and oak. I can also notice the alcohol on the nose. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases flavors of chewy blackberry and blueberry, cola, cardamom, iron, dried earth, finely crushed rock, and green herbs. Overall a very silky wine, this is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity and medium (+) tannins into a long finish with notes of sappy blackberry and plum. Still some time left for bottle aging, though I don’t see this getting any better from here.

Price: $100. I think there are better values out there at this price-point, whereas I could see this being more reasonably priced around the $70-75 mark. Pair this with beef in steak or burger form.

Rockstar Value from the Loire Valley

Today’s Story: Domaine des Roches Neuves

Domaine des Roches Neuves was founded in 1992 by Thierry Germain following his move to the Loire Valley from his native Bordeaux. At 23 years old, Thierry soon met Charly Foucault from Clos Rougeard who would become an inspiration behind some of his winemaking practices. Thierry converted his domaine to biodynamic viticulture, as well as being certified organic, in an effort to let his vines guide him rather than play a heavier hand that removes truth and transparency from terroir to bottle. This practice helps Thierry’s wines showcase vibrant ripe fruits (thanks in addition to relatively early harvesting) with incredible purity while avoiding rustic vegetal notes. Also, his red wines do not typically have high tannin but rather integrated, soft tannins conducive to drinkability.

When harvesting his fruit, Thierry practices very traditional methods such as hand harvesting and hand sorting at the winery. Further, all of his wines are fermented with natural yeasts in no new oak barrels or tanks. For the wine I am reviewing today, grapes are 100% de-stemmed and fermented in conical tanks. There is a great overview of Thierry’s history and practices here, as well as an overview of his wine portfolio. The domaine’s website also contains fact sheets and an overview of the history and people here.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Les Mémoires

100% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

I picked this up based on a recommendation from an employee at one of my local wine stores. He believes that Thierry Germain is making some of the best wine in Saumur Champigny, and while I need to explore more offerings from the region this already seems tough to beat. The wine is a deep ruby color, though I almost want to call it purple especially near the edges of the glass. The nose showcases aromas of crunchy blackberry, steel cut oats, chocolate, cigar box, damp forest floor, violets, slight bell pepper, and mineral. Once in the mouth, we get flavors of tart blueberry, blackberry, pomegranate, loamy earth, pepper, and limestone minerality. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. Give this a few more years of bottle age, though if you can’t wait it is drinking well with some air.

Price: $70. This is a rockstar wine well worth the price tag, especially compared to some of their neighbors. The traditional style does a beautiful job portraying the “place,” and this wine comes from 110+ year old vines. Pair this with beef, pork, roast chicken, duck, or lamb.

The Cabernet in Cabernet Sauvignon

Today’s Story: Alpha Omega

I talked about Alpha Omega’s origins in a prior post (A Napa Take On Chablis), though will reproduce it briefly here.

Alpha Omega is the creation of Robin and Michelle Baggett following their move to Napa Valley in 2006. Though Robin began his foray into wine much earlier, in 1988 as a grape grower and in 1998 by starting Tolosa Winery, Michelle worked in the design and development of hospitality brands before the couple culminated their pursuits into Alpha Omega.

The winery, as I mentioned before, is known for their red wines and particularly high-quality single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. However, we have a couple bottles of the Cabernet Franc, a limited bottling I can no longer find online, that I thought would be fun to review prior to reviewing one of their single vineyard Cabs. Cab Franc is probably known to most as a blending grape for Bordeaux wines, however they are becoming much easier to find as a standalone wine.

For those of you relatively new to wine, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are the two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon. The cross occurred during the mid-1600s in southwestern France.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Cabernet Franc

100% Cabernet Franc; 15.5% ABV

This is a cool offering from Alpha Omega, as I did not know they released a Cabernet Franc specific wine. That being said, this does appear to be a limited release available to mailing list members since I cannot find anymore on their website or stores online.

In color, the wine is medium purple with pale purple/ruby variation toward the edges of the glass. I double decanted this bottle so it would be ready for dinner, and with the accelerated air it opened up nicely. On the nose, we have aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum, lilac, leather, sweet tobacco, and oak. There is a slight hint of alcohol on the nose as well, likely due to its relatively high ABV. Once in the mouth, flavors on the palate include blackcurrant, blueberry jam, loamy earth, tobacco leaf, and black pepper. This medium-bodied red has medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long, dark-fruit-forward finish.

Price: $100. Given similar-priced, high-quality Cab Franc I’ve tried, I think this is worth the tag if you’re used to paying around $100 for your wine. Nonetheless, I recently tried some outstanding Cab Franc from Tuscany and Michigan for about 1/3 the price and I think you’d be well served trying more Cab Franc from these regions or Chile and Argentina. Pair this with beef, duck, or pork (we had it with bbq pork sandwiches).

Note:

If you would like to try some French Cab Franc, keep an eye out for some Chinon!