Behind the Cork™ - Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay

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2016 Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($19)

This Sonoma-Cutrer is one that is easy to pass-by on the wine aisle. It’s from a big producer and it’s widely availability. But, this is a solid wine. Which makes it perfect for a Behind the Cork™ feature.

The Sonoma Coast is producing a lot of very good wines and Chardonnay is one of the stars. It’s a great growing climate for this grape.

Sonoma-Cuter hand sorts their grapes to ensure only best fruit get processed and the leaves, stems and damaged fruit are removed. The whole clusters are pressed avoiding any skin contact or seeds that result in bitter tannin. The fermentation takes place in a combination of French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.

To get the creamy smoothness of this 100% Chardonnay, it undergoes Malolactic conversion and is then aged sur-lies in a mixture of new, one-year old and neutral French oak.

This results in a Chardonnay with soft flavors of pear and peach, hints of vanilla and just a touch of acidity.

It’s a really good one! Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - PARS Old Vine Zinfandel


2016 PARS Old Vine Zinfandel ($8)

This was a recent unexpected fine. I really enjoy the wines of Amador County and that’s what caught my eye about this one. And, at $8, I had to give it a try.

The grapes of Amador County didn’t let me down. This is a nice Zinfandel, especially at the price. But it’s not typical. It’s not jammy or peppery. It quite light. Almost tending toward a Pinot Noir.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to be learned about this wine or the winery. The back label shows that it’s bottled by Avid Vineyard. And, the winemakers are listed as Robert Goyette & H. Namdar. Now, the fact that it’s “bottle by” Avid Vineyard would lead me to the conclusion they didn’t produce it. That’s Ok. Apparently, they bought the wine and put their own label on it. But, there doesn’t seem to be any trail to Avid Vineyard. Again, Ok.

But, a quick search for Robert “Bob” Goyette shows that he got started in winemaking in California in 1970 and, in 1979, he and noted winemaker Rod Berglund started La Crema Venera, known today as La Crema. Now, that’s a good label with a proven track record. Then, in 2005, he started his own wine brand, Robert Goyette Winery, producing wines from Sonoma Coast’s top Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Sonoma County’s top Cabernet Sauvignon.

Regardless of the origins of this PARS Amador County Old Vine Zinfandel, it’s a nice one and great value. If you happen to see this one, pick it up and give it a try. Cheers!

Wine: The Tale of Two Pinot Noir's

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Pinot Noir is a wonderful varietal of wine. In the Old World (Europe), Pinot Noir is most famous from the Burgundy region of France. There, it is simply known as ‘Burgundy.’

In the U.S., Pinot Noir is grown in multiple regions. Two notable regions are Sonoma’s Russian River and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. These two regions are producing some excellent Pinot Noir. But, they are quite different.

The differences between Sonoma’s Pinot Noir and Oregon’s Pinot Noir is due to terrior, or the interaction of the soil, climate, topography and how the grape variety grows in the specific region.

The Pinot Noir being produced in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley tends to be light and delicate. Their colors are light, yielding bright cherry red hues with even lighter pink edges on the rim. The flavors include red cherry, cranberry, and raspberry with very delicate, almost non-existent tannin and light finishes.

Now, the Oregon’s Willamette Valley Pinots can be quite different. The Oregon terrior produces bigger and bolder wines, all around. Their colors are deeper, darker red. And their flavors also tend to be of black fruit such as black cherry, currant, fig and plum. They can also have noticeable astringency from their tannin. The words ‘robust’ and ‘muscle’ can be associated with these Pinots.

Both the Sonoma and Oregon Pinot Noir’s are excellent wines; you can’t go wrong with either. But, they also have their very own personalities. So, give them both a try! Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week


2016 MacPhail The Flyer Pinot Noir ($50)

If you love Pinot Noir, this one is for you! It’s got wonderfully delicate flavors of red cherry and raspberry, very easy tannin and a melt in your mouth finish.

MacPhail wines are a collaboration between Tim and Sabrina Persson, 5th generation Hess Family, and well-known Winemaker Matt Courtney.

These amazing Pinot Noir grapes are from the Sangiacomo Lakeville Vineyards in the Petaluma Gap region of the Sonoma Coast.

Produced from the 777 and 23 clones of Pinot Noir, these hand-picked grapes are 100% de-stemmed, undergo 100% Native Fermentation and spend 11 months in 100% French oak with 30% of it being new oak. The unfined and unfiltered wine was directly bottled.

As Winemaker Matt Courtney says, this wine has “…provocative layers of black fruits - specifically dried cherries and black raspberries that are supported by beautiful acidity and silky tannins. A hint of vanilla oak sweetness shows through a lengthy and persistent finish.” I can’t agree more! As a Sonoma Pinot lover, this one’s tops! The Flyer is not to be missed. It’s super!

Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission: I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Sample Provided by Donna White of Donna White Communications

How Well Do Wines Hold Up with Time?

Wine Enthusiast Magazine, February 2018

Wine Enthusiast Magazine, February 2018

Last time we looked at the factors that make a wine more capable of bottle aging. And, somewhat surprisingly, there are very few wines that actually hold up well in the bottle, even with proper storage.  So then, what wines do hold up?

The results reported in Wine Enthusiast's 2018 Vintage chart (February 2018) are very revealing. As you might expect, wines from the Bordeaux region of France can hold up very well. And, most of the wines from Bordeaux are still currently at their peak dating back to 1998.  Twenty years!  But beyond that, the vintage guide suggests that wines before 1998 are likely in decline and may be undrinkable.

Then there are the California wines.  Again, as you might expect, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon's are holding up well back to 1994. But, the real surprises come with other wines that just aren't as age-able.  For instance, the Napa and Sonoma Zinfandel's are only showing good back to 2007. Russian River Pinot Noir is showing good back to 2007, while a Syrah from the Central Coast of California is only holding up back to 2010.

So, the key point to remember is that only select wines are really age-worth while most others have a relatively short time that they remain drinkable. This is a lesson that a lot of us learn the hard way. We hold on to really nice wines and wait and wait for that special occasion to open them.  But, as I recently learned, I held some too long. And I'll share that story next time. Until then, Cheers!