Archive for the ‘Wine of the Week’ Category

Wine of the Week: Hahn Winery 2009 GSM Central Coast Red Wine Blend

As I look at the wine label to scribe this review, the irony strikes me, and is a good segue for my excuse for the recent decreased Simple Hedonisms posts. The Hahn label is a rooster.  The reason I have been too busy to write, is that in a whirlwind transaction over the holidays, I purchased a house with 1.5 acre farm, soon to be partial vineyard, in Russian River Valley. It’s a 3 year project, and labor of love (and $$.)  (For those not friends, the full story is forthcoming, I promise.)

Anyway, the house, a foreclosure, came with a rooster, left behind, who is now affectionately named Krav. As one who lived for a stint in a fishing village in Mexico and cursed roosters every weekend morning,  I am pleasantly surprised how much personality a rooster can have, and others have commented similarly.

Anyway, my big move , and start of farm life,is this Saturday, after some rapid renovations, to include, of course, a wine cellar! (Details on that to follow as well.)

Wine of the Week

As promised, wine of the week returns, after inaugural Wine of the Week: Cartograph 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer then, Wine of the Week – Bonny Doon Vineyard 2009 “Clos de Gilroy” Grenache . Wine of the Week reflects personal favorite picks, that I believe are worth sharing. I will strive to also pick wines affordable, available, interesting.

What Is A GSM?

SO glad you asked! For those who aren’t Rhone lovers (yet) a GSM simply stands for a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre. A blend of the three most common of the Rhone red varietals, and the dominant grapes of the southern Rhone valley of France and  the most common in  Chateauneuf du Pape,  GSM is also  apparently a Australian acronym in origin from late 90’s.

Hahn Winery GSM Red Wine Blend Central Coast 2009

This blend is 60% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre

To the Eye: Medium purple, the Syrah coming through

On the Nose: Gorgeous – The grenache delivers with its spice, black fruit. The tiniest hint of bacon fat (Syrah or Mourvedre) and sniff of the Grenache hard candy scent.

In The Mouth: Lush, full.  Layers of fruit across the tongue. Black fruit, fig, white pepper. Delivers with good texture, mid palate, and then lingers a bit at finish with acidity and soft tannins. Modest 14% alcohol. An easy to enjoy wine that doesn’t require a thesis.

Where to Buy: Online from Hahn. Various distributors: San Diego Wine CompanyMainstreet Wine in Chicago, or use the Hahn Wine Searcher. $12 (media sample.)

Food Pairing: Grilled meats come to mind. A steak, grilled lamb, or a burger even. 

Recommendation: This wine is $10-12 a bottle on average. It can be a quest  to find good domestic Red Rhone blends at under the$20 price point, that I’d drink regularly, but this is one I could. It reminds me of the Ortman Red Rhone blend I reviewed last month; it’s enjoyable and easy to drink, at a great price. Some nights I love complex, deeper brooding wines, some nights I want an comfy sweater.

Wine Geek Info:

  • Vintage: 2009
  • GSM Varietal Composition: 60% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre
  • Appellation: Central Coast
  • Acid: .62 g/100ml P
  • pH: 3.67
  • Alcohol %: 14%

Vintage: 2009
Wine Style: Red Wine
Varietal: GSM
Varietal Composition:
60% Grenache
37% Syrah
3% Mourvedre
Appellation: Central Coast
Acid: .62 g/100ml
PH: 3.67
Alcohol %: 14%

Wine of the Week – Bonny Doon Vineyard 2009 “Clos de Gilroy” Grenache

Simple Hedonisms returns from its Christmas break! MANY things to share in future posts; the next few months are very busy with some exciting new wine endeavors; more details soon.

Last week I started a new column, ‘Wine of the Week’, this series is more subjective, and reflective of my personal palate, as opposed to normal reviews, where I more objectively review the wine itself.


Rhone wines are one of my favorite regional categories. Of the red varietals, Grenache is my overall favorite red. (Or known as Garnacha if from Spain.)

When grown in proper conditions, and not made in an attempt to make it Cab or Zin like, Grenache can be a subtle, elegant wine.  It’s best aged in neutral or very minimal new oak to let fruit express itself, if I try a grenache I don’t care for, its usually from the New World fascination with too much oak.

Grenache can also be lighter in color, like Pinot Noir. (Real Pinot, not Pinot infused with Syrah for color.) While on the topic of color, let me shatter a myth some consumers hold; dark color does not automatically equate to complexity or indicative of quality in a red wine. It’s unfortunate the Parkerish mentality of big wines has driven this belief.

Don’t be afraid of a Grenache, Pinot, or other red wine light in color. I generally give it an immediate extra star, knowing the winemaker hasn’t manipulated or blended to achieve color, but instead let the varietal and vintage express it self.

Bonny Doon Vineyards

I could write the entire article just on Bonny Doon and Randall Grahm’s contribution and dedication for over 30 years bringing Rhone wines to the US. I am a huge fan in what Bonny Doon stands for, and for the wines they share with the world. If you are ever near Santa Cruz, enlighten yourself and stop in their tasting room. The staff hospitality is as noteworthy as the wines. The attached Cellar Door restaurant, open Wed-Sun. is also pretty amazing and worth time for a meal if you have it.

2009 Clos de Gilroy Grenache, Monterey County

A blend of 88% Grenache, 10% Cinsault, 2% Syrah

To the Eye: lively, translucent, light purple

On the Nose: Gorgeous – Red fruit, Strawberry, pepper, and that classic Grenache slight hint of hard candy

In The Mouth: A delight of strawberry, rhubarb, red fruit, cranberry, that shines through not masked by oak. Silky in the mouth, excellent body, and delivers front, mid palate;  the finish is pleasant, lingering.

I am not one to call out other reviews as wine is subjective, but I couldn’t disagree more with a comment of  “Our hope is that with age (or if you must drink this wine young, decant as much as possible), it will mellow and come together.”

This wine is highly quaffable, needs no decanting, and drinks well solo. Its intended for immediate consumption. (Suspect it will cellar as well, but have little intent of laying mine down.)

Where to Buy: Various distribution outlets (Not K&L Wines at this time) and  Available online. Almost steal at $15,   discounts for cases or wine club. (I belong.)

Food Pairing: Very versatile, love mine with poultry, last night had it with pasta. Or as Bonny Doon more eloquently states To really tease all available horsepower from CdG, a roast turkey, chicken or other large fowl and trimmings can hardly be bested. Exceptional food and wine combinations are a wondrous experience though in all honesty they are not uncommon – barbecue ribs, grilled tuna, veggies, pasta arrabiata, tapas, poulet tagine, anything al fresco, all by itself or annointed with olive oil CdG proves itself a partner in bliss.”

(By the way, if you haven’t read Randall’s award winning “Been Dewn So Long” – I highly recommend.)

Recommendation: Granted I am biased, stating up front Grenache is a personal favorite, however all Grenache’s are not the same. This is one of my everyday red”s now – ‘everyday’ because its ridiculously affordable, so I stocked a case at Christmas. If you like Grenache, or are a Pinot lover looking to expand your horizons, or want a break from big red wines, but seek subtle complexity, I highly recommend as a buy.

Wine Geek Info:

Varietal Blend: 88% Biodynamic® grenache, 10% cinsault, 2% syrah
Appellation: Monterey County
Alcohol by Volume: 13.5%
TA: 6.0 g/L
pH: 3.8
Production: 750 cases

Wine of the Week: Cartograph 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer

Welcome to a new weekly feature of Simple Hedonisms: ‘Wine of the Week.’ In addition to increasing my wine reviews, once a week I will pick a wine that’s my personal favorite. It may be a sample sent for review, something tried at a restaurant, something imported from K&L Wines, or one of the many bottles I have purchased in my travels and tastings.

When I review wine and samples, I try and separate out my personal palate preferences to review the quality of the wine, expression of the varietal. Wine of the Week will also combine some aspect of what I like as a wine consumer. No, it won’t always be a Rhone wine, as the inaugural pick shows.

Rediscovering Gewürztraminer

I love to branch out beyond the traditional varietals the New World palate has fixated on, the wine world is full of many hundreds of accessible varietals (Grape types.)

Gewürztraminer is sometimes associated as a slightly sweet, or off dry style wine, which doesn’t appeal to all consumers. Although a tiny bit of residual sugar (aka sweetness) is a very valid style and ideal for certain food pairings, this does not represent the full range of experiences and styles.

What is an Alsatian Varietal?

What is an Alsatian varietal? It simply refers to the Alsace region in France. You know of Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet and Merlot, Rhone wines like Syrah, Grenache, Viognier. The most commonly known Alsatian varietals are Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat. If you are a fan of these wines, check out the Alsace Varietals Festival in Anderson Valley this February.

Who is Cartograph? Remember the Name, You’ll Want To.

Haven’t heard of Cartograph yet? Welcome to one of Healdsburg’s up and coming boutique producers, the love child of Alan Baker and Serena Lourie, focusing on Pinot Noir and Gewurtz.

Is that a bold statement in today’s crowded wine world? Go to their website and try to order their  2008 Split Rock or Two Pisces Pinot Noir. Guess what it says.


I had wanted to review the Pinots’ , got behind on reviews, and now it would be a tease. The good news is that Cartograph is stepping up production.

A Brief Synopsis

I’ll do a more in depth feature piece in the future, but it’s a fascinating story of two people passionate about wine. Alan, an award winning radio broadcaster who moved from Minnesota, NPR Wine radio show and Podcaster, a stint at Crushpad, and them jumping both feet into his true passion and destiny.

His partner Serena, who grew up in both France and the U.S.,  shared an inherent love for wine. First a an MS in nursing and then an MBA, then a founding member of a Venture Capital team, all roads pulled Serena back to wine, where she and Alan, by fate it seemed, intersected at Crushpad.

Their passions and lives melded together and Cartograph was born. There are more details and insight on the Cartograph website, it’s a worthy read.

Review: 2009 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer

To the Eye: Vibrant, pale yellow straw. Clear.

On the Nose: Gewürztraminer is a floral grape, I find in some cases the floral aroma profile can be overwhelming. Not with Cartograph; I want to bury my nose in the glass and leave it.  But I remove it because I want it in my mouth. Aromas of peach, stone fruit, honeysuckle wash over you.

In The Mouth: I am immediately struck by the pleasant viscosity of the wine. It’s  immediately pleasing and elegant on the palate. Honeydew immediately comes to mind. It holds through on the mid palate with lime and peach, and then finishes with a lingering kiss.

Where to Buy: The Gewurtz is available through a few distributors/shops (several in Healdsburg) you can find here or online. $22

Food Pairing: A fairly versatile wine; I enjoyed mine with roasted chicken, would pair equally well with Christmas Turkey, but in no means limited to these.

Recommendation: Wine of the Week, will inherently be indicative of a strong recommendation.

I’d like to further extrapolate this as an excellent ‘winter white.’ It was great this summer during the hot months, when the last thing you wanted was a cabernet or zin on a hot day, but its complexity and weight lend itself to the same characteristics I would look to in a white Rhone blend.

Important note: Do NOT overchill this wine. If you don’t have a wine cellar or regulated 52-58 degree environment and are pulling it from the fridge, let it sit for 15-30 minutes. Over chilling will numb its complexity, much like eating a bowl of butternut squash soup from the fridge, instead of the hot fragrance of the stove top.

Wine Geek Notes:

•Harvest Date: Hand harvested September 15th, 2009 (night pick)
• Brix at harvest: 24.0
• Crush and Pressing: Whole cluster pressed to steel tank
• Fermentation: 10 day ferment, 100% steel
• Aging: Aged 5 months in steel barrels
• Alcohol: 13.7%
• No malolactic
• Bottled: February 2010
• Case Production: 61 cases

Buy and enjoy a bottle, before what is left is gone – cheers!

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