Posts Tagged ‘russian river valley’

Wine Review – Von Holt 2009 Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley (and a special reader gift)

It’s always a pleasure to discover hidden small gems of producers in the wine industry, and even more so to share them with readers. Thanks to the advent of custom crush, virtual and urban wineries, there are many, small passionate artisans springing up. Sonoma County has become a buy female viagra online without prescription wealth of these, but you must keep your ear and eye to the ground.

Thanks to networking and social media, I was to meet Peter Alig, who works now with Von Holt.  When he asked if I’d like sample to review, I agreed, always eager to try a new, small producer.

About Von Holt Wines

This is a micro-winery:  a 600-case producer of single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Syrah from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River. Founder, San Francisco native Chris Von Holt, is a retired U.S. Secret Service agent. After traveling the world on the protective detail of the Vice President, and sampling local food and wine along the way, he decided to found his own wine brand upon his retirement. His story is quite fascinating, read more here.

You can watch a short video of Chris’ below. He had me at ‘low alcohol, good minerality & acidity.’

The stories of partner/wife Pamela Miller, the administrative master of Von Holt Wines, and John Fones, Winemaker, are also interesting, classic Sonoma wine siren stories, and ones I can relate to all too well.

A Focus on Cool Climate

They had me at the get go with their focus cool climate Pinot Noir and Syrah. Pinot Noir of course naturally prefers cooler climate, and I am most fond of wines from cooler vineyards in Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley, Willamette Valley.  Russian River can fit this profile as well, depending on the microclimate and the wine grower.

The 2010 and 2011 vintages have certainly helped this aspect.  Working with vineyards in cooler climates takes some guts, patience, and stamina, I have deep respect for those growers and vintners that focus here.

Syrah does well in both cool and warm climates, and produces great wines in both, but very distinctive. My personal preference, especially for Syrah unblended with other Rhone varietals, is for the higher acidity, leaner wines that cool climates produce.

This review will be focus the Pinot Noir, look for Syrah in a Tasting Note also this week. Sneak Preview: The 2008 Hoppe-Kelley Syrah from RRV is amazing, and a steal at $20. I have tasted both Syrah’s and Pinots and am very impressed, and plan to put some in my cellar.

Special Reader Incentive – Free Shipping, One Week Only

Von Holt has been nice enough, no strings attached, or kickbacks extended, to offer readers to have shipping included with their order of any of their 4 wines. Use code


at checkout. Expires one week from today, December 5th.

Wine Review – Von Holt 2009 Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley

A blend of Pinot Noir from two vineyards, Suacci and Ketcham.

 To The Eye: Ruby, brick red

color. Translucent.

On The Nose: Red fruit leaps out of the glass. Cranberry, cherry, and a hint of earth, and green, like tomato vine.

In The Mouth: Bright and lively. The cranberry carries over, and is joined by pomegranate. Excellent acidity that begs for some food,  combined with pleasant mouth feel mid palate, and a lingering  mouth watering finish. A wonderful Pinot Noir, and proof the Russian River Valley can produce elegant  Pinot Noir that isn’t an over ripe fruit bomb, and compete with the likes of Anderson Valley, Willamette, and Sonoma Coast.

Recommendation:  92 points. Highly Recommend. Buy. If you can, purchase one to enjoy now, and 1-2 more to give an extra year to see how it develops in the bottle. With the acidity this wine should age nicely. $32 online.  Media Sample (although I intend to re-order.)

Wine Geek Info:

  • Harvest DateSeptember 9, 2009; Bottling Date: August 24, 2010
  • TA 6.3
  • PH 3.6
  • Clones are Pommard, 828, 115 and 777
  • 11 months in French Oak Barrels (25% new)
  • Fermentation: Native primary and maloactic fermentation
  • Alcohol %13.7
  • 225 cases made

Wine of the Week – Jordan 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

It seems I am forever playing catchup on giving wineries the recognition they deserve on Simple Hedonisms. Certainly I do a lot more mentions in the social media realm of Twitter and Facebook, to my active following, but they are long overdue for a review.

About Jordan Winery: Showcasing Sonoma At It's Finest

Jordan is an extraordinary winery in many ways, and a rare breed in many as well.

Focus: Jordan only makes two wines, something incredibly rare for a winery of any size. An elegant Chardonnay, and a 'less masculine' Cabernet Sauvignon.

Tradition: Founded in 1972 by Tom Jordan, now run by son John Jordan, the winery has a well earned reputation for its elegance,

Photo courtesy of Jordan Website

world class wines,

and customer service. Its also one of the rapidly disappearing 'medium size wineries. Not a boutique winery making 5000 cases, and not a giant making 1 Million cases a year, but the difficult ~90,000 case range that has a unique set of challenges competing on either side.

Wineries in this size category continue to sell and merge, or in some cases over the years, dramatically downsize and spin off.  Jordan continues to adapt, innovate, and do well.

Innovation: Jordan is a winery to watch for their innovative marketing, writing, and award winning video blog. John Jordan has done a noteworthy job hiring and enabling Lisa Mattson, Executive Director of Communications.

Lisa blazes a trail for the rest of the industry to follow. (Why wineries don't recognize marketing staff on their 'people page'  still eludes me.)

Do read and follow:

Hospitality: I have witnessed the Jordan experience both as a consumer and wine industry/trade, and its always warm, impeccable, and high class, but lacking 'other valley' pretention – aka Sonoma at its finest. I am fortunate enough to receive media invitations several times a year to Jordan events, and even in a world where these eventually can become a bit tedious, am grateful for the invitation, and look forward to the experience. Jordan's kitchen, and Todd Knoll Executive Chef are amazing – you are in for a treat if ever here for a meal.

See: Jordan Winery Glampire Ball; Cool Halloween (And other Holiday) Cocktails

In Defense of Chardonnay

It's a bit ironic that as a person noted for his love of Rhone and off the beaten path varietals, that I have championed chardonnay. Why? I actually respect and like almost all wine varieties, and think we have sometimes lost our way, or forgotten how diverse wine can, or should be.  Few varietals express such a wide range of diversity as chardonnay – you need only be open mind, look around a bit, and taste more  – its worth the adventure.

There are Other Options

Yet, I had to drag people, including industry professionals, to my chardonnay tasting  this summer (at which Jordan poured.) At the tasting, by design, I featured non traditional California chardonnay – that classic bigger oak & buttery chardonnay made popular by Kendall Jackson, Rombeur and others. Without a doubt , this style appeals to the masses and dominates chardonnay sales. However, it represents only one possible style of many that chardonnay is capable of, and not only produced in Burgundy and Chablis, France, but by many small vintners here in California.

For more on Chardonnay, and how people CAN change their opinions see:

Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks. 

Wine Review: Jordan 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay 

To The Eye: Clear pale to medium yellow.

On the Nose: Green apple, Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, pineapple

In The Mouth: – A delight. Great acidity, clean crisp mouthfeel with good weight mid palate. This chardonnay delivers as a stand alone, or paired with white meats and fish, salads, and cheeses.

Recommendation: Highly Recommend. Not your standard California 'cougar juice' (a term used to refer to Rombauer like oaky, buttery chardonnay) and also not as bright as an unoaked chardonnay – thus a more versatile wine overall. Buy and consume, (especially during Holiday season, pairs great with turkey.) Or cellar a few bottles as well, a well made chardonnay, with good acidity will age well.

92 Points, Outstanding.

Where to Buy: Jordan has distribution throught the country in wine shops and restaurants. You may also buy it online at . $29 retail. Media Sample.

Vinification Notes:    Chardonnay is a extremely diverse wine grape with huge variation in results based on winemaking tools. Learn to identify what's been done and what you like, to better appreciate this varietal.

Cold fermentation occurred in French oak barrels (with one quarter in stainless steel). After three months of sur-lie aging and batonnage, the wine underwent only 36% malolactic fermentation  to retain its bright acidity. With a portion resting in stainless steel, the remaining 72% of the wine was aged in 100% French oak (56% new) for 5.5 months

Wine Geek Info:

  • APPELLATION: Russian River Valley
  • BLEND: 100% Chardonnay
  • PH: 3.35
  • ALCOHOL LEVEL: 13.8%
  • BOTTLING DATES: July 19 – August 5, 2010
  • RELEASE DATE: May 1, 2011

2009 Jordan Chardonnay Video Tasting Notes

Great video! Look for the notes on  “holding back on the oak” “more minerality” – which contribute to the success of the wine, in my opinion.

Related Articles

Jordan Winery Glampire Ball; Cool Halloween (And other Holiday) Cocktails

Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks. Up Next – Aug 18 Pinot Day

 Chardonnay regains respect – now to maintain it (SF Chronicle – Jon Bonne')

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Wine of the Week – Foppiano Vineyards 2010 Estate Rosé

If you listened in to last weeks KRSO Drive at 5 Wine Wednesday Show, which I guest host, this week we interviewed Foppiano Vineyards, and I teased they were also my planned wine of the week…..Tada – a few days later than planned, here it is.

115 Harvests Under Their Belt

Courtesy of Foppiano Website

Foppiano is one of those comeback stories I love to see. The story of Foppiano Vineyards is a family epic full of tradition, perseverance and contributions to the history of Sonoma County and the wine industry.  Founded in 1896 by Giovanni Foppiano, Foppiano Vineyards is one of Sonoma County’s oldest continually-operated, family-owned wineries.

California and Sonoma has a fair number of seasoned wineries, and sadly some don’t innovate along with times, and sometimes fade into the twilight. It has been exciting to watch Foppiano these last 18 months innovate and inject new blood and outside talent (new winemaker Natalie West and Marketing/Media Guru Taylor Eason, to name two) as well as retain and leverage their deep Russian River Valley heritage. (A note to Foppiano – put these people on your website – its a positive – their story is now your story.)

Foppiano is on the move, their wines are one to taste and to watch. Their Pinot Noir was a RRV judges favorite in the elimination round of my Pinot Smackdown tasting, and is a great value. Their new Lot 96 Petite Sirah jug program is brilliant, and an amazing value, and this Rosé is a find….well while its left.

Wine Review: Foppiano Vineyards 2010 Estate Rosé

This rosé is a unique combination of Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir, the two flagship red varieties of Foppiano. I was curious how the combination would turn out, and very pleased with the results.

To The Eye: A dark rose’, almost light red. Not surprising given the Petite Sirah component. Clear and vibrant.

On The Nose:  Expressive nose of cherry, spice, strawberry.

In the Mouth: The combination of Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah is suprising and brilliant. The Pinot Noir provides nice fruit, acidity, and a subtle touch, the Petite Sirah some color, structure, and complexity. Its a winning combination with a mouthful of red fruit, cherry, and citrus. Pleasant in the front palate, nice weight in the mid palate, and good acidity makes for a mouth watering finish.

Recommendation: Get over your thing about Rosé – real wine drinkers seek Rosé far and wide; and its enjoyable all year long, not just for summer. Except this one may not be, as only 20 cases  (of the 180 made) are left in the tasting room. Buy some, now. Highly Recommended – 91 points.

Where to Buy: Online or in the Tasting Room. A buy at $15. Media Sample.

Video Tasting Notes: Check out Taylor Eason and Natalie West in this Informative Video on the Rosé


Visit Foppiano and ‘The Eastside Bunch’

Foppiano is one of 12 wineries in a fun group called the “Eastside Bunch”  October 29th is the “Eastside Bunch Bounty of Harvest.”

Cruise through all the Eastside Bunch wineries on and off Old Redwood Highway south of Healdsburg to celebrate this year’s grape harvest in the beautiful Russian River Valley. Taste wines from all 12 member wineries and nosh appetizers to raise funds for the Redwood Empire Food Bank. PLUS, a new addition

to the Eastside Bunch event line-up: Check off every winery in your Eastside Bunch Passport and gain a chance to win a mixed case of wine from all the participating wineries. $20 in advance,  $25 at the door, $10 for designated driver tickets – Check in at any Eastside Bunch Member winery.

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Saturday June 4th is Russian River Valley Single Vineyards Night. Info & 24 hour Contests for Lodging and Tickets – Ends Friday Afternoon!

Russian River Valley – of the many wine regions I visit and love, she holds a special place in my heart, as I have written many times. She is what made me fall most in love in Sonoma County, where I source 5 of my 7 Rhone grapes from for garagiste project, and where I have now set my roots with my new small farm, grenache vineyard and orchard.  I am now not only a fan, but a member of the Russian River Valley Winegrowers, and would ask your support in our fun, fundraising event:

This Saturday, June 4th, from 630-10 pm is the 2nd Single Vineyard night. Last year's event was one of the most fun, lively events I attended, and a smash success.

Single Vineyard Tasting: Single Vineyard Wines paired with Single Bites

More than 30 Winemakers and their Grower partners will present their small-lot, single vineyard wines paired with an array of single bites of food from local producers and restaurants.

Taste Russian River single vineyard wines from world class producers including William Selyem, Gary Farrell, LaFollette, Merry Edwards and many more. (Full list below.) Pair these with bites from local Gourmands:

  • Affronti: Duck Liver Mousse with cherry gastrique on house made Crackers
  • Di'Vine Pizza: Spicy Tiger Prawns and hot Artichoke Dip
  • H2 Hotel’s Spoon Bar: Terrine of Sonoma Duck and local Lamb with Pistachios
  • Jacksons Bar & Oven: Lamb Meatballs, middle eastern spices, onion chutney, yogurt sauce
  • Kozlowski Farms: Goat Cheese Endive Boats with Chipotle Sauce
  • Viola Pastry Boutique: Pork Tostadas with coleslaw & mini Lemon Meringue Tarts
  • Clover Stornetta: local  Cheeses
  • Jack & Tony’s Whiskey Bar: Whiskey Cake
  • Sonoma Chocolatiers: Truffles & Caramels

Tickets are $45 in advance and online  at  Limited VIP reception tickets are available for $80 per person.  (The VIP reception starts an hour before general admission and includes early entry, a glass of Thomas George’s first ever sparkling wine, exclusive time with the winemakers and growers and a gift on departure. )

Team Auction Lots & Dance Party

At 8 pm the tasting concludes and the evening shifts from the 1200sq.ft of caves to Thomas

George Estates’ picnic grounds where Finn will handle the auctioneer duties. A no-host bar featuring wines that normally retail for under $25 (offered by the taste and glass) and “sliders” fresh off the grill for a small price will be available as well as other food items.

During the auction, RRVW’s “Cellar Teams” will offer their Adventure Auction Lots for Group bidding, an economy friendly way to raise funds for RRVW to continue their work to preserve the region’s agriculture legacy through marketing and education.  These lots are designed for groups of people to join together and share the costs on a future adventure in the Russian River Valley.

Grab your friends and bid! Last year I snagged the lot from Harvest Moon. Scroll to the bottom of this post for lot details.

Teaser videos of the auction lots are posted on Fans can also follow on as well as  Twitter Hashtag for the event is #SVN11.

At the close of the Auction, Finn will take to the turntables, transforming the grounds into a dance floor for an upbeat close to the party. (and yes there will be a massive tent, should it rain.)

Contest for Event Tickets, as well as Lodging & Meal at Hotel Healdsburg

READ CAREFULLY there are TWO different contests and TWO different ways to win. Why not enter both!

(1) Video Auction Previews on Facebook – 'Like One' To Win Tickets, Lodging, Meal

All of the Adventure Auction Lots mentioned previously are donated by a Russian River Valley Winegrower member and the money for each lot will go to raise funds for educational programs and future events. Each member thinks their Adventure is the best, so we ask you to vote for your favorite Adventure Lot video! Please visit the Aeon Swtor Guide – 75% Commission

pp_2392950137&ref=ts” target=”_blank”>video tab on the Russian River Next Generation Wine Facebook Page and LIKE your favorite Adventure Auction Lot video.

Friday afternoon at 130 pm (24 hours!) the contest closes and we will pick the winner, who gets a pair of tickets to the event, as well as a one night stay at Hotel Healdsburg (during the week) and a tasting menu dinner at the Dry Creek Kitchen for two to one RANDOM Facebook fan who likes one of the videos! (One night stay only valid on weekdays Mon-Thur, advance notice required.) Hurray, this is am awesome prize and the videos are great entertainment!

Again, this is on their Facebook page, NOT here.

(2) Like many previous blog contests, tell us below in comments:

Which of the wineries (click here for list) that are pouring single vineyard wines is your favorite, and why.

The contest closes Friday at noon, and one lucky winner will also receive a pair of tickets to the event!

I hope to see many of you for a fun night of wine, food, music and more!



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Auction Lots

Moshin Vneyard’s – Progressive Culinary Vineyard Tour For 5 people:  Each stop will feature a different vineyard with wine and food pairing surprises and culminating in a picnic overlooking the Russian River.

Thomas George Estates & Active 20/30’s – Weekend Waking Up in Wine  Country For 6 people: This lot partners our host winery with Active 20/30 club of Healdsburg and 50% of funds raised for this lot will go to support children from homeless shelters, Boys & Girls Clubs and other children’s groups to shop for school clothes.   This lucky group will start their 2 night stay with a tasting on the winery’s pontoon boat at Lake Sonoma, Russian River kayaking passes and an afternoon Barbeque, while lying over at Thomas George Estates’ 3 bedroom guest house equipped with 3 fireplaces, private hot tub, swimming pool and grill!

Old World Winery’s – Where the Wild Things Are….Winemakers! For 6 people:  See Africa in Wine country and join Old World winery winemaker and assistant winemaker in a unique comedic tour of Sonoma County’s famous, Safari West during animal courtship season! Old World wines are poured at strategic stops along the way. A private fireside dinner paired with Old World wines precedes an overnight stay in three luxurious Safari tent cabins.

Graton Ridge Cellars’ – Bocce, Barrels, Barbeque, and Classics! For 8 people:  Living is easy at Graton Ridge as your group joins the winery family in a  Bocce Tournament among the vines, a barrel tasting, barbecued oysters with Chardonnay, tri tip with Zinfandel and apple crisp with Graton Ridge’s A+ Apple Port! Each guest will receive tickets to Graton’s own Hot August Nights Car Show in July!

Hop Kiln Winery – New heights in Winemaking, Aerial View of Russian River Valley For  2 people:  Join winemaker Chuck Mansfield whose taken Hop Kiln wines to new heights as he accompanies your group on a Sonoma Helicopter ride over the most beautiful wine region in Northern California. Retreat to the historic Hop Kiln winery with Chuck for a barbeque, tasting and tour.

Trione Vineyard & Winery – Peddle n’ Paddle with Trione For 4 people:  the legendarily fun Trione Winemaking team bring you two Sonoma County wine country’s by cycling with you through the Alexander Valley and paddling with you in canoes down the extraordinary Russian River  ending at the winery’s private river access in the vineyard. Quench your thirst after a day of exercise with Trione Wines.

Russian River Vineyards – the Lot of Luxury! For 4 people:  Relax in luxury at your West Sonoma Inn accommodations before your limousine arrives to take you to Russian River Vineyard’s own “Corks” Restaurant. There your group will indulge in a seven course tasting menu with wine pairing on the restaurant’s “Sunset Patio” with an incredible view of the Pinot Noir Vineyards as the sun sets in the Russian River Valley.

Foppoli Vineyards – Sip, Zip, & Fly around the Russian River Valley For 4 people:  One night stay at Russian River’s premier B&B, Raford House, and one night at the Foppoli Family estate. Two private wine tastings at the Foppoli Ranch and one of the winery’s estate vineyards, a 2.5 hour session of zip lining in the Redwoods and each couple receives a Library Reserve Bottle signed by your host Dominic Foppoli. We’ll help you figure out a date to return for your flight on the Liberty Foundations restored B-17 WWII fighter plane, the “Liberty Belle.”    A percentage of funds raised for this lot will also donate a zip ling trip for two of active 20/30’s outstanding children


Sunday April 10th – 'How the West Was Wine' Ticket Contest for West Sonoma County Wineries Open House

Last Saturday’s Follow the Olivet Road was an incredible fun day of food, wine, entertainment. For those of you that missed it, or looking for another value priced day of fun, this Sunday the ‘Wedutton-goldfieldst Sonoma County Wineries’ (formerly Eight at the Gate) are having an open house.

11 Wineries. 11 Miles

Join 11 Russian River Valley Wineries, 11 miles apart. Free to wine club,  (check in at winery you belong to) $20 at the door –  enjoy food and wine and purchase discounts from these producers:

Update 4/8: Please note Freestone & Iron Horse are now not participating.


• Balletto Vineyards & Winery – Stop by to have some Zin stew and cornbread! Don’t miss out on a 15% discount on all wine purchases.
• Dutton Estate Winery – Yee Haw! Come try the famous Estate Chili served with cornbread and take advantage of a 20% discount on wines.
• Dutton-Goldfield Winery – Buzz on over to Dutton-Goldfield to enjoy special savings on current release wines and a sweet treat from Lavender Bee Farm.  Try favorite local purveyors on hand to help celebrate Spring and West County.balletto-logo
• Graton Ridge Cellars – Ride on over to enjoy a 15% discount off wines, 25% off for GR club members. Taste your way through a delicious Chili bar and sample from the barrel.
• HANNA Winery & Vineyards – Mosey on down to HANNA Winery for some good ol’ fashioned cobbler.
• Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery – Trot on over to Marimar Estate to enjoy Spanish Tapas paired with our Pinot Noir – sure to satisfy everyone’s taste buds! Your stop will be filled with fun entertainment and special offers just for the day of “How the West was Wine.”taftstreet
• Red Car Winery – Special Open House Offer: 3 bottle Syrah gift package, 30% discount, 40% off for wine club members. Red Car is also offering 10% off cases! Whoa Nellie – what a deal!
• Russian River Vineyards – Enjoy a smoked trout and corn hors d’oeuvre in tribute to the Pomo Indians who once had a village on the winery property. Get 15 – 20% off on all current release wines.ironhorse
• Taft Street Winery – Giddy Up to take advantage of the Open House offers, 15% off bottle purchases, 25% off

Sounds Fun, So What’s The Contest?

Read carefully – TWO ways to win and you can enter both!hanna

(1) Post in comments:

Tell us your favorite winery of the West Sonoma County Wineries, and why. OR

If you have never visited any, which would be your top choice to visit, and wine(s) to try.

(2) Become an email subscriber (existing ones win too!)freestone

Subscribe to Simple Hedonisms email updates so you never miss 100mg viagra an article. Email is secure and never spammed. Important: You MUST complete the registration process to be eligible, which requires you click on a verification link sent to your email. This is usually almost immediate, so if you don’t see it, check your spam.

Winners will be drawn Friday at 5pm – only 48 hours, get on it! And don’t forget to take advantage of specials to stock up, buy local, and support your local small artisans!

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Wine Review Panel – Six Sonoma Zinfandels from Wine Guerrilla

A few months ago I was contacted by Bruce Patch, the owner and proprietor of Wine Guerrilla and asked if I would like to receive some samples.  These days samples come in decent amounts, and my own cellar is burgeoning with wine, but when someone has taken the time to contact me and wishes to send a bottle, most times I accept, and will attempt to review.

Bruce it turns out was local, so I offered to let him drop off the wines to save shipping. It also allows me to meet the winery face and glean a bit of their story.  I was expecting a few bottles, lo and behold, Bruce had six. I like do like, buy, and review zinfandel (especially cooler Russian River Valley or Zin with some bottle time) but of the many wines I consume, Zin is less common. I realized it would take me quite a bit of time to get through six, nor would readers want six back to back Zin reviews, so I decided to try a different, more fun approach.

I was enthused, some of his Zin’s were well regarded, including prominent California Wine writer Charles Olken. Additionally it was a great opportunity to compare many fruit sources.

The Tasting Panel 

Wine Guerrilla "The revolution is in the bottle."

One of the great things of living in an area where there are over 200 wineries in a 30 mile radius, is enthusiasm and knowledge on wine cheap canadian viagra is very high. Many of us have changed our entire lives in pursuit of passion of this nectar of the gods. It’s as much a lifestyle as it is a beverage, and I blessed with many good friends who are like minded in this passion.

I decided to ask 4 friends all passionate about wine and all in the industry in various manners, ranging from wine maker, to blogger, to tasting room, to join me to taste through these wines.

I kept it simple to keep it fun, but focused still. Panelists were asked to write down basic tasting notes, and then rank their top 3 of the 6 zins.


Wine Guerrilla makes a crazy amount of Zin’s, over a dozen are on the website for sale. Most are 200 cases or less.

#1 2009 Sonoma County Zinfandel 81% Zin, 10% Petite Sirah, 8% Carignan & Cabernet

#2 2009 Adel’s Vineyard Dry Creek Valley

#3 2009 Harris-Kratka Vineyard 2009 Alexander Valley Zinfandel – 85% Zinfandel, 10% Carignan & 5% Petite Sirah

#4 2009 Conte Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel- A field blend of 83% Zin, 12% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignan, 2% Alacante Bouchet, & 1% Grenache

#5 2009 Clopton Vineyard ‘old vine’ 2009 Russian River Valley Zinfandel –

#6 2009 Coffaro Vineyards ‘old vine’ Block 1 2009 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel – 84% Zin, 16% Petite Sirah

The tasting was not blind, and tasters had access to the tech sheets. This was an experienced crew, I wasn’t worried about influence.


Each reviewers top pick got 3 points, #2 two points, and #3 a single point. As you can see, the number one choice scored almost twice as many points as the second. And they quickly trailed off.I should add, there wasn’t a single wine we didn’t like, and for many it was a hard choice, with a few re-visits. The styles were surprisingly, refreshingly different.

Wine Total Points
2009 Sonoma County Zin; 81% Zin, 10& PS, 8% Carignan, & Cab 4
2009 Adel’s Vineyard DCV 2
2009 Alexander Valley – Harris-Kratka 12
2009 RRV Conte Vineyard 5
Clopton Vineyards Old Vine RRV 6
Coffaro Vineyards DCV 84% Zin, 16 PS 1

Wine Review – Wine Guerrilla 2009 Alexander Valley – Harris-Kratka

The winner by a margin.

To The Eye: Lively, dark red.

One The Nose: Cocoa, spice, cherry pie, black fruit

In The Mouth: Brambly, jammy, complex, good finish.

Recommendation: A crowd pleaser amongst a wide variety of palates. 91 points $30 (media sample)

Wine Review: Wine Guerrilla 2009 Russian River Valley  Clopton Vineyard

To The Eye: Hazy dark red

One The Nose: Earth, blackberry, pepper

In The Mouth: Rich, viscous texture, ripe red fruit

Recommendation: A zinfandel that starts out with lots of fruit, finishes nicely, making come back for more. And more. 89 points.

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What a difference a glass makes: Take your wine-tasting to the next level

You’ve seen the classy black and red Riedel cartons at kitchenware retail. They have an elite aura and great appeal as gifts. But do you know the story behind them? The Riedel name and family has been synonymous with glassware for over 250 years and 11 generations.  But it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the company began to focus in earnest on fine wine glasses.  A handmade Sommeliers series was launched in 1973, introducing for the first time a revolutionary concept: that glass size and shape directly affects the wine inside.

The current generation, Georg Riedel, took the idea further by developing “varietal-specific” glasses to enhance individual wine varietals. Today, Riedels’ Vinum glasses are machine-made, making varietal-specific tasting more affordable and accessible to wine lovers everywhere.

Riedel Tasting @Trione Vineyards & Winery

I participated in a Riedel seminar recently at Trione Winery in Geyserville, CA.  Trione produces fine wines from the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley of northern Sonoma county. The Trione portfolio is perfect for the Riedel tasting experience. Each of vintner Scot Covingtons’ wines is true to it’s varietal character while showing consistent quality and structure. Scot makes a Trione Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet, matching the 4-glass Vinum set.

Tasting Presentation

Each place at the tasting table was set with 4 wine glasses, a water glass and a plastic “Joker” glass.  The 4 glasses comprise Riedel’s Vinum set:

  • Bordeaux/Cabernet
  • Burgundy/Pinot Noir
  • Sauvignon Blanc/Dessert Wine
  • Montrachet/Chardonnay

Through a series of tasting wines matched and mis-matched to their glasses, and in plastic (ick), the group of tasters became converts to the science of varietal glassware.

Wine Delivery System

Riedel speaks of a glass as a complete wine delivery system. The Chardonnay glass delivered the pure fruit, refreshing acidity, light oak, and warm finish of the Trione Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  The wide rim and deep bowl harmonizes these four strong characteristics into a balanced whole, with no one overpowering the others.  As a test, we poured some Chardonnay from its glass into a narrow Sauvignon Blanc glass.  The oak had no room to breathe, and the taste was completely off. Same wine, completely different taste experience. And of course, when we poured Chardonnay into the Joker glass, there was virtually no aroma, and no sense of oak in the mouth.

We went through a similar ritual with the Trione Sauvignon Blanc. The Riedel glass delivered crisp fruit and yeast directly to the taste receptors from a narrow rim, narrower bowl, tall-stemmed glass (keeping the heat of the hand away from the wine).  In contrast, the Pinot Noir glass has a wide bowl with a narrower rim, bringing the fruit quickly to the top, as in “fruit forward”.  Pinot Noir in the Sauvignon Blanc glass was a real disaster. The narrow delivery system passed the wine straight through to the back of the palette where the bitter receptors are. Hard to believe it was the same wine.

We also had a lesson in decanting and cleaning of wine glasses.  Riedel recommends using no soap, rinsing wine glasses in very hot water and drying with a non-linty towel (microfiber works well). Towels can be boiled in hot water or washed without detergent to keep fragrances away from contact with the porous glass.

Find yourself a Riedel Seminar

Varietal glassware completely changed my tasting experience and awareness. I highly recommend the Riedel Seminar, and it’s also a great way to start your collection of varietal glasses. Each Riedel tasting includes the 4-glass Vinum set. To find a Riedel seminar near you, do a google search.

Better yet, come to Barrel Tasting Weekend on Sonoma’s Wine Road. Trione Winery and over 100 other wineries open their cellars and barrels for 2 weekends in March. The March 5th Barrel Tasting weekend pass is available with a Riedel seminar (and glasses). Tickets here.

Riedel URL


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Wine of the Week – Inspiration Vineyards Russian River Valley 2009 Viognier

It’s intriguing to me the high quality Rhone wines that can come out of the Russian River Valley, especially since this is known as a ‘cool’ climate, and the Southern Rhone is warm. While not widely planted, you can find Rhone whites Marsanne, Roussanne, & Viognier here. Grenache blanc doesn’t seem to exist yet in RRV, my likely hobby planting may be one of the first. Excellent Syrah (which does well in both cool and warm climates, with a big flavor profile difference) and small plantings of Grenache can also be found.

I am one of the odder ducks perhaps, as I also like Russian River Zinfandel. Dry Creek Valley is of course the respected King, but there are quite a decent amount of very old vine, head trained Zin here.

What’s my point? I guess that despite being cooler, we have a long enough growing season and hang time, plus cool foggy nights. This allows for longer, slower ripening, good acidity, and good flavor profile maturation, without excess ripeness and alcohol, and loss of acidity. (As sugars increase, acid levels eventually decrease.) Acidity is what makes wine food friendly. Alcohol is what makes you fall down.

Achieving a Balanced California Viognier

What does this have to do with Inspiration Vineyards Viognier? It’s from Russian River, and I am comparing it side by side with a Dry Creek (much warmer climate) Viognier. California Viognier has unfortunately (earned in some cases) gotten a bit of a bad rap, for being too big, flabby (lacking acidity) and overly floral.

This is a varietal that is characteristically quite floral AND lower on acidity levels, so over ripening it is a dangerous proposition. Additionally some producers are leaving some sweetness (Residual sugar, or RS) on it to appeal to mass palates. A tiny bit of RS can be a positive thing in achieving balance, but some I have tried exceed that.

About Inspiration Vineyards

Inspiration Vineyards recently came on my radar in 2010 when they moved to a new tasting room in Santa Rosa (by Carol Shelton) and joined the Wine Road.

Jon & Barbara Philips have been chasing their dream, started making wine in 1999, and in 2001 plunged right in buying a house and 4.5 acres in the Russian River Valley. I have had the pleasure to meet them both. Passionate about wine, the region, the community. Jon is a wine geek extraordinaire. You can read more on theirA story here. They make a variety of wines; my favorites being their Rhones (Syrah & this Viognier) and Burgundian wines (Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.)

Wine Review – Inspiration Vineyards Russian River Valley 2009 Viognier

This is an excellent, balanced, expression of Viognier that is a pleasure to drink.

To The Eye: medium yellow straw, vibrant, clear

On The Nose: Fragrant as a Viognier should be, but not overpowering. White Peach, lime zest, hint of guava.

In The Mouth: Great viscosity, weight, mouthfeel, but not cloying as some can be. Peach, Stone fruits, citrus.

Food Pairing: Crab, seafood, grilled chicken, amongst others

Rating: Outstanding. 91 points

Where to Buy: Direct from Winery. $29.  Call 707.237.4980 for retail locations or email

Wine Geek Notes:

  • Vineyard: Marsha’s Vineyard,  Russian River Valley
  • Harvest Date: September 30th 2009
  • Brix at Harvest: 26.5°
  • Total Acid: .70 g/L
  • pH: 3.45
  • Alcohol: 14.8%
  • Bottled Date: September 17th 2010
  • Release Date: March 1st
  • Vinification: 100% stainless, sterile filtered, no malo-lactic secondary fermentation.

Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog .clomid dosage for men

Wine of the Week – Dutton Estate 2008 Russian River Valley, Thomas Road, Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir – my first non Bordeaux love, before my Rhone mistress. You never forget your first real experience with a woman; Pinot Noir, thankfully ahead of Sideways, awoke my palate after many years of Bordeaux varietals  (Cabernet, Merlot, etc.) I was seduced by this seductive, layered, complex varietal that didn’t require tannin condom on my tongue to drink.

I speak  passionately about Rhones, but  a elegant, silky Pinot Noir fills a void no other wine does.

Dutton Estate

I had a very pleasant re-visit to Dutton during my frenetic garagiste harvest. Consumer sales guru Martini Bagget had been corresponding with me to stop in. Dutton Estate’s tasting room is casual and non-pretentious, which worked well since I was coming back from Saralee Vineyards with my trailer after dropping off bins, in harvest attire. It was a quick stop from Saralee , so I decided to treat myself to a visit amidst the fall frenzy of activity.

Unfortunately I didn’t make a blog about my entire tasting – but sometimes even wine writers ‘just enjoy’, and I did. Martini was a very gracious, enthusiastic hostess.

My goal for Wine of the Week is to share a special wine I think others will enjoy, and will strive for something in reach of most. Granted, at ~$45, this is a bit higher than others, but small lot, well made Pinot Noir simply isn’t inexpensive. Like an expensive mistress, it’s a high maintenance grape that needs special attention, and comes with a higher production cost for a true Pinot Noir experience.

Dutton Estate 2008 Russian River Valley, Thomas Road, Pinot Noir

Dutton Estate is a grower first, vintner second, managing 80 distinct vineyards in Russian River Valley, much located in Green Valley. Thomas Road is planted with Dijon clone 115, which produces a darker, bolder Pinot Noir. Nonetheless this Pinot Noir maintains her form. Don’t let the clonal descriptors through you off, this is not a Syrah tainted Pinot.

I wish I had created this quote myself, but I must share one of the Cellartracker reviews: “A big, curvy, sexy Pinot, stuffed into a simple elegant dress…” This is a woman, not a girl.

To The Eye: Garnet.  Modestly opaque, unfiltered.

On The Nose: Cranberry, black cherry, spice, and a hint of earth

In The Mouth: Bold front palate; black fruit, cherry; wonderful mid palate, lush, nice mouth feel. Fruit carries through to a nice finish, with lingering acidity.

Where To Buy: Online on their website, $48

Food Pairing: This Pinot has enough heft to stand up to a number of  meats – Lamb. Filet Mignon. Duck.

Other Info: 14.4 % Alcohol. Only 15 barrels (375 cases, unless using Napa math) made

Recommendation: A Russian River Pinot Noir worthy of a spot in your cellar. Not quite as delicate as other Pinot Noirs I often favor, but seduced me nonetheless.

Rating: Outstanding, 91 points

Cheers and thanks for reading Simple Hedonisms Wine Blog !

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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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