With a newly decorated Christmas tree in our apartment, Diane and I decided to have some friends over for the holidays to celebrate. Nicole, Elliott, Pedro, Christina, and Manoj came over for appetizers and wine:
The food during the night was (in no particular order):
Cured meats and cheeses – my favorite cured meat in the world is the Jamon Iberico from Spain. Nearly impossible to find in the US, Murray’s Cheese typically carries some and is where I usually load up. Our favorite cheeses including the clothbound Cabot cheddar and aged manchego also made an appearance.
Mini cheese-burgers and portobello-mushroom-burgers – the beef was from our local butcher, Florence Meat market with minimal seasoning and American cheese. The mushrooms were marinated in a balsamic vinegar sauce. Both cooked in the oven broiler.
A few assorted desserts – cookies and ice cream
I spent a fair amount of time planning the progression of wines and thought it worked out fairly well:
*** NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rose – my go-to rose Champagne. Reasonably priced and delicious with food or as an aperitif. Floral and fruity with a lighter body, I like drinking it out of a white wine glass to allow the bubbles to dissipate and wine to warm a bit. It gives me a better sense of the aromatics and freshness. $80
** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Tous Ensemble – as I mentioned before, the best value wine I had on my trip to California. Completely unoaked and an old-world style wine. This was served at the same time as our next white wine to compare it against. $28
** 2007 Martinelli Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard – a classic example of a well-made California style Chardonnay. Plenty of oak and vanilla and a much heavier mouthfeel than the Copain. While most enjoyed both wines, the majority preferred the Copain (at less than half the price!). $60
*** 1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo – the Azienda Agricola (non-estate) bottling, this was sadly my last bottle of this great value/entry level Giacosa Barolo. Still young and powerful, I decanted the wine for 6 hours and it still had plenty of sweet red fruit and smooth tannins. This wine was served at the same time as the next red to compare. $95
** 1981 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino – not as aromatic or open as the last time I tried this wine a few months ago. More tar and leather than fruit in the aroma or palate; I was a bit disappointed compared to what I tasted the first time I had this at dell’anima. The opinion here was split but more people preferred the Giacosa. $85
* 1969 Hugel Traminer “Hugel” Reserve Exceptionelle – a wine we tried more to explore than anything, the bottle was in surprisingly good condition for its age. On the palate a bit disappointing, well past its prime, it was barely clinging on to the fruit and acidity it probably once had and just retained its residual sweetness. $80
** 2010 Domaine des Bernardins Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (375 ml) – great wine for the price. Lots of sweet stone fruit and honey, medium body for the sweetness and well balanced. Great after dinner digestif. $15
Our last full day of tastings took us to Sonoma County. Much larger in size than Napa, the wineries here tend to focus more on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (and to a lesser extent Syrah and Zinfandel). In terms of value, Sonoma was priced at much more reasonable levels than Napa and we found the quality to be on par with the best vineyard sites we saw the prior few days.
We started our day at Martinelli: a farming family at heart, they own 400 acres across Sonoma and sell 85-90% of their grapes to other winemakers. They make several estate wines with the grapes they keep.
Martinelli Tasting Room
We tasted 9 wines in total, in their tasting room:
** 2007 Martinelli Road Chardonnay (bought 2 bottles) – spends 10 months in new French oak after undergoing barrel fermentation. Pears and vanilla are the primary flavors but this is a big, rich wine. $48
** 2007 Martinelli Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard (bought 2 bottles) – also sees 10 months in new French oak but had more lemon zest and citrus on the palate with a butterscotch finish. Between the two Chardonnays, Diane and I preferred the Martinelli Road. $60
** 2009 Martinelli Pinot Noir Bondi Home Ranch – a delicious Pinot that I didn’t buy because I preferred some of the others we tasted later (although Diane picked one up). Sweet red fruit with an earthy must in the nose. Herbs and raspberry tea. 14.3% alcohol, $60
*** 2008 Martinelli Pinot Noir Zio Tony (bought 3 bottles) – a great Pinot, I think the extra year of bottle age may have helped compared to the younger Bondi Home Ranch. Raspberry and plums and hints of licorice. A spicy start to the finish that is very long. 15.3% alcohol, $60
*** 2006 Martinelli Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (bought 4 bottles) – a blend of grapes from the Three Sisters and Blue Slide Ridge vineyards. Great lightness accompanying the floral and red fruit bouquet. 15% alcohol, $45
** 2008 Martinelli Syrah Terra Felice – huge nose and a huge win. Big body of black fruit, sweet tabacco and leather. Diane bought one of these but I preferred the second Syrah we tasted. 15% alcohol, $45
*** 2006 Martinelli Syrah Lolita Ranch (bought 4 bottles) – jammy dark fruit with black pepper. This would be great with spicy food. Easy, sweet finish. 15.6% alcohol, $75
** 2008 Martinelli Zinfandel Vigneto di Evo (bought 2 bottles) – another easy drinking wine with figs and red fruit on the palate. Medium finish and great value. 15.8% alcohol, $30
*** 2009 Martinalli Jackass Hill Muscat (bought 4 bottles) – a light delicious dessert wine with honeysuckle and vanilla on the palate. Reminded me of a Picolit from Friuli (which is a big compliment). 16.1% alcohol, $28 for a 375mL
Our second stop was Copain Wines – probably our favorite stop in Sonoma on this trip. They make less extracted, lower alcohol, subtle but incredibly interesting wines. What a change from the Napa wines we had earlier in the week:
Our tasting list at Copain
My biggest gripe is their confusing and convoluted distribution system. I think I’m part of two wine memberships to get access to the wines I want and I’m still not sure what I have access to, what I have to buy and what I can select. Hopefully they simplify this and figure it out soon because the wines are great.
The tasting itself was incredible – we were overlooking Sonoma on their picturesque property with a picnic lunch to accompany our tasting. Highly recommend the tasting experience alone.
We tasted seven wines:
** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Tous Ensemble (bought 4 bottles) – after spending 10 months on the lees with no oak contact, the wine the emerges is delicious and light. Lemon with good acidity and clean minerality. In my opinion, the best value wine of this trip. 13.3% alcohol, $28
*** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Brousseau – the lightness of the Tous Ensemble but with added complexity – creamy stone fruit with minerality of the soil. Great wine and wish I was able to buy some there. 13.7% alcohol, $55
** 2011 Copain P2 (bought 2 bottles) – another light but full flavored wine, this is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Pinot Gris. Strawberry and raspberry aromas with lemon/lime on the palate. Reminded me of Beaujolais but much better. 13.2% alcohol, $25
** 2009 Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins (bought 2 bottles) – a flora aroma with bright red fruit. 13.5% alcohol, $40
*** 2009 Copain Pinot Noir Kiser en Bas – dark, earthy, with black cherries and plum. More tannins and complexity than the Les Voisins but we weren’t able to buy this at the vineyard. 13.7% alcohol, $65
* 2009 Copain Syrah Les Voisins – wasn’t crazy about this one, simpler wine with spicy black fruit, tons of tannins and not that complex or integrated. 13.7%, $34
** 2010 Copain Syrah Brousseau – intricate, complex nose with spice. Cassis and black cherries on the palate. 13% alcohol, $45
Our last stop for the day was at Walter Hansel Winery where we did a simple tasting on a wine barrel right next to their vines:
Tasting at Walter Hansel
We tasted four different wines and outside of the Sauvignon Blanc, I thought they were all great values although not the most complex wines:
* 2011 Walter Hansel Winery Sauvignon Blanc – crisp, lemon and grapefruit. Exactly what you’d expect from a nice, clean Cali Sauvignon Blanc which I’m not a big fan of. 13.4% alcohol, $15
** 2010 Walter Hansel Winery Chardonnay Cahill Lane – their chardonnays spend 10 months in barrels on the lees in 100% French oak (about 30-40% new). Lightly oaked with creamy stone fruit. 14.5% alcohol, $40
** 2010 Walter Hansel Winery Chardonnay North Slope – better acidity than the Cahill with more lemon and citrus zest, white pepper spice on the finish. 14% alcohol, $40
** 2010 Walter Hansel Winery Pinot Noir Estate – jammy strawberry and raspberry and bright cherries. This sees 10-11 months in oak. 14.5%, $40