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Every once and a while it is instructive to compare the differences between varietals. Accordingly this Saturday we will scrutinize various reds from California, and one from Washington (due to the excellent pricing). The usual approach is to compare wines within a grape varietal. Tasting this assortment will serve to reinforce (or smash) your concept of the fundamental characteristics of each grape.
Cask 003 Pietra Santa “Sacred Stone” Master’s Blend
Pietra Santa never ceases to amaze me with each issue of the Sacred Stone blend. It is always a great value in the under $10.00 range. This family-run estate creates artisanal wines and olive oils in the beautiful Cienega Valley just 25 miles from Monterey Bay. Ripe, juicy, and expressive, this unique blend features cherry and plum flavors with hints of earth and spice. It is soft and supple with attractive forward fruit and crisp acidity that makes it an ideal match for a wide-range of food. Merlot (26%) and Sangiovese (24%) provide the backbone of the wine, but the remaining blend of Syrah, Carignane and Grenache add interesting spice and mineral notes. An excellent value with loads of complexity and flavor.
2006 Aquinas Pinot Noir, Napa
Don Sebastiani and Sons is a wine negociant firm specializing in the marketing of upscale, but moderately priced varietal wines. The company is headquartered in Sonoma Valley and has a winery in the Napa Valley. The company was named American Winery of the Year for 2005 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, producing many lines such as Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove. This Napa Pinot Noir is redolent of red berries and cherries set within soft tannins and elegant spice.
2004 Barnard Griffin Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington
At the confluence of the Yakima, Columbia and Snake Rivers in the heart of Washington, Deborah Barnard and Rob Griffin have been making wine for 30 years. As well, Rob functioned as wine maker and general manager for the Hogue Winery for 6 years. This Merlot is big in the glass; the aromas of black current and blackberries are predominant with a hint of toasted oak. It is a well-structured wine that promises graceful aging of 8-10 years (91-pt rating Wine Enthusiast)
2004 Seven Sinners Syrah “The Ransom”, Napa
The 2004 Seven Sinners Syrah was sourced primarily from the Oakville District in Napa Valley. Aromas of blackberry, anise, white pepper and cigar notes dominate the nose followed by deep-layered ripe flavors of black raspberry and sweet oak on the palate. The addition of 5% Petite Sirah gives the wine added density, richness, power and purity. This wine should be consumed over the next 5-7 years.
2005 Four Vines Zinfandel, Maverick, Amador County
The 100-plus-year old vines of the original Grandpere Vineyard, along with the 40- year old vines of The Deaver and Linstead Vineyards produce a wine that is chewy and spicy, rich with blackberry fruit and with a hint of velvet vanilla oak. There is a touch of Syrah in the blend. It received a 91-point rating from Wine Spectator and a “Smart Buy” recommendation: “A powerful Zinfandel with laserlike focus, this has wild berry and spice aromas and ripe, intense blackberry, fresh earth and bay leaf notes that finish with tightly wound tannins. Drink now through 2012, $24.”
2004 Bear Cave Cellars Cabernet Sauvigon, Paso Robles
Bear Cave Cellars is the creation of Barry Kinman and Marilyn Curry who, in their other lives, are husband and wife as well as partners in the law firm, Kinman & Curry. In a unique melding of two distinctly different businesses, the law office is also the legal tasting room of Bear Cave Cellars. The wine is big and bold, exhibiting varietal characteristics. With its fruit forward emphasis it is designed to drink young if given time to breathe and will age well, too.