This year at Christmas and over the New Year’s holiday, my family and I opened a series of bottles that had been sitting in an old wine fridge. One of these wines was from J Lohr, a Cabernet Sauvignon from 1999. I didn’t expect to get such great fruit from this bottle after so many years and what I assume were not perfect storage condition. The wine was full bodied and rich with great color, lift and juicy tannins. It was a welcome surprise and we drank a toast to my Uncle who was the wine’s original owner. My uncle Tony had a true passion for wine and was the first collector I ever met. He was also my dear beloved uncle who passed away in 2013.
He left us a number of wines, albeit not his huge collection which was basically stolen by members of his second wife’s family but that is a long and sordid tale not for this wine blog. In any event, this wine had me thinking about trips to California and how many more there should be in the near term. This wine from Paso Robles is part of the J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines which today covers more than 1,300 acres of cool-climate estate vineyards in the Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands regions of Monterey County. The founder made a bet on French varietals over 40 years ago and I’d say he won it.
In the stores today you can find the 2014 vintage which they say on their website is a “strong one” and “reminiscent of 2004.” An interesting fact I discovered is that the Seven Oaks vineyard was initially planted on its own rootstock, such a rarity in the US. There are apparently different rootstocks and clones of cabernet used to augment the expressive qualities of this terroir which has gravel, clay and limestone in it on their property. I found one from the 2001 vintage that was priced at around $19. The latest vintages are selling for under $10, a pretty good wine for that price I dare say.
I like to see the Christmas lights and go to all of New York’s museums and attractions around the holiday season. Today I added another New York landmark to my roster, the Mount Vernon Hotel from 1799. Hidden on East 61 Street in the shade of a tall building stands this historic landmark. It was a fascinating building and we were given a great private tour. I learned a lot about New York in the period between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, about Andrew Jackson’s Presidency and the habits of the middle class in 1826-1833 when the property functioned as a day hotel.
People used to visit the property on as an outing from the city. It was considered to be close to Manhattan which at that time went only up to 14th street. The property around 61 Street was the country and was said to be four miles from Manhattan. It was also right on the East River, another tidbit I didn’t know. While it may not be Florence at Christmas, I am happy to discover more about our history and our own landmarks. Love the one your with as the song goes…
I would have liked to drink a wine from Monticello or Mount Vernon after seeing this property but the Chinese restaurant where I had lunch only offered California wines. I opted for a Mirassou Cabernet which I hadn’t had in a while.
It might seem a strange pairing choice but I had a very hearty beef dish that paired perfectly with this fruit forward Cabernet.
This week’s wine of the week is from Kenwood Vineyards. They sent me a sample to commemorate a Jack London occasion. Jack London and White Fang and books of that nature remind me of my Dad and my nephew. The wine though was more up my alley. I really enjoyed it and found the Cabernet to be elegant and restrained despite a clear use of oak and the high alcohol content (14.5%). I imagine it is the mountain fruit that allows it to seem restrained and elegant and not overly jammy or pumped up as much California Cabernet seems to me. A friend and I had it with pasta and it didn’t overwhelm our palates. Generally I would expect a California Cabernet to need more hearty fare but luckily this one didn’t. Kenwood Vineyards owns the Jack London Ranch which is located on the western slope of Sonoma Valley in Glen Ellen, California. The soils there are red and volcanic and were first planted in the late 1800’s.
I love the Thanksgiving holiday as most Americans do. Of course, there is the traffic, the too much food and generations of family that all make it hard but that’s also what makes it so great. I’m excited that we will be 40 people at our table(s) this year. While I know there will be a variety of wines at my cousin’s house. One wine that I like to think about for this holiday is this one that I bought on a visit to the winery with Peter Mondavi. Actually to be more precise, their PR maven gave it to me as a gift. I will always cherish that visit and think of the wine as the quintessential family wine – generations – although their family history is certainly complicated.
At any given holiday, wines that will always be at my table include Franciacorta, Prosecco, Ferrari from Trento, and all the other wines that I love and know well from Italy. Nothing beats the acidity in Italian wine for pairing with food and there are so many to choose from. This year, I might also bring a Carmenere in honor of that grape’s birthday this month. Let’s see what the day brings. Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels to all.
I confess – Sauvignon Blanc has really never been a favorite grape of mine. I have assiduously avoided it the way some people avoid Pinot Grigio, thinking erroneously, that I know what I will be getting in the glass. If there is one style of Sauvignon Blanc that I have really stayed away from – it’s that of New Zealand. Recent events and some humbling wine moments however have made me think that perhaps it was time to start over again. Not dipping my toe in the same water or reheating old soup – as they would say in Italy when you try to rekindle a failed relationship. We all know that never works. No I decided to erase any idea of my former self and go right to the heart of the wine style I thought I didn’t like. I went out and bought one from Benziger, much to my surprise. Of course, being in NYC meant it was more in the $17 range than $15 but it wasn’t an expensive wine. I actually really enjoyed it. The lees aging made it more complex on the palate and it paired well with my simple summer dinners and the occasional Peruvian chicken I bring it. It also stayed fresh for a couple of days.
I then remembered a recent tasting of New Zealand wines in April of this year where I tasted a number of wines that I enjoyed including those of Babich, Elephant Hill, and Spy Valley . None of these wines were what I had imagined they would be. They showed much more muted aromas and flavors rather than hitting me over the head with their aromatics.
New Zealand’s attention to purity of fruit and sustainability has always been interesting to me as is their technology but the wines were always second chair. I love that they are committed to “reducing all use of chemicals, energy, water, packaging.” At this last tasting, the wines seemed to show restraint and varietal purity which did actually interest me. I’m not sure if I am changing or if the wines are calming down a bit but whatever the new combination is, it works. I am looking forward to continuing my Sauvignon Blanc exploits. My longtime goal is to have it be a “banker” – always recognizable in all of its forms. We are a long way away from that sadly but I am sure it will be loads of fun getting to my destination.
Happy Fourth of July. Today is of course, a day to drink American wine and celebrate our country. We started the day with a favorite song, “This Land Is Your Land.”
Love the wine your with…is a pretty good motto for July 4th when you may be at a barbecue with less than stellar wines. I saw this sign in a shop in California when I was there recently. The store had a trove of interesting objects but more importantly, a nice tasting menu and a really smart and helpful bartender. The store is called Bacchus & Venus Wines.
I had just finished a wine exam and wanted to test my blind tasting skills so she helped with a number of wines. Here was the small line up. I was relatively close on almost all the wines but the Charbono from Tofanelli tripped me up although I have had that wine before. I found this grape enticing and was excited by its fruity notes of plum, black cherry, and blueberry together with nuanced wood, tobacco and cedar. The wine was complex and well integrated with a long persistent finish. The Tofanelli family has been farming their property since 1929. They use no irrigation, practice organic farming, and do not use trellising systems.
Whatever wine you are drinking today, I hope it is a wonderful one and that you are with the ones you love.
I am endlessly interested in indigenous grape varieties and also why vineyards in certain areas decide to plant grape vines that are not indigenous to their area. California is rife with these stories whether it be Tempranillo or Nebbiolo, it seems that someone somewhere is planting it in California. Years ago at the Society of Wine Educators conference I came upon a vineyard in Lodi called Mokelumne Glen that decided to try their hand at Austrian/German varietals.
I remember tasting the wines because of the varietals and last week as I was writing about Franconia (Blaufrankisch) in Italy, they came to mind. I promptly found the small brochure I have kept for years from the winery.
The family run winery grows Lemberger, Dornfelder and Kerner, among other varieties.
Co-owner Bob Koth, a Lodi native with German heritage, grew up around a vineyard. He began commercial winemaking in 1998 after years of amateur home winemaking. His daughter who now teaches German, studied in Germany and after he visited her there he decided to grow German grape varieties.
The vineyard is located on sandy soil along the Mokelumne River. According to their website, their “viticultural practices include cane pruning (seldom used in the Lodi area) and expanded vertical trellis. They also use a dual irrigation system utilizing the most favorable benefits of both drip and sprinkler…. to establish a “natural balance” in their fields including biological controls, a minimum of pesticide use and ground covers.”
Apparently they also make a proprietary blend late harvest wine called Dreirebe but I don’t have any recollection of tasting it. I do remember the Lemberger and enjoying it much to my surprise. That particular grape has caught my fancy from a variety of locales including New York State.