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Looking for a Top Notch Wine Without Spending a Fortune?

Sometimes you just want to open up a really nice wine, but you don’t want to spend a fortune. Am I right??? That’s the perfect time to crack open a 2nd label!!!

Top wineries and chateaux blend together their best grapes’ juice to produce their best possible wine for the Grand Cru or “first wines”.  What do they do with the remaining juice???  Many of them make a second wine. Usually made by the same winemaker in pretty much the same way as the winery’s famous wine, the big difference is that the juice for the second wine is often from younger vines or the second press. Although these wines may not be as complex, balanced and sublime, they ARE a lot less expensive!  It’s a great way to try big name Bordeaux or other famous wines without the big time price tag.

One of my favorite wines out of Napa is Dominus. Yes, they have a second wine! It is called Napanook and is an estate-bottled wine from the iconic Napanook Vineyard in Yountville. And it is wonderful!

Christian Moueix (of Château Pétrus fame) and his Dominus team have been making this second label since 1996. Although it is made to drink young, it is a complex and age worthy wine that can be cellared for years.

The other night I cracked open a bottle of the 2012 Napanook. This purple colored wine has blackberry, black cherry and leather on the nose. The palate bursts with the dark fruit and has some licorice and baking spices. The blend is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot, and the results are lovely! Although this wine is drinking very well now, I’m thankful to have a couple more bottles of the ’12 to see how it evolves.

So … if you’re looking for a fabulous wine from a top-notch producer but don’t want to go crazy with the price, remember to look into a second wine. Dominus’ “Napanook” is a great place to start!

Where Were YOU in 1980?

Drinking a great old vintage of wine can be a lot of fun, and can also take us back in time. I love thinking of the grapes growing and the people who picked them. I also think of the winemaker and his or her challenges during that vintage. It’s also enjoyable to think about what I was doing that year. How old was I? Where was I living? What was I doing?

Last night my husband and I invited some friends over to share a bottle of 1980 Opus One. Founded as a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild and renowned Napa vintner Robert Mondavi, Opus One’s goal was to create a Bordeaux style blend based on Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The other four Bordeaux varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec) are also used. They use grapes from some of the most well respected vineyards in Napa. The winemaking, however, is modeled after the techniques of Bordeaux. This happy marriage produces some of Napa’s finest wines, and is known as being America’s first ultra-premium wine.

Interestingly, the 1979 and 1980 vintages were unveiled together in 1984 as Opus One’s first release. The co-winemakers were Lucien Sionneau from Château Mouton Rothschild and Robert Mondavi’s son Tim, who founded Continuum Estate (also an ultra-premium wine) with his sister Marcia Mondavi Borger in 2005.

I was very excited to experience one of the first vintages of such an iconic winery!

I feared that the 1980 might have TOO much age on it, but my fears were unfounded. There is still some of the fruit, but it has developed into a lovely and well evolved complex pleasure! On the nose are leather, cocoa and some green pepper. On the palate are dried plum, cherry and earth, and the finish is long.

What was I thinking about while drinking this wine? I was thinking about the fact that I was just beginning my senior year of high school when the grapes were being harvested and that I was almost done with college when it was released. While sipping we searched some facts about 1980 and found that it was a leap year, the number one song was “Call Me” by Blondie, “Dallas” was the top show on TV and “Kramer vs. Kramer” won the Oscar for best picture.

We also learned last night that the 1980 Opus One is drinking beautifully and we are all going to search for more!

Looking for a “Green” Winery With Wonderful Wines??? Check Out Frog’s Leap!

My husband and I recently returned from another adventure in Napa and Sonoma. Our goal was to visit wineries we’d never hit before, and for the most part that’s what we did. There’s one winery, however, that we couldn’t drive by without stopping, and that’s Frog’s Leap.

“Why?” you ask! Well, there are a few reasons.

Firstly, it’s just so darned beautiful there.

Secondly, the tasting is very special. When the weather is nice, tastings are held outside when possible. The tasting includes yummy local cheeses, crackers, and some jams made from fruit grown on the property.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the wines are WONDERFUL!!!

As we arrived for our tasting, we drove alongside beautiful vineyards of dormant vines surrounded by the beautiful mustard know in the region at this time of the year. The historic Red Barn, which was originally built as the Adamson Winery back in 1884, welcomes the winery visitors on the drive in. Today, this “ghost winery” not only inspires their wine tasting guests, but also Frog’s Leap’s winemakers John Williams and Paula Moschetti.

John Williams (a former diary farmer from upstate New York, NOT the music composer famous for film scores with the same name!) moved to Northern California in 1975 to study Enology and Viticulture at UC Davis. After working at Glenora Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes region of New York, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Spring Mountain Vineyard in Napa, he started Frog’s Leap Winery in 1981. It is located along Mill Creek in a spot known as the Frog Farm. Frogs were raised here around the turn of the century, providing the very appropriate name!

Here are some of the wines we tasted on the lovely wrap-around porch of The Vineyard House overlooking the vineyards:

2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay – A lovely Chardonnay with great acidity, the green apple and Meyer lemon flavors are balanced beautifully with the floral aromas and the toasty element from eight months of sur lie aging.

2013 Napa Valley Zinfandel – One of my favorite wines of the tasting, this Zinfandel is what a Zinfandel is SUPPOSED TO BE! It has a beautiful transparent color, not one of those deep purple colors that shouldn’t represent Zin at all! A field blend of 77% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah and 1% Carignan, the aromas and flavors include brambly fruit, licorice, some Southern Rhone type garrigue and has a nice long finish.

2013 Rutherford Merlot – One of my favorite Merlots of the New World, Frog’s Leap always knows how to do this varietal right. With ripe plum and cherry flavors, this wine has soft tannins and isn’t too big! It’s what a Merlot should be; elegant and nicely balanced. (82% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc)

2013 Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – This lovely Cab has black cherry, blackberry and cassis, along with the dusty earth of the Rutherford soil. This needs some time, but it’s going to be wonderful! (89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot)

The thing that probably impresses me the most about Frog’s Leap Winery is that they truly care about our planet. Frog’s Leap produces some wonderful wines, while keeping the planet healthy through the production of solar and geothermal power. In 2005 they built their Vineyard House according to the goals of the U.S. Green Building Council. They even insulated it using old blue jeans. Talk about recycling!!!

Health of the vineyard is achieved though organic farming and the use of biodynamic methods. Along the rows of vines are borders of specially selected plants, which attract butterflies and beneficial insects.

So if you want tasty wine, made true to the varietals and green conscious to boot, pick up some wines from Frog’s Leap Winery. Or if you’re heading to Napa, pay them a visit.

Here’s a link to their very fun site:  http://www.frogsleap.com/

Looking for a GREAT Napa Syrah???

Oh boy! I opened a bottle of wine last night that I absolutely love!

A few weeks ago a friend brought over a Bedrock Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon and I really enjoyed it. I liked it so much that when I found some Bedrock Syrah for sale I bought a couple of bottles. If only I’d known … I should have grabbed a couple of cases!

Bedrock’s 2012 Hudson Vineyard Syrah is fabulous! The fruit comes from the T and S blocks of the famous Hudson Ranch, which lies in Napa Valley’s Carneros AVA. The purple colored wine has a wonderful nose of smoky meat, violets and ripe red fruit. On the palate are blackberry, cassis, black cherry and licorice. I get some tobacco too! The finish is long with a hint of black olive. There is definitely a lot going on in this complex wine!

While drinking this gem I kept thinking of how it reminds me a lot of a wine from the Northern Rhone.  Well no wonder. After doing some research on the wine I realized that a smidgen of Viognier is added to the Syrah, just as they do in the Northern Rhone’s Côte-Rôtie region.

Considering I’m a huge lover of Rhone Valley wines, it’s not surprising that I’m such a fan of this Napa Syrah. Now I just need to figure out where I can buy some more!

To check out more information on Bedrock Wine Co. and their other wines, click here:  http://bedrockwineco.com

Are You Waiting to Arise??? Meet Blackbird Vineyard’s Arise!

I’ve always been a Right Bank kind of girl. Now don’t get me wrong, I love wines from the Left Bank as well. How the heck could anyone not????  But for me there is just something about the smooth, easy to drink wines from Pomerol, St. Emilion, etc.

Blackbird Vineyards has a great example of a Right Bank Bordeaux blend from Napa. Made of mostly Merlot (which means blackbird in French patois), founder Michael Polenske named this particular blend Arise, taken from the Beatles’ song Blackbird. In fact, the label is fabulous! It features nine blackbirds (as the notes) sitting on a telephone wire (as the music staff) representing the beginning notes of the Beatles’ song. Check it out! It’s true!

Please excuse the sloppy wine stain dribbled down the label. That was a bad pouring job on my behalf and was not intended on the label. I’ve therefore included an example of the label from their website as well. I wanted to be sure to include my tarnished example too, however, because I absolutely love the feathers on the bottle above the label. I’m not sure what they represent, but I like to think that it’s a symbol of the flock of people it takes to make a great wine.  And this is a great wine!

The 2012 Blackbird Arise is a blend of 58% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The garnet colored wine has licorice, blueberry, blackberry and black cherry on the nose. The well-balanced palate has lush black cherry, blueberry, cocoa powder, tobacco and a long smooth finish.

It’s hard not to sing the Beatle’s song while drinking this lovely wine. “All your life … you were only waiting for this moment to be free”! It’s like a bottle of wine, isn’t it? Opening the bottle on a specific day determines the experience the wine will become. The wine is waiting for the moment to become free from the bottle and to arise. The 2012 Blackbird Arise is drinkable now, but it will truly “Arise” with some time in the bottle. I’m going to stock my cellar with a few more and try one again in a year or two, and then another a year later. I have a feeling that I’ll then be singing “All your life … you were only waiting for this moment to arise”!

If you’d like to learn more about Arise and Blackbird Vineyards other wines, check them out here: https://www.blackbirdvineyards.com

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