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My May Wine of the Month

Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery
Pinot Meunier

Bouchaine Vineyards & Winery is the oldest continually operated winery in the Carneros wine region.  The Carneros AVA is actually located in both Napa and Sonoma counties, and has a nice cool climate that suits Burgundian varietals very well.

Pinot Meunier is a varietal that is unknown to many people.  It is one of the three varieties used in Champagne, with the others being Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The Pinot Meunier provides fruitiness and freshness to this world-famous sparkling wine, while the Chardonnay brings its grace and the Pinot Noir its power.  Pinot Meunier is very rarely used as a single varietal still wine, so I decided that this would be a fun bottle to include as a Wine of the Month.

The Wine – The nose of the 2009 Bouchaine Pinot Meunier is very aromatic, with violets, wintergreen, black currant, black raspberry and pomegranate.  The palate has some very nice acidity, with some good earthiness and full, lush black currant.   This is a very nice wine.  It’s a fun bottle to take for a blind tasting or to share with other wine lovers, as it’s not one people (even wine pros) taste every day!

Visiting the Winery – The winery itself is lovely, with a big barn-like structure housing the tasting room.  Tasting wine in this warm, cozy room with a beautiful fireplace only enhances their lovely Burgundian style wines.  The gals working in the tasting room were fabulous!  They were very fun and friendly, and also knew the wines well!  French doors off of the tasting room lead to a beautiful deck and picnic area, open to Wine Club members.  My husband and I so enjoyed opening a bottle of their Estate Chardonnay to enjoy with some cheeses and breads we had brought along.   Sitting on this deck and enjoying the stunning view of their Carneros vineyards was the perfect way to end a day of tasting.

The Journey – Bouchaine Vineyards is located in the Carneros wine region in the Napa Valley, not far from California State Route 121.  My first visit was years ago, before the days of GPS devices.  This past visit was a breeze to find thanks to good signage and our Tom Tom.  The drive is a lovely and delightful ride through pretty back roads full of beautiful vineyards.

My April Wine of the Month

Caymus Vineyards
Sauvignon Blanc

Caymus Vineyards is pretty much synonymous with Napa Valley Cabernet.  Their opulent, lavishly oaked Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the most famous Napa Valley wines made.

Many wine lovers don’t even know that Caymus makes a Sauvignon Blanc.  I’m not talking about Conundrum, their very popular white blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Viognier and Semillon.  I’m talking about a wine made of 100% Sauvignon Blanc, which isn’t made by them yearly and is only available at the winery.

The Wine – Three years ago while tasting at Caymus I tried their 2002 vintage of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoyed it enough to buy a few bottles.  While there in February we tasted the 2005 vintage.  This vintage reminded me a lot of the ’02.  Like their Cabernet Sauvignon, they use a lot of oak on this wine, which makes it different that the Sancerre I love so much, as well as the Pouilly-Fume and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I know.  And yet I still really like this wine.

The color is a pale gold. The nose is nice and aromatic, with grapefruit and lemon.  Through the creaminess and vanilla from the oak, a lot of nice fruit comes through on the palate, including the grapefruit, lemon and some peach.  I also tasted some slate and mushroom.

Visiting the Winery – I’ve tasted at Caymus three different times.  All three experiences have been great, but the most recent time was especially enjoyable.   An appointment is needed for their sit-down tasting.  A wine educator, who walks you through the wines and explains the history of Caymus and explains a lot about wine and winemaking, hosts the forty-five minute experience.  We were fortunate to have Katelin, who made the tasting fun and also very informative.

The Journey – The Caymus Vineyards tasting room is located in a gorgeous stone building on Conn Creek Road, not far from the main drag of Highway 29.  We visited in mid-February, and the surrounding vineyards were full of flowered mustard plants.  The vines may be dormant at this time, but the vineyards are still gorgeous!

My February Wine of the Month

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is an integral part of Napa history.  Founder Warren Winiarski is one of the pioneers of the wine industry in the Napa Valley.  His 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon placed an extremely impressive first place in the famous 1976 Paris Tasting, beating nine other wines, which included four top-ranked Bordeaux, two of these first growths.  The success of the California wines in “The Judgment of Paris” significantly helped to give California wines legitimacy around the world!

The Wine – I love the wines of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  Their Fay Vineyard and Cask 23 wines are a couple of my favorite California Cabs!

This 2008 Artemis is 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Merlot.  The color is a dark garnet.  The nose has some rose petal and green earth.  I also detected piecrust, which I assume is a muted vanilla aroma from the oak.

The wine is nicely balanced.  With 18 months in barrel (55% in new French oak), there is not too much oak.  The terrior comes through nicely.  The palate also has some leather, blackberry and black currant.

The 2008 Artemis is drinking nicely now (with an hour in the decanter), but will only get better with a couple of years in the bottle.

My Experiences Visiting the Winery – While visiting the winery a few years ago, the gal pouring for us wasn’t very warm and fuzzy.  We also had the opportunity to attend a tasting in their caves, which more than made up for the lack of love we’d received earlier.  I’m heading to Napa next week, so I’ll check them out again.  I’ve heard that some exciting improvements are being made since my last visit.  I’ll be sure to write about this visit in my blog.

The Journey – Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is located right on Silverado Trail, which is a lovely road west of busy Highway 29.  They are located in the famous Stags Leap district north of the city of Napa.

My August Wine of the Month

Robert Young Estate Winery
Alexander Valley Barrel Select Chardonnay

The Wine – If you like big, oaky, buttery California chardonnays, you’ll love this wine.  It has a golden straw color and is very viscous in the glass.  The nose offers some sweet golden delicious apple, pineapple, butter and caramel accompanied by a touch of minerality.  On the palate there is ripe pineapple and honeydew melon, smoky vanilla, hazelnuts, honey, candied apple and caramel corn.  The finish is wonderful.  It is nice and long with caramel lingering for an extended time.  I rate this wine 92 points.

This wine is 100% Chardonnay and is aged in 100% new Seguin Moreau French oak barrels that was chosen specifically for this wine.  Only three barrels were made.

My Experiences Visiting the Winery –It is in an absolutely stunning location in the Alexander Valley. The gentlemen pouring were wonderful and the wines lovely.  They guided us through many wines, with the whites and the reds both wonderful.  They planted the first cabernet sauvignon in Alexander Valley in 1969, and they have their own chardonnay clone that is known around the world.

The Journey – We were referred to Robert Young by another winery. The tasting room is located on Red Winery Road, and is a hidden gem.  Driving up to the winery you see a beautiful, historic house with a circular driveway, and the tasting room is in a building next door that appears to have once been a stable.  The Robert Young Estate Winery was a definite highlight of our most recent trip to the Alexander Valley wine region.

My July Wine of the Month

J. Bookwalter Couplet
Conner-Lee Vineyard

The Wine – This is a great wine for these hot summer days we’re experiencing. There is luscious white peach on the nose, accompanied by grapefruit, some clove and a touch of rose petals. On the palate was the white peach again, along with a lot of pear, green apple and grapefruit. There’s a little lemon peel as well. It is well balanced with nice minerality and just enough acidity. I love the name too, and the wine does it justice. The Chardonnay (60%) and the Viognier (40%) compliment one another nicely. They harmonize in the glass! I rate this wine 89 points.

My Experiences Visiting The Winery – J. Bookwalter has two tasting rooms; one in the town of Woodinville (right outside of Seattle) and the other in Richland, Washington, which is located in the Yakima Valley. We visited the Richland location.

J. Bookwalter is a really fun winery. It is also very pleasing to the eye, with dark, sleek stone and a very modern tasting room. We had an awesome tasting there with a very nice and knowledgeable young man named Jared. We even went back for lunch a little later in the day. They have a great little restaurant right there on the property, which serves some good, light meals. They are also open late on some evenings, where one can purchase their wines and listen to live music.

The Journey – I first tasted J. Bookwalter wines years ago. It is probably the first Washington State wine I had ever experienced. I remember enjoying it then, so it was high on my list for a visit while tasting in Washington. We were there on a rainy day, and the dark, modern structure was a very nice refuge from the outside elements.

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