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My September Wine of the Month

PlumpJack Winery
Napa Valley

The current Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom and philanthropist and classical music composer Gordon Getty founded PlumpJack Winery in 1995.  Inspired by William Shakespeare’s fun-loving character Sir John “PlumpJack” Falstaff, who appears in three of his plays, the winery has the premise that wine is one of life’s great pleasures in life and should be enjoyed as often as possible.

PlumpJack Winery was the first Napa winery to use screw caps as a wine closure on premium wines!  This is one example of their flair for adventure and open mindedness.   Half of their production is screw cap, also known as the Stelvin closure, and the other half traditional cork.  I like to buy both!  The Stelvin closure is great for picnics.  I also like to save one of each and then compare after some cellar time.  So far, the bottles with screw caps have always held up to the bottles with a cork closure.

The Wine – The 2009 Syrah has a dark ruby color.  The nose has vanilla, plum and smoky meat.  The palate screams of black olives, and also has dark plum, licorice and some nice earthiness.  The tannins are soft and almost sweet.   This is a very nice Syrah.

My Experience Visiting the Winery – PlumpJack is perhaps the hippest tasting room I’ve visited.  I’ve tasted here many times, and have always had a lot of fun in the process.  It is very laid back, usually has fun people both pouring and tasting, and has this earthy vibe going on.  I’ve met so many fun people here, people with whom we’ve continued the day and joined for dinner.  It’s a really friendly place to taste, and the wines are superb!

The Journey – PlumpJack’s tasting room is located on Oakville Cross Road, not far from the Silverado Trail.  It is, however, tucked away from this main road and is nestled among 42 acres of vineyards.  Whenever friends or clients ask me to recommend Napa Valley wineries to visit, I ALWAYS encourage them to seek out PlumpJack!

2009 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon

With dinner last night I had the 2009 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s still a baby, but with some decanting it is very approachable now.  And what a nice wine it is!

This Bordeaux blend is 76% Cabernet Sauvignon (just past the required amount of 75% to be called a Cabernet Sauvignon in California!), 11% Malbec, 9% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot.  The grapes are grown in the dry, rocky soils of Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley.

The nose produced a wonderful floral aroma, specifically violet, along with some currant, black cherry and plum.  On the palate were the currant and plum, along with blackberry, cassis and some cinnamon and ginger.

This is a complex wine that is nicely balanced with just a touch of oak.

What a great bottle with which to start the long weekend!



South Styria

I returned this week from a wonderful wine adventure in Austria.  There are so many memories to share, but I’ll start with a simple overview of the first area I visited.

We spent the majority of our time in the southern part of Styria, a land of beautiful rolling hills graced with a plethora of vineyards, about 2,300 hectares worth!  This area is often referred to as the “Tuscany of Austria”, and I can understand why.   The people here are friendly, the views are magnificent and the wines are lovely.

The main varieties in this region are:

Welshriesling – not a true Riesling, the name translates as “foreign Riesling”.  This varietal makes fragrant, high acid, straightforward wines.

Sauvignon Blanc – also known here as Muskat-Sylvaner and also often called simply Sauvignon.  This varietal makes some very lovely wines in South Styria, often with nice smoky and grassy nuances. 

Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) – makes some good quality wines that are often big-bodied.

Chardonnay (known here as Morillon) – This varietal does very well in this region, often making elegant wines.  They are often aged in oak.

Traminer (also know as Gewürztraminer) – South Styria has some exceptional examples of this wine, often full-bodied and very expressive.

Muskateller – the same as the French Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains, and is locally know as Gelber Muskateller.   This fun and fragrant varietal is a specialty of the region, and can be found on virtually every wine list.  Its wines are especially pleasant as an aperitif!

Some of my favorite wineries visited in this region include Zweytick and Gross.  We also had a fun tasting at Schilhan.  I’ll elaborate more on these wineries in a future blog, as they deserve much more attention than they’re receiving here. 

South Styria definitely deserves to be considered as a serious wine destination.  The drive from Graz (Austria’s 2nd largest city) is only about 30 minutes, with Vienna only 2 hours from there.  Styria has wonderful restaurants and lodging, and isn’t overcrowded with tourists.  For this wine lover, it is a little piece of paradise!

My August Wine of the Month

Blanc de Blanc

The House of Wine Doppler is located in the Štajerska region of Slovenia.  Originally owned by the Benedictines from Admont in Austria, Ivan Doppler bought this estate in 1938.  He fulfilled his life’s dream and enjoyed 89 harvests before passing his knowledge and love of the vine, along with the winery, down to his daughter.  His granddaughter Mihaela is now enthusiastically running the winery, calling it not only her work, but also her life!  She is developing the estate into a state-of-the-art winemaking facility, which combines modern technology with centuries-old winery traditions.

The Wine – Doppler’s 2009 “Diona” is a lovely sparkling wine consisting of 100% Chardonnay.  It was made in the méthode traditionnelle, with the second fermentation in the bottle, and aged on the lees for 18 months.   It has wonderful granny smith apple and pear on the palate, along with the perfect amount of yeastiness.  The lively mineral notes are nicely balanced with some vanilla cream.

Visiting the Winery – This may be the most beautiful tasting room I’ve ever visited.  We began the tasting outside above the tasting room!  We had a glass of the “Diona” while enjoying their 360-degree views of gorgeous rolling hills with vineyards.  We next headed downstairs to the ultra modern tasting room and winery, which was just opened in May of 2010.  The experience was so special that I will be sure to blog about the winery in the near future and add lots of pictures.

The Journey – The House of Wine Doppler is located very close to South Styria in Austria, where we were staying.  We took country roads through breathtakingly beautiful areas and were pleasantly surprised to arrive at the most beautiful of all.  To top it all off, the wines were wonderful as well!  Check Doppler out at:

2003 Talbott Diamond T Estate Chardonnay

I’ve been saving a wine to crack open, and tonight was the night!

I knew that the Talbott 2003 Diamond T Estate Chardonnay could be cellared for a while, and I was excited to see how it’s drinking.

The grapes in this wine come from the heralded Diamond T Estate Vineyard in the Carmel Valley of California’s Central Coast AVA.  Planted with the Corton-Charlemagne clone in 1982 by Robb Talbott, this vineyard grows on a 1,200 foot mountaintop, eight miles from Carmel Bay.

The Diamond T Estate Chardonnay is 100 percent barrel fermented and has full lees contact for over a year.  The wine spends a total of 14 to 18 months in French oak and is then bottle-aged for almost two years before it is released!

Now I know what you’re probably thinking!  OAKBOMB!  Because of the acidity, though, along with the time in the bottle, it’s really not.

The color is deep golden.  The nose is wonderful, with gorgeous aromas of honey, pineapple and lots of ripe pear coming through.

On the palate the once obvious oak has calmed down.  Acidity dominates now, but the ripe pear, peach, pineapple and vanilla still come through nicely.  If this wine didn’t have the crisp acidity to balance it out, this ’03 would almost be sweet.

The finish is creamy and lasts a good long time.

I’m glad that I opened this bottle when I did.  It doesn’t have a lot of time left.  Tonight, however, it didn’t disappoint!

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