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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/

My Husband’s Favorite Kind of Chardonnay, And I Like it Too!

I’m usually afraid of Napa Chardonnay. I know I know … that sounds snobbish. It’s just that many Napa Chardonnays are way overdone! Too much oak masking the fruit makes me very uninterested.

The other night, however, I opened a gem. My husband was off playing poker with his buddies and I had big plans on the sofa with my dogs, a chick flick, some popcorn and a wine to compliment it all.

I cracked open the 2013 Lewis Chardonnay. This wine is not for the faint of heart, but with the right pairing it can be stellar. This is rich stuff, and along with my super duper buttered popcorn and some truffle cheese, I was in pure heaven.

This golden colored wine has ripe pear, ripe golden delicious apple, pineapple, and toasty brioche on the nose. The medium plus bodied palate confirms the fruit, with some lemon curd, vanilla, baking spices and medium acidity. This is a complex wine and the perfect pairing for my buttery popcorn. It would also pair beautifully with lobster dipped in butter and a lot of other things!

This IS my hubby’s favorite style of Chard, so I saved him some. We enjoyed a glass last night, and it was delish. In fact, I liked it even more LAST night. So I saved one more small pour for tonight (the third night). Wow, it keeps getting better!!!! It is very well balanced and I’m definitely going to buy some more of this and lay it down. This Chardonnay has some time!

My husband is off playing in a poker tournament tonight! This smidgen I saved and am enjoying on the deck while the sun sets is tasting so darned good that it makes me want to open another Chardonnay, but I fear that it won’t compare. Hmmmm. What’s a girl to do???!!!!

To learn more about this Chardonnay, and the other wonderful wines made by Lewis Cellars, check them out here:  http://www.lewiscellars.com

Rajat Parr – A Somm & His Wines!

Rajat Parr is one of the most famous sommeliers in the U.S. He is also a very busy man! Not only is he wine director for the Michael Mina restaurant group in San Francisco, co-author of the highly respected Secrets of the Sommeliers (in fact, he won his first James Beard Award for this) he is ALSO a founding co-owner of a winery and a winemaker! I recently attended a wine dinner featuring some of these wines!

Held at the beautiful restaurant Capa, located on the top floor of the Four Seasons in Orlando, the dinner was lovely and the wines were fabulous! Considering that this is a WINE blog, not a food blog, I’m going to focus on the wines!

During the reception we were poured the 2012 Sandhi Santa Barbara County Chardonnay. This is NOT the typical California Chard.  This straw colored wine has white flowers, meyer lemon, apricots and honeydew melon on the nose. The palate is very well balanced with lively acidity, the meyer lemon, green apple and a touch of oak with butterscotch flavors.  I will seek this wine out and buy it by the case.  Yum!!!!

The first course of the meal was paired with the 2012 Sandhi Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay. On the nose is citrus and tart apple. The palate has razor sharp acidity, citrus, tart apple, lots of minerality and is very fresh. This wine tastes much more like a White Burgundy than a California Chardonnay. It actually reminds me of a Pluigny-Montrachet! Again, a delightful wine.

Next up was the 2011 Maison L’Orée Meursault Charmes.  As a white Burgundy freak, I was very excited to taste this. Rajat Parr is also a Burgundy freak! The wines of this region have always inspired him, therefore an opportunity to create a negociant house to help produce wines from this region was undoubtedly a dream come true for him. This Meursault Charmes (a Premiers Cru) has medium ++ acidity balanced by a wonderful creaminess. This wine definitely reflects it’s sense of place, while bursting with citrus flavors and finishing with baking spices.

On to the reds we went with the 2012 Domaine de la Côte Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. I’m very picky when it comes to this varietal and oh boy, I wasn’t disappointed. On the nose are lively fresh flowers and lots of red fruit, especially strawberry, raspberry and cranberry. The palate confirms the fruit and has some good earthiness. Fermented with 50% whole cluster and 50% stem inclusion, this Pinot Noir never sees new oak. 2100 cases were bottled.

The last wine of the evening was the 2012 Domaine de la Côte Blooms Field Pinot Noir. With rose petals and ripe red fruit on the nose, the palate was quite lush with candied strawberries, dark cherries, some pepper and a touch of saline. That doesn’t surprise me considering this vineyard is located only 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  Fermented with 100% whole cluster and 100% stem inclusion, this is again aged in 100% neutral French oak. 500 cases were bottled.

All of the night’s wines poured were lovely. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for each of them. Rajat and his partners should be very proud, and have a very bright future in front of them!

Here are the links:

http://sandhiwines.com

http://domainedelacote.com

 

Old World Style in the New World!

If you follow my blog, you know that I love to travel! And when I travel, it’s usually to a wine region somewhere in the world! Well last week my husband and I hit California’s Central Coast AVA. We visited a few different areas, but today I’m going to tell you about three wineries from Santa Barbara County that really stood out to me!

First up was Whitcraft, located in Santa Barbara! Fresh off the airplane, this was our first stop. I’ve always wanted to taste here and was very excited.  I wasn’t disappointed! Sadly, Chris Whitcraft (who started making wine as a hobby and turned it into an award winning winery) passed last year. Happily, his very talented son Drake is now in charge of the winemaking and operations of Whitcraft Winery. He also happened to be pouring in the tasting room that day!

We had a wonderful tasting here, perhaps my favorite of the entire trip!!! Whitcraft’s Chardonnay is powerful with fruit, and has notes of earth and minerals. The Pinot Noir and Syrah are lovely “Old World” representatives that make me very happy! I can tell that Drake cares about the fruit! The wines are not overdone; he lets them speak for themselves. I bought three of his Pinots and one of his Chards. Believe me, if I lived in the area I’d buy his wines by the truckload!

Oh, and by the way, Whitcraft has a very cute Wine Dog named Terra!

Another winery that definitely stood out was Transcendence! I’m a very picky Pinot Noir drinker (see above). I admit it! Most “New World” Pinots just don’t rock my boat. Transcendence, on the other hand … WOW! 

Once again we were fortunate to taste with owner/winemaker Joey Gummere in their Lompoc tasting room. His Pinot Noirs are (in my opinion) being made the way Pinot Noir is supposed to be made! There is some earthy funkiness behind the fruit, along with lovely floral notes. He also does some nice Chardonnay and some rockin’ Rhone blends. In fact, I’m drinking a bottle of his 2012 Parea (50% Syrah, 29% Mourvèdre and 21% Grenache) as I write this! I bought a bunch, and he gave me a nice deal on shipping.

Last (but not least!) was Liquid Farm. Located in Buellton, this winery focuses on Chardonnay. I love the name (their goal is to promote that what happens above and below the ground produces the liquid in the bottle) and I also love the wine.

Anna set us up with a tasting with the Assistant Winemaker Tanner and his playful Wine Dog Button. We tasted through 5 different Chardonnays, and there wasn’t a dud in the group! My personal favorites were the 2013 Golden Slope, named for the famous Côte-d’Or of Burgundy France and the 2013 Bien Bien, which had a wonderful finish and reminded me of a Chassagne-Montrachet! I’m a sucker for Chassagne-Montrachet, so you can imagine how much I loved this wine!

Again, wish I could have bought a heck of a lot more, but thankful that I can order online!

As you can imagine, this was a great start to a very rewarding wine excursion.  I look forward to sharing more in future blogs!

If you’re interested in visiting any of these wonderful wineries, or are simply curious to check out more about them, here are links:

http://www.whitcraftwinery.com/Home.html

http://transcendwines.com

http://www.liquidfarm.com

Good Friends, Great Chardonnay!

I love my friends!!!!  Friends get you through rough spots in life, and can also help you celebrate the highs.  Sometimes, friends also share really good wine!

My friend Lisa, (whose husband Michael chose the wine and even chilled it for us, so big kudos to Michael!) brought us a dynamite Chardonnay the other night to a “Girls” gathering.  Yes, this Chard is big and oaky, but it’s balanced and yummy too!

I enjoy a lot of different styles of wine.  Many “wine pros” hate Chardonnay.  Many “wine drinkers” love Chardonnay.  There are two sides to this story.

Chardonnay is a neutral grape.  It is often called the “winemakers grape”, because it can be influenced greatly by the people producing the end product.  It can sometimes be manipulated in a way that is not flattering, and in my opinion this is when Chardonnay gets a bad rap.  Chardonnay can also be LOVELY.  Some of my favorite wines in the world are Chardonnay, especially from the Burgundy region of France.

There are also great examples from other regions, including the New World.  A great example of a fun Chardonnay from the New World (Napa specifically) is the 2012 Staglin Family Salus Chardonnay.  Now would I want to drink this wine every night???  No, but then I wouldn’t want to drink ANY wine every night.  Well, except for Champagne, but that’s another story for another day!

This Staglin Salus Chardonnay is not pretending to be from Burgundy.  It is big and buttery.  It has a good amount of oak on the nose and palate.  It also, however, has some lovely acidity, with pear, green apple, and Meyer lemon to balance the whole thing out.  And the finish is long and lovely.

For me, there are times when I relish a big, buttery Chardonnay like this.  Personally, I think that it’s snobby to say that this is wrong.  If you are a lobster lover, this would be a great pairing.  Personally, I love some good old-fashioned buttered popcorn with this wine!

So whether you’re sitting down to a nice meal of rich seafood, or you’re sitting in front of the TV watching a fun chick flick and devouring some buttery popcorn, grab a bottle of the 2012 Staglin Family Salus Chardonnay.  Let me know what you think!  I can’t imagine you’d be disappointed.

http://www.staglinfamily.com

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