Category Archives: syrah

Arizona Wineries Growers Assoc. 3rd Annual Festival at The Farm part 2

Here are 3 more wineries I visited with at the 3rd Annual Festival at The Farm last weekend.

Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards produces about 3,000 cases annually from their 21 acres in Cochise county. Winemaker Rod Keeling has been making wine for 13 years and his experience shows. I had the opportunity to chat with Rod and his daughter Cecelia while tasting 3 wines, with 2 of them being available only from the winery. The¬† 2009 Three Sisters Syrah is soft, ripe with good fruit. It’s complexity and medium body give it a nice mouth feel. Plenty is available as they made 539 cases, quite a bit for an Arizona winery. The 2007 Home Place Reserve Syrah gets aged for 3 years in new French oak and delivers a soft start that leads to a full bodied wine. With only 96 cases produced this wine is only available at their tasting room and online, as is the 2008 Schaefer Boys Mourvedre. This 68 case production wine is spicy with dark fruit and is terror driven, showcasing their Rock Creek vineyard. http://keelingschaefervineyards.com

Kief Manning is the winemaker at Kief-Joshua Vineyards in Elgin is very well versed at wine making & the wine business having earned both an undergraduate & graduate degree at the University of Melbourne in Australia. Grapes are provided by their 2 vineyards with 60 acres planted to vines in Elgin and Kansas Settlement. Pouring 2 white wines and 2 reds at the festival all were good, solid wines. I was especially fond 2 of them. The 2010 Cephus is easy drinking blend of Chardonnay and Rousanne. Light and crisp this is a good food wine or drank by itself. His 2009 Magdalena is 70% Petite Sirah and 30% Barbera that has some earthy overtones and solid dark fruit qualities. Kief-Joshua is striving to be environmentally friendly by implementing several techniques in the vineyards and at the winery. I’m curious to see what Kief can do with Pinot Noir as he has some currently in the barrell. http://kj-vineyards.com/default.asp

Dos Cabezas Wineworks is owned by the Bostock family and Todd Bostock is their winemaker. Getting most of their fruit from Dick Erath’s Cimarron vineyards next door, Todd not only makes good wines, he is also experimenting with others plantings of varieties from from Spain, Italy and France. Making about 3,000 cases annually some of Todd’s stand outs were the 2009 El Norte which is a Syrah based blend and is dry, soft and spicy with medium tannins. The 2009 Red is Grenache based and offer good fruit and a soft on the palate. I also enjoyed the 2009 El Campo which is an interesting blend made mostly of Tempranillo and Mourvedre that I found spicy, with good tannins and fruit. http://www.doscabezaswinery.com/index.html

The wines of Pierce Ranch Vineyards

The southern part of Monterey County is where you will find the 30 acres of vineyards of Pierce Ranch Vineyards, where it’s planted to such grapes of Petite Sirah, Grenache, Syrah and Spain and Portugal influenced Tempranillo and Touriga amongst others. These wines and others produced are very limited with some bottling as little as 60 cases. The vineyards are 1,000 ft. above sea level and are in one of California’s newest AVA’s of San Antonio Valley and are situated 14 miles from the Pacific. With very little wine produced, they are only available through the winery. I recently had the chance to taste a few of their wines and these are my thoughts. www.piercevineyards.com

2007 Tempranillo is a medium bodied wine with good fruit of cherries and plums and is well balanced. Aged for 18 months in American, French and Hungarian oak there are only 160 cases of this wine produced.

The 2007 Touriga is a blend of 70% Touriga Nacional and 30% Touriga Francesa  and has good tannins, medium body and good complexity. Black currant and spices are just some of the flavors you will find in this wine along with a long finish. Aged for 18 months in oak, some that are new, this 125 case production is an interesting take on the Portugese grapes.

2007 Petite Sirah see’s 18 months in French oak and is a full bodied wine that is soft and spicy and gets bigger on the mid palate. Dark fruits and hints of black and white pepper are present nuances. A long finish is had from this 275 case wine.

The 2007 Tourbillon is a blend of 43% Grenache, 37% Syrah and 20% Petite Sirah that is dry and soft with cherry, lavender and sage notes. It’s medium bodied and has medium tannins from being aged for 18 months in French oak. This is a good balanced wine with a nice finish. With 460 cases produced it is one of the more widely produced wines.

Andrew Murray and his wines part 2

In a post of a few days ago I blogged about Andrew Murray Vineyards and 2 of his Syrahs that I tasted. In this post I will blog about 3 blends I and some wine enthusiasts tasted from Andrew.

2010 RGB Camp 4 Vineyard- The only white wine we tasted, this 50/50 blend of Rousanne and Grenache Blanc comes from Santa Ynez Valley. Fermented together in stainless steel and then put into neutral French oak until its time to bottle. It has melon and pear aromas on the nose & sweet vanilla and honeysuckle on the palate. It’s dry wine and has good acidity, a medium body and medium finish. Only 200 cases were made of this white Chateauneuf du Pape like wine and retails for about $25.

2008 Esperance(“Hope” in French) from the Central Coast is a blend of 60% Greanche Noir from Paso Robles, 25% Syrah from Santa Ynez Valley and 15% Mourvedre from Paso Robles. Big on the nose and the palate, this wine uses a lot of new French oak and grapes from both warm and cool climates. Buttery and with nice tannins, it’s well balanced and has a nice, long finish. It tastes great and has the best finish of the 5 wines tasted. 400 cases were produced and is a steal at $30.

2009 Syrah Watch Hill Vineyard from Santa Ynez Valley is blended with 5% Viognier. Aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, half which were new this is a full bodied wine with a smoky, bacon nose. With good raspberry fruit this wine has a shorter finish. Several tasters said “WOW” upon their 1st taste. Only 212 cases made and should retail for about $36.

So after tasting 5 wines from Andrew Murray Vineyards my fellow wine drinkers agree that the accolades from Robert Parker and others are worthy. If you find Andrews wines on your wine stores shelf or a restaurant wine list, do yourself a favor a give these limited production wines a try and see why they drink like you should be spending a lot more money than you actually will. Cheers!

Andrew Murray and his wines

Andrew Murray fell in love with wine while in the Rhone Valley of France, learned to make wine in Australia and studied viticulture and enology at UC Davis before starting his own winery in Santa Ynez. Making only Rhone varieties, Andrew sources grapes from vineyards up and down California’s Central Coast, a region known for Syrah, Grenache and other Rhone varieties because of it’s Mediterranean type climate. Many of the grapes are sourced from steep, hillside vineyards. Andrew has garnered accolades from Robert Parker, Food and Wine Magazine and many others for not only his wine making but for his passion and dedication. In addition to the accolades, Andrew also garnered attention on the big screen when his wines were featured in the hit film “Sideways”. Andrews wines are big in flavor and alcohol, often going above 15%, and he’s not afraid to say it. He feels that to be commercially viable wines they need to be higher in alcohol because lower alcohol wines seem to get lost after higher alcohol wines. When not making his own wines, Andrew makes wines for Oak Savanna Vineyards where he can make some other wines that are not Rhone inspired. http://www.andrewmurrayvineyards.com/

I recently sat down with a group of wine enthusiasts to taste 5 of Andrews recent releases. In this post I will give our thoughts on the 2 Syrahs and in another post I will share what we thought on the 3 of the blends tasted.

2008 Tous les Jours Syrah- The name translates to “everyday” and could be drank that way. Aged for 11 months in new and used French oak barriques after the grapes were fermented in both open and closed top tanks. Sourcing grapes from vineyards in Paso Robles and Santa Ynez, this Central Coast bottling had aromas of red bell peppers and tobacco on the nose and was soft on the palate and had a long finish. Drinkable now it should get better with a couple years of aging. This wines was considered very good by the panel. 2,500 cases were produced of this wine and should retail for about $20.

2008 Terra Bella Vineyard Syrah- Making a mere 240 cases,this Paso Robles bottling comes from a hillside vineyard near Halter Ranch and Tablas Creek. A nice nose, this wine is big on fruit, thick and is a deep colored wine. With raspberries and blueberry nuances, this wine was aged at least 18 months in mostly new French oak barrels. Nice and balanced the group felt this was the best of the 5 wines tasted and a great deal at $36.

Wines of Paso Robles




On a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in Paradise Valley, Arizona over 30 of Paso Robles 200 wineries were in attendance showcasing their wines as part of the Paso Robles Winery Alliance Tour.

Paso Robles is situated half way between Los Angeles & San Francisco. Although it’s not far from the Pacific Ocean, Paso does not get the cooling oceans breezes that many other coastal areas get, therefore the days are hot & nights cool down. Those conditions make for some big, lush Cabernets Sauvignons, Syrahs & Zinfandels. Though those grapes are the main attraction from Paso Robles you also see Viognier, Chardonnay and other lesser planted varietals, can you say Touriga Nacional or Verdelho just to name a few. Still with a small town atmosphere Paso grower & producers work together, trading secrets, buying & selling of grapes for the over all good of promoting Paso as a wine destination for wine producing and visiting. The most commonly asked question in Paso is “Are you on the West side or East side” as Highway 101 runs right through the town and wineries and vineyards are each side and both sides have micro climates that will affect grape growing.

Many great wines were tasted and even greater people including several owners and wine makers were in attendance to talk about their passion for wine. Some delicious Chardonnay’s & Zins were present from Sextant Wines, Robert Hall was in the house pouring his line up of whites & reds as was brewer turned winemaker & winery owner Sherman Thatcher of his namesake winery. Thatcher Winery makes only 1,800-2,000 cases and does a great job with 2004 being his 1st vintage. Former Wild Horse owner & founder Kenneth Volk was talking up his his newest wines from his latest label(he sold Wild Horse a few years back). Halter Ranch Vineyards who grows grapes for a lot of Paso producers also makes some wine themselves and gets a little crazy with their Cotes de Paso blends using rarely drank Picpoul Blanc & Grenache Blanc in the whites & tiny bits of Counoise & Cinsault in the reds. It was good to re visit the wines of Eberle winery with Marcy & Gary Eberle as it was the 1st time since I spent a birthday at their winery tasting wine & toasting the sunset. One of my final stops was at Justin Winery’s table to taste some recent offerings and wonder if the wines will be the same now that Justin just sold the winery to the Fiji Water Co.

It was great to see some of the newbies of Paso Robles wine scene and some of the veterans who have blazed a trail to put Paso on the wine map. Big & bold wines seem to be the reputation for Paso wines, but I’m glad to report that there is also an elegant side to many of the wines tasted, showing some well balanced wines. Cheers! www.pasowine.com

What’s a wine dinner amongst friends!

In life you tend to gather with people you have certain things in common. Since we all have to eat and drink to survive, I tend to gather with people who like to eat and drink(wine & spirits that is). It also happens that these same people used to be or are still in the wine biz, that’s how we all met.
About once a month we all gather for a night of indulgence and strolling down memory lane. These dinners have gone on in many incarnations for over 10 years. There usually simple to put together(unless there is a miscommunication), everybody plays a role from hosting to someone responsible for the wine and everybody else for a particular course of the meal. We try to co-ordinate pairings(pinot noirs & salmon), themes(Spanish wine w/ Paella, flan,etc) and a date & place convenient to all.
Occasionally there are some hiccups over responsibilities, reading of recipe ingredients and measurements (1/4 of tablespoon of salt vs. 1/4 cup of salt). Guess who?? Know you know why I try to write as oppose to cook, but I digress. Usually the entrees are provided by our 2 culinary school grads, so you know the bar is going to be set high for the rest of us. Being that some of us have or had a wine collection the wines tend to be vintages from early 1990’s right on up to some recent vintages. That being said sometimes the wine bottles get emptied and some times they don’t. Conversations revolve around everything ranging from the nights menu to politics(gourmet burgers on Election night Nov. 2008) to the music we’re listening to. You get the picture, anything goes. It’s a night of food, friends and wine, simply put there are no rules.

Last night we met for our 2nd dinner of June(occasionally we do them more frequently i.e. birthdays, holiday dinner). With the dog days of summer upon us we decided not to cook(too hot) & this time to let the wines be the star. So we opted for a simple dinner of chilled cucumber soup, homemade roast beef and assorted, mostly Italian pork products for sandwiches w/ coleslaw being the only side dish. Normally we’d have some dessert, but we opted to drink dessert this night. Most of the wines paired were to be some lighter wines(Alsace), but a last minute invitee brought some reds that needed to be drank from his cellar. BTW we also tasted the Rodney Strong wines mentioned in a previous post as the guest arrived. They’re still going..Strong(pun intended) 6 days after being opened. Moral of the story……enjoy your food, wine & friends because we need all 3 in order to survive!

Here’s my thoughts on 2 of the wines, with my thoughts on the others in future posts.

01 Marc Kreydenweiss “Clos Rebberg” Pinot Gris- Alsace, France
The hit of the night. Good fruit, crisp with nice acidity. Hints of apples and minerals. Yum!!
05 Francis Ford Coppola Rosso- California nice blend of 48% Zin, 27% Syrah and 25% Cab. Sauv. which made for a soft, easy drinking, fruit forward wine with a nice finish.