2011 Honoro Vera Garnacha

honoro vera garnacha

As part of the Juan Gil family of wines founded by Juan Gil Jiminez back in 1916 Honoro Vera is in its 2nd vintage producing a 100% Garnacha from Calayatud region of Spain. The vines are between 30-40 years old and are on hillsides with the soil being decomposed slate and clay soils. This wine is aged in both French and American oak for 2 months after being fermented in stainless steel.

Dark in color, cherries and blackberries can be found on the palate along with hints of licorice and pepper as well. This wine offers a great value at $15 or less.

Arizona Wine Growers Assoc. 3rd Annual Festival at The Farm


The Farm at South Mountain was the scene for the 3rd Annual Festival at The Farm with over 30 wineries in attendance. Most have been making wine for years and several are relatively newcomers. My goal was to catch up with some old friends while at the same time meet some new friends who I’ve heard good things about. This is the 1st of a series of posts to come.

My 1st stop was at the table of Lawrence Dunham Vineyards, which specializes in Rhone varieties from Willcox in south east Arizona. Owner/ winemaker Curt Dunham was pouring 5 of 2009 reds that happen to be his 1st release. Curt who is a self taught winemaker was showcasing some food friendly, Grenache’s, Petite Sirah’s and his R.E.D which is a blend of Grenche, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah. Wines that were well balanced, with good fruit, medium tannins and hints of spice, Curt was able to produce wine with only 2 years of grapes on the vines. Less than 130 cases of each of the 5 wines are produced and all should retail for less than $30 each. www.LawrenceDunhamVineyards.com

I made my way over to Rob and Sarah Hammelman of Sand-Reckoner Vineyards, where they were pouring their 2010 Malvasia and Rose. Rob caught the wine bug when working at Callaghan Vineyards(read about them soon) on a summer off from teaching. He then graduated from the University of Adelaide in Australia and learned to make wine at Hewitson while down under. His desire to make old world Rhone wines became a reality in 2008 when he learned from the famed winemaker Louis Barruol of Ch. St. Cosme in Gigondas. Rob and Sarah currently have only 3 acres planted to vines and both do about everything themselves. The Malvasia has a great nose, crisp acidity good fruit and should be a crowd pleaser. A small crowd though as only 85 cases have been produced. The Rose is a blend of 65% Nebbiolo, 31% Sangiovese and 4% Syrah, and is fermented in neutral oak. A good food wine, it’s dry style has depth and a good mouth feel. Only 60 cases of this vibrant wine have been produced. If you can find these wines they both retail for under $30. http://sand-reckoner.com
The 1 winery that really put Arizona wine on the map in 1990s was Callaghan Vineyards and owner/winemaker Kent Callaghan still sets the bar for others. Pouring 5 reds from the 2009 vintage and a white blend from 2010.  Kent’s red wines are big and bold and offer deep fruit along with great aging potential. His 2009 Padres blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Syrah was a gold medal winner and judges favorite at the banquet the evening before the tasting. I’m excited to see what Kent could do with with the Graciano the he has planted along with other Italian whites he’s grafting for future plantings. He feels that Sonoita has great growing conditions for Italian white grapes.  http://callaghanvineyards.com

These are just 3 of the wineries I visited with at The Festival and in coming days I will post others and bring you up to speed on more of the latest and greatest that Arizona wineries have to offer. For more information on Arizona Wineries please go to http://www.arizonawine.org Cheers!

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!

What grape is that….?

A few more grapes that you may not of heard of ….yet!

GRENACHE BLANC is a white grape found in Rhone region of France, also southern France and a northeast Spain. A little bit can be found in growing in the central coast of California. Related to the red grape, Grenache, Grenache Blanc when made into wine is high in alcohol and low in acidity. It’s often blended with another Rhone grape ROUSANNE and other white Rhone blends.

PINOT MEUNIER is a black wine grape and is most often used in the making of Champagne. Experts think it’s a mutation of Pinot Noir. It is also found grown in Germany where it is used in red wines and also found in the Carneros region of California, Oregeon and down under in Australia and most recently New Zealand.

ST> LAURENT is red grape found in Austria and Germany and is part of the Pinot Noir family. It is known for having a big aroma. It’s also widely planted in the Czech Republic. When crossed with the grape BLAUFRANKISCH you get the grape ZWEIGELT that can be found growing in Austria.

Stay tuned for more in upcoming posts.

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.

What grape is that….?

With an estimated 10,000+ varieties of grapes used to produce wine around the world, why are only familiar w/ a small portion of them. Some grapes grow in specific regions in the world, some are grown throughout the world. Some are used exclusively for blending and some are bottled by themselves. Some grapes are the same but called by different names in different parts of the world i.e. Shiraz & Syrah or Grenache & Garnacha.

In on going posts “What grape is that..” I will shed some light on lesser known varieties that are slowly making their way onto the international wine scene. Quite often we’ve tasted theses wines, but never knew what they were. Think about it, 10 years ago who knew what Gruner Veltliner, unless you were from Austria. Here we go……

GRILLO is a Sicilian white grape that is used in Marsala and some producers bottle it by itself and it makes for light, refreshing glass of wine. It should not be confused with the red grape GROLLEAU from the Loire Valley. This grape is often used for rose or blending. It also has a very unique taste profile.

TORRONTES from Argentina is white wine that is very aromatic on the nose and is starting to get some recognition in the U.S. after riding Malbecs coat tails.

Just a few wines for today. Continue to check back for other grapes/wines you may not have heard of.. yet!

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