Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fratelli Perata 2004 Paso Robles Sangiovese

Gino and Joe Perata grew up in southern California, participating in their father and great-uncle's hobby winemaking. It wasn't until the late 1970's that the brothers, along with Gino's wife Carol, found themselves scouring California for their own ideal vineyard site. They purchased 40 acres in the burgeoning wine region of Paso Robles in 1977. They painstakingly cleared the land and planted 25 acres to vines by 1980. After selling their first several years of production, the family made their first wine in 1987. Today, Fratelli Perata (Perata Brothers) continues to produce estate-grown wines in their family-built winery. Producing wines like their Sangiovese and Bel' Bruzzo, it's obvious they haven't forgotten their Italian heritage.
Winery - Fratelli Perata Winery  
Location- Paso Robles, California
Wine - Fratelli Perata 2004 Paso Robles Sangiovese
Varietals - Sangiovese
Appellation - Paso Robles
Alcohol - 13.7% v/v 
Price - $35 USD

Nose/Aroma - Nutmeg and cedar.
Palate/Flavors - Ripe cherries and currants, oak, and coffee. Med-high acid, soft phenolics, slightly chalky texture.
Style - Quite a bit heavier than a Chianti. Italian with that California twist.
Food Pairing - Italian sausage soup, flavor it with a little bit of the wine (I'd use a little  (can use a little bit of wine in the soup, if you can spare it).
Comments - I think Sangiovese does well in Paso, and it seems like it's beginning to get a bit more attention there. The Peratas do a great job producing their limited production wines, pretty much all of which need some time to mellow out.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Good Gift

I hope everyone has been enjoying their holidays thus far. I got a great gift that arrived just in time. The New Zealand Consulate returned my passport on the 24th of December, complete with my new work visa! Since I spoke with the Consulate a couple weeks ago, I knew that my visa application was approved and have already booked my flights. I'll be leaving California on the 16th of January and stopping off in Indonesia briefly before continuing to New Zealand on the 1st of February. This means I only have a few weeks to sort out my affairs here before heading off.
Picture - New Zealand, stacking.

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Begining to Look a Lot Like...

Happy holidays everyone! It's Christmas eve and I'm here in Arizona to celebrate with my family. We've been traveling to Pinetop-Lakeside, a small community it eastern Arizona, since I can remember. My parents call it their second home and spend a significant amount of time here throughout the year. We left behind San Diego's dismal weather on Tuesday, and arrived here in the evening to find relatively clear skies and unseasonably warm weather. So, I was a bit surprised when I awoke early yesterday morning to see a thin blanket of snow covering the trees outside my window, illuminated by the ascending sun.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Calm Before the Storm in San Diego

While the surf hasn't exactly been epic here in San Diego, there have been quite a few fun days. The conditions have been a bit variable, with winds and tides causing problems. Just before the current storm made landfall a few days ago, I caught this spot setting up pretty well.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hidden Ramps

During my last visit to San Francisco, I stumbled across a covert bike course in Golden Gate Park. Unfortunately, I didn't have my mountain bike (probably a blessing in disguise; this series of ramps reminds me of a dislocated shoulder I had a couple years ago). The course was hidden in plain site in a grove of trees. I was taking a short cut back to my car through a little gully when I came across it, though I did notice a sign stating biking was not permitted.
The single-track began at the top of the gully, dropping down 10-15 feet to a 3-foot table top, followed by the two jumps shown below before hitting a nicely banked turn. I didn't walked the whole track, but I could see another three ramps along the bending trail. The ramps were all pretty well built and due to their location and style, I would guess are primarily used for BMX riding. Never know what you'll find on a little walk in the park.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Firestone 2006 Santa Ynez Valley Merlot

Firestone Vineyards was purchased by Foley Family Wines just three years ago, but that hasn't changed the goal of this acclaimed Santa Barbara estate. When this winery was first founded in 1972 by Leonard and Brooks Firestone, the Santa Ynez Valley was not known for its wine. It's status as an American Viticultural Area was granted in 1983, largely due to the work of the Firestone family.

Their great success led them to open their second facility in Paso Robles, just prior to closing a deal to sell both (plus 400 acres in Santa Ynez) to their longtime associate Bill Foley. Now, the Firestones have turned their attention to their other projects: the boutique Curtis Winery and the Firestone-Walker Brewery. Of course, Foley promised to continue on with Firestone Vineyards' vision; their estate offerings include several blends and varietal wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Winery - Firestone Vineyards 
Location- Los Olivos, California
Wine - Firestone 2006 Santa Ynez Valley Merlot
Varietals - Merlot
Appellation - Santa Ynez Valley
Alcohol - 13.5% v/v 
Price - $18 USD 

Nose/Aroma - Boysenberries, vanilla, and tea leaves.
Palate/Flavors - Black cherries, hazelnut coffee, and cedar oak. Medium-high acid, slightly bitter and astringent with good tannin structure. Long chocolately finish.
Food Pairing - Prime rib and mashed potatoes.
Comments- Nicely balanced, smooth tannins. I love the acid structure this wine has, and the flavor profile too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back to New Zealand

After receiving an offer of employment three weeks ago, I quickly sent my visa application to the New Zealand embassy. I'm always in a bit of a rush to get all the formalities taken care of once I find a vintage job (visa, flights, etc.).  After hearing my application may be denied last week, I was relieved when I found out today my application was accepted! I'm pretty excited to get back to New Zealand for a handful of reasons.
First, I'm going to be working in a new place. I am set to start on the 1st of February in Blenheim, the hub of the Marlborough growing region. Located in the north eastern corner of the South Island, Marlborough is the country's most renowned wine region. This will be my first visit to the South Island, too.

Second, I'm going to be working at the same place. The facility I have been working with the past two vintages was acquired by the Blenheim facility just recently. After the first couple weeks of training in Blenheim, I'll be returning to Gisborne to help with the bulk of vintage there.

Third, I'm going to be doing a fair bit of traveling. As I mentioned, my job will begin with two weeks in Blenheim. Then, I head to Gisborne for about two months before I return to Blenheim for a month (they have a very short harvest period). I finish off my stay with another month in Gisborne.

Fourth, I'm going to be helping make a large portion of the country's wine in 2011. The two facilities combined intake approximately 14% of New Zealand's total wine grape tonnage (40,000 of 285,000 tonnes). With both facilities producing a broad range of varietals and styles, I will be involved in a pretty good cross section of New Zealand's wine industry.

Fifth, I love New Zealand. The people, the countryside, the wine, the waves. It's a beautiful country and a place that I have happily called home for a significant part of the past two years. I can't wait to catch up with all my friends, have some new experiences, and make some great wine. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lake Cachuma

I barely caught the last light of the evening in Santa Ynez Valley for this shot of Lake Cachuma.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Montana 2007 Terrior Series Waihirere Chardonnay

Montana created the Terroir Series to showcase how varietal expression varies based on terrior in New Zealand's wine growing regions. As the country's largest wine producer, Montana has been leading the New Zealand wine industry for years. Grapes have been grown on Montana's Ormond Estate Vineyard for decades, and their knowledge of its history is obvious. Wines produced from this vineyard are consistently among the best Chardonnays in the country.

Winery - Montana
Location- Gisborne, New Zealand
Wine - Montana 2007 Terrior Series Waihirere Chardonnay
Varietals - Chardonnay
Appellation - Gisborne
Alcohol - 13.9% v/v 
Price - $29 NZD

Nose/Aroma - Peach and melon with a hint of nutiness.
Palate/Flavors - White peach and grapefruit flavors dominate, accentuated by rich cream and vanilla flavors. This wine is soft but quite mouth-filling, with a good balance of acid. Lingering finish of peaches and cream.
Style - Burgundian.
Food Pairing - Some nice garlic buttered crayfish (term used by Australians and New Zealanders to refer to spiny lobsters).
Comments-  Beautiful wine, some time in the bottle has allowed it to develop nicely. Still has plenty of life left, I think it will continue to improve with another couple years.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

San Francisco Fall Colors

Christmas and winter are quickly approaching, but Fall colors are still present throughout California. After a rainy weekend in San Francisco, everyone was glad to see the sun shining Monday morning. I had planned to head back south en route for San Diego, but decided I couldn't pass on the opportunity to enjoy the day. After checking the surf and finding the tide far too high, I decided to head over to Golden Gate Park.
The crisp morning air was refreshing. I had been to the park several times, but had only seen a small portion of the sprawling grounds. I wandered the park for a few hours enjoying the unique blend of transitional fall colors and evergreen trees.
The development of the park dates back to the late 1800's, when the 1,000-acre plot of sand dunes was commonly referred to as the "outside lands" (at the time, the area was not considered part of San Francisco; today, the Outside Lands Music Festival is just one of the park's many large gatherings). The massive undertaking to transform this area into one of modern America's greatest city parks (New York's Central Park is only 4/5 the size of Golden Gate Park) was not easy; during the first twenty years of development, over 150,000 trees were planted throughout the park and many are still there today.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Long, Quick Week - Part II

After a good night's sleep in Napa, I awoke early Thursday to pack up and get on the road. By 9:30 AM, I already had my first glimpses of snow as Interstate 80 wound into Truckee though it apparent that it hadn't snowed the night before as predicted. When I arrived at my friend Trevor's house, he said it probably wasn't worth heading to the mountain; instead, we just rode at his house. While shoveling the several feet of snow off their deck last week, they had built a nice little kicker ramp off their driveway.

A light snowfall that evening had me excited for Friday (Northstar claimed they got 10 inches), and I was geared up and riding Northstar's gondola by 9. The lifts were rather empty all day, but there was plenty of good snow to be enjoyed. Since Trevor was working on the backside lift, I spent most of my day there (not to mention that most of the fresh snow had fallen on this side of the mountain). By the time the lifts stopped at 4:30, I was exhausted. I met Trevor back at his house for a couple beers and dinner before an early night's sleep (sorry, I didn't get any Tahoe photos).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Swell Coming...

I finally made it back to San Diego last night after scoring some fun surf in Santa Barbara. There is some swell arriving today which will hopefully provide some decent surf. I checked it this morning to see nothing close to the forecast, which has a high surf advisory in effect today. Still, the high spring tide this morning is slowing things down so there should be more on offer this afternoon.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kenwood 2007 Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Located in northern Sonoma County, Kenwood Vineyards has been producing wine for forty years since purchasing and updating the Pagani Brothers Winery (originally built in 1906). Kenwood's portofolio consists of five different tiers of wines, including the Jack London series, Artist Series, and Reserve series that include several different varietal offerings such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Winery - Kenwood Vineyards  
Location- Kenwood, California
Wine - Kenwood 2007 Sonoma County Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot
Appellation - Sonoma County
Alcohol - 14.5% v/v 
Price - $11 USD 

Nose/Aroma - Cassis and mint. 
Palate/Flavors - Plum, red currant, and cassis flavors with a slight hint of tobacco leaf. Lighter body than I expected, and not over-oaked. Low acid and medium bitterness, with a finish of red fruit and chocolate. 
Food Pairing - Braised pork chops.
Comments- Flavors didn't really jump out at me, they all kind of blended together. Nicely balanced, smooth phenolics.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Long, Quick Week - Part I

I can't believe it's already Monday again. This past week was filled with so many great experiences. After leaving San Diego Monday, I stopped off to surf south of San Luis Obispo with my friend Brandon. The conditions were big and stormy, but we were able to find some awesome little waves as the current dragged us a mile down the beach. I spent a good portion of my Tuesday visiting old friends at my previous winery; it was great to catch up with everyone and see how the vintage in San Luis Obispo had turned out.
After stopping in to my grandmother's house for a visit, I continued on to San Francisco for the RootMusic Launch Party that evening. RootMusic is an awesome company that just launched its first product, BandPage, a Facebook application that allows musicians to create a professional interface for fans. My friend Hayes works for RootMusic, and he invited me to this Launch Party last week. When I arrived at the Mezzanine, there were many familiar faces mixed into the large crowd. Plus, Oona opened up for Del the Funky Homosapien, A+, and Opio.
I awoke Wednesday feeling as if the surf would be pumping. After making my way to the beach, I discovered that offshore winds, a draining tide, and a little swell were providing near-perfect, overhead A-frames. I surfed pretty much all day, first on my newly fixed 6'1" (I broke it after an hour or so in the water) and then on my 5'8". By the time I took my wetsuit off and began my drive north to Napa, I was exhausted. I arrived back at my old house outside of St. Helena after dark, cleaned out my remaining belongings, and had a good time hanging out with Andreu.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Honorable 2009 Washington State Reisling

Charles Smith sure seems like an interesting character who arrived in the Washington wine industry in a rather roundabout way. His motto, "its just booze - drink it!" doesn't do justice to the wines he produces; he's earned praise in the wine industry from the likes of Robert Parker and Wilfred Wong for wines like his "Royal City" Syrah (#2 on Wine Enthusiast's Top 100 Wines 2009). More recently, he has turned his attention to producing ready-to-drink wines (buy it, take it home, and pop it open), including Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
Winery - Charles Smith Wines
Location- Walla Walla, Washington
Wine - The Honorable 2009 Washington State Reisling
Varietals - Reisling
Appellation - Washington
Alcohol - 12.5% v/v 
Price - $10 USD 

Nose/Aroma - Sweet apple blossoms.
Palate/Flavors - Green apples, lime, and a slight metallic characteristic. Definitely some sugar is this one; medium acid.
Food Pairing - Perfect to pair with some spicy foods as it has a bit of sugar. I thought of nasi goreng with some nice chili sauce right off the bat (see Balinese Cuisine).
Comments- The sugar was a bit high for my tastes, which I thought a little more acid would have fixed. I'm typically not too big on sweet Reislings and wouldn't call it a flaw, more of a stylistic choice; wasn't expecting it either. Good wine, good price. For someone who says "it's just booze - drink it!", could've got that alcohol up a bit higher though...