Tag: red blend

I can’t make “pun” of this winery’s name

I can’t make “pun” of this winery’s name

For every one of our blog posts we have an important introductory step that takes place before we write a single word:  brainstorm a headline.  For reasons even we do not fully understand, we cannot get started before the headline has been cast in stone.  Usually, the headline is a play on words or a pun; for example, when we visited Duckhorn Vineyards last year our headline was “Wine that fits the bill.”  Get it? Bill?  Ducks have bills.  If you want to check out that review, here it is:  Wine that fits the bill.  Last week we visited one of Duckhorn’s sister wineries and guess what?  They made a pun out of their own name in such a way that we simply couldn’t top it:  Paraduxx Vineyards.  What do you find on every bottle?  Two ducks.  A pair of ducks.  Paraduxx.  Get it? For this post, then, we gave up on finding a clever title and decided to just get to the wine.

For those unfamiliar with the Duck family of wineries, the “grandfather” of them all is the previously mentioned Duckhorn Vineyards.  Today, there are several different brands under the Duckhorn umbrella, each with a different varietal or geographic focus: Goldeneye – primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sourced from Anderson Valley in Mendocino County; Migration – excellent Pinot Noir offerings from Sonoma’s Russian River region; Decoy – producing Napa and Sonoma wines at prices that are surprisingly affordable ($25 for their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon); and finally, Canvasback – producing wine from vineyards in Washington state.  Each of the brands has some sort of duck reference in the name, although some of them we had to Google to understand (we did not know that Goldeneye and Canvasback are species of ducks).

Okay, enough about ducks.  Let’s talk about Paraduxx wines.  If Duckhorn is well-known for being a “Merlot house,” Paraduxx is a “blend” house:  most of their wines are blends of red varietals.  However, the blends were not the typical Bordeaux or Napa blend (Cab + Merlot) but more creative and inventive blends we have not seen in our other winery visits.  Many wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma County have multiple labels and often there is a clear quality distinction between the wines sold under each label.  The winery’s main wine is considered the “A” brand and the others are “B,” “C,” etc.  It is important to stress that Paraduxx is not a “B” brand to Duckhorn, rather it is a sister winery with a different wine making approach.

When we arrived at the winery they placed a glass of the 2015 Paraduxx Proprietary Napa Valley White.  While it is not uncommon in Napa to find a proprietary red wine, proprietary white wines are not something we recall coming across.  We were told that the concept of a proprietary white was established in order to create a sense of quality and gravity to the white wine.  Often, white wines are the “throwaway” wine in Napa – something to ease visitors into the wine tasting before the serious (meaning: red) wines are poured.  We enjoyed the Paraduxx proprietary white which is composed of white varietals with Viognier making up about 2/3 of the blend.  Although it was aged in oak it was nicely tart and crisp – the perfect wine for the hot Spring day.

2015-Paraduxx-Proprietary-White-Wine-750
A white wine that wants to be taken seriously

Once we were seated out in the gorgeous Paraduxx back patio, our host Miguel Hurtado came out and gave us a quick overview of the winery and helped us understand the connection with (and differences from) Duckhorn.  Despite his youth Miguel turned out to be really knowledgeable about the wines and a fantastic ambassador for the wines and the brand.  He was also very generous in offering us tastes of wines that were not part of a regular tasting.  After we finished the Proprietary White, Miguel brought out the entire red wine tasting at once, which is the way Paraduxx prefers to introduce its wines to guests.  Rather than tasting one wine at a time, four reds are poured simultaneously, allowing tasters to jump back and forth between the wines and make comparisons and also revisit wines after they have had a chance to open up.  In addition, each wine is in its own glass, thereby avoiding the inevitable mixing of wines (and aromas and flavors) that occurs when you use a single glass to taste.  We prefer this type of tasting and wonder why more wineries do not follow this practice.

IMG_2870
Wines delivered together so they can be tasted together

From the picture above it may look as if 8 different wines were delivered; please do not get overly excited, these are two sets of the same four wines, one for each of us.  Our first Paraduxx red wine was the 2013 Cork Tree Red Wine, a blend of Malbec (43%), Cabernet Sauvignon (38%), and Merlot (19%).  The four of us tried the Malbec and I believe we all were expecting the wine to be very spicy and bold, similar to the Malbec wines we have tasted from Argentina.  This blend, however, was mellower than South American Malbec, perhaps because of the other varietals in the blend and the 18 months in French oak.  We found this wine to be smooth, lightly tannic, silky and soft compared to some of the wines that followed.

2013-Paraduxx-Cork-Tree-Vineyard-Red-Wine-750
Lush wine with a mellow finish

Our second red wine was another unique blend – at least unique to us – 50% Cabernet Franc with 47% Zinfandel and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Compared to the Cork Tree blend, the 2013 Rector Creek – Block 5 Red wine had stronger aromas and on the palate boasted much higher tannins and more acidity.  We all agreed that this wine would pair well with a thick juicy steak.

2013-Paraduxx-Rector-Creek-Red-Blk-5-750
Perfect wine for pairing with grilled meat

Our third red blend was the 2013 Paraduxx Atlas Peak Red Wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Zinfandel (31%), and Sangiovese (18%).  This was the favorite wine of our grouping, although not everyone picked it as their favorite the first time through the four wines.  One of the benefits of having the wines served at the same time and in their own glass is the ability to come back and taste each again.

2013-Paraduxx-Atlas-Peak-Red-Wine-750
Wine Enthusiast gave this wine 90 points

The final wine in our red blend tasting (but far from the final wine of the afternoon) was the 2014 Paraduxx Pintail Napa Valley Red Wine, a blend of Zinfandel (63%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (37%).  The youngest of the four wines, the Pintail blend had bold fruit, strong tannins and a nice long finish.  We look forward to trying this wine again when it has aged a bit and see how the flavors progress.

2014-Paraduxx-Napa-Valley-Pintail-Blend-750
This is one of Paraduxx’s new releases

 

Miguel let us work our way through the four red blends at our own pace and when he saw that most of us had empty glasses he asked if we would like to try any more wines.  We enthusiastically accepted and Miguel proceeded to bring out a taste of 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from their sister winery Goldeneye, followed by a 2010 Paraduxx Rector Creek Red Wine (to compare to the 2013 we had tried during the tasting).  We were already familiar with the Goldeneye Pinot Noir, having visited the winery last summer; we enjoyed it as much as we had the previous bottles consumed at home.  The 2010 Rector Creek was luscious, smooth, fruity with a nice long and balanced finish.

But wait, there’s more.  We asked if there was any Duckhorn Merlot open and, thankfully, Miguel answered in the affirmative.  Several of the tasters in our party are big fans of the Duckhorn Merlot, truly one of the best in the country.  As we were preparing to go, Miguel twisted our arm and asked if we wanted to try another Duckhorn wine.  Because we are pleasers, we said “yes, if you like” and accepted one finally taste:  2013 Duckhorn “The Discussion.”  Unusual for Duckhorn, The Discussion is a blend – 64% Cab, 31% Merlot, and small percentages of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.  This was Duckhorn’s version of a Bordeaux blend, a good old-fashioned cuvee.  Aged for two years in 60 gallon Chateau-style barrels made of 100% French oak, The Discussion is a complex, sophisticated and elegant wine.  Definitely the right wine with which to end our day.

Before leaving the table I looked down and thought “I must document the immensity of today’s efforts by taking a picture of the battlefield.”  This is the carnage that we left behind.

IMG_2873
THIS is how you taste wine

We should mention that in addition to the strong wines Paraduxx offers visitors a beautiful and comfortable setting for tastings.

Paraduxx
She’s not holding me up
Paraduxx 2.jpg
Lovely company in a lovely setting

With a summer of family and friends visiting we expect we’ll make it back to Paraduxx (and hopefully Duckhorn as well) soon enough.

John & Irene Ingersoll

May 13, 2017

 

 

Advertisements
Got Melka?

Got Melka?

glass-of-milk
Who needs milk when you can have Melka?

According to a famous 1990’s advertising campaign,”milk does a  body good.”  We subscribe to the philosophy that wine –  good wine – also does a body good.  We recently met Sylvie Laly, the wonderful Sales and Wine Director for Napa Valley winery Melka Wines, who was gracious enough to share some of their wines with us.  After tasting one of their white wines and four reds, we can say that “Melka does a body good” as well.

We first heard about Melka wines through a recommendation from a sommelier at one of our favorite Napa Valley restaurants (Torc in downtown Napa) and enjoyed a bottle or two there.  We also were pleased to learn that some of their wines can be purchased at select Total Wine & More stores (with one conveniently located just 100 yards from work).

In total, Sylvie shared five wines with us, starting with the 2014 CJ Cabernet Sauvignon, named after Philippe and Cherie Melka’s children, Chloe and Jeremy.

img_2650
When in Napa …you have to make a great Cab

The CJ Cabernet is the most mass-produced of the Melka wines – if 1,800 cases counts as “mass production.”  This wine is 76% Cab with Petit Verdot, Cab Franc and Merlot blended in as well.  This wine is way too good to be anyone’s “Tuesday night wine” – it was luscious and bold, with a fine balance of fruit, acidity, minerality and tannins.  But at a $75.00 price point the wine is quite a value as it priced far less than Napa Cabs of similar quality that cost 50-100% more.

 

After finishing the CJ Cabernet, we moved on to the 2014 Melka Majestique – a 100% Syrah from the Paderewski vineyard in Paso Robles.

img_2652
Que Syrah, Syrah

Only the fourth vintage from this vineyard, the Majestique Syrah was one of the better California Syrahs that we have consumed:  complex with many layers, both in terms of aroma and flavor.  The Majestique had strong blackberry and blueberry notes but also was bursting with pepper and spice to deliver a balanced finish with surprisingly restrained tannins.  This is not a wine to sip while sitting by the pool or even reading a book on a rainy day – it will be better paired with food that can stand up to its bold flavor.

Sylvie followed the Syrah with the 2013 Proprietary Red from La Mekerra Vineyard in Knights Valley.

img_2653
An unusual Proprietary Blend that is unusually good!

Each year, winemaker Phillipe Melka strives to achieve as close to a 50/50 combination of Cabernet Franc and Merlot as he can.  For the 2013 vintage, the wine was 53% Cab Franc and 47% Merlot.  Like most of the Melka wines, the production quantities are small – only 400 total cases produced.  In our opinion, the Melka Proprietary Blend was their best wine – luscious, velvety, powerful, spicy with a strong tannic finish.  A more common blend in both Bordeaux and Napa would be Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, rather than Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Nevertheless, we think this wine holds its own against some of the most famous Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-anchored red blends at any price.

Our next wine was the 2013 Metisse from Napa Valley’s Jumping Goat Vineyard – a Cabernet Sauvignon with 13% Petit Verdot and 5% Merlot.

img_2654
When in Napa …you must make a Big Cab

This is Philippe Melka’s “Big Napa Cab” – 15.8% alcohol, aged 23 months in 80% new French oak barrels.  However, we don’t want to leave our readers with the impression that this wine was a typical Napa Cab “fruit bomb.”  For sure, the aroma and flavor of the wine are driven by dark fruit – blackberry and plum; but the wine is also complex, layered, sophisticated and nuanced and we imagine that over the course of an entire bottle the flavors would continue to unravel.

Too quickly we arrived at our last wine to taste – the 2014 Mekerra Proprietary White, Knights Valley, which is 97% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle.

melka-sav-blanc
A lovely wine made from grapes grown at nearly 2,500 feet elevation

When Sylvie told us that the wine had undergone 100% secondary (malolactic) fermentation and had been in French oak barrels for nearly two years, we were not sure what to expect.  What we found in the glass, however, was a splendidly balanced white wine with none of the over-oaked aroma or flavor that you often find in California white wines.  There was plenty of fruit on the palate – citrus and melon – but the wine was also crisp and had enough acidity to provide a long finish.  We learned that the grapes for the Melka Sauvignon Blanc are sourced from Knights Valley, a vineyard location in Sonoma County with an elevation of over 2,300 feet.

If you pick up some Melka wine, make sure to take a close look at the label, each of which contains a close-up photo of the eyes of co-owner Philippe.  For each series of wine (Mekerra, Majestique, Metisse), his eyes change color.  For instance, on the label for the wines from Mekerra Vineyard, his eyes are blue (because Mekerra is the name of a river).

We look forward to tasting wines with Sylvie again when Melka’s winery opens.  Be sure to check out Melka wines at their website:  Melka Wines.

John & Irene Ingersoll

February 14, 2017

A Wine Rating System That Makes Sense To Us

IMG_1560
A wine rating legend – Robert Parker

We recently visited VGS Chateau Potelle in Napa Valley’s quaint town of Saint Helena and encountered a wine rating scale that we think has some appeal:  VGS.  Even casual wine buyers are familiar with the more common 100-point wine rating scale that Robert Parker first introduced in the 1980’s in The Wine Advocate.  Since Parker introduced this scale, it has been adopted by virtually all wine publications.  This rating scale has some appeal, especially in the United States where most schools and universities grade on a scale of 0 to 100.  A zero equates to total failure and a 100 suggests perfection.

While we find the 100 point scale to be useful, the “VGS” designation that we learned about at Chateau Potelle is one that we think could have broad appeal to the full gamut of wine consumers – snobs and novices alike.  When we sat down last week at VGS Chateau Potelle for our tasting with Shelby, we figured “VGS” stood for the name of a corporate parent or ownership group.  In our defense, it was our first visit to the winery and we knew little about them other than we had tasted a luscious bottle of their 1996 Zinfandel at Alice Water’s famous Chez Panisse in Berkeley the week before.  “So,” we asked, “who or what is ‘VGS’?”  “That stands for ‘very good shit,’ she explained.  At first we thought this was a gag but it turns out that the letters do in fact stand for those descriptive words.  As the story goes, some visitors to the winery many years ago described the Chateau Potelle wines as “very good shit” to the winemaker, Jean-Noel Fourmeaux. Apparently, he was not offended by this designation and latched onto the letters “VGS.”  Over the years, VGS has become a more prominent feature in the winery’s branding to the point where, today, both the tasting room and the bottles are branded “VGS Chateau Potelle.”

Without reservation, we can say that the 1996 Zinfandel that we had at Chez Panisse was VGS. We decided to taste the current Chateau Potelle Vintages to see how they ranked on the scale.

We sat down for a paired tasting – four wines overall with a small bite to complement the wine. We started with the 2014 Chardonnay, which was paired with Vichyssoise with Dungeness crab.  We have to say, the bites were delicious, not surprising when we found out that they are provided by one of Napa’s highest-rated restaurants, Michelin-starred La Toque.  Given that Chateau Potelle’s winemaker is from France, we were expecting more of a French-style Chardonnay – crisp, bone dry, no oak, and very light in appearance.  Instead, the Chardonnay turned out to be very yellow, similar to the Chardonnays made in Napa in the “California style.”  However, the flavor was not buttery like a typical California Chard – it was a mix of both styles both in terms of color, aroma and flavor.  Overall, a nice wine.

Our second wine was the 2014 Zinfandel – nearly 20 years younger than the wine we enjoyed the previous weekend – paired with bacon rillette.  We found the 2014 Zin to be a very nice wine – balanced fruit, spice, smooth tannins and a nice silky texture.  It was difficult not to compare it to the 1996, and in that comparison it could not hold up as the older wine had such intriguing texture and flavor.

img_2665

Our third wine was the 2014 Potelle Two – a quasi-Bordeaux blend; we say “quasi” because in addition to the traditional Bordeaux blend varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, the winemaker has blended Syrah and Zinfandel.  This wine was very balanced and drinkable for such a young red wine and paired nicely with a Spanish Idiazabal cheese.

img_2664

The fourth and final wine was Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa’s Mount Veeder appellation, paired with Niman Ranch beef.  With just over 75% of its grapes coming from Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is labelled a Cab but could easily be considered a proprietary blend as it includes Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cab Franc and Malbec. The wine was very balanced but more powerful than the Potelle Two, with a stronger and longer finish and stronger tannins.  Also, there were more layers of flavor in the Cab – something that can be cellared and enjoyed for years to come.

We enjoyed the wines and had the good fortune to be attended by Shelby who not only shared her deep knowledge of the wines with us but also engaged us in a lively conversation about her Armenian family and the current state of U.S. politics.  We also enjoyed the tasting room which is cozy and arranged in away that allows groups to enjoy sit-down tastings with a fair amount of privacy and personal attention.  There is also a lovely outdoor area that felt very much like a French garden that we would have loved to enjoy had it not been raining for what felt like the 100th consecutive day in 2017.  When we get back to Chateau Potelle to try some more VGS, we will choose a sunny day and have our tasting outside.

We’re not sure a new rating scale for wine will catch on, but we would like to propose three levels for wine quality:
“S” – for truly shit wine, the one that you regift as soon as you get it, or use it for cooking.  Not even good enough to be a “Tuesday night wine.”

“GS” – for wines that are good shit; not very good, just good.  Definitely worthy of Tuesday night but also good enough to take to a restaurant for date night.

“VGS” – for the very good shit wines that you drink for special occasions and hide from  friends or family that can’t tell the different between S, GS, or VGS.

What do you think – can this rating scale catch on?

John & Irene Ingersoll

February 10, 2017