What I’m Drinking Now: Really Good Red

Sometimes a really good red is in order, whether it is for a celebration, a promotion, a perfect pairing, dinner with friends…for a wine lover like me, sometimes opening a great bottle of red is the best way to enjoy life.  I am not saying this has to be the most expensive bottle of red, it just has to be good.  I have had the pleasure to have some tasty reds lately, some have been sent for editorial consideration, some I simply have enjoyed. 

I attended a tasting of Vineyard 29 the other evening, and wow!  What beautiful wine! The 2007 Cabernet Franc was my favorite of the night, though my sweetheart loved the 2007 Aida Estate Cabernet by Vineyard 29 (very bold and traditional Cab.)  I love a Cab Franc though, and am always pleased to see this wine produced and bottled as a single varietal.  Often Cab Franc is simply used as a blending grape, as it tend to add umph to some Bordeaux varietals like Merlot, and soften the more intense Bordeaux varietal Cabernet Sauvignon.  But, on its own, Cabernet Franc is expressive, elegant and well structured.  Filled with lavender, violet and wild flower aromas mixed with rich red fruit, followed by bright red cherry and plum flavors, with slight minerality, and ending in a long lasting finish.  Lovely.

2007 Shafer One Point Five– I have been a fan of Shafer Vineyards for years.  I remember reading an article in Wine Spectator about John Shafer and his son Doug some years ago and became inspired.   John left a corporate publishing  job to become a winemaker in the 1970’s, moving his family from Chicago to the Napa Valley.  Following his dad’s passion Doug went to UC Davis, honed his skills at some of Napa’s leading wineries of the time, including Robert Mondavi, Lakespring Winery and in the 1980’s became Shafer’s winemaker.  When Doug joined his father the true Shafer style was born.  Shafer is known for wine representative of the land, in this case the Stags Leap District, along with a commitment to sustainable farming in Napa.  The One Point Five is 99% Cab Sav, with 1% Petit Verdot.  This is an intense wine that should age beautifully over the next few years, but was thoroughly enjoyable now.  Dark chocolate and sweet spice, with cedar and black cherry. Fantastic.

I had lunch with the owner of Napa’s Hidden Ridge, Casidy Ward, the other day.  An Oklahoma native that met her husband in OKC and in 1989 they moved west.  They settled on 165 acres of mountain land, which was quite overgrown at the time, on the western side of Spring Mountain.  Believing that this soil would produce stellar wine, they poured in several years of sweat equity, as Casidy calls it, and developed 55 acres of the land into their vineyard, some of which sit at a 55 degree angle slope. 
Their hope proved true and they are now producing incredible Cabernet Sauvignon with winemaker Marco DiGiulio.  Their first vintage was 2003 with about 1,000 total cases produced.  Every year they get a little bigger, but remain focused on producing the highest quality Cab they can from their juice only.  The 2005 is filled with cherry and mineral flavors, a true product of the volcanic and clay soils these grapes are grown in.  It is an intense wine and one that should continue to improve over the next few years.  The wine stays on its skins for 40 days, and then it moves to 80% new French oak for 18 months, producing a somewhat tannic wine, however it is not so much it is not enjoyable.  I asked Casidy what her favorite pairings for this wine was and she suggested a black cod with miso, or roast lamb or beef.

2006 Signaterra Three Blocks is a Bordeaux style blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon and 34% Merlot from the Gordenker, Stone Farm and Sunny Slope farms in Sonoma’s AVA.  These grapes are completely organic and almost handled with kid gloves from meticulous pruning and thinning of the vines, to 100% natural, indigenous yeasts used in fermentation.  The wine is meant to express the three forces of man, nature and earth, through a well balanced and layered blend.  Full of plum, leather and currant with hints of sweet spice, chocolate and cherry.  The wine is the latest ultra premium wine from Benzinger Family Winery.

Sbragia 2007 Andolse Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – I recently stumbled along this wine from the former head winemaker for Beringer.  I remember the first time I had a Beringer Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon many, many years ago and thinking how like butter the rich, silky wine was.  This is what Ed Sbragia did for Beringer, creating silky, well structured wine for Beringer since the early 1980’s.  In 2008 he left his successful position to create his own small production, family owned and operated winery.  Working with his wife, daughter and sons he has created an impressive winery in the heart of Dry Creek. 
The love for great wine, the pride of making wine under his family name and attachment to the land seeps through with each sip of this stunning Cabernet. (The Chardonnay is pretty good too!) The Andolson Cab is made from grapes bought from family friend Dr. Andolson’s vineyard on the west side of Dry Creek.  This coastal range helps bring ripe cherry and licorice aromas to the wine.   Sweet spice, plum and cherry flavors fill the wine, with hints of chocolate and cedar from 19 months of aging in 100% new French oak.  Only 803 cases were made in 2007.

Montecillo 2001 Gran Reserva Rioja – from the 3rd oldest wineries in Rioja this 100% Tempranillo is a Spanish jewel.  Winemaker Maria Martinez-Sierra has been making wine for Bodega Montecillo for over 30 years, and was one of the first female winemakers in Spain, and is still considered a trail blazer for women wine makers, mainly because of her efforts to grow the reputation of Rioja throughout the world.  And she has much to be proud of with this Tempranillo. Balanced and intense, the wine is approachable and lovely now, but can easily age for a few more years.  Filled with licorice, black fruit and cherry followed by nutmeg and leather from 24 months of French oak aging.

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