She says: They’re in the Barrel Room!
Frog’s Leap, Rutherford, Cabernet Sauvignon
SHE shares how to learn about wine.
HE says: Remember the first wine dinner you attended at my house?
SHE says: I remember most of it. I remember I brought the highest scoring wine.
HE says: Beginner’s luck.
SHE says: Of course. Let’s see… I also remember you had to wake me up to tell me I had brought the highest scoring wine. I remember misplacing the picture of me “Thanking the Academy” with my bottle of highest-scoring wine clutched like an award. And I remember deleting another incriminating photograph or two.
HE says: Yes, that’s the evening. Do you remember what the wine was?
SHE says: YES! Absolutely! A Frog’s Leap Cabernet!
HE says: Not just Frog’s Leap, but Frog’s Leap Rutherford, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001 maybe? or 2002? I can’t recall. How did you happen to choose that wine?
SHE says: Years of research. (As if…!) Truth is, I was running late (as usual). I ran into my neighborhood wine store “Mel and Rose” (on Melrose of course) and shouted “I need a Napa Valley cabernet for a blind tasting wine dinner w/a bunch of wine snobs! What should I buy?” HA HA!! No, I didn’t say “wine snobs” but I did say “people who know a lot more than I know about wine.” The woman offered me a few wines, I took a leap of faith – and chose the Frog’s Leap.
HE says: Why? How did you know?
SHE says: I didn’t know. I chose it because at the bottom of the label, there was a little note that read: “Open other end.” It made me laugh. I thought, well, if the wine is no good, I’ll have a great laugh with everyone about that sentence. And then it also occurred to me that a company with a sense of humour like that would probably make really good wine.
HE says: Very rustic tactics.
SHE says: Rustic, certainly, but it worked. That time. My other Mel and Rose story of purchasing a cabernet for your fancy wine dinner night did not turn out so well, as you’ll recall. We’ll save that for another blog post.
HE says: And now Frog’s Leap, Rutherford, Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (and 2001) included in the book FINE WINES, The Best Vintages Since 1900 by Michel Dovaz from Assouline.
SHE says: Which I believe you received from your lovely wife as a gift, correct?
HE says: Yes. A great gift.
SHE says: You’re welcome.
SHE says: If you’d like a primer on what’s-the-what on wines of the 20th century along with a fantastic time line of the history of the decades, extraordinary photos of these deeply beautiful and mysterious bottles in their environments, read the book! It’s a very sexy book! I’m not saying it’s a chick magnet, but….
Learn new words like “Apogee” and “Organoleptic” and then try to use them in a sentence after you’ve had a few glasses of wine. And then video tape that effort and share it with us so we can all watch you learn!
She says: To celebrate his birthday recently, we opened a bottle he’d been holding in his locker for close to two decades – a 1990 Girard Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. I consider this a “score!”
He says: This cab was really wonderful. It had great dark fruits, terrific balance and a smooth and supple finish. It was tasting fantastic – right at its peak – I give it an 18. I wish I had more in my locker. I do have a ’91 Girard Cabernet so I’ll have to pop that open soon. A bit of history on Girard. Girard Winery was started by Stephen A. Girard, Jr. a former executive with Kaiser Corp.
She says: Don’t you wish you’d been there for that career transition? ”Let’s see – medical conglomerate or wine industry? Hmmm… medical conglomerate or wine industry… wait, don’t tell me… I’m thinking… “
He says: The winery was based in Oakville, on the Oakville Crossroad near the Silverado Trail. According to an interview he gave to Jim Wood of the SF Examiner in 1995, Girard bought the vineyard in ’74 and was selling grapes to other producers for their reserve wines and decided to create a winery. “I got my sisters and my dad together, got them drunk and made my proposal,” he said in the interview. Isn’t that great? He added that they wanted his dad to run it, but his dad kept working so he ended up running the winery himself.
Well, Stephen wasn’t the winemaker, but he hired great winemakers, had wonderful grapes from his estate to work with and produced great wines. Girard made wonderful cabs, chards and other wines (I remember enjoying a great Chenin Blanc in the tasting room once) and had a tremendous reputation in the ‘80s and ‘90s as kind of a boutique winery. I say “was,” “made” and “had” because in the mid 90s the winery was bought out and renamed Rudd Estate. Rudd did a massive overhaul of the winery and vineyards and discontinued the Girard label a few years later, which was a real shame because Girard produced some truly excellent wines. I haven’t heard much about Rudd Estate since their purchase and, sadly, Stephen Girard died in 2004. There is a Girard label out now, but it is produced by Patrick Roney (formerly of Ch. St. Jean and Kunde).
So if you’re rooting around a wine store and come across a bottle of Girard cab from the ‘80s or ‘90s, consider getting it. You may have found a true gem.
Here’s a link to the Girard Winery website.
HE says: How about a picnic, Boo Boo? SHE says: Of course!
HE says: Let’s see Wynton Marsallis at The Hollywood Bowl.
SHE says: Ok! (Note to dear reader: Getting TO the Hollywood Bowl? A nightmare. Once you’re there, a night at The Hollywood Bowl? Priceless.)
Every city has it’s outdoor music venues, places to picnic, to enjoy the summer, breathe clean air and be thankful for good music and outdoor venues. In Los Angeles, the best of the best outdoor venues is The Hollywood Bowl. While picnicing before Wynton Marsalis concert, SHE got snoopy and started asking the people at nearby tables what their “picnic wine” was for that night. Here are a few of the picnic wines from the Hollywood Bowl picnic area on June 22.
This couple chose 2007 La Finca Tempranillo from Mendoza, Argentina. (They were sweet enough to let us post their photo, too!) If you’ve been reading for a while then you know how much we love the wines from Mendoza. You can read all of our Mendoza Argentina wine notes here. This video used to have some audio with it of them telling a little story – but the audio disappeared. (thanks Moviemaker) The story goes a friend brought the wine to their house for dinner the week before and since they liked it so much, they decided to drink it again! Value priced at $3.99 at a Trader Joe’s near you.
Although we are rather organized when it comes to food and wine, we embarrassingly enough (ok, it was She – not He) forgot to bring the bottle opener. (Seriously.) Sweet picnic peeps at the table beside us had a good laugh and loaned us their corkscrew. What were they drinking?
An interesting red wine called Red Diamond and a 2009 Per Bacco Chardonnay, Edna Valley that one man commented was a very ”clean taste”. Again we say “Thank you!” to their generous loan of the cork screw.
On to another table (people are pretty happy to talk at The Hollywood Bowl) we meet some newlyweds and hear another great story – one morning this paricular couple woke up, got ready to go to the gym, and instead they went to the courthouse and got married. Ok! Hmmm… what shall we do today… go to the gym to workout? Or get married? Gym for a workout – or get married? Hmmmm… Can you believe it? They decided to get a workout on their soul instead and got married. Very funny story. And very sweet people. Here they are sharing their picnic wine with you – 2007 Arrowhead Chardonnay.
And what did He and She drink at Hollywood Bowl that night? Rabbit Ridge 2009 Paso Robles Allure de Robles red wine. It’s easy to choose a light white wine for summer picnic’s but if you’d like to try something a little different, we’re going to suggest you try a Zinfandel or a Pinot Noir. A little more depth, but not so bold as to overpower your picnic food. Happy summer picnic-ing to you!
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HE says: First off, let me admit that I’m not a big Rosé fan. I think it comes down to they don’t have the burst of fruity notes of white wine or the complexity and power of red wine. They seem a bit confused as to what they are — not a white, not a red, something kinda sorta in-between. That’s not to say they’re bad wines, but they just don’t really do much for me. Producers in California have really been pushing rosés the past decade, and every one I have tried has underwhelmed me. And for some reason, all the winemakers love to suggest that rosés are the perfect wines for barbecue. Did they all get the same talking points page put out by the rosé wine council? Well for once I’m going to be serving a rosé with barbecue — ribs, fish tacos, spicy and salty asian flavors — so we’ll see how it fares.
Now that you know my thoughts on rosés, what do I think about the Stepping Stone 2010 Napa Valley Rosé? Well, it’s made entirely from syrah grapes grown in the Oak Knoll district in Napa. They named the wine Corallina, which means coral in Italian and sounds more alluring. The coral refers to the color, and it is a very pretty coral color. We described it as kissed by a strawberry. A soft strawberry flavor predominates. It’s crisp and refreshing, very easy drinking. Would make a nice picnic wine. That being said, it wasn’t a “wow” wine for me, and pretty much fell into the pack with the other rosés I’ve tried over the years. A decent 14 score.
SHE says: A decent 14? I hope my kisses score higher than the “kissed by a strawberry wine”
HE Says: Yes, most of your kisses do score much higher.
SHE says: Most?!?! Your Russian genes are showing. About the wine: You’re very nice. You can stay if you want, but don’t take it personally if I dont’ remember you in the morning, ok?
Links to all of our Fourth of July wine posts.
HE and SHE both say: We had the opportunity to sample some terrific wines at the Stars of Cabernet tasting at the Peninsula in Beverly Hills. Designed by Learn About Wine, this was an excellent event, as we got a chance to talk with several winemakers and try some new wineries. We decided to focus on the 2007 cabernet vintage from Napa.
HE SAYS: Vellum is a new winery, a partnership between proprietor Jeffrey Mathy and winemaker Karl Lehmann. We got a chance to meet and speak with Jeff, a very personable, down-to-earth/up-to-earth guy. I say that because Jeff and Karl were mountain climbing buddies. After scaling some of the highest peaks of the world, they’re now out to scale the heights of winemaking. According to their materials, the winery name, Vellum, “is inspired by an ancient form of canvas known for its incredible ability to age,” which translates well to red wine. Their goal is to make Bordeaux style wines in Napa Valley, especially ones with lower alcohol and balanced acidity. They’re located just east of the town of Napa in Coombsville, CA. You can read more about Vellum Wines on their website http://vellumwines.com
2007 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is their first ever release ($50), which is 84% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot and 6% petit verdot. The grapes were organically farmed, hand harvested and came from a two-acre vineyard near the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley. It was made in the style of St. Julien region in Bordeaux, France. Since it was their inaugural production, it sat in 100% new French oak barrels for 15 ½ months, and is unfiltered and unfined. The alcohol level is about 14%, and they made 800 cases.
HE SAYS: The ’07 was very soft and supple, with wonderful berry and cherry flavors. The tannins are medium to low, and the wine is very balanced and drinks great now and has some aging potential. I found it to be a terrific wine, especially right out of the gate, and I scored it a 16.
SHE SAYS:“Ooooh! You’re so stroooong!”
2008 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon. (Did you notice our focus expanded to 2008 already?) Jeff was even more excited about his second vintage.
HE SAYS: I felt it didn’t have as much body as the ’07, and the acidity was greater. The alcohol was a bit less (13.8%) and Jeff thinks it has better aging potential. They just bottled the ’08 in September 2010, so it was likely suffering from bottle shock. Thus, I chose not to rate it. Both vintages though serve notice that Vellum is a winery to watch.
SHE SAYS: Not much nose, but a whole lot of mouth. A classic in the making.
SHE Says: When HE finds out I posted this, he might make me take it down, but it’s my favorite holiday HALLOWEEN and I wanted to be sure you know that there’s a wine to match!
VAMPIRE WINE - Believe it or not, Vampire wine used to come from Transylvania. Seriously? Seriously. Right in the center of Romania the finest wines in the world were produced a loooong time ago. Legend has it that the wine from Transylvania was so good that the Romans stole many of the vines and replanted them in Italy. Those Romans… Years later, (can someone do the math for me?) some very clever Americans imported the wine from Transylvania and branded it Vampire Wine. I LOVED it. Reds so dark you could pretend it really was blood. And what a great gift at Halloween time. Perfect.
Alas, no more. Now they are just another vineyard in Paso Robles. No problems, Paso Robles wines are outstanding – it’s just not Transylvania. The vampire from Paso Robles? Ok, I’m trying. They are still enjoying the Vampire theme and extending their brand like any good American would. I haven’t tasted it yet, so I can’t vouch for the taste, but I can definitely vouch for the fun. So give it a go! Take a few bottles to your favorite Halloween party! You’ll be the coolest ghoul in the room.
TRANSYLVANIA WINES: Romanian wines are ultra-dramatic, so if you’d like to check out real wines from Translyvania, click here:
They’re “bloody good”. Romania is on our list for next year, so we will report back first hand.
Have you heard? SHE loves Lake County more than Napa and Sonoma.
HE and SHE both say: SHE loves wines made from the grapes of Lake County. Have you been there yet? It’s a pretty well kept secret. Lake County is just 40 mins. north of Napa & Sonoma. Beautiful trees, no crowds. Think of an upside down wish bone. Napa is on the right point, Sonoma is on the left point and Lake County is at the top of the stem. Here’s the map. (Hey! What’s that over to the right? Do I see Lake Berryessa? Oh, a complete coincidence to be sure!)
The history of the area is that Lake County was a booming wine town before prohibition even more popular than Napa & Sonoma in that day. Prohibition caused them all to suffer. When prohibition was lifted, Napa and Sonoma prospered famously, and Lake County became a bit like the wise, but distant uncle. He’s awesome, but he lives so far away, no one visits. Well, we did visit as one of SHE’s films was in the Coyote Film Festival and we loved wines made from their grapes! While we were there we learned that Lake County soil has a LOT of volcanic ash and obsidian, and SHE guesses that that is why there is extra electricity in the grapes from Lake County. Well, leave it to Cornerstone Cellars to find the hidden secrets of the nearby lands. Hip, hip, hurrah! They know just what to do with those Lake County grapes.
HE: I’ll start with my last note that I wrote — Yum! I’m a big fan of grenache, whether it’s from Spain, France, Australia or California, as this one is. The varietal has lots of fruit, is easy to drink, and complements a lot of foods. This grenache had real nice structure. It had tasty cherry flavors and a tad bit of tannins. All in all, a delicious mouthful — hence the “Yum!” I enjoyed it more than our guests, but if you like grenache, this one is nicely done! 15+
SHE: It’s your dry sense of humor that won me over. If your sense of humor is dry enough, you’ll get a kiss.
AL: I haven’t had this much acid since the 60′s (don’t believe him – he’s not that old.)
RP: After you taste it it goes ffsshhh* (means she likes what it’s doing in her mouth )
LS: What is that herb?
JC: I’ve never had a wine bite like this. After about 5 seconds it’s like “WOW!”
HE and SHE both say: Well, we’ll be darned — this is Cornerstone Cellars first ever sauvignon blanc — and not only that, it’s their first ever white wine! Whoa! After 18 vintages, they gave Sauvignon Blanc a try and they mastered it, of course. We served this one with appetizers of goat cheese, an exquisite Epoisse (a cheese to live for), various salamis and olives.
HE SAYS: I enjoy a nice, approachable sauv blanc and this wine was just that. It’s easy drinking, with notes of citrus, straw and tropical fruits. It was crisp and clean, and would really complement fish and seafood. We had it with an assortment of appetizers — it went very well with goat cheese as many sauv blancs do. I gave it a very good score of 14+.
SHE SAYS: Clear as a bell! Ding! Cornerstone, you’re getting very interesting — aren’t you?
HE and SHE both say: Read about Cornerstone’s care and romancing of this grape from dry-farmed vines over at the Talcott vineyard in St. Helena right here.
SHE has one more final say: Please be sure to designate a driver when you are drinking wine. Thank you. The life you save, might be mine.
Which Wine Would Barry Serve?
Dinner: Braised Beef Ribs
On the Side: ~ Steamed New Potatoes (with real butter and fresh parsley)
On the Other Side: Romaine lettuce w/tomatoes and the Barrysentials Parmesan Dressing
Dessert: Chocolate Cake, of course.
Coffee: Midnight Stroll from Sprouts Farmer’s Market
Friends: 8 – curated from near and far.
2007 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone, Cabernet Franc, Carneros
Winemaker: Jeff Keene
2005 Cornerstone Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
Winemaker: our beloved Celia Masyczek
Read our first tasting notes about Cornerstone wines here: http://ow.ly/1rmuN