She says: They’re in the Barrel Room!
She says: Amazing! Pinot Noir grapes as they are being processed. So cool!
Beautiful morning fog to make the fall harvest cooler! Recorded live in Carneros this morning! Dijon clone of chardonnay.
Click the picture, it will take you to the video – it takes a couple of seconds to start, but it’s so worth waiting 2 seconds.
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!
HE says: A few months back, we told you about Cornerstone’s rocking’ idea to create blended wines from what they determined is the best varietals of the vintage.
HE continues: We loved the white, which was a unique blend of chardonnay and muscat. Well, I’m happy to say that the “Rocks!” Red Wine follows nicely in its footsteps. Ok, maybe more like plods over it because this is one big and bold wine.
It’s again a unique blend – zinfandel and pinot noir. Now, I’m a huge zin fan and I don’t think I’ve ever had, yet alone heard of, such a pairing. Zin is usually very fruity and “in your face” while pinot noir is more delicate and refined, so putting them together is a bit like having Mick Jagger duet with Sade. But, you know, it works.
HE says some more: The nose is really forward as is the fruit in this wine. I didn’t know the blend when I tasted it and my senses kept telling me syrah. The flavors are lots of black fruits and black cherry, with a hint of cocoa. I thought it would have some zin, but I never imagined the pinot noir. Regardless, it’s a pretty juicy bomb of a wine. The alcohol is up there, at 14.9% and the acid comes through more than the tannins. So I recommend you have this wine with food, like barbecue ribs or meat or a juicy burger.
I rated it a very good 15.
SHE says: You, my love have a complicated palate. And you, my wine: You’re a sharp, but friendly kinda wine. Leaving a little fire in your path, I’ll likely follow.
Full disclosure stuff some fed somewhere thinks we should tell you: This review is not a paid review. We purchase most of the wines we write about (or steal them if we have to). We do occasionally receive wine releases from Cornerstone Cellars. Our readers know that free wine would never interfere with our honest opinions. (Just glance around the blog and you’ll see that’s true.)
SHE Says: I wonder if there is such a thing as blueberry wine.
HE Says: Yes. I’ve seen it. I’ve tasted it once or twice.
SHE Says: Maybe we should have some for Fourth of July dinner?
HE Says: No. It’s very sweet, more like an after-dinner liqueur.
SHE Says: And your point is…? We don’t have time for after-dinner wine?
SHE Adds: We do have time for after-dinner wine, but no time for blueberry wine to be shipped. Tomasello’s Blueberry Wine
SHE Says: It’s a Cornerstone 4th of July for us this year. Cornerstone Napa sent over some Stepping Stone wines that we think are PERFECT for this Fourth of July weekend feasting!
Our dinner: Fish tacos made with grilled salmon, grilled mahi-mahi and some seared ahi or ahi-ahi as he likes to say. Made up a batch of some spicy mango salsa, and will serve it with some Asian cole slaw. And in a totally different direction, slow-barbecued Memphis style baby back ribs. Mmmm! Gonna serve them with grilled asparagus, grilled corn, grilled potatoes (get the theme?) and…
HE interrupts: And She will be attempting a new creation – grilled sage leaves. Something about sage leaves, olive oil, salt, pepper, wood chips and the grill. No worries, we have a fireman in the neighborhood – we are prepared – and curious.
SHE says: You just wait….you just wait.
SHE Says: They’re so cute! They look like “Three Little Maids From School”
HE Says: And we’re moving on to describe the three wines..
HE Says: Cornerstone is onto a really rockin’ idea. They’re going to make a blended white and a blended red wine from the best varietals of the vintage. It won’t be the same proportions, or even the same grapes, year after year. This allows the winemakers lots of freedom to experiment and the ability to put out something really different and special.
For 2010, the Stepping Stone Rocks! white wine is an intriguing blend of chardonnay and muscat. I don’t think this is a combination I’ve come across before — if so, it was a long time ago. This combo really works. It has a hint of white peaches on the nose, making me think they added some viognier to it, but they didn’t. The wine has a pale color, and is soft and smooth. It has nice fruitiness, and sweet tones from the muscat grapes, but it’s not a sweet wine by any means. This wine does really rock! I gave it a 15+, which is very strong for a white.
SHE Says: Memories of Juicy Fruit gum come to mind. This one sings opera – she is a soprano.
HE and SHE both say: A Sunday brunch wine, and perfect for a salad dinner and a picnic. In fact, that’s what we expected and why we chose it for our 4th of July picnic!
Click here for more Picnic Wines from Stepping Stone at Cornerstone Cellars.
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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.
Picnic Wine – Stepping Stone 2010 Riesling, from Cornerstone Cellars, Napa Valley
HE says: I haven’t had too many California Rieslings in all my years of tasting. This Riesling comes from the Carneros region in the South of Napa, a long ways away from Germany or the Alsace region in France. True to form, the aromas are wonderfully flowery — very similar to the Rocks wine with notes of white peaches. The wine is very different in flavor tho. This Riesling is very dry and crisp, with a nice minerally finish. The acidity will make it great for all our spicy and tangy barbecue flavors. This Riesling is not sweet in any form. I rated it a very nice 14.
SHE says: You’re very serious for a white wine, must be the German genes.
Thanks for reading! Click here for links to all of our 4th of July Picnic wine descriptions.
HE Says: Our annual USC/UCLA Venom and Vinum super-secret, under the radar, blind wine tasting happened late last year. 19 years. So, 19 years – just a little younger than She.
SHE Says: Bwa, ha, ha! That’s the kind of math I love. My disclaimer – I’ve only been around for 7 of those years.
He continues: As I’ve written before, the clandestine wine tasting takes place the night before the USC Trojans-UCLA Bruins football game. There are 12-18 of us each year, with allegiances split about 50-49 between the two schools (She providing the odd number as she has allegiance to the marching bands.) The venom refers to the words we exchange before the game, deriding the opposition school and their football program. This year, both football teams were pretty lackluster and the game featured a lot of ugly football. Nonetheless, we’re happy that our Trojans were victorious once again and have won 8 of the last 9 games.
She interrupts: How’s my special friend, Art Bartner doing?
He continues: The band was great as always. 2010 was the 19th straight year we’ve held this event, which includes a great dinner and then a blind tasting. We change the wine theme each year – this year it was 2007 cabernets from Napa, California, priced between $15 and $45. The 2007 harvest in Napa is considered one of the finest in a several decades, and the 7 wines we tasted confirmed that. Very little separated one wine from another and overall it was perhaps the best tasting we’ve ever done.
The results and our comments:
2007 Buehler Vineyards Cabernet “Kindly Well” Napa Valley – the evening’s top wine.
He says: This is a boutique wine offered through the Premiere Napa Valley program bought thru an auction, and later sold at a local L.A. wine store for about $33. The grapes come from a hillside block they call Kindly Well at Buehler. It had a nice nose and was very well balanced. I tasted cherry and sage/cedar flavors, and thought the winemaker did a fine job with it. It tied for the highest score overall, and won our tiebreaker. I scored it an excellent 16 and my second favorite wine, but it will likely be difficult to find.
She says: Nice, but I’m not sure you’ll last more than a week in my house.
She also says: Hard-to-find. Ai! Drive me crazy with difficulty. I hate that. Unfortunately He’s right this time. I searched all over “the internets” for you – at least two whole websites – and I couldn’t find “Kindly Well” at any price. Bummer.
2007 Provenance Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet – This is the wine we brought, and it finished tied for first but was edged out on the tiebreaker. Chris Cooney and Tom Rinaldi (formerly at Duckhorn) made this terrific cab, priced around $35.
He says: It had a nice nose, with a very good body and structure. Like a supermodel! Predominant berry flavors. It was very soft and low on tannins, so I’d recommend drinking it soon. I gave it a strong 15+ and had scored it as my third favorite wine.
She says: Smells like caramel, tastes like wine. Your mind is so busy I can’t figure out what you want.
2007 Round Pond Rutherford Cabernet – Our friend Andy brought this wonderful wine, which was easily the biggest of the 7. It cost about $45 and scored a great 94 in Wine Spectator.
He says: It was a very big and bold wine, with medium-high tannins that masked the fruit. The wine was tasting tight at first, but with thirty minutes in the glass it started opening up and revealing itself. Because of the tannins, it has great aging potential and you’d want to sit it down for at least 5 years, and probably 10 to 15. I gave it my highest score, an excellent 16, but others felt it was too tight and it finished in 6th place.
She says: Dark water.
2007 Caravan Cabernet – Karen and Steve brought this wine ($33), which is produced by Darioush. The cab is blended with 14% merlot and 4% each of petit verdot and malbec, all from their estate and Mt. Veeder Vineyards.
He says: The wine was very smooth, with a slight chocolate/cocoa and cherry flavors. It had good structure and medium low tannins, and I recommend that you drink it within three years. I gave it an very strong 15+ and rated it 4th best, as did the group.
She says: Big, bold and complicated, aren’t you? I’ll have to spend some time figuring you out.
2007 Main & Geary Cabernet –
He says: Ken and Nanci brought this wine ($20) and while it had a big nose, it exhibited sour cherry flavors to me. It seemed like the alcohol was a bit higher and it didn’t really do much for me (a fair 14), but the group had it tied for fourth.
She says: Broad shoulders. I could definitely spend the weekend with you.
2007 Roots Run Deep Winery Educated Guess Cabernet –
He says: Another selection from Ken and Nanci ($18) that I had read comments on for being a good value. It was very soft, with very low tannins. Very slight cherry flavors, with almost a sweet note to them. Definitely meant to be opened right away. I ranked it 5th with a fair 14, but the group scored it last. In all fairness though, only a handful of points separated first from last in our group.
She says: There’s an awful lot of alcohol on your breath, darlin’ – but you’re strong and steady and that’s how I like it.
He says: Our friends Cari and Chad brought this $20 cab and while I found it just OK, it ranked third in our group, just one point off the top. It has a really intoxicating nose, but I found the body to be thin. I gave this a fair 14 and had it as my least favorite.
She says: He doesn’t understand you – but I do.
He says: In summary, I think the Round Pond will be the most ageworthy of the wines, and if you’re looking for something to drink now or in the next few years, I’d recommend the Provenance Rutherford and the Caravan cabs, which should both be readily available. The Buehler is terrific, but will be hard to find.
She says: In summary – Here’s a picture of a hand drawing of a caterpillar in the upper right hand corner of my wine notes – and it reads “My Caterpillar”. If I had more of an explanation for you I would share, I swear I would – but alas, I do not know what prompted this. Wine + pen + paper = anything can happen.
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.