Sunday, July 17, 2011

2008 Hartford zinfandel, "Highwire Vineyard"

Hartford winery is one of several premier quality boutique wineries which were owned by the late Jess Jackson. This operation has been quietly cranking out top-notch zinfandels, pinot noirs and chardonnays from vineyards located in the Russian River Valley AVA and on "true" Sonoma Coast ridgeline locations. They regularly produce several old-vineyard zins and this is always one of their top efforts.

This full-throttle zin has intense wild berry and spice aromas laced with (but not overwhelmed by) oak. This is a big mouth-filling wine with a finish that is almost endless. The wine has limited availability in the retail market but you can purchase it directly from the winery. Their wine-club price is $55. Now that's a lot of money for a zin, but in my opinion this wine ranks along with zins from Martinelli Jackass and Turley Hayne vineyards, and you will pay similar prices for those benchmark zins.

2008 Bridlewood Winery, viognier "Rseseve"

This wine demonstrates how great bargains in quality wines can be found in today's economy. This Santa Ynez winery sells their 2009 version of this wine online for $25. The Lukas Superstore location in Kansas City at 135th and State Line carries the 2008 vintage for $9(!). This is a quality white wine at a near giveaway price. They even gave me a case discount.
I initially bought one bottle to see if perhaps it had already gone over the hill, a problem you often encounter with this varietal. But such was not the case. This wine is fresh and focused with good acidity and a delicate but complex aroma profile. What a great summertime poolside wine!

2008 Martinelli pinot noir "Moonshine Ranch"

No doubt about it, I am a real fan of just about everything this venerable wine-making family makes. They make benchmark chardonnays, syrahs and zinfandels, but I am a pushover for their pinot noirs, whether they come from their "true" Sonoma Coast vineyards or, like this one, from Russian River Valley origins. Every separate vineyard has its own clear varietal identity, but they all share a seamless focus in their aromas and flavors. This one has intense black cherry and strawberry aromas with just a touch of damp earth. All of their wines reflect Martinelli's philosophy of picking fully ripe fruit, which means they will be high in alcohol. But you will not detect that in the aroma or the flavor.
This wine costs $60 and I think, given the quality, it is a fair price. All of their single vineyard wines are allocated, but the waiting list to get on their allocation mailer should not be excessive. You can reach them at (707) 525-0570. Their website is

1997 Domaine des Baumard Savennieres "Clos du Papillon"

Although the wine probably does not belong in "New Tastes" since I bought it 11 years ago, I wanted to highlight this dry Loire Valley chenin blanc, not only for its modest price but also for its incredible ability to gracefully age. This wine cost me $18 a bottle and later vintages now on the market are perhaps double that (but still a bargain). Domaine des Baumard is a top producer, not only of Savennieres, but also several sweet Coteaux du Layon examples, culminating with the luscious Quarts de Chaume.

This wine was 14 years old when I pulled the cork. The color and fresh aroma said "new wine" and I had to look at the label a second time just to make sure I had not opened a recent vintage by mistake. This amazing longevity is mostly attributed to the bracing acidity this varietal exhibits when grown in its place of origin. I have one bottle left and I am not in any hurry to open it. If you are looking for a wine that speaks of "somewhereness" chenin blanc from the Loire Valley will give you exactly that. Baumard's wine has good national distribution so you should not have any problem finding both the dry and the sweet versions.