Posts Tagged ‘IndieWinemakers’

September 15 -21, 2013


At Sandals La Toc Golf Resort and Spa Resort

Join us for a week of haute cuisine and artisan wines at Sandals La Toc.  Enjoy food & wine dinners selected by our sommelier, cooking demonstrations, delicious cuisine, a complimentary opening reception and more, amid the backdrop of  St. Lucia.  Hotel Rates Below are Per Person/Double Occupancy:


Find out more on our website indie resorts.com For this event, you will receive:

  • Opening Night Reception hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and open bar followed by a private dinner with wine
  • 3 Special food and wine pairing dinners at La Toc French cuisine, Armando’s Italian cuisine and Neptune’s Mediterranean cuisine.
  • Private Cooking Demonstrations, mixology classes and a group photo (5×7) per room
  • After dinner parties at the Cricketer’s British pub
  • Suprise events

In addition, all rates are inclusive of:

  • Roundtrip airport transfers
  • All hotel gratuities and taxes
  • Hotel porterage
  • Luxurious accommodations
  • Multiple a la carte’ dining options
  • Complimentary welcome beverage
  • Anytime snacks
  • Nightly entertainment
  • Complimentary access to fitness center
  • Unlimited premium brand alcohol & house wine
  • Complimentary access to steam and sauna rooms.  (Treatments are an additional cost)
  • Land and water sports
  • Unlimited green fee’s at resort golf course
  • Unlimited Scuba diving included for certified divers
  • Play at any of the other two Sandals Resorts in St. Lucia (free shuttle bus)

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Indie Winemakers attended the Santa Lucia Highlands Trade tasting event Monday, April 7. 

Not being a big Pinot Noir & Chardonnay drinker, I had lots to learn on this trip.  I’ve heard of the influences this region has had on the great Bergundian grape but had not had an opportunity to taste them.  First, I must say how friendly and straight-forward the winemakers are here.  I met several who were probably suprised that I had not heard of them, but were very gracious and took the time to explain their passion of this region.  It was obvious that they were in it for the passion of winemaking and the SLH AVA.

I am now on every ones waiting list and joined as many wine clubs as I could possibly afford.  YeHaw.

Many well known vintners and brands from outside the Santa Lucia Highlands rely on the appellation’s grapes for their top vintages. The prevalent varietals grown here are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with some Syrah.  Many of the wineries below poured wine sourced from grapes grown at Garys’ Vineyard, Rosella’s Vineyard and Sleepy Hollow’ Vineyard.  Considered to the be the premiere vineyards of the region, each winemaker had their own presentation of the fruit.  Rather than try and give a review of each winery’s final product, we have given a general observation about the differences between these vineyards.

Gary’s Vineyard from SLH.  Gary’s aroma was full of dark berries.  There was a lot of sweet fruit in the mouth. Strawberry, raspberry and cherry jam was noted. On the mid-pallet, the wine felt rich, lush and smooth.

Rosella’s Vineyard from SLH.   Rosella’s was a bit brighter in taste.  Rather than dark berries, I noted more cherry on the nose and palate. On the mid-pallet, the wine felt rich, lush and smooth.

Sleepy Hollow’ Vineyard – from SLH.  These grapes were planted in 1973 making them the oldest Pinot Noir vines in North America.  The result is intense fruit aromas of plum and spice. On the palate, we tasted cherry and blackberry with smokey undertones.  The minerality of these grapes created a very smooth and long finish.  

The following are wineries we were able to attended at this event.  We missed many more. Here are our notes:

Boekenoogen – Family owned vineyard that until recently, was only selling grapes to other wineries.   Tried the 06 Chardonnay $30 retail, 350 cases produced.  Light yellow-green; complex, attractive butter and mineral aromas show lees, malolactic fermentation and oak; mineral deep flavors; soft mouthfeel, medium to full body with richness; balanced. Pleasing, complex style; very nice wine
Belle Glos – Belle Glos showcases distinctive single-vineyard Pinot Noirs produced from some of California’s top wine-growing regions.  Met with winemaker Joseph Wagner at this event.  Great guy with a real passion for winemaking.  He spoke in length about the Gambit Series “Gary’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir. Produced without adding sulpher, these are fragile wines!  But the result is a wine with depth, complexity and texture.  This had lots of ripe fruit and spicy aromas. In the mouth its full bodied, very soft and supple with great balance. Those aromas expand and explode in wave after wave of intensity as you breathe out through your nose.  Get it if you can find it…..

Bernardus – Met with winemaker Dean Dekorth.  Cool guy with a sense of humor to go with the serious side of winemaking.  Tried the 05 Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay.  500 cases produced $40 retail.  This wine is showing really nice right now.  Straw yellow. Toasted oak and muted tropical notes of pineapple and guava. Full bodied with excellent flavor on the palate. Impressive balance, not overly fat or buttery, with crisp acidity.

Cru – Met with winemaker Michael Leven and bonded over leaving the corporate world to start somthing we love and the importance of food and wine pairing.  Great guy who puts a capital A in artesian winemaking.  Cru is focused on site-designated Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from Monterey County.  Tried the 06 Chardonnay Vigne De Monte Nero Vineyard 200 cases produced retails for $29.99.  This wine has bright fruit flavors and acidity.  A beautiful harmony of fruit and oak provide the main theme, followed by a lingering, well-rounded finish. I was thinking how great a cold dungeness crab salad would taste with it. 

Kosta Browne – Met with winemaker Michale Brown.  History – the guy starts out in the restaurant business, decides to become a sommelier, then determines that he should start making wine.  So, he goes over to a great winery run by Robert Rex called Deerfield Ranch and becomes assistant winemaker.  In 2001,  2 days after 9/11 he and his partners put together a prospectus to raise money for a new winery, and succeed!  Today, they sell their Pinot Noir and a little Syrah on a mailing list allocation that reaches a 10 year waiting list.  Tried the 06 Rosella’s and Gary’s Vineyard from SLH.  Folks, get on the mailing list and wait your turn to get these well crafted wines.
Loring – This winery is focused on Pinot Noir.  They produce single vineyard designated wines from 14 vineyards.  As mony other wineries pouring here today, they focus on sourcing Pinot Noir grapes from the best vineyards in each appelation known for Pinot Noir. They poured the Gary’s and Rosella’s Vineyard 06 Pinot Noir. This is a winery worth trying. I can’t wait to try their complete production.

Paraiso – This winery was pouring Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.  Most of their Vineyard Designates wines are produced in small lots totaling less than 300 cases each. I especially liked the Eagles Perch Chardonnay which showed great balance with rich white burgundian flavors.  Their West Terrace Pinot Noir was my favorite of the wine I tasted at this winery.  This had lots of dark fruit and spicy aromas. In the mouth its full bodied, very soft and smooth with great balance.

Pisoni – The family that introduced the “Pisoni Clone” Pinot Noir to the region also makes a few barrels for those on their mailing list.  Tried both the Gary’s Vineyard and Estate Pinot Noir.  Both showed long-term aging potential with a tight core but open fruit flavors.

Robert Talbott – Just my luck – arrived at the table closest to the entrance last!  Went clockwise and they were last on the clockwise tour.  There was very little left to taste – but I did get to try the Talbott Chardonnay – Sleepy Hollow vineyard.  Made in the Bergundian style, it was creamy , rich with mineral notes.
Six Strings – As the name implys, the winemakers are both guitarists who share a passion for making excellent wines in small lots that are inspired by great music.  Their motto: “Less Masking – More Tasting.” Keeping with the non-invasive winemaking techniques, both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were nicely balanced – Mozart anyone?

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With over 140 wines being poured from 40 wineries, Indie Winemakers’ tasters had to be selective!  We focused on small-lot artesian wines that you would not find at the local store.  Same as we like to promote on IndieWinemakers.com.

Here are the notes along with interesting items we learned about the winery:

Ancient Peaks Winery– Based in the southernmost end of Paso, these family-owned vineyards (4) have sold premium quality grapes to local wineries for years.  Joining together to create Ancient Peaks they hired Mike Sinor as their winemaker. Considered one of the most talented winemakers in the central coast, Mike’s 96-point score from Wine Spectator magazine for his “Califa” 2004 Pinot Noir made him a very hot commodity. This is their first release: 05 Merlot ($13.99) Nice black cherry aromas that followed through to the taste and finish. Nicely balanced – medium finish. A steal at this price.  05 Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.99) is blended with four percent Malbec and two percent Petit Verdot. Nice berry fruit on nose and palate.  I tasted black currant fruit.  These wines are value-based and worth it!  Keep an eye on what they do with the Margarita Vineyard.  I see some high-end Pinot Noir in their future.

Asuncion Ridge Vineyards– They are located high (2000 ft) in the southern end of the Santa Lucia mountains in a climate area known for Pinot Noir.  Their 05 (first release) is sold out (multiple awards).  We tasted the 06 which is newly released.  06 Pinot Noir ($48) a few hundred cases produced.  Very young to be sure, but shows great signs of balance and structure. The finish showed how nicely this will pair with food. 06 Barrel Select Pinot Noir ($68) one hundred cases.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, this Pinot floored me.  This wine had a silk and satin feel in the mouth.  Bright cherry and licorice with hints of spice and vanilla. This is a balanced, elegant wine and while drinkable now, it should improve for a few more years.

5 Mile Bridge – Their vineyard is based in what will soon become the Santa Margarita Ranch AVA.  This vineyard benefits from both cool maritime breezes and sun-drenched slopes.  These characteristics show up in the incredible balance these wines have.  Word on the grapevine is they have a Bordeaux blend in the works.  05 Zinfandel ($20) 3,000 cases produced.  Lots of berry flavor (raspberry/strawberry) without the fruit bomb taste.  Nice structure and great balance.  Not tannic. 05 Syrah ($20) 1500 cases produced.  The dark berry flavor morphed to a peppery finish.  Medium oak is noted by the vanilla aroma. Both of these show great value and with age worthiness, these are up there with the best at this price point.

Cass Winery– These guys are all about the food and wine.  Even their wine club shipment comes with detailed instructions and all spices and items necessary to prepare a gourmet dinner along with the wine club shipment.  HotCosts loves that!!  Their Rhone varietals are ENTAV certified. 05 Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache ($42) 450 cases produced.  AKA the “Rockin’ One” great concentration of fruits – tasted cherry and apricot and a bit of fig.  Nice balance and structure – very drinkable now.  05 Cabernet Sauvignon ($42) blended with Merlot and Cab Franc showed lots of cherry on nose, palate and finish.  Long finish.

Four Vines Winery– Here’s a serious winery with a great sense of humor.  It shows in the staff and the wine.  Known for their monster red zins, they have added considerably more product since I last visited them.  05 Biker Zin ($24) 70% dusi ranch. How do they get such big flavor with balance like the biker??  Power packed with cherry, rasberry, pepper and spice flavors.  The wine’s structure is classic with elegant tannins and brisk acids with a smooth vanilla finish.  05 Loco Tempranillo ($38) 90% tempranillo blended with Syrah and Grenache. Another huge wine. Nose and palate of black cherry, currants, and black peppers. Very powerful and tannic and needs age, but I thought it was nicely balanced.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards– Original owner and winemaker at Wild Horse Vineyard, Ken grew production from 600 to 150,000 cases.  After he sold the winery, he purchased the “Original” Byron Winery facility and renamed the property Kenneth Volk Vineyards. In 2006 the first wines were released. 05 Cabernet Suavignon 100% Star Ranch. ($28) 180 cases produced.  Hidden behind the table, I was lucky enough to try a single-vineyard cab from Ken.  Nice currant and cedar flavors. Long and textured on the finish, this wine showed really great structure and balance. Get it if you can..   05 Tempranillo, Star Ranch Vineyard ($18) 500 cases produced.  Large dark berry nose that lead to a nicely balanced berry flavor.  Lots of tannins – this needs a couple of years to soften, but showed great structure to age well.  Under twenty bucks, low production and elegance along with ageworthiness, this is a real bargain.

Kiamie Wine Cellars– Led by former Isocoles cult winemaker Steve Glossner, Kiamie’s focus is to source grapes from small-lot vineyards known to Steve.  This is their inaugural vintage and I expect they will be around for a long time.  05 Kiamie Kuvee ($44) 1000 cases produced. 60% Cabernet, 15% Merlot, 12% Syrah, 8% Malbec, 5% Zinfandel. Smoooth!  Can’t express enough how this wine rolled-around the tongue.  Nice wild berry flavor and a good long finish that never loses it tannin-acid balance.  Fantastic now, it should continue to develop for at least 5 years.  05 Cabernet Sauvignon ($32) 500 cases produced.  100% Halter Ranch, 25% cab franc. This wine “Jumps in your mouth” with flavor.  Not fruity, but a fresh fruit flavor that resonates to the finish.  Medium structure and very enjoyable now.

L’Aventure– Winemaker Stephan Asseo left St-Emillon and his Bordeaux winemaking to move to Paso Robles? Turns out to have been a great decision as his Cabs have been described by Robert Parker as “The single best Paso Robles Cabernet and competes with the very best Napa Valley Cabernet.” I was told that Stephan does not use sugar spectrometers to determine harvest dates.  He tastes the fruit to determine if the phenolic maturation is acceptable for harvest!  05 Optimus ($45) 4000 cases produced.  51% Syrah, 44% Cabernet and 5% Petit Verdot.  Rhone-style aromas of black pepper, cedar and black currants.  The flavor is all Paso however, soft ripe tannins with blackberry jam, currants, vanilla and sweet oak flavors.  The oak must have had a low toast to it so as to not overpower the fruit.  06 Optimus Barrel Sample I must be doing something right!  This sample also came from behind the table and not available to everyone.  Hey, I was already feeling pretty special just getting a try of the 05.  My notes on this are simple – the 05 vintage times two.  Huge flavor with a nice balance of tannins and acid.  I can’t wait to try this next year.

Ortman Family Vineyards– 2 generations of winemaking (doesn’t anyone ever leave the business and say go into banking?) with a pedigree that includes Heitz Cellars, Cain, Far Niete, Shaffer and Castello di Gabbiano (to drop a few names) are bundled into this father/son winemaking team.  They use their knowledge of the area to source specific fruit flavors for their wines.  06 Rhone Style GSM– ($22) 850 cases produced. 44% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 9% Mourvedre; 15% Petite Sirah and 2% Viognier.  Each grape seemed to add somthing to the nose and overall focus of this wine, my hat’s off to this blending achievement. Initial Viognier nose followed by wild berries, mainly blueberry. The wild berry taste continued in the mouth with a rich edge of butterscotch.  Lots of fruit flavor here.  I think the Petite Syrah added some depth and structure to this wine compared to a typical GSM.  The tannins need some time to melt.  I’d give it until 2009, and this wine should continue to evolve nicely for another 5 years. A great wine and value.

Silver Horse Winery – The winemaker had to leave early as he was getting sick (like thousands of others this winter) so I didn’t get an opportunity to learn much about them.  Check out their website.  06 Tomori Barrel Sample ($38) 60% Cabernet 40% Syrah. The nose wasn’t working well for me at this time in the event but the flavors were incredible.  The young fruit showed lots of good structure already.  Tasted strawberry and strawberry jams here with slighty rustic tannins.  It appears to be cellar  worthy of 6-7 years.

Treana Winery– This winery team includes Liberty School and Austin Hope labels.  Getting late in the day so I kept my selection to one wine.  Found out that the Austin Hope label is the winemaker’s pet project and very limited availability. 04 Treana Red ($52) 70% Cabernet and 30% Syrah.  Another powerful but nicely balanced wine.  Dark berries to the nose and palate.  There was a bit of pepper that showed through on the palate later on while the finish showed why those who cellar this wine will be rewarded. 

Zenaida Cellars– Located in Templeton, a bit southwest of Paso, this winery is known for their Zin and Estate Cuvées. Small annual production of around 2500 cases. 05 Estate Cuvée ($28) 700 cases produced.  Didn’t get the percentages but it has mainly Zin with Syrah and Viognier.  I picked up the Viognier on the nose. Very concentrated berry flavors of strawberry on the palate. A very nicely balanced wine that is ready to drink.  04 Fire Sign Estate ($30) 500 cases produced. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah, and 5% Zinfandel. After spending 30 months in new french oak, this wine spent another year in the bottle before it’s release. And it shows it.  Aromas and flavors again of dark berries, this time more cherry and some fig.  There was an earthy, smokey essence to this wine.  A highly recommended wine and a great price-point to enjoy it at.

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