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Tag: Syrah

New Clairvaux 2013 Primativo Release Tasting

Release tasting at New Clairvaux Vineyards in Vina, CA

Release tasting at New Clairvaux Vineyards in Vina, CA

Yesterday, we headed over to the tasting room at New Clairvaux Vineyards to check out their new wine releases. We hadn’t been for a while thanks to me being pregnant with baby girl, and we wwere excited to see what they had going on. We tasted six wines while there, including the new 2013 Primativo release, and we wandered around a bit and took a look at the reconstruction of an 800 year old chapter house from Ovila, Spain. 

The first wine we tasted was the 2013 Aimée Pinot Grigio ($22). On the nose, this wine was very green. On taste, the wine had a very distinct hay taste to it, followed by pear and apple on the finish. It was hot on the back end – and had some spice to it. It was a fine wine, but in my opinion, would benefit from some time more time in the cellar for the flavors to become more balanced.

The 2013 Syrah Rosé ($14) was next. This wine was decently good. It was dry, and reminded me of strawberry lemonade – but without any sense of sweet to that. It was smokey, as if the berries had been roasted, and had a bacon fat quality and taste to it.

Our favorite of the bunch was the 2012 St. James Tempranillo ($17). This wine had a heavy nose. Like the Syrah Rosé, the wine had a bacon fat smokey taste to it, notes of deep red fruits, paprika and cayenne pepper, and red spice. It was not overly tannic or overly alcoholed. It was chewy on the finish.

The 2012 St. James Syrah ($18), in my opinion, should have come prior to the Tempranillo in the tasting. It was just plain overshadowed by this earlier wine. This one smelled of fruit and berries on the nose. Upon tasting, it had a dry heat, and like the wine befroe it was chewy. It had dry red berries, paprika, pepper, and bell peppers. It was a tangy wine – almost like a sour patch kid without the sugar. I’m wondering if my reaction to this one was due to having had the Tempranillo just before it. I’ve liked this line in the past.

The 2012 Pour Souls Barbera ($17) was a rough Barbera, but would accompany pizza or a general pasta dinner nicely. It was light and fruity on the nose, yet big buff & robust on the taste. 

The final wine of the tasting, the one that New Clairvaux was celebrating, the 2013 Napa Valley Aimée Primativo ($27) had potential. I felt it was too young to be released as the flavors were out of control. It was burnt bacon and sweet prunes, buttery, and very oak. It had a humid nose, like wet grass or mud, on the taste, it was all oak and smoke. In fact, the oak kind of got in the way of the wine. I think this will be a very good wine once it has aged longer in the bottle. 

After the tasting, we wandered around and looked at the reconstruction project. I took a bunch of pictures. I figured I would go ahead and post them here for you to enjoy. It’s gorgeous, and my images don’t do it justice.

Tasting Notes: A Collection of California Wine and Cheese

English: Goat's milk cheese

English: Goat’s milk cheese (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*These notes are from a tasting in March, 2013 at Creekside Cellars. While Creekside Cellars is no longer open, these wines can be found at a variety of places. I have a stack of tasting notes I will be sharing over the coming weeks from tastings held at this wonderful venue.*

The theme of this tasting group was “California wine and cheese,” and all the wines and cheeses collected were products of California. One of the things I will miss most about the weekly tastings offered at Creekside Cellars was the care that the owners up into pairing their weekly cheese plate with the offerings of wine for that week. While I don’t normally mention cheeses on here, I’ll give a brief overview of the cheeses that were featured during this tasting.

St. Pat – This cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in Petaluma was delicious. It was mellow, soft, and filled with flavor. It was wrapped with nettle leaves, giving it a delicious smoky, artichoke flavor.

Green Chile Chevre – This cheese came from Redwood Hill Dairy in Sebastopol. The cheese was a light and delicious goat cheese with green chilies mixed into it. I’m a huge chevre fan, so naturally I liked this as well.

Seascape – This cheese came from Central Coast Creamery in Paso Robles. It’s a mixture of cow and goat milk, cheddar like and aged for 5 months.

Mezzo Secco – From Vella Cheese in Sonoma, this cheese was a medium dry jack coated with black pepper. It was served with Blue Chair’s Organic Greengage Plum Jam.

Finally on the plate was Framani Picante Salami. It wasn’t a cheese, but it came from Berkeley. It was a dry chorizo seasoned with pimenton de la Vera. It was very delicious.

Okay, now that your mouth is watering, it’s time to get down to business and discuss the wines.

Rack & Riddle – Sparkling Blanc de Blancs Sonoma ($23) – This sparkling was very good. We gave it a star. On the nose, there wer hints of apples, walnuts, and pears. On the palate, it was all apple, peach, and green grapes. It had a Perond-like taste afterwards. It paired well with the seascape cheese and the plum jam.

Brander “La Mesa” 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Rita in Santa Barbara County ($18) – This wine was good when paired with cheese. It was floral and sweet, yet dry. It went well with the St. Pat, Chevre, and Seascape.

J Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley ($26) – We didn’t have this wine during this tasting, but in the past we’d enjoyed it.

Naggiar 2011 Viognier, Sierra Foothills ($11) – This was smoke yet dry. It had spice that appeared with the Mezzo Secco, and it had hints of ancho and Anaheim peppers. We gave this wine a star.

ampelos 2011 Rose of Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County ($18) – This wine was very nice and versatile. We gave this wine a star and exclamation mark, meaning we really enjoyed it. It tasted of barbecued watermelon, was tangy and smoky, and it had a subtle spice. It would be great with BBQ chicken or even my husband’s delicious artichoke heart pasta.

Talley Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley ($36) – This wine also earned a star and an exclamation point from us. It smelled of red fruit and licorice. There was a bit of “wet dog” on the nose which disappeared when swirled. There was also a hint of funky cheese on the nose. On the taste, it was smooth, with an understated spice. It was an excellent pairing with the Mezzo Secco cheese.

Pruett 2010 “CSP” Syrah, Sierra Foothills ($23) – This was another star and exclamation point wine. It tasted of plums, dark fruit, and cloves. It was sweet, especially with the olives. It was excellent with the chorizo.

Frank Family Vineyards 2010 Zinfandel, Napa Valley ($39) – We did not try this wine because we’d had it in the past and enjoyed it very much.

Neyers 2011 Sage Canyon Red” 45% Carignan, 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, and 15% Syrah, North Coast ($39) This wine was stinky on the nose. It was like a wet dog. It had a dry heat and was tannic. It went well with the chorizo.

Ladera 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($39) – This wine had butter and olive oil on the nose. It had notes of red fruit, olive oil, and butter with a slightly watery taste. It went well with the chorizo; the sausage brought out the heat, tannins, and spice in the wine.

Have you tried any of these wines? What were your thoughts on them? There were a few from this list that we’d like to cellar.


Celebrate! September is California Wine Month

Big Sur, California

Big Sur, California (Photo credit: the_tahoe_guy)


This week’s tasting at Creekside Cellars was in honor of California Wine Month, and all wines were from California vineyards. As always, there were some real stars of the show and there were a couple of wines that were fine, but would have specific uses (for example, as an end of summer wine). Here are our thoughts on the eight wines we tasted.


2011 Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($17) – We have had this wine before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a decent wine. It had notes of honeydew and a sweet nose. It had hints of clove-like spices and it was light and summery.


2011 Pine Ridge 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier, Clarksburg, California ($17) – this is a nice end of summer wine. It is a heavier and rounder wine than the Honig. It had more of a cantaloupe bouquet than a honeydew melon bouquet. Overall, it was pretty good.


2010 Sextant Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands ($30) – This wine had almost a paint thinner nose – but in a good way (oh, come on, admit it sometimes there is something alluring about the smell of paint thinner!). It had notes of walnut and oak, and it was quite smokey. It would be a lovely wine to accompany Wining Husband’s feta-green pepper bagel dish.


glass & bottle of Syrah rose

glass & bottle of Syrah rose (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


2011 Ampelos Rosé of Syrah, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara($18) – This was a pretty good rosé that held up well to both cream and sweet cheeses and fruits. The wine was smokey and spicy. It was a nice, easy-drinking wine.


2009 Leveroni “Seven Oaks Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Sonoma ($20) – This wine was peppery, tannic, and yet smooth. It had notes of cloves, nutmeg and plums. It would pair very well with teriyaki steak.


2010 Morgan “Cotes du Crow’s” 55% Syrah, 45% Grenache, Monterey County ($18) – This was a nice wine, but it would be interesting to see whether it would open up over time. It was light and had a grape-like flavor (think Welch’s Grape Juice). It was perhaps a little two smooth and needs more spice. I’d be interested in trying it after it was decanted to see what happened.


2009 Three Saints Syrah, Santa Rita, Santa Inez, and Santa Maria, Santa Barbara ($18) – This wine was tannic and had a bit of a rubber note to it (but not in a way that detracted from the quality of the wine. It had a lot of spice – both in the form of paprika and cloves. It also had hints of semi-sweet chocolate.


2008 Carol Shelton “Karma” Zinfandel, Sonoma County ($33) – This wine had notes of hazelnut, vanilla, and coffee. It was a cigar box and had a lot of spice. This was a wine we enjoyed very much.


2010 Educated Guess “Hypothesis” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($40) – This was our favorite wine of the tasting. It was smooth and spicy with notes of brown sugar, maple, espresso, and chocolate. This wine would be absolutely lovely with filet mignon with an olive tapinade.



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New Clairvaux New Release Party

English: Wine tasting sign outside of New Clai...

English: Wine tasting sign outside of New Clairvaux Abbey in Vina, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


New Clairvaux Vineyard is a personal favorite. They always deliver when it comes to good, quality wine. They had a release party for their Aimée Old Vine Zinfandel and Napa Valley Primativo, and they allowed us to taste many of their quality wines. Here’s a rundown of our notes.


2011 St. James Viognier 12.6% alcohol ($16) – This wine’s nose had a peach and lemon bouquet. The wine was nice, sweet, and off-dry. It would pair very well with white fish with sauteed mushrooms.


2011 St. James Syrah Rose 13.4% alcohol ($14) – This was very summery. It had a smokey nose and had notes of orange and strawberries. This New Clairvaux wine would pair quite well with sausage.


2009 St. James Syrah 14.1% alcohol ($17) – This wine had a lovely, buttery nose. It was full bodied and had notes of black cherries, white pepper, and plums. It would be a very nice pairing with pasta – especially a pasta with a white, creamy sauce.


New Clairvaux’s Aimée Old Vine Zinfandel and Primativo wines

2010 Aimée Old Vine Zinfandel 15.1% alcohol ($28) – This was my favorite wine of the tasting. The vines were planted seventy years ago in Napa. They produce less fruit, but more flavor. They were aged in American-French Oak for 18 months. The wine had notes of plums, cherry, vanilla, cloves, anise, licorice, and oak. It would be a lovely pairing for a Greek eggplant feta cheese casserole Wining Husband makes.


 2011 Aimée Napa Valley Primativo 16.2% alcohol ($22) – The Primativo grape is genetically the same as the Zinfandel grape, though the wine is higher in alcohol content which makes it slightly sweeter and bolder. The Primativo grape is the first grape to ripen, and legend has it that wine from the Primativo grape was the wine to be served at the Last Supper. This wine gave off a bouquet of licorice on the nose. It was sweet and had notes of berries, milk chocolate, mocha, cigar box, tobacco, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. It was a robust wine with a lavender color that would pair very well with Wining Husband’s spicy chicken recipe.

2009 Poor Souls Petite Syrah 13.1% alcohol ($18) – This wine had notes of almonds and a nutty flavor to it. It also had notes of Italian spice, allspice, cherry, and plum. It was dryer, and was more of a cheddar than a mozzarella. This was also quite nice as far as wines go.

If you’re close to Vina, California, I strongly suggest visiting this vineyard and tasting their wines. They are consistently very good.



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Creekside Summertime Wines

Ripe Sauvignon blanc grapes.

Ripe Sauvignon blanc grapes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


This week’s theme at Creekside was summertime wines. We tasted eight out of nine of the offered wines, and we liked all but one of the wines (and that one was still pretty good. All of the wines were meant to be refreshing and fun – the perfect wines to accompany a late summer barbecue.


2010 Domaine des Corbillieres Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine, Loire Valley, France – ($18) – This wine had a hint of apples to it. It was dry like Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider (except for the fact that it was a crisp white wine). This wine would be a great accompaniment to brie and apples as an appetizer. We liked it a good bit.


2011 Pine Ridge 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier from Clarksburg, California – ($17) – This wine had a stone fruit nose, and on tasting, we sensed white peaches and pepper. It went very well with the blue cheese from the cheese plate (Roaring Forties Blue). This wine was also very nice.


2011 Chamisal Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay from Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, California – ($17) – This wine was also nice. It had hints of paprika and spice. It was a dry white wine.


2011 Waterbrook Rose of Sangiovese from Columbia Valley, Washington – ($16) – This wine was buttery, lemony, and spicy. It would go well with a sweet and sour type dish. We liked it okay, but thought that Bertagna’s Rose of Sangiovese outshone it.


2007 Monte Antico “Toscana” 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet and 5% Merlot from Tuscany, Italy – ($13) – Even though the composition of this wine only included 5% Merlot, you could taste the fruit forward done right qualities. This wine had the cigar box qualities we love with notes of black pepper. If you love caprese salad (who doesn’t?), this would be a perfect pairing.


2009 Ancient Peaks Merlot from Paso Robles, California – ($16) – This wine was filled with notes of berries and spice. It was very robust and went great with the blue cheese. It’s strongly recommended.


2009 Kingston Family “Lucero” Syrah from Casablanca Valley, Chile – ($18) – This wine as phenomenal. This wine had a mushroom finish to it. It would be a wonderful pairing with a stroganoff. It also had a coffee finish and hints of truffles and cigar box qualities. This wine is on our must-purchase list.


2009 Yalumba “The Scribbler” 61% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Shiraz from Barossa Valley, Australia – ($19) – If you only try one wine from this list, you might want to make it this one. This wine was sour, hazy, and also had a lovely cigar box quality to it. It was spicy, and the finish reminded me of pumpkin pie spice – something I love to sprinkle over fruity summer deserts. It also has some hints of olives to it, and it turned smooth with the creamy cheeses. It was simply wonderful.



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Non-Traditional Places to Look for Wine



English: Photograph of 2 bottles of Mollydooke...

English: Photograph of 2 bottles of Mollydooker Wine side by side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A lot of the time, people pick up wine in one of three places: at the grocery store, at a winery, or at a wine cellar store. However, there are a lot of other places to look for wine including food co-ops, corner stores, and discount grocery stores. While some of these places have a reputation for having horrible wine, there can be good finds. For example, 7-11’s Fat Cat Pinot Noir is a decent drinking wine. Grocery Outlet’s Les Deux Rives also is a decent wine (both the red and the white varieties). Trader Joe has some fabulous finds (We found Mollydooker‘s The Boxer Syrah recently), but their Ferme Julien white wine is a good general drinking wine.


Where are some of the unusual places where you’ve found wines? What wines did you like that you found there? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.




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Creekside’s Grilling Wines Tasting

Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting (Photo credit: cheesy42)

This weeks tasting focused on wines that pair well with grilled foods. The cheese plate featured the added bonus of grilled marinated sausage. It was definitely a very fun tasting at Creekside Cellars.

We started off with the whites, and skipped the sparkling. The first white was the 2011 Terranoble Sauvignon Blanc from Chile ($10). This wine had notes of grapefruit and granny smith apples. It was young, green, and good – but not amazing. My suspicion is that in a few years, this wine will develop further and come to maturity.

The 2009 Naia Verdejo from Spain ($15) was next. This was a very nice wine. It would go very well with a grilled peach dish or with an appetizer of chips and mango salsa. There was a tiny bit of oak on the taste, but it also had apricot and nectarine hints. I thought it would pair nicely with a desert I make involving broiled peaches and mascarpone cheese. For this, half peaches and remove pits. Sprinkle nutmeg and allspice over the fruit, and put a dollop of maple syrup in each half. Finally, spoon some marscapone cheese in and put peaches under the broiler for 5-8 minutes. Enjoy while still warm.

Unidentified glass of rose wine

Unidentified glass of rose wine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 2010 Catena Chardonay from Mendoza, Argentina ($19) was pretty good. It was strong with a smokey oak flavor done well with hints of cream and artichokes.

Next up was the rosé, Bastianich’s Rosato di Refosco from Friulani, Italy. Until the experiences both of tasting Bertagna’s rosé and of the wine trail rosé wines, we would forgo this pink wine choice. Like many are now realizing, there are merits to a good rosé. This one had hints of parsley, it was pretty decent.

We then moved onto the reds. First up was the 2009 Moniz Family Pinot Noir from Sonoma, California ($20). This was a very nice wine. It paired well with gouda and bleu cheese, and it was very balanced. The wine itself had notes of plums, basil, and sage.

tasty boom boom

tasty boom boom (Photo credit: sara_mc)

The 2009 D’Arenberg “The Stump Jump” 42% Grenache, 33% Syrah, and 25% Mourvedre ($13) was up next. This wine had a lemon lime and blueberry flavor. It wasn’t our favorite, but it wasn’t bad either. The 2010 Charles Smith Wines “Boom Boom” Syrah from Washington State ($19) was phenomenal. This wine was light yet peppery. It had hints of oregano, white pepper, marjoram, and berries. It had a floral perfume nose and was quite creamy. It would make an amazing pairing with chicken.

The final wine we tasted was the 2010 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles ($18). This wine had the wonderful smokey cigar box/tobacco notes that I’ve come to love in wines. It also had hints of espresso and blackberries.

What are your favorite flavors to taste in wines? Post your answers in the comments.

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North Sierra Wine Trail Day I – Grey Fox Vineyards and Hickman Family Vineyards


The first day of our participation in the North Sierra Wine Trail event was wonderful. We started by visiting Long Creek Winery and Quilici Vineyards. The other two wineries we visited on Saturday were Grey Fox Vineyards and Hickman Family Vineyards. Both of these vintners offered consistently very good wine.

Grey Fox Vineyards – Oroville, CA

Grey Fox Vineyards offered consistently very good wine at a very reasonable price

Stop three on our drive through the North Sierra Wine Trail was at Grey Fox. Their tasting room featured live music and artwork by a local artist. We made our way to the tasting counter, and began the adventure. The Grey Fox wines have no vintage years on them because their vineyard is small. While at Grey Fox, we didn’t encounter a wine we didn’t like. Here’s a rundown of the impressions we had of the wines we tried.

  1. Viognier – NV – The Viognier had a citrus nose and citrus undertones. It was a very easy drinking wine. It’s perfect for summertime. I could see myself lounging outside with a book while drinking a glass of it.
  2. Chardonnay – NV – The Chardonnay had an oak nose to it, so at first I was worried that it would be too much oak. Upon sipping, olive oil undertones came through. We enjoyed it a good bit.
  3. Barbera – NV – The barbera had a smokey nose and a lovely smokey flavor to it. This is the wine you drink when you’ve grilled up some bbq chicken. It was easy-drinking and light-to medium bodied.  
  4. Syrah – NV – This wine had a cigar box aura, and it was also smokey –  there were also hints of bacon and maple in the wine.
  5. Cabernet Sauvignon – NV – Quote from my husband: “Wow, fruit forward done right!!” This had blackberry and vanilla, as well as rosemary and sage. It was very nice. I wrote “WOW!!!!” next to my tasting notes for it.
  6. Port Syrah – NV – We had this paired with hot and spicy chocolate port nuggets. Oh my goodness, this wine was completely amazing. It was very chocolate-y like chocolate syrup with berries.
  7. Cabernet Port – NV – This was also very amazing. Grey Fox definitely does really great with ports.
  8. Zinfandel – NV – This was light! It was a big surprise, because you generally expect zins to be quite robust. It was peppery and spicy and good.
  9. Cabernet Franc – NV –  This had a lot of cherry and spice to it. It was also very nice.

We wound up walking out of the Grey Fox Vineyards having purchased a case of wine, and a membership in their wine club. Their wines were simply amazing, and I strongly suggest getting your hands on some of them – you will absolutely not regret it!

Hickman Family Vineyards

This tasting was a real treat. Not only did we attend their tasting the first day, but we returned on Sunday for a second run-through. I sincerely hope that they do well, because their wines were consistently amazing. They paired each of their wines with a different course of food, which added to the experience. Not to spoil the ending, but we did wind up purchasing several of their wines. It was hard to choose what to take home with us from here. The Hickman family began their vineyard ten years ago, but only opened to the public a year ago in 2011.

  1. The wines at Hickman Family Vineyards consistently stole the show!

    The wines at Hickman Family Vineyards consistently stole the show!

    2009 Pinot Grigio – This was paired with orzo-tomato salad. It was an easy-drinking wine, quite smooth, almond-flavored, and very light. This wine is a great summer drinking wine.

  2. 2010 Petite Syrah Rose – This was the second rose on the tour that I found myself enamored with, it was smokey, sweet, and had orange notes on the nose. It paired nicely with the orange olive oil. This was one of the wines we brought home from here. The neat thing is that they have refills on their Rose and their Chardonnay wines.
  3. 2008 Zinfandel – This was paired with sausage awesomeness. Oh my goodness was this an outstanding wine! This was smooth, robust, peppery, with the hint of bell peppers. We brought this one home with us as well.
  4. 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon -This was deep, clovey, and just amazing. This had spice and it was peppery and it was amazing. It was paired with tri-tip roast.
  5. 2009 Petite Syrah – This one had a honey-jammy but in the very good way vibe going on. There were hints of cloves and vanilla. It was good and sweet – and it was paired with a marinated mushroom that was just divine.
  6. 2006 Desert Sauvignon Port – we had this with chocolate fudge. It was amazing. It was chocolate and raspberry amazingness.
  7. 2009 Chardonnay – This one behaved almost like a sauvignon blanc, except it had some oak – in fact, it was *perfectly* oaked. We went home with this one, and we’re not huge chardonnay fans.
  8. 2008 Mourvedre – This was the first time I had had this wine. I won’t lie to you, we had to take this one home with us. It was absolutely amazing. It was very nice, and I caught hints of cayenne pepper in it.
  9. 2009 Reverse Red – This was a very unique wine. It was 1/2 red and 1/2 pinot grigio skins. It had nutmeg, cloves, cayenne pepper. It was just amazing. While they were billing it as a table wine, I’d be interested to see what this one does as it ages. It is definitely not to be missed!
  10. Barbara – This wine was tart! However, we were told it was supposed to be tart, robust, and paired with something big.

That sums up the first day of our tasting tour. I was absolutely astounded at how amazing these two wineries were – and how consistently good their wines were. It was very difficult to choose what we would bring home with us, but we made our choices, and they were very good. Since Grey Fox is in Oroville, CA and Hickman Family Vineyards are in Bangor, CA, they are pretty close. I’m pretty sure we will be watching what they do for a while.


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