Originally started as a way to keep track of the names of good wines I enjoy without having a major brain fade - the Wine Hacker has evolved into a wine review and tasting site focusing on the lovely El Dorado County wineries who are now my neighbors.
Lucky me! My boss who is from Australia gifted me with this wonderful wine in his quest to find comparable California wines. We enjoyed it with Sunday night dinner, which was Salmon Glazed with a Thai Chili Sauce and assorted sauteed vegetables over rice.
This robust, deep purple wine stood up very well to the spice in the chili glaze. Almost completely opaque, it is big and intense yet well balanced and versatile enough to complement a wide variety of cuisines.
The first thing I noticed was the complex nose, with the aroma of fine cocoa tempered with cedar, black cherry and allspice. The mid palate gave a burst of flavor full of rich black fruit; plums and raspberries - good acidity and none of the jammy sweetness of a lesser quality wine. I noticed a nice kick of rhubarb and cranberry flavors with just a hint of persimmon.
The finish was long and pleasurable, with enough tannin to provide interest without being overwhelming or characteristic of a "young" wine. I tasted some earth notes, leather, and fine oak in the finish.
To borrow a term from the great Robert Parker, this wine was "intellectually satisfying" in every way.
Now, on to my challenge. This wine is very unique to the Barossa Valley in Australia. Even though our Californian Syrah is pretty much the same grape as Shiraz, the difference in climate, soil, and conditions make those two wines very different. I recently enjoyed a California Syrah that was quite a bit lighter in character than this Shiraz.
Am having fun reviewing my tasting notes and looking at my cellar to see which California wine to recommend as a suitable local alternative that is comparable in both price and quality. Reviewing local Malbec as well as red Bordeaux blends in the area - but this is a challenge as this Shiraz has the density of a fine port without the sweetness.
When you think of Suisun Valley - good red wines doesn't easily come to mind A few years ago, Bert and I went tasting here on our way to stay at Clear Lake in Lake County. Eager for more fodder for my wine blog, I stopped at Sly Dog and did some tasting - and bought this great 2007 Meritage as one of my "finds" for the trip.
Yesterday in the midst of this Covid crisis I was searching for a bottle I didn't remember well to drink during our VMWare/Carbon Black virtual happy hour. Looking at my notes for this bottle, I found I didn't remember any of them and my notoriously bad handwriting (yep, my parents always said I should be a doctor) didn't give many clues past the big STAR I put on it and the all caps GREAT I wrote on the napkin.
Wowser! What a great wine and smooth blend! Wonderful clarity and a beautiful sparkling garnet color give a hint as to the intense experience your taste buds will have upon experiencing it. One BIG Red!
It is a big red, with a complex spicy nose with enticing jammy fruit - once you sip it, you get the huge cherry flavors with the nice Bordeaux finish and long finish characteristic of a much more expensive wine.
I think I will forgive them the cheap and tacky label!
I taste big spice on the finish - a hint of cloves, a bit of sassafras, and lots of verbena, with nicely softening tannins. It will age well, but has aged well to date also (considering it is 2020).
This wine was selling for $16/bottle in its heyday, I opened it after having cellared it for some time, if you can find it - it will be a fabulous find.
Music Pairings - Anything by Muddy Waters , Wally Schnalle's Idiot Fish (Bay Area fusion band), or maybe Three Dog Night (it does have DOG in the title) .
Food Pairings - We are having it tonight with Omaha Steaks "Mojo Pork" crockpot meal. Will be great with any Cajun food or complex spicy dish, as well as with BBQ ribs with a sauce with just a hint of spice and sweetness. Can hardly wait to find more, sad that we only bought one bottle. Next time!
Back in the dark ages of Silicon Valley - Mike was once the guy at one of my customers' who beat me up on price, as he was CFO of a prominent early stage company. Now, I am buying his wines! Mike has a lot of wisdom to share and some award winning red wines, as well as a great sense of humor
One bright January day, I stumbled upon this handsome gentlemen at the newly opened Nello Olivio tasting room in Camino, CA off Highway 50. He was the epitome of grace and finesse, and invited me to join him in some libations left over from a wine club event that had just been held. I had just tasted his wines, and immediately joined the "Wine Mob" as I just couldn't get enough of the big, earthy reds offered! Also , wine club members can use this beautiful room as well as a gorgeous "cave" at the Placerville location that was just the site for my husband Bert's 65th birthday held this July.
And the wine we opened that day? It is now a library wine as it was a double Gold medal winner; the 2015 Sagrantino. I tasted it that day in January, bought it and hid it to save it for Bert's party. I mostly hid it from myself -if I had seen it in plain site it never would have made it till July! Sagrantino is a rare treat, as it is an Italian varietal only grown by a few wineries in the US. Until recently, it was almost exclusively grown in Umbria, Italy.
It was the perfect birthday treat - rich with a lovely berry nose, heavy but smooth and rich tannins, and plummy with hints of earth, cinnamon, leather, and just a touch of fine oolong tea. Our friends loved it, and ran to the tasting room to try the 2016 Sagrantino. Not quite as big or elegant, but still a very fine wine and a great find.
If you are looking for a light summer wine, another one enjoyed at our party was the 2016 Bianconello. It is simply delightful chilled! It's perfect if you want a dry white that is not lemony, buttery or heavy. I also loved the Dieci and the Sangiovese.
If you visit Camino OR Placerville, be sure to stop in and visit the "Grapefather". The reds are fantastic, and the ambiance wonderful.
And now, for something completely different (to quote Monty Python) - here is a little video they showed us in the Placerville tasting room. Yes, he really IS the Grapefather!
Sunday was a cold, rainy day in El Dorado County - but spirits were bright at the annual Madrona Vineyards Open House! Here is a small video I took - there was a small live band playing so may be a little tough to hear. Turn up your speakers, and get ready to stand in line for those Malbec futures.
Yesterday was a fun Saturday as it was wine pick up day at Gold Hill Vineyard We LOVE Gold Hill for its picturesque setting, idyllic countryside picnic opportunities, and WONDERFUL wines and beers. Here are some more of my new VLOGs describing our visit and red blend tasting/comparison:
One of our favorite wineries here in El Dorado County is Via Romano, and for the first time ever, our busy schedules allowed us to attend their bi-monthly pizza night. Jon and Leanne, the winemakers, purchased an Italian style pizza oven that cranks out unique and delightful creations about every ten minutes for the duration of the event. What a great time we had! The pizzas ranged from a traditional pepperoni and red sauce with cheese to a delightful pesto, tomato and arugula creation. They even had wonderful, piping hot calzones oozing with cheese and veggies. Nothing is better than this, fresh from the oven and enjoyed on the winery patio under the stars.
If you want to attend these events, I suggest booking early as they sell out fast. Live music is featured every pizza night, we got to listen to Wanderlodge from Oregon, which was a folksy, southern rocky kinda small town band with a style all their own. And you have to be quick as the pizzas get put on the table in front of the oven where hungry guests dive bomb them. The veggie pizzas don't go quite as quickly as the meat ones do, but are every bit as delicious.
We enjoyed the new 2015 Sangiovese with our dinner and it was just lovely, with big jammy flavors and the rich complexity that Italian wines bring to the table in spades. It perfectly complimented our delicious pizzas, and the night was just fabulous.
The only down side was that I did a great VLOG of this event that I lost as I was just learning my video blogging platform.....which was upsetting. Next time...
Last weekend we stopped at Chateau Davell's brand new tasting room on our way to a jam sess in the Bay Area to pick up a friend's wine club shipment. WOW!! The view is spectacular, the grounds peaceful and inviting, and the wines are as good as ever.
I am posting my first ever VLOG or video blog on our visit - which is here:
Two of our favorites were the 2015 Charlotte's Cuvee and the 2015 Verlyn. The winemaker, Erik, names his wines after members of his family and includes beautiful portraits of them on every bottle. Charlotte is his daughter, and she was happily doing cartwheels on the front lawn while we sipped her namesake wine. Verlyn is Erik's grandfather.
We are definitely blend people, and both these wines are blends. The Charlotte is an Estate wine and a blend of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Our friend John Worley served it at our jam sess where it was definitely a hit. It has an inky deep reddish garnet color with a blonde coffee noise, big fruity middle tones, and a cardamom and clove finish. It is both delicate and rich at the same time, and the blend has created just the right amount of lightness and complexity.
The Verlyn is a stronger, heavier wine, with 45% Mourvedre and 25% Grenache. It has solid, structured tannins and would cellar well. I tasted cedar, toasted oak, rich black cherry and pomegranate flavors. This wine would stand up well to any grilled meat or BBQ, and has plenty of spunk and character.
The longest finish wine is the 2015 Green Man cabernet - a great wine to drink on Summer Solstice. I got eucalyptus, wood, and leather on the finish, with a ripe garden nose and early palate and blackberries with sun dried tomatoes on the mid palate. Chewy tannins give this wine the structure one expects from a fine Cabernet.
If you are up this way, a visit to Chateau Davell will be worth your while for sure!
Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wine that contributes finesse and lends a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on the growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, cassis, and violets.
Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century, although it was planted in Loire long before that time. DNA analysis indicates that Cabernet Franc is one of two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère.
This lovely and fully drinkable wine is acidic in character, with the beautiful softness of a Cab Franc as well as a bold character usually seen more in its close relative; Cabernet Sauvignon. I tasted rich forward fruit, a hint of black pepper, soft vanilla and hot cocoa flavors enriched with some tart strawberry and rhubarb middle tones and a soothing rich dark berry finish that was both lingering and satisfying. I also got just a hint of the type of bell pepper you would find in a Chicago Portillo Italian sub sandwich (thinking of those, as I am making a clone of them tonight for dinner). The color is also dark and rich, with outstanding clarity (no need to decant as no sediment in this wine).
There are enough tannins to provide some character with a mild chewy feel, as well as to ensure it will cellar well.
We enjoyed this wine with a a pasts smothered with rich Marinara sauce and meatballs. I would expect it to go equally well with salmon dishes, fajitas, grilled chicken based dinner salads, and Italian antipasto plates. And yes, Portillo type Chicago-style Italian sub sandwiches which are NOT low calorie, but a true foodie experience that is not to be missed.