Kickin’ it at Kick Ranch Vineyards

More from first ever US Winebloggers Conference ’08 in Sonoma, CA. I landed at SFO on Thursday midnite and by noon the next day I was headed out to Kick Ranch vineyards for the first event of the conference. It was a tasting of 14 wineries on the hilltop of Kick Ranch vineyards. All of the wineries sourced some or all of their grapes from Kick Ranch so it was a great opportunity to sample Sonoma Valley wine. The winner for funkiest label has to go to Erna Schein’s “Sainte Fumee”, a chateuneuf-du-pape like blend of syrah, mourvedre, petit syrah and petit verdot. I know p.verdot doesn’t usually figure in the blend but I said a CNdP-like blend. The wine was as seriously good as the label was seriously fun. The winemaker said that he instructed the artist to come up with a label that reflected the wine, big and meaty, kind of an “angel of meat” and next thing you know…ta-dah!! Enough about the label, now on to the wine. A spicy sweet nose with black pepper and fresh red fruit berries competing for my attention. Drinking it was a sublime pleasure, smooth and rich, a fabulous blend of peppery spicy fruit and lovely tannins that would stand up to any slab of beef. The winemakers said it was not quite ready yet, “give it 6 more months”, he advised, but if he doesn’t think it was ready, all I can say is- It’ll blow you away when it is ready! Great stuff coming from this boutique winery.   Loxton Vineyards was another great producer of syrah. Founded and run by the Australian ex-physicist, Chris Loxton,  he came to California in 1996 and never looked back. In homage to his Australian background, he planted syrah but unlike Aussie wines, his are excellent Rhone style reds. The ’05 syrah had fresh red fruits on the nose and palate with great spiciness coming off the nose and onto the palate. The ’05 Reserve Syrah had lovely raspberry and black pepper...

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Sunday lunch and Levendi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ’05

When I was in Sonoma, Ca, Levendi Winery and The Wine Spies got together and had a bash for us bloggers after the WBConference. One of our going away gifts was a half bottle of the Levendi Napa Valley 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon to try at home. I brought mine home to see what my English friends would think of it. In England, the opportunity to try good California cab doesn’t really come along often so I had a bunch of willing testers. I went over to my friend Ele’s house for a bit of Sunday lunch and the Levendi cab. Here are my thoughts, as well as the others. A savoury nose, not very fruity but what I could detect were black stewed fruits,prunes, blackcurrant jam, bit of spiciness, words like dark and harsh were thrown about but I think that was because of the alcoholic content. A surprisingly medium bodied wine on the palate with more of the black fruits, particularly blackcurrant and very ripe plums, soft tannins which was again a surprise. I think everyone was expecting a monster of a wine when in reality, it was more like a pussycat. Having said that though, it did have a nice acidic balance which meant the wine went really well with the mature English cheddar Ele had on hand. The cheese made the fruit a bit brighter on the palate, a nice foil. Rachel said she thought it was light, not heavy, black grapey, she liked it, ok with cheeses, food didn’t really make a difference for her, it was still good. She’d drink it again, it had an inviting quality. Juliene thought it tasted much better then it smelled, a surprisingly soft wine, quite medium bodied, plenty of fruity goodness, an easy going wine, nothing too complex. She also thought it went well with food.   Sophie was the naysayer of the bunch, she couldn’t really get a handle on the aromas and she thought it was too acidic, very intersting. She did however, think that it greatly improved when adding food into the mix....

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Rockaway Vineyard Walk at the WBC

        Slogging up that hill I was silently cursing myself for not riding my bike to work more often, but when it’s crappy weather you don’t think about your upcoming trip to Sonoma Valley and how you should be getting into shape. I thought going to as many tastings as possible before I left would suffice. Wrong! And now I was paying for it. All part of the US wineblogger conference. I should have followed Joe and Amy (anotherwineblog.com) and done the Russian River vineyard walk. But I’d opted for the Rodney Strong Vineyard walk. It wasn’t really that bad except for a couple of hills. I think I’ve become a bit of a crybaby in my dotage, time was when I’d run up the Himalayas with barely a whimper. Oh, to be 24 again! We did get a box lunch at the end and the company of Jim Murphy (one of the growers for Rodney Strong) and Doug McIlory (Director of Grower and Vineyard Operations) to take us thru the vineyard. We walked through the Rockaway Vineyard where some of their best cabernet sauvignon comes from and where we ended our walk with a beautiful view of the surrounding Anderson Valley.   We were lucky enough to taste our way through the current vintages of Rodney Strong Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and the 100%, estate grown, single vineyard cabernet sauvingon, The Rockaway. The Chalk Hill Chardonnay and Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc were both excellent examples of California whites, the Sauvignon blanc quite full and fruity with plenty of lush fruit. The chardonnay was quite creamy but not too buttery or oaky  with lovely tropical fruit as befits a chardonnay from California.   The highlight of lunch was the Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon 05, which has been involved in some blogger controversy but we kinda skipped over that. The most important thing was the wine itself. What did I think? I thought it was quite well made, lovely balance, well structured with good tannins to handle the loads of black fruits on the palate. A...

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Not a good idea….

  Rodney Strong Vineyards urges you not to drink and drive….or you might end up like these poor suckers! Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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California Dreamin’, the US Winebloggers Conference ’08

Just back from the US Winebloggers conference in Sonoma, CA and what a fabulous weekend. It was so nice to be in the California sunshine. Having attended both the European Winebloggers Conference and the US conference, I couldn’t say which was better. It’s like asking a mother to pick her favourite child, impossible. They were both fantastic in their own way. First off, both were in beautiful country but then again wine country just has to be beautiful. The US conf. started out with a hilltop lunch and tasting at Kick Ranch vineyards, where we had the opportunity to try wines made by various producers using both their own grapes and Kick Ranch grapes. There were quite a few events on the first day, not only did we have the hilltop tasting and lunch, immediately after we had a live blogging event, then a blind tasting challenge which I didn’t get a chance to attend because I had palate fatigue by then and I wanted to be ready for the NZ winetasting. I should have gone to the tasting challenge because I was disappointed by the NZ wines, especially since I know how good their wines can be (Vidal Wines post). We had two keynote speakers, Gary Vaynerchuck from Wine Library and Alice Feiring. Gary was an amazing keynote speaker, very motivational. After his talk, I wanted to go out and kick some ass!! Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with Alice’s work (but no one knew who Jancis Robinson  was so I didn’t feel too bad, not knowing my American cousins, so to speak) apparently she called out California on their big reds, something I totally agree with, but she was funny and gave a good speech. Dinner at Sebastiani Winery was good but really it was all about the social interaction. Before dinner we had a Sonoma wine tasting with some great stuff on offer. The last day was  the unconference, an opportunity for us to have roundtable discussions about whatever caught our fancy. I thought this was...

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