Pinot Noir Tear

Palates change.  I have seen my own appreciation for different varietals evolve over time with the wines that I drink.  When I was young, we had Liebfraumilch at the table – also know as “The Little Blue Nun.”  My father was German; and this, in his mind, was appropriate for a young palate.  I then fell in love with Kendall Jackson Chardonnay – which, by the way, is the number one selling Chardonnay in the U.S.  No, it is not Rombauer, as popular as that wine is.  Then I moved on to Merlot, Zinfandel, and so on up the ‘tannin scale’. By the way, there is a great blog written by Tim Gaiser, Master Sommelier, summarizing how he describes the journey of the palate. It’s called The Evolution of a Palate.

As of late, I have been on a Pinot tear.  It has captivated my palate, and I am looking to explore and taste as many as possible.  This exploration of Pinot is what led me to Failla Wines, near Saint Helena in Napa Valley.  Failla is a small, boutique winery that flies a little under the radar.  I had become aware of Ehren Jordan, the owner and winemaker at Failla, through his work at Turley.  He led the winemaking team for several years and took the opportunity to shift gears and direction.  His first vintage under the Failla label was back in 1998.

When it comes to varietals, Failla focuses on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Ehren also makes a Syrah, yet Pinot is the King at this property.  I have visited twice in the last few months and enjoyed the experience both times. The folks leading the tastings are well-trained and well-educated hospitality hosts.  This is not always the case.  More so, the environment is relaxed and easy.  There are different settings and tasting experiences you can choose from.  The first visit I had was done in the grove with really enjoyable people whom I met for the first time.  The second tasting took place in the cave, and I truly enjoyed the fellow tasters that I met around the table.

Ah, but what about the wine you ask?  They were all very enjoyable, well-crafted wines.  The Chardonnay was more Burgundian in style, more elegant and finessed than butter and oak.  The Pinots were also quite enjoyable with bright fruit notes and a floral nose.  These are all well-crafted wines ready for your drinking pleasure.


Cabernet and Chocolate: A Match Made in Heaven?

Just this past weekend, I had the pleasure to attend a luncheon and tasting at a winery. The dessert that was served was brownies, and a friend said all he wanted at the moment was some more Cabernet to go with his brownie. He said it was a great pairing. Let me say, maybe not.

Below are  Karen MacNeil’s comments (she is the author of The Wine Bible) on the pairing of Cabernet and Chocolate:

The Myth of Cabernet and Chocolate

It may sound romantic—even inspired—but as marriages go, cabernet and chocolate is a match made in hell (or in the depths of the marketing department). Chocolate is an extremely powerful, profound, and complex flavor. Its deep bitterness accentuates the tannin in cabernet sauvignon, making the wine taste severe and angular. Chocolate’s rich fruitiness blows away cabernet’s graceful fruity nuances, making the wine taste drab and hollow. Moreover, chocolate’s profound sweetness makes most dry wine taste sour. In short, the would-be dominatrix chocolate needs a partner more powerful than herself. Which may be one of the reasons sweet, luscious, opulent Port is a life necessity.

As you can see from her writing, Port is the better choice. It may be worth doing your own trial to see how the pairing lands with your palate. Port and Chocolate, or Cabernet and Chocolate?

It’s fun to experiment and find your own favorite.


Vérité Wines: In Search of Consistent Perfection

Vérité is a winery in Healdsburg, California that takes on perfection as their goal at every turn. The winemaker himself brings diligence to each step in the winemaking process, even down to the selection of the wood for the barrels. This is their ambition. The efforts are clear – there is a big commitment to quality.

Big, rich, and silky are all words that come to mind as I recall the tasting at Vérité. This is a remarkable winery in their vigilance to represent the terroir and seek a perfect wine. They have been successful to date, as Robert Parker, who is credited with popularizing the 100-point scale, has awarded their wines thirteen 100-point scores. This is the first time a Sonoma County winery has been awarded so many “perfect” scores. This is quite an accomplishment! Many wineries strive for this, yet not many achieve it.

Another question though, why do I put perfect in quotes? Personally, I think it’s ultimately up to the consumer to determine what is perfect. What is it that fits their palate, their pleasure, and their pocket book? Yet there are characteristics that come into play to make a great wine. For example, the wine must be well-balanced with fruit, alcohol, acid, and tannins. It should all be harmonious, beg you back for more, and have a long finish. The one thing I have heard that winemakers agree on is that a long finish is indicative of a well-crafted wine.

What about the wine industry though, and what does Robert Parker say about wines of this score? Here’s a quote from Robert Parker regarding wines that are awarded scores from 96-100 points: “An extraordinary wine of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic wine of its variety. Wines of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.” Parker himself also states that the last 10 points in this scale are indicative of the wine’s potential for aging. Obviously, the longer the wine can age, the greater the potential for a higher score.

So what does this say about the wines of Vérité? Many are extraordinary wines. They will age gracefully for many years and still provide great drinking experiences. They are available through their website; and, when you are in wine country again, schedule a tasting at the winery. Everyone deserves the experience of great wine.