Skurnik Tasting – my favorites (finally)

I’ve mentioned this event twice and have promised to write a more comprehensive review. I’m happy to say that I’ve been very busy but have not forgotten my promise.

Given that I tasted well in excess of 100 wines that day my notes are obviously not too thorough, but I did note which wines were of most interest to me.

Going simply in order of table number, let’s start with Peay Vineyards. Peay is not a winery I was familiar with before the tasting, but it will be one I’ll be keeping an eye out for, especially as I get deeper into wine bar planning. Sadly, the prices for Peay wines are quite high. Beginning with their ’06 “Sonoma Coast Estate” Chardonnnay, I found very nice subtle oak combined with nice citrus notes and fresh crisp flavors. It had a very nice acidic structure and a pleasant and relatively long finish. I also found their ’06 Estate “Scallop Shelf” Pinot Noir to be one of the more subtle & elegant Pinots will nice minerality and earthiness and a very nice finish. And finally the Peay 2005 “La Bruma” Estate Syrah, which I was told came from a very cool Syrah site, was also not a fruit bomb like some of the other Syrah’s I tried. Rather it had lots of fruit on the nose but was very subtle, elegant and round on the palate. Great stuff.

Lang & Reed Napa Winery was represented by the husband and wife team who make the wines and they were great. L&R are a winery that focuses on Cab Franc, a varietal I am NOT generally a big fan of. Cabernet Franc is known for having green bell pepper notes, and these green herbaceous notes simply do not jive with my palate. Some people LOVE it, but I’m not one of them. THAT SAID, all 3 wines I tasted from Land & Reed were fabulous. The entry level Land & Reed 2006 Cab Franc was a little tannin (typical of a young wine), but was earthy, meaty and not at all green. I really enjoyed it. The 2003 “1er Etage” Cab Franc was blended with 2% Petit Verdot and had very subtle green notes but was was nice as well. And their 2004 “Right Bank” Red, a blend of Cab Franc (53%), Merlot (30%), Petit Verdot (9%) & Cab Sauv (8%) was beautiful. Some subtle green notes, but a very soft, elegant & complex wine. Definitely one I’ll be on the lookout for!

Next was a wine from Etude Wines in Carneros, which runs South of both Napa & Sonoma counties. Etude is known for their Pinot Noir. I enjoyed a nice Pinot Gris & Chardonnay of theirs. Also had a nice Cabernet from Oakville, the town in Napa where I lived and worked.

And then I tried 3 of the Pinots, but one really stood out. based on prices it was actually the cheapest of their 3 Pinots, the 2005 Etude “Temblor” Pinot Noir. What stood out is that up until that point I had tasted Pinots in two styles; the new world fruit forward style (that I do not care for in Pinot) and the old world subtle fruit & earthy Pinots (which I prefer). But this was simply DIFFERENT – in a GOOD way. It had the earthy & minerally nose that I like, but it also had black pepper & black cherry and all kinds of other stuff going on as well. A very complex wine whose nose translated very well to the palate and whose finish was quite nice as well.

Right next to Etude was Selene Wines & was fortunate to have a chance to speak with the winemaker Mia Klein. Although I am constantly told how small the wine world is, it is always a trip to meet people who know a lot of the same people you met during a short stint elsewhere in the world. OK, wine world geography aside, Mia clearly makes great wines. She had a nice Sauvignon Blanc and very pleasant Merlot as well. The Selene “Napa Valley” Cabernet Sauvignon had some green bell pepper notes to them and I asked her if she blended in some Cab Franc. She wasn’t too thrilled to hear me ask that and confirmed that other people thought so as well (yes I felt validated;)). She did admit to 2% Cab Franc but said that it comes from a high elevation vineyard which may be contributing the green notes. but it was her Bordeaux style blend 2003 “Chesler” wine that I most enjoyed. It had 84% Cab Franc, 14% Merlot & % Cab Sauv and was delicious. A very nice nose with blue and black fruit, some tar and even a little cherry cola. It had a nice mouth feel and a very pleasant finish.

At this point in the tasting taking proper notes became even more of a challenge but I’ll give you what I got.

A Cabernet Sauvignon from Barnett Vineyards, their 2005 “Spring Mountain”, blended with 4% Cab Franc & 3% Petit Verdot comes from a mountain top vineyard and had nice fruit, silky tannins and a great mouth feel.

Meeting John Downing of Downing Family Vineyards was a real treat. Much (if not all) of the Downing family’s wine is made at a custom crush. But not just any custom crush, the one I worked at – Napa Wine Company. For four glorious months I took barrel samples from Downing barrels and brought them back to the lab for analysis. The head of the lab encouraged us to try the samples frequently (which I did) so being able to now try the 2004 “Two Barrel Reserve” Cab FROM THE BOTTLE was a real treat. My only note is “yeah – great”, but I think I was basking in the knowledge that I watched this wine evolve (albeit for a brief time) in the barrels.

Another winery I have some local Napa experience with is The Terraces winery. Before leaving Napa after working there I tried to visit as many wineries as possible. A small winery (total production of $1,500 cases) with a fabulous location on Silverdo trail, Terraces was one of the places I tried to visit. I spoke with the winemaker’s (and proprietor’s) wife Sharon, but unfortunately was unable to coordinate with them and never got to try their wines. What I remembered though was how nice Sharon was and how much she tried to accommodate my specific times. Well, Timm is just as great and wonderful people seem to make wonderful wines.Their 2005 Napa Zinfandel had a big lush body with some real nice Chocolate notes. The 2004 Cab was a little jammy with full fruit, a nice round body and a very nice finish. And their 2005 Petite Sirah was lighter than I expected and was subtle and silky smooth.

OK, enough Cali wines right. Let’s move right along…

I have previously mentioned the 1967 Barolo I was fortunate to be able to try. It was from the E Pira (Chiara Boschis) & Borgogno winery and it was a 1967 “Giacomo Borgogno” Barolo Riserva (how is that for a mouthful?). My notes on this wine are pretty vague, but the wine with its lite fading brick color was “very alive” and tasted of a super soft & tender old wine. I am not proficient with Barolo’s so I did not necessarily have a lot to compare it to but it was a treat.

Speaking of Barolo’s, I tried what I gather is a VERY EXPENSIVE one. The La Spinetta “Campe” 2004 Barolo was surprisingly (to me) light in color and “velvety” soft on the palate with tannins that crept up with the finish.

I then moved on to some French wines and there were standouts. The Domaine de L’Arlot 2003 “Clos des Forets St. Georges” Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru (a red Burgundy for those who don’t have a masters in wine labeling) had some nice cherry and forest berry on the nose, together with some minerality & earthiness. It all came together very nicely with a long elegant finish. I tried the 2001 & 2004 versions of this wine and they were a little too fruit forward for me. I did however have their 2001 non-single vineyard version and I enjoyed that a lot as it showed some nice rose pedals on the nose, some very mild berry, and was quite subtle. It was silky soft on the palate and although the tannins were apparent they were smooth and led to a long and elegant finish. At about 2/3 the cost of the single vineyard stuff I am a buyer!

Moving right along, to the “Daniel Johnes Selections” a Phillippe Alliet 2005 “Vieilles Vignes” Chinon WOW-ed me. It had the green you would expect, but it also had mocha, tar and other stuff going on. Very nice complex wine.

Back to Burgundies, I was with a (female) friend who works at Skurnik when we went to the Domaine Marc Roy table to meet their (female) winemaker Alexandrine Roy – a 4th generation winemaker. She was very sweet and her wines were pretty damn good too. My favorite of the table was the 2005 Marc Roy “Cuvee Alexandrine” Gevrey-Chambertin which had nice (but not over the top) fruit, goos flinty minerality and earthiness and a very nice mouth feel. An expensive wine but less so than some of the 1er Cru’s I tried.

I then moved on the the Burgundies of Domaine Henri Jouan. The Henri Jouan 2006 Chambolle Musigny had nice minerality, pepper, earthiness and even some gaminess – very nice and complex with a great mouthfeel leading to a great finish. And his Henri Jouan 2006 “Clos Sorbes” Morey St. Denis 1er Cru had nice black cherry, raspberry & as I wrote “a great combo of fruit & earth” with a “very nice mouthfeel”.

They tried to throw me out at this point but I had a duty to YOU, the readers of the Wine Tasting Guy blog. So I made my way to the Terry Theise Estate Selections to the German wines. I VERY QUICKLY tasted through 16 of them. The one I liked most was amongst the cheapest, a Leitz Riesling “3” QBA 2007 which was crisp, dry and had a great acidity to it.

That’s all folks. Hope I didn’t bore the heck out of you. I promise, I enjoyed doing the tasting much more than you enjoyed reading my notes ;).

Happy Wine Tasting!!!


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