Cabernet Sauvignon

Lodi, California: Historic Zinfandel Capital

When you hear California wine, you most likely think Napa and Sonoma. But there’s a great wine region that’s been flourishing for 150 years not too far from there…Lodi, California.

Lodi is one of California’s major wine growing region, located 100 miles east of San Francisco. It’s characterized by a rural atmosphere and farms run by 4th and 5th generation families workign with new vintners who have brought fresh creative new things to the region.

Unlike many U.S. wine regions, Lodi actually prospered during Prohibition and as such has been a continuous source of wine grapes since the 1850s.

 The Lodi AVA has about 100,000 acres of winegrapes, farmed by more than 750 growers, many of whose families have grown grapes for a century or more. The region’s annual yield of nearly 600,000 tons of grapes in 2011 was valued at $325 million and comprised 17% of California’s total wine grape production.

Lodi is predominately a red wine-producing region, with approximately two-thirds of the acreage dedicated to red varieties. However, with over 75 varieties in commercial production, Lodi offers a vast portfolio of interesting wines. Lodi is the self-proclaimed Zinfandel Capital of the World, producing over 32% of California’s premium Zinfandel. Many of the region’s most distinctive wines come from the thousands of acres of “old vines”—some dating back to the 1880s. An estimated 2,000 acres are unique pre-Prohibition own-rooted vines. Cabernet Sauvignon is prevalent along the eastern edge of the Lodi appellation.

I was introduced to the region through a lively and informative Twitter wine tasting before Thanksgiving. Today, there are approximately 85 wineries and tasting rooms, over 750 growers and more than 100,000 acres planted to vineyards. We tasted five lovely wines to paint the picture of the Lodi region…

My personal favorite of the five…

2011 Klinker Brick Winery Bricks & Mortar Cabernet Blend

  • Region: Lodi, California
  • Variety: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah, 10% Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Aroma: Currants, plum, mint and thyme
  • Taste: Cassis, smokey and spiced cedar
  • Price: $30
  • My thoughts: Love this grape blend that’s created a rich, silky wine. My husband said “it was like a Christmas tree” on the nose. Therefore I’d say a perfect wine for the holiday season. 🙂

In 2004–2005, the Lodi Winegrape Commission created the standards for the state’s first third-party-certified sustainable winegrowing program, known as Lodi Rules™. This program promotes practices that enhance biodiversity, soil health and water cleanliness and further encourages responsible farming by focusing on the community through land stewardship, employee training, and 2 safety initiatives. About 20–25% of the acreage in Lodi, and some outside the area, is now certified.

Lodi is definitely a wine region worth exploring virtually through their wine and in person.

Cheers to Lodi wine and tradition!

The King of Red: Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the BIG six grape varieties, is often referred to as the King of Red. At a January event of the Fine Wine Divas, as we tasted through eight fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon wines from around the world, I was reminded of what makes this grape fabulous!

Cabernet, as it can simply be referred to, is originally from Bordeaux, where the cross of it’s parents, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc, arose in the 17th century. It’s genetic parents were only recently discovered. And while many now associate California and Napa with Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux still grows more of the grape than any other region in the world.

What makes Cabernet the King?

  • Cabernet can and does grow almost anywhere. Every country that makes wines, produces a Cabernet Sauvignon.
  • It’s easy to grow and can do so in a range of climates, although it prefers heat and dryer soils.
  • It’s a VERY hardy grape. With thick skins, it’s hard to distort the characteristics. It maintains its flavor and structure very well.
  • Its thick skins also make it resistant to disease.
  • It’s the second most planted grape in the world (Merlot is first).
  • It’s an ideal wine for aging and loves oak aging. With five to ten years being optimal, it’s tannins are soften and new flavor and aroma complexities develop.
  • It’s also great for blending due to it’s big tannins.

Cabernet Sauvignons makes a big wine that becomes silky and elegant with age. They are usually medium to full-bodied with firm tannins and bright acidity. It’s characterized by fruit notes of blackcurrant, cassis, blackberry and non-fruit notes of green bell pepper, cedar and tobacco.

Friday night we tasted around the world, New World (South Africa, Chile, US) and Old World (France).

  • South Africa: 2006 Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chile: 2010 Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, Puente Alto 
  • US/Washington: 2006 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet, Walla Walla
  • US/Washington: 2008 Buty “BEAST” Phinny Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
  • France/Bordeaux: 2005 Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux
  • France/Bordeaux: 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré St. Julien
  • US/California: 2008 Ehlers Estate “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon
  • US/California: 2002 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

And while all the wines are truly fabulous, a few stood out as my favorites.

2006 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet, Walla Walla

  • Variety: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington
  • Aroma: Spiced plum, earthy, leather
  • Taste: Medium-bodied, smoky plum and dried cranberry notes with hints of cocoa.
  • Price: $30
  • My thoughts: Overall Washington state Cabernets are meant to be approachable at a young age. And it’s said they seem to capture the best of France and California in a single wine. This is a fabulous example!

2008 Ehlers Estate “1886” Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Variety: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, from St. Helena, Napa, California
  • Aroma: Floral, red berries, spice
  • Taste: Silky wine with notes of black cherries, cinnamon and toffee
  • Price: $90
  • My thoughts: Yum is this a good wine…like chocolate covered cherries! And such a gorgeous bottle! St. Helena is a very historic wine growing region with cultivation dating back to mid-1800s. This vineyard is farmed with strict adherence to organic and biodynamic farming standards. 100% of the proceeds from sales of the wines is returned to the Leducq Foundation, supporting international cardiovascular research. Tastes good and does good!

2002 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

  • Variety:  83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, from California
  • Aroma: Plum, rose, sandalwood
  • Taste: Black plum, berries, tobacco and dark chocolate
  • Price: $99
  • My thoughts: This velvety wine was Rated 91 by Wine Spectator. Silver Oak has been making stunning wines since the early 1970s and this one is divine!

For the group of fifteen Fine Wine Divas, in addition to the Ehlers and Silver Oak, the favorites were 2005 Château Léoville Poyferré St. Julien and 2008 Buty “BEAST” Phinny Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. We had a mix of Old World and New World lovers.

Have a favorite Cabernet? Share it with us here. And if you’re interested in our Fine Wine Divas group in DC, let us know.

Cheers to the King of Reds!

Nine Virginia Wines Worth the Sip

My goal at Sunday’s 36th Annual Virginia Wine Festival was two part…1) Buy a few great examples of Virginia wine for my upcoming girls’ weekend, and 2) Discover a few new Virginia wineries I haven’t tried.  Success on both fronts!!

The two-day event held in Centreville, Virginia (about 30 miles west of Washington, DC) brought together 40+ wineries sampling wine, workshops and seminars presented by the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association, and 100 artisans and vendors. Sunday was a great day to attend … smaller crowds = tasting table waits.

After visiting 12 winery tents and tasting 75 wines, I bought 9 bottles to share with my girlfriends. The wines below should give them, many who are skeptical about Virginia wine, a great taste of our state’s offerings. This is also a great list for those of you new to Virginia wine!

* Montdomaine

This was a great new discovery….a winery with a long Virginia history re-introduced in 2008. The wines are made by Michael Shaps of Michael Shaps Wines and Virginia Wineworks.

  • 2009 Chardonnay: Citrus aromas and taste, minimal oak, a result of the old French Oak cooperage. $20

* Breaux Vineyards

  • Equation Merlot “X”: This Merlot blend with 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot is a fabulous wine! Red fruit aromas followed by a dark red fruit taste that’s round and smooth. $15

* Horton Vineyards

  • 2008 Cabernet Franc: Aromas of violets pair with spicy, peppery, cassis flavor. $15

* Barboursville Vineyards

It’s hard to showcase Virginia wine without the great wines from Barboursville so I had to pick up some of their festival offerings.

  • Barboursville Brut: This was my first time tasting their sparkling wine. A very nice blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Fruit aromas and a great pear taste. $18
  • 2010 Chardonnay: This wine is aged in stainless steel creating a crisp Chardonnay with apple aroma and flavor, and a touch of pear and lemon. $11
  • 2010 Chardonnay Reserve: This is a great contrast to the regular Chardonnay as its aged seven months in barrel creating a rich and complex Chardonnay with heavier apple aroma and flavor now adding pear and vanilla to the mix. $15
  • 2010 Pinot Grigio: True Italian style…aromas and flavor of apple, pear with a touch of pineapple. $15
  • 2009 Viognier Reserve: Great example of Virginia’s official grape. Smooth tropical fruit and floral aromas and flavor.$22
  • 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve: This wine is only created in the best vintages. Strong berry aromas combine with pepper and currant flavors. $30

(I’ll also take a few Virginia bottles from my wine rack this weekend…Blenheim Vineyards, Virginia Wineworks and Breaux. More to come after our tasting!)

Tomorrow an overview of the informative Wine Judging Seminar I attended at the Festival.

Cabernet Is King

Yesterday was the 2nd annual #Cabernet Day, virtual wine tasting event + some live events hosted in a few cities. While I typically wouldn’t be drinking red wine yet (I like reds when its cold outside and/or I’m eating Italian), I jumped on the bandwagon, got out a few Cabs from my wine rack and settled in for the virtual Tweeting event.

It was a great time! Learned some fun facts about Cabernet Sauvignon (thank you Jordan Winery & Wine Library)…

  • Cabernet Sauvignon is a red wine grape that became famous in Bordeaux.
  • It grows well in any climate that isn’t too cool.
  • While California is another important region for this grape, it is grown all around the world and considered one of the six International Varietals.
  • Maintains its varietal identity no matter where its grown.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon’s parents are Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
  • Its flavor and aroma can be described as being reminiscent of blackcurrants or cassis.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is high in tannin so it is often blended with other grapes.
  • Grapes are very tough with thick skins which resist disease.
  • 1 grape cluster = 1 glass 75 grapes = 1 cluster 4 clusters = 1 bottle  (that applies to any grape).

and tasted some new wines (thank you Arrogant Frog/Palm Bay International and Breaux Vineyards)…

  • Arrogant Frog 2010 Cabernet Sauvginon-Merlot Lily Pad Red:
    • from Languedoc in South of France between Mediterranean Sea and the Herault Valley
    • 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot
    • Aroma: cassis, jammy, spice
    • Taste: smokey plum jam taste, smooth tannins, soft fruit finish, sweet vanilla linger
    • My thoughts: nice drinkable wine with or without food; I discovered this brand when living in Amsterdam and LOVED it…very fun and so excited to find it in the U.S.!
  • Breaux Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve:
    • from Purcellville, Virginia
    • 100% Cabernet Franc
    • Aroma: dark cherry, mint
    • Taste: roasted cherries, nuts, chocolate and a lot of caramel
    • My thoughts: complex special wine I think best drank on its own to enjoy the levels of flavor, perfect for a cold night by the fire, and as my husband said when he tasted it “what the hell, yum, WOW!”

#CabernetDay was put together by Rick Bakas with Bakas Media. The event reach was 4.5M people, 60M impressions, 17,000 tweets & 4,200 unique tweeters.

You can keep the Cabernet conversation going this month with Snooth’s Global Tasting Initiative.


Take a Hike with this Wine

The Climber Pouch… from Clif Family Winery, the family that makes Clif Bars and my favorite Luna Bars. Started in 2004, Clif Family Winery and Farm in St. Helena, California ‘extended their passion for all things delicious and natural into the realm of wine and gourmet food.’ And they are now producing five wines including The Climber White Wine and Red Wine.

Then on Earth Day this year, they launched this clever new packaging for The Climber wines, The Climber Pouch. The packaging itself is very cool… perfect to take camping, hiking or picnicking, and its 80% lower carbon footprint and 90% less waste than the glass equivalent. All that and the wine is good too!

I tried The Climber Pouch at last month’s Wine Bloggers Conference during the Live Wine Blogging sessions.

  • The Climber Pouch Cabernet Sauvignon: Full of blackberry jam and black currant flavors with a nice soft finish.
  • The Climber Pouch Chardonnay: Unoaked, tropical, melon, grapefruit flavors that are quite lively.

Retail price is $16.99 with 1% of sales going to 1% for the Planet. The product is hot…it sold out in two months so more had to be produced. You can order directly on line before your next outdoor adventure.

Cheers to good wine for on the go!