2007 Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains
2010 Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage
2009 Loring Wine Company Pinot NoirSantaLuciaHighlands
2007 Elyse Zinfandel A.K.A.
2007 Martin Ray Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains – $22.79
I grabbed this wine a few years ago when the winery had a tasting at the local store. The 2002 vintage of this wine was one the best purchases I have ever made. That vintage took a few years to fill out and open up, so I’m hoping I allowed this vintage to rest in the cellar long enough.
Martin Ray Winery was established in 1943 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Martin Ray’s mission was to make 100% varietal wines in California that could rival great French Bordeaux and Burgundy wines. Today, we continue the tradition of making 100% varietal wines from premium mountain vineyards using the same winemaking practices that made Ray a legendary figure in the wine business.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a deep, dark purple color. Cassis and blackberries jump from the glass with vanilla, dried herbs, wild flowers, cherries, licorice, cedar, and a bit of eucalyptus. This has medium body, fairly solid tannins, and good acidity. This isn’t as big and rich on the palate as the nose lead me to expect. The slightly restrained palate has cassis, spicy oak, vanilla, and a floral quality. The finish has decent length with the minty eucalyptus note making a closing statement along with the cassis, and spicy oak. The palate was a bit of a letdown after the build up from the exuberant nose, but on the whole, this is a very nice wine. (90 pts)
2010 Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage – $18.71
This was another of my Garagiste Wine purchases. Sometimes I hate having to wait up to a year to get my wine from them, but generally I either order older Rieslings and ensure I have plenty to ship during one of their shipping windows or order wines I don’t plan on opening for a while. I grabbed a few bottles of this wine and want to try one to gauge how long to sit on the remaining bottles so I can drink most of them in a prime drinking window.
Domaine du Colombier is located in the Northern Rhône Valley, in the left bank of the Rhône River. The estate has been part of the family since the First World War. The owners gradually moved from a sharecroppers status to that of owners. Florent Viale joined his father in 1990 and decided to bottle part of their production in 1991. Now they sell 80% in bottle, 20% in bulk.
This 12 hectare (30 acres) Domaine spreads over the two communes of Tain l’Hermitage and Mercurol and is comprised of:
1.6 hectares (4 acres) of Hermitage
1.2 hectares (3 acres) of white Crozes-Hermitage
9.2 hectares (23 acres) of red Crozes-Hermitage.
Total: 12 hectares (30 acres)
The vineyard, located on stony hillside, is planted with old vines (50-55 years of age): Syrah for the red and Marsanne for the white. The grapes are harvested by hand.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a medium ruby red color. The very nice nose has blackberries, cherries, dried herbs, minerals, smoked meat, black pepper, and some forest floor. This has medium body, fairly solid tannins, and very nice acidity. On the nicely layered palate spicy fruit is joined by minerals and smoked meat with dried herbs and some earthiness coming in on the back end. The finish has very nice length and leans on the savory elements with the fruit providing a touch of sweetness in the background. This is drinking very nicely today but there is absolutely no need to drink these soon. (91 pts)
2009 Loring Wine Company Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands – $24.00
To me, the Loring appellation wines are some of the biggest bargains available. I always grab at least a mixed case when these wines are offered. These are generally very good to outstanding California Pinot Noirs that cost under $25.
My philosophy on making wine is that the fruit is EVERYTHING. What happens in the vineyard determines the quality of the wine – I can’t make it better – I can only screw it up! That’s why I’m extremely picky when choosing vineyards to buy grapes from. Not only am I looking for the right soil, micro-climate, and clones, I’m also looking for a grower with the same passion and dedication to producing great wine that I have. In other words, a total Pinot Freak! My part in the vineyard equation is to throw heaping piles of money at the vineyard owners (so that they can limit yields and still make a profit) and then stay out of the way! Since most, if not all of the growers keep some fruit to make their own wine, I tell them to farm my acre(s) the same way they do theirs – since they’ll obviously be doing whatever is necessary to get the best possible fruit. One of the most important decisions made in the vineyard is when to pick. Some people go by the numbers (brix, pH, TA, etc) and some go by taste. Once again, I trust the decision to the vineyard people. The day they pick the fruit for their wine is the day I’m there with a truck to pick mine. Given this approach, the wine that I produce is as much a reflection of the vineyard owner as it is of my winemaking skills. I figure that I’m extending the concept of terroir a bit to include the vineyard owner/manager… but it seems to make sense to me. The added benefit is that I’ll be producing a wide variety of Pinots. It’d be boring if everything I made tasted the same.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a deep ruby to garnet color. The very enticing nose has black cherries, baking spices, raspberries, minerals, white pepper, forest floor, and fresh wild flowers. This has medium to full body, silky tannins, and very nice acidity. On the fairly straight forward palate, spices and fruit kick off the show with white pepper and earthiness coming in on the back end. The finish is fairly long again highlighting the spicy fruit and some earthiness. The Loring appellation Pinot Noirs are some of the best values in the marketplace. (92 pts)
2007 Elyse Zinfandel A.K.A. – $20.00
Elyse has been one of my favorite wineries since my first visit there in 2001. I was talking to an employee at Merryvale about the style of wines I liked and that I was on the lookout for leads to some nice Petite Sirah based wines. All he said was, “You have to checkout Elyse”. As soon as we got back in the car, I pulled out my guidebook of wineries, and looked them up. According to the guide, they required a reservation so I called them. About 30 minutes later we were met by a very gracious and inviting tasting room employee. We spent the next hour trying just about everything they made. We left with several bottles for the week and ordered a case to be shipped back home.
Since that day, Elyse has always been the first winery we visit when we make it to Napa. I always have several bottles of Elyse wine in my cellar. A quick check of my cellar on Cellar Tracker shows I currently have 22 bottles of Elyse wines and 12 from their other label, Jacob Franklin in stock.
In 1983, Nancy and Ray arrived in California from Cape Cod to fulfill Ray’s dream of making wine and Nancy’s taste for adventure. After working harvest at Mt. Eden Winery in Saratoga, they moved to NapaValley and became innkeepers for a bed &breakfast. Ray then spent formative time at Tonella Vineyard Management, where he gained philosophical perspective and practical knowledge working in the vineyards. Ray’s nine year tenure at Whitehall Lane Winery under the tutelage of Art Finkelstein first as a cellar worker and then as head winemaker honed his skills in the art of blending and was the inspiration for Ray’s winemaking style today.
In 1987, Ray & Nancy started Elyse Winery with 286 cases of Zinfandel from the Morisoli Vineyard, which is still a cornerstone vineyard source for the winery. After a decade of nomadic winemaking at various custom crush facilities, in 1997 they purchased a small winery and vineyard on Hoffman Lane, the home of Elyse Winery and tasting room.
My Tasting Note
The wine is a deep ruby red color with some bricking at the edge. The very satisfying nose has brambly berries, black pepper, wood smoke, warm baking spices, leather, minerals, vanilla, and a meaty element. This has medium to full body, moderate tannins, and good acidity. On the palate this isn’t a typical, big, jammy, in your face style of zinfandel, this is much more graceful and elegant. The palate has spicy, peppery berries, minerals, and just a touch of earthiness. The finish has very nice length and leans a bit more on the savory end with the fruit in the background adding nice sweetness. This is in a very nice place and should hold for another year or two. (92 pts)
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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines. I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar. I highly recommend checking it out at www.cellartracker.com. Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear. There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.
Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase. I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive. I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount. Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges. None of the prices include the sales tax.
All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.