2007 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard – $14.99


My comments

I grabbed a few bottles of this wine at a blow out price of $15, based on the wine’s reputation.  We opened a bottle in January 2011, but it was WAY too oaky for our tastes.  I decided to leave it in the cellar for another year or two to see if the oak would integrate, at least a little.


Winery history

Richard Sanford came to the Santa Ynez Valley 40 years ago with the desire to create wines that would rival the best of France.  First to recognize the potential of the Santa Rita Hills (now an officially accredited American Viticultural Area as Sta. Rita Hills), and first to plant Pinot Noir vines there, Richard is a pioneer with a well established reputation for excellence in winemaking.


Working in partnership for more than 30 years, Thekla and Richard Sanford founded multiple, successful winegrowing enterprises.  Their latest venture, Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, represents the culmination of a lifetime’s experience – an enterprise dedicated to creating high quality wines and setting a benchmark for organic farming, sustainable agriculture methods, and environment-friendly commerce.


The winery, owned by Richard Sanford, dubbed the father of Santa Barbara Pinot Noir and the first to plant the vine there, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 27.


After nearly a half-century of ups and downs in the wine business, Sanford admitted that he’d rather be riding off into the sunset than trying to save the family farm.  “It is true that I have been doing this for 44 years, and Thekla and I were looking forward to having some quiet time,” said Sanford.  “But that’s just not possible yet.”


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep, dark ruby color.  The big and bold nose has cherries, black raspberries, baking spices, cedar, wild flowers, smoke, and some earthy underbrush.  This has medium to full body, fairly solid tannins, and tart acidity.  Tart cherries hit the palate first, followed by some spices and earthiness before the oak takes over, which it does in a big way.  The finish is fairly long but just about totally oak driven.  If you like oak dominated wine, you’ll like this a lot more than I do.  (86 pts)




2009 Trentadue Winery La Storia “Cuvée 32” – $17.04


My comments

We have visited the AlexanderValley based Trentadue Winery a few times in the past and always had a good time and an even better tasting.  This is a long time favorite wine in my house.  The blend varies each vintage, this one is 49% Sangiovese, 27% Merlot, 8% Montepulciano, 8% Malbec, 7% Petite Sirah, and 1% Syrah.  This wine has enough acidity from the Sangiovese to stand up to dishes with tomatoes but the other grapes lend enough body and oomph to stand up to meat.  We like this wine with everything from pasta with meat sauce to Veal Parmesan and baked ziti.


Winery history

The Trentadue family arrived in SonomaCounty long before their region gained a reputation as the Wine Country. Life-long, hands-on agriculturists, Evelyn and Leo Trentadue contributed significantly to the advancement of their region over the years. In 1959, the Trentadues decided to flee the developers encroaching on their apricot and cherry orchards in Sunnyvale, the area known today around the world as Silicon Valley. To preserve their way of life, these hard-working Italian ranchers purchased 208 acres of land in SonomaCounty’s then remote AlexanderValley.


See more at:  http://www.trentadue.com/winery/heritage.asp


My Tasting Note

The wine is a medium to deep garnet color, much lighter at the edge.  On very enticing nose there are cherries, raspberries, earthy underbrush, dried herbs, baking spices, licorice, blackberries, black pepper, and violets.  The wine has medium body with fairly solid, ripe tannins and very nice acidity.  On the palate the wine is full of tart, spicy, fruit with nice earthy elements and some pepper adding depth and complexity.  The finish is fairly long and features tart, juicy cherries, licorice, and some earthiness.  This is a very nice “Super Tuscan” from California.  Tastes fantastic today, but this will last in the cellar for up to five years.  (91 pts)




2007 Carlisle Zinfandel Sonoma County – $17.50


My comments

This is one of my all time favorite QPR values.  This is a Zinfandel that is every bit as good as ones that are on shelves at $30 or more, and it cost me well under $20.


Winery history

Carlisle is a winery that started as a classic “garage winery” for Owner/Winemaker Mike Officer.  His first foray into wine making was making 5 gallons of Zinfandel in his kitchen.  Over the next several years, with the help of his wife Kendall (Carlisle), and some friends, he produced a barrel of wine each vintage.  During this period, he also has a “real job” as a software developer.  To make a long story short, eventually the software developer title was left in the rear view mirror and Owner/Winemaker became his new title.  I highly recommend checking out the complete story at http://www.carlislewinery.com/about.html


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep maroon color.  On the big but civilized nose there are brambly berries, black pepper, dark chocolate, vanilla, licorice, dried herbs, smoke, wild flowers, and a touch of earthiness.  This is medium to full bodied with solid, ripe tannins and very nice acidity.  On the palate the wine shows a load of peppery berries with licorice, dried herbs and a bit of earthiness adding depth and complexity.  The finish is long and features the peppery berries.  An incredible wine and an absolute steal for under $20.  (92 pts)




2007 Novy Family Wines Grenache Judge Family Vineyard – $19.00


My comments

I really like wines from California made with grapes native to France’s RhoneValley.  The thing I most like is what frustrates a lot of people, the variety.  There are soft and fruity wines, full bodied and bold wines, and medium bodied versions full of black pepper and spice.  I like the wines made by Novy because they are usually in the third category, medium bodied and full of spice.  This style is the closest to the styles made in France and also the most food friendly.


Winery history

We met Dianna Lee at an in store wine tasting here in the Milwaukee area a couple years ago.  While we talked she mentioned going to college in East Texas.  After talking a bit more, it turned out she was in college about a mile from our house while we were living in Nacogdoches, TX.  We were able to talk about having Margaritas in a local Mexican Restaurant.  There’s a good chance we were all enjoying happy hour together, a few tables apart.  Who knows, maybe La Hacienda closed down because they lost all our business when we moved to Milwaukee and Dianna met Adam and moved to wine country.  Truly a small world.


For us, the beauty of making our own wine is the total freedom to do it our way, without compromise. Although it is necessary to be able to adapt to new circumstances with each and every vintage, we have found that these principles hold true year after year.


We believe that great wine is made in the vineyard. Only with great grapes can we produce great wines. To this end, we purchase the majority of our fruit by the acre rather than by the ton.

We believe in minimal intervention winemaking that promotes, rather than overshadows the work we do in the vineyard.

Most importantly, we believe that wine should be a pleasure to drink. If you don’t like the way a wine tastes, what’s the point? Novy Family wines are made to be enjoyed with good friends and good food.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a light to medium ruby color, much lighter at the edge.  The very interesting and unique nose has raspberries, earthy underbrush, black pepper, dried herbs, baking spices, smoke, licorice, cherries, and a touch of eucalyptus.  This has medium body with fairly solid, ripe tannins and very nice acidity.  On the palate a nice hit of cherry and raspberry precedes a blast of savory elements including black pepper, dried herbs, and nice earthy notes.   The finish is fairly long and leans towards the savory spectrum with nice cherry and raspberry in the background adding subtle sweetness.  Not a fruit forward, fruit bomb, very food friendly.  I like this a lot and feel it should last in the cellar for another year, maybe two.  (92 pts)




Nice delivery of samples from Elyse for me to review arrived today.  I look forward to sampling them in the next couple of weeks.  The reviews will be in a special edition of Cliff’s Wine Picks.  Selections include 2008 Morisoli Zinfandel, 2010 Barrel SelectNapa Valley Petite Sirah, and the 2007 Morisoli Cabernet Sauvignon.





Mailing Lists

The Loring e-mail with their non Pinot Noir wine hit and I immediately grabbed several bottles.  My main buys were the Grenache and the Convergence wines.




Wines bought or received this week

I received the samples noted above from Elyse, but that is all, so far.  If everything gets delivered tomorrow that is due, I’ll receive wine from Core (WineWoot), Garagiste Wine, and from a new favorite, Ledge.




Remember to support your local wine store!



* * * * * * * * * * * * *


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.




If you want me to review your wines, see my Sample Policy or e-mail me at Cliff@CliffsWinePicks.com