"There is no end to the learning process when it comes to wines and vines" The Editor's Vineyard


When it comes to grapes and wines one's education is never truly complete. This was pointed out to me several decades ago by Robert Balzar, who many considered the dean of all wine writers. He died just a few months ago at age 99. We were at a tasting and luncheon, where and when lost in the mist of time, and seated together. And I mentioned to Robert that some of the points being made on a certain grape were new to me. Robert replied in his usual class lecturing style, "Joseph, with wines the learning experience never ends".

This was brought to mind again when I was tasting a bottle of Laurier Vineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley. This is a quality brand under the flagship of Bronco Wine Company and we already were familiar with the talents of Winemaker Bob Stashak. I noted that this wine, which we thought was outstanding, included a small blend of three other varietals. It included six per cent Arinarnoa, six per cent Segalin and three per cent Malbec.

We knew all about Malbec but the other two were new to us. After some research on the web we learned that both Arinarnoa and Segalin are recent crossing of varietals, both of French origin. Arinarnoa is a cross of Merlot and Petit Verdot and was created quite recently in the Languedoc Roussillon region of France. Also that as its own varietal Arinarnoa it is being produced in Lebanon, Argentina, Uruguay and France.

Segalin is a red grape crossed from Juracon Noir and Portuguese Bleu and currently is used blending red wines in southwestern France. Until now we had no idea that either of these hybrids were being grown in California vineyards.

Bob Stashak used American oak for this blend and the result is a superior Cabernet Sauvignon with intense flavors, mellow tannins and a lasting finish. At $20 we thought this wine a true bargain.

The Writer was on safer ground with the Laurier Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay. The grapes here from Carneros which has long been noted for its Burgundian varietals. This is a nicely balanced vintage equally appropriate as either a cocktail wine or at the dinner table. It shows a crispness and several fruit flavors. At 12.5 per cent alcohol it is ideal for picnics and tailgate parties. Priced at $18. An earlier vintage of this Chardonnay won a fistful of awards at competitions.

Our return from yet another interesting trip to the Napa Valley occurred recently. Of course its wines are legendary and often the Napa appellation places a higher price tag on them as well. However there are exceptions to this and Napa Creek wines are among these exceptions. Winemaker is Larry Rocha who has built a solid reputation on making award winning wines. We also appreciate Larry for the way he creates superior wines while holding the alcohol to traditional levels.

We enjoyed his Napa Creek Winery 2007 Merlot. This wine has garnered some awards and our palate told us why. Smooth texture, light tannins, pleasant aromas and a rewarding finish are all present here. And all with a 12.5 per cent alcohol, perfect as a dinner companion. At $13 a bottle hurry out and get some.

The Napa Creek Winery 2009 Chardonnay has also captured several awards in competitions. With 12.5 per cent alcohol it is a perfect partner at tail gate parties and a delight on the dinner table as well. Light in color the wine offers fresh fruit aromas and flavors, a shy crispness and delicate finish. Again we liked the price tag of $13 as much as we did the wine. A bargain wine from this Napa Appellation.

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Last Update:3/1/12

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