11 August, 2009

2006 Camellia Cellars Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Lencioni Vineyard Zinfandel - For WineBlogging Wednesday #60

Whew...that was alot to get out.

Well, that's kinda how we met Fred. See, I walk into Riviera Ristorante and start talking with my pal GP, who, along with other family members, owns the place. I was just done with the Wine Bloggers Conference and was tired after 2 nights of not too much sleep, so just wanted to mind my own business and have a lite dinner before heading home... a 90+ minute adventure. GP and I are talking about the
conference and he introduces me to Fred and insists I sit at the table next to he and his wife.

GP pours some wine, Fred starts talking with me, we start talking about the conference and wine blogging and then wine in general, and it turns out, Fred owns a nice vineyard. A REALLY nice vineyard, as it turns out. Based on the East Benchland in Dry Creek Valley, the Lencioni Vineyard has been in Fred's family for quite some time. Decades. LOTS of decades! OLD is GOOD!

We finish up and exchange contact info and agree to stay in touch. Cool. Done.

I finish up my dinner and head south. Ahhhh...a long weekend, but well worth it.

..I know what you're sayin', now: "Hey, what about the wine?"

Yes, yes, the wine. Mmm. The wine.

So, in the past few weeks, Fred and I caught up over email and I mentioned that I was doing a post for Wine Blogging Wednesday and it was a Zin theme this month. Ha HA!...now, you see, more KISMET!

Fred suggested that I look into the Camellia Cellars Zin
for this review and he and the folks at Camellia Cellars are to be thanked for providing this bottle at no cost to me for this review. (That's the disclosure part, folks.)

So, for Wine Blogging Wednesday #60, the 5th anniversary of WBW (read more about WBW for some cool info and how it works!) hostess, @sonadora (for those of you on twitter...if not, you can read her blog here) set down the rules as essentially this:

1) It's Zin. So pick one.

2) Grill something and eat it.
2.1) The George Foreman grill isn't really a grill, but we'll let it slide
2.2) The saute pan is definitely not a grill, but it's all about the wine, so what the hell, go for it.

OK. Since we DO have a grill, and it was a beautiful day in lovely HMB, CA today, we're grillin' baby!

On the menu:

Heirloom Tomato Salad
w/ avocado and grilled sweet corn

Grilled Moroccan Spiced Chicken
w/ smokey Spanish lentils and grilled veg

The 2006 Camellia Cellars Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Lencioni Vineyards Zinfandel (ouch, fingers tired)

OK, so we cooked it all up and had a great time...(video posted soon, so check back shortly).

Now for the wine and food:

The Zin, upon opening, was quite welcoming with a nice, aromatic bark and tobacco nose coupled with peppery blueberries. I enjoyed that this was NOT a fruit bomb from my first whiff. Nice. After aerating a bit, the first sip was delicious. The nose brings a balanced spiciness to bear and the decreasing mouthfeel was not over-anxious to go away quickly, but just at the right time. With the sweetness of the tomatoes and the acidity of the vinegar in the dressing, the substantial, but not overpowering fruitiness of raspberry and boysenberry notes lent to a pleasant support of the clean tasting, fresh and luscious tomatoes.

Next, the chicken, with a fair bit of Moroccan spices was quite aggressive. Straight off the grill, the complement of the grilled vegetables and the smoky lentils was a very forward flavorful and challenging match to work with. This Zin did it with flying colors!

When spicy was up front from the chicken or lentils, the fruit flowed straight to the palate and when the clean veggie taste was asking for a partner, the spiciness of the grape lent a hand and turned simple to sublime.

Kismet. That's what I say. I couldn't have picked a better match for aggressively spicy chicken if I tried.

Again, my thanks to Fred and the Camellia Cellars folks for doing a great job and sharing a bottle of their craft with us.

2006 Camellia Cellars Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Lencioni Vineyards Zinfandel
Retail: $22
Grade: B+

03 August, 2009

2007 Domaine Chandon Carneros Pinot Meunier (Best of WBC09 Pick)

Sometimes, you just get hit in the face with something that's not expected. It's often a product of kismet, chance, good (or bad) fortune and if you're livin' right, then more often than not, it's a welcome gift.

The "$20 Dollar Wine Guy" was fortunate enough to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 in Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Saturday was an excursion to Napa Valley and tasting/touring day and while this was very enjoyable, there are two things that Napa is well known for:

1. Cabernet Sauvignon
2. $100/btl Cabernet Sauvignon

Accordingly, we did enjoy the "scene" that is a grand tasting that afternoon and it was absolutely an enjoyable event. All in all, amongst a great deal of "noise" of wine tasting, that is, MANY (the vast majority at this Napa Valley tasting) wines that are not in the "about $20 price point", there were some gems.

While very excited and grateful for the day, the bounty and for newly made friends, I was not that impressed with most of the wines. When hearing that dinner would be at Domaine Chandon, I was looking forward to some excellent champers (well, not really, but sparklers conveys a completely different image and we're not going there) but I was guessing my quest for wine that day was complete.

Patience, Patience.

After several courses at Etoile, the Chandon restaurant, dessert was served. A nicely done Valrhona chocolate pate.....and served with it was the Domaine Chandon 2007 Carneros Pinot Meunier.

Hmmm. Great red wine at the Castle of the Bubble?

Yes, P. Meunier at Chandon.... and with dessert. An interesting choice for this "Queen of the Ball" selection. She's extremely feminine, delicate in mouthfeel with a dusty ruby hue. Her nose of fresh framboise and roses leads to a very round mid-palate that bathes the mouth in all things good: lavender, red cherries, black plums, and the evenly-metered, earthy "terroired" finish bids her farewell gently, but enough to remind you that you'll miss her...until the next sip.

P. Meunier is widely used by bubbly makers as a blending grape to add balance and mellowness to similar familied, but different tasting grapes. An example of this is Blanc de Noir. Though it was not in the past, it's now planted outside of the Champagne region and is quite the finicky varietal to grow. It's a bit more high-maintenance than it's cousin P. Noir but if you respect it in growth and harvest and in winemaking, master it, as Chandon's still (as opposed to sparkling) winemaker Jim Kress has done here, a beautiful bottle emerges.

Aged on French and American oak barrels, 5100 cases were produced and it should be widely available.

I enjoyed the wine with dessert, but as I've mentioned, I'd be more interested in trying this with a white meat such as pork with a fruit sauce....perhaps a pomegranate/blood orange reduction. Also, anything off the grill will complement the smoky undertones here.

I often don't get all this excited about a bottle, but I really would like you to enjoy a bottle..and I'd love to hear your feedback about the "Queen of the Ball"

2007 Domaine Chandon Carneros Pinot Meunier
Retail: ~$28
Grade: A