15 May, 2008

I’ve got a ‘custom crush’ on you

Let me make one thing clear: there is plenty of wine in the world. There is not a day that goes by where we are not approached by a winery looking for new distribution. Wine Warehouse is fortunate that through our volume of sales we tend to be a magnate for new producers coming into the market. A former distributor of mine is in charge of giving Australian wineries without US distribution leads into the market. Charlie called me up and asked if I could meet with a winery that I was unfamiliar with. It turns out that the Rocland winery has an amazing although somewhat stealth track record with wine production.

Rocland is best known as a custom crush facility. A custom crush winery has all of the tools necessary to produce wine and will fine tune the process to the needs of their customers. A few of the custom crush wines that Rocland has produced recently are the highly reviewed ‘Layer Cake’ and ‘Boarding Pass.’ Rocland is located in the heart of winemaking country in the prestigious Barossa Valley. This location sets up nicely for taking in and producing wines from premium South Australian grapes.

Franc Rocca is the man in charge and the brains behind the launch in the US. Franc originally came from the cut flowers business but is busy making a name for himself with his wines. Franc’s Reserve wines are marketed under the Rocland label whereas his branded wine will be using a ‘Kilroy was here’ label. The Kilroy name refers to the US military habit of scrawling "Kilroy was here" graffiti wherever they travelled and, according to Franc, is ‘all about making your mark in the world.’ The pictures used on the label are old pictures showing Franc’s family and a sizeable amount of money was spent to come up with concept. The Kilroy label was designed by the same lady who designed the ten million case ‘Yellow Tail’ brand. She now commands quite a premium for her label designs.

Peter Gajewski, nicknamed ‘Juicy’ is Rocland’s new Chief Winemaker. Peter has nearly 30 years experience in the wine industry and is happy to be able to return to the Barossa Valley where his career originally started. Peter had previously spent 24 years with Penfolds and is now looking forward to ‘making a whole heap of iconic Barossa wines’. “I am looking forward to working with other people’s product and help make the best wine for small to medium wineries.” It will be a new chapter for Peter when it comes to working with other people’s fruit, yet he is looking forward to the customer focus. “Obviously the Barossa is well known for consistent, quality fruit that is very user friendly. “They are so versatile and well renowned.”

On to the Kilroy wines…………………they will be available in the shops next week

The Kilroy wines are produced from grapes harvested from selected premium vineyards of the North-Western Barossa Valley. This premium region has consistently low yields which result in full and rich grapes that are beautifully balanced. Extreme care is taken to ensure the fruit is harvested once it has reached its full flavor potential.

The Cabernet grapes were gently crushed in open fermenters, where it was drained from the skins daily and returned, to extract the full, rich generous flavors. Care is taken ensuring strict temperature regimes were met resulting in the maintenance of the fruits structure. Slow even pressing occurs after 7 to 10 days allowing a lovely, silky tannin structure that supports a balanced oak profile.

Maturation for 22 months in temperature controlled cellars allowed the wine to be bottled once reaching its full flavor and will develop well into the future. Whereas Australia may be known for its Shiraz, this Cabernet Sauvignon will make a believer out of you.

This Cabernet displays dark crimson, vibrant red and purple hues. Blackcurrant aromas with subtle minty notes that are typical of Cabernet Sauvignon. Nice weight on the entry, this Cab bursts with Cassis and deep blue fruits on the palate. The oak is nicely integrated which leads to a smooth and silky finish.

Kilroy was here ‘Barossa’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Retail $23.99 Warehouse $18.99

Kilroy Shiraz was also harvested from selected high-quality vineyards in the North-Western Barossa Valley. The Shiraz grapes were gently crushed in open fermenters, where they were drained from the skins daily and returned, extracting the full, rich generous flavors now present. Temperature contol was employed; slow and even pressing occurred after 7 to 10 days allowing a lovely, silky tannin structure to support a balanced oak profile. 22 months of barrel maturation was utilized for a complex and ready to enjoy offering.

This Shiraz is better balanced than the Boarding Pass and has received a 5* rating in Winestate from Australia. This is the best possible rating from the Aussie’s best wine magazine.

Inviting and enticing. It needs an old armchair, a fire and a good book,’ suggested one judge. Lovely spicy blackberry fruit and excellent vanillin oak, with some complexity developing. ***** Winestate Magazine

‘Kilroy Was here, is an early drinking but still flavor-packed, robust red.’ 92points Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald

Kilroy was here ‘Barossa’ Shiraz 2006, Retail $23.99 Warehouse $18.99

Kilroy Sparkling Shiraz was harvested from selected high-quality vineyards in the North-Western Barossa Valley. This region produces consistently low yielding vines resulting in intense and complex fruit that is full of flavor.

The Shiraz base wine for the sparkling is softened by yeast lees stirring for six months in French and American hogsheads resulting in a rich creamy mid palate. The residual sugar is lifted to enhance the fine tannin and oak balance. The wine is drinking wonderfully now, but will continue to gain complexity well into the future.

The color shines a bright cardinal cherry red. The aroma seems to display rich chocolate strawberries with a hint of vanilla from the oaking. The palate has a creamy entry and a chocolaty-fraises du bois character. This is by far the best sparkling Shiraz that I have ever had and one of a few that I have understood. Tasty! Fantastic as an aperitif and great with a chocolate dessert. Fun stuff!

Kilroy was Here ‘Barossa’ Sparkling Shiraz 2006, Retail $26.99 Warehouse $21.99

The Lot 147 vineyard is located on Rocland’s estate, situated on the Sturt Highway in the famous Barossa Valley. This rugged vineyard site just slightly northwest on the Barossa Valley floor displays all the hallmarks of fine traditional Barossa Valley Shiraz.

The Lot 147 Shiraz was crushed into open fermenters. Fermentation lasted for 10 days, during this time the juice was roughly racked off skins and returned. Careful attention was taken to the monitoring of the wine during this process. The wine was then gently pressed and racked into barrel to complete malolactic fermentation. Further rackings were conducted to ensure full integration of oak and tannin.

The wine was matured in barrels for 22 months in temperature controlled cellars allowing the wine to integrate to the beautiful beast that it is.

"Subdued, brooding, inky nose with a rich, ripe, licorice/plum palate. Great flavor concentration and length. Smart oak. Will open up in time and should age very gracefully. ****1/2 Winestate Magazine

The '06 Rocland Estate Lot 147 Shiraz is a statuesque red in big, bold but well-made modern Barossa style: very good. 94 points Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald

Rocland ‘Barossa’ Lot 147 Shiraz 2006
, Retail $29.99 Warehouse $24.99

"Kilroy was here" graffiti is all about making your mark in the world…….this is exactly what Rocland Estate is doing.

07 May, 2008

Look.....it's the Southern Eclipse

The long awaited shipment of Southern Eclipse is here and in the stores. These are wines from winemaker Michelle Richardson. Michelle Richardson’s degree is in Microbiology. After working as a flying winemaker, Michelle joined the Villa Maria Winery in 1992 and quickly progressed to become Villa Maria’s Auckland Winemaker in 1994. Her talent and experience helped her achieve an enormous responsibility by winning the job of chief winemaker for the entire Villa Maria group. Villa Maria is the largest independently owned wine group in New Zealand. After leaving Villa for a brief stint at Peregrine Wines in Central Otago, Michelle decided to venture out on her own.

Michelle’s achievements include being named Winemaker of the Show at the New Zealand Wine Society Royal Easter Show in 1997, 1998 and 2000, and she gained the title of ‘New Zealand Winemaker of the Year’ at the Australian Winestate Awards in 1998, 1999 and 2000.There is a string that runs through her wines, they all have a purity of expression, possess a sense of place with persistent, complex and long flavors in the mouth.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days with her in 06. Michelle made a comment that really stood out to me that she did not wish to make automated wines. Michelle prefers to touch the grapes as they come in, feel the texture of the grape must and be in contact with the wine from its initial stage of fermentation through its final state before bottling. When you try these wines you will see what she means. The wines all have a beautiful texture and serious flavors that bring one back for the next sip."The foundation of my winemaking career has been making wines from various vineyards sites here and overseas. This gave me a first hand insight to how important it is to choose the right variety to that particular region and vineyard site. When it came to making wine under my own brand I wanted to make the best I could from the region I thought the variety suited. I could have chosen one region and made the wines that best suited that area but I love too many varieties and they don't all like growing in the same place.” Michelle Richardson

Wine Warehouse has just received two releases from Michelle from the 2006 vintage. ‘2006 saw uncannily good weather as this years harvest progressed with amazingly good grace. It allowed me to get to my various vineyards around the country without any difficulties and make decisions at a leisurely pace. However, I am used to making quick assessments under pressure and relying on a gut feeling. The extra time to think initially caused me to second guess my judgments. It was an interesting observation and I decided early on that I needed to stick to my first decision. I factored in this extra 'mind time' by getting out and doing more hand-plunging of my various Pinot Noir ferments, a very physical but also a very meditative activity - a slight disclaimer is necessary - these ferments were a very manageable 3 ton size.’ Michelle Richardson

The wine is an exciting new project called Southern Eclipse. Southern Eclipse wines are created from grapes governed by the southern skies. Under an ever-changing moon and NZ’s four constant Southern Cross stars, this wine captures the essence from the land of New Zealand. The initial Southern Eclipse release was the 2006 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Michelle did a custom crush for Wine Warehouse from a different vineyard than the one who supplies the grapes for her Richardson ‘Marlborough’ Sauvignon Blanc.

This cuvee is cool-fermented exclusively in stainless steel for primary fruit expression on both the bouquet and on the palate.Southern Eclipse SB shows fresh tropical fruit aromas with green apple, gooseberry and grapefruit with a hint of passion fruit flavors on the palate. There is a nice crisp zing to the finish. This is an extremely refreshing wine that is here just in time as we head towards our summer weather. This wine is Marlborough meeting Sancerre, not running over it.

Southern Eclipse Sauvignon Blanc ‘Marlborough’ 2006, Retail $17.99 Warehouse $12.99

With Pinot Noir being one of the hottest categories in our stores, we felt that a Southern Eclipse Pinot was a must. New Zealand Pinot Noir from the south island and in this case Marlborough most resembles a fine example from Oregon. Texturally this wine lies somewhere between Burgundy and California as there is more overt raspberry scented fruit than one typically finds in Burgundy’s Pinot Noirs. We are very happy with the Southern Eclipse Pinot Noir. As usual these wines were shipped on a refrigerated container to maintain its character and freshness.

The Pinot Noir was hand picked, hand plunged and naturally fermented in open-top vats. The wine spent 10 months in French oak barrels. The wine has a soft raspberry and flowery bouquet which leads to a seamless black raspberry flavor with a hint of tasty new French oak. The finish is long and silky. This is a beautiful wine that can benefit from twenty minutes in the fridge before pouring.

Southern Eclipse Pinot Noir ‘Marlborough’ 2006, Retail $24.99 Warehouse $19.99

09 April, 2008

Saint Joseph from a classic year

Not just a biblical figure or a name for baby aspirin, Saint Joseph the French Rhône appellation stretching out from the hills of Hermitage in the Northern Rhone. Saint Joseph is a relatively new appellation that was founded in 1956 extending from Condrieu in the north to Valence in the south, comprising some 2500 acres. Approximately 90% of the production is red wine produced exclusively from the Syrah grape. The 10% which is white is produced from Marsanne and occasionally Roussanne grapes.

The wines of St Joseph tend to be faster maturing than their northern Rhône neighbors, the soils are similiar where on the best sites granite predominates, the difference lies in St-Joseph’s east-facing vineyards losing the sun up to two hours earlier during the later stages of ripening. Red Saint Joseph can be a delightful expression of Syrah fruit, one that has all of the flavors of a classic Syrah wines from the Rhone and is one of the most approachable northern Rhône reds to taste young.

In 2005, both the Northern Rhône enjoyed a superb harvest. The region's top domaines produced cellar-worthy reds and ripe, concentrated whites. 2005 is also the most consistent vintage the Rhône has seen since 1990, with all the major appellations and grape varieties performing well. Many producers with less prestigious pedigrees made their best wines in recent history, highlighting the excellence of the 2005 vintage. From top to bottom, 2005 is a vintage for seasoned Rhône lovers to stock up on. They are definitely great wines, but the best will need some cellaring.

Due to increasing demand worldwide for the wines of the Rhône and the lowly status of our dollar, these wines are generally becoming less of a value yet we own a few at good prices. In 2005, the Northern Rhône is at the top of its game, producing dense, structured Syrahs. The vintage is a welcome return to form following the generally leaner, crisper profile of the 2004s, though the previous vintage did produce some excellent reds and gorgeous whites. The 2005 reds display layers of black currant, fig and raspberry fruit to go along with the dark olive, leather and game notes that are pulled from their unique vineyard sites. The 2005 Northern Rhône's white wines display an abundance of distinctively exotic flavors and ripe textures. The '05 whites may not be as flashy as the aromatic and seductive '04s were, but instead offer one a more compact and reserved profile that is indicative of the vintage.

Wine Warehouse currently is featuring the 2005’s of Philippe Faury. Faury’s Saint Joseph wines are classically styled and offer a mouthful of flavor for the money.

In the town of Chavanay, Philippe Faury took over his family’s business in 1979. At the time Faury’s domaine was comprised of only 6 acres of vineyard. Phillipe has been able to grow the property to 27 acres. The new vineyards were planted in rugged terrain where the vines are difficult to cultivate.

Faury Saint Joseph red is produced from 100% Syrah grapes grown on vines that are between 5-50 years of age that are grown on granitic soils. Spicy raspberry and pepper aromas lead one to earthy, refined black cherry, leather, orange peel and vanilla on the palate. This is a shining example of Northern Rhône Syrah from a spectacular vintage.

Phillipe Faury Saint Joseph Rouge 2005, Retail $29.99 Warehouse $24.99

Faury Saint Joseph white is produced from 80% Marsanne and 20% Roussanne grapes whose vines are between 5-15 years of age grown on granite based soils. Beautiful pear, lanolin and vanillin aromas jump from the glass, the palate has a seductive minerally and oily texture that leads to flavors of pear, honeysuckle and a well balanced toasty oak finish.

Philippe Faury Saint Joseph Blanc 2005, Retail $29.99 Warehouse $24.99

11 March, 2008

Bruce Neyers; Kermit’s selling machine produces some of the finest wines in Napa…

For years, the Wine Warehouse’s French shelves have been dominated by the wines that sport a Kermit Lynch logo on their back label. This phenomenon is due largely in part to the quality of the wines and equally because of the selling machine known as Bruce Neyers who is Kermit Lynch’s National Sales Manager. Behind his daily grind, Bruce works his magic on some of the finest wines produced in the Napa Valley.

Founded in 1992 by Bruce and Barbara Neyers and now with their winemaking partner, Ehren Jordan, Neyers Vineyards produces about 15,000 cases of wine annually. Approximately 25% of the production is Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on their 50-acre Conn Valley ranch. Neyers purchases additional grapes from a select group of high-tier growers, among them the Sangiacomo family of Sonoma County, Will Nord of Napa, Cam Thieriot of Sonoma Coast, Lee Hudson of Carneros, Rich Pato of Oakley in Contra Costa, and the Tofanelli family of Calistoga.

Winemaker Ehren Jordan, returned to the Napa Valley in 1994 following a two-year stint in the Northern Rhone town of Cornas. Ehren worked for Jean-Luc Columbo, one of the most respected winemakers in Europe. Ehren’s training with Columbo not only expanded his technical knowledge of winemaking, but more importantly served to enlarge his scope of the craft, giving him a deeper respect for the role of grape growing and its importance in the production of fine wine. Most of Kermit’s producers farm organically, make their wines naturally which is without use of cultured yeast or laboratory designed malo-lactic bacteria. These traditional wineries are also comfortable bottling their wines without filtration.

The wines……..

Before working with Kermit Lynch, Bruce was the National Sales Manager for the Joseph Phelps Winery. As Phelps was and is known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Bruce planned from the beginning for Neyers Vineyards to grow world class Cabernet Sauvignon. Bruce and Barbara Neyers spent a few years looking at Napa Valley vineyard property and in 1984 they found the property. The vineyards sit at 250 feet above the main Napa Valley floor, with some parcels rising to almost 900 feet. The vineyard is planted on hillsides with the slope facing due south, maximizing exposure to the sun and guaranteeing proper ripeness. Conn Creek bisects the slope, so there's ample water for the site. The soil is rocky, with a near-ideal combination of gravel and clay; the vines struggle to grow here which Bruce theorizes, enhances the flavors. In 2004 the vineyard yielded barely 20 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon from almost 12 acres of vines, less than 2 tons/acre. 950 cases produced.

'The well-made, richly fruity 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Neyers Ranch exhibits loads of herb-tinged, smoky, berry fruit intermixed with black currants and cherries. This medium-bodied, well-made Cabernet is best consumed over the next decade.' 88 points Wine Advocate

Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Neyers Ranch’ Conn Valley 2004, Retail $44.99 Warehouse $39.99

Neyers began to develop the vineyards on their 45-acre home ranch in 1984, soon after they bought the property. In 1999, they converted the farm entirely to organics. Since then, they feel that each vintage harvested seems to yield darker and more flavorful grapes. Neyers Merlot is always a blend with the 05 being comprised of 75% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc. 3000 cases produced.

'The 2005 Merlot Neyers Ranch exhibits aromas and flavors of red currants, cranberries, mocha, and herbs in its medium-bodied, zesty, French-like profile. Consume it during its first 5-7 years of life.' 87-88 points Wine Advocate

Neyers Merlot ‘Neyers Ranch’ Conn Valley 2005, Retail $34.99 Warehouse $29.99

The Sangiacomo Family developed this vineyard in the mid-1990's, using budwood from the three primary red wine vineyards in the northern Rhóne: Cornas, Hermitage and Cóte-Rótie. The 12-acre parcel was divided into three blocks, and each is harvested and fermented separately. The vineyard is located in what is proving to be one of the most favorable spots for Syrah in California. This is the third bottling of wine from the Old Lakeville Road vines, with each being regarded as one of the most highly rated cuvees of California-produced Syrah from its particular vintage. 1190 cases produced.

'The 2006 Syrah Old Lakeville is deep ruby/purple, offering hints of charcoal, blackberry, raspberry, and cherry notes. It has impressive ripeness and density, richness, and more tannin and structure than the Hudson Vineyard. This particular cuvee will benefit from 1-2 years of cellaring and should last for up to a decade.' 90 points Wine Advocate

'Ripe and grapey, with rich, elegant spice, pepper and juicy, dusty, wild berry flavors that are sleek and focused, ending with a long, persistent finish. Drink now through 2012.' 93 points, The Wine Spectator.

Neyers Syrah ‘Old Lakeville Road’ 2006, Retail $29.99 Warehouse $24.99

Bruce doesn’t know of a Zinfandel vineyard in Napa Valley that is grown at any higher altitude than this one. These low yielding, hillside vines in the Chiles Valley are grown at an elevation of more than 1800 feet. The rocky, shallow soil ensures that the fruit is packed full of generous, spicy flavors with the 2006 yielding barely two tons per acre. This Zin is already exhibiting an attractive precociousness. 1064 cases produced.

'The 2006 Zinfandel from High Valley (1,800-foot elevation) is my pick of this group, as it was in the previous vintage. Deep, beautiful briery fruit intermixed with black cherry, pepper, and earth jumps from the glass of this wine, which has beautiful density, good acidity, and a nice, powerful finish that combines purity and elegance. Drink it over the next 3-4 years.' 91 points Wine Advocate

Neyers Zinfandel High Valley 2006, Retail $34.99 Warehouse $24.99

Bruce’s love affair with Domaine Tempier of Bandol (Provence) and their Mourvédre began in the late 1970's when Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame arranged for him to visit as a guest of the owners. Bruce was thoroughly impressed. Thus, Bruce found it impossible to turn down Rich Pato's offer of the small crop of Mourvédre from the 100 year-old vines on his Oakley ranch as they became available in 2006. Mourvédre itself is a variety that resists oxidation, making it frequently one of the longest-lived of all red wines. It's uniquely expressive as well, combining elements of fruit, mineral, earth and leather into a package that can be greater than the sum of its parts. We at the Wine Warehouse tasted this Mourvedre with Bruce last year and our managers insisted on us bringing it in. This Mourvedre was the hit of the Neyers tasting. 353 cases produced.

'The 2006 Mourvedre Pato Vineyard is relatively stylish for a wine that can often be rustic and animal. The wine displays civilized blueberry and raspberry fruit with earth and spice. It is well-made, medium to full-bodied, with excellent ripeness and sweet tannin. Drink it over the next 5-6 years.' 90 points Wine Advocate

Neyers Mourvedre ‘Pato Vineyard’ 2006, Retail $44.99 Warehouse $29.99

As Neyers Chardonnay’s go……………..

‘I thought this was the strongest line-up of wines Neyers has yet produced, although last year the wines were nearly as good, so he seems to be on a roll. He has produced a very strong group of Chardonnays from a vintage that one has to be somewhat careful with given the problems with botrytis in many of the lower-lying vineyards. These are all pure, clean examples of Chardonnay.’ Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate

Grapes were harvested over the last week of September through the third week of October from the Sangiacomo Kiser, El Novillero and Yamakawa vineyards in Sonoma Carneros, and from the Clos Pegase Vineyard in Napa Valley Carneros. The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and the juice racked without settling to a combination of new, once, and twice used French oak barrels for a completely natural sugar and malo-lactic fermentation lasting two to five months. The must was aged in barrel seven months until bottling in July of 07. Neither fining agents nor yeast foods or other additives were used throughout the process, and the wine was lightly filtered at the time of bottling. The length of the growing season of 2006 was exaggerated, lasting well into mid-Autumn, almost a month longer than was experienced in 2005, increasing the richness and flavor of the wines, and insuring that the grapes ripen fully. 4400 cases produced.

'The 2006 Chardonnay Carneros has a nice, smoky nose of hazelnuts, honeyed citrus, and a touch of tropical fruits in a medium to full-bodied wine with, again, great fruit purity, richness, and zesty underlying acidity.' 90 points Wine Advocate

Neyers Chardonnay ‘Carneros’ 2006, Retail $29.99 Warehouse $23.99

Grapes for this wine were harvested in late September from its vineyard in Yountville, then whole cluster pressed, racked to 60 gallon French oak barrels for a natural, indigenous yeast fermentation that lasted almost six months during which the yeast lees were stirred weekly; racked just once in mid-July prior to bottling with no fining or additives used in the processing. The wine was lightly filtered at the time of bottling. In 2006 the Yountville vineyard endured a much smaller than normal crop -- 50% of the original estimate was lost during flowering -- so the fruit that was harvested was loaded with ripe flavors. The vineyard is planted on a shallow soil outcropping, which keeps the natural nitrogen level low, and extends the length of time of the fermentation. This makes for a unique combination of aromas and flavors, a wine more mineral and earthy, with fruit components less tropical than those found in the Carneros. 2700 cases produced.

'The 2006 Chardonnay Napa reveals many tropical fruits, plenty of orange and nectarine notes, medium to full body, and loads of pure fruit in a sexy, sensual style of Chardonnay to drink over the next 1-2 years.' 89 points The Wine Advocate

Neyers Chardonnay ‘Napa’ 2006, Retail $29.99 Warehouse $23.99

In his new book, The Science of Wine, British writer Jamie Goode interviews the controversial Loire Valley winemaker and biodynamic guru Nicolas Joly about the longstanding practice of fermenting wine by adding a laboratory cultured yeast strain. Joly remarks: "Adding yeast is absurd. Natural yeast is marked by the subtleties of the year. If you have added yeast, you have lost something of that year. Joly's approach to the use of indigenous yeast is an important element in traditional winemaking in France, and it's the same approach practiced at Neyers Vineyards with Chardonnay. Indigeous yeasts extend the fermentation time, thus adding an element of risk to the process, but the outcome can't be duplicated with laboratory-designed yeast. There is a richer mouth-feel component as longer fermentations tend to add a bit of glycerol richness to the wine and more complex flavors on the palate. Bruce feels that there is a buttery richness and a spicy mineral-like complexity that make up the key components in this wine. The vines originate from a vineyard which is located southwest of the town of Sonoma in the hills overlooking San Francisco Bay. Neyers produced 548 cases of El Novillero Chardonnay in 2006.

'Leesy (suspended yeast cells) complexity is noticeable in the 2006 Chardonnay El Novillero Vineyard. This wine exhibits good acidity and much more minerality, with hints of pineapple, buttered citrus, brioche, and waxy notes. The wine is a superb Chardonnay, pure, medium to full-bodied, and I suspect capable of lasting 3-4 years.' 92 points Wine Advocate

Neyers Chardonnay ‘El Novillero’ 2006, Retail $41.99 Warehouse $34.99

We will soon have a few other Neyers offerings within the next month. Be on the lookout for the Syrah Cuvee D’Honneur 05 and the Chardonnay Theriot 06.

05 March, 2008

Virtual wine heads, unite!

There was a time in the wine world where a wine without a winery had no identity. Enter the age of the virtual winery. In the UK, the virtual wine has had a life for some time now. Buyers own brands or ‘BOB’s rule the day for the major supermarket chains in the UK. The US always seem to be around five years behind the UK in anything wine related and in this case it might be even longer. This phenomenon is changing as today anyone in the US with a cool label and some good juice has a chance to make it in the marketplace. All it takes is for a wine to show value for money and for the winery to have the proper connections to take the wine to market. The two wine labels that we will look at today have all of the above. Toasted Head is a brand that has been around for a little over a decade. The other wine that we will look at is Plungerhead. This label is the new hot brands of Don Sebastiani and his new company. Don had previously run his family's Sebastiani Winery.

Toasted Head was the brainchild of the innovative marketing team at the RH Phillips Winery. The ‘toasted head’ is a wine reference to toasting the heads of the barrel to give more intense smoky characters to the wine that will be kept in the barrel. Typically only the side staves are toasted in a barrel as this is the process to give the wood the ability to bend and form a barrel. Toasting the heads gives even more smoky character to the wine. Before the ‘Toasted Head’ brand was formed I knew a group of guys in Napa who called their rock band the ‘Toasted Heads.’ As the world’s largest wine company Constellation now owns the Toasted Head brand, it may have been financially advantageous for the Toasted Heads to have registered the name. Toasted Head is now in the stable of wine giant Constellation. Constellation is the largest wine company on the planet and gobble up brands like it is nothing. Toasted Head was sold by RH Phillips to Vincor of Canada before it was then consumed by Constellation.

The Chardonnay was the initial wine under the Toasted Head label. Bright fruit flavors with toasty oak components are its hallmark. Aromas and flavors include tangerine and pear fruit aromas highlighted by clove and nutmeg in this mouth-watering. This medium-bodied wine is aged in French and American oak, has a crisp acidity, a creamy texture and a long finish, with pear and toasty butterscotch oak flavors.

Toasted Head Chardonnay California, Retail $13.99 Warehouse $9.79

The Toasted Head Merlot is a worthy companion to the Chardonnay. Toasted Head Merlot’s multi-dimensional aromas of toast, anise, red berries, and leather lead to a bright raspberry and rich black cherry flavors on the palate that linger on the finish. A spicy mid-palate and a toasty vanilla finish complete the experience.

Toasted Head Merlot California, Retail $13.99 Warehouse $10.99


There is ‘traditional’ and then there are ‘The Other Guys.’ Plungerhead was made by The Other Guys, a division of Don Sebastiani & Sons. Don and his sons Donny and August, third and fourth generations negociants, are recognized for delivering quality, value and doing things differently. Richard Bruno, Director of Winemaking, and his team select small lots of grapes from choice appellations to create balanced, expressive wines and creative blends. Plungerhead makes Zinfandel from selected prime vineyards in California. Plungerhead is one of a number of successful wines in the Don Sebastiani and Sons umbrella who now sell an impressive two million cases a year. Serious stuff!

Don Sebastiani & Sons mantra is to strive to produce quality wine at an approachable price, regardless of the outcome of a particular growing season.
Don Sebastiani states his philosophy: “When my great-grandfather, Samuele, first started in the wine industry more than 100 years ago, he made bulk wines and concentrate. My grandfather, August, focused on wholesale bulk wines and generic retail jug wines, and my father emphasized varietal wines. As fourth-generation Sebastianis, my brother and I want to direct our attention to making appellation-specific wines. Plungerhead is a perfect example.” Don Sebastiani continues to be at the top of his game. Other successful brands of his that we are working with are Talus, Smoking Loon, Aquinas and Hey Mambo.

Not only do the folks at ‘The Other Guys’ marketing make fun wines, but they believe in packaging innovations as well. Plungerhead is stoppered by a revolutionary wine bottle closure that combines the convenience and safety of a screw cap and the celebration of cork. ZORK is, easy to remove by hand, simple to reseal and is completely recyclable. To open the ZORK, one simply pulls the tear tab, unwinds it and removes it. As the ZORK is pulled out, you'll hear it pop. To reseal the bottle, the ZORK is pushed back in. No corkscrew. No crumbling. No cork taint. No worries. The ZORK covered Plungerhead is built for speed and convenience. Brilliant!

The Plungerhead ‘old vine’ Lodi Zinfandel has deep purple color with cocoa, vanilla, clove, and cherry pie aromas. Rich and sappy in the mouth with flavors of boysenberry preserves, cedar, dried raspberry, and coconut spice finishing with great depth from barrel oak aging. This is a Zin that has beautiful depth and richness and unlike many others, has a fine balance of fruit flavor and strength.

Plungerhead ‘old vine’ Lodi Zinfandel, Retail $16.99 Warehouse $12.99

Virtually signing off………….or am I?