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¡Que Rico!—Wondrous Wines at Second Annual Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS) Grand Tasting

By: James Melendez The second annual Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society Grand Tasting took place Sunday, June 14, 2009 at Ft. Mason, San Francisco. TAPAS’s focus is American grown Iberian varietals and the 40 producers pouring wines from California, Arizona and Oregon. The Ft. Mason Conference Center is much smaller than the exhibition halls and I would expect that this event will grow to a bigger space next year. The center was packed with many people who appreciate Iberian wines produced in the United States. I was not sure what to expect at this tasting other than an Iberian homage and I can tell you that wines that were presented were much better than expected—fantastic quality, wondrous artistry. I do think TAPAS Grand Tasting highlighting how Iberian varietals can be grown in the U.S. and have both an homage to the Iberian peninsula and also infused with characteristics from the respective U.S. appellations.

U.S. wines, and in particular wine from California, is the land where nearly all varietals are not only possible but come with great promise and often with great delivery. The interest in Spanish and Portuguese wines, in addition to other worldly varietals, has made California diversify its vineyards to accommodate the more experiential and demanding palate. The tasting allowed the winemakers to showcase their grapes and emphasize how some old world and new world techniques produce complex wines that speak an Iberian dialect and thus promise wines of originality and excitement. I walked away pleased and my imagination soared on what was possible in Iberian varietals and their rightful place being grown across the pond. The question for future vintages in the next TAPAS showcase kept repeating: What exciting wines are yet to come?

Stay tuned for my wine reviews from this TAPAS Grand Tasting.


The 2009 Passport to Cabernet in San Francisco

By: James Melendez  There are times when California Cabernet Sauvignon is either taken for granted, thought of as over-rated, or perhaps even mediocre because there are more emerging or interesting wines from a continent away. California’s landmark touch on Cabernet is that it is known for releases that are either 100% Cabernet Sauvignon or nearly so; after all, Bordeaux still thinks of Cabernet Sauvignon as just a blending grape. The California expression of Cabernet Sauvignon is a course and lesson on what this wondrous grape does in diverse climates and micro climates. 

The Passport to Cabernet tasting was held on May 4, 2009 in San Francisco. This was a perfect place to reacquaint my palate with some dynamic and diverse wines from Napa—from the valley floor to the wine country highlands and to other venerable California wine locales. The diversity of wine making styles that produce one kind of Cabernet Sauvignon is markedly different from the next. The nearly common characteristics are bold and beautiful, supple and stunning. This event affirmed for me the evocation of a rich, well-made Cabernet Sauvignon. The good and the bad is that when we have good Cabernet Sauvignon we sometimes forget it once we have a mediocre experience. And mediocre should not be the standard bearer for California Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead, we should think the reverse: there is plenty of good California Cabernet Sauvignon waiting to be discovered, and it is a quest that keeps us searching again and again for excellent and nearly perfect wines. 

Here are few highlights from this tasting:

O-Shaugnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – 2005 – 92
Sojourn Mountain Terraces Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 92
Star Lane Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 2005 – 91
Frias Family Vineyard Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon – 2005 – 90
Piña Napa Valley D’Adamo Cabernet Sauvignon – 2006 – 90 • Sequum Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 2005 – 90


Taste of Mendocino in San Francisco...

 A fine crowd attended this media and trade event held at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio. Off the Vine enjoyed a wonderful afternoon tasting of wines produced in Mendocino’s eleven AVAs

Some of the wineries that really stood out were Londer, Skylark, Radio-Coteau, Macphail, Lioco, and Drew Family Wines. Scores ranged from 87 to 91 points. Most of the wines were new releases from the 2006 and 2007 vintages. Selected wines of merit are listed in our tasting notes by varietal. 

Here are just a few of the highest scored…
2007 Radio-Coteau Pinot Noir - Savoy Vineyard - $48 - (90 points)
2007 Drew Family Wines - Pinot Noir - Fog Eater - $42 - (89 points)
2007 Macphail Pinot Noir -  Farrington Vineyard - $60 - (91 points)
2007 Londer Vineyards Chardonnay “Kent Ritche” - $54 (91 points)

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