Alpha Omega Chardonnay Napa Valley 2013

Alpha Omega Chardonnay Napa Valley 2013

I am so excited to try this wine and share it with you!

I first discovered it at a dinner party at the home of our next-door neighbors, frequent visitors to Napa Valley.

When I first tasted it, I immediately fell in love with this wine. Full of flavor and aroma, this wine has the characteristics I’m looking for in a chardonnay.

Being the good friends that our neighbors are, they gave us a bottle for Christmas. It’s hard for me to believe that I could leave it in the basement this long.

The color is straw yellow, bright and shiny. The nose displays pronounced aromas of lightly toasted vanilla, caramel and crème brulee. In fact, it’s so full of aroma I almost want to just smell this wine instead of drink it. But it’s too delicious not to drink!  

The bouquet in the nose transitions into a mouthful of flavor, making this wine a pleasure to drink from start to finish. Sometimes a wine will have a delightful bouquet but the taste is not that terrific. Other times, a wine won’t have much of an aroma in the nose but the wine tastes delicious. The Alpha Omega has both.

This is a complex wine with layers of apple, pear in the flavor and butterscotch in the finish. It has a zippy or zesty finish due to the acidity.

It is 14.5 in alcohol and sells for around $50 at a variety of websites like wine.com, garyswine.com and others. It is no longer available at the winery as they are featuring their 2014 release, but plenty of online sites still have it available and it is holding up well.

Now to be honest, I don’t usually spend that kind of money on a chardonnay, but this one is a real treat. I’m glad we saved it and savored it.

Wine Tasting on a Rhone River Cruise with Petaluma Gap Winemakers

Cruising down the Rhone River on a wine themed river cruise was a great way to see the South of France and taste the wines of Provence. But we were even more fortunate to be sailing on a wine-themed cruise sponsored by the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance out of Sonoma County.

To promote its efforts to become their own designated appellation and raise a little money, the Alliance sponsored the cruise and sent along several cases of wine supplied by 12 wineries from within Petaluma Gap. The Alliance also sent four winemakers to represent the Gap, educate guests on the ship, conduct wine tasting sessions, and host winemaker dinners.

Lucky me, one of the first wine tastings featured four chardonnays from the region.

Pellet Estate 2015 Un-oaked, Sun Chase Vineyard

First on the tasting menu was a Pellet Estate 2015 chardonnay, unoaked from the Sun Chase Vineyard.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know that I lean towards chardonnays that are barrel fermented. But, I’ve tasted a few unoaked versions lately that have opened my eyes and palate a bit. The beauty of the unoaked chardonnay is the flavor of the fruit comes through and this Pellet Estate is no exception. Aged 8 months in stainless steel, the wine was clear and shiny with lemon yellow hues. The nose offered hints of pear, apple and pineapple aromas. The high fruit flavors of citrus, apple and pineapple were layered with a hint of almond and melon. It finished with depth and complexity. Alcohol is 14.5%. The wine retails for $36 at the winery.

Agnitio 2013 Chardonnay Sun Chase Vineyard

Next, we tasted the Agnitio 2013 Chardonnay, also from the Sun Chase Vineyard. This turned out to be my favorite. I was very pleased and surprised when a bottle of this showed up in our cabin later, thanks to the generosity of the winemakers.

This is Agnitio’s first vintage of Sun Chase Chardonnay. 100% fermented in oak barrels, this wine displayed the luscious Sonoma County chardonnay flavors that I love. The nose expressed aromas of lemon, white flowers, and pear and vanilla. A wine more full bodied than the Pellet, the mouthfeel had depth and complexity. There was some minerality in the flavor, layered with pear, vanilla and a hint of butterscotch. Alcohol is 14.1% and the wine sells for $40 at the winery.

Pfendler Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay

Pfendler is a small production winery that only has three wines in its current release, producing just 400 cases of this chardonnay.

Aged 10 months in French oak, the Pfendler was a beautiful wine with aromas of honeysuckle, apple, spice and lemon crème. The mouthfeel was lush and the color bright golden straw. The wine was layered with flavors of lychee, pear and a touch of minerality. Alcohol is 14.1% and it retails for $8 at the winery.

Rodney Strong 2014 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast

Rodney Strong makes several different chardonnays and is one of my favorite Sonoma County wineries.

Barrel fermented in new French oak, the wine had aromas of toasty vanilla, apple and pear. The mouthfeel was rich and creamy, with flavors of pear, pineapple and a touch of spice. This was my second favorite in the tasting. 14.0% in alcohol, the wine retails for $25 at the winery.

Monte Vallon 2014 Pays D’Oc Chardonnay

From the South of France, “this exuberant Chardonnay has a pronounced buttery-vanilla bouquet with deep, intense, rich fruit on the palate.” Or, so says the description on the wine label. Sounds like the perfect chardonnay for me!

We are about to head to the South of France for a long-awaited wine cruise through the Rhone Valley. What’s interesting about this cruise is it is sponsored by Petaluma Gap Association out of Sonoma County and they’ll be bringing along several cases of Sonoma chardonnay. So, we’ll get to taste Sonoma chardonnay alongside French chardonnay. What more could a girl ask for! 

To wet our whistles and prepare for this glorious trip, we are tasting the 2014 Monte Vallon Chardonnay purchased at our local Nugget Supermarket.

This wine does indeed display a buttery, vanilla nose with slight toasty oak notes and a hint of caramel. I love the bouquet. It displays a bright golden color and the alcohol volume is 13.5%. The mouthfeel is textured and creamy. The flavors are pear and peach with a pineapple finish.  It is a full bodied, Languedoc styled white wine representative of the south of France.

Can’t wait to taste more French chardonnays. I’ll be blogging along the way, so stay tuned for more wine and more adventures!

Mallee Point Chardonnay from Australia

Malle Point Chardonnay 2014 – Casella Winery

One more Australian chardonnay from Total Wines, this one was only $6.99. I mentioned in my last blog that our daughter moved to Australia, so we are getting reacquainted with Australian chardonnay. Unfortunately, Total Wines did not have a lot to choose from on our last visit there, but what the heck, we’re having fun drinking Australian wine and thinking of our daughter “down under.”

This wine hails from South Eastern Australia, which we learned is a large wine growing area where wineries may grow or purchase grapes from several different vineyards to blend together and maintain consistency for their particular brand and varietal.

The bouquet in this wine has hints of coconut and oak. It’s a medium bodied wine, medium yellow in color, with some peach and some melon notes with nuances of green apple. The wine is not particularly complex or flavorful but chilled and served as a party wine, it would be okay.

We’ll be making a trip back to Australia soon and plan to visit both the Yarra Valley (one of the most beautiful wine regions I have seen) and Hunter Valley, both well known for chardonnay. In fact, I think Yarra may be similar to Sonoma County. They both specialize in chardonnay and pinot noir and their cool climates.

Stay tuned, Mate!

Tyrrell Chardonnay from Australia

In celebration of our daughter, Ashley, who moved to Sydney recently, we are tasting two Australian chardonnays today, both from the Hunter Valley.

Although we visited Australia a few years ago and had a delightful time tasting wines in two of the country’s more well-known wine regions, the Barossa and Yarra Valleys, we did not make it to Hunter Valley.  Fortunately for us, we’ll need to make a return trip, to visit our daughter, of course, and Hunter Valley is calling my name. Stay tuned for more on Australian wines!

Tyrell’s Old Winery Chardonnay 2014

Barrel fermented for 6 months, this medium bodied wine displays subtle oak in the nose, with some hints of stone fruit. The mouthfeel is smooth. The wine is clean and accessible with delicate flavors of white peach and citrus. The color is light golden yellow and alcohol is 13.0%

This Old Winery chardonnay is a decent wine and imminently drinkable, but a little light in flavor for my taste. Can be purchased at Total Wine for $12.59

Tyrrell’s Reserve Hunter Valley 2010

While a vintage of 2010 seems a little old for a white wine, this reserve chardonnay holds up well. The bouquet displays notes of honeysuckle and slight perfume. A richer, more fruit forward chardonnay than the Old Winery chardonnay described above, it is similar as it also has some flavors of peach and citrus. I’ll be curious, when we make it to Hunter Valley, to see if those are characteristics distinct to that wine growing region.

This wine tastes clean and well made, medium bodied, complex, round, with a smooth finish. As it opens up, the Reserve grows more complex.

Medium yellow in color and 13.0% in alcohol. Retails for $21.59 at Total Wine.

Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay Sonoma County 2014

Makers of several different chardonnays, Sonoma-Loeb has been described as one of the premier white wine makers in Sonoma County and recommended to us by a wine server at Passagio. Although we didn’t get a chance to stop by on our recent trip to the small town of Sonoma, Sonoma-Loeb also has a tasting room in the same “wine alley” as Passagio, just off the town’s main square.

This limited production chardonnay, hand crafted in small lots, fits the profile of my kind of chardonnay. There are hints of mild oak and pear in the nose. The wine is soft, round and elegant with a lush, full flavored finish. The body is balanced, polished, clean and well made.

After tasting this wine, I  think it’s worth a return trip to taste a few of Sonoma-Loeb’s other chardonnays, especially their reserve chardonnays. But if you can’t make it over to Sonoma anytime soon, you can pick up a bottle of this at Total Wine for $18.99. Not too bad for a quality bottle of Sonoma County chardonnay.

Napa Valley or Sonoma County?

As 2016 comes to a close, we are wrapping up a fun and delicious year of wine tasting with two California chardonnays.

For this tasting, we chose two different chardonnays from Trader Joe’s. Both chardonnays are the Trader Joe’s brand, and both $12.99 a bottle, but one is from the famed Carneros wine region in Napa Valley, and the other is from Chalk Hill in Sonoma County. Here’s what we found:

Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve – Chalk Hill, Sonoma County 2015 Lot #28

The nose on this wine has slight toasty oak and vanilla notes. It is light in color and has a polished and balanced acidity. I am tasting layers of citrus zest and pear, with a butterscotch flavor in the finish. The wine is 15.1% in alcohol.

Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve – Carneros, Napa Valley 2014 Lot #51

This wine is also light in color, but the nose opens with a subtle fragrance of honeysuckle. Although the bouquet is subtle, the flavors of the wine, coconut, pear, and vanilla come through nicely. It has a soft, smooth finish and is 14.5% in alcohol.

The Napa wine is more flavorful and pronounced while the Chalk Hill wine is softer, more subtle all the way around. I’m normally a lover of Chalk Hill, but this time I think I prefer the Carneros wine. At just $12.99 a bottle, I’m definitely headed back to Trader Joes to round out my New Year’s Eve wine selection.

Thank you for following us in 2016. We are looking forward to much more tasting, even heading to Australia to enjoy the delicious chardonnays from the Barossa wine region. So stay tuned. Come back and visit us often.

Wishing you the best in 2017! Happy New Year!

 

Sonoma County Wine Region – Rodney Strong

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Rodney Strong is a striking and dramatic winery. Upon arrival you might quickly draw the conclusion that this is one of those wineries owned by a giant corporation charging $20 per tasting and drawing throngs of wine lovers to its tasting room. But it’s not; in fact Rodney Strong is family owned and proud of it. The winery makes great wine but a visit there provides so much more. During the summer time, the winery sponsors concerts in its outdoor amphitheater and wine and food pairings on the terrace. It was the latter that brought us back to Rodney Strong for another exceptional wine tasting experience.

On this particular trip to Sonoma, we were seeking “exceptional” wine tasting experiences. We first got the idea when we visited Rodney Strong last fall. By exceptional, I mean we are seeking either a beautiful setting, or a leisurely seated wine tasting experience, or a gourmet food and wine pairing, or an otherwise unique and special wine tasting experience.

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For $55.00 per person, the winery offers a leisurely paced food pairing of small, gourmet bites with five different wines. Seated at an umbrella shaded table overlooking the expansive picnic grounds and vineyards, we were offered an envelope with cards describing the menu of soon-to-come food delights and winemakers notes for each of the wines. The food was prepared by Chef Tara Wachtel and served by Greg, a long-time employee, former home winemaker, jazz pianist, and general expert of our favorite drink, wine.

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Rodney Strong did not disappoint. Nearly two hours, six courses, and five wines later (plus a few extra tastings), we were feeling thoroughly relaxed and very satisfied. We walked away with a greater knowledge and appreciation for the wines that are produced in Sonoma County and thoroughly impressed with the Rodney Strong staff that made us feel like special friends just visiting for lunch.

Call ahead and reserve a time for your own exceptional wine tasting experience. You’ll find it hard to go back to the old process of standing in a crowded wine tasting room, elbowing your way to the wine counter.

Sonoma County Wine Region – Sbragia

Next stop on the tour was Sbragia Winery, north of Healdsburg on Dry Creek Road.  We visited this place last October and had an exceptional wine tasting experience then.  The view is beautiful, too, so we decided to add this to our list of wineries to visit on this trip in search of unique wine experiences.   Sbragia offers a variety of different options including tasting on the terrace with a charcuterie and cheese plate for $30, a chocolate and wine pairing for $30 per person or $15 for wine club members, or a sensory tasting for $50 per person or $20 for wine club members. The winery will also conduct customized tastings such as a compare and contrast of one varietal (a chardonnay to chardonnay or vintage to vintage), with advanced notice.

We called ahead and signed up for the sensory tasting.  Wow!  What an experience!  Arriving early, we got a lot of good photos from the spacious deck overlooking Dry Creek Valley while we waited for our tasting to begin.  Our host was Andrew McPherson.  A wine collector for 20 years now working in the wine industry, this man was a wealth of knowledge.  Andrew reserved the library for this special tasting, and supplied us with a generous and sumptuous charcuterie board.  The sensory tasting is almost a sommelier like experience where visitors get to learn what aromatics are using the La Nez Du Vin wine aroma kit, along with tasting five different Sbragia wines. The kit contains 54 little jars of different aromas.  We used ten, two per tasting, for this exercise.

We started with a sauvignon blanc, then a chardonnay, before working our way into the reds.  The way the sensory tasting works is you start smelling and tasting the wine to try and detect the different characteristics.  Then Andrew would hand us two different vials and ask us to guess what the smells were from.  He also supplied us with a wine aroma wheel that separates the fruits in white wine to fruits in red wine, floral scents and flavors, vegetal, oak aging characterics and even off odors that sometimes show up in a bad wine or a wine with a bad cork.

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Each time we tasted, sniffed, and wrote down our guesses.  Then Andrew would tell us what the actual scent was and let us smell the vial again.  It was pretty laughable how many times we got it wrong but the experience was an important step for us in helping develop our palates.  After two and a half hours and a sampling of some of Sbragia’s other reserve wines, we were done!  Thankfully, this was the only appointment we scheduled for the day.  Because there were only the two of us with Andrew, we really got a crash course on wine tasting.  But, I would definitely go back again with friends and do it all over again.

For those of you looking to teach yourself at home, you can actually buy the kit for $399 at winearomas.com. This is often a required kit for enology students at UC Davis.  You know how students sell their text books back at the end of the semester to get some money back?  I think I’ll head over to the UC Davis book store and see if I can’t pick up a used aroma kit sold back by a recent, broke graduate.  Who knows?  Maybe next time I’ll get more than two out of ten right!

 

 

 

Hop Kiln 2012 North Bridge Chardonnay – Russian River Valley

Hop KilnThis is HKG’s Sonoma County estate grown chardonnay and a good example of barrel fermented and Sur Lie aged wine.  This chardonnay is fermented in French oak barrels, and a secondary fermentation also takes place in the barrel.  The result is a lot of oak in the nose and the flavor.  The wine is a solid gold color, lots of legs in the glass.  It’s complex, smooth, medium bodied and well structured.  The mouthfeel is creamy and I like that, but oak dominates the flavor and I’m not a big fan of that.

After tasting this one, I think I prefer less oak and more of the vanilla, butterscotch flavors you often see in the Russian River.  My husband and tasting partner, Gary, however, loved the big oak in this chardonnay.  14.7% alcohol.

We purchased this at the winery and although I’m not crazy about their chardonnay, I do think the winery is beautiful and worth a visit.

We are headed back to Sonoma County for a special three days of extra special wine tastings and I’ll be blogging along the way.  Stay tuned…