Wine Bitten

Wente Vineyards, which has been continuously producing wine since 1883, has been family owned for five generations, from vineyards in Livermore Valley and Monterrey.  Some of their wines are readily available nationwide, some are much rarer.  We thoroughly enjoyed both the Wente Chardonnays, which seems appropriate, since Wente brought Chardonnay vines to California over 100 years ago. 
Moniker Wine Estates, making wine for about 10 years, is based in Mendocino, and currently has Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon in their lineup, which we tried and savored.   

We enjoyed Fallbrook, California’s Estate d’ Iacobelli’sViognier and late harvest Viognier, from their Temecula Valley vineyards.  Estate d’ Iacobelli opened their tasting room in Spring, 2014, having established their vineyards in 1998.  Suitably named, the 2010 Sticky Fingers late harvest Viognier ($26) is a delightful dessert wine, silky and sweet, you taste the sweetness without a sugar hit, the fresh citrus of the Viognier balancing things out nicely.  Their 2011 Viognier ($32) is crisp and light, with aromas and tastes of white flowers and grapefruit.

We did not find that any particular varietal ruled the day.  Rather, one winery, with grapes from Monterrey’s Arroyo Seco and the Livermore Valley, wowed us just a little more than the others.  This time, our favorites ranked themselves in order of winery age: the oldest winery, with over 125 years’ experience, gave us the most consistent wow—at an affordable price.  However, young or old, hot clime or cool clime, everyone was making good wine.  At the Wine Review Council, however, we always have to find a favorite.  
The Wine Review Council gathered poolside at Bella Joya Estate in Temecula, California’s Wine Country, to try 8 wines from 3 wineries, and vineyards in 4 regions:  Arroyo Seco, Livermore Valley, Mendocino, and Temecula Valley.   We tried Chardonnays, Viognier, Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a late harvest Viognier.  Each region has its own contributions from overall climate, diurnal temperature variation, soil, etc.  Pinot Noir loves cool, Cabernet Sauvignon can enjoy some heat.  
Its hot, we are BBQing, whatever shall we drink?  Beer is easy (and quite tasty).  Wine is refined, and some pair great with summer BBQ fare.  What should we turn to?  For the Wine Review Council, after our last tasting/pairing, I think its hands down either: Pinot Noir or a Chardonnay combining oak and stainless steel aged crushes.  

Sizzling Summer Wines

The Wine Review Council always pairs each wine with a dish, and we always have some very good hits, and occasionally a miss.  This night we had hits, with the BBQ roasted Mushroom Bruschetta topped with blue cheese scoring a triple, and Baked Pears ala Carmen the Home Run.   
Wine pouring when temperatures are soaring is challenging.  We want to lounge by the pool for the BBQ, and our palates want great wine.  The solution, of course, is to chill that wine so it is, after all, room temperature. 
Get those whites down to 50° and reds to about 60° - 65°.  Easy enough, you say, after all, I’ve got a wine fridge, a regular fridge, and wine coolers.  But, as soon as that perfectly chilled bottle steps outside, up it goes.  So, find one or more ways to keep the chill on in the heat.  Shade it, yeah.  But try some of the new gadgets, like the corksicle, put it in a reliable bucket, use a fancy chiller that maintains just the right temp (ok, that’s over $100)—Just do something.  A too hot red will taste too much of alcohol and it just won’t dance on your tongue.  A too cold red, though, and you’ve got muted, flatter tastes.  Do your best, don’t obsess.  
Finishing out the lineup, Wente’s2010 Reliz Creek Pinot Noir ($28), also grown in Arroyo Seco with some vines over 45 years old, aged on oak for 20 months, was our favorite of the night.  Bright, with cherry, strawberry and vanilla flavors complimenting that tobacco flavor that will pair with earthy mushrooms and beef, this is an outstanding Pinot Noir well worth the price.  It’s a little harder to find than the Chardonnays, but you should be able to find a bottle.
Happily, Wente’s 2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay ($22) and 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay ($12) fall in the easily available category.  The Morning Fog was certainly the value winner of the night.   A combination of neutral oak and stainless steel aging produced aromas and flavors of apple, a little pineapple, along with hints of cinnamon and vanilla in this Livermore Valley Chardonnay.  Wente’s2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay was grown in Wente’s “heritage block” of vineyards in Arroyo Seco, in cooler Monterrey.  This wine shows its oak aging, with medium body.  This is a bigger, rounder chardonnay than its Morning Fog cousin, golden hued and the just right taste of butter and vanilla.
Moniker’s2012 Pinot Noir ($30) comes from the Anderson and Redwood Valleys in Mendocino.  It appears intense for a Pinot Noir, with aromas of blackberry, raspberry and earthy mushrooms.  I found this to be a pleasant, subtle, Pinot with plenty of cherry and berry harmonized with some dust.    The 2012 Chardonnay ($23) hails from Russian River, and was aged sur lie in American Oak for four months.  This is a bright Chardonnay with aromas of lemon and lemon, and tastes including apple, pineapple, melon, and a little grapefruit acidity and crisp minerality.  Moniker’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) aged 14 months in French oak, is blended with a little Petite Sirah and Cabernet Franc, giving a bit more depth and a touch of tobacco taste.  Aromas of blackberry, raisins and apples, are joined by strawberry and raspberry on the tongue.

Food Pairing:  RECIPES