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Morgan Clendenen winemaker/owner of Cold Heaven

Morgan Clendenen winemaker/owner of Cold Heaven

When I think of Harvest Festival, I imagine there is an autumn chill in the air and I’m sipping red wines bundled up in a cozy sweater.  However, this year, the 20th year of the festival, we were in the midst of a late summer heat wave, so shorts and sandals were de rigueur.  This year there were over 115 different wineries represented at the festival.  Of the 115, there were many wonderful, familiar wines from Ampelos, Beckmen, Brander, Dragonette, Fiddlehead, Foxen, Margerum, Jaffurs, Tre Anelli, Stolpman, Ken Brown, Cold Heaven, Palmina, Qupé, being poured, so I a made point to seek out wines that I had not sampled before.

Bob Lindquist winemaker/owner of Qupe and his son Theo

Bob Lindquist winemaker/owner of Qupe and his son Theo

With far too many wines to sample everything, I had to really pick and choose carefully from the offerings.  Of the wines I tasted, there were a few real stands outs.  Jim Vogelzang was pouring an absolutely lovely ’06 Vogelzang Cabernet Sauvignon, but his superb 2009 Sauvignon Blanc was what took my breath away.  Jim took a few minutes to explain to me what they do differently.  Naturally, they start with great fruit – after all you cannot make an outstanding wine if you start with bad grapes.  Here is where it gets interesting.  After the grapes are picked; they are put on refrigerated trucks which are driven to Napa.   In Napa they delivered to renowned winemaker Robbie Meyer (of Versant, Jericho Canyon, Peirson Meyer and L’Angevin) who works his oenological magic.   Jim also let me know that for the Sauvignon Blanc, Meyer uses neutral French oak barrels that have been used for Chardonnay.   Another outstanding white was the unreleased ’09 Dragonette Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc which was heady with the aroma of honeysuckle and tasted of creamy lemon curd.  Yes, dear reader, I know I said I was going to avoid familiar labels, but this was an unreleased Sauvignon Blanc from Dragonette, so I had to bend my own rule.  It was less of a hard and fast rule and more of a guideline really, anyway.  😉

Dan Reeves of Reeves Ranch Vineyard

Dan Reeves of Reeves Ranch Vineyard

Even though it was a very warm day and white wines were helping me cool off, I did taste some wonderful reds at the festival.  I loved the 2006 Jalama Paradise Road Syrah, which is co-fermented with 3% Viognier in the classic French CôteRôtie style.  Young winemaker, Mark Cargasacchi is crafting some truly beautiful wines.  It runs in the family; Mark’s brother is making some outstanding wine too.  Speaking of Mark’s wines, he wasn’t pouring it at the festival, but his 2006 Jalama El Capitan is *really* worth getting your hands on (while you still can).  It is a red blend of 47% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre and 23% Cabernet.  He only made 92 cases of this rich beauty, and last time I checked they only had 8 cases left, so if you’re a fan of GSM blends, give the folks over at Jalama Wines a call: 805-735-8937 or go visit the new tasting room in the Lompoc.  Tell them that Anne from Wine Nation Underdog sent you.  You’ll thank me later after you’re tucking into your first glass.  Overall, my favorite Syrah of the festival was the 2008 Reeves Ranch Syrah.  I had heard of the name Reeves Ranch Vineyard because Kris Curran (winemaker/owner of Curran) made a Reeve’s Ranch Reserve Syrah from fruit from this vineyard a few vintages ago.  It was extraordinary, so naturally I had to go investigate the source of this outstanding fruit.  Boy was I in for a treat.   Dan Reeves poured me some of his 2008 Reeves Ranch Vineyard Syrah and I really enjoyed the well integrated flavors of coffee, mocha and spice.   Most of the fruit is from the estate which is located in the foothills above Los Olivos.  The vines which were originally planted in 1989, were grafted over to Australian and French Syrah clones (Shiraz clone 3, Estrella and Clone 99) in 1994.   The rest of the fruit is from Black Oak vineyard in Los Alamos.  Though the grapes from Reeves and Black Oak were fermented separately, it was eventually blended together and aged for 18 months in French oak, some of which was neutral.  After I tasted this wine, I thought it would be priced around $35 a bottle.  Are you ready for this?  The wine sells for $24 on the Reeves Ranch website and you get a discount if you order a case.  Don’t you love it when you find a great wine at a really good price?  I do!  If you are in the Central Coast area, you can taste this wine at Avant Tapas and Wine bar in Buellton.  It is also being poured by the glass at Los Olivos Café (in Los Olivos).  Don’t wait too long though, because they only make 400 cases a year.

Peter Stolpman of Stolpman Vineyards

Peter Stolpman of Stolpman Vineyards

There were lots of great events over the Harvest Festival weekend, including an open house at Au Bon Climat / Qupé winemaking facility.  There was also an open house event at Cold Heaven – as soon as I get my notes and snapshots organized I will post again.  Until then, let me leave you with this thought.  Those who abstain from alcohol die sooner than those who drink moderately (1 to 3 drinks per day)…as if you needed an excuse!

Danish cellar rats who are interning at Ampelos for the summer.

Danish visitors who are cellar ratting at Ampelos for the summer

I’ve enjoyed Cold Heaven winemaker Morgan Clendenen’s Viogniers for many years.  I especially love a glass of her late harvest Viognier after dinner in lieu of dessert.   Jason and I stopped by to taste at the new Cold Heaven tasting room in Buellton the other day.   I’ve never seen a red wine from Cold Heaven, so I was thrilled to see that there was a Syrah, called Second Sin, at the end of the tasting menu.  We started with the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($20) which had a nose of white grapefruit, and florals.  Ripe tropical fruit, citrus and bright acidity – the result of stainless steel fermentation- linger on the palate.   This would be a fabulous wine to have with scallops or oysters.  The 2008 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier ($33) was next on the list.   With a heady floral nose, flavors of guava and peach and a soft mouthfeel this is a gorgeous wine.   We then tasted a richer and more full bodied Viognier – the 2008 Sanford and Benedict Vineyard Viognier.  This had a beautiful nose of apricot and violets and well integrated flavors and a sweet, lingering finish.  Next up was the 2008 Vogelzang Vineyard Viognier which had a nose of orange blossom and tropical fruits (especially pineapple core)  and crisp acidity.   The 2007 Domaine des Deux Mondes Saints and Sinners is a wine made from a collaboration between Morgan Clendenen and Yves Cuilleron, an expert on Viognier from Condrieu.  Domaine des Deux Mondes is French for “Domain of Two Worlds” signifying the coming together of two worlds to make a single wine.  This was an absolutely beautiful wine with just the right amount of richness on the palate to make it luscious.  Only 3 % new oaks was used, so the fruit from Sanford and Benedict really shines.  Another product of the collaboration between Morgan Clendenen and Yves Cuilleron is called Deux C which is French for two C’s (one “C” for Clendenen and the second “C” for Cuilleron) is composed of wine made here in California combined with wine made in France.  This is quite literally a marriage of Old World and New World with two barrels of wine made in California combined with two made in France.   The vintage is 2005 however due to labeling regulations, this wine’s label cannot indicate a vintage.    Next, we moved on to two reds.  We tasted first the 2004 and then the 2003 Second Sin Syrah.  The 2004 Second Sin was made with fruit from top notch vineyards – Bien Nacido, Beckmen and Vogelzang.   The wine is a mere 13.5% alcohol (the fruit was picked slightly less ripe) – far lower than many if not most California Syrahs.  The wine tastes far more like a French wine than one from California.   I think this will age beautifully for a decade or more. The 2003 Second Sin is a glassful of beautifully integrated flavors including meat, black cherry and baking spices.   This is truly an elegant wine that gets better with each sip.

Be sure to stop by the tasting room and wine making facility at 92A Second Street in Buellton CA 93427.  The tasting room is open Friday through Monday from 12pm-5pm.

Kristy took us on a tour of the winemaking facility and barrel room.  Here are a few snapshots I took:

barrel

In the Cold Heaven barrel room

Spinning Mirrored Buddha Head watches over the barrels at Cold Heaven

Spinning, mirrored Buddha head watches over the barrels at Cold Heaven

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier marked with a horseshoe symbol

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 La Vina Vineyard  Viognier marked with a pistol symbol

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 La Vina Vineyard Viognier marked with a pistol symbol

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier marked with a high heeled shoe

Barrel of Cold Heaven 2009 Le Bon Climat Vineyard Viognier marked with a high heeled shoe symbol

Barrel of wine at Cold Heaven marked with lotus symbol

Barrel of wine at Cold Heaven marked with lotus symbol

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