Thursday, June 24, 2010

Down Country Roads

By John Engstrom
Last weekend I visited a couple of wineries that are a bit off the main wine country highways. Coincidentally, both wineries locales were chosen because of the soil similarity to a region of France

The first was Tablas Creek Winery in the northwestern reaches of Paso Robles. Opened at the dawn of this century by the owners of the renowned Chateau Beaucastel of Châteauneuf du Pape, Tablas Creek grows grape varieties native to the Rhone Valley. Whites are Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Picpoul Blanc. Reds are Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, and Counoise.

Instead of the usual one long wine tasting bar, the tasting area is actually several small tasting bars that are opened and closed as the number of tasters waxes and wanes. Gustavo was pouring for me and a foursome from Southern California as results from the England vs. U.S. World Cup match were relayed about the facility.

The tasting started with the 2008 Côtes de Tablas Blanc. With Viognier and Roussanne making up 42 and 26 percent of the blend respectively, I anticipated a flowery aroma, and I was not disappointed. Honeysuckle and apricots on the nose were followed by white peaches and Bartlett pears on the palate. A medium body and crisp finish make this both a great summer sipper as well as a great wine to go with sautéed scallops or a salad that included shaved fennel and avocado. **** (on a scale of 5) / $25

Next on the agenda was their flagship white, the 2008 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc. The blend of 65% Roussanne and 30% Grenache Blanc (the remainder is Picpoul Blanc) is a fuller bodied white, and as I was sipping it I thought “the rest of the world is wasting their time with over-oaked, flabby Chardonnay, when this is what they should be drinking”. This wine is aromatic, yet not perfume-y; fruity, but dry; well-structured, but not oak driven; and possesses superb balance and a lingering finish. In short, an ideal full bodied white wine. ***** / $40

The third white was a 2008 Roussanne (100%). I generally love Roussanne, and this one was very good, but it doesn’t have the balance or finesse of the Esprit Blanc. Still, it was a delicious example of the variety with aromas of peaches and orange blossoms and flavors of white peach and apricot. **** / $27

The 2009 Rose was a blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Counoise (46/39/15), that was pleasantly dry. This wine is more serious and food oriented than many Rhone style dry roses, probably due to the biggest component being the Mourvèdre. Mourvèdre tends to have smoky and meaty aromas as a red wine, and this rose was not overtly fruity in either aroma or flavor as a result. *** / $27

The reds started out with the 2008 Cotes de Tablas. Like its “blanc” equivalent, this is Tablas Creek’s “little brother” Rhone-style blend to their Esprit de Beaucastel flagship blend. In this case, the main component is Grenache (42%), with Syrah, Counoise and Mourvèdre playing the supporting roles. The resultant wine has mixed berry and plum fruit component in the nose, mouth and finish that is very appealing, but not necessarily intriguing, analogous to the difference between a beautiful girl and an attractive woman. Still, a well made wine. *** / $25

Wine Spectator awarded the 2006 Esprit de Beaucastel 93 points and named it one of the Top 100 wines of 2009. Baking spices and cherry aromas are followed by figs, plum and tobacco notes in the mouth, and a gravelly – leathery finish. The blend is 44% Mourvèdre, 29% Grenache Noir and 21% Syrah, with a little Counoise making up the difference. This is a really fine wine, to be sure. **** / $50

However, it was exceeded by the 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel in every way. The ’07 showed more fruit, more power, and yet, more balance, and the structure to withstand longer aging. Compared to the ’06, the cherry aromas are riper, the mouth feel a little fuller, and the finish a little richer and more memorable. The differences are all in the vintage because the percentages in the blend are virtually identical. ****+ / $50

The 2007 Grenache had the unenviable task of following that act. A blend of 90% Grenache Noir and 10% Syrah, it showed cherry and plum up front that morphed into a cherry cola flavor at the end. It has a nice vibrancy that would make it a wonderful wine with a number of foods. Anybody for grilled duck sausage? ***+ / $35

The 2007 Syrah is the “yin” to the Grenache’s “yang” being a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache Noir. More plumy and earthy than the Grenache, it has more panache, but less pizzazz. It would be wonderful with a mushroom risotto. Better yet, grab a bottle of this, a bottle of Grenache and the best sausage and mushroom pizza you can find. *** / $35

Just as Tablas Creek was situated where the founders felt the soils were very similar to the soils of the Rhone valley, Chalone Vineyards was founded by people that thought the soils reminded them of Burgundy. Chalone is at the foot of the western slope of the Pinnacles National monument. Unlike Tablas Creek, there are no other wineries along the road to stop off at along the way. You go to Chalone to go to Chalone, or on your way back from a hike in the Pinnacles. There was no other tasters when we arrived, and only two pairs of hikers came in while we were there.

We started off with the 2006 Estate Chenin Blanc, from head pruned vines adjacent to the former winery building, planted in 1919. If you are used to the soft, easy-drinking, slightly sweet Chenin Blancs of Clarksburg, you are in for a shock. This is a contemplative, serious Chenin Blanc, completely dry, with good acidity, and a minerality that underlines the pear aromas, pear and green apple palate, and especially the lingering finish. Only fine vielles vignes Vouvray comes close to the way this Chenin Blanc tastes. ****+ / $26

The second wine was a 2006 Estate Pinot Blanc. Pears and melon aromas were followed by the same in the mouth. The crisp acidity and persistent mineral quality gave this wine a solid structure from which to hang its luscious fruit. This would be a great wine to buy by the case for a big party. Your wine snob friends would appreciate it as much as the “you mean there’s a red Zinfandel, too?” crowd. ***+ / $26

This was followed by the 2007 Estate Chardonnay. Here is a Chardonnay that is completely dry (no added back unfermented juice), that actually has some acidity, is not so over-oaked that you feel like your sucking on a two-by-four, that isn’t so buttery, that you start wondering where the popcorn is. Here is a Chardonnay that actually has a fruit component. Here is a Chardonnay that will make you actually drink Chardonnay, and enjoy it. The aromas are of Granny Smith apples and a mere hint of vanilla. The flavors add a touch of mango to the apple pie. The finish is long and slightly flinty. Real Chardonnay. ***+ / $26

What can I say about the 2007 Estate Heritage Chardonnay? That it is among the best Chardonnays I’ve ever tasted? Yes, that’s true. That the best Montrachet producers wish they could make a wine like this? That’s probably true, too. This wine uses the mineral backbone that it gets from the limestone soils of Chalone, and balances the perfect amount of green apple, vanilla, mango and baking bread flavors and aromas to create a truly memorable wine, with a finish that seems to go on for days. ***** / $35

Between the great whites and the reds to follow, there was a 2009 Estate Rose. Made in saignee style from Grenache, it was a pleasant, but not memorable wine. Perhaps it suffered by comparison to the wines before and after. ** / $16

The red wines started with their 2006 Estate Pinot Noir. The smell of cherries and red currants fill your nose, but it’s black cherry with hints of leather and tobacco that fill your mouth. Very well balanced, the wine finishes with a stone fruit and gravel touch. ***+ / $37

This was followed by the 2007 Estate Heritage Pinot Noir. Like the Estate Pinot Noir, the superb balance is clearly evident, taking the same basic cherry and red currant aromas and black cherry, leather and tobacco flavors and adding just the right amount of extra richness in aroma and mouth-feel, yet maintaining a solid framework of tannins and acidity and lean cherry fruit. ****+ / $45

Tasting notes for the 2007 Estate Grenache indicate aromas of fresh strawberries, cherries and rhubarb. I didn’t get the cherries; it was more raspberry to me. That was echoed in the mouth with a slightly spicy note. If I didn’t know better, I might have guessed some Sangiovese or Zinfandel in the blend. ***+ / $30

The 2006 Estate Syrah presented with an earthy, slightly herbal, black plum and blueberry aroma. The earthiness and black plum were echoed upon tasting. The Chalone terroir again providing a solid structure. *** / $30

Lastly, the 2006 Estate Condor Blend is so named because five dollars from every purchase goes to California condor preservation. It is a 69/31 blend of Syrah and Grenache. Alas, it doesn’t show the character of either. It’s a well made but muddled wine. Buy the Grenache, and donate the five bucks directly to the Ventana Wildlife Society. **+ / $40

When I started to write this blog piece, I was going to comment that these two, out of the way wineries were definitely worth seeking out. The wines are fabulous, and the country roads to get to them make a lovely detour from the more traveled highways. However, the “powers that be” at Diageo, have decided to close the Chalone tasting room effective June 26. Another great wine experience lost, and more is the pity.

How I rate wines:
***** = Five Stars = Outstanding wines showing excellent balance, style and distinctive character. These are worth seeking out and purchasing as much as you can afford.

****+ = Four Stars plus = Half-way between Four and Five Stars.

**** = Four Stars = Excellent wines with enough character, finesse and balance to distinguish from the rest. Buy a few bottles, and you can thank me later.

***+ = Three Stars plus = Half-way between Three and Four stars

*** = Three Stars = Very Good wines, but lacking that certain something that makes them special. Buy a bottle or two or three.

**+ = Two Stars plus = Half-way between Two and Three stars

** = Two Stars = Good wine, but nothing exciting. Use it to round out the case for a discount.

*+ = One Star plus = Half-way between One star and Two stars.

* = One Star = Mediocre wines that are adequate to drink, but only if nothing else is available.

## = no stars = Seriously flawed wine.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Three Wines from the New Foppiano

By Mac McCarthy

Lucky me: I received the other day three wines from Foppiano Vineyards in Healdsburg (CA), a winery dating back to 1896 that has recently refresh itself, including new labels, under the direction of winemaker Natalie West and vineyard manager Paul Foppiano (all this I learned from the accompanying materials).

The three wines were a Sauvignon Blanc, a Rose, and a Pinot Noir. Rather than tasting them alone, I brought them to the San Francisco East Bay-area wine group, The Pompous Twits, to broaden my impressions. Julie Mrasek was hosting the June tasting event and was kind enough to allow me to have the Foppianos as starter wines.

My personal bottom line on these wines: I liked them all – eventually. The Sauvignon Blanc was flavorful, the Rose was rich and tasty, and the Pinot, after it opened up a bit, was dandy. The opinions of my Twit colleagues varied quite a bit—as they always do, a reminder of how differently each individual tastes a complex item like wine.

The Foppiano vineyards lie south of Healdsburg in Sonoma Country, in the Russian River Valley appellation. In each case, the grapes were harvested at night while they were cool, then held for a few days at cool temperatures before being processed, to preserve the acids.

2009 Foppiano Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($18) 

The Sauv Blanc is 14.0% alcohol, dry though it seemed sweet due to the fruit flavors, fermented in steel tanks. 860 cases were produced of this vintage.

I loved the nose on this wine: a little lemon grass in stone fruit. The flavor was richer than the steelier Sauv Blancs one commonly tastes. Twit John Engstrom said it was well made, though not to his personal style; Tom Tilly said it was to his style, however. But they and others referred to it as "insubstantial," and opined that it is not a "serious" wine, though it is a fun wine with any of the varied foods we had that night. The two thought it would be much liked by the "You mean Zin comes in red too?" crowd, as they put it.

Mark Cruciani, however, said it was exactly what he looks for in a Sauv Blanc – crisp, with a little zest, but subtle and not overwhelming. It seemed to him like there was a slight bit of malolactic fermentation (there isn't; it just has that richness). He thought it would make a good everyday wine.

Ten of the group liked it; only one said "Maybe."

2009 Foppiano Estate Rose ($15) 

The rose is a blend of roughly half Pinot Noir and half Petite Sirah, produced in the Saignee style, where the juice is allowed to bleed off rather than being crushed. Alcohol is 14.2%; developed in neutral French oak for six months. 220 cases were produced.

This wine, too, had a nice nose – so many wines these days have no nose at all, have you noticed? I found it lightly flavorful, with lots of fruit, and a longish finish.

Several of our members called it "a great BBQ wine" because of its minerality and slight sweetness. John pointed out that it shows a slight tannic bite in the finish (that's probably due to the Petite Sirah.)

Lisa Gros found "strawberry, like a strawberry twizzler stick" in the flavor. She and others agreed it was an approachable wine; several felt that it was, again, a simple wine but not one that sophisticated rose fans would find as interesting – "a starter wine," one person called.

Me, I liked it a lot. I think those who weren't as impressed are those who prefer the drier French style of rose. There is such incredible variety in the flavors and styles of rose that you never find agreement as to preference. I thought this rose was flavorful and satisfying and priced right.

2008 Foppiano Estate Pinot Noir ($25) 

This wine was pressed to French oak barrels and underwent malolactic fermentation, then aged in barrel 14 months. Alcohol level is 14.9%; 800 cases produced.

There was an odd note to the nose of this wine at first: Lisa referred to it as "licorice." I didn't like that, but it blew off quickly. Someone thought this wine would go well with, say, a flank steak with heavy sauce.

I was hesitant about this wine, until I had some of the pate that Mia Cruciani brought – the Pinot really liked this pate! In addition, after a while, as the wine got some air in it, the taste improved quite a bit. I wasn't impressed at first; later, I decided I liked it a lot.

This is a lighter style Pinot, though not completely into the Burgundy camp. It seems like a good beverage wine, one to serve with food (rather than a 'cocktail' or sipping wine). Again, the group found it pleasant, a good choice for a BBQ or an afternoon on the deck, but without enough complexity to please experienced Pinot drinkers.

After our Foppiano pre-wines, we moved on to other wines Julie provided for the evening, including a J Vineyards Cuvee 20 NV Brut from the Russian River; a 1998 E. Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape that was tasty; a Williams Selyem 2001 Pinot that surprised me by not being the knockout I always hear it's supposed to be; a tasty Michel-Schlumberger 04 Cab; a flavorful 2007 Bella Vineyards Big River Ranch Grenache, a delicious Novy Family 06 Carlisle Vineyards Zin, a satisfying 05 Carol Shelton Rue Vineyard Karma Zin, and a 2001 Martinelli Moonshine Ranch Pinot Noir that was in some ways the biggest, jammiest wine of the evening.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Taste & Talk 2008 Passaggio Chardonnay

By Mac McCarthy

The main thing about Cyndy's Passagio 08 Chard is that it is very *flavorful* - you keep wanting to go back and take another sip! Not A Boring Chard!

And amazingly, it's only $13! This is a $30 or $40 CHard, folks -- a chard for people who don't think they like Chardonnay.

Problem: Only available online - at -- so shipping doubles the price. BUT GOOD NEWS! Until June 20, she's knocking half off shipping for Father's Day. Do your dad a favor and get some of this - it will knock his "I don't like whites" socks off! Trust me!

Mac the Red Drinker

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

RAP 6th Annual Pink Out! SF's Major Rose Tasting

By Mac McCarthy

The Rosé support group, RAP -- Rosé Avengers and Producers – presented their 6th Annual "Pink Out!" trade and public tasting in mid-May, at the charming Butterfly Restaurant at San Francisco's Pier 33.

I was happy to be able to attend my sixth Pink Out! tasting in a row – this Rosé tasting is the most enjoyable winetasting events of my year, and there's a good reason for it.

Namely, because you can't sell Rosés in America.

The Crimes of White Zin
 It's amazing the trail of destruction caused by the introduction by Beringer of the otherwise harmless, easy-to-drink and inexpensive sweet rosé they made from Zinfandel, and sold by the tankerful starting in the 1970s. Let us count the crimes:

*White Zinfandel made people think they didn't like Zinfandel.
*White Zinfandel made people think they didn't like Rosé.
*White Zinfandel made people think they didn't like sweet, or even off-dry, wines.

We are still recovering from these devastating blows to the national palate.

Starting in the late 1980s, a group of now-famous winemakers began a campaign to make us understand that the Zinfandel grape is capable of producing a great red wine. In addition to experimenting with the grape and its growing and fermentation methods, and funding a research project at the University of California at Davis, they formed ZAP –Zinfandel Appreciators and Producers, an organization to promote Zinfandel to the masses. For a dozen years, the ZAP Festival at Fort Mason in San Francisco has poured hundreds of delicious Zinfandels of every style, converting growing numbers of new wine drinkers to the joy of Zin.

Here Come The Rosé Avengers! 
 Stealing a really good idea, Rosé-loving vintners a few years ago formed RAP – the Rosé Avengers and Producers society -- to browbeat us into appreciating the wonderful tastes of Rosé wines. Going for a puckish, disarming humor, they named their annual public tasting "Pink Out!," with a mascot originally consisting of a superhero-style cartoon of a black man in pink superhero tights (now they use a PC trio).

The first Pink Out!, at the Butterfly restaurant along the San Francisco Embarcadero, sold out its 200 tickets overnight. The event grew in later years, unfortunately changing venues to a selection of nightclubs where the disco lighting completely destroyed one's ability to see the colors of the wines. Happily, Pink Out! returned to the Butterfly last year and repeated again this year. This does limit the maximum number of attendees, but at least you can appreciate one of the overlooked joys of Rosé, which is seeing the amazing variety of pink colors – wines that are just rosey, darker roses, Barbie Doll pink, coral, a tinge of orange in the pink, and pale to near colorlessness. 

This joy is then followed by the other distinctive aspect of Rosé in the United States, which is the astonishing variety of tastes from wine to wine. There are two reasons for this.

First, you can make Rosé wine from any red-skinned grape. So you have more variety in Rosé than in any other style of wine: from Rosés made from the traditional Pinot Noir, to Cabernet Sauvignon, to Merlot, to Sangiovese, to Grenache, Cab Franc, Syrah, Barbera – and back to Zinfandel, though in this case a dry, well-balanced Zin Rosé. And to further stir things up, many Rosés have white wines such as Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and even Chardonnay, to add breadth, richness, aromatics, and other flavors.

Second, and just as important. since Rosé isn't popular here, there isn't a standard commercial style of Rosé that sells well in the supermarket. So there's no pressure to produce a generic, conforming wine. That means the winemakers can make their Rosé in the style they, personally like best.

Heck, they can't sell the stuff, so they make it to please themselves. One speaks of wine expressing the terroir; in the USA, Rosés are made to express the winemaker!

As a result, every Rosé you taste is different – often wonderful, but almost always different.

How fun is that?


Well, except for the down side: Since they can't sell the stuff, they don't make much. Most of the wines at this event we made in batches of a few hundred cases. Most sales are done in the tasting room; however, thanks in part to Pink Out, an increasing number of restaurants are offering fine Rosés on their wine list, and wine stewards suggest them to clientele they perceive as a bit more adventurous.

Which brings me to My Brillian Suggestion for pushing Rosés on a puzzled American public: Pitch Rosé as the secret wine style nobody but the really, really in-crowd knows about! Only the totally cool people appreciate it. Not much rosé is made because, you see, the uncool people don't 'get' it. But really, Rosé is The Next Big Thing. You know how Pinot Noir came out of nowhere? Remember how Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand suddenly became the white to drink? And now unoaked Chardonnay is the way to show you're not a wine amateur? Well, let me just say one little word – Rosé!  Shhh! Don't let everybody hear! No, not White Zin, fercrissakes! That's the fake Rosé they push on the college kids who don't know any better! Real Rosé is totally different – not sweet at all. In fact, you have to be a bit sophisticated to even appreciate it. And a bit adventurous.

Are You Adventurous?

What Mac Liked at the Pink Out!

Enough background. Here are the wines I tasted – about 30 out of the nearly 50 wines offered. (I didn't spit, but I did take small sips and also took my  time – and didn't drive home.)

Julien Fayard showed his Azur Wines' (Napa), 2009 Azur Rosé, a delicious beverage wine, pale/almost white Syrah rose with some Sauv. Blanc added, $26.
Blackbird Vineyards 2009 Arriviste Rosé – a very likeable Bordeaux blend of a Rosé, made from Napa Cab, Merlot, and Cab Franc. Tasty. $24 

Fleur de California 2009 Rosé, a pleasant Pinot-based "brunch wine" at $12. And a $13 Cab Rosé that was also good

Gloria Ferrer brought a 2006 Brut Rosé bubbly that tasted of strawberries and cherries; very nice. $42. 

Elyssia by Friexenet, NV Pinot Noir Brut Rosé, at $18; had a nice finish.

Tapena, imported from Spain by Friexenet, made from Garnacha (Grenache) plus a Spanish grape called Monastrell "and a splash of Shiraz" for a rosé with a nice finish. I didn't get a price, sorry.

Segura Viudas, is a Cava brut Rosé sparkling wine from Spanish grapes not specified; not bad and only $10, if you can imagine.

Aria is another Segura Viudas, in this case a Cava sparkling Pinot Noir, that was really excellent and priced at $14.

Hendry Winery offered a 2009 Rosé made of 70% Zin, 20% Cab, and, for some reason, 5% Primitivo. At $13 I gave this a "Yes!" in my tasting notes. 

I'M Wines, a Napa label from Isabel Mondavi (get it?), offered a 2009 Isabel Mondavi Deep Rosé that split the difference between being a food wine and a richer cocktail wine. $15. 

Intersection Wine Company of St. Helena, makes one wine and one wine only: Lorenza Rosé, a dry rosé made with Rhone grapes. Is that nuts? A labor of love, evidently, from fashion model and Napa native Michele Lorenza Oullett and marketer Melinda Kearney. Their 2009 Lorenza Rosé was a very nice beverage wine, blended from Mourvedre, Carignane, Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah, and selling for $20.

The Loire Valley winegrower's association again appeared, which was nice. Last year they showed a cross-section of French Rosés, from dry to sweet – a wonderful education in the range of possibilities offered by fine Rosé. This year they focused on Rosé d'Anjou, which are made primarily from Cab Franc grapes.  I tried each. They were of course similar—and all, being French, were what I call 'beverage' wines,' but there were distinct differences in density, crispness, and sweetness. The Barton & Gustier 2008 Rosé d'Anjou, $10, was slightly sweet and tasty. The Remey Pannier, also $10, was crisp and light. The Sauvion 2008 ($11) was similar to the Remy, and almost as good. The Domaine de la Fouquette 2009 was softer and dryer and seemed lighter; $12.

Old World Winery, of Fulton, CA, makes its 2007 White Night Rosé, from the Trowbridge Vineyard, from a sort of field blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Despite the white in there, the wine was very dark. The winemaker and proprietor, Darek Trowbridge, used natural yeasts, and only made 200 cases, which he sells for $14 a bottle, another bargain for a delicious Rosé. I gave it an extra star.

Pedroncelli Winery has been pushing its Dry Rosé of Zinfandel in the teeth of the reputation of White Zin, and with some success, apparently; I see it in stores, which isn't that common for good rosés. And even at $10, this Dry Creek wine is a good Rosé. I'm glad I have an extra bottle at my house.

Quivira Vineyards & Winery (Dry Creek, CA) sells out its 500 cases every year of Grenache Rosé, made from sun-bleached (!) Dry Creek Grenache plus some Mourvedre and Viognier. It sells for $15 when you can find it. It was excellent. The winemaker, as indicated, picks the outer grapes that have been bleached by the sun. Interesting!

Robert Oatley Vineyards  of Mudgee, Australia, showed a 2009 Rosé of Sangiovese made from vines grown at 1200 feet on quartz soil, I was told, developing deep roots. It was $15 and very tasty.

Rock Wall Wine Company  (Alameda, CA), represented by founder Shauna Rosenblum (that's her smiling with my friend John Engstrom), brought her 2009 Sparkling Grenache Rosé, which lists for $25. They also showed their Mixto, which adds Chardonnay, and which I liked too.

Six Sigma Ranch  (L:ake County, CA) poured a 2007 Rosé, $18, which I thought had a tiny bit of a bitter finish. Their 2009 Tempranillo and Cab blend, made in the saignee way, that at $14 I liked better. They also had a Marian's Rosé 09, whole-cluster Syrah, $24, that had very nice fruit—naturally, they only made 17 cases of this tasty item.

Ty Caton Vineyards  (Sonoma) offered their 2009 Estate Syrah Rosé; I liked it, and as I sipped it while talking to various people, it grew on me more and more as it opened up. $18.

Urban Legend Cellars' (Oakland CA) 2009 Rosato di Barbera, at $16, was absolutely excellent. Only a year old, this winery's founders, Marilee and Steve Schaeffer,  know Barbera – I tasted their first-release Barbera red at the Urban Wineries Day in Jack London Square, Oakland, loast year and it was so amazingly good I was walking around like a circus barker, telling passersby they had to try it. This rosé is every bit as tasty.

Urbano Cellars  (Berkeley CA), another East Bay urban winery, has been around a few years longer than Urban Legend and makes a wide range of interestingly different wines. However, I didn't care for their 2007 Vin Rosé when I tasted it last year. At RAP this year, they poured the 2008, and it is much improved – it's actually really good. Better still, the 2009 preview is excellent, with good finish. And like so many of these fine wines tasted this day, a bargain at $15.

(I'd like to congratulate the folks at Creative Furnace, the Santa Rosa marketing company that again put on a fine tasting, again at the Butterfly, a great venue with delicious food. Nice job, folks.)