Monthly Archives: September 2013

Livermore Cabernet Blend Scores Against the Best

You don’t get to do one of
these every day, a blind tasting with


Opus One

Joseph Phelps Insignia

Ridge Montebello

Continuum (Tim Mondavi)




I just heard 5 “Wows!” and 1
“Huh?”  Those first 5 are
consistently top California Cabernet Sauvignon bottles.  $150 per bottle and up.  So what is that sixth wine, and why is
it in the tasting? 


Lineage is a Bordeaux blend
from Steven Kent Mirassou.  If the
name is familiar, it should be. 
The Mirassou family is the oldest winemaking family in America, and
Steven is the 6
th generation of winemakers in the family.  “Steven Kent
may also be familiar, as it’s the name of his winery in the
Livermore Valley.  When he founded the winery back in
1996, his goal was to make one great wine, a Bordeaux blend that would show
what the Livermore Valley could produce. 


Lori and I live next door to
the Livermore Valley, and have been tasting wines there for the last 20+
years.  Livermore has consistently
good wines, very good wines for the price, and occasionally great wines.  It’s a different growing region, with
an east-west oriented valley (unusual for California) producing huge summertime
temperature swings.  Add in a few
different microclimates and soil types, a history of winemaking and
grape-growing that goes back to the 1840s, and you have the makings of a great
wine region.  However, the
Livermore VAlley hasn’t been known for its great wines, but instead for the
large producers and good value. 


To find out if Steven Kent
Mirassou can make a great wine, and change the reputation of the Livermore
Valley, we should return to the tasting. 
We went into San Francisco for this tasting, put on by the
American Institute of Wine and Food
(AIWF).  About 20 of us, tasting
those 6 wines, all from the 2009 vintage, blind.  The results were, from last to first:


6.            Opus

5.            Phelps

3.            Dominus

3.            Ridge

2.            Lineage

1.            Continuum


All of us tasting were wine
lovers, with a fair bit of experience tasting wines, but all amateurs.  And 20 people is not a lot, from a
statistical point of view.  Still,
the Livermore wine, Lineage, hung with the big boys and showed that it deserved
to be there. 


Well done, Steve Kent








Harvest 2013: Initial Update

We spoke with Winemaker B last week, as harvest was just starting.  This is now his 4th harvest at Armida Winery; amazing how time goes by!  For his first harvest at Armida, his first child was about 3 months old, and for this harvest, his second is about the same age.  But 2010 was a tough harvest from the winery perspective as well:  first harvest as head winemaker, first harvest at Armida, and the grapes were just good, but not great, throughout the region. 

2011 was not a great vintage either in the Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys, where Armida gets most of their grapes.  2012 had incredible quantity, and pretty good quality, as far as we can tell so far.  So what to expect in 2013?

Well, the initial report from Winemaker B is that this could be an excellent year for Armida.  No real weather problems during the growing season, no spikes near harvest, just a consistent warmth for the grapes.  Add to that some better technique in the vineyards, and more knowledge on the part of Winemaker B as to what each vineyards’ characteristics are and how to optimize the quality from each vineyard, and it could add up to an outstanding year for Winemaker B and Armida. 

Armida has always been known for its Zinfandels, and this year could be a lot of fun.  Winemaker B has always had a feel for Zinfandel, dating back to the early part of his career at Peachy Canyon Winery.  In his first harvest at Armida he got the Parmelee-Hill Zinfandel, which should still be sitting in the bottle and getting better.  2011 was the year for the Maple Vineyards Zinfandel to shine.  He’s still not sure about the best from 2012, although the Goldmine Vineyard Zinfandel is the early favorite.  This year, the betting money (even before bringing in the grapes) seems to be on Tina’s Block from Maple Vineyard producing the top Zinfandel.  And, of course, there’s always the Poizin Reserve, in the coffin. 

More updates to come, probably focusing on the white wines next time. 



A Day in Carmel

Lori and I went to Carmel on Labor Day.  Carmel is always a nice day, wandering around the shops, having lunch.  And the drive itself, following Monterey Bay around from the northern tip at Santa Cruz to the southern tip at Monterey and Carmel, can be beautiful.  It’s actually a reminder of what California was and still is, as you go from coastal mountains with coastal redwoods to the agriculture of the mid-bay area (Castroville artichokes!) then to the pines of the Monterey Peninsula.  All with beautiful sandy beaches, or lively and lovely tide pools. 

This trip we ate at a restaurant new to us, Dametra Cafe, which bills itself as a “Ristorante Mediterraneo”.  Indeed it is a Mediterranean restaurant, with a Greek-based menu, but with dishes from as far away as Persia.  There were also dishes from Israel, Italy, Lebanon and Turkey that we noticed on the menu.  We went pretty simple for lunch, with Lori ordering the chicken shawarma sandwich and a gyro for me.  Portions were more than generous, and the food was delicious.  Their wine list is a bit limited, but Lori found a Penfolds Cab Shiraz, and I had a glass of a nice Spanish Garnacha Syrah blend.  Great atmosphere there, very friendly, and adding to the Mediterranean feeling was the post-lunch serenade of the restaurant, in Spanish, by the Mexican chef. 

Shopping in Carmel is always fun, and we found a few things, including being able to check off a few boxes for the holiday gifts.  And not to worry, we bought something for each of the grandkids. 

After Carmel, we decided to take the driving tour of 17 Mile Drive.  This is a scenic road that winds through the Pebble Beach area, through golf courses, mansions and some great California coastline.  Just a beautiful day for that.  I don’t know if you can see them in the photograph, but seals were all over the rocks just offshore. 

Finally, on the way home, we made a pilgrimage to Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing.  Only one of the best fish restaurants around, although not particularly fancy.  We picked up a quart of clam chowder for dinner, actually getting off pretty easy.  But it was Labor Day, and we weren’t sure if the boats had actually been out, so we didn’t worry about picking up any fish. 

Hope you had a great holiday weekend also!