Monthly Archives: October 2013

Winemaker B and Armida Rock the 90s

No, this is not an article about rock ’n’ roll in the
90s.  This is about
Winemaker B (aka
Brandon Lapides), of
, nailing a few 90+ scores from Wine Spectator.  So let’s just lay it out here: 


2011 Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Zinfandel     91

2011 Maple Vineyard Zinfandel           90

2010 Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Zinfandel     90


Armida:  Looking
past 2013’s empty grape bins toward the Dry Creek Valley. 


Now the bad news – good news story.  The bad news is that you can’t buy
these wines, unless you luck out somehow. 
Both 2010 and 2011 harvests were lower than normal, and these vineyards
were no different. Not that much wine was made either year, especially the
vineyard designated wines, and it’s tough to find now.  The good news is that both 2012 and
2013 had excellent harvests, from a quantity perspective.  And the better news is that both 2012
and 2013 seem better right now than 2010 and 2011, from a quality


One interesting note is that these vineyards, Maple and
Parmelee-Hill, produce completely different grapes.  Not surprising, since they’re in completely different
locations.  Maple Vineyards is the
classic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel vineyard, with head-trained vines, including
some blocks that were planted nearly 100 years ago.  It’s all about the fruit as it enters your mouth, and it’s wonderful.  Parmelee-Hill is a Sonoma Coast
vineyard, actually closer to the Carneros region.  Armida gets some Pinot Noir grapes from that vineyard also, so
you know it has to be in a cooler microclimate.  Parmelee_Hill Zinfandels, at least as made by Winemaker B,
have more complexity than usually seen in Zinfandels, and more subtle fruit
flavors.  In my experience it’s
relatively unusual for a winery and winemaker to excel at both styles of



Harvest is drawing to a close for Armida, leaves are turning
colors.  All the grapes were in
about 10 days ago.  There’s still
wine fermenting, and Winemaker B likes to call the end of harvest when they’re
through with primary fermentations and those tanks get emptied.  I think a more practical definition of
end of harvest is when he gets his first day completely off:  not one trip to the winery.  Once again this year, he’s worked every
day from the Tuesday after Labor Day to probably the weekend after
Halloween.  (That’s 9 weeks straight
without a day off, but who’s counting? 
Besides his wife and kids, that is.) 



We went to Armida a week ago to help with grandkids, and
check on the 2013 harvest. 
Beautiful day, and we spent a few hours there tasting, picnicing and trying
to tire out the grandkids.  (They
won that battle.)  Above, future
winemaker Elli was helping behind the tasting room bar, while below, future
winemaker Eden gets to relax with his father. 





Larry Lapides


New York City Food and Wine Visit

Lori and I visited New York City the first week of October.  Just for fun, although the timing of
the trip was determined by my parents being in New York City and having an
apartment where we could crash. 


A quick digression here.  My parents are spending the month of October in NYC.  At 85 and 80 years old, they have
rented an apartment in NYC (midtown/Hells Kitchen/Theater Disctrict area), and
are spending the month going to the ballet, symphony, theater, museums, restaurants
and doing everything else that NYC has to offer.  Plus seeing friends and family and doing a little business
while out there.  (Retirement is just a word to them.)  They’re both
using canes to get around now, but this only seems to just slow them down a bit, not stop
them from doing anything.  So while
this is, at first glance, incredibly foolish of them, it’s actually a wonderful
thing they’re doing.  They are
setting the bar quite high, and I hope in 30 years Lori and I will be able to
do something similarly crazy and wonderful. 


So Lori and I flew in to Newark a few weeks ago, taking the airport bus into Manhattan.  Tuesday was spent relaxing, and going
to a taping of the Daily Show with John Stewart.  More on that great experience in a separate post.  Wednesday, before going to the theater,
we ate at
ViceVersa.  Nice Italian restaurant within walking
distance of the apartment, and of the theater we were heading to.  We had an Acacia 2011 Carneros Pinot
Noir with dinner, and it worked quite well.  


Thursday we went to the theater again.  But before the theater, we met Sean and
Jessica, friends of our son Brandon. 
They were, coincidently, also on vacation in NYC.  So we invited them over to the
apartment for wine and cheese, and they also brought some desserts:  chocolate covered strawberries, cannoli,
éclair.  We picked up a bottle of Ridge Vineyards 2011 Three Valleys.  This
is a blend of 65% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, 3% Mataro, 2%
Alicante Bouschet, 1% Grenache.  We
love the Ridge Zinfandel-based blends. 
This one was little heavier on the Petite Sirah than we would usually
like for an afternoon wine, but still quite good. 


Friday we splurged on lunch, going to one of the top
restaurants in NYC,
Gotham Bar and
in the Greenwich Village area. 
They have a great prix fixe lunch deal, which we all had.  We started with appetizers of either
salad or a roasted vegetable soup (see photo below). 
For the second course, the ladies had the goat cheese ravioli with lamb
shank, while my father and I both had the cod.  For dessert there was chocolate cake with Almond ice cream,
a trio of sorbets, and a crumble. 
We had a 2010 Wind Gap Pinot Noir, Woodruff Vineyards, Santa Cruz
Mountains with lunch.  Excellent
wine, but still a bit young. 


What a great vacation!  I hope we get to do this again.  



Derby Fifteen 10 and Red Snapper

Another night, another dinner, another bottle of wine.  Actually, we don’t have wine every night with dinner.  And not every dinner is gourmet.  Unless you consider burritos and tuna melts and sloppy joes as gourmet.  Tonight wasn’t really gourmet either, but somewhere in between.  Red snapper (wild, locally caught, and that sound you hear is Lori and I patting each other on the back for that), bok choy and Israeli couscous.  The red snapper was sautéd in some olive oil, seasoned with lavender salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme and paprika.  At the very end of the cooking, fresh garlic, lemon juice and white wine were added.  Not gourmet, just a casual night of pulling ingredients and having it all work out well. 

We needed a bottle of wine to go with this.  Sometimes the wine cellar is first in, first out, when we’re going for the older wines, and sometimes it’s last in, first out, especially for the white wines.  There up front was the 2010 Derby Wine Estates Fifteen 10, their white Rhone blend from the Paso Robles area.  The blend for this year is 34% Roussanne, 27% Viognier, 21% Marsanne, 9% Grenache Blanc and 9% Picpoul Blanc.  I have no clue about that last varietal; never heard of it before.  But whatever the blend, this was great with dinner.  Nicely balanced, enough acid to really work with food, enough fruit to add to the flavor mix in the mouth.  And it’s still great after dinner, maybe even better. 

Another case of going to the winery (see our post from visiting this past summer), enjoying the tasting, buying the wine, and enjoying it again when opened.  We’re going to have to figure out how to get more of this wine. 



Wine Tasting in the Livermore Region

Last Saturday Larry and I and another couple, Liz and Werner, went for the afternoon to experience the Livermore Wine Region.  We started out by stopping off at our local Sprouts store and picked up picnic supplies such as cheeses, salami’s, olives and chocolate.  We had already packed sliced baguette, grapes and water.

Off we went to Retzlaff Vineyards.  We hadn’t been there in years but remembered that they have nice picnic grounds.  We started there by each of us buying a wine flight to taste.  It only cost $5.00 per person.  Liz and I had the red and white combo flight, Larry had the red flight and Werner had the white flight.  They were pretty good wines.  We ended up buying a bottle of their Rose of Merlot and took it out to enjoy with our picnic lunch.  It was a beautiful 75 degrees with a slight wind.  We were sitting in white plastic chairs and had a large round table all to ourselves in the shade of the trees.  Their grape vines were just 20 feet away from us and had already been harvested.

                                            Retzlaff Winery

From there we went to Steven Kent Winery, just 5 minutes away.  When we arrived they had a sign out that said please wait to be brought to a table.  They had two flight available for tasting and each couple bought one of each.  It cost $15.00 for each flight of 4 wines.  The one Liz and I sampled had one white and the rest cabs and the men got the flight that had a rose’ of pinot noir and the rest pinot noir. 

We were enjoying our tasting when Tracy, their VP of retail sales walked into the tasting room.  We had just seen her on Thursday night when Larry and I went into San Francisco for a blind wine tasting that included wines from Santa Cruz, Napa and Livermore.  Out of 6 tastings of 2009 cabernet sauvignon blends that sell for $145 + the Livermore wine came in second place and that wine was a Steven Kent wine.  We said hi to Tracy and talked with her for a few minutes.  After talking with her she asked if we had a few extra minutes to try some more wines.  We said yes, so she set us up in La Rochelle Winery, which is owned and operated by Steven Kent and is right next door.  We walked next door and they had 4 seats set up with a Library Cabernet Vertical tasting of 4 wines.  Each setting also had a plate with a sampling of triple cream brie, Manchego sheep’s milk cheese, blue Castello cow’s milk cheese and a fig and olive tapenade all served with some crackers.  Michael who works there helped us through the tasting and answered all the questions we had for him.  The tasting was from 2004-2007.  Of course we all liked the wines with some of them being ready to drink now and some still able to stay laying down in the bottle.  Each bottle sells for $65.00 which isn’t a bad price especially I think for the ’05 and the ’07. 

This was a very fun experience and a very special treat for us!  We thanked Tracy and Michael for making this a wonderful tasting experience.  We might go back in the month of October when they will be doing another vertical but with the Cabernet blend called Lineage, but more likely we will go back in November when they will be doing a vertical tasting with their Pinot Noir. 

We got home just in time for our younger son and daughter-in-law to handoff our 7 month old granddaughter for the night while they went to a Further concert in Berkeley.  It took us awhile to sober up but we did just fine and had a great time babysitting.