In order to get ready for our upcoming wine dinner with Buck Milbrandt and his family’s line of wines on September 25th, Milbrandt Merlot is our first offering in Josh’s Selection. Initially apple and potato farmers, Butch and his brother Jerry put down agricultural roots in Eastern Washington long before 1997, the year they planted their first grapevines in the area now designated as the Wahluke Slope AVA. Fast forward two decades and the Milbrandt’s are currently farming over ten distinct vineyard sites in the Wahluke Slope AVA and four vineyards to the north in the Ancient Lakes AVA. Now a multi-generational brand with Butch and his son Buck taking the lead, Milbrandt wines continue to deliver uncompromising quality – having earned more than sixty-five 90+ point ratings to date.
This wine is comprised of 86% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is produced from 3 vineyards in the Columbia Valley, which include Sundance, Rosebud, and Northridge Vineyards. Grapes were harvested in October of 2017. After picking and pressing, 28% of the wine spent time in neutral American oak barrels for 14 months. This wine has bright aromas of cherry, cranberry, and pomegranate. It has a great intense fruit driven palate. This helps keep the fruit pronounced and powerful yet balanced at the same time.
Josh’s Selection is finished with Talbott “Sleepy Hollow” Chardonnay 2014. Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow Vineyard is located in the Santa Lucia Highlands, and was designated one of California’s Grand Cru vineyards by Wine Enthusiast in 2016 for its ability to produce exceptional wines year after year, even under challenging conditions. With rolling hills and mountains, lush green land and bright blue skies, this vineyard has remarkable beauty. First planted in 1972, the vineyard is comprised of 565 planted acres divided into three vineyard parcels, Sleepy Hollow North, Sleepy Hollow West and Sleepy Hollow South. Each grows exclusively Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
Vines at Sleepy Hollow grow in cool conditions with moderate temperatures due to their proximity to the Pacific Ocean and east-northeast exposure. Cooling fog and frequent ocean breezes flowing through the Santa Lucia Highlands temper warm sunshine, preventing the grapes from ripening too quickly. These idyllic elements combine to give Sleepy Hollow one of the longest growing seasons in California, and allow each grape to develop the concentrated flavors that are a signature of Talbott Vineyards wines. Sleepy Hollow West, South and North are composed of gravelly loam soil, with a high proportion of sand to granite and low water content. Vines forced to penetrate deeply for water access absorb minerals from the soil, resulting in resilient grapevines with relatively low yields of grapes that, in turn, produce rich and complex flavors.
All Red Selection
First up in our Red Selection is a fan favorite, the 2015 Odd Lot. In winery parlance, “odd lots” are the wines that haven’t yet found a home. Odd Lot Petite-Petit is playful, fun and approachable. Odd Lot is an unorthodox blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. “Our winemaking approach is unconventional and our team has the latitude to explore, in service of making something delicious. Whimsical and even irreverent parameters guide our blending process: rules are meant to be broken and everything is up for consideration. The final result is an audacious and o¬ffbeat partnership of Petite-Petit that also happens to make an enticing, big red blend.”
The Monterey region is defined by morning fog, strong winds, broad temperature swings and intense sunshine. The warmer inland temperatures are moderated by the powerful influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean, which averages 50° throughout the year. In Hames Valley, the triad of fog, strong winds and bright sunlight promote the cultivation of Petite Sirah to delicious result. The long, warm days allow full-bodied, dark fruit favors to develop while the dramatic nighttime cooling preserves the balance and structure of this big, bold wine.
The palate is full bodied for this wine but has soft tannins and a black fruit that lingers pleasantly. Peppercorn crusted beef, rosemary lamb chops, spiced grilled eggplant, and even manchego cheese would benefit from being paired with this wine.
Next up on our Red Selection is Gundlach Bundschu Mt. Cuvee 2017. Established in 1858, Gundlach Bundschu’s estate vineyards are located 35 miles north of San Francisco on the southwesterly slopes of the Mayacamas Mountain Range. It’s located at the southernmost point in Sonoma Valley, flanked by the Carneros district to the south, Napa Valley to the east and nestled within the larger Sonoma Coast American Viticultural Area. Rhinefarm has a unique combination of steep hillsides and cool valley floor sites, allowing us to grow a broad variety of wines at a very high-quality level.
Rhinefarm’s terrain below 150-feet elevation is ideally suited for earlier-ripening, high-acid varieties. Cool air settles over the valley floor, where ancient bay waters deposited mineral-rich sediment and pockets of light stream gravel in the Huichica clay-loam soils. We focus on Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay on this gently-sloping terrain, where growing conditions consistently deliver minerality and focused acidity.
Above 150 feet, the terrain is dominated by Arrowhead Mountain, and the rocky, shallow soils consist of rhyolitic volcanic ash and alluvial wash. Steep hillside blocks are planted predominantly to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with small plantings of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Syrah and Zinfandel. Pervasive maritime breezes and long daylight exposure allow for slow, even ripening, resulting in deep color, intense flavor concentration and elegant balance in the wines.
Rhinefarm’s 320 acres are intensively and sustainably hand-farmed in 60 distinct blocks according to the specific soil, exposure, slope and vine age of the site. Each block is individually monitored and tended throughout the growing season to ensure optimal health of the vine and the vineyard, and ultimately to achieve the goals for flavor development and ripeness. Each vine is touched over a dozen times throughout the season, from suckering and shoot positioning, to judicious leafing and cluster thinning to ensure slow, even ripening. Pound-per-vine targets vary by block, based on vine spacing and other factors; ranch yields average two to four tons per acre.
With this wines composition of 74% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot, and 5% Malbec look for this wine to offer refreshing aromas of black cherries and blackberries lifted by vanilla and warm baking spices lead into a light-to-medium bodied palate of more dark fruit, savory cocoa and earth, while dusty tannins and mouth-watering acidity leave a lingering freshness.
All White Selection
The 2018 offering of Walnut Block Sauvignon Blanc is the first selection for the White category. Walnut Block ‘Collectables’ Sauvignon Blanc 2018 and all of the Walnut Block offerings is the vision of two brothers, Clyde and Nigel Sowman, who have joined together to create a range of wines reflecting their collective experience and passions. Situated in the renowned Wairau Valley, Walnut Block Wines takes its name from the landmark walnut tree within the vineyard itself. The 44-acre vineyard is located on the Wairau Valley plains, a dry ancient riverbed which has created a prime growing area for Sauvignon Blanc. The brother’s say, “The belief that the vineyard is the key to a great wine is at the core of Walnut Block. Labor intensive vineyard methods produce consistent, exceptional fruit quality; the use of traditional winemaking techniques and attention to preserving delicate flavors & aromas. The commitment to organic viticulture has seen continual development in the flavor and mouthfeel of the wines as the vines become more self-sufficient and naturally balanced.” Among the vines stands the region’s oldest walnut tree, and to pay homage, the Collectables label depicts an adaptation of the 1898 Kiwi New Zealand stamp. Both the planting of the tree and the release of the stamp occurred over 100 years ago and celebrate the unique Kiwi history and roots of Walnut Block.
The fruit is grown on 3 cane VSP, lightly leaf plucked to give good sunlight and airflow to ensure healthy fruit. They control the yield through shoot thinning. Grapes are harvested during the cool of night to maintain freshness and flavors. The grapes are de-stemmed and pressed, then slowly fermented in stainless steel at a cool temperature using carefully selected yeast. Extended yeast lees contact adds weight and texture to the plate for this wine.
2018 was a vintage for the record books. December was the second warmest on record and January was the warmest in more than 60 years. The heat didn’t quite continue though as February brought the highest recorded rainfall in that month’s history, courtesy of two cyclones ‘Fehi’ and ‘Gita’, making unwelcome appearances. “The result was vigorous sorting in the winery and very pleasurably, albeit intense, fruit. The ‘classic’ Marlborough grapefruit is nicely balanced by a bit more tropical fruit notes. There is great palate weight to the wines and they are sure to be crowd pleasers!”
Our second bottle for the White Selection is 100% Riesling and comes from Rheinhessen, Germany. The Heinz Eifel ‘Shine’ Riesling is made from grapes harvested on the sloping hillsides of Germany’s prime wine growing regions. The winding rivers running alongside these vineyards reflect sunlight, which help to ripen the Riesling throughout the long cool growing season.
Today, Heinz Eifel is run by father Heinz Eifel and daughter Anne Eifel-Spohr, crafting
wines from the highest quality grapes processed with only the most modern standards, techniques and technology. Unlike many larger German wineries, Heinz Eifel himself has control over the entire winemaking process.
The Riesling grapes had a very long ripening phase, which greatly benefit the fruit and aroma haracteristics. The state of health of the grapes was particularly pleasing as it provid¬ed best possible prerequisites for top wines in all quality grades.
The wine pours a light yellow with aromas of peaches and citrus. On the palate it is slightly sweet, with bright, crisp flavors of green apple, pear and peach. Enjoy this wine with spicier Asian cuisine.