Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wine Review: Priest Ranch 2009 Petite Sirah

Set high in the hills above Napa sits Somerston Wine Company. They have over 200 acres planted and the area has cool nights, late morning fog and warm afternoons.  This lends itself to a nice slow ripening at harvest.

The eastern part of the property sits Priest Ranch. The history dates back to 1849 when a man named Joshua James Priest gained the title to 638 acres of the Catacula land grant in a section called Soda Valley.  Today Soda Valley is called Priest Ranch.

The 2009 Priest Ranch Petite Sirah is 100% Petite Sirah. It has a pretty high alcohol content, clocking in at 15%.

Aromas of rose petals, vanilla and oak come out immediately.  The first sip was strong cherry licorice and very tight.  As the wine opened up it became very complex.  Layers of sour cherry, cassis and hint of licorice filled my mouth.

The wine is very inky in color and you will walk away with purple teeth.

This is a pretty big wine and a although I received this wine as a media sample over a year go, this wine could use another 4 - 6 years in the bottle.  So if you see it, buy it and cellar it for a few more years.  SRP $46

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wine Word Wednesday: Flabby

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Notes From the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room The Captain’s Log: A Tasty Triple Threat

Every few months, Captain Lawrence releases a limited batch of specialty four-packs of very unique beers. This time around, it’s the Seeking Alpha triple IPA. That’s right, triple—we’ll see your imperial IPA and raise you another blast of hoppy goodness. It’s a big, bitter monster of a brew; the Village Voice rightfully called this 11% alcohol beer “a palate-smashing beast of an ale designed for those times when a lesser IPA simply won’t cut it.”
Seeking Alpha, featuring Tomahawk, Mosaic, Cascade, and Citra hops, and created with alpha acid concentrate, debuted last year, but features a modified recipe now. “It’s ten times better than last year,” says owner Scott Vaccaro. “The second time around, we hit it on the head.”
Seeking Alpha represented Captain Lawrence, along with a few other not-quite-normal beers, at the Extreme Beer Fest at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston March 20-21. Hosted by Beer Advocate, the Fest describes itself as “the ultimate throwdown of craft beer creativity. Join us as we celebrate brewers who push the boundaries of brewing and raise a fist at the norm.”
Two years ago, the fest was cancelled due to a massive snowstorm. As the boys headed out of Elmsford on Friday, the snow was falling in New York, but the show went on in Boston. Also making the trip–the Frost Monster imperial stout and some sour ales.
FullSizeRenderIf extreme brews aren’t your thing, Captain Lawrence offers a variety of far more accessible beers. The newbie Effortless IPA (india pale ale), an easygoing 4.5% alcohol beer, makes its debut in early April. On up the hops scale, the Palate Shifter imperial IPA features new packaging and a new name, but the same heady, hoppy, fruity brew. Several beers are going through a rebranding; even the venerable Freshchester Pale Ale will get a new label and six-pack design, though the flagship beer, and its homespun name, will stay the same.
But another taproom standard may get a new name: the Captain’s Kolsch. Got any ideas for renaming the German-style ale?
Friday’s snow and this week’s chill notwithstanding, the fair weather is coming. That means outdoor beer consumption, including Tap New York at Hunter Mountain April 25-26, and the Captain’s own Tap & Pour birthday bash May 16. Tap & Pour encompasses the pig roast of years past, but there’s a wider array of food options, including victuals from famed Walter’s Hot Dogs, Gleason’s and The Cookery, in addition to the grilled swine. Bands will be set up in the brewery; Evan Watson plays the VIP hour at 2 p.m., with Phineas and the Lonely Leaves, Mark Sinnis and Space Bacon (yes, Space Bacon) among those performing. Tap & Pour celebrates Captain Lawrence’s ninth anniversary.
“We’re really trying to do it up this year,” says Scott.
Once the temperature climbs a bit more, there is the Captain Lawrence patio for bocce, cornhole, oven-fired pizzas and brews such as Sun Block, Brown Bird Ale, Liquid Gold and the funky pilot-system lineup. “We can’t wait to see people out on the patio again,” says Scott. “It’s been a long, cold winter.”
–Michael Malone (

Monday, March 23, 2015

Markham Cellar 1879 Blend

Located in St. Helena Markham winery is actually one of the first wineries founded in the Napa Valley.  Founded by Jean Laurent who built the winery in 1874, he was on of the largest producers back in the California wine boom of the 1880's.

One hundred or so years later, Bruce Markham purchased the property and founded Markham Vineyards.  He focused mainly on Cabernet Sauvignon and added Merlot with the 1980 vintage.

In 1988 the winery was sold to Mercian Corporation. Today under the direction of Kimberlee Nicholls, Markham is producing award winning wines.

Kimberlee's Cellar 1879 Blend was created as a homage to Markham founder Jean Laurent who built the winery's stone cellar in 1879.

The 2012 Cellar 1879 Blend is a blend of 36% Merlot, 21% Petite Sirah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 9% Zinfandel and 8% Petit Verdot.  The wine spent 12 months in the barrel of which 30% of the barrels were new oak.

The wine had a beautiful deep garnet color.  Notes of black cherry, blackberry and smoke filled the glass. On my palate I found flavors of blackberry jam, soft tannins and a beautiful hint of soft pepper on the finish.

The wine retails for approximately $25.  Definitely would purchase this wine again.

**Note: This wine was a sample from the PR agency representing the vineyard.**

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thralls Family Cellars 2013 Chardonnay Antonio Mountain

I knew Ed Thralls from the wine blogging community.  He had a blog called "WineTonight," but we met in person in 2010 when a few of us took a hike in Napa. It was the 3 hour tour. Yes, it turned into a 6 hour hike.

Ed had just relocated to the Napa area from Atlanta to begin following his dream, producing his own wine.  Well, I must say it didn't take him to long to realize his dream.  Congratulations Ed! I'm real proud of you.

Of course I had to purchase some of his wine and try it. Boy did I like it and can't wait to taste the other selections.

The 2013 Thralls Family Cellars Chardonnay came from a vineyard in the Antonio Mountain Vineyard located in the Petaluma Gap. There were only 74 cases of this Chardonnay made.

The wine was aged in 50% neutral oak barrels and 50% stainless steel for 8 months.  It went through 100% malolactic fermentation and was aged 8 months before bottling in September of 2014. 

Aromas of Anjou pear, a citrus blend and a touch of butter filled the glass.  One sip and both Paul and I had smiles on our faces.  Well done! Flavors of red apple, Anjou pear,, creamy and delicate with just the right balance.

The wine was paired with Butternut Squash Ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce served over a bed of greens. Perfect pairing at that!

Unfortunately Thralls is only sold at select stores in California. But the god news is you can order from his website and the UPS man can deliver it.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Notes From the Tasting Room, Vol. 141: Shamrockin' In the Free World


It is that lull on the calendar—St. Patrick’s Day not quite here, and Pi Day a recent memory. Pi Day, celebrating the extraordinarily rare occurrence of 3/14/15 on the calendar, was a surprisingly big day around the Captain Lawrence tasting room, the guys awarding growler-fill cards to lucky guests to mark the special occasion.
If there was an award for the furthest distance traveled, it would easily go to Ben Rodenbeck and John Rector, of Indianapolis and Muncie, Indiana, respectively. John did his residency at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw last year, and is back for a visit, Ben in tow. They hit a number of breweries, including Helltown of Pennsylvania and Wheeling Brewing Company of West Virginia, before arriving in New York.
“I lived here for a year and somehow never made it to Captain Lawrence,” says John, addressing that with a sample of Smoke Up smoked porter, while Ben has the Hop Commander IPA.
The pair is here until midweek, which includes St. Patrick’s Day in New York. “We’ll find a good party,” vows Ben.
The two head out for the 3 p.m. tour, while Steve Verdino of Nyack and Alanna Myrick of Brooklyn stay behind. Steve found a couple Captain Lawrence sample chips at home, which prompted he and Alanna to pop in after hiking on Hook Mountain in Rockland County. Steve’s got the Frozen Flowers, a small-batch Belgian Ale brewed with elderflowers, while Alanna sips the Hop Commander.
Alanna spent one St. Patrick’s Day in New Orleans, celebrating her birthday. Steve marched in the New York parade during high school. But both are working on Tuesday, and haven’t given much thought to March 17 revelry. “Ten years ago, I would’ve,” says Steve with a smile.
Similarly, St. Pat’s is not top of mind for Sean and Brandis Cuevas of White Plains; both too will be working. “I may make a good Irish meal,” says Brandis. “I actually don’t know if it will be good, but I will try.”
The couple has been into wine, and wine tastings, for years, and more recently developed a love for craft beer. They tasted some Captain Lawrence at Hudson Grill in White Plains, and decided to check out the brewery. “I love the whole culture of beer,” says Brandis.
She’s got the smoked porter—“rich, thick, stouty, malty,” she says, with some bacon hints. Sean calls the Captain’s Kolsch a “beerbeer”, and digs the Frozen Flowers too. “My expectation after reading the description was, ‘eh,’” he admits. “But it’s crisp and light, with just enough hops and a nice aroma.”
So will no one celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a few pints in an Irish pub while wearing their green finery? Not hardly. Jay Murrinalready has his shamrock t-shirt on. Living in Woodlawn (“County Woodlawn,” his mother calls it), he’ll be at the 60th annual Yonkers St. Patrick’s Day parade March 21. “It’s gonna be packed,” he says. “You see people you haven’t seen in years.”
Jay is sampling a variety of pale ales and thinking about a Guinness or two on the parade route along McLean Avenue this coming Saturday. “It’s fun. It’s fun,” he says with a broad smile. “It’s a lot of fun.”His friend Brendan Smith, a former mounted NYPD officer, saw a number of New York St. Patrick’s parades from atop his horse. He says the most popular figures in the parade weren’t the Irish step dancers or the pipe bands, but the sanitation guys with the shovels, trailing the horses and keeping things clean and sanitary. A fan of the Liquid Gold, Brendan is trying something new with the pilot-system tangerine wheat ale called Twang. “I don’t know that I’d drink it all night, but it’s a nice palate cleanser,” he says.