Saturday, May 29, 2010

New varietal tasting

I bought a bottle of the Seghesio Family Vineyards Fiano. Seghesio ( is a Sonoma, California winery and a solid producer of quality wines. The Fiano grape is native to Italy but seems to have started gaining some exposure outside of Italy. I had read something about it, then just happened to see this bottle in the Cellar wine store and decided to try it.

It has been a bit since I drank it, but we enjoyed it on a sunny evening. It is a dry white wine, similar in body to a pinot grigio/sauv blanc. It had a really nice clean feel to it that I loved and on the back end a bit of minerality. This is based off a poor memory, but I remember really enjoying it. Given a guess, I'd say it is probably not put in oak. It was about $20 a bottle, so a bit high for a summer white. However, well worth the experience of trying a brand new varietal.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Out way too long

It has been way too long since coming here and I've missed writing. I hope to have some notes for you shortly. A couple things to consider...

There is a meetup group for wine in Anchorage. Just search for Wine and join.

There are a few new wine clubs - try Crush or La Bodega if you want a monthly selection.

Midnight sun, garden-fresh veggies, fresh Salmon... bring on Alaska and some great wines to enjoy it with!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pine Ridge Vertical Tasting

“I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive.”
- Maya in the movie Sideways

The core of the Alaska Grape Nuts assembled the other weekend to conduct our first official vertical tasting. One of our members is a big Pine Ridge Winery ( fan and became a member of their library club, which delivers some of their older vintages. He assembled for us a collection of their Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon from 1996 through 2000.

As someone relatively new to wine, but totally consumed, I am intrigued and desirous of trying older wines. But, alas, my collection is young and don’t really have the means to pay for wines that have been aged. This for me represented some of the oldest wines I’ve tasted… and I was quite excited about it.

We decided to start with the old and move to the new, reasoning that the younger wines would be more tannic, less refined, and could overwhelm the older ones. I’m not sure what the correct protocol is on this, though. We had separate glasses for each one, though, and so we had the opportunity to revisit them all after going through the line up once.

1996: I think this was the crowd favorite… WOW… especially on the second visit, after it had breathed just a little more. It had an incredibly soft mouth feel. You could start to see some color variation on the rim. The fruit was sturdy and solid, but still somehow subtle. There was still structure with the wine but the tannins were just incredible soft. The finish persisted and it was just a beautiful wine to drink… absolutely my favorite of the night.
Blend: 80% Cab, 15% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cab Franc

1997: This wine was brighter in color and fruit; it wasn’t quite as garnet colored as the 1996 and definitely had more bright, but short lived fruit. On the second visit to this wine I noted a bit of raisiny notes. The ultra fine tannins really stood out to me on this one. The group consensus on this was 3rd or 4th.
Blend: 76% Cab, 11% Merlot, 5% Cab Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec

1998: This vintage came in last place for crowd consensus and interestingly, this vintage in Napa is usually rated low overall. However, many of the Nuts in attendance thought this would be an excellent wine with a steak and had strong preferences… so, don’t read too much into vintage charts. The mouth feel was consistent and nice, there was acidity and tannins on the backend. But, for me the fruit really wasn’t present and what little was there seemed to disappear really easily. This had a wide variation of reviews.
Blend: 77% Cab, 17% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 3% Cab Franc

1999: I would describe this wine in one word… complete. At this point I could tell between this and the ‘96 that we were drinking a bit of a newer wine; or, at least wine that could age a bit more. This had a slight syrupyness and viscosity to the mouth feel, very nice fruit but not deep or rich, but it persisted in the finish… and I liked that. The group rated this as the second highest of the night.
Blend: 76% Cab, 18% Merlot, 4% Cab Franc, 2% Petit Verdot

2000: This one was rated 3rd overall and the tannins and acidity were present. There wasn’t the fruit present like in the ‘96 or event the ‘99, but it wasn’t completely lacking like the ‘98. I’d really like to see how this wine is in 3 years… would it be more like the ‘96… well integrated and smooth?  Or, would it be like the ‘98… all tannins?
Blend: 75% Cab, 20% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec, 1% Cab Franc

It was a memorable night for all of us. As always, we really enjoyed each others company and being able to talk about life, wine, and the new experience. I loved the extreme differences between the vintages and I’d like to read a report of those years. Were they hot, rainy, early, late, etc.? We also found it interesting to see the different proportions used in blending (something they aren’t required by law to include on the label). Finally, I am grateful to try a wine like the ‘96, a wine that to me was obviously an older wine, and to experience the richness, depth, and personality of a bottle of wine that was born 13 years ago. I look forward to more of these, especially as our young cellars gain maturity.

Until next time… Drink and Discover

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Willamette Valley Day Trip Report

Mrs. AGN and I took our girls on a visit to Portland and spent a day down in the wine country of Willamette Valley, an AVA that spreads from Portland down to Eugene. There are many sub-AVA’s in this area (and even talk of sub-sub AVA’s) and we visited two – Dundee Hills and McMinnville. The AVA system is somewhat designed to help consumers understand how terroir affects the wine. If a wine lists Willamette Valley on the label, then the grapes came from several different sub-AVA’s; if it lists just Dundee Hills, then you know all the grapes came from that AVA. These AVA’s are designated based on soil type, mainly, I believe. The WV region is primarily Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris and differences between the sub-AVA’s isn’t quite as pronounced, for me, as in other areas, such as Yakima Valley. However, it is still fun and interesting to know about these differences and look for what the location of the vineyard imparts into the wines.

One other general observation – the Oregon tasting rooms, at least the few we visited, seem to have higher tasting room fees than their Washington counterparts. I attributed some of this to Pinot Noir – it is generally a more expensive varietal. But, tasting fees were high and in some cases, took a large purchase to get them waived.

Argyle Winery ( – this is a relatively large-production winery. Nice wines, but nothing super distinctive about the tasting room staff or their wines. It always takes a stop or two to get warmed up, though.

Next was Daedalus Cellars ( which we really enjoyed. The wines are organic and quite good. They make an easy-drinking Pinot, called Jezebel, which I thought was terrific and instantly turned my mind to grilled Salmon. Their higher-end Pinots provided more structure and complexity, but the Jezebel took the prize for value of the day. The tasting room staff was the owner’s yoga instructor and had an energetic personality that filled the small, nondescript tasting room.

Next we headed up the hills a bit to Domaine Serene, known for their top-rated Pinots. On the way, we found Red Ridge Farms and were lured in by the sign for Olive Oil tastings. They have a gorgeous setting overlooking the hills, an excellent picnic area, wonderful planted herbs, and lots of olive and truffle oil tastings. Wine country isn’t just for wine tastings – there are many flavors and sensations to appreciate along the way.

Arriving at Domaine Serene (, we knew we were out of our element. The facility exudes formality and pretense; the cashier at the entrance collects your tasting fee and then you move through the different stations. They have a top rated Pinot and while it was very well balanced and elegant, the value wasn’t there compared to even the first two wineries we had hit. We ended up purchasing a bottle of their Syrah, sourced from Washington grapes, though.

And then something completely different, and more up our alley… Vista Hills ( They call this the treehouse tasting room because there is a porch overlooking the vineyard, nestled among trees providing a hideout feel to it. The tasting room staff is primarily young people who are very friendly and warm. The tasting fee is a nominal $5 and is waived with a purchase (only decent of them). They have some wonderful wines and, having found a nice place to sit on the deck, we ordered a cheese plate and decided to park it for a while. The cheese plate wasn’t a small sample tray – it provided a nice little light lunch for us and the girls. 4 different cheeses, grapes, dried fruit, crackers… all while sipping Pinot in the shade watching a coyote in the vines. This was the highlight of our day.

Right across the road from Vista Hills was Domaine Drouhin ( If you shop at Costco you may have seen their 2006 Pinot. A word to the wise – Costco sells it much cheaper than they do at the winery. And, the 2006 was an excellent vintage; the 2007 is ok, but doesn’t have the weight and fullness of 2006. At this point we were a little burned out on the formality of higher end tasting rooms and anything was a let-down after the treehouse. So, we tried a few of their wines and hit the road for McMinnville.

McMinnville had a sleepy, informal feel to it and I wish we could have spent a little more time there. We drove in, saw a sign pointing to a wine tasting, and decided to follow; we were on to the ad-hoc part of our day. The sign led us to Anthony Dell Cellars (, This tasting room was in a large warehouse featuring a simple bar, a nice sitting area, and an enjoyable ambiance for tasting honest wines. Walking across the street, we ended up in Panther Creek Cellars ( Similar to Anthony Dell, this was a tasting room located in their warehouse, but also was their wine making facility. The smells, sounds, and visual treat of walking in and enjoying the wine while looking at the living wine aging in barrels stacked to the ceiling is a multi-sensory experience that fills my memory of the place. I commented on this to the staff guy pouring our wine (who doubles as the cellar rat) and he didn’t share my sense of wonder. Apparently, making wine in a facility not designed for winemaking adds significant hardship. Regardless, the wines were good – polished and complete.

Our last stop was at Evergreen (, world famous home of the Spruce Goose. Not only do they have a great aviation museum, they own a vineyard and make some good Oregon wines. Their tasting room is located in the museum so you get to taste wine while admiring the hugeness of the Goose… boy, is it big. We unfortunately did not have enough time to go through the museum, but did taste the wines. They have a great marketing angle, with multiple labels for their Pinots as well as a nice light, dry rose. While stereotypically I’d expect these wines to be awkward, cheap, and looking solely to capitalize on the museum/wine country theme, these weren’t. They were enjoyable wines representing Oregon winemaking nicely. The museum is slated to get the next decommissioned space shuttles; it’ll definitely be on our list to visit again.

For a one day trip, we were able to pack a bit in and it was a great introduction to that part of the Willamette Valley. We have a few more Oregon Pinots to add to our cellar, and to enjoy with our next meal. For me, I used to not really care for or appreciate Pinot; I tried and I tried, but didn’t. However, over the last couple of years I have gained much more of an appreciation for it, especially its food-friendliness.

So, what do you like, or dislike, about Pinot? Any recommendations of some you really like?

Until next time… Drink and Discover.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Alaska and wine

They say that good Pinot Noir under $20 is hard to find. Who are “they”? I just finished a glass of an $18 McKinlay Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley and it was perfect. It was light, easy to see through and not necessarily promising much at first. But the first sniff dispels that, there is an elegance and refinement that says it was treated properly, even though it was common juice. Upon tasting, you know you just scored a bargain. It has the light mouthfeel I associate to Pinot; a mid-palette that threatens to get bitter, but the fruit finish balances that out and your mouth is left with a solid presence of the wine.

Now, on to “they.” If you’re here, in Alaska, you must know… our wine store selection is lacking. We only recently got a WineStyles, and LaBodega is making moves to become more of a boutique wine and beer store. But, it still is lacking, in my opinion. And, as we Alaskans know, we’re a bit different. We can’t easily just buy wine from the great online distributors (like K&L) without paying 70, 80, or 90 dollars for shipping, which I’ve done many times.

So, I propose a conglomeration, a contingent, a force to reckon with on the wine scene… we want information! We are intelligent consumers, interested in what’s out there, and wanting information about what is available locally. Who’s with me??? I know, I know… there are about 5 other readers of this blog. Ah well, the Pinot is tasting good.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Pont d'Avignon 2004 from Cote de Rhone

Part of Wine Styles March tastings. Excellent wine!!! Will buy more of this.
Very smooth. Not as dry as alot of French wines with a hint of fruit.

If some of the AGN doesn't goe to Wash this weekend I will buy some and we will taste this Saturday.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Speaking of Forgotten Wines - Forgot the Italian Wine

My bad. Last blog I forgot to mention the good Italian wine we came across.
Colosi Vineyards: Sicilia Roso - this is an inexpensive Italian red table wine.
It's not heavy, semi-dry with a touch of fruit.

Is there such a thing as California Italian?!? Seghesio Family Vineyards had some wines at the Symphony of Wines that were what I would classify as Cal/Italian wines. The Seghesio Sangiovese the AGN tasted at Orso's and liked alot was there last night. Yea, it's still great. Seghesio had an '06 Omaggio that was the best!! . We both loved it. The Omaggio is alot more expensive, retailing for $60.