WSR Wine Blog

Wine tasting reviews, trips and stuff

Sonoma and Williams Seylem Weekend

A few weeks ago for a long weekend in Northern California wine country, a small group (11) of our Pinot group were able to enjoy the country side and fine wine, walk through the forest of vineyards on hilltops and valleys to enjoy a few of the producers of Pinot Noir and a few others along the Russian River Valley and Sonoma coast. 

This trip headed by our leader John Slater had a purpose, to visit a long time friend and wine maker Burt Williams (formally of Williams Seylem), coordinate dinners and gather wines that Bert and partner created in the early to late 90s made from a variety of vineyards. Through many Pinot group members and including Bert, a slew of wines were obtained and served at two dinner sittings at Dry Creek  Kitchen and Santi Restaurant.  (I have listed the wines below from the two sittings)

Over the course of the weekend we had tours at Williams Seylem new wine facility, Olivet Lane, Hirsch Vineyard, Brogan Cellars and a tasting at Selby winery.

Hirsch Vineyard

We really enjoyed the private tours at the mentioned facilities and tasting the new release of wines but one that stood out the most and was so appreciated was David Hirsch vineyards in the mountains up the coast line north of the Russian River Outlet.  He was very personable and really gave the group a real feeling as to what the process and history of his vineyard had gone through and continues to progress into making great wine, and it showed.

On Sunday through the numberous calls from Bert’s wife Jan, to her daughter, she scheduled a meeting for those still in the area to visit Margi and taste a few of her wines and hear about her story since Bert had been out of the business for nearly 10 years.  Margi is producing great wines and seems to have the touch in making great Pinot noir like that of her father. 

Margi of Brogan Cellars

I could go on and on over this weekend but I will just post the wines we drank for this special weekend and hope those who read this can and will enjoy wines from any of these producers as you will be experiencing quality at it’s finest.  I did not take notes on the Hirsh (I did buy wine) and Olivit Lane so anyone who can provide some additional details would be most helpful.

Selby wines were wonderful and we took her by surprise in her tasting room.  We tasted through all of here wines and ones that came to mind for me were the Sauvignon blanc and a non released sweet Simillon (get some) that was like liquid gold Saturn’s!    Her Pinot’s were great and she so graciously went back to her cellar and brought in some barrel samples of her upcoming releases.  She really has brought forth quality wines and look forward to drinking them again.

Thursday night we went to a Willi’s Wine Bar in Healdsburg which is a tapas style restaurant and had the following Wines:

Blanc Fume’ de Pouilly by Didier Dugueneoue
Cote- Rotie – E. Guigal
Jessie’s Grove – Carignane (02)
LeRoy Montagny (02)
chateau Certan, Pomerol (79)
Justin Justification (96)
Friday night – Dry Creek Kitchen 
Vueve Cliquot  1996 
Williams Seylem Sonoma County 1996
Williams Seylem Sonoma Coast 1996
Williams Seylem Sonoma Coast 1997
Williams Seylem Summa  1995
Williams Selyem Prescious Mtn 1996  
Williams Selyem Prescious Mtn 1997
Williams Selyem Coastlands 1996
Williams Selyem Coastlands 1997

Williams Selyem Olivet Lane 1993
Williams Selyem Olivet Lane 1996
Williams Selyem Olivet Lane 1997
Williams Seylem Allen 1992
Williams Seylem Allen 1994
Williams Seylem Allen 1996
Williams Selyem Allen  1997
Saturday – Santi Restaurant  
Paul Bara Brut NV 
Brogan Morning Dew Ranch  2006
Wooden Head Morning Dew Ranch  2007
Whitcraft Morning Dew Ranch 2008
Morning Dew Ranch  2008

Willams Selyem Russian River 1993
Willams Selyem Russian River 1994
Williams Selyem Riverblock 1997

Williams Selyem Cohn  1993
Williams Selyem Rochioli 1992
Williams Selyem Rochioli 1995
Williams Selyem Rochioli 1996

Willams Selyem Hirsch  1996
Williams Selyem Hirsch  1997
Williams Selyem Ferrington 1996
Williams Selyem Ferrington 1997

Brogan Cellars:


We tasted everything on her list below except the Chard and Zinfandel. 

2007 Lingenfelder Vineyard, RRV Pinot Noir
2006 Pinot Noir 10th Anniversary Cuvee, North Coast Pinot Noir
2006 Merlot Rosetti Brothers Ranch, Old River Road, Mendocino County Pinot Noir
2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2007 Morning Dew Ranch, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
2007 Buena Tierra Helio Doro block Pinot Noir ($90)

2007 My Father’s Vineyard “Margi’s Block” Pinot Noir
2006 My Father’s Vineyard “Shula’s Pond” Pinot Noir

2008 Hanson Vineyard Pinot Noir
2008 Morning Dew Ranch

2009 Anderson Valley (not released yet) Pinot Noir 

2008 My Father’s Vineyard “Jans Block” Pinot Noir 

 The highlights were the Helio Doro, My Fathers Vineyard (we bought the last few bottles).  Her 09 Anderson Valley was very good as well and you can buy futures. Then the Morning Dew was a good wine, the Merlot was a hit but was port like and 17%  alc. But lots of fruit!!

Just a great weekend and I look forward to returning and enjoying that Wine Country again!

Sonoma Trip Photos:


January 28, 2011 Posted by | California, Other Tasting Notes, Red Wines, Road Trip, Wineries | 1 Comment

Dave & Diane’s Cellar Wines #1

A few days ago I and a small group were invited to a special tasting of the Ries wine collection at Caprice Cafe in Redlands,  and what a line-up this would be!  Not that any of us could have predicted the reasoning behind this tasting (flood) but for all who attended, we were able to taste some 40 year old wines that were still holding up exceptionally well. 

As David would note, he was glad to share these and also came across some wines during the move that he had forgotten about, but able to share stories of memorable moments as he opened each bottle.   Good food, good friends and good wine, what more can you ask for? 

The line-up was as follows with notes to follow.



3- 1999 MOSCATO d’ ASTI












Thanks Dave and Diane!

May 27, 2010 Posted by | California, Other Tasting Notes, Red Wines | 1 Comment

Weekend at the Santa Barbara Vineyards

Spring growth in the vineyards!

This past weekend was the Annual 2010 Santa Barbara Vitners Festival in the Santa Rita Hills area outside of Lompoc Ca.  A great event put on each year by  the local wineries and restaurants to showcase the 130 wineries in the area and bring food and merchandise to accompany a delightful afternoon in the park.  

 This year seemed to show very exceptional wines and after tasting them on Friday, Saturday and Sunday it made for an extended venture to quite a few of the wineries to taste and purchase wines.

Below are some of the wines and wineries that I found to be producing great wines and worth venturing to there wineries if in the area.  I do have to note that most all Syrah wines we tasted were excellent, Pinot Noir were hits and misses for me but the ones I liked and my taste will be noted below.  We also tried a few Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc’s that stood out too.

Andrew Murray
 – 08 Viognier ($12.50 sale)
        – Syrah, Esperance, Grenache ($30-50)  (Ok, i’m bias)

Gainey  – 07 Pinot Noir ($48)
  – 06 Syrah ($42)

Fess Parker
 – 08 Viognier ($24)
 – 06 Syrah. Am. Tradition ($50)
 – 06 – Pinot Noir – Ashleys ($50)

Foxen Canyon
 – 07 Pinot Noir, Bien NacidoVineyard Block 8 ($54)

Foley Estates
 – 06 Pinot Noir, Barrel Select ($50)

 – 08 Sav. Blanc ($12)
 – 05 Cab. Reserve ($50)
 – 07 Granche ($25)

  – 05 Pinot Noir, estate ($45)
  – 06 Pinot Noir ($35)
  – 06 Pinor Noir, fiddlestix ($45)

I am sure there are many more that didn’t make the list, but these were my favorites of the weekend.  If any of you have a chance to go to this event in the future I think they have finally got it down to where it all works and there is plenty of room for people to roam.


April 20, 2010 Posted by | California, Other Tasting Notes, Recomendations, Recomendations, Road Trip, Wineries | Leave a comment

ZD wines and guest

Last night I and many others (13) attended a wonderful tasting of ZD wines put on by our wine leader John Slater.  John invited the president and part owner of the ZD Winery Brett deLurze to attend, present and enjoy the fruits of his labor with the rest of us.  Most all of these bottles were pulled out of the groups cellars for all to enjoy.  If you have never had a ZD wine I highly recommend that you search their wines out and enjoy. 

Our tasting consisted of 4 flights of wines and 5 course meal put on my Chef Leone of Mario’s. They were as follows and my comments will follow:

First Flight: 

1. 2008 Chardonnay
2. 2004 Chardonnay

3. 2007 Reserve Chardonnay
4. 1998 Reserve Chardonnay
First Course: Octopus, fingerling potatoes, lemon, Sicilian extra virgin olive oil & fleur de sel
Second Flight:

5. 2007 ZD Pinot Noir
6. 2001 ZD Pinot Noir
7. 1999 ZD Pinot Noir

8. 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir
9. 2004 Reserve Pinot Noir
Second Course: Papardelle with Ragu of Kurobuta Pork shank, Parmigiano Reggiano
Third Flight:

10. 2007 Cabernet
11. 1994 Cabernet

12. 2006 Reserve Cabernet
13. 2000 Reserve Cabernet
14. 1995 Reserve Cabernet

Third Course: Roast Rack of Lamb with “Fritto” of eggplant & zucchini, oil-cured olives, tomato confit, basil jus

Fourth Flight:

15. Abacus VIII

Cheese Course: Etxegarei / Taleggio / Piave Vecchio

Desert Course: Goat Milk Yogurt Panna Cotta w/ poached bartlet pear, Sauternes coaked raisins, drizzle of honey

March 12, 2010 Posted by | California, Other Tasting Notes, Red Wines, White Wines | 3 Comments

Elderton Wine Tasting

This was an email from JFS from a tasting in January that was worth a post for others to review and possibly purchase if you can get your hands on them.

This article is only for serious wine collectors. If you are not a serious collector pleases delete this.

Now… I said this was only for serious collectors. Why are you still reading this? I am not going to continue until you log off.

I have all day.

Ok, now that we got them to go away.

Now, I want to talk about Elderton Winery. Elderton is located in the Barossa Valley in Southeastern Australia. It is without question one of the finest wineries in all of Australia. Recently, actually last night, I guess that is recent, I was able to taste 16 wines from the Elderton Winery at Mario’s Place in Riverside. It ranks as one of the great wine dinners I have attended.

The dinner began with the Elderton Chardonnay as the aperitif wine. This wine was fruit forward with a crisp finish. This wine showed daps of minerality and apple fruit. A very nice way to start the dinner.

We then moved into a pairing of Shiraz and a couple of Cabernet, Shiraz Merlot blends. The 2005 Shiraz was an elegant wine.  A mouth filling wine, with a great texture. The finish was long and very pleasing. The 2006 Shiraz was a bit more hedonistic. It is more in your face with ripe fruit.

We then had the 1999 CSM that stands for Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot.  The wine is called Ode to Lorraine. Lorraine is the mother of the current winemaker.  As fate would have it this was either corked or oxidized. The worst part is this wine came from my cellar. Oh, the humanity!

The 2005 CSM was youthful, and complex. It had many layers of flavor and a very long finish. All of these wines had excellent finishes, a good sign for those who cellar wine. I really enjoyed this wine

Our next flight of wine was predominately Cabernet Sauvignon based wines.

Hey, I see you trying to open this email. You just don’t listen! Fine you can read, but don’t try to buy any of these wines and take them away from real collectors.

This is a Shiraz Cabernet blend. This is a very typical blend in Australia but is not done too often state side. It had the sweet cherry fruit of a Shiraz as it crossed the tongue the  black fruit nuances of cabernet dominated the finish.

The 2004 Estate Cabernet is lively and rich. It has some tobacco, sage and cedar elements on the palate. It has a long and pleasing finish. This is really a first class cab. The grapes come from 45 year old vines.

As good as the 2004 Estate Cabernet was the 2006 Ashmead Cabernet is spectacular! This is mammoth wine, yet not a tannic wine. The fruit flavors just want burst from this wine. The vines for this single vineyard wine were planted in 1944. If you like big, bold Cabernets, you will love this wine.

The last flight was the Command Shiraz. The Command is one of the great wines of Australia. If you go to Australia they talk about their Iconic wines. They would be Penfolds Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace, Jim Barry the Armgh and Eldertons Command. These are wines with a track record of greatness. This group of wines did not let us down.

We began with the 1997, a beautifully balanced wine. Delicious, ripe berry fruit slip across the palate and a cranberry flavor sneaks up in the finish. Next up was the 1999 vintage; this wine was chosen by a few as their favorite. It was a little more complex than the 1997. It did offer many of the same fruit flavors. The 2000 was a bit different in the nose then many of the other Command wines. It had notes of bacon and roasted meat, very Rhone in style. The 2002 offered some notes of sage and coriander. It had a rich berry fruit flavor on the finish. The 2004 was another outstanding wine in a group of stellar wines. It had layers of flavors, a touch of smoke and that long lasting finish. The 2005 is the current release of the Command Shiraz. It is a humongous wine. Rich and deep in flavor and a long lasting finish. It is rare to have a wine so young and structured but still eminently drinkable. In ten years this may turn out to be the best Command.

One member of our dinner party said the group of Command wines was the best group of wines he has ever drunk.

With our dessert we had the Botrytis Semillon from 2003 and 2007. I admit I have a sweet tooth. In my cellar I have more than my fill of sweet wines, actually the 2003 came from my cellar, and theses two hit the spot. A delicious finish to an amazing dinner.

You don’t see many of these wines available in a retail store. They are not in-expensive, these are world class wines and will age longer then some of us will live.

Below are the wines that are available and the pricing. And don’t think I did not notice the rest of you who read this; I will let it slide this time. In the future when I tell you not to read something I expect you to listen!

(Wine List removed due to availability, search for them at your local wine shops)


February 23, 2010 Posted by | Australia, Other Tasting Notes, Red Wines | 1 Comment

Wines enjoyed over the 2009 Holiday

Hope you all had a great Christmas and memorable New Years.  Now that the 2009 holiday season has come to a close it was time to do some clean- up……of wine bottles that is, from the past few weeks of gathering with friends and family. I thought I would take a quick inventory of what I tasted and enjoyed with good food or just a bottle for dinner. Mind you this was over the last 3 weeks time period not in any particular order and enjoyed by many.

  • Roederer Estate Sparkler – Anderson Vally $20
  • Schramsburg Cremant – $27 (favorite)
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut St Supery – 2006 Merlot, Rutherford
  • Domanie Pichit – Vouvray 2007 (France)
  • Wildhurst – 2008 Savignon Blanc
  • Ferrari Carano – 2008 Fume Blanc
  • William Selyem – 2005 Pinot Noir, Russian River (very nice and better than the Serene as I remember)
  • Andrew Murray – 2006 Syrah, Black Oak Vineyard (yummy)
  • Domaine Serene – 2005 Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve, Willamette Valley
  • MacMurry Ranch – 2006 Pinot Noir
  • Barrel 27 – 2006 Viogior/Roussane/Marsanne – high on the hog, French Camp
  • A Rafanelli – 2006 Cabernet – Dry Creek (big red)
  • Wine Gurrella – 2006 Zinfandel, Sonoma

What did you drink this season and was it memorable?

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Bubbly, Other Tasting Notes, Red Wines, White Wines | Leave a comment

Old and Young stuff or all of You and Me

Another wine tasting and some surprises along the way.  Last night I attendend a Pinot Tasting the included some older wines that have had mixed blessing over the years  (Flowers and Siduri) and some new wines that didn’t show as well but may be better down the road.  The line-up was as follows:

a) Rochioli Chardonay 2001 – Vanilla, buttery, some sweetness and long finish but some tartness.

Pinot Line-up

1)  Martinelli Reserve RRV 2000 – smoke, some steminess and dark cherrys, light tanins, spice and meaty, dry fruit finish with some syrah characteristics.  Rating 90+

2)  Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Sonoma Coast 2000 – Pinot nose, fruit forward, nice cherry/strawberry fruit, slight tanins on edges, hints of oak and big fruit finish.  Statement of “Focused”  was mentioned.  Rating 91+

3)  Siduri Gary’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands 2001 – Green, stemmy, slight carbonation and spritz (acid?), dark friut, rough on finish. Rating 88

4)  Stephan Vincent Pinot Noir 2008 ($10) – Pinot nose, young fruit, some tartness with some strawberry on finish but seemed closed.  I think it will age OK. Rating 87.

5)  Sinskey four vineyards 2005 – corked.

6) AuBon climate Santa Maria 2006 ($38) – Nice cherry nose, Burgundian style, some tartness, little funk in nose, young fruit some acidity and short finish. Rating 87+

7) David Bruce Sonoma Coast 2006 – Pinot nose, deep black fruit, some acidity, tart and bitter on finsh. Rating 86+

8)  Domaine Drohuin Oregon 2006 ($50) Young and stemmy, vegital, light cherry fruit and slight bitterness and short finish.  Traditional French style? Rating 89+

9)  Drohuin Pommard 2007 ($45)  – nice strawberry/cherry fruit, some stemyness, tart, sour cherry fruing but expected in French pinot. Rating 90

10) Sea Smoke Southing 2006 ($60) – spice and cherry on nose, young fruit, some stem tannins, slight heat and little acidity on finish but a long finish.  Leoni – “Cab lovers Pinot” Rating 88+

November 25, 2009 Posted by | Other Tasting Notes, Red Wines | 1 Comment

French vs. Ca. Ridge

I had the opportunity to attend a tasting last night and venture down a few highly well known French vineyards in Burgandy and Bordeaux and a selected California vineyard in comparison.  The tasting also included selected food courses to accompany the wines.  Not having tasted any of these wines in the past it showed me as a wine lover exactly why these vineyards have the notoriety they have and why we continue to buy and drink these wines after centuries of cellar time.  I was grateful for the invite and just to have the opportunity to taste wines that I might never have the chance to drink again.

 Rhone (Hermitage) blanc

1)  1990 Chapoutier Chante Alouette – (Deep yellow, oak and botrytis, some acidity with hints of butterscotch.  Smooth long finish.)  Rating 91

2)  1988 Chapoutier Chante Alouette – (Appeared closed, then vanilla sweet oak, slight acidity, apple, flinty on finish.) Rating 92

3) 1986 Chave – (Musty, wet, edge of cork, high alcohol, taste cork thru finish (N.S) , 1 hr later: candy nose, no cork, honey and round on finish.) Rating 91+

 Course: Minestrone of Cannellini Beans and Escarole w/prawns, herb-fennel seed infused

 Bordeaux Blanc

4)  1979 chateau La Louviere – (Musty, nice balance, some tartness and nice finish) Rating 89

5)   1988 Chateau Haut Brion – (Deet, bug spray, some tartness, high acidity, finish was harsh and never changed.)  Rating 83

6)   1993 chateau Haut Brion – (Tropical fruit, coconut, dry and flinty, round smooth texture and nice long finish.) Rating 91

 Course: Citrus Risotto and Bay Scallops

 Chateau Lafite Rothchild

7)  1966 Lafite – (dusty, musty, mushrooms, brown edges, pepper, still cherry fruit and slight tartness.) Rating 93

8)  1970 Lafite – (black cherry, some slight tannins and acidity, good balance, smote, tobacco on finish and some bitterness later.) Rating 94

9)   1981 Lafite – (slight must, cedar, black cherry fruit and some flint on finish). Rating 92

 Course: Porcini crusted swordfish and truffled polenta, baby spinach and red wine reduction sauce

 Ridge Monte Bello

10)  1978 Ridge – (musty, cherry fruit, smoke, dry tobacco finish, fruit on outer edges and dry in middle, some tannins.) Rating 93

11)   1980 Ridge – (Tobacco, alcohol nose, green stems tannins, tobacco box on finish, not my style other liked it.) Rating 88-

12)   1992 Ridge – (wet cloth, nice black cherry, round finish and good balance, nice tannins but some slight steaminess.) Rating 92

13)   2006 Ichiro 51 – ( yound fruit, cherry, nice round finish, some tannins, just young.) Rating 89

 Course: Grilled Venison Chop and spices, root vegetables and pomegranate – black pepper jus

 Zind Humbrecht

14)   1993 Zind – Heimbourg Turchheim Pinot Gris – Grans Nobles – (dark yellow/orange, great botrytis and long finish)

 Course: N Blooms Lemon cheesecake

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Other Tasting Notes, Red Wines, White Wines | Leave a comment