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 {Post Mortem} The Grapevine Wine Bar and Noshery

On August 10, 2014, we were informed that the Grapevine is closing. Although they haven't reopened and Val continues in other exploits, the memories of the wine linger on.

Vermentino, Chesebro, Cedar Lane Arroyo Seco, 2007 ($16.95). A relatively obscure varietal here that has much of the same characteristics of a nice Viognier. It has a taste of grapefruit/citrus and even a little grassiness to it. It is semi-dry, nicely fruited and has a long finish.

Pinot Noir, Candela, Mission Ranch, Monterey, 2007 ($30.95). So young and yet so smooth. Black cherry fruity with a moderate weight and just enough astringency to let you know it's going to get better, even though it is quite pleasant now.

Chardonnay, Sebastapol Vineyards, Wine Hill Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley, 2007, ($19.95). With very little oak, this Chardonnay is light and refreshing. It is a good summer sipper or enjoyable with a lighter white fish. It has a smooth, not tart, apple taste. Mac called it "velvety."

Grenache, Puerto Bonita, Vino Sin Ley S.L., Manuel Martinez Winemaker, Madrid, Spain 2007 ($16.95) After you get through trying to figure out that it is a 100% Grenache, you realize how bright and fruity with strawberry/berry flavors it is with no bite.. This is not a rose, but is a nice crisp and dry red wine. Get  all of those ideas of ancient jug wines out of your head. This is a Grenache for grownups.

Lateral, Kathryn Kennedy, 2005 ($35.95). So nobody's perfect. I thought the nose said Cabernet Sauvignon, but this wonderful red blend is 50% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Petit Verdot.  It is still young and is already showing that it is very complex. On tasting, I still thought that the Cabernets, both Sauvignon and Franc were the dominant flavors. I get a dark, rich plum flavor. This local winemaker has developed quite a following on this wine for a reason. It is just very good. As of this writing on 6/26/16, we are drinking the 2006 Lateral and it is drinking wonderfully.

"Big Bang", Spanish Red, Rioja, 2006 ($21.95). This one surprised me. It seemed to have almost no nose to it, but opened up with a big rich flavor without being pushy. It is 50% Garnacha, 40% Tempranillo, and 10% Graciano.  It is very dry but so rich that it misses nothing from start to a nice lingering finish. A nice big dry red; great at the price.

Wedding Fair Wines 3-22-09

We have a family wedding coming up in a few months, so we signed up for the Grapevine's Wedding Fair to taste some wines, and see some local wedding specialists in photography, invitations, videography, cakes and flowers. They did, in my opinion, a great job of picking several wines that are very food friendly, interesting enough to get your guests attention, and very importantly, they were at prices that will fit in with a lot of wedding plans.

Paul Cheneau Blanc De Blanc, NV, $15.95  It has a nose of almonds and is a crisp and dry sparkler with more than ample bubbles. I get a little steely minerality at the finish.

Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blanc NV, $20.95.  This one is very clean and dry. I detect an unsweetened apply taste that is really very nice. This is a nice sparkling wine that will bring a smile to everyone's face. As of 2016, this has become one of our favorites and is always available for the right occasion. 

Red Tree Chardonnay, 2006, $10.95.  A fruity and fresh chardonnay. It has a nose of kiwi and a taste loaded with lots of fresh tropical fruit flavors. It is super smooth and refreshing, This chardonnay will be enough of a crowd pleaser to need some extra.

Morro Bay Chardonnay, Split Oak Vineyard, 2007, $11.95. I get a vanilla nose on this one. The taste hit me as pineapple and vanilla. It has less fruit than the Red Tree above, but has more depth and is a richer chardonnay.

Ten Mile Broken Road Red, 2006, $12.95. This is a blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Barbera, and Carignane. It has a dark ruby red color and I get a plum and cherry nose. It is very complex, at least moderately rich and has some tannins that melt away to a dry finish.  It's a lot of wine for the money.

Line 39, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006, $12.95. It has one of the softest and lightest noses I've sniffed, with just a touch of vanilla and cherry. It is very pleasant with a dry and moderately fruity flavor. This Cabernet Sauvignon will please most everyone without overwhelming the neophytes.

Twenty Bench Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2006, $22.95.  I don't know if I'm just in a vanilla mood, but I get a very nice vanilla on the nose. It has a moderate fruit weight of berries with vanilla and is wonderfully smooth, especially for a 2006. At this price point, this is a lot more wine than I'd expect from Napa with great balance.

Golden Star White Jasmine Tea, $13.95. This is a moderately sweetened sparkling tea that I think will serve very well for toasting for the non-alcohol drinkers out there. The flavors are light like a champagne and I think of it as a good substitute to Martinelli's for grown-ups.

Tasting 3/23/09

We stopped by for a taste and ended up with two more flights. Mac went for the Club Grape special and I got a flight of zins.

Manzanita Creek, MC2 Zinfandel, 63% San Joaquin, 31% San Luis Obispo, 6% Sonoma County, 2006, $11.95.  If you liked the price at the winery, you've got to love it here. This is a very pleasant Zin with a moderate fruit tast up front that becomes richer in the middle.  It will stand up well to a spicy red sauce, and at this price, you can feed and wine a few friends. The Salerno brothers (William and Jack) have San Jose roots but have really settled into the winemaking business in Sonoma County.

Domaine de Fonfile, Sauvignon Blanc, France 2007, $15.95. Melon and grapefruit display themselves with just a little bit of tang.  This Sauvignon Blanc is very easy going but not too light.

Bartolo Merlot, Central Coast 2005, $24.95. This Merlot has a white spicy pepper nose and has a nice fruit forward tasted that is brighter and spicier than most Merlot.  It will stand up well to spicy dishes and can be a good substitute for when you might otherwise drink a Zin.

Plungerhead Zinfandel Old Vine Lodi, 2007, $17.95. Okay, for those who know our quest (with Ray) for the perfect Taco Bell wine, you know that that is a compliment of the highest regard. This is a Taco Bell contender. It is definitely a spicy food wine with just a little bit of bite on top of a moderate dark cherry fruit flavor. Very dry with enough spice to hold it all in balance. Strong finish but still ends dry and not sticky at all.

Lava Cap Zinfandel, El Dorado, 2005, $23.95. Cherry berry with a touch of leather on the nose. Amazingly bright and spicy compared to its nose. A lot more than I expected, and this is another Taco Bell Contender. It should stand up well with a lot of hot and spicy dishes. It will cut through the heat and hold its own.

Branham Estate "Jazz" Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah. 2006, Napa Valley, $24.95.  This blend has a fresh crushed blackberry nose and a rich berry taste that is pretty rich and finishes well and long. Quite a mouthfull; it will be a pleaser with a lot of nice meat dishes.

Back again on 5/14/09...

Okay, so they are only about a mile and a half from home and it really is a pleasure to just drop by and make a impromptu meal and tasting on the run.

Sauvignon Blanc, Kathryn Kennedy, California 2008. I got a nice citrus nose that belies its dry, but still moderately rich, but not big fruit. It is a classy Sauvignon Blanc that will awaken your taste buds to start off a nice dinner.

Sauvignon Blanc, Dashwood, Marlborough New Zealand 2007. I got a nice grapefruit with a little melon on the nose. This Sauvignon Blanc is bright and crisp with lots of fruit. It will stand well on its own and should be a nice backyard slipper.

Syrah, Kathryn Kennedy, 2005 ($26.95). A nice touch of pepper led into moderate fruit. This Syrah is dry and full bodied with moderate-large fruit that I described as "musk-berry" and Mac described as tobacco-leather. I'm taking her cigars and motorcycle jacket away from her.

Chardonnay, Jardin, South Africa, 2007 ($11.95). I think Mac said it best..."Nice $12 Chardonnay." It isn't the big malolactic buttery-smooth type, but is very smooth and pleasant. I particularly like the screw-top because not everybody drinks the whole bottle at every sitting.

"Lateral", Kathryn Kennedy, 2005 ($26.95). Unbelievably enough, my notes this time still match the description I did last year when I wrote this one up as shown above. Even better is that the price at the Grapevine is now $9 less than it was due to a strategic alliance of some sort between the winery and the Grapevine. Still a great blend.

Merlot, Rotta, Paso Robles (Templeton), 2005 ($18.95). This Merlot has a nice big black cherry nose. It starts off with just a little tickle and melts away into a crisp and dry finish.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Kathryn Kennedy, Small Lot, Santa Cruz Mountains. 2005 ($49.95). I think they should be required to serve filet mignon at all great tastings of Cabernet Sauvignon. This one is smooth but clearly has lots of time left. I got a little leather; probably the subtle tannins coming through. Mac said it reminded her of a young Sterling Napa Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which happens to be her favorite in the world at $75/bottle.

Melange Noir, Waterbrook, Columbia Valley, Washington, 2006. This is a blend of 28% Cabernet Franc 21% Syrah, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Sangiovese, 14% Merlot, and 1% Tempranillo. It hit me like a very well balance Syrah. It is rich and dry with moderate berry fruit and a nice long finish. Grab the BBQ spices and go grill something good.

Back Again and Again and Again and...

Pinot Noir, Rex Hill, Willamette Valley, 2007 ($26.95). A little leather and lace on the nose, this wine is fairly dry but still demonstrates nice fruit. It is a very pleasant and true Pinot Noir and is very drinkable for its very young age.

Gamay Beaujolais Villages Domain Montenot, 2006 ($17.95). It has a nice cherry nose and is pretty rich for a Gamay. This is another varietal that I don't drink much of. It haas a smooth and full berry flavor with a dry finish. At this price, it's pretty impressive.

Merlot, Corte Riva, Napa Valley, 2004 ($35.95). This is a big nosed, full fruity and rich Merlot. If you like black cherry, go for it. It starts off so big that I thought it might finish roughly, but it settles down into a very nice smooth and long finish.

Mac's notes...(yep, she actually told me what she thinks...about the wine)

Pinot Blanc, Graff Family, Chalone 2007 ($23.95). Light, crisp, lightly fruity. I like it. It flows over the tongue.

Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc Blend, Bridesmaid, Napa Valley, 2007 ($19.95) A very light summer wine. Nothing really distinctive and totally harmless. (that's not a bad thing)

Chardonnay, Alena, McIntyre Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, 2007 ($22.95). A very smooth, lightly fruity wine. Delicate and a wonderful food wine.

end of Mac's notes...

The Captain's Table tasting is always interesting and brought me the following wines for $19.

Chardonnay, Oliver Savory, France, 2006, ($32.95). Labeled as a Chablis, this wine is a little sweeter with a melon citrus taste. The finish is pretty light.

Merlot, Corte Riva, Napa Valley, 2004. Hey, didn't I just have this one a couple of months ago? Yep, there it is just a few inches above here. This time I called it "huge, bigh structure with a dark cherry taste and nose. Time will smooth out some of the big structural tannins and balance it even better."  See what a difference a couple of months can make? Same wine, different words, still a big cherry bomb.

Phenomenom, Benessere, Napa Valley, 2004 ($44.95). 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, and 8% Syrah. Spicy peppered raspberry. Very dry with an astringent mouthfeel and a long finish with lingering spice. This is your official blackened steak wine of the week.

Malbec, Swinto Old Vine, Argentina, 2006 ($38.95) Yousers, you can put this one away for a rainy day; say around the year 2015. It is dry with fairly big tannins and a spicy dry (again) berry flavor. This wine is going to get better for a long time. It's got a lot to it.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Vinum, Africa, 2006 ($17.95). A nice currant raspberry nose with subtle but rich fruit. It is quite drinkable now and at this price will fit a lot of budgets to compliment a menu of ribs or any spicy BBQ. It has a screw top, which I happen to like, and did I mention the price?

Kathryn Kennedy Wines at the Lateral Release Party

The industry lost a great one when Kathryn passed on to lusher vineyards.

Sauvignon Blanc, Kathryn Kennedy, 2008 ($20.95). Grassy and fairly full bodied. This will go very well with sea bass or other fish with an oily rich texture.

Syrah, Kathryn Kennedy, 2006 ($23.95). This Syrah starts off with a nice cherry nose which belies its fairly dry taste. It has good fruit with dark, rich berries and moderate tannins. It's very nice now but will be even better as a year or two balances it out.

Lateral, Kathryn Kennedy, 2006 ($32.95). Their Lateral is always very good with a blend of fruit that brings the character of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot together in a wonderful blend of fruit. Like the 2005, I get plum on the first impression with good berries and a lot of complexity. The balance is superb and can be enjoyed now or held for a few years. As I stated somewhere above, we are still drinking the 2006 Lateral and it only got better. Still very rich but so very smooth now as of June 2016.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Kathryn Kennedy "Small Lot", 2005 ($49.95). Rich, dark berry fruit with just enough tannin to balance it out well. It is drinkable now and should be good for several years.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Kathryn Kennedy, "Estate", 2004 ($129.95). When your estate is in Saratoga, your estate wine isn't going to be cheap. When you add the skills of Marty Mathis, Kathryn's son and winemaker, you get a wine that is worth every dime.  This is a very smooth Cabernet Sauvignon with tons of character. It has enough astringency to demonstrate good tannins, but it has absolutely no bite. It is very, very good and worthy of any special occasion that warrants the price which is still pretty reasonable for the quality.

Lucas & Lewellen Wines at the Grapevine 2-25-10 Hey look, I remembered the date!

We had a dilemna last night. My class got cancelled, all of my homework was done, and all of sudden I had an extra three hours that was totally unexpected.  Jeepers, what to do... I know! I'll pick up Mac and head to the Grapevine. Once there, we called D and she called her dad, and we were ready to sip and knosh.  It happened to be a "Meet the Winemaker" night with Louie Lucas of Lucas & Lewellen Wines, which turned out to be quite a treat both in the wine and in the personage of Louie. He grows all of his wines and is very obviously an accomplished viticulturalist. He was describing many different ways that he maintains his vineyard based upon the type of varietal and the physical conditions of each area. All of his wines are estate grown, and the complexities of everything from trellising to trimming are well managed and it shows in what comes out of the bottle. We were pleased and impressed. He uses two labels, Lucas & Lewellen for his main label and Mandolia for his Italian varietals. When you're looking at some of these, please make sure you take note of the price point. These are good quality wines that won't break the bank.

Brut Sparkling Wine, Lucas & Lewellen, Santa Barbara County, 2004 ($30.95). This is a "methode champenoise" wine that would be a true fermented in the bottle champagne if it happened to be from the "correct" region of France. Coming from Santa Barara County didn't hurt it a bit. Although a brut, which I usually think of as dryer to the expense of the fruit, this 50/50 chardonnay and pinot noir sparkler has a nicely developed apple fruitiness to it. It's subtle but very tasty. I happen to like tiny bubbles that you find mostly in the very expensive sparklers, and this one has bubbles as tiny as those in Dom whatsisname. The grapes are harvested late enough to keep the really nice fruit, have about .6% (if I remember correctly) residual sugar, and still be a full 13.1% alcohol. If you something like an Asti style that is refined into a higher quality sparkler (I know, I can't say "Champagne" or the snooty police will break down my door) you will be very happy with this one. Oh, we liked it a lot, if you haven't figured that out yet.

Pinot Grigio, Mandolina, Santa Barbara County, 2007 ($12.99).  Melon fruit at first with some undertones of citrus as it finishes. It is both fruity and smoothly mellow at the same time. We found it to be very refreshing and easy to drink. This is one of those wines that you might want to just take out on a warm day and enjoy a glass. When you realize that the bottle is empty, you'll know what "easy to drink" means.

Pinot Noir, Lucas & Lewellen, Santa Barbara County, 2006 ($21.99). They say "strawberry, cream, cherry." I got more of a red cherry flavor. This is not a huge deep leathery pinot noir, but is very pleasant and ready to drink now. It has enough depth to it to hold it's own against a nice leg of lamb and I'd love to try it with our semi-annual smoked turkey. It finishes very smoothly with a nice soft cherry taste. At 13.6% alcohol, it is more of a classic pinot and not one of the new "pushed" monsters.

Barbera, Mandolina, Santa Barbara County, 2005 ($12.99). A nice spicy nose with a berry-cherry flavor. Very nice fruit up font and bright with no bite (technical term for golly, that's pretty smooth for all of that flavor).  Mac the wife likes it a lot. It is not a big complex wine, but rather a mid-weight fruity barbera in search of a good marinara sauce dish

Merlot, Lucas & Lewellen, Santa Barbara County, 2005 ($17.99). If Miles had tasted this one in the movie "Sideways", maybe he would have cut merlot a little more slack. It's a medium weight, still fruity merlot that is just darned pleasant. You can spend twice as much (or more) but nobody's going to be disappointed with this one. If Mac likes it, it's good, and she likes it. Get your pork on the barbecue and enjoy.

Cabernet Franc, Lucas & Lewellen, Santa Barbara County, 2005 ($18.99). I just had to call and get the year from Valerie because I didn't write it down, but she knows more about wine than I know about ...well, probably most everything. I liked this one a bunch. It is a pepper-berry, very nice big spicy fruit nose and taste. Very dry, a little astringent and super depth and structure. 14.9% alcohol that is well hidden in the peppery spice. Of all of the wines we had last night, this is the one that I think you can put away for a couple of years and get it to mature into something even better than the nice spicy wine that it already is. This will stand up to your biggest and best barbecue creations....think ribs.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Lucas & Lewellen, Santa Barbara County, 2005. (I already bothered Valerie once, so I'm not calling again to get the price I forgot to ask about last night).  I wrote down, "Berry needs a steak. Steak, meet berry. Berry say hi to steak." Somewhere in there I suppose one must surmise that this will be really nice with a piece of beef. It is very drinkable now, has a very pretty deep color and light tannins. You won't mistake for anything other than Cabernet Sauvignon, but it's not going to give you a tannic headache either.

Petite Sirah, Lucas & Lewellen, Santa Barbara County (seems to be a pattern), 2006 ($26.99). Gorgeous dark ruby color with a dry nose. This petite sirah is moderately rich and incredibly smooth. I taste blackberries and currants with a nice mouthfeel just south of chewy but still rich enough to want to savor each sip for a while. This is very drinkable now. There will be no leftovers.

Malvasia Bianca, Mandolina, Santa Barbara County, 2007 ($14.99). Ok, don't hit me, but my mom would love this wine. The neat thing is that we liked it a lot too. It's 12.7% alcohol, which is a lot more than mom's typical white zinfandel, but this malvasia bianca has a semi-sweet melon and citrus nose that turned into pineapple-apple on the taste. The elder statesman with us last night said, "This is a really nice wine." He's right (thanks H). You can have this with a nice dessert custard, ice cream or fruit, or you can enjoy it as a refreshing afternoon sipper. It is another very pleasant experience.

Lucas & Lewellen is located at 1645 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang, CA 93464 (888) 777-6663.
(Solvang is a beautiful little town, but until you can visit there, you can just buy it at the Grapevine)

One more trip (okay two actually) 4/2/10 & 4/16/10

Okay, I said it was addicting, so I'm not responsible for finding myself at the mercy of an irresistible impulse and gravitating to the Grapevine on any particular Friday afternoon. This time, we tried a couple of things new to us in both the wines and the food.

Chardonnay, Tre Ricci, 2008. A nice citrus/pineapple nose that yields the taste of warm melon. I wasn't ordering specifically to go with the truffle popcorn, but if you happen to order these together, you will smile.

Cima Collina, "Hilltop Red", 2005. This is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. Christina liked this one. It seemed a little sharp at first but smoothed right out after it got some air. It's a cherry-raspberry flavor mix that is medium weight with good fruit.

Viognier Sparkler, Carpene Malvolti. Almost breathless, this sparkler just seems to disappear on your tongue. It has a light apple flavor (Red Delicious, not the tart Granny Smith). It is super light and dry. Pretty neat stuff with little tiny itty-bitty bubbles.

Zinfandel, Nyers, Paso Robles, 2007. A nice little touch of pepper and enough astringency to let you know that it's not done yet. Give it a couple of years to peak. It opened up nicely and is a fairly bright red cherry tasting Zin that you'll like even better in two years.

Vihuela Incendio, Red Blend, Paso Robles, 2007. This is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. It has bunches of layers to it with quite a lot going on in the glass. I got mostly raspberry currant. It is rich but not at all forceful. It is remarkably smooth in its youth. On my 4/16/10 revisit, I decided (yeah, like anyone will listen) that I'll put mine down for two years and see how much it balances out.

April 7, 2011

Pinot Grigio, Benessare, Napa Valley, $24.99. I like a nice spicy Pinot Grigio, and this was not a disappointment. The nose hit me with citrus and maybe a little banana. The taste was a nice tart citrus smoothed out with apricot or nectarine (who can tell the difference?). This Pinot Grigio has a nice long finish and will pair well with almost any white fish. You don't need to be bashful because this will stand up to a heartier white cod or other substantial swimmer.

Red Blend, Avanguardia, Cuvee 67, Refosco/UC Hybrid "Carmine", Sierra Foothills, California, $22.99. Whew! That was a lot to type. Christina said it had a HUGE nose, but was not so huge in the mouth. She said "It's a mismatch; it misleads you. If it tastes in a couple of years like the nose smells now, it will be an excellent wine." I got a big raspberry nose with a little cherry. The taste is more of raspberry currant. It is fairly full, but like the young one said, the weight of the nose is heavier than that of the wine. This blend is smooth and pleasant, especially for its perceived weight. It has lots of fruit but is not heavy at all. It is a very good value for the money and you can drink it now or keep it for a year or so. It's nice now and I wouldn't cellar it long.

Petit Verdot, Casale del Giglio, Lazio, Italy, $29.99. This Petit Verdot has a big red cherry nose. The flavor was a wonderfully full red berry taste with big bright fruit and a medium weight. There are not a lot of Petit Verdot wines sold as a single varietal as most of it is used to blend with Cabernet Sauvignon. This one is good, and should pair nicely with a roast or moderately seasoned beef or lamb.

Red Blend, Waterbrook "Melange", Columbia Valley, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec Sangiovese and 11 other varietals $18.99.  They almost got this down to $1 per varietal. The 16 different varietals are all here somewhere. This blend has a dark and dry nose but still has moderate fruit up front. It is dry and seems very cultured for its age. It is ready to drink now, but a year or so shouldn't hurt it. There is a lot going on with this wine. You can find almost any taste you want somewhere in there. The varietals play together nicely with good balance, quite a lot of complexity, and moderate to light tannins. This is a fun blend that is ready to drink now. Nobody will be disappointed with this one. Feel free to BBQ and enjoy this blend.


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