Archive for the ‘Wine tasting events & places’ Category

As it name suggests the organisers of this wine tasting event set this tasting apart from the others in London. By calling it The Real Wine Fair they stirred the interest and some rhetorical questioning of not only of the local journalists but also of most of the attendants of this fair, which was accessible to both the trade and public. Many of them either privately in their own heads or in a heated conversation with each other asked: what is real wine?

The Real Wine Fair at Tobacco Dock in London

The Real Wine Fair at Tobacco Dock in London

Well, the answer is not entirely clear. Shall the rest of the wines, not present at the fair be called unreal or even more scandalously surreal? I do not think so and I do not think that is what the organisers tried to communicate. I must admit though, that if one overdoses oneself with wine it might seem surreal, as in the fog of intoxication one can see and hear surreal things. Nevertheless, while the winemakers present on the Real Wine Fair might at some points in their life experience the surreal effects of their wine, they also share other ideas such as making wine as naturally as they can. That means using as little additives, chemicals and human manipulation as they can to make wines reflecting the soil and climate. They do not need to be all “Organic certified”, although they do practice organic farming and in some cases they are in the line with the bio-dynamic philosophy, they just refuse to pay certain organisation for the label “Organic” etc. making simply wines as they ancestors did.

“Natural” location

The location of the Real Wine Fair this year was much closer to expressing this common nature-emphasising philosophy than last year. The barn-like structure, plenty of natural light (despite rainy day) and space of the former Tobacco Doc in the London’s industrial Wapping area were perfect for such an event.

On the fair, there were producers from France, Italy, Spain, Georgia and even some from Greece, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, the USA and South Africa.

One of the genuinely friendly wine producers at the Real Wine Fair

One of the genuinely friendly wine producers from Trentino at the Real Wine Fair

Last year I tasted memorable wines from Emilia-Romagna. I was impressed by the producer of Fondo San Giuseppe in Brisighella Stefano Bariani, who is makes bio-dynamic wines, picked by hand as he aims for “understanding the land rather than abusing it”.  His winemaking is close to the natural wine movement tangible in his philosophy to“recognise wine as the spontaneous fruit of the land”.

I had to taste his wines again and confirm that “Fiorile” was my favourite. It is made from the native grape from the Romagna part of the region – Albana. The deeply coloured white wine had a lovely balance and warmth with apricot aromas and, like the first sun rays of the spring with their resurgent energy, it displayed itself with vibrant minerality (limestone soil) and tannins from the skins on the palate. Named after “Floréal” – the eighth month of the French Republican Calendar, starting on 20 April and ending on 19 May the wine accurately chronicled this period of nature’s awakening.

Moscato d"Asti

Moscato d”Asti

While last year I focused on the amphora-made wines from Georgia, this year my eye was caught by the indigenous grapes of Italy so I have tasted as many as I could. There are thousands of grape varietals in Italy itself, so I could not manage them all in one tasting (plus they could not all be present at one event London).

The other wines that I’ve enjoyed the most at the fair were:

  • The aromatic, sweet and slightly fizzy Moscato d’Asti from Ca’D’Gal in Piemonte.
  • The salty mineral, citrusy fresh, yet full from stirring the lees Manzoni Bianco (cross of Riesling and Pint Blanc) from Giuseppe&Alessandro Fanti in Trentino.
  • The dark fruit dominated powerful yet refreshing Nebiolos from Sandro Fay in Lombardia.
  • The white blends and pinkish (from the skins) Pinot Grigio with aromas of roses, young cherry blossom and fresh cherries from Dario Princic in Friuli.
  • The Primitivo from Puglia which was once brought to Italy from Greece – the powerful candied fruit on the nose and slightly meaty and concentrated fruit character on the palate from the first producer (in 1987) who bottled 100% Primitivo in Italy – Fatalone.
Pure Primitivo wine from Fatalone in Puglia

Pure Primitivo wine from Fatalone in Puglia


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Bodega Irurtia established in 1913

Bodega Irurtia established in 1913

Irurtia is one of the first wineries in Uruguay and the fourth generation of the Irurtia family, that is now in charge, is proud of it. Celebrating 100 years since the first vintage, 2013 is going to be a big year for the winery and perhaps it is also an ideal time for a merry visit. I had a speedy tour with María Noel Irurtia, who is wonderful. She was very friendly, casual, knew the wines very well and was eager to invite the winemaker to the tasting table with us. Great news for the non-Spanish speaking crowd is that her English is pretty good.


Located in the Carmelo area in Uruguay, the winery is best reachable either by a ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia and then by car or from Montevideo straight by car. Although it is simpler, the later trip is a bit longer as the capital city of Uruguay, Montevideo, is further from Carmelo.

Centenary history

While in Europe the First World War was rumbling, in Uruguay wine was happily being harvested. The hundred-years-long history of the Bodega Familia Irurtia shows how remote the country is and therefore detached from the world’s skirmishes. Good for the wines. One rarely finds wines from the two World Wars’ vintages today.

1930s wine harvest machine

1930s wine harvest machine

The founder Don Lorenzo Irurtia came to Uruguay from the Basque region in Spain in the  late 19th century.Together with other immigrants he pioneered planting of the French Tannat grape, that still today thrives in the south-western France (particularly in Madiran). The person credited with brining the grape to the country was Don Lorenzo’s fellow citizen Pascual Harriague after whom was the Tannat locally named. It is said today that Tannat in Uruguay today is more similar to that one long time ago popular in France, where now Tannat stays in the shade of the Cabernets, Merlots, Chardonnays, Syrah and a much longer tail of preferred varietals.

Don Lorenzo Irurtia and his wife

Don Lorenzo Irurtia and his wife

Modern wines

Nonetheless, it was not until the 1970s, that Uruguay produced fine wines. María Noel Irurtia admitted saying: “We still have vines cultivated by my great grand father Lorenzo Irurtia, then more than 100 years old. This plants produced grapes and wine, but this is not for wine because of regulations, this are not recognised varietals for wine production.”

She further said: “Even our older European vines, between them Cabernet Sauvignon, my father imported in the early `70.” Still having vines over 40-years-old yields high quality wines as Ms Irurtia confirms: “This is an exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon we use in our better blends of fine wine.”
Dusty 1985 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon

Dusty 1985 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon

Today the family employs modern winemaking techniques and quality standards to their wines so they can be sold far abroad particularly to Canada and as far as to Hong Kong (the Bodega participated in the Vinexpo Hong Kong last May 2012).

The sleek and modern Km.0 (Kilometro zero) range of wines confirms that the wines from Irurtia are worth a try. Notably, I was intrigued by the beauty of the Viognier, that one would not expect in the country known mostly for its fruity yet bold highly tannic Tannats.


María Noel Irurtia said: “The international prize we are really proud is our first prize, in Sofia- Bulgary in 1966. My father received the “Ordre du mérit Agricole” from the France Ministere De Affaires Agricoles.”
It is not the only the Tannat or the multiple awards reaping old-vines Cabernet Sauvignon that the family prizes the most. Ms Irurtia confessed to me: “Our most prized wine is the Botrytis Excellence Late Harvest 2002 which obtained many Gold and Great Gold Medals and our Reserva del Virrey Tannat 2002.”

Irurtia Km 0 wine rangeI tried both of these highly awarded wines, and although not in the 2002 vintage, I was impressed especially by the Botrytis Excellence. This sweet honeyed grape nectar was so luscious with good acidity necessary to make this style of wine excellent. The winery indeed achieved excellence with its Botrytis Excellence.

Reservation by mail at turismo@irurtia.com.uy – Visits everyday at 11AM & 3PM.

The address and location are specified on the Bodega’s website.


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Cuisine: Italian, Tuscan.

Visit: November 2012

Price: Medium (it is not a fancy restaurant, but a genuine high quality countryside osteria).

Atmosphere: Surrounded by the hills of Chianti Classico, olive trees and a sky like from a fairytale, the country house that is the seat of the Osteria di Fonterutoli fits in perfectly. Located in the village owned by the Mazzei family since 1435, the restaurant is only a new project for the entrepreneurial current generation that already successfully runs a winery, a lovely B&B and a wine shop in the village. The Osteria has a very sociable atmosphere, most people are locals who know each other and chat comfortably even with strangers. It is fresh, rustic, yet with a delicate sense sophistication while being comfortable and flexible as it has a nice terrace ready for the warm days.

Tuscan countryside around Fonterutoli

Tuscan countryside around Fonterutoli

Food: Hearty, fresh regional ingredients with a creative take on home recipes of the Mazei family. Going very local with my first course I went for the Fresh Tomato and Bread Soup that was exquisite. I have tried different versions of this Tuscan “soup” which does not have much water, so I would rather call it a purèe, but at Fonterutoli it was made the best I have had so far. Succulent tomatoes with their intense natural juice were delicately mixed with bread soaked so well that you might not have realised that there was bread in it if you were not told before. The thick soup was smoothened with a blend of local olive oil and chopped basil and served with crispy thin slices of bread.

Thick seasonal vegetable soup

Thick tomato and bread soup

Not many people connect Tuscan food with salads, but they can do them so well here, that a salad can make a light and refreshing lunch, ideal before a meaty and heavy dinner. Although, I have to warn you the bread is freshly baked so you might end up eating the entire basket before you even realise it. The  Baby Salad with Pear, Pecorino Cheese and Dry Fruit is huge, but there is never enough lettuce in our diet so it is only good for you. It is not a boring green thing neither. A creamy balsamic vinegar is drizzled over the salad with sweet touch of apples and raisins that pair wonderfully with pecorino dispersed all over the salad. A starter meat option or a good plate with the superb red Siepi wine from Mazzei family would be 18 Months Aged Ham with Melon and Baby Salad.

Tuscan cheese and apple salad

Pecorino cheese and apple salad with pine nuts & raisins

Ready for a main course? Then you must try the Spicy Guinea Fowl (a Mazzei Family traditional dish pictured below) or another speciality suitable for the Chianti wines such as the Marinated Beef Rib Eye Mazzei’s Style (with Fresh Herbs Served on Top of a Hot Stone). The Guinea Fowl might surprise even these of you who are not big fans of this bird. Here it was tender, not dry, but rather slightly juicy, with a delicate taste and a great herb&spice marinade.

Tender chicken with crispy potato wedges

Tender Guinea Fowl with crispy potato wedges

A cheese selection from “Corzano e Paterno” is a great option for wine pairing, but the desserts are also appealing. From Dark Chocolate Hot Soufflé to a more Italian “Semifreddo” with Pistachio and Brittle the sweet cravings will get easily satisfied

Drinks: The Mazzei family makes excellent wines not only from the Tuscan grapes (Castello di Fonterutoli), but also from the Sicily (Zisola), Maremma (Belguardo) regions. The choice is so wide that you will find an ideal one for your meal. Just ask the staff and they will advise you on what to order.

Opening hours: Mon-Sat: Lunch:12.30pm-2.30pm; Thurs.-Sat.: Dinner: 7.30pm-10.30pm

Address:  Via Giacomo Puccini, 4, Fonterutoli – 5 km south of Castellina in Chianti, Province of Siena, Italy.

Contact: Tel: +(39) 0577 741125; e-mail: osteria@fonterutoli.it

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Both the old and modern buildings of Bodegas Real (translated as the “Royal Wineries”) rise majestically out of the plains of the Spain’s Castilla – La Mancha region. The winery falls into the Valdepeñas apellation (D.O. =Denominación de Origen) in La Mancha, South from Madrid. Most of you will know this area from the classic Cervantes’ novel about the chilvalry of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. In particular, his unrealistic fight against the wind mills might pop into your mind. The winery owners in the region do not try to fight the impossible, although if one considers the baking-hot temperatures during the summer, growing vines here is not an easy task.

Bodegas Real: Modern winery
Photo by Zlata Rodionova.

Climate: confronting challenges

During the short drive from the town of Valdepeñas (Ciudad Royal), observing the extensive flat land, I realized the arid climate of the region. Since La Mancha is one of the hottest regions in Europe, irrigation has been allowed there starting with the 2003 vintage even for the wines fashioning the DO mark. Thus growing vines in such a dry area is possible. The flip side of the strong summer sun rays is that ripening the grapes fully is not an issue. The harvest often happens as early as in mid-August (very early compared to Rioja’s and Ribera’s October). In contrast to this desert-like summer climate (continental extreme), the winters are very cold allowing the vines a long rest before the following harvest season. High altitude helps to cool down the vineyards during the summer nights.

The arid lands of Valdepeñas

La Mancha: from bulk to quality wines

The region historically produced a large amount of bulk wine. The most popular was the pale but very strong red wine made from Airén (white grape) and some red grapes. Today, there are still many cheap wines produced in this fashion, but modernisation of some wineries and desire of some local winemaking families to produce high quality wines has led in the past two decades to a quality revolution in La Mancha. Bodegas Real is leading the suite with its modern winery that was built on the fields of the historic Finca Marisanchez (one of the farmhouses standing along the Royal Road that once connected the Spain’s East Coast with Andalucía). The winery’s best wines bear the name Finca Marisanchez and are produced as reservas with a limited release.

The main goal of the winemaker is to achieve consistency. He strives for great wines each vintage, rather than relying on annual weather fluctuations, he blends the wines to create distinctive products of Bodegas Real.

Giant amphoras at Bodegas Real.
Photo by Zlata Rodionova


Bacchus rules at Bodegas Royal

Boal Macabeo 2011: Mineral stony nose with exotic nuances of pineapple and warming touch of hay tease the nose awakening ones curiosity about how this wine could possibly taste. The wine does not disappoint on the palate fashioning a plethora of aromatic tones. From warm spices it morphs into a pinch of salt that intensifies in a long finish with salty and almost palate-drying flare. It is a lovely aperitif, but also this wine can work marvels with seafood due to its salty mineral essence.

Finca Marisanchez Chardonnay 2011: The Chardonnay was my personal favorite, but I also learned that ladies in particular fancy this exotic and mellow eastern beauty the most. This wine takes you on a journey through the eastern parts of Asia from Japan (nashi pear), Thailand (with sweet pineapple) into Taiwan (stealing some bananas from the wild monkeys). The fruit journey is completed with a rewarding acidity that freshens-up the palate.

Vega Ibor Tempranillo 2009: This is a Crianza style of wine meaning that the wine spends about six months in oak and is released a minimum two years after the harvest. In this region the Tempranillo is called Cencibel. The nose boasts with wild strawberry and cherry aromas, while on the palate one learns that the youthful tannins overwhelming your mouth (which is vividly demonstrated by the facial expressions of most drinkers turning sour) give this wine the “surprise-me” potential in the years to come. The sweet character of these tannins will make this wine more approachable quite soon. Hidden behind the veil of tannins are red fruits in a blend of strawberry, raspberry and dark sumptuous touch of ripe cherry. Long, yet slightly bitter aftertaste reminded me how important is to be patient with some particularly red wines.

Finca Marisanchez 2006 Reserva (matured at least for three years from which at least one year in barriques, one in bottle) is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Merlot and 10% Syrah. For Bodegas Royal this is a limited production wine (about 18.200 bottles, which for a Spanish winery is quite a tiny amount). It is a much more complex wine than the Crianza. In this wine spices (pepper, eucalyptus) mingle with dark fruits (plum, black currant, blackberry) in a full-bodied wine, that keeps lots of its freshness and fruit so it is not too heavy.

These were the wines I have tried, the rest as well as the smooth extra virgin olive oil made from the olives grown at the estate you can taste at the bodega during your visit.

Tour of the winery: men could be great listeners when wine is concerned.
Photo by Zlata Rodionova

The winery has excellent premises for events such as weddings, anniversaries, conferences, all set in the midst of sprawling vineyards. There is also a great restaurant serving dishes complementing perfectly the wines from Bodegas Real.

Address: Finca Marisanchez, Ctra. Valdepeñas a Cozar km 12.800, 13300 Valdepeñas, Spain

Contact: +(34) 629 939 703; email: comunicacion@bodegas-real.com

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Failla is a family business that manifests itself in the home-like interior of the tasting room/lounge. A husband and wife teamed together to create Failla named after Anne-Marie Failla, the wife of the winemaker Ehren Jordan.

Living room or a tasting room?

The winemaker Ehren Jordan had an interesting path to winemaking. Without any degree in oenology his experiences from being a wine salesman, wine waiter in Aspen, tourist guide at Phelps winery and later under the helm of French oenologist Jean-Luc Columbo working at the Cornas vineyards in the Rhone valley, all formed his aptitude to wine making.

After his European trip he returned to California and worked for the celebrated brand Marcassin (their wines have a wild boar on their labels). Their vineyards on Sonoma Coast with the steep hillsides are similar to those of Cornas (Rhone Valley). He made a great job there and recognizing the wine-producing potential of the then little known Sonoma Coast, he bought a parcel with only five plantable acres that later became Failla’s Estate Vineyard. The area has a distinct cool climate (elevation minimum 1000 feet), is just above the foggy layer typical for the North coast of California, so the three varietals planted there – Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – can thrive. It has been farmed organically since the beginning.

Until today the winemaker imprints his European background into his wines. As Robert M. Parker (the famous wine critic) observed, he creates “European-inspired wines, that combine flavor, intensity and elegance.”  Today Ehren Jordan makes a Rhône-style Syrah, Burgundy-resembling Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Ehren Jordan: Failla winemaker

Ehren loves to fly. No wonder he pursued this quite rare hobby. He has been sourcing Pinots from the Keefer Ranch, Occidental Ridge, Hirsch Vineyard and Peay Vineyards on the Sonoma Coast as well as from Willamette Valley in Oregon. Since the 2005 vintage from Rancho Santa Rosa in the Santa Rita Hills North of Santa Barbara, and finally since 2006 Appian Way Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. The Chardonnay comes from the Phoenix Ranch and Hudson Vineyard in Napa Valley, Monument Tree from Anderson Valley as well as from the Keefer Ranch in Russian River Valley. The Syrah, some Chardonnay and Pinot is planted at the above mentioned Estate Vineyard in Sonoma Coast. He also makes a little bit of Viognier from Alban Vineyard in Edna Valley. He covers so many parts of California (he abandoned the project in Oregon), that he has to commute constantly between these vineyards if he wants to keep quality in check. Flying his own little plane makes sourcing grapes from all these diverse areas possible.

A winemaker commuting to work on a plane.

The wines

Failla is not producing millions of bottles, it is more a boutique winery making between 70 – 700 cases (approximately) a year of each wine, depending on the vintage conditions.

Failla Chardonnay Hudson Vineyard 2010 has a buttery nose given by malolactic fermentation of a more aggressive malic acid into a creamier lactic acid (you find in sour milk products, fruits and vegetables). It is a medium bodied wine with a good dose of acidity balancing the level of alcohol (14.1%), so you do not feel it on the palate. Sweet spices like cloves add depth and roundness, exotic touch of ripe bananas enhance the sweet sensation on your tongue, but a long salty finish refreshes your mouth, ready for the next sip.

Failla Syrah Hudson Vineyard 2010 Napa Valley: plump and juicy in the mouth, gamey and meaty on the nose, this Syrah has it all and it is by far not shy. Its expressive rich body shows ripe blackberry and currants, masculine character of game and crisp acidity that enlivens the wine and racy tannins on the backbone. Have it with meat or seared mushrooms.

Failla Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard 2010 Sonoma Coast: lush fruit, black berries, huckleberries and rhubarb are spiced up by anise and white pepper. Lovely balance and acidity that is refreshing and rounding up tannins that are rather steely cut than big and rough. Long spicy finish with lingering black fruit ensures that will not stop after one glass, craving more of this easy-going fruity sensation.

Although I liked all of the Pinots (and have a couple of bottles of each at my cellar), I do not write my tasting notes here. I rather suggest that the rest you should go to taste yourself at the winery. These wine are really worth it. The Marcassin Pinot lovers will appreciate this wine tremendously.

Address: 3530 Silverado trail, N.; St. Helena; California; CA 94574

Contact: Tel: +1 (707) 963 0530

Tours and tastings available by appointment only.

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Viader: grooves of vines and a lake paradise

Viader winery and its surrounding vineyards occupy perhaps the most beautiful location in the entire Napa Valley area. Just peak at the picture above where embroidered by the grooves of vines this lake paradise in the valley comes to life. As one settles at the winery’s terrace overlooking the Howell Mountain estate vineyards it is hard not to be enchanted by the wonderful scenery that spreads in front of you as a sun-dusted blanket on a freshly grown grass that is just a cushion on a bed of a vast meadow.


You do not come to Viader only for the looks though. Delia Viader, the owner and winemaker, knows very well that wine is not only about the land the grapes are grown in, but also about personalities involved with the vineyard and the entire process of wine making. Many people, who know her would say that she is a bit over-educated for a winemaker. She holds a doctorate in philosophy from Sorbonne in Paris and pursued a number of courses in business in the USA where she lived. Her passion for fine wine lead her to study also Enology and Viticulture at University of California Davis. With all these degrees you might think that her wine must be highly sophisticated. Indeed, as my tasting experience proved, the wines she makes are intriguing.

The winery inconspicuous back entrance.

Greeted by a friendly dalmatian just after we exited the secret door leading from the premisses of the winery to the vineyards we felt welcome like at home. Moreover, Delia’s Argentine roots manifest themselves in her friendly and positive manner, and that puts you into the right mood for a wine tasting.


The wines were all intense, sufficiently concentrated, but elegant and not too chewy as some old-fashioned California Cabernets tend to be. There are eight wines produced under the Viader brand:

Viader Proprietary Cabernet Blend, which is the main wine. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc known under a nickname “Liquid Cashmere”. It is a succulent, fruit-driven wine with a long aging potential. The Cabernet Franc adds violet aromas and elegance.

Viader Napa blend

“V” is a Petit Verdot dominated blend, balanced by Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It is a powerful wine, unique in its nature. Petit Verdot is a very tannic grape, but it needs some acidity to achieve longer aging potential, the Cabs add complexity as well as acidity and harmonise the strong Petit Verdot. This was my favorite wine from the range we tasted.

VIADER Syrah is a blend of two clones of Syrah – the Australian Shiraz from Barossa Valley and a French from Rhone Valley (Hermitage). Here the spices of the Australian clone and elegance with a distinct aroma.

VIADER Black Label is a limited edition of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Malbec. This wine was born as an initiative taken by Alan Viader, who spent a harvest in Argentina where he got inspired to grow the Mendoza’s famous varietal here on the family estate at Howell Mountain. We have not tried this wine since this is a limited edition released in small amounts.

A table set outdoors above the vineyards.

DARE is a single varietal line of these three grapes under three different labels: Cabernet Sauvignon; Cabernet Franc and Tempranillo.

DARE Cabernet Sauvignon is a “classic mountain cab”. It is a complex single grape wine with aromas of black cherry, dark currant, tobacco and cedar. There is a slight caramel flavor from the oak aging. This wine should be drink young within five years from its vintage.

DARE Cabernet Franc had also acquired some sweet spices from barrel aging with vanilla, sweet caramel and tobacco leading the suite. The fruits contributed with some black currant, licorice and cocoa to create a palate-awakening wine.

DARE Tempranillo as a “latin spice” brings this Spanish varietal to life at the Howell Mountain vineyard. It is charming with floral notes, refreshing minerality and earthy feel, while showing quality-driven wine as it has a great fruit concentration.

DARE Rose is made by Southern French method of “bleeding grapes” (saigné method) of mainly red Cabernet Sauvignon. The pink juice from the macerating must is removed at an early stage just to leave more color, aromas and tannins. We have not tried this rosé, so it is up to you to taste it perhaps next summer during your visit to Napa.

Just come and unwind during the hot summer or ideally during one of the cosy warm early autumn days. In both seasons you have trees to protect you from the heat as well as open spaces facing the valley so you can savor the last powerful sun rays of the year.

Tasting: 7 days a week from March through October – 10am and 4:30pm. (During the winter months only on Sundays). Tasting options.

Contact: Cante Swearingen
Director of Hospitality

Address: 1120 Deer Park Road, Deer Park, CA 94576

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How one gets there (new winery above) from here (piece of untamed land below)?

The land before the winery comes in.

Philippe and Cherie Melka have perhaps the most challenging work in their entire career in the wine business ahead of them. Building a winery from scratch is more complex than building a house. One has to consider a number of factors such as visitors room, storage, cellar, cooling system, special permits in protected areas (which often wine regions are) and above all the location itself as it is more advantageous to have the winery as close to all vineyards as possible to avoid unnecessary manipulation with the picked grapes.

The success of the construction will influence the future success of the wines produced under the Melka name here in Napa.

Their wines are a huge asset for them already, but they have been made so far at other wineries where Philippe Melka has been consulting.

Philippe lived during his childhood and teenage years in Bordeaux, France, where he earned a geology degree from the University of Bordeaux. In the last year of his studies he took a wine course out of curiosity and that has changed his life completely leading him to work at the legendary Chateau Haut Brion as well as Chateau Petrus between others.

Philippe and Cherie Melka.
SOURCE: melkawines.com

Melka’s philosophy

Soil and its influence on quality of grapes and later wines became his primary quest and he travelled the world to learn more about this intriguing relationship. Melka was so fascinated by the potential and diversity of soils in Napa Valley that he decided to stay there to consult for a number of wineries. After a couple of years he and his wife Cherie (a well-known microbiologist in Napa) gave birth to their own brand the Melka Wines. Recently he was recognised by Robert Parker as one of the top wine consultants in the world and that was a huge game changer for him as well as for his brand.

I wish their new winery in Napa will be built soon and serve them well to create such magnificent terroir-driven wines as he has been making so far.

Melka Wines

Their main high-end line is called Métisse, which is a French word meaning “a blend of cultures”. Philippe is French (with Moroccan roots) and his wife American so their winemaking represents “a blend of cultures”. Recently its label got a modern colourful revamp.

Old vs new: Old label of Melka wine replaced by this modern one today.

There are three wines under the Métisse label, each coming from a different vineyard:
  • The Jumping Goat Vineyard – is a small vineyard owned by Jim and Stephanie Gamble and located in the heart of St. Helena in Napa Valley.
I have tasted the 2009 vintage which is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. Only 400 cases of this wine have been produced for a retail price US$155.00. It was balanced, elegant, with tones of cassis and dark cherry, complemented by a smoky touch of cigar box. With such an intense and lingering finish you will not forget this wine soon.
  • La Mekkera Vineyard – is located in Knights Valley. Only 200 cases are made for US$125.00 retail price.

In 2008 vintage a blend of 55% Merlot and 45% Cabernet Franc has enchanted my palate the most from all the Melka wines I have tasted now in 2012. Smelling it in the glass was just a teasing start. It revealed the aromas of black tea, dark chocolate, plums, dried flowers and a scent of kirsch. The volcanic soil in the winery influenced the smoky black tea character (Pur-eh) on the palate, enhanced with exotic flavours of dried flowers, this was a very soft and balanced pleasure for my taste buds.

Moving from Napa to Bordeaux, Philippe makes wine in St. Emilion under his Métisse label as well.
  • LE CHÂTELET VINEYARD is a ST. EMILION GRAND CRU blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc.

It is the smallest production for Melka with 120 cases made in 2009. Licorice and fennel vegetal character is underlined by a rocky strength and richness of cherry marmalade. The tannins were still too young so I would drink this wine in a couple of years from now. It has a life span of more than 25 years so no worries it would die any time soon.

Melka CJ Bordeaux blend

  • CJ is an acronym for Philippe’s and Cherrie’s two children, Chloe and Jeremy.

It is a wine meant to be enjoyed young. It is a good value for money (US$52.00) compared to the more expensive Métisse line. It is a Napa Valley blend that changes every year depending on the wine makers decision.
The 2010 vintage was intensely fruity with sweet cassis, cherry, and refreshing spices on the palate. Too lush and rich for me though.

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