Tag: Sonoma wine

Radio-Coteau 2014 Las Colinas Sonoma Coast Syrah

Who likes a cool-climate Syrah? *Raises hand.* Syrah is one of the varieties that my partner in wine crime and I don’t agree on—meaning, he always wants it and I’m way picky about it. It was when I was working on an article for Edible Silicon Valley, discovering the Rhne wines of the South Bay (read: Where We Rhône: Wine Trends In Silicon Valley) that I discovered the broad range of styles that can come from the Syrah grape. And it was during an interview with renowned winemaker Ross Cobb that it dawned on me that I truly gravitate toward the subtle, but undoubtedly structured, Syrahs grown in cooler climates. “We’ve always known that this area (Sonoma Coast) is an outstanding place for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” Cobb said. “But I’ve always thought that it’s also an outstanding cool Northern Rhône climate here.” He’s right. (Read more: Technical Review: Anaba Wines).

Well, today I bring to you that experience—that experience of subtlety, finesse, structure, and a small snippet of the Northern Rhône with a taste of Radio-Coteau’s 2014 Las Colinas Sonoma Coast Syrah.


Wine Region Climates, Disney Princesses, and a Wine Review

Alright, so as you all know I am studying for the WSET Level 3. Exciting? Yes. Am I confident? Well, not yet. You ever notice when you studying for something—anything, really—you’re all about whatever chapter, section, topic you’re currently reading. But it seems like by the time you get to the end of the book, all the stuff from the beginning of the book somehow moved to the back of your brain so, if you were to be tested on Chapter 1 (which, is usually foundational stuff you went into the course already knowing), you’d probably fail that test. I use the word ‘you’ but really I mean ‘me’ here.

Por ejemplo, the last chapters of the WSET 3 book covers sparkling wine (production and regions), Sherry, Port, and fortified Muscat. So, now that’s in the front of my brain.

Fun Fact: Sherry must be aged in 600 liter oak barrels, called (get this) butts. (*Snort*)

I like big butts and I cannot lie…

The fact of the matter is, with this test, you’re really meant to be able to combine that FOB material with the EOB information. Take a look at this sample WSET 3 question:

Identify the climate of Champagne. Explain how the climate in Champagne impacts on the fruit grown and why this makes the wine produced suitable for the production of traditional method sparkling wines.

Pop Quiz! Let’s take a second to answer this question while we’re here…

Champagne has a cool, continental climate. Cool meaning the average annual temperature—during the growing season—is about 16.5°C or below; continental meaning there are large annual temperature variations (extremely warm or hot summers, extremely cool, often frosty, winters), or, in other words, high continentality. Also, as the name pretty much implies, these areas are found away from large, moderating bodies of water. (Fun Fact: This climate condition is far more common in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern, when talking about vineyard locations.) Continental regions are also usually characterized by short summers with a very quick drop in temperature in the autumn. Put that together with an overall cool climate, and regions like Champagne are most at risk for spring frost, cold growing season temperatures (which can affect flowering, fruitset, and ripening).

Courtesty Fernando Beteta

Cool, continental sounds dreadful, no? In fact there are grapes that can thrive in these conditions, namely those that bud late and ripen early, as they will more than likely “miss” the spring frost (and because grapes for sparkling wine production are harvested earlier than winegrapes for still wine—to maintain a higher level of acidity—the grapes will also “miss” the winter frost). Grapes that fit that profile include Pinot Noir—one of the three main grape varieties used in Champagne production. The other “cool” thing about the cooler conditions for these late budders is that it will, in fact, slow the ripening process a bit so sugars in the grapes (you know, the stuff that turns into alcohol) will stay pretty low, while (again) the acid will stay high. This is important for the production of Champagne, as the second fermentation process will add about 1.2% more alcohol to the base wine, so harvesting grapes low in sugar will help produce a lower alcohol base wine (somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% ABV).

Did I answer that question clearly enough? So, you see how you have to know things about climate conditions of Champagne in order to start talking about the production of it? They could go on to ask what grapegrowers do or what vineyard considerations they take to better assist the full ripening of their grapes in this environment. But…I think I’ll save that for another post. My point here is…the basics, the FOB material. So, here goes:

CLIMATE: The annual pattern of temperature, sun, and rain during the growing season (April through October int he Norther Hemisphere; October through April in the Southern Hemisphere) averaged over several years.

Cool:  Average temperature of 16.5°C or below

Moderate: Average temperature between 16.5°C and 18.5°C

Warm: Average temperature between 18.5°C and 21°C

Hot: Average temperature 21°C and above


Continental: The greatest difference between the hottest and coldest months (high continentality); characterized by short summers with large and fast temperature drop in autumn; dry summers; away from moderating influence of large bodies of water; relatively short growing season; frost hazards at the beginning and end. (Examples: Alsace, Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Northern Rhone, Upper Loire, Rioja, Piedmont, Columbia Valley, Finger Lakes, Mendoza)

Maritime: Cool to moderate temperatures and low annual difference between the hottest and coldest months (low continentality); rainfall is evenly spread throughout the year; temperatures typically warm enough to extend ripening into autumn; there are distinct seasons, but less drastic variations between them than Continental; close to large bodies of water; major risks are spring and summer rainfalls. (Examples: Bordeaux [and much of Western France], Northwest Spain, Willamette Valley, New Zealand, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania)

Mediterranean: Low continentality, BUT summers are warm and dry (compared to Maritime); less seasonal temperature variation and distinction between seasons; long, hot growing season with little precipitation; can get good diurnal swings [ie: daytime-nightime temperature shifts]; because of the warmer conditions, wines are fuller bodied, riper in tannin, higher in alcohol, and lower in acid; major risks include low rainfall (which can be good for grapevine health, but can also lead to drought conditions) and, therefore, irrigation is much more utilized in these regions. (Examples: Mediterranean Region [duh], California, Chile, South Africa, South Eastern Australia

So how’d you like that bit of wine knowledge? It’s interesting that just knowing the climatic conditions of a region gives you a basic clue as to what the wine styles will be. Try that out at the grocery store.

Stay tuned for more. Let’s see what WSET question I pull out of the hat tomorrow for you cool kids. If you happen to have a Pop Quiz you want to give me, leave it in the comments…. Thanks for helping me study!

Oh…did you scroll down here for a wine review? Sure, why not…

About the Wine: 2017 Moon Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon by Ana-Diogo Draper (winemaker at Artesa Estate Vineyards & Winery)

(received as sample from NakeWines.com)

Flavor Profile:

Appearance: Medium Ruby

Aroma: Youthful with a pronounced intensity of aromas: black current, blackberry, blueberry, nutmeg, vanilla, eucalyptus

Palate: Dry, high acid, high tannin, high alcohol, full body with a medium (+) intensity of flavors: fennel, eucalyptus, black current, blackberry, blueberry, nutmeg, vanilla, and a background hint of smokey meat.

Medium (+) finish.

Conclusion: Based on the WSET criteria (and, as a side note, my personal opinion totally agrees with this conclusion), Ana’s Moon Mountain Cab is Very Good. You can drink this now but this wine 100% has the potential to age beautifully. (My personal note: I would recommend laying this down for minimum three years. Ana…save me a bottle to relive, ok? 😉 )

BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!


Passaggio Wines 2018 Unoaked Chardonnay

I think I mentioned before I’m becoming super picky with my Chardonnays. I can’t take them over-worked (over-oaked, too much ML, etc.) — let’s taste the fruit! One way to do that is to ferment and age the wine in stainless steel. Fresh, crisp, yet still a good balance of body…Cindy, girl, you did it again…

About the Wine: The Passaggio Wines 2018 Unoaked Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from the Namesake Vineyards located in Sonoma County’s Los Carneros AVA. The wine was, as mentioned, aged in 100% stainless steel tanks.

Flavor Profile: Warm, round comforting scents immediately as the wine is poured from bottle to glass. The Chardonnay emits a solid golden yellow in the glass, reminiscent of a classic Chardonnay — which this absolutely is not. Initial aromas are of yellow apples, apple blossoms, a hint of pollen and an almost pastry like decadence. But the palate could not be more different. Zing! with lemon-lime zest hit the tongue straight-away; a confident acidity rides evenly from start to finish; that “pastry” sensed on the nose becomes a mere background element, revealing itself in a more toasty than buttery flavor. Dominant flavors are of green apple and pear, white peach, perhaps a hint of apricot, and an over-riding floral perfume that both complements the fruit and elevates the delicacy of this uniquely refreshing Chardonnay.

Food Pairing: I loved that I was able to enjoy this Chardonnay over the course of a few days, pairing it with a ricotta cheese ravioli tossed with veggies and cream sauce as well as an Indian-style wrap and salad. Better yet, I enjoyed this wine during the work week. Unpretentious, unassuming, it’s peppy with flavors that act like the light at the end of a work-day tunnel, but light enough that you don’t feel weighed down or guilty for sipping it knowing you have to get up the next morning.

I also have to point out here that I love that Cindy’s white wines all come with screwcaps. It makes them a) much more inviting to open on a “I just feel like it” kind of basis and 2) [I think] makes the wine easier to preserve and thus enjoy over the course of a few days, as I’ve done with all of her recent white (and rosé) releases.

More Info: I received this bottle as a gift. (Cheers, Cindy!) Price: $36. For more information about Cindy, her wines, and to purchase wine directly (and stalk for the latest releases) please visit the Passaggio Wines website.

BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!

**Please note: all reviews and opinions are my own and are not associated with any of my places of business. I will always state when a wine has been sent as a sample for review. Sending samples for review on my personal website in no way guarantees coverage in any other media outlet I may be currently associated with.**