I haven’t been remiss in attending to this blog. It’s just that Your West Coast Oenophile has been pulled in many directions as of late, principally in my efforts to secure the funding Sostevinobile needs in order to be open by September. Then add to the mix that I had to purchase a new computer and port over all my applications and files from the old workhorse that could no longer keep up with the software I require.
Much to its credit, Apple makes migration from one Macintosh to another almost seamless. My first efforts over my home-based WiFi network did freeze up a couple of times before completion, so switch to a direct transfer via Ethernet and within less than two hours had my new Mac a perfect mirror of its predecessor, only running blazingly fast with Snow Leopard, 4GB of RAM and a dual processor somewhere in the range of 10x’s the speed with which I had been contending. Inevitably, I encountered a small glitch or two that required assistance from Apple’s highly commendable tech support, a service that most gratefully is not outsourced to an overseas locale, with specialists whose efforts at approximating colloquial English parallel my utterly futile attempts to dunk on a 10′ rim.
If only the same could be said for Adobe Systems. With my new system, I was finally able to handle the latest issue of Adobe’s Creative Suite, a leap of several versions. Rather than allot a couple of weeks to diligently learning the nuances of these upgrades, I thought by availing myself of their phone-in assistance, it would expedite my learning curve.
Wrong! The only thing worse than the average 65 minute hold time before someone would field my call was the dreaded sound of “Good afternoon, Mr. Marc. How might I facilitate a diligent response to the urgency of your dilemma?” And even that would not have been so bad, but this mangled attempt to offer assistance belied the assumption that the speaker on the other end of the phone had even the remotest connection to technical competence.
Over the course of a four-day period, I endured some twenty hours of complete ineptitude in my efforts to unravel the basic functionality of core features highlighted in the What’s New window of InDesign CS4. With frontline tech support failing to find a solution to my query, my issue was escalated to senior level staff and assigned a case number for further reference. These diplomates of the highly prestigious India Institute of Science only managed to exacerbate my problem, insisting after many hours of research that only a third-party PlugIn could allow me to create a new document and type without the constraints of page limits, a necessary requirement in my 20 year practice of eschewing all Microsoft products for the superior software of its competitors.
Given that this functionality was a major highlight of InDesign’s new capabilities, I objected vociferously and set off to find an answer on my own. Finally, despite twelve phone calls to Adobe and my nearly non-stop torrent of invectives, I managed to uncover the solution up front and center from the Helpful Tips on Adobe’s help site, the same basic manual from which these contractors were supposedly referring for the past 14 months. Forget raising money for Haiti—I am contemplating starting a Facebook site that will solicit the funds I need to acquire an atomic weapon to eradicate Bangalore from the face of the planet!
Meanwhile, in addition to the several days I lost mired in this inexorable abyss, I also contracted my annual winter cold shortly after filing my last blog entry. Nothing too serious—certainly not H1N1—but tiring and annoying nonetheless. Sudafed and Ricola during the day, steam bath after my workout, overly generous glass of hot brandy with honey before bedtime, and within 7-10 days, I’m back with a vengeance (if my usual pattern holds true). So, feeling only slightly debilitated, I pedaled across San Francisco to attend the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association trade tasting at Farallon, a venue for wine tasting that I have repeatedly lauded in this blog.
Coming but a few days prior to the ever-overwhelming ZAP festival, this event compelled me to include an additional criterion to my usual tasting protocol: no Zinfandel! However, I seemed to have been less judicious in limiting my actual intake (vs. the professional swill & spit technique). Or perhaps it was an interaction with the over-the-counter remedies I was taking. Whatever the case, I stopped for a short respite and a chance to stretch out my legs in the lobby of the Kensington Park Hotel once the tasting had ended. Inadvertently, two minutes lapsed into two hours, and I awoke to find myself comfortably draped in a plush, Louis XIV armchair, unaware I had dozed off almost instantaneously. A bit embarrassing, perhaps, but, amazingly, my congestion was completely gone!
So maybe the New England Journal of Medicine will not accept my claim that wine can cure the common cold. This is a battle I will take up in a different forum. My readership here will choose to believe me or not; in any case, I am sure all will prefer to hear about my discoveries at the aforementioned tasting.
And, indeed, discoveries were made. Those who follow this blog should not be surprised I took an immediate shine to Watsonville’s River Run, a winery making its inaugural appearance with the SCMWA. I only wish owner J. P. Pawlowski had brought his entire inventory with him! River Run’s 2008 Chardonnay Moutanos Vineyard was a superb organic expression from Mendocino, as was the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Moutanos Vineyard. I found much to like in their 2006 Merlot San Benito County and cottoned to both the 2006 Carignane Wirz Vineyard and their Rhône homage, the 2008 Côte d’Aromas, a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignane, Viognier, and Grenache. I yearned, however, to sample the 2007 Négrette San Benito County, only the second time I’ve encountered this varietal from California, and I would have veered from my self-imposed prohibition for a small swill of the 2004 Zinfandel Port.
I probably should have asked Dan Martin of Martin Ranch Winery who J.D. Hurley was. The lower end label for this Gilroy winery seemed to be eclipsed by their more distinctive Thérèse Vineyards (eponymous for Dan’s wife) line, which impressively debuted their 2006 Thérèse Vineyards Syrah Santa Clara Valley and an affable 2006 Thérèse Vineyards Sangiovese.
Another new acquaintance, Hillcrest Terrace Winery, prefers a more orthodox Burgundian catalog, but excels in both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Standouts were the 2008 Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Regan Vineyard, the always dependable 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands, and a profound 2008 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains Fambrini Vineyard. Closer to San Francisco, the La Honda Winery shares a zip code both with rock & roll legend Neil Young and the experimental cyberwine forays of Clos de la Tech. Not to be eclipsed by T. J. Rodgers, they offered an impressive Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese blend, the 2006 Super Tuscan La Honda Ranch Experimental Vineyard. Actually, La Honda farms 30 vineyards throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, including parcels in Woodside, Portola Valley, Atherton, Los Altos Hills, and Saratoga, while making its wine in Redwood City. Of their many selections, I particularly liked the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains Lonehawk Vineyard and their 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains Sequence. Also impressive was the 2006 Meritage, with Cabernet Franc and Malbec in addition to its backbone of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Odonata is the taxonomical term for the order of aquatic palæopterous insects that includes damselflies and dragonflies, a species whose agility at inflight copulation puts the Mile High Club to shame; Odonata is also a family-run winery in Santa Cruz focused on organic grapes and sustainable wines, agile themselves at making a splendid 2007 Malbec St. Olof Vineyard, the very straightforward 2008 Chardonnay Peter Martin Ray Vineyard, and their 2007 Durif from Mendocino.
Having visited with the other participating wineries at a number of Santa Cruz tastings last year allowed me to take a more casual or social approach to sampling the afternoon’s offerings. Methodically, I wound my way down the list in alphabetical order, starting with Bargetto, a winery which intermittently shows flairs of brilliance with its Dolcetto. Though a straightforward expression of this varietal was not part of Bargetto’s current inventory, its proprietary 2004 La Vita, a deft blend of Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Refosco from its Santa Cruz vineyards easily contented me. And my earlier partiality towards Black Ridge Vineyards remained intact as I tasted their current release, the 2007 Estate Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains.
Clos Títa handcrafts small lots of artisanal wines emphasizing Pinot Noir and Bordelaise varietals. This event afforded my first tasting of their 2005 Gironde, an elegant mélange of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from their Chain D’Or vineyards in Santa Cruz. Similarly, I had tasted the Pinots from Clos LaChance on a number of occasions, so I focused instead on their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast from their Hummingbird Series and a striking proprietary Bordeaux blend, the 2006 Lila’s Cuvée.
The late Kathryn Kennedy was noted as one of the first women to start her own winery, as well as for her exclusive focus on estate bottled 100% Cabernet Sauvignon in Saratoga. It seemed only proper to visit her table after her recent passing for a tasting of three of her vintages. Indeed, the 2006 Kathryn Kennedy Small Lot Cabernet S
anta Cruz Mountains stands as a fitting tribute to this viticultural pioneer.
anta Cruz Mountains stands as a fitting tribute to this viticultural pioneer.
Medical pioneer Thomas Fogarty has long followed his success with angioplasty in crafting wines that have proved enormously beneficial not only for the heart but to the palate. Again, having recently tasted several of his Pinots, I focused on his 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains and the 2005 Lexington Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Fogarty’s winemaker, Michael Martella, shared an impressive array of wines from his eponymous label, starting with the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Monterey County. But, not unexpectedly, he excelled with his assorted red wines, a quartet that included the 2006 Grenache Fiddletown, the 2005 Petite Sirah Mendocino, a wondrous 2006 Syrah Hammer and the 2006 Zinfandel Fiddletown (OK, I succumbed)!
I don’t know if it’s possible to have every Ridge Zinfandel, but I’d wager my home stockpile comes pretty close. Now, had they been pouring their 2003 Monte Bello, which was depicted in the tasting program, I might have lingered at their table for a while, but I did manage to pay a visit with their mountaintop neighbor, Don Naumann and revisit with his always approachable wines, the 2006 Chardonnay and his 2005 Merlot Estate Grown.
Another prominent Santa Cruz vintner, Sarah’s Vineyard has long stood out for its Pinot Noir and, like Ridge, featured a label of the same on their page. Nonetheless, I veered away from the tried and true and opted for the 2005 Syrah Besson Vineyard and the 2007 Grenache Santa Clara Valley. I also revisited with Saratoga’s Cinnabar, cherry-picking their 2007 Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains, the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains, the 2005 Cabernet Franc Lodi and their proprietary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the 2007 Mercury Rising. But, alas, it seemed that the 2004 Teroldego Central Coast, a wine I had so thoroughly enjoyed last year, failed to make the journey to San Francisco.
I’d been impressed by the Gatos Locos wines I had sampled at Clements Ridge when I visited Lodi in the fall, so it behooved me to stop by the table of their producer, Vine Hill, and to retry their 2007 Gatos Locos Chardonnay Mokelumne River and the 2006 Gatos Locos Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains. I found their 2006 Vine Hill Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains compared quite favorably. But by then, the armchair in the lobby was beckoning, and my medical breakthrough was not to be denied.