Woodenhead Winery? If you have read my article before, you might remember me mentioning them in the past. In March, they released their long-awaited zinfandels. I’m a big supporter of this winery and great wines are just part of the reason. Owners Nikolai and Zina are wine lovers and have a great passion for making the best wine possible. They are also very nice people who always have a smile for everyone. They continue to have “day jobs” and can be found at the winery most weekends. If you’re planning a trip to Sonoma, give them a call (707) 887-2703 and maybe you can drop by. We currently have the following wines in stock: The 2003 Zinfandel, Martinelli Road Old Vine, Russian River Valley ($36.99) is a big, bright and attractive with a little chocolate and soft tannin, which adds great structure. That structure sets this wine apart from other wines from this vineyard. It's like biting into a big slice of berry pie. 182 cases made. The 2003 Woodenhead Sonoma Zinfandel ($26.99) shows dark raspberry and cherry in the mouth with hints of clove and vanilla. 333 cases made. The 2003 Woodenhead Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($44.99) is a super smooth, plush and powerful pinot. This wine shows great balance and is one of the best Anderson wines you could ever try. 310 cases made. See you in the City… —Mike Jordan
Last month I spent a few days in the Napa Valley, attending the Premier Napa Valley Auction. Premier Napa Valley is a mid-winter barrel auction for the trade. This is one of the two auctions put together by the Napa Valley Vintners Association. The other auction is the Napa Valley Wine Auction, which is held in the summer. The weather was perfect, the food was great, and the 2004s showed surprisingly well. The auction itself is actually on Saturday, but many of the wineries have open houses, tasting events and parties on the days that lead up to the auction. One nice thing about the events that the wineries have is all the older vintages that they pour. Corison had a vertical tasting of 1989 through 1994. Shafer was pouring Hillside Select from ’86, ’91, ’95 and ’02. Duckhorn poured the oldest wine of the day, an ’83 Three Palms Merlot, which was served from 6 liter. The main event is on Saturday. First there is a barrel tasting. Here you get a chance to taste the lots that will be auctioned off later in the day. Every winery does something special. The lots they auction off are unique and come from a specific barrel that will be bottled separately for the individual who buys it. So when you taste Silver Oak at the tasting, it is not the wine that will be released in a couple of years. It may be a component of or something totally different. It is still a good chance to get an idea of the fruit that 2004 produced. One thing for sure is that it was a small crop, and production will be down on most wines. I have heard mixed things about 2004’s quality but the wines showed pretty well across the board. Everyone we talked to was very excited about 2005s. After the tasting the auction starts. It is held in a packed room, there is very little oxygen, and it is loud. The bidders who are smart get pre-orders from their customers and bid accordingly. However, if you want to get a lot from a big name, Lewis, Shafer or even Rombauer, be prepared to pay for it. These lots can sell from $30k to $80k. For five cases that could be around $1000 per bottle! The good news is it all goes to charity. —Trey Beffa
Here’s a bit of irony for you: I was reading an article from UC Davis Dept of Ampelography last month and discovered something incredibly interesting. Studies on wine residues in clay pots in Haifa (known as Galilee in Biblical times), shows surprising genetic matches with what’s believed to be none other than our much-maligned merlot grape! Apparently, this seemed to be the wine of choice for those settlements along what is now called the Holy Land. According to the article, there was more than a good chance the wine created from water in that very famous Canaan wedding was merlot (or some form of it)! While this data is not 100% conclusive, the way I see it, if merlot was good enough for heavenly consumption, it’s good enough for me. So, who’s laughing now, Miles? 2003 Cloverdale Ranch Alexander Valley Merlot ($19.99) Consistently one of the more impressive Merlots we carry every year. This year, it’s still stylishly seductive, but adds an extra element of soft, ripe tannins and subtle earthy tones that keep its posture straight and hair combed just right. What a great, full-bodied effort, and the most striking to date. 2003 Burgess Napa Merlot ($14.99) You’ve got to love these guys. Besides being just killer nice people, their wines are remarkable and affordable. You don’t often see serious Merlot this flat-out good at prices that can be considered “everyday.” Yet this Merlot will never fail you in times of either friendly get-togethers or important dinners. Way to go! And why not, let’s throw in Merlot’s friendly rival, Pinot Noir. Though not divinely inspired, the ever-consistent 2004 Olivet Lane Russian River Pinot Noir ($23.99), loads up on the velvety, seductive sensory heaven that is Russian River Pinot Noir. Each new release, just like every new Mardi Gras, reminds you how good life is. It’s foolish not to drink it on the first day of April, too. Oh wait, there’s no Davis Department of Ampelography, you say? Fine, but the joke’s on you. Enjoy anyway! —Martin Reyes
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