In the golden, oak-studded hills of Paso Robles’ acclaimed west side, not far from William Randolph Hearst’s magnificent castle, there is a man with a Homeric vision. His name is Daniel Daou and he is devoting his life and every imaginable resource to creating, first and foremost, a Cabernet Sauvignon that rivals the very best in the world.
Gracefully perched atop a stunning promontory at 2,200 feet, the DAOU Spanish Colonial style winery is embraced by a tangible serenity. Hawks wheel and bank while the all-day sun caresses close planted rows of lush, emerald green vines. The 100 percent calcareous soil makes no sound as it parses out nourishment and only a gentle breeze flows up through the Templeton Gap from the Pacific Ocean. The quiet is bewitching; you want to lay down roots here, just as the seven-year-old vines have done. But the sense of peace belies the serious industry at work on this 212 acre estate. No effort is spared to create the luscious varietals and blends that flow from this limited production winery.
This kind of synergy happens rarely: superlative climate and terroir, super intensive vineyard culture, and cutting edge viticultural practice. You’re more likely to find it in Bordeaux than Central California. Coupled with the infectious passion and gracious, family style hospitality of the Daou brothers, Georges and Daniel, the result is pure magic. The kind of magic that comes in a bottle.
This past week we wrote exam level essays that count toward our final grade. We will repeat that process when we do our final exam which will include a 100-point multiple choice test, 4 essays and 9 blind tastings – all timed. This is only the beginning for those who are truly passionate about furthering their knowledge and career potential as a Sommelier.
Essay writing is an important component of the International Sommelier Guild qualification for certificate achievement and if you have an any inkling that you may want to proceed to diploma level and then pursue the Quarter Master Sommelier or seek to achieve the highest and most prestigious award in the industry: Master of Wine Diploma, then grab your paper and pen because you have some writing to do. To even be considered for the Master of Wine (by invitation only) you must submit an essay describing your achievements along with your current Sommelier knowledge.
Writing is an art form that comes easier for some than others. I happen to pride myself as being a wordsmith and in fact am quite convinced that words are my love language. I subscribe to the word-of-the-day through dictionary.com because it also pronounces each word along with the definition and offers quotes of the word in the context of a sentence. Even so, I grapple with my words, especially conjunctions, because I believe they set the tone for a positive or negative response.
If writing is your strong-suite then you will find essay writing on your Sommelier journey to be rewarding. As an author (see memoirofabrokenbrain.com) Pays Nantais & Chablis Essay and blog writer, I will honestly confess that while I love writing, I found the essay’s to be challenging. For every essay that I turned in, I wrote and rewrote that essay at least five times. From my own experience, I highly recommend following your instructors homework guidelines and write as many essays as you can prior to taking the exam. “Essay sections on the ISG’s Level II and Diploma exams are important measures of a student’s understanding of the topics covered in class.” (International Sommelier Guild https://www.internationalsommelier.com/courses/wine_fundamentals_2 ).
According to Cognitive Science, writing helps to improve your memory through what is called, Elaborative Encoding ( http://cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/68/does-writing-somethingdown-help-memorize-it ). I am convinced that writing the essays also helps the instructor gauge the comprehension level of his students and make adjustments accordingly. While the instructor’s primary purpose is to educate the students on Wine Fundamentals from the textbook, his ability to size up the room is an important element of the success of the class. Our instructor, Thomas Allen, has done an excellent job of developing a cohesive group of students who achieve the ultimate goal of why we spent our hard-earned money on this class: To receive L2 Sommelier Certification. BTW, I’m not being paid to plug ISG or Mr. Allen. I write this blog for all the fledgling Sommelier’s of this world and those who are considering their options to achieve wine knowledge certification.
In conclusion of today’s blog I am attaching one of my essays that I achieved a 10/10 score.
When Chris joined the Swanson Vineyards team in April 2003, it was an ideal partnership for both winery and winemaker. The Swanson family’s passion for innovation and history of consistently producing French-style wine from its Oakville vineyards posed an irresistible draw.
“Merlot was a big reason to move to Swanson, bringing me back to my Bordeaux roots,” Chris explains. “Merlot is the biggest red variety in Bordeaux, and in all of France. It is a winemaker’s grape, with natural acidity, lots of tannin, but the gentle kind that makes drinking red wines pleasurable.”
Since then, Chris has contributed a fresh, cutting-edge perspective to all phases of winemaking, from pre-harvest through blending and bottling. His style can be summarized as minimalist, in respect of excellent grapes. “If the fruit is picked when it is physiologically ripe and balanced, intervention through winemaking techniques is minimized,” Chris says. “My job as a winemaker is to form an honest interpretation of what a specific vineyard site in a specific vineyard is trying to tell me.”
Chris is a member of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture and the Napa Valley Wine Technical Group. He lives in St. Helena with his wife, Maria, and their four children, with whom he shares a love of swimming and backpacking. An assistant scoutmaster, he also leads his local Boy Scout troop on expeditions. Read more at www.SwansonVineyards.com
Swanson Vineyards 2009 Face Cabernet Classic Napa Valley Cabernet at its very best, this wine is a profound wine with many layers of depth. Although it drinks quite nicely now, it will continue to age gracefully through at least 2028.
Winemaker Tasting Notes: The dominant aromas are intense ripe black cherry,cassis and sweet French oak. In the mouth, the entry is sweet and supple,withhintsofcreamycassis, vanilla and roasted espresso. The wine is full-bodied, with intricate complexity and very ripe,
powerful tannins, while still showing the grace, finesse and long finish we expect from our FACE Cabernets. The 2009 FACE can be cellared and enjoyed through at least 2028.
This wine was sourced exclusively from two ultra-premium sustainably-farmed vineyards. Fifty percent of the fruit came from Blossom Creek, on a gravelly-sandy slope outside of Calistoga. Fifty percent came from Sleeping Lady Vineyard, at the base of the Mayacamas mountain range in the Yountville appellation.
Winemaker Notes: The 2009 growing season emerged from a relatively dry winter into a warm spring with little frost danger. An inch of rain in May fortunately did not interfere with fruit set. We had a late July heat spike, with only a few days over 100 degrees. Veraison was smooth and fairly short. Temperatures remained moderate throughout the final stages of ripening, allowing us to harvest under optimum conditions before heavy rain fell on October 13th. Production 197 cases
Winemaker Nicolas Quille: More recently he worked for Bonny Doon Vineyard as General Manager under the wing of Randall Grahm. Through his career he’s had the chance to work with many wine grapes, from Pinot Noir in Burgundy to Cabernet Sauvignon in California and of course Riesling in Washington.
Darren Minich, King Soopers Address: 4600 Leetsdale Dr, Glendale, CO 80246 Phone: (303) 320-3100
Vineyards Willamette Valley & Umpqua Valley, Oregon. The soil is mostly volcanic origin with some alluvial deposits in the Willamette Valley.
Winemaking We harvest our Pinot Noir grapes at about 22.5 Brix and then gently de-stem them before the maceration phase. Our macerations take about a week, to avoid harsh tannic flavors. The maceration ends with pressing and a full malolactic fermentation. After a rough filtration, the wine is put in contact with oak for at least 10 months.
Tasting Notes Color: Medium ruby red. Bouquet: Strawberry, rose hips and cranberry. Taste: Red berries, soft and elegant with flavors of bright cherry and pomegranate. Closer to a European wine than a California Pinot Noir in taste.
Food Pairing Ideal with grilled salmon, duck, mushroom risotto and pork loin.
Vineyards Willamette Valley, Oregon. Mainly alluvial deposits.
Winemaking We harvest the grapes at about 21.5 Brix. We harvest by hand to avoid piercing the skins, which often happens during machine-harvests. The grapes are then taken to the winery, where we gently press and ferment them at cold temperatures. This allows us to create a wine that eatures a smooth character, with layered and integrated flavors. We age our Pinot Gris for a minimum of six months on fermentation lees (for a rich yet bright body) and use no oak or malolactic fermentation. The final wine is bone dry and very refreshing.
Tasting Notes Color: Pale gold. Bouquet: Crisp pear, melon and honey blossom, some yeasty character from sur lies aging. Taste: Mango with fresh acidity.
Food Pairing Ideal grilled chicken, soft cheeses, shellfish and pasta in a cream sauce.
Winemaker Nicolas Quille
Nicolas was born in Lyon, France, from a family in the wine business for three generations. He studied winemaking in Dijon, Burgundy and Reims, Champagne. His experience includes working in the cellar in France for Martin Prieur and Antonin Rodet in Burgundy and Domaine De La Courtade in Provence. He came to the United States in 1997 and worked for J. Lohr and Hogue Cellars as winemaker, while simultaneously earning an MBA from the University of Washington. More recently he worked for Bonny Doon Vineyard as General Manager under the wing of Randall Grahm. Through his career he’s had the chance to work with many wine grapes, from Pinot Noir in Burgundy to Cabernet Sauvignon in California and of course Riesling in Washington.
In Denver? King Soopers, Address: 4600 Leetsdale Dr, Glendale, CO 80246 Phone: (303) 320-3100
Swanson Vineyards 2010 Merlot, the heart and soul of our storied 100-acre Oakville Cross Road vineyard, established itself 20 vintages back and continues to set the standard of balance and consistency among all Napa and Sonoma Merlots. As complex and delicately layered as most Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, while delighting both new and discriminating palates with its trademark drinkability, Merlot is who we are and what we do. We are Oakville’s largest producer of estate-grown Merlot, aptly and quite frequently described as the “Cab-lover’s Merlot”.
Merlot is a dark blue-coloured wine grape variety, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the color of the grape. Its softness and “fleshiness”, combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.
Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world’s most planted grape varieties. As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety at 260,000 hectares (640,000 acres) globally, with an increasing trend. This puts Merlot just behind Cabernet Sauvignon’s 262,000 hectares (650,000 acres).
While Merlot is made across the globe, there tends to be two main styles. The “International style” favored by many New World wine regions tends to emphasis late harvesting to gain physiological ripeness and produce inky, purple colored wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit. While this international style is practiced by many Bordeaux wine producers, the traditional “Bordeaux style” of Merlot involves harvesting Merlot earlier to maintain acidity and producing more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavors (raspberries, strawberries) and potentially leafy, vegetal notes.
Swanson Vineyard 2010 Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon is voluptuous, celebratory, and exquisitely finessed, our bewitchingly original Cabernet Sauvignon stands tall among Napa Valley’s blockbuster Cabernets. Alexis is a wine lover’s wonderland: complex, aromatically beguiling and as powerfully elegant now as ten years forward. A consistent Swanson Vineyards classic with a cult-like following, mouth-watering richness, and a friendly price tag which makes buying a case of this rare gem irresistible.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada’s Okanagan Valley to Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon became internationally recognized through its prominence in Bordeaux wines where it is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. From France, the grape spread across Europe and to the New World where it found new homes in places like California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, Napa Valley, New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay, Australia’s Margaret River and Coonawarra regions and Chile’s Maipo Valley and Colchagua. For most of the 20th century, it was the world’s most widely planted premium red wine grape until it was surpassed by Merlot in the 1990s.
Despite its prominence in the industry, the grape is a relatively new variety, the product of a chance crossing between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc during the 17th century in southwestern France. Its popularity is often attributed to its ease of cultivation—the grapes have thick skins and the vines are hardy and naturally low yielding, budding late to avoid frost and resistant to viticultural hazards such as rot and insects—and to its consistent presentation of structure and flavours which express the typical character of the variety. Familiarity and ease of pronunciation have helped to sell Cabernet Sauvignon wines to consumers, even when from unfamiliar wine regions. Its widespread popularity has also contributed to criticism of the grape as a “colonizer” that takes over wine regions at the expense of native grape varieties.
The classic profile of Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be full-bodied wines with high tannins and noticeable acidity that contributes to the wine’s aging potential. In cooler climates, Cabernet Sauvignon tends to produce wines with blackcurrant notes that can accompanied by green bell pepper notes, mint and cedar which will all become more pronounced as the wine ages. In more moderate climates the blackcurrant notes are often seen with black cherry and black olives notes while in very hot climates the current flavors can veer towards the over-ripe and “jammy” side. In parts of Australia, particularly the Coonawarra wine region of South Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon wines tend to have a characteristic eucalyptus or menthol notes.
Buy Cabernet Sauvignon the next time you are at a Restaurant or Retail Store.
Swanson Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay: Not all Napa Valley Chardonnays are created equal. A stick of viscous oaky butter, this wine is not. Swanson Chardonnay offers proof that this French-inspired classic has a comfy home in Carneros. Aromas of guava and Meyer lemon zest are evident in the nose. The body is surprisingly full as the wine envelops the palate in luxurious wild honey, peach, apple and lemon-scented flavors. A downright seductive Swanson original.
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. It originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand. For new and developing wine regions, growing Chardonnay is seen as a “rite of passage” and an easy entry into the international wine market.
The Chardonnay grape itself is very neutral, with many of the flavors commonly associated with the grape being derived from such influences as terroir and oak. It is vinified in many different styles, from the lean, crisply mineral wines of Chablis, France to New World wines with oak, and tropical fruit flavors. In cool climates (such as Chablis and the Carneros AVA of California), Chardonnay tends to be medium to light body with noticeable acidity and flavors of green plum, apple and pear. In warmer locations (such as the Adelaide Hills, Geelong and Mornington Peninsula in Australia and Gisborne and Marlborough region of New Zealand) the flavors become more citrus, peach and melon while in very warm locations (such as the Central Coast AVA of California) more fig and tropical fruit notes such as banana and mango come out. Wines that have gone through malolactic fermentation tend to have softer acidity and fruit flavors with buttery mouthfeel and hazelnut notes.
Chardonnay is an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne. A peak in popularity in the late 1980s gave way to a backlash among those wine drinkers who saw the grape as a leading negative component of the globalization of wine. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most widely planted grape varieties, with over 160,000 hectares (400,000 acres)worldwide, second only to Airén among white wine grapes and planted in more wine regions than any other grape – including Cabernet Sauvignon.
Buy Napa Chardonnay the next time you are in a Restaurant or Retail Store.. you will be very happy !