Brad Pitt’s brother and a man on the run


It’s kind of funny about black eyes. No one will say anything about it. Except your friends. Everyone else acts like it’s not there. I can imagine it goes from “You must be an ass to get into a fight at your age” to “Oh you poor thing, who is beating up on you?” I ran into a friend last night. First words out of her mouth were “What happened to you?” Rita. It’s getting pretty colorful. I’m just amazed that four days later the actual point of impact still hurts as bad as it does.

So if you look like you’ve gone a few rounds with Rocky Balboa, there’s really nothing left to do but to go out and drink a bunch of wine. And drink wine I did. My pals up at Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants had the monthly pick up party on Thursday. They had 25 wines open. Yesterday they had Nickel and Nickel in. They brought 16 of their wines, two Far Niente and the Dolce, for a total of 19 wines. Tasting notes from 44 wines would make all of your heads blow up and it would blow up my head too, so I’m going to list what was open, and comment on the ones that jumped out at me. First, Thursday night’s list:

  • R&B Sauvignon Blanc
  • Denzante Pinot Grigio
  • Folie a Deux Chardonnay
  • Mont-Ferrant Gran Cuvee Cava 2005
  • R&B Merlot
  • Folie a Deux Zinfancel
  • Santa Julia Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Graham Beck Chiraz
  • Stellenzhat Shiraz
  • Andrew Lane Merlot
  • Paco a Paco Chardonnay
  • Trinitas Sauvignon Blanc
  • Trinitas Pino Blanc
  • Trinitas Roseary
  • Hatcher Grenache
  • Krohan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Joel Gott Zinfandel
  • Hatcher 2006 Estate Zinfandel
  • Madeline Cabernet Franc
  • Trinitase Carneros Chardonnay
  • Roessler Borsseau Chardonnay 2006
  • Roessler 06 Savoy Pinot Noir
  • R&B Zydeco Napa Valley Bingham Ranch Zinfandel
  • Trinitas Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Liparitia Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Wow! I made it through the list. I used to go to Folie a Deux all of the time. They went bankrupt several years back and Trinchero bought them. When they went bankrupt they were selling their second label Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite a Deux for $4 a bottle. I got a case of it. It was one of the best wine deals I’ve made. The other was the case of Seven Hills Syrah I got for $7 a bottle. Anyway, they were bought in bankruptcy by Trinchero and the next few years the wine tasted like ass and I moved on. Recently I’d been hearing some of the wineauxs talking favorably about Folie a Deux. So I was looking forward to their Chardonnay. PHWM had it regularly $17.99, $11.99 for club members. I was pleasantly surprised by it. I wouldn’t call it a high end Chardonnay but I would call it a servicable Chardonnay. Very nice minerality, not very citrusy, a little banana, certainly some creaminess. I don’t love it at $18 per bottle but at $12, I’d grab it off the shelf pretty regularly.

Speaking of Chardonnay, the Paco a Paco was a good one. They have it for $23 a bottle, $18.99 for club members. I don’t even know if that’s spelled correctly. Or where it’s from. I didn’t bring it home but could have. It was well balanced, had some nice minerality to it, a little bit of citrus, maybe even pineapple and finished nicely. Not that buttery oaky thing that we see so much of, but a nice well made Chardonnay. Now, there’s nothing wrong with buttery oaky, because best of show on the Chardonnays was Trinitas Carneros Chardonnay, especially if you like a big buttery Chardonnay. This was it. It was a creamy, toasty, glass of goodness for all of you Rombauer fans out there. Full of vanilla and a bit of pears and lemon. 100% malolactic fermentation gives it that buttery, creamy Rombauer-esque mouthfeel. Really a well made ML Chard. It definitely had a WOW factor.  The last Chardonnay of note was the Roessler Borsseau 2006. It had nice structure, well balanced fruit, both tropical and citrus with nice minerality too. The Trinitas was so “in your face” that the Roessler was an interesting wine to follow it with. The Trinitas didn’t really need food, but the Roessler just called for a nice snack to go with it. A very food friendly wine. I doubt that pairing the Trinitas with food would be very easy or nearly as interesting as the Roessler.

I brought home a bottle of the Hatcher Grenache. It’s a bright wine with fresh raspberries and cherries. Some spice on the back palate made it a really interesting wine and one I had to bring home to play with. They’re growing these grapes up in Calaveras County and they’re coming out nicely. BTW, your website sucks boys. Hire a designer. Thanks.

I did not bring home the Joel Gott Zinfandel or the Santa Julia Cab. Both were thin and undeveloped wines that just weren’t very interesting in the glass. Both should have been but weren’t.  Their price points were too high to be that boring.  Just nothing.

I did bring home the 2006 Khroma Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Look at the pretty packaging.


It’s full of dark fruit, vanilla and spice. Retail $24.99, club price $16.99. By far a great deal for the price. It’s not going to stand up to your holiday prime rib dinner, but it’s going to do great with a tri-tip on a Saturday afternoon. Their website gleefully announces that this wine is being served in the luxury boxes at Fenway and that’s a good analogy for the wine. Also from their website (y’all do need to hire the web designers when Hatcher is done with them):

We crush.
We ferment.
We dance around the tanks to scare away any bad juju — and this is what we end up with!

I love that!  It’s working for you.  Keep up the good work!

Chris always has some tasty delights he keeps up at the counter.  Thursday he had some Nickel and Nickel as a tease for the Friday night event, but he also had a Liparita Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon.  Wow.  Just WOW.  OK, if you had time to make a wine like this, you had time to hire a web designer, although I love the label.  The splash page is the label.  Liparita is actually one of the Ghost wineries, pretty cool eh?  It’s an amazing wine full of plums and black currents, chocolate and mocha on the back palate with pepper throughout.  It’s got a smoky, leathery tobacco quality to it that you don’t notice until it’s left your mouth.  Really full of fruit, well balanced and amazing.  It will lay down for years before it starts losing it’s character.  Absolutely best of show for the evening.

Tired of reading about wine yet?  No?  Good because there’s lots more.

Nickel and Nickel was a Gil Nickel project.  He was one of the partners of Far Niente.  I remember reading about it when they first started with it.  It’s one of those places that requires an appointment and that requires more planning than I can handle on a weekend, so I’ve never been there.  We tried a couple of times but didn’t have appointments and were sent away.  So I would be an idiot for not showing up last night for a tasting of 20 of their wines.  In no particular order:

  • Medina Chardonnay
  • Truchard Chardonnay
  • Far Niente Chardonnay
  • Harris Merlot
  • Suscol Ranch Merlot
  • Bonfire Zinfandel
  • Darien Syrah
  • Dolce

And the following are all Cabernet Sauvignon

  • John C. Sullenger
  • Tench
  • Rock Cairn
  • Branding Iron
  • Kelham
  • Copper Streak
  • Dragonfly
  • Vogt
  • CC Ranch
  • State Lane
  • and the Far Niente Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

There are only a few really great white dessert wines out there.  Dolce is one of them.  They share the field with, in my mind the Edelwein and Joy.  I would put the Edelwein in first position, Dolce in second and Joy bringing up the rear.  The Dolce was well balanced full of honey, melon and apricot. Really an amazing late harvest wine.  Basically you have to trade in your first born for a bottle of this stuff, but you never liked that kid very much anyway.

The trouble with a single vineyard project like Nickel and Nickel is that sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not as good.  For the price some of these were just straight up over priced.  Of the Chardonnays I liked the Far Niente the best, but it comes from a couple of vineyards.  The Medina had nice minerality, that obviously I like in a Chardonnay.  This one has some melon in it, it hints of sweetness without being sweet and in finishes nice and crisp.  I don’t know that I like it’s $50 price point, but if someone put it in my glass I would certainly tell them to Please.  Don’t.  Stop.

The Far Niente was the superior Chardonnay.  No malolactic fermentation, 100% Chardonnay.  Still it had a slight creaminess to it and some toastiness.  The fruit was well developed and beautifully balanced.  A little spice on the end.  This was a food friendly wine just waiting for a great meal to pair up with.  It can hold it’s own.

The Cabs that stuck out were the Dragonfly, Kelham, Sullenger, State Lane and the Far Niente again.  Once again the Far Niente was not a single vineyard project and it showed in the glass.  Ripe elegant dark fruit on the fore palate followed by chocolate and maybe toasted marshmallows on the back palate.  Excellent mouthfeel.  It had a nice lingering finish.  It would be excellent for dinner tonight or laying down in a cellar for 10 years.  Really an amazing offering.

Obviously I like Cabs sourced from Oakville.  The John C. Sullenger was no exception.  Dark cherries, amazing viscosity made for a velvety mouthfeel.  Spice on the finish.  The Kelham Vineyard Cab also had very dark berries and almost a little dust in it.  Nice spice on the back palate and once again excellent mouthfeel. The State Lane was the best of the single vineyards in my mind.  Dark berries, chocolate, velvety mouthfeel, very well balanced, long finish with a little hint of tobacco after it left your mouth.  It’s hard to go back for seconds when there are 19 wines to taste, but I went back to this one.  The State Lane Ranch is in Yountville.  Damn close to Oakville.  Just sayin’.

Did y’all really read all the way down to here?  Gosh, thanks.

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