Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cellarmistress Visits Broman Cellars!!!

One of the things I love the most about wine blogging is meeting all the special people that make this hobby I have so intriguing and fulfilling! Back in 2009, I posted a story about Broman Cellars. I had met Lisa Broman Augustine on Facebook and we happened to be having dinner at the same winery during the 2009 North American Wine Bloggers Conference in Napa. On my latest trip to Napa, Lisa invited me to visit the Broman Cellars property and do a private tasting in her parents' home near Howell Mountain.

I was a little skittish about driving up Deer Park Road as I come from the flat land of Iowa with absolutely no mountain driving experience. I thought I'd be riding up with her but instead she was (thankfully) a little sneaky and made me follow her up. So I have to thank her for helping me get over my fear of mountain driving--for now!

The picturesque 11.5 acre Broman property is located just below Howell Mountain and the first thing I saw on the property was an old white tower that Lisa said would some day be their tasting room. Cool! (Awhile back, I had read on Facebook that they had to shut down part of the Silverado Trail in order to move their tasting room. I had no idea what that meant until I saw the tower!) The Broman family was very accomodating and it felt really special visiting them. Lisa introduced me her mom, Deborah Russell Broman, a real estate agent and journalist in St. Helena. Deborah is very active in the community and was cooking up treats for an Oscar night benefit being held at a local movie theatre that evening. The house smelled wonderful and we sat in the dining room and held a formal tasting with Lisa's step dad, winemaker Bob Broman.

Bob's story is an interesting one. He has a very long, illustrious history in the business--with stints at Louis Martini, Concannon, Stags Leap and St. Supery. Sitting across the table from him and listening to him speak of his winemaking and the wines, I was just in awe. We sampled wine, laughed and joked and had a wonderful time. He entertained me with stories and photos of his first trip to China. These are the experiences I treasure the most. They really make what I do worthwhile! All of Bob's hard work has paid off and he now produces about 1400 cases of three wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

We sat and slowly sampled all three wines, paired with cheeses that Lisa personally selected for the tasting from the Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa. The 2009 Broman Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is hands down one of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs ever! Unbelievably flavorful and juicy, this wine is hard to beat! The grapes were sourced from the Beckstoffer Melrose Vineyard in Rutherford. With its fruit-forward style, this wine will be the perfect accompaniment for Summer and I personally cannot wait to be popping open one of these on a patio sometime soon! I'm drooling as I think about it! It's hard to beat this value for $17 a bottle!
397 cases produced.

The 2005 Broman Cellars Syrah was next. You've heard it all before. I'm Syrah-challenged, I rarely keep Syrah in the house and in general, Syrah in Napa Valley is a tough sell. I'm here to say that I seriously have not stopped thinking about this Syrah since I got back from Napa. I liken it to a new love getting under my skin. It is unbelievable! Sourced from vineyards in the Oak Knoll district (known for Syrah) this wine is huge, fiery, smoky and bold! It knocked me off my feet! (Not literally but you understand the point.) Deborah was cooking up some bacon and Bob brought some over to the table to have with the Syrah. Bacon and Syrah--the ultimate powerhouse couple! You must try this amazing wine! $24. 229 cases produced.

Next up was the 2005 Broman Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. When it comes to Napa Valley, Cabernet is king. And there are so many Napa Cabs and styles out there! Bob's Cabernet is exquisite! Sourced from prime Napa Valley vineyards: Beckstoffer Dr. Crane in St. Helena and Beckstoffer Georges III in Rutherford and aged in French oak for 30 months!!! Bold dark berries with a little leathery dust and the finish never ends. Simply a wonderful buy for $48! 626 cases produced.

Broman Cellars wines are available in limited distribution and directly from their website at These wines are a great find and such a deal! I want to thank Lisa for being such a great friend and introducing me to Bob and Deborah. Thank you to Bob and Deborah for graciously hosting me in your home and allowing me to get a feel for what its really like to be a small family producer in Napa Valley. You are all so wonderful! I hope to visit again sometime!

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cellarmistress Cracks "The Whip" and Other Delights...

Wow! I've done a lot of tasting lately and boy--am I ever ready to be able to just sit outside and enjoy a nice glass of white wine. Spring is coming, my dears, and we must be prepared! Backyard deck time is just around the corner! A couple days ago, I attended the 24th Anniversary Wine Tasting of Ingersoll Wine & Spirits--a local wine shop that puts on some really great events. I was on the hunt for some good white wines that would knock my socks off. Guess what? I found plenty of that! Here are my top three "Best In Show" whites and why you should be sampling these wines on a patio near you!

2009 Murietta's Well "The Whip" (Livermore Valley)--Move over, Conundrum! There's a new kid in town and he's taking over! A sophisticated blend of six varietals (Semillon, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Gewurztraminer and Orange Muscat), this extremely approachable quaffer is so nice! Be careful though...Before you know it, the bottle will be empty! It's extremely addictive with its white peach and butterscotch flavors! $16

2009 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier (Clarksburg)--Pine Ridge Vineyards is located high up in what I believe is one of the most beautiful locations in Napa Valley--the Stags Leap District. This blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier received a 90 point Parker score and is one of the nicest, most easy drinking white wines out there. A great value to be enjoyed over and over!

2009 Honig Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc---I was just at Honig (located in Rutherford) visiting them a little over a week ago and was in Sauvignon Blanc heaven! So much to my surprise, I was able to once again sample the bottle I brought home (which I am saving for warmer weather). This wine, made by winemaker extraordinaire Kristin Belair, is scrumptious! A melange of lime, mango and grapefruit in a beautiful hologram-style bottle worthy of display. You need to get this wine!! $16.

All of the above wines are available at fine wine shops across the United States or through direct shipping on the following websites:

Stay tuned for my "Best In Show" red wine segment later this week! Cheers!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cellarmistress Does the Pinot Noir Summit!

As you all probably know, I attended the 9th Annual Pinot Noir Summit in San Francisco on Saturday February 26th. I blind tasted Pinot Noirs from all over, took part in a workshop and savored some really great wines during a sparkling wine tasting and the Grand Tasting of the evening. What a great event! I want to thank all the winemakers and winery representatives who were present for the Grand Tasting! Meeting you was wonderful! Thank you for sharing such spectacular wines with us! And to Barbara Drady--she is a Saint!! This remarkable woman put on one heck of a show this year and has made it her goal to make me love Pinot Noir even more than I did before she brought this event to my attention!! Thank you! Thank you!

The first thing I got to do that day was attend a workshop about the styles of Pinot Noir. There I discovered three wonderful wines and three equally wonderful winemakers who were eager to tell us all about them: Mark Goldberg, winemaker and owner of Windward Vineyard in Paso Robles, Philip Krumal, chef/winemaker/owner of Ascuncion Ridge Inn & Vineyard in Paso Robles and Kerry Damskey, consulting winemaker for TR Elliott Winery in Sonoma. Those of you who didn't attend this session missed out on some fabulosity!!! Everyone knows I love big flavors, but if I came away with anything from this event, it would be that Pinot Noir is delicate and there are so many styles--it's graceful, beautiful and something to really embrace!

The next thing I did was blind taste 32 Pinot Noirs and rank them. Here are my top 15:

15. Firesteed 2006 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $29.99 2146 cases produced

14. Coghlan Vineyard 2009 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, $47.00 300 cases produced

13. Bianchi Winery 2007 Signature Selection Edna Ranch Pinot Noir, Edna Valley, $24.99 989 cases produced

12. CRU 2008 Appellation Series Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, $35.00 332 cases produced

11. Ampelos Cellars 2007 Lambda Ampelos Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills, $35.00 850 cases produced

10. Pacific Coast Vineyards 2007 Babcock Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, $62.50 300 cases produced

9. Tondre 2007 Tondre Grapefield Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, $40.00 600 cases produced

8. Tarras Vineyard 2008 The Steppes Vineyard Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand, $29.99 600 cases produced

7. Mueller 2008 Emily’s Cuvee Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $44.00 800 cases produced

6. Sequana Vineyards 2008 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, $40.00 1300 cases produced

5. McIntyre vineyards 2008 Estate Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, $36.00 390 cases produced

4. Davis Family Vineyards 2008 Horseshoe Bend Pinot Noir, Russian River, $42.00 350 cases prod.

3. SCV 2007 Balistreri Family Vineyard – Freestone View Block Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, $75.00 342 cases produced

2. Steele 2008 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, $40.00 200 cases produced

and my #1 favorite!!!
Bonneau 2008 Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir, Los Carneros, $34.00 300 cases produced

Honorable Mentions: Pinot Noirs I loved that weren't in my blind tasting!

Asuncion Ridge Vineyards 2007 Barrel Select Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo County, $54.00

Graton Ridge Cellars 2008 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, $35.00

Gioia 2008 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, $38.00

Windward Vineyard 2008 Barrel Select Gold Windward Vineyard (Estate) Pinot Noir, Paso Robles, CA, $62.00

Handley 2007 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, $30.00

Laetitia 2007 Single Vineyard Les Galets Pinot Noir, Arroyo Grande Valley, $60.00

Chamisal Vineyards 2008 Califa Pinot Noir, Edna Valley, $60.00

TR Elliott 2007 Burgonet O’Connell Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Vallley, $40.00

A great time was had by all! I strongly encourage all Pinot lovers to attend this event! 'Til next year!!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Jewel of Carneros

Domaine Carneros is the jewel of Carneros. I have dubbed it this because to drive up to it simply takes your breath away. It is a truly beautiful sight to behold! As you stand in front of it, the staircase leading up to it may look a bit intimidating but it is worth the climb to reach the terrace and sample the wonderful wines that await you inside.

I have visited several times and the gorgeous view and world class wines keep bringing me back. How did this spectacular palace come to be? Domaine Carneros is owned by the renowned Taittinger family of Champagne, France. The winery was founded in 1987 in the Carneros appellation south of the town of Napa--the perfect area for the cultivation of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. The cool climate and proximity to the San Pablo Bay make for the perfect scenario when it comes to making sparkling wines and amazing Pinot Noirs! To date, Domaine Carneros produces a wide variety of well-loved sparkling and still wines. Their portfolio is amazing. As a veteran of many a day of sitting on their terrace tasting sparkling and still samplers, I can’t say enough great things about the place! And its allure keeps me coming back for more!

Recently, I decided to recreate the experience at home, tasting two of their famed wines--the 2006 Estate Brut Cuvee and the 2007 Estate Pinot Noir. I’d been hanging on to the 2006 Estate Brut Cuvee for awhile, having purchased it last year. A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this sparkling wine is crisp, simple, beautiful! And if you will notice, it is one of the few American sparkling wines that actually has a vintage year on it. It was bottle aged three years before its release in 2009. And at $26 a bottle, it’s a great representation of the quality this winery offers.

The 2007 Estate Pinot Noir is their “entry-level” Pinot Noir. I received this bottle as a sample and was amazed at the complexity of this wine. Multi-layered with dark cherry, raspberry, cloves, and chocolate. Super silky, smooth finish. At $35, this wine is such a value and really delicious!

I highly recommend spending an afternoon here, sampling different wines on their terrace. It’s romantic, it’s fun, and it’s an unforgettable experience! And if you can't make it in person, Domaine Carneros wines are distributed nationwide and are also available for direct shipping through their website,

Domaine Carneros is located at 1240 Duhig Road in the Carneros region of southern Napa. They are open daily for tastings from 10-6. They also offer tours. Do yourself a big favor: visit them! It's a wonderful addiction!!

"You Saw It Here First"...This post was created solely for "Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk" by Grace Hoffman. Grace is an Italian-born, American-bred wine blogger/educator with an all-consuming passion for wine and all it encompasses.