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Revisiting two great wines and impressed with overall quality

April 6, 2011

It is often comforting to revisit some of the great wine producers we discovered decades ago. This week, we feature Clos Pegase and St. Francis, two California producers who have made consistently good wines over the years.
Many years ago we visited Clos Pegase, a Calistoga property that was drawing a lot of controversy — not because of its wines but because of its imposing structure and an impressive art collection that rivaled most California museums. The project was the creation of Jan Shrem who made a mint translating English-language technical books into Japanese. He sold his business, married his Japanese girlfriend, studied enolgy and bought 50 acres in Napa Valley in 1983. The winery was built four years later.
With the controversy long over, consumers can easily focus on the wine. And there is nothing controversial about that.
We recently reacquainted ourselves with these wines and were impressed with their overall quality. We highly recommend them.
Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 ($24). This vineyard, named after Shrem’s wife, produces an intense chardonnay with full body, peach aromas and pear and apple flavors. Very nice citrus and oak tones.
Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 ($35). Very forward in generous fruit flavors of black berries and spice. This is a very quaffable wine with supple tannins and a hint of oak.
Clos Pegase Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($43). The winemaker shows his stuff with this heady, full-bodied and rich cabernet sauvignon. Ripe plum and cassis notes are joined by a dash of licorice.
Clos Pegase Napa Valley Merlot 2006 ($25). They may have given this wine more bottle age before release just to tame the tannins. It’s a very big wine for those of you who appreciate a serious merlot. Generous blackberry and spice aromas hand off to concentrated dark berry flavors and a dash of chocolate.

St Francis

It has been a long time since we sat down and tasted wine with Tom Mackey, winemaker for Sonoma County’s St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, but his wines are never far away. Since our last visit he has built a new winery and visitors center, plus he has gone “green” in both production and the facility. In fact, St. Francis wines were among the first in California to use plastic corks.
We have always appreciated the producer’s zinfandel over the years, although all of the wines are consistently good. Here are some of the recent releases we liked:
St. Francis Old Vines Zinfandel 2008 ($24). The age of the wines shows in this classic zinfandel with jammy raspberry and black cherry flavors. Very delicious with hints of cigar box and spice.
St. Francis Pagani Vineyard Zinfandel 2007 ($35). This blockbuster has bold raspberry and blackberry flavors with good alcohol and hints of clove and black pepper. Excellent zinfandel for those who like them heady and serious.
St. Francis Merlot 2007 ($22). We have always enjoyed this consistently well-made and luscious merlot with fine tannins, big cherry flavors and a good dose of chocolate. Talk about yummy.
St. Francis Claret 2007 ($18). Rich and fruity, this reasonably priced blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and petit verdot has broad and complex flavors with a generous finish. It’s a great value.

Tasty Grenache

We were recently introduced to a absolutely terrific red wine, the Picos del Montgo 2009 ($9) from the Carinena region of Spain by our friend Terry Andrews. The Carinena region of Spain is where the grenache grape originated, and where it has been cultivated for more than 1,800 years. Tasting this wine is a pleasure resulting in a joyfully expressive, uncomplicated, juicy, berry flavored tasting experience that also sports notes of spicy black pepper.
The remarkably modest price for the 2009 Picos del Montgo makes this eminently quaffable wine an affordable crowd pleaser for the upcoming outdoor barbecue season. This wine can easily benefit from a brief visit to the refrigerator to cool down a few degrees from room temperature before serving. We were very impressed with this delicious wine.

Stickybeak

Stickybeak Napa Valley Syrah 2008 ($20). The name means nosey people in Australia and reflects the producers who launched the clever brand in California. A fence with a peephole graces the label and reflects the curiosity of people, including California visitors. We liked the syrah for its aromatics. The black berry flavors show concentration and richness -- a good wine for the price. We also enjoyed the 2009 Stickybeak Chardonnay ($17) from the Russian River Valley. Pear and spice notes dominate the interesting wine.

Check out the authors’ blog at wine-guys.com. The authors can be reached at tmarquardt@capitalgazette.com.

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