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Vol. 9 No.3. April '01

Sierra Foothills

Vineyards & Wineries Visited -

Journal and tasting notes from a brief tour of Amador and El Dorado Counties.

Tasting Notes / Scores: Brief tasting impressions are included following the winery write-up. An "n/n" indicates that no notes were taken.

Sun, April 1, 2001

Arrived at Sobon at 10:45 for the 1st stop of the day. Originally the D'Agostini winery, one of the oldest in the state, this property was purchased in 1989 by the Sobon family, owners of Shenandoah Vineyards since 1977. Nice picnic-friendly grounds, with an adjacent farm museum. The spacious and slightly rustic tasting room has lots of accessories and wine-related prints, so the designated drivers will have plenty of opportunity for browsing while the tasters taste. Production is about 30,000 cases annually - mostly Zinfandel, but including an interesting cross-section of Rhône varietals. Prices are good, and there are several wines here that fit the bill to fill out a cellar or for every day wines. Out at 11:05.


Tasted at Sobon:

1999 Sobon Roussanne. $15. Light slightly peachy aromas in the nose. Crisp mouthfeel, mild fruity flavors, medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Sobon Rhone Rose. $16. Quite floral with background fruity aromas. Fruity mouthfeel, yet light on the palate and very white Zin-like. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Sobon Zinfandel - Cougar Hill. $13. Ripe and slightly burnished nose. Ripe, light flavors, a bit thin, with a mostly acidic finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Sobon Zinfandel - Rocky Top. $15. Slightly ripe and aromatic berry nose. Slightly smoky, with interesting, if a bit atypical red and black fruit flavors, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1999 Sobon Zinfandel - Fiddletown. $18. Big raspberry and toast nose. Big mouthfeel, lots of berry and chocolate flavors, and a long smooth finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Sobon Syrah. $13. Slightly swampy aroma all but masks some potentially good fruit underneath. Blackberry flavors on the palate seem to have an "off" quality, and the wine finishes tart and acidic. Aroma/Taste: B-/B-

1999 Sobon "SSP" Carignane. $22. Slightly restrained, but Zin-like nose. Tipped to the acid-side of balance, with a warm fruit mouthfeel and backend. Jammy in parts, but fruit falls off at the end. Aroma/Taste: B/B


Arrived at Dobra Zemlja at 11:10. Nice fellow, pouring out of the small cellar/cave. Was very much looking forward to trying their Zins, but they were sold out of Zinfandel, as well as a few other wines. Farming 14 acres of Zinfandel, Syrah, Sangiovese, and Viognier, Dobra Zemlja has an annual 1,500-2,000 case production. Out at 11:20.

Tasted at Dobra Zemlja:

1999 Dobra Zemlja Sangiovese. $23. Nose of dried cherries, spice and a bit of blackberry and chocolate. Ripe fruit, medium-full mouthfeel, with good balance and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1998 Dobra Zemlja Syrah. $23. Ripe, slightly pungent nose. Big mouthfeel, moderately ripe fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B


Arrived at Charles Spinetta at 11:30. Just a few people around. Large tasting room, nicely appointed, with lots of cellar selections, accessories, and enough wildlife prints to qualify as a gallery. Initially greeted by Laura Spinetta, who turned us over to son Mike who in turn made us feel very much at home. Mike poured 5 wines at no charge, explaining his family's approach to winemaking, covering many areas of the facility and winemaking process that would ordinarily only be included in a tour. The winery has been using some other local fruit sources, but expects to be "estate only" soon. Established in 1975 and currently producing about 5,000 cases for their own label from their 40 acres of planted vineyards, they expect to increase vineyard acreage to approximately 90-100 acres soon. The unusual wine labels carry pictures of game and wildlife - no, not that kind of wildlife. Out at Noon.

Tasted at Charles Spinetta:

1999 Charles Spinetta Heritage White. $8. Very neutral in the nose, with some fruity flavors on the palate, nice balance, long finish. Blend of mostly Chenin Blanc with a little Semillion. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Charles Spinetta Heritage Red. $9. Very Rhonish nose, with lots of black and red fruits. Dry moderate-full mouthfeel, long finish. A field blend of most Rhone varietals. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1996 Charles Spinetta Barbera. $16. Smoky and slightly herbaceous nose. Warm Mourvedre-like mouthfeel, with smoky and slightly spiced flavors, long finish and a meaty aftertaste. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1996 Charles Spinetta Zinfandel. $16. Slightly restrained nose of raspberry and black licorice. Spicy mouthfeel, with mostly Zin-like flavors. Fruit trails off a bit on otherwise long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Charles Spinetta Carignane. $18. Spicy black cherry and chocolate nose. Full mouthfeel, slightly acidic balance, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

Arrived at Renwood/Santino at 12:05 to a moderately busy room. Tasting room manager Linae Dittberner took us through the list of available wines. Established in 1979. Tasting fee is $3, which is waived for a purchase. Much as I like Renwood wines (including many of these), it was tough to swallow these prices for '98s. It shouldn't take $35-40 to get a great Zin. Out at 12:45.

Tasted at Renwood/Santino:

1999 Santino Viognier. $16. Somewhat peach-scented nose. Slightly viscous mouthfeel, with clean flavors and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1996 Santino Satrycon. $12. Musty and oaky nose, with an initially peppery and woody mouthfeel, that gets a bit meaty and spicy toward the long finish. A blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah. Better on the palate than in the nose. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Santino Syrah. $16. A bit simple and fruity blackberry nose. Slightly coarse mouthfeel, good balance, and very long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 Renwood Barbera. $19. Warm, meaty and smoky in the nose. Slightly acidic quality to mouthfeel, nice fruit, than seems to fall off just a bit on long finish. Just needs a little more stuffing. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Renwood Zinfandel - Old Vine. $19. Nice fruity nose of raspberry/boysenberry. Somewhat tart and acidic mouthfeel, a bit short on fruit, and a Kool-Aid coarseness to long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Renwood Zinfandel - Grandmere. Slightly restrained but ripe nose. Moderate fruit, more to the acidic side of balance, with a medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Renwood Nebbiolo. $28. Somewhat simple fruity nose. Substantial mouthfeel, meaty flavors, good balance, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1997 Renwood Barbera - Linsteadt Vnyd. $23. Very ripe nose. Big, tasty and meaty mouthfeel with a slight acidic bent, but not unduly so. Long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 Renwood Zinfandel - Grandpere. $40. Slightly restrained nose of raspberry, boysenberry and oak. Tasty mouthfeel, good fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Renwood Zinfandel - Jackrabbit Flat. $35. Very interesting nose of boysenberry, minerals and herbs. Slightly backward and tannic mouthfeel, but also very tasty. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1998 Renwood Zinfandel - D'Agostini Bros. $35. Floral and fruity nose. Very nice fruit balance, with a long finish. Surprisingly good for a '98. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+


Leaving Renwood, we drove down toward Plymouth to see if there was a place to grab a bite to eat. On the way, we decided to stop at Young's Vineyard for some tasting. But, we discovered later that, despite all printed material and their own signage to the contrary, Young's is only about two weekends per year - and this wasn't one of them. So, we continued on to down to Plymouth, but didn't really find anything, and ended up doubling back to cover a few more wineries instead. Luckily, we'd brought along a few snacks to hold us until dinner.

Arrived at Terre Rouge/Easton at 1:20 to a fairly busy room. Working out of the winery, the medium-sized tasting bar was a bit packed. Ann Roberts did our pouring, but the entire staff seemed very attentive. The Terre Rouge label focuses on Rhône varietals: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, dessert Muscat. While the Easton label specializes in Zinfandel, Barbera, and other varietals. Nice people; nice time. Lots of photogenic vineyards around as well. Out at 1:55.

Tasted at Terre Rouge/Easton:

1998 Easton Natoma. $14. Fruity and slightly grassy nose. Fruity flavors, clean crisp mouthfeel, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Terre Rouge Vin Gris. $12. Surprisingly neutral-smelling nose. Ripe, dry and slightly hot mouthfeel, moderate fruit, long finish. 50/50 blend of Grenache and Mourvedre. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Terra Rouge Engima. $18. Nice nose, with a variety of pear, peach and macadamia aromas. A bit hot on the palate, fruity taste, clean long finish. Blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Terre Rough Roussanne. $18. Nose of clover and honey. Nice mouthfeel, if a bit light on the palate, excellent balance, and long fruit-driven finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Easton Barbera. $18. Moderate nose of smoky fruit and spice. Tasty, if light mouthfeel, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1996 Terre Rouge Noir. $23. Nice meaty yet fruity nose. Full mouthfeel, very flavorful, long finish. GSM blend. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Terre Rouge Mourvedre. $20. Nose of floral, meat and mushroom aromas. Nice chewy texture, good balance, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Terra Rouge Syrah - Sentinel. $30. Fruity and rich nose. Full body, lots of blackberry fruit, and a long and meaty finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 Easton Zinfandel - Amador. $12. Nice fruity nose. A bit tart and tight on the palate, with a very long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Easton Zinfandel - Shenandoah. $20. Complex cassis and boysenberry nose. Tasty black fruits on the palate, good balance, nice long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

Drove the 50 yds further down the dirt and gravel road and arrived at Vino Noceto at 2:00, and were met by Suzy Gullett. Suzy told us how when they started out in 1984, their intention was to specialize in something that no one else in the area was doing. After dismissing Syrah (oops) as a coming varietal, they decided upon Italian varietals and have several clones of Sangiovese planted, most of which gets blended into the both the regular bottling and the Riserva. We mentioned our Young's Winery experience to Suzy, and were informed that others' in the association were trying to get them to change their advertised hours to something more realistic. Seems as though "pretending" to be open doesn't sit well with the unsuspecting. Out at 2:30.

Tasted at Vino Noceto:

1998 Noceto Sangiovese Riserva. $22. Nose of dried cherry and toasty spice. Full, nearly chewy mouthfeel, nice fruit and balance, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

2000 Noceto Frivolo $10. Very fruity nose, like a lighter Riesling. Crisp and clean mouthfeel with just a bit of spritz on the palate, and long finish. Moscato Bianco. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

Arrived at Story at 2:40 to a real mob scene. It turns out that this was the one of two days per year that people can pick up their Story futures. We'd blundered into a free-for-all, and figured it wold be next to impossible to get some service at the tasting room. Wrong! Two separate tasting stations - excellently organized, had been set up. And there didn't appear to be any problem moving from one to the other easily. I could easily see where this could have been a major debacle. But, it all worked out fine. Great crown control! Established in 1973, this family-operated winery affords a beautiful view of the Cosumnes River Canyon. The vineyards are at least 50 years old, and produce Zinfandel, Mission, and Chenin Blanc. The Mission vines are especially interesting. Old and knarly, these "sacramental" vines have their roots in early California. Nice people; nice place. Out at 3:00.

Tasted at Story:

NV Story Champagne. $18. Fizzy semi-fruity nose. Fizzy somewhat sweet mouthfeel, good balance, average finish. Made in Lodi. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Story Chardonnay. $15. Fruity nose and moderate mouthfeel, decent fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Story Chenin Blanc. $8. Lightly fruity nose. Clean and crisp mouthfeel, long finish. Not too bad. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Story Cabernet Sauvignon - California. $17. Somewhat simple nose, with decent mouthfeel and long fruity finish. Don't know if this is usually more robust in a good vintage or not. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Story Merlot - California. $16. Stemmy and fleshy nose of black cherry and spice. Fairly acidic in mouthfeel, the fruit has to struggle to get through. Aroma/Taste: B/B

NV Tichbru Cellars Red Passion. $25. Nice big fruity nose. Ripe mouthfeel, a bit on the quaffer side, with good balance and tasty long finish. Zinfandel fruit from '98 vintage. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1999 Story Zinfandel - Old Vine, Creekside. $25. Big boysenberry nose. Huge mouthfeel, plenty of tannins, with a slightly acidic long finish. 65 yr old vines. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Story Zinfandel - Picnic Hill. $29. Nose of raspberry, boysenberry and toast. Tight and tannic mouthfeel, with lots of fruit and structure, and a very long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

Arrived at Karly at 3:15 to a fairly busy room. Established by Lawrence (Buck) Cobb and wife Karly in 1980, the winery has been produces Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, and a line of Rhône varietals. Karly is at about 60% estate production is from vines. Not expecting too much from these wines, I was very surprised by the quality of the upper-end selections. The Sadie Upton Zin is a little backward right now, but if it hasn't been over-acidified it ought to come around nicely. But, the El Alacran Mourvedre is very unique. The inviting nose and flavors make this one of the more interesting wines of the day. Out at 3:50.

Tasted at Karly:

2000 Karly Sauvignon Blanc - Dry Creek. $10. Nice grassy/fruity nose. Crisp mouthfeel, but a little light on fruit and hot on finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B

1999 Karly Zinfandel - Buck's 10 point. $18. Dumbstruck nose. A bit thin in initial mouthfeel, the fruit gets a bit flabby at mid-palate, and finishes a bit sharp yet ripe. Aroma/Taste: B-/B

1999 Karly Zinfandel - Sadie Upton. $34. Big ripe chocolate and boysenberry nose. Slightly tart fruit in the mouth, with a somewhat acidic long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B 

1999 Karly "El Alacran". $34. Burnished and ripe in the nose. Big mouthfeel, with a bit of leaf and stem. Nicely balanced at the onset, the wine seems to get a bit flabby at mid-palate, but rounds out well with a nice bite at the end. 100% Mourvedre. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+


Arrived at Montevina at 4:05. Montevina was established in 1970 and is the largest winery in Amador County and also the largest producer of Italian varietals in the United States (shame on Gallo). Actually, they must have the largest selection of all varietals for tasting and sale. The wines range from Barbera to Zinfandel, along with several other Cal-Ital wines like Sangiovese, Aglianico, Freisa, and Refosco. Owned by the Trinchero family (Sutter Home) since 1988. Annual production is close to 50,000 cases. Very large, inviting and well appointed tasting room. Hospitality staff was very attentive and friendly. Out at 4:35.

Tasted at Montevina:

2000 Montevina Pinot Grigio. $10. Nice fruity nose, with moderate flavors, good balance, and medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Montevina "Brioso" Zinfandel. $7. Very fruity, stemmy and spicy nose. Nice fruit on palate, good balance, and long finish. Gee, a nice $7 Zin!! Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1998 Montevina "Cocina Mista". $12 (1.5L). Very stemmy and a bit on the vetgetal side in the nose. Nearly as veggie tasting on the palate. Supposedly made from 40 varieties of grapes. They should have called it V-40. This wine is billed as a speghetti red, with its cute package: the bottle comes with an Italian apron-like package. Aroma/Taste: B-/B-

1997 Montevina Barbera. $12. Stemmy, smoky, and toasty nose. Medium-full mouthfeel, good balance, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1997 Montevina Sangiovese. $. Surprisingly stemmy and swampy smelling nose. Spicy cherry fruit, excellent balance, and long finish. Tasty, once you get past the nose! Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 Montevina Zinfandel. $12. Moderate raspberry nose. Tasty fruit, but a bit too much to the acid side of balance. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Montevina "School House" Zinfandel. $14. Moderately fruity nose. Good mouthfeel, long finish. Respectable little Zin with 13% Petite Sirah, and 7% Barbera. Here's a classic case of bumping up the varietal fruit with a few extras. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1998 Montevina Syrah. $18. Moderate blackberry nose. Light on the palate, and a bit too acidic through long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Montevina Aglianico. $12. Lots of cedar chest and mothballs in the nose. Surprisingly, the flavors mimic the nose on this "rustic" little wine. Aroma/Taste: C+/C+

1997 Montevina Freisa. $12. Very neutral nose. Moderate mouthfeel, but also very non-descript in flavors. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Montevina Refosco. $12. Dense and mushroomy nose. Huge mouthfeel, very tight and backward, yet a bit tasty. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Terra D'Oro Barbera. $18. Very ripe nose of smoky fruit and sausage. Full and meaty mouthfeel, with solid mid-palate, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

1998 Terra D'Oro Sangiovese. $18. Nice dried cherry nose. Big acids dominate the moderate fruit. Aroma/Taste: B/B

1997 Terra D'Oro Zinfandel. $18.Nose of raspberry and boysenberry. Tasty and big mouthfeel, slightly to the acid side of balance, but long fruity finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+

1998 Montevina Deaver Old Vine Zinfandel. $18. Huge nose of raspberry jam and toast. Nice full mouthfeel, very good balance, and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

Tues, April 3, 2001

Arrived at Cedarville at 10:50. After purchasing 20 acres in 1995, Jonathan Lachs and his wife Susan spent most of their spare time establishing the 15 acre vineyard, finally moving onto the property in 1999 to begin full-time operation of their venture. Prior wine-related experience for the couple inclues UC Davis Enology School, as well as employment in the wine industry during the early '80s.

Jonathan led us to several vantage points on his beautiful property to view the foothill terrain and various other vineyards. Located in El Dorado County in the small area of Fair Play (now its own AVA), Cedarville's own vineyards reach an altitude of 2500', enough to get snow several times per year. Drawing from Zinfandel, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a small amount of Viognier, and even lesser amounts of Grenache (3/4 acre), and Mourvedre (1/4 acre), the couple are fashioning some very nice wines, easily some of the best in the Sierra Foothills.

The inaugural Cedarville vintage was the release of a 1998 Zinfandel and Syrah, both of which were very fruit-forward. The Zin sold out in quick order, and the Syrah has nearly done the same - excellent results for a difficult vintage (Cedarville harvested 1 ton/acre in '98 vs. 2 tons/acre in '99). Both the '98 and '99 vintages were made at nearby Oakstone Winery. But with the completion of the new Cedarville winery, Jonathan looks forward to producing the 2000 vintage with an Estate designation. He'll also be one of the few Estate Syrah producers in El Dorado Co.

After showing us the general topography, Jonathan led us into the winery, explaining how he prefers bin-fermenting everything in small lots, which allows for hand punchdown and optimal control. The final Zinfandel is a blend of fruit from three vineyards - each planted to the Higgins clone, and on its own rootstock. The older Hilltop and Gopher Snake Vineyards are both 8th leaf, and produce fruit with lots of balance, structure and tannin. The more recently planted Young Zin Vineyard on a lower slope is 4th leaf, and produces a much fatter and fleshier wine, that when combined with the older vineyards makes a perfect blend. Cedarville's Grenache is planted to the Tablas clone, which has been so prodigious, they've needed to reduce crop levels up to 60% to maintain the quality of the fruit. The first vintage for the Grenache is 1999 (55 cases). Cedarville's 2000 vintage will debut a Cabernet Sauvignon (160 cases), a Viognier (200 cases), and a small amount of Mourvedre that is probably destined to go into a GSM blend rather than its own bottling.

I'm thinking of a cave…

While we were there, neighbor Arnie Gilpin, owner of Windwalker Vineyards, dropped by to pay his first visit to the new winery. After introducing us to Arnie, Jonathan led all of us through the compact facility and into the storage caves. For aging, two unique storage caves were constructed and installed in March 2000. Because the decomposed granite soil doesn't allow much opportunity to dig a "real" cave into rock, a portion of one hillside was excavated next to where the winery was to go. Precast concrete arches normally used for highway culverts were placed on concrete footings, and covered with about six feet of soil. A 5,500 square feet winery, geared to handle a maximum production of 3,000 cases annually, was then built around the entrance to the caves. From inside the winery, the "caves" appear to be just another storage room in the building. And from the outside, the dirt-covered vaults merely look like part of the hillside. Very nice design and implementation.

All of Cedarvilles's wines seem impeccably balanced, tending neither toward overripe or flabby qualities, nor to the higher acid end of the spectrum. They do seem deceptive though. Just when you discover the beauty and softness of the fruit on the palate, the undeniable structure of the wine kicks in, offering a nice bite before smoothing out through the finish.

Out at 1:35, and back to reality.

Tasted at Cedarville:

2000 Cedarville Viognier (from barrel). Nose of peach and lychee. Slightly crisp and very fruity mouthfeel, with beautiful balance, and long finish. 200 cases from 1 acre of fruit. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

2000 Cedarville Syrah (from neutral barrel). Nose of violets, blackberry and a touch of blueberry. Very fleshy and buttery fruit on the palate, with excellent balance and long finish. Aged in 30% new oak. Fruit from North and East slopes. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

2000 Cedarville Syrah (from new barrel). Floral and fruity nose, with additional notes of oak and toast. Brawny mouthfeel, with obvious oak nuances accenting the tasty blackberry fruit. Very nice balance and long finish. UC Davis clone (prob. Chapoutier). Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

2000 Cedarville Grenache (from neutral barrel). Nose of strawberry, raspberry, and cedar notes. Fabulous mouthfeel, excellent balance, and beautiful sweet fruity finish. Aged in 15% new oak. Tablas clone. 50-75 cases, depending upon how much goes into the GSM. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

2000 Cedarville GSM (from barrel). Big nose of red and black fruits, along with licorice, toast and a light note of grilled meat. Full mouthfeel, very tasty fruit, long finish and nice aftertaste. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

2000 Cedarville Zinfandel (young vines, from neutral barrel). Effusive nose of sweet fruit and some floral notes. Sweet and chewy mouthfeel, big core of fruit at mid-palate, moderately long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

2000 Cedarville Zinfandel (Hilltop Vnyd, from barrel).Lots of big fleshy raspberry/boysenberry fruit in the nose. Very ripe mouthfeel, clean with a solid backbone and structure, very long finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

2000 Cedarville Zinfandel (Gopher Snake Vnyd, from barrel). Nose of raspberry, boysenberry, and minerals. Big mouthfeel, good spicy fruit, rigid tannins, very long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

2000 Cedarville Cabernet Sauvignon (from new barrel). Nose of cassis, black cherry, toast and a hint of clay. Touch of astringent oak in the otherwise very fruity mouthfeel, flavors of cassis and oak are offer a bite through mid-palate, smoothing out through long finish. 160 cases. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+

1999 Cedarville Grenache. $20. Nose of jammy strawberry and raspberry fruit with a touch of chocolate. Big mouthfeel, touch of stem to the chewy fruit, leading to a long off-sweet finish. 12% Syrah. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

1999 Cedarville Zinfandel. $22.Big jammy nose of raspberry and boysenberry fruit. Slightly restrained mouthfeel, flavors of black cherry and boysenberry, stiff backbone and structure, very long slightly jammy finish. Blend of Hilltop and Gopher Snake Vnyds. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-

1999 Cedarville Syrah. $24. Dark purple color. Nose of fleshy blackberry and blueberry fruit. Big mouthfeel, nice balance, with smooth jammy but structured mid-palate and nice fruit-filled finish. Aroma/Taste: A-/B+

Wrap up: what a great intro trip to the Sierra Foothills! 10 wineries, 82 wines. I honestly wasn't expecting very much from this trip, other than being introduced to wines from other AVAs. However, I was pleasantly surprised with nearly everything I found - the '98 vintage notwithstanding. Wineries I've never even heard of before are offer some very interesting wines. And, I was impressed with many of the Barberas that are being made here as well.

Sure, some of the wines were mildly disappointing, but this was mostly due to the prevalence of pouring the '98 vintage. (I suppose they have to do something with the wine.) And yet, in several cases, even the '98s provided a pleasant surprise. In any event, from what I've seen on this trip, the '99s and 2000s should be beautiful, and I can't wait to go back.



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