Backyard Sippers: The Dreaming Tree Chardonnay 2015 & Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Winery: Dreaming Tree Wines is the creation of legendary musician Dave Matthews along with New Zealand winemaker Sean McKenzie. The duo is passionate about crafting accessible wines that express “the unique characters and rich flavours” of California’s wine country. The portfolio currently consists of 6 wines, all sourced from various sustainably farmed vineyards in California.

A Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing winery, they strive for sustainability in all facets of wine production, including sustainable methods in the vineyard, bottles that are a quarter pound lighter and manufactured with clean-burning natural gas, 100% recycled paper labels, along with natural corks sourced from sustainable farms. The winery also utilizes solar energy, having the largest solar footprint in the US wine industry.

Philosophy: To make “wines for people to drink. I don’t make wines for people to put in their cellar.”

The Dreaming Tree Chardonnay California 2015

Winemaking: Grapes were harvested at night and early morning to keep the fruit cool. Fermented and aged for 8 months in a combination of oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.

Tasting Notes: Gold in colour with lemon, pear, peach, grass and white pepper aromas radiating from the glass. Vivid pear, yellow apple, pineapple along with a hint of pink grapefruit are accented by a clean herbaceous streak. Creamy lemon and buttery toast linger between each sip. Intense fruit, yet light on its feet this is fantastic summery sip on its own or with a wide variety of dishes.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Delicious with grilled seafood, goat cheese and mushroom pizza, herb roasted chicken, or stone fruits, ricotta, and arugula.

100% Chardonnay
13.8% Alcohol
$13 [average price]

The Dreaming Tree Cabernet Sauvignon California 2014

Winemaking: The heat and dry conditions of 2014 “delivered big fruit expression, great tannin development and nice ripeness across all varietals”. Wines were aged separately in oak for 16 months, then blended to bring out the true character of the varietal.

Tasting Notes: Garnet in colour with aromas of dark berry fruits, a hint of vanilla and wisps of toasted oak. Black cherry, blackberry and plum are wrapped around a black pepper core. Soft tannins facilitate a seamless merge into chocolate, pink peppercorn, earth and black cherry on the plush finish. A fantastic balance of bright fruit and spice, friendly and easy to pair with all types of dishes, especially anything off a backyard grill.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: A fun start or end to any meal. Enjoy with grilled flank steak, BBQ ribs, grilled veggies, portabella and grilled onion burgers.

78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
13.6% Alcohol
$13 [average price]

 

 

Samples submitted for review purpose.

Vino and Vinyl, A Brooklyn Pop Up Dinner with Robert Mondavi Wines

I was delighted to attend a pop-up wine dinner held in a historical, stunningly renovated brownstone in Brooklyn, featuring up and coming wine maker Joe Harden, of Robert Mondavi winery and innovative chef Theo Friedman. The event was a sensory pleasing showcase of the modern approach Joe is applying to the historic Mondavi vision.

Emmy award winner, James Beard award recipient, author and television personality Ted Allen hosted the evening. Incredibly knowledgeable in both food and wine (and also the history of Brooklyn and its brownstones), Allen brought a graciousness and warmth to the entire event.

The stunning dining room.

The legacy of Robert Mondavi is that of a man who put the Napa Valley wine region on the map. For over 40 years he pioneered sustainable viticulture and crafting high quality, approachable wines that express the terroir of Napa Valley. Today, Joe Harden is carrying forward his iconic vision.

A former professional basketball player, Harden grew up making wine with his father in a 30 acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard. After obtaining a degree on oenology, he completed his training under renowned Mondavi winemaker Genevieve Janssens, learning the entire process from field to bottle in the To Kalon vineyard in Oakville, Napa Valley. Harden’s wine philosophy is to make the best quality wine that is balanced and food friendly. For a detailed account of Joe’s journey, click here.

Winemaker Joe Harden detailing the history and vision in each glass.

Chef Theo Friedman of Theory Kitchen [a traveling, pop-up kitchen], has trained at The Musket Room, Gotham Bar and Grill and other prominent NYC restaurants. At only 24 years old, Friedman has been creating pop-up dining experiences since 2010; establishing a cult following of passionate eaters, providing him with the opportunity to cook in kitchens and pop-up spaces across the country. As I was the only vegetarian attending the event, he was kind enough to go out of his way to create an entire meat-free menu for me. To read more of about his fascinating career, visit theorykitchen.co

Chef Theo Friedman describing his spectacular dishes.

To begin the evening, we enjoyed two very different Fume Blancs [Robert Mondavi is actually the man responsible for the name Fume Blanc], both hailing from the legendary To Kalon [ancient Greek for “the highest beauty”] vineyard in Oakville. To Kalon is “ recognized as one of the finest first-growth vineyards of the world” and Joe Harden is a “ firm believer in the power of To Kalon”. Predominantly Bordeaux grapes are grown at To Kalon [Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah], these 2 Fume Blancs are the only white wines coming from this historic vineyard.

Robert Mondavi Winery ‘Oakville’ Fumé Blanc Oakville 2014

Winemaking: Grapes came from the To Kalon vineyard, specifically from the young vibrant up and coming Sauvignon blocks that aren’t quite up to the caliber of the reserve wine. Hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. 91% of the wine was fermented in 60 gallon French oak barrels, then barrel aged [8% new oak] on its lees for 8 months with hand stirring [bâtonnage] to integrate the flavours and develop its creamy texture.

Tasting Notes: Bright and fresh with citrus, herbs and a trace of floral accented by a streak of clean minerality, finishing crisp and fruity. Easy drinking, fantastic sipping on its own or easily paired with a wide variety of dishes. [It was wonderful with crispy maitakes with cured egg yolk and parsley ranch.]

79% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Sémillon
14.5% Alcohol
$34 [average price]

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley 2014

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from the iconic, dry farmed, Sauvignon Blanc vines planted in the 1960’s in To Kalon vineyard. Hand harvested and whole cluster pressed. Almost all of the juice was fermented in French oak [42% new], and then aged on its lees for 9 months and hand stirred [bâtonnage] twice weekly, for a creamy texture and to enhance the volume and length. A small amount of Sémillon was added to increase richness and body. Additionally, 2 egg shaped cement fermentation vessels were utilized to explore the purity of fruit that this process is known for, and added to the final blend.

Tasting Notes: Fresh pear, herbs and bright acidity fuse with soft, creamy lemon, whilst citrus zest and a streak of minerality comprise the lengthy finish. Elegant and rich, yet super easy drinking. [A perfect companion with the creamy, bright, chilled California avocado and English pea soup.]

98% Sauvignon Blanc, 2% Sémillon
14.5% Alcohol
$52 [average price]

Robert Mondavi Winery ‘Maestro’ Napa Valley 2014

Winemaking: Maestro was created in commemoration of Mr. Mondavi. Upon the opening of the To Kalon cellar in 2000, Mr. Mondavi hired the Napa Valley Orchestra to perform, halfway though he grabbed the conductor’s baton and started conducting the orchestra. This led to a front page picture and headline calling him “The Maestro of Napa Valley”. Conceived as a free spirit, it’s a wine that allows the winemaker to explore and experiment, its not restricted by style or grape. The 2013 vintage is a red blend, whereas 2014 is mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, as it had a beautiful harvest that year. The 2014 was crafted to be approachable, soft yet dense, and to pair really well with food.

Grapes were sourced from the Wappo Hill vineyard in Stag’s Leap, along with To Kalon vineyard. Hand harvested and sorted in the gravity flow cellar. The clusters were destemmed directly into French oak tanks for cold soak, fermentation and extended maceration, a total of 24 days of wine to skin contact, serving to maximize the extraction of varietal character and complexity while keeping the tannins fleshy and supple. Next the wine was drained and pressed into 28% new French-oak barrels for malolactic fermentation, then aged for 21 months.

Tasting Notes: Vibrant, concentrated jammy fruit [think blueberry, plum, black cherry] vanilla and baking spice supported by velvety tannins. A dessert-like finish, with pink peppercorn dusted Grenache, coffee and toasted oak lingering decadently between each sip. [ A fantastic foil to the wonderfully fresh, pungent ramp pasta.]

73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot
15% Alcohol
$46 [average price]

Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To Kalon Vineyard Napa Valley 2014

Winemaking: The reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that met a lot to Mr. Mondavi, “a wine he hung his hat on”. He crafted it with the intention that it be “enjoy with food and friends and family”. Today it is known as a reflection of his philosophy on winemaking, creating wines that are powerful yet gentle. [Joe provided us with my favourite quote of the evening, stating that Mr. Mondavi said: “I want my reserve Cab to be as soft as a baby’s bottom and have the power of the voice of Pavarotti”. The “First Growth” grapes form the finest blocks in To Kalon vineyard provides the wine with natural structure, acidity and power.

Hand harvested grapes spent 34 days fermenting and extended maceration in French oak tanks. The wine was then pressed and underwent malolactic fermentation in 100% new French oak barrels. The final blend spent 21 months in oak barrels, and was bottled in August 2016. Consistently being tasted to monitor its development, it is looking as though the wine will be released this October.

Indeed, my favourite wine of the evening, it is exudes elegance and power, well structured and perfectly balanced.

Tasting Notes: Food friendly acidity and well integrated oak accent fresh, ripe berries, crushed pink peppercorn and herbaceous elements. Silky smooth tannins, vanilla, chocolate and a trace of menthol linger on the lengthy, plush finish. Elegance along with a strapping, robust gentility in every sip. [Wonderful with grilled portabello covered in cocoa and malt glaze.]

93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
14.5% Alcohol
Currently not released [$165 Suggested Retail Price]

Robert Mondavi Winery Sauvignon Blanc Botrytis Napa Valley 2002

Winemaking: With the dry climate in Napa Valley, the humid conditions necessary for botrytis or noble rot [the concentrating of sugars and flavour by allowing the grapes to shrivel or raisin] to develop need to be created. Following the regular harvest, select grapes are left on the vines for noble rot. Sprinklers are used at night in order to increase the humidity, with harvest taking place in November. Grapes were sourced from the Wappo Hill vineyard in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District AVA. Fermented for 2 months in French oak barrels [13% new], then aged on its lees and hand stirred once a month for 19 months.

2002 is the last year the Sauvignon Blanc Botrytis was made since the conditions haven’t been right. Joe stated that they are hoping this year they will have the opportunity for a 2017 vintage.

Tasting Notes: Fresh and vibrant with a bright acidity balancing the sweetness. Honey drizzled orange, lemon and apples fuse into lingering buttery croissant and candied orange notes. Sweet and vibrant, delicious on its own or a wonderful pairing with all types of deserts, from rich cheeses to decadent chocolate. [A great pairing with mild to stinky cheeses, dried apricot and clove preserve, and roasted nuts.]

100% Sauvignon Blanc
12% Alcohol
$100 [average price]

A superb finish to the evening.

Media event hosted by Robert Monday Winery.

Eat Drink and be Merry: The Dreaming Tree Trio

Winery: Dreaming Tree Wines is the creation of legendary musician Dave Matthews along with New Zealand winemaker Sean McKenzie. The duo is passionate about crafting accessible wines that express “the unique characters and rich flavours” of California’s wine country. The portfolio currently consists of 6 wines, all sourced from various sustainably farmed vineyards in California.

A Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing winery, they strive for sustainability in all facets of wine production, including sustainable methods in the vineyard, bottles that are a quarter pound lighter and manufactured with clean-burning natural gas, 100% recycled paper labels, along with natural corks sourced from sustainable farms. The winery also utilizes solar energy, having the largest solar footprint in the US wine industry.

Philosophy: To make “wines for people to drink. I don’t make wines for people to put in their cellar.”

The Dreaming Tree Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2016

“We think this wine hits all the right notes. No matter what your journey may be. This is the perfect wine to share along the way.” – Sean McKenzie

Winemaking: Aged for 3 months in stainless steel tanks, bottled immediately in order to maintain the youthful characteristics of the fruit.

Tasting Notes: Pale gold in colour with bright, fresh aromas of melon, grass, clean minerals and citrus. Juicy, summer cantaloupe and honeydew flavours meld with pineapple and a hint of pink grapefruit. Tingly acidity and clean minerals shine on the citrus zest finish. A fantastic summer sip.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: A great sipping wine that also pairs well with classic fish and chips, fresh shellfish and spicy Mexican dishes.

100% Sauvignon Blanc
13.4% Alcohol
$12 [average price]

The Dreaming Tree Pinot Noir 2015

“This is something I feel good about inviting someone over to share with me. It’s something I can be proud of. It’s creation.” – Dave Matthews

Winemaking: 70% of the grapes were sourced from Central Coast AVA. Aged in oak barrels for 10 months.

Tasting Notes: Transparent bright garnet in colour with inviting aromas of cherry, strawberry, vanilla, white pepper and toasted oak. Tasting similar to the aromas with ripe cherry and strawberry dusted with crushed pink peppercorn. Silky tannins and an engaging savoury streak fuse with vanilla, cherry, spice and traces of oak on the lengthy finish. Easy drinking and well balanced with food friendly acidity, wonderful on its own or with a wide variety of dishes. [It was fantastic with gnocchi covered with rich fontina/parmesan sauce and roasted broccoli.]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Roast chicken or pork, grilled fish, mushroom risotto.

100% Pinot Noir
13.8% Alcohol
$13 [average price]

The Dreaming Tree ‘Crush’ Red Blend 2014

“I swallowed it before I put the glass down.” – Dave Matthews

Winemaking: 79% of grapes were sourced from North Coast AVA. Wines were periodically racked [siphoning the wine off the lees or sediment] to clarify and to develop the smooth tannin structure. After aging for 16 months in oak, the individual varieties were blended.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of cranberry, raspberry, black pepper, vanilla and toasted oak. Velvety tannins along with hints of vanilla and leather accent cherry, raspberry and plum jam flavours. Crushed black peppercorn, toasted oak and a trace of rich black cherry comprise the plush finish. Full bodied with ripe fruit and silky smooth, don’t be surprised how swiftly your glass will empty.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Barbecue, vegetarian stuffed poblano peppers, Vietnamese pork sandwiches.

64% Merlot, 20% Petite Sirah, 13% Zinfandel, 3% Other
13.7% Alcohol
$13 [average price]

Samples submitted for review purpose.

Turley ‘Juvenile’ Zinfandel 2014

Winery: Beginning with just one vineyard in St. Helena in 1993, Larry Turley established Turley Wine Cellars. Today Turley Wine Cellars consists of 38 different old vine vineyards throughout California. The majority of the vineyards are single varietal Zinfandel or Petite Sirah [some vines even date back to the 1800’s]. “Larry has never met an old vine vineyard he didn’t like”, and the winery excels at crafting wines from these single vineyards. Turley Zinfandels are noted for their “cult status”, their wine club has a waiting list that spans out over 2 years.

Philosophy: “We aim to be stewards of some of California’s most distinctive vineyards, 
producing authentic wines that reflect their heritage.”

Winemaking: All of Turley’s vineyards are either Certified Organic by California Certified Organic Farmers, or in the process of being certified. Unlike the majority of Turley wines that are sourced from single vineyards, Juvenile is a blend of multiple vineyards, and as the name suggests, it is composed of young vines. “The vines that make up Juvenile range in age from about 6-25 years, and we pull from 15 of our vineyards across California, including Hayne, Ueberroth, Pesenti, Salvador, and Vineyard 101.”

Tasting Notes: Inky red-violet in colour with aromas of black pepper and cocoa powder coated black cherry and raisin. Abounding with layers of blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, black pepper and vanilla, incorporating good acidity and silky tannins. Concentrated black cherry and traces of toasted oak make an appearance on the super spicy, lengthy finish. Great on its own or with all types of heat driven dishes. [It was fantastic with blue corn crusted seitan, roasted tomatillo salsa, yams, rice and beans.]

100% Zinfandel
California
Produced and Bottled by Turley
15.5% Alcohol
$35 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2020

Rated 92 points Wine Spectator
Rated 90 points Wine Advocate

Orin Swift ‘The Prisoner’ Napa Valley Red Blend 2005

The Prisoner is a scintillating American success story; launched in 2000 by famed winemaker Dave Phinney, the brand has been sold twice already. In 2010 Phinney sold it to Huneeus Vintners, they in turn sold it [along with its siblings Saldo, Cuttings, Blindfold and Thorn] to Constellation Brands in 2016. As the bottle I enjoyed pre-dates these sales, here is the original background on the brand:

Progressive winemaker David Swift Phinney was “introduced to wine, how it was made, and got hooked” during time spent in Italy in 1995. Upon his return to the States he took a job as a harvest worker at Robert Mondavi. It was there that he decided, “that if he was going to work this hard, it would eventually have to be for himself”, and in 1998 Orin Swift Cellars was founded [Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name]. . He is renowned for wines that “are unapologetically full-flavored and intense, yet with a backbone of structure that holds it all in place”.

[Orin Swift developed into an international brand including 300 acres in southwest France along with projects in Spain, Italy, Corsica, Argentina and other locations. In 2016 Orin Swift (the brand, remaining inventory and the tasting room in St. Helena) was purchased by E. & J. Gallo Winery. Dave Phinney “will remain involved”.]

Winemaking: The Prisoner was an immediate success, and has been hailed as a “contemporary California field blend” [comprised of varying percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Charbono]. The Prisoner consistently is awarded, and appears regularly on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour, highly aromatic with aromas of blackberry jam on toast, black pepper, vanilla and mocha traces. Silky layers of concentrated black current, black cherry, raspberry are dusted with crushed black peppercorn along with a hint of graham cracker. Velvety tannins accent burnt caramel, chocolate, black current, vanilla and buttery toast on the fantastically lengthy finish. Opulent and lush, nearly a meal on its own.

48% Zinfandel, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah and 2% Charbono
Napa Valley
California
Bottled by Orin Swift Cellars
15.2% Alcohol
$125 [1.5 L]
Enjoy now thru 2020

Rated 93 points by Wine Spectator