Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Rating: ***+ 2004 Chez Ray Cabernet Sauvignon (CS4, C4, C'4), Lodi, CA

Original review, September, 2007:
In this glass, this is ruby red, the color of a medium feminine pinot noir, not a burly cabernet sauvignon. Aroma is powerful, though, of bright aged ripe fruit and oak. On the palate, bright sweet cherry cola flavors encircle the taste buds with a hint of acid, following with a mild, lasting sweet cherry finish. Not classic cabernet, but a friendly, just off-dry wine giving great pleasure.
Three plus stars out of five.


Updated review, June, 2009: Similar color, now beginning to brick. Aroma is a bit more spongy and sweet now. Sip brings more muted flavors now, round, still with elements of cola, evenly touching palate with only hints of acid. Clean, cherry finish, lightly sweet.

Updated again, November, 2013:  Light brick orange color.  Funky, orangy-sweet aromatics.  Clean and light cherry cola, may want to be sipped a little cooler than the room temperature at which I am sampling it.

Updated yet again, almost six years later, now 15 years from vintage date, August, 2019:  Very similar notes to the 2013 posting.  Sipped cool, gentle and lightly sweet.  Solid three stars now. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

*** Chez Ray Cabernet Franc, 2004, Lodi, CA

Original Review, January, 2009: The Chez Ray Cabernet Franc, 2004, was made from Lodi grapes, fermented warm, with a combination of French and American oak.

In the glass, the cab franc is a light ruby, slightly brick red/pink. Think pinot noir with a couple of years.

Aromas have a strong cork/woody element, which I recognize from a particular brand of agglomerated cork I used for some bottles in these vintages. Once you sniff past that, you get to a bright, light fruit.

On the palate, a bright, even middle of red cherry trickles down the sides of your mouth carried in light acids. The woody/cork taint hangs its tattered cloth over the otherwise light, sweet, acidic blend. Two stars out of five on the Spirit of Wine scale. Might be a plus in there with a different cork. Can't see it hitting three stars though - the stuffing just doesn't seem to be there in the underlying fruit.
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Updated review, almost a year and a half later, June, 2010: muddy mid red in the glass.  Still that agglomerated cork aroma, with fruit.  Bright red cherry, light wood, light cork.  I'll hold at two stars.
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Updated review, over nine years later, now 15 years from vintage date, August, 2019: (I believe I labeled these "F4" on bottles) now still mid red in the glass, but no muddiness.  The cork aroma - thankfully! - is gone.  Sweet, bright, light red fruit aromatics.  Seems young.  On the palate, it brings a lightly wooded, bright red berry fruit, with decent layers and surround sound.  Quick but clean finish.  Now touches three stars!  Surprisingly long ager.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Chez Ray Aged White Blend 2019

The Chez Ray Aged White Blend 2019 is a combination of 2/3 2005/2008 Botrytis brix 26% finished dry plus 1/3 2006/2010 Gewurztraminer finished dry.  So the combo is dry, and really needs some sweetener (I use flecks of stevia) to offset the powerful dry acids.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Updated Review and Rating: **** Chez Ray Sangiovese, 2004, Lodi, CA

Original Review, May, 2008: The Chez Ray Sangiovese, 2004 (G4), was made from Lodi grapes, fermented warm, with a combination of French and American oak. In the glass, it shows as a dark blood red in color.

The nose hits as a deep, funky vegetable-fruit combo.

The sip outshines the nose, however. There is a strong oaky start on the the palate, but this quickly resolves to a furry, intense cherry fruit. The "fur" is a tough tannic backbone still in place, signifying that this can sit for a few more years in bottle. Medium-length finish. Three stars out of five with a plus for intensity and promise for a longer-lived future.

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Updated Review, about a year and a half later, January, 2009: Color and nose have lightened just a bit. The palate comes to the middle with a clean, round red cherry. I don't notice the tannic backbone any longer, suggesting the Sangiovese may be coming of age. Also the intensity has faded. Now, an even, bright, mid-weight red. In effect, a pinot-noir alternative. I'd drop it back a touch to three stars without the plus at this point.

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Updated Review, about a year later, May, 2010:  Now a hint of brick showing at the rim.  Aroma and flavors consistent with earlier review.  A balanced, dry red of medium weight, with a touch of minerality and dust.  Still nice. Photo from this tasting.
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Updated review, another year later, June, 2011:  Still a hint of brick at the rim of the glass.  The nose shows muddled red fruit with a light oxidized overtone.  The palate remains bright, red and clean, with hints of sand.  Solid, and probably at its peak now.
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Another updated review, another two and a half years later, now a full decade from vintage year, January, 2014:  Same color.  Muddled middle red fruit.  Nice, aromatic red fruit on the palate, with drips of violet.  Yummy. Now four stars.  Remarkable ager.
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Yet another updated review, almost five full years later, now almost 15 years from vintage date, late December, 2018:  Same deep magenta color.  Bright red fruit on the nose, becomes solid mid-bodied round red on the sip.   Clean and bright and full on the finish.  It's crazy how well this has lasted!!  Let's hear it for the Lodi sangiovese!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Suisun Valley 2009 Grapes Arrive: also Petite Syrah review ****

Grapes for the 2009 Chez Ray vintage arrived this weekend from Lanza Family Vineyards in the Suisun Valley, just southeast of Napa Valley, CA.

Although I had plans to subject the entire 2009 vintage to Enoferm RP15 (aka VQ15, VQ-15, or RP-15) yeast, the grapes arrived before my yeast. So my yeast and grape schedule was as follows:

Lalvin ICV-D254
Lanza Merlot (ML9A)

Lalvin ICV-D80
Lanza Merlot (ML9B)

Lalvin BM45
Lanza Merlot (ML9C)

Mixed: Lalvin D254, D80, BM45
Lanza Cabernet Sauvignon (Rock Vineyards) (CL9)
Lanza Cabernet Sauvignon (Koch Vineyards) (CK9)
Lanza Petite Syrah (PSL9)

I used Go-Ferm to reconstitute yeast, and built an approx half-gallon starter by adding crushed grapes during the course of a day. I'll get the ferment going at room temperature, then move to a cooler basement ferment after a couple of days. Basement fermentation proceeded at approximately 65 degrees F.

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Updated, Review of Lanza Petite Syrah (PSL9) nine years from vintage date, December, 2018: 


Deep magenta in the glass. Soft, perfumed blackberries on the nose. Roses and deep blackberries touch the palate on the first glance, moving across your tongue with deep, velvet robes. Depth with very gentle acids.   Impressive.  Four stars on the Spirit of Wine Scale.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Review: ***+ Chez Ray 2008 Underwood Mountain Pinot Noir, Washington (coded P8)

By way of background:  This is the Chez Ray 2008 Underwood Mountain Pinot Noir, Washington (coded P8).  Vinting notes are here.  

Original tasting notes, three years from vintage date, in 2011:  Ray:  color, light brick pink;  aroma, shy light, hint tobacco; flavor, bright, spicy, clean, aromatic finish; 3.  Karin: good finish; 4.  Jim: color, light; aroma, raspberry; flavor, light fruit, deep finish; 3+.  Eric:  color, very light, more like a rose; flavor, banana-like aftertaste; 1.  Rob: color, pink; aroma, tar; flavor, thin; 1.


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Updated review, now six years from vintage date, January, 2014:  Remains light brick in color, showing a very shy and serious light red nose.  The palate shows a light red balance of dry strawberry, clean laundry freshness and bright - almost sauvignon-blanc-ness - acidity.  Three stars on the Spirit of Wine scale plus a big plus for its long-lived lightness of spirit.
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Updated review, now 10 years from vintage date, December, 2018: Same color: light brick!   Dry candy/raspberry red nose.  Interesting.  On the palate, bright acids with a sweet strawberry wash. Fresh and friendly - more rose-like than red wine-like. Absolutely not past its prime. 

***** Chez Ray Alexander Valley Syrah, 2006, Sonoma CA

Find prices and retail availability for Alexander Valley syrah.

Original Review, September, 2008: The Chez Ray Alexander Valley Syrah, 2006, from Sonoma, CA, is from 2006 Brehm Vineyard grapes made using an unorthodox cool-fermentation technique. Consider it still a work-in-progress, needing additional age. But let's see how it's doing...


Color is medium red, lightly bricking at the edges. Aromatics bring charred oak, with touch of clean, dark fruit. This may be reflecting the dark-toasted oak staves used in the process. On the palate, first note is a hot and sweet middle, fruit coming in second. Though the alcohol is indeed hot, the wine is still somewhat light on its feet, rolling and building around your tastebuds and up into your cheeks.

I'll go with three stars out of five, using the Spirt of Wine scale. In what may be typical of this cool-fermentation technique, the wine shows a high-pitched, aromatic side along with its deeper body. Kind of like a pinot noir blended with a zinfandel.
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Following a full day's decant, the Chez Ray Alexander Valley Syrah, 2006, opened out quite a bit. Still three stars, but an improvement over the right-out-the-bottle pour. Suggests promise with aging. Often a full day decant (in wide-bottom decanter) is a bit too much for a wine to handle.
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Updated review, two and a half years later, April, 2011:  Color has held fast, medium red with brick edges.  The aroma is of medium weight, solid syrah, no longer dark.  On the palate, a wonderfully balanced mushroom and medium dark fruit syrah, with lifting acids and just enough sandy tannins to remind you this wine still has bones.  A full point jump to four stars.  Remarkable improvement with a couple of years of age. Following long decant, several days in partially-filled bottle under vacuum at room temperature:  Brighter metallic aromas now.  Surprisingly, a touch brighter on the palate too, but with much of the same outstanding balance.
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Updated review, another two and a half years later, now seven years from vintage date, October, 2013:  Same color; same solid syrah nose.  Medium dark fruit on the palate, now reclining gently in the rocking chair; not old, but wanting to settle down.  Still some brightening acids.  Yummy red fruit.
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Updated review, over five years later, now over 12 years from vintage date, December, 2018:


Medium red with some bricking at the edges - same color it has been for the last dozen years! Fresh, bold, vibrant black syrah fruit on the nose - absolutely lovely!  Sweet black fruit on the palate, like slipping into a familiar velvet bathrobe.  Starts with creamy blackberries and moves across your tongue with tannins that both accentuate and soften.  Gorgeous.  Hits a remarkable five stars at this advanced age!

***+ Chez Ray Stage Gulch Vineyard Syrah, Petaluma, Sonoma CA, 2007 (sg7) - Homemade Wine Tasting & Review

Find prices and retail availability for commercial Sonoma syrah.
By way of background: Stage Gulch Vineyard Syrah from Petaluma, Sonoma CA for the 2007 vintage was made from frozen grapes procured from Brehm Vineyards, as code number 527 - 07SGS.  For my collection, the finished wine is called SG7P, because it was fermented with Pasteur yeast.  Here is the approach used to winemaking for this selection.

Original Tasting and Review,  April, 2010:   


In the glass: Stage Gulch Vineyard Syrah 2007 shows as medium deep velvet red in the glass, opaque at the center. 

On the nose: Poured cool with a brief decant and swirled vigorously, this Sonoma syrah brings an intriguing charcoal-broiled steak aroma forward, with plums and a touch of oak mixed in. 

On the palate: The first elements on the palate are a sweet, almost light red middle, buckled up with some charry oak.  A meatiness moves to your cheeks, and alcohols come on towards the end, allowing the balanced light acids and underlying tannins to peek through.

In summary: Overall, a full experience in a nicely darkened aromatic package.  Rates three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale.
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Updated review almost a year later, April, 2011:  With long decant, color is consistent.  Aromas are meaty and swampy dark fruit.  Lightly charcoal-broiled black fruit comes to your palate, with peaks of red berries and depths of black cocoa.  Gains a plus for its compelling layers, even if slightly disjointed.
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Updated review, another four months later, now four years from vintage date, August, 2011:  Cleaner, red fruit nose.  The palate has come together as well, showing clean red berry fruit, some oak, and a nice glycerin mouthfeel, even though it finishes squeaky clean.
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Updated review, over a year later,  August, 2012:  Deep medium red, now with elements of orange beginning to show at the edges.  Soft, muddled red fruit and berry nose, with some very light laundry and menthol.  Interesting, though perhaps a touch tired.  Soft and full red palate, but showing a touch of age with minor hints of oxidation.  Drink up.
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Updated review, over a year later, now six years from vintage date,  October, 2013: Deep ruddy red.  Soft, deep red on the nose.  Palate is solid, subtle, light and acidic in the cheeks.  Holding better than expected.
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Updated review, over five years later, now 11 years from vintage date,  December, 2018: Still deep ruddy red.  Soft, deep red berries on the nose, with light and appealing touches of earth and loam.  Palate brings a wash of flannel-y deep red fruits across the palate, with acid wisps coming on at the close to tuck the fruits into your cheeks.  Remarkably, no loss of liveliness.

Find prices and retail availability for commercial Sonoma syrah.   

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Review: ***** Chez Ray Cabernet Sauvignon / Zinfandel Blend, 2011 - CZ11 and CZ11W


Original tasting, March, 2013:

Background: We are sampling today the Chez Ray cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel 2011 blends described here.
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CZ11W is a blend consisting of:

Paso Robles "Dos Robles" Cabernet Sauvignon - Code CP11 (25 brix)
Paso Robles "Dos Robles" Old Vine Zinfandel - Code ZP11 (26 brix)

Both fermented warm, they were created based on this recipe.

In the glass CZ11W is pink to light brick, a bit muddled in tone.  The nose shows a bright, pink and sweet tone, also showing some white pepper.

On the palate, fruity and tasting, with some oak showing.  Brights a light core of light black raspberry with some light red cherry showing through as well.  Clean, bright, friendly in its finish.

On the Spirit of Wine scale, I'd offer three stars.  Just a little too light to sport a plus for pleasantness.
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For CZ11, here are the base grapes:

Lodi "Super Cab VSP" Cabernet Sauvignon - Code CL11 (24.5 brix)
Paso Robles "Dos Robles" Cabernet Sauvignon - Code CP11 (25 brix)
Paso Robles "Dos Robles" Old Vine Zinfandel - Code ZP11 (26 brix)

There were four equal parts to the blend:  VSP Cabernet, Paso Robles Cabernet, Paso Robles Zin fermented warm, and Paso Robles Zin fermented cool. 


CZ11 shows consistent light/muddy pink/brick color in the glass, just a touch darker than the CZ11W formulation.  Shy, but deeper, darker and more evocative nose.  Seems purple and dark.

The palate shows a deeper, fuller, more aromatic quality, showing violets and blueberries along with the lighter red fruit of CZ11W.  Depth shows in the hints of charred oak and a finish that crawls up into your cheeks.  Picks up an easy + on top of the three stars, and moves into close proximity to the four star mark.  The VSP (vertical shoot positioned) cabernet sauvignon certainly seems to make a difference, along with the cool fermented zinfandel.  
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Updated review, now two years from vintage date, November, 2013: Light muddy brick color.  Full , fresh and deep charcoal aromas.  Fresh, deep, sandy fruit with depth and aromatics. Gorgeous.  Touches four stars and is ready to drink RIGHT NOW!


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Further updated review, now a whopping seven (almost eight) years from vintage date, late December, 2018: Now a slightly deeper muddy brick color.  Aromas carry fruit and some sandy loam.  Makes you want to sniff even deeper.  A sip brings bold black fruit across the palate with plenty of structuring tannins and just the right light touch of acids.  Wow, I was wrong about suggesting to drink this in 2013.  It is SPECTACULAR five years later!  Still fresh.  The finish lingers forever and brings you back to the next sip without hesitation.  Actually now tips FIVE stars on the Spirit of Wine scale ("Get between me and this wine at your own risk!").  I believe this is only the third Chez Ray wine to touch that five star mark in all my 16 years of winemaking!  (Wish I could find these grapes again!  But, alas, finding a consistent source of top-notch grapes is always the challenge for small and home winemakers without their own vineyards.)


Updated Review: **** Carneros Merlot, Sonoma CA, 2007 - Codes: 514 - 07CM (MC7)

We tried the MC7 as part of the 2011 blending party.  Here are notes from that tasting:  MC7 (2007 Carneros Merlot, Sonoma, CA): Ray: color, medium deep red; aroma, funky, deep and vegetative old world; flavor, oxidized, deep and bold; 3.  Karin, 2.  Jim: flavor, too dark; 2+.  Eric: aroma, stronger than most, almost a hint of red licorice; flavor, strongly alcoholic, a bit fruity, but has an odd finish; 2.  Rob: color, dark burgundy; aroma, metallic; flavor, metallic tannins; 3.

Now, here's an updated review, May, 2012:  Color is deep red.  Soft and lightly funky deep red berries on the nose.  Red berries and red licorice for miles on the palate.  Interesting.  Friendly and extracted fruity.  3 stars for this red intense experience.  I pick up no metallic nor oxidized elements in this bottle.
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And further updated, now seven years from vintage date, January, 2014:  ps, I think this was made with a combination of Pasteur and 254 yeasts.  Deep red in the glass.  Oak and deep red fruit show on the nose.  Soft red berries on the palate.  The richness and deep, fun, red fruit just bring me to 4 stars on the Spirit of Wine scale.  Not at all tired.

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And even further updated, now 11 years from vintage date (pretty close to 12 years), late December, 2018:  Some magenta, brick and opaqueness  mingles with deep red in the glass.  Deep red/black fruit on the nose, seems like less oak than five years ago.  Still clean red fresh fruit on the palate.  Remarkable ager.  On its own current merits, I'd give three stars with a plus for the bright acidic tang following the fruit.