Tag Archives: Carneros

Truchard Vineyards: Wines from Carneros

By Robin Alix Austin

The Truchard story is a story about farming. Tony Truchard is a farmer, first and foremost – as described by his son Anthony, who visited Atlanta in March for the High Museum Wine Auction.

Truchard VineyardsDirt-coated fingernails, a pickup truck and long hours planting, tending and pruning – Anthony paints a vivid picture of his father. Even in his 70s, Tony is still out in the vineyards as often as possible, truly committed to the quality of his grapes.

Tony and Jo Ann Truchard were among the pioneers of grape growing in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. They purchased a 20 acre parcel of land there in 1974, and in 1989 established a winery producing wines made from estate-grown fruit. Today Truchard Estate Vineyard is 400 acres of which 270 are planted; in addition to making their own wine the Truchards sell grapes to more than 20 Napa Valley wineries. Winemaker Sal De Ianni joined the team in 1998.

Farming has always been a family affair. From the age of 10, Anthony and his brother John (who owns John Anthony Vineyards), were out in the vineyards with their father. This connection – to farming and family – is felt when you speak with Anthony. After sharing a glass of wine with Anthony and his wife Suzanne, you’ll feel like you’re a part of the Truchard family.

As any winemaker will tell you, good wine starts in the vineyard. The Truchard family puts as much care into crafting their wines as they do cultivating the grapes. Each bottle tells a story – of the terroir, the technique and the hands-on approach to making wines.

Among the many delicious Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that were tasted during the High Museum Wine Auction, the ones from Truchard Vineyards stood out.

Truchard ChardonnayThe 2011 Chardonnay is fresh and bright, with flavors of golden apple, ripe pear and Meyer lemon. Oak adds soft layers of vanilla and baking spices. The finish is crisp, with lingering citrus. ($30, 13.9% alcohol)

The 2010 Pinot Noir is supple and silky in the mouth, with berry aromas that expand on the palate. Plum, raspberry, strawberry and cherry cola mingle with flavors of black tea and vanilla, supported by gentle tannins and well-balanced acidity. ($35, 13.9% alcohol)

Following the High Museum Wine Auction, I had the opportunity to taste Truchard’s Syrah and Cabernet Franc.

Truchard Pinot NoirThe 2010 Syrah has rich flavors of blackberry and boysenberry, with cedar and earthy notes adding depth. Present tannins give the wine a pleasant mouthfeel, and the elegant finish has lingering vanilla and allspice. ($30, 14.3% alcohol)

The 2010 Cabernet Franc draws you in with intense black fruit and spice aromas. Mouth-filling flavors of black currant and plum give way to tobacco, black pepper and vanilla, culminating in a long and satisfying finish. ($35, 14.2% alcohol)

Deep ties to Carneros, a passion for farming and a dedication to expertly-crafted wines – the Truchard family’s story can be tasted in every bottle.

For more information visit www.truchardvineyards.com.

Images from Truchard’s website

It’s Time for Wine: Introducing Shadowbox Cellars

Our Own (plus our partners) shadowbox cellars to Make its Debut

By Monty and Sara Preiser

We were chosen as the “inspectors” for an election the other day, meaning that we watched the counting by both sides to be sure all was accurate and there were no shenanigans. There were a number of candidates, and we were astonished to see that one person did not mark the ballot for himself. Not surprisingly, he did not win, but in O’Henry like irony, he lost by only one vote. It made us think about grade school, where kids (at least of our era) did not commonly vote for themselves, as well as about later realities when one learns that if you don’t have enough confidence in yourself to cast in vote in your own favor, you shouldn’t be running in the first place.

Well, that lesson sort of carries over to this column. We are always happy to write about and review the wines we taste and enjoy, so today we are proud to announce the debut of our own line of wines – shadowbox cellars, making premium Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Owned by Monty and Sara Preiser of Boynton Beach and Napa, Ira and Eydie Holz of Boca Raton, and Justin and Stacy Preiser of Napa, shadowbox is following a bit of a different business model than most wineries in an effort to put truly fabulous wines in the bottle. And the effort has, at least for now, worked spectacularly.

For quite a while, we have been fortunate to live five months a year in Napa, and our son Justin has lived there full time running our comprehensive wine and restaurant magazines (The Preiser Key to Napa and The Preiser Key to Sonoma) for almost seven years now. This has allowed us some pretty good insight into what vineyards produce the best fruit, what winemakers excel at crafting certain varietals, and what flavor profiles are desired by consumers who, like us, want outstanding quality at prices that do not border on the insane. With the addition of Ira, a financial and business expert, we put together a team of people on the production and business sides who all contributed something positive and important to every varietal we make. Our wines are, if we do say so ourselves, beautiful in every way, and properly priced for consumers.

When the owners gathered to taste our wines for the first time out of the bottle we were of course apprehensive. Under a past and different label, we (Monty and Sara) had refused to distribute one vintage of a wine many years ago because it did not meet our standards. We are ecstatic to report that such a problem did not exist with shadowbox. Below is what we found.

2010 Orchard Vineyard Oak Knoll Napa Chardonnay
Made by winemaker Mike Drash (late of Far Niente and Luna, and now owner of Tallulah), this is a wine of immediate impressions – a golden straw color to the eye, a powerful medium to full body on the palate, and a fruit-to-dry finish that seemingly lasts forever. Yet there are many other characteristics belonging to this layered and balanced Chardonnay. The nose gives off scents of brioche, grapefruit, and Crenshaw melon, while the mid palate is consumed by caramel, apples, and a hint of ripe banana. Overall, the wine is bright enough to accompany light meats, salads, and fish, while suggesting a long period of ageability. The Oak Knoll grown fruit is next door to the famed vineyard that produced the grapes for the storied 1976 Paris tasting. Ours is even better. It is ready now, and should continue to improve for many years to come.
85 cases available. $40

2009 Anna Katerina Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
Strong, yet lovely, aromas of roses and violets are evident long before this wine reaches one’s nose. And the gorgeous dark color of ruby/garnet is the perfect sensory lead-in to distinct flavors of strawberries and raspberries. The fruit here comes from Donum President Anne Moller Racke’s private vineyard in Carneros, and is transformed into this luscious Pinot Noir by Donum and Auteur winemaker Ken Juhasz. It is smooth on the palate, evidences berries from start to finish, shows the perfect Pinot Noir medium body, and boasts soft, yet structure-providing tannins. The berries, white truffles, and Hen of the Woods mushrooms give way to traces of forest floor that take you to a lingering finish. If you seek terroir from your wine, here it is, and here it should stay for better than ten years.
65 cases available. $46

2008 Mountain Terraces Vineyard Sonoma Valley Syrah (SaraBec)
There is only a bit of this left, and it is under the name of our previous label “SaraBec,” which until we began this new venture was not offered for sale. Now the 2008 is available and the 2009 will be released in the spring under the shadowbox name. The fruit for the 08 comes from the top of the mountain separating Napa and Sonoma, and is influenced by the San Pablo Bay, which is actually in sight on a clear day. The winemaker is rising-star Ames Morrison of Medlock-Ames winery. Before you drink this huge wine, it needs a good two hours in a decanter. Only then will you experience the inviting tar and charcoal on the nose, the hints of graphite that pop up in various stages, the black plums that seem to frame the tannins, and the velvety/rose petal smoothness that takes over immediately and stays with you to the back palate. By that time the wine has danced around your mouth and transformed into notes of dark chocolate, cocoa, and purple fruit on the finish. Game or meat is the perfect accompaniment. Ready to drink now and through 2018.
10 cases available. $44

2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
The rich, alluring, and intense color of this full-bodied Cab only hints at the beauty of the wine in the glass. Supple aromas of caramel, Bing cherries, and toasted spiced nuts give way to a smooth, creamy, and layered mix of dark fruit, currant, and black cherries. A touch of Merlot assures drinkable tannins while a dash of Cab Franc enhances each sip. But this is Cabernet all the way, with a chocolate finish supported by zest of orange that simply sails on and on. Our choice to make this wine was Steve Reynolds, owner of Reynolds Family Wines, and famed for his Reds of all varietals. The fruit is from varying locations in Napa, including a healthy dose from the Annapurna Vineyard, acknowledged as one of the Valley’s finest. This Cab is fantastic now, but perhaps best enjoyed between 2012 and 2025.
40 cases available. $75

2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
It is no secret that the 2007 vintage is one of Napa’s finest ever. And this bell-ringer reflects the perfect growing season of that summer with its outstanding balance and multiple layers. Chocolate and mocha aromas are not only prevalent on the nose, they hover around on the taste buds throughout the entire sip of wine. Primary flavors of sweet black cherries, black plums, and currants fill the palate from start to finish. Tannins are surprisingly smooth for such a huge Cabernet Sauvignon, also made by Steve Reynolds, yet they allow one to enjoy the wine immediately, or lay it down for a generation or more. A long finish completes the picture.
Only 20 cases available. $78

Purchasing shadowbox Wines:
We are a small producer, as you have seen, and so our wines will be highly allocated and we expect them to sell quickly. Those restaurateurs and others who have sampled them have nothing but accolades for what we have produced, we are happy to say. We expect to be able to deliver around Valentine’s Day.

If you would like to be on our allocation list and have us get in touch with you about an order, or if you have any questions, please send an email to info@amateurgastronomer.com.

Thanks for reading, and we hope you will like what we have produced.


It’s Time for Wine is a column published by wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser that is featured on the Amateur Gastronomer.

Monty and Sara Preiser reside full time in Palm Beach County, Florida, and spend their summers visiting wineries and studying wines on the west coast where they have a home in Napa. For many years they were the wine columnists for The Boca Raton News, have served as contributors to the South Florida Business Journal, and are now the principal wine writers for Sallys-Place.com.  Monty and Sara also publish The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, the most comprehensive guide to wineries and restaurants in the Napa Valley, published every March, July, and November. In fall 2011 the Preisers released the first issue of The Preiser Key to Sonoma. Click here to read more columns by the Preisers.

City Winery

Tastings that Rock at NYC’s City Winery

When you think Led Zeppelin, you think rock and roll, amazing guitar solos and wine, right? Well, maybe not the wine part.

But if you think about how you would describe Led Zeppelin’s music, it’s not far from how you would describe wine. In talking about songs like “The Ocean” and “Heartbreaker” you can use words like tone, texture and harmony – the same words you can use for wine. Jimmy Page’s raw riffs are rich and jammy like a full-bodied red; Robert Plant’s screaming vocals are more like a white that’s tingling with acidity.

Just as you would enjoy a nice bottle of wine, the songs of Led Zeppelin are meant to be savored. Could you really pair beer with such legendary songs as “Stairway to Heaven?” I think not.

City WineryThis concept (plus a few bottles of wine) led a trio of wine enthusiasts to come up with the idea for a Led Zeppelin wine pairing, complete with a Led Zeppelin tribute band. The place: City Winery in Manhattan, a newly opened winery, restaurant and live music venue created and owned by The Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf.

As someone who was a Led Zeppelin fan before becoming a wine fan, I thought this sounded like a really cool idea for a wine pairing event. Great music and great wines, what could be better?

City WineryEarlier this month I joined more than 200 other Led Zeppelin and wine fans for The Great Led Zeppelin Wine Pairing.

The tasting was led by its entertaining creators: restaurateur Joe Bastianich, wine writer David Lynch and writer and musician Mike Edison. Mike was especially engaging throughout the evening, sharing his own experiences with Led Zeppelin’s music (some that involved not so legal pairings). But it was tribute band 6 Foot Nurse who really made the experience. The three-man band stayed true to Led Zeppelin’s sound. Lead singer and drummer Scot Coogan was amazing to watch and nailed Plant’s singing style.

City WineryWe kicked off the evening appropriately with a glass of champagne. The dry and toasty Henriot Brut Blanc de Blancs NV was paired with “The Immigrant Song.” The jolting acidity and minerality were a nice match for Plant’s primal screams.

The next song, “Misty Mountain Hop,” was paired with a 2006 William Fèvre Chablis. Besides the song’s title evoking images of the cool hills of Chablis, the opening riff has a sharp tingle of acidity that demands a white wine. I really enjoyed drinking the Chablis, which had great flavors of honeysuckle and white peach and of course, good acidity.

Led Zeppelin wine tastingThe mood mellowed a bit for the third song, “What is and What Should Never Be.” We were invited to taste the soft fruity extract of the bass line with a 2005 Truchard Carneros Pinot Noir. The voluptuous texture of the California Pinot, with flavors of blueberry and herbs, was nice to sip while singing along.

Next came “Black Dog,” paired with the 2007 Padrillos Mendoza Malbec. The wine was selected both for its ink-dark color and its personality, in sync with the thumping and hard-edged tune.

“Black Dog” was followed by an epic song that was paired with an epic wine: “Kashmir” and a 2001 Fontanafredda Barolo Serralunga. Our wine guides described it best — like the song, the wine unfolds over time to reveal new nuances and is almost orchestral in its complexity.

6 Foot NurseThe tasting ended on an exciting note for both the music and the wine. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian joined 6 Foot Nurse for “Whole Lotta Love,” which was paired with a 2004 Château de Sales Pomerol, my favorite wine of the evening. The song starts out hard and tannic but takes on other dimensions with time, just like a delicious Bordeaux.

What impressed me about the wine pairing (besides the fact that it was by far the coolest wine pairing I had ever been to), was the high quality of the wines. I really enjoyed each wine and would definitely drink them again.

Fortunately for us in the audience, the music didn’t stop when the wine was gone. While 6 Foot Nurse played on, I ordered a glass of a spicy Côtes du Rhône which I enjoyed with a crispy mozzarella and fresh basil flatbread. It’s one of several flatbreads, which along with an assortment of cheese, salumi, light bites and shareable plates make up City Winery’s Mediterranean-inspired menu. If I wasn’t already on my seventh wine I would have picked out a bottle from the 500 or so wines that make up City Winery’s list.

City WineryAppetite sated, I decided to explore the winery. Besides the extensive list of boutique wines, the live performances and the unique wine pairings, this is what makes City Winery stand out from all other wine bars in New York City (and most other cities). Here, in the middle of SoHo, you can make your own wine.  You or a group of friends purchase a barrel (each starts around $7,500 and yields about 250 bottles), and City Winery supplies the varietal of your choice, sourced from internationally renowned vineyards in the United States and South America. From crushing to bottling, you can work as closely as you’d like with the wine specialists. The barrels are stored in a climate-controlled area inside City Winery. During the six to twelve month aging process you can sample your wine at barrel tastings.barrels

Peering in at all the barrels and singing along with the band’s final song, I couldn’t help but think about what it would be like to make my own wine. For now I’ll have to leave the winemaking to the experts. But hey, we all dream about becoming a rock star in some way.

City WineryCity Winery is located at 155 Varick Street in New York City. To see the upcoming events visit citywinery.com.