Grgich Hills

I recently had the pleasure of meeting and tasting with John Corcoran from Grgich Hills Estate winery, a winery I have not tasted in a few years, and I was very pleased at the outcome.  Grgich Hills is located in Rutherford in California’s NapaValley; and was founded in 1977; one year after winemaker Mike Grgich won the infamous Paris tasting with his 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.  They are currently self-proclaimed stewards of the land, and since 2003 produce wines grown exclusively in their own estates.  The estate vineyards are certified organic and Bio dynamic, and they operate the winery on solar power.

The wines of Grgich Hills are obviously from California, yet they maintain an interesting, somewhat ‘old world’ style.  Limited use of oak, elegant fruit profiles, and consistent acidity and structure all add to the quality, and the expression of the terroir or sense of place.  I tasted the Fume Blanc, two vintages of Chardonnay, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and their Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon.  My impressions are as follows.


Fume Blanc 2010: delicate youthful aromas of lemongrass, hints of under-ripe melon, slight citrus and green apple notes.  The palate is dry, with very crisp acidity and light bodied white citrus, spicy minerality, and grassy notes with a juicy finish.  A great wine for light seafood, shellfish or anything with lots of chevre on it.

Chardonnay 2009: mild, youthful bouquet of vanilla, floral, leesy spice notes, with subtle hints of toast, ripe citrus and orchard fruits.  The palate is dry, with juicy acidity, medium weight with a slight rich feel.  Flavours of citrus, green apple, lees notes, light oak, and a lemony finish make it a match for Brie cheese, pasta in cream sauce, or crab legs and garlic butter.

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: moderate, youthful aromas offer red and black currant, cherry, light sweet oak, licorice, cedar, and delicate leafy notes.  It is dry on the palate with moderate balanced structure, juicy acidity, ripe black cherry, cassis, tangy prune and cocoa flavours with a slight toast in the finish. Enjoy with a grilled steak or rack of lamb.

Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: produced in very small quantities, this offers a full nose of youthful sweet hay, toast, prune plum, cassis, savoury sweet pepper, tobacco and delicate woodspice.  Dry and full bodied, with a ripe upfront fruit note.  The balanced elegant structure, slight grip to the tannins, and chocolate, cherry, cassis, violets, prunes and spice lead into a lingering finish.  A match for prime rib, osso bucco, or roasted game.


Michael Kompass

Cool Whites

Well it has been a rather unusual summer but I like to consider myself an optimist; and although as I write this, it is only 12 degrees Celsius outside in the middle of July, I look forward to the coming warm days of summer.  Not that we need an excuse, but once the warm days are upon us, we shall have the perfect opportunity to enjoy some cool white wines.  Now, cool can mean temperature in the sense of cool and refreshing white wines; but it also can mean wines of unique and interesting character and in this article we can examine a few wines to which both uses of ‘cool’ can apply!

Bodegas Aruspide ‘Trio’ Blanco – a Spanish number from Castilla la Mancha, it is an appropriately named blend of three grapes.  Chardonnay, Verdelho, and Airen, (which happens to be the most widely planted white wine grape in the world although most people have never heard of it).  This is a country wine, medium bodied and un-oaked with a slightly rustic edge to it that offers up citrus peel, dried orchard fruit, and a subtle nutty spicy note with crisp acidity.  Suitable for enjoying by the glass, but a great match for an afternoon tapenade platter.

Montresor Bianco del Nago – an interesting expression of classic Venetian white wine grape Garganega; a variety most often found blended into the wines of Soave.  Although it’s a little difficult to pronounce, it is easy to drink thanks to its inviting, slightly candied floral notes, and flavours of lemon zest, melon, and pear fruit.  It is an un-oaked, mid-weight white with a very pleasing hint of richness in the mouthfeel, followed by a crisp, dry finish.  Produced with a commitment to organic sustainable farming it makes an excellent match to seafood, shellfish, weisswurst, or a seasonal salad.

Inca Torrontes-Chardonnay – an unusual Argentine blend that puts it all together and makes a terrific wine.  You could say that Torrontes is the unofficial white wine grape of Argentina; fruity and aromatic and bearing a slight resemblance to Gewurztraminer, but when paired with approximately 20% Chardonnay you get a juicy summer white loaded with aromatics and flavours of mandarin orange, apple, stone fruits and slight spice.  Also un-oaked, this is a light bodied, juicy white perfect for patio sipping or washing down a spicy dynamite roll, or a picnic at the beach.

So when the warm weather gets here, (I’ve got my fingers crossed), reach for a ‘cool white’ and enjoy the sunshine.



The concept of counterparts is a straightforward one. Such as: action and reaction, night and day, male and female, and so on. Not necessarily exact opposites, but corresponding differences. This adds definition by contrast, keeps things in balance, helps us to appreciate variety. There are many examples of counterparts in the world of wine, as in nature and everywhere else; but truly one of the most classic and precise examples to be found, is that of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Both are grapes, both hail distantly from the same genetic family, both are enjoyed all over the globe: arguably the two single best known grape varieties worldwide. Chardonnay is a white wine grape; Pinot Noir is a red wine grape. Chardonnay is prolific bordering on ubiquitous while Pinot Noir is the elusive heart breaker of countless winemakers the world over. More often than not they are found in the same growing areas, and in Burgundy they are basically the be all and end all of all wine making bar none.

I happen to enjoy both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and recently tasted two excellent examples from Hartford Court in California’s Sonoma Valley. Hartford Court is a very limited production winery that focuses heavily on single estate bottlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Production of these special wines can range from 800 cases to less than 100 cases.

The Hartford Court Stone Cote Vineyard Chardonnay 2005: produced in 100% French oak, 60% of which is new oak. The wine is clear with a deep golden straw colour that fades slightly around the rim. The nose is moderate and layered with youthful and slightly developed characteristics. It offers creamed corn, vanilla, lime, sweet hazelnut and citrus notes. The palate is dry and medium-full bodied and well-balanced with flavours of spice, toast, white citrus fruits, and a rich buttered biscuit character that lingers well.

The Hartford Court Fog Dance Vineyard Pinot Noir 2005: produced in 100% French oak, 55% of which is new oak. The wine is clear, and shows a pale ruby colour that fades to a slightly ruddy rim. Youthful as well a slightly developed aromatics rise from the glass showing sweet leather, stewed strawberry, woodspice and wet cherry blossom. The palate is dry, medium weight with juicy acidity and gently balanced tannins. Loads of flavours are present giving juicy red berry fruit, hints of sweet beets, tangy cherry, earthy spiciness, and a long warm finish.

Both excellent wines in their own right, as well as fine examples of the “yin and yang” of red and white wines. So even as we head ever closer to colder weather remember to balance your wine enjoyment with both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, (or whatever counterparts you love best!).


Blackcomb Liquor Store