Ironstone Vineyards: A tale of two California regions

Ironstone Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery in California. Their winery facility is located in the Sierra Foothills. They grow grapes there and in the Lodi region. In total, they have more than 8,000 acres planted in a multitude of crops, with more than 4,000 under vine. Their wide-ranging portfolio offers a taste of both varieties that immediately spring to mind when you think of the region: Petite Sirah, as well as less obvious ones like Cabernet Franc. Prices start at $12 and range up to $75. I recently tasted through quite a few of their current releases with a member of the Kautz family while I was attending ProWein in Düsseldorf, Germany. In short, there is a ton to like there. Their wines are fairly priced, delicious and show genuine characteristics of the varieties in question, as well as a sense of the place they were each grown. Here’s a look at my favorites from that tasting.

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Ironstone Vineyards 2014 Chenin Blanc ($12)

Ironstone’s Chenin Blanc is composed entirely of the namesake grape. All of the fruit came from the Lodi region. Orchard fruit and white flower aromas light up the welcoming nose. The moment you take a sip, the super-soft mouth-feel envelops your senses. Lots of gentle pear, apricot and lychee fruit flavors are present. White pepper and a hint of nutmeg are on the mellifluous finish. This wine is perfectly suited to pair with light foods, but it’s also remarkably delicious on its own. This is spring and/or summer in a glass.

Ironstone Vineyards 2013 Reserve Viognier ($18)

This wine is composed mostly of Viognier (90 percent) with a dollop of Chardonnay (10 percent) blended in. It was produced from Estate fruit grown on their Sierra Foothills property. Yellow peach and apricot aromas fill the welcoming nose here. The palate is loaded with stone fruit flavors, spices and hints of papaya. Hints of crème fraiche are at play alongside continued yellow fruits and hints of spice on the long, balanced finish. Some Viogniers are too forward, too fruity and almost sweet. This particular example is remarkably balanced and delicious; it’s also impressive for its price point.

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Drink of the Week: The Chocolate Flip

the Chocolate Flip.The Chocolate Flip doesn’t contain the slightest hint of anything remotely chocolate. No, in the manner of its very close relative, the Coffee Cocktail, the Chocolate Flip blends brandy and a whole egg with more sugary/fruity ingredients to create a more sweet than bitter flavor and a light tan color. If you’re determined to think it tastes slightly like chocolate, then I guess it does.. It’s really just another of the countless variations on the Flip formula, but an interesting enough combo that I think it deserves it’s own post.

The Chocolate Flip comes directly from David Embury’s “The Fine Art of Mixing Cocktails,” though it’s  only referred to in passing. Mr. Embury’s preference was towards somewhat dry drinks, which he believed were ideal for stimulating the appetite before a meal, and this is actually a nearly ideal dessert or, if you dare, breakfast beverage.

Chocolate-free though it is, the Chocolate Flip, even in this version, is fattening enough that making this drink over the course of a week has probably accounted for at least an additional pound or two on yours truly thanks to adding seven eggs to my weekly diet. To be fair, however, my appetite has never required much stimulating.

The Chocolate Flip

1 ounce brandy
1 ounce sloe gin
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar or simple syrup
Sprinkling of nutmeg (borderline mandatory garnish)

I have done so many of these egg-based drinks, I could probably just cut and paste this part, but I like you guys, so I’ll write this for you fresh. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice for the so-called dry shake. Shake the contents fairly vigorously, but be careful to watch out for the interesting phenomenon that happens when you shake whole eggs or egg white; the top of your shaker may want to pop off and make a mess. Next, add ice and shake more vigorously for about 15 seconds or so. Strain into a chilled glass. (Cocktail glasses and old fashioned glasses are both good.)

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Drink of the Week: The Red Line

The Red Line.No need to go into details about the geekiness that brought me there, but this last Easter Sunday found this very secular Jew in downtown L.A. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to hit one of the countless outstanding bars in my town’s ever-cooler civic seat, but also being only too aware that it was a pretty major holiday, it appeared that my best bet for a DTLA libation was the relatively new E.R.B., aka Everson Royce Bar, a recent outgrowth of Pasadena’s noted Everson Royce wine and spirits emporium.

And that’s how I encountered today’s drink, the creation of the ERB bartender who calls himself Jonathan B. Jonathan had come up with the drink the night or two before, and he suggested it when I told him I was up for just about anything good. It’s a rich, strong concoction that I pronounced nifty on the spot.

Since there’s already a drink on the ERB menu called the Gold Line, referring to the commuter train that can take you from Pasadena to the downtown L.A. arts district, I suggested naming this drink after the slightly further afield Red Line, which would soon take me back to my North Hollywood home via nearby-enough-for-a-cheap-Uber ride Union Station. Yes, L.A. is finally starting to have decent public transit, just like we already have more than our fair share of good bars.

The Red Line

1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Cynar
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud’s or Scrappy’s Orleans bitters
1 orange twist (desirable garnish)

Shake or stir the contents in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass and strain into a cocktail glass. Add the orange twist, and toast our nation’s great cities and the creative bartenders who inhabit them.

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Drink of the Week: The Chatham Cocktail

The Chatham Cocktail.Looking up “Chatham” on Wikipedia, I can count some 15-plus municipalities in the United States and Canada with the name, alongside numerous neighborhood and towns with the word “Chatham” in them. Also, legendary British PM, William Pitt the Elder, who I sorta kinda remember from my AP European History class, was the first Earl of Chatham.

I very briefly wondered if it was possible that today’s drink could be remotely related to a long-closed West L.A. restaurant I remember my mom taking me to in my childhood. Well, for starters, the Chatam closed in 1987, and I don’t think they made cocktails. Yes, they did make the Chatam Special, a sandwich with turkey, swiss cheese, coleslaw…maybe some ham. In any case, what of that missing second H?

So, all I really know of the Chatham Cocktail’s origins is that one of the world’s most important cocktail gurus, L.A.’s own Ted Haigh of the oft-mentioned-here “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails,” sent it to another key cocktailian, Gary Regan of Regan’s Orange Bitters #6 and “The Joy of Mixology.” It was in that book — a really good 2003 cocktail and bartending primer from 2003 aimed primarily at people in the booze business, but definitely of interest to us hobbyists — that I found this very simple, very sophisticated, and really quite altogether decent drink. It’s more than worth a try if you have the ingredients available to you.

The Chatham Cocktail

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce ginger liqueur or ginger brandy

Combine the liquids in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Think about why most English names don’t really mean anything…except for Baker, Butcher, Carpenter, and Smith, anyway.

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Four delicious reds for $20 and under

If you scan the shelves of your local wine shop, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that you can spend virtually any amount of money on a bottle of wine. That could be just a few dollars or literally thousands. Of course, most of us aren’t going to spend anywhere near the upper end, and the bottom end is, shall we say, hit and miss. That leaves a very wide middle ground to consider.

Within that I have often found the $15 to $20 range to be of interest for a number of reasons. On the one hand, while no dollar figure guarantees you’re going to like a wine, spending more than $15 increases the odds that it’s a well-made selection. And for a lot of wine drinkers, $20 is a bit of a glass ceiling for everyday drinking. So here are four red wines that perfectly fit into that price window. Two of them are from California’s Paso Robles, and the others are from Chile’s Viña Ventisquero. Both of those areas also represent places one can still find a lot of outstanding values for everyday drinking, which is precisely what these wines represent to me.

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Chronic Cellars 2013 Suite Petite ($15)

Suite Petite is composed of Petite Sirah (87 percent) and Syrah (13 percent). I’ll tell you a secret about my wine tastes: I love Petite Sirah. The truth is, when I’m out tasting, I will never turn down a Petite Sirah, no matter what. So with that in mind, I’m always interested in drinking them and seeing what they’re like. This example from Chronic Cellars does a really nice job for $15. The dark nose is full of violet and plum aromas, along with bits of leather and sage. Black cherry, blackberry and an avalanche of dark fruits mark the juicy palate. Plum pudding spices, black pepper and a touch of chocolate sauce are evident on the finish. Nice tannins and sufficient acid provide solid structure. If you like your wine dark and somewhat brooding, here you go.

Chronic Cellars 2014 Purple Paradise ($15)

This offering is a blend of Zinfandel (70 percent), Syrah (14 percent), Petite Sirah (11 percent) and Grenache (5 percent). This Zinfandel-dominated wine has a healthy dollop of Petite Sirah blended in, which I’m quite fond of. Not just because I love Petite Sirah, though – Zinfandel and Petite Sirah are great partners. If they were in a band together, Zin would provide the screaming lead guitar and Petite Sirah would hold down the bottom end with some deep bass notes. Red raspberry aromas lead the nose. Blueberry, plum and more raspberry are evident on the somewhat jam-laden palate. Toast, white pepper and strawberry notes are all evident on the clean finish. Whether your Tuesday night dinner consists of pizza, burgers or a tamale pie casserole, this wine is going to carry the day for a song.

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