It’s A Headsnapper Chardonnay Sonoma 2014

Where does the term headsnapper come from?  What does it mean?  Does anybody know?

I’ve come upon three possible meanings thus far.  1. something so shocking, unexpected or interesting that it makes you whip your head around to look at it; 2. something that is too expensive or a bad deal (perhaps surprisingly so); 3. fish bait (red snapper heads are evidently often used as bait).

If the label art is any clue as to what the folks at It’s A Headsnapper mean when they use the term, it is likely to be something akin to the first definition.  Then again, there is a fourth possibility that occurs to me.  The woman on the label looks as though she might be dancing while squeezing the juice from grapes into a glass.  So maybe she’s a dancer who likes to whip her head about.

Oenophilogical_HeadsnapperChardonnaySonoma2014Winemaker: It’s A Headsnapper
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: Sonoma County, California
Price: $10.99

Notes: This Sonoma Chardonnay brought citrus, grass and turpentine to the nose.  With bright acidity, it’s heft on the palate was on the light side of medium.  Alcohol at 13.9%, the flavor profile I found included citrus (lemon turning to grapefruit), grass, and chalk with some turpentine and woody notes.  Speaking of the label once again, my tasting notes bear almost no resemblance to the description of this wine on the back of the bottle.  All I can do is share what I tasted!

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Alexander & Fitch Merlot 2013

Here’s an interesting fact: according to Wikipedia -and who doesn’t rely on Wikipedia these days – Merlot is the third most-grown grape varietal globally.  Take that! Miles Raymond (from the movie Sideways).

Winemaker:  Alexander & Fitch
Varietal:  Merlot
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, CA
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Dark burgundy in the glass, this A&F Merlot exhibited earth, moss and berries in the bouquet.  Medium-bodied and with good acidity, it has what I would call “medium-ish” tannins.  Flavors I detected included earth, vanilla, balsamic vinegar (without the vinegar), cherries, and bitters.  Another solid performer from the inexpensive selections at Trader Joe’s.

Simi Chardonnay 2014

A few posts ago I mentioned a birthday party I’d been a part of.  No, it wasn’t my birthday but that of a family member.  The party at the Italian restaurant was basically a sibling celebration with their spouses and children.  However, the festivities weren’t over after the cannoli and tiramisu.  No, indeed!

See, this was one of those BIG birthdays.  A milestone, if you will.  So I helped put together a surprise party for friends and extended family the very next night.  I don’t think I have ever worked so hard at keeping something a secret (and certain that I had failed miserably).  We ordered a cake from a bakery and Thai food from a local eatery for this party.  Then everyone gathered at a friend’s house while I had the task of wrangling the guest of honor.  You know, making sure they got there and at the right time.  Man, was I sweating it!

Seems we did OK.  If nothing else, the honoree feigned surprise well.  To go with the cake and Thai we served a few wines along with the requisite seltzer, soda and lemonade.  I thought this Simi Chardonnay was pretty good with the seafood rice dish and the vegetable spring rolls.  Given that the cake was chocolate, I switched for dessert.

Winemaker:  Simi
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Sonoma County, CA
Price:  $12.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  The Simi was a pretty, vibrant yellow.  On the nose I smelled primarily pineapple.  I thought acidity was good, and it was medium-bodied with 13.5% alcohol.  This was a very flavorful wine.  I found pineapple, vanilla, a touch of butter, some grass and chalk at the finish.  It was definitely a good one for me.  I’d happily drink it again and can imagine it would make a nice accompaniment to a range of fowl, fish and salad dishes.

From A Dry Creek To Somewhere Over The Sea

Is it possible to sail a dry creek and end up somewhere over (beyond) the sea?  Yes, indeed!  The first and most important thing you have to do, of course, is find the right place to begin – the right dry creek.

That would be Dry Creek Vineyard where the flagship (their wording, not mine) white wine is a Fumé Blanc.  Gracing the label of that refreshing wine is a beautiful picture of a sailboat.  Why is there a beautiful picture of a sailboat on that bottle of wine?  Well, first it’s important to note that Dry Creek isn’t dry – not really.  It’s an active stream in California that runs through the counties of Mendocino and Sonoma – stopping off at Lake Sonoma – and then continuing on it’s way past Dry Creek Vineyard to the Russian River.

You should also know that the folks from Dry Creek Vineyard are sailing enthusiasts.  In fact, Dry Creek Vineyard is the official sponsor of several major sailing regattas around the U.S.  Because of their passion for sailing, they have been putting sailboats on their wine labels since 1984 which has earned them the moniker “the wine for sailors.”  They see similarities and a kind of symbiosis in a love for both good winemaking and sailing.  Here’s how they put it.

Winemaking and sailing actually have a lot in common.  Like winemaking, sailing is fun, adventuresome and romantic.  Like sailing, the art of winemaking demands the skill, discipline and determination of a group of people committed to the same goal.  Sailing and winemaking are a study in choreography and teamwork – each person contributing something essential to the ultimate success or failure of the team.

Now, I had read about the Dry Creek “wine for sailors” and decided I wanted to try one.  I have to admit that I’m not a sailor.  The only sailing I’ve done was in a Sun Fish on a lake at a camp I went to for two summers when I was a boy.  And yet I find many images of sailing to be beautifully majestic and calming while at the same time redolent of excitement, exploration, and exploits.  I have two prints of paintings by Winslow Homer that have hung alternately in my offices and my home over the years that have brought me much joy.  So I wanted to sample one of those wines.

The Dry Creek wines aren’t sold at all the stores in my area.  Very few, as it turns out.  So I had to undertake a little adventure of my own in searching for this selection.  To my surprise, I found the last store I visited (Calvert Woodley) in the throes of a major sale on white wines.  They advertise these things, of course, but I just can’t keep up the way I’d like to.  Anyway, it must have been the winds of fate that blew me into the store at that very moment.  You see, they only had one bottle of the Dry Creek Vineyard 2011 Fumé Blanc left in stock when I arrived.  And I got it!  It had to be kismet.

Having secured my treasure, I took it home with me to be opened and enjoyed as a reward for my dogged determination.  Here is what I recorded in my “ship’s log” about the wine.

Winemaker:  Dry Creek Vineyard
11bVarietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Wine:  Fumé Blanc
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Sonoma County. CA
Price:  $12.99

Notes:  This Dry Creek signature white is light yellow with a green tinge.  On the nose I found a peach-o-rama.  Seriously, there was copious peach scent in the bouquet.  It was appropriately light on the tongue with very bright acidity.  On the palate I found white peach, lime, and honey with pear and floral notes.  The finish had a grassy bracing zing.  It was a dry white, and the label confirmed that with an alcohol content of 13.5%.  I thought it was very enjoyable.  I could absolutely imagine pairing this Fumé Blanc with a nice grilled fish or shrimp dish.

I have to thank The Winegetter for his challenge to write a post on – about, around, through, for, from – the theme “Somewhere Beyond The Sea.”  This post answers that call to the best of my ability.  I was very honored that he would invite me, among others, to share a guest spot on his blog this summer.  The whole series as well as many other great posts on wine can be found at his place – The Winegetter.

Finally, drinking my “wine for sailors” and looking at the sailboat depicted on it’s label brought me daydreams of distant beaches, warm breezes, and idyllic surroundings.  And it inspired me.  Perhaps because The Winegetter was, himself, inspired to the theme for this blog series by the well-known Frank Sinatra tune “Somewhere Beyond The Sea,” I was moved to write a song.  For better or worse.  Ha!  The goal of the song is to celebrate some of the thoughts and feelings that I associate with sailing, adventuring and the allure of the sea.  My tune is called “Somewhere Over The Sea.”  I’ve included a home-brewed demo of the song below.  I’m not expecting a Grammy nomination for this, but I do hope folks enjoy listening to it.  Especially those of you who are sailors!


Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Kenwood Vineyards Chardonnay 2010

Well, it was time for this Kenwood Chardonnay.  After all, I had their Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot recently.  This bottle is the last in the Kenwood trio I bought at the store awhile back.

Winemaker:  Kenwood Vineyards
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2010
Appellation:  Sonoma County, CA
Price:  $17.49

Notes:  This California Chardonnay was a bright yellow in the glass.  On the nose I got lemon, apple, and floral notes.  It had a good weight on the tongue.  On the palate I found very ripe pineapple, lemon and toasty oak with hints of butterscotch and artichoke.  For those who don’t like heavily oaked whites, it was a definite but by no means overpowering presence in this Kenwood.  Alcohol is at 13.5%, and acidity is good.  I wish it cost a few bucks less, of course, but I will be checking around now to see if another store has it for less.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Kenwood Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Winemaking in Sonoma County California actually predates Napa County by a few years.  In fact, Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma County is the oldest in the State, having been founded in 1857.  Kenwood isn’t quite that old, but it has a long history of it’s own.  Founded in 1970, Kenwood Vineyards is located on the site of the former Pagani Brothers Winery originally established in 1906.  According to Kenwood, in 1970 the Pagani Brothers Winery was refurbished and modernized by “wine enthusiasts from the San Francisco Bay area.”  Kenwood Vineyards makes a full line of varietal wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Winemaker:  Kenwood Vineyards
Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Sonoma County
Price:  $17.49*

Notes:  This is a Sauvignon Blanc very much in what I think of as the “old world” mien.  In other words the flavors are subtle, restrained and balanced.  On the nose I encountered scents of citrus and apricot nectar.  In the glass it is a very pale yellow with a slight tinge of green.  On the palate I tasted lemon, peach and honey with hints of pear and kiwi, a light dusting of green bell pepper, and a nice zip of grass on the finish.  Acidity is good, and alcohol is at 13.5%.  A fine Sauvignon Blanc for sipping, I would imagine you could easily pair it successfully with plenty of foods – including grilled fish, a cheese course, or a light meat dish – pork or chicken.  I might also say salad could work, but in my experience I have found that the dressing used can make or break a wine pairing.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

* also available at Whole Foods at $11.99