Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wine(s) of the Week: Waterstone 2012 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Napa Valley Merlot (both $18)


NAPA VALLEY--Here's a unique twist, a spectacular California wine from a pair of Napa Valley winemakers who own no vineyards and have no production facility. Perhaps that's why Philp Zorn and Brent Shortridge can offer a stunning pair of Napa Valley wines in the form of their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Napa Valley Merlot for only $18 a bottle.

Zorn brings a European sensibility to the whole process. Although born in the U.S., he was raised in Germany and educated at one of that country's top enology schools before working with noted wine producer Weingut Pieroth. Returning to the 1984, he became winemaker at a number of top California wineries, developing a keen understanding of the Napa Valley's unique microclimates and subregions. When he was introduced to Brent Shortridge, the two realized they had a shared vision of creating great Napa Valley wine at an affordable price. Brent Shortridge came to the winemaking business from a biochemistry background and a desire to enter mmedical school. His is one of those stories of serendipity. When he took a summer job at Sonoma;s Buena Vista winery as a chemist, he came in contact with the great winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. Under the tutelage of The Master, he soon realized that wine was his calling. Shortridge quickly immersed himself in the business of winemaking. Waterstone wines are the sum and substance of Zorn and Shortridge's collective experience.The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc ($18) just screams with flavor. Bright and crisp, it has accents of lemon and tangerine with soft herbal notes of sweet tarragon and French thyme. The use of neutral oak barrels gives the wine a European finesse, as the oak is used to balance out the flavors and enhance their richness rather than imparting any wood flavor. The result is an elegant wine that is rich with fresh fruit flavors that go well with any type of light summer meal or as a delicious and palate tingling aperitif.  Chicken Caesar salad, grilled bream or salmon in a honey dijon mustard and dill glaze, served either hot or cold are as cojuple of suggestions for a terrific meal in the garden or on the patio. Take it along to Ravinia or Tanglewood for a terrific accompaniment to a gourmet picnic at an outdoor concert. You won't go wrong.

Waterstone 2010 Napa Valley Merlot ($18) is a luscious  Merlot with a distinctive flair. The wine is a unique hybrid of grapes from the Truchard Vineyard in Carneros, which provide the backbone, and the balance of the fruit sourced from the Nichelini Vineyard in Chiles Valley. The two vineyards are on opposite ends of the Napa Valley and have disparate microclimates., Carneros with its cool nights and mornings and Chiles Valley with its blazing daytime sun on the valley floor adding intensity and layers of rich fruit flavor to the berries, which gives the wine a long finish. The grapes were picked at the peak of maturity when they were dripping with rich fruit flavor. Gently crushed and fermented, the wine was then aged in French Oak barrels with extended contact on the lees for two years. The resulting wine explodes with dark and red fruit flavors and a hint of toasty oak. This is a great grilling wine. I went nuts on the smoker with thick-cut strip steaks and thick, meaty St. Louis and Baby Back Ribs. Using a rosemary, black pepper and garlic rub, there was no need for any additional barbeque sauce, The lingering flavors of dark cherries, plums and a hint of peppery spice complemented the wine and completed the flavor picture. It created a perfectly jammy, yummy sensation in the mouth that provided a stunning crescendo to the summer holiday barbeque season! 

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