Wine Reviews: International Round-up

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-20-2018

This week, I’m tackling another group of wines from all over the globe.

Starting off with the newest vintage of Trivento’s flagship Malbec, Eolo, the 2014 again delivers a mouthful of delicious, complex, cellar-worthy Mendoza goodness.

A few Spanish wines make an appearance in this week’s report, including two inexpensive but solid Riojas from renowned producer Bodegeas Lan. Carpenè Malvolti brings a pair of Italian bubbles into the mix. And South African stalwart Mulderbosch delivers four wines that bring serious quality at their respective price points.

There’s a new red blend from Virginia winery Early Mountain that I really want to highlight. The inaugural 2015 vintage of their Rise red (a Merlot-based blend), really shines. It should, considering the price point, but this is a serious, delicious, Virginia red blend that will stand the test of time.

I also received three wines from the Firstleaf wine club. Consumers can fill out a quick quiz to generate their first three-pack of wines for $15, plus shipping. The wines each come with story cards that provide technical and more general information about the wine or region. Members can rate their wines on the club’s website, and those ratings are used to generate more personalized wine selections for future shipments. I tasted three wines from an introductory shipment.

All of these wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: The Fallout

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-19-2018

(Flickr: noviceromano)

(Flickr: noviceromano)

In the New Yorker, Bianca Bosker looks at how the Master Sommelier cheating scandal has impacted the wine industry and the public perception of the Court. “This is a rare instance of open rebellion against the court, which for more than forty years has been a powerful gatekeeper within the élite world of sommeliers… Several younger sommeliers who have worked toward court certification told me that the cheating debacle has rattled their trust in the organization. They wonder whether the indiscretion has irrevocably tainted the court, whether they should endure the pain of studying if a fairly earned diploma can suddenly be revoked.”

In the New York Times travel section, Laura Rysman explores the enthusiasm for natural wines that’s gaining momentum in Tuscany.

Lauren Buzzeo charts the rise of Stellenbosch cabernet sauvignon in Wine Enthusiast.

Constellation Brands CEO Rob Sands steps down, reports CNN Business.

In Forbes, Dominique Fluker profiles Robin and Andréa McBride, founders of McBride Sisters Wines and the first African-American sister duo to found and establish a wine company.

Elsewhere in Forbes, Courtney Schiessl explains why you shouldn’t call all sparkling wine Champagne.

In Food & Wine, a Q&A with Roni Saslov, a rising star of the Israeli winemaking scene.

In Condé Nast Traveler, Candice Rainey takes a road trip through Portugal’s wine county with her mom.

In Wine-Searcher, Tom Jarvis talks to Amanda Barnes about her “Around the World in 80 Harvests” project.

In Wired, Christopher Null recommends three different wine aroma kits.

Experiencing ZD Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-18-2018

ZDWinesThe most exciting thing about a bottle of wine is the potential it holds for fostering community, intimacy, and relationship. As I said before, nobody drinks wine in a vacuum. We empty our glasses in all kinds of places, among friends, family, and even strangers.

This past month I received three bottles from ZD Wines, a Napa Valley producer that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary this harvest. My wife and I even used one of the bottles as an occasion to get to know our neighbors.

2016 ZD Reserve Chardonnay (SRP $77)
It could’ve been the post-Ultimate Frisbee thirst and fatigue, but this bottle stood out as the true winner of the trio. All it took was Jim Croce on the record player and a cool glass of ZD Reserve Chardonnay to sooth our aching bodies. “Apply,” was my wife’s first impression. I smelled lychee, something floral (maybe chamomile), vanilla, and allspice.

The extended yeast contact came through quite clearly, as the wine was nice and creamy and coated my tongue. It left my mouth watering slightly, despite any notable acidity. I tasted spice and—surprisingly but not at all unpleasantly—a hint of salinity. The winemaker did well to forgo MLF, as too much butteriness would surely have marred the harmony of oak, flowers, and spice. Sprawled out on the floor and sweaty, ceiling fan whirring, we agreed it was an excellent Chardonnay.

2015 ZD Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $75)
When you live in a four-unit apartment building, you don’t have much excuse for not knowing your neighbors. After a year and a half of passing pleasantries, my wife and I decided it was high time we get acquainted with the couple our age living below us. And what better excuse to do so than a premium bottle of wine?

Turns out the gentleman preferred beer. So over dinner, board games, and dessert, while he put back the Yuenglings, the lady, my wife, and I savored the ZD Cab—and I discretely scribbled tasting notes on a pad of paper under the table. The wine was dark and dense with a notable lack of tannin but a delightful blueberry character. 22-months in American oak had given it rich aromas of vanilla and cola. The bottle emptied quicker than I could record all of my impressions, but it did its job facilitating great conversation and laughs. Our neighbors have promised to reciprocate with dinner soon and I’m sure the folks at ZD will be happy to know they’ve played a part in what looks to be the beginnings of a more neighborly relationship.

2016 ZD Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir (SRP $82)
Okay, sometimes I just drink wine alone. It had been an insanely hot week and, of course, my AC unit decided to give up the ghost. With my wife gone and the windows down I popped this beauty in the refrigerator. The evening’s aptly selected movie, Mississippi Burning, played as I puzzled over what turned out to be quite an enigmatic Pinot.

From the start, nose firmly in glass, it wasn’t giving me much. It just sat there, dense and ruby, mocking my inadequacy. So I let it alone, until it would relent and reveal to me all of its wonderful qualities. I blinked first, of course, and the wine greeted my tongue with a wonderful acidic tingle—just what I needed in the heat—and gave forth odors of overripe strawberries and anise, but little else. At a point, I stopped trying to figure this wine out and just enjoyed it. It was well structured and enjoyable, but didn’t have the wow factor I would expect at this price.

Daily Wine News: Global Output Down

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-18-2018

(Flickr: theloushe)

(Flickr: theloushe)

According to Reuters: “Global wine output fell to its lowest level in 60 years in 2017 due to poor weather conditions in the European Union…”

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague considers the evolution of the house wine. “Today’s house or private-label wines are greatly improved thanks to active participation by restaurant owners and sommeliers, many of whom have a hand in the winemaking. That’s not to say that carafe-quality options aren’t still around.”

In the New York Post, Steve Cuozzo asks: Do Master Sommeliers really matter? “One New York wine wizard, who didn’t want to be named, blew off the Court: “It’s mainly a club that nobody cares about, outside a handful of grape geeks.” Most others said they respected the organization. But scandal, schmandel: Those of us who eat out regularly care less about elite honors than about getting help to choose a bottle while our thirsty friends stare at us impatiently.

“Longtime Napa Valley vintners Ray and Nancy Coursen have sold Elyse Winery to two Yountville residents,” reports Kerana Todorov on

What do winemakers and sommeliers drink when they need a break from wine? Katie Kelly Bell talks to several people to find out in Forbes.

Why do so many winemakers love Modelo? Christopher Ross investigates in Punch.

In Wine-Searcher, Kathleen Willcox looks at the origin stories of several major wine brands, including Franzia, Gallo, Two Buck Chuck, and Veuve Clicquot.

VinePair talks with Philippe Newlin, U.S. Director of Duclot La Vinicole, a major importer of Bordeaux wine, about whether Bordeaux is still worth seeking out.

Daily Wine News: The Court’s Silence

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-17-2018

courtmastersomm“A week on from a foundation-rattling revelation that one of its senior Masters had leaked information about this year’s MS tasting exam, there is still a deafening silence emanating from the Court,” says Don Kavanagh in Wine-Searcher. “The approach of the board seems designed to protect the dignity of the Court, rather than to bolster the integrity of the qualifications process. For such a lapse to have occurred is unfortunate; not to address the lapse is unforgivable…”

In SevenFifty Daily, Coral Sisk profiles Martha Stoumen, one of the few winemakers making Nero d’Avola in California. “As she looks forward, Stoumen hopes to continue to experiment with Italian styles in California, fostering quality collaborations to further improve the region’s reputation for natural wines.”

In Wine Spectator, James Molesworth profiles Diana Snowden Seysses. “Married to Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac, she spends most of her time in France, working on a range of Pinot Noirs that Burgundy aficionados drool over. In Napa, she also makes the wines at the nascent Ashes & Diamonds project, working with Steve Matthiasson.”

In Meininger’s, Roger Morris explores what constitutes a fair price for wine.

Alexander Peartree delves into Abruzzo’s indigenous grapes in Wine Enthusiast.

In Sprudge Wine, Christina Rasmussen profiles Marc Soyard, the man currently at the helm of Domaine de la Cras on the outskirts of Dijon.

In Wine & Spirits Magazine, Deanna Gonnella discovers just how vast the world of Portuguese wine is.

In the Wall Street Journal, Aleksandra Crapanzano highlights the GOfermentor, a sort of wine Keurig machine.

Daily Wine News: Tastings of a Lifetime

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-16-2018

Madeira wine. (Wikimedia)

Madeira wine. (Wikimedia)

In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy gets a chance to taste a 172-year-old Madeira discovered in demijohns at Liberty Hall Museum a few years ago, which will be auctioned at Christie’s on December 7. “As I sipped the 1846 I was thinking that was the year the U.S. government annexed Texas and Sonoma started a rebellion against Mexico and proclaimed the Bear Flag Republic of California.”

In Decanter, Andrews Jefford shares notes from a “tasting of a lifetime”: “the chance to taste all of the Bordeaux First Growths, plus Pavie, Angélus, Ausone, Cheval Blanc and Petrus, at 20 years old. With Yquem thrown in for luck. Twice in two days.”

Alfonso Cevola considers the rise of the Italian wine specialist in America. “From California to Texas, from Georgia to Oregon, and all points in between, the Italian wine specialist is a relatively new phenomenon in furthering the understanding (and sales) of Italian wine. Grown out of the enormous wave of consolidation the wholesale trade has undergone in the last 30 years, it has become a necessity.”

In Wine Spectator, James Molesworth writes about Larkmead, where winemaker Dan Petroski is hewing new gems from three distinct terroirs at a historic Napa estate.

In Food & Wine, Vicki Denig highlights the 15 most important natural wine bars in America.

Josh Raynolds explores the new releases from Santa Lucia Highlights and other areas across Monterey County in Vinous.

In Wine-Searcher, James Lawrence reports on how Spain’s Familia Torres is addressing climate change concerns with their new winery.

In Forbes, Liza B. Zimmerman explores the challenges of multi-generational family wine businesses.

Daily Wine News: Record-Breaking Romanée-Conti

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-15-2018

Source: Sotheby's

Source: Sotheby’s

A bottle of 1945 Romanée-Conti wine was sold for a new record sum of $558,000 at an auction held by Sotheby’s in New York on Saturday, according to Newsweek. The bottle is one of only 600 produced in 1945 before the vines were pulled up for replanting.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague explores where to find a bargain in Burgundy.

In SevenFifty Daily, Jackson Rohrbaugh looks at how Washington producers are redefining the state’s wine with diverse grapes and winemaking techniques.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray reports on a recent press trip to Bardolino, where winemakers aren’t thrilled to be emphasizing Chiaretto due to the rosé boom.

Lauren Buzzeo highlights the pleasures of South African pinotage in Wine Enthusiast.

In Forbes, Thomas Pellechia talks to Paul Mabray about his predictions for the future of the wine industry. “Today, Mabray believes the wine industry is at the perfect intersection of domestic and international competition. He points to looming threats like lacks in market access, changing consumer behaviors and emerging competitors that include large major chain retailers and subscription-based companies.”

In the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre explains what the term “structure” means when describing wines.

In Wine & Spirits Magazine, Joshua Greene on the standout reds from the Canary Islands.

Wine Reviews: California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-13-2018

California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir need no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

This report includes offerings from Ramey, Cambria, Gary Farrell, Frank Family and Cline Cellars, and spans the 2015 to 2017 vintages.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Culprit Found?

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-12-2018

sddefault-250x250“The man responsible for the cancellation and rescheduling of the Master Sommelier tasting test has still not been officially named, but Wine-Searcher understands that the person in question is Regino “Reggie” Narito Jr., an erstwhile Master Sommelier based in San Diego,” alleges Wine-Searcher. “The only person removed from the Court’s website this week was Narito, who qualified for the title in 2005 and who was mentor to several students who were candidates in this year’s cancelled exam.”

In the Chicago Tribune, Joseph Hernandez reports on the 19 Master Sommelier candidates (of 23) who wrote a letter to the Court pushing back at the decision to revoke titles. “The letter from the 19 sommeliers specifically named a board member currently listed on the Court of Master Sommeliers website, saying the person “broke the Code of Ethics and Conduct set forth by the Court,” but stopped short of accusing the person of leaking information to candidates.”

From Reggie Narito’s blog: “Of the 24 passing candidates, 4 were students of mine.”

Eric Asimov and the tasting panel explore Muscadet in the New York Times. “Though Muscadet is typically thought to be made for drinking young, with little to recommend it beyond a bracing freshness, wines from these producers have shown that it has far more going for it: that it is delicious when young, but can also age and evolve.”

After the news that Copper Cane LLC rejected Oregon grapes due to smoke taint, Wines & Vines’ Peter Mitham looks at how the threat of smoke taint is likely to change grape contracts moving forward. ““People have pretty normal standards for things like how much of a load can be material other than grapes, and what are the target ranges are for pH and TA and brix, but we don’t have that kind of science yet and accepted standards for smoke taint.”

In Decanter, Jane Anson says it’s an exciting time for Sonoma Cabernet.

Elaine Chukan Brown reacts to the Master Sommelier cheating scandal on

Joshua Greene shows some love to Willamette Valley chardonnays in Wine & Spirits Magazine.

In the Chicago Tribune, Joseph Hernandez profiles sommelier Derrick C. Westbrook, who was recently named to Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers of 2018 list.

In Wine Enthusiast, Stacy Brooks highlights the wine scene in Minneapolis.

Grape Collective talks with Wilfrid Franc de Ferriere of Bordeaux’s Château Carbonneau about the potential of Sainte-Foy terroir, his New Zealand roots and making good wine.

Daily Wine News: Whodunnit?

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 10-11-2018

(Flickr: pedrosimoes7)

(Flickr: pedrosimoes7)

The Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas has issued a press release with updates regarding retests for candidates affected by the exam that was voided due to cheating.

And Wine-Searcher is asking the question we all want to know the answer to: Who Leaked the Somms’ Wine List?

“Since the big châteaux enjoy an oligopoly, will anything persuade them to leave their luxurious echo chamber and engage a new generation of drinkers? What could a top growth even offer a young drinker—not pét-nat, obvi, but also not the generic cheap wines many have produced—that feels relevant?” In Punch, Jon Bonné reflects on Bordeaux’s problems.

In VinePair, Tim McKirdy asks: “Is it time to change the way we talk about wine?

In Food & Wine, Maria Yagoda profiles Cha McCoy, a civil engineer-turned-wine expert who hosts casual wine-pairing dinners around the world that are informative, inclusive, and snob-free.

In Vinous, Neal Martin explores Philippe Gayral’s Vins Doux Naturels

In Wine Spectator, Peter D. Meltzer reports on the results of recent rare wine auctions.

In Wine Enthusiast, Roger Voss on why Chablis is the purest chardonnay.

In Grape Collective, Valerie Kathawala profiles Austrian winemaker Bernhard Ott.

In Meininger’s, Robert Joseph on “the bourbonization of wine.”