Wine Reviews: Red Blends

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-30-2012

This week’s wine reviews. All wines were received as press samples. Wines were tasted sighted, due to the unusual nature of the blends.  

Review: 2009 Luce La Vite Lucente Toscana IGT
Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
SRP: $30. 75% Merlot and 25% Sangiovese. An explosive nose of fleshy plum, blackcurrant, wild blackberries, dust, and licorice. On the palate, some black pepper and graphite emerges, but some rough tannins and alcohol also show themselves. Nonetheless, a very expressive and impressive wine. (91 pts.) 

Review: 2007 Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso
Italy, Umbria, Montefalco, Montefalco Rosso
SRP: $24. 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 15% Merlot. On the nose, dark raisins, dried herbs and plums meet leather and short ribs. It’s somehow reminiscent of both an Amarone and an expensive Aussie Shiraz. The palate is balanced with juicy acidity. (90 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Peter Lehmann Clancy’s
Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
SRP: $17. 39% Shiraz, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot. The nose seems a bit artificial, and is marked by candied raspberries, flowers, cinnamon, and spice. The palate is juicy, balanced, and remarkably chuggable. While simple, this would be a big crowd pleaser. (88 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Yorkville Cellars Richard the Lion-Heart Rennie Vineyard
USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands
SRP: $38. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Carmenere, 5% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. The wine explodes with black Twizzlers, and is followed by plums and oak. On the palate, the wine shows some heat. (87 pts.) 

Review: 2007 Long Shadows Wineries Chester-Kidder
USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $50. 60% Cabernet sauvignon, 25% Syrah, 14% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. The nose is incredibly seductive, drawing one in with classic Bordeaux notes like sweet herbs, earth, fresh plums, raspberries, black cherries, cedar, and roses. The palate shows darker notes like coffee and mocha and has great depth. (93 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Craggy Range Te Kahu Gimblett Gravels Vineyard
New Zealand, North Island, Hawkes Bay, Gimblett Gravels
SRP: $22. 80% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec. A fascinating, sweet nose of hubarb compote, figs, crushed blackberries, and a hint of graphite and crème brûlée. The palate is marked by an attractive dustiness. The wine lacks depth, but it’s well-balanced and remarkably smooth. (90 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Cliff Lede High Fidelity
USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75. : 36% Cabernet Franc, 28% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec. Wow. The nose is absolutely incredible. Perfectly ripe black fruits like plums and blackberries, supported by riverbed, coffee, and the woods. The palate is harmonious – ripe fruits, great acid, perfect tannins, and some minerality. Great depth and concentration, but somehow light on its feet. A fantastic wine. (94 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Troon Vineyard Old Vine Meritage
USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $32. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 0.4% Petit Verdot. On the nose, this wine could easily pass for a modern-style Bordeaux. Sweet plums, pomegranate, graphite, and Asian spices. The palate is remarkably fleshy, marked by firm tannins and juicy acidity. (89 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Cultivate The Feast
USA, California
SRP: $29. 66% Merlot, 34% Cab Sauvignon. The nose is a bit disjointed, as it shows notes of both underripe and overripe grapes, along with some smokiness. The palate exhibits more harmony than the nose. (85 pts.) 

Review: 2008 Luce Luce della Vite Toscana IGT
Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
SRP: $100. 45% Sangiovese and 55% Merlot. The nose is dense – packed with just about every tasting note in the book: From ripe blackberries and wild raspberries to tart cherries and strawberry pie. Underneath the fruit is dark chocolate, pencil lead, and tobacco leaf. The palate is equally packed. I’d love to revisit this wine in 5-15 years. (94 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Wine Guerrilla Rebel Cru Sonoma County
USA, California, Sonoma County
SRP: $20. 40% Zinfandel, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah. The nose exhibits the best traits of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon – and the mashup somehow works. Maraschino cherry and tangy strawberries combine with blackberries and green peppers to make for a fun red blend. The tannins are harsher than expected, but this wine would definitely a crowd pleaser. (89 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Glen Carlou Grand Classique
South Africa, Coastal Region, Paarl
SRP: $20. 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, 16% Malbec, 16% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. The nose is seductive – marked first by herbaceousness and oak, followed by dark cherries, baked blackberries, stems, and eucalyptus. The palate shows sweeter fruits, masking some of the oak and unpleasant herbaceousness of the nose. A tasty wine that I’d love to revisit in a couple of years. (89 pts.)

Weekly Interview: Kevin Morrisey

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 06-29-2012

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Kevin Morrisey, the winemaker and general manager at Ehlers Estate.

Kevin’s winemaking career begin in 1998, when he landed at job at Stags’ Leap Winery armed with a master’s in enology from UC Davis. Over the next five years, he rose through the ranks to become the estate’s associate winemaker, leaving in 2003 to serve as the winemaker and director of operations at Etude Wines. In 2005, Kevin returned to Stags’ Leap Winery to take over as winemaker and general manager. He joined Ehlers Estate in 2009.

Ehlers Estate is unique in that it’s owned by France’s Leducq Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that funds international cardiovascular research — and 100 percent of the proceeds from wine sales go to supporting the foundation.

Check out our interview with Kevin below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Decanter Moves

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-29-2012

Uploaded to flickr by judepics.

Decanter moves to the 100-point scale.

Levi Dalton’s “I’ll Drink to That!” – a twice weekly podcast that aims to get inside of the heads of the people who make the wine industry tick — launches. The first guest? Aldo Sohm of Le Bernardin in New York City.

Huge congratulations to DC importer/retailer, First Vine, which just celebrated its 5-year anniversary. On the blog for First Vine, Tom Natan writes about the company’s fascinating history.

In Wine Spectator, Augustus Weed reports: “The University of California at Davis is conducting a new study that could help end the debate on whether screw cap closures are as effective as natural corks when it comes to aging wine.”

In Forbes, Sarah White catches up with Meadowood’s Rob Harrison, who offers “an insider’s guide to the best things to do in Wine Country this summer.”

In Palate Press, Caroline Henry wonders if we “really want to know” what’s in our wine. Dr. Vino, meanwhile, asks his readers if wine labels should include nutrition facts.

According to Wine Spectator’s Tim Fish, “the line between passion and snobbishness is razor thin.”

In the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Bill Ward reminds us that “often we consume wines at less-than-optimal temperatures.”

Jeff Siegel offers “a few thoughts about wine with your July 4 celebration.”


Daily Wine News: Jaw Dropping

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-28-2012

On WineBerserkers, Don Cornwell posts some jaw-dropping details from Bill Koch’s lawsuit against wine collector Eric Greenberg.

According to Eric Asimov, Sherry is “building a new generation of fans by focusing on small amounts of top-quality wines.” This focus begins with the “notion that Sherry… must be regarded as a wine rather than something fundamentally different.”

After 42 years, Jacques Lardière — the winemaker at Maison Louis Jadot — is retiring.

According to Jon Bonné, Austria is “the next spot for great red wine.”

Richard Jennings writes about the “remarkably long lived, very special wines of Madeira.”

In Eater’s latest “Varying Hues” column, Maxwell Leer explores orange wines.

For Washington Post drinks columnist Jason Wilson, Sauternes is the wine that gives him “nothing but joy.” Elsewhere, he recommends the 2007 offerings from Chateau Giraud and Chateau Suduiraut.

“Is flavor an intrinsic objective property, or a subjective experience that varies from person to person?” In Nature, Barry Smith, director of the Institute of Philosophy at the University of London, sorts out the implications of this question. (H/T: Jamie Goode.)

According to W. Blake Gray, there’s more to the Cupcake wine brand than you’d think.

In Wine Spectator, Augustus Weed reports: “Napa’s Bialla Vineyards, a decade-old boutique Cabernet producer that made a 95-point wine from the 2009 vintage, has been sold for $3.2 million to a Chinese business executive whose name has not yet been disclosed.”

Welcome to the Revolution! Chicago’s Revolution Brewing

Posted by | Posted in Beer | Posted on 06-27-2012

While this is normally a wine blog, it’s impossible to ignore the momentum of America’s craft beer movement.

Here in Chicago, we’ve seen a major boom, with new producers and brewpubs opening regularly. One of our brewpubs — Revolution Brewing in Logan Square — recently became a full-fledged commercial producer.

Revolution opened in February of 2010 and I’ve been visiting frequently ever since. Late last month, the company opened a full production facility complete with a tap room, where the owners hope to always serve 12 of their own brews on tap. The facility is massive, clocking in at around 35,000 square feet.

Major brewpubs aren’t new, of course.

Chicago’s “Original Brewpub” is Goose Island’s Clybourn Brewery, which traces its roots to 1988. Piece Brewery and Pizzeria on North Avenue and Haymarket Pub in the West Loop community are two other popular destinations.

While Piece and Goose Island make great beer, neither are completely focused the brewpub experience. Goose Island is often crammed, as it fills up fast. Piece is mainly focused on providing tasty beer to accompany its New Haven-style pizza. Haymarket is closest to Revolution, but it doesn’t give the feel that I want from a brewpub, although I do enjoy going there. While Haymarket gives off more of a sports bar vibe, Revolution wants its customers to focus on the beer. Revolution has TVs, but the sound is usually turned off.

Put simply, Revolution is very much about the beer. The food, while delicious, is secondary. In just two years, Revolution has arguably become Chicago’s top beer destination. It’s one of those places that you need to visit if you fashion yourself a craft beer fan.

This isn’t to say that all the beers are amazing — but almost everything is consistently very good. Indeed, Revolution recently won two gold medals at the 2012 World Beer Cup. The Cross of Gold won gold in the English-Style Summer Ale category, and Rise Up Stout  won the American-Style Stout category.

Revolution has a solid stable of 5 beers available all year, another 3 or 4 seasonal brews at any given time, and many short run brews. The brewery doesn’t focus on one specific style — its offerings regularly include German, Belgian, English, and American style beers. Revolution’s “Barrel Aged” program is the highlight of its portfolio. For the most part, these are one-offs — and its been fascinating to see how wine, bourbon, and whiskey barrels influence a beer. While most of the barrel-aged beers have been stouts, Revolution has included Scotch AlesBarleywines, and Rye beers in the program. All told, Revolution releases about 35 beers annually.

Recently, I had the good fortune of attending the opening party of Revolution’s Brewery. It is an impressive facility — and will surely have a bright future. Below the fold, please find my tasting notes on Revolution’s main stable of beers along with two of its seasonal brews. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Another Debunker

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-27-2012

flickr: Alexandre Dulaunoy.

“If there were absolute proof that biodynamic wines are better, I’d be behind this movement. But believe me, there isn’t, so I’m not.” Steve Heimoff comes out as a “another biodynamic debunker.”

Terry Theise releases his 2012 catalogs. (H/T: Eric Asimov.)

“Ripeness brings enhanced character and underripeness brings greenness.” Charles Oken comments on the recent study which concluded that wines with higher alcohol levels come across as “far more flavorful and interesting” than low-alcohol wines at blind tastings.

“When it comes to wine, research suggests that the name alone can affect how much consumers are willing to pay for it.” Unsurprisingly, even oenophiles can be duped.

In Eater, Talia Baiocchi profiles Corkbuzz, “one of a select number of NYC bars and restaurants that allows even the most educated wine people to feel comfortable letting someone else drive.

Christie’s plans to experiment with some online-only wine auctions.

From Rick Bakas, a cool video showing how wine barrels are made and prepared for the winemaking process.

W. Blake Gray corrects his recent post about layoffs at Lot18.

In Four Seasons Magazine, Nick Passmore highlights some “easygoing wines [that] have plenty of personality.”

Standing Up for Sauvignon Blanc

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 06-26-2012

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country.

All the columns are housed at, the fastest growing wine portal on the Internet. If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David- at

My latest column — where I stick up for the often-maligned Sauvignon Blanc — went out this morning.

Standing Up for Sauvignon Blanc

Poor Sauvignon Blanc.

For years, some of America’s most prominent wine critics have bashed the grape. In Slate Magazine, Sauvignon Blanc was once described as “maddeningly dull.” Wine Enthusiast’s West Coast editor has criticized the grape for failing to elicit “profound excitement.”

Hogwash. Like every wine grape, Sauvignon Blanc demands the right soil, the appropriate climate, and a skilled winemaker. When those demands are met, the grape can produce remarkably fresh, complex wines, capable of expressing a sense of place and provoking emotion.

Whether paired with a simple green salad, enjoyed on a hot summer day with ceviche, or consumed as an aperitif, Sauvignon Blanc can be delightful. And in July and August, it’s hard to find a better match for the weather.

I’ve had two “aha” moments with Sauvignon Blanc. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: More Flavorful

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-26-2012

In his latest column, Andrew Jefford explains why Bordeaux’s best wines are marked by “finesse and elegance.”

Uploaded to flickr by judepics.

According to a study presented at the national conference of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, wines with higher alcohol levels come across as “far more flavorful and interesting” than low-alcohol wines when tasted together. Since points sell wines, this could help explain rising alcohol levels in California and elsewhere.

Isaac James Baker tastes Virginia’s “best” wines, thanks to a tasting organized by Terroirist contributor Sarah Hexter. He was disappointed.

News-Sentinel staff writer Sara Jane Pohlman takes part in the newspaper’s “I’ll Do It” series by working in a Lodi vineyard.

Jancis Robinson recommends 25 great wines for under $15.

According to Boston University researchers, moderate drinkers are healthier and enjoy a higher quality of life than those who drink sparingly.

From Business Day WANTED, a magazine in South Africa, a great interview with Glen Carlou winemaker Arco Laarman. (As regular readers know, we interviewed Laarman last June.)

In France, a plot of 200-year-old vines has “just been classified a Monument Historique, the first time a vineyard has been awarded the distinction.” As Wine Enthusiast summarizes, “the vines are ungrafted, bearing a mix of 20 red and white varieties, including Tannat, Muscadelle and Servadou.”

Steve Heimoff ponders the meaning of “super expensive Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Daily Wine News: Wachau

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 06-25-2012

Wine Spectator gets to the bottom of CrushPad’s possible insolvency.

Vines planted near the ancient ruins in Wachau. Wikimedia Commons.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné writes about the “new era” of winemaking in the Wachau region of Austria.

Richard Jennings writes a great essay on the wines of Cayuse Vineyards.

“A bottle of wine bearing the Kermit Lynch name is practically a quality guarantee.” In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague writes an excellent profile of Kermit Lynch.

Elsewhere, Teague profiles Pepe Raventós, a Cava producer who is aiming to make “the best high-mineral-content sparkling wine in the world.”

In the International Herald Tribune, Eric Pfanner praises the unusual wines of Rosé des Riceys. Meanwhile, on his blog, he writes about the soaring sales of rosé in France.

“What has made Tuscany such an exciting region in terms of the wines produced is that the winemakers there have had to rediscover everything.” In the Wall Street Journal Europe, Will Lyons writes about the wines of Chianti.

GrapeRadio chats with Abrie Beeslaar, winemaker for Kanonkop Estate.

Newstalk ZB reports on new research from Auckland University which challenges “the traditional view that hand picking of grapes is needed to produce the best wine.”

Alder Yarrow tastes dozens of Hungarian wines.

“Canned beer is making a comeback.” Esquire’s Sylvie Krekowa has the data.

From Edward Deitch of, “ten of this summer’s best rosés.”

Jeff Siegel wonders why people (like W. Blake Gray) continue to ask if “cheap wine bad for the wine business.”

Wine Reviews: Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-23-2012

This week’s wine reviews. All wines were received as press samples and tasted in a single-blind format. 

Review: 2010 Robert Oatley Cabernet Sauvignon James Oatley TIC TOK
Australia, New South Wales, Central Ranges, Mudgee
SRP: $15. Ripe, bright, juicy, and fruity, this wine would definitely be a crowd pleaser. While not terribly complex, the wine is marked by maraschino cherries, crushed blackberries, fresh soil, and dark chocolate, and it’s well balanced. (89 pts.) 

Review: 2008 Twigs Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva
Argentina, Mendoza, Maipú
SRP: $15. On the nose, more oak than fruit – and neither the oak nor the fruit smell very expensive. With a struggle, one can find plums, raspberries, and tar. The palate does little to improve the nose. (<85 pts.) 

Review: 2007 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County
SRP: $65. On the nose, a beautiful Cabernet. Fresh blackberries and raspberries, chocolate, rhubarb, dried herbs, and sweet spices. The mouthfeel is lush but also shows great restraint; it’s both concentrated and light on its feet. An excellent wine. (93 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon
Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $18. Very dark, ripe nose that smells a bit too much like a Ruby Port. Black currant, licorice, plums, and blackberry, with some dirt and bitter herbs underneath. On the palate, the wine has a nice mouth feel, but the fruits are too ripe and a bit of heat shows itself. (86 pts.) 

Review: 2008 Viña Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Medalla Real Gran Reserva
Chile, Central Valley, Maipo Valley
SRP: $20. The nose explodes with sweet red cherries, plum juice, crème de cassis, and some oddly tart soil. On the palate, the wine is lush, fresh, and well balanced. A nice wine. (89 pts.) 

Review: 2008 Pepper Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley
USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
SRP: $55. A beautiful nose that smells more like Napa than Bordeaux, but with great characteristics from both. Blackberries, black currant, and plums meet graphite, coffee, and a hint of lavender and fresh flowers. The tannins are a bit aggressive, but nonetheless, a very nice wine. (92 pts.) 

Review: 2008 Joubert-Tradauw R62
South Africa, Klein Karoo, Calitzdorp, Tradouw
SRP: $20. The nose is dark and musty, marked by freshly laid tar, bitter herbs, almonds, and under-ripe blackberries. On the palate, some nice fruits and more herbs show through – reminding me of an old-school Bordeaux. A very interesting wine. (87 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Cabernet Sauvignon Los Vascos Grande Réserve
Chile, Central Valley, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
SRP: $17. On the nose, sweet cherry juice, plums, and black pepper, along with some heat. The palate is simple and pleasant. (87 pts.) 

Review: 2008 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley
USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $45. The nose is muted but incredibly appealing. Fleshy, pulpy plums and black currant, wild herbs, graphite. The palate is harmonious, with mouth-watering acid and a lingering finish. (92 pts.) 

Review: 2009 Jacob’s Creek/Orlando Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast, Coonawarra
SRP: $13. The nose smells medicinal – think sweet cherry Robitussin with a shot of alcohol. The palate is a big improvement, but the wine tastes artificial. (<85 pts.) 

Review: 2008 Amavi Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
SRP: $29. The nose is fascinating. Fresh beets and sweat meet ripe berries, black currant, cocoa, and dirt. The palate has great depth, firm tannins, and great acidity. (91 pts.) 

Review: 2008 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County
SRP: $65. On the nose, wild blackberries, bright red fruits, flowers, cedar, along with some fascinating notes of coconut and chili peppers. On the palate, the wine is simpler than one would expect, and the tannins threaten to overwhelm the wine. Nonetheless, quite tasty. (91 pts.)