Wine Reviews: California Grab Bag Reds

Posted by | Posted in Uncategorized, Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-04-2015

It’s the dead of summer and it’s hot here in the District. These days, white and pink wines are my go-to. That said, drinking juicy California red wines and grilling out on a summer day is something of a patriotic duty for the American wine lover. And what better day than the Fourth of July to crack some Cali Zin, Petite Sirah or Charbono and toast to the good ol’ US of A?

These diverse wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

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Wine Reviews: California Merlot

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-27-2015

A decade ago a character in some movie made some comment about Merlot sucking. All of the sudden, poor Merlot was persona non grata.

Not sure what all the fuss was about because Merlot can be a beautiful thing. Sure, there’s plenty of uninspiring Merlot, but replace the word Merlot with any grape and the same thing would be true.

Luckily for me, this bunch of California Merlots contained a few really good ones. The wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Lodi Native: Redefining Old Vine Zinfandel

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-20-2015

Lodi is home to a ton of Zinfandel, 111,000 tons, actually. In 2011, that amounted to 32% of all Zin grown in California, according to Wines of Lodi California, a trade group. But in this historically rich region between Sacramento and Stockton, the best juice comes from single vineyards of old gnarly vines.

To highlight these old vine treasures, six winemakers have teamed up under the Lodi Native umbrella, producing six different single-vineyard Zinfandels (most of them from Lodi’s Mokelumne River appellation). The idea is to let these old vines speak as clearly as possible about their roots, so the wines are all fermented with native yeasts, and they get no new oak, fining or filtration. The bottles are sold as a $180 six-pack from the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center. Together, they comprise a master class in old vine Zinfandel goodness.

During a recent online video tasting, Stuart Spencer, winemaker at Lodi’s St. Amant Winery, said the Lodi Native team hopes to elevate the region as a whole and broaden the picture of what’s being made in Lodi. And these winemakers have all sorts of ancient vine Zinfandel sites to choose from, with many historic vineyards remaining “undiscovered,” Spencer said. “There are really some treasures out here in these acres of Zinfandel vines.”

I was really impressed with this project’s first vintage, 2012, and the Lodi Native crew has done it again in 2013. If you’re used to candied, bruiser, oak-slathered Zins, you may be surprised by the freshness, vibrancy and silkiness of these old vine beauties.

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

Wine Reviews: California Syrah

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-13-2015

The Rhone Rangers are coming to the District next week for a big shindig, and I can’t wait. The grand tasting offers up a chance to taste some 80 Rhone-inspired wines from 20-plus producers. To get the celebration started early, this week we’re looking at a bunch of California Syrahs.

I was very impressed with this whole lot (which includes wines from the 2009-2012 vintages). For my palate, the earthy, pepper, spicy Syrahs from Baker Lane took the cake, but I thoroughly enjoyed sipping all of these.

The wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Willamette Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-06-2015

Willamette Valley Pinot Noir needs no introduction. This week, we’re taking a look at a few solid examples from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages. Honestly, I didn’t find a mediocre wine, although the elegance and complexity of the 2011 Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve wowed me the most.

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

Wine Reviews: American Rosé

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-30-2015

American consumers love rosé. They’ve been drinking more of it and American winemakers are producing more of their own as well. This is one of my favorite wine consumer trends of late. The more rosé that’s consumed, produced and imported, the more good rosé will rise to the top.

Of course, summer and rosé go together like, well, the sun and the beach. While I enjoy rosé year-round, especially in the dead of winter to psyche myself into a warmer weather mindset, there’s no denying that classic refreshing character of a cool glass of pink on a hot day.

Lately, we’ve received a diverse selection of American rosés, including two delicious offerings from Virginia, and some pink Pinot and Syrah goodness from California.

These wines, all from the 2014 vintage, were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: California Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-23-2015

Since our last look at California Pinot Noir, I’ve had the chance to taste through a wide range of interesting Pinots — and I found a few beauties.

To generalize widely, the 2012s I’ve tasted seem to need more time to open up, although they’re full of very attractive fruit. The 2013s seem a bit more approachable young, showing a slightly fresher approach but still plenty of concentration.

For me, the Dierberg single-vineyard Pinots (made by Tyler Thomas) stood out for their elegance, beautiful fruit, and lip-smacking freshness. But I found quite a few other impressive Pinots in this crew, and there are some richer, chewier wines as well.

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

Wine Reviews: California White Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-15-2015

Let’s take a break from Chardonnay and focus on some other white wine options from California. Though I love Cali Chard, it’s exciting to come across a diverse group of Gewürztraminer, Riesling  Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc from the Golden State. I enjoy California whites year round, but warm weather makes these wines even more attractive.

This grab bag of California whites was received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Australia

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-09-2015

From high-end, vineyard-designated bottles to entry-level offerings, California winemakers are teaming up with Australian growers and vintners in a series of intercontinental projects — and some of the results are impressive.

First off, we have a duo of delicious reds from Hickinbotham Clarendon Vineyard. This project brings together Australian winemaker Charlie Seppelt, whose family owns the Barossa institution Seppeltsfield, and Napa winemaker Chris Carpenter, who makes some stellar Napa Cabernet for Cardinale, La Jota and Mt. Brave. Dating back to 1971, fruit from this McLaren Vale vineyard has found its way into Clarendon Hills and the iconic Penfold’s Grange. These two wines retail for around $75 a pop, but they pack loads of depth, complexity and cellar potential.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have a new project from Jacob’s Creek called Two Lands. Long known for their inexpensive, simple, fruity regional blends, this Aussie powerhouse has teamed up with Ehren Jordan, winemaker at California’s Failla — hence the “Two Lands” moniker. The fruit is sourced from a wide array of vineyard sites, including Padthaway, Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills. I found this partnership interesting and unexpected, but at $14 a bottle, they’re putting out some good quality wines. I could see these wines faring well on by-the-glass lists, or they could serve as a good stepping stone for those just starting their Australian wine explorations.

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

Wine Reviews: Murphy-Goode Cabernet

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-02-2015

On my first trip to Sonoma, my younger sister and I stopped into Murphy-Goode’s tasting room in Healdsburg. We were in the area for my brother’s wedding, and before driving up to the Mendocino coast, we visited a few tasting rooms and soaked up the aura of Sonoma goodness.

All wine tourists have similar stories about their delicious discoveries and rich memories, which linger long after the take-home bottles have been cellared and emptied. This is part of the reason I look fondly on Murphy-Goode wines, those purple labels and playful proprietary names.

I’ve enjoyed M-G’s Chardonnay aged in Minnesota oak, their Sauvignon Blanc and their juicy, fruit-forward Zinfandel. But Murphy-Goode makes some impressive Cabernet Sauvignons as well, sourcing grapes from vineyards in Alexander and Knights Valleys.

I recently tasted through four 2012 Cabernets from Murphy-Goode, all of which are 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, no Merlot or Cab Franc chasers. For me, the Terre a Lago was just a step above the rest in complexity and depth, but all the wines share a focus on rich currant and plum fruit along with notes of sweet cola and eucalyptus. They’re structured solidly, and all of them were more expressive on day two. Despite their youthful deliciousness, I think they could use a few years in the cellar.

These four bottles were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »