Wine Reviews: Wakefield – Clare Valley

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-24-2016

CsexdcWUIAACvwZEarlier this year, I reviewed some new releases from Southern Australia’s Wakefield. Well, I’m back to Wakefield again, and this reports includes some really solid buys from the mid-shelf offerings. If you’ve turned away from Australian wines generally, it might be worth turning to Wakefield wines specifically. These wines in this report are moderately priced and highly delicious, showing a stylistic trend toward brighter acidity and fresher fruit.

The Taylor family kicked off their winery in 1969, after scoring a 430-acre vineyard near the Wakefield River in Southern Australia’s Clare Valley region. These wines are known as Taylor’s in Australia but, due to trademark restrictions, they’re labeled as Wakefield in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Clare Valley wines all come from the Taylor family estate, where vineyards at more than 1,100 feet above sea level vineyards get plenty of sun but receive the benefit if large diurnal temperature swings. The St. Andrews wines come from the estate fruit grown in their terra rossa soil, while the Jaraman wines are blended with fruit from other sites.

And for those looking to splurge, Wakefield has some stunning high-end reds, the Pioneer Shiraz and Visionary Cabernet. I reviewed these wines in November 2015. Spoiler: they are amazing.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
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Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-17-2016

It’s time for another grab bag of wine reviews from all over this great big sphere of ours. This batch includes wines from New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Italy and Southern France. We’ve got some serious values in here, as well.

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

Wine Reviews: Ernest Vineyards

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-03-2016

I’m a huge fan of Sonoma Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and now I have another exciting producer to  follow.

Ernest Vineyards focuses on single vineyard-designated Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. The brand was established in 2012 by husband-wife team Todd Gottula and Erin Brooks, who work with Sonoma growers and their winemaking team to produce wines from sites throughout the Green River, the larger Russian River AVA and the West Sonoma Coast. The wines are produced at a custom crush facility called Punchdown Cellars, but Erin and Todd have plans to launch their own facility, called Grand Cru, in the summer of 2017.

I loved both of the Chardonnays, but the Pinot Noirs are even better. The wines sport a low 12.5% alcohol, but these lighter-bodied wines are by no means lacking in structure, flavor or depth. For those Pinot-lovers who tend toward the zesty, red-fruited, earthy style, Ernest wines are worth checking out. They do use a good amount of new French oak (about 30-40%), but that seems to be the perfect amount for my palate — accentuating and harmonizing the wine but not stealing the show.

“Todd and Erin pride themselves on making Burgundian-style wines with bright acid, low alcohol, and balanced flavor,” their website proclaims. A bold statement, but the wines back it up. I thought all four of these wines were delicious, crisp, complex and flawlessly executed. Ernest Vineyards is one to watch if you appreciate Sonoma producers of this style.

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

Wine Reviews: California White Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-27-2016

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, blends, this report features a bunch of California white wines from all over the state. The Dragonette Cellars Duvarita Vineyard 2014 was shockingly good, while Sonoma Chardonnay purveyor La Pitchoune continues to impress me with their 2013s. Toss in some newly-released Sauvignon Blancs and a few blends, and you’ve got a nice selection of late summer sippers.

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

Wine Reviews: California Bordeaux Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-20-2016

Yes, California Cabernet is king, but this report includes some solid examples of Merlot, Malbec and Bordeaux varietal blends. Actually, a Malbec in this report blew me away with its awesomeness.

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

Wine Reviews: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-13-2016

Ready to dig into some Willamette Valley Pinot Noir? My answer to that question will always be a resounding yes.

The majority of these releases hail from the 2014 vintage, a year heralded by many Willamette Valley winemakers as historic in its high quality. With record-breaking quantities of heat and plenty of sun, the Pinot grapes were ripe and the crop was bountiful. Some growers reporting a 40% increase in crop size from the 2013 vintage. But the quality of the fruit is high, and the wines I’ve tasted don’t stray into overripe territory.

“Never seen the likes of it in 25 years,” Doug Tunnell of Brick House Wine Company told WineBusiness.com. “I’m sure we’ll look back at 2014 as a rare gift.”

A stellar vintage like 2014 provides a perfect lens through which to examine Willamette Valley Pinot Noir in the entry level range. And I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of vibrant, juicy, complex and delicious Pinots that cost less than $30. These wines tend to drink best young, but even the basic wines show good structure. A lot of higher-end 2014s will improve dramatically in the cellar, methinks. Some 2013 Pinots in this report showed very well, too.

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

Wine Reviews: Summer Grill-Out Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-06-2016

It’s the dog days of summer in the mid-Atlantic, and it’s been hot and humid for as long as I can remember. When I’m done pounding H20 all day long, I generally uncork bubbles or white or pink wine.

That said, if you’re firing up a grill, red wines should probably be involved, no matter the weather conditions. I recently tasted through a wide array of California red wines that should pair nicely with summertime meals, parties and grill-outs. From Petite Sirah to Zin blends to Rhone reds, there are some goodies in this report, many of which are reasonably priced.

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

Wine Reviews: Virginia Governor’s Cup

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-30-2016

I’ve been tasting the Virginia Governor’s Cup wines for a few years now, and the 2016 winners are the best bunch yet. This year, judges winnowed their top 12 from about 430 bottles for the Virginia Governor’s Cup Case. The current batch of winners provides a great tool for discovering what’s happening in this dynamic wine-producing state.

While some of my favorite producers do not submit wines for the competition (Linden, RdV), there are plenty of intriguing and delicious Virginia wines in this tasting.

This case demonstrates, in my view, two important takeaway points about Virginia wine. 1) Meritage blends, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot are the raw materials for some really solid wines that offer a unique patch to the quilt of American wines made from Bordeaux grapes. 2) Petit Manseng (made in both dry and sweet styles) is the most exciting white wine being produced in the state, and Virginia seems like the perfect place to unpack this grape’s richness and bracing acidity.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: California Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-23-2016

We’re back with more California Pinot Noir! Since my last report, I’ve tasted through a range of Cali Pinots. This batch is stacked with goodies.

This report includes some stunners from three excellent Sonoma producers: Three Sticks, La Pitchoune, and Alma Fria. I find the latter to be a seriously impressive effort, and their Chardonnay is amazing, too.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. (The rosé was tasted sighted.) Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Arinzano

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-16-2016

IMAG394d1Sancho Fortuñones de Arínzano first produced wine in this Navarra site in the 11th Century. So, yeah, there’s some history behind this special spot.

Arinzano received a Vino de Pago classification in 2007, a heralded designation for certain estate-grown and produced Spanish wines.The vines are planted in loam, sand and limestone soils in a cooler area of the Pyrennes, and the vines climb to 1,600 feet.

In brief, these wines are exciting and delicious. Vibrant, bright, complex, full of earthy spice and complexity. And, considering the price, Arinzano is easy to explore.

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