Wine Reviews: Alsace

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-19-2018

If I trace my love for wine all the way back, it starts in Alsace. I was living in the far southwestern corner of Germany, in boarding school for 11th and 12th grades, and Alsace was a quick trip. I made a few excursions into quaint villages there, scarfing down (and swooning over) the local food, hiking around steep hills — I was enthralled by the way vineyards carved their place into the hillsides, all over the place.

As I hiked, I noticed vineyards planted into what looked like pure rock, and there were so many different kinds of rocks and chunks of earth that changed from ridge to ridge. Each nook and cranny was different. After a hike, I walked into a bistro in a small village, ordered a bowl of French onion soup, and asked if the bartender had any wine from the huge vineyard that climbed up the steep hills above town. I spoke no French and he almost no English (there was much pointing and gesturing), but I was served a glass of white wine I understood came from the vineyard I had just walked past.

My teenage mind was blown away at this concept. I don’t remember the wine, I think it was a Riesling, and I had no idea how to evaluate or appreciate it in any serious sense. But it was delicious. And, more importantly, it instilled in me a desire to find more about this relationship between specific places and their wines.

All this to say, to this day, I have a special appreciation for wines from Alsace. They continue to intrigue and excite me, so I’m always happy to review more of them. This week, I have a range of wines from Alsace, all hailing from the extended Pinot family (Noir, Gris, Blanc). Like a lot of wines from this region, they can be moderately priced, considering the high quality.

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

Digging into Adam Lee’s New Clarice Pinots

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-12-2018

Credit: Richard Green Photography

Credit: Richard Green Photography

California winemaker Adam Lee’s next chapter is just beginning. And things are looking good.

After 11 years, Adam and his wife, Dianna Novy Lee, sold their Siduri label to Jackson Family Wines in 2015. Adam agreed to stay on for three years, but he’s also been busy kicking off a different venture.

Named after his grandmother and inspiration, under the Clarice label Adam produces Pinot Noirs from two exquisite sites, Gary’s Vineyard and Rosella’s, both located in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation of Central California. Having worked with both of these vineyards since their first crop (Gary’s in 1999 and Rosella’s in 2001), Adam knows these vines very well and counts the growers as his good friends. From these sites, he crafts harmonious and delicious wines.

With this new project, Adam is taking a different approach to the marketing and sales. Here’s how it works. Clarice Family Club Members sign up for an annual subscription of $965 (broken into several payments over a few months to make it sting the bank account a bit less). Members get a case of Pinot in October, four bottles of each of Adam’s three wines: Gary’s Vineyard; Rosella’s Vineyard; and a Santa Lucia Highlands appellation wine that is blended from both Gary’s and Rosella’s Vineyards.

Adam also hopes to create something like a social media-savvy “extended wine family,” as he puts it. Members get special access to a portion of Clarice’s website, which will have plenty of wine-related content, and monthly articles from others in the wine business, who will address topics from label design to wine barrels to restaurant sales. There are also members-only Facebook and Instagram groups, where members can connect and share content.

“At Clarice Wine Company, I have decided that ‘selling wine’ isn’t what I like to do,” Adam says. “What I truly enjoy is the friendship, camaraderie, and sharing of knowledge and experiences that wine helps engender.”

Adam sent me barrel samples of the three Pinots he’ll be releasing to club members in October, and, I gotta say, they’re beautiful. Tasters of the finished wines are in for a treat.

He utilizes native yeast fermentation, and more than half of each wine comes from whole cluster fermentation. There’s plenty of juicy fruit, and a good amount of new oak, but the wines maintain a vibrant, lip-smacking style that reminds me of why I first fell for Adam’s Siduri Pinots almost a decade ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: New Releases from Virginia

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-05-2018

Having lived in the DC area for about a dozen years, I’ve been able to explore lots of wine country in Virginia, and I’ve seen quite a lot of change in that time. Not just the increase in the number of wineries and wines being produced (about 6.6 million bottles of Virginia wine was sold in 2016), but Virginia has seen more attention from consumers and tourists, newcomers making a scene, and benchmark producers continuing to excel.

I’m very much looking forward to tasting and reviewing the top 12 wines from the Virginia Governor’s Cup Awards soon (as I’ve done on this blog for the past three or four years), but, in the meantime, I’ve received a bunch of Virginia wine samples to highlight. Rosés, steely Chard, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and more, diversity in Virginia wine is a beautiful thing.

These wines were tasted sighted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Here Come the Rosés

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-28-2018

For American wine-lovers, Spring and Summer are prime time for pink wine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love rosé year round. I’ve actually developed a tradition of opening a good rosé on the first big snowstorm of the winter, and it’s a lot of fun. But the shelves of your local wine shop are surely piling up with various pink wines from all over the world, so you should have plenty of options to choose from.

I’ve been receiving lots of rosé wines, so I gathered some up and tasted through them, hoping to find some good ones to share. (Spoiler alert: I did.) These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. It’s not even May yet, so I’m sure I’ll have another round of rosé reviews in the next two months or so. (Literally as I was writing this, I received a knock on the door with, drumroll, more rosé samples to sign for.)

If there’s a bubble to burst in American consumers’ love for the pink, it still has a ways to go. Check out these rosé wines from around the world below! Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: New Releases from Oregon

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-21-2018

I’m a huge Oregon wine-lover, and I’m always excited to taste what I can. The sample size this week is small, but the wines are all high quality examples.

The two new releases from Troon Vineyard (a Montepulciano and Sangiovese) are really exciting. Lighter in style (11.5 and 12.5% alcohol), the grapes are sourced from a vineyard in Applegate Valley, fermented with wild yeasts, and aged 12 months in all old French oak. I’ve long been a big fan of Troon’s Rhone variety wines, but, apparently, they can excel with all sorts of varieties.

Elouan, a new Oregon Pinot Noir project from well-known California winemaker, Joe Wagner, delivers a whole lot of Oregonian Pinot goodness for the price.

And the new vintage of Gran Moraine Chardonnay is an incredible follow-up to the 2014 vintage, and it reinforces my impression that this is a stunning Oregon Chardonnay, one to watch in the future for sure.

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

Wine Reviews: New Releases from California

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-14-2018

The California wines keep on comin’!

This week’s report includes four wines from Sonoma-based producer Smith Story, which is the project of husband-wife duo Eric Story and Ali Smith-Story. It was my first time tasting these wines, and I found a lot to like.

Eighty-Four offers up a few well-priced and exciting wines from Napa. A cooperative effort between Doug Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez, these varietal wines are named for the year in which they began making wine together, and they’re definitely worth seeking out.

Lastly, we have two 2016 offerings from Napa’s Frank Family (which further solidify my love for the 2016 vintage in Napa), and a big, delicious Cab from Kelly Fleming.

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

Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-07-2018

This week’s tasting report includes some value-driven wines from big-time New Zealand producer Kim Crawford, as well as some bright and zesty Verdicchios from Italy’s Marche region. Lastly, there’s a tasty Montefalco Rosso and a teeth-stainingly delicious Sagrantino as well.

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

Wine Reviews: Value from Argentina & Chile

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-31-2018

Argentina and Chile are goldmines of delicious, inexpensive wines, and here in America we receive a lot of different options.

I recently tasted through a bunch of $10-$20 wines from South America, and was impressed, as usual, with the diversity, quality and value.

There are a few Malbecs in this report, along with some really solid wines from Chilean heavyweight Concha y Toro’s Serie Riberas brand. And the sparkling wines from Mendoza’s Domaine Bousquet seem like a top contender for the inexpensive summer sparkling wine category.

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

Wine Reviews: New Releases from California

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-24-2018

Last month I reported on a range of new releases from California. Well, the samples keep pouring in, and we’re back for another round.

This week’s report has a nice spread, from zesty Sauvignon Blanc to big and bold Napa Cabernet. The Chardonnays from Stony Hill and Shafer steal the show, but Chalk Hill and La Crema bring some solid offerings to the table as well. And Shafer and Cliff Lede wow with their Stags Leap Cabernets, while a few other producers offer up moderately-priced and delicious wines.

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

Wine Reviews: Oregon’s Teutonic Wine Company

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-24-2018

3-20-2018 11-14-42 AMTeutonic Wine Company produces serious wines with a playful, adventurous aesthetic, exemplified by three wines in today’s report. Barnaby Tuttle and his wife Olga put their first vines in the ground in 2005, after a friend offered them her fallow land in Alsea, Oregon. Barnaby, a restaurant wine buyer with a serious love of German wines, left his career and started making his own wine at a shared facility in Carlton.

Teutonic’s first vintage was 2008, a small amount of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Production has increased since then, as the couple found new fruit from other vineyards in the Willamette Valley, focusing on high-elevation, old-vine sites. Today they produce about 6,000 cases of wine, including Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and others. With the exception of the red blend in this report, Teutonic’s wines are all single-vineyard wines.

I found the two whites really interesting and different: a Riesling blend bursting with tropical flavors, and a floral, spicy, dry Muscat. The red wine is produced in cooperation with Red Fang, a groovy doom metal band from Portland, Oregon. The band worked together with Teutonic to release “Red Fang Red,” which is a pretty cool and slightly oddball (in a good way) red wine that I was excited to taste.

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