Wine Reviews: Crémant d’Alsace

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-20-2014

If I could afford it, I’d drink Champagne always. But Crémant d’Alsace tends to be my go-to bubbly when I’m trying not to break the bank. I served a Crémant d’Alsace at my wedding last year, and it was a huge hit — and not very expensive.

I recently tasted through four Crémants d’Alsace and enjoyed all of them. These wines were received as trade samples and, because there were only four of them, tasted sighted.

Review: N.V. René Muré Crémant d’Alsace Brut- France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $18
Salty on the nose with some hazelnut, biscuits, quinine and crushed rocks. Fine bubbles, medium acid, some creaminess to the mouthfeel, stays lean and zippy though. Ruby red grapefruit and green apple mix with elements of cucumber water, minerals and limestone. Notes of graham cracker, vanilla and almond. Decent depth and length of finish, with elements of oyster shell. A blend of Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. (87 points)

Review: N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé- France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $20
Nose of white and red flowers, watermelon and strawberries. Very fizzy on the palate, this is a fun wine, but it’s neither deep nor complex. Tangy with flavors of watermelons, strawberries, lemons and some minerals. Seems like a crowd-pleasing pink bubbly. 100% Pinot Noir. (85 points)

Review: N.V. François Schmitt Crémant d’Alsace Blanc de Noirs Brut- France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $29
Crisp and clean aromas of oyster shell, flowers, white peach and white cherries. Creamy but tangy on the palate, the white cherry and apricot fruit is laced with oceanic elements of sea salt and oyster shell. Finishes with minerals and slight toast. 100% Pinot Noir From 40-year-old vines in Orschwihr. (87 points)

Review: N.V. Domaine Agape Crémant d’Alsace “Emotion” - France, Alsace, Crémant d’Alsace
SRP: $23
Smells like white flowers, green apple, toasted and salted nuts and. Big and creamy on the palate, but also fine and tangy. Green apple, white peach and some lime, the wine is also laced with minerals and toasted bread. Solid complexity and depth. (88 points IJB)

Lodi Native: Master Class in Old Vine Zin

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-13-2014

Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel.

Soucie Vineyard Zinfandel. Credit: Lodi Native.

When I heard about Lodi Native, I was instantly intrigued. Old vines, historic vineyards, minimalist winemaking, indigenous yeasts, no new oak, no fining or filtration. What’s not to love?

Through this collaborative effort, a group of winegrowers and vintners in the Mokelumne River AVA seeks to reclaim Lodi’s heritage by crafting complex, terroir-driven Zinfandels. The fruit comes from very old vines, some dating back to the late 1800s.

The team has released six wines from the 2012 vintage, all from Lodi’s Mokelumne River AVA. Tasting all six together, I was stunned by the tremendous variation in flavors and textures, and found it fascinating to dissect my perceptions of each wine. They’re all very high quality, and picking a favorite comes down to personal preference.

Collectively, these are some of the most thought-provoking Zinfandels I’ve tasted in a very long time. They’re deep, complex, lingering, surprisingly elegant and quite food-friendly. They comprise a master class in old vine Lodi Zinfandel.

The wines are only sold as a group; a six-bottle case goes for $180. They were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

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Wine Reviews: California Cabernet

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-30-2014

It seems Napa Valley will need a long time to recover from the recent earthquake. My heart goes out to everyone who was injured or sustained property damage. I’m saddened by all the social media images of broken library bottles, fallen wine barrels and spilled wine. But every year Napa vintners give us something to look forward to. Cabernet is Napa’s gift to the world, and I for one am thankful that so many people work so hard to make this great juice.

Many Napa Cabs appear in this report, but the wines come from all across California. They were received as trade samples and tasted single blind. Overall, I found this to be a high-quality crew, with some really beautiful standouts.

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Wine Reviews: Languedoc Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-23-2014

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of touring the Languedoc region of France. It was an eye-opening experience, and I found many underdog wines worth rooting for. Since my last tasting report on wines from the Languedoc, I’ve tasted through a few rosés and reds and found some impressive and interesting wines. Most of them are solid values as well.

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

Wine Reviews: Oregon Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-16-2014

If you love Chardonnay, you have to love Oregon, right? Every time I taste through Oregon Chardonnays, I become overtaken with joy. The combination of ripe fruit and zesty acid makes these wines easy to enjoy with food and pleasing to all sorts of palates. With the grilled veggies and seafood dishes I tend to cook during summer, Oregon Chardonnay is always welcome on my table.

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

Wine Reviews: Rhone Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-09-2014

It was Rhone wines that gave me the wine bug, and years later I’m still enthralled. The diversity of grapes, terroirs and winemaking styles is enough to keep even the nerdiest oenophile busy.

In this report, we’re focusing on some wines from both the Northern and Southern Rhone regions. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Gascony Whites

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-02-2014

It’s summer and I live in DC. This means white wine. But I don’t want something merely cold and crisp, I want something interesting and food-friendly. In this category, white wines from the Gascony region of Southwest France frequently deliver — and they’re cheap!

All of these wines come from the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony, perhaps better known for its spirits than its dry white wines. But if you’re in the market for value-driven, refreshing white wines to serve with salads, seafoods and patio parties, I’m not sure it gets much better than Gascony whites.

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

Wine Reviews: Hourglass

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-19-2014

At Hourglass, premium Napa Valley red is more than just Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Cabernets deserve serious credit, but Hourglass has been working on some great varietal expressions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec from the Blueline Vineyard in Calistoga.

2012 was the first full vintage for Hourglass’ winemaker Tony Biagi, who took over from renowned winemaker Bob Foley. It appears Tony arrived at a great time because 2012 was a good growing season, and the resulting wines show balance and depth. The 2013 vintage marks Hourglass’ first white wine, a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which I found refreshing and intriguing.

The new oak in these wines is nuanced and integrated, adding creaminess to the texture and accents to the fruit and earth flavors. But given the complexity of flavors, the structure and the balance, the oak never overpowers, at least for my palate.

These wines aren’t cheap, but they’re delicious and cellar-worthy. All of the wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted from 375ml bottles. The prices below represent the mailing list allocation cost for a 750ml bottle.

2013 Hourglass Sauvignon Blanc
A pale straw color. Crisp apple and lime aromas, orange blossom, honeysuckle, a striking amount of slate and minerals. Creamy and rich on the palate, but the acid cuts through with impressive power. Richer notes of apricot, honey and orange marmalade blend with elements of oyster shell, sea salt and minerals. Lots of concentration and depth here, this is a beauty of a Napa Sauv Blanc that refuses to fit in a stylistic box. Hourglass’ first shot with white wine, and they nailed it. This wine sees stainless steel as well as some new and old French oak. (91 points IJB)

2012 Hourglass Malbec Blueline
Generous purple color. Vibrant and playful aromas of deep plums and black currants laced with violets, cola and charcoal. On the palate, fine grained but grippy tannins meet with medium acid, almost crisp. Rich and boisterous, full of bright floral tones, this wine is plummy and packed with tart berries. There’s an underlying mix of cocoa powder, charcoal, vanilla bean, cola and black olive. Bold but elegant, this is impressive stuff that shows some solid aging potential. Aged 16 months in 40% new French oak, this wine also includes 25% Petite Verdot. (91 points IJB)

2012 Hourglass Merlot Blueline
Nose of roses, raspberries, caramel, roses, a lot of explosive ripe fruit but it’s backed up by earth and smoke, menthol and smoked meat. Full bodied but this wine shows an elegant texture with fine tannins and medium acid. I get berry compote, raspberries and dark plums; all the fruit is juicy but very tangy. Significant amount of mushroom, balsamic, soy, barbecue sauce and sweet floral elements. Chewy, elegant, rich, complex, this wine is all of these, with a long finish. Could use two to four years and I think this will develop for quite a while longer. Includes 5% Petite Verdot, this wine is aged 16 months in new and seasoned French oak. (93 points IJB)

2012 Hourglass Cabernet Franc Blueline
Deep and saucy on the nose, I get blueberry, blackberry and plums, but also lots of deep loam, granite, paved road and mushroom. On the palate, wow, this is just beautiful — medium acid, great concentration, dusty tannins. Full of tart blueberry and currant fruit, like crunching through the skins, but then the earth, charcoal, cedar and eucalyptus notes come in. The mushroom, granite and tobacco flavors need time to fully show themselves. Great structure here for aging. This sees 20 months in 40% new French oak. Gorgeous. (93 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Charly Nicolle’s Chablis

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-28-2014

Proprietor Charly Nicolle kicked off his domaine in 2004. He’s been expanding his vineyard holdings piece by piece since 1997, when he acquired one tenth of a hectare from his great-grandfather. Today Domaine Charly Nicolle tends 15 hectares of vines spread across several appellations, including Premier Crus and the Grand Cru Bougros.

Like many Chablis winemakers, Charly learned the ropes from his father, Robert, who runs Domaine de la Mandeliere. Charly still works with his father and the two domaines share a team of vineyard workers, but they each control different vines and make different wines.

Charly Nicolle’s wines are all fermented in stainless steel with natural yeasts. They have a clean feel with lots of verve, minerality and oceanic elements. The wines I tasted hailed from the 2012 vintage, except the 2011 Bougros. “The 2012 vintage is a very good one, rather round and aromatic,” Lucie Thieblemont, the domaine’s commercial director, explained in an email. “It has less acidity than the 2011, which makes it very pleasant to drink now, but might be not so good to keep long.”

The wines are indeed round and aromatic right now, but I’m thinking some of them could age well. All of the wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Robert Oatley Vineyards

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-21-2014

Robert Oatley Vineyards produces a wide range of value-driven, fan-friendly wines from vineyards across Australia. Founder Robert Oatley owned Rosemount Estate, the Australian wine giant whose wines can be found anywhere in America. It seems Robert is taking a more focused approach with this effort; he’s sourcing quality grapes from classic Australian appellations, and the results are delicious.

Robert Oatley Vineyards is run by Robert’s son, Sandy Oatley, and Larry Cherubino, of Cherubino Winery, directs the winemaking. They describe their wines as “authentically Australian wines intentionally suited to the American palate.”

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but my American palate enjoyed these wines quite a bit. And the prices are very attractive.

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