Wine Reviews: Northeast Italy

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-13-2019

I’m changing things up with a brief trek across some wine regions of Northeast Italy.

First off: I love wines from the Friuli appellation of Collio. I find the best to be super fresh, mineral-driven, spicy, brisk, and there’s a ton of value to find here.

And the Felluga family of Friuli has some solid offerings in this tasting. The Russiz Superiore wines, located in the Collio municipality of Capriva del Friuli, are exciting and delicious wines, and great examples of what I like about this region.

I also tasted some wines from Scaia (the second label of Veneto producer Tenuta Sant’Antonio). They produce a pair of value-driven, accessible wines with broad appeal and light price points.

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

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-06-2019

To all my fellow Americans, I hope you had a great Fourth of July. I celebrated Independence Day by going to a baseball game with my daughter, grilling out, and cracking open a few interesting American wines. Speaking of American wines, I have a lot of California wines that have piled up in recent weeks, so here goes!

Long-time readers may recognize Santa Ynez Valley producer Kita, whose wines I’ve found exciting, balanced and full of intrigue. Made by Tara Gomez and sourced largely from the Camp 4 Vineyard, which her Chumash Tribe owns, I’ve been blown away by these wines for about five years now, and they continue to excel. Tara and her wife, Catalan-born winemaker Mireia Taribo, also have a new project called Camins 2 Dreams. I tried their Santa Rita Hills Gruner and Syrah for this report, and these wines have so much personality.

I also got to taste the first two vintages of Mount Peak Winery’s Sentinel Cabernet Sauvignon. From winemaker Mark Williams, these are blended from different Sonoma fruit sources, including Monte Rosso Vineyard, and some Napa fruit as well. These are massively hedonistic wines, but they’re undeniably delish. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Alentejo White Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-22-2019

thumbnail (16)When I visited Portugal’s Alentejo wine region last summer, I arrived expecting to taste a ton of red wines — which, surely, I did, as red grapes make up the vast majority of those planted in Alentejo. But I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the white wines (which I wrote about in this column).

Antão Vaz leads the pack in terms of quantity and, I think, quality. This indigenous white variety does well in the hot and arid climate of Alentejo. It’s frequently blended with other indigenous Portuguese varieties like Arinto (for some crisp acidity), along with others like Gouveio,and Roupeiro.

When tasting some of these white wines, I find they pop with regional authenticity. Winemakers craft Antão Vaz and other Alentejo white blends in a variety of styles, from steely, leaner ones, to skin-contact wines made in amphorae, to creamier, barrel-fermented wines. And I think that diversity is on display in the wines I tasted for this report, which I received as samples and tasted sighted.

There are a few red wines included in here, as well as a ringer from the Douro, made by Alentejo-based producer Esporão. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Oregon

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-15-2019

It’s been a while since I’ve focused on some Oregon wines, but this week I have some special bottles that remind me why I fell in love with Oregon in the first place.

I’ve written a lot in the past about Troon Vineyard’s Applegate Valley wines over the years. With an organic and biodynamic approach and a seemingly endless desire to experiment with different varieties, blends, and styles, I’m always excited to see what they come up with next.

This was my first time tasting wines from Hazelfern Cellars, and I was immediately impressed. This is a family effort of husband-wife duo Bryan and Laura Laing, who founded this project in 2014. They started making wine together in their Portland basement in 2006 — fast forward to 2015, when they planted an estate vineyard with Pinot Noir, Gamay and Trousseau in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. If these two Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are any sign, they have things honed in remarkably well. Seems to me a winery to watch in the future.

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

Wine Reviews: California

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-08-2019

This week I have a big bundle of new releases from all over California.

Amici Cellars has been around for years, and I’ve found them to be a source of consistent, moderately-priced staples like Russian River Pinot and Napa Sauvignon Blanc. Their sister label Olema focuses on value-driven wines, and they’re quite good for the price.

Sonoma’s Jordan Winery comes through again with their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, while Napa stalwart Shafer comes out swinging with their 2017 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay.

I also tasted a handful of wines from Morgan, which began back in 1982. Sourcing fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands and Monterey, these wines offer lots of juicy fruit but show elegance and freshness as well. And they really deliver for the price. A few wines from FEL, Mi Sueno and Luck Rock Wine Co. round out this report.

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

Wine Reviews: Virginia

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-01-2019

I love Virginia wine, and not just because I live in DC and spend a lot of time there. Virginia wine is such a dynamic scene that it’s grown hard to keep up with. But, I try.

In this report, I tasted a lot of 2018 rosés. It seems like almost everyone in Virginia made some pink wine in 2018, and that makes sense. It was a difficult, historically wet year, but I was surprised at the quality of some of these wines.

I also tasted through a few new releases from Stinson Vineyard, who continues to produce some of my favorite wines from Virginia.

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 05-18-2019

This week I have a few wines from around the globe that didn’t fit nicely into a larger tasting theme. But, these are wines I want to highlight for several reasons.

Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet is a producer I’ve grown to associate with quality wines and very low prices, and the 2018 “Virgen” red blend for $13 is a great example.

M. Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut label returns once again with an exceptional L’Esquerda red blend. And I also enjoyed some wines from Maryland’s Big Cork Vineyards, a reliably good producer in this state.

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

Wine Reviews: Champagne Palmer

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-11-2019

thumbnail (2)It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed some Champagne here, so I’m excited to dig back in! This week, I’m tasting some wines from Champagne Palmer.

Champagne Palmer is a cooperative that formed 70 years ago, a combined effort between seven growers in the Montagne de Reims region. They now source wine from hundreds of growers in more than forty different crus. About half of those vineyards are Grand and Premier Crus in the Montagne de Reims, while their other vineyards are located in the Côte de Sézanne, Côte des Bar and Marne Valley.

Cellar Master Xavier Berdin and his four oenologists use three different perpetual reserves (or soleras) to add depth and spice to their wines. The nonvintage cuvées are aged at least three years, while the vintage cuvées spend six to eight years on the lees.

These wines are relatively new to the U.S. market, so I was excited to taste them. I wasn’t disappointed. Don’t let the CM (Coopérative-Manipulant) scare you away — these are precise, zesty, elegant, complex wines. I found a lot of deliciousness and character in these wines, and I’d feel confident recommending them to any American Champagne lover looking for something new.

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

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-04-2019

This week, I’ve got another roundup of new releases from all over California.

I recently tasted two wines (an Albarino and a Gamay Noir) from Eighty Four wines. This Shafer side project, based in Carneros and named after the year in which Doug Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez began working together, has impressed me in the past, and these two wines continue that trend.

Well-known producer Cliff Lede’s new Sauv Blanc and Cab Sauv have a lot to offer, while Frank Family’s new Carneros Pinot and Chard consistently deliver.

South African-born winemaker Graham Weerts, who now makes his home in Sonoma, produced two solid wines under the Legacy label. And a few exciting wines from Lodi make an appearance in this report as well, including a thrilling, old-vine Carignan.

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

Wine Reviews: 2018 Rosés

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-28-2019

It’s Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the pink wines have started piling in. As such, this will be the one of several rosé reports this Spring/Summer, I’m sure. But this first batch has some real goodies.

I’m a big fan of Rioja producer C.V.N.E., and they make two different pinks that are seriously good for the money.

Most of the other rosés are from California, based on grapes like Pinot Noir, Grenache, Cabernet, Aglianico. Three non-saignée rosés from Sonoma’s Inman Family really wowed me. Inman started off the Endless Crush wines 15 years ago, making a single-vineyard wine from Olivet Grange Vineyard, but the winery has since expanded to include two other vineyard-designated pinks. They share bright, mineral-driven appeal and juicy fruit, but each has its own nuances and seasonings.

Lastly, there’s an exciting Pinot Noir rosé from Oregon producer Gran Moraine, whose wines have really impressed me over the years.

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