Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-24-2019

This week, I’m back with a catch-all report of wines I received these past few months but didn’t get around to reviewing until recently. (It’s been a busy and enjoyable summer, and I hope the same is true for you.)

Anyway… Smith-Madrone’s Spring Mountain wines are consistently some of my favorite from Napa, and I love their Chardonnay and Riesling in particular. So, since I tasted these wines sighted, I tried to approach them with as much skepticism as possible. That said, the 2016s showed wonderfully. Crystal clear, pristine wines, and both are worthy for serious cellar time. Especially considering the price, I’m still amazed these wines exist.

C.V.N.E. comes through with some moderately-priced Riojas worth checking out. And Italy’s Garafoli provides three wines from Marche that offer some deliciousness and intrigue for the price.

Lastly, Virginia’s Early Mountain delivers a juicy red quaffer that’s perfect for late summer evenings.

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

Wine Reviews: Cartograph Wines

Posted by | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 08-10-2019

Cartograph dates back to around 2009, when founders Alan Baker and Serena Lourie came to Healdsburg with two barrels of Pinot Noir.

Alan had been making his own wines at CrushPad, the San Francisco custom crush facility. Drawing on his tech consulting experience, he also oversaw CrushPad’s online platform, Crushnet. It was at this facility where he met Serena Lourie (whose background was in healthcare administration, technology and finance), and they came up with the idea for Cartograph. In 2016 Alan and Serena purchased their first vineyard, 10 acres of Pinot Noir near Sebastopol and Cotati.

This was my first time tasting Cartograph wines, and it was a very pleasant experience tasting these wines together and seeing the nuanced differences, but also the stylistic similarities. The Pinot Noirs are fresh and lively, and the fruit has this fresh, red, early-picked quality, while maintaining the juiciness and fruitiness that you’d expect from Russian River Pinot. The inaugural vintage of their Estate Pinot Noir is something special, a really bright, elegant, floral, spicy Pinot. And their sparkling wines are on the leaner, zippier side, while showing solid complexity and depth.

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

Wine Reviews: California Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-03-2019

I’m back this week with a diverse handful of newly-released California reds.

I’ve long been a fan of Adam Lee’s Siduri Pinot Noirs. It was purchased by Jackson Family a few years ago, but based on this and other tastings, I’ve found the aesthetic seems to be staying true to form. Adam’s first Siduri Pinot was producer from Anderson Valley fruit, and while tasting two 2017s, I was reminded about what drew me to these wines in the first place.

Napa’s Frank Family comes through with a Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon that bring a lot of personality for wines in their respective price ranges. And Louis Martini’s Sonoma and Napa Cabernets show themselves as accessible, fun but also “serious” wines that offer lots of value.

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

Wine Reviews: Wines for a Scorching Summer

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-20-2019

thumbnail (3)Honestly, summer is my least favorite season. I make the most of it, sure, and I spend as much time outdoors as possible. But I’m prone to heat exhaustion and, and it’s going to reach 100 degrees in DC as I publish this. Eek.

So, I’ll be consuming massive amounts of water and hiding away in air conditioning today. During weather like this, except for the rare Beaujolais and a few other lighter reds, I rarely touch the stuff. Whites, bubbles and pinks are my go-to selections. I’ve received a lot of wines that fit this bill recently.

St. Urbans-Hof delivers two very different Rieslings that bring some serious value. And Oregono’s Troon wows me again with their new Granito Vermentino. Ramey’s new Fort Ross-Seaview Chardonnay is something to behold.

And I’ve also reviewed a variety of rosés from the States and France. And Virginia makes an appearance as well, as I have two wines from one of my favorite producers in the Commonwealth (Early Mountain).

Stay hydrated and cool, folks! These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »