Maidenstoen: Exceptional Single-Vineyard Rieslings from California

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-17-2018

Michael Callahan has a thing for Riesling — an obsession, perhaps. But, as a Riesling-lover in general, and a big fan of California Riesling, I find it refreshing.

Michael, who works at Chamisal Vineyards, has scoured various Central Coast vineyards for Riesling, and has found some real beauties. Under his Maidenstoen label (which he started in 2013) Michael bottles single-vineyard Rieslings that speak clearly of their place. He seems to have set a mission with these wines: to pay homage to Riesling’s importance in the history of California wine, and to make sure Cali Riesling has a viable future.

“Although tastes change and financial decisions must be made, it is important to have advocates in order to keep some pieces of what California’s winegrowing history is,” Michael told me in an e-mail. “It is impossible to contribute to the greater world of wine without an understanding of our history and interpreting what is capable from our older vineyards. The story of California wine should be more than just Cabernet or whatever is selling for the most dollars.”

I say: Amen!

Even though dry Riesling has seen increased popularity with many consumers, Michael laments how some older Riesling vineyards in California have been pulled out or grafted to other varieties. The lower price that growers can fetch for their Riesling make it a difficult endeavor. But lovers of dry Riesling have a lot to get excited about when it comes to California. Though few and far between, there are some thrilling Rieslings out there. And (like these wines that cost $22 a pop), the quality to price ratio can be incredibly high.

Michael recently sent me three of his 2016 Rieslings, sourced from select vineyards in Sta. Rita Hills, Monterey and Edna Valley. My notes on these exceptional wines are below. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Rioja from CVNE

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-10-2018

I’m a Rioja evangelist. The history, the unique place in the spectrum of red (and white) wines, the quality and value available — these wines entice me. So I was excited to taste six different Riojas from CVNE.

Compañía Vinícola del Norte del España (the Northern Spanish Wine Company), dates back to 1879, when it was founded by two brothers from the Real de Asua family in Haro, Rioja Alta. You’ll see the wines referred to as “Cune” and hear the word spoken phonetically, which is based on an old misspelling that stuck.

Today the CVNE winery still sits on its original site and it is still controlled by direct descendants of the founding family. CVNE now encompasses four different wineries: CVNE, Imperial, Viña Real and Contino. The first Viña Real wines were launched in 1920, and the wines are made from grapes grown in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa province.

I tasted three wines apiece from CVNE and Viña Real, and was blown away again by the high quality, relatively low price points, and aging potential of these wines. If you’re looking to stock your cellar with some Tempranillo-based wines, without breaking the bank, check out CVNE.

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

Wine Reviews: Colorado Governor’s Cup Wines

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

I’ve been tasting the winners of Colorado’s Governor’s Cup Awards for two years now, and here’s my third installment.

Like Virginia’s renowned Governor’s Cup, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board kicked off a similar program in 2011. For the 2017 competition, 46 wineries submitted 325 wines, and the top 12, which I reviewed, are featured prominently as part of a “Governor’s Cup Case.”

Colorado doesn’t crack the top 10 states in terms of production. According to the Colorado Wine trade group, Colorado wineries released about 178,000 cases in 2017. But with abundant sunshine (more than 300 days per year) and low humidity, the raw ingredients are there. And there seems to be quite a bit of enthusiasm and experimentation going on in Colorado.

A few of the “wines” in this case aren’t grape wines. A cider, a mead and a fruit wine are included. Also, one of the wines comes from Sonoma County fruit, which struck me as odd, and perhaps counterproductive, for a competition designed to focus on Colorado’s wine industry. That said, there were some delicious and impressive wines in the mix.

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

Wine Reviews: Siduri’s 2015 Pinot Noirs

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-24-2018

I’ve been a big fan of Siduri Pinot Noirs for many years. I’ve visited several times, collected the wines, and turned on several friends to them.

But this is the first time I’ve received samples to review. And that’s probably because in 2015, Adam and Diana Lee sold their Siduri label to the California wine powerhouse, Jackson Family Wines. The sale came as a shock to me. After the same company had purchased Copain (another one of my favorite Sonoma-based producers), I began to feel a bit nostalgic, like the wines I loved were changing.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Copain still rocks, and as the newly-released 2015s show, so does Siduri. It seems Jackson Family was looking for several high-end California gems to add to their portfolio, and they chose wisely. In an email to their wine club members announcing the sale, Adam and Diana wrote: “The goals we hold remain the same, but we believe that our ability to reach them has exponentially increased.” If their 2015s are any indicator, I’m encouraged about the future of Siduri’s wines.

hP7jKUVT_FvJ4UFWb9-nGwwz0uAYVGEfAiYMFLQ2DngpX92IBThese single-vineyard designate wines are delicious across the board, but the vineyard-specific nuances makes tasting them side-by-side an exciting and interesting experience. With increased access to vineyard sources scattered around various Northern and Central California appellations (and some in Oregon), Siduri is a great way to explore the different expressions of some stellar vineyards. The wines aren’t cheap ($50 a pop), but they over-deliver for that price. The wines  always brings juicy cherry fruit to the table, but they also show nuance, freshness and liveliness, with lots of complex spicy, earthy, and floral complexity.

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

Wine Reviews: California Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-17-2018

I recently tasted through some California Pinot Noir samples from the 2015 and 2014 vintages. It can be hard to find exciting wines in the $20-$30 range, but there are some reliably fun bottles out there. If you’re looking to spend a bit more ($50-ish), Carmel Road’s Panorama Vineyard wines, from Monterey, are a pretty solid bet.

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

Wine Reviews: Brengman Brothers (Michigan)

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 02-10-2018

I’ve been aware of quality wines coming out of Michigan for years now, but I haven’t visited the state’s wine regions or tasted more than a handful of wines over the years. So I was pretty excited to receive an extensive range of wines from Brengman Brothers, located in Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula AVA.

The peninsula, which juts into Grand Traverse Bay northwest of Traverse City, is home to more than 20 wineries. Cool climate grapes (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc) thrive here, and the wines I’ve tasted show tart, leaner profiles and lots of freshness and spicy characteristics.

Brengman owns three estate vineyards, the 25-acre Crain Hill Vineyard (which is the source of fruit for most of the wines I tasted), the 30-acre Timberlee Vineyard, and the 5-acre Cedar Lake Vineyard. Their first harvest was 2007, and after a decade, they have quite a large lineup of wines, with some impressive results (and I only tasted some of their wines).

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 02-03-2018

California time again! I’m really excited about a lot of the wines in this report.

I cover four wines from the Writer’s Block brand, from long-time Lake County winemaker Jed Steele. He still produces delicious, interesting varietal wines from vineyards in Lake County, and releases them for a very reasonable $17.

Sutro contributes a Cab and Merlot from the Warnecke Ranch Vineyard in Alexander Valley, which both show incredible quality and terroir-focused nuances, and they’re priced far less than some wines of similar quality from Napa.

Smith-Madrone, per usual, contributes two stellar new releases, while J McClelland wows with a Napa Malbec and Petit Verdot. Oh, and the 2014 Cardinale is pricey but gorgeous.

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 01-27-2018

Hey folks, this week I’m back with another round-up of wine samples from around the globe. Some delicious and budget-friendly wines from Argentinian producers Achaval-Ferrer and Domaine Bousquet showed well. I’ve also reviewed four wines from the Northern and Southern Rhone Valleys. Lastly, we finish off with some Blandy’s 10-Year Madeiras and a sparkling wine from Oregon producer Gran Moraine that I think deserves some serious attention.

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

Wine Reviews: White & Colheita Ports from Kopke

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-20-2018

thumbnailI love Port, and of course, vintage Port. But there are other styles that can be overlooked, at least until you receive a bunch of fascinating wines from Kopke.

Kopke does things a bit differently, with a unique focus on aged white Ports (10, 20, 30 and 40-year), as well as Colheita wines (vintage-dated Tawny Ports) dating back decades. Established in 1638, Kopke is obviously an ancient house with a long history, but most recently, in 2006, it was purchased by the Sogevinus Group, which owns several other Port brands.

All the wines I received were bottled in 2017, as noted on the back label. These wines spend as much time in the barrel as possible, and Kopke actually bottles their wines to order.

In short, Kopke boasts some fascinating stuff worth seeking out for the Port nerds out there. Skeptics of white Port, beware, these are wonderful wines. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reivews: Fields Family

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-13-2018

This week I have to rant a bit about some really impressive wines from Fields Family Wines. This Lodi estate and winery was purchased by Russ Fields in 2005, and Ryan Sherman makes the wines.

This producer represents everything I love about Lodi wines — lots of old vines, a wide range of grape varieties, vibrant flavor profiles. But these wines are also leaner, fresher and more minimalist in style than some of the burlier wines one can find from Lodi.

I’ve long been a fan of the Syrahs and Tempranillo from this producer, although I’ve never tasted an unexciting wine, and I’m excited to see what Ryan continues to do with Grenache Blanc and Vermentino. On top of the quality, this wines are a ripping deal considering the price tags.

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