Wine Reviews: South American Values

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-25-2014

South America has been a haven for value-driven wines for years. When I was first getting into wine, I spent lots of time navigating Argentina and Chile for tasty and inexpensive bottles, especially Malbecs from Mendoza. Years later, producers from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay are consistently putting out inexpensive wines that appeal to a broad array of palates.

There were no epiphanies in this crew, but a whole bunch of reliable wines and smart buys. These wines were received as trade samples on a sporadic schedule, so they were tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Rosé Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-18-2014

Summer’s been over for a while. Sigh. But rosé season never really ends — at least it shouldn’t. I drink the pink year-round because I love the crispness of dry rosé and the food pairing options. And a lot of rosé wines get discounted after their summer heyday, so bargains abound.

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

Wine Reviews: California Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-11-2014

Since our last review of California Chardonnay, more goodies have found their way to my glass. This batch includes some impressive value-driven wines and a wide range of stylistic interpretations.

All wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

Review: 2012 Ripe Life Wines Chardonnay “The Clambake”- California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
SRP: $17
Bright on the nose with sea salt, lemon curd, grapefruit and flowers. Creamy on the palate, tangy acid with white peach and green apple fruit. A leaner, crisper style, the seafood themed label fits with this wine’s lean, food-friendly aesthetic. All stainless steel. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Tolosa Winery Chardonnay No-Oak- California, Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County
SRP: $21
Very bright on the nose, with green melon, limes, honeysuckle and some waxy notes. Crisp and clean on the palate with refreshing acid. Flavors of key lime, green melon, some pear. Clean, lean, with floral perfume and green apple on the finish. Fresh, fun, begs for mussels or white fish. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Alma Rosa Chardonnay Santa Barbara County- California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $19
Pale yellow color. Nose of dried apricot and pineapple, some serious honeyed tea and green herb elements, a kick of minerals, Tangy and lively on the palate, the green and yellow apples taste tart and crunchy. Also some lime and pineapple, a taste of lime peel, saline, white tea, chalk and herbal tea aspects. A much more tart and mineral-driven style, and quite impressive if you’re into this kind of Chardonnay. Aged in old oak with no maloactic fermentation. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Alma Rosa Chardonnay Santa Barbara County- California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $19
Smells of fresh laundry, some white peach, apricot and bright flowers, a some spicy-herbal notes. Medium body, medium acid, full of pear, green and yellow apples and honeydew melon, some ruby red grapefruit. White tea and a spicy herbal elements linger on the finish. Not as much nerve as the 2011 but very nice for this style. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Moniker Chardonnay- California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $23
Medium golden color. Nose of whipped honey, yellow pear, nougat, some peanut shell and honeysuckle elements. Rich and creamy on the palate, with medium acid and a medium body but showing some complexity: white tea, honeycomb, sea shells, candied lemon, nougat, peanut skins. Big, bold, but complex and interesting. Includes a bit of barrel-fermented Viognier. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Isabel Mondavi Chardonnay Carneros – California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $30
Nose of bright white peach, honeysuckle, green pear and sea salt, Tangy and bright with lemon verbena, orange peel, apricots and crunchy white cherries. Lemon tea, margarita salt, whipped honey and graham cracker notes, but it’s still very floral and bright. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Piña Cellars Chardonnay Low Vineyard – California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
SRP: $34
Nose of white peach, green apple, orange peel, some honeycomb and white flowers. Creamy and nutty on the palate, with apricot, white peach and glazed pear, but tangy acid cuts through. Some dried honey and white tea, along with complex nutty notes, drizzled with lime. Some minerals, sea salt and stones linger onto the finish. Balancing itself out well. Fermented in 38% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Amapola Creek Chardonnay Jos. Belli Vineyards- California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Light yellow color. Nose of golden apples, pears, some peach nectar and an herb butter element as well. Creamy texture but fresh and elegant as well, with complex interwoven flavors of apricot, golden apple, glazed pears. Notes of cinnamon, hazelnut and caramel corn add complexity but don’t overwhelm. Clean, fresh, notes of crushed chalk and sea shells in here as well. Clean, pure, but quite rich, this Chardonnay ends up pulling it off. I’d love to lay this down for four or five years because it’s got so much complexity to unravel. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay Estate Vineyard – California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $27
Floral aromas, some white peach, baked apple and honey but also some rocks and minerals. Crisp acid and a creamy mouthfeel, this is rich but also nervy and lively. Lots of green apple and apricot, mixing with honey, limestone, slate and minerals. Quite deep and mineral-driven, with saline notes on the finish. Impressive stuff that doesn’t fall into one Chard camp or the other. Aged 10 months in 20% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Prosecco

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-04-2014

Looking for bubbles on the cheap? Well, there’s always Prosecco, right?

Right?

Umm…

Look, I’m rarely excited by Prosecco. I can’t remember the last time I bought a bottle or ordered a glass at a wine bar. But I will admit this: I was surprised and pleased by a few of these Proseccos. Seriously. I especially liked the Mionetto Superiore di Cartizze, which is a complex and elegant wine.

Overall, they were all quite enjoyable. Some of them were yummy, and most of them were very cheap. And I have to remind myself never to underestimate the yummy and the cheap. I’m not really sure what place high-end Proseccos have in American wine scenes, but if you’re looking to expand your perception of what Prosecco can be, the wines are out there.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »