Wine Reviews: California White Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-27-2016

Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, blends, this report features a bunch of California white wines from all over the state. The Dragonette Cellars Duvarita Vineyard 2014 was shockingly good, while Sonoma Chardonnay purveyor La Pitchoune continues to impress me with their 2013s. Toss in some newly-released Sauvignon Blancs and a few blends, and you’ve got a nice selection of late summer sippers.

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

Wine Reviews: California Bordeaux Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-20-2016

Yes, California Cabernet is king, but this report includes some solid examples of Merlot, Malbec and Bordeaux varietal blends. Actually, a Malbec in this report blew me away with its awesomeness.

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

Wine Reviews: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-13-2016

Ready to dig into some Willamette Valley Pinot Noir? My answer to that question will always be a resounding yes.

The majority of these releases hail from the 2014 vintage, a year heralded by many Willamette Valley winemakers as historic in its high quality. With record-breaking quantities of heat and plenty of sun, the Pinot grapes were ripe and the crop was bountiful. Some growers reporting a 40% increase in crop size from the 2013 vintage. But the quality of the fruit is high, and the wines I’ve tasted don’t stray into overripe territory.

“Never seen the likes of it in 25 years,” Doug Tunnell of Brick House Wine Company told WineBusiness.com. “I’m sure we’ll look back at 2014 as a rare gift.”

A stellar vintage like 2014 provides a perfect lens through which to examine Willamette Valley Pinot Noir in the entry level range. And I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of vibrant, juicy, complex and delicious Pinots that cost less than $30. These wines tend to drink best young, but even the basic wines show good structure. A lot of higher-end 2014s will improve dramatically in the cellar, methinks. Some 2013 Pinots in this report showed very well, too.

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

Wine Reviews: Summer Grill-Out Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-06-2016

It’s the dog days of summer in the mid-Atlantic, and it’s been hot and humid for as long as I can remember. When I’m done pounding H20 all day long, I generally uncork bubbles or white or pink wine.

That said, if you’re firing up a grill, red wines should probably be involved, no matter the weather conditions. I recently tasted through a wide array of California red wines that should pair nicely with summertime meals, parties and grill-outs. From Petite Sirah to Zin blends to Rhone reds, there are some goodies in this report, many of which are reasonably priced.

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

The State of Wine in a Can

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-01-2016

red-600Wine in a can is on the rise — and at this point, it’s definitely here to stay.

Nielsen reports that canned wine saw 125.2 percent dollar sales growth during the 52 weeks ended June 18, 2016. Total sales were $14.5 million, up from $6.4 million the year before. The uptick it seems has much to do with an increasing thirst for wine amongst millennials, who consumed 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015, almost half of US consumption.

Wine in a can holds manifold appeal for millennials. It’s trendy, unpretentious, and convenient. Cans are portable, hand-held, don’t require a corkscrew, and can be consumed by one person in a single sitting. The price is attractive — and significantly less than a bottle.

Plus, there are more choices than ever before. Not too long ago, the only options were sparkling. Today, though, still red, white, and rosé is readily found — and some brands even have the support of millennial hipster meccas like Whole Foods.

But what remains is the question of quality. Sure, I can drink a whole can sans corkscrew, but would I want to?

Enter Winestar.

Canned wine is a niche full of quirky labels and trying-hard-to-be-different names like Infinite Monkey Theorem. And now big name table wine producers like Barefoot are moving into the space. France-based Winestar is taking a different approach, trying to make a mark in higher-end wine in a can.

Winestar differentiates itself by offering “AOC grade” wine from “some of France’s greatest wine regions,” oaked (the red at least) and then canned at the time of maturity and preserved with a special coating that lines the can. The Winestar cans themselves, at just 187ml, or one-fourth of a standard bottle, are also unique. Currently, the brand features a red, a white, and a rose—all three from the Corbieres AOC in Languedoc-Roussillon.

I was recently sent a pair of samples by Winestar and had a chance to check it out for myself. Here are my thoughts: Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Virginia Governor’s Cup

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-30-2016

I’ve been tasting the Virginia Governor’s Cup wines for a few years now, and the 2016 winners are the best bunch yet. This year, judges winnowed their top 12 from about 430 bottles for the Virginia Governor’s Cup Case. The current batch of winners provides a great tool for discovering what’s happening in this dynamic wine-producing state.

While some of my favorite producers do not submit wines for the competition (Linden, RdV), there are plenty of intriguing and delicious Virginia wines in this tasting.

This case demonstrates, in my view, two important takeaway points about Virginia wine. 1) Meritage blends, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot are the raw materials for some really solid wines that offer a unique patch to the quilt of American wines made from Bordeaux grapes. 2) Petit Manseng (made in both dry and sweet styles) is the most exciting white wine being produced in the state, and Virginia seems like the perfect place to unpack this grape’s richness and bracing acidity.

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 07-23-2016

We’re back with more California Pinot Noir! Since my last report, I’ve tasted through a range of Cali Pinots. This batch is stacked with goodies.

This report includes some stunners from three excellent Sonoma producers: Three Sticks, La Pitchoune, and Alma Fria. I find the latter to be a seriously impressive effort, and their Chardonnay is amazing, too.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. (The rosé was tasted sighted.) Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Arinzano

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-16-2016

IMAG394d1Sancho Fortuñones de Arínzano first produced wine in this Navarra site in the 11th Century. So, yeah, there’s some history behind this special spot.

Arinzano received a Vino de Pago classification in 2007, a heralded designation for certain estate-grown and produced Spanish wines.The vines are planted in loam, sand and limestone soils in a cooler area of the Pyrennes, and the vines climb to 1,600 feet.

In brief, these wines are exciting and delicious. Vibrant, bright, complex, full of earthy spice and complexity. And, considering the price, Arinzano is easy to explore.

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

Wine Reviews: Italian Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-09-2016

Recently, I’ve received a handful of wines from all over Italy, hence this catch-all report. This batch included some solid and relatively inexpensive whites and a kicking Brunello from Gaja. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Old Westminster Winery

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-02-2016

Old Westminster Winery gets my vote for the most exciting and dynamic wine producer in Maryland. This Old Line State winery is a family affair that dates back to 2008, when Jay and Virginia Baker (no relation) decided to plant a vineyard in the rocky soils of their Carroll County farm.

Today, they produce a wide range of whites, reds and sparkling wines that will smash any negative stereotypes you may have about wine in Maryland.

The Baker children (all in their 20s) have accomplished an impressive amount in a relatively brief period of time. Lisa crafts the wines, Drew manages the vineyard and Ashli heads up the tasting room and event planning. Together, they’re pushing the limits of Maryland wine’s potential, and turning quite a few heads (including mine) in the process.

Their 2014 Malbec was recently awarded Best in Show at the 2016 Maryland Comptroller’s Cup, and several of their other wines took home awards in this state competition.

I recently tasted a few wines from Old Westminster. These were  received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »