Wine Reviews: New Zealand

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-13-2014

I don’t pay nearly enough attention to New Zealand wines. I’m only one person, and wine has many worlds in which to lose oneself. But I need to lose myself in New Zealand more often.

I’ve enjoyed many a New Zealand Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the national staple variety, Sauvignon Blanc. The latter of which is a hit with pretty much every casual wine drinker I know, and I usually spot at least one Kiwi Sauv Blanc per house party. They’re inexpensive, tasty and almost always reliable. No wonder they’re all over the place.

This report features a range of wines from New Zealand, all of which were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: Grab Bag of Italian Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-06-2014

Every time I sit down to taste Italian wines, I think the same thing: Why don’t I buy and collect more Italian bottles? Sicily, Veneto, of course Tuscany, there are so many exciting wines and only one lifetime.

But now that it’s cold outside and dark by afternoon, and I find myself at home cooking a lot of hearty fall fare, vino rosso is a no-brainer.

This grab bag report focuses on a few interesting reds from Sicily, Tuscany and Veneto. All these wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: Hourglass

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-29-2014

Hourglass 2012sNapa producer Hourglass has been turning out some exciting Bordeaux reds for years now, but in 2012 they really nailed it.

I recently tasted through Hourglass’ 2012 Cabernets during a group video chat with Jeff Smith and winemaker Tony Biagi. 2012 was Tony’s first full vintage for Hourglass, although he finished up the 2010s and 2011s after taking over from renowned winemaker Bob Foley. Tony arrived at a great time, as 2012 provided a consistent growing season and resulted in wines that show balance and depth. Biagi and Jeff Smith compare 2012’s tempered growing season to the much heralded 2001 vintage.

Hourglass reds are sourced from two vineyards, the Estate and Blueline. In the late 60s, Jeff’s father bought what would become the Estate vineyard, a six-acre site two miles north of St. Helena. A big fan of Zinfandel, he began growing his own, a lot of which went into Caymus’ wines. After his father passed away, Jeff replanted to this vineyard to Cabernet in the early 90s, and Hourglass pressed its first Cab in 1997. The project got off to a great start, as the wine garnered critical acclaim and Hourglass shoved its way into the crowded lineup of premium Napa Cabernets.

Hourglass acquired the Blueline Vineyard in 2006, and the vineyard team replanted many of the blocks in 2007. The 22-acre vineyard (south of the town of Calistoga) is planted to all five Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Malbec. (The Blueline Cab Franc, Merlot and Malbec from 2012 are also very well done.)

Jeff said he aims for “structural integration” in his reds. “The Holy Grail of Napa Cabernet,” he said, is harnessing that ripe fruit without giving up freshness, acidity and minerality. He wants ripe fruit without the wines “losing their tensional edge.” These 2012s have plenty of tension, not to mention fruit and staying power. I found all of these wines to be much more expressive on day two.
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Wine Reviews: Stinson Vineyards

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-22-2014

Stinson Vineyards is one of many small Virginia producers deserving some attention. For a handful of years now, Stinson has been putting out a bunch of exciting bottles that will challenge your conceptions about Virginia wine.

The wines are made by Rachel Stinson, who was interviewed here on Terroirist. “My ultimate goal is to make good, clean, commercially viable wine,” Rachel said. I think that’s a great way to describe them.

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

Wine Reviews: Cali Cabs & Merlots

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-15-2014

Since our last report on California Cabernets, we’ve received a lot of goodies, and some solid Merlots as well. Unsurprisingly, Napa steals the show, but this report features some impressive wines from other regions as well.

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

Wine Reviews: Bordeaux

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-08-2014

We get a lot of California Cabernets and Bordeaux blends here at Terroirist, but this week we’re going back to the source. Bordeaux. These aren’t the sought-after big growths but these bottles make up quite a good bargain-hunting list.

The wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Review: 2010 Château de Sours Blanc “La Source” - France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Contrôlée
SRP: $35
A clear lemon color. Interesting mix of rich fruit (guava, pineapple) and tangy citrus (lime, lemon zest), a hint of mineral and green onion. Tangy on the palate, with a crisp citrus profile. Some guava, honey and nutty notes add richness, but the mineral and saline tones keep it balanced. Lovely freshness to this wine. A blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2009 Château de Malengin - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Montagne-St. Émilion
SRP: $20
Vibrant ruby color. Soft, juicy black cherries and wild blackberries on the nose, also some bay leaf, tobacco and pepper undertones, woven together quite well. On the palate, dusty tannins, some freshness from the acid. Juicy red berry fruit leads to notes of sweet red flowers, some cedar, notes of black pepper and mushroom, a hint of spearmint? Juicy, fresh, probably one to drink over the next three or four years. For $20, a solid wine for sure. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Château Royaumont - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
SRP: $45
Bold nose of plum cake, currant jam, cedar, smoke and some dusty, earthy notes. On the palate, fleshy plums and tart currants on a firm tannic frame, a balancing act with the fresh acid. The loam and graphite elements are pronounced, and I get touches of bell pepper, bay leaf and dusty earth. Pleasant young, but this is one for the cellar and I’d like to try it in another three to five years. 70% Merlot, 30% Cab Franc. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Château La Pointe - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
SRP: $33
Nose shows vibrant berries, red currants, violets, loam and some tobacco. Silky on the palate with tart red and black currants all over the place and fine but firm tannins. Notes of roses, coffee and graphite add complexity. A bright personality, fresh and inviting, but could develop and settle in the cellar. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Château Moulin Riche - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
SRP:$56
Dark ruby colored. On the nose, blackberries and black currants abound, mixing in with some cedar, incense sticks, dried violets and roasted coffee. On the palate, this is plummy and dark berry-driven with dusty tannins and medium acid. Lots of roasted coffee, pencil lead, cedar and loamy soil. Some violets, tobacco and crushed granite as well with a long, pretty finish. Needs time to unwind for sure, but a very solid blend of 71% Cab and 29% Merlot. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2004 Château Canon - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Canon-Fronsac
Medium garnet colored, a bit of bricking at the edges. Smells of red currants covered with sun-dried tomatoes, roses, rhubarb and pickles. Fresh acid on the palate, the tannins are quite strong. Tart currants and cherries meet earth, dust, tobacco and rich soil. Underling notes of iron and mineral. A hint of sweet herbal spice on the finish. A lot of stories to tell now, but still holding up and could age more. 100% Merlot. (89 points IJB)

Before the Bubbles: Still Pinot from Veuve Clicquot

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-05-2014

It’s painful to say this, but I’ve never visited Champagne. It’s high on my list but, alas, my Champagne experience comes only from sipping flutes. So I was excited to attend a wine dinner with one of Veuve Clicquot’s winemakers, Pierre Casenave, at Boss Shepherd in Washington, DC.

Clos ColinsmallOf course, the menu featured lots of bubbles — the orange label brut, the non-vintage rosé, the 2004 rosé and the tête de cuvée La Grande Dame — but I was most excited by the still red wines. Rarely bottled or sold, these Coteaux Champenois reds offer a unique peek into the terroir-translating power of Pinot Noir.

Pierre, who joined Veuve Clicquot in 2008, is part of a team of winemakers and tasting panelists who work together under chef de caves Dominique Demarville to craft the different house blends. At this tasting, Pierre focused on the different Pinot Noirs that are blended into the higher-end cuvées. These 2013 vintage still reds came from Verzy and Bouzy, both Pinot-heavy Grand Cru vineyards in the Montagne de Reims region.

I asked Pierre about the difference between Verzy and Bouzy in terms of their terroir imprint for Pinot. He said Verzy is “impacted more by minerality” and provides a fresher, brighter approach. Bouzy is more about depth, structure and spice. But, Pierre cautioned, the vintage is everything. “What’s true one year is completely false the next year.” In addition to the Verzy and Bouzy, we also tasted the Clos Colin. Pierre produced only six barrels of the Clos Colin, a select parcel within Bouzy that is blended into La Grande Dame.

When it comes to Pinot Noir, Pierre said his job is to avoid bitterness and astringency as the grapes struggle to ripen in the cool Champagne climate. If that’s his goal, I think he succeeded wonderfully in 2013. I found these wines to be fresh, open, inviting and complex, without a trace of anything green or bitter. As I swirled and sniffed the wines extensively, taking in the complex aromas, Pierre chimed in with a disclaimer: “First of all, it’s not meant to be drank as a still wine.” Well, he could’ve fooled me.

The Verzy was brisk, clean and full of fresh red fruit and minerals. The Bouzy had a lot of similar elements, but it was tinged with more floral and tea elements. The Clos Colin was one of the most mineral-centric Pinot Noirs I’ve tasted. It’s an unbelievably stony and complex Pinot with laser-like focus and electric acid, yet an effortless feel on the palate.

At the end of the night, we were served glasses of Cliquot’s orange label brut, Clicquot’s bread and butter bubbly, along with straws. Diners were encouraged to use the straws to stir some of the still red wine into the bubbly and create our own blends.

It’s a fun idea, but I pushed the bubbles aside and continued contemplating the beauty and uniqueness of the still reds.

My tasting notes on the Coteaux Champenois reds and the Grande Dame rosé are posted below. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: California Rhones

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-01-2014

I never get tired of California interpretation of Rhone wines. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and blends with other grapes, these wines have always intrigued me. And when it comes to California Rhone wines, the diversity of styles and blends has never been better. This report features a few deep and complex Syrahs as well as a handful of ever-quirky wines from Randall Graham.

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

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 »