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 »

Wine Reviews: California Zinfandel

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-25-2016

It’s been too long since I’ve focused exclusively on California Zinfandel. Well, it’s about time. Especially now that it’s summer and I try to grill food as much as possible – juicy Cali Zin and grilled veggies and meats, it really never gets old for me. And there were a few beauties in this tasting.

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

Wine Reviews: Hentley Farm

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-18-2016

Hentley Farm is a Barossa Valley player to watch. In the 1990s, founders Keith and Alison Hentschke purchased their 150-acre vineyard in the Seppeltsfield area. Their first Hentley Farm wines debuted in 2002. Two years later, they purchased the adjacent Clos Otto block, which is now the source of their high-end Shiraz.

Their wines display the classic Barossa depth and concentration, but I was surprised at the vibrancy and freshness of some of these wines. While the Clos Otto is truly a stunner of a wine (with a price tag to match) the relative value of the other Hentley Farm Shiraz offerings is very impressive.

The wines are crafted by Andrew Quin, a horticulturist turned winemaker who worked with St. Francis in Sonoma and Jacques Lurton in Bordeaux before returning to make wine in his native Australia.

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

Wine Reviews: Palmina

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-11-2016

I’ve known about Palmina’s wines for a while, but this was the first time I tasted them. The verdict for me is abundantly clear: these wines are fascinating and delicious.

Based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County, Palmina has a singular and precise vision: to make site-specific California interpretations of some classic Northern Italian grapes. But these aren’t your burly, heavily-oaked Cal-Itals. Palmina’s wines share a characteristic elegance, refreshing acidity, and moderate alcohol content. These wines are made with native yeast fermentation and they’re aged in old oak barrels.

Steve Clifton kicked off Palmina in 1995. He started off only making red wines from sites around Santa Barbara County. He expanded to make a few whites, including a Pinot Grigio that may give people dismissive about this grape some cause to reconsider. I cannot remember a $20 California white wine I’ve gotten that excited about in a long time. For the floral, tropical-loving white wine drinker, the Malvasia Bianca is a must-try. Considering these wines all fall into the $20-$40 range, the amount of quality for the price is very impressive.

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

Wine Reviews: White Wines for Summer

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-04-2016

Summer and white wine are pretty much synonymous for me. Albariño is an A+ choice (especially if you’re looking for a high quality to price ration). Sauvignon Blanc is always in the mix as well. And there are lots of other tasty white varietal wines and blends crossing my path these days.

I will still drink red during these impending summer months, but I keep a bunch of white wine in the fridge to pop with dinner, because after a sweltering DC day, it’s hard to enjoy a hefty Cabernet.

Here are some reviews of some white wines that beg for the dog days of summer. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Alma Rosa & KITÁ

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-28-2016

If you know Cali Pinot, you know Richard Sanford. This Pinot Noir pioneer has been exploring the potential of the Santa Rita Hills for more than four decades. In 2005, he and his wife Thekla founded another project, Alma Rosa, which focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The 2013 Blanc de Blancs and the 2013 Brut Rosé El Jabali Vineyard are the first sparkling wines Alma Rosa has produced since the project was founded in 2005. While new to the sparkling wine game, Alma Rosa’s wines show no evidence of a learning curve. They’re bright, crisp, complex and will likely age well.

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

Wine Reviews: Worldwide Roundup

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-21-2016

We receive a lot of samples from all over the world, but sometimes there aren’t enough to fit into a single tasting or under the same umbrella. In the past, I’ve called these catch-all reports “Odds & Ends” but these wines aren’t odd, and they’re not at the end of any list I would compose.

So, without further explanation, here are a slew of reviews of wines from all over world, made in all different styles.

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