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 »

Wine Reviews: Gascony Whites

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-02-2014

It’s summer and I live in DC. This means white wine. But I don’t want something merely cold and crisp, I want something interesting and food-friendly. In this category, white wines from the Gascony region of Southwest France frequently deliver — and they’re cheap!

All of these wines come from the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony, perhaps better known for its spirits than its dry white wines. But if you’re in the market for value-driven, refreshing white wines to serve with salads, seafoods and patio parties, I’m not sure it gets much better than Gascony whites.

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

Wine Reviews: Hourglass

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-19-2014

At Hourglass, premium Napa Valley red is more than just Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Cabernets deserve serious credit, but Hourglass has been working on some great varietal expressions of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec from the Blueline Vineyard in Calistoga.

2012 was the first full vintage for Hourglass’ winemaker Tony Biagi, who took over from renowned winemaker Bob Foley. It appears Tony arrived at a great time because 2012 was a good growing season, and the resulting wines show balance and depth. The 2013 vintage marks Hourglass’ first white wine, a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which I found refreshing and intriguing.

The new oak in these wines is nuanced and integrated, adding creaminess to the texture and accents to the fruit and earth flavors. But given the complexity of flavors, the structure and the balance, the oak never overpowers, at least for my palate.

These wines aren’t cheap, but they’re delicious and cellar-worthy. All of the wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted from 375ml bottles. The prices below represent the mailing list allocation cost for a 750ml bottle.

2013 Hourglass Sauvignon Blanc
A pale straw color. Crisp apple and lime aromas, orange blossom, honeysuckle, a striking amount of slate and minerals. Creamy and rich on the palate, but the acid cuts through with impressive power. Richer notes of apricot, honey and orange marmalade blend with elements of oyster shell, sea salt and minerals. Lots of concentration and depth here, this is a beauty of a Napa Sauv Blanc that refuses to fit in a stylistic box. Hourglass’ first shot with white wine, and they nailed it. This wine sees stainless steel as well as some new and old French oak. (91 points IJB)

2012 Hourglass Malbec Blueline
Generous purple color. Vibrant and playful aromas of deep plums and black currants laced with violets, cola and charcoal. On the palate, fine grained but grippy tannins meet with medium acid, almost crisp. Rich and boisterous, full of bright floral tones, this wine is plummy and packed with tart berries. There’s an underlying mix of cocoa powder, charcoal, vanilla bean, cola and black olive. Bold but elegant, this is impressive stuff that shows some solid aging potential. Aged 16 months in 40% new French oak, this wine also includes 25% Petite Verdot. (91 points IJB)

2012 Hourglass Merlot Blueline
Nose of roses, raspberries, caramel, roses, a lot of explosive ripe fruit but it’s backed up by earth and smoke, menthol and smoked meat. Full bodied but this wine shows an elegant texture with fine tannins and medium acid. I get berry compote, raspberries and dark plums; all the fruit is juicy but very tangy. Significant amount of mushroom, balsamic, soy, barbecue sauce and sweet floral elements. Chewy, elegant, rich, complex, this wine is all of these, with a long finish. Could use two to four years and I think this will develop for quite a while longer. Includes 5% Petite Verdot, this wine is aged 16 months in new and seasoned French oak. (93 points IJB)

2012 Hourglass Cabernet Franc Blueline
Deep and saucy on the nose, I get blueberry, blackberry and plums, but also lots of deep loam, granite, paved road and mushroom. On the palate, wow, this is just beautiful — medium acid, great concentration, dusty tannins. Full of tart blueberry and currant fruit, like crunching through the skins, but then the earth, charcoal, cedar and eucalyptus notes come in. The mushroom, granite and tobacco flavors need time to fully show themselves. Great structure here for aging. This sees 20 months in 40% new French oak. Gorgeous. (93 points IJB)

Wine Reviews: Charly Nicolle’s Chablis

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-28-2014

Proprietor Charly Nicolle kicked off his domaine in 2004. He’s been expanding his vineyard holdings piece by piece since 1997, when he acquired one tenth of a hectare from his great-grandfather. Today Domaine Charly Nicolle tends 15 hectares of vines spread across several appellations, including Premier Crus and the Grand Cru Bougros.

Like many Chablis winemakers, Charly learned the ropes from his father, Robert, who runs Domaine de la Mandeliere. Charly still works with his father and the two domaines share a team of vineyard workers, but they each control different vines and make different wines.

Charly Nicolle’s wines are all fermented in stainless steel with natural yeasts. They have a clean feel with lots of verve, minerality and oceanic elements. The wines I tasted hailed from the 2012 vintage, except the 2011 Bougros. “The 2012 vintage is a very good one, rather round and aromatic,” Lucie Thieblemont, the domaine’s commercial director, explained in an email. “It has less acidity than the 2011, which makes it very pleasant to drink now, but might be not so good to keep long.”

The wines are indeed round and aromatic right now, but I’m thinking some of them could age well. All of the wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Robert Oatley Vineyards

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-21-2014

Robert Oatley Vineyards produces a wide range of value-driven, fan-friendly wines from vineyards across Australia. Founder Robert Oatley owned Rosemount Estate, the Australian wine giant whose wines can be found anywhere in America. It seems Robert is taking a more focused approach with this effort; he’s sourcing quality grapes from classic Australian appellations, and the results are delicious.

Robert Oatley Vineyards is run by Robert’s son, Sandy Oatley, and Larry Cherubino, of Cherubino Winery, directs the winemaking. They describe their wines as “authentically Australian wines intentionally suited to the American palate.”

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but my American palate enjoyed these wines quite a bit. And the prices are very attractive.

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 06-14-2014

Growers and winemakers from all over California have praised the quality of the 2012 vintage, and for good reason. Sure there were regional differences, and the wines in this report cover a wide area of diverse vineyards, but lovers of Pinot Noir have good reason to be excited about the 2012s from California.

The best offer lots of structure and bold fruit but also clean acid.  A return to normalcy perhaps, after the cold and wet 2011 vintage, the weather was warm and steady in 2012, leading to healthy crop sizes and evenly ripened fruit. Some 2011s found their way into this report, and they take a lighter, tangier approach, which I actually enjoy quite a bit.

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

Wine Reviews: California ABC Whites

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-07-2014

Summer and California white wine is always a good pairing.

I was quite impressed with this lot of Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) samples from California. From Albarino to Sauvignon Blanc, these wines would all work well as summer party sippers, although the standouts are complex and food-friendly enough to deserve a long, contemplative meal.

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

Wine Reviews: California Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-31-2014

California Chardonnay needs no introduction, so let’s get down to business. Most of these wines came from the 2012 vintage, and based on this tasting, there’s a lot to like about the combination of richness and freshness.

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

Wine Reviews: Global Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-17-2014

Here at Terroirist, we get samples from all over the world. Some of the more varied and obscure samples aren’t easy to group together. Hence this catch-all report, which feautures wines from Brazil, Bulgaria, South Africa and other countries.

All wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Review: N.V. Salton Intenso BrutBrazil, Serra Gaúcha
SRP: $15
Gold color with medium bubbles. Aromas of whipped honey, roasted nuts and lemon zest. Creamy with fine bubbles and medium acid. Lemon zest and tart green pears, along with saline and oyster brine notes. Much lighter-bodied than Champagne or other New World Bruts, this reminds me more of a crisp Cremant d’Alsace. A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. (86 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Salton Chardonnay VirtudeBrazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Campanha
SRP: $22
A rich yellow color. Green and yellow apples on the nose, some honeysuckle, toasted marshmallow. Medium+ bodied, medium acid, this wine shows chunky pineapple and mango fruit, along with notes of honey, walnut and toffee. Not all richness and sunshine though, as some grapefruit peel and lemon come out on the finish. A fun, forward Chardonnay. (85 points IJB)

Review: 2007 Salton Merlot DesejoBrazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Vale dos Vinhedos
SRP: $25
On the nose, a tobacco leaf and rich soil note, with wild raspberries and red plums. Tart acid, a leaner profile, with fine, chalky tannins. Tart cranberries and raspberries lead the way, with undertones of dried leaves, cigar smoke and a flavor that reminds me of crushed nutshells. Very tart and tangy, not rich and silky, but it’s a well-made, food-friendly wine for sure. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2009 Salton TalentoBrazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Bento Gonçalves, Tuiuty
SRP: $22
Much darker on the nose, with black currants, loam, charcoal and vanilla. Medium-bodied, fresh acid combines with some gritty tannins. The black currant and dark plum fruit crackles on the palate. I get some dried leaves, black pepper, soy glaze and tobacco flavors. Drinking well now, but I think this could improve in the cellar. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Tannat. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Veni Vidi Vici RoséBulgaria, Thracian Valley
SRP: $9
A watermelon-strawberry color. A huge amount of mineral on the nose, like smelling a rock quarry, also some sharp strawberry and lemon zest, along with some white pepper and an aroma that reminds me of sweet pickle relish, seriously. Tangy acid on the palate, this is a bright and brisk wine. I love the wild strawberry and snappy cranberry fruit. Lots of minerals and white pepper in this wine, with some pickle and earth qualities as well. Crisp, clean and pleasant, a Bulgarian rosé that tastes unique, as it should. 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Syrah. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2011 Veni Vidi Vici Pinot NoirBulgaria, Thracian Valley
SRP: $9
A light ruby color. Juicy cherries and cranberries on the nose, some red flowers and rhubarb. Medium bodied, tangy acid, a very floral and focused wine, but enough bright red currants and strawberries. Some earth, wet moss and tobacco notes. So fresh, this is one of the better wines I’ve tasted from this producer, and a solid bargain at $9. I’d love to put this on a by-the-glass list because it’s got some broad appeal and a lot of value. (86 points  IJB)

Review: 2009 Veni Vidi Vici Cabernet SauvignonBulgaria, Thracian Valley
SRP: $9
Medium ruby color. Smoky and earthy on the nose, like black currants topped with campfire ash and dusty earth. Medium tannins, crisp acid, the currant fruit is tart and crunchy. Earthy, some cedar and cracked pepper. Not too deep or thrilling, but at this price it beats the hell out of almost all competition from Australia or California. (85 points  IJB)

Review: N.V. Blandy Madeira Malmsey 10 Years OldPortugal, Madeira
SRP: $30 (375 ml bottle)
Smells of yellow raisins, caramel, honey, candied pecans and dried apricots. Classic Malmsey richness with some nutty, nougat and caramel sweetness, but lots of dried apricot, mango and mixed nuts. Still fresh though, with a long finish reminiscent of dried flowers, sea brine, saline and pineapple cake. A lot going on, this begs for hard cheeses, dried fruits and mixed nuts. (90 points  IJB)

Review: 2012 Seven Springs Chardonnay Over the MountainSouth Africa, Overberg
SRP: $16
A light yellow color. On the nose, I get kiwi, tangerine, lime, a bit of cream and a chalky-mineral aspect. The acid really rocks on this wine, providing freshness to the creamy tangerine, kiwi and green pear fruit. There’s a complex mix of chalk, mountain stream, minerals and white flowers. The creaminess comes out a bit on the finish, but this wine is anything but heavy. Full of flavor and intensity, but still maintains an elegant edge. A delicious and lively unoaked Chardonnay. (90 points  IJB)

Review: 2011 Seven Springs Sauvignon Blanc Over the MountainSouth Africa, Overberg
SRP: $16
Nose of white peach, green pear, honeysuckle a hint of green grass. Medium+ acid on the palate. A bit of creaminess-waxy elements to the mouthfeel. Tangy, mineral-driven wine with green apple and green pear fruit, backed up by a sage and white pepper note. Not overly grassy, this actually shows some sea brine elements that I quite like. (87 points  IJB)

Review: 2011 Seven Springs Pinot Noir Over the MountainSouth Africa, Overberg
SRP: $20
Clear light ruby color. Lovely nose of bright roses, red cherries, strawberries, pepper and underbrush. Again with this producer, it seems like you’re gonna get tangy acid, which I love. Bright red fruits (cherries, strawberries, cranberries) mix with pepper, roasted chestnut, clay soil and dried roses. Old world notes. On the lighter side, but not weak. Love the red flowers in here. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2010 Seven Springs Syrah Over the MountainSouth Africa, Overberg
SRP: $20
Dark, vibrant purple color. The blackberry and currant fruit smell like they’ve been rolled in pepper and thrown on the grill. High acid and firm grip to the tannins. Tangy plums and black currants blend well with campfire smoke and rich soil aspects. I get some pepper and steak sauce on the finish, but the acid helps it tread lightly on the palate. (88 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Bodega Garzón Sauvignon BlancUruguay
SRP: $17
Slight spritz in the glass, with a pale straw color. Aromas of grapefruit, spiced tea and green olives, as strange as that may sound. Tangy and fresh on the palate. The white peach and orange peel blends with jalapeno, white pepper and lemongrass flavors. Crisp, herbal, but more body than your average New Zealand Sauv Blanc. Very food friendly. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2012 Bodega Garzón AlbariñoUruguay
SRP: $17
Aromas of green melon, lychee and some floral notes (orange blossom, honeysuckle). Juicy and tropical on the palate (pineapple, apricot, green melon), along with some floral notes. Creamy, lacking just a bit on the acidity for my palate, but a fun, summer sipper. (86 points IJB)

Wines Scoring <85 points Read the rest of this entry »