Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-10-2018

It’s time for another roundup of California new releases, and this one has some beauties.

I found two exciting wines from Paso Robles, from producers doing things a bit differently. Frank Family comes out with some impressive reds. Napa stalwarts Robert Mondavi and Shafer have some exceptional new releases in this report. And The Merlots from Napa’s Chris Carpenter are also something to behold.

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

Wine Reviews: Troon Vineyard

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-04-2018

I’ve been tasting the wines of Oregon’s Troon Vineyard for a few years now, and their new releases continue this winery’s tradition of excellence.

All Troon wines come from estate grapes in the cool Applegate Valley appellation of Southern Oregon. The winery sits at 1,400 feet above sea level, on a high bench above the Applegate River. Surrounded by the Siskiyou Mountains, the Applegate and Rogue Rivers allow cooling Pacific breezes to flow into the valley in the afternoons, which helps keep the diurnal temperature shifts high.

The Troon team has been transitioning to biodynamics, and the 2018 grapes were farmed organically and biodynamically. They expect their first Demeter certification with the next vintage. The wines are generally picked with brix measurements between 21 and 24, and the acidity really shines through in all of these wines. In the winery, all the wine are crushed by foot, fermentation is done with native yeasts, there’s no correcting for acids or sugars, and the wines don’t see any new oak.

Their range of releases is wide, from Skin-fermented Riesling, to Rhone whites, to Cabernet, Zinfandel, Syrah and Vermentino. In this new batch of Troon wines, I found, yet again, excellent wines at exceptional prices. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Champagne Lombard

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-03-2018

I had not tasted the wines of Champagne Lombard before, but after going through some of their wines recently, I am now a fan.

Stylistically, these Champagnes generally have a lower dosage (or none at all), and a dry, zesty, bracing appeal. The house makes about 15 different cuvees, and I only tasted six, and was especially wowed by the single-vineyard wines.

The house sources grapes from more than 100 hectares of vineyards. They get Chardonnay from Grand Crus Mesnil-sur-Oger, Chouilly, Avize and Cramant, along with various Premier Cru villages, while the Pinot Noir is sourced largely from the east of the Montagne de Reims. The Grand Cru wines are aged at least 48-60 months before being disgorged, the Premier Cru a bit less.

The house can trace its roots back to Robert Andrieu (grandfather of the current owner), who founded the Société Anonyme de Magenta-Epernay in 1925. Phillipe Lombard took over in 1960 and expanded the winery and cellars in Epernay in 1987. The company is now run by Thierry Lombard.

The Premier Crus are really solid, and a great introduction to the house’s style, while the Grand Crus offer a whole lot of personality and depth. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: New Zealand wines from Loveblock & Villa Maria

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-27-2018

This week I’m focusing on two producers from New Zealand: Loveblock and Villa Maria.

Loveblock is a Marlborough-based project of Erica and Kim Crawford. This winery was founded after Kim Crawford was sold to Constellation Brands. Erica describes Loveblock as, “the product of my journey to organics, which started about 15 years ago.” The organic farm is home to vineyards, beef cattle, chickens, etc. The wines really surprised me, showing more focus and intrigue than a lot of Kim Crawford wines I’ve tasted recently. And the wines (priced between $23 and $30) show a lot of quality and value.

I have also included reviews of Villa Maria’s new releases. Recently, I attended an on-line video tasting with Villa Maria winemaker Kathrin Jankowiec, who came from a teaching background in Germany before she decided to take a break and travel the world. She found herself in New Zealand about a dozen years ago, and she was low on travel money. Kathrin scored a harvest job at a small winery, and immediately knew she had found her niche. “I decided this is what I want to do with my life… I’m going to make wine. I’m not leaving New Zealand.”

I’ve always found Villa Maria wines to be reliably good, reliably inexpensive, classic takes on the New Zealand staples. But I hadn’t before tasted the single-vineyard Taylors Pass wines, and I was very impressed.

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

Wine Reviews: International Round-up

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-20-2018

This week, I’m tackling another group of wines from all over the globe.

Starting off with the newest vintage of Trivento’s flagship Malbec, Eolo, the 2014 again delivers a mouthful of delicious, complex, cellar-worthy Mendoza goodness.

A few Spanish wines make an appearance in this week’s report, including two inexpensive but solid Riojas from renowned producer Bodegeas Lan. Carpenè Malvolti brings a pair of Italian bubbles into the mix. And South African stalwart Mulderbosch delivers four wines that bring serious quality at their respective price points.

There’s a new red blend from Virginia winery Early Mountain that I really want to highlight. The inaugural 2015 vintage of their Rise red (a Merlot-based blend), really shines. It should, considering the price point, but this is a serious, delicious, Virginia red blend that will stand the test of time.

I also received three wines from the Firstleaf wine club. Consumers can fill out a quick quiz to generate their first three-pack of wines for $15, plus shipping. The wines each come with story cards that provide technical and more general information about the wine or region. Members can rate their wines on the club’s website, and those ratings are used to generate more personalized wine selections for future shipments. I tasted three wines from an introductory shipment.

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

Experiencing ZD Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-18-2018

ZDWinesThe most exciting thing about a bottle of wine is the potential it holds for fostering community, intimacy, and relationship. As I said before, nobody drinks wine in a vacuum. We empty our glasses in all kinds of places, among friends, family, and even strangers.

This past month I received three bottles from ZD Wines, a Napa Valley producer that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary this harvest. My wife and I even used one of the bottles as an occasion to get to know our neighbors.

2016 ZD Reserve Chardonnay (SRP $77)
It could’ve been the post-Ultimate Frisbee thirst and fatigue, but this bottle stood out as the true winner of the trio. All it took was Jim Croce on the record player and a cool glass of ZD Reserve Chardonnay to sooth our aching bodies. “Apply,” was my wife’s first impression. I smelled lychee, something floral (maybe chamomile), vanilla, and allspice.

The extended yeast contact came through quite clearly, as the wine was nice and creamy and coated my tongue. It left my mouth watering slightly, despite any notable acidity. I tasted spice and—surprisingly but not at all unpleasantly—a hint of salinity. The winemaker did well to forgo MLF, as too much butteriness would surely have marred the harmony of oak, flowers, and spice. Sprawled out on the floor and sweaty, ceiling fan whirring, we agreed it was an excellent Chardonnay.

2015 ZD Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $75)
When you live in a four-unit apartment building, you don’t have much excuse for not knowing your neighbors. After a year and a half of passing pleasantries, my wife and I decided it was high time we get acquainted with the couple our age living below us. And what better excuse to do so than a premium bottle of wine?

Turns out the gentleman preferred beer. So over dinner, board games, and dessert, while he put back the Yuenglings, the lady, my wife, and I savored the ZD Cab—and I discretely scribbled tasting notes on a pad of paper under the table. The wine was dark and dense with a notable lack of tannin but a delightful blueberry character. 22-months in American oak had given it rich aromas of vanilla and cola. The bottle emptied quicker than I could record all of my impressions, but it did its job facilitating great conversation and laughs. Our neighbors have promised to reciprocate with dinner soon and I’m sure the folks at ZD will be happy to know they’ve played a part in what looks to be the beginnings of a more neighborly relationship.

2016 ZD Founder’s Reserve Pinot Noir (SRP $82)
Okay, sometimes I just drink wine alone. It had been an insanely hot week and, of course, my AC unit decided to give up the ghost. With my wife gone and the windows down I popped this beauty in the refrigerator. The evening’s aptly selected movie, Mississippi Burning, played as I puzzled over what turned out to be quite an enigmatic Pinot.

From the start, nose firmly in glass, it wasn’t giving me much. It just sat there, dense and ruby, mocking my inadequacy. So I let it alone, until it would relent and reveal to me all of its wonderful qualities. I blinked first, of course, and the wine greeted my tongue with a wonderful acidic tingle—just what I needed in the heat—and gave forth odors of overripe strawberries and anise, but little else. At a point, I stopped trying to figure this wine out and just enjoyed it. It was well structured and enjoyable, but didn’t have the wow factor I would expect at this price.

Wine Reviews: California Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-13-2018

California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir need no introduction, so let’s get right to it.

This report includes offerings from Ramey, Cambria, Gary Farrell, Frank Family and Cline Cellars, and spans the 2015 to 2017 vintages.

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

Wine Reviews: Murrieta’s Well

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-06-2018

Dm57WTOXoAA42H3If you’re unfamiliar with the wines of California’s Livermore Valley, Murrieta’s Well might be a good place to start. This Livermore Valley producer sources grapes from about 100 acres of estate vineyards on a site that dates back to the 1880s. That’s when Louis Mel purchased the property and planted a vineyard based on cuttings from Chateau d’Yquem and Chateau Margaux.

His friend Ernest Wente purchased the vineyard in the 1930s, and it has been under the Wente family’s control ever since, though the Murietta’s Well brand was established in 1990.

The fruit comes from a few sites: the Louis Mel Vineyard (which sits at about 575-715 feet in elevation), and the Hayes Vineyard, which rises to about 860 feet. The valley stretches east to west, which allows cooling fog and breeze from the San Francisco Bay to roll in. Combine that with gravelly, clay soils, and winemaker Robbie Meyer has some high quality fruit to work with.

These wines make a good, refreshing argument for why this historic California wine region is still relevant today.

I received these wines as samples and tasted them sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Golan Heights

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-29-2018

thumdbnailGolan Heights Winery has been a key player in shaping the modern Israeli wine industry. After first planting vines in the Golan Heights in the late 1970s, the winery was founded in 1983. Thirty-five years later, it now boats almost 30 different vineyards, growing 20 different varieties, and the winery exports to more than 30 countries.

The Golan Heights family includes such wine brands as Yarden, Mount Hermon, and the U.S. brand Gilgal. Yes, the wines are kosher (and have been since inception), but don’t let that fact alone impact your opinion about their quality.

In January, Golan Heights became the first international winery to be certified by the Lodi Rules, a sustainable farming initiative started by Lodi, California winemakers. At the time, Winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, said, “We very much see ourselves as caretakers of a very special spot on the planet. We hope to act as a model for others in the Israeli wine industry in order to promote sustainability in our industry as a whole.”

So, how are the wines? I recently received four sample wines from Golan Heights (which I tasted sighted) and found a lot to get excited about. Dig in below! Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-22-2018

This week, I have a round-up of some wines from different California regions.

First off, I tasted some wines from Napa’s Amici Cellars and its sister brand of Sonoma County wines, Olema. The winemaking team at Amici and Olema consists of well-known, long-time winemaker Tony Biagi, and Jesse Fox. Amici offers moderately-priced takes on Napa classics (Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc), while the Olema wines offer a sample of Sonoma goodness for $25 or less. (There’s a Provencal rosé under the Olema umbrella as well, which is included in this report.)

I also tasted some wines from Wine Insiders, a direct-to-consumer wine company that operates kind of like a wine club without strict membership requirements. The wines selections are curated by sommeliers Tyson Koster and Christopher Hoel and sourced from different countries. Customers can receive a quarterly shipment of wines based on their preferences, or shop at will online. I tasted through their half-case of Lodi wines (which sells for $81) and found some wines that really deliver for the price (like many wines from this region).

Lastly, I found a $20 Santa Barbara Pinot Noir that punches above its weight class.

All the wines in this report were received as samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »