Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-18-2019

This week I have a few wines from around the globe that didn’t fit nicely into a larger tasting theme. But, these are wines I want to highlight for several reasons.

Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet is a producer I’ve grown to associate with quality wines and very low prices, and the 2018 “Virgen” red blend for $13 is a great example.

M. Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut label returns once again with an exceptional L’Esquerda red blend. And I also enjoyed some wines from Maryland’s Big Cork Vineyards, a reliably good producer in this state.

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

Wine Reviews: Champagne Palmer

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-11-2019

thumbnail (2)It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed some Champagne here, so I’m excited to dig back in! This week, I’m tasting some wines from Champagne Palmer.

Champagne Palmer is a cooperative that formed 70 years ago, a combined effort between seven growers in the Montagne de Reims region. They now source wine from hundreds of growers in more than forty different crus. About half of those vineyards are Grand and Premier Crus in the Montagne de Reims, while their other vineyards are located in the Côte de Sézanne, Côte des Bar and Marne Valley.

Cellar Master Xavier Berdin and his four oenologists use three different perpetual reserves (or soleras) to add depth and spice to their wines. The nonvintage cuvées are aged at least three years, while the vintage cuvées spend six to eight years on the lees.

These wines are relatively new to the U.S. market, so I was excited to taste them. I wasn’t disappointed. Don’t let the CM (Coopérative-Manipulant) scare you away — these are precise, zesty, elegant, complex wines. I found a lot of deliciousness and character in these wines, and I’d feel confident recommending them to any American Champagne lover looking for something new.

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

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-04-2019

This week, I’ve got another roundup of new releases from all over California.

I recently tasted two wines (an Albarino and a Gamay Noir) from Eighty Four wines. This Shafer side project, based in Carneros and named after the year in which Doug Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez began working together, has impressed me in the past, and these two wines continue that trend.

Well-known producer Cliff Lede’s new Sauv Blanc and Cab Sauv have a lot to offer, while Frank Family’s new Carneros Pinot and Chard consistently deliver.

South African-born winemaker Graham Weerts, who now makes his home in Sonoma, produced two solid wines under the Legacy label. And a few exciting wines from Lodi make an appearance in this report as well, including a thrilling, old-vine Carignan.

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

Wine Reviews: 2018 Rosés

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-28-2019

It’s Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the pink wines have started piling in. As such, this will be the one of several rosé reports this Spring/Summer, I’m sure. But this first batch has some real goodies.

I’m a big fan of Rioja producer C.V.N.E., and they make two different pinks that are seriously good for the money.

Most of the other rosés are from California, based on grapes like Pinot Noir, Grenache, Cabernet, Aglianico. Three non-saignée rosés from Sonoma’s Inman Family really wowed me. Inman started off the Endless Crush wines 15 years ago, making a single-vineyard wine from Olivet Grange Vineyard, but the winery has since expanded to include two other vineyard-designated pinks. They share bright, mineral-driven appeal and juicy fruit, but each has its own nuances and seasonings.

Lastly, there’s an exciting Pinot Noir rosé from Oregon producer Gran Moraine, whose wines have really impressed me over the years.

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

Wine Reviews: Argentina & Chile

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-27-2019

High-elevation vineyards fascinate me, and, as such, I’ve long been drawn to wines from Argentina. Especially in the Salta region, these vineyards are planted at dizzying heights.

In terms of highest elevation vineyards in the world, that title belongs to Bodega Colomé. The bodega sits at about 7,500 feet, but their highest vineyard (Altura Máxima) is located some 10,000 feet above sea level.

I recently tasted through some impressive wines from this producer, as well as fellow Salta winery Bodega Amalaya. This report also includes a wine from Domaine Bousquet and a serious value-driven Chilean red called Primus.

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

Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-20-2019

This week brings another roundup of wines from all over the world. Let’s dig in.

Included in this report are a pair of appassimento style wines from Pasqua, a producer from Italy’s Veneto region. For the price, they offer up a really cool springboard into this traditional style of wines.

While I love wines from the Italian region of Alto Adige, it’s not that often I taste a Pinot Grigio that stands up and slaps me in the face (in a good way). Peter Zemmer’s Riserva Giatl is a super complex and invigorating PG that deserves some attention.

Per usual, the Port producer Dow’s delivers, this time with two aged Tawny Ports (10- and 20-Year-Old), which reminded me again why I love aged Tawnies.

I also tasted four wines from the northern Spanish region of Navarra, which is home to many solid wines that sell here in the U.S. for very little money. There’s a rosé, a Chard, a Pinot and a Merlot blend, and they all punch well above their price point.

Lastly, I want to highlight two wines from Early Mountain, a Virginia producer who has been going from strength to strength lately. Their newly released Chardonnay and Shenandoah Valley Cabernet Franc show what this exciting winery has to offer. Read the rest of this entry »

Much to Discover in the High Desert Wines of Southern Arizona

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-13-2019

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Surreal scenery outside Sonoita, Arizona.

As an East Coaster, I didn’t see a proper American desert until I first traveled to Arizona in 2010. Immediately, I became obsessed with this state and all its extreme natural beauty. With few expectations, I also dove deep into the wine scene, and found some dynamic producers making delicious wines.

Many of the wines I enjoyed most hailed from the Southeast of Arizona, the Cochise County area, which abuts Mexico and New Mexico. The state’s only American Viticultural Areas are located here, Sonoita and Willcox. This is also where the modern Arizona wine industry began, when soil scientist Dr. Gordon Dutt founded Sonoita Vineyards in 1983 after an experimental vineyard showed promise. I recently visited the region for the first time and encountered a beautiful land of high desert plains, rugged mountains, wide open space, and exciting wines.

Yes, Arizona is hot and dry. But the diversity in microclimates, soil types, winegrapes, and winemakers tells a much more complex story. Geologic maps of Arizona are dizzying, and the area has an abundance of rocky, sandy soils, limestone, clay, giving winegrowers many great options to work with.

Most of the vineyards in Southeast Arizona are planted around 4,300-5,000 feet in elevation. This leads to serious temperature swings, allowing grapes to ripen in the sun and heat, and maintain acidity as the nighttime temperatures drop. During my visit to Sonoita in February, I woke up to 18 degrees Fahrenheit after driving through snow-covered mountains, their peaks sometimes hidden above the clouds. The day after I left, six inches of snow fell, which goes to show how variable and extreme conditions can be.

To start off my visit, I met Todd Bostock, winemaker at Dos Cabezas, a producer I’ve grown to respect. We met on a cold, sunny day in Sonoita, and I tasted through his wines and chatted about what he’s up to these days at his winery. And he’s up to a lot of awesome stuff.

Pronghorn Vineyard. Credit: Dos Cabezas

Pronghorn Vineyard. Credit: Dos Cabezas

The late Arizona winegrower Al Buhl started Dos Cabezas in 1995. Todd, who started home winemaking early before studying with UC Davis’ extension program, took a winemaking job at Dos Cabezas in 2002. The Bostock family took control over the project in 2006. Todd farms 37 acres in Willcox’s Cimarron Vineyard, which sit at 4,300 feet. This fascinating vineyard is home to seven white grape varieties (from Albarino to Viognier) and 17 red grapes (from Aglianico to Vranec). The 15-acre Pronghorn vineyard, in Sonoita, sits at 4,800 feet and is home to ten different grape varieties.

As such, Dos Cabezas is all about the blends. There’s a lot of vintage variation in this part of the country, and lots of weather difficulties, including early and late frosts, hail, so having access to a wide array of grapes gives Todd freedom to tweak the makeup of his wines each vintage. You can tell a lot about a wine nerd by what empty bottles they keep around on shelves or cabinets. In Todd’s barrel room, I saw a diverse selection and epic bottles, but it was the Chateauneuf wines (from several of my favorite producers) that stood out. And that Chateauneuf ethos of blending all sorts of different grapes comes through in Todd’s wines. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-30-2019

I’ve been receiving a lot of new releases from California lately (especially rosés), so this report is my attempt to keep up!

This week, I’m taking a look at two Sonoma County wines from Sosie, which really wowed me with their brightness, freshness and lower alcohol vibes. California’s only Kerner wine (from David Ramey’s Sidebar brand) makes a delightful appearance in this report, while the Sidebar Zinfandel shows a red-fruited, bright as day appeal.

I also tasted some big name 2015 Napa Cabs (Beaulieu’s Georges de Latour Private Reserve and LaJota’s Howell Mountain), which showed why they’re popular and expensive.

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

Wine Reviews: Yangarra Estate

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-23-2019

Yangarra is one of those producers that has kept me interested in Australian over the years.

High Sands Grenache. Credit: Yangarra Estate.

High Sands Grenache. Credit: Yangarra Estate.

I’ve found their wines boast plenty of sunshiny fruit, but I love the freshness, acidity and non-fruit complexity I get in these wines.

Located in the northeast part of the McLaren Vale, Yangarra is a certified biodynamic estate focused on the classic Rhone varieties. Grapevines have been planted on the estate since the late 1800s, but its modern history begins in 1946, when Bernard Smart planted unirrigated, bush vine Grenache. This became known as the High Sands Vineyard (because of its sandy clay soil), and demand for the fruit from this vineyard grew and grew.

Today, Yangarra’s vineyards comprise some 100 hectares, spread into 35 different blocks.

In 2001, Jackson Family Wines purchased Yangarra, and soon after local winemaker Peter Fraser took the helm. He uses wild yeast fermentation and judicious use of new oak, and the resulting wines have a purity of expression that I find really attractive.

I recently tasted through some Yangarra wines, and found across-the-board quality. The ceramic egg and skin-fermented Roussanne, as well as the High Sands Grenache, really stood out and wowed me. I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-16-2019

Welcome back for another roundup of new releases from California!

I’ve been getting a lot of new wines from California, and this report has a good amount of the staples: Chardonnay, Pinot, Cabernet, Zinfandel. There are a couple value-driven wines that deliver, and some exciting new releases from Sonoma’s Anaba and Lake County’s Hawk & Horse.

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