Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-13-2022

This week’s report encompasses a range of wines that speak to diversity and value.

Oregon Pinot fans are surely aware of Willakenzie, which formed in 1991 and boasts a 420-acre estate in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Five years ago, Erik Kramer joined as winemaker, continuing on the Pinot legacy but branching out into Chardonnay as well.

I’ve known Mendoza’s Trapiche mostly for their widely-available and inexpensive Malbec, but they’ve got some gems in their portfolio as well. Take the Terroir Series, three single-vineyard Malbecs that offer nuance, depth and distinction at a very reasonable price. From vines all planted above 3,000 feet, winemaker Sergio Case is doing something special with these wines. Age-worthy and packed with value, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a few of these apiece and forget about them in the cellar for a few election cycles.

For these hot, humid days, I also have some Cavas from Bella Conchi that offer a lot of fun without breaking the bank. And one rosé from Napa’s Smith-Madrone – only the third time they’ve made this one, but it really rocks.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted, while the Trapiche wines were tasted single blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: California’s Lobo Wines and Hawk and Horse

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-29-2022

I’m back to California this week with two producers who have some delightful new releases worth sharing.

I’ve been a fan of Lake County’s Hawk and Horse for years, so I was excited to taste their 2019 offerings. Especially considering the winery didn’t produce any wines in 2018 due to wildfires. Luckily, they’re back to form with their consistent, small-lot Bordeaux reds, which are sourced from the winery’s 18-acre estate vineyard, sitting at 1,800 to 2,000 feet with some steep slopes. The rocky, red volcanic soil and terroir here offer a signature fresh acidity that complements the dark fruit and pronounces spice tones very well. If you haven’t ventured far into Lake County wines, this is a great biodynamic producer to get to know.

Earlier this year, I tasted Napa’s Lobo Wines for the first time, and I’m back to check out their new 2019 vintage releases. I’m finding a lot of consistency in quality and deliciousness from this producer. Napa wines are never cheap, but this producer really offers a lot of interesting wines with fun flavors and styles for very reasonable prices.

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

Wine Reviews: Sauvignon Blanc from Chile

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-09-2022

Talinay Vineyard. Credit: Tabali

I’ve long wanted to travel to Chile, because it would be easy to combine some of my favorite passions in life into one big trip. I’d tour vineyards and meet with winemakers, take surf treks to remote reef breaks, an expedition into the mountains, enjoy birdwatching adventures in coastal estuaries. I have not clue if these goals will be realized, but I sure hope so.

In the meantime, everything is so expensive! But Sauvignon Blanc from Chile isn’t — and a lot of it is pretty dang good. Sauv Blanc is Chile’s second most widely-planted variety (more than 37,000 acres under vine), and the grape is planted all over the country’s diverse wine regions. There’s way too much to try and summarize (thousands of miles of coastal and mountainous terrain), but considering the narrow stretch of the country, they share coastal influences, which keep the wines vibrant and delicious. If you like hints of sea salt in your Sauv Blanc like I do, you can get a lot of that here.

Another thing I respect is how the country’s wine consortium created a sustainability code that addresses different environmental practices, and it’s been adopted by producers that represent about 80% of the country’s exports. And while there are some well-known supermarket brands I’ve seen around for years, I’m finding more and more Chilean Sauvignon Blanc from new-to-me producers popping up, and I like that.

For beach reads, octopus salads, baked flounder, a big tray of oysters, and a host of other summertime activities, Chilean Sauv Blancs would fit the bill very nicely. And most of the wines are in that $20 range, and offer a lot more depth and complexity than a lot of other similarly-priced Sauv Blancs from other countries. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Fourth of July Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-03-2022

It’s Fourth of July weekend, so that means we need some American wines in the mix. This weekend, I’m spending time at the ballpark with the kiddo, grilling with some friends, sipping some wines and listening to the neighborhood dogs lose their minds over the incessant fireworks.

I hope you’re all enjoying the weekend and holiday, gathering with friends and enjoying some nice vino. I’ve gathered this mix of American samples I’ve received, mostly from California, that would make nice accompaniments to any summer grill-out.

Oregon’s Troon delivers a crunchy, delish Piquette worth checking out. I’ve got a few whites to beat the heat, and two bottles from Napa brand The Mill Keeper, multi-vintage wines from that offer a fun, juicy, crowd-friendly appeal but spot complexity as well. And for any grilled meats, I’ve got a nice mix of Napa reds from the likes of Frank Family, Grieve, Gamble and Cliff Lede.

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 06-25-2022

Let’s take a trip this week. From Spain, I’ve got some delicious, grill-friendly reds from Ribera del Duero and Madrid that offer value, fruit and Spanish flair. And to beat the heat, I’ve got some bubbles and zesty whites (Garnacha Blanca and Rias Baixas are always good for that).

I don’t know about you, but I get excited when I first try a wine from a new-to-me country. The most recent example: Kosovo. I don’t know much about the country except for some books I read about wars in the region — but as someone who lived in Ukraine and traveled a lot in eastern and southern Europe, I’m always excited to dig into new cultures and histories. And, clearly, I should look more into the winemaking culture here, as there are two fun, juicy reds from this country’s Rahoveci Valley in this report.

I love me some reds from Central Italy’s Abruzzo region, but I don’t have a lot of experience with their white wines. But I there’s a lot to like here. Known more for ripe reds, this region is also home to some rosés and whites, and I think Pecorino tends to offer a bit more depth and interesting flavors than some other white grapes.

There’s also two delicious tawny Ports from Dow, who always delivers. A summer-friendly Wachau Gruner and a Bourgogne-Aligote round out this report. These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Rioja

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-11-2022

I have wanted to travel in Spain for many years, and that desire has grown as I get more and more experience with Spanish wines. My family and I had been planning a trip between covid waves that didn’t pan out, but I hope soon to spend a week or two there really digging into the land, culture, food and wine. Roaming and tasting my way through Rioja, surfing on the Basque coast, exploring some rock climbing routes – it’s all high on my bucket list.

Until that day, I enjoy myself some Spanish wines – and I try to add some Spanish inspiration into my cooking pretty regularly. And I enjoy Rioja most of all. Recently, I received some wines from Rioja that run the gamut. It’s such a diverse and varied region, with storied regional histories, and this report is just a drop in the bucket.

If you like Tempranillo, there are some solid ones in here – some long-agers and a lot of value, too. These wines were received as samples and tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Nebbiolo on the Cheap

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-04-2022

I love Barolo and Barbaresco, but, like many primo winegrowing regions, the best stuff gets really expensive. Not to mention the cellar time it takes for many of the wines to open up. I wish I had a dollar for everyone Barolo I’ve tasted only to think, “Welp, that was great but should’ve let it sit for another decade.”

Luckily for us, there’s Langhe Nebbiolo, which are sort of like baby Barbarescos. These wines tend to spend less time in oak and bottle and show a juicier, fresher appeal, which, when dealing with a grape as notoriously grippy as Nebbiolo, can be a really good thing. If you’re trying to keep your hands of those Barolos in the cellar but need something to drink with a good osso buco, look no further.

I recently received a handful of Nebbiolos and was impressed yet again with the across-the-board quality, and excited by their distinctiveness. These wines are all imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct’s portfolio, which offers some nice cost savings.

Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy is a winery I’ve been following for a while, as their wines appear in my local market. But this winery has been owned by the di Grésy family since 1797, and since the 1970s they have been making only estate wines from the 100+ acres of vineyards. I’ve found a lot of these wines to be serious value, and this Nebbiolo from Martinenga is delightful.

Enrico Serafino is another producer with a storied history, dating back to its start in Roero in 1878, and their Picotener is an example of one of many clonal varieties of Nebbiolo. The wine is a really fascinating.

Vietti is well-known, and for a reason, and their Perbacco bottling always delivers for me. Sourced from 15 different crus in Barolo, and some in Barbaresco as well, this brings so much Nebbiolo depth and complexity to the table, but with openness and approachability that make it fun for all.

And the welcome outlier is the Rosso di Valtellina DOC from Tenuta Scerscé in Lombardy. This Nebbiolo is sourced from vineyards near the Rhaeitian Alps. The local clone, and the terroir and elevation, lead to a bright and zesty iteration.

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

Wine Reviews: Summertime Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-21-2022

Here in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic, it is a scorcher of a weekend. Heat, humidity, summer travel and traffic on the way – I know a lot of people love summer, but I am missing the cooler days already!

And as much as I love some Napa Cabs and burly Southern Rhone wines, I’m not going to be opening one any time soon. I need some crisp whites, interesting rosés, maybe some orange wines and crushable reds.

In recent weeks I’ve received a wide spectrum of wines that would fit this bill. I’ve parsed through some of them and curated this selection of summer-friendly wines. From Grieve and Gamble, Napa Sauvignon Blancs deliver, and I have some cool wines from Germany as well.

Stinson Vineyards is one of Virginia’s most reliable producers for me, and they come through again with the new vintage of their Tannat pink. But what really wowed me was their Meritage Blanc, something I didn’t know was coming and took me by surprise with its beautiful interpretation of a Semillon/Sauv Blanc blend. Oregon’s Troon Vineyard always puts out interesting wines in a lot of styles, and the three offerings from this biodynamic producer are great examples.

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

Wine Reviews: Fun Finds from California and Arizona

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-15-2022

This week, I have a selection of American wines I find exciting.

For many years, I’ve been touting Arizona wines, and I’m here to do it again. I love a lot of Arizona producers, their DIY winemaking culture, the interesting mix of varieties and styles. One of my favorite activities in life is to go climbing and hiking in some Arizona mountains and come home to a delicious local red blend with a grilled steak. Aridus is a great entry into Arizona wines, as this Willcox-based producer has a lot of different bottles available in a bunch of markets.

I’m also a huge fan of amphora wines (grapes fermented on their skins in clay vessels). It’s been done all around the world in ancient winemaking cultures, from Georgia, Italy and Portugal. I spent a lot of time digging into the amphora winemaking culture in Alentejo a few years ago, and I’ve been keenly watching for New World producers who step up and make wines in this method and style. Behold! Beckmen Vineyards delivers with their “1Ingredient” wines. From Ballard Canyon, these wines are pure expressions of their grapes and place, but also of their fermentation method – as the wines offer this beautiful mouthfeel and elegant complexity. Check this out if any of this sounds interesting.

Booker is a Paso Robles producer I’ve known and respected for a while. Their wines are so exciting and delicious, and offer a ton of value, too. Paso is such a dynamic scene, and I always enjoy keeping up with what they’re doing out there – and Booker is a staple and legend for a reason.

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

Wine Reviews: Spring Selections from California

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-07-2022

Happy Saturday to you all, and happy Mother’s Day to all the moms. It’s a mid-Spring weekend here on the east coast, with plenty of rain. But I’m excited to get out in the woods in a few days to explore some more wildflowers and mushrooms. To pair with any morels I may find (which likely won’t amount to much), I’ve got a bunch of new California wines.

Some of these are from producers I’ve known and enjoyed for a while, like the reliably exciting Chardonnays and Pinots from Sonoma’s Gary Farrell, and the value-driven and delicious wines from The Paring. But some of these are new to me, like Titus from Napa. Ancient Peaks delivers some vibrant Paso Robles wines into the mix as well. And I was excited to taste a wine grape/apple blend that I received. Kivel Stadt cellars’ Gravignon Blanc is a 50/50 co-ferment of Sauv Blanc and Gravenstein apples, and it is just delightful. Winemaker Sam Baron created this lower-alcohol, bright and zesty concoction from Alexander Valley fruit that brings a ton of Spring-y goodness – definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for something new.

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