Wine Reviews: Troon Vineyard

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-13-2021

Longtime readers may have seen me praise Oregon’s Troon Vineyard in the past. Well, here I am again to do it again.

I can’t help it – Troon just keeps putting out exciting wines. From old classics to an array of newer blends and styles in recent years, their across-the-board consistency has been pretty amazing. Based in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon, Troon puts out are biodynamic wines with native yeasts and a fresh, spicy but focused appeal.

If your palate tends more toward the leaner side of the Syrah spectrum, and you’re happy with roasted, savory, spicy flavors, this trio of Troon Syrahs is definitely worth checking out. “Syrah may be the ideal variety for our site,” says winegrower Craig Camp. After tasting a lot of these wines over the years, it’s a convincing argument. These three wines offer a good view of their approach to this grape overall, and it was a joy tasting them together and parsing through the nuances. All three of them were aged 20 months in mature French oak.

The Druid’s Fluid wines are based on the traditional blends of the Cotes du Rhone, and deliver just what you’d hope for from their French counterparts: delicious fruit, some spicy accents, and lots of value. The Cotes du Kubli wines are blends from Troon’s Cowhorn Vineyard, and are called such because they’re sourced from the hills around the Kubli Bench, a plateau above the Applegate River. They’re consistently reliable and delicious expressions of Troon’s style.

And, while label aesthetics doesn’t affect what’s in the bottle, it still matters. And Troon has been revamping their design in different ways lately, and I think it’s paying off. From the flowy symbol design of the Druid’s Fluid to the detailed guidebook style drawings of their biodynamic preparations, the bottles really draw my attention. And then the juice itself overdelivers.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted, except for the three Syrahs, which I tasted single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Ramón Bilbao

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-07-2021

There are plenty of heralded wine regions I have yet to visit, far more than I will likely see in my lifetime. But Rioja is high on that list. One day I hope to visit the cellars of Lopez de Heredia and explore the larger region, but until then, wine offers that ability to travel through the senses.

For years, Rioja wines have consistently delivered for me, and I have so many fond memories of serving these wines to friends and family at gatherings, especially around the holidays and colder months. A few years back, I befriended a reddish-colored, malnourished alley cat, and helped her out over a long winter with a steady diet of canned tuna and chicken scraps. I named her Rioja.

Anyway, I recently tasted through some interesting wines from Rioja’s Bodegas Ramón Bilbao that are worth highlighting. The bodega’s namesake opened the winery in 1924. He passed away just five years later, leaving the bodega to his son Enrique. The company has grown and expanded over the decades, especially lately, and has spread out to make wines in Rueda and Rias Baixas. In Rioja today, they have more than 200 hectares of vineyards, and source grapes from some 900 more. Featured today is a solid lineup, from entry-level up to the flagship Mirto, whose first vintage was 1999. Across the board, these wines are very well done and worth checking out if you, like me, enjoy Rioja.

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

Wine Reviews: California Pinot & Chardonnay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-24-2021

In autumn, California pinot noir just hits the spot for me. Especially when the weather finally gets proper cool out, and I’m cooking dishes like cassoulet and braised meats again. It all makes sense with a fresh, delicious, savory pinot.

For California pinot fans, Sanford needs an introduction like metalheads need a primer on Black Sabbath. C’mon, we’re talking about legends, here — the history, the Santa Rita Hills vineyards that yield some classic wine. And 2019 marks the first full vintage with winemaker Trey Fletcher at the helm. After crafting wines with Littorai and Bien Nacido Vineyards, Sanford’s pinot noir is in very good hands for the future.

Fort Ross Winery delivers two different takes on Sonoma Coast pinot. The freshness in these is delightful, and if you’re a fan of that crisp red fruit and spice-toned thing like me, these are worth checking out. And Sonoma-Cutrer offers up a delicious 2019 pinot, too.

Oh, and there’s some corresponding chardonnays in this report because, well, they always go together.

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

Wine Reviews: Spain

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-17-2021

The diversity of Spanish wine never ceases to amaze me. The more I taste (and dream of visiting wine regions), the more I realize there’s how much more there is to explore. Recently, a slew of impressive Spanish wines came past my doorstep, and this week I’m highlighting some goodies.

Galicia’s Virgen del Galir comes out swinging with a complex and inviting Godello and a spicy, delicious Mencia. This was the first time I tasted wines from Enate, a producer in the Aragón appellation of Somontano. And they opened my mind to what Merlot and Cabernet are capable of here.

There’s also some autumn-friendly Riojas at various price points, and a burly but exciting Garnacha from Clos Mogador.

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

Wine Reviews: California Highlights

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-10-2021

It is finally starting to feel like fall here in the Mid-Atlantic region, with cooler weather and leaves just starting to change color – my favorite time of year. And with October baseball featuring the Dodgers and Giants keeping me entertained, I thought it was a good time to highlight some recent California favorites.

So, I chose a mix of California red wines that wowed me – a bunch of delicious, serious red wines that I think would fit well with the season. Biodynamic producer Hawk and Horse delivers a handful of impressive wines from Bordeaux reds. Based in Lake County, I find these are some of the most consistently delicious wines from the region, and they can age really well.

Speaking of aging well, Eden Rift’s estate Pinot Noirs from the Cienega Valley have a ton going for them. I recently tasted three vintages (2016, 2017 and 2018), and enjoyed parsing through the nuances in the vintage variation, seeing how they are aging. All three of these wines are crisp, lighter, red-fruited, spicy wines that are worth checking out if you, like me, enjoy that style.

Cliff Lede knocks it out of the park with their Magic Nights Cab-based blend from Stags Leap, and two nice Sangiovese wines from Castello di Amorosa round out this report.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: Portugal

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-03-2021

I miss Portugal. For quite some time, I had been looking forward to bringing my family there with me to share my love of this country. But that trip was scheduled for April 2020, so…

I plan to return there next year for a long-overdue visit. It’s not just the wine that I love, but the coastline, the surf, the incredible people, the country’s history, architecture, food, olive oil… But, yes, also the wine.

Symington’s Quinta da Fonte Souto comes out swinging with an impressive white blend from Alentejo’s Portalegre region. Alentejo red blends offer a plethora of options and styles. From dark and saucy to spicy and vibrant, early-drinking to cellar-worthy, I am continually impressed with the complexity and value in wines from this region. This report includes some solid offerings for sure. Herdade do Esporão, based in Alentejo, also has some rocking, inexpensive Douro reds that continue to deliver and impress.

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

Wine Reviews: Tilia Wines from Argentina

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-19-2021

The first time I tried wines from Tilia, it was in 2007, just a year after the winery was founded. Back then, I was relatively new to wine appreciation, and methodically tasting wines, region by region, from all of the countries available to me. But value was essential. And I found that these Tilia wines offered deliciousness and balance that outperformed a lot of similarly-priced wines I was tasting from California, Australia or South Africa.

Things have now come full circle, and here I am tasting and reviewing their 2020 offerings. These wines are all $11 suggested retail, and brought in this summer by Winebow. At that price point, some may be skeptical – but the quality in here is serious. Based in Junin, Mendoza, the wines are sourced from around Mendoza made by Gonzalo Llensa.

I’m of the opinion that these wines are solid across the board. I think they offer a lot for those who are newer to wine and eager to try new things, without spending much. They could also be a hit on a by-the-glass list.

The labels are tasteful and sport their sustainability efforts and certification — and I think all of this combines to make them an attractive entry-level brand to a wide audience. After all these years, it’s refreshing to see Tilia still delivering.

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

Wine Reviews: End of Summer Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-11-2021

Labor Day has come and gone, but as I’m wont to point out around this time of year – astronomically speaking, it’s still summer! The beaches are quieter here on the East Coast, the humidity is dropping, and I’m loving it. As such, I’ve gathered together a mix of wines that I think would pair wonderfully with early fall.

Destinata is a new label from California producer Tooth & Nail, who makes a wide range of wines from Paso Robles and other regions. This brand is focused on a less intervention approach in the cellar, with smaller batches, native yeasts, yielding wines with crushable appeal but surprising complexity. Natty wine fans looking to expand their horizons and try some good examples of this style out of Santa Barbara County should definitely check these wines out.

Chalk Hill delivers classic Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in some half-bottles – which are inexpensive and great for those times when a 375ml is all you need.

And Dallas-based entrepreneur Casey Barber brings her new Rose Gold rosé from Provence, which is an impressive display. A rocking Champagne from Laurent-Perrier, two delicious Rieslings from Wines of Germany and some Proseccos round out this report.

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

Wine Reviews: Costières-de-Nîmes

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-28-2021

For interesting, inexpensive Rhone wines, Costières-de-Nîmes is a fount of good options.

I’ve enjoyed sipping these wines over the years, and I dug into this region further earlier this summer, when I attended a wine tasting and webinar led by a great teacher, MS Evan Goldstein, and winemaker Michel Gassier.

The southernmost appellation in the Rhone, about an hour west of Avignon, the rosé and red wine production here is pretty evenly split, with about 8% white wines, too. Syrah is the dominant red grape here, supported by Grenache, and backed up by Carignan, Cinsault and Marselan. There are lots of old vines, interesting blends, and it’s also one of the “greener” appellations in the area, with 25% of vines farmed organically.

At the end of the Rhone delta, vineyards are situated in rolled, pebbly soils. The climate sees plenty of hot sun, but also cooling influences from the nearby Mediterranean Sea and Petite Camargue marshes. (As a winelover and birdwatcher, I’d sure love to visit this area to scope birds and taste wine all day.)

If you have gone through various cycles of discovering exciting wineries or regions, only to watch them explode in popularity (and price) to the point where you feel priced or crowded out – I can relate. And I was mulling over that dynamic while tasting these wines, thinking about how they have a refreshing sense of timelessness. Inexpensive pink wine that packs a punch and tastes “real”? Or complex, spicy, earthy red blends that evoke roasted meats and herbs? White blends that are juicy but fresh and salty? Those are all to be found in Costières-de-Nîmes – all without the crowded, overpriced, celebrity label vibes. And $15 to $30 will take you pretty far. If you haven’t yet, you may find a lot to like exploring Costières de Nîmes.

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 08-22-2021

This week, I have a handful of new wines from all over California worth getting excited about.

I’m a big fan of the dynamic wine scene in Paso Robles, so I was delighted to taste three new-to-me wines and chat about Paso with the winemakers over a Zoom meeting. They focused on the region’s well-known calcareous soils, and each winemaker (from Linne Calodo, Caliza and the aptly-named Calcareous Vineyard) spoke about the importance of these soils in their wines. The three wines I tasted are good examples of how that ancient ocean bed soil can result in some exciting wines.

Some value Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Nielson in Santa Barbara County also make an appearance, and a cool Chenin Blanc. Lastly, La Pelle’s new offerings continue to show why they are worth watching.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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