Wine Reviews: Knights Bridge Winery

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-17-2020

This week, I’m visiting (from afar) Sonoma’s Knights Valley. Here, in the northeast corner of Sonoma, where Napa and Sonoma meet at the base of Mount Saint Helena, the climate is the warm and the soils rocky.

I recently received a group of wines from Knights Bridge from this area. This winery was formed in 2006, and the wines are made by Douglas Daneilak, who has been with Knights Bridge since the beginning. Their diverse mix of Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays offers an interesting way to analyze what this region has to offer. This was my first time tasting wines from this producer, and I found an interesting mix of complex white wines (and a few reds) worth seeking out.

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

Wine Reviews: Napa Valley Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-03-2020

My heart is breaking as I follow from afar the news of more fires in California. The impacts of the Glass Fire that continues to devastate Napa are tragic and overwhelming. The scale of the destruction of life, property, livelihoods seems impossible to imagine. My sincerest thoughts and wishes for safety are with all of the people affected by this and other fires.

While there are so many more immediate concerns and ways to support those affected, it seems to be as good a time as any to buy some Napa wine and raise a glass to their safety. This week, in a spirit of support for the people who make Napa Valley wine possible, I have a round-up of some recent Napa red wine releases.

Sullivan, under new ownership since 2018, was founded by Jim O’Neill Sullivan in 1972. This Rutherford estate offers up two exciting reds in this report.

Calla Lilly Estate also brings a pair of delicious wines. This Pope Valley estate was founded by two Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs, who sought out winemaker Cary Gott. The 20 acres of vineyards reside on the eastern slopes of Howell Mountain. The 2015 vintage of their Audax is really something.

La Pelle is a Napa project that brings together Israeli-born winemaker Maayan Koschitzky, Mexican-born farmer and winemaker Miguel Luna, and American-born farmer and founder of Silverado Farming Company, Peter Richmond. I’ll let their wines speak for themselves.

Shafer is a Napa stalwart that needs to introduction. Their TD-9 continues to deliver deep, Napa goodness for a reasonable price, while the Relentless Syrah lives up to its name.

All of these wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: Steele Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-26-2020

Long-time readers may have seen me focus on Steele Wines in the past. And that’s because there’s something about this producer’s old-school aesthetic, budget friendly appeal, and diverse and delicious portfolio, that I think deserves attention. Owner/winemaker Jed Steele has been vinifying grapes for 50 years; this year Steele Wines marked its 28th anniversary.

This old school Lake County producer puts out a staggering array of wines. There are different brands, price-points, and lots of different sources of fruit from around California. Thing is, from entry-level to their upper tier wines, these wines are reliably well-made, delicious, and frequently complex, offering a lot of bang for the buck.

I recently tasted a batch of new releases and found a lot of wines that I would recommend for those looking to try something yummy and a bit off-the-beaten path without spending a lot of money.

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 09-12-2020

I’m back this week with another round-up of some recent samples from around the world.

This week, Umberto Cesari delivers two interesting wines from Emilia-Romagna’s Rubicone region.

For years now, I’ve been very impressed with Troon’s wines, and they continue to keep their stride. These wines are biodynamic, lower-alcohol, made with native yeasts, and they show tremendous depth and complexity. The U.S. wine scene is lucky to have Troon, an outfit that always maintains quality and focus while constantly branching out and experimenting. And, apparently, now they make one of the only Piquettes I’ve tasted that I can honestly recommend.

And there’s also Post Malone’s Maison No. 9 French pink – hey, I review what I get!

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

Wine Reviews: Ashes & Diamonds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-29-2020

I’m back this week to focus on more California wines, this time from Napa’s Ashes & Diamonds.

This project was founded by California native Kashy Khaledi, a media and advertising executive, in 2013. The winery brands itself as “a love letter to Napa Valley as it was when it took the world stage in the 1960s.” Their glassy, mid-century modern winery, located off Highway 29, looks like a fascinating place to visit.

For winemaking duties, Khaledi wisely sought out renowned winemaker Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses, enologist at Domaine Dujac and winemaker at Snowden Vineyards. The several vineyard sources seem like truly special sites, from the gravelly, clay and loam soils of the Ashes & Diamonds Vineyard in Oak Knoll to the thin, rocky soils of the Mountain Peak Vineyard in the Atlas Peak appellation.

I had been aware of these wines for a while, but never wrapped my palate around one until recently. I receive and review a lot of California wines, many of which I appreciate and enjoy. But it’s rare that I taste wines that get me as stoked as these. Sipping these wines, I was shocked at their complexity, vibrancy, effortlessness. The wines are really special and delicious, and perfect for palates with a tendency toward old-school California and Old World styles.

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

Wine Reviews: Lake County’s Hawk and Horse Vineyards

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-22-2020

California is on my mind and heart these days, as I watch from afar as these fires destroy so much. My thoughts and hopes are with all of you affected by these California fires. Stay safe.

There’s never been a better time to support California wineries, so today I want to shine a light on some interesting wines from Lake County, which has some special sites and exciting vineyards. These wines still don’t get nearly as much attention as wines from its neighboring counties, but that just means there is much to explore. I’ve tried to highlight different Lake County producers, and this week, I’m excited to dig into an old favorite: Hawk and Horse Vineyards.

Credit: Hawk and Horse Vineyards

After an exhaustive search for a site in the North Coast, David Boies settled on the El Roble Grande Ranch in Lower Lake, California, in 1982. It was an abandoned horse-breeding facility surrounded by 900 acres of wilderness. But the high-elevation (1,800 to 2,200 feet), red volcanic soils, pristine nature and access to water, showed potential for growing great grapes.

Co-owners Mitch and Tracey Hawkins took over daily ranch operations and planted the vines in 2001. Today, they have about 18 acres of grapes, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with about an acre apiece of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. The winery still houses some horses and cattle, and is home to many red-tailed hawks (hence the name). The vineyards have been certified organic since 2004 and biodynamic since 2008.

I’ve tasted this Cabernet Sauvignon a few times over the years, and found it to be a consistently exciting and dynamic wine, showing structure, pretty fruit, and some unique and complex earthy, spicy tones. It seemed like a wine that could age, but I never had the chance to test that out, until now. In addition to the other wines in this tasting report, the winery is also selling a trio of library releases (which includes the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages) for $330. While that’s not cheap, if these wines said Napa on the label, I think folks would call this a “value.” Tasting these aged wines was an eye-opening experience that really allows the taster to understand the intricacies of this special place.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted:

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Wine Reviews: Brengman Brothers’ Michigan Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-15-2020

Michigan wines have fascinated me for a while, so I’m excited to be back this week tasting a bunch of wines from Brengman Brothers.

This family-run winery, now entering its 17th vintage, is based near Traverse City, Michigan, in the Leelanau Peninsula American Viticultural Area (AVA). The peninsula, which juts into Grand Traverse Bay, is home to more than 20 wineries. Cool climate grapes like Riesling thrive here, and the Bordeaux style blends from this region can show brisk, bright, Old World appeal, with lots of spicy and floral components.

The appellation, which was formed in 1982, is characterized by its proximity to Lake Michigan, creating an inland maritime climate which helps moderate temperature extremes. Lake effect snow can actually help protect vines against potentially devastating spring frosts, but, on the flip side, the climate allows for ice wine production in some vintages.

Brengman Bros. sources their grapes from three vineyards. In their Timberlee Vineyard (30 acres), Crain Hill Vineyard (25 acres), and Cedar Lake Vineyard (5 acres) they grow a wide range of grape varieties, from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc to Muscat Ottonel, Petit Verdot, even some Rotgipfler. (I had to revisit my textbooks for that last one.) The winery is 100% solar powered, and equipped to move barrels outside for cold stabilization in the Michigan winter.

While I thought a few of the wines really stood out, they were all interesting, and only one missed the mark (for me). I can struggle with hot, heavy wines (especially in summer), so I found these wines a delightful, refreshing experience. They’re certainly worth checking out if you’re in the area or buying direct.

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 08-01-2020

Happy Saturday, folks. I’m back this week with a mix of wines from around the world, a lot of which are great options for summertime.

One of my favorite German producers, Peter Lauer, makes an appearance with a serious value of a Riesling. Domaine Wachau comes out swinging with a fun and inexpensive Gruner that is definitely worth checking out. And a smattering of different Rioja offers up a lot of quality and value that would be great with summer grill-outs.

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 07-18-2020

I’m excited to be back this week with some offerings from Argentina and Chile.

Domaine Bousquet’s organic “Virgen” reds dole out plenty of freshness and complexity for a crazy low price. I also have some crisp and deep Malbecs from some of the highest elevation vineyards in the world, Bodega Colomé. And Los Vascos continues to put out reliable, value-driven Chilean wines.

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

Wine Reviews: Italy

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-11-2020

I’ve been at home for 17 weeks now, and the travel lust is in full swing. Unfortunately, here in the U.S. we are still in the middle of the first pandemic wave, and things look worse and worse these days. So, this week, to satiate my desire for travel and cheery myself up, I’m visiting a range of Italian wines.

The estate wines of Alois Lageder, in Italy’s Dolomiti region, are organic and biodynamic and really exciting. But I was pleasantly surprised to taste the quality and vibrancy in their Terra Alpina wines, which are sourced from different growers in the region. For the price, these wines offer this sense of regional typicity, depth, and “realness.”

I also tasted an impressive Super Tuscan at an entry-level price from Tenuta di Arceno, and some crushable Veneto wines from Pasqua. Lastly, Zenato’s Amarone makes me long for autumnal weather and slow-cooked meats.

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