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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Chile and Argentina

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-14-2021

It’s been a while since I’ve delved into some wines from Chile and Argentina, so I’m excited to share some new offerings.

Three reds from Argentina make an appearance in this report, and the Mascota Vineyards Unanime brand show juicy, lively styles that are great for a slight chill on a warm evening.

Most of the wines in this report hail from Chile, and these producers are also touting their sustainability efforts. Koyle is a biodynamic producer that gets 40% of its power supply from solar panels. And Emiliana is one of the largest organic and biodynamic producers in the world. What I love is how some of these producers are able to utilize these methods and produce delicious, interesting wines at super reasonable price points.

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

Wine Reviews: Late Summer Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-31-2021

I can’t believe it’s almost August. But there’s still plenty of summertime left, and this week I have a mix of wines to keep the summer vibes going.

There are some diverse white wines in here, from Austrian Gruner and a kicking South African Chardonnay. Plenty of value is on display as well, with some Rioja rosés and a delightful Rioja Blanco. And Napa’s Shafer turns out a really impressive vintage of their Red Shoulder Chardonnay.

I also received several wines from Jumilla Wine, which promotes this Spanish region’s wines in the U.S. These inexpensive wines are branded by the region to show the importance of Monastrell to this sun-roasted region of Southeastern Spain.

I rarely review anything besides wine, but I’m making an exception in this report for these non-alcoholic grape juices from Castello di Amorosa. They harvest some grapes a few days early for acidity, and make juice out of them. Yes, clearly they are sweet, but they’re also well made, smell and taste like their respective varieties, and are yummy.

The juices are sold at their Calistoga location or on their website. I’m glad to see these being made, because they’re interesting and offer the sense a lot to unpack without the alcohol, and would be great drinks to share with friends and family who do not consume alcohol. I tasted these with my six-year-old daughter and we took tasting notes together, and it was a blast. (She’s a big Gewurz juice fan.)

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

Wine Reviews: Italian Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-24-2021

This week, I’m digging into a few Italian wines, and value is largely the theme here. From poolside selections for a dozen bucks to more moderately-priced wines that deliver a lot of depth, there’s a nice mix in here.

The islands are represented, with some delicious Sardinian selections from Surrau. There are some inexpensive offerings from Sicily’s Cantine Ermes, too, which offer a good introduction to their respective grapes.

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

Wine Reviews: Merry Edwards & Alma Fria

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-17-2021

This week, I’m highlighting two Sonoma County producers who bring me joy. I, for one, could use a bit of joy these days. I’ve been a fan of both of these producers for a while now, and I was excited to revisit them through the new releases. While tasting, I was comforted but just how reliably delicious and honest these wines are.

Merry Edwards has always had my respect, from Merry’s groundbreaking spot in Sonoma wine history, to the fact that the wines continue to deliver, vintage-in, vintage-out. With winemaker Heidi von der Mehden at the helm, this slew of 2019 Pinot Noirs continues the winery’s strong legacy.

I’ve been following Alma Fria since their 2013 vintage, and found these wines to be consistently exciting. If you’re a fan of lower alcohol Pinots and Chardonnays, with more citrus on the Chard side and tangy red fruit on the Pinot side, you should really check these out. The single-vineyard Pinots, like the Doña Margarita Vineyard near Freestone and the Holtermann Vineyard near Annapolis, deserve some cellar time, or plenty of air to strut their stuff. Winemaker Carroll Kemp really rocks it with the entry-level Plural wines, which have some sourced fruit and serve as are a great introduction to the producer’s style. They’re honestly some of the most delicious and bang-for-the-buck Pinots and Chards I find from California.

These wines were received as samples, and the Merry Edwards Pinot Noirs were tasted single-blind, while the others were tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: American Wines for the Fourth of July

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-03-2021

Happy Fourth of July to all the American readers out there. As has grown to be my custom, I take this time to highlight some recent American wines that came across the sample pile. And I have a fun, diverse group today.

I’ve long been a fan (and something of an evangelist) for Arizona wines. I can’t help myself, I love it out there, and there are some really cool people making really fun wines. Aridus, based in one of my favorite areas of Cochise County, is a good intro into AZ wines, and are more widely available than most.

From Oregon, Applegate Valley’s biodynamic stalwart Troon Vineyards delivers three summery, spritzy, crushable wines. They’re always experimenting, and I respect that.

And, of course, California wines make appearances. Ashes & Diamonds 2020 pink is about as complex and impressive a California rosé I’ve come across in a long time. A case buy kind of wine. Howell Mountain Cabernet comes out to show why this appellation is so excellent, and a few other legit Cab-based wines round out the mix.

Lastly, from Virginia, Monticello-based producer Stinson continues to deliver with their Tannat-based pink, and a Merlot and Meritage definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in Virginia wines.

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 06-27-2021

The California wines keep on coming, so I’m back this week with another roundup of new releases.

There are some serious Cabernets in this mix. LaPelle’s Napa offering is an underrated gem that would be a nice mix to any Cali Cab fan’s cellar. Sullivan is right up there, too.

Paso Robles comes back again with some delicious, complex, grill-friendly reds from Tooth and Nail’s Amor Fati label. Sonoma producers Notre Vue, Bouchaine and Sosie also sport some interesting reds.

I recently attended a Facebook Live virtual tasting with Justin Vineyards’ founder Justin Baldwin, which involved three of their wines paired with a cheese. Justin and author Laura Werlin walked attendees through their wines and the cheeses from Cowgirl, Vella Cheese and Cypress Grove. Especially during these past 15 months or so, I’ve appreciated seeing wineries putting lots of effort into tasting likes these as a way to bring wine-lovers together when many of us have been far apart.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Chablis

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-20-2021

Chablis has long been one of my favorite regions. As a lover of oysters and all other sorts of seafood, I crave that salty, briny Chardonnay that only this region can produce.

Today’s the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, so it seems as fitting a time as any to highlight some summer-friendly, versatile Chablis wines. Sure, there are those well-known producers whose wines have become increasingly out of my price range, but I really enjoy scoping around for more moderately-priced offerings that still deliver the Chablis goodness. Today I’m focusing on four different Chablis wines that fit nicely into that category.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. (Pricing is based on wine-searcher averages.) Read the rest of this entry »