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 »

Wine Reviews: Black Kite Cellars

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-12-2021

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir likely needs no introduction here. This Mendocino appellation is packed with well-known vineyards and producers, making quite a wide array of styles.

Among them, Black Kite Cellars has an impressive portfolio. Kicked off in 2003, Black Kite Cellars is the product of Rebecca and Tom Birdsall, and co-founded by Rebecca’s parents, Donald and Maureen Green. They bought the site that would become Kite’s Rest in 1995, and it was replanted to Pinot Noir in 1999. Divided into several blocks, the 40-acre parcel rises up from the Navarro River (River Turn), through gravelly loam (Stony Terrace), and up to the edge of the forest (Redwood’s Edge). The wines are made by Jeff Gaffner, formerly of Arrowood, who also has his own label, Saxon Brown.

They produce five different Pinot Noirs from their estate Kite’s Rest vineyard (their “home” Pinots), in addition to some “away” Pinot Noirs from other sites. The Pinot Noirs offers a great look into the differences between these sites. And their Chardonnays, sourced from some epic Sonoma sites, are delightful. Two are featured today.

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

Wine Reviews: California Wines for Summer

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

It’s not officially summer in the Northern Hemisphere yet, but it sure does feel like it. Personally, I don’t handle any sort of heat and humidity well, unless I’m a stone’s throw from a beach or pool. So now that it’s regularly hitting 90+ degrees in DC, I won’t be popping too many red wines.

This Spring, I’ve received a lot of California wines that would do well to beat the heat, and I’ve compiled some white and pink wines that deliver. Smith-Madrone’s Spring Mountain Riesling does it again; it is consistently one of the most exciting California Rieslings I’ve come across. FEL represents Anderson Valley well with their three offerings, while Sonoma’s Notre Vue is a that’s putting out some exciting stuff.

Some eye-opening Sauvignon Blancs, a delicious Grenache Blanc and a few others round out this solid mix. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Ashes & Diamonds Cabernet Francs

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-29-2021

I’m a big fan of Cabernet Franc. My palate tends toward those earthy, olive-laden, spicy and brisk iterations out of the Loire Valley, especially a well-aged one with some dusty tannins. But, living in Washington, DC, I’ve also spent many years browsing Cabernet Francs from Virginia and Maryland, too. There’s a of mediocrity out there, and some weird stuff for sure, but I’ve also found really delicious ones, which I will stand up for if I hear Mid-Atlantic wines disparaged.

California Cabernet Francs for me have been pretty hit-or-miss over the years. I have a handful of favorites, but I’m always looking for someone from somewhere to craft a wine that awakens that Cabernet Franc excitement in me. Well, I’m here to report a “hit” today: Ashes & Diamonds’ Cabernet Franc.

I recently tasted three vintages of this Napa producer’s Cabernet Franc, and have to say, they are fantastic. We’re talking structured tannins, vibrant acidity, moderate alcohol (around 13%), tangy fruit, and a bunch of earthy, savory, spicy tones to unpack. The wines have old-school Napa vibes, the kind of wines that leave freshness on the finish and beg for a big spread of food and a group of friends.

This project was founded by California native Kashy Khaledi, a media and advertising executive, in 2013. At the winemaking helm is 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.

Using fruit from Carneros, Oak Knoll and Yountville districts, winemaker Steve Matthiasson has made something really special with these three wines. They will reward the patient in the cellar, and would be a delightful addition to any wine dinner with your Loire nerd friends.

I received these were as trade samples and tasted them single-blind. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-22-2021

It’s been a very long time since I’ve traveled internationally, and with no plans for the future, I’m assuaging my travel lust this week with a mix of wines from all over the world.

I have some solid French wines in this report, including a diverse group of wines from the Languedoc region, some summer-friendly pink wines, and a delightful Chateauneuf. There are a few interesting wines from Germany (including a stellar Riesling), and some value from Portugal as well. Some crushable yet complex New Zealand reds make quite an impression, too.

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

Wine Reviews: Troon Vineyard

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-08-2021

I’ve had the pleasure of following Oregon’s Troon Vineyard since 2017, when I first tasted their wines. Since then, the hits just keep coming.

Troon is a biodynamic producer from Oregon’s Applegate Valley, an area in the south of the state that boast diverse geology, warm days, cool nights, and some exciting wineries. Troon, in my opinion, of course, has been consistently slinging out focused, unique wines from a large mix of grape varieties. Over the years, they’ve experimented with different styles, blends, adding things like Pet-Nat and Piquette to the mix, but also focusing on deep, juicy reds made from grapes like Tannat.

I recently tasted four of their releases from 2020, and I’m excited to share them. These wines sport new labels this year, tastefully designed and incorporating images of their biodynamic preparations. (I only point this out because, well, like record album artwork, I think labels matter — and this aesthetic is really working.)

Their Kubli Bench line is composed of really interesting blends, two of which are featured in this week’s report. There’s a delicious Vermentino (definitely a specialty of the winery) and a new, Beaujolais-inspired Grenache that is perfect for warmer weather.

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