Wine Reviews: Summertime Specialties

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-28-2023

I hope you all are enjoying your unofficial start to summer. If you’re traveling far, best of luck! And if you’re sticking close to home, I hope you’re enjoying some great wine, food, and time with loved ones.

The summer vibes are kicking into gear and, as such, I have a handful of diverse wines that would fit well into a mixed case of summer wines. With the coming heat and humidity here in the Mid-Atlantic, I need some sparkling wines in the mix. And I have some delicious, interesting bubbles in this mix, too.

Australia hasn’t appeared for a while, so I want to highlight several summer-friendly wines from Bird in Hand. It had been several years since I tried wines from this South Australia producer, and I had forgotten how expressive and dynamic they were.

Reds are welcome as well, and needed for grill-outs, but I like to stick with juicy, less dense reds over the coming summer season. Rioja comes in great for these situations, and Beronia puts out classic Rioja goodness at very reasonable price points.

I recently attended a virtual tasting with winemaker Paul Warson, a man with a serious resume, spanning renown producers and regions from Los Angeles, Santa Ynez, to Napa. In addition to his own project, he makes wines for Moraga Estate, which is a unique place and project. Located in the Bel-Air hills, this small production winery follows the traditional Bordeaux estate lineup, making an estate red and white from Bordeaux varieties. Paul seems like a great fit: “It’s fantasy land here,” he said. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate.” Yes, if you’ve heard of this winery, you probably know it’s owned by Rupert Murdoch. News and politics aside, the wines are structured, very worthy of cellar time, and undeniably high-quality.

And some value-driven bubbles and white wines round out this report. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Summertime California Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-20-2023

The unofficial start of Summer is on the way, and I hope you and yours have some fun times planned. As the weather warms up and the picnic, camping, or backyard grill-outs take shape, I want to highlight some recent releases from California that would be great for the season.

Rombauer, known by many for their buttery Chards and rich Cabs, brings a new addition to their lineup for the first time in almost 10 years. They’ve worked with Pinot aficionado Adam Lee (who started Siduri), and they settled on the Santa Lucia Highlands – a region where Adam’s Pinot experience really shines. And they really hit it out of the park with this inaugural vintage – a cool, vibrant wine that reminds me of why I fell in love with Adam’s Pinot Noirs many years ago.

Lodi’s Lange Twins is an interesting outfit that puts out a mix of classic varieties and some fun Italian red varieties. Their history goes back to the 1870s, when Brad and Randall Lange first planted Cabernet in the Lodi area, and the winery carries on that tradition today, crafting some delightful wines from lesser-known sub-appellations in the Lodi region.

And for those warm nights with cold seafood, Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blancs offer a distinct take on this grape and such brightness — and  their 2021 options are delightful. A few other wines round out this mix.

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

Wine Reviews: Eden Rift

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-13-2023

Mother’s Day is tomorrow and Father’s Day isn’t far away. And if you’re taking any time to celebrate for yourself, your partner, or a family member, a delightful California Chardonnay or Pinot Noir is an excellent choice.

Long-time readers may have seen Eden Rift here before, and I’m back this week to share some stoke for their releases. The first time I tasted wines from this Cienega Valley, California producer, I knew there was something special. The crisp, unique expression of Chardonnay and Pinot had me instantly hooked. The property (located 20 miles from Monterey Bay) has a winemaking history that dates back to the 1800s, but this project kicked off in 2016, and the wines are made by Cory Waller. The terraces, limestone soils, unique terroir, it leads to nuanced Pinot and Chard. And the 2019 vintage speaks in a clear voice, offering wine-lovers both immediate pleasure and serious cellar potential.

Each wine showed so well, I found myself searching for faults, things to nit-pick – things I would “change,” the way a fan might critique’s a new album from a band they love. But, there’s nothing. The wines speak for themselves, and the price points are very reasonable for the quality. Hats off to Eden Rift for their distinctive style and consistency. With wines this good, and a beautiful nearby coastline, it’s a region I need to visit and explore.

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 05-07-2023

An April Sonoma County hillside

I’m still on a cloud from a recent trip to California. From rock-hopping, surfing, and bouldering on the Sonoma Coast, to visiting one of my favorite vineyards in the Russian River Valley (Merry Edwards), to mountaineering the high country of Mount Shasta. It was a rich and fulfilling experience. The bountiful wildflower blooms in the river valleys are something I will never forget. I know this winter season has been difficult for so many, and the snow and coming flooding will be problematic. I’m hoping for the best for you all.

But I know that, whatever Mother Nature deals out, from heat and wildfires to massive snowpack and flooding, California winegrowers and vintners are a hearty bunch. They’ll will power through, and make amazing wines.

So, this week, I want to pay respect with a mix of diverse wines from California. No further introductions needed – from known producers to value wines, they speak for themselves. 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 04-29-2023

I’m back this week with a handful of diverse and interesting wines from wildly different regions.

From the U.S., a value-driven Oregon Pinot offers a lot to like, and I revisit a Texas producer that plays by their own rules.

Sangiovese is such an absurdly versatile grape, and I have such respect for those winemakers in different Italian regions who have spent centuries dialing in the nuances. Tuscany has so many big-name (and expensive) regions, so I’m always looking for unique, terroir-driven expressions, and have enjoyed digging into the Montecucco region. Located between Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino, on the slopes of Monte Amiata, this appellation is only a quarter of a century old. But these ancient sites produce wines of a vibrant, mineral-driven, bright-fruited focus, and show a nuanced interpretation of this grape. And the value is really impressive.

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

Wine Reviews: Uruguay

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-15-2023

I don’t know a ton about Uruguayan wines, but the more I learn, the more I like.

I’ve tasted a few dozen wines from Uruguay before, and I’ve enjoyed them. I also appreciate, and seek out, wines from lesser-known regions. But Uruguay is no newb to winemaking – the first winery dates back to the 1850s. And unlike other South American wine regions whose terroirs are defined by the Andes Mountains or Pacific Ocean, Uruguay wines hail from the Atlantic Coast-influenced areas near the capital of Montevideo. These days, wineries number about 180, most of which are family-owned. There’s something like 15,000 acres under vine, and most of the grapes are harvested by hand.

I recently dug into a bunch of wines from this hidden South American gem, and I found a lot to love. Uruguay is ripe for wine enthusiast exploration, with plenty of producers and appellations to discover, and reasonable price points that making taking a chance worthwhile.

Tannat is a big player here, and I think that’s great. Yes, it can be big and burly, but even as a varietal wine, Uruguayan producers seem to have this grape dialed in. You get that dark core of fruit and structured tannins, but these wines show tangy acidity and balance, along with plenty of unique spices and nuances. It also makes sense with the local fare – as cows outnumber humans four-to-one in Uruguay, and they eat more meat per capita than any other country. But there’s more than just Tannat, with some blends and whites with vibrant, tropical vibes.

I’m looking forward to digging further into wines from Uruguay and, hopefully, visiting one day to experience the country and culture for myself.  These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Mendoza Wines from Trapiche

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-08-2023

This week I’m headed to Mendoza, Argentina. Well, not physically, but at least through my senses. Mendoza’s Trapiche winery recently celebrated 140 years, and their lineup has a lot to offer.

You may be familiar with some of their more widely-available bargain brands – that’s  certainly how I first learned of them. From their fun and accessible Oak Cask label, their tiers go up and up, and at all price points, I’ve found the quality to be very reliable.

This week, I take a deep dive into some of their wines, with a focus on some of their Cabernet Sauvignons. It’s amazing the level of nuance and expression some of these 100% Cabs can show, and Trapiche has a diverse and deep lineup. And their Iscay Syrah-Viognier is one of the most exciting South American Syrahs I can remember sampling.

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 04-02-2023

Spring is in full swing, and this week I have a mix of value-driven, bright, fun wines that offer a lot of diversity and appeal for the season.

Since I first started getting into wine, I’ve been a big fan of Picpoul de Pinet from France’s Languedoc region. The value from this region is excellent, and the wines combine warm weather tropical depth with oceanic zesty vibes. For shellfish and warm days, the two wines in this report would fit the bill perfectly.

Australia’s Yalumba has been on my radar for many years, as they consistently produce a wide range of quality wines. Their Y Series is a partnership with Re:wild, which helps preserve land and protect biodiversity. It also helps that the wines are inexpensive and delicious.

I also have a delightful amber wine from Oregon’s Troon – who continues to produce interesting wines that push boundaries. I round things out with a quality rosé from Sonoma-Cutrer, a spring-friendly Port, and a complex, age-worthy Rioja.

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

Wine Reviews: Springtime Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-25-2023

It’s finally, officially, spring. And finally starting to feel like it, too – with a cold and wet March transitioning into vibrant flowers and warmer temps. I’m excited for all the springtime traditions to come – picnics with friends, birdwatching during migration, foraging for spring mushrooms. I wish you all the best in your springtime holidays and traditions.

Recently, I’ve received some wines that would fit really well into my springtime meals and gatherings. I’m always on the lookout for those wines that combine quality, value, and speak to their place and tradition, and this week’s choices include a few that hit that spot.

California is well represented here with a collection of springy, spritely wines. I can’t wait to visit again soon and hopefully catch a bunch of wildflower views in meadows and vineyards. Classic bubbles from Scharffenberger, along with a mix of delightful Chardonnays – there’s a lot to like. I’ve included a few fresh Pinots to round things out, as those juicy, red-fruited wines are always welcome at my table. And some Italian wines from Friuli’s Attems have a lot of quality and value to offer.

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

Wine Reviews: C.L. Butaud’s Texas Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 03-18-2023

Today we’re taking a trip down the wine road less traveled  (at least by me) – Texas. I’m not going to make any broad generalizations about Texas, as it so huge and diverse and the tropes fall flat. I lived there for a year as a teenager, before I knew about wine, and have made somewhat frequent trips since. But I’ve yet to tour the Texas High Plains wine country and other areas, or dig deeply into producers across the state who have been laying the groundwork for decades now.

As an outsider, I’ve enjoyed a few of the Texas wines I’ve managed to find. But a proper trip is in order for me to get a better handle on things — long drives, visiting with winemakers, walking through vineyards, and perhaps adding on some rock climbing or hunting. This is all making me nostalgic for Texas, and the wines from C.L. Butaud were a great reminder to keep up with wines from the Lone Star State.

Houston native Randy Hester kicked off his first Texas vintage in 2014, after working in the wine industry for years, including at Cakebread and with a host of renowned winemakers. They take a low sulfite approach, use some whole clusters in their fermentation, and produce wines with a unique spice and appeal. While these wines are very distinct, I was reminded of Arizona wines (with which I have much more experience) in the sense that, when tasting them I get this earthy nuance that makes me want to visit the land itself. To get my feet in the dirt and hands on the rocks.

This was my first time with this producer, and it won’t be my last. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »