Wine Reviews: Montecucco Sangiovese

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-15-2022

Oh, to be travelling to Tuscany right now! Unfortunately, it’s not in the cards for me anytime soon, but tasting through some delightful Sangiovese-based wines recently, I was transported, at least briefly, from my home office.

Between Brunello di Montalcino and Morellino di Scansano, I have less experience with the wines from this area compared to some of neighbors. But that needs to change, as these wines offer their own unique signature on Sangiovese, and a lot of value.

Grown in vineyards on the southwest slopes of Monte Amiata (opposite the Brunello slopes), and the region shares a similar climate. The wines are between 60-90% Sangiovese, depending on the DOC or DOCG. Last year, the region’s consortium released a study showing 85% of the Montecucco Sangiovese DOCG production was certified organic, higher than other neighboring regions. President of the consortium and winemaker Giovan Battista Basile says the goal is to increase organic production in the future.

In the glass, these wines really deliver some depth, vibrancy and personality. If you haven’t checked out Montecucco wines before, and can find some, they’re worth investigation for sure. Especially when compared to some of their neighbors, the value to be found out here is really exciting. Dig in!

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

Wine Reviews: California and Arizona

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-09-2022

I hope your new year is off to a good start. I’m starting off the year with some wines from two places I love, California and Arizona.

Mendocino County is a place I’ve spent enough time visiting to realize, again and again: I need to spend more time here. The gnarly coast is one of my favorite places, and the wines from all the different AVAs have a lot to offer. I’ve been paying close attention to Mendocino wines over the past 15 years, and there’s a lot to offer. Meyer Family is a good one to check out – based in the Yorkville Highlands, and they also have a tasting room in Mendocino. I first tasted a 2003 Syrah from them that rocked me, and it was a pleasure to revisit their recent offerings.  

I also have some delicious wines from Sonoma, including an interesting white blend Sosie and a banger of a Cab-based red from Hamel Family. I also have a bright, zesty Monterey Pinot Noir that wowed me.

For the first time in two years, I traveled out of my region, and visited family in Arizona over the holidays. I’m a big fan of Arizona wines, and bought some Page Springs Cellars and Dos Cabezas ahead of time for the family dinners. (The wines were great.) The landscape in Arizona fascinates me so, and I’ve spent countless hours hiking and climbing in the desert mountains. And I love that, turns out, a lot of cool people make really good wine out there, too. Most of the winelands are in higher elevation sites, there are always mountains nearby, and winemakers working with diverse grapes and styles. Two wines from Aridus are represented here. Based in Willcox, their wines are more widely available than some others. If you ever find yourself in Old Town Scottsdale, their tasting room is a nice place and a fun visit.

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

Wine Reviews: Year-End Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-18-2021

As a long year winds down, I hope you have some nice bottles lined up to share with loved ones. With the holidays in full swing, I’m taking a break from sparkling wines and focusing on some wines that offered me a chance to travel. In my mind at least; I’ve been cooped up for a long time. But there are places I want to visit and wine regions I want to dig into, and tasting wine always gets me thinking and planning.

I’ve long been a fan of wines from Argentina, and I recently tasted through several wines that reminded me that there’s a lot more to explore. The value to be found there has always attracted me, but more and more I’m finding wines that show a whole lot more depth and nuance than I expected. Oh, to visit one day!

Chile is another country I have had on my list. Surfing the coast, climbing some mountains, and visiting the wine regions in between, it’s a bucket list trip I plan to take one day. But, in these pandemic times, some delightful reds from Chile offered a peek into a beautiful country.

I also have three wines that could only come from Southwest France. With some many varied appellations and styles, I always enjoy trying to dig into the diversity and history of the wines from this region. With a host of indigenous varieties, plenty of value to find, and a fascinating winemaking culture and history, the three wines in this report are barely scratching the surface.

An inexpensive red from Veneto and an impressive Napa Cab round out this report.

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

Wine Reviews: Holiday Selections

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

It’s been a long year. Whatever holidays you may be celebrating, I wish you and yours safety, joy, and good food and wine.

So, this week I have some selections that are all over the map. I tried to curate some samples that would please crowds, provide joy and pair well with celebrations and wintry foods.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I love bubbles year-round. But, of course, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, bubbles are huge, and I have a nice mix in here. From inexpensive tank method bubbles through some delightful Champagnes.

Domaine Bousquet brings its Charmat method bubbles, which are the best-selling bubbles from Argentina and are inexpensive, accessible and fun. Lanson delivers three different Champagne options that offer a nice view of their approach, while Bruno Paillard delivers, as always. And California’s Frank Family brings two different Champagne method sparklers to the table.

There are some also deep, juicy, warm reds, too, from California’s Smith Madrone, Sullivan and Tooth & Nail.

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

Wine Reviews: Virginia and Maryland

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-05-2021

I moved to rural Maryland in 2006 – my first job after leaving New York City after college. There was a ton of wide-open space and I needed things to do. So, I set out to find two things: places to hike, and wineries… if there were any I had no idea. I found some fun spots in Montgomery and Frederick Counties to start, and discovered places like Elk Run Vineyards and Linganore Wine Cellars, both of which had long histories. I worked at some harvests and crushes, volunteered at the state’s wine festival, and really developed a respect for the people who invest their lives into making wine here. Linganore has been doing it since 1972, and they put out a dizzying array of wines.

Now, living in DC for many years, I hike and climb a lot in Virginia, which involves a lot of time passing through some of the Commonwealth’s classic winegrowing regions. It’s an endlessly fascinating place to explore. If you’re ever traveling on Route 29 north of Charlottesville and want to taste some really good wines in a beautiful place, Early Mountain is the spot to do it. I’ve stopped by a bunch on the way home from time in the woods, and the wines, food and service have always been top-notch. But, putting my personal biases aside as best I possibly can, I think these wines are really something.

So, this week, I have some new releases from Maryland’s Linganore and Virginia’s Early Mountain. These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.    Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-28-2021

Here’s hoping everyone had a happy and safe Thanksgiving break! I hope you all avoided any pitfalls of overcooking the turkey, getting into arguments with relatives, traffic nightmares, etc.

This week, I have a slew of wines from California that would fit well into any holiday gatherings and meals you may have planned for the rest of this chaotic year.

Head High comes through with a nice, value-driven Chard and Pinot. These surf-themed wines from Bill Price, who grew up in Hawaii, get the seal of approval from this surfer/wine lover.

California Chardonnay and Pinot fans likely know the Savoy Vineyard in Anderson Valley, and FEL puts out some really nice expressions of this site, featured this week.

Gary Farrell is another Chard and Pinot powerhouse, two of which featured here showed very well. Sonoma’s Ram’s Gate contributes some good Pinot and Chard as well, but it was the Cabernet in this report that really stole the show. An upcoming Grenache from Lucky Rock and a few other wines round out this report.

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 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 »