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 »

Wine Reviews: Monticello

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-04-2020

Considering today is Independence Day in the United States, I thought it fitting to highlight some recent samples from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I’ve been a big fan and follower of Virginia wine since I moved to Washington, DC, about 12 years ago. I’ve had the privilege to taste many wines from all over the Commonwealth, but this week I’m highlighting wines from the Monticello AVA. Carrying on Thomas Jefferson’s wine vision for this region, some 33 wineries call this area home. The region is centered around Charlottesville, stretching toward the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. If you’re ever travelling in the Mid-Atlantic (one can dream of post-pandemic wines, can’t one?) and looking for a wine trail adventure, this is a great place to start.

Stinson Vineyards makes two super-reliable pink wines from Tannat and Mourvedre. I’ve been tasting these wines for years now, and Rachel Stinson’s 2019s are true to form – some of my favorite rosés from the Commonwealth. The three red blends stem from a webinar I attended on the French influence in Virginia wine, curated by a great Virginia wine writer and ambassador, Frank Morgan. Matthieu Finot of King Family, Damien Blanchon of Afton Mountain, and Benoit Pineau of Pollak are all Frenchmen doing exciting things in Virginia, and the state’s wine industry is lucky to have them.

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

Wine Reviews: Merry Edwards

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-20-2020

Merry Edwards is an icon in California winemaking. She has a long history of blazing trails and making exceptional wine, from her days in the mid-70s working at Mount Eden, to becoming founding winemaker at Matanzas Creek in 1977, to creating her own consulting business and eventually her own eponymous wine brand in the 90s. Her well-deserved accolades are too many to list.

I’ve visited the Sonoma County winery several over the years, always tying it in with a visit to Joseph Swan, whose founder mentored Merry in the early days. Merry’s well-known Sauvignon Blanc has always excited me, but the single-vineyard Pinots and Chardonnay are what have kept me coming back to these wines year after year.

There have been some recent changes at Merry Edwards Winery. In 2018, Merry announced Heidi von der Mehden (who joined in 2015 as associate winemaker) would succeed her as winemaker, the first time anyone else held that position. Last year, the French firm Maison Louis Roederer purchased the winery. Despite these changes, I’m hoping the wines in the glass stay the same – delicious, exciting, memorable interpretations of their place. After tasting a few of their new releases, that sure seems to be the case.

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 06-13-2020

I’m back this week with a roundup of some recent wine samples from all over California.

This week, I take a look at some wines from Carneros’ Ram’s Gate Winery, which bring some nationally-distributed Chardonnay and Pinot Noir worthy of checking out.

Napa’s Castello di Amorosa offers up some solid wines, but their Gewurztraminer (surprisingly) really stands out.

Cliff Lede provides two splurge-worthy Napa Cabernets that show depth, elegance, and aging potential.

And a couple other wines are sprinkled in for good measure. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Inama

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-06-2020

I’ve been fascinated by the wines of Azienda Agricola Inama for quite a few years. Located in Soave Classico, winemaker Stefano Inama crafts classic Veneto wines with a lot of personality and depth, while also doing things a bit differently.

I have enjoyed this Veneto producer’s Soaves, sourced from sites Stefano’s father Giuseppe purchased in the 1960s near Mount Foscarino. But it was their Carmenère that really got me excited. Wine geeks surely know how this grape has found a new home in Chile after its history of being confused with Merlot in Bordeaux. It was brought to Italy from Southwest France some 150 years ago, where it was then commonly confused with Cabernet Franc. Regardless, in the warm, hilly area of the Colli Berici, the Carmenère grape has a found a home in which to thrive. When I met and tasted with Stefano in 2016, he told me, “Carmenere requires such an addiction.” And that intense focus on this grape is evident in the glass.

I recently tasted through some newly released wines from Inama, and I continue to find these wines to be great examples their region, while offering a sense of dynamism and excitement that makes them stand out.

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

Wine Reviews: Rosé

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-23-2020

It’s the unofficial start to “summer” here in the northern hemisphere this weekend. But what even is summer in these pandemic times? My plans for everything are cancelled, but I’m healthy and thankful.

And the annual arrival of new rosé wines offers some sense of normalcy amidst the chaos. I’ve been receiving a lot of new pink wines from France and America, new and old (to me) wines that offer some solace in these strange times, which are reviewed below.

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

Wine Reviews: California Chardonnay & Pinot Noir

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-09-2020

Happy weekend, wine-lovers. I hope you’re all as safe and well as can be expected during these chaotic times. I’m back this week with two of my first wine loves: California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

My palate will always favor the more “Burgundian” styles, but I also enjoy and respect the juicier, darker styles as well. This report has a nice mix of producers, regions and styles. There are some serious values in here as well.

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

Experiencing Anaba Wines

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 05-01-2020

The dog days of COVID-19 shelter-in-place, what better time to catch up on a pile of samples? And what better time to reflect on the purpose of this exercise we call wine reviewing. I mean, why do it at all?

I tend to agree with the author of a recent Wine Searcher post that “wine reviewing is actually more about entertainment than utility.” It’s about storytelling. Stories are what captivate us and stir our imaginations (and our buying bones, for that matter). It’s also about brevity, since attention spans are dwindling.

With that in mind, here’s what I thought of the Fall 2019 releases from Sonoma’s Anaba Wines.

Anaba 2018 Turbine White, Sonoma Valley (SRP $32)

It’s a gray day and the news is grayer. My college buddies are blowing up my phone about a happy hour on an app called Houseparty. So I grab the Anaba Turbine White—a curious blend of 30% Viognier, 28% Grenache Blanc, 26%, and 16% Picpoul—and log on. It’s like we’re right back in State College, playing dumb drinking games out of boredom, like guess how many dead stinkbugs are in that lamp over there. Over or under twenty? Loser chugs a beer.

The wine itself takes me back even further, to middle school and the jellied, crystallized-sugar-covered grapefruit candy I used to sneak from the candy bins at the mall. There’s a hint of creaminess, although no ML on this one. I get apple juice too—another throwback to childhood. Juicy is the best descriptor for this white. 

Unlike my friends, I decide to halt at a half bottle. The next day, after spending the night in the fridge under Vacu Vin, the wine smells of slate floor and fresh white flowers, and tastes like fresh mint.

Anaba 2016 Syrah, Moon Mountain District, Bismark Vineyard (SRP $48)

After spending three months in the NICU with our baby boy this winter, quarantine at home, just the three of us, hasn’t been the worst thing in the world. My wife likes to say she “has her boys” and that’s all she needs. I feel the same way—plus I’m just excited she’s drinking wine with me again!

We’ve discovered that Disney+ is pretty sweet. Throwbacks like Johnny Tsunami and Brink! light up our screen these days. On a recent night we watched Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (whatever happened to Rick Moranis?) and popped this Anaba 2016 Syrah. As we learned in the NICU, screens aren’t good for children under two, so our three-month-old sat contently with his back to the TV, watching us and speaking Dutch. I’m pretty sure it was Dutch—a future polyglot.

My first impression on popping is oh, that’s inky and delicious. For someone who struggles to break into the secondary and tertiary layers of aroma, I find this one quite accommodating. There’s blackberry, prune fruit leather, a hint of sour cream, leather wallet, and soil. It leaves a strip of tannin right down the center of my tongue, but doesn’t linger. A truly multi-faceted wine with more to appreciate in your nostrils than on your palate.

Anaba 2016 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Westlands (SRP $60)

Malaise is setting in. With many more weeks (at least) of shelter-in-place looming large, I’m starting to miss the old, normal routine. Although I am thankful I have space to move around and can’t imagine being stuck in a small New York City apartment, or one of those cage homes in China (have you read about these?!).

Tonight, my friend delivered something he and his wife call “taco bake” as part of a meal train that was set up for my wife and me. He also dropped off some tomato plants, which were much appreciated. A casserole dish filled with gooey cheddar and ground beef isn’t the most delicate pairing for a Pinot Noir, but heck, we’re living in a new normal, right?

The Anaba 2016 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast is strawberry colored. It’s fresh and tart—even bordering on too tart—like a strawberry rhubarb pie. Basically, think strawberries, and if you like them, you’ll like this bottle. I catch some aromas of lavender tea, which I initially thought were moth balls, which I love because it reminds me of my grandmother’s linen closet. It’s easy drinking, not overly complex, and maybe a bit young still.

It goes okay with taco bake, too.