Wine Reviews: International Values

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-21-2023

I’m looking forward to exploring more diverse wines and regions in 2023, so I’m starting off this week with a few such selections. In the coming weeks, I’ll be diving deeper into a bunch of South American wines, but this week I’ve got a nice round-up from all over. And they’re all in the $15-$35 range.

Winemaker power couple Bob Lindquist and Louisa Sawyer Lindquist have a really cool project called Vara. Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they source grapes from spots in Spain and California. Louisa’s experience with Spanish varieties brings them grapes from selected estates in regions like Ribera del Duero and Montsant, while Bob’s California experience brings in the good stuff from Central Coast vineyards like Santa Maria Valley and Paso Robles. It’s a bit different, of course, tasting a wine sourced from different regions and countries, but I think these experiments work out really well. The wines are delicious and different, and worth seeking out if you’re looking to try new things in 2023.

When it comes to vibrant, inexpensive Sauvignon Blancs, South Africa and Chile are my go-to countries. And this week I have some Chilean options from Leyda Valley, a region that sits just a handful of miles from the Pacific coast. Here, Viña Leyda’s winemaker Viviana Navarrette focuses on producing coastal-influenced, taut, vibrant Sauvignon Blanc from mostly granitic soils. They offer up crunchy, spicy, sea salty deliciousness with a lot of value and serve as a great introduction to this region’s Sauvignon Blanc goodness.

I’m a big fan of everything Portugal, and the amount of consistent and quality wines I find. And the value is always appreciated. This week’s selections from Douro’s Casa Ferreirinha deliver just what I look for.

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

Wine Reviews: Italian Value Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 01-14-2023

If you’re doing a dry January – congratulations! You’re halfway through. Whether you’re imbibing this month or not, the post-holiday season is a nice time to take stock of things, and to stock up on some options for the cellar.

Late last year, I tasted through a half-dozen Italian reds that got me thinking: “Wow, I’d be happy with six apiece of these in my cellar.” From Marche to Puglia, these wines come from well-known, family-owned producers and offer a lot of diversity. They’re all imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, which has amassed an impressive portfolio and imports directly from the producers themselves. So, if you’re resolving to save money in 2023, I bet at least a few of these delicious reds would fit the bill perfectly.

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

Wine Reviews: Italian Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-24-2022

I hope you all are having a safe and happy holiday season so far. Winter is in full force over much of the U.S. at the moment, and a dangerous storm is affecting travel for millions, so I hope you’re in a warm place surrounded by loved ones — and hopefully some good food and wine.

I recently made my first lasagna of the season, which is a tradition for my family in the holidays, and I was happy to taste through some Italian wines and share some merriment with friends and family. And as travel and gift bills come due, I think it’s a great time to share some inexpensive options. So, to round out 2022, I have some Italian selections to share.

Even though it’s a frigid weekend for most everyone in the U.S. this week, I have a batch of mineral-driven Italian white wines. They’re all imported by Dalla Terra Winery Direct, sourced from estates across Italian regions. This represents a small snapshot of the diversity in Italian white wines and the value in here is something to get excited about.

I also have some interesting wines from Tenuta Sallier de la Tour. This Sicilian estate is owned by Tasca d’Almerita, and, earlier this year, began being imported by Dalla Terra. The price points are attractive, but more so the wines in the bottle. They offer a lot of classic Sicilian flavors, along with complexity and depth that outperforms their price tag. This was my first time trying this estate, and I’ll happily return to these wines when I’m looking for something fun and delicious from Sicily. (I’d be happy to see a bottle on a by-the-glass list for sure.)

These wines were received as trade samples. The white wines were tasted single-blind, while the rest were tasted sighted. Happy holidays to all! Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Bouchaine’s Carneros Pinots

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-17-2022

The clonal variability of Pinot Noir is a fascinating thing. The propensity it has to mutate means there are hundreds of clones available, although not all are commercially important.

There’s rarely a single clone that winemakers swear by in all circumstances. Rather, similar to the way a rock climber places specialized protection in particular cracks and fissures, winemakers try to plant the right clone in the right spot to achieve their goals.

Credit: Bouchaine Vineyards

California’s Bouchaine knows this process well. In the cooler Carneros region of Napa, Bouchaine has 87 planted acres, more than half of which are planted to Pinot Noir. Different clones in different blocks allows them to craft a diverse palate of Pinot expression.

I recently had the pleasure of tasting through four wines from winemaker and general manager Chris Kajani. The Napa native has been making wine at Bouchaine since 2015, and really knocked it out of the park in 2019. “We’re in the vineyard all the time. I’m there every day,” she described in a recent webinar. “We basically are picking based on taste.” Of course they run tests and check numbers, “but in the grand scheme of things there’s normally a certain flavor that I’m looking for and a certain ripeness to the tannins.”

With slight variations in soils, it gives the clonal uniqueness a chance to shine. “Pinot Noir has more clonal options than any other variety,” Kajani said. “And that’s why Pinot people can’t stop talking about clones. It’s what we do.”

Take the Swan clone, for example, which was planted by old-school Sonoma legend Joseph Swan at the advice of winemaker André Tchelistcheff. He also advised Bouchaine proprietor Tatiana Copeland on planting this clone on the Bouchaine estate. It certainly has found a great home in Bouchaine’s vineyards, as their wine is exquisite.

I tasted through four of Bouchaine’s elegant Pinots, three of which were single-clone bottlings, and the fourth is a blend of different estate clones. They’re individually delicious and very well-made, but collectively they offer a much more nuanced look at this grape and place. Parsing the differences between the three clonal selections, and comparing those to the bigger-picture blend, is a captivating and enjoyable process. And, considering the reasonable prices on these wines, this would be a great way to dig further into Carneros Pinot with a group of wine nerds, family, or friends.

And 2019 is a great vintage to dive into the intricacies in these wines. It’s one of my favorite vintages in Napa and Sonoma in recent memory – plenty of ripeness, but an airy, vibrant quality to many of the wines as well. It’s a vintage that drinks incredibly well right out of the bottle, but a lot of these wines have the stuffing for serious cellar improvement as well.

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

Wine Reviews: Warm Winter Reds

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-10-2022

Wintertime is here, and I hope you’re looking forward to the holidays. It’s getting colder, and I made my first cassoulet of the season, so it’s time for warming red wines.

And with the World Cup going on, I decided to round up some red wines from around the world that would be great options for the winter season. I also wanted to highlight some serious values as well, and many of these wines fit that bill.

From Chile to Napa, I have some Cabernets that offer a lot of richness and depth for not a lot of money. And there’s a delightful Tuscan red and Barossa Shiraz in here as well.

Rioja is always a good call in my book, and this week I have three from Bodegas Montecillo – a producer that has 150 years of winemaking history and sources their grapes mostly from the Rioja Alta subregion. The value in these wines is seriously impressive, and they have the ability to age and improve in the cellar for a while.

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

Wine Reviews: Winter Whites, Rosés and Bubbles

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-04-2022

Happy December! The holidays are coming, the days are nearing their shortest, and the air is getting colder. By the time this is posted, I’ll hopefully be halfway through a long hike in the mountains to enjoy the cold solitude. And, I’ll likely be sipping some red wine and eating a burger upon my return.

That said, I love stocking up on lighter wines for winter. I have a tradition – which dates back about a decade at this point – of opening a nice bottle of rosé on the day of the first proper snowstorm. Maybe it’s a way of both embracing the cold and the discomfort that sometimes comes along with it, but also raising a glass that brings those summery, fresh vibes to the day. I highly recommend it. So, if you’re looking for some lighter wines for the holidays, I’ve got a good range of selections today.

For summery pinks, Provence is always on my mind. I received a few samples from Wines of Provence, a region that sent the U.S. 34% in volume of its exports last year. We love this stuff, and it’s easy to see why. (If I had a dollar for every winemaker from a different region who told me they make a “Provence-style” rosé, well I’d have money for a few of these bottles.)

Napa’s Castello di Amorosa provides a wide array of white grapes and wine styles, from drier, zestier Pinot Bianco to Gewurz in an off-dry styles. These show good value and crowd-friendly appeal for holiday gatherings. And, on the richer side of things, I have a wonderful white Rhone from Chateau La Nerthe, that would be great with all sorts of warm winter dishes.

I’m a big fan of the red wines from Napa’s Frank Family, but their sparkling wine program has been impressive to watch. Their Brut rosé and Blanc de Blancs offer a lot of complexity, vibrancy, and age-worthiness that makes their price points so reasonable. Worth checking out for sure if you’re a fan of California sparkling wines.

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

Wine Reviews: Argentina

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-03-2022

Credit: Terrazas de los Andes

I hope everyone has recovered well from their Thanksgiving meals. And whatever holidays you’re celebrating at this time of year, may they be full of healthy family and friends, and delicious wines for all to enjoy.  Now that we’re getting close to those holidays, value is important as ever. So, it’s time to dig into a few wines from Argentina.

I’ve long loved wines from Argentina, for both their value and reliability. When I was first getting into wine, I found so many Mendoza Malbecs that delivered a ton of flavor and complexity for not a lot of money. And in those 15 years or so since, the options and quality have only increased.

Terrazas de los Andes started in the early 90s, and today they’ve grown to farm more than 200 mountain terrace sites. Their reserva line at $20 would be a great by-the-glass option at a wine bar or restaurant, as they offer classic Mendoza goodness at such reasonable prices. While the Grand Malbec has a lot of complexity and depth to unpack with a great steak and a cold night. And there’s a nice Malbec from Orfila to add to the mix as well.

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

Wine Reviews: American Wines from Coast to Coast

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-19-2022

With Thanksgiving coming up, I wanted to share some American wines I think would fit well with any seasonal fare you and your friends and family may be serving. These represent a drop in the bucket of the diversity in regions, of course, but I’d be stoked to share these wines with my family and friends this week.

I haven’t (yet) made a wine trip to Long Island’s North Fork – but that’s long overdue. I’m a long-time East Coast wine fan, and it’s been awesome to see the growth in regions like Virginia, Maryland, and others since I started paying attention about 15 years ago. Recently, I received a six-pack of wines from Long Island’s North Fork that made me think: I’ve gotta get out there already!

And speaking of Virginia: Early Mountain. I love this place and their wines – just such reliably exciting, delicious, honest Virginia expressions. Their Petit Manseng rocks, and is worth checking out if you don’t have much experience with this grape and worth checking out even more if you do. Their reds offer a lot of juicy, spicy, Virginia goodness as well. And the value in here is really something. Very much worth a visit if you’re ever passing through the region.

Troon shouldn’t be a new name to long-time readers, as I’ve been stoked on this Oregon producer’s wines for years. This biodynamic outfit from Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley is always experimenting with exciting blends and styles. But two of their classic reds in this report make for great cold weather sipping.

And, of course, California is represented here. FEL delivers again with two delightful Savoy Vineyard wines from Anderson Valley that are a great choice for Pinot and Chard-lovers.

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

Wine Reviews: Fresh Fall Values

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-05-2022

With Halloween behind us, I’ve started seeing holiday decorations and displays going up in stores these past few days. But we still have plenty of fall left, and November is one of my favorite months. I’m looking forward to spending time in the mountains, cold nights, gathering with friends and family. But before we transition into the holiday season and crack open the Champagne and burly red wines, I have some offerings on the lighter side of the spectrum. And holiday travel, cooking, etc., can get expensive, so the selections this week all highlight value.

Vinho Verde brings to mind hot summer days with a plate of oysters (and that is certainly a great idea). But I’ve got some complex Vinho Verdes this week that offer more complexity and even some aging potential. No joke, I’d consider cellaring these two for a year or two and see what happens, as they have the depth and complexity to benefit from it.

If you’re looking to restock on some bright white wines and save some money, I’ve got two wines from Val de Vid, from Rueda in Spain. I also have two German samples I received from Wines of Germany. It was while living in Germany my senior year of high school that I had my first vineyard and wine appreciation experience, and I always keep some German wines on hand for holiday gatherings. And we round things out with a bright red blend from Portugal.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: California Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-22-2022

I love California wine, and this week I have a handful of wines from producers that consistently deliver for me. It’s autumn, the nights have been cool and I’ve been cooking a lot at home. And it is prime time for deep Napa Cabs, refreshing Sonoma Pinot Noirs and creamy Chards. I’m planning on hosting a lot of friends and family over the coming holidays, and I chose some wines I would love to serve at such occasions. There are complex and age-worthy Cabs from some great producers: Smith-Madrone, Sullivan Rutherford Estate, Frank Family. And Gary Farrell and Ram’s Gate deliver Sonoma goodness in droves.

If you’re stocking up for the coming holiday season, here are some of my favorites from recent California samples. These wines were tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »