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.

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-25-2020

Happy Saturday, folks. I hope you’re all healthy and handling these pandemic times as well as can be expected. I’m still receiving lots of samples, and the delivery drivers have been great about social distancing, and I’m making sure to wash my hands after handling wine boxes!

Over these past few weeks at home, I’ve been receiving a lot of samples from California, mostly from producers I know well.

We’ve got some interesting Albarino from Lodi worth checking out, and a delicious Sonoma Roussanne as well. Even if you’re like me, and skeptical of Napa Sauv Blanc, Galerie’s Naissance Sauvignon Blanc is something really special. I also have some Napa Cabernets that deliver a lot of goodness and value.

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

Wine Reviews: Black Kite Cellars

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 04-18-2020

This week, I’m highlighting a California producer that I’ve enjoyed over the years: Black Kite Cellars.

Based in Mendocino’s Pinot capital of Anderson Valley, Black Kite produces a range of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from single vineyards in the Anderson Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands and Sonoma. Started in 2003, co-founders Rebecca and Tom Birdsall were inspired by a bike trip through Burgundy. And Rebecaa’s parents had purchased a plot of land near the Navarro River in Anderson Valley in 1995, which would become home to their estate vineyards. The wines are made by Jeff Gaffner, who worked at Chateau St. Jean and Arrowood.

The Pinots show a juicy, fruity, but floral and spicy style, each with unique signatures of its vineyard. The Chardonnays are mouthwatering and delicious, treated the same way in the cellar, spending 16 months in 1/3 new French oak. There’s a lot of nuance and complexity in these wines, and they’re worth exploring if you like California Pinot and Chardonnay.

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 04-11-2020

I hope you all are well during this pandemic. I’m hanging in there, and, luckily, I have some interesting wines this week to keep me inspired.

From Sicily, Tasca d’Almerita offers up some Sicilian varietal wines. The Tenuta Regaleali estate is located on more than 1,000 acres in the Contea di Sclafani DOC, and it’s the source of fruit (from indigenous Sicilian varieties) for the wines in this report. They’re all marked for suggested retail at around $20, and I think they’re an inexpensive way to explore some of Sicily’s diverse grapes.

From France, we have two vintages of Chateau Lassegue’s St. Emilion Grand Cru. These Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sauv blends come from 40- to 50-year-old vines, and the wine is aged 12 months in about 70% new French oak.

From Spain, I tasted a delicious Godello and some vibrant Riojas that offer a lot of value.

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

Wine Reviews: Colorado Governor’s Cup

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

For a few years now, I’ve been tasting the winning wines from Colorado’s Governor’s Cup, and this week, I’m focusing on the 2019 winners.

Colorado has some 150 wineries, which grow grapes in vineyards upwards of 4,000 feet in elevation. Riesling, Rhone varieties, Bordeaux blends, and some quirky, inventive stuff as well, the styles have been all over the map. Each year, I find a few that really pop out and make me think: there’s a lot more to explore here, especially on a trip (whenever we can go on trips again).

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 03-28-2020

The coronavirus pandemic is causing havoc the world over. While tasting wines from Italy, Spain, the United States, I can’t help think of how all these places are being upended by this pandemic. I hope you all are staying safe, taking care of yourselves and each other, and also enjoying some good wine and food at home.

I’ve been trying to cook as much vegetables as I can during these past two weeks of lockdown, and I’ve found myself playing around with lots of Indian and Moroccan spices. Luckily, I had two Pinot Blancs from Alsace to sample that also work really well with the dishes I’ve been slinging. Alsace is where I first fell in love with wine, and it is vibrant, exciting, inexpensive wines like the two in this report that keep me coming back.

This report also includes two wines from Fournier, in Ribera del Duero, which was purchased by Gonzalez Byass in 2019.

And from the U.S. come several Oregon and Washington wines. I’ve been hurling praise at Applegate Valley’s Troon wines for years now. And while I tend to personally enjoy their whites more, these Tannat-based reds are crisp, crunchy and juicy in a way that’s more accessible than most Tannats that I’ve tasted.

Tamarack Cellars offers a whole lot of Washington red goodness for less than $30, and Owen Roe’s wines also make an appearance.

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