Wine Reviews: California Highlights

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-10-2021

It is finally starting to feel like fall here in the Mid-Atlantic region, with cooler weather and leaves just starting to change color – my favorite time of year. And with October baseball featuring the Dodgers and Giants keeping me entertained, I thought it was a good time to highlight some recent California favorites.

So, I chose a mix of California red wines that wowed me – a bunch of delicious, serious red wines that I think would fit well with the season. Biodynamic producer Hawk and Horse delivers a handful of impressive wines from Bordeaux reds. Based in Lake County, I find these are some of the most consistently delicious wines from the region, and they can age really well.

Speaking of aging well, Eden Rift’s estate Pinot Noirs from the Cienega Valley have a ton going for them. I recently tasted three vintages (2016, 2017 and 2018), and enjoyed parsing through the nuances in the vintage variation, seeing how they are aging. All three of these wines are crisp, lighter, red-fruited, spicy wines that are worth checking out if you, like me, enjoy that style.

Cliff Lede knocks it out of the park with their Magic Nights Cab-based blend from Stags Leap, and two nice Sangiovese wines from Castello di Amorosa round out this report.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: Portugal

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-03-2021

I miss Portugal. For quite some time, I had been looking forward to bringing my family there with me to share my love of this country. But that trip was scheduled for April 2020, so…

I plan to return there next year for a long-overdue visit. It’s not just the wine that I love, but the coastline, the surf, the incredible people, the country’s history, architecture, food, olive oil… But, yes, also the wine.

Symington’s Quinta da Fonte Souto comes out swinging with an impressive white blend from Alentejo’s Portalegre region. Alentejo red blends offer a plethora of options and styles. From dark and saucy to spicy and vibrant, early-drinking to cellar-worthy, I am continually impressed with the complexity and value in wines from this region. This report includes some solid offerings for sure. Herdade do Esporão, based in Alentejo, also has some rocking, inexpensive Douro reds that continue to deliver and impress.

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

Wine Reviews: Tilia Wines from Argentina

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-19-2021

The first time I tried wines from Tilia, it was in 2007, just a year after the winery was founded. Back then, I was relatively new to wine appreciation, and methodically tasting wines, region by region, from all of the countries available to me. But value was essential. And I found that these Tilia wines offered deliciousness and balance that outperformed a lot of similarly-priced wines I was tasting from California, Australia or South Africa.

Things have now come full circle, and here I am tasting and reviewing their 2020 offerings. These wines are all $11 suggested retail, and brought in this summer by Winebow. At that price point, some may be skeptical – but the quality in here is serious. Based in Junin, Mendoza, the wines are sourced from around Mendoza made by Gonzalo Llensa.

I’m of the opinion that these wines are solid across the board. I think they offer a lot for those who are newer to wine and eager to try new things, without spending much. They could also be a hit on a by-the-glass list.

The labels are tasteful and sport their sustainability efforts and certification — and I think all of this combines to make them an attractive entry-level brand to a wide audience. After all these years, it’s refreshing to see Tilia still delivering.

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

Wine Reviews: End of Summer Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 09-11-2021

Labor Day has come and gone, but as I’m wont to point out around this time of year – astronomically speaking, it’s still summer! The beaches are quieter here on the East Coast, the humidity is dropping, and I’m loving it. As such, I’ve gathered together a mix of wines that I think would pair wonderfully with early fall.

Destinata is a new label from California producer Tooth & Nail, who makes a wide range of wines from Paso Robles and other regions. This brand is focused on a less intervention approach in the cellar, with smaller batches, native yeasts, yielding wines with crushable appeal but surprising complexity. Natty wine fans looking to expand their horizons and try some good examples of this style out of Santa Barbara County should definitely check these wines out.

Chalk Hill delivers classic Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in some half-bottles – which are inexpensive and great for those times when a 375ml is all you need.

And Dallas-based entrepreneur Casey Barber brings her new Rose Gold rosé from Provence, which is an impressive display. A rocking Champagne from Laurent-Perrier, two delicious Rieslings from Wines of Germany and some Proseccos round out this report.

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

Wine Reviews: Costières-de-Nîmes

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-28-2021

For interesting, inexpensive Rhone wines, Costières-de-Nîmes is a fount of good options.

I’ve enjoyed sipping these wines over the years, and I dug into this region further earlier this summer, when I attended a wine tasting and webinar led by a great teacher, MS Evan Goldstein, and winemaker Michel Gassier.

The southernmost appellation in the Rhone, about an hour west of Avignon, the rosé and red wine production here is pretty evenly split, with about 8% white wines, too. Syrah is the dominant red grape here, supported by Grenache, and backed up by Carignan, Cinsault and Marselan. There are lots of old vines, interesting blends, and it’s also one of the “greener” appellations in the area, with 25% of vines farmed organically.

At the end of the Rhone delta, vineyards are situated in rolled, pebbly soils. The climate sees plenty of hot sun, but also cooling influences from the nearby Mediterranean Sea and Petite Camargue marshes. (As a winelover and birdwatcher, I’d sure love to visit this area to scope birds and taste wine all day.)

If you have gone through various cycles of discovering exciting wineries or regions, only to watch them explode in popularity (and price) to the point where you feel priced or crowded out – I can relate. And I was mulling over that dynamic while tasting these wines, thinking about how they have a refreshing sense of timelessness. Inexpensive pink wine that packs a punch and tastes “real”? Or complex, spicy, earthy red blends that evoke roasted meats and herbs? White blends that are juicy but fresh and salty? Those are all to be found in Costières-de-Nîmes – all without the crowded, overpriced, celebrity label vibes. And $15 to $30 will take you pretty far. If you haven’t yet, you may find a lot to like exploring Costières de Nîmes.

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 08-22-2021

This week, I have a handful of new wines from all over California worth getting excited about.

I’m a big fan of the dynamic wine scene in Paso Robles, so I was delighted to taste three new-to-me wines and chat about Paso with the winemakers over a Zoom meeting. They focused on the region’s well-known calcareous soils, and each winemaker (from Linne Calodo, Caliza and the aptly-named Calcareous Vineyard) spoke about the importance of these soils in their wines. The three wines I tasted are good examples of how that ancient ocean bed soil can result in some exciting wines.

Some value Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Nielson in Santa Barbara County also make an appearance, and a cool Chenin Blanc. Lastly, La Pelle’s new offerings continue to show why they are worth watching.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

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Wine Reviews: Chile and Argentina

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 08-14-2021

It’s been a while since I’ve delved into some wines from Chile and Argentina, so I’m excited to share some new offerings.

Three reds from Argentina make an appearance in this report, and the Mascota Vineyards Unanime brand show juicy, lively styles that are great for a slight chill on a warm evening.

Most of the wines in this report hail from Chile, and these producers are also touting their sustainability efforts. Koyle is a biodynamic producer that gets 40% of its power supply from solar panels. And Emiliana is one of the largest organic and biodynamic producers in the world. What I love is how some of these producers are able to utilize these methods and produce delicious, interesting wines at super reasonable price points.

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

Wine Reviews: Late Summer Selections

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-31-2021

I can’t believe it’s almost August. But there’s still plenty of summertime left, and this week I have a mix of wines to keep the summer vibes going.

There are some diverse white wines in here, from Austrian Gruner and a kicking South African Chardonnay. Plenty of value is on display as well, with some Rioja rosés and a delightful Rioja Blanco. And Napa’s Shafer turns out a really impressive vintage of their Red Shoulder Chardonnay.

I also received several wines from Jumilla Wine, which promotes this Spanish region’s wines in the U.S. These inexpensive wines are branded by the region to show the importance of Monastrell to this sun-roasted region of Southeastern Spain.

I rarely review anything besides wine, but I’m making an exception in this report for these non-alcoholic grape juices from Castello di Amorosa. They harvest some grapes a few days early for acidity, and make juice out of them. Yes, clearly they are sweet, but they’re also well made, smell and taste like their respective varieties, and are yummy.

The juices are sold at their Calistoga location or on their website. I’m glad to see these being made, because they’re interesting and offer the sense a lot to unpack without the alcohol, and would be great drinks to share with friends and family who do not consume alcohol. I tasted these with my six-year-old daughter and we took tasting notes together, and it was a blast. (She’s a big Gewurz juice fan.)

All of these wines (and juices) were received as samples and tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Reviews: Italian Grab Bag

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-24-2021

This week, I’m digging into a few Italian wines, and value is largely the theme here. From poolside selections for a dozen bucks to more moderately-priced wines that deliver a lot of depth, there’s a nice mix in here.

The islands are represented, with some delicious Sardinian selections from Surrau. There are some inexpensive offerings from Sicily’s Cantine Ermes, too, which offer a good introduction to their respective grapes.

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

Wine Reviews: Merry Edwards & Alma Fria

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-17-2021

This week, I’m highlighting two Sonoma County producers who bring me joy. I, for one, could use a bit of joy these days. I’ve been a fan of both of these producers for a while now, and I was excited to revisit them through the new releases. While tasting, I was comforted but just how reliably delicious and honest these wines are.

Merry Edwards has always had my respect, from Merry’s groundbreaking spot in Sonoma wine history, to the fact that the wines continue to deliver, vintage-in, vintage-out. With winemaker Heidi von der Mehden at the helm, this slew of 2019 Pinot Noirs continues the winery’s strong legacy.

I’ve been following Alma Fria since their 2013 vintage, and found these wines to be consistently exciting. If you’re a fan of lower alcohol Pinots and Chardonnays, with more citrus on the Chard side and tangy red fruit on the Pinot side, you should really check these out. The single-vineyard Pinots, like the Doña Margarita Vineyard near Freestone and the Holtermann Vineyard near Annapolis, deserve some cellar time, or plenty of air to strut their stuff. Winemaker Carroll Kemp really rocks it with the entry-level Plural wines, which have some sourced fruit and serve as are a great introduction to the producer’s style. They’re honestly some of the most delicious and bang-for-the-buck Pinots and Chards I find from California.

These wines were received as samples, and the Merry Edwards Pinot Noirs were tasted single-blind, while the others were tasted sighted. Read the rest of this entry »