My wife and I attended a tasting this weekend as our Valentine’s Day gift to each other. This was the second time we attended this particular tasting and find it to be an incredible value for the wines presented. The tasting is small featuring roughly 40-50 wines from all over (slightly USA-centric), with many different styles available. Below are some of my extremely brief notes on the more memorable wines of the evening (in no particular order):
2006 Coniglio Diamond Mountain Merlot ($40): It’s “merlot-ness” is apparent, but the structure and texture are impressive. 89 pts.
2005 Coniglio Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($30): The merlot had more guts, but this certainly delivers Napa Cabernet character for the price point. 88 pts.
2008 Frank Family Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($50): Tasted side by with the Coniglios and on this night, this one stood above the rest. Dark fruits and some herbal notes with good structure and smooth tannins. 90 pts.
2008 Justin Isosceles ($59): Definitely a crowd pleaser, but it tastes like they left in a good helping of residual sugar. In a big sturdy wine like this, I am skeptical when they taste sweet because “rs” (residual sugar) tends to be used like make-up to disguise an otherwise unimpressive wine; still great. 91 pts.
2008 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta ($84): Even the snootiest of wine aficionados would have to admit that this wine is well made and delivers the goods on a silver platter. In a tasting of 40+ wines, I tend to pour out a lot to limit my intake, but I took the time to savor this one. 91+ pts.
Non-vintage Justin Obtuse Port ($29): This Cabernet based fortified wine was surprisingly and pleasantly un-sweet. Some toasty character, but I would suggest eating dessert with it. It is a bit much to take all alone. 87 pts.
Chocolate Shop ($11): This is not wine. No score. Tastes like tootsie rolls.
2008 Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel ($18): OMG! May be the best Zinfandel I’ve ever tasted for the money. Dark brooding fruits and perfect balance and complexity, For The Win! 91 pts.
2009 Klinker Brick Farrah’s Syrah ($18): Also very good, but the Zin stole my heart this time. Definitely a worthwhile value Syrah. 89 pts.
2007 Spring Valley Vineyards “Frederick” ($47): Cabernet Sauvignon. Comes across as very young (read: bright and tannic) but with a ton of potential. Needs cellar time, probably 3-4 years. The brightness and good acidic backbone remind me of a Barolo. 90+ pts.
2006 Col Salare ($62): Cabernet Sauvignon. Darker and more luscious than the Spring Valley, but didn’t ring my bell quite as well. 89+ pts.
2009 Erath Estate Pinot Noir ($33): Good representation of Oregon Pinot Noir; more delicate than many from California but retains good concentration and length of flavors. 88 pts.
2007 Franciscan “Stylus” ($45): They claimed this is normally a $100 bottle, and it is very good; I just don’t know about a whole $100 of my hard-earned dollars. Certainly worth $45 for a nice home-cooked meal in a few years. 90+ pts.
2009 Beringer Knights Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($56): A lot of regular wine drinkers might not even be aware that Beringer makes some higher end wines, but this one is a blockbuster. If you love the inviting structured fruit, well-integrated oak, and a future full of complexity, then Sonoma Cabernet may be right in your wheelhouse. Sort of brambly and young now, but I would say buy 2 and drink one now and one in 8 years. 92+ pts.
2007 Sbragia Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon ($28): After tasting this wine, I would have guessed it to be in the $50-60 range. When I found out it was under $30, I was fairly floored. This is another wonderful Sonoma Cab; consider it a younger brother to the Beringer. 89 pts.
2009 Bodegas Penalba Lopez Ribera Del Duero Finca Torremilanos ($15): You could easily enjoy this wine and finish the bottle in the time it would take you to pronounce the name. Good complexity and full of flavor for this price point. 88 pts.
2009 Hope Family Wines Treana Red Wine ($30): The label on this bottle is sort of goofy looking, but I was surprised at the quality. Well made Cab blend that drinks just fine all by itself, or would perfectly compliment any manner of hearty dishes. 89 pts.
2006 Steltzner Stags Leap Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($80): This wine is dynamite, but at the same time hard to appreciate at this point. When a wine is built for greatness (high extraction, a fair amount of oak, high tannins, etc.) it will be in relative balance throughout its life, meaning that no single aspect will stick out no matter when you drink it. At this point, however, all of the flavors seem sort of simplistic and muted. I would give this one 10 years at least and I can almost guarantee that it will blossom into a sexy seductress of a wine. 91+ pts. now, could be 94-96 pts. given that you pop it at the right moment.
2009 Cellar Cal Pla Mas D’en Compte Porrera Black Slate Priorat ($20): For the price, this is the clear winner of the evening. It smells like a bowl of roses and is perfectly balanced on the palate with a finish that goes on for days. Imagine eating a bowl of black cherries in a cedar lined closet with a bouquet of flowers in your hand and you’re half way there. 92 pts.
2005 Rocche Costamagna Barolo ($29): For thirty dollars, this had a lot of the good character of a Barolo. The trouble is, I can’t tell if it is just too young or if it might not have the stuffing necessary to outlive the tannins and the fruit and spice will die before it smooths out. 88 pts.
2009 Chateau Foria Chateauneuf Du Pape ($40): Another stand out wine of the evening. I actually re-tasted this one at the end of the night to relive the wonderfully integrated oak and vanilla character along with the spice box and leather character that is beginning to become apparent. Harmony in a glass. 92 pts.
2007 Viader ($100): This wine is way too young to even say much about. The couple next to us were gushing about it, but I felt it to be extremely tight and muted at this point. I can tell it is well made by the balance and good acidity, but not much else can be said at this point. 90+ pts.
2007 Dare by Viader ($45): This wine is so named to help people remember how to pronounce Viader . Meant to be the baby brother of the namesake above, this one is much more approachable at this point with more resolved tannins and secondary flavors and aromas. Certainly a good Cab for the price and prestige. 90 pts.
2009 Chateau La Croix De Berney Puisseguin-St. Emilion Bordeaux ($20): Sorry to end on a down note, but this wine seemed sort of grapey and one-dimensional to me. Would probably be a good Tuesday night pizza wine. 86 pts.
That pretty much wraps it up. The good news is that if you live in Ohio, there are currently distributors with these wines available, so feel free to ask for them at your local wine shop if you feel so inclined. Cheers to my longest post to date (congrats if you made it this far), and Happy Valentine’s Day!
P.S. I type this as my lovely wife prepares a home-cooked meal of scallops fettucine alfredo
I have a few quick reviews jotted down at wine shop tastings and other such events where I didn’t exactly take the time to mull over the details. I tasted these wines probably over the last 6 months or so. I present them here in an unedited format for your enjoyment:
The following are from a Coturri Winery Tasting:
Rose’ – Great acidity w/ grapefruit and pear. 89 pts.
06′ Pinot Jewell Vineyards – Dark and jammy. Doesn’t taste like a Pinot but good. 88 pts.
Merlot – Drinkable. 85 pts.
Sandocino – Pretty awesome, blueberries and smoke. Great balance but tannins need time to resolve. 90 pts.
Petit Sirah – Licorice, black cherry, and Swedish Fish. Oaky, delicious. 89 pts.
Primitivo – Stinky and smoky. Cola and black raspberries. (no score given)
Other odds and ends from various tastings:
08′ Sineann Pinot, $38 – Smells jammy, little lake water with oak on top. Some cherries, alcohol apparent. Overdone. 86+ pts.
07′ Federalist Zinfandel, $29 – Aromatically challenged. Some zin character comes through with a punch of fruit. Slightly muddled. 87+ pts.
03′ Ridge Del Carlo – Big earthy nose. Slightly browning at the edge of the glass. Smells incredible and you can tell it has some age. Big mouthfeel, very elegant and well-balanced in its bigness. Still a little cloying. Truckloads of fruit and complexity in the mid-palate. Some pepper and mint. (no score given)
07′ Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet, $70 – Aroma is very big and concentrated with an oak blanket. Currants and blueberries with an herbal quality. Bright acidity, very well-balanced. Lots of tannin, but has lots of everything. Will be fantastic. 92+ pts.
Hope you enjoyed the uncut, unrated wine reviews. I apologize for any grammatical atrocities. Cheers!
So on this wonderful Saturday morning I’m sitting here browsing the web and I came up with the idea for a “safe bet” list of wineries that I feel could be very helpful to my readers in a more broadly ranging and general sense than my otherwise very specific wine reviews. This list comprises wineries with which I feel I am very familiar and is limited to those who I feel offer very consistent quality and value at their respective price points. My goal here is to put these wineries’ names somewhere back in your mind so that the next time you are at the grocery store or wine shop, you might just recognize a few of these labels and be confident that the wine in the bottle will be well made and enjoyable for whatever occasion might call for it. I took the extra step of pairing this list down to wineries from which I have never had a disappointing wine. Please also feel free to add your comments on any additional wineries you might be fond of and be sure to include the price range of their offerings:
Price Range: $5-$25
Mumm Napa (primarily sparklers) Mumm Napa Website
Casillero Del Diablo (division of Concha Y Toro, Chilean reds and whites) Casillero Del Diablo Website
Price Range: $20-$40
Coturri (very rustic wines, “sulfite free”, and various varietal wines) Coturrio Website
Mollydooker (readily available fruit bombs from Australia) Mollydooker Website
Michael David (famous for 7 Deadly Zins and Petit Petit ‘petit sirah’) Michael David Website
Gundlach Bunschu (‘gun-lock bun-shoe’, good red blends and cabs from Sonoma) GunBun Website jjj
Alexander Valley Vineyards (their cabernets taste more expensive than their price, a good thing) AVV Website
Price Range: $40+ (I could list a ton in this category, but have stayed with those that are readily available)
Silverado Vineyards (cabernets and super-tuscan blends from Napa) Silverado Website
I may augment this list in the future, but I feel this is a good starting point. Let me know if you have had or do have any of these wines, and give me an earful if you think they were junk (you won’t ).
Welcome back everyone and raise a glass to 2012! Ok, now that I have all the exclamation points out-of-the-way, I would like to apologize for my unannounced hiatus (last post in Mid Movember). I suppose I underestimated how busy I could be throughout that most hectic and stressful time of year. I hope you had a wonderful round of holidays and are completely refreshed to dive headlong into the new year. I am going to use this post to float a few topics out there, some related to what I have been up to (read: drinking) and a few tidbits about the current world of wine as well as some potential additions to the realm of possibilities here at GrapesRGreat.com.
So a quick summary of recent quaff worth talking about is probably due. For thanksgiving my wife and I opened a bottle of 2007 Chronicle Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir that was purchased through Lot18, which is a quickly growing website that does a fantastic job of presenting customers from little tucked away corners of the US (Ohio) access small production wines that may not be available via direct shipping or through local distribution. I highly recommend you check it out, and no I am not paid for the endorsement. The Pinot was absolutely fantastic but would certainly benefit from a year or 2 more of cellaring (Visit Chronicle Wines Here). We also had a bottle of 2005 Saddleback Cellars Napa Cabernet, also a real blockbuster. Nils Venge is the Owner and Winemaker at Saddleback and started the winery in 1985, the same year he produced the first ever 100 point score from Robert Parker for a Californian wine with the 1985 Groth Reserve Cabernet. Other highlights include snagging a bottle 1990 Veuve Cliquot Grand Reserve Champagne from a local retailer when I asked about vintage Champagnes. The wine was actually from his private home cellar and I got it for a more than reasonable price given the incredible pedigree. The bottle was a gift for a close family friend who adores Champagne I am forever indebted to Chris and Urmila at Rumbleseat Wine in Dayton, Ohio for their continued hospitality and over the top customer service.
After Christmas my wife and I went to St. Louis to visit my family and picked up a bottle of Boulevard Brewing’s Saison-Brett limited edition brew (Boulevard is a Kansas City based brewery and is not distributed in Ohio :*( ). The beer is a Saison style farmhouse ale inoculated with “Brett” or the brettanomyces yeast strain responsible (controversially so) for much of the barnyard-y and earthy qualities found in many a French wine. Although it is considered a spoilage yeast, many wineries (and now breweries) use it in a controlled fashion to add character and complexities to their wines and beers. When we got back from our trip we poured it around to our friends at Rumbleseat Wine and it was really yummy and wonderful. The hoppy character plays off the earthiness of the Brett very well and the whole become more than the sum of the parts.
Along the way, we also drank a 2006 Coturri Freiberg Zinfandel, a perennial favorite with dark stewed plums on the nose but tons of big fruit on the palate; and a 2001 Gundlach Bunschu Cabernet Sauvignon which developed into a monster of complex layers with toast and smoke, I actually guessed that it had some Syrah in it before I knew what I was drinking. All in all, I have no complaints about the wines during this holiday season.
In other news, the 2009 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was named wine of the year by Wine Spectator, so don’t count on ever finding any and 2009 was declared possibly the best vintage ever for California Pinot, so grab it while you can! Especially since you will not likely be having any Bordeaux First-Growths as the 2010 futures broke pricing records when the cheapest of these were set to release at 600 Euros ($765 US). 2 things, 1) that is a futures price, so folks are betting the price will go up by the time the wines are actually released and 2) that is a per bottle price. . . amazing.
Thirdly, and finally, if you have read this far, I want you all to look at the right side of this page and sign up for the email updates to ensure you never miss a beat and are getting all of the wine tasting reviews and any other exciting news here at GrapesRGreat.com. I am currently toying around with a few different things I may be adding to the blog including entries covering breaking news in the wine industry and legislation affecting how you buy wine, hot deals I see and where to find them, and possibly most exciting I may be doing a raffle with a real prize in the near future. So stay tuned!
After a long and exhaustive week of wine tasting, I have to admit that I did not document every wine we tried, although I will say that it likely numbered over 100. I think this will go to improve the credibility of the chosen favorites as they were given the task of sticking in my mind for all this time in order to make the cut. The reason for having 2 first place wines is mostly because the two wines given this honor could not be more different, and yet they are both equally wonderful. One is a delightfully luscious, though a bright and complex wine from Sonoma and the other is a dark and sinful tasting wine from Napa’s Spring Mountain with plenty of oak to match the towering tannin structure that will need significant time to develop. At this time I will not attempt a full review as specific notes were not taken at the time of tasting (I was on vacation after all), but in 5 or 10 years when I open these gems, I’ll get back to you on the details. On with the awards!
Best of Show wines tasted
1)2009 Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir – Absolutely wonderful Pinot with elegance, complexity, and power www.rochioliwinery.com
1)2007 Juslyn Spring Mountain Estate Cabernet – I have really high hopes for this one, dark and complex and super concentrated now www.juslynvineyards.com
2009 Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel – This one gets some bonus points for only being $35! www.ridgewine.com
2008 Williams-Selyem Westside Road Neighbors – Not as juicy as some other Cali Pinots, more complexity than most. www.williamsselyem.com
Leave me a comment if you have had any incredible California wines recently and let me know what you thought!
This secluded little winery has some prime-time land tucked up on Spring Mountain from which they produce a wonderful Cabernet, a bordeaux blend called “dedication”, and a port, among others. Their tastings are by appointment only as are all of the Spring Mountain wineries (although we were able to schedule our appointment about 90 minutes in advance) and they have a locked gate out front to ensure that you do have an appointment. Strictly family owned and operated since inception, the staff here is minimal but really friendly and knowledgeable. One little tricky bit about scheduling a tasting and tour here is that they will inform you on the phone that there is a $25 tasting fee per person (kinda steep! Like the mountain, ha!). What they don’t tell you is that they likely won’t mention this fee at any time during the tasting and will waive the fees if anything is purchased (their sauv. blanc is $25/btl ). I have a strong feeling that you will leave with something a little more substantial than the sauv. blanc if you visit. We brought home a bottle of their Cabernet which is their flagship and what most of their vineyard is planted to ($59/btl).
The views are spectacular and they bump elbows with a few great names like Pride Mountain, Barnett, and Keenan in this tucked away corner of Napa Valley. Our tasting consisted of approx. 6 wines, including a library wine tasting of their 04′ Cab. which the pourer brought out at the mere question, “Is there anything else we can taste?” (I love that question, works almost every time). They also have a group of winery dogs (I think there were 5) which were very friendly and were seen romping through the grapes at various times during our tour and tasting. If you can’t make it to the winery, their website does allow direct ordering of their wines as their distribution doesn’t make it too far out of California.
$24: Trentadue (www.trentadue.com) is a little known winery outside of California, but it seems that they are very highly regarded in their home state. The winery produces several varietal wines as well as proprietary blends and almost everything they produce is sold at affordable price points. I picked up this guy locally, mainly because it is the first time I have seen this in my town, and secondly because it is very difficult to find a wine with this much age on it right out of the box for any less than $60-100.
The color and aroma of this wine give away its age fairly quickly, in the best sense of the phrase. Too dark to see through at the deepest part of your glass, the wine tawnies (new word) toward the edge of the glass. The aroma is very complex, having acquired many of the secondary scents that come with 7 years of age on a wine that deserves it. Smoke, cedar, meat, and a little cream come through deliciously. The tannins are well resolved and overall, i would have to say that this is the best $20 cab I have ever had. And my local wine shop said they were getting the 2005 vintage of this same wine soon! 91- pts.
$60 ish?, 14.7% alc.: Certified organic grapes from the 24-year-old Rock Cairn vineyard in Oakville, CA are used to produce this wine which is only in its third vintage of production. A little uniqueness I notice right away is that the label on this wine has an ingredients list: Organically grown grapes, yeast, and SO2. I suppose this is a subtle way of stating that they do not mess with the “specs” of the grapes in their wine production. Many wineries will tend to nudge the sugar, acid, tannin, and other aspects of their grapes by chemical addition (or reduction) prior to fermentation if they are not precisely in the “sweet spot.” Others pride themselves on avoiding this taboo.
This wine is dark and also exhibiting a slight tawny, but with no sediment yet in the bottle. From the “big” nature of this wine and its dark color, I decanted it and let it sit out for about an hour before tasting. The aroma on this wine is complex and enchanting with a jammy quality usually seen in Zinfandels and a cinnamon and spice sort of thing that I most closely relate to an apple pie fresh from the oven. There is some oak evident on the nose but not nearly what I would expect coupled with an uncharacteristic “stink” of earth more common in french wines. The palate makes me think that this wasn’t exactly the best vintage for this producer. It is certainly not bad, very lively and acidic up front with a subtle oak and cab-like, dark fruit resolution. I would expect the middle (what you taste just before you swallow) of this wine would have more “oomph,” instead it seems a bit hollow. Almost like a rollercoaster with a long flat section in the middle with twists and turns on both ends. I did enjoy this wine, and I was dying for a good cabernet (seems like the last 30 wines I’ve tasted were Zinfandels and Pinots), but it was missing some of the balance and clarity of a well written story. 89-pts.
Here are some quick reviews of my latest adventures-in-vino:
2005 Martinelli Zio Tony Ranch Pinot noir: $60 (from their mailing list, if you can get it; approx $90 on secondary market), 14.9% alc. First of all, yes this is the same Martinelli of apple juice stardom, but this stuff is a little (or a lot) harder to come by. Limited to their loyal mailing and waiting list customers and very high end retailers, they specialize in Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay. Helen Turley is the winemaker. . . need I say more? The aroma on this wine is extremely intense giving a sense that your glass is just dripping with gobs of juicy dark red fruits, earth, and some spice. The palate remains a little tannic but the wine is very concentrated with earth and spice notes and a good silky mouthfeel. 91+ pts.
2003 Naughty Cellars Racy: $30ish. This is a meritage (pronounced like heritage) blend from California and comes across very Bordeaux like in its aroma. An oaky smokiness meets cherries and blackberries on the nose with a pleasantly complex flavor and a long finish. This wine is surprisingly well balanced and is very enjoyable to drink but still tannic. 89+ pts.
2007 Pahlmeyer Merlot: $100. Wow, I never knew a Merlot could be so special, but then again, this is like the Dom Perignon of merlots. . . its a hundred bucks a bottle for crying out loud! The aroma of this wine is fruity, floral, and spicy and reminds me of a good barbecue rub. The palate and mouthfeel of this wine is incredibly balanced with just the right touch of oak and spice. A good vibrant acidity comes in the midpalate and keeps the oak in check, letting some spice come through in the finish (not read as hot). There are ample tannins and structure available for aging this wine far into the future but it is deliciously concentrated now. 92++ pts.
I know it has been a minute since I last posted anything, so this evening will be a two-fold review. Anyone geeky about wine has likely seen of, heard of, used, or owns a little device called a Venturi (as shown in the picture). It is marketed basically as a magician’s wand capable of transforming any wine into something much better. Realistically it is a very cleverly and thoroughly designed aeration device which promises to do in seconds what a year in the bottle and swirling until your arm hurts does; which is to say it enhances both flavor and aroma as well as softening rough tannins. I went in with a healthy skepticism as I always do and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised and quite impressed. Review to follow:
2007 Van Ruiten Cab. Sauv. Lodi Appellation: $19, 14.9% alc. One glass was poured through the Venturi aerator and one was not and they were compared side by side. Non-Venturi tasting: The aroma is powerful and the alcohol is apparent with a jammy juicy character reminiscent of fruit roll-ups. On the palate the oak comes through, sort of and the juicy quality remains. Not extremely concentrated but not flabby with strong tannins and a slightly hot finish (high alcohol) and certainly a decent drink. 86+ pts. Venturi tasting: First of all, this little device makes a very cool noise, almost mechanical, helping with the sense that it is doing something important to your hard fought nectar of the gods. The nose on this comes across with a smoky paprika, black currant, and an evident but not overpowering oak (bigger, better grapes can handle more oak, and many producers like to pretend that their grapes can handle all the oak you can throw at them; this is not the case). On the palate, the tannins are tamed significantly but the wine doesn’t lose all of its structure. It sort of hits me as a kindler, gentler wine (think Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde) but one that still keeps some of my interest. The venturi failed to add much complexity in my eyes but it really did a good job of bringing this young wine into a form that is certainly enjoyable now. 87+ pts.
Final thought on the Venturi: This device is not designed to be used with every wine you come across, but that is okay. Realistically, this little guy can do a really good job with those wines that you just can’t wait to drink and those which may never soften (think expensive wines from a not-so-great vintage). It seems to do exactly what it is supposed to do, but if I may be crude for a minute just remember that you can’t polish a turd. If the wine doesn’t have the guts, then all the gadgets in the world won’t help it. Venturi: 90 pts.