Wednesday, July 1, 2015

American Winners For the 4th

In preparation for our nation's celebration of independence, I offer two home-grown terroirists guaranteed to disrupt your palate and have you surrendering to the greatness of the US of A. Here's wishing you all a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July.  Cheers!

2012 Chateau St Jean Chardonnay Belle Terrell $15 (on sale from $27)
Good Chardonnay from a great year. At once both more restrained and still as extroverted as the archetypal California Chardonnay. Not only does this one have the reins on its ripeness, but manages to deliver a framework of acidity uncommon except in the stratosphere of pricing for this genre. With one foot in each camp, this delivers on many pleasure points.

2011 Adobe Roadhouse Red Paso Robles $14
There are two things that I generally disdain in red wines: overblown and patronizing fruit, and deliberately green vegetal characteristics. This one possesses both, but somehow manages to come off as extremely appealing. Perhaps for it's unexpected balance and "throw it all in the tank" devil may care blending approach, it comes across as authentic and irresistible.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Best of 2015 (So Far)

"Best of" lists usually start appearing after Thanksgiving, but since we just marked the summer solstice, why not offer a halfway point list?  This isn't just recycling content, it provides a reminder of what to keep an eye out for while shopping, because if this year's buying experiences have taught me anything, it's that that you've got to scoop up what you like before it's gone.  So, these are all wines I have recently - or soon will - purchase more of.  Even the casual observer will note that the majority of these wines - three whites and eleven reds - are European...

Cheers!

WHITES
2013 Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Blanc $10
Destined to be a house white all summer long. Bright, lively, and energetic, this refreshing blend puts a smile on your face. Plenty of fruit and a nice touch of grip round out this sensational bargain.
 
2013 La Crema Chardonnay Sonoma Coast $19
Whereas a lot of large production Chardonnays have decreased in quality (but not in price) with the 2013 vintage, La Crema actually steps up.  There are no surprises in this characteristic California Chard, except that it's well-made, clean, supremely enjoyable, and drinks like a lot of $30 Chards.
2013 Domaine de Velanges Macon-Prisse Les Clos $15
A chardonnay of staggering clarity and brilliance, especially at this price.  Acidity and minerality are delivered in the same focused voice, making for a balanced, sophisticated wine most pleasingly on the modest side of the fruit spectrum. 


REDS
2010 Monte Antico Tuscan Red $10
Almost 5 years old and drinking incredibly well.  There is something for everyone to love in this blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet. Balanced and as Italian as it is international in style.  An astonishing value for a beverage that delivers such enjoyment. Highly recommended.

2008 Bonacchi Rosso di Montalcino $13
This week there's only one wine you need to know about. From the same producer that brought us an incredible value in Chianti Classico last year comes this Rosso di Montalcino. Aside from costing about $7 less than most decent wines of the same designation, this one comes with some age on it. A good bit of age, actually. But the years haven't diminished the clarity or structure this quintessentially Tuscan red exudes. A lot to like here beyond the $13 price tag.

2012 Concha y Toro Cabernet Casillero del Diablo Chile $10
Full, varietally correct, and clean. Very well made and drinks like a $20+ wine. An experience I look forward to repeating very soon. 

2009 Sella y Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna $15
Said to have the highest levels of polyphenols of any wine grape, this Cannonau delivers a heady dose of swirling aromatics and acidity that keep you coming back for more.  Light-bodied, but packed with flavor.  Consummately Italian.  Lively, bright, and versatile.  Why don't I buy this by the case?

2012 Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Alexander Valley $18
Must.  Get.  More.  Soon.  Very accessible and exuding everything that's great about Alexander Valley: rich, ripe Cabernet flavors framed by toasty (but unobtrusive) oak and tannins.  A terrific deal from one of California's most consistent family-owned wineries.  Bravo.
 
2012 Bogle Pinot Noir California $11
If other Pinot producers asked themselves if their offerings beat the dollar-for-dollar punch of this wine before they priced their own, Pinot Noir would be half the cost.  This is real Pinot Noir that triggers many pleasure points and drinks even better on day two.  Whatever it may lack in nuance and sophistication it more than makes up for in its blockbuster value.

2010 Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva $25
Chianti finesse and acidity meets broad-shouldered structure and a firm-handed delivery of unapologetic flavor.  Incredibly versatile - as companionable with a grilled ribeye as it is with a past and fish dish.  Easily the best Chianti I've had in years.
 
2004 Barreri e Rovati Barolo Riserva $20
It's a tease to put this on the list because I don't believe there's any more of it out there.  Powerful, tight, electric Cashmere tannins with positively soaring phenolics give way to a building shape that commands basso profundo attention without obesity. The lingering, sexy finish seduces again and again. A complete Barolo with 10+ years on it for a quarter the going price for a similar experience.
 
2012 Columbia Crest Merlot $8  
As consistent and bulletproof a wine as you could ask for.  Fruit, structure, and heft for a bargain basement price.

2013 Fattoria del Cerro Chianti Colli Senesi $12
Harmonious, gentle, pleasing, and life-affirming. Love it and love drinking this bright wine.  Case buy that I can no longer keep to myself.  I've reached for this wine to go with everything from Bolognese to grilled salmon.
 
2011 Schild Estate GMS Barossa $15
Without a doubt the most exciting, unusual, and surprising wine I've had in months. It's jammed with big Pinot Noir-like qualities: smoke, delicate fruit framed by intricate acidity, and a tarryness typically found only in coastal, higher altitude vineyards. Were I to taste of this blind, I would guess at a $60 or more Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lodi Native, Circa 2013



Regular readers of this site may recall last year's Lodi Native missive and it's gushing accolades for both the concept and its execution.  It is without rival in terms of its innovation and efficacy.  If wine a lover strives for the next big thing and/or pockets of unappreciated value, then this is a find that deserves pursuit.

The concept, Lodi Native, is beautiful in its simplicity: a collaborative project by winegrowers and winemakers in the Mokelumne River sub-AVA of Lodi, each producing a one-off bottling of Zinfandel using minimalist winemaking protocols.  The result: six bottles that focus on the taste of vineyards rather than varietal character or brand. 

That simplicity means no gimmicks, just wine - and truth - something that carries a certain amount of risk, as giving up control means, well, giving up control.  Packaging these bottles in identically delivers the message clearly: the wines speak for themselves.  Equally more impressive are the winemaking standards:
  • 100% single vineyard Zinfandelor vineyard
  • Native yeast (non-inoculated) fermentations only, and no inoculation for malolactic fermentation.
  • No use of new oak (though I'm not sure this was strictly adhered to)
  • No acidification or de-acidification, no water addition or de-alcoholizing measures, and no tannin additions.
  • No filtering, fining, or use of Mega-Purple, must concentration, etc.
This long list of No's creates a level playing field, so to speak, and provides a baseline for Zin in this corner of Lodi - a terrifically unique sampling.  If you want to understand what Zin from Lodi really is - and can be - this is as close as you can can get without sticking your nose into a ton of barrels. 

As for the wines...

As experienced last year, members of the same band might all sing the same songs, but their voices are not the same.  There's always a flamboyant, good-looking lead singer, and there's always a drummer.  This crew is no different. Collectively, they sound great, though 2013 is trying hard to impress by comparison to 2012.  But make no mistake, there is not just the potential in Lodi, but an energy to drive this region to higher heights. Let's hope that the commitment remains as popularity swells.

Stampede Vineyard (made by Fields Family Wines)
And inviting and complex knows channels more than just fruit. It delivers high-pitched vegetables and dust, making for an interesting, if nearly piercing approach. The palate comes fast and hot on opening, speeding past home plate like a slider. Eases into a bathwater-like texture with still-excited spices dancing across the long finish, but never gets beyond lean in body or flavor. 

Schmiedt Ranch (made by Macchia Wines)
Come-hither aromatics give way to an initially jumpy attack that zigzags spice across the tongue. Texture is soft and plush, and the finish, like others in this lineup, lingers languorously the way a Sunday afternoon nap ought to. The briefest of time passed before it really opened up and filled out into a swan of wine. Lush and pleasurable. 

Wegat Vineyard (made by Maley Brothers Vineyards)
Zinfandel at a more basso profundo pitch than its siblings. Deep, blackstrap flavors coat the mouth with the potency of tar, but the lightness of fireflies. Soaring post-palate aromatics create expansive space for the fruit to sing. It's medium bodied frame is in curious contrast to the largess of experience. A little unbridled heat comes through towards the finish, but burns off with some air.  In fact, breathing does wonders for this. The midsection fills in nicely with soft, round body without losing any of its high notes. The texture unwinds and becomes something comforting. Very nice indeed.  
Trulux Vineyard (made by McCay Cellars)
There's something more exciting than the attendant Zinfandel fruit and pepper combo happening on the nose here. Neither herbaceous nor vegetal, it is a clean, appealing, and inviting aroma that channels polish. Elegance, even. Indeed, this is a bellwether of great things to come as the palate quickly reveals. This is a wine of serious substance, structure, and finesse. I had frankly not expected to find this in a lineup of zinfandels, but here it is in all of its sophisticated poise. 

Marian's Vineyard (made by St Amant Winery)
Fresh, concentrated berry aromatics lead into a similar profile on the palate. The fruit is juicy and gregarious with lightweight framing in terms of acidity and structure. Very soft mouth feel accompanied by spicy high notes on the finish.

Soucie Vineyard (made by m2 Wines)
Marvelous. Zinfandel fidelity in full surround sound. Seamless, supple texture, fine structured acidity, and a finish that goes and goes and goes. Soaring high notes and beckoning tannins make this irresistible. No decanted required - as it eases it turns into a boozy adult nectar. Fantastic experience.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Recycle Bin, Week of June 1

We have a treasure trove of un-missable values this week, including a Chilean Cabernet that drinks far above its price and a totally kick ass Italian blend bargain. In contrast sit two Chadonnays that echo the cautionary tale I've already broadcasted about the 2013 vintage in California.  All in all, these reds represent such a terrific concentration of fantastic values that I consider this week to be among the best of the year.

2013 Bogle Petite Sirah $11
A lot of mouth-full of flavor for the buck. Tastes more like Petite Sirah than in previous years, with characteristic blockbuster tannins that are quite refined as it opens up, but the wine is also in keeping with the round chocolatiness that has become synonymous with this bottling.  

2010 Monte Antico Tuscan Red $10
Almost 5 years old and drinking incredibly well.  There is something for everyone to love in this blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet. Balanced and as Italian as it is international in style.  An astonishing value for a beverage that delivers such enjoyment. Highly recommended.

2012 Concha y Toro Cabernet Casillero del Diablo Chile $10
Full, varietally correct, and clean. Very well made and drinks like a $20+ wine. An experience I look forward to repeating very soon. 

2009 Sella y Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna $15
Said to have the highest levels of polyphenols of any wine grape, this Cannonau delivers a heady dose of swirling aromatics and acidity that keep you coming back for more.  Consummately Italian.  Lively, bright, and versatile.

2013 Sterling Chardonnay Central Coast $11
Dull, flabby, and with a rough edge on the flat finish.  Boo.

2013 Bogle Chardonnay California $10
Almost a carbon copy of the Sterling.  Are these wineries buying juice from the same bulk supplier?


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Wrath of Grapes: An Embarrassing Peek Behind The Curtain

Bruce Schoenfeld is a the author of the recent New York Times Magazine article titled, The Wrath of Grapes.  A seasoned reporter and an enthusiastic wine lover, Bruce's knowledge runs as deep as his curiosity, and his professionalism is evident in his lack of bias.  He's also a friend, so I felt really good for him when my wife told me the article hit #1 on NYTimes.com most emailed list this past weekend.  I hope you'll read it, too.

Op-eds, politics, and human interest stories typically occupy the top popularity slots.  So, why this piece?  Because dirty laundry and drama make for entertaining reading.  Threaded throughout the themes of the article is a palpable acrimony fueled by contrasting ideologies and a righteousness that seems out of proportion in a debate over what amounts to preferences in beverage styles.

Which makes me cringe.

In one corner is Rajat Parr, the famously outspoken sommelier, wine producer, and co-founder of In Pursuit of Balance (aka IPOB), an organization of anti-establishment California pinot noir and chardonnay producers.  In the other is Robert Parker, the influential wine critic and the opposition's punching bag.  Overly generalized, Parker favors hedonistic wines, whereas IPOB champions wines of nuance and subtlety that reflect the place they came from.  As you read Bruce's article, you may be struck, as I was, by how, if properly harnessed, the abundance of hot air expended by these opposing sides could significantly contribute to the planet's renewable energy sources.

As one who loves wine without preconditions, I find merit in both perspectives and, so, have no need or desire to take a side.  Hell, that there are sides to take at all is beyond silly.  The way the debate is being conducted - and the fervor it appears to incite among the cognoscenti - is embarrassing.  Moreover, when one ideologue attacks the approach of another, the collateral damage besmirches even those keeping a safe distance.  If a rising tide lifts all boats, then the opposite is also true: those fueling this debate are accomplishing little more than emptying buckets into everyones' hulls - not just their own.

Yes, diverging approaches to the production of almost anything expands the supply of options available to consumers.  Nothing wrong with that at all.  Nor is there any harm in debating the merits of each philosophy.  Some of us drive Hondas, some drive BMWs, and others Fords, yet none of us gets too wrapped up in nay-saying over what our neighbors drive.  Why here? 

At an academic level, one of the interesting things this debate illustrates is how fortunate the rarefied corners of the wine business have become.  That position of luxury affords an obliviousness to the consequences of how this debate is conducted.  If Parker and Parr shared in the pains and challenges experienced by many in this industry still struggling to attract new wine drinkers from the domains of beer and margaritas, they would see how ridiculously self-important they are being.

Bruce's article offers a peek behind the curtain of a small subculture where the players are struggling for relevance.  Not surprisingly - and not unlike the mockumentary Best In Show - it's not the prettiest picture.  Would any casual or non-wine drinker read this piece is this and think to themselves, "Boy, that's an experience I want to immerse myself in!"?

At the risk of sounding all kumbaya, can't we all just get along?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Recycle Bin, Week of May 25

This week, a couple of stunning wines from the M√Ęconnais district in the south of Burgundy and the Duoro Valley upriver from Porto, along with a couple of well-marketed flops from Oregon and Vinho Verde.

2013 Elouan Pinot Noir Oregon $23
From the Wagner family (Caymus, Meiomi, Belle Glos) comes this Oregonian Pinot Noir sold as a wine from Oregon made in the California style. Tastes just like Meiomi, minus the cough syrup. Which is to say, extracted, hot, a little clumsy, and very extroverted.

2010 La Rosa Reserva Duoro $35
Profound and intense, but ultimately soaring in its reach and range.  A wine that disappeared too quickly and which, regrettably, is in short supply here in the US.

2013 Domaine de Velanges Macon-Prisse Les Clos $15
A Chardonnay of staggering clarity and brilliance, especially at this price.  Acidity and minerality are delivered in the same focused voice, making for a balanced, sophisticated wine most pleasingly on the modest side of the fruit spectrum.

NV Broadbent Vinho Verde $10
Clocking in at a lightweight 9%, this sprightly breakfast wine flaunts its simple fruit with a bit if effervescence that advertises its whimsy.  Ten bucks is hardly expensive, but given that this is a non-vintage, mass-produced wine, it really should be selling for closer to $6 or $7.

2012 Sergio Mottura Orvieto $13
Classic Orvieto style with understated fruit and a strong, stony edge.  If the fruit were just a bit more prominent, this would be a stunner.  That said, it'd be a wonderful companion for a light shellfish pasta dish on a warm summer afternoon.




Monday, May 11, 2015

Just One Wine

 2008 Bonacchi Rosso di Montalcino $13
This week there's only one wine you need to know about. From the same producer that brought us an incredible value in Chianti Classico last year comes this Rosso di Montalcino. Aside from costing about $7 less than most decent wines of the same designation, this one comes with some age on it. A good bit of age, actually. But the years haven't diminished the clarity or structure this quintessentially Tuscan red exudes. A lot to like here beyond the $13 price tag.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Trio of Winners From Truchard

Though prices continue to inch up across the board, Truchard is one of the few remaining Napa Valley wineries whose wines are within reach for those of us without the budget for fractional jet ownership.  Shrugging off the 2011 vintage, wineries are happy that the vineyard-friendly 2012 and 2013 vintages are now in bottle.  The turning of tides in these vintages is evident in Truchard's bottlings, three samples of which recently arrived for review.  Made entirely of estate-grown fruit from Truchard's property in Carneros (at the southern-most end of Napa Valley), there's a cohesion to these wines that demonstrates coordination and capability in both the vineyards and the cellar - a rarity anymore.  Keep an eye out for these wines!

2012 Truchard Pinot Noir Carneros $35
Even after an hour decanted, it's still too coiled up to put a finger on. High-toned flavors across the full frequency come at you fast, with light smoke and brine in show. Needs a little time. Hour two makes an enormous difference with an explosive expansion of fruit, spice (and space), and highfalutin aromatics that make the uninitiated dizzy. Tremendous value at this price. 

2012 Truchard Cabernet Sauvignon Carneros $40
Starts up tight, clean, savory, and reserved. Opens up quickly enough into a broad leafed archetypal Napa Valley Cabernet. All of the hallmarks are there: neat tenants, deep fruit, and racy vanilla notes percolating from the fine oak treatment. In the final analysis, pleasing and affirming.

2013 Truchard Roussanne Carneros $25
I'll confess to being a little giddy at seeing this in the shipper.  Roussanne is vastly underrated and, as a consequence, rarely bottled on its own and, when it is, more than reasonably priced.  Appealing for its steely finesse and bright fruit, one should not mistake this description for a light-hearted white. Rather, it's one that's capable of achieving the same levels of complexity as fine red wines. And the Truchard has complexity in spades, unfolding along the mile-long, beckoning finish.




Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Recycle Bin, Week of May 4

If we're speaking in terms of do's and don'ts, there are more don'ts than do's this week.  Honestly, there were some not-even-mediocre wines in the mix this week, two of which were poured into the kitchen sink.  On balance, however, there were some redeeming wines, too.  Enjoy.

2013 Stoller Family Estate Pinot Noir Dundee Hills $30 (Sample)
On initial decanting, a lighter bodied wine just begins to emerge on the approach, but is quickly followed by fast-moving, lacey acids. Given some time to breathe, which it absolutely needs at this young age, it begins to unfold with pretty, delicate spices forming the outlines, but the body never seems to materialize.

2013 Rutini Wines Trumpeter Syrah-Malbec Mendoza $9
Twenty five cents doesn't buy you much anymore these days, but what about nine dollars? That'll get you five cups of coffee at Starbucks, a movie ticket, enough groceries to make a pasta dinner for four, or this complete disappointment of a wine. Prominent flavors of fresh molded plastic and band aids pervade.  Brought the first bottle back convinced that it had brett, but the replacement was no different.

2013 Reserve de la Saurine $8
Terrific value in Grenache Blanc. Lots of freshness and minerality here. Summer?  Bring it!

2013 Ca Momi Chardonnay Napa Valley $11
Bordering on sweet and made in a style intended to extract voluptuousness and volume. Caramel, toast, and cream all in overabundance in this loud, brash, sloppy wine. 


2012 Roccafiore Grechetto Todi (Umbria) 'Fiorfiore' $18
Reviewed last year and found to be one of the most exciting whites of the time, revisiting it at the first sign of warm weather is a reminder of what treasures can be found in Italian white wine. While an additional year of age has sapped some of it's energetic vigor, this remains a brilliant wine that captures the imagination.

2012 Zanon Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley $19 (Sample)
Broad range of spices and high tones of acidity frame this lithe Zin. Missing the characteristic linebacker backbone of Dry Creek, but making up for it in its liveliness. Very, very easy to drink. Fairly priced, too.  From an Ohio native, no less.




Thursday, April 30, 2015

So, You Want To Make (Real) Wine?

Scott Zanon has done what many of us occasionally fantasize about: he's gotten himself into the winemaking business.  In fact, he's got two vintages under his belt, with another on the way.  And he's managed to do this while living and holding down a day job in Columbus, Ohio.  Not only that, but the wines - which bear his name - are available for purchase at dozens of fine wine retailers.  He only makes one wine, a Dry Creek Zinfandel, and it's no basement project wine - it's legit.  The current vintage, his second, is from the celebrated 2012 vintage.

So, how did he do it?  We chatted over a beer yesterday and that was my first question.  First, some context.

Like the production of almost anything today, the wine industry's supply chain can be as fragmented or consolidated as you want it to be.  At one end of the spectrum is the soup-to-nuts approach: you buy a piece of land, plant it to your exacting specifications, farm it according to viticultural practices in harmony with your own beliefs/philosophy, and harvest at the moment of ripeness that coincides with your own stylistic desires.  You also build a facility to turn those grapes into wine, replete with massive capital equipment: destemmers, fermenters, pumps, barrels, warehouse space, a bottling line, maybe a tasting room, and so on.  Finally, you need a sales and marketing team to secure distribution channels and prime the demand pump.

While this approach allows you complete control (or at least as much as mother nature will allow), it requires enormous, long-term investment and carries with it tremendous risk.  Generally speaking, anymore this approach is considered only by the extremely wealthy with more ego than business sense.

At the other end of the spectrum is the fully outsourced/contract option.  You can pretty much pick up the phone and have some outfit make a private label wine for you in short order.  The price is predictable and the investment is minimal.  On the other hand, you have little, if any control over any of the factors impacting quality: vineyard location, farming practices, vinification methods, oak regimens, etc.

In between these two contrasting scenarios are many hybrid options: many wineries source from farmers, but make their own wine.  Others outsource production to custom crush facilities.  Others buy shiners (already bottled wine), stick their name on it, and sell it as his or her own.

So back to Scott Zanon.  His approach sits somewhere in the middle of the continuum.  He knew he wanted to make Zin and, if it was going to be Zin, it had to be from Dry Creek.  So, leveraging relationships forged over many years as a salesman for wine distributors, he struck a handshake deal with a winery whose owners he's known for a long time.  Once a year he goes out and barrel-samples what they haven't earmarked for their own product.  By the time it's in the barrel, the grapes have been grown and the wine's been made, so what's left is to assemble a final blend.  Scott then does a bunch of tasting and blending to figure what combination of Zin and spice rack wines (Petite Sirah, Merlot, etc.) he likes and that will frame out what goes into the bottle.  With that decision made, the winery blends and bottles his wine, slaps his label on it, and stores it in their warehouse until shipping orders arrive.  But that's the romantic, easy part.

Even before he commits to the next tank of juice, he's got to find buyers.  A distribution deal is essential to get the product to retailers and restaurants, which he was also able to strike thanks to his many industry relationships.  But having a distributor doesn't mean they'll buy it all - his distributor buys in smaller increments as they sell through their own inventory.  Nor does the distributor do all the selling - most distributors who have good reach into a lot of outlets also represent hundreds of brands.  Zanon is just another in the mix, so there's still a lot that Scott's got to do.  He makes the rounds, pitching his wine to wine shops and bars, he speaks at tastings and dinners, and pretty much constantly spreads the gospel of his Zin, often fighting to navigate bureaucratic organizations to get to decision makers.

It's a lot of not-so-sexy work.

Scott readily discloses that he's not making a living at this.  At 500-ish cases a year, he's doing better than breaking even, which speaks to the conservatism of his approach and where it sits on that continuum of control versus risk.  For him, it's more for the love and fun of it than any chance at cashing in for an early retirement.  When asked if he's tempted to scale up to a level where he could make a living out of it (around 5,000 cases/year), he replies quickly: "No.  I like to sleep at night.  And I just don't want to lie awake thinking about how to sell that much wine."  Important lessons for those of us with a winery career fantasy.

You can find Zanon Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel for around $19 at almost all the better wine retailers in Ohio.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Recycle Bin, Week of April 27

It's been a redeeming week of wine sampling, with a couple of actionable discoveries.  The GMS might require a search, but will reward your inner wine geek.  On the other hand, the affable Cotes du Rhone Blanc should be pretty widely available - get ready to fall in love with that smoking bargain.  Also, don't miss the cautionary notes regarding the Bogle's new Pinot Noir and La Crema's Monterey bottling.  Some wineries are changing their recipes and delivering half the wines while maintaining pricing.  An educated buyer is a happy drinker...


2011 Schild Estate GMS Barossa $15
Without a doubt the most exciting wine I've had in months. Also the most surprising. From the same Australian winery that got itself into hot water after bottling more Shiraz under the same label the Spectator gave lots of points to, this off the beaten path blend is light in body and density, but extremely expansive in flavor. What makes it special is its Pinot Noir-like qualities: smoke, delicate fruit framed by intricate acidity, and a tarryness typically found only in coastal, higher altitude vineyards. Were I to taste of this blind, I would guess at a $60 or more Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast.


2013 Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Blanc $10
Destined to be a house white all summer long. Bright, lively, and energetic, this refreshing blend puts a smile on your face. Plenty of fruit and a nice touch of grip round out this sensational bargain.

2013 Bogle Pinot Noir California $12
What a difference a year makes. The prior vintage of this wine over delivers by a multiple factor. On the other hand, the 2013 is a simple, one dimensional fruit brick that promises a morning after headache. Grab the 2012 if you see it!

2009 Clarendelle Bordeaux $20
Nice bang for the buck in this shapely, full-bodied red. Already approaching six years old, it has both the structure and the stuffing to go some distance.

2013 La Crema Chardonnay Monterey County $17
While it's can't hold a candle to the recently reviewed Sonoma Coast bottling, this tropically infused Chard is well made, if overpriced by a few dollars. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Recycle Bin, Week of April 20




It's a mixed bag this week - mostly a batch of lackluster and ho-hum wines the mainstream wine press would have you believe are wonderful.  But there's a winner here that serves as a reminder that wine - great wine - is still being made in Australia at a significant discount to much of the remainder of the globe.  Cheers!


2013 Hess Select Chardonnay Monterey County $11
Perfectly serviceable, if lacking in any particularly noteworthy qualities besides its ultimately cloying finish. Safe to drink (one glass) if it's offered to you, but nothing you want to serve to dinner guests you'd like a reciprocal invite from. 

2011 Roth Sauvignon Blanc Alexander Valley $13
A few years of age could be to blame for a harsh bite that starts in the mid-palate it intensifies on the finish. 2011 is a couple of years older than what ought to be on the shelves right now - for Sauv Blanc, anyway.

2012 Rubus Shiraz Barossa $19
Australian wines haven't gotten a bad rap lately as much as they've gotten no rap at all. The Yellow Tail backlash (the effect of the ubiquity of that brand on the general public's perception that all Australian wines should cost eight dollars or less) has cast a long shadow over much of what there is to celebrate about Australian wine. This here is an example of what gets overlooked as a result. Powerful, intense, and with layers of complexity that over deliver at the price point, reaching for this when grilling lamb is a guaranteed success.  If it's been a while since you've had a gob-smacking Syrah, why deny yourself any longer?



2013 Cosentino Winery Cabernet Franc Lodi $13
Hot, brash, and a bit clumsy for a Cabernet Franc. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to Zinfandel from this area and has little, if anything, in common with Cab Franc. Aside from that, it's obviousness and heavy-handed oak treatment will appeal to many who go for that sort of thing.

2012 Vignobles d'Altitude Tessellae Cotes Catalanes $10
Pretty, dense, and fresh in a generic southern France kind of way. All fruit, no structure. Nothing terribly distinctive here other than the price tag.  The Wine Advocate gave this 92 points.  I give it a shoulder shrug.