Thursday, September 15, 2011

St. Clement Oroppas 2006

If you are looking for a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated from California and have a few bucks to spend let me introduce you to St Clement's "Oroppas" 2006. Concentrated and dark in the glass you get a great nose of ripe dark fruits (black plum, blackberry, and currant), tobacco, dark chocolate, and hints of vanilla and brown sugar. Full bodied, the tannins are still quite firm (but mellow a bit after allowed to sit so I would suggest decanting before serving) with excellent acid and fruit delivering a long, lingering finish that should please the pickiest of Cab drinkers.

Pick up a bottle for around $30 for now or pick up two and have the other any time through 2016.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 29

Fess Parker Pinot Noir "Ashley's Vineyard" 2008

It's been quite a while since I've written a review so as a treat I thought I would start with one of my favorite wineries, Fess Parker. In the latest wine club shipment I received a bottle of their Ashley's Vineyard Pinot Noir. Now I've had it in the past and over the years their Ashley's is one of my most enjoyable domestic Pinot Noirs and the 2008 vintage is no different. A lovely ruby, concentrated showing it's youth in the glass this wine delivers cherries, strawberries, a hint of vanilla and just a touch of lovely earth to the nose. In the mouth a combination of smooth tannins (like a fine tea), bright acidity, and dark red fruits and strawberry give a long finish that starts with fruit and ends with hints of minerality and spice that is delicious.

Drink now through 2014 for yet another Fess Parker delight!

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 28

Monday, June 6, 2011

Chateau Pesquie Quintessence 2007

Côtes du Ventoux, an interesting place in the southeast region of the Rhone wine region of France, has been getting quite a bit of press lately due to some good recent harvests that allow production of nice wines at even nicer prices. Chateau Pesquie's "Quintessence" is a blend of Grenache and Syrah (about 20/80 blend) with about one-third of the yield fermented in small oak barrels and the rest in tank, allowing for good control of exposure to tannins and it shows. This wine is deep, opaque ruby/purple in color with a gorgeous nose of blakcberry, cassis, hints of lavender, pepper, and touch of spice. The wine is medium/(+) bodied, dense, fine acid and sweet smooth tannins combine with the dark fruits in a medium/(+) length finish that is lip smacking good. A great find for about $18 a bottle. Drink now through 2013.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 27

Vine Cliff Chardonnay 2006

It turned a little warm and I was looking for something a little more cool than most of what is in my storage. With Chardonnay, especially one you don't know, it can be a gamble. Some Chardonnays are pretty heavy, oaked, spicy, nice but more of a "winter Chardonnay" to me. I was glad to find this lovely offering from Vine Cliff in the Carneros AVA in California. If you like Chardonnay with lots of fruit with just a kiss of oak then this is one to check out (though a little toward the top end of what I usually review when it comes to price, about $32 a bottle). On the nose I got nice lemon zest, a hint of pineapple, a touch of peach, and just the lightest hint of cinnamon. The wine is medium bodied, with nice acidity, smooth and delicious giving up flavors of pineapple, apple, and a little vanilla and caramel that all comes together in a medium/(+) length finish. This wine is peaking but should be quite fine through 2012.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 26

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gainey Syrah 2007 "Santa Rita Hills"

Gainey continues to make me happy. This is a lovely wine that went wonderfully with the ribeye steak I had ordered. Here we have a blend of Syrah grapes from both warm climate and cool climate areas and they come together quite well. The nose is loaded, giving us blue berries, red currants, raspberries, hints of violets and vanilla (16 months aging in oak, 40% new French). Medium/(+) bodied, the wine delivers good acidity, solid but not grippy tannins, and dark fruits for a fine medium length finish that has just a touch of minerality at the end. This wine is peaking now so if you find it, drink it.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 25

Friday, April 15, 2011

Achaval Ferrer Malbec 2009

Ah Malbec, that grape that is mistakenly thought of as native to Argentina when it really is French. Easy to see why though with so many wonderful wines coming from our neighbor in the south. The wine I review here is considered the "entry level" wine from Achaval Ferrer, but what an entry it is. Deeply purple in the glass, one's nose is greeted by lovely aromas of cherry, raspberry, spice and a touch of violets. Medium bodied, this charmer has pretty smooth tannins for a wine so young. That, combined with red and black fruit, nice acid and touch of minerality produce a medium/(+) length finish that went wonderfully with the steak I selected. If you enjoy Malbec and have $20 you can spare for wine definitely pick up a bottle. Very good now, should hold up well through 2015.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 24

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Stolpman Sangiovese "La Coppa" 2009

OK, I admit it, I didn't know Stolpman, maker of fantastic Syrah and Grenache wines for years, produced Sangiovese. Their care to quality that I have come to expect from their Rhone varieties carried over to this Italian offering. Not the most complex offering, this is a lovely, everyday kinda wine. Dark cherry red in the glass the nose was loaded with red fruits (cherries and raspberries) and just a hint of violets and earthiness. Medium bodied the wine delivers wonderful bright red fruit backed with smooth tannins and good acid creating a medium length finish that really begs for another drink. This is a very food friendly wine that would go great with tomato based pastas, pizzas, and grilled and braised meats. Meant to drink young you should enjoy it over the next couple of years.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 23

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Foley Chardonnay 2008 "Rancho Santa Rosa"

I still remember the first time I tried a Foley wine, it was on a trip with my love and our friends Tio Ely and Cory to the Santa Ynez area for wine tasting. I enjoyed it so much I became a wine club member and the enjoyment has continued to this day. Unlike the previously reviewed "Steel", this is one of Foley's oaked Chardonnays but unlike some I've had they used good judgment. Not overly spicy or toasty and not buttery (a quarter of the wine was prevented from completing malolactic fermentation), this give you the best of both worlds. On the nose you get lovely honeysuckle, apples, a touch of ripe citrus and a little bit of toastiness. Once in the mouth you notice that this medium/(+) bodied wine has a nice bit of acid, nothing overpowering but not at all flabby, good fruit with a touch of nuttiness, and a medium length finish with a hint of spice in it. Thoroughly enjoyable, this wine should hold up well at least through 2013.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 22

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Chateau Coutet Sauternes Barsac 2005

My friend Sarah and I celebrated her birthday at Disneyland's acclaimed Napa Rose restaurant. I chose their "Vintner's Table" option which is a four course meal that is paired with wines. For dessert I was served this lovely Bordeaux dessert wine, Chateau Coutet. Now generally I am not a fan of sweet wines (I save that for the husband) but I have to say this was a total delight. Being from the Graves area of Bordeaux this wine is a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc that has been affected by Botrytis cinerea or "noble rot". It's amazing how anything with the word "rot" in it can produce something so delicious is quite humorous. Golden hued in the glass I was met with aromas of honey, apricot, and a touch of dried pineapple and oaky spice. Full-bodied, fat honeyed fruit and a touch of brown sugar with a surprising amount of acid all swirling together in the mouth delivered a long, tasty finish that was fantastic. I think this wine is still a little young and look forward to tasting it in another year or two.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 21

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sterling "Three Palms" Merlot 2006

For some reason I've been on a bit of Merlot kick lately and Sterling Vineyard "Three Palms" is just the latest to be on my list. After stellar 2004 and 2005 vintages it was interesting what this "youngster" brings. While not up to the heights of its older siblings, it's still a good wine. Dark cherry red with a broad core in the glass the nose is pretty loaded with black cherry, raspberry, a touch of cinnamon, some cocoa, a little oaky vanilla and just the slightest pinch of earthiness. Medium/(+) bodied, this wine is pretty well balanced with decent acid, smooth tannins that dust up in a medium length fruity finish. While it won't create any huge excitement it is a good wine that should enjoy a broad, amiable reception and easy to pair with food.

Good now, should be enjoyable for at least a couple of years.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 20

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chateau Vrai Canon Bouche 2008 "Canon Fronsac"

Here we have a lovely, affordable Right Bank Bordeaux wine, a blend of about 98% Merlot and 2% Malbec, that was a delight to sample. Now you might think "2008 Bordeaux, isn't a bit young?" but this wine was one that is enjoyable now and should have a good cellar life. Deep inky purple in the glass the nose was loaded with blueberries, blackberries, hints of wild flowers and even a bit of charcoal. Full bodied, good acid, excellent black and blue fruits, and surprisingly polished tannins with just the slightest bit of grip at the end this wine produced a long, lingering finish. Would be hard to find something as from Bordeaux for $25 a bottle.

Drink now, should be lovely at least through 2016.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 19

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2006

If you like the warmer climate, style of Sauvignon Blanc then you'll love this little gem. The nose is loaded with peach, nectarine, a touch of pineapple, pear, and just the slightest bit of grassiness to remind us it's a Sauvignon Blanc. Very well balanced, good but not racy acid, nice ripe fruit that give a lovely medium/(+) length finish. The use of new oak is detectable but not distracting, they did a good job with it and made for an enjoyable experience.

Drinks wells now and should make you happy through 2012 or even 2013 if properly stored.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 18

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot "Indian Wells" 2008

Forget Miles, I love Merlot, either as a single varietal or a blend like we have here (roughly 78% Merlot, 18% Syrah and just a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec). It's the nice, comfortable Bordeaux friend who often makes his siblings more palatable. In this bottle we have a young one that while good now should be better next year. Dark and rich looking, we get a nice aroma of red and blue berries (plum, blueberry, a touch of currant) that lets us know there is something warm and inviting awaiting up. The wine is med/(+) bodied, good acid, smooth tannins with a touch a grip at the end. All of this comes together to give a nice, smooth finish that picks up a hint of pepper at the end. Not terribly complex but just a damn fine little wine and at this price (about $15/bottle) doesn't hurt the wallet.

Drink now, should continue to evolve a little through 2011 and be enjoyable at least through 2012.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 17

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saintsbury Pinot Noir 2007 "Carneros"

I have to say, this was a little different style than I've had lately. Due to the malolactic fermentation and use of small oak barrels there is something rather interesting in this wine. Unlike many of the big jammy wines on the market this is a nicely balanced Pinot Noir, a good combination of smooth tannins, solid but not racy acid, and lean red fruits this is a good, everyday Pinot Noir. Not complex but does show some characteristics typical of Burgundy more so than New World Pinot Noirs.

Drink now through 2012.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 16

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Edwards Cellars Tasting Room Opening

I like surprises and when it comes to wine California continually surprises me. For the vast majority of people California wine is Napa and Sonoma. For those who like somewhat independent films, Sideways introduced the Santa Ynez area. Those of us who get around a bit have found certain specialty areas in both central and coastal California (Amador and Mendocino immediately come to mind) and living in San Diego I have tried to be an honest cheerleader for Temecula Valley. So when my friend Bairbre Aine told me of her sister's winery opening a public tasting room in Ramona I was immediately intrigued. Ramona? As in "somewhere between Poway and Julian, that Ramona"? Yep. A little research showed me how limited my overall knowledge of California AVAs is. Just take a look at the number of members in the Ramona Valley Vineyard Association. So with me firmly put in my place I was off to the opening of the tasting room for Edwards Vineyard and Cellars.

It was definitely worth the trip. I was introduced not only to Victor and Beth Edwards but several other local wine makers in the area and it was an education listening to them talk trade. That alone would have made the trip worth it, but for this blog it's all about the wine so let's get to that. Simply put, they do not make bad wine here and there is a detectable style preference in the use of oak. From what I can tell at this point in time they a focus on three varietals: Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. While all of the wines were expressive none would be what I call big (Beth used the expression "the softer side of big" and I agree). For the opening here is what we tasted:

Valley Of The Sun Red, Red 2005: This is a Syrah/Petite Sirah blend that is medium intensity red with a broad core in the glass. The wine is quite aromatic giving me notes of blackberry, violet, and hints of smoke. Medium bodied with smooth tannins that have a slight grip at the finish and nice acid you get some oak spiciness carrying through a medium length finish. I can see this being a good summer BBQ wine. Should hold up well through 2012.

Syrah 2004: The first of two offerings of Syrah we again got a medium intensity board core wine in the glass. Here I got a mix of blackberry, "smoky meat", and a underlying floral tone with a touch of spice. Medium bodied the wine is expressive in the mouth delivering black fruit, medium acidity, smooth tannins and peppery spice in the medium/(+) length finish. Easily drinkable I think it will continue to taste well into 2013.

Syrah 2005: The slightly younger sibling we get somewhat what we would expect, a little tighter version of the 2004. For me it was showing to be a touch more fruit and spice forward than the 2004 and showing the similar components as the 2004. Quite nice now, give it another year to ramp up and I would expect easily a wine that will do well through 2014/2015.

Petite Sirah 2005: From those who know the Edwards offerings there was considerable excitement about what was coming up next. Limited in supply they knew what they were going to get. Quite a nice offering of a Petite Syrah giving us notes of blackberry, violets, a touch of cherry and peppery spice, solid but smooth tannins, nice acidity and a dry med/(+) length finish that begs to be paired with roasted meats. I don't think supplies will last but if you can find a bottle through 2013 you should be quite happy.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: Not yet released this is one that I will definitely be looking for when I hear it is. Ripe black fruit, currants and blackberry, hints of spicy vanilla that all get delivered with smooth tannins and nice acid with a little nip of spiciness at the end of a pretty long finish. A good example of a warm area Cab I can see this easily holding its own through 2014.

So if you're around Ramona make sure you stop by and give them a try. I'm definitely looking forward to further explorations in is area.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 15

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fess Parker "The Big Easy" 2007

Fess Parker has been one of my personal favorites for a long time and the other night I was treated to another one of their scrumptious wines, a Syrah/Grenache blend named for one of my favorite cities, The Big Easy. The 2006 vintage was highly rated so it was nice to find the follow up was delightful. Very dark, purple in the glass this wine had a lovely nose of black berries, black currant, vanilla, a little pepper, and just a touch of lavender. Medium/(+) bodied the wine had smooth tannins, nice acid, and delivered black fruit, pepper, and a touch of cinnamon that bound together to give a medium/(+) length finish. I think this wine will continue to develop at least through 2012 and be enjoyable through 2014.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 10

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chateau Croix Mouton 2005

It's acting like winter so for a hearty winter time meal I decided to grab a Bordeaux. From my stockpile I pulled a bottle of Jean-Philippe Janoueix's Chateau Croix Mouton. This Bordeaux Superieur comes from the highly praised 2005 vintage so there were some pretty high expectations. I wasn't overwhelmed but did find it to be an enjoyable food-friendly wine. The wine was dark, almost inky in the glass. The nose was pleasant, big with blackberries, toasted oak, spice, and a hint of coffee. Medium/(+) bodied, the wine had good acid structure and still slightly grippy but not biting tannins that all comes together for a medium-length finish. Went quite well with the ribeye steak I selected for dinner.

I don't think the wine will gain much from aging, tannins might relax a bit over the next year but I would say it is mature now and should be fine through 2012.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 9

Friday, February 11, 2011

Curtis Viognier 2006

Even though it seems like ages since I have been there I've always had a warm spot in my heart for Curtis Winery, a boutique purveyor of Rhone-style wines in the Santa Ynez region, so tonight I was happy to find a bottle of their 2006 Viognier in my collection. The wine has held up well though it's probably cresting its peak now. The wine is clear and pretty in the glass, lemony-yellow and bright. The nose is still lovely with notes of honeysuckle, apricot, and a touch of citrus just as one expects. The wine in medium-bodied, somewhat round but still with a touch of zing of acid that helps deliver apricot, pear, and a touch of pineapple to the mouth and delivering a solid medium-length finish. It's a nice visit from an old friend.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 8

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brander 2006 Sauvignon Blanc 30th Anniversary Cuvée

I love Brander, the winery that turned me on to Sauvignon Blanc. To celebrate my love being home I decided to open a bottle of their special 30th anniversary cuvee. Light, bright yellow in the glass the nose is an excellent expression of Sauvignon Blanc with a lovely nose loaded with grassy notes, crisp apple, and a touch of lemon peel. This medium bodied wine has good acid structure and delivers lovely citrus with a touch of minerality that carries into a medium/(+) length finish. Peaking now this tasty wine will carry itself well through 2012.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 7

Sunday, January 23, 2011

d'Arenberg "Laughing Magpie" 2007

If you're looking for a good Shiraz you can't go wrong with db'Arenberg at any price point. From their $10 a bottle Stump Jump to their $50 The Dead Arm they deliver. Tonight's offering comes at a price-point in the middle, about $20 a bottle and it's well worth the price! The Laughing Magpie is a blend of 90% Shiraz (a red grape) and 10% Viognier (a white grape), something you are finding more of from Australia.

This wine is quite lovely in the glass, a deep, virtually opaque purple color. The nose is full of blueberries, dark cherries, violets, earthiness, smoke, and just a hint of jasmine. Medium/(+) in body, you get a taste full of blue fruit with hints of spice and minerality delivered via a solid acid backbone and smooth tannins that turn just a little dusty in the medium/(+) length finish. An excellent wine now I would expect it to continue to evolve through 2011 and be a solid choice through at least 2014.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 6

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yalumba "Bush Vine" Grenache 2008

Ah Aussies, they do so many things right and for this American wine making falls into that category. I know many of those "serious" wine critics like to bash much of what is called New World Wine that is something I won't do. Rather I will simply recognize differences between Old World and New World and appreciate each for what it is. Here we definitely have a New World Wine, coming to us from "Australia's most famous wine region", the Barossa Valley in southern Australia. This Rhone varietal appears red with a touch of blue, medium/(+) intensity in the glass. The nose is lovely, big raspberry and cherry with supporting notes of licorice and just a touch of oaky spice. Medium bodied, the wine delivers what the nose detects. Red fruit, smooth tannins, and good acid come together to deliver quite a nice quaff that has just a touch of pepper in its medium length finish. Nice value at less than $15 a bottle, should hold solidly through 2013 and into 2014.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 5

Alta Maria Chardonnay 2008

Ah, the Santa Maria Valley AVA, located in the northern part of Santa Barbara County and parts of San Luis Obispo County. For years this AVA has been known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and is home to some of California's best including Au Bon Climat, Foxen, and Byron. Well this lovely wine definitely belongs on the list. Lovely nose of honeysuckle, tropical fruit with hints of lychee and citrus zest. The wine is full bodied with good acid structure, nice fruit (citrus and pear) and just a touch of minerality on the med/(+) length finish. Quite good now, should hold through 2013. Good value at around $20 per bottle.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 4

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Luigi Bosca Malbec 2005

Ah the Malbec, the most misplaced grape of the popular wine grapes. Everyone seems to think you started in Argentina when you're a Bordeaux native, once very popular in Cahors. Well after trying this lovely example of what Argentina can do with you one does begin to understand why the confusion. What a lovely wine. Deep, dark purple in the glass this wine presents a bouquet of ripe raspberries, hints of cherry, mocha, and just the tiniest bit of spices. In the mouth you get a medium/(+) bodied wine, smooth tannins that turn just a touch dusty in the finish, nice acid backbone and red fruit (primarily cherries) that all come together in a delightful med/(+) length finish. This is a lovely wine that is probably peaking in maturity but should hold through 2012. I had it with a bacon wrapped filet mignon and it was perfect, but could pair just as well with a nice hamburger.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 3

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Keenan "Mailbox Vineyard" Merlot 2005

OK, enough time has passed since Sideways that we can stop making disparaging remarks about Merlot. If you don't believe me this wine will definitely change your mind. This is a fantastic wine that in the glass displays power yet will surprise you with elegance. Deep, virtually opaque in the glass. The nose is greeted with beautiful black currant, black cherry, mocha, hints of smoke and herbs with just a touch of spice. Even after five years the wine is a touch tight showing it hasn't even hit its peak. This full bodied wine displays solid dark juicy fruits, smooth sweet tannins, a fine acid backbone all coming together in a well rounded long finish. Will definitely drinkable now this wine will continue to develop over at least a couple more years and deliver a high quality product at least through 2018. At around $50 a bottle not something most of us can have on a daily or weekly basis but if you're looking for a "special occasion" wine you should definitely check this out.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 2

Au Bon Climat 2008

Jim Clendenen has been a force in the California Pinot Noir world for about a quarter of a century and year after year produces quality wine all price points. The Au Bon Climat "Santa Barbara County" Pinot Noir is a good example. This Au Bon Climat (affectionately called ABC) offering for the "everyday" wine lover is a fine California Pinot Noir you can pick up at a price that won't break the bank. The wine is clean, medium intensity almost cherry red in the glass. The nose does display some complexity giving up juicy red fruits (primarily cherry and strawberry for me), a little hint of plum, spice, and just the slightest nuanced touches of earthiness. The wine is medium/(-) bodied, balanced with good acidity, juicy red fruits, and smooth tannins that come up with a hint of grip at the end of a medium length finish. This wine is very good now and should continue to hold up well through 2014, hard to beat for less than $20 a bottle.

Number of wines reviewed in 2011: 1