Hiro is a Japanese sake brand that comes in two varieties — “Red” (Junmai) and “Blue” (Junmai Ginjo). We tasted the Blue variety
Very fresh on the nose, Hiro Blue offers big cantaloupe character. Some lemon peel notes on the finish, and a mild green character follows. Overall a modest body. Some vegetal character on the finish mars an otherwise fine little sake.
B+ / $35 / hirosake.com
Meet the new Beauj. Same as the old Beauj.
Beaujolais Nouveau — the French Gamay-based wine that’s released mere weeks after the grapes are pressed — isn’t exactly a challenging wine, and this year’s installment keeps close to the formula.
Intensely sugary, it’s like Concord grape jam blended with a little alcohol to make it drinkable. Somehow this grows on you — and there’s just a touch of mint chocolate in the body to give that jammy fruit a little complexity. It’s a jolt to the senses when you first take a sip. By the time you finish your glass — and realistically, you’ll be ready for another wine after the first glass — it’s grown on you enough to consider hanging on to the bottle for day two.
Want page after page of riffs on the lunacy (and history) of Beau-Nou? Joe Appel‘s got you covered. I’m too tired to make the jokes about the QR code.
B / $9 / duboeuf.com
Lodi’s LangeTwins operates in Lodi, California, an area known primarily for its ultra-ripe Zinfandels. (It’s known as “The Zinfandel Capital of the World,” after all.) Oddly enough, we’re not looking at any Zin today. Here’s a couple of new(ish) vintages from these Lodi icons.
Continue reading “Review: Wines of LangeTwins” »
It’s been three years since we’ve sat down with Ravenswood and its surprisingly exhaustive lineup of Zinfandels. Best known for its sub-$10 Vintners Blend, the winery produces a wide range of Zins, including seven single-vineyard designates. We got our hands on two of the “Old Vine” wines from 2010 and four of the single vineyard wines from 2009 to see how things were shaping up for the winery. Thoughts follow. Continue reading “Review: 2009/2010 Zinfandels of Ravenswood” »
This 2008 Cab from Ladera is surprisingly restrained, particularly odd given its pedigree from Howell Mountain, where rugged, punchy, and flavor-filled wines are habitually made.
I’ve greatly enjoyed this bottling in both its 2007 and 2005 vintages, but for 2008, Ladera’s Howell Mountain Cab feels dialed back, almost like it’s pulling its punches a bit. The nose offers more green vegetable and herbal notes than I’d expect, with similar character on the body. Quite tart, the herbs come on strong, leaving behind a somewhat tough, surprisingly acidic finish. There’s plenty of fruit here, but at these prices, I’m looking for a near-perfect balance and stronger finish.
B+ / $75 / laderavineyards.com
Chile is a strange country. End to end it is 2700 miles long, much of it mountainous. Pretty much from top to bottom wine is made in this country… and yet when we think of “Chilean wine,” a certain character comes to mind — namely cheap Cabernet.
Of course, this is folly. The wine made in California is far different from that made in New York or Virginia. You’d never lump those regions together, would you? Continue reading “Terroirs of Chile – 12 Wines Evaluated” »
Yes, this is the wine. The one that in 1976 beat down all the French Burgundies in the famous Judgement of Paris with its 1973 vintage Chardonnay.
It’s easy to see the charms in this wine. It is fresh and fruity, full of big apple, pear and lots of lemon notes. It is both creamy and plenty acidic, lacking the buttery overload of so many California Chardonnays. The finish brings on a distinct vanilla character that works really well with the apple, echoing a sort of caramel apple flavor that is perfect for fall festivities — either with your roasted bird or your dessert course.
A winner, ready to go now.
A / $50 / montelena.com
Eileen Crane has been called “the most experienced sparkling winemaker in the United States,” and her 35 years at Domaine Carneros are proof that she’s doing something right. Hired by Claude Taittinger in 1987, Eileen has been making La Reve, a $95 (almost)-all-Chardonnay sparkler since the 1992 vintage. In celebration of 20 years of producing this wine, she poured for a small trade and media group a selection of, well, every one that’s been released to date. The sole standout: 1996, of which no stock could be found. (2007 and beyond have not yet been released.)
Continue reading “Domaine Carneros “La Reve” Restrospective, 2006-1992” »
This Stags Leap-based winery (Lede is pronounced “lady”) produces just Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon — and fetches a pretty penny for them. The 2009 Cabernets — in two versions — are now hitting the market. Thoughts follow.
Continue reading “Review: 2009 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignons” »
Our friends at Domaine Select Wine Estates (which handles a lot more than wine) are on the road, “popping up” in a half-dozen cities to let their producers show off their wares. I recently dropped in on the San Francisco installment to experience a few wines that were new to me (1982 Borgogno Barolo, yes please) and some spirits, including a line of Armagnacs from Castarede that are slowly making their way to the States, and WhistlePig’s new limited edition “111″ Rye Whiskey. Notes follow!
Continue reading “Notes from Domaine Select Wine Estates Pop-Up Tour, October 2012” »
Chenin Blanc is far from what anyone would consider a Big Wine in the U.S. right now, but that hasn’t kept the Clarksburg Wine Company from releasing not one, not two, but three takes on the grape, a standby of the Loire Valley in France. Based in the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg, near Sacramento, California, Clarksburg’s facility is home to lots of wineries and, apparently, lots of weddings.
Here’s how Clarksburg’s three Chenin Blancs stack up, whether you’re getting hitched or not.
Continue reading “Review: 2010 Chenin Blanc Wines of Clarksburg Wine Company” »
Pomegranate remains the hottest superfruit out there, mainly because, unlike a lot of these fruity-come-latelies, pomegranate tastes good.
Not a bad idea then to add a little super-juice to your sangria, no?
Well, Pomagria — not the best name, to be honest — doesn’t quite work, landing in a no man’s land between fruit juice and the classic wine cocktail. On the nose you’d be hard-pressed to say this was sangria at all. It smells just like the kids’ breakfast juice. Over time, some vague alcohol vapors bubble up.
Continue reading “Review: Pomagria Pomegranate Sangria” »
Planeta is one of the major winemakers of Sicily, a family affair that features six boutique wineries scattered around the island, its 30+ wines representing nearly every part of the area. Francesca Planeta, the matriarch of the family, recently dropped in on San Francisco and treated us to lunch and discussion of Planeta’s production. (Only 12 of those bottling are sold in the U.S.) I loved the whites more than the less refined reds, but all of the wines showed the variety and character that Sicily has to offer. Continue reading “Tasting Wines with Francesca Planeta” »
Breggo is a blue chip winery in Mendocino, based in Boonville and the proprietor of the Savoy Vineyard, located in the heart of this region’s Anderson Valley. While Breggo makes a wide range of wines, Anderson Valley is Pinot country, and this 2010 bottling is the flagship.
The 2010 Savoy Vineyard bottling features a shocking amount of herbs, dill, and licorice, atop a very deep core of black cherry and luscious wood that, when put together, comes across as almost whiskey-like. This is no delicate Pinot but rather a powerhouse of fruit and oak that builds itself into a punchy, Port-like finish. Quite pleasing, but no wallflower.
A- / $55 / breggo.com
Morellino di Scansano is located in the southernmost part of Tuscany (Grosseto is the nearest major town), an area made a DOCG in 2007. Until now I’d never heard of it. At well-known sommelier David Lynch’s new wine bar, St. Vincent, in San Francisco, Lynch talked about what makes this region different, and six producers offered their wines for tasting.
Some of the key points: Morellino, home to 120 wineries, is more Mediterranean than the heavily wooded Chianti region, and the wines are equally unique. Legally required to be a minimum of 85% Sangiovese, producers can do whatever they like with the other 15%, using either regional grapes or international varieties (or just going with 100% Sangiovese). The result is a wildly different group of wine styles that, while insanely different, have a distinctly coastal feel.
Continue reading “Tasting Report: Wines of Italy’s Morellino di Scansano DOCG” »
A few months ago I got the chance to visit some of Oregon’s best wineries. Recently, they brought the wineries to me. In a presentation of several dozen of Willamette Valley’s most notable wine producers, “Pinot in the City” saw over 200 wines being poured for attendees hot for both Pinots — Noir and Gris.
Some of Oregon’s most cult-beloved wineries (like Beaux Freres) were in attendance, and I spent quite a while trying to suss out the best of the best. Thoughts follow.
Continue reading “Tasting Report: Wines of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, SF Roadshow 2012” »
Vintage Point imports small production wines and sells them for cheap. Turns out they’re not doing a bad job of it. Here’s a look at two of the company’s new U.S. releases.
2011 Makara Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough – Distinct mango and pineapple notes, with a juicy, fruit-heavy body. Reasonably acidic, but could use a little more subtlety in the somewhat flabby finish. B / $13
2011 Mountain Door Malbec Mendoza – Lively, fruity, surprising for a Malbec. Food friendly, with plenty of herbs, black and red fruit, and a lively finish. A great value. B+ / $10
This year’s Family Winemakers of California event — the largest wine tasting in the U.S. — marked a real return to quality, with lots and lots of good producers and great wines on display. I didn’t have nearly enough time to sample everything I would have liked (you can tell I tried to go through the tasting alphabetically, and only made it to about the Js). Lesson learned for next year. Here are thoughts on everything I did get to try. Don’t miss those Bailiwick Pinot Noirs! Continue reading “Tasting Report: Family Winemakers of California 2012” »
What do we have here? The world’s first ever Champagne “created to be enjoyed over ice.” You read that right, and I’m still asking myself why someone would do such a thing to a drink as lovely as Champagne.
Moet Ice Imperial is a blend of nonvintage Champagne, and it doesn’t take long to catch on to what the winery is trying to do.
Continue reading “Review: Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial Champagne” »
Sarapo is the second label from Eric Kent, and these wines are not made with secondary fruit, but are rather produced with a bit of a twist. Small lots from other winemakers — which would be destined for bulk blending in central California — are “rescued” by Sarapo, blended, and sold at bargain prices. (Cameron Hughes does the same thing, on a much bigger scale.)
Continue reading “Review: Sarapo Family Wines” »