Category Archives: Wine

Tasting the Wines of Hardy’s Australia, 2013 Releases

Nottage Hill Pinot Noir Non Vintage 82x300 Tasting the Wines of Hardys Australia, 2013 ReleasesAustralia’s Hardy’s may be a big producer that competes with the “critter wines” of the world, but considering its wines are this affordable, it keeps quality surprisingly high. Here’s a look at five recently released Hardy’s vintages — bottled under both the William Hardy and Nottage Hill label. Thoughts follow.

2011 William Hardy Chardonnay South Australia – On the nose it’s simplistic, with a rather rough, wood-driven nose and some alcoholic vapor character. The body offers some very sweet honey notes, with apricots, lemon-lime, and some mango character on the finish. As it aerates, the sweetness — which is initially almost sickly — mellows out, taking any wood character with it. What’s left is a basic, quite tropical Chardonnay that wears its fruit on its sleeve. B / $20

2011 William Hardy Shiraz South Australia - Surprisingly drinkable, this fresh and fruity wine keeps the sugar dialed back enough to make for an easily sippable potion either solo or at mealtime. The nose is lightly brooding and a touchy meaty, while the body is pure strawberry and raspberry. An approachable midweek sipper. B+ / $15

2012 Hardy’s Nottage Hill Chardonnay South Eastern Australia - Again, alcoholic vapors up front, with a buttery character that veers on movie theater popcorn, but the body offers fresh peaches and pineapple. Quite sweet, it’s got a creamy character to it that complements the tropical notes, almost like a sherbet. This becomes a bit much over time, making this fine for a glass, but somewhat overwhelming for a refill. B / $8

2012 Hardy’s Nottage Hill Pinot Noir South Eastern Australia - A harmless red, somewhat sweet and not immediately characteristic of the grape. Tart raspberries up front, with a kind of coffee and cocoa bean character underneath. Easy, silky finish. B+ / $14

2012 Hardy’s Nottage Hill Shiraz South Eastern Australia - A slight pepper character on the nose is the only thing that tips you off that this is Shiraz, but the overall craftsmanship of this wine shows off a modestly structured wine, ripe with berry fruit and dense with sweetness. The finish brings along some cedar box character, a surprising touch in an otherwise straightforward bottling. B+ / $13

hardyswines.com

Review: Wines of Alto Adige, 2013 Releases

Nals Margreid Galea Schiava 106x300 Review: Wines of Alto Adige, 2013 ReleasesThe Alto Adige region in the far north of Italy (how far north? two-thirds of its inhabitants speak German) is best known for its most famous son: Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. But there’s a huge diversity of grape varietals grown in this mountainous area — over 20 of them, despite the fact that its size is a third that of Napa Valley.

Thoughts on three newly released Alto Adige wines — stylistically all over the map — follow.

2011 St. Paul’s Lagrein Alto Adige – A grape that’s vinified virtually nowhere but in Alto Adige, Lagrein can be very complex but is often a somewhat mushroomy, skunky wine  that is quickly forgotten. That’s largely the case here: St. Paul’s 2011 Lagrein has ample green pepper on the nose, with a muddy, tar-laden, and slightly prune-driven body. Gamy finish. C- / $25

2011 Nals Margreid Galea Schiava Alto Adige - Another odd grape, Schiava is indiginous to Italy and Germany. Very light and clear in color, this wine is simple but full of strawberry notes. The wine develops some mushroom notes on the nose as it aerates, but the body remains brisk and tart. The overall effect is unusual, but the wine remains fresh and easy to enjoy. B+ / $20

2012 Tiefenbrunner Gewurztraminer Alto Adige – A slightly tough number, this perfumy wine offers a bit of astringency on the nose, and some rubbing alcohol character as you sip on it. Fortunately, some Viognier-like fruit — peaches and apricots — balance things out, but the fruit character fades over time as its left to its own devices in the glass. B- / $17

Review: Maurin Dry, White, and Red Vermouth

Maurin White Bottle shot 115x300 Review: Maurin Dry, White, and Red VermouthVermouth is a beverage on the return, and Anchor Distilling has joined forces with old Maurin (you’ve seen the iconic green devil posters at better French cafes in your neighborhood) to recreate the vermouths once made by Auguste Maurin, back in 1884.

The two companies adapted Maurin’s traditional recipe for these new vermouths, which are available in three styles. Per the company’s press release, “The Maurin Dry, White and Red Vermouths are fortified wines blended from various regions across France, then infused with coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, Maurin’s absinthe and other traditional herbs and spices.” We tasted the trio, and thoughts follow.

Each is bottled at 17% abv.

Maurin Dry Vermouth – Fragrant with notes of incense, coriander, and cloves. Ample spice on the palate, with a light astrignency and a drying finish. Over time the wine develops a holiday character, as the cinnamon and nutmeg warm up, giving it a mulled wine sensibility. But the bittersweet finish leaves no doubt that you’re drinking vermouth, not glogg. Pairs better with gin over vodka. A-

Maurin White Vermouth - Much like the Dry, but with a richer body and sweeter from start to finish. The bitter conclusion is absent here, as the vermouth takes on a more peachy/mango character as it fades from view. (This has the side effect of dulling some of the spice character, but that’s really just a different approach.) Overall, as a mixer I find I have a preference for the dry — and I’m not alone, which is why sweet white vermouths are relatively rare in comparison to the other two varieties — but if I was drinking vermouth straight (people do this), I’d easily pick the White. Better with vodka; gin demolishes what spice it has left. B+

Maurin Red Vermouth - Aka “sweet vermouth.” Indeed it’s quite red in color, and the spice is thick on the nose, very much offering a mulled wine character, with cloves easily the strongest component. On the palate, there’s gingerbread, anise, and brandied raisins bobbing in and out. Classic gluhwein flavors, but with refinement (and lower alcohol levels), it’s sweet but not overly so, offering a bit of fruit punch without quite making you think about that cartoon guy in the Hawaiian outfit. Acquits itself well in a Manhattan. A-

each $19 / anchordistilling.com

Review: Le Grand Courtage Sparkling Wine, Brut and Rose

LGC Bottle Fam Portrait 231x300 Review: Le Grand Courtage Sparkling Wine, Brut and RoseLook closer: Le Grand Courtage (“the great courtship”) is sparkling wine made in Burgundy, not Champagne, which means it’s made from different grapes… and priced at about $20 a bottle. Thoughts follow.

NV Le Grand Courtage Grande Cuvee Blanc de Blancs Brut - A blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, and Ugni Blanc. Lots of tart, green apple character here, with lemon peel also evident on the nose. The body is heavy on the aforementioned fruit, but it also has an interesting bakery character to it akin to cream puffs, with touches of yeast. The mellow conclusion takes things to a simple and easy finish. Altogether a solid choice for a nice, restrained aperitif. B+ / $20 (also available as a 187ml mini)

NV Le Grand Courtage Grande Cuvee Brut Rose - A pink blend of Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, and Gamay. Fresh and fruity, with clear strawberry notes on the nose. A bracing and lasting acidity comes along quickly on the palate, offering some floral elements — almost green and grassy at times. The finish is clean and inviting, that strawberry element lingering, along with some rose petal notes. Lovely and difficult to put down; even works well with spicy meals. A- / $22

legrandcourtage.com

Review: 2013 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau

GD Beaujolais Nouveau 2013 08 13 Review: 2013 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais NouveauHey guys, it’s turkey day! But the end of November also means one thing for wine fans: The release of Beaujolais Nouveau, the first wines to come from the just-finished 2013 harvest. As usual, Duboeuf is first out of the gate, and these bottlings should be on store shelves right now if you need a last-minute holiday tipple.

2013′s Nouveau is surprisingly better than the usual simplistic and rustic fare that is the hallmark of this style of wine. That’s not to say 2013′s release isn’t simplistic or rustic — it’s both — but it does have some nuance and refinement that is often lacking in Beaujolais Nouveau.

The nose is full of the usual strawberry candy notes, but there’s also an herbal edge to it that adds intrigue. The body is less aggressively sweet than usual, too, offering some balance and tart acid on the finish. The flavor profile is simple, with a basic fruit compote character, but notes of orange peel on the finish give this something to at least talk about while the turkey is still roasting.

B+ / $8 / duboeuf.com

Review: 3 Banfi Chiantis, 2013 Releases

BT Chianti Classico 112x300 Review: 3 Banfi Chiantis, 2013 ReleasesThree new wines from Chianti under the Banfi banner (though only one has the Banfi name on the label), all recent releases. Thoughts follow.

2011 Placido Chianti DOCG – A very pretty, lightly floral Chianti, with bright fruit and hints of leather on the nose. The palate is all cherries, all the way, lightly tart on the finish with just a touch of chocolate. An easy winner, easy drinking solo or with a meal. An absolute steal at 7 bucks. A- / $7

2008 Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico – Initially quite earthy, with dried herb notes. Notes of licorice and fennel on the nose, with dried raisin and cherry making its way in on the leathery tongue. Some oxidation evident, as the wine is already well into maturity. Drink with food. B / $26

2011 Banfi Chianti Classico DOCG (pictured) – A more dense example of Chianti, this raisin-inflected wine offers pepper and bay leaf on the nose, with chewy prune and tart currant on the body. Surprisingly sweet for Chianti, the traditional cherry notes are understated here. B / $12

Tasting the Wines of Emiliana’s Coyam

Chile’s Emiliana produces wines under a number of labels, but few are as popular as Coyam, an organic and biodynamic wine that’s blended from up to six indigenous grapes.

The neat thing about Coyam is that the blend varies — sometimes wildly — from year to year, and resident winemaker Noelia Orts recently traveled to San Francisco to explain how the wine was made and, intriguingly, to showcase the six component varietal wines in their primitive, barrel-sample form. The idea: Taste how these very different wines, when sampled separately, combine to form a unique whole.

Tasting the 2013 barrel samples was eye-opening. The syrah was far from finished, dense and undercooked, while the carmenere offered good acidity. I was most taken by the mourvedre, which had impressive balance and fruit already. While we didn’t get to start blending the wines directly — what a mess that would have been at a restaurant — the experience did aid in the understanding of how complicated blends are made.

Over lunch at San Francisco’s Hakkasan, we turned to tasting the finished wines, a range of vintages dating back to 2001. (Also sampled in brief was Emiliana’s Ge, one of the most prized “cult” wines of Chile.) Thoughts on those finished wines follow.

2001 Coyam – 36% merlot, 21% carmenere, 21% cabernet sauvignon, 18% syrah, 4% mourvedre. Aging but still lively, lots of wood, quite tannic on the finish. B+ / $NA

2007 Coyam – 38% syrah, 21% cabernet sauvignon, 21% carmenere, 17% merlot, 2% petit verdot, 1% mourvedre. A big Chilean vintage, some floral elements, with a bit of licorice on the back end. Complex, somewhat Burgundian in style, with a nutty finish. B+ / $45

2009 Coyam - 41% syrah, 29% carmenere, 20% merlot, 7% cabernet sauvignon, 2% mourvedre, 1% petit verdot. Fresh, some mint, with big berry notes and a rush of wood. Slightly huskier than the 2010. A- / $30

2010 Coyam - 38% syrah, 27% carmenere, 21% merlot, 12% cabernet sauvignon, 1% mourvedre, 1% petit verdot. Some jam, growing in balance as it evolves. Fresh fruit, with blackberry and spice. A- / $30

2012 Coyam (barrel sample) – 46% syrah, 21% carmenere, 16% cabernet sauvignon, 5% mourvedre, 2% mablec. Quite a different recipe, with no merlot. A bit muddy as it develops, somewhat pruny, with leather notes. B- / $TBD

2010 Ge - 48% carmenere, 38% syrah, 14% cabernet sauvignon. Revelatory. Chocolate, licorice, and incredible depth, featuring touches of almonds and cinnamon. I could drink this all day. A+ / $75

emiliana.cl

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Review: Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel and Chardonnay, 2013 Releases

Frank Family Napa Valley Zinfandel 200x300 Review: Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel and Chardonnay, 2013 ReleasesNapa-based Frank Family Vineyards has just released two new bottlings, a Zinfandel and a Chardonnay. We spent time with both. Thoughts follow.

2011 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel Napa Valley – Earthy and smoky on the nose, at first blush this feels like it will be a bruiser. The body however reveals a far fruitier core, tempered however by some mushroom, leather, and balsamic character. Atypical of Zinfandel, it does reveal more of its varietal character at the back end with some blackberry jam-on-burnt toast notes. 89% Zin, 11% Petite Sirah. B / $37

2012 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay Carneros – Bright gold, with a modest, tropical nose. More classic California character on the palate, where the lightly buttery body exhibits toasty oak notes, with plenty of pineapple and mango coming up behind. Traditional, but with less wood and more fruit than your typical Carneros Chardonnay. B+ / $35

frankfamilyvineyards.com

Review: 2012 Wines of Portugal’s Monte Velho

MV Red 2012 173x300 Review: 2012 Wines of Portugals Monte VelhoThis brand, from Portugal’s Esporao is now 40 years old. With a focus on ultra-cheap blends both red and white, Monte Velho’s packaging has been redesigned with a focus on environmentalism (the bottles are amazingly lightweight, at least when empty), while keeping costs to a bare minimum.

That said, quality remains uninspiring. Thoughts on the 2012 bottlings follow.

2012 Esporao Monte Velho Alentejano White – A white blend of 40% antao vaz, 40% roupeiro, and 20% perrum grapes. Exotic, honey-laden nose. The first notes on the palate are tropical, but things are less enticing later, followed by notes of cedar wood, canned peaches, and twine fiber. Somewhat astringent on the finish. C- / $10

2012 Esporao Monte Velho Alentejano Red –  A red blend of 40% aragonez, 35% trincadeira, 20% touriga nacional, and 5% syrah. A little dusty, surprisingly dry. The nose has a bit of barnyard on it, and some prunes. The body is more of the mushroom/leather variety, with a finish that offers modest currant character. B- / $10

esporao.com

Review: 2010 Ladera Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Reserve

Ladera 2010 HM Reserve Gray 198x300 Review: 2010 Ladera Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain ReserveThis is a classic Howell Mountain Cab, loaded with intense fruit, black cherries and currants all the way. Laced with notes of leather, chocolate, and menthol (particularly on the powerful nose), it offers a supple body and a balanced yet powerhouse finish that lasts for quite a while. This is a nice return to form for Ladera, and a well structured Napa Cab that drinks well now but will also last for many years in bottle.

A- / $85 / laderavineyards.com

Review: Douro Wines of Quinta de Roriz

post scriptum 50x300 Review: Douro Wines of Quinta de RorizSymington is one of Portugal’s premiere Port bottlers, but recently the company has been expanding into non-fortified wines from Portugal’s Douro region, many of which are made using the same grapes you’ll find in Port, thanks to a partnership with the Prats family which is a big name in Bordeaux.

These wines, made under the Prats + Symington banner, have been produced for many years, but are finally working their way to our shores. How do they measure up? Well, they aren’t Port, but they aren’t bad, either…

2010 Quinta de Roriz Prazo de Roriz Douro DOC  – A blend of at least six different Portuguese grapes, the most prevalent being Tinta Barroca at 37%. Lightly peppery and vaguely smoky nose, with some balsamic notes. On the body, mild and quite simple, dark berries, plus a touch of tar and chocolate. That black pepper on the nose makes a return on the finish, but just barely. Easy to drink and a little mysterious. B+ / $16

2011 Quinta de Roriz Post Scriptum Douro DOC – A blend of four grapes, Touriga Nacional making up 56%. Despite the playful tea character on the nose, this is a  heavy wine with dark prune and a strong, salt licorice character. Long finish. Definitively a food wine, and one that can stand some time in bottle. B- / $25

chryseia.com

Exploring the World of Madeira with Blandy’s

Blandys5YRSercial 89x300 Exploring the World of Madeira with BlandysLike you, I don’t often think much about Madeira. If I want a dessert wine, I drink Port almost exclusively. When I see Madeira on a menu I invariably ignore it. But maybe I shouldn’t be. And maybe you shouldn’t be either.

Madeira is one of the most venerable wine styles from history which is still being produced. Its origins like in the 1400-1500s, when explorers began visiting the Atlantic island of Madeira as a port of call during trade runs. The fortified wines made here traveled well and lasted basically forever, even once they were opened. (Blandy’s says an open bottle of Madeira will last indefinitely.) Madeira was the It Wine of the 1700s in America, and was used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The wines came in all sorts of styles, driven by the grape used to make them. There are dry(ish) Madeiras, and their are sweet Madeiras. Despite being made on one tiny island, these wines comprise a wide range of styles.

Madeira isn’t Sherry, and it isn’t Port, although it has a lot in common with both of them. The best way I can explain it is that Madeira is somewhere between the two of them — not as sweet as Port, but not as funky and off-putting as Sherry (usually) is.

Madeira is unique in the wine world in that the wine, while aging, is kept hot. Very hot — up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit — for a long, long time. This has to do with the traditional way in which Madeira was made, vinified and put into barrels, then shipped on long sea voyages to the tropics and back. They got lots of heat on these trips, and that gave Madeira its signature nose and taste.

Most Madeira you’ll find on sale now is nonvintage, like the 4 bottles from Blandy’s tasted below. This is the easy-to-find, very affordable stuff. But vintage Madeira also exists, and if you’re looking for a really old bottle of something as a gift, Madeira is invariably your best bet (both on price and the odds that it will still be drinkable). The stuff really does last forever and it gets better and better. In fact, the best Madeira I’ve ever had was a Bual-varietal expression made in 1922.

Blandy’s recently sent a sampling of its simplest Madeiras, all five years old, each made from a different grape: Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malmsey. These are all basic, simple Madeiras, but they do showcase how variable this wine can be, from its dryest version to its sweetest. I gravitated to the sweetest (aka “richest”) versions personally, but see the charms in all of the varieties.

Thoughts follow.

NV Blandy’s Madeira Sercial Dry 5 Years Old – A pale, light amber/orange color. Fresh, Madeirized-sherry nose, with notes of orange, apricot, and wood oil. The body is mostly dry, offering an initial slug of woody fruit (or fruited wood), with a moderate finish that trails off, leaving behind a somewhat rubbery, oily conclusion tinged with blood oranges. Not at all unpleasant and dry enough to drink with dinner (oysters, maybe?). B

NV Blandy’s Madeira Verdelho Medium Dry 5 Years Old - Considerably darker, a ruddy honey/bronze color. Milder nose. More orange and toffee, and hints of chocolate. On the tongue, clear raisin notes offer a slight sweetness that may have some thinking this is a young tawny Port, but there’s less oxidation in this, along with a sharper finish and that classicly rubberized character in play. B+

NV Blandy’s Bual Verdelho Medium Rich 5 Years Old - Darker still, the color of brewed tea, tinged with a touch of red. Inviting, Port-like nose rich with raisins and spice. This follows through on the tongue, revealing Christmasy cinnamon, vanilla, and slight gingerbread notes, with just a hint of classic Madeirized character at the very end. Easily mistaken for a mild tawny Port, in a good way. B+

NV Blandy’s Madeira Malmsey Rich 5 Years Old - A shade darker again, almost (but not quite) a cola brown. Quite a different animal. Ample wood and cocoa powder notes on the nose, with hints of cola. The body offers all sorts of good stuff — walnuts and hazelnuts, more cola, chocolate, and a big, raisin-infused finish. A lot like a port, but backwards. Here the sweetness comes along in the end, not up front. Very drinkable and complex, and a natural fit with dessert or the cheese plate. A-

each $24 / blandys.com

Review: 2011 Vineyard 29 Cru Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

CRU CS 2011 94x300 Review: 2011 Vineyard 29 Cru Cabernet Sauvignon Napa ValleyInitially quite mild for a Napa Cab, the nose comes across as almost watery, but with time in glass a fun peppery, blackberry-driven spiciness comes to the forefront. On the palate things liven up a bit further, offering restrained fruit — blackberry and blueberry — with undertones of black pepper and sweet vanilla cream. The finish is lightly tannic — this wine could use a year in bottle — but is just about balanced. Close enough, anyway.

A / $54 / vineyard29.com

Review: Three 2012 Sauvignon Blancs from Chile

Cono Sur Organic Sauvignon Blanc Bottle 199x300 Review: Three 2012 Sauvignon Blancs from ChileJust because summer is over doesn’t mean you should stop drinking white wine. These three Sauvignon Blancs are all highly drinkable offerings from the world’s greatest remaining budget wine region: Chile. Here’s what 10 bucks will get you at your local purveyor of affordable hooch.

2012 Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc San Antonio Valley - Fresh and fun, with notes of pineapple, lemon cake, and creme brulee. Modest acidity gives balance, but the sweetness keeps things simple. Easy to enjoy. A- / $10

2012 Root:1 Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley – The brand takes its name because its rootstock is ungrafted. This Sauv Blanc is slightly creamier on the body, but features more of a tangy, lightly bitter edge on the finish. Otherwise, it’s tropical and lemony, with an easygoing structure. B+ / $9

2012 MontGras Reserva Sauvignon Blanc San Antonio Valley – There’s quite a bit of restraint here — with less fruit, and a more moest body — but the fresh pineapple and coconut flavors that come along in the finish give this wine plenty of tropical fun to it. Probably the most food-friendly wine in this bunch, and the least effective on its own. B / $11

Review: 2010 William Hill Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

William Hill Estate Winery 2010 Napa Valley Merlot 750ml 96x300 Review: 2010 William Hill Merlot and Cabernet SauvignonTwo new wines from Napa’s William Hill, bringing the 2010 harvest to the market at last. Thoughts follow.

2010 William Hill Merlot Napa Valley – The nose is ripe and spicy, peppery with cedar, menthol, and herbs. The body, however, is curiously sedate and restrained. It drinks easy, with a somewhat sweet strawberry character at the forefront. An interesting combination of experiences here… worth exploring, but not quite challenging. B+ / $30

2010 William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - A prototypical Napa Cab, with deep plum and cassis on the nose, with ample and straightforward blackberries and currants on the palate. Quite sweet on the tongue, with a short finish. Uncomplicated. B+ / $40

williamhillestate.com

Review: NV Calamares Vinho Verde

 Review: NV Calamares Vinho VerdeA decidedly simple Portuguese bottling, a blend of Alvarinho and Loureiro grapes. Slightly effervescent, and quite easy to get down — being 9% abv doesn’t hurt. The nose, more vaguely citrus-meets-alcohol in character, isn’t anything special, but crisp pear notes meet lemon and pineapple on the body are a surprising delight. The finish is short and a little watery, but hardly a deal-breaker.

B / $10 / visionwineandspirits.com

Drinkhacker 2013 Wine Cheat Sheet / Vintage Chart

Hey, it’s our seventh annual version of the Drinkhacker cheat sheet, designed to help you tell a good vintage of wine from a crummy one. Just print, cut along the dotted lines, fold it up (into thirds), and stow it away in your wallet or purse. Next time a wine list stumps you, whip this discreet guide out so you don’t end up with a junky bottle from an off year.

As always, here’s how to use the cheat sheet: Only the last two digits of a year are included to save space, and the list only rarely reaches back into the pre-WWII era, so assume anything you see starting with a zero or one to be from this century.

All years listed here are considered good to great vintages, but those in green with underlining are the cream of the crop, “classic” years that you should consider the very best on the market. (Why green and underlined? So you can tell the difference whether you use a color or black & white printer.)

Check back next October for the next revision of the cheat sheet!

Cheers!

Drinkhacker.com wine cheat sheet download options:

drinkhacker-vintage-chart [DOC]

drinkhacker-vintage-chart [PDF]

Fancy JPG version

Review: Wines of Fancy Pants, 2013 Releases

Fancy pants wine 261x300 Review: Wines of Fancy Pants, 2013 ReleasesA new ultra-cheap wine label from Trinchero: Fancy Pants! The only thing that isn’t fancy is the price, amirite fellas!?

Anyway, here’s what they’re like should you fancy a bottle.

2012 Fancy Pants Pinot Grigio California - Lemony nose, with very slight musty notes. The palate offers more citrus, plus distinct peaches and cream. No mustiness here; it’s replaced with a light sweetness that goes well with this style of wine — clean, crisp, and summery. If you can get around the name, you’ll probably enjoy it as much as I did, particularly at this price. A-

2011 Fancy Pants Red Wine California – Although it doesn’t say so on the label, this is a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet, and Merlot. And sugar, from the taste of it. This ultra-sweet wine is designed to appeal to the “ladies’ night” drinker, a big strawberry jam of a finish that will take your teeth out by the root. A stunning failure alongside the well-made Pinot Grigio. Half a glass is about my max. D+

$10 each / tfewines.com

Review: Wines of McGah Family Cellars, 2013 Releases

McGah Family Cellars Scarlett 300x200 Review: Wines of McGah Family Cellars, 2013 ReleasesDid you know: The founders of the Oakland Raiders now have a wine label? McGah Family Cellars is the winemaking arm of the McGahs, which owned the Raiders from the founding in 1960 to 2005. Now they make wine using fruit from their own 65-acre Rutherford vineyard in addition to selling it to other wineries.

Don’t go looking for “McGah” on the label. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and it’s relegated to the fine print on the back. Instead, you’ll find the company’s wines released under the below brand names. Thoughts follow.

2011 Ten Seventy Green Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford Napa Valley – Impressive acid, but the grapefruit notes on this traditional Sauv Blanc are balanced with lemon and blood orange character. The finish is crisp and clean, with a slight and pleasant sweetness to it that adds mystery. A- / $20

2010 Scarlett Cabernet Sauvignon – Young and drinking today as relatively unripe. The nose is green and driven more by menthol notes than fruit. The body offers similar notes, revealing a simple and youthful wine that needs time to mature. Aeration helps to coax out some of the muted blackberry and plum notes, but barrel toast, tar, and that menthol character end up stealing the show. Needs time. B / $60

mcgcellars.com

Review: 2012 Campo Viejo Rioja Garnacha

 Review: 2012 Campo Viejo Rioja GarnachaCampo Viejo is well known for its Rioja wines, which are typically made from Tempranillo grapes. Now the Spanish winery is launching its first ever Garnacha (aka Grenache), the second largest varietal in Spain. With a continued focus on affordability, here’s how Campo Viejo’s latest pans out.

Mild to a fault, the wine eventually reveals a nose of green and black pepper, cedar, and dried savory spices. A very simple wine, the body offers straightforward currants and plum notes, with a short and simple finish. A perfectly drinkable Grenache, it really doesn’t ask much of the drinker nor does it give much in return except for a simple dinner sipper that, to be honest, you won’t mind guzzling down one bit. Very food friendly.

B+ / $12 / campoviejo.com