This big Zin, touched with Petite Sirah, offers a flood of flavor. Big with strawberry jam and cocoa notes, and a touch of cedar wood on the side. The finish is long and a bit cloying, almost enamel-stripping in its incredible sweetness. Overall a fairly standard interpretation of Zinfandel in the ’10s — tons of alcohol (14.9% abv), overripe fruit, and candy.
B- / $18 / ranchozabaco.com
This Chardonnay from Landmark — featuring an all-new, stripped-down label design — is everything you want from a California Chardonnay, for better or worse. Nutty, apple-tinged notes play on the nose, and the body matches that in stride. The body reveals the lightly woodsy notes, grilled fruits, buttery nuts (or nut butter?), and a mild, easy finish. Big, rounded body. I preferred it quite cold, actually, vs. when it began to warm in the glass.
If you’re into Chardonnay, this is a Chardonnay to be into.
B+ / $25 / landmarkwine.com
We’ve written about Hall from time to time, but it’s a winery that has largely worked in the shadows of more famous operations for years… at least until Wine Spectator named one of the company’s wines the #2 wine of the year in 2011. Pow, to the moon!
Now in its fourth vintage, Hall’s “Ellie’s” bottling (named after owner Craig Hall’s mother) is a Napa-sourced stunner that’s ready to go right now. Gorgeous nose with tons going on: Big blackberries and plums, coffee beans, and hints of chocolate and menthol. More of the above on the body, with the chocolate notes pumped up a bit. The balance here is almost perfect — it’s just a bit on the tart side — with a lively, not-overly-tannic structure. Long and lush finish, with blueberry notes. It pairs beautifully with food, too. What’s not to love?
A / $70 / hallwines.ewinerysolutions.com
This high-end, unfined Chardonnay from Sonoma’s Russian River Valley is surprisingly mild. The nose offers gentle caramel notes, light wood character, and a touch of apple fruit. On the body, clear lemon character, with an earthy finish that offers hints of honeycomb, chewy nougat, and hints of fresh pear at the very end. Unusually restrained for a California Chardonnay, it’s a refreshing break from the usual fare, even if it’s ultimately a bit short on character for something in this price range.
B+ / $45 / amapolacreek.com
Every good musician needs his own wine. OK, every musician, good or not, needs a wine.
The Dreaming Tree is a pet project of winemaker Steve Reeder and musicmaker Dave Matthews. A blend of North Coast California Zinfandel and Merlot, it’s a big and fruity wine with ample berry flavors — raspberry and a little blueberry giving you plenty of sweetness. It’s balanced with a touch of spice and some tannin to give it structure, but it’s hardly a bruiser. This is poolside wine if ever there was any… just like Dave likes it, I would presume.
B / $15 / dreamingtreewines.com
Like all good rich guys in the San Francisco Bay Area, John Lasseter, of Pixar fame, has a winery of his own. Mind you, he’s no Johnny come lately to the wine biz. Lasseter has lived in Sonoma for 20 years, and he bought his first winery/vineyard property in 2002. Now, three generations of Lasseters work to produce the company’s wines, inspired by the “old world” wines of France.
Paysage is Lasseter’s rendition of a St. Emilion style Bordeaux, and the 2009 is made from 42% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Malbec, and 2% Cabernet Franc.
The nose offers traditional plum notes backed with spices, especially mint. The body is thick and intense, with extracted blackcurrant notes. The mint makes a comeback here, along with some tannic, woody notes on the finish. I don’t get a great feeling of integration in the end, though some years in bottle may help to bring the pieces together.
350 cases made.
B+ / $40 / lasseterfamilywinery.com
Man, they make so much wine in Italy. The Tre Bicchieri is one of the world’s largest wine competitions, with some 20,000 Italian wine submissions received every year. The winners of these “three glasses” awards go on a world tour after they’re selected, and the wines represent a who’s who of the great wines of Italy. We sampled a handful during the stopover in San Francisco, and as usual, the selections did not disappoint. Do not miss the 2009 Ornellaia!
Continue reading “Tasting Report: Tre Bicchieri Italian Wines 2013” »
Robert Mondavi is a name, and a winery, that should need no introduction, yet Mondavi has so many sub-labels you can forgiven if you can’t keep them all straight. The “Napa Valley” label is exactly what it sounds like, a mid-range blend made from 100% Napa Valley fruit.
Widely available and consistent from year to year, you can always count on these wines for a decent glass of vino at a very good price for Napa fruit.
2010 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc Napa Valley – A staple of many a Chinese restaurant, this affordable Sauvignon Blanc offers crisp acidity, and ample citrus notes of the grapefruit and pomelo variety. Very tart finish, which makes it less food friendly than I’d like in many environments. B / $13
2010 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – Acceptable but unchallenging Cabernet. While at first blush it comes across is quite extracted, wood and tannin quickly overtake the fruit components, particularly as it collects air over time. The finish is mild but drying, and mostly harmless. B / $28
Sardinia is an island I know little about, so the opportunity to taste the wines of its premier producer, Sella & Mosca, was something I jumped at. Founded in 1899, Sella & Mosca is a big operation that sells 650,000 cases of wine a year, half of it on its home island of Sardinia. This includes grape varietals you’ll be well experienced with, and a few that you won’t get anywhere else. Thoughts on everything — shared over lunch at San Francisco’s Michael Mina with Sella & Mosca winemaker Beppe Caviola — follow.
Continue reading “Tasting the Wines of Sardinia’s Sella & Mosca” »
Lodi, in California’s Central Valley, is known for making cheap wines, and lots of them. But you can find quality even amongst the mass-market wines common to the area. Lodi’s LoCA campaign sent us a mixed case of a dozen wines, all from different wineries in the Lodi region — including more than a few surprising (and surprisingly good) varietals. We put them all to the test. Thoughts follow… along with some photos of the area for you to enjoy.
2011 Lange Twins Sauvignon Blanc Musque Clone Lodi – Huge mango notes on the nose, but more restrained on the body, where a steely, mineral finish becomes evident. The finish brings up more tropical notes, including pineapple. B+ / $13
2011 Harney Lane Albarino Lodi – Super fresh and alive. Lots of delicious apple, grapefruit, and lemon notes, tempered with just a touch of vanilla and hints of tropical fruits. Good acid and lots of fun to drink. I’d buy it by the case at this price. A / $19
Continue reading “Tasting the Wines of Lodi, California, 2013” »
There is considerable confusion over what Late Bottled Vintage Port is. Vintage-dated, it sounds like it should be very expensive, yet it’s cheaper than many blends. Late Bottled Vintage (or LBV) Port is Port that was originally intended as Vintage Port, but which didn’t make it into a bottle, for whatever reason (typically the barrels are just not good enough for Vintage Port).
LBV Port, in a nutshell, sits around in barrels for many extra months or even years, before it’s eventually bottled and sold. LBV Port can also be made from years that weren’t declared as Vintage years, though that wasn’t the case for 2007. Stylistically, LBV can land just about anywhere on the map.
While it spends far longer exposed to wood than Vintage Port, Dow’s 2007 LBV is a lighter style of the wine — considerably less burly than most Vintage Ports. The nose offers raisins as expected, but there are also some fun tea notes here, along with some wood barrel influence. The body heads tentatively into dried cherry territory, but the texture is on the thin side, with not much more heft to it than your typical glass of Zinfandel. The preserved fruit flavors just need a bit more backbone to prop them up.
B / $22 / dows-port.com
One of the highlights of the wine tasting events that I get to attend is when pretty much all of Bordeaux comes to town to show off that year’s releases. This year’s roadshow is particularly exciting, since the upcoming 2010 vintage is said to be one of the best in the last 10 years, ranking with 2000 and 2005 as the source of some the most spectacular wines France is making today.
Nearly 100 wines (along with representatives from the chateaus) were on hand for tasting. I didn’t get to every one of them, but I managed to cover a wide stretch of the region including sampling wines from every red Bordeaux region plus most of the Sauternes and Barsac being sampled. As is always the case with Bordeaux, quality was highly variable, with some great highs alongside a number of wines that were phoning it in. That said, as vintages go, 2010 does appear to have more hits than misses in it.
Continue reading “Tasting Report: Bordeaux and Sauternes, 2010 Vintage” »
We last covered Michael David’s top-end, big-dollar, sin-monikered Zins in late 2011. This time around (Lust is absent, sorry), the ratings are reversed. Thoughts follow.
2009 Michael David Sloth Zinfandel – Made from 30 year old vines located in Mendocino. Blended with a small amount of Petite Sirah. A really drinkable wine, the jamminess is surprisingly restrained vs. most Zins. Instead you get a supple, modestly tannic wine with a decent amount of acid. Fruit character is primarily in the blueberry realm, with some spice on the back end. Good stuff. A- / $55
2009 Michael David Gluttony Zinfandel – Made from 86 year old vines in Amador County, again with Petite Sirah blended in. A wildly different wine. Very woody and very pruny, with a cloying, almost medicinal finish. Black as night. Simply too overpowering, even for Zinfandel. B- / $55
It’s not every day we get to try a $625 wine made by a former pro basketball player. OK, it’s never when that happens.
Chinese phenomenon Yao Ming recently got the celebrity winemaker bug and launched his own wine label, but with a twist: His primary market is his homeland of China, and the U.S. is almost an afterthought.
Now don’t get the impression that Yao is making wine in his garage for kicks. He’s partnered with longtime winemaking guru Thomas Hinde to craft Yao Family Wines, which lovingly pay homage to his affection for Napa Cabernet. Yao is involved in the process, particularly regarding blending decisions.
Continue reading “Review: Yao Ming Family Wines, 2009 Vintages” »
Domaine de Tariquet, located in France’s Gascony, is best known for its Armanagacs. But did you know the producer also makes wine? And affordable ones at that. The wines from this unusual region use traditional grape varietals to create unique expressions. Thoughts follow.
2010 Domaine de Tariquet Cote – A 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Bright yellow. Intense body, with fig, big lemon, and way out-of-place strawberry notes. A bit grassy on the finish, with touches of mint and some steeliness. Opens up with exposure to air. B / $15
Continue reading “Review: Wines of Armagnac’s Domaine de Tariquet” »
WALT is a new name for an older winery. Formerly known as Roessler, the winery was sold to another family in 2010, but just about everything has remained the same except the labels. The focus remains on Pinot Noir, with lots of single vineyard releases, produced everywhere from SoCal to Oregon. We dropped into the tasting room recently to sample the latest releases, all from the 2010 vintage. Thoughts follow.
Continue reading “Review: WALT Wines, 2010 Vintages” »
Lawer Family Wines is a new(ish) operation based in Calistoga, California, where husband and wife Betsy and David Lawer produce a trio of limited production wines under a variety of (non-Lawer) names. Each label is designed to commemorate a pursuit of the Lawer family, though I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to learn more about those specifics. Thoughts on the latest three releases of the family’s various wine projects follow.
Continue reading “Review: The Wines of Lawer Family Vineyards” »
Grgich Hills is an iconic winery of Napa Valley, but the wines tend to be all over the map, an inevitability, perhaps, of increasing production to the point where the wines are omnipresent — albeit expensive — in the supermarkets of America now.
This Cabernet is perhaps the winery’s flagship bottling, widely available yet pedigreed, with 100% Napa fruit.
Though the wine’s now four years old, it still comes across as young, very fruity but with lots of volatility and acidity in the glass. Big blackberry is backed with cocoa and some spice, but it’s still a bit muddy. Looking for balance here… but not expecting it for another 4 to 5 years.
B+ / $60 / grgich.com
Valencia is a Spanish region that sounds oh-so-familiar but, in reality, is one which few Americans could pinpoint on a map. It’s actually a region of Spain in the east, along the Mediterranean sea — about as far away from the more famous regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero as you can get in the country.
I recently missed a tasting event where wines from this region were poured… but the organizers were kind enough to send a couple of bottles later for evaluation. Some thoughts on a pair of wines from this value-driven region follow.
NV Anecoop Reymos – A sparkling Muscat. Pear is distinct on the nose. On the palate: toasty biscuits, pineapple, and lots of Muscat-like citrusy sweetness. Not exactly a dry, sipping experience, it’s a festive fruit bomb that’s fine… in moderation. B- / $12
2009 Bodegas Enguera Megala – 60% Monastrell, 40% Syrah. Some plum and raisin up front, with a little peppery edge behind it. Blueberries are big in the middle, touched with some cinnamon and pomegranate notes. Finally, earth and mushroom touches on the finish along with all the fruit. Light acidity, but a little flabby on the finish. Worthwhile. B+ / $25
This ultra-young rose of Pinot Noir — picked, produced and bottled all in 2012, a la Beaujolais Nouveau — is ultra-fruity, with fresh strawberries and pineapple backed up with a touch of rose petals. Complex? Not exactly, but it’s got a fun zip that, once you push past all the sugary notes, makes for a fun little glass of vino that’s good for, well, sipping about four months from now.
B / $15 / riverroadvineyards.com