Review: Wines of Outlot, 2017 Releases

Outlot is a new brand from Accolade Wines, best known for Geyser Peak and novelty brands like XYZin. A trio of initial releases, sourced from the Sonoma area, are now hitting the market. We tried them all. Thoughts follow.

2015 Outlot Chardonnay Sonoma County – Whoa, someone turned up the “oak” dial and forgot to shut it off. This is powerful with raw oak barrel notes, so intense that they push straight through the wood and into (very) brown butter, coconut, and nutty nougat. The finish is straight up licking a tree. If you dislike Chardonnay, well, you’ll hate this one. C / $20

2016 Outlot Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County – A straightforward lemon and grapefruit bomb, with some ammonia touches evident throughout. Refreshing, with a subtle creaminess evident, particularly as the wine warms up. The finish is a touch green, but otherwise perfectly up to code for the style. B+ / $17

2014 Outlot Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – Straightforward cab, a bit gummy at first, but it settles into a groove of gentle drinkability, heavy with fruit but touched just so with balsamic which gives it a bit of a sour edge. The overall impact is akin to your typical “house wine” structure, priced perhaps to move. B / $24

outlotwines.com

Review: 2016 Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio

Ah, that classic of the Chinese restaurant wine list gets an upgrade with its 2016 vintage, courtesy of Christian Siriano, who designed the flowery label for this vintage. That’s probably the most interesting thing about this wine, which is decidedly muddy for pinot grigio, with only modest notes of marshmallows, lilac, and out-of-place savory sage and thyme showing through.

C / $8 / eccodomani.com

Review: Wines of Maiden + Liberty, 2017 Releases

Maiden + Liberty can be found on Long Island, New York, where it makes “French-American” blends — inspired by the owners’ heritage (He’s from New York, she’s from France, coming this fall!). “What would a wine that combines American dynamism with French elegance taste like?” ask the winemakers? What does that mean? Well, Maiden + Liberty makes wines blended from French and American grapes, as well as some bottlings of U.S.-only grown varietals and some strictly imported from France. We’ll lay out what’s what in the detailed reviews below, but meanwhile, let’s find out what a wine that combines American dynamism with French elegance tastes like.

NV Maiden + Liberty French-American White Blend Batch 001 – A blend of Chardonnay and Viognier from the U.S. plus Macabeu and Vermentino from France. Results: Not at all bad. A slightly creamy wine, it has an herbal, somewhat vegetal body that is complemented by notes of brown butter, canned peaches, and baking spice. Fresh and approachable, but versatile enough to pair with food or sip solo. B+ / $20

2016 Maiden + Liberty Chardonnay North Fork of Long Island Batch 002 – A more French style of Chardonnay than we’re used to seeing on our shores, the oak dialed back, with more citrus and green apple notes coming to the fore. The finish sees a modest vanilla character, but it’s not off-putting or overly oaky; rather it gives the wine a light baking spice character that complements the fruit nicely. B+ / $15

2016 Maiden + Liberty French Rose Languedoc Batch 001 – This is a straight French import from the Languedoc, which is curious, but unfortunately a little flat: The wine is rather doughy, with yeasty overtones. This dulls the fruit, flattens the wine, and doesn’t leave much of an impression on the finish. C / $15

NV Maiden + Liberty French-American Red Blend Batch 001 – A gooey mix of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah and Grenache, this concoction doesn’t really come together, coming off as overly sweet, with a bizarre mix of cinnamon and blueberry notes taking center stage. The finish is heavy with vanilla and milk chocolate and a hint of licorice candy, none of which overwhelmingly appeals. C+ / $22

maidenandliberty.com

Review: Tequila Exotico – Blanco and Reposado

Tequila Exotico (part of the budding Luxco empire) is a new, 100% agave tequila made from Highlands agave. With Day of the Dead styling on its otherwise understated bottles, the tequila is available in only blanco and reposado expressions. (No anejo has been produced so far.)

We tasted both. Thoughts follow. Both are 80 proof — and available for perhaps less than any other 100% agave tequila I’ve ever encountered.

Tequila Exotico Blanco – Feels immediately rustic and rather rough. The nose is hot with more of a raw agave character, with lots of black pepper mixed in with aromas of well-cooked vegetables. On the palate, some sweetness is but little relief against an onslaught of fire, smoldering mesquite, and vegetal notes of carrot, green pepper, and dried grasses. The finish is as pungent as the body that precedes it, making this suited best for mixing rather than sipping straight. C / $14

Tequila Exotico Reposado – Rested for six months in ex-bourbon barrels. As expected, the barrel aging rounds things out quite a bit, smoothing those harsh, rustic edges with a lacy vanilla-caramel character, though the intense black pepper, cayenne, and roasted agave notes are still present and accounted for, just dialed back all around. The finish sees some hints of chocolate and nutmeg, almost coming across like a Mexican chocolate, which is the most interesting part of the spirit. All told, this is much more easygoing and enjoyable tequila than the blanco, though it still lands well into “frontier” in style. B / $14

exoticotequila.com

Tasting Greek Wines: 2015 Roya and 2013 Markovitis Xinomavro

Turns out there’s more to Greek wine than assyrtiko. But is any of it worth drinking?

Let’s find out…

2015 Roya – 100% muscat. This is a much drier expression of muscat, which lets some of the more perfumed and floral notes come forward — jasmine, lemongrass, and some grassy notes — leading to a finish that is surprisingly dry for the ordinarily ultra-sweet muscat. That said, it’s not all that interesting as a table wine, and it pairs in rather lackluster fashion with food. C+ / $10

2013 Markovitis Xinomavro – A red from the Naoussa region in northern Greece, this unique wine offers a nose of raspberry and rhubarb, sweet and fragrant. The palate unfortunately doesn’t quite measure up to the nose, leading to a bone dry palate that is missing almost any semblance of fruit. The dusty, slightly sour finish reminds more of a dry sherry than anything else, which is decidedly bizarre for a red wine. C / $27

Review: Samuel Adams Summer 2017 Releases

The summer seasonals from Samuel Adams are here. A whopping seven brews for 2017 are reviewed below.

Samuel Adams Summer Ale Lemon Wheat Ale (2017) – A repackage of this beer from 2013, this brew remains on the tough side, with crisp lemon counterbalanced by notes of cracked pepper and coriander. Virtually no bitterness is in the mix here; instead the malt does all the heavy lifting — which is perfect for hot weather but doesn’t have the backbone for much more. 5.3% abv. B

Samuel Adams Porch Rocker – This lemony spin on a radler, and the citrus does the heavy lifting here. The beer itself offers a whole lot of sweetness, with a lemon-lime edge to it, which gives it an almost soda-like complexion. That’s not the best impression, alas: The overall impact is one of a Mexican lager with one too many squeezes of lime in it. 4.5% abv. C

Samuel Adams Tropic of Yuzu – An ale brewed with spices and yuzu juice added. The spice makes more of an impression than the yuzu, with a kind of dusky coriander kick lingering alongside some notes of lime peel. Yuzu’s an awesome flavor, and it’s a bummer it doesn’t show through very clearly. 6.0% abv. B

Samuel Adams Hefeweizen – A surprisingly strong wheat beer, overloaded to bursting with orange peel and woody coriander. The palate is somewhat oily, which gives more weight to the pungent spiciness on the finish. A bit overwhelming for what ought to be a more refreshing and nuanced style. 5.4% abv. B-

Samuel Adams Golden Hour – A Helles lager, showing ample lemon peel, herbs, and — again — coriander, particularly on the finish. While it’s plenty malty, there’s enough acidity and just a hint of bitterness to lift it up a bit, giving the beer a nice balance, but one which ends up on the dusky side. 5.0% abv. B

Samuel Adams Berliner Weisse – Lots of lemon infuses this wheat beer, giving it a slightly sour character, particularly on the brisk finish, which hints more at lime. Up until then, it’s got a modest malt level, some hints of orange peel and cinnamon, and a clean and refreshing composition. 4.8% abv. B+

Samuel Adams Session IPA – Sam’s spin on a session IPA is a somewhat muddy affair, punched up with mushroom and earth, dulling what could be some more engaging notes at the core — lime peel, pine resin, and licorice. The finish sees some odd bubble gum notes emerging. 4.5% abv. B-

each about $8 per six-pack / samueladams.com

Tasting the Wines of Vin de France, 2017 Releases

Back in 2009, France created a new categorization to cover wines sourced from all over the country. The so-called Vin de France wines are a mixed bag of grapes and styles (as the restrictions are few), but the overall goal with the category is to create single-varietal wines or blends, sourced from anywhere in the country — either all one region or multiple ones, mixed together — at a very affordable price.

Today, Vin de France wines comprise 15 percent of total wine exports from the country.

We checked out two Vin de France wines (a third was corked) from recent vintages. Thoughts follow.

2014 Marc Barriot Le P’tit Barriot Vin de France – 100% syrah. Do you like terroir? This wine wears it on its sleeve — a big and funky wine that reeks of earth, balsamic notes, and green vegetables, and carries that through to an equally semi-sour palate. The finish seems some wild, citrus-like notes emerging. Rough and rustic, this is the wine to drink before you embark on a running with the bulls. Vaya con dios! Or whatever they say in France. C / $18

2013 Maison Ropiteau Pinot Noir Vin de France – A simple and jammy pinot noir, this wine loads up on fresh berries and vanilla, with gentle balsamic notes underpinning the experience. The finish is short, quite fruity, with just a touch of rose petal to it. There’s nothing incredibly deep here, but as far as summery picnic wines go, you could do a lot worse. B / $10

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