Review: Wines of Ironstone, 2018 Releases

Ironstone Vineyards can be found in the Gold Country town of Murphys, California, part of the Lodi appellation. Today we look at four whites and one red from this affordable producer, part of the 2018 release cycle.

2016 Ironstone Chardonnay Lodi – Very bacony, with notes of oxidized apples, lemon, and old wood. Texturally a bit gummy, with a harsh finish that screaems of wood oil and cooking sherry. C- / $11

2017 Ironstone Sauvignon Blanc Lodi – Tropical and approachable, with fruit and acidity in check. A burst of lemon and some grapefruit are fully in line with expectations, though the finish is a bit ruddy and rough. B / $10

2016 Ironstone Chenin Blanc Lodi – Very crisp and floral, this chenin blanc offers notes of honeysuckle and buttercups, with a tart fruit backbone that’s driven by white peach and pineapple notes. Very easygoing — the best white in the collection by far. B+ / $10

2016 Ironstone Merlot Lodi – A heavily savory merlot, overloaded with notes of bacon, roast beef, and muddy earth. It’s very green, almost dirty, with virtually no fruit or much of anything else to engage the palate. Hard pass. D / $12

2016 Ironstone Obsession Symphony – Bottled under a second label, with different branding. This is a blend of 85% symphony grapes (a hybrid of muscat of Alexandria and grenache gris), 10% muscat, and 5% chenin blanc. Quite sweet, but with an herbaceous edge, a mix of tropical fruit, melon, honeysuckle, and a hint of rosemary. Interesting as a dessert-friendly wine. B- / $12

Review: Garofoli 2015 Podium and 2017 Macrina

Garofoli is the oldest family-owned winery in the Marche region of Italy, where it’s been producing wines since 1871. Today we look at its best-known wine — verdicchio — in two expressions (and from two different vintages).

2015 Garofoli Podium Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC – 100% single vineyard verdicchio, all stainless. Sharp on the tongue and a bit sour at times, this wine is loaded with lemon/lime notes, edged with an herbal character that recalls rosemary and a hint of anise. Very tart finish. B+ / $25

2017 Garofoli Macrina Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore DOC – The everyday version of the above wine, a blend of various vineyards, but still 100% verdicchio. Heavy on citrus — orange and apricot — but loaded with acidity, it’s got an earthiness underneath the fruit that recalls forest floor and a bit of the anise found in Podium. B+ / $14

Review: 2015 Kay Brothers Basket Pressed Grenache McLaren Vale

Imagine plump currants juiced into a glass and you have this wine, an incredibly sweet and, well, very fruity experience from Australia’s Kay Brothers. Some time in glass isn’t a bad thing to help bring out some complexity. While still quite sweet, it settles down a bit on the finish after a spell, showing some sour plum notes, a touch of herbs, and an edge of toasted oak.

B- / $35 /

Review: 2016 Lusco Albarino Rias Baixas

Very tart for albarino, this Spanish white from Adega Pazos de Lusco exudes lime zest and grapefruit rind, built atop a core of lemon and pear fruit. Racy with acidity, it’s almost sour at times, puckering the lips on the intense finish while clinging to the back of the throat. If you’re looking for a wine that’s palate cleansing, almost to a fault, you’ve got it.

B / $21 /

Review: 2016 Luca Bosio Arneis Langhe DOCG

From the southeast of Piedmont in the Roero region comes this Arneis wine, a tropical affair with a touch of anise and a slight greenness around the edges. A slightly vegetal character eventually gives way to some savory spices, though the notes of both fresh and dried mango are tough to tamp out.

B+ / $15 /

Review: 2016 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Hahn’s latest releases from its SLH line are here, both made with estate fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands.

2016 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highands – Surprisingly sweet on the attack, with an overload of red berries, sweet cream, tangerine, and some spice notes. While it carries some interesting flavors, the whole thing comes off as a bit overcooked. Better with food than on its own. A huge departure from 2015’s expressionB / $20

2016 Hahn SLH Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands – A typical oak bomb from Hahn’s SLH line, utterly blown out with pungent notes of the barrel. Beyond that, it’s quite green, with overtones of cloves, mushrooms, and burnt butter, a charred note lingering on the tongue. B- / $20

Review: Wines of Geyser Peak, 2018 Releases

Geyser Peak’s spring releases of its boldest wines — all based around cabernet sauvignon — have arrived. Today we look at three releases from this essential California winery.

2014 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – Though now four years old, this still drinks with ample youth, boldly forward with blackberry notes and lots of vanilla, giving it a bit of a sweet side — one that could potentially be confused with zinfandel, particularly given the chocolate notes that bring up the rear. As with most cabs, this one’s better with food, which helps some of the tannin come through more clearly, giving the wine needed depth. B / $46 (available in Geyser Peak’s tasting room only)

2014 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Walking Tree – 8% syrah in this. A reserve bottling of sorts, from Geyser Peaks “Appellation Series,” this is the same vintage of cab as the above bottling, but the wine takes a different tactic, dampening the sweet blackberries with notes of tannic bramble and more of a dark chocolate character. With a silkier, more seductive body, it’s more of a “statement wine,” with a lightly peppery finish. A- / $30

2013 Geyser Peak Meritage Reserve Alexandre – 79% cabernet sauvignon, 15% petit verdot, 2% malbec, and 1% cabernet franc, all from Alexander Valley. Very floral on the nose, with notes of fresh lilac, black pepper, and currants all in one bold package. Currants and blueberries provide a backbone that nods at bacon, pencil lead, and a dusky charred wood character. The whole is better (and bigger) than the sum of the parts, taking a classic cabernet structure and spinning it into a couple of different directions, both exotic and a bit dusky. A / $50

Review: NV Apothic Brew Red Wine Infused with Coffee

I’m not going to lie: I’ve been dreading pulling the cork on this since the day it arrived. But finally it had to be done, and I forced myself to experience what the marriage of red wine (reportedly Rhone style grapes, but Apothic doesn’t say) and cold brew coffee is like.

Apothic is no stranger to unique wine concoctions, and was a pioneer in whiskey barrel finishing. Apothic Brew — not a finish, but a literal blend of wine and coffee — is something else entirely. The nose is almost entirely driven by the coffee element, a chocolate mocha note that nearly wipes the wine character away. A slight, raisiny fruit note is there if you go hunting for it, but it’s fleeting, as is to be expected because, you know, coffee.

The palate is much more approachable than I’d expected. Here the red wine’s acidity makes an immediate impact, though any particulars of its character are impossible to pick out, as the coffee immediately overwhelms it. It’s actually pretty good coffee, nutty and heavy with those cocoa notes, not at all bitter as the wine serves to brighten it all up with a bit of fruit — a unique but not unpalatable spin on putting a little sugar or honey into your cup o’ joe. I was ready to absolutely hate Apothic Brew, but it grew on me, and faster than I expected. That said, given the way it acquits itself, it’s better perhaps to think of the product as coffee flavored with wine, rather than the other way around.

Don’t shoot me, but it’s worth a sip for novelty’s sake, if nothing else.

B / $15 /

Review: 2016 Count Karolyi Gruner Veltliner

Hungarian gruner, eh? I suppose it’s not so strange — after all, Austria and Hungary used to be one country.

This wine is extremely dry, offering notes of tart green apple, grapefruit, and a lengthy mineral character that offers notes of flint and steel. Hints of peach and apricot linger on the finish — though a dusky, earthy note eventually comes to the fore. That said, as the wine warms a bit, some gentle floral notes emerge, particularly on the nose. This is a bit more sour than a typical Austrian gruner, but perfectly approachable and, let’s be honest, a curious novelty, too.

B / $13 /

Review: 2017 Nik Weis Urban Riesling Mosel

This simple riesling from the Mosel Valley in Germany carries a mere 10% alcohol level, making it as refreshing and approachable as a wine cooler. A modest amount of residual sweetness brings the florals, fresh apricots, and figs to life with a bright honey and nougat character that lingers into the finish. Versatile.

B+ / $17 /

Review: Bass Note Sangria

Bass Note is a new line of sangrias with a focus on the exotic. Rather than red wine and oranges, Bass Note loads up on combinations of fruit juices and unusual extracts, including herbs and nuts in the mix, all blended into grape-based wine.

Three expressions are available. We tried them all (over ice, as directed).

Each is 11% abv.

Bass Note Blackberry Sage Sangria – The extreme berry attack — super-sweet, with an almost chocolate character — takes a wallop from a fistful of sage, giving it a monstrously herbal character on the finish. Somewhat chalky in texture, the flavors don’t totally gel for me. B-

Bass Note Cherry Lime Almond Sangria – Heavy on the cherries — with an almost strawberry sweetness — plus just a spritz of lime zest. The almond character is fleeting and limited to the finish, which has some of that cheap red wine funk to it, but is otherwise approachable and light on the tongue. B

Bass Note Peach Tarragon Sangria – I didn’t have high hopes for this, but the white wine base makes for a natural companion for the significant peach character that isn’t far behind. I was put off by the idea of tarragon in my sangria, but it’s restrained enough here to give just a slight herbal edge to the fruity attack. Probably my favorite of this bunch. B+

each $13 /

Review: Beaujolais Wines of Georges Duboeuf, 2018 Releases

Dubeouf’s latest crop of cru Beaujolais wines have arrived; here’s a look at a smattering of new(ish) releases.

2015 Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuisse – Gentle chardonnay, lemony with a very quiet mushroom note underneath. A hint of green olive emerges on the finish. B+ / $30

2016 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages – Heavy with blueberries and violets, with an undercurrent of gentle tobacco, spice, and some cocoa powder. Lots going on in this wine, but it’s not entirely cohesive, its flavors spilling over one another a bit freely. B / $11

2016 Georges Duboeuf Brouilly – A bit of French funk here — mushroom, tobacco, leather — plays with a spray of fresh herbs to create a slightly thin wine with a heavily savory bent. A hint of currant-driven sweetness and some vanilla build on the back end. B / $13

2015 Georges Duboeuf Fleurie – Boldly fruity, with blackberry notes leading to a gunpowder character. Sweeter than I expected, with hints of chocolate — though the finish is quite light and lively. B / $20