Review: Interrobang Vermouth

An interrobang is a punctuation mark that is both an exclamation point and a question mark. It’s also the name of a new, artisanal vermouth from a small craft producer in Newberg, Oregon (in the heart of Oregon wine country). The company offers two varieties covering both of the classics — one white, one red. We tasted them both. Thoughts follow.

Both are bottled at 17.5% abv.

Interrobang White Vermouth No. 73 – “Based on a traditional Southern French recipe, this white semi-dry vermouth includes cinchona, cinnamon, and five other organic or sustainable botanicals. It took us 73 times through the recipe to perfect the production.” Lots of quinine on the nose, with a restrained underbelly of savory and grassy herbs and a brightness driven by aromatic white wine. The palate is appropriately bittersweet, though it leans a bit more toward the cinchona than any other element in particular. The finish keeps things clean and fresh; if you like a drier style of white vermouth, this may be right in your wheelhouse. B+ / $18 (375ml)

Interrobang Sweet Vermouth No. 47 – “Based on a centuries-old German recipe, this sweet vermouth includes wormwood, gentian, and ten other organic or sustainable botanicals. It took us 47 times through the recipe to perfect the production.” An unusual sweet vermouth, it’s really quite bitter and far from what we expect from most classically sweet vermouths. The nose is bright with red berries and flowers, but the palate is stuffed with those classic bitter root notes, hints of balsamic, and a minty finish. Fun stuff, but give it a sip before you use it in a Manhattan. B / $18 (375ml)

whatisinterrobang.com

Tasting Report: Ram’s Gate Vineyard Designate Wines, 2017 Releases

Visitors to Sonoma County know Ram’s Gate well, even if they’ve never been there. Why? It’s the first winery you pass as you come into the region, and now — since it was purchased from Roche, which used to have a tasting room here — it’s even harder to miss. The “gate” of Ram’s Gate is a real thing, towering dozens of feet into the air like something out of Game of Thrones.

Ram’s Gate is available to visitors by appointment only, and numerous tasting options abound, including some with meals served from the full kitchen on the premises. When we visited, we stuck with a short tour and wine, five selections from Ram’s Gate’s Vineyard Designate lineup. Thoughts follow. (Note: All of these wines improve with air and time in glass.)

2014 Ram’s Gate Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard Carneros – Almond and tropical notes abound; bold and buttery to be sure, but it has a bit of acidity. B-

2014 Ram’s Gate Chardonnay Green Acres Hill Vineyard Carneros – Bold with honey, some bitter citrus peel notes, and an unctuous, buttery finish. B

2013 Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast – Burgundy in style, with some earthiness that finds a companion in notes of lavender and cocoa powder. Intense, give it 2 to 3 years before drinking. B+

2013 Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir El Diablo Vineyard Russian River Valley – Muted on the nose, with some chewy bacon notes, dark chocolate, menthol, and camphor. B-

2013 Ram’s Gate Syrah Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast – Minimal fruit on this one — it’s all licorice and meaty sausage notes. B-

ramsgatewinery.com

Review: 2016 Sonoma-Cutrer Rose of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

This rose of pinot noir is Sonoma-Cutrer’s latest limited edition Winemaker’s Release — crafted from fruit in Block C of Owsley Ranch, which was cultivated to become Sonoma-Cutrer’s first rosé. Designed to loosely mimic a Provence rose, it’s a floral wine, loaded with strawberry but with a hint of orange to add some nuance. Brisk and acidic, with only a touch of brown sugar on the finish, it’s a beautifully balanced rose that’s just right for springtime.

A- / $25 / sonomacutrer.com

Review: Wines of Columbia Winery, 2017 Releases

 

We last met with Columbia Winery in 2014  Since then, the winery has dramatically revamped its labels, so you might not recognize these bottlings are from the same company. As always, Columbia focuses on affordable yet authentic wine from Washington’s Columbia Valley. Let’s taste four new releases.

2014 Columbia Winery Chardonnay Columbia Valley – A workable chardonnay, with hints of butterscotch and spice amidst the otherwise butter/vanilla combo that you’ve probably come to know quite well. The body is reasonable in body without being overbearing, and the finish is lightly woody and a bit chewy. Worthwhile at this price. B+ / $14

2014 Columbia Winery Merlot Columbia Valley – Soft but enjoyable, this wine offers ample herbal notes, light florals, and a cherry-heavy core. The finish shows off more bitter grip than what’s come before, but that’s probably a good thing, as it provides some much-needed complexity. B- / $16

2014 Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley – Again, a workmanlike cab (catching a theme here?), with ample tannin atop cherries and currants, lightly jammy on the finish but showing some good grip. B / $16

NV Columbia Winery Red Blend – A blend of merlot and syrah, which showcases both the floral character of merlot and the meatiness of the syrah. Not a bad combination, which shows a bit of smoked bacon, cherry fruit, and some rhubarb. Simple, lightly bittersweet finish, with hints of white pepper. A solid value wine. B / $14

Tasting the Wines of Artesa, 2017 Releases

I realized I hadn’t visited Artesa, located in California’s Carneros region, in many years, and on a lark I paid a visit to their tasting room. I ended up spending nearly an hour here digging through rarities you won’t encounter much in the wild. (Pro tip: Avoid the winery’s supermarket bottlings; the gold is upmarket.)

Brief thoughts on everything tasted follow.

2016 Artesa Albarino – Dry, with good acidity, herbal and lightly toasty. B / $28

2014 Artesa Estate Reserve Pinot Noir – Very green, skip it. C / $40

2013 Artesa Block 91D Pinot Noir – Bold body, lots of red fruit. Structured and built in a vague Burgundy style. Highly worthwhile. A / $80

2014 Artesa Sangiacomo Pinot Noir Carneros – Softer but meatier, a bit tougher on the finish. A- / $80

2013 Artesa Cabernet Franc Single Vineyard Foss Valley – Big at first, but layered with fruit. Amazing structure highlights pretty aromatics. Luscious, rounded. One of the best cab francs I’ve experienced. A / $85

2013 Artesa Malbec – Chewy, with big tannins, but a solid fruit core. B+ / $45

2013 Artesa Pinnacle – A blend; quite dry, with jammy berries, some currants, light tannin, and a meaty edge. B / $55

2013 Artesa Rive Gauche Cabernet Sauvignon – Left-bank style blend (hence the name); soft, a little marshmallow, and some brown sugar. Quite floral. A- / $60

2013 Artesa Foss Valley Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – Blackberry and spice, licorice, dark fruits. A- / $90

2013 Artesa Morisoli-Borges Cabernet Sauvignon – Blueberry notes, bold fruit, some cranberry sauce. A- / $90

artesawinery.com

Tasting the Wines of Buena Vista Winery, 2017 Releases

Founded in 1857 by the colorful Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy, Buena Vista Winery was a pioneer of California wine. The first wine caves in California were dug here (and can still be seen today by visitors), and Haraszthy is responsible for bringing all kinds of European wine varietals to the U.S.

Today, Buena Vista is owned by Jean-Charles Boisset, an equally colorful man who has spent millions restoring the historic buildings and caves here to their former state (only now they’re safe from earthquakes). After a quick tour through this fascinating facility in a heavily wooded part of Sonoma — it only makes a small fraction of Buena Vista’s production; the rest is made at sister operation DeLoach, which shares a winemaker with BV — we tasted a number of new releases from the winery.

Thoughts follow.

2013 Buena Vista Blanc de Noir – A welcome sparkling wine made from pinot noir grapes. Fresh apple up front, with lots of almond character. A- / $50

2014 Buena Vista Eleanora’s Selection Chardonnay – Complex, with biscuity notes balancing out pears, apples, and ample butterscotch. Plenty of acid on the back end. A- / $42

2014 Buena Vista Private Reserve Pinot Noir – Sourced from 5 vineyards all over California. Currants and spice hit in earnest, with a light black pepper character. A touch of menthol soothes the ample tannin profile. Cinnamon lingers on the finish. A- / $65

2012 Buena Vista Antal’s Selection Zinfandel – First vintage of this expression, made from 100 year old vines. Dense in color, very rich with fruit and chocolate notes. Jammy to the point of being nearly overwhelming. B / $40

2015 Buena Vista The Sheriff of Buena Vista – A blend of petite sirah, petit verdot, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, and syrah. Chewy with lots of tannin, baking spice, and more of that menthol. Raspberry finds a way through the finish of what is otherwise a bit of a mutt of a wine. B / $40

buenavistawinery.com

Review: 2016 Kim Crawford Rose Hawke’s Bay

This New Zealand rose is made from merlot grapes and presents itself as an uncomplicated, moderately sweet rose with notes of strawberry, cinnamon rolls, and a touch of balsamic character on the back end. This adds some bitterness, but also balance, which the wine seems to be in further need of. Fine for these early days of spring as an afternoon sipper, but depth is elusive.

B / $18 / kimcrawfordwines.com

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