Review: Flora Springs 2015 Soliloquy, 2013 Holiday Blend, and 2014 Trilogy

Napa’s Flora Springs has been making wine since 1978. Here are three new releases from the company (all late 2016 launches that you should be able to find on the market today, with the possible exception of the Holiday bottling). Thoughts follow.

2015 Flora Springs Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc Oakville – Surprisingly honeyed for a sauvignon blanc, the wine offers notes of orange blossoms and sweet honey atop more floral elements. Some coconut and toffee notes bubble up on the finish. The traditional grassy acidity of a California sauvignon blanc is missing here; in its stead, a rather unique experience that offers a strange melange of styles. Serve it blind and keep your friends guessing! B+ / $21

2013 Flora Springs Red Wine Holiday Blend – Each year Flora Springs releases a one-off holiday blend, complete with a variety of etched label designs to choose from. It’s always a cabernet-heavy Bordeaux-style blend similar to (but different from) Trilogy. This one’s a tad gummy, which dulls the fruit character and leaves it with a somewhat cloying, unsatisfying finish. In the mix you’ll find some blackberry and boysenberry notes, an herbal lacing, and plenty of chocolate and vanilla notes, but it’s nonetheless muddy throughout. B / $57

2014 Flora Springs Trilogy – 86% cabernet sauvignon, 8% malbec, 6% petit verdot. A classically huge Napa blend, with juicy currants dominating from the start and enduring for quite a while. Give it some air to reveal notes of dark chocolate, salted caramel, bitter licorice root, and a smattering of spices. The finish evokes gingerbread, cocoa, and a significant vanilla custard character, tempered with more currants and some candied violets. A huge wine, but one that, given time, showcases the best of what Napa has to offer. A- / $80

Review: Antech NV Brut Nature and 2014 Emotion – Sparkling Limoux Wines

Limoux is a region within the Languedoc best known as the most likely birthplace of sparkling wine. Records dating back to 1531 show that local monks had developed the technique that closely resembles that of Prosecco. Today, Limoux wines are the second most imported French sparkling wine, after Champagne.

Limoux sparkling wines come in two styles. (This info comes directly from reps from the region):

  • Blanquette de Limoux wines are at least 90% Mauzac, a grape that is native to the region and not grown elsewhere. These wines are fresh and show ripe green apple flavors.
  • Crémant de Limoux wines are primarily blends of Chardonnay (a key Champagne grape) and Chenin Blanc, with some additions of Mauzac and/or Pinot Noir. These wines are most like their cousins to the north, with some subtle toasty, brioche notes.

We’ll review both styles below, courtesy of producer Antech (the name surely sounds better in French than in English), which was originated by Eugenie Limouzy, one of the first women in Languedoc to manage a vineyard. Let’s give these affordable wines a spin!

NV Antech Brut Nature Blanquette de Limoux – A non-vintage Blanquette. There’s lots of lemon on a fairly creamy body, chewy with overtones of grapefruit, sour apple, and a touch of mint. Imagine a juicier and slightly sour style of Prosecco and you’re about on target for this wine, which works well as an aperitif and as a base for punch, cocktails, and more. B+ / $13

2014 Antech Emotion Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose – A vintage cremant, and a rose at that. Creamy again, with fragrant florals and a lacing of strawberry jam. The finish has a slight edge to it, just a hint of bitterness to give the sweetness some balance and the wine some depth. Otherwise it drinks a lot like a crowd-pleasing rose Cremant d’Alsace, with a light caramel kiss on the finish. B+ / $15

Do Sulfites in Wine Give You Headaches?

For many wine drinkers, one of the first things they consider when buying wine is whether their bottle contains headache-inducing sulfites. But are sulfites as bad as they are painted out to be? Do they really cause headaches, and if so, how does one avoid them?

The term “sulfite” refers broadly to a group of chemical compounds that contain sulfur in them, the most common being sulfur dioxide, SO2. Sulfites are found everywhere, in nature and in manufacturing; among many, many other things, they develop naturally in the human body, are used in drying fruit, and most importantly for our purpose, are used as a preservative in wine. Sulfites are added to nearly every commercially available wine to protect against oxidation, and to prevent bacteria from forming in the bottle. Sulfites occur naturally in wine during fermentation, but in most wines, additional sulfites are added to safeguard against spoilage. While wines labelled as “sulfite-free” do exist, it’s worth noting that the label is not technically true; a wine can be labelled sulfite-free if it contains less than 10 mg of sulfite per liter, and it would be incredibly difficult to fully remove sulfites from wine, if it’s possible at all.

So sulfites are everywhere in what we consume — does this mean you should just stay home and hide to avoid those uncomfortable allergic reactions? Probably not. While an unlucky few with sulfite allergies certainly exist, the FDA notes that sulfite sensitivity is much rarer than many realize. If wine is giving you headaches, it’s likely not from the sulfites, but instead from the histamines which also naturally occur in wine, which have been shown cause headaches by way of dilation of the carotid artery, which leads to a drop in blood pressure. There are no histamine-free wines, but if you regularly get headaches after having a glass, talk to your doctor, and maybe she could suggest an antihistamine to take before drinking. And of course, wine has alcohol in it, which has a dehydrating effect. Dehydration is a big part of what causes a hangover, which are typified by — of course — bad headaches.

Still not convinced? Though as we’ve noted there’s no such thing as a sulfite-free wine, by buying organically-grown wines you can at least have a bottle with no sulfites added. Be aware that when picking up such a wine, you’ll have to drink it sooner than you would a sulfite-laden Cabernet. Without the preservative effect the sulfites give, a wine will spoil and become undrinkable quickly. And it’s worth noting that, at least in our experience, organic bottles don’t tend to be especially impressive wines.

Review: Yves Leccia 2015 Patrimonio Blanc and 2013 Patrimonio Rouge

Corsica isn’t a wine region that many Americans are familiar with. (Hint: It’s part of France, not Italy.) That’s a shame, because this island produces some stellar stuff, and at the head of the class is Yves Leccia, a veteran winemaker whose products are widely considered ‘the Rolls-Royce’ of Corsican wines.”

Leccia doesn’t need me to validate what everyone already knows, but here are some tasting notes for two new releases, for those unfamiliar with Corsica and Leccia’s wares. (Also note that these are essentially just the entry-level wines from Leccia!) Patrimonio is a region near the northern tip of Corsica, where nielluccio and vermentino grapes comprise nearly 100% of the varietals grown.

2015 Yves Leccia Patrimonio Blanc – 100% vermentino. A gorgeous wine. Aromatic with white flowers, a spritz of perfume, and a grating of lime peel on the nose, the wine evokes a complexity seldom found in today’s whites. On the palate, the lush body is reminiscent of a chardonnay, but the notes of apricot, more florals, nougat, and soft vanilla sugar cookies give it a whole new dimension. The finish is ripe with fruit but cleansing and refreshing. Hard to put down, it’s a benchmark of French winemaking but also quite a bargain. A / $29

2013 Yves Leccia Patrimonio Rouge – 90% nielluccio, 10% grenache. Less complex than the Blanc, but quite engaging thanks to lively acidity, a fruit-forward character that’s heavy on currants, strawberry, and raspberry, and a finish that offers hints of tea leaf and cloves. There’s just enough tannin here to give the wine some meat on its bones — both figuratively and literally, thanks to hints of roasted sausages laced with savory spices. B+ / $30

Review: 2014 La Follette Chardonnay and Pinot Noir North Coast

It’s been many years since I dined with Greg La Follette, back when he was making wine under the Tandem label. Now La Follette has a label under his own name, and his North Coast-sourced 2014 releases are here. Let’s give them a try.

2014 La Follette Chardonnay North Coast – Vanilla cookie notes are heavy on the nose, but tempered by clear notes of lemon and toasty brioche buns. The body is quite bold and rounded, but it’s nonetheless fresh and lively, with a lasting finish that works well alone or with food. An excellent example of a big California chardonnay that is dialed back just the right amount. A- / $22

2014 La Follette Pinot Noir North Coast – Moderate body, with notes of blackberry and dark cherry, tempered through light vanilla and gentle, toasty wood. There’s an undercurrent of licorice-loaded tannins here, but it’s kept in check by a gentle sweetness and a distinct silkiness on the palate. A- / $22

Review: Wines of Lula Cellars, 2016 Releases

Mendocino’s Lula Cellars is the brainchild of winemaker Jeff Hansen, who produces a number of traditional Anderson Valley varietals in his Philo facility. Today we look at three of the winery’s new releases (all from late 2016), a pair of pinots and a zinfandel.

2013 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir Mendocino – Fairly burly, even by Mendocino standards, offering notes of blackberry, tea leaf, bitter herbs, and tobacco all wrapped up in a slightly earthy, mushroom-tinged body. The fruit endures to the end, but it’s tempered by a powerful grip that, at times, feels a bit out of place. B+ / $45

2013 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir Costa Vineyard Mendocino – This single-vineyard pinot is a clear step up from the more general bottling, and it finds a bolder body pairing nicely with expressive blueberry, cherry, and a denser, more powerful tea character. The blackberry notes in the above wine are more evident on the juicy finish, which is tempered with just a touch of herbal, earthy bitterness. A beautiful, versatile wine through and through. Oddly, it’s the same price as the non-single-vineyard Mendocino bottling; absolutely this is the one to get. A / $45

2014 Lula Cellars Zinfandel Mariah Vineyard Mendocino – A softer zin, Lula’s Mendo bottling offers notes of cola, chocolate-covered cherries, and a touch of vanilla, particularly evident on the back end. Some tannins give the wine a bit of grip, but they’re kept in check by the lightly sweet body and silky finish. B+ / $29

Review: Four Provence Roses, 2015 Vintage

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good rose with dinner tonight. Here are four rose wines from France’s Provence, all 2015 vintages, worth a look.

2015 Domaine de la Sangliere Cuvee Speciale Cotes de Provence – Lightly grassy and herbal on the nose, this wine exhibits a bold berry profile on the palate featuring fresh notes of strawberry, plus hints of jasmine and a bit of thyme. Exotic and complex for a rose, and quite worthwhile. A- / $11

2015 Xavier Flouret Nationale 7 Cotes de Provence – A very light-bodied wine, with floral notes prominent up front and a somewhat duller, lightly vegetal body. Lively enough at mealtime, but it lacks zing on its own. B / $20

2015 Mas de Cadenet Cotes de Provence Sainte Victoire – Strawberry heavy on the nose and the palate, with an undercurrent of toasty grains. Arguably the most straightforward rose in this collection, it goes down with little fuss en route to a short but wholly inoffensive finish. B+ / $16

2015 Chateau d’Esclans Rock Angel Cotes de Provence Rose – This is a much bolder wine than the 2014 release, showcasing big fruit flavors in the realm of peach, apricot, and pear, all folded into a slightly palate that ultimately turns somewhat sour on the back end. The finish is rustic and a bit tart. Best with food. B- / $20