Review: Wines of Argentina’s Alamos, 2017 Releases

Someone has messed up a relatively winning formula at Alamos, which has taken a turn for the overly manipulated since we last encountered the wines in 2015.

2016 Alamos Torrontes Origin Salta – The lone hit in this bunch, this is a highly acidic torrontes with tons of white flowers, hints of peach, and a lightly herbal finish that adds some nuance. A crowd-pleaser but also a relatively complex white. A- / $13

2016 Alamos Malbec Mendoza – Credible malbec, without much nuance to it. A moderately acidic bite up front, with ample cherry and tobacco notes, leads to an overly gummy body whose flavor quickly evaporates into thin air. The finish is almost nonexistent. B- / $13

2015 Alamos Malbec Seleccion Mendoza – Again a little gummy (too much gum arabic, perhaps), taking a silky body someplace a bit on the funky side. The cherry here seems blown out, the herbal notes falling a bit flat on the finish. B- / $20

Tasting the Wines of Chateau Magdeleine Bouhou

The Cotes de Bordeaux is the youngest AOC in Bordeaux, established only in 2009 when four smaller communes were joined together to become a single region (with a bit more of marketing muscle than they had before). Cotes de Bordeaux wines aren’t very common here — though that’s changing, thanks in part to wineries like Chateau Magdeleine Bouhou, which is exporting on a limited basis to the U.S. for the first time this year.

I recently met with the chateau’s Yann Couturier over lunch in San Francisco to taste two of the wines that Bouhou is bringing into the states. Thoughts follow.

2014 Chateau Magdeleine Bouhou La Boha – This blend of 80% merlot, 10% cabernet sauvignon, and 10% cabernet franc is unaged in oak. It is held in concrete tanks only before bottling. Color my surprise at how incredibly drinkable Boha is, its heavy violet notes belying the merlot content while allowing freshly fruit-forward notes of cherry and red berries to rise to the surface. Very atypical of anything I’ve ever had from Bordeaux, it’s a perfect little “by the glass” offering (which is how it is commonly sold in France). B+ / $16

2012 Chateau Magdeleine Bouhou Grand Vin – This is Bouhou’s flagship wine, blended from 90% merlot and 10% malbec, and traditionally aged for a year or more in French oak barrels. Classically structured with more of a boldly tannic backbone, it still has ample fruit but is complemented by notes of pepper, grilled meat, and a tart finish. Worth a look. B+ / $24

Review: 2015 Schloss Johannisberg Gelblack Riesling Feinherb Rheingau

Drinking a riesling like Schloss Johannisberg’s Gelblack bottling reminds me that I should be drinking more (German) riesling. This Rheingau-sourced wine is just a bit tropical, its nearly dry but honey-flavored core layered with notes of baking spice and gingerbread. The finish is dry but satisfyingly refreshing, again hinting at those pineapple-dusted tropical notes.

A- / $18 /

Review: 2014 Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC

An ultra-budget Tuscan, this is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Canaiolo, and 5% Cabernet Franc. It’s got a mild body, heavy with cherry, blackberry, and tobacco notes, which meld quite beautifully with the fragrant nose. The body is modest and the finish just a touch sweet, with a hint of green pepper on the back end, but it’s hard to pass up at this price.

B+ / $12 /

Review: Wines of Edna Valley, 2017 Releases

You’ll find Edna Valley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo in southern California, but this winery sources grapes from all over California, particularly for its low-cost whites and rose. Here’s a look at three such wines to take you out of summer and into fall.

2016 Edna Valley Pinot Grigio California – This pinot grigio offers some fun florals and ample notes of fresh pears, banana, and a touch of nutmeg — which would all be swell if not for a rather gummy body that feels overly doctored, particularly on the strangely chewy finish. B- / $15

2015 Edna Valley Chardonnay Central Coast – This is a big and bold chardonnay, typically California in style, unctuous with notes of vanilla, oak, and brown butter. A hint of lemongrass on the nose does little to cut through the liquid dessert that follows on the tongue, nor can it cut the weighty, overly creamy finish. C+ / $15

2016 Edna Valley Rose California – A mix of Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. A simpler wine than the above, appropriately fragrant on the nose with mixed florals and berries, with a very light, almost watery, body that offers a simple strawberry character. The palate is fortunately clean and fresh, the light fragrance giving it a bit of a lift on the back end. B / $18

Review: Wines of Francis Ford Coppola, 2017 Releases

I never get too excited when the massive box of Coppola wines show up, as quality tends to be all over the map. Well, with the 2017 releases (all from the 2015 vintage), that’s changed. Someone is clearly paying attention to quality at Coppola, and things have improved across the board, sometimes dramatically.

Let’s look at the latest wines from FFC: 3 reds, 3 whites.

2015 Virginia Dare Chardonnay Russian River Valley – A brisk and minimally oaked chardonnay, this lemon-scented wine offers a touch of marshmallow character and some butterscotch to sweeten up the proceedings — but ample acidity on the back end tempers the wine and gives it some length. B+ / $20

2015 Francis Ford Coppola Reserve Chardonnay Dutton Ranch-Jewell Vineyard – This is a bold and buttery chardonnay, but it finds balance in notes of pear and cinnamon-dusted apple, and crisp minerality that gives it a more acidic edge than expected. A squeeze of lemon lifts up the finish. A- / $38

2015 Francis Ford Coppola Chardonnay Director’s Cut Russian River Valley – A super-buttery and woody expression of chardonnay, though notes of grapefruit and allspice lift it out of that overly obvious experience and give it some acidity to grab onto. B+ / $17

2015 Francis Ford Coppola Pinot Noir Director’s Cut Russian River Valley – A moderate to dense pinot noir, this wine features a spicy nose that gives way to a considerably fruit-forward core, featuring brambly blackberry, cherry, and more baking spice layered into it. Slightly on the sweeter side of the aisle, it’s nonetheless a crowd-pleaser (despite the unorthodox bottle choice). B+ / $20

2015 Virginia Dare Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – As with the 2014 release, this is a perfectly pleasant pinot that would fit in perfectly well on any table. Ample notes of cherry, cola, and tea leaf give the wine plenty of depth, all atop a body of ample density and power. The finish is lightly spicy and only a touch on the sweet side. All told, this wine deserves a better label than it was given. B+ / $23

2015 Votre Sante Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – Don’t look now but Votre Sante now has an Anderson Valley designation instead of a rotgut California one. It’s a far better wine than before, too, leading with herbs and spice and venturing from there into notes of dried fruits and gentle tannin. A restrained wine, but it’s really quite compelling. A- / $35

Review: Barefoot Refresh Spritzers – Moscato and Rose

Proudly trumpeting on the containers that they are “wine-based” — code for “not made out of malt liquor” — budget wine brand Barefoot aims for the ready-to-drink crowd with its new line of Refresh premixed spritzers. The ingredients (which are actually included on the canisters) mainly include wine, sparkling water, and sugar, which is really all you want in a drink like this.

Five varieties are available, four of which are also available in cans. We tried two: Moscato and Rose.

Each is a mere 6.5% abv.

Barefoot Refresh Moscato Spritzer – Quite a bit less sweet than you’d expect, this tangy and fruity concoction tastes more like grapefruit soda than anything wine-related. In fact, the hints of peach and brisk orange would likely pair nicely with tequila as part of a Paloma-esque cocktail. That said, it drinks plenty well — again, soda-like — on its own. B

Barefoot Refresh Rose Spritzer – There’s less to grab onto with this experience. The spritzer has a floral character to it, with mild strawberry overtones. The finish is more medicinal than than Moscato — with a “cheap wine” overtone that lingers a bit too long. Might work OK in a punch, though. C+

each $7 per four-pack of 8.4-oz. cans /