Review: 2014 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

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Quilt is the first cabernet from Copper Cane Wines company, founded by Joseph Wagner (son of Chuck Wagner of Caymus fame; Joe launched and sold the unfathomably successful Meiomi). Given Wagner’s depth of experience with cab, a lot of eyes are on Quilt’s inaugural release to see if lightning can strike yet again. Let’s see!

Dense with currants and some earthiness on the nose, it’s unmistakeable as California cab from the get-go. The body doesn’t diverge from the course, offering loads of jammy berry fruit, vanilla, and woody overtones. And it never really lets up, punching you right in the throat with its powerful currant character, its tannins enveloped in a lightly sweet and incredibly lengthy fadeaway.

All told, it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from the young Wagner, though I’m hoping to see more nuance from the next vintage.

B / $45 / coppercane.com

Review: 2013 Lander-Jenkins Pinot Noir California

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Budget pinot noir is never my (or anyone’s) go-to beverage, but this California bottling from Lander-Jenkins, part of the Rutherford Wine Company, actually does a respectable level of service to a $15 bottle of vino.

Primary tasting notes include classically-pinot cherry and tea leaf, though there’s a bit of brown sugar sweetness, almost molasses-like at times, that tends to linger on the finish. All told, it’s nothing fancy, but it’s a wine that fights above its weight by showing more balance than you might expect — and which will probably blend in well enough on your holiday table.

B / $15 / rutherfordwine.com

Review: 2013 Saved Red Wine

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A blend of “Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Zinfandel, and small amounts of other red varietals,” this is a California bottling from parts otherwise unknown. The wine is initially dialed back, but some air and time in glass reveals a denser-than-expected fruit core that showcases blackberries, blueberries, and currants. There’s a lacing of vanilla and a touch of balsamic in the mix, with a finish that echoes cake frosting (but in a good way), plus a hint of chocolate-dusted, bittersweet amaro.

The wine is also being released in conjunction with a new corkscrew designed by Saved creator Scott Campbell, who is a tattoo artist. Some deets:

Available at Shinola stores and online in time for the holidays, the solid brass corkscrew marries form and function to bring a little ceremony to the everyday act of opening a bottle of wine. With its intricate design of sigils, reflective of Scott’s tattoo style, this piece makes a perfect gift for those who appreciate design and fine wine equally. Available exclusively for holiday 2016 in Shinola stores and online at shinola.com for $125.

B+ / $16 / savedwines.com

Tasting Report: Wines of the Petaluma Gap, 2016

Draw a line eastward from Bodega Bay to Sonoma, and another one parallel to that about 10 miles to the south. Congratulations, you’ve just outlined, roughly, the Petaluma Gap, a much-discussed region of Sonoma County (plus a bit of Marin County) that is heralded particularly for its colder-climate pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. The “gap” itself is a break in the mountains that surround this region, creating a canyon of sorts through which the cold Pacific breeze can blow, all the way to the San Pablo Bay.

Recently the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance put together a tasting of wines grown exclusively from grapes grown in this small region. You’ll find some familiar names in the tasting report below, along with some you’ve probably never heard of.

Brief thoughts on everything tasted follow.

Tasting Report: Petaluma Gap Wines, 2016 Releases

2013 Agnitio Wines Pinot Noir Sun Chase Vineyard / C+ / rather vegetal, bitter edges
2014 Agnitio Wines Pinot Noir Sun Chase Vineyard / A- / more floral, still dense with dried fruits
2013 Agnitio Wines Chardonnay Sun Chase Vineyard / B / earthy, but quite buttery at times
2014 Black Kite Cellars Chardonnay Gap’s Crown Vineyard / A- / fairly classic, lots of aromatics
2013 Black Kite Cellars Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard / A- / some antiseptic notes on the nose; body is rich and bold, ample cherry
2013 Brooks Note Winery Pinot Noir Marin County / B+ / acidic, quite tart, restrained fruit
2014 Brooks Note Winery Pinot Noir Marin County / A- / also very tart, but nicely focused with overtones of tea leaf amidst bolder fruit
2012 Clouds Rest Vineyards Allure Chardonnay / A- / strong fruit notes fade into a butter and spice character
2011 Clouds Rest Vineyards Femme Fatale Pinot Noir / A- / aromatic, spicy, bold cherry notes
2008 Clouds Rest Vineyards Pinot Noir (Reserve) / A- / very big, heavy spice, cloves and cinnamon, plus dried fruits; long finish
2013 Fogline Vineyards Pinot Noir Fogline Neighbors / A- / fruity, lively with lots of acidity
2013 Fogline Vineyards Pinot Noir Hillside Block / A- / similar, tending more toward a baking spice note
2013 Keller Estate Pinot Noir La Cruz Vineyard / B+ / a bit dusty, but solid berry underpinnings
2013 Keller Estate Rotie / B / 93% syrah; very aromatic, licorice notes on a big big body
2012 Kendric Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve / B / lots of aromatics, dense finish is lackluster
2012 La Rochelle Wines Pinot Noir El Coro Vineyard / B / lots of aromatics, almost ethereal in body; some earthy overtones mar the finish
2013 La Rochelle Wines Pinot Meunier Parliament Hills Vineyard / A- / lots of acidity, plus some cocoa character, curious
2013 Loxton Syrah Griffin’s Lair Vineyard / B+ / spicy, bold raisin bread note
2014 Loxton Pinot Noir Griffin’s Lair Vineyard / A- / chewy and balanced
2013 Pax Syrah Griffin’s Lair Vineyard / B+ / big and mouth-filling with coffee and chocolate notes, still tannic; try in 3-4 years
2014 Pfendler Vineyards Pinot Noir / A- / bold and rich in style; dark fruit, chocolate notes
2013 Ramey Wine Cellars Syrah Rodgers Creek Vineyard / B / meaty, a classic Rhone syrah style; very bold, lasting finish
2012 Trombetta Family Wines Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard / A- / very fruit forward, quite acidic with a flick of licorice and dark chocolate
2013 Trombetta Family Wines Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard / A- / quite similar; a bit more punch
2014 Trombetta Family Wines Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard / A- / slightly bigger herbal character
2014 WALT Wines Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard / C+ / licorice nose; somewhat flabby body; very bitter finish
2014 Waxwing Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Spring Hill Vineyard / B- / modest, simple but quite bitter edges
2013 Waxwing Wine Cellars Pinot Noir Spring Hill Vineyard / C+ / very very dry; dusty to an extreme

Review: Morocco’s Ouled Thaleb 2013 Signature and 2012 Aït Souala

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Quick, what’s the wine hot spot of the Arab world? Morocco, it turns out, where Domaine Ouled Thaleb is the country’s oldest working winery. Ouled Thaleb has been pushing into the States of late, and recently the company began exporting two new blends to our shores. Curious how Moroccan wine — here represented by a pair of blends that mix together both oddball varietals and better-known international grapes — fares? Read on.

2013 Ouled Thaleb Signature – 50% marselan, 35% petit verdot, 15% carmenere. (Marselan is a cross of cabernet sauvignon and grenache.) Rustic but well-rounded, this blend offers a core of dark fruits alongside a significant earthiness, loading up notes of leather and tar, with a finish that echoes violets and some balsamic notes. A mixed bag, but for the most part it’s approachable and engaging. B / $28

2012 Ouled Thaleb Aït Souala – 50% arinarnoa, 25% tannat, 25% malbec. This is a much more approachable wine (arinarnoa is a cross of merlot and petit verdot), starting with heady, aromatic aromas of cloves, baking spice, and ginger — but cut with some tarry character — that then moves into a lush, fruit-forward body. Raisins, plum, and raspberries all mingle with notes of cinnamon, vanilla, and a gentle touch of leather. The finish is very lightly sweet, but that sweetness integrates well with all the fruit and spice that comes before. A very versatile wine, I could drink this with just about anything. A- / $24

nomadicdistribution.com

Review: Kuvee Wine Preservation System

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How to deal with the conundrum of leftover wine has been an issue that has dogged us for ages, and while numerous solutions work well, none is perfect.

Kuvee thinks it has the answer with this: A high-tech wine dispenser that lets you pour one glass at a time while ensuring the wines inside last for weeks.

The solution is quite a cutting-edge one. Kuvee is a sleeve that goes on top of a custom (this is key) bottle of wine. On the front of the sleeve is a web-connected color touchscreen that provides copious information about the wine, including a picture of the label, a winemaker bio, tasting notes, and more. The screen shows you when the bottle was opened and even keeps track of how much is left. A base station recharges the Kuvee every time you set it down, much like an electric toothbrush. Want more wine? You can actually buy it directly from the Kuvee, which is perhaps the first time I’ve had a bottle of wine offer to sell me another one.

I tried Kuvee with a white and a red, pouring out about half, then waiting two full weeks to see how well the wines fared. Both sailed through without an issue, tasting as fresh on day 14 as they did on day one. If you like to have multiple bottles in rotation and don’t like existing preservation methods, Kuvee is a winning solution.

The problem however is that Kuvee only works with those custom bottles (plastic canisters with a collapsing bladder inside), and there are only a couple dozen wines available. Most of those are relatively low-end. Exceptions like Chamisal, Round Pond, and Clos Pegase exist, but these aren’t the norm. I had never heard of the red I was sent, a $15 wine called Cartlidge & Browne, and it wasn’t terribly drinkable no matter what day I tried it on.

It’s nice that Kuvee requires no argon or other consumables, but the requirement of buying custom bottles will be a deal-breaker for most consumers. Unless Kuvee manages to expand to several hundred wineries at a minimum, it’ll be best reserved for restaurants with limited wine-by-the-glass programs where customers don’t get through a whole bottle every night.

$199 (with four wines) / kuvee.com

Three 2013 Red Wines from Portugal: Passa, Assobio, and Titular

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Best known for dense Ports and crisp whites, Portugal is also home to a bustling red table wine production. Today we sample three reds from Portugal, including selections from both the Douro and the Dao regions.

2013 Quinto do Passadouro Passa Douro Red Wine – A traditional blend of touriga franca, tinta roriz, and touriga nacional. Notes of dark cherry and licorice find a curious companion in some sweet almond character, with the wine lightening up on the palate as it evolves to show off strawberry, some cloves, and a bit of vanilla. Short on the finish, but lively and pleasant. B+ / $15

2013 Esporao Assobio Douro – Another blend of touriga franca (40%), tinta roriz (40%), and touriga nacional (20%). Fresh blueberry notes fade into a licorice and clove character, adding body to an otherwise quite fruity attack. It’s a relatively straightforward wine, all told, but a versatile one that works in a variety of dining scenarios. B+ / $15

2013 Caminhos Cruzdos Titular: Dao Red – This blend from the Dao region comprises touriga nacional (45%), tinta roriz (15%), jaen (10%), and alfrocheiro (30%). Youthful, heavy on blackberries and brambly notes, with heavy tobacco, leather, and licorice notes bursting forth on the rustic finish. B- / $9

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