Saturday, December 15, 2018

Wine Reviews: Sparkling Wines for the Holidays

So, the holiday season is in full swing, and, like every year, the bubbles abound. 

I drink Champagne (and, to a lesser extent, Champagne-method bubbles from other regions) year-round, but the average occurrence of bubbly-popping definitely spikes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. 

In this report, Champagne gets its due, with some wines from the houses of Bruno Paillard and Laurent Perrier. Gloria Ferrer, the Sonoma bubbly powerhouse, offers up three budget-friendly offerings, and a Santa Barbara sparkler from Lucas & Lewellen impresses. Lastly, a few sparklers from Alsace deliver — Crémant d’Alsace being one of my favorite sources of inexpensive but delicious sparkling wines. 

All of the wines in this report were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. Happy holidays, and I hope the last few days of your 2018 include some lovely Champagne-method wines. 


N.V. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $22
Light copper color. Nose shows lemons, grapefruit, sea salt, white flowers, some musk notes. Crisp and bright on the palate with fresh acidity, fine bubbles, and very light biscuit notes. Green apples, apricots, wild strawberries, backed up with chalk dust and floral perfume notes. Fresh, bright, these are fun, accessible bubbles for the price. Mostly Pinot Noir with about 14% Chardonnay. (87 points) 


N.V. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs - California, Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $22
Pale copper color. Smells fresh and bright with red apples, raspberries, rose hips and some salted biscuits. Fresh and crisp with a salty, zippy, light appeal. Raspberries, red apple and lemon mix with white flowers, white pepper and sea salt notes. Some sugar adds to the texture and flavor, but it stays fresh and fun for the price. Includes a bit of Chardonnay, this spends 18 months on the lees. (87 points) 


N.V. Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs - California, Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $22
Light yellow color. Aromas are tart and tangy with limes and green apples, light biscuits, sea salt, with some nettle and honeysuckle. Light and zesty on the palate with fine bubbles, this is fun and fresh with lines and green apples. Saline, chalk, lots of white flowers. Fresh and fun but significant complexity, this is a solid bubbly for holiday parties for sure. Aged two years on the lees, 100% Chardonnay. (88 points) 


2016 Lucas & Lewellen Brut - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $36
Deep yellow color. Nose shows a bunch of honey and graham cracker on top of yellow apples, apricots, and floral perfume. Ooh, this is nice on the palate, some rich texture with honeyed, baked apple elements nice hint of sweetness to the fruit but a brisk appeal. Flowers, graham crackers, honey, chalk, sea salt and toasted bread. A lot of flavor, depth and appeal here. 55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay. (90 points) 


N.V. Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Brut Réserve - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
SRP: $19
Deep yellow color. On the nose, lots of chalk, sea salt, crushed shells, with lemons, green apples, ginger and baguette notes. Super bright and zesty but some plumpness as well. Crunchy green apples, lemons, limes, doused in chalk, limestone and mountain stream. Ginger, musk, mineral, toasted baguette notes, all of this combines in a bracing but richly textured Crémant that is surprisingly good for the money. 80% Pinot Blanc and 20% Pinot Auxerrois. (89 points) 


N.V. Keuntz-Bas Crémant d'Alsace Brut Tradition - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
SRP: $18
Deep yellow color. The aromas show lots of honey, salted almond, biscuits, spiced white tea, with apricot and yellow apples. Crisp acidity frames the wine nicely but there’s a nice honeyed, biscuity richness as well. Bruised apple and apricot topped in honeyed tea, ginger, sea salt, minerals. Rich but zesty, lovely balance and complexity here, especially when you consider the price point. A blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc aged 18 months on the lees. (89 points) 


N.V. Laurent-Perrier Champagne Brut Nature “Ultra Brut” - France, Champagne
SRP: $80
Medium yellow color. Lots of yellow apples, apricots, lemon curd, with rich honey, toasted biscuits and salted butter, but also bright chalk and sea salt notes. Precise and brisk on the palate with focused acidity but plenty of texture and depth. Apricots, yellow apples, lemons, laced with sea salt, crushed shells, with rich, deep notes of honey, ginger snap, toasted biscuits. The focus, precision and minerality is really impressive, this wine is lip-smackingly tasty with significant complexity. 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, no dosage, aged six years on the lees. (91 points) 


N.V. Laurent-Perrier Champagne Harmony Demi-Sec - France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Medium yellow color. Nose shows rich honey, apricot marmalade, candied ginger and apple peel, some sea salt biscuit notes. Plump and sweet on the palate but shows vibrancy throughout, sugar cane and candied apple notes mix with chalk, dried flowers and limestone. This is rich and sweet but shows liveliness as well, and would pair nicely with pastries or after-dinner cheeses. 45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier, 45 g/l dosage. (89 points) 


N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Brut Premiere Cuvée - France, Champagne
SRP: $50
Rich yellow color. Nice mix of chalk, limestone, flowers, with lemons, apricots, and notes of biscuits and toasted almond. Brisk and vibrant on the palate with clean, crisp acidity and lots of minerals and chalk and crushed shells. Flavors of lemons, orange, apricot mix with biscuits, flowers, ginger, and minerals. Lovely, as usual, from Bruno Paillard. From 32 different villages, vinified separately, this wine consists of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Meunier, with at least 25% reserve wine. Disgorged Sept. 2017. (90 points) 


N.V. Bruno Paillard Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut - France, Champagne
SRP: $70
Deep yellow color. Brisk nose of sea salt, crushed chalk, white flowers and fresh biscuits on top of lemon curd, green apple, apricot. Pretty, clean and crisp on the palate with salty minerals and high acidity, but some nice depth and texture throughout. Lemon, crunchy apricot and green apples mixed with honey, chalk, mountain streams and minerals. Dry, crunchy, vibrant. Aged four years on the lees, with a 5 g/l dosage. Disgorged October 2016. (91 points)


This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wine Reviews: New Releases from California

We’re headed back to California this week for another batch of new releases.

I’ve reviewed the wines of Jed Steele several times in the past, and they continue to offer tons of value for the money. Although the winery sources grapes from other regions, all of the wines in this report hail from Lake County. With more than 50 vintages under his belt, these are tried and true California wines that deliver gobs of goodness, and most of them cost $20 or less.

I also reviewed two wines from Windvane, the new Ramey Claret, and the new release of Cardinale, the latter of which (while expensive), is something to behold.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Steele Wines Riesling Shooting Star - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $14
Pale straw color. Aromas of lime, peaches and lychee, mixed in with new tennis ball and clover honey. Crisp and punchy, the sugar (about 20 grams/liter) is woven in well. Lemons, peaches, guava and lychee, lot of juicy, tropical goodness mixed with a lot of orange blossoms, honey and dandelion. Fun Riesling at a good price. 12.1% alcohol. (86 points)

2017 Steele Wines Viognier - California, North Coast, Lake County
$20

Light yellow color. Lovely aromas of peaches, kiwi, lemon curd, with whipped honey, orange blossoms, yellow flowers. Full and plump on the palate, nice waxy texture but — crisp acidity in my Viognier? Love it. Peaches, lemon curd, oranges, kiwi, fun and fruity but balanced and quite complex, with stony minerals, honey, white and yellow flowers. Excellent value, this is even better than I remember the 2016. Stainless steel fermented and aged four months in old oak. (90 points)

2016 Steele Wines Merlot Shooting Star - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $15
Light purple. Aromas of plums, black cherries, along with some violets, pepper and leather, which I find really attractive. The balance on the palate is quite nice, a good mix of dusty-light tannins and really fresh acidity. Black cherries, tangy currants, summer plums, the fruit is mixed with elements of cocoa, leather, pepper. Fresh and juicy but nice complexity, too. Aged eight months in French and American oak. (87 points)

2016 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Nose shows pure, deep plums and black cherries on the nose, along with anise, pepper, sage and sweet cocoa. Full but fresh, medium-strength tannins meets moderate acidity, balanced off of black cherries and dark plums, rich but tangy fruit. Notes of loamy earth, black pepper, anise, with coffee and wood notes woven in well. Yummy now, this could actually age for a few years, too. Aged 14 months in 30% new French and American oak. (88 points)

2016 Steele Wines Cabernet Franc Writer's Block - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $17
Deep ruby, light purple. Smells of sweet plums and red and black cherries, with cola, clove and black pepper, some violets and earth. Fleshy and velvety but stays fresh, a nice mix of juicy, tangy, red and black cherries and plums, backed up by notes of cedar, cola, coffee, and some black pepper and earth. Fun, pleasant, shows some complexity at the price point. (87 points)

2016 Steele Wines Syrah Stymie Founder’s Reserve - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $38
Deep purple color. Smells like tart black currants and dark plums, along with smoky, earthy, leathery notes that are quite complex, along with some violets and clove. Full-bodied, surprising acidity on the palate, integrated but structured tannins, and tangy plums and black cherries — the balance is quite nice. Lots of violets, clove, pepper and leather notes, some cocoa and wood as well, with an earthy, tangy finish. Nice now, but you could easily forget about this in the cellar for three or four years. Aged 22 months in 20% new French and American oak. (90 points)

2016 Windvane Chardonnay - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $40
Light yellow color. Nose boasts yellow apples, lemon curd, apricot, along with toasted almond, whipped butter and sea salt. Full and rich, a bold and classic style but fresh acidity keeps it lively. Lemon curd, bruised apple, mixed with nougat, honey butter, spiced white tea, sea salt and ginger. Bold but lovely depth and balance. About a third of the wine goes through maloactic fermentation, and the wine is aged nine months in ¼ new French oak. (90 points)

2015 Windvane Pinot Noir - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $45
Dark ruby color. Pretty, warm, inviting nose with raspberries, black cherries, birch beer, rose petals. Full-bodied but crisp and bright with fleshy tannins and flavors of cherries, raspberry jam, dark plums. Notes of cola, rhubarb, mint and cedar, with some nice floral, earthy depth. Lovely vibrancy here, and I’d love to see this in three to four years. Aged nine months in 46% new French oak. (90 points)

2016 Ramey Claret - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $42
Deep ruby color. I love the nose, a mix of juicy, bright fruit (cherries, cranberries, currant) along with anise, tilled soil and pine. Full-bodied but velvety, this wine is smooth and approachable but balanced with vibrant acidity. Nice depth to the red and black cherries, spiced cranberry sauce flavors, along with sweet spice, lots of floral and earthy tones. Deep but lots of brightness and spicy elements. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with 26% Merlot, 12% Malbec, 8% Syrah and 20% Petit Verdot aged 12 months in 13% new French and American oak. (90 points)

2015 Cardinale - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $275
Bright purple color. Needs time to open up, but has lovely aromas: showing blackberries, dark currants, plums, concentrated but lovely fruit, with complex notes of sweet pipe tobacco, mint, eucalyptus, black tea, vanilla. Full-bodied, structured but so velvety and suave, medium acidity keeping it vibrant. Blackberry, cassis, plum, mixed with a complex host of roasted chestnut, espresso, tobacco, mint, charcoal, earth and mineral. Complex, long-lasting, this could be buried and forgotten for a long time but gorgeous and polished young. A blend of fruit from 12 different vineyards across Napa Valley, with a focus on Mountain fruit, this includes 10% Howell Mountain Merlot. This is aged 20 months in 84% new French oak. (96 points)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Always a Good Time for Albariño from Rias Baixas

Albarino grapes being harvested in Rias Baixas. Credit: Rias Baixas Wines.
I love Albariño, and there’s no better place to find the good ones than the Rias Baixas region of Galicia, Spain. 

This winegrowing region, located across the Miño River from Portugal, produces 99% white wine, and Albariño makes up about 96% of all grape varieties planted there. So, it’s safe to say, producers here know what they’re doing with the grape. 

Rias Baixas wines get lots of cooling, coastal influences from the Atlantic Ocean, and the region is also known for its series of jagged inlets, like shallow fjords, called rias. (The region’s name means “lower rias.”) The region is divided into five subzones (Val do Salnés, Ribeira do Ulla, Condado de Tea, O Rosal, and Soutomaior) typified by their topography and proximity to the ocean or rivers. The soils here boast lots of granite and schist, and the rivers add in alluvial elements. 

All of this results in wines that are bright, vibrant, floral, salty, crisp and full of minerals. Plenty of fruit for sure, but I love the complexity of non-fruit elements in Albariño, and its lively, food-friendly appeal. It’s cold and windy on the East Coast as I write this, but crisp white wines are always welcome on my table, regardless of season. 

I’ve
covered this region before, but I recently tasted a few Albariño wines from Rias Baixas, and found a lot of quality for the price points. I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them single-blind (except for the sole sparkling one). 


2017 Santiago Ruiz Albariño - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas, O Rosal
SRP: $20

Medium yellow color. So floral on the nose, with all kinds of blossoms and baby’s breath, along with peaches, lemon curd, petrichor and sea salt. Crisp and fresh on the palate with zesty acidity and a clean, mineral-driven appeal. Lemons, peaches, nectarine, laced with sea salt, white tea, honeysuckle and minerals. Juicy, fleshy, yet so nervy and crisp, this is just lovely. (90 points)

2017 Marqués de Frías Albariño - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $13
Rich yellow color. Bright and floral with magnolia and lemongrass, lots of kiwi and peaches and honey, sea salt. Juicy white peaches, kiwis and limes, a plump texture but brisk acidity. A floral, honeyed, salty complexity here that is really attractive, a lot of depth and some exciting mineral and seashell notes. Complex, delicious, and very, very good for the price. (89 points) 


2016 Pazo Pondal Albariño - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $20
Bold yellow color. Perfumed with white peaches, lemons, lots of nettle, cut flower stems, crusty sea salt. Crisp acidity on the palate but lots of juicy appeal and punchy fruit (orange, white peach, lemon curd). Notes of ocean spray, sea salt and crushed shells mix nicely with white and yellow flowers. Impressive, depth, precision, this is a delicious Albarino. (90 points) 

2017 Bodegas Altos de Torona Albariño Sobre Lías - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas, O Rosal 
SRP: $20
Medium yellow color. Bursting aromas of limes, lemons, green and yellow apples, with lots of white flowers, sea salt, oyster shell, some green onion, too. A plump texture balances out with the bright acidity, along with lemons and limes, green apples, white peach, fruity but really fresh. Complex notes of honeysuckle, nettle, sea salt, crushed chalk. Love the balance here between zesty and juicy elements. (89 points) 


2016 Bodegas As Laxas Sparkling Albariño Sensum - Spain, Galicia, Rías Baixas
SRP: $30
Medium yellow color with fine bubbles. So bright on the nose, like a bouquet of honeysuckle, baby’s breath, dandelion and lilies, along with white peaches and lemons. Crisp acidity on the palate, with a nervy appeal and light, focused bubbles (not a lot of yeasty depth). This is a zesty, light, brisk sparkler with lemons and white peaches mixed in with a generous helping of flowers, minerals and chalk. Lots of fun, and so widely food-friendly. (88 points) 
 


This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Friday, November 30, 2018

La Conseillante: 16 Vintages of Exceptional Pomerol

Vineyards in Pomerol's Chateau La Conseillante. Credit: La Conseillante 
If you know anything about Bordeaux, you know Petrus and Cheval Blanc. The names of these iconic Pomerol chateaux may conjure up memories of epic tastings (if you're wealthy or lucky enough to have sat at the same table with a bottle). For most people, however, these wines are firmly in the "absurdly expensive wines I'll probably die without tasting" category.

Sandwiched between these world-renowned Right Bank properties is the small Pomerol estate La Conseillante. These are not "inexpensive" wines in the clearest sense of the word. But, given the incredibly high prices of their neighbors, La Conseillante is impressive. Some of the lesser-heralded vintages can be found for $50, while the exceptional vintages can be found for $175-$200. And, as a recent 16-vintage vertical tasting demonstrated, the quality is really exceptional.

La Conseillante dates back to 1871, when the Nicolas family bought the estate. It's still controlled by the same family, now in the fifth generation. Bertrand Nicolas and Jean-Valmy Nicolas are co-managing directors, and, since 2015, Marielle Cazaux has served as the estate manager. Comprising about 30 acres divided into 18 plots, the estate is planted to about 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The soils here are rich in clay, where Merlot thrives, while Cabernet Franc is planted in the soils with more gravel.

I had never tasted a wine from La Conseillante before, so I jumped at the chance to attend a massive, 16-vintage vertical tasting. Organized by Bordeaux whiz
Panos Kakaviatos, the tasting was held at the French embassy, and estate manager Marielle Cazeaux was there to present the wines. This was quite the introduction to this estate, to say the least!

Across the board, the wines were beautiful. Some vintages (2005, 2015) were mind-bogglingly good and seem to have the stuffing for decades of glorious evolution. As the older vintages show, these wines can age wonderfully. Out of the entire lineup, I only found one wine (2008) that didn't pop out and wow me completely. Most of these wines would benefit from more years in the cellar or a serious amount of time in the decanter. But even the very young-tasting wines showed gorgeous balance, depth and flavor.

My notes on the 16 vintages of La Conseillante are below...





1990 Château La Conseillante
With all the really young wines, it was nice to taste this vintage to see how it has aged - wonderfully, is the answer. Love the nose: mulled fruit mixed with musk, leather, anise, black tea. Silky, fresh, tangy on the palate, dusty tannins. Crunchy red cherries mixed with seriously detailed elements of black tea, earth, mineral, fallen leaves, pepper, old leather couch, soy, herbs. Lovely, refined, so pretty. (96 points)

1998 Château La Conseillante
Loved this vintage and where it is in its evolution. Tart cherries, black currants on the nose, with violets, anise, cedar, tobacco. Silky, tangy, fresh and vibrant on the palate but still a solid core of tannins. Tangy currants and plums mix nicely with a host of complex spice, soy, pepper, leather, black tea and dark chocolate notes. Still time ahead, but it's balanced and smooth at the moment. (95 points)

1999 Château La Conseillante
Nose shows tangy dark currants, along with violets, leather and soy elements. Dusty tannins, bright acidity, this is a refined vintage with currant and plum compote. Notes of violets, spiced tea, leather, soy. Vibrant, approachable, crisp, fresh, with an herbal, spicy finish. Drinking nicely now. (93 points)


2000 Château La Conseillante
Very exciting stuff. Lovely nose of plums mixed with earth, leather, tobacco, pine forest and coffee grounds. Suave and rich, structured with a solid tannic backbone, fresh acidity, the balance is lovely. Cherries, currants and plum topped in beef drippings, black tea, pepper, tobacco and mineral notes. Balanced, lovely depth, showing wonderfully now but plenty of life and evolution ahead. (95 points)


2001 Château La Conseillante
Lovely crushed currants on the nose, with menthol, sage, leaves, still boasting fruit but those complex secondary elements are starting to pop quite a bit. Structured well still, with a backbone of fine tannins and fresh acidity. Concentrated plums and currants still, with earth, leaves, tobacco, mint. Complex, vibrant, showing well right now but no rush. (94 points)


2003 Château La Conseillante
So dark on the nose. Plums and deep, dark currants with violets. Rich, chewy, deep on the palate with concentrated fruit. The notes of earth, cedar and mint are a bit muted. So much fruit, but it's not raisined or sweet. However, this vintage was a stylistic outlier for sure. Maybe another five or ten years will coax this wine out? Delicious, still, no doubt. (92 points)

2004 Château La Conseillante
Aromas are deep and concentrated, this seems young, but showing some violets, earth and smoky subtleties. Built well on the palate, dusty but fresh. Dark currants and plums mix nicely with elements of pepper, earth, spiced tea, soy. Still time ahead, but approachable, this is a spicy, earthy vintage. (93 points)


2005 Château La Conseillante
Well, this was my wine of the night. What a total beauty. I kept a glass off to the side to revisit at the end of the night, and it was glorious from the start, but mindblowing with time and air. So much crunchy but rich fruit on the nose, laced with inviting violets, earth, cedar, mint, so much going on here. Gorgeous concentration on the palate, the balance is beautiful between tannins and acidity. Deep, profound fruit (plums, currants, black cherries), and complex elements of cedar, violets, mineral, loamy earth, smashed rocks, dried leaves. Pure, lively, elegant. This has so much time ahead but I was really impressed with how expressive it is already. (98 points)


2006 Château La Conseillante
This showed gorgeous, deep fruit on the nose, along with cedar, leather and cigar shop. Plush, chewy, deep, tannic on the palate, but shows lovely velvety feel, too. Plums, currants, plush fruit, a bit primal still but the fruit is absolutely delicious. notes of cedar and earth. This is really powerful and delicious, but needs a bunch of years I think. (94 points)

2007 Château La Conseillante
Wow, this was shockingly good, far more so than I expected. Gorgeous depth of fruit on the nose, lots of complex non-fruit aromas: cigar box, a bit of everything from the spice rack, mint, cedar. Pure and plush on the palate with vibrant acidity and smooth but structured tannins, a really silky feel. Currants, plums, velvety fruit mixed with charcoal smoke, mint, menthol, herbs, anise. Drinking very well right now. (94 points)

2008 Château La Conseillante
A good wine, it was just an outlier in a lineup of excellent ones. The director had tasted all wines before and deemed them correct, and while this was not flawed in any way, it was just muted and less expressive, by far, than the other vintages. Spicy, dark, peppery, earthy nose. Closed on the palate, shut down, the dusty tannins show themselves strongly, while the other elements hide underneath. Maybe another ten years will bring this one together. (88 points)


2009 Château La Conseillante
Stunningly beautiful wine. So deep and dark on the nose (concentrated plums and black cherries) with notes of incense sticks, mesquite, anise, fallen leaves. Plush yet rich, dense but expressive at the same time, the balance is on point, and while this is young and deserving of much more time, I loved how it showed. Notes of coffee, anise, dark chocolate - a lot more to come out for many years. (96 points)


2010 Château La Conseillante -
This was less expressive than the 2009, but, at the same time, just stunning. Darker and needs more coaxing aromatically, but there is a lot of pretty fruit and earthy, floral goodness deep in there. Tannic and young on the palate, with concentrated but beautiful red and black cherries and currants. Deep notes of earth, mineral, leaves, cedar, dark chocolate. So young (I'd bury this for 15 years), but so, so good. (96 points)


2012 Château La Conseillante
Deep aromatics of concentrated plums, currants, with some violets and herb tones showing from underneath. Rich, young, built like a truck but freshness is there, too. Plums galore, so juicy and rich, with some earthy, spicy, coffee elements. This needs 5-10 years to show its best, but very nice stuff. (93 points)


2014 Château La Conseillante
Deep, dense fruit on the nose (plums, plums, plums), with notes of smoke, earth and graphite. Tight and young on the palate but fresh acidity, too. Deep fruit mixes with saucy, savory, earthy elements. This needs at least five years, I'd wager, but showing a lot of promise. (93 points)


2015 Château La Conseillante
Wowee, this is great but will only get better. Rich but suave fruit on the nose, along with violets, earth, coffee, graphite. Pure, vibrant, balanced even at this young age, structured tannins and lively acidity are framed so nicely. Core of pretty red and black cherries and plums, along with mineral, graphite, charcoal, scorched earth, anise. Wow, this is beautiful, but I almost felt guilty tasting it so young. Almost. (96 points)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

New Releases from Australia

When I first started getting into wine, I fell hard for Australian stuff. Inexpensive, fun, reliable, yummy, it allowed me to explore different regions and grapes without a lot of effort or money. While my wine purchases have moved away from Australia over the years, I never outgrew my love for Australian wine.

And that’s thanks to producers like Wakefield, and many others, make wines that are much more than just fruit and alcohol. I’ve reviewed Wakefield wines before (check them out
here and here), and this crop of new releases reinforces my respect for this producer.

The Taylor family kicked off their winery in 1969, after purchasing a 430-acre vineyard near the Wakefield River in the Clare Valley region. These wines are known as Taylor’s in Australia but, due to trademark restrictions, they’re labeled as Wakefield in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Clare Valley wines all come from the Taylor family estate, where vineyards at more than 1,100 feet above sea level vineyards get plenty of sun but receive the benefit if large diurnal temperature swings. The St. Andrews wines come from the estate fruit grown in their terra rossa soil, while the Jaraman wines are blended with fruit from other sites. For this report I also tasted two vintages apiece of Wakefield’s flagship Cabernet, the Visionary, and Shiraz, the Pioneer. They’re expensive, but so, so good.

I’ve also included four other Australian wines, from Jansz, Tyrell’s, Torbreck and Chambers.

All of these wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.


2017 Wakefield Chardonnay - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $17
Vibrant medium yellow color. Aromas of lemon curd, yellow apples and key lime pie, with sea spray, limestone and toasted nut notes. Plush but crisp acidity, deep and honeyed texture, with plenty of yellow apples, limes. Notes of salty minerals, ginger, cream and toasted bread, this is rich and flavorful but precise, with impressive depth and minerality. (88 points)


2016 Wakefield Chardonnay St Andrews - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $40
Medium yellow color. Nose shows lemon curd, a burst of limes and white peaches, along with saline, white flowers, chalk, and subtle almond and honey butter. On the palate, this is pristine and vibrant, medium-full-bodied with crisp acidity. I love the lemons, limes and white peaches, matched with hay, saline, dandelion, along with nougat and honey. A very pretty, vibrant, compelling Clare Valley Chardonnay. Aged 10 months in 80% new French oak. (91 points)


2016 Wakefield Chardonnay Jaraman Clare Valley/Adelaide Hills - Australia, South Australia
SRP: $25
Deep yellow color. Smells of lemon curd and orange marmalade, along with notes of honey, salted almond and freshly-baked biscuits. Plump texture but moderating acidity, along with plenty of apricot, bruised pear and apples. Notes of cinnamon, almond, sea salt and ginger snap add complexity. Richly flavorful but vibrant, too. This spends eight months in 60% new French oak. (88 points)


2017 Wakefield Riesling - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $17
Light yellow color. Lovely notes of peaches, limes, apricot, along with complex floral, honey and chalky notes. Crisp, dry and so zesty on the palate on a light/medium-bodied frame. Pleasantly plump peach meets zesty limes and green apples, and I get notes of crunchy sea salt, honeysuckle, floral perfume. Juicy and fruity but brisk and fresh, too. (87 points) 


2017 Wakefield Merlot - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $17
Light purple color. Bright but juicy on the nose with sweet raspberries, red and black cherries, along with some violet petals, cola and coffee. Full but smooth with soft tannins and medium acidity. Juicy black cherries, tangy plums, raspberries, the fruit is juicy but fresh and mixed in with some coffee, violets and coffee. Smooth, easy-drinking, accessible, but well-made and vibrant. Aged in a mix of French and American oak, 10% new. (87 points)


2017 Wakefield Shiraz - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $17
Medium purple color. Aromas show sweet plums, blackberries and blueberries, with some eucalyptus, mint and violets. Full-bodied, smooth tannins, surprisingly fresh acidity. Crisp and juicy with blackberries, blueberries and black cherries, which fit well with the espresso, mint, dark chocolate, black pepper and vanilla tones. Delicious but vibrant, this has quite a bit of complexity at this price point. Aged 12 months in American oak. (88 points)


2013 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon The Visionary - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $140
Dark purple color. Deep, wafting aromas of blackberries, boysenberry and blueberry, rich but crunchy, with mint, anise, wet earth, cedar forest, some vanilla and warm cocoa. Full-bodied with serious grip but the tannins show some velvetiness, too, and the acidity is great and the mouthfeel is lovely. Tart black cherries, black currants, plum skins, along with cocoa, anise, coffee, and complex tobacco, graphite, earth, forest floor. Beautiful, a fresher feel than the 2014, expressive in youth, although this can also age for quite some time. Aged 20 months in French oak. (93 points)



2014 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon The Visionary - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $140
Rich purple color. Nose boasts tangy, concentrated currants, black cherries, blueberries, along with complex floral and earth tones, lots of clove and coffee and cinnamon sticks. Full and rich on the palate, but lively as well, with fine-grained tannins, moderating acidity, and plenty of tart black cherries, cassis, dark plums. Complex elements of violets, clove, bay leaf, earth, sweet vanilla and coffee. Serious time ahead for this one. Seems more structured and could use more cellar time than the 2013. Aged 20 months in French oak. (93 points)


2013 Wakefield Shiraz The Pioneer - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $140
Deep purple color. Aromatically, I get waves of deep, dark fruit (blackberries, blueberries, black cherries) and complex bursts of eucalyptus, black pepper, espresso, violets, anise. Big and full on the palate, built well with tannins but the edges are fine and the acidity here is really inviting and refreshing. Suave blackberry, blueberry, black currant, mixed with coffee, anise, dark chocolate, eucalyptus, with an earthy, peppery finish. Long time ahead but beautiful young. Aged 20 months in French oak. (93 points)


2014 Wakefield Shiraz The Pioneer - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley SRP: $140
Deep purple color. Gorgeous fruit, blackberries and blueberries, juicy and ripe, with espresso, pepper, anise and earth, but I get deep floral complexity here compared to the 2013. Plump, rich, yet velvety, acidity provides some nice balance to the bold blackberry and blueberry fruit. Complex elements of violets, clove, earth, anise, black tea, dark chocolate, and there are lots of savory, earthy tones as well. Velvety but vibrant, this has many years of lovely evolution ahead. Aged 20 months in French oak. (93 points)


N.V. Jansz Wine Company Premium Rosé Brut - Australia, Tasmania
SRP $29
Pale copper color. Super floral on the nose with roses, daisies and honeysuckle, along with plenty of red apple, pomegranate and lemon fruit, some chalky notes thrown in as well. Crisp, so tangy and focused on the palate, but it has the depth to balance it out. Red apples, raspberries, strawberries, crunchy red fruit mixes with musky cologne, white pepper, rose hips, chalk dust, slight biscuits. Crisp but some residual sugar, harmonious, gluggable but complex, too. Champagne method bubbles made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. (89 points)


2017 Tyrrell's Sémillon - Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
SRP: $25
Medium straw color. Bursting aromas of lime, apricot, topped in sea salt, this is also highly floral with magnolia petals, honeysuckle and white ta. Light and brisk on the palate, this is fresh and accessible with a mix of lime, green melon, apricot and white peach. Notes of cut flower stems, honeysuckle and baby’s breath. Fun, summery and fresh, a light-on-its-feet appeal, but some nice complexity and depth. (88 points) 


2017 Torbreck Shiraz Woodcutter's - Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
SRP: $25
Medium purple color. Nose boasts blueberries and saucy black cherries, topped in pepper, barbecue sauce and smoke, some vanilla. Full but smooth on the palate, with chewy tannins and medium-low acidity. Delicious blueberries and blackberries, juicy and saucy, mixed with pepper, black olive brine, espresso, mint and sweet cocoa. Full, forward and smooth, but balanced and well-made stuff to drink over the next few years. All Shiraz, 15% alcohol. (88 points)


N.V. Chambers Rosewood Muscat - Australia, Victoria, North East, Rutherglen
SRP: $16/375ml
Deep apricot, light brown color. Deep and inviting aromas of clover honey, graham cracker, crème brulee, orange marmalade. Rich and sweet on the palate with a velvety, creamy feel, but some medium acidity that keeps it from feeling too heavy. Flavors of apricot jam, orange marmalade, clove, graham cracker. Lovely depth and spice, a reliably delicious Aussie sticky. 17.7% alcohol, 233 grams/liter of residual sugar, this is aged solera style in old oak casks. (89 points)


This post first appears on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Wine Reviews: New Releases from Around the Globe

This week’s report covers wines from all over the globe, including Chile, France, Israel, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

The new vintage of Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor (the 2015), is a real stunner, while the Chilean producer Odfjell offers less expensive but exciting wines.

I cover a few wines from the Abruzzo region of Italy, along with the perennially value-driven wines from M. Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut brand. Yarden offers up a delicious Champagne method bubbly from Israel, while the Spanish region of Navarra (keeping with tradition) comes through with some solid buys.

These wines were all received as samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Odfjell Carignan Orzada - Chile, Maule Valley
SRP $23
Medium purple color. The nose is vibrant but bold with black cherries, red and black currants, and a great mix of black pepper, leather, grilled steak, with some nice floral undertones, too. Full-bodied (15%) with a velvety feel, and the solid tannins align well with medium acidity. Rich but tangy fruit (black cherries, dark plums, saucy black currants), backed up with a mix of leather, roasted herbs, rose petals, anise, charcoal and earth. Loving the depth and complexity here, and I’d like to age this 3-5 years. From 20- to 80-year-old, dry-farmed, Carignan vines. (89 points)

2013 Odfjell Aliara - Chile, Central Valley
SRP: $44
Rich purple color. So spicy on the nose, with a mix of menthol, mint, roasted herbs and pepper on top of black currants and cherries. Full-bodied, nice grip to the tannins but not harsh, this is a smooth and nicely balanced wine with medium acidity. Black cherries and currants are topped in loamy, rocky, earthy notes, as well as black pepper, roasted red pepper and mushroom. This makes me crave steak! Complex, long, this could use a few years of cellar time. A blend of 65% Carignan, 20% Syrah and 15% Malbec from vineyards in Cauquenes, Lontué Valley and Maule Valley. (90 points)

2015 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor - Chile, Maipo Valley, Puente Alto
SRP: $120
Rich purple color. The aromas show rich tobacco, pepper, scorched earth, grilled herbs, on top of tangy black currants, dark plums, cocoa and cedar. Full-bodied on the palate with serious grip on the tannins but vibrant acidity, the balance is impressive for a wine this young. Crunchy plums, black currant, rich but fresh fruit laced with complex earth, pepper, chewing tobacco, mint, charcoal, tar, coffee. Wonderful depth and balance with a long finish full of graphite and minerals. So young, with many years ahead, but classic Don Melchor stuff, an excellent vintage of this wine. 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. (94 points)

2017 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Blanc - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon
SRP: $15
Pale lemon color. Aromas of lemons, pineapple and kiwi, bright yet rich fruit, along with yellow flowers, honey and sea salt. Rich texture, lovely honeyed and waxy notes but fresh acidity and a crisp feel, too. Flavors of lemon, kiwi and pineapple mixed with flower petals, sea salt, honeyed tea. Plush but crisp, this is fun but serious, and would be so good with a diverse array of foods. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Macabeo and Vermentino, this is a perennially awesome value. (88 points)

2017 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Les Vignes de Bila-Haut - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
SRP: $15
Light purple. Nose shows bright raspberries mixed with juicy black cherries, along with rhubarb, black pepper, leather, sweet eucalyptus and rose petals. Fleshy texture on the palate, light and dusty tannins with crisp acidity, lots of red and black cherries, raspberries and plums. Notes of smoke, lavender, charcoal, black pepper and rose petals. Lovely, vibrant, delicious stuff, as usual, seriously delivering for the price. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. (88 points)

2010 Golan Heights Winery Yarden Blanc de Blancs - Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights
SRP: $33
Light gold color. On the nose, this is breezy and floral, with chalk dust, sea salt and slight biscuit notes on top of lemon, lime and green melon. Crisp and bright on the palate with fine bubbles and a zesty appeal. Lime, lemon, green apple, topped with white flowers, crushed chalk, sea salt. Some light biscuit notes, but this is a bright, light (11.5% alcohol) Chardonnay-based sparkling wine that would be great with salads and sushi. (88 points)

2017 Citra Trebbiano d'Abruzzo - Italy, Abruzzi, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo
SRP: $10
Light yellow color. Aromas of lemons, white peach, along with floral perfume and honeysuckle. Fresh and bright on the palate, this is plump and peachy but shows nice acidity as well. Lemon, apples, simple, pleasant and fun with notes of honeysuckle, cucumber slices and sea salt. Good for the price. (85 points)

2017 Citra Pecorino Ferzo - Italy, Abruzzi, Terre di Chieti IGT
SRP: $26
Light yellow color. Aromas boast white peaches, green melons, along with flowers, perfume, so bright and vibrant, too. Crisp acidity on the palate with fleshy texture, almost waxy, and the balance and depth is impressive. Melon, lemon, apricot, along with deep floral and mineral tones, some stony, chalky complexity. A juicy and fun-loving wine, this would work nicely with so many different types of foods, but it has a lot of complexity as well. (89 points) 

2016 Citra Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Ferzo - Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
SRP: $26
Light purple color. Aromas of black cherries, plums, dark and fruity with elements of spiced tea, espresso and grilled herbs. Medium+ bodied with tangy, refreshing acidity and moderate tannins. Dark plums and cherries, deep but crunchy fruit, along with some pepper, loamy earth and espresso. Enough grip and depth to age for a few; this could stand up to some hearty grilled meats as well. (88 points)

2012 Dow Porto Late Bottled Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto
SRP: $24
Rich purple color. Nose of roasted fig, sweet plums, blackberry and black cherries, saucy and jammy, with coffee and clove and anise. Full and sweet but fresh, with accessible tannins, moderating acidity, and flavors of juicy black cherries, roasted figs and plum cake. Notes of clove, vanilla, sweet fig cookies and violets. Accessible and fun, but not simple, this delivers a lot of complexity for the price – great cold weather, holiday party choice in LBV Port category. (89 points)

2016 Castillo de Monjardín Navarra La Cantera - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $12
Deep ruby color. Smells of strawberry and black cherry jam, smoky tobacco, herbs, clove and vanilla. Fresh and bright on the palate with light tannins and juicy raspberries, strawberries and red plums. Flavors of tobacco, mint, cola and vanilla add some complexity. Fresh and fun, accessible but balanced, too. Nice for the price. 85% Garnacha and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Stainless steel-fermented, aged six months in old French oak. (87 points)

2016 Bodegas Nekeas Garnacha El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $14
Light purple color. Smells of raspberries and jammy plums, saucy and smoky, with tobacco and anise notes. Light tannins, full-bodied, yet medium acidity helps it balance out. Black cherries, plums, this is a juicy, ripe and plush wine with a nice mix of violets, tobacco, espresso. Fun, crowd-pleasing, value-driven stuff. All Garnacha aged five months in French oak barrels. (87 points)

2010 Bodegas Ochoa Navarra Reserva - Spain, Navarra
SRP: $33Light purple color. Nose boasts dark plums, currants, blackberries, mixed in with a hefty amount of charcoal, leather, coffee grounds and grilled herbs. Dusty tannins but nice grip, velvety feel but bright acidity, and the balance is nice. Tart black currants and tangy plums, I get a lot of deep earth, graphite, leather, violets and soy. Complexity is impressive, this is ready to drink now or hold for a few years. Tempranillo with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot, aged 18 months in new American and French oak, aged 36 months in bottle before release. (89 points)

<85 points
2017 Citra Montepulciano d'Abruzzo - Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
SRP: $10 
Medium ruby color. Nose shows raspberries, red cherries, rhubarb and white pepper. Medium-bodied on the palate with dusty-light tannins and tart acidity. Cherries and raspberries mix with notes of spiced tea, coffee and earth. Simple, fun, crowd-pleasing, pizza-friendly wine.

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.