Saturday, February 18, 2017

High-Quality Beaujolais from Château du Moulin-a-Vent


I buy, cellar, and drink a lot of Cru Beaujolais. I love the freshness, approachability, food-friendly appeal, brisk flavor profiles. They perplex me with their seemingly contradictory traits: they age beautifully but can be so crazy expressive in their youth. On a weeknight, when I’m cooking dinner (it doesn’t really matter what I’m cooking), popping a bottle of Cru Bojo makes everything better.

I recently tasted through four wines from Château du Moulin-a-Vent. While not inexpensive, these wines delivered exactly what I had hoped for. The estate and brand have undergone seismic changes since 2009, when grocery store chain owner Jean-Jaques Parinet bought the estate. More than 70,000 vines were replanted and the cellar equipment was updated. Parinet, now overseeing 37 hecrates of vineyards, also decided to vinify four different terroirs separately, emphasizing the diversity of expressions within the vineyards.

Two wines hail from 2012, and two from 2011. 2012 was a rough vintage, with yields way down, but the finished wines managed to get a good amount of ripeness, but are dominated by this zesty acidity, lighter frame, more tangy-fruited than deep, richer fruit. But these wines, for palates like mine, are a total blast to drink – easy, fresh, complex, lots of juicy red fruit but some fascinating herbal and savory elements even at a young age.


These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

2012 Château du Moulin-a-Vent Moulin-à-Vent - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent
$39
Vibrant ruby color. Aromas of juicy red cherries and red plums, underlying notes of mushroom, fallen leaves and pepper. Palate shows crisp and brisk acidity on a bed of fine and dusty tannins. Tart but ripe cherries and plums, the fruit is clean and fresh and matched with notes of bay leaf, pepper, fallen leaves and sautéed mushrooms. Finishes clean and fresh. Some further near-term aging perhaps but this is vibrant and lip-smacking right out of the bottle. (88 points) 


2012 Château du Moulin-a-Vent Moulin-à-Vent La Rochelle - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent
$59
Bright ruby color. Vibrant aromas of strawberries, red cherries and tart plums, along with roses, bay leaf, pepper, and dusty earth. Dusty tannic structure with crisp acidity and a bright, clean appeal. Tart red cherries, strawberries, red plums, the fruit is tangy and crunchy and shows complex elements of mushroom, soy, clay soil, dusty earth, black tea. Long and lingering. Delicious stuff, a bit more density than the regular level 2012, this should improve nicely over the next two to five years. (90 points) 


2011 Château du Moulin-a-Vent Moulin-à-Vent Champ de Cour - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent
$58
Medium ruby color. Juicy dark cherries and fresh raspberries with rose petals and pepper on the nose. Fresh acid, dusty but dry tannins, great structure but really fresh, too. Crisp cherries, raspberries, but the fruit has excellent concentration and I get notes of violets, wet earth, graphite, iron. Long, lingering minerals and dark floral tones on the finish. Beautiful but plenty of time to improve in the cellar. (91 points) 


2011 Château du Moulin-a-Vent Moulin-à-Vent Croix des Vérillats - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Moulin-à-Vent
$52
Medium ruby color. Aromas are juicy with raspberries but dark with plums, mixed with rose petals and iron. Fresh acidity, such a vibrant wine, dusty but dry tannins, it combines to form a wine that’s pure, brisk but structured firmly. Rocky soil, graphite, iron and violets on top of juicy raspberry and cherry fruit. Wow, very pretty now but years of improvement to come. (91 points)


This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Crocker & Starr - Celebrating 20 Years of Awesome Napa Wine

Crocker & Starr - St. Helena Estate. Credit: Crocker & Starr
2016 marked the 20th vintage for Pam Starr under her Crocker & Starr Label. They just opened a new winery last year as well, so the future is looking bright for these delicious St. Helena wines.

The estate vineyard dates back to the late 1800s, but venture capitalist Charlie Crocker purchased the estate in the early 70s and began replanting Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon where Merlot, Riesling, and Zinfandel had put down roots. When the St. Helena AVA was approved in 1995, Charlie tapped the winemaking talent of Pam Starr, who was making wine at neighboring Spotteswoode, and this project was born.

Over the past two decades, the estate has grown to some 85 planted acres, mostly Bordeaux varieties. The team transitioned from conventional to organic farming, which Pam credits for providing a sense of “verve” to the wines. They held onto the best older Cabernet Sauvignon vines, but planted Cabernet Franc and other red varieties, and Sauvignon Blanc in some more clay-dominated soils.

I recently tasted four new releases from Crocker & Starr, all four of which are exciting, absolutely delicious, and age-worthy (even the Sauv Blanc would be cool with three or four years on it). I was really impressed with the flagship Stone Place Cabernet, but especially surprised by the depth and purity of the Malbec-dominated blend and their Cabernet Franc.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.




2015 Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $34
Medium yellow color. On the nose I get lemon/lime, green melon, guava, and a host of sliced jalapeno, white pepper, white tea and herbal spice notes. Bold texture on the palate, a creamy/waxy feel combines with bright acidity for a fresh balance. Yellow apple, lime, green melon, the juicy fruit is topped in honeycomb, white flowers, white pepper, some sea salt notes, too. Quite harmonious on the palate, and straight-up delish. Crocker Vineyard fruit blended with some from Las Trancas Vineyard in southern Napa. Fermented in a mix of stainless steel, new and used French oak, and concrete eggs, and aged eight months on the lees. (90 points)


2014 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Franc - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
SRP: $80
Bright purple color. Beautiful dark but vibrant plum and currant fruit on the nose, along with sweet pipe tobacco, eucalyptus, pine forest and slight notes of vanilla and clove. Full-bodied and structured but maintains a fresh appeal and lively acidity. Juicy black currant and dark plum fruit is doused in charcoal, tobacco barn, black pepper glaze, along with vanilla, cedar and coffee mixed in nicely. Very pretty and silky despite a bold presence on the palate, this has plenty of time to open up in the cellar. From the Crocker Vineyard. Aged 20 months in 80% new French oak, includes a 1% shot of Petit Verdot. (91 points)


2014 Crocker & Starr Casali 7th Edition - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
SRP: $80
Deep purple color. So dark and juicy on the nose, with plum cake and blackberry, also some cola, coffee, scorched earth and violet petals. Full and juicy on the palate but quite serious in its tannic grip, medium/low acidity. Great concentration of fruit (blackberries and dark plums), bold but also smooth. Notes of violets, charcoal, iron and coffee grounds with a loamy, mineral streak. Lots of fun, but a serious wine for the cellar. 92% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot, aged 17 months in 55% new French oak. (91 points)


2014 Crocker & Starr Cabernet Sauvignon Stone Place - California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
SRP: $120
Deep purple color. Deep and dark on the nose but pops with liveliness as well, black currants and blackberries mixed with tobacco, menthol, rich dark soil, coffee, Full-bodied and saucy but structured tannins and moderate acidity keeps it balanced despite its boldness. Juicy blackberries, black cherries and currants, the fruit is ripe but zesty, with notes of eucalyptus, coffee, dark chocolate, loamy soil, graphite, rounded out with warm spice, roasted chestnut and vanilla. Beautiful now but should improve nicely over the next five to eight years. All Cabernet from 40-year-old vines, the wine is aged 19 months in 90% new French oak. (93 points)


This post first appeared in the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Explore Virginia Cider in RVA's Scott's Addition


American cider appears to be entering its heyday. Following a similar route of the American craft beer explosion, cideries are popping up all over the country. Distinguishing themselves from mass-produced and sometimes overly sweet ciders available at the grocery or corner store, a new generation of cider-makers is producing fruit-based booze with a modern twist.

Cider has been providing Americans crisp alcoholic beverages for centuries, but we’re in the middle of a 21st Century cider boom, and there’s a lot to be excited about. From herb-infused options to barrel-aged ciders, the range of styles and flavors is eye-opening. Virginia, home to some excellent old apple orchards, now claims 14 cideries. Recently, I tasted some ciders that offer Virginians some exciting examples of what’s going on in their corner of the cider world.


Blue Bee and Buskey are injecting new life into Richmond’s historic Scott’s Addition neighborhood, a hopping area with lots of foot traffic and thirsty people. Located a few blocks from each other, these two new operations are focused on sourcing Virginia apples and introducing cider to open-minded drinkers. Like craft breweries that have gained popularity in Central Virginia, these cideries seem driven by experimentation, which is great for drinkers looking for something unique.

Blue Bee is Virginia’s first urban cidery, and dedicated to bottling small batch ciders and providing a unique tasting room experience. It has operated out of a facility in Manchester for several years, but now boasts a lively tasting room and a host of cider and food events.


Buskey's Will Correll. Credit: Buskey Cider.
Buskey’s Will Correll cut his teeth home brewing, and won $10,000 in a competition, so he clearly has fermentation chops. He spent four years preparing a team and finding a spot, but all that hard work has paid off. Buskey became neighbors with Blue Bee when they opened their tasting room on W. Leigh S. It’s a draft-centered operation that hopes its apple-based pints will fit right in at bars around the region; they’re also looking to expand their retail reach as well.

The available ciders may change frequently, but here are my impressions of a few of these ciders. 

Blue Bee Cider Rocky Ridge Reserve 
Bright and fresh, creamy texture, crisp acid. Very pretty and dry, definitely gulpable. Delicious, expressive, so food-friendly. Aged in light toasted oak barrel (used for fruit brandy) then carbonated and bottled. 

Blue Bee Cider Aragon 1904 
A chalky and floral element to the juicy fruit. Slight nutty and honeyed sweetness, but balanced by fresh acidity. Delicious stuff, very impressive. 

Buskey RVA Cider
A lighter style with moderate acidity, touch of sweetness. Light-bodied and thirst-quenching. Fermented dry and then blended back with some apple juice for slight sweetness.

Buskey Belgian Candi Cider
Deep honey aromas, some richer apricot and orange marmalade. Juicy texture, lovely richness, but fresh acid. A bold, rich, toffee element to the juicy darker fruit flavors. Really exciting stuff.
 

Blue Bee
1320 Summit Ave.
Richmond, VA
Hours:
Sunday-Friday: 1:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Saturday: 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm 

Buskey
2910 W. Leigh St.
Richmond, VA
Hours:
Wednesday: 3:00 – 9:00 pm
Thursday: 3:00 – 9:00 pm
Friday: 3:00 – 10:00 pm
Saturday: 12:00 – 10:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 – 9:00 pm

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Grab Bag of California Wines

Near the turn of the year, I had a bunch of unrelated California wines left to taste, and none of them seemed to fit into a coherent category. So I threw them together for a grab bag tasting.

I’ve got a few from
Gamling & McDuck, a label with an off-the-wall aesthetic approach but seriously good juice in the bottle. We also take a look at some wines from Jamieson Ranch, which sources grapes from Napa, Sonoma, and beyond, and produces several brands at varied price points. Lastly, Chronic Cellars makes an appearance; these wines are a few steps up from some of the big brands that purvey those residual sugar-laden, generic California AVA wines. These are jammy, fun, un-structured wines for easy-drinking. Oh, and a 2013 Cardinale Cabernet — whoa.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 


2015 Gamling & McDuck Chenin Blanc Mangel's Ranch - California, North Coast, Suisun Valley
SRP: $26
Pale yellow color. Gorgeous aromatics of dandelion, cut flower stems, honeysuckle, chalk dust, drizzled over lemon, apple and apricot. Medium-bodied, vibrant acidity keeps this wine so crisp but there’s a pleasant richness and lees-aging notes of waxiness to the texture as well. Green and yellow apples and lemons mix with chalk, minerals, honey, and notes of flowers and herbal tea. Beautiful stuff with a long, crisp, blissful finish. (90 points) 


2015 Reata Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $20
Light gold color. Smells of salted lemon, apricot, dandelion and honeysuckle. Creamy texture on the palate but lots of fresh acidity. The creamy pear, tart apple and apricot fruit is topped in toasted nuts, sea shells and honeysuckle. For $20, this Chardonnay brings a lot of freshness and depth. (87 points) 


2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Chardonnay Light Horse - California
SRP: $15
Light gold color. Aromas of baked apple and pear, some salted nuts and honeysuckle. Juicy and plump on the palate but moderate acidity freshens it up, and I get flavors of yellow apples, apricots and baked pear, with some cinnamon, nuts and honeysuckle thrown in. For a $15 generic California AVA Chard, this has a lot of personality. (86 points) 


2014 Gamling & McDuck Cabernet Franc Pickberry Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
SRP: $36
Deep ruby color. Aromas of tar, violets and pepper on top of juicy black cherries, with some sweet clove, graphite and cherry wood thrown in. Medium-bodied, moderate tannic structure, fresh acidity, refreshingly balanced. Tart but so juicy with these black cherries and roasted plums, along with plenty of chewing tobacco, oregano, black pepper. Vibrant yet rich, structured but so easy to sip right out of the bottle. Delish! (90 points) 


2013 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Pinot Noir Light Horse - California
SRP: $15
Medium ruby color. Aromas of juicy cherries and raspberries, sweet roses, cola and rhubarb. Soft tannins meet fresh acid on the palate with simple but pleasant cherries and strawberries, juicy appeal yet fresh. Notes of cola and rhubarb. Lacks that sweet baked fruit and fake character of a lot of generic California AVA Pinot Noirs, which is a good thing. Toss the Meomi, I’ll take a glass of this. (85 points) 


2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Malbec Whiplash - California
SRP: $15
Light purple color. Aromas of sweet cherries, plum cake, cola, coffee, vanilla. On the palate, light tannins combine with medium acid and soft, juicy blueberry and candied cherry. Sweet and office party-friendly, but lacks personality and depth. (79 points) 

2015 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Whiplash Red - California
SRP: $15
Juicy purple color. Aromas of jammy raspberries, cherries, sweet cola, vanilla and Swedish fish candy. Full-bodied, soft tannins, medium acidity, this is a jammy, simple wine with flavors of candied black and red fruit, Fig Newton cookies, cola and sweet coffee. (81 points)


2014 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Double Lariat - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55
Rich purple color. Smells dark and juicy with black cherries and plums, vanilla coffee, charcoal and dark chocolate. Full-bodied with velvety and approachable tannins, medium acidity. Juicy dark fruit (blackberry and black cherries), shows some tanginess, and the fruit is backed up by sweet coffee, vanilla, and some earthy charcoal notes. Plush and smooth yet shows some liveliness, and could likely improve for a few years. (87 points)


2013 Cardinale - California, Napa Valley
Credit: Cardinale.
SRP: $250
Gorgeous purple color. Intoxicating and deep aromas of rich black cherries and currants, sweet pipe tobacco, eucalyptus, violets, loamy soil – so much to unpack. The palate is full and structured marvelously but there’s freshness despite the density. The black currant and cherry fruit is pure, complex and delicious, smooth but maintains a tart edge. Crazy complex elements of cedar, tobacco, vanilla, crushed rocks, hot clay, loamy soil, menthol, cigar lounge and leather jacket. Wow. Cardinale is a stunner as always, but in 2013 they really killed it. This is fantastic, and has so much to show over the next five-to-ten years. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot aged 19 months in all new French oak. (96 points)


2015 Chronic Cellars Sofa King Bueno - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Aromas of jammy rasberries, black cherries, red hot candies, sweet vanilla coffee and black pepper glaze. Full-bodied and chewy with easy-drinking tannins and medium/low acidity. The black cherries and raspberries and candied and jammy and topped with cola, coffee, pepper glaze. Simple, forward, fun if you like this style. A blend of 52% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 13% Petite Sirah, 7% Mourvedre. (85 points)


2015 Chronic Cellars Dead Nuts - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $24
Light purple color. On the nose: raspberries, juicy plums, smoke, cola, violets and chocolate. Full but smooth and velvety on the palate with medium/low acid and soft tannins. Candied cherries and raspberry jam mix with vanilla cola, pie filling and a note of sweet tobacco and earth. A bit sweet but tasty and probably a good office party kind of wine. 81% Zinfandel, 13% Tempranillp 6% Petite Sirah. (85 points) 


2015 Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $15
Light purple. Smells like raspberry and strawberry jam, some peppery spice, sweet coffee and red licorice candy. Chewy texture on the palate, soft tannins, low acidity. “Purple” is right! I get jammy fruits and laffy taffy with coffee and some spicy, earthy notes underneath. Simple, sweet, fun. (85 points)


2015 Chronic Cellars Petite Sirah Suite Petite - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $15
Medium purple color. Aromas of sweet blackberries and plums, along with coffee, vanilla and chocolate shavings. Medium-bodied and juicy but shows hints of freshness. Dark and saucy black cherry and currant fruit, but shows some vibrancy, and I get notes of sweet clove, pepper, coffee grounds, earth. Unserious but seriously delicious. Less candied than the others in the lineup. Includes 15% Syrah. (86 points) 


This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fox's Shep Smith Goes on Epic Rant About How Champagne Only Comes from France

video

Champagne is one of the world's greatest wines because it comes from one of the world's greatest wine regions, Champagne. In France. 

Sparkling wine made via the Champagne method is just that, sparkling wine. Some producers from California, most notably the massive Korbel brand, insist on putting the word Champagne on their labels. This causes some French to get justifiably defensive. They want to protect their reputation and name. Putting Champagne on a label of a wine not from Champagne is illegal in France and most other countries, the same way you can't put Napa Valley on a wine that isn't from Napa Valley. 

Korbel has been selling "California Champagne" since the late 1800s, and they don't give a damn. During the President's recent Inaugural Lunch, the Members of Congress, the President, and other distinguished guests gathered for lunch in between the Inaugural Address and the Inaugural Parade. Most newscasters, stuck in a boring period of their full-day coverage, were left to pass time by chatting with talking heads and rambling.

Fox's Shepard Smith, however, took this time to analyze the lunch menu, including the wine selection: Korbel Natural Special Inaugural Cuvee California Champange. With no time constraints, Shep riffs and drops some truth on this "California Champagne" thing, which, he correctly points out, "doesn't exist." I watched this bit twice and knew I had to record it and share. It's that awesome

Many casual wine-drinkers are aware of this distinction between Champagne and sparkling wine, even if Champagne continues to be used in normal conversation as an interchangeable term for sparkling wine from anywhere. Incredible sparkling wines come from California; they're just not Champagne. 

But Korbel, in releasing a special cuvee for the Inauguration, and labeling it California Champagne, is proving how little they care about this distinction. After all, their brand is sustained by hawking mediocre bubbles and milking Champagne's reputation. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Wakefield - Fresh but Serious Wines from South Australia

I’ve reviewed some wines from Australia’s Wakefield before, here and here. They also produce a $200 a pop Visionary Cabernet and Pioneer Shiraz, which are stellar. This time I’ve got two wines from their Jaraman label, which are blended from multiple regions, and two wines from the St. Andrews brand, which come from estate fruit planted in Clare Valley terra rossa soil.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.


2015 Wakefield Chardonnay Jaraman - Australia, South Australia
SRP: $25
Pale gold color. Juicy white peach and green apple on the nose with some sea spray, honeyed tea and cut flowers. Full-bodied and creamy but some refreshing acidity keeps it balanced. The lemon curd, peach and baked apple fruit is topped in chopped peanuts, almonds and notes of chalk and floral perfume. Vibrant and clean but packed with rich flavor. A blend of fruit from Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills. (88 points)


2014 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon Jaraman - Australia, South Australia
SRP: $30
Plump purple color. Dark and saucy aromas of black cherries and roasted plums, along with a bold shot of menthol and eucalyptus, sweet coffee and clove. Full-bodied with moderate tannins but a refreshing sense of acidity holds it together nicely. Black cherries and blueberry fruit, ripe and juicy, topped in coffee grounds, vanilla, eucalyptus and pepper. Juicy and rich but shows some complexity of non-fruit flavors to keep it interesting. A split of juice from Clare Valley and Coonawarra.
(87 points)

2014 Wakefield Shiraz St Andrews - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $60
Deep purple color. Aromas of deep currants, blueberries, dark plums, along with black pepper, grilled steak, rich earth and eucalyptus. Full but smooth, plush but fresh, ripe fruit (blueberry and blackberry) combines with fleshy tannins and vibrant acidity, and the fruit maintains a fresh edge. Lots of earth, soy, pepper, tobacco, beef jerky. Instantly delicious but complex, with five to ten years of potential development from this wine. Aged 18 months in American oak. (91 points)


2014 Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon St Andrews - Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
SRP: $60
Dark purple color. Aromas of rich currants, plum skins, gushing blackberry, but lots of sweet tobacco, rich earth, violets, smashed rocks and iron. Full-bodied and saucy but vibrant acidity balances out nicely with the sturdy tannins. Deep black currants and black cherries, loaded with coffee, loamy soil, grilled herbs, graphite, roasted chestnut. Density for aging but it opens up nicely with just a little air. Gorgeous Clare Valley Cab! Aged 18 months in 40% new French oak. (91 points)


This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.