Saturday, February 16, 2019

Digging into Colorado Wine with the 2018 Governor's Cup Winners

Back for the fourth time, I’m digging into some wines from the state of Colorado. Yep, it’s more than just good beer in the Centennial State.

I recently tasted through the winners of the
2018 Colorado Governor’s Cup. Like Virginia’s renowned Governor’s Cup, the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board kicked off a similar program in 2011. In 2018, 46 Colorado wineries submitted 344 wines to the competition. These wines were judged by a panel of somms, chefs, writers, and wine experts, including Warren Winiarski. They chose a baker’s dozen worth of winning wines.

Colorado is a huge state, but it doesn’t crack the top 10 states in terms of wine production. The state’s winegrowing regions boast plenty of sunshine, low humidity, diverse soils, offering up plenty of opportunity to grow quality wine grapes. And, fun fact: the state’s two American Viticultural Areas (Grand Valley and West Elks, located in the western part of the state) are the highest elevation appellations in the country. 

More and more, it seems to me, Colorado winemakers are not afraid to experiment and strike their own path, like Infinite Monkey Theorem’s quirky blends and branding aesthetic, and Red Fox’s Teroldego in this report. This is the most impressive batch of Colorado wines I’ve tasted yet. Now, to get out there for some tourism.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Colterris Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé “Coral” - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $22
Pale salmon color. Nose shows white peaches, white cherries, white lemon verbena, sea salt, white pepper and cut flower stems. Crisp acidity on the palate but a nice, plump texture, the balance is quite nice. White cherries, watermelon, peach, lemon, a nice fruit salad topped in white pepper, sea salt, honeysuckle, a slight tobacco note. Really balanced and fresh and fun. (87 points) 

2017 Whitewater Hill Riesling - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $14
Light yellow color. Lots of peach nectar, apricot, candied orange peel, along with honeycomb, lychee and floral perfume. Medium-bodied, moderate acidity, there’s significant sweetness in here, but it’s not too heavy. Pineapple, peach and mango nectar, with sweet floral perfume, orange blossoms, sugar cane and candied ginger. It finishes clean and with notes of minerals and mountain stream, and the sweetness is balanced quite nicely. (86 points)

2016 Bookcliff Vineyards Tempranillo - Colorado
SRP: $19
Light purple color. Super spicy on the nose with tart, dark currants, spiced cranberry sauce, along with leather, clove, black pepper and musk. Medium-bodied with bright acidity, the tannins are structured and provide serious grip, but the acidity helps balance them out. Black cherries and tart currants mix with a host of pepper, tar, coffee, clove, and there’s this sandy, rocky, earthy undertone that is lovely. Could use at least a few years to unwind, but the concentration and quality is there. (87

2015 Bookcliff Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $25
Deep purple color. Concentrated aromas of black cherries and currants, with coffee and cedar, notes of tar, tobacco, sage and creosote. Fresh acidity frames the wine nicely, but the tannins provide serious structure. Black cherries and blackberry fruit, dark, deep and tart, mixed with earth, graphite. Oak, cedar, coffee notes are strong but the fruit is concentrated enough that it all works, and I love the black pepper and sage notes on the finish. Could do well with three-to-five years of age. (88 points) 

2016 Infinite Monkey Theorem Cabernet Franc - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $24
Light purple color. Really interesting nose, like tart black cherries and wild raspberries with lots of rosebush, clove, tobacco, mesquite and scorched earth. Medium-bodied on the palate, the tannins give structure but show smooth edges, and the acidity rally pops, from start to finish. Vibrant red and black cherry fruit, wild raspberry, spicy cranberry sauce, with notes of clove, cinnamon, and lots of rose hips and leathery stuff. Complex and interesting, this is a really zippy, different kind of Cab Franc, worth checking out! I’d love to see how it ages over the next few years. (90 points)

2016 Red Fox Cellars Teroldego - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $40
Bright purple color. Whoa, what a burst of sweet plums, cherries, with roasted coffee and candied pecan notes. Fresh acidity, really zippy here, on a medium-bodied frame with velvety mouthfeel and a nice line between silky and tangy. Tart cranberry meets sweet plums and back cherries, the fruit is juicy but really vibrant. Notes of pepper, herbal tea, oak, coffee, it’s woven together very nicely. Ready to drink now, really versatile stuff. (88 points)  

2016 Colterris Petit Verdot - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $24
Bold purple color. Nose shows dark and concentrated elements of black cherries and currants, topped in pepper, leather, magic marker and charcoal. Grippy, concentrated and dark on the palate but the acidity is surprisingly vibrant. A core of tart dark currant and plum fruit blends well with smoky charcoal, mesquite-grilled beef, pen ink, dark chocolate. This could use some years in the cellar to unwind, but a well-done and interesting take on this variety. (87 points) 

2016 Colterris Merlot Riverside Vineyard - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $45
Deep ruby color. Aromas of tangy black cherries, juicy plums, raspberry jam, with roasted chestnut and violets. Big and full on the palate (15.2% alcohol) with velvety tannins and vibrant acidity, so it all fits together quite nicely. Juicy raspberries, black cherry jam, yummy and Zinfandel-esque fruit but it’s fresh, too. Nots of violets, roasted herbs, chestnut, coffee and cedar. Drinking really well right now. Highly delicious. (88 points) 

2016 Monkshood Cellars Syrah White Water Vineyard - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $44
Bright, almost neon purple color. Nice aromatic combination of tart blueberries, black currants, sweet plums, along with smoky menthol, tar, graphite, mint. On the palate, bright acidity rips in, supported by strong tannins, this is a young wine but has a lot of tanginess and depth. Tart currants, black cherries, some pomegranate, loaded with elements of smashed rocks, minerals, charcoal, charred herbs, cocoa, a lot going on here. A bit austere in its youth perhaps, but I think this will be singing in about five years. Impressive stuff. (89 points)

2016 Snowy Peaks Winery Eleve - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $24
Light purple color. Whoa, what a spicy aromatic display: black pepper, beef bouillon cubes, leather, tobacco and mint along with tangy black cherries and plums. Grippy tannins meet bright acidity on a medium-bodied frame. Juicy and tangy red and black cherries, the acidity really rips through. Lots of spicy, beefy, pepper, earthy, leathery notes that I’m really enjoying, with violets and coffee, too. I’d love to revisit this in 4-5 years. A spicy and exciting blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre from vineyards some 7,500 feet above sea level. (89 points) 

1999 Colorado Cellars Colorado Port - Colorado
SRP: $40/500ml
Medium ruby color. Lovely aromas of spiced cranberry jelly, candied cherries, berry compote, with roses, clove and black tea. Full and sweet, smooth tannins, but it sports some moderating acidity. The tawny-style elements of gingerbread, candied ginger and apricot marmalade mix well with darker elements of dates, candied cherries. There’s an earthy, clove, spiced coffee note that is woven in really well. I am quite impressed with this Colorado dessert wine! (88 points) 

2017 Carlson Vineyards Gewürztraminer Laughing Cat - Colorado, Grand Valley
SRP: $15
Medium yellow color. Aromas of sweet peaches, guava nectar, honey, spiced white tea, some herbal tea notes. Plump texture, the sweetness isn’t too heavy, there’s moderating acidity that keeps it refreshing. Flavors of sweet apricot jam, guava, peaches, mixed with honey, spiced white tea and nettle. I’m really impressed with how well this shows at the price point. (85 points)

<85 points

2016 Carlson Vineyards Plum Wine - Colorado
SRP: $15
 Bright strawberry colored. Nose shows fresh pears, peaches, glazed with honey, topped in some rose hips and herbal tea. The palate is where things go off course (for me). Plump, medium acidity, sweet and sugary with flavors of apricot skin and peach pits. Strawberries and Southern sweet tea elements are quite strong. The sweetness and flavors aren’t lining up for me but I could see this being popular with some.

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist. 

Monday, February 4, 2019

Wine Reviews: American Grab Bag

This week, I have some wine reviews from New York, California, and Washington.

If you know Finger Lakes wine, you know Dr. Konstantin Frank, a Ukrainian immigrant who contributed so much to viticulture in this country. By producing exceptional wines, and showing what Riesling could do in the Finger Lakes, he earned his spot in the canon of trail-blazing American winemakers. All these years later, the wines are still examples of excellence in American wine.

Napa’s Gratus, contributed wines for this report. This Pope Valley project began in 2010, and the winery now produces about 600 cases per year. These wines were new to me, but I found them vibrant, delicious, and expressive.

Respected Washington producer Tamarack Cellars recently released a 2013 “Emerald Release” Cabernet that blew my mind, and I think it would be a great addition to any Washington Cabernet collector’s cellar.

A few other wines round out this week’s report. I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted.

2017 La Crema Pinot Gris - California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $20
Light yellow color. Nose shows white peaches, lemon curd, orange blossoms and whipped honey notes. Crisp acidity frames the palate nicely, while the wine sports a waxy, plump texture. Apricots, yellow apples, peach nectar, the fruit is backed up with white pepper and flowers. This shows a lot of depth for a California Pinot Gris at this price point. Lots of fun. (87 points)

2017 Mettler Family Vineyards Albariño Estate Grown - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $20
Medium yellow color. Punchy and tropical on the nose with guava, cantaloupe, pineapple, some yellow flowers and sea salt. Fleshy texture on the palate, but bright acidity, the fruit is rich and generous (creamy yellow apples and pears, guava, pineapple). I get a lot of floral tones, perfume, honey and sea salt. The bright/tropical contrast combination is really working in this Lodi Albarino. (88 points)

2017 Gratus White - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $29
Rich yellow color. Smells of lemon curd, pineapple, glazed pear, with a fascinating note of rainy forest, sea salt, along with some almond and honeycomb. Full-bodied with a plush, waxy texture, yet medium acidity keeps the wine quite lively. Lemon curd, blood orange, pineapple cake and apricot jam flavors, mixed in with spicy clove, white pepper, wet earth, sea salt, some richer almond cake and honey notes as well. Bold but very pretty. 50% Grenache Blanc, 15% Viognier, 15% Marsanne, 15% Roussanne, 5% Picpoul Blanc, aged seven months in old oak. (90 points)

2015 Gratus Malbec - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $55

Deep purple color. Smells of plums, gushing blackberries, blueberries, mixed with violets, roses, espresso, eucalyptus, and rocky/earthy elements. I love the acidity on the palate, so fresh, and the velvety tannins make this wine accessible. Suave yet tangy fruit (black cherries, dark currants), topped in violets, mint, eucalyptus, and a blend of black tea, rocky soil and mineral. Oak elements blend in nicely. This is a fresh and vibrant Malbec that really hooked me. 100% Malbec, aged 22 months in 50% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Gratus Petite Sirah - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $45
Rich purple color. Dense aromas of boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry, deep and dark and topped in anise, menthol, ginger snap cookie and vanilla. Full and fleshy on the palate, some serious tannic grip here, while medium acidity moderates. This is a big, saucy, punchy wine with loads of juicy dark fruit, blended well with anise, pepper, vanilla, leather, clove. Dark, bold, this could use three to five years of age. All Petite Sirah aged 22 months in 50% new French oak. (89 points)

2015 Gratus Red - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $75
Medium purple color. Nose boasts juicy black cherries, dark plums, and I get a complex blend of charcoal, graphite, black tea, grilled herbs, clove and cedar. Full but fresh with structured but velvety tannins and vibrant acidity. Juicy black fruit (cherries, currants, plums), whipped together with complex elements of earth, graphite, cocoa, clove, pepper, mint, sweet violets and tobacco. Complex, vibrant, this opens up nicely with time. Lovely now but I’m curious what two or three years will do to this wine. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 5% Petite Sirah, aged 22 months in 50% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $90
Deep purple color. Deep and saucy on the nose, with roasted fig, blackberry, black currant, all tossed together with warm clove and cinnamon, black tea, vanilla, espresso, mint – a lot going on. Full-bodied with nice grip, but the tannins have rounded edges, and the acidity is really clean, balancing this big wine out really nicely. Flavors of pure blackberry, black currant and roasted fig, backed up with lots of clove, black pepper, spiced black tea, cinnamon sticks, charcoal, graphite scorched earth, vanilla and cedar. So complex, lots of fruit, but serious freshness and aging potential, too. 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, aged 20 months in 44% new French oak. (92 points)

2015 Gamble Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $60
Deep purple color. Waves of black cherries and currants on the nose, along with violets, cedar, cocoa, smoky charcoal, and notes of sweet pipe tobacco. Velvety texture on the palate, structured but vibrant, acidity and tannins balance out nicely. Fresh yet rich fruit (black cherries, cassis, dark plums), laced with cedar, espresso, vanilla, sweet pipe tobacco, and a nice earthy-loamy element, too. Nice now but this would do well with 2-4 years in the cellar, and can definitely handle longer. Includes 7% Malbec, 5% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, aged 20 months in 40% new French, Hungarian and American oak. (91 points)

2017 Dr. Konstantin Frank Rkatsiteli - New York, Finger Lakes
SRP: $17
Pale lemon color. Nose of orange peel, lemons, quince, with notes of lemon verbena, honeysuckle, nettle, bay leaf, sea salt. Plump texture on the palate with racy acidity, the balance is great. Lemons, yellow and green apples, so bright yet the depth of fruit is great. Lots of mineral depth, stones, sea salt, mountain streams. Brisk and sprightly, yet deep and complex. Fascinating stuff. (91 points)

2013 Dr. Konstantin Frank Blanc de Blancs - New York, Finger Lakes
SRP: $30
Light yellow color. Nose boasts yellow apples, apricot, with ginger, baguette, floral perfume, crushed chalk and sea spray. On the palate, this is crisp and nervy with depth that is impressive. Apricot, pear, green and yellow apples, the fruit is accented with these sea salt and crushed oyster shells, along with honeysuckle and ginger and light biscuity notes. Very impressive, a lean style but some impressive depth and that mineral streak is amazing. 100% Chardonnay, aged on the lees four years, 8 g/l dosage. Disgorged September 2018. (91 points)

2016 Dr. Konstantin Frank Riesling Eugenia Dry Riesling - New York, Finger Lakes, Keuka Lake
SRP: $30
Light yellow color. The nose bursts with peach nectar, lime, guava, apricot, along with orange blossom, honey, dusty limestone and new tennis ball. Pristine acidity frames the palate from start to long finish, this is dry, bracing, so brisk and invigorating. Lime, lemon, guava, along with a complex burst of shells, saline, chalk and minerals. Notes of honey and mint add complexity. This is pretty but laser-like, too, offering enjoyment now or, preferably, with 5-10 years of age. Gorgeous Keuka Lake Riesling. 12% alcohol, 0.27% sugar. (92 points)

2013 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Emerald Release - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $100
Rich purple color. Gorgeous nose of tart currants, blackberries, spiced cranberry sauce, along with serious non-fruit complexity: violets, spearmint, smashed rocks, scorched earth, red pepper flakes, cocoa and vanilla. The palate is full, concentrated, yet lively, with a pure, velvety, effortless feel on the palate despite the density the wine brings. Generous with black cherries, red and black currants, tangy plums, the fruit is plush but shows a tart edge. Complex notes of cocoa, charcoal, rocky soil, flinty minerals, along with cocoa, mint, vanilla. This is gorgeous stuff that will age wonderfully. A blend of wines from all the different vineyard-designated reserve bottlings Tamarack makes, this includes 15% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot, aged four years in 100% new French oak. This vintage is released to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tamarack Cellars. (94 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Quality & Value in 2015 Côtes de Bordeaux

Vineyards in Blaye. Credit: Côtes de Bordeaux
Expressive Bordeaux in the sub-$30 range can be hard to find. I love Bordeaux, but can’t really afford what I love to drink, at least not very often. On the other hand, I’ve been turned off by inexpensive Bordeaux — too much acidic, bitter or just plain boring wine has made me hesitant to take a chance on a random $30 bottle.

But, over the past few years, I’ve found Côtes de Bordeaux wines can fill an interesting niche. They offer entry-level accessibility to consumers who want to explore Bordeaux without spending a lot of money, and they can offer something delicious and distinctive enough to make Bordeaux fans happy.

Côtes de Bordeaux is composed of five appellations: Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon, Francs and Sainte-Foy. Four of them joined together in 2009 to form the Union des Côtes de Bordeaux, while Sainte-Foy joined in 2016. These largely noncontiguous areas are spread out along the right banks of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. Blaye, the largest, stretches east from the banks of the Gironde river; Cadillac follows the east bank of the Garonne; Francs and Castillon produce wines from vineyards northeast of Saint-Emilion.

Most of these vineyards are planted on rolling hills with lots of clay and some limestone soils. The wines are almost all red, almost all Merlot-dominated, with some other Bordeaux varieties sprinkled in. Collectively, the five appellations produce about 5.3 million cases of wine, which is about 10% of Bordeaux’s total production.

I’ve written about these wines a few times before, and found a lot of good quality and value. So, knowing the hype about the 2015 vintage in Bordeaux, I figured a few Côtes de Bordeaux wines from this vintage would have a lot to offer. I was able to gather up 10 sample bottles, nine from 2015, with one 2014 ringer, and I blind-tasted them. 

Aross the board, these wines really deliver in the 2015, generally showing plenty of ripe fruit, with some velvety tannins and moderating acidity. A few wines really stood out.

And it sort of amazes me that these wines cost between $12 and $25. They can be fun to enjoy young, but some of these have the structure to improve with years in the cellar.

My notes on the wines I tasted are below.

2015 Château Suau - France, Bordeaux, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
SRP: $25
Bright purple color. Nose boasts black cherries, blackberries, roasted figs, along with scorched earth, graphite, mint and dark chocolate. Plush texture on the palate with velvety tannins and medium acidity, this shows juicy red and black currants and cherries but stays vibrant throughout. Notes of violets, clove, leather and mushroom play well with the cedar and coffee notes. Very accessible now but could hold for a few years. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. Located on the highest part of Cadillac (which is only 330 feet), aged 12 months in French oak. (89 points)

2014 Château Lamothe de Haux Première Cuvée - France, Bordeaux, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
SRP: $15
Light purple color. Nose shows tart red and black currants and plums, along with tar, forest floor, coffee and clove. Vibrant acidity, strong tannic backbone, but the edges aren’t too harsh, this seems young but also lively. Tart red and black currants mix with lots of tobacco, clove, cedar, coffee. Concentrated and a bit tight, but impressive depth. This stood out from the 2015s as it doesn’t seem as velvety or silky, rather seems a bit tighter and more reserved, but still very nice. (88 points)

2015 Château Lamothe de Haux Première Cuvée- France, Bordeaux, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux
SRP: $15
Pretty aromas of juicy red and black cherries, saucy plums, lots of roses, violets, rhubarb, with some pepper, leather and coffee grounds. Velvety on the palate but nice grip, fresh acidity, lovely balance herein. Cherries, currants, suave but tangy fruit, and I get a complex mix of grilled herbs, roses, violets, tar, pepper, black tea. So vibrant yet structured and age-worthy, too. Exactly what I was hoping to find in this tasting: insane 2015 vintage value from the Côtes de Bordeaux. 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc. (90 points)

2015 Château Puygueraud - France, Bordeaux, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
SRP: $18
Gorgeous nose of chilled black cherries, red and black currants, lots of violets, black tea, dark chocolate, anise and clove. Lovely balance on the palate with dusty tannins, crisp acidity and plenty of red and black cherries and currants. Complex nots of violets, clove, black tea, along with leather, forest floor. Clove, anise, cedar and coffee notes woven in well. Packed with fruit but also fresh and vibrant, this will age nicely over the next four to five years or so. 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec from clay and limestone soils, aged 12-16 months in about 40% new French oak. (91 points)

2015 Château de Pitray - France, Bordeaux, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
SRP: $15
Nose shows tart black currants and dark plums, with coffee, dark chocolate, roasted chestnut and violets. Structured tannins, vibrant acidity, the balance is really nice with the tart black currants and black cherry fruit. Notes of clove, cedar, roasted chestnut, library dusty, with some mineral and graphite elements. Plush and ripe fruit, but it’s crisp and quite complex already. Should be more so in a few years. 75% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 2% Malbec. The Merlot sees 12 months in French oak, while the other wine is aged in stainless steel. (90 points)

2015 Château Hyot - France, Bordeaux, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
SRP: $15
Nose shows fresh red cherries, currants and plums, along with rose petals, oregano, pine forest, mushroom. On the palate this shows strong tannins, tart acidity, and some concentrated, tangy red fruits (cherries, currants). Notes of pine, forest floor, mushroom add complexity. The tannins here need a few years to mellow out, and then this should turn into a smooth, tangy, super earthy and savory wine. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from sandy clay soils, aged 20 months in oak. (87 points)

2015 Château Le Grand Moulin Grande Reserve - France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
SRP: $13
Tart cherries and currants on the nose, lots of tobacco, mint, black tea and earthy, charcoal notes. Velvety on the palate, medium acidity helps balance out the medium-strength tannins. Tangy plums and black cherries, juicy and ripe fruit, a little less focus on the secondary notes here, but some subtle violets, loam and earth. Accessible stuff right now, but this could age for a few years at least. 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec from sandy gravel soils, aged 12 months in cement. (87 points)

2015 Château Gigault Cuvée Viva - France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
SRP: $19
Nose of tart red currants, deep black cherries, a nice mix of cedar, loam, coffee, tobacco, mint and leather. Nicely balanced on the palate with velvety tannins and fresh acidity. Juicy cherries and plums yet the fruit has a tangy edge, accented with violets, cedar, coffee grounds. A really cool earthy/mineral quality here, and the wine is lip-smacking and accessible, yet built to improve in the cellar for a while. Delicious, impressive blend of 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc. (90 points)

2015 Château Cailleteau Bergeron - France, Bordeaux, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux
SRP: $20
Waves of dark plums, currants and cherries on the nose, backed up with mint, coffee, clove, cedar, a warm and inviting aromatic display. Vibrant acidity on the palate, solid tannic backbone, combines with suave fruit with a tart edge (black cherries, red currants). Notes of violets, earth, charcoal, graphite, blended nicely with some cedar and vanilla. Vibrant and expressive but should age nicely. 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. (90 points)

<85 points
2015 Château Couronneau Bordeaux Supérieur - France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur
SRP: $19
Nose shows juicy black cherries, sweet raspberries, with clove and vanilla. The palate is where things go off the rails a bit. High acid, astringent tannins with some green edges, some nice tart cranberry fruit and black cherries, but there’s a bitter, fruit pit element. Notes of pencil lead and graphite. Not faulty, and air helped smooth it out a bit, but it was still disjointed, even 24 hours later. Perhaps a few years might help but I’m skeptical. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Wine Reviews: Grenache & Syrah from Spain & France

I’m a big fan of Grenache, both as a varietal wine and it’s classic place in blends with Syrah and other red Rhone grapes. This week, I have a handful of diverse Grenache wines from Spain, and a Grenache Gris from the Roussillon region of France really wowed me.

I also tasted a few Syrah-focused wines from the Southern Rhone appellation of Costières-de-Nîmes, whose wines I’ve really enjoyed in the past. The value can be excellent, too.

These wines were received as samples and tasted sighted.

2016 Bodegas Aragonesas Garnacha Coto de Hayas Centenaria - Spain, Aragón, Campo de Borja
SRP: $15
Medium purple color. Nose of dark cherries, black currants and raspberry jam, with cocoa, vanilla and mint. Full and saucy on the palate, a chewy, fleshy style with mild tannins and medium acidity. Juicy black cherries and blackberries, mixed with vanilla, cocoa and earth. Smooth, fun, pleasant, good stuff for near-term drinking. (87 points)

2016 Bodegas San Alejandro Garnacha Las Rocas - Spain, Aragón, Calatayud
SRP: $12
Bright purple color. On the nose, spicy red and black cherries, raspberry jam, with black licorice and raspberries in dark chocolate notes.Full and chewy on the palate, juicy and fun with some light tannins and medium-low acidity. Plums, raspberry and blackberry jam, the fruit is backed up with anise, cola and dark chocolate. Fun, fruity, but well-made and solid for the price. (86 points)

2013 Las Moradas de San Martín Senda - Spain, Madrid, Vinos de Madrid
SRP: $15
Light purple color. Rich and dark on the nose with roasted figs, black cherries, along with anise, magic markers and coffee. Full-bodied, medium tannins, medium-low acidity. Dark plums, currants, saucy fruit mixed with spiced black tea, anise, charcoal and cedar. Bold, forward but built well. Calls for a big cut of grilled meat. 10 months in French oak. (87 points)

2015 Bodegas Ignacio Marin Ballad - Spain, Aragón, Cariñena
SRP: $20
Light purple color. Classic, sweet, rich Garnacha aromas of raspberry jam, plum sauce, with some vanilla and dark chocolate. Fully, velvety, soft tannins, low acidity, this is all about the sweet plum cake and saucy raspberry fruit. Some coffee, chocolate and vanilla accents as well. Fun, chewy, rich, crowd-pleasing dessert wine. (86 points)

2016 Domaine de la Rectorie Banyuls Cuvée Thérèse Reig - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Banyuls
SRP: $33/500ml
Deep purple color. Saucy blueberries, roasted figs, along with clove, toasted coconut, vanilla and coffee grounds. Full and bold on the palate with quite strong tannins but medium acidity, plenty of sweetness, but the balance is aligned very nicely. A warm compote of blueberries, blackberries, roasted fig, laced with charcoal, clove, graham cracker, cinnamon. Complex and evocative already, this is an excellent Banyuls with many, many years ahead. I’d love to bury this for 20 years and hope I’m alive to taste it. (92 points)

2015 Domaine Jones Grenache Gris - France, Roussillon, Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes
SRP: $28

Deep yellow color. Love the nose: deep yet bright, with apricot, lemon curd, lime, salted almond, sea breeze, crushed chalk. Plump texture, a fascinating depth and waxy element, but tangy too, and the balance is lovely. Lemon, orange pith, apricot, with lots of sea salt, chalk, mountain stream, minerals, as well as honey, white tea and olive oil-like elements. Complex, vibrant, gorgeous. (91 points)

2015 Ferraton Père & Fils St. Joseph La Source - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, St. Joseph
SRP: $32
Light purple color. Aromas of plums, juicy black cherries, topped in roasted herbs, espresso, campfire smoke and black pepper. Medium-bodied with medium+ tannins and moderating acidity, nice grip but the wine is fleshy and lively, too. Tart black currants and roasted figs and plum cake topped in charcoal, espresso, some black olives. Nice depth but also quite vibrant and ready to drink, although this could easily be cellared for a few years. (88 points)

2017 Château de Campuget Costières-de-Nîmes Rosé 1753 - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Costières-de-Nîmes
SRP: $16
Medium copper color. On the nose, an explosion of peaches, apricot, topped in nettle, honeysuckle and tropical flower petals. Plump texture on the palate but fresh acidity. Loads of white peaches, cantaloupe, apricot and lemons. I get notes of chalk, sea salt, lots of spicy floral and tea elements, some pepper and herbs. Juicy and fruity but vibrant and quite complex. 80% Syrah and 20% Vermentino. (89 points)

2015 Domaine de Poulvarel Costières-de-Nîmes Les Perrottes - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Costières-de-Nîmes
SRP: $32
Light purple color. Dark and saucy on the nose with black cherry compote, loaded with violets, black pepper, coffee and charcoal. Full-bodied, solid grip from the tannins, medium acidity. Darker, Syrah-dominated fruit (blackberries and black cherries) mixed nicely with elements of pepper, cocoa, dark chocolate and earth. Big and dark but showing some good complexity, but I think this will be more expressive in two-to-four years. 65% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 5% Carignan. (89 points)

2014 Michel Gassier Costières-de-Nîmes Nostre Païs - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Costières-de-Nîmes
SRP: $20
Medium ruby color. Lots of aromas of pepper, sage, leather, grilled lamb, along with raspberries, cherries and plums. Full but fresh on the palate, the velvety tannins provide backbone while the acidity keeps the wine lively. Cool cherries, plums and raspberries laced with pepper, leather, chewing tobacco, grilled meats, and notes of earth and minerals as well. Showing very well now but this could hold for at least a few years. 35% Grenache, 25% Carignan, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 5% Cinsault. (90 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Conegliano Valdobbiadene: Step-Up Prosecco

Conegliano Valdobbiadene vineyards (Source:
For the past five to ten years, I’ve read countless articles on the rise of Prosecco. It’s a less expensive alternative to Champagne, it’s gaining in popularity with millenial drinkers, sales keep growing, etc. And, today, Prosecco is indeed the world’s best-selling sparkling wine by volume — while Champagne brings in a whole lot more revenue.

Here in the States, I’ve seen a lot of Proseccos geared toward a younger American market arrive in my samples pile, and at my local grocery and wine shops. Especially around the holidays in the DC market, Prosecco was everywhere.

I’ll admit my personal bias up front: if someone gave me $100 to spend on Champagne or $200 to spend on Prosecco, I would not hesitate to snag that single Benjamin. And while Champagne-method sparkling wines are far more intriguing to me, sparkling wine isn’t a zero-sum game. And there are some good Proseccos out there.

A good place to start would be wines from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore appellation. This appellation earned its DOCG status in 2009. These grapes are sourced from the rolling hills of 15 different municipalities around the centers of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. The soils here are composed of clay, loam, sandstone and other elements, and the wines show more depth and complexity than your typical Prosecco. Some Conegliano Valdobbiadene wines carry the special designation “Rive,” which indicates wine grown from specific hilly municipalities, from a specific vintage, manual harvesting required, etc.

If you want to find the cream of the crop, check out wines from the DOCG Superiore di Cartizze. Within the Conegliano Valdobbiadene appellation, these wines are sourced exclusivley from about 100 hectares on the steep hill of Cartizze, and I’ve found these wines show interesting minerality and a lot of depth.

I recently tasted through six Proseccos from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG, and gained some more appreciation for these wines, many of which show serious value. I received these bottles as trade samples and tasted them single-blind.

N.V. Sanfeletto Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore Extra Dry - Italy, Veneto, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore
Pale lemon color. Aromas of lemons, green apples and melon, chalk dusty, lots of sugar cane and dandelions. Zippy, light, fine bubbles, medium acidity, some nice creaminess to the texture with sugar cane elements. Lemon meringue, green melons, lots and lots of flowers (orange blossom, baby’s breath, perfume and clean laundry). Fun, fresh, nice and crisp and pleasant. 100% Glera from the Feletto area, 13 g/l sugar. (87 points)

N.V. Le Rughe Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore Extra Dry “Rivaj” - Italy, Veneto, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore
Light yellow color. Nose shows lemons, green apples, topped in honeysuckle, dandelions, sea salt, floral perfume. Light-bodied and brisk on the palate with yellow and green apples, lemons. Lots of floral perfume, baby’s breath, dandelions, some chalky notes. I get elements of apple cider and cinnamon as well. Lean but some fun elements here, and nicely balanced. 15 g/l sugar. (88 points)

2017 Bartolomiol Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore "Prior" Brut - Italy, Veneto, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore
Light yellow color. Nose boasts white peaches, green melon, apricot, with honey and orange blossoms. Fresh and bright and light on the palate with a salty, mineral appeal that is more evident than in most other wines in the tasting. White peaches, green melons, nectarine, along with baby’s breath, orange blossom. Very crisp and easy-drinking but significant complexity. 8 g/l sugar. (87 points)

N.V. Valdo Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore “Cuvée 1926” - Italy, Veneto, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG
Bright lemon color. Bright aromatics with peaches, green melon, lemon curd, along with sea salt and white flowers. On the palate this is dry and bright with a salty, lemony approach, along with peaches and green melon. Perfumed, bright, with salted almond, chalky minerals, yet there’s a depth to this wine that is really attractive. (89 points)

2017 Mongarda Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut - Italy, Veneto, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore

Bright yellow color. Aromas of peach nectar and limes, with crushed chalk, hay, baby’s breath and sea salt. Crisp and light on the palate, with a zesty, tart, mineral-driven appeal. Limes, peaches, guava, topped in saline, honeysuckle and sea salt. Light but complex, lean but lively, this has a lot of mineral and some oyster shell notes that really pop on the finish. Impressive complexity. 4 g/l of residual sugar. (90 points)

2016 BiancaVigna Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore Extra Brut Rive Di Soligo - Italy, Veneto, Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore
Light yellow color. Lots of depth, with yellow apples, apricot, lemon curd, with chalky, bread dough and seashell notes. Brisk acidity, a bracing appeal on a light-bodied frame, with candied lemon peel, orange peel, green apples, with lots of crushed chalk, meringue, sea salt. Lots of mineral depth here, a nice salty, briny element, too on a dry, bright frame. I really like this stuff. Only 2 g/l residual sugar. (90 points)

Monday, December 31, 2018

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

As the year wraps up and 2019 begins, I have one last round-up of new releases from California.

This week, I have another batch from Lake County stalwart producer Jed Steele. I’ve said it before (a bunch of times), and I’ll say it again: some of these wines are so damned good for the money.

I also tasted two vintages of Calla Lily’s Audax Napa Cabernet. The fruit is sourced from a vineyard, first planted in 1995, on the eastern side of Howell Mountain. The vineyard is planted to mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Petite Sirah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot. They’re big and bold, but I found them vibrant and quite balanced as well.

In this report, I cover the newest vintages of Chalk Hill’s Chardonnay, Louis Martini’s Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet, and some new (to me) red wines from Joseph Stephens, a winery in the Santa Clara Valley owned by the Silicon Valley Wine Company.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Eberle Chardonnay Estate - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $24
Medium yellow color. Nose shows bruised apples, glazed pear, topped in cinnamon, honey, almond and sea salt. Crisp acidity frames the wine nicely, while plump texture holds up the rich apple and apricot fruit. Notes of salted almond, graham cracker, sea salt and honeycomb. Rich but still lively. Half stainless steel, half of the wine spends time in 25% new French oak. (87 points)

2016 Chalk Hill Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Chalk Hill
SRP: $42
Light gold color. On the nose, I get a combination of rich honey, cinnamon, pecans, along with lemon, white flowers and sea salt. Full texture but medium acidity, creamy but crisp, with all sorts of apples, apricots, lemons. Complex notes of sea shells, salted almond, white flowers, and the deeper notes of honeycomb and toasted marshmallow are woven in well. Rich mouthfeel, lots of textural depth, but also maintains an inviting freshness. Full maloactic fermentation and 11 months in 40% new French oak. (90 points)

2017 Steele Wines Pinot Blanc - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $20
Pale straw color. On the nose: peachy! Lots of juicy green melons, lemon curd as well, some orange blossom and clover. On the palate, precise acidity, this is juicy and fun with some nice textural depth, and flavors of green melon, key lime and lemon curd. Notes of orange blossom, perfume, new tennis ball, honeysuckle. This is sourced from Bien Nacido Vineyard, spends six months in old French oak, and is a fascinating and delicious wine, especially for the price. (89 points) 

2016 Steele Wines Shooting Star Cabernet Sauvignon - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $16
Bright purple color. Nose shows tart red and black currants and cherries with a smoky, minty, earthy element. Full but velvety on the palate, medium acidity, a bright and crunchy core of currants and plums. Notes of herbs, spiced coffee mix in nicely. Tangy and earthy finish. It’s hard to find California Cabernet of this quality at this price point. (87 points)

2016 Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Selection - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $25
Rich purple color. Dark and juicy on the nose with sweet plums, currant jam, smoky charcoal and root beer notes. Medium/full-bodied with soft tannins, moderate acidity, and a chewy texture. Plums and currants and black cherries, ripe and jammy fruit, this is a forward, fun, fan-friendly wine with notes of cola, chocolate and vanilla. 100% Cabernet. (85 points)

2014 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Rosso Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $85
Lively purple color. Beautiful nose of tangy red and black currants, sweet plums, lots of roses, violets, dusty earth, sweet cocoa, cedar – really gorgeous and complex on the nose. This wine is full and juicy but the acidity is lively and crisp, my mouth waters but the tannins provide serious grip. Tangy red and black currants and plums, really pretty, deep fruit, laced with complex elements of eucalyptus, dusty earth, clay, violets, with cocoa and espresso. Lovely now but shows lots of complexity and aging potential. All Cabernet Sauvignon aged 26 months in French and American oak. (91 points)

2014 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley
SRP: $35
Light purple color. Nose show juicy black cherries, plums, kirsch, along with sweet coffee, roasted herbs, vanilla and anise. Full-bodied with a plummy, ripe, juicy feel and velvety tannins, medium-low acidity. Plums and candied black cherries mix with coconut, anise, sweet vanilla coffee and some roasted earth notes. Forward, ripe, fun, crowd-pleasing stuff. Includes 16% Merlot and 4% Malbec aged 24 months in French and American oak. (88 points)

SRP: $120
Deep purple color. Nose shows tart black currant, juicy blackberries (gorgeous depth of fruit), with complex notes of mint, scorched earth, cocoa nibs, violets, deep but vibrant scents in here. Full but not heavy (14.5% alcohol), held together with sturdy tannins and surprisingly fresh acidity. Deep, concentrated but tangy black currants and dark plums, the fruit is juicy but really vibrant, and laced with a nice mix of earth, mint, dark chocolate and cedar. Fresh enough to be enjoyed now, but strength for the cellar, surely. (93 points)

SRP: $120
Deep purple color. Concentrated fruit on the nose (black currant, blackberries and blueberries), with deep violets, spiced black tea, earth, cocoa and mint. Full-bodied, a bit more powerful in its presence than the 2013, but still vibrant acidity, and the tannins are sturdy but show rounded edges. Pretty depth of fruit (currants, blackberries, plums), but it’s still nice and fresh. Notes of anise, cocoa, earth, mint and cedar. Plush and forward but lively. This could use five to eight years in the cellar, but it’s a lovely wine. 14.7% alcohol. (93 points)

2013 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford - California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
SRP: $70
Deep purple color. Rich purple color, with dark, concentrated blueberry, black cherry, along with anise, eucalyptus, dark chocolate, cocoa and earth. Full-bodied, significant tannins but it maintains a velvety feel, medium-low acidity. A dark, saucy style with blueberries, cassis, blackberries, along with notes of mint, eucalyptus, sweet cocoa, cedar. Rich and delicious but the balance lines up nicely here. Hedonistic now, but this could do some fun things over the next five years. Includes Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, aged 28 months in 67% new French oak. (90 points)

2014 Bootleg Wine Works Red - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $38
Medium purple color. Heck of a lot of plums and blackberries on the nose, with roasted fig, smoky charcoal, vanilla and mint. Full-bodied on the palate, this wine is all about the velvety mouthfeel, medium-low acidity, along with juicy plums, black cherries, blueberries, juicy and plump. Notes of mocha, scorched earth, vanilla, roasted chestnut. Big and hedonistic but well-made and undeniably yummy. A blend of Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 18 months in French and American oak. (89 points)

2014 Jason Stephens Winery Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Central Coast, Santa Clara Valley
SRP: $34
Light purple color. Aromas of spice tea, anise and cocoa underneath currant jam, cherry compote, with tobacco and magic marker notes. Full but plush, chewy yet moderating acidity. Plums and currant compote laced with chai, clove, sweet coffee, anise and cedar. Bold but vibrant, cool stuff from Santa Clara! Includes 10% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc, aged 30 months in 25% new American oak. (88 points)

2014 Jason Stephens Winery Meritage - California, Central Coast, Santa Clara Valley
SRP: $34
Rich purple color. Aromas of saucy black cherries, dark plums, with a mix of floral potpourri, sweet cocoa, roasted and candied nuts. Full but suave on the palate with rich, plush tannins and medium/low acidity. Plummy, saucy black fruit mixed with cocoa, coffee, sweet pipe tobacco and herbs. Lovely, juicy, rich but accessible. 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Malbec, 10% Carmenere, 10% Cabernet Franc, aged 36 months in oak. (88 points)

2014 Jason Stephens Winery Merlot - California, Central Coast, Santa Clara Valley
SRP: $24
Light purple color. Gushing nose of plums, black and red cherries, along with cinnamon, sweet herbs and vanilla. Full but smooth on the palate, velvety tannins, moderate acidity, and plenty of currants, plums, raspberry jam, backed up with anise, violets, vanilla. Juicy and suave fruit but a liveliness pervades the wine, too. Includes 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec, aged 36 month in 25% new oak. (88 points)

SRP: $16
Bright purple color. Nose shows sweet cherries, boysenberry, with cola and black pepper glaze. Full and juicy on the palate with fleshy tannins and medium acidity. Flavors of baked figs, plum cake, tart currants, mixed with coffee and cola. Fun, approachable style. Includes 5% Teroldego and 2% Petite Verdot, aged eight months in French oak. (85 points)

2016 Steele Wines Shooting Star Zinfandel - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $14
Dark ruby color. Aromas of plump plums, raspberries, juicy cherries, with roses, rhubarb and tobacco notes. Full-bodied but really vibrant, the acidity sings, and the tannins and smooth and velvety tannins. Lots of juicy, ripe but vibrant red berry fruit mixed in with tobacco, cocoa, mint and rose petals. Loving this ripe but crisp feel. Aged eight months in 20% new American and Hungarian oak. (87 points)

2016 Steele Wines Zinfandel Writer's Block - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $18
Bright purple color. Juicy and plummy on the nose with raspberries and black cherries, topped in spicy tobacco, black pepper, roses, rhubarb. Juicy and approachable on the palate with light tannins and fresh acidity, and a nice mix of tangy raspberries, plums and black cherries. Smoky, tar, tobacco and floral tones mixed in nicely. Vibrant and fresh but fruity and fun. Aged 12 months in 15% new oak. (87 points)

2015 Markus Wine Co. Domo - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $39
Bright ruby color. Lovely aromas of spiced black tea, anise, violets and earth over tart red currants and raspberries. On the palate, this is crisp and vibrant, medium-bodied, with velvety tannins, but packed with flavor. Plummy with raspberries and black cherries, topped in complex notes of anise, cocoa, violets, pepper, earth. Deep mineral notes. complex yet deep and bright. This is gorgeous. Carignan, Petite Sirah and Syrah. (92 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.