Saturday, May 18, 2019

Wine Reviews: International Grab Bag

This week I have a few wines from around the globe that didn’t fit nicely into a larger tasting theme. But, these are wines I want to highlight for several reasons.

Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet is a producer I’ve grown to associate with quality wines and very low prices, and the 2018 “Virgen” red blend for $13 is a great example.

M. Chapoutier’s Bila-Haut label returns once again with an exceptional L’Esquerda red blend. And I also enjoyed some wines from Maryland’s Big Cork Vineyards.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2018 Domaine Bousquet Virgen - Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco, Tupungato
SRP: $13
Bright purple color. Juicy and lively aromatics of roasted figs, plum sauce, black cherries, with smoky charcoal, black pepper and leather notes. Fresh and bright on the palate with light tannins and medium-plus acidity. Fun and fresh but loaded with fruit (black cherries, plums, fig paste), and backed up with notes of charcoal, coffee and leather. Lots and lots to offer for a wine at this price point, and this lighter, fresher, more savory style is really interesting to see at $13 or less. 35% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc. (87 points)

2017 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Domaine de Bila-Haut L'Esquerda - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Roussillon, Côtes du Roussillon Villages
SRP: $28
Deep purple color. Dark but lovely nose of roasted plums, black currants and cherries, along with deep, pure, fruit, I get complex notes of pepper, leather, scorched earth, grilled herbs, lavender. Full-bodied on the palate with solid structure but the tannins are rounded around the edges, and the acidity is medium. Black cherries, cassis and blueberry, the fruit is loaded with complex pepper, sage, leather, clove anise, roasted chestnut and that lavender note again, which is a really cool accent. Deep, complex, vibrant, drinking well now but will improve with a few years in the cellar for sure. Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault sourced from a 40+ year-old vines, a single-vineyard planted in granite and schist soils. (91 points)

2014 Ruffino Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Ducale Oro - Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
SRP: $41
Light purple color. Aromatic and inviting with notes of cherries, plums, cedar, mint, tobacco, graphite, with smoky tones as well. Full yet velvety with medium-dusty tannins and lively acidity. Cherries and plums, a nice tangy edge to the fruit, with a complex mix of incense, rose hips, tobacco, pepper and earth. Coffee and cedar notes woven in well, this is balanced, fun and fresh but shows solid complexity. 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, and 5% Colorino. (89 points)

2018 Ovum Big Salt - USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Elkton
SRP: $18
Pale lemon color. The nose pops with peach nectar, guava, lemon juice, along with lemon verbena, mint, chalk dust and some sea salt. Medium-bodied on the palate with a lightly creamy texture and medium-plus acidity. Peachy, juicy and fun, tropical yet salty and bright, not too rich or nectary. Floral, spiced tea, and honeyed notes add complexity. Everything is balanced quite nicely, and I love the freshness in here. Really good value. 45% Riesling, 45% Gewurztraminer, 8% Early Muscat, and 2% other white varieties, co-fermented in stainless steel. (88 points)

SRP: $27
Light yellow color. On the nose, a nice mix of lime, white peach, papaya, with brighter notes of sea salt, honeysuckle, white pepper and crushed chalk. Medium+ bodied, pleasant texture, but this has surprisingly fresh acidity, and the balance is lovely. There’s honeyed depth with notes of marmalade, almond and wax, but it shows a ton of vibrancy, with juicy white peaches, limes, notes of honeysuckle and chalk. For those who have grown wary of chunky Viogniers, this is a real treat, and worth seeking out. Includes 6% Chardonnay, 13.3% alcohol. (88 points)

SRP: $47
Light purple color. Spicy, earthy nose of pepper, smoke, leather and bell pepper (inviting scents to this Loire-lover), along with cherries and plums. Medium+ bodied, medium-light tannins, crisp acidity, this has a structured but accessible and zesty feel. Cherries and plums mix well with bell pepper, leather, smoke, anise, but it’s woven in nicely. Dusty yet bright, with pleasantly spicy and earthy appeal. All estate Cabernet Franc aged 15 months in oak. (87 points)

SRP: $70
Deep ruby color. The nose shows sweet red cherries, black cherries, plum sauce, along with sweet clove, anise, spiced black tea and cedar. On the palate, the wine combines medium tannins with refreshing acidity and rich but tangy fruit (plums, black and red cherries), and the combination is velvety and quite balanced. Lots of complex flavors of bitter black tea, anise, clove, charcoal, along with cedar and coffee notes. I’d love to age this for 5-8 years, or if drinking now, give this a good decant, because it really blossoms with air. All estate Cabernet Franc aged 29 months in barrel. (89 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Welcoming Champagne Palmer to the U.S. Market

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed some Champagne here, so I’m excited to dig back in! This week, I’m tasting some wines from Champagne Palmer.

Champagne Palmer is a cooperative that formed 70 years ago, a combined effort between seven growers in the Montagne de Reims region. They now source wine from hundreds of growers in more than forty different crus. About half of those vineyards are Grand and Premier Crus in the Montagne de Reims, while their other vineyards are located in the Côte de Sézanne, Côte des Bar and Marne Valley.

Cellar Master Xavier Berdin and his four oenologists use three different perpetual reserves (or soleras) to add depth and spice to their wines. The nonvintage cuvées are aged at least three years, while the vintage cuvées spend six to eight years on the lees.

These wines are relatively new to the U.S. market, so I was excited to taste them. I wasn’t disappointed. Don’t let the CM (Coopérative-Manipulant) scare you away — these are precise, zesty, elegant, complex wines. I found a lot of deliciousness and character in these wines, and I’d feel confident recommending them to any American Champagne lover looking for something new.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

N.V. Palmer & Co Champagne Brut Réserve - France, Champagne
SRP: $60
Deep yellow color. The nose shows rich, doughy notes with yellow apples, apricot, lemon curd, topped in hay, chalk dust, ginger and verbena. Lovely depth on the palate, creamy yet bright acidity. Apples and apricots, honey and ginger notes mix with brighter elements of crushed chalk, minerals, sea salt, biscuits, spiced tea. Nice depth and complexity. Sourced from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards in Montagne de Reims. About half Chardonnay with Pinot Noir and about 15% Pinot Meunier, this includes 35% reserve wines. Aged four years on the lees with an 8 g/l dosage. (89 points)

N.V. Palmer & Co Champagne Rosé Reserve - France, Champagne
SRP: $80
Deep copper color. Nose shows raspberries, cherries, along with herbal tea, rose petals, musky cologne and chalk dust. Crisp acidity, tons of tiny bubbles, this has a laser-like focus, with lots of lemon, raspberries and tart strawberries. Complex notes of spiced tea, musk, sea salt, sliced cucumber, minerals and chalk dust. Aged two to three years on the lees with an 8g/l dosage, this is an even mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with 10-15% Pinot Meunier, includes 35% reserve wines. (90 points)

N.V. Palmer & Co Champagne Blanc de Blancs - France, Champagne
SRP: $90
Bold yellow color. The nose shows lovely, biscuity goodness with honeycomb, salted almond, chalk dust, crushed shells, all on top of lemon curd and yellow apples. Bright acidity frames the wine so nicely while rich texture, creamy mouthfeel and find bubbles provide depth. Yellow apples, lemon, apricot, the fruit is blended nicely with sea salt, chalk dust, brioche, salted almond, hints of flowers and musk. Complex, rich yet zesty, the different elements are woven in nicely. Sourced primarily from Montagne de Reims Premier Crus Villers-Marmery and Trépail. Aged five years on the lees with a 7 g/l dosage. (91 points)

2009 Palmer & Co Champagne Vintage Brut - France, Champagne
SRP: $125
Light gold color. The nose boasts lemons, green apples, apricot, mixed with light biscuits, sea salt and ocean spray, with chalk dust and minerals. Bright acidity on the palate yet some creamy depth and very fine bubbles. Limes, lemons, tart apricot, the fruit is blended with a mix of minerals, crusty sea salt, quinine, and I get some toasted baguette, honey, raw almond. A bright Champagne with a pleasant sharpness, but the depth is there as well. I’d love to see what this does with five years in the cellar. An even split between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this spends 8 years on the lees. (91 points)

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wine Reviews: California New Releases

This week, I’ve got another roundup of new releases from all over California.

I recently tasted two new releases (an Albarino and a Gamay Noir) from Eighty Four wines. This Shafer side project, based in Carneros and named after the year in which Doug Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez began working together, has impressed me in the past, and these two wines continue that trend.

Well-known producer
Cliff Lede’s new Sauv Blanc and Cab Sauv have a lot to offer, while Frank Family’s new Carneros Pinot and Chard consistently deliver.

South African-born winemaker Graham Weerts, who now makes his home in Sonoma, produced two solid wines under the
Legacy label. And a few exciting wines from Lodi make an appearance in this report as well, including a thrilling, old-vine Carignan.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

Whites


2018 Beckmen Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
SRP: $20
Pale straw color. Nose shows lemon, grapefruit, along with verbena, lemongrass, musk, sea salt and light perfume. Lovely texture on the palate with vibrant acidity, and integrated creamy and honeyed lemons. Lemon, cantaloupe, green apples, the fruit is mixed with lemongrass, green onion and verbena, but this notes accent, they don’t dominate. Lovely Sauv Blanc for the price. All stainless steel, no maloactic fermentation. (88 points)


2018 Acquiesce Ingenue - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $32
Light straw color. The nose is super tropical with white peaches, pineapple, papaya, lots of baby’s breath, honeysuckle and sliced cucumber notes as well. Crisp and bright on the palate with a nice mix of papaya, peaches, drizzled in lime. I get strong floral perfume, nettle, wild greed herb notes, too. Fun, fresh, with a crisp, spicy, salad-friendly appeal. 35% Grenache blanc, 35% Clairette Blanche, 20% Bourboulenc, 10% Piquepoul. (87 points)


2018 Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $25
Light yellow color. A burst of aromas: lime, apricot, white peach, with salted almond, honeysuckle, chalk dust. On the palate, this is lively but creamy, with bright acidity supporting deep texture. The fruit (orange, apricot, lemon) is infused with some honeysuckle, sea salt, oyster shell – a really cool combo. The green elements in some Sauv Blancs are dialed back, and the pure, mineral, brightness really shines through, this is a beautiful Napa Sauv Blanc, and really exciting for the price. Fermented in a mix of French oak, stainless steel and concrete eggs, this includes 10% Sémillon, 3% Sauvignon Vert. (91 points)


2018 Eighty Four Wines Albariño - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $28
Light yellow color. Lively aromas of yellow flowers, honey, sea salt, with lemon, apricot and white peach. Medium+ bodied, really fresh and inviting with pleasant texture and crisp, lip-smacking acidity. Lemon curd, apricot and white peach fruit mixes nicely with chalk dust, salted almond, hints of mint and basil. Lovely depth yet this is s vibrant and gluggable, a great wine to drink all Spring and Summer. This spends four months on the lees in stainless steel (no oak, no maloactic fermentation). (89 points)


2017 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Rich yellow color. Aromas of lemon curd, apricot jam, baked apple, with nougat, honey, salted almond and fresh biscuits. Juicy and plum on the palate with rich texture and medium acidity. Flavors of glazed pear, apricot, orange marmalade, along with notes of almonds, sea salt, honey butter, biscuits and ginger. Warm yet fresh, bold but nuanced. A fine Carneros Chardonnay, as to be expected from Frank Family. Aged nine months in a third new French oak. (90 points)


2015 Legacy Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $75
Rich, almost neon color. Nose of buttered popcorn, peanut shells, on top of baked apple, orange marmalade, with ginger, almond cake, sea salt notes. Rich, bold, waxy, honeyed, this is full-throttle in style, but it has freshness underneath, too. Warm and nutty with buttered popcorn, salted almond, peanut brittle, with apricot and yellow apple fruit. Big and luscious but well-made with underlying perfume and floral notes. Fermented and aged 12 months in French oak, 37% new. (89 points) 

Reds


2016 Prie Vineyards Carignane Ancient Vine Spenker Ranch Vineyards - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $29
Bright ruby color. Gorgeous nose: raspberries, red cherries, strawberries, topped in spiced tea, rhubarb, clay, dusty earth, an elegant, evolving aromatic display. Medium/full-bodied with smooth tannins and vibrant acidity, the balance is lovely. Strawberries, cherries, raspberries, crunchy yet deep fruit with elements of spiced tea, rhubarb, anise, tilled soil, herbs and rose petals. Complex, elegant, wow, this is really impressive stuff. (92 points)

2016 Mettler Family Vineyards Pinotage - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $25
Bright purple color. Nose shows saucy black cherries, roasted plums, raspberry jam with anise, sweet chai, dark chocolate. On the palate, this is velvety and smooth with fresh acidity and tart but sweet fruit (fig paste, roasted plums, black cherry jam), with anise, earth and cedar notes. This is fun, juicy, spicy stuff, and a rare iteration of California Pinotage that is worth checking out. (87 points)


2017 Eighty Four Wines Gamay Noir - California, Napa Valley, Carneros
SRP: $35
Deep ruby color. Aromas of raspberries, fresh cherries, along with violets, spiced tea, clove, earthy-charcoal notes. Full-bodied (14.9%) with dusty, smooth tannins and refreshing acidity. The fruit is ripe and juicy (raspberries, black cherries), and touched with notes of miner, violets, earth, along with some cola and birch notes. Lots of fun, but the complexity and depth are in here, too. I’m a big supported of American growers working with Gamay, and it seems this producer has found quite the spot for it. The first vintage of this wine, and they’re off to a great start. Aged 14 months in 40% new French oak barrels. (90 points)


2017 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir - California, Napa/Sonoma, Carneros
SRP: $38
Deep ruby color. Nose of raspberries, cherries, plums, juicy and rich but spicy and lively, too, along with notes of clove, rose petals, rhubarb, cola and cedar woven in well. Full but fresh on the palate with velvety tannins and moderating acidity. Juicy raspberry, red plum, cherry pie, rich fruit but lively and nuanced. Notes of rhubarb, violets, clove, cola and spiced black tea. Velvety and fruit-forward, but also nicely balanced and integrated. Aged 10 months in one-third new French oak. (90 points)


2016 Rombauer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $65
Bright purple color. Aromas of juicy, warm black cherries and cassis, laced with lavender, clove, coffee, earth, touched with cedar and vanilla. Full-bodied with a velvety, slightly chewy mouthfeel, but clean, refreshing acidity keeps it lively. Cassis, black cherries and plums are mixed with a good amount of espresso, mint, lavender, bay leaf scorched earth – really nice mix of flavors. An underlying rocky/mineral element underneath, rich but lively. Drinking well now but could age. Includes 8% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc, aged 16 months in 80% new French oak. (90 points)


2016 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon One Point Five - California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $95
Deep purple color. The fruit is deep but tart on the nose, with waves of black currants and blueberries, laced with spicy pipe tobacco, violets, earth, mint, clove, vanilla. Full and velvety on the palate, serious structure but it’s smooth, and the acidity is quite fresh, keeping it vibrant. Laced with complex tobacco, dusty earth, with clove, earth, lavender, vanilla, cedar. An underlying graphite and mineral element that is so good. Just gorgeous now, but it will be a real treat with age. All Cabernet that spends 20 months in 100% new French oak. (94 points)


2016 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District - California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
SRP: $78
Really bright purple color. Nose boasts black currants, cassis, plums, rich and loaded but mixed with a host of coffee, cocoa, anise, mint chocolate chip, roasted herbs and graphite. Full-bodied and big on the palate (15.2%) but it’s built well with solid grip, enough acidity to hold it all together. Rich and velvety with waves of plums, black cherries and blueberries. The fruit is mixed with complex earth, graphite, iron, anise, along with coffee, mint chocolate chip and cedar. Accessible and delicious now but plenty of time ahead. Includes 11% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc, aged 21 months in about half-new French oak. (92 points)


2013 Legacy Winery Legacy Red Wine - California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $100
Medium purple color. Deep, gorgeous nose of cassis and black currants, laced with a complex mix of earthy, smoky savory notes (charcoal, mesquite, grilled meat, black olive, pepper) with notes, also some vanilla, cedar. Structured but velvety on the palate, full but fresh, with moderating acidity. Rich blackberry and tart black currant fruit, topped with generous notes of charcoal, graphite, bay leaf, pepper, earth — the savory and spicy elements in here are lovely. I think age has really done wonders for this wine already, but it has many years of evolution ahead. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, aged 26 months in 62% new French oak. (93 points)



This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Exploring Some Tasty, Rare, Alpine Wines


Dominique Belluard's Gringet vines. Credit: Selection Massale.
I've recently written about some high elevation wines from Arizona and Argentina. I'm fascinated by wines grown in high altitude vineyards. Maybe it's because of the novelty. Maybe it's because I love mountains. Or maybe it's because I find many of them to be crazy delicious.

Whatever the reason, I was excited to get together with some wine nerd friends for a dinner with a loose theme of "Alpine wine."

When you think of the word "Alpine" you, like me, may think: Switzerland. Well, the Swiss make some really good wine, but not much of it. They drink most of it themselves (smart folks, the Swiss), and little of it gets exported. As such, there's only a single Swiss wine in this bunch.

But we did gather up several wines from France's Savoie region (pronounced "Savv-WAH"). This region in far eastern France stretches south from Lake Geneva, abutting Switzerland, and has long been known as a source of après-ski wines. The vineyards are spread out in small enclaves, planted in diverse soils made up of glacial deposits, alluvial soils, lime-rich soils, clay, etc. Some of the grapes here are more recognizable (Roussanne, Chardonnay), but a lot of them are either indigenous or relatively obscure. In terms of white grapes (whites make up the majority of wines from this region) the popular ones are Jacquère, Altesse, Chasselas and Gringet. Mondeuse, Persan, Gamay and Pinot Noir lead the red grapes. While these wines are easier to find here in the States than Swiss wines, let's put them in perspective. Savoie wines make up less than 1% of France's total wine production. But, as this tasting demonstrated, there are some winemakers here doing fascinating things.

Valle d'Aosta is Italy's smallest, least populous region, dwarfed by neighboring Piedmont in terms of size, wine production, and international recognition of the region's wines. This mountainous region where Italy, France and Switzerland meet, is home to the highest elevation vineyards in continental Europe. The topography is so extreme, the amount of land available to plant vineyards is limited, and some of the vineyards are planted at elevations higher than 5,000 feet.

Lastly, we included a few wines from France's Jura region. This region isn't as topographically extreme as the other regions but the vineyards are still planted between 800 and 1,300 feet. The region isn't far from the Alps, this tasting group all loves Jura wines, and we're not sticklers for rules, so we included a few Jura wines into the mix as well.

Lastly, to top things off, I included a wine from the winery who holds the highest elevation vineyards in the world: Bodegas Colomé. Located in Argentina's Salta region, the winery itself sits at 7,500 feet, but it's Altura Máxima vineyard tops out at a mind-boggling 10,000 feet.


My notes on some fascinating and unique wines are below.

N.V. Lambert de Seyssel Seyssel Petit Royal - France, Savoie, Seyssel
This was a lot of fun, a Pet-Nat blend of Molette and Altesse. Rich nose of peaches, lemon curd, candle wax. Rich texture, nice depth, but really zippy and salty as well. Subtle bubbles, creamy-lees notes add texture. I really liked this stuff. (90 points)

2017 Renardat-Fâche Vin du Bugey-Cerdon - France, Savoie, Vin du Bugey-Cerdon
Perfumed and floral on the nose, with candied red fruit mixed with tea, herbs, cinnamon. Sweetness balanced by vibrant acidity and slight bubbles. Juicy, candied red fruits mixed with cinnamon, herbs and tea notes. Fun, crushable stuff. 7.5% alcohol, this is a unique méthode ancestrale blend of Gamay and Poulsard. (88 points)

2016 Robert Gilliard Fendant Les Murettes - Switzerland, Valais, Sion
Well, this was a pleasant surprise. At first it smelled quite “neutral” but with air and warmth it opened up to show peaches, lemon crème, airy/floral notes. Nice depth of texture, a waxy feel but bright acidity. Dusty mineral and chalk notes with hay, honey. Pleasantly subtle and nuanced. Made from the Chasselas grape (a.k.a. Fendant). (89 points) 

2016 Domaine Belluard Gringet Vin de Savoie Les Alpes - France, Savoie, Vin de Savoie
Dense nose – there is a lot in here – but it breathes and show lemon curd, honey, sea salt. Killer depth on the palate, there’s this plump texture but the acidity and minerality are laser-liked, focused, and pristine. Pretty apples and lemons mixed with minerals, smashed rocks, chalk dust and salted almond. Deep, pretty, this really started to sing after a few hours open. My wine of the night. (93 points)


2014 Domaine du Pelican Savagnin Ouille - France, Jura, Arbois
This wine evolved a ton with air. Deep yellow color. Heavy aromas, this is a dense wine, but it opens to show honey, nuts, nougat, saline, seaweed and a big heaping portion of lemon crème pie. The palate shows really rich texture, and the oak is evident, but there’s still this great saline aspect and crisp, crunchy acidity. Deep yellow fruits laced with minerals, honey, almond and salted butter. There’s a lot going on here, and it got more and more expressive. I’d love to see what this does with five to eight years of age. (92 points)


2016 Lucien Aviet Arbois Cuvée des Docteurs - France, Jura, Arbois
The funk blew off to show red apple, spiced tea, pepper and green herbs. Bright and spicy with raspberry and red apple peel, dusty tannins. Zippy and spicy with pepper and herbs. This got more and more smooth and refreshing with air. (90 points)


2016 Château de Merande Mondeuse La Belle Romaine - France, Savoie, Vin de Savoie Arbin
So much laffy taffy on the nose, along with pepper and black tea. The palate is dry, the tannins seem a bit bitter and green, medium acidity. Juicy purple fruit mixes with smoky earth, pepper and black tea. Interesting stuff, but not a very balanced wine. Maybe it deserved more time and air. Made from Mondeuse Noir. (85 points)


2017 Domaine des Ardoisières Vin des Allobroges Argile - France, Savoie, Vin des Allobroges
Loving the nose here, as it’s a big mix of spices and savory elements (pepper, leather, spiced tea, scorched earth) on top of juicy raspberries and black cherries. Plush texture on the palate, with dusty tannins and really lively acidity, the balance is lovely. Juicy raspberries and red apple doused in pepper, anise, charcoal, with smashed rocks and mineral notes. This got more and more expressive with air, and it was my favorite red of the night. A Gamay and Persan blend. (92 points)



2016 Grosjean Petite Arvine Vigne Rovettaz - Italy, Valle d'Aosta
Fascinating stuff. The nose is steely and floral with honey and lemon curd. Creamy depth on the palate but there’s bright acidity and a good dose of saline-infused mineral goodness. Fresh and vibrant with yellow apple, lemons, rich fruit but complex non-fruit elements as well. Balanced, complex, a lot going for it. (91 points)


2016 Bodega Colomé Malbec Estate - Argentina, Salta, Calchaquies
Deep purple color. Aromas are dark and tart with blackberry, blueberry, plum, with lots of loamy earth, cocoa, mint and graphite. Tangy acidity frames the wine nicely, balancing the moderate tannins, the balance is on point. Blackberry and tart blueberry, laced with mineral, graphite, earth. So pure and lively, this is showing very well now but I’d like to see it with a few years of age. (90 points)

Friday, May 3, 2019

Wine Reviews: 2018 Rosés are Rolling In


It’s Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, and the pink wines have started piling in. As such, this will be the one of several rosé reports this Spring/Summer, I’m sure. But this first batch has some real goodies.

I’m a big fan of Rioja producer C.V.N.E., and they make two different pinks that are seriously good for the money.

Most of the other rosés are from California, based on grapes like Pinot Noir, Grenache, Cabernet, Aglianico. Three non-saignée rosés from Sonoma’s Inman Family really wowed me. Inman started off the Endless Crush wines 15 years ago, making a single-vineyard wine from Olivet Grange Vineyard, but the winery has since expanded to include two other vineyard-designated pinks. They share bright, mineral-driven appeal and juicy fruit, but each has its own nuances and seasonings.

Lastly, there’s an exciting Pinot Noir rosé from Oregon producer Gran Moraine, whose wines have really impressed me over the years.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.


2018 C.V.N.E. Rioja Rosado Viña Real - Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
SRP: $13
Bright pink color. Aromas of magnolia blossoms, juicy papaya, orange, watermelon, with some spicy, herbal undertones. Creamy texture kept fresh with bright acidity. Watermelon, white peach and strawberry fruit. It’s juicy and inviting with ripe fruit but there’s a crisp, floral, mineral, spicy undertone that is really attractive. Solid depth and value, but so easy to drink. Garnacha, Tempranillo and Viura. (88 points)

2018 C.V.N.E. Rioja Rosado Cune - Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
SRP: $13
Juicy watermelon color, which follows onto the nose, with strawberries and crème, rose petals, white pepper and honeysuckle. Juicy and ripe on the palate with watermelon and strawberry fruit but there’s a brisk acidity and freshness to the wine. Notes of roses, white pepper and cinnamon add complexity. Bright, fresh, delish, so good for the price. 100% Tempranillo. (88 points)

2018 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Rosado - Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
SRP: $13
Pale copper color. Bright aromas of white cherries, strawberries, watermelon rind, with wild herbs and wildflowers. Zippy yet creamy on the palate with fresh white cherries, strawberries, red apple peel. Spicy notes of baby’s breath, honeysuckle, white pepper, some herbal tea elements. This Rioja rose has a salad and tapas-friendly appeal, and a good value. 55% Garnacha, 45% Tempranillo. (87 points)

2018 Etude Pinot Noir Rosé - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
SRP: $22
Bright pink color. Aromas of strawberries, red cherries, cinnamon candies, with lilies, honeysuckle. Juicy and ripe on the palate but it’s balanced by super refreshing acidity and a crisp, salty, nervy frame. Red apple, watermelon and cherry fruit mix nicely with sea salt, white and yellow flowers, white pepper, honeyed tea and an underlying mineral element. Vibrant and lively but quite complex and deep as well. (89 points)

2018 La Crema Pinot Noir Rosé - USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $25
Light pink color. Aromas pop with nettle, sliced cucumber, white tea, honeysuckle, over top of watermelon and lemon. Juicy on the palate with a creamy texture and medium acidity. Watermelon and lemon and white peach mix with nettle and spicy oregano notes. Fun, fresh, spicy stuff. (86 points)

2018 LangeTwins Aglianico Rosé River Ranch Vineyard - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $20
Light pink color. Spicy aromatic burst of green herbs, rose hips and lambic beer with raspberry, white cherries, red apples. On the palate, this shows plump texture on a rich mouthfeel with medium acidity, and while there’s a bold texture and plenty of juicy cherry and watermelon fruit, there’s also lot of complex, spicy, herbal tones (rose petals, white pepper, rhubarb, nettle). A delicious rose that could pair well with all sorts of richer dishes. (89 points)

2018 Copain Pinot Noir Tous Ensemble Rosé - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $25
Deep copper color. So many melons on the nose (watermelon and cantaloupe), white peach, it’s floral but not too perfumed; there’s a lovely blend of roses, wildflowers and hay, like a breezy open field. Plush texture yet vibrant acid on the palate, juicy, tangy fruit (red apple, watermelon, red cherry). I get complex notes of herbs, earth, dried flower petals, and there’s a mineral undertone that’s really attractive. Delicious yet subtle, this rose really stood out. Blended from five parcels in estate vineyards in Mendocino. (91 points)

2018 Gamble Family Vineyards Rosé - USA, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $20
Light copper color. The nose boasts juicy cherries and raspberries, and I get a lot of pepper, sage, mint, verbena, on top of chalk dust and white tea. Medium-bodied, creamy, there’s a lot of textural depth yet the acidity is vibrant. Crunchy apples and cherries, the fruit mixes nicely with spiced tea, white pepper, mint, I get lots of floral depth and chalky notes. Bold yet spicy, complex yet bright. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. (89 points)

2018 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir Rosé Cresta d'Oro - USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley
SRP: $39
Very pale salmon color. So fresh on the nose with strawberries, white cherries, candied apple, along with wildflowers and dandelion. Fresh and zippy on the palate with a light, tangy appeal and flavors of white cherries, watermelon, red apple. A chalkier, airier wine with lovely balance and nuance. Salty, floral, herbal, mineral tones add complexity. Bright and vibrant, but a lot going on here. All Pinot Noir from the Cresta d’Oro Vineyard in the Green Valley. (90 points)

2018 Anaba Grenache Rosé Landa Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $28
Pale copper color. The nose shows bright raspberries, red apples, with spiced tea, nettle, baby’s breath. Crisp yet plump on the palate with juicy raspberries, strawberries, white cherries, on a frame of bright acidity. Crisp and salty, too, with floral and chalky notes. I lie the mix of fresh and spicy elements. This would be great with cured meats and olives. (88 points)

2018 Inman Family Pinot Noir Endless Crush Rosé Pratt Vine Hill - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $38
So fresh and inviting on the nose: red apples, white cherries, all sorts of fruit tree blossoms, along with sea salt and daisies. Zippy and vibrant on the palate, chalky and zesty on the palate but some nice depth and juicy fruit as well (strawberries, cherries, raspberries). Lots of floral tones in here (orange blossom, potpourri) with spiced tea elements and a chalky, mineral undertone. Impressive depth but so refreshing and easy to drink. (91 points)

2018 Inman Family Pinot Noir Endless Crush Rosé Pratt Sexton Road - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $38
The nose bursts with white cherries, strawberries, red apple, all sorts of fruit blossoms, dandelion, honeysuckle, breezy, salty air. Plush, luscious texture on the palate, but crisp, nervy acidity, with a vibrant, salty appeal. There’s a lot of floral and spicy complexity in here (honeysuckle, rose petals, white tea, ginger) and complex sea salt and mineral tones underneath. Lovely depth and richness here, with a finish like watermelon and mountain stream minerals. Beautiful Pinot Noir rosé. (92 points)

2018 Inman Family Pinot Noir Endless Crush Rosé OGV Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $38
So bright on the nose, with watermelon, lime, cherry, and plenty of chalk dust, sea spray, way too many floral notes to name. Zippy and crisp on the palate, bright but the depth is impressive. Juicy watermelon, guava and cherry fruit mixes well with saline, minerals, chalk, spiced tea, floral potpourri. Complex and deep yet zesty and clean, this is really delicious and lively stuff. (91 points)

2018 Smoking Loon Steelbird Rosé - USA, California
SRP: $8
Light watermelon color. Aromas of strawberry, raspberry leaf, red delicious apple, with nettle and dandelion notes. Crisp and tart and light on the palate with fresh cherry, red apple fruit, with notes of crushed sweet tarts, dandelion, white pepper and honeysuckle. Juicy, fun, fresh, and with a suggested price of under $10, this brings a whole lot to the table. Barbera with 27% Syrah and 13% Grenache. (85 points)

2018 Gran Moraine Rosé of Pinot Noir - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
SRP: $28
Very pale copper color. Bright, airy, elegant nose of white pepper, rose petals, chalk dust, with white cherries, wild raspberries, and strawberry bushes. On the palate this is crisp and vibrant but there’s a lot of textural depth. Vibrant strawberries, red cherries, raspberries, with complex notes of rose petals, sea salt, white pepper, chalk dust. Bright and elegant, this has a crunchy, floral yet juicy feel that is all wrapped up nicely. (90 points)



This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

High-Elevation Wines from Argentina & Chile

Bodega Colome's Altura Maxima Vineyard. Credit: Bodega Colome.
High-elevation vineyards fascinate me, and, as such, I’ve long been drawn to wines from Argentina. Especially in the Salta region, these vineyards are planted at dizzying heights.

In terms of highest elevation vineyards in the world, that title belongs to Bodega Colomé. The bodega sits at about 7,500 feet, but their highest vineyard (Altura Máxima) is located some 10,000 feet above sea level.

I recently tasted through some impressive wines from this producer, as well as fellow Salta winery Bodega Amalaya. This report also includes a wine from Domaine Bousquet and a serious value-driven Chilean red called Primus.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2018 Bodega Colomé Torrontés - Argentina, Salta
SRP: $15
Light yellow color. Aromas burst with lychee and white peach and pineapple, with tropical flowers, honey, very perfumed. Peachy keen on the palate with bright, sprightly acidity and a creaminess to the texture that adds depth. Lychee, pineapple and honeydew melon mix nicely with a floral perfume and honey combination, finishes with a hint of chalky minerals. I’m not a huge Torrontes fan, but this one is very pretty. (88 points)

SRP: $12
Light yellow color. So peachy on the nose with guava, lychee, limes, with yellow flowers and honey. Medium-bodied with racy acidity, a lively and tingling appeal. Peaches and crème mixed with lime, guava, lychee, along with notes of sea salt, chalk, lots of white and yellow flowers. Juicy, tropical, yet racy and vibrant. 85% Torrontes, 15% Riesling. (86 points)

2015 Domaine Bosquet Ameri - Argentina, Mendoza, Valle de Uco, Tupungato
SRP: $36
Bold purple color. Nose shows tart black cherries and saucy plums, wild blackberries, with cocoa, vanilla, cedar, earthy-charcoal notes. On the palate, this is full-bodied with tangy acidity, and the balance is really impressive. Tart black cherries and blueberries, tangy dark fruit, accented well with spicy herbs, cocoa, mint, spiced coffee, an earthy-mineral presence underneath. Ready to drink now, but this is structured to improve for at least a handful of years. 65% Malbec with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, from a single estate vineyard at 4,000 feet elevation. (90 points)

2017 Bodega Amalaya Malbec - Argentina, Salta
SRP: $16
Deep purple color. Aromas of tart but deep black currants and cherries, along with violets, graphite, earth, cocoa, black pepper, rocky earth. Full-bodied on the palate with velvety tannins and bright acidity, the balance is impressive. Tart black currants and blackberries, the fruit is accented with graphite, violets, earth, dusty cocoa. Deep, balanced, drinking so well right now but no rush. Really good value going on here. Includes 10% Tannat and 5% Petit Verdot. (89 points)

2016 Bodega Colomé Malbec Estate - Argentina, Salta, Calchaquies
SRP: $25
Deep purple color. Aromas are dark and tart with blackberry, blueberry, plum, with lots of loamy earth, cocoa, mint and graphite. Tangy acidity frames the wine nicely, balancing the moderate tannins, the balance is on point. Blackberry and tart blueberry, laced with mineral, graphite, earth. So pure and lively, this is showing very well now but I’d like to see it with a few years of age. (90 points)

2017 Bodega Colomé Malbec Auténtico - Argentina, Salta
SRP: $30
Bright purple color. Dark and juicy but tart with blackberries, cassis, deep notes of violets, potpourri, clove, coffee, loamy earth, charcoal, grilled herbs. On the palate, I love the combination of vibrant, crisp acidity with the waves of dark, velvety, tangy black fruit. Complex notes of minerals, graphite, forest floor, violets, anise, black tea. Rich fruit but it’s nuanced and complex, such a pretty expression of Malbec. Accessible now but I’d love to see it in a few years. All Malbec from 100-year-old vines, planted about 7,500 feet in elevation, aged in tanks, no oak. (91 points)

2015 Primus The Blend - Chile, Rapel Valley, Colchagua Valley
SRP: $19
Medium purple color. The nose shows loads of saucy black cherries, black cherries, along with a burst of black pepper, roasted red pepper, green olives, charcoal pit, along with coffee and vanilla notes. Medium/full-bodied with medium, velvety tannins, with moderating acidity, and everything is quite nicely balanced. Juicy yet tangy cassis and blackberry with a complex mix of anise, pepper, black olive, charcoal, and an underlying sense of rocky minerals. Accessible now but has the depth and concentration to improve for at least a few years. Surprisingly complex and balanced for the price. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc. (90 points)