Monday, May 21, 2012

Fun Finds and Let-Downs - Recent White and Sparkling Wines

There's probably no better time to drink bubbles than on a lazy, balmy Sunday afternoon in DC. My wine buddy Scott and his wife popped a few bubbly bottles on their newly renovated back patio, and we all took in the sun and wine together. Another friend came by with a bunch of sparklers to share as well, and it turned into quite an evening. I was surprised by some of the lesser-priced wines, especially those from Alsace, and let down by some of the bigger names. Go figure...

2007 Domaine Servin Chablis Grand Cru Bougros - France, Burgundy, Chablis Grand Cru
This was my contribution to the tasting, and it turned out well. Very dark gold color. The nose shows peanut shell, honey, salted nuts and dried pineapple. The palate is laced with acid and minerals, as well as wax, lanolin and nuts. The palate tastes like salted caramel and lemon zest. Interesting. I would say this is a drink now kind of Chablis Grand Cru. It's only five years old, but it drinks like its 10+ years old. (89 pts.)

2008 Sea Smoke Pinot Noir Sea Spray - California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills
I've never had a Sea Smoke pinot noir. Their cult following and swollen price points have kept me focused on pinot noirs from elsewhere. I hope the quality of this sparkling wine isn't indicative of their other wines, because I was quite disappointed by this. Toasty nose of brioche, strawberry and cherry blossom. The aromas are the best thing this wine has going for it. The palate starts off with a burst of white cherry and strawberry fruit, overwhelming in its attack and fruit-forward approach. White cherry, coconut, mango flavors abound, combining to give my palate the sensation of drinking a sugary mai thai. So much red fruit and rum flavors, it's like a Caribbean cocktail. For the price, (this bottle retails at about $80) I'd spend my money on three bottles of Roederer Estate sparkling wine instead. In my opinion, this wine falls far short the "Califirnia Grand Cru" moniker it bestows upon itself. Is this a gimmick or a serious sparkling wine? Probably the former. (81 pts.)

2009 Loring Wine Company Brut Blanc de Blancs - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
I have enjoyed Loring's fruit-forward pinot noirs, and I liked this sparkling wine more than the Sea Smoke. Golden colored. Aromas of bubble gum, apricot and musty, earthy pinot noir. On the palate, this wine shows liquid apricots, lots of richness, peach and pineapple sauce. There's a strange boiled peanut flavor on the finish, and a hint of metal, like tin. Not nearly enough acid for my tastes, but still quite pleasant. (85 pts.)

N.V. Summerhill Pyramid Winery Pinot Noir Cipes Rose - Canada, British Columbia, Okanagan Valley
Lookout! A simple rose sparkler bursts onto the scene and actually delivers. The color is like melted cherry Jolly Rancher candies. The nose shows white cherry, strawberry and chalk. The palate is tangy, with light and bright red fruit flavors. No minerals or secondary flavors, but this wine's simple, light, fruity personality is a lot of fun. (86 pts.)

N.V. Willm Crémant d'Alsace Cuvée Prestige - France, Alsace
Now we're talking. This Alsatian sparkler shows toasty, nutty aromas, along with white peach and musk, like Italian men's cologne. Full and toasty on the palate, with gorgeous white peach and honey flavors. Very pure with minerals, nutshells and musk. Finish shows notes of nuts and earth. Acid lingers on the finish. Delightful. (90 pts.)

N.V. Gustave Lorentz Crémant d'Alsace Pinot Noir - France, Alsace
Aromas of sea shells, strawberries and minerals. The palate shows bitter cherry, minerals, and a distinct flavor of lemon and grapefruit bitters, the stuff you'd mix into 1930s-style cocktails. This went very well with the pate and cheese selection. Lovely melon rind on the finish. (89 pts.)

N.V. Pierre Sparr Crémant d'Alsace Brut Réserve - France, Alsace
Aromas of lemon-lime, spritzy grapefruit. The palate shows toast, cantaloupe rind, white peach and minerals. The palate is full of bold melon and pineapple fruit, while maintaining lively acid and fresh minerals. Quite a nice sparkler. (88 pts.)

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé - France, Alsace
The streak of quality Alsatian bubbles continues with this light cherry colored wine. The aromas are very floral and grapefruit-centric. The palate is bright, showing grapefruit, lemon and white cherry. Zesty on the palate, with lots of lemons and minerals. (87 pts.)

N.V. Valdo Nerello Mascalese. Brut Rose - Italy
This Italian sparkling wine is a light salmon color. This wine smells like watermelon, stinky gym socks and rose water. It's not chemically faulted, it just stinks. The palate is bitter and offensive. Screw this wine, it tastes like crap, and the producer must be a loser. (60 pts.)

2008 Woodenhead Naturale Methode Champenoise - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
I've never tasted a wine from this producer, despite the fact that I unknowingly drove right past the winery earlier this year. Aromas of almond, lemons and white cherry. Very complex aromas, shifting with time. The palate tastes likes lemons, minerals and white peaches. It's very focused and intense, much more profound than the other California sparkling wines in the tasting. Zesty finish with white cherries and tang. With more time in the glass, it changed a lot and showed a lot of different characteristics. I can't wait to try something else from this producer. (90 pts.)

2010 Massican Annia - California, Napa Valley
What a lovely white blend of tocai, ribolla and chardonnay. It smells like white flowers, green melon and IPA beer, really interesting, almost hop-like. The palate is juicy with melon fruit, white flowers and a distinct flavor of cucumber water. The plump, yellow fruit blended in with the earth and mineral flavors and medium acid make this wine a really intriguing whole. Absolutely weird and delicious. (91 pts.)

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