Sunday, September 29, 2013

Long Shadows: Winemakers of the World Unite Around Washington State Wine

Allen Shoup knows a thing or two about Washington State wine. The man behind the dramatic rise of Chateau Ste. Michelle and its affiliated wineries, Shoup has been perhaps the greatest evangelist for the wines of Washington’s Columbia Valley.

In 2002, Shoup assembled a super group of winemakers from all around the world to create a diverse portfolio of Washington State wines. He called the project Long Shadows Wineries. Using fruit from all over the Columbia Valley, Long Shadows produces a “Poet’s Leap” Riesling with Nahe winemaker Armin Diel, a “Feather” Cabernet with Napa Cab god Randy Dunn, a Super Tuscan style blend with Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari, just to name a few.

The wines in this report were received as samples. The bottles were mixed in with other Pacific Northwest wines, and I tasted and scored them blind.

Arman Diel in The Benches vineyard above the Columbia River. (From Long Shadows)
2012 Long Shadows Wineries Riesling “Poet’s Leap” - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $20
Honeysuckle and cherry blossom aromas explode from the glass, followed by green melon and papaya. Yet there’s a salted lime aspect to the nose as well, and the wine got more and more expressive as it warmed up. On the palate, juicy green melon, white peach and banana flavors are balanced by tart acid and focused mineral notes. This tastes only slightly off-dry, but it’s very well-balanced. Rich, but maintains classic Riesling verve. What a finish: like briny ocean rocks and key limes mixed together. Seems like it could easily improve and develop for two or three years. Made by Armin Diel of Nahe Riesling fame. (90 points)

2008 Long Shadows Wineries “Chester-Kidder” - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $50
Dense aromas, but with air they started coming out to play, showing cherry sauce, wild blueberry, violets and sweet coconut. Silky but incredibly rich, as waves of blueberry, cassis and cocoa powder cover the palate. The secondary flavors of earth, dust, cedar and granite need 5+ years to fully develop. A stunning red blend that’s built for the long haul. 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 5% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc. Made by the French-born Gilles Nicault. (92 points)

2009 Long Shadows Wineries “Chester-Kidder” - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $50
Dark purple color. Upon popping the cork, the aromas were really tight, but they opened up to show chocolate-covered cherries, sweet plums and cocoa powder. On the palate, this wine boasts a glycerin-like mouthfeel. It’s really dense, with flavors of blackberries and blueberries, fig paste and caramel. Notes of loam and graphite add complexity. With time, this settled down and showed some acid coming through, but let’s be clear: this wine is dense and hedonistic, and it’s incredibly primal right now. The cellar could do wonders for this blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 17% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. (89 points)

Tuscany meets Columbia Valley.
2009 Long Shadows Wineries “Pirouette”  - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $50
Aromas of plum sauce, charcoal and prunes. The palate is very jammy, with medium tannins and a raisin and prune-like approach. Notes of red licorice and mocha carry the finish. Quite nice, but not as deep as the Chester Kidder. A blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. Made by Bordeaux native Phillipe Melka. (87 points)

2009 Long Shadows Wineries “Saggi”  - Washington, Columbia Valley
SRP: $45
A purple-ruby color. The currant and red plum fruit smells warm, but not baked, with earthy, cedar and floral notes. Fresh acid and fine tannins. Tangy red currant fruit leads the way, and I get the sensation of biting into a fresh summer plum. Some roasted coffee, cedar and toast, but not overwhelming, and there are also some tobacco and mushroom undertones. Bold, balanced, this will improve in the cellar. A blend of 62% Sangiovese, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Syrah.
A team effort from Tuscan winemakers Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari. (91 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tasting Report: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

It’s easy to get excited about Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. The combination of bright fruit, crisp acid and moderate alcohol in many of these wines makes them easy to pair with all sorts of food, especially the harvest meals of fall. Most of the wines in this report are Pinots, but a few other interesting varieties are thrown in as well. Some of these wines cost a lot, but I couldn’t find a bad or even mediocre wine in the bunch.

All the wines were received as trade samples and tasted blind.

2012 R. Stuart & Co. Pinot Gris Big Fire - Oregon
SRP: $17
Very light straw color. Bright and floral on the nose, with lime and nectarine. Crisp acid on the palate, but it also shows just a bit of wax and oily texture, so you get this overall soft feel. Flavors of pineapple, nectarine, some lemon peel. Not the deepest, most complex wine, but really solid for $17. (87 points)

2011 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Willamette Valley - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $29
Light ruby, slight auburn color. On the nose, bright cherries, rose petals, some spiced coffee and rhubarb. Bright acid on the palate and fine tannins. Flavors of black cherries, strawberries, with notes of black tea and more spiced coffee. Tangy, light and approachable, but also showing decent structure. Solid finish with notes of soil and pepper. (87 points)

2011 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir Mount Richmond - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $48
Clear cherry-juice colored. Cranberries, sweet cherries, some spicy wild strawberries and pepper. Tart acid and medium-grain tannins combine to make a fresh and zesty wine. Rich red cherry mixes with juicy black cherries, and there’s some significant mocha and smoke. There’s also this flavor that makes me think of digging in the dirt for root vegetables, this rich, loamy, herbal quality, and I love it. Fresh but firm, and I’d like to try this after a few hours in the decanter. (89 points)

2011 Vineyard 29 Pinot Noir Cru - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $54
Soft cherry colored. On the nose, bursting fresh cherries and raspberries, but there’s a lot of non-fruit aromas like herb, pepper and mushroom soup, and the combination smells amazing. Firm tannins and compact red fruit make this a weighty wine, but the medium acid does a good job keeping it in check. The juicy wild raspberry and plum fruit is blended with cracked pepper, lavender, tobacco and soy flavors. The palate is rich and touched with oak, but it presents itself well. (It’s aged 10 months in 50% new French oak). The finish is long and packed with concentration. This wine will reward the patient. (91 points)

2010 R. Stuart & Co. Pinot Noir Big Fire - Oregon
SRP: $19
Light ruby color. Fresh cherries, juicy raspberries, rose petals and red licorice aromas, so damn light and airy. Tangy acid on the palate, and the tannins are fine but still offer structure. I like the tartness to the cherry fruit mixed with the sweet strawberries. Some herbal and earth tones make for more than a simple sipping wine. Crisp, bright, this wine would be as comfortable on the patio as it would be on the dinner table. Impressive for the price. (87 points)

2010 R. Stuart & Co. Pinot Noir Daffodil Hill - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $50
A bright ruby color. On the nose, sweet red flowers, red licorice, raspberries and some herbal notes. On the palate, I get a lot of that tangy acid that I enjoy in Oregon Pinot. This is a lighter-weight wine (12.8% alcohol), but it shows plenty of juicy black cherry and raspberry. Lightly toasted oak, mocha and a bit of loam. Finishes with tingling acid, red fruit and a peppery note. A lot to like here. (88 points)

2010 R. Stuart & Co. Pinot Noir Autograph - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $50
Vibrant ruby color. Fresh aromas of red cherries, rose petals, red licorice and a bit of cola. On the palate, fine, almost silky tannins provide support, along with medium acid. Tastes like a mix of snappy wild raspberries and wild strawberries mixed in with some cherry pie filling. Notes of smoke and mocha linger on the finish. A fresh, tasty Pinot that seems to be drinking well right now. (87 points)

2010 Tendril Wine Cellars Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $48
Inviting nose of roses petals, sweet strawberries, hints of pepper and rosemary. Full but fresh in its approach, with medium acid and firm tannins. The cherry and raspberry fruit is snappy, backed up by flavors of pine, tilled soil and mushroom. The toasty, mocha accents are rich, but they don’t overwhelm the other elements. Well done stuff that should drink well over the next few years. Aged 15 months in 30% new French oak. (88 points)

2010 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Dundee Hills - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
SRP: $38
Light ruby color. Bright aromas of cherries, cranberries, notes of tobacco and sage. On the palate, dusty tannins combine with fresh acid and ripe black cherry fruit for a silky-smooth mouthfeel. Earth and mushroom flavors linger onto the finish. A leaner Pinot, but showing a lot of deeply attractive qualities. Aged 16 months in 44% new oak. (88 points)

2010 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Big Tree Block - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
SRP: $70
Medium ruby color. Nose of cranberry sauce, red currants, roses and a dash of pepper. On the palate, medium acid and fine tannins add up to a medium-bodied wine with a creamy mouthfeel. Juicy red currant mixes with darker cherry fruit, all of it juicy and fresh. Notes of pepper and sage as well. Hazelnut and toast flavors accent the fruit. Yummy stuff. A bit more weight and toast than the basic Dundee Hills appellation wine. (88 points)

2007 Tartan Dolcetto Sunnyside Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP $20
A bright ruby color. It smells like tart cherries, red currants and there’s also a strong soil and tobacco component. On the palate, the acid is really high, almost searing, but the dusty tannins and olive give this wine an Old World mystique. The mineral and earthy vibe is right on key. An Oregon wine pays homage to its Italian heritage, and it does so very well. Delicious stuff, holding up nicely. (90 points)

2006 Tartan Dolcetto Sunnyside Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $20
A cloudy ruby color. Tighter on the nose than the other wines, but some sour cherry and red currant came out with time, along with a dusty herbal aspect. The acid is a high on the palate, and some volatile acidity shows through. Tart cherries and currants, but the fruit is waning. Some pickle and rhubarb aspects. Seems tired and flat, and really falls off on the finish. Either an off bottle or maybe this shouldn’t have been held so long. (NR)

2006 Tartan Tempranillo Sunnyside Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $20
Dark ruby colored. The nose shows ripe black cherry and currant fruit, along with a solid dose of mushroom, tobacco and pepper. Refreshing acid combines with firm tannins. A mix of red and black currant fruit, which tastes fresh but still tangy. Some serious Old World elements here, with mushroom, loam and mineral flavors. Touched with a bit of toast, but the wine maintains an elegant and fresh persona. Ready for business but it could spend some time in the cellar as well. Aged in 20% new oak. (89 points)

2007 Tartan Tempranillo Sunnyside Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $20
Pretty ruby-purple color. The black cherry and currant fruit smells ripe but fresh, and it’s matched with some dark, loamy aspects and an aroma that reminds me of sun-dried tomato. Fine, dusty tannins and fresh acid on the palate. Red currant and cherry fruit mixes with soil, leather, pickle and smoke tones. Silkier and more mature than the sturdier 2006, this seems to be in a prime drinking window. (89 points)

This tasting was conducted in concert with my friends at the daily wine blog Terroirist, where this article first appeared.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Three 2011 Rieslings

I prefer to drink wine with friends and family, but online tastings can be a lot of fun as well. Last night I joined a bunch of Twitter wine nerds and tasted three Rieslings from the 2011 vintage, one from the Mosel Valley, one from Alsace and one from the Kremstal region of Austria. A kind of last hoorah for the Summer of Riesling, the tasting was organized by a @VinoCC, @GermanWinesUSA, @AustrianWineUSA and @drinkAlsace.

All the wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

The first Riesling comes from Johannes Selbach, a very reliable producer from Germany’s Mosel Valley. It’s a $13 entry level wine, but it offers a good introduction to the Mosely style of dry Riesling.

2011 Selbach Riesling Dry Fish Label - Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
SRP: $13
Light lemon peel color. A zesty, mineral-driven nose showing grapefruit, nectarine and some limestone. The palate is tangy and full of minerals, just like Mosel Riesling should be. While not as complex as vineyard-designated wines, this shows a lot of character for an entry level Riesling. I like the grapefruit, green apple and mineral notes, and the acid is great, keeping it nervy and refreshing. (86 points)

The Alsace Riesling comes from Domaine Ehrhart, an organic family-run estate that dates back to 1725. Based outside of Colmar, Ehrhart farms some 60 acres of vineyards in ten different communes. This wine comes from 25-year-old vines grown on a hill above the commune of Eguisheim.  

2011 Domaine Ehrhart Riesling Vieilles Vignes - France, Alsace, Alsace AOC
SRP: $16
It’s a light yellow color. Right out of the bottle, this wine boasts aromas of lychee, white and yellow flowers, honey, white peach, and just a hint of ocean spray. Brisk acid leads the way on the palate and puckers the sides of the cheeks all the way through. A mix of nectarine, white peach and Granny Smith apple fruit blends richness with the bite of citrus. A bit of white tea and green herbal spice, with just a bit of saline on the finish. I’m surprised by the liveliness and briskness of this wine. A dry and focused Alsace Riesling that is quite impressive for being a generic cuvee. (87 points)

While the first two Rieslings were tasty, the third stole the show. Salomon Undhof crafted this exquisite Riesling from 50+ year-old vines grown on a terraced hill in Stein, Austria. The mineral and spice components of this wine are really deep and powerful, making it worth every penny of its $30 price point.

2011 Salomon Undhof Riesling Erste Lage ÖTW Steiner Kögl - Austria, Niederösterreich, Kremstal
SRP: $30
A light gold color. Aromatically awesome, showing gobs of white peach, nectarine set against a complex mix of limestone and minerals. The intensity and depth of the nose is really something. Medium-to-full-bodied on the palate, but the acid zips on through, keeping it fresh. A beautiful combination of apricot, mango and white peach fruit, which is rich and juicy, but the fruit is equally matched with mineral, mountain stream water and white pepper. The finish is long and spicy. This is a beautiful Riesling that I’d love to try again in two years. (91 points)

Even though this Summer of Riesling marketing push is fading with the warm weather, Autumn is as good a time as any to drink Riesling. I, for one, plan on drinking Riesling all year long.


Monday, September 16, 2013

On Turkish Reds & Travel Lust

I’ve never been to Turkey, and I know relatively little about the country. But Turkey has always fascinated me with its incredibly rich history and its important role in shaping art and music.

When travelling to a foreign land isn’t possible, reading the country’s literature can be an accessible substitute. I recently read (and wrote about) a fascinating Turkish novel called “Snow.” Even though the author Orhan Pamuk deals with religious tribalism and conflict, I still found myself longing to see the hills of rural Turkey with my own eyes.

Good wine, like good literature, also has this transcendent quality. I’ve never been to South Africa or Chile either, but I’ve tasted the fruits of their soil and relished in the nuances of their terroir. I know a little about what makes these places special, even though my feet have never touched the dirt. Literature and wine may not be as exciting as travel itself, but it’s a big world out there, and I’m not rich enough to travel everywhere. So I enjoy learning what I can through wine.

I sipped on two Turkish reds while I was reading “Snow.” The first I enjoyed thoroughly and would recommend to anyone with an adventurous palate. The other I found somewhat pleasing to the senses, but not very intellectually stimulating. (Both bottles were trade samples and tasted sighted.)

One last note… I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce these regions or grape varieties. If you’ve spent some time in Turkey and can enlighten me, please chime in!

2009 Kayra Öküzgözü Single Vineyard - Turkey, Eastern Anatolia, Aydıncık, Elazığ
SRP: $20
Bright purple color. Tight upon uncorking, very dark, but opened up to show black cherries, plums, pencil shavings and smashed rocks. The nose opened up with some swirling and time to show more nuanced fruit and aromas of rose petals, clove and cinnamon. Full-bodied and bold on the palate, this wine shows firm, grainy tannins. The plum, black cherry and fig fruit is bold and ripe and the flavors of pencil shavings, toasted oak and earth are prominent. Notes of clove and cinnamon linger onto the finish. The acid lacks verve, but overall this is a really solid wine with some complexity to unpack in the cellar. Made from the native Öküzgözü variety from the Elazığ region (pictured above). (88 points)
SRP: $20
Bright ruby-purple color. The first note I get on the nose reminds me of a freshly paved street, like steaming hot asphalt and tar. The blackberry and red plum fruit smells like it’s been dusted in incense and pepper. Interesting aromas, not your everyday kind of stuff. Unfortunately, the wine drops off a bit on the palate. The tannins are quite mild, the acid medium, and the overall mouthfeel is a bit thin. The wine shows some blackberry and sour cherry flavors, but the toasted oak stands out too much, muting the subtle flavors of incense and pepper. Medium finish with notes of tar and charred wood. Still, this is a decent wine and an interesting experience, albeit very “modern” in style. Unfortunately, it lacks a definite sense of place and, for me, that’s never good. A multi-regional blend of Turkish (80% Öküzgözü, 6% Boğazkere) and international varieties (7% Syrah, 7% Petit Verdot). (80 points)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tasting Report: 2010 & 2009 California Cabernets

Ah, California Cabernet. I last wrote about California Cabernets in April, focusing specifically on some wines from Napa Valley. This report features a lot of Napa wines as well, including some real beauties.

Most of these wines — which were received as trade samples and tasted blind — come from the 2010 vintage, a trying year in many regions. Grapes struggled through a cold and rainy start to the season only to be hit with a heat wave in August, all of which gave many growers a reduced crop. However, these conditions also gave some of the 2010 Cabernets more pronounced acid and lower alcohol, qualities which many consumers (myself included) enjoy. It just goes to show that even in a tough year, vinegrowers and winemakers know how to make the best out of Mother Nature’s dole.

On to the wines…

2010 Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon Selected Vineyards - California, Central Coast
SRP: $10
Aromas of sweet cherries, red licorice and rose petals, a little bit of pepper. Medium-bodied and tangy acid, lots of bright cherry and raspberry with notes of caramelized sugar, red licorice and soft toast. A fun, easy-drinking style. (84 points)

2010 Justin Vineyards & Winery Isosceles - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $62
Smells like a fruit medley of blackberry, blueberry and currant, but also some coffee and cedar. This is a big wine, but it’s surprisingly smooth. The firm tannins, creamy oak and fresh berry fruit work well together. The currant and blueberry fruit is fresh and full, slathered with smoke, cedar, roasted coffee and vanilla. It’s toasty, but relatively well-integrated. Very forward, open and inviting, with a creamy and slightly herbal finish. Serious stuff. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot. (90 points)

2010 Hooker Rugby Club Cabernet Sauvignon Old Boys - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $32
A dark and juicy purple color. A strong nose of dark plums, blueberries, charcoal and ink. Medium-grain tannins on the palate, this is a plush and rich wine with lots of blueberries and blackberries. Sweet mocha and toast flavors match the fruit, but they don’t dominate. Medium acid keeps this from being overbearing, but it’s not a subtle wine. (87 points)

2010 Le Pich Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $45
Dark purple color. The nose is kicking with fresh currants, black cherries, dried figs as well as tobacco and mocha. Medium-grain tannins and surprisingly fresh acid make this a balanced and easy-drinking cabernet. A juicy mix of sweet blackberries and gushing cherries leads to notes of tobacco and baking spices. Overall, this wine has a creamy mouthfeel, well-placed toast and hints of hazelnut. Impressive finish. Seems like a candidate for the cellar. (90 points)

2010 Purlieu Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $80
A rich purple color. The nose is deep but also fresh, with currant, raspberries, charcoal and crème brulee. On the palate, firm tannins and fresh acid combine to form a rich mouthfeel. The currant and plum fruit tastes pure but maintains a tangy edge. Vanilla and some coconut shavings, but this wine also shows complex notes of pepper, incense and tobacco. Wow. Beautiful and delicious, but also a seriously concentrated wine that has a lot of potential for aging. (92 points)

2010 Hall Craig’s Cuvee - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $35
Bright ruby-purple color. Smells of fresh cherries, cranberries, vanilla and toast. Medium-grain tannins, a bit low on the acid. Flavors of sour cherry, red plums, some bell pepper and earth. The vanilla and toast is really quite high, and it obscures the fruit a bit. The alcohol (15.6%) is persistent and the wine has a mocha-toasty finish. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. (85 points)

2010 Hall Darwin - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Highly aromatic, with lots of sweet cherries and raspberries, rose petals and vanilla. Firm tannins and medium acid make for a full but velvety wine. Sweet raspberry and black cherry fruit, dusted with pepper and olive. I generally have a good tolerance for oak, but I feel the oak overwhelms some of the subtle flavors. However, the acid really saves this wine, providing a sense of crispness throughout. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. (87 points)

2009 Franciscan Estate Magnificat  - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
A bit compact on the nose, but it opens up nicely. Dark plum and black currant aromas, but it also smells like a forest: cedar, soil, leaves. Medium tannins meet refreshing acid on the palate. The fruit tends toward dark plums and dates, but there’s freshness to it all. Flavors of cedar, tobacco and charcoal mix in. A bit toasty, but all the other elements come together well, and the result is a silky-smooth wine. A full-spectrum Meritage blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 5% Petite Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. (88 points)

The Buccella Cab ain't cheap but it's beautiful.
2009 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $145
A deep, toasty nose, focused on currant and black cherries, mocha, caramel and cedar. Bold and full on the palate, as grippy tannins meet with medium acid. The black cherry and plum fruit tastes pure and rich, but not overdone. The secondary flavors remind me of black olive, loam and pepper, and they work very well in this context. Quite toasty (lots of cedar) but it has plenty of other elements to balance it out. The finish is really long, with chewing tobacco, pencil shavings and mineral notes. This wine opens up nicely, but there’s so much in here to unpack over the years. Tasted blind, my first impression was: “OK, this is legit stuff.” 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec and 1% Cabernet Franc aged 22 months in 80% new French oak. (93 points)

2010 Concannon Cabernet Sauvignon Conservancy - California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
SRP: $15
Nose of red licorice, some sweet red cherries and strawberries, mild toast. Medium-bodied with tangy acid. Tart cherries and strawberries lead the way, also some mocha and toasty notes. A simple but pleasant wine. (84 points)

2009 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
SRP: $53
Smoky nose, full of blackberry and black currants, dusted with earth and charcoal. On the palate, firm tannins, medium acid and dense fruit. Lots of dark berries and fig flavors, matched with loam and charcoal and creamy-toasty oak. Ripe and dark, but full of elegance. The finish shows tobacco leaf and pepper. Delicious now, but this could age for four to five easily. (89 points)

2010 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvée - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $24
Lots of plums, blackberries and currants on the nose, sweet and a bit candied, almost raisined, some rose petals. Creamy textured but solid tannin structure. Plums, currants, the fruit tastes fresher and tangier than I was expecting from the nose. Lots of power here, with moderate toast, but the acid keeps it all fresh and balanced. Black licorice, espresso and some bell pepper. Burly, but there’s some freshness and complexity that make this wine really enjoyable, and it opens up a lot with time. A kitchen sink blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 10% Zinfandel, 4% Syrah, and 3% each of Malbec and Petite Verdot. (89 points)

These wines were tasted as part of a report for the daily wine blog Terroirist. Be sure to check out the site for news and notes on all things wine-related.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Summer's Winding Down, but Rosé is Always in Season

Summer may be on the way out, but rosé season never really ends. Lucky for lovers of the pink, many retailers mark down rosés after the summer peak, making good deals even better. I recently tasted through a mixed bag of rosés and found some wines that could be enjoyed during any time of the year.

All wines were received as samples and tasted blind.

2012 Jean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé - France, Provence, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence
SRP: $12
Pale grapefruit skin color. Smells zesty and oceanic, with grapefruit rind, wild cherry, sea shells, lemon zest. Very light and fresh, showing lots of acid. The fruit flavors taste a bit light, like lemon rind and grapefruit rind mixed with mineral water. It’s refreshing, just not all that complex or thought-provoking. Serve well chilled at a party, though, and I bet everyone will be happy. 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvèdre. (85 points)

2012 Château de Sours Rosé - France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Rosé
SRP: $15
A kind of salmon and rosewater color. It smells like a mix of wildflowers, the yellow ones, the purple ones, the honeysuckle, with some grapefruit as well. Light and crisp on the palate, with a flavor profile of melons, lemons and roses. The citrus finish has just a hint of pepper. Simple, but nice. 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. (83 points)

Vinho Verde means green wine, but this region of
Portugal also produces some equally tasty pinks.
2012 Casa do Valle Vinho Verde - Portugal, Minho, Vinho Verde
SRP: $10
Slight spritz in the glass with an incredibly vibrant ruby color, somewhere between a Provence rosé and a California pinot noir. Smells of roses and sweet McIntosh apple. The palate is bright and tangy, with strawberry, red apple and sweet watermelon flavors. The acid and spritz make this so easy to drink. Notes of white pepper and hazelnut add some unexpected complexity. Seems like a really versatile wine. Made from the red grapes Vinhao and Rabo-de-Ovelha. What a bargain. (87 points)

2012 Stinson Vineyards Mourvedre Rosé - United States, Virginia, Central Region, Monticello
SRP: $17
Ruby red grapefruit juice color with a little bit of spritz. Smells like fresh bananas, watermelon, strawberry greens and a hint of salt. Tart on the palate, with fresh acid to balance out the rich watermelon and banana fruit. Hint of pepper as well. Crisp and fun, and one of the better Virginia rosés I’ve tasted in recent memory. (86 points)

2012 Gary Farrell Rosé of Pinot Noir - United States, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $28
A copper-salmon color. Smells of watermelon, white cherries and a mix of red and white flowers. On the palate, this rosé is medium-bodied with tangy acid and a good amount of creaminess. The cherry and red apple fruit is bright and crisp, and it’s all backed up by saline and mineral tones. The finish is long and full of lemon zest and minerals. Delicious and complex, it all comes down to the quality of the fruit in this wine. (90 points)

N.V. Peju Province Winery “Tess” Red & White Blend - United States, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $20
Okay, so I’m not sure this officially qualifies as a “rosé” but oh well. It’s a medium ruby color, almost like a young pinot noir. Aromas of cherry, cranberry, cola and rhubarb. Very tangy and fresh on the palate, with lots of juicy cherries, McIntosh apples along with herbal notes. Very faint tannins and medium acid, it reminds me of a lighter-styled pinot noir. Turns out this is a Napa kitchen sink blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc aged for 10 months in neutral French oak. It has the color and red fruit of a red wine but the freshness of a rosé. Best served slightly chilled. (85 points)

2012 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Syrah Rosé “Corallina” – United States, California, Napa Valley
SRP: $20
Medium salmon color. This rosé shows aromas of melon rind, some cheese and some bell pepper. Brisk on the palate with crisp acid and snappy white cherry fruit. There’s this cucumber flavor that strikes me as odd, but it’s still a fun wine. (83 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Campovida Finds a Sense of Place in Mendocino

Photo courtesy of Campovida.
Campovida isn’t just a winery. It’s a 13-acre organic garden, a community supported agriculture program, a 10-room center for corporate retreats, a meeting space for “meaningful conversations.” Based in the small Mendocino County town of Hopland, the Campovida property once comprised the Fetzer Valley Oaks Food and Wine Center. The Campovida website is full of poetic musings about sustainable living, community, a sense of place. One thing you won’t find is a way to buy the wines. Yep, Campovida is a different kind of outfit.

The folks behind this project are wife-husband duo Anna Beuselinck and Gary Breen. Originally from Oakland, the couple bought the closed facility in 2006 and got to work. They must’ve been quite busy over the last few years.

Despite all the time I’ve spent in Mendocino County, I knew nothing about this project before I opened Campovida’s wines a few weeks ago. The wines (five whites and a rosé) were received as trade samples and I tasted all of them sighted. These wines were made by Sebastian Donoso. Born in Chile, Sebastian studied enology at Fresno State and made wine for Sacina before joining Campovida in 2012. (Click here for a Terroirist interview with Sebastian.)

As I tasted through the wines, I started to second-guess my senses. Was I really picking up all this freshness, acidity and minerality? But after thoroughly swirling and tasting, the wines had won me over. My notes…

2011 Campovida Viognier Riserva - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $34
A yellow-gold color in the glass. On the nose, this bright wine explodes with lime and white flowers, green apple and a rocky, mineral aroma like some sort of mountain spring. A full-bodied palate provides weight to the tangy lime and apple fruit. A real sense of richness from the honeycomb and nougat, but it’s balanced by white tea, mineral notes and medium acid. Impressive stuff. (89 points)

2012 Campovida Chardonnay Oppenlander Vineyard - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $36
Light yellow color. Perfumed and elegant on the nose, with white flowers, lime, mineral, sea spray, almost Chablis-like in its oceanic approach. The acid rips across the palate. The green apple, lime and tangerine rind fruit is tangy and intense, and the level of minerals in this wine is really awesome. What a brisk, fresh wine that speaks to the terroir of the Mendocino Coast. Singing now, but I’d actually like to set this down for two or three years to see what happens. (90 points)

2012 Campovida Roussanne Bonofiglio Vineyard - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $32
Light gold color. Lovely perfumed nose of banana, white peach, circus peanut candy and lavender. Plump on the palate with a waxy mouthfeel, balanced with soft acid. I like the combination of tropical fruit (banana, mango and papaya) with these notes of lanolin and candle wax. Slightly nutty but not fat. Long finish. (88 points)

2012 Campovida Campo di Blanca Riserva - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $32
The nose blends brighter tones of lime, orange and flowers with richer honeycomb, melted butter and hazelnut, and the combination is lovely. Rich on the palate but balanced by tangy acid and some fresh minerals. I get lots of pear, bruised apple and honey, and there’s a nutty and waxy feel to this wine, which isn’t overdone. A buttery aspect lingers on the finish, but the acid doesn’t stop. Richer than some of the other whites, but still balanced and delightful. A blend of 67% Marsanne, 22% Viognier and 11% Roussanne.  (91 points)

2012 Campovida Arneis Spirit Ranch Vineyard - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $36
Very perfumed on the nose, with all sorts of citrus and flowers. The palate shows lemon, orange and apricot, along with some more tropical notes of pineapple and green melon. The acid shines through all the way, giving the wine an airy feel despite the ripe fruit. A white tea and honey flavor lingers on the finish. A Northern Italian grape has found a good home in Mendocino. (89 points)

Behold, an amazing pink!
2012 Campovida Rosé di Grenache Riserva - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $34
A radiant copper-salmon color with the faintest spritz in the glass. Fresh aromas of watermelon, ruby red grapefruit, wildflowers and a subtle herbal note. Crisp acid kicks off the palate. The wild strawberry and white cherry fruit is snappy and fresh rather than ripe and sweet, and the minerals add to this wine’s overall verve. I also get some white pepper and grapefruit rind notes. Pure and delicious, this is one of the best domestic roses I’ve had in a long time. The Grenache comes from Trail’s End Vineyard in the Potter Valley appellation. At 1,000 feet in a relatively cool area, Grenache grapes don’t ripen as quickly, says winemaker Sebastian Denoso, allowing for lower sugar and more focused acid. (91 points)

If you’re in the Bay Area and looking to try Campovida’s wines, you’re in luck. In April, they opened a tasting room in Oakland called the Taste of Place. Located at 95 Linden Street, it’s open from 5-9 on Thursdays and Fridays and 1-6 on Saturdays and Sundays.Going to Oakland has been a return to our own roots and beginnings of starting our lives as a family,” said Anna Beuselinck, “as well as connecting the urban and rural worlds.”

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.