Monday, November 25, 2013

Checking Up On Some Favorite Pacific Northwest Wines

I’m a huge fan of Oregon and Washington wines, but for some reason I can’t seem to collect too many bottles. It’s strange, but they mysteriously disappear from my cellar within a few months. So I was psyched when a good friend, tasting buddy and Pacific Northwest buff invited me to a “cellar culling” tasting. In order to make room for fall shipments, he popped a case of wines. We tasted through them blind, but knowing how much this friend loves PNW, I figured a good portion of the wines were Oregon Pinots and Washington Syrahs.

Luckily for me, I was right. I tasted some phenomenal wines from some of my favorite PNW producers: Cameron, Reynvaan, Gramercy Cellars, Cayuse. Most of the wines hailed from the 2010 vintage, whose combination of ripeness and freshness aligns perfectly with my palate. I tasted and scored all the wines blind before we unveiled them.

My notes on one hell of an evening…

2010 Cameron Chardonnay Blanc Clos Electrique - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
A simply beautiful Chard. Cameron has done something amazing with the 2010 vintage. The nose shows an incredibly complex mix of guava, melon, almond, sea salt and white flowers. The palate is full of brisk acid and rich texture. White peach, yellow apple, lime, lemon, it all mixes with notes of honey, caramel and nougat. Rich but so lively and nervy. As always, Cameron impresses. This is consistently one of my favorite domestic Chards, and the 2010 version is superb. I’d love to put this down for a year or two and see what it does. (94 points)

2011 Cameron Saignee of Pinot Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
Copper colored. Very peppery on the nose, with strawberries, earth, a kind of funky goat cheese aspect. Crisp acid and silky body form the palate, with notes of saline, pepper and green herbs. Tangy and lively, this is one good pink. Pure and fresh and unique. (89 points)

2007 Cameron Nebbiolo Clos Electrique - Oregon, Willamette Valley
Initially funky on the nose, but then it shifted into this bright cherry sauce and pepper thing. On the palate this is really bright and tangy, with some pleasant bitterness from the tannins. Currant and red plum fruit, with lots of earth, olive and a flavor that reminds me of roasted red peppers, like the kind in olive oil. Delicious stuff, and very unique. I guessed this as a Jura red, but it had me quite perplexed the whole time. This would be amazing with food. It’s rare for a domestic producer to pull off Nebbiolo, but leave it to Cameron... (91 points)

2008 Crowley Pinot Noir La Colina - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
On the nose, a mix of juicy berries with some notes of earth and funky farmyard. Juicy and fresh on the palate, with black cherry, cola and earth. Some generous fruit, but the persistent acid makes this so easy to drink. (90 points)

2008 Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir Estate Etzel Block VY - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Ribbon Ridge
Initially I picked up some sulfur, but it blew off after a few minutes and I started getting juicy cherries and berry compote aromas. Live-wire acid  love it with silky tannins and pure berry fruit. Complex notes of pepper, cola and sweet oak. Pretty stuff, open and ready for business. (91 points)

2008 Cameron Pinot Noir Abbey Ridge - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
On the nose I got mushroom, potting soil and sweet herb notes on top of cherries and strawberries. Fresh and tangy on the palate, with a solid foundation of tannins. Lots of currants, red cherries, along with cola, earth, beef and pepper notes. Complex and powerful, yet focused, this will improve in the cellar. (92 points)

2008 Gramercy Cellars Syrah “Lagniappe” - Washington, Columbia Valley
Aromas of blackberry, earth, sweet herbs and a meaty note. Great structure, moderate acid, and a complex mix of blueberry and dark plum fruit. I love the sweet herbs, flowers and meaty tones. Delicious stuff with a long life ahead of it. (92 points)

2010 Reynvaan Family Vineyards Syrah “The Contender” - Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
I’ve loved the previous few vintages of this wine, but the 2010 is truly stunning. Complex waves of aromas: blackberries, blueberries, campfire smoke, olive, violets, peppered jerky. Solid tannic grip, but the edges are fined down, the acid makes this smooth and silky on the palate. The blueberry and blackberry fruit tastes pure and creamy, and the fruit is laced with olive, pepper, iron, mushroom and pepper-crusted steak flavors. Long and powerful finish. This wine got better and better as it saw more air, and I’d love to retry this in two or three more years. Stunning stuff. (95 points)

2010 Gramercy Cellars Grenache Olsen Vineyard - Washington, Columbia Valley
Mixed berries, roses, violets and soil on the nose, like some sort of awesome greenhouse. Surprisingly bright on the palate, with fine tannins and some tangy acid. The red berry fruit mixes with pepper, olive and a cherry cola note. Not overripe or hot at all. Delicious stuff with some staying power. (91 points)

2010 Cayuse Grenache “God Only Knows” - Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
Rich berries on the nose, with pepper and beef brisket notes. On the palate, showing some tanginess, nice tannic backbone, flavors of red cherries, blackberries, olive, lots of pepper and some meat notes. A fruity wine, but oh so balanced and complex. Another stellar 2010, this is gorgeous stuff. (93 points)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tasting Through a Grab Bag of Italian Wines

This week, I’m looking to Italy. Since my last post on Italy, I’ve tasted some fun and tasty wines, all of which came in at less than $30. These wines were received as trade samples and tasted blind, unless otherwise noted.

2006 Ferrari Perlé - Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Trentino, Trento
SRP: $35
Tasted sighted. Could’ve fooled me for Champagne on the nose. Lots of doughy, yeasty, lemon-lime notes and apple peel. Tangy acid, fine bubbles, a good amount of creaminess on the palate. The key lime is mixed in with a pleasantly bitter crab apple note. Toasted bread and mineral accents linger on the finish. A solid sparkling Chardonnay for $35. (88 points)

2012 Folonari Pinot Grigio Venezie IGT - Italy, Venezie IGT
SRP: $8
Medium yellow color. Some golden apple and honey on the nose, but also some brighter floral and citrus components. Medium acid, with yellow and green apple, and there are some floral notes, but overall it’s a bit bland. Short finish. (79 points)

2012 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi “Tenuta dell’ Ammiraglia” Toscana IGT - Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
SRP: $18
A light straw color. The first thing that comes to mind upon sniffing this is banana peel, like the inside of a perfectly ripe banana. There’s also some lemon zest and seashell. On the palate, this wine is plump and generously textured, with green melon, pineapple and banana fruit. Medium acid keeps it reigned in. A white tea and honey note rounds out the fruit, and there’s a shot of minerals and crushed rock flavors. Quite complex. Rich, but not too much, and the flavors are clean and fresh throughout. A delicious Vermentino. (90 points)

2012 Folonari Chianti - Italy, Tuscany, Chianti
SRP: $8
Juicy, dark fruit on the nose, blackberries, candied cherries, as well as some earth and tobacco. Creamy texture forms from the fine tannins, fresh fruit and moderate acid. The plums and blackberries taste pure and juicy, and they’re backed up with notes of cracked pepper and some tobacco and toast. Surprisingly pleasant for the price. (86 points)

2011 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi “Terre More dell’ Ammiraglia” Maremma Toscana IGT - Italy, Tuscany, Maremma Toscana IGT
SRP: $14
Aromas of plum sauce, rich earth, allspice, currant jam, roasted coffee. Juicy red plums and black cherries on the palate, with an overall jammy profile. Medium acid and firm tannins provide structure. Pepper and floral tones mix in with toasted oak, roasted coffee, cedar and caramel. Very rich and bombastic, perhaps not the most food-friendly Italian red blend, but very tasty. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot and 5% Syrah. (87 points)

2010 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Morellino di Scansano “Riserva Pietraregia dell’ Ammiraglia” - Italy, Tuscany, Maremma, Morellino di Scansano
SRP: $23
A bit restrained on the nose, but it opens up to show violets, black currant, vanilla and rich coffee. On the palate, the tannins have grip but also a round feel. Significant tartness, with flavors of black cherry, currants and snappy plums. Mocha, hazelnut and vanilla flesh the wine out. I also get a light sense of mineral and graphite on this wine. Put together well, and quite delicious, this wine has quite a few years of refinement ahead of it. 85% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo and 10% Syrah. I dig this, especially at the price. (89 points)

2012 Allegrini Valpolicella - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella
SRP: $15
Red and black cherries, some raisin and smoke note on the nose. Light tannins, soft acid, this wine takes the road of simple, easy-drinking pleasure. Flavors of black cherry and currant, snappy, but the fruit also has some coffee and earthy aspects. A juicy blend of 65% Corvina, 30% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. (85 points)

2009 Allegrini “Palazzo della Torre” Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
SRP: $20
A kicking mix of sour and dark cherries on the nose, along with some dusty earth, tobacco and roasted coffee. Firm tannins for structure, and the acid keeps it clean. The sour cherry and red plum and currant fruit is tangy and delicious, backed up by roasted herbs, violets and rich coffee. Rich and velvety, but the focus and zip to this wine is impressive. I bet it will have even more to show soon. 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese. (90 points)

2009 Allegrini “La Grola” Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
SRP: $28
Bright cherry color. The cherry and plum fruit smells rich but fresh, along with some sweet herbs, dried flowers. Loving the aromas here, and it opens up more with time. The tangy acid plays off the rigid tannins. Tastes like sour cherries mixed with some ripe blackberry, and there’s a nice mix of spice, cedar, coffee and a flavor that reminds me of a smoky Islay Scotch. Dense and earthy, this will open up more over the next few years. 80% Corvina and 20% Syrah. (90 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Visit to Dutton-Goldfield Winery

© Dutton-Goldfield Winery
During an October visit to Sonoma County, I spent three straight days surfing in the morning and drinking wine in the afternoon. It was — as these trips always are — an amazing experience. The cold, remote surf breaks thrilled and exhausted me, and the small production wines warmed me up with their California goodness. During the trip, I enjoyed a whole bunch of Siduri Pinot Noirs, a slew of Zins from Carol Shelton, and a few wines from Dutton-Goldfield.

Located in Sebastapol, close to a bunch of other wineries including Merry Edwards, Dutton-Goldfield makes some quality Chardonnays and Pinots, as well as some other Syrah and Zin. The tasting room is spacious and the staff is quite friendly. They’re open for tastings every day from 10:00 to 4:30, and you pay $15 unless you buy a bottle.

My notes on the wines I tasted…

2011 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Dutton Ranch - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
This Chard displays what I love about the 2011s from Sonoma: it’s crisp, elegant, yet offers a lot of flavor and texture. Aromas of green pears, tangerine and notes of almond butter. Crisp acid but richly textured, with some slight buttery-creamy aspects. Apricot and tangerine run the show, but traces of minerals and buttercream are woven in there as well. Also some balanced notes of caramel and toffee, which linger long onto the finish. So easy to drink, but complex as well. Sexy stuff, and a good buy at the price. (91 points)

2011 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Dutton Ranch/Rued Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
A bit richer and more opulent than the 2011 Dutton Ranch. Araoms of Granny Smith apples, creamy butter, mint and some waxy notes. Creamy and rich on the palate, but possessing solid acid to keep it clean. Full of apricot and guava fruit, matched with toffee, mixed nuts and some ginger snap flavors. A bolder style, but still very focused and crystal clear. I’d love to try this in two or three years to see what it's doing. (91 points)

2011 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch Emerald Ridge - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
On the nose I get a Thanksgiving medley of cranberry sauce and baking spices, along with some earthy, nutty tones. Creamy on the palate, with cranberry and red cherry fruit that tastes light and fresh. I also get some green pepper and cannabis notes. I like the soft and elegant mouthfeel on this wine. Perhaps a bit steep at $58, but a nice Pinot nonetheless. (88 points)
Not exactly cheap, but they make some solid Pinot.
2011 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Fox Den - California, Sonoma County, Green Valley
I liked this slightly more than the 2011 Emerald Ridge. It shows strawberries, cranberries and some herbal tones, although I think this needs more time to coax out more complex aromas. Fine-grained tannins, good cut, this Pinot shows sappy red fruit, along with notes of caramel, cherry candies and some herbal notes (sweet basil?). Tangy and earthy on the finish. I’d give this a year to rest up before uncorking one myself. (89 points)

N.V. Dutton-Goldfield Spectrum - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
A non-vintage blend of 58% Syrah, 28% Zinfandel and 14% Pinot Noir. Smells spicy, with pepper, potpourri and cedar. Tons of pepper on the palate... like... a lot. The black cherry and dark plum fruit is tangy, and there’s a hint of olive underneath. But that black pepper sauce stuff overwhelms most of the other elements. (84 points)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Vending Machine Winery: Napa Wine With New Orleans Roots

On a recent trip to New Orleans, I spent an afternoon at the Wine Institute of New Orleans (a.ka. WINO… Clever, huh?) This wine bar, located in the Warehouse District, boasts 120 wines “on tap.” You buy a card, add money and hook yourself up with three different sized pours. The wine is dispensed from bottles through a series of pump-shelves that line the walls of the bar. It’s a thoroughly awesome idea, and I can’t understand why this kind of set-up isn’t represented in every major city.

Anyway, as I was sipping on a deliciously funky 1998 Chateau Musar ($5 bucks for a small taste, worth every penny), when the tasting room attendant told me a winery was about to kick-off a tasting in the back room. I grabbed my notebook and a glass and checked it out.

Neil Gernon doing his thing. That 2010 Horror Show label (right) is creepy
as all hell. Photo used with permission from Vending Machine Winery. 
I’d never heard of Vending Machine Winery before, but the names of the wines and their funky label art caught my attention quickly. Vending Machine is the dream-come-true project of husband-wife duo Neil Gernon and Monica Bourgeois, both wine reps for Neat Wines in Metairie, La. Neil and Monica share an intense passion for all things wine and New Orleans. As they poured their wines, I got the sense they’d be just as comfortable on stage in the Quarter, rocking out in a psychobilly-punk band. Neil sported a T-shirt, jeans and a slick, greaser-style hairdo while Monica stood out with her steely-purple hair and vintage get-up.
Neil knows his shit, and I had a blast picking his brain about old-vine Carignan, the awesomeness of Petite Verdot and the refreshing character of the 2011 Napa wines. To be completely honest, it was cool to meet a wine nerd who drops as many — if not more — f-bombs than myself.

When looking back at the beginnings of Vending Machine, Neil recalls a wine-fueled NOLA night with Australian winemaker Justin Lane some seven years ago. “There was a cover band playing all Misfits songs, but with a surfer guitar feel,” Neil explained. “Anyway, we were talking about how we both loved zombie movies. We got into how if there was a zombie outbreak in a vineyard, how would that affect the soil and fruit. We both thought it would be a cool thing to make that wine.” Justin went on to make a wine called Night of the Living Red. “I thought, wow,” Neil said. “That is pretty cool. I wish I would have done that.”

One New Year’s Eve, Neil and Monica got together with their friends from Napa, Christopher and Sarah Vandendriessche, to saber some Champagne and celebrate. Christopher, who has studied in Bordeaux and Burgundy and makes wine for White Rock, agreed to craft the wine for this new outfit. They chose Vending Machine as the name because, well, you can get almost anything out of a vending machine. Christopher originally expressed some reservations about Neil’s wacky blending ideas, but after a few vintages the team seems to have found its stride.

The Vending Machine crew focuses mostly on blends, although they make a Chardonnay and a 100% Cab. Neil said he respects the winemakers of Bordeaux and the Southern Rhone who mix together varying amounts of grapes, adding a little of this, a little of that, to craft a vintage-specific blend. But Neil has a different theory about blending: throw the same amount of each grape variety into a wine and, “let ‘em all battle it out.”

It seems to be working. In short, the wines I tasted were damn good. And, perhaps more noteworthy, each wine has its own voice, but they all share a similar aesthetic. Another thing: hats off to Vending for their marketing efforts. The wine names are catchy and the label art is some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

I tasted four wines and wrote up some thoughts. These wines all run about $30, although finding them available for purchase on-line isn’t easy.  

2011 Vending Machine Winery Chardonnay “Loula’s Revenge” - California, Napa Valley
(87 points)

A good amount of flowers on the nose, with apricot and yellow apple setting the foundation. Creamy and rich (this Chardonnay goes through 100% maloactic fermentation), but the wine keeps a zesty feel because of the acid. Apricot and green apple blend well with notes of hazelnut and toffee. A moderate, balanced, easy-drinking Chardonnay that sees 20% new oak and holds it well.

The label art comes from Louisiana native Grant Schexnider, Neil's
brother-in-law. Used with permission from Vending Machine.
2012 Vending Machine Winery “Squawking Parrot” - California, Napa Valley
(88 points)

A blend of 50% Carignan (from 100+ year-old vines) and 50% Petite Sirah. Lots of pepper and deep blueberry on the nose. The palate shows firm tannins and a creamy, velvety texture. Blueberry jam and earth from the Petite mixes with pepper, bacon and charcoal from the Carignan, and the combination is a lot of fun. Seems like this wine could use a good decant or a year sideways to open up, but I found it to be a unique and tasty Napa red. Neil said the wine’s moniker is meant to poke fun at the exorbitant prices fetched by Screaming Eagle. I love it.

2012 Vending Machine Winery “Double Shotgun” - California, Napa Valley
(91 points)

I friggin’ love this wine. A blend of 50% Petite Verdot and 50% Cabernet Franc, it shows earth, tobacco, dark plums and bell pepper on the nose. Full on the palate, with fine tannins and a creamy mouthfeel. Acid keeps it fresh. Fleshy plum fruit plays with black and green pepper, tobacco, sage and charcoal flavors. Seamless texture and impressive balance with a long finish. Neil told me he calls this wine Double Shotgun because Cab Franc and Petite Verdot, being the less respected Bordeaux varieties, wouldn’t be able to afford to live in the French Quarter. Instead, if the grapes were NOLA folk, they’d have to split a double shotgun house. If you’re looking for something a little different, an off-the-beaten-path kind of Napa red, try to find this wine. Reasonably priced considering the high quality of the juice.

This 3-D label looks a lot cooler in person.
2011 Vending Machine Winery “Horror Show” - California, Napa Valley
(88 points)

A bit of funk and portobello mushroom mixes in with the cranberry and red plum aromas. The palate is tangy and fleshy, with some grit to the tannins. Bright red fruit blends with loads of pepper, earth and rich soil. Equal parts Souzao, Montepulciano and Tannat. (Have you ever tasted such an off-beat blend of Portugal, Italy and France before? I sure haven’t.) I’d love to see how this wine does in two or three years. Made in Napa, but a lot of the fruit comes from Lodi. The name pays homage to the dark, chaotic fun of the film Clockwork Orange. The website describes Horror Show this way: “The plot is three strangers from different backgrounds locked together in a small enclosed space, each guilty of forbidden pleasure. The introduction is not a handshake or friendly hug, but more aggressive.”

Perhaps the only problem with this outfit is that the wines are hard to find. Vending Machine is represented well in New Orleans, in retail shops and restaurants, and they have a presence in Baton Rouge. They have some distribution in New York, Philly and a couple other areas, but they don’t make much wine anyway, so finding a bottle won’t be easy. That said: if you’re ever eating and drinking your way through this amazing city, give Vending Machine wines a shot. (It’s sort of like drinking local, right?) 

If you’ve tasted any of their wines, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Siduri Excels With Single-Vineyard Pinots & Regional Blends

If you’ve never been to Siduri’s winery before, don’t expect views of pristine vineyards or rolling hills. The winery is housed at the end of a row of industrial-style warehouses in the middle of Santa Rosa, a stone’s throw from the 1o1. When I arrived one afternoon last month, the air from the warehouse was filled with the rich and pungent smell of fermenting Pinot Noir.  

I’ve long been a fan of Siduri Pinots.  They possess a lot of diversity, stemming from the wide array of vineyard sources, but the Pinots tend to show bright red fruit and earth flavors along with rich texture. Fresh, lively, with relatively reasonable price tags, it’s hard not to love them. So I was excited to attend a tasting and tour led by Jeff Shaeffer, Siduri’s manager of sales and hospitality. A group of six of us sat around a table as Jeff poured the wines and told us about growing conditions in 2011 and 2012, stories about how Siduri came to bottle their different single-vineyard Pinots, the vineyard composition of the regional blends. It was a highly informative and highly delicious experience. Jeff sure knows his stuff, and he was very generous in showing our group so many wines. He also took us into the barrel room for a bunch of barrel tastings as well, which I always love, although I didn’t take notes on all but one of them.

Year after year, Siduri is one of the most reliable and consistent Pinot producers in Sonoma County. I love their aesthetic, so to speak, the overall approach Adam and Dianna Lee take. And it seems Siduri has done something really special with the 2012 vintage. I enjoy the 2011s a lot, which tend to show that sappy red fruit, crisp acid and the sleeker style of the vintage, while the 2012s offer a bit more structure and grip, yet still maintain elegance and vibrancy. I’ve heard a lot of hype about the 2012s from various parts of Sonoma, and I understand why so many people are so excited about it. 2012 has everything in the just the right amounts, and these wines will only get better with age.

Anyway, on to the wines…

Quick note: the prices listed below are estimates, a compilation of Wine-Searcher listings, the Siduri newsletter or anywhere I could find them being sold. Some, if not most, of these wines are not easy to find, so the prices will vary, and I couldn’t find anything for a few of the wines.

These three whites from the Novy label showed quite well, and I’d be happy drinking any of them again. (Note: Novy is Siduri same folks, same winery but only Pinot Noirs are bottled under the Siduri label, while other wines are sold under the Novy banner.)

2012 Novy Family Wines Four Mile Creek - California, North Coast
Mix of lemon and orange peels on the nose, some green melon and sweet white flowers. Crisp but plump, with juicy white peach and green melon, mixed in with white flowers and some waxy notes. For a white blend that retails for around $15, this is impressive stuff. Mostly Viognier with some Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. (88 points)

2012 Novy Family Wines Sauvignon Blanc - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
A burst of grapefruit, cantaloupe and pineapple on the nose. Tangy but creamy, with fleshy peach and green melon. I like the undertones of white pepper and herbs. Clean and fresh. (87 points)

2011 Novy Family Wines Chardonnay - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Aromas of ripe peach, hazelnuts and some vanilla. I love the way the fresh acid contrasts with the creamy body. Flavors of yellow apple, peach as well as nutty, vanilla and caramel notes. Some toast and richness, but this still comes across as an elegant Chardonnay. I loved the 2010, and the 2011 offers a leaner interpretation, but the quality is consistent. I can’t wait to taste the 2012. (89 points)

Pinot Noir
Siduri is Pinot Noir. They love the grape, and they do a damn good job with fruit from all over California (they dabble in Oregon, too). While the single-vineyard designated wines are the cream of the crop, I’m always impressed by the quality of the $20-something regional blends. Jeff described these appellation wines (Sonoma County, Willamette Valley) as a way to introduce consumers to the Siduri style, offering fresh, juicy wines at reasonable prices. I think they’ve succeeded.

For about $20, these two Pinot Noirs are worth checking out.
2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County - California, Sonoma County
Cranberry, wild raspberries and rose petals on the nose. Tangy acid combines with fine tannins on this plush Pinot. Juicy strawberry and cranberry flavors, underlined with some smoke, toasted oak and pepper. Fun, tasty, crowd-pleasing stuff to drink in the near term. A solid deal, and if I had a bar I’d put this on the by-the-glass list immediately. (88 points)

2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Willamette Valley - Oregon, Willamette Valley
Smells like tart red fruit (cranberries, wild strawberries). Soft and fresh on the palate, this Pinot takes a lighter approach with its red currant, earth, rhubarb and slight toast. Silky, easy-drinking stuff, but quite tasty. (87 points)

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains
Bright cranberries and strawberries on the nose, some red licorice and pepper. Brisk on the palate, showing that tangy 2011 Willamette Valley aesthetic of crunchy red fruit. Lots of herbal tones, spice and pepper, perhaps a bit high on the acid. Seek this out if you’re a fan of leaner-styled Pinots. (87 points)

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonatera Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Aromas of ripe red cherries, raspberries, pepper, earth and even a hint of cannabis (I’m not kidding, three other guys swore they smelled it). Plush texture on the palate, with tangy acid and fine tannins. The pure red fruit is matched with earth, rhubarb and a hint of almond or chestnut. Really sexy stuff that seems ready to go right now. (91 points)

2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Rich aromas of black cherry, dark plums, sweet roses and a liberal dose of charcoal and smoke. Bright acid, the tannins show grit. Seems like a young wine in need of a good decant or some cellar time, but the quality is undeniable. I love the mixed berry fruit, so rich and sexy, with notes of caramel, smoke and pepper. This Pinot holds itself together really well, and will no doubt improve with a few years of age. Siduri always does amazing work with Keefer Ranch, and in 2012 they really nailed it. (93 points)

2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Pratt Vineyard-Sexton Road - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Such dense red and black fruit on the nose, and loads of secondary flavors: campfire smoke, eucalyptus, dried herbs. Bold but so well-structured, the balance of tannin and acid is superb, making this a velvety wine. Dark plums meet fresh strawberries, and add in some rich earth and mocha undertones. A big wine, but a beauty. This will be fun to watch over the next few years. (92 points)

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Cherries and all sorts of red berries on the nose, along with root beer and a kick of pepper. Firm tannins, more weight than the Sonatera, this Pinot shows fleshy red plums and red currant fruit. Root beer, cola and roasted coffee notes are tossed in, and it works together really well. Another tasty Pinot from Siduri, although this 2011 could benefit from aging. (90 points)

2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Smells jammy, with darker fruit than the 2012s from Sonoma. I also pick up some cedar and rose notes. Big and full on the palate, the dark plum fruit mixes together with some blueberry as well. Smoke and coffee on the finish. Despite the rich fruit, the wine maintains some tartness. (88 points)

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sierra Mar Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
All sorts of fruity aromas: bright red cherries, a little jammy, with plums and red currants. I like the acid on the palate, the medium tannins and the overall lighter approach. Flavors of tangy red cherries play off of mocha, cedar and even a hint of mineral. Another fresh and tasty 2011 from Siduri. (90 points)

2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Cargasacchi Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
Pure and juicy cherry aromas, with an awesome combination of tobacco, toast and pepper. Juicy and plummy on the palate, with black cherry fruit. The soil, rhubarb, mocha and chestnut flavors add all sorts of complexity. Lovely stuff. (91 points)

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Soft cherries, plums, red flowers and a distinct red apple peel aroma. The acid provides freshness, the fine grain tannins give it some structure. Juicy red fruit, cherries, raspberries, McIntosh apple, underlined with mocha, earth tones and tobacco. Complex and inviting now, but will likely provide even more in a year or two. (90 points)

The barrel sample Pinot Noirs were gnarly.
2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Parsons’ Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
This is the only barrel sample I wrote about, so I don’t think it’s yet available for purchase. So incredibly rich on the nose, all sorts of berries, spice, vanilla, but the wine clearly needs more time to show its full aromatic potential. Bold and rich yet balanced and inviting on the palate. A ton of complexity to the fruit and spice in this wine. I’d love to try this again once it’s been bottled and given some time to settle down. My tasting buddy thought this was the wine of the night, and while I enjoyed a few others slightly more, this is so good that it’s hard to argue. (91 points)

Palate Cleanser
2012 Novy Family Wines Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir - Oregon, Willamette Valley
After a slew of delicious Siduri Pinots, we tasted this white Pinot as a palate cleanser. I was really surprised by the quality and depth of this wine. It’s got this light copper color, and aromas of white flowers, orange peel, toasted bread, limestone and minerals. Seriously, it smells like still Champagne, and I love it. Let me be clear: the acid on the palate is searing, but for my palate it provides verve to the creamy peach and nectarine fruit. The mineral tang lasts long on the finish. This is so clean and bright, and it would go great with salads and shellfish. As a palate cleanser, this is perfect. (90 points)

Topping it Off
We ended the evening with two of Novy’s Syrahs and, finally, a unique dessert Viognier.

2010 Novy Family Wines Syrah Napa Valley - California, Napa Valley
Dark purple color. Aromas of blackberries, smoke, mocha and spice rub. Grippy, mouthpuckering tannins, but some medium acid. The concentrated black cherry is blended with notes of vanilla, smoke, bacon fat and black pepper. Dense and age-worthy, and an easy decision at $20. (88 points)

2011 Novy Family Wines Syrah Sierra Mar Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
Looks like squid ink. Dark and brooding on the nose, with blueberries, charcoal and pepper. Inky and full on the palate, the black fruit tastes pure and delicious. I dig the smoke and pepper (whole lotta pepper), and the notes of bacon fat and granite. This is really beautiful stuff that I’d love to taste again in a year from now. (91 points)

2010 Novy Family Wines Viognier Oley Late Harvest - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
$20/375 ml
A great way to finish off the tasting. Smells like apricot, honeysuckle, sweet caramel and candle wax. On the palate, chunky pineapple and mango topped with honey and caramel. Delicious stuff, but I’d prefer a bit more acid. (87 points)

If you’re interested in buying straight from Siduri, they have an active newsletter and I love how they release different wines all year long. If you’re a California Pinot fan, it’s worth subscribing to their newsletter just to keep up with the new releases and special offers.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Wine Reviews: Grab Bag of Domestic Whites

A bit of Sauvignon Blanc, some Chard, a dash of Riesling and Pinot Gris. Besides being white wines from the U.S., perhaps the only thing these wines have in common is that they’d fit well on any Thanksgiving dinner table.

All wines in this report were received as trade samples and tasted blind.

2012 Round Pond Estate Sauvignon Blanc - California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
SRP: $24
Nose of honeydew melon, guava, some honeysuckle and just a hint of white pepper and green grass. Creamy on the body, matched with tangy acid. Whipped honey meets pineapple, but the mineral verve keeps it taut. White cherry and slight herbal notes linger onto the finish. 100% stainless steel, this is a rich and fruity wine that would also be a solid pairing for oysters. (88 points) 
2012 Macari Sauvignon Blanc Katherine’s Field - New York, Long Island, North Fork
SRP: $20
Papaya, nectarine and lemon zest on the nose, along with just a hint of grass. Tangy acid is complemented by fleshy papaya, lemon and melon fruit. Honeysuckle and mint notes add to overall package. Crisp and refreshing. (86 points)

2012 Stinson Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - Virginia, Central Region, Monticello
SRP: $20
Aromas of pineapple, mango, grapefruit and a hint of grass. Juicy and full of green apple and gooseberry flavors. Not too tropical, not too light, with subtle grass and minerals. I liked the 2011, and the 2012 is just as good. (87 points)

2012 Stinson Vineyards Chardonnay - Virginia, Central Region, Monticello
SRP: $22
Medium yellow-straw color. Some white peach, honey, perfumed but also some nutty components. Richly textured and inviting on the palate, but medium acid for freshness. The nutty-honeyed flavors work well with the white peach, yellow apple and lemon custard flavors. A distinct hazelnut-toast aroma lingers onto the finish with a note of honeysuckle and lime. An all-around crowd-pleasing Chardonnay, but also showing some complexity and depth. (88 points)

2011 Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $28
A bright golden color. Honeysuckle explodes from the glass, along with all kinds of apples, apricot and potpourri. Fresh acid kicks off the palate, and the yellow and green apple fruit is showing that 2011 crispness. There’s a good amount of honey and almond notes that add a creamy texture, but overall the wine is nicely balanced. Fermented in 50% new French oak, the wine spent 10 months on the lees. (88 points)  

2011 Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay Reserve Bien Nacido Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $38
Clear, light yellow color. Very expressive nose of apricot, mango, honeysuckle and a margarita salt aroma. Flavors of apricot and honey mix with lime and mineral. The acid tastes crisp and balances out the richer notes of honey, peanut and nougat. A flavor that reminds me of cinnamon-spiced applesauce carries the finish. A forward Chardonnay, but it maintains some intrigue. This wine spends 10 months on the lees, and the 20% maloactic fermentation gives it just the right amount of creaminess. (89 points)

2012 Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer - California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $25
Classic Gewurz nose, white peach, lychee, apricot and pungent floral aromas jump out of the glass. On the palate, the creamy mouthfeel is nice, but the acid is a bit low for me. The fruit is like a mix of white peach, papaya and lime, and there’s some waxy, oily components that add complexity. A nutty and mineral finish. 14.5% alcohol and 8.1 g/L residual sugar, but it tastes dry. (87 points)
2012 Stony Hill Gewürztraminer - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $24
Classic aromas of lychee, white peach and a kind of herbal-nutty aspect that reminds me of a well-hopped pale ale. Full and juicy but some nice tang from the acid. The melon and lychee flavors blend nicely with the white pepper and herbal notes. It’s not often I come across a Napa Gewurz, and I’m usually quite skeptical when I do, but this one’s solid. (87 points)

2012 Stony Hill Riesling - California, Napa Valley                              
SRP: $27
Smells of apricots, pineapple and sweet tropical flowers. Off-dry style with soft acid. White peach, apricot and yellow apple flavors abound, with a few waxy notes. Easygoing, crowd-pleasing, this Napa Riesling lacks a sense of verve, but it’s still quite tasty. (85 points)

2011 Vie Winery Roussanne - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $29
Aromas of white flowers, honeycomb, white peach and some mineral and lime accents. Richly-textured on the palate but it shows tangy acid. Flavors of orange peel, mango and notes of lime, along with vanilla, toast, caramel and honey. More focus and tang than the 2009 I tasted recently. (90 points)

2012 Sokol Blosser Pinot Gris - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $19
An aromatic mix of white peach, lemon zest, wildflowers and a Sauvignon Blanc-like component of grass and green herbs. Medium bodied, with tangy acid. Lots of white peach, grapefruit, some green apple and honey. But the sea salt and acid keep it focused. A nice herbal kick on the finish. (87 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist, where you can find all the wine news that’s fit to print… and then some.