Saturday, April 28, 2018

Here Come the Rosés! 16 Pink Wines Reviewed

For American wine-lovers, Spring and Summer are prime time for pink wine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love rosé year round. I’ve actually developed a tradition of opening a good rosé on the first big snowstorm of the winter, and it’s a lot of fun. But the shelves of your local wine shop are surely piling up with various pink wines from all over the world, so you should have plenty of options to choose from.

I’ve been receiving lots of rosé wines, so I gathered some up and tasted through them, hoping to find some really good values to share. (Spoiler alert: I did.)

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. It’s not even May yet, so I’m sure I’ll have another round of rosé reviews in the next two months or so. (Literally as I was writing this, I received a knock on the door with, drumroll, more rosé samples to sign for.) If there’s a bubble to burst in American consumers’ love for the pink, I’m not sure we’re there yet.

Check out these rosé wines from around the world below!

SRP: $70
Pale copper color. Aromas of chalk dust, white flowers, rose petals, red apple peel, bread dough. Brisk and tangy on the palate, tart and brisk but lots of depth, with flavors of white cherries, wild strawberries, red apple peel. Blazing streak of minerals in this wine, with chalk dust, sea salt, mixed with toasted baguette and lots of flowers. What a tangy and bright wine, but lovely textural depth as well. Mostly Pinot Noir, this is a blend of 25 vintages going back to 1985. (92 points)

2017 Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône Rosé Samorëns - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
SRP: $15
Light rose color. Smells of fresh white peaches, strawberries, nettle and roses. Crisp and bright but plenty of textural depth. Peaches and watermelon, drizzled in lime, and topped with honeysuckle, dandelion, white tea. Notes of mineral and chalk dust on the finish. Delicious but shows significant complexity. (88 points)

2017 Très Chic Rosé - France, Sud de France
SRP: $17
Pale strawberry color. Nose of strawberries, white cherries, very perfumed with notes of spicy white floral tones. On the palate, this is medium-bodied with bright acidity and juicy texture. Watermelon, white cherries, strawberries, along with bright white and red flowers. Floral, juicy, fresh, solid for the price, surprisingly so. Grenache and Cinsault. (87 points)

2017 Château de Berne Rosé Urban Provence - France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $23
Light pink/copper color. Bursts with aromas of peaches, cantaloupe melon, ruby red grapefruit, along with roses, lilies and wet stones. Medium-bodied, richly textured, with bright acidity. Pineapple, peaches and tangy limes blend well with plenty of spicy/herbal elements (nettle, raspberry leaf, white pepper). Crisp but fruity, fun but the complexity shows through. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. (88 points)

2017 Château de Berne Rosé Inspiration - France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $20
Pale pink color. Bursting aromas of passion fruit, strawberries and peaches, topped in roses, spicy nettle and clover. Zesty acidity frames the palate nicely but plump fruit abounds (peaches, strawberries, lemons). Spicy herbal notes, deep floral tones, along with some crust mineral and chalky elements. Lovely Provence pink. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. (89 points)

2017 Château de Berne Rosé Emotion - France, Provence, Côtes de Provence
SRP: $16
Very pale copper color, like the inside of a grapefruit rind. So fresh and spicy on the nose, with nettle, dandelion, white pepper and honeysuckle, on top of plump peach and green melon. Crisp acidity, plush texture, lots of fruit (white cherry, lemon, peach) laced with white pepper and dandelion. Fresh, fruity, spicy, nice stuff for the price. Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. (87 points)

2017 Kim Crawford Rosé Hawkes Bay - New Zealand, North Island, Hawke's Bay
SRP: $18
Bright watermelon color. Fresh and floral with watermelon, white cherries, strawberries, with white pepper, chalk dust, red gummy candies and roses. Bright texture, fresh and juicy texture, a zesty and fresh attitude with juicy strawberries, watermelon, nectarine. Notes of white pepper, cut flower stems, cucumber slices and gummy candy, yet dry and fresh. Fun, high-quality, Merlot rosé. (88 points)

2017 Hearst Ranch Winery Rosé Julia - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $22
Deep copper color. Very floral on the nose with roses, honeysuckle, dandelion, peaches and red apples. Crisp acidity on a medium-bodied frame, but plenty of rich texture here, and white peaches, raspberry, white cherries. Lots of flowers packed in here (roses, honeysuckle, wild clover), along with some dusty mineral tones. Goes down so easily despite significant complexity. A Paso kitchen sink blend of Syrah, Malbec, Tempranillo, Petit Vedot, Grenache, Petite Sirah. (89 points)

2017 Booker Vineyard Pink - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $50
By far the darkest “pink” wine in this report, this looks like melted raspberry cough drops in color. The nose has a lot to show: roses, raspberries, spiced cranberry sauce, cinnamon. Plump texture on the palate (14% alcohol) but the acidity moderates everything nicely. Raspberries, currants, cranberry jam fruit, this is a dark-fruited wine with lots of roses, clove rooibos tea. So rich, and a total stylistic outlier here, but Booker pulls it off. It ain’t cheap, and it ain’t a lightweight, but it’s delicious and well made. Grenache with 8% Syrah, this spends five days on the skins. (90 points)

2017 Lucas & Lewellen Pinot Noir Rosé - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $18
Light watermelon color. Spicy green herbs and bright roses mix with strawberry and white cherry. On the palate, this is crisp and bright with a smooth texture and tart strawberry fruit, some juicier cherry and yellow plum. A bright, spicy appeal with some floral and mineral undertones. Lively, crisp, delicious, attractive at its price point. Includes 6% Viognier. (88 points)

2017 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir Rosato Morning Dew Ranch - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
SRP: $39
Pale pink color. Bright aromas of lemons, limes, grapefruit, dandelion, lilies, and white pepper (a lot going on!). Tangy as hell, medium-bodied, with flavors of peaches, limes and nectarine. The mineral, quinine, limestone and chalk dust elements are really complex, and I get a mix of spicy white pepper, barley, oregano as well. Complex, zesty, fruity, mineral-driven, balanced so nicely. All Pinot Noir that is fermented and aged in concrete eggs. (90 points)

2017 Scotto Cellars Dry Sangiovese Rosé - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $18
Medium watermelon color. Nose shows juicy cherries, strawberries along with lemon verbena, white pepper, and bubble gum. Plump texture with fresh acidity, lots of peaches, strawberries, white cherries, watermelon fruit. I also get notes of rose petals, bubble gum, white pepper, nettle. Fun, juicy, fruity, spicy, quite good stuff! 13% alcohol. (88 points)

2017 McCay Cellars Grenache Rosé - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $18
Bright pink color. Aromas of crisp strawberries, white cherries, watermelon rind, nettle and rose petals. Medium-bodied (12.5% alcohol) with refreshing acidity and a good amount of depth. Tangy white cherries, honeydew, watermelons and peaches, richly fruity but laced with light, spicy, floral elements (which tea, honeysuckle, raspberry busy). Well-balanced, lovely stuff, per usual from McCay Cellars. (90 points)

2017 St. Amant Winery Barbera Rosé - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $15
Bright cherry juice color. Bursting aromas of strawberry jam, candied apple peel, cinnamon sticks and rose petals. Bold and juicy on the palate with fresh acidity and plenty of raspberry and strawberry jam, candied apple. I get notes of spiced tea and cinnamon candies. Sweet fruit but nice and lively, too. (87 points)

2017 d'Art Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $22
Bright raspberry color. Nose of crisp strawberries, roses, candied cherries, sweet red flowers, cinnamon sticks. Plump texture, this is a big pink wine at 14.8% with medium acidity and rich, vinous notes of red cherries and raspberries. I get notes of spiced, honeyed tea and sweet roses. This is a bold rosé that I’m thinking would pair nicely with a whole spread of charcuterie. (87 points)

2017 Long Shadows Wineries Julia's Dazzle Rosé Benches Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Horse Heaven Hills
SRP: $20
Pale copper color. Lots of peaches and apricots on the nose, with green apples, cotton candy and nettle. Juicy and full of fruit on the palate (apricot, ultra ripe white peaches), but the wine stays fresh and balanced. Notes of honeycomb, dandelion and nettle accentuate the fruit. A nice pink Pinot Gris. (87 points)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Exciting, Unique Wines from France's Jura Region

Vineyard holdings of Domaine Desire Petit. Credit: Desire Petit.
I'm a huge fan of wines from France's Jura region. This stretch of land between Burgundy and Switzerland has seen a ton of increased focus from American consumers in the past decade.

And for good reason. Traditional (and otherwise obscure) grapes like Trousseau and Poulsard offer red wines like no other on earth. Not to mention the producers making terroir-mirroring examples of Chardonnay, and other grapes.

Weygandt Wines, my favorite wine store in DC, has long been importing exciting selections from Jura producers, many of which I buy each and every year. I recently attended a tasting of some of Weygandt's Jura selecions, and, per usual, found a lot to get stoked about. And considering most of the wines cost about $20-$30, Jura wines (if you can find them) are relatively inexpensive to explore. Sure there are those expensive cult bottles that nerds gobble up, but there's still plenty of value hidden in Jura.

My notes are below on the wines I tasted...

N.V. Les Granges Paquenesses Crémant du Jura (France, Jura, Crémant du Jura)
Delicious stuff, as always from this producer. This is a bright and zesty cremant with floral, herbs, chalk dust flavors on top of apple and lemon fruit. For the price, so reliably good. 100% Chardonnay rom clay-limestone soils. (88 points)

2014 Domaine de la Pinte Chardonnay Arbois Pupillin Fonteneille (France, Jura, Arbois Pupillin)
Richly aromatic, delicious on the palate with a nice combo of creaminess and zestiness. Apples and honey and almond laced with chalk dust and some herbal tea and spice elements. Crisp, mineral-laden finish. Yum. This is always a delicious and fascinating Chardonnay. (91 points)

2015 Domaine Ratte Arbois (France, Jura, Arbois)
Love the spicy and herbal elements on this wine, lots of mineral depth and crushed rocks accent the juicy peaches and yellow pear fruit. Spicy, zesty, lots of minerals. From 60-year-old vines in the Grand Curoulet vineyard. Not sure if this is improving with age or a better bottle or I was just paying more attention but I liked this more than last times I tried it. Made from the Melon à Queue Rouge grape. (90 points)

2015 Domaine de la Borde Poulsard Arbois Pupillin Côte de Feule (France, Jura, Arbois Pupillin)
Love this stuff for its spicy, floral, delicate aromas, with red apple peel and raspberry leaf. On the palate this is vibrant and smooth and tangy with light tannins and serious gluggability, despite significant complexity and depth of flavors: red apple, raspberry, savory broth, pickling spices, meat drippings. Delicious stuff. (91 points)

2015 Domaine Désiré Petit Trousseau Arbois Pupillin (France, Jura, Arbois Pupillin)
Delicious stuff, bright and zesty but also intense and spicy. Red berries and earthy spice and clove. Elegant, harmonious stuff. (91 points)

2014 Domaine de la Pinte Pinot Noir Arbois (France, Jura, Arbois)
Another good showing of this Pinot, which is amazing for the price. Spicy, red fruit aromas. The palate is bright and fresh but structure is there. Red fruits mix with spicy tobacco, herbs, rhubarb. I love this so much for the price. (91 points)

Monday, April 23, 2018

Crémants & Aromatic Whites from Alsace's Lucien Albrecht

For the money, Crémant d’Alsace is some of France’s best Champagne-method sparkling wine. And for that, we largely have Lucien Albrecht to thank.

In 1971, this Alsace producer began trying the Champagne method on their own grapes. They liked the outcomes, so, along with two other producers, they pressed French authorities for an official designation. In 1976, Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée Crémant d’Alsace was born.

Forty-two years later, Lucien Albrecht is still carrying the Crémant d’Alsace torch, producing two main cuvées: a Brut (made from Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay) and a Brut Rosé (made from Pinot Noir). They produce other white wines as well (Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc), but the firm is perhaps best known for their bubbles.

The Albrecht name in Alsace goes quite a ways back, to 1698, when Balthazar Albrecht settled in Orschwihr, a village in southern Alsace. This was a few decades after the Thirty Years’ War, which left much of Alsace destroyed, but Balthazar pieced together a living cultivating vines around Orschwihr, and passed this on to his descendants. Today, the firm
sources grapes from Grand Cru vineyards Pfingstberg, Spiegel, and Ollwiller, as well as Bollenberg.

I recently met up with Lucien Albrecht winemaker Jerome Keller when he visited Washington, DC, to chat and taste through his wines. Today, the winery is owned by a cooperative, and it purchases many grapes from very small, independent producers, all around the winery’s home of Orschwihr. They produce about half a million cases, with most of their production focused on crémant. The vineyard sources around Orschwihr are planted in dry clay and heavy chalk soils, and I found that the chalky terroir element shines through nicely in the finished wines.

Jerome talked a lot about the dryness of his wine, something I’ve heard from other Alsace winemakers still trying to point out to American consumers that Alsace wines are frequently dry and zesty or just so zesty that they taste dry. And while the importance of history is always front and center in conversation about Alsace wines, I was excited to hear that Jerome has some new plans to make a skin-fermented (i.e., orange) wine from Chardonnay. While not “new,” (orange wines are as old as wine itself), it’s nice to see some Alsatian innovation in this realm, and I, for one, am stoked about the idea.

My notes on the wines I tasted are below, and the prices are based on
Wine-Searcher averages.

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
Nose shows bright flowers, ruby red grapefruit, and peaches. Zesty on the palate, slight creaminess, this is bright and tangy Cremant with flavors of red apple, ruby red grape fruit, and chalk dust. Fresh, fun, reliably good. All Pinot Noir. (87 points)

N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
I get chalk dust, white and yellow flowers, along with peaches and yellow apples on the nose. The palate is crisp and tangy with flavors of yellow apples, peaches, a solid streak of saline and chalk dust, hints of biscuits. Delicious for the price. A blend of Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc. (87 points)

2013 Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Chardonnay Brut 1698 - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace
This really surprised me. Aromas of rich yellow apples and pears, some salted almond, honey and crushed chalk. Zesty but some creaminess adds depth. Pears, yellow plums and bruised apple mix with sea salt, chalk dusty and a slight note of fresh biscuits. Richer than the non-vintage wines, but still focused, crisp, mineral-driven and very bright. I'd love to bury a bottle of this for three to six years. This was aged three years on the lees, and it has a 4 g/l dosage. All Chardonnay from limestone soils. (91 points)

2017 Lucien Albrecht Riesling Reserve - France, Alsace
Rich and honeyed and peachy on the nose, but also some chalk dust and flowers. Crisp acidity and a fresh appeal (2g of sugar in here) with peaches, apricots, limes. Honey, saline, chalk and minerals add complexity. Concentrated fruit from a low-yielding vintage, this is delicious right now but will improve with a few years. (90 points)

2017 Lucien Albrecht Pinot Gris Cuvée Romanus - France, Alsace
Juicy aromas of peaches, honey and yellow flowers. Bold fruit (peaches, mango) but still fresh. Fruit-forward but some interesting floral, spice tones as well. (88 points)

2012 Lucien Albrecht Riesling Pfingstberg - France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru
Gorgeous aromatics of peaches, nectarines, tennis balls, honey. On the palate, this is richly textured but so crisp and delicious. Juicy fruit but deep mineral presence. Lots of life ahead for this beauty. (92 points)

2016 Lucien Albrecht Gewurztraminer Reserve - France, Alsace
Pretty aromatic display of lychee, peach nectar and spiced tea. Rich and lush on the palate with medium acidity, hint of tannin on here, too (this gets a bit of skin contact). Apricots, mango, peaches, bold fruit but laced with spices, herbs and nuts. (89 points)

2015 Lucien Albrecht Gewurztraminer Spiegel Alsace Grand Cru - France, Alsace
Intense aromatics of pineapples, peach nectar, lychee, with white pepper. Rich and full but bright acidity. Peaches and mangoes topped in nougat, honey, white pepper, spiced tea. Wow this boasts a lot of complexity and will age nicely. (91 points)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Exciting New Releases from Oregon

I’m a huge Oregon wine-lover, and I’m always excited to taste whatever I can. The sample size this week is small, but the wines are all high quality examples.

The two new releases from Troon Vineyard (a Montepulciano and Sangiovese) are really exciting. Lighter style (11.5 and 12.5% alcohol), the grapes are sourced from a vineyard in Applegate Valley, fermented with wild yeasts, and aged 12 months in all old French oak. I’ve long been a big fan of Troon’s Rhone variety wines, but apparently they can excel with all sorts of varieties out there.

Elouan, a new Oregon Pinot Noir project from well-known California winemaker, Joe Wagner, deliver a whole lot of Oregonian Pinot goodness for the price.

And the new vintage of Gran Moraine Chardonnay is an incredible follow-up to the 2014 vintage, and it reinforces my impression that this is a stunning Oregon Chardonnay, one to watch in the future for sure.  

This wine were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

SRP: $40
Deep ruby color. Aromas of black cherries, red currants, rhubarb, clove, coffee, lovely mix of rich aromas. Full-bodied with medium acidity and velvety tannins, this is a chewy and bold style but the wine still stays bright. Rich cherry and raspberry jam flavors laced with coffee, clove, black tea. Bold and packed with deliciousness but also lively and complex. (90 points)

2016 Elouan Pinot Noir Klamath's Kettle Reserve - Oregon, Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley
SRP: $40
Deep ruby color. Aromas of jammy strawberries and cherries, with rhubarb, roses, coffee, warm spices, clove, vanilla. Crisp acidity frames the wine nicely, with velvety tannins, along with tangy cherries and jammy raspberries, along with complex elements of cinnamon, rhubarb, clove, coffee. This could use a few years, but it’s impressive now. (91 points) 

2015 Gran Moraine Chardonnay - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Yamhill-Carlton
SRP: $45
Light yellow color. Complex aromas of limestone, wet river rocks, chalk dust, with honey, lemon curd, lemon meringue and salted almond. So vibrant and crisp on the palate, gorgeous texture and depth but stays brisk. Apricot, limes, lemon curd, the fruit is doused in saline, mineral, sea salt, white tea, honeyed biscuits and salted almond. Complex, deep, refreshing, delicious, this is insanely good stuff. The wine spends 16 months in a combination of French oak and stainless steel. (94 points)

2016 Troon Vineyard Sangiovese White Family Vineyard - Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $25
Light ruby color. Bright aromas of chilled strawberries and red cherries, mixed with rose petals, violets, sage, wild herbs. Crisp acidity frames the palate so nicely on this medium-bodied wine (12.5% alcohol), dusty/light tannins. Bright cherries, raspberries, red apple fruit, topped with roses, clove, cinnamon, earth, soy and white pepper. A refreshing, brisk but serious Sangiovese. (91 points)

2016 Troon Vineyard Montepulciano White Family Vineyard - Oregon, Southern Oregon, Applegate Valley
SRP: $25
Bright ruby color. Spicy aromas of raspberry leaf, white and green peppercorns, rose hips, on top of red apple peel and crisp strawberries. Bright and refreshing on the palate with light tannins and an easy-going appeal, yet the flavors of quite complex. Strawberry, raspberry, red apple, along with complex herbal, spice, tobacco and potpourri. Wow, what can’t Troon do in Applegate Valley? (90 points) 

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Three Killer North Coast California Reds from the Cellar

As readers of this blog know, I review a lot of wines, especially wines from California. Sure I'm an Old World-lover, but I never go too long without sipping some California goodness. Here's a peak into the kinds of California wines that I buy and cellar.

Two of these wines come from Mendocino (which I've visited several times and love), and one is a rare red blend from Humboldt County. All three of these wines stood out in recent weeks as excellent, exciting wines, all of which could have been cellared further, especially the Bedrock Syrah.

My notes on some stellar wines are below...

2009 Cabot Vineyards Confluence
California, North Coast, Humboldt County
Gorgeous aromas of mushroom, savory spice, anise, roses, rhubarb, on top of red currant and cherries (the fruit is still going!). Crisp acidity frames the wine but the dusty tannins provide structure, along with tart, chilled red fruits, some currant compote, The balance is gorgeous, and the complexity is impressive in flavors of: black pepper, broth, mushroom, leather, black tea. Impressive depth and complexity – this would be a great ringer in an aged Bordeaux tasting. A Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. (92 points)

2013 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard
California, North Coast, Mendocino County
Aromas of saucy backberry, lots of smoke and meat and charcoal, grilled herbs, violets – just wow. Grippy tannins but vibrant acidity keeps it lively. Black cherry and plum fruit, generous but tangy. A host of complex soy, smoke, peppered steak, tar, olive and leather make this complex and astounding wine. I love Bedrock, and this wine in particular, but I think this may be the best one I’ve tasted from Mogran. Hats off, sir. Well done. This has a decade+ of evolution ahead. The most Cornas-y California Syrah I’ve tasted in a while. (95 points)

2013 Radio-Coteau Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard
California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
Gorgeous aromatic displays: red apple peel, red cherry, along with bright roses, raspberry leaf tea, herbal oils, mushroom – wow. The palate is medium-bodied, the tannins provide solid structure and crisp acidity. Tart red cherries, red currants and wild strawberry, the fruit is gorgeous, and laced with spicy pepper, broth, mushroom, cinnamon sticks. These elements will be even better in 2-5 years, but this is already gorgeous. (94 points)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

More New Releases from California

This week’s report includes four wines from Sonoma-based producer Smith Story, which is the project of husband-wife duo Eric Story and Ali Smith-Story. It was my first time tasting these wines, and I found a lot to like.

Eighty-Four offers up a few well-priced and exciting wines from Napa. A cooperative effort between Doug Shafer and winemaker Elias Fernandez, these varietal wines are named for the year in which they began making wine together, and they’re definitely worth seeking out.

Lastly, we have two 2016 offerings from Napa’s Frank Family (which further solidify my love for the 2016 vintage in Napa), and a big, delicious Cab from Kelly Fleming.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2016 Smith Story Sauvignon Blanc - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $25
Pale yellow color. Aromas burst with lime, apricot, guava, cut flower stems, chalk dust and honeysuckle. Zippy and fresh but pleasantly plump texture with flavors of lemon-lime, green pears, apricot and guava. Notes of sea salt, mineral, nettle and honeysuckle elevate the complexity. Very well-integrated and balanced. The fruit comes from Knights Valley and Sonoma Mountain AVAs. (88 points)

2015 Smith Story Pinot Noir Thorn Ridge - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $75
Light ruby color. Nose shows chilled strawberries, wild raspberry, red apple peel, rose bush, potpourri, some sweet incense. Medium-bodied, so clean and crisp on the palate, with tangy acidity and smooth tannins. Raspberries, cherries, red apple, juicy but crisp fruit laced with cola, sage, roses and rhubarb. Lovely, fresh, inviting, nuanced. 16 months in French Oak (25% new). (90 points)

2015 Smith Story Cabernet Franc - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $40
Deep ruby color. Aromas of fresh red plums, red and black cherries, with roses, cola, some sweet pipe tobacco. On the palate, fresh and crisp and clean with dusty tannins and cool red fruits (strawberries, raspberries, cherries). Rhubarb, pepper, cola, roses and spicy tobacco add complexity, while mushroom notes come out with time. Lots of fruit and flavor but fresh. The wine is aged 20 months in used French barrels. (89 points)

2015 Smith Story Cabernet Sauvignon Pickberry Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
SRP: $60
Deep ruby color. Smells like tangy black cherries, red and black currants, along with violets, eucalyptus, mint, some spice rub and clove. Such freshness and liveliness on the palate with structured tannins, the balance is great, and this is such an integrated wine. Plump blackberry and tangy red and black currants, topped with violets, roasted chestnut, spicy clove, tobacco, sweet herbs and potpourri. Wow this is a juicy, spicy, complex Cabernet. aged in 2-4 year old French barrels for 21 months before bottling. (91 points)

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $38
Medium yellow color. Nose of almond butter, nougat, vanilla and white flowers, on top of creamy yellow apples and pears. Juicy and plump texture on the palate, but fresh acidity, creamy but not heavy. Yellow pears and apples, orange marmalade, the fruit is mixed with flavors of honey, almond, candle wax and clove. Powerful and packed with richness but it is put together so well and maintains freshness. (90 points)

2016 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $38
Deep ruby color. Aromas of black cherries, raspberry, rhubarb, black tea, tobacco and cedar. Full-bodied with plush tannins and moderating acidity. Tart cranberry sauce and rich black cherry fruit, forward and bold but nuanced. Notes of rhubarb, cola, tobacco, white pepper, cedar. Rich and fruity but complex and enticing. Yum. (90 points)

2017 Eighty Four Wines Albariño - California, Napa, Carneros
SRP: $28
Rich yellow color. Gorgeous aromatics of apricots, green melon, honey, salted almond, so many fresh white and yellow flowers. Plush texture, lots of depth here, but the acidity is brisk and refreshing. Glazed apple, apricot, white peach, the fruit is topped in yellow flowers, salted almond, a racy streak of minerals and chalk dust. The complexity is really impressive, and it’s downright delish. Another great example of what Albarino can do it Napa. (90 points)

2014 Eighty Four Wines Malbec - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $48
Rich purple color. Nose boasts lots of yummy fruit (blackberry, black cherry, dark plums) with complex elements of smoky charcoal, eucalyptus, violets, espresso – lovely aromatics. Full-bodied (15.1% alcohol) but the texture is smooth and the acidity keeps it fresh. Gushing blackberry and blueberry with menthol, eucalyptus, roasted coffee, violets, potting soil, vanilla, chipotle spice rub – serious complexity in here, but it’s plush, forward and delicious and goes down so easily. All Malbec aged 20 months in 50% new French oak. (91 points)

2012 Eighty Four Wines Petite Sirah - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Dense purple color. Aromas of tart black currants, dark plums, a dark and earthy note, like smashed rocks and wet forest floor, some anise and espresso – complex and awesome aromatically. Full-bodied (of course!), the tannins are built to last, but the edges are rounded out nicely. The fruit is dark but tart, like crunchy dark plums and currants. Notes of anise, espresso, cedar, graphite. A massive wine at 15.8% alcohol, but its remarkably lively. All Petite Sirah aged 40 months in 100% new French oak. (91 points)

2014 Kelly Fleming Wines Big Pour - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $90
Rich purple color. Gobs of fruit on the nose (currants, blackberries, gushing plums), along with complex notes of eucalyptus, graphite, cedar and vanilla. Bold presence on the palate, the wine has a smooth feel though, with velvety tannins and fresh acidity that keeps it tangy. Tart black cherries and currants with juicy blackberries and plums, rich but fresh. Complex notes of cedar, coffee, vanilla, graphite, eucalyptus. As the name indicates, this is absolutely delish and goes down so easily, but it sports significant complexity as well. Cabernet with 11% Malbec and 8% Syrah. (91 points)

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Slow Wine Guide - An Insider's View of Italian & California Wineries

Now in its eighth year, the Slow Wine Guide is back — and for the first time they’re tackling California.

Spurred from the Slow Food movement, the Slow Wine Guide began in 2008, with the goal of highlighting Italian wine producers using organic, environmentally-conscious methods to produce wines that speak clearly of their place. They sum up their approach to wine criticism by, “taking into consideration the wine quality, adherence to terroir, value for money and environmental sensitivity.”

The lion’s share of this book focuses, as always, on Italy — the book includes more than 370 profiles of Italian wineries. “When Slow Wine made its debut it was hard, especially in Italy’s northern regions, to find wines that farmed their vineyards organically or at least avoided weeding with chemicals. Today it’s the exact opposite,” Giancarlo Gariglio and Fabio Giavedoni say in their Introduction to the 2018 edition.

In 2017, Slow Wine started covering California, and this new edition features 72 California producers. Readers of this blog and lovers of California wine will likely recognize many of the wineries, which were selected by U.S. editors Elaine BrownDavid Lynch, and Jeremy Parzen. I know a bunch of my favorite California producers made the cut: Radio-Couteau, Rhys, Matthiasson, Littorai, Hirsch, Grgich Hills, Corison, Bedrock, Wind Gap, Ceritas, Arnot-Roberts, and more.

Each producer profile (from Italy and California) is brief and to the point, providing basic contact information and quick descriptions in three small sub-sections: People, Vineyards, and Wines. The editors also include information on each producer’s methods for fertilizing, protecting vines, controlling weeds, as well as yeasts, vineyard sources, and certifications.

I recognize some of the Italian wineries profiled, but most of them I’m unfamiliar with. Still, I’m impressed by the depth and scope of the region-by-region approach. If you’re planning a trip to Italy, this guide will give you more than enough options for wineries to visit. And if you’re looking to dig in to some of the most dynamic winemakers in California, these recommendations are a great place to start.

Wine Reviews: New Releases from New Zealand & Italy

This week’s tasting report includes some value-driven wines from big-time New Zealand producer Kim Crawford, as well as some bright and zesty Verdicchios from Italy’s Marche region. Lastly, there’s a tasty Montefalco Rosso and a teeth-stainingly delicious Sagrantino as well.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2017 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc - New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
SRP: $18
Pale lemon color. Aromas burst with grapefruit, kiwi, limes along with zesty pepper, jalapeno, nettle and white flowers. Tickling acidity on the palate with medium body and juicy grapefruit, lemons and green apples. Flavors of cucumber slices, honeysuckle and clove. Always a reliable, widely-available, tasty, example of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and lovely for the price. (87 points)

2017 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Signature Reserve - New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
SRP: $25
Pale yellow color. Bursting aromatics of bell pepper, jalapeno and asparagus, on top of juicy peaches, limes, some honeysuckle thrown in too. Crisp and bright, light/medium-bodied (12% alcohol) but some impressive depth and richness. Peaches, cantaloupe and lime doused in complex vegetable/spice elements: jalapeno, nettle, sliced bell pepper, lemongrass. Finishes with flor and honey notes. Classic Kim Crawford style but dialed up a bit. (89 points)

2016 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir South Island - New Zealand, South Island
SRP: $19
Bright ruby color. Smells of crisp cherries, strawberry jam, wild raspberry, along with cinnamon candies and rose petals. Medium+ acidity with light tannins, a fresh and lively style. Tangy cherries and strawberry jam mix with rose petal, cola, rhubarb pie, some white pepper. Accessible, fresh, light, a crowd-pleasing Pinot that’s really good for the money. (87 points)

SRP: $12
Pale straw color. Peachy nose with honeysuckle and sweet floral perfume. Crisp but plump with pineapple and limeade flavors, along with some honeycomb and sweet white flowers. Fun, fresh, friendly Pinot Grigio. (85 points)

2017 Garofoli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Macrina - Italy, Marche, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico
SRP: $14
Medium yellow color. Nose shows peachy, lemon, apricot, with bright white flowers, tonic and dandelion notes. Zesty acidity, moderate creamy texture, this is a fresh and vibrant wine with green apples, with sliced cucumbers, dandelion, sea salt, floral potpourri. Lively and fresh, very nice for the price. (87 points)

2017 Garofoli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Podium - Italy, Marche, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore
SRP: $25
Medium yellow color. Floral and bright on the nose with lilies, dandelions, honeysuckle, with richer peach, apricot, nectarine, orange marmalade. Crisp acidity frames the wine, nice textural depth, dry and steely with orange and apricot fruit. A saline and quinine note mixes with cut floral stems. More depth than the Macrina, but still a brisk and lively wine. (88 points)

2014 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso - Italy, Umbria, Montefalco Rosso
SRP: $21
Medium ruby color. Aromas of crisp, chilled red cherries, red currants, tangy plums, along with charcoal, roses, spiced tea, fennel. Medium-bodied with fresh acidity and smooth tannins. Tart red and black plum fruit mixes nicely with spiced tea, pepper, violets, scorched earth, gravel. Dry but fresh. Sangiovese with 15% Sagrantino and 15% Coloino. (88 points)

2012 Tenuta Alzatura Sagrantino di Montefalco - Italy, Umbria, Montefalco, Sagrantino di Montefalco
SRP: $31
Light purple color. Aromas of tart black currants and cherries, with charcoal, anise, tobacco, leather and cured meat notes. Grippy tannins (wow this is young), but moderating acidity, and lots of tart black currant and plum fruit. Lots going on already in terms of smoky, meaty, savory, earthy tones, but the fruit is still dense and concentrated, and this has a lot of complexity to unpack. I’d love to bury for 5-8 years. 100% Sagrantino aged 16 months in barrel. (91 points) 

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.