Saturday, March 30, 2019

New Wine Releases from California

I’ve been receiving a lot of new releases from California lately (especially rosés), so this report is my attempt to keep up!

This week, I’m taking a look at two Sonoma County wines from Sosie, which really wowed me with their brightness, freshness and lower alcohol vibes. I also tasted some big name 2015 Napa Cabs (Beaulieu’s Georges de Latour Private Reserve and LaJota’s Howell Mountain), which showed why they’re popular and expensive.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

SRP: $58
Bold yellow color. The nose jumps out with rich baked apples, orange marmalade, lots of honey, butter, cinnamon and nougat. The palate shows rich, buttery texture but medium acidity. Baked apples and glazed pear fruit, topped in honey, almond, ginger, cinnamon and floral perfume. A plump, rich style, but it wrapped together well. Aged 10 months in all new French oak, with 75% maloactic fermentation. (88 points)

2015 Sosie Roussanne Vivio Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
SRP: $38
Bold yellow color. Aromas pop with super tropical combos of pineapple, lychee, honey butter, almond, tropical flowers. Medium-bodied (only 12.9% alcohol) with moderating acidity, which really helps, and there’s a creamy, waxy texture. Flavors of yellow apples and pineapple, laced with floral potpourri, salted nuts, white tea, there’s some underlying mineral tones. Bold and tropical in flavors yet it’s nuanced and light on its feel – a nice combo to find in California Roussanne. Native yeasts, barrel fermented, all maloactic fermentation. (90 points)

2015 Sosie Pinot Noir Spring Hill Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $43
Bright cherry colored. Nose shows fresh red cherries and pomegranate with lots of spiced tea, bay leaf, pepper, paprika, rose petals – this has a really spicy, savory nose that I love. Medium-bodied and really fresh with dusty tannins and bright acidity on a frame of about 13% alcohol. Red cherries, raspberries and pomegranate fruit blend well with notes of spiced tea, pepper, bay leaf, subtle coffee and cedar notes. Complex and could develop in the cellar but it’s already harmonious. Aged 16 months in 25% new French oak. (91 points)

2016 Sidebar Cellars Zinfandel - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $28
Bright deep ruby color. Aromas of wild red currant, raspberries, tangy summer plums, with spiced tea, lavender, clove, pepper and forest floor. Full-bodied but fresh with velvety tannins and zesty acidity. The juicy plums and wild raspberry fruit is topped in sweet clove, coffee, pepper, tobacco, and an earthy-mineral component. A gorgeous, vibrant Zinfandel. Includes 10% Alicante, 10% Petite Sirah and 12 other varieties compose 2% of the blend, aged in old oak for 12 months. From the Alegria Vineyard, replanted in 1950. (91 points)

2016 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $33
Deep purple color. Nose boasts juicy, sweet black cherries, dark plums and blackberries, backed up by cocoa, vanilla and sweet tobacco. Velvety on the palate, full and juicy with medium acidity and plenty of juicy dark currants and plums. Notes of violets, coco, leather, tobacco, some savory notes as well. Easy-drinking, accessible now, yet shows some solid complexity and depth. Includes a combined 22% Syrah, Petite Sirah, Touriga Nacional, Malbec, and more. Aged 15 months in 30% new oak. (88 points)

2015 Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $65
Bright purple color. Rich and bold on the nose with a solid core of black cherries and currants, roasted plums, with sweet cocoa, violet petals, clove, espresso, and some underlying earthy, savory notes. Full-bodied on the palate with a rich, velvety tannic structure, moderating acidity underneath helps keep it relatively fresh, but this is a big, smooth red with lots of juicy black fruit. Very pretty, though, with violets, clove, mint, vanilla and cocoa notes, with earthy undertones. Really opens up with air, so I’d recommend decanting or sometime in the cellar. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 7% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot aged in 60% new French, American and Hungarian oak for 22 months. (91 points)

SRP: $150
Vibrant purple color. Nose shows deep, rich, pure fruit (blackberry, cassis, roasted fig), along with an intoxicating blend of violets, tobacco, eucalyptus, mint, and an earthy, rocky essence in there, too. So suave and texturally flashy the palate with a full, bold presence (15%+) but there’s a lively, elegant feel too, with velvety tannins and medium adity. Black currant and dark plums along with a complex mix of earthy, rocky, forest floor notes with sweet tobacco, espresso, mint chocolate chip, and a spicy potpourri element. Big stuff but it holds itself together really well, and while it can age wonderfully, I’m really surprised by how accessible this is right out of the gates. Includes 4% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec, aged 22 months in 90% new French oak. (93 points)

2015 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
SRP: $125
Bright purple color. Gorgeous aromatics that shift and evolve wonderfully: dark currants, black cherries, complex waves of graphite, smashed rocks, menthol, tobacco, espresso, violets. The palate is full but suave, and the tannins show grip but rounded edges, while the acidity is really bright and keeps me salivating. Pure black currant and tart blackberry fruit is laced with tobacco leaf, graphite, violets, mint, coffee, dark chocolate, espresso. Air does wonders to this wine, so I’d recommend a serious decant if opening in the next few years, otherwise feel free to properly cellar this and forget about it for a long time. Includes a combined 25% Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Aged 22 months in 65% new French oak. (95 points)

Friday, March 29, 2019

California's Only Kerner is Killer

I recently got together with a bunch of wine nerd friends for an Italian-themed wine dinner. There were wines from all over Italy, so I decided to blind-taste my friends on a 2017 Abbazia di Novacella Kerner from the Alto Adige region of Northeastern Italy.

Everyone guessed Alto Adige — the whites from this region, regardless of variety, have this bright, zesty, frequently salty and spicy, high altitude appeal. But tasters were split on whether the wine was a Riesling or a Gewurztraminer, which are good guesses since Kerner is a cross between Riesling and Trollinger, and I find Kerner can show a lot of spicy and herbal notes reminiscent of Gewurztraminer.

The wine was well received, and it's always fine to taste a grape variety that is relatively rare. While many producers in Alto Adige make Kerner, in California there's only one planting.

Last week I received a sample of Sidebar Cellars' Kerner, sourced from the Mokelumne Glen Vineyard on the banks of Lodi, California's Mokelumne River. These Kerner vines were planted in 1998 in sandy loam soils, and are the sole California source of this grape.

I, for one, am stoked this vineyard exists. Sidebar is the project of renowned vintner David Ramey, and winemaker Lydia Cummins has crafted an exquisite wine in their 2017 Kerner. Here are my tasting notes... 

2017 Sidebar Cellars Kerner - California, Central Valley, Lodi Mokelumne River
SRP: $25
Light yellow color. Whoa, the nose explodes with mango, lemon curd, lots of sea salt, verbena, oregano, green olives — how cool. Bright and inviting on the palate yet there’s a lovely creaminess (sur lie aging really gives it this great texture), a fascinating mouthfeel and balance. Yellow plums, mango, lemon curd, there’s a complex host of minerals, white tea, lemon verbena, oregano, sea salt, chalk dust. This is really cool, delicious, versatile stuff. 100% Kerner from the sandy loam soils of the Mokelumne Glen Vineyard. No maloactic fermentation, aged sur lie in stainless steel. (91 points) 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Vibrant & Delicious Australian Wines from Yangarra Estate

High Sands Grenache. Credit: Yangarrra Estate
Yangarra is one of those producers that has kept me interested in Australian wine when so many other American wine-lovers moved on.

I’ve found their wines boast plenty of sunshiny fruit, but I love the freshness, acidity and non-fruit complexity I get in these wines.

Located in the northeast part of the McLaren Vale, Yangarra is certified biodynamic and focused on the classic Rhone varieties. Grapevines have been planted on the estate since the late 1800s, but its modern history begins in 1946, when Bernard Smart planted unirrigated bush vine Grenache. This became known as the High Sands Vineyard (because of its sandy clay soil), and demand for the fruit from this vineyard grew and grew. Today, Yangarra’s vineyards comprise some 100 hectares, spread into 35 different blocks.

In 2001, Jackson Family Wines purchased Yangarra, and soon after local winemaker Peter Fraser took the helm. He uses wild yeast fermentation and judicious use of new oak, and the resulting wines have a purity of expression that I find really attractive.

I recently tasted through some Yangarra wines, and found across-the-board quality. The ceramic egg and skin-fermented Roussanne, as well as the High Sands Grenache, really stood out and wowed me. I received these wines as trade samples and tasted them sighted.

2017 Yangarra Estate Roussanne - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $35
Rich yellow color. Nose of apricot, lime, papaya, surprisingly vibrant fruit mixed with honey and orange blossoms. Plump texture, real depth on the palate, yet fresh acidity keeps the wine bright. Apricot, lime, green melon, pineapple, lots of fruit but it’s accented by honey, candle wax, white tea and ginger, notes of hay and salted almond. The balance here is really impressive, and the wine finishes clean and fresh. 13.5% alcohol, 100% Roussanne, aged 7 months in French oak, 10% new. (91 points)

2016 Yangarra Estate Roussanne Roux Beaute - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $50
Deep yellow, light orange color. The nose is wonderfully complex. It bursts with lemon curd, honeydew, white peach and lots of floral and spice notes (dandelion, mint, hay), even some subtle earth and desert after rain kind of notes – very cool. Medium-bodied (13.5%) with lovely freshness, beautifully integrated on the palate. Honeydew, lemon curd, peaches, and I love the complex floral tones, smashed rocks, minerals, hay, creosote – really complex and vibrant stuff. The textural depth adds all sorts of dynamics to this fascinating and delicious wine. This is all fermented in eggs, with half of the wine getting 137 days of skin contact. (94 points) 

2015 Yangarra Estate Grenache High Sands - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $100
Light purple color. Deep yet pretty aromatics of red and black raspberries, plums, red cherries, along with complex roses, violets, wild herbs and spices – a lot going on here. Full-bodied but velvety tannins, yet fresh acidity keeps it really lively. Tart cherries, raspberries, plums, the fruit is rich but tangy and laced with mint, eucalyptus, wild herbs, black pepper, rose potpourri, some coffee and cinnamon notes. There’s a deep, pervasive minerality here as well. Bold flavors but a lot of freshness and elegance. Very impressive stuff. From 70-year-old vines in sandy soils aged 11 months in old French oak. (93 points)

2016 Yangarra Estate Grenache Ovitelli - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $50
Deep ruby color. Such pretty aromatics of raspberries, red cherries, candied apple peel, along with a host of spicy, earthy, floral tones (rose petals, rhubarb, spiced chai, clay soil and dusty earth). Full-bodied on the palate with smooth tannins and medium acidity; there’s this effortless, balanced mouthfeel that is great. Flavors of raspberries, cherries and red apple, the fruit is juicy, rich but tart. Complex notes of earth, clay, spiced tea, rose hips, menthol and white pepper – such complexity in here. There’s a lovely briskness despite the richness. Deep, intriguing, lovely Grenache, fermented and aged exclusively in ceramic eggs. (92 points)

2014 Yangarra Estate Shiraz - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $35
Rich purple color. Nose boasts tart black cherries and currants, plums, lots of fruit but shows freshness too, and notes of black pepper glaze, violets, Turkish coffee and mint. Full-bodied, velvety tannins, moderating acidity, and plenty of juicy but tangy black and blue fruit (black cherry, cassis, blueberry). Notes of charcoal, coffee, vanilla, along with pepper, scorched earth and mint. Lots of depth and vibrancy in this wine — classic Yangarra style. All Shiraz, aged 13 months in ¼ new French oak. (90 points)

2015 Yangarra Estate Shiraz Ironheart - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
SRP: $100
Deep purple. Deep aromas of black cherries, dark currants, roasted figs, along with violets, sweet cocoa, mint, menthol and warm clay. Full and rich on the palate with velvety tannins and medium acidity. Flavors of roasted figs, plum cake, black cherries, along with mint, pepper, violets, cocoa. There’s some earthy, dusty, spice rub mixed in here, too. A lot going on, and it’s bright despite its richness and depth. I’d love to taste this in five years. Aged 15 months in 45% new French oak. (91 points)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

New Releases from California

Welcome back for another roundup of new releases from California!

I’ve been getting a lot of new wines from California, and this report has a good amount of the staples: Chardonnay, Pinot, Cabernet, Zinfandel. There are a couple value-driven wines that deliver, and some exciting new releases from Sonoma’s Anaba and Lake County’s Hawk & Horse.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

White wines

2017 Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay - California, Central Coast
SRP: $16
Nose gushes with pineapple, lemon curd, baked apple, with vanilla and honey butter. Plump and creamy texture, medium acidity, lots of yellow apple, pineapple and lemon crème. Flavors of rich toasted marshmallow, vanilla crème cookies, honey, also some fresh floral tones. Fun, accessible stuff. (85 points)

2017 Carmel Road Chardonnay Unoaked - California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $22
Bright nose of peaches, green melon, lemon, white flowers and honeysuckle. Fresh and bright on the palate, this is pleasantly vibrant on a medium-bodied frame. Lemon, white peach and apricot fruit, accented with flowers, honey and chalk notes. A lively and bright style of Chardonnay at a good price. All stainless steel, 13.5% alcohol. (87 points)

2016 The Hess Collection Chardonnay Panthera - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $45
Aromas of apricot, lemon curd, orange marmalade, with ginger, honeycomb and vanilla. Texturally, this is plump and full yet shows medium acidity, and the balance is on point. Yellow apples, apricot and orange marmalade, with honey, ginger, vanilla and cinnamon crumb cake. Yet there’s this aspect of saline and minerals that makes it pop. Aged 15 months in 35% new French oak, 14.3% alcohol. (88 points)

2016 Anaba Chardonnay Dutton Ranch - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $42

Deep yet pretty scents of apricot and yellow apple, cinnamon and nutmeg, sea salt and flowers, the aromas are bold yet they make me salivate. Pristine and fresh on the palate with crisp acidity and smooth texture. Apricot, yellow apples, orange marmalade, and I get complex notes of chalk, sea salt, yellow flowers, ginger, white tea. Wow, this is really pretty stuff. Aged 17 months in 27% new French oak, 90% maloactic fermentation. (92 points)

Red wines

2016 Carmel Road Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Monterey
SRP: $25
Warm strawberry and cherry compote on the nose with rose petals, cola, rhubarb and white pepper. Medium-bodied palate, light tannins, medium acidity, this is a juicy and fresh style, full of pleasant red cherry, raspberry, strawberry jam. Secondary notes of clove, cola and rhubarb add some complexity. A juicy and fun style but the freshness keeps it food-friendly and so easy to drink. Aged 9 months in French oak, 13% new. (87 points)

2016 Anaba Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
SRP: $42
Nose boasts bright cherries, raspberries and strawberries, along with vibrant red flowers, dandelion, white pepper, rhubarb and spiced tea. Medium+ body, velvety tannins, bright acidity, the balance is quite nice. Raspberries and red cherries are topped in roses, herbal tea, white pepper, sage and raspberry leaf. Not light (lots of juicy fruit) but it has a vibrant feel and freshness to it. Drink now or hold for a few years. Aged 20 months in 35% new French oak. (90 points)

2016 J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP $40
Bright but deep aromas of black and red cherries, raspberries and strawberries, along with roses, rhubarb, clove and spiced tea. The palate is ripe but vibrant, full but suave, with light tannins and fresh acidity. Flavors of red plums, cherries, raspberries and strawberries, plenty of ripe fruit but it is complemented by notes of cola, clove, rhubarb, potpourri, black tea, earth. Rich but nuanced, delicious but complex. (90 points)

2016 Gehricke Zinfandel - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
SRP: $30
Aromas of blackberries, plums and raspberries, all tossed together in a simmer pot with violets, rhubarb, cedar and vanilla. On the palate, it’s full-bodied (15.1%) with soft tannins and enough acidity to keep it lively. Raspberries, plums, black cherries, the fruit works well with cola, cedar, birch and sweet vanilla nots. Aged 17 months in French oak. Fun, chewy, barbecue-friendly stuff. (88 points)

2016 The Hess Collection Lion Tamer - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $45
Smells of sweet plums, black cherry jam, juicy and plump with violets, cocoa, vanilla and coffee. Full-bodied but smooth with soft tannins and medium-low acidity. Sweet clumps of plum, black cherry and blackberry. Laced with vanilla, toasted marshmallow, dark chocolate and cedar, with some earthy hints. Full, hedonistic and fun. 40% Malbec with Zinfandel, Ptite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedr and Merlot. Aged 22 months in 40% new French oak. (87 points)

2016 Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Sauvignon Valley View Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
SRP: $25
Nose shows lots of plums and sweet black cherries, topped in roasted coffee, grilled herbs, pepper and cocoa. Rich and velvety style with smooth tannins and medium acidity, which adds freshness. Generous helpings of plums, black cherries and currants, and add in some clove, rosemary, pepper, and vanilla and coffee, which harmonizes well with the warm fruit. A highly drinkable Cab now, but it shows depth, and has a lot to offer for a California Cabernet at this price point. Includes a combined 25% Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, aged 21 months in 40% new French oak. (88 points)

2016 Three Finger Jack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon East Side Ridge - California, Central Valley, Lodi
SRP: $22

Rich, deep aromas of plums, blackberry, mixed with coffee, violets, clove, a warm and inviting nose. Full-bodied (15%), this is a full-on style with a rich, chewy feel, medium tannins, some moderating acidity, but it’s actually all balanced together quite well. There’s a nice combo of rich black cherries, plums and blackberries, and complex notes of scorched earth, clove, smoky cedar, violets, a littler earthy-mineral notes, too. Highly delicious but also quite complex, and far more interesting than a lot of California Cabernets in this price range. (88 points)

2014 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County
SRP: $75
Gorgeous aromatics, like waves of blackberries, red and black currants, along with violets, black pepper, red pepper flakes, complex earthy and coffee notes. Full-bodied, this Cab sports velvety tannins and bright acidity, and it’s balanced very nicely. Tart black cherries, juicy dark plums and blackberries, this wine is laced with complex notes of pencil shavings, pepper, leather, scorched earth. Accented well with dark chocolate and espresso notes. I’d love to see what this does in five years. Impressive Lake County Cabernet. Aged 23 months in 90% new French oak. (90 points) 

2013 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Latigo - California, North Coast, Lake County
SRP: $50/375ml
Aromas of warm berry compote, along with pepper, earth, charcoal, lavender and clove. The palate is balanced nicely with velvety tannins, bright acidity, balanced sweetness. Juicy black cherries, roasted figs and dates, mixed well with elements of clove, anise, violets, sweet caramel. There’s also this lingering minerality, too. What a beautiful fortified dessert wine, this really surprised me. All Cabernet (from estate vineyards planted at about 2,200 feet), aged 29 months in new French oak, fortified with oak-aged brandy. 17.9% alcohol, 13% residual sugar. (91 points)

<85 points

N.V. Dark Horse Limited Brut Rosé - California
SRP $13
Nose shows strawberry candies, raspberries, red apple peel, with sliced cucumber and white pepper. Medium/light-bodied with crisp acidity and faint bubbles. Reed apple peels, white cherries, with spicy, herbal tones. Light, fun, simple.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Alicante Bouschet's Adopted Home of Alentejo, Portugal

Winemaker Iain Richardson in his Alicante vineyard
at Herdade do Mouchao, in Portugal's Alentejo region.
In the summer of 2018, I spent a week exploring Portugal’s Alentejo region, and I came back with a much deeper respect for its wines, history and culture. Stretching inland, east of Lisbon, this hot, dry region is home to vast swaths of cork forests and vineyards spread across a countryside of rolling hills and farms.

One of things that surprised me most about Alentejo was how many good to excellent wines I tasted made from the Alicante Bouschet grape. With more than 100 years of experience with this grape, Alentejo and Alicante have a long, symbiotic relationship, and winemakers there have learned how to harness the full potential of this grape.

In the 1880s, a Frenchman named Henri Bouschet created the grape by crossing Petit Bouschet (itself a cross of two even more obscure grapes) with Grenache. The result was a thick-skinned, dark-colored grape variety that showed good defense against rot. It can produce such dark wines that Portuguese winemakers took to calling it Tinta de Excrever, which means “writing ink.” Fun fact: Alicante is a rare teinturier variety, which means the pulp inside is red (like the Georgian grape Saperavi). The grape flourished in California during prohibition, as its resistance to rot meant grapes could handle transportation to home winemakers and bootleggers. Because of its dark color and intensity, it was also widely used as a blending grape in order to add some meat and potatoes to thinner wines.

But it was a man looking to make some money in the cork business who helped this grape reach its pinnacle. In the mid-1800s, Thomas Reynolds (an Oporto-based exporter of Port, cork, and other goods) moved his family to the rural, largely untouched region of Alentejo. He established a massive estate, Herdade do Mouchão, dominated by cork tree forests, but also olive trees and vineyards. Sometime before the turn of the 20th Century, two professors from Montpellier brought cuttings of Alicante Bouschet to Mouchão, where it adapted well. In 1901, the Reynolds family built a winery, adding a distillery in 1929. The original winery is still functioning, and it operated without electricity until 1991! It is one of the most fascinating wineries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. And the wines, especially the flagship red, are stunning.

With more than 200 indigenous grape varieties to choose from, it’s amazing an imported science experiment found such a foothold in Alentejo. But wine history is weird like that. Today, growers all over Alentejo use Alicante, frequently blending it with other indigenous and international grape varieties. Many respected winemakers use traditional methods of hand-picking and food-treading the grapes in large concrete or marble containers. Alicante Bouschet benefits from barrel aging, and it can withstand a good amount of new, toasty oak, though I'm more inclined toward wines that have been aged for long periods in large, old wood. No matter how it is made or where the vineyard is, these are almost always dark, concentrated, tannic, long-aging wines. But the best Alicantes maintain fresh acidity that helps balance out the density. The dark fruit is also accented by these notes of leather, pepper, charcoal, and herbs and spices, which I find really attractive. Pairing options with grilled meats and vegetables are endless.

I recently had the chance to revisit some Alicante Bouschet wines form Alentejo, most of which I had tasted during my trip. For fun, I tasted the wines single-blind, just to see if the Mouchão would stand out and wow me as much as it has in the past. (Spoiler alert: for my palate, this wine is so special that it stands out like a sore thumb.) Like many wines I enjoy from Alentejo, some of these are highly impressive for the money, and most of them could (or should) benefit from years in the cellar.

My notes on these wines (which were received as trade samples), are below.

2016 Herdade Do Rocim Alicante Bouschet - Portugal, Alentejo, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $20
Vibrant, dark purple color. Deep nose of black cherries and concentrated plums, loaded with smoky incense, sweet clove and espresso, leather, dried violets, and an earthy-smashed rock note, too. Full-bodied with velvety tannins and the acidity is really surprising here, giving the wine some lift and freshness. Complex earthy, savory, floral notes – leather, anise, charcoal, and all sorts of incense sticks and perfumed, musky notes. This could do well with five years in the cellar, yet it’s accessible at this young age, too. I tasted this last year at the winery, but I found this bottle to be even better and more expressive. (90 points)

2012 Doña Maria Grande Reserva - Portugal, Alentejo, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $45
Bright purple color. Rich, dark, saucy aromas (black cherries, blueberries, blackberry), and a deep blend of eucalyptus, incense, cedar. Bold presence on the palate, structured but velvety, with medium acidity, which helps on a 14.5% frame. Scorched earth, mocha, coffee, charcoal. Rich and suave yet fresh, too, this would do well with three to eight years in the cellar or a long decant, but this is impressive stuff. 50% Alicante Bouschet with Petit Verdot, Syrah and Touriga Nacional from clay and limestone soils in the Estremoz subregion. Aged 12 months in French oak. (91 points)

2016 Herdade dos Grous Moon Harvested - Portugal, Alentejo, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $25
Deep purple color. Dark and rich on the nose, saucy plums and blackberry sauce, with violets, coffee, anise and vanilla notes. Full-bodied with grippy tannins and some medium-low acidity to help balance it out. A dark and saucy appeal with rich black cherry, blackberries, dark plums. There’s a lot of cocoa, anise, coffee and scorched earth notes here, too, along with cedar and espresso. Hedonistic style that is accessible now, but built well enough to cellar, too. All Alicante Bouschet from schist soils. (89 points)

2013 Herdade do Mouchão Alentejo - Portugal, Alentejo
SRP: $60
Inky dark purple color. It takes time but out come aromas of pretty, complex black fruits, waves of roasted chestnut, leather, incense, mint, black pepper and earth. Lots of strength and power on the palate with grippy tannins yet it’s not too overt, and the acidity keeps it fresh. Tangy, deep black fruit mixes so well with waves of complex non-fruit notes (leather, sage, incense, smoky earth, anise). There are also these deep notes of rocks, minerals, charcoal. Rich fruit, but it’s so nuanced and vibrant as well. This will be gorgeous in 30 years (no kidding), it’s that kind of a wine. The balance, depth and elegance is in a class of its own. Alicante Bouschet with some Trincadeira blended in as well, the wine spends two years in old, 500-liter mahogany casks. (95 points)

2015 Herdade São Miguel Alicante Bouschet - Portugal, Alentejo, Vinho Regional Alentejano
SRP: $23
Bright purple color. Nose pops with saucy blueberries and blackberries, mixed with incense, lavender, violets, anise and charcoal. Full and big on the palate with grippy tannins and some medium, moderating acidity. Dense but crunchy dark fruit (blackberry, blueberry, black cherry) topped in a complex mix of anise, charcoal, black pepper, graphite. This is well-built to improve in the cellar, or it would benefit from a serious decant. Alicante from clay and schist soils, aged 12 months in French oak. (89 points)

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Photos from Sonoita, Arizona Wine Country

I've been visiting Arizona, tasting AZ wines, and preaching about them, for seven years or so now. As someone born and raised on the sandy East Coast, visiting Arizona never ceases to amaze me. The mountains, the cacti, the open space and big sky, and the people who are drawn here to make wine. 

I've long loved wines I've tasted from Sonoita and Willcox, two American viticultural areas (AVAs) in Southeastern Arizona. But, until last month, I hadn't visited. I'm so glad I did, as this area is gorgeous, and some of the wines here are phenomenal. I'll have a full report up in the coming weeks, but I wanted to share some snapshots of Sonoita to prove my point. 

Have you been to this area? Thinking of going? Leave a comment and let me know. Cheers!

Todd Bostock of Dos Cabezas is the man to see about all things Arizona wine. He's a total whiz, producing a wide range of blends from all sorts of grapes. His stoke for wine and experimentation is contagious, and his wines are some of the best in the state. 

During my visit, Arizona was hit by a 10-year-plus storm, that blanketed much of the high elevation desert in snow. It was one of the more stunning displays of desert beauty I've ever seen. This picture is taken just north of Sonoita, AZ.

Todd pours and talks me through his perpetual cuvee sparkling wine, which is like a one-barrel solera system he uses as a base for a sparkling wine. He also makes a Madeira-style desert wine. He creates his own path, and his wines are fascinating.
Rune wines is a solar-powered winery outside of Sonoita that is a must for any wine fan. Gorgeous views, excellent wines.

James Callahan worked in Washington State, New Zealand, and became cellar master at Sonoma's Kosta Browne before moving back to his native Arizona to pursue winemaking in the Sonoita/Willcox area. I really can't rant enough about his wines. They are wonderful.