Showing posts with label pinot noir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pinot noir. Show all posts

26 September 2014

Spell Winery Pinot Noir

At Spell Estate, German-born winemaker Andrew Berge produces a portfolio that is almost entirely Pinot Noir sourced from Sonoma and Mendocino. (The exception is a Chardonnay.) Spell is a small operation, producing 1500 cases a year. The wine can be purchased from their website, and tasting is only available by appointment at their custom crush facility.

I was contacted by Spell after tasting the Pinot Noir from La Pitchoune, where Berge also works as a winemaker. These four bottles show an impressive range of styles that are distinctly California yet demonstrate the versatility of this grape.

2012 Spell Nichole's Blend Pinot Noir
Sonoma County
100% Pinot Noir
902 Cases Produced
$39, 14.3% abv.

Profile of black cherry and a hint of leather. Medium tannins and a long finish. Excellent quality-price ratio.

2012 Spell Weir Vineyard Pinot Noir
Yorkville Highlands
100% Pinot Noir
194 Cases Produced
$50, 14.3% abv.

Deep and meaty with savory notes, a dark strawberry with just a dash of reduced balsamic vinegar on it.

2012 Spell Alder Springs Vineyard Pinot Noir
Mendocino County
100% Pinot Noir
149 Cases Produced
$50, 14.2% abv.

Really bold dark fruit with a firm body, one that benefits from an hour of decanting. Touches of tobacco and coffee are quite enchanting.

2012 Spell Terra de Promissio Vineyard
Sonoma Coast
100% Pinot Noir
148 Cases Produced
$72, 14.3% abv.

Rich and deep with a profile of berries backed up by hints of spice. Incredibly smooth and perfectly balanced. Highly recommended.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

12 September 2014

Josh Cellars Wines & Contest for First Responders

Josh Cellars and the Gary Sinise Foundation are teaming up with a contest to award five first responder organizations $10,000 each. To nominate your local volunteer fire department, for instance, go to Facebook and complete the entry form. First responders are not only police officers and firemen but also trained civilians that are either part of an official support program (like my father) or merely happen to be in the right place at a bad time. Growing up in Scouts, I received first aid, CPR, and lifeguard training, but Dad also had my brother and me attend courses for weather emergencies, airport crash drills, and taught us on the actual scene how to assist as first responders for a horrific car accident.

The entry window for the contest is open until September 17, so be sure to suggest your local organization soon! (Rules here.)

2012 Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Sonoma County
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$13, 13.5% abv.

Very mild and gentle, light acidity. Trace scents of flowers with a restrained profile of grapefruit and lime peel. Perfect with a smoked turkey and avocado sandwich.

2012 Josh Cellars Pinot Noir
California
100% Pinot Noir
$17, 13.5% abv.

This Pinot Noir shows notes of plum and leather. On the palate there are medium tannins and a long finish. As it is still relatively young, I'd suggest decanting for an hour before serving with grilled steaks or roast lamb.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

20 August 2014

Montes Angels of California

Aurelio Montes is well-known in Chile, where his self-named winery has been a regional powerhouse. Over time he expanded to Argentina, and also to North America with the Angel line.

Operating in both hemispheres provides an interesting challenge and a contrast to the regular operation of a winery that ticks along according to the seasons. When you're running both north and south of the equator, you're always working. February is pretty quiet north of the equator but south of the equator, that's when harvest begins.

2008 Star Angel Red Wine
Paso Robles, California
100% Syrah
$20, 15% abv.

Plum and spice notes with medium tannins, tasty and great for a pizza in the middle of the week. This wine has an interesting marketing line--though it is pure Syrah, they choose to market it as "red wine" in order to attract the market looking for just a red for the evening.

2011 Star Angel Pinot Noir
Santa Rita Hills, California
100% Pinot Noir
$34, 14.5% abv.

The wine shows bright ripe wild strawberry aromas and flavors with a tart edge and a bold body. Quite young, should be milder in a few years.

2008 Napa Angel Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, California
$34, 14.9% abv.

I don't know the exact grape makeup, but this likely Bordeaux blend opens up with a rich nose of cassis and a touch of chocolate. Well-aged with medium tannins and a gentle finish. Highly recommended and one that is expected to improve over the next 3-5 years.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

15 August 2014

Ventisquero Grey

The driving force behind the Ventisquero Grey line is not a tie-in to the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey film, but rather a commitment to single block wines that show distinctive terroir.

Most of the wine drinking world subsists on table wine, which is how the beverage has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Grapes of varying backgrounds and fields are mixed, blended, fermented, and a final palatable product is released. And that is awesome. In the modern era, it means consistency from year to year, so that your bottle of 2010 Benito House Wine tastes pretty much the same as 2012 Benito House Wine. Coca-Cola didn't become a powerhouse because their product could suffer in a single year because of bad weather or leaf mites, or that the product wouldn't be ready to drink until it had rested for twenty years. Such wines fuel the wine industry and keep wine shops in business, and without them, we wouldn't be able to sit around and argue about our favorite expertly crafted, small batch wines from obscure regions.

I think this line strikes a nice balance, because you get the benefit of a unique single vineyard expression without high prices, and distribution is broad enough that you should be able to find these two red wines, as well as the other five bottles under this marque.

2012 Ventisquero Grey Single Block Pinot Noir
La Terrazas Vineyard, Leyda Valley
100% Pinot Noir
$24, 13.7% abv.

Chilean Pinot Noir continues to improve over time, though I'd like to see how this one develops over the next few years. Right now it is bright and tart with a dominant red cherry profile. Still quite young with medium tannins, but I expect it to mellow out in another two years.

2011 Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon
Trinidad Vineyard, Maipo Valley
96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot
$24, 14% abv.

The Cabernet Sauvignon, on the other hand, is ready to drink now in the presence of a great steak. It displays dark plum and a touch of chocolate, with gentle aromas of tobacco and green tomato leaf. Certainly a young Bordeaux style and one that, after an hour of decanting, is ready to be enjoyed with red meat.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

16 July 2014

Belle Ambiance

Belle Ambiance is a marque under the Delicato Family Vineyards umbrella. Tasting notes and details can be found under the latter website, and I've seen the displays in local wine shops. With the low prices, pastel labels, and simple yet classy presentation, these seem like the perfect wines for weddings, baby showers, and similar occasions. Lest anyone think that I am classifying an entire line of wine as feminine, I would like to point out that I catered a wedding and baby shower within the past year with tremendous success. A classy, French-inspired, Art Deco type label works much better in such an occasion than a Spanish wine label that celebrates bull testicles (more on that in a future post).

2013 Belle Ambiance Pinot Grigio
California
100% Pinot Grigio
$10, 13% abv.

I have a complicated history with Pinot Grigio, and this is not my favorite presentation of the grape, but it has its place as something gentle that a lot of people will enjoy at a big event. Light and crisp, tiny touch of lemon peel, gentle body and an overall refreshing profile. Great for mingling and talking in lieu of a sparkling wine.

2012 Belle Ambiance Chardonnay
California
100% Chardonnay
$10, 13.5% abv.

This California Chardonnay shows a touch of honey and a little sweetness. Firmer body than the Pinot Grigio, with a little oak to provide depth and a hint of vanilla and caramel. A good one to go along with the chicken covered in a creamy mushroom sauce at the wedding reception.

2012 Belle Ambiance Pinot Noir
California
100% Pinot Noir
$10, 13.5% abv.

This one surprised me with a little more complexity than I was expecting. Classic strawberry profile but there are nutty and earthy undertones on the nose. A mellow body with low tannins contributes to a real crowd pleaser for folks that may not be ready for a strong Cabernet Sauvignon. Obviously the best choice for everyone whose seating card has a red tag.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

30 June 2014

Davis Bynum Wines

Well, my "day" off stretched into a week, but I wasn't really taking a break from wine writing. In that time I attended three online tastings, submitted four articles for other publications, and caught up on receipts and invoices. Add to that the time spent picking up shipments of samples, photographing and organizing them, clearing out the empties (the neighbors are constantly baffled), and it was one busy week in the life of your humble correspondent.

Time to get back on schedule with a pleasant pair from Sonoma.

Davis Bynum was a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1951 when he bought some Petite Sirah from Robert Mondavi. Twenty years later he would become well known as the first winemaker to produce single vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, a subregion now famous for the style.

2012 Davis Bynum River West Chardonnay
Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
100% Chardonnay
$30, 14.5% abv.

Pleasantly crisp with a balanced touch of oak. Bright acidity and flavors of overripe peach with a rounder, slightly buttery finish. Should be great with grilled quail and German potato salad this summer.

2012 Davis Bynum Jane's Vineayrd Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
100% Pinot Noir
$40, 14.5% abv.

Classic California Pinot Noir with a gentle profile of wild strawberries and mild tannins. Light hints of earth and spice in the background. Set out a platter of Spanish cheeses, olives, and salumi and enjoy a quiet evening snack.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

16 June 2014

Pinot Noir from La Pitchoune

La Pitchoune Winery is a small operation named after a property in the south of France, literally translated from Provençal as "the little one". It was also the name that Julia Child and her husband gave to their home in the region.

Both of these wines are made from Sonoma Pinot Noir, yet show very different expressions. I grilled a veal chop, prepared a few cold salads, and sat down for a delightful summer lunch.

2012 La Pitchoune Vin Gris of Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast, California
100% Pinot Noir
$30, 14.1% abv.
39 Cases Produced

I'm sorry that there is so little of this wine on the market, because it is amazing. Exactly the style of dry rosé that I adore when it's hot outside. Pale salmon color, gentle flavors of watermelon and strawberry, and balanced acidity. Very delicate mouthfeel and a quick finish. Don't keep this one too cold but when properly chilled it is magic. Highly recommended.

2012 La Pitchoune Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast, California
100% Pinot Noir
$60, 14.2% abv.
279 Cases Produced

Tart wild strawberry notes with hints of flowers and a little earth. On the palate it shows firm acidity and full, supple Pinot Noir flavors of berries and French oak. Quite good with the veal chop and a wine that should continue to improve over the next couple of years.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

19 May 2014

Votre Santé Wines from Coppola

A lot of the wines from Coppola have some connection to family, whether the bottle is named after a relative or there's a story going back generations. The Votre Santé marque is named in honor of his French grandmother who would toast in her native tongue at every meal.

In the spirit of family, I brought these wines (along with many others) to the baby shower for The Former Roommate. She was there with her husband and her mother, but my parents hosted, my brother and sister-in-law were there, Julia, Sally and Terry, Grace, and my cousin and her husband. This was the Memphis baby shower, occurring after her own family shower in her small West Tennessee town, but having lived with her for fifteen years, she's family as far as we're all concerned, and I'm looking forward to being an honorary uncle soon.

Here I take a look at the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and you can also read about the red blend in a previous post.

2011 Votre Santé Chardonnay
California
100% Chardonnay
$14, 13.5% abv.

Creamy and oaky with some of that classic California buttered popcorn aroma. Good acidity with a full mouthfeel. I haven't had a wine in this style in a while, and it was fun to enjoy with appetizers while catching up with friends and family.

2011 Votre Santé Pinot Noir
California
100% Pinot Noir
$14, 13.5% abv.

Bright and tart with a dominant aroma of strawberries. Just a little touch of brambles underneath it all, though certainly a bold New World Pinot Noir. Excellent with the smoked chicken wings that Dad was pulling off of his Big Green Egg smoker.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

09 May 2014

Jamieson Ranch Vineyards

Jamieson Ranch is the southernmost winery in Napa, and was formerly known as Reata (Spanish for "lariat"). I've covered their wines in the past, and even with the new name, several of the bottles will continue to carry the Reata marque. These three wines provide you with a great tour of classic Napa wines at reasonable prices.

2012 Reata Carneros Chardonnay
Carneros, California
100% Chardonnay
$20, 14.3% abv.
11,000 cases made

Bright apricot with a touch of vanilla, little touches of cream on the mild, round, and low acid body. Gentle mouthfeel, and one that would be great with a nice lobster roll.

2012 Reata Three County Pinot Noir
Monterey, Sonoma, San Benito, California
100% Pinot Noir
$30, 14.3% abv.
13,000 cases made

Chocolate covered strawberry aroma, with with deep berry flavors on the palate, firm tannins and a rich, deep finish. I recently had a duck molé dish and think that this would be the perfect match for it.

2011 Jamieson Ranch "Double Lariat" Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, California
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
$45, 14.7% abv.
3,000 cases made

This wine opened up early with rich cassis and blackberry aromas, accompanied by full fruit flavors and medium tannins. While excellent with a steak right now, this one is sure to improve and develop over the next few years.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

05 March 2014

2011 Loveblock Pinot Noir

One of the difficulties of the wine blogging game is that there is a huge push for Valentine's Day, but all of the samples tend to arrive in the two weeks before the date. This one arrived early on, but I was still working through a backlog from the Christmas and New Year's rushes and did not get around to writing about it on time.

Loveblock is a project run by Kim & Erica Crawford, who are well-known in the New Zealand wine business. This is a smaller project with a focus on organic, sustainable, and even biodynamic elements involved in the production. The Pinot Noir comes from the mountainous Central Otago region at the south end of the Southern Island.

I haven't talked a lot about label design recently, but I love the dandelions on this one. I had a childhood fascination with the flower: blowing the little seeds off was fun, but the scent of the yellow flower heads brings back so many memories of playing in the yard, neighborhood baseball games, cookouts, and the other delights of summer. Years later I'd read Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine and see how a writer truly captured the magic of such a humble flower, and then in 2008 I got to try the actual beverage thanks to a small winery in Ohio's Amish country.

2011 Loveblock Pinot Noir
Central Otago, New Zealand
100% Pinot Noir
$20, 14.3% abv.

Crisp and tart and full of ripe raspberry, while some earthier undertones open up after a half hour of breathing. Gentle tannins and a soft finish. With our current winter weather, I made a big dish of spaghetti and homemade meatballs, and loved the combination while wrapped up in a blanket watching a good movie.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for review.

13 January 2014

Mandolin Wines

Mandolin Wines specializes in vineyards from the large Central Coast AVA that stretches through a agriculturally rich swath of California.

Both of these are great values, and were produced at sufficient quantities that they should be easy to find as you begin the new year with a stack of holiday bills waiting for you.

2012 Mandolin Chardonnay
Monterey
100% Chardonnay
$10, 13.4% abv.
1,248 cases produced

This Chardonnay was aged on French oak for 10 months, but did not go through malolactic fermentation, so it's not a stereotypical California Chard. The result is a fruit-forward wine with elements of apricot and peach, light acidity, and a slightly nutty finish. I found it to be delightful with snacks like roasted pistachios and smoked cheddar.

2012 Mandolin Pinot Noir
Monterey
100% Pinot Noir
$12, 14.6% abv.
6,954 cases produced

Light strawberry aroma with touches of pencil shavings and cedar, tart acidity, long cherry finish. An excellent pairing for roast duck and roasted winter vegetables.


Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

06 December 2013

Holiday Wines of Germany

Quick note: I've got a new article up at Palate Press about the challenges of being a wine lover in a hot climate. The timing is great--I wrote the article back in November when it was pretty warm, but yesterday it got to 73°F here in the River City. Alas, right now the temperature is crashing and we're bracing for a major ice storm with temperatures that might get near the freezing point. I'm sure all of my readers in the north are laughing as my city completely shuts down in the face of a tiny bit of ice and snow.

And now, let's take the opportunity to celebrate some delicious German wines that would be great on the holiday table.

* * *

Wines of Germany USA continues to provide this humble blog with quarterly deliveries of two bottles of wine. I'm always surprised by their selections--some are not available in the US, some are inexpensive while others are more pricey, but all are interesting and provide a valuable insight into the incredible diversity of German wine.

These producers also tend to have a lot of history behind them, and I love digging into that while sampling the wines.

2012 Selbach Riesling Kabinette "Trutta Fario"
Mosel, Germany
100% Riesling
$18, 9.5% abv.

Selbach-Oster has been around since 1660, formed from two families that lived on opposite banks of the Mosel river. This affordable bottle has a delightful German minerality combined with a splash of lemony acidity and just enough sweetness to round out the bottle. The nickname of the wine refers to the brown trout, and I think this would be a fantastic pairing for freshly caught trout cooked in brown butter and almonds.

2008 Lingenfelder Pinot Noir
Pfalz, Germany
100% Pinot Noir
$32, 14% abv.

Lingenfelder goes back to 1520, meaning that these vineyards got to witness the Reformation and all of the turmoil that followed. I've had mixed experiences with German red wines, but this one was quite well constructed. It has a profile of overripe wild strawberries, a touch of earth, low tannins, and a very mild body. It's just a little tart, and one that I'd enjoy serving with an appetizer platter of sausages and cheeses.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

01 December 2013

2011 Hahn Pinot Noir

A lot of poultry has been consumed over the past few days, and much will continue to be eaten throughout the holidays. With all of the turkey focus, the website Slate.com finally answered a question that has long been rattling around in the dusty cobwebs of my brain: Why don't we eat turkey eggs? (Short answer: economics.)

I got to enjoy a turkey on Thanksgiving as well as a second one Saturday night at my parents' house. Though Dad's smoked turkey was delicious (and with glorious mahogany skin), I was more impressed with the full grass-fed, Hereford tenderloin that was smoked to a perfect medium-rare and served with horseradish sauce. Though I often do a little secondary Thanksgiving after the holiday to stock the freezer, I've been busy with work over the past few days and am spending this Sunday simply roasting a chicken with which to make King Ranch Casserole.

Why all of the bird talk? Am I promoting This American Life's annual Poultry Slam? No, it's time to try another wine from Hahn, named after the German word for rooster.

2011 Hahn SLH Estate Pinot Noir
Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey
100% Pinot Noir
$35, 14.5% abv.

This is the first wine from Hahn that I've had over $20. While I've enjoyed their $15 bottles in the past (and found them to be great bargains for the quality), it was nice to get a chance to try one of their higher end wines. It opened with a dominant profile of raspberry, and gentle wood tones with a touch of pencil lead. On the palate the wine shows low tannins but a bright tartness and a medium length finish. I recommend serving it with a nice leg of lamb, where the meat will help bring out some deeper earth tones from the wine.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for review.

18 November 2013

Red Rock Winery

I first wrote about the wines of Red Rock Winery back in 2008 when I braised a turkey leg in blueberries.

Red Rock only makes red wines, and these four bottles represent the entire product line. The grapes are sourced from throughout California vineyards to produce table wines in a big fruit, classic Golden State style. Keep these in mind as great matches for burgers, pizza... I affectionately refer to wines like these as "Tuesday night wines": not a special occasion, but more something that you open up after a long day at work and while having a normal weekday meal rather than a complex preparation of squid ink pasta with slices of raw scallops.

2011 Red Rock Winery Malbec
California
$14, 13.6% abv.

Although marked as a Malbec, California law only requires that 75% of the grapes are in the mix to bear the varietal name. For instance, this one includes Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon to add depth and structure. Dominant notes of plum and black pepper with a firm tannic understructure contributed by the darker grapes.

2012 Red Rock Winery Pinot Noir
California
$14, 13.6% abv.

A fairly standard bargain California Pinot Noir with lots of ripe strawberry aromas, mild tannins, and a short but tart finish. The most gentle of the quartet, though not quite delicate enough to pair with salmon.

2011 Red Rock Winery Merlot
California
$14, 13.74% abv.

A bright and fruity California Merlot full of black cherry aromas and flavors with a touch of spice. Round body and a long, mouth-drying finish.

2011 Red Rock Winery Winemaker's Blend
California
Proprietary Blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel
$14, 13.5% abv.

The last one was my favorite of the batch, and represented a solid blend that achieved good balance. The initial sniff reveals dark blackberry and deep black fruit scents with matching flavors. Not jammy, but trending in that direction. The wine shows firm tannins with a long finish. Decanting is highly recommended to soften and further balance the wine.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

13 September 2013

Nobilo Wines

Nobilo Wines was founded in 1943 when Croatian immigrant Nikola Nobilo started making wine in New Zealand. He and his wife Zuva had arrived in 1936 and helped initiate the NZ wine industry.

I've tried many Nobilo wines in the past and recently got the opportunity to sample three recent releases.

2012 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$8, 12.5% abv.

Aromas and flavors of gentle citrus with medium acidity and a short finish. Quite tasty with an afternoon tuna fish sandwich.

2012 Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$14, 13% abv.

Bright and fruity with tons of grapefruit. Floral nose, high acidity, long finish. Good match for grilled amberjack with a tangy Asian slaw.

2012 Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir
Marlborough
100% Pinot Noir
$15, 13% abv.

Lovely ripe cherry aromas with a little hint of baked pie crust underneath. Tart but with mild tannins, low acidity, and a long finish. I enjoyed this pleasant little red with a steak sandwich full of onions. Nice to play the vibrant fruit flavors against the earthy onion elements.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

11 September 2013

MacMurray Ranch Wines

MacMurray Ranch began as a cattle ranch in the Russian River Valley when actor Fred MacMurray purchased the property in 1941. The star of My Three Sons and many memorable Disney live action movies focused on cattle until his death in 1991. The family sold the ranch to Gallo in 1996 to grow grapes under the MacMurray Ranch label.

I first became acquainted with this wine around 2003 when a wine shop owner told me that the wine was personally grown and made by Fred MacMurray (who had been dead for a dozen years at that point), and I thought it would be an interesting conversation starter for a dinner party. It was the first Pinot Noir I ever purchased, and at $20 it was a bit of a splurge at the time. I remember that I served it way too warm, and with a really heavily seasoned steak, which was not the way that Pinot needs to be treated. Ten years later, I get the opportunity to try it again.

2012 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris
Russian River Valley/Sonoma Coast
100% Pinot Gris
$20, 14% abv.

Light citrus aromas with high acidity and a bold body. A few tropical fruit notes as it opens up. This is a much bigger wine than Pinot Gris from Alsace or Oregon yet has its own unique New World expression that reminds me a bit of a few New Zealand Pinot Gris bottles. Good match for well-seasoned shellfish.

2011 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir
Central Coast
100% Pinot Noir
$23, 13.8% abv

This is the more recent vintage of the wine I had lo those many years ago. Initial aroma of strawberries with undertones of stewed fruit. Firm fruit flavors with a slightly tannic finish. Serve with roast lamb and a mild cream sauce.

2011 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir
Russian River Valley
100% Pinot Noir
$35, 13.8% abv.

This bottle was much milder than the previous Pinot Noir, with aromas and flavors that focus more on raspberry with some touches of earth. While still Californian in character, it's pointing more in a French direction with a more delicate presentation. Light enough for salmon, but also one to be enjoyed with a tender veal chop.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

02 September 2013

Mud House Wines and the America's Cup

Mud House Wines is the official wine supplier of the Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2013 America's Cup. Having won the Louis Vuitton Cup, they will go on to challenge Oracle Team USA off the coast of San Francisco.

Starting in 1851, the Cup was won by the New York Yacht Club every year until 1983 when the crew of the Australia II of the Royal Perth Yacht Club emerged victorious. I can remember the excitement in 1987 when the US Stars & Stripes 87 defeated the New Zealand Kookaburra III. Since the 80s, there's been a lot of attention and technological development around this particular race, yet it's nice to know that there's still so much enthusiasm around wind-propelled sea vessels.

2012 Mud House Riesling
Waipara Valley
100% Riesling
$12, 12.5% abv.

The nose is dominated by light green apple and honey, while the flavor is crisp and acidic. Very similar to New Zealand Rieslings I've had in the past, and one that would be perfect with a ham sandwich on a picnic.

2012 Mud House Pinot Gris
South Island
100% Pinot Gris
$16, 13.% abv.

Rich floral aromas that also include peach and apricot. Ripe white fruit flavors and a clean, round finish. Great with a cold chicken salad full of grapes and walnuts.

2011 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$14, 13% abv.

A standard New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with full grapefruit peel aromas and flavors. Touch of spice on the palate and a long, acidic finish. Serve with creamy cheeses and melon.

2011 Mud House Pinot Noir
Central Otago
100% Pinot Noir
$19, 13.5% abv.

In addition to a strong overripe strawberry profile, there is a back end of green bell pepper that I wasn't expecting. It starts out a little harsh, but after an hour of breathing the wine softens considerably and is ready for fare like grilled veal chops. It's a bold enough Pinot Noir that it can stand up to some strong sauces and preparations.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

31 July 2013

Hahn Family Pinot Gris & Pinot Noir

I've tried the wines of Hahn Winery a few times over the years, going back to 2007. Recently I had the chance to try two of their recent releases, both featuring that lovely brushstroke rooster label that I love so much.

2011 Hahn Winery Pinot Gris
100% Pinot Gris
Monterey
$14, 14.5% abv.

Lots of tropical fruit and melon on the nose with a slightly musky undertone. Bright acidity and a round mouthfeel. A short finish, and a wine that would pair quite well with grilled quail and fresh pineapple.

2011 Hahn Winery Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir
California
$14, 14.5% abv.

Light strawberry aromas and flavors, low acidity and a mild finish. Fairly delicate for a bargain Pinot Noir and one that I enjoyed with a roast beef and horseradish sandwich on a hot Saturday evening.


Note: These wines were provided as samples.

29 July 2013

Barefoot Wines of July

It's summer and it's time for a handful of inexpensive bottles that you can throw on ice and enjoy with whatever you've got on the grill. For example, here's a trio of Gallo's Barefoot Wines from California.

NV Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc
California
$7, 13% abv.

Light, gentle lime peel flavor, round mouthfeel with low acid and a soft finish. Recommended as an appetizer wine with those bacon wrapped shrimp coming off the fire.

NV Barefoot Zinfandel
100% Zinfandel
California
$7, 13% abv.

Big and jammy with dark fruit. Dominant profile of black plum with undertones of cherry. A good burger and pizza wine.

NV Barefoot Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir
California
$7, 12.5% abv.

This is a fairly restrained and quiet wine, with mild blackberry aroma, no tannins, and a short finish. I ended up converting this into some really delicious sangria with the help of oranges, triple sec, and a few other bits of magic. And for the price, you could make all kinds of red wine cocktails with it.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

26 July 2013

Steelhead Vineyards

Steelhead Vineyards is a Sonoma winery named after the steelhead trout, a threatened freshwater fish species of the Pacific northwest. It's also found in the cold water streams of Northern California wine country, and this particular winery is engaged in conservation efforts to save the trout.

I love cooking and eating trout. It's got a wonderful flavor, looks beautiful on the plate, and is pretty easy to cook. And I love to fish: I've enjoyed many wonderful weekends throughout my life fishing for local bass, bluegill, perch, catfish, stripers... I'm not a master angler but I've caught and consumed many fish from our lakes, ponds, and rivers. What have I never caught? Arkansas trout. I've been on canoe trips when I was able to reach down and pick up a trout out of the water, but couldn't get one to take any sort of bait. My father and I stood bare-legged in the Ozarks' White River while watching our lures bump off the heads of the snooty brown trout. Dad thought he caught one but upon reeling it in realized that he had merely snagged it in the gills and couldn't claim it as a catch.

I'm willing to admit that part of it might be my own technique and experience: bass have been known to gobble up frogs, slow moving birds, and anything else that moves. Catfish will gobble up the most rancid scraps of chicken liver hung off a trotline--no actual rod and reel needed, and I won't even go into stink bait recipes. But trout seem to require such finesse and artistry, which is why they attract the hardcore fly fishers.

2011 Steelhead Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc
North Coast
3,000 Cases Made
$12, 13.5% abv.

For a bargain Sauvignon Blanc, this is quite delicate. The nose opens up with light mild peach. On the palate it has balanced acidity with a gentle round body. Quite tasty and one that would in fact match well with trout.

2011 Steelhead Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast
2,500 Cases Made
$15, 13.8% abv.

A fairly strong Pinot Noir, with elements of red cherry and bold tannins. There's a big fruit flavor with a little earth underneath, and a long finish. Sturdy for this particular grape, and perhaps well suited to roasted lamb dishes.

2010 Steelhead Red Wine
65% Zinfandel, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Syrah
North Coast
2,700 Cases Made
$15, 14.2% abv.

Another big, fruit-forward wine, but I preferred this one to the Pinot Noir. Bold plum and chocolate dominate the aroma and flavor profile. A big bodied wine with huge tannins that dry the palate, but one that I would strongly recommend for summertime BBQ dining. It would be perfect with smoked pork ribs doused in a sweet Memphis sauce.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.