2010 Blanco Nieva Verdejo

My summer Top 10 list rolls on with yet another new grape. Verdejo. For many years Verdejo was used to make an oxidized Sherry-like wine until the 1970′s when Marqués de Riscal paved a new path for a more refreshing offering. A decade later, in the 80′s, these were recognized with DO status and another three decades after that I am first experiencing them. What did I think?

Price: $16.99 @ Vinos Unico imported by Vinos Unico

What They Said:

2010 Blanco Nieva VerdejoPer The Spanish Table “Blanco Nieva is a classic Rueda region white wine made from the indigenous Verdejo grape. Crisp, bright and refreshing, this tank fermented wine will work as a stand alone refresher on a hot day as well as during a meal where it will pair well with salads, egg dishes and all manner of seafood. The vines that produce the fruit for this wine are quite old (40+ years). Some of the vines are planted on original root stock that still thrives in this region thanks to the sandy soils that resisted the phylloxera. blight of the previous century. To taste this wine is to experience the true flavor of Northern Spain.”

What I Think:

(12.5%) 100% Verdejo – Yellowish with a green hue in the glass. What a nose on this beauty! Intense grassy, grapefruit aromas. This one is immediately fresh, crisp and vibrant on the palate with bright, zesty lime flavors over a stony, mineral backbone. Passion fruit emerges on the mid-palate and remains throughout the dry, refreshing finish. This wine isn’t shy. It will smack you over the head and you are going to like what you get. The firm acidity here makes this one a compliment for nearly any food (ceviche would be my first choice). It is also perfectly suited to drink on its own. Pair with a sunny day! I’m getting me some more of this one. Viva Verdejo!

Rating: Wow!

While I’m a big fan of this one it may be a bit hard to find. If you’re itching to try your first Verdejo I’ve also enjoyed the Shaya which seems to be more widely available.

2009 Matthias Dostert Elbling Alva

Elbling? Heard of it? It was believed to have been originally planted in Germany by the Roman’s around the first century and remained widely so until well into the 20th century before becoming the afterthought it is today. There are still something on the order of 1,500 acres grown along the Upper Mosel and a quarter more of that across the border in Luxembourg. Now most know that this is Riesling territory and there would likely be even less Elbling planted if not for the formers inability to grow in chalk based soils. That said the majority that is grown is used as a base for Sekt (the German version of sparkling wine) and little of the rest is exported so in remains an obscure varietal to the vast majority of those outside of (and potentially within) Germany. As an interesting aside this varietal was part of the first ever release of Gundlach Bundschu in 1976 under the name of Kleinberger (pdf) which is but just one of many synonyms for this one. From what I can tell they last bottled this as part of the 2000 vintage. Wonder if they are still making it…but I digress. Elbling is known to produce “wines high in acid and fairly neutral in character”. In fact Jancis Robinson described it as being “distinguished for its searing acidity”. What did I think? Read on…

2009 Matthias Dostert Elbling AlvaPrice: $12.99 @ Cheese Plus imported by Savio Soares

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “It’s hard to classify this wine since Elbling is the grape varietal and no one has every really heard of it. It is an ancient Roman varietal that still has a very small, very hidden following in Germany’s Mosel region. It is dry, it is aromatic and it is extraordinarily unique. The grape shows floral nuances not dissimilar to viognier but the flavors are not as honeyed or over the top. There is also a wonderful streak of acidity that keeps it focused. Finally, the wine has such an intriguing earthy finish you can’t help but be enchanted by its subtle hint of musk. Yes, it is a little geeky (okay maybe a lot geeky) but you can definitely be one of the few elite to experience this unique grape varietal.”

What I Think:

(12%) 100% Elbling – My first Elbling and I’ll just cut to the chase by letting you know I want more. Citrus, tropical and floral on the nose this one starts dry and crisp on the palate with loads of peaches (perhaps just a hair underripe). From there a tangy acidity emerges which is joined by lemon flavors on a crisp, refreshing finish. This one is pure, vibrant goodness and worth stocking up on for the summer (and winter too)…

Rating: Wow!

Special thanks to Greg Borden who is the wine buyer at Cheese Plus for turning me onto this one. How about all of you? Discovered any new varietals lately?

2010 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare

I’m way late to the party on this one as it has received heaps of praise from the interwebs. That said there is never too much of a good thing right? I was first introduced to this wine (my very first from Bonny Doon) with the 2008 vintage and have grown to love it more with each passing bottle. But enough of the love story, let’s get to the wine!

2010 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de CigarePrice: $15.00 @ Bonny Doon Vineyard*

What They Said:

Per Winophilia “Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyard is one of the grandes dames of the Cali-Rhône movement, and for my money Grahm’s most consistent wine over the years has been his pink Vin Gris de Cigare. Made from a blend of Rhône varieties, it is a consistently excellent California take on the refreshing, dry Provence rosés loved by wine drinkers around the world. Grahm has been making this wine since 1984, back in the days when pink California wine meant the dreaded white zinfandel. That particular category was so uniformly bad that rosés as a group were uniformly rejected in the U.S., but Bonny Doon stuck with it. In the category of American rosé, this is the éminence grise, as pun-meister Grahm would likely say.

Very pale pink in color, it offers an array of red berry, citrus and spice flavors, with a racy quality that makes it extremely flexible with food. Or serve it by itself. At 12.8% alcohol it’s very easy to drink. You’ll be shocked how quickly a bottle disappears, so don’t buy just one.”

What I Think:

(12.8%) 71% Grenache, 16% Rousanne, 11% Grenache Blanc, 2% Mourvedre – An interesting mix of mostly red and some white grapes this one is a beautiful salmon pink in the glass. It explodes with strawberry field aromas (and a hint of minerals) on the nose. Strawberry, melon, crisp green apple greet you on the palate along with subtle floral notes. The mid-palate shows a firm rocky, creek bed mineral component and balanced acidity that leads to a crisp, pleasant and refreshing crescendo where the Rousanne adds a nice touch of richness to the finish. Dry throughout this one leaves your mouth watering and begging for more. Pairs easily with food and the only problem with popping it on the porch is that this is more than a typical quaffer and may distract your attention with its goodness. At $15 this is more than I typically look to spend on a rose but worth every penny. This one will leave you wishing you had more so be sure to stock up. I know I will be… 3,298 cases made

Rating: Wow!

*While I did receive a bottle of this wine as a sample I have since purchased many more on my own. You should too…

2009 Zin 91 Old Vine Zinfandel

2009 	Zin 91 Old Vine ZinfandelPrice: $13.00*

What They Said:

Per Opici Wines “The aromas are classic of an old vine Zinfandel: spicy and jammy. Notes of black pepper, raspberry, and boysenberry lead to hints of cinnamon, sandalwood, and clove to create the bouquet. On the palate, the wine carries over the spicy notes, as well as black cherry and cassis flavors. The oak-aging gives it a supple and velvety texture. Fruit-forward with balanced acidity and alcohol.”

What I Think:

From what I have been told this wine came to be when wine industry legend Hubert Opici woke up on his 91st birthday and decided to make a wine similar to what the family made at the old (now defunct) Opici Winery in Cucamonga — an easy drinking, affordable, everyday red wine made principally from Zinfandel grapes. Sounds like a good story. My first thought was who is Hubert Opici? Quite an interesting and well respected man I’ve since learned (see bottom of this post). And my second thought was Cucamonga as in Rancho? Southern California? And it is true that once upon a time they were indeed making wine in this area. Stories aside they don’t matter unless the wine is good. Did this one deliver? Here’s my notes…

(14%) 82% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 3% Syrah – The nose here is near perfect Zinfandel with nice dark fruit, spice and barrel notes. This one is juicy and smooth with nice ripe berry (raspberry and boysenberry) fruit on the palate. From there a nice black pepper spicy component emerges on the mid-palate. This is a big wine but maintains a semblance of balance between the fruit, acidity and alcohol. The finish brings a full plethora of barrel flavors; oak, creaminess and vanilla, that linger on with nice tingly tannins.

Now I don’t know about you but for me the days of drinking a truly enjoyable Zinfandel for $10 are long gone. There are plenty of big jammy fruit bomb available in this price range but I prefer something much more balanced. Given the $11 this one is likely to cost you at retail it is well worth the price of entry. If you find it be sure to let me know what you think…

Rating: Buy It

Interested in learning more about Hubert Opici?

*this wine was received as press sample

2004 Twenty Bench Cabernet Sauvignon

2004 Twenty Bench Cabernet SauvignonPrice: $14.99 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per Nine North Wines “The 2004 Twenty Bench is one of our more pronounced vintages to date. Aromas of black currants, plums and chocolate accompany the wines dense, inky color, while the palate shows great structure, richness and depth that comes with the first ever addition of Cabernet Franc to the blend. This wine drinks well now and will age gracefully over the next 7 -8 years.”

What I Think:

I’ve heard a lot about this label and no wonder why. This is a very nice Napa Valley Cab for less than $20 and certainly one I will be revisiting soon. If I like the current release as much this may end up on my Christmas giving list. Stay tuned for my thoughts on the 2007 which is available at K&L Wines for $16. In the meantime here are my notes on the 2004…

(14.1%) – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc – Great, aromatic nose that shows loads of black pepper and dark fruits on top of herbal notes. The palate is still very lively with slightly sweet plum flavors and nice acidity. The finish is dry and leathery showing spice, barrel notes and lingering dusty, chocolate tannins. Good structure throughout but it seems the fruit is thins toward the end of the palate which to me means you should be drinking this one if you have it…

Rating: Wow!

Summer Stash: And the winner is…

Thanks to those that have been following along as I have been cleaning out my Summer Stash. We started with 50+ wines and revealed the final four yesterday which meant there was just one more remaining. With almost the same anticipation as the Wine Spectator 2010 Wine of the Year I am ready to reveal the results. But which should I tell first? The wine or the story….

Let’s go with the story. First I’m not sure who I have given more pet nicknames. This wine or my daughter. I’ve called it “Sunshine”, my favorite was “The Weekend” and my latest with colder weather on the horizon has been “Summer”. Needless to say I have never had a wine that has been more “fun”. It practically begs to be shared with friends; wine geeks first but so enough anyone who will listen! Can I get a drum roll please…

2009 Natural Process Alliance Sauvignon Blanc

I’m sure this isn’t a surprise for many. I first experienced the NPA at a Vintank event earlier this summer and have been smitten by it ever since. Here’s my latest and greatest tasting notes; “(12.8%) Rusty, burnt orange in color (clearly not filtered) almost like the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen. The nose in and of itself is so enjoyable I could spend an hour on it; pineapple, guava, definitely a crazy juicy fruit concoction going on here. On the palate you need to expect the unexpected. Given how big this one is on the nose you are in no way overpowered on the palate. Nice acidity and minerality merges with the aforementioned fruit; as well as nectarine, grapefruit and lime. This absolutely bursts with flavor that last straight through a refreshing finish. So much going on here it’s hard to harness it all… It does what I expect of all wines I love. It keeps me contemplating. And even better makes me not want to write… I look just as forward to dissecting my next bottle of this one as much as I did my first! Hard to believe the excitement has yet to wear off. Here’s to hoping it never does!”2009 Natural Process Alliance Sauvignon Blanc

There you have it. Have you been lucky enough to try the NPA Sauvignon Blanc? Yeah I forgot to mention the downside to this one. It is more or less only available at the winery but for those that live nearby check their restaurant list (@theNPAhardy is that up to date?) where you can at least score a glass… Hope you enjoyed the Summer Stash series. I would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*this wine was purchased with money from my wallet. Many, many, many times…

2006 Zaca Mesa Syrah

2006 Zaca Mesa SyrahPrice: $16.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “93 points and a “Smart Buy” designation from Wine Spectator: “Offering wonderful floral, grapey plum and wild berry aromas, this is rich, smooth and supple on the palate, with tiers of dark berry, mocha, mineral and spice flavors that glide along. Drink now through 2015.” (02/10) Zaca Mesa has been on a serious roll over the last few vintages with their Santa Ynez Valley Syrah bottling. The 2005 was wonderful with its mix of ripe fruit and intense spice, the 2006 is more of the same except that it is even bigger and has a little more of everything packed into the same $16.99 package. The nose is perfect varietal Syrah, full of roast fennel, hot tar, muffuletta, and sweet black berry jam. Back that with deep, perfectly ripe flavors of white pepper, cassis, fried sage and violet and this is one intense, full throttle Syrah. For well under $20 this is one of the biggest steals we currently have in the Domestic section. (Bryan Brick, K&L)”

What I Think:

After reading an intriguing tasting note from Steve Heimoff I set out to find the Zaca Mesa Grenache. That didn’t work out but I did find this Syrah and boy am I glad I did. Wow! It starts with a great nose. Deep fruit with brambly spice on a jammy nose. The palate is powerful with a surprisingly nice acidity that keeps it perfectly balanced. Nice layered flavors showing violets, blackberries, bacon, dusted chocolate and a nice mineral component to boot. The finish is loaded with herbs and spices and lingers on ever so nicely. This one makes me want to drink a whole lot more Syrah. Wine Spectator gave this one 93 points and I see why! This is the most enjoyable bottle of wine I have had in quite a while. I just bought a few more bottles and after taking a quick look as the other Zaca Mesa offerings this is a winery I need to explore further. Now if I can somehow just get my hands on that Grenache…

Rating: Wow! <- And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Interested in reading more about the Zaca Mesa Syrah?

2008 Kanonkop Kadette

Price: $10.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Cape Classics

What They Said:

2008 Kanonkop KadettePer K&L Wines “91 points and a Best Buy from the Wine Enthusiast: “This blend of Pinotage, Cabernet, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is full-bodied and complex, with layered aromas of cherry, banana and warming spices, and smooth, elegant flavors of cedar, cherry, tobacco smoke and red berries. Velvety, soft tannins and a clean finish give it a classy touch. The wine can age, but drink now and you won’t be disappointed.” (12/09)”

What I Think:

Those that have been following along are aware that after attending a recent tasting of South African wines my interest was piqued to learn more. The first wine I tried was the Porcupine Ridge Syrah which is made by Boekenhoutskloof (see “B” in my 2009 Year in Review post). It was a nice wine in its own right but will now be most remembered for the comment left by reader MenloSteve recommending this one…

The Kadette, a second bottling for Kanonkop, is a blend of 45% Pinotage, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc. Unsurprisingly this one starts Pinotage-ish on the nose greeting you with loads of smokiness while allowing some plums aromas to sneak through. A nice, juicy cherry palate lasts well into the finish before an earthy component loaded with warm barrel spices takes over and drives this one home. Great mouthfeel, balanced fruit with enough acidity to keep it honest.

This wine may not be overly complex but it is extremely enjoyable to drink nonetheless. To put this in context I will present two facts. The first is that I always taste a wine over two days (minimum) to see if there are any changes for the better or the worse. This usually isn’t a problem but I so enjoyed this wine it was hard to resist pouring it all in one sitting (I did). Second and perhaps even more impressive was the feedback from my wife (average rating a sip and push the glass in my direction) who gave this a triple pour! I’d recommend this to anyone open to exploring the wines of South Africa. It is certainly now my favorite value wine from the region. I already placed an order for 3 more bottles. If you decide to give it a try be sure to let me know what you think!

Rating: Wow!

2007 Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc

Price: $19.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

2007 Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet FrancPer K&L Wines “Like a domestic Chinon, the Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc showcases the varietal at its best. Sourced from the High Chaparral, Cross Springs and La Sierra vineyards in Lake County, with small amounts of fruit from the Cafferata and Stanton vineyards in the Napa Valley. Violet-hued with a dark nose full of black cherry fruit underscored by lavender, sage and fennel aromas. In the mouth the cherry fruit envelops your senses with soft tannins and savory herbs. Easy to drink, especially with a slight chill on it, this wine is food-friendly, fun and ready to drink. One star from the Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine: “This lively, fruit-focused wine recalls the comparatively lighter Cabernet Francs of France’s Loire Valley, and, while very much showing a touch of the brushy, dried-leaf qualities often found from the grape, it holds tannin in check and smacks of cherry-like fruit from beginning to end. A few years of age should find it in top form, but it will make a pleasurable partner to steaks and chops even now.” (05/09)”

What I Think:

Wow, this is the most compelling wine I’ve had in some time. Not so sure about the “domestic Chinon” but this is a winner straight out of the gate. In the glass it shows a nice shiny purple color. The nose is inviting. Some red fruit notes and loads of flowers and herbs, violet and mint come to mind. Bold flavors greet you in the mouth. Loads of red cherries assert themselves through the middle of the palate delivering a great mouth feel throughout. The finish unexpectedly transforms to a light finish of dried cherries, herbs and floral notes accompanied by pleasant, soft, unending tannins which deliver just enough acidity to keep the balance perfectly in check. Remarkable! And it is even better with food. A very flavorful and fruit forward wine that at the same time manages to be elegant and restrained. Checking the vineyards on this one I see it is 90% Lake County (with the rest from Napa Valley), yet another reason to explore this region more. Thanks to Vinography for bringing this one to my attention. I’ll definitely be grabbing some more of this one. And for those of you that read here often, for a wine that checks in at $20, you know that is very high praise. I’m already looking forward to the next bottle…

Rating: Wow!

2005 Davis Bynum Allen Vineyard Pinot Noir

Price: $14.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

2005 Davis Bynum Allen Vineyard Pinot NoirPer Davis Bynum “Davis Bynum Pinot Noir is driven by vineyard sites. From the legendary Allen vineyard between the river itself and Westside Road – adjacent to Rochioli – this Pinot Noir is redolent of dried cherry, herb and cola aromas, with a soft mouthfeel and bold flavors of cherry, earth, and orange zest which carry brightly to the finish.”

What I Think:

While the recession may be cramping your style in some areas your wine drinking palate is subject to getting spoiled if you can find a spare $15 every now and again. The first example of this at Trader Joe’s was this Howell Mountain Cab which retailed at $60. This single vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley that retailed at an already relative “bargain” $40 is another in what I am sure is to be a long line of many more to come.

Beautiful aromas of dried cherries and herbs greet you on the nose. It is readily apparent that this is not a fruit driven Pinot from the start. With a smile on my face, I find more cherries at the front of the palate. These are held in check by a firm acid backbone that delivers the cherry cola flavors that I have come to expect from this region. Earthy and mineral components are present as well. The mouthfeel is velvety and smooth throughout and finishes bright and (orange) zesty. This wine is beautiful and elegant. People may say this goes better with this or that but feel free to ignore them and drink this with whatever you wish, even on its own. I am already looking forward to my next bottle…

Rating: Wow!