Deligeroy Cremant de Loire Brut

Price: $11.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Premier Wine Company

What They Said:

NV Deligeroy Cremant de Loire BrutPer K&L Wines “A pale yellow wine with tiny bubbles, this Cremant de Loire Brut is rounded and delicate with a fine, nervy, complex nose and the freshness of Chenin Blanc, floral Chardonnay and fruity Cabernet Franc from 20- to 30-year-old vines. With its lively attack, it evolves gracefully across the palate with nice aromatic persistence in the mouth and lingering notes of fresh peaches and pear.”

What I Think:

(12.5%) Blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc – From Saumur in the Loire Valley of France which just happens to be the largest producer of sparkling wines outside of Champagne. This one is made in the traditional method and is pale gold, yellowish color in the glass. Fresh, crisp, and lively on the palate this one starts with toasty, baked apples and a firm lemon minerality. This all rides on top of a fine, bubbly, creamy mousse that is present throughout all the way to the dry, lingering finish. A nice QPR at $12. Be sure to let this one warm up a bit after you take it out of the fridge as it shows much better.

Wine Geek Notes: Couldn’t find the varietal percentage on this one for the life of me. If anyone happens to know holler!

Rating: Buy It

Gruet Winery Brut Rosé

NV Gruet Winery Brut RoséPrice: $13.99 @ K&L Wines

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines “Sparkling wine from New Mexico, you say? Yep, and it’s really good, too! The Gruet family makes champagne in France and fell in love with New Mexico when they were visiting. The result of this love is a classically styled Brut Rose with bright strawberry fruit and toasted bread on the nose. Clean, raspberry fruit on the palate with a dry, crisp finish. Only 5000 cases produced. A wonderful bargain!”

What I Think:

(12%) 100% Pinot Noir – Hails from New Mexico which seems a bit unlikely and explains why this has been on my list of wines to try for quite some time. This one is NV (per winery website it is limited to 5,000 cases per year) and starts by showing beautiful color and big bubbles in the glass. On the palate it is lifted with lively strawberry and raspberry and a tinge of orange (Clementine) peel. Yeasty, toasted bread on back side with a touch of minerality. The berry fruits make it all the way through to a nice, dry, crisp finish. I’m a fan!

Wine Geek Notes: 88pts Wine Spectator, Residual Sugar = 1%, Aged 24 months en tirage

Rating: Buy It

Jean-Louis Denois Brut Tradition

Price: $14.99 @ K&L Wines imported by Premier Wine Company

What They Said:

NV Jean-Louis Denois Brut TraditionPer K&L Wines “Outstanding sparkling wine from the Languedoc? Absolutely and resoundingly, YES! There will be those of you who will scoff at the price of this wine, and claim that a sparkling wine set so low will never be worth any serious consideration. Well, those of you would be WRONG. One of the rising stars of the Languedoc, Jean Louis Denois makes exciting, world class wines that nonetheless remain amazingly inexpensive, a fact of his location more than anything else. His vineyards sit in the very southwestern corner, at the foot of the Pyrenees, and include red, white and sparkling examples, all made from perilously low-yielding vines, vinified with as little interference as possible. Denois’ Brut Tradition is composed of 50% each pinot noir and chardonnay and spends 18 months on the lees before degorgement. It is dry, elegant and long, with notes of hazelnut, red berries and toasted bread. This is one delicious bubbly! 12.5% abv.”

What I Think:

(12.5%) 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir – Made by Jean – Louis Denois, a sixth generation winemaker with roots to Champagne, this one hails straight out of the Languedoc. More specifically from Limoux in the southwest corner of France in the foothills Pyrenees. Made in the traditional method this one has a rose hue in the glass with some initial bubbles that dissipate quickly. Dry, crisp, and refreshing on the palate with nice green apple and lime fruit followed by a rocky, lively acidity. This one is delicate with a creamy mousse throughout. The mid-palate is yeasty with a touch of nuttiness and leads to a citrus hued, lasting finish. At $15 this may be spendy (or not if you are used to buying proper Champagne) but it is worth the price of entry. The kind of wine you should always have chilled and ready to go in case a celebratory situation (or large parties/weddings) avails itself…

Wine Geek Notes: Aged 18 months on lees before disgorgement

Rating: Buy It

NV Sokol Blosser Evolution

As mentioned I’m in Oregon on vacation and looking to sample the local offerings. To be honest this one is cheating as I had it a few days before I left. That said still looking for my first favorite. Perhaps time to try some Pinot!

NV Sokol Blosser EvolutionPrice: $13.99 @ Sokol Blosser*

What They Said:

Per Sokol Blosser “Every new bottling has its own subtle and fresh personality. The 9 grapes tie together perfectly, creating a smooth, layered white wine that can hold its own or stand up to just about any food pairing you dare to serve it with. It is extraordinarily food-friendly, from light salads to the hottest fusion-style cuisine. Regarding the question we’re most often asked: ‘Were you trying to do this or did your leftovers happen to work well together?’ We’ll let the success of Evolution speak for itself.”

What I Think:

(12%) A blend of Pinot Gris, Müller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Muscat Canelli, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Sylvaner (no percentages available) – Made from nine grapes this is a varietal hodgepodge and strangely enough my initial thought once this hit the palate was of Viognier which happens to be one of the varietals not in this wine. Rich with a heavier body than expected this one is loaded with sweet peach flavors rounded out with guava, papaya and more. The finish shows more of the same with fading tropical fruit flavors and just a touch of spice. It’s missing the acidity I prefer which makes it seem a bit flabby at points. Made to match with spicy foods and I agree it is an apt pairing. Otherwise if you don’t typically like whites, or prefer them lower on the acidity side, this may be right up your alley. (39,950 cases made)

Rating: Not for Me

*This bottle of wine was received as a press sample.

Hangtown Red Lot 41

NV Hangtown Red Lot 41Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s

What They Said:

Per Boeger Winery “Luscious and jammy aromas of: cedar, earth, vanilla, caramel, cherries, plums and oak. Rich flavors of dark fruits, gentle tannins and balances acidity make this the intimate BBQ companion.”

What I Think:

Hailing from El Dorado county this one seems to be a regular (or not so much) hodgepodge. Lot 38 was Zin, Cab, Barbera and Petite Sirah. Lot 42 was a Barbera and Zinfandel blend. And they move fast. They announced Lot 41 on Feb 28th and they are already on to Lot 42. A search turns up that the Hangtown Red also has quite a legacy having first been bottled back in 1975. I found this interesting article that did a great job of sharing the back story. While it appears there was once some information available on Lot 41 that is no longer the case. That said it looks like the winery does a good job of offering these for fair prices ($8.75) on their site while working with Trader Joe’s at the same time. I’m always happy to see that!

(14.1%) Blend Unknown – Nice fruity nose this translates to the palate with rich plum flavors. A bit of acidity emerges as the mid-palate dries out and starts to show some gentle, chewy tannins which lead to a plush, creamy finish (showing vanilla and oak) with just a hint of sweetness that lingers together nicely. This is Trader Joe’s sweet spot as they deliver many wines with the same taste profile.

In the article mentioned above they quoted Greg Boeger as saying the Hangtown Red “isn’t meant to be a statement wine. Nonetheless, it has a lot to say of how Californians live and eat, as well as their fondness for wines that can be counted on for character and value.” To that end I think they hit the mark. This is an affordable, approachable everyday wine that I’ll certainly be grabbing another bottle of. I think many of you will be pleased if you do the same.

Rating: Buy It

Wines of Wisconsin: Botham Vineyards Riesling

Wines of Wisconsin: Wisconsin Winery Association Members MapBeing a wine lover and a native son it is somewhat surprising that tasting the wines of my birthplace has yet to occur. On the other hand we are known for our beer and cheese and I personally didn’t even realize that this chasm existed. But like a good parent my mother was aware and chose to rectify by lugging a number of bottles to the Bay Area on her last visit. Among those was this Botham Vineyards Riesling. Before we get to the bottle, let’s do a 30 second version on Wine and Wisconsin to provide some perspective.

Wisconsin was the original American home of Agoston Haraszthy, a pioneer, who is sometimes referred to as the “Father of California Viticulture” having introduced more than three hundred varieties of European grapes to the region. Needless to say it didn’t take him long to figure out Wisconsin wasn’t the promised land for winemakers. That said, others would step in to continue his quest and today Bob Wollersheim is recognized by many as the father of the Wisconsin wine industry”. A pioneer as well, Bob began his work in 1972 and experimented 1972 with hundreds of varieties of grapevines to see which would suit the colder climates. Today Wisconsin is home to one AVA (Lake Wisconsin) and some forty wineries. Typically most wineries import grapes (from California, Washington, and New York States) and do the production here in the state. Others mix imported grapes with estate-grown grapes while only a few producers actually make wine entirely from locally grown grapes. I couldn’t find any statistics on how much wine the state is producing but I did keep finding one sentence that appears to be a local favorite. I will use it here to summarize my findings: “The Wisconsin River Valley isn’t the Napa Valley. But it also doesn’t have a shred of snobbery.”

NV Botham Vineyards Riesling
NV Botham Vineyards Riesling

Price: $9.50 @ Friend/Gift

What They Said:

Per Botham Vineyards “Crafted in the Johannesburg style for gentle sweetness, our Riesling is smooth, rich, mouth-filling pleasure. Imagine drinking velvet and you’ll understand the essence of this wine’s deep and beautifully balanced character.”

What I Think:

Botham Vineyards is located 110 miles due west of my hometown Milwaukee or 30 miles from the state capital of Madison. Their story begins around 1990 when Peter Botham, after dabbling with vines in Maryland, decided to return to Wisconsin and begin a winery of his own. The inaugural vintage was a thousand cases (if my conversion from gallons is correct) in 1993 and today they produce roughly 12,000 cases annually. When asked about his winemaking style Peter said he tries to create a regional flavor in his wines by growing 10 percent to 15 percent of his grapes and buying the rest from New York’s Finger Lakes region, which has a similar but slightly more moderate climate. In addition to a passion for wine Peter shares the same for vintage cars. The winery holds an annual Vintage Celebration to merge these two passions with a car show at the winery with the vineyards just at the peak of its growing season. Knowing Wisconsin as I do I can imagine this is a well attended and a huge hit!

So, finally to the juice, what did I think? For starters; semi dry can mean a lot of different things to different people. In this case for me it meant semi sweet, given my preference for Rieslings made in a dry style. This one had floral notes on the nose, a great mouth feel and a unique mineral, flintiness that kept the sweetness in check (just barely). If you want to taste something local or want to explore different regions and/or interpretations of a varietal this one is worth a try. Interesting enough for me I have wanted to explore the wines of the Finger Lakes in New York. Looks like in a roundabout way I got a head start with this one.

Rating: 12th Bottle

NV Albero Sparkling White

NV Albero Sparkling WhitePrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Latitude Wines

What They Said:

Per RJ’s Wine Blog “Very nice bubbly for $5, that’s for sure. Nice acidity levels, but still a creamy / buttery finish, with just a touch of lemon and the right amount of crispness. The bubbles are closer to a Prosecco than a champagne, which I really like because I think you can taste the fruit and the wine more with lighter bubbles than with most champagnes. Definitely competes with a $15 – $20 bottle of champagne and much more flavor than most sub-$15 champagnes I’ve tasted. Overall, a great value at $5.”

What I Think:

Having tried both the Monastrell (Mourvedre) and Tempranillo from Albero with lukewarm results this one was on my pass list until I stumbled on RJ’s review mentioned above. On opening the first thing I notice is the lack of bubbles in the glass, as in almost none. On the nose crisp white fruit notes, apple and pears. Simple on the palate, not much flavor at all. The overall structure is yeasty and/or creamy but nothing is happening on top of it. Just a slight hint of citrus/tartness on the finish. Nothing wrong with this one, just better options available. That said, I think this one jsut doesn’t match my palate as the sentiment on this one across the blogsphere as been widely positive.  At 11.5% reminds me of the NV Espiral Vinho Verde from Portugal which checks in at 9%. I prefer that one, with its effervescent quality it reminds me more of a sparkler than a still white wine.

In need of other sparkling recommendations? The Zonin Prosecco is my pick in the more traditional flavor profile style. Another favorite is the Schloss Biebrich Sekt from Germany.

Rating: Skip It

Editor’s Note (05-Jun-2009): Per my comment below I modified this post to reflect that the general impressions of this wine across the internet have been largely positive.

NV Fleur de Maison Red Table Wine

Price: $2.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Bercut & Vandervoort

What They Said:

Per the bottle Round and velvety with a bouquet of ripe fruit flavors, this dry red wine perfectly compliments a variety of meat dishes, pastas and cheese. Produced in France by a family with a long tradition of exceptions winemaking, Fleur de Maison offers recognized quality and affordability. A great everyday wine to always keep on hand. To be served at room temperature or slightly chilled.

What I Think:

When I saw this one on the shelf I had it confused with the La Maison from George Duboeuf (of Beaujolais fame, almost that time!) in my head, so at $3 it seemed worth a shot. As I searched for information I quickly realized my mistake. Surprisingly I was able to track down the importer and thought I had info but alas a 404 error. I emailed to see if they could share any notes on this wine but have yet to hear back.

NV Fleur de Maison Red Table Wine down the drainHopefully you saw my twitter feed on this one. When I find bad wines bad my first option is to try and ignore them… Don’t write tasting notes, don’t try to figure out what is wrong. Keep sipping and hope it gets better. Option one failed. I almost dumped it which (almost) never happens (this would be the 2nd time in like 500 bottles). That said I did open something else. I put a cork in this but wasn’t holding out much hope for another try tomorrow which is bad wine option #2. Alas, no luck which left me with only option #3, drink it when you are already drunk. Given the two youngsters in my household I didn’t see being able to put that into practice anytime soon so down the drain it went. If you have to have a bottle under $3 stick to the Two Buck Chuck, hear the Shiraz is the best now. If you can afford a fiver check the latest Top 10 list for recommendations. But please, keep this $3 in your pocket.

Rating: Avoid It

*photo by j. botter

NV Zonin Prosecco Brut

Price: $5.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Americal Beverage Group

What They Said:

Per Wine Enthusiast “An enjoyable bubbly with good creamy froth, white peach, mineral and hard candy tones that are nicely balanced and spread throughout. It has a thick consistency and a snappy, crisp close.”

What I Think:

My second endeavor into the bubbly section at Trader Joe’s. The first time I grabbed a Sekt, now a Prosecco and I also have a Cava in the fridge now. Guess I should grab one from France next time! As for Prosecco, raise your hand if you knew that was a grape… That is only one of the interesting things I learned in this brief Wikipedia article. I also learned that this grape is grown in northern Italy and often used to make Asti. That give anyone else flashbacks to high school or just me?

Could this wine be any smoother? Wilder on Wine calls it easy-going. I couldn’t agree more. The wine is frothy in the glass and shows floral aromas with hints of citrus on the nose. On the palate you are greeted by what other than bubbles, not much fruit to be found as this one is dry throughout. Towards the end it shows traces of mineral that disappear as fast as they arrive. The finish is very clean, nothing lingers on.

As much as I would like to compare this to the Sekt I cannot. They don’t share much in common beyond the bubbles. Oh yeah, that and the fact that I will be buying more of both of them!

Rating: Buy It

NV Schloss Biebrich Sekt

Schloss Biebrich SektPrice: $4.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Mutual Wholesale Liquor

What They Said:

Per Good Wine Under $20 “Bright and floral, this wine was almost as translucent and colorless as water. It had a modest apple aroma, and when the wine was poured in the glass there was an alarming amount of froth (ok, mousse for the geeks out there). Usually wines with lots of froth/mousse the bubbles are big and harsh, but the Schloss Biebrich bubbles were smooth and small. On the palate, there wasn’t a harsh or bitter note, just warm pears flavors and a lingering impression of flowers on the finish.”

What I Think:

On request I decided to give a sparkler a try. After finding it on Good Wine Under $20 I felt quite lucky after more or less randomly pulling this one off the shelves at Trader Joe’s. Reading the review there I learned a lot about Sekt. Never would have guessed Germany consumed the most sparkling wine of any country in the world. I tried to find out what grape this was made of to no avail. Dr. Debs is guessing Riesling so I will get on that bandwagon. Another interesting fact, per all of my friends at wikipedia, is that most Sekt is made partially of grapes from outside the country. As Sekt made exclusively from German grapes can be labeled as Deutscher Sekt I think it is safe to guess this bottling is among those containing foreign grapes.

Now on to the main event, the color on this one is very light…could I guess a color? Almost clear, I guess I would say platinum. Subdued at first on the nose, then crisp white fruit aromas appear, seems to be mostly pear with hints of apples and peaches. Doesn’t look to bubbly in the glass but seems to be popping in the mouth. The palate starts full and rich, towards the middle the bubbles kick in full force. I mean more bubbles than I have ever experienced.  The finish is light and crisp, a hint tart almost similar to a Sauvignon Blanc. This was not overly sweet, like some German Rieslings, which is what I was expecting. An excellent value! I usually only have sparklers as an aperitif. Next time I try this one I think I’ll do so with an Indian or Thai dish and see how that goes…

By the way, if you are like me and rarely drink sparkling wine there is more good news. After opening this one I put the original cork back in for a week and it held just fine. In fact today is day 9 and it is still drinking fine. Enjoy!

Anyone else have a request before I buy another bottle of sparkling?

Rating: Buy It