Clearing out the summer stash…

Clearing out the summer stash... Upon arriving home from work last night I found a cranky wife. You see I keep many empty bottles around the house with the intent of writing about them at some point. As that number begins to swell the children start to think they are fun to play with. So after a particular challenging day my wife said enough was enough. And after doing the count I can’t say I blame her. It appears nearly 75 bottles was her breaking point.

Now the challenge to me. Write or get off the pot! I have tasting notes in varying degrees for all of these somewhere but they will never make it to a finished post. So what to do? Given that this is a solid six months of backlog (though I cleared those from Trader Joe’s last week) I decided to catalog them, share my thoughts and select my top 5 wines from the group…

With that buckle in. I have a busy weekend ahead…

Summer Stash: A load of Sauvignon Blanc…

The summer brings warm temperatures (okay well maybe not so warm this year) which tend to solar power my appetite for crisp, refreshing white wines and Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorites. As you’ll see below I had a chance to drink quite a few (all samples) over the last six months. What was my overall take? There is a lot of very good Sauvignon Blanc available for less than $12 and for a man like me on a strict budget that is good news. All of the prices below are suggested retail and you can expect to find these cheaper at your local wine outlet. So what have I been drinking?

a few from Chile...

The Veramonte is one of my favorites and is a bottle I buy regularly (last reviewed the ’08). This ’09 vintage once again offered solid value with nice lemon, vibrant minerality and great acidity. An easy wine to like. The Cono Sur was quite nice as well and was a bit fuller and rounder than the Veramonte. Definitely a more food friendly wine which again offers very good QPR. The Los Vascos (the Rothschild joint venture in Chile) is likely the most widely available and makes a fine choice for the $8 or so it will be going for.

a few more from Chile...

Here we see the price points start to jump a bit. Is it justified? The Casa Silva was certainly unique starting with a slight spritz and showing some lingering (talc like) spice on the finish but I found it more tight and biting than crisp. The Valdivieso while dramatically different from your traditional Sauvignon Blanc. Yet it was more a fun, challenging and enjoyable experience than it was a pleasure to drink. The Haras showed tight acidity with stony minerality and layers of lemon flavors. While nice it came across as a bit closed. The Undarraga was enjoyable with beautiful honeydew notes and a flinty finish. The Ventisquero was the most memorable of this lot. A nice mouth feel and a rotisserie of flavors on the mid-palate (predominately cantaloupe) leading to a lingering finish with white pepper notes. If I were to buy one of these the Ventisquero would likely be my pick.

and some potential values...

The Dashwood (’08 review) is another ultra popular value choice. I found the Morro Bay to be a bit uninspired. That said the Jaja de Jau was a pleasant surprise. Super light (11.5%) but bright, clean and crisp. Given you can pick this one up for around $7 it is a winner; simple and enjoyable.

There you have it. Did you have a favorite Sauvignon Blanc this summer? (PSA: my favorite has yet to be revealed) Have you had any of these? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*as indicated above these wines were indeed received as a press sample. That said I have purchased many bottles of the Veramonte using my very own wallet.

Summer Stash: A load from Argentina…

I long to go back to Mendoza and often practice the reverse mantra that if you can’t be there bring it to you. Malbec, asada and flipping through pictures from our visit a few years back usually tends to scratch the itch. That said sooner or later I am going to have to book my return trip but until then I’ll just keep drinking more than my fair share of Argentinean wines. Again here I had a chance to drink quite a few (all samples) over the last six months. What was my overall take? Malbec, to me, is still one of the most consistent places to find value offerings and furthermore some of the $20 wines more than delivered on their price points. So what have I been drinking you ask?a few from Terrazas de los Andes...

Terrazas Los Andes and I go way back. Their Malbec (I last reviewed the ’06) is one of the wines I most often recommend to people. This was my first experiences with the Malbec Reserva (which I drank from a 375ml bottle) and it certainly showed more restraint and a few extra layers of complexity. As for the Torrontes Reserva the aromatics on the nose weren’t quite as exciting as I usually find them. Why the wine itself was fine I wouldn’t stretch your budget for this one with so many $10 (See Finca La Linda below) options readily available.

a few from Luigi Bosca...

I have actually previous reviewed the Finca La Linda and as mentioned while I found it nice next time I would prefer to give some others; like this Zolo, a try. The Pinot I found very new world in style. This wine is big and powerful with oak influencing throughout. Well made but not a match for my palate as at this price point I want something more restrained and elegant. The Merlot was an easy and enjoyable drinker but north of the price point I’m willing to pay for that type of offering. But oh the Malbec! This one has a nose of dark berries, dusty chocolate and black pepper. A brooding wine that could knock you over with fruit if it pleased that instead chooses to some nice values...show restraint and layers of flavor. A sure winner and the best of the Argentinean wines I sampled this summer.

This Santa Ana really surprised me as despite my travels through Australia I had come across very few Shiraz blends I had enjoyed. This one was spicy and juicy on the palate with a nice structure. Firm acidity kept it balanced and made it food friendly. The Bodega Norton was a Bordeaux-ish blend that showed sweet fruit and nice meaty characteristics. I’d love to try it with a few more years in the bottle as this has the potential to be something else. As for the Alamos this is another long time favorite (last reviewed the ’06). and a few nice Malbecs...My notes on the ’09 say: “Young, light & juicy w/ loads of stawberries on balanced acidity with a dry spicy finish. Crowdpleaser! Buy this one more often.”

The Nieto Senetiner was new to me. It showed bold red fruit and soft, velvety tannins with pepper spice on the finish. Well balanced with layers of flavors. Yet another very good value. The Dona Paula is a big wine with rich fruit that dries quickly showing a leathery, pepper finish that is laden with barrel notes and tannins. For this price I’m tempted to buy a few and sit them as again this one seems to have the opportunity to evolve into something special.

There you have it. Did you have a favorite Argentinean wine this summer? Have you had any of these? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*as indicated above these wines were indeed received as a press sample. That said I have purchased many bottles of the Terrazas de los Andes and Alamos with my very own wallet.

Summer Stash: Some Riesling and a Grüner Veltliner…

Riesling has always been intriguing to me and I’ve long wanted to explore it further but yet to do so. On the other hand Grüner Veltliner is quite new to me but quite intriguing as well. Why? Because both can deliver loads of value. You can drink some very high quality offerings of these at affordable prices. This is even more true (at least in the case of Riesling, does Grüner Veltliner age well?) when you are looking to cellar some wines. Over the past few months I’ve had a chance to sample a handful of these. What was my overall take? That I need to do a lot more exploring with these two grapes! So let’s take a look at those I have been drinking…two rielsings and a gruner...

Both of these Rieslings are designated as Kabinett which is on the lower end of the sweetness scale (and to my liking). Did I mention the other thing I love about Riesling? The low ABV (10.5% and 9.5% here). The Pfeffo has a great nose of plush white fruit over a nice mineral bed. The palate shows more of the same with juicy apple flavors and a firm acidity that shines through to keep this one balanced. Very nice but I would have preferred a bit more crispness here. The Marcobrunn was totally lacking the fruit on the nose yet much sweeter (and slightly syrupy) on the palate. Both are well suited to be paired with spicy Asian cuisine. As for Forstreiter; it showed rock, talc and mineral on the nose with loads of white pepper lingering nearby. The palate starts with racy grapefruit flavors before the acidity kicks in and leads to a tangy, mineral finish. Next time I have to pair this one with food!
and the wines of Heinz Eifel...

Warning! Wine geekery adhead… When I first started learning about Riesling the thing I struggled most with was what the difference between the designations meant. Spätlese vs. Auslese? Say what? Eventually I realized the easiest way to think about these is by their level of sweetness. The designations, starting with least sweet, are rank ordered above. So what did I love most about these wines? The chance to try them all at once! We had an Indian dinner party and brought these all out. It was a wonderful tasting opportunity to try different wines with the same foods (my tip is the spicier the food the sweeter the wine) and was a really enjoyable evening for all involved. So my wine geek friends go grab these and give it a try on your own. You’ll be glad you did!

There you have it. Have you had any of these? Any similar favorites to share? (PSA: my favorite has yet to be revealed) Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*as indicated above these wines were indeed all received as press samples.

Summer Stash: A few from Greece…

Ah, Greece. For those that don’t know I spent some time there eighteen months ago and was treated to some great wine experiences that I failed to chronicle. Thus every time I think about their wines I start feeling guilty but when they won their first World Cup game earlier this summer I couldn’t not open a bottle to celebrate the occasion. So what did I open? a few from Greece...

I opened the Porfyros (13.5%) which was a Bordeaux blend that showed nice dry herbs, mushrooms and cherry on the nose. The palate was light and lively with warm dark fruits and violet flavors. Very well balanced with a touch of acidity and a warm pleasing finish. A very nice wine that unfortunately isn’t available in the states. Guess I’ll have to pack my bags and head back that way ;) As for the two from Skouras these are perfect (and affordable) intros to Greece wine. The white is one of my annual favorites. The delicate Moscofilero (70%) blends with the Roditis (30%) which is decidedly not and the result is splendid. Pure lemon flavors with floral overtones on a mineral backbone with bracing acidity. Crisp & refreshing; this one is perfect for the patio but even better with seafood. The red is a bit smoky with almost sweet red fruit on the nose. Light, juicy (with a bit of the leaves too) and savory on the palate with a nice warm, lingering spice on the finish. An enjoyable and affordable Greek offering that clocks in at a typical Greek 12.5% abv.

There you have it. So what did I learn? That I really appreciate how food friendly their red wines are and that I need to be drinking a whole lot more of them. Have you tried the wines of Greece? If not I highly recommend you do. I can share my introduction to their offerings to help you get started. If you have tried them do you have any favorites to share? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*other than the Porfyros which I picked up at the winery these were purchased with my own real American dollars…

Summer Stash: Revisting the Port4lio Tasting 2010

While I’m at home working on this post Luis (@VinosUnico) & Frank (@BlueDanubeWine) are busy driving the #25grapes bus all over California. Tonight they are in San Francisco which means I am decidedly in the wrong place. What is this #25grapes tasting you ask? You won’t come across your “ordinary” grapes here but rather a bunch you have likely never heard of (take a look), such as Bical, Maria Gomes, Crljenak Kastelanski and Irsai Oliver. Luckily for me I was able to join them for their Port4lio Tasting back in May and have been revisiting a handful of those wines throughout the summer. Which ones? Glad you asked…

a few Portuguese whites...

You’ll see two bottles of the Trajarinho (my review) but I think I drank more like a hundred. A perfect summer wine; ‘nuff said! The Muralhas ( my review of the ‘05) is a more refined version of Vinho Verde; just as crisp and refreshing but more structured and better fit to pair with a meal. a few reds...

The Urbanite Redart is another of my summer favorites and a wine I often recommend. Here is the review I posted to Grape Stories ; “(13.8%) 40% Cabernet, 30% Syrah and 20% Zinfandel – Big juicy blackberry fruit up front on a creamy vanilla backbone. Seems like it may go over the top but a solid dose of acidity kicks in to help maintain the balance and manage the plush, rich fruit. A smooth and pleasing full flavored wine with a warm, toasty finish showing hints of barrel spice that linger on nicely for some time. Nice depth/complexity for the price point!”
a few from off the beaten path...

The Hilltop (11%) shows a nice, light stony nose with peach notes. Light bodied with a firm mineral backbone and lemon stone fruits on the back of the palate. I found it clean, simple and pleasing. A perfect match for a sunny day. The Dingac (12%) is a light, juicy red that can be paired with meals where you might more traditionally reach for a white. That said it is lively and has enough acidity to stand up to the pasta I enjoyed with this one. The Crnko Jarenincan (1L, 11%) is floral driven and off sweet in texture with nice acidity. A pleasant, refreshing wine that though hailing from Slovenia enlists the common suspects in this blend of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. A fine quaffer with a pop top to boot…

There you have it. Have you had any of these? Any similar favorites to share? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

* I paid for all these wines with real American dollars though Luis at Vinos Unico did hook me up at wholesale cost. Thanks Luis!

Summer Stash: A few nice red and whites…

Now onto some of the higher priced offerings that I’ve sampled over the last few months. As many of my long time readers know I don’t drink to many wines in this category as I often find myself disappointed as I expect so much more. Given that I am super selective and each of these comes with their own little story to go along with it. Ready to hear them?
a few nice reds...

I’m a long time fan of Sausal (former club member) and their old vine but affordable Zinfandel. This one is no exception. Warm and inviting on the nose. Big and brambly on the palate. This one didn’t show the restraint I typically find and enjoy but this one was a fine wine nonetheless. Sobon is another winery I am a big fan of and again their Zin’s lead the way. The Rocky Top is one of perennial, affordable ($13) favorites. The Paul’s Vineyard is a big and deserves to be paired with a meal that can handle such a wine. The Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot came recommended by the Wellesley Wine Press. It is full bodied with layers of dark fruit that comes across more big than elegant. Not exactly my kind of Pinot but still an enjoyable bottle. Ah, Casa Nuestra. Visiting them had been on my to-do list since I torn a Matt Kramer article out of the June 30, 2003 Wine Spectator. I finally scratched it off this summer and the Charbono is one of the bottles I acquired on my visit. This one showed some barnyard funk on the nose. In the mouth it was light bodied and juicy with brambly fruit. Cherries and plums intermingled with earthy notes and black pepper spice on the palate. A little sour throughout but with a nice lasting finish. I’m thinking another few years in the bottle would have done this one wonders but it was enjoyable now as well.
a few nice whites...

The 2002 Navarro Gewurztraminer is one of the oldest whites I’ve had. In the glass it was the most elegant gold in color. The nose was big and full of floral and white fruit notes. Very rich and full bodied this one showed a nuttiness throughout. It had turned what I would describe as almost dessert-ish. Given this was a first I have nothing to compare it to but it was an interesting experience. As for the Peju Sauvignon Blanc I came across that one as part of a regrettable visit to their tasting room (a friend’s choice). Fortunately this wine was much more enjoyable. Nice lemon lime notes on the nose. On the palate this one is fruity and smooth with a fuller body than the Sauvignon Blancs I typically drink. While crisp the acidity is not as overpowering as others which make this one a better match for food. This is what I think of as the Californian styled Sauvignon Blanc.

There you have it. The reds were far more interesting than the whites. Have you had any of these? Any favorites from this summer to share? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

* I paid for all these wines with my very own wallet.

Summer Stash: The Final Four…

Phew! 51 down! How many more to go you ask? Just five, and what a final 5 they were! We will cover four today and these all deserved a post in their own right. Instead they will share the stage here and go down in history as some of my highlights from the summer of 2010. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for my top pick of the summer but before we jump ahead let’s shower these with some accolades…
two reds...

I’m sure you are looking at these price tags and saying wow! I’m certainly outside of my comfort zone here as I don’t drink wines in this category too often. Both of the below were received as samples and I haven’t repurchased them (or any wines whatsoever in this price category) but if I were an active shopper in this price range these would be at the top of my list. First up is the Emblem Cabernet. Here were my notes; “(14.3%) Big and brawny on entry this young buck is still throwing its weight around. Warm and embracing with rich chewy tannins and constrained oak galore. The dark cherry fruit is not yet taking center stage but plays a sublime secondary role with cassis, tobacco and dried herb notes on the mid palate. This leads to a smooth, toasty finish loaded with dusty chocolate flavors that lingers on pleasantly. Rich and powerful yet smooth and balanced. Drink now or later (it will certainly age well) and if you are lucky enough both.” The Three Sticks Pinot was equally as impressive. From my notes; “(14.4%) Wow! Brick brown in color. The bouquet here is so warm and inviting you may lower your nose so deep into the glass you’ll accidentally stick it in the wine. The palate starts juicy, vibrant and floral with a bit of spice. It has an amazingly big but perfectly balanced flavor profile. A nice acidity manages it through the mid-palate and finish where a bit of soft spice emerges before you get some beautiful smooth, tingly tannins that linger on seemingly forever. The depth is outstanding the oak is well integrated adding just a hint of toastiness. A Pinot of epic proportions. Elegant & powerful yet restrained at the same time. It’s all here. I’d welcome another encounter any time…”

two whites...

The Graf Hardegg was sent to me as a sample and served as a beautiful message as to why I need to further educate myself on Grüner Veltliner. That said I don’t have a lot of tasting experience with this varietal but I sure did like this one. From my notes; “(13%) Awesome lemon rock on the palate with a full white fruit flavor profile. Incredible depth with a nice stony structure which leads to a nice, tingly, mineral finish. Extremely crisp with a nice tartness throughout. Everything I want in an offering and a wine I wish I could find again…” As for the La Clarine Farms Grenache Blanc I noticed a number of people whose palates I respect tweeting @LCFWino) about their wines I decided to seek them out and boy am I glad I did. From my archives; 2008 La Clarine Farms Grenache Blanc “(13.5%) My wife cracked this one and guzzled the first half+ with a friend while taking the kids on a play date proclaiming “I thought it would be okay since it was a screwcap” when I called here on it. Light and golden in color. A sweet, rich floral honeyed nose with pollinated orange blossoms and peach notes. The palate is full and floral with a nice mineral backbone; like a flower bed growing in the middle of a rocky creek. From there it has an almost coal-like smokiness and hints of an oaky creaminess with a slightly spiciness and lingering tannins on the finish. Pure and enjoyable. This Grenache Blanc is now long gone 2008 La Clarine Farms Grenache Blanc(only 48 cases made) but looking forward to trying more of La Clarine Farm’s offerings soon…”

There you have it. Have you tried any of these? Did any wines make your summer of 2010 highlight reel? Either way would love to hear your thoughts via the comments below.

*all of these wines were received as press samples other than the La Clarine Farm which was purchased with my own real American dollars…

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…