"The intersection where great wines meet reasonable prices"



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Right Bank Bordeaux: Vintage Retrospective

Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us, dim secrets that startle our wonder, as to who we are... ~ RW Emerson 

Like music [which is nearly always playing in my home] wine too, whispers it secrets, but you have to slow down long enough to hear what it's saying, and if wine has a song to sing, in my opinion Saint Emilion is its composer. Since returning from my trip to Bordeaux, I've been smitten with its flavors and finesse. It offers so many different expressions, and it would seem to me that those expressions are timeless, but they're also evolving and until you take the time to slow down, taste its textures, flavors and breath in its aromas, you may have a hard time understanding what it is, I'm attempting to communicate here. 

I know that for me personally when I was first exposed to wine, I was not ready for Bordeaux, I needed easier to understand wines, which required little thought or contemplation. In fact, I often thought, "sheese, what is all the fuss about anyway?". I just didn't get it and I frankly didn't want to back in the day, when I didn't have much of a collection to speak of. But now, you'd be hard pressed to drag me away from a Bordeaux tasting, or any opportunity to make a few new discoveries. I'm like a kid in the candy-store, there are so many new wines and producers to discover, and the older the wine, all the better in most cases. 

Saint Emilion has really caught my attention, to the surprise of both Mrs. Cuvee and I, who had figured ourselves for more of a left-bank leaning inclination, but have found the opposite to be true. That is why I was so excited to receive an invitation from my friends at the Protocol Wine Studio, hosted my the good folks at Vault Wine Storage found on Pacific Highway to attend an amazing Saint Emilion Vintage Retrospective last year. A great place for San Diego wine-peeps to store their wine treasures, which may be piling up at home. 

“A great wine is not the work of one man, it is the result of a tradition that is upheld and refined”, wrote Paul Claudel.

The first wine in the nights lineup was the 1995 Chateau Troplong Mondot, Grand Cru Classe, St Emilion, a relative new comer in St Emilon, nonetheless sporting those famous flavors, aromas and the ability to produce long 'lived' wines of substance and soul. With Merlot leading the way, and Cabernet Franc and Cab-Suav filling out the back end of this elegant wine, I was treated to enthusiastic flavors of the go-go nineties. In the glass as you see above, sporting brick colors and modest amount of sediment. The aromas escaping from the glass, reminded me of a back-country trail in San Diego, on a very warm summer day, where the wild licorices heated by the summer's heat perfumes the air. The tannins had completely mellowed, the structure still intact, but this wine is in its prime drinking window, sporting lean flavors of cherry, dark-plum, vanilla and other spices, the finish sails on and on. Drink now or forever hold your peace. My score 91 points. 


The second wine in the line-up was the 2000 Chateau Quinault L'Enclos, Saint-Emilion Gran Cru. While it has been under new management since 1997, they obviously put winemaking as their first priority, and hit the ground running, positioning themselves in the right place and at the right time to take advantage of the outstanding millennial vintage. A delicious Merlot [70%] dominated blend, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Franc, and filling in the cracks with Bordeaux's prodigal son Malbec.

I was hard press to get beyond the funk in the nose, a wet, woodsy barnyard like aromas, which eventually blew off later, revealing leather, licorice and dried figs. After a few delightful sip, slurps and a slyly erupting burp [gasp] a basket of delight erupted, spilling cassis, black cherries, dark plums, a meatiness, and a savory balsamic note. Well integrated tannins danced to the merry tunes, while the structure left no doubt, this wine has a few more years left in it. My score for this gem 92 points.



The third wine in this amazing lineup of classic right-bank producers come from the centuries old [ boasting of a history going back to the times of Roman occupation] Chateau Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classe 2005 St. Emilion, whose property butts up against the famed Cheval Blanc. A much richer, rounder and far more approachable wine than the two above, but a bit disappointing because it was not the classic Bordeaux style, I was expecting. That said, I would not kick it out of bed, anytime soon and it'd be welcome in my cellar anytime.

Nonetheless, an amazing wine of great depth and complexity, a real stunner sporting new world flair. In the glass the wine is nearly opaque, a brooding beast begging for more time to round out its immature structure, a bit more oak nuances than I had anticipated from this classic producer. This wine is going to be great, but I don't think it's ready for prime time yet, I'd give it a few more years, thinking 2016 would be a good time to circle back to this wine. My score, in this moment, is 90 points and I do recommend it highly if you like extracted Napa Valley style in a bottle of Bordeaux in the short term. If you decide to drink this wine early, an hour or two of decanting would be advised.



The fourth wine in the lineup, comes from the Chateau La Confession, St Emilion, 2005 Gran Cru. Like the Figeac above, this wine has even more modern sensibilities. One whiff of the nose, and you immediately know this wine has an evolved style, speaking New World finesse and pageantry. If this wine had been produced in Napa, it's price tag would be in the double to the triple Benjamin territory easily, and allocated like tickets to an exorbitant Obama Fund Raiser dinner. On the palate, pure drink now and drink often drinking pleasure.

It's loaded with red and dark fruits, enough acid to carry the day and the structure to last many years in the bottle. The mid-palate had some bear-threads, but over all this wine is very generous, the finish is long and lasting. You want this in your cellar, age it gracefully and you'll be rewarded for your patience. In this blend, Merlot has a less dominate role at 48%, while Cabernet Franc has a fun drum-solo knocking down 48% while Petit Verdot plays bass in the background with 3% rounds out the blend. My score for this wine that sells anywhere from $70 to $115 usd, is 92 points.


Some important and a very good facts to know and understand the distinctions: there are four key differences between the production restrictions for Saint-Emilion wines, and those for Saint-Emilion Grand Cru wines. Read more here.  By the way, the grapes you see in the picture above are actual Merlot grapes I shot on location in Saint-Emilion; taken while I was with a group of other wine bloggers as guests of the CIVB, vintage 2013. 



The fifth wine in the lineup is a real gem from a relatively unknown property, known as Chateau Rouget whose more straight forward blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc really wowed everyone at the tasting, a bright and shining star, which in my notes received two gold stars. The nose is immediately captivating, selling itself like a summer blockbuster trailer with heady dark and red fruits, licorice and a enticing funkiness which you just can't look away from. 

The color is far more garnet, the structure is quite complex and layered. Blackberries, dark plum, leather, floral notes, licorice, baked blueberries and rich earthiness. My score for this wine is 93 points, I'd definitely tuck away a few of these gems, and drink sooner rather than later, it's showing very well at the moment and I think a couple more years would add a nice level of maturity. 

The last wine in the the lineup comes from the renown horse-powered Chateau Clinet, we uncorked their brilliant 2005 that really wowed everyone, including me. If you have the coin, I'd buy a case or two of this classic example of right-bank perfection. A real stunner with enough complexity to go the long haul, talking 20 years of drinking pleasure. This wine will continue to evolve and get better, though it's just now hitting its desirable drinking window, I'd hold off opening it for a few more years, don't doubt me, your patience will be rewarded if you do. The first note I wrote, was a single word, 'balanced'. 

This folks is how you do, a wine featuring classic Bordeaux style and substance. It's elegant, the tannins are taught, the structure is huge, and it paints with vivid strokes dark plums, new leather, dry, cracked earth, dark cherries, blackberries and the finish just sails on into the horizon. My score 95 points and in my notes I made three gold stars next to its name. The average retail price for this gem is $125 but if can be found on auction sites for $90

These wines in the reviews above are just a small slice of the wine drinking joy to be found in the Right Bank wines of Bordeaux and while many of the grand crus sport a somewhat hefty price tag, there's much wine drinking joy to be found in their second labels. If you've still not availed yourself of the opportunity to experience the wines of Bordeaux, then you owe it to yourself to see what the 'fuss' is all about.  If you do, I think you too will become captivated by these great wines. Until then folks, as always remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fermented Thoughts: A Wine Epiphany


“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world." ~ John Milton

I think Milton, makes a great point about how gratitude can confer reverence, even if that gratitude is for something like wine. As for me, the lessons I've learned about wine, its surrounding culture and all the great folks behind the labels fill me with overwhelming gratitude every time I pop a cork, and the experience matches my expectations. My cumulative experiences in and around the wine business, including how it's made, the terrior, its history etc. have changed forever, how I view the world. Because as it has been said, in wine there is truth, leaving guile at the door. I will no longer view wine as simple beverage, but as something which can transcend the everyday, making life a little better one slurp at a time. 

Many folks ask me, "so Bill how did you become so passionate about wine" or "why is it such a big deal to you, after all it's just fermented grape juice right?". Well before I had my so-called transcendent moment with wine over ten years ago, I was pretty much a resolute beer only kind of guy, and not even of the micro-beer persuasion either. I was just your garden variety tailgater, sipping and slurping on what ever happened to be available. 

More recently I was asked what is my motivation for writing about wine, what is it I'd like to communicate to the reader?  I mistakenly blurted out,  without much thought and said "learning about the quality to price ratio" my father would have been so proud. Having thought about that question again later, and given a bit more time to reflect, I thought, the one thing I want any reader of this blog to know or understand, please never stop exploring. It's a big wine world out there, Italy has more than 800 grape varieties for example, so please don't limit yourself just to the varieties you're comfortable with, expand your horizons and get uncomfortable, it won't hurt much at all. 

Before I met my wife, wine had less than zero relevance to my everyday life; I really didn't give it too much consideration at all. My wife [then fiancee] who was just starting to get into the whole wine-experience herself wanted to introduce me to wine. Somehow her and I got onto the conversation about why I was not into wine and I really didn't have an answer that made sense. Maybe I had seen too many of my friends have their very own purple splash party, where purple cookies were launched, I think that may have discouraged me from exploring it further. Bottom line, I didn't really care to give fermented beverages too much thought, one way or the other. When it came to wine, I knew there was red and there was white, beyond that, it was a yawn-fest. 



So my wife [Mrs. Cuvée] who was my fiancee at the time, a budding wine-enthusiast herself thought it would be a great idea to book a trip to the Napa Valley and asked if I wanted to do a road trip with her, "lets just dive in head first" she said and I readily agree, skeptics cap firmly in place, tightly fixed to my rather large noggin, and I'm thinking [yes, I do that time to time] "uh-huh okay lets see what all the purple-tinged fuss is all about?".  

Why Napa, c'mon folks let's all face it, when one thinks of wine country here in the states, typically one word comes to mind and that word is "Napa". I know, I know, there many great wine regions to explore here in the U.S. but the truth is that for most folks "Napa" is "thee" destination for the wandering wino or even the garden variety vinosapien, especially so, if you live here in the states.


One of my very first experiences with wine came at a winery located on what some call the purple-haze super highway 29. Our first stop and my first step into a winery, came at a place called V. Sattui. Perhaps you've heard of them [right, who hasn't] which is a great place for many first timers to get their feet wet. Frankly, I'm not sure if this was the very first place we stopped, but it was definitely one of the most memorable of my experiences. We walked into packed-out, super-crowded, [albeit a very large] Saturday afternoon tasting room, "I thought oh-boy maybe we should come back another time". But giving a quick look around for an open spot, I saw a rather tall gentlemen gesturing for us to come over to the bar.

Once we arrived at the tasting bar, he welcomed us warmly and introduced himself as Daryl V. Sattui, who we later found out was the owner. We had a great tasting, talking about wine and his winery and I think we walked out of there with at least a case, but not before having lunch on the picnic grounds [the hook went in a bit deeper]. The very tasty wine poured that day, along with Mr. V.Sattui's amazing hospitality started me thinking, 'hmm there's something more here than meets the eye to this fermented grape juice phenomenon" and if you wondered, yes I'm still buying juice from them today.

One of the other more memorable places we stopped that same day, was a place called Opus One; a great destination which can also found right along what is the now famous highway 29. If you're thinking about a visit yourself, book an appointment, it's needed for a visit [luckily we were prepared]. Opus One as many of you know is a far cry of difference between these two iconic Napa Valley destinations to be sure. 

Another experience which changed my ideas about why wine is so much different than your average cocktail. As we roll up on the place [Opus One] I'm thinking "whoa, this is a pretty elaborate set-up" to most of the other vino-sapiens today, many think it's a bit overstated. Be that as it may, the wine poured that day, really "wowed" me and the hook was set. 


Back then I was a newbie on the "wine-scene" [there was no blog] I hadn't enough time to become jaded [but I feel some of that creeping in time to time] or frankly to be too concerned about appearance issues. Of course that didn't mean I was oblivious to how proud they are of the place and wine sold there. That said, this experienced again helped punctuate my own personal ah-ha moment with the vine. We walked out of there with just one bottle, that cost us something close to $200+, my memory on the fact is a bit hazy. Nonetheless it was a bottle we saved for our fifth wedding anniversary, it moved with us three times before we popped the cork on this bad-boy after 10 years in the bottle while dining in Paso Robles, and wow it was still very impressive.

So yes Mrs. Cuvée if you happen to be reading this, the whole wine blogging "thing" I do and my love affair with the vine is all your fault, but thank you ever so much for helping me find a little culture and much love to you for all you do, salud!

Two very different experiences of the wine spectrum, but both thrilled me so much that I thought to myself, "I need to know more about wine" so I set off on a trail of exploration and have never looked back. Each new experience, each wine region visited, each fellow-traveler I've met along the way, every new wine tasted, tells me wine is far more than just a beverage to be enjoyed with your friends at the local watering hole after work. I know it's not for everyone, but for me I'm pretty sure, it was just destiny waiting to happen.

It's far more than that, it's a lifestyle. I've come to think of wine as Clifton Fadiman once said; "If food is the body of good living, wine is its soul." So there you have my story about how wine has captured my heart, mind and my soul. It's with great pleasure that I say to you; sip long and prosper, cheers!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Oregon Uncorked: Patricia Green Cellars Revisited

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” -Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon


The quote above from Hemingway, is the same quote Mr. Anderson used to launch into his description [via the PGC Newsletter] of the vintage that was 2006. I had my first taste of Patrica Green way back at the beginning of my early fascination with wine. Mrs. Cuvee and I decided to take advantage of the proximity of our time-share which is ideally located on the amazingly gorgeous Oregon coast. We spent an unforgettable week taking day trips to different wineries. We made a few appointments ahead of time and PG was definitely one of those places we had read about and knew we had to visit. This is a place for folks who just can't enough of sniffing, swirling, sipping and getting to know this amazing varietal better.
"Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, right. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet." ~ Miles [Sideways]
No matter what you thought of the movie [good, bad or indifferent] or some of its more painful inconsistencies, I believe this line [seen above] from the movie was spot on. There are, really, only a few, small tucked away, corners of the world where Pinot Noir can deliver its fullest, breath taking expressions and one of those places is called the Willamette Valley. When we arrived for our appointment, we were not even sure where to go, there were no real signs, as we drove up to the property we even wondered if we were at the right place, again no signs.  

We drove slow onto the property, on a very cold Oregon day, early in the year, February 2006 to what looked like a quaint farmhouse, with out lying buildings, nothing that really said, "you've arrived at a winery". I was finally brave enough to slide one of the doors open, peer in, and say hello. Finally a reply came back, and we were met by Mr. Anderson, a couple winery dogs and welcomed into their barrel room [aka. impromptu tasting room]. Mr. Anderson is big fan of the Red Sox, but definitely not a fan of Wine Spectator or too many other wine publications for that matter. Although, I've noticed of late, they've [PG Cellars] have taken quite a shine to Stephen Tanzer. And if you'd like to hear the story behind a bottle of wine they call "Notorious" please ask Mr. Anderson about it, he tells the tale in an amazing fashion.



That day in the barrel [tasting] room, it seemed so much colder than it needed to be, even with the thick coats and sweaters we had on, we were freezing, but not quite as cold as the other couple who shared our tasting appointment window with us. If you've ever seen newlyweds you know what I'm about to tell you, it should not be too surprising,  that other couple who we didn't know, but shared our tastes in wine were not quite prepared for how cold it would be in the barrel room, the guy wearing a short sleeve shirt, was just managing to stay warm, by enjoying the large pours and the old fashion body heat method, sticking his cold hands down the backside of his new wife, who says chivalry isn't dead. But they way these two were carrying on, it left my wife and I with one thought, we expressed to each other once we were back in our vehicle,  we looked at each other and we both said, "sheese, buddy get a room" and of Mr. Anderson we thought, okay so how bad were you 'really' tortured at Tori Mor? 



In the picture above are the wines we tasted that day, we did take a few bottles home with us and were glad we did. As you can see from the image, each bottle was from the 2004 vintage, which represented the majority of wines we tasted all over the valley at the time. Both Mrs. Cuvée and I were very impressed that vintage year and we still are, sadly we don't have even a drop of 2004 left in the cellar [tears]. Our visit occurred early in the year of 2006, far before this blog was in a glimmer in my eye, when the price of gas was still an inexpensive $2 bucks a gallon. 

Those were the days, when I thought spitting was silly, when I thought tasting meant drinking and taking notes about the wines I encountered was a waste of time. That couple we met at the PGC tasting that day, we saw them again later that day, after we departed for an appointment at Bergstrom, but that is not the end of that story, if you'd ever like to hear the ending, just let me know the next time I see you in person, trust me it's a tale worth re-telling a thousand times. 

But of the wines you see above, the one which really caught our attention that day, one of the real highlights was the 2004 Eason in a word,  my only note from at the time, was wow. Later, when we got home and most likely a year later we opened that bottle we had purchased for a mere $30, and again the only place I left a note about previous wines consumed was in a journal,



one I still have, the journal that got me started writing my notes in an electronic journal, and became what is now known as the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog. I just now blew the dust of years off that old journal, which is rarely crack opened, and found a bit more detailed note about my second experience with the PGC 2004 Eason Pinot Noir. The score I gave it back then 9.3 and I wrote, "a powerful, yet elegant Pinot Noir, wonderfully structured, abundant fruit and plumed nicely with just the right amount of acid, to give it a sweet balance, and the finish sailed on and on". As you can see I was quite taken with this wine, as I was when I popped the corked on the wine in today's review, the 2006 Goldshcmidt, Dundee Hills

Now to the reason why I chose that amazing bottle from the cellar in the first place, my son Jake was visiting from out of state, and I wanted to share with him, one of my first experiences I had with wine, from one of Oregon's best known and loved producers of Oregon Pinot Noir. After his first sip, I could see the lights go on, he looked at me and said, "I can't wait to take my own trip Oregon, some day" and I thought mission accomplished, another thirsty vinosapien is born, and who knows, perhaps the next author of the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog in the future, only time will tell. 

The story of how this wine came to be, is told wonderfully on the PGC back-label, the wine I shared with my son and of course the lovely and talented Mrs. Cuvée is produced from some of Oregon's oldest vines, the few which survived the onslaught, of the still present danger, phylloxera. The Goldscmidt vineyard was planted in 1974 and 1975 the following years after Nixon had resigned from office. The vineyard itself can be found on Worden Hill Rd, perched perfectly at a 500 foot elevation, atop a deep bowl, with southern exposure over looking the now famous Dundee Hills of Oregon, in the Willamette Valley.   

The day I opened this wine, was the very last evening of my Son's visit and I wanted him to depart with dreams of Oregon Wine Country bouncing about in his memories, as a sweet good-bye for now and a invitation to say, I hope to see you again soon Son. 
"Let’s just stipulate that in the hierarchy of pleasures, people come first. Now that we agree on that, good food and drink can help make any party better." -- Eric Asimov
And of course we've already made plans to do some wine exploration in one of my other favorite wine destinations Washington State, where we will check out the still unknown to me, the Lake Chelan AVA. The anticipation is already ratcheting higher and higher. I do love exploration, so glad I get to share this adventure with my son. 

Now regarding the stunning wine in today's review, a wine which was reviewed by more nineteen folks at Cellar Tracker, averaging a score of 91.5 points, I too concur with their thoughts and scoring, but I scored this wine 95 points, and it's my opinion that this bottle of wine is an ideal representation of what Oregon Pinot Noir is and should be. In the glass, a brilliant cranberry color, and a bit cloudy. On the nose, that signature 'funk' wet damp earth, freshly picked mushrooms, and wet earth still clinging to the stem, bright cherries and spice. 

Sipping and slurping my way through the first pour, more cranberries, baked cherries over silky, well integrated tannins and layers upon layers depth and complexity. The finish went on and on, a true master piece. Nicely done PGC, nicely done and if you somehow know a place I could score a few more bottles, please let me know. Until next time folks, remember life is short, please for gawd's sake don't settle for pedestrian commodity wines and never stop exploring, sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lodi Uncorked: Klinker Brick Winery

“I believe in science and data but the first truth to which we must answer when making wine is pleasure- the truth of our senses.” @alisoncrowewine

Another gem from my mystical, magical journey through the Lodi Wine Scene, [as I like to call it] is Klinker Brick Winery. As eluded to in the quote above by winemaker and friend Alison Crowe of Garnet Wines fame, the first truth in making wine, truly is the pleasure of our senses. I'd have to same is true for those [like myself] who spend a considerable amount of time reviewing wines, tasting wines and reading about wine culture found on many other fine wine blogs and other publications. 

My visit to Lodi just a couple of months ago, helped awakened the truth of my senses. Lodi is not merely hedonistic fruit bombs offering simple, 'in the moment' thrills, where only 
homogenized commodity wine producers develop a single style of Zinfandel with different labels and price points. No, no Lodi is far more than that, and as I revealed in my last article, concerning what I found there, Lodi is a wine region [and Klinker Brick is a fine example] that is growing pretty darn fast, and in my opinion an upcoming region making its way onto the restraint list. 

Yes, you heard me right, the 'restraint list' and restaurant lists as well. I was pouring wines the other day for some inquisitive tasters, who heard me use the word "restraint' in describing a particular wines style. They seemed a bit perplexed, admitting they rarely hear such words being used to describe wine. But there are two ways to look at the word, in some ways it is considered virtuous to show restraint and the other seeming wider use of the word has to do with an influence that inhibits or restrains; a limitation. In tasting the wines from Klinker Brick I found they're using both definitions of the word and I was very happy to taste it in their wines.

I know many folks think restraint and flavor have to be mutually exclusive terms, but they really don't have to be, and neither do sustainability and  that evil word "profit". They can actually coexist nicely together, and when they do, good things happen, I think some folks call that balance. 



The first wine we tasted on a blast-furnace of a day, with the only relief coming from mild delta breezes as we reclined in the shade to take notes and listen to the story of Klinker Brick, was the above pictured KB 2013 Rose. A delicious, textured, thirst quenching delight. A very nicely done rose of Zinfandel, sourced from 17 different vineyard blocks, exuding flavors of fresh summer strawberries and crisp floral undertones, light and dry, a summer sipping dream. This wine sells for $15 and at 88 points it's highly recommended, enjoy.



The wine [seen above] which really impressed me the most, was the one seemingly oddball Rhone varietal, their 2012 Farrah Syrah. It's no secret, I love, love, love Rhone varietals and highly recommend them often. Sadly, as single varietal category it [Syrah] receives little respect from consumers [aka vino-sapiens]. But that does not stop me from recommending them to anyone who will listen. The nose is just gorgeous, fresh cracked pepper corns, dry-earth, black berries, licorice and underbrush. The first slurp reveals gobs of black fruits, dark plums, garden herbs, painted on a taunt tannin canvas, plumbed with vivid acid, painting an amazing picture of restraint without compromising flavor. This wine is noting but pure drinking pleasure and in my opinion, this is how you do it. This wine sells for a mere $20 and my score is 92 points. My recommendation: Stock Up!


Their 2011 Bricks & Mortar red wine blend is a fun wine, comprised of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah and 10% Old Vine Zinfandel. My first thought tasting this wine was 'meaty sausage' followed by licorice, underbrush, blackberry and dry earth nose, a ready for prime time mouth appeal, and produced in a ready to drink style. Refined and highly polished tannins, make the case for a drink now and drink often wine that will wow your summer-time grilling, Cab-Sauv-Only guests. This wine sells for $30 and my score 87 points.


The Klinker Brick 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel, with vines aging an average of 65 years, sourced from 14 different blocks of all east-side fruit is tagged as their 'flagship' and the wine which helped really launch their brand. I talked a bit about 'restraint' in this article, sadly for though, this wine did not completely fit that definition. That is a real shame too, considering I tasted their 2011 which should have afforded an easier time for the winemaker to make a more dialed back Zinfandel. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it, but it had a bit more low hanging fruit than I expected to find. This wine is made in a style which will drive the average, garden variety vino- sapien to jump for joy. But I'm no longer in that camp. The first slurp, black cherries, wild ripe briar-berries, notes of vanilla and baking spices. American oak and again an immediate, easy access appeal, just not as textured, and layered as I would have liked. My score 86 points and the price is $19



The 2011 Old Ghost, Old Vine Zinfandel: My first impression, was "wow, nicely done" and "uh-huh, this how you do it". On the first slurp, my third thought written in my notebook, refined elegance. This [2011] wine, which appears to be sold out on the website, sees nothing but French Oak [60% new] for 15-18 months. On the nose bramble berries and dry dusty earth notes, waft up effortlessly from the glass. On the palate ripe blue-berries, black berries, dusty loamy earth, delicious warm-day underbrush and a vibrancy minerality, all playing nicely with the textured tannins. The finish goes on and on. You can score their current vintage, which is the 2012 for $37, my score 92 points. Highly Recommended. Btw, I'm loving the swag-bag Old Ghost ball cap, it's my new everyday wear favorite. 


"The Felten Family own and manage fifteen individual vineyard blocks of “Old Vine” Zinfandel that range in age from 40 to 120 years old. Each vineyard is planted in sandy loam soils in the Mokelumne River Appellation of Lodi and the Clements Foothills."

The last wine in today's review is the Klinker Brick, 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel, Marisa Vineyard. The grapes for this wine are soucrced due east of Locust Tree Road, produced from self-rooted, 88 year old vines. Only 600 cases of this gem is made and they sell it for $35. Tight, bright red and dark fruit rush to greet you and welcome you in, ripe blue berries, complex spices, textured medium tannins and a fun verve of minerality, make this a compelling style of Zinfandel, that proves that restraint and flavor can walk hand-in-hand and don't have to be mutually exclusive terms. This wine sells for $35 in the tasting room and online, my score 91 points, an excellent example of what Old Vine Zin could be and in my opinion should be. 

If it has been quite a while since you've tasted through the wines of Lodi, may I suggest you add a visit to Klinker Brick to your itinerary. In my week long visit, I found many wineries, "doing it right" and few who still need to do some fine tuning to the wines being offered. You can expect a few more slices of the Lodi pie offered here in the near future. I'm excited about what I found and I'm very happy to admit there is more to this region, than I ever suspected. I hope everyone has a great Fourth of July Weekend. Until next time folk, remember as always, life is too short to settle for cheap commodity wines, sip long and prosper cheers!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sagrantino di Montefalco: Umbria's Jewel

"Let me tell you now, something’s got a hold on me (Oh, it must be love)" ~ Etta James. 


Ms. James, a beautiful talent, whose music I really adore, perfectly sums up for me, my feelings and impressions about one of my latest epicurean excursions into the Italian wine scene, one found via this bottle of Sagrantino from Antonelli.

I was fortunate enough to be invited on wonderful trip into the heart of Umbria and Campania [2012] with the International Wine and Tourism Conference which was held in Campania that year. Part of the trip was spent, getting to know, the amazing [sadly flying under the radar] Sagrantino DOCG. After uncorking this beauty [seen above] more than a few moons ago, it really brought back the crisp, vibrant memories of that trip.  

I had the good fortune to hang out with some of the very best food and wine writers [bloggers] in the U.S. and also at the same time, the experience of being trapped in freak snowstorm [bonus] i
t was late January, and early 
February of 2012.

The fun of [slurping and sipping] sampling through some best wines being produced in Umbria was and is still unforgettable life moment. Unfortunately, far too many of these wines still remain largely unknown to the average, garden variety, vino-sapien. Hopefully this review will change that trend just a bit, by shining a bright lamp on one the unsung heroes of the Italian wine scene, Sagrantino di Montefalco.

Frankly, at the time I was also guilty of not fully having much more than a cursory knowledge about the many splendid wines from this region [tisk-tisk]. But that experience has taught me one thing, never stop exploring

I'm constantly challenging myself and my palate to sample, sip, slurp and spit my way through previously unexplored regions. I can no longer accept the notion "this is it, there's nothing more to see here". It's time to just settle for mundane domestically produced conformity, blech. That would be a very sad statement for anyone to make, but it is decision I see a few vino-sapiens making. But I don't think they even realize it. How do I know? Because I've been in their shoes, and it was not so many years ago either, wallowing in abject wine-mediocrity, a self imposed wine-ghetto if you will ha! 

It is with that thought in mind that I offer one thing further regarding travel. From my few experiences, don't just visit new lands or place like a picture-taking [tourist] zombie, instead become a traveler. Yep, that's right slow-your-roll for just a moment. Drill deep, right down into the bedrock of the places you visit; soak it in and never let it go [If this sounds like a bit of over-the-top navel-gazing, you have my apologies in advance].

Do I grow from these adventures; I like to think I have. I am thrilled I had the opportunity to explore this great wine region in Italy and I invite you to do the same by uncorking something new and novel tonight, like this bottle of Sagrantino seen above. This wine which is unlike so many other wines, you may encounter, offers real soul and substance, which is part of the reason my score for this wine is 93 points. The average price of this wine is $50 usd, but in my opinion, it's well worth the price of admission. I understand that for most folks, this may not be an everyday drinker, and possibly more like a weekend treat, but again, one well worth the wait. 

This delightful gem pictured at the very top, is from the Montefalco DOCG a delightfully aromatic wine, which immediately grabs your attention, and for me, it was love at first slurp. The nose immediately opened up with a blast of crushed black-berry fruit, dark ripe cherries which grabs your senses and doesn't let go. 

On the first slurp [no dainty sipping here] down, you'll encounter abundant dark fruits dark plum and blackberry vivid minerality, smooth tannins [but firm] a light sprinkle of chalk and long lingering finish, that will have you coming back for more. Even though this wine would be considered very dry by some standards, there is enough dark plumy, dark cherry juiciness, coupled with 
fresh rich earth flavors to keep you very interested. 

The structure is quite complex, some smoked licorice, laid over very big [polished tannins] and a barrel full of stunning mouth-watering acidity that makes this wine a perfect match with any Italian theme dish you could ever imagine throwing at it. This wine is also great on its own. Frankly I could not get enough of this wine; it just draws you in over and over, a real head turner. 


“Umbria, and the wine revolution it has experienced over the past 30 years, makes for big potential in a small package,” ~ Winemaker Riccardo Cotarella
Full Disclosure: Yes this bottle was sent as sample for the review process. I wish the bottle had arrived in a bit better condition, as wine had pushed its way up past the cork and leaked a bit into the capsule. But a full months rest in the cellar, seemed to straighten out any of the potential issues. Until next time folks, remember life is too short to reach for that same bottle of domestically produced wine again, sip long and prosper cheers!

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