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Friday, March 29, 2013

Wine of the Week: 2008 Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano

Wine cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires the young, and makes weariness forget his toil. --Lord Byron

I was both inspired and revived a bit after a long day in the salt-mines after uncorking this great Italian beauty the other night. And you'll be as well if you follow my lead. This wine is both generous and, amazing approachable right out of the chute. No real fuss or muss needed, but I'd recommend decanting for an hour to unlock this wines full potential. 

It's a gorgeous blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot; a wine which easily and I'll say effortlessly pair with many types of cuisine. This wine comes locked, cocked and ready to rock, a wine with real soul, substance and great texture. The tannins are well integrated, like the drummer from your favorite band, it rocks!

Gobs of freshly picked red cherries, dark plums and, rich earth which sails gracefully across across your palate, leaving you with a long finish. This wines sell for a SRP of $28 and can still be found in good supply if you know where to look and, my score on this wine is 91 points. Fortunately for those interested I do, so if you want to score a few bottles, please let me know.

Full Disclosure: This wine was NOT a sample, it was purchased with my own cold hard cash via the sweat of my brow. I receive zero incentives if you happen to purchase this wine, I only bring this wine to your attention in the interest of drinking better and, in the hope of broadening your own vinous horizons. So until next time remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wine Chat: The Next Chapter

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts” – Arnold Bennett

As many of you may know already the reins of #WineChat are changing hands. I was approached by Marie Payton [Life of Vines] via email, a couple of weeks ago and asked if I was perhaps interested in the opportunity to fill-her-shoes. I wanted to take some time to think it over but, I'll be honest I was quite interested in the opportunity and so here we are.

But before I say anything else, I wanted to say to Marie and her co-host Mr. Dave Reynolds you created something amazing in developing #WineChat making it a force for good in the wine community and, for that I say thank-you!

Seeing the need to have some assistance with the effort, I reached out to Protocol Wine Studio's dynamic duo, Eric Guy and Tina Morey. This is a team many of you know already, from our Monday evening #WineStudio events, the free online curriculum-based wine education & tasting program and, that will not change.

So as a way of introducing the new #WineChat team, this Wednesday 03/27/2013] it will be an introductory evening, getting to know the new team and, to learn more about continuing the conversation. Many folks ask me, hey Bill what is in it for you or they may wonder about my motivations moving forward? 

As for me, my answer is simple; my mission is to provide vino-sapiens every where with current, objective, easily digested content and hopefully even entertainment about the wonderful world of wine and to provide a place for continued discovery and exploration. 

So if any of you have questions and/or concerns about big changes possibly coming to #WineChat I can say feel rest assured there are no change big format changes in the wind. Will we endeavor to improve upon what has been built thus far and hopefully continue to build upon the great relationships that have been built over the last couple of years. 

So if you're interested in what lies ahead for #WineChat, stay tuned and please join us this Wednesday evening as Tina, Eric and I along with all of you discuss its future. Until next time folks slurp long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wine of the Week: 2009 Domaine Jean Collet et Fils [Chablis]

“One cannot think well, love well, and sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf

I would've never guessed that a bottle of Chablis would be my wine of the week, but yet there it is, just mocking me, taunting me and not caring one little bit if I thought it was worthy or not to be the wine of the week.

But yet this it's this very tasty Chablis, which I'm recommending this week. But I do so with a bit of caution; if you're already a Chablis-convert you possibly could be sadly disappointed in this wine. And why you ask; because it's produced in a style, one that many would call a modern or non-traditional. Simply put, this wine is made to appeal to a larger audience, leaving behind much of its enamel-obliterating, mostly bone-dry personality behind and, instead focusing on far more well-rounded appealing qualities. 

What are those qualities? Immediate approachability, a rich-round mouth feel, a vein of acidity [just not the entire mine] blended nicely with a drop of honey-oil and fascinating minerality [but not the whole sea-shell collection]. I sampled this wine luke-warm, but with a bit on chill [very slight] put upon the bottle, its flavors and aromas perked up nicely, making for a delightful pairing with the fish-tacos from my favorite hole-in-the-wall place here in San Diego.

So if you'd like to get your hands of a bottle of this fantastic Chablis, here's the place you can get it, enjoy. I scored this wine 90 points, it's not a classic, but it's classically easy to get along with and instantly enjoyable. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: This is one of the wines featured on the weekly [brand-new] twitter chat-room called #WineStudio. I sampled this wine at the studio and drew my impressions on this wines quality and character from the bottle provided by the folks at Protocol Wine Studio. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Winery of the Week: Col Solare, Red Mountain AVA

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ― W.B. Yeats

In today's long awaited review is a really well-known [for the wine-geeks who maybe reading this] winery in the Red Mountain AVA of Washington State, known as Col Solare [translated Shining Hill]. I've had the good fortune of visiting them twice in the last couple of years. Each visit was different and unique. The first visit here was in 2010 and my second visit came late in 2011. 

The reason I've held back on this review; is because my initial impressions of their wines, really didn't "wow" me like I thought it would or that it possibly could. However, I didn't let that stop me from [recently] acquiring a good number of their 2006 and 2007 vintages. And when I say recent; I mean it wasn't until just this year I popped the cork on both vintages once more. This fact is what brings me to this short mostly pictorial article today and, the why is answered by a simple yet profound, wow. 
For those of you who may not be familiar with this winery, from a quick look at their website; you’ll find the "Col-Solare" project is a partnership between two influential wine producers.  One is from Tuscany, Marchesi Antinori [one of my favorite Italian producers] and the other Washington State’s Chateau Ste. Michelle [known for producing many tasty value wines].

This partnership came to fruition in the Red Mountain AVA, which one of the Columbia Valley’s most celebrated and, jaw-dropping sub-appellations. This AVA; has the right combination of heat, nutrient-poor soils, low rainfall and cool night temperature swings, which make for the perfect storm of flavor and finesse. 

That coupled with boat-loads of concentrated fruit, stunning aromatics, and full tannins, making for some tasty wines with long aging potential. It would seem from my experience, laying these wines down for a few years before approaching them would be a wise move. If you not sampled their wines before may I suggest that you start with the now stunning 2006 vintage.
As you can see from the image above, Blue Sky, White Earth, Red Mountain. So to say, this is an ideal spot for growing vitis vinifera [aka, the wine bearing grape] would be a huge understatement. 
I can attest to hot arid conditions during the day, because the day I was there during the bloggers conference, we got to experience life like a grape with the hot-sun beating down on our faces. But because of the diurnal shift in the night time hours it gives wine grapes bold flavors and good acid.
This is the view from the bottom of the steps; from there you can see clear out to the Horse Heaven Hills in the distance [btw, just on the other side of those hills you'll find Oregon]. Hills, which look set ablaze with a golden orange color at sunrise and, like an old-mans face, a morning fog like shaving cream rest atop the hills just waiting for the razor of hot sun to burn them off [See Below].
You have to wake-up pretty early in the morning to get this view, and be prepared to snap quickly [the picture above was take from Terra Blanca]. 
The last time I was there, they had some of their 2011 fermenting away in the tank, a very cool year, even on Red Mountain. 

I was part of one the tours/taste they offer. Tours, which can be booked via their website, thinking to myself this had to be one thee most immaculate wineries I've ever been to, nothing was out of place. It almost smelled too clean, if there is such a thing. 
As you can see the letters are quite large and can be seen easily from afar and, found atop of the massive staircase which takes you up to the very comfy tasting salon. 
Now about the wine in my glass, as I mentioned above I did sample both the 2006 and the 2007 at various stages, even sampled the 2007 out of the barrel and at time I thought "hmmm, these wines are very good, but" they just didn't have that wow-factor. But as time went by, in bottle these wines matured and really came into their own; so much so that reading about the current scores of 90+ points, I could not agree more. 

In fact I'm echoing their impressions with my own 93 point score on both vintages. These wines are highly recommended to any vino-sapien considering adding Washington State juice to their cellar. Both vintages had real depth of flavor, layered complexity and spoke "terroir" quite eloquently.After the deftly polished tannins, the well integrated judicious use of oak, and the long seamless finish, you find a wine with real "soul" and substance. 

A wine well worth the price of admission; which is $75 per 750ml bottle; but the savvy shopper can find these sames bottles for less if you know where to look. Right now is a good opportunity to grab a vertical of their wines with the 06, 07 and the 08 all being available for purchase.

Both vintages are a blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon leading the way. The 2006 was the first vintage produced at the [new facility]winery in Benton City. And with the 2008 vintage having now been released, receiving high praise, what you may have not noticed, that with each vintage the percentage of estate fruit grows toward the goal of becoming 100% estate fruit and, also 100% Red Mountain fruit. If you look at the AVA on the bottle, right now it states Columbia Valley.

Okay, so you may...be thinking, "uh okay Mr. Cuvee your thinking is that $75 bones is worth the price of admission, but I don't have that kind of coin". Alright I hear you, I hear you so here's a bright idea, how about "Shining Hill" which is their second label, it sells for a SRP of $40 and while I've never sampled SH, it does appear well received with an average score on Cellar Tracker of 90 points.

Some may wonder: "okay, uh..you seem to really be high on Red Mountain in general, what it's in it for you?" That is a fair question, but there's is nothing "in-it" for me personally; other than the pure satisfaction of being a guide-post of sorts. One that points the way to some of the best juice in the world and Red Mountain is certainly one of those places you need to discover for yourself. Moreover, I'm convinced that once you do, there will be no turning back. And until next folks, remember as always, "Sip long and prosper cheers!"

Full Disclosure: On my last visit, the tour and subsequent tasting fees were waived. All wines reviewed were purchased at my own expense.   

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Rules of Wine Festival


“Life is the only game in which the object of the game is to learn the rules.” – Ashleigh Brilliant

Rules, rules, rules they're everywhere and, just about anywhere one may look and, if you're ever in doubt about what the rule is, then there's the "rule of thumb" 

But what about the "rules" for going wine-tasting? What are they? Should there be any? I think there should be and so do many other seasoned vino-sapiens.  So whether it's a wine festival, a portfolio tasting, or just the average garden-variety wine tasting, it's important to understand a few rules before the next tasting.

Seeing I have just come back from a wine-festival of sorts the other day, I thought it would be a good idea to help the average vino-sapien understand the rules-of-engagement sort-a-speak and, more importantly the view-point from the other side of the tasting table. 

This somewhat humorist list of rules, which will have many of you laughing and, following out your chair. This list is being republished here, courtesy of my friends at the Hedges Family Estate and you can find the original posting here via their trade dispatch.

Rules at a Wine Festival:

- Don’t tether your wine glass to your neck.

- Don’t pinch your fingers and say, “Just a little.”  Dump it if you don’t want to finish it, but I’m going to pour as much as I damn well please.

- Don’t violently lift your glass mid-pour and say, “That’s enough.”  Same deal as above.

- Don’t say, “Give me the biggest thing you have.”  This isn’t NASCAR.

- Let “smooth” take the day off from your vocabulary… the whole day

- Don’t shove.  [I mean… really]

- Don’t say you hate Merlot. We all saw Sideways. Guess what: Miles didn’t want to drink Merlot because it reminded him of his ex-wife. That bottle he drank in the end—his most precious bottle—had a ton of Merlot in it.

- Don’t tell every winemaker about the winery that was down the street while you lived in Lodi.

- Don’t ask how the wine scored… ever.

- Do wear a “Wine’er, Dine’er, 69’er T-shirt

- If you are going to wear one of the those little food trays that has a cutout for your glass, you better be damn sure you are cool enough to wear it.  Note: no one is that cool.

- Over-buff late thirties guy: Don’t try to impress your date by contradicting me.  You’re going to fail.  Yeah, try me!

- Don’t lick your glass… pig!

- Don’t talk about your sulfite allergy.  There is a good chance you have no idea what you’re talking about.

- Don’t dump into the water pitcher.  And always look before you drink out of it.

- Practice spitting at home; it will come in handy.

- Don’t talk about the legs after you swirl the glass.  Here’s a tip: the legs don’t matter.

- Don’t take your heels off and puke in the lobby. [purple cookies are gross]

- Don’t ask what the most expensive wine on the table is.

- Keep the rim of your glass food free. [Ewww]

- If you proclaim that you don’t like white or rose, we will make fun of you when you walk away.

- NO Perfume!  And go light on the lipstick, honey!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Grenache

Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle. ~Robert Anthony

And I'm the kind of wine-guy who likes to gargle with Sauvignon Blanc before heading off to a tasting, and no I didn't swallow. But now that you have that amazing image in your brain [you're welcome] it's time to get down and dirty with one of my favorite grapes, Grenache. 

And yes each one of these wines is high-alcohol; like the one pictured above sporting a whopping 15% [oh-my] or very near 15%; so save me the crocodile tears and the fits of anguish over the whole, wines are "getting-to-hot" nonsense. Because each of the following wines I'll be reviewing today, have a balanced approach [although not necessarily tasty], even with the high abv.


Okay, so I received these wines last year as samples [and so did a whole lot of other blobbers] and I'm just now getting around to reviewing them. Each wine has three things in common; all three had Joel Gott as their winemaker, all three are Grenache and all three are from the same vintage, 2010. 


Now that said, in today's review spotlight will be, Shatter, Alakai and The Show. As I said, Grenache is one of my favorite grapes and I know you're not supposed to have favorites, but I do so get over it. Now speaking of favorites, only one of the three wines in today's spotlight actually tripped my trigger, the other two "meh" they were okay. 


1. 2010 Garnacha Calatayud, Spain, "The Show": Typically I'm all over wines like this, their flavor, complexity and down-right feel-good wine drinking is their hallmark. But not so this time, in order to SAVE on costs, the wine was fermented in concrete tanks, while only 20% is aged in oak. 

I thought the wine showed a lot of potential, being from a 40year old vineyard site, but it lacked that umph. My score on this wine is 84 points, this is one "Show" I'd forget about seeing. Price Range: $13 - $20 most places.

2. 2010 Alakai California Red Wine: Again another wine with big potential, a rocking Rhone-Zone blend featuring; 77% Grenache, 17% Syrah, 4% Mo-ved, and a drop of Petite Sirah. This time around, barrel aging was employed, but the grapes grabbed for this mission; could not bring home the cat. I was sadly disappointed in this wines performance. 

I found the wine underwhelming and disjointed. Not sure if it would be worth the wait, but a bit more time bottle could allow flavors to integrate a bit more. It’s not bad, but not stellar enough to make me reach for my wallet either and my score 84 points. Price: $18 

3. 2010 Shatter Grenache, Languedoc-Roussillon, France: This folks is how you do it, and do it right. If you want drink a wine, one which boxes well above its weight class, than this is your ticket to Pay-Per-View wine-stopping excitement.  

This wine is a result of first-time collaboration with Mr. Dave Phinney [of Prisoner fame] and Joel Gott, but it would appear Mr. Phinney's now iconic style took the lead. This is a brilliant wine; produced from a steep hillside vineyard, planted 60 years [black, fractured schist] ago near a small town in Roussillon, in a place called Mauray. So duh, no guessing why this wine is number one, priced higher than the others and two, why it beat the snot out those other two poseurs above.


The wine had me from the word go, soon as I popped the cork on this bad-boy, I knew it was game on. In the glass; this wine is sporting a deep, nearly opaque ruby color, while inviting red-berry aromas easily escape from the glass, inviting the first slurp. From the first pour the last drop, this wine is nothing but Grenache goodness at its best. The soft French oak is nicely woven into the wines vivid dark and red fruit core; you barely even realize it's there. The finish is long, lasting and it drives deep. In a word this wine is seamless. 


Well worth the price of admission at the SRP of $31, but you're in luck if you live in San Diego. Because this 93 point wine is just coming back into stock at one of my favorite retailers Vintage Wines and I just confirmed they do sell this wine for $27 [btw, they can ship if you live out-of-state].

Do want to read the story behind the Shatter Collaboration? If so click here.

Full Disclosure: The wines above as I've stated were sent to me as samples for the review process. And two, I do not work for Vintage Wines in any capacity, but they probably wish I did, ha. Until next time folks remember to sip long and prosper cheers

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Rhone Zone:2010 Delas Saint-Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone

“If you only drink the same wines that everyone else is drinking, than you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ A wise Vino-Sapien

Well good afternoon every and welcome to March, here in San Diego it looks like we are having some summer like weather, just ahead of the coming Spring. Sadly my friends on the East coast are still in full blown winter mode and for that I'm truly sorry. 

But on the bright side, it looks like a good opportunity for them to indulge in one of my favorite Winter wines, Port. So all I can say is lean into it, because before you know you'll be looking Spring right in the face soon. 

In today's review is a fantastic wine, one that is so easy on the wine-budget, you may become giddy with delight, perhaps even a few hand-springs, okay-okay perhaps that's just a bit too ambitious. 

But you will soon get my point after you uncork what I can only describe as one most "complete" bottles of wine for $12 you will find any where, and here's where you can get some for yourself.

This wine has everything the average vino-sapien is looking for via earthy, mineral-driven nuances, [you literally taste the vineyard dust] light engaging aromatics which draw you in for the first slurp. A food friendly wine with a gentle verve of dark and red fruits pulsing though its soul. 

Even the garden variety wine-twirler will get this wines easy going and easy to get along with personality; a wine that's easy as a Sunday morning. This is the style of wine which makes food pairing choices so easy and wonderfully fun. I can't imagine too many things that would not pair well with this wonderfully well-made wine from a stellar vintage. And a unique blend with Syrah leading the way at 70% and, the balance 30% of palate cleansing Grenache.

If you've never taken a visit to the Rhone-Zone, as I like to call it; then this folks is your ticket to ride. A wine that will come out, shake your hand and you'll become fast friends. It will leave you wondering why you had not met sooner. My score on this wine is 90 points, the kind of wine to purchase by the case load. Easy, fun and flavorful, so very worth the tiny price of admission. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

Disclosure: I secured the wine featured in today's review with my own cold-hard cash from my employer; Bird Rock Fine Wine.
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