Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

About San Diego: Costco Update

As the year is about be snubbed out like a dinner party candle, at the end of the evening, I thought it would be a great time to do a bit of a refresh on local San Diego Costco wine scene. The last article I wrote on this iconic stack-it-deep, sell it cheap big-box store has become thee most viewed post that I've ever written. So I wanted to add a few more observations, which I hope will enhance your next wine shopping experience to this vino slinging phenom.

I know there's Costco Wine Blog [supposedly not affiliated], chock full of many reviews of the wines they carry. There is also a Costco Connection with a focus on wine, but it really does not give tips to shoppers or as Costco employees like to refer to you as "members" on the practical everyday issues facing their members. Because I often find myself wandering down the aisles of many local San Diego Costco's looking for good vino deals and I also hand-sell wine for various labels, I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on a few "new" observations that I've made, which you may find helpful.

•  If you are a point shopper; look for older vintages that have been "reviewed" [with a high-score] under the pile of the new vintage which has been stacked on top of it. Many of their stores are not conscience [or they are just too busy] of rotating older vintages to the top of the box, as they rush just to keep boxes full [advantage to the savvy shopper].

• If you see an asterisk on the on their price signs, it usually means that item is just temporary [but how temporary remains to be seen]. So if the bottle of vino you really like, which is marked as such, you may just want to stock up before it's gone.

• Most of you reading this have a "smart-phone" but I don't see you using them too often when you're curious about ratings on wine you're considering. So go ahead whip it out, scan the bar-code or just Google it, you are more likely than not to find it has been reviewed on a blog or even one of the discussion boards like Cellar Tracker.

• Don’t be afraid to step outside of the everyday staples you’ve become use to. Yes, they may be your favorite tried and true style of wine, but nothing ventured nothing gained. For crying out loud, it just a bottle of wine and not your next living-room set, so lean into it. Think about it for a moment, often what you'll find is that your old stand-by is a wine made in a formulaic style, one that will always be available. So if I were you I'd ask one of the friendly Costco Merchandisers to make a recommendation on something new or check back here often for tips on finding a new wine to try. File this recommendation under something new, take for example the Rosso Montalcino, which can be found in many of their stores. It's a great alternative for Pinot Noir drinkers, who love light bodied, fruit driven wines, which will pair easily with many styles and types of food [advantage to the adventurous shopper].

• Looking for older California Napa Cab’s? As suggested in a recent Wall Street Journal article by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, “older Cabernet, with tastes that have melded and tannins that have softened” which makes these wines a great pairing partner with many entrees. I stand witness to that fact, having uncorked many older wines this year, I found that many of rough profiles of Cabernet had really mellowed, giving way to softer tannins, subtle fruit, which led to more pliable food pairing opportunities. I keep seeing older Cabernet Sauvignon showing up in the local Costco stores here in San Diego, for example the Narsai David 2004 Cuvée Venus, selling for half the SRP, quite a steal. Give it a swirl!

• This last point is for the folks who make the buying decisions at Costco, I know you probably don’t want or need my advice. But honestly your customers are clamoring for a sweet red wine [besides the Six Grapes port]. I would recommend carrying the Lambrusco as one of the “stales” of the wine department aisles and not just the large format Riunite that I’ve seen pedaled in some stores. Hey don’t laugh, remember it was Eric Asimov who said, “Not So Fast: Don’t Dismiss Lambruscos”. It’s not for everyone, but a large percentage of Costco members are earnestly looking for a replacement to the Stella Rosa.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oakville Uncorked: Swanson Vineyards

It has been said; “There is no friend like an old friend who has shared our morning days, no greeting like his welcome, and no homage like his praise.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“Paying Homage” a term very much in vogue in our day and age; it flows from the concept, which now often appears in the “arts” where one artisan shows respect to a style of art. Whether that artisan is a winemaker, painter or author, by calling it homage, such as Homage to Bordeaux it allows each creative artist an opportunity to show respect to an admired tutor, by alluding to their work on a similar, but different canvas.

It's with this idea in mind that I want to highlight the work of Mr. Chris Phelps, an artisan, a winemaker, a painter whose canvas sprawls across the 100 acres of prime real estate in the Napa Valley. In fact it sits on the valley floor, in the Oakville appellation: on the Oakville Cross Road, between Opus One and Silver Oak [you may have heard of these wineries]. The brush in his hand represented by acres of prime-time Merlot fruit from the famed Oakville Appellation, which was planted in the 1980's, I didn't see that coming.

Chris decided to get on-board with Swanson Vineyards in 2003; in-part because he thought it would be the perfect fit for his desire to pay homage to Château des Laurets in Puisseguin-St. Emilion where he "cut" his winemaking teeth during the blockbuster 1982 BDX harvest. Swanson Vineyards must have seen the opportunity to bring Chris on-board as a way to continue their storied history of consistently producing French-style wine from their Oakville vineyards. A match made in heaven and one painted on the finished wines awaiting your purchase in their cellars. In my mind, wine is an everyday luxury and wines from Swanson Vineyard are emblematic of that thought.

2008 Swanson Vineyards Oakville Merlot: This again is the type of wine, that says, "hey I'm from somewhere". The kind of Merlot that gives me hope for California Merlot, which has been getting slapped around pretty good lately by the bruisers from Washington State. In the glass a shimmering ruby colored core, a nose full of ripe plums, cassis, floral accents. After the first slurp, abundant red and dark fruits, smooth tannins, nicely balanced by bright acidity and great overall structure. A wine built for years of aging, but is drinking very nicely at the moment. I would recommend an hour of decanting for maximum enjoyment. Looking for a pairing suggestion; I'd go for a wonderful fresh made grilled Burger, which is what I did and it was fantastic. This wine sells for a SRP of $38, but I've seen it selling a few places for well under $30. For those keeping score, this wine scored a solid 89 points.

2007 Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon: A brillant, rich wine produced from the Schmidt Ranch Vineyard located in the Oakville AVA. Many wine writing gurus and commentators have dubbed the '07 vintage in Napa as being one of the best in recent memory. Of course there is a cadre of dissenters out there poking holes in that theory, saying how wrong headed it was to make that proclamation. All of that aside, I really enjoyed this very "big" wine, which  is drinking nicely now, but I think it would be so much better years from now. For someone like me, this is the a wine to purchase, lay-down and uncork for a special occasion years from now. In the glass a densely packed crimson colored core. The nose is engulfs your senses with rich cassis, dark espresso and ripe plum covered in a bit of vineyard dust. After giving this wine a-go, a rich velvet curtain of black ripe cherry, black licorice, a silky structure and a long plush finish. After the first slurp, I thought it would break out the decanter; to coax out all this wines many fine points and nuances, a long decanting at room-temp is recommended. This wine sells for a SRP of $75, but the savvy shopper can find this long-term cellar gem for somewhere south of the SRP. I gave this wine a score of 91 points, it's highly recommended.

In the interest of full disclosure, both of these wines were sent to me for the wine review process. If you find yourself in the Napa Valley give Swanson Vineyards a call to book your own tasting, they have a couple different and unique experiences available. Until next time folks continue to sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Baby Brunello: 2008 Pinzale Rosso di Montalcino

Well the Christmas holiday has just passed here in the states, but trees still twinkle as the sun fades from view. The shimmering packages once concealing treasured gifts underneath the trees now lay open and are cast aside like yesterday's news. Many kids still freshly awash in the glow of new found trinkets; given to them from various sources, as many parents struggle today just to makes ends meet, let alone footing the largess of the holiday bill.

It is with that thought in mind, part of the reason that I'm writing this review in the first place. For many, times are tough and finding a wine with soul can be a difficult task for under $15. I secured this wine from a local Costco, a bottle dwelling in virtual obscurity until it was brought to my attention the other day by one of my co-workers, a young man named Eric. Oh, I don't work at Costco; I'm just a wine brand ambassador of sorts.

This wine was secured by the sweat of my own brow [okay, no sweat was actually involved] and no samples were uncorked in the process of writing this review. So the other part of the reason, I wanted to bring this wine to your attention, is that it represents in this reviewers mind, what I like to call an, "an everyday luxury". By the way, if you're keeping score and I know many of you are, this wine is from the famed Montalcino region, renown for producing some of the very best wines in the world, not only in terms of its superior ageability, but also its vast depth of complexity and outstanding flavors, while reminding you of where it came from every step of the way. I gave this wine a mouth-watering 90 points.

So yeah, this not a chemistry-set wine, conjured up inside a multi-million gallon sprawling complex, where one grape hardly has any idea where it came from, let alone what variety it may happen to be. Oh no my friends this wine has a soul, it knows where it came from and it boldly, no I say proudly proclaims it heritage in every long swirl, slurp and the occasional burp. This fantastic wine has a pedigree [it has to show its papers], Rosso di Montalcino is made from 100% Sangiovese-Grosso [the little dark one] and is grown in the very same region as Brunello di Montalcino, hence the name "baby-brunello".

These particular clones of Sangiovese are unique to the Montalcino region; they've been specifically developed to adapt this area's specific terroir, which tends to be warmer and more arid there than the rest of Tuscany [specifically the Chianti Zone]. In my opinion; Brunello's seem to have many similarities to Pinot Noir wines of Oregon, because of its smooth tannins [round mouth feel] and ripe, rich earth and fruit driven character. A flavor profile which is wonderfully expressed in many "Rosso" or young red wines from Montalcino. Helping to keep the prices on the reasonable side of the equation; is that fact that these wines 
spend on average just six months in barrel and six in bottle before release.

The price on this wine came in just below $12, most of these styles of wine are in the $18 to $21 price range, so finding a wine of this caliber for this price, makes the Pinzale Rosso di Montalcino a best-buy. In the glass you'll find a light colored ruby core, the nose has real pop with dark rich plum, cherry and rich earth bathing your senses, like a trailer of the coming summer action movies. After finally giving the wine a go or as I like to call it the first splash down, bursting rich ripe dark plums, ripe dark cherries, a taste of Tuscan country-side and generous rich round mouth-feel. Bright acidity holds it all together, like a canvas upon which lies a brilliant painting [insert favorite artist here], making this one fantastic wine, amendable to many easy food pairing situations. I like to say; "this is the kind of wine that does not get in the way of what you're eating, it instead complements it, making for a better dining experience".

Honestly folks you're not going to find too many tastier 2008's than this one right here and at this price you better get your self on down there before it's all gone. But what do I know, this is just a hobby. By the way, I helped to move a few cases of this wine in just a couple hours, before I wrote this review, so good luck. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers! Full Disclosure: I do NOT represent this wine in any capacity what so ever or Misa Imports.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wine of the Week: Elyssia, Cava from Spain

It has been said that; "Dreams are nothing but incoherent ideas, occasioned by partial or imperfect sleep ~ Benjamin Rush. It's from over-worked slumber that I often awake from a nights sleep, remembering wild dreams, replete with wild concepts or new ideas. Where do those ideas end up, somewhere on the back-burner of my subconscious, whispering in the dark, "someday; someday". But alas, I'm not a writer, more of a chronicler of impressions about the vinous world of which brings me and so many others so much joy. It's my hope to bring some of that joy to an empty glass near you.

If I were a writer, I'd not be making a flimsy living in the sales game by day and blogging by night. But still it's my hope that something I put down in this blog will become a sort of mediocre guide post of sorts, helping the wandering-wino to find some of the best juice on the market today, wines with a soul.

Does it have to cost $124 to acquire a vintage 2002 Dom to make you happy, I dare say nay, not even one bit. But its mere appearance as a gift in a many splendid box, may just make a much bigger splash, than the bubbles awaiting in that bottle awaiting to be released upon the unsuspecting. But what do I know, I'm not a certified anything, I've got no credentials, got no stinking papers, hell I don't even have a badge.

I'm just an wine-soaked enthusiast who wants to help the average garden variety vino-sapien make their way through the purple stained pages of wanna-be wine-sage to find a quaffable glass of wine. With that random mess of thought having smacked you across the face, like the awkward toss of a stinky mackerel at your favorite local fish market, it's time swerve into a review of new found bubbly I received as a sample sometime last month.

With it nearly being time to suck down a few suds to ring in the New Year, I know many of you maybe thinking what kind of juice you should you be uncorking for New Years. If you want to make it something new and different, than you could not possibly get more different than this bottle of wine from our mutual friends at Freixenet. This beautiful bottle of bubbly [Cava] resides in an eloquent bottle, the wine itself is dressed to impress from the first sip to the last bubbly drop. Pairing suggestion; I'm thinking a holiday style glazed spiral cut ham and a fresh home made summer potato salad, replete with olives, hard boiled eggs, macaroni and tuna.

A unique blend of Pinot Noir and Trepat, full of intensely ripe summer red fruit aromas evocative of summer simmer on the beaches of Barcelona. Rich, elegant yet ripe raspberries, red currants and bright newly harvested cherries fill your glass, while at the same time bringing beautifully balanced acidity to the party and at long last giving the weary reveler a refreshing, yet long lasting finish. It has a SRP of a mere $18 and is widely available. I gave this bubbly score of 91 points; I recommend it to you highly to help you ring in the New Year. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World's Best Bargain Wines

For most folks, much of the main Christmas shopping is now done, but some are still traipsing through crowded malls, looking for the perfect stocking stuffer for their wine loving friends or family members. I have a great idea to help you get that last minute gift secured. In fact I wrote a quick review of a book from one of my favorite authors, whose wine soaked journey's makes for the a fun look behind the label of many folks favorite wines.

Many folks today seeing the vapid materialism of Christmas, wonder geez what's the point? Helping to answer the question is a very unlikely source, but one we can all take some comfort in hearing his sage advice, “That’s the true spirit of Christmas; people being helped by people other than me”~Jerry Seinfeld. Now don't you feel better? His statement could not be truer, as I know many folks looking for a perfect gift this holiday season will be immensely helped by Natalie MacLean’s latest book Unquenchable.

Well well, we are right smack-dab in the middle of the Christmas shopping-season, just a few days left to get your shopping done. It’s with that in mind that I wanted to bring to your attention one of the best reads in recent memory, from an author who I not only admire, but I also appreciate her common sense approach to the wine scene. This book, in my opinion, is a must read for the average garden variety wandering-wino or even the cave dwelling vino-sapien in the audience suffering from a spat of sulfite fatigue...Read More

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport

With the drum beat of the gift-giving season rapidly increasing its beat and many businesses, schools and government offices getting ready to close up for the holiday break, it's time to think about getting away. Yes, time for the "family" vacation to spend time with loved ones or perhaps you just want to beat it down to old Acapulco Bay, with the rest of the snow-birds. Where you may still hear old blue-eyes croon, pack-up, it's time to fly away.

I've been doing a bit of traveling lately, running around the planet [okay mostly Spain and Italy] attempting to track down, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices, meeting the wonderful folks behind the labels, meeting winemakers, seeing the terroir where the grapes are actually growing and traipsing through dozens of  tasting rooms along the way. But in order to get out there, you have to wade through some pretty tasteless and unforgiving terrain, known to many travelers as the airport concourse, while waiting for your flight [which is sometimes hours].

I can't say I've been to every airport around the globe, not even close and some of you will be able to top my own experiences, fantastic. But to date, for me personally if I have to get stuck at an airport for a long layover, then I want to spend those long layover hours in Seattle's Sea-Tec Central Terminal. Why you may ask? Well perhaps, it's because they have free Wi-Fi, a great view of incoming and out going plane traffic, comfortable seating, charging stations, a few decent dining options, or perhaps most of all someone got smart and added a sanctuary for the civilized. 

What am I talking about? Of course I'm referring to a wine bistro, called Vino Volo. A groovy little slice of heaven for the weary wandering wino that serves wines by the glass or grab a "flight" before your flight. You can also treat your
self to a full menu of gourmet small-plates, just take a peek at the menu, I scored the carnitas plate, while slurping down a trio of wines from Washington State. Now while I had a great experience and commend it to you, just be aware that the prices for bottle purchases seem a bit above, normal retail, but fall far below prices many restaurants charge via extreme mark-ups.

Also as a bonus, lets say you find a wine you love during your tasting they are available for purchase, and since you're in the "secure-zone"  allowing you to take your chosen wine on the connecting flight as a carry-on or you have the option to have it shipped home. So the next time you're in Seattles Sea-Tac please avail yourself of the vino-topia that awaits the thirsty vino-sapien, with a visit to Vino Volo. I wish you all safe travels this year, where ever you end up and the very merriest of holidays to you all. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Planet Bordeaux: Uncorks Bargain Bordeaux

It has been said, "Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day life more civilized." ~ André Simon. For many newbie vino-sapiens or even the newly minted wanna-be wino looking around the vino landscape, it's far too easy to stick to the garden variety staples of the wine aisle. Whether it's Napa Valley Cabernet's, Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir's from the Russian River Valley. I totally get that attitude, I was there once and appreciate your conundrum when you start thinking, "is there something beyond these "staples" which will make me just as happy", the answer is a resounding yes, but not in a formulaic fashion.

With that said, I want to introduce you to some very tasty wines from the shores of France, a little place called Bordeaux, perhaps you've heard of it [ha]? Now I know when many folks hear the word Bordeaux, especially vino-newbies, they perhaps think of two things; big wines that need time to get better and wines that tend to be on the expensive side of the equation. I won't try to candy-coat the truth here, those impressions are more true, than they're false. Unfortunately, it's those impressions which keep many folks away buying or even considering Bordeaux and that is a shame.

I think you'll then be surprised to find out, that the words Bordeaux and Bargain can go together, sitting comfortably next to each other in the same sentence. Oh, yes it's true. Perhaps you're thinking, "oh okay so if it's a bargain, than it's just plonk" again I'd generally be with you in that sentiment. However, as someone who has been running to explore wines from all over this grape-filled world, we all live in and having recently participated in a Bordeaux tasting the other night, via Twitter, I am happy to report back to you that there are many wines from Bordeaux [BDX] which are easy on the pocket-book and are ready to rock your palate with a boat load of finesse and fun flavors.

The wines I experienced last night are just the tip of the iceberg in the many gems you will find in BDX bargain aisle. But at the same time you have learn to navigate the waters correctly or end up with a Titanically Tannic wine that may never be able to right itself in your glass, before its down the drain.  That said, enter a host of wine-bloggers who were invited to sit in on a live tasting sponsored by the kind folks at Planet Bordeaux who provided us with a tasting sample pack which included five wines, with price points ranging from $12 to $20 and each from a different producer.

If you are curious to take a look at the conversation that transpired, click on the #planetbordeaux hastag.  There was one wine in the tasting which I truly don't think would trip most folks triggers. I appreciate a wine that gives you a sense of where it came from, as much as the next guy and I've learned to enjoy those styles of wine, which frankly have what I would call more of a rustic or austere
flavor profile.

And seeing that most folks reading this blog, don't get it the whole "place" debate or care about "typicité of the grape or the place it was grown" [Rick Bakas], so instead I focus on wines which are by-and-large approachable to the wine-swirling masses, boo-yah! My recommendations are not for other wine-bloggers, to ooh and ahh over, nope I write for the everyday vino-sapien who wants to have well made, easy drinking wines swirling about in their collective glasses.

1] Chateau de Parenchere BDX Clairet 2010: Cutting through the fog on the label, this wine is a brillant clairet which is not a Rosé, to which you may say huh?. Although it walks like one and smells like a Rosé, it is in fact a very different creature, showing depth, structure and dare I say more fruit. It even has its own AOC: the Bordeaux Clairet to regulate its production. But enough of that, complex aromas fill the air just above the rim; rich raspberry, peach and spice overtones. You’ll find it soft, yet full. The tasteful fruit of blackberries, redcurrants and raspberries hit your mouth like a slap-shot from your favorite hockey player, giving intense round flavors that marry easily with food; like the Broccoli Beef, a delightful dish from PF Chang's menu. My Score: 89 points. This wine sells for a SRP of $12, highly recommended.

2] Chateau Lamothe Vincent 2009: A wine you'll find available predominately on the East Coast, is robust blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. A bright vivid ruby colored wine the glass, made in an easy to drink, very fruity style. Here’s what to expect, ripe black cherry, odd red-vine licorice, a small dusting of cassis and newly ripened strawberries splashed with a bit of silty-clay. You’ll also get a subtle bit of toasty spice. Most of mouth-filling flavors are found mid-palate and then drop off in the end, saving grace smooth tannins abound. This wine sells for a SRP of $15. My score: 86 points. Recommended, but not enthusiastically so, meaning I wouldn’t go out of my way to procure a bottle, but wouldn’t turn down a glass if offered.

3] Chateau de Bel 2009: Okay, I'm going to be frank right here, this wine did NOT come dressed to impress. It's the kind of wine, you'd find dressed in an uncomfortable bur-lap bag, making you scratch your head, wondering why? It's even more funny that this wine, is predominantly impressed just about everyone else in the tasting. I was the only who dared to say, "umm, the king has no clothes on" and as predicted my comments were not well received. This is not the type of BDX, you'd want to introduce to folks interested in getting their first intro into the BDX wine scene. I found this wine unapproachable, flat out dry, tannic, rustic, barely scent of flavor. The red and dark fruit flavors are mostly muted, while earthiness, olive are emphasized. This wine sells for a SRP of $15. My score: 82 points.

4] Chateau Reignac Vendanges 2008: This delightful blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc, impressed me from the first moment I pulled the cork. A lovely bouquet jumped from the opening of my glass as I poured my first slurp. A sweet barbecue, chocolate truffles and a fine Cuban-cigar enthralled me, giving me ample indication I was going to enjoy this wine immensely. After getting the wine in the glass, a rich garnet color rim to rim. Here's what to expect once it's sloshing about your mouth; abundant mix of red and dark berry fruit, riding along with plenty of dark cocoa, rich-toast, mineral and tar-note, floating on a groovy acid, leading to the plush finish. A great foodie wine, that will easily marry with many types of food. This is kind of wine that will make folks think, "oh-so this is BDX?" Well the answer is yes and know, while it give that sweet-rustic old-world authenticity there is a nod to the easier to quaff international style. My Score: 91 points. This wine sells for a stunningly low price of $20 and is widely available. Drinking great now, but has the stuffing to sit down for a few years, if you're thinking about a case purchase.

5] Chateau Larteau 2005: A wine from the famous Bordeaux '05' vintage, which didn't fail to deliver. This tasting definitely saved the best for the last two spots in the line-up. I'm really impressed with this 100% Merlot effort, a wine that would get up in Miles grill with a few expletives of its own, challenging his "No F'g Merlot" policy. This wine is drinking fab right now, you can expect a well rounded harmonious tannins and acidity that carry the abundant ripe dark plums and blackberry flavors. Nicely integrated oak influences, play nicely with the supporting cast of tobacco and floral flavors, on the polished finish. This wine sells for a mere $15 and is widely available. Another great intro into the BDX wine scene, pairs easily with many foods and my score of 90 points makes this wine highly recommended.

These wines reviewed above were sent as media samples for the review process. I hope you will seek out these wines out for yourself, until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy Syrah: Viva la Revolucion!

In a conversation about a movement afoot in the then Kingdom of France; the King and one of his counselors had a conversation that went something like this "Is it a rebellion?" asked Louis XVI of the count who informed him of the fall of the Cabernet. "No, sire," came the reply. "It is a revolution." Indeed it's a revolution to take back Syrah's rightful place in the cellars of wine-lovers, cork-dorks and even the garden variety vino-sapien. It's time to expose those 1% grapes for what they are, hogs of the lime-light, currying wine lovers favor with its fat over-oaked flair, flauting its grape growing superiority and market saturation. It's time to strike back, it's time to occupy Syrah.

I already have a beautiful wine open from a wonderful producer down-under, a winery called Chapel Hill Wine sitting in the wonderfully beautiful McLaren Vale AVA. You'll will find their winery tucked-in between the vast rolling hills and a picturesque coastline. Where a quick and highly recommend visit will introduce you McLaren Vale’s Mediterranean climate. A climate that has created ideal conditions for grape-growing and ensured that the region is recognized as a leader in environmentally sustainable viticulture. We say Syrah, they say Shiraz, but I say delicious.

Wow, in the glass this wine is a stunningly dark crimson color, great extraction. The wine rested in 300 liter Oak Hogsheads [meaning oak played a much lesser role] for about 20 months before being bottled in November of 2009 before arriving in my glass here in San Diego. A wine that has traveled a long way, to put a large smile on my face.

A velvet rope of flavor and finesse, a bit of chalky chocolate, ripe blackberry, dark cherry and plum, laid over smooth tannins and knit together nicely with a pop of acidity. Wow, nicely done my score is 91 points, made in a drink now and drink often style that has room to lay down for a few years. It has a suggested SRP of $39.99 but the savvy wine drinker can find this gem selling for $25 and that is a very nice price.

It's time to storm the walls of complacency, it's time to get down with the Rhone Zone. If you agree I hope you will consider to please join us at the Occupy Syrah event today on Wine Wednesday, be sure to use the hash-tag #OccupySyrah to join the conversation. I hope to see you there. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sonoma Uncorked: Kunde Family Estate

It has been said; “Good friends are like stars.... You don't always see them, but you know they are always there” Wow, what truer words could be spoken about one of my favorite wineries in Sonoma. The first time I discovered Kunde was well before I did any kind of wine writing. In fact, it was my first time in Sonoma and Mrs. Cuvee and I were just a newly “minted” couple. We were still wet behind the ears with matrimonial bliss, [ha] ahh the memories.

I remember it was a slow day in the tasting room and we had paid for the reserve tasting, took the "wine-caves" tours, glasses in hand, this where we encountered the same Century Vines Zinfandel from the 2002 vintage. We were so happy with the quality of the wine, we knew we had to take a few home [ I wanted to take more than a few home, but the wife scuttled that idea]. We also brought one of the CV Zins to dinner at the highly recommended Applewood Inn & Restaurant in Guerneville. I photographed the bottle at the table, thinking I really want to remember this bottle, how it tasted, how it made us feel and the excitement of finding a bottle of wine that helped us to celebrate our anniversary.

Fast forward some years later to the future, Mrs. Cuvee and I are still drinking wine and really enjoying it more than ever. Now instead of just taking a few pictures of the wines I fall in love with or jotting down some notes about what I liked about a fab new favorite wine. I share my thoughts with the readers of my blog, which is great fun for me. I think it has been a few weeks now, since I participated in the Kunde "live-tasting" on twitter and had a great conversation via the live video feed with the winemaker Zach Long and estate owner Jeff Kunde and Marcia Kunde Mickelson. It really was like catching up with an old friends.

I also had the chance to catch up with some new wines of which I was not familiar with, but was happy for the opportunity to receive a sample of their 2009 Kunde Family Estate Sonoma Chardonnay, the Kunde Family Estate Red Dirt Red and got reacquainted with an old friend the 2008 Kunde Family Estate Reserve Century Vines Zinfandel.  Although Kunde Family Estate has just put their 107th harvest behind, slumbering in barrel, they have not missed a beat in producing well made wines, that often tip the quality to price ratio scales.

If you find yourself in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, tooling down the Sonoma vino super-highway, be sure to stop by the tasting room, behind the massive door to get inside are few different ways to enjoy their wines and may I also recommend the "free" daily wine caves tours, quite a treat for wine-newbies to see the wines slumbering away, developing character, finesse and complexity. One of today's buzz words is "sustainability" and the Kunde Family estate is proud to say that they have been "certifiable" since 2005, in fact they have been awarded a Green Business Program Certification from the Bay Area Green Business Program.

Now it is time to review the wine that were sent for the review process, after all reviewing wines is the heart-beat of this site and one of the main reasons you tune-in here on occasion. Now that said, I mentioned above I received three samples for this twitter taste live event, two of them knocked it out of the park. The other stalled in the red-zone and had to settle for a field goal attempt.

2009 Kunde Family Estate Chardonnay: This wine sells for a SRP of $17. This wine can be found under a screw-cap for easy access. A wine accented with ripe and spicy pear, a slap of hazelnut laid over a vivid structure and right touch of acidity to carry the fruit, nice mid-palate, but fades a bit toward the end. My score 87 points, paired nicely with seasoned grilled chicken breast.

2008 Kunde Red Dirt Red: This wine sells for an SRP of $28, under a cork closure.. It really lit up the score board nicely; with their reliable blend of Barbera, Syrah, and Zinfandel finished with a drop of Sangiovese as the exclamation point. This wine is made in a drink now and drink often style, uncorked it's dressed to impress. This is the type of blend, that will lend it self to many pairing opportunities, but I'd stick with a trio of some of my barbecue faves; Chicken, Pork, or slow-smoked beef ribs. Abundant dark plum and ripe cherry flavors, painted on a canvas of intensity, balance and voluptuous structure. My score is 91 points. This wine is highly recommended.

2008 Reserve Century Vines Zinfandel: This wine has a SRP of $30, under a cork closure. As I often say during these live tastings, like they guy with no filter, tasting the wines out of order at times, "this is the big boy in the room". To say this wine is a monster of finesse, would be a huge understatement. Depth and complexity draped over abundant red and dark fruit, make this Zinfandel the mother of all "old-vine" Zinfandel's. The Zen of Zinfandel's should really be the title of this wine. In a game of poker with other supposed old vine zins, this wine would be "all-in" sitting pretty with a full house and no I'm not bluffing.

Folks this Zinfandel is the real-deal, not a pretender to the throne like so many other so-called Old-Vines Zins. This wine is produced from the Shaw vineyard [don't miss this] which is reported to be 126 years old, Booyah! This is my second encounter with this same vineyard and oh my the layers of flavor, piped with nice acidity, give the fruit real pop. This is how you do it, not a jammy note insight, this wine is a seamless and the flavor sails on into the horizon. Well done, I give this wine 94 points.

I hope you will seek this wines out and give them a swirl for yourself soon. All the wines recommended above, were sent as a sample for the review process. The recommendations and scores are based solely upon my opinions and impressions, no other type of compensation is given or offered. I receive many wines for the review process and unfortunately not all of them make the cut. That said, thanks for stopping by today, I hope you continue to sip long and prosper, cheers!
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