Wine of the Day, No. 125

Jordan Winery’s decision, all these years, to maintain a focus on only two wines — chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon — is one that I wish more producers would follow. Often I feel that Jordan-Winery-Russian-River-Valley-Chardonnay-2014-WebDetailwineries try to be all things to all consumers, dividing their attention and efforts into too many products at myriad levels of intent and price. That said, winemaker Rob Davis made a change in how the Jordan Chardonnay 2014, Russian River Valley, was treated in the winery. While the 2013 version, for example, aged six months in French oak, 40 percent new barrels, and only 18 percent of the wine went through “malo” — the so-called malolactic fermentation that transforms sharp malic (“apple-like”) acid to creamier lactic (“milk-like”) acid — this present release was barrel-fermented 60 percent in stainless steel tanks and 40 percent in new French oak, aged five and a half months in all new ...

Weekend Wine Notes: Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 15 Examples

I am fond of pinot noir wines from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, particularly for what I perceive to be a general feature of such wines, a thread of rich, damp loamy character that bolsters the other qualities of fruit, acidity and minerality. I love this sensation that feels like a grounding in the earth, this evidence of things unseen under the vineyard. The Willamette Valley AVA was approved in 1984, and over the years was divided into six sub-AVAs as variations in micro-climate and soil were identified. The smaller AVAs are Dundee Hills, McMinnville, Eola-Amity Hills, Chehalem Mountains, Ribbon Ridge and Yamhill-Carlton. What’s interesting about the last region is that only grapes grown in vineyards from 200 to 1,000-feet elevation are entitled to the appellation; the federal government is typically not so fastidious about such matters. The wines under review today originate from the general Willamette AVA and from three of ...
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Wine of the Day, No. 123

We drank the Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2013, Sicilia, with Saturday’s pizza of sweet peppers and Ghiaia Nera 2013 FRONTtomatoes, basil and radicchio, hickory-smoked bacon, mozzarella, parmesan and pecorino. The wine is composed of nerello mascalese grapes grown on the northern slopes of Mount Etna, at just under 2,000 feet elevation. The vines are fairly young, planted in 2004 and 2007. The wine aged 12 months in 60-hectoliter oak barrels, that is barrels of a capacity of 1,585 gallons, considerably larger than the standard 59-gallon French barrique. Nothing elegant here, nor would we expect such from the grape, but rather an expression of directness, of the countryside and the year’s hot, dry summer. The Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2013 is robust without being bumptious and rustic without being rough-shod. The radiant transparent ruby hue is attractive, as are the aromas of ripe black and red cherries and raspberries permeated by notes of briers and brambles, ...

Wine of the Day, No. 122

The Foris Vineyard Pinot Gris 2014, Southern Oregon, might be exactly the wine you’re looking 88014 14 FB_15377_Prooffor in terms of freshness and immediate appeal and in the realm of price. Great as an aperitif or with — in my recent experience — moderately spicy Chinese stir-fry, the wine displays a light straw-gold color with a pale green tinge and lovely aromas of green apple and pear, a wisp of grapefruit and deeper tones of quince and mango; a few minutes in the glass bring out notes of heather, honeysuckle and lilac. The attractive texture has a pleasing talc-like feeling on the palate, as well as crisp acidity and a touch of limestone in the finish, all at the service of tasty yellow stone-fruit flavors. 13.9 percent alcohol. An uncomplicated but luminous, crystalline wine, fashioned by Foris winemaker Bryan Wilson. Now through the end of 2016. Very Good+. About $14. A ...

The Colors of Bonny Doon’s Rosés

Does Randall Grahm need four rosé wines among his current releases from Bonny Doon roseVineyard? One would have to take a dusky stroll through the shadowy, convoluted corridors of Grahm’s imagination to find an answer to that question. Sufficient to our task is the presence of these products — samples for review — not all of which are as straightforward as the term rosé would indicate. Two of these wines are based on Rhone Valley grape varieties, not a surprise since Bonny Doon specializes in wines made from such grapes, but another was made from ciliegiolo grapes, a distaff cousin or bastard child, as it were, to sangiovese, while the last is composed of grapes from France’s southwest region, tannat and cabernet franc. One of the wines produced from Rhone-style grapes aged in glass containers outside for nine months, a process that drained color from the wine and added a ...

Wine of the Day, No. 121

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The Sonoma County designation indicates the basic level of wine for Rodney Strong Vineyards, with the hierarchy, we’ll call it, rising through sub-AVAs like Russian River Valley and Knights Valley up to the powerful single-vineyard cabernet sauvignons. At the Sonoma County range, the wines tend to be well-made, tasty and mainly more solidly varietal than exciting, though I’m happy to make an exception for the Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Sonoma County, a product that bartenders and waiters could sell the hell out of in restaurant by-the-glass programs. Not to say that consumers wouldn’t enjoy it at home with a burger or steak or hearty pasta dish. The wine aged 15 months in American oak barrels (80 percent) with the balance in French oak. The color is a vibrant dark ruby-purple with a magenta cast; it’s a warm and spicy cabernet, bursting with aromas of black currants and raspberries, an ...

Single Vineyard Pinot Noir from MacPhail Family Wines

The idea behind producing wines from one designated vineyard is that such a piece of land, its geology and geography, its soil, bedrock and micro-climate, will result in a wine distinctive in character from a different vineyard, say one across the valley or even down the road. That macphailprinciple drives the fame and fortune of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, for example, because the reputation of that narrow region in eastern France rests on the individual nuances supposedly expressed by vineyards that lie across a country lane from each other or a ball-toss across an ancient stone wall. A slightly different tilt of a slope toward the southeast, a minute diversion in a vineyard’s elevation at exactly the perfect pitch on a hillside, a variation in the type of underlying limestone: These factors influence the quality and character of Burgundy’s renowned and rare Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines and help determine ...

Wine of the Day, No. 120

Here’s a tasty white wine for the first day of Spring. Made all in stainless steel for a feeling of freshness and immediacy, the Alois Lagerder Pinot Bianco 2014, Dolomiti — the Dolomite pinot_bianco_labelmountain ranges in northeastern Italy, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009 — where vineyards in the upper foothills are carved from rocky terraces. The winery was founded in 1823 and now includes the sixth generation of the same family. The color is very pale straw-gold; delicate aromas of green apples and pears, almond skin and orange blossom, hay and heather segue seamlessly into a lovely, light, lithe wine that insinuates itself on the palate with notes of roasted lemon and spiced pear, a hint of thyme and mountain meadow herbs and a high wild peal of grapefruit and limestone. Gosh, what could be more spare, elegant or appealing? 12.5 percent alcohol. A splendid aperitif, ...

Weekend Wine Notes: 12 California Reds — Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir

For this edition of Weekend Wine Notes, I offer a miscellaneous group of red wines from California, dominated by cabernet sauvignon, but with entries from the merlot and pinot noir camps. Truth is, I probably receive more samples of California cabernets to review than from any other region and any other grape variety. State-wide, today, we range from Russian River Valley in the north to Paso Robles in the south. As is usual in this series of Weekend Wine Notes, I dispense with the technical, historical, geographical and personal data that I dote on for the sake of incisive and, I hope, vivid reviews ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks. These wines were samples for review. Enjoy, and always consume in moderation.
Aleksander 2011, Paso Robles. 13.3% alc. 80% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon. 840 cases. Glowing medium ruby color with a transparent magenta rim; ...
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A Little Bit of Italy in Santa Ynez Valley

Bill Mosby is probably weary, weary of people describing his winery as “a little bit of Italy in Santa Ynez Valley,” but that’s the price you pay for adhering to a strict regimen of Italian grape varieties along California’s Central Coast. Today I write about four of his wines, from a roster of 17, as well as grappa, plum brandy and other distillates, all of which he produces in minute quantities. Mosby and his wife Jeri purchased property on the old Rancho de la Vega land grant in 1976, on the Santa Rosa Road south of Buellton — population 4,828 and home of OstrichLand USA — now somewhat a center of the winemaking industry in the valley. The winery features an adobe house built in 1853, the home of the Mosby family, and a carriage house from the 1880s, the winery’s tasting room. We have to approach the problem of ...

Wine of the Day, No. 119

The current release of the Lytton Springs red wine blend from Ridge Vineyards is the 2013, but Iridge lytton purchased the 2012 rendition this weekend at a local store to drink with Saturday night’s pizza. The result was not merely a terrific food and wine match but one of the best red wines we have tasted so far this year. (Yes, I know, the year is still in its infancy.) Ridge Vineyards, founded in 1962 on an abandoned estate established in 1885 in Santa Clara County, is a notable producer of single-vineyard zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon wines, the latter including the Monte Bello label, one of California’s most highly regarded iconic, long-lived cabernets, and tiny quantities of chardonnay. Winemaker Paul Draper began making a zinfandel from the Lytton Springs vineyard, in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley, in 1972. The winery bought Lytton Springs in 1991. The label no longer carries ...

Wine of the Day, No. 118

Here’s a chardonnay that toes the line between richness and elegance with thrilling deftness. The Benovia Winery Chardonnay 2013, Russian River Valley, derives mainly from the winery’s benoviaMartaella Estate Vineyard. It’s barrel-fermented, with indigenous yeasts, and aged 12 months in French oak, 30 percent new barrels. Winemaker was Mike Sullivan. The color is a pale gold that almost shimmers in the glass; it’s a chardonnay of wonderful purity and intensity, offering aromas of pineapple and grapefruit, quince and crystallized ginger, with a hint of the tropical, a touch of musk, and notes of lilac and heather. Nothing overblown or strident here, nor creamy or toasty, as in so many chardonnays from Russian River, yet the wine’s balance and integrity hinge on pinpoint focus and steely resolve, taking a risk with the integration of lushness and limestone spareness; the oak is like a whisper along the wine’s arc of bright acidity ...

Wine of the Day, No. 117

Here’s an irresistible bargain in a white wine from Umbria’s Falesco estate. Composed of 50 percent each vermentino and verdicchio grapes and made completely in stainless steel, the Vitiano Bianco 2014, Umbria IGP, displays a pale straw-gold hue with a faint tinge of ghostly green; aromas of lemon and lemon balm, pear and peach open to hints of thyme and heather, jasmine and almond blossom; a few minutes in the glass add a dimension of lilac, gunflint and talc. It’s a spicy, savory and slightly saline white wine that features lip-smacking acidity and intensity and nicely chiseled layers of limestone and flint; the finish brings in more of the mineral element as well as a final fillip of cloves and slightly dusty rosemary. 12.5 percent alcohol. Begs for fresh oysters shucked from the shell, clam linguine or seafood risotto; also good as an aperitif. Very Good+. About $13 and ...

The Fetzer Boys Make Pinot Noir, Part Two

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On February 8, 2014, I posted the first entry about Jake and Ben Fetzer and the initial offering from their all-pinot noir winery, Masút. I liked their Pinot Noir 2012, Mendocino County, quite a lot and gave it an Excellent rating. Here’s a link to that post and review. Now, we come to the offerings — a regular bottling and a “reserve” — from vintage 2013, which I tasted four to six months ago, and the just released 2014. Notice that the ’12 version aged 10 months in French oak, 33 percent new barrels, while the ’13 and ’14 aged 15 months in French oak, 50 percent new. The ’13 “Two Barrels” aged 15 months in 100 percent new French oak. The increase in the oak regimen is a conscious choice by the winemakers that I consider somewhat misguided — the wines lack the elegance, finesse and eloquence of the ...

Wine of the Day, No. 116

Last Monday, the Wine of the Day No. 113 was the Monte Velho 2014 from the Portuguese producer Herdade do duasEsporão, a rip-roaring bargain at an unbelievable $10 a bottle. Today, I’ll feature that red wine’s white stablemate, the Esporão Duas Castas 2014, Alentejano, another remarkable wine, for the price, yes, but performing far above its price-range. The interesting composition is 60 percent arinto grapes and 40 percent gouveio, certainly notable prizes for those searching for obscure grape varieties to add to their lists. (They’re not obscure, of course, to the growers who tend the vines.) The wine ages briefly on the lees in stainless steel tanks. Duas Castas is a wine that sings of every variation on the lemon theme: pure tangy lemon itself, soothing floral lemon balm and rich lemon curd; there’s even, from a different angle, a note of lemongrass. Cloves and allspice unpack themselves amid ...

Weekend Wine Notes: California Pinot Noir Catch-Up, No. 3, Mostly 2012

I know that some of My Readers are thinking, “Um, F.K., why are you telling us about pinot noirs from 2012? Haven’t these wineries released their 2013s? Aren’t you, like, a little behind the times here?” Laggard, yes, but trying to catch up. And besides, many of these pinots from 2012 still have a retail presence around the country, in physical stores and online. Where you can find them, buy them, because at a bit more than three years after harvest, some of these pinot noirs are drinking beautifully and will continue to do so for four to six more years. To clarify matters, I didn’t just taste these wines; they have been in my notebooks in jottings that go back to last Spring. I am not behind in the experience but in the organizing and publishing. I offer, then, brief reviews of 18 wines that range ...
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Wine of the Day, No. 115

When Dick and Nancy Ponzi founded Ponzi Vineyards in 1970, they were pioneers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Wines_Images1along with such legendary figures as Dick Erath and David Lett. Today, with their daughter Luisa Ponzi as winemaker and daughter Maria as president, the winery continues to grow and thrive as one of the state’s venerable institutions. Our Wine of the Day is the Ponzi Pinot Noir 2013, Willamette Valley, the grapes for which derive from a number of estate vineyards. The wine aged 11 months in French oak, 35 percent new barrels, and was gravity-bottled unfined and unfiltered. The color is a beguiling transparent medium ruby; first, the wine expresses its earthiness in a welter of dust, loam and graphite that opens to notes of ripe black and red currants and cherries inflected with hints of sassafras and cloves, pomegranate and cranberry. Boy, this is a supple, lithe and satiny pinot ...

Wine of the Day, No. 114

Domaine Tournon is one of the Australian wineries of Michel Chapoutier, the far-sighted proprietor of excellent matildaestates in the Rhone Valley and other parts of southern France. I have tasted a few of his Australian wines, but today’s rosé wine is the first I have encountered from Domaine Tournon. Made all in stainless steel from 100 percent grenache grapes, the Tournon Matilda 2015, Victoria, offers a very pale coppery-pink hue and arresting aromas of ripe and slightly fleshy strawberries and raspberries, a bit spiced and macerated; a heathery and meadowy aura of field herbs and wild flowers permeates the whole enterprise, lending irresistible attraction while remaining clean, spare and lithe. A few moments in the glass bring up notes of graphite, mint and dust — along with touches of peach and pomegranate — not pointed or obvious but subtle and restrained. Elements of flint-like minerality and bright acidity lend tone ...