Weekend Wine Notes: Nine Wines at $13 and Under

The title of today’s Weekend Wine Notes requires no explanation. I offer nine wines priced at $13 and under, each in a group of three, divided into Washington State, California and Italy’s Veneto region. Sorry to say that a couple of them are not recommended, but it happens, n’est-ce pas? As usual in this series, I omit detailed historical, technical and geographical data for the sake of brief reviews ripped, as it were, from the ages of my notebooks. Enjoy, in moderation, of course. These wines were samples for review.
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The Washington State wines of Charles Smith stand out on any shelf they occupy, distinguished by their stark black and white labels heavy on the graphic elements, a collaboration with Danish designer Rikki Korff. They also distinguish themselves by their solid QPR — quality/price ratio.
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Band of Roses Rose 2017, Washington State. 12.5% alc. 100% pinot ...

Borderless Wine from Harvest Ridge Winery

Straddling the border between Delaware and Maryland along the Mason-Dixon line lies Harvest Ridge Winery. Whereas the winery and a majority of the estate vineyards reside in Delaware, a significant block of estate vines are planted in the Free State. In fact, one of the original Mason-Dixon witness stone and crown markers, number 47, is located on the property. After fifteen years of home winemaking, Chuck Nunan converted his family farm to an estate vineyard by planting a series of vinifera grapes in 2011. After the winery opened in late 2013, he expanded the original planting of Chardonnay, Viognier, Malbec, and Merlot to include both Cabernets, Chambourcin, Vidal, Barbera, and several other grape varieties. He also hired Jason Hopwood, who had experience in Sonoma and the Finger Lakes, as the head winemaker. This growth enables Harvest Ridge to provide over fifteen wines in their tasting room as well as a ...

Weekend Wine Notes: Allons, enfants de la patrie!

The wine regions of France, especially Bordeaux and Burgundy, long served as the models and the ideals for producers and winemakers all over the world. Even nowadays, when wine-making has proliferated worldwide and expanded far beyond the so-called “noble grapes” of French origin, Burgundy is often seen as the apotheosis of chardonnay and pinot noir, Bordeaux the epitome of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, Champagne the ur-text of sparkling wine. I offer today, in celebration of Bastille Day, 12 examples that illustrate, even if in a severely limited degree, the diversity and the versatility of French wine production. Some of those noble grapes are involved — cabernet and merlot, indeed, chardonnay and pinot noir, riesling — but also a more everyday variety like gamay and obscure grapes like jacquere. In one blog post, no one could begin to assay the immense complexity of France’s geographical extent and appellation system, but I ...

Far Eastern Shore Winery: Slghtly Sweet, Fruit Infused Wines

Each year Maryland wine makers hold a competition that results in the Comptrollers Cup. In previous years, only winemakers served as judges, but for 2018 sommeliers and other industry professionals were added to the judging. The overall winner was Cactoctin Breeze Winery and a celebration was held at their winery where Gold Medal winners poured generous servings of these wines. The medal in the Sweet wine category was given to Far Eastern Shore Winery for their Dream NV Port-styled Raspberry Chocolate wine. The wine is delicious, not cloying nor gritty, and integrating the fruit and chocolate for a fine tuned wine. Whereas I had sampled many of their wines previously this wine induced me to visit the winery in Easton, Maryland using theCompass Craft Beverage Finder.

In fact the tasting room for Far Eastern Shore Winery is quite convenient to visit, right on Route 50 to the right when traveling ...

Spar’s new wines for 2018

A whistle-stop tour of some of Spar’s new wines for 2018 – more details about them HERE Villa Cerro Garganega Pinot Grigio 2017, Veneto, Italy (£6.50 Spar) Simple fresh glugger with hints of citrus fruit and apple, what I call ‘fair enough’ wine. C Wildflower Pinot Grigio 2017, Romania (£6.50 Spar) Compared with the above, […]

Jeroboams Bordeaux Rouge 2016

If only all young Bordeaux Rouge were like this Jeroboams Bordeaux Rouge 2016 (François Thienpont), France (£13.45 Jeroboams) Young, fresh plummy claret, with juicy blackcurrant fruit in abundance, sympathetic use of oak, and a vibrant, perfumed finish. Rounded and appealing, but carries its 14% alcohol well. S-

Lucas & Lewellen’s Hidden Asset

Hidden Asset refers to a wine, a red blend to be specific, that Lucas & Lewellen Estate Vineyards produces to honor their estate vineyards in Santa Barbara County - for this vintage the Los Alamos Vineyard and Valley View Vineyard.  The actual "Hidden Assets" are the grape varieties used in this unique blend, a kitchen sink of Malbec, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet Franc. The percentages of each grape variety and vineyard source is proprietary information but the winery prints the percentages sourced from the four vineyard sites. Three ranches in the Los Alamos Vineyard account for 95% of the grapes as this area south of the town of Los Alamos along Highway 101 is home to over twenty grape varieties. And some of the vines are from cuttings brought over from Europe over 25 years ago. This region benefits from a "rare transverse mountain range topography, an ...

Route 15 Wine Road: Warrenton’s Powers Farm & Brewery & Granite Heights Winery

Just south of Gainsville, through Warrenton and into Culpeper, Route 15 merges with Route 29 and runs through rolling hills in one corner of Virginia's wine and horse country. This is Fauquier County where the roads and rail lines were major trade thoroughfares as well as a highly prized transportation hubs fought over during the Civil War. During one of these battles, Bristoe Campaign (October - November 1863), troops fought just east of Warrenton in Auburn - a short detour off the main road.

While navigating this detour look for Powers Farm & Brewery in Midland, a very unique craft brewery. As it's name suggests, Powers is a working farm and not just hops, just look at their Produce CSA. As for their field beers they use on-farm ingredients such as hops, herbs, fruits, vegetables, plus foraged bark and berries. Each of these non-standard ingredients add different characters to the ...

30 Great Wine Bargains of 2017

I suspect that while many readers may find the annual roster of “50 Great Wines” interesting, they don’t necessarily find it essential. Today’s post, however — “30 Great Wine Bargains of 2017” — I hope will be greeted with expectation and gratitude. Who doesn’t love a bargain, especially when the price is attached to a wine that performs above its weight and class? Prices on this list range from about $7 to $20. Twenty-five of these selections rate Excellent, with the next five rated Very Good+, and each one offers a hefty and distinguishing serving of quality. The breakdown by genre is 15 white, 13 red and 2 rosé. By country or state: Italy 7; California 6; France 5; Spain 3; Germany 2; and one each from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Oregon, Portugal, South African and Washington. Whatever, it’s not the statistics that count but the wine inside the bottle. ...

50 Great Wines of 2017

The prices of these 50 Great Wines of 2017 range from an unprecedented $15 to a whopping $250. Not that I expect My Readers to hasten out and snatch up a bottle of wine that costs $250, but when an extraordinary wine crosses my horizon and I rate it “Exceptional,” well, it goes on this list no matter the price. That’s one of the criteria for this annual roster: Every wine I rated Exceptional in 2017 is included automatically, followed by wines I rated Excellent and that I go back through the reviews and parse very carefully. Now I’m sure My Readers understand that by “50 Great Wines” I’m not saying that these are the 50 greatest wines in the world, just that they’re great wines — as I interpret greatness — that I tasted during the year in question. What makes a wine great? Purity, intensity, integrity, authenticity, as ...

A mixed bag of reds from around the world…

…beginning in Portugal Quinta Nova Reserva Terroir Blend 2015, Douro, Portugal (£16.48 Portugal Vineyards) Smells like a port winery at vintage time, the air thick with heady aromas of berries, cassis, violet and herbs, buoyant, spicy dark fruit flavours in abundance and a backbone of citrus freshness and ripe tannin – vibrant, joyful wine, I […]

Assorted tasting notes


Laurence and Rémi Dufaitre 2016 Beujolias villages Blanc. An interesting nose - peach and nettle, Spring. . . my curiosity only part rewarded. . . flesh and ointment. . . quite chunky and provincial. . .

Honey Badger 'Deborah' 2017. Chenin / Riesling. Cork. Cloudy, musk and skins, toothy wine, glue and toluene nose. . . tart, edgy, sharp finger nail down the black board.

Honey Badger 'Nicholas' 2017. Merlot / Semillon. 11%. Cork. Bit of a mind fuck, smells like a cabernet franc - weedy, grassy, sharp teeth and just as anxious and unsettled as Deborah.

Crawford River Riesling 2016. Western Victoria. Lime and essence, broader with more buzz than anticipated. 90-91? A suitcase wine procured from the Prince wine store in South Melbourne, a store with many wines of high and established reputation.

Image: Late night up the skirt shot of the Hillarys lighthouse.

The 12 Days of Christmas with Champagne & Sparkling Wine: 3rd Day …

… and no Champagne today but two examples of products from regions in France that use the “champagne method” or, as it’s usually called now, the méthode traditionelle, for sparkling wines in the Crémant mode. Both of these models, priced at $20, offer good value, especially if you’re looking for sparkling wine to serve at a dinner party or small gathering. These wines were samples for review.
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With its shimmering pale gold hue and finely-tuned froth of abundant, tiny bubbles, the Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne, nv, delivers lovely tone and presence. Made 100 percent from chardonnay grapes farmed on sustainable practices, this Crémant offers notes of pear, orange zest and lime peel with hints of almond blossom and hay; it’s quite dry, framed by limestone and a touch of salinity, yet ripe and tasty with citrus and stone-fruit and a shade of mango. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About ...

Five Bordeaux reds

Bit of a Bordeaux round-up today, starting with an excellent value Merlot-based wine Château Clos l’Eglise Côtes de Castillon 2002, Bordeaux, France (£13.95 From Vineyards Direct) Excellent value for mature claret, this is warm and juicy, and still has plenty of plummy blackcurrant and cedar character. Yes, there’s a touch of brett adding a minty/savoury […]

Big Deal Red Wines, Part One

What qualifies as a “Big Deal” wine? You could say price, and while that enters in it’s not the determining factor. You could say a “big” wine in terms of power and structure and alcohol content, and those elements could also be important. What really clinches the deal, though, on a Big Deal wine is the producer’s intention that a wine represent the best of the vineyards and the treatment in the winery, a wine that manifests every quality that to the winemaker stands for integrity, purity and intensity, a wine that, in other words, encapsulates the best that a vineyard and a vat of grapes can possibly deliver. Today’s post is the first in a series of perhaps three entries that examine Big Deal red wines from various countries and regions. This post offers 10 wines — mostly cabernet sauvignon-based but also two merlots; two of the wines are ...

Wine of the Day, No. 329


To be kosher, a wine does not have to go through any intricate process or ritual. Its production must simply be overseen by Sabbath-observant Jews from the time of crushing the grapes through bottling, and every ingredient, such as fining agents, must be kosher. For example, non-kosher isinglass, derived from fish bladders, was historically important in clarifying beer and wine, and rabbinical arguments addressed the issues of whether the amount of isinglass was so small that it didn’t matter and anyway it was filtered out or that the law was the law. Nor would vegans be amused. Anyway, our definitely kosher Wine of the Day is the Psâgot Edom 2013, Jerusalem Mountain Vineyards, a blend of 63 percent merlot, 16 percent cabernet sauvignon 11 petit verdot and 10 cabernet franc, aged 14 months in French oak barrels. The color is intense dark ruby-magenta; aromas of black cherries and currants ...