Wine of the Day, No. 444

Winemaker Sherman Thacher displays a deft hand in deploying oak for his Thacher Vineyard “Working Holiday” 2016, a Rhone-style red blend from the Geneseo District of the Paso Robles AVA. The percentages of grapes are 47 grenache, 30 syrah and 23 mourvèdre, with the applicable oak of different sizes, all neutral, being old diverse barrels for the grenache; barriques for the syrah; and puncheons for the mourvedre; a puncheon typically holds 500 liters (132 gallons). The result is a red wine of lovely purity and intensity, with a lean, lithe texture animated by dynamic acidity. The color is transparent medium ruby; aromas of ripe black and red cherries and raspberries gain depth in touches of loam and oolong tea, dried rosemary, mint and dusty flint. The wine is quite dry, precise and chiseled on the palate, lively and appealing; the red and black berry flavors open to notes of plums ...

Weekend Wine Notes: It’s Mid-Fall. Keep Drinking Rosé

And here are eight lovely, diverse examples, ranging from the delicate to the savory, employing a multitude of grape varieties from a healthy spectrum of regions and countries. As usual with these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew most technical data, as well as information about geology, geography, historical and personnel matters, for the sake of quick, incisive review intended to whet your palate and pique your interest. Enjoy! (In moderation, of course.) These wines were samples for review.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Berne Inspiration Rosé 2017, Cotes de Provence. 13% alc. 70% grenache, 20% cinsault, 10% syrah. Very pale pink-onion skin; quite dry, spare, elegant; strawberries and raspberries, lilac and lavender; hints of almond blossom and almond skin; tangerine; lithe, supple; a sleek limestone finish. Excellent. About $20.
Imported by Provence Rose Group, Miami.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Berne Urban Provence Rosé 2017, Cotes de Provence. 12.5% alc. 45% grenache, 35% cinsault, 15% syrah, ...

Farmhouse Wines and Green Spring Farm – "Beyond Sustainable" Farming

We grow by the motto “50% for humans, 50% for nature,” maintaining an important balance between the vines grown for humans and crops grown for soil improvement, Bob Cannard & Fred Cline --Green String Farm

This method of “beyond sustainable” farming, was developed by Bobby Cannard and Fred Cline of Cline Family Cellars and is now known as the Green String method of sustainable farming.  Their laboratory, Green String Farm, is located in Sonoma - specifically in Petaluma - and "serves to teach students how to improve the biology of the lands that they steward while growing naturally healthy food".  This method includes natural remedies for pest management, fertilization, and weeding among others. For instance they use over 1500 sheep and 500 goats to remove harmful weeds from their vineyards.  They also use native root stocks which can be dry farmed (no irrigation) and friendly insects are ...

Department 66: Dave Phinney’s Côtes Catalanes Brand

Languedoc-Roussillon, the wine region in southeast France lies adjacent to the Mediterranean coastline and runs from the Spanish border to Provence. According to Karen MacNeil's The Wine Bible, this region is considered the single largest wine producing region in the world and accounts for a third of total French wine production. Roussillon refers to the French part of historic Catalonia corresponding to the administrative Department 66 Pyrénées Orientales. Côtes Catalanes is a sub-region or IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) in Roussillon snuggled next to Spain with vineyards covering the eastern foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. The Mediterranean provides a hot and dry clinate with generous sunshine: 320 days of per year. The soil is driven by the mountains and consists of "black schist, with small deposits of granite and limestone in red, rocky soils known as angile". And with its ties to Catalonia -- Grenache, Carignan, and Mourvedre grapes are ...

Happy 30th Anniversary, Le Cigare Volant!

Bonny Doon Vineyards, Randall Grahm and Le Cigare Volant have been through many changes in the 30 years since the seminal Rhone-blend red wine debuted. Concepts and priorities shifted, whole brands were sold off and winemaking techniques were adopted and abandoned as their effects on the wine were measured in the outcome. Endlessly experimental, with an imagination that seems to out-pace the seasons, Grahm consistently works to refine his top wines in his attempt to achieve an ideal. A brochure written by Grahm to accompany the release of Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2013 — in his typical whimsical-serio manner — describes the evolution of the wine, its style and its making; the vineyards whereof the grapes derived over three decades, and the mysterious sine qua non that gives each vintage and wine vitality and individual character. A chart also traces the fascinating transformations in the cepage of Le Cigare ...

Caliza Winery, Where the Rhône Flows in Paso Robles

Caliza Winery — the word is Spanish for “limestone” — was founded in Paso Robles by Pam and Carl Bowker in 2008; at least that’s when the doors of the tasting room opened, a convenient point from which to count. The couple purchased their first property in 2003, more land, now the home of the vineyard and tasting room, in 2004, and planted that vineyard in 2006. That’s how quickly things can happen when a couple of crazy kids have a dream. Carl Bowker is winemaker, and his focus is primarily on Rhône grapes and the blends that can be made from them. Bowker is not afraid of power in his wines nor of alcohol; the two reds reviewed here sport 15.5 and 15.7 percent alcohol yet manage to keep a steady hand at the helm. These reds derive from the Paso Robles Willow Creek District AVA, one ...

Weekend Wine Notes: A Passel of Rosés

There was a time when a retail store’s stock of rosé wines amounted to a dusty bottle of Tavel five vintages out-of-date. Now so many producers around the world are making rosés that some stores devote a whole section to them. The choices are dazzling. I’m not saying that rosé wine is the new pinot grigio, but matters are getting a little out of hand. Fortunately, I am here to winnow the chaff from the wheat, so today, in the format of Weekend Wine Notes, I offer 10 rosés that vary from being simply and deliciously drinkable to surprisingly complex as well as deliciously drinkable. We’re all over the map, with excursions to various regions of California, to the South of France, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley to the state of Virginia. As usual in the Weekend Wines Notes, I offer quick, incisive reviews designed to pique your interest and whet ...

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 ...

Wine of the Day, No. 377

Here’s a syrah that feels classic in every proportion. The Jean-Luc Colombo Les Fées Brunes Syrah 2015 hails from Crozes-Hermitage in the Northern Rhone Valley. Crozes Hermitage is the largest appellation in that region where the syrah grape reigns and accounts for half of the entire production. The wines have long been considered inferior to the products of its majestic and illustrious neighbors — Hermitage, Cornas and Côte Rotie — but quality has been improving over the past few decades, a factor of which our Wine of the Day serves as example. There’s not a lot of nuance here, but its power and dimension are undeniable. Jean-Luc Colombo Les Fées Brunes Syrah 2015 spent 18 months in oak barrels, 15 percent new and 85 percent 1- to 4-years old. The color, if that’s the right word, is opaque ruby-magenta with a surprisingly delicate, transparent rim; heady aromas of ash, loam ...

Unionville Vineyards 2013 Pheasant Hill Syrah: Estate-Grown Deliciousness ‘Straight Outta New Jersey’

Hello Friends,

All 50 states in the U.S. grow and produce wine. This fact is often lost on the average consumer, even one who regularly sips wine. Oftentimes, due to small production and limited distribution, wines coming out of lesser-known wine regions become well-kept secrets among locals and wine savvy tourists. Over the years, I’ve sought out hidden gems throughout the United States of Wine. I can easily name stellar producers in almost every state who fly under the radar but grow and produce quality wine. On occasion, a friend from up north brings down wines from MA, PA, NJ, etc. Many of the New Jersey picks have been non-grape fruit wines—easy-drinking quaffs that are perfect for summer festivals and backyard get-togethers. A few of the wines, however, have been appealing dry table wines, piquing my interest in what the Garden State has to offer.

And then, lo and ...

Unionville Vineyards 2013 Pheasant Hill Syrah: Estate-Grown Deliciousness ‘Straight Outta New Jersey’

Hello Friends,

All 50 states in the U.S. grow and produce wine. This fact is often lost on the average consumer, even one who regularly sips wine. Oftentimes, due to small production and limited distribution, wines coming out of lesser-known wine regions become well-kept secrets among locals and wine savvy tourists. Over the years, I’ve sought out hidden gems throughout the United States of Wine. I can easily name stellar producers in almost every state who fly under the radar but grow and produce quality wine. On occasion, a friend from up north brings down wines from MA, PA, NJ, etc. Many of the New Jersey picks have been non-grape fruit wines—easy-drinking quaffs that are perfect for summer festivals and backyard get-togethers. A few of the wines, however, have been appealing dry table wines, piquing my interest in what the Garden State has to offer.

And then, lo and ...

Cadaretta’s Top Red Wines

Cadaretta is a label of Middleton Family Wines. The family started in the lumber business in Washington state in 1898, gradually expanding to table and wine grapes and finally wine. While the winery produces a sauvignon blanc, the focus is on intense and concentrated red wines, either cabernet sauvignon-based or syrah. These are not subtle, nuanced or elegant wines, but neither are they overbearing, unreasonably stiff with oak and tannin, too high in alcohol or cloyingly ripe. At this point, when five of these six flagship wines are three years old and one is four years old, the emphasis may be on structure, but fine details of fruit and spice and other aspects are perfectly evident in varying degrees, affording the consumer a great deal of pleasure as well as anticipation. In other words, the necessary balance is present. Such limited-production wines are intended for the cellar, probably benefiting from ...

Wine of the Day, No. 321

Willis Mercer moved west and settled in the new town of Prosser in 1886, three years before Washington became a state. The family succeeded at shepherding and then brought in cattle and planted wheat. Irrigation was introduced to Mercer Ranches in 1968, and in 1972, the first grapes were planted, though the family didn’t start making wine until 2005, the year that Horse Heaven Hills was granted status as an American Viticultural Area (AVA). The expansive region — 570,000 acres, with slightly more than 6,000 acres of vines — lies in southeastern Washington, within the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Our Wine of the Day is the Mercer Estate Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2015, Horse Heaven Hills, an interesting blend of 29 percent cabernet sauvignon, 27 percent syrah, 18 merlot, 14 petit verdot, 10 grenache and 2 percent carignane, making a sort of Bordeaux-Rhone hybrid. The wine aged 18 months in ...

El Molet 2013 Jumilla

El Molet 2013 Jumilla

El Molet 2013 Jumilla

  There’s something to be said for a bit of age on a bottle. When this wine was released a few years ago, it didn’t make any friends in the wine critic community. Originally released at $16 a bottle, El Molet earned lukewarm reviews. Wine Enthusiast gave it an 86, Vinous gave it an 87, and Wine Spectator another 87. These are “good” ratings, but nothing sells in the US unless it has a rating of 90 or above. It didn’t sell. Eventually, the wine ended up in the discount bin that is our  Chairman’s Selection program here in Pennsylvania. There are a lot of wines in the PA Wine & Spirits stores with a similar story behind it. I usually recommend steering clear of such bottles, so why am I writing about this one? This bottle is something of an ugly duckling. The first few ...