Extended Pinot Noir Month, Part 8: Siduri Vineyards


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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The Pinot Noir Month of March extended farther into April than I predicted, but this post marks the end of the series. I devote today to eight examples of the grape from Siduri Wines, launched by Adam Lee and his wife Dianna Novy Lee in 1994. Owning no vineyard acreage, the couple specialized in single-vineyard designated pinot noir from a variety of California’s well-known (and not so well-known) growers in Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands and Sta. Rita Hills, as well as Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Siduri earned a reputation for big-hearted, finely-detailed pinots, both for the single-vineyard bottlings (as many as 20) and regional AVA bottlings. The Lees sold Siduri to Jackson Family Wines early in 2015, with Adam Lee staying on as winemaker for three years. Today, we look at four examples each from vintage 2015 and 2016, including six single-vineyard offerings and two regional AVA …

Pinot Noir Month, Part 6: Four Pairs


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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This roster of pairs of pinot noir is entirely coincidental, having occurred simply in the sending of them as samples to my threshold. Other than the fact that they derive from the same grape, there’s no connection. It is interesting, however, that geographically, these models extend through the range of California’s pinot noir viability; from Mendocino’s Anderson Valley in the north through Sonoma Coast and Napa Valley, Monterey County and down to Santa Barbara County. Blessed be the versatility of the grape.

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La Crema started in 1979 in Petaluma as La Crema Vinera, making chardonnay and pinot noir. Quality fluctuated, and new owners in 1984 dumped much of the inventory and shortened the name. The winery was acquired by what is now Jackson Family Wines in 1993. Head winemaker is Craig McAllister; winemaker is Jen Walsh. The winery in Windsor, Sonoma County, produces pinot gris, chardonnay and a range …

Pinot Noir Month, Part Two: Jed Steele’s Pinot Noirs


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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Jed Steele is assured a place in the annals of the California wine industry — and in the chronicle of American consumer taste — because he formulated the character of the Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay, a ripe, slightly florid and slightly sweet chardonnay that tickled American palates to the tune of millions of cases. The wine was introduced in 1982, when proprietor Jess Jackson was getting started in the business. Steele had worked at Stony Hill and Edmeades and brought a wealth of knowledge, as well as instinct and intuition, to Kendall-Jackson, an ever expanding winery for which he worked until 1991, when Jackson fired Steele amid contentious accusations leading to suits and counter-suits. Jackson asserted that the “formula” for the Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay was a trade secret owned by the company, not by the man who created the wine. Surprisingly, a court agreed with Jackson. Water under the bridge, right. …

Pinot Noir Month: FEL Wines Single-Vineyard 2016


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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FEL Wines, in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, is named for Florence Elsie Lede, mother of Cliff Lede — pronounced “lay-dee” — who also owns his eponymous winery in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District. FEL makes only chardonnay, pinot gris and pinot noir, both in “regular” bottlings and in single-vineyard offerings, three of which we look at today, all pinot noirs. Winemaker is Ryan Hodgins.

These wines were samples for review.


The FEL Wines Donnelly Creek Pinot Noir 2016, Anderson Valley, aged 16 months in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. The color is limpid medium ruby shading to an ethereal rim; macerated and slightly stewed red and black cherries and currants are permeated by notes of cloves, sandalwood and sassafras, all opening to touches of rhubarb and pomegranate. The wine is lithe and supple on the palate, animated by bright acidity and a burgeoning (and distracting) element of baking …

Wine of the Day, No. 473


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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I taste most chardonnays from California with reluctance, because I know they were fashioned using methods that turn them into stridently spicy, cloyingly tropical, butterscotch ‘n’ coconut oak bombs. Such chardonnays have no relationship with the grapes from which they were made or with the vineyards where the grapes were grown. They’re unpleasant, even off-putting, making the palate weary and numbing the senses. Fortunately, every year along comes the chardonnay from Grgich Hills Estate, a consistently brilliant example that I know I can open with no trepidation whatever. The Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2015, Napa Valley, derives from certified organic, cool-climate vineyards in American Canyon and Carneros. The deft oak regimen called for aging the wine 10 months in French oak, 80 percent in standard barriques, 20 percent in large foudres. The wine did not go through malolactic fermentation, the natural chemical process that transforms sharp malic (“apple-like”) acid to …

Basic Bouchard


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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Domaine Bouchard Père et Fils traces its origin to 1731, beginning as a cloth merchant founded by Michel Bouchard in the city of Beaune. In 1746, his son took the company in the direction of acquiring vineyards and selling wine. At present, Bouchard owns a staggering 321 acres of vineyards across Burgundy, including 30 acres in Grand Cru vineyards and 183 in Premier Cru vineyards. These significant holdings are supplemented by fruit purchased on long-term contracts from vineyards supervised by the company. The result is that Bouchard offers wines from almost every AOC in Burgundy, from regional and villages wines up to the top Grand Crus. Bouchard remained in family hands until 1995, when it was sold to Champagne Henriot, the first acquisition by the venerable house. (Henriot purchased the Chablis producer William Fèvre in 1998, the Beaujolais house Chateau de Poncié in 2008 and Beaux Frères, the distinguished winery …

Wine of the Day, No. 471


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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Went out to find a riesling at retail because I don’t get enough riesling samples to keep on hand, and I would rather drink riesling than chardonnay nine times of of 10. Came home with the Elk Cove Vineyard Estate Riesling 2016, Willamette Valley. What a sweetheart! The color is very pale straw-gold; the wine features a refined bouquet of peaches and lychee, spiced pear and apple, with notes of lilac and lime peel in the background. Lip-smacking acidity keeps it lively on the palate; while quite ripe and juicy at the entry, the wine segues to dry from the mid-tone back through the finish that’s lithe with smoke, peach pit and limestone minerality. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2021 or ’22. Excellent. About $18, a local purchase.

Wine of the Day, No. 470


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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The Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2018, from Chile’s Casablanca Valley, is the first certified organic product to be released by the reliable producer of inexpensive wines. Winemaker is Sofia Araya, who took the reins last year from her mentor Rodrigo Soto. The Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2018 features a very pale straw hue with a faint green tinge; pert aromas of celery leaf, guava, lemongrass and spiced pear are infused with notes of fennel, lime peel and tangerine; a few moments in the glass bring in winsome hints of lilac and licorice. The texture is a pleasing combination of talc-like softness and lithe suppleness, lent energy by bright acidity; flavors are notable citrusy, with a touch of peach in the background, all devolving to a finish packed with limestone minerality. 13.5 percent alcohol. No need to worry your pretty little heads about this one excessively, but buy it by the case …

Wine of the Day, No. 469


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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Made from 100 percent barbera grapes, as it must be, the Attilio Ghisolfi Maggiora Barbera d’Alba 2016, Piedmont, represents a lovely evocation of the variety and the marly-white tufa soil in which the vines grow at 1,200 to 1,300 feet elevation. The grapes fermented by wild yeast; the wine aged for 15 months, half in French barriques, half in large Slavonian oak barrels. The color is dark ruby-magenta that shades lighter at the rim; aromas of violets, raspberries and black currants are infused with notes of black tea, iodine and a slightly raspy-leafy quality. These elements segue seamlessly onto the palate, where decisive acidity lends energy to velvety tannins and woodsy touches of loam and mushrooms; a few moments in the glass add hints of plums, lavender and orange zest. At the foundation of this dry robust wine lies a line of chalky, ashy minerality. 14 percent alcohol. Drink through …

Champagne Palmer for Valentine’s


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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Sure, there are the cliches of the heart-shaped box of chocolates, the tired bouquet and dinner at an over-crowded restaurant, but you can never go wrong with Champagne. I offer today reviews of two products from Champagne Palmer, the Brut Reserve and the Rosé Reserve, non-vintage offerings made from Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards. “Non-vintage” actually means a blend of wines from several vintages. The house was founded in 1947, which makes it practically an infant in the ranks of Champagne houses that go back to the 18th Century. I would characterize these sparklers as the epitome of refinement, delicacy and elegance, with a sheen of shimmering style and sophistication. The products of Champagne Palmer are imported by TRU Estate and Vineyards, Rutherford, Calif., the fine wine division of Constellation Brands. These Champagnes were samples for review.


The Champagne Palmer Reserve Brut is a blend of 50 …

Wine of the Day, No. 467


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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The first rosé wine from California’s 2018 harvest that I tasted is a winner. This is the Wente Vineyards Niki’s Pinot Noir Rosé 2018, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, 100 percent pinot noir made all in stainless steel. The wine is named for Niki Wente, grape-grower and viticulturalist and cousin to Karl Wente, the winery’s chief winemaker. The estate was founded in 1883 and is operated by the family’s fourth and fifth generations. The wine is described as “small lot,” but the number of cases produced is not indicated. The hue is very pale onion skin or what used to be termed, more colorfully, “eye of the partridge.” Lovely, delicate aromas and flavors of peach and strawberry are permeated by notes of cloves, blood orange and heather with an undertone of red currant, bolstered by a hint of damp roof tiles; all of these winsome elements are elegantly etched by a …

Wine of the Day, No. 466


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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Saint-Amour is the northernmost and smallest of the 10 Beaujolais Cru vineyard areas. What are the others? From north to south: Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly and Côte de Brouilly. These regions, which provide grapes for the best wines of Beaujolais, differ from each other in minute comparisons of soil and microclimate, enough so that experienced tasters can or might be able to detect general variations in character, or maybe you have to live there and drink it every day. Saint-Amour is typically regarded as a medium-bodied wine. The Cru Beaujolais wines usually develop well with three or four and in some cases up to 10 or 12 years aging. The Chateau de Saint-Amour 2016, Saint-Amour, is 100 percent gamay that sees no oak, only stainless steel tanks. The 49.4-acre estate is owned by the Sidaurin family; the wine is made by Les Vins Georges Duboeuf. …

Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For January 7, 2019


This post is by 1WineDude from 1 Wine Dude


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I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
 
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!