Six White Wines That Will Get You through the Summer


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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Allow me to help you breeze through Summer with a selection of interesting and tasty white wines. My fantasy about the months that run from June through September is that everyone is perpetually hurrying off on picnics, lounging on the patio or porch, contemplating the meaning of life at poolside, or gathering family and friends for a simple, easy and delicious repast. O.K., well, it doesn’t really work like that — people have jobs and so on — but it’s my blog and I’ll fantasize as I wish. Whatever the case, Summer calls for cool refreshing white wines like the examples I offer today in this post. We have four wines from different areas of California, from Anderson Valley in the north to Edna Valley in the south, as well as an excellent and remarkably inexpensive wine from the seacoast of Tuscany and a riesling from the Mosel …

22 Cabernet Sauvignon Wines, Mostly Napa Valley


This post is by Fredric Koeppel from Bigger Than Your Head


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Voluptuous and flamboyant, the Cliff Lede Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, is a blend of 79 percent cabernet sauvignon, 11 percent merlot 8 petit verdot and 2 cabernet franc that aged 21 months in French oak, 49 percent new barrels. The color is black-purple-magenta, and the frank, ripe aromas encompass lavender and licorice, graphite and iodine, cassis, black cherry and blueberry tart; a few moments in the glass unfurl notes of cedar and rosemary, sage and bay leaf. The wine is broad, rich, juicy and jammy on the palate, bolstered by lush, dusty tannins and bright acidity. The alcohol pushes this cabernet’s finish into slightly sweet, high-octane zinfandel territory; a touch of restraint would be welcome. 15.2 percent alcohol. Now through 2024 to ’26. Winemaker was Christopher Tynan. Very Good+. About $65.

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Winemaker Paul Steinauer habitually crafts well-balanced, integrated and authentic expressions of …

Alternative Reds: Not Cab., Mer., or P.N.


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No, friends, there’s not a darned thing wrong with cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir wines — unless they’re made in an overwrought, obtrusive manner — but they tend to dominate the discussion of the world’s red wines and so-called “noble” grapes. If you’re just a tad weary of those wines, I offer alternatives in today’s post, with grapes that include alicante bouschet, carignan, malbec, petite sirah, sangiovese, tempranillo, syrah/shiraz and tannat. Our Seven League Boots touch down in Mendoza, Tuscany, Paso Robles, Alentejo (Portugal), Chile’s Maule Valley, Apulia, Arroyo Seco, Oregon’s Umpqua Valley and Monterey County. Oh the things you’ll see! And the wines you’ll taste! Enjoy, in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.

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Malbec is not exactly an unknown grape in the United States. One cannot go into a liquor store or big box venue without encountering shelves and boxes of malbec wines from …

Extended Pinot Noir Month, Part 8: Siduri Vineyards


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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 …