Crafting & Coaxing Sauvignon Blanc at Ehlers Estate

Laura Díaz Muñoz seems to have a way with Sauvignon Blanc. Her purposeful techniques in the vineyard (only removing leaves in contact with grape clusters on the morning sunlight side of rows) and winery (administering micro-doses of oxygen during fermentation then performing weekly lees battonage in stain steel drums for six months of aging) resulted in a fascinating wine. It's an invigorating and textural Sauvignon Blanc that is a welcome change from the usual Napa profile.

Read More
Easy-Going Reds for a Sanssouci Summer

It's easy for reds to feel ponderously heavy in the summer, especially when they are concentrated, elevated in alcohol and lavished with new oak. But, we all still want to drink red wines from time to time during warm weather. Leave it to the out-of-the-box renegade - and seriously good palate and globe-trotting winemaker - Ernst Loosen to find not only a solution but also a very gently priced one. Moreover,  the wines come from France's Languedoc, a region formerly strapped with the reputation of producing clumsy, jammy wines. 

Read More
Chef Joachim Splichal: Part II

I met Joachim Splichal when I was the National Wine Director for Smith & Wollensky Restaurant group. Smith & Wollensky was publicly traded and a hostile take-over was underway. His Patina Restaurant Group purchased the Smith & Wollensky restaurants outside of New York City, and I figured I'd never again cross paths with him.

Read More
Trading a Plane Ride for a Pinot Noir

I love airplanes. So when I was invited to take a ride on The Spirit of Benovia, the renovated C-53 World War II aircraft that participated in the D-Day invastion, I was beyond excited. Then, realizing that other commitments wouldn't allow me to participate sent me into a tailspin.  At least I had the chance to savor the wine crafted and named in honor of the plane to be released for the 75th "vintage" commemoration of that heroic WWII campaign to liberate France.

Read More
Beckmen Vineyards New Releases

Beckmen Vineyards 2017 Cuvée Le Bec Santa Ynez Valley: I am delighted to be head over heels for this wine’s 2017 incarnation. It's got a soft and juicy texture with a sleek, supporting tannin structure and pithy acidity. It's spicy. It's bramly. It's chock full of blackberries and rimmed with black plum skin.

Read More
Rodney Strong Over-Delivers on This Quintet

This array of Rodney Strong wines over-delivers for its price points. Per my previous post, this isn’t surprising. They have a smartly balanced oak influence, meaning that any new oak flavors present are well-integrated and don’t over take the fresh fruit nuances. They also do a terrific job of showing regional and varietal typicity. I’ll gladly endorse these, especially the Chardonnay Chalk Hill and the Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley.

Read More
The Engaging New Releases from sidebar cellars

sidebar cellars 2016 Zinfandel Old Vine Russian River Valley: Plumped with spicy fruits, this wine is gregarious on the nose. It's hard not to love the combo of sumptuousness and structure here! Hailing from the century-old Alegria Vineyard, this is actually a field blend and includes about 10% Alicante, 10% Petite Sirah and 2% of a dozen (!) other varieties.

Read More
What Happened? Le Serre Nuove dell'Ornellaia 2015

Those who follow wine closely know that it is a living drink. Like people, wine has good and bad days. 

I deeply hoped this 2015 Le Serre Nuove was having a bad day when I first tasted it professionally then drank it over several hours with dinner. It was astonishingly disappointing. A second bottle was modestly more satisfying but effectively identical. It certainly did not live up to my standard for Le Serre Nuove, a wine that I have tasted in its various phases – different winemakers, blends, vintages and so forth – for almost two decades.

Read More
Excellent Additions to the Donnafugata Line-Up

Donnafugata 2016 Etna Rosso Sul Vulcano: The Donnafugata labels are so vivid. This new wine’s is as fun as ever! The heaping pile of rocks seeming to symbolize Mount Etna almost looks like a pile of Nerello Mascalese grape pomace. Moreover, while the wine is as elegant as the lady on the label, I am sure that were I to inhale enough fumes from Etna, my hair might stand up as high, too! Anyway, the fancy ‘do makes me think of old, European aristocracy, and this wine is certainly as noble.

Read More
A Surprising Rosé Duo from the Pays d’Oc

These two rosés surprised me.  

I expected the Arrogant Frog to be the less expensive and less complex wine. This was without knowing that the Côté Mas wine is to be marketing in 1 liter bottles – my sample arrived in a 750 ml. Yes, I succumbed to label bias. Happily, it was only briefly. 

Read More
Mi Sueño 2016 Chardonnay Los Carneros – A Different Dream or Vision?

Mi Sueño means “my dream” and reflects on the ambitions of founders/owners Rolando and Lorena Herrera. It was a Carneros Chardonnay that they first made together, marking the start of their Napa Valley adventure.

My proposed question in the title of a different dream or vision comes only from tasting recently two consecutive vintages of the Los Carneros Chardonnay. I was surprised but very interested in the evident differences.

Read More
FEL: Tasting Firsts 

As an admirer of FEL for many years, I was curious to see what these different vineyards had to say. I must say that I was impressed by the differences in their voices! The two Pinot Noirs offer a surprising contrast of weight, texture and fruit aromas given how small Anderson Valley is – it’s barely longer than the island of Manhattan – and how relatively closely these vineyards sit!  

Read More
A Skim of the Alejandro Fernández Collection

So, it was with a particularly keen interest that I popped the cork on my first white from Grupo Pesquera. In fact, it’s the only white wine that the Fernández family makes, and it’s 100% Airén.

Read More
The Gamble of Generations: Investing in a Napa Valley Vineyard & Winery

The French have a saying that it takes three generations to see the cycle of a family business: one to build it, one to grow it then one to destroy it. I don’t know what the rest of the Gamble family farming business looks like today, but I can say that the “Gamble” of generations has paid off on the wine front. It seems Tom has started a new cycle, without finishing the first one!

Read More
Ruby Vineyard Mystery Delivery

Three bottles of wine arrived with no advance notice on my doorstep a few weeks ago. Intrigued, I opened them all over several days last week. They are very accessible, ready-to-drink Oregon bottlings from the Willamette that carry very reasonable price tags. The Chardonnay is the Goldilocks wine of the trio for QPR. I’m so curious to learn more about why I received these wines, but it is always a pleasure to see what is happening in Oregon through the window of a sample set!

Read More
385 Notes & 501 Scores on Sonoma Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

These Pinot Noir and Chardonnay tastings were primarily conducted in Sonoma over the course of two visits (one for ten days, one for three days). My ten-day visit was thorough, covering eight hundred and four miles (1,294 km) and 39 winery appointments.

Read More