28 Nov 2012
I’ve been told I’m trouble. I wouldn’t classify myself as a troublemaker but I certainly like stirring things up a bit. The Austin Hope Troublemaker blend is my Wine of the Week (#wowwine on twitter). If you’re looking for something that breaks a few rules and creates a bit of trouble. I highly recommend this Rhone(ish) style blend.
NV Austin Hope Troublemaker
Producer: Austin Hope
Region: Paso Robles
Cooperage: Multi vintage; older vintages see about 8 months in oak
My Suggested Food Pairing: Chopped Lamb Steak With Garlic and Spinach
The Troublemaker was a gift from a friend for my 40th birthday. I think he was trying to tell me something in relationship to my life. Dark in complexion, the outer rim shows a lighter gentle plum color. The multi-vintage blend is 55% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache and 5% Petite Sirah all from the Paso Robles region in California. Love the soft aromas of licorice, banana peel and game. The flavor profile is also very soft (surprising for the amount of Syrah) with flavors of vanilla, pepper spice and black cherry. The wine is fruit forward enough without being overly fruity like many inexpensive California fruit bombs. I like the attention to detail on the complexity of the palate. $20
Austin Hope did a fun ‘Office’ parody when releasing the first vintage of the Troublemaker.
21 Dec 2011
It is rare that you taste through a lineup of wine where every wine showcases quality and stunning depth. This is my second run through of wines from the Wagner family, makers of Mer Soleil, Conundrum, Meiomi, Belle Glos and Caymus. For the second time, I am blown away. Previous scores for these wines ranged from 3+ to 4+. The 2008 Belle Glos Pinot Noir was my #2 wine of 2010 and my bench mark for Pinot.
For this review, I’m embarrassed to share that I drank SIX bottles of Wagner wines…all by myself. Before you schedule an intervention, let me mention that each bottle was a mere 50ml (less than 2 ounces).
For your reading ease, I’ve broken them down into Wagner Whites and Wagner Reds (coming next week). SPOILER ALERT: Any of these six wines would be worthy of gracing your table for the holidays…or any day ending in “y” for that matter.
2009 Mer Soleil Silver
Characterized by a soft fruit nose and a crisp stony mouth feel, the 100% Chardonnay is fermented in cement tanks and bottled in lined ceramic bottles. The wine boasts a well structured balance of fruit and mineral with subtle tones of grapefuit and baked apples. I really enjoyed the 2008 vintage and the 2009 continues the tradition of an excellent Chardonnay. The Silver has a crispness that reminds me of a Sauv Blanc while maintaining the approachable character of a Chardonnay. At $22, most wine lovers will enjoy this wine – 3+/5
2008 Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented
I say Chardonnay, you say _______? This statement often polarizes wine drinkers. Many have a hate for the grape and others drink ONLY oaked Chardonnay (ala Kendall Jackson). The Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay provides a very good balance with the oak seeming very light handed. Definitely a thicker viscosity in the mouth feel with great aroma of banana peel, pencil lead, popcorn. Rarely would I spend $32 on a Chardonnay but this is one of the few that has enough variety in the flavor profile that would cause me to part with my cash. 4/5
The Conundrum wine is a proprietary blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Semillon, and Viognier. The wine has a moderate gold tone in the glass leaning more toward a golden wheat color. Immediately the floral and tropical aromas jump out of the glass causing me to think Viognier and Muscat Canelli. At first sniff, the thoughts of sweet syrup cross my mind but a subtle interwoven aroma of lemon and guava save the day. In the mouth the wine is slightly flabby but very full of flavor. The sweetness indicated on the nose is not overwhelming in the mouth. A hint of honey quickly gives way to smooth guava and butter. I would venture to guess that the predominate wines in this blend are Chardonnay (oaked), Muscat Canelli, and Semillon (also oaked). The white flowers definitely come from the Viognier. The wine lacks in a strong acidity which may lend itself more to a sipping wine than a food wine but the layers of flavor are very intriguing. Pair this with summer, bikinis, and some fresh shrimp fettuccini pasta or even a fresh cheese plate. The wine can be purchased for $17-$20. 3+/5
29 Jul 2011
About an hour outside of Washington DC sits an amazing wine destination to rival those of Sonoma, Napa, Walla Walla and even France. Breaux Vineyards is on 404 acres among the beautiful backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Producing 18 grape varieties and over 10,000 cases of wine, husband wife team, Christopher and Jennifer Blosser (owner’s daughter) oversee the operations of this beautiful facility.
Paul Breaux, a local real estate broker, found himself captivated with the 404 acres of property and in 1994 purchased the land (which included 3 acres of planted grapes) to fulfill the vision of Breaux Vineyards. With the help of winemaker Dave Collins, Breaux has blossomed and has been voted Virginia’s favorite winery 3 consecutive years.
I was first introduced to Breaux through their interactions on Twitter leading up to the 2011 Wine Blogger’s conference. Fellow tweeter @suzielin encouraged Jennifer Breaux-Blosser to reach out to me at the conference and boy am I glad she did. During a tasting of “the other 46″ (wines from other than California, Washington, Oregon and New York), I was introduced to their Cab Franc, Nebbiolo and Meritage blend. All three showed very well. I was excited to run into Jennifer as I was leaving the conference and she asked if I wanted to take home some wine…”duh,” I thought and politely stuffed three wines into my suitcase for the 3000 mile journey home.
The video is shot from my friend’s downtown condo with the rushing of the Spokane Falls in the background and highlighted by the great downtown skyline. Enjoy, and drink happy!
2010 Breaux Vineyards Viognier
This is classic tropical Viognier here folks. Love the amazing nose of peaches, papaya, and lychee fruit. In the mouth the wine is not quite as thick as some other Viognier I’ve had recently but does score well with a nicely balanced acidity. The price point is a little higher than I would want to see ($24) but overall this would pair well with a slightly sweet dish (pea salad, fruit salad), sweet-n-sour pork or a light chicken dish. Viognier has been named Virginia’s signature grape and this is a classic example of why! 3+/5
2002 Breaux Vineyards Merlot
Okay, I have to admit. I drank way too much of this wine. Most of you know I’m a Merlot lover, when done right – and this one is done right. It is most likely the age of the wine (going on 10 years) but this was without a doubt the BEST Merlot I had the entire visit to the commonwealth. The wine showed a typical browning from the age and was moderately translucent. LOVED the deep, slightly burnt cherries and dark chocolate that emanated from the glass. For a wine of such age the tannins were still relatively thick and the finish showed a strong amount of fruit and almonds. This is a library wine, so getting it might be a challenge. 4/5
2007 Breaux Vineyards Cabernet Franc
Cab Franc is another of Virginia’s four prominent grapes (Viognier, Merlot and Petite Verdot being the others). Most of the Cab Franc I tried in VA was reticent of under ripe fruit and bell peppers. While the hearty grape grows well, there does seem to be quite a bit of vintage variation. This wine boasted a great complexity of flavors ranging from coffee to deep plums and tobacco. My full tasting resulted in the same score as my first impression at the conference. 3+/5
07 Jun 2011
Back in November I tried my very first Virginia wines. A quick review of the post reminds me that I was blown away by 2009 Keswick Vineyards Viognier and moderately surprised by the Kluge Brut Rose. With the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference coming up in late July, Virginia is poised to be the center of the online wine world for 3 days.
Smartly, members of the Virginia wine community are getting wine into the hands of wine writers ahead of the event. As I often teach, the blog posts that come out of the tasting will jump to the top of search engine results when bloggers and consumers start to do some research. Frank Morgan of @drinkwhatulike / DrinkWhatYouLike.com was one of the main tasting hosts in the online tasting.
The speed tasting of six wines in a sixty minute span included such world renowned bloggers as @lenndevours of New York Cork Report, @suburbanwino of Suburbanwino.com and @wineharlots of WineHarlots.com. If anyone was up to the task, it would be these guys.
As usual the tasting event bumped into a private event that was scheduled at Nectar. And, as even more usual, this post is way delayed as the event happened on May 24.
As these wines were tasted in a very quick fashion, I’ll share my brief synopsis, initial impressions and overall score. I did enjoy the wines for a few days after the online event and some of the added notes come from these experiences.
2010 Keswick Vineyards Verdejo
The first wine of the night came from the makers of the Viognier that wowed me back in November. It is great to see the Spanish grape Verdejo coming out of Virginia. The wine was cold fermented for 29 days until it was bone dry. A modest aroma of tart citrus and alfalfa come out of the glass. The mouth is very Sauv Blanc’ish’ and boasts a great acidity. The low 12.8% alcohol is a welcome site. I really enjoyed this wine, and for $18.95 it is a good price point for a crisp citrus summer wine. 3+/5
2010 Veritas Sauv Blanc Reserve
While, I’m not in the habit of paying $25 for a Sauvignon Blanc when there are many great ones to be had for under $20, the Veritas did shine a little truth into my world about the potential of this grape in Virginia. This bone dry Sauv Blanc came across very much like it’s New Zealand cousins as grassy with a little grapefruit and cat pee (trust me, not as bad as you would think). Most wine drinkers would be able to pick this out of a line up as a Sauv Blanc with the traditional tart acidic finish. At this price, only going 3/5
2010 Boxwood Topiary Rose
Ahhh, nothin’ says summer like sippin on a dry Rose! This blend of 75% Cab Franc and 25% Malbec has an extremely orange hue to it. Aromas of rhubarb, melons and herbs came out of the glass. In the mouth the wine seemed a little light overall on flavor but the mellow fruit and herbs balance made for a great experience. Like most dry Rose this wine would pair extremely well with all kinds of light summer food. $14, 3+/5
2010 Jefferson Vineyards Viognier
A very curious blend of 75% Viognier, 14% Riesling, 7% Chardonnay and 4% Petit Manseng. Three-quarters of this wine spent six months in neutral oak and an interesting aging of adding the lees (skins) of the remaining grapes back to the wine make for some very bold flavors and aromas. The plain branded label is rescued by the strong aroma of honey, guava and lemon. The mouth feel has a hint of oak but is a nice addition to the thickness of the wine. At $25 this is a fantastic Viognier, 3+/5
2010 Chrysalis Vineyards
This 100% Viognier spends 5 months in oak (95% neutral and 5% new). Very traditional flower fragrance and tropical fruit present itself in this wine. After coming off the Jefferson Viognier, this wine is a little less dramatic. The nearly $30 price tag is a big turn off for me. 3/5
This is my first experience with Petit Manseng. At first sniff the wine strikes me with apricot and a slightly sweet pineapple. After sipping the wine, I was shocked to learn that the wine had only 1% residual sugar. The apparent sweetness in the mouth made me think at least 3-4% RS. The wine had a fantastic balance of tart citrus acid and sweet peach, pineapple and apple. At $17, I can very strongly recommend this wine if you can find it. With only 150 cases produced, you may want to make a trip to Lovingston winery soon. 3+/5
19 May 2011
“Once you go Gamay you’ll want it no other way.” This might be a good slogan for the Beaujolais region of France (www.discoverbeaujolais.com). Or, “Beaujolais, a little fruity, but there is nothing wrong with that.” Beaujolais is in the east central area of France and predominately produces wine from the grape Gamay Noir. Chardonnay and Alitoge make up the bulk of the remaining 2%. Many of you may be familiar with Beaujolais Nouveau which is a wine released shortly after harvest in conjunction with Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau tend to be very light, grapy, and tart; showing their obvious lack of age.
Beaujolais is made up of 12 growing regions (AOC), and are classified in the following tiers, Beaujolais AOC, Beaujolais Villages AOC, Cru Beaujolais (divided into 10 distinct types), and Beaujolais’ Blanc and Rose. The wine tends to be light in color (similar to a Pinot Noir) and lower in alcohol, 9-13%. About 1/3 of the wine produced in the area is sold under the Beaujolais Nouveau label.
Having limited experience with Beaujolais, I went into this tasting with very little preconceptions. I knew, from reading, that the wine would be light, slightly fruity, low in alcohol, and moderately acidic. The wine was tasted during an online wine tasting hosted by Discover Beaujolais (@discoverbojo on Twitter).
2009 Beaujolais Blanc, Chateau du Chatelard
This 100% Chardonnay comes from Vieilles Vignes (old vines) up to 95 years old. The color of the wine is very pale and light with moderate tones of wheat. The aromas in the glass are distinctly fresh linen and ocean breeze with hints of lemon. A very pleasing profile that makes me pause to think of reading a good book on the Oregon coast. The sip gives way to an slightly viscous oily texture with pear and citrus acid on the palate. The price point is good ($15) but the flavor profile lacks anything significant to make it overwhelmingly memorable (not that all wines need to be). Solid 3/5
2009 Beaujolais Blanc, Terres Dorees, Jean Peal Brun
100% Chardonnay is slightly golden in the glass with aroma buttered bread and an apple orchard (think of that smell when there are several apples on the ground, everything is ripening and has that overripe sweet earthiness to it). In the mouth the wine seems to lose its focus and gets slightly disjointed in flavor from front to back. The fruit comes across as slightly watered down and light and a strong rocky mineral flavor jumps out on the back end. At $15, 3-/5
2009 Beaujolais-Villages, Christophe Pacalet
100% Gamay, made in the traditional carbonic maceration style using whole cluster native yeast fermentation; unfined and unfiltered. This is a truly beautiful wine to look at in the glass with shimmering garnet jewel tones and bright purple colors; moderately translucent. A sweet raspberry candy, flowers and anise (yes the spice). In the mouth the wine is tart (like a raspberry or cranberry) and slightly thin on flavor. There is an undercurrent of banana peel and rocky minerality as well. At the price of $12, this is not a sipping wine but certainly would pair well with a lot of food choices ranging from fish to game and veal. Nicely done combination of playfulness and tartness. 3/5
100% Gamay, medium to full bodied tones of ruby and plum in the glass. Tangy strawberry jolly rancher aroma mixed with a little dirt on the nose. The wine is much more full bodied in the mouth than previous Gamay wines I’ve tasted. An elegant front palate with darker cherry and blackberry fruit provides a nice preview to the pencil lead and medium tannin on the finish. Very well made and enjoyable wine. Never would consider pairing Beaujolais with steak or pork, but this wine certainly would deliver the goods and provide a nice contrast in flavor as well. At $19, very deserving of a taste or try. 3+/5
Interested in the whole Twitter conversation with the opinions of over a dozen wine writers and tasters? Check out the Discover Beaujolais web site for a replay of the tasting.