12 Feb 2010
Wineries in California had the chance to observe the power of a unified voice on Twitter on February 11. Like a gigantic tasting room frenzy wine lovers, wineries and wine makers converged on Twitter for two hours to focus on California Cabernet. In his effort to promote California wine and show wineries in the region the power of Social Media, Rick Bakas (director of Social Media for St Supery winery) launched the event through word of mouth using Twitter, Facebook and the good old fashion phone call.
When I talked to Rick on the phone you could tell that while the event has some built in exposure for Rick and St. Supery, he was jazzed about the buzz happening at other area wineries. Rick lives and breathes the power of Social Media but he also has a genuine passion for California wine.
Early stats indicate that the event was a success with over 1500 tweets from 250 people during the two hour block. Those numbers don’t take into consideration the countless people NOT tweeting but still participating in California tasting rooms and tweet-ups. All told, in one two hour time frame, over 1000 bottles of California Cabernet could have been consumed! Total marketing cost of the event $0 (that’s ZERO)!
Steam continues to build as Rick announced a Sauvignon Blanc focused twitter tasting on March 4 (hashtag #SauvBlanc). Also, stay tuned for a huge Washington wine event in late March that hopes to have some national tie-ins and collaboration with several Washington wine influencers on Twitter (announcement coming on February 23).
2007 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles AVA
- The Swirl: Very dark plum with hints of ruby jewel tones toward the edges
- The Sniff: Moderate hints of black and blue berries. The strongest scent is green briar or evergreen. Nice notes of spice dance around on the back end.
- The Sip: A pleasing front end with some sweet fruit that is Syrah-like. A subtle vanilla oak pokes through right before the tart tannins grip your tongue on the back end. It’s not a Darth Vader death grip, but still pretty stout.
- The Score: At only $14, this is a heck of a value and a well made every day Cabernet. I score it a 4 (out of 5) for price to value. If you ever find this wine on sale for $10-$12, but several bottles.
Other scores from Cellar Tracker range from 84 – 90 points
2004 Croze Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff:100% Napa Valley Cabernet, 42 months in oak, 13%ABV, 637 cases made
- The Swirl: Nice dark rust colored plum with a little translucence (almost see to the bottom of the glass)
- The Sniff: I never wanted to stop smelling this wine. Floral perfume kissed me first, then gentle bright blueberry and strawberry aromas held hands and skipped through my nose. They were followed up by some mellow vanilla notes. This is the kind of wine scent you wish for in every bottle of Cabernet!
- The Sip: Definitely does not disappoint – The fruit is soft and supple like a long slow French kiss. The passion builds as some spicy pepper jumps in. The finish is super balanced and longs with enough tannin to keep the wine strong with food.
- The Score: At $35 this is a 5 (out of 5) wine for me. I love the complete package and would definitely buy this bottle again.
Other score on Cellar Tracker is a 93 and well deserved!
Did you participate in #CaliCabs? What wine did you enjoy? If you didn’t participate, what is your all time favorite California Cabernet and why?
10 Feb 2010
Pinot. Just the mention of the word causes many wine lovers to begin to salivate at the light, sweet fruit. Pinot. This fickle grape drives wine makers crazy with its thin skin, susceptibility to weather, and its influence from the soil. The high-maintenance drama queen of wine perpetuates passionate prose and is the ire of Merlot lovers everywhere.
Oregon winery, Willamette Valley Vineyards manages to gently coax 310 acres into beautifully crafted Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir (among a few others). Wine Enthusiast calls Willamette Valley Vineyards, “One of Americas great Pinot Noir producers year after year.” As you’ll see in the video, I whole heartily agree.
While the wine I’ve tasted is a palate pleaser, even more impressive is the wineries stance on being a steward of the land. From the basic reduce, reuse and recycle to a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2010, Willamette Valley Vineyards is a world leader of sustainability. One impressive program offers fifty gallons of biodiesel to employees every month (10 employees participate).
Those that know me (or watched my reviews) know that I have a love / hate relationship with Pinot Noir. My limited experience with the grape has left me with a sour view of what it can produce. I’m not giving up! A wine that generates so much passion must have an impressive upside.
2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, 13%ABV, 37,446 cases produced
- The Swirl: Very translucent and clear. Borderline amethyst like tone
- The Sniff: A moderately restrained nose that produces gentle whiffs of sweet cherries or cranberries, woody oak, and vanilla.
- The Sip: A little thin on the initial attack but opens up to delicate raspberry / cherry with a dash of vanilla. The finish is slightly sweet and tart like a SweetTart candy.
- The Score: At $25, I score this wine a 3 (out of 5). It’s a very nicely made Pinot Noir. It lacks the brightness of flavor to score higher. At under $20 on sale this would be a solid wine.
2007 Signature Cuvee
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, 14.5%ABV, 305 cases produced
- The Swirl: Translucent and clear with moderate garnet tones. Very pretty – would make a nice piece of jewelry
- The Sniff: Very bright aroma of cherry and cola with hints of smoke and wood
- The Sip: Impressive balance, the initial taste feels slightly carbonated (like pop rock). The sweet cherries are not overwhelming and the finish is wonderfully round with the right amount of acidity.
- The Score: At $50 this wine may be out of reach for the majority of consumers but shows very well and deserves a score of 4 (out of 5).
Overall this round of Pinot Noirs has shown me why there is such a passion for this fruit. You can feel that the wine is a delicate dance and must be carefully crafted to produce a good product.
*This wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
01 Feb 2010
Today’s video review is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the wine blogging world. Never before has such a unique collaboration occurred. Two reviewers spanning over 3000 miles simultaneously taste the same wines from Kiona Winery (@kionawine on Twitter). You’ll be seduced by the music. You’ll be aroused by the Florida beaches. You’ll be amazed at the wine. The review is wrapped up with a virtual jam session with me on guitar and Randy from @thewinewhore on drums.
I love the line on Kiona’s web site, “You know you’ve got to start a winery when you make more wine than you can drink.”
Kiona more than started a winery, they were part of propelling Washington wine into the mainstream of becoming the second largest producer of wine in the country (second to California). When only a handful of wineries called Washington home, Kiona planted its first grapes in 1975 and produced its first wine in 1980. At that time there were less than 15 wineries in the state (now there are over 650).
Kiona Winery calls the small Red Mountain AVA home. Kiona is home to 1/3 of the planted acres of grapes in the AVA. The 300 acres of Kiona fruit serve as the magic for the 20 wines they produce and grapes for several other Washington wineries. Today’s cross country review is of their Late Harvest Riesling, Dry Riesling and the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon.
2008 Late Harvest Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling; 10% residual sugar 10% alcohol
- The Swirl: A beautiful peach juice and honey color. Even on the swirl, I get the impression this is going to be like a nice light syrup
- The Sniff: Intoxicating aroma of honey, tropical fruit, and a field of wild flowers
- The Sip: Obviously as a dessert wine this is sweet. It is not overly done and has a nice balance on the back end. Could pair nicely with spicey food. I personally could only experience it in small 2-3 oz pours.
- The Score: I’m a fan, but not a huge fan of this wine (only because I’m not a fan of sweet wines.) If you like dessert wines, you’ll love it. At $10 per 1/2 bottle, I score this a high 3+ (out of 5)
2008 Dry Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Estate grown 30 year old vines 13% alcohol 100% Stainless Steel
- The Swirl: This dry Riesling has a nice yellow straw and honey color.
- The Sniff: Apples, Pineapples and rose pedals oh my. Very aromatic wine. The sniff gives a hint of carbonation too.
- The Sip: Very nice, slightly sweet but not over the top. Good sipping summer wine or pairing with Asian food, Sushi, or Thai food. The peaches and apples come off the palate. Moderate acidity to make your mouth water. A little aluminum on the back end throws off the balance.
- The Score: At $12-$15 this is a very good Riesling, I score it a 4 (out of 5).
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 85% Cabernet 9% Merlot 6% Cab Franc.
- The Swirl: A dark purple brown color. Good aged looking wine.
- The Sniff: Leather, earth, smoke, and then finally the sour cherry fruit. Nice smelling wine.
- The Sip: This is a good complex wine that offers enough fruit (cherry and plum) with the smokey tobacco flavor. There is some minerality that keeps me from scoring this higher. This is a nicely aged wine that drank very well for 2 days. I found it interresting and offered a variety of flavors. Not huge on tannin but enough acid to eat with smoked beef, and even some hickory smoked salmon with a dark reduction of some sort.
- The Score: At $20 retail, this wine easily gets a 4 from me. If you find it for under $15, buy more than one bottle.
Kiona is a Washington pioneer and a consistent maker of great wine. This is a label that can ALWAYS be trusted in the store and in the restaurant. Visit their tasting room in Benton City, WA just West of Richland, WA.
28 Jan 2010
Climate. Soil. Fruit. Walla Walla is home to this trifecta of wine perfection. Trio Vintners is a trio of wine makers coming together with a common purpose of pursuing their passion, pursuing continued education(in Enology and Viticulture) and emphasizing the region of Wallula Gap. The result is wine with structure, character, and flavor (a trio of perfection).
I received a trio of wines from Trio Vintners, but I chose to save the third (a red blend) for another review with other quality Washington Rhone style blends. Wine makers Steve Michener, Denise Slattery, and Tim Boushey each has their hand in the process from sourcing to marketing. The trio works their magic with only 1200 cases per year of Riesling, Rhone Blend, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Carménère, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, and Syrah. The prices range from $16 – $30 respectively.
Before I get into the NectarView, I want to provide a little background on these two grapes for those who have yet to experience their joys.
History buffs vary on Carménère’s past but most point to the Bordeaux region of France as its main original stomping grounds. One of the original six Bordeaux blend grapes, Carménère is now rarely found in France. Benefiting from the long growing season for optimal ripening, Carménère’s prominence is in Chile. American Carménère is grown in Walla Walla and regions of California. Mostly used as a blending grape to soften a wine and add an earthy fruit. The pure varietal will showcase a nice smoky cherry that is crimson in color and very smooth in flavor.
Spain’s noble grape, Tempranillo is often bottled with Granache or Syrah. Tempranillo is very susceptible to weather changes and imparts qualities of the soil. Blending with Granache or Syrah tends to add balance and acidity. Tempranillo benefits from hot days and cool nights and tends to have plum, leather, vanilla and herb flavors.
2007 Carménère Walla Walla Valley
- The Stuff: 95% Single vineyard Carménère; 5% Single vineyard Sangiovese, from Walla Walla and Yakima Valley respectively. Only 46 cases produced.
- The Swirl: Beautiful dark Garnet jewel tones
- The Sniff: Mild aromas of cherry, vanilla and my wife said, “Powell’s Book Store in Portland” – I think she was referring to a slight earthiness
- The Sip: Very nice pairing with our Spanish chili. The wine is mild on the front end, but opens up well to a nice fruit. The balance is rounded off with some mild acidity and a little tartness.
- The Score: At $28 retail, I score this wine a 3+. This is better than the majority of Carménère that I’ve had. The flavor was balanced but the fruit was mild and the finish was moderate. I really enjoyed the unique varietal. If you like medium bodied wines like Merlot, then you’ll enjoy this.
2007 Tempranillo Walla Walla Valley
- The Stuff: 82% Tempranillo, 9% Carménère, 8% Sangiovese from Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley. Only 75 cases produced.
- The Swirl: Slightly darker than the Tempranillo but still moderately translucent
- The Sniff: First aroma was bright bold red fruit (like a Mike and Ike). After sitting out for an hour or two, the fruit turned to a nice sour cherry, dark chocolate, and a spice I couldn’t quite identify (like an herbal garden or something)
- The Sip: A medium bodied wine that jumps out with a nice cherry and cocoa and vanilla. The sweet acidity and medium tannin make this a nice well rounded offering. The finish lingered for quite some time.
- The Score: At $28 retail, I can score this wine a solid 4. The combination of a beautiful bouquet, balanced fruit, spice, acid and alcohol, and a rounded finish make it a stellar purchase.
*Both wines were provided as industry samples with the intent to review.
14 Jan 2010
We’ve all had Chardonnay, but have you ever had 100% Petit Verdot? My recent trip to Spokane’s Latah Creek was a pleasant surprise. In my mind I thought Latah Creek was all about sweet wines (not my favorites) like their Huckleberry Wine or Maywine. I was blown away by the quality of their Merlot, Vinosity (Red Blend), and the Petit Verdot.
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from Connor Lee Vineyards with 100% Malolactic fermentation. Two months in French oak. 760 cases
- The Swirl: Thicker viscosity, more pale yellow than a traditional CA Chardonnay.
- The Sniff: Mild nose with hints of pear and honey
- The Sip: Big and rich butter, vanilla and pear. No oak to speak of. Felt thick and meaty. Finished with a beautiful acidity that washed across the back of my mouth.
- The Score: At a retail price of $12, this is a very well made Chardonnay. I score it a 4+. So far this is one of the best “value” Chardonnay’s that I’ve had. Kudo’s, Mike!
I’m not really a Chardonnay fan but this was an incredible offering for the money. I would venture to guess that it could be found for under $10 in certain locations, depending on sales.
2006 Winemakers Reserve Petit Verdot
- The Stuff: 100% Petit Verdot from Alice Vineyards
- The Swirl: Dark inky plum with beautiful legs after heavy swirl
- The Sniff: Slightly musty and earth smell. Pencil shavings and banana. Not overly fruity at first. Eventually opened up to express some flower (Violets I think).
- The Sip: A very diverse tasting wine. It seemed to have different characteristics each time I sipped it. Started to pick up on the blackberry and it tasted floral and slightly sour cherries. Not tart on the back end and surprisingly smooth drinking.
- The Score: At $30 retail, I score this wine a solid 4. I would buy it again because of the variety of flavor and how different it is compared to the majority of other Washington reds.
This wine is a perfect example of how tastes can vary between individuals. While I felt it was a very well made wine with lots of character and interest, my wife didn’t care for it too much. For me this further solidifies the need for a variety of reviews. Don’t just trust Wine & Spectator’s 100pt scoring. Read tasting notes and reviews. Over time, you’ll know whether you like sour cherries or barnyard. If a wine is described like that, chances are you may not enjoy it, so why drop the cash.
Washington is growing some fantastic fruit. Over the next few years you will start to see more Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Mourvedre, and possibly more Petit Verdot. There is more to WA than your standard Bordeaux fruit.
Continue to explore new tastes, expand your palate and try not to ALWAYS drink the same thing. Life is meant to be enjoyed with friends, so DRINK.HAPPY!