07 Apr 2011
I’ve never been more compelled by a winery brochure and web site than when I started thumbing through and surfing the pictures of South Coast Winery. The grounds are breathtaking and the whole concept of a relaxing get away weekend with spa, pool, and Tuscan villas had me immediately daydreaming and planning my escape. A previous review included tastings of their GVR white blend, 06 Meritage blend, and Ruby Cuvee sparkler. Each wine showed very well and at attractive price points too. Voted California winery of the year (twice) and 2010 Winery of the Year, South Coast Winery, you may very well be the little slice of Italian heaven that I need right about now.
2010 South Coast Winery Sparkling Pinot Grigio
Want a pop of pineapple in your mouth? Pop open this amazingly crisp sparkler. The head of foam overwhelmed the glass on the pour and I had to do a double take as it looked like strands of hair dancing in the glass as the bubbles swayed from bottom to top. The aroma was bright and full of minerals, yeast, and lemon lime. On the sip, the wine was perfectly Pinot Gris with loads of citrus (specifically pineapple), and hints of wet stone. Chill this way down. When the wine starts to warm up, the tart finish throws it slightly off. The natural 2.2% residual sugar is nicely balanced with the bright acidity. At only $18 this is a perfect pairing with spicy sushi, lemon cake, or citrus chicken. 4/5 (based on value, flavor, and uniqueness).
2007 South Coast Winery IL Temporale
The super Tuscan blend of 58% Sangiovese 19% Cabernet, 13% Petite Verdot, and 10% Merlot is similar to the young wild stallion gracing it’s label. The wine is big and bold but needs to be tamed by a few more years in the bottle. The grapes come from Wild Horse Peak Mountain Vineyards and spend 14 months in 1 year old French barrels before being bottled. Hints of earth, sandalwood, and cherry softy rise from the glass. The mouth feel is rich with a strong sense of earth, peppered red fruit and tobacco. The wine boasts good overall quality and structure and will show well soon. Pair this with a hearty jalapeño flavored spicy pasta or pork. At $36, I can only give this a 3/5
Looking for a good deal? South Coast Winery is currently offering shipping for a penny and savings of up to 20% on online orders.
Three things draw me to Cana’s Feast Winery; 1) the biblical tie to their name with Jesus’ first miracle as he turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana, 2) An Oregon winery that uses lots and lots of Washington fruit, 3) Tamara Belgard – a friend I met on Twitter who used social media to land a marketing job at the winery!
Cana’s Feast Winery is located about an hour south and west of Portland, OR sand south of the Yamhill wine area. Located in a Tuscan style villa in Carlton, OR, Cana’s Feast focuses on several Italian varietals (Nebbiolo, Primitivo, Barbera), and Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Counoise, and Pinot Noir. With price points under $30 (except the Pinot Noir), Cana’s Feast offers a good selection of well priced quality wines.
This 100% Barbera is grown in Washington from Coyote Canyon and Ciel du Cheval vineyards and is aged in a combination of new and neutral French oak. The aroma was bull of under-ripe (green) berries with reminders of Christmas tree fragrance. In the mouth the wine is slightly disjointed with strong acidity and tart raspberry. Admittedly, I am not a huge Barbera fan and know that this wine would be rockin’ with a big plate of spaghetti. For sippin’, I would pass on this wine but would definitly give it a go with food. At $22, I can give this a 3/5.
Hands down, the best 100% Counoise I’ve ever had! Okay, honestly this was the first 100% Counoise I’ve ever had. I was excited to try this Chateauneuf –du- Pape region blending grape. The wine hails from Washington’s Coyote Canyon vineyards and was aged in once used and neutral French oak. With a high alcohol of 14.9%ABV the wine has a vibrant aroma of cherry fruit and a subtle hint of perfume. The medium acidity is balanced out by the semi-sweet cherry flavors and medium fine tannin. With only 116 cases made, this wine alone is worth a trip to Cana’s Feast. With a retail price of $25, I want this wine again! 4/5
With a strong pedigree of 75% Ciel du Cheval fruit and 25% Coyote Canyon fruit, the 100% varietal Cab Franc started strong with good aroma of blueberry and bell pepper. In the mouth the wine is above average but doesn’t provide the wow-factor that I equate with other Cab Franc’s in my memory bank. At $29, this is a good wine that showcases the quality of Ciel du Cheval fruit. The nearly 15%ABV alcohol is balanced by the fruit and acidity without being overwhelming. A good wine that doesn’t quite live up to its pedigree 3+/5
2007 Cana’s Feast Primitivo
With a heritage from Croatia and closely tied to Zinfandel, Primitivo can be a big, jammy Italian wine. When tasting Primitivo, I make immediate mental comparisons to some of my favorite Zinfandels that hail from California. Only a few Washington vineyards produce Primitivo. 100% of the fruit comes from Coyote Canyon. The BIG 15.5%ABV is hidden underneath the thick berry and spice. The fruit flavors are strong on the front palate with an odd off acidity on the back palate. The wine has more layers than a typical $10 California Zin, but lacks the structure to compete with the $25 Seghesio Zins. A solid offering and worthy of a taste test 3+/5
Smith-Madrone winery has been making estate grown and bottled wine for 40 years! Founded in 1971 by brothers Stu and Charles Smith, Smith-Madrone makes about 4000 cases per year farmed from their 200 acre ranch in St Helena California. A visit to the winery will always be accompanied by a tour from one of the Smith brothers.
In 2010, Stu Smith became somewhat of a wine world personality with the launching of his www.biodynamicsisahoax.com web site. From the opening paragraph of the web site:
“I challenge any Biodynamic farmer or supporter to defend the writings of Rudolf Steiner. I submit that if you believe in science you cannot believe in Biodynamics, and the corollary is just as true, if you believe in Biodynamics you cannot believe in science. As you can tell by the title I believe that Biodynamics is a hoax and deserves the same level of respect the scientific community has for witchcraft, voodoo and astrology.”
I’m a fan of sustainable and responsible growing and distribution of wine and do not claim to be an expert on the subject but the practices of bull horns and cow manure don’t seem to have any bearing on quality grapes. So, this post isn’t about biodynamics…It’s about two Smith-Madrone wines. If you want to know more about biodynamics (and Stu’s view) click the video from Cork’d.
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Riesling. The 2009 growing season resulted in the lowest Riesling yield in Smith-Madrone history. With only 302 cases produced the bone dry Riesling comes in at 12.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Very light in the glass, almost colorless with just hints of golden straw
- The Sniff: Amazingly vibrant nose that explodes with aromas of apple, pear and a nice minerality. This wine makes my mouth water with ever sniff.
- The Sip: Quality Riesling through and through. A wonderful kiss of sweet Asian pear graces the front of the tongue accompanied by a balanced tart citrus on the mid palate. Wonderful flavor profile with outstanding acidity and a balanced finish.
- The Score: At $27, this is more than I would spend without having had some experience or strong recommendation for this wine. So, here it is…if you’re a Riesling lover, you will like this wine. 4/5
- The Stuff: 100% big bold and bombastic Napa Valley Chardonnay. Aged for 11 months in 70% new French oak. 14.4% ABV, 790 cases produced
- The Swirl: Very light in the glass, lacks the traditional yellow gold color one comes to expect from Chardonnay.
- The Sniff: Immediately get a blast of cedar, smoke and earth. The nose has to really dig deep to catch a whiff of the granny smith apple. A nice minerality starts to present itself upon a second visit.
- The Sip: I’m a fan of slightly oaked Chardonnay and this one delivers on that front. The fruit seems to be a little more hidden than I would have initially liked. After the video review I enjoyed this wine with an Indian Curry based dish and it really came alive. The mouth feel was thick without being overly exaggerated. The presentation of the mineral acidity on the finish was a nice touch.
- The Score: At $30, I enjoyed the wine, but I preferred the 2007 vintage. Give this one a try in the tasting room if you think you’ll be on the fence at that price. 3/5
More from Smith-Madrone Winery
15 Dec 2010
Turkey dinner with cranberry sauce and apple pie; the traditional Swanson TV dinner. Since 1953 Swanson has been synonymous with bachelor living, working families and modern convenience. In 1985 the Swanson family purchased 100 acres between Silver Oak and Opus One. W Clarke Swanson planted Merlot in the heart of Cabernet country, CA and that gamble paid off. Swanson built a reputation with quality Merlot and now expands that production to Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and a few red blends.
While Swanson TV dinners have become equated with microwaves and convenience, the wines have proven themselves to be associated with quality. Recently selected as one of the top 100 wines of the world and winery of the year, 2010 by Wine & Spirits Magazine, Swanson is a winery to be considered on your list of top contenders. The three wines reviewed here will be released in the spring.
You’ve had the dinner, how is the wine?
Visit Swanson Vineyards on the internet www.swansonvineyards.com
2009 Swanson Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio to me is usually either crisp thin and tart, or slightly flabby but still light on fruit. The 2009 100% Napa Valley Pinot Grigio (13.6%ABV) is a nice balance of flavor, fruit, and mouth feel. 100% stainless steel fermented to bone dry with no malolactic fermentation, the sip reveals a nicely structured wine that is pleasing to the palate without being flabby or tart. Flavors of melons, lychee and citrus are softly interwoven. At $21 this is typically more than I would pay for a Pinot Grigio. Give this wine a try at the tasting room (or order it by the glass) before committing to the whole bottle. 3+/5
Scores on Cellar Tracker are 89 points from 3 different reviews
2007 Swanson Merlot
It’s no secret I love a well made Merlot. I love the combination of aromas and soft subtleties of fruit that can often times have flavors of coffee, cherry, and chocolate. Merlot makes for a great dinner pairing or just relaxing in the evening. The $36 Swanson Merlot is sourced primarily from their Oakville estate vineyard. Winemaker Chris Phelps gave the fruit a cold soak extended maceration before laying it down for 20 months in 40% new French and American oak. The color in the glass has a fairly dark plum center and soft colors of muted ruby at the edges. The aroma out of the glass is a bright combination of fruit, licorice, and cola. From what I’ve seen and smelled the anticipation was very high. This wine, on the sip, lived up to the expectations. The fruit was slightly thin on the front palate but opened up to a medley of flavor. I loved the play between cola and coffee and the fruit flavors were not over the top but nicely balanced. This merlot also boasted some modest muscle with a hint of thickness on the finish. At $36, worth the price for merlot lovers. 4/5
2007 Swanson Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon
The 07 Swanson Alexis stands tall above everything else. Literally…the bottle is like two inches taller than your standard wine bottle. Do you get more? At $75 you should, but sadly it’s just a marketing play. The pedigree here is strong; 26 day extended maceration, 22 months in 60% new French oak, Napa Valley fruit from Schmidt Vineyards and a moderately tame (for California) 14.8%ABV. The Alexis is 81% Cabernet and 19% Merlot. The swirl showcases the deep color of the fruit but the wine is not opaque. Like the merlot, the aromas jump out of the glass. This wine is deep and lush with a bouquet of dried flowers, baking spices, dark berry fruit, and subtleties of toasted oak. On the sip, I was surprised by the soft strength of the wine. For a young bold California Cabernet, Alexis is very approachable and velvety while still offering well integrated tannin that you would expect. I would expect this wine to be in its prime in just about 5 years. I liked the wine but I didn’t LOVE it and for $75, I need to LOVE it to recommend it. From a quality perspective, the Swanson Alexis is an extremely well made wine with great aroma and flavor. Proceed with caution even with a 4/5 score.
Only 500 ½ cases of this wine were produced so chances are your only experience will be at the tasting room or very select restaurants.
Previous vintage of this wine scores 92 points with 3 reviews on Cellar Tracker.
Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review and for fun…here is a flashback to the 80’s with some TV Dinners by ZZ Top!
26 Nov 2010
I am not a huge fan of turkey. For Christmas I’d rather have ham, for Easter, I’d rather have prime rib. For Thanksgiving, we’ve established a tradition of lasagna and cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate turkey. If you’re going to invite me over for Thanksgiving dinner, don’t think you have to serve something different. Just don’t serve me mushrooms, brussel sprouts or liver and onions.
Every other year my wife and I end up alone for Thanksgiving. With family in Portland, some in Phoenix, and shared custody of the boy, we stay by ourselves in Spokane on the even years. When we first got married we decided to try something different. Rather than make a big turkey dinner for the two of us, we, well mostly me, decided, “Why not make my two favorite things in the whole wide world?” Enter, lasagna and cheesecake.
Our good friends, Tim and Tracy Nodland (owners of Spokane’s Nodland Cellars), were gracious enough to provide us with three of their newer, recently released and soon to be released wines. Not one to be very patient, I jumped at the opportunity to pair these three wines with our non traditional Thanksgiving meal.
2008 Nodland Cellars Bebop Riesling
The Nodland’s make a Riesling only when the vintage is right. Tim loves the old world Mosul style Riesling full of petrol and minerality. I recall the 2005 Bebop having aged very nicely to display these characteristics. The 2008 is a very bright golden delicious apple color in the glass. A slight effervescence jumps out on the aroma. Further scents of slightly sweet peaches and tropical flowers add to the beautiful bouquet. On the sip, the Bebop strikes a nice chord or a hint of sweetness and a mild tartness. A little steely minerality spikes up on the mid-palate and the wine has a really good acidity which helps to cleanse the palate.
We used ½ cup of the Riesling in the raspberry puree reduction for the cheesecake. The dry Riesling was a great pairing for the tart sweetness of the raspberry sauce. The medium acidity provided a great wash after each bite of the thick white chocolate cheesecake. At $20, some may find this Riesling to be a tad out of their normal budget for white wines, but if you like a gently sweet dry Riesling, you’ll love this wine. 3+/5
2008 Nodland Cellars Bad Attitude
The first release of the Nodland Cellars Rock-n-Roll series label, Bad Attitude, has been a huge success. Tim and Tracy have only made one red wine in their previous vintage releases. At $35, their traditional Bordeaux Red Blend can be out of reach for most people’s every day drinking wine. The Bad Attitude uses the same great Seven Hills fruit but rather than aging the wine in $1200 French oak barrels, the wine is aged in $500 American oak barrels. This year’s Bad Attitude is a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Malbec (two of the more amazing grapes grown in Washington).
The swirl showcases the light characteristics of Merlot with a fairly translucent color. The wines aromas begin to showcase their rock-n-roll attitude right from the beginning. A huge power chord of vanilla, blueberry and charcoal reverberate from the glass. In the mouth the wine is also very gentle. This wine reminds me more of a gentle Over the Hills and Far Away rather than the driving Black Dog (bonus points for those that get the reference). In the mouth you can feel the use of American oak. For me, it’s nicely integrated and I like the play of the overly cooked marshmallow, vanilla and graham cracker. At $20, the Nodland’s have a number one single on their hand. 4/5 Instant Classic!
2007 Nodland Cellars Avant-Garde
From the back label:
“Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo. This wine is made from the obscure Carmenere grape, referred to a Grand Vidure in French.”
Carmenere is rarely used, and when it is, it is used as a blending grape. The original traditional Bordeaux blends included Carmenere, but it has since been mostly neglected. Nodland Cellars uses Carmenere in their Red Blend release. For 2007, they held back a small portion to be released as a 100% Carmenere, a showcase of the varietal.
On the swirl the Avant-Garde has a thick center core of plum that fades to more translucence around the edges. Typical of all Nodland wines the aroma is full and big. Strong bouquet of blueberries and exotic spice (not sure how to describe it) are most prevalent. On the sip the wine is full and lush with a gentle mouth coating feel. A hint of cherry sweetness graces the front palate and strong minerality of lead and rocks poke through the mid palate. One of our guests didn’t care for the minerality and described it as a little biting. There is a slight alcohol heat on the finish. The spice of the wine wasn’t a great pairing with the spice and acid from the tomato based lasagna. A better pairing for this wine would be beef, or a Pork Osso Bucco. Personally, I loved the wine and the uniqueness of flavor. At $32 it might not be for everyone. Unless you know you’re a spicy Carmenere lover, I suggest you head to the tasting room for a sip of this wine before dropping the cash. Personally, I’d buy TWO, one to drink now and one to see how the magic evolves in five years. 4/5
The Avant-Garde is being released on Friday, December 3 at the Nodland Cellars tasting room at 11616 E Montgomery 5:30-8:30. Enjoy a sip and a special discount.
How was your Thanksgiving? Did you have any amazing wine pairings? Please share…