30 Aug 2010
Chardonnay, the grape conjures up many thoughts ideas and opinions. One of the world’s most planted grapes, and planted in more wine regions than any other grape, Chardonnay seemingly has developed a love / hate response. With many people practicing their ABC’s, “Anything But Chardonnay,” many say this regal grape of Burgundy has fallen out of vogue from its prominence in the 80’s and 90’s.
While American, particularly heavily oaked and buttery California Chardonnay, has developed a bad reputation among many, the grape is still a winemaker’s delight as it responds to the subtle nuances of the winemaking process and the surroundings in which it’s grown (terroir). Chardonnay can be crisp and subtle, as in a Chablis, it can be tropical and refreshing, as a un-oaked California Chardonnay, or it can be smooth, round and full bodied apple pie when aged in oak and undergoing secondary malolactic fermentation.
Even though Chardonnay is THE most planted white wine grape in California and Washington, it could be arguably said that the grape is the countries most maligned (although Merlot could compete for that crown too). I recently read an article on Corkd about the results from a survey of 5000 Esquire Magazine readers (male). When asked their beverage of choice (consisting of beer, cocktail, liquor or wine), only 10% chose wine. More interesting was their response to the following question.
“Would you rather order a Chardonnay or get beat up?”
The results, 51% said “Chardonnay, please,” the other 49% took the beating. While the Esquire man may not be keen on Chardonnay, someone must be. Who is drinking Chardonnay? It has to be more than just the desperate housewives of Jersey Shore. With Chardonnay plantings being as they are it certainly isn’t getting poured down the drain. Armed with this information, I decided to review three Chardonnay from three regions of the world. While I didn’t have Chablis to sample from, the wines below are from California, Washington and Chile. What is your favorite Chardonnay? Do you prefer oak or naked (un-oaked)? Sound off in the comments below.
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from the Casablanca Valley. 14%ABV, no other information found
- The Swirl: Light gold color in the glass with a nice clean presentation.
- The Sniff: A moderate aroma of vanilla and pear with some hints of toast that indicate some oaked barrel storage or fermentation.
- The Sip: Crisp and clean on the palate with a full mouth-feel but very little fruit on the front or mid-palate. A single note of pear strikes a chord toward the end of the finish with a hint of tart lemon zest at the end.
- The Score: At $10-$12 the wine is an average offering but provides a decent value. It won’t embarrass you at a party but it won’t leave people talking either. 3/5
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from Preston Vineyards. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and stored in 50% oak for 6 months. 13.5%ABV, 500 cases produced
- The Swirl: Lighter straw color reminiscent of wheat. In the glass the wine gives off a thicker viscosity
- The Sniff: Subtle nose (as typical of Chardonnay) with hints of toasted almond, honey, and cinnamon.
- The Sip: Very impressive with thick juicy flavors. A subtle effervescence greats the tip of your tongue and then gives way to an abundance of fruit. Lots of subtle layers in this full bodied white wine with honey, crisp pear, vanilla, and peaches. The finish on the wine has moderate acid and dissipates quickly.
- The Score: At only $12 this wine outperforms many at twice the price. This is a strong recommend and a definite re-buy for any food appropriate dinner or Chardonnay lover. 4/5
90pts Wine Enthusiast; Paul Gregutt
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from 30 year old vines in Napa, CA. 28% new French oak with 8% of the wine undergoing malolactic fermentation. 14.3%ABV; 640 cases produced
- The Swirl: In the glass the wine is a beautiful golden honey and coats the glass nicely.
- The Sniff: Subtle candy aromas with baking spices, vanilla and cedar.
- The Sip: A great example of how Chardonnay should be made. The fruit comes before the oak but the oak treatment adds a great balance of flavor to the wine. Never-ending flavors of peach, honey, butterscotch, vanilla, pear, and pineapple grace the palate of this wine. A slight lemon zest finishes out the flavor on the back palate. The finish is incredibly long with a wonderfully matched acidity that prepares the palate for the next sip.
- The Score: At $40 this may be out of reach for the typical consumer. For those looking / needing that perfect Chardonnay to compliment a nice meal or special event or for those with discriminating palates and the wallet to afford it, this is a must try! 4+/5
93pts Wine Enthusiast; Steve Heimoff
19 Aug 2010
Thirty-five wineries in a one minute radius? That is where you’ll find Woodinville’s William Church Winery. Located on NE N Woodinville Way, you’ll find a wine lovers walking Mecca. In a single afternoon, you can explore all areas of the states wine growing regions and the diversity that Washington wine has to offer. Don’t forget your designated driver…all that sipping can sneak up on you.
William Church winery is the second career for Rod and Leslie Balsley. Rod left the high-tech corporate world in 2004 and he and Leslie immediately looked to expand their garage wine hobby. With the help of some friends, they jumped into the booming Woodinville wine scene in 2005. Rod and Leslie enlist the help of assistant winemaker Marcus Rafanelli to craft big bold Bordeaux style wines and Syrah. With a case production near 2000, the Balsley’s are getting some top notch recognition for their wine. It doesn’t hurt that they are WSU alums either…GO COUGS!
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier slow cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. 14.1%ABV, less than 1% residual sugar, 240 cases produced
- The Swirl: Pale yellow straw color with a thin viscosity
- The Sniff: Moderate aromas of tropical fruit and apricots. Beautiful and floral through and through
- The Sip: All aboard for a taste bud trip to the South Pacific. I love the layers and layers of tropical fruits that keep coming in waves like the ocean. Guava, melon, cantaloupe, papaya and more. A very well balanced acidity keeps everything in check.
- The Score: At $21 this is one of the better made Viognier’s that I’ve had. While you may be able to pick a good Viognier up for $15-$18, the extra few dollars here are worth it. 4+/5
2008 William Church Bishop’s Blend
- The Stuff: A proprietary blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Malbec, 11% Syrah, 9% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc, 14.1%ABV, 750 cases produced
- The Swirl: Big bright purple colors with a thick plum center
- The Sniff: Blueberry vanilla pie in the nose. If you’re not careful you might sniff a blueberry up your snout.
- The Sip: The blueberry comes through on the palate with a pinch of sweet blackberry on the front of the tongue. Good fruit flavor continues on the mid-palate as a slight pencil lead settles and then opens up to finish with medium spice. The finish is rounded without having any strong tannins.
- The Score: At $20 this is a very approachable wine that will satisfy even the most discriminating palate. A slight bitterness (probably from the oak) comes through on the finish but all in all this is a very well done wine. 3+/5
- The Stuff: A left bank inspired blend of 40% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 20% Cab Franc, 10% Malbec, and 10% Petit Verdot; 18 months in a combination of French and American oak, 12 months in bottle, 14.2%ABV, 250 cases produced
- The Swirl: Dark in color with good structure out to the edge of the glass. About 90% opaque
- The Sniff: The wine is alive with aroma before you even get your nose to the glass. Big notes of dark berry fruit, violets and cassis. The alcohol comes out just a hint on a deep sniff.
- The Sip: Elegant and full of fruit and structure from the front of the palate to the end. Good layers of dark berry fruits along with deep ripe cherries. A velvet texture lines the mid-palate with a finish of medium tannin on the finish. This wine rivals some I’ve had at twice the price in complexity and depth of flavor.
- The Score: At only $28 this is a steel of a Bordeaux style blend. The marriage of fruit is well done resulting in a fantastic wine to sip or to pair with strong hardy meals. 4/5
18 Aug 2010
Not every wine I drink ends up on camera. There are times where some wine ends up missing the casting call or they are a little camera shy. Some of these wines are amazingly talented and their art should be shared with the world. In the end the glow of the bright lights never illuminate their glory for the camera and the world to see. So, sadly they end up never seeing the stardom they deserve and are destined to the non-camera, off Broadway, performance that is this post…Drinking Off Camera.
2008 L’Ecole 41 Seven Hills Estate Syrah
I’ve previously reviewed several great L’Ecole wines (Apogee, Perigee, Luminesce, Seven Hills Merlot, and the Walla Walla Cabernet). From these reviews it is clear to see the consistent quality that connects each L’Ecole wine. While I haven’t tried everything, I can safely say that this little Walla Walla school house is tops in its class.
This 100% Syrah is a collection of grapes from three blocks in the Seven Hills vineyard. Winemaker Martin Clubb fermented the Syrah in stainless steel tanks before aging for 18 months in 40% new French oak. The result is about 1000 cases of a dark inky Syrah that comes in at 14.8%ABV. The strong dark plum color changes to moderately clear at the edges and gives off strong spicy aroma before even putting your nose to the glass. While the typical Syrah characteristics are present with bold jammy fruit, there is also a nice layer of smoke and earth. The mouth feel is moderate with the full flavor enveloping your tongue. The dense fruit quickly makes way for a velvety mid-palate and a finish of spice and strength. The Seven Hills Syrah provides a good layered flavor that would pair perfectly with pork, steak, and hearty pasta dishes. At $36, this may not be your every day Syrah, but it is certainly something to bring out when you want something “wow.” 4/5
2007 Gilbert Cellars Allobroges
Recently, I spent a weekend with Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report. Our agenda was world wine blogging domination but we did manage to get out and about in the town of Yakima for a few hours of wine tasting. One of our stops was the highly recommended Gilbert Cellars. The stop did not disappoint.
The Rhone inspired Allobroges is Gilbert’s flagship wine. At only $20 the Syrah focused blend of 55% Syrah, 31% Mourvedre, and 14% Grenache is a wonderful blend of smooth spice, dried fruit, and earth driven structure. As we tasted through the selection of wine, the Allobroges stood out as being balanced and intriguing. I expected it to be at the top of their price tier, not the lower end. With a 700 case production, winemaker Justin Neufeld fermented the grapes in small one ton bins before moving the juice to age for 22 months in 17% new French and American oak barrels. 14.7%ABV. 4/5
2007 Molly Dooker Blue Eyed Boy
Molly Dooker has come on the scene like gang busters since 2005. Their wines have earned high praise from the magazine elite for amazing value “Lefty wines” and “The Boxer.” Their spendy “Velvet Glove” was their fifth wine to receive a 99 point score and was rated a “Classic” wine by Wine Spectator. I briefly tried the Velvet Glove and was very impressed with its smooth fruit and seemingly endless finish. The weight of the wine was impressive but the tasting scenario did not allow for a formal review.
I recently received several Molly Dooker wines and am excited to taste through each to see what all the fuss is about. The 2007 Blue Eyed Boy is certainly an impressive looking wine in the glass. The thick ink looks like jewelry and is reflective like purple crystal. The bold aromas are playful and jump out of the glass. From a distance a thick heavy blackberry fruit and licorice can be detected. When taking a deep sniff there are classic aromas of pepper spice and cedar. The 16.5%ABV is immediately detected on the nose and lead me to believe that if the wine lacks balance, we may be in for a hot sting upon swallowing. The mouth feel is elegant, opulent, and smooth (and other words similar in description). I can certainly understand the 85-90% Marquis Fruit Weight that is described a “the percentage of your palate that is covered by the velvety sensation of fruit, before you experience any of the structural components of the wine.” The wine is almost everything that it is cracked up to be. The finish is where the wine loses points (in my opinion). Even while letting the wine linger in my mouth I could feel the heat rising. After the fruit dissipated and upon swallowing, there was a less than moderate stinging sensation from the high alcohol. Every sense screamed love this wine but the lack of balance on the finish left the alcohol so dominate that it threw off the whole experience. At $55, this palate says 3/5. I look forward to comparing the 2009 vintage as the listed ABV is significantly less.
04 Aug 2010
The history of V. Sattui Winery dates back to 1885 when Italian born winemaker and baker Vittorio Sattui built a great reputation in San Francisco with St. Helena Wine Company. An expanding operation led to a new location and new name, V. Sattui Wine Company in the San Francisco Mission District. Prohibition forced the end of V. Sattui and the wine company lay dormant for 60 years. Pledged to re-establish a family legacy, Dario Sattui pursued his dreams and passions which led to the eventual re-establishment of V. Sattui on their existing property in 1975.
This story intrigues me for two reasons. First, I love the pursuit of the American dream by an Italian immigrant and the continued pursuit to re-establish that dream by the Sattui family. Second, rarely does a company celebrate 125 years. The oldest Washington Wineries are celebrating 30-35 years with Chateau St. Michelle being the grandfather at 76 years old. Congratulations to V. Sattui Winery on their longevity, rebirth, success and quality.
V. Sattui farms 230 acres of estate vineyards primarily in Napa Valley. All 45 of their wines are available only from their tasting room and through phone or internet orders. 100% self distributed, you will never see V. Sattui in stores or restaurants. Visitors to V. Sattui can enjoy a picnic on the beautiful grounds that include gardens, fountain and two story Italian themed castle. V. Sattui is Napa’s only winery to have their own extensive in-house Italian marketplace and deli that includes pasta, panini, charcuterie, dessert, bread, salad and 205 cheeses from around the world.
2008 V. Sattui Early Harvest Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Napa Valley Riesling; aged 6 months in stainless steel; 12.3% ABV; 2004 cases
- The Swirl: Soft honey yellow with slight lemon lime components, appears thicker in viscosity
- The Sniff: Very bright and lively honeysuckle and floral components with a hint of the traditional petroleum aroma of a Riesling. The sniff gives off the hint that the wine might be sweet.
- The Sip: A wonderful full and round mouth feel that gently envelops your tongue with a hint of honey and pear. The finish leaves a slight pucker on your mouth but the bright acidity washes your palate clean leaving you ready for the next sip.
- The Score: At only $18.75 this is a top notch Riesling to pair with Asian food, spicy food and perfect for sipping on the back of a boat on a hot day. One of the more enjoyable Rieslings I’ve had. 4/5
Cellar Tracker Score 92 Points with 1 Review
2008 V Sattui Henry Ranch Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Los Caneros, fermented in stainless steel, aged in barrels, 951 cases produced, 14.6% ABV
- The Swirl: Thin plum colors with undertones of darker dried raspberries. The color presents itself as about 50% opaque. Definitely not your strawberry or cherry cola Pinot
- The Sniff: The bouquet is a concoction of stewed plums, tomatoes, and darker fruits with hints of gamey meat and earth.
- The Sip: Terroir driven with herb, black tea, coffee bean, and dark plum flavors. All these components come together in a softer and elegant presentation that makes them enjoyable and intriguing with layers of flavor.
- The Score: At $36 this is a more old world presentation of Pinot Noir that seems to brings forth a lot of characteristics of the soil it is grown in. If you love traditional then you’ll like this wine. If you want a lighter and fruitier Pinot Noir, then you may be disappointed. 3+/5
Cellar Tracker Score of 94 Points with 1 Review
2007 V. Sattui Vittorio’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 97% Cabernet and 3% Merlot; fermented in stainless steel and aged in 50% new French and 50% used French oak; 930 cases produced; 14.8%ABV
- The Swirl: Thick, dull and dark. This wine presents itself with a muted deep purple and is solid in color all the way to the edges; about 80% opaque.
- The Sniff: A shy nose with hints of dust and dark raspberry aromas. Subtle hints of dark cocoa are also present.
- The Sip: A well structured Cabernet that behaves appropriately in the mouth but doesn’t dare to offend or surprise with anything. Good layers of dried dark fruits, herbs and dried tobacco. Everything about this wine says subdued and dark. A medium tannin and muted finish round out the sip.
- The Score: Without anything to stand out, this wine becomes an easy to forget $35 Cabernet that would sit well at the dinner table but doesn’t seem to leave a lasting impression. Well made, but at this point in its life it is a 3/5.
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intent to review
28 Jul 2010
Budweiser may be the “King of Beers” but it has nothing on Cabernet, the King of wine. Okay, yes I realize Barolo has been deemed the “wine of the kings,” but in America, King of Rock is Elvis, the King of Pop is Michael Jackson the King of burgers is Burger King and the KING of wine is Cabernet! I have to admit, I love the king!
Last week we explored the noble queen of wine, Pinot Noir. Each of the lovely ladies paraded their wears without shame. They pranced across the stage seeking to be chosen for the night. Some pushed forward their lush fruit while others were coy and playful with a velvet touch. The same night, five big bold king Cabernet sat across the room posturing for position. With their broad shoulders, each stood erect, claiming their dominance over the other.
In the previous review, Signorello Estate Vineyards stood proud and represented two of the five Cabernet Sauvignon. Today we explore two more California Cabernet based wines and one Walla Walla rock star! Of the five, who is crowned the king of kings?
Do You Love Cabernet? Rick Bakas of St. Supery Winery is hosting worldwide Cabernet day on September 2. Use the #Cabernet hash tag when posting on Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, blogs and all the other sites you hang out on. You’ll be able to connect and chat with other Cab drinkers around the world that day. I’ll be there! If you’ve never participated in an online tasting, it is an amazing experience as hundreds (and potentially thousands) of wine lovers share their passions. Drink.Share.Connect.
2007 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, aged 16 months in a combination of new French and American oak; extended maceration; 14.4%ABV
- The Swirl: Lush plum color with good color to the edges. A nice ruby jewel tone refracts in the light.
- The Sniff: A shy nose that offers up hints of oak and dried cherries. Over time the nose softened and reacted very well to aeration bringing out better aromas of pepper and brier.
- The Sip: A darker feeling Cabernet that showcases dark blackberry fruit, cloves, tobacco and vanilla. Looking for bright cherry fruit and full tannin? You won’t find it here, but the wine offers a medium balance and an average finish for the price point.
- The Score: At just $20 retail, this is a good tasting wine that will pair well with hearty steak, blue cheese sirloin burgers, and testarossa pizza. The Edge provides enough layers of flavor and structure to feel more expensive than $20. 3/5
Other Scores: 90 points Wine Enthusiast; Cellar Tracker 88.2 with 18 reviews
2007 L’Ecole 41 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% Cabernet from Seven Hills, Loess, Va Piano, Pepper Bridge, and Yellow Jacket vineyards; aged 22 months in 40% new oak; 2300 cases produces; 14.5%ABV
- The Swirl: Bright crimson and plum in color with slightly thin edges
- The Sniff: The fruit seems to be somewhat absent from the nose as dusty earth, spice pepper and cocoa float from the glass
- The Sip: Hello fruit, I’m glad you decided to join us. A full rich and thick cherry fruit mixed with hints of plum and white pepper. There is flavor that moves across all areas of your mouth that make this for a fun sipping experience. The tannin is mild and the acidity and finish are medium.
- The Score: At $40, this is a high quality, well layered Cab that reminds you of why Walla Walla is so great. $40 is fairly steep for a large percentage of people but know that you can trust this label (not to be confused with the Columbia Valley version) to be a special wine for parties, gifts, or a celebratory dinner. 4/5
2006 Fuse Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 75% Cabernet and 25% Syrah; cold soaking and extended maceration; aged 16 months in French and American oak; 6,000 cases produced; 14.1%ABV
- The Swirl: A very smooth velvet plum color that presents itself as about 90% opaque; a slight tanning from age is presenting itself at the edges.
- The Sniff: A very big and bright aromatic nose that has a perfume exotic spice, lavender, and big cherry fruit. A beautiful marriage of Syrah and Cabernet
- The Sip: Starts off with a cedar / oak attack that almost immediately softens to a very full and round velvet cherry mid-palate. Subtle spices of nutmeg and baking spice jump up on the back end with the medium tannin and lingering finish.
- The Score: At only $25 the beautiful fusion of Cabernet and Syrah are showcased in the 06 Fuse. The blend highlights positive aspects of each grape and comes together to create a fantastic blend. 3+/5
Cellar Tracker 88 points in 12 reviews; 4 Stars Vines Magazine
Blind Cabernet Showdown
The Signorello reds participated in a blind Cabernet tasting that included a 2007 Walla Walla L’Ecole 41, The Edge and Fuse. The wines were bagged and tagged and 12 participants were asked to rate them with 1 being their favorite and 5 being their least favorite. The interesting results (from lowest to highest) are below:
- 2006 Signorello Estate Cab ($50) – Avg Score 3.8 – Received 4’s with a 2 and a 5
- 2007 Edge Cab ($20) – Avg Score 3.6 – Received several 2’s and several 5’s
- 2007 Fuse Cab ($25) – Avg Score 3.5 – Received all 3’s and 4’s
- 2007 L’Ecole 41 Cab ($32) – Avg Score 2.2 – Received mostly 2’s with a 1 and a 5
- 2006 Signorello Padrone ($110) – Avg Score 1.3 – Received all 1’s and a 2 (almost unanimous)
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review