14 May 2010
Eight winemakers in Santiago Chile, one Master Sommelier in New York City, fifty-one bloggers scattered all across the country, all unified through the technology of video chat and twitter. Wines of Chile organized this massive tasting to bring awareness to Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. Chile’s seven wine regions stretch the massive 2600 mile length of the icicle shaped country. With a variety of terroir, the Andes Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Chile offers a climate for every vine. From WoC info – “Even today, Chile remains the world’s only wine-producing country to be entirely free of phylloxera” (an aphid type pest that feasts on grape leaves and roots causing significant destruction.)
Why would Wines of Chile reach out to 51 non-traditional media? Is the influence of 51 bloggers worthy of sending 34 cases of wine at a potential retail cost of $7000 (not to mention the added cost of technology, hiring the host, arranging eight wine makers to meet, and shipping). Cost of an event like this could run upwards of $10,000! For me the impressive part is trying to analyze the potential impact that the initial tweet storm / chat generates and then how far of a reach the potential blog posts and future references / recommendations will have. As blogs are written and shared through Twitter, Facebook, etc., the potential reach could easily exceed one million people. This effort, combined with traditional media reinforces the brand and creates a consumer acceptance of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Brilliant use of Social Media!
This tasting video is done differently than most of my others. Watching me swirl, sniff, sip through 8 wines could get pretty tedious (not to mention lengthy). I tried to edit the video so you could capture the essence of the event. Refer to the NectarView below for the official tasting notes and scores. Each of the wines presents a very similar swirl and they are all from the 2009 vintage at
Very special thanks to Fred Dexheimer, Master Sommelier, for being a very gracious, patient and knowledgeable host for the event! Follow him on Twitter @FredDexMS. To view the entire Twitter transcript, click here.
2009 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Reserva
- The Stuff: 100% Sauv Blanc from Casablanca Valley; 13.5% abv
- The Swirl: Very pale yellow straw color
- The Sniff: Citrus and minerality on the nose with mild effervescence
- The Sip: Citrus, Kiwi, Lime, minerality and moderately tart. The acidity is slightly off balanced but the wine remains a nice crisp drinker.
- The Score: At $11, this is a fantastic deal and definitely a wine to consider for seafood, spicy dishes, and poolside sipping. I can score this a 3+ out of 5
2009 Ventisquero Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauv Blanc from Casablanca Valley; 13.5% abv; cork
- The Swirl: Very pale yellow straw color, hints of green apple
- The Sniff: Slight vegetal elements with a good amount of grapefruit and white tropical flowers
- The Sip: Fruit attack is mellow orange blossoms that open up to minerality and crisp acidity. Well balanced flavors with coy nuances that provide lasting interest.
- The Score: At $17, this is a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc. It provides the traditional flavor profiles while maintaining a crisp balanced acidity. I score this a 3+ out of 5
2009 Undurraga T.H. Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley; 13.5%abv; screwcap
- The Swirl: Very pale yellow straw color
- The Sniff: Green peppers, chilies and honeydew melon on the nose
- The Sip: The fruit on the T.H. is melon, lime and chilies. Blogger, swirlsmellslurp wrote “Chiles, honeydew melon, and a tequila shot with lime and salt.” I agree with their assessment. Big acidity makes the whole thing feel slightly disjointed to me. Screams for food!
- The Score: At $16 the flavors are intriguing and complex. The acidity on the back end throws it off a little. I can score this a solid 3 out of 5 with the warning to pair with food!
2009 Valdivieso Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley; 13.5%abv, wild fermentation with no added yeast. Barrel aged in large French oak for 6 months; cork
- The Swirl: Yellow apple color with hints of pale green
- The Sniff: A dramatic departure from the traditional citrus Sauv Blanc, this wine jumps out with sour orange, herbs, and a sugary sherry smell (almost like a port). A yeasty break component rounded out the aromas.
- The Sip: Funky yeast, bell peppers, and a strong herbaciousness make this a distinctively different wine. Some palates may enjoy the flavor profile because of its unique presentation. If you’re looking for a traditional Sauv Blanc, this is not it.
- The Score: At $22, this is an out of character Sauv Blanc. I give it a score of 2 out of 5. The profile is off, disjointed and out of balance. That, coupled with the higher price for its variety, brings the score down.
Many people during the tasting indicated thoughts of an off bottle. Across the board the wine was definitely intended to be crafted in this way.
2009 Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley; 13.7%abv; screwcap
- The Swirl: Traditional mellow yellow pale Sauv Blanc color
- The Sniff: Floral and lemon peel with a hint of earthy grass
- The Sip: A very focused bi-dimensional flavor profile with only grapefruit and green peppers coming through. The wine is very well balanced with a good acidity and quickly diminishing finish.
- The Score: At $20, I can give this wine a 3 out of 5. It’s a good wine, but there is nothing spectacular about it. At the price range, this only comes across as an average offering.
2009 Cono Sur Organic Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% organically grown Sauv Blanc from the San Antonio Valley; 13.5%abv; screwcap
- The Swirl: Very pale yellow green color
- The Sniff: Very tight on the nose with only slight floral blossom and citrus present
- The Sip: What was lacking on the aroma comes out to gently play on the palate. The Cono Sur is what you would expect from a traditional Sauv Blanc. Tropical fruit, pineapple, good minerality. Wine blogger, winefoot, described this wine as a grassfield creamsickle. I couldn’t agree more.
- The Score: At only $13, this classic presentation of Sauv Blanc showcases the potential of this Chilean variety. I score this wine a 4 out of 5. Easily the best value Sauv Blanc I’ve had in a while!
2009 Haras de Pirque Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Estate Sauvignon Blanc; 13.0%abv; cork
- The Swirl: Light yellow gold tones
- The Sniff: Light flower and citrus. This wine does not open up on the nose. It seems to be wearing a long sleeve turtle neck on a hot day.
- The Sip: Subtle tones of melon and lemon lime. Very singular focused flavor profile. Strong acidity that desires food.
- The Score: At $12 this is a wine that provides good value and doesn’t have any off putting flavors. Because it lacks anything significant, I can only score it a 3 out of 5.
2009 Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Colchagua Valley; 13.5%abv; screw cap
- The Swirl: Pale yellow straw and green apple
- The Sniff: This wine is a smack in the nose with grapefruit, pineapple, and other citrus. Take too deep of a sniff and you’ll burn your nose
- The Sip: A full on drink of dry crisp grapefruit and lemon. Tart finish with medium acidity. A mild hint of minerality on the finish
- The Score: $23; If you like grapefruits, you’ll score this high, but for an overall score of the balance of the wine in comparison to like varietal characteristics, I can only score this a 3 out of 5.
The overall synopsis for me is that seven of the eight wines displayed Sauv Blanc varietal tendencies of citrus, grass, bell pepper, and acid. Four of the eight wines presented very good values and flavor profiles. My favorites were wines 1, 2 and 6.
I have a confession. I’ve had this beautiful elegant and understated label staring at me for over two months. There is something engaging about the simple serif font with only the winery name and vintage on the front. There were times I even set the bottle on top of the cellar buffet just for show. Finally, the time has come to pop the cork and discover if what’s inside the bottle is as elegant and beautiful as the outside.
Penche is French for leaning bending or tilting and the winery name is taken from the old oak trees on the property. Scott and Pauline Asbill discovered the Oak Knoll property on their travels in 2001. Although wine lovers, they had no intention of creating wine, they fell in love with the panoramic views of the Napa Valley. The property originally included 4 acres of Chardonnay which Scott re-planted with three clones of Cabernet Sauvignon.
As the education, consultation, and passion continued, they began selling grapes to popular wineries and in 2005 took the proverbial leap and create Penche Wine. Paul is a wine grower and together with his wife and consulting wine maker Jay Buoncristiani they collaborate on each vintage for quality and direction.
The grapes for each wine are hand picked, hand sorted, re-sorted, and fermented in small containers before being stored for one year in new French oak. After blending trials and deciding on the proper blend, the wine is returned to barrel for an additional 6-9 months before bottling. The wines reviewed below represent only the second release in the fulfillment of passion and a dream!
2006 Penche Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 88% Cab (Penche Vineyard) 5% Cab Franc (Saunders Vineyard), 3% Malbec (Caldwell Vineyard), 2% Merlot (Larry Hyde Vineyard), 2% Petit Verdot (Penche and Saunders Vineyard); 100% new French oak for 18-21 months; 14.8%abv, 364 cases made
- The Swirl: A dark thick extracted purple/plum with rim of bright neon glow; nearly 100% opaque
- The Sniff: Bright red cherry, currant, and slight toasted oak. Very opulent and aromatic
- The Sip: Big fruit forward cherry flavors with cassis. A chalkiness settles on the mid-palate but the acidity washes it away within a few seconds on the finish.
- The Score: At $60, this is on the upper side of the price point for many people. I score this wine a 4 (out of 5) and can highly recommend it for anyone that buys wine in this price point. The wine could / should still see 3 more years in bottle to soften up the chalkiness. If opening immediately, should decant and pair with a big hearty steak!
92 Points Wine Enthusiast for 2005 vintage
The 2006 Penche Cab Sauv comes alive with bright cherries and toasted cedar. The mouth feel is big, rich and fruit forward. The grip on the tongue is released with a nice balanced acidity and lingering finish. Cellar 3-10 years. $60, DrinkNectar Rating = 4
- The Stuff: 40% Cab, 38% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc, 7% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec; 20 months in new French oak, 14.8%abv 289 cases
- The Swirl: Dark purple with softer tones. Edges move toward jewel tone garnet. About 90% opaque
- The Sniff: A wonderful representation of each of the five Bordeaux grapes. The bright cherry fruit is softened by black cherries and cocoa. A whiff of blueberries graces the nose as well.
- The Sip: A smooth mouth feel from front to back. The fruit that presents itself on the nose is also present on the palate with lively flavor all across the mouth. The tannin is less pronounced than on the Penche Cab, but still provides enough structure to pair with food
- The Score: At $40 I score this wine a 4+ out of 5. It is a large wine that is graceful like a offensive lineman in ballet class. It’s bold, smooth and elegant without losing the strength of the Cabernet grape.
No other reviews could be found.
The 2006 Penche Argent is a river of bold flavorful black cherry, cocoa, and well integrated spices. Expect an elegant flavor with strength to pair with food. Argent positions itself well as a sipping wine or to impress at dinner. $40, DrinkNectar Rating = 4+
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
10 May 2010
Twenty four hours of Chardonnay? When I heard the concept I was a little baffled. Previous online tasting events have been confined to a few short hours of frenzy and fury. 2000 tweets crammed into 2 hours can be pretty tough to tackle even for the most experienced twitter addict. The expanded time frame allows for other countries to participate in their own time zones and allows for a very relaxed tasting schedule.
Chardonnay? Really – why Chardonnay? I suppose when you think about it the much maligned US version of the grape isn’t really a great representation of what Chardonnay can be. There’s more to Chardonnay than apple pie and oak buttered toast. One of the most widely planted grapes in the world, Chardonnay is a wine makers grape that can take on many different characteristics shaped by the winemaker. The wine can be “naked,” fermented in stainless steel to showcase the pure essence of the grape. It can be fermented in combinations of new, used, American, or French oak to bring out various vanilla and cedar aroma. The grape can also undergo malolactic fermentation (conversion of tart apple citrus malic acid to smooth rich buttery lactic acid). Chardonnay is truly a world-wide grape with a wide range of appeal.
Hosted by St. Supery Winery’s Rick Bakas, the #Chardonnay tasting brought people together from all corners of the globe. During the tasting, I personally interacted with people from New Zealand, China, France, and South America. These type of events provide a vast opportunity to connect to other wine lovers and learn about the various manifestations of the wine. Rick has previously hosted #CaliCabs, #SauvBlanc, and #WineBlends. Each of these events has changed the way we think about online interaction and wine drinking.
Stats from www.wthashtag.com
#CaliCabs (February 11, 2010) 1400 tweets from 275 participants
#SauvBlanc (March 4, 2010) 2700 tweets from 610 participants
#WAMerlot (March 25) 1900 tweets from 480 participants
#WineBlends (April 1) Didn’t track but this analysis shows great participation
#Chardonnay (May 6) 2400 tweets from 605 participants
Activity for #Chardonnay was spread out over the course of the day which meant that I missed a good portion of the overseas tweets. The format allowed more people to participate on their own schedule but the saturation of tweets was diminished by the extended time.
During the event I had the privilege of tasting through four wines of various styles. The amazing observation was that each wine was completely different and unique and could never have been mistaken for the other. Each wine brought strengths to the table which made for a very fun review. The video is fast paced because I had to taste through four wines in under 8 minutes. Below are the notes and formal scores for each wine.
2009 St Supery Oak Free Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% estate fruit Chardonnay (Napa Valley) fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation. 13.7%abv
- The Swirl: Golden tone with green hues. There is a mild cloudiness to the wine.
- The Sniff: Bright dynamic citrus notes of lemon and granny smith apples. Seems fizzy on the nose
- The Sip: If I could take a wine and snap it like celery, this would have a sharp crack to it. The fruit play is moderately sour pineapple and grapefruit. The flavors are abundant and the acidity is on the high side. There is a slight effervescence that comes through. The finish is moderate.
- The Score: At $22, I score this wine a solid 3 out of 5. The score is lowered slightly because of the disjointed balance between the fruit, acidity and minerality. It’s a very refreshing wine that I would buy again to pair with spicy food or to take on the boat!
No cellar tracker reviews for 2009 vintage. 2008 vintage has 5 reviews with 87 pt average
2008 Mer Soleil Silver Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from winemaker Charlie Wagner. Fermented in concrete and stainless steel. No malolactic fermentation. 14.8%abv
- The Swirl: Yellow gold tone, clean and clear
- The Sniff: Subdued aroma of honeydew, pear and white tropical flowers. Mild yet intriguing
- The Sip: The impressive part of this wine is the balance from front to back. It does not present itself as an overly round Chardonnay flavor but instead brings hints of honeydew, perfume and minerality (concrete?). The acidity and finish are also very well balance making this wine good for either summer deck sipping or pairing with halibut, rockfish, shrimp, or pork.
- The Score: At $32 this is on the higher price range for most people’s Chardonnay budget but the beauty of the wine’s flavor, balance and finish score it a 3+ out of 5.
This wine comes in the most unique container. The 2008 Mer Soleil Silver is in a grey ceramic bottle.
No cellar tracker reviews for the 2008 vintage. 2007 vintage has 18 scores with 88 pt average
2006 Kiona Winery Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 85% Chardonnay, 9% Chenin Blanc, 3% Rousanne, 3% Viognier. Fermented in 75% stainless and 25% new oak; 13.7%abv with 2500 cases made
- The Swirl: Light pale straw, nearly clear in color. Medium viscosity
- The Sniff: The aromas are slightly disjointed with hints of pear and a baking spice or herb that throws it off a little.
- The Sip: The mouth feel is more reminiscent of a traditional Chardonnay without the heavy coating and thickness. The moderate melon and pear are thrown off by only what I can pinpoint as brown fruit or herbaciousness and soil. It lacks any significant acidity and the finish is limited.
- The Score: At only $10, this wine is no slouch but seems slightly off on the flavor profile. I score this wine 3 out of 5.
Check out JJ and Molly from Kiona Wine as they do a Chardonnay food and wine pairing video.
Cellar tracker score of 87 points on one review
2007 Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% estate Chardonnay fermented in 100% new French oak (sorry, no other info)
- The Swirl: Very golden like a blond lager. The gold was so pure it seemed to ooze value and wealth.
- The Sniff: Beautiful notes of honey, sugar, and citrus melon. During a blind tasting of this wine (on another night) I pegged this wine as being the only oak fermented Chardonnay. It’s not overly oaked but the beauty of the vanilla comes through as a giveaway.
- The Sip: Wonderful mouth coating feel without being flabby and buttery. The aromas from the nose repeat themselves here with a balanced acidity that refreshed your palate and creates a crisp lengthy finish.
- The Score: At $35 this is a 4 (out of 5). The Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay brings credibility back to the process of using oak in a balanced and flavorful way. The regal Chardonnay fruit shines and presents a vast array of food pairing potential.
Cellar tracker score of 86 on 9 reviews
**Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
14 Apr 2010
Viognier and Semillon may not be grapes you are very familiar with, but I can assure you that with summer coming, consider these worthwhile reasons to stray from your Sauv Blanc and Rose. A Southwest oasis in the desert of central Washington, Desert Wind Winery was born out of a need for more fruit variety at Duck Pond Cellars (Dundee Oregon). In the early 90’s Duck Pond began planting the 480 acres located on the Wahluke Slope, East of Yakima and West of Tri-Cities. In 2001winemaker Greg Fries presented the first release of Desert Wind Winery. Seeing the phenomenal grown of the corridor between Prosser and Yakima, WA, Desert Wind set out to open a premium tasting room, event facility, restaurant, and retreat center. Considered the highlight of his career, Greg and team opened the Desert Wind Winery in 2007. You have to check out their web site, the space looks amazing! I wonder if Greg and Amber are going to invite me out (wink)?
I previously reviewed the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and it walked away with my March value wine of the month. At just $15 the wine was alive with tropical fruits and a balanced flavor.
For those that skip the videos and just read the text, you’ll want to check out the final minute as I actually pull the guitar off the wall and play it (yes @clivity, I do play the guitar).
- The Stuff: 94% Semillon, 3% Chardonnay and 3% Sauvignon Blanc; aged six months in neutral oak. 100% barrel fermented; 14.5%ABV; 568 cases
- The Swirl: Bright golden wheat color, with honey tones, seemingly thick viscosity
- The Sniff: Light undertones of lemon, vanilla and pear. Subtle but pleasing
- The Sip: Great mouth-feel, velvet and soft with mild fruit flavors of pear or apple and hints of lemon shavings. Reminiscent of light lemon shortcake.
- The Score: At $15 this is a mellow wine that provides simple flavor profile. Would definitely recommend with creamy shellfish pasta or smoked salmon. I score this a 3 out of 5
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier, 91.5% stainless fermentation 8.5% new French oak fermentation for 60 days; 14.5%ABV; 414 cases made
- The Swirl: Light, nearly clear with hint of lemon lime soda coloring
- The Sniff: I think Don Ho came up singing Tiny Bubbles bringing aromas of lychee, peaches and other tropical fruits. Reminded me of some mixed drinks I got in Florida last year.
- The Sip: The tropical fruit was mild on the front palate with good zing of lemon zest and minerality on the mid palate. Amazingly strong acid finish was perfect for palate cleansing. The finish was beautiful and balanced
- The Score: At just $15 this is another winner from the desert heat of Desert Wind. I score this a 4 out of 5. A strong recommend for summertime pleasure or served with spicy foods.
Cellar Tracker scores (none for 2009, 1 at 84 points for 2008)
*These wines were provided as industry samples with the intention to review
07 Apr 2010
Big wine, small lot, Napa vineyards, small price. Looking at the Smith brothers, you might mistake them for iron workers in Pittsburgh or mine workers in West Virginia. One sip of their wine and there is no mistaking that Stuart and Charles Smith are definitely wine makers!
Planted in 1971 Smith-Madrone Vineyards sits on 200 acres of steep hillside on top of Spring Mountain in Napa Valley. The vineyards consist of 13 acres of Chardonnay, 13 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 acres of Riesling. With less than 5000 cases of wine made each year, attention to detail stands out with these wines. Brothers, Charles Smith (the winemaker) – former school teacher and international croquet player – and Stu Smith (vineyard manager) – graduate of enology and viticulture from U.C. Davis, make wine that showcases the beauty of their vineyard.
In doing research for this review, two things stood out:
1) The reference to wine bloggers in the tasting notes. (Joe from www.1winedude.com was referenced in the recent Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon release notes)
2) This quote: “Let me make an analogy with the “Wizard of Oz” to the wine business. Like the Scarecrow, the wine industry is mindlessly making wines to achieve some vaunted number, thus the resulting wines, like the Tin Man, have no heart. I can only hope that the Cowardly Lion will find his courage and roar his defiance and independence by making wines of balance, complexity and nuance. The witch would be (wine critic) Robert Parker because he’s the cause of all this stuff.”
2007 Smith-Madrone Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% estate Chardonnay, 11 months in oak, 754 cases, 14.3%abv
- The Swirl: Pale gold color with hints of thicker viscosity, clean and clear
- The Sniff: muted undertones of toast, pear, and citrus fruits. Pleasing and crisp
- The Sip: Slightly effervescent and very crispy pear and citrus. A good thickness indicative of a Chardonnay, but could be mis-diagnosed during a blind tasting as a Sauvignon Blanc. Excellent acid with finish of stone minerality.
- The Score: At $30, slightly more than I would pay for a quality Chardonnay, but a good score of 4 out of 5. One of the better Chardonnay’s I’ve had from the 2007 vintage.
Cellar Tracker Scores – 90 pts (3 reviews)
2004 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff:82% Cab , 8% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc; 22 months in American oak, 2164 cases, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Dark inky plum with some brilliant bright purple undertones. Nice ruby colors toward the edges, opaque.
- The Sniff: The hills are alive with bright cherry fruit, earthy evergreen trees and smoky tobacco. A bouquet that causes you to get lost in time, forgetting the final stages of sip and spit.
- The Sip: The flavor profile was slightly off balance with a good earthiness on the front end but a hollow mid-palate that lacked the fruit. The finish did show off cedar chocolate covered cherry finish with good tannin structure. The wine could show very well in 3-5 years.
- The Score: At $45, I can score this a 3 (out of 5). The sour burnt cherry and hollow mid-palate lowered the score a bit at this price range.
Wine and Spirits 90 points; No 2004 Cellar Tracker reviews