06 May 2010
On Memorial Day weekend Spokane will officially welcome its 17th winery, Overbluff Cellars. I recently stopped and talked with John Caudill and Jerry Gibson about their opening and upcoming release in preparation for Spring Barrel tasting weekend. While some logistics keep them from having a fully operational tasting room for the weekend of May 7-9, you can get a sneak peek of their wine at Hotel Lusso.
Overbluff Cellars will be pouring their four releases at Hotel Lusso (on Post) from 11AM – 5PM, Friday through Sunday. In a previous post I outlined how you can attempt to hit ALL sixteen participating wineries over the weekend. Check out the post which includes a map you can download and print.
Now sit back, relax and enjoy the world’s first review of Overbluff Cellars wine (I think)!
2009 Overbluff Viognier
- The Stuff: 100% Viognier, 16.5%abv, about 90 cases made, vineyards are Spofford and Les Collines
- The Swirl: A walk down the yellow brick road. This wine shines pure yellow gold with hints of viscosity and some wicked legs (attributed to the high ABV); enclosed with a glass closure.
- The Sniff: Ripe cantaloupes, tubarose flower and that baked sugar cinnamon smell from an apple pie. Take a deep sniff and you’ll pick up on the strong alcohol aroma
- The Sip: Beautiful flavor profile with very nice mouth feel and tropical fruit flavors. A rippin’ acidity and overwhelming heat (from the alcohol) unfortunately throw off the initial flavors.
- The Score: At $19, I can only score this wine a 3 minus out of 5. The effort and fruit are spectacular but the misfortune of elevated sugar levels during harvest have resulted in too much alcohol during fermentation for my tastes. If you like your whites to have a sense of elegance and sophistication, then you may be surprised by the alcohol level.
2007 Overbluff Duality
- The Stuff: A blend of 50% Cabernet from two Walla Walla vineyards (LaTour and Windrow) The wine spent a full two years in oak (not specified) and is enclosed with a glass closure; 13.8%abv, 50 cases made
- The Swirl: Deep purple with excellent coloration at the edges that shine like jewels. The wine is about 70% opaque
- The Sniff: The immediate aroma on this wine is a beautiful cherry and blackberry. A rich fruit forward nose that lightens to subtle notes of dark chocolate. Lacks a definitive spice on the smell.
- The Sip: The fruit gently jumps across your tongue but is almost immediately encroached by some sharp tartness and tannin on the mid-palate. The acidity and finish are both nicely balanced. My general take is that this is still a very young wine that could see another five years before being opened. If opening early, decant for at least 30 minutes to allow the wine to breathe.
- The Score: At $31 retail, I score this wine a solid 3+ out of 5 for having good fruit presence and strength on the back end. My recommendation would be to buy and hold. If you want to open a bottle make sure that it is being accompanied by food and friends (as all good wine should be).
As a side note, I tasted the Duality Cabernet with a dinner that included strong garlic pasta with red sauce and a tomato basil garlic bread. The wine made the dinner better!
05 May 2010
What happens when you combine an earth friendly environmentally conscience Oregon wine with a winery steeped in California tradition and one kick ass rock-n-roll Kung Fu Girl from Washington? Well, you get today’s Riesling review. Nothing clever, just three Rieslings from three different regions in different price points.
2009 Charles Smith Wines Kung Fu Girl Riesling
Charles Smith and K Vintners labels are big, bold and catchy. Some may find the black and white images to be plain and klitchy but the focus of the label is the wine, not the winery. Charles Smith was the 2009 Food & Wine “Wine Maker of the Year.” The Kung Fu Girl is part of his Modernist Project.
- The Stuff: 100% single vineyard Riesling from Columbia Valley; 100% stainless steel fermented and stored. Made in classic “Mosel-style” 1.41% residual sugar; 12.5%abv
- The Swirl: Is this sparkling wine. I think the Kung Fu girl did a round house on the pour and caused a bunch of little bubbles. The color is very light pale lemon in color.
- The Sniff: A fairly aromatic wine that presents nice flavors of peaches, apricots and a lime. With a deep sniff, I got a little heat too.
- The Sip: Good fruit presentation on the front palate with semi-sweet peaches and melon. There is a tart lemon-lime presentation at the end. I didn’t find the acidity to be off-putting but there was something in the finish that kept me from loving the wine.
- The Score: At only $12 retail, I can easily score this wine a 3+ out of 5. I would definitely buy it again. While I didn’t love the wine, I did like it and with the fun label and good flavors, it’s one you can trust to bring to a party!
Cellar Tracker Scores of 88pt with 12 reviews
2008 Smith Madrone Riesling
In a previous post I reviewed a Smith-Madrone Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay was probably my favorite of that variety so far this year (through May). The Smith brothers are down to earth guys who seem to be staying true to their desire to make good wine that showcases their 30+ planted acres.
- The Stuff: 100% estate fruit Riesling; 420 cases produced. The wine clocks in at .70% residual sugar (on the dry side) and 12.7%abv
- The Swirl: Light pale yellow in color (darker than the Kung Fu Girl) with a clean crisp look
- The Sniff: Very tight on the nose with hints of white flowers, guava or papaya fruit and slight wet stone.
- The Sip: Well made wine that has an even flavor from front to back. While the flavor profile is not the most diverse, the flavors of papaya and lemon are very well done. A perfectly balanced acidity and good crisp finish round out the classic taste.
- The Score: At $26 retail, I score this wine a 3+ out of 5. If you can find this wine under $20 it’s an easy score of 4.
Cellar Tracker scores of 90 from 9 reviews
Willamette Valley Vineyards 2008 Riesling
I’ve previously reviewed 3 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir. During one review, their 2007 Signature Cuvee gave me hope that I could find Pinot that I loved. WVV is a vineyard that is leading the way in sustainable programs, recycling, and has a commitment to being carbon neutral in 2010. The Riesling reviewed below won best in class and judges choice in the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle wine awards.
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from Willamette Valley appellation. 100% stainless steel fermentation and storage. 20,000 cases made. 4.3% residual sugar and 10%abv
- The Swirl: A light lemon color with slight cloudiness and thick viscosity.
- The Sniff: Very mellow aromas of perfume, petrol, and steel. Fruit is minimal on the nose but with hints of playful tropics.
- The Sip: I would classify this in the range of semi-sweet. The sweet-o-meter on the bottle calls it Medium Sweet. The acidity on the back end is nice and washes the sweetness away so it doesn’t seem syrupy. Overall a very nice pre-dinner wine or paired with Asian-chicken, sushi, or curry dishes.
- The Score: At $12 this is an exceptional wine. While I’m not a fan of sweet or semi-sweet wines, the quality and price of this wine drive it to a score of 4 out of 5. You can’t go wrong with this wine.
Check out these vidoes featuring Charles Smith and Smith Madrone
* Willamette VV and Smith Madrone were provided as industry samples
Concannon Vineyard was one of the first established vineyards and wineries in the Central Coast. Established in 1883, their Cabernet Sauvignon clones were used to plant much of what is now Napa Valley. Known for their rocky soil Concannon winery was the first in the world to produce the brooding, silky and sexy Petite Sirah and they discovered America’s first female wine-maker.
The two wines reviewed below are part of a new effort of wines made from vineyards that are part of a conservancy effort to protect the land from urban sprawl. The Conservancy label consists of Petite Sirah, Chardonnay (reviewed below), Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each retails for $15
2008 Concannon Chardonnay (Conservancy)
- The Stuff: 100% Livermore Valley Chardonnay; Aged in French and American Oak (no mention of time). 6000 cases, 13.5%abv
- The Swirl: Clean and clear with a nice yellow hue. Lacks the typical Chardonnay viscosity.
- The Sniff: The wine presents a delicate blend of melon and lemon with a hint of creamy butter on the back end.
- The Sip: This is one of those Chardonnay’s that comes across even from front to back. There are no over the top flavors, but the wine showcases just enough to be enjoyable and interesting. Good flavors of tropical fruit and honeydew melon. A mild undertone of vanilla from the oak is pleasing. There is good acidity as well. As mentioned in the video there is an off flavor (mineral) in the finish that struck me as slightly disjointed. Very subtle but distracting.
- The Score: At only $15 this can easily be your stand by Chardonnay. If you like your Chardonnay to still retain the traditional hints of butter, toast, and oak without being over the top, you’ll love this wine. It earns a score of 3+ out of 5
2007 Concannon Petite Sirah (Conservancy)
- The Stuff: 97% Petite Sirah and 3% Petit Verdot from Livermore Valley. 24 months in French and American Oak (new/used not specified); 6000 cases, 13.5%abv
- The Swirl: Upon the pour of this wine you are immediately struck by the dark and brooding purple storm clouds that role in. A beautiful bright violet ring forms around the edge of the glass making the wine feel less intense.
- The Sniff: Plum jam with a little more sweetness. A hot spice (or could be alcohol) comes through as well. The use of American oak is evident on the nose.
- The Sip: The wine softly seduces you with thin fruit on the front and then grabs you by the neck and chokes you with big try tannin and tartness. Those that like to play with Syrah or Zinfandel will not enjoy this wine. A decent structured wine that would definitely come alive with the right food pairing – BBQ Chicken, Smoked Lamb
- The Score: The lack of fruit on the front palate and overly thick back end lowers the score of this wine to a 3 (out of 5). Not a bad score, worthy of a try at only $15 retail.
29 Apr 2010
Sometimes you just need a lot of wine. That’s where I see the value of boxed wine. There are plenty of times in life when people will care less that you’re gracing them with a 2007 Russian River Valley Chardonnay or a 2007 Bordeaux or Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe. These are the times when you’re camping, grilling, or entertaining your less discerning friends and the beverage container resembles one of those red plastic cups you used to charge $5 for at college parties. These are the times when folks might be more concerned about the buzz than the nose. Box wine comes in handy when you need a lot of juice. HOWEVER, there is no excuse for BAD WINE. There are wines that will rock your world and there are wines to clean the drain out with. Regardless of the party or situation, life is too short to drink bad wine.
Both of the wines in this review arrived via FedEx sporting a curiously shaped package. The Octavin Home Wine Bar, as they’re called, is a three liter container (four regular bottles) with a vacuum-packed bag and spout that keep air from getting in contact with wine (oxygen is the single biggest factor to a wine’s demise). According to the literature, the wine should have 10 times the shelf life of a regular bottle. If it’s any good, it won’t need that long *wink*. It’s also worth noting that the Octavin is much more eco-friendly because of the lower shipping weight and smaller package waste. Still, we don’t drink crappy wine.
The Octavin packaging is available with 10 different wines ranging from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to a big Central California Coast Cabernet. Now, on with the review:
2008 Monthaven Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from various vineyards in the California Central Coast. Partially 35% barrel fermented, cold fermented, and barrel aged. 13.5%abv; 40,000 cases made
- The Swirl: Very pale straw color, much lighter than a traditional Chardonnay. Swirl does indicate some thickness to the wine. Clean and clear
- The Sniff: Not a lot happening on the nose. There are some nice plays of pear, subtle hints of tropics, and a slight mineral aroma that throws it off just a bit (not much).
- The Sip: Pleasing on the mouth-feel. Surprisingly nice for coming out of a box. In a blind tasting I would certainly put this on par with some $12 Chardonnay I’ve recently had. The subtle tropics continue on the palate with a tad citrus lemon. The acidity seems slightly off balanced on the finish.
- The Score: At the equivalent of $6 per bottle ($24 per Octavin), I can easily score this a 3 and offer it as a recommended wine for summer BBQ parties or camping adventures.
Side Note: This wine was consumed over the course of several weeks and as time passed the wine did seem to retain its overall quality.
2008 Big House Red
- The Stuff: While in the video I refer to 6 different grapes being in the wine, I must admit that I was wrong because there are 13 different wine grapes in this bend, including five that I can check off my wine century list (Algianico 6%, Tannat 6%, Nero D’Avola 5%, Sargentino 4%, and Touriga 3%). The other grapes in this wine are 23% Syrah, 14% Petite Sirah, 9% Grenache, 9% Montepuliciano, 6% Mourvedre, 6% Sangiovese, 3% Barbera, and 3% Petit Verdot. The wine clocks in at 13.5%abv and 30,000 cases were made.
- The Swirl: Bright purple with 50% translucence and slightly thin and watery at the edges
- The Sniff: The wine struck me as sweet cherry candy with some earthy dust and oak.
- The Sip: Definitely not the big red as I expected from the moniker. The mouth feel is slightly thin. The first impression was an oaky off balance. As I re-evaluated the wine there was some nice mild red berry flavor good back end structure and a descent finish. Not a wine you pull out of a nice dinner but certainly palatable for burgers.
- The Score: I wasn’t overwhelmed by the wine and even at a price of $20 for the 3L ($5 per bottle), I can only score it a 3 minus out of 5.
Both of these wines give me hope for boxed wine. I’m impressed with the packaging, convenience and longevity of the wine. Neither of these are special occasion wines BUT, neither of them were what I would consider bad wines either. I look forward to exploring the other eight Octavin container wines.
*Wines were provided as an industry sample with the intent to review
Every so often I’m reminded of the reason I love wine and the reason I love reviewing wine. Tonight’s review is an example of that. I get the privilege of sampling wine before most people in the world. I get a sneak peek into the passion and heart that a wine maker has put into his craft. One wine is a new flagship from a veteran wine maker, the other is a very special limited release of juice from a young winery.
Latah Creek is an icon in Washington Wine. Producing 20,000 cases per year, Latah Creek was one of the first 20 wineries in the state of Washington (currently at 650). – SEE MY INTERVIEW WITH MIKE CONWAY – For 28 years, Latah Creek has been synonymous with white and specialty sweet wine. Over the past five years Mike and daughter Natalie have been changing that. The Monarch series, of which the Monarch Red is the first, is a distinct departure in effort, direction and label. The Monarch Series will be a focus on premium reds including Petit Verdot, Zinfandel and stylistic blends. The label is their first NOT using their traditional wildlife artwork. The bold new label is a replica of a 30×36 painting from acclaimed Spokane artist Edward W. Gilmore. The new label releases April 23, 2010.
NV Latah Creek Monarch Red
- The Stuff: 50% Zinfandel 25% Syrah and Cabernet from Columbia Valley, 12.5%abv and 112 cases produced
- The Swirl: Dull plum color with garnet edges, about 80% opaque
- The Sniff: Mellow fruit with pleasing vanilla and red fruit notes
- The Sip: Very well balanced from front to back. The wine begins with a nice cherry vanilla and offers a hint of spice. The finish concludes with beautiful tannin and well played acidity. The velvet smoothness will play well with food or as a casual quality drinker.
- The Score: At $25 I can easily score this wine 3+ out of 5. It is well made and offers a good amount of character and complexity to please the casual drinker and the wine connoisseur.
Nodland Cellars 2006 Reserve Cab is simply one of the best 5 wines I’ve had this year (out of close to 100 formal reviews and dozens of other samples). Tim and Tracy Nodland began their boutique winery in 2007 with the release of the 2005 Reserve Blend and are committed to making “small amounts of the best wine we can make,” says Tracy Nodland. - SEE MY INTERVIEW WITH TIM AND TRACY – The 2006 Reserve Cabernet (from McClellan Vineyards) was born when making the 2006 Red Blend. During blending the McClellan Cab was so over the top that each blending percentage they tried resulted in a Cab forward flavor. While they eventually ended up with a blend that represented all six Bordeaux grapes, they held back a few barrels of the 06 McClellan Cab for this reserve. The result is pure Cabernet bliss. The wine is bold without being over the top, provides drinkability while still letting you know it can be stored.
- The Stuff: 94% McClellan Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 % Seven Hills Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot; 50 cases produced, 14.9%abv
- The Swirl: Elegant dark black purple with hints of leathery brown. Edges are subdued tan. Color is about 90% opaque
- The Sniff: Ominous aromas of fresh pepper, big cherries, dark fruit and earthy soil. A hot alcohol smell when taking a deep breath.
- The Sip: Velvet blackberry and plums on the initial attack with a strong pepper mid-palate. Subtle hints of toasted cocoa add intrigue. Very bold tannin without being chalky. The acid is big and makes your mouth water. There is a slight high alcohol heat on the swallow. A beautifully elegant representation of Cabernet without being over worked by the oak.
- The Score: At $45, it may out of the price range for some consumers but rest assured I can score this wine a 4+ out of 5, being one of the five best wines I’ve had thus far in 2010.
For those reading this early enough and in the Spokane area, the release parties for these wines are below. For those NOT in Spokane and lucky quick enough to react, contact each of them directly to purchase.
Latah Creek Monarch Red – Release party is Friday April 23 from 5-7pm – call to order 1800-LatahCreek
Nodland Cellars 06 Cab – Release party is Saturday April 24 from 4-9pm – call to order 509-927-7770