15 Mar 2010
The good folks at Swirl Smell Slurp wine blog have a great challenge going. They’ll be collaboratively tasting through wine from all 50 states over the next 50 weeks. The challenge is creatively titled, “United Slurps of America.” The inaugural post featured tastings with 1WineDude from Pennsylvania. I was honored to be selected as the representative taster from Washington. With the crappy shipping laws in this country, locating the same wine in two different states can prove to be a challenge. Fortunately ‘him and her’ were able to find five wines at their local wine store that I was familiar with and hadn’t already done reviews on. We settled on a Riesling from Seven Hills and a Merlot (of course) from Charles Smith.
If you’re not familiar with SwirlSmellSlurp.com – check them out. They’re fun, edgy, witty, and they have a great line up of thematic posts from Sunday Salon to Weekly Hangover. They’re definitely a candidate for Wine Blog Awards “Best New Wine Blog” (but I hope to offer a little competition).
2008 Seven Hills Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from two Yakima Valley vineyards; screw cap
- The Swirl: Bright pale honey color with a thick viscosity.
- The Sniff: A decent bouquet of citrus, lime, plumeria, and tropical sweetness
- The Sip: I’m not a sweet wine fan – I enjoy my whites crisp, with fruit, but on the dry side. This was a moderate sweet Riesling (6 out of 10) but not syrupy. A decent amount of acidity helped to balance out the sweetness. The finish was quite lengthy.
- The Score: At $14, this is not my favorite wine (mostly preference). I score it a solid 3 (out of 5) for being fairly one dimensional.
I was super excited to try this next offering from Charles Smith Wines. From their web site:
Owner-winemaker Charles Smith with his big hair, kick ass attitude and bold packaging arrived in the Walla Walla Valley following eleven years in Scandinavia managing rock bands. Originally hailing from northern California, he has been involved with wine personally and professionally his entire life. “It’s just booze – drink it!”
I purchased the Velvet Devil Merlot for an upcoming “affordable Merlot” tasting to promote #WAMerlot on March 25. When SwirlSmellSlurp had the devil on their list, I succumbed to the temptation.
2008 Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot
- The Stuff: 100% Washington Merlot, 10 months in oak, 13.8% ABV
- The Swirl: Mildly translucent with ruby red undertones. A pretty wine
- The Sniff: Smooth dark chocolate with cherry and oak. I would imagine this would be the aroma an Umpa Lumpa would smell in the chocolate river (if cherries were involved too).
- The Sip: The sip is slightly thin on the front that opens up to a nice moderate fruit – still cherries. Definitely a chocolate covered cherry Merlot.
- The Score: At only $12 (sometimes under $10) – At this price, a solid 3 (out of 5). A trustworthy wine for the money. Good sipper, but the thin front and single dimension leave the score lower.
Special thanks to SwirlSmellSlurp.com for inviting me to participate. Make sure you follow along with their journey. I’m excited to see where it takes them.
14 Mar 2010
A groovy tasting party. Sounds interesting enough. I pictured Joplin tunes, tie dye shirts, and a little incense burning to set the mood…
Oh, a GruV tasting parting, meaning the Austrian grape Gruner Veltliner. I suppose that would be cool too. Four white wine reviews done in your best Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation. Rather than a Conan the Barbarian themed tasting the theme was a GruV Olympics. Evidently the Austrians are big Winter Olympic champions. I decided to do some research and googled Austrian Olympics. Apparently, Austria has participated in more Olympic games than any other country and has won 185 Winter Olympic Medals, including more alpine skiing medals than any other country (Hermann Maier is considered to be the greatest skier of all time).
So, with that back story, we proceed with the Olympic style tasting of Gruner Veltliner. 43,000 acres of GruV are grown in Austria (about 1/3 of all grape acreage). The refreshing white wine is often citric, moderately tart with aromas of peach and sometimes tobacco. From what I’m told their very food friendly (probably because of the tart acidity).
We pooled together our greatest wine tasting connoisseurs to judge the grand tasting (actually just regular peeps, who’ve never tried the grape). The party was a blast. We enjoyed tasting through each wine as we used a standardized tasting sheet that scored on appearance, aroma, balance, body, taste, finish and overall quality. The maximum score is 20 points. We sampled each wine with our dinner of Salmon, rice and salad, and then proceeded to the judging chambers as each wine entered the starting gate for their run through the course.
SEE THE VIDEO FOR A BRIEF RECAP OF OUR PARTY
2008 Lois Gruner Veltliner
- The Stuff: 100% Gruner Veltliner from Fred Loimer in Kamptal Austria 12.5%ABV
- The Swirl: Presented a nice bright yellow apple color with mild amounts of sediment
- The Sniff: Very mild on the nose with tart apples and dull banana peel
- The Sip: A decent sweetness on the front end that was attacked by a tart bitterness at the end. The finish trailed off quickly. Someone bubbly in the mouth.
- The Score: At under $10, some may like this wine for its dry tartness. I score this a 2 out of 5
The Olympic scoring sheet between six tasters (not including the French judge) 6.5 out of 20
The Schwarzenegger rating: Junior or Twins (awkward and out of place)
The race for silver and bronze was extremely tight.
2008 Weingut Wieninger
- The Stuff: 100% Gruner Veltliner, estate founded in 1905
- The Swirl: A very nice bright color. Pale and clear.
- The Sniff: The nose was still slightly tight with hints of herbs and bright lemon peel
- The Sip: Moderately sweet with a decent balance. Slightly thrown off on the back end by some steeliness and minerality. Acid levels seem high. The finish was modest.
- The Score: At $13 this was a good GruV offering that would score well with most people (especially for the price and party talk it could bring) Not quite the Terminator in his prime but still a 3- (out of 5)
The Olympic scoring sheet between six tasters award this wine the BRONZE at 11.5 (out of 20)
The Schwarzenegger rating: Running Man or Eraser (ok but forgettable)
2008 Austrian Pepper
- The Stuff: 100% Gruner Veltliner from lower Austria 11.5% ABV
- The Swirl: Slightly cloudy with a dull pale golden green
- The Sniff: The aroma in this offering seems to dance around in the bowl a little more offering up some tender notes of peach, spicy tobacco, and seven-up.
- The Sip: Very nice across the palate with smoother fruit and spice. The acidity was well balanced and the wine had a good tartness on the back end, but not overwhelming.
- The Score: At $18 this is on the more expensive side of GrV but scores well at a 3 (out of 5)
The Olympic scoring sheet between six tasters award this wine the SILVER medal at 12.5 (out of 20)
The Schwarzenegger rating: Commando or Conan (Classic)
As the tasting wraps up, it is becoming apparent that we have not established any lovers of the Gruner Veltliner. Admittedly there was only one white wine lover of the six of us with other drinking whites “on occasion.” The overall impression was that the grape seemed tart and citric for everyone’s tastes.
2008 Stadt Krems
- The Stuff: Owned by the city of Krems the estate was founded in 1452! 100% Gruner Veltliner grapes with 7 months in stainless steel 12.5% ABV
- The Swirl: Impressed with the clarity and brightness of the color. A very nice golden white.
- The Sniff: Aromatic nose with white flowers, perfume, and lemon peel. Slight herbs too.
- The Sip: Slightly bubbly on the tongue with a good sweetness. The acidity and tartness were well balanced and the finish lingered. Overall impression was good citrus fruit but thrown slightly off by the perfume flavor.
- The Score: At just $16 this is a good showing for Gruner Veltliner and justifiably earns a 4 (out of 5)
The Olympic scoring sheet between six tasters award this wine the GOLD medal at 17 (out of 20)
The Schwarzenegger rating: Predator, Terminator and Total Recall (Great with some good muscle and finesse)
08 Mar 2010
Welcome to the Lifestyle of the not so rich and way not so famous. Tonight we celebrate the 2009 Academy Awards and the celebration of cinema. As the thespians drink their $3500 per bottle Krug Clos Ambonnay Brut Champagne, DrinkNectar sips through three bottles that are in a more modest price range.
Best Picture the year I was born: The Godfather
Tonight’s nominees are from Spain, Austria, and California. My typical Sparkling wine consumption is reserved for special occasions, and New Years. I love it, but I’m usually consuming big bold Cabernet’s or Zinfandels. One of tonight’s nominees was submitted by Kevin from @atlantawineguy as a part of my Under $10 Wine Challenge. Kevin recommended the Spanish Sigura Viudas Estate Cava.
Best Picture Winners I Haven’t Seen (40 years)
2009 – The Hurt Locker
2007 – No Country for Old Men
1998 – Shakespeare In Love
1987 – The Last Emperor
1978 – The Deer Hunter
1977 – Annie Hall
1971 – The French Connection
As I reviewed these three Sparkling wines, it became apparent that each wine was a star in its own right. The Spanish Cava wins for ‘best value,’ Austria’s Gruner Veltliner wins ‘best foreign wine,’ and California Roederer Estate Brute takes ‘best bubbles.’
My Favorite Move (Which happens to be a best picture winner 1994) Forrest Gump
NV Segura Viudas ARIA Estate Brut – Spain
- The Stuff: 60% Macabeo, 20% Parellada, 20% Xarelo-lo; 3 years on yeast
- The Swirl: golden yellow (Chardonnay color), moderate bubbles
- The Sniff: Tight nose with apple toast and yeast being predominant.
- The Sip: Strong carbonation with hints of apple and smoky bread
- The Score: At $8, this is not a bad tasting bubbly, but lacks a lot of flavor and has too much carbonation and yeast. I score it a 3 (out of 5). So far this bubbly makes the Under $10 Team (mostly for lack of tryouts)
Other reviews: Cellar Tracker 86 points (12 reviews)
NV Roederer Estate – California
- The Stuff: 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir; 2 years on yeast; 80,000 cases
- The Swirl: Color is more pale yellow, great bubbles
- The Sniff: Bright pear with hints of honey and nuttiness
- The Sip: Very nice flavor profile with good apple, honey and cinnamon
- The Score: At $23, I score this a 4 (out of 5)
Other reviews: 91 pts Wine Spectator, 92 pts Wine Advocate, Cellar Tracker 89 points (214 reviews)
NV Szigeti Gruner Veltliner – Austria
- The Stuff: 100% Gruner Veltiner
- The Swirl: Golden yellow tone
- The Sniff: Bright acidity with citrus and tropical fruit tucked into the yeasty toast
- The Sip: Good sweetness with some tartness on the back end. A refreshing bubbly with some good citrus flavor
- The Score: Overall, I was pretty impressed with the quality of this $18 sparkler. I score it a 3+ (out of 5) for flavor and value.
Sparkling Wine Mixers
For the sake of time, some of the video was edited. The observant viewers will notice that my final drink goes from pale yellow to pink. What was responsible for this transformation? I edited out the segment that talks of how to use Sparkling Wine as a mixer. The yeastiness of some inexpensive sparkling wine can leave you a little dry in the mouth. On video I talked through a few solutions using cranberry juice, cassis liqueur, or vodka. Give it a try, you’ll be surprised at how you can transform an average bottle of bubbly.
In celebration of the 2009 Academy Awards, what is your favorite movie? Which Oscar winning film (from all time) is your favorite?
05 Mar 2010
Social Media is changing the way we interact. The idea, an online wine tasting. The subject, Sauvignon Blanc. The marketing medium, Twitter / Facebook / Blog. The result, nearly 600 people simultaneously tasting, tweeting, and talking about Sauvignon Blanc. That is just online. Add in the dozens of wineries who hosted local tweet-ups as a part of the event and the economic impact is staggering. A non-scientific guess puts Sauvignon Blanc consumption at over 3000 bottles in a two hour period.
The cost of promotion: ZERO $$
The economic impact goes beyond the wine consumption and expands into brand awareness, food consumption, and more.
Rick Bakas, Social Media Director of St. Supery Winery, organized the event and promoted through his influence on Twitter and Facebook. Rick’s previous event #CaliCabs focused wine lovers on a single grape from California. He has arranged two future events that focus on #WineBlends (April 1) and #Chardonnay (May 6). Save the date for these future events.
The Next Event: #WAMerlot
In celebration of Washington Wine Month, Washington invites you to turn Sideways upside down and celebrate #WAMerlot. Join dozens of Washington Wineries and hundreds of people on March 25. All you need is Washington Merlot (or a Merlot blend) and the Twitter hashtag, #WAMerlot. If you’re looking for Washington Merlot, check out the great deal from Wine Library (shipping to 36 states) – thanks, Gary!
- The Stuff: 100% California Sauvignon Blanc 50% of profits donated to charities that help save the planet
- The Swirl: Light crisp and slightly darker than water. Very pale
- The Sniff: Floral, melon, lemon peel and acidity
- The Sip: Smooth and tart describes the wine. The wine has a slight Chardonnay buttery coating but then opens up to a crisp tart apple flavor.
- The Score: At $18 (and because of the charitable support), this wine scores a 3+ (out of 5)
- The Stuff: 100% Wahluke Slope Sauvignon Blanc, Stainless Steel fermentation; 432 cases made
- The Sniff: Wholly tropical fruit Batman. This wine instantly transported my nose to Hawaii with Guava, Peach, and Pineapple aroma. I instantly fell in love with the nose and wished it could be bottled as a summer body spray for my wife.
- The Sip: Less dynamic on the flavor profile. The guava was mellow on the front and earthy herbs presented themselves on the mid-palate. The finish was lemon/lime tart but washed away nicely after a few seconds.
- The Score: At just $15, I score this a 4 (out of 5). This is a great value and is a wine that will impress at parties and provide a fantastic drinking experience in the summer months.
*The wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
Final stats of the night show that nearly 600 tweeters contributed 2700 tweets (according to www.wthashtag.com/sauvblanc). Tweeters represented from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, United States and more. The top tweeters of the night were @cestbeth (with 131 tweets), @mmwine (with 101 tweets) and @SIPthegoodlife (with 64 tweets).
Cool Facts on SauvBlanc
#SauvBlanc was one of the first wines to be distributed with screw cap
Did you know that there are nearly 200,000 acres of #SauvBlanc planted worldwide
Top #SauvBlanc producers are France (60k acres), New Zeal (22k acres), Chile (22k acres) S Africa (21k acres) California (15k acres)
03 Mar 2010
Three ladies jump in the ring and go toe to toe for supremacy. Sorry, no mud! These ladies are queen Pinot Noir’s from three different parts of the world and three different price points.
This battle is a semi-blind tasting. I know which three bottles I taste; I just don’t know which wines are in each glass. Ahead of time, my wife pours the glasses and writes the name of the wine on a card placed upside down in front of the glass.
For my friends new to the wine world, Pinot Noir is a noble, fickle lady. The grape is said to be difficult to grow, produces lower yields and is affected greatly by soil and climate. The thin skin produces a light color and a traditional Pinot Noir is soft and pairs well with all kinds of food.
Through the tasting you can see that I’m quickly impressed by one of the wines, uninspired by the other and curious about the third. The first bottle is quickly identifiable as a well made Pinot. The aroma is sweet and bright and the flavor is eloquent, round and balanced. The middle bottle was thin and boring but not tasteless. The final bottle had a very strong scent of earth, sour candied cherry, and graham crackers. A lot of people will like this wine, but for me, I’m not a fan of earthy wines.
You’ll have to watch the video to see how the tasting turned out. We’ll just say 1 out of 3 ain’t bad.
2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Tualitan Valley Vineyards
- The Swirl: A very light rusty brown purple color. Very translucent and clear
- The Sniff: Bright Rhubarb and Strawberry with vanilla and perfume
- The Sip: A nice sweet front end with a tart cranberry on the back end. A beautiful acid wash to clear the palate.
- The Score: At $40, I score this a 3+ – compared to the Signature Cuvee I had from WVV, this doesn’t quite measure up. Much better than some at $20 but others at this price fair better.
See another review by blogger Mary Cressler at Vindulge
2008 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, nothing else clearly defined on web site
- The Swirl: Muted red purple jewel tones with 70% transparency
- The Sniff: A strong earthy herb aroma with whiffs of sour cherry and toasted oak
- The Sip: This wine has a big mouth. Definitely herb”ie” (not the Love Bug) and wet dirt along with a candied cherry sweetness.
- The Score: At only $16 this wine will appeal to a lot of people who enjoy Pinot Noir. I’m not a fan of this flavor profile, but it certainly wasn’t boring. I’ll score it a 4 (out of 5) for value and flavor.
No Cellar Tracker or Cork’d reviews of the 2007 Vintage
2008 Smoking Loon Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: Not a lot of detail on their web site; 100% California Pinot Noir
- The Swirl: Muted ruby red tone with about 70% transparency
- The Sniff: Mild aromas of sweet cherry and strawberry. Mild smoky campfire bacon. Picture yourself coming back from a long hike and your about 100 yards from the camp site – your nose gets a faint whiff of bacon and your heart skips a beat. That is what is very mild on this nose.
- The Sip: Quite thin on the front end with a touch of sweet cherry candy. A tart backend with a quick finish. Reminds me of the scrawny kid in class that no one pays attention to. As you look back through the year book you say, “Hey, he went to school here?”
- The Score: There is nothing off balance about the wine, it just leaves me uninterested and flat. At only $8-$10 that doesn’t surprise me and still leaves me looking for a surprise value in this price point. I score it a 2 (out of 5).
No reviews of the 2008, but the 2007 is reviewed with an average score of 83 from 10 reviews here