28 Feb 2010
“My wife died for no damn good reason. It’s time to do something about this.” – Budge Brown, Owner of Cleavage Creek
At an age when most men have earned the right to retire, 77 year old Budge bought the Cleavage Creek label with one goal – fight breast cancer. After his wife of 48 years passed away, Brown was “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” Every year 40,000 women die of breast cancer and 130,000 are diagnosed. The passionate act of making wine has led to over $73,000 in donations to Oncology Research Centers, medication, and financial help for women struggling to survive.
Many of you come to DrinkNectar for wine reviews and this is a wine review of three Cleavage Creek wines. Life is more than wine. Life is about connecting with people and making a difference and leaving a legacy. Cleavage Creek donates $1.50 from every bottle sold. Drinking wine can actually make a difference in a woman’s life. Chances are, as you are reading this, you can think of someone who has been touched by breast cancer, maybe you’ve even lost someone close to you. You can relate to Budge’s passionate anger toward finding a cure.
I was first introduced to Cleavage Creek when they agreed to participate in my Wineries on Twitter Series. Their use of Social Media is a model to be followed. They connect, their social, and they rarely promote. They are using the power of the social world to spread the great word about their wine and their mission. With vineyards in Napa Valley (20 acres) and Tracy Hills (20 acres), Cleavage Creek has a vast selection of estate wines, reserve releases and blends.
On the label of each Cleavage Creek wine is the picture of a breast cancer survivor. Their story of struggle, courage, and hope can be found at the Cleavage Creek Web Site. Terrie, who graces the bottle of 2008 Chardonnay, was diagnosed in 2004. After a long painful battle, including a Mastectomy and several surgeries, Terrie is a survivor! “I don’t take anything for granted and I thank my Creator every day for all of my blessings. Dealing with breast cancer was a horrible experience but I emerged a more positive, appreciative person. I am thankful for the incredible people I have in my life. They are my angels. My life is blessed and I know it.”
Yes, this is a wine review, but more than that, it’s a humanity review. In my book, Budge and the folks at Cleavage Creek score a Best in Show, Double Gold and 100 point score for their efforts!
2008 Tracy Hills Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% Estate Chardonnay from Tracy Hills AVA, CA – 8 Months in new French oak; 225 cases
- The Swirl: Golden Wheat colored with less “viscosity” than some Chardonnay
- The Sniff: Interesting to find a predominate melon (no pun intended) and citrus aroma with hints of smoky vanilla. Not a strong nose, but very pleasing
- The Sip: Classic Chardonnay thickness on the front palate with a gentle flavor of vanilla and nut. The melon flavor is very mild (maybe like a Honeydew Melon). The acid is light on the back end.
- The Score: At $18, this is an above average Chardonnay and the price point is good. I score it a 3 (out of 5). The flavor was nice but lacked depth and dimension.
2007 Tracy Hills Shiraz-Merlot
- The Stuff: While the label says Shiraz, the blend is actually 67% Syrah and 33% Merlot. 230 Cases
- The Swirl: Very dark and inky, opaque and ominous looking
- The Sniff: As described in the video, the fruit seemed to be playing hide-n-seek with a tree. There was a distinct woodiness and moderate fruit play. The typical Syrah spice was downplayed (probably because of the Merlot).
- The Sip: The wine needed to breathe. The initial sip felt like an all out assault on my mouth. In the video, you can tell I was not super pleased with the presentation. DAY TWO provided a great experience. The wine opened up very nicely with a beautiful blackberry / dark cherry flavor and the tannins on the back end were much more palatable presenting a nice finish. Strongly encouraged to decant this wine.
- The Score: At first sip, I was going to score this a 2 (out of 5) because of the bold tartness that seemed to overwhelm. My enjoyment on day two lifts the score to a 3+ (out of 5). For $18, this is a nicely balanced Syrah (after decanting) that provided a good structure of fruit, spice, and finish.
2007 Tracy Hills Secret Red
- The Stuff: There is no disclosure of the blending of this wine (hence the secret) – my guess would be predominately Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Syrah (or Zinfandel); 400 cases produced
- The Swirl: The color is what I like to describe as a rusty purple, similar to what you might find with an aged wine or a Cabernet.
- The Sniff: The fruit raises his hand from the back of the class and says, “Hello, I’m here and I’d like you to meet my friends cocoa and cinnamon.” This is a nice mildly aromatic wine, not overwhelming but nice.
- The Sip: At first taste this wine was my favorite of the three tasted (although after the day two showing of the Shiraz-Merlot it is close). The structure seemed to be a dance between the cherry and a cinnamon / pepper spice on the front. As the pair danced away, the mouth was met with a two note melody of cocoa and oak. The tannins were mild and the acidity was balanced. Nice sipping wine that would hold well to pork or a chicken with a red sauce.
- The Score: Also at $18 this is a 3+ (out of 5). The mild aroma holds this back from being a 4. At $18, it’s a sure bet to please most casual wine drinkers and connoisseurs.
The cause if phenomenal, the story is inspiring, and the wine does not disappoint. I couldn’t more highly recommend a wine to support and enjoy. Your mouth will enjoy and your heart will swell with pride.
21 Feb 2010
What is the carbon footprint of your wine? At first glance, Y+B Wines may cause a double take. The 1L box wine is a departure from the glass wine bottle. If you’re of the mindset that there is something romantic about popping the cork on a wine, then you may have a difficult time adjusting. If you have greater concern for our planet and are interested in what’s inside the container, then Y+B Wines may be a perfect combination. While Y+B may have stereotypes and hundreds of years of tradition to overcome, they are certainly making a strong case for quality, sustainable, eco-friendly packaging.
Wine Blogger Dr. Vino used a carbon footprint calculator he created for the wine business to determine that Y+B Wines have a carbon footprint about 54% less than traditional packaging.
“Consider: A case of wine in glass weighs 40 pounds and holds 9 liters of wine — close to 50% wine and 50% packaging. A case of Yellow+Blue weighs 26 pounds and holds 12 liters of certified organic wine. That’s 93% wine and 7% packaging.” – From the Y+B Web Site
As you continue your review of the Y+B company (not even thinking about wine), you notice a company committed to doing right by people and the planet. Grapes are grown 100% organic and sustainable, the company offsets it’s carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offsets, and 1% of proceeds go to www.kiva.org (a person to person micro-lending web site)
So, how’s the wine? Yellow plus blue may equal green for the planet, but can they make purple (and gold…oh, and Rose too)?
Y+B’s current line-up includes a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, Rose from Spain, Malbec and Torrontes from Argentina. Below are reviews for Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec.
2009 Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Central Valley of Chile farmed organically and sustainably
- The Swirl: Very pale, not even qualify as yellow or gold, maybe wheat almost ready for harvest
- The Sniff: Bright citric fruit with emphasis on lemon and mandarin orange
- The Sip: Again very bright citric of lemon, lime and a little tart. Throw slightly off balance with a little steeliness. The acidity is mild and the finish trails off quickly
- The Score: At only $12 for 1L this is a fantastic value for every day drinking Sauv Blanc – I score it a 3 (lowered slightly due to the off balance steeliness)
- The Stuff: 100% Malbec from San Juan Argentina farmed organically and sustainably
- The Swirl: Very dark purple borderline plum and black
- The Sniff: A woody earthy berry that seems not quite ripe
- The Sip: Nice red berry (maybe cherry) with some tree components. The finish was moderately tart
- The Score: At only $12 for 1L, I score this a 3 (out of 5). This is not a smooth drinking wine but more a food hearty drinker with decent characteristics
The overall impression is that these are not your typical box wines (think cube). They offer good quality as well as portability that bottles may not offer (camping, picnics, etc). One note about the Tetra-Pak spout – on both bottles the spout came slightly disconnected from the box upon opening causing a party foul dribble pour. Creative pouring ensued.
The Verdict: Look beyond the packaging and examine the product inside. If you like the wine, the earth friendly packaging and socially conscience business model adds to the value!
*These wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
16 Feb 2010
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training this week. Why does this matter? It means spring is here, regardless of what the groundhog says, and that grilling season is right around the corner. The Mariners have added Cliff Lee to their pitching rotation and ‘game maker’ Milton Bradley to the outfield in the hopes to improve upon their winning season last year. Regardless of the outcome, one guarantee – I’ll be out on the deck with a glass of wine (and the occasional beer) rooting them on.
The under $10 wine challenge is an effort to field a team of 9 quality wines and a few bench players that YOU can trust. The budget wine category is the most precarious for wine selection. Finding a good quality made wine can be a challenge. With the help of my Social Media friends, we will field a team before the 2010 All Star break.
To date, 15 wines have tried out, been in the batting cages, and worked out with the trainer, and only two have made the starting line-up (Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc and Bogle Petit Sirah). Two wines are holding out in AAA ball working on their game (Dancing Bull Zinfandel and Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon)
Today’s training brings the traditionally rich Chardonnay trying out for Right Field, Riesling shooting for Second Base, and a Pinot Noir looking to gain a spot at Third Base.
For all my scouts on Twitter – I’m looking for your recommendations for Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sparking, Bordeaux Blend, and Syrah). To qualify, the wine must be widely available and under $10 (on sale counts).
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from the Central Valley of Chile. Four months in 35% oak / 65% stainless; 13.4%ABV
- The Swirl: Elegant and delicate light purple, mostly translucent but with modest jewel tones.
- The Sniff: Very green – like a Christmas tree – with strawberry and smoke. Slightly earthy.
- The Sip: Very grapey Welch’s juice with hints of green twig and strawberry
- The Score: For a $10 Pinot Noir, I score this a 3 (out of 5). This is a wine that has potential and is not embarrassing or poor.
This is the first Pinot Noir to try out for the team. I’ll send this one to AAA for the potential to be called back up. It’s missing the sweet elegance that I would expect from a Pinot.
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from the River Junction Vineyard in California; partial malolactic fermentation in stainless steel; 13.5%ABV
- The Swirl: Pale yellow but not the rich thick of a standard Chardonnay, reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc in color
- The Sniff: Tropical aroma of melon and pear, very faint hints of Chardonnay vanilla and butter
- The Sip: Chardonnay characteristics on the front with strong citric and melon on the back end. This is a Chardonnay trying to come out as a Sauvignon Blanc. This is a refreshing Chardonnay that has hints of sparkling wine.
- The Score: While this is not a great representation of a Chardonnay, I score it a 3+ (out of 5). It is a quality wine with a well balanced flavor for only $8
I’m looking for a Right Fielder, not a First Baseman. This wine is schizophrenic but well made. Not making the team as the Chardonnay, but will be back in my wine rack for parties.
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from various Columbia Valley vineyards, 12%ABV
- The Swirl: Very light, pear in color
- The Sniff: Mild peach, citrus, and metallic aroma
- The Sip: Moderately sweet front end with a well balanced dry back end wine. This would be considered an off-dry Riesling. Hints of peach and lemon peel
- The Score: For only $6 this is a 3+ (out of 5). This is a solid wine for the money.
This is the first Riesling to try out for the team and will most certainly make the squad.
Cheers and Drink.Happy!
12 Feb 2010
Wineries in California had the chance to observe the power of a unified voice on Twitter on February 11. Like a gigantic tasting room frenzy wine lovers, wineries and wine makers converged on Twitter for two hours to focus on California Cabernet. In his effort to promote California wine and show wineries in the region the power of Social Media, Rick Bakas (director of Social Media for St Supery winery) launched the event through word of mouth using Twitter, Facebook and the good old fashion phone call.
When I talked to Rick on the phone you could tell that while the event has some built in exposure for Rick and St. Supery, he was jazzed about the buzz happening at other area wineries. Rick lives and breathes the power of Social Media but he also has a genuine passion for California wine.
Early stats indicate that the event was a success with over 1500 tweets from 250 people during the two hour block. Those numbers don’t take into consideration the countless people NOT tweeting but still participating in California tasting rooms and tweet-ups. All told, in one two hour time frame, over 1000 bottles of California Cabernet could have been consumed! Total marketing cost of the event $0 (that’s ZERO)!
Steam continues to build as Rick announced a Sauvignon Blanc focused twitter tasting on March 4 (hashtag #SauvBlanc). Also, stay tuned for a huge Washington wine event in late March that hopes to have some national tie-ins and collaboration with several Washington wine influencers on Twitter (announcement coming on February 23).
2007 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles AVA
- The Swirl: Very dark plum with hints of ruby jewel tones toward the edges
- The Sniff: Moderate hints of black and blue berries. The strongest scent is green briar or evergreen. Nice notes of spice dance around on the back end.
- The Sip: A pleasing front end with some sweet fruit that is Syrah-like. A subtle vanilla oak pokes through right before the tart tannins grip your tongue on the back end. It’s not a Darth Vader death grip, but still pretty stout.
- The Score: At only $14, this is a heck of a value and a well made every day Cabernet. I score it a 4 (out of 5) for price to value. If you ever find this wine on sale for $10-$12, but several bottles.
Other scores from Cellar Tracker range from 84 – 90 points
2004 Croze Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff:100% Napa Valley Cabernet, 42 months in oak, 13%ABV, 637 cases made
- The Swirl: Nice dark rust colored plum with a little translucence (almost see to the bottom of the glass)
- The Sniff: I never wanted to stop smelling this wine. Floral perfume kissed me first, then gentle bright blueberry and strawberry aromas held hands and skipped through my nose. They were followed up by some mellow vanilla notes. This is the kind of wine scent you wish for in every bottle of Cabernet!
- The Sip: Definitely does not disappoint – The fruit is soft and supple like a long slow French kiss. The passion builds as some spicy pepper jumps in. The finish is super balanced and longs with enough tannin to keep the wine strong with food.
- The Score: At $35 this is a 5 (out of 5) wine for me. I love the complete package and would definitely buy this bottle again.
Other score on Cellar Tracker is a 93 and well deserved!
Did you participate in #CaliCabs? What wine did you enjoy? If you didn’t participate, what is your all time favorite California Cabernet and why?
10 Feb 2010
Pinot. Just the mention of the word causes many wine lovers to begin to salivate at the light, sweet fruit. Pinot. This fickle grape drives wine makers crazy with its thin skin, susceptibility to weather, and its influence from the soil. The high-maintenance drama queen of wine perpetuates passionate prose and is the ire of Merlot lovers everywhere.
Oregon winery, Willamette Valley Vineyards manages to gently coax 310 acres into beautifully crafted Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir (among a few others). Wine Enthusiast calls Willamette Valley Vineyards, “One of Americas great Pinot Noir producers year after year.” As you’ll see in the video, I whole heartily agree.
While the wine I’ve tasted is a palate pleaser, even more impressive is the wineries stance on being a steward of the land. From the basic reduce, reuse and recycle to a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2010, Willamette Valley Vineyards is a world leader of sustainability. One impressive program offers fifty gallons of biodiesel to employees every month (10 employees participate).
Those that know me (or watched my reviews) know that I have a love / hate relationship with Pinot Noir. My limited experience with the grape has left me with a sour view of what it can produce. I’m not giving up! A wine that generates so much passion must have an impressive upside.
2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, 13%ABV, 37,446 cases produced
- The Swirl: Very translucent and clear. Borderline amethyst like tone
- The Sniff: A moderately restrained nose that produces gentle whiffs of sweet cherries or cranberries, woody oak, and vanilla.
- The Sip: A little thin on the initial attack but opens up to delicate raspberry / cherry with a dash of vanilla. The finish is slightly sweet and tart like a SweetTart candy.
- The Score: At $25, I score this wine a 3 (out of 5). It’s a very nicely made Pinot Noir. It lacks the brightness of flavor to score higher. At under $20 on sale this would be a solid wine.
2007 Signature Cuvee
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, 14.5%ABV, 305 cases produced
- The Swirl: Translucent and clear with moderate garnet tones. Very pretty – would make a nice piece of jewelry
- The Sniff: Very bright aroma of cherry and cola with hints of smoke and wood
- The Sip: Impressive balance, the initial taste feels slightly carbonated (like pop rock). The sweet cherries are not overwhelming and the finish is wonderfully round with the right amount of acidity.
- The Score: At $50 this wine may be out of reach for the majority of consumers but shows very well and deserves a score of 4 (out of 5).
Overall this round of Pinot Noirs has shown me why there is such a passion for this fruit. You can feel that the wine is a delicate dance and must be carefully crafted to produce a good product.
*This wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review