23 Nov 2010
I love discovering value wines. The majority of the folks on this earth are average Joe wine consumers. The average Joe (or Suzie) consumes about 12-15 bottles of wine per year (I go through that in less than a month) and spends about $15 per bottle. Finding good tasting value wines has been a fun challenge over the last year. I have an entire section of my blog dedicated to “Under $10 Wines” and reviewed 30+ wines over the course of the year to create the “Under $10 Wine Team.”
Recently, by way of industry sample, I received 2 bottles of Parducci wine. I try to review every wine I receive (timing and format vary) but I was excited about the Parducci because there is a Spokane connection. Mike Conway of Latah Creek winery spent time at Parducci in the 70’s. It was while at Parducci that he honed his skills for white wine and brought the slow cold fermentation process to Washington state (cold fermentation brings out a natural residual sweetness in white wines at a lower alcohol level of 8-10%).
Parducci was founded in 1932 as the first Mendocino County winery. In 2004 ownership changed to Mendocino Wine Company, headed up by Paul Dolan and the Thornhill Family. Parducci makes approximately 200,000 cases of wine per year with the majority of it retailed at $10.99. Mendocino Wine Company moved Parducci into sustainable and eco-friendly practices being recognized as the America’s first Carbon Neutral winery.
“In recognition of Parducci’s status as the nation’s first carbon neutral winery and our continuing dedication to social responsibility and environmentally sound practices, we received California’s highest environmental award, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in 2007 and 2009.”
The Nectar View
The 07 Petite Sirah (actually only 88% Petite Sirah 11% Syrah and 1% Viognier) is very vibrant and violet in the glass. The color is actually quite striking and invites a continuous swirl. Moving on to the sniff produces a mild aroma of dried prunes, wet socks (not entirely awful) and violets. The strange mix of aroma makes for a fairly interesting experience. On the sip the PS starts with a very smooth and velvet attack but quickly moves to a strangle hold on the tongue. Petite Sirah can be a little tart and tannic on the palate but in the right settings is a great food pairing. This Parducci wine has nice flavor and structure and begs to be drunk with food. Looking for a sipping wine? This is not it. Looking for a unique inexpensive experience? Give this a try. At $10.99 retail (usually under $10), this scores 3/5.
The 07 Cabernet Sauvignon is a combination of Cab Sauv, Malbec, Cab Franc, Syrah and Viognier. With 20% of the wine spending 26 months in new American Oak, I would expect a bit woody experience. Overall, the wood is flaccid J. In the glass the wine is moderately opaque and the sniff is very mild and tame only producing hints of fruit aroma and vanilla. In the mouth the Cab Sauv is minimal in flavor as well. At this price point you’ll often find under ripe or off flavors. The Parducci produces a decent smooth, easy drinking flavor that will not offend or surprise. Only $10.99 retail (usually under $10), this scores 3/5.
Paul Dolan talking about Sustainable Practices
New wine. New name. New packaging. New revolutionary closure. These are the headlining words on the promotional material for the new Yellow Tail Bubbles. We all need a little more sparkle in our lives and I’m all for finding affordable “go to” wines. Available for $8-$12 does the Yellow Tail Bubbles deliver the goods for all the upcoming holiday celebrations?
I received this wine, along with three Yellow Tail Reserve wines, as an industry sample. A few months back, with the help of my friend Atlanta Wine Guy, I discovered my “daily” affordable sparkling wine in the Segura Viudas ARIA Brut. For $8, it is a fairly tasty and dependable sparkler. I was curious to see how the Yellow Tail Bubbles would stack up in the under $10 price point.
The labeling is a nice upgrade from the previous packaging. The shimmering gold foil and understated logo offer a hint of class to an otherwise whimsical and playful brand. What intrigued me the most was the use of the ZORK re-sealable enclosure. If for some odd reason you don’t finish a bottle of still wine, you can easily re-use the cork as an enclosure by turning it over. Sparkling wine corks are not that way. The ZORK cap combines the romance of popping the cork and the convenience of a proper seal for maintaining the gas (which is where the bubbles come from).
NV Yellow Tail Bubbles
Not much exists in the way of winemaking notes on the wine. The secondary fermentation process is done in the Charmat process where the fermentation happens in a pressurized tank. Not sure of the grapes used in this wine but my guess would be Chardonnay and possible a little Sauvignon Blanc (if you know, please share). The wine clocks in at a relatively low 11.5% ABV.
In the glass the YT Bubbles is yellow, like a granny smith apple and offers a nice head of bubbles even after three days under the ZORK. The bubbles are slow rising and are medium in density. Aromas of apple juice and bread are first out of the glass. In the mouth, there is a good sparkling effervescence but not overwhelming. Subtle flavors of apple sauce with a hint of cinnamon along with a crisp lemon zest round out the flavor profile. The finish is quick and the acidity is minimal. Overall there are some good flavors but nothing in the way of any complexity or layers. At just $9.99 RRP 3/5
In comparison to the Segura Viudas ARIA, this wine was not my style. While the notes claim it to be dryer, it is not as crisp or acidic as the SV Brut. Many people will enjoy the mild sweetness and the price point is low enough to try and come to your own conclusions.
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
27 Oct 2010
There was a time last week when I had 25 bottles of wine open in the house. “What is the problem,” you ask? Well, for one I feel obligated to drink every bottle and two, not all of them are good wines. The open wines were from the Chile Blends tasting, One Hope Chardonnay, and four box wines from Don Sebastiani & Sons.
Over the last six months, I’ve had my share of boxed wines, many of them from the group that distributes the Octavin family of wines. This week, I’m cautiously optimistic to take a look at four wines from Don & Sons and their Pepperwood Grove brand. As a mouth breather and wine lover, chances are you’ve had one of the seven D&S brands, Aquinas, The Crusher, B Side, Flock, s|k|n, Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove.
After significant research Don & Sons concluded that consumers were hesitant to buy 3L boxes because they didn’t see a brand they liked or knew. D&S is taking a significant step by using one of their mainstream recognizable brands in the 3L box format. The four Pepperwood Grove wines are Don & Sons first boxed wine release. In my opinion the packaging, presentation and labeling are the best of what I’ve experienced in this format.
For newcomers to the “new” box wine format, a bladder inside the box deflates as the wine is consumed keeping oxygen (wine’s enemy) from deteriorating the flavor. The 3L format is equivalent to four (4) bottles of wine. A convenient spigot provides easy access. While I’ve yet to encounter a premium wine I’d enthusiastically serve, there are several mid-quality offerings available. Let’s see how the recognizable GREEN BOX wines perform.
BIG GREEN BOX NECTARVIEW
Since each of these wines is simple, clean and in eco-friendly packaging. I’ll keep my reviews simple, clean and I’ll save some words too.
Pepperwood Grove Pinot Grigio
Tweets from the machine:
The un-oaked Pinot Grigio comes across as an oaked wine to me. The wine was round, slightly flabby and offered subtle hints of pear and lemon water flavors. The acidity was weak and the finish was a quick flash. 13%ABV – certainly no offensive flavors but very simple in presentation. Quite a few people will enjoy this wine. It’s simple to drink and will probably go fast at a party. $20 retail for 3L ($5 per bottle); 3-/5
Pepperwood Grove Chardonnay
Tweets from the machine:
Very yellow and thick in the glass, like a pale banana. Strong aroma of toasted apples and vanilla. The mouth feel is big and flabby. The six months on oak staves comes across. I would envision quite a bit of malolactic fermentation as well. The acidity is mild leaving the flavor lingering in your mouth. For those that prefer crisp Chardonnay, this will not be your wine. If you enjoy Chardonnay for the thick easy drinking apple flavors, you may want to give it a try. $20 retail for 3L; 3-/5
Pepperwood Grove Old Vine Zinfandel
Tweets from the machine:
Light burgundy in color and very translucent, can see to the bottom of the glass. At only 13.5%ABV (refreshing for a California Zinfandel), this is on the very low side of alcohol for Zins. Good aromas of blueberry, subtle strawberry, tobacco spice and more. It’s all mellow, but it’s there. The palate is very nice as well with flavors of plums, strawberries and mild pepper. The acidity is well balanced and the finish is lovely. Definitely the bargain find of the four wines tasted. While not complex, there are good flavors in this wine. 3/5
Pepperwood Grove Cabernet Sauvignon
Tweets from the machine:
The wine is sourced from Valle Central (Chile) fruit and weighs in at 13.5%ABV. I get a lot of sour red fruit and raw meat with hints of clove on the nose. Other participants enjoyed the aroma, but for me it was a little off putting. In the mouth the wine felt disjointed and out of balance. With green peppers, sour cherries and medium tannin, the flavor profile was not one that I enjoyed. From the comments on the machine, it looked like the participants were split. 3-/5
Other Reviews, Insights and Final Thoughts
Don’t try this party trick with 16 bottles
Each month I review between 17-20 wines on camera. The total has climbed above 200. However, contrary to popular opinion, I don’t always wait until the film is rolling to drink wine. Several wines are enjoyed at trade tasting events or even in the casual company of friends over dinner or just for fun. Some of these wines, while embedded in my memory for their amazing quality, just don’t receive the time and attention that is needed for a quality review.
Below are six wines that I tasted during the month that didn’t see the bright lights of the video room but did receive the attention for a review. The best phrase I can use to describe these are ‘beauty and beast.’ These wines left indelible impressions on my palate and not always in a good way. Below are some of the best AND worst wines I’ve tasted this year.
Former Chateau St. Michelle wine maker Michael Januik continues his quality tradition at Januik Winery. During our visit to Woodinville in September 2009, sister properties Januik and Novelty Hill were a favorite stop. The ultra modern facility provided one of the more unique tasting room visits we have experienced. The Klipsun Vineyard Merlot was bold in flavor but soft in presentation. The multiple layers of fruit included raspberry and red currants along with thick milk chocolate layers. The wine leaned toward a medium full body and offered an extremely well balanced and soft finish that whispered hints of vanilla and candied cherries. At $30, this Merlot was perfect for a night cap sip, with desert, or along-side chicken parmesan, lamb or roasted duck. 4/5
I am a fan of Zinfandel. I’ve been on a search for the quintessential Washington State Zin, and hoped I had found it at Hard Row to Hoe. This big full bodied fruit attack is from Milbrandt Vineyards and is a blast of jammy strawberry and blackberry in the mouth accompanied by a pinch of pepper on the finish. Sadly, I learned that Milbrandt removed their Zinfandel vines after the 2006 vintage leaving me on the continued quest for a sinful Washington Zin. The wine is big and slightly hot and best enjoyed on its own. The $35 price tag may seem hefty when comparing to quality Seghesio from California, but the Hard Row stands tall as a big and dynamic wine. 4/5
Rated 90pts by Wine Enthusiast
Maison Bleue has burst on to the scene with quality Rhone varietal wines from Horse Heaven Hills and around Prosser, WA. As I tasted through the line-up of wine, the Roussanne stood out among the others for its unique flavors of honey, apples and sweet peaches. Beautiful floral notes permeate the nose. Even with a 4.7% residual sugar, the sweetness of the wine is perfectly balanced with the acidity. A refreshingly “low” alcohol of 12.7%ABV is hardly noticeable in this dangerous summer delight. A bright crisp finish surprises at the end. The Alder Ridge and Six Prong Vineyards provide great fruit for this stainless steel fermented wine. At only $20, this is easily one of the more memorable wines I’ve experienced for the month. 4+/5
Rated 91pts by Wine Enthusiast
A glass of sweet elegant gold is a good way to describe this opulent desert wine. The 2007 R.A. Harrison Nobility is an addiction waiting to happen. I’m not a lover of syrupy sweet wines. I tend to avoid dessert wine tastings. I kept waiting for the opportunity to get the Nobility on camera. Just sitting in its 375ml bottle, it boasted super star qualities. The casting call never came and the 78% Napa Sauv Blanc and 22% Sonoma Semillon ended up stealing the supporting role for the month. The 12.2% residual sugar may make you think simple sweet Taylor Swift but this wine has a dangerously sexy and seductive quality of the mature Heidi Klum. Amazing flavors of honey, almonds, peach syrup and gardenias fully envelop the entire palate. While I know to enjoy this wine in small quantities, the bottle kept beckoning me back for more. $75; 4+/5
The Osborne Seven non-vintage red blend is available in the Octavin Home Wine Bar packaging. The premise is a four bottle package that utilizes a non-oxygen permeable bladder and spigot that keeps wine fresh for up to six weeks. If you could stomach this wine for six weeks, then this would be a value. At only $22 ($5.50 per bottle) the blend of 25% Cab Sauv, 25% Merlot, 18% Syrah, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Tempranillo, 8% Grenache, and 8% Graciano makes for a less than desirable combination. The juice is thin, tepid and extremely disjointed. The berry flavors seem tart and under ripe and while the tannin is smooth on the finish the blast of alcohol and bitterness ruin any hope this wine has. This wine is not a value at any price. It was given several chances to perform over a three week period and ended up down the drain. 1/5 – There are better ways to spend your money.
The eclectic mix of 51% Malvasia Bianca, 14% Muscat Canelli, 13% Viognier, 10% Gruner Veltliner, 5% Pinot Gris, 4% White Riesling offer a unique tasting experience. Flavors of melons and sweet tropical fruits are gentle on the palate. An unfortunate steely bitterness pervades the finish causing a very disjointed tasting experience. At $22 for the four bottle Octavin packaging, some may consider this a good value. Personally, I prefer the Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc or the Monthaven Chardonnay for wine bar value whites. Combining this wine with spicy chicken and serving extra chilled helped considerably. 2/5
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