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
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
12 Apr 2010
Finding good trustworthy wine under $10 can be a challenge. Some people question my reasons for pursuing this series. I believe people need help in this range. Generally speaking wine over a certain price is going to be well made. They may have different characteristics but there is a higher percentage of quality wine. Wine under $20 has become more attainable as well. I believe there are more people out there that are looking under $10 for daily drinkers. Economic conditions should not keep people from enjoying wine. The challenge is finding trustworthy wine that, while not exceptional, is drinkable with good flavor.
This brings me to my challenge. Every few weeks I try out new wine in the hope to field a team of nine starters and a few subs. Each team should be stocked with key reds (Cab, Zin, Merlot, Syrah) key whites (Sauv Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sparkling) and some alternates (other miscellaneous grapes). Below is the nearly complete team.
At this rate the Seattle Mariners should win about 47 games this year. For those that don’t know, that’s bad…very, very bad. It’s no secret that along with opening weeks of Football season, April is my favorite time of year. For us Spokane folk we finally start to see warmer weather, the snow has melted and all the brown is replaced with green grass and budding flowers. Crockpot dinners transform to grilling and hanging out on the deck. Steak, burgers and hot dogs become a regular part of the nightly routine, and the calming voice of Dave Niehaus invades the kitchen (he’s the voice of the Seattle Mariners for those who don’t know).
Today’s tryouts include a mystery Cabernet Sauvignon, A well known Syrah, and a controversial Pinot Noir.
NV Distant Bay Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine began as a mystery and ended as a disappointment. The investigation started with a brand that some of my blog friends and I did not recognize. The label mentions being made in Patterson, WA. The main winery in Patterson is Columbia Crest (a Chateau St. Michelle company). Sean Sullivan and I were chatting about it on Twitter and the next morning I woke up to an email that solved the mystery. A retired librarian named Don had been watching our tweets and decided to do some research. He discovered an old Chateau St. Michelle web site referencing the brand and buried deep within the current web site you can find some older tech sheets. Mystery solved!
- The Stuff: 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cab Franc from Columbia Valley, 13.5% abv – The guess is that it’s an off brand to dump some excess or inferior juice without tarnishing the main brands.
- The Swirl: Very light in comparison to most Cabs. Watery toward edges, leathery plum color
- The Sniff: Not very aromatic. The heat of the alcohol comes through toward the end with some moderate oaky cherries
- The Sip: Earthy cherries with hints of white pepper. Not overly flavorful but no off flavors either. Very little tannin and low acidity
- The Score: At only $7, this is not a terrible wine but there are other wines out there for $10 that perform much better. I score this 2 out of 5 and send it back to single A ball to work on its form.
See the WAWineReport review
Cellar Tracker scores of 84 (with 8 reviews)
2007 Duck Pond Syrah
- The Stuff: 96.3% Syrah and 3.7% other reds, aged 11 months in French and American oak, 13.5%abv, 5900 cases produced
- The Swirl: Dull thin plum color
- The Sniff: Moderate nose with hints of oaky vanilla and only a whiff of dark berry fruits. Very little spice or fruit as you would expect from a Syrah (even a lower priced Syrah)
- The Sip: Very hollow on the palate with only hints of fruit. A mellow mouth fell with a smooth finish that trails off quickly.
- The Score: At $12 retail, I score this 2 out of five. While there is nothing wrong with this wine, it doesn’t provide much to make it stand out even at $10.
Cellar Tracker scores of 81.5 (with 4 reviews)
2008 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir
With a label that is banned in Alabama due to the naked lady artwork I had high hopes for this wine. Who couldn’t use more naked ladies in their life? Web Site
- The Stuff: 100% California Pinot Noir, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Very light, typical Pinot, with slight rusty brown tone, extremely translucent
- The Sniff: I get a woodiness on this wine (and it’s not the naked lady) along with a bright candied cherry. Pretty good nose for the price of the wine. Earthy funk that is found on a lot of Pinot
- The Sip: A good cherry candy cola flavor with slight earthy dirt on the mid-palate. The finish is slightly off balanced with some bitterness.
- The Score: At just $11 this wine scores a 3 minus out of 5. A pretty good Pinot Noir for the price considering that most under $20 are suspect
Wine Enthusiast 85 points
Cellar Tracker Scores of 83 (with 3 reviews)
I’m always looking for good under $10 (on sale counts) recommendations. I carry around a rec’s book when I head to the store. If I can find it, I’ll buy it and feature it on a future episode. Leave a comment.
Side Note Addendum
After reviewing game film, I decided to add the Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir to the bench with the potential to become the starting Pinot Noir. Other considerations brought in the 2006 Kiona Winery Lemberger. At $12, this wine is a little over budget but with the collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing I decided to up the budget to bring this wine in as the starting pitcher. Here is my Cellar Tracker review.
My previous Under $10 Tryout featured my American League MLB predictions. Below are the National League predictions for the 2010 season. Disagree? Bitch and share in the comments J
NL East: Florida Marlins 94 wins
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals 101 wins
NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks 89 wins
Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies 91 wins
31 Mar 2010
For a night, Merlot was king. The grape that got turned upside down in the movie Sideways was back on top for two hours in March. This event, and others similar to it, proves to me once and for all that Twitter and other Social Media has changed the way we can do business and effect change.
Before I get into the analysis of the Twitter metrics for the night I must give thanks to the group that pulled it together. I may have been the face behind a lot of posts, videos and tweets, but without these amazing ambassadors of Washington Wine, this event would have fallen far short of its potential. The following twitter personalities were on board from the beginning – @SeattleWineGal – @WAWineReport – @Catie – @WineBeerWA – @WineeYak – @YakimaValley – @Shonoa425 – @wbcorbust – @nwwineandre – and @lunabeanmedia. These are the people who are deserving of the praise.
The Promotion and Media
#WAMerlot gained a massive groundswell about 2 weeks prior to the event. More than 100 wineries, restaurants, wine bars, wine stores, and even hotels from New Jersey to Wisconsin to Phoenix to Seattle got on board! The event was featured in the Spokesman Review, Walla Walla Union Bulletin, and even National Public Radio. Promotion continued through other wine writers like SuppleWine, WineFoot, Oregon Wine Blog, Wine Harlots, Wino Magazine, Sip With Me, Wine-Ophelia, Vinotology, Weekly Wine Journal, Cork’d and so many more (so sorry if I forgot to mention you). One highlight for me was the Gary Vaynerchuk Wine Library TV #WAMerlot episode. In fact, leading up to and after the event there were over 75 blog posts that referenced the event from wine reviews to social media reporting.
The Results and Analysis
I don’t have fancy Twitter analytics. I know they exist. I know there are programs that can determine the overall reach, brand impressions, etc – I don’t have those (if I get them, I’ll update this post). Here is what I do know. The event rocked the wine world!
- Twitter rock stars like @ChrisPirillo (Social Media persona) and @nansen (Seattle politics) joined in during the evening. Between them they have nearly 300,000 followers.
- Wineries and businesses having events had anywhere from zero to more than 30 people in attendance. From preliminary returns average attendance ran about 10. If my 6th grade math serves me right, 100 locations x 10 people average is approximately 1000 people.
- Tweets were observed from Europe, Australia, Asia (China), and North America (Canada, Mexico, and USA) – 4 out of 7 continents.
- #WAMerlot was a trending topic in Seattle (#1 and #2 at times) and was in the top 15 of trending topics on Twitter during the evening.
- Web site www.wthashtag.com tracked almost 2000 tweets by nearly 500 tweeters.
- Total brand reach was well into the millions
- Potential bottle consumption of Washington Merlot for the night is between 2000-3000 bottles
- While attending Taste Washington, I was continually thanked by dozens of wineries that participated in the event. True test – we’ve been asked to do it again.
- People had fun. People drank some effin’ Merlot!
While I spent the evening traveling to four locations in Spokane, I felt it important to give a formal review to the wineries who sent me samples (bottle shots below)
2007 Hogue Cellars Merlot
- The Stuff: 99% Merlot and 1% Syrah, Columbia Valley, 31,606 cases produced, 13.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Moderatly cloudy and slightly translucent. Dark cherry tones leaning toward a plum color
- The Sniff: Fairly tight on the nose at first but opens up to cherry, dust, and cocoa
- The Sip: A little thin on the front and thick fruit flavors on the mid palate. The wine is singular in dimension (dark cherry fruit) and provides a good sipping experience.
- The Score: At $9-$10, you won’t blow anyone away with this selection, but it will suffice as a standby everyday drinker. Some wines in this Hogue family can be hit or miss, but this Merlot is a good trusty label. I score it a 3 minus (out of 5)
Cellar Tracker Scores: No scores on the 07 vintage, but the 05 and 06 scores range between 77 – 87 (median 85)
2006 Fielding Hills Merlot
- The Stuff: Single vineyard Wahluke Slope AVA, 80% Merlot 11% Cab 9% Syrah, aged 19 months in 77% new oak, 14.3%abv, 163 cases
- The Swirl: Dark plum with beautiful jewel tones toward the edges. Mostly opaque
- The Sniff: Overwhelming aromas of cherry, smoke, and hints of spicy bacon. Amazed at how aroma profile changes as it comes through the nose.
- The Sip: A mouthful of joy! The black cherry fruit skips across your tongue and then transforms into undertones of smooth violet perfume, that then release themselves to cocoa flavors. The acidic finish brings a nice wash across the back of the mouth as the finish lingers for eternity.
- The Score: At $36, I score this wine a 4+ (out of 5) and would easily buy it again and again. The balance between complexity, flavor, and drinkability are impeccable.
Cellar Tracker Score 93pts (1 score); Wine Spectator Score 93pts
2007 Longshadows Pedestal Merlot
- The Stuff: 75% Merlot, 15% Cab Sauv, 7% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, Aged 20 months in 80% new oak, 2005 cases, 14.7%abv
- The Swirl: Dark, dark, dark. Looks like the midnight sky with some hints of purple.
- The Sniff: Once you get past the tree hugging oak, some big blackberry fruit springs forth. A small shot of spice shoots out too.
- The Sip: Intense and immense are the words that come to mind. A concentration of fruit with enough acidity to not make you think fruit bomb. The oak flavors are more subdued on the palate and some nice tannins firm up the back end. Still a young wine but provides intense flavor with 60 second finish
- The Score: At $45-$55 I score this wine a 4 (out of 5) – lowered slightly because of the price. An incredibly well made wine for those that want an intense Merlot experience. I would think laying this down for 5 years would reveal a supurb wine for the future.
Cellar Tracker Score (1 review) 92 pts; Josh Green Score 96pts
Long Live the King!
26 Mar 2010
Six wines, two drain dumpers, two meh, and two certified “deals.” This is the result of the Grocery Outlet Challenge. Yesterday, I received a comment on my blog that I MUST pass along. Kelly shares this in regards to wine deal hunting at Grocery Outlet, “You have to kiss a lot of wine-toads before you find your prince charming vin.”
The last two GO posts have generated some of the most intense response I’ve seen to a wine review (over 100 comments between my Facebook page and this blog). This tells me two things, 1) people are looking for bargain wine in a big way and 2) people like the chance to win $50! For me the exciting part has been seeing actual consumers comment on the blog (usually wine blogs generate a lot of industry insider comments). I want to thank the hundreds of new visitors that have stopped by and I want to encourage you to keep coming back and to check out the blog links I read on the right side of the page. There are so many great wine reviewers there that can help with your wine buying decisions.
Today’s review is two reds and two labels that I recognize. In reading through everyone’s comments, this seems to be one of the themes. If you see a label you recognize at a price below what you would find at a grocery store, pick up a few bottles. The other theme is, if you’re into experimenting, be sure to just pick up one test bottle before you commit to the whole lot.
Now, on with the review.
- The Stuff: Sourced from a top Petite Sirah producer in Lodi then re-introduced to oak barrels for 12 months; 6000 cases produces 13.5%abv
- The Swirl: Dark brooding wine with a rusty purple tinge.
- The Sniff: Subtle and subdued but gives off hints of dried cranberry, blueberry, violets and nutmeg (Thanksgiving in a bottle)
- The Sip: Slightly disappointed because the nose was so nice, the structure seems very thin. The hint of cranberry on the front loses itself pretty quickly. The seems to be average tannin on the back end, but not as bold as I would hope for a Petite Sirah. Could be a decent sipper for some folks.
- The Score: G.O. says the retail is $15, but Cameron Hughes website says $11. The price I paid was only $6. At $6 I can score this wine a 3 minus (out of 5). Some people may love it, I was on the fence.
Cellar Tracker scores average 85 (with 7 reviews)
- The Stuff: 100% Grenache from the McLaren Vale; Aged 10 months in used oak 14.5%abv
- The Swirl: Brighter plum with hints of ruby red jewel tones.
- The Sniff: BAM – I just hit in the nose with a raspberry / blackberry fruit. Soft tones of oaky smoke are there too.
- The Sip: My mouth eagerly welcomed this Spanish lover! The fruit was intense but not over the top. It smoothed out nicely and provided just enough spice, leather and smoke as the finish lingered.
- The Score: At $22.50 retail, this is a good wine – at $12, this is a great deal. I score this a 3+ (out of 5)
Definitely the best of the six wines that I purchased.
Cellar Tracker score of 87 (1 review)
There you have it! Six wines down the hatch (or down the drain). Thank you for all your comments, encouraging words and suggestions. I love hearing about the DEALS you found. Please leave a comment for your chance to win a $50 Grocery Outlet gift card. You won’t be added to a mailing list and you won’t get spammed.
GROCERY OUTLET BI-ANNUAL WINE SALE IS MARCH 30-APRIL 3 20% OFF ALL STOCK
*All wine reviewed was purchased using a gift card provided by Grocery Outlet