28 Nov 2012
I’ve been told I’m trouble. I wouldn’t classify myself as a troublemaker but I certainly like stirring things up a bit. The Austin Hope Troublemaker blend is my Wine of the Week (#wowwine on twitter). If you’re looking for something that breaks a few rules and creates a bit of trouble. I highly recommend this Rhone(ish) style blend.
NV Austin Hope Troublemaker
Producer: Austin Hope
Region: Paso Robles
Cooperage: Multi vintage; older vintages see about 8 months in oak
My Suggested Food Pairing: Chopped Lamb Steak With Garlic and Spinach
The Troublemaker was a gift from a friend for my 40th birthday. I think he was trying to tell me something in relationship to my life. Dark in complexion, the outer rim shows a lighter gentle plum color. The multi-vintage blend is 55% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache and 5% Petite Sirah all from the Paso Robles region in California. Love the soft aromas of licorice, banana peel and game. The flavor profile is also very soft (surprising for the amount of Syrah) with flavors of vanilla, pepper spice and black cherry. The wine is fruit forward enough without being overly fruity like many inexpensive California fruit bombs. I like the attention to detail on the complexity of the palate. $20
Austin Hope did a fun ‘Office’ parody when releasing the first vintage of the Troublemaker.
29 Aug 2012
A few weeks back, Ben Hilzinger (aka The Wine Slinger) was rummaging through the pile of un-tasted samples in the basement and said, “Hey, mind if we break open the Smoking Loon Old Vine Zin.” Fresh off my commitment to blog more, I complied. This week’s wine of the week (#wowwine on Twitter) is 2009 Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel.
2009 Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel
Producer: Don Sebastiani & Sons
My Suggested Pairing: Sweet & Sticky Baby Back Ribs
Having had dozens of value California Zinfandel I thought I knew what to expect when I opened this wine. It was partly what I expected and partly full of surprises. First surprise was the thin color of the wine with the watery edges. The nose of the wine was a little smoky (but no loons) and had a spicy hot burnt rubber aroma as well (the surprise). In the mouth the wine was classic bold jammy prune, stewed berry and spice (expected). This old vine Zin would appeal to a lot of people and would be a nice Tuesday wine or something to have with pizza on family game night. When asked to guess the price, Mr. Wine Slinger said, “I would put it at $18-$20.” WRONG, Benny, this vino is only $10 retail, oft found for less. BOOM, value!
21 Dec 2011
It is rare that you taste through a lineup of wine where every wine showcases quality and stunning depth. This is my second run through of wines from the Wagner family, makers of Mer Soleil, Conundrum, Meiomi, Belle Glos and Caymus. For the second time, I am blown away. Previous scores for these wines ranged from 3+ to 4+. The 2008 Belle Glos Pinot Noir was my #2 wine of 2010 and my bench mark for Pinot.
For this review, I’m embarrassed to share that I drank SIX bottles of Wagner wines…all by myself. Before you schedule an intervention, let me mention that each bottle was a mere 50ml (less than 2 ounces).
For your reading ease, I’ve broken them down into Wagner Whites and Wagner Reds (coming next week). SPOILER ALERT: Any of these six wines would be worthy of gracing your table for the holidays…or any day ending in “y” for that matter.
2009 Mer Soleil Silver
Characterized by a soft fruit nose and a crisp stony mouth feel, the 100% Chardonnay is fermented in cement tanks and bottled in lined ceramic bottles. The wine boasts a well structured balance of fruit and mineral with subtle tones of grapefuit and baked apples. I really enjoyed the 2008 vintage and the 2009 continues the tradition of an excellent Chardonnay. The Silver has a crispness that reminds me of a Sauv Blanc while maintaining the approachable character of a Chardonnay. At $22, most wine lovers will enjoy this wine – 3+/5
2008 Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented
I say Chardonnay, you say _______? This statement often polarizes wine drinkers. Many have a hate for the grape and others drink ONLY oaked Chardonnay (ala Kendall Jackson). The Mer Soleil Barrel Fermented Chardonnay provides a very good balance with the oak seeming very light handed. Definitely a thicker viscosity in the mouth feel with great aroma of banana peel, pencil lead, popcorn. Rarely would I spend $32 on a Chardonnay but this is one of the few that has enough variety in the flavor profile that would cause me to part with my cash. 4/5
The Conundrum wine is a proprietary blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Semillon, and Viognier. The wine has a moderate gold tone in the glass leaning more toward a golden wheat color. Immediately the floral and tropical aromas jump out of the glass causing me to think Viognier and Muscat Canelli. At first sniff, the thoughts of sweet syrup cross my mind but a subtle interwoven aroma of lemon and guava save the day. In the mouth the wine is slightly flabby but very full of flavor. The sweetness indicated on the nose is not overwhelming in the mouth. A hint of honey quickly gives way to smooth guava and butter. I would venture to guess that the predominate wines in this blend are Chardonnay (oaked), Muscat Canelli, and Semillon (also oaked). The white flowers definitely come from the Viognier. The wine lacks in a strong acidity which may lend itself more to a sipping wine than a food wine but the layers of flavor are very intriguing. Pair this with summer, bikinis, and some fresh shrimp fettuccini pasta or even a fresh cheese plate. The wine can be purchased for $17-$20. 3+/5
06 Oct 2010
Two months ago I celebrated my centennial video with a visit to Napa, California’s V. Sattui winery (the visit was virtual through a wine review). Today, we make a return virtual visit to preview three more of their wines. V. Sattui is in the midst of celebrating 125 years. Established in San Francisco in 1885 by Vittorio Sattui and then re-established in St. Helena in 1975 by Vittorio’s great grandson Dario, V. Sattui is one of the few remaining established family businesses in the wine world.
Truly a unique Napa destination winery, V. Sattui is 100% self distributed through their tasting room, and through the old fashion phone and interwebs. The majestic grounds and picnic areas add to the enjoyment of visiting. If you want to see some amazing pictures, check out the V. Sattui wedding blog!
For today’s tasting, V. Sattui sent three different cheeses from their Italian Marketplace-Deli. With pasta, Panini, charcuterie, deserts, breads, salads and 205 different cheeses from around the world you may get more than a little distracted from the wine. The cheese didn’t quite make it to wine tasting but I can vouch that it was yummy.
2008 V. Sattui Sauvignon Blanc (Vittorio’s Vineyard)
- The Stuff: 99.8% Sauvignon Blanc and .2% Semillon (not sure why?). This wine was fermented in stainless steel but a portion (18%) of the wine spent time in neutral French oak. 773 cases were made; 14.5% ABV
- The Swirl: The wine is much lighter in color than I would expect for a Sauvignon Blanc.
- The Sniff: An amazing amount of aroma jumps out of the glass. The wine starts as a tropical blast with subtle hints of almonds and lemon zest.
- The Sip: The soft subtle initial attack wraps around your tongue and then gives way to gentle melon flavors, pineapple, and moderately tart lemons. The traditional flavors are very well integrated and offer fantastic layers of enjoyment. The wine keeps evolving in the mouth and with each sip!
- The Score: At $22 this is a bargain. The layers of quality flavor won’t disappoint. Easily a 4/5
- The Stuff: The Alexander Valley fruit is 93.8% Cab Franc, 3.9% Cab Sauv and 1.4% Merlot (sadly I misspoke in the video). Fermented in stainless steel and aged in 50% new French oak. 14.8%ABV, 637 cases
- The Swirl: Colors of grapey purple, dark and medium bodied.
- The Sniff: The initial impression reminds me of taking a plum and rubbing in the dirt for a while. There are also aromas of green pepper.
- The Sip: A soft attack of plums and blackberries that transform into black tea or coffee on the mid-palate. The medium bodied wine offers a slight zip of pepper and a smooth finish.
- The Score: At $30 this is a 3+/5
- The Stuff: 100% Zinfandel from Howell Mountain AVA. Aged 16 months in 50% new oak, 14.5%ABV
- The Swirl: Slightly tanned colors with a medium thin rust color that is about 60% opaque
- The Sniff: Definitely not your big berry Zinfandel. The wine offers a soft aroma of cedar and hints of pepper and earth. If you’re looking for a strawberry jam pie, this isn’t it.
- The Sip: The V. Sattui Zin comes off a little thin on the fruit and then offers licorice and mocha flavors. This isn’t a poorly made wine, just different from what I’ve come to expect from a California Zin. At $40, give it a try before you buy, 3/5
*wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
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?