17 Nov 2010
Virginia is home to some of our country’s early history, 8 US presidents (including 4 of our first 5), Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, a strong military ship yard, beautiful beaches, and some of the most amazing Fall scenery in the U.S. With some of our countries earliest history of wine, Virginia is not just for lovers, it is for wine lovers.
38 years ago I was born among the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Roanoke, Virginia. The childlike fondness I have from living there for 10 years remains with me. While we occasionally go back to VA to visit my mom’s side of the family, it’s been eight years since I’ve been back. Apart from a small sip from Sean Sullivan a few months back, I’ve yet to experience the wine of my forefathers…and mothers, and aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I was recently invited to participate in an online wine tasting of six Virginia wines. Needless to say, I was excited. For me, this was a chance to connect with the wine my family drinks and a little family heritage. Sadly, shipping was delayed and I wasn’t there to receive the wines the day of the tasting. Over the days that followed I casually made my way through the six wines (three whites, two reds, and a sparkling wine).
*Note to distributors and representatives, when introducing new wines and wine regions to a group of people, please include winery information and winemaking notes.
Since I tasted these wines a few weeks ago, I’ll share my brief notes and my overall impression of the wines that I received. The 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference is in Charlottesville, VA July 22-24. You can count on me being there and then enjoying a nice return visit with my family in Roanoke. If you are interested in learning more about Virginia wine, I suggest you check out the following blogs.
The Virginia Wines
The 2009 Monticello Gewurz had medium flavor but lacked a strong acidity which left the wine lingering in the mouth. A hint of sweetness is present on this mostly dry wine along with average flavors of peaches and stone fruit. Overall a nice first impression. The winery web site prices this wine at $19. 3/5
Wow! My notes indicate that I really enjoyed this wine. 14%ABV, 420 cases, combination of oak and barrel fermentation. Awesome flavors of melons and pears coupled with a great acidity make this a pleasant sipping wine or paired with food. At $22, I will definitely keep my eyes out for this wine on the trip back east! 4/5
This wine didn’t do much for me. It came across a little flabby, light in flavor and heavy handed on the oak. The label leaves a little to be desired. At a retail price of $23, I would give it a test sip before you commit. 3-/5
This Seven Oaks Merlot is a little thin on fruit and comes across very young, green and under ripe. Flavors start smooth but then move to a little tartness on the palate. The finish is rough on the edges. 75% of the wine is aged 10 months in French and American oak. $18, 3/5
60% Petit Verdot, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc – This is a very dark and moody wine with colors of dark plum and black. Good aroma of flowers and fruit jump out of the glass getting me very excited for the sip. In the mouth the wine is slightly gamey along with deep fruit flavors. Under-ripe bell peppers and a slight minerality make the mid-palate slightly disjointed. Really enjoyed the layers of flavor. $25, 3/5
95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir – Lively bubbles that race to the top of the glass. Good aroma of strawberry toast and yeast. While the wine is made dry, there is a nice hint of sweetness on the front palate. I’m not a sparkling wine expert, but this was a very tasty wine that went down very quickly. With only 12%ABV, the bottle was quickly empty. $28, 3+/5
Overall, I was most impressed with the Viognier and the Sparkling wine. I look forward to exploring more Virginia wines in a few short months to see what else is coming out of the region. A few of these wines were rough around the edges, and the whites were better than the reds, in my opinion.
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
20 Oct 2010
Can a fermented beverage make a difference in the fight against something so life shattering as breast cancer? A key to battling the disease starts with awareness and campaigns like the ONEHOPE Wine campaign (and others like Cleavage Creek) bring awareness to top of mind. Early detection is a breast cancer victim’s greatest chance for survival. Whether it’s the millions spent by the NFL on pink cleats, gloves, and hats or the humorous FeelYourBoobies.com or SaveTheTatas.com, each has its place in helping to remind women of the dangers of breast cancer.
In 2010, nearly 210,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. One in eight women will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Breast cancer shortens the lives of mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends more than any other disease aside from lung cancer. Here is the bright side. Because of awareness and education efforts, there are 2.5 MILLION breast cancer survivors in the U.S. What can you do to help? For starters, you can be a part of the awareness efforts by sharing the information in this post (or others similar to it). Education leads to awareness and awareness helps with early detection and successful treatment.
ONEHOPE Wine has teamed with Rob Mondavi Jr. to create a hand crafted wine that helps the cause. If you’re going to drink Chardonnay, why not drink the 2009 ONEHOPE Wine Chardonnay where 50% of the profits of every bottle sold goes to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation. ONEHOPE is striving to raise $100,000 in the month of October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month). How can you help? Buy it, drink it, share it!
Enter to Win a $50 Gift Card from ONEHOPE WINE
Help spread the word about ONEHOPE wine by sharing this post on your Facebook page or through the Twitter machines. Once you’ve done that, leave a comment of hope, support or your survival story and you’ll be registered to win. One winner will be selected on Wednesday, October 27. The most important part is to share this information, there is power in the collective voice, but if you don’t comment, you won’t be entered.
How is the wine? Check the video and the notes below for my review…
2009 ONEHOPE Wine Chardonnay
- The Stuff: The wine is sourced from various vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and California’s Central Coast and includes small amounts of Muscat and Chenin Blanc. While specifics aren’t mentioned on the web site the Chardonnay spends some noticeable time on oak and feels like it went through 100% malolactic fermentation.
- The Swirl: A soft golden hue with visual reminders of wheat fields in the Palouse.
- The Sniff: The wine is immediately identifiable as an oaked Chardonnay with hints of toasted almonds, apples and melon. The aromas are soft but not quiet. There is a hint of fabric softener freshness as well.
- The Sip: Initially the wine comes across as a flabby apple butter glob in the mouth but immediately gives way to a more soft and full flavor of honey, apples, and a squeeze of lemon. The wine was definitely cared for and crafted to not be a big buttery mess, but doesn’t quite drive it all the way home with the finish.
- The Score: At $18-$20, the flavor of the wine is deserving of the principle. It is worthy of supporting and certainly will not disappoint from a flavor perspective. Those that are looking for a crisp “naked” Chardonnay will be disappointed, but the wine is solid and has full flavor and depth. 3+/5
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review. Gift card is provided by ONEHOPE Wine. Winner must be 21 and over to claim the prize.
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
19 Jul 2010
Store shelves seem to be lined with large selections of wine at and around $10. The challenge at that price point is getting a wine that provides more interest than grape flavored alcohol, thin fruit taste, poor aroma, or big woody oak to hide inferior quality juice. With beer, it’s pretty safe to assume that most light beers have certain flavors. The majority of main line beer has distinct tastes that register in our memory. With so many wine labels on the shelves, selecting one can be pretty hit and miss.
I believe the $10 price point is pretty status quo for the daily drinking wino on a budget and the occasional wine sipper. Therefore it is important to have a list of trustworthy labels that can be counted on to deliver.
The Under $10 Wine Team
In early 2010 I began the mission of fielding a team of wine players that could score at parties, hit it out of the park for value, and be trusted to step to the plate in most any situation. The rules were that each wine had to be purchased for $10 or less (sales, club discounts, bulk discounts were considered). Wines showed up to spring training and specially scheduled tryouts to show their stuff for the coaches. Each was vying for a coveted spot on the 12 man roster of 9 starters and 3 reserves. While legal issues (state distribution) kept us from trying out every player referred to us, we made every effort to select players who are widely available. After reviewing the scouting reports and film, I am pleased to reveal the 2010 “Under $10 Wine Team.” I’ve included the coach’s summary, roster position, and stats for each player. Links to the full scouting report are included for your reference. Many of these players’ tryouts were filmed. Enjoy the footage and make a note of the jersey (label) so you can get an autograph next time you are in the store.
|2008 Chateau St. Michelle Riesling (WA)
|2008 J.Lohr Syrah (CA)
|2008 Caterina Chardonnay ($10-$12)
|2008 Dancing Bull Zinfandel (CA)
|2008 Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc (Chile) $10-13
|2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon (WA)
|NV Segura Viudas Cava Brut (Spain)
|2007 Velvet Devil Merlot (WA)
|2006 Kiona Lemberger (WA)
|The Bench Players and Reserves2008 Gozzo Malbec (Argentina)
2007 Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir (CA) **$11
2007 Bogle Petite Sirah (CA)