08 Jun 2010
You remember that game you played as a kid, duck duck goose? Some of you may have played it with your four year old just the other night. This wine review has nothing to do with that game, but it did come to mind when I received the wine for review. The other thing that I think of when I look at Duck Pond Cellars label is that old Nintendo game, Duck Hunt. Could be the ducks on the label, but I wanted to get out the grey plastic pistol and fire away.
Duck Pond Cellars is located in Dundee, Oregon. I previously reviewed their 2007 Red Blend (which was a crazy value) and their 2007 Syrah (which wasn’t a personal favorite). One thing is sure, Duck Pond is shooting for some crazy values that are way more than child’s play (see how I brought back the two references from earlier, nice eh).
For this review, I decided the wine needed to make the 400 mile trek back to Oregon. The ducks longed to fly in their native land, so I packed them along during our Memorial Day weekend trip to Portland. The Oregon/Washington connection is strong with Duck Pond as all the grapes used for these wines were sourced from sister winery/vineyard Desert Wind in the Wahluke Slope AVA. Just like real ducks, these grapes fly south at harvest to prepare for their fermentation and storage.
2007 Duck Pond Cellars Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 95% Chardonnay, 4% Semillon, and 1% Gewurtraminer that was fermented in 90% stainless steel and 10% in barrel (4 months in new French and American); Partial malolactic fermentation; 15% abv; 19,665 cases produced; all Desert Wind Vineyard fruit
- The Swirl: Great golden yellow tone with a slight creamy quality
- The Sniff: An abundance of tropical flower and fruit with a good amount of heat as well.
- The Sip: Good rich mouth-feel without feeling flabby and fat. I really appreciate the fruit components of pear and pineapple along with other topical flavors. Everything is going well for this duck until the finish which is slightly stinging due to the alcohol.
- The Score: At only $10, this is a crazy value because the wine has some great aroma, flavor, acidity and minerality. The only misfortune is the heat on the finish. Pair this wine with food to compensate for the alcohol (preferably something sweet or rich). I score it a 3 out of 5.
Cellar Tracker score of 84 with four reviews
- The Stuff: 89% Merlot and 11% Cab Franc from Desert Wind Vineyard; Aged 14 months in 20% French and 80% American oak barrels; 14.5% abv; 12,721 cases produced
- The Swirl: Deep rich purple color with about 70% opacity. Slightly watered down at the edges.
- The Sniff: Good strong components of dark berries, leather, and wood. The American oak is prevalent but not attacking. Nice to get a good nose at this price point
- The Sip: The fruit flavors are fun and rich but they don’t hang and play very long. They fly the next and make way for a pleasant velvet milk chocolate mid palate with a better than average structure on the back end.
- The Score: At $10, this is a definite recommend. The wine is pleasing, and although slightly over oaked, it has some very nice fruit flavors and aroma that will make a good value drinking experience. I score this wine a 3+ out of 5
The 2005 Duck Pond Cellars Merlot doesn’t have any formal reviews on Cellar Tracker. It makes a strong showing to be considered for the Under $10 Value Team, but will have to ride the bench due to tough competition from Charles Smith’s Velvet Devil.
2007 Duck Pond Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 85% Cabernet, 8% Merlot and 7% Syrah from Desert Wind and Sacagawea Vineyards; aged in a combination of French and American oak; 14.5%ABV; 5824 cases produced.
- The Swirl: A thick muddy jammy purple that reminds me of a dark stormy sunset. The wine is about 90% opaque.
- The Sniff: Dark berry, gamey meat aromas, leather and stone. The nose is intriguing and throws me off from a traditional Cabernet, not in a bad way.
- The Sip: The mouth feel of the wine is a slight disappointment from the nose. The fruit elements are not strong and the expected spice and depth is not there. The wine is not off in flavor but only provides glimpses of what it could be. I would liken this to being the little brother who only played little league where the big kids moved on to the pros.
- The Score: While there is nothing off putting about the wine and it would make a great addition to any table to be paired with summer grillin’ or light pasta, I score it a 3 (out of 5) because of the lack of anything that stands out. Only $12 retail.
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
04 May 2010
Guest blog post #3 from author @thevinofile
I’ve never truly understood when people talk about transitioning to their white wine porch sippers as the warm weather approaches in late spring. It’s not that I don’t like white wine, and certainly it gets hot early here in Southern California, it is just that I’ve never really had a porch. You see in L.A. where real estate averages over $300 a square foot a small porch can cost a guy $20,000 – so most of your “20-something” years are spent in a rental. In the natural So Cal rental progression one starts with a dirty balcony that overlooks a busy street, and then upgrades to a duplex in which your shared porch is completely overrun by the neighbor lady’s cactus collection. Both the lady and the cactuses are probably covered by rent-control so it is inevitable that you will be gone long before the succulents. The setting has the potential to kill the relaxation, thus I have in the past tended to skip the summer sippers.
This year is going to be different. This will be the first summer where I have my very own porch, and I do not intend to let it go to waste. I have realized that when calculated into my mortgage this porch costs me about $6.23 a day, so I need to find some wines that won’t break my budget. I went around town looking for a variety of wines at slightly different price points but all under $15 and put them each to the test:
Mezzacorona Chardonnay 2008 Vigneti delle Domlomiti – This wine from the Venice region in Italy offers green apple and yeasty bread on the nose. Across the palette there is some fresh citrus and tart apple. It finishes a little short with some subtle acid. The wine is refreshing, if not special, but retailing for between $5 and $10 it fits the bill. On my rating scale this wine gets a 2.5 out of 5.
Cono Sur Bicycle Viognier 2009 – Cono Sur is a large producer out of the Colchagua Valley in Chile. They offer wines at all different levels with the Bicycle brand representing their entry level wines. Cono Sur is known for offering good quality at a value-driven price. The 2009 Viognier is an orange tinged golden yellow in the glass. It offers a pretty nose of peaches and a touch of honeysuckle, with the palette offering lots of citrus, a touch of peach and mineral finish that shows some heat. The acid in this wine is a bit strange as the wine comes across a touch flabby when being drunk, but acidic afterwards (that kind of down the middle of the tongue acidity). The wine is a bit thin, a bit one-dimensional, and yet does offer some flavors that many will find tasty. There are many better examples of viognier available, but certainly on a hot day if this wine is chilled I think people will be refreshed. The wine retails for between $9 and $12, and also receives a score of 2.5 out of 5.
Cascina Castlet Moscato D’Asti 2009 – This wine borders on a dessert wine as it has a high amount of residual sugar, but at my house it disappeared very quickly with a little bit of cheese on a hot afternoon. A pale straw yellow with a bit of sparkle and foam (the term frizzante comes across as pretentious to me, sorry) the wine is only 5.5% alcohol by volume. The nose gives off some apple, citrus, and bread and ultimately reminds me of a lemon or lime Home-Run pie that at $0.25 a pop were still a HUGE treat to me when I was a kid. The mouth gives off a rather sweet and forward bit of pineapple, citrus, and a touch of melon. The sweetness is refreshingly offset by the bubbles and generous dose of acidity. The low alcohol content makes it utterly drinkable, and the website translated from Italian suggests that ‘even kids like it.’ This wine retails for around $13 and receives a score of 3 out of 5.
The porch trials are now over and I would drink any one of these three wines. The clear winner in terms of being interesting, different, delicious, and refreshing is the Cascina Castlet. There will be some who are averse to the sweet factor, and I understand this as I generally do not drink sweet wines either. But I encourage you to give it a chance, and hey if you don’t like it there are apparently some Italian kids who will finish it up for you!! Enjoy!
About the Author
The Vino File is written by Scott Wadlow in Pasadena, CA. Scott is an admittedly novice wine enthusiast who writes about what he is trying, learning, thinking, or laughing at in the world of wine. During the day Scott is a software consultant, a job that helps facilitate and occasionally perpetuate his interest in wine. Please visit The Vino File, comment, and interact with Scott and other readers.
Concannon Vineyard was one of the first established vineyards and wineries in the Central Coast. Established in 1883, their Cabernet Sauvignon clones were used to plant much of what is now Napa Valley. Known for their rocky soil Concannon winery was the first in the world to produce the brooding, silky and sexy Petite Sirah and they discovered America’s first female wine-maker.
The two wines reviewed below are part of a new effort of wines made from vineyards that are part of a conservancy effort to protect the land from urban sprawl. The Conservancy label consists of Petite Sirah, Chardonnay (reviewed below), Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each retails for $15
2008 Concannon Chardonnay (Conservancy)
- The Stuff: 100% Livermore Valley Chardonnay; Aged in French and American Oak (no mention of time). 6000 cases, 13.5%abv
- The Swirl: Clean and clear with a nice yellow hue. Lacks the typical Chardonnay viscosity.
- The Sniff: The wine presents a delicate blend of melon and lemon with a hint of creamy butter on the back end.
- The Sip: This is one of those Chardonnay’s that comes across even from front to back. There are no over the top flavors, but the wine showcases just enough to be enjoyable and interesting. Good flavors of tropical fruit and honeydew melon. A mild undertone of vanilla from the oak is pleasing. There is good acidity as well. As mentioned in the video there is an off flavor (mineral) in the finish that struck me as slightly disjointed. Very subtle but distracting.
- The Score: At only $15 this can easily be your stand by Chardonnay. If you like your Chardonnay to still retain the traditional hints of butter, toast, and oak without being over the top, you’ll love this wine. It earns a score of 3+ out of 5
2007 Concannon Petite Sirah (Conservancy)
- The Stuff: 97% Petite Sirah and 3% Petit Verdot from Livermore Valley. 24 months in French and American Oak (new/used not specified); 6000 cases, 13.5%abv
- The Swirl: Upon the pour of this wine you are immediately struck by the dark and brooding purple storm clouds that role in. A beautiful bright violet ring forms around the edge of the glass making the wine feel less intense.
- The Sniff: Plum jam with a little more sweetness. A hot spice (or could be alcohol) comes through as well. The use of American oak is evident on the nose.
- The Sip: The wine softly seduces you with thin fruit on the front and then grabs you by the neck and chokes you with big try tannin and tartness. Those that like to play with Syrah or Zinfandel will not enjoy this wine. A decent structured wine that would definitely come alive with the right food pairing – BBQ Chicken, Smoked Lamb
- The Score: The lack of fruit on the front palate and overly thick back end lowers the score of this wine to a 3 (out of 5). Not a bad score, worthy of a try at only $15 retail.
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