16 Jun 2010
Exploring new wine is one of the greatest joys of being a wine lover. When it comes to beer, 90% of the beer sold in the US is Bud, Coors and Miller. There are about 1500 breweries in the US, but there are more than 4000 wineries and each of them produces several grape varieties and blends. To top it off, each year the process starts over again with new vintages and the subtleties that come with the new year. Possibly 250,000 different wine products are produced annually. You could drink a case of different wine every day and still only make it through 5000 of those products in a year. Are you up to the challenge?
Olson Ogden is a small winery in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. Olson Ogden is a partnership of veteran wine maker Tim Olson, marketing professional John Ogden, and former AOL communications and marketing manager Margaret Ryan. Olson Ogden produces Pinot Noir and Rhone varietals with emphasis on single vineyard Syrah (1200 cases per year).
- The Stuff: 100% Marsanne; 17 months in Stainless Steel and French Oak; 14.7%ABV; 144 cases
- The Swirl: Light golden honey with a thick viscosity
- The Sniff: A bouquet of flowers, peaches and stone fruit. Very lively and fragrant
- The Sip: Open up, squeeze in a honeydew melon, add three drops of peach concentrate juice and finish it off with a twig. The 17 months in 28% new oak come through with a creamy spice and oak. The mouth feel is full and rich.
- The Score: At $35 this is a very dynamic wine with a huge amount of flavor. The price may put it out of reach for the average drinker but I can comfortably score this wine a 4 out of 5.
The Olson Ogden Marsanne is a refreshing departure for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc drinkers. If you’re looking for something new to explore, enjoy the rich complexity of aroma and flavor that is found in Margaret’s Mandate. You’ll enjoy semi-sweet peach, stone fruit and a hint of spiced wood with a creamy lingering finish. Pair with scallops, mild creams sauce, and liver pate.
- The Stuff: 100% Manchester Ridge Pinot Noir; aged 17 months in 44% new French oak; 14.2%ABV, 112 cases produced
- The Swirl: Burnt crimson color slightly watery toward the edges. The color looks aged (even though the vintage is 2008)
- The Sniff: An earthy presentation of prunes and boysenberry fruit. There was a little hint of Christmas tree on the nose too.
- The Sip: Definitely not your cherry cola Pinot Noir. I love the maturity of flavor that this wine offers. I can immediately pairing this with lamb, turkey, ham and more. The flavors in the wine seem to provide a huge variety with each sip. They range from subtle spice to bacon, smoke, stewed tomatoes, and cranberry. There is a slight off minerality on the finish that leaves me a little longing.
- The Score: I love the complexity of flavor that this wine has to offer. The food pairing potential is endless. At $38 this is a fairly affordable Pinot and scores 3+ out of 5.
- The Stuff: 13% Grenache, 6% Marsanne, 12% Pinot Noir and 69% Syrah aged 17 months in 44% French oak; 14.5%ABV; 1406 cases produced
- The Swirl: Dark cherry color with deep purple tones. Complex jewel tones with color trending to pink hues along the edge.
- The Sniff: Elegant aroma of smooth red fruit, slight oak, and milk chocolate. To achieve this aroma, decanting is recommended. The initial aroma of the wine was heavy oak and cork initially out of the bottle.
- The Sip: The nose deceived me. I hate when that happens. The flavors were more thin on the palate and presented weak dark fruit, black tea and subtle cocoa. A decent acidity brightens up the finish saving this wine from being disappointing.
- The Score: At only $19 this is a quality offering from Sonoma that brings a good amount of flavor and character. I score it 3 out of 5.
*Wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
19 Apr 2010
Ford, Chevy, Dodge. Ted Nugent, Motown, and Eminem. Tigers, Red Wings, Lions. Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Blue Franc. If we were playing the game “one of these things is not like the other,” some would quickly call out the last group as not representing Michigan. With 71 wineries (and growing) Michigan is making quite a statement with quality wine. Still young, the region is expanding acreage and seeing improvements as the vines continue to age. Really, Michigan wine?
When approached by blogger friend Shannon Casey of Michigan by the Bottle to participate in a Twitter tasting event, I didn’t hesitate in saying, “yes.” I’ve been following Shannon and Courtney’s blog for several months and as ambassadors of Michigan wine he and his wife, Courtney, have had me intrigued by the wines produced in Michigan. Due to absurd wine shipping laws, Michigan wine is hard to come by, so any opportunity to taste what I’ve only seen and heard on their pod casts became top priority.
Shady Lane Cellars was the featured winery for this taste and tweet event. Producing over 7000 cases from 52 acres of estate vineyards in Northern Michigan, Shady Lane planted grapes in 1988 and produced their first wine in 1992. Located on 150 acre 100 year old fruit farm, Shady Lane’s Adam Satchwell is “committed to producing the highest quality fruit with the lowest impact upon our surroundings.” Their wine line-up consists of dry and semi-dry Riesling, sparkling wine, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Lemberger, and more!
A Taste and Tweet event is a showcase of all that is awesome about social media. People who would have otherwise never met, share a glass (or in this case 3) of wine for education, entertainment, and awareness of something new. With more than 50 tweeters, even more participating in group gatherings, Michigan was spotlight for the night. The tasting line up consisted of the three wines reviewed below (also shown in the video).
Twitter tasting events show the power of social media. Brand impressions and marketing awareness all lead to increased sales and market presence. The next tasting event is #Chardonnay on May 6. Follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #Chardonnay or share your experience through Facebook at Community Wine Tastings on Twitter.
2008 Shady Lane Dry Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Riesling, 142 cases, no residual sugar, 12.2%abv
- The Swirl: Light straw, slight honey color with a ton of bubbles in the glass, but not a sparkling wine
- The Sniff: Very lively floral aromas with yeast and tart apple being predominant. Hints of honey undertones round out the sniff.
- The Sip: A dry crisp apple with medium tart finish. The acidity is nice but the minerality is slightly off on the finish. Beautiful representation of a new world dry Riesling.
- The Score: At $16.50 this is a fantastic deal. I score it a 3+ (out of 5) and would recommend this as a great food wine with spicy food, sushi, and veggie driven pasta dishes.
Great tweet description from @farlanewastaken “Sharp, definitely brash. I think that you’ve got a bombastic hussy on your hands.”
2007 Shady Lane Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Pinot Noir, 752 cases, no residual sugar, 13.8%abv
- The Swirl: Very translucent (70%) with tawny port rusty purple tones. Solid color out to the edges.
- The Sniff: Bright candy cherry with hints of sour fruit. Slight pepper and cocoa on the undertones.
- The Sip: Slight cranberry, cherry fruit and rocks; powerful acidity. A slight earthiness throws off the finish. Medium tannin indicates that this wine would cellar well and improve with 1-3 more years in bottle.
- The Score: At $22, I score this a 3 (out of 5). The price is great for a well made Pinot Noir and definitely showcases the potential of Michigan Pinot
Great tweet on the Pinot from @aschie30 Pinot Noir is the one varietal (so far) where I really sense a distinct MI terroir in color, the nose & palate. #ttmi
2008 Shady Lane Blue Franc
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Blaufrankish (Lemberger), 483 cases, no residual sugar, 12.3%abv
- The Swirl: Bright purple and about 50% translucent. Edges turn clear and watery
- The Sniff: Mellow aromas of blueberries and moss. Swirling generates a little more pepper aroma.
- The Sip: Round mouth feel with a bitter undertone defined by black tea and blueberries. A gentle punch of tannin and acidity finish out the sip.
- The Score: At $22, I score this a 3- (out of 5). I’m comparing this score to my previous experiences with Blue Franc / Lemberger.
NOTE: Some of the tweeters considered this wine their favorite. This shows the complexity and diversity that occurs among tasting.
Great tweet on the Blue Franc from @winegenie Blue Franc (aka Lemberger & Blauufrankish) Palate: velvety texture, soft velour tannins, grapey, smooth, rich warm blueberries.
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
03 Mar 2010
Three ladies jump in the ring and go toe to toe for supremacy. Sorry, no mud! These ladies are queen Pinot Noir’s from three different parts of the world and three different price points.
This battle is a semi-blind tasting. I know which three bottles I taste; I just don’t know which wines are in each glass. Ahead of time, my wife pours the glasses and writes the name of the wine on a card placed upside down in front of the glass.
For my friends new to the wine world, Pinot Noir is a noble, fickle lady. The grape is said to be difficult to grow, produces lower yields and is affected greatly by soil and climate. The thin skin produces a light color and a traditional Pinot Noir is soft and pairs well with all kinds of food.
Through the tasting you can see that I’m quickly impressed by one of the wines, uninspired by the other and curious about the third. The first bottle is quickly identifiable as a well made Pinot. The aroma is sweet and bright and the flavor is eloquent, round and balanced. The middle bottle was thin and boring but not tasteless. The final bottle had a very strong scent of earth, sour candied cherry, and graham crackers. A lot of people will like this wine, but for me, I’m not a fan of earthy wines.
You’ll have to watch the video to see how the tasting turned out. We’ll just say 1 out of 3 ain’t bad.
2007 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from Tualitan Valley Vineyards
- The Swirl: A very light rusty brown purple color. Very translucent and clear
- The Sniff: Bright Rhubarb and Strawberry with vanilla and perfume
- The Sip: A nice sweet front end with a tart cranberry on the back end. A beautiful acid wash to clear the palate.
- The Score: At $40, I score this a 3+ – compared to the Signature Cuvee I had from WVV, this doesn’t quite measure up. Much better than some at $20 but others at this price fair better.
See another review by blogger Mary Cressler at Vindulge
2008 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir, nothing else clearly defined on web site
- The Swirl: Muted red purple jewel tones with 70% transparency
- The Sniff: A strong earthy herb aroma with whiffs of sour cherry and toasted oak
- The Sip: This wine has a big mouth. Definitely herb”ie” (not the Love Bug) and wet dirt along with a candied cherry sweetness.
- The Score: At only $16 this wine will appeal to a lot of people who enjoy Pinot Noir. I’m not a fan of this flavor profile, but it certainly wasn’t boring. I’ll score it a 4 (out of 5) for value and flavor.
No Cellar Tracker or Cork’d reviews of the 2007 Vintage
2008 Smoking Loon Pinot Noir
- The Stuff: Not a lot of detail on their web site; 100% California Pinot Noir
- The Swirl: Muted ruby red tone with about 70% transparency
- The Sniff: Mild aromas of sweet cherry and strawberry. Mild smoky campfire bacon. Picture yourself coming back from a long hike and your about 100 yards from the camp site – your nose gets a faint whiff of bacon and your heart skips a beat. That is what is very mild on this nose.
- The Sip: Quite thin on the front end with a touch of sweet cherry candy. A tart backend with a quick finish. Reminds me of the scrawny kid in class that no one pays attention to. As you look back through the year book you say, “Hey, he went to school here?”
- The Score: There is nothing off balance about the wine, it just leaves me uninterested and flat. At only $8-$10 that doesn’t surprise me and still leaves me looking for a surprise value in this price point. I score it a 2 (out of 5).
No reviews of the 2008, but the 2007 is reviewed with an average score of 83 from 10 reviews here
16 Feb 2010
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training this week. Why does this matter? It means spring is here, regardless of what the groundhog says, and that grilling season is right around the corner. The Mariners have added Cliff Lee to their pitching rotation and ‘game maker’ Milton Bradley to the outfield in the hopes to improve upon their winning season last year. Regardless of the outcome, one guarantee – I’ll be out on the deck with a glass of wine (and the occasional beer) rooting them on.
The under $10 wine challenge is an effort to field a team of 9 quality wines and a few bench players that YOU can trust. The budget wine category is the most precarious for wine selection. Finding a good quality made wine can be a challenge. With the help of my Social Media friends, we will field a team before the 2010 All Star break.
To date, 15 wines have tried out, been in the batting cages, and worked out with the trainer, and only two have made the starting line-up (Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc and Bogle Petit Sirah). Two wines are holding out in AAA ball working on their game (Dancing Bull Zinfandel and Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon)
Today’s training brings the traditionally rich Chardonnay trying out for Right Field, Riesling shooting for Second Base, and a Pinot Noir looking to gain a spot at Third Base.
For all my scouts on Twitter – I’m looking for your recommendations for Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sparking, Bordeaux Blend, and Syrah). To qualify, the wine must be widely available and under $10 (on sale counts).
- The Stuff: 100% Pinot Noir from the Central Valley of Chile. Four months in 35% oak / 65% stainless; 13.4%ABV
- The Swirl: Elegant and delicate light purple, mostly translucent but with modest jewel tones.
- The Sniff: Very green – like a Christmas tree – with strawberry and smoke. Slightly earthy.
- The Sip: Very grapey Welch’s juice with hints of green twig and strawberry
- The Score: For a $10 Pinot Noir, I score this a 3 (out of 5). This is a wine that has potential and is not embarrassing or poor.
This is the first Pinot Noir to try out for the team. I’ll send this one to AAA for the potential to be called back up. It’s missing the sweet elegance that I would expect from a Pinot.
- The Stuff: 100% Chardonnay from the River Junction Vineyard in California; partial malolactic fermentation in stainless steel; 13.5%ABV
- The Swirl: Pale yellow but not the rich thick of a standard Chardonnay, reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc in color
- The Sniff: Tropical aroma of melon and pear, very faint hints of Chardonnay vanilla and butter
- The Sip: Chardonnay characteristics on the front with strong citric and melon on the back end. This is a Chardonnay trying to come out as a Sauvignon Blanc. This is a refreshing Chardonnay that has hints of sparkling wine.
- The Score: While this is not a great representation of a Chardonnay, I score it a 3+ (out of 5). It is a quality wine with a well balanced flavor for only $8
I’m looking for a Right Fielder, not a First Baseman. This wine is schizophrenic but well made. Not making the team as the Chardonnay, but will be back in my wine rack for parties.
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from various Columbia Valley vineyards, 12%ABV
- The Swirl: Very light, pear in color
- The Sniff: Mild peach, citrus, and metallic aroma
- The Sip: Moderately sweet front end with a well balanced dry back end wine. This would be considered an off-dry Riesling. Hints of peach and lemon peel
- The Score: For only $6 this is a 3+ (out of 5). This is a solid wine for the money.
This is the first Riesling to try out for the team and will most certainly make the squad.
Cheers and Drink.Happy!