05 May 2010
What happens when you combine an earth friendly environmentally conscience Oregon wine with a winery steeped in California tradition and one kick ass rock-n-roll Kung Fu Girl from Washington? Well, you get today’s Riesling review. Nothing clever, just three Rieslings from three different regions in different price points.
2009 Charles Smith Wines Kung Fu Girl Riesling
Charles Smith and K Vintners labels are big, bold and catchy. Some may find the black and white images to be plain and klitchy but the focus of the label is the wine, not the winery. Charles Smith was the 2009 Food & Wine “Wine Maker of the Year.” The Kung Fu Girl is part of his Modernist Project.
- The Stuff: 100% single vineyard Riesling from Columbia Valley; 100% stainless steel fermented and stored. Made in classic “Mosel-style” 1.41% residual sugar; 12.5%abv
- The Swirl: Is this sparkling wine. I think the Kung Fu girl did a round house on the pour and caused a bunch of little bubbles. The color is very light pale lemon in color.
- The Sniff: A fairly aromatic wine that presents nice flavors of peaches, apricots and a lime. With a deep sniff, I got a little heat too.
- The Sip: Good fruit presentation on the front palate with semi-sweet peaches and melon. There is a tart lemon-lime presentation at the end. I didn’t find the acidity to be off-putting but there was something in the finish that kept me from loving the wine.
- The Score: At only $12 retail, I can easily score this wine a 3+ out of 5. I would definitely buy it again. While I didn’t love the wine, I did like it and with the fun label and good flavors, it’s one you can trust to bring to a party!
Cellar Tracker Scores of 88pt with 12 reviews
2008 Smith Madrone Riesling
In a previous post I reviewed a Smith-Madrone Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay was probably my favorite of that variety so far this year (through May). The Smith brothers are down to earth guys who seem to be staying true to their desire to make good wine that showcases their 30+ planted acres.
- The Stuff: 100% estate fruit Riesling; 420 cases produced. The wine clocks in at .70% residual sugar (on the dry side) and 12.7%abv
- The Swirl: Light pale yellow in color (darker than the Kung Fu Girl) with a clean crisp look
- The Sniff: Very tight on the nose with hints of white flowers, guava or papaya fruit and slight wet stone.
- The Sip: Well made wine that has an even flavor from front to back. While the flavor profile is not the most diverse, the flavors of papaya and lemon are very well done. A perfectly balanced acidity and good crisp finish round out the classic taste.
- The Score: At $26 retail, I score this wine a 3+ out of 5. If you can find this wine under $20 it’s an easy score of 4.
Cellar Tracker scores of 90 from 9 reviews
Willamette Valley Vineyards 2008 Riesling
I’ve previously reviewed 3 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir. During one review, their 2007 Signature Cuvee gave me hope that I could find Pinot that I loved. WVV is a vineyard that is leading the way in sustainable programs, recycling, and has a commitment to being carbon neutral in 2010. The Riesling reviewed below won best in class and judges choice in the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle wine awards.
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from Willamette Valley appellation. 100% stainless steel fermentation and storage. 20,000 cases made. 4.3% residual sugar and 10%abv
- The Swirl: A light lemon color with slight cloudiness and thick viscosity.
- The Sniff: Very mellow aromas of perfume, petrol, and steel. Fruit is minimal on the nose but with hints of playful tropics.
- The Sip: I would classify this in the range of semi-sweet. The sweet-o-meter on the bottle calls it Medium Sweet. The acidity on the back end is nice and washes the sweetness away so it doesn’t seem syrupy. Overall a very nice pre-dinner wine or paired with Asian-chicken, sushi, or curry dishes.
- The Score: At $12 this is an exceptional wine. While I’m not a fan of sweet or semi-sweet wines, the quality and price of this wine drive it to a score of 4 out of 5. You can’t go wrong with this wine.
Check out these vidoes featuring Charles Smith and Smith Madrone
* Willamette VV and Smith Madrone were provided as industry samples
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.
15 Mar 2010
The good folks at Swirl Smell Slurp wine blog have a great challenge going. They’ll be collaboratively tasting through wine from all 50 states over the next 50 weeks. The challenge is creatively titled, “United Slurps of America.” The inaugural post featured tastings with 1WineDude from Pennsylvania. I was honored to be selected as the representative taster from Washington. With the crappy shipping laws in this country, locating the same wine in two different states can prove to be a challenge. Fortunately ‘him and her’ were able to find five wines at their local wine store that I was familiar with and hadn’t already done reviews on. We settled on a Riesling from Seven Hills and a Merlot (of course) from Charles Smith.
If you’re not familiar with SwirlSmellSlurp.com – check them out. They’re fun, edgy, witty, and they have a great line up of thematic posts from Sunday Salon to Weekly Hangover. They’re definitely a candidate for Wine Blog Awards “Best New Wine Blog” (but I hope to offer a little competition).
2008 Seven Hills Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling from two Yakima Valley vineyards; screw cap
- The Swirl: Bright pale honey color with a thick viscosity.
- The Sniff: A decent bouquet of citrus, lime, plumeria, and tropical sweetness
- The Sip: I’m not a sweet wine fan – I enjoy my whites crisp, with fruit, but on the dry side. This was a moderate sweet Riesling (6 out of 10) but not syrupy. A decent amount of acidity helped to balance out the sweetness. The finish was quite lengthy.
- The Score: At $14, this is not my favorite wine (mostly preference). I score it a solid 3 (out of 5) for being fairly one dimensional.
I was super excited to try this next offering from Charles Smith Wines. From their web site:
Owner-winemaker Charles Smith with his big hair, kick ass attitude and bold packaging arrived in the Walla Walla Valley following eleven years in Scandinavia managing rock bands. Originally hailing from northern California, he has been involved with wine personally and professionally his entire life. “It’s just booze – drink it!”
I purchased the Velvet Devil Merlot for an upcoming “affordable Merlot” tasting to promote #WAMerlot on March 25. When SwirlSmellSlurp had the devil on their list, I succumbed to the temptation.
2008 Charles Smith Velvet Devil Merlot
- The Stuff: 100% Washington Merlot, 10 months in oak, 13.8% ABV
- The Swirl: Mildly translucent with ruby red undertones. A pretty wine
- The Sniff: Smooth dark chocolate with cherry and oak. I would imagine this would be the aroma an Umpa Lumpa would smell in the chocolate river (if cherries were involved too).
- The Sip: The sip is slightly thin on the front that opens up to a nice moderate fruit – still cherries. Definitely a chocolate covered cherry Merlot.
- The Score: At only $12 (sometimes under $10) – At this price, a solid 3 (out of 5). A trustworthy wine for the money. Good sipper, but the thin front and single dimension leave the score lower.
Special thanks to SwirlSmellSlurp.com for inviting me to participate. Make sure you follow along with their journey. I’m excited to see where it takes them.
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!
01 Feb 2010
Today’s video review is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the wine blogging world. Never before has such a unique collaboration occurred. Two reviewers spanning over 3000 miles simultaneously taste the same wines from Kiona Winery (@kionawine on Twitter). You’ll be seduced by the music. You’ll be aroused by the Florida beaches. You’ll be amazed at the wine. The review is wrapped up with a virtual jam session with me on guitar and Randy from @thewinewhore on drums.
I love the line on Kiona’s web site, “You know you’ve got to start a winery when you make more wine than you can drink.”
Kiona more than started a winery, they were part of propelling Washington wine into the mainstream of becoming the second largest producer of wine in the country (second to California). When only a handful of wineries called Washington home, Kiona planted its first grapes in 1975 and produced its first wine in 1980. At that time there were less than 15 wineries in the state (now there are over 650).
Kiona Winery calls the small Red Mountain AVA home. Kiona is home to 1/3 of the planted acres of grapes in the AVA. The 300 acres of Kiona fruit serve as the magic for the 20 wines they produce and grapes for several other Washington wineries. Today’s cross country review is of their Late Harvest Riesling, Dry Riesling and the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon.
2008 Late Harvest Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Riesling; 10% residual sugar 10% alcohol
- The Swirl: A beautiful peach juice and honey color. Even on the swirl, I get the impression this is going to be like a nice light syrup
- The Sniff: Intoxicating aroma of honey, tropical fruit, and a field of wild flowers
- The Sip: Obviously as a dessert wine this is sweet. It is not overly done and has a nice balance on the back end. Could pair nicely with spicey food. I personally could only experience it in small 2-3 oz pours.
- The Score: I’m a fan, but not a huge fan of this wine (only because I’m not a fan of sweet wines.) If you like dessert wines, you’ll love it. At $10 per 1/2 bottle, I score this a high 3+ (out of 5)
2008 Dry Riesling
- The Stuff: 100% Estate grown 30 year old vines 13% alcohol 100% Stainless Steel
- The Swirl: This dry Riesling has a nice yellow straw and honey color.
- The Sniff: Apples, Pineapples and rose pedals oh my. Very aromatic wine. The sniff gives a hint of carbonation too.
- The Sip: Very nice, slightly sweet but not over the top. Good sipping summer wine or pairing with Asian food, Sushi, or Thai food. The peaches and apples come off the palate. Moderate acidity to make your mouth water. A little aluminum on the back end throws off the balance.
- The Score: At $12-$15 this is a very good Riesling, I score it a 4 (out of 5).
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 85% Cabernet 9% Merlot 6% Cab Franc.
- The Swirl: A dark purple brown color. Good aged looking wine.
- The Sniff: Leather, earth, smoke, and then finally the sour cherry fruit. Nice smelling wine.
- The Sip: This is a good complex wine that offers enough fruit (cherry and plum) with the smokey tobacco flavor. There is some minerality that keeps me from scoring this higher. This is a nicely aged wine that drank very well for 2 days. I found it interresting and offered a variety of flavors. Not huge on tannin but enough acid to eat with smoked beef, and even some hickory smoked salmon with a dark reduction of some sort.
- The Score: At $20 retail, this wine easily gets a 4 from me. If you find it for under $15, buy more than one bottle.
Kiona is a Washington pioneer and a consistent maker of great wine. This is a label that can ALWAYS be trusted in the store and in the restaurant. Visit their tasting room in Benton City, WA just West of Richland, WA.