18 Jun 2010
What do you get when you cross a commercial Realtor and a political consultant? Potentially, the need to drink a lot of wine. Both professions are fraught with frustration, let downs, and quite a bit of finesse. After a long day at the office, wine wields its wonders on the weight of the workday. Enter Cody George and Brian Murray. As friends, their long time hobby acted as a creative way to express their passion and provide a release from their hectic day jobs. From the early days of knocking on vineyard doors saying, “Do you have any grapes” to 1300 plus cases, Vintage Hill has always been about friendship.
Bonded for their first production in 2006, Vintage Hill Cellars jumped right into the business producing 450 cases with a lineup that included Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Merlot Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot. 100% of their wine is produced on site from crush to consumer. They also distribute everything from their storefront on 2nd Ave. Cody and Brian have transformed the old brick building into an eclectic and comfortable urban art vibe. Vintage Hill contracts their grapes from vineyards that include Pepper Bridge, Stillwater Creek, River Wine, and Milbrandt.
While, I’m not a green freak or a tree hugger (not that there is anything wrong with that), I do appreciate the effort a creative effort to recycle. Brian and Cody observed a lot of waste in the wine business ranging from grape skins to grape seeds and even $1000 oak barrels. They turned that waste into products like Orange Clove Cabernet and Lemongrass Merlot infused soaps. Vintage Hill also offers soft soaps and even crushed grapes seed products used to exfoliate. For the true wine die hard, there is wine soaked chipped oak barrels for the BBQ.
Vintage Hill has grown steadily by word of mouth over the years. While Cody says his favorite part of wine making is the late light laughter with friends during crush or bottling, he admits that “winemaking is 90% cleaning.” Vintage Hills is excited for the upcoming release of the 07 Syrah in the fall with a 07 Malbec to come after that. When talking about the future Cody expressed the desire to continue slow steady growth with a more immediate need to establish regular store hours. Currently Vintage Hills is open during occasional First Friday events and other special occasions. It’s always best to call ahead before stopping by.
- On the web: www.vintagehillcellars.com
- On Facebook
- On Twitter
- On the Street: 319 W 2nd Ave
- On the Phone 509.624.3792
- The Stuff: 100% Syrah from Burgess and Milbrandt Vineyards; aged in new and used French oak (regiment not disclosed)
- The Swirl: Deep plum color with nice color to the edge of the glass. Cloudy and slightly unfiltered (of course it did just come out of the tank prior to filtration and bottling)
- The Sniff: Very saturated aromas of stewed cherries, and pepper. Quite a unique nose that is slightly difficult to pin down. It’s like an unwieldy greased pig rolling around in a prune, cherry filled pit.
- The Sip: Good creamy dark berry and cherry flavors with undertones of oak, baked bread and toasted almonds.
- The Score: Not Yet Released – I score this wine 3+ out of 5. Certainly a departure from a traditional Syrah or even a new world Syrah. I encourage you to go down to Vintage Hill for a sampling of this before you buy it just to be sure you enjoy their style of wine making.
24 May 2010
Believe it or not, sometimes I drink wine when the video camera is not on. For the first time, three of these wines end up in a review without the video camera. While I’m not the awesome text reviewer that my friend Steve Paulo is at NotesFromTheCellar.com, I thought I’d put the camera down and tell you about three wines that were truly special that we pulled from the cellar.
2006 Round Barn Cabernet
This wine was provided by Round Barn winery as a part of a Tweet and Taste event hosted by Michigan wine blogger MichiganByTheBottle.com. Shannon and Courtney Casey are promoting the mitten state one sip at a time. As a side note, they were robbed for not being included in the 2010 Wine Blog Awards for Best Single Focused wine blog. Their quality promotion of the wine regions in Michigan is top notch.
Round Barn produces wine, distilled spirits (vodka, brandy) and beer! It would seem that owner Rick Moersch and his two sons are never at a loss of beverage. Round Barn Winery is located in western Michigan on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, north of the Indiana border.
- The Stuff: % not listed on web site; 22 months in French/Hungarian oak (80/20); 13%abv
- The Swirl: Light bright purple color that is moderately translucent. Color moves out to clear toward the edges.
- The Sniff: Medium cherries with hints of graham cracker and cocoa. A mild whiff of smoky bacon begins to erupt from the glass when taking a deep sniff.
- The Sip: Medium body with thin under-ripe blackberry fruit and twigs. The smoky tobacco flavor continues on the palate. A good firm tannin structure on the back end. The acidity is slightly off balanced from the flavor presentation
- The Score: At $22 retail, I can score this a 3+ (out of 5) and really enjoyed this presentation of Cabernet from the Lake Michigan Shores AVA. I continue to be impressed with the improving quality out of the Michigan area.
Tweet from TTMI by @winegenie Palate = Red fruits on entry, tart cherries that turn to ripe black ones mid-palate. Silky.Powdery tannins.Drinkable & med. long.
Cellar Tracker Scores of 88.5 (with 2 reviews)
2007 Trio Vintners RIOT
Reason #1 for loving Twitter: GREAT PEOPLE. The folks at @triovintners (or @deniseslattery) are great folks. I love chatting with them and hearing about their wine making journey. I received this bottle in a shipment of three that included their Carménère and Tempranillo (reviewed here). Trio Vintners has been part of the incubator wineries in Walla Walla, Washington and is currently showcasing their third vintage of reds (along with some whites and roses). The RIOT is an uncommon blend of grapes that presents amazing character and personality. This is not your typical boring “red table wine” blend.
- The Stuff: 52% Sangiovese, 36% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre; aged 21 months in blend of new Hungarian, second and third year American, and neutral French oak; 14.1%abv; 237 cases produced
- The Swirl: Rich and thick in color. Dark plum jam
- The Sniff: A fun blend of earth, plum, cedar, and spices. Can definitely pick out the Syrah and Mourvedre components of the nose.
- The Sip: I love what the Syrah does with the Sangiovese. This is a big bold wine that has strong oak component. After about an hour the oak subsided. Nice dark berry fruit on the front of the tongue with big strong tannins. Grab a steak, sit back and enjoy! Mild cherry fruits on the mid-palate and the pepper spice was a perfect compliment without being overbearing.
- The Score: At $18 this is a wine that shines well above its price point. Don’t be fooled by the Sangio base, this is a strong wine. It comes across as slightly over-oaked but is deserving of a score of 4 (out of 5) because of the value and complexity.
2003 XSV Cabernet Sauvignon
Buried among the heart of the Woodinville Warehouse district are several gems. Within the rough exterior buildings and minimalistic tasting rooms are wine makers that are honing their skills crafting top notch grapes. With limited production many of these wineries never get national recognition or media attention. In the fall of 2009 my wife and I spent two days sipping our way through Woodinville. While several wineries stood out (Alexandria Nicole Cellars and Mark Ryan), it is the wine purchased at our last stop that now takes top honors from that trip. The XSV 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon has been haunting me ever since we drank the bottle a few weeks back. Sadly their web site is lacking in information but below is the review of an incredibly memorable wine.
- The Stuff: No info on label or web site. Assumed Cab from the LeMieux Family Vineyard 15%abv. After investigating their other wines spend about 20 months in New American Oak.
- The Swirl: Elegant dark purple and tawny port color. Nicely aged tone. The wine shows at about 80% opaque with good color to the edges
- The Sniff: Slight heat on the nose with a beautiful dried plum, cherry and raisin aroma. Subtle spices of pepper and cinnamon make an appearance as well.
- The Sip: If a wine were scored on velvet elegance, this would receive top honors. Amazing flavors of chocolate covered plums and cherries with a beautiful long smooth finish. Tight tannin without being chalky or chewy. This wine will be in its prime in 2 years but is incredibly amazing to drink now.
- The Score: At $38 (if I remember right), I can easily score this wine a 4 out of 5. If I’m ever in Woodinville again, I will certainly make a special trip to XSV again.
Scored a 3 (out of 5) on Wine Peeps in 2009
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
02 Apr 2010
One sip and you may understand why the name Anelare was chosen for this small boutique winery from Benton City, WA. Anelare is Italian for desire…to long for.
Producing less than 1000 cases per year, much of Anelare’s wine is only distributed through their tasting studio in Kennewick, WA. When the Alexander family pursued their passions for wine, they enlisted the help of Victor Cruz of Canon del Sol. Victor’s wine has received critical acclaim for its consistent structure and quality.
2007 marks Anelare’s third vintage. Wine club members have exclusive access to estate Syrah (Ciel du Cheval), and reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Non wine club members can purchase Nonna Viola Red Wine and Saint Helena Syrah. With PR rep, Becky Templeton from Blends of Vino on board, Spokane can now discover the longing and desire of Anelare.
2007 Nonna Viola Red Wine
- The Stuff: 50% Syrah, 25%, Cab, 25% Merlot from Milbrandt, Gamache, and Goose Ridge vineyards, 292 cases, aged 22 months in new/used French/American oak, 13.9%abv
- The Swirl: Bright and young with black cherry color, moderately translucent and watery out toward the edges
- The Sniff: Tight nose with hints of cherry, perfume and traditional merlot cocoa
- The Sip: Pretty light and watery on the front palate that opens up to moderate cherry and plum fruit. The finish is mellow with a hint of pepper.
- The Score: At $24, I can score this a 3 minus (out of 5). The serious wine drinker may find themselves underwhelmed but if you’re looking for an easy drinking red blend, this may appeal to you.
Cellar Tracker Score – None for any vintage
2007 Saint Helena Syrah
- The Stuff: 100% Syrah from Gamache and Goose Ridge vineyards; 222 cases, 20 months in new/used French/American oak, 14.1%abv
- The Swirl: Dark blackberry plum color, opaque with good ruby color toward the edges
- The Sniff: A little evergreen tree with notes of black berry and hints of hot sulfer (indicating youthfulness)
- The Sip: A good presentation of dark fruit, slightly jammy but has good acidity on the back end to balance out the sweetness. Lacks typical spice found on some Syrah, contains a slight woodiness.
- The Score: At $28, I think this wine is a solid 3 (out of 5). Get the price down to $24 and it could move to a 3+
Cellar Tracker Scores – None for this vintage, but 1 for 2005 vintage (91 pts)
VISIT HERE for information about their tasting room hours
28 Feb 2010
“My wife died for no damn good reason. It’s time to do something about this.” – Budge Brown, Owner of Cleavage Creek
At an age when most men have earned the right to retire, 77 year old Budge bought the Cleavage Creek label with one goal – fight breast cancer. After his wife of 48 years passed away, Brown was “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” Every year 40,000 women die of breast cancer and 130,000 are diagnosed. The passionate act of making wine has led to over $73,000 in donations to Oncology Research Centers, medication, and financial help for women struggling to survive.
Many of you come to DrinkNectar for wine reviews and this is a wine review of three Cleavage Creek wines. Life is more than wine. Life is about connecting with people and making a difference and leaving a legacy. Cleavage Creek donates $1.50 from every bottle sold. Drinking wine can actually make a difference in a woman’s life. Chances are, as you are reading this, you can think of someone who has been touched by breast cancer, maybe you’ve even lost someone close to you. You can relate to Budge’s passionate anger toward finding a cure.
I was first introduced to Cleavage Creek when they agreed to participate in my Wineries on Twitter Series. Their use of Social Media is a model to be followed. They connect, their social, and they rarely promote. They are using the power of the social world to spread the great word about their wine and their mission. With vineyards in Napa Valley (20 acres) and Tracy Hills (20 acres), Cleavage Creek has a vast selection of estate wines, reserve releases and blends.
On the label of each Cleavage Creek wine is the picture of a breast cancer survivor. Their story of struggle, courage, and hope can be found at the Cleavage Creek Web Site. Terrie, who graces the bottle of 2008 Chardonnay, was diagnosed in 2004. After a long painful battle, including a Mastectomy and several surgeries, Terrie is a survivor! “I don’t take anything for granted and I thank my Creator every day for all of my blessings. Dealing with breast cancer was a horrible experience but I emerged a more positive, appreciative person. I am thankful for the incredible people I have in my life. They are my angels. My life is blessed and I know it.”
Yes, this is a wine review, but more than that, it’s a humanity review. In my book, Budge and the folks at Cleavage Creek score a Best in Show, Double Gold and 100 point score for their efforts!
2008 Tracy Hills Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% Estate Chardonnay from Tracy Hills AVA, CA – 8 Months in new French oak; 225 cases
- The Swirl: Golden Wheat colored with less “viscosity” than some Chardonnay
- The Sniff: Interesting to find a predominate melon (no pun intended) and citrus aroma with hints of smoky vanilla. Not a strong nose, but very pleasing
- The Sip: Classic Chardonnay thickness on the front palate with a gentle flavor of vanilla and nut. The melon flavor is very mild (maybe like a Honeydew Melon). The acid is light on the back end.
- The Score: At $18, this is an above average Chardonnay and the price point is good. I score it a 3 (out of 5). The flavor was nice but lacked depth and dimension.
2007 Tracy Hills Shiraz-Merlot
- The Stuff: While the label says Shiraz, the blend is actually 67% Syrah and 33% Merlot. 230 Cases
- The Swirl: Very dark and inky, opaque and ominous looking
- The Sniff: As described in the video, the fruit seemed to be playing hide-n-seek with a tree. There was a distinct woodiness and moderate fruit play. The typical Syrah spice was downplayed (probably because of the Merlot).
- The Sip: The wine needed to breathe. The initial sip felt like an all out assault on my mouth. In the video, you can tell I was not super pleased with the presentation. DAY TWO provided a great experience. The wine opened up very nicely with a beautiful blackberry / dark cherry flavor and the tannins on the back end were much more palatable presenting a nice finish. Strongly encouraged to decant this wine.
- The Score: At first sip, I was going to score this a 2 (out of 5) because of the bold tartness that seemed to overwhelm. My enjoyment on day two lifts the score to a 3+ (out of 5). For $18, this is a nicely balanced Syrah (after decanting) that provided a good structure of fruit, spice, and finish.
2007 Tracy Hills Secret Red
- The Stuff: There is no disclosure of the blending of this wine (hence the secret) – my guess would be predominately Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Syrah (or Zinfandel); 400 cases produced
- The Swirl: The color is what I like to describe as a rusty purple, similar to what you might find with an aged wine or a Cabernet.
- The Sniff: The fruit raises his hand from the back of the class and says, “Hello, I’m here and I’d like you to meet my friends cocoa and cinnamon.” This is a nice mildly aromatic wine, not overwhelming but nice.
- The Sip: At first taste this wine was my favorite of the three tasted (although after the day two showing of the Shiraz-Merlot it is close). The structure seemed to be a dance between the cherry and a cinnamon / pepper spice on the front. As the pair danced away, the mouth was met with a two note melody of cocoa and oak. The tannins were mild and the acidity was balanced. Nice sipping wine that would hold well to pork or a chicken with a red sauce.
- The Score: Also at $18 this is a 3+ (out of 5). The mild aroma holds this back from being a 4. At $18, it’s a sure bet to please most casual wine drinkers and connoisseurs.
The cause if phenomenal, the story is inspiring, and the wine does not disappoint. I couldn’t more highly recommend a wine to support and enjoy. Your mouth will enjoy and your heart will swell with pride.