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.
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!
31 Jan 2010
Baseball season is quickly approaching. The beginning of another year of great expectations only to be frustrated by June, slightly excited in August and utterly depressed in September. I am a Mariner fan. We are the only team who can win 116 games in a season and not make it past the first round in the playoffs. We are the only team who trades away all star after all star. Ahhh…I digress.
While the Mariners consistently field a team of high priced underachievers, I’m a fan of Billy Beane ball. Billy is great at fielding a team of underpaid over achievers. My goal, in the wine world, is to field a quality under $10 team. In today’s economic conditions $10 is the new $20, but with all the inventory and variety on the shelves, not all labels can be trusted. You don’t want to spend your money for a Richie Sexson only to devote four seasons of wasted expectations…again I digress.
In previous episodes I’ve found a starting Sauvignon Blanc from Arbor Crest and am thinking of a bringing the Dancing Bull Zinfandel up from Triple A.
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
- Syrah / Shiraz
- Bordeaux Blend
- Sauvignon Blanc / Pinot Gris
- In the bullpen a nice alternate red and white (Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Mourvedre, Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, etc).
Below is this trip to the minors to scout new members for the team. What suggestions do you have? Share below some of your wines who are performing well and deserve a chance to be called up to the “Field of Dreams.”
Tonight we are watching the work out and batting practice of a 2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Bogle Petit Sirah, 2006 Renwood Zinfandel.
2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 95% Cabernet Sauvignon 5% Merlot, Cab Franc, Syrah; Barrel aged for 16 months (1/3 new oak)
- The Swirl: Deep plum with watery edges
- The Sniff: Aromatically challenged for fruit. Did display characteristics of vanilla, cocoa, and woodiness
- The Sip: Overall a very smooth with that is tight on flavor. The vanilla and cocoa presents itself with a moderate dose of blueberry fruit. Very little back end structure.
- The Score: Considering the $8.88 price I would score this wine a solid 3. There is nothing offensive about the wine and the smooth vanilla, cocoa combination could be a hit with a lot of people. Serious wine drinkers will be disappointed with the lack of character and structure.
This wine will be sent to AAA ball for potential call up if I’m unable to find a starting Cabernet Sauvignon.
2007 Bogle Petite Sirah
- The Stuff: 100% Petite Sirah
- The Swirl: Very very dark plum, completely opaque, nice legs indicating some stronger residual sugar
- The Sniff: Once again a restrained aroma profile. Some dark cherry, dark blackberry fruit and a hint of spice trying to come through
- The Sip: Wholly wow, this is a big wine. There is some decent fruit on the front end which is immediately attacked by the strong tannin on the back end. This wine needs food! I look forward to pairing it with some BBQ, spicy pork, or a steak.
- The Score: At only $10 this is a big wine with some big back end structure that deserves a 3+. I would definitely consider this for a future purchase to pair with food. NOT A SIPPING WINE.
This wine makes the team as a pinch hitter. Petite Sirah is not your mainstream varietal but this one showed some serious power to bring in during the late innings of a close game.
2006 Renwood Zinfandel
- The Stuff: 100% Zinfandel
- The Swirl: Very light in color moderate brownish plum color. Can see through glass very translucent
- The Sniff: Not much on the nose other than hints of cherry, vanilla and leather spice
- The Sip: Very watery and non-substantive in flavor. A hint of smoke and spice as it lingers in the mouth. In my opinion a very underwhelming wine.
- The Score: At $9 I would not buy this wine again and score it a 2 (out of 5).
The wine definitely is sent back to single A ball to work on its structure and character.
The $10 quest continues. So far, I think I’ve sound a staring Sauvingon Blanc, and two potentials who are in AAA (Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon and the Dancing Bull Zinfandel). Tonight’s Petite Sirah has made the team as a pinch hitter!
Please leave your comments and suggestions below!
29 Dec 2009
During round one of the Under $10 Quest, I stated that we drink a lot of wine. I listen to my twitter friends go on and on about specific wines and then I look them up only to choke at the $50 price tag (or more). I thought my day job paid me pretty good green, but I guess it’s not enough to afford the purple that my friends are drinking. Thus, the quest continues.
As I mention in the video, the goal of these reviews and videos are to provide you a resource of trustworthy wines. I want you to walk into a store confident in your pick of a specific wine label. Life is too short to drink crappy wine. Why waste your money on 3 or 4 cheap wines in search of the jewel when you can rely on others to do so.
Basically, I’m in search of a starting line-up of dependable wines that I can go to on a daily basis. I need designated hitters, relief pitchers, and pinch hitters to come into the game when the game is tight. Tonight’s lineup includes a rookie and two veterans called up from Triple A to show their stuff.
2007 Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Columbia Valley, WA (Bacchus Vineyards), never oaked
- The Swirl: Super clear with a mild golden delicious apple tone
- The Sniff: Cut open a pineapple, squeeze some lemon and spray a small spritz of vanilla room spray and you have the nose of this wine.
- The Sip: Strong acidity on the upper palate with a smooth citrus and lemon peel flavor across the tongue. There is no tartness and the alcohol is not hot. Not overly huge in structure but has great flavor for the price.
- The Score: $11 retail but only $7 at Cost Plus World Market, I score this a 4+ (out of 5) for value and flavor.
The wine reminds me of summer. When my wife and I were first dating we enjoyed a few bottles of this wine on the deck as we shared our stories and got to know one another. This is definitely a player who will be added to the roster for a crisp summer wine or a wine to pair with light seafood or poultry dishes.
2008 Root 1 Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 85% Cab and 15% Syrah from Colchagua, Chile. Vineyards are original non-grafted wine stocks brought over from Europe – sounds pretty cool. Neat looking bottle, taller than average with a real cork enclosure.
- The Swirl: Moderately opaque plum with watery edges
- The Sniff: Was difficult to pinpoint at first but the fruit was immediately overwhelmed by evergreen tree, minerals, rocks, and musky dirt. With much effort could smell the black currant.
- The Sip: Overwhelming minerality on the back immediately took over the fruit that was trying to come through. Very chalky, like eating dirt.
- The Score: At $9, there are way better value Cabernet Sauvignon’s out there. I score this a 3-. Could be the youth of the wine, but I’m not going to cellar a $9 wine. (See update below)
This wine strikes out and not only doesn’t make the team but gets sent back to Single A ball. UPDATE: After spending some time in Single A (24 hours) this wine is starting to show some promise. The minerality is nearly gone and most of the chalkiness has subsided. Decent fruit flavors of red currant and cherry along with leather. Root1 has moved up to AA ball, but I’m still apprehensive.
2007 Dancing Bull Zinfandel
- The Stuff: 100% California Zinfandel from various sourced vineyards. Synthetic cork enclosure
- The Swirl: Deep dark opaque plum, slightly cloudy with hints of ruby and garnet. Strong legs indicating high residual sugar.
- The Sniff: Good strong nose that leads with strawberry, vanilla, tobacco and cocoa
- The Sip: The wine was slightly disappointing as it came across as one-dimensional. The nose was a tease and the palate did not deliver. After two hours in glass, the flavor profile did open up. One dimensional is not bad, just not super interesting.
- The Score: At just $8, this wine scores a solid 3+. You won’t go wrong getting this wine and the predictable taste may score well with beginning wine drinkers.
This Zinfandel doesn’t make the starting team but is sent down to Triple A to potentially be called up as an injury replacement.
So far the team is struggling. I have a few good recommendations from fellow wine bloggers that I hope to try soon. If you have suggestions, please leave comments. I’m looking to field my team with a variety of wine styles.
2010 is the year of buying local! I want to strongly encourage you, when possible to buy your wine from a local retailer (wine store, wine shop) or directly from the winery. Doing this helps keep profits directly in your community.
Life is meant to be shared with friends. Share life over a glass of wine and DRINK.HAPPY!