08 Mar 2010
Welcome to the Lifestyle of the not so rich and way not so famous. Tonight we celebrate the 2009 Academy Awards and the celebration of cinema. As the thespians drink their $3500 per bottle Krug Clos Ambonnay Brut Champagne, DrinkNectar sips through three bottles that are in a more modest price range.
Best Picture the year I was born: The Godfather
Tonight’s nominees are from Spain, Austria, and California. My typical Sparkling wine consumption is reserved for special occasions, and New Years. I love it, but I’m usually consuming big bold Cabernet’s or Zinfandels. One of tonight’s nominees was submitted by Kevin from @atlantawineguy as a part of my Under $10 Wine Challenge. Kevin recommended the Spanish Sigura Viudas Estate Cava.
Best Picture Winners I Haven’t Seen (40 years)
2009 – The Hurt Locker
2007 – No Country for Old Men
1998 – Shakespeare In Love
1987 – The Last Emperor
1978 – The Deer Hunter
1977 – Annie Hall
1971 – The French Connection
As I reviewed these three Sparkling wines, it became apparent that each wine was a star in its own right. The Spanish Cava wins for ‘best value,’ Austria’s Gruner Veltliner wins ‘best foreign wine,’ and California Roederer Estate Brute takes ‘best bubbles.’
My Favorite Move (Which happens to be a best picture winner 1994) Forrest Gump
NV Segura Viudas ARIA Estate Brut – Spain
- The Stuff: 60% Macabeo, 20% Parellada, 20% Xarelo-lo; 3 years on yeast
- The Swirl: golden yellow (Chardonnay color), moderate bubbles
- The Sniff: Tight nose with apple toast and yeast being predominant.
- The Sip: Strong carbonation with hints of apple and smoky bread
- The Score: At $8, this is not a bad tasting bubbly, but lacks a lot of flavor and has too much carbonation and yeast. I score it a 3 (out of 5). So far this bubbly makes the Under $10 Team (mostly for lack of tryouts)
Other reviews: Cellar Tracker 86 points (12 reviews)
NV Roederer Estate – California
- The Stuff: 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir; 2 years on yeast; 80,000 cases
- The Swirl: Color is more pale yellow, great bubbles
- The Sniff: Bright pear with hints of honey and nuttiness
- The Sip: Very nice flavor profile with good apple, honey and cinnamon
- The Score: At $23, I score this a 4 (out of 5)
Other reviews: 91 pts Wine Spectator, 92 pts Wine Advocate, Cellar Tracker 89 points (214 reviews)
NV Szigeti Gruner Veltliner – Austria
- The Stuff: 100% Gruner Veltiner
- The Swirl: Golden yellow tone
- The Sniff: Bright acidity with citrus and tropical fruit tucked into the yeasty toast
- The Sip: Good sweetness with some tartness on the back end. A refreshing bubbly with some good citrus flavor
- The Score: Overall, I was pretty impressed with the quality of this $18 sparkler. I score it a 3+ (out of 5) for flavor and value.
Sparkling Wine Mixers
For the sake of time, some of the video was edited. The observant viewers will notice that my final drink goes from pale yellow to pink. What was responsible for this transformation? I edited out the segment that talks of how to use Sparkling Wine as a mixer. The yeastiness of some inexpensive sparkling wine can leave you a little dry in the mouth. On video I talked through a few solutions using cranberry juice, cassis liqueur, or vodka. Give it a try, you’ll be surprised at how you can transform an average bottle of bubbly.
In celebration of the 2009 Academy Awards, what is your favorite movie? Which Oscar winning film (from all time) is your favorite?
05 Mar 2010
Social Media is changing the way we interact. The idea, an online wine tasting. The subject, Sauvignon Blanc. The marketing medium, Twitter / Facebook / Blog. The result, nearly 600 people simultaneously tasting, tweeting, and talking about Sauvignon Blanc. That is just online. Add in the dozens of wineries who hosted local tweet-ups as a part of the event and the economic impact is staggering. A non-scientific guess puts Sauvignon Blanc consumption at over 3000 bottles in a two hour period.
The cost of promotion: ZERO $$
The economic impact goes beyond the wine consumption and expands into brand awareness, food consumption, and more.
Rick Bakas, Social Media Director of St. Supery Winery, organized the event and promoted through his influence on Twitter and Facebook. Rick’s previous event #CaliCabs focused wine lovers on a single grape from California. He has arranged two future events that focus on #WineBlends (April 1) and #Chardonnay (May 6). Save the date for these future events.
The Next Event: #WAMerlot
In celebration of Washington Wine Month, Washington invites you to turn Sideways upside down and celebrate #WAMerlot. Join dozens of Washington Wineries and hundreds of people on March 25. All you need is Washington Merlot (or a Merlot blend) and the Twitter hashtag, #WAMerlot. If you’re looking for Washington Merlot, check out the great deal from Wine Library (shipping to 36 states) – thanks, Gary!
- The Stuff: 100% California Sauvignon Blanc 50% of profits donated to charities that help save the planet
- The Swirl: Light crisp and slightly darker than water. Very pale
- The Sniff: Floral, melon, lemon peel and acidity
- The Sip: Smooth and tart describes the wine. The wine has a slight Chardonnay buttery coating but then opens up to a crisp tart apple flavor.
- The Score: At $18 (and because of the charitable support), this wine scores a 3+ (out of 5)
- The Stuff: 100% Wahluke Slope Sauvignon Blanc, Stainless Steel fermentation; 432 cases made
- The Sniff: Wholly tropical fruit Batman. This wine instantly transported my nose to Hawaii with Guava, Peach, and Pineapple aroma. I instantly fell in love with the nose and wished it could be bottled as a summer body spray for my wife.
- The Sip: Less dynamic on the flavor profile. The guava was mellow on the front and earthy herbs presented themselves on the mid-palate. The finish was lemon/lime tart but washed away nicely after a few seconds.
- The Score: At just $15, I score this a 4 (out of 5). This is a great value and is a wine that will impress at parties and provide a fantastic drinking experience in the summer months.
*The wine was provided as an industry sample with the intention to review
Final stats of the night show that nearly 600 tweeters contributed 2700 tweets (according to www.wthashtag.com/sauvblanc). Tweeters represented from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, United States and more. The top tweeters of the night were @cestbeth (with 131 tweets), @mmwine (with 101 tweets) and @SIPthegoodlife (with 64 tweets).
Cool Facts on SauvBlanc
#SauvBlanc was one of the first wines to be distributed with screw cap
Did you know that there are nearly 200,000 acres of #SauvBlanc planted worldwide
Top #SauvBlanc producers are France (60k acres), New Zeal (22k acres), Chile (22k acres) S Africa (21k acres) California (15k acres)
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.
22 Feb 2010
The story of Grande Ronde Cellars is the circle of life…wine life. It’s the story of a caterer who struggled to find good wine, so he opened a wine shop. It’s the story of a wine shop owner who struggled to find access to quality wine, so he started a distributorship. It’s the story of a distributor who fell in love with the process and passion of wine-making and used his connections with key grape growers to secure quality fruit. In 1997 Grande Ronde Cellars was born and now the circle is complete as they are a winery that uses a distributor to sell to wine shops and ultimately to consumers and caterers. Grande Ronde is operated by partners Dave Westfall, John Mueller, and David Page.
*Dave must be a little camera shy because he kept sneaking off screen. Ahh, the dangers of filming without a camera man. My apologies, Dave!
Grande Ronde sources grapes from two prestigious Walla Walla vineyards, Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge (added in 2002). The 1200 case production has remained the same for all 13 vintages. The French style wine production shows patience as each vintage spends between 14-18 months in 100% French Oak and is bottle stored for three years before release. The current single vineyard reds are 2003 Seven Hills Cabernet (reviewed below), 2003 Pepper Bridge Cabernet and 2003 Seven Hills Merlot. Production also includes red blends, a white blend and Black Muscat, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay. Releases consistently score 90+ points in Wine Spectator.
Wine production occurs in the mountains north of Spokane at Mountain Dome winery. While Mountain Dome is a special place and a fine producer of Sparkling wine, Dave saw an opportunity to bring wine, food and art together in Downtown Spokane. In 2004, after lobbying the state legislature, Dave opened Washington’s second cooperative / collaborative tasting room featuring wine from five “off-site” wineries; Grande Ronde, Mountain Dome, Masset, Morrison Lane, and Emvy Cellars. The basement tasting room at 906 W. 2nd Ave offers a fantastic opportunity to enjoy a variety of Washington wine, art, education classes and even the occasional Gonzaga Bulldog basketball game.
New for 2010 is an event facility for up to 40. Small wedding, corporate and private events can enjoy the cellar like atmosphere adjacent to the tasting room. “The Last Drop” is operated independently from the tasting room and requires a serving license to serve wine.
With 30 years in the wine business, Dave and partner Sam Lange have a wealth of knowledge from their miles of travels. 2009 marked the release of the first (in a series) Journey to Eastern Washington Wine Country. The series is a handbook of for wine lovers as they travel across the state offering suggestions on where to eat and where to sleep as they taste their way across the state. The first book focuses on Walla Walla, Spokane, and Northern Idaho. Additional books in the series will continue the journey across the Northwest.
Grande Ronde Tasting Room
906 W. Second Ave
Spokane, WA 99201
Open: Wed-Saturday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm (Open later on First Friday’s)
2003 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Stuff: 100% Seven Hills Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
- The Swirl: Very dark purple, opaque, Welch’s grape juice color
- The Sniff: Bright blueberry and cherry fruit, pretty grapey too – a wonderful spice comes up at the tail end of the sniff – good aromatic wine
- The Sip: The fruit is more subdued on the palate but presents a nice earthy blueberry and grape flavor with hints of vanilla and pepper spice. A nice acidity on the back end helps provide a medium length finish. Tannins are moderate but not harsh.
- The Score: At $30, this is a nice fruit forward Cabernet that I can score a 3+ (out of 5).
Previous 2002 Vintage scored 90 at Wine Spectator; Cellar Tracker (1 review) no score
PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED in December 2009
2005 Cellar Red
- The Stuff: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere 6% Merlot 4% Malbec
- The Swirl: Medium tone with a very nice purple jewel tone. Moderately see through
- The Sniff: Immediate sense of clove and cinnamon spice. The berry comes through on the back-end. A slight floral element presents itself
- The Sip: Still spicy on the sip with a good interesting flavor. Dark berry fruits begin to present themselves and the finish lingers for quite some time. Tannins, alcohol and acid are not dominant. My wife noted a perfume / soap taste.
- The Score: At $20 I score this wine a 3+ (out of 5) The wine has a wide flavor profile and gives the drinker a lot to consider. The floral components seem slightly out of balance with the clove and spice.
21 Feb 2010
What is the carbon footprint of your wine? At first glance, Y+B Wines may cause a double take. The 1L box wine is a departure from the glass wine bottle. If you’re of the mindset that there is something romantic about popping the cork on a wine, then you may have a difficult time adjusting. If you have greater concern for our planet and are interested in what’s inside the container, then Y+B Wines may be a perfect combination. While Y+B may have stereotypes and hundreds of years of tradition to overcome, they are certainly making a strong case for quality, sustainable, eco-friendly packaging.
Wine Blogger Dr. Vino used a carbon footprint calculator he created for the wine business to determine that Y+B Wines have a carbon footprint about 54% less than traditional packaging.
“Consider: A case of wine in glass weighs 40 pounds and holds 9 liters of wine — close to 50% wine and 50% packaging. A case of Yellow+Blue weighs 26 pounds and holds 12 liters of certified organic wine. That’s 93% wine and 7% packaging.” – From the Y+B Web Site
As you continue your review of the Y+B company (not even thinking about wine), you notice a company committed to doing right by people and the planet. Grapes are grown 100% organic and sustainable, the company offsets it’s carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offsets, and 1% of proceeds go to www.kiva.org (a person to person micro-lending web site)
So, how’s the wine? Yellow plus blue may equal green for the planet, but can they make purple (and gold…oh, and Rose too)?
Y+B’s current line-up includes a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, Rose from Spain, Malbec and Torrontes from Argentina. Below are reviews for Sauvignon Blanc and Malbec.
2009 Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Central Valley of Chile farmed organically and sustainably
- The Swirl: Very pale, not even qualify as yellow or gold, maybe wheat almost ready for harvest
- The Sniff: Bright citric fruit with emphasis on lemon and mandarin orange
- The Sip: Again very bright citric of lemon, lime and a little tart. Throw slightly off balance with a little steeliness. The acidity is mild and the finish trails off quickly
- The Score: At only $12 for 1L this is a fantastic value for every day drinking Sauv Blanc – I score it a 3 (lowered slightly due to the off balance steeliness)
- The Stuff: 100% Malbec from San Juan Argentina farmed organically and sustainably
- The Swirl: Very dark purple borderline plum and black
- The Sniff: A woody earthy berry that seems not quite ripe
- The Sip: Nice red berry (maybe cherry) with some tree components. The finish was moderately tart
- The Score: At only $12 for 1L, I score this a 3 (out of 5). This is not a smooth drinking wine but more a food hearty drinker with decent characteristics
The overall impression is that these are not your typical box wines (think cube). They offer good quality as well as portability that bottles may not offer (camping, picnics, etc). One note about the Tetra-Pak spout – on both bottles the spout came slightly disconnected from the box upon opening causing a party foul dribble pour. Creative pouring ensued.
The Verdict: Look beyond the packaging and examine the product inside. If you like the wine, the earth friendly packaging and socially conscience business model adds to the value!
*These wines were provided as an industry sample with the intention to review