All posts filed under: Wine Reviews

Campania Update: Focus on Falanghina del Sannio DOP

If you’re keeping tabs on wine quality in Southern Italy with its myriad indigenous grape varieties and oftentimes limited access to distribution, this update on the Sannio DOC should prove to be useful. Through a combination of research trips to Campania and the opportunity to judge the Radici del Sud “Roots of the South” wine competition which has been held in different venues in the town of Bari, Puglia since 2006, it provides a look at the key factors for the region and a snapshot of wine quality.

The Quality Threshold

Journey to the west

San Francisco has long been a destination for travelers. Some, like Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, arrive and spend a lifetime realizing their dreams, while others cross the globe for the purpose of sharing their dreams. Croatian-born Mike Ggrich made his way west in 1958 and set the wheels of his destiny in motion when he began making wine at Souverain Cellars. Mike’s legacy is a familiar one, and now, at age 91, the man whose hands made the Chardonnay that helped put California on the map when it won the Paris Tasting in 1976, is a bona fide and well-deserved bon vivant. At a recent retrospective tasting hosted in the newly-renovated Ranch House at his Napa estate, Mike, his nephew and winemaker for Grgich Hills Ivo Jeramaz and daughter Violet seemed as much a part of the terroir as the wines themselves. Together they presented a vertical of Grgich Hills Yountville Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 1991, 1994, 1997, 2004, 2007 and the just-released 2010 for almost 20 years of perspective on the vineyard. Grgich Hills Yountville Selection …

Eclectic, Electric Lodi Zinfandel

Lodi has long been synonymous with Zinfandel. The region which is defined by seven sub-regions produces 40 percent of the state’s crop. Vineyards of old and downright ancient vines have survived due largely to sandy, Phylloxera-free soils and the popularity of white Zinfandel. As a mono-varietal red, Zinfandel’s exuberant character has made it a favorite among consumers and fueled Lodi’s focus on the production of world-class wines. As early as 2003, when there were 50 wineries in the AVA, the Lodi Winegrape Commission began evaluating wines submitted by producers as part of a selected case known as the 12 Zins of Lodi. A decade later and with over 80 bonded to its credit, Lodi Zinfandels are being made in a broader range of weights and styles which makes the prospect of a representative case even more intriguing. Read the article here: Lodi Zinfandel 42014

Anderson Valley’s Pinot

Many Anderson Valley Pinot Noir producers time the commercial release of their wines around the annual Pinot Noir Festival and technical seminar, now in its sixteenth year. This year’s event took place in May, and some 40 producers poured their wines at Goldeneye Winery in Philo. As vintages go, 2010 and 2011 challenged producers in more ways than one. Yields were down in 2010 by as much as 30 percent due to a blast of heat in August. Fruit that wasn’t scorched that year ripened, but not overly, resulting in wines with good acidity and flavors. A wet 2011 had many producers scrambling to pick before October rains intensified pressure from botrytis. While Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs can be roughly sorted as one of two broadly-defined wine styles we’ll call “fragrant and sleek” and “bold and deep,” the string of cooler La Niña vintages that started in 2009 and continued through 2011 has closed the gap somewhat on that divide. With more generous vintages such as 2012 and 2013, which is shaping as warm and …

Rutherford Dust 2010

We’re kicking up the dust once again with the 2010 vintage presented by the Rutherford Dust Society at a blind tasting held at Beaulieu Vineyards’ Rutherford House in July. According to President Davie Piña, the Society is in the last stages of their watershed restoration project which has lessened erosion and reduced disease pressure along the 4.5 miles of riverbank that bisect the AVA. “Rutherford growers have given up eight acres of vineyard to restore the river,” said Piña who was met with a round of much-deserved applause for his pivotal role in managing the project. Across the 18 red wines shown that morning, vintage events in 2010 including cool, grey La Niña conditions punctuated by a severe heat spike and untimely rain during harvest produced a narrower range of styles. The tasting was organized moving clockwise around the AVA from west to east and conditions at Rutherford House were ideal with the wines being given time to aerate prior to the tasting. Read the full article at Rutherford Dust 2010.

Grands Crus Classés of Saint Émilion 2010

It’s alive! Unlike its Left Bank counterpart, the Saint Émilion classification is indeed a living thing. The promotion of 17 châteaux not previously classified to the status of Grands Crus Classés in 2012 made this year’s tasting of 33 (of the 63 classified) all the more interesting. Having tasted the 2009s during visits to several of these estates prior to their promotion, focus was squarely on the 2010s during the San Francisco tasting held at Terra Gallery in early November. It’s fascinating to witness change, and the châteaux, which were on an upward trajectory in 2009 for the most part, didn’t disappoint. Read the full article here at Grands Crus Classés of Saint Émilion.

Long-lived Lake County

Wine quality has been on the rise in Lake County and winegrowers there have their sights set determinedly on the future—and it’s a very bright one at that. Driven by increased demand for high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Sauvignon Blanc, the value of the region’s wine grapes climbed by 20 percent in 2012, reaching a ten-year high, while yields inched up by just three percent. Here at THE TASTING PANEl, we’ve been following winegrowing in Lake County closely for the last five years. When questions arose about the age ability of the region’s wines, we were quick to take up the challenge. More often than not, exposure to Lake County wines is limited to the supporting role they play in blends from nearby appellations. When this point was raised during a technical seminar hosted in June at MacMurray Ranch by the appellation’s winegrowers, Steele Wines’ Joy Merrilees had answers at the ready but no proof positive that the region’s high-elevation wines can withstand the test of time. Read the complete article here…Long-lived Lake …

Blind Wine Review: Premiere Napa Valley’s 2013 Multi-Vintage Perspective Tasting

While it’s possible to barrel taste recent vintages at many of the preview parties that take place around Premiere, the Napa Valley Vintners’ annual tasting and live barrel auction, a three-vintage, blind perspective tasting of ’08, ’09 and ’10 Cabernet Sauvignons and ’09, ’10 and ’11Chardonnays from 24 Napa Valley wineries was made to order for this column. Designed to demonstrate how Napa Valley vintages unfold over the short term, the multi-vintage tasting of 72 wines was held at the CIA’s Rudd Center on Friday, February 22. The wines presented were whittled down from more than 90 submissions in each category by a jury of local winemakers, buyers and educators including the CIA’s own Traci Dutton and Bob Bath, MS. Release dates are still in the works for many of the ’11 Chardonnays and the majority of ’09 and ’10 Cabernets. It’s worth noting that all of the wines were decanted into hourglass-shaped carafes which tended to work against the Chardonnays when they were poured through the necks of decanters being gripped by warm hands. …

Blind Wine Review: That Rutherford Dust

For this inaugural Blind Tasting, I delved into my notebook for highlights of ten wines that came out on top during an August 2012 presentation of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley’s Rutherford AVA. The Rutherford Dust Society tasting presented 27 wines from the 2009 vintage—in reverse order from tastings held in prior years. Three flights of nine wines began with those from Rutherford’s most southwesterly sites and moved north and across the AVA, concluding with wines from the most southeasterly sites.   1. Savory roasted nuts, cinnamon and black plum notes with dark berry flavors and silky, medium-weight tannins. $100 2. Earth and charred oak notes with bright, focused red fruit that deepens towards the finish. $65 3. Ripe, jammy blackberry complemented by toast and sweet vanilla with a generous structure that closes softly. $185 4. Floral, high-toned notes of lavender and blue fruit with bright plum and a savory, granular texture. $65 5. Anise and complex umami aromas; lean, intense dark fruit and leather finishing with notes of toasty caramel. $45 6. Bright, …