Wine Review | Apothic Inferno 2014

Apothic inferno label

Apothic Inferno, 2014 California

So, I’ve seen the Apothic label in various wine departments over the years, but never purchased the wine.  The label is unmistakeable, a great bit of branding.  But having spent my early 20’s drinking Australian wines with groovy animal labels, I was shy to repeat the mistake.

Then a review sample from Apothic arrived at my doorstep.   I didn’t immediately open it.  Instead I let it sit on the counter for a week, brooding.  Finally, I popped the cork.

To review I chilled the wine to 55F.  Then I decanted and allowed the wine to warm up to 75F over the course of 3 hours, while sampling along the way.

The first thing I noticed is the aroma.  As I passed by my decanter and glass of wine, the powerful aroma of high alcohol wine hit my nostrils, stopped me in my tracks.  The wine is an alcoholic monster at 15.9% no doubt.  The searing heat of the alcohol is predominant, along with the telltale sweetness.   The fruit is ripe and the not terribly complex.  I know what you’re thinking “wow this wine sounds terrible”.  It’s not.  You just have to put it in the context it will thrive in.

And here’s that context.  You need a big bold fruit forward wine that people who generally say they like wine will enjoy at a party. You also don’t want to spend more than $20 a bottle.  Inferno retails for about $12-$15 a bottle.  For wine snobs, this would not be such an enjoyable wine, but then again, wine snobs might not be enjoyable guests…haha right??

Wine is meant to be enjoyed, with friends, with food.  The overall picture is what matters.  This is a good general purpose wine, that doesn’t break the bank.

 

WeeklyWineJournal rating: 88 points

 

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A different Pointe of View

Recently I had the pleasure of being invited to a wine dinner at A Different Pointe of View restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona.  I’d never been inside the restaurant but have often driven up to the top of the hill it sits on to watch monsoon storms roll across the valley.

The first thing you should note about the restaurant is that you should probably be pretty good at driving a stick shift if you want to make it to the top.  The grade feels like 30%!  I have a diesel truck, so no problem there.   Once you make your way up to the entrance, you’ll notice there’s still a ways to go, luckily there is an elevator.

Once at the top I walked out onto the south facing patio and was greeted by an amazing view of the Phoenix skyline!  Amazing is also an understatement.  Spectacular is more like it.  The next time I know of a storm brewing, I’m definitely heading up the hill with my camera gear.  But wait…. you can’t just go up there to shoot monsoon pics!  You have to relax and enjoy some wine!  Enjoy life a little, bring a friend, a special friend.  And maybe leave all the professional camera gear at home, you wouldn’t want to geek out on that and miss the incredible and romantic setting would you??

So after the sunset and a couple of glasses of wine, and great company, you’ll most likely be getting pretty hungry.  Well now you’re in for a real treat.  The Different Pointe of View restaurant is a critically acclaimed and multiple award winning restaurant.  It’s fine dining at it’s best.

The wine maker dinners are intimate.  Limited to 12 guests who sit in a U shape around the chef as he prepares a 5 course meal.  The night I visited we started with Lobster Bisque, featuring lobster flown in from Maine that day!  Then there was scallops, and lamb.  Not in the same dish, and yea, they were cooked to perfection.  The scallops with lots of butter.  The lamb not too gamey.   For dessert they served a strawberry cream cheese ice cream on cake.  Which is a perfect of many of the things I like, cream cheese, ice cream and strawberries!

Almost forgot, the wine was Jax Vineyards, which I’ll be posting about in the next few days.  Quick preview:  90+ points Chardonnay and a 97 point cabernet…

 

#askgaryvee super 8

WHO IS GARY VAYNERCHUK ANYWAYS??

Gary Vaynerchuk retires

Gary Vay-Ner-Chuk!

Back in April of 2008 I responded to a craigslist ad for wine sales people.  The economy was in full meltdown, I was financially screwed and needed a 2nd job to try to save my house.  I ended up selling wine inside Costco’s for Cameron Hughes for 19 months straight.  During that period I took 6 days off of work, literally 6 days!   The sales experience was awesome, Cameron is a great guy to work for and the people I met who work for Costco and their customers were great!

In an effort to better educate myself on the wines I was selling I started searching the internet.  I couldn’t afford to taste dozens of wines a week, but I could read reviews and reference them.  That’s when I came across Gary  VAY-NER-CHUK!

I literally laughed out loud, up late at night trying to be all serious about wine and this guy just destroyed it!  I wasn’t around during the early early days of Wine Library TV so I didn’t get to see the transformation from the quiet guy in the first video to the guy that everyone knows from WLTV.  One of my all time favorite episodes is “How to train your palate”.   Being exposed to Gary completely changed the way I sold wine.  I went on to sell over 1,000 cases of wine, working only Saturday’s and Sunday’s and without giving out any samples.

Then Gary went on tour with Crush it!  I saw him speak at the Mesa Hilton, in Mesa, Arizona.  It was AWESOME!  It was October 2009 (I think)  and he was already crushing it in terms of the live stage show the performance and the substance.  I decided to follow his advice and start blogging about something I was interested in…wine!

A few months later I received an email from Gary asking if I would be interested in writing content for his wine website/community cork’d.   I thought it was my friends pranking me so I didn’t respond.  But he emailed again, and boy am I lucky that I responded that time!

I spent 2010 producing 1-3 articles a week.  I was paired up with Jon Troutman and he worked tirelessly to help make me a better writer.  He would suggest edits and taught me a lot of techniques for writing more engaging content.  Which, if you’re reading this I’ve probably forgotten half of!   In addition to the coaching and learning experience I got access to the greater wine community that I never would have without being able to name drop that I wrote for Gary Vaynerchuk.

In the summer of 2010 Gary travelled back to Arizona for the Judgment of Arizona, a wine tasting that pitted Arizona wines against wines of the world.  After the contest was over, I was kind of just minding my own business while everyone gathered around Gary to ask him questions.  I didn’t really have anything to ask, didn’t want to be a bother so I just watched.  After a while he got up approached me and asked if I wanted to go to dinner!

That dinner, looking back was HUGE!  We were joined by some other people, there were 5 of us total.  Just think of that!  What do you think a 2 hour dinner session with Gary would be worth these days?  Two things that Gary said really stood out for me.  First, he said something to the effect of “I know we’re all getting along great here, but I want you guys to keep this going.  You don’t need me here to do this, keep in touch with each other.” I’m still in fairly regular contact with a couple of the guys.

The second thing that he remarked on was something to the effect of “I feel like something great is about to start.  Like I just feel it, I feel it in my guts.  Like I’m on the cusp of something huge.”   He couldn’t have had better intuition.   This was probably right around the time that was very first putting in place the pieces to start Vayner Media.  In case you don’t know, Vayner Media is now a 600 person digital shop with $100,000,000 annual sales.

March 8th, Gary is set to release his newest book: The Ask Gary Vee Book.  This book is based on the Ask Gary Vee Show.  This show is available on podcast, and youtube and focuses on entrepreneurship and leadership among other things.  It’s a really amazing show.  You should seriously be watching it.  Here’s what I like about it.  You get to see a super intuitive guy think on his feet.  I don’t know of a better ad lib, think fast, think on your feet person in the world.

The reason I’m writing this post is to, in my small way, the only way I can, repay Gary for the opportunity that was given to me.  Gary is a guy who gives gives and gives without asking.  He didn’t ask me to write this, I’m just doing it.  It’s the right thing to do.

Here’s what I’m going to do:  I am going to goto Amazon and buy 8 books (to start)  Why?  Because if you buy 8 books and email the receipt to super8@vaynermedia you will be put in for a drawing and the winner gets a 1 hour solo session with Gary!  Normally you would need to buy 1,000 books or shell out serious $cash$ money for that!

But I’m not doing it for the chance to win something, I’d be doing it anyways.  I am doing it because I am going to be giving away this new book to my clients.  I think the knowledge, the actionable information is super awesome.  Even more than that, I think the value that I got from one on one tutoring from Jon Troutman for a year and all the exposure is worth a lot.  I can’t pay $ for it, but I can write, I can promote, I can evangelize the gospel of Gary Vee.

GO TO THESE LINKS RIGHT NOW

LIVE STREAM SUPER 8 FEBRUARY 23RD 10AM-6PM

GARY VAYNERCHUK BOOK BARTER

BUY THE BOOK ON AMAZON

WINE LIBRARY TV: HOW TO GET YOUR PALATE TRAINED

 

Serious wines from the Left Coast

You know the old adage “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”?  While it’s really difficult not to do so, the same thing can be said of wine.

Left Coast Cellars whimsical and quirky label would lead you to believe that this is an ordinary $12 bottle of wine.  But the wine is not ordinary, and it’s also not $12.

I recently had a chance to talk wine (and a lot of other topics) with Left Coast Cellars winemaker, Luke McCollom.  We went to dinner at a fabulous french cuisine restaurant in Phoenix called Coup des Tartes.  The main reason for choosing the restaurant was they allow you to bring your own wine (for a fee).  We sat in a back room next to the fire place and tasted through a series of wines paired with exceptional food. We dined, sipped and talked for two and half hours and I really got a great sense of who Luke is and what Left Coast Cellars is.

Luke is a very young looking fellow.  He’s 37 years old, but he has some serious wine experience.  His experience in the wine business started in his early teens and led to attaining a Bachelor of Science in fruit science and a minor in wine and viticulture from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.  Luke’s wine experience includes some ridiculously valuable time at Napa Valley’s Harlan Estate.  If you don’t know Harlan, seriously you should.  Luke joined Left Coast Cellars back in 2003 and has really created something special there.

Luke’s passion is wine.  From our conversation, it’s obvious.  But not just wine.  Vineyard management as well.  These days most wine making operations have specialized people working for them.  They have wine makers, they have vineyard managers.  There are not a lot of people that can do both and do both well.  Tasting the wines, I would say Luke is the exception to that rule.  Even though he comes across as an easy going mellow guy, he takes the wine business extremely seriously.  He is on a mission.  A mission for excellence.  I’d say with the wines we tasted, he’s there already.

In this article I’m going to focus on two of his white wines.  The first is the Left Coast Cellars 2014 Truffle Hill Chardonnay.  left coast cellarsThis wine is 100% Chardonnay aged for 9 months in 66% French oak (25% new) and 33% in stainless steel.  This wine right out of the gate comes across crisp and laser focused. Very well structured, and not at all flabby (not that I thought it would be).  This is not a buttery or vanilla flavored Chardonnay, so if you like that style of wine this is not the wine for you.  If you like  a more old world style with crisp clean acidity, and purity of fruit, not over oaked and not too high alcohol this is the wine for you.  Alcohol weighs in at 13.8% on this wine.  The Truffle hill block has only 5 acres planted to Chardonnay, so this is a very small production wine, order it before it runs out and it will run out soon.  This is a serious, fantastic wine and a great deal at $24.

Weekly Wine Journal Rating: 90 points

The second wine for review is Left Coast Cellars 2014 Pinot Gris from The Orchard block.  left coast cellars-2This wine is equally serious.  Aged for 4 months in 100% stainless steel this 100% Pinot Gris comes right out at you with an extremely crisp smack in the mouth.  But it’s gentle, not a monster.  Dominated by green apple and minerality, there are some pear notes in the back end as well.  There are 7.4 acres of Pinot Gris planted to the Orchards block, again a very small production wine and at only $18 a bottle this is a ridiculous deal.  Weekly Wine Journal Rating: 90 points

Look for the unusual label, don’t be fooled by it.  While these are seriously well made wines, they’re not snobby.  Luke is a down to earth honest guy who really is a master of his craft.  He’s committed to sustainable practices and building a legacy of great wine.  I would be surprised if I didn’t see some major accolades from major publications in the next several months.

http://leftcoastcellars.com/

 

 

 

 

Review | Justin 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast

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Justin 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast

I’m a big fan of Justin’s Isosceles as well as their other cabernets, and so as I was strolling through the wine section at Costco over the weekend, this bottle caught my attention.  The label really helps showcase the beautiful golden yellow color of the wine.  But the next thing I noticed is the price:  $10.99  This was just what I was looking for.  Heading over to some friends for a barbeque, we’re having chicken and vegetable kebabs.

So while the final preparations were being made to the food I was treated to some homemade salsa.  The host was a bit upset that she didn’t have lemon to put in the salsa, the final ingredient.  That’s where this wine really knocked it out of the park for me.  With loads of lemon and grapefruit, it paired beautifully with the juicy, and lemon-less salsa.  As the wine warmed up a chamomile like aroma revealed itself, and later on the palate some nice green apple notes.

My only regret with this wine is that I didn’t come across it at the beginning of summer!

Manipulated Wines…natural or unnatural?

wine glassesSo you’re sipping a spectacular glass of wine, taking in all the flavors and aromas and marveling at what a great palate you have until someone says “Hey did you know this wine was aged for 6 months with bags of oak wood chips and a little bit of port was added to soften it up a bit”

Whoa!!  I did not know that!  What started out as an austere wine not ready for immediate consumption turned into a nice “drink now” or in a year or two wine.  But is it really natural?  Is this cheating or dishonest?

Even without barrel manipulation, there’s a lot that can be done in the vineyard and in the actual wine making process that would raise the eyebrows of a wine naturalist/purist, but if you think about it, isn’t all wine just a manipulation of the grape?

There’s a very funny bit at the end of “Blood into Wine”  where the wine snob is smoking a cigarette and pontificating on the purity of the wine and he says that the most pure wine you’ll ever taste is the grape juice directly out of the wine.  Although clearly a parody, a parallel can be drawn to the current debate.

I came across the raging debate on a Wine & Spirits group on Linkedin of all places.  With over 67,000 members, this group has many of the worlds experts in wine, as well as bloggers, consumers, retailers, distributors.  Everyone.   In France, according to one commenter, it is forbidden to add water to wine, and in a lot of areas it is also forbidden to irrigate.  While in California it is not illegal to add water to wine, or irrigate (barring any current water restrictions).

There’s also a great article from The Daily Beast from 2009 that really gets into some scary manipulation and down right dishonesty:  “The Great Wine Coverup

What is the best “manipulated” wine you’ve ever had, or the best natural wine you’ve had, if you even know which is which😉

Kudos | 2014 Pinot Gris | 2013 Pinot Noir

Kudos Wine

Kudos | 2014 Pinot Grils | 2013 Pinot Noir

 

Kudos is made by NW Wine company out of Dundee Oregon.  According to the NW Wine Co. website they are “the only custom wine growing facility that specializes in all aspects of the wine making process, from vineyard to bottle.”  Founded in 2003 by Laurent Montalieu, Danielle Andrus-Montalieu, and John Niemeyer, their goal was to provide quality right from day one.  They work with vineyards as small as 1 acre and have wines in over 30 markets across the U.S.  In addition, they purchased the 120 acre Hyland vineyard in 2007.  So how’s the wine?

Kudos, 2014 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Kudos Wine-2

I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting much from this wine, but I wasn’t.  And then I was pleasantly surprised!  The nose is pretty, with a little lemon, and peach intermingled with a floral component.  The palate is where this wine really shines.  Solid citrus in the vein of lemon and lime, with a slightly ripe back-end, just enough to soften the wine and make it really approachable.  This wine is an ideal wine for summer, pre bbq drinks, or lay out by the pool.  Really, it’s quite versatile.  The alcohol weighs in at 13.1% and 5,500 cases were produced, so there should be some nearby if you look hard enough. This wine retails for about $10-$15 a bottle.  Weekly Wine Journal rating: 91 points

 

Kudos, 2013 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OregonKudos Wine-3

After being pleasantly surprised by the Pinot Gris, I was ready for this wine.  This is a solid effort, not the most complex wine, but again at $12-$15 retail this is a hell of a deal for Pinot Noir.  Nice acidity and tannins, like cherries and tea (no milk).  There’s a hint of clove and vanilla on the back end which is quite nice too.  Alcohol weighs in at 13.1% and 9,000 cases were produced, so there’s an even greater chance that this wine might be available in your area.

Weekly Wine Journal Rating: 87 points

Coming soon… Kudos Chardonnay (only 700 cases made) and Kudos Reserve Pinot Noir

*disclaimer: Wines samples provided by the winery for review

 

 

 

Wines of Moldova |Mimi Feteasca

Mimi Premium Wines | Feteasca Alba

Mimi Feteasca Alba

Mimi Feteasca Alba

What is Feteasca Alba and how did I come across this wine?  Well the kind folks at Colangelo PR reached out to me a while back to see if I would be interested in trying out some wines from Moldova.  I was interested and a few days later a box of wine (a box with bottles in it) arrived.  One of the wines was by a producer named Mimi.  The label was difficult to understand, not being in english but I did gather that Feteasca Alba must be the variety of grape used.

A little background on The Republic of Moldova and their wine history (from Colangelo PR)

 

  • Moldova has the greatest density of vineyards in the world
  • Over 276,000 acres of grape vines grow on 7% of Moldova’s arable land.
  • Moldova cultivates indigenous varietals like Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Neagra, Rara Neagra, Traminer and Saperavi
  • International grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and others are grown as well
  • Over 250,000 citizens are employed by the wine industry
  • Moldova’s wine industry accounts for 3.2% of the gross domestic product and 7.5% of the country’s total export

According to Wines of Moldova the first vines planted in Moldova can be traced as far back as 7,000 years with the first records of wine making dating back 3,000 years.  The area is mentioned with reference to wine in Homer’s Iliad (800 B.C.)  Talk about old world wine!

Feteasca Alba?  What is it?  It’s a grape indigenous  to Romania, Hungry, Transylvania and Moldova.  It’s also very difficult to find any information on.  So what does it taste like?

On the nose, pleasantly aromatic, predominantly apricot.  At first the palate was dry and austere, but after the wine warmed up the fruit really began to show itself.  This wine would really benefit from at least an hour of decanting and to be served close to the temperature you would serve red wine.  There are layers of grapefruit and pear intermingled with subtle minerality.  The wine is light (12% alcohol) which also lends itself to warmer serving temperature.  Even at a serving temperature of above 70F I didn’t detect any alcoholic heat.

This wine was a pleasant surprise.  If you’re looking to try something completely different I recommend trying this wine. And remember, don’t serve it too cold!

Weekly Wine Journal Rating: 88 points

 

 

 

 

Review | Ponzi Vineyards 2014 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley

If you’re not familiar with the wines of Oregon you might think that this is some back country little mom and pop winery – it’s not.  Although founded by mom and pop, they’re one of America’s leading Pinot Noir producers. They are world class.  Ponzi Vineyards was founded in 1970 and released its first vintage of Pinot Noir in 1974 and in 1978 they planted Pinot Gris. Starting in the mid 1980’s Robert Parker (Wine Advocate) and other critics began to take notice.  In 1985 Parker wrote that Ponzi’s Pinot Noir was comparable to the world’s great Burgundies and in 1987 Ponzi made the Wine Spectator’s top 100 list for the first time.  And most recently the February issue of Wine Enthusiast gave Ponzi’s Chardonnay 96 points. Over the years the family has purchased more and more land and in 2008 they built a 30,000 square foot state of the art gravity fed winery. Sisters – Luisa and Maria are the 2nd generation of Ponzi’s at the helm and have been running the business for the last 20 years.  Ponzi vineyards currently have 129 acres under vine on 4 different vineyards.

I will admit right here that I was not as familiar with Ponzi or even the wines of Oregon before trying this wine.  I had no idea what to expect, other than it’s a Pinot Gris, which is supposedly pretty much American Pinot Griggio.  I was wrong!  This wine has a wonderful floral nose but the palate is where it really shines.  Tropical fruit with a heavy dose of citrus, but extremely clean and focused if that makes sense.  The suggested retail on this wine is only $17, I think it’s a fantastic deal.  I’m thinking they could easily charge $25-$35+ for this wine.

Wine Geek Details:  Alcohol – 13.2%  pH is 4.2  Residual sugar is 5.7g/L.  Production 17,000 cases

Oregon’s weather is typically much cooler than their neighbors to the south – California.  Typically, the cool weather produces wines with more acidity.  Oregon is very well known for it’s cool climate wines such as Pinot Noir.  But 2014 was a very different year for Oregon.  2014 was one of the warmest on record, but not because of the daytime high temps…it was because of the overnight lows were much higher than normal.  According to Ponzi this  “accelerated ripening despite large crop loads and harvest began at the very beginning of September.”   Basically it means they had a killer year, and this wine will have some elements of warmer climate Pinot Gris, while still maintaining the cooler climate characteristics.  I’m thinking this wine is going to be integral to my 2015 summer activities.

Weekly Wine Journal rating 92 points

*wine provided by Ponzi for review

Review | Faust 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

faust wine 2012The Faust wine label is often (and incorrectly) thought of as Quintessa’s second wine, or Quintessa jr.  Although Faust is made at and aged at Quintessa by the same wine maker, Charles Thomas – the fruit is different.  Quintessa is a pure expression of a single estate vineyard in Rutherford.  Faust is sourced primarily from it’s own 110 acre vineyard in the  Coombsville AVA.  Although there is enough fruit from Rutherford, Atlas Peak, Mount Veeder and the Oak Knoll District to be designated “Napa Valley”.

So now that we’ve got that clarification out of the way…hows the wine?  Before I get to that here’s a little more on the production:  The 2012 season in Napa was pretty much ideal according to many.  There was a long harvest season without any major rains during harvest.  This wine underwent “Extensive selective picking” according to the folks at Faust.  Why do they do this?  Optimal grapes usually means optimal wine.  “These grapes were hand picked, double sorted and crushed, then cold soaked and fermented in both French oak and stainless steel tanks.  After extended maceration and malolactic fermentation, the wine was aged for 19 months in 100% french oak, with 30% of the oak being new.” – from the Faust sell sheet.  I’ve read a few sell sheets writing this website for the last 6 years, and I really like that simple succinct description.

The Facts:  80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. 14.% Alc  $50 retail

This wine is intense.  If you like big bold Cabernets that pair well with a big juicy Rib Eye steak this is the wine for you.  Although there are subtle elements to the wine, it is predominantly a powerhouse.  Red plum, black cherry, cassis, cocoa.  Also espresso and an almost cedar like forest like element.  The tasting notes say sandalwood, which I can see as well.  Although the wine can be enjoyed now, it should benefit from a little more time in the bottle, and or some decanting.

Weekly Wine Journal rating 90 points

*wine provided for review