Pinot Gris

3 affordable summer white wines

d’Alessandro Inzolia | Franciscan Estates Sauvignon Blanc | 

J Vineyards Pinot Gris

white wine under $15It’s June and the summer heat is about to create a shift in our wine drinking habits.  Big Reds by the fireside will be replaced by cool and refreshing whites by the poolside.  If your wine collection is like mine, you are in serious need of some white wines that entertain, and bring exceptional value…and so without further ado…

d’Alessandro 2009 Inzolia

Varietal: 100% Inzolia

Alcohol: 12%

Aging; 4 months stainless steel, 2 months bottle

If you’re like me you have a rather limited exposure to the Inzolia grape.  In fact this wine was my first experience.  Inzolia is one of the primary grapes used in the making of Marsala.  The grape is primarily found in Sicily.  This particular wine is light and crispy with a distinct almond like nuttiness to it.  I receive a lot of wines as free samples, and end up pouring a fair amount down the sink after a half bottle.  This wine, however, I enjoyed on back to back nights.  It’s just an easy to drink, light wine, with a little bit of complexity to make it interesting enough to keep for a second night, if you don’t drink the whole bottle.  The wine retails for around $18.    86 points

summer wine under $15Franciscan Estate 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

Varietal: 100% Sauvignon Blanc

Alcohol: 13.5%

Wine making: 90% Tank fermented, 10% neutral oak fermented

Alcohol: 13.5%

Franciscan, like most Napa producers is probably more well known for its Cabernet, but relies to a certain extent on the quick turn-around of Sauvignon Blanc for cash flow.  However,  this doesn’t mean the wines are not quality.  The 2009 Franciscan Sauv Blanc is quite delicious, and there must be a fair amount of people that feel the same way because as of right now their website is temporarily sold out.  Not sure where they are going to find some more on the vineyard, but you should be able to track this wine down at most grocery stores. This wine was received as a sample.

The nose consists of citrus and sweet fig, and the palate is citrus driven, with a grapefruit and lime like crisp acidity.  The alcohol is nicely in check at 13.5% which is something to consider when sipping wine earlier in the day. 87 points

Summer wine under $15J Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris, California

Varietal: 100% Pinot Gris

Alcohol: 14.3%

Production: 20,000 cases

Price: $15

This wine was my favorite of the three, and the only one I purchased.   The grapes for this wine come from several well known areas including Russian River and Monterey.  Non Malolactic and stainless steel fermentation gives this wine a nice crisp and refreshing acidity.  The wines from the different appellations are made separately and then blended at the end.  This allows the wine maker more control of the final taste.

As for the taste…once again citrus on the nose, maybe a little more ripe than most Pinot Gris, mandarin and honey.  However, the palate is crisp and slightly effervescent , which gives the wine a nice velvety mouth feel. 90 points

Wine Smackdown #2 | BC Wine


In December 2010 I took a trip to British Columbia, Canada to visit friends and family.

desolate highway

1,700 miles in a day and a half

While I was there my friend suggested we pay a visit to a special wine shop located in White Rock called Mud Bay Wines.  This wine shop carries only VQA certified British Columbia wines.  The shop is fairly small, but it is well laid out and has a huge selection of BC wines.  The staff was friendly and helpful as well.  I found the purchasing process unusual in that I knew nothing of the wineries or  viticultural areas.  And very few of the wines had shelf talkers.  It was like being transported back in time to my first wine purchase.  So after much deliberation, we made our choices and headed home to critique. The wines are in the order that we consumed them.  I thought I would be able to find the technical information about each wine online, so I did not include them in my notes.  However, upon sitting down to write this post I have discovered that this information is hard to find! Note to less well known wine producers:  Consumers like to know as much as possible about your wines, the process and the technical information.

The first wine we popped open was Volcanic Hills, 2009 Gamay Noir from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

BC Wine

Volcanic Hills Gamay Noir

After a quick decant we were restless and ready for a drink.  On the nose this wine came across  light with aromas of red fruit.  The palate was predominantly raspberry and cranberry. The finish was crisp and clean.  While this is not a complex wine,  it is a decent effort.  It’s a light and fruity, easy sipper and for only $15 it’s well worth it. 84 points

Next up was Domaine de Chaberton 2008 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley.

BC wine

Domaine de Chaberton Pinot Gris

This wine was nice enough, but I had a tough time discerning the aromas on the nose and the flavors on the palate.  It is a very light wine, although the alcohol clocks in at 13%.  I detected a little citrus on the nose. The palate displayed a very slight lemon profile with a hint of nutty butterscotch on the finish.  Once again, at $15, a decent wine, decent value but nothing to get too excited about. 82 points

Wine number three was Summerhill Pyramid Winery’s 2006 Riesling, Okanagan Valley.

BC Wine

Summerhill Pyramid Riesling

The nose was not as aromatic as I had hoped, I could detect minerals, but little in the way of fruit.  The palate consisted of  Grapefruit and Granny Smith Apple surrounded by a rather searing tartaric acidity.  Alcohol weighs in at 9% and the wine retails for  $22. A decent effort, however this wine is an acquired taste. I would only recommend this wine to wine drinkers who are looking for a Riesling which is not sweet. 83 points

Wine number four:  Church & State Wines, 2006 Quintessential red blend.


Church and State Quintessential

This wine is a blend of all 5 Bordeaux varietals, however I cannot find any information on the % breakdown.  The nose was pleasant enough, and displayed aromas of Cherries and leather. However, the palate is where this wine fell far short.   Immediately I was hit with an overwhelming unpleasant sweetness.  I was expecting something vaguely Bordeaux like but this wine did not deliver.  I thought maybe it was me and did not say anything, instead I had the other guests give it a whirl and they came to the same conclusion without my influence. At $50 a bottle I expected a lot more.  And even more confusing to me is how this wine could have won “Best Red Wine” at the All Canadian Wine Championships in 2009.  75 points

A couple of nights later my friends and I visited Salt Tasting Room in downtown Vancouver.  Upon being seated I asked our server, who also happened to be the inventory manager, for the best Bordeaux blend he had.

Wine number five:  Clos du Soleil Red 2007 Similkameen, British Columbia.

Clos du Soleil Red

This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 22% Merlot and 18% Cabernet Franc aged for 18 months in 80% French Oak, 20% American Oak. The alcohol comes in at 13.3%. Production for the Clos du Soleil Red 2007 was only 450 cases.

This wine was by far the best wine of my trip.  It displayed a pleasantly aromatic nose of cassis and vanilla with floral notes.  The palate featured chewy plummy tannins, great structure and a nice long finish.  A well balanced wine with all of its components in check.  This wine retails for around $40 a bottle which may be a little pricey but considering the comparative quality, it is worth it.  88 points.

I hope to get back to British Columbia again in 2011 and to sample more of what British Columbia has to offer in terms of wine.  I will have to be a little more discerning in my selections in the future, maybe to a little more research ahead of time.  The Canadian dollar is currently at par with the U.S. dollar which can put a lot of pressure on the budget when buying multiple bottles of wine purely for review.  Have you tried any wines from British Columbia, have you tried any of the wines reviewed here?