Sauvignon Blanc

Brancott Estate | Marlborough

Brancott Estate, Marlborough New Zealand

2010 Sauvignon Blanc | 2010 Pinot Noir

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a private wine tasting for wine industry sales people and among the selection were two wines from New Zealand’s Brancott Estate.

Brancott estate wineBrancott Estate Wines started in 1934 as Montana Wines, but recently changed their name to Brancott Estate.  The Brancott vineyard was their flagship vineyard and so they thought it appropriate to make the change.

Brancott were among the first to plant pinot noir in the Marlborough region and also among the first to recognize that Sauvignon Blanc was going to be huge for New Zealand.

Speaking of the Sav-blanc, here’s the info:

The wine has a pleasantly ripe aroma and palate.  Tropical fruit intermingled with lemon grass spice.  And I mean exactly like dried lemon grass spice.  I actually have a bottle of this spice on hand to help people understand wine terminology.  The wine is straight forward, uncomplicated but not flabby or boring.   I think this is a pretty good deal at $10 to $15 retail depending on where you shop.

The pinot noir was interesting.  I am so much more used to the various flavor profiles of California pinots.  This one was quite a bit different.  Not as complex as some of the big names, but I think it’s quite a steal at $10 to $15 retail.

Aromas of cherries and strawberry with a fruit forward palate with the nice little added kick of cinnamon spice.  The big difference with the majority of California Pinots is that this wine had a decent funky earthy quality to it.

Weekly Wine Journal rating on both wines: 89 points

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 Review: Clif Family Winery | The Climber | 2009

In this review: The Climber 2009 Sauvignon blanc and 2009 Red wine

The climber red white

Clif Family Winery, The Climber 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, California.

The  blend: 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 13% Pinot Gris, 5% Riesling, 1% Pinot Meunier and 1% Muscat.

Alcohol: 13.7%

Production: 3,000 cases

Suggested Retail Price: $12

According to the winery the fruit is sourced from Organic and sustainably farmed vineyards in Lake County, Mendocino County and Lodi.  The juice was fermented in 100% stainless steel and did not undergo malolactic fermentation.

The nose is quite pretty, with sweet floral and tropical fruit notes.  The palate is more complex than the $12 retail price would suggest, yet still within the parameters of a California Style Sauvignon Blanc.  The palate is predominantly melon and citrus.  The Riesling and Muscat add a slight sweet acidity to the Sauvignon blanc.

Clif Family Winery, The Climber, 2009 Red Wine California

The Blend: 63% Zinfandel, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 2% Merlot and 2% Petite Sirah

Alcohol: 14.1%

Production: 3,500 cases

Suggested Retail Price: $12

According to Clif Family Winery the fruit comes from sustainably farmed vineyards in Mendocino and Lodi.  Each component was fermented separately and then blended prior to bottling.

This wine taste like an uncomplicated Zinfandel from Lodi.  Fruit forward, jammy with a little black pepper spice. Hidden in the mix is a hint of smokey Syrah as well. This wine was not as interesting or palatable as its white counterpart.  I would suggest pairing this with frozen pizza on a weekday.

Clif Family Winery & Farm Website

*Disclaimer* These wines were received as samples

Wine Tasting at the Phoenix Public Market

Inside the Phoenix Public Market

Inside the Phoenix Public Market

I recently attended a free wine tasting at the Phoenix Public Market in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.  Every Wednesday starting at 5pm the Public market pours local Arizona wines for the public to sample.  The wines being offered this particular night were Oak Creek Vineyards 2008 Chardonnay, Rancho Rossa 2006 CSM and Canelo Hills 2009 Sauvignon Blanc.

3 arizona wines

Oak Creek Winery, Rancho Rossa and Canelo Hills

First up was the Canelo Hills 2009 Sauvignon Blanc.  The first thing I noticed was a very crisp acidity and tartness.  This wine is not for people who can only drink the ripe fruit forward styles of Sauv Blanc.  Personally I thought the crispness and tartness were quite welcome considering it was at least 106F outside!  The tart fruit is along the lines of green or Granny Smith apples mixed with a bit of lemon.  There is a hint of grassiness along the lines of what is commonly produced in New Zealand.  The alcohol came in at 13.7% which was pleasant, no heat on the finish. This is a dry Sauvignon blanc.  $22 a bottle retail.  Canelo Hills was one of the vineyards almost completely destroyed by a violent wind and hail storm this summer.  So there might some sort of collectability to this vintage as their 2010 vintage will most likely have to be sourced from alternate growers.

Red Yellow and Purple pepper

Interesting Purple Peppers

Next up was the Oak Creek Vineyards and Winery 2008 Chardonnay.  This wine is made in the Burgundian style with no oak.  It underwent malolactic fermentation.  Unfortunately I found this wine to be a little on the flat side.  The fruit was lacking in something that I could really grasp and say “Ah thats it!”  To be honest I would say Chardonnay is the wine of which I am most critical, it takes a lot for me to be wowed by a Chardonnay.  This Chardonnay did not wow me.

Barrel wine sign

Signs made from old barrels

Last but not least was the Rancho Rossa 2006 CSM.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Merlot.  This wine was the most interesting of the three.  Full-bodied with solid tannins throughout.  There is a predominant smokiness that I think could use a little toning down, but there is a decent complexity to make up for that.  The fruit is along the lines of blackberry and cherry, and plum.  Standard fare for red wine.

After the tasting I enjoyed a fabulous sample platter paired with a brand new wine from Dick Erath…

Sample Platter

Delicious sample platter

Click here to see a quick video tour of the Phoenix Public Market

Canelo Hills website

Oak Creek Vineyard and Winery website

Rancho Rossa website

Wine Review: Grgich Hills Estate, 2007 Fume Blanc, Napa Valley


Alcohol: 14.1%

Oak and aging:  6 months in neutral french oak

Production: 11,800 cases, as well as 1,385 cases of the half bottles (375ml)

Price: $26.99 at AZ Wine Company

Nose:  full blown sweet aroma of flowers.

Palate: Ripe juicy grapefruit.  The kind that you love to have for breakfast, nice and juicy, ripe, yet has enough acidity to make it tart.  There is a little bit of minerality which adds a nice bit of complexity.

Finish: Smooth soft and silky mouthfeel.

This will be a great summertime wine, or spring time in warmer climates.  Great afternoon wine, before dinner.  Maybe great at night after a hot summer day.  Refreshing, clean crisp but really not overly acidic.

I tasted this wine at a wine tasting, so the sample that I made this review from was rather limited.  My reviews usually consist of consuming the whole bottle…half one night, and then the other half 24 hours later…Tim.

UPDATE: I liked the wine so much I picked up a bottle and re-tasted it on Friday Night!

It's best to consume the whole bottle

This time around, with much more to sample I really noticed the lemon grass aspect as well as the ripe juicy grape fruit. I paired this wine with chicken fettuccine alfredo with diced pancetta and red pepper, topped with finely grated Parmesan Reggiano.

On Saturday afternoon I paired the remainder of the wine with a mexican style lunch. Started with a giant flour tortilla from Carolina’s, (who by the way make the best hand made tortilla’s in Phoenix) then spread Diced Roma tomatoes, onion and garlic, with salt pepper and a bit of lemon juice mixed in with shredded chicken sprinkled with a chipotle rub. Sliced avocado and cheddar, warmed in a pan to melt the cheese and flipped it once to get both sides of the tortilla a little bit crispy. The wine went VERY well with the spiciness of the food.

4 Awesome Wines under $20

The down-turn in the economy has provided me with some amazing opportunities to try high-end wines.  The metro-Phoenix area has been hit very hard by the recession.  A lot of grocery stores and warehouse stores have reduced their high-end wine inventories, slashed prices, and replaced the floor space with things that people might buy more of in a recession.  Things like bread and vegetables, instead of second-growth Bordeaux.

As a result I have been able to pick up some of these $50-$100 wines for about half price, and I have been reviewing and enjoying them.  It occurred to me last week that not everyone can get their hands on these mark-downs. I decided to balance out my reviewing with some great under $20 bargains.

So, just in time for the Christmas season, here are some awesome wines under $20


Cameron Hughes, Lot 140, 2007, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County.  $13.99 at select Costco’s.

On the nose: Raspberry,  Bing cherry and Anise.

On the Palate: Cocoa and a hint of mint

See my review of it full review of it here .




Next up is d’Arenberg’s “Laughing Magpie”

one the nose: floral notes with cranberry and cherries

on the palate:  Ripe and juicy, velvety mouth-feel

full review here

$18.99 at Costco


And thirdly, just to switch things up a little bit (I have been reviewing mostly reds)  it’s a Sauvignon Blanc from Titus Vineyards:

Deliciously smooth with ripe fruit and well balanced acidity, more on this wine here.

It’s $20 on their website and most wineries websites are a little higher than the average retail, so you could probably find it cheaper than $20 at a retail outlet.  But you’ll have to be quick about it, there were only 380 cases made!


And last but not least:  Chalone Vineyard Monterey Cabernet, 2007

$16.99 retail, although with coupons and discounts I ended up paying about $7.56 a bottle

13.5% alcohol, vanilla oak, well balanced oak and fruit, see full review here

Titus Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, 2008

From their tasting notes:  “..refreshing aromas of lemon, stone fruits, pineapple, melon, minerals and floral notes which all carry through to the palate.  The Wine’s elegant, crisp acidity is balanced, and although its style is light and lively, the lees aging resulted in a supple, alluring mouth-feel that lingers and evolves into tropical fruits throughout the medium length finish..”

I tasted the wine without referring to their literature first and then compared my notes with theirs.

I picked up on the pineapple and melon right away, as well as the supple mouthfeel.  There was a slight hint of lemon and the acidity was crisp.  But did I like it?  Actually, yes I did.  Which is a little unusual for me as I have spent the last 16 years drinking a LOT of Shiraz.   I could imagine sipping this wine  in the mid afternoon on the porch with friends,  snacking on light creamy cheeses and grapes, maybe some french bread.  The retail price on this is about $20 which is not that expensive considering they only made 380 cases.