wine blog

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!

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

 

 

 

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

Review | Cameron Hughes Lot 515

Cameron Hughes Lot 515 wine bottle

Cameron Hughes Lot 515

Cameron Hughes Lot 515 | 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine hails from Monte Rosso vineyard in Sonoma Valley A.V.A. which is located in Sonoma County A.V.A.  Searching around on the internet you won’t find much on Monte Rosso vineyard like a company website and social media accounts.  But you will find that a lot of other producers source their fruit from this vineyard.  According to Hughes “Monte Rosso has perhaps been the greatest source for Cabernet in Sonoma County.”  That’s a pretty bold statement.  Let’s take a look at some of the other producers sourcing fruit from the vineyard: Louis Martini – Monte Rosso Cabernet. 92 points Robert Parker $85 (2010). Arrowood – Monte Rosso Cabernet. 93 points Wine Advocate and $80 (2009)

That’s impressive.  And then there’s Cameron Hughes.  This wine retails for $32 on his website, with a total production of just 500 cases.  Lot 515 is a blend of 95% Cabernet, 3% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot and weighs in at a whopping 15.4% alcohol.

The wine is dense and dark and so packed with fruit that over the course of the 3 nights I sampled this wine, the only time I noticed heat was on the last few sips, and even that wasn’t all that unpleasant.  There are some nice mineral notes interlaced in with the predominately blackberry and licorice palate.

The nice thing about this wine is that although it may get better with age, it is really very much a drink now kind of wine.  You won’t be committing wine infanticide by drinking this wine withing the next few years.  Especially if you’ve been used to Cabernets from Napa.  I’m a huge fan of Napa cabs, but Lot 515 is definitely a wine I can appreciate.

Weekly Wine Journal rating 93 points

*wine purchased with my own hard earned $$.

 

 

Weekly Wine Journal | Best of 2014 List

Weekly Wine Journal best of 2014

2014 was another great year for The Weekly Wine Journal.  Traveled to Napa for the Taste of Howell Mountain again this year.  Also attended the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Festival on the Farm at South Mountain.  Dined at a lot of nice restaurants with great wine lists and also met a lot of wonderful people in the wine industry.  It was very difficult to choose the best of the best, but after much consideration, here it is, the list

Best Red Wine

TIE:   CHATEAU NENIN 2005, POMEROL  / ALTAMURA 2007 CABERNET SAUVIGNON, NAPA VALLEY

This year for the first time there is a tie.  Both of these wines were exceptional.  Beyond exceptional, truly great.  And for completely different reasons.  If you can find either of these wines prepare to have your mind blown.

Best White Wine

PAUL DOLAN 2013 SAUVIGNON BLANC POTTER VALLEY, MENDOCINO COUNTY

This is an interesting one.  Paul Dolan underwent some big changes recently, but the quality still remained.  This wine shows that California can produce Sauvignon Blanc that people who don’t like Californian Sauvignon Blancs might like!

Best Wine Restaurant

EDDIE V’S PRIME SEAFOOD & STEAK, SCOTTSDALE ARIZONA

This restaurant has an extensive wine list, with a good range of wines from affordable to “Hey let’s buy a few $3000 bottles of wine!”  Known for their seafood, it turns out their NY Strip and Rib Eye are easily the best I have ever tasted.  And that’s saying something considering how much steak I eat.

Best Wine Tasting

TASTE OF HOWELL MOUNTAIN, ST HELENA, CALIFORNIA

Year after year The Taste of Howell Mountain wins best wine tasting.  There is just simply not a better collection of high end wines for such an affordable price, AND a friendly laid back atmosphere

Best Winery Experience

RED CAP VINEYARDS, ANGWIN, CALIFORNIA

Red Cap Vineyards does not have a tasting room and is not open to the public.  I was invited there as a friend and guest and really had a blast hanging out with husband & wife owners Tom & Desire Altemus.  Also present was social media/marketing manager Michael.  I spent the afternoon sipping wine chatting listening to stories, telling stories and getting ridiculous with some Grappa made by Rebekah Wineburg.

 

 

 

Meiomi | 2013 vintages

Meiomi

Not many people can trace their profession back five generations.  Joseph Wagner, however, is one of those people.  Joseph’s father and grandparents founded a little winery called Caymus back in 1971.   Thirty years later at the ripe old age of nineteen, Joseph started work on creating his own single vineyard Pinot Noir label.  He named it Belle Glos, after his grandmother. You might recognize the distinct wine bottle with loads of red wax running down the side.  Not long after, Joseph and the family created the Meiomi brand.  Meiomi is now “the leading luxury Pinot Noir in the U.S.” according to the winery literature.

Meiomi differs from Belle Glos in several ways.  Most obvious is the sourcing of the fruit.  While Belle Glos focuses on creating single vineyard wines, Meiomi’s wines are a blend of three of California’s most well known coastal AVA’s.  Also, Meiomi recently introduced Chardonnay to the lineup, while Belle Glos continues to focus solely on Pinot. Lastly, the price points are a little different.  Belle Glos retails in the $40-$50 range while Meiomi retails in the $20-$25 range.

The American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) Meiomi sources their fruit from included Sonoma County, Monterey County and Santa Barbara County. Each area imparts it’s distinct characteristics on the wine and helps to create a consistent wine year after year.  A wine that is suited quite well for restaurant settings: consistent, drink now, great price points.

The Wines:

Meiomi 2013 Pinot Noir

37% Monterey County, 34% Sonoma County, 29% Santa Barbara County

Meiomi-3Deep garnet in color with a nose of strawberry and vanilla oak.  The palate takes on plum, cherry and subtle cinnamon notes, with a medium body and a creamy smooth finish.  This wine is a ripe, fruit forward wine and if you’ve enjoyed previous vintages of Meiomi Pinot Noir you should really like this one.  The wine was aged in 100% French oak with 60% of that being new and the alcohol comes in at 13.8%.  Retail price $21.99. Weekly Wine Journal rating 91 points.

 

 

 

Meiomi 2013 Chardonnay

49% Santa Barbara County, 30% Sonoma County, 21% Monterey County

Meiomi-2Golden straw in color with a nose of tropical fruit.  On the palate, pear, pineapple and a little minerality.  This wine underwent malolactic fermentation which gives it a nice creamy mouthfeel and softness.  Alcohol also comes in at 13.8% and retails for $21.99.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 90 points.

 

 

 

 

 

*review samples provided by Copper Cane Wines & Provisions

Holiday Gift Guide

With Christmas rapidly approaching and only a few weeks left to shop, you might need some ideas..quick!  Here’s a short list of the most interesting things public relations firms and advertising agencies have emailed me over the last several month:

Wine of the Month Club Membership

wine of the month club boxThe “Original” Wine of the Month Club, founded in 1972 (the best year ever in my opinion) Wine can be a difficult thing to buy for other people, so this is a gift that takes that pressure off.  Each month Wine of the Month Club tastes over 400 wines with only about 60 making the potential selection list and only about 4 making the actual selection.  And they’ve been doing this for a long time, so they know what to look for.  They’re not looking for the brands that anyone can buy anywhere.  They’re looking for hidden and undervalued gems in the $10-$20 range, and you only pay $21.95 a month for 2 bottles, every month!  And that’s just the standard membership.  There are several different tiers of membership and you can choose to receive 1 red 1 white, or 2 of each.  The top tier is about $40 a month and for that members receive 2 bottles a month of wine that retails for $25-$30 a bottle.  There’s just too many exciting options to put in this article, head over to wineofthemonthclub.com  for all the information.

 

XXIV Karat Sparkling Wines

24 Karat wineInvented by two Arizona State Grads in 2012, and sourced with wine from Mendocino County this is one of the most unusual wine products I’ve ever seen.  The wines retail for about $40 a bottle.  How do they taste?  These are crowd pleaser wines.  They’re not complex and don’t need to be decanted and sniffed and analyzed.  Just drink the wine.  They taste good.  The novelty is interesting and this is sure to add some excitement to your new year’s celebrations.  www.xxivkarat.com

 

 

Kiwi WoodKraft recycled wood

wine-bottle-holderKiwi WoodKraft uses recycled wine barrels and Arizona mesquite to make wine bottle holders, candle holders, chairs and tables and a number of other interesting products. kiwiwoodkraft.com

*product samples were provided for review

 

 

 

 

OZV | Old Zin Vines

2012 OZV | Old Zin Vines

The oldest continually operating winery in Lodi California was purchased by Rudy Maggio and the Reynolds (Don and Rocky) back in 2001.  Lodi, in case you are unfamiliar, has been referred to as “The Zinfandel capital of the world.”  I found that quote on Wikipedia, but the footnote link is broken.  Even though, the description sounds good to me! Currently there are over 80 wineries and over 100,000 acres of premium grapes planted in the Lodi A.V.A.Old-Zin-Vines-bottle

Lodi received its official American Viticultural Area (A.V.A.) status in 1986, and is located at the east end of Sacramento/San Joaquin delta.  The town of Lodi itself is located about 15 miles north of Stockton.  Now that you know where, here’s the why.  The Lodi AVA’s primary characteristics are:  A long growing season, distinctive sandy soils, and cool ocean breezes coming from the San Francisco area which produce a “Mediterranean” Climate.

After Rudy & the Reynolds purchased the Oak Ridge Winery they set about a major transformation starting in 2002.   They rebuilt the winery and today, in addition to making their own wines they operate, custom crush, bottling, labeling, marketing and wine storage facilities.  Rudy and Rocky didn’t start their adventures in the wine business with the purchase of this winery.  In fact, their family farming histories span 5 generations.  In addition to the Oak Ridge Winery they have an impressive collection of heritage vineyards (more on that in future articles).

OZV-wine-labelSo, how about that wine?  The 2012 OZV Old Zin Vines is a simple straight forward wine.  It’s a big ripe jammy Zinfandel.  The palate is dominated by blackberry jam, blackberry compote and blackberry pie filling.  The wine is pleasantly light on the alcohol (13.95%) and doesn’t show any alcoholic “heat” typical of higher octane wines. Although not terribly complex, the wine is a crowd pleaser and at a suggested retail of under $15 it’s a great deal.  Weekly Wine Journal rating: 89 points

Technical Data:

Ph/Ta 3.52/6.8g/L

Blend: 96% Zinfandel, 4% Petite Sirah.

 

 

Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Recognizes Excellence

arizona-wine-2014-14You’ve heard of pairing wine with dessert, but have you heard of wine from the desert?

Over the last 5 years areas other than California have stepped into the national spotlight as wine producing regions.  Washington State, Oregon and the Finger Lakes region of New York State have earned solid reputations for high quality fruit and wine making.

Arizona’s entrance into the wine world started a little more recently.  Pioneers like Al Buhl and R.W. Webb began developing vineyards and producing wine 25-35 years ago in South Eastern Arizona.  In the last 5-6 years the Arizona Wine industry has seen explosive growth, almost doubling in size.  This is due in large part to the increased notoriety brought to the region by rock stars like Maynard James Keenan ( Tool, A Perfect Circle,Puscifer) as well as rock star wine makers like EricGlomski.

Arizona Judgment 2010 Judges

Arizona Judgment 2010 Judges

Let’s not forget the contribution made by rock star restauranteurs Pavle Milic and Charlene Badman, owners of Scottsdale’s restaurant FnB.  These two pioneered Arizona wine in a big way back in 2010 when their restaurant featured an all Arizona wine list.  In the summer of 2010 they organized “The Judgment of Arizona”.  They brought in major wine personalities from all over the United States and had them blind taste Arizona wines and major wines from around the world, reminiscent of 1976’s Judgment of Paris.  The consensus at the time was that there were some world class wines being produced in Arizona.  Unfortunately, there were also some wines that were not world-class.  Gary Vaynerchuk noted that (I’m summarizing) that in order for the region to be taken more seriously, the consistency of  quality in the region would have to improve.  That was over 4 years ago, and in that time huge strides have been made.  Arizona is now recognized as a region capable of producing world-class wines, it’s not just a novelty “wine from the desert”.

But the growth can’t all be credited to just two wine makers, a chef and a handsome Colombian from Brooklyn. The industry as a whole, and all the wine makers have really worked hard to increase the reputation of the region.  They’ve done this by focusing on quality not quantity.   Although the quantity has definitely increased, this is a by product of producing superior wine.

Each November since 2009 the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association (AWGA) and the Arizona Republic have teamed up to recognize excellence in Arizona wine making.  Every November, for the past 6 years “The festival on the farm at South Mountain” has allowed the public to taste 30-40+ Arizona wineries all in the same place.  The night before the festival there is an exclusive awards banquet held at Quiessence restaurant (on the farm as well).   The Arizona Republic Wine competition is held in private in October, with the results released to the public on the night of the Awards banquet.  This year is different, however as the award winners have been announced over the last several weeks.

arizona-wine-2014-25

Stone Grove

This year’s Awards Banquet featured a little change in venue as well.  The banquet was moved to “Stone Grove” instead of Quiessence.  Stone Grove is located right next to Quiessence, so it’s really the same place, just a bigger more open setting.  With all the interest in Arizona Wine these days, the logistics of hosting this event in the little farm house that is Quiessence were becoming difficult.

I talked with some of the wine makers including Kent Callaghan, winner of this year’s “Best in Show” and first place “Grower’s Cup, Red” for his 2012Tannat.  I asked Kent about his Tannat and Tannat in general.  He said it’s a pretty interesting grape.  Good yield, but a little difficult to work with.  He’s tried blending it with other grapes but the result was a “dumb wine” as he put it.

Kent Callaghan

Kent Callaghan

He said it would be interesting to see how it turns out in a few years, but his immediate impression was that it wasn’t working.  Callaghan Vineyards only has a half acre of Tannat planted and only 60 cases of wine were made.  The wine is sold out, mostly to Callaghan’s wine club members.  Luckily for wine lovers Callaghan’s “Padre” which tied with Dos Cabezas Wineworks for 2nd place in the Grower’s Cup Red is still available.  See the link at the bottom of the article for Callaghan’s website.

 

I also had a chance to follow Todd and KellyBostock from DosCabezas Wineworks around.  Todd and Kelly were featured in an independent film about wine titled “American Wine Story”.  Todd has recently discovered the concrete slabs around the winery make an awesome street hockey surface and has developed what he believes to be the best family hockey team in Sonoita.  Dos Cabezas Wineworks did exceptionally well this year, winning 3 first place awards for their Rose, Syrah and Rhone Style blends.

Todd and Kelly Bostock

Todd and Kelly Bostock

Finally I chatted briefly with Patti King, executive director of the Arizona Wine Grower’s Association.  She was very pleased with the turn out and said that the Festival on the Farm (nov 15th) sold 300-400 more tickets this year than last year.  This represents about a 30% increase!

In recognizing excellence, the AWGA and the Arizona Republic have really helped to create a sense of community and raised the local profile of Arizona Wine.  Just a few years ago, even Arizonans were skeptical of Arizona Wine.  Today the industry has a solid reputation for producing world class wines.  The consistency that Gary Vaynerchuk talked about 4 years ago has really come a long way.  It would be interesting to gather together the judges from Judgment of Arizona and try again.

PHOTO GALLERY OF THE AWARDS BANQUET

LINKS

2014 Arizona Republic Winners List

AWGA website

Stone Grove/Quiessence

The Farm at South Mountain

Callaghan Vineyards

Dos Cabezas Wineworks