Showing posts with label consumerism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label consumerism. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Sweet Italian Bubbles From Asti

Wine importers do not get enough credit for what they do. The best importers are those with a nose for wine, who can sniff out good stuff through endless trials, then bring the product to us. Great importers like Kermit Lynch and Terry Theise are as important and as recognizable as great producers.  

Mack and Schühle are Miami-based importers who find great wine and pass it along at a fair price. Founded in 1939, the company expanded to the Miami office a bit more than a decade ago. They produce wine in Italy and Spain and distribute other wines globally.

One fun member of their portfolio is the Acquesi Asti DOCG Sparkling Wine. The Moscato grapes for this bubbly were grown in Asti, in Italy's Piedmont region. The distributor relates the winery's description of the locale like this:

"The vineyards are located on the hilly ridge that goes from Alice Bel Colle to Santo Stefano Belbo passing through the amazing hills of Ricaldone, located at an altitude between 250 and 400 meters above sea level. A large part of the soils that give life to our Cuvée are characterized by light limestone marl while the minority part has a strong sandy component. The different microclimates affected by this selection of musts offer a complete photograph of the expressions of the native aromatic varieties."

Sounds like a beautiful place. I'm ready for a visit. Winemaker Daniele Astegiano produced this sparkler to 7% abv and it retails for $18.

This wine has bubbles galore, for a minute or so. A huge, white, frothy head pours up and hangs around a bit before dissipating. The nose is a beauty, full of ripe peaches, apples, pears and nectarines. The palate is just as sweet, maybe sweeter. It's not exactly a dessert wine, but it  certainly would do in a pinch. The pairing with dessert is a natural, as is its more reserved role with Asian food or sushi. 

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Monday, April 24, 2023

Man Drinks Wine - For Dogs

The 2021 Bardog California Cabernet Sauvignon is dedicated to Man's Best Friend, otherwise known as the canine companions often found in bars and tasting rooms. Plenty of "bone-vivant" is promised on the label, and the winery puts their money where their four-footed friends are, donating to animal rescues across North America in a partnership with the Petfinder Foundation.

The Bardog wine was aged in new French oak barrels. Alcohol tips in at 13.5% abv and it retails for $12.50.

There is a medium-dark tint in the glass, while the nose displays red fruit - plums, raspberries - and a healthy dose of oak spice - clove, cinnamon, mocha - along with an herbal note of eucalyptus. The palate is fruit-forward enough to keep the oak at bay and there is a rustic chalkiness to the wine, which I find appealing.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Alternative Wine Packaging

Most wine lovers have a working familiarity with the economics of wine, and with Earth Day approaching it is worth taking a look also at the ecology of drinking wine. Sarah Trubnick is the co-founder and wine director of San Francisco's The Barrel Room. She is also deeply passionate about the effects of climate change on the wine industry and wine regions, and the world of alternative packaging.

Trubnick says research shows that packaging contributes over 40% of wineries' emissions worldwide, mostly due to the production, recycling, and packaging of glass bottles. She says 73% to 83% of consumers express willingness to pay more for wine that has been packaged sustainably. Also, 90% of these consumers drink wine they purchase within a week, so it seems that wine drinkers would embrace less costly packaging even if the containers are not meant to age wine.

Glass bottles are probably not the ideal packaging for wine, anyway. Trubnick cites figures which show the production, use, and shipping of glass bottles accounts for 68% of the carbon footprint of the wine industry. She says the manufacture of new bottles absolutely guzzles energy. From the smelting of sand to the melting of recycled bottles, temperatures of around 1,700 degrees are required. Also, recycling of glass doesn’t happen as often as you might think. Only about 25% of glass bottles are recycled in the US. The rest end up in landfills. Glass bottles are also heavy and oddly shaped, which makes shipping them cost more and require protective padding.

Trubnick offers some alternative packaging options. Canned wines are very costly to produce, but are extremely recyclable - and usually, they actually are recycled. She says that 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today. Cans are lightweight, easy to stack, and not fragile, making shipping much more efficient.

Kegs are fantastic options, if the situation allows for them. PET bottles - a type of plastic that can be recycled infinitely - and paper bottles tend to reduce carbon footprint 80-90% over glass bottles. They aren’t great for long-term storage, but most wine is drunk pretty much immediately.

Hands down, Trubnick says, the best option on the market today is the bag-in box - "BIB" for short. The bad image BIBs got from low-quality wine, improper filling and premature oxidation are issues that have been rectified, she says and BIBs are now being used for high-end wines. Jason Haas of Tablas Creek in Paso Robles recently put out a $95 boxed wine, and it sold out almost instantly. 

Trubnick says BIBs have low production energy cost, are lightweight and stackable (leading to lower transportation energy cost), can store wine for 8 weeks after opening and can last on a shelf for 12 months without any detectable quality change. They are extremely recyclable and reduced cost all around is generally passed on to the consumer. Also, there is very little product wasted.

Here is Trubnick's breakdown of actual carbon footprint in terms of grams of CO2 equivalent per liter of wine in each package:

- Glass bottle: 675g CO2e/L

- PET bottle: 245g CO2e/L

- Can: 190g CO2e/L

- BIB: 70g CO2e/L

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Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Budget Cabernet Sauvignon

If you shop for wine and have a budget to which you must adhere, your eye is no doubt attracted by bargain wines at unbelievably low prices.  The problem with bargain wines, of course, is that they often are no bargain at all. Cheap wine with little or no redeeming value is just cheap wine. That's why it's nice to know a good bargain when you see one.

Meridian Cabernet Sauvignon can be had at grocery stores, and for very little money - especially considering that it's California's premier grape, one that usually commands a premier price. On the label, where I expect to find the appellation listed, the words "rich and velvety" appear - so, no Napa, no Paso, no Sonoma. The winery lists its location as Livermore, one of the more unheralded of California's wine regions. There also is no vintage listed.

This Cabernet Sauvignon does not adhere to the practice of billboarding your high-class wine region front and center. In fact, the tech sheet for this wine gets no more specific about where the grapes were grown than "select vineyards in sun drenched California," which is at least a bit more helpful than "rich and velvety," although not much. The winery does have a good reputation, however, for presenting good quality wines at low prices - surprisingly low. 

This Cab is unusual - by California standards, anyway - because part of it was vinified in stainless steel tanks instead of oak vats. The majority was fermented in oak and aged there for a mere six months instead of the customary year or two or three for Cabernets in the Golden State. Both factors allow the fruit to speak without the hand of oak covering its mouth. Two more things set the Meridian Cab apart from its top-shelf brethren - alcohol registers only 13% abv and the retail price sits at right around five bucks a bottle.

This wine shows a medium-dark ruby red color and a nose that is as pretty as they come. Cassis, strawberry, black cherry and clove make up the majority of the fragrances. Notable for their absence are darker, moodier notes like leather, forest floor or tobacco - this is a "happy Cab." The fruit comes first on the palate, too, with bright cherry and currant in the lead. The freshness of this Cab is amazing, and it delivers on the label's promise of "rich and velvety."

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Imprisoned Red Wine Grapes Released On Recognizance

The Prisoner Wine Company has a couple of California red blends of which you should be aware.  They have a Zinfandel blend and another red blend - Saldo - which is heavy on the Petite Sirah.  Dave Phinney is no longer involved with the label - wine megatron Constellation bought the brand.  Now, things are run by The Prisoner Wine Company's Director of Winemaking Chrissy Wittman and newly appointed lead winemaker Todd Ricard.

Saldo's bottle looks like it was decorated with a label maker.  The minimalist bottle style has a certain appeal, but I really like reading wine labels so it doesn't work for me.  The wine is a mix of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, which the company says is "approachable and serious."  The alcohol level is a ripe 15% abv and the wine sells for $32, as does the Zinfandel.

This wine is extremely dark with notes on the nose of black cherry, anise, smoke and spice.  The palate is rich and dark, showing blackberry, licorice, allspice, cinnamon and black pepper.  The finish is not too long, but it is full of sweet oak spice while it's there.  The tannins are a bit toothy until it has been open for a while. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Licensed To Put Wine In Cans

Licence IV is the permit in France given to cafes, restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs which allows them to serve alcohol.  There is no wonder that the sign is a welcome sight - it means refreshment, relaxation, fun and friends are inside.

This wine takes its name - and logo - from those signs.  It is a Muscadet wine, made entirely of Melon de Bourgogne grapes from the Loire Valley, fermented in stainless steel and aged on its lees in concrete tanks.  It is available in 1-liter bottles or the four-pack of lightweight cans, 250ml each.

This canned wine pours up with a nice straw-yellow appearance in the glass.  The nose is mineral-driven, with traces of peach and apricot in the whiff.  The palate also brings the minerality, with great citrus notes and an acidity that is really fresh.  It is an easy-to-sip wine, but it will pair nicely with any kind of salad or seafood dish.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Windsor Vineyards Gets Personal With Their Wine

Many wineries find it resourceful to create an additional revenue stream by making personalized labels for the wine they sell.  Sonoma County's Windsor Vineyards does this, and they sent me a bottle of bubbly to show me what it looks like.

The wine is Windsor's Platinum Series Brut Rosé North Coast sparkling wine.  It is made through the Méthode Champenoise of secondary fermentation in the bottle, just like in Champagne.  This one has the name of my wine website plastered on the front of the bottle.

For Windsor, it would seem to be more about the private labeling than it is about the wine.  However, Windsor - founded by wine legend Rodney Strong in 1959 - has been winning awards for their wines for decades.  They are now owned by Vintage Wine Estates.

The personalized labels actually started way back in the day, with Strong.  He started putting personalized labels on the wine - Mr. and Mrs., Happy Birthday, the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe - and the tradition continues today.

The Windsor Platinum Series Brut Rosé North Coast sparkler was aged in the bottle, on the spent yeast cells, for 19 months.  The non-vintage wine has a full mouthfeel, while presenting a vibrant freshness.  Alcohol is 12.5% abv and the wine retails for $32 with the Windsor label on the bottle.  It costs extra for a personalized label.  They start at $12 with a minimum order of two bottles.

This Sonoma County bubbly is a beautiful copper-salmon color in the glass with a nose of sweet red fruit and toast.  The palate is as dry as a bone and loaded with a racy acidity.  Strawberries, cherries, lemons, tangerines and a truckload of minerals fill out the flavor profile.  Lemon chimes in on the finish.

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Monday, September 6, 2021

Fine Wine Gets More Portable Than Ever

A new packaging format is being introduced into the single-serving wine category.  It's new to me, at least.  The containers come from Le Grand Verre and are billed as award-winning, ethically-made single-serve bottles.  

The 6.3-ounce plastic cylinders stand about eight inches tall,  have a diameter of only a little more than an inch and are topped with a screw cap.  You could stuff a lot of those into a picnic basket or backpack.  But it's not just the convenience and quantity that impresses - so does the quality.

Le Grand Verre's entire line consists of French wine from various wine regions, like Bordeaux, Languedoc, and Provence.  The company says they curate the wines every step of the way to your glass, partnering with mostly female-led boutique estates which are organic and sustainable.

The tasting samples provided to me were made up of two reds, two rosés and a white wine.

Le Grand Verre Domaine Caylus Rosé 2020

This pink wine hails from the Pays d'Herault region of southern France, a part of the larger Languedoc-Roussillon region.  LGV partnered with Inès Andrieu of Domaine de Caylus for this organic blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache.  Andrieu took over the property from her grandfather, Henri Andrieu who was in charge since buying the property in 1963.  The Domaine Caylus rosé carries alcohol at 12.5% abv and a price tag of $25 for a 4-pack.

The nose of this pale pink wine is loaded with strawberry and tropical notes.  The mouthfeel is full and the palate is earthy.  Flavors of apple, pineapple and ripe red cherry are a delight.  The acidity is somewhat tame, but the sip is juicy and the finish is very long.

Le Grand Verre Château Val D’Arenc Rosé 2020 

Bandol is generally considered to be the top Provence region for rosé, where the pinks are spicier, more structured and more flavorful than typical rosés thanks to the use of the Mourvédre grape.  This one is a critic's darling, an organic-certified Provencal blend of 80% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache and 10% Cinsault.

The wine was produced by young, innovative winemaker Gérald Damidot, and under his leadership the estate converted to organic farming practices in 2015, bringing about an enhanced quality of the wine.  Alcohol sits at 13.5% abv and the retail is $30 for a 4-pack.

This wine is a little richer in color than a Provençal rosé, approaching the red side of pink.  The nose brings some watermelon into play with the berries and the citrus notes.  The palate shows a healthy streak of grapefruit through the melon.  Acidity is nice, and the finish is long.  This is a great rosé to pair with seafood or salads, or both.

Le Grand Verre Domaine Nadal Hainaut Red 2019 

Here is a gorgeous wine for the coming cooler weather this fall, but it takes a chill well, too - for those of us still stuck in summer.  This somewhat rustic Cabernet Sauvignon is made with organic grapes from the Domaine Nadal Hainaut estate in the Côtes Catalanes region of the Pays d'Oc IGP, which covers most of the Languedoc-Roussillon area.  The Château was built in 1826 and has belonged to the Nadal family since 1900.  Martine and Jean-Marie are currently turning over the winemaking duties to their three daughters.  This red wine's alcohol level is 13.5% abv and a 4-pack will set you back $25.

The nose and palate are both dominated by black and blue berries.  Anise aromas make an appearance as well.  The tannins are medium firm, while the acidity is quite refreshing.

Le Grand Verre Château Peyredon Red 2019 

This LGV selection comes from the Haut-Médoc Crus Bourgeois.  Laurence Dupuch of Château Peyredon Lagravette works with her husband Stephane Dupuch to produce this wine.  The fruit was picked from vines over 100 years old.  The blend was envisioned by world-famous oenologist Hubert de Bouard - winemaker and owner of Château Angelus, one of the four most prestigious Saint-Émilion estates. 

This classic Bordeaux is 63% Cabernet Sauvignon and 37% Merlot, with grapes that are sustainably farmed.  Alcohol is a restrained 13% abv and an LGV 4-pack of the canisters costs $30.

On the nose are rich blackberry, cedar, vanilla and bacon grease aromas.  The palate shows elegant dark fruit, very firm tannins and a playful acidity.  This is a wine that wants a steak next to it. 

Domaine Prataviera Sauvignon Blanc 2020

The Côtes de Gascogne region occupies France's far southwestern corner and is known primarily for the white wines produced there.  The grapes which are allowed in the region read like a list of grapes you never heard of:  Abouriou, Duras and Portugias bleu among the reds, Len de l'El, Ugni Blanc and both Mansengs - Petit and Gros - among the whites.  Of course, there are also some grapes you have heard of - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

The grapes at Domaine Prataviera have been grown under the female hand since 1960 - that's when Elisabeth Prataviera's mom took over from her father.  The Prataviera is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, has alcohol sitting low at 11% abv and sells for $20 in the 4-pack.

This SauvBlanc is lightly tinted and offers up a lovely nose of grapefruit and grass.  The citrus/mineral element outweighs the herbal, so it does not come off like a fully New World wine.  On the palate, the grapefruit really shines, with a full mouthfeel, an apricot note and a pretty good level of acidity.  I don’t drink a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, but when I do, it's usually French, and this wine is a perfect example of why. 

In a Zoom meeting to kick off the product, a couple of LGV bigwigs talked with a collection of wine writers.  Nicolas Deffrennes (LGV Founder) spoke about how he started LGV, with an eye towards presenting fine French wines in a format that made it easy for people to sample.  He also said that part of his innovation was to focus on female-owned and organic, sustainable wines.  He estimated that within the next couple of years, the plastic containers will be made from organic, plant-based plastic.

Deffrennes then threw it to Régis Fanget (Brand and Artistic Director) who talked about the inspiration for the pretty little bottles - cosmetics.  He said they wanted to present the wine in a physical manner that resembled the way perfume is sold.

Pauline Nadal (one of the daughters behind Le Grand Verre Domaine Nadal Hainaut Red 2019, a beautiful wine from Languedoc-Roussillon) spoke about all the animals they have on the property - sheep, swans, bees - and the importance of the animals being happy in the absence of chemicals, and the happiness of the vines themselves.  They don't irrigate the vines - she says her grandfather maintained that watering the vines made them "lazy."  

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

New Help For Women Seeking Careers In Wine, Spirits

Women who are trying to break into the wine and spirits industry now have some new help - a collaborative scholarship opportunity from Dream Big Darling and the Millinger Group.  Rona Millinger says five "FLOurish Scholarships" will be awarded, with each recipient gaining full-ride access to FLOurish, a new professional development program that includes personalized coaching and personality assessments by Millinger herself.

Dream Big Darling is a nonprofit dedicated to fostering the success of women in the wine and spirits industry through mentorship, education, life enhancement and professional retreats.  Founder Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins says she is excited to "provide FLOurish to the next generation of leaders in our industry."  She adds that the value of each scholarship is $3,000.  

Prospective FLOurish scholarship applicants may now apply online at at no cost.  The deadline for application is June 11, 2021.

Millinger developed the FLOurish program in honor of her professional mentor, Florence Pramberger, a former human resources leader and cancer victim.  "I want to continue to give what she can no longer," says Millinger.  "Mentorship, coaching, development and guidance to women who are looking to grow, contribute, progress, and advance in work and life."

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Monday, August 17, 2020

Sunny With A Chance Of Flowers Wine

There is a new entry into the ever-more-crowded field of wines targeting people who want a "healthier" wine experience.  The Sunny With a Chance of Flowers line is produced by Scheid Family Wines of Monterey County, with a dozen estate vineyards scattered up and down the Salinas Valley.  

All three Sunny wines - Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - are made from sustainably-grown Monterey County grapes, all three hit alcohol at only 9% abv and all three retail for $17.  The labels say that these wines are for people who "want a full glass and a healthy pour," however the promise of only 85 calories applies to a five-ounce serving.  That's not a full glass at my house.  The winery marketers try to help with the pour, saying that "moderation never tasted so good."

Heidi Scheid, Executive Vice President of Scheid Family Wines, says that "consumers are looking for a wine that is ... 'better for you' with zero sugar, low calories and low alcohol."  She continues, "it also needs to be delicious and authentically sourced and produced."  Scheid says their winemaking team lost count of how many tasting trials they conducted to arrive at a wine that "doesn’t make you feel like you’re giving up anything."

While I don’t seek out low-alcohol wines, there are those who feel that a small sacrifice in alcohol is worth it to be able to enjoy a glass of guilt-free wine every night.

Sunny With a Chance of Flowers Sauvignon Blanc 2019

A light straw color in the glass leads to a sweet, beautiful nose.  It strikes me more as the nose of an Albariño or Viognier.  The herbal aromas come across as floral notes mainly, with plenty of fruit up front - peaches, nectarines, apricots.  The sip reveals some light grassiness, but citrus is more in the spotlight.  This is a very Cali SauvBlanc.  A nice acidity makes this a good food wine, but it is perfect for sipping at a pool party - socially-distanced, of course.

Sunny With a Chance of Flowers Chardonnay 2018

This wine has a golden hue in the glass and a nose in which oak is prominent.  Apricot and tropical aromas follow, but they have to fight their way past the staves.  The palate is a bit less ripe than I would like and there is a lingering tartness on the finish, too.  Acidity is nice, but the oak treatment really spoils the grapes here.

Sunny With a Chance of Flowers Pinot Noir 2018

I love a good whiff of cola and black tea in a Pinot Noir, which this one has in abundance, and a puff of smoke to boot.  Those flavors come in on the palate, too, with some boysenberry and raspberry.  The tannic structure is firm and the acidity refreshing.  It is a brawny wine, heavy handed even, but presents itself with such charm it's hard to not like it.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Highs And Lows Of Fun Wine

Most wine lovers feel that wine is a fun hobby, and the fun increases the further one goes on the journey.  Does wine need flavoring beyond that which the grapes accomplish?  No, it does not, unless one is seeking a wine-like beverage that does not necessarily have to be wine.  That is usually where the fun ends.

In my younger days in the radio industry, I worked for an owner who wanted to call the radio station "Class FM."  He said he wanted people to know that the station was classy.  I lobbied against the move, explaining to him that the very second you call yourself classy, the class evaporates.  The same principle is at work with the company which calls itself Fun Wine.

Fun Wine has a line of three flavored wines: Sangria, Strawberry Rose Moscato and Coconut Chardonnay.  They are all billed as low-calorie, low-alcohol and budget-friendly beverages that will help get us through the COVID-19 quarantine with some relaxation.  The wines were launched six years ago as Friends Fun Wine, presumably as an alternative to beer.

Inspired, says the website, "by the hip vibes and sultry breeze of Miami," Fun Wine claims their juice is award-winning, and they even come packaged in a fun, also award-winning, way.  The striking label art was created by New York City artist and designer Miguel Paredes, who also appears to be the public face of the company.

As for the origin of the wine - something given at least a passing interest by wine lovers - the labels say only that the juice was "produced in the European Union," and imported by Friends Beverage Group of Miami.  We all know that there isn’t much wine being made in south Florida, but fun is king even if it is imported from Europe.  Forbes cites Germany as the source of the wine.  All three wines contain a modest 5.5% alcohol by volume and sell for less than $10.

The Sangria's Pretty Good

I usually have sangria heavily iced, and I sampled the Fun Wines version at room temperature.  It was just as fruity as it should be, if not quite as fresh.  It actually reminded me a bit of a Lambrusco, slightly fizzy and earthy with a grapey overlay.  Not complex, but who’s complaining?

The Strawberry Moscato's Not Bad

The Fun Wines Strawberry Rosé Moscato does contain wine made from grapes, but there is a lot of other stuff at work, too.  Grape juice, flavorings, water and sugar are all listed in the ingredients for all three of their varieties.  It's more like a spritzer than a wine.  It's nothing like a beer.  It has a nose resembling that of a wine made from hybrid grapes, earthy, herbal and grapey.  That good start continues on the palate, soft and earthy, fizzy, dry and uncomplicated.  It's perfect for poolside.

The Coconut Chardonnay

This is where Fun Wines stops being fun.  The Fun Wines Coconut Chardonnay smells overpoweringly like piña colada mix and Hawaiian Tropic tanning oil.  It rather tastes like a piña colada, too, only somewhat watered down, like it has been sitting in the poolside sun a bit too long.  There's a fizzy nature to the sip, which no doubt adds to the fun.  I can see this wine being fun for someone who is not too demanding about what they drink.  It's not a beverage for someone who wants a wine.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wines That Give Back

During this time of self-isolation and quarantine, there are many stories coming out about how people cope with the "new normal."  Restaurants are dishing out their fare as take-out at the curb to masked drivers who speed back to the safety of their homes.  Gathering with friends at a bar is a memory.  Winery tasting rooms are silent and producers from small to large are trying to stay afloat by going online with their sales efforts.

There is a wine company that strives to give something back to the health care community, the people we all depend on to get us through the pandemic.

Ripe Life Wines has a special going on concerning their line called The Clambake.  For every case of wine purchased (12 bottles), the company will send two complimentary bottles of wine to the customer's  health care worker of choice to thank them for their service.  They are also offering free shipping to everyone.  Ripe Life founder Mary McAuley says the thrust of the special offer is to keep people home and out of the stores to help flatten the COVID-19 curve.

McAuley claims she was inspired to make The Clambake wines after failing to find exactly what she wanted for her friends' annual clambake on the Jersey shore.  So she made the wines herself the next year.  That alone should make her Friend of the Year.  McAuley used Mendocino grapes to fashion an unoaked Chardonnay and a fresh and floral Carignan rosé.  McAuley says both are perfect for clambakes or any type of seafood, whether you are on the shore or landlocked.

The 2017 Clambake Unoaked Chardonnay is labeled as Batch No. 5.  It was made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, grown in Potter Valley, Mendocino - the Paulin Red Post Ranch Vineyard.

This Chardonnay saw no oak while being made, so it's as clean and as bright as you like.  The nose offers a beautiful lemon aroma with a salinity that reminds of an ocean spray.  Lemons, apples and a fantastic acidity are on the palate.  It was made for a clambake, but it will be just as much at home with crabs or lobsters.

The 2017 Clambake Limited Edition Rosé - Batch No. 4 - hails from Mendocino County's Zaina- Sargentini Family Vineyard.  It is made entirely of Carignan grapes taken from old vines that grow in the plot's gravelly loam soil.  No oak treatment was mentioned on the company's website, but they do say that the pink wine goes with lobster claws as well as sweet ears of corn.

This rosé shows off a deep, rich color for a pink shade - it looks almost like bourbon in the glass.  The nose is complex, with vibrant cherry leading the way, some strawberry coming along and a distinct earthy element that is quite enticing.  It smells like it was made for the outdoors.  The palate is generously fruity, with some peppery notes.   Also, there is a racy acidity that calls for the lobsters, crabs, clams, and whatever else you have in the pot.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

1849: The Wine's As Good As The Label

The 1849 Wine Company puts as much into their labels as their wine.  I am actually rather turned off by eye-catching labels, my knee-jerk reaction when I am hit with marketing techniques.  I must admit, though, that their label art is striking.

The wine company describes their fascination with the bottle as drawing "inspiration from the contemporary art movement of the 21st century."  The graphics are provided by Los Angeles street artist Saber, whose work is as political as it is attention-getting.

"But," you might ask, "what of the wine inside?"

I'm glad you asked.  The winery boasts that they pride themselves on "creating California wines of the highest quality and expression," while championing the artistic endeavor.  I found, after tearing my eyes away from the label and sampling the juice, that they have met their goal.

Declaration, their 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, was blended in St. Helena from "Napa Valley vineyards," although the company does not publish much information about the wine.

Declaration was aged in barrels made from French, Hungarian and American oak, 30% of which was new while 70% was previously used.  Alcohol checks in at a lofty 15% abv and the retail price is up there as well, at $80.

This dark wine has a gorgeous nose - blackberry, cherry, lavender, graphite, vanilla and sweet oak spices laid out with great care.  The palate is a delightful playground of dark berries and that Napa dirt, which doesn't seem all that dirty, really.  It still drinks fairly fruity and young, but has plenty of aging potential for the coming years.  After it sits awhile, you'll get a nice waft of smoke as you inhale on the sip.

1849 also makes a Sonoma County red blend.  The 2017 Triumph also has artwork by Saber and also hits 15% abv.  This one is a little easier on the wallet at $45.  It is a Bordeaux-style blend, presumably of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot.  There may be some Malbec and Cab Franc in there, but I couldn't say for sure.  The winery isn't very good at putting together a tech sheet.

Triumph's nose has some mild funk on it, with touches of campfire and earth.  The palate is youthful and fruity with a firm set of tannins and a fresh acidity.  The flavor profile does open up after a few minutes in the glass, revealing notes of beef jerky, black olives and forest floor.  It's an interesting wine which becomes more complex as it gets air.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

NZ Chardonnay Mimics SB

New Zealand is known in the wine world for the country's unique Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  The cool, maritime climate lends a wonderful acidity, particularly to the white wines. 

Native New Zealanders Brent and Shirley Rawstron have a thing about white wine grapes, and they are currently releasing not only a Sauvignon Blanc but a Chardonnay and Pinot Gris as well.  They gave their wines the name of a favorite local surf spot, Waipapa Bay, which also happens to be a great place to go whale watching.  The area lies between their Canterbury home and their vineyards in Rapaura - on the northern end of New Zealand's South Island.

Along with the Waipapa Bay 2019 releases, the winery has announced a partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) - the nonprofit’s first wine industry corporate sponsor.  WDC was founded in 1985 and now spans the globe to lead the charge on protections for whales and dolphins.  A spokeswoman for WDC says, "We are excited to receive the support of sustainably-focused businesses such as Waipapa Bay Wines."  The Rawlstons are just as excited about supporting WDC's efforts to end captivity, stop whaling, create healthy seas, and prevent accidental deaths in fishing gear.

Waipapa Bay Chardonnay Marlborough 2019

This wine is remarkable.  It is bottled under a screw cap, pings the alcohol scale at 13% abv and retails for about $13.

The nose on this New Zealand Chardonnay is so fresh and green that I thought I had inadvertently opened the Sauvignon Blanc.  Grassy, herbal aromas pop right out, with bright citrus, apple and stone fruit following.  The palate features lemon, grapefruit and apricot (!) with a racy acidity that adds to the freshness.  The wine has some heft to it - thanks to malolactic fermentation - so it plays well in the winter.  I am sure it will be just as welcome in the spring and summer.

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Whales And Wine: Waipapa Bay

New Zealand is known in the wine world for the country's unique Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  The cool, maritime climate lends a wonderful acidity, particularly to the white wines. 

Native New Zealanders Brent and Shirley Rawstron have a thing about white wine grapes, and they are currently releasing not only a Sauvignon Blanc but a Chardonnay and Pinot Gris as well.  They gave their wines the name of a favorite local surf spot, Waipapa Bay, which also happens to be a great place to go whale watching.  The area lies between their Canterbury home and their vineyards in Rapaura - on the northern end of New Zealand's South Island.

Along with the Waipapa Bay 2019 releases this month, the winery has announced a partnership with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) - the nonprofit's first wine industry corporate sponsor. 

WDC was founded in 1985 and now spans the globe to lead the charge on protections for whales and dolphins.  A spokeswoman for WDC says, "We are excited to receive the support of sustainably-focused businesses such as Waipapa Bay Wines."  The Rawlstons are just as excited about supporting WDC's efforts to end captivity, stop whaling, create healthy seas, and prevent accidental deaths in fishing gear.

The 2019 Waipapa Bay Pinot Gris is a real charmer.  It smells as fresh as a spring morning, exhibiting  brilliant lime and lemon aromas - dripping with minerality - and a whiff of peach juice and flowers.  The palate offers lovely flavors of nectarine and tangerine, joined by a racy acidity.  Alcohol tips only 13% abv and the wine sells for $15.

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Friday, November 15, 2019

Great Red, Great Price - From Southern France

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He sniffs out good wine which has already been produced by established makers, then buys it on the down-low with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club - he calls it a wineocracy - bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

Cameron Hughes Lot 681 Cesseras, Pays D’Oc Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2017

The Pays d'Oc IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) covers most of the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southwest France.  IGP classification offers winemakers more freedom than the tightly controlled AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) regulations.  This wine hails from the tiny rural community of Cesseras, in the Minervois AOC.  Smart seekers of wine bargains know to look to the south of France for great deals on great reds.

The Cameron Hughes Lot 681 Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend clocks in at 14% abv and sells for $13.  Hughes says it is his first French lot release in more than five years.

This is a dark wine, one with some heft to it, and a brawny feel.  The nose is full of blackberry and plum aromas, laced with earth, vanilla and mocha.  The palate is a burly delight - fruity with a savory, herbal edge, firm tannins a healthy acidity.  If you want steak, get this wine.  It's ready to pair.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Stella Rosa Wine In Cans

The oldest working winery in Los Angeles is getting canned.  The Riboli Family, of L.A.'s San Antonio Winery, now have four styles of their imported Stella Rosa wine available in single-serving aluminum cans.  The winery boasts that Stella Rosa is America's number one imported Italian wine, and their Aluminums line now include a tasty peach flavor.

The Riboli's recommend the Stella Rosa cans for football tailgating.  However, the cans were introduced several years ago at Dodger stadium, so it seems they are a multi-sport phenomenon.
Stella Rosa Aluminums come as 8.5 ounce single serve aluminum bottles in four flavors, Black, Platinum, Pink and now Peach.  They also come in larger format bottles, and all four clock in at a low alcohol level of only 5% abv.  The winery says the cans are not only light weight, easy to pack and smooth to drink but stylish as well.  All bottles are recyclable and stay colder.

They're simple, uncomplicated wines which also make great bases for cocktails.  Stella Rosa has a bushel basket of recipes on their website.

Stella Rosa Il Conte Black is a semi-sweet and semi-sparkling red blend, which the winery says is sexy and seductive.  It has a sweet-n-sour nose which displays a persistent earthiness.  The palate is red currant, slightly sweet and extremely drinkable.  There is almost no tannic structure, so it's very easy to find yourself gulping it.

Stella Rosa Il Conte Platinum is a semi-sweet sparkler which is the only wine I've ever known to promise a more magical life for dreamers and surrealists.  The nose is sweetly floral, as one might expect with a Moscato, but carries an earthy note on the palate which adds a bit of complexity.

Stella Rosa Il Conte Pink is a semi-sweet sparkler which aims to flirt.  The nose is all cherry Jolly Rancher, and the candy motif follows through on the palate. 

Stella Rosa Il Conte Peach is a semi-sweet sparkler which claims to make summer last forever.  The nose is sweet with green apples, peach and pear juice, which dominate the palate.

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Monday, October 7, 2019

Lincoln A Federalist In Wine Only

There's a bit of a ragged backstory for this wine, The Federalist Honest Red Blend 2016.  The folks at Illinois-based Terlato Wines say Honest Red pays homage to Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln's reputation as Honest Abe may be true or it may be apocryphal.  After all, he was a politician.  There's no dispute, however, that Lincoln was no Federalist.  Terlato initiated the Federalist line with a nod to Alexander Hamilton, and the link began to fray as they expanded to other historical Americans who were not associated with the Federalist party.  For millennials, presumably, Terlato notes that Lincoln's accomplishments include emancipating the slaves and being assassinated.

Honest Red is composed of 45% Zinfandel, 24% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec and 4% Cabernet Franc - all North Coast grapes, from Mendocino, Sonoma and Napa counties.  The wine aged for 15 months in oak barrels, 35% of them new.  Alcohol tips 15% abv and it sells for $22.

This North Coast red blend offers up a dark nose of smoke, tar, plums, cigar box, vanilla, cedar and an old baseball glove.  The palate shows huge black and red fruit, also with plenty of oak spice.  BTW, the wine is said to pay homage to Abraham Lincoln.  He may have been Honest Abe, but he was not a Federalist.  But whatever.  You’re not really drinking it for the backstory, are you?  The winery advises having it slightly chilled, with food right off your grill.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

NZ Sauvignon Blanc Shows Tamer Side

The New Zealand winery Duck Hunter is a partnership between ex-restaurant man Mark Wilson and former bank manager Rosie Mulholland.  Their wines are made by their winemaking team in Marlborough at NZ Wineries and Zorro Wines.

The label bears an eye-catching image of a duck hunter - that is, a duck dressed camouflage with a rifle slung over his feathered shoulder.  He's the hunter, not the hunted.  The image was done by New Zealand artist Joanna Braithwaite.  Co-founder Wilson discovered the painting and instantly knew that it would be the ideal face for his wines.  Wilson describes the duck in the label art as "the keeper of the estate, protector of the vines and calm champion of the wines."  He also points out that no ducks were harmed in the making of the wines.

The grapes for Duck Hunter’s 2018 Sauvignon Blanc were grown mainly in Comely Bank Vineyard, down Waihopai Valley Road, in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley.  The winemakers eliminated much of the extreme grassiness that marked New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for years, and gave it a riper, sweeter appeal.  Alcohol hits 12.7% abv and I see it selling online for $19.

This is NZ SauvBlanc with the edge taken off of it.  The grassy nose is only slight, showing more herbs than cat pee.  The sip is remarkably restrained as well, with trademark citrus sharing the stage with melon, cucumber and peach.  The wine is not very tart, by SB standards, but it's not sweet, either.  It's a Sauvignon Blanc for people who normally shy away from it.