Archive | January, 2017

Locations Wines: Comparing California And France

24 Jan

The scene: a midweek, extended family dinner in the suburbs of Manhattan.

I uncork and pour a wine for my brother-in law, and casually mention that this is a new selection by a winemaker I have followed for years, but have yet to try.

We let the wine breathe until dinner service starts. He tries a taste, and then another as his eyes widen.

He is having a “whoa” moment.

He swallows, takes a breath, then asks a barrage of questions: Who is the winemaker? Where is he from?  Where can he buy this bottle? How much does it cost? Are all this winemaker’s wines so good?

Almost immediately, he has become a fan.

My response to his “whoa” moment? “No real surprise there.”

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Locations Wines CA4 California Blend by Dave Phinney. 15.5% ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.

A blend of petite syrah, barbera, tempranillo, syrah, and grenache grapes from California’s Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Sierra Foothills wine regions. Before visiting Lodi, I might have wondered at the varied grape selection, but not now. Thanks to my 2016 trip to Lodi and Napa, I now know that California has the myriad climates, soil, and geology to grow almost any grape to perfection. But I digress, how about my tasting notes?

Deep purple in color. Nose of black plum, cassis, rose bush, and young tobacco leaf. On the palate,  tremendous red fruit: raspberry, red plum, sour cherry. Secondary notes of green vegetation, forest floor, pepper and spice. The acidity and tannin are good matches for the  powerful flavors, and the heat spreads late across the top palate, leaving behind hints of cedar, granite, limestone, clay, sand and sodium. On the finish, the distinct flavor of mixed berry pie remains on the top palate as my mouth begs for the next sip.    

This California blend pairs beautifully with the red meat, potatoes and green salad we’ve prepared, but is also delightful to taste solo, or with raspberry-infused dark chocolate, or with goat cheese on fig and olive crisps. Best after a touch of air, the wine held up beautifully for four days until I could no longer control myself and finished the remainders.

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Back to my brother-in-law at dinner! Mid-meal, I am explaining Phinney’s work and his Locations, making wines in a region to represent that region well, at an affordable price. In a sense, these blends are obscure when compared to iconic wines from the same AVAs, but these present classic, beautiful, and delicious representations of their regions at a fraction of the price. His eye drifts across the room to a row of carefully ordered, yet-unopened bottles: my short-term tasting queue. Spying a similar label, he asks if we might open another bottle. “That one from France, if it’s by the same winemaker?

It makes me wonder if Dave Phinney like to fish. Because it’s one more winelover: hook, line, and sinker!

 

Locations Wines F4 French Red Wine Blend by Dave Phinney. 15% ABV, $18/bottle MSRP.

Ruby red in color with a gentle nose of green vegetation, red fruit, and a hint of lavender. On the palate, bright red fruit, nice acidity. Dried cranberry, strawberry, fresh raspberries, with the tannins as a soft underbelly. Southern France shines here, memories of Roussillon and Rhone flood back when the wine hits my tongue.

Because these wines are complex blends, it can be difficult to describe them well. But I’ll give it my best shot: Undeniably French, this wine demonstrates a sense of classic history, utilizing grapes both refined, yet comfortably rustic, much like a ’59 Renault Caravelle Cabriolet, whose soft lines and plush design is perfect for cruising in the Mediterranean sun. Compared to the bronzed and showy  Californian CA4 which offers sleek, sculpted perfection: think Steve McQueen as Bullitt in his ’68 GT Fastback.

Even tasting the wines back to back, I could not choose a favorite. Both were excellent pairing choices for the meal; both were excellent ambassadors to their home terroir. And both are utterly delicious.

My brother-in-law came to a simple conclusion. “A lot of the wines you serve are hard to find. But these… well, the wine blends might be obscure or hard to describe, but their labels are straightforward, simple, and easy to describe. So, I’ll just look for the label design, and buy them all.”

“No real surprise there.”

 

#MWWC30

à votre santé!

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Locations Wine Samples Provided by Balzac Communications.

 

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Buty Winery’s Classic Walla Walla White Blend

11 Jan

Buty Winery 2011 Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc & Muscadelle Blend by Caleb Foster Wines; Walla Walla Valley, WA. 13.8%ABV, MSRP $25/Bottle.

 

 

The Bordeaux Blend.

Red or white, the blend is classic:  Old World.

 

To some it might show as a touch too forward, but to others, it could demonstrate the path to perfection.

I don’t recall where I found the cache, but tonight I reached into my cellar and pulled out my last bottle.

It was both my final and my favorite of the partial case. The six long years that this white bordeaux blend has taken to mature now firmly place the bottle among tremendous company. Had this been blindly tasted, I would have (wrongly) guessed it was sourced from a première château. Likewise, I would have erred and estimated the value at from three to six times the cost. Nevertheless, this unusual winery name will stick in my brain for future purchases, as it should for others who adore Bordeaux and wines from America’s Northwest.

 

Deep gold in color. The nose is delicate, of dried lemon, almond butter, and grass clippings. Mature citrus attacks the palate with lemon zest, grapefruit rind, and a hint of sliced almond. Powerful acidity is prominent, not a hint of sugar remains in this towering, majestic Bordeaux-style mixture. The long, drawn finish offers limestone, slate, granite, a hint of iron, and mature oak, leaving an imprint on the taster. 

In the words of my friend Jeff, “Whoa.”

 

I will go back to this well, and drink again. Bravo, Caleb & Nina Foster, bravo.

For more information, the website is ButyWinery.com.  Please, let me know if you have tried this wine, if it was at a comparable age, and if you experienced a similar reaction. Thank you!

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à votre santé!

Locations Wine WA4 -Washington State

8 Jan

Locations Wine by Dave Phinney, WA4 Washington Red Wine Blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Petite Syrah. %15ABV, $20/bottle MSRP.

Color is deep purple with maroon edging, while the nose offers dark blue fruit and dank, forest floor. On the palate, there are blueberry, black plum, and boysenberry, along with some darker notes of clove, soil, wet leaves, with a hint of bitter almond. Holding in the mouth and allowing the tongue to absorb, heat sears across the top palate. What starts as a big, rustic smack in the mouth evolves once the heat of the high alcohol passes by; then soft, silken tannins coat the palate. On the medium finish there are flower cuttings, minerals, and a hint of wood. Secondary notes of lilac, lavender, vanilla, granite, oak and schist complete the profile.

 

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Fun to drink, quick to get lost with. This was an easy wine to drink, with a gorgeous mouthfeel. It paired with anything I tried: flank steak, spicy chili, taco night, even goat cheese on olive crisps. The high alcohol content kept me from drinking it on its own, but helped this wine stay vibrant and interesting for several days after opening. When I buy more of this, I doubt a bottle will survive that long before draining. High in value and reaction, low in stress and easy to pair? You could fill your cellar with cases of Locations and just rotate bottles. Dave Phinney has mad skills, but we’ve known this for some time. 

 

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Don’t let the label fool you. This is no simple bottle from Washington State. This might make you want to move, or start making wine from Washington yourself! So be prepared, because once you fall in love with this, you’ll be quick to open up your wallet to those other boutique winemakers I keep harping on about.

 

 

 

à vôtre santé!

 

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