Tag Archives: Red Wine Review

The Old-World Consistency of Napa’s Chateau Montelena

15 Sep

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and 2014 vintages. Calistoga, Napa Valley, CA; USA. 14% ABV, MSRP $58/bottle.

 

When an opportunity presented itself to compare back to back vintages of cabernet sauvignon from Napa’s famous Chateau Montelena, I simply could not wait! For those who don’t track annual harvest reports, 2013 was reported as a perfect growing year in Napa. To follow, 2014 started out badly with drought, but eventually this vintage was touted as a “dream” season for the Napa Valley, in spite of providing less tannin and structure than the previous year. Both years are ideal for collectors, and highly suggested for oenophiles.

 

 

In my tasting sessions, I found the vintages had significant similarities and minor differences, as you might expect from the vines, vineyard, and winemaker.  After much deliberation, I decided to use one set of tasting notes, and I’ll discuss the subtle differences in the vintages afterwards.

Color is deep purple; the nose full of blackberry, spice box, hints of fresh violets, and notes of earth. The palate is massive blackberry with allspice, cocoa, some green cuttings, and a hint of ripe raspberry, with a beautiful blend of complex minerals which demonstrate the Calistoga AVA’s flexible, alluvial soils.

 

 

 

 

I tasted these vintages with several neighbors over a mix of grilled meats, savory salads, fresh roasted vegetables, and highly spiced mediterranean chicken. Any red wine lover who tasted either wine was in heaven, but there were some differences. The 2014 was fruitier and more direct, while the 2013 more tannic, with more structure. Had I not known the vintages, I might have expected it was the same wine blend with 5 years of age. Overall, the 2013 appeared drier with the fruit more condensed, whilst the 2014 still demonstrated youthful fruit and an edge towards jam or compote with less tannin and a hint of mocha. By carefully rationing small portions, I was able to taste these bottles for four more days in which I expected the differences to become more apparent. Instead the opposite happened! I found that with more exposure to air, the wines showed stronger similarities as the fruit muted and the tannins melded, harmoniously, like some of the world’s finest old-world chateaux.

 

 

Both of these vintages drink beautifully now, but will show improved finesse and expression in another 5-10 years and beyond, if you can wait that long. The fact that they are an excellent value (and drink like an $85 Napa cab) should not be lost on the wine lover or collector: if you drink these now, you’re a smart drinker; and if you hold them and drink them later, you’re a brilliant collector!

 

Needless to say, I was impressed by both of these vintages of Chateau Montelena. They are proof to me that the winery continues to have tremendous consistency from year to year, and maintains their historic drive for excellence that shocked the wine industry at the famed 1976 Judgement of Paris. It is wonderful to be able to access these wines at a moderate price point. For the serious drinker, the quality of winemaking will make you yearn to taste their upper echelon “estate” series.

 

 

If you are a serious Napa cab lover, you won’t want to wait to take advantage of these two vintages. Now is the time to collect, if you have not already. Or if you are like me, now is the time to invite friends over and open a few bottles to enjoy!

à votre santé!

 

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Schiava: the Welterweight Knock-Out Wine!

30 Aug

Abbazia di Novacella Schiava “Stiftskellerei Neustift” 2015. Alto Adige, Italy. 12.5% ABV, MSRP $ 16/bottle.

 

Color is a robust, translucent ruby. The nose has sweet cherry, rose petals, and hint of limestone. On the palate, moderate bright raspberry, fresh cranberry, and a hint of red cassis are followed with lush, green foliage on the front palate. Polite, gentle acidity and tannins are balanced in body and scope. The flavors deepen across the top and back palate, with notes of slate and calcium-rich clay on the medium finish under the fruit profile. Best when served slightly chilled, and just under ‘moderate’ in body, this is a welterweight red that is luscious and mouthwatering, a wine that is beefier than rosé but lighter than the Cru Beaujolais and Burgundian pinot noir, and what a perfect wine for the middle! Pairing is so easy with vegetable appetizers, salad, fish, and pizza.

 

 

 

After a few sips, I kept thinking of all the meals I could serve this wine for; how easily to pair this with an appetizer, soup or salad course as a brilliant impact of delicacy and deliciousness. Taking the next step in meal evolution, if you are planning a cheese plate, cured meats, or a fresh seafood course, this Schiava is still worth your consideration as a capable flavor profile with plenty of acid and personality to pair with these more challenging dishes. Even more, it would be an ideal match for white meats such as turkey and cranberry sauce or roast chicken.

 

At this price, it offers an excellent value that is well worth seeking out to add to your repertoire and cellar, and is a beautiful representation of both the uniqueness and subtlety one can find in the wines of the Alto Adige. This one will go ten full rounds and win by decision as a crowd-pleasing favorite.

 

 

à votre santé!

 

D.V. Catena Tinto Historico Red Blend 2014

8 Aug

D.V. Catena Tinto Historico Red Blend 2014; Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.7% ABV, Street $16-18/bottle.

 

Color is a thick garnet with ruby edging. The nose offers ripe, bold, black and red fruit with hints of clay and oak. On the palate: black plum and black cherry across the front palate; red ripe raspberry and clove across the side palate; while the bottom of the tongue experiences a heavy dose of blackberries, with notes of forest floor, peppercorn, charcoal, and cacao. Intriguing and exciting, this 92% malbec blend features 8% petite verdot that adds richness to an already lush palate. Big, bold and beautiful, perfect for grilled meats, dark or savory flavors, such as cheeses, salumi, even grilled vegetables. I’m on a summer diet and paired this blend beautifully with pesto, believe it or not! But sipping this tasty wine made me want to put a porterhouse on my grill and invite my neighbors over!

 

I have had good experiences with Bodega Catena Zapata in the past and this wine continues that history, showing as a well-made, balanced wine that is gorgeous on the nose and mouth, dense and complex as a foil for food, providing a rich overall experience. Lush and luxurious-tasting, for an Argentinian wine you can source for under $20, you’d be crazy not to add this to your cellar so pick up a few bottles for your next grill adventure!

 

à votre santé!

Make a Memory: Weingut Ziereisen Blauer Spätburgunder 2013 “Schulen”

25 Jul




#MWWC34

Unlike the rest of the writers who will submit entries for this Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, I have an unusual relationship with the word selected for this month’s topic, “Memory”.  I will assert that I am the only wine writer who has such a relationship with this word, “Memory”, which is also the title of the eleventh-hour song from the Broadway musical, CATS .  Subsequently, it was recorded in the 1980s by every diva who ever had a hit record. Oh yes, it haunts.

 

 

 

 

Cats, on Broadway. A show I mixed over 1600 times.

 

Over 1600 times.

 

So when anyone says “Memory” I have a different reaction than you do… I pause, I take a deep breath, I remember some amazing people, and a show I worked on for a very long time, a very long time ago.

Then, I mentally compartmentalize, and move on: from ancient history back to modern times!

 

So, moving on… to some wine memories. 

I’m going to share with you a memory I’d like to forget, one I cherish, and then we’ll make a new one.

Memory To Forget.
The bad comes first: being one of the fraud victims of the Hector Ortega/John Fox Premiere Cru Ponzi scheme. This calendar year, after years and years of carefully reading every document sent to me from the lawyers and judge, I got my settlement check, for pennies on the dollars stolen from me. I’d like to forget this… the funny thing is, I only had a backorder with them because they had proven to be a trusted good supplier at a decent cost, though it took months sometimes for the wines to arrive. So I’ve learned to tread lightly and never risk anything I’m not willing to lose (as what you buy, even if it exists and actually gets delivered, it might be flawed or corked already!) Too depressing? A good reason to forget, so let’s move on!

 

 

The Memory to Cherish: In 2016, I attended a reading of a new musical at a luxury home in Manhattan. The owner is a serious oenophile, and in addition to giving me a tour of his personal cellar, he shared with me an 1875 Madeira, and then opened a 1986 Chateau Margaux for me. Heaven!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory to Make: Open That Bottle.
I have been sitting on a German wine, a Blauer Spätburgunder (aka, Pinot Noir) from Weingut Ziereisen. Waiting for an excuse to open it. But finally, for #MWWC34, I am going to do so!

Weingut Ziersen Blauer Spätburgunder 2013 “Schulen”; Baden, Germany. 12.5%ABV. $35/bottle.

The color is a translucent garnet. The nose is expansive with deep, dark notes of black cherry, mocha, dried rose petals. On the palate, exquisite dark cherry and raspberry fruit  will start your experience; beautiful floral and grassy notes cross the top to back, while racy acid cross the side and rear palates. The luscious aromas connect from olfactory sensory down to the back of the tongue through the soft palate, extending the finish with a mineral/ limestone completion.

Matured in massive barriques, while both unrefined and unfiltered, it opens up beautifully and shows gorgeous expression, from the massive nose to the delicate fruit through to the limestone finish. Had I tasted this blind, I’m afraid I would have placed this in Burgundy! Bravo, in demonstrating the incredible art of winemaking. What a great “Open That Bottle”  bottle, I would have been afraid to open this with friends but now I KNOW I must do so to see if they share the same experience I do with this tremendous value.

 

 

 

Cheers- here’s to making more excellent wine memories!

 

 

“Let the memory live again”- “Memory”, CATS

à votre santé!

Vivanco Reserva 2010 Rioja

13 Jul

Vivanco Reserva Rioja DOC 2010; Briones, Spain. 14%ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

Color is deep garnet with purple edging. The nose offers a rich, full-bodied basket of dark fruit, spices and gravel. On the palate:  red cassis, plum, and a beautifully decadent mouthfeel precedes a comforting heat across the front and top palates. Secondary notes of cumin, vanilla, allspice, and forest floor are followed by grippy tannins, with gravel and calcium-rich clay, the moderate finish has some lovely expression of black currants as an afterthought. I can’t believe this wine is priced at this level when it drinks like a wine at twice the price! This is a blend of tempranillo (90%) and graciano (10%), but the graciano pushes dark flavors forward in a really wondrous fashion- cheers to the winemaker!

Pair this rioja blend with either grilled or mediterranean dishes,  -even vegetable crudite with dips- this is a gorgeous wine to drink with food, or by itself. But the darker flavors prefer something to play against, so even a cheese and cracker, a chocolate bar, or a few pieces of fruit would be useful when enjoying this. You won’t regret it: this wine is so delicious, I tasted this on three separate evenings, enjoying the nose and flavors so much I refused to write my tasting notes. If you want an introduction to Rioja, tempranillo blends, or the wines of Spain, you have found a perfect candidate, at a killer price. 

 à votre santé!

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 2: The Spur and Zarzuela

8 Jul
(If you missed part 1, you can find it here.)

The Spur 2014 by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%, ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

 

Color is a dark purple that is barely translucent, with violet edging. The nose is rich and robust with ripe blue fruit, spices, oak, scorched earth and a touch of lingering compost. Boysenberry, black plum, sour cherries, and damp green herbs cross and hold the front and side palates, while heat from the alcohol crosses the top and lands at the back along with notes of cedar, clay, forest floor, and saddle leather. The mouthfeel is powerful, youthful, and explosive, while the finish is long and slow in comparison: the lingering smoke from the cannon’s barrage, with final notes of dark blackberries and cassis suddenly in the very front of my mouth, making my tongue search with inquisitiveness and amusement, wondering “When did those arrive?”

An unusual, fun, unique red blend. Curious and expressive, this is an oral Cirque Du Soleil, a strange circus of unexpected feats and new delights in the mouth. Winemaker Robbie Meyer must have a great sense of humor. When he develops this wine, he takes gorgeous barrels of varietals he could sell so simply and easily, and makes a wild, distinctive blend that just screams to be paired with food for maximum enjoyment- and it delivers! The Spur was tremendous with asian spices from a stir-fry, and stood up to serious heat and kick from a powerful mexican salad and ghost pepper tamales! With red meat, you might want to call friends over first, or sit alone and cry, this wine pairing is so good. This type of winemaking reminds me of only one other person: David Phinney of Orin Swift, whose zin-heavy blends took the world by storm years ago. But Meyer makes a more robust and sometimes elegant bouquet of darker flavors, huge strokes of color crossing the palate and making your mouth wonder “just what is going on here?” What, indeed.

Brilliance.

 

Don’t take my word for it. Get yourself a bottle or six, before you see this in every Del Frisco’s and Ruth’s Chris steak house by the glass to encourage bottle sales. Because my friends, that day will be here soon.

You’re going to ask, and I almost forgot because the wine is that damn good:
The Spur’s blend is made up of 45% cabernet, 22% petite syrah, 14% petite verdot, 10% merlot, and 9% cabernet franc=holy smokes just give me more of The Spur. 207 barrels were made, which makes a little over 5,000 cases, all of it certified sustainable, like everything else from Murrieta’s Well. So you should be able to find just enough to tide you over until next year, if you order soon.

 

 

No, that isn’t all. It could be, I almost thought it would be. 

But I have one more bottle to tell you about. 

 

2015 Zarzuela by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 14.1%, ABV, MSRP $60/bottle.

Color is dark maroon with purple edging, opaque at the center, converging to translucent near the sides. The elegant nose offers dark black and blue fruit, cedar and a hint of evergreen, with sandy clay. On the palate: blueberry, blackberry and black plum resolve into a luscious compote on the front of the tongue while the rest of the mouth sense a dark berry tart. The medium-long finish has secondary notes of cinnamon, mocha, and allspice, rounding up with more sandy loam, another bite of blueberry on the back palate, and a final hit of raspberry on the top palate, with my tongue aching for more. My glass is empty of the one-ounce tasting pour… when did that happen? My mind knows this wine is perfect for food pairing, but my mouth doesn’t want anything to do with that, just give me more of this intoxicating elixir.

My first pairing with asian cuisine had too many big flavors in the dish to match well yesterday, but today both medium and heavy cheeses are perfect companions, even the delicate comte is a great foil, so I move to dolce gorgonzola and have another great bite to match Zarzuela. So charcoal grilled meats and vegetables are going to be perfect with this wine, as is chocolate, which makes the mocha and red fruit notes incredibly prominent. This wine feels so elegant in the mouth, it’s definitely old-world-European, but the grapes feel more Spanish, so I look: 40% Tempranillo, 40% Touriga, 20% Souza. It’s classic Iberian Peninsula. So no wonder it’s named “Zarzuela”, the Spanish word for operetta, and was first created by one of the founders and the first winemaker at Murrieta’s Well, Sergio Traverse. My thanks, señor!  Made at Murrieta’s Well since 2003, Robbie Meyer is staying true to the original intent with gorgeous vintages since then, a club favorite, it seems.

 

This is the wine I’d choose to invite my buddy Robert over so we could catch up, cook a large steak and vegetables over the grill, share stories of work and family, and appreciate the beauty of life with food & drink while watching the sunset and know that life is wonderful.

 

 

Only 24 barrels were produced of the 2015 Zarzuela, which is aged 16 months in French oak. It exudes elegance, class, and old-world, European style. If you hadn’t found a reason to join their wine club before this, the Zarzuela is reason enough.

Just remember…when you celebrate these wines with your friends & family… save a sip for me. You know I’d pour you a glass. But I can’t because this bottle is already dry. Now how did THAT happen?

I’ll leave you with some Placido, singing Zarzuela. It is, after all, a perfect pairing with the wine. Cheers!

à votre santé!

 

Villa Maria Estate: Elegance from New Zealand

3 Jul

Helen  Morrison, Senior Marlborough Winemaker at Villa Maria Estates, is doing something right. I know, because she just wowed a team of wine industry insiders and wine bloggers during a live tasting where she demonstrated her Villa Maria wines.  To say the least, everyone was impressed…and wanted more to taste!  I know, I know…to the wines!

Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

A fun, carbonated/bubbly wine I first tasted (and really enjoyed) a year ago at a NZ Trade tasting , I was pleased to see that this vintage felt more elegant and refined from last year’s. Tiny effervescent bubbles precede elegant citrus and floral notes with a hint of baker’s yeast and a dry, welcoming finish. Half the pressure of champagne, this is incredibly fun, easy to open with a standard screw-top stelvin closure, and is an immediate crowd-pleaser. Drink by the patio or poolside all day, but when it’s mealtime, you can pair up with shellfish, cheese, raw or cooked fish, salads, up to medium-rich entrees such as spicy fish tacos, chicken fried-rice, and especially lime-marinated dishes to marry flavors beautifully. When I shared a bottle to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday, the responses were stellar and happily surprised when I told them what they were drinking.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2016, NZ 12.5%ABV. MSRP $15.

Color is pale straw; the nose provides a massive grapefruit zest with grass and the essence of cut flowers. On the palate: pink grapefruit, gooseberry, and lemon-lime. Delightfully crisp, grassy, herbal, with a very dry, stony finish. A striking resemblance to the last two years’ efforts demonstrates that you don’t change something that is working well! This is perhaps the powerhouse sauvignon blanc that defines the terroir and flavors from the Marlborough AVA. The massive citrus allows you to pair this with just about anything you want, but my favorites are fresh veggies, raw fish, and chicken caesar salad.

 

 

 

Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Chardonnay 2015. Marlborough, NZ. 13.5% ABV; MSRP $45

This is a “whoa” wine to add to your portfolio! Color is medium gold. Sweet peach and white orchid dominate the nose. Gorgeous lime zest married to a definitive Belle of Georgia peach on the palate, with secondary notes of marzipan, yeast, toasted oak, and gravel, and an elegant mouthfeel.  This was my “WOW” wine of the tasting, and I know was a real surprise to others who are connoisseurs of the chardonnay grape.  Delicious from the moment I put it in my mouth, I wanted to stop there, put my glass down and cede the game so I could start food pairing this single vineyard chardonnay. Why? Let’s add it up: Killer terroir + hand picked + whole bunch pressed + 9 months spent on the lees+ natural ML in oak (25% new French oak,  75% seasoned French oak)= OMG this wine is stellar. Short version? If you see this bottle, pick it up. Drink it, and you’ll know what I say add it to your cellar: it compares well to classic and new world chardonnays in the $60-75 range. And if you don’t care about price? Then for you, it’s just SOOOO tasty!

 

 

 

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé, Hawkes Bay 2016, NZ. 12.5%ABV; MSRP $14.

Deep salmon in color, the nose offers fresh-cut wildflowers and berry compote. On the palate, fresh strawberries atop the tongue while the sides feature ginger, lemon pepper, and allspice notes. Racing acidity crosses the top palate, but the finish is when you recognize the significant body in this stainless fermented rosé of (mostly) merlot.  At this price point, this is a serious wine for serious food or fun in the sun.

 

 

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ ABV 13,5%, MSRP $26.

 

Color on Day 1: translucent color and bright red fruit!

 

Color is transparent rose with garnet edges and just enough clarity to read a newspaper through it. The nose offers young red fruit and a hint of wildflowers, while the palate takes the bright cherry and raspberry flavors and marries them with a secondary group of spices and then hints of earth and smoke, remaining gentle, yet refined, and medium-bodied overall with a medium finish. On day 2 after opening, the fruit has taken on deeper, darker colors and flavors of mature red plum and cassis, showing baking spice, red pepper flake, paprika, clay and granite on the back palate with a sour cherry across the top, maintaining a quality balance and graceful presentation, while the finish now lingers with a pleasant sour cherry, spice and stone.

 On day 2: Standing tall, with darker & deeper flavor -a delightful surprise to my palate!

 

So, hey! If you’re not already a fan of New Zealand wines, you might need your head examined,  But don’t take it from me. Pick up some of Hellen Morrison’s Villa Maria Estate wines and check them out for yourself- and let me know what you think!

 

à votre santé!

Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

World-Class Wines, from the Middle East. That may not be the first region that comes to mind, but a few great winemakers are changing that. Victor Schoenfeld, a California native who has been the Yarden head winemaker since 1992,  is credited with being THE single greatest influencer in developing world class wines in Israel, most specifically in the Golan Heights. He’s also a very nice guy, and loves to talk wine. I could have chatted with him for hours and talked terroir and winemaking…but we had wine to taste!

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

And these are some really good wines. World-class, kosher, made-in-Israel, non-mevushal, kick-butt wines.

Don’t believe me? Please, be your own judge and let your mouth tell you. Taste the wines, it’s that easy. I did, and I will tell you, they are worthy wines. I tasted seven wines, and each was impressive in its own way.  Here are my top three that will blow your mind; each of these was so good, I didn’t want to do anything but drink what was in my glass:

 

Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009, Sparkling Brut Chardonnay, MSRP $30

Light gold in color, with a delicate nose. Beautiful, mature white fruit with gentle effervescence. A delicate sparkling with nice complexity, this wine shows delightful minerality with a hint of toast and no sweetness on the palate. A low-dosage sparkling brut, your mouth will think it is champagne. It was a perfect foil for a raw crudo appetizer.

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

Medium straw with a green tinge. Citrus & banana peel on the very floral nose. On the palate, an exotic blend of kiwi, passion fruit, and lychee is matched by a perfect acidity; secondary notes are floral and spice box.  I found this paired so gorgeously with asparagus risotto. I just kept going back and back to it and didn’t want the pairing to end.

 

Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, MSRP $96

Deep, dark, maroon with garnet edging. The nose offers black plum, cassis, aged leather and cigar box. On the palate, mature red fruit along the tongue, with cassis along the sides. A lengthy finish features gravel, granite, and sandy clay. The price on this is worth every penny, comparing well to New and Old world wines in the same price range. This wine was as complex as the lamb I enjoyed with it: flavorful, sensual, evocative, exotic.

 

 

With a few tastes, it’s obvious that Victor Schoenfeld is doing something right, not just great wine (yes!), not just organic (oh, yes, that too!), and not just a few grapes with tremendous terroir. Yarden’s library of wines is varied and includes syrah, malbec, merlot, rosé,  muscat, sauvignon blanc, in addition to these listen just off the top of my head- surely something for every wine drinker.

If you haven’t tried Yarden wines, it’s time for you to taste how the Middle East compares to what you’ve been drinking. You will find yourself impressed, and might be tasting more and more of them. With a full stable of tasty delights, you are bound to find a wine that compares well, and maybe even blows away one of your current favorites.

 

à votre santé!

Chateau Smith Cabernet & Kung Fu Girl Riesling

23 Jun

Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 by Charles Smith Wines, Washington State, USA. 13.5% ABV; MSRP $20/bottle.

The color is dark, inky purple, while the nose provides black fruit, vegetation, spice, and eucalyptus. On the palate: cassis, mature black and red plum dominate, with an undertone of potting soil. Secondary notes of oak, forest floor, granite, slate, and loam. Nice extended finish with lasting tannins. After some air the wine opened, the acid mellowed a touch, and the tannins act brilliantly taut, making this wine a lovely foil for red meat. Smart to achieve by decanting, or 30 minutes in the glass should achieve the same result- but who can wait that long for a Charles Smith wine? Not I, so that air will have to be on glass #2 or #3.

I like the choice of name, as it reminds me of a right bank Bordeaux. Focused, direct, drinkable while young, but age-worthy. Delightful to pair with powerful flavors like red meat, heavy sauces, strong to medium-bodied cheese. If you haven’t had a Columbia/Yakima Cabernet, or you didn’t know that Washington State makes great cabernet, then you owe it to yourself to taste this juice. At this price point, it’s an easy one to put in the cellar or keep ready to go.

 

Kung Fu Girl Riesling, 2015; Charles Smith Wines. Ancient Lakes AVA, Washington,USA. 12%ABV; MSRP $13/bottle.

 

Hang on. $13/bottle? I have to double check myself on this. Seriously? Why am I even telling you this? Back the truck up to my house with this juice…ok, my readers deserve to know the inside scoop: Kung Fu Girl is a black belt in wine, with delightful fruit, just a hint of sweetness, great acidity, and lovely balance. I want to drink this all day long while cooking, gaming, watching movies, shooting pool, or hanging out at the beach house. And it pairs beautifully with asian cuisine and medium bodied cheeses, but it also can hold its own with red meat-  just to try, I paired this with a ribeye last night, and it was a solid choice, proving once again that (a) the old wine rules don’t matter, and (b) you really can pair white wines with red meat if they have enough acidity.

This is so good, I have gone through four one-ounce tasting pours and haven’t even begun my review… that should tell you that I’d rather drink this wine than talk about it, but here goes:

Color is medium straw. Nose of lychee, lime zest, starfruit, and honeysuckle. On the palate, a stunning key lime/citrus with backhanded acidity that surprises the palate. Notes of limestone, calcium and sodium in the lovely minerality. A complex, evolved wine, 2015 must have been an amazing year as the balance of this wine is tremendous and it drinks like much more expensive bottle. As I held the wine in my mouth and pulled air across, a tiny sensation of petrol deep under the surface- but this wine is such a delight in the mouth, it’s impossible to fault. Say again, $13? I’ll be curious to see where this wine is priced next year, and I wish I had room for a couple of cases. If you love bargain riesling, you should give this a try- it could be your wine of the summer.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel

18 Jun


Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel, Lodi, CA. 15.5% ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

There’s a backstory here. When in Lodi last summer for #WBC16, I visited this winery. I tasted their rosé, and I thought “this is really good”. But when I tasted their old vine zinfandel, I was truly blown away by the power of the beautifully made Old Vine Zin, Lizzy James.

 

 

Months later, I pull a bottle of their 2013 “house” zinfandel from my cellar, open it gently, allow it to air, and taste it. Oh yes, my Father’s Day treat to myself!  The next day I serve it to my in-laws, not telling them what the grape varietal is. The bottle is gone within the first few minutes of the meal- and my brother-in-law doesn’t believe me at first when I tell him he is drinking zinfandel, so I remind him of my trip to Lodi.

 

 

If the independent Lodi winemakers (like Harney Lane, Bokisch Vineyards, Borra Vineyards, Klinker Brick, McCay Cellars, Fields Family Wines, and Acquiesce, just to name but a few of Lodi’s standouts ) were only making fair quality wines, there would be no point- they might as well sell their fruit to the huge corporate winemakers. But in Lodi, they are making smaller quantities of superb, high quality wines- single varietals, single vineyards, custom blends, -really, whatever they choose- they are simply making the greatest wine they can, to the best of their ability. This is how they can make wines that stand out and have an impact: they have to make tremendous wines with superb value in the bottle that makes a customer go “WHOA”,  to remember that experience. In doing so, they create their own brand fanatics who want to join their wine club and drink more than a case per year.

 

I know you want the tasting notes, so without further ado:

Color is deep magenta with violet edging. The nose offers complex, mature black and blue fruit (and really, it smells of blackberry pie) followed by dark chocolate and green, leafy vegetation. On the palate: mature blueberries dominates the lower palate with a small portion of red fruit, -cassis and young raspberry- with secondary notes of mocha, pepper, and clove. Great acidity on this wine follows the fruit across the top palate, but the tannins hit from the tip of the tongue across the top palate simultaneously, making perfect closure to the sip. For the finish, notes of oak, pebbles, and sand round out the long, lusty finish with echoes of that fruit across the palate. For those who have heard my past complaints about too much alcohol in wine, I never sensed this wine as “hot”. To be completely fair, I didn’t even notice this wine was 15.5%ABV until after the bottle was finished. So I’m keeping my trap shut, as this wine rocks. I paired this beautiful zin with cold sesame noodles when I first opened it, and then served it alongside  a beef, tomato and bean chili for dinner. It will rock a steak house menu, pair easily with Italian cuisine, match up with grilled or cured meats, or handle anything that is Mediterranean in style, as well as being purely delightful on its own.

Matured 15 months in American oak, this Zin actually has 5% of syrah blended in. Given that they made 700 cases (about 28 barrels) you can still find some, but I wouldn’t wait very long to get some for the cellar.

 

 

Jorja and Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane call themselves “control freaks” when it comes to maintaining their vineyards, growing the best clusters, and picking their best fruit at the perfect time; but all you have to do is taste it and you will be convinced. Whatever they are doing, it simply works. This is a world-class wine with style, class, depth and tenacity. You’d happily pay five times the price for a wine of this quality in a steakhouse- in the under $25/bottle range, this is a no-brainer. Better yet, join their wine club, and get this wine for $19.20 per bottle!

As a final note, all Harney Lane wines are certified green under the strict “Lodi Rules” for sustainable wine growing. That might make you feel better, about being a better citizen of the planet when you buy the wine. But when you drink it, you might not care anymore. You’ll just be glad this deliciousness is in your glass. 

à votre santé!

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