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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for March, 2008

Clos La Chance – 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on March 31, 2008

Clos La Chance releases wines in three tiers and designations. Throughout this week I’ll look at a total of four wines, two from the Hummingbird Series and two from the Estate Series. Close La Chance will also be featured again on this blog at the end of April during Petite Sirah Week.

Today’s wine is one of several Chardonnays Clos La Chance produces. A couple of them are Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnayvineyard designate wines (part of the Special Selections Series). The 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay is part of their Estate Series. Just under 3,500 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $20. 20% of the wine spent 10 months in new French oak with the remainder in either 1 year oak (30%) or neutral (French & American) oak.

The nose of this Chardonnay presents an abundance of pear and pineapple alongside subtler spice notes.  Pear comes out in droves with the first sip. That carries through the creamy, mouth-filling mid-palate which also showcases more prominent spice notes. The finish has hints of vanilla, apple pie spices and a light minerality.

This Chardonnay has excellent varietal character, and good acidity. It features enough oak to offer significant complexity in it’s price cetegory but it’s never obtrusive to the fruit. This wine tastes incredibly fresh and springlike.

For $20 this wine is an excellent value. It puts me in a mind of some of the Chardonnays I enjoy year in and year out. With 3,500 cases out there it should be fairly easy to locate. If you like well made Chardonnay, that actually tastes like Chardonnay, with good complexity, this is definitely one to try.

Coming tomorrow: Clos La Chance, Buff-Bellied Zinfandel

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Edna Valley Vineyard – 2006 Syrah

Posted by Gabe on March 28, 2008

EVVThe 2006 Syrah is the last release from Edna Valley Vineyard I’ll be looking at this week. But look for them to be featured again at the end of April during Petite Sirah Week.  Before getting to the Syrah though, The Edna Valley Vineyard Wine Club is worth mentioning.

Their wine club features quarterly shipments of 3 bottles available only at the winery. The cost for each shipment is $60. Edna Valley Vineyard has recently formed an alliance with Ocean Conservancy. They donate $5 from each members quarterly shipment directly to the Ocean Conservancy. Further information on their wine club is availabe on their website or by calling them at 1-888-391-WINE.

The Syrah’s nose is full of candied plum, spice, casis and dark berry fruit. The first sip reveals a touch of tartness that blows off once the wine has had a chance to breathe a little bit. Hints of smoke, blackberry and mulled cider spice emerge and carry on through the mid palate which also features some chocolaty notes. Both white pepper and a subtle but persistent earthiness present themselves early on and carry themselves through the finish. The 2006 Edna Valley Vineyard Syrah is medium bodied and well balanced with good acidity. It should match up well with a wide array of foods, though a burger might be the perfect match for this one.

As with the other two Edna Valley Vineyard wines I looked at this week, this is a well made wine exhibiting true varietal character. Suggested retail price is $20 but it can be found pretty widely for closer to $17.

Coming Next Week: A look at the wines of Clos La Chance.

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Edna Valley Vineyard – 2006 Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on March 27, 2008

a 2006 Pinot Noir is the second release I’m looking at from Edna Valley Vineyard. Coverage of a Syrah will follow tomorrow. Additionally, Edna Valley Vineyard will be represented on this blog again in April during Petite Sirah Week.PN

This 2006 Pinot Noir had tiny amounts of Carignane & Syrah (3% total between the two) blended in. 96% of the oak used was French and 1/3 of it was new. The suggested retail price on the Edna valley Vineyard Pinot Noir is $20. However, as with yesterdays Chardonnay you can easily find it for a few dollars less if you look around.

A huge nose of fresh strawberries is the the first thing that emerges from the glass with this wine. It’s followed by subtle vanilla aromas that emerge more prominently as the wine has a chance to open up. Sour cherry and earthiness are immediately present when you first sip this Pinot Noir. The mid-palate is full of raspberry and mushroom notes that linger through the substantial finish. White pepper is the last note to emerge from this wine and it tickles the back of the throat pleasently.

This Pinot Noir is well balanced and it has a teriffic acidity to it. As is typical of Pinot Noir made in a Burgundian style this wine will marry well with a wide array of foods. I personally find well made Pinot to be one of the most adaptable wines out there.

For a price-point under $20 this is a fine example of a well made Pinot Noir. Plenty of true varietal character here. It’ll drink well over the next 3 or 4 years, with the earthiness likely to become more prominent.

Up Next: Edna Valley Vineyard Syrah

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Edna Valley Vineyard – 2006 Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on March 26, 2008

Edna Valley Vineyard was founded in 1980. It’s a partnership between Chalone Wine Group (now part of Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines) and The Niven Family who planted the Paragon Estate Vineyard in the early 1970’s. They’re a Central Coast pioneer, having established themselves as the first producer in the area of estate-grown Chardonnay. Edna Valley Vineyard Winemaker Harry Hansen brought his own impressive resume Chardonnaywith him. He had previously worked at Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma as associate winemaker.

The 2006 Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay spent 8 months in oak, 33% of it new. 320,000 cases of this wine were produced and it retails for approximately $15. A quick look at wine-searcher shows that it can be found pretty widely for right around $12.

Chardonnay is one of the wines I’m personally the most finnicky about. I tend to love them when they’re made in a Chablis style with moderate use of oak. However when they’re made in what has become known as the California style and over-oaked I generally don’t. The Edna Valley Vineyard 2006 Chardonnay makes judicious use of oak. There’s enough oak to add complexity, but not so much to detract from the fruit.

The nose of the Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay has honeysuckle, pineapple and citrus elements. The first sip reveals vanilla, peach and terrific spiciness that leads to a rich mouthfilling mid-palate. The finish reveals some minerality and additional citrus notes. The wine is well balanced with good acidity. It drinks nicely on it’s own but will work well with a pretty wide array of foods. Roast chicken, soft cheeses and entree salads are just a handful of options that will match up nicely with this Chardonnay.

Considering how much of this wine was produced it’s impressive how much true varietal character it displays. When you take into account it’s wide availability, at a relatively low price, the Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay is a bargain.

 Coming Tomorrow: Edna Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir

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Mollydooker – Blue Eyed Boy – 2006 Shiraz

Posted by Gabe on March 25, 2008

Mollydooker makes wines in several different series. The Boxer which I covered yesterday is part of the Lefty Series. As with The Boxer, the rest of the Lefty Series Blue Eyed Boyretails for $20. Next up from there is The Party Series. Today’s wine, Blue Eyed Boy, is from that series. The three wines in the Mollydooker Party Series retail for $50.

Blue Eyed Boy opens up with a nose full of candied plum and and mulled spices. White pepper notes hit you from the very first sip and are accompanied by loads of dark berry fruit. Lots of blueberry character emerges on the mid palate along with mocha and additional spice which carries through to a long and outstanding finish that goes on and on.

The flavor profile is reminiscent of The Boxer. However Blue Eyed Boy is bigger, bolder and richer than The Boxer with better acidity and balance. This wine is drinking very well right now but I’d expect it to improve and drink well for at least 10 years.

An interesting packaging note on the Mollydooker Wines is a tear-off tab on the back part of the label. Approximately the size of a postage stamp it’s a convenient and fail-safe way to remember that terrific bottle of wine you had at a restaurant or a friends house.

In addition to the free ground shipping and overnight shipping deal they offer on their website, Mollydooker also offers some combinations of wines as well as a party pack sampler case. Additionally they make wines outside of the two series I’ve covered.

If you like Australian wine, particularly Shiraz, Mollydooker is a producer to check out.

Starting tomorrow: A look at Edna Valley Vineyards.

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Mollydooker – The Boxer – 2006

Posted by Gabe on March 24, 2008

The Boxer is the wine from Mollydooker that I first noticed. The 2005 vintage was declared by many to be one of the best wine values in the world for wines in the $20 price range. Most impressive to me was the high quality of that wine for one made in such large quantities.

Mollydooker’s 2006 vintage has been on shelves for awhile now. I just had the opportunity to sample the new vintage of The Boxer. Once again this is a tremendous bargain for those who are fans of big, bold Australian Shiraz.

The nose of The Boxer has significant vanilla notes and plum fruit characteristics. The first sips reveals gobs of blackberry and chocolate notes. The mid palate continues the berry, chocolate and plum themes while also featuring significant spice notes. The finish is long and opulent with mocha notes featuring prominently to the very end.

The Boxer is incredibly smooth, big, rich and mouth-filling throughout. As with the 2005 vintage this wine is again a great value. Truth be told I think the 2006 version of The Boxer is better than the 2005 version was. It strikes me as even bolder and more self-indulgent. As big and bold as this wine is it’s possible to enjoy it on it’s own. But for an even better experience pair it with a steak.

Mollydooker wines offers free shipping through their website to anyone ordering a case of wine. They also offer a very reasonably priced deal ($24) to ship a case 2 day air. U.S. orders are fulfilled from their offices in Napa.

Bottom Line: if you like big, in your face Australian Shiraz, you should try The Boxer. For a price of $20, it delivers.

Coming Tomorrow: Another Shiraz from Mollydooker: Blue Eyed Boy 

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Brutocao Cellars – 2006 Zinfandel Port & Their Wine Club

Posted by Gabe on March 22, 2008

The 2006 Zinfandel Port closes out the week on releases from Brutucao Cellars I’m covering at this time. However, considering how impressed I am with the wines from this producer, I expect I’ll cover other releases from them in the future. They’re also on my short list of wineries to visit on my next trip to California.

Before I get to the Zinfandel Port though I thought I’d mention a couple of things about their wine club. Every wine club has it’s perks and benefits. Brutocao Cellars has one that seems unique. With a small membership fee when you join they give you a 3 liter bottle of wine. It’s worth noting that age-worthy wines tend to do even better in large format bottles. Of course their wine club also includes the normal discounts and free tastings most clubs feature too. Tours at the winery are also free to members. It’s my understanding that they have a pretty large and active Zin Portmembership that’s growing all the time. Their wines are already reasonably priced in my opinion, add a wine club discount on top of that and you’re looking at some real bargains. Check the wine-club specifics out at their web-page, which is very well laid out and informative.

The 2006 Brutocao Cellars Zinfandel Port leads with a nose full of berry and mocha notes. The moment this Port hits your lips you get sweet candied black cherry that carries on all the way through the finish. The mid palate features more berry and cherry fruit as well as some spice. The finish, which carries on for a nice long while features fruitcake notes and lingering mocha characteristics. This Zinfandel Port is smooth and silky and doesn’t drink hot at all as some Zin Ports have a tendency to.

I found this wine to be a perfect match for chocolate covered cherries. But it would also go well with dark chocolate, plum pudding or a host of other desserts. The other alternative is to make this Port the dessert and let it shine on it’s own. 540 cases were made and it’s available in both 375 ml and 750 ml bottles at $20 or $34 respectively. A 375 ml bottle is the perfect size to share with a couple of other people.

As I’ve stated throughout this week, Brutocao Cellars is making well balanced, food friendly wines. This is definitely a producer whose wines I’d urge my readers to seek out.

 Coming up this week: Releases from Edna Valley Vineyards as well as Mollydooker. 

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Brutocao Cellars – 2004 Syrah – Feliz Vineyard Select

Posted by Gabe on March 21, 2008

One of the things that struck me when I first tasted Brutocao Cellars wines and has continued to impress me as I have tasted through a number of selections this week is their approach to each varietal or blend of varietals. It’s apparent Strahdrinking their wines that they strive to make them in a style true to each grapes origin. In the case of the Syrah I’m looking at today it’s ancestral home is of course the Rhone. Wines from there tend to be better balanced and more food friendly than Syrahs from other regions.

A mere 690 cases of this vineyard select 2004 Syrah was bottled. The retail price for this wine is $25. It was bottled unfiltered.

Brutocao Cellars 2004 Syrah has an immense nose of raspberry, cedar and spice which is underscored by hints of bacon fat. A tremendous amount of white pepper tingles the tongue as soon as you take the first sip and you’re hit with that and more berry fruit. That’s followed by copious smoky notes that linger lavishly through the finish which also features mocha notes and more dark berry fruit accented by a hint of plum.

There is good acidity present in this wine. As with each of the Brutocao Cellars releases I’ve sampled it’s an impeccably well balanced wine meant for complementing a meal. The use of oak is detectable but well in check. It never takes attention away from the fruit. That said, the Brutocao Cellars Syrah is a a pretty big, mouthfilling wine that packs a wallop in terms of flavor.

The Brutocao Cellars wines are elegant enough for a special occassion, yet priced reasonably enough that you don’t need to wait for a special occassion to bust one open.

Coming Tomorrow: Brutocao Cellars Zinfandel Port 

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Brutocao Cellars – 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on March 20, 2008

Brutocao Cellars makes a couple of  different Cabernet Sauvignon releases. Today I’m looking at their 2005 Hopland Ranches release which is their largest production Cabernet Sauvignon. 900 cases of this wine were produced. 15% of the wine spent 20 months in Cabernetnew oak. The wine was bottled fined but unfiltered. The retail price is $22.

The nose of this Brutocao Cellars Cabernet is huge with significant cloves, cedar and oak notes coming out immediately. Taking the first sip you’re hit with an avalanche of bright cherry fruit that carries through the rich and mouth-filling mid palate. Earth, spice, and mushroom are also present and stay with you through the finish which also features a touch of licorice and candied cherry. Throughout this wine pepper notes abound.

Soft tannins are present bu for a 2005 Cabernet this wine is incredibly smooth. It’s drinking very well now and my initial impression is that this one was built to drink in it’s youth.  That said, this wine changed so much and so many times in my glass over the course of an evening that it may have some evolution in the bottle ahead of it.

What impresses me most about this bottle of wine is how drinkable it is right now for a Cabernet this young and in this price range. As with the other wines from Brutocao Cellars I have looked at this Cabernet is made to go with food. It’s silky enough that it’ll pair with a wide array of things. Grilled meats and hard cheeses are just a couple of options. Enjoy it slowly and watch in evolve.

Coming Tomorrow: Brutocao Cellars 2004 Syrah, Feliz Vineyard Select

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Brutocao Cellars – Quadriga – 2005

Posted by Gabe on March 19, 2008

Quadriga is the third releases from Brutocao Cellars I’m looking at this week. Considering the Italian heritage that is a huge part of the winery’s history it’s not surprising that Italian varietals play a sizeable role in their portfolio. They make another blend in addition to this one as well as several stand alone varietals.

QuadrigaQuadriga is a blend of Sangiovese, Primitivo, Barbera and Dolcetto. Just under 1,200 cases were produced and it was bottled unfiltered. The retail price on this wine is $24.

Dried cherry, cedar, tobacco and leather fill the nose of Quadriga. A terrific earthiness is immediately apparent with the first sips of this wine. The mid palate is dominated by spice and sour cherry notes. A potpourri of white and black pepper, earthiness and black cherry are all part of the finish which is substantial in length.

Quadriga is somewhere between a medium and full bodied wine. It features excellent acidity and is terrific to drink on it’s own as well as with food. I had it with Beef Stroganoff, but it would also be a great match for a dish of pasta.

In a lot of ways Quadriga reminds me of a traditional field blend. It’s an easy drinking wine that has more than enough complexity to keep pulling you back in for another sip, another glass and yes probably a second bottle. At $24 this is another excellent value from Brutocao Cellars. I’d expect this wine to age nicely for the next 5 or 6 years at minimum, and drink well for a couple after that. If you like Italian varietals, this is a good wine to grab a few bottles of.

Up next: Brutocao Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon 

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