Posted by Gabe on July 2, 2014
My Latest Story for Bullz-eye.com:
The Kautz family has been farming grapes in California for more than 65 years. With more than 5,000 acres under vine, they’re one of the largest growers in the state. In addition to selling fruit, for more than 25 of those years they have also been making their own wine. Ironstone Vineyards is located in the Sierra Foothills. They farm their property sustainably as shepherds of the land they inhabit. Their portfolio features a wide range of wines, many available nationally, as well as a few limited releases found in their tasting room. Here’s a look at four of my favorites among their current offerings.
Ironstone Vineyards 2012 Ironstone Reserve Chardonnay – The fruit for this wine came from Sierra Foothills vineyards that have been in the family for four generations. This offering is 100 percent Chardonnay. The fruit was hand-selected and gently pressed. Barrel aging occurred entirely in French oak; bottle aging followed prior to release. About 1,000 cases of this wine were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of of $19.99. Bright apple, white fig and gentle crème brulee aromas are all part of the nose of this Chardonnay. The palate is studded with Asian pear and… read the rest over at Bullz-eye.com
Posted in Blends, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on October 23, 2013
Stickybeak is a California based winery that sources grapes in a host of regions such as Napa, Sonoma and Monterey. They have now widened their reach by making a wine with fruit sourced in Italy. These particular grapes come from the 40 year old Cerreto Guidi vineyards located in Tuscany. Here’s a look at this Italian blend.
The Stickybeak 2011 Toscana was produced from a blend of Sangiovese (85%), Merlot (10%) and Syrah (5%). The Sangiovese and Merlot were both sourced in Tuscany with the Syrah coming from Maremma which is close by. Wild yeasts were used for fermentation which took place over roughly 15 days. Each varietal was aged separately over 18 months in entirely French oak. Blending occurred prior to bottling. This wine is finished in screw cap and has a suggested retail price of $20. Violet and red cherry aromas light up the nose of this Tuscan blend. Strawberry, cherry, spice, and vanilla bean are all in play throughout the palate which has nice depth. Leather, cherry, raspberry and black peppercorn flavors all show up in the finish which has above average length. This wine really shines when paired with food. Anything with red sauce on it will work well. I drank it with homemade pizza and it was memorable and delicious combo.
A lot of wines are looking for your attention and your wine dollars in the $20 or under category. Here’s an example that shines with food. It has excellent Sangiovese character at the forefront with the Merlot providing a bit of structure and the Syrah some pronounced wisps of sweet berry fruit. It’s terrific now and will drink well over the next 5 years. This is a very solid value.
Posted in Blends, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on September 27, 2013
In general people love Red Blends. Well when they’re tasty of course. There are all sorts of styles out there but the ones I’m specifically talking about today are the kind that are well priced, made for a wide audience and generally available. These have a found a big following with different kinds of wine lovers. To the novice Red wine drinker they can be easy to drink and appealing. To the seasoned wine drinker they offer something tasty and easy on the budget that will satisfy a lot of different taste buds. Murphy-Goode has a new blend called Homefront Red. For every bottle of this wine sold Murphy-Goode will doncate 50 cents to Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that provides emergency and financial assiustance to the families of service members and wounded warriors. With that in mind here’s a look at the wine.
The Murphy-Goode 2011 Homefront Red was produced from fruit sourced throughout California. This offering blends together Syrah, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. This wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak. It was recently released and is available nationally. 50,000 Cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $15. Blackberry and raspberry aromas light up the nose of this wine along with a little hint of anise. The palate is loaded with berry fruit flavors such as black raspberry and spices galore. Red Cherry is present as well and leads to the finish which has wisps of sweet chocolate and black pepper. Homefront Red will pair well with a pretty wide array of foods. It will be particularly good with casual grilled foods.
Good cause, good wine, good price, a win all around. Pick up a bottle or two for your next BBQ or casual get together with friends. Homefront Red is sure to please a broad array of palates. And by doing so you’ll also be helping a good cause.
Posted in Blends, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 16, 2013
I’ve been enjoying wines from Franciscan Estate since my earliest familiarity with Napa Valley. In that time they’ve featured a consistently appealing portfolio of wines. Franciscan has also been steady in terms of what they release; their core has remained reliable as well. However every now and then they add something new. This summer it’s a new white blend, focused mostly on two varietals they have worked with for years. Here’s a look at it.
The Franciscan Estate 2012 Equilibrium is the inaugural release of this wine. This white blend combines Sauvignon Blanc (72%), Chardonnay (17%), and Muscat (11%). All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in Napa Valley. 83% of the fruit was fermented in stainless steel and the remaining 17% in barrel. Just fewer than 6,000 cases of Equilibrium were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $22.99. This wine leads with a killer nose; tropical and stone fruit aromas simply burst out of the glass invitingly. Equilibrium’s palate is studded with an array of engaging bright fruit flavors; white peach, guava and mango are of particular note here. Lemon curd, white pepper and continued tropical fruit flavors abound on the finish which has nice length. This wine is soft, round, lush and mouth-filling.
The bottom line is that Franciscan Estate’s 2012 Equilibrium is a delightful and refreshing white blend that has arrived on store shelves just in time for the warmest weather of the year. There are many appealing, easy to drink white blends out there. The difference here is this one is 3 dimensional and has depth, length and persistence. It will appeal to those who lean towards porch sippers and keep the more discerning interested as well. Buy a bottle or more of this wine and have a party in your mouth!
Posted in Blends, Chardonnay, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 12, 2013
Hecht & Bannier was founded in 2002 by Gregory Hecht and Francois Bannier. They set themselves up in the style of traditional French Negociants with a goal of creating reference point releases in each region they produce wines from. The latest additions to their portfolio are a couple of wines from Provence. Here’s a look at them.
The Hecht & Bannier Côtes de Provence 2012 Rosé was produced from a blend of Grenache (45%), Cinsault (40%) and Syrah (15%). The grapes utilized were sourced at a variety of vineyards, some in the foothills of Montagne Sainte-Victorie and others high altitude vineyards of Haute-Provence. The fruit was picked overnight during cooler hours to assure the preservation of freshness. This wine has a suggested retail price of $18. The light salmon hue of this offering is both beautiful and immediately striking. Engaging floral characteristics emerge from the nose. The palate is fruity, spice, dry, lithe and absolutely lovely. Cherry, strawberry, bits of orange zest and white pepper are all in play from the first sip through the above average finish. This wine goes down easily and it also has the depth and complexity to keep things interesting. It’s really a super appealing wine that you’re going to want to buy a few bottles of as they disappear quick once they’re open.
The Hecht & Bannier 2009 Bandol was produced from a blend of Mourvèdre (80%), Grenache (10%) and Cinsault (10%). After harvesting and fermentation the wine spent 20 months aging in large oak foudre; an additional six months in cement vats followed prior to bottling. This red blend has a suggested retail price of $38. Blackberry, toast and vanilla bean aromas fill the nose of this 2009 red blend. The palate is big and burly, loaded with brawny red and black fruit flavors like blueberry and rhubarb. Spices such as nutmeg and black pepper are present as well as an undercurrent of minerals. Espresso notes and bits of baker’s chocolate emerge on the finish which has excellent length. Leathery tannins and firm acidity are part of this wine’s solid structure. This will pair well with full flavored foods. For best results decent this offering for about 90 minutes so it can express all of its charms.
These wines from Hecht & Bannier represent both solid values which provide plenty of drinking pleasure. Equally as important they’re also fine and genuine representatives of Provence.
Posted in Blends, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvedre, Rosé, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on July 9, 2013
Many wine making regions produce Bordeaux inspired blends and the results vary greatly. In my mind the downfall often comes when trying to mimic the great wines of Bordeaux to the point of not focusing on what does best in the region in question. Argentina of course is best known for Malbec which thrives there in a variety of styles. The latest release from Bodega Achaval-Ferrer is a Bordeaux inspired blend and it’s also a wine with a relatively large percentage of Malbec in it. So here’s a release where Bordeaux inspiration and local rock-star grape meet. Here are my thoughts on the results.
The Achaval-Ferrer 2010 Quimera was produced from fruit sourced in three appellations: Lujan de Cuyo, Medrano, and Tupungato. This offering is a blend of Malbec (31%), Merlot (20%), Cabernet Sauvignon (27%), Cabernet Franc (18%) and Petit Verdot (4%). Each varietal underwent primary fermentation separately in small tanks; Malolactic fermentation followed after the wine was blended. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in entirely French oak; 40% of the barrels utilized were new and the balance had been used once prior. Just more than 3,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $56.
Ripe, red and black fruit aromas fill the heady nose of this 2010 blend from Argentina. The palate is studded with tons of fresh and exuberant fruit flavors; plum, blueberry and blackberry are of particular note. There is depth to spare here, all of the ripe and ready fruit flavors are joined by a notable spice component. The finish is velvety and lingering with pepper, bits of chicory and a dusting of sweet dark chocolate to close things out. The tannins are smooth and lush, pulling you in for sip after mouthwatering sip. There is a load of engaging and eager fruit here that is ready to please now, but there is also structure in place that will allow the 2010 Quimera to age well for a dozen years or more under proper storage conditions.
The goal of great blended wine is to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. The 2010 Quimera is a seamless mélange of varietals that comes together deliciously to achieve that very goal. And yes while this wine draws some inspiration from Bordeaux it gains as much from the fact that it focuses on what does well in Argentina both in terms of specific grapes and stylistically. This is a wonderful wine that should be on the short list of anyone who loves excellent red blends.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 23, 2013
Ravenswood Winery under the direction of Joel Peterson became known for Zinfandel. Whether it’s cuvee style offerings from different appellations or single vineyard wines, to this day Ravenswood has a Zinfandel for just about every budget and palate. And in addition to Zinfandel they make some other wines of note too. Most of these are small production offerings that are found in better wine shops and some restaurant wine lists. One of these is Pickberry Red; I’ll look at the current release today.
The Ravenswood 2008 Pickberry Red is a single vineyard effort. All of the fruit was sourced at the namesake vineyard which is located on Sonoma Mountain. This offering is a blend of Merlot (59%), Cabernet Sauvignon (39%), Malbec (1%) and Petit Verdot (1%). This wine was aged over 22 months in entirely French oak; 22% of the barrels utilized were new. 600 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50.
Dark fruits such as black cherry and plum fill the nose of Pickberry Red. The palate is also loaded with deep, inky fruit flavors which are simultaneously intense, layered and proportionate. Black cherry characteristics lead the way along with black raspberry and blueberry playing roles as well. Minerals and spice offer a nice counterpoint. Earth, violets and black pepper are all part of the finish which has terrific persistence. This wine has chewy tannins that soften with some air and firm acidity at its backbone. While the 2008 Pickberry Red is delicious today it’s built for the long haul. If you have the patience to lay this down for 8-12 years you’ll be justly rewarded. This is a new world wine that brings to mind old world flavors and style. Pair it with a delicious meal for best results.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 5, 2013
Last week Franciscan Estate threw what amounted to a birthday party, for Magnificat their flagship wine, in Manhattan at Calliope Restaurant. I was glad to be in attendance at this event which showcased the Franciscan Bordeaux blend. Bordeaux blends have been made all over the world for many years, including in Napa. However, it has now been 25 years since the term Meritage was introduced and along with it Franciscan’s first vintage of Magnificat. As such it was a noteworthy milestone to mark, and an excellent reason to take a look at Magnificat alongside some of its peers. Franciscan Winemaker Jay Turnipseed was on hand to speak about his wines as well as to offer some insight in a general sense about all of the Bordeaux inspired wines.
Those peers helped make the event particularly interesting. They were part of a blind tasting of six wines composed of Bordeaux varietals from around the world; Magnificat was of course amongst their number. Tasting them blind was a fine exercise in testing each of our abilities to nail regional characteristics and styles. The sense I got was that most of us gathered had about 2/3 of the regions picked out correctly. All of the blends tasted were from the 2009 vintage. The regions in play were New Zealend, Bordeaux (Left and Right Banks), Walla Walla Washington, South Africa and of course Napa Valley. I was pretty happy getting 4 out of 6 regions correct. The Magnificat stood out to me immediately probably for a few reasons, not the least of which being I’ve been drinking it consistently since the 90’s.
After the blind tasting we sat down to dinner where we were poured several Franciscan wines. This included the current vintage of Magnificat again, side by side with the 2003. The older vintage was actually darker in color that the 2009. Often at about 10 years old the color starts to morph a bit, but this wine was vibrant in color and flavors. While it certainly has a number of years of enjoyable drinking to come, The 2003 Magnificat is in a really lovely place right now. Secondary characteristics have started to kick in and the fruit flavors are ever so slightly tamed. Earth and espresso bean were prominent on the finish.
The current release is the Franciscan Estate 2009 Magnificat. This vintage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignn (64%), Merlot (26%), Petit Verdot (5%), Cabernet Franc (3%), and Malbec (2%).It was fermented and macerated over a 22 day period. Barrel aging followed over 20 months in French oak; 70% of the barrels were new. Just over 6,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50. Booming, black fruit aromas emerge from the nose of this wine. The flavors are ripe and eager. Blackberry, raspberry and cherry flavors are all in evidence. There’s dark chocolate and chicory on the lengthy finish along with black pepper and a hint of nutmeg and vanilla bean. The 2009 Magnificat does an excellent job of threading the needle. It’s powerful and elegant at the same time. The flavors are big but never over the top and the tannins firm but not overpowering. In short this is an excellent vintage of Magnificat a wine that is one of the standard bearers of Meritage. It’s delicious today but there’s no need to rush, it will certainly drink well for the next 15 years if stored properly.
Tasting the current vintage of Magnificat alongside counterpart wines from around the world, another vintage of Magnificat and several other Franciscan wines throughout the night really helped showcase its beauty. Happy Birthday Magnificat!
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on January 14, 2013
I’ve personally been drinking wines from Napa Valley’s Franciscan Estate Winery since the early 1990’s. In that time they’ve remained a solid player that offers appealing wines sold at consumer friendly prices. Their portfolio has occasionally expanded a bit but they have mostly remained focused on their core offerings. Here’s a look at three current releases that make up a large portion of the backbone of their operation.
The Franciscan Estate 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay is a 100% varietal wine. All of the fruit comes from the winery’s home appellation of Napa Valley. Barrel aging occurred over 7 months in a combination of French and American oak; 20% of the barrels utilized were new. 74,000 cases of this widely available offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18. Golden Delicious apple and vanilla bean aromas emerge from the nose of this Chardonnay Orchard fruit and apple pie spice are in abundance throughout the even keeled palate. A bit of crème fraiche leads the crisp finish along with cloves, white pepper and an undercurrent of lemon zest. This is an easy to find Chardonnay that is well made vintage after vintage. If you’re looking for a New World Chardonnay that showcases its appealing fruit flavors this is one to consider.
The Franciscan Estate 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from Napa Valley Fruit. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), small amounts of Merlot (11%), Syrah (3%), and Malbec (1%) were also blended in. Barrel aging took place over a period of 20 months; 25% of the barrels utilized were new. 117,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $28. Blackberry and blueberry aromas star on the nose of this 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Loads of dark berry flavors dominate the palate, interspersed with bits of red fruit throughout. Copious spices are present as well and add to the depth and complexity of this eager and appealing Cabernet. Minerals and earth are prominent components of the finish which shows good length for its category. Medium tannins yield with some air. This is a textbook example of a Napa Valley Cabernet that is meant for relatively short term consumption. It’ll hold up over the next 5 or 6 years, but it’s appealing, well priced and perfect to drink now, no reason to wait.
The Franciscan Estate 2008 Magnificat is a Napa Valley Meritage wine. This Bordeaux inspired blend has been produced since the 1985 vintage. The 2008 version blends together Cabernet Sauvignon (69%), Merlot (23%), Petit Verdot (6%), and Malbec (2%). This wine spent 20 months aging in oak; 70% of the barrels utilized were new. Just over 7,000 cases of the 2008 Magnificat were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50. Bramble, red and black raspberry, as well as bits of vanilla bean are present on the nose of this 2008 Meritage. The palate here is studded with sumptuous black fruit flavors, lead by blackberry as well plum and accompanied by a vigorous spice component. Dark chocolate, espresso, earth and black pepper are all in strong evidence on the lengthy and persistent finish of the 2008 Magnificat. This is one of the longest standing and also most consistently excellent Meritage wines coming out of Napa Valley. At $50 a bottle it offers a combination of quality level and relative bang for the buck that is hard to beat. There are similar style blends selling for more than twice the price that can’t touch Magnificat. Whether you purchase it to drink today, or you want to lay it down for a special occasion a decade or so from now, you’re going to get a terrific bottle of wine at a very good price.
The Franciscan wines are standard bearers in Napa Valley. This is producer that makes fairly large quantities of wine that are easy to find all over the country. Their wines also represent a consistent level of quality and offerings that are fairly priced. These wines are well worth your time and money.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 20, 2012
For more than 30 years the Trione Family has been growing and selling grapes in Sonoma County from their own property as well as vineyards they manage. In 2005 they launched Trione Vineyards & Winery to bottle their own wines. They hired Scot Covington as winemaker. He brings both winemaking experience in Sonoma County and elsewhere to the table as well as winery building and design knowledge. Here’s a look at a few of their current releases, all made from fruit sourced in Sonoma County.
First up is the Trione 2008 Russian River Valley Syrah. The fruit for this wine was sourced from 2 blocks within their Russian River Ranch. Fermentation took place in small open top tanks. Barrel aging occurred over 18 months in French oak; 40% of the barrels were new. 678 cases of this Syrah were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $32. Black plum, violet, rose petal, and vanilla aromas fill out the nose of this 2008 Syrah. Dried Blackberry, cherry and blueberry fruit characteristics are all in evidence on the palate. Dusty cocoa, earth, chicory and savory herbs all emerge on the finish which has terrific length. This Syrah shows off beautiful structure, firm acidity and medium tannins that yield with some air. This is a new world Syrah that shows off old world inspired style.
The Trione 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was made utilizing fruit sourced at four blocks within their property. These blocks are planted to clones 115, 667 and 777. The fruit was harvested by hand and fermented in small open top tanks. Barrel aging took place over 15 months in entirely French oak; 45% of them were new. 1,114 cases of the 2009 Trione Pinot Noir were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $32. Cherries, white pepper and wisps of mushroom aromas fill the nose of this 2009 Pinot Noir. Wild strawberries, continued cherries, loads of spice notes and a subtle hint of cola are all in evidence throughout the palate. Black tea, pomegranate and earth characteristics emerge on the finish which has substantial length and persistence. This Pinot was a bit tight on opening but its charms came out in droves after it had a bit of aeration. My recommendation is to decant for an hour or so if you’re going to drink it over the next 2 years. Alternately, lay it down for a few years if you have the patience. In either case this is a fine example of Russian River Pinot Noir.
Trione’s 2008 Alexander Valley Red Wine is a Bordeaux inspired blend. This offering includes Cabernet Sauvignon (53%), Merlot (22%), Petit Verdot (11%), Cabernet Franc (10%), and Malbec (4%). The fruit for this wine came from three properties within Alexander Valley. Each varietal was fermented separately. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in French oak; half of them were new. 2,435, 6-pack cases of this blend were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $48. Fresh red and black berry aromas, vanilla bean and green herbs illuminate the nose of this 2008 blend. The plate is studded with dried red fruit flavors interspersed with black fruits and spice elements such as black pepper and cardamom. Sour cherries, black tea and a host of minerals are in evidence on the finish. This wine has terrific structure and is well proportioned. It will age gracefully for at least a decade.
Last but not least is the Trione 2007 Alexander Valley Block 21 Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the Cabernet comes from the Trione Cloverdale Ranch which is in the northern portion of Alexander Valley. The vines sourced were planted in 2001 to clone 337. In addition to Cabernet (85%) this wine has small amounts of Merlot (10%) from Geyserville as well as Petit Verdot (2.5%) and Malbec (2.5%) from Cloverdale. This wine spent a total of 24 months in barrel, 12 months prior to blending and another 12 after. All of it was French oak and 45% of the barrels were new. 733 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $64. Boisterous dark berry aromas are buoyed by cardamom and hints of toast on the nose of this 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate is laden with an avalanche of sweet, dark berry flavors laced with just a speckle of green herbs. Minerals, earth, clove, white pepper, black cherries and cinnamon are all in evidence on the finish which has excellent length. What’s most impressive to me about this wine is the depth and purity of fruit favors that just beam forth from the glass from the first impression to the final sip. At 5 years old this Cabernet Sauvignon is at the beginning of its true accessibility. It will drink well over the next 8-12 years. This is a fine example of how good Cabernet from Alexander Valley can be.
This is a diverse and appetizing quartet of wines from Trione Vineyards & Winery. The common threads that run through them are character, balance and elegance. These are all lovely offerings that will drink well for a number of years. This was my first time trying their wines and I look forward to drinking future releases from them to see how they progress as a producer.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »