Posted by Gabe on November 21, 2013
As strong as Pinot Noir from New Zealand has come on the last decade or so, Sauvignon Blanc remains its signature grape. Brancott Estate is one of the largest producers of Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Their portfolio contains several tier designations which feature among other grapes, Sauvignon Blanc at each level of course. In addition to those wines they’ve decided to create a Sauvignon Blanc that in a sense stands atop everything else; in short an Icon wine. This new offering is called Chosen Rows.
Last week in New York City, they hosted a launch dinner for the wine and I had the opportunity to taste it with their chief winemaker Patrick Materman. We sampled Chosen Rows alongside seven other well regarded Sauvignon Blancs from key regions of the world. After that tasting we sampled other offerings in the Brancott portfolio along with our dinner. I kept a glass of the Chosen Rows in front of me all night and repeatedly went back to it alongside my meal. Tasting it in a flight is one experience, pairing it with food another. Here’s a look at Chosen Rows.
The Brancott Estate 2010 Chosen Rows Sauvignon Blanc is a limited release wine. This offering was produced from fruit which was hand harvested. All of it came from select rows of vines that are part of the area Brancott first planted to Sauvignon Blanc almost 40 years ago. This selection is limited to a grand total 3,500 bottles which are hand numbered. It has a suggested retail price of $65. Gooseberry and grapefruit aromas are dominant on the nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is gentle and layered with oodles of depth and complexity which present themselves to your taste buds in one tender wave after another. The unctuous fruit flavors are joined by a pleasing touch of savory green herb. This wine has tremendous persistence and an excellent finish which goes on for an impressively noticeable time. Continued citrus fruits, bits of grass and white pepper spice are all in play as things come to a close. On its own this Sauvignon Blanc is delicious and mouthwatering. When it’s paired with the right foods it’s downright ethereal.
The Sauvignon Blancs we sampled from other producers were all interesting in their own right and many of them were wines that have quite a following; Merry Edwards from Sonoma County and New Zealand’s own Cloudy Bay being just two examples. The wines on the table had suggested retail prices that ranged from $50 to $150. So Chosen Rows was showcased alongside very good company. Chosen Rows was quite easily my favorite among the group of eight high end Sauvignon Blancs. During dinner we tasted some other SB’s as well as a Pinot Noir. I enjoyed each to varying degrees; however Chosen Rows remained the star of the night. To sum up it’s amongst the very best handful of Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted it 2013. Its production is limited so it’s a wine you’re going to need to make an effort to find. If you love Sauvignon Blanc though you owe it to yourself to taste Brancott Estate Chosen Rows, it’s a special wine.
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Posted by Gabe on August 29, 2013
Back in January I toured the winery within a winery facility at Rodney Strong Vineyards alongsie Winemaker Greg Morthole. In addition to many of the higher end Rodney Strong Wines, Greg works on the Davis Bynum Wines. We tasted a ton of wines out of barrel and tank that day at all stages of development. One that I recalled standing out was a Single Block Sauvignon Blanc that was set to be a new release for Davis Bynum. I try not to have expectations when tasting wine but the strong memory of tasting this before it was bottled lingered in my mind when I popped the cork on the finished product. The question would be whether it was going to be as good 7 or so months later as it was in its developmental phase.
The Davis Bynum 2012 Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Garfield Ranch in Windsor. As the name indicates all of the fruit used was from one block. Virginia’s Block was named after winery founder Davis Bynum’s wife. This offering is entirely Sauvignon Blanc. After harvesting the fruit was fermented utilizing native yeast. Fermentation and aging took place entirely in stainless steel. This wine which is distributed in only three states, New York, Florida and California has a suggested retail price of $25.
Aromas of papaya, guava and lime leap from the nose of this 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. Citrus and tropical fruit flavors dominate the mellifluous palate; a gentle grassy note plays a subordinate role. One gorgeous flavor after another hits your senses as all the fruit characteristics are joined by spice and mineral elements. Everything comes together into a refined, balanced and elegant package that’s a cut above the vast majority of Sauvignon Blanc in this price range. Bits of honeydew melon, as well as continued spice and mineral notes emerge on the lengthy finish which is crisp and loaded with zippy acidity.
The inaugural release of the Davis Bynum Virginia’s Black Sauvignon Blanc is a stunningly gorgeous effort. Davis Bynum was the first to make single Vineyard Pinot Noirs in Russian River Valley so making this wine is also a wonderful way to honor his lasting impact and legacy. One note of caution when drinking this wine, avoid the temptation to over chill it. Serving it a few degrees warmer than the average white allows all of its layers and subtle charms to shine ever so brightly.
The answer to the question I posed above is that this offering is even more memorable and fantastic as a bottled wine than what I recalled from before. Lot’s of wine comes my way to taste. And generally that’s what happens I taste it, make my notes and the rest goes down the sink so I can move on and taste the next one. Not on this occasion, here was a wine which was a very rare case indeed; I ended up drinking the entire bottle. It was entirely too delicious to dump a single drop.
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Posted by Gabe on August 13, 2013
Trione Vineyards & Winery is located on 115 acres in the midst of Russian River Valley one of Sonoma County’s great and storied appellations. From that property they make a handful of small lot wines. Several of them are available nationally. Here’s a look at their new release Sauvignon Blanc.
The Trione 2012 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc was produced using fruit sourced exclusively at their River Road Ranch site. The Sauvignon Blanc vines had 12 years of age on them at the time of harvest. The fruit was hand picked and pressed into stainless steel. A wild yeast strain from South Africa was utilized for fermentation. This offering is 100% varietal. After fermentation aging took place over 4 months in a combination of new (10%) and neutral (90%) oak barrels. Just fewer than 1,500 cases of this Sauvignon Blanc were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $23.
This Sauvignon Blanc leads with an ostentatious and somewhat extravagant nose that has undeniable appeal. Citrus aromas are the most prominent and a bit of grass and some mineral elements are in play as well. The palate is layered with tropical fruits such as guava, papaya and mango. Citrus zest flavors are in play alongside these, as well as loads of spice and a hint of crème fraiche. White pepper, star anise and continued citrus notes fill out the long and somewhat lusty finish. This wine is zippy, crispy and refreshing. The first thing you’ll want to do after you finish a glass of the Trione Sauvignon Blanc is pour yourself another one. At under $25 this wine represents a terrific value.
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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!
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Posted by Gabe on July 8, 2013
Chile is a country whose wines have been of interest to me for a long time. It’s an interest that has grown over time as the wines have increased in quality and diversity. Exciting things are happening in Chile and some of them are with long standing producers and others with newer ones. Vina Koyle is one of the younger wineries that has stood out too me time and again in their early history. It’s been a pleasure to taste their wines on numerous occasions alongside their winemaker Cristobal Undurraga. Cristobal’s family has been in the wine business in Chile since 1885. They owned and eventually sold the massive Undurraga Winery. At that time he and his immediate family purchased property and created a new winery to focus on premium wines; thus was born Koyle, named after a flower. One of the many things that becomes apparent from speaking to Cristobal for any length of time is the passion with which he approaches everything in life. To hear him speak about his property, winemaking techniques and the like is both a revelation and an inspiration. One example of his limitless reservoir of enthusiasm for technique is the Sauvignon Blanc he has made for two vintages now which gets fermented in a trio of different vessels, In particular the concrete eggs he uses have really excited him with their possibilities. Cristobal is also constantly planting new varietals to see what works on their property. This is a piece of land that they have revived from being practically barren to having a thriving eco-system that is farmed sustainably and bio-dynamically. Here’s a look at a couple of my favorites amongst the current releases of Koyle wines.
The Koyle 2012 Costa Sauvignon Blanc was produced using fruit sourced just 9 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean in Paredones Colchagua Costa. This offering is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Three different lots were sourced from a trio of exposures in this vineyard. Each was vinified separately and uniquely. The methods utilized were Burgundy barrels, stainless steel, and concrete eggs. This wine spent 10 months on the lees. 3,000 6 bottle cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $24.99. White flower aromas, citrus and spice are all part of the nose here. The palate is rich and mineral laden with depth and complexity to spare. Tropical and citrus fruit flavors abound. The mouth feel is lush and rich and the finish is long and lusty. There is a lot of solid Sauvignon Blanc coming out of Chile these days, however here’s one that sets itself apart from the pack. This is a remarkable wine only in its second vintage; it’s likely to get even better over the upcoming vintages as they hone their block selection and other methodology even more finely.
The Koyle 2010 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced at the winery’s Los Lingues Estate in Colchagua. This offering blends together Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), Syrah (8%), and Malbec (7%). Fermentation took place over 2 weeks in a temperature controlled environment. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in French oak. 8,300 cases were produced and this Cabernet has a suggested retail price of $16.99. Plum and violet aromas dominate the nose of this 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Koyle Reserva Cabernet has a rich and mouth-filling palate loaded with deep black fruit flavors. Cinnamon and cloves are part of a treasure trove of spices that add depth and complexity. Earth, tobacco and dark, dusty chocolate notes are part of the above average finish. This wine is a real winner in its price category.
The Koyle 2007 Royale Syrah was produced from grapes sourced at the Estate Vineyard. In addition to Syrah (93%), a small amount of Malbec (7%) was also blended in. The fruit was hand harvested and select clusters were used. Vinification too place in stainless steel; 18 months of aging in French oak followed. 2,200 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $25.99. Dark cherry and red raspberry fills the nose of this 2007 Syrah. Berry flavors lead the way on a palate that is loaded with depth and remarkable minerality. Bits of smoked meat and earth are part of the finish whose length is terrifically long and persistent in both complexity and proportionate richness. This is a knockout example of Syrah from Chile. At its price point it’s a steal too. Grab it up while it’s still on shelves.
While this trio of wines represents my favorites from the recent dinner with Koyle winemaker Cristobal Undurraga it’s important for me to note I feel strongly about their portfolio in general. While their family has been in the business a long time, the Koyle brand is still a new one. The strides they have made in a few short years are impressive; their future is bright and sure to be full of delicious wines.
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Posted by Gabe on June 18, 2013
Few things in life are totally indisputable. One of them is that there is no single person more important to the history of the California wine industry than Robert Mondavi. It was Bob who championed Napa Valley more vociferously than anyone before or perhaps since. He believed before anyone else that wines equal to any in the world could be produced in Napa. Without his irrepressible passion for the wines of Napa and the forward movement of the Valley as an important wine making region it’s impossible to say how long it would have taken for it to achieve the heights it has. Mr. Mondavi would have been 100 years old today. On this occasion it’s important to reflect on what he still means to the wine world. Innovation, advancement and quality were things he held dear. I’ll take a look at two wines today, both from the To Kalon vineyard in Oakville. Appropriately one of them is an inaugural release of a new wine from that vineyard. What better way to honor a man who kept moving forward than with a new offering from a world renowned vineyard in Oakville that he championed.
First up is the Robert Mondavi Winery 2011 Oakville District Fumé Blanc. The fruit for this wine was sourced at the To Kalon vineyard in Oakville adjacent to the winery itself. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc (91%), a small amount of Sémillon (9%) was blended in. The fruit was hand picked and whole cluster pressed. 90% of the wine was barrel fermented in 60 gallon French oak; the balance in stainless steel tanks. The entire lot was aged in barrel with 12% new oak utilized. This wine has a suggested retail price of $32. Aromas of fresh cut grass and lemon zest inform the welcoming nose of this 2011 Sauvignon Blanc based wine. The palate here is dense and layerd; loaded with honeydew melon as well as copious quantities of citrus and tropical fruit characteristics. Essence of orange shows up on the prodigiously persistent finish along with white pepper. What impresses most about this offering is a deep level of refinement and complexity. There is depth, fruit, spices and all sorts of flavors to spare, but all in proportion. This is a gorgeous example of Sauvignon Blanc that is well worth its asking price.
Today’s second wine is the Robert Mondavi Winery 2010 Oakville District Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in Oakville and 99% at the To Kalon Vineyard where the Winery sits. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (88%), Cabernet Franc (7%), Merlot (4%) and Malbec (1%) were also blended in. After hand harvesting fermentation took place in French oak tanks. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in French oak; 75% of them were new. Just fewer than 8,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $45. Dark fruit aromas permeate the nose of this 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Blackberry and plum are of particular note. These characteristics continue on the densely layered palate where raspberry and blueberry flavors emerge alongside a copious core of spices. Earth, chicory and dusty chocolate notes are all part of the finish. Well integrated tannins and firm acidity are both in play here. This wine is refreshing and engaging, begging you back to the glass for additional sips. It needs an hour in the decanter right now to really showcase its charms. However if you’re patient, lay it down for a few years and it’ll be even lovelier.
These are two terrific wines from Robert Mondavi Winery; offerings which speak quite well to his vision and dream for Napa Valley in general and his own winery in particular. Specifically at the middle to higher end of the portfolio, Robert Mondavi Winery continues to turn out well made, vineyard driven wines that honor their founder. Close to 50 years in they’re still pushing the envelope and making a mark in Napa Valley. Happy 100th Birthday to Robert Mondavi who is no doubt smiling and kicking back some Napa Valley wine wherever he is.
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Posted by Gabe on June 13, 2013
Warm weather lends itself to a higher consumption of white wines and Rosé. Summer is also a time for a lot of BBQ’s and casual gatherings with family and friends. These events often call for some tasty wines that please the palate and the budget. Today I’ll look at a Sauvignon Blanc that fits the bill for me.
The Beachhouse 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is a South African wine. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc (80%), a bit of Semillon (20%) was also blended in. This wine is widely available and has a suggested retail price of $11.99; if you shop around you can find it for a few dollars less. A Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Red Blend are also available under this label.
Aromas of lemon, lime and pears fill the fresh and vibrant nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is soft and appealing with white melon, citrus and spice notes in heavy supply. The finish is crisp with racy acidity and zingy mineral and spice notes. The generous dollop of Semillon adds to the structure and complexity of this wine. This is a fairly straightforward offering that presents lots of appealing flavors. It’ll work perfectly as a welcome wine or a porch sipper all summer long. At around $10 this is solid value.
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Posted by Gabe on June 4, 2013
One of the things I enjoy about the way Chilean winery’s are often setup is the tier system. Many times a single winery has numerous designations of wines in a variety of price tiers. Most importantly the intent of the wines in each tier tends to be distinct from others. Viña Ventisquero is such a winery. Under the Queulat tier they make Single vineyard wines. The name of this tier comes from a hanging glacier in Southern Chile. Today I’ll look at 2 of the wines in this tier which also features Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
The Queulat 2012 Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc was made from fruit sourced in the Ledya Valley. This is a single vineyard offering made entirely of Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit was hand harvested, and sorted once back at the winery. After a cold soak of roughly 13 hours the wine underwent a slow, fermentation at controlled, low temperatures. Four months on the lees followed prior to bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $17.99. Aromas of hibiscus and a boatload of citrusy notes fill the nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. The palate is deeply complex with tart green apples, continued citrus as well as bits of mineral and spice. Lemon ice emerges on the finish along with subtle notes of green herb and continued mineral characteristics. This wine which is gloriously delicious on its own will also work well with many of the lighter foods of summer. What I love most about the Queulat Sauvignon Blanc is the precise intensity from the first whiff to the last sip. It’s got depth and grace to spare.
The Queulat 2011 Gran Reserva Pinot Noir was produced using fruit sourced in Casablanca Valley. Like the Sauvignon Blanc this is both a single vineyard effort and comprised entirely of the namesake varietal. The fruit underwent a cold maceration for 7 days prior to temperature controlled fermentation which took place over roughly 8 days. This Pinot was aged entirely in French oak with 10% in new barrels, 20% in once used and the balance in 3 or 4 times used. The Gran Reserva Pinot has a suggested retail price of $17.99. Cherry, toast, mushroom and bay aromas are all present on the gentle nose of this 2011 Pinot Noir. Red fruits dominate the palate with spice and savory herbs playing a role as well. Sour cherries, spices and wisps of earth are all present on the finish which has solid length. This is a nicely structured wine with firm acidity that will work well with a wide array of foods. Grilled pork chops topped with berry compote would be a particularly fine match.
These are both terrific wines for the money. However the Sauvignon Blanc is a particularly good value; Exhibit A if you will of how Chile often over delivers on price. Most wines of this quality from well known Sauvignon Blanc growing regions would easily command $30 a bottle. Pinot Noir is a quickly emerging varietal in Chile, I’m not sure there’s a more exciting region for this great grape. The strides that have been made in a short period of time are impressive to say the least. This is a solid example that represents a good value. It’ll drink well over the next 4 or 5 years so don’t hesitate to drink one today and lay a few others down for a bit.
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Posted by Gabe on May 2, 2013
Warm weather has thankfully arrived, and with that white wine consumption rises dramatically. BBQ’s, parties and festive gatherings of all types also call for some everyday drinking wines that taste good but don’t break the bank. Here are two examples from Geyser Peak Winery, based in Alexander Valley that fit the bill for summer sipping.
The Geyser Peak Winery 2012 Pinot Grigio was produced from fruit sourced in Sonoma & Solano Counties. In addition to Pinot Grigio a small amount of Gewürztraminer was blended in as well. It was fermented entirely in stainless steel. 17,000 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11. Orange blossom and white stone fruit aromas abound on the nose of this Pinot Grigio. The palate is soft and appealing with lemon ice, white peach, mango, and papaya characteristics all in evidence. Bits of clover honey, lemon zest and white pepper are all part of the finish. This wine is fresh, fruity, juicy and overall loaded with curb appeal. I found that this wine was tastier a couple of degrees warmer than the average white, so avoid the tendency to over chill for best results.
The Geyser Peak Winery 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was produced from fruit sourced in a number of distinct appellations around California. This wine is 100% varietal. Fermentation took place entirely in stainless steel. 125,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11. Zesty lime aromas are joined by wisps of grass on the nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. The palate tends towards citrus flavors with lemon, lime and hints of orange all playing a role. White melon flavors round things out a bit and lead right into the crisp and zesty finish which shows off minerals, spice and continued echoes of citrus. This is a solid entry level Sauvignon Blanc with good varietal character.
The bottom line is that these are two straightforward, tasty wines that are also well priced. You can serve either of them by themselves or with light foods. If you shop around, you’ll be able to find them for less than $10 a bottle; at that price you don’t need any excuse to pop these open all summer and quench your thirst.
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Posted by Gabe on April 13, 2013
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. A couple of months ago I was really impressed with some of their then current releases. Here’s a look at a couple of more recent ones.
The Trione Vineyards and Winery 2011 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc was produced from fruit sourced at River Road Ranch. This vineyard is 115 acres in size. The vines have between 2 and 12 years of age on them. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks using select South African yeast. 4 months of aging in neutral French oak followed. 600 cases of this vintage were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $23. Lemon, minerals and a touch of grass imbue the nose of this Sauvignon Blanc. The palate has good weight and is loaded with lemon-lime, spices such as white pepper and continued mineral elements. The finish here is crisp and clean with a nice bite of acid. Mineral characteristics continue here along with ginger, pepper and touch of vanilla. The end of each sip inspires another one as this wine beckons you back to the glass for more. This is a gorgeous Sauvignon Blanc built to pair with light foods.
Trione Vineyards and Winery 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced utilizing fruit sourced at a single vineyard. The Cloverdale Ranch sits in the northern part of Alexander Valley amongst the Mayacamas Mountains. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), small amounts of Merlot (9%), Cabernet Franc (2%), Petit Verdot (2%), and Malbec (2%) were blended in. Each lot was vinified and aged in barrel separately over 12 months. After blending an additional 12 months in French oak followed. Just fewer than 1,200 6 bottle cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $64. Violets, vanilla bean and dark fruit aromas fill the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark fruit characteristics continue through the palate where black cherry, currant and bits of blackberry are all present along with pepper and cardamom. Wisps of blueberry and plum emerge on the lengthy finish along with earth and mineral elements. Firm tannins yield with some air and are part of the wines fine structure. This Cabernet is well suited to pair with rich, bold foods. If you’re drinking it over the next couple of years I recommend decanting it for 90 minutes or so. Otherwise lay it down for 5 or more years and you’ll be richly rewarded for your patience.
Trione Vineyards and Winery is making some lovely wines. These are two more examples. If you enjoy vineyard driven wines made in relatively small lots with care and precision that speak of their origins, give them a shot.
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