Category Archives: reviews

Tasting Erath “Dion” Pinot Gris 2013


Well, this was a pleasant surprise! I thought this was just a simple Oregon Pinot Gris that I had chilled down and forgotten about, but I pulled it out of the fridge and lo! Unexpectedly fancy wine!

The nose has a great combo of tangerine and peach, served up on a steele-rimmed plate of sassy mineral undertones. (Amelia says it smells like beer.) The texture is rich (which means it’s thick in your mouth, like whole milk ), and the mineral comes in strong on the palate, trailing some yellow raspberries behind it. The whole thing slowly lingers into a gentle but enthusiastic tangerine flavor. Really excellent!

Quick, go check the back of your fridge for some inexpertly great wine. Can’t hurt to try!  

Piper Sonoma Brut NV

(null)You’ve had a rough day in the trenches. The kids were “spirited.” The dishes were ugly, but they’re done. You want a glass of wine, but just one, but you have no intention of drinking tired plonk out of the fridge for the rest of the week. Bah! Surely there’s a solution.

And there is! Sparkling is the perfect weekday wine. It shines when chilled, and with one little pressurized stopper it stays largely fresh all the way to Friday. Plus, if your evening plans include a non-liquid treat as well, bubbly goes with nearly everything from sweet to savory.

But wait, isn’t champagne expensive? you ask. Well, yes and no. Actual for reals Champagne from the French region of Champagne? Yes, pricey. But very drinkable weekday sparkling wine can be found at your local grocery store for around $15 a bottle, and one of my favorites is the California house of Piper-Heidsieck, a Champagne producer that dates back to 1785. Piper Sonoma runs around $15/bottle; check it out!

Stiegl Radler Grapefruit

 

It tastes especially great when drunk out of a pint glass from one of the best open source conferences around.

It tastes especially great when drunk out of a pint glass from one of the best open source conferences around.

Is it a shandy? It it beer soda? Is it (says my husband scornfully) alcoholic Ting?

Who cares? It’s delicious! Stiegl Radler Grapefruit combines Austrian lager with grapefruit juice/soda. Radler means ‘cyclist’ in German and was originally brewed for thirsty cyclists in Austria who wanted a tasty low alcohol beer they could take along on bike rides. This is only 2.5% alcohol, slightly sweet, and perfect for afternoon thirst-quenching. I love low-alcohol beers and wines in the summer.

Yes, I drink beer sometimes. Not very often. OK, pretty rarely, but I like a good beer, especially after mowing the lawn or at a cookout. I definitely prefer a decent beer to mediocre wine. And if there’s only mediocre wine AND mediocre beer, then it’s cocktail time.

 

Tour de France Friday Flight at Vino

tour de france flight from Vino

Never take a picture of 5 bottles back-lit by the summer sun.

This last Friday I flew out the door right after dinner was over so I could enjoy Vino‘s excellent Friday night flight event with my friend Jen. Vino hosts a wine tasting every Friday night of 5 wines for $10. The wines are excellent, the pours are generous, and you can bring in your own food if you want. Needless to say, it’s usually packed. :)

We got there late — around 6:30 — and couldn’t find a seat. We ended up standing at a bar table and tasting through the flight, which was hot but better than nothing. :) Vino is a wine store I will miss when we move to Milwaukie in a few weeks, since they’ve got a stunning selection of fun, off the beaten track wines. Also the owner’s weekly newsletter is hilarious.

My friend Jen knows what she likes, but doesn’t waste her brain with all the vinifera/vinology details that I store. So it was fun to taste with her and get her input on the wines.

Tasting notes:

2012 DOMAINE PIERRE MARCHAND Pouilly Fumé (Loire Valley) $19.95: Straw yellow in the glass. This wine smells floral and gooseyberry-y, with a nose full of coastal breezes and fresh starts. I could smell this wine all day long, and longer. I wish I was smelling it right now. In the mouth, it’s nice and limey, opening up to a wide flavor of mineral stonyness, and finishing off with a slightly metallic whang. Just like Cyrano, this wine is all about the nose. And poetry and deceit and seduction, but focus on the nose.

wine flight glasses

This is what a flight of wine looks like if you put all the glasses on the numbers so you can keep track.

2013 L’HERMAS Vin de Pays Saint-Guilhem-Desert (Languedoc) $16.95: This rosé has a pale, salmon blush color. Even though the wine was a perfect temperature for tasting, the nose was kind of closed off here. I smelled lemon zest over unripe strawberries, with maybe a little herbal scent on the very edges, just barely showing up. And then you take a sip and this wine is Fun! Fun! FUN! A slight petillance (spritz) on the tongue makes you think of pop rocks, except not sweet. Instead these flavors are also very minerally with über-restrained rapeberries stuffed with thyme.

2012 DOMAINE DES FORGES Anjou Gamay (Loire Valley) $10.95: This wine was deep purple, with earthy musty dusty black licorice on the nose and an overly plushy pillow of a palate covered with faux fur. Finish was persistent but wallowy. I wondered if this wine was slightly corked, to be honest. I heard people buying it after the tasting, and based on this taste I couldn’t tell you why.

2012 DOMAINE POLI Niellucio “Ile de Beauté” (Corsica) $13.95: THIS wine, though. THIS WINE. It’s from Corsica, but it’s sassy and bouncy, as if someone made a wine from Clippy. Garnet in color, this one smells like baking spices and plums. Nutmeg. Cherries. Cloves. Fern spores. When you get tired of figuring out if that underleaf smell is really what fern spores smell like and take a drink, you’ll enjoy a sproingy, well-balanced wine full of fruit, enthusiasm, and presence, with a finish of sandalwood and beet chips which is (enjoyably) long-lasting. Buy, drink, repeat.

This is the least jowly photo that Jen took of me tasting wine that evening.

This is the least jowly photo that Jen took of me tasting wine that evening. And I’m even smiling!

2011 DOMAINE LABRANCHE LAFFONT Madiran “Traditions” (Madiran/SW France) $16.95 or 23.95: Huh. Ok, so the tasting sheet at Vino says this wine is $24 but their website says it’s only $17. I like it and wanted it to be about $14 and from Spain, so if it’s really $17 I’d be more likely to buy it. Madiran is kind of in Spain; it’s closer to Spain than lots of parts of France. It was getting trendy right before I left the wine business. Or I was getting trendy, not sure. Anyway, I don’t know if Madiran is trendy anymore or ever was, but this wine is pretty cray-good.

The color is a deep, dark purple-black, like Prince in a terrible mood. Smell it and you’ll enjoy a busy Manhatten street corner of a nose, with bustling vanilla, tobacco, blackberry, spice, earth, and coffee. And maybe some scents I lost in the crowd, like a rookie detective trying to follow a spy on her first day. Except it’s hardly my first day, Bruno. The taste? Oh my. The palate has amazing structure, with this Matrix-like slomo, elegantly composed, complex explosion of cane fruit (that’s mostly blackberries) and black currant with hints of toast and tar underneath. It’s really good, and in retrospect I like it a lot for $17. I’d like it better at $14, but I’m very cheap and maybe you’re not.

 

Liveblogging red wine at WBC14

Live blogging the whites and rosés yesterday was so overwhelming that I almost didn’t attend the reds session this afternoon, but then I talked myself into it. I joined a little late because I spent so long talking WordPress in the lobby with the charming Allison from Please the Palate that I ran my laptop battery nearly dry and had to run up to my room for the power cord I had left there.  She liveblogged the reds too, so if we tasted the same thing, you can compare us. If we diverge greatly, trust her notes, not mine. :)

The Wines

Casey Flat Ranch 2011 Red Blend: (52% Cab, 24% Syrah, 6% Merlot, 1% Viognier) Oak and green pepper on the nose, mashed blackberries, and cedar. Kind of a pruney palate, with lots of pine and forest floor, pretty grippy tannins and a lasting menthol/chestnut flavor on the finish.


Gypsy Canyon 2012 The Collector’s Pinot Noir: BIG pomegranate, spicebox, mushroom, and thyme on the nose. Deep cherry juice on the palate with . Smooth mouthfeel, elegant tannins, with some coffee and blueberry on the finish. $110

Bianchi Heritage Selection Paso Robles 2011 Zinfandel: Pretty classic black pepper and blackberry jam with a nice lifted aspect on the top. Tastes like a good bbq ribs wine: sweet notes without cloying jamminess, but a nice bitey char at the end that I think would balance well with any grilled red meat. Yummy!

If you choose to engage in liveblogging, you might be writing your notes with the winemaker looking over your shoulder at your tasting notes. No pressure! :O

Trione Alexander Valley 2009 Red Wine Blend: Wow, menthol much? Mint/tobacco/green pepper overload. Really green on the nose but super-purple in the glass. I was expecting it to be spare on the tongue but it explodes with juice and goes out like an angry, eucalyptus-laden lamb. $45

Taken Napa Valley 2011 Red Wine: two millennial sons of famous Napa winemakers make this; sophisticated nose of pretty oak, currant, and pepper. Grippy tannins and nce fruit. Nothing wrong with this wine, but it didn’t blow my socks off. $30

Bandit NV Cabernet Sauvignon: You’ve seen this wine in the bright purple Tetrapack “bottle.” Great for camping or floating the river. Unremarkable cabernet with sweet oak, blackberry, and pine needles. Very soft tannins and a pretty vegetal finish, but good with burgers over a campfire I bet. Following the fancy Napa cab blend didn’t do it any favors. :)

Labyrinth Presqu’ile “Clone 667″ 2012 Pinot Noir: Musky sweet/sour burgundy style nose, pretty violets, spice, and subtle herbs. I really enjoy smelling this wine. Smooth and delicious on the tongue, with elegant satiny texture. Extremely well-made. $50

Brecon Estate 2013 Paso Robles Cabernet Franc: Really pretty, floral and fruity nose. The oak lifts the floral spicy smells and complements without competing. Someone said caramel, I guess I can see that. Bright and sassy palate, with not-quite-ripe blackberries and a little tarragon on the finish.

Consilience 2011 Santa Barbara County Syrah: Great floral/fruit nose with brisk black pepper. Jammy and grippy on the palate but not overwhelmingly so. Violets? Lavendar? something flowery on the end there. $20

Whew! Let’s not do that again for a while, ok?

WCB14: liveblogging whites and rosés

10 wines in 50 minutes! WAT.

Urban Legends Cellars 2013 Grenache Blanc: oodles of lime, floral notes, quite a whang on the palate with honeydew and lazy peach, not as much of the acidity I was looking for. Fermented stainless with some lees stirring in tank.

Uproot 2012 Grenache Blanc: trying to attract 20somethings, funny little card showing flavors. Kick-ass opulent stone fruit nose here, with pretty high alcohol. Good melon and lemon on the palate. Not completely off-balance, but it tilts much farther away from acid than Urban Legends did. Continue reading

Live Wine Blogging to commence on Friday July 11

I’ll definitely be live-blogging my tastings at the Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend, using the WordPress iOS app. Unsubscribe if you don’t want to hear about all the cool juice I’ll be sampling in Santa Barbara County! :)