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Wine Pick of the Week

2014 Dry Chenin Blanc   Dry Creek Vineyard Clarksburg Alcohol: 13% Suggested Retail: $12   “Perhaps no winery has done a greater job with Chenin Blanc over the years than Dry Creek Vineyard. Though their winery is in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, they get their Chenin Blanc grapes from the Clarksburg appellation, which is inland and just southwest of the City of Sacramento. To be more specific, the fruit comes from the Wilson Ranch, which is run by a family that has been farming in this area for generations. “Chenin Blanc is a significant variety in the…
Pinot Noir (N/V)   Liberty Creek California Alcohol: 11.5% Suggested Retail: $11.99* (1.5L)   “We picked up this bottle of wine in a supermarket. It was large, cheap and labeled Pinot Noir. Our purchase was another waypoint on our perpetual quest to find drinkable versions of this variety at a decent price. “Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to grow well. To do so requires cooler weather than California’s great Central Valley, which is where the grapes for this wine undoubtedly came from. On the other hand, this magnum-sized bottle (1.5L) went for just seven bucks*, or the equivalent of…
2014 Sauvignon Blanc   Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $18   “The Dry Creek Valley is a recognized grapegrowing region within Northern California’s Sonoma County. It is home to many wineries, one of which has a similar-sounding name. Dry Creek Vineyard  was established by Dave Stare over 40 years ago and, while it produces other wines, it’s probably best known for its Fumé Blanc. “Legend has it that Robert Mondavi thought consumers wouldn’t order a wine whose name they might mispronounce, so in the late 1960s he began marketing a white wine made from the…
2014 Puffin Pinot Gris   Capitello WinesWillamette Valley (Oregon)Alcohol: 13.5%Suggested Retail: $21   “This week’s Pick reminds us what fun it is to discover wines when traveling. The 2014 Puffin Pinot Gris is available at The Wine Shack in Cannon Beach and just a few other retailers on the Oregon Coast. It and other Puffin wines are produced by Ray Walsh, formerly winemaker at King Estate and now the owner of Capitello Wines in Eugene. “Oregon produces more wine varieties than just Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, of course, but these are the two categories that bring the most accolades.…
Hearty Burgundy   Gallo Family Vineyards California Alcohol: 12% Suggested Retail: $8.99 (1.5L)   “Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy has introduced millions of people to the pleasures of wine. First marketed in 1964, this wine really has nothing to do with Burgundy (the place), but that’s beside the point. Hearty Burgundy is reliable and good value. And, when sampled this week, tasted much the same way as I remember it did when it first came out. In the ephemeral world of wine, it’s satisfying to know there’s such consistency. ”In 2015 most American wine shoppers are familiar with products labeled with the…
2012 Chardonnay   Butternut California Alcohol: 13.9% Suggested Retail: $14   “Butternut Chardonnay is from the BNA Wine Group in St. Helena, which also markets a Butternut Pinot Noir and several other wines under their umbrella. These include a Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc labeled “The Rule,” as well as a Nanna’s Short Cake Zinfandel and others. “The label of the 2012 Butternut Chardonnay indicates the wine has a California origin. That usually is tipoff that the grapes were sourced from the state’s Central Valley. That’s not necessarily bad, as this area can grow decent Chardonnay grapes at a price…
2014 Sauvignon Blanc   The Rule Napa Valley Alcohol: 14.6% Suggested Retail: $14 “Nose shows lemon, a little peach and some honeysuckle. The taste is lean and pleasing in a style that’s quite distant from the aggressive grassiness of the New Zealand examples of this grape variety. The winemaker’s tasting notes suggests it tastes of lemon cream pie—that’s accurate for the reviewer’s palate, too. Balanced and almost gentle, this is an easy wine to like.” Food affinity: “Ceviche. Scallops with a green curry sauce. Steamed basa with lemon grass, black mushrooms and cilantro.”
2013 Old Vine Zinfandel   Bogle Vineyards California Alcohol: 14.5% Suggested Retail: $12   “What is Old Vine Zinfandel? There’s no official definition—not by the government and not by winemakers, either, so there is some speculation that the ‘old vine’ designation sometimes goes onto bottles containing juice from grapes planted not so long ago. In general, grape vines reach the end of their most productive life after about 30 years, which necessitates replanting the vineyard. In the case of Bogle’s 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel, the grapes came from vineyards in Lodi and Amador County (prime Zinfandel country) planted from 60 to 80 years…
2013 Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon   Lindeman’s South Eastern Australia Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $6   “Our 2013 Lindeman’s Bin 45 was purchased in a supermarket this week for about $5.50. Though still a young wine, being the product of a Southern Hemisphere harvest, the wine has six months more age than an American wine from the same vintage. Apparently, the 2014s are now coming into the American marketplace and, while the bottle photo at the winery website indicates they have moved to screwcaps, we doubt there is much difference in the taste of this wine from vintage-to-vintage. We found…
Cuvée Agincourt (N/V)  Blanc de Sauvignon Blanc   Bodkin Wines North Coast Alcohol: 11.5% Suggested Retail: $23   “The thought of a sparkling wine made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes was intriguing. Your reviewer had never tasted one. Never even heard of one ‘til recently. Apparently, they’re not unknown in Australia and New Zealand, where winemaker Chris Christensen found inspiration to create such a wine in California. To our knowledge, Bodkin Wines’ Cuvée Agincourt is the only such wine made in America. “In years past, almost any wine with bubbles was labeled ‘Champagne.’ However, most wineries outside France now eschew using…
Cabernet Sauvignon (N/V)   Liberty Creek California Alcohol: 12% Suggested Retail: $11.99 (1.5 liter)   “A wine reviewer’s life isn’t always about first-growth Bordeaux and pricey Napa Cabernet. If those wines are at—or near—the top of the wine pyramid of Cabernet Sauvignon and closely-related varieties, then there are many more options comprising that broader base of the pyramid. Lesser wines? Well, sure. But if they’re lesser in taste, they are also lesser in price—a whole lot less at times! “A couple of days ago your reviewer decided to take a chance on whatever seemed the best bargain in the wine…
Framboise (N/V)   Pacific Rim Washington Alcohol: 16.5% Suggested Retail: $14 (375ml)   “We could smell the essence of raspberries the moment the cap came off this bottle. When poured into just one glass, this non-vintage (NV) fruit wine provided a perfume for the whole table. There was a lushness—almost a viscosity—in the nose that was repeated in the taste. “The fruit, fortified by grape spirits, comes from the state of Washington. Two varieties of raspberry are used; Morrison (80%) and Meeker (20%). With a residual sugar level of 20%, it is quite sweet. Though two-to-three percentage points higher in alcohol than a…
2012 Gino’s Zinfandel   Sbragia Family Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Alcohol: 15.1% Suggested Retail: $34   “Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley produces other wine varieties, but few would deny that this growing region is best-known for its Zinfandel. Both the variety and the land are in the blood of Ed and Adam Sbragia, father and son winemakers for Sbragia Family Vineyards. Ed’s grandfather, a Tuscan immigrant, came to Sonoma County just after the turn-of-the-century (not the last one, but the one before that—around 1900). He worked for Italian Swiss Colony, among other wineries. Ed’s Dad, Gino, grew grapes for sale…
Manteo   2012 Red Wine American Pioneer Wine Growers Sonoma County Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $18   “Writers get continual messages about the latest wine releases. Sometimes these accompany unsolicited samples sent for review. Occasionally, however, an e-mailed press release will be intriguing enough for a wine writer to respond and request a bottle be sent. Such was the case with this week’s ‘Pick.’ “According to the Manteo website, American Pioneer Wine Growers marketed wines during the 19th Century using proprietary names derived from American culture.  The name of this company has been resurrected by film director and winery owner Francis Ford…
2013 Pinot Gris   Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley (Washington) Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $15   “Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio might be called cousins. They’re the same variety of grape, but the clone native to Italy produces a somewhat lighter style of wine than that planted in the Alsace region of northeastern France. “Americans drink a lot of wine called Pinot Grigio. Much of this Pinot Grigio—whether from Italy or the U.S.--is inexpensive, but it isn’t very good. The popularity of this low-end stuff may be due to the fact that it’s still fairly new in the mind of…
N/V Cabernet Sauvignon   Barefoot Argentina Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $ 7   “There might be many suggestions as to why the Barefoot brand has had such huge success. Some of them are found in the book The Barefoot Spirit by founders Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, who applied boundless energy and boundless creativity to building the company. In recent years Barefoot has been operated by Gallo, no slouches in the marketing of wine themselves, who have multiplied the already substantial sales. “But the quality of the products obviously had something to do with things, too. A sticker on the…
1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Res.   Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Alcohol: 14% Suggested Retail: $145 (for the current release)   After disappointment when opening a Bordeaux of similar age a couple of weeks ago (see our wine “Pick” for April 3), our publisher got nervous about a few other older wines he’d been saving for special occasions. Today’s featured wine had special meaning for him, since it was a bottle given to attendees at Robert Mondavi’s 90th birthday party. Better to pop a cork a little too early than too late, he figured. Fortunately, this wine from the 1998 vintage fared…
2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir   Mira Napa Valley Alcohol: 14.2% Suggested Retail: $27   “At one time wine drinkers in this country dismissed rosé as soda pop for adults. Given the style American wineries were producing, this was probably fair comment. Most of them were sweet, soft and inexpensive—pretty much White Zinfandels of a slightly darker hue. "This was not the case in France, where rosé made in a dry style was quite popular in the south of the country, especially in Provence. Today rosés are bigger than ever there. Gerard Bertrand, a Pays d’Oc producer is quoted today…
1999 Chateau Magnol   Chateau Magnol (Barton & Guestier) Haut-Médoc Contrôlée Alcohol: 12.5% Suggested Retail: About $25 for the current release   This 1999 Chateau Magnol was comprised of Merlot (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (45%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). Such a wine made in the US from these grapes would be called a “Bordeaux Blend,” or possibly be put into the “Meritage” category.Taste California Travel  found this bottle in the “cellar” a few days ago and decided to make it our Pick of the Week before we opened it. Pulling the cork on a 16-year old wine stored in less than…
2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay   Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $42   “Croatian immigrant Miljenko “Mike” Grgich secured his reputation for all time when a Chardonnay he made as winemaker at Napa’s Chateau Montelena bested several top-quality French white Burgundies. That event is now known as the Judgement of Paris, which is also the name of a book by George Taber, a Time magazine reporter who attended the 1976 tasting. Soon after this triumph Mike opened his own winery in a partnership with Austin Hills of the Hills Bros. coffee family. Though Grgich Hills Estate makes several other…
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