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Friday, 17 February 2017 12:45

Wine Pick of the Week

Affentaler Spatburgunder 2015 Picmonkey

2015 Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir)


Affentaler Winzergenossenschaft Böhl

Baden, Germany

Alcohol: 12.5%

Suggested Retail: $17-20

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 23:54

October 21, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Panther Creek 2014 PN Picmonkey

2014 Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir


Panther Creek

Willamette Valley (Oregon)

Alcohol: 14.1%

Suggested Retail: $30

Saturday, 17 September 2016 16:11

September 16, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Red Rock pinot noir Picmonkey

2013 Pinot Noir


Red Rock Winery


Alcohol: 13.9%

Suggested Retail: $9

Friday, 12 August 2016 19:50

August 12. 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

Vandori Pinot Noir bottle Picmonkey


2014 Pinot Noir



Delle Venezie, IGT (Italy)

Alcohol: 12%

Price: $7 (?)

Saturday, 23 July 2016 13:50

July 22, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

estancia estate pinot noir Picmonkey


2013 Pinot Noir



Monterey County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $13

Friday, 15 July 2016 15:32

July 15, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

coppola diamond pnoir 14 750 Picmonley


2014 Pinot Noir


Francis Coppola

Monterey County

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $21

Monday, 12 October 2015 14:51

Pinot Noir Partisan Walter Schug Passes

Walter Schug PicmonkeyWalter Schug 1935 - 2015By Dan Clarke

October 12, 2015 – This morning’s Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that Walter Schug passed away on Saturday. He was 80 years old. I met him only a few times, but he seemed the kind of guy I’d have liked to know better.

Walter and his wife, Gertrud, arrived in California more than half a century ago. They both came from winemaking families and Walter had studied viticulture and enology at Geisenheim before continuing his education at the University of California, Davis.

In 1966 Gallo hired Walter Schug as Director of Grower Relations and Quality Control. Much of his time was spent working with independent growers supplying grapes to that company. In 1973 he became the first winemaker for Joseph Phelps Vineyards. Though that winery set a high standard for quality, the proprietor chose to abandon making Pinot Noir in an era when that grape was not selling particularly well. Walter chafed and eventually opted to open his own winery, Schug Carneros Estate, in 1980. Though it also produces wines from other grape varieties, the winery is best known as a Pinot Noir specialist.

Saturday, 01 August 2015 17:19

July 31, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Liberty Creek pinot noir Picmonkey

Pinot Noir (N/V)


Liberty Creek


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 three-fifty for each of two normal-sized bottles. You couldn’t beat the price. We reviewed a similar bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the same producer—and at the same price—a few weeks ago. While it wasn't something we'd want to pour for a special occasion, it wasn’t necessarily bad wine. Wine reviewers and judges for competitions experience a lot of flawed wines—products that have some real defects. Neither the Liberty Creek Cabernet, nor their Pinot Noir was flawed in this way. Both exhibited qualities that are traditional in these grape varieties, but they didn’t provide them in abundance. Tasting them was sort of like making a sandwich using soft white bread from a supermarket instead of something really special from a bakery. Either way, the bread would play a necessary role, but basic white bread wouldn’t add much to the experience. So it was with our latest Liberty Creek wine. It was recognizable as Pinot Noir and would make a meal better than one with no wine on the table, but wouldn’t have your guests talking about how much they enjoyed that aspect of the evening,

“The non-vintage (N/V) Liberty Creek Pinot Noir, showed some plum and cherry fruit aspects and provided just a smidgen of spice. There was a bit of sweetness in the finish. While we didn’t share the winery’s flowery opinion that it “feels like satin or brushed cotton as you taste it,” we can tell you that we found it easy-drinking. This is no threat to the reputations of Burgundy’s Gevrey-Chambertin or California Pinot Noirs such as Williams Selyem. It is an inexpensive table wine that actually shows some varietal character. To say so is not damning with faint praise. Producing such a wine at very affordable pricing is an accomplishment.”

Food Affinity: “Don’t worry about pairing with the perfect food companion. Put an open bottle on the table anytime you’re serving something you think might go with red wine. Maybe grilled bratwurst or salmon?”

Christian PicmonkeyChristian O'Kuinghttons of the Atlantis

TASTE News Service May 22, 2015 – After 12 years in San Francisco, the annual Pinot Noir Summit is moving. Barbara Drady of Affairs of the Vine has announced her organization has entered into a partnership with the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa to host the event in Reno on July 24th and 25th. Under the direction of sommelier Christian O’Kuinghttons the Atlantis is recognized for an exemplary wine program.

The Pinot Noir Summit, the culmination of the Annual Pinot Noir Shootout competition, has become the largest competition of Pinot Noirs in the wine world. For the past three months over 450 Pinot Noirs have been evaluated by the Affairs of the Vine judging panel.

Each wine is tasted blind at least twice in a series of tastings by these professional judges. No more than 32 wines are evaluated during a single session. This approach assures that each wine is assessed fairly with clarity, concentration and without palate fatigue. The best of the best are judged at the Pinot Noir Shootout finals on May 30th in San Francisco.

The inaugural Summit at the Atlantis in Reno will recognize this year’s top wines and producers as part of a two day celebration. Though events on Friday the 24th are limited to those in the wine trade, consumers are invited to enjoy Saturday’s schedule. Included are morning seminars about this varietal, followed by a Pinot-pairing lunch. The afternoon features a unique tasting billed as the Wine Lovers Pinot Noir Challenge, in which attendees will blind taste (taste without knowing the producer of the wine) and rate 40 of the top wines as selected previously by the professional judging panel. Results of this judging by consumers will be announced at a Grand Tasting & Awards ceremony in the evening.

“I learn more each year and bring that knowledge to the next Pinot Noir Summit making it better than the last,” commented organizer Barbara Drady in predicting this year’s event to be the best yet.

Editor’s note: More information about the 2015 Pinot Noir Summit and the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa can be had by visiting Affairs of the Vine and Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.

Friday, 06 March 2015 12:39

March 6, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Lindemans Bin 99 PN 2

2013 Bin 99 Pinot Noir


 South Eastern Australia

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail: $6 (estimated)


“Immediately recognizable as Pinot Noir from the nose, this bargain-basement example of the variety is a very pleasant surprise. The fruit echoes cherry, strawberry and raspberry qualities, is clean tasting and shows no negatives. The 2013 Bin 99 is a good example of the vibrancy that light and young editions of Pinot Noir can achieve. Of course, it doesn’t have the complexities of more sophisticated—and way more expensive—examples of this variety (including Burgundies), but it’s a very nice wine in its own definition.  A rare example of Pinot Noir that is priced as an everyday wine for the table, yet actually tastes good.”

Food Affinity:  “You could play it against other bright flavors or serve it to enliven some more prosaic dishes.  A reliable Sunday dinner of roast chicken would be very acceptable, but now about ratcheting that up a bit by serving with Cornish game hens, accompanied by whole-berry cranberry sauce and wild rice with mushrooms?”

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