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Slurping Around with P.D.W. October 2013

Hi all--Interesting wines this time, and from all over.

White wines

2012 VinTJS Sauvignon Blanc Knights Valley $8.
New Zealand this is not, but for the price this is not too bad. Nose is of citrus and melon, with some tropical elements too. The palate has obvious richness, again with lemon and melon. It is almost clean (just a hint of wet wool), with excellent acidity and good length. Knights Valley is a good appellation, and Trader Joe’s label means it should be available.

2012 Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand, $8.
NZ this is. It is intense, varietal and herbaceous with gooseberry and some asparagus. Rich with medium acid, it is very tasty, although for some too ripe and asparagussy (is that a word?) But at $8 when most NZSB’s are $12-$15.

2011 Picpoul de Pinet, caves de Pomerol, Hugues, France $8.
This is one of very few cheap French wines I like. It has forward tropical fruit, with some citrus and toast. The palate is more citric than tropical, with good acid. It is a bit generic, but refreshing served cold on a hot evening.

2012 Tangent Albarino, Edna Valley $12.
This Spanish varietal is a favorite for me when well-made. This rare California example is pretty good for the price, with tropical and citrus fruit on the nose and palate. There is distinct cashew nut as well--unusual. There is slight green olive, and very nice crispness from the acidity.

2012 Elk Cove Pinot Gris $15.
A nice nose of stone fruit and citrus with a rich smooth and clean palate. Good acidity and length. Sadly, the price has gone up, and compared to last year’s vintage, which was truly outstanding, this one is just good.

Red wines

2010 Bogle “Essential Red” California $8.
I have been and remain a Bogle fan. Great, great value. Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah. This is clean, forward, rich and red, juicy ripe, slightly sweet, easy drinking, not tannic, and great with anything grilled. There is some dry herb, vanilla, loads of red berry fruit. A bit simple, but tasty. Drink it young.

2012 Hahn GSM Central Coast $9.
I have been and remain a Hahn fan. Great, great value. Grenache (67%, Syrah 28% and Mourvedre 5%). This is clean, forward, rich and tasty, with dark plums dominant and a fair dose of dry sage on the nose and palate, the latter possibly being a little too strong. But it does make it interesting. Tannins are soft, acidity moderately high, it is lush, spicy and forward and ripe but not sweet. Drink it young. (My self-plagiarism from the Bogle is intentional).

2010 Columbia Crest Red Wine “Les Chevaux” Horse Heaven Hills, Washington State $12.
I have been and remain a Horse Heaven Hills fan. Great, great value. They come out with several varietals under this Columbia Crest sub-label, and they have been uniformly excellent. The grapes for this wine are not revealed, but seem Rhone-ish mostly but likely blended with Cabernet and/or Merlot. Rich, structured, medium tannins and acidity, not overdone or too ripe, not sweet, just rich and smooth. This one could be kept a few years, but why when it tastes so good now?

2009 Foppiano Petite Sirah, Russian River Valley $14.
This wine has a forward blueberry nose with sage, clover, and honey in the background. The palate is very big, with deep dark berry fruit, ripe and almost slight sweetness and some anise. It has excellent balance with good acid and not too strong tannins. Very good length, it tastes younger than its real age. PS used to be all tannin and extract, but the new-age style has focused on flavor and cut the tannins. This one is a great example.

2011 McManis Pinot Noir $8.
This is a steal if you are looking for a crowd-pleasing party wine that boasts “Pinot Noir”. Affordable good Pinot has become hard to find. The nose is serious – cherry, vanilla, oak, spice, and cola. The palate has bright, forward sour cherry fruit, earth, cola, and a touch of coffee and tobacco. It is medium bodied, with moderate acidity and soft tannins.








Slurping Around with P.D.W. May 2013

Hi all: The wine shops I frequent are for some reason not bringing in as many whites, so once again the column will be red-dominated.

Whites Wines

Here are a couple of pleasant, inexpensive “party whites” – wines that are not great but quite drinkable at a party and free of real flaws:

2011 Hugues, Picpoul de Pinet, Caves de Pomerol $8.
The picpoul grape is pretty new to me. It seems to make a clean if generic and nicely balanced wine with good citrus-based fruit, good to very good acid, and an overall pleasant balance. This one has a nice nose and palate of lemon and grapefruit plus a little baked apple. It has richness, viscosity and is clean.

2011 Coteaux du Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet $8.
Not quite as rich as the above, it has lemon and a little pear on the nose and palate.

2011 Josh Cellars Chardonnay $10.
The nose has vanilla and ripe tropical fruit. The palate is similar with a nice lemony tart kick at the end. Good but not great. Oak is medium to light.

2012 Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $17.
There are several NZSB’s at half the price, but they are also half as intense. This wine is amazing in its fruit concentration both on the nose and palate. Full of grassy, herbal gooseberry and lime, rich and viscous, not too tart, almost sweet in its ripeness, very clean.

Red Wines

2011 Josh Cellars Merlot $10.
This is a light style Merlot that is quite well made, a decent party red. A little green bean in the nose (common in Merlot) and nice black cherry fruit. The palate is similar. Not tannic, not tart, but clean, varietal and with good fruit intensity.

2011 McManis Merlot $8.
Ya gotta like American oak (dill, vanilla, coconut). The nose is dominated by these characters, with red/dark cherry fruit behind the oak. The palate is also very oaky, but the fruit intensity is really, really good. Very good length, not tart or tannic, just oaky. You have been warned.

2010 Route 152 Pinot Noir $9.
Can’t get many Pinots at this price that are actually drinkable. This one has a floral grapey nose with cola and black cherry. The palate is very similar with slight earthiness, soft tannins, balanced acid and light tannin. It is a lighter style and not too oaky (too much oak is a common fault in Pinots in my opinion).

2011 Cosentino Cabernet Franc, Lodi, $10.
This has a floral, almost candied raspberry nose and palate. The fruit is ripe and almost sweet, but it has decent tannins and acid to balance this. This is a nice food wine – grilled anything.

2010 Terra D’Oro Zinfandel, Amador County $11.
Amador is famous for a very hot climate in the Sierra Foothills near Sacramento. The wines are usually big, rich, ripe, and even slightly sweet, with high alcohol. This is no exception. The nose has lots of red berries, and a little earth and oak char. The palate is forward and rich, with ripe, almost sweet red raspberry fruit, some American oak (dill), but is neither tart nor tannic.

2012 Meiomi Pinot Noir $17.
This is a blend made from grapes from Monterey, Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties. A little pricey, but nowhere near the now-common $30++ Pinots, this is very dark in color, and big for a Pinot. The nose has dark cherry and slight oak char. The rich palate has dark cherry fruit, cola, light oak char, with vanilla. It is intense, with great fruit/tannin/acid balance. A really nice wine.

2011 Laya Garnacha (30%)/Monastrell (70%), Almansa, Spain $7.
This is a lush, somewhat simple, but very drinkable wine at a good price. Garnacha = Grenache; Monastrell = Mourvedre, so this is a Rhone blend. It has plums, light black pepper, and anise. The palate has simple, young grapey/plumy fruit with soft tannin and acid, and is easy to drink. Very good party wine.



Slurping Around with P.D.W. March/April 2013


Hi all. The recent irregular timing of this column is not, let me assure you, simple forgetfulness. It is about trying to do too many things at once. At least it is free. So here are some nice wines to try, hoping you can locate them. Which reminds me, the wines I report here are currently, or were recently, available at the wine stores I frequent in San Diego. Either San Diego Wine Company or Vintage Wines, both on Miramar Road in Mira Mesa, have them or did a short while ago. They can easily be found on the Internet and do ship wines to states that permit that decadent behavior. You can also try the Internet at large, and of course your local bottle shop.


2010 Abel Clement Grenache Blanc, Cotes du Rhone $6.

This is a new grape to me, so I had no idea what to expect. It was a simple wine, but that aside, was very clean and crisp, with lemony nose and palate and moderately high acidity. It is fresh and lively, and would make a great food wine for a party. It is a bit high in acid to just sip on.

2012 Colome Torrontes, Argentina, $12.
I like wine from the Torrontes grape. This one is good, not great. It has the classical sweet raisiny nose and palate entry, and the equally classical switch to a dry lemony finish. It is clean, and does not have the hard finish that some Torrontes do. The only real flaw is that it fades a little quickly.

2012 Hermanos Torrontes, Salta, Argentina, $12.
The wine advocate gave this a high score and so do I. The nose is clean and distinctly lychee-like. The palate is viscous, lemony and dry with some lychee in the background. Acid is balanced, length is OK.

2012 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $10.
This is a very good example, with lots of gooseberry on the nose and palate, a rich, varietal, grassy, lemony, gooseberry palate and moderate but not extreme acidity. As good as any priced 50 percent more.


2012 Domaine de Fontsainte Rose "gris de gris" Corbieres, $12.

This rose has a fresh but delicate strawberry nose with a little lees character and touch of caramenl. The palate also has strawberry fruit, with very good intensity, a lemony dry finish and good acidity. It is clean and dry.


2011 Chateau de l'Estagnol Grenache/Syrah Cotes du Rhone, $8.

I foolishly did not buy a few when available four weeks ago; may not be easy to find now. For this price, it is a ridiculous value. A young, floral grapey nose with distinct white pepper. Despite being quite light in body, the red cherry fruit flavors are quite intense, with nice white pepper again. Tannins are soft and acid is good, giving excellent balance. This is a very nice wine on its own or with food. If you can find it, let me know so I can get some.

2009 D'Arenberg Grenache "The Custodian", McLaren Vale, South Australia $16.
I am biased against this winery because they are so into marketing that they had let their quality slip in my personal estimation. Well, this bottle is really good, and so is the wine inside. The nose has good dark berry fruit and some earthiness. The palate has intense dark berry fruit. It has a candied quality typical of Grenache, but it is not really sweet at all. It has structure with balance - tannins and acid both well in line. Redemption.

2009 Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley, Chile, "Gran Reserva" $13.
The nose is clean with blackcurrant and anise. The palate is rich and also has blackcurrant and anise. While moderately tannic, there is quite enough fruit, and the acidity is also in balance. Length is excellent. It is unusual to get a Cabernet at this price that is so nice to slurp.

2011 Mollydooker Shiraz "The Boxer" McLaren Vale, South Australia, $22.
This winery is iconic, pure and simple. From the way you are treated (unbelievably well) when you visit, to the style of their wines - always huge fruit, always huge alcohol, always soft tannins but good acidity, supple, seductive, velvety, long. Sadly, their next label up (Carnival of Love) is $75 and their top label (Velvet Glove) is $150. That makes the Boxer a bargain, although try all three side by side and you can tell. So what do I say? Lovely rich dark plum on the nose and palate. Long, supple, viscous, balanced, some oak char and anise, soft tannins, very ripe, almost sweet. 15.5% ethanol. Mollydooker's main market is the US of A rather than home turf, so this may be available - see my intro.

2010 Klinker Brick Zinfandel, Lodi Old Vine, $14.

Not to be outdone, this has 15.8% ethanol. I was not pleased with the closed, piney nose, but the palate was very lively. Lots of red cherry and raspberry fruit, with dry sage herbs and dill. Good acid, not very tannic, but oaky, for sure. Very ripe, almost coming across as sweet because of ripeness and alcholol.

I really do hope you can find some of these. If you do, you won't have to spend your whole tax refund on some nice wines to help you forget April 15 in the first place.


Slurping Around with P.D.W. February 2013

Slurping Around, February 2013

Dear Friends:

All I seem to do lately is apologize for a late column. Well, here goes again, another apology. My house was broken into and trashed two weeks ago, and the front door left swinging..... You don't need to hear any more, other than that the break-in, and not wine, has been on my mind. So here is what I can offer right now. As it turns out, I have tasted very few white wines and those I did try were not worth recommending to you. So, for the first time (I think) an all-red column.

2010 Chateau St. Michelle Red Blend "Indian Wells", Columbia Valley, Washington $15. This is a solid wine. Nice dark plum and cherry fruit on the nose; rich and ripe (but nor sweet or overripe), viscous and smooth, with medium light tannins and balanced acid, and with good length.

2011 Chronic Cellars Red Blend "Purple Paradise", Paso Robles $12. Forward dark cherry fruit on the nose with a bit of green bean (OK if in background as here); Excellent, intense dark berry fruit on the palate - very tasty. The fruit tastes young (a bit grapey) but that will improve with time. There are dry herbs, spice, and a ripeness that seems to give it a sweet edge (but it is dry).

2006 Derby Zinfandel Laura's Vineyard, Paso Robles $9. This is a high alcohol (15.7%) wine, and it is "old" for a Zin. Most zin's this old would be oxidized and flat by now, but not this one. Slightly herbal, dark berry fruit. A rich yet medium bodied wine, not too extracted, and not too tannic and not sweet (thank goodness). It has good acid and length, some dry herbs behind the rich dark fruit.

2010 Brassfield Zinfandel, Volcano Ridge vineyard $14. I forgot to identify the region/state, sorry. It too has high alcohol (15.5%). The nose is a bit dry and briary/stemmy, but the palate opens up with rich dark berry fruit. it is has medium tannin, it is not sweet, and has good length and acid. There are dried herbs and a briary edge to make it interesting.

2007 Hearthstone Red Blend "Slipstone", Paso Robles $13. This wine has a soft dark berry nose, medium to light body, slight minerality/chalkiness (interesting), and is neither overripe nor sweet. It is 65% grenache and 35% syrah, so a Rhone blend. The fruit is forward and rich. Alcohol is 15.1%. This is a very good everyday wine, good alone or with food.

2011 Chronic Cellars Red Blend "Sofa King Bueno", Paso Robles $17. I have no idea what that name means, only that someone was probably "experimenting" at the time. A forward plum/cherry nose and palate with a rich, full bodied mouthfeel. Again, not overripe or sweet. It is a Rhone blend, mostly Syrah (79%) with the rest from other Rhone varietals. This is a good dinner party wine with something hearty on the plate.

2008 John Alan Meritage Reserve, Paso Robles $18. This is a well-made and substantial but not at all overpowering wine. It is a classic Bordeaux blend led by Cabernet Sauvignon (50%). There is strong red/dark berry fruit, rich and full mouthfeel, obvious American Oak with dill, and a slight minty edge. It is not too tannic, has good acidity, and length.

Well, that's about all I have this month, now back to house restoration. Hopefully, better times ahead.



Slurping Around with P.D.W. January 2013

January 15, 2013

Hi all - writing from the deep freeze (San Diego). I kid you not, it has been in the 30's (F not C) for over a week now overnight and in the morning. I know, a heat wave relative to what some of you endure for weeks, but tough for us wimps. Obviously looking for some robust reds this time to get us through this difficult time.

But first, Whites (not many new releases seen this time of year)

2011 Matua Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ $8. Is this better than the myriad other NZSB's you can get? No. In fact, there is a touch of sulfur that does quickly blow off. But the price makes this one worth finding. It is very typical of the region - herbal gooseberry and citrus on the nose and palate, moderately high acid and good length.

2010 Gainey Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills $15. This is a big style chardonnay. The nose is slightly herbaceous, with good apple and tropical fruit aromas and medium vanilla oak. The palate is rich and viscous with very ripe tropical and citrus fruit, and medium oak - but it is not overdone. If you drink whites in winter, this is big enough to do the trick, just don't drink it too cold. Just below normal room temperature - or in our house, right at room temperature.


2010 Trentadue Petite Sirah "LaStoria" $18. We love this wine. Back in the day, this grape produced inky wine that was all wood and tannin and little or not fruit. Undrinkable. Modern PS has evolved, and this is a great example. The tannins are there, but tamed considerably. Dark color remains, but the fruit is excellent - blueberry/black currant nose and palate, some tobacco, some dill (American oak). Very rich and ripe, full bodied, almost sweet due to fruit ripeness, but very tasty, especially on a cold night.

2010 Trentadue Cabernet Sauvignon "LaStoria" Alexander Valley $19. This wine has a nose of dark cherry and earth. The palate is similar with a little mint and a touch of tobacco too. The fruit is very ripe and lush, making it seem on the edge of sweetness. Balance is very good, as is length. It is a fairly big and moderately tannic wine.

2011 Rabbit Ridge red blend "Allure de Robles" $6. Seen (by me at least) only at Trader Joe's, this is ridiculous value. The nose is actually complex - red and dark berry, earth and black pepper, slightly stemmy too. The palate is very forward and bright with lots of dark berry fruit, slight spice, dill, black pepper and oak char. All these are quite secondary to the fruit. Good acid, medium weight and tannin, good length. This should be bought by the case if you can get it.

2009 Tridente Tempranillo "Castilla y Leon", Spain $16. A bit pricy, but if you like Spanish temp. go for it. The nose is soft and a bit closed, but the palate has excellent red cherry fruit, some earth, and very good balance-medium weight, light tannins, good acid, and a very nice mouthfeel.

2010 Milbrandt Cabernet Sauvignon "Traditions" Columbia Valley $13. With a name this long, and a score of 90 in Wine Spectator, you might expect twice the price. The nose has nice dark fruit, vanilla, and spice with a touch of green stems and oak char. The palate is lifted and bright thanks to good acidity and fruit, but varietal with red and dark cherry, spice and vanilla. It is medium in weight, with very nice balance and length.

2008 John Alan Meritage Reserve, Paso Robles $18. This is a classic Bordeaux blend (=Meritage in US) with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot. This is a big but elegant and well-made wine. The nose has lots of dark cherry, spice, anise, and herbal notes. The palate is rich and big and tasty. While quite extracted, the tannins are in check, there is some cumin and anise to go with the forward dark cherry fruit, and the length is excellent.