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Long Shadows, Fisher Vineyards, Fall Line and more...Tasting Notes from a Week Gone By

Date: Thu, Jul 8, 2010 Wine Tasting

All the wine tasting notes below were originally published on GrapeStories.

2006 Fall Line Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley I don't know why this is, but I've become accustomed to wines in the $20 - 25 price range being inconsistent. The good ones are pretty good, but the bad ones tend to always have at least one of the following problems - too much oak, diluted, over ripe, out of balance or too much heat. This Fall Line actually has none of that. It's not horribly complex, nor is it a wine to be cellared, but it is a very good wine. Big cherry up front, dissolving mid-palate into a rounder, darker fruit and finishing with a smooth, zero-heat, peppery finish. A very elegant wine for the price. Quite impressed with this wine and definitely feel like my blind buy from Garagiste paid off on this one. If you can find it, it's well worth a try. My rating: 91

2009 Long Shadows Wineries Riesling Poet's Leap Just received my case of the 2009 Poet's Leap and was excited to try it, as The last few vintages have been fantastic. I think the 2009 may be just a little bit better than both the '07 and the '08, mostly because it's a much dryer version of this wine. Lemon, orange zest, hay and just a touch of fresh nutmeg, this is perfectly blended, smooth on the palate and a long, refreshing finish. Another great one in a long line of wines at Long Shadows. My rating: 91

2006 Fisher Vineyards Syrah Hidden Terrace This is a very interesting Syrah. If you've ever had the Cayuse Syrah's, this is in that school...big, heavy, savory and masculine, with an incredible amount of white pepper both on the nose and the palate. But, not coarse pepper, more like white pepper that's been ground into a fine powder, leaving a chalky feeling on the palate. Huge, well rounded and lush finish. Incredible wine, recommended to me by my buddy over on twitter at @thatreeder (who, by the way, has an incredible palate and is always one to have a good wine on hand). My rating: 92

2008 Torii Mor Pinot Noir Willamette Valley I was just in Willamette Valley tasting a few weeks back and I was astounded by the high prices at the wineries we went to. $70, $80, even up just south of $100. I get that the region is known for its Pinot Noir (it's even got its own Pinot Noir glass made by Reidel), but, man that's a bit rich for my blood. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see a wine from the valley under $20 at the wine store today. And it's good. A bit light for my palate (I tend more toward the bigger Pinot, mostly from California), but it's incredibly well balanced, smooth as silk and a nice, juicy finish. Cherry, watermelon and spice, all with a mist of minerals. Good stuff. My rating: 88

2007 Zero One Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon The Wild Sky Sometimes there's not much reason to reinvent the wheel, especially when someone else captured everything you were thinking - RobertDwyer is spot on in his description below. The only difference for me is that I think it drinks more like a 90 than a 93, but, still, a very good wine. My rating: 90

RobertDwyer's note: Typical Cabernet Sauvignon density in the glass visually. It has a quiet confidence about its presence aromatically. Red raspberries and blackberries. Coffee. Some sage in the background. Moderate acidity and just a touch of tannic grip. A wonderfully balanced wine. Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Drinking well now but would mellow out a bit and integrate with 1 year or more of bottle age.

NOTE: Robert Dwyer also runs a great wine blog called Wellesley Wine Press.

2008 Cameron Hughes Pinot Noir Lot 165 Carneros The second Cameron Hughes I'm tasting tonight and they're both just average. Good enough fruit and I guess for $18, the QPR is pretty good on this, especially since California Pinot is usually over $20. But there's nothing interesting about this wine. Not sure I'll pick it up again. NOTE: this wine was given to me as a free sample. My rating: 86

2007 Cameron Hughes Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 172 Good enough everyday red, with bold dark fruit, but very one dimensional and really hot (think instant heartburn). Not my favorite Cameron Hughes - just middle of the road. NOTE: this wine was given to me as a free sample. My rating: 86

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Quilceda Creek, Cayuse, 21 Grams, Groth and more - tasting notes of a (few) week(s) gone by...

Date: Thu, Jul 1, 2010 Wine Tasting

All the wine tasting notes below were originally published on GrapeStories.

1998 Quilceda Creek Red Wine Columbia Valley I'm having a bit of a heart-wrenching couple weeks because I've finally set aside all the wines in my cellar that are technically past their prime and am trying to go through them before they pass over to the other side. This Quilceda, in particular, is hard because it's the first Quilceda Creek that I could get my hands on and the wine that turned me on to them (well, that and all the crazy ratings and attention, but that is a much less compelling story). It's still a very good wine. A bit steely and metallic, but lively fruit and acidity still, with a touch of nutmeg, spice and chocolate. Has some leather on the nose as well. All in all, going to be sad to see this one gone. Cheers, '98. My rating: 90 (note: the label on the right is the 2000, but the 1998 and 2000 share the same design)

2006 Soter Pinot Noir Mineral Springs
Blackberry, blueberry, earth and pie crust. Well balanced, very smooth, just a hint of complimentary acidity and a lingering finish. More fruit forward than I thought it would be, but not at all overbearing. On the medium to heavy side of Pinot Noir. My rating: 90

2003 Valley View Cabernet Sauvignon Anna Maria
It's amazing to me how unknown Applegate Valley is - this is the only bottle of Valley View Anna Maria on GrapeStories - and there are some great wineries, most notably, at least in my humble opinion, Devitt Winery. If you're ever in Southern Oregon, Devitt is a must visit. For this wine, it's reached a very nice maturity and is drinking quite nicely. Blackberry, truffle, mossy dirt - not super strong fruit, but nice enough. Smooth, well balanced, good but short finish and relatively low heat. Quite nice. My rating: 88

2007 Cayuse Syrah Cailloux Vineyard Another 94 when I had this again last night. I remembered why I love this wine so much - it's savory. Sounds weird, but there's nothing sweet about it and the fruit is very subtle. I'm not sure if "salty" is all that attractive to some folks, but it really is one of the driving notes of this wine, along with meat and leather. For the price, this is easily one of the best Syrah's in Washington, just wish it wasn't so hard to find. My rating: 94

2007 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Haven't tried basic Mondavi Cab in a very long time and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Cherry, plum, tobacco and freshly oiled saddle leather, with a very nice mouthfeel and balance. Finish is solid and long and there's very little heat on this wine. Not overly complex, but not one-dimensional either. My rating: 89 NOTE: this wine was sent to me as a free sample.

2007 Remoissenet Père et Fils Chambolle-Musigny Pinot Noir
I'm not sure what it is with me and Burgundy, but I just can't seem to find one I like, especially when there are so many other wines I do like. I appreciate them for what they are and understand that they're good wines, but they're just not to my palate I guess. The Remoissenet is very well balanced, good strong red fruit (cherries, raspberries) and a very interesting driftwood note, but, it's just too light and faint for my taste. I need something a little meatier, a little more to hold on to. And, at $69 a bottle, I would turn to many other wines before I came back to this one. I will say, however, it did pair quite nicely with the salmon we made on the grill. My rating: 87

2005 Silverado Vineyards Merlot
Strong tannins and a lot of heat on the finish. I feel like this should be drinking better than it is, but it's just too hot for me. My rating: 86

2001 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon Oak Knoll
In my bin of wines that need to be drunk before they pass their prime. The drink window notes on this wine were spot on - feels like it's at its peak, with great black fruit, cedar and light coffee notes. The tannins are perfectly aged, creating a smooth, silky mouthfeel. If you have this in your cellar, drink it now - it's ready. My rating: 89

2007 21 Grams Cabernet Sauvignon I was enjoying this wine so much at dinner last night that I completely forgot to take any notes. Suffice it to say, it's one of the best wines I've had in a long time. Perfectly balanced, soft, rich, with a huge, memorable finish. I'm sure it will age well, but I was stunned that after just two hours of decanting, this young wine acts much older and more mature. If I could stock my cellar with this wine, I would. My rating: 96

2008 ÀMaurice Cellars Viognier
Really nice Viognier that we picked up at Pike & Western in Seattle to pair with Salmon. Salmon's not ready yet, but I can tell this would be a nice match. Full bodied Viognier, with lemon, melon, vanilla and even some tropical fruit, maybe like a pineapple. Good long memorable finish - this could be our "go-to" Viognier moving forward...really nice wine. My rating: 89

2007 D.R. Stephens Chardonnay
Once again, this wine delivers. One of my favorite chardonnays, if not the favorite. Amazing flavor profile, with loads of buttered popcorn on the nose (but not too oakey). The perfect blend of crisp and rich. Well worth the money. My rating: 91

1997 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon I agree with Vinokep on this one - no need to cellar this any longer. We opened this with some good friends tonight and I thought it held up very well. More life and acidity than I thought or am even used to with Groth Cab - almost as if the wine was giving out its last gasp of life for our dinner, even after it suffered a three-part corking, as the cork crumbled on the counter and into the bottle...very soft and worn out. All in all, though, still a great wine and kudos to Groth for producing a non-reserve that's held up this long. My only advice is that if you have any of this in your cellar, it's time to drink it...there's not much time left in my opinion. My rating: 91

2005 Northstar Merlot Columbia Valley
My wife and I first had this wine 2 - 3 years ago on a trip out to Walla Walla. We stopped at Northstar with our picnic lunch and split a big glass of the Merlot, probably an '03 or '04 at that point. The view was spectacular and I remember the wine being rich and lush, matching perfectly with our lunch (which I remember less). The '05 is decent, but not like I remember - this one is a tad oakey, over ripe and hot. That said, the fruit is black and tasty, with a good overall mouth feel. Lacking on acid for my taste. My rating: 87

2008 Buty Beast Cabernet Sauvignon Hartebeest
I am a true believer in Buty wines - incredibly interesting wines that never cease to amaze me. But, I guess I got what I paid for on the Hartebeest. Don't get me wrong, it's decent, but nothing special...and, fortunately, it's priced well at around $24. It's really fruity, very new world and ripe/lush. Big, broad mouthfeel, with a pretty good finish, but a little hot. Not exactly to my liking, but, again, not bad. If you like very fruit forward, new world wines from Washington, definitely put this one on your list. If you like complexity, originality and a wine to savor, hold out for Buty - well worth the money. My rating: 87

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Wine Bloggers Conference Live Tasting notes

Date: Tue, Jun 29, 2010 Wine Tasting

At the Wine Bloggers Conference every year, we have an event called Live Tasting. It's sort of like speed dating as all the bloggers in the room stay put for an hour and winemakers are given 5 minutes at each table to pour their wines and talk to us about anything they want. All the while, those of us on the blogging side are tasting, listening, asking questions and tweeting as if the fate of the world depended on it (clearly it doesn't, but it is a fun event).

For those of you not on Twitter and unable to see my tasting notes, I'm publishing them below, for both the red and white wine Live Tasting events.
(NOTE: the notes are in reverse order, meaning the first wine on the list is actually the last wine we tasted and vice versa)

Red Wines

  • Buty 2006 Columbia Rediviva - if you are wanting your next Washington wine, this is it. Phenomenal producer, across the board.
  • Hogue Genesis Merlot. Flat, lush, low acidity. General audience wine, but not my thing.
  • Dry creek 2007 Old Vine Zin - big fan of dry creek region. Great Dry Creek minerality, a break from tannins of the last 2 wines.
  • Maryhill Winery 2007 Zinfandel. First Zin of the weekend. Total Cab on the nose, Zin on the palate. Not bad, but average.
  • Jordan 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley - super tannic, acidic, bright fruit. Good, but probably even better with food.
  • Concannon Conservancy 2007 Petite Sirah - same wine that I reviewed with whole foods - decent but fell apart 2nd night.
  • @solenaestate 2008 Pinot Noir Hyland Vineyard - surprisingly good acidity, a little young, but it's a stunner.
  • Woohoo! Long Shadows. 2007 Sequel. I am actually chewing this wine - right up my alley. Huge wine. Great nose. Another good one.
  • Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc 2008 - mocha madness...warm, rich nose on this one. Great acidity levels. Good stuff.
  • Stoller 2007 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills - vibrant nose, huge flavor profile. Good stuff for $25.
  • Stoller 2007 Pinot Noir Dundee Hills - first LEED certified winery in the u.s. Very cool.
  • Ponzi 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir - $35 Pinot from Oregon that, unfortunately, is drinking like a $15 wine.
  • Trio Vintners 2007 Riot - only blend they make - most expensive grapes in their least expensive wine. $18. Great wine under $20.
White Wines
  • Neethlingshof 09 Chard. Good tropical fruit, minerality, crispness and spice. Really well balanced. Amazing QPR on this wine at $15.
  • Concannon Conservancy 2008 Chardonnay. Interesting how many California wines are pouring right now.
  • Cornerstone Cellars 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. 25 year old grapes. Big, lush SB, a little oaken and empty on the finish.
  • Sebastiani The Crusher Rose. Big mouthfeel, very refreshing, but a little lacking in flavor. Drink with steak. Really?
  • Sebastiani The Crusher Rose. Listening to the winemaker. Clearly a project he's into. Big bold rose for the red wine lover.
  • Sebastiani The Crusher Rose. Man, that takes some guts calling a rose "the crusher".
  • Le chateau 2008 Chardonnay. That said, a very nice California Chardonnay to be sure. (note: "nice" is a technical wine term).
  • Le chateau 2008 Chardonnay. If I wasn't listening to the winemaker say otherwise, I'd swear this is a California Chardonnay.
  • Cadaretta SBS 2008 - Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon. Pineapple, lemon and some serious creamy notes for not using oak. Dry. Interesting.
  • a'Maurice 2008 Columbia Valley Viognier. $25 price point and well worth the money. Very rich, strong fruit and complete, long finish.
  • a'Maurice 2008 Columbia Valley Viognier. They make Viognier because his wife loves it. Reason enough.
  • Jordan 2008 Russian River Chardonnay. Light and lush at the same time. Oak is there but comes in very late.
  • Jordan 2008 Russian River Chardonnay. Wow, this is some serious buttered popcorn on the nose. Throw in a dash of kettle sweetness.
  • K Vintners 2009 Viognier - grapefruit flesh and pith, some seeds even. Solid offering from K.
  • Charles Smith Kung Fu girl Riesling - nicely off dry, good broad mouthfeel, lush fruit. Great finish. Needs to be on your summer wine list.
  • Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling. A bit biased on this one as I have a bunch of it in the cellar.
  • Centine Bianco Toscana IGT - pucker, pucker, lots of acidity on this one. Fruit falls a little short, with a short finish. Drink very cold.
  • Delille 2008 Chaleur Estate Blanc - grapefruit, lemon, straw, oak. Fruit is strong enough to cut through the oak. Rich, broad and full.
  • Moving to duckpond 2008 Pinot Gris. Definitely stainless, with no oak. Surprisingly rich / creamy. Lemon, lemon, lemon...and mineral.
  • Moving on to duckpond 2008 Pinot Gris. Definitely stainless, with no oak. Surprisingly rich and creamy. Lemon, lemon, lemon...and mineral
  • Delille 2008 Chaleur Estate Blanc - grapefruit, lemon, straw and oak. Fruit is strong enough to cut through the oak. Rich, broad and full.
  • What a great wine to start with on the live tasting - @delillecellars. One of my favorite Washington producers.

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Wine Bloggers Conference 2010

Date: Mon, Jun 28, 2010 Wine Tasting

Just got back from the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla and my head is brimming with ideas, new connections, new favorite wines and a pretty good set of memories for being there just three days.

As I'm not that excited about recanting all the details of the Wine Bloggers Conference (as in "first, we did this, then we did that” and on and on...), even though there definitely are moments worth sharing, I’m going to try and focus on the vibe that pervades a conference like this one. On the surface, the WBC is a very big room full of nerds. Nerds who love wine. Nerds who use technology to tell each other (and whoever else is interested in listening) about their passion for wine. Nerds who for once in their lives aren’t chastised for bringing their smartphone and laptop to the dinner table. Nerds. Plain and simple.

But, digging deeper, it’s a place where truly cool things happen. For one, Lettie Teague, The Wall Street Journal wine writer, spoke to us at dinner last night and appeared honored to be there. I bet if you asked her 20 years ago what she’d be doing this weekend, that’s probably one of the last things she would come up with. She didn’t talk long, she didn’t have a script, no slides (thank God), just a few musings about writing, finding your voice and some great quotes from those who figured it out before us. There’s so much knowledge in her, about wine, about how wine affects the living, but she didn’t inflict it on us. What I would have given to be sitting at her table, or better yet, in a parlor of an old house, just 5 or 6 of us sitting around drinking a first growth, debating the issues of the day. And, yes, I was a bit enamored.

Another cool thing…how about a day on a yellow school bus, tooling through the wheat fields of Walla Walla in search of our mystery wineries? Seriously. You get on a bus, they start driving, and you end up where you end up. For our bus, Spring Valley Vineyard and Reynvaan Family Vineyards were where we ended up. Spring Valley, home to half a dozen generations of farmers who decided to diversify into grapes and wine a while back and intertwine their family in every aspect of the business, from images on the labels to our great host, Kate, who told stories with the passion you want to see come from someone with that kind of life. Unbelievable wines, too – all just shades different than the one before, but all distinct in their own right.

Reynvaan Family Vineyards was a new one for me. On first approach, it looked like what it is – someone who probably did quite well in their first career and has now taken the romantic notion of winemaking serious enough that it is quickly turning into the next career. Nothing wrong with that and, to be honest, I can see myself going down a similar path someday (if life will allow). But, scratching the surface, there’s more to it, a kind of fortuitous turn for a family that made a decision at the right time. Turns out his son was in in the area by chance, working at a country club as an accomplished golfer and the family just kind of came together to make this happen. It was interesting watching the son tell the story of the winery, while mom and dad looked on. I know how I would have felt, owning up to some good old fashioned pride in myself and in my boy for what he’s turning into. They’re doing it as expected and as many before them have done – a great wine consultant, some recently planted estate grapes, a great designer and what sounds like a lot more work than they expected. In the end, though, what really mattered to me was the touch of honesty in this wine and I was very impressed with the juice in my glass. What made it even better was the incredible pairing worked out with the Jim German Bar, who provided the food. Chorizo, spicy potatoes and a handful of other diverse delicacies should not have worked with their wine, or, with any wine for that matter. But, their “In the Rocks” Syrah was so perfectly matched, it literally stopped the conversation at our table. Phenomenal. Truly. And the best part is that I now have a great red to pair with spicy food.

As the weekend progressed, we went through all the keynotes, panels, social hours and speed tastings, broadcast over the internet like a revolution was breaking out, with new news literally every nanosecond, coming from 300 reporters in the hotel across the street from the heart of the action - a smattering of enough distractions that we never really got bored. Tired, maybe, but rarely, if ever, bored - great kudos to the organizers for pulling that off.

Amidst all that activity, a little wine called Rotie Cellars poked its head around the corner and whispered “follow me.” Trey Busch, the owner / winemaker at Sleight of Hand Cellars, first mentioned it to us, then Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report. Between the two of them, I felt like the world was conspiring against me to either try the wine or get the hell out of Walla Walla because, clearly, I was not deserving of finding gold. As a night-ender, a few of us shared a bottle of the Southern Blend and I will just say this about it - if Sean Boyd, owner of Rotie Cellars, decides that he’s not going to make this wine again, ever, even 20 years from now, I will mark it in my book of tragedies. This wine is stunning. I’m not going to tell you why I think that, because you can decide for yourself, but it is absolutely worth the effort, if you can find it. (NOTE: if you want to know more about Rotie, Ken Payton, over at Reign of Terroir, interviewed Sean late last week and I’ll send you over to his place for that one – I could not have captured it better).

The final thing that struck me as cool about this conference is something my wife said to me (who also attended) and I’m going to get the specifics wrong, but the gist of her comment was that up until last week, she saw wine blogging as a hobby for most of us, something we do because it calls us and we have some fun and get together once a year to shoot the shit, drink some amazing wines, network and basically bask in our own nerdiness. But, as she sat in on the keynote from Steve Heimoff, my panel with Jeff and Joe, the dinner with Lettie and just generally absorbed everything around her, it occurred to her how real this is for all of us. And how hard we work. And how damn serious we take it sometimes. For someone kind of looking in from the outside, it was a real eye-opener. And she’s right (and a saint for putting up with it). For me, I was quite humbled to be on a panel with the likes of Jeff and Joe, especially since they mopped up the place with all their awards immediately before we started our panel. There was some pretty heady company in the room this year.

I do think we have some work to do for next year’s event, lest we all start to repeat ourselves (lots of discussion about finding your voice, writing, where we’re headed, the “Rockaway” incident and so on). Maybe we could tell stories, instead of chat on panels. Maybe we could tell each other why we do it – I saw Sir George Martin (the Beatle’s producer) give a keynote address a few years back and just to hear him call the Beatles “the boys” in his regal and sophisticated accent sent chills down my spine. Let’s find our own George Martins and hear from them.

David Honig mentioned an article that he and Meg Maker just recently published on Palate Press, written by Oscar Quevedo, a very charming young man who I had the pleasure of sitting next to on our hot yellow school bus. We should have had him read his story. We should have had him tell us, in the words that he put on the page, in his actual voice, why his story matters. Not that anyone did anything wrong here, but, I don’t know, I just want to keep it fresh. Wine is about storytelling, both telling the story of the wine and letting the wine step aside for a moment so we can use it as the catalyst to tell our own stories, so, instead of talking about finding our voice, let’s hear some voices. Just a thought.
In any case, another great experience this year.

And, yes, in case you’re wondering, or have found yourself the last few minutes wondering “what kind of high is this guy on?” I am passionate about this. I’m not sure when I reached that point, but I do know that this crazy little bubble we’re all living in is one that I really like, combining a love of wine, a love for rich and honest conversation and a love for the inner nerd. To me, that’s a pretty powerful combination and one that I will carry with me this year, until we get to do it all over again in Virginia next year.

In closing, here’s my list of stand-out wines from this year’s conference, in no particular order (other than alphabetical):

• A’Maurice 2008 Columbia Valley Viognier
Amavi Cellars 2007 Les Collines Vineyard Syrah
Buty 2006 Rediviva of the Stones
Buty Semillon
Delille Cellars 2008 Chaleur Estate Blanc
Reynvaan Family Vineyards 2008 “In the Rocks” Syrah
Rotie 2008 Southern Blend (not poured as part of the conference)
Solena Estate 2008 Pinot Noir Hyland Vineyard
• Spring Valley Vineyard 2007 Frederick (Cabernet Sauvignon)
• Waters / Gramercy Cellars 2007 21 Grams (poured from a “secret” bottle under the tasting table)
• Woodward Canyon (both the Artist Series and the Old Growth Cabernet Sauvignon)

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Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List Wrap Up

Date: Thu, Jun 24, 2010 Wine Tasting

When I started this summer's reviews of the Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List, it looked like we were off to a good start, perhaps a better batch than last summer and the last two holiday lists. A few early whites stood out to me - Pisato Pinot Grigio, Green Truck Chardonnay and the Sokol Blosser Evolution - so I figured we were off to a great start and the rest of the lot would follow suit. However, it started to fall apart for me with some of the late entries, like Valdemar Tempranillo, Rosenblum Zinfandel Vintner's Cuvee XXXII and the Pazo de Serantellos Albarino.

So, that got me thinking - how does this list compare to the three before it? You can see what I discovered in the table below:

Here are a few of my thoughts:
  • These average scores for each list are so close that it's virtually impossible to make a call. With a range of 85.9 to 86.4, a statistician would laugh me out of the room if I tried to say that, without a doubt, the 2009 Holiday list was far superior to the 2010 Summer list. It's too close for that kind of certainty.
  • I was a little surprised by how consistent the overall average scores were. Makes me think that I may actually, kind of, sort of, maybe know what I'm doing (but who can say?) because the scores fall very much in line with how I think about most wines in the $8 - $20 range. Most of them are average for me and nothing more.
  • It also makes me wonder if Whole Foods can actually find wines that may up the game for this price range. Despite my comments in the bullet above, I have tasted several wines in this price range that fare better than the 86'ish average - wines like Three Thieves "The Show" Cabernet Sauvignonw, Pascual Toso Malbec, Townshend Malbec - even though they are few and far between. But when you're a mass retailer like Whole Foods and you come out with a twice a year promotion that drives a heavy volume of sales, the question is whether or not it's even possible to find these better wines at the volume they need. I'm not sure, but my gut says no.
Well, that's all for this summer season on the Whole Foods Top Ten list. Stay tuned six months from now as I see about the holiday lot and if they fare significantly better or worse.

Now off to Walla Walla for the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference...

* There are three wines missing from the 2008 Holiday list and for the life of me, I cannot remember why.
** There is one wine missing from the 2009 Summer list because it was a Rose and I didn't give it a rating, as I am entirely incapable of giving a sensible rating to a Rose - none of them taste that good to me (except for maybe the Bandol Domaine Tempier).

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Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - 2009 Pazo de Serantellos Albariño

Date: Wed, Jun 23, 2010 Wine Tasting

#10 in the Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - the 2009 Pazo de Serantellos Albariño.

Totally disappointing ending to what started off as a great round of top ten wines from whole foods - the last few have been more than a bit off for me. The Pazo Serantellos I wanted to like, as I have some affection for Albariño, but, it just didn't make the cut for me. Steely and sweet at the same time, it does offer up some nice lemon, grapefruit and grassy notes, but it jumps all around my mouth like a distracted kid, going from toy to toy, leaving no toy the same as he left it. It finally does come together somewhat in the finish, but like taking all those kids and trying to stuff them in a school bus after feeding them all sugar. Just too chaotic for me.

And, to quote my wife - "I've had way worse white wines, but there's no real reason to drink that." 'Nuff said...

What Whole Foods has to say about the wine: Think salty sea air, a paella supper on the beach and this intensely aromatic refresher in hand. Apricot and blood orange notes hint at the expansive flavor of this affordable Spanish White, ideal with Manchego cheese.

What you should do: Buy it? Nope, I wouldn't if I were you. Look, there are some decent whites on this list - Green Truck, Pisato, Sokol Blosser Evolution - go with those, they're worth your money.

My rating: 83

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2008 Owen Roe Syrah Red Willow Vineyard Chapel Block

Date: Tue, Jun 22, 2010 Wine Tasting

Wine Spectator just recently gave the Chapel Block a 97 - a huge score for this wine. It's definitely very good and I am a big Owen Roe fan (was just at the winery for a tasting yesterday), but a 97 is a lofty score for this wine. On the nose, blackberry, blueberry, sage and eucalyptus. On the palate, same dark fruit as on the nose, with the addition of plum, espresso and bacon (although, I will say, this wine is hard to pin down on the various elements, harder than I've experienced in a while, as they shifted often). Very well balanced, with all the components working together in close harmony. Smooth tannins and a BIG mouthfeel and finish. Overall, a fantastic wine, particularly for how young it is (I decanted for two hours) - I just didn't think it was as fantastic as Wine Spectator thought.

My rating: 93 points (and don't get me wrong, this wine is fantastic, just not feeling the 97)


Short review this time, but if you want to read more about my thoughts on Owen Roe wines, well, you're in luck because I did a four-part / eight wine series on the winery about a year ago. You can check out those posts here:

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2010 Wine Bloggers Conference - Walla Walla here we come!

Date: Tue, Jun 22, 2010 Wine Tasting

This time last year, I was getting ready for the 2nd Annual Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) in Napa. It was my first time, so I had no idea what to expect. I had "met" many of my fellow bloggers online before attending, but hadn't met too many in person, so I was curious to see how we would interact with each other.

Turned out to be a great weekend. I think we were all amazed by how much Napa and the California wine country embraced us and went so out of their way for us, setting up elaborate tasting sessions, tours and small interactive sessions with true drivers of the California wine industry. I was also very thankful for the sheer number of wines we were able to taste, from all over California wine country. Some I'd enjoyed many times, others were new to me. I even found a few new go-to favorites as a result of the conference, like Matthiasson, Michel Schlumberger and Bonny Doon (for more of my thoughts on WBC09, click here).

Now, this week, we head to Walla Walla, one of my favorite wine regions, for the 3rd annual WBC. The irony for me is that my wife and I lived in San Francisco last year and now my wife, son and I live in Seattle, bringing us almost as close to this year's location as last (hmmm, I wonder if we'll just keep moving to follow the WBC locations in the future...something to consider...). We used to live in Seattle many years ago, so it's nice to see Washington wines continue to get praise for their efforts and to have the WBC firmly planted on Washington soil.

The biggest surprise for me last year was how little I actually blogged from the event - ironic, being at a blogger's conference. I had grand plans last year to write constantly from the conference and update everyone on what we were doing and tasting, but it's a whirlwind of events, so didn't get the chance to do that. I expect more of the same this year, but will do my best to update the blog as much as I can.

What did work well last year was Twitter, particularly during the Live Wine Blogging tastings, during which each winemaker gets 5 minutes with a table of bloggers to pour and talk about their wine. Sort of like speed dating for the wine tasting world. This was an event very well suited to Twitter, as you're only able to really jot down a few notes. So, look for plenty of Twitter updates during the times of the Live Tastings, at 4:50 Pacific on Friday and 5:00pm Pacific on Saturday (if you aren't already following me already, you can follow my tweets at @rjswineblog and you can follow all tweets from the event at #wbc10).

For those of you attending, I have the distinct honor of joining Jeff Lefevere (of Good Grape) and Joe Roberts (of 1WineDude - you can also see a Skype interview with him at Drink Nectar) on a conference panel discussion. Not sure how I got to be in such good company, but, knowing these guys, it should definitely be an entertaining, useful and lively conversation. The panel discussion is called "Advanced Wine Blogging" and it starts at 3:40pm on Friday in the Sacajawea / Clark rooms at the Marcus Whitman.

Hope to see you there. Hope also to see many of you fellow bloggers at the event and updating those of you who can't attend.

Cheers! Off to Walla Walla...

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Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - Non- Vintage (NV) Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Vintner's Cuvée XXXII

Date: Tue, Jun 22, 2010 Wine Tasting

#9 in the Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - the NV Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Vintner's Cuvée XXXII.

Another short review...not much to say on this one. If you like a big, fruity, ripe, over-oaked Zinfandel, for around $10, this one is for you. For me, this is not my wine.

What Whole Foods has to say about the wine: At any summer barbecue, pop open a bottle of this classic Zin, with hints of raspberry that make it supple and so easy to drink. Kick back with a glass when you chow down on saucy beef and pork barbecue, pizzas or Buttermilk Blue cheese.

What you should do: Do not buy this wine. I've never been a fan of the lower-end Rosenblum wines and this one is not exception.

My rating: 82

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Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - 2009 Opala Vinho Verde

Date: Mon, Jun 21, 2010 Wine Tasting

#8 in the Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - the 2009 Opala Vinho Verde.

Surprisingly low in alcohol at 9%, this wine definitely qualifies as a long, hot day drinker - one that won't knock you over by day's end. With star fruit, lemon, grapefruit and straw, this wine has much more body than it's nearly clear color let's on. Bright acidity and a decent blend of the elements, but leaves me empty on the finish. Also, shows some cigarette tobacco on the finish, like the taste I used to have in my mouth the morning after hanging out in bars that used to allow smoking - knocked it down a couple points for me.

What Whole Foods has to say about the wine:
When your laid-back lunch includes ceviche, shrimp cocktail or grilled salmon, don't miss this citrusy Portuguese tongue tingler. So fresh, juicy and easy to throw back that we bought it all! Pour cold and generously with Robiola cheese, too.

What you should do: No need to buy this one. There are plenty of better whites on the Summer Top Ten list that I would pursue them first.

My rating: 85

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Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - 2007 Valdemar Tempranillo

Date: Thu, Jun 17, 2010 Wine Tasting

#7 in the Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - the 2007 Valdemar Tempranillo.

This one's gonna be short as the Valdemar is definitely my least favorite of the Summer list so far. Packed with over-ripe dark fruit, out of balance and diluted, this effort from Valdemar leaves me empty. I didn't pair it with any food, so not sure on how it pairs, but, on its own, won't be making even my weeknight wine list.

What Whole Foods has to say about the wine: Need an elegant, racy Red? Or a classic sipper with a modern twist? Pair this crowd pleaser's ripe cherry flavor and nose full of blackberries and currants with Gran Queso cheese and cookout classics, from fajitas to burgers.

What you should do: Don't buy it. Just fell flat for me and with so many good wines out there, why waste time on those that don't make the cut?

My rating: 84

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Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - NV Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky Edition

Date: Wed, Jun 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

#6 in the Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - the Non-Vintage (NV) Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky Edition.

So many grapes in this white - Muller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner - that it's hard to figure out which one is dominant. But, if I had to choose it tastes most like a Riesling, then a Gewurztraminer, with a bit of sweetness wrapped around a blend of Meyer lemon, pink grapefruit and pear. Very refreshing, but with the sweetness, I probably like this most when it's right out of the refrigerator and very cold.

What Whole Foods has to say about the wine: The floral aroma and tropical flavors of this juicy, off-dry Chardonnay alternative will knock your flip-flops off. Its blend of nine grapes, including Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer, shines with Mexican or Caribbean food, or with Epoisses cheese.

What you should do: Buy this one. It's a great weeknight white, has a good label and is an interesting blend of a bunch of different grapes - if nothing else, you and your friends can try to pick out which qualities come from which grape.

My rating: 88

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Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - 2007 Concannon Conservancy Petite Sirah

Date: Tue, Jun 15, 2010 Wine Tasting

#5 in the Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - the 2007 Concannon Vineyard Petite Sirah Conservancy Livermore Valley.

I'm a big fan of Petite Sirah, but over the years, and as "wine snobby" as this is going to sound, I've become more fond of higher-end Petite Sirah's and less enamored with lower-end. These are big, chewy wines and, if produced poorly or on the cheap, it's a tough glass to get through. So, I've grown to be skeptical of most Petite Sirah under $20 (if you have a few I should try, I'm always open to suggestions).

That said, I was happy to see a Petite Sirah on the Summer list this year and just as happy to see it was from a trusted producer like Concannon. This wine is black as ink (as in, you could shove a lamp into the wine glass and even then you wouldn't see light) and a lush, dense offering, with dark fruit, plum, spice and a massive finish. Tastes a little diluted, but not too bad and, overall, a well balanced and structured wine for the price. First night rating: 88.

Second night rating: 84. I don't know what happened, perhaps I was right about the dilution, but this wine absolutely fell apart for me on the second night, unfortunately reinforcing my initial opinion about lower-end Petite Sirah. My advice is to enjoy it the first night only.

What Whole Foods has to say about the wine: This plummy Red, with hints of blackberry and white pepper, is your go-to wine for grilling. Drink with blackened fish and heavily peppered steaks, or savor with nutty Reserve Gouda for an amazing flavor match-up.

What you should do: I'd leave this one at Whole Foods, unless you're planning to serve the entire bottle the first night. You will be disappointed if you try to drink it the second night - it's almost like it's a different wine, or, more appropriately put, all the weaknesses of the first night, particularly the dilution, dominate on the second night.

My rating: 88 first night / 84 second night.

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Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - 2009 Green Truck Chardonnay

Date: Mon, Jun 14, 2010 Wine Tasting

Wine #4 in the Whole Foods Top Ten Summer Wine List - 2009 Green Truck Chardonnay.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish...or, for today's story, Red Truck, White Truck, Pink Truck, Green Truck. A much more adult story, to be sure, and a theme that Red Truck (started by Cline Cellars and now owned by Dan Leese and Doug Walker) has been riding for quite some time now. Thankfully, the naming hasn't distracted from the wine, which, for the most part, is good across the board, especially considering the low price points. This is my first venture into Green Truck, their line of organic wines, and I'll say that if the other Green Truck wines are like this Chardonnay, I may have found a few new, low-priced go-to wines. The Chardonnay is definitely oakey and not too complex, but overall, the fruit and oak balance each other well. A medium-bodied, rich and well-priced Chardonnay for California that should be on everyone's weeknight white list.

What Whole Foods has to say about the wine: To complement this medium-bodied White, layered with ripe citrus, green apples and peaches, drink it with summer favorites like fish tacos and fried chicken, or with Kilaree Irish Cheddar. These organic grape pioneers use biodegradable corks and recycled paper labels.

What you should do: Buy it! It's a good price point at around $10. And, for those of you who shy away from the over-oaked California Chardonnay's, this is a good compromise - the oak is there, but it won't knock you over.

My rating: 88

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