Gems in My Glass . . . June 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Savor your way through California’s delightful Central Coast

Heading south to Paso Robles for the 2016 Central Coast Wine Competition is always a joy, and this year is no exception.   The wines are showing beautifully, and the passion of the winemakers and vintners is palpable.  Results for this year’s competition are in!   The Best Red wine and Best of Show award went to San Marcos Creek for their 2014 Fling’s First Crush, a Grenache based blend.  Best of Class honors for sparkling wine was captured by Laetitia Vineyard & Winery for their NV Brut Cuvee.  Best Pink wine was awarded to Sexton for their 2015 Grenache Rose.  Gary and Marcy Eberle (owners of Eberle Winery) scored two Best of Class Awards, one for their 2015 Viognier (Best White Wine) and the other for their 2015 Muscat Canelli (Best Dessert Wine).

Here are my impressions of these fabulous sippers, and other Gold medal winning favorites:

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery NV Brut Cuvee; Arroyo Grande Valley, California:  This vivacious sparkling wine (made from 53% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 17% Pinot Blanc) displays a tiny bead, and draws you in with its fragrant scent of citrus-laced stone fruit.  Flavors of crisp pears, creamy apples, and lemon zest with hints of fresh baked bread are unveiled on the palate; dazzling!  SRP: $25 www.laetitiawine.com

San Marcos Creek Vineyard & Winery 2014 Fling’s First Crush; Paso Robles, California:  From the enticing aroma and bright entry to the last juicy sip, this blend of 50% Grenache, 33% Zinfandel and 17% Petite Sirah is captivating.  Deeply concentrated with red raspberry, blackberry and ripe plums surrounded by all-spice and fresh cracked peppercorns.  It’s rich and mouth coating with a firm backbone of tannins, nice acids keeping it lively, and a finish that just keeps on going.  SRP:  $39  www.sanmarcoscreek.com

Eberle Winery 2015 Viognier; Paso Robles, California:  Here is a classic, gorgeous Viognier that is simply irresistible.  Aromas of delicate white flowers and a splash of citrus pave the way for a resplendent palate showcasing perfectly ripe nectarines, apricots and honeydew melon.    Hints of lemon verbena and fresh squeezed orange juice add further delight, and the wine is perfectly balanced.  SRP:  $26 www.eberlewinery.com

Sextant Wines 2015 Grenache Rosé; Paso Robles, California:  Crafted of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, this seductive dry Rosé is crisp and radiant.  Strawberry, tropical melon and cranberry cocktail flavors with accents of citrus and chopped herbs enliven the palate; a lovely quaff.    SRP:  $21 www.sextantwines.com

Cinquain Cellars 2013 Reserve Malbec; Paso Robles, California:  Aromas of black fruit and vanilla bean waft from the glass.  This tightly wound, complex wine offers up dense blackberry and black cherry at the core, with accents of well integrated oak, exotic coffee, and savory spice.  Beautifully structured and balanced; an extraordinary Malbec. SRP:  $60 www.cinquaincellars.com

Hearst Ranch Winery 2014 “Pico Creek” Merlot; Paso Robles, California: This smooth, finely textured Merlot (composed of 75% Merlot and 25% Petit Verdot) fills the palate with fresh herbs, juicy blueberry, raspberry and blackberry fruit, and a tasty thread of cocoa.  Shows off immaculate balance, pretty tannins, and a lifted finish. SRP:  $30  www.hearstranchwinery.com

Michael Rose Cellars 2015 Estate Bouschet Rosé; Central Coast, California:  Fragrant berry aromas draw you into this delectable Alicante Bouschet Rosé.  Lively acidity frames raspberry, blueberry, cranberry and subtle spice flavors that simply dance on the palate.  Thirst quenching, bright and elegant. SRP:  $26 www.michaelrosecellars.com

Tlo Wines 2014 Pinot Noir; Edna Valley, California:  A highly expressive Pinot Noir displaying berry and cherry cola notes at first whiff.  The palate is equally compelling with layers of sun ripened Bing cherries, fresh raspberries, a touch of spiced oak and forest floor nuances; well crafted.  SRP:  $40  www.tlowines.com

J Dusi Wines 2014 Dante Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel; Paso Robles, California: A rich and jammy mouthful! Reminiscent of a bowl brimming with juicy, ripe summer raspberries, blackberries and cranberries topped with vanilla bean scented cream.  Oh so spirited, fresh and pure, with a finish that lingers after the final sip.  SRP:  $38 www.jdusiwines.com

Brophy Clark Cellars 2014 Chardonnay; Santa Maria Valley, California: Aromas of orchard fruit and buttery croissants set the stage for a yummy mouthful of sautéed pears, pineapple, baking spices and well placed underlying oak.  Fully flavored and well balanced with a satisfying, persistent aftertaste.  SRP: ~$20   www.brophyclarkcellars.com

Eberle Winery 2015 Muscat Canelli; Paso Robles, California:  This vibrant, semi-sweet Muscat Canelli awakens the senses with a pretty floral aroma and fills the mouth with luscious flavors of gingered pears and fresh peach compote.  Striking acidity creates a beautiful balance and the finish is heavenly.  SRP: $20  www.eberlewinery.com

View all the results for the 2016 competition at www.centralcoastwinecomp.com.  For more enjoyment, spend a few days in this delightful locale to taste and purchase these award winning wines, and other delectable wines being made throughout the Central Coast wine region.

Gems in My Glass . . . April 2016

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Lavender Ridge Vineyard and Winery 2014 Grenache Rose; Sierra Foothills, California:  Here is a yummy dry Rose crafted with immaculate precision and purity of fruit.  The enticing aromatic draws you in, and the vibrant flavors of fresh raspberry, watermelon, lemon-lime citrus accents and touches of fresh chopped herbs entwine sumptuously.  The finish is bright and persistent.   Vintage 2014 sold out, but do not miss the newly released 2015.  It is equally compelling, and just won a Gold medal!  SRP:  $16   www.lavenderridgevineyard.com

Shadowbox Cellars 2009 Anne Katherina Vineyard Pinot Noir; Carneros, California:  I thoroughly enjoyed my last bottle of this classy 2009 vintage Pinot Noir.  Tantalizing forest floor aromas pave the way to a delicious mouthful of cherries, raspberries, exotic mushrooms, savory earth-driven spice notes and nicely managed oak (from 16 months in 45% new French oak barrels).  The wine remains beautifully balanced with good lift, and shows off a silky texture through the elegant finish.   SRP:  $56 (For the current 2012 vintage; the 2009 vintage is sold out.)  www.shadowboxcellars.com

Gramercy Cellars 2013 The Third Man; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Here is a well-crafted red blend composed of 76% Grenache, 19% Syrah and 5% Mourvédre that captures the essence of these expressive Rhone varieties.  Black raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry and pretty spice aromas and flavors engage the senses from first intoxicating whiff.  In the mouth it is satin smooth, lively and well structured with pretty underlying oak nuances, and the finish is long and lifted.  SRP:  $42    www.gramercycellars.com

Lady Hill Winery Fons Amoris 2012 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  The alluring aroma of a fragrant cherry compote laced with herbs lifts from the glass as this remarkable Pinot Noir approaches the nose.  Elements of black cherry, cola, pomegranate and exotic tea spice really hit the mark as the wine blossoms with elegance on the palate.  Silky and well balanced with hints of anise on the memorable, earth scented finish.  SRP:  $70  www.ladyhill.net

Dehlinger Winery 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon; Russian River Valley, California:  Wow, this provocative wine has aged beautifully and still has years ahead.  Minerality, old world earthiness, black currant, plum skin, licorice and sun dried cherries create a divine kaleidoscope of flavors through the palate.  Complex with refined tannins and perfect balance, and the finish is equally impressive as it lingers on and on.  SRP: This vintage is sold out.  To be added to their mailing list for new releases visit their website: www.dehlingerwinery.com

L’Ecole No 41 2015 Chenin Blanc; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The aroma is resplendent with lovely florality and tropical fruit.  Fanning out on the palate are well defined layers of star fruit, ripe melon, honey crisp apple, juicy clementine segments, and sweet Meyer lemon notes that meld in exquisite harmony.  Lively, well balanced and vibrant from entry through last satisfying drop.  SRP: $14 www.lecole.com

Galleano Winery Old Vines House Zinfandel; Cucamonga Valley, California:  This tasty wine, offered at an incredibly reasonable price, is simply delicious.  Generous in fruit and spice, it coats the mouth with succulent blackberries, boysenberries and blueberries accented by hints of cocoa, vanilla and spice.  Perfect as an afternoon sipper, or to pair with a juicy burger hot off the grill.  SRP:  $7.75   www.galleanowinery.com

Galleano Winery Rose of Peru Sherry; Cucamonga Valley, California:  This rich elixir with a divine hue and nutty aroma is reminiscent of a fine old world Oloroso Sherry. Decadent flavors of honey roasted walnuts, dense, spicy fruit cake and candied orange peel unwind onto the palate.  The texture is velvety, the balance spot on, and the forever finish leaves you in a dreamy state of mind.  SRP:  $35 www.galleanowinery.com

Cougar Crest Winery 2009 Cougar Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Walla Walla, Washington:  Setting the stage for this well built Cab Sauv you’ll find distinctive aromas of black fruits and decadent chocolate.  Multi layered with cocoa dusted boysenberry, red currant and blackberry fruit enhanced by a sprinkling of dried herbs, and savory olive tapenade notes joins in on the back palate.  Rich velvety tannins and well placed acidity shine from the initial sip through the lasting finish.    SRP:  ~$75  www.cougarcrestwinery.com

 

 

 

Judgment of Geyserville III – Scintillating Syrah

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes No Comments

Five wine writers reconvened for our third annual Judgment of Geyserville, and this year it was all about Syrah.  The four geographic areas represented were British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington. Three wines from the designated areas (each crafted by a different producer) were blind tasted, vying for Gold, Silver or Bronze acclaim.  After the blind tasting concluded and prior to the unveiling, a spirited discussion ensued.  Each wine clearly displayed good varietal characteristics and skillful use of oak. This year the scoring range was very tight; with high marks awarded to all (Gold or Silver was achieved by each of the twelve wines).

California

Drew Family Cellars 2013 Valenti Ranch Syrah, Mendocino Ridge:  Tightly wound, this wine opens with a minty, raspberry aroma.  Bright up front with layers of red cherry, raspberry and juicy plum highlighted by clove notes, pepper spice and a trace of brininess.  Supported by fine grained tannins, the wine remains lively as the flavors continue unwinding through the palate.   Purity and balance prevail from initial sip to lingering finish.   GOLD SRP:  $45  www.drewwines.com

Lagier Meredith Vineyard 2013 Syrah, Mount Veeder: Dark berry and floral scents entice the nose.  This wine is radiant on entry and gains momentum on the palate with earthy, blackberry and olallieberry flavors melding with grilled meat elements and savory spice.  Well placed oak nuances, vivacious acidity and an uplifted finish top off the lovely package.  GOLD SRP: $48 www.lagiermeredith.com

Qupé Wines 2011 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Syrah, Edna Valley:  Spicy berry and earthy aromas win you over at first sniff.   Well balanced and irresistible as purple plums, cranberry, cassis, black pepper spice and hints of black tea weave harmoniously on the palate.  This Syrah showcases a concentrated flavor profile and firm tannins yet remains elegant, and the finish is everlasting. GOLD SRP: $35 www.qupe.com

Washington

Ross Andrew Winery 2010 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Columbia Valley:  Dusty earth and fresh picked ripe berries captivate the senses.  The entry is brilliant, and the flavors stay focused through the palate with cranberry, sweet blackberry fruit and mixed peppercorn accents.  This smoothly textured wine displays refined tannins, and finishes with impressive depth and persistence.   GOLD SRP: $38 www.rossandrewwinery.com

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley:  Here is a bold Syrah that opens with earthy, intense dark fruit and tobacco leaf on the nose.   Lush and balanced, it coats the mouth with deep flavors of black cherry, blackberry jam, hints of coffee and well integrated oak.  Round tannins show nicely through the supple finish. SILVER SRP: $42 www.bunnellfamilycellar.com

Palencia Winery 2012 Syrah, Yakima Valley:  This compelling Syrah with gorgeous purity showcases crushed berries and floral, spicy aromas.  On the palate it remains spicy and lively with red raspberry, black cherry and wild berry fruit at the core.  Juicy and well balanced through the finish, with subtle oak and bright, sweet berries lingering on and on.  GOLD SRP: $30 www.palenciawine.com

Oregon

Abacela Vineyard and Winery 2012 Estate Syrah (Barrel Select), Umpqua Valley: Engaging mint, mixed berry and hints of eucalyptus tantalize the nose.  The entry shimmers with boysenberry, huckleberry, cocoa, anise and savory spice, and the well-defined flavors intensify as they flow onto the palate.  Firm tannins frame the pretty fruit, and the wine remains expressive and lively through the persistent aftertaste.   SILVER SRP: $29 www.abacela.com

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah, Umpqua Valley:   Here is a sophisticated, finely textured Syrah.  Dark berry and underlying gamey notes intrigue from the first whiff.  Layers of roasted meat, blackberry, dark chocolate, licorice and earthiness join splendid acidity, creating a kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate.  A precise balance and firm tannins carry this gem to a memorable finish.    GOLD SRP:  $39 www.reustlevineyards.com

Zerba Cellars 2012 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley:   Black fruits and an appealing touch of cured meat greet the nose.  Lush and round on the palate, as juicy purple plums, huckleberries, charcuterie and cinnamon spice swirl deliciously in the mouth.  Refined tannins and complementary acidity provide excellent structure for the sustaining finish.  SILVER SRP: $36 www.zerbacellars.com

British Columbia

Nichol Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Okanagan Valley: Aerate this wine to fully appreciate the dark fruit and savory aromas lifting from the glass.  Intensely structured with flavors of black plum, blackberry, wild game, herbs and spice unraveling on the palate.  Integrated chalky tannins wrap around the deep fruit, and the wine finishes with vigor.  SILVER SRP: $40 www.nicholvineyard.com

Vanessa Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Similkameen Valley:  This appealing Syrah was co-fermented with 6% Viognier.  Its vibrant fruit shines, from the black cherry aromas through the mouth filling boysenberries, plums and black cherries accented by vanillin and sweet spice.   Shades of oak sit neatly in the background, and the finish sings of sugar-dusted berries.   SILVER SRP: $39 www.vanessavineyard.com

C.C. Jentsch Cellars 2013 Syrah, Okanagan Valley:  Earthy, woodsy aromas excite the senses, paving the way to layers of dense black plums, blackberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, cassis, chopped herbs and roasted meat that entwine delectably on the palate.  Displaying beautiful oak management, clear-cut balance, and tannins that thrive; a complex, well-honed wine.   GOLD SRP: $30 www.ccjentschcellars.com

In summary, the critics generally agreed these fine examples of Syrah are beautifully nuanced and meticulously balanced, with sound varietal character.  Syrah is a nice sipper on its own, and pairs remarkably well with a variety of foods, from vegetarian, to pulled pork, lamb chops, grilled beef, barbecued ribs, and hearty stews.  Well-crafted Syrah Rosé and sparkling Rosé wines are also available if you’re in the mood for refreshing and lighter, more delicate style Syrahs.  In my opinion, the popularity of Syrah/Shiraz has been trending up recently, and I think it is about time; hurrah for Syrah!

Gems in My Glass . . . February 2016

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Portugal No Comments

Wines from Portugal:  More than stunning Port worthy of praise!

Vintage Port, Tawny Port, Colheita and Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port are Portuguese wines commonly purchased in America.  Not as easy to find in the USA are dry table wines made in Portugal, but they are plentiful and very reasonably priced in the country in which they were produced.  It was enlightening and palate pleasing to explore wines there from a number of wine regions.   The lovely, well-staffed Wines of Portugal tasting room, Sala Ogival is located in the west wing of the Terreiro do Paço (Commerce Square) in downtown Lisbon.  It is here you can taste many examples of table wines and ports, like those I had the pleasure of sipping while visiting Lisbon recently. Approximate prices noted are for purchases made in Portugal, in the country’s official currency, euros.  At the time of this writing, 1 euro equals 1.11 USD.  These wines are not widely distributed in North America, but still worth seeking out at your favorite wine shop, or when traveling to Portugal:

Principium 2014 Chardonnay Arinto; Lisboa, Portugal:  Crafted from grapes of Quinta da Romeira, this delightful blend of 70% Arinto (one of Portugal’s oldest indigenous white grapes) and 30% Chardonnay displays aromas of white wild flowers.  On the palate it is bright and lively with crisp apple and citrus accents melding with pretty herbal notes and a hint of minerality.  Easy to quaff and a great value.  (4 euros)

Quinta Dos Carvalhais Encruzado 2014; Dao, Portugal:  Encruzado is a white grape widely grown in the Dão DOC.  This rendition confidently shows off perfumed aromas, hints of earth and mineral notes, and shimmering flavors of stone fruit laced with fresh squeezed lime.  Six month aging in new oak adds dimension through the palate, and the oak is nicely integrated.  This complex, well-balanced wine culminates in a highly energetic, radiant finish.  (19 euros)

Quinta das Pereirinhas 2014 Alvarinho; Mancao and Melgaco, Vinho Verde, Portugal:  Here is a snappy dry white wine with an engaging citrus blossom aroma.  Rich and intensely flavored with layers of guava, lime sorbet, and pleasing earthy notes that entwine on the palate.  The wine remains spirited with well-placed acidity, and the aftertaste is perky and clean.   (9 euros)

Esporao Quinta dos Murcas 2013  “Assobio” Rose; Douro, Portugal:  From the oldest DOC in the world comes this blend of Tinta National, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Francesca and Touriga Franca,  It is a charming dry Rosé with a brilliant watermelon hue.    Engaging strawberry and cranberry aromas join flavors of wild berry, strawberry, lemon peel and chopped herbs on the lively palate. The nice level of acidity keeps the wine vibrant all the way through the upbeat finish.  (8 euros)

Companhia das Lezirias 2012 “Tyto Alba” Vinhas Protegidas; Tejo, Portugal:  This is a serious minded, bone-dry red blend, named after the barn owl (cleverly depicted on the label) that inhabits the area.  Crafted of Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Franca, it offers up scents and flavors of fresh mint, dense black plums, blueberries, tobacco spice, subtle oak and a hint of blackberry candy.   Full bodied and juicy on the palate, with a velvety texture and a backbone of refined tannins.  (12.5 euros)

Quinta dos Termos 2011 Baga; Beira Interior, Portugal:  This deeply hued red wine made from Baga, one of Portugal’s indigenous red grapes (small, thick skinned berries), opens with captivating brambleberry aromas.   Red berries, black plums, graphite, spicy bread pudding and savory notes entwine leaving a warm, satisfying impression as it coats the palate.   Sophisticated and well-structured with firm tannins and upbeat acidity offsetting the rich fruit, and the persistent finish is divine.  (20.5 euros)

Caves Sao Joao 2012 Quinto do Poco do Lobo; Bairrada, Portugal:  This spicy red blend, built of 45% Baga, 45% Touriga Nacional and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, is compelling from first whiff.  Cassis, tart huckleberry and black cherry unfold onto the palate with white pepper and fresh earth highlights.  Beautifully balanced with firm tannins and good acids, and pure through the pleasing finish.  (13.5 euros)

Bulas 20 Year Tawny Port; Douro, Portugal:  This delicious port is crafted of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca.  Toasted nuts and caramel greet the nose. The rich elixir fills the mouth with tiers of crème brûlée caramelized sugar topping, sweet figs, honey-drizzled almonds and a splash of orange liquor.  Gorgeous in texture and nicely weighted as it flows to a heavenly finish.  (40 euros)

Casa de Santa Eufemia 40 year Tawny Port; Douro, Portugal:   Here is a powerful and regal Tawny.  The exquisite aroma draws you right into the glass.  Multilayered with candied ginger, clementine, fig jam, tobacco, nutmeg, crystallized pecans, spice cake, espresso and toffee melding in harmony, creating a spectacular explosion of flavor on the palate.  With all its intensity, there is an elegance about this port from start to everlasting finish. (110 euros)

Sala Ogival is picture perfect spot located in downtown Lisbon at the water’s edge.  It is a worthy destination whenever you head to Lisbon, providing a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself into Portugal’s world of wine.

Gems in My Glass . . . January 2016

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Spain, Tenerife 1 Comment

Spicy, Captivating Wines from Tenerife in the Canary Islands

Tenerife captivates with its charm and history, spicy food and wine, and scenic beauty all around the island.  At the center of Tenerife is Mt Teide, a (dormant) volcano, the peak of which is at ~12,198 feet (the highest point in Spain).  There are now more than 8,000 hectares of grapes planted in rich, fertile volcanic soil here. The mountain range, coastal influence, trade winds and span of altitudes provide a wide array of micro-climates on this sub-tropical volcanic island (the largest of the Canary Islands); it is well suited for cultivating grapes.

Wines in Tenerife are crafted primarily of varieties that are rarely, if ever, grown in North America.  There are five unique Denominaciones de Origen (designation of origin regions) here.   Tacoronte-Acentejo was the first DO to be recognized in 1992, however grapes have been grown here for hundreds of years.  Grapes planted in Tenerife include Listán Blanco, Listán Negro, Negramoll, Tintilla and Vijariego Negro.   Grape growers and vintners ardently tend to their vineyards and winemaking, and the results are impressive.  The Monje family was one of the first to plant grapes.  Felipe Monje, a 5th generation winemaker, exudes the family passion and tradition that he carries on.  Additional talented vintners and I had the pleasure of meeting and sampling wines with include Borja Pérez González (Ignios), and Jonatan García Lima (Suertes del Marqués).

Be adventurous and expand the repertoire of wine varieties that delight your palate!  The following Tenerife wines are among many worth seeking out:

Bodegas Monje 2013 Tradicional; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  A field of wild flowers and hints of gunpowder on the nose are unleashed onto the palate with tinges of earth, blackberry and Black Amber plum fruit, and savory spice highlights.  This red blend of Listán Negro (Listán Prieto), Listán Blanco (Palomino) and Negramoll (Tinta Negra Mole) is vivacious and elegant.  Soft, round tannins caress the palate, and lead to a lingering aftertaste.  www.bodegasmonje.com

Bodegas Monje 2003 Events Listán Blanco; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  Just released three years ago, this aged, golden-hued white wine delivers scents and flavors of candied pineapple, notes of toast, honey and spice-dusted roasted almonds.   It is smooth in texture, powerful and deep, with hints of herbs and earthiness on the intense finish.

Bodegas Monje 2014 Hollera; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  This easy to quaff 100% Listán Negro opens with dark berry and cardamom spice on the nose.  Allspice and cardamom notes meld with black plummy fruit, crushed pink peppercorns and nice oak integration throughout; balanced and pure.

Bodegas Monje 2012 Tintilla; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  This blend of 90% Tintilla Castellana and 10% Listán Negro (with eight months French oak aging) showcases deep, dark berry and plummy fruit with spiced oak nuances on the inviting nose.  Spicy fruit compote and toasty nuances continue as the wine fills the mouth and heads to a warm, satisfying finish.

Bodegas Suertes del Marqués 2014 Vidonia; Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife:  Plenty of minerality here with this sleek, citrusy Listán Blanco.  Perfumed floral aromas lead to bright flavors of grapefruit, apple skin, banana chips, and spiced oak.  The thread of minerality remains focused throughout, and a splash of lime lifts the finish brilliantly.  Complex and well defined with racy acidity, this youthful wine promises good aging potential, too. www.suertesdelmarques.com

Bodegas Buten Crater 2008 Magma de Crater (Crianza); Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  Take a good whiff of the alluring scents of earthiness and Friar plum preserves; intoxicating.  This luscious blend of Negramoll and Syrah continues to entice with concentrated dark fruit, anise seed, hints of spiced meat, seasoned leather and nice toasty elements (from the French oak aging) dazzling the palate.  Intense and finely balanced with a well-honed backbone of tannins, I envision this wine aging impressively for years.  www.craterbodegas.com

Bodegas Marba 2014 Blanco Barrica; Tacoronte-Acentejo, Tenerife:  Tinges of earth and tropical fruit rise from the glass as this engaging Listán Blanco greets the nose.  Bright and lively with interlacing layers of lemon curd, candied pineapple wedges, lime peel and spicy pear chutney.   Elevated acidity balances the juicy fruit, refreshing the palate through the pulsating finish.  www.bodegasmarba.com

Bodegas Ignios Origenes 2013 Vijariego Negro; Ycoden Daute Isora, Tenerife:  Here is a beautifully textured Vijariego Negro.  Exotic aromas of potpourri and spice are enrapturing.  Fanning out onto the palate are rich layers of blackberry jam, freshly ground pepper spice, raspberries, flinty accents and nicely integrated oak from new and seasoned French oak aging.   Round tannins and a noteworthy level of acidity harmonize with the lush fruit, and the aftertaste is deep and persistent. www.igniosorigenes.com

Bodegas Altos de Trevejos 2014 Mountain Wines Vijariego Negro; Abona, Tenerife:  Perfumed fragrances of violets, earth and spice scintillate the senses.  Layers of red-fleshed plums, currants, minerally notes and spice elements framed by firm tannins swirl scrumptiously on the palate.  Well-placed oak management adds further dimension, and the wine finishes with style and depth. www.altosdetrevejos.com

Cumbres de Abona 2015 Testamento; Abona, Tenerife:  This delightful white wine crafted of 100% Malvasia offers up mouthwatering aromas.  Enlivening the palate are layers of juicy guava and pineapple fruit accented with citrus and mineral notes.  It is sleek and steely with a pretty texture, and boasts lively acidity that keeps the wine fresh and energetic throughout.  www.cumbresdeabona.es

Some Canarian wines are imported into the USA, check with your local wine shops.  Even better, visit Tenerife yourself, there is plenty to explore there within the world of wine and food, and beyond.

Gems in My Glass . . . December 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Tasting Notes No Comments

Wine Press Northwest 2015 Platinum Judging; Gold sings, Platinum soars!

The Wine Press Northwest Platinum wine competition treats judges to a unique experience; judging wines from an elite group.  All entries in this competition secured Gold or Double Gold status in one of many  competitions previously held around the world.  Got your attention?  I’d imagine so, if seeking out well-crafted wines is on your list of favorite activities.  Here are some of the remarkable Platinum winning wines my panel had the pleasure to judge; surely you’ll find wines that trigger a must have thought in your mind!

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Cuvée; Washington: This brilliant ruby hued blend, crafted of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon 27% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Carménère delivers nicely ripened red and black fruit and a dash of cocoa powder to the nose. Generous in the mouth with tasty blackberries and chocolate covered cherries interlacing with savory spice, underlying oak and tea leaf accents, it simply captivates. Nicely built with well-rounded tannins and a finish that is smooth and satisfying. SRP: $32 www.wallawallavintners.com

Henry Earl Estates 2010 Homesteader; Red Mountain, Washington: The fragrant floral aroma engages the senses as this velvety textured blend of 36% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, 13% Cabernet Franc and 14% Petit Verdot lifts from the glass. Fresh and lively on the palate with luscious flavors of cranberries, cherries, blackberries, cassis, anise and cigar box accents that unfold and wrap around grippy tannins. Drinking beautifully now, and the rich fruit, precise balance and structured tannins suggest it is also a good candidate for the cellar. SRP: $40 www.henryearlwine.com

Mercer Estates 2012 Sharp Sisters Red Blend; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is a plush, concentrated blend of 40% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Sangiovese, 3% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Tempranillo and 1% Grenache that really delivers with its juicy blueberry, cola, wild raspberry, sweet plum, toffee, spice box nuances and lovely oak integration. The tannins are finely grained, and the wine shows good structure throughout. SRP: $26 www.mercerwine.com

Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2011 Pentatonic; Columbia Valley, Washington: Tightly wound and layered, I appreciate how this spunky blend, composed of 68% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, 14% Petit Verdot and 4% Cab Sauvignon, provocatively opens up with aeration. Red currant, blueberries, cassis and blackberries entwine with graphite, well placed oak and savory spice as it unfolds onto the palate. This sophisticated Bordeaux blend displays refined tannins, and the finish is long and gratifying. SRP: $40 www.sinclairestatevineyards.com

Eight Bells Winery 2012 Red Willow Vineyard 8 Clones Syrah; Yakima Valley, Washington: Alluring bacon fat aromas start the love affair with this complex, precisely balanced Syrah. Satin smooth in texture, with layer upon layer of juicy plums, blueberries, anise, black cherries, spice enhanced grilled meat, savory olives and minerally notes framed by powerful tannins. Deep, dark and delicious through the lengthy finish. SRP: $32 www.8bellswinery.com

Chateau St. Michelle 2012 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington: The scent of roasted coffee beans deliciously wakes you up. Rich red fruit, bittersweet chocolate and underlying toasted oak (from 22 months aging in 60% new French and American oak) swirling on the palate offer further stimulation. One glass leads to another of this silky, well-crafted Cabernet Sauvignon. The sumptuous flavors linger dreamily beyond the final sip. SRP: $36 www.ste-michelle.com

Zerba Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot; Walla Walla Valley, Washington: Fragrant violets on the nose and the classic opaque purple/black Petit Verdot hue confidently steer this gorgeous wine onto the palate. Broadening in the mouth are multiple shades of dense blackberries, wild berries and purple plums, vanilla, cedar, earthy notes and a dusting of herbs. The flavors interlace in harmony and provide a perfect counterpoint to the vibrant acidity and firm tannins. This is a powerful, delectable Petit Verdot. SRP: $45 www.zerbacellars.com

Dusted Valley Vintners 2012 Wallywood; Columbia Valley, Washington: This blend of 52% Syrah, 24% Petite Sirah, 16% Mourvédre and 8% Grenache is deeply hued and broadcasts intense berry and herbal aromas. Chock full of blackberries, plum skin, savory spice, graphite, roasted coffee and tasty highlights of cured meats that weave through from entry, through mid-palate, to the engaging and lifted finish. The dense fruit is lush, and the acids and tannins provide a firm structure; lovely. SRP:  $42 www.dustedvalley.com

Dunham Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon XVIII; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is an irresistible Cabernet with an intense, alluring aromatic of fresh tobacco and black fruits. Well defined and complex, the focused flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plums commingle with black olive, a pinch of multi-colored peppercorns and understated toasty oak. Powerful in structure and finely balanced with a firm backbone of tannins, this gem is approachable now, and promises to be age-worthy as well. SRP: $45 www.dunhamcellars.com

Desert Wind Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; Wahluke Slope, Washington: This snappy Cabernet Sauvignon opens with notes of eucalyptus, ripe berries and herbs on the nose. Round and mouth filling with oodles of sweet boysenberry jam, spiced cherry pie, tart huckleberry and a touch of roasted green bell pepper melding with earthy elements. Nicely balanced, full flavored and easy to quaff through the pleasing finish. SRP: $18 www.desertwindwinery.com

L’Ecole No. 41 Winery 2012 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah; Walla Walla Valley, Washington: This tantalizing Syrah offers up a handful of violets deliciously sharing the aromatic stage with dark berry fruit. Compelling and precisely balanced on the palate with roasted meat, notes of sizzling bacon, ripe blueberries, olallieberries, black plums, spiced black tea and a tinge of earthiness. This smartly crafted Syrah displays lovely purity, and the subtle oak provides a nice backdrop through the persistent finish. SRP: $36 www.lecole.com

Visit these wineries and/or their websites, or check with your favorite wine shop to pick up a bottle or two of the award winning wines from the Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging. You can also find information about additional award winners in this month’s issue of Wine Press Northwest, or the website www.winepressnw.com. Cheers!

Gems in My Glass . . . November 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Laird Family Estate 2014 Red Hen Chardonnay; Oakville, Napa Valley, California:  This lean, mineral laden Chardonnay displays enticing tree fruit and citrusy aromas.  Vivid and energizing as layers of crisp green apple, clementine, fresh herbs and a subtle touch of oak unfold deliciously on the palate.  Decant to fully appreciate, or cellar for future enjoyment. SRP:  $35 www.lairdfamilyestate.com

Laird Family Estate 2012 Phantom Ranch Pinot Noir; Carneros, Napa Valley, California:  Here is a generously fruited Pinot Noir broadcasting juicy Bing cherries, wild raspberries, black tea and spice box notes from the engaging aroma through the rich, satisfying palate.  Well balanced and mouth coating as it makes its way to the buoyant, lingering finish.  SRP:  $55 www.lairdfamilyestate.com

WineSmith Wines 2005 Mangels Ranch Reserve Syrah; Suisun Valley, California:  Floral and dark berry aromas provide a pretty introduction to this stunning Syrah.  Flavors of blueberry compote, purple plums, and huckleberries meld with earthiness, saddle leather and creamy chocolate notes.  Rich and intense with a striking backbone of tannins.  Splendid now, yet also promises many years ahead.  SRP:  $50 www.winesmithwines.com

Artesa Winery 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay; Carneros, Napa Valley, California:  Spicy aromatics wrap around fresh pear, apple skin and floral notes that delight upon entry.  Bright and bracing with Anjou pear, Honeycrisp apple, a dash of clove, and lemon-lime citrus notes that expand exquisitely on the palate and mingle with a thread of minerality and subtle oak.  Energetic and well defined through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $35 www.artesawinery.com

Artesa Winery 2012 Tempranillo; Alexander Valley, California:  Abundant black fruit and hints of spice tempt the nose with this dense yet lithe Tempranillo.  Brambly and rich on the palate with oodles of juicy boysenberries, blackberries, sweet black plums and brown spice creating a marvelous mosaic of flavors on the palate.  Full bodied and pure through the commanding, uplifted finish.  SRP:  $45 www.artesawinery.com

Trojak~Knier 2014 Chardonnay; Napa Valley, California:  The tantalizing, flinty nose of this Burgundian style Chardonnay paves the way to a gorgeous silky entry.   Stimulating the palate are layers of creamy pear, minerality, hazelnut and flaky, buttered croissants melting in your mouth.  Focused and well balanced with spiced barrel notes and lively acidity, this wine lingers well beyond the last graceful sip.  SRP:  $44 www.trojakknier.com

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2013 The Expedition; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  Earthy, wild blackberry notes rise temptingly from the glass as this juicy red blend approaches the nose. A blend of 34.5% Merlot, 26.6% Syrah, 24.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14.4% Grenache, here is a wine with copious fruit showcasing blueberries, blackberries and raspberries that entwine with a twist of pepper, anise and allspice.   Perky and fresh, and a great value too. SRP:  $15 www.canoeridgevineyard.com

Ayoub Wines ??? Vineyards Pinot Noir; Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Red fruit and mushroom aromas jump from the glass with this vibrant Pinot Noir.  The entry explodes with brightness and flavor.  Flavors of wild cherry, juicy strawberry, hints of pepper spice and the essence of forest floor wrap around finely grained tannins, exhilarating the palate.  Finishing with elegance; this wine shows off wonderful depth and purity.   SRP:  $55 www.ayoubwines.com

Ayoub Wines 2013 Mojo; Dundee Hills, Oregon/Knights Valley, Sonoma County, California:  This unlikely pairing of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir delivers a celebratory homerun.  Rich, full bodied and deeply structured; dark berry and graphite components of Cabernet Franc and black cherry, earthy, minerally elements of Pinot Noir mesh like a meticulously woven tapestry. Complex and precise in balance, with a memorable, lasting finish.   SRP:  $75 www.ayoubwines.com

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Afleet Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Alluring forest floor aromas draw you into this tightly wound, complex wine.  Cherries, pomegranate seeds and a suggestion of sautéed mushrooms exhilarate on entry and charm the palate, with exotic tea spice and oak nuances chiming in on the extended finish.  Velvety smooth in texture and oh so lively with vibrant fruit and acidity.   SRP:  $66 www.maggyhawkwines.com

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Hawkster Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Aromas of sun ripened cherries and a hint of fresh mint stimulate the senses as the wine approaches the nose.  Cola, a touch of earth and herbs, purple plums and sweet black cherries offset by upbeat acids saturate the palate.  A smooth, mouth filling wine that broadcasts well integrated oak and a hint of vanillin through the refined finish.  SRP:  $66 www.maggyhawkwines.com

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Stormin’ Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Decant for full enjoyment now, or cellar for couple years to fully appreciate this intense, full bodied Pinot Noir.  With aeration, it delivers savory spice, earthiness and dusty berry aromas upfront.  On the palate it is powerful and tightly structured with dark cherries, black raspberries, cardamom, anise, and firm tannins.  SRP:  $66 www.maggyhawkwines.com

Domaine Serene 2011 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:   From the cool 2011 vintage comes this impressive, zesty Pinot Noir.  Florality, dried cherry, exotic spice, earthy notes and skillfully integrated oak come together in harmony as this ethereal Burgundian style Pinot glides across the palate.  Beautifully restrained in alcohol at 13.1%, this is a chic and graceful Pinot Noir.  SRP:  $75 www.domaineserene.com

Domaine Serene 2013 Clos du Lune Vineyard Chardonnay; Dundee Hills, Oregon:  From their highest elevation Chardonnay vineyard, this cellar worthy Chardonnay begs to be decanted, and you’ll be finely rewarded by decanting if you choose to open it now.  Simply exquisite in structure, texture and balance, this Chard sings with crisp green apple, lemon zest and minerality. Complex and layered, with skillfully managed oak positioned nicely in the background.  SRP:  $70 www.domaineserene.com

Domaine Serene 2012 Grand Cheval; Willamette Valley, Oregon/Walla Walla Valley, Oregon: This blend of 66% Syrah (Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley) and 24% Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley) is available from the winery only and well worth seeking out.  Deep black fruit, roasted meat and bacon notes upfront are enhanced with tobacco spice, cherry licorice, savory spice and shades of oak.  Confident and full bodied, it’s a robust, intensely structured wine.  SRP:  $80 www.domaineserene.com

Robert Sinskey Vineyards 2012 Pinot Gris Late; Los Carneros, California:  Incredibly aromatic, this vivacious late harvest Pinot Gris really delivers, completely satisfying the sweet tooth.  Snappy, bright and in no way cloying, layers of citrus infused poached pears, honeysuckle, caramelized nuts, gingersnaps and crème brulee notes entrance the senses from the first whiff, to the irresistible rich and lively palate, through the elevated finish.  What a way to end the night!  SRP:  $24 (375ml) www.robertsinskey.com

2015 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest No Comments

I’ve got the fever!   This well run wine competition, under the direction of Chairmen Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue (owners of the Great Northwest Wine news and information company), is quite unique and compelling.  Judges are asked to nominate 100 wines to be blind judged; all of which must come from grapes grown in the great northwest; including Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Idaho.  Here are a few personal favorite noteworthy wines among those that my panel judged at the 2015 competition held at the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel this month:

Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery 2014 Old Vines Auxerrois; Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada:   A stunning interpretation of this delightful grape (more widely grown in Alsace).  Displaying worthy varietal typicity, its white peach, pear, grapefruit and lemony flavors intertwine in harmony on the palate.  This beauty is mouth filling and well balanced, with good acidity accompanying the fruit through the enduring aftertaste.  SRP: $13 www.gehringerwines.ca

Sparkman Cellars 2012 Rainmaker Cabernet Sauvignon; Yakima Valley, Washington:  Aromas of tobacco leaf and black fruits get the juices flowing, and prepare you for more delight.  This Cabernet Sauvignon is appealing in its depth and power.  Broadly expanding on the palate are layers of cassis, blackberry, Italian spices and smoky oak nuances.  The acidity zips through the dense fruit, and the tannins are smooth and reined in; extraordinary.  SRP:  $62 www.sparkmancellars.com

Tenet Wines 2013 The Pundit Syrah; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The floral component, wildly expressive and pleasing, implores you to dive into the glass.  Once the wine glides past your lips, the juicy mouthful of purple plums, orange-tinged boysenberries and dark chocolate syrup unfolds, and toasty oak spice is well situated in the background.  Smartly balanced and simply delightfully.   SRP:  $25 www.tenetwines.com

Maryhill Winery 2014 Chardonnay; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Alluring on the nose, this snappy Chard opens with pretty fragrances of citrus blossom and tropical fruit wafting from the glass.  On the palate it is pure and refreshing, with flavors of crisp apple, candied pineapple wedges, stone fruit and subtle spiced oak notes; finishes bright and clean.  SRP: $15 www.maryhillwinery.com

Seven Hills Winery 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The hue is luminous and the aromatic delivers perfectly ripened fruit, a sprinkle of sweet oak and vanilla spice to the nose. Tasty black currant, red cherry, pipe tobacco notes and brown spices wrap around firm tannins.  This wine is nicely weighted as it swells to a finish that is polished and persistent.   SRP:  $30 www.sevenhillswinery.com

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Estate Vineyard Syrah; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  The enticing aromatic bursts forth with herbs and black fruit.  The palate reveals underbrush, black plums, black cherry, mocha, fresh ground multi-colored peppercorns and a suggestion of sautéed green bell pepper.  Black licorice accents come forth on the satisfying finish; a well-crafted, cellar worthy Syrah.   SRP:  $40 www.wallawallavintners.com

Reininger Winery 2011 Mr. Owl’s Red; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  This blend of 55% Sangiovese, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot and 4% Syrah with an earthy edge is agile and compelling.  Softly fruited with black cherry, and raspberry fitting hand and glove with anise, orange peel and a suggestion of angostura bitters.  It is focused and clean, and the racy acidity fits its spry personality to a T.   SRP:  $34 www.reiningerwinery.com

Columbia Crest Winery 2013 Grand Estates Syrah; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Hints of Crayola crayons and dark fruit on the nose meld into jammy black and red berries on entry.  Delectably rich and creamy in texture, the flavors of black cherry, blackberry, toffee and herbal notes linger through the pleasing aftertaste.  Easy to quaff, and a terrific value, too!  SRP:  $12 www.columbiacrest.com

Coyote Canyon Winery 2013 Albarino; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  Spicy and edgy from the endearing aromatic, to the mouthful of spiced peach/pear compote, lemon-lime and crystallized pineapple, to the rocking acidity that never misses a beat.  The components are well orchestrated and the wine flows elegantly as it makes it way to the celebratory finish line.  SRP: $22 www.coyotecanyonwinery.com

Anam Cara Cellars 2012 Nicholas Estate Pinot Noir; Chehalem Mountains, Oregon:  Alluring floral and damp earth scents wow the nose.  In the mouth it’s ethereal and silky smooth, with notes of fresh chopped herbs, dusty cherry, black raspberry, anise and hints of toasted oak.   Smartly composed, it is lively and graceful with a long lasting, memorable finish.  SRP:  $33 www.anamcaracellars.com

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2014 Dry Riesling; Columbia Valley, Washington:  Earthiness, hints of herbs and fragrant dusting powder greet the nose.  Orchard fruit, wet stone, citrus notes and dried apricot flavors swirl in the mouth, with racy acidity providing a wonderful backbone.  Vintage after vintage this value priced wine shines with vibrancy.  SRP:  $10  www.ste-michelle.com

Airfield Estates Winery 2014 Rosé of Sangiovese; Yakima Valley, Washington:   This vivacious dry Rosé offers up spiced cranberry sauce, juicy cherry, orange zest, and mineral notes on the nose and through the juicy, fruit filled palate.  Balanced and bright with good acidity, it shimmers all the way through.    SRP:  $15 (Sold out; don’t miss the 2015 vintage upon release). www.airfieldwines.com

Karma Vineyards 2011 Méthode Champenoise Pink; Columbia Valley, Washington:  This expressive, full bodied sparkling wine leads the way with aromas of reds fruits and fresh flowers.  Magnificent on the palate with its stream of tiny bubbles and gorgeous acidity supporting flavors of fresh cherries and strawberries, watermelon candy and toasty biscuit notes; a divine bubbly.   SRP:  $39.99 www.goodkarmawines.com

Palencia Wine Company 2014 Sauvignon Blanc; Columbia Valley, Washington:   Enticing herbal aromas invite you into the glass and keep you stimulated as juicy white grapefruit, sweet fleshed peaches, crisp pears, and lime zest take center stage on the vibrant palate.  The wine gains dimension with a touch of dried herbs as it marches toward a brilliant finale.  SRP:  $18 www.palenciawine.com

Walla Walla Vintners 2012 Yellow Bird Vineyard Merlot; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Warm blueberry tart scents upfront join red berries, chocolate kisses, blueberries, spice box and subtle oak notes exploding onto the palate.  The well-defined firm tannins and accompanying finely placed acidity provide the perfect framework for this absolutely charming Merlot.  SRP:  $38  www.wallawallavintners.com

Sperling Vineyards 2012 Old Vines Riesling; Okanagan Valley; British Columbia, Canada:  Here is a fresh, meticulously balanced Riesling that really stimulates the senses.  Stone fruit, quince jam, minerality and citrus accents entwine and flow with ease across the palate.  Bright and satisfying with an aftertaste that lingers on and on.  SRP:  $32 www.sperlingvineyards.com

Mercer Estates 2012 Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:  This irresistible Merlot struts out with a confident air and never retreats.  Appealing cherry, savory spice, blueberry and fresh leather aromas and flavors are enhanced by a velvety smooth texture and refined tannins.  Polished and elegant through the long, heavenly finish.  SRP:  $24 www.mercerwine.com

Rocky Pond Winery 2013 Clos Cheval Vineyard Riesling; Lake Chelan, Columbia Valley, Washington:  Here is a sleek and balanced wine with a petrol aroma that clearly shouts out Riesling.  Peach skin, sweet nectarine, fresh squeezed lime juice and slate accents that flow onto the palate are pure and vivacious, leaving a lasting impression.  SRP:  $18 www.rockypondwinery.com

At the conclusion of the competition, Eric and Andy announced names of the judges who captured the most Gold and Double Gold awards from his or her list of 100 wine nominations.   It was a very pleasant surprise to hear that I had captured first place honors!  Check out details regarding all the award winning wines at www.greatnorthwestwine.com where you’ll find results from the 2015 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition, as well as results from the 2013 and 2014 competitions.  The fall season is here in all its glory, and now is the time to stock up on all YOUR favorites!

Gems in My Glass . . . September 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Sonoma, Tasting Notes 1 Comment

2015 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition

Judging the annual Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition this month was invigorating, stimulating and clearly reinforced the bountiful goodness, or better said, greatness, of Sonoma County wines.  The highlighted wines below were among the Double Gold Award winners from my panel.  A Double Gold (GG) award goes to wines receiving a Gold vote from each of the judges on the panel.  Many GG and Gold medals were awarded.  You can view the full medal tally by visiting www.harvestfair.org (click on the Drink tab, and then Award Winning Wines).

J Vineyards & Winery Cuvee 20 Brut NV; Russian River Valley, California:  Alluring aromas and a dynamic tiny bead will have you hovering over the glass as if in a dream before the wine meets your lips.  Crafted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this precise and vivacious sparkling wine showcases creamy pears, spiced lemon bars, crisp apples and crème brûlée melding harmoniously through the persistent finish; let the celebration begin! SRP:  $28   www.jwines.com

Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards 2006 Extra Brut Reserve Cuvée; Carneros, California:  Wow; floral and yeasty aromas join well delineated layers of freshly baked bread, apple pie, brown spices and a zesty splash of lemon zest dancing on the palate.  This wine teems with purity, complexity and fine balance.  An exhilarating stream of tiny bubbles lingers from the first sip to the memorable last one.  SRP:  $47 www.gloriaferrer.com

Balletto Vineyards 2014 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  Scents of a delicate rose bouquet fill the senses with this elegant dry Rosé.  Delighting the palate are pretty flavors of strawberries and Rainer cherries, citrus blossom and a touch of herbs.  Perfectly balanced and crisp, with brisk acids keeping the wine remarkably bright and refreshing.  SRP:  $18   www.ballettovineyards.com

St. Anne’s Crossing Winery 2014 Zinfandel Rosé; Dry Creek Valley, California:  Here is a brilliantly expressive, unabashed dry Rosé that completely engages the senses.  Layers of red raspberries, succulent red plums and savory spice accents fill the mouth.  Well balanced with lively acidity, this savvy wine is every bit as juicy and full flavored as one could desire from America’s sweetheart grape.  SRP:  $18   www.stannescrossing.com

Kelley & Young Wines 2014 Robert Young Vineyards Nuit de Young; Alexander Valley, California:  This very sophisticated dry Rosé boasts elements of fresh cherries, blueberries, cranberries, a tinge of graphite and tea spice on the nose and through the flavorful palate.  Crafted of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it is complex, well structured and beautifully food friendly.  The texture is smooth, the balance spot on, and the engaging finish leaves you wanting more!  SRP:  $32 www.kellyyoungwines.com

Kobler Estate Winery 2014 Bacigalupi Vineyards Chardonnay; Russian River Valley, California:  An intensely aromatic Chard opening with tree fruits and hints of vanilla exciting the senses.  Spilling onto the palate are delectable flavors of spiced apple and pear compote, warm buttered toast and vanilla bean accents.  Full bodied and well composed with a lasting aftertaste.   SRP:   $46 www.koblerestatewinery.com

Pezzi King Vineyards 2013 Reserve Chardonnay; Russian River Valley, California:  This well balanced Chardonnay broadcasts perfumed floral aromas.  It fills the mouth with flavors of delectable creamy lemon custard, caramelized bananas, a touch of oak and citrus blossom accents.  Nicely structured with a smooth texture, it remains lively through the long finish.  SRP:  $36 www.pezziking.com

Kunde Family Winery 2014 Reserve Chardonnay; Sonoma Valley, California:    Full bodied and confident, this dazzling Chardonnay draws you in with aromas of fresh picked apples and a kiss of citrus.  Creamy and well crafted, it is brimming with pear, apple and key lime pie flavors that interlace with brown spice and underlying cedar notes.  The captivating finish is bright and extended.   SRP:  $45   www.kunde.com

Gustafson Family Vineyards 2011 Heritage Tree Vineyard Zinfandel; Dry Creek Valley, California:  Aromas of licorice and ripe berries engage the senses with this mouthwatering Zinfandel.  On the palate are well defined layers of wild berries, chocolate covered cherries, vanillin, anise and cloves that entwine in harmony.  There is a purity about this wine that shines, and it offers good lift throughout.  SRP:  $32 www.gfvineyard.com

DeLoach Vineyards 2013 OFS Zinfandel; Russian River Valley, California:   Here’s an enticingly aromatic, firmly structured Zin that tantalizes the senses.  Rich and lip-smackingly delicious, it is chock full of juicy boysenberries, warm, cinnamon-scented blackberry pie, savory spice and oak nuances.   Lush, dense and smartly balanced with a persistent aftertaste.   SRP:  ~$35 www.deloachvineyards.com

Matrix Winery 2013 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  This generously fruited wine opens with aromas of a mixed floral bouquet and wild berries.  It’s plush, velvety and full of black cherry, spiced marionberry pie, toffee and boysenberry jam at the core.  Underbrush, tinges of herbs and oak spice weave deliciously on the palate.  A full bodied, well balanced and mouth filling Pinot Noir.  SRP:  $52 www.matrixwinery.com

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards 2012 Vine Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  Deeply hued and complex, this aromatic Pinot Noir is lush and juicy.  Sweet black cherry and black raspberry fruit meld with earthiness and exotic spices, and hints of toasty oak provide a complementary underlying note.  Well placed acidity keeps it bright, and the finish is focused and satisfying.    SRP:  ~$46  www.sonomacutrer.com

MacMurray Estate Vineyards 2013 Winemaker’s Block Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  In this glass a classy Pinot Noir awaits.  Provocative forest floor aromas set the stage for the burst of flavors exciting the palate.  Black cherry, raspberry, exotic tea spices, licorice and subtle oak spices integrate like a finely woven fabric.  Silky refined tannins and lively acidity keep the wine in precise balance. SRP:  $60 www.macmurrayestatevineyards.com

Congrats to each and every Sonoma County producer who earned medals from this year’s competition.  I encourage all to take advantage of tasting these well made award winning wines before they sell out!

 

Gems in My Glass . . . August 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Mid-America No Comments

Hybrid, native American, fruit wines and more at the 2015 Mid-American Wine Competition

The 2015 Mid-American Wine Competition in Des Moines, Iowa once again opened the eyes and minds of judges as to the merits of wines crafted from native American grapes, hybrid grapes and other fruits.  If you have not delved into wines of this ilk, it is high time you did!  And that’s not all; Gold medals were also awarded to wines produced in mid America from vinifera vines.  The competition is open to commercial wineries of Arkansas, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Those that spoke gratifyingly to my palate included:

Calico Skies Vineyard and Winery 2013 Geisenheim; American AVA, produced in Iowa:  This highly aromatic wine, crafted from the spunky white hybrid grape Geisenheim (a cross of Riesling and Chancellor), unveils a satisfying dose of sweetness.  Lovely floral scents lead to tangerine, apple and stone fruit laced with fresh squeezed Meyer lemon and a sprinkling of herbs elegantly caressing the palate.  A texturally smooth, smartly balanced wine.  SRP:  $16 www.calicoskieswine.com

Easley Winery 2014 Traminette; American AVA, produced in Indiana:   Traminette (a cross of Gewurztraminer and French American hybrid Joannes Seyve 23.416) can be gloriously expressive on the nose, like this one with honeysuckle and spice that mesmerize you before the wine graces your lips.  Guava, pineapple and orange zest entwine with spice components titillating the palate, and the wine continues to captivate through the lifted finish.  Bright, breezy and simply delectable.    SRP: ~$15   www.easleywinery.com

Soldier Creek Winery 2014 Brianna; Iowa:  Imagine collecting a basketful of fragrant flowers, setting out a tray of tasty bites and sipping wine in the backyard on a sun-speckled summer afternoon.  Refreshing and pure with loads of juicy tropical fruit at the core, this sweet Brianna (a cold climate hybrid grape) with a lively personality and delicate floral notes is a wise choice for your picture perfect afternoon; yummy.  SRP:  $20 www.soldiercreekwinery.com

Wollersheim Winery NV Prairie Blush; Wisconsin:  Reminiscent of a French dry rosé, this semi-dry blush crafted from 100% Marechal Foch grapes boasts a brilliant, electrifying rose-colored hue.   Flavors of strawberry pie, raspberry sorbet and hints of pink grapefruit fill the mouth.  Pure and refreshing with lively acidity; a lovely pairing for a relaxing Sunday brunch.  SRP:  $10 www.wollersheim.com

Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery NV Valvin Muscat; Kansas:  Holy-Field Winery has captured the essence of this fragrant grape. Showing off exotic aromas and flavors of a fresh floral bouquet, summer peaches and creamy Bartlett pears, it is mouthwateringly delicious.   Satin smooth with lively acidity and nicely sweet without being cloying, it makes for a divine summer sipper lazing out by the pool.  SRP:  ~$10 www.holyfieldwinery.com

Ardon Creek Vineyard & Winery NV “Commission Man Red” Noiret; Iowa:  I often tout this spunky grape variety which has long been a favorite of mine, and here is a terrific, well-knit example.  Classic multi-colored peppercorn aromas tell you plenty up front.  That dramatic spice component and subtle oak nuances meld with fresh blackberries, plums and raspberries at the core, building on the palate to a wildly flavorful finale.  SRP:  $12.99 www.ardoncreek.com

Apple Barn Orchard and Winery NV Strawberry Jewel; Wisconsin:  Summertime in a glass!  Engaging flavors of ripe, sweet strawberries (from their homegrown patch) with highlights of juicy tangerine and a squeeze of lemon juice refresh the palate.  Pair this gem with a fresh mixed fruit salad atop tender butter lettuce for a tasty mid-day treat. SRP:  $13.95 www.applebarnorchardandwinery.com

Oliver Winery and Vineyards NV “Soft Red”; Indiana:  This semi-sweet, juicy wine, made from the native American Concord grape, is well named.  It is lush, round, and soft on the palate with a bucket load of flavor.  Grapey and satisfying with pretty fruit at the core, it simply shines with purity and balance.   SRP:  $7.50 www.oliverwinery.com

L. Mawby “Tradition” NV Cuvee Brut; Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan:  Yeasty aromas greet the nose and pave the way for a most enchanting Methode Champenoise sparkling wine produced from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.  Crisp Anjou pear, fresh lemon-lime and sautéed apples flecked with cinnamon dance with spirited acidity on the palate.  The impressive tiny bead of bubbles entertains the eye and the tongue through the persistent finish.  SRP: $21 www.lmawby.com

Cedar Ridge Vineyards NV LaCrosse; Iowa:   Pretty floral notes peak your interest as this snappy LaCrosse (a light skinned hybrid grape) assuredly shows its stuff.  Flavors of creamy pears, green apple skin, a touch of herbs, nectarines and hints of vanilla taffy are ever so fresh in the mouth, and the balance is spot on.   SRP:  $13.99   www.crwine.com

Calico Skies Vineyard and Winery 2013 Frontenac; Iowa:  Here is a cool climate Frontenac that offers up black currant, black cherry and dried cranberries on the nose and through the spice driven, oak-nuanced palate.  Texturally round and lush mid palate, it displays an easy to quaff quality about it all the way through the final sip; very nicely made.  SRP:  $18.95 www.calicoskies.com

If your wine tasting portfolio hasn’t expanded beyond vinifera varieties (such as Cab, Chard, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Riesling, among others), why not reach out and give hybrid, native American varieties and fruit wines a spin?  You’ll most likely be intrigued, expand your wine knowledge, and don’t be surprised if you find a few new favorites!

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