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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Wine Each Week: Spottswoode 2017 Sauvignon Blanc


Not to be overly poetic, but the nose on Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc immediately conjured an image of a grandma line drying laundry on a bright spring day while eating Pepperidge Farm Milano’s. Perhaps that’s a little hyperbole, but this wine is unabashedly fresh, buoyant. 

Starting with aromas of fresh cut lemons and limes, on the palate there is quince, lemon zest, lime, white peach, nectarine, a wee bit of vanilla and slight sweet resin. The floral aromatics make this sing. In essence this is exactly what you want a wine to do – to invite you someplace and whereas your invitation might look different, this wine does indeed transport you.
ORIGIN: Napa and Sonoma, California
PRICE: $42/ 750ML
ALCOHOL: 13.5%
SCORE: 94 POINTS

Monday, March 4, 2019

Nooku To You: Old Elk Distillery’s Bourbon Peppermint Cream


I’m not ashamed to say I love sweet creamy liqueurs. Always have, always will. And I’m happy to say that I love the Nooku Bourbon Cream Peppermint expression. Old Elk Distillery uses their bourbon cream and simply adds natural peppermint. Done and done. And so damn enjoyable. It’s creamy – made with real dairy milk, not some manufactured weird thing - but the peppermint and bourbon do not overwhelm. Imagine a melted milkshake, or your favorite ice cream that melts just enough to make it almost liquid.  Yeah it’s that decadent. Balanced, simple and effortless. You need nothing else with this, no ice, no addition, except over vanilla ice cream perhaps, but it is simply a thoroughly enjoyable beverage and if you’re like me, it disappears far too quickly. Don’t save this for the holidays or think you need cold weather and a fireplace - though that doesn’t hurt. It’s a sweet treat and one that will satisfy you any time of year, guaranteed.
ORIGIN: Colorado
PRICE: $35/ 750ML
ALCOHOL: 17%
SCORE: 94 POINTS

Monday, February 18, 2019

Wine Each Week: Maysara 2014 Cyrus Pinot Noir


Chances are good that the Persian king Cyrus (600-530 BC) wasn’t in a wine club, but he would have been thrilled to have this Pinot Noir named after him. Maysara Winery, located in Oregon’s McMinnville and a scant 30 miles northwest of the Willamette Valley, began planning their vineyard in 1998. Time has been good to them. Here you get the heady, ripe and plump Pinot Noir and in this case loads of red raspberry, blueberry, black cherry, boysenberry, great viscosity and smooth oak and vanilla. There are back notes of maraschino cherry, resin, light mushroom and Bing cherry. 18 months aging in just 30% new French allows the fruit to shine. It’s a big Pinot Noir with less acidity but with more generous mouth feel. It is Demeter certified for those who believe in such things (and yes, how you farm does matter) and the end result is a unique interpretation of Oregon Pinot from a producer you may not have heard of.
ORIGIN: McMinnville, Oregon
PRICE: $36/ 750ML - 1073 Cases
SCORE: 91 POINTS

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Wine Each Week: 2014 Lucas & Lewellen Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc


Being sweet is a good trait. Being a well-made sweet wine is an art, and this 2014 Late Harvest beautifully expresses how good sweet can be. The sweetness is mitigated by a mild acidity, and there are notes of resin, butterscotch, lemon, lime kefir, and guava. At a mere 12.5% alcohol, it’s not a powerful sedative, nor a sweet bomb. The residual sugar of just 9% - far less than most sweet wines and Ports - makes this a great partner with a variety of food. Think along the lines of Sauternes and you’re tracking on this. If the idea of a sweet, late harvested wine gives you doubts, I believe this wine will remove them. Only 198 cases were made.
ORIGIN: Santa Barbara County, California
PRICE: $22/ 375ML
SCORE:  91 POINTS

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Wine Each Week: Migration 2016 Chardonnay, Running Creek Vineyard


There is a tedious, redundant drumbeat of ABC - “anything but Chardonnay.” Yes, we get it. LIG - Let it go. Some of you don’t like Chardonnay. That’s fine. Yet Chardonnay is actually one of the more versatile grapes making stainless steel versions, full blown oak and buttery iterations, to sweet wines and sparklers. Or, you can try Migration’s 2016 Chardonnay, Running Creek Vineyard. Not only does this offer an uncharacteristic Chardonnay feel, there is clean acidity, slight caramel notes but it’s all under the umbrella of a deceptively multi-layered wine. Hibiscus, crème brulee, lemon verbena, lime kefir, white peach and apricot, this Chardonnay offers may things. And with a partial malolactic fermentation, you get the viscosity on the palate, but with only 35% new French oak, it doesn’t quite taste like it. If you’re an ABC person, I’d suggest this, but you probably wouldn’t try it anyhow. For the rest of us, this is a damn fine Chardonnay.

ORIGIN: Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
PRICE: $56/ 750ML
SCORE: 93 POINTS

Saturday, January 12, 2019

White Out: Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur Erases the Competition


Mr. Black - no I don’t care for the name either - is a coffee liqueur. Think you’ve been there and done that? No you haven’t. This is, hands down, the single best coffee liqueur on the market. It’s made with cold brew coffee using a bittersweet blend of Arabica coffees and Australian wheat vodka. The math means it has half the sugar and ten times the coffee of ‘old-world’ liqueurs, so if you’re a coffee purist, you’ve found what you’ve always been looking for.
Mr. Black got its start in 2012 between fashion designer Tom Baker and distiller Philip Moore of Distillery Botanica in New South Wales, Australia. It took over 230 attempts to come up with the product that won a gold medal at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London in 2012. But you may not have heard of it. Let’s change that. It was Crowdfunded in Australia, then distributed in the UK, and finally in 2019 has limited distribution in California and New York. Once roasted the coffee is ground, cold brewed, and mixed with alcohol, and left to sit. Then liquid is press-extracted, coaxing out as much raw flavor as it can provide.
What I appreciate about this is the lack of viscosity. This is more in line with coffee with added alcohol, not a thick liquid that leaves a gluey film over your mouth, which is true of the majority of coffee liqueur brands. Yes, the nose is potent coffee, which is good. The resulting effort of deep roasted coffee, semi-sweet without being syrupy, clean without being cloying and simple without being boring. Ideal for after dinner, maybe before dinner, hell, maybe before breakfast depending on your leanings, this is coffee done right, with added vodka, also done right, resulting in an ideal coffee drink unlike anything you’ve had before. ($40/750 ML, and worth every penny).

Friday, December 14, 2018

Wine Each Week: 2017 Wrath EX Unoaked Chardonnay


No doubt you’re not familiar with San Saba Vineyard up in Monterey County, but this little vineyard has been producing stellar fruit for decades. Under the umbrella Wrath Wines label, I first covered them in my 2010 travel book, Santa Barbara & The Central Coast. They have re-worked their Ex Anima label, morphing to simply EX and you’re going to need to find these wines (they have tasting rooms in both  Soledad off Highway 101 and in Carmel). What’s immediately apparent on this Chardonnay is a vitality, a freshness you encounter from the first sip. Guava, pineapple, tropical fruits, lemon-lime, orange zest, and Red Delicious apple all conspire to make a bright, clean and refreshing wine. As the name suggests, there’s no oak treatment. These are 35 year old vines (Clone 4 for the wine geeks) and are sustainably farmed under the SIP Certified Program, insuring that you can feel confident of a do no harm mentality to our environment. And at a meager nineteen bucks, you literally cannot go wrong.

ORIGIN: Monterey, California – Santa Lucia Highlands
PRICE: $19/ 750ML / 814 Cases
ALCOHOL: 13.5%