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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wine Each Week: 2018 INOX Chardonnay, Oregon

Throughout Oregon Pinot Noir is the top grape – no surprise - followed by Pinot Gris, and in the netherworld of third place is Chardonnay. But Oregon Chard is gaining momentum and the 2018 INOX is one of the reasons why. Light and clean the seeming simplicity is deceptive. Defined by peach, Asian pear, nectarine, wild flowers, light honeysuckle and mango, none of these flavors are overwhelming, they act as supporting players in the background. Thus the overall experience of drinking this Chardonnay is its versatility. For example I tried this wine with a barbecue chicken pizza (sampling the wine before the pizza of course) and was surprised at the results that the lovely light style and acidity of this of Chardonnay could work so well with BBQ.
Fermented in stainless steel to keep the freshness with just five months of “aging” in tank there are just under 5,000 cases so you should be able to secure some.
In July 2018, Chehalem became the sixth Oregon winery to achieve B Corp status - which assesses companies to ensure they meet the highest standard of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. Additionally they are registered as Salmon Safe – all good things to treat our land as equitable as possible. This is a lovely Chardonnay made better by an attractive price for a wine of this quality.
ORIGIN: Willamette Valley, Oregon
ALCOHOL: 12.9%
PRICE: $20/ 750ML

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Wine Each Week: Duckhorn 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

1982. Napa. Duckhorn debuts its Sauvignon Blanc. Reality check - AVA’s only came about a year earlier. Back then Sauv Blanc wasn’t much of a popular wine but Duckhorn dedicated themselves to planting it.  Nearly four decades later this is one of the most consistent Sauvignon Blancs to come out of Napa. It presents bright lemon zest, lime kefir, light honeysuckle, quince, mango, white peach and a bright acidity that dances on the tongue. Blended with 15% Sémillon part of the success is that winemaker Renee Ary blends both warmer and cooler vineyard sites together to offer a much more balanced approach to Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve had well over 15 vintages of this wine and it never fails to impress.
ORIGIN: Napa Valley, California
ALCOHOL: 13.5%
PRICE: $30/ 750ML

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Libations in Las Vegas: The Global Wine and Spirits Awards

Lingering question… do we need another wine and spirits competition?
Short answer…no.
Longer answer…perhaps, if it achieves something different.

According to a 2018 US News & World Report, Nevada - lead by Las Vegas - is the third highest alcohol consuming state in the nation.
No surprise there, but perhaps the surprise is that a wine and spirits competition in a city so defined by alcohol hasn’t happened before. Well, technically, the Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirits Awards has happened and 2019 was just the second show, and yes, I was invited to be a judge. There’s your caveat.  I’ve been a professional judge for 15 years and when I was first offered the gig, I admit I was just a little dubious.

Then I met Eddie Rivkin.

"I have no sponsors, no advertising. I am in no one’s pocket,” competition owner and founder Eddie Rivkin tells me as we sit in his suite at the Palace Station Casino the night before the judging starts. “I couldn't believe no one had done a competition in my fair city.” Frankly, neither can I.  “I have no opinion on the wines, I have no palate to speak of, and I don't drink,” he says.

And it's important to take him at his word. In my dealings with him he appears to be a straight shooter someone who just wants to run a wine/spirits competition and curiously a person who doesn't drink and admits he’s never even visited Napa. And he doesn’t seem to care about either. As he tells me, he has “even less than a dog in this fight.” So, why does someone run a wine and spirits competition that has no vested interested in the beverage industry? And that question is the rub.
“All I’ve got is my integrity.” He lets the wines speak for themselves and the judges to award the wines the way they want. Among the judges: a sommelier, wine buyers, media representing Robert Parker, Wine Enthusiast, and wine educators, among others. His goal is as a businessman, one who runs a competition, not one who wants free alcohol.

The Judges
And I appreciate that. Integrity was also the word to define the winners
when we judges selected the 2018 Oak Farm Fiano (a what?) from Lodi (where?) to be the Best of Show White Wine.
We were thrilled.
Eddie was perplexed.
The Rodney Strong 2015 Sonoma County Merlot won Best of Show Red Wine.
We were thrilled.
Eddie was less perplexed. At least he’d heard of Merlot.

And though you may not have heard of the Las Vegas Global Wine and Spirits Awards…you will. This isn’t a roll of the dice, this competition is here to say.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Wine Each Week: 2014 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico

Ruffino’s wines had such a reputation that the Duke of Aosta, (that’s him on the label) made Ruffino the official wine of his royal family. 
The 2014 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva Gran Selezione, first produced in 1947, is mainly Sangiovese (85%), with Merlot and Colorino fermented as separate lots then blended together. The wine was aged for one year in traditional large, neutral oak Slovenian casks. After a year, the wine was transferred into small barrels for another 12 months of aging. Neutral oak allows the blend to fully integrate and develop a more elegant and complex flavor profile without being altered. The wine then spends four months in bottle to allow it to settle before release.
This offers earthy blackberry, huckleberry and boysenberry notes, cherry, rhubarb, violet, cherry, and plum, a light sweet vanilla that hugs the edges but allows the fruit to shine through. The oak treatment is limited and the tannins are mild to medium. This is a rounded expression than past years and is exactly what you want from a Chianti - structure, balance, food friendly and simply fun to drink.
ALCOHOL: 14.5%
PRICE: $40.99/ 750ML

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Wine Each Week: J Vineyards Brut Rose’

In 1986, the same year J Vineyards started making sparkling wine, Top Gun was the top movie. Perhaps fitting, J has been a top sparkling house for as long. Their Brut Rose’ is a non-vintage wine and I’ve has this for years and it never disappoints. Lively, dancing bubbles greet you followed by lemon- lime, strawberry, almond, Bing cheery, blood orange, and mango. It is a wine that fills the palate with soft flavors and aromas, ideally used with food given its breadth of expression. Made of Pinot Noir with 32% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier, the dosage is a mere 1.15% residual sugar so it stays a true Brut. This has a place on any table for any occasion.
ORIGIN: Russian River Valley, California
ALCOHOL: 12.5%
PRICE: $45/ 750ML

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wine Each Week: Mercer 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon

Washington State is like that middle child, ignored by siblings California and Oregon but quietly going about making a name for itself. There are terrific wines coming from all the regions here including Horse Heaven Hills. The Mercer family has deep roots here – pun intended – and were the first to plant grapes in 1972. Their 2016 Cabernet is soft and viscous; luxurious even. But this inexpensive wine offers blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, huckleberry, notes of moist earth, mild oak, mild tannins, and very light raspberry. Frankly is should cost twice as much as this is a very generous wine on the pallet and offers a very pleasant seamless drinking experience. Comprised of mainly Cabernet, there is also 14% Syrah, 5% Petite Verdot, 3% Merlot and 1% Malbec.
ALCOHOL: 13.9%
PRICE: $19.99/ 750ML

Monday, April 22, 2019

Wine Each Week: 2016 Flora Springs Trilogy

Most every major Cabernet Sauvignon producer in Napa has their flagship wine and for Flora Springs, it is Trilogy, which first appeared in 1984. Trilogy has an emphasis on New French Oak and if you love that luxurious, smooth, comforting type of wine, this certainly will play well on your table. The fruit comes from Oakville, St. Helena, and Rutherford so though subtle, it offers some of the best grapes from quality growing regions.
The 2016 iteration offers up rich black berry, blueberry, boysenberry and black cherry notes, along with vanilla, white pepper, cinnamon and subtle notes of amber, sugared almonds and black strap molasses, chaparral and cocoa. Trilogy is comprised mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, with just 8% Petite Verdot and 6% Malbec. Aged 20 months with mostly French Oak it accentuates what many Napa Cabs strive for, a balance on fruit, food and place.
ORIGIN: Napa Valley, California
ALCOHOL: 13.5%
PRICE: $85/ 750ML