Category Archives: 60 Second Reviews

60 Second Wine Review – Four Graces Pinot noir

A few quick thoughts on the 2017 Four Graces Pinot noir from the Willamette Valley.

Four Graces Pinot

The Geekery

Paula Marie and Steven Black named Four Graces in Dundee after their four daughters when they founded the estate in 2003. Legendary Oregon winemaker Laurent Montalieu (Bridgeview, WillaKenzie, Solena, Kudos and Westmount) crafted Four Graces’ early vintages-which quickly captured acclaim.

In 2014, the winery became part of the Foley Family’s extensive portfolio of brands that includes nearly two dozen wineries in California, Oregon, Washington and New Zealand.

Owned by Bill Foley, who also owns the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, the holdings of Foley Family Estates includes many well-known names such as Chalone Vineyards, Chalk Hill, EOS, Firestone, Guenoc, Lancaster Estate, Merus, Roth, Butterfield Station and Sebastiani as well as Foley-Johnson in Napa. In the Pacific Northwest, Foley also owns Three Rivers Winery in Walla Walla and Acrobat in Oregon–acquired from King Estate in 2018.

Today, the heart of Four Graces are two sustainably farmed estate vineyards. The Foley Family Vineyard, located in Dundee, covers 110 acres on red volcanic soils with a few parcels biodynamic. The 90-acre Doe Ridge Vineyard in Yamhill-Carlton is planted on marine sedimentary soils.

The Willamette Valley Pinot is a blend of plots from the two vineyards. The wine sees around nine months in French oak with about 15% of the barrels being new.

The Wine

Cherries photo by Ronnie Macdonald. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Ample red fruit but this wine needs at least another year or 2 to show more.

Medium-intensity nose of red fruit-cherries, cranberry and raspberries. A little earthy component around the edge but somewhat muted.

On the palate, the earthiness comes out more with a mix of forest and garden herbs. It’s a bit Burgundian with medium-plus acidity, firm medium tannins and a medium body. The red fruit carries through but, overall, the wine feels fairly shy and tight. Moderate finish introduces spice components (cinnamon and clove) that suggest potential.

The Verdict

Usually with WV entry-level Pinots ($25-30), the wines are ready to go on release. But this Four Graces really needs some time.

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60 Second Wine Review — Audrey Wilkinson Gewurztraminer

Note: This wine was a sample at the 2019 Wine Media Conference.

A few quick thoughts on the 2019 Audrey Wilkinson Gewurztraminer from the Hunter Valley.

Audrey Wilkinson Gewurz

The Geekery

Now owned by the Agnew family of Agnew Wines, Audrey Wilkinson is a historic estate in the Hunter Valley. Founded in 1866 by brothers Frederick and John Wilkinson, it was the first vineyard established in Pokolbin.

When Audrey joined the family estate in 1897, he introduced cement fermenters and new techniques for handling the grapes in the winery. His wines would go on to win numerous awards at some of Australia’s most prestigious wine competitions.

Acquired by the Agnews in 2004, the heart of the Audrey Wilkinson vineyard is still one of the oldest in the Hunter Valley. The family maintains a 20 ha estate that includes a small block of Gewurztraminer.

The Wine

Lychee fruit photo by sannse.. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

There would be no excuse for not pegging this as Gewurz in a blind tasting. It has the typicity nailed.

High-intensity nose– lots of lychee and rose petal terpenes. This screams Gertie from across the room. However, it also has lime and apricot notes adding complexity.

On the palate, the wine tastes distinctly dry with the lime note emphasizing medium-plus acidity. Very mouthwatering. There is a fair amount of weight and roundness with some phenolic texture. It’s not distracting at all with the fruit balancing well with the full-bodied weight of the wine. Long finish lingers on the lychee with a slight ginger note coming out.

The Verdict

This wine is probably not going to make its way to the US, unfortunately. However, at around $18 USD (Wine Searcher estimate), it would be a very solid bottle if it did. Most likely in the US, you’d see it more on restaurant wine lists. No doubt, its dry style, fresh acidity and high quality would pair very well with a variety of cuisines.

I can easily see a savvy somm falling in love with this wine. And if you happen to come across it, I’m sure you will too.

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60 Second Wine Review — Hopes End Brandy Barrel-Aged Cabernet Sauvignon

Note: This wine was a sample from the 2019 Wine Media Conference.

A few quick thoughts on the 2018 Hopes End Brandy Barrel-Aged Cabernet Sauvignon from South Australia.

Hopes End Cab

The Geekery

Hopes End is part of the Trinchero Family’s extensive portfolio, which includes brands such as Menage à Trois, Charles & Charles, Joel Gott, A3 Wines and Sutter Home.

Slightly unusual for its style & low $10-13 price point, the Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced entirely from the state of South Australia instead of the vast, multi-regional South Eastern Australia designation.

While South Australia is known for the wines of the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Adelaide Hills, Padthaway and Coonawarra, most likely this wine comes from the Riverland region in the Lower Murray. As Australia’s largest wine region by volume, the Riverland is responsible for nearly 25% of all Australian wine produced.

As noted on the bottle, the wine spends 30 days aging in brandy barrels. However, I can’t find any details of the barrels’ origins or if the wine saw any other type of aging.

The Wine

Blackberry pie photo by Rei at English Wikipedia. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0-

Definitely more blackberry pie notes than brandy in this wine.

Medium-intensity nose. Very jammy dark fruit–blackberry, black plum. Noticeable woodsy oak and vanilla, but it doesn’t smell brandy-like.

On the palate, the 9 g/l residual sugar is very noticeable with the dark fruit having a pie-filling weight and texture. Medium-plus acidity helps balance it somewhat but is curiously citrusy. This could be some of the brandy coming out.

The vanilla is very present with soft medium-plus tannins and a creamy, full-bodied mouthfeel. The moderate finish does introduce black pepper spice which adds some complexity.

The Verdict

As I’ve done before with previous tastings of bourbon barrel-aged wines, I did my best to keep an open mind. While it wasn’t as gawd-awful as Apothic Inferno, this Hopes End was still just okay.

It’s an off-dry red blend that doesn’t taste like the inside of a barrel. While it’s not my personal style, it’s certainly in line with many mass-market red blends in the $10-13 range.

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60 Second Wine Review — Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon

A few quick thoughts on the 2013 Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

Silverado Cabernet Sauvign

The Geekery

In 1976 Diane Miller, daughter of Walt Disney, and her husband, Ron, purchased Miller Ranch from Harry See (of the notable See’s Candies family). A couple years later, Diane’s mother, Lillian Disney, acquired a neighboring parcel of See’s in the Stags Leap District that became Silverado Vineyards.

The sale included several acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1968-69 by See after seeing Nathan Fay’s success with the grape. This would become the notable “See Clone” (FPS 30) that today is one of the prized heritage clones of Cabernet.

In the early years, the Millers and Disney sold their grapes to wineries such as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Grgich Hills until they were inspired to make their own wine.

The first vintage in 1981 was made at Shafer Vineyards while the Silverado winery down the road was being built.

Sourced from estate vineyards, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon includes fruit from Stags Leap District and the Mt. George Vineyard in Coombsville. Certified Napa Green, all the vineyards are sustainably farmed. While labeled a Cab, winemaker Jon Emmerich blended in 9% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot for this vintage.

The Wine

Mocha pic by André Richard Chalmers. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0.

The creamy mocha coffee notes add richness & depth without overwhelming the fruit.

Medium-plus intensity. More red fruit than black (cherry, raspberry, plum). Noticeable oak and cedar with some mocha coffee notes as well.

On the palate, the ripe fruit becomes very juicy with high acidity. Medium-plus tannins are chewy, holding up the full-bodied weight of the wine. Some creamy vanilla enhances the coffee flavors but doesn’t overwhelm the fruit. Moderate finish introduces a minty note that wasn’t noticeable on the nose.

The Verdict

At $45-50 retail, this is an excellent buy for a Napa Cab. At the restaurant, we paid closer to $110, which wasn’t great but not dreadfully horrible for restaurant markups.

Still, I was impressed with how food-friendly and versatile this Silverado was to go with both my steak as well as the wife’s lighter chicken dish.

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60 Second Wine Review – Lindstrom Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon

Note: This wine was a sample during a press trip.

A few quick thoughts on the 2012 Lindstrom SLD Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

Lindstrom 2012 SLD Cab

The Geekery

The tiny 4-acre Nicali Vineyard of Greg and Carol Lindstrom is literally above it all. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the vineyards of Shafer, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Odette and Joseph Phelps’ SLD vineyard, the Lindstroms have some of the steepest slopes in the district. Because of this steepness, everything is done by hand with meager yields of sustainably farmed grapes.

Despite being 100% Cab, the uniqueness of the Lindstrom’s vineyard gives them ample opportunity to make a complex and characterful wine. Taking a very Bordelais approach, the Lindstroms identified 11 distinct blocks with vastly different exposures and soil types. With vineyard manager Michael Wolf (of Araujo, Harlan, Duckhorn and Scarecrow fame), they matched each to specific rootstocks and clones.

Since 2005, winemaker Celia Welch (Scarecrow, D.R. Stephens, Staglin and Corra) harvests, ferments and ages the blocks separately to use as blending components. What doesn’t make the cut goes to their second wine, Nicali, or is sold off. Each year only around 250-600 cases are produced.

The Wine

Star anise pic by THOR. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

The wide array of spices, like star anise, adds Old World complexity to this very ripe, full-bodied SLD Cab.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Lots of rich dark fruits–plums, cassis. But most intriguing is the melange of spices–anise, black pepper, clove, cinnamon.

On the palate, the dark fruit still leads the way with a very full-bodied mouthfeel. Medium-plus acidity keeps it fresh and with its high, ripe tannins suggest that this wine has a lot of aging potential. A little tertiary tobacco is starting to emerge but the long finish is very spice-driven–particularly with the black pepper and anise.

The Verdict

At around $131 (WS Ave), this is very much in line with its SLD peers. It probably should be closer to $150 as the new releases are.

While it’s hard to find deals in Napa, this small family estate is definitely under the radar.

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60 Second Wine Review — Graham’s 1985 Vintage Port

A few quick thoughts on the 1985 Graham’s Vintage Port.
Graham's Vintage Port 1985

The Geekery

William and John Graham founded their eponymous Port house in 1820. Since 1970, it’s been part of the Symington family’s extensive portfolio along with Dow’s, Warre’s, Cockburn’s and Quinta do Vesuvio.

Five vineyards provided fruit for this vintage. The most notable is Quinta dos Malvedos, located on the border of the Cima Corgo and Douro Superior regions. Acquired in 1890, this was Graham’s first estate vineyard.

Peter Symington, widely considered one of the all-time great master blenders, crafted the 1985 as part of a 45-year career that lasted till his retirement in 2009. Still involved in winemaking, Symington tends to his estate, Quinta da Fonte Branca in the Baixo Corgo.

I couldn’t find the exact blend of this wine. Looking at the plantings of the vineyards gives some clue. It’s going to be primarily Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz–as most Ports are. But there are varieties like Sousão and Tinta Amarela (from Malvedos and Quinta do Tua) as well as Alicante Bouschet (Malvedos)–along with assorted “old mixed vines”–that could be in here.

The Wine

Black peppercorns by Jonathunder. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Not sure if the black pepper note is from grapes or fortifying spirit. Since Port uses a 77% abv grape spirit (as opposed to 95% abv used for Sherry and Madeira), you pick up more of the spirit’s influence.

High-intensity nose. An intriguing mix of fresh black fruit–plums and cherries–with dried spices like anise and cinnamon.

On the palate, the fresh fruit is still lively with medium-plus acidity. But there are more concentrated fig flavors. The medium tannins are incredibly soft, wrapping around your tongue like velvet. Still quite full-bodied with the concentrated fruit. The spices from the nose carry through but are accompanied by very distinctive black pepper. Long finish lingers on the spice.

The Verdict

Remarkable freshness and life for something approaching its 35th birthday this year. But that’s vintage Port for you.

In the US, this is averaging around $108 and is worth every penny.

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60 Second Wine Review – Cossart Gordon Rainwater Madeira

A few quick thoughts on the Cossart Gordon Rainwater Madeira.

The Geekery

Cossart Gordon Rainwater
Though now part of the Madeira Wine Company (along with Blandy’s and Leacock’s), Cossart Gordon is the oldest Madeira shipper still in existence. Founded in 1747 by Francis Newton, it’s possible that this house originated the Rainwater style of Madeira that was once incredibly popular in the United States.

In his book, Madeira, The Island Vineyard, Noel Cossart claims that Francis and his brother, Andrew Newton, developed the style in the mid-18th century while shipping barrels of Verdelho to Virginia.

During that time, casks of Madeira were transported between boat and shore with strong swimmers floating partially filled barrels in the water. Once the barrels reached shore, they were topped up, resealed, and awaited carriages to take them to the market. Occasionally the barrels were left unbunged sitting on the beach. This made them susceptible to rainfall diluting the wine. The Newtons discovered that their customers liked this lighter, less concentrated style and began deliberately producing it by blending.

While originally Verdelho, today Tinta Negra is most often used–as it is in this Cossart Gordon.

The wine is fortified only 4 days into fermentation to retain 55 g/l sugar. It spends 3 months heated to 45-50°c in estufas. Cossart Gordon then ages the wine 3 years in American oak barrels.

The Wine

Candied orange by Sebastian Koppehel, Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-4.0

The acidity amplifies the confit, candied orange note and balances the sugar.

Medium intensity nose. A mix of toasted almonds and candied oranges with some salt brine.

On the palate, the oak is more noticeable with vanilla mingling with caramel and some clove baking spice. Medium-plus acidity is not as mouthwatering as many Madeiras but carries the citrus tang well. Medium-plus body balances the sugar and alcohol. Moderate length finish brings back the brine but lingers most on vanilla.

The Verdict

For around $15, this is a tasty bottle with a fun bit of history. But it’s not anything that will particularly blow you away. However, it’s worth trying if you see it.

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60 Second Wine Review – La Cuvée Mythique Sparkling Chardonnay

A few quick thoughts on the La Cuvée Mythique sparkling Chardonnay from the Pays d’Oc.

The Geekery
La cuvee Mythique

La Cuvée Mythique is the flagship brand of the Vinadeis group (previously Val d’Orbieu), which is a consortium of growers and co-ops in southern France. Tom Fiorina of The Vine Route describes it as “a cooperative on steroids.”

As Jamie Goode notes, each domaine is run mostly independently with the consortium sharing resources and providing marketing support. The exception is La Cuvée Mythique. The wines for this label come from a collaborative project among several growers made at a central location.

Founded in 1967, the group has been a fixture in the Languedoc wine industry, even earning the first 90+ score of a Languedoc wine from Robert Parker.

The name change to Vinadeis came about in 2015 when the company secured more holdings in the Bordeaux merchant firm Cordier Mestrezat Grands Crus. Between their Cordier interest and own growers, Vinadeis owns over 17,000 ha (42,000 acres) of vineyards throughout southern France. Most all of the vineyards are at least sustainably farmed with a significant portion being certified organic.

La Cuvée Mythique Brut Reserve is 100% Chardonnay sourced from vineyards throughout the Languedoc. It’s fermented in the traditional method with the wine spending at least 12 months aging on the lees.

The Wine

Lemon tarts by Ruth Hartnup. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Very rich and ripe lemon pastry in this sparkler.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Citrus and green fruit driven-lemon, pear and even a little Sauv blanc-like gooseberry. Ripe but not as much as I would expect from a Languedoc sparkler. There’s also some brioche, but overall it’s not very autolytic on the nose.

However, on the palate, the script switches. Full-bodied weight with much riper fruit. It has a lemon tart pastry feel. Very creamy with medium-plus acidity helping but could use some more. Relatively dry but not bone-dry, so guessing a dosage around 8-10 g/l. Moderate finish lingers on the pastry notes.

The Verdict

For $12-15, this is a decent sparkler with some complexity. It’s definitely for folks who like riper and weightier style bubbles.

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60 Second Wine Review – Georges Vesselle 2009 Grand Cru Brut

A few quick thoughts on the 2009 Georges Vesselle Brut Champagne.

The Geekery
Georges Vesselle Champagne

Georges Vesselle was an icon of the Grand Cru village of Bouzy, having served as its mayor for 25 years as well as vineyard manager for Perrier-Jouët, Mumm and Heidsieck Monopole.

Taking over the family estate in 1951, Vesselle used his label to focus on single village, Grand Cru wine. Today the house is run by his sons, Bruno and Eric, who tend to the family’s 17 ha (42 acres) of vines.

Located on the south end of the Montagne de Reims, the Grand Cru village of Bouzy is noted for its Pinot noir, which makes up almost 88% of plantings. The warm south-facing slopes produces riper fruit with Bouzy being a major producer of still red Coteaux Champenois as well.

Georges Vesselle, in particular, was a long-time proponent for Bouzy Rouge–being interviewed in 1971 by The New York Times about the style while he was mayor.

A powerful presence and weighty mouthfeel characterize Bouzy Pinot. Champagne houses that prominently feature Bouzy fruit include Paul Bara, Bollinger, André Clouet, Duval-Leroy, Benoît Lahaye, Moët & Chandon, Mumm, Pierre Paillard, Pol Roger, Camille Savès and Taittinger. In addition, many houses use red wine from Bouzy to add color to their roses.

The 2009 Brut is 90% Pinot noir and 10% Chardonnay with 5 years aging on lees. Bottled with 8 g/l dosage.

The Wine

Almond cake photo by Michal Klajban. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

The roasted almond and pastry elements add complexity to this excellent Champagne.

High-intensity nose–lots of yellow fruits like Golden Delicious apple and lemons. Noticeable autolytic and tertiary notes of pastry dough and honey-roasted almonds.

On the palate, those fruit notes carry through and are very ripe. The high-acidity keeps the full-bodied and creamy mouthfeel well balanced. Long finish lingers on the tertiary almonds.

The Verdict

In France, this 2009 Georges Vesselle is around 40-45 euros. However, in the US, it’s unfortunately closer to $90. (Before extra tariffs!)

So while it’s very well made with subtle complexity, it’s hard to say that this is a great deal. But if you can get it for $60-70, grab it.

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60 Second Wine Review — Frank Family 2013 Blanc de Blancs

A few quick thoughts on the 2013 Frank Family Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine from Carneros.

The Geekery
Frank Family bubbles

While today Frank Family is known for big Rutherford Cabs and buttery Chardonnays, its origins were actually sparkling wine. In 1992, Rich Frank, a Disney exec, bought Hanns Kornell Champagne Cellars with Koerner Rombauer.

Hanns Kornell was a German immigrant who survived the Dachau concentration camp during World War II before founding his eponymous sparkling house in 1958.

Using the methode champenoise, Kornell helped innovate many new sparkling wine techniques in California. His wines earned high praise with Marilyn Monroe reportedly being a fan.

Rich Frank later bought out Rombauer’s interest in the winery and changed the name to Frank Family Vineyards. To honor Kornell, they kept producing sparkling wines.

The 2013 Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay sourced from Carneros. The wine spent 3 years aging on the lees with 500 cases made.

The Wine

Meyer lemons photo by ChaosNil. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under ) CC-BY-SA 3.0

Lots of ripe lemon notes in this wine.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Very citrusy with ripe lemon notes coupled with floral orange blossom. Apples with a toasted pastry element follow.

The palate echos the nose but also introduces an intriguing spiced pear note that adds more depth. Creamy mouthfeel enhances the toasted element and “California Chard” feel of the wine.

Medium-plus body. The medium-plus acidity is enough to feel balanced with the dosage (likely in the 10-11 g/l range). But it could use a little more zip of freshness. Long finish lingers more on the tree fruit, especially the spiced pear.

The Verdict

For around $45-55, it’s a decent value. It certainly offers more complexity and depth than many of your typical mass-market Champagnes in that range like Veuve Clicquot & Moet.

But it’s not going to knock your socks off and there are certainly better values out there. I also got a chance to try their 2011 Lady Edythe Reserve Brut (aged for 6 years on lees), which sells at the winery for $110. That was very tasty as well, but not that drastically different from the Blanc de Blancs.

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