Category Archives: 60 Second Reviews

60 Second Wine Reviews – 2016 Domaine de Cébène Felgaria

Note: This was a sample from the Languedoc Outsiders.

A few quick thoughts on the 2016 Domaine de Cébène Felgaria from Faugères.

The Geekery

Domaine de Cebene FelgariaAfter working many years with Jean-Luc Thunevin of Chateau Valandraud in St. Emilion, Brigitte Chevalier founded Domaine de Cébène in 2006. Most of the Languedoc sits on a broad alluvial plain, but it was the unique schist soils of Faugères that caught Chevalier’s attention.

For Grenache and Syrah, Chevalier focuses on north-facing slopes to retain acidity & balance. The late-ripening Mourvèdre gets full southern exposures. Being highly drought-sensitive, Mourvèdre also benefits from the friable schistous soils that allow its roots to penetrate deep into underground reserves. Though, curiously, finding Mourvèdre on schist is not very common.

The 2016 Felgaria is a blend of 75% Mourvèdre and 25% Syrah from organically-farmed plots. The wine was fermented and then aged ten months in 500L demi-muids before being bottled unfined & unfiltered.

The Wine

Damson plums photo by Stiller Beobachter. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

Lovely freshness to the dark fruit in this wine.

High-intensity nose. Very complex and evocative. I featured this wine on a recent Instagram Mystery Grape game and it was tough to sum it up in just 4-5 aroma/flavor clues. A lot is going on here–black fruits, grilled savory, meaty notes, dried garrigue herbs & flowers (lavender, sage and mint). Also a very intriguing, zesty blood orange note.

The wine kept changing in the glass with the fruits and savory flavors carrying over to the palate–plus added spiciness. Full-bodied with juicy medium-plus acidity and ripe, medium-plus tannins. The long-finish amplifies the spice notes (pepper, clove & cinnamon) as well as the dried floral notes.

The Verdict

As I noted in my IG review, this Felgaria has you licking your lips and sniffing the glass afterwards so that you can savor a tiny bit more of it. If you find this for around the $33-40 that Wine-Searcher is listing, that’s a steal. It probably should be closer to $50, IMO.

Bonus Geekery!

Here’s Brigitte Chevalier talking about schist. I love how the color of the rocks inspired her labels.

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60 Second Wine Review – 2017 Bedrock Zweiter Zweieiiger Zwilling Riesling

A few quick thoughts on the Bedrock ZZZ Riesling from the Cole Ranch AVA in Mendocino.

Bedrock Zweiter Zweieiiger Zwilling
The Geekery

There’s tons of stuff that I could geek out on here. I’ve been a huge fan of Bedrock for some time, and you can find a few backstory tidbits in my review of the Ode to Lulu Rosé.

But today, I’m going to highlight this remarkable vineyard, which is a monopole and the smallest AVA in the United States.

I’ve included a YouTube vid below from Bedrock talking about how asst. winemaker Cody Rasmussen stumbled upon Cole Ranch in 2016. Its section of Riesling is some of the oldest in California–planted in the early 1970s. The vines are dry-farmed and trained as goblet bush vines. However, they uniquely have an added cane trellised California sprawl-style to control vigor.

Over the decades, numerous wineries have used Cole Ranch fruit. Most notably Chateau St. Jean, Fetzer, V. Sattui, Jordan, Tobin James and Esterlina. Bedrock makes two Rieslings from here–the Erster Zweieiiger Zwilling & Zweiter Zweieiiger Zwilling.

The long German names describe the wines as fraternal twins (Zweieiiger Zwilling), with Erster being the first and drier of the two. The second, Zweiter, is usually harvested between Kabinett and Spatlese-level ripeness with anywhere from 25-75 g/l residual sugar left after fermentation.

The Wine

Golden Delicious apple pic from Glysiak. Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

Juicy, ripe golden delicious apple trademark this lovely Riesling.

High-intensity nose. Ripe golden delicious apples, nectarines and lime zest. Also a little floral citrus blossoms.

On the palate, the wine feels more off-dry Kabinett level in fruit intensity but with the medium-body weight of a Spatlese. High acidity highlights both the ripeness of the fruit and mouthwatering citrus notes. Long finish lingers on the fruit but introduces some stony minerality.

The Verdict

Such a fantastically delicious Riesling. Both the Erster and Zweiter are around $25-30 and are well worth it. Even though I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, I give the nod to the Zweiter just because of its weight & intensity.

Bonus Geekery

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60 Second Wine Review — Chateau St-Jacques d’Albas Blanc

Note: This wine was a sample received from the Languedoc Outsiders.

A few quick thoughts on the 2019 Chateau St-Jacques d’Albas Blanc from the Pays d’Oc.

The Geekery
Albas blanc

In 2001, Englishman Graham Nutter purchased his 90-hectare estate in the Minervois region located in the hills around the famous walled city of Carcassonne.

Historically a notable stop along the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage trail, viticulture here dates back even further to pre-Roman times. During the 11th century, a chapel was erected on the estate which Nutter completed restorations of in 2014

Most of the property is left uncultivated to protect biodiversity with the Nutter family farming 26 hectares of vines organically under the Cousinié Protocol. In 2019, the vineyards were Ecocert certified.

The 2019 Albas is a 50/50 blend of Roussanne and Vermentino, with only 760 bottles produced.

The Wine

Vanilla orchid photo by Michael Doss from Santa Ana, CA, USA. Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

The lovely vanilla orchid scent adds a lot of depth to this wine.

Medium-plus intensity nose–apricots and golden delicious apples with some citrus notes around the edge. There is a very fresh floral vanilla note–more like the blossoms rather than Chard-like vanilla bean.

On the palate, the wine does feel very Chardonnay-like, though, with creamy medium-plus bodied weight and tree fruits. But no butter. This is much more textural and reminiscent of a white CdP. However, medium-plus acidity and a burst of citrus lemon keeps it very lively and fresh. Mouthwatering. Long finish introduces some herbal notes like mint and lemongrass.

The Verdict

Delicious wine. Its only sin is being so drinkable that the bottle gets finished off way too quickly. For around $20 USD, this wine would be an excellent value. However, you’re likely going to find it for much less. While Wine-Searcher currently doesn’t have this particular wine listed, the vast majority of Chateau St-Jacques d’Albas wines retail for less than $15–which is, frankly, insane for how good these are.

This may be a tough wine for Americans to find, though Chateau St-Jacques d’Albas does export around 20% of their production to the US. Still, it’s well worth the hunt.

Bonus Geekery

Here’s Graham Nutter talking about the Cousinié Protocol & his estate.

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60 Second Wine Review — Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio

Note: This wine was sent as a sample.

A few quick thoughts on the 2018 Peter Zemmer Pinot grigio from the Alto Adige.

Peter Zemmer PG

The Geekery

I’ve been studying Northeast Italy for the D3 Wines of the World unit of the WSET Diploma and one stat about Alto Adige really took me by surprise. The area is hugely dominated by cooperatives, which make around 70% of all the wine from the region.

Now most of this is of decent quality with 98% of production reaching DOC level. (No DOCGs in the region.) However, it’s clear that small family wineries like Alois Lageder, Elena Walch and Peter Zemmer are fairly rare.

The original Peter Zemmer founded the estate in 1928, purchasing vineyards around Cortina sulla Strada del Vino in South Tyrol. His nephew, Helmut Zemmer, succeeded him with Helmet’s son, Peter, running the estate today.

Zemmer not only farms all his vineyards sustainably but also practices minimal intervention winemaking techniques. Of the 7,500 cases produced on average, around half are exported.

The Wine

orange blossoms photo by Ellen Levy Finch (en:User:Elf) March 23, 2004.. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

While the fruit is more lemony to my taste, the floral orange blossoms are certainly enticing.

Medium-plus intensity nose. A mix of apple and citrus with some floral orange blossom notes. I know that producers sometimes will blend a little Gewürztraminer, but I couldn’t find any confirmation that Zemmer does. Still, very aromatic for a Pinot grigio.

On the palate, the apple carries through, but the citrus jumps out the most. Very lemony with both the fruit and zest accentuated by medium-plus acidity. Medium body gives ample weight. Long finish introduces a slightly salty, minerally note.

The Verdict

In the US, Italian Pinot grigio doesn’t always enjoy the best reputation.  Sometimes it’s hard to look past the light, almost watery mass-produced styles you find in supermarkets and chain restaurants (cough Olive Garden cough).

However, this Zemmer PG doesn’t play to those stereotypes.  For around $14-17, it has the aromatics and weight to be both interesting by itself and as a versatile food pairing wine.

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60 Second Wine Review — Hess Collection Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay

A few quick thoughts on the 2016 Hess Chardonnay from Napa Valley.

The Geekery
Hess Chardonnay

Donald Hess came from a family of brewers in Switzerland. But in his twenties, Hess purchased a mineral water source and founded Valser Wasser that grew to become the largest in Switzerland. It was a search for new sources in California that would bring Hess to discover Napa Valley wines in the 1970s and eventually lease the old Mont La Salle winery on Mount Veeder from the Christian Brothers.

The Su’skol Vineyard, located just east of Carneros at the far southern extreme of Napa Valley, is the source for the estate Chardonnay. The vineyard is unique with Hess using massal selection to propagate and sustain a mixture of 9 different clones of Chardonnay–including several of the aromatic musqué clones. Like all their estate vineyards, Hess farms Su’skol sustainably and is certified Napa Green.

Depending on the vintage, around 20-30% is fermented in new French oak for nine months with weekly lees stirring for four months. A similarly small amount will see malolactic fermentation. In 2016, around 21,700 cases were made.

The Wine

Photo of citrus blossoms by Ανώνυμος Βικιπαιδιστής. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-3.0

Gorgeous citrus blossom notes in this Chardonnay.

High-intensity nose. Lots of lemon with very citrusy white blossom notes as well. Subtle herbal and white pepper spice reminds me of both Sauvignon blanc and Gruner Veltliner. With air, spiced pear hints at oak and more Chardonnay-like fruit.

On the palate, the Chardonnay character emerges with spiced pear, as well as apples, going along with the still pronounced citrus fruits. There’s also noticeable medium-plus weight and subtle vanilla creaminess of oak. It doesn’t dominate the profile, but the fresh lemon definitely moves to more lemon custard. High acidity still maintains freshness with a mouthwatering nature that lingers on a long finish.

The Verdict

This is definitely a very different Cali Chard that’s nothing like the butter bomb “cougar juice” stereotype. Nor is it trying to be a wannabe Chablis.

For around $17-20 retail, it’s just a plain delicious Chardonnay that is well worth finding.

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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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