Category Archives: 60 Second Reviews

60 Second Wine Review — Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs

A few quick thoughts on the 2014 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine from California.

The Geekery

Schramsberg blanc de blancs sparkling wine

Schramsberg began in 1965 when Jack and Jamie Davies, inspired by a long lunch with legendary vintner Martin Ray, bought the derelict winery, house and caves of 18th century German immigrant Jacob Schram on Diamond Mountain.

The Davies wanted to distinguish themselves from other Napa wineries and focused on sparkling wines. At the time, only Korbel in Sonoma and Kornell in Napa were making sparklers. Instead of using Champagne varieties, these other wineries were using grapes like Thompson Seedless, Colombard and Chenin blanc.

Their first release was a 100% Chardonnay 1965 Blancs de Blanc. James Conway notes in his book Napa: The Story of an American Eden that the Davies got the grapes for their sparkler by purchasing Riesling from Jerome Draper on Spring Mountain and then trading with the Mondavis of Charles Krug for Chardonnay.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon shared the 1969 Blanc de Blancs with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai for the historic “Toast to Peace” between the two countries during Nixon’s famous trip to China.

The Chardonnay for the 2014 vintage was sourced primarily from Napa (66%) with 31% from Sonoma and 3% from vineyards in Marin County. Primary fermentation was done in barrel with full malolactic. The wine was then aged over 2 years on the lees before being bottled with a 9.5 g/l dosage. Around 34,850 cases were made.

The Wine

Photo by Kimberly Vardeman. Uploaded to Wikimedia commons under CC-BY-2.0

The racy citrus notes, pastry dough and baking spices remind me of key lime pie.

Medium intensity nose. Reminds me of key lime pie with the mix of citrus, pastry and baking spices.

On the palate, the key limes carry through and are amplified by the medium-plus acidity. Moderate mousse holds the lively acidity and crispness. The pastry and baking notes become more muted and fade quickly with the finish.

The Verdict

At $30-35, this an enjoyable sparkler but admittedly doesn’t wow me for the price.

It’s well made but there is not much that sets it apart from sparklers under $20.

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60 Second Wine Review — 1999 Gimonnet-Oger

A few quick thoughts on the 1999 Gimonnet-Oger Premier Cru Champagne from the village of Cuis.

The Geekery
Gimonnet-Oger Champagne

The Gimonnet family has been growing grapes in Champagne since the 17th century and there are several Gimonnet estates today making wine in the Côte des Blancs.

The Pierre Gimonnet branch, which David White notes in But First, Champagne dates back to 1750, is probably the most well-known. One of the Gimonnet brothers married a daughter from the Gonet family to establish Champagne Gimonnet-Gonet.

The origins of Gimonnet-Oger branch dates back a little further to 1650 with Allen Meadows of Burghound noting that its proprietor, Jean-Luc Gimonnet, is a cousin to the neighboring owners of Pierre Gimonnet.

Jean-Luc tends his family’s 9 ha (22 acres) of vines in the premier cru village of Cuis.

Like Krug, he conducts primary fermentation in oak barrels. Gimonnet favors long aging on the lees (sometimes a decade-plus) before disgorging. The wines are bottled with dosages in the 5-7 g/l range.

The 1999 vintage is a 100% Chardonnay that spent 12 years aging on its lees before disgorging.

The Wine

Photo by Tahir mq. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

There is a strong green apple note in this Champagne but it is more bruised than fresh.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Lots of green apples but they have more of an oxidative bruised component than fresh one. There is also a strong streak of pastry almond like marzipan.

On the palate, the bruised apples comes through but feels a bit livelier with racy high acidity. The acid also highlights some lemon citrus peel as well. Very creamy mouthfeel with a moderate mousse. Short finish drops quickly with mostly the acid edge lingering.

The Verdict

At $150-170, you’re paying for the low production of this small grower and its extended aging. I haven’t had many experiences with Gimonnet-Oger but my instinct is that this 1999 is probably past its prime and is not worth seeking out.

It is possible that a younger vintage may have more to offer but right now there are better values from other growers and houses.

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60 Second Wine Review — Réserve des Vignerons Saumur-Champigny

In honor of Cabernet Franc Day, here are a few quick thoughts on the 2015 Réserve des Vignerons Saumur-Champigny from the Loire Valley.

The Geekery
Réserve des Vignerons Saumur-Champigny Cabernet Franc from the Loire

Réserve des Vignerons is made by the co-operative Cave de Saumur that was founded in 1956 with 40 growers. Today it features 160 growers who tend to plantings around the village of Saumur. All members of the co-op must adhere to sustainable viticulture principles.

In 2000, construction was finished on a new modern winemaking facility. Master of Wine Sam Harrop was brought in to consult on a special “Cabernet Franc project”. Harrop’s project has not only increased the quality of the co-op’s wines but has also improved how Cabernet Franc is made throughout the Loire.

Additionally, the co-op produces sparkling Cremant de Loire under their Deligeroy label–including a Brut featuring Cabernet Franc in the blend.

The Saumur-Champigny is 100% Cabernet Franc that saw extended post-fermentation skin contact for 10 extra days. This is a technique more common with Cabernet Franc prior to fermentation (“cold soak”) when temperatures can be keep low and only color is extracted. In contrast, post-fermentation maceration extracts tannins (especially seed tannin) with no color benefit.

The Wine

Photo by Howcheng. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

The savory fennel seed notes adds complexity to this wine.

Medium-intensity nose. A mix of red fruits–cherries and raspberries. Around the edges is a little bit of spicy tobacco.

On the palate, those red fruits carry through and are quite fresh and juicy tasting with medium-plus acidity. Medium tannins are present but not biting and are balanced well by the medium bodied fruit. The moderate finish brings back the tobacco spice as well as savory fennel notes.

The Verdict

At $12-15, this is a pretty classic Loire Cabernet Franc–though it is not as herbal as other examples can be. However, it is quite different compared to the more fruit-forward, floral and full-bodied Cabernet Francs from Washington & California.

While I’ve made my love of domestic Cabernet Franc well known, this is a nice change of pace and a solid food-pairing wine.

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60 Second Wine Review — Patrice Colin Perles Rouges Pét-Nat

A few quick thoughts on the Patrice Colin Perles Rouges sparkling Gamay from Coteaux du Vendomois in the Loire Valley.

The Geekery
Colin Perles rouge sparkling gamay

Patrice Colin is an 8th generation winemaker whose family has been cultivating vines along the Loir tributary since 1735.

Today Colin farms 25 hectares (62 acres) organically in the Coteaux du Vendomois VDQS of the northern Loire Valley.

The Perles Rouges is 100% Gamay produced in the ancestral method or pétillant naturel (Pét-Nat) style. Compared to Champagne, the wine undergoes only a single fermentation with the wine bottled partway through. The yeast continue to ferment the sugars in the bottle, trapping the CO2, producing a lightly sparkling wine.

Pét-Nats are rarely riddled to remove the dead lees sediment and can often be cloudy. They also tend to be dry with lower alcohol and no dosage added.

However, the Colin Perles Rouges is riddled (remuage) and one tasting note from a previous bottling (back in 2012) does mention a Pineau d’Aunis dosage. Though my experience with the wine didn’t have smokey hints or candied fruits noted in that 2012 tasting.

Patrice Colin produces around 150,000 bottles at the family domaine. The wines are made with low sulfites and are vegan friendly.

The Wine

Photo by Steve Dunham (dunham_1). Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

The savory herbal notes of this sparkling Gamay remind me of the herbs used to make roasted chicken. 

Medium intensity nose. Dried cherries and cranberries with an herbal tinge.

On the palate those red fruits carry through but taste more fresh than dried with mouthwatering high acidity coupled with the effervescence. Noticeably dry, there is some slight tannin texture to go with the fine mousse of the bubbles. The herbal notes become more define as savory thyme and marjoram. There is also a peppery spice that emerges for the moderate finish.

The Verdict

This is definitely very different from most sparklers. While not as complex as a Cru Beaujolais, I can see the kinship with the Gamay variety.

For $14-18, this is a solid and interesting food pairing wine–especially with savory meats like sausages or chicken.

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60 Second Wine Review — Accordini Ripasso

A few quick thoughts on the 2009 Accordini Igino Valpolicella Ripasso.

The Geekery

Accordini Ripasso wine

Accordini Igino was founded in the 1960s but the family’s history in Valpolicella dates back to the early 1800s. Igino’s son, Guido, runs the estate today with his wife, Liliana, and their daughter Ilaria.

The family farms 35 hectares (86 acres) in the hills north of Verona around the villages of San Pietro in Cariano and Negrar.

To produce ripasso, the Accordinis drain the free-run juice from their Amarone tanks without pressing. This leaves the skins, lees and unfermented sugars left over from the Amarone’s fermentation. They add their Valpolicella base wine to the tank for an extended 10-14 day post-fermentation maceration on the Amarone lees.

During this time, ambient yeasts will consume the remaining sugars trapped in the Amarone skins and trigger a secondary fermentation that extracts additional color, tannins and flavor into the wine. However, compared to the secondary fermentations of sparkling wines, the CO2 is not kept captured in the tank.

The ripasso (roughly translated as “repass” or “renew”) process usually takes place in January or February with the wine then aged an additional 12 to 18 months in oak before release.

The 2009 Ripasso is a blend of 60% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 20% Corvinone.

The Wine

Photo by Dinkum. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-Zero

Lots of sweet spices like star anise & cinnamon in this complex red.

High intensity nose. Very spicy star anise and cinnamon. Noticeable dark fruits–blackberry, black currant and plums.

On the palate, those dark fruits carry through but also bring an orange citrus note with them. Medium-plus acidity balances the full body weight of the fruit. The acid makes the wine very dry but juicy and amplifies the spices from the nose. Ripe medium tannins are noticeable but fairly soft at this point. Long finish lingers on the spice.

The Verdict

At $20-25, this is a very complex and character driven red.

It reminds me a bit of a Right Bank Bordeaux with its profile but easily one that would be more in the $40 range. Very good buy.

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60 Second Wine Review — La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

A few quick thoughts about the 2007 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904.

The Geekery

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 wine

La Rioja Alta is one of the oldest wineries in Spain, founded in 1890 as Sociedad Vinícola de la Rioja Alta by five families in Rioja. The Gran Reserva 890 takes its name from this founding date. More than 125 years later, descendants of the original families are still involved in the winery.

The Gran Reserva 904 commemorates the year 1904 when Daniel Alfredo Ardanza y Sánchez merged his Ardanza winery with Sociedad Vinícola de la Rioja Alta. Very unusual for the period, the first president of the winery was a woman, Doña Saturnina García Cid y Gárate.

Along with López de Heredia, La Rioja Alta is considered one of the flag-bearers of classic, old-school Rioja with a style trademarked by extensive aging in American oak. It’s located across the road from López de Heredia in the Barrio de la Estación (Station Quarter) of Haro–not far from CVNE and Muga.

The 2007 Gran Reserva 904 is 90% Tempranillo sourced from 60+ year old vines and 10% Graciano. The wine spent 4 years aging in 100% neutral American oak barrels with 12,500 cases made.

The Wine

Photo by Mr.kombrig. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Plenty of cigar tobacco notes in this Rioja.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Lots of fresh cigar tobacco with a dried minty edge. There are red fruit notes like cranberries and cherries as well. Maybe a little dill.

On the palate, the tobacco is still quite present but also brings a leathery component. High acidity is mouthwatering but makes the cherry notes taste fresh. Medium-plus tannins are ripe but pronounced. They hold up the medium-plus body of fruit very well. The most noticeable aspect of oak comes out on the long finish with lingering vanilla.

The Verdict

For wine students studying for blind tastings, there are few better bottles to be intimately familiar with than La Rioja Alta. It’s textbook with structure and nuances that hit every note.

At $50-60, it’s in a good spot now but has the legs to go on easily for another 10-15 years.

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60 Second Whiskey Review — Game of Thrones Cardhu

A few quick thoughts on Diageo’s Game of Thrones Limited Edition Cardhu representing the House Targaryen.

The Geekery

Diageo Game of Thrones Cardhu bottling for the House Targaryen

The House Targaryen Cardhu is the latest release in Diageo’s Game of Throne Scotches. The first release was the Johnnie Walker “White Walker” that came out this past October.

In my review here on the White Walker, I talk about this series as well as some geekery about Cardhu.

The Whiskey

High intensity nose. It smells like freshly baked apple pie with cinnamon and nutmeg. More toasted pastry than smoke. Around the edges are some white floral notes like lillies.

On the palate, those baking notes come through with the spice and vanilla complimenting the malty weight. Noticeably fruity, it is not as sweet on the palate as the nose would’ve suggested. Creamy mouthfeel is well balanced with no back-end heat. It actually feels heavier in the mouth than what you would expect with its low 40% ABV. No peat. Long finish ends on the baked apple notes with a little bit of lingering salinity.

The Verdict

Photo by Dan Parsons. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under  CC-BY-SA-2.0

This Cardhu smells and tastes like Thanksgiving apple pie.

Regular readers know that I’m not a big fan of marketing gimmicks. I accept them as a reality of the beverage industry and do my best to explore them with an open mind–whether they be coffee-infused wine, bourbon barrel-aged beers and wine, IPA cask whiskeys, sparkling mango and sangria crazes, etc.

But, gimmicks aside, this GoT Cardhu is actually a really good whiskey that is worth buying on its own merit.

At $40-50, it is a little less than the Cardhu 12 year that’s usually around $53-60. While I would still give the nod of more complexity towards the 12 yr, this Scotch isn’t that far off.

Like its big brother, the GoT Cardhu carries the banner of beautiful floral and fruit notes. It also expertly walks a tight rope of being fruity but not sweet. It’s an immensely drinkable dram that I will certainly be getting another bottle of.

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60 Second Wine Review — Cavit Lunetta Prosecco

A few quick thoughts on the Cavit Lunetta Prosecco.

The Geekery

Based in Trentino region north of the Veneto, Cavit is a consortium of 10 co-operative wineries with over 4500 growers. It is one of the largest wineries in the world, selling around 65 million bottles of wine a year. To put that number into perspective, the entire state of Oregon sold around 3.4 million cases (40.8 million bottles) in 2016.

Cavit was first introduced to the US market in 1977 by importer David Taub of Palm Bay International. Originally known as the Cantina Viticoltori del Trentino, Taub encouraged retailers to promote the brand using an anglicized pronunciation of Ca’Vit similar to the name of television show host Dick Cavett. Within two years, Taub was importing more than half a million cases of Cavit wines.

The Lunetta is made from 100% Glera sourced from the large Prosecco DOC zone. The wine is brut in style with 10 g/l residual sugar.

The Wine

Photo by Ealmagro. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

There’s a mix of tropical fruit notes in this Prosecco but it’s hard to pick out what exactly they are.

Medium-minus intensity nose. A mix of peach and tropical fruits that aren’t well defined.

On the palate, the tropical fruits carry through more than the peach but still don’t define themselves. The acidity and bubbles balance the fruit and residual sugar well with this Prosecco tasting like a true brut. However, the fruit quickly fades for an exceptionally short finish.

The Verdict

Due to its large production, you’ll often find 187ml examples of Lunetta available at restaurants–particularly those with corporate-driven wine lists. In my experience, there is a lot of bottle variation in these 187ml splits. My best guess is that it’s probably related to how long the restaurant has been sitting on them.

While a regular 750ml bottle of Lunetta usually drinks like a decent under $10 Prosecco (though the price has been steadily creeping over the $10 mark), sometimes these 187ml splits (like this one I had at the Macaroni Grill) can be very underwhelming. Buyer beware.

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60 Second Wine Review — El Puntido Rioja

In honor of International Tempranillo Day, here are a few quick thoughts on the 2012 El Puntido Rioja.

The Geekery

El Puntido Tempranillo from Rioja

The Eguren family created El Puntido in 2001 as a single-vineyard designate of their Viñedos de Páganos project. Already notable for their Rioja estates of Sierra Cantabria and San Vicente, they also founded the Spanish cult label Numanthia in 1998 before selling it to Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) in 2008.

The Eguren wines are part of the portfolio of Spanish importer Jorge Ordóñez. Over the years, Ordóñez has helped popularize in the US the wines of Bodegas Alvear, Breca (makers of Garnacha de Fuego), La Caña (first to introduce Albarino to the US in 1991) and Bodegas Muga. He’s also been involved in the labels of Bodegas Borsao, Juan Gil, Tarima Hill and Volver.

Located in hills between the villages of Páganos and Laguardia of La Rioja, the El Puntido vineyard was first planted in 1975 to 100% Tempranillo. The Egurens farm this, like most their other vineyards, sustainably.

The 2012 Puntido was aged in 100% new French oak barrels for 16 months with the first 6 months aged sur lie. The winery only produced 250 cases of this wine.

The Wine

Photo by Robspinella. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-4.0

The very Napa Cab-like fruit and body of this Rioja would be right at home paired with a juicy steak.

Medium-plus intensity. Big black fruits–blackberries and plums. The nose has some spice around the edges. But the big fruit obscures and dominants.

On the palate, those dark fruits carry through but the spice becomes more pronounced as star anise and cinnamon. More noticeable oak on the palate than the nose. A creamy vanilla mouthfeel rounds out the medium-plus tannins. Medium acidity offers some balance but not enough to keep the full-bodied fruit from going jammy. Long finish lingers on the dark fruit and vanilla.

The Verdict

At $60-65, this is certainly a very “Napa-like” Tempranillo that would probably fool a lot of people into thinking it’s a Cab. Like a big, full-bodied Cab this Rioja would be right at home with a juicy steak.

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60 Second Wine Review — Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé

A few quick thoughts on the 2017 Villa Wolf Pinot noir rosé from the Pfalz region of Germany.

The Geekery

Villa Wolf’s origins date back to 1756 when it was founded as J.L. Wolf estate. While the winery saw some prosperity in the 19th century, its fortunes steadily declined throughout the 20th century until it was purchased by Ernst Loosen in 1996.

Today the estate is managed for Dr. Loosen by Sumi Gebauer and her partner, Patrick Moellendorf. Gebauer started her winemaking career as an apprentince at Dr. Loosen’s Mosel estate where she met Moellendorf. Moving to the Pfalz in 2011, the couple oversees all aspects of Villa Wolf’s production from tending to the estate’s vineyards–Königswingert (“King’s Vineyard”), Belz and Forster Pechstein–to winemaking.

In addition to working with their own estate fruit, Villa Wolf also purchases grapes from contract growers in the Pfalz.

The 2017 Pinot noir rosé is a Weissherbst. Master of Wine Elizabeth Gabay notes in Rosé: Understanding the pink wine revolution that under German wine laws these rosés must be composed of a single grape variety harvested at QbA or Prädikat levels.

The rosé was made in the short maceration style and bottled with 10.5 g/l residual sugar.

The Wine

Photo by Paul Goyette. Released on Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.0

The fresh basil notes adds complexity and freshness to this rosé.

Medium intensity nose. A mix of red strawberry and white peach aromatics. There is a little subtle herbalness around the edge but it’s more of a sweet floral herb like fresh basil.

On the palate, the red fruit carries through more than the peaches. High acidity balances the medium bodied weight of the fruit and slight residual sugar very well. Moderate finish bring back the basil herb notes which contributes to the freshness of the wine.

The Verdict

At $10-15, this is a very enjoyable and well made rosé. Compared to summertime sippers, this wine’s medium body and high acidity certainly amps up the pairing potential.

I can see this wine doing well on the table with holiday fare like Thanksgiving turkey.

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