Category Archives: 60 Second Reviews

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.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

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.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

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.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

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.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

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.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

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.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

60 Second Wine Review — Joseph Phelps Quarter Moon Pinot noir

A few quick thoughts on the 2012 Joseph Phelps Pinot noir from the Quarter Moon Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA.

The Geekery

Joseph Phelps Pinot noir wine

Joseph Phelps founded his namesake winery in 1973 in the Napa Valley. While most noted for their flagship Bordeaux-style blend, Insignia, a Pinot noir sourced from the Carneros region of Napa was also part of that inaugural vintage.

The winery would continue to produce a Napa Pinot until 1983. In the mid-1990s Joe Phelps became intrigued at the potential to make Burgundian-style Pinot noir and Chardonnay in the cool, ocean-influenced Sonoma Coast. After spending many years searching for vineyard sites, in 1999 the winery purchased land that would become their Freestone Estate.

Since 2009, Joseph Phelps has been producing 100% estate grown wines from their 490 acres of sustainably grown vines in Napa and Sonoma.

While Ashley Hepworth produces the Napa Valley wines, Justin Ennis oversees the Sonoma Freestone production.

Around 2080 cases of the 2012 Quarter Moon was produced.

The Wine

Photo by Veganlover1993. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Really dig the savory black tea notes in this Pinot.

Medium-plus intensity nose. A mix of red fruits–cherries and raspberries–with an earthy black tea element. With air, some baking spices like clove and allspice come out.

On the palate, those red fruits carry through and are very juicy with medium-plus acidity. The acidity also amplifies those savory black tea and spice components. Ripe medium tannins hold up the medium-bodied fruit well. The moderate oak becomes more noticeable with a creamy vanilla mouthfeel. The long finish ends on the salivating acidity and spice notes.

The Verdict

Compared to the very ripe and luscious California Pinots that you usually see in the $70-75 price range, this Joseph Phelps Quarter Moon certainly delivers a lot of Burgundian complexity.

For the equivalent price in Burgundy, you’re looking at well-regarded village-level wines like a Grivot Vosne-Romanee or Hubert Lignier Morey-Saint-Denis as peers. While you can  get a little bit better value in Oregon at the $45-60 mark, this is still a very well made wine.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

60 Second Wine Review — La Vostra Prosecco

A few quick thoughts on the La Vostra Prosecco from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

The Geekery

La Vostra Prosecco

La Vostra is made by Cantina Vini La Delizia, a co-operative of growers based in the Friuli region of northeast Italy.

Founded in 1931, the co-operative began with 70 growers but has grown over the years to include 500 growers farming 2000 ha (4942 acres) of vines mostly in the Friuli Grave and Prosecco DOCs. Wine is produced under both the La Delizia name and other associated labels like Naonis, Sass Ter, Vigneti and La Vostra.

The co-op has been producing sparkling wine since 1981. More than 65% of the winery’s production is exported with the United States, Western Europe, Canada, Russia, China and the Baltic region being the largest markets.

Technical details about the La Vostra Prosecco are scarce. Much of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia falls within the large Prosecco DOC. Like DOCG Prosecco from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, this wine must be at least 85% Glera with up to 15% of other grapes such as Pinot grigio, Pinot bianco, Bianchetta, Perera, Verdiso and Chardonnay permitted.

Considering that La Delizia makes several bottlings of Pinot grigio and Chardonnay (including a frizzante Chardonnay), it is possible that some of these other grapes are utilized.

The Wine

Photo by Axel Kristinsson from Reykjavík, Iceland. Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-2.0

The apple blossom notes on this wine jump out.

Medium-plus intensity nose. Very floral and citrus driven with also a little bit of apple blossoms.

On the palate, more apple than citrus notes carry through. There is a tad of sweetness so this is probably an extra-dry style like LaMarca and Ruffino. Well balanced by the smooth bubbles which don’t stray into the coarse, aggressive frothiness that can plague many Proseccos. Lively medium-plus acidity also helps with the balance and contributes to a feather light body. Moderate length finish brings back the floral notes.

The Verdict

At $7-10, this is a pretty solid, easy drinking Prosecco. It certainly won’t wow you with complexity. However, it will do the trick for a simple sipper or something to mix with cocktails and mimosas.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

60 Second Wine Review — Erath Pinot noir Rosé

A few quick thoughts on the 2017 Erath Pinot noir rosé from Oregon.

The Geekery

Erath Pinot noir rose wine

Dick Erath founded his eponymous winery in 1968 with the purchase of vineyard land in the Chehalem Mountains. Sourcing fruit from the Dundee Hills as well, he released his first 216 cases of commercial wine in 1972.

An engineer by training, Kenneth Friedenreich notes in Oregon Wine Country Stories that it was the “left to right brain relay” of winemaking that appealed to Erath. Planting dozens of different grape varieties to see what would grow in the nascent Willamette soils, Erath found he could test and experiment while indulging in the creativity of wine production.

In 2006, Erath sold the winery to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates where today it is part of a portfolio of brands that includes 14 Hands, Columbia Crest, Red Diamond, Snoqualmie and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars among many others.

The current winemaker for Erath is Gary Horner who previously worked at Bethel Heights, Witness Tree Vineyard, Washington Hills Cellars (now part of Precept), Avatar Partners in Napa Valley and Benton-Lane Winery before joining Erath in 2003.

The 2017 Pinot noir rosé is 100% Pinot noir from fruit sourced throughout the state. The wine was made using the short maceration method of brief skin contact with 16,600 cases produced.

The Wine

Photo by Picasa 2.0 AutoCCD . Uploaded to Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA-2.5

Simple strawberry notes characterize this wine.

Medium intensity nose. A mix of red strawberry fruit, white peach and vague floral notes. A little sweet smelling.

However, on the palate the rosé comes across as dry with medium-plus acidity. Light bodied fruit carries through more strawberry than the peach. Short finish ends on the fruit.

The Verdict

At $12-15, this Pinot noir rosé is decent but definitely not anything that would particularly wow you. It’s best role was probably as a simple summer time patio sipper.

However, as we enter the cooler fall and winter seasons where rosés need more “umph” of depth to hold up to heartier food pairings, I fret that this Erath may be too light to get the job done.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!

60 Second Whiskey Review — Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr

While wine is my primary focus, as the weather turns colder I do enjoy a wee dram of whiskey every now and then. So with that, here are a few quick thoughts on the Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr Scotch.

The Geekery

Gaelic for “big ocean”, An Cuan Mòr is a travel retail exclusive that was first released in 2013.

A non-age statement malt, there were initial rumors that a base component was Laphroaig 18 but given the usual $200+ price point for the 18, that seems very unlikely.

The Scotch is first aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels before being transferred to European oak casks for finishing.

The Whiskey

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

Definitely a Scotch for campfire fans.

High intensity nose. Lots of peat but not the usual medicinal iodine note I associate with Laphroaig. Instead it is a more woodsy campfire smoke, that reminds me of Scotches like Bruichladdich Port Charlotte or Coal Ila. There is also an earthy, almost Bretty, bacon fat smell that is not too far off from a smokey South African Pinotage.

On the palate, the smoke notes obviously dominant but there is a little fruity sweetness that reminds me of an apricot tart with a honey drizzle. Whirling it around the tongue, some pepper spice also comes out which accentuates the bacon fat notes from the nose. Despite the reference to “ocean” in the name, there isn’t much salinity here. Very well balance, it holds its 48% ABV well with a creamy mouthfeel. Long finish ends on the campfire smoke but is a much cleaner finish than normal without any of the chalky char residue that a lot of peaty Scotches can leave.

The Verdict

As I’ve confessed before in reviews like that of the Ardbeg Perpetuum, smokey peaty Scotches aren’t my thing.

Still I keep trying them and approaching them with an open mind. Like with the Ardbeg, I can appreciate how well made this Laphroaig An Cuan Mòr is even if I would never dream of spending $90-110 for a bottle of it.

Subscribe to Spitbucket

New posts sent to your email!