Picton Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Another New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc recently hit the store shelves in my area.  As we are still in the throes of the inevitable “dog days of summer” in my area, a light white is a pleasant refresher at mid-day (on the weekends, of course) or in the early evening.  Well, obviously you can drink it whenever you wish.  lol  As with any wine for that matter.  Go ahead, blaze your own trail!  And while you’re having it your way, just be sure to do so responsibly so we can keep on celebrating your independent spirit with you.

Winemaker:   Picton Bay
Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Marlborough, New Zealand
Price: $7.99 at Trader Joes

Notes:  The bouquet of this Marlborough white was quite loud with abundant citrus, fresh peach, grass and a touch of … perspiration.  That’s the best way I can describe what I was smelling!  It was a light straw in color with very high acidity.  A typically light-bodied Sauvignon Blanc, the Picton Bay was at 13% alcohol.  On the palate I found it fairly straightforward with pleasant citrus and peach flavors.  Simple, easy, inexpensive.  A relaxing glass of white from our friends in New Zealand.


Childress Sangiovese Gianni Vineyards 2010

You may remember that I posted not too long ago about my visit to Childress Vineyards in Lexington, North Carolina.  They have a full complement of selections to choose from, but I left with a bottle of their Sangiovese in hand.  I was a little surprised to learn from the Childress folks that the grapes for this wine were grown in a vineyard just a few miles from the winery itself.  North Carolina Sangiovese?  I seriously had to give it a try!

Winemaker:  Childress Vineyards
Wine:  Sangiovese Gianni Vineyards
Varietal:  Sangiovese
Vintage:  2010
Appellation:  North Carolina
Price: $16.99

Notes:  You know how some garnets as well as raw steaks have a red coloring with a brown overtone?  That was the color of this Childress.  The bouquet held scents of tart red berries, pepper, wood, and a touch of must.  It was light-bodied with a definite viscosity on the tongue.  Tannins were quite gentle, and acidity was quite high.  Alcohol was at 13.5%.  On the tongue I found it very peppery with bright cherry and raspberry, a light oakiness, some jalapeno pepper and quinine on the close.  I enjoyed this selection.  The very present acidity – which brought those touches of jalapeno – reminded me more of a Garnacha than the typical Sangiovese.

Williamsburg Two Shilling Red 2013

What is two shillings worth these days?  Well, I don’t think we can know exactly.  I believe the shilling went out of circulation in the UK during the early 1970’s.  Evidently, it used to be 1/20 of a pound.  So two shillings – 1/10 of a pound – doesn’t sound like a lot of money.  Of course, that may well depend on context … historical context.  Speaking of the UK and history, a trip to the British Isles is high on my bucket list.  That’s largely because my father did some genealogical work when I was a kid and managed to trace our roots back to England.  Our forebears emigrated from London to America way, way back when.  I suppose family roots are on my mind right now because I’m reading a historical fiction novel that features Scottish history and the protagonist’s (somewhat forgotten) Scottish heritage.  Maybe I should be drinking Glenfiddich or Royal Lochnagar while I read to get into the right frame of mind rather than this Virginia red.  Oh well, there is a sequal!

Winemaker:   Williamsburg Winery
Wine: Two Shilling Red
Varietal:  Red Blend
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  America
Price: $7.49 at Trader Joes

Notes:  I found this Williamsburg offering a pretty cherry red in the glass.  On the pungent nose I caught scents of sous bois (see Vinetalkers post) and sweet red berries.  It was medium-bodied with racy acidity and 12.5% alcohol content.  There was just a slight hint of tannins – that fuzzy tongue feeling.  The flavor profile was pretty light and tart on the whole. In fact, it reminded me a bit of the Chambourcin I had from Iron Gate Vineyards some time ago.  Similarities aside, this Virginia blend is definitely lighter in body and flavor.  According to the winery’s website, this is a blend of 97%  Syrah and 3% Zinfandel.  So what were it’s flavors?  I tasted sweet raspberry, a touch of pepper, coffee grounds, a bit of earth, and a very tart rhubarb-like flavor.  Best part to me was the lingering raspberry on a fairly long finish.

Like Old Faithful – Something You Can Rely On

Ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go your way?  I’ve had a few of them over the years.  Turns out today was another one of those challenges – from a difficult commute to unpleasant developments at work, and so on.  I won’t bore you with the details.  But it’s on this kind of day when I’ve had my fill of surprises that I don’t want a wine “adventure” when I’m winding down at home.  I want something I can rely on.  That’s when I reach for a consistent performer like the Geyser Peak winery and their Sauvignon Blanc.

Winemaker:  Geyser Peak
Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  California
Price:  $10.99

Notes:  The hue of this one was an extremely pale yellow.  In the bouquet I detected scents of tropical fruit, citrus and grass.  Acidity was lively, alcohol was at 13%, and heft on the tongue was light.  Flavors I tasted included citrus, pear, grass, and a hint of banana.  I’m happy to say that I found it an enjoyable glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  What about you?

A Rosé By Any Other Vintner ….

I believe I’ve mentioned this before.  I love a good mystery.  And that is exactly what I found in this bottle of Trader Joe’s rosé.  Actually, the mystery isn’t so much what’s in the bottle – although I don’t know that precisely either.  What intrigues me most is the question of who made this bottle of dry blush wine for the folks at Trader Joe’s to sell.  And the folks at TJ ain’t talkin’!

OK.  What do we know?  First, the label says it was vinted and bottled by JBA Cellars of Rutherford, CA.  Next, according to a report in the TJ rag Fearless Flyer, this wine “comes to us from a very famous Napa Valley winery – they make super wines that tend to be quite expensive.”  Following that clue, I was reminded that there are a number of well-known wineries headquartered in Rutherford – BV, Rutherford Hill, Frog’s Leap, Caymus, Inglenook, and Cakebread, among others.  That narrows the field, but not nearly enough.   Then I noted that Rutherford Hill Winery is one of a few that makes a rosé.  In addition, the owners are the Terlato family – father Anthony with sons Bill and John.  Hmmm.  Anthony, Bill and John.  John, Bill and Anthony.  JBA!  JBA Cellars?  We might have a winner here.  I don’t know, of course.  It’s only a guess at best.

Winemaker:  JBA Cellars for Trader Joe’s
Wine:  Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Rosé
Varietal:  Not Available
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Napa Valley, CA
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The color of this Napa Valley blush teeters right on the edge of dark pink and light red.  On the nose I found mostly strawberry and a touch of loam with sweet floral hints.  Acidity was bright and the body was light.  At 13.7% alcohol, I’d call this a dry rosé.  Tannins were gently present.  On the palate I tasted a core of red berries (primarily strawberry) with tea leaf, a dash of pepper, some bitter herbs, and a zingy medicinal note on the finish.

By the way, I saw an online review of a prior vintage of the Rutherford Hill rosé.  Evidently, their 2009 was blended from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel grapes.  Is that true of this bottle as well?  I have no idea whatsoever.  If you know, do tell!

A Paragon of Viniferous Virtue?

San Luis Obispo is a very cool place.  A few years back I had the opportunity to spend several days there on business.  Luckily, the work schedule wasn’t overly taxing, and I got to look around a bit.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a rental car available.  Thus, I didn’t make it to any of the area wineries.  Taking a quick gander over at slowine.com – a website devoted to the wine industry in the San Luis Obispo (SLO) area – it looks like there are just under 30 wineries thereabouts.  Good thing I didn’t have a rental car, I may not have gotten any work done!

Edna Valley Winery, it seems, is by far the best known of the SLO wineries.  I’ve had Edna Valley wines in the past, and those experiences have all been good.  Obviously, then, I had no qualms in trying a new vintage of their product.  When I picked up the bottle of this Chardonnay, however, I was a little taken aback by the name on the label – Paragon.  The Oxford Dictionaries define paragon as “a person or thing viewed as a model of excellence.”  Oh boy, now that’s making quite a statement and a big promise as well!  And this is a Chardonnay from the Central Coast …  period.  It’s not Select or Reserve or Vintner’s Reserve or labeled as vineyard specific.  So how much of a paragon could this Edna Valley white be?

Winemaker:  Edna Valley
Wine:  Paragon
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Central Coast, CA
Price:  $10.99

Notes:  The color of this SLO Chardonnay was a pretty, light golden hue.  In the bouquet I caught scents of tart apple, citrus, hints of spice and lemongrass.  On the tongue, it was on the lighter side of Chardonnay.  Acidity was good, and alcohol was at 13.9%.  As far as flavors go, I found light apple and citrus at the fore leading to more citrus with butterscotch highlights here and there.  Toward the end it developed a kerosene note, and toasty spices lingered on the finish.  This was a fun ride for my taste buds.  It wasn’t a full-bodied offering, but it certainly presented enough flavor to keep me interested.  Virtue?  Absolutely.  Paragon?  Well ….

An Effervescent White For A Summer’s Night

According to the Vinho Verde official website, the main consumers of wines from this region are women under 40.  Well, I am not a part of that demographic, but I went ahead and bought this inexpensive bottle of white anyway.

This Espiral was only my second Vinho Verde experience.  My first was with the Twin Vines iteration of a white blend from this region by Fonseca.  Both have been enjoyable.  And while there were definite similarities in the Espiral and Twin Vines offerings, there were also distinct differences.  No doubt those differences stem at least in part from the choices made regarding the specific grapes and relative proportions used in blending the wines.

Winemaker:  Espiral
Wine:  Vinho Verde
Varietal:  White Blend
Vintage:  NV
Appellation:  Vinho Verde, Portugal DOC
Price:  $4.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  The color of the Espiral was an extremely pale yellow.  On the nose I caught scents of grapefruit, copious grass, and a hint of almond.  As is the norm for these wines, it was frothy on the pour.  The wine was light-bodied, and the bubbles had surprising staying power.  (Those bubbles are evidently added carbonation which takes the place of effervescence that was historically present as a result of in-bottle malolactic fermentation.)  Acidity was bright and alcohol was at 9%.  You’d think with alcohol that low, the the wine would be distinctly sweet.  Not so.  On the palate it actually seemed fairly dry.  Perhaps the grape varietals used just don’t have that much sugar to begin with.  At any rate, this light Portuguese white had a pleasant flavor profile with a core of peach, citrus and grass accented by almond and floral notes.  I think it would make a nice aperitif for a summer dinner party – especially one on the patio or around the pool.

The Wine Rangers At Screwtop Wine Bar

[An entry for the MWWC#11 on the topic “Friend.”]

The Wine Rangers is a small group of friends who get together for the enjoyment of wine and each other’s company.  On this particular outing, I was joined by fellow WR founding member Heather and ex officio WR member Patrick.  He’s ex officio because he doesn’t drink wine, but he is one of the best conversationalists I know and adds immeasurably to any get-together.

Heather and I have been friends for many years now.  We met when we were both working for the same organization a long time ago.  Although we worked in different departments, we hit it off immediately.  I think what may have solidified our friendship was our mutual involvement in the redesign of that organization’s logo.  It was a process of many, many, many meetings and long hours of discussion.  Heather was included because of her marketing expertise.  I was there because ….  Well, I guess I was there because I am willing to share my opinions freely.  Anyway, we both managed to survive the redesign.  Since then, we have moved on in our careers but have remained in contact – probably more to Heather’s credit than to mine.  It doesn’t hurt, of course, that we both have a love for the fruit of the vine.  Until recently we pursued that passion in a more informal manner – i.e. imbibing without writing down tasting notes.  When I started this blog, Heather got very excited and was eager to help.  Thus, the Wine Rangers were born.  We still don’t have official T-shirts yet.  It may be awhile because that would require the design of yet another logo!  But enough about the Rangers.  What about the wine at Screwtop?

You may recall from my previous report that our wine tasting had begun while we were waiting for a table or spot at the bar.  Yes, it was that packed on a Thursday night!  Upon sitting at a cozy table by the windows with a full view of the bustling establishment, we considered our options in earnest.  The menu is quite extensive, so the folks at Screwtop have designed a number of tastings or flights for adventurous wine enthusiasts to choose from.  Heather and I both decided on samplings from a group they called “Grapes Off The Grid.”  I went with “Weird & Wacky Whites” while she chose “The Grape Unknown.”  Does that sound intriguing, or what?

Here are some very brief notes we managed to scribble while we enjoyed the wine, company, and tasty dishes at Screwtop Wine Bar.

a view of the bar at Screwtop

The Grape Unknown

A.  grape – Lancelotta;  winery – Taking Root;  vintage – 2012
from Moldova, this red was smooth and full-bodied

B.  grape – Moristel;  winery – Bodega Bal d’Isabena;  vintage – 2011
a mild, even mellow, wine with the scent and aftertaste of rubber

C.  grape – Blaufränkisch;  winery –  Shooting Star Blue Franc;  vintage – 2011
fruity and tart, medium-bodied, cotton candy finish; by Steele Wines

Weird & Wacky Whites

A.  grape – Pedro Jiminez;  winery – Frontera Specialties;  vintage – 2013
faint bouquet, lively acidity, plentiful citrus flavor with a zippy, bitter “seedy” finish

B.  grape – Tocai Friulano;  winery – Folk Machine;  vintage – 2013
good acidity, very light-bodied, pear on the tongue with warm spice notes

C.  grape – Rkatsiteli;  winery – Boneyard “Skins”;  vintage – 2012
notes of butterscotch and tropical fruit along with some grass on the finish

All tolled, it was a marvelous evening of good friends and interesting wines.  We’re all looking forward to a return visit to Screwtop Wine Bar.  In the meantime, though, we’re busy planning the next outing for the Wine Rangers.


#MWWC11 — “Friend” theme chosen by Dracaena Wines.



Another Inexpensive Sangiovese

This is the last of the Sangiovese varietal wines available at my local Whole Foods.  As I was told by others (I think it was winegetter), the variations in the different bottlings are interesting.  I’m happy to say that despite my focus on budget-friendly wines, I haven’t had any 100% Sangiovese that I’d label as plonk.  That may be the result of the smart people buying for the local retailers, of course.  At any rate, I now find myself faced with the need to wander farther afield to find more for my sampling purposes.  Oh, boy!  Field trip!!

Winemaker:  Il Bastardo
Varietal: Sangiovese
Vintage: 2012
Appellation:  Toscana IGT, Italy
Price: $7.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This Sangiovese was an extremely dark burgundy in color.  On the nose I detected scents of wet earth, tangy berry, with notes of mocha and chocolate.  It was medium-bodied with high acidity and medium tannins.  Alcohol was at 13%.  On the palate I caught flavors of oak (initially quite present, but settling with oxidation), plenty of blackberry, pepper, some dusty soil, and pomegranate on the finish.  It certainly had enough structure – tannins and acidity – to stand up to foods and just enough in the flavor profile to make it sufficiently interesting on it’s own.  Amazing?  Well, no.  But it’s a good bargain purchase.

A Light White From Northwest Spain – Verdejo Rueda

Rueda is a wine region – Denominación de Origen (D.O.) – in the area known as Castile and Leon.  The Rueda D.O. is located northeast of the famous university city, Salamanca, and lies largely within the province of Valladolid.  It is, in fact, known for it’s production of wines from the Verdejo grape which (apparently originating in North Africa) began to be cultivated in Rueda around the 11th century.  I’d never had a Verdejo before, so I decided to take the plunge and give it a go.

Winemaker:   Marqués de Cáceres
Varietal:  Verdejo
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Rueda D.O., Spain
Price: $8.99 at Trader Joes

Notes:  The color of this Spanish white was extremely pale yellow.  It’s bouquet included scents of citrus, grass, and a hint of tart apple.  Acidity was good, and it was very light on the tongue.  Alcohol was at 12.5%.  Serving it chilled, I found the flavors very light as well with an overarching citrus and some grass.  As this Verdejo approached room temperature, however, it really opened up.  Flavors increased in intensity with a noteable core of citrus, some toasty warm spice notes, a bit of honey, and citrus peel on the finish.  Although I purchased my bottle at Trader Joe’s, this selection is available at a number of wine retailers in my area.