The Monterey Vineyards Chardonnay 2013

As you know, I’m always on the lookout for a good value in wine.  A few weeks ago I was at my local Giant grocery store and spotted a fellow at a table giving out tastes of wine.  When I strode over to see what was up, I found he had several selections from The Monterey Vineyards by Chalone Vineyards at a special super-low, closeout price.  I tried them and decided I liked the Chardonnay best.

Interestingly enough, the name “Monterey” struck a chord with me.  I don’t have any history or personal connection with Monterey, California or Monterrey, Mexico.  However … my grandmother grew up in Monterey, Tennessee – what she called Monkeytown.  Believe me, that nickname was by no means meant in disrespect.  It was a term of endearment she and her siblings used in referring to their childhood home.  Some remained in Monterey their entire lives.  My grandmother, however, was swept off her feet and away by a handsome young mailman.

Whether it was the great price (got it for $7.99) or some sentimental impulse, I bought and enjoyed a bottle of their Chardonnay.

Winemaker:  The Monterey Vineyards
Varietal:  Chardonnay
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Monterey County, CA
Price:  $18.50

Notes:  This Monterey white was pretty pale yellow in color.  On the nose I got a tart lemon-lime scent.  It was medium-bodied with high acidity.  Alcohol was at 13%.  It had plenty of flavor – abundant citrus, toasty oak, butterscotch notes, and green herbs.  It had a nice long finish, too.  Pretty darned good in my book.  Will look for it again.

La Cappuccina Soave 2014

This Soave is made from 100% Garganega grapes.  The varietal produces a light white wine.  According to Jancis Robinson it is a “Veneto vine capable of making fine, lemon and almond-scented wines, notably but not exclusively from low-yielding vines in Soave, also Gambellara, Bianco di Custoza etc.”  It is also called Grecanico in Sicily where it is late-ripening and can result in a tangy vino.

Oenophilogical_LaCappuccinaSoave2014Winemaker:  La Cappuccina
Wine: Soave
Varietal:  Garganega
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Soave DOC, Italy
Price:  $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This light-bodied Italian white was very pale yellow with an abundant bouquet of citrus and spice.  I thought acidity quite vibrant, and alcohol was off-dry a 12%.  Flavors I tasted were a bracing citrus with honey and grass.  It was a refreshing glass of wine.  I enjoyed it and can certainly see this with hearty seafood dishes or perhaps contrapuntal to a rich cheese.

Artisan Pinot Grigio 2012

I have to be honest: when I first started drinking wine, I didn’t particularly care for Pinot Grigio.  I think that may well have been because – as my wine-tasting palate was unaccustomed to finding the flavors in a wine – it was easier to detect the bigger, bolder, badder flavors in a Chardonnay, for example.  Now that I’ve had some years of sipping experience and exploration, I find myself enjoying many different varieties and styles of wine for what they bring to the table – whether a big mouthful of craziness or a more restrained expression of flavor.  Thus, I’ve made my peace with Pinot Grigio and the lighter whites.  In fact, I think I drink more PG than Chardonnay these days!

Oenophilogical_ArtisanPinotGrigio2012Winemaker:  Artisan
Varietal:  Pinot Grigio
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: California
Price: $ 12.99

Notes:  At 13.9% alcohol, this Artisan PG can truly be considered dry.  It was characteristically light-bodied with nice bright acidity and a lovely lemon yellow in the glass.  Flavors I detected were tart citrus, toasty oak and some hints of spice.  It was a simple wine but enjoyable.  I can imagine it would make a nice choice to accompany a light meal  – an entree salad?

Virginia is for Wine Lovers II – Williamsburg Winery

Yes, the visits to Virginia wineries continue.  This time it was a trip to our friends at the Williamsburg Winery down the road from the well-known and oft-visited Colonial Williamsburg.


Once you reach the winery (after driving past some beautiful vineyards) there is ample parking to accommodate visitors for the tasting room/shop, the Gabriel Archer Tavern right across the alley, Cafe Provencale just up the path, and Wedmore Place (the 28-room hotel on site).  As you can see in the photo below, the main building had a very old world/early colonial look which continued on the interior as well.  After paying a $15 fee to the cashier at the door for a “Reserve Tasting,” I was directed back to the tasting room for my exploration of the 7 selections.  There is also a “Fine Wine Tasting” for $8.

When I bellied up to the tasting bar, so to speak, the staff came right over to give me my menu and notes sheet to begin the process.  Here’s what I got to try and some cryptic personal notes on my experience.

2014 Wessex Hundred Vidal Blanc —
I found this wine to be light-bodied and slightly sweet with banana, lemon, grass, and warm spice notes.

2013 Acte 12 Chardonnay —
Thought this was on the light side for a Chardonnay with a nice mouthfeel.  On the tongue I got flavors of citrus, pear, kiwi and oak notes.

2013 Barrel Aged Claret —
Really nice bouquet on this wine.  Moderate but pleasant tannins.  Flavors for me were raspberry, cherry and tea.

2013 Wessex Hundred Merlot —
Lots of fresh berries on the nose.  Tasted cherry and cranberry.  Tannins were medium with a quick grip.  Reminded me more of a Chambourcin than the typical Merlot.

2012 Virginia Trianon —
This is a Cabernet Franc.  I found it a smokey wine with black raspberry, tobacco leaf, and black pepper.

2013 Wessex Hundred Petit Verdot —
A heady bouquet of rich earthiness mixed with tangy berries and a hint of cocoa.  Medium-bodied, I tasted blackberry, cherry, pepper and coffee grounds.

2012 Adagio —
Thought this a refined selection with an earthiness surrounding tart cranberry overtones and blueberry undertones along with just a touch of rubber. Tannins were medium.

Oenophilogical_WilliamsburgWinery1Overall, it was a pleasant experience in a lovely setting.  The folks at Williamsburg are set up to handle quite a bit of traffic through their tasting room.  And they seem completely up to the task.  You may not find the intimate experience available at some of the smaller or more out-of-the-way wineries, but I wouldn’t avoid it.  Their wines are worth a trip to taste.

Interesting Factoid:  I wondered what was up with the winery being on “Wessex Hundred” road and that moniker being echoed in some of the wine names.  Well, according to Wikipedia, an area in Colonial Virginia which carried the label “hundred” was a parcel large enough to support 100 homesteads.  Thus you also find roads in Virginia named Bermuda Hundred, Old Hundred, West Hundred, etc.





Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Viognier 2013

Viognier seems to be enjoying quite a rise in popularity in the U.S.  In part, that may be because the grape can be grown successfully in areas and climates that are outside the well-known wine-growing regions.  For instance, Viognier is widely found among vintners in Virginia.  Virginia Viognier evidently first gained national notice in 1993 when a Horton Vineyards Viognier won top honors at a California wine tasting.  In fact, Viognier is the state grape of Virginia, and is grown by roughly forty percent of the State’s vineyards.  No surprise, I suppose, that my first Viognier was a Virginia wine.  Terroir being what it is and an integral part of the wine-making process, I was keen to see what this Trader Joe’s Viognier from the greater Sacramento area might be like.

Winemaker:  Trader Joe’s (ASV Wines for Trader Joe’s)
Wine:  Petit Reserve Viognier
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Clarksburg, CA
Price:  $6.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:   A bright lemon yellow, this TJ offering was light-bodied with scents of honey, citrus and fig on the nose.  Acidity was quite high – racey, even – and alcohol was at 13.7%.  On the tongue, I found this Viognier to be largely focused on one flavor – copious bitter orange.  I thought it was an interesting light white.  I didn’t dislike it, but I wouldn’t serve it at a cocktail reception.  I think it should be paired with something.  What to pair it with, though, that’s the question.  If you’ve found a successful match for this selection, please drop a note and let me know.  With all that bitter orange, I wonder if something sweet and chocolaty might work?


Maniña Sauvignon Blanc 2014

My work is sort of boom or bust.  By that I mean that when it is quiet, you can hear the grass grow.  But when it gets busy, it can be key-ray-zee!  Thus, after a 12+ hours day of work recently, I stumbled into a Kroger store and grabbed a bottle of wine to accompany my very late dinner.  And let me say, this Kroger had the best wine selection I have ever seen in one of their stores.  I mean they even had a Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon on the shelves.  In my state, however, I knew anything that potentially complex and lovely would be wasted on me that evening.  Instead, my tired digits wrapped themselves around this Chilean white.

Winemaker:   Maniña
Varietal:  Sauvignon Blanc
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Valle Central, Chile
Price: $12.99

Notes:  The color was straw, and it’s bouquet held scents of citrus and tropical fruit.  It was light-bodied with decent acidity and 12.5% alcohol.  I tasted primarily citrus flavors with a hint of melon here and there.  It finished on a bracing citrus zest note.  It went fairly well with the frozen chicken strips I microwaved, but I think it might have been better with a nice seafood dish.  By the way, I did have the next day off.  Thank goodness!

Morro Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Morro Bay states very clearly that this selection is “Lodi Rules Certified” as being produced using sustainable practices.  With so much emphasis on the label touting this certification, I wanted to know more.

Ten years ago the Lodi Winegrape Commission established their “Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing Certification Program.”  Their website describes the program like this.

The Lodi Rules has two key components. First, the Lodi Rules promotes winegrape grower adoption of 101 sustainability practices, which we term “standards”. The standards were collaboratively developed by a team of Lodi winegrape growers and viticulture professionals, and were accredited by Protected Harvest in 2005. The Lodi Rules standards are the backbone of the program, and are organized into six chapters: 1) business management, 2) human resource management, 3) ecosystem management, 4) soil management, 5) water management, and 6) pest management. The standards meet three criteria: first, they are measurable; second, they address at least one of the three aspects of sustainability (environmental health, social equity, and economic viability); and third, they are economically feasible to implement. We believe that the Lodi Rules standards are the most thoroughly and rigorously vetted set of sustainability practices in California’s viticulture industry. All standards have been peer reviewed by third-party scientists, members of the academic community, and environmental organizations. Certified growers are required to implement a minimum of standards.

The second key component of the Lodi Rules is the Pesticide Environmental Assessment System (PEAS), which is unique to the Lodi Rules. PEAS is a model used to quantify the environmental and human impact of all pesticides applied in a vineyard. The PEAS model generates an Environmental Impact Unit (EIU) for each pesticide, which is based on the pesticide’s impact on 1) acute risk to farm workers, 2) dietary risks from acute and chronic exposure to people who consume the product, 3) acute risks to small aquatic invertebrates, 4) acute risk to birds, and 5) acute risk to bees and pests’ natural enemies. Pesticide use by Lodi Rules certified growers must fall below a specified level of PEAS impact units.

There’s more – quite a bit more, actually.  You can go to for additional info on the Lodi Rules.  One can see, though, that this is a serious endeavor to address sustainability on many levels.  I can totally understand why Morro Bay would highlight their certification on the label.  So, now back to the wine.

Winemaker:  Morro Bay
Wine:  Cabernet Sauvignon White Oak Estates
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2010
Appellation:  California
Price:  $10.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This Cab was so dark it was almost opaque.  On the nose I smelled mostly balsamic vinegar.  There were touches of dark fruit and oak notes, but my schnoz thought the bouquet smelled mostly like balsamic vinegar.  It was medium-bodied with good acidity and medium tannins.  Alcohol was at 13.9%.  Don’t let my schnoz scare you away, though.  This wine had not turned.  Flavors I detected were a fruit foundation of cherry with pepper, ash, and eucalyptus notes along with a hint of raisins.


Tasting at James River Cellars

Virginia is for Wine Lovers!  I’m not joking.  According to the Virginia Wine Board’s website there are 251 wineries in the State.

Recently, I trekked to the Richmond area where I managed to have a Virginia wine experience.  While there are a number of wineries within a reasonable driving distance from Richmond proper, the closest is probably James River Cellars just north of Richmond in Glen Allen.

The winery is easy to get to – a short way off I-95 on US Route 1.  The winery is set back from the road, and the drive up to the tasting room takes you past a driving range.  When I stepped in the front door, I was immediately greeted by the winery staff.  Friendly and knowledgeable, the staff took me through a full range of wine options for the very modest fee of $5.  Normally, the fiver gets you samples of 13 different selections.  If you’re lucky – like I was on my visit – they may have an additional selection or two open which they will share as well.  Below are the wines I got to try.

Regular Tasting:
2013 Reserve Chardonnay
2014 Chardonnay (un-oaked)
2014 Petit Manseng
2013 Vidal Blanc
2013 Rad Red – 43% Cabernet Franc, 30% Petit Verdot, 20% Chancellor, 7% Sangiovese
2012 Cabernet Franc
2012 Monitor vs CSS Virginia – 47% Cabernet Franc, 44% Merlot, 9% Tannat
2012 Meritage – 45% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 11% Peti Verdot
2014 Montpelier – 63% Pinot Gris, 20% Chardonel, 17% Chambourcin
2014 Hanover White – 45% Chardonel, 45% Pinot Gris, 5% Petit Manseng, 5% Muscat
2013 Chambourcin
2013 Real Santa Red – 58% Merlot, 42% Touriga Nacional

2014 Chardonel
2012 Petit Verdot
2012 Hanover Red – Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Touriga Nacional

There was a lot to take in during this tasting.  Even so, I thought they had a number of selections I might like to buy.  The Reserve Chardonnay had bright acidity, a silky mouthfeel and citrus flavors including lemon and grapefruit.; the Petit Manseng had flavors of spiced stone fruits; their Petit Verdot was smoky and earthy; and there are two wines I’d call specialty wines which would make great additions to holiday celebrations.

Those specialty wines are the Chambourcin and Real Santa Red – a blend of Merlot and Touriga Nacional.  The winemaker has added sugar to the Chambourcin which for me makes it a bit like berry (cranberry?) sauce in a bottle.  It is definitely a dessert wine, in my opinion.  Then there is the Real Santa Red to which they have added cinnamon.  Although not dessert-wine sweet like the Chambourcin, I think Real Santa Red would be a nice accompaniment to holiday pies (apple, pumpkin, cherry, etc.) and cakes.

If you find yourself in the area, you should definitely stop by the winery.  If you can’t make it to the folks at James River, their wines can be purchased from the winery and shipped or at a number of retailers in Central Virginia.  See their website at for details.


Fetzer Gewürtztraminer 2013

Awhile back I had the 2011 Fetzer Shaly Loam Gewürtztraminer, so I wanted to compare the experiences.  But upon closer inspection, I realized this one is from Monterey County not the broader California appellation.  Even so, I decided to taste and see how the two vintages compare.  Notes from my first Fetzer Gewürtztraminer can be found by clicking here.

Winemaker:  Fetzer
Varietal:  Gewürtztraminer
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Monterey County, CA
Price:  $12.49

Notes:  This selection was a golden yellow in the glass with a bouquet of peach and warm spices.  It’s a medium-bodied wine with good acidity.  The flavors for me were sweet – almost syrupy – peach with spice, a touch of grass, and a tart citrusy finish.  Alcohol was at 12%.  I think this would serve well as an accompaniment to a light cake or as a sweet sip at a warm-weather outdoor reception.

So how do they compare?  Well, in my opinion this selection seems a bit more in the typical varietal style – medium-bodied and a tad sweeter to the taste buds – than the 2011.  Even so, both were perfectly fine wines.

Kendall-Jackson Zinfandel 2012

There’s a reason Kendall-Jackson has been a powerhouse in the American wine industry for years now.  Having spent not a few nights at business receptions in my life, I can remember colleagues practically sending up a cheer when hosts served Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.  As we know, however, KJ is no one-trick pony.  A few months back I tried the 2012 Syrah.  Staying with their reds, I more recently popped the cork on one of their Zins.

Winemaker: Kendall-Jackson
Wine:  Vintner’s Reserve Zinfandel
Varietal: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: Mendocino County, CA
Price: $14.49

Notes:  The bouquet of this dark garnet-colored wine was surprisingly understated but certainly present with round scents of dark fruit and earth accented by a sharp turpentine note.  Acidity was good on this medium-bodied Zin.  Tannins struck me as being on the lighter side of medium, and alcohol was at 14.5%.  On the palate, I found this Kendall-Jackson to be a mouthful of fun.  This is the kind of Zin that got me hooked in the first place.  It could easily cellar a few years.  Still, if you don’t mind a somewhat boisterous glass of wine, you may enjoy it now.