Top Hat Pinot Grigio 2012

So … here’s the question.  Do you think California Pinot Grigio’s are generally as good as their Italian counterparts?

I took the time to look back and review my tasting notes of PGs to see if they might give me a clue as to my own thinking.  Remembering that I focus on inexpensive wines on this blog, it seems my experience suggests that the Californians still have some catching up to do.  That isn’t to say California wineries don’t make good Pinot Grigios.  In the value priced selections, however, I have evidently preferred the Italians.

Of course, that’s just one man’s limited experience.  If you have some suggestions for me as to Pinot Grigios I should sample, I’d be more than happy to hear about them.

Oenophilogical_TopHatPinotGrigio2012Winemaker: Top Hat
Varietal: Pinot Grigio
Vintage: 2012
Appellation: California
Price: $11.99

Notes: The wine was an extremely pale straw color with good acidity and 13.9% alcohol.  On the nose I encountered scents of citrus with warm spice notes.  It was very light-bodied, almost thin.  On the palate I tasted citrus, grass and touches of warm spice.  It was an okay PG, but I think there are less expensive options that are equal to this Top Hat and much more interesting selections in the same price range.

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Alamos Red Blend 2013

I mentioned in a post a couple of weeks ago that my parents never threw anything away.  While that may be an overstatement, it isn’t too far from the truth.  Thus, they had a four bedroom house filled to the brim even in retirement.  They weren’t hoarders, but they were definitely savers.

When my sister and I were cleaning out the house a few years back, I packed up a number of boxes of “stuff” that was somehow connected to me.  There were photos, of course.  But they had also managed to hold onto, among other things, all of my school report cards.  All the way back to kindergarten!  K-12.  Ha!  Imagine how surprised I was when I found included with my fifth grade records a certificate of distinction for my efforts in Spanish.  What?!  I would love to remember now even as much (little) as I knew back in fifth grade.  Unfortunately, if the label on this Alamos red blend weren’t translated into English, I would have had to use “Google translate” to understand it.

Oenophilogical_AlamosRedBlend2013Winemaker: Alamos
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2013
Appellation: Mendoza, Argentina
Price: $9.99

Notes: This blend of Malbec, Bonarda, and Tempranillo was dark garnet in the glass with red berries in the nose.  Alcohol was at 13.9%, tannins were medium, and the flavor profile was primarily a very pleasant cherry.

Dark Horse Merlot 2014

According to Merriam Webster, a dark horse is a “little known competitor that makes an unexpectedly good showing.”  Interesting how the idea of a dark horse has been inspiration for artists (and politicians) for … well, a long time.

Winemaker: Dark Horse
Varietal: Merlot
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: California
Price: $8.99

Notes: In the bouquet this Dark Horse presented jammy dark fruit, cedar, and damp loam.  At 13.5% alcohol, it was medium-bodied with moderate tannins.  Acidity was good as well.  On the palate I found dark berries and plum with touches of cinnamon and molasses.  Of course it wasn’t as sweet as molasses.  I thought this Merlot might be good served with game fowl, but it was fine to sip alone.

La Vielle Ferme Blanc 2014

Some time ago I shared a little story of my sojourns through France when I was a young boy.  In that instance, we had stopped on the south coast of France (Mediterranean) and spent a day at the beach.  At the time, we were living in Germany, so that was not the only trip we made into France. We also made our way to Paris.

Although I was only 6 years old at the time.  Paris left a lasting mark on my soul.  While my father did his best to herd the family from museum to museum, some of the most vivid memories are from the city itself.  For instance, I was fascinated by the hotel we stayed in because it wasn’t at all like the American hotels and motels we had stayed in.  It was a small pension hotel in a bustling residential neighborhood.  Not far from our hotel, there was an outdoor market where people where produce of every kind straight from the farm was available.  We bought some cherries at the market that I can still taste by memory today.  They were SO amazing.  And although I was very impressed with the art works in the Louvre, I found the Arc de Triomphe infinitely more appealing.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since that trip.  Yup, more travel for my bucket list.  I really would like to experience the City of Light as an adult.  Know what I mean?  I didn’t have a single sip of wine when I was in Paris last!

Oenophilogical_LaVielleFermeBlanc2014Winemaker: La Vieille Ferme
Varietal: White Blend
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: France
Price: $7.99 at Whole Foods

Notes: This French white was medium yellow in color with lots of yellow (golden delicous) apple along with citrus notes in the nose.  Acidity was good in this medium-bodied blend which had a slight coat-the-tongue quotient.  Flavors I detected were kiwi, cream, and hints of toasty oak.  I liked it.  I have had other vintages that I didn’t enjoy as well, but this bottle was fine by me.

It’s A Headsnapper Chardonnay Sonoma 2014

Where does the term headsnapper come from?  What does it mean?  Does anybody know?

I’ve come upon three possible meanings thus far.  1. something so shocking, unexpected or interesting that it makes you whip your head around to look at it; 2. something that is too expensive or a bad deal (perhaps surprisingly so); 3. fish bait (red snapper heads are evidently often used as bait).

If the label art is any clue as to what the folks at It’s A Headsnapper mean when they use the term, it is likely to be something akin to the first definition.  Then again, there is a fourth possibility that occurs to me.  The woman on the label looks as though she might be dancing while squeezing the juice from grapes into a glass.  So maybe she’s a dancer who likes to whip her head about.

Oenophilogical_HeadsnapperChardonnaySonoma2014Winemaker: It’s A Headsnapper
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: Sonoma County, California
Price: $10.99

Notes: This Sonoma Chardonnay brought citrus, grass and turpentine to the nose.  With bright acidity, it’s heft on the palate was on the light side of medium.  Alcohol at 13.9%, the flavor profile I found included citrus (lemon turning to grapefruit), grass, and chalk with some turpentine and woody notes.  Speaking of the label once again, my tasting notes bear almost no resemblance to the description of this wine on the back of the bottle.  All I can do is share what I tasted!

Alvarez de Toledo Mencía Roble 2009

I’ve only had one Mencía before.  It was another selection I found at Whole Foods.  I’m starting to get the idea that this varietal exhibits more of the non-fruit flavors and generously woody tannins.  At least, that’s what I’ve noted in my two tastings.  Of course, two bottles of wine cannot define an entire varietal.  I guess that means I’ll have to keep trying more of these Spanish wines to gain fuller insight.

Oenophilogical_AlvarezDeToledoMenciaRoble2009Winemaker: Alvarez de Toledo
Varietal: Mencía Roble
Vintage: 2009
Appellation: Bierzo, Spain DO
Price: $10.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This Mencía was dark red with a purplish tinge.  The bouquet was led by a piquant scent of balsamic vinegar* underscored by earth and dark fruit.  It was light-bodied with good acidity and medium tannins.  Alcohol was 13.5%.  The overarching flavor I detected came from the brambly tannins.  In addition there were touches of dark fruit and tobacco with a kick of bitters near the end. 

 

* More balsamic than vinegar, the scent did have an acidic zing.  This was not, however, a vinegary wine in any way.

Yellow Tail Chardonnay 2015

Some wines are refined and well-behaved.  Others are a bold mouthful of flavors sometimes striking out in unexpected directions.  Still others are one-dimensional and boring.  Then you have what I’ll call the pinballers that bounce around on your taste buds like a rabbit with it’s tail on fire.  The last was my experience with this white from down under.

Oenophilogical_YellowTailChardonnay2015Winemaker: Yellow Tail
Varietal: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2015
Appellation: South Eastern Australia
Price: $5.99

Notes: In the glass this Aussie Chardonnay was a pretty light shade of gold.  Scents that rose from the glass were pineapple, oak and pepper.  Alcohol was at 13% in this medium-bodied wine.  Acidity was moving toward high, and there was a definite sense of viscosity on the tongue.  I thought it was an unsophisticated white with flavors of sweet pineapple, grass, oak, and a note of hot peppers.  It is, of course, a very inexpensive bottle of wine.  Maybe I shouldn’t be so critical.