Recommendations

RedTree, Pinot Noir 2008

by Tim Elliott on May 5, 2009

It is rare that you see mainstream critics write about so-called “industrial wines” and most unusual when they actually say good things about them. So I was surprised to see Wine Spectator critic Jim Laube blog about an $8 California Pinot Noir a couple weeks ago. Naturally I was curious to taste the wine myself and see how close my experience would be to Mr. Laube’s. The wine in question is from the Cecchetti Wine Company marketed under the RedTree brand. I picked it up on the end-cap at my local Redtree Pinot Noirwine store for $5.50 on sale.

I am somewhat familiar with RedTree from their Zinfandel I tasted recently. You don’t often see Zin in the less than $10 range so when I see a new entrant I try it to see if they will be giving Ravenswood a run for their money in this price category. Sorry to report that the RedTree Zin didn’t live up to expectations with over ripe blackberry fruit overwhelmed by alcohol (listed at 14.5% ABV but likely over 15%). So how could their Pinot be anything other than a light generic red wine?

I’m not sure how they did it but the 2008 RedTree Pinot Noir is an unbelievable value at the less than $6 I paid for it on sale. Even at $12 this wine would give Mark West Pinot some serious competition. Darker than most Pinot, the wine smells like you would expect with strawberry and red cherry fruit with just a hint of the earthiness associated with Pinot. Red cherry and strawberry fruit flavors complete the package finishing with supple tannins. Surprisingly correct varietal character for a Central Valley wine.

12.5% ABV
Screw Cap closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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My buying advice is to pick up a bottle yourself and then get a case or two if you concur (my retailer had a mail-in rebate for case purchases). I don’t expect to see the same value in the next release but will definitely give it a try next year. In the meantime I’ll be buying some Petite Sirah to see if the Zin was a fluke or trend with heavier bodied reds. They also make a Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.

Thanks for the tip, Jim; keep ‘em coming.

RedTree, Pinot Noir 2008

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WBW 53: Wine for Breakfast!

by Tim Elliott on January 18, 2009

In the nearly 4 years I’ve been participating in Wine Blogging Wednesday I’ve never posted this late but I really wanted to take a run at the theme of “Wine for Breakfast!” Since our host this month seems fine with a bit of Wine Blogging Sunday, I’ll take a crack at getting this post published before the NFC Championship game is over.

First off, I don’t drink wine with breakfast. Never have. Sure, I’ve had plenty of sparkling wine or rose at a brunch or two but that is always about 11 a.m. which seems close enough to noon to be socially acceptable. Funny enough, I actually taste wine in the morning on occasion but it’s never with food and I’m always spitting. And finally, I don’t like breakfast food for dinner. This is probably mostly due to wine being not the best match for eggs, pancakes and maple syrup.

But that doesn’t mean there are no wines that would match with such fare; in fact, sparkling wine and rose — dry or off-dry — would probably work here fine. But El Jefe, owner of Twisted Oak Winery and our WBW host this month, has limited our options to dry white and red wines only. Nothing sweet, sparkling or mixed with fruit juice is allowed.

So this has become quite a challenge as my typical breakfast of bacon and eggs is not that easy to match with a dry wine. I like my eggs scrambled and mixed with a bit of cheese further complicating matters. The bacon, of course, would match with a lot of wines but those eggs can really overpower a wine. But I’m not eating huevos rancheros with a yolk to worry about so I think I’ll try to match this breakfast with both a white and a red.

French Maid Sauvignon BlancFor the white I’m going with a medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc I recently received as a sample from the White Rocket Wine Company called “French Maid“. As I’ve noted in the past, I’m not much of a label buyer but perhaps I’ll change my tune as this wine really delivers what you want in Sauvignon Blanc. Made in France’s Languedoc region, the wine is very similar in style with New Zealand SB which have mostly risen above the $12 price point. I think this wine has enough body and acidity to stand up to my bacon and eggs breakfast but I’d more likely enjoy this wine in the summer with a cold chicken salad.

Tasting Notes:

White Rocket Wine Company, “French Maid”, Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays d’Oc 2007 ($12/sample) – Light straw in color with aromas of grapefruit, fresh hay and pineapple. Tart lime fruit flavors finishing clean and dry. A very good value to be compared with better New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

12.5% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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My red match has to be a wine with a lot of fruit and no tannins. Yes, a fruit bomb. I think Beaujolais would be a good match here but when I think fruit bomb, the joven blend of Garnacha and Tempranillio from Bodegas Borsao comes immediately to mind. Available in good volume across the U.S. for well under $10 a bottle, this wine continues to be a good value vintage after vintage. The juicy fruit profile of this wine pairs will with my bacon and eggs breakfast and would also work with more ambitious fare such as a frittata.

Bodegas Borsao Red WineTasting Notes:

Bodegas Borsao,  “Red Wine”, Campo De Borja 2007 ($7) – A blend of 75% Garnacha and 25% Tempranillio this wine is medium ruby in color with aromas of strawberry and red cherry. Juicy fresh strawberry and cherry fruit flavors finishing with a touch of minerality and soft tannins. A fruit bomb, but I like it.

14% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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Thanks go out to Jeff from Twisted Oak Winery for hosting a very challenging WBW. I’m looking forward to reading the round-up post probably coming later this afternoon (hope I slip this post in).

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Clos LaChance, Meritage 2005

by Tim Elliott on January 3, 2009

Clos LaChance MeritageI think we’ll eventually see a renaissance in wine blends here in the U.S. I’m not exactly sure when this will be but it’s clear from the wine I’m reviewing tonight that a blend can be so much more than the sum of it’s parts. A few years back, producers in California recognized that they needed to come up with a marketing term for blends inspired by the wines of Bordeaux and came up with Meritage (pronounced like “heritage”). The term was intended to signify wines of merit that exemplified the heritage of the best wines made from traditional Bordeaux varieties in America.

And this wine from Clos LaChance really delivers on that promise. This family winery started in the late 1980′s as a backyard winery that has grown into over 150 acres of vineyards located just 20 miles south of San Jose.They make a number of wines in three different tiers with the “special select” being the top of their range. I was not familar with this producer, but from the wines I’ve tasted so far, this looks like a winery to seek out.

Tasting Notes:

Clos LaChance, Meritage, Estate Vineyard, “Special Select” 2005 ($50/sample) – Dark purple color with aromas of black cherry, eucalyptus, licorice and vanilla. Blackberry and dark currant flavors with mint and bell pepper finishing with sweet oak and moderate tannins. Well balanced and quite enjoyable now but will continue to gain complexity with another 2-3 years of cellaring. This wine is throwing a fair amount of sediment now, so you might want to decant before serving.

14.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★★☆

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Canals Nadal, Brut Rose, Reserva NV

by Tim Elliott on January 1, 2009

Canals Nadal Brut RoseOne of my New Year’s resolutions is to drink more sparkling wine so I’ll start 2009 with a review of a Cava made from an obscure native Spanish red variety.

This wine was one of the bottles I purchased on my trip to Spain in 2007 but had not yet tasted. I picked it up in a store in Montsant along with a few other interesting choices based upon wine style or varieties I have not tried. I think Ryan from Catavino also picked up a bottle of the same wine for similar reasons but haven’t seen his review yet.

This sparkler is made from Trepat, a native red variety from northeast Spain almost always used to make rose in Conca de Barbera and Costers del Segre zones. About 3,700 acres of this variety are grown in these Spanish wine zones today with some producers starting to make red still wines from the variety.

Tasting Notes:

Canals Nadal, Cava Brut Rose, Reserva NV ($14) – Quite a deep shade of ruby for a rose with vigorous, fine bubbles. A reserved nose of candied cherry and strawberry makes you expect an austere wine. Not so on the palate with full red raspberry and strawberry fruit flavors finishing bone dry with a nice mineral, lees note. Very nice balance for a sparkling wine at this price point. Enough body to pair with more hearty fare than most sparklers.

12% ABV
Composite cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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Black Sheep Finds, “Hocus Pocus”, Syrah 2006

by Tim Elliott on December 31, 2008

Before I begin this review, I have a confession to make. I really don’t like cute, critter or otherwise “manipulated” labels designed to entice people to select wines on grocery store shelves. And I vote with my wallet by not purchasing these wines. There are times when I’m tempted, when I know and respect the winemakers for example, but I’ve successfully steered clear of all of these wine over the 4+ years I’ve been blogging and podcasting. I know I’m in the minority here, since there are so many of these wines on the market, so this strategy has got to be successful.

Hocus Pocus SyrahSo I was amused when Jill from domaine547 sent me a wine from Black Sheep Finds called “Hocus Pocus.” This was one of 3 bottles won as the prize shared with Richard from The Passionate Foodie for getting 20% of the Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of 2008 correct. This is precisely the type of wine I would shake my head and pass over on the shelf so I was curious how the wine in the bottle actually tasted.

Black Sheep Finds is a winery run by Amy Christine and Peter Hunken. Their bios on the Black Sheep Finds website doesn’t give up too much other than they both love wine (and maybe like each other quite a bit, too). Dr. Debs has a bit more background in her review of their 2005 vintage over at Good Wine Under $20. Besides Hocus Pocus, their Syrah brand, they also offer a Sangiovese blend called “Dalla Pancia” and a Cabernet Sauvignon called “Genuine Risk”. Interesting, if not a bit calculated, branding from the Mollydooker school of wine marketing. Everyone has to have a story to tell to sell their wine and this one is a good one made better by some pretty tasty juice in the glass. I’ve also got to give them props for focusing on the value category which will be one of the major trends in 2009 (more about that tomorrow).

Tasting Notes:

Black Sheep Finds, “Hocus Pocus”, Syrah, Santa Barbara Country 2006 ($18/sample) – Very dark purple-black in color with aromas of blackberry, blueberry, licorice and sage. Juicy dark fruit flavors with mint and black pepper finishing with moderate, but polished, tannins. Great varietal character for the price. Only 550 cases produced.

14.9% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆

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Thanks to Jill from domaine547 for this wine, which seems to be sold out there (thus my WineZap link above). It shows that maybe I should not judge a wine by it’s label and pick up more of these kinds of wines. I’ll definately be on the lookout for Black Sheep Finds wines next time I see them.

Quick Picks 11 – Chateau Clos Rene 2000

by Tim Elliott on December 31, 2008

Château Clos RenéAnother Quick Picks sharing a wine I enjoyed over the Holidays, an aged Bordeaux blend from Pomerol.

Ch̢teau Clos Ren̩ 2000 ($30-60) РDeep crimson-purple in color with aromas of black cherry, dark currant, pencil lead, fennel and mint. Rich black cherry fruit with black pepper and dark chocolate finishing with moderate, but plush, tannins. A delicious Bordeaux blend that has more years ahead of it.

13% ABV
Natural cork
Rating: ★★★★☆

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