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Cameron Hughes, Lot 467, Lodi Field Blend 2012 ($9)

by Tim Elliott on October 1, 2014

I have written and podcasted many times over the years about by love of California Zinfandel and Zin-lead field blends. The tradition of the field blend was brought to California by Italian immigrants over 100 years ago and some of the most individual expressions of this tradition are still bearing fruit in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. The technique is simple, interplant a vineyard with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Alicante Bouschet and other varieties, then harvest them at the same time and co-ferment. This tradition reaches its peak with Ridge’s Lytton Springs and Geyserville vineyards which has been chronicled here many times over the years.

Cameron Hughes, Lot 467, Lodi Field Blend 2012Finding distinctive Zinfandel for under $20 is difficult these days and almost everything under $10 does not display much of what makes this variety so special. Occasionally you will find something on close-out that falls within this price band but these are very few and far between. But négociants such as Cameron Hughes regularly bring us wines of distinction that overperform their price point, as is the case with this wine.

Podcast listeners will remember Cameron Hughes from my interview on Winecast 73 seven years ago. Much has changed with his operation over the years but his brands are still as meaningful for wine lovers looking for a bargain. So when I found this wine — a Lodi Field blend of 56% Zinfandel, 17% Syrah, 16% Petite Sirah, and 10% Tempranillo — for $8.99 at my local Costco, I grabbed a bottle.

Lodi has had a long history with Zinfandel dating back to the Gold Rush of the mid 19th Century. I’m sure field blending was also part of this tradition in the region but I’ve never tried any until now. And I don’t think the term “field blend” is regulated so it’s possible some back blending went on to create this wine, but it makes little difference to me since the traditional expression remains in the glass.

Cameron Hughes, Lot 467, Lodi Field Blend 2012 ($9) — Black/purple color with aromas of blackberry jam, fennel, chaparral and sage. Rich blackberry, blueberry and kirsch flavors with white pepper finishing with supple tannins. A bit boozy at the end but balanced currently by exuberant fruit. If you see this at your local Costco, buy it, as this one will not last long. My new go-to BBQ and pizza wine.

Score: 90
13.9% ABV
Composite cork closure

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Jean Farris Winery “Tempest” 2007

by Tim Elliott on January 16, 2011

Tempest bottleYou never know where the next emerging wine State will be here in the U.S. but if this wine is representative of the wines coming out of Kentucky these days, this might be the place. Given as a gift from the parents of a friend of my son visiting over the holiday break, the wine is a blend of Spanish and French varieties grown near Lexington, Kentucky. Since the winery also makes Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, Eastern Kentucky must have a more extended growing season than other States in the region. Indeed, the most surprising thing for me about this wine was how big it is, both in fruit concentration and in alcohol.

There’s not a lot written about Jean Farris winery aside from their website and a few other blogger notes (I think I’m the first to review Tempest). But I think you will hear more from this winery given the quality of the wine here. The rather unconventional blend of Tempranillo works well with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. I hope to have the chance to sample some of their other wines soon.

Tasting Notes:

Jean Farris Winery, “Tempest”, Red Wine, Kentucky 2007 ($35) – A blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Garnet in color with aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, sage and cedar. Bold blackberry fruit with cassis, white pepper and vanilla finishing with moderate tannins, nice acidity and just a hint of heat. Shows that world class wine can be made in the land of Bourbon.

Synthetic cork closure
Rating: ★★★½☆
Score: 87

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Snooth listing

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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Cameron Hughes, Lot 93, Tempranillo 2004

by Tim Elliott on November 17, 2008

Négociant Cameron Hughes has made a name for himself selecting and sometimes blending wines that drink like twice or sometimes three times their asking price. Using direct to consumer marketing on his website and distribution through warehouse retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club, Hughes effectively disintermediates the 3-tier wine distribution system here in the U.S. This means he can make money selling $10-20 wines that he sources from some of the top producers around the world.

This past Saturday I presented three of his wines as part of Twitter Taste Live 5. All the wines were provided by Cameron Hughes as samples but I was very impressed with each wine which I will review over the next few weeks here. But the most impressive wine was a new release today, Lot 93, a 2004 Tempranillo from Spain’s Rioja region.

When I opened this wine Saturday, the brand on the cork indicated the producer is Bodegas Covila. On my visit to the region last year, I was struck by how every winery seemed to age their wines as “shiners” or unlabeled, selling the wine when it was “ready to drink.” This old school philosophy makes many wines from Spain tremendous values and provides stock for folks like Cameron Hughes to buy and label for his customers. The result is one of the best values I’ve ever seen as this could easily sell for $50-60 a bottle.

Tasting notes:

Cameron Hughes, “Lot 93”, Tempranillo, Rioja 2004 ($21/sample) – Dark ruby in color with black cherry, cassis, fennel, cocoa and vanilla aromas. Sleek and concentrated black cherry & dark currant fruit with some black pepper and a touch of earth finishing long with firm, but surprisingly well integrated, tannins. A well structured wine that will age for another 5-8 years. The most extreme value I’ve tasted yet from this négociant. Highly recommended.

13.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Rating: ★★★★☆

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