White Blends

WBW 47: Brought To You By The Letter “S”

by Tim Elliott on July 9, 2008

For Wine Blogging Wednesday this month, our hosts Erin and Michelle from Grape Juice have presented us with a theme inspired by television series Sesame Street: Today’s Wine Brought To You By The Letter “S”. For those not familiar with the show, Sesame Street presented the alphabet to pre-school children one letter at a time with the help of Muppet characters. Erin and Michelle have asked wine bloggers to pick a wine with a connection with the letter “S” and post our notes.

The first wine to come to mind was made by Steve Matthiasson (the first “S”) from Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Gialla and Semillon (two more “S” connections) grown in Napa Valley. I have long thought the most complex wines are made from a blend of varieties and was intrigued to taste such a blend when the winery send me samples (one more “S”) earlier this year.

Steve’s day job is as a vineyard consultant so he tends his own vines in his spare time on Sunday’s (another “S”). Matthiasson works with clients using both organic and biodynamic methods so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Rudolf Steiner (yet another “S”), the father of biodynamic farming. Matthiasson’s total production is only a few hundred cases and his entire family is involved in the operation. This hands-on, natural approach and attention to detail really shows in the glass with this stunning white blend (my last “S”).

Tasting Notes:

Matthiasson, White Wine, Napa Valley 2006 ($35/sample) – Straw in color with very aromatic pineapple, lychee, fig, almond and spice on the nose. Fresh green apple, citrus and mineral flavors finishing quite long with bracing acidity. A delicious and unique wine that pairs well with food but makes a statement on it’s own.

13.6% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 92
Rating: ★★★★☆

So I have seven “S” connections in this post and will now send a shout-out to Erin and Michelle for their great theme. Stay tuned for more Wine Blogging Wednesday news and links to the round-up when it’s posted.

Photo by the Corkdork

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Vare Vineyards, Bianco Riserva 2005

by Tim Elliott on April 28, 2008

George and Elsa Vare love the white wine blends of Italy and have devoted Vare Vineyards to the pursuit of making this style of wine in Napa Valley. They are not new to the wine business having co-founded Luna Vineyards and this experience shows in the bottle. I first tasted Vare wines at the recent Wine 2.0 event at Crushpad in San Francisco and was excited to try their very limited production Bianco Riserva 2005 as part of the Wine Spy for a Day program. The Wine Spies are also offering free ground shipping on 4 bottles or more for all Winecast readers by entering promotional code “WINECASTLUVSME”.

Vare Vineyards, Bianco Riserva 2005A blend of 40% Ribolla Gialla, 25% Pinot Grigio, 22% Tocai Friulano, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Chardonnay grown in Napa Valley, Vare Bianco Riserva 2005 is unique in several ways. First, this is the only winery with plantings of Ribolla Gialla in the US, a variety from Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region where it’s blended with Tocai Friulano. The wine spends an extra few months in once used French Oak barrels than it’s sibling Bianco which produces a more complex wine both aromatically and in it’s flavor profile. An finally, this is one of the few wines packaged in 500 ml bottles as requested by Thomas Keller’s French Laundry restaurant. This results in one of the best Cal-Ital white blends I’ve tasted to date.

Vare Vineyards, Bianco Riserva 2005 ($45/500ml/sample) – The straw color is a result of barrel fermentation and aging but the aromas are not overpowered by the influence of wood. This wine has a very pleasing bouquet of citrus, tropical fruit, walnut and a hint of clove. Complex but refreshing grapefruit and pineapple fruit flavors finishing with nice acidity and a creamy, lees element. An excellent food wine and would make a great starter to an Italian meal but with only 20 cases produced, you better act now.

14.5% ABV
Synthetic cork closure
Score: 90
Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy this wine at Wine Spies for $35 today only!

And don’t forget to enter discount code “WINECASTLUVSME” when you check out for free ground shipping on orders of 4 bottles or more.

Thanks to Agent Red for recruiting me and Agent White for selecting such a nice wine to taste. Look for other wine bloggers to be Wine Spies for a Day in coming days.

The Little Penguin, “Summer White” 2006

by Tim Elliott on June 15, 2007

I receive a fair amount of samples from wineries, importers and distributors for review but this sample was a bit out of the ordinary. It seems that wine bloggers these days are mostly approached by small wineries looking for some online exposure but in this case the winery providing the sample was one of the mega Australian brands known on these shores as “The Little Penguin.”

I’m not sure is this brand is sold in it’s native country but if it is I’m sure most consumers look at it much in the same way we in America look at Gallo. Sound wine at very reasonable prices. I know that most of what I review here is somewhat removed from this price segment but I took a page from Gary Vaynerchuk’s book and decided to review this wine.

What I received with this wineBefore I get to the review itself, a bit of disclosure. The winery sent this wine as a sample for review with a bunch of summer items (see photo). As a wine marketing guy I scrutinized the additional items and came to the conclusion these should not be considered into the review. I mean, what are they thinking sending some sunglasses, flip-flops and suntan lotion? I’m not sure how this would effect my appreciation for the wine but maybe I’m just too critical of these things. Suffice it to say that such additional packaging doesn’t add to this, or any, wine one bit. The towel was nice, however ;-)

Tasting Notes:

The Little Penguin, “Summer White”, Chardonnay-Riesling, South East Australia 2006 ($8/sample) – Light straw-green in color with aromas of grapefruit and pineapple. Light bodied and easy to drink with green apple, peach and citrus flavors finishing off-dry and clean but on the short side. Seems more like a straight-ahead Chardonnay than the summer quaffer it’s billed as and could use a bit more acidity.

Synthetic cork closure
Score: 82

Hook & Ladder, “The Tillerman” White 2005

by Tim Elliott on August 17, 2006

Hook & Ladder, “The Tillerman” White, Russian River Valley 2005 ($16/sample provided by the winery)

Hook & Ladder Winery was started by former San Francisco firefighter Cecil De Loach who purchased an old-vine Zinfandel vineyard in the Russian River Valley. This was back in the mid-1970’s when the California wine business was much smaller and single varietal wines were not as popular with Americans as they are today. Flash forward 30+ years and Hook & Ladder has almost 400 acres of vineyards in Sonoma’s sought after AVA for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So it’s interesting that it has taken me until now, and a generous wine blogger sampling campaign spearheaded by PR wine blogger Tom Wark, to get me to try one of Hook & Ladder’s wines. I don’t really know why I never picked up a bottle as I’ve seen their wines in the store and the brand name certainly is catchy. At any rate, I’m pleased I did try their white blend, “The Tillerman”, and look forward to finding other wines to buy and blog/podcast here in the future.

The Tillerman is the name used on two blends the winery produces named in honor of the firefighter who steers the fire-truck from the back so the ladder doesn’t collide into buildings as the truck turns. The red version is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. Hook & Ladder is a bit coy about the blend of the white version only disclosing in the materials that accompanied the samples as a blend, “…of three varietals made from estate grapes.” Since the winery also grows and makes Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay, I deduced these being in the blend. After tasting the wine, I guessed that the third variety to be either Viognier, Verdejo or possibly Muscat due to the Rhone-blend aroma and flavor profile (think Sablet blanc without the banana). Whatever grapes are in the bottle, I really liked the result (disclosure: after tasting this wine I emailed Michael De Loach who disclosed the varieties and percentages of the blend; since these would likely cause the reader some undue bias, I will not post them… try the wine and comment here what you think it is made from and in what percentage).

Tasting Notes:

Light straw in color with a hint of green. Aromas of peach, lychee and grapefruit. On the palate the ripe peach flavors are joined by apricot and pineapple, finishing dry with nice acidity and some minerality. A delicious food wine and a great value.

13.8% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 9/10