Tag Archives: wine critic

Two Rhys Chardonnays

Rhys Alpine Vineyard

My wife and I pulled out a couple of stellar California Chardonnays from the cellar last night. Rhys really does stand out as a quality Chardonnay producer. I normally go to French White Burgundy for quality and value in this category, but Rhys has compared well and I do try to support the better quality USA wineries. I must admit, typically I do not enjoy New World white wines under $40/btl. In general, they are produced to accompany food, or as an easy drinking aperitif and have little nuance. The challenge is, moving from Old World Chardonnay to California, you have to be willing to spend $60-100/btl. for similar quality. I usually prefer to stick with comparable French whites and pay 1/2 to 3/4 the price. Unfortunately, even Rhys has been raising their bottle price lately and is approaching a poor value proposition with White Burgundies…

Here are my tasting notes on the two Rhys wines we drank last night:

2013 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay

California Central Coast AVA

Tasting Note:

The nose is complex with citrus and tropical fruits… candied lemon, bright fresh lemon, banana and pineapple. There is a tinge of alcohol and a kiss of minerality too. The palate is more straight-forward. Fresh lemon, bitter lemon rind leading to a lemon curd finish that has a touch of sweetness. The main impression here is of an understated wine, the nuances of which will not be experienced with food. I think the mouth-feel is still developing, so with very high acidity, I would let this rest a few more years to achieve the best tasting experience (drinking window 2015-2020). This drinks very well now as a quality Cali Chard, but if you are willing to wait, I think this will mature to add another point or two to the rating.

2012 Rhys Alesia Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay

California Central Coast AVA

Tasting Note:

At first pop, nice fruity candied meyer lemon on the nose that blows off after a few minutes. Nose settles down to a typical Cali Chard – lots of citrus, with some alcohol and a touch of concrete minerality. Very high acidity and well integrated alcohol. The palate is all citrus up front, with a mid-palate of bitter lemon rind and medium-long finish with a hint of vanilla. This wine is elevated by the mouth-feel. It has a delicate, silky texture that significantly enhances the drinking experience without food. With food, could be an excellent pairing with a citrus marinated pork loin. This is big enough to handle a few more years in the cellar, but is definitely in its drinking window now (drinking window 2014-2018).

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Filed under Chardonnay, U.S. Wines by Region, Wine by Varietal

Is There a Standard for Quality in the #Wine Industry?

enjoy pic

Many wine consumers and industry professionals would assert that a “good” wine is any wine you enjoy. So, with a product where individual taste influences demand so heavily, is the concept of “quality” relevant? As I hear from consumers quite often, “I like, what I like”… I read and hear this point discussed often, but in direct contradiction, both the industry and consumers generally accept the role wine critics play as the arbiters of quality. The question has to be asked, if there is no generally accepted criteria with which to make that judgement, is attempting to assess wine quality a complete waste of time? Is there any value in professionals establishing standards for quality in the industry?

Is Measuring Quality Necessary?

There are three major sources* in the world wine industry for education: Wine Critics/Writers, The Court of Master Sommeliers and well-respected University Degree Programs (i.e. UC-Davis). By definition, in order for these sources to write, serve and teach wine, they must clearly establish generally accepted ideas defining quality and recognize trends in the industry supporting it. Are established quality standards really necessary, or even appropriate? I see so much vehement commentary on discussion boards regarding this topic – the idea of general consumer preference versus professional palates driving the industry…

slope

My recent posts have generated comments from within the industry suggesting I am on a slippery slope in asserting that one producer makes better wine than another. I don’t agree. Wine Critics do this everyday. Although effectively, this can only be justified if you establish a consistent, understandable criteria. Somm training does define a generally accepted wine profile for quality. This is based on an important premise: “in an assessment, it is not possible for one wine to taste better than another, but it is possible to be of higher quality**.” Learning to recognize and emphasize structure and balance as the major components of wine quality is emphasized over and over again.

On a personal level, I do enjoy wines that show these characteristics. You could argue that the training influenced by wine service professionals has fashioned my palate, or it may be that as my palate became more experienced, it naturally turned to these types of wines. In the industry, we have a responsibility to bring perspective, educate and in-turn help enrich the wine experience for wine enthusiasts newer to the calling. So, being a passionate wine enthusiast and having some professional training under my belt, I feel a responsibility to act as an industry ambassador in this regard.

There is so much variability and diversity in wine that there can be no absolutes. Consumers can and should drink what they enjoy, but there must also be a generally agreed upon model for quality that the industry can aspire to. Is it fair that Critics, Somm training organizations and Universities establish that model for the general public? I suppose it would depend on your point of view… Although, if personal preference were the only criteria, there would be no common point of reference.

I would be in favor of exploring another model, but I would hope demand would not establish that criteria. So, until we find another way, please don’t kill the messenger… Some wines simply ARE of higher quality than others, regardless of whether they have a large following, or not.

Fairness and Perspective

In deference and respect for all the hard work and commitment from everyone in the industry… I always attempt to be even-handed and often do agonize over fairness. All types of wine should be made for all the different palates in the world and my perspective on wine quality is simple: please, just offer a vision that is true to your product.

(* In the U.S. there is a fourth recognized source: The Society of Wine Educators.)

(** My effort to paraphrase an important principal in formal wine training)

Footnote: I find it fun and interesting that recent opinions expressed on this blog have rubbed a few people the wrong way. In response – I am not willing to assess wine like a kid’s soccer tournament… where win, or lose, everyone receives a trophy. I am offering the following disclaimer for those who want to believe I presume to be a formal authority on the wine industry… No, I am not an MS, but I certainly have received more formal training than many wine critics I have met. This website reflects MY study, personal thoughts, opinions and experiences regarding wine. I hope you enjoy my perspective…

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Filed under Wine Critics, Wine Education, Wine Industry, Wine Tasting

Obama Serves Hollande “CHEAP” U.S. Wine

This title is quoted verbatim from the “The Drinks Business” online magazine as one of the Top Ten Most Important Wine Stories of 2014… see the whole article here:

http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2014/02/obama-serves-hollande-cheap-us-wine/

Trade Periodicals Trashing Their Own Industry?

What is wrong with a periodical that would publish a piece like this?  This is the attitude that validates the snobby reputation holding the wine industry back here in the U.S.  The beer or spirits industries would never generate a piece like this…

angry-obama

Your Reaction

How did you react when you read this? Personally, I started steaming out the ears…  Does wine have to be expensive to be good?  UGH, no of course not!  The wines selected by the White House were fine.  Did they need to serve Harlan Estate, Cayuse, or Bond at $200-$500/btl. to show a representative selection of U.S. wines?  If The Drinks Business had done some background research, they would have found the winemakers at these wineries all to be ex-pats from France who have been successful in America.  That is the more important message here.  Obama hit the nail right on the head.  While I may not agree with all of Obama’s politics, he does seem to demonstrate an excellent grasp of how to build a message.

Someone Had to Refute this Piece

There should have been more outrage from the industry regarding this.  Please join me in sending an email to this periodical and expressing your displeasure with this kind of reporting.  You can send an email to:  info@thedrinksbusiness.com.

This piece not only missed the entire intent of the Obama staff and why they chose these wines, but also violated the most basic tenet of our industry:  there is excellent value in wines all over the world!  I am so tired of the high-brow approach to wine prices.  The wine world does not revolve around premium wines from Bordeaux, France and Napa, CA only!

U.K. versus U.S.

I hope The Drinks Business does not reflect wine attitudes in the U.K.  Wine should be accessible.  This is especially good advice for European wine producers who want to capture more of the U.S. market.  Without much exposure to the wine industry in Europe, others will have to comment on the culture there, but I can assure you in the U.S.  –  even the most ardent collectors are mostly down-to-earth people who enjoy a relaxed wine atmosphere, without the hype.

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Filed under Wine Critics, Wine Education, Wine Industry

2011 Apothic Red

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Apothic Red Blend

California

Wine Tasting Note:

Finally broke-down and purchased a bottle, after a few non-collector friends raved about it. This wine is difficult to review impartially, because it resides smack in the middle between styles: neither Port, Bandol, or Southern Rhone blend. With a little commitment in one direction, it could have been so much better. NOTE: this is NOT a wine for an educated palate, or to enjoy with food. This is THE most over-oaked wine I have ever tasted, BUT the blend of varietals IS interesting. The nose is full of oak, rich/sweet vanilla, butter and black fruit. I would guess 2-3% residual sugar, extended maceration for the heavy extraction and I would bet this is aged on the lees for softness and buttery flavors. The front of the palate follows the nose adding a mid-palate of sweet mocha and then a medium-long finish bringing back the beginning. Additional flavors are present, but my palate is already fatigued and overwhelmed. There is so much oak, the fruit has no freshness and has that stewed jam/jelly quality… not quite in the port category though. Very low tannins and medium-low acidity, but the texture is velvetty and coats the mouth. 88 from Robert Parker, really? Wow! This wine is made for a specific market demographic, is of decent quality, but is definitely not for the traditional wine drinker. It is sweet, soft and missing acidity & tannins. I might keep this around for guests that were primarily cocktail drinkers, but wanted to join us in a glass of wine before, or after supper.

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Filed under Wine Critics, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

2010 Herman Story Grenache Late Bloomer

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Herman Story Grenache Late Bloomer

California, Central Coast, Paso Robles

Wine Tasting Note:

After 1 hour decant. Nose is still strong with alcohol… at 15.8%, seems predictable. The nose is full of strawberry preserves and perfumed flowers, with trailing notes of forest floor. The palate is well integrated, making the high alcohol content hardly noticeable. Very high acidity and medium high tannins. This wine has structure… and its 100% Grenache? Much lighter than the Herman Story Syrahs and GSM’s, but by no means a simple wine. The texture is soft, but fills your mouth. The fruit flavors are in front, with the strawberry preserves dominating and some black cherry. The mid-palate is complex with tobacco and mocha flavors. The wine has a long finish with mouth-drying tannins, mocha and red-fruit flavors lasting on the palate. This is an impressive 100% Grenache. Herman Story always manages to get the most from his fruit. Rather than a simple easy-drinking fruity Grenache, this is a big, fruit-forward, complex wine that would be best drunk with some age, 2017-2020… I have always found it difficult to enjoy 100% Grenache – the strawberry flavors are better in a blended wine, but this is exceptional. The best 100% Grenache I have tasted.

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Filed under Grenache, Paso Robles, U.S. Wines by Region, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

1969 Chateau Potensac

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Chateau Potensac

France, Bordeaux, Medoc

Wine Tasting Note:

This was just a bit of fun… bought this at auction a while back. Wasn’t expecting much, but it was an opportunity to see what 45 years would do to a decent wine. Opened this at a party last night. As expected, the cork was a challenge. The first pour had a nose of barnyard and must and the initial taste was thin, a bit oxidized and closed… but, if you can believe it, this ol’ gal still had enough structure to require time to open up. After an hour, a nose of sour red cherry began peeking out. The tannins were still very present and it had good acidity. Several of our guests tasted the wine and were not particularly impressed, but some had a background with French wine and understood it well enough to appreciate what it was. We added a cheese plate to the tasting and it handled the cheese well. So, now it’s the next day. I let the bottle sit on the kitchen counter and amazingly – it is still holding up! It is too watery, the fruit is almost gone and it is a touch oxidized, but all-in-all… a surprisingly decent wine after 45 years.

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Filed under Bordeaux, Bordeaux/Meritage Blend, French Wine, Wine by Varietal, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

2008 L’Aventure Cote-a-Cote Estate

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L’Aventure Cote-a-Cote Estate

California, Central Coast, Paso Robles

Wine Tasting Note:

When you pour, the aromas waft from the decanter, providing a glimpse of the big, fruit-forward wine to come. The nose is full of spicy plum and blackberry, vanilla and oak, with a little funk. The 15.9% alcohol is so well integrated, it is barely noticeable and comes across as a light menthol character. The palate is dominated by the Syrah and Mourvedre – the Grenache is nowhere to be found. The texture is big and chewy, but is still a baby next to the Estate Cuvee. The acidity is medium-high and the tannins have moderated somewhat with bottle-age, but are a solid medium-high – although very refined. There are layers to the aromas/flavors… a hint of sweet blueberry in front, moving to plum, blackberry and spice. The mid-palate picks up the vanilla and oak and the wine has a medium-long finish of dark chocolate that is not overly bitter. This wine attempts the perfect balance of a soft feminine character, with a masculine big, bold style. This wine could age another 5-10 years, easily. L’Aventure is the master of the new world Rhone blend!

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Filed under Paso Robles, Rhone Blend, U.S. Wines by Region, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

2011 Dona Paula Estate Malbec

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Dona Paula Estate Malbec

Argentina, Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo

Wine Tasting Note:

This is not a refined wine. New World style all the way. So if that is not your thing, please move on! Rich, fruity nose of blackberry, plum, black currant. Also, some oak, spice, leather and a touch of herbal spearmint. A bit of alcohol comes through too, but is not overwhelming. The palate is very fruit forward. All those black fruits hit you over the head right out the gate. Nice medium-high acidity, with a medium-low touch of tannins. Not enough structure for a premium wine, but just enough to please. The mid-palate is full of leather and spice notes and the medium length finish coats the mouth with sweet vanilla, oak and black fruit. This wine is silky-soft and dense. The value is good and the wine is much of what I would expect an Argentine Malbec to be. A bit too manipulated for me, but consistent with this style.

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Filed under Malbec, Mendoza, Wine by Varietal, Wine Critics, Wine from Argentina, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

2007 Château Gigognan Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vigne du Régent

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Château Gigognan Châteauneuf-du-Pape Vigne du Régent

France, Southern Rhone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Wine Tasting Note:

Much improvement since the previous bottle popped last year. The additional time in the cellar has helped to bring it together. The alcohol has subsided and the overwhelming black pepper has moved to the background. In addition, the Grenache has started to peak out and add sweet strawberry flavors to the mid-palate. The nose has aromas of prunes and plums with some residual alcohol. The palate begins with plums and black currant and moves to a sweet strawberry mid-palate with a mildly bitter, long dark chocolate finish. The black pepper notes have evolved into a nondescript spiciness that is quite enjoyable. The wine has a light, softer texture, with medium tannins and high acidity. My palate would suggest a few more years would help to bring this together a bit more, but is approaching its prime drinking window now. A nice aged Southern Rhone blend at a reasonable price.

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Filed under French Wine, GSM Blend, Southern Rhone, Wine by Varietal, Wine Collecting, Wine Critics, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

2009 Bodegas Del Rosario Bullas Tesoro de Bullas

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Bodegas Del Rosario Bullas Tesoro de Bullas

Spain, Murcia, Bullas DO

Wine Tasting Note:

My first wine from the Bullas region in Spain. Apparently, the region is known for young, fruity Monastrell (Mourvedre). This varietal is not typically produced in a lighter style. Mourvèdre is usually made in a fuller bodied, textured style in South France and the Cali Central Coast – by itself, or in GSM blends. I enjoyed another 100% Monastrell from the nearby Jumilla region several weeks back. It had more structure, but i need to keep some perspective, this IS a $12/btl of wine. The nose is very fruit forward with a grapey, raspberry tone and a stoney minerality that does not come through to the palate. Medium acidity and medium tannins. The texture is light and soft. The palate is fruit forward and tends toward black fruit, with plum moving to undertones of raspberry and black pepper and finishing with a touch of bitter chocolate. Very simple wine and an easy drinker… I can see this as a wonderful sangria and I get the impression that is the intent.

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Filed under Bullas, Mourvedre / Monastrell, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes, Wines from Spain