Wine review: Castello d’Albola 2007 Chianti Classico

Chianti is one of the classic food wines of Italy. In this wine-soaked country, regional foods are designed to pair with regional wines. [Read about my foodie trip to Italy). They’re crafty that way. Like Garanimals back in the day. In Tuscany, the locals sip Chianti, Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Reserva (what’s the difference?) with red sauces, long-simmered bean dishes and slow-roasted meats. The higher acidity of the Sangiovese grape complements the high acidity of tomato sauces but also contrasts with the delicious fat of the meat dishes. Matches made in foodie heaven.

Read more: Wine review: Castello d’Albola 2007 Chianti Classico

Wine reviews: King Estate 2009 Domaine Pinot Gris and 2008 Pinot Noir

King Estate specializes in Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, and that’s what I’ve been sipping on these past eight years since I met them. Still family-owned — like most wineries in Oregon — they’ve expanded their horizons with their other, more affordable (and still tasty) Acrobat Pinot Noir and Gris. I really admire what these guys have been doing.

Read more: Wine reviews: King Estate 2009 Domaine Pinot Gris and 2008 Pinot Noir

Wine review: Buried Cane 2009 Whiteline Chardonnay (No Oak)

There’s a bit of a backlash with oaky/buttery California Chardonnays now. A newfound love of the unadorned version — labeled “Unoaked”, “Virgin”, “Naked” or “Stainless Steel” — can be witnessed on retail shelves and on restaurant wine lists. The taste difference between oak-aged and/or fermented Chardonnay and those that don’t see wood can normally be summed up in one word: minerality. Washington State’s Buried Cane is on to something.

Read more: Wine review: Buried Cane 2009 Whiteline Chardonnay (No Oak)

Wine review: Carmel Road 2009 Riesling Monterey and Carmel Road 2009 Pinot Gris Monterey

I wished I lived on Carmel Road, ’cause maybe I could stop by any random Tuesday night and swap some tomatoes for wine. Yes, I would gladly give up homegrown tomatoes — perhaps my favorite thing on earth besides wine — for their wine. Based in cool climate Monterey, Carmel Road winery excels at everything that excels in cooler weather – Pinot Noir, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. And for under $20 per bottle. Perhaps it helps to have a successful parent company — Kendall Jackson Wine Estates – looking out for them, but winemaker Ivan Giotenov has his eye on the ever moving vinous ball. And consumer tastes.

Read more: Wine review: Carmel Road 2009 Riesling Monterey and Carmel Road 2009 Pinot Gris Monterey

Wine review: Santa Christina 2009 Chianti Superiore

Tuscany is home to Chianti, likely the most famous wine region on the planet. The straw baskets have been discarded for sleek bottles and modern winemaking went mainstream here about 20-25 years ago. Santa Cristina, made by Italy’s Antinori wine family, is most definitely part of this modern revolution yet still maintains a traditional Chianti style.

Read more: Wine review: Santa Christina 2009 Chianti Superiore

Five refreshing white wines for spring and summer

Warmth is finally peeking out from underneath the underbelly of winter, escaping to where people wear shorts and sandals. When the mercury rises to this level, it’s difficult to slurp red wine, so I recommend these five inexpensive white and sparkling wines that should quench the thirst tugging at your tongue.

Read more: Five refreshing white wines for spring and summer

Wine review: 181 2008 Merlot Lodi Valley (California)

Located southeast of Sacramento near California’s eastern edge, Lodi Valley isn’t romantic, sophisticated wine “country” (yet), but it’s got the hip enviro edge. Lodi is so serious about the health of its land, growers there formed a trade group, Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission (LWWC), which in 1992 laid down its environmental imperatives in a farming manifesto, “Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing.” Thus the 181 Merlot was produced from grapes exposed to less pesticides.

Read more: Wine review: 181 2008 Merlot Lodi Valley (California)

Wine review: Mulderbosch 2008 Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch (South Africa)

In new world regions like South Africa, Chenin Blanc transforms. They often call this white grape “Steen” in South Africa. And the Mulderbosch Chenin was mistaken for a White Burgundy at a recent blind tasting… embarrassing all the certified sommeliers in attendance.

Read more: Wine review: Mulderbosch 2008 Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch (South Africa)

Wine review: Hess 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Allomi Vineyard Napa

Hess Collection is more known for its rich and extracted red wines (especially Cabs), but they a make mean white. The Allomi Vineyard sits at the base of Howell Mountain in a remote area of Napa Valley, spending its days in tourist-free peace. It’s an enviable spot. Can you say secret, trespassing picnic?

Read more: Wine review: Hess 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Allomi Vineyard Napa

Wine review: The Climber 2009 Sauvignon Blanc California

The Clif Family — yes, the same people who make the cand…er… “nutrition” bars — started making wine in 2004 after moving to Napa Valley. Like their bars, they source from sustainably and organically-grown vineyards (link) in northern California. Winemakers Sarah Gott and Bruce Regalia do an outstanding job with all the Clif wines, especially whites like this one.

Read more: Wine review: The Climber 2009 Sauvignon Blanc California