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)
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
Of all the French wine regions, Alsace (ALL sass) is the easiest to understand. Unlike other regions, it labels its bottles by varietal name, making the selection — and pronunciation — less problematic. This Pinot Gris from Zind Humbrecht is nearly perfect.
Read more: Wine review: Zind Humbrecht 2009 Pinot Gris
This French Crémant (crim-AUNT) hails from the Alsace region of France, where they aren’t allowed to call their sparkling wines Champagne. This is kind of a good thing. Like Pinot Noir drinkers before Sideways released, people “in the know” can enjoy great Champagne-esque wine at lower prices.
Read more: Sparkling wine review: Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut
As the American outpost of the famed French Champagne house Taittinger, vintage after vintage, Domaine Carneros the best way to drink Champagne-ish on a craft beer budget. Great value for the money.
Read more: Sparkling wine review: Domaine Carneros 2006 Brut Cuvee
I’m not ashamed to admit that I respect and admire Paul Dolan, his biodynamic and organic farming philosophies and his vision for the future. The hard work shows up in the glass bottle after bottle, including this one.
Read more: Wine review: Paul Dolan 2008 Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino
Heron Winery out of San Francisco might be what you’d call an “alternative” winery. They don’t own vineyards, don’t have a tasting room and make wines from grapes sourced from all over the world. Really tasty wines like this $15 Pinot Noir.
Read more: Wine review: Heron 2009 Pinot Noir California
Jay McInerney, a wine writer for The Wall Street Journal, wrote an interesting piece last week on the validity of biodynamic grapegrowing. The story — as well as the comments — bring up solid questions. Every winemaker I interview gets the “what do you think about organic and biodynamic farming” question, and it’s met each time with a different set of praises, skepticisms and even jokes.
Read more: Is biodynamic and organic grapegrowing flim flam or fab?
A few months ago, Villa Maria Estate got a Vitamin B-12 shot in their marketing. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates — the sales and marketing powerhouse behind Ste. Michelle Winery, Columbia Crest and Erath — began importing and marketing New Zealand’s “biggest boutique winery.” Gwyneth Olsen, Villa Maria’s Operations Winemaker, came through town this week and blew me away with the quality level of the juice. And now they’re even better priced, thanks to their new friends. The Cellar Selection wines especially.
Read more: Wine reviews: Villa Maria 2009 Cellar Selection Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc
It’s rare that I review expensive wines. But occasionally one runs across my tongue that sends tingles through my nervous system that channel through my fingers. Happened recently when I popped open a Sea Smoke, a cult winery from the Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara County in southern California.
Read more: Wine review: Sea Smoke 2007 “Ten” Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills