Wine review: J Lohr Gesture RVG Paso Robles

J Lohr RVG Gesture

I visited J Lohr ages ago, wide-eyed and somewhat new to California wine (I studied wine in Europe first then learned domestic grogs). The tour was lengthy, the hospitality warm and the wine impressive. I don’t remember a Rhône program there but that’s because it wasn’t until a few years later that they started down that road. A nice journey it has been. I lean more towards their Rhône whites — Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier — than their reds. The Syrahs are over-oaked for my palate but some people love that.

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Bubbles for all budgets: Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Cava and Prosecco

Champagne glass

As we emerge from the doldrums of the economic downturn, people are rediscovering sparkling wine and Champagne. Bubbles can be sanity-saving– salve a bad day, make Meatloaf Night an occasion or help celebrate a holiday. Luckily these days, high-quality sparkling wine comes in all price points. So whether you have a Hamilton or a Franklin in your wallet, it’s easy to toast to the good life. In the $10 – $25 range, the choices appear endless. From super affordable Italian Prosecco and Cava to carefully crafted Californian sparklers, the wine lover wins. Most French Champagne and American sparkling wines are made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes (a third red variety, Pinot Meunier, is often blended in). But Italian Prosecco and Spanish Cava producers use indigenous grapes that are easier and less expensive to grow. And, as the infomercials say, the savings are passed along to us.

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Wine review: Franco-Espanolas Rioja Bordón 2008 Riserva

Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon

From the north-central region of Spain famously called Rioja comes an exceptional example from a wine area finding its own again. Welcome back earthy, robust Rioja. You took a trip to a few famous wine writers’ palates and thankfully, you came back to your authentic home where you belong. By Spanish law, a Rioja Riserva must be aged in barrel for two years then held in bottle for another two before release, so thus the 2008 vintage. It’s one of the only wine regions that sells its wines when they’re ready to drink. A blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha (Grenache) and 5% Mazuelo grapes, the Rioja Bordón Riserva has characteristic Spanish dustiness tinged with black cherry aromatics. It’s best enjoyed after being decanted for 10-15 minutes, to bring out its inner beauty. Rioja Bordón sports a personality of a warrior who secretly likes rom-coms — some flavors of strong brewed tea, smoky oak and a touch of silky tannin, balanced with the soft fruitiness of black cherry, plum and blackberry. Food friendly and enough acidity to stand up to a long list of fatty foods — from grilled ribeye slathered in a spicy rub to aged cheeses like Parmesan Reggiano. A fantastic effort for an obscenely low price.

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Wine review: Kim Crawford 2013 Pinot Gris New Zealand

One of the funny, ironic tidbits about Kim Crawford wines is that they aren’t produced by or owned by a female like many believe. The winery was founded by a super cool guy named Kim but he sold his eponymous wine brand over ten years ago (read about the history here). Quality suffered for a few years, especially after Winemaker Jules Taylor left in 2008, but current winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst appears firmly back on track with this 2013 Pinot Gris from the cool, green grassy lands of New Zealand.

Read more: Wine review: Kim Crawford 2013 Pinot Gris Malborough (New Zealand)

Red wine review: 2013 Trivento Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza

Trivento 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s not often that a whole group of knowledgeable wine drinkers gasps when a bottle is revealed during a blind tasting. That happened when this Trivento 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon peaked out of the brown bag. The reason for the shock and awe? It only costs a humble $12. Yep. And its quality to value ratio is pretty impressive. As are its landholdings.

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Wine review: Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling Wine

Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling Wine

The market for sparkling wine has exploded like demand for Bradjolina’s sold out French rosé. I’m happily seeing more bubblies now than ever before, especially from the west coast of the U.S. There are a couple of reasons why. One is that people are demanding them — mostly millennials seeking the unique and the bubbly. And two, the advent of “custom crush” facilities, now equipped with sparkling wine production equipment (a completely different way of making wine), are making it easier and less expensive to make these fun, effervescent grogs. Oregon’s Sokol Blosser has jumped onto the sparkling bandwagon with a refreshing, slightly sweet sparkling wine made with nine different grape varieties.

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Wine reviews: Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Sauvignon Blanc & 2013 Dry Chenin Blanc

Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Up the road from where I live in California is a winery that continues to impress, vintage after vintage: Dry Creek Vineyard. I did a search on my website and I’ve written about them seven times in the past eight years. That’s a lot, considering the number of wineries on this earth I could be writing about. But I keep going back to them simply because their value remains outstanding. Family-owned and -operated, Dry Creek Vineyard was founded in 1972. Founder David Stare bravely hung his hat on California Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc — a not-so-glamorous grape originally from the Loire Valley (more about Chenin Blanc) — early on and embraced both grape varieties with a burly bear hug. At the time, other wineries in the area looked at him kinda funny but he soldiered on. David, a graduate of MIT, worked for railroads before he founded the winery in Dry Creek — where the winery stand today was nothing but plum (or “prunes”) orchards. Forty-two years later, the family owns 185 acres of grapevines and his daughter, Kim, heads up the company as President.

Read more: Two affordable wines: Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Sauvignon Blanc & 2013 Dry Chenin Blanc

Video: Winemaker Mark Beringer on why the 2012 vintage was stellar

Winemaker Mark Beringer being interviewed

The 2012 vintage in Sonoma and Napa was legendary – lauded by many a wine writer as well as those who really know, the winemakers. The red wines from 2012 are starting to hit the shelves and I wanted to find out the real deal on the hype. So I had a chat with Mark Beringer, a fifth generation winemaker at Artesa Winery in Sonoma’s Carneros region who has wine in his veins. I figured this guy would know the scoop.

Read more: Video: Winemaker Mark Beringer on why the 2012 vintage was stellar