I can say with certainty that I haven’t walked away from many winemaker interviews wanting to sign up for their wine club. I simply have too much wine sitting in my cellar at home. But the wines from Pure Cru, made by the ever popular and ever well-connected Napa Valley winemaker Mitch Cosentino, had that effect on me. They were like crack, but better for you. Pure Cru is Mitch’s “side” wine project, making about 3,000 cases per vintage to create a “small, hands-on entity where I could do it all myself again, like I did in the beginning.” The rather simple yet delicious premise is to grab fruit from his favorite vineyards throughout Napa Valley and northern California to craft small quantities of wine blends. Wines that the average consumer can afford too. How novel from a Napa winery.
Read more: Pure Cru = Pure pleasure from Napa and Mitch Cosentino
Kitchen sink wines can be a fascinating bunch. Winemakers tend to love making them since it engages their creative side, consumers love them since they’re generally less expensive and they have cool names that are great for grabbing you on the aisle. And then there’s usually a cool story behind the wine. Shannon Ridge, founded by Clay and Margarita Shannon, formerly sold their Lake County grapes to huge wineries like Trinchero and Kendall Jackson. But in 2008, they made a play to create their own, affordably-priced wine label. A virtually unknown grape region that grows outstanding Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County lies only about an hour north of Napa County in California. But the fruit sells for almost obscenely low prices. So the Shannons can sell all their Lake County wines under $25 and have something left over to buy dinner.
Read more: Wine review: Shannon Ridge 2009 Wrangler Red Lake County
I think Merlot bashing has finally come to an end. Post Sideways, Pinot fever still continues but Merlot can rest easy now and get down to the business of wooing people again. So wineries like Napa Cellars — who continued to produce magnificently non-wimpy Merlots throughout the silly “hater” period– can bask in the kudos they deserve.
Read more: The little wine that could: Napa Cellars 2009 Merlot Napa Valley
Oberon’s winemaker Tony Coltrin grew up in Napa Valley, which makes him ideal to create a Cabernet Sauvignon crafted from many different vineyards around the area. He sources grapes from all over the valley, from the esteemed Howell Mountain wine district to Stag’s Leap (two seriously high dollar appellations) in order to find the best flavors for Oberon’s blend.
Read more: Wine review: Oberon 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Years ago, a sommelier friend of mine described Bogle wines as “mass-produced, and you can find them at [the grocery store], but for the money they’re the best damn grocery-store wine you can buy.” I still agree.
Read more: Good cheap red wine review: Bogle 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon California
Sexy, sultry, sensuous, luscious — ever wondered why these words are used to describe wine? Could it be that wine leads us down the road to romance? To desire? Wine certainly pairs with Valentine’s Day. But does romance have to rule the day on Valentine’s? What if this Hallmark holiday conjures up bitterness and resentment rather than romance? For the “singles” out there, it might be black and depressing. So I started wondering about how this day has become inextricably linked with romance.
Read more: Wines for Valentine’s Day: For romance, love or massacres?
I applaud the cojones that California winemakers are growing. Instead of blending in obscure red varietals that grow so extraordinarily well in this state (see Tempting Tempranillo), they slap grape names like Aglianico and Sangiovese on labels now. In a society that generally wine shops by comfort zone, that’s pretty daring. You may have heard of Sangiovese, the grape found in all Italian Chiantis, but Aglianico [ah LEE ahn EE co] is one of those sleeper grapes even most wine writers have to look up or study for the CSW exam. Aglianico is one of the world’s oldest wine grapes (think Romans swilling), originating in southern Italy’s Campania wine region near Naples. Amador County, with its dry, arid climate, mimics the weather in Campania so the fruit’s success there makes sense. That, and a slew of Italian settled there during the Gold Rush so the vines have been thriving there a while now.
Read more: Wine reviews: Terra d’Oro 2009 Barbera and Terra d’Oro 2008 Sangiovese Amador County
When people talk about “everyday” wine, I’ve sometimes wondered exactly what they mean. Is it a wine that goes with all sorts of food so it can be consumed without care? Is it a simple wine that that can appeal to many different palates? Or is it an inexpensive wine that you can afford to sip everyday? Family-owned by Sonoma County’s Sebastiani and Sons, Smoking Loon wants to be all that and more.
Read more: Affordable everyday Wine review: Smoking Loon 2009 Zinfandel California
When Chappellet Winery opened its doors in 1967, 32 wineries operated in Napa. Robert Mondavi – now owned by corporate wine company Constellation – was number 31. Today, over 400 wineries share the same valley. Early on in this recession, Chappellet began combating the sales spiral by concentrating on the customer — they lowered their prices. “We wanted people to feel the love,” said Cyril Chappellet, 2nd generation winemaker. But they also stayed true to their history. This 2008 Cabernet effort tastes like it.
Read more: Wine review: Chappellet 2008 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley