French wine review: Domaine Bruno Clair 2010 Marsannay “Les Vaudenelles”

Bruno Clair 2010 Marsannay

Discovered during a blind tasting, I mistook this stellar red Burgundy for a Chambolle Musigny, a Côtes de Nuits wine region up the road which can be twice the price. This Bruno Clair hails from Marsannay, a newer, French village-level appellation (established in 1987) which is no slouch Burgundy wine region. The Pinot Noir grapes, from which this gorgeous wine is made, are aptly worshiped in this area of the world. It shows.

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Sippin' and chillin' white wines for spring: Tablas Creek & David Hill

Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc

Temperatures are hitting the eighties here in Sonoma County and my hands are reaching for some chilled white wines (and rosés, but that’s another column). They seem to go down smoother and easier than the lonely, almost dusty Cabernets and Syrahs in the wine rack. And with more and more thirsty folks branching out from their normal white wine routine, I thought it appropriate to introduce a couple of other soft, aromatic, mouth-watering whites: Tablas Creek 2011 Cotes de Tablas and David Hill 2011 Pinot Gris.

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Wine review: Jordan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley

Jordan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

I will admit I’m not much of a Cabernet Sauvignon fan. Appreciation flows from so many other places, I rarely see the need to fawn. Often, it’s a wine with so much tannin that it begs for food to balm its harsh edges and I’m kind of a wine-for-all-purposes kind of girl (before, during and after dinner). But sometimes, just sometimes, one drops in at a blind tasting that woos me. This happened one night when the Jordan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon showed up.

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Wine review: Elk Cove 2011 Pinot Gris Willamette Valley (Oregon)

The 2011 Pinot Gris from Oregon’s Willamette Valley are simply spectacular. Loaded with tart acidity, peaches and grapefruit, you can be assured that any bottle of 2011 Oregon Pinot Gris you grab from the shelves will be worthy of passing your lips. But if you can find this one, you’re golden. The Elk Cove 2011 Pinot Gris has refreshingly crisp acids, resulting from the cooler climate experienced throughout the state during that vintage year. Fragrant citrus fruit on the nose leads into a light-bodied white with flavors of pink grapefruit (but smoother than a New Zealand Sauv Blanc), lime zest and green apples. This grog is sassy and simply easy to drink on a warm day.

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Stellar vintage for Pinot Noir in 2009: Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley (wine review)

Much fanfare surrounds the 2009 vintage of Pinot Noirs in northern California. Nature bestowed the ideal blend of rain and sun to create a blanket of perfectness for this very finicky grape. It ain’t easy satisfying this LA housewife of a fruit, but 2009 delivered the goods. Stock up now as 2010 and 2011 pretty much sucked. Many 2009 Pinot Noirs — depending on where they’re grown — offer up bright cherry and raspberry fruit, elegantly subtle tannins, perky acids and a well-rounded personality reflecting the fruit’s growing season happiness. If nature treats the grape well, it produces better wine. MIlla Handley knows what to do with great Pinot grapes.

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Wine review: Bonterra 2010 Viognier Mendocino County

I’ve wondered whether the lack of mass success of the Viognier grape is because of the tongue-twisting name(pronounced VEE oh NYAY”) or some other reason. With its luscious, aromatic fruit, slight sweetness and sip-ability, you’d think it would be a girlie girl’s dream and be as popular with the chicks as Moscatos are now (more on that later). But, unlike Moscato/Muscat it’s tough to make Viognier well. Pick it too early in the growing season, you won’t get the pretty aromas and rounded flavors; pick it too late and you’ll get a wine that’s syrupy, flabby or has no acid at all. Some wineries get it just right though — Bonterra Vineyards in Mendocino County is one of them.

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Wine review: Shannon Ridge 2009 Wrangler Red Lake County

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.

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Wine review: Dry Creek Vineyards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley

The 2010 vintage in Sonoma County was super cool. And I don’t mean it wore awesome shades and sported the latest fashions — but cold like in France’s Bordeaux region. The heat index just didn’t quite get high enough to ripen grapes to the point of super fruitiness with floral aromatics (like Dry Creek Vineyards’ 2007 SB). So if you like New Zealand style Sauv Blancs (like me) then you’re in heaven with the 2010 wines (read more about Sauvignon Blanc, including how to pronounce it). And you’ll also have something to look forward to in the 2011 vintage, which had similar weather in Sonoma County.

Read more: Wine review: Dry Creek Vineyards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley