Some wine blogs offer value recommendations. Others catalog tasting notes. Many cover the wine industry. Just about all sit dormant for weeks at a time. David White launched Terroirist on November 9, 2010 to change all that by covering everything, daily.
“The Swiss certainly don’t make a whole lot of wine, only about a million hectoliters — a drop in the bucket compared with France’s 42 million or Italy’s 48 million hectoliters. And Switzerland only exports about 2 percent of its wine. By comparison, Italy and Spain each export about half of the wines they produce.” But we’re starting to see more of it in the U.S.—and that’s a good thing, says Jason Wilson in the Washington Post.
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley finds a Lodi vineyard that is likely the oldest existing planting of Cinsault in the world: “…Bechthold, in the southwestern Lodi sub-AVA of Mokelumne River, a 25-acre standing of ungrafted, dry-farmed, organic Cinsault (pronounced sin-SO) vines planted in 1886. These ancient plants produce red wines that are ethereal and diaphanous, clear refutations of any notion that intensity of color is linked to complexity of flavor — and of any stereotype of Lodi wines.”
In VinePair, Simon J Woolf profiles Michael Moosbrugger, president of the Austrian Traditional Winemaker’s Association, or Österreichische Traditionsweingüter (ÖTW) in German, a private organization, to create a hierarchy of Austrian wines. The ÖTW wants to put Austria’s best on par with France’s most storied estates.
Welcome back for another roundup of new releases from California!
I’ve been getting a lot of new wines from California, and this report has a good amount of the staples: Chardonnay, Pinot, Cabernet, Zinfandel. There are a couple value-driven wines that deliver, and some exciting new releases from Sonoma’s Anaba and Lake County’s Hawk & Horse.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
2017 Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay - California, Central Coast
Nose gushes with pineapple, lemon curd, baked apple, with vanilla and honey butter. Plump and creamy texture, medium acidity, lots of yellow apple, pineapple and lemon crème. Flavors of rich toasted marshmallow, vanilla crème cookies, honey, also some fresh floral tones. Fun, accessible stuff. (85 points IJB)
2017 Carmel Road Chardonnay Unoaked – California, Central Coast, Monterey
Bright nose of peaches, green melon, lemon, white flowers and honeysuckle. Fresh and bright on the palate, this is pleasantly vibrant on a medium-bodied frame. Lemon, white peach and apricot fruit, accented with flowers, honey and chalk notes. A lively and bright style of Chardonnay at a good price. All stainless steel, 13.5% alcohol. (87 points IJB)
2016 The Hess Collection Chardonnay Panthera – California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Aromas of apricot, lemon curd, orange marmalade, with ginger, honeycomb and vanilla. Texturally, this is plump and full yet shows medium acidity, and the balance is on point. Yellow apples, apricot and orange marmalade, with honey, ginger, vanilla and cinnamon crumb cake. Yet there’s this aspect of saline and minerals that makes it pop. Aged 15 months in 35% new French oak, 14.3% alcohol. (88 points IJB)
2016 Anaba Chardonnay Dutton Ranch - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Deep yet pretty scents of apricot and yellow apple, cinnamon and nutmeg, sea salt and flowers, the aromas are bold yet they make me salivate. Pristine and fresh on the palate with crisp acidity and smooth texture. Apricot, yellow apples, orange marmalade, and I get complex notes of chalk, sea salt, yellow flowers, ginger, white tea. Wow, this is really pretty stuff. Aged 17 months in 27% new French oak, 90% maloactic fermentation. (92 points IJB)
2016 Carmel Road Pinot Noir - California, Central Coast, Monterey
Warm strawberry and cherry compote on the nose with rose petals, cola, rhubarb and white pepper. Medium-bodied palate, light tannins, medium acidity, this is a juicy and fresh style, full of pleasant red cherry, raspberry, strawberry jam. Secondary notes of clove, cola and rhubarb add some complexity. A juicy and fun style but the freshness keeps it food-friendly and so easy to drink. Aged 9 months in French oak, 13% new. (87 points IJB)
2016 Anaba Pinot Noir- California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Nose boasts bright cherries, raspberries and strawberries, along with vibrant red flowers, dandelion, white pepper, rhubarb and spiced tea. Medium+ body, velvety tannins, bright acidity, the balance is quite nice. Raspberries and red cherries are topped in roses, herbal tea, white pepper, sage and raspberry leaf. Not light (lots of juicy fruit) but it has a vibrant feel and freshness to it. Drink now or hold for a few years. Aged 20 months in 35% new French oak. (90 points IJB)
2016 J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Bright but deep aromas of black and red cherries, raspberries and strawberries, along with roses, rhubarb, clove and spiced tea. The palate is ripe but vibrant, full but suave, with light tannins and fresh acidity. Flavors of red plums, cherries, raspberries and strawberries, plenty of ripe fruit but it is complemented by notes of cola, clove, rhubarb, potpourri, black tea, earth. Rich but nuanced, delicious but complex. (90 points IJB)
2016 Gehricke Zinfandel - California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Aromas of blackberries, plums and raspberries, all tossed together in a simmer pot with violets, rhubarb, cedar and vanilla. On the palate, it’s full-bodied (15.1%) with soft tannins and enough acidity to keep it lively. Raspberries, plums, black cherries, the fruit works well with cola, cedar, birch and sweet vanilla notes. Aged 17 months in French oak. Fun, chewy, barbecue-friendly stuff. (88 points IJB)
2016 The Hess Collection Lion Tamer - California, Napa Valley
Smells of sweet plums, black cherry jam, juicy and plump with violets, cocoa, vanilla and coffee. Full-bodied but smooth with soft tannins and medium-low acidity. Sweet clumps of plum, black cherry and blackberry. Laced with vanilla, toasted marshmallow, dark chocolate and cedar, with some earthy hints. Full, hedonistic and fun. 40% Malbec with Zinfandel, Ptite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedr and Merlot. Aged 22 months in 40% new French oak. (87 points IJB)
2016 Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Sauvignon Valley View Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
Nose shows lots of plums and sweet black cherries, topped in roasted coffee, grilled herbs, pepper and cocoa. Rich and velvety style with smooth tannins and medium acidity, which adds freshness. Generous helpings of plums, black cherries and currants, and add in some clove, rosemary, pepper, and vanilla and coffee, which harmonizes well with the warm fruit. A highly drinkable Cab now, but it shows depth, and has a lot to offer for a California Cabernet at this price point. Includes a combined 25% Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, aged 21 months in 40% new French oak. (88 points IJB)
2016 Three Finger Jack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon East Side Ridge – California, Central Valley, Lodi
Rich, deep aromas of plums, blackberry, mixed with coffee, violets, clove, a warm and inviting nose. Full-bodied (15%), this is a full-on style with a rich, chewy feel, medium tannins, some moderating acidity, but it’s actually all balanced together quite well. There’s a nice combo of rich black cherries, plums and blackberries, and complex notes of scorched earth, clove, smoky cedar, violets, a littler earthy-mineral notes, too. Highly delicious but also quite complex, and far more interesting than a lot of California Cabernets in this price range. (88 points IJB)
2014 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon- California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County
Gorgeous aromatics, like waves of blackberries, red and black currants, along with violets, black pepper, red pepper flakes, complex earthy and coffee notes. Full-bodied, this Cab sports velvety tannins and bright acidity, and it’s balanced very nicely. Tart black cherries, juicy dark plums and blackberries, this wine is laced with complex notes of pencil shavings, pepper, leather, scorched earth. Accented well with dark chocolate and espresso notes. I’d love to see what this does in five years. Impressive Lake County Cabernet. Aged 23 months in 90% new French oak. (90 points IJB)
2013 Hawk and Horse Vineyards Latigo - California, North Coast, Lake County
Aromas of warm berry compote, along with pepper, earth, charcoal, lavender and clove. The palate is balanced nicely with velvety tannins, bright acidity, balanced sweetness. Juicy black cherries, roasted figs and dates, mixed well with elements of clove, anise, violets, sweet caramel. There’s also this lingering minerality, too. What a beautiful fortified dessert wine, this really surprised me. All Cabernet (from estate vineyards planted at about 2,200 feet), aged 29 months in new French oak, fortified with oak-aged brandy. 17.9% alcohol, 13% residual sugar. (91 points IJB)
N.V. Dark Horse Limited Brut Rosé – California
Nose shows strawberry candies, raspberries, red apple peel, with sliced cucumber and white pepper. Medium/light-bodied with crisp acidity and faint bubbles. Reed apple peels, white cherries, with spicy, herbal tones. Light, fun, simple.
In the New York Times, Eric Asimov and the tasting panel explore the charms of aglianico. “Among its many charms, aglianico is versatile, able to make wines that are delicious when young as well as those that can benefit from years, even decades, in the cellar.”
Elsewhere in Wine Enthusiast, Kerin O’Keefe ponders the pros and cons of crop thinning. “Fast-forward to today’s warmer, drier growing conditions, and this now-commonplace practice has contributed to naturally higher alcohol levels and lowered fresh acidity. It’s time to rethink things.”
In Sprudge Wine, Aaron Ayscough on how Aurelien Lefort is championing natural winemaker in Central France.
Neal Martin tastes 2009 Bordeaux 10 years on and offers his praise in Vinous.
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, editor in chief of the Wine Advocate, talks to Meininger’s Felicity Carter about scores: “I’m not saying you can do away with them, just saying they’re not everything. I’m dead against a shelf talker with a score selling a bottle of wine. It’s incredibly misleading.”
In Bloomberg, Elin McCoy shows hybrid grapes some love, and highlights the ones with the most potential right now.
“Its defenders, myself included, could argue for its social, historical and cultural value, but at the most basic level, wine remains as unnecessary for existence as scented candles or indeed wine writers,” writes Richard Hemming on JancisRobinson.com. “But if that is true, then is it still possible for wine – despite its inherent expendability – to be a force for good?”
In PUNCH, Megan Krigbaum explores how the natural wine movement is embracing the mission grape a.k.a. listán prieto a.k.a. país a.k.a. criolla chica. “While the grape long predates most of the varieties we hold in high esteem today, the story of país’s long journey from Old World to New is one we’re only becoming acquainted with now.”
James Lawrence looks at the maddening business of marketing wine to millennials in Wine-Searcher.
In Decanter, Patricio Tapia argues why Argentina’s Monasterio vineyard, in a remote corner of Uco Valley’s Gualtallary region, is a top candidate to be the country’s first officially recognized ‘grand cru’ area. (subscription req.)
On JancisRobinson.com, Gavin Quinney of Chateau Bauduc puts the Bordeaux 2018 vintage into perspective. “While it was a glorious year for some growers, which will presumably be borne out by the tastings, for others the size of their crop was the stuff of nightmares.”
In the New York Times, Eric Asimov explores Luke Lambert’s pursuit of nebbiolo in Australia’s Yarra Valley. “There, on part of a steep, bowl-shaped hillside facing northeast, he will begin this October to plant nothing but nebbiolo. Ultimately he will have about six acres, just about the size that Mr. Lambert, a fierce individualist, and his life and business partner, Rosalind Hall, can farm themselves. He will make just the one wine.”
Jancis Robinson reflects on the “the sheer magnificence of what man and Nature had achieved in the best reds of the 2009 vintage” in Bordeaux—and what their prices are today.
After more than 30 vintages at her Fattoria Le Pupille, Elisabetta Gepetti is releasing her first all-syrah red. Robert Camuto reports on the details in Wine Spectator
In this era of social-media influencers and crowdsourced ratings, which sources can wine drinkers trust? Lettie Teague looks into the LeBron James effect and what it means in the Wall Street Journal. (subscription req.)
In Wine-Searcher, Tom Jarvis talks to viticulture expert Dr. Amber Parker about how to mitigate the effects of climate change in the vineyard.
In the summer of 2018, I spent a week exploring Portugal’s Alentejo region, and I came back with a much deeper respect for its wines, history and culture. Stretching inland, east of Lisbon, this hot, dry region is home to vast swaths of cork forests and vineyards spread across a countryside of rolling hills and farms.
One of things that surprised me most about Alentejo was how many good to excellent wines I tasted made from the Alicante Bouschet grape. With more than 100 years of experience with this grape, Alentejo and Alicante have a long, symbiotic relationship, and winemakers there have learned how to harness the full potential of this grape.
Winemaker Iain Richardson in the vineyards of Herdade do Mouchão
In the 1880s, a Frenchman named Henri Bouschet created the grape by crossing Petit Bouschet (itself a cross of two even more obscure grapes) with Grenache. The result was a thick-skinned, dark-colored grape variety that showed good defense against rot. It can produce such dark wines that Portuguese winemakers took to calling it Tinta de Excrever, which means “writing ink.” Fun fact: Alicante is a rare teinturier variety, which means the pulp inside is red (like the Georgian grape Saperavi). The grape flourished in California during prohibition, as its resistance to rot meant grapes could handle transportation to home winemakers and bootleggers. Because of its dark color and intensity, it was also widely used as a blending grape in order to add some meat and potatoes to thinner wines.
But it was a man looking to make some money in the cork business who helped this grape reach its pinnacle. In the mid-1800s, Thomas Reynolds (an Oporto-based exporter of Port, cork, and other goods) moved his family to the rural, largely untouched region of Alentejo. He established a massive estate, Herdade do Mouchão, dominated by cork tree forests, but also olive trees and vineyards. Sometime before the turn of the 20th Century, two professors from Montpellier brought cuttings of Alicante Bouschet to Mouchão, where it adapted well. In 1901, the Reynolds family built a winery, adding a distillery in 1929. The original winery is still functioning, and it operated without electricity until 1991! It is one of the most fascinating wineries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. And the wines, especially the flagship red, are stunning.
With more than 200 indigenous grape varieties to choose from, it’s amazing an imported science experiment found such a foothold in Alentejo. But wine history is weird like that. Today, growers all over Alentejo use Alicante, frequently blending it with other indigenous and international grape varieties. Many respected winemakers use traditional methods of hand-picking and food-treading the grapes in large concrete or marble containers. Alicante Bouschet benefits from barrel aging, and it can withstand a good amount of new, toasty oak, though I’m more inclined toward wines that have been aged for long periods in large, old wood. No matter how it is made or where the vineyard is, these are almost always dark, concentrated, tannic, long-aging wines. But the best Alicantes maintain fresh acidity that helps balance out the density. The dark fruit is also accented by these notes of leather, pepper, charcoal, and herbs and spices, which I find really attractive. Pairing options with grilled meats and vegetables are endless.
I recently had the chance to revisit some Alicante Bouschet wines form Alentejo, most of which I had tasted during my trip. For fun, I tasted the wines single-blind, just to see if the Mouchão would stand out and wow me as much as it has in the past. (Spoiler alert: for my palate, this wine is so special that it stands out like a sore thumb.) Like many wines I enjoy from Alentejo, some of these are highly impressive for the money, and most of them could (or should) benefit from years in the cellar.
My notes on these wines (which were received as trade samples), are below.
2016 Herdade Do Rocim Alicante Bouschet - Portugal, Alentejo, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Vibrant, dark purple color. Deep nose of black cherries and concentrated plums, loaded with smoky incense, sweet clove and espresso, leather, dried violets, and an earthy-smashed rock note, too. Full-bodied with velvety tannins and the acidity is really surprising here, giving the wine some lift and freshness. Complex earthy, savory, floral notes – leather, anise, charcoal, and all sorts of incense sticks and perfumed, musky notes. This could do well with five years in the cellar, yet it’s accessible at this young age, too. I tasted this last year at the winery, but I found this bottle to be even better and more expressive. (90 points IJB)
2012 Doña Maria Grande Reserva - Portugal, Alentejo, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Bright purple color. Rich, dark, saucy aromas (black cherries, blueberries, blackberry), and a deep blend of eucalyptus, incense, cedar. Bold presence on the palate, structured but velvety, with medium acidity, which helps on a 14.5% frame. Scorched earth, mocha, coffee, charcoal. Rich and suave yet fresh, too, this would do well with three to eight years in the cellar or a long decant, but this is impressive stuff. 50% Alicante Bouschet with Petit Verdot, Syrah and Touriga Nacional from clay and limestone soils in the Estremoz subregion. Aged 12 months in French oak. (91 points IJB)
2016 Herdade dos Grous Moon Harvested - Portugal, Alentejo, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Deep purple color. Dark and rich on the nose, saucy plums and blackberry sauce, with violets, coffee, anise and vanilla notes. Full-bodied with grippy tannins and some medium-low acidity to help balance it out. A dark and saucy appeal with rich black cherry, blackberries, dark plums. There’s a lot of cocoa, anise, coffee and scorched earth notes here, too, along with cedar and espresso. Hedonistic style that is accessible now, but built well enough to cellar, too. All Alicante Bouschet from schist soils. (89 points IJB)
2013 Herdade do Mouchão Alentejo - Portugal, Alentejo SRP: $60
Inky dark purple color. It takes time but out come aromas of pretty, complex black fruits, waves of roasted chestnut, leather, incense, mint, black pepper and earth. Lots of strength and power on the palate with grippy tannins yet it’s not too overt, and the acidity keeps it fresh. Tangy, deep black fruit mixes so well with waves of complex non-fruit notes (leather, sage, incense, smoky earth, anise). There are also these deep notes of rocks, minerals, charcoal. Rich fruit, but it’s so nuanced and vibrant as well. This will be gorgeous in 30 years (no kidding), it’s that kind of a wine. The balance, depth and elegance is in a class of its own. Alicante Bouschet with some Trincadeira blended in as well, the wine spends two years in old, 500-liter mahogany casks. (95 points IJB)
2015 Herdade São Miguel Alicante Bouschet - Portugal, Alentejo, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Bright purple color. Nose pops with saucy blueberries and blackberries, mixed with incense, lavender, violets, anise and charcoal. Full and big on the palate with grippy tannins and some medium, moderating acidity. Dense but crunchy dark fruit (blackberry, blueberry, black cherry) topped in a complex mix of anise, charcoal, black pepper, graphite. This is well-built to improve in the cellar, or it would benefit from a serious decant. Alicante from clay and schist soils, aged 12 months in French oak. (89 points IJB)
In Wine-Searcher, Liza B. Zimmerman looks at what’s ahead for US wine: new delivery services, new shipping laws and new technology.
In SevenFifty Daily, Shana Clarke reports from Vinexpo, where wine professionals discussed how they were utilizing emerging technologies to maintain a competitive edge.
A project to install ‘colossal’ wind turbines in the heart of the Chablis vineyards will ‘completely spoil’ the landscape, according to wine grower Jean-Marc Brocard. Richard Woodard reports on the objection in Decanter.
In the San Francisco Chronicle, Esther Mobley pens an obituary for John Shafer, founder of the influential Shafer Vineyards, who died March 2 at the age of 94.
In Wine Spectator, James Molesworth pays a visit to Faust Wines’ Coombsville vineyard. “Located adjacent to Hobbs’ vineyards, Faust’s 130-acre property was planted by the Huneeus family in 1998, making it one of the earliest vineyard developments in the area, following Caldwell and Farella.”
“Today’s sommelier is a very different animal to her counterpart of previous generations… Today’s sommelier is a brand in their own right. They almost certainly have a sizeable social media following – a key requirement when applying for a new job – and a blog in which they can tell the world about their latest discoveries. And ‘the world’, in this case, means other sommeliers.” In Meininger’s, Robert Joseph explores the rise and rise of the somm.
In the World of Fine Wine, Ella Lister rounds up the last of the auction news of 2018, paying particular attention to the seemingly unstoppable rise of Burgundy, which is having no difficulty in seeing off all comers.
In Wine Spectator, James Molesworth talks to Paul Hobbs about his most recent venture in Coombsville, which only earned AVA status in 2011. “What makes the wines from Coombsville different according to Hobbs is the area’s cooler climate—”cooler” by Napa Valley standards, at least.”
Shana Clarke reports on how Oregon wineries are coming together to save grapes rejected for smoke taint in NPR. “For the Solidarity winemakers, helping growers recoup some of the potential loss just by purchasing grapes wasn’t enough; all net proceeds from the sales of the wines will go to Rogue Valley Vintners, the nonprofit Oregon growers association.”
In Wine Enthusiast, Lauren Mowery highlights six women that became “the first” to achieve a high accomplishment in the wine industry.