Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Quick Taste: Olson Ogden Wines

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Sometimes it takes me a long time to taste wines. Right now I am working on reviewing wines I received in July. The Olson Ogden wines I received back in May and am sorry it took me so long because these were really delicious.

2008 Olson Ogden Marsanne Margaret's Mandate, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley, California - The name is a bit of a mouthful when you add in the vineyard, but once you put it in your mouth, you'll want more. I promise.
Appearance - Clear, medium - intensity, lemon-green color, with a pale rim
Aroma - Clean, a medium + intensity, youthful, aroma characteristics: Pear, peach, light minerality, and butterscotch and vanilla.
Palate - Dry, medium + acidity, no tannin, medium alcohol, medium + body, medium + intensity, flavors: More peach and honeysuckle with toasty pears and a creamy butter. The length is medium +
Conclusion - This is a very good wine that is ready to drink but I think can definitely develop more in the bottle. I would put the price at premium ($30+) and it is at $35 suggested retail price.

2008 Olson Ogden Pinot Noir, Manchester Ridge Vineyard, Mendocino, California - I tasted this wine with a healthy bunch of other Pinot Noirs and it stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
Appearance - Clear, medium intensity, a ruby color, and a pale rim.
Aroma - Clean with a medium intensity. The wine is developing with aroma characteristics of raspberry, vanilla and a rich smokiness.
Palate - This is a dry wine, with medium acidity, medium tannin, medium alcohol, and medium body. The taste is very intense at medium + and has similar flavors to the ones found on the nose.
Conclusions - I think this wine is very good and is ready to drink but can develop more in the bottle. The taste to me says premium price ($30+), mostly because good Pinot Noir is rarely inexpensive. At $38 a bottle, this does not break the bank the way many Pinot Noir's can, but it is definitely above an everyday drinking wine.

I have also heard wonderful things about the Syrah from this winery, but I have not tasted the recent vintage.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Landmark Vineyards: A John Deere Legacy

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It's a tough life I lead. Seriously, sometimes the work I do is incredibly difficult and tedious, but someone has to do it. Like when I had to meet with the proprietor of Landmark Vineyards, Mary Calhoun and her daughter Damaris for lunch at Seasonal Restaurant and Weinbar. Mary and her husband, Michael Deere Colhoun, run the business of Landmark while Damaris, who has recently taken a part in the family business, is the Eastern Regional Sales Manager.

Both Mary and Damaris were lovely people, although perhaps a bit higher bred than myself. When we got to talking about their yearly vacations to Austria I knew I was a little bit out of my depths. What really engaged me was the family story about Landmark.

The winery was originally founded in 1974 in Windsor, Sonoma County. As Windsor began to be taken over by urban sprawl, the proprietor at the time moved the winery to a piece of land at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Sonoma Valley. The proprietor at the time was Damaris Deere Ford, Michael Deere Colhoun's mother. Damaris was the great great granddaughter of the man who created the steel plow, Mr. John Deere. With such strong agricultural roots, Damaris convinced her son, Michael and his wife Mary to move from the east coast and join her as partners in the winery.

The wines that they are making are really excellent quality. Here are the wines I tasted below:

2007 Overlook Chardonnay - A nice soft fruited wine. There is a lot of good yellow apple and lemon citrus in the wine, which is especially expressive because of the happy absence of too much oak.

2008 Overlook Chardonnay - The current vintage on the market, this wine is a very different style from the 2007 Overlook. The wine has much more malolactic fermentation done, giving the wine a creamy and ripe sensation. The acid is not as noticeable and the flavors are more baked apple and pear.

2007 Damaris Reserve Chardonnay - Named for the first Damaris, this is a special wine. The flavor has a spicy note to it, somewhere between white spice and an almost almond flavor. Definitely some honeysuckle and tropical citrus fruits as well. A very impressive wine.

2007 Lorenzo Vineyard Chardonnay - A dry farmed vineyard in the Russian River Valley, here is a wine that is very expressive of where it comes from. There is a crispness to the wine of lemon citrus and some orange rind, with mineral notes and a slightly yeasty finish.

2008 Grand Detour Pinot Noir - Wow. Here is Pinot Noir. This wine is Sonoma Coast AVA and is sublime. A delicate floral aroma, with bright fresh red berries and a light minerality, a perfect drink and pairing wine. I wanted more when I tasted it, much much more...

2008 Steel Plow Syrah - This is an extremely young Syrah. The color was a violet and ruby, and there was a depth of rich bright red fruit. Definite structured and peppery, I want to taste this wine again after it has had some age.

Sometimes I just do not know how I get out of bed in the morning.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shana Tova

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It is very interesting to see what people buy for Rosh Hashanah. Obviously I expect people to purchase more kosher wine, but I am not sure why. Many of the people that take off during the Rosh Hashanah are the same people that buy plenty of non-kosher wine. If you are not going to drink kosher year round, why start now?

It might be more symbolic. One thing that continues to be true, no matter where in the country I am living, is that being Jewish is a community affair. Especially in New York, where at least one of every four people is part of the tribe. According to Wikipedia (which may or may not be accurate), in 2001 there were 1.92 million Jews in the city limits. Pretty impressive for what is a tiny fraction of the world's population.

Whatever your reason, I want to wish you all Shana Tova and I hope that the year 5771 is sweet and fruitful.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Quick Taste: Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Since I am currently taking WSET courses at the International Wine Center, my tasting analytics have changed slightly to include more minutia. I hope that you do not mind (and if you do, let me know) since I am going to start using the format to report my Quick Taste posts. The format is very simple, you first analyze appearance (clarity, intensity, color, other), nose (condition, intensity, development, aroma characteristics), palate (sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, body, mousse, intensity, flavors, length), and conclusions (quality, price, readiness to drink). Remember these are all things as they present to me. You might have a higher tolerance for acid or a lower tolerance for alcohol so they may be slightly off from your own palate. There is only one way to find out... taste it yourself and let me know what you think!

These analytical steps have definitely made an impact on how I perceive wine quality. It has also given me more to think about when I taste, so each tasting note is more involved.

So, without futher ado:

2008 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc "B" - Marlborough, New Zealand
Appearance - Clear, medium intense, lemon color, pale rim
Nose - Clean, medium + intense, youthful, aromas: grassy, lemon citrus, grapefruit citrus, wet stone
Palate - Dry, medium + acidity, no tannin, medium alcohol, medium body, medium + intensity, flavors: grapefruit, grassy, fresh herbs, stony minerality
Conclusions - Good, high-priced ($20 - $30), ready to drink now but can keep

Monday, September 6, 2010

Something New - Zierfandler from Austria

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I love finding new grapes to try. I know many bloggers have done the 100 grape challenge, or the century club, or whatever you want to call it. I know if I listed out all the grapes I have tasted that it would be more than 100 and possibly more than 150. Simply through my Italian tastings alone I could probably do 100. So I do not feel the need to keep a list. But what I do like is finding grapes I have never heard of and finding that I like them.

I was invited to a tasting by a representative from Advantage Austria the Austrian Trade Promotion Organisation (ATPO), a group that has the laudable job of promoting all things Austrian. A week before the event I had gone to the Wines of Austria Grand Tasting, with the intent of finding a Blaufrankisch and Gruner Veltliner for the store. At the ATPO I found a producer that made a Zierfandler, a grape I had never heard of. Zierfandler is a white wine grape that can also be known as Spätrot ("late red") because the grape turns red towards the end of its growing cycle. The grape is best grown in Thermenregion, a small region just south of Vienna.

The wine made from Zierfandler that I tasted was from Stadlmann, whose wine comes from the Mandel-Höh Vineyard. These vines are over 45 years old and the age of the vines gives this wine an amazing amount of grace and style. I almost want to compare this wine to the American-Asian dish, a classic combination of sweet and spicy. The nose is all tangerine, with mineral notes and white pepper. The taste is more so, with a touch of marzipan and quince. The complexity is awe-inspiring and grabs you. This is the kind of wine to get your wine geek son or daughter (mom, I'm talking to you).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Charitable Wineries: Cleavage Creek

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I am always a big fan of wineries that support causes. And there are few causes I support more than the eradication of breast cancer.

I was contacted by the good people at Cleavage Creek, through their twitter handle (@CleavageCreek). We talked a little and they sent me a few bottles from the 2006 and 2007 releases. This October will be the fourth vintage that their wines have been released, and the winery continues to make impressive contributions to research and to helping patients cope with breast cancer. A fuller explanation of the winery and their mission can be found here.

I love their mission. One the front of every one of their bottles is a breast cancer survivor and every bottle of every vintage is different, which goes a long way to show how far we have come in fighting breast cancer.

Unfortunately, the wines have a long way to go before they are truly ready to compete with the rest of the wine world. I think they have started on the right foot, none of the wines I tasted were bad. They were all simple and relatively tasteless wines. I find this often with 'wines for a cause.' They get the cause right and they get the price people are willing to pay for the cause right. The quality of the wines is simply missing.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

News I Find Interesting

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from the US Champagne Bureau, which represents the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) saying that the Australian Government had come to an agreement with the EU regarding the labeling of "Champagne, Port, and Sherry" on Australian wines. CIVC is the governing body in France of the region of Champagne. They have been on a crusade for at least the last decade to eradicate the use of the word "Champagne" on any sparkling wine not from their soil.

I expect an e-mail from the Secret Sherry Society (not so secret) any moment now.

In return, the EU will recognize nearly 100 Geographic Indications (the Australian version of Quality Wines Produced in Specific Regions). I seriously doubt that up until this point the major regions were not recognized, but now it is official, and the CIVC gets to crow about it a little.

The main argument that the CIVC makes is that it protects to consumer. When someone sees "Champagne" on a label, you want it to be REAL Champagne instead of some imitation from California, Australia, or elsewhere. I agree up to a point, since Champagne is now used by consumers to indicate all sparkling wine. But I think such usage makes Champagne even more elite. When you think quality bubbly, you think Champagne and visa versa.

The main issue is the price of Champagne. Consumers want Champagne, but they also want it to cost $20 or less or at least this is my experience as a wine buyer for a retail store. So when they walk into a store looking for $19.99 bubbly, they pick Cava or Prosecco or sparkling wine from California. I think if I can find a bubbly from Champagne that is in that price range that tastes even halfway decent, people would buy it by the truck load.

I will see more when the holidays come around. Maybe the Champagne market has thawed out and more $40 bubbly will walk out the door.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

TTL: Nautilus Estate Wines

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Way too long ago I participated in a Taste Live event that featured the wines from Nautilus Estate. This winery hails from New Zealand and the line-up was very typical of what you would expect from the country. We tasted the winery's Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. Notes can be found below:

2008 Nautilus Pinot Gris - Floral and light, with some light lemon zest. On the palate the minerality shoots out of the glass and dances on my tongue. A little bit of creamy butter floats in and then a really interesting salty sea air finish.

2009 Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc - Classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The grassy aroma is all over this wine, with some spicy jalapeno and lemon citrus. The taste is the same, with a little more grapefruit citrus and even some lively kiwi! I thought this wine was so good that I brought it in to be carried at my wine shop.

2008 Nautilus Pinot Noir - Another classic wine from New Zealand. The red raspberry flavors are a little overwhelmed by toasty oak, but there is also a wonderful crushed rose petal smell. The taste is rich, with soft flavors that blend nicely together.

Disclaimer: I received these wines as press samples.

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