Thursday, February 22, 2018

Robert Lloyd Chardonnays: 2015 Prescription Chardonnay and 2016 Lloyd Carneros Chardonnay Review

2015 Prescription Chardonnay Clarksburg, CA ($20) Rob Lloyd (Loyd Cellars, also worked at La Crema, Rombauer) makes this wine from a vineyard in Clarksburg (near Lodi in the Central Valley / Delta neighborhood) owned by James Reamer. It's a bombastic, fruit-driven Chardonnay with exotic papaya, apricot, nectarine, and citrus flavors, good body, and tons of flavor. It's also unoaked, so it doesn't have those toast and vanilla notes that would just be 'piling on' if they were there. It may have just a bit of residual sugar, but it's not sweet, just a legit fruitbomb. It reminds me a bit of Newton's 'Unfiltered' Napa Valley Chardonnay. I personally prefer a leaner, racier style, but I can see a lot of people appreciating this white, and some will absolutely love it. 88 Points

2016 Lloyd Chardonnay Carneros ($40)
This one is a little more by-the-book in style, a little more restrained, and probably more sophisticated by most measures. It's very fine quality with fuji apple, apricot and white peach fruit notes, well-integrated, creamy oak, plenty of flavor and a mellow, balanced finish. It's very much a Chardonnay for California Chardonnay lovers - sunny and generous, but it also is subtle and balanced. It won't dissapoint. 91 Points

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Buty Rediviva Series 2014: Mirror Image Cab / Syrah Blends from Washington State

Blending Cab and Syrah is something that's more often done in Australia, but there are a few good examples of that in the U.S. and these two wines are definitely a couple of them - really a terrific wine. Buty's labels are also some of the best designed in American wine, at least in my humble opinion.

Buty 2014 'Columbia Rediviva' Phinney Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills ($50?) I'm really impressed with this new vintage. It's a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Syrah with deep, fresh brambly blackberry flavors, subtle herb, anise, cranberry and boysenberry notes with moderate tannin and decent acidity. (93 points)

Buty 2014 'Rediviva of the Stones' Rockgarden Estate Walla Walla Valley ($50) The more Syrah-driven of the two with 77% Syrah, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Mourvedre has lovely, straight-forward boysenberry and plum aromas with a hint of cinnamon, is medium weight and exceptionally silky on the palate. Needs no ageing - it's ready to go. (90 points)

Bear Flag 2015 Sonoma County Zinfandel ($30)

When a wine tastes even better the day after it's been opened, that can be a pretty good indication of class and longevity. While this Gallo-made Zin tasted pretty good, if tightly knit and plain, by the next day it had really opened up to show a great range of blueberry, blackberry, red currant, white pepper and cinnamon notes. Winemaker Aaron Piotter blended 78% Zinfandel (mostly from Gallo's excellent Stefani Ranch property in Dry Creek Valley and a little from Monte Rosso Vineyard) with some predictable complements like Petite Sirah, and less common additions like Teroldego and Malbec. Unorthodox perhaps, but it works. The alcohol is well-integrated, and though it has plenty of juicy fruit, it isn't goopy-sweet. (92)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Taittinger Champagne NV Releases for Holiday Season

I've always found Taittinger to be a pretty dependable label, if also a fairly conservative one in terms of house style and marketing. The wines have a nice medium-weight sensibility and aren't extreme or unusual. I was pleased to have a chance to taste two non-vintage (NV) bottles recently: La Francaise, the house's mainstream NV Champagne and the Grands Crus NV, Prelude.

Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV ($50) This is a blend of about 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir with pretty citrus, red apple and dough notes. It's very easy to drink, but I wish it had a bit more verve and personality - either racier acidity or more yeastiness, or probably both. (89)

Taittinger Brut Grands Crus Prelude NV ($75) I quite enjoyed this one.It's brighter, more zesty, made in a zippy, clean style, but also has some deep bready notes and hints of red fruit. Very straight-ahead and correct, but absolutely delicious. A 50/50 mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. For me, this delivers the goods I want from high quality Champagne. Really well done. (93)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New Gig! Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book California Editor

I have been rather quiet lately, partly because I have been traveling, partly because I have have been working on a book project.

Sometimes you find a job, and sometimes a job finds you. This is the latter circumstance. Because my good friend Jordan Mackay doesn't have the time to edit Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book for California, he recommended me for the job (as did my good friend and fellow contributor Lana Bortolot. I am thankful for the referral and happy to work under one of the greatest modern wine writers, Hugh Johnson, on a wine guide that has been in print for about 40 years. Hopefully this will be a recurring assignment.

One of the nice things that comes with that assignment is tasting some of California's best and brightest wines. I'm plowing wines from Drew and Baxter (a couple of brilliant Anderson Valley labels), single vineyard Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay releases from Tongue Dancer, James MacPhail's new project, Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from MacRostie, Cabernets from Chappellet Ladera, Honig, and Chimney Rock, and most of the time just wondering how I got here.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Botanist Gin

So... I occasionally am invited to certain events due to my ways with the words, my blogging prowess, knowing the right people, and so on and so forth . One of the these latest was a promotional event for The Botanist Gin, a relatively new entrant to the game from the Bruichladdich distillery on the isle of Islay in Scotland.

A week before the event, and knowing that I was going to this thing, I queried one of the best bartenders I know about the spirit. That would be Juan from Fauna in Uptown, Oakland. "I really like it," he said, reaching for the bottle. Next thing I know, I have another glass with a short pour of Bruichladdich next to it.

The gin and the whisky were remarkably similar in some ways, with both having an apparent sweetness and great body on the palate. It's a little like when you hear two bands from the same small town and they both seem to have similar influences. Maybe they have influenced each other. The Scotch was just moderately aggressive in terms of peat smoke as Islay whiskies go, and the gin was also juniper-forward, somewhat London-dry style with a good bit of herb and spice components. Fairly conservative, but showing nice spice and mint notes that distinguish it, but place it firmly in a centrist, functional, non-eccentric territory. As in, "I'll have a The Botanist martini with an olive garnish," I think my dad would appreciate this gin, and I do, too.

I have a feeling that this gin, just like another developed by one of the other great Scottish distillers, Hendrick's, might just have legs. It really does show the mark of an expert distiller and a tasteful recipe. And the packaging is pretty sharp, no small matter that last bit.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: J. Lohr 2013 Cuvee POM Red Wine Paso Robles ($50)

This supple, Merlot-driven red blend gets some fresh blue fruit highlights from the addition of some Malbec and is generally artfully blended and developing quite nicely. It has aromas of blueberry, plum, raspberry and coffee, and is velvety on the palate, with the generosity and ripeness that you expect from Paso Robles fruit, but it's not as sweet and overripe as some reds from the region. I'm not surprised these Bordeaux-inspired reds from J. Lohr do very well in wine competitions. This is another great effort from a low-rainfall, very good vintage. (92 points)