You may have noticed that I am a member (or Angel, as members are known) of NakedWines.com. As an Angel, I buy and review a lot of NakedWines.com wine. In addition to their NakedWines.com wines, many of the winemakers who produce wine for NakedWines.com also have other projects and private labels. They’re not Naked, but they’re made by NakedWines.com winemakers, so they’re not entirely non-Naked. I like to refer to them as “Wines Scantily Clad.”
I’ve added a “Wines Scantily Clad” category under Reviews in the menu bar. Check back for more reviews as I come across these great wines!
From NakedWines.com’s own Jonathan Maltus, I scored his Pezat 2011 Right Bank Bordeaux for just $17. Robert Parker himself was pretty impressed with this wine:
88 pts.– Robert Parker: “From Jonathan Maltus, this is what Bordeaux is doing more and more of. It is wines such as this that will ultimately save the lesser properties from extinction. A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc from a humble appellation with a great price tag, this inky/purple-colored 2011 reveals copious amounts of black fruits. Straightforward and powerful, this sleeper of the vintage will offer a serious mouthful of wine over the next 3-4 years.”
Here’s my review from Vivino:
Bright, vibrant Right Bank Bordeaux. Ruby color with red brick at the edges. Aromas of raspberry, cranberry, and plum. Flavors of plum, cherry, and smoky spice, with a hint of oak. Tannins are pronounced, with bright acidity. This wine has great aging potential. The finish is spice, leather, and licorice. Like most Old World wines, this is best with food, and paired nicely with my grilled flank steak. At $17, a very nice Bordeaux.
Purchased from Underground Cellar.
Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars.
I am so turkeyed-out! What I need tonight is beef. As luck (and a little planning and foresight) would have it, I have Seared Sirloin with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola on the menu. Paired with a bottle of Sullivan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Calley 2012, it was just what the doctor ordered!
Sullivan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 is produced by NakedWines.com winemaker Scott McLeod. A part of a series I’m calling “Wines Scantily Clad” (non-Naked but made my NakedWines.com winemakers) here’s my Vivino review:
My wife’s initial reaction: “Oh, that’s smooth. Very nice.” Thus the stage is set for this excellent Napa Cabernet.
Deep, inky purple in the glass. Aromas of blackberry bramble, tobacco, smoke, and spice. On the palate there is blackberry, cassis, pepper, black cherry, and hints of oak. And those tannins – dry, but oh so smooth. It’s hard to believe this is only a 2012. The finish lingers with dark berry and tobacco.
Gristle in that last bite of steak. Biting into a mealy, mushy apple. Low-fat Mac & Cheese. There are few things in life more disappointing for a gastronome. But perhaps the most disappointing thing of all is pulling the cork on a bottle of wine, only to discover the wine is spoiled. Whether it’s a bargain bottle or a prize vintage, a spoiled wine can put a damper on an evening.
Perhaps the most common form of wine spoilage is cork taint. Cork taint, also known as “corked” wine, results from exposure to TCA, or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole. This chemical can occur in natural corks, and even at very small amounts, can ruin the wine in the bottle.
Studies have found that cork taint affects up to 15% of cork-sealed wines, although the actual percentage is open to debate. The cork industry estimates only 1-2% of corks are affected.  The degree of cork taint can vary; mild taint mutes the aromas and flavors, and leaves the wine tasting flat. At greater levels, however, corked wines have been described as smelling like sweaty gym socks, wet newspaper, or wet dog. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve tasted more than 200 wines in the past year, and only encountered 2 corked bottles; less than 1%. If you’ve never experienced this, consider yourself lucky. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
The obvious solution to eliminate tainted corks is to switch to alternate closures, such as screwcaps. Screwcaps are gaining in popularity, but face opposition from purists, and questions about long-term aging under screwcap. However, the cork versus screwcap debate is fodder for a future blog post. This post is about bad bottles.
Oxidation is another form of wine spoilage that can occur under any type of seal. Although most common with corks, if a screwcap does not properly seal on the bottle, oxygen can leak in and, worse yet, wine can leak out. It’s never happened to me, but I know people who have received a case of wine only to find a faulty screwcap has leaked wine all over the inside of the box.
Oxygen can be good for wine, in limited quantities. Oxygen opens up a wine, releasing the aromas and flavors we long for. However, over exposure to oxygen can “turn” a wine. Have you ever left an open bottle of red wine on the counter for 3-4 days? That’s what an oxidized wine tastes like. Overly ripe, stewed prune or raisin aromas; flat, bitter flavors; and a brownish-brick color are indicators of an oxidized wine.
Last night I opened a $10 Rioja Crianza, only to become disappointed. As soon as I pulled the cork, I knew something was wrong. The discoloration on the cork is from the wine leaching into the cork. Wine leaching out means oxygen can leach in. One sniff confirmed my fears. The freshly opened bottle smelled and tasted like it had been left out over the weekend. Sure, it wasn’t a high-end bottle, but I was really looking forward to this wine. Besides, 10 bucks is 10 bucks! Fortunately, although I didn’t have another bottle, or even another Rioja, I had plenty of options for other bottles to open and enjoy with dinner.
So what to do when you get a bad bottle? Any retailer worth their salt will exchange or refund your bottle, no questions asked. If they won’t, don’t shop there again. A replacement bottle is ideal, but what about Internet wine retailers? Earlier this year, I received a corked, $42 Pinot Noir from Underground Cellar, an online retailer featuring limited-time offers. Since they didn’t have any more in stock, they couldn’t replace the bottle, but they generously gave me a $50 credit for my troubles. Return policies will vary. The best I know of is NakedWines.com, where they will credit your account for any wine you don’t like – even if there is nothing wrong with the wine itself.
If you think you have a bad bottle of wine, don’t hesitate to return it or contact the retailer. They want you to be happy!
Some day my wine cellar will look like this. We all have dreams, right?
I am a condo dweller. I have no basement. I do not have sufficient space for a large wine refrigerator or upright cellar. Instead, I have a 34 bottle chiller. (Why 34, Vinotemp? Why not an even 3-case 36?) With the bin at the bottom, I can squeeze in a few extra bottles, expanding my capacity to 38 when needed. I have some shipping packaging in an interior closet to stack my occasional overflow, but for the most part, I’m limited to about 3 cases of inventory at any given time. The truth is, since I’m not a collector, this is ample storage.
But I can still dream, can’t I? When our son left the nest a couple of years ago, we converted his room to a home office. While the room is occupied, I have my eye on his walk-in closet. Currently it is full of storage, but in my mind’s eye, I can see it lined with wood racks, sealed, and a compressor installed. Can’t you just imaging that mirror replaced with a glass viewing panel? Dreams can come true, can’t they?
While pondering what I’d do with a 200+ bottle cellar, I thought about what wines I currently have in storage. As I say, I’m not a collector. My oldest bottle is a 2007 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m holding it for another couple of years, with the intention of opening it in 2017, when it is 10 years old, for our 33rd anniversary. I know for some enthusiasts, 10 years is not a long time, but when you’ve limited space, it’s pretty darn long!
As a member of NakedWines.com, I have a lot of their wines. In fact, 18 of 33 wines in my current inventory are from NakedWines.com. Of these, some are “special” wines, including a 2010 Gianfranco & Serena Cordero Barolo DOCG, that I’m planning to hold for at least five more years.
I also have a three year vertical flight of Intertwine Napa Valley Merlot, by Bridget Raymond. (I recently reviewed the new 2014 vintage, here.) The 2012 was actually the first wine I opened in my NakedWines.com sample pack. It was so good, I immediately joined, and I haven’t looked back! In the spring of 2016, I’m planning to host a vertical tasting of the 2012, 2013, and 2014. (I’ll post the experience here afterward.)
Other, non-NakedWines.com wines in my chiller include several Sauvignon Blancs, left-over from the dog days of summer and my 2015 Sauv Blanc obsession, and a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, my new favorite Italian red. I also have a couple of Cabernet Sauvignons; St. Supery and Castillo di Amorosa, from our Napa mini-vacation this summer. For that obligatory bottle of bubbles, I have a Zonin Prosecco.
Frankly, I think I have a bunch of great wines on hand! Compared to a lot of my wine friends, it’s a small quantity, but it works for me. Some day, perhaps, I’ll be able to convert that closet, but until then, my 34 bottle chiller works just fine.
Which brings me to my original question: What’s in your cellar?
I’m interested in what other wine lovers have in storage. Whether you have a six-bottle rack on your kitchen counter, or the cellar of my dreams, full of auction-worthy classics, please leave a comment and share some of your special bottles. I may not be able to taste them, but we can all enjoy each others wines vicariously.
Jac Cole’s Mosaico is a wine that certainly gets better with time! Mosaico is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (2/3) and Malbec (1/3), and is available exclusively from NakedWines.com. As impressive as it was when I first tasted it shortly after release, after eight months resting in the bottle, the wine is now amazing!
My “before and after” reviews are below.
Based on several other reviews, I decanted this Saturday afternoon in anticipation of serving it with my grilled Porterhouse on Sunday evening. Of course, I had to sneak a taste. Oh, wow! This is a full-bodied, oaky, complex red blend! A blend of two “steak” reds, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, this is gonna be sooooo good!
After more than 24 hours of air exposure, including a couple cycles back into the bottle, then back into the decanter, it’s time for a proper taste.
The nose is dried cranberry, raisin, and black cherry. There are flavors of ripe plum, black cherry, and chocolate – chocolate covered cherries! – and a hint of oak. This is a very rich wine, with thick, chewy tannins perfect for a thick, juicy steak. At this young age, the acidity is a bit brisk, but give it a few months in the bottle, and this will be a six-hearter!
4.5 out of 5 Hearts
It was a dark and stormy night…
The first cold, rainy night this fall in NorCal. The night called for a big, full-bodied red wine. Something that would warm our bones and soothe our souls. Something that would complement our dinner of penne pasta with homemade sauce and meatballs. Something like Jac Cole’s Mosaico.
I’ve been holding this, my last bottle of the 2013 Mosaico, for several months to see how it has developed. An enticing blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, it has developed beautifully! Black cherry and soft oak on the nose. Ripe blackberry, cherry, and black pepper on the palate. Soft, velvety-smooth tannins with light acidity. Chocolate covered cherries on the finish. And exactly the warming, delicious feeling we were looking for tonight.
In my original review, I rated this 4.5 hearts, noting the tannins were chewy, and the acidity a bit brisk. Eight months has resolved this and, as I predicted back then, this is now a 6-heart wine!
NakedWines.com Exclusive. Suggested Retail Price $34.99. Angel Member Price $14.99
Like many of the winemakers at NakedWines.com, Jac Cole has an impressive CV. Here’s an excerpt from his bio at NakedWines.com: “A master winemaker who was cellar master at Stags’ Leap, and winemaker at Charles Krug and Cliff Lede Winery (back before it was called Cliff Lede).”
Unfortunately, the 2013 has long since sold out. However, if you’d like to try the next vintage of Mosaico, or any of the other fantastic wines available only through NakedWines.com, click here for a voucher worth $100 off a first-time order of $160 or more. Satisfaction guaranteed!
Bordeaux. The name evokes images of luxury and glamour, Downton Abbey-esque dinner parties, and the ultimate in fine wine – the standard against which all other wines are measured. This is not undeserved; Bordeaux is very good wine. It is one of the most recognized names in the wine world. As such, it is also misunderstood, and intimidating to many people.
A while back, I invited some friends over for dinner, and to share a bottle of Bordeaux. This particular bottle, a $60 Saint-Émilion (obviously not a Grand Cru, but a very nice wine), had been sent to me to review, so I wanted to share it with people who would appreciate the quality. These friends are into wine, but drink mostly California wines. I opened and decanted, and when dinner was served, poured the wine. As they tasted, I explained that as a Right Bank Bordeaux, this wine was predominantly Merlot, blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The looks on their faces betrayed their surprise. “Bordeaux isn’t a grape?” one of my friends asked.
Old World wines can create confusion to American wine drinkers. Had I served a Napa Valley Merlot, the label would say “Napa Valley Merlot.” A red blend with less than 75% of one varietal would say “Red Blend” or something similar, and often lists the grapes on the back label. European wines, on the other hand, name the region on the label, but usually not the varietal. There, people just know that Red Burgundy is Pinot Noir, Chianti is Sangiovese, Rioja is Tempranillo, and Bordeaux is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other grapes.
The Bordeaux region is in southwestern France, along the banks of the Gironde river. The predominant red grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Historically, red wines from producers on the Left Bank of the river are Cabernet-based, while those from the Right Bank are Merlot-based. Other common varietals, used for blending, include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. As mentioned, Bordeaux wines are renowned for their quality, their aging potential, and their glamour.
While high-end Bordeaux, Grand Crus, can fetch thousand of dollars per bottle, there are plenty of very good Bordeaux wines for less than $20. Check your wine shop or market, and try a bottle! Bordeaux has earned it’s reputation for a good reason. Just don’t look for a Bordeaux grape!
“…she’s amazing, she’s eccentric, some might even say barking mad…” That’s the teaser on the label to describe this delightful Sauvignon Blanc.
In my ongoing exploration of Sauvignon Blanc, I found this fun bottle. Mutt Lynch winery themes all their wines around dogs. And for good reason. Mutt Lynch donates a portion of the profits from each bottle they sell to animal rescue organizations. If that isn’t reason enough to support them, their wines are really good, too!
Our 2013 Fou Fou Le Blanc White is a delicate blend of Sauvignon Blanc,
Chennin Blanc, and Verdelho — a grape varietal known for being crisp and
fruit-forward. This release clearly showcases the Sauvignon Blanc and con-
tinues to reflect Brenda’s rules for producing a great white —pick ripe fruit,
avoid herbaceous aromas and flavors, protect the wine’s natural acidity dur-
ing fermentation and no oak. The 2013 Fou Fou Le Blanc White is a wonder-
ful embodiment of this approach and delivers to you a delightfully fresh and
well-balanced wine. Fou Fou for you!
I found Fou Fou le Blanc to be a pleasant variation from many of the citrus-driven California Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted this summer. Fou Fou le Blanc has more tropical flavors, with citrus undertones. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bracing, citrusy SB in the heat of the summer, but now that we’re (finally) into the cooler, autumn weather here in Northern California, the soft, tropical notes were really enjoyable. Here’s what I thought about it, in my Vivino review:
Straw color with soft aromas of elderflower and white peach. There are flavors of gooseberry, honeysuckle, and pear, with mango and papaya on the finish. The fruit flavors drive this wine, giving it a sweet profile although it is not a sweet wine. The mouthfeel is soft, almost creamy, with very smooth acidity. This is a very easy-drinking, tropical Sauvignon Blanc.
If you get a chance to sample some Fou Fou le Blanc, or any of Mutt Lynch Winery’s other wines, don’t let it pass you by! You’ll enjoy the wine, while supporting animal rescue efforts. That’s a win-win!
I know what you’re thinking: “I’ve heard of the Sierra Foothills AVA. I wouldn’t call it ‘lesser known.'” Yes, I know. Nevertheless, too often the big, East Coast wine and food magazines, websites, and blogs overlook this region when reviewing wines, making their “Top 100” lists, and generally writing about wine and wine country. Tourists often overlook the Sierra Foothills when planning Northern California wine country travel, favoring the more famous Napa and Sonoma regions, and recently, Lodi. *
The wineries of the Sierra Foothills AVA and it’s five sub-appellations produce some outstanding wines. Most of these are small, independent producers. As an under-recognized wine region, it is not as commercialized as Napa/Sonoma, and therefore is generally less expensive to visit. Many wineries still offer free tasting, and few charge more than $5, which is refunded with a wine purchase.
From pastoral, rolling hills; to hilltop vistas; to lush, forested hideaways, the Sierra Foothills AVA spans eight counties and more than 2,600,000 acres.  With hot, dry summers, grapes of nearly all varieties thrive here, but for my palate, and in my humble opinion, Italian and Spanish varietals are the best. Albariño to Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills wineries produce exciting, delicious wines.
Wine history somewhat parallels gold rush history here. In 1848, Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, in El Dorado County, in the heart of what is now the Sierra Foothills AVA. This created the famed Gold Rush that brought prospectors westward in droves. In addition to the miners, many entrepreneurs came west, sensing the opportunity to prosper by selling supplies to the “forty-niners” (a reference to 1849, when the Gold Rush really got going.) Among these entrepreneurs were many European immigrants, who brought grape vines with them.  Zinfandel thrived in the region, and is still the largest planted varietal,  with many vines more than 100 years old. Modern day winemakers produce some stunning Zinfandel wines, ranging from dry and spicy, to big and jammy.
While the wines produced in the Sierra Foothills have Old World heritage, these are definitely New World wines. More fruit-driven and less acidic than their European ancestors, these wines are easily drinkable on their own, yet pair famously with food.
Stay tuned. Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be profiling each of the sub-appellations and other notable areas within the Sierra Foothills AVA. For a sample of what else is going on in the Sierra Foothills, check out my post “Destination: Calaveras Grape Stomp“.
* In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I am biased toward the Sierra Foothills AVA. I live 30-60 minutes from most of the wineries, and it was wines from this region that really got me started on my wine journey. Nevertheless, I really think the Sierra Foothills are underrated and oft overlooked by the big publishing houses, and therefore relatively unknown to many wine lovers. It is a wine region worthy of notice, and a visit if you’re out this way.
Another NakedWines.com exclusive, Intertwine is made by winemaker Bridget Raymond. Growing up in the Napa Valley, Bridget knows all the best vineyards, and produces some spectacular wines. The Merlot grapes for the Intertwine Napa Valley Merlot are from the renowned Oakville AVA. A bit of Rutherford Cab and Petit Verdot are added to make it even better.
I’ve been looking forward to the 2014 Intertwine for many months. My patience has been rewarded. This wine is big, and young. Bridget herself advises waiting several months before tasting to let it mature. Well, I am both impatient, and also one of her NakedWines.com Archangels*, so I felt it was my duty to dive in and give it a try.
I decanted for about two hours. Of course, I had a sip before decanting, because, science. Besides, beneath the foil, I found these instructions:
This is a delicious wine! The color is ruby in the glass. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, and soft oak greet the nose. These flavors are present on the tongue as well, along with some dark berry, black currant, and spice. The finish is long, with berry and mocha. The wine has a rich, full body. At this point, the tannins are tight but not overbearing. It is quite enjoyable now. I’ll check in again in a couple hours.
I’m back! Oh, my! What a difference some air makes. The tannins are now soft and smooth. The chocolate/mocha flavors are more pronounced, and this wine is full, round, and stunning! Imagine how this will taste in six months. Bridget, you’ve done it again! 4.5 out of 5 Hearts.
You’d expect to pay $40 or more for an Oakville Merlot of this quality. However, this wine is available exclusively to NakedWines.com customers for just $13.99! Click here to learn more, and to get a voucher worth $100 off a first-time order of $160 or more.
* NakedWines.com members are known as Angels, because they provide the funding that allows winemakers to make their wines. The most active Angels are given the title of Archangel, and help support winemakers they follow.