Category Archives: Chardonnay

Review: Ron Rubin Wines

Our appreciation for Russian River Valley wines has been on the rise lately. We’ve been exploring and drinking more wines from this region, and have been quite impressed with the quality and the distinct character of the wines, winemakers, and winery owners. So naturally, when we were offered samples of two bottles from Ron Rubin Winery, in the Russian River Valley, we gladly accepted. 

The following wines were provided as media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

The story of Ron Rubin Winery came to life in 2011, when Ron purchased a winery in the Green Valley neighborhood of the Russian River Valley. Ron got his start in the beverage industry at a young age, when as a child he would spend time in the warehouse of his family’s wholesale liquor company in Illinois. In 1971, Ron traveled to California to attend U.C. Davis to study viticulture and oenology. From this experience, and the exposure to the then-fledgling wine industry in California, Ron started to add California wines to the family portfolio. All this paved the way to his dream come true with the purchase of the Russian River Valley winery. 

After purchasing the winery, Ron renovated the facility and employed the ancient principles of Fung Shui. He converted the estate vineyards to sustainable farming practices. The winery is now SIP-certified and Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. The estate is planted to 6.5 acres of Pinot Noir and 2.5 acres of Chardonnay. Certainly not enough for Ron Rubin’s dream, so he also sources grapes from five other growers in the neighborhood.  

Ron Rubin calls himself a “beverage guy” and his experience proves this. Beyond wine and spirits, Ron has also distributed sparkling water and tea. In fact, he owns the Republic of Tea brand, which his son manages. His desire in winemaking is to produce affordable, high quality wines so people can enjoy “beautiful experiences.” He has a reputation of being unpretentious and welcoming, and has no interest in making high priced, exclusive wines. He wants people to be able to enjoy his wines for any occasion.  

The wines we received were Pam’s UN-Oaked California Chardonnay 2020, and the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018. Pam is Ron Rubin’s wife and first love. Like us, Pam has always preferred her Chardonnay to be unoaked, so he made it that way for her. We approve.  

Ron Rubin Winery Pam’s Unoaked Chardonnay 2020

Golden straw color. The nose is floral and pear/apple notes. On the palate, yellow apple, pear, and elderflower. Medium body with a creamy mouthfeel and medium-minus acidity. Just a hint of sweetness on the finish. Very easy drinking, a great summer sip, with a fresh finish. (SRP: $14.00)

Ron Rubin Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Brick red with an amber rim. The nose displays ripe red fruit and smoke. On the palate, black cherry, plum, raspberry, and some stewed plum notes, followed by tobacco smoke, cedar, and baking spice. Medium-minus body, soft tannins, bright acidity, and a long finish of red fruit, vanilla, and spice. A nice, budget-friendly Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. (SRP: $25.00)

Ron Rubin Winery wines are available directly from the Ron Rubin Winery website. In addition to the Ron Rubin Winery line, the winery also produces the River Road line of wines, available at Total Wine & More stores. Be sure to give them a try! 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Welcome to the Neighborhood: Tasting Through the Russian River Valley with Gary Farrell Wines

Most wine lovers are familiar with the notion of appellations; designated wine regions identified by geography and legal protection. In the United States, appellations are known as American Viticulture Areas, or AVAs. Within an appellation or AVA, there can be sub-regions that, though perhaps not legally identified, can present climate and growing conditions which contribute to a unique terroir. One notable and well known AVA in Northern California is the Russian River Valley AVA. We recently learned that the Russian River Valley Winegrowers (RRVW) has defined six smaller sub-regions which they call Neighborhoods. How did we come by this newfound knowledge? Well, we were invited to a virtual tasting of single-vineyard wines from Gary Farrell Winery, exploring each of the Russian River Valley Neighborhoods. 

The following wines were provided as media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

The event featured Gary Farrell Winery winemaker Theresa Heredia, who led us through history, geography lessons, and of course, tasting seven wines from the Gary Farrell Winery portfolio; three Chardonnays and four Pinot Noirs. As Theresa explained, although the wines are from the same respective grapes, grown in the same AVA, each neighborhood produces decidedly different wines with unique characteristics. 

Gary Farrell started in the wine business in the late 1970’s, originally working with local wineries. In 1982, he produced the first wine under his eponymous wine label. Since then, Gary Farrell Winery has grown in reputation and prestige and is now one of the most notable small-lot producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley. Though Gary Farrell sold the winery in 2004, the current owners are maintaining his legacy and standard of excellence. 

Theresa Heredia started with Gary Farrell Winery in 2012. At that time, she brought with her a decade (now nearly two decades) of experience in cool-climate, small-lot Chardonnay and Pinot Noir production. Early in her career, she worked at Domaine de Montille, in Burgundy, France, where she gained an appreciation for the Burdunidan style of winemaking. Friendly and inviting, Theresa was an amazing host for our tasting. 

In keeping with the Burgundian style, Theresa said that each of the wines in the tasting are terroir-driven, and aged in light-toast French oak barrels. The use of light toast oak is deliberate, since heavier toasts can mask the nuances of the wine itself. Theresa also mentioned, to our surprise, that the Russian River Valley AVA has more soil types than are found in all of France!  

During a brief history lesson, Theresa shared her screen, and showed us the six Russian River Valley Neighborhoods on the RRVW website. This is an interactive site that allows you to explore each of the neighborhoods and see which characteristics define each one. Theresa mentioned that only one neighborhood, Green Valley, is a designated Sub-AVA within the Russian River Valley AVA. There are currently no plans to apply for AVA status for any of the other neighborhoods. 

Image credit: Russian River Valley Winegrowers website

The seven wines we tasted, and the respective neighborhoods from which they hail, were, in order of tasting:

  • 2017 Olivet Lane Vineyard Chardonnay – Santa Rosa Plains
  • 2017 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay – Laguna Ridge
  • 2017 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay – Middle Reach
  • 2017 Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir – Middle Reach
  • 2017 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir – Green Valley
  • 2017 McDonald Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir – Sebastopol Hills
  • 2017 Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir – Santa Rosa Plains
Ready to taste!
(Behind the scenes at Appetite for Wine: yes, those are yoga blocks!)
That’s a lot of corks for 11 am!
Why are those glasses empty?

The virtual tasting was packed with information; much more than can comfortably fit into a blog post anyone would actually read. Though it exceeded the allotted hour, it went much too fast. Since the tasting was at 11 a.m. Pacific, we sipped and spit, and re-corked the bottles, and then enjoyed them for the rest of the week! Here are our impressions of each wine:

2017 Olivet Lane Vineyard Chardonnay

Light and crisp, yet still exhibiting light buttery, toasty notes. Golden color. Aromas of apple, pear, and citrus. On the palate, apples, pear, pineapple, and floral notes. Medium body with bright acidity – more than most Cali Chards – nicely balanced. Full, lush, mildly creamy mouthfeel leading to a crisp finish of citrus and some light toast.

2017 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 

A classic but restrained California Chardonnay. Golden color with fresh pineapple the first aromas on the nose, followed by citrus and butter notes. On the palate, green apple, pear, pineapple and tropical notes, as well as citrus. Soft, creamy mouthfeel balanced with medium acidity. The finish has tropical fruit and just a hint of butter. 

2017 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay 

A more classic California Chardonnay, though in Gary Farrell style, subtle and elegant. On the nose, pineapple, pear, and citrus, with a whiff of butter. Surprisingly crisp acidity on the palate, with pear, apple, lemon curd, and butter, with a light toast note in the finish.

2017 Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir 

Exquisite and our favorite of the tasting. The nose opens with cherry, raspberry, and cedar, with earthy notes. On the palate, the cherry leads the charge with raspberry, violet, cedar, and mushroom supporting. Medium body and acidity, with a long finish of red fruit and black tea.

2017 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir 

Beautiful Pinot Noir. The nose opens with black cherry and blueberry, with some earthy notes. On the palate, lush cherry, raspberry, and blueberry fruit mingles with mushroom, earthy notes, and a general funk that I’ve come to appreciate in a well structured PN. Medium body and acidity lead to a pleasing finish of red fruit, black tea, and smoke. 

2017 McDonald Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir

Quite interesting with herbal and vegetal notes up front, including bay leaf and eucalyptus, with red fruit following. On the palate, cranberry, pomegranate, and raspberry with the bay leaf enhancing the fruit. Medium body with bright, lively acidity. Long fresh finish. 

2017 Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir 

Nice, fruit driven Pinot. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, and cranberry. On the palate, these red fruit flavors continue, joined by blueberry, cedar, and bay leaf. Soft and velvety, with bright acidity and a long finish of red fruit and rose petal. 

We heartily recommend any and all of these wines, and we look forward to venturing out to the Russian River Valley to explore the neighborhoods in person. 

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We close on a somber note. We were sad to learn this week, as we prepared this post, that earlier this month, Gary Farrell Winery oenologist, Mark Osbourne, was killed after being struck by a motorist while riding his bicycle. Even more tragically, the motorist is accused of driving under the influence. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Gary Farrell Winery family. 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Our Wine of the Week: Silverado Vineyards Vineburg Chardonnay 2019

It’s good to have good neighbors. Our neighbors helped us get through the COVID-19 pandemic, by joining with us in our front yards for socially distanced happy hours, and sharing the bounty of backyard gardens. It’s even better, though, to have good neighbors who work at a winery, especially when that winery is one of Napa’s internationally recognized producers! 

We have that neighbor, and he works at Silverado Vineyards. So naturally, when Adam and his wife Kim attend our socially distanced happy hours, there’s always some Silverado wine. In addition, Adam is always appreciative when we bring his family tomatoes, peaches, peach cobbler, peach pie (yes, we have two prolific peach trees in our backyard), and lemons, lemon bars, and lemon pound cake. (Yup, a high-yielding lemon tree, too.) So appreciative is he, that when we deliver the goods, Adam invariably and generously reciprocates with a bottle of…you guessed it…Silverado Vineyerds wine. During a recent exchange, we came home with a bottle of Silverado Vineyards Vineburg Chardonnay 2019

Silverado Vineyards is a family-owned winery, established in 1981 by Ron and Diane Miller, and Diane’s mother, Lillian Disney. Yes, that Disney. Walt Disney was Diane’s father. As one might expect, Silverado Vineyards is located on the Silverado Trail, on the eastern side of the Napa Valley, in the Stags Leap District. For years before founding the winery, the family had sold their grapes to other wineries in the area. As the winery grew in production and reputation, the family acquired additional vineyards, including the Vineburg Vineyard in 2000.   

We are pretty particular with Chardonnay. We are not fans of the big, butterball, in-your-face oaky style. We prefer unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay. Silverado Vineyards Vineburg Chardonnay is just that, lightly oaked, and the 2019 vintage is outstanding. It’s a Chardonnay for the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) crowd, and just the thing to pair with roasted lemon-garlic chicken!

Pale straw color. The nose is subtle, with pear, yellow apple. and citrus. On the palate, Bartlett pear, apple, lemon lime, and hints of tropical fruit. Medium body and acidity, with fresh tree fruit and just a hint of toast on the finish.

Thank you, Adam! 

What was your wine of the week?

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photo cred: Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Three Gems from Ravines Wine Cellars

A few weeks back, we were talking about different wine varieties, and decided we needed to incorporate more Riesling into our lives. Mere days later, as if she overheard our conversation from 3,000 miles away, Courtney from Ravines Wine Cellars, in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, emailed us offering samples of their wines, including their flagship Dry Riesling. How could we refuse?

The following wines were provided as media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

Riesling is a very versatile grape. It can also be polarizing; you either like it or you don’t. In our observation, the polarization is directly related to the versatility – Riesling wines can be made in a variety of styles, from dry to sweet. A few years ago, the market was flooded with cheap, sweet Riesling from Germany, which has turned a lot of wine drinkers away from Riesling in general. That’s a shame, because Riesling is a stunning grape, food friendly and elegant. While we tend to prefer dry wines, we’ve enjoyed some excellent off-dry Rieslings, and have an appreciation for the occasional sweet sip. 

The Finger Lakes Region, in Upstate New York, is known for its Riesling. With a short growing season and cold, snowy winters, Riesling finds itself right at home there. The name, Finger Lakes, comes from the 11 long, narrow lakes formed by glacial movement millions of years ago. Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake are two of the deepest in the US, at 618 feet and 435 feet, respectively. 

Ravines Wine Cellars is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In 2001, husband and wife team Morten and Lisa Hallgren founded Ravines Wine Cellars, with a mission to produce a bone dry Riesling. Born in Denmark, Morten learned winemaking at his family’s estate winery in Côtes de Provence, France. Morten went on to earn a degree in winemaking from Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Agronomie in Montpellier. Meanwhile, Lisa studied the culinary arts and is now a professionally trained Chef. As an adult, Morten came to the United States, eventually settling in Upstate New York, where he and Lisa purchased land between two ravines in the Finger Lakes region. You can read more of Morten and Lisa’s story on the Ravines Wine Cellars website.

Our sample pack from Ravines Wine Cellars included three wines; a 2017 Chardonnay, the flagship 2017 Dry Riesling, and their Bordeaux-style red blend, Maximillen 2017. These, and all of their portfolio wines are available for purchase on their website.


2017 Chardonnay (SRP $19.95)

A unique Chardonnay, made in the appassimento method by partially drying the grapes before pressing. The appassimento method is of Italian origin, and is used in making the rich and concentrated Amarone wines. 

Clear golden color. Aromas of ripe apricot, mild citrus, and pear. On the palate, there are flavors of grilled lemon, pear, peach, and citrus. Medium body with vibrant acidity. The finish lingers with fresh citrus and just a hint of toasty warmth at the end. Excellent paired with roast chicken. 


Dry Riesling 2017 (SRP $17.95)

Clear, golden color. Aromas of pear, apple, and citrus, with floral notes. On the palate, there are flavors of Bartlett pear, yellow apple, lemon lime, and lychee, with hints of honeysuckle and lemon blossom. Light body with brisk acidity and a lingering finish. Paired well with chicken and broccoli stir fry. 


Maximilien 2017 (SRP $24.95)

54% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon. 

This is a classic Bordeaux blend. A New World wine with a distinctly Old World vibe. Ruby-garnet color. The nose is earthy, cherry, raspberry, and ripe plum. On the palate, smoky with blackberry, black cherry, ripe raspberry, and red currant, with black pepper, tobacco, cigar box, and wisps of bell pepper. Medium-plus body, with grippy tannins and bold acidity. Long finish of black fruit and spice. Somebody please get me a ribeye! 

Thank you.

We found each of the Ravines Wine Cellars wines to be distinct, expressive, and downright delicious. We are happy to have more Riesling in our lives, and will remember Ravines Wine Cellars when it’s time to re-stock that corner of the cellar.

  • By Kent Reynolds & Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Movie Night with Harken Chardonnay

You really have to respect someone who stands on principle. Someone who knows what they like, and what they want. And when they can’t find it, they make it themselves. So it is with Harken Winery and their 2019 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. The folks at Harken were missing the big, buttery Chardonnays that were so popular a few years ago. But since many wineries have moved away from that style, and many consumers favoring the lighter, more fruit forward style of lightly-oaked or unoaked, big, buttery Chardonnay has become a little harder to find. So Harken decided…well, we’ll let them tell it themselves. From their website:

“We created Harken Chardonnay because we missed that rich, oaky taste of Chardonnays gone by. At some point, someone decided that those great toasty notes and buttery finish went out of style. We think that’s crazy. So we brought it back. Honoring the days when things were done right – including the art of winemaking.”

A while back, we received an offer to sample this wine. While we’re not generally big, oaky, buttery Chardonnay fans, we agreed to give it a try. The suggestion in the media release and accompanying sample pack was to enjoy Harken 2019 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay on a Movie Night! 

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

In the middle of a pandemic, with Shelter-in-Place still safety precautions still prevalent, an at-home movie night sounded like a great way to relax and enjoy some wine. (Though some movie theaters have opened, you won’t find us in one for some time to come.) 

The sample package was cleverly and expertly presented. When the box arrived, it was big enough for two bottles. Instead, as we excitedly unpacked the box, what we found was this:

Inside the movie-reel themed tin, they had provided me the only other thing we’d need: popcorn!

It’s been a busy summer, despite the restrictions and limitations of COVID-19. As you may recall from a previous post, or maybe from our Instagram feed, in the midst of all the crazy, we moved. Finally settled into our new home, we logged into Netflix to enjoy our Movie Night. 

Spoiler Alert: The wine was quite good! Though not our preferred style, it is a well made, balanced wine. Here’s our official Vivino tasting notes:

As advertised. Old school, full throttle, oaky, buttery, California Chardonnay. Rich golden color. On the nose, butter, oak, toast, pear, and apple. On the palate, more butter, caramel, toasted marshmallow, butterscotch, Bartlett pear, yellow apple, and hints of pineapple and citrus. Full body, creamy mouthfeel, medium acidity, and medium finish. Not exactly my style, but nicely balanced and a classic representation of buttery Chardonnay.

If you or someone you know enjoys the big, bold, full-bodied, unapologetically oaky, buttery style of Chardonnay, be sure to grab some Harken 2019 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (SRP $15). Pop some popcorn, log into Netflix or your favorite movie delivery option, settle in on the couch, and enjoy your own butter-based movie night. 

As an added bonus, now through September 30, 2020, you can enter to win one year’s worth of movies or a free movie credit. Harken Wines has partnered with FandangoNOW for this sweepstakes. No purchase necessary. Be sure to enter here for your chance to win!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Come Barrel Tasting With Us…In Livermore Valley!

When you think of California Cabernet Sauvignon, where does your mind go? If you’re like most people you probably think of Napa, maybe Sonoma. How about that nice, big, California Chardonnay you’re enjoying with dinner tonight? Carneros? Monterey? Napa? Would you be surprised to learn that both Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have their California roots in Livermore Valley? I know I was surprised!

Livermore Valley Wine Country

Wait. You mean you’ve never heard of Livermore Valley? Don’t feel bad. Many people haven’t. Being from Northern California, I was aware of the area, but never really associated it with wine. Yet, as I started to learn more about this region, I learned that wine grapes have been grown in the Livermore Valley since the 1840’s, and the first Livermore Valley wineries were established in 1883!

Livermore Valley is located east of San Francisco Bay, roughly midway between San Francisco and Stockton, and an easy drive from Silicon Valley. The valley has an east-west orientation that allows coastal fog and marine breezed to roll in, tempering the interior valley’s heat. This results in ideal wine growing conditions, producing exceptional fruit. In fact, Livermore Valley is one of the first regions to receive American Viticulture Association (AVA) status, back in 1982.

Livermore Vineyards

With a long history of winemaking, and innovative pioneers leading the way, it is logical that the greatest wine grape varieties should be linked to the Livermore Valley. Perhaps you are aware that most Chardonnay grapes grown in California come from Wente clones. Well, Wente is a long-standing producer, located in the Livermore Valley. In fact, they were the first winery to produce a varietally-labeled Chardonnay, back in 1936. So you have the Wente family, now in their fourth generation of vineyard management and winemaking in Livermore Valley, to thank for that delicious Chardonnay.

wente_logo

Similarly, Livermore Valley’s Concannon Vineyards produced the first ever Petite Sirah varietally-labeled wine in 1961. Concannon remains a large Petite Sirah producer; in fact, my first taste of Petite Sirah was a Concannon. What I didn’t know until recently, is that Concannon is more than Petite Sirah. The winery is credited with developing Cabernet Sauvignon clones, which represent approximately 80% of Cabernet grown in California today. In 1965, third-generation winemaker Jim Concannon collaborated with renowned U.C. Davis professor and viticulturist, Dr. Harold Olmo, to develop hearty Cabernet Sauvignon clones. Their work took California Cabernet from fewer than 1,000 acres, to more than 90,000 acres today. The clones they developed can be traced back to the “Concannon Mother Vine” which was imported from Château Margaux, by founder James Concannon in 1893.

Concannon Vineyards

Are you getting excited about Livermore Valley wines? I sure am!

In just a couple of weeks, on the weekend of March 10-11, the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association will host their 10th Annual Barrel Tasting Weekend. Robyn and I will be there, guests of the Association, and we would love to see you there! The event runs from noon to 4:30 p.m. each day. With more than 35 wineries participating, it will be an exciting weekend of samples, thieving, tasting, and eating. Barrel tasting is an exciting way to explore wine as it evolves over time, from vineyard to bottle. If you find something you like, many wineries will be offering futures sales, so you can reserve some exceptional wine at a pre-release discount. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Petite Sirah, you can taste varietals you may never have had the opportunity to sample before, such as Primitivo and Alicante Bouschet.

If wine isn’t your thing, there will also be Livermore-area breweries sampling beer, and distilleries offering tastes of their spirits. It’s all included with your wristband, so go out on a limb and try something different!

Want to start your day with something hearty to eat before you get to winetasting? Consider attending one of the Barrel Tasting Brunches at 11 a.m. Each day, two wineries will partner with local restaurants to host fabulous brunches on the winery grounds. On Saturday, you can choose from Garré Winery & Garré Café Brunch, or Las Positas Vineyards & Zephyr Grill & Bar Brunch. Sunday’s offerings are hosted by Retzlaff Vineyards & Salt Craft Brunch, and Ehrenberg Cellars, The Singing Winemaker & Liberation Foods Brunch. The choice is yours you cannot make a wrong decision wherever you go!

For the more artistic in your crew, enjoy the 15 hand-painted wine barrels that will be on display at participating wineries. If you see one you particularly like, you can buy raffle tickets for the chance to take it home.

Painted Barrel

Just one of 15! Photo Credit: lvwine.org

Whether you come for the wine, the beer, the spirits, the food, or just the scenery, the 10th Annual Livermore Valley Barrel Tasting Weekend will be an event to remember. You can get tickets at lvwine.org. We hope to see you there!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds

The Daily Meal Article: The Ultimate Thanksgiving Meal Requires Oregon Wine

Here is a fantastic article by Michelle Williams, of the Rockin’ Red Blog. Like her, my Thanksgiving table will feature a variety of wines, though not all from Oregon. We will enjoy Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Nouveau, Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, and of course, Bubbles!

Let me know what you’ll be serving with your dinner.

May you have a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving day! Cheers!

ROCKIN RED BLOG

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. It is a day that centers around possibly the most important meal of the year. It is also a complicated meal featuring a wide variety of textures, spices, and flavors. A daunting meal to prepare, much less pair with wine. Some try to go the dangerous one wine route. I like to have multiple wines on the table to make the most of each component of the meal. In my latest article for The Daily Meal I share how four high quality wines from Willamette Valley will meet all your Thanksgiving meal needs.

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Fantastic Thanksgiving Wines, Perfect for Chirstmas Dinner

before

The wine was flowing at Thanksgiving this year! My son and I were invited to spend the day with the family of his friend, Edward. With about 20 people in attendance, we blended in and had a great time. In addition to the four wines I brought, which I review below, several other people brought several bottles to share. Those included Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon, Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Talbott Pinot Noir, and William Hill Chardonnay.  There were others, too, but I didn’t get a chance to make a note of which they were. In addition, a bottle of Dalmore 12-year Highland Scotch appeared on the bar. It would have been rude of me to not have a dram or two, right? It was absolutely delicious!

dalmore-12

Photo Credit: totalwine.com

Dinner was a feast! There were two turkeys; one smoked, and one traditional; a honey-glazed ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, two green salads, and rolls. Dessert was equally varied and delicious!

buffet-table

Let the feast begin!

Of the wines I brought, three were from NakedWines.com. The fourth was the just-released 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau from Georges DeBouef. With varying levels of wine-tasting experience represented, from “I’m here for the Scotch, but I enjoy a glass of wine once in a while, too” to a wine industry professional, all the wines were big hits. The hands-down favorite, with it’s soft, easy-drinking, fruit-forward profile, was the Beaujolais Nouveau. In fact, that bottle was empty long before dinner was served!

after

These wines were all excellent companions to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. With Christmas just around the corner, if you are having similar cuisine, I can wholeheartedly recommend each of these for that meal as well!

georges-deboeuf-beaujolais-nouveauGeorges DeBouef Beaujolais Nouveau 2016

The hands-down favorite around the Thanksgiving table. A party in a glass! Bright purple color, bursting with juicy fruit flavors; boysenberry, cherry, plum, blueberry, and raspberry. Soft tannins and bright acidity made this a light, fun quaff before and during the meal.

4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)

$8.97 at Total Wine & More

scott-kelley-oregon-pinot-noirScott Kelley Oregon Pinot Noir 2015

Classic Oregon Pinot. Ruby color. On the nose there is raspberry, fresh plum, and soft smoke. Flavors of ripe raspberry, cherry, and strawberry mingle with soft oak. Tannins are soft and super smooth, with balanced acid, leading to long finish. Pinot Noir just the way I like it!

4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points)

$24.99 SRP, $14.99 NakedWines.com Angel Price

franc-dusak-chardonnayFranc Dusak Sonoma Valley Chardonnay 2015

A well balanced Sonoma Chardonnay. Straw color in the glass. Aromas of apple and butter. On the palate, flavors of fresh apple and pear, with some caramel at the end. Medium body, very soft smooth with light acidity and perfect balance of oak and fruit.

4.5 out of 5 stars (92 – 94 points)

$23.99 SRP, $13.99 NakedWines.com Angel Price

benjamin-darnault-pique-nique-roseBenjamin Darnault Pique-Nique Rosé 2015

Wonderful dry Rosé of Grenache. Peach color, aromas of fresh raspberry and soft rose petal. Flavors of raspberry and strawberry with floral notes. Light body with bright acidity and a pleasing finish.

4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)

$16.99 SRP, $9.99 NakedWines.com Angel Price

 

I hope all of you had a fabulous Thanksgiving. What was your favorite wine of the day? Let me know in the comments.

Cheers!

Warehouse Wine: Kirkland Signature Chablis Premier Cru 2014

Warehouse Wine? Sure, why not? Premier Cru Chablis for $15? Heck, yea!

Costco Wholesale warehouses are known for offering good wines at great prices. Members can find well-known labels from around the world (depending on your state’s regulations), and enjoy substantial savings over traditional wine shops, and often at prices better than even large wine and liquor stores like Total Wine & More and BevMo. These are great deals, but for the biggest bang for your buck, look for the Costco Kirkland Signature label. No, Costco doesn’t make wine. They use their immense buying power to source and purchase wine from well-known producers, and label them with the Costco brand. Pulling the cork often reveals the secret identity of the estate or chateau that produced the wine, when they use their own corks. A 2015 article in Wine Spectator pulls back the curtain on some of those producers, and some impressive names they are. And Jon Thorsen, the Reverse Wine Snob, has written extensively on the Costco wine scene, and regularly reviews their wines.

So now we know about wine buying at Costco and the bargains to be found there. But what’s so special about Chablis? And what is this “Premier Cru” thing? Good questions. The short answers are: Chablis is Chardonnay wine made in Chablis, which is located in Burgundy, France. “Premier Cru” is a designation that identifies a Chablis wine that was made from grapes from better-than-average vineyards. The Best of the Best receives the Grand Cru designation. You can read a more in depth analysis at Wine Searcher.

When I was a kid, I remember my parents drinking “Chablis” from a jug. (Back in those days, the rules about naming wines were less strict.) carlo-rossi-chablisSo when I started my own wine journey, I had that image in my mind, and avoided Chablis, thinking it was nothing more than cheap plonk. Furthermore, when I started exploring wine, I stuck mainly to New World wines; those from the U.S., Australia, and South America. In those days, Chardonnay meant those overly oaked toast bombs, of which I’m not a fan. Thus began my ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) days. Only in the past two or three years did I learn that Chablis – the real stuff from Burgundy – is completely unoaked. There are no toasty, lick-the-inside-of-the-barrel flavors. Venturing out of my comfort zone, I tried a bottle several months ago, and I was very happy with what I tasted! (Fortunately, the trend with Chardonnay, even in the U.S., is toward lightly oaked or unoaked styles.) Thinking about all the delicious Chablis I missed over the years, because of my incorrect assumptions, is disturbing! Having since turned in my ABC Membership Card, I am now always on the lookout for good Chablis bargains.

So how does the Kirkland Signature Chablis Premier Cru 2014 stack up? Pretty darn good.

kirkland-signature-chabils-premier-cru

Light straw color in the glass. Aromas of pear, yellow apple, and elderflower. On the palate, there is pear and apple, with zesty lemon and grapefruit mid-palate. Bright acidity, and a lighter mouthfeel when cold, but as it warms it softens and becomes softer with a bit of creaminess. The finish goes on and on with tart citrus notes. Not the best Chablis I’ve had, but surely the best QPR for a Premier Cru.

4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)

Retail: $14.99

This is definitely a wine I would serve to guests. The label may not impress, but in my opinion, it’s more important what is IN the bottle, than what is ON the bottle.

Cheers!

Review: Chateau St. Jean Bijou Chardonnay 2014

Once upon a time, I was an ABC’er – Anything But Chardonnay. This stemmed from my general dislike for the California Oak Bombs popular in the 90’s and early 2000’s. As much as I appreciate the influence of oak in wine, I prefer that oak is an enhancer, rather than the dominant flavor. If a wine tastes like I’m licking the inside of a barrel, I’m going to take a pass.

A couple of years ago, I took a leap of faith and started exploring Chardonnay again, but only the Unoaked style. Crisp and fruit-driven, I gained a new appreciation for this, the most popular white varietal in the world. Once I understood the grape, sans oak, I have slowly ventured into oaked styles in the hopes my palate would expand to the point where I could include all styles of Chardonnay in my wine repertoire.

While strolling the wine section of my local Trader Joe’s the other day, I had to do a double-take. A lightly oaked Chardonnay, from notable producer Chateau St. Jean, for just $6.99? Without a second thought, into the cart it went!

The Bijou Chardonnay is part of Chateau St. Jean’s California collection. This is their entry level line, carrying the general “California” designation. This means that the grapes may have come from anywhere in the vast Golden State, rather than from a specific, smaller American Viticulture Area (AVA). Thus, there is not going to be a concentrated expression of terroir, but rather, a more general blend of what Chardonnay has to offer. Nevertheless, I found this to be a remarkably well balanced Chardonnay; fruit dominant, with subtle oak influences and crisp acidity.

Here’s my review, posted on Vivino:

bijou-chardonnay-2014

For an entry level wine, this is a remarkably well balanced Chardonnay. Golden straw color in the glass. Aromas of pear, white peach, and browned butter. On the palate, flavors of pineapple, pear, peach, and tropical fruit mingle with toasty oak and just the right amount of zippy acidity. Medium body with a long, zesty finish. If you don’t like Chardonnay, try this lightly oaked version! It could open doors for you, and at just $7, you can’t go wrong!

4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)

$6.99 at Trader Joe’s

At the risk of repeating myself…which I’m going to do anyway…if you are an ABC’er, give this wine a try. It’s only $7, so you really have nothing to lose, and an appreciation for this iconic grape to gain. What are you waiting for? Trader Joe’s closes at 9 p.m. Go!