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Category Archives: naked wines

Review: Jac Cole Mosaico Napa Valley 2015

Regular readers on my blog may have already figured out that Jac Cole is one of my favorite winemakers. Jac has an impressive resumé with experience at a number of well known wineries. He now makes wine for NakedWines.com, and everything I’ve tasted from his line has been spectacular. Jac is largely responsible for my turning in my ABC card, after tasting his magnificent Unoaked Chardonnay, and then his equally amazing Oak Fermented Chardonnay.

In the red wine category, Jac crafts a rich, decadent blend, called Mosaico. The 2015 vintage was recently released, and I was fortunate enough to receive a sample for review. This is the third vintage of Mosaico I have tasted and reviewed. The 2013 and 2014 reviews are here and here. Like the 2014 vintage, Mosaico 2015 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot.  This is a big, bold, juicy wine. With sufficient aeration, Mosacio 2015 is drinking nicely now, and has tremendous aging potential for many years to come.  Here’s what I thought of it:

Mosaico 2015

Another Mosaico vintage, another masterpiece. Jac continues to amaze!

I tasted this over two days. On day one I decanted, took a quick sniff and sip right away, and was blown away. This is a rich, decadent blend with aromas and flavors of ripe, crushed blackberry, raspberry, black cherry, and vanilla. After about an hour of air, the flavors are deeper, with white pepper and spice notes, and the tannins are already soft and smooth.

On day two, the nose is bursting with fresh cherry with soft oaky notes. The flavors are balanced with cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and a bit of cranberry, with spicy black pepper at the back. Tannins are firm, which is expected for a big, young wine, and there is sufficient acidity to keep it bright and lively. The finish is long, with dark berry, spice, black pepper, and earthy tobacco.

Pair this with a big, juicy slab of meat on the grill, sit back, and enjoy. This is a wine that is drinking nicely now, and will improve with age over the next several years.

4.5 out of 5 stars now (92 – 94 points), improving to 5 stars (95+ points) with cellar time.

MSRP: $34.99, Angel Member Price: $17.99

If this sounds like your kind of wine, you can get it exclusively at NakedWines.com. If you’re not a member, you can follow this link to receive a voucher worth $100 off a first-time order of $160 or more. You’ll be glad you did!

Cheers!

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Review: Leigh Meyering LeisureLeigh 2015

LeisureLeigh

It was with eager anticipation this week, that I opened a bottle of Leigh Meyering’s Aromatic White Wine, LeisureLeigh. I had my first taste of the 2013 vintage of LeisureLeigh in 2014, shortly after joining NakedWines.com. I’m normally a big, bold red wine drinker, so I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this light, floral, sweeter-style wine. But LeisureLeigh is absolutely delicious! It is a perfect, refreshing wine to enjoy on a hot summer day. It pairs well with swimming pools, lakes, river, and ocean beaches. It is also the exact wine my wife and I had been looking for to take to the summer “Concerts in the Park” series in the town where we live.

Leigh Meyering is a very talented winemaker, to be sure. She is also an enologist – a wine scientist, receiving her Master’s Degree in Enology from U.C. Davis. She runs myEnologist.com, a consulting service, and has worked in such notable wineries as Spring Mountain Vineyard in St. Helena, Clos Des Jacobins in St. Emilion, MacRostie in Carneros, and Charles Krug in St. Helena. Working with grapes in the lab, Leigh knows where all the best fruit comes from, so when she puts on her winemaker hat, she knows who to contact for the very best grapes. As you can probably guess by the name of the wine, Leigh also has a terrific sense of humor. All the wines she makes for NakedWines.com are a riff on her name: SeriousLeigh, her Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon; DeliciousLeigh, an appropriately named Bordeaux-style blend; and ElegantLeigh, a light, floral Zinfandel.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting Leigh in person, and she is a truly wonderful person; kind, caring, and giving, and she really does have a great sense of humor! In fact, I was so impressed with Leigh, the person, that when I was chosen to be a NakedWines.com “Archangel”*, she was the first winemaker I chose to sponsor.

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At the 2015 Angel Tasting Tour

At the risk of overstating the obvious, I am a big fan of LeisureLeigh. It is a unique, refreshing blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Symphony, and Moscato, with a splash of Viognier. Here’s my review of the new, 2015 vintage:

 

 Summer can now begin!

My shipment of LeisureLeigh has arrived! Last year’s vintage sold out so fast I missed it completely. 😦 Summer just wasn’t the same. I vowed I would never let that happen again!

Light straw color in the glass. I started it off fridge cold so I could experience the evolution of flavors as it warmed. Even cold, the aromas of honeysuckle, elderflower, and ripe pear are inviting and enticing. On the palate, those sweeter flavors continue, along with soft citrus of grapefruit and lemon. As the wine warms, these flavors become more pronounced and satisfying, peaking around cellar temp (55F). This is a refreshing, light bodied wine with zesty acidity and a delightful finish.

LeisureLeigh was one of the first NakedWines.com wines I tasted. It continues to be one of my favorites. As a former “reds only” drinker, I thank Leigh for this wine, which prompted me to start exploring whites.

Sweet? Yes, but balanced. Not cloying; but rather it is fresh, lively, and invigorating! Try it for yourself, but be forewarned: this stuff is seriously chuggable!

5 Stars (95+ points) Yes, I love this wine!

Available exclusively from NakedWines.com; MSRP: $17.49, Angel Member Price: $10.49.

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If this sounds like your kind of wine, you can get LeisureLeigh by following this link and using the voucher worth $100 off a first-time order of $160 or more.

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* NakedWines.com members are known as “Angels” (click here for more info.) “Archangels” Angels who have been selected by NakedWines.com staff, because they are the most active and helpful in the NakedWines.com social media groups, and diligent in reviewing all the NakedWines.com wines they try. Archangels select winemakers (typically 3-6 of them) to support by answering questions about their wines posted by other Angels.

Review: Jac Cole Mosaico Sonoma County 2013

Love, like wine, gets better with time.

love-wine-glass

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.

Mosaico

3/8/15

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

11/9/15

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).” [1]

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!

[1] https://us.nakedwines.com/winemakers/jac-cole.htm

Review: Kimbao Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Kimbao Reserve Cabernet 2013

This is a very nice, rich, full Cabernet from Chile. It is produced by winemakers Constanza Schwaderer and Filipe Garcia, and distributed via Naked Wines. Prior to this bottle, I’d not been a big fan of Chilean Cabernet. Constanza and Filipe have changed my mind. Here’s what I thought:

The color is inky purple in the glass. Initial aromas are blackberry and some clove-like spice.

I poured straight from the bottle and found it to be a bit tight and tannic. However, after I ran it through my Vinturi, the wine is smooth and full bodied.

The dominant flavor is fresh picked blackberry. There are also flavors of black currant, with oak and a hint of violet around the edges. The finish lingers with berry and spice.

There are ample tannins, with nicely balanced acidity which helps prolong the finish. This wine definitely has aging potential, but with proper aeration/decanting it is quite enjoyable now.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Hearts

NW LogoThis wine is available exclusively through Naked Wines for $11.99. Naked Wines operates in the U.K., Australia, and the U.S. Click here for a voucher worth $100 off a first time order of $160 or more. You’ll be glad you did!

How to Avoid Subjectivity in Wine Reviews

How do you avoid subjectivity in wine reviews?

You can’t.

But wait, there’s more!

We’ve all read wine reviews in magazines and wine-industry websites. These are written by trained, often certified, wine professionals. In addition, social media has enabled us all to become wine reviewers. Sites like Cellar Tracker, Vivino, and Delectable allow consumers to rate and review wines on the go, using Smart Phone apps.

Cellar Tracker

Cellar Tracker

Vivino

Vivino

Delectable

Delectable

This can be a great help in the wine aisle, overwhelmed by the vast selection and not knowing what’s good. Simply pull out your phone and check the reviews!

There are also a number of online retailers that encourage consumers to rate and review the wines they buy.

With all those reviews out there, professional and amateur, how can you know which wines you’ll like?

Subjectivity is about individual experiences and perceptions. Its how you feel, what you enjoy; your personal preferences. Whereas you may really like a particular wine, the next person may disdain it.

Objectivity, on the other hand, refers to fact-based findings. When you go to the doctor, you describe your symptoms: pain and swelling in your ankle, for example. Perhaps you assume you sprained your ankle, but your symptoms are your subjective perception of what is wrong. Doctor Reading X RayThe doctor orders x-rays. The objective fact established by the x-ray shows that you actually broke your ankle. With objectivity, your doctor can properly treat your injury.

Wine is a subjective experience. Everybody has different preferences, tastes, likes, and dislikes. Some people only like white wine. Some people only like sweet wine. There are “ABC’ers” – Anything But Chardonnay. Paul Giamatt Drinking Spit BucketOthers, influenced by popular culture, and won’t drink Merlot. Price and value play a part, too. I know people who simply won’t spend more than $7 or $8 on a bottle of wine.

So are wine reviews of any value? Yes, but…

Wine reviews express the subjective opinion of another person. Professional reviewers, with years of training and tasting experience, can guide you to a wine you may enjoy. But…only if you share a similar taste profile and preferences. I have found that the best way to use reviews is to find reviewer with similar subjective preferences to mine. This requires a lot of reading, but pretty quickly you can identify who likes what you like.

Another thing to remember about professional reviews is that most (if not all) of the wines they review are samples submitted by the producer. That is, the reviewer is not paying for these wines. Professional reviewers rarely consider price in their ratings. It is easy to rave about a $200 wine when you’re not paying for it. One refreshing exception is Jon Thorsen, “The Reverse Wine Snob“, whose tagline is “Thumbing Your Nose at Bottles Over $20”. He has devised a rating scale that considers price as well as taste and quality.[1]

But what about amateurs?

In today’s social media culture, anybody can post a wine review. While this can make it more challenging to sift through the chaff to find a good match with your profile, it can be done. But…you have to be careful. The quality of the reviews runs the gamut, from one-or-two words (e.g. “loved it”), to troll-like wine bashing, to well-written and thoughtful. Again, finding and following a few users with whom you find unity will go a long way to helping you find that new favorite wine.

When I rate wines, my ratings (five-star scale) are based on how much I liked or enjoyed a wine at a given time in a given setting. I’ve found that the same wine can taste different in different situations. In my reviews, I try to be as descriptive as possible, so readers can decide if a given wine might taste like what they like.

Notable among online retailers encouraging ratings is Naked Wines, where members communicate directly with the winemakers through reviews and comments. Naked Wines actually uses member feedback to determine which wines to produce in future years. (Get your $100 voucher here!)

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Isn’t the 100 point scale objective?

The 100 point wine rating scale, popularized by Robert Parker in the 1970’s [2], is helpful, but has come under increased scrutiny recently [3]. Critics argue that it is one-dimentional – it does not consider situational nuances; it favors higher-end, more expensive wines; and…wait for it…it is largely subjective, based on the preferences and biases of the reviewer. Robert Parker’s 92 might be an 85 for me, and vice-versa.

Nevertheless, over the years, a number of wines have earned a perfect 100 points from professional reviewers. These wines are the gold-standard for a particular varietal or region. Let’s assume for a moment that all the experts agree that these are all 100 point wines. That would be pretty objective! However, for the average consumer, pure objectivity would require tasting every 100 point wine of every varietal and region to get a baseline for quality. As much as I’d love to do this, it simply isn’t possible. Furthermore, since wine is subjective, not everyone will love every 100 point wine.

100 Pt Wines

So what to do?

Embrace the subjectivity in wine. Part of the marvel and enjoyment is the fact that we are all different. There is enough variety that everyone can find something they like. Read reviews, both of professionals, published in magazines and on wine websites, and amateurs on social media, apps, and blogs. Follow those who share your preference, but don’t be afraid to venture out and try something new, too.

Finally, try not to get distracted by reviews. They are just opinions. The most important thing to remember is…

Drink what you like!

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[1] http://www.reversewinesnob.com/p/rating-system.html

[2] https://www.erobertparker.com/info/legend.asp

[3] http://wineeconomist.com/2008/05/27/tyranny-of-the-100-point-wine-scale/

https://grapecollective.com/articles/death-of-the-100-point-system

http://firstwefeast.com/drink/the-future-of-the-100-point-wine-system/

Lesser Known AVAs: Manton Valley

California wine country continues to grow. The Manton Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) was approved on August 1, 2014. Situated in the foothills of Northern California’s Mount Lassen…wait, what?280px-Lassen-Peak-Large 2

Yes, Manton Valley AVA is in far Northern California’s foothills, east of Redding. [1] Mount Lassen is a dormant volcano, noted more for its bubbling, aromatic sulfur pools and mud pots than for pastoral vineyards. [2] Yet grape vines thrive in volcanic soil, so this is an excellent area for viticulture.

Manton Valley AVA is a small wine region, just 9,800 acres, with about 200 acres of vineyards. [3] The Manton Valley Winegrowers Association website lists only seven wineries. Although only recently distinguished as an AVA, Manton Valley farmers have been growing grapes for 20 years, and trucking them nearly 200 miles to wineries in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. [4]

My first taste of a Manton Valley wine came last night, in the form of the Jim Olsen Syrah Manton Valley 2014, from Naked Wines (www.us.nakedwines.com). The Naked Wines copy suggests this may be the first red wine with “Manton Valley” printed on the label. As a 2014 vintage, this wine is still quite young, and will benefit from some bottle aging. However, even at this young age, the character of this wine shines through. I find wines grown in volcanic soil to have a rich profile, yet a light, mineral mouthfeel. Jim’s wine is like this. Available exclusively from Naked Wines, and already sold out, the Angel (member) price is $11.99. As popular a winemaker as Jim Olsen is with Naked Wines Angels, I am sure he will produce another vintage.

Open Me 2

Naked Wines has some fun with corks. As if I need an invitation!

(Shameless plug): Follow this link for a $100 voucher, valid for first-time orders of $160 or more. (https://us.nakedwines.com/invite/kent-reynolds.htm?cid=USA)

My thoughts on Jim’s Syrah are as follows:

This SJim Olsen Syrah 2yrah is a rich, deep ruby color. I poured it through a Vinturi aerator, and was met with pleasing aromas of ripe plum and white pepper. On the palate, there are flavors of late season, ripe raspberry and bramble, with cherry and tobacco leaf notes. The finish is medium length with spice and plum.

This is a very young wine. When I tasted this wine, on 9/29/15, I am aware that these grapes were likely still on the vine a year ago. As a result, there is high acidity, and the tannins are a bit rough. Aeration and decanting will help in the short term, and a couple of years in the bottle will definitely transform this wine into a real gem!

Frankly, I’ve not been to the Manton Valley AVA in person. As a relatively unknown, rural area, there would be none of the crowds and traffic that plague the more famous wine regions. Manton Valley is now on my list of places to visit. If you can’t make the trip, you can at least get there through a bottle of wine!

[1] http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-review/805/Manton-Valley-AVA-Emerges.html

[2] http://www.nps.gov/lavo/index.htm

[3] http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-review/805/Manton-Valley-AVA-Emerges.html

[4] http://www.mantonwinegrowers.com/#!vineyards/c1yzj

Something About Rutherford

There’s just something about Rutherford. Centrally located in the heart of the Napa Valley, Rutherford is one of 16 sub-appellations within the greater Napa Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA). The Rutherford AVA is noted for intense Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other varietals (Napa Valley Vintners, 2015).

NapaValleyAppelationMapMy favorite Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Rutherford AVA. I have found that certain growing regions set the standard for certain varietals. For example, the Willamette Valley is the standard by which I judge Pinot Noir, and the Sierra Foothills AVA, specifically Amador County, produce what I consider to be premier Zinfandel, by which I compare examples from other areas. To be sure, everybody’s preferences are different, but in my opinion, Rutherford Cabernet is the best. How well I like Cabernet from other regions depends on how closely they resemble Rutherford.

The Rutherford AVA is noted for its legendary Rutherford Dust. The term is often credited to André Tchelistcheff, former winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyards (Swan, 2011). According the Andy Backstoffer, who worked with Tchelistscheff, the term refers to the terroir of the AVA.

When Tchelistcheff said, “The wines must have Rutherford dust in them,” he did not mean they had to taste of dust. “André meant they needed to taste like they came from Rutherford’s vineyards,” Beckstoffer explained. Tchelistcheff was talking about terroir. (Swan, 2011).

Terroir is the influence the climate, soil, and terrain on a wine (Puckette, 2013). The concept of terroir is a bit nebulous, since the word is French in origin and has no direct translation into English (Balik, 2012). However, it is that terroir that gives wines from a certain region or appellation its distinctive profile and taste. Such it is with Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, for me.

Napa Cabernet, in general, and Rutherford specifically, tends to be pretty pricey in comparison to that of other regions. A recent search of the Total Wine & More website revealed the lowest priced Rutherford Cabernet was BV Rutherford Cabernet at $24.49 for a 750 ml bottle. The highest price was Inglenook (Niebaum-Coppola) Rubicon, 2009, for $199.99. Compare this to Cabernet from the Central Coast (California) region, for as low as $7.97 for the same sized bottle, from Cupcake. I’ve never tried this one, and frankly doubt I ever will, but I’d bet there’s more than a little difference in quality and taste.  Not to suggest that Central Coast Cabernet is bad, but the fruit from which it is made is less expensive. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Speaking of the cost of fruit, one of the reasons Napa and Rutherford Cabernet is more expensive is that the grapes from that region fetch a higher price. In 2013, Cabernet Sauvignon from District 11, generally southeastern Sacramento County and northern San Joaquin County (e.g. Lodi), sold for an average $709 per ton. Compare this to District 4, Napa County Cabernet grapes, which sold for an average of $5,499 per ton (Adams, 2014), nearly 8x the price!mediumCutout

I’ve said before that my wheelhouse for wine is $10-18, with $25-35 for special occasions. Suffice it to say, I don’t get to enjoy as much Rutherford Cabernet as I’d like. When I do indulge, it’s usually on the lower end of the spectrum, such as it is. I’ve tasted more expensive brands at wineries, but Beaulieu Vineyards and Provenance are usually what I buy, but as a Naked Wines Angel, I also have access to a new release from Matt Parish.  At Angel price, this sells for $29.99, and it is as good a Rutherford Cabernet as any I’ve tried – even in the $80-100 range. It’s a very small lot, so the two bottles I bought recently are probably all I will get of the current, 2013 vintage. I plan to save one for at least a couple years. In the meantime, hopefully Matt will be able to make more in another vintage. It’s worth the splurge!

Whatever your favorite is, whether its Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford AVA, Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, genuine Bordeaux, or any other wine from any other region, just remember to drink what you like!

Works Cited

Adams, A. (2014, March). Wines and Vines. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from Record California Wine Grape Harvest: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=features&content=129025&ftitle=Record%20California%20Wine%20Grape%20Harvest

Balik, A. R. (2012, July 19). Napa Valley Register. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from Terroir: What does it mean?: http://napavalleyregister.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/wine/columnists/allen-balik/terroir-what-does-it-mean/article_593f6df8-d205-11e1-81a6-0019bb2963f4.html

Napa Valley Vintners. (2015). Napa Valley Appellations. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from Napa Valley Vintners: http://www.napavintners.com/napa_valley/appellations.asp

Puckette, M. (2013, November 6). Wine Folly. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from Terroir Definition for Wine: http://winefolly.com/tutorial/terroir-definition-for-wine/

Swan, F. (2011, July 14). NorCal Wine. Retrieved August 18, 2015, from What is Rutherford Dust?: http://norcalwine.com/blog/51-general-interest/523-what-is-rutherford-dust