During the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference, we were introduced to the wines of Cariñena, Spain. Predominantly Garnahca based wines, we were instantly in love. As we enjoyed the flavors of these wines, we began to yearn to explore other regions noted for their Garnacha wines. Perhaps the most famous of these regions is the Rhône Valley in France. There, as in most of the wine world, this fantastic and versatile red grape is known as Grenache.
The Rhône Valley is in the southeast of France. It is one of the oldest grape growing regions in the world, with viticulture documented as early as the 4th century B.C. The valley runs some 150 miles in a north-south direction, and as such, encompassess a wide variety of soil and growing conditions. The Rhône Valley can generally be divided into the Northern and the Southern. In the Northern Rhône, Syrah is king, with the wines generally dominated by this grape. Village (and wine) names such as Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Crozes-Hermitage, and Hermitage may be familiar to you, as these are some of the more famous Syrah regions in France.
In the Southern Rhône Valley, the wines are most often blends, with Grenache playing the lead role, usually supported by such cast of characters as Syrah and Mourvèdre. These wines are commonly known as GSM. In addition to reds, the Rhone Valley also produces some stunning white wines, from Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne grapes. While we’ve had Grenache and Viognier wines before, including GSM and Viognier from the Rhône Valley, we wanted to deliberately dive into some fine Southern Rhône Valley wines to explore and get to know the region as well as the wine.
The more well-known villages in the Southern Rhône are Côtes du Rhône, a rather generic term for wines from this area, Côtes du Rhône Villages – denoting a more specific identity of place and quality, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and what is arguably the most famous and best quality Southern Rhône region, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There are many other villages worth exploring, but we wanted to focus on the most famous and prolific for now.
The Southern Rhône is a Mediterranean climate, as one might expect in the South of France. Long, warm summers and mild winters provide ideal growing conditions for Grenache. In addition, the Mistral winds, blowing up to 60 miles per hour, some 150 days per year, provide cooling and drying to the tight, fungus-prone Grenache grape clusters. Hold on to your hat, to be sure, but appreciate those high winds for the effect they have on this cherished wine!
Before we dive into the wines, allow us to share another little tidbit from history. The famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape is roughly translated to “New Castle of the Pope.” In 14th century, the papacy moved from Rome to Avignon, a village along the Rhône River near the southern end of the valley. Apparently the Popes enjoyed the tranquility of French countryside! In 1317, Pope John XXII had a summer residence built at what is now Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Although construction was not completed until 1333, a year before Pope John XXII’s death, the name remains and the wines from this region remain coveted for their quality.
With our interest in Southern Rhône wines, we were pleased to receive the following bottles as media samples. Tasting through these wines, we were transported to the South of France in each glass. Though we have not yet been in person, the Rhône Valley is definitely high on our list of places to visit.
Now, on to the wines!
The wines below are media samples. All thoughts, opinions, and notes are our own. No other compensation was received.
Ogier Côtes du Rhône Artesis Blanc 2016
Golden color in the glass. Aromas of white flower, light straw, and tropical fruit. In the palate, there are flavors of lemon and grapefruit, with hints of mango, and soft floral and herbal notes rounding out the mouth. Soft, full mouthfeel with vibrant acidity. The finish is medium with pleasing notes of citrus, tropical fruit, and floral. Excellent pairing with grilled sea bass and rosemary quinoa.
Ogier Côtes du Rhône Artesis 2016
Deep, rich purple color. We decanted for about an hour before serving. On the nose, luscious aromas of blueberry, raspberry, and plum with spicy notes. On the palate, blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, and plum, with black pepper, baking spice, and vanilla. Notes of milk chocolate as the finish develops, ending with spicy black fruit. The mouthfeel and tannins are incredibly soft, round, and smooth, with medium acidity. We paired this with, of all things, carne asada tacos with a radish-cilantro salsa, and it was sublime. A truly amazing Côtes du Rhône.
Ogier Gigondas Dentellis 2014
Deep ruby color. Decanted for about an hour and pleasing aromas of raspberry, bramble, and black pepper. On the palate, there are flavors of cherry, red currant, cranberry, raspberry, and spice. At mid palate mineral and crushed granite notes emerge, along with hints of milk chocolate and black pepper. Medium body with mild tannins and acidity. We paired this with grilled Ahi tuna steaks, and the combination was amazing! The spice in the wine really enhanced the flavor of the tuna. This is a truly amazing wine!
Ogier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Reine Jeanne 2014
They call this the wine of kings, king of wines for a very good reason. Rich, complex, and delicious. Cherry red color with brick rim. Aromas of chocolate covered cherry, licorice, and smoke. On the palate there are flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberry, tobacco, licorice, cloves and other baking spice, and smoky notes. Tannins are firm but smooth, and ample acidity perfect for food pairing. We had this with grilled rib eye cooked medium rare, and it was heavenly perfection. Long, spicy finish with abundant red fruit and milk chocolate. Please may I have another?
As you can tell, we were very impressed with the wines of the Southern Rhône Valley. If you’d like to travel to the Rhône in a wine glass, head to your local wine shop and get yourself some of these amazing wines today!
By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
Photo Credits, unless otherwise noted: Kent Reynolds
Nestled on the southwestern slopes of the Haleakala volcano, just past a stretch of white-knuckle switchbacks, near the community of Ulupalakua, lies an oasis. A wine oasis. Yes, a wine oasis in Paradise!
We had been planning a trip to Hawaii, to include a few days on Oahu, then a week on Maui. Knowing that there are now wineries in all 50 states, we turned to Google to find out where might be the Hawaiian wineries. As luck would have it, right there on Maui, there is MauiWine. We contacted them in advance to arrange a tour and tasting, and General Manager Joe Hegele graciously offered to be our personal tour guide.
MauiWine’s story is rich in history and culture. The winery lies on a property formerly owned by Captain Makee, a whaling captain in the mid-1800’s. The story goes that Captain Makee spotted the land while passing by the south side of Maui on the way to Oahu. He committed to himself that one day he would live there.
Prior to Captain Makee owning the land, however, King Kamehameha III leased it to a rancher, L.L. Torbet, who established a plantation and ranch. Torbet raised potatoes, and during the California Gold Rush, bought a boat to carry his crop to hungry gold miners on the mainland. Unfortunately, his boat sank, and he lost everything.
Meanwhile, Captain Makee was having his own challenges. A crewman aboard ship, upset at being denied leave, snuck into Captain Makee’s cabin at night, and attacked him with a hatchet. The attack failed, the crewman escaped, and Captain Makee decided it was time to retire. After settling in Honolulu, he eventually followed through on his commitment to settle on the land he had seen on Maui. In January 1856, he purchased the Torbetsville plantation, establishing a home and cattle ranch.
Having survived the attempt on his life, Captain Makee came to understand that life is a gift, and devoted his days to celebrating life. He loved the local roses, Lokelani, and dubbed the property Rose Ranch. He soon became known for his hospitality and day’s long parties. Dignitaries, including Hawaiian King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani would visit for hula dancing, poker games, and relaxation.
Even today, the property is considered sacred ground. As you enter, in front of the King’s Cottage, you pass a hula circle, carved from cypress trees planted in the 1870’s for King Kalakaua, known as “the Merrie Monarch”, who would sit and watch hula dancers on that spot. The cypress trees stood for nearly 150 years, until a storm in 2012 brought two of them down. Local artist Tim Garcia, was brought in to carve the remaining trunks into representations of King Kalakaua, hula dancers, and vessels. Joe said that even to this day, ōlapa (hula dancers) from around the world will visit the MauiWine Hula Circle to perform their dances.
Joe has a long-standing connection to Rose Ranch. He was raised here from the age of five. Though he did head to the mainland to attend college and gain some work experience, he returned to Rose Ranch five years ago to manage winery operations.
Once known only for their pineapple wines, under Joe’s direction, MauiWine has undergone renaming, rebranding, and the expansion of their grape wine program. Though they do source juice from the mainland, their 16 acre vineyard is planted to several varieties, including Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, and Chenin Blanc.
Unlike most vineyards, where sun exposure is paramount to encourage ripening, the MauiWine vineyards biggest threat is fruit rot. With the humid climate in Hawaii, the vines and grape clusters here are pruned to encourage air flow. This includes a canopy management program focused on leafing, rather than shade, and fruit drop to open up the clusters. From flower to fruit set, they have about a 40% conversion rate. They have also been experimenting with grape shattering, which further reduces rot risk. All of the vineyards are harvested, then field sorted to ensure only the best fruit comes in. No sorting tables are used in the winery.
At about 2,000 feet elevation, and relatively short sun exposure; just 11 to 12 hours per day, despite to the tropical location, MauiWine is considered a cool climate vineyard, with average temperatures in the mid-70’s. The grape growing season on Maui runs from about January through August. The early season helps to avoid hurricanes, which could – and have – damaged crops.
On August 8, 2014, Hurricane Iselle made landfall on Maui. Harvest had begun, but the entire 6 acre Syrah crop remained in the vine. Winds from the hurricane blew the vines over and there was fear the crop would be lost. However, MauiWine put out a call on Social Media, and volunteers arrived to help. The harvest came in, and production went on as normal. It turned out the the vines were not severely damaged, and they continue to produce today.
When most people think of wine from Hawaii, they think of pineapple wine. And they’re not necessarily wrong. Pineapple is a year-round crop, which enables MauiWIne to run it’s production year-round as well. More than 84,000 pounds of Maui Gold pineapple is processed at MauiWine each month, and turned into three different styles of wine.
This may come as a surprise, MauiWine pineapple wine is NOT the syrupy sweet wine you may be expecting!We had the opportunity to sample all three pineapple wines offerings:
Hula o Maui – Pineapple Sparkling Wine
A brut sparkling wine made entirely of Maui Gold pineapple. Pale straw color, with vigorous streams of bubbles. Dry and fruity, and quite tasty. Produced in the traditional champagne method, this is a serious bottle of bubbles, that also doubles as a playful mixer for mimosas!
Maui Blanc – Off-dry Still Wine
Here’s a wine sure to please the Mosacto lovers in your party. Semi-dry but with plenty of character and depth. Also produced from 100% Maui Gold pineapple, this wine would pair nicely with spicy foods. This was the first wine produced by MauiWine, back in 1977, while waiting for their grape vineyards to mature. Don’t miss this one of a kind wine!
Maui Splash – Pineapple Wine infused with Passion Fruit
The sweetest of the trio, and perhaps the most popular. It retains the pineapple character, but adds a splash of tropical sweetness on the palate and finish. It’s like a day at the beach, in a glass. Great on it’s own, or add a splash of soda for a refreshing spritzer. In production since 1992.
As good, and intriguing, as the pineapple wines were, the real treat of our visit was the personal tasting of the Rose Ranch Wine and Estate Wine lines. MauiWine is proud of their pineapple wine, and as we learned, there is good reason for that. Still, the vineyard is the passion project, and the one that intrigued us most. Joe hosted us in The Old Jail; an historic building on the property that was once, well, the local jail. MauiWine has updated the space nicely – no dank cells and bread & water here – this is as upscale a tasting venue as we’ve ever visited. While most guests enjoy tastings in the King’s Cottage tasting rooms, club members and others looking for a deeper experience may reserve personalized tastings in the Old Jail. Here, Joe poured us samples of the best that MauiWine has to offer.
No. 001 – Traditional Method Sparkling Wine
From the Estate Collection. A crisp, delicious wine, made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The juice is sourced from California, from a well known Napa producer (but who cannot be named for proprietary reasons.) Vigorous streams of fine bubbles rise in the glass. Flavors of almond, yeast, and fresh-baked bread, with apple and pear, and a nutty finish. If I didn’t know this was a MauiWIne, I’d swear it was from Champagne!
LoKelani – Sparkling Rosé
A Rose Ranch Wine Collection wine. A brut sparkling wine made from Syrah and Pinot Noir. Very pale pink. Honestly, neither of us would have known it was a Rosé if Joe hadn’t said so before pouring. Flavors of strawberry, cranberry, and some citrus notes. Quite a delight!
2017 Ulupalakua Vineyards Viognier
Another from the Estate Wines collection. We are big fans of well-made Viognier. And we’re now big fans of the Ulupalakua Vineyards Viognier! Dry, with floral aromas and flavors of apricot, citrus, and mineral notes, with a spicy finish.
2017 Ulupalakua Vineyards Rosé
Estate Collection. A blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache, and an interesting blend it is. The Syrah from Block 2 is farmed specifically to be vinified into Rosé, in the maceration method; harvested early to preserve acidity, and left on the skins after harvest for a very short time, just to add some color. Meanwhile, the Grenache portion is made in the Saignée method, in which the grapes are pressed for red wine production, and a small portion is bled off (saignée in French) to intensify the color of the red wine. The bled off portion is then made into a Rosé wine, and in this case, added to the Syrah Rosé. The result is a delightful, dry, crisp Rosé wine with flavors of strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and tropical fruit.
2017 Ulupalakua Vineyards Grenache
Estate Collection. You might think of Grenache as a full-throttle, big red. In this case, you couldn’t be more wrong. This Grenache is as elegant and restrained as we have ever had. Pale ruby color; crystal clear (look at that color in the photo!) But don’t let the pale color fool you. This beauty is bursting with flavors of black cherry, plum, licorice, and earthy notes. It is bone dry, with zippy acidity and a spicy finish. Joe recommends serving slightly chilled, and since that is how he served it to us, we absolutely agree!
2016 Ulupalakua Vineyards Syrah
Estate Collection. This is the big, bold, meaty red you’ve been looking for! Inky purple color. Big flavors of crushed blackberry, chocolate-covered cherry, licorice, and earth. Big, chewy tannins balanced with medium acidity, On the finish there is kirsch and mineral. A stunning wine, indeed!
After we wrapped up our Old Jail tasting, Joe escorted us on a walking tour of the winery production area. MauiWine is a study in contrast; the vintage, plantation-style buildings housing the facility and cellar are juxtaposed with state-of-the-art winemaking equipment. Joe pointed out their new bottling line; a shiny stainless steel workhorse that has the capability to seal bottles with all four major wine closures: traditional cork, screwcap, crown caps (part of the sparkling wine production, for secondary fermentation), and the familiar sparkling wine cork, secured with a wire cage. The facility, view, and surroundings are all very impressive, and well worth a visit! Tours are complimentary, so come on up!
Before delivering us into the capable hands of the tasting room staff, Joe had one more surprise for us. We followed him a couple of miles back up the road to the vineyards. Joe mentioned to us that the vineyard is greatly protected and generally reserved for staff and family. The views here are spectacular, and the photos we took simply cannot do them justice! On the slope of Haleakala, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Kaho’olawe island, and the U-shaped volcanic crater that is Molokini, the views literally took our breath away. Rather than try to describe it, just enjoy the photos.
With Hurricane Lane approaching, we asked Joe if any special precautions were necessary. Not very many vineyards or wineries have to contend with hurricanes! Joe said that all of this years’ harvest is in, so there is no worry about the fruit. The only concern is loss of power from winds and falling trees.
After we returned to the King’s Cottage tasting room, Joe introduced us to Denae and Tamara, two of the friendly and knowledgeable staff members. There, we sampled Pineapple Wines (described above), the rest of the Rose Ranch Collection, and a taste of the 2012 Syrah – the hurricane wine!
Kula – White Blend
An enticing and delicious blend of 44% Sauvignon Blanc, 44% Viognier, and 12% Muscat. Lots of citrus and tropical fruit flavors. Dry, yet fruity with zesty acidity.
Mele – Red Blend
Racy and delicious, this is a blend of 40% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 10% Sangiovese. Medium body with smooth tannins, flavors of blackberry, raspberry, and cherry, with hints of green bell pepper and black pepper spice.
Sway & Stride Blend
An Aussie style blend with 80% Syrah (or Shiraz, if you prefer!) and 20% Viognier. Nicely balanced and delicious, with blackberry, cherry, and spice.
Ulupalakua Vineyards GSMV
Not your typical GSM! Grenache, Syrah, Malbec, and Viognier. Big and bold, yet elegant, with violet, blackberry, cranberry, and tobacco notes.
2014Ulupalakua Vineyards Syrah
The hurricane wine! Very few bottles remain, and are available only in the tasting room. This is an amazing wine of deep character and flavor. RIpe blackberry and plum, earth and tobacco. Big, bold tannins, with a long, satisfying finish.
We were honored that Joe hosted us as guests of MauiWine. Relatively small in production, with about 30,000 total cases annually, and their estate wine releases range from about 100 to 400 cases each, they are mighty and impressive. Although available for purchase online, they are well worth a visit if you happen to be in Hawaii.
In conclusion, Robyn would like to share her personal impressions:
As we planned for our trip to Maui and our visit to MauiWine, I envisioned that it would be beautiful and unlike any winery I had experienced thus far. I had no idea how understated my vision was. I may be back on the mainland, but I can assure you that my experience has left a lasting impression. The rich legacy of culture, the majestic grounds, the sense of value for close relationships with staff and customers, and the passion behind how MauiWine came to be, is a hidden treasure. When Joe explained how the climate is unlike any other traditional grape growing region and that even all the “experts” truly can’t predict the outcome of a crop, I said, “it’s like a big experiment every year?” To which he replied, “exactly”, with a smile on his face! Like a biography, Joe described the triumph, heartbreak, and thrill, that is MauiWine. The common thread connecting all of them is passion!
By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
Photo Credits, unless otherwise noted: Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
Dinner in a wine cave. Check! One more thing off the bucket list!
We had a lot of amazing experiences at this year’s Wine Blogger’s Conference in Santa Rosa, California. However, the unparalleled highlight was the Friday evening dinner at Thomas George Estates. When the list of dinner excursions was published several weeks earlier, we scanned the host wineries’ websites, and noticed that Thomas George Estates has a wine cave. A telephone call to the winery confirmed the WBC Dinner would be held in the cave. We made our reservation immediately!
With eager anticipation, we boarded the luxury wine-tour bus and settled into the plush leather seats. Under the soft mood lighting, we enjoyed the short ride to the winery. Upon arrival, we stepped off the bus and into the cavernous entryway of the cave.
There, we were warmly greeted by Thomas George Estates staff, who handed us each a glass of their 2014 Brut Blanc de Blancs. We sipped this delightful sparkler while visiting with our fellow diners, and nibbling on Hors D’Oeuvres including house-made cured meats, and roasted and marinated vegetables.
Soon enough, we were summoned to the dining table, located in a long corridor in the cave. The service was excellent, the wine free-flowing, and the food exquisitely prepared. We both agree this was among the top five meals we have ever experienced; and toward the top of that list, to boot! The first course was a roasted Brussels Sprouts salad with Black Pig Bacon, Asian pear, Marcona almonds, aged sherry vinegar, and Bohemian Creamery Capriago. This amazing salad was paired with the Thomas George Estates 2015 Chardonnay, Sons & Daughters Vineyard. It was during this course that we learned that all the pork served during the evening was hand-raised by our chef, Duskie Estes, of Zazu Kitchen & Farm in Sebastapol, California. Now that’s farm-to-fork, local food!
The main course was Cracklin’ Pork Belly (from our friendly neighborhood porker) with Star Anise Liberty Duck; a full leg quarter; served over black rice, with pomegranate and watercress. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the pork belly, but I was not disappointed! As much as I love duck, this crispy chunk of heaven was out of this world! Paired with the Thomas George Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, Baker Ridge Vineyard, this was an entrée and pairing worth writing home about!
Amid friendly conversation, ample refills, and boundless frivolity, I wondered if it could get any better. Leave it to the good folks at Thomas George Estate and Zazu Kitchen & Farm to up the ante with dessert. Backyard Quince & Apple Tartin with Bourbon Gelato. Why, yes, I believe I will. Paired with the most amazing 2012 Late Harvest Viognier from Baker Ridge Vineyard, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Just look at the color of that Viognier! Divine!
Even after dinner, the hospitable staff kept our glasses filled, until it was time to, sadly, re-board the bus for the ride back to the hotel. But first, swag bags! We each received a gift of a bottle of Thomas George Estates 2016 Rosé of Grenache, a numbered bottle of their Baker Ridge Vineyard Olive Oil (delicious), and for a longer-lasting keepsake, a Thomas George Estates t-shirt.
Back on the bus, we basked in the afterglow of a magical, memorable evening. One we will not soon forget.
Franc Dusak has been one of my favorite winemakers for some time, and he continues to impress. Under the umbrella of NakedWines.com, Franc produces excellent wines from a number of different varieties of grape, and some out-of-this-world blends, too. One of my favorite wines in his portfolio is his Viognier. I’ve reviewed Franc’s Viognier before; the 2015 vintage. I recently acquired a bottle of his 2016 vintage, and I was so impressed I simply had to share about it!
Sporting a brand new label design, Franc’s Viognier Sonoma Valley 2016 is just as enticing, refreshing, and delicious as 2015…maybe more so! Franc reaffirms my newfound love for Viognier with this creation. In addition to being tasty and satisfying on a hot, late-spring day, it is quite versatile with food pairing and makes a terrific addition to a variety of dishes.
Currently the Head Winemaker for NakesWines.com, Franc is a third generation winemaker. The family hails from Slovenia, and Franc honors his family heritage and the original family winery on the label. In Franc’s Instagram and Facebook posts announcing the release of the 2016 Viognier, he explains:
“The new logo pays homage to the winemakers in my family and my Slovenia heritage. DVK represents Dusak Vinska Klet, which is our original family wine cellar. The mountain in the background of the logo is Triglav, (three heads) which has several meanings, but mostly refers to the impact my grandfather, uncle and father had on my wine journey.”
I contacted Franc via Instagram chat, and asked him about his vision as a third-generation winemaker. Here’s what he said:
“I think the most important thing for me is that I carry on the tradition of winemaking in my family. I make wine to enjoy and share with your family and friends. I am pleased when enthusiasts see the passion that I put into my wines, but my hope is that everyone can enjoy them. There is so much work and thought that goes into each wine, hopefully those who taste them can feel that.”
Personally, I clearly see the passion in Franc’s wines. Here’s my review of this amazing Viognier. I’ll be buying a case of this to get me through the long, hot summer!
Another Franc Dusak hit! Franc’s Viognier is always delicious and this vintage is no exception.
Golden straw color. Aromas of nectarine and honeysuckle. This wine is florally aromatic; it smells so delightful it could be perfume. On the palate, flavors of nectarine and peach, elderflower, pear, and floral notes. Started well chilled, as it warmed some apricot started to emerge. With a round mouthfeel, tangy acidity, and medium body, this is a great wine for food. We had it with grilled miso shrimp and asparagus, with spinach salad and it was amazing!
Make no mistake: this is not a “sweet” wine. It is fruit forward and floral, which may be perceived as sweetness. But it is a dry, delicious white wine. Franc, I tip my hat to you, sir!
This wine is still available from NakedWines.com. If you aren’t already a NakedWines.com Angel, click here, or the banner below, for a voucher worth $100 off your first order of $160 or more! You’ll be glad you did!
Awhile back I reviewed Franc Dusak’s Sonoma Zinfandel 2013, and as I usually try to do, included a brief introduction to Franc himself. I’ve had a number of Franc’s wines, and have been over-the-moon for all of them. I recently tried his Sonoma Valley Viognier 2015, and this white wine is no exception. It is spectacular!
Without belaboring the point, and considering my crazy-busy schedule right now which has severely cut into my blogging time, here is the review I posted on the NakedWines.com site for this amazing Viognier:
I am now convinced that my original aversion to Viognier resulted from low quality, rather than the varietal itself. Every NakedWines.com Viognier I have tried has been simply amazing! Franc’s 2015 is no exception, and Viognier is now one of my favorite white wines!
Light straw color, with aromas of honeysuckle, white peach, and elderflower. On the palate, Golden delicious apple, white peach, elderflower, and a hint of fresh pineapple, mingling with fresh, light acidity; it’s like drops of gold on the tongue. Light to medium bodied and pleasantly dry, this is a stellar Viognier.
Served with Chicken Breast with Basil-Wine Sauce (the Viognier is in the sauce!) it is an amazing, heavenly experience.
4.5 out of 5 hearts (92 – 94 points)
Angel Price: $11.99 (still currently in stock – hurry to get yours before it’s gone!)
NakedWines.com frees talented winemakers from the burden of marketing and sales, and allows them to focus on what they do best: make unbelievably delicious wines. These are all small batch, boutique wines, that Angels (members) can purchase for amazing, discounted prices. If this Viognier, or any of the dozens of other phenomenal available wines, sound like your cup of tea, follow this link for a voucher worth $100 off your initial order of $160 or more. Free wine? It doesn’t get better than that!
I’m not normally a big Viognier fan. There are just too many low quality offerings out there that are off balance, and often the characteristic floral notes come off as just sweet. When I do buy Viognier, it’s usually for white sangria. So when this bottle arrived in a sample pack for review, I was a little apprehensive.
Benjamin Darnault produces wine for NakedWines.com. His flagship wine, Minervois, a Grenache-based blend from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, is an Angel favorite. He also produces some stunning Rhône wines. I’ve had several of these reds, and have always been impressed, so this gave me hope that his 100% Viognier would be a winner, too. Here’s what I thought when I gave it a try:
Many of the reviews here [on the NakedWines.com website] have said this is a great wine for a hot day. Well, it’s 106F today in my neck of NorCal, so this seems to be the day to give this a go!
Clear, straw color in the glass. The aromas…oh, my…the aromas! I could smell the floral and citrus aromas from, literally, 3 feet away as I poured! Honeysuckle, elderflower, white grapefruit, and mild apricot explode on the nose. On the palate, the floral notes mingle with apricot, mango, grapefruit, and lemon. Bright acidity gives it zip, while a creaminess at the back of the tongue softens it and provides a medium-full mouthfeel. The finish goes on and on with yellow citrus flavors.
Viognier is probably the only varietal my wife enjoys more than me, and I love this one! Crisp, refreshing, and delicious, this is a great hot-weather quencher, that also goes well with a variety of foods. Yum.
4.5 out of 5 Hearts (92-94 points)
Angel Price: $10.49
If this sounds like your kind of wine, and you’d like to try this or any of the dozens of other small batch, high quality wines available from NakedWines.com, click here for a voucher worth $100 off your first order of $160 or more. You’ll be glad you did!
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.
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.
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.
* 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.