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Tag Archives: Wine Enthusiast

Warm Reds for Cold Nights, Part 2

While some parts of the country are starting to see signs of spring, other regions are still being pummeled by harsh winter storms. Yes, some of the trees and bushes in our neighborhood have buds and blooms, but there is another major winter storm bearing down on Northern California as we write this.

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

For the second installment of our four-part mini-series, we journey to Portugal. Portugal and her wines are trending strongly of late, and for good reason. Portugal is the sunniest country in Europe, and features amazing wine, food, and culture, miles of coastline, and warm, welcoming people. With more than 200 indigenous grapes, there is a wide variety of outstanding wine available at attractive prices. So we were quite pleased when we received a sample of José Maria da Fonseca Periquita Reserva 2016 for tasting and review.

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José Maria da Fonseca has a family history spanning nearly two centuries. Since 1834, the family has been carrying on the passion and commitment of the founder, as the oldest producer of table wine in Portugal. Not a family to rest on their laurels, the José Maria da Fonseca family invests in research and the latest technology in winemaking. Yet with all the advances, the passion of crafting fine wine shines through in the wine.

An alluring blend of 56% Castelao, 22% Touriga Nacional, 22% Touriga Francesca, the José Maria da Fonseca Periquita Periquita 2016 is aged for 8 months in French and American oak. We opened it to pair with grilled chicken, marinated in a locally produced Basque-style marinade and gorgonzola & bacon stuffed portobella mushrooms. Yes, grilled. As in, outdoors. It’s never too cold or too stormy for grilling at the Appetite for Wine house!

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Deep ruby color. On the nose there are aromas of raspberry, cherry, cedar, and earth. On the palate, complex and integrated flavors of blackberry, black cherry, cranberry, and red currant, with oak and cedar notes. Full bodied with a luscious, round mouthfeel and brisk acidity. Long, lingering finish of red fruit and white pepper. Paired with our grilled, marinated chicken and mushrooms, it was exquisite! Vivino average price: $15.99.

We are quite happy to have these warm reds to help us through these cold nights. Chapter three will be posted soon. In the meantime, check out José Maria da Fonseca, and let us know what you think.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
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Review: Toccata Classico 2015

I first learned about Toccata wines several years ago, when one of their sales reps was hosting a tasting at a wine bar near my home. I happened in, by happy coincidence, and was immediately impressed by the quality, complexity, and character of the wines. Alas, the wines are not widely distributed, so Toccata was difficult to find and enjoy regularly.

The Toccata label is owned by Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards, a family owned estate in Santa Barbara County. I’m fairly certain the Toccata tasting all those years ago was the first Santa Barbara wine I had experienced. Lucas & Lewellen is fairly well known to travellers along Highway 101 south of Paso Robles, as their large estate vineyards are adjacent to the highway, and are well marked with signs identifying ownership and often the variety of grape.

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Photo Credit: llwine.com

Years after that original Toccata tasting, my son started college at U.C. Santa Barbara; another happy coincidence. During the hours-long drives from Northern California to visit, as I passed the Lucas & Lewellen vineyards, I was reminded of the Toccata wines I had enjoyed. When I discovered that Toccata has a tasting room, just a few miles off Highway 101 in the quaint village of Solvang, I was thrilled to be able to enjoy these wines again while also enjoying time with my son, and the beauty of Santa Barbara. Still, once he graduated, and my regular trips to Santa Barbara came to an end, so did my ready access to Toccata.

To my sheer delight, I was recently offered a sample of the Toccata Classico 2015. There was no hesitation in my affirmative response to the offer!  

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Toccata wines are all Italian varieties and styles. Toccata Classico is a red blend made in the Super Tuscan style. The fruit comes from two estate vineyards; Los Alamos Vineyard in the Santa Barbara AVA and Valley View Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley AVA. The 2015 is composed of 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% each of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Freisa, and Petit Verdot. Here’s what we thought of it:

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

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Rich, deep purple with ruby rim. Initial nose is vanilla, with ripe red berry. On the palate, flavors of ripe raspberry, blackberry, and cassis, with baking spice, vanilla, tobacco, white pepper, and toasty oak. Firm, chewy tannins, with medium acidity. Rich and full bodied. The finish is long with red and black fruit, oak, and black pepper.

SRP $29.00 per bottle

Perfect for Italian cuisine, and also fantastic with other genres of food, too. We loved it with Pan Seared Filet Steaks with Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onions. Sheer delight! img_2349

If you are in the Santa Barbara area, be sure to take a detour out to Solvang and visit the Toccata tasting room. It’s well worth the trip!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Photo credit, except where noted, and inspiration by Robyn Raphael

Review: Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut

Just in time for the holidays, bubbles! Who doesn’t love to celebrate with sparkling wine? From Champagne, to Cava, Prosecco, or California Sparkling Wine, a bottle of bubbles is at home on every holiday table. And with such variety as we have today, bubbles don’t have to break the bank. Take, for example, this Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut. It is rich, creamy, and delicious, and retails for just $23 per bottle.

Crémant refers to a French sparkling wine, made in the same way as Champagne, but from other parts of the country. In case you didn’t know, because of an 1891 law, “Champagne” can only come from the Champagne region of France. (Yes, there are a few California sparklers that, thanks to loopholes and lawsuits, can still use the name on their labels.) Anyway, as I was saying, Crémant is made using the méthode tranditionalle, in which the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, producing those fine bubbles we all know and love. Though made in the same way, Crémant does not have the panache, the swagger, the reputation, or the price tag as Champagne. That doesn’t mean it is any lower in quality, in my humble opinion. Call it marketing prowess.

Lucien Albrecht is one of the preeminent wine producers in the Alsace region, located in northeast France. Dating back to 1698, when Balthazar Albrecht settled in the area, the family has been making high quality wines, widely renown and recognized. Predominantly a still-wine producer, with the familiar slender bottles with the yellow labels, Lucien Albrecht makes Alsatian standards like Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Gewurztraminer. In 1971, Lucien Albrecht, the 8th generation of this wine growing family, became one of the pioneers of Crémant d’Alsace, when he introduced this sparkling wine. Available in both Brut and Rosé, Lucien ALbrecht Crémant d’Alsace is sure to please.

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

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Terrific! Golden straw color. Vigorous tiny bubbles as the wine fills the glass, and the bubbles continue throughout. Aromas of apricot and pear. On the palate, luscious flavors of brioche, almond, pear, apple, and a hint of pineapple. Bone dry, with a rich, creamy mouthfeel, and a long clean finish.

With Thanksgiving approaching, and more holidays on the way, consider a bottle of Lucien ALbrecht Crémant d’Alsace to grace your table and accompany your meal. Heck, at just $23 per bottle, grab two. You don’t want to run out mid-celebration, do you?

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Photo Credit: Robyn Raphael

Down Home with Farmhouse Wines

More and more wine producers are embracing environmental consciousness. Whether out of concern for conserving our planet and its resources, or reacting to consumer and market demands, there is no doubt that organic, sustainable, natural, and biodynamic wines are on the rise and here to stay.

It’s not just the small, boutique, dare I say “hippie” or “hipster” wineries that are turning toward Earth-friendly farming practices. Many well known, large production producers are getting on board, and at converting at least a small percentage of production to sustainable farming, most with an eye toward long-range growth and conversion.

Recently, we received an invitation to sample two natural wines, Farmhouse Wines, produced by Cline Family Cellars. If you don’t know Cline, you really ought to get out more. Fred Cline founded Cline Family Cellars in 1982. He started in Oakley, California, in the Delta region, east of San Francisco. In 1989, he moved the winery to Sonoma County. One of the original Rhone Rangers, Fred Cline helped establish Northern California as a serious producer of Rhone varieties like Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. Cline Family Cellars has gone on to expand their portfolio to include a plethora of grape varieties, and produces some stellar wines.

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Photo Credit: Cline Family Cellars

Fred Cline and his Soil Manager, Bobby Cannard (aka The Soil Whisperer) have developed biodynamic practices they dubbed the Green String method. A significantly environmentally friendly farming process, it minimizes pollution of the air, soil, and water, and minimizes the overall environmental footprint. Utilizing natural weed control (sheep and goats), cover crops, aviary pest control (owls and hawks), and ar power, they have made big inroads in sustainable farming. They established a farm, the Green String Farm, in Petaluma, CA, to foster these practices, producing a variety of crops for consumers. They even established an internship program to expose farming students to these practices.

There are two Farmhouse wines; a white blend and a red blend. Both are natural, sustainably produced wines. They are unpretentious, user-friendly, sealed with screwcap, and easy drinking. Oh, and they retail for just $10.99! That’s wallet friendly, too!

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Photo Credit: Cline Family Cellars

Winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos wants the grapes to take center stage in these wines. He uses minimal oak, and incorporates blending to bring out the best of each variety and vintage.

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

The 2017 Farmhouse White is a blend of Palomino (41%), Muscat Calelli (25%), Rousanne (22%), Marsanne (6%), Viognier (5%), and Riesling (1%). Cold fermented in stainless steel tanks, the resulting wine is light and fruity, with balance and finesse. Here’s what we thought of it:

A very interesting white blend. Don’t serve too cold or the bouquet and flavors will be muted. Pale peach color. Aromas of peach, honeysuckle, mango, and tangerine. On the palate, there are flavors lemon curd, guava, mango, and peach, with a touch of honey on the finish. That’d be the Muscat! Medium body and acidity. Fruity, mildly sweet. Pleasant for sipping, structured enough of fish, chicken, or spicy Thai.

The 2017 Farmhouse Red leads with a punch of Zinfandel (59%), followed by Syran (15%), Carignane (9%), Mourvèdre (6%), Petite Sirah (5%), and the remaining 6%, splashes of other red varieties. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, the wine is racked into 40% new French oak to enhance the flavors as it ages. Here’s what we thought:

Inky purple color. On the palate, aromas of raspberry, fresh blackberry, clove, and spice. On the palate, boldly fruit forward; bordering on jammy but there is enough complexity to bring some balance. Flavors of ripe blackberry, black cherry, cassis, and black plum, with licorice, baking spice, black pepper, and caramel. Rich and full bodied with round mouthfeel and bright acidity. The finish is very long with black fruit, ripe plum, and black pepper.

For more on the Farmhouse line, check out their video from the Farmhouse Wines website:  

Both Farmhouse wines would be at home on your Thanksgiving or other holiday table, and equally comfortable snuggled up on the couch in front of a warming fire, binge-watching your favorite Netflix show.

Let us know, in the comments, what you paired it with, and what you’re binging on Netflix!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

Review: Dow’s 2012 Late Bottled Vintage Porto

Our exploration and appreciate of Port wines continues. Recently we reviewed a Reserve Port, that we enjoyed as the late summer evenings started to cool. That one was a non-vintage, as most Ports are. Yet many Port makers also produce a Late Bottled Vintage, or LBV Port. As luck would have it, not long ago, we received a sample bottle of Dow’s 2012 LBV Porto for tasting and review.

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When I posted a picture of the bottle on Instagram, one of the most common questions I received is: “what does it mean to be ‘Late Bottled?’” Frankly, I wasn’t sure myself, so I consulted my trusty wine research expert…Google. According to Wine Enthusiast magazine, the official definition is “a ruby Port from a single year, chosen for its high quality and bottled after aging for four to six years in wood.” So LBV is a high quality Port, vinted from a single year’s harvest, and aged prior to release. As such, they are ready to drink upon release and do not require additional aging to be enjoyed.

Dow’s Port house has been in operation since 1798. Unlike most Port merchants, who exported their products to the thirsty masses, founder Bruno da Silva emigrated to England and set up shop importing his wines from Portugal. He assimilated into London society, marrying an Englishwoman, and established a thriving business. During the Napoleonic wars, da Silva was granted permission to arm his merchant ships, and thus became the first and only Port producer to ship its wines under their own armed protection.

da Silva’s son, John, took over the business, and through several partnerships and mergers – including one with George Acheson Warre, of Warre’s Port, built the success and reputation of the company. In 1877, John and his partners merged with Dow & Co. Although Dow & Co. was smaller they had built a strong reputation with quality vintage ports, so the decision was made to use the Dow name, and Dow’s Port brand was established. Since 1961, Dow’s has been a part of the Symingtons Family of Port producers.

Now that you know the story, let’s find out about the wine. Many Port houses release LBV every year, but Dow’s only produces LBV Porto in the best vintages. With the bar set with high expectations, what did we think

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

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Deep, inky purple. Aromas of bramble, blackberry, vanilla, and smoke. Flavors of ripe blackberry, black cherry, mocha, caramel, vanilla, and smoke. Mellow, smooth, and soft, with a luscious, round mouthfeel. Long, dry, smoky finish with black fruit. Less chocolate than many ports, and distinctive in its drier profile. Definitely a dessert wine, but not as sweet as others. Elegance in a bottle.

With an SRP of $24.00, and available at major retailers for less, you owe it to yourself to grab a bottle, settle into your favorite, comfortable chair, and enjoy a glass.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds
  • Artistic and content inspiration by Robyn Raphael

Review: Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port

As the days grow shorter, and temperatures begin to cool, our thoughts turn from crisp, refreshing whites and rosés to bigger, heartier reds. The foods we enjoy in the cooler weather match these wine preferences, too. Fewer salads and grilling (though we grill year-round…don’t hate, we are in NorCal, afterall) and more stews and roasts. And once you’ve completed your rich, filling, autumnal meal, there are fewer things more regal; more elegant; than sipping a glass of Port.

Whether your thing is ruby or tawny, or maybe a white Port, the fortified elixir is warming, soothing, and immensely satisfying. We tend to favor ruby Port, be it a “Port-style” domestic wine, or a genuine Porto from Portugal, we love the rich flavors, the full, round mouthfeel, the smooth, velvety tannins, and the long, juicy finish. It’s literally dessert in a glass.

We recently received a sample bottle of Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port. W & J Graham has been making Port since 1820. After 198 years, they really know what they’re doing! William and John Graham originally set up shop as textile traders. In 1820, they accepted 27 barrels of Port as payment for a debt. They must have been impressed with the product, because they decided to change their business direction and produce Port.

I found it interesting to learn, with the American fascination with all things British Royalty, that W & J Graham was commissioned to produce a special Vintage Port for the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle back in May of 2018. While we weren’t able to have a taste of that special wine, we did thoroughly enjoy this bottle as a reasonable alternative for we commoners.

Port is a fortified wine. What does it mean to be “fortified?” Great question. Port starts out like any other wine. Grapes are harvested and fermentation started. However, before the yeast can finish eating all the sugar, fermentation is intentionally stopped by adding a high-proof spirit, typically brandy. This stops the fermentation process, and the wine retains a higher level of sugar. This process was originally developed to preserve the wine during shipping – back in those days everything was transported by ship, and traditional wine often spoiled in transit. The brandy also increases the alcohol content; fortifying the wine. This process gives Port its distinctive sweet, rich flavor profile.

The Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port is always a solid performer. Made from grapes harvested from the same vineyards that result in their Vintage Ports, the Six Grapes Reserve is often compared to those pricier bottles. How good is it?

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

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Wow! This is dark! Inky purple color. There are aromas of black currant, stewed blackberry and cherry, and blueberry. As the wine glides over the lips, silky smooth tannins deliver rich flavors of spicy blackberry, cassis, blueberry, and cherry…lots of cherry! There are notes of black pepper and spice mid-palate. Decadent full body and mouthfeel. The finish goes on and on with chocolate covered cherry, blackberry, and soft spice.

Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port has a Suggested Retail Price of $24, but it is available at larger retailers (think Total Wine & More) for as little as $16. For a wine this good, at such an affordable price, you should go get some. Now.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael

Exploring the Rhône through a Wine Glass

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.

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Credit: WineFolly.com

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!

Cheers

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael
  • Photo Credits, unless otherwise noted: Kent Reynolds

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