August 5, 2012
CNBC published an interview with the wine buyer for Costco where it was implied that wine was a commodity like tinfoil or toilet paper. We disagree profoundly with this idea, but we do recognize that this mentality drives a huge portion of the wine sales in the United States. We were curious about what wine selected specifically to deliver on this philosophy would taste like, and we wanted to share our thoughts here. We taste the 2008 Kirkland Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2009 Kirkland Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2010 Kirkland Chateauneuf du Papes Cuvee de Nalys. Not surprisingly, they taste like bulk wine. We’re grateful to be living in a region where we have lots of small producers making interesting wine, and we encourage you to look beyond bulk wine whenever you have the chance!
When did you first realize it was worth the effort to look for more interesting wine?
Our friends Kevin and Rick spent ten years living in California’s Central Coast wine country. Since we don’t have a lot of experience with California wine, and since we focus heavily on wines from the Northwest, they offered to open some favorites from their cellar for a show. They’ve always shared good wine at other events, so we were both excited to give it a try. The results far exceeded our expectations, and set new standards for our palates in regard to Pinot Noir and Syrah from California. They were so good, that we even became self conscious of our enthusiasm. But, sip after sip confirmed that these wines hit our palates very well. We tasted the 2007 Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from Talley Vineyards, the 2008 The Hedge Syrah from Terry Hoage Vineyards, the 2009 Parea from Transcendence, and the 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Chateau Margene.
Did you know about Central Coast wine before this show?
January 19, 2012
Dan’s Top 10 of 2011
Wrapping up 2011 with 10 wines was a real challenge. Between the full rush of 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir, the Eyrie South Block Vertical, and my trips to the Mosel and Navarra, I could probably knock out a top 50 without too much difficulty. Paring it down to 10 is tough. The result shows this, as a few different criteria proved to be sufficient for inclusion. It would not be interesting for me to use the same method to evaluate the top 10, because the result would almost certainly have been completely dominated by one of the events named above. I didn’t really want to do this, because I wanted to capture the variety of wines that meant something to me in 2011. So, explanations will come with the individual wines. Some are winners for QPR and reliability, some represent rare and lofty peaks among their peers, and some solidified my feelings for particular attributes of the wine at hand. The order in which they are presented does represent relative rank. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially on any of these wines that you tasted this year!
1: 1998 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Reserve
Despite my adventures, the #1 slot this year goes to a hometown favorite. The South Block Vertical tasting held this summer was a true once in a lifetime event. I don’t imagine we’ll ever see anything like it ever again. For me, it cemented a profound respect for long term aging of Oregon Pinot Noir, and for The Eyrie Vineyards. I have enjoyed their wines in the past, but to see such quality so consistently across the entire vertical was just jaw dropping. I’ve really enjoyed some wines from 1998 before, and this bottle was spectacular at the tasting. It solidified my love for the vintage as well. 97pts.
2: 1999 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese
I struggled a lot with this one, as it could easily be considered cliché for me to pick the most expensive wine I tasted this year. This was the final wine at the VDP auction in Trier, Germany this year. It makes the cut because I had heard a lot about the quality of Egon Müller‘s wines, but I hadn’t had remarkable experiences until I tasted this. It truly is among the top few wines I’ve ever tasted. Every time I second guessed myself, trying to fight off the inevitable influence of suggestion associated with such a lauded wine, the flavors kept rolling around on my palate, asserting that I wasn’t imagining this amazing experience. In the end, I can’t deny that I did fall in love with it. 99pts
3: 1995 Jos. Christoffel Jr. Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese ***
I was fortunate enough to taste through a huge lineup at the winery this summer, which came to include a sizable selection of Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese after the winemaker, KaJo, discovered how fond I was of the ’92. It blew my mind that both the ’92 and ’95 were such amazing wines. I haven’t had anything else like it from Urziger Wurzgarten, and these experiences captured my attention for anything coming out of the Jos. Christoffel Jr. winery. There is real variation from vintage to vintage, and having the wines age in the winery guarantees perfect storage condition to let the years work their magic on the Riesling. Add to it that this would probably be around $30 in the US market, and you’ve really got something to grab your attention. Beyond liking the wines, I now consider this winery to be among the best in the Mosel. That’s serious praise coming from me, and I mean it. If you like Mosel Riesling, you owe it to yourself to seek out and explore a few of these wines. 97pts
4: 2005 Laderas de Inurrieta
As difficult as it was to pick 10 wines for this list, this is one was sure to be on it from the beginning. My visit to Navarra really turned me on to the quality of wines being produced there. Unique to the experience was the Graciano grape. I had never heard of this grape before, and a couple of Graciano wines really captured a unique and delicious expression of the region. The Bodega Inurrieta Laderas was foremost among them, cementing my interest in the grape. It demonstrated that Navarra not only produces great examples of more commonly known varieties, but produces fantastic wines from lesser known varieties that deliver unique experiences that wine nerds crave. 92pts
5: 2008 Johan Vineyards Nils Reserve
Here’s one that probably comes as a bit of a surprise. We gave a lot of love to the 2008 Johan Vineyards Three Barrel in our Christmas episode, and I’ll even concede that I think the Three Barrel is a better wine. However, the Nils Reserve makes the list because of consistency, availability, and the fact that I had more experience with it this year. It made an impression on a number of other people as well. It’s a wonderful expression of the unique vineyard site that Johan Vineyards is working with, and it does a great job of showing dark fruit flavors without being a heavy wine. So, the greater breadth of experience with this wine, and the fact that it showed well consistently, and it’s overall quality despite being the little brother to the Three Barrel, gets it on the list for 2011. I don’t have a published score for this, but we did review it in episode 66. You can skip to part 3 to get straight to the remarks about the Nils Reserve.
6: 2010 Weingut Ackermann Zeltinger Scholossberg Spätlese
This wine’s place on the list is tied to the vineyard it comes from. As I began to learn about Mosel vineyards, I was very quickly struck by the quality of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard. For whatever reason, this was an easier name to remember than some of the others, and I stuck to it. This created an early bias for the Zeltinger Sonnenuhr. I mean, it shares a word with one I already like, right? While this certainly did lead me to some good wines, it also led me to short change the Zeltinger Schlossberg vineyard. The time spent with Harald and Anne Junglen of Weingut Ackermann this summer helped me to see that Zeltinger Schlossberg is truly among the top handful of Mosel vineyards. The slopes produce wonderful wines for many well regarded producers, and there is a lovely tangy zip to the acidity that I absolutely love. The Weingut Ackermann’s Spätlese delivers the excellent character of this vineyard at an amazing price point. I’m not sure what it would translate to in the US, but my guess would be somewhere around $20. It’s great to find compelling wine at this price point, and it’s really special when it carries with it a memorable impression of where it comes from.
7: 2010 Vollenweider Wolfer Goldgrube GK Auslese
Another German producer makes the list for cementing my opinion of him, and one of his main vineyards. Wolfer Goldgrube is a vineyard I haven’t heard much about. Indeed, the only wines I’ve tasted from Wolfer Goldgrube have come from Vollenweider. I had enjoyed enough of the bottles in the past to inspire me to make an appointment during my visit. The wines were wonderful, with the wines from Wolfer Goldgrube showing fantastic character across the board. It’s truly magnificent wine, and the excellent character of the vineyard is evident in the less expensive 2010 bottles as well. This bottle was my favorite of the stop, and one of the best wines of my visit to Germany as a whole. 98pts
8: 2009 Rasa Composer Riesling
American Riesling makes the list in 2011! This time, a wine from Rasa in Washington set a new bar for me. I’ve enjoyed Riesling from Washington before, but this was interesting and downright delicious. It’s the best Washington Riesling I’ve tasted yet, and it suggests fantastic potential as the region continues to develop Riesling as a serious wine, not just a low priced quaffer. It delivered an expression of Riesling that struck me as different from what I see in Oregon and New York, and that’s exciting as well. 90pts
9: 2010 De Ponte Cellars DFB Estate Melon
This wine has been a stand-by for a number of vintages. Isabelle Dutartre always makes excellent wine, and the Melon from De Ponte Cellars is always a unique, interesting, and refreshing Oregon white wine. What really caught my attention is that this wine seems to be getting better and better with every vintage. I asked Isabelle about this, and she replied that the vines are really becoming mature now, and that it’s no surprise that the flavors are becoming more interesting. To see the improvement year over year makes me so excited about the future of this wine. Combining that with the excellent quality of the 2010 release, this bottle makes my list for 2011. 90pts.
10: 2009 Cameron Dundee Hills Chardonnay
This wine is so approachable, and so good. It’s exceptional quality didn’t really settle into my mind until later in the year, and I regret that fact. In the show linked below, you can see that we both enjoyed it quite a bit. I should’ve picked up more on the spot. I tasted another bottle later, in a very social setting. Despite my lack of focus, the quality of the wine came rolling out of the glass displaying fantastic complexity and balance. This Cameron wine was retailing for under $20, and it was delivering like a $50 bottle. To experience that quality twice, under different circumstances suggests that this experience is reliable. I love to see Chardonnay’s potential in Oregon expressed, and to see it at a price point that lots of people can indulge in is even more endearing. It also highlights the fact that the prime sites are capable of great things! This is such a lovable Chardonnay that I really wanted to give credit to this overachiever in this year’s top 10. 90pts
Chas’s Top 10 of 2011
1. 1990 Elk Cove Vineyards ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir – 95 points
Shortly before my birthday in July I learned of an event put together by users of the Wine Berserkers forum that was to focus on aged Oregon Pinot Noir. I was lucky enough to be able to take part in the event, and there was no shortage of amazing, old Oregon Pinot Noir at the tasting. This wine stole the show for me, and it along with a 1985 Elk Cove ‘Wind Hills’ Pinot Noir really showed off what is possible when Oregon Pinot is aged. The 1990 Reserve showed amazing secondary nuance from age but at the same time still seemed so youthful. This was drinking very well, and was on par with some of the best experiences I have had with Oregon Pinot Noir in my entire life.
2. 2008 Johan Vineyards ‘Three Barrel’ Pinot Noir – 94+ points
This is my first time ever scoring a Pinot Noir from Oregon that was this young this highly. That said, it is probably the best young Pinot Noir I have ever tasted out of Oregon. Already, the Johan Vineyards Three Barrel was showing amazing complexity and depth. Aromas of dark red fruit and cooking spices jump out of the glass. On the palate this is already integrated and showing delicious flavor and depth with everything in balance. A wine that will obviously be enjoyed now but I am sure has a great number of years ahead of it.
3. 2009 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese - 94+ points
This particular vineyard, produced by Dönnhoff has been responsible for some of the best experiences I have ever had with Riesling. A couple of years ago, it was a bottle of the Auslese that put me over the moon. This wine is absolutely amazing with it’s rich but seemingly weightless fruit flavors. What is great about a wine like this is that it is so easy to understand, so much so that non-wine drinkers WILL find this delicious. That said, it has enough just underneath the surface to keep the serious wine-o interested and coming back for more.
4. 2008 Rasa Vineyards ‘Creative Impulse’ DuBrul Vineyard – 94 points
This is the best red blend I have ever had out of Washington. This wine pulled off an amazing balancing act of intense flavor, seemless integration, and silk-like feel and weight. Combine that with flavor evolution, complexity and both mid-palate length and finish length that was hard to believe, you have a truly amazing wine. This is already drinking amazingly, who knows what the future holds? Who cares! I say smoke em’ if you got em’. Thanks again to Scott for lining up the Rasa samples for us to taste.
5. 2009 Ayoub Pinot Noir ‘Brittan Vineyard’ - 93 points
What a beast of a Pinot Noir! This is a high intensity wine through and through, the flavors here are very forward. That said, there is a remarkable amount of complexity and the way this wine is able to carry it’s weight was impressive. Wrapped up in all of that intensity was a fantastic structural backbone and distinct minerality. The Ayoub also marked a turning point for me. I was in a phase where I was more interested in low alcohol, low intensity wines. This wine shook me up and made me realize that just because a wine is big, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. Within each variety there are distinct styles, and what makes a wine is acceptable is whether or not you like it for what it is, not what someone else says something should be. Thanks Ayoub for giving me the kick in the teeth I needed.
6. 2010 Teutonic Wine Company Pinot Noir Oregon ‘Laurel Vineyard’ – 89 points
Coming from the Ayoub, Teutonic Wine Company wine is the polar opposite. When I first saw the label I was in disbelief. 11% ABV? I’ve had low alcohol whites, but I can’t think of a red wine I’ve had under 12%. The reason I find this wine interesting is that it is something completely different from the norm. While some oak can be immediately detected on the nose, it blows off to reveal some earthy Oregon funk and ripe, low-intensity fresh red fruit. The palate is similar, red fruit, mineral, stems, and bright acidity that all carry a balanced, low intensity. If you could describe normal Pinot Noir as being played on a home stereo at about half-volume, this wine would be as if you turned it down to around 30-percent. That said, the music coming through the speakers here is still very engaging, beautiful and fun to listen too. Another reason I like this wine, it’s just so damn easy to drink. After I first tried it I deemed it “breakfast Pinot Noir” because with the low ABV-percentage, it has the feel of juice.
7. 2009 Cameron Chardonnay Dundee Hills - 90 points
For last year this was my QPR winner for white wines, bar-none. At 17-ish dollars this wine gives many more expensive Oregon Chardonnays a run for their money. Fresh fruit flavors pair with perfect oak usage which adds a warmth and roundness to the wine. Bright acids show throughout and keep the mouth watering. Last year it was the Evesham Wood ‘Le Puits Sec’ Chardonnay that wowwed us. While not entirely on that level the Cameron is nearly as good at a cheaper price. This is a wine I would enjoy drinking every day. Well done, Cameron.
8. 2009 Johan Vineyards Pinot Gris Drueskall – 93 points
Johan makes my list again with this skin-macerated Pinot Gris. Both the color and flavor of this wine are unlike anything I have tasted, and I really like it. The color is a beautiful deep amber. The few times I have enjoyed a bottle this year I get something different each time, sometimes it reminds me of a Rose’ Champagne with briocche, whipped cream and berries. Other times it reminds me of autumn leaves and orange zest. Each time though, this wine shows off a level of complexity I haven’t seen in any other white wine in Oregon and it pulls it off with complete elegance. I’ve shared this wine with some people who have loved it as much as I have, and some others who don’t necessarily agree with my feelings on the wine. So, I think you should taste it before you go buying multiple bottles. Either way, it’s a wine to watch out for and try whenever you can, because its very different and interesting in a very good way.
9. 2005 Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – 93 points
For what it was this was a brilliant bottle of wine that absolutely stood up to the price point it’s set at. I don’t buy much in the way of California Cabernet, and picked this up on a whim on my first trip to Napa Valley. It tasted good 2 years ago and was an absolute knock-out the night I opened it with family. Complex, rich and savory flavors of dark fruit, leather, earth, cocoa and toffee intermingle in this wine with enough structure to keep everything in check. The long finish with fantastic acidity evolved once the wine was swallowed. The Hewitt is big wine, but complex and absolutely delicious. I paired this with a steak dinner and it was one of those perfect moments where you can easily justify your decision to buy and collect fine wine.
10. 2008 De Ponte Cellars Dundee Hills Pinot Noir - 93 points
De Ponte Cellars is one of my favorite producers in the top vintage of the last 10+ years. The 2006 vintage of this wine was one of the first wines that really got me caught up in the hobby. The delicious fruit and elegant structure always get me, and the quality of the vintage is really starting to show through in this wine.
October 20, 2011
This is the last of Dan’s notes from the trip through Navarra. Tasting notes are included for two more wineries as well as some final thoughts.
June 26, 2011
Dan has regularly made jokes about Bordeaux being too expensive and too rough to reliably enjoy, so when the folks at Balzac Communications and Planet Bordeaux offered to send us some samples, Chas so this as a perfect opportunity to make a point. We picked our three favorites for a show, and we both agreed that these three deliver good value and buck the trend of Bordeaux as expensive, heavy, and overly tannic. We’re also happy to be able to share some sub $20 recommendations with you. In this show, we taste the 2006 Chateau Marechaux Bordeaux Superieur, the 2004 Chateau Lescalle Bordeaux Superieur, and the 2007 Chateau Au Grand Paris Bordeaux Superieur.
What wine regions are you biased against, and why?
April 10, 2011
Andrew Minor from Basel Cellars joins us for episode 82. We’ve enjoyed talking wine with him at tasting events in Portland, and we think that Basel Cellars consistently delivers solid wine, so we were excited to dive into some current releases and discuss what the winery is up to. For this show we taste the 2007 Basel Cellars Claret, the 2008 Basel Cellars Malbec, the 2007 Basel Cellars Merriment, and the 2007 Basel Cellars Pheasant Run Vineyard Syrah.
What is your favorite restaraunt in Portland?
November 9, 2010
Our thoughts and discussions on the experience of wine frequently contains many parallels with the experience of other kinds of art. This is an idea that’s been in our minds for a while, and during a good conversation, we decided to do a show exploring this. Our friend Cesia agreed to join us so she could share a more educated artist’s opinion about the experience provided by a few wines. For this show, we taste the 2007 Domaine Michel Juillot Mercurey Blanc, the 2008 J. Lohr Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2008 Elio Perrone Moscato d’Asti Sourgal.
If you could be in any style of painting drinking any kind of wine, what would it be?
August 22, 2010
While at a convenience store, Dan came across wine pre-packaged into sealed plastic cups. Curiosity won out, and we decided to do all 3 on a show. Chas had already been drinking that afternoon, and we had just recorded episode 51, so he’s in pretty fine form. Dan was trying to figure out how to edit this to clean it up, but Chas advised that we just go with it and let you guys enjoy the show. Lots of classy moments here. The only edit cuts out ~10s of us getting distracted.
Has wine ever inspired you to examine your life?
We’ve been friends with Beau Carufel from the blog Beau’s Barrel Room for a few months, and were excited to hear that he was attending the Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Walla Walla Washington. It’s always great to get to meet someone in person who shares your views, and who you’ve been in touch with online for a while. We received some free wine as registration gifts, so we decided to review them as well as a favorite wine that we wanted to share with Beau. We review the 2008 King Estate Pinot Gris, the Aresti Cabernet Sauvignon NV, and the 2008 Evesham Wood Le Puits Sec Chardonnay. Drinking great wine with great people is awesome!
Show Beau some love and take a shot as his QOTD: Do you view wine as an essential part of a meal, or as a distinct accessory?