Saturday, May 31, 2014

Charles Krug Winery New Releases

The lovely folks at Charles Communications invited me once again to a live virtual tasting of wine, this time featuring four wines from Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley. I'd recently participated in one featuring the Hourglass Vineyards wines and thought that the opportunity to taste more current release Napa Valley wines was too good to pass up. Also, I hadn't tasted Charles Krug wines since my days working in wine retail in San Diego.

The tasting format was similar to before, with me logging onto a website where a live stream was played for all of us bloggers. Peter Mondavi Jr. and winemaker Stacy Clark tasted along with us, answering questions and giving some great background on the history of both the winery and the Mondavi family's ownership. I highly recommend visiting the Charles Krug website for more detailed information.

Below are the four wines we all tasted:

2013 Charles Krug Limited Release Estate Sauvignon Blanc ($35 srp)
A very pretty opening with plenty of ripe tropical fruit, grass, and hints of jalapeno. Broad and expansie across the palate, showing sweet ripe tropical flavors mixed with spicy jalapeno, cut grass, and a leesy richness. The finish is all citrus, a mix of ruby grapefruit and lemon pith. I'm impressed, this is pretty serious sauvignon blanc but has a playful side too. I suggest pairing it with grilled scallops, pesto pizza, and fish tacos. 13.6% abv.

2011 Charles Krug Napa Valley Merlot ($25 srp)
Opens with bright, spicy red fruit before a rich vein of chocolate and blackberries come into play. Further swirling brings out a persistent but welcome note of green pepper, which acts as a foil to the ripe fruit. Smooth and rich on the palate, this brings a light touch that does a good job expressing merlot's feminine side. Plenty of ripe, red fruit and notes of coconut showcase the smart picking decision and American oak while a fine-grained tannin helps build character. Very, very drinkable merlot that begs for red meat or something hot off the grill. 13.7% abv.

2011 Charles Krug Family Reserve ‘Generations’ ($50 srp)
All sorts of subtlety going on here for me. Lots of green pepper initially, but as you get past that there's beautiful cassis and blackberry mixed with oak and baking chocolate. A hint of herb and fennel comes along too, followed by anise. Firm, with plenty of acidity and tannin, this has all the hallmarks of classic Napa cabernet. Blackberry, cherry, and cassis for the fruit. Herbs and bell pepper on the nose, all bound together with firm tannin and plenty of acidity. This wine toes the line between the old school, low alcohol Napa Valley and the newer, riper style that we've seen since the 90's. Impressive. 13.9% abv.

2011 Charles Krug Family Reserve ‘Howell Mountain’ Cabernet Sauvignon ($75 srp)
On the nose, I believe this could be served to people with the explanation that it is the typical high-end Napa cab aroma profile. Cassis, oak, blackberry, cocoa. They rush out of the glass, followed by black pepper and dried herb. The first word I thought of upon tasting this was "serious". As in, I think this is still a baby and needs several more years to show itself fully. Still, there's a depth and concentration on the palate that left me smiling. 13.7% abv.

Overall the wines were more to my palate than the Hourglass Vineyards selections, though some bloggers did have trouble with the green pepper notes. I welcomed them though, as a foil to the ripeness. Each wine was very well made, showing both balance and accessibility. They just had a rightness to them, a delicious, fulfilling component that I thoroughly enjoyed. Though these wines carry hefty price tags, I believe you do get what you pay for.

Charles Krug Facebook Page
Charles Krug Twitter Account

These wines were media samples.

Beau Carufel

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hourglass Vineyards Blueline Estate New Releases

I recently had the pleasure of tasting through the Hourglass wines, specifically from their Blueline estate vineyard, in a virtual tasting along with a handful of other bloggers. Charles Communications organized the tasting, sending us four 375ml bottles from Hourglass Vineyards. We were joined by Proprieter Jeff Smith and Winemaker Tony Biagi. Tony took over in 2012, so we tasted the 2012 reds and 2013 sauvignon blanc. They discussed the wines, their philosophy, and some Napa Valley history.

The wines we tasted were:

2013 Hourglass Estate Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $40)
Big, rich on the palate, plenty of acid too. Feels like a big wine, but one that is balanced. Tropical and citrus with a touch of pear. Maybe a touch of wood too, showing up as some vanilla notes. Several tastes had me smacking my lips in anticipation of a bite of food. There is a touch of heat on the finish but honestly I was expecting more booziness based on the 14.2% abv so it was a very pleasant surprise. Suggested pairings would be fish tacos, grilled halibut, bbq chicken salad.

2012 Hourglass Blueline Estate Merlot (SRP $75)
Showing tart red fruit, balsamic vinegar, oak, and plums. The VA is a bit distracting at this point, though I think there is enough fruit behind it to help. On the palate it shows very traditional Napa-merlot flavors, think blackberry, plum, buttressed by oak and nicely integrated tannin. I like the finish most of all, perhaps, because there's a dusty, spicy element that finishes very cleanly. 91% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot. 14.8% abv. Suggested pairings include hamburgers, ribs, and beef or lamb stew.

2012 Hourglass Blueline Estate Malbec (SRP $75)
Think smokey, meaty, blackberry and blueberries. That's this wine on the nose. I like the odd note of grapefruit pith too. It's plenty ripe, showing black fruit, dusty soil, and grippy tannins along with chocolate and a burst of red fruit on the finish. This wine makes me want a fancy bacon cheeseburger, it's also something like 25% petit verdot, so you know it tugs at my heartstrings! 75% Malbec, 25% Petit Verdot. 14.2% abv. Suggested pairings include bone-in steak, lamb, pork ribs.

2012 Hourglass Blueline Estate Cabernet Franc (SRP $135)
I thought of the word "big" right away. I like the richness on the nose, with aromas of violet, chocolate, coffee, blueberry, and cherry. Plenty of oak on the palate, which works with very ripe blue fruit, chocolate, black pepper, and firm tannins. Heat on the finish comes not as a surprise, and I think would be mitigated by food. This is lush, elegant, downright fancy wine. I would age this for years or serve it now after a long decant. If the malbec demands a fancy burger, this cabernet franc demands you serve it filet mignon. 83% Cabernet Franc, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot. 14.8% abv.

Overall I liked tasting these wines because it gave me a bit of a glimpse into what is going on in Napa Valley right now. Each wine is unabashedly "Napa", meaning big flavor, structure, and ample concentration. That is not at all a knock though, because in the case of the malbec and cabernet franc, it works. I enjoyed the sauvignon blanc much more than I expected to, but just can't plop down $40 a bottle. Again, no knock on quality, rather, I seek out different examples for my own cellar.

I want to address one thing, as sort of a disclaimer. I don't drink a lot of Napa Valley wines and can probably count on one hand how many producers I actively buy. For this tasting, I tried my very best to taste with context. That is to say that I tasted each wine with the understanding of where it was from, the style which Napa Valley tends to produce, and the vintage. For my friends who love high acid, low alcohol wines with less fruit and more tertiary flavors, these are not for you. For my friends who love rich, concentrated, bigger wines that still have good acid (and plenty of alcohol), I recommend the Hourglass Vineyards spring releases.

These wines were media samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Summer Fun Equals Vinho Verde

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With summer very nearly upon us, I will once again renew my call for you to drink vinho verde wines. These are wines, from Portugal, that epitomize that refreshing glass of wine on a warm day. I drink my fair share of vinho verde, alongside riesling and sparkling wines because when it's hot out and I don't want something to weigh me down (or get me too tipsy!), low alcohol plus high acid equals awesome.

Smart public relations firms doing what they do, this week a campaign called Passport to Vinho Verde came out. In addition to hosting tastings and events where you can taste Vinho Verde wines, there's also a chance to win a trip to Portugal's Vinho Verde region. Scroll to the bottom of this post for more details. It's super easy to sign up for, took me about a minute.

To refresh your memory, here are some quick facts I found here:
  • Vinho Verde is pronounced veeng-yo vaird.
  • Vinho Verde does not mean ‘green’ wine. ‘Verde’ refers to it being a young wine; the wines are released 3-6 months after harvest.
  • The Vinho Verde region has produced wine for over 2,000 years, making it one of the oldest wine regions in Portugal.
  • Vinho Verde wines are made from the combination of carefully selected varietals. Recommended white varietals include Alvarinho, Avesso, Azal, Arinto, Loureiro, and Trajadura.
  • The wines of Vinho Verde have long been known for their vibrant fruit, low alcohol and refreshing qualities -a combination that makes them one of the most versatile partners with food.
  • Vinho Verde is an ideal wine pairing for salads, seafood and Asian cuisine, and can be served alone or as an aperitif.
This week I was sent a list of cities in the U.S. that are hosting "Passport to Vinho Verde" events, where wine lovers can visit selected retail shops and taste the different styles that are making their way to our shores. So far, New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. are getting all the love, click on the link above to select your city and find a retailer. Needless to say, I highly encourage the people running this PR campaign to add more cities to the list!

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And finally, I found out that you could actually win a trip for two to Vinho Verde (Portugal!!) just by going Facebook page and entering. It's free and the amount of personal information they request is the bare minimum. If you've ever wanted to visit Portugal, this could be your chance.
over to their

More news can be found at the Vinho Verde Twitter Account, should be a tweeter like I am.

Beau Carufel

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Rosé Me Away

Oregon has been having unseasonably warm weather, in the 70's and 80's this week. The day are bright, the skies clear, and the heat begs for a refreshing glass (or three) of wine. Rosé, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, auxerrois, and plenty of other varieties are just the thing to help manage the heat. Light, acid-driven whites and pinks won't weigh you down like a hearty syrah or zinfandel might. Save those big reds for the barbecues and drink the rosé while you wait!

I'll focus on two rosé wines in this blog, from Teutonic Wine Company and Arnot-Roberts. Both are fantastic, small production, refreshing wines that are worth your time to seek out. Both are from producers who are passionate about making the best wines possible using the least amount of intervention. Non-intervention is a risky prospect in winemaking, the results can be exceptional or the wines can turn into stinky garbage. With Teutonic and Arnot-Roberts, we have two producers that consistently excel at turning their winemaking philosophies into great wine.

Starting first with the Teutonic Wine Company and then with the Arnot-Roberts I'll showcase two exceptional wines that match the weather and fare that warm springs call for.

2012 Teutonic Wine Company Laurel Vineyard Rosé: Made from 100% pinot noir and aged in neutral oak barrels, this $18 wine hits it out of the park with bright aromas of orange rind, sour cherry, fresh-cut grass, and green apple. On the palate the acidity screams out for food. Flavors of dusty orange, strawberry, limes, and a savory, salty finish keep me coming back for glass after glass. Rosé of this quality at only $18 is hard to find sometimes, the fact that a passionate small producer can deliver this much bang for the buck is a testament to just how great the winemaking climate is here in Oregon. 11.3% abv. $18 srp. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

*Note* The 2013 Teutonic Rosé was just released to some markets but the 2012 is still available in distribution

2012 Arnot Roberts Touriga Luchsinger Vineyard Rosé: This is made from 80% Touriga Nacional and 20% Tinta Cao, and is the harder of these two wines to find. The easiest way to get them is to visit the Arnot-Roberts website and sign up for their mailing list. I am on that mailing list and take almost every single bottle of their wines that I'm allocated with each release. Paler than the Teutonic wine, this wine opens with loads of sour strawberry, lemons, green herb, and sea-spray. I love it. On the palate there's a huge dollop of acidity that supports a melange of lemon, strawberry, cherry, and raspberry. As the wine warmed up I also tasted herbs and cut grass. The balance is terrific and I kept wanting to pair this with chips and dip or some carnitas street tacos. 12.5% abv. $22 retail. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Both of these wines are worth your time to find and drink, though I must admit that the 2013 vintage is out for both too. I sometimes like to have rosé with an extra year of age on it because if the wine has enough acidity, you don't really lose any freshness and the flavors have more time to integrate, forming a beautiful tapestry of pure deliciousness. How's that for flowery bloggerspeak?

Buy both wines, I did. As someone who (now) has a small label of his own, the importance of supporting small producers takes on new meaning. While it may be easy to buy a rosé or any wine made by some big, corporate owned winery, it's more satisfying and fun to seek out new producers. You'll be glad you did, I promise.

Beau Carufel