Wine Reviews Tasting Notes and Education for the Non-Snob, by Vino Joe, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)

Kim Crawford Pinot Gris

Kim Crawford Pinot Gris 2013 | Marlborough, New Zealand

kim-crawford-pinot-grisNose is wide open and expressive, with bright, delicious aromas of pineapple, ripe pear, peach, and apricot. In the mouth, the fruit is similar — really ripe, bright, upfront sweet pear, with a touch of residual sugar, but the fruit lasts through a lengthy, pleasant finish. The bright pear and peach flavors remind me a bit of Muscat / Moscato.

It’s aptly named Pinot Gris rather than Pinot Grigio; to me, “Pinot Gris” is what I associate with Oregon and Alsace, and in those areas, the grape tends to make wines that are less acidic and have a slightly oily mouthfeel (in comparison to Pinot Grigio from northern Italy). Toward that point, Kim Crawford Pinot Gris has some weight in the mouth, and is on the fat side — which makes it a wonderful solo sipper and, when pairing with food, is better with leaner meats and simply prepared, undressed / un-sauced vegetables. The back label suggests Asian and spicy cuisine, and I’d agree with that. This is a potential picnic crowd-pleaser.

Red Wine Review: Chateau Lassegue 2006

Chateau Lassegue 2006 | Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

chateau-lassegue-st-emilionYet another stellar example of right bank Bordeaux by brilliant winemaker Pierre Seillan.

Generous, open nose give opulent scents of ripe black fruit, earth, and mild hints of dark chocolate, tobacco, and something vegetal. On the palate it’s more restrained — really tight, not ready to offer the ample fruit waiting to erupt after a few years in the cellar. What you do get — after several rounds of double-decanting and allowing the wine to hang around in the open air — is complex layers of red and black fruit, earth, tar, and tobacco. What tips off the future greatness of this wine is its lengthy, perfectly balanced finish. No one element jumps out to be counted, but the subtle, complex flavors are preserved with appropriate levels of acidity and tannins. The finish goes on, in balance, for five minutes plus; even when it finally disappears from the palate, there’s no heat, astringency, nor bitterness taking away from the pleasure.

If you want a New World, fruit-forward, jammy ripe cocktail-hour wine that bursts in your mouth with upfront flavors right now (and goes better with a cigar than food), then stay away from this wine. However, if you prefer an understated, youthful, harmonic wine with structure to match with beefy or gamey dishes, then stock a case of this in your cellar, forget about for about five years, and start uncorking a bottle a year until it reaches its apex. It will be well worth the wait.

Find this wine at a retailer near you using Wine-Searcher

Disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample

How To Buy Champagne for New Year’s

champagne-cork-popWe’re about to ring in the New Year — and the best way to do it is with bubbles. But which bottle of bubbles to choose? [Read more…]

Pine Ridge Chardonnay

Pine Ridge Chardonnay Dijon Clones Carneros – Napa Valley, California

pine-ridge-chardonnay-dijonEvery once in a while I get a hankering for big, buttery, Chardonnay — i.e., “New World” style, usually from a warm-to-hot wine region.

Although this wine comes from grapes picked both from Carneros and Napa Valley, to me, this wine speaks Napa. When I think of Napa Valley Chardonnay, I think of a rich golden color, toasty vanilla and super-ripe pear aromas, over-the-top sweet ripe fruit upfront, and a hefty, almost syrupy texture. Pine Ridge delivers on all these expectations.

To be clear, this is a style of wine that I want to have occasionally — not all the time. It’s huge in the mouth, with globs of sweet bright fruit that is almost cloying, but somewhat tempered with ample acidity. This wine definitely got a good dose of American barrels, because in addition to the vanilla punch it has more tannin than most rose wines and a few light reds. Though it finishes dry thanks to the acid and tannin, this has plenty of sweet flavor upfront and through the midpalate, which means I recommend you pair it with spicy foods. I matched it successfully with BonChon fried chicken. On its own, I’m sure there is a crowd that will love this as a “cocktail wine,” though its acid and tannin structure beg for food.

Find this wine at a retailer near you using Wine-Searcher

This wine has also been reviewed by Heidi of Brix Chicks, Bill’s Wine Wandering, and The Wine Spies.

Disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample

Canadian White Wine: Peller Estates Chardonnay

Peller Estates Chardonnay 2011 | VQA British Columbia, Canada

peller estates chardonnay niagara canadaAs a follow-up to the post on Inniskillin Pinot Grigio, my personal somm offered me two Chardonnays from Canada — one on the high end, one on the low end. This one was on the low end of the spectrum. But don’t take that the wrong way — this was no dog.

Peller Estates Chardonnay has an expressive nose of spicy vanilla oak, ripe pear, and honeysuckle. With that nose I was expecting an in-your-face, fat, sugary, over-oaked blast of tree bark on the palate, but that was not the case. Rather, there was plenty of bright acidity balancing ample ripe fruit, and the spice flavor was more toward something exotic like ginger or cardamom than the typical vanilla extract we’re used to tasting in cheap California Chardonnays. The finish was well-balanced and even had a hint of tannin. A nice solo drinker, and it would likely match with roasted or grilled pork.

Unfortunately, I think this wine will be difficult if not impossible to find in the USA, but if you live in Canada, you can find it at a retailer near you using Wine-Searcher

If you find yourself in the Niagara, Ontario area of Canada, check out the winery personally — for more info, visit the Peller Estates website.

By the way, yes I realize the winery is in Ontario and the wine is from British Columbia, which is a pretty far distance. If anyone has more information on how the wine is produced, please elaborate in the comments. Thank you.

We’ll soon review the Chardonnay that was on the higher end — stay tuned.

Buying Wines for Labor Day Weekend Barbecue

Going to — or hosting — a BBQ this weekend and need last-minute wine shopping tips? [Read more…]

Canadian White Wine: Inniskillin Pinot Grigio

20130825-135140.jpgSo, I’m finally getting around to posting wine reviews from my trip to the Okanagan Valley to participate in the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference.

This was my first taste of Canadian wine above the border, selected as a “surprise” by an enthusiastic and friendly sommelier at the White Spot Restaurant inside Kelowna airport. The lovely young lady asked if I wanted to see the wine list, or if she could surprise me; naturally, I opted for the surprise. She “guaranteed” that I’d enjoy the wine — and I did. It’s always great to find someone with a similar palate to guide you.

One caveat: it was served too cold — due to the white wines being stored in the refrigerator next to the beer. My personal somm explained, “most people who come in here want their white wine ice cold.” Yes, we have that problem in the USA as well. In any case, initially, the wine wasn’t impressive — not bad, just not impressive. But, my trusty infrared thermometer (yes, I’m a James Bond wannabe) registered 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so how could the wine possibly show any character? Once it warmed up to a more drinkable 52, then 55, the lovely mineral took over the aroma, which also boasted ripe pear and a hint of white peach. It had excellent acidity — again, only after warming up — and was nice enough drinking on its own, with a well-balanced finish of green apple. I would guess it would also go well with an array of foods. If you see it, give it a try.

Find this wine at a retailer near you using Wine-Searcher

See more reviews for Inniskillin Pinot Grigio from Wines in Niagara, Tony Aspler, and John Schreiner on Wine.

White Wine Review: Uvaggio Vermentino

uvaggio-vermentinoWhen I received this wine as a sample, I pulled it out of the box, gave the label a quick glance, and thought, “oh, a Vermentino — I like Italian wines.” After chilling it down for about 20 minutes and pouring it into the glass, I took a sniff, and thought, “ah, that nice mineral and floral character I love from Vermentino.” Then I took a sip and thought, “whoa, there’s something different about this Vermentino. It’s a little richer, sweeter, fatter, and more creamy than I expect from the variety — it must be from an area in Italy further south than where the grape is usually found.” So then I took a more detailed perusal of the labels — front and back. And the light bulb went on.

“Ah, no wonder — it’s from [Read more…]

White Wine Review: Luna Mater

Fontana Candida Frascati “Luna Mater” 2009 | Lazio, Italy

fontana-candida-luna-materThis is one of those wines for that rare person who enjoys drinking wine with food, and/or considers wine as food.

OK, I’m being a little facetious / condescending. The truth is, like most Italian wines, this is food — at least, as far as I’m concerned.

Don’t — under ANY circumstances — attempt to [Read more…]

Red Bordeaux Wine Review: Chateau Lassegue

Chateau Lassegue 2005 | Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

chateau-lassegue-st-emilionWow. That’s the initial impression on the nose, which is generous with aromas of numerous black fruits, spices, mineral, and earth tones. I could sit here and smell the wine all day, the fragrance is so lovely — and continuously evolving. Which takes me to a vital point: decant this wine, several times.

At minimum, I recommend “triple decanting,” which means, pour the wine out of the bottle and into a clean, dry, glass vessel — such as a decanter — then pour it into another vessel (or, back into the bottle, using a funnel), then pour it back into the decanter, then repeat the cycle one more time. This back-and-forth effort from one container to the other will aerate the wine, allowing the deep aromas and delicious goodness to begin to emerge.

I say “begin” because this wine is still quite young, despite being eight years “old.” There are many layers to this complex juice, and only a hint of them are showing themselves right now. Generally speaking, I like to drink high quality (read: expensive) wines when they’re younger than most serious enophiles and critics would recommend, but in this case, even I would stash this in a cool cellar for another four or five years — at minimum. I’m certain this wine will continue to develop and mature for 10-15 years at least before it starts a descent.

As with all wines I’ve tasted by winemaker Pierre Seillan, Chateau Lassegue is [Read more…]