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

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.

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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

Chardonnay Wine Review: Artesa

Artesa Chardonnay Reserve 2005

Artesa Chardonnay Reserve white wine bottleOnce in a while when I’m in the wine shop my alligator arms reach way way down to the bottom of my pocket, where I hide my twenty dollar bills, so that I can buy an “expensive” bottle of wine. I know, I know, there are plenty of people who plunk down much more than that on a regular basis — indeed, you might be one of those who regularly have Andrew Jackson as your wine enabler.

However, I tend to be — oh, let’s call it “cash challenged” — so when I go far above $15-20 for a bottle of wine, it HAS to be worth it.

In this case, it is.

The “regular” or “Classic Tier” Chardonnay made by Artesa is more in my price range — about $12-14 depending on the retailer. And it’s a very nice bottle of wine. But the “Reserve” edition, which we review here, is much better — at least ten to fifteen dollars better.

For both wines, the grapes are from Carneros, California — and if you’re not aware, that’s a good place to grow Chardonnay. The vines bearing the grapes for this “Reserve” Chard are from the highest hills in Carneros, which means they soak up more sun than any others in the region, and therefore ripen more fully and completely. Lots of sun equals lots of flavor, and in this case, the winemaker further enhances the fruit by putting most of it through what’s called a secondary malolactic fermentation. If you’re not a geek, you don’t need to know exactly what that means — all you need to know is that it makes the wine feel fuller in the mouth, and more buttery and creamy.

In addition, they put half of the juice into new oak barrels for almost ten months, which adds a nice vanilla spice complexity. You can’t do that with just any wine or it will be dominated by a woodsy flavor. With this wine, the oak both “complements” and “compliments” the ripe fruit.

On to the tasting notes.

Tasting Notes: Artesa Chardonnay Reserve 2005

Wide open aromas of ripe pear, candied peach, apple, melon, spice, and vanilla. On the palate it is equally wide open and forward, expressing ripe pear, red delicious apple, and a creamy vanilla flavor that melts into butterscotch. Acidity is mild to medium – just enough for food matching. Texture is thick and creamy, almost heavy, just short of cloying, with a luscious mouthfeel. Overall, a yummy drinker on its own, with enough structure to enjoy with food. Drink it alone or with garlic-roasted chicken, lobster in butter, popcorn.

a-9 t-9 b-8 fc-7 v-7 ~ 90 Points

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Winery: Artesa

Rose Wine Review: Toad Hollow

Toad Hollow Dry Rose 2007

Toad Hollow pink Rose wine pinot noir carnerosSummertime is the best time for rose wine, in my humble opinion. However, it can be difficult to find a good dry rose unless you do some research. Although many US wine drinkers have become more sophisticated, and now eschew the sugary white zins that proliferated the market for so many years, the shelves are still strewn with sweet pinks — and sit alongside their bone-dry cousins.

So it’s with some hesitation that I pick up a pink — particularly one I’ve never had before. I’ll try to look for clues as to a wine’s dryness / sweetness, but since so few labels list their residual sugar content, I’m stuck with relying on instinct (guessing actually) and the fluffy, flowery sentences that may be printed on the back of the bottle.

All that said, I can say I was pleasantly surprised by Toad Hollow Rose — a nice, clean, dry rose, and one that I’ll buy again. This pink is made from 100% Carneros-grown Pinot Noir, is refreshing on a warm summer day, and finishes bone dry.

Tasting Notes: Toad Hollow “Eye of the Toad” Rose 2007

Nose is expressive, with bright strawberry and red raspberry aromas. On the palate it is clean with a citrusy zing, with flavors of strawberry, lime, red raspberry. Acidity is about medium and OK for food matching, but mild enough for drinking as an aperitif. Have it with mildly flavored foods, nothing too fatty. Simple appetizers, lean fish, lean pork, simply prepared chicken, maybe spicy hot dishes such as Indian cuisine or Thai. A pleasant, clean, enjoyable summer sipper.

a-8 t-8 b-7 fc-7 v-8 ~ 88 Points

Winery website: Toad Hollow

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