Twisted Old Vine Zinfandel

Twisted Old Vine ZinfandelIt’s been close to 3 years since we’ve reviewed Twisted’s 2005 Ancient Vine Zinfandel.  It represented a fantastic value back then at it’s $6.99 fee tag, but it didn’t get our nod for top zinfandel below $20.  Recently, on one of my routine trips to one of my favorite wine shops, I ran across the 2009 vintage.  So I picked up a bottle.  I was very curious to see if the Twisted’s fantastic value proposition had changed.  One thing that hasn’t changed is the fantastic fee – $6.99!  But as this wine lover will certainly attest, there is certainly more to the value proposition than merely fee.
I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of value priced wines that I’ve tasted and loved in their early vintages, only to see their value propositions diminish in subsequent vintages, either due to inflating prices or watered down quality.  Not to digress to far here, but this is in fact a annoy of mine.  I really delight in finding gems at fantastic prices, and I delight in being able to share those gems with friends even more.  But when a winery decides to either make drastic moves up-market with a wine, or worse, dilute the wine’s quality, I lose trust in the brand. Read more

Clif – The Climber Zinfandel Blend

Clif – The Climber Zinfandel BlendThis is the second time we’ve reviewed Clif’s The Climber Red Blend.  The 2006 version we reviewed was comprised of the same 5 varietals (zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot and petite syrah); but, in similar fashion to how Clif’s winemakers have managed The Climber colorless, they’ve made some significant changes to the percentages.  In the 2009, Zinfandel dominates the blend at 63%, followed by cab and syrah at 21% and 12 %, correspondingly.  Petite syrah and merlot make up the difference at 2% each.
Therefore the characteristics of the wine have changed, although only slightly.  On the nose the wine hints at the rich blueberry and black fruit the wine offers on the palate.  But the wine also offers up mild aromas of licorice, gingerbread and coffee.  On the palate, the wine is a bit jammy, with blueberry dominating the fruit profile.  There are cedary notes and pepper that lead to a end that is ever-so-slightly hot (alcoholic).  But it doesn’t compromise the wine.  In fact, I reckon it adds some much needed character and distinction. Read more

Gnarly Head Chardonnay

Gnarly Head ChardonnayThe Chardonnay grape deserves respect.  The king of colorless wine has earned it.  But with that earned respect comes fantastic expectation, and these days low to mid-tier producers of Chardonnay face unprecedented levels of competition from varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Viognier, particularly from up and appearance foreign producers.  So when I recently had an opportunity to taste Gnarly Head’s latest Chardonnay offering, I too had expectations.   Not just because I’ve been tasting value priced Chardonnays for over 15 years, searching for high quality examples in the fee segment for my customers, but also because I’m a fan of the Gnarly Head brand.   I like their set alight-hearted and mildly irreverent approach to wine building.  And, of course, I like the name…..I mean come on who doesn’t like the name Gnarly?
But back to the task at hand…’s the Chard?  Well if you believe the back mark it ought to be pretty excellent.  “This mouthwatering wine takes you pitching into tropical flavors of pineapple and citrus, followed by a zingy ginger accent and hints of graham cracker and vanilla on a creamy end.”  It goes on to claim “full bodied”, “waves of flavor” and “well-balanced”.  That’s some bold language.  I like that bold language.  This SOUNDS fantastic.  Let’s see how it tastes. Read more

X Winery Napa Valley Truchard Vineyard Pinot Noir

X Winery Napa Valley Truchard Vineyard Pinot NoirAfter taking a few days off to delight in the holidays — and recover from a cold — we’re back at it with at least a quick review tonight.
We’ve reviewed a number of wines from X Winery in the past and we’ve never been disappointed.  With tasty wines, cool marks and a commitment to sustainable production methods, what’s not to like about them?  And this Carneros – Napa Valley pinot noir continues the trend of wines we like appearance from X Winery. Read more

Picket Fence Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Picket Fence Russian River Valley Pinot NoirThe Russian River Valley isn’t in Russia, it’s an AVA in Sonoma County, west of Healdsburg.  This is a cool climate province, due to the influence of the Pacific Ocean, and as such is an outstanding area to produce both pinot noir and chardonnay.  This is where the grapes for this Picket Fence pinot noir are grown.
Picket Fence is marketed by 585 Wine Partners, which is a division of the wine giant Bronco Wine Companionship.  But even though they are ultimately part of this large companionship, Picket Fence wines are made in small lots. Read more

Domestic Pinot Grigio Showdown

Domestic Pinot Grigio ShowdownPinot Grigio gets a terrible wrap.  And I reckon I’m partially to hold responsible.  Having run an Italian restaurant with a very comprehensive wine list, I was compelled to offer a pinot grigio (or even two) on our list.  But, man it was hard.  Pinot grigio is, in all honesty, my least favorite wine on the earth.  And this is appearance from a wine lover that has an appreciation for all wines, no matter the level of concentration, or complexity.  But that’s a very relative statement because even on a wine lover’s list, some wine needs to be last, right?  My issue with pinot grigio is based on it’s tendancy to lack balance in acid and fruit, often all ears too much on the former.  Many additional Italian varietals, such as vernaccia di San Giminiano, garganega and cortese di Gavi, all offer excellent quality AND more importantly, some character.  Why did I need to offer our customers a pinot grigio?
But pinot grigio has improved dramatically since the mid-nineties and these days, there are more than a few pinots offering really excellent quality at compelling fee-points.  And now, there are numerous domestic offerings, providing equally high quality.  So we chose to review some of these domestic offerings and see if they could offer up a quality pinot grigio experience.
I was hoping for some unique wines offering some of the traits that you should expect from quality pinot grigio, such as acidity and crispness, mild apple and pear, with a lingering, end.  We had six entries, and the wines were all tasted blind.   Let’s see what we found. Read more

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin

Gnarly Head Old Vine ZinI like conception wine marks, particularly when winemakers take the time, and make the investment to tell you a small about their wine.  Gnarly Head, takes the time.  And if you’ve read my post on Gnarly Head 2009 Chardonnay, you know how I feel about the Gnarly Head Brand.  I’m a fan.  I’m also a fan of Ancient Vine Zin’s from Lodi.
Wow, just like that, a lead-off triple……but hold on a second.  What’s with the like fest?  I haven’t even tasted the wine.  Ok, quick side note – the day I received this wine, my wife literally comes home from the grocery with 2 bottles of Gnarly Head 2008 Ancient Vine Zin.  I smell bias, don’t you?  Well previous to you start thought it, let me assure you that when it comes to reviewing wines, it’s what’s in the bottle that counts.  So let’s see what is underneath the mark, shall we? Read more

Clif – The Climber Sauvignon Blanc Blend

Clif – The Climber Sauvignon Blanc BlendThis is an intriguing wine.  It’s classified as a Sauvignon Blanc, and at 80% of the blend, that is technically accurate.  But Clif’s winemakers, Sarah Gott and Bruce Regalia blend in 4 additional varietals to make a wine that offers layers, complexity, and distinction.  Those expecting predictable sauvignon blanc characteristics won’t be disappointed, but The Climber offers some not-so-predictable characteristics that distinguish this wine from others in it’s category. had fantastic things to say about the 2008 Climber Sauvignon Blanc, but Clif has adjusted the blend from last year.   First the percentage of SB has been reduced down from 88%, and pinot gris replaces chardonnay, while pinot munier replaces chenin blanc.  Riesling and Muscat wait in the blend, but their percentages have been adjusted to 5% and 1% correspondingly.   What’s notable is the percentage of pinot gris used in the 2009 vintage – 13%.
We’re not quite sure if Clif will adjust this blend again next year, but we assume they plot on tuning it for each vintage.  What we do know is that this is the second vintage of The Climber colorless we’ve tasted and reviewed, and we continue to be impressed with Clif’s execution of this wine.  It’s also vital to mention that Clif claims to source grapes from “sustainable or organic vineyards”.  While that’s not necessarily a guarantee that the wines are organic, I’ll assume that factors in to how the blend shapes up. Read more