Mumm Napa Brut Rosé

Mumm Napa Brut RoséSome guys might say it’s not too masculine to drink sparkling wine.  Some might say it’s not too masculine to drink rosé, or “pink” wine.  Well, I’m going to toss all caution to the wind and drink a wine that’s both pink and sparkling… and I’ll declare that I like each sip of it!
Mumm Napa has become one of the names that I trust for excellent, yet surprisingly affordable sparkling wine.  We’ve reviewed their Brut Standing in the past, so we figured it was about time to check out another of their wines, the Brut Rosé. Read more

Huntington Sauvignon Blanc

Huntington Sauvignon BlancHuntington is a mark that is part of the Hahn family’s portfolio of wines, which includes Hahn Winery, Cycles Gladiator, Hahn SLH Estate, Lucienne, Smith & Hook, Copa Del Rey, and Bin 36.  Along with this assortment of wine brands, the Hahn family also owns the Mugie Dairy farm in northern Kenya, where the Hahns reside for part of the year.  The Mugie Dairy farm is home to a school, a farm and a wildlife preserve.  The Hahn family takes the proceeds from the sale of Huntington wines to fund higher education scholarship programs for Kenyan children.
All of Huntington’s wine marks offer artist’s renderings of scenes depicting the Kenyan people.  This particular Huntington mark showcases the Samburu ladies in blue, in a painting by the family’s own Gaby Hahn.  A noble approach to wine building, and a very worthy cause indeed, but it subdue begs the question:  how is the wine? Read more

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Meritage

Robert Mondavi Private Selection MeritageI can’t help but wonder how meaningful the “Meritage” name is to wine consumers.  I mean, I don’t hear many people saying, “I’d like a glass of Meritage.”  I suspect a lot of consumers don’t even know what it is.  In essence, Meritage is a name for Bordeaux-style wine that’s made everyplace additional than Bordeaux.  You’re really not supposed to call a wine a Bordeaux if it’s not made there.  So some clever folks came up for another name for it, Meritage.  It’s in fact a trademarked name, owned by the Meritage Alliance, and anyone who wants to make a Meritage wine needs to license the name.
The thought makes sense, making a common name for this type of wine.  And I delight in Bordeaux-style wines.  But I just haven’t noticed a groundswell of consumers clamoring for Meritage.  Maybe the awareness just isn’t there yet.  Or maybe I just run in the incorrect circles.
By the way, Meritage is pronounced like “heritage” with an M instead of an H.  So, don’t try to get all fancy with your French accent and call it mare-i-tahhhzh. Read more

Quinta Cruz Pierce Ranch Tempranillo

Quinta Cruz Pierce Ranch TempranilloWhile I like a bargain on wines, I get bored with factory-made wines that while not offensive just have no excitement to them.  So many wines on the market today are manipulated in an attempt to “standardize” the flavor.  And it’s not just the cheap ones.  A lot of this is done in order to make while appealing to drink right off the shelf.  But I appreciate it when I come across producers who make wines the ancient way.  Wines that should sit in the cellar for a few years previous to you drink them.  Sure, it’s a small more work as a wine consumer.  But the wine tends to have a small more character, at least that’s been my experience.
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard is one such producer.  They’ve been making European-style, cellar-worthy wines since the 1970′s.  In 2008 they launched a new brand called Quinta Cruz, which includes only varietals that are native to the Iberian peninsula.
While their prices tend to be toward the high-end of our bargain-hunter fee limits (and some over), sometimes a splurge is in order for a special wine.
I had an opportunity to check out their tempranillo from Pierce Dairy farm in San Antonio Valley, California.  And while I wanted to tuck this one into the cellar for a few years, I had no complaints. Read more

SPELLwine Severed Head and Spellonu Red

SPELLwine Severed Head and Spellonu RedTonight it’s time for a double-header review from one of my favorite new small winery discoveries, SPELLwine.  Both wines are red blends from Napa Valley, both are super tasty and both have crazy-fun marks.
The woman in the rear this wine, Kristen Spelletich, told me that she only sells her wine through retail and direct.  She said that restaurant buyers have told her that “they can’t have a bottle that looks like that sitting on the table.”  Really?  I reckon she’s talking to the incorrect restaurants.  I’d like to dine at a place that’s un-stuffy enough to place these on the wine list.  I mean, how fun would it be to have a fancy dinner with a bottle called Severed Head Red on the table?
Seriously, I reckon the marks are bright and eye-catching but their not offensive.  Would you be turned off seeing this sitting on your table at a restaurant?
Regardless of the design, the juice that’s in these wines is superb.  Both are from the 2006 vintage too, so you get a wine that has a few years of maturity to it and is tasty now, but they both certainly have a number of years left in them if you want to tuck a bottle away for a while. Read more

SPELLwine Sangiovese

SPELLwine SangioveseI’m a huge fan of sangiovese, but most of the time if I’m drinking a sangiovese it’s one from Italy.  I just don’t come across a lot of domestic sangiovese, but I’m always curious about it when I do.  Perhaps I don’t come across much of it because the market is just too small for it, restrictive its distribution and production.
Based on a conversation I had with Kristen Spelletich, the creator of SPELLwine, I might be on to something.  She told me that she doesn’t sell a lot of her sangiovese.  ”And it pisses me off too!  Because it’s a super, high acid, excellent with food wine,” she vented.  But that doesn’t prevent her from producing it.  Kristen’s attitude toward wine is to make wines that don’t necessarily follow the formula that others use.  And it’s working for her.
SPELLwine was made by Kristen after she started working for her parent’s winery, Spelletich Cellars.  In fact, her mom does most of the winemaking but it’s guided by Kristen’s palate for this brand.  With SPELLwine, Kristen wanted to make a brand that was geared toward millennials.  And while the acid trip designs on the marks stand out as something new and different, her perspective on winemaking struck me as rather ancient school — in a excellent way.  Perhaps ancient school is the new, new school.
I couldn’t agree more with Kristen about her take on the SPELLwine Lodi sangiovese.  It is a fantastic food wine.  And it pisses me off that they don’t sell more of this too.  It’s a fantastic wine and if you’re not drinking it, you’re missing out. Read more

SPELLwine Napa Valley Syrah

SPELLwine Napa Valley SyrahLast week I reviewed the SPELLwine sangiovese and this week we’re checking out their syrah.
I declare it.  I have a prejudice against Californian syrah.  I’ve had far too much of it that is over-extracted, syrupy sweet and too overpowering to pair with anything I eat.  It’s not the grape’s fault.  I’ve had plenty of syrah-overloaded wines from Cotes du Rhone that are awesome!  And with this syrah from SPELLwine, winemaker Kristen Spelletich proves to me that it’s not California’s fault either.  It’s the choices the winemakers are building.
Kristen approaches syrah in a way that she says is “appropriate for the varietal.”  And she does it well, proving my prejudice is misplaced.  California can make a balanced, approachable syrah.  And the SPELLwine syrah is also one with enough organize to last a few years.
“In twenty years there won’t be and excellent library wines available,” Kristen commented to me.  ”Because everyone is manipulating the shit out of their wine to make it drinkable now.  But it’s not excellent for aging.  What’s incorrect with letting a wine lie in the bottle or a barrel for a few years?”
And this one has been lying around for a few years.  Check the vintage on this wine.  It’s a 2006!  But it’s not something I’ve had lying around, you can buy the 2006 vintage of syrah from SPELLwine today!  How awesome is that?  Rather than bottling a full vintage and moving it out as quickly as they can, they let it sit and bottle on demand. Read more

Concannon Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Concannon Central Coast Cabernet SauvignonConcannon is a California wine brand that’s been around for a long time.  In fact, it’s roots go back over 125 years.  That’s a long description for an American winery, particularly when you factor in prohibition.  And with such a long description, Concannon has pioneered a number of things in California wine.  They’re best known for introducing petite sirah, but they also have a description with cabernet sauvignon for which they pioneered some now widely-planted clones.
I generally like Concannon.  They’re one of those brands that’s dependable and very reasonably priced.  And while we’ve reviewed a number of their wines here it’s been a while since we’ve reviewed any of their cabernet sauvignon.  So, let’s see what this one has to offer. Read more