Flip Flop Pinot Grigio

Flip Flop Pinot GrigioI’ll be trustworthy.  I went into this review a small biased.   Having already reviewed a few of their wines, including their 2009 cabernet sauvignon and 2009 pinot noir, I’m somewhat familiar with the tale in the rear this winery.  They’re relatively new on the block, and subdue cutting their stylistic teeth on their first few vintages.  And while working with power reds like pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon offers some margin of error, pinot grigio does not.
But I’m here to report that this wine pleasantly surprised me.  Pinot grigio is not a complex wine, and examples from Napa can come across even more muted than more genuine, Italian versions.   But this wine offered vibrancy, along with complex fruit that one rarely sees in this varietal. Read more

Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon

Ancient Peaks Cabernet SauvignonWhile Paso Robles seems to have a reputation for producing fantastic wine with Rhone varietals, they also seems to produce some fantastic wine from Bordeaux varietals, Spanish varietals, Italian varietals and the list goes on!  But one varietal that I highly suggest checking out from Paso Robles is cabernet sauvignon.  Sure you can get a cabernet sauvignon from just about anywhere, but there’s something about Paso Robles that makes this grape shine.  A name once commented to me that cabernet sauvignon is THE grape of Paso Robles.  I can see why some would reckon that.  And this cabernet from Ancient Peaks is a fantastic example of why.
This isn’t the first wine we’ve reviewed from Ancient Peaks.  A link months back we reviewed their Renegade red blend and it was planetary.  This cabernet continues that trend. Read more

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Claret

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection ClaretI imagine that for many American wine consumers, particularly those who are relatively new to wine, the question, “What is a Claret?” is the thought that crosses your mind as you see this bottle on the shelves.  ”Is it a varietal?  Is it a location?  I know I’ve heard James Bond submit to a wine as a Claret.”  These are all legitimate questions and thoughts to have.  I too once thought, “What’s the difference between a Claret and a Bordeaux?”
Well, it’s really quite simple.  ”Claret” is a British term that has been used for centuries as a generic name for Bordeaux.  It’s not indicative of a particular part of Bordeaux or a specific varietal, it’s just another name for Bordeaux.  The French historically haven’t used the term themselves, although I’ve read that they are reclaiming the word in 2012 to describe wines that are “set alight and fruity, simple to drink, in the same style as the original claret when it was prized by the English in former centuries.”
So, the next question you may be preoccupied is, “Is this wine from Bordeaux?”  The answer to that question is, “no.”  In the case of Francis Coppola Winery they are using Claret to indicate this wine is the style of a Bordeaux.  It’s a Bordeaux style blend from California with 81% cabernet sauvignon, 9% petite verdot, 5% malbec, 3% merlot and 2% cabernet franc.  You may notice that the wine is also labeled as a Cabernet Sauvignon and although it’s a blend, American wines can technically be labeled as a varietal if they are made from 75% or more of a single variety.
In addition to the blend, another touch that adds to the Bordeaux-like nature of this wine is the fact that it was aged for 15 months in French oak. Read more

Silver Ridge Sauvignon Blanc

Silver Ridge Sauvignon BlancI wasn’t familiar with Silver Ridge Vineyards previous to tiresome their Napa sauvignon blanc offering, but with so many “Silver” and “Ridge” named wines earning such fantastic accolades, I was sure that they chose the name smartly.  From a branding standpoint, my subconscious seemed excited that I was about to consume a really excellent wine.  Although, I’ve become such a fan of New Zealand sauvignon blanc that consciously, I was preparing for a let down. Read more

Flip Flop Pinot Noir

Flip Flop Pinot NoirWe’ve recently received a few wines from a new winery in California named Flipflop.  Here we’ll be reviewing their first pinot noir, the 2009 vintage.  We’ll also soon be reviewing their first cabernet sauvignon, also a 2009.  David Georges started the Flipflop winery with the goal of making wines that are right to their varietal characteristics, taste fantastic, and don’t break the bank.    That’s right in our wheelhouse!  So let’s see how they taste.
But previous to we get into the review, I’d like to share an observation.  I’ve been in the marketing and advertising space for over 12 years now and as I’ve mentioned in some of my rants and ravings here at Cheapwineratings.com, I can certainly appreciate when a winery offers up some clever branding.  But, I have very small tolerance for brands with nothing more than unsubstantiated “sizzle”.  When it comes to wines, I’m a purist, and there is simply no use instead for excellent ancient-fashioned quality.
From a marketer’s perspective, but, there is a lot to like here.  If we were Cheapwinemarketingreviews.com, I would be scoring Flipflop in the high 90’s. As I dug more into Flipflop’s packaging, web site, and brand tale, I was impressed with the execution.   But I couldn’t help but feel that David Georges was tiresome to ‘make bank’ instead of helping his customers avoid breaking the bank.  But I’ve thoroughly digressed. Read more

Eleven Zinfandels Under $20

Eleven Zinfandels Under $20I haven’t done a roundup article in a while, so I thought it was time to give you a quick summary of the recent series we did on zinfandel.
For those who are new to zinfandel, reckon bold, spicy and fruity wines.  These aren’t subtle wines — although some are more elegant than others.  And by elegant I mean some are less “in your face” with the spice and huge fruit, building an approachable wine that will pair well with a broader range of foods.  The larger, bolder zinfandels are your barbecue wines.  They pair well with strong flavored foods, like grilled burgers.
No matter what style of zin you like, there are plenty of tasty options below $20.  Here are some of our favorites.
Top Picks – Brazin Ancient Vine Zin & 7 Deadly Zins Read more

Stillwaters Vineyards Chardonnay

Stillwaters Vineyards ChardonnayIssue number 18 of Mutineer Magazine hits shelves today and my column in the magazine this month includes an overview of some fantastic values to be found in Paso Robles—including this chardonnay from Stillwaters Vineyards.
When I visited Stillwaters Vineyards back in Development, I not only valued their wines, but got a small insight from one of the owners, Paul Hoover, that I found perfect for readers of our website.  He shared an example of how pruning techniques impact both the cost and the quality of wines.
When you prune grape vines, the number of buds you leave on each cane will frankly impact how many grapes the vine produces.  For those who don’t know, a cane is basically a branch on the vine.  Each bud produces a cluster of grapes.  Therefore, if you leave one bud on a cane, that cane will produce one cluster of grapes.  Pruning this way intensifies the flavor in the grapes, but it also lowers crop yields.  Leaving 2 buds per cane is more economical, but it lowers the quality of the grapes.  Leaving 3 buds or more is pushing the vines too far and much lowers the quality. Read more

Mettler Family Vineyards Epicenter Old Vine Zinfandel

Mettler Family Vineyards Epicenter Old Vine ZinfandelThe holiday weekend is over but we’re subdue talking zinfandel, which happened to be the wine of choice for our grilled foods this weekend.  When you’ve got rich flavors, like barbecue sauce, you need a wine that can stand up next to them and not get lost.  Zinfandel is just the kind of wine to do that.
The review tonight is for the “Epicenter” ancient vine zinfandel from Mettler Family Vineyards.  This is a family vineyard in Lodi, California with family roots in the wine industry going back to 1770!
When it comes to zinfandel, there can be quite a bit of variation in how the wine is expressed.  Some folks like a more elegant and approachable zinfandel, while others like them huge and aggressive.  If you’re in the latter camp, this may be one for you. Read more