Masked Rider Pinot Noir

Masked Rider Pinot NoirIf there’s one thing you can’t accuse Masked Rider wines of doing, it’s marketing with the same ancient clichés that so many others use.  This is one name and mark that’s simple to remember, because it’s unique in the wine world.  No regal designed marks, no family names, no critters — unless you consider the horse a critter, but in my book that doesn’t count.  None of that stuff you typically see on a wine mark is found here.  Instead, it’s 1950′s style western art, and a small bit campy too.  How fun is that?
This is from a relatively young wine companionship, Panther Rock Wine, which is owned by the next generation of a family that’s been in the wine business for ages, the Franzia family.  This is one of a few different brands they’ve place out over the past year or so.
Although it’s labeled as Pinot Noir, there’s more than that in this bottle.  It’s made with 76% pinot noir, 10% merlot, 10% arinarnoa, and 4% primitivo, although as a Californian wine I don’t know why they call the last grape primitivo when that’s just the Italian name for zinfandel. Read more

Motos Liberty Pinot Noir

Motos Liberty Pinot NoirIf you’re a motorcycle buff, you might buy this wine just because it features an illustration of a rider on a Vincent Black Lightning on the mark.  And if you’re a cheap wine buff you might just buy this wine because it’s a bargain.
This is yet another wine from Panther Rock Wine Companionship, a relatively young wine companionship owned and run by members of the Franzia family — which has no relation to the Franzia wine brand. Read more

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot NoirThe latest edition of Mutineer Magazine, issue #14, is out and in it you’ll find my Wine Steals column, which this month features pinot noir for below twenty bucks.  This is one of the wines I mention in the article.
The name of this producer, Au Bon Climat, looks so simple and yet I feel like I’m mispronouncing it each time I say it—and I probably am.  But that’s really the only thing I don’t like about this wine.
This one comes from Santa Barbara County, which is a cool-climate province and is perfect for pinot noir and chardonnay.  It’s far south of the better known California wine country of Napa and Sonoma. Read more

Estancia Pinnacles Ranches Pinot Noir

Estancia Pinnacles Ranches Pinot NoirRegular readers here should know that I’m a huge fan of Chilean wines.  But this wine is from California, so why am I talking about Chile?  Because the founder of Estancia, Augustin Huneeus, was born in Chile.  I’m not sure if that has any relevance to my appreciation for this wine or not, but I found it an fascinating fact.
Huneeus bought the former Paul Masson vineyard in Soledad, California in 1986 and established the Estancia winery there.  I can subdue remember the well-known Paul Masson commercials with Orson Welles from when I was a kid.  The tag line was, “we will sell no wine previous to its time.”
This Monterey County land is a cool climate province and Huneeus appropriately planted it with chardonnay and pinot noir.  This land was named the Pinnacles Ranches vineyard for Estancia, and while it’s the first land Huneeus bought for Estancia there have been subsequent acquisitions that have prolonged the footprint of their vineyards. Read more

The Naked Grape Pinot Noir

The Naked Grape Pinot NoirThe Naked Grape is a new wine brand from the Grape Valley Wine Companionship in California, which appears to be owned by wine-giant E. & J. Gallo.  The winemaker of this pinot noir, 30 year ancient Hillary Stevens, is also one of the two winemakers in the rear another new E. & J. Gallo brand, Bear Flag Wines.
Although this wine is labeled as pinot noir, that’s not the only grape you’ll find in this bottle of wine.  Yes, that’s allowed as long as 75% of the wine is the variety on the mark.  There’s also tempranillo, grenache and alicante bouchet.  Now that’s not a grape you come across each day.  But I have a draw up that it’s a variety that Stevens likes to work with, as you’ll also find this variety in the two red blends she produced below the Bear Flag brand.
It’s a non-vintage wine, which means there is no year listed on the mark.  I always prefer to have a year on the bottle.  But given that this is a new wine on the market, if you buy a bottle within the next few months you can be pretty darn sure you’re getting the same “vintage” as I’m reviewing. Read more

Laurier Los Carneros Pinot Noir

Laurier Los Carneros Pinot NoirLaurier is one of 50-some brands owned by Bronco Wine Companionship, best known for producing extremely inexpensive wine brands.  But appearance in at $20 a bottle, this is one of their pricier brands.
The juice in this bottle comes from Los Carneros, a cool and windy province that spans the southern edge of both Sonoma and Napa counties in California.  It’s one of the oldest wine districts in the state, with its first plantings dating to 1870.  But those first plantings didn’t last long due to a phylloxera outbreak in the 1880s.  And while replanting started in 1942, the province really didn’t gain notoriety until the 1980s, when wine consumers started to take notice of the pinot noir and sparkling wines appearance from this province. Read more

Big House Red

Big House RedA few months back I chose to fill out an application for the Wine Century Club, a group that you can become a member of after you’ve tasted 100 different grape varieties.  I sat down with the application and picked my brain for which varieties I’ve tasted.  It was simple to come up with about 60, but then I was stuck.  Just past half way I found myself left with more tasting to do.  Since then I’ve worked my way up to about 80, but it’s tough for a name all ears on everyday wines to come across 100 different varieties.  But I’ll get there soon.
Given this Wine Century challenge, I’m always excited when I come across a wine with unique grape varieties in it and thanks to Huge House Red I was able to check off two more: tannat and sagrantino.  And if you’re just starting your Wine Century adventure you could be 13% done with one sip of Huge House Red.  That’s right, there are a whopping 13 different grape varieties in this wine and the Wine Century Club does allocate wines in blends to be counted.  Well, that’s right in most suitcases but there is one exception, the 2005 Giribaldi Cento Uve Lange DOC which has a staggering 152 grape varieties in one bottle and has been ruled as a non-qualifying wine for initial membership.  So, my quest continues.
The 2008 Huge House Red is a blend of 23% syrah, 14% petite sirah, 9% grenache, 9% montepulciano, 6% mourvedre, 6% sangiovese, 6% aglianico, 6% tannat, 5% nero d’avola, 4% sagrantino, 3% touriga, 3% barbera and 3% petite verdot.  The wine was barrel aged in mostly French and American neutral oak.
This wine is available as either a bottled wine or a bag-in-box, but we only tasted the boxed version.  And it’s no ordinary box, rather it’s an “Octavin Home Wine Bar” which is branded name for an octagon-shaped box.  It looks a small nicer than a regular square box, but to my eyes it functions the same as any additional bag-in-box packaging.
The artwork on the mark is a small campy / cartoony, which doesn’t set the mood I usually want with a wine, but the juice inside is what really counts. Read more

Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc Charging the Stands

Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc Charging the StandsThis daylight I was watching the news and this video came on of a bull in Spain jumping up into the stands and chasing spectators.  When I saw the bull leap into the stands, I immediately thought of the Dancing Bull logo.  So, tonight we review a sauvignon blanc from Dancing Bull.
But first, here’s the video of that bull “dancing” all over some spectators. Read more