Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review and Rating: ***+ $$ Harken Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, California, 2015 = GOOD VALUE

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Original tasting and review : This is Harken Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, California, 2015, finished at 13.5% alcohol and first sampled one year from vintage date, in September, 2016.  Harken with its barrel fermented chardonnay is aiming for an old school style, replete with oaky notes, butterscotch and the like... the sort of elements that lured many of to wines in the 1970's and 1980's, and which have been purged from many labels in the intervening decades.  Grapes are sources from the Arroyo Seco AVA of Salinas Valley, California, nestled between the Santa Lucia Mountains and Monterey Bay. Let's see how this chardonnay fares...

Inspired by this wine: Sitting and chatting comfortably, let's head up the hill for a campfire with a view!

In the glass: Medium deep golden, with tiny hints of olive green.

On the nose: Poured at chilled temperature and swirled vigorously, colleagues say this shows a light, sweet fruit with hints of citrus.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact recreating a sweet fruit tart with crispy crust and ripe but bright pears. The mid-palate brings bright fruit up into your cheeks, which holds for awhile and slowly fades towards a clean, wispy finish.  That experience is supported by a solid roundness in the texture.

In summary: Overall, rates three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, just touching a plus because of its sweet and lively essence.  In the context of its attractive price point, this rates as a good value on our scale.

Check out today's pricing and retail availability for Harken Barrel Fermented Chardonnay.

(c) Copyright 2016 Spirit of Wine, all rights reserved.  If you are a winery, distributor or marketing agent and you would like to see your (or your client's) wine featured at Spirit of Wine, here are two options: 1) Wait, pray and hope - we may find you someday; 2) Submit a wine for review.  No charge.  Particulars are here.   If you are reading this full posting on any site other than Spirit of Wine, chances are it is a copyright violation.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Reviews: DiGiorgio *** $ Frank Red and *** $ Frank White wines, Limestone Coast, South Australia

Check out today's pricing and retail availability for DiGiorgio Family wines.

By way of background:   The DiGiorgio family has been working the land in Australia for over 60 years and established their initial Lucindale vineyard in 1989.  Today, generations later, DiGiorgio Family Wines produces not only in Lucindale, but in Coonawarra and within the broader Limestone Coast. The wine label "Frank" is associated with entry-level, value-priced wines from the DiGiorgio Family line. Review wines were provided by the winery's representative.

Original tasting and review : This is Frank White,  Limestone Coast, South Australia, 2015, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon finished at 12.5% alcohol and first sampled one year from vintage date, in April, 2016.

Inspired by this wine:  Curling on the couch with your partner, ready to watch a lighthearted romantic comedy. 

In the glass: Clear with just the faintest tinges of yellow and green.

On the nose: Poured at room temperature and swirled vigorously, colleagues agree this shows a somewhat shy,  slightly flinty nose with notes of grass and light peach.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact lightly sweet grapefruit and lemons, holding their brightness on the palate for quite a few seconds.  Sip slowly fades.

In summary: Overall, does rate three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, making this a best value because of the bargain price point!
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Original tasting and review : This is Frank Red,  Limestone Coast, South Australia, 2013, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot, finished at 14.5% alcohol and first sampled three years from vintage date, in April, 2016.

Inspired by this wine:  Waiting in line at the home store, picking up some necessities for those necessary repairs.

In the glass: Deep magenta, opaque from about an inch of the edge.

On the nose: Poured at room temperature and swirled vigorously, colleagues agree this shows soft, bright, relatively undifferentiated black fruit.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are in fact quite bright, almost sparky, crushed red/black berries.  The bright sip retains its character through the finish, closing consistent with its start.

In summary: Overall, just touches three stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, but, because of its bargain price point, that is sufficient to concur best value status.

Updated notes, six months later, September, 2016:  Softer, deeper, cushioned palate now, with the red and black berries showing depth and some sweetness.  Moved as a full experience through the close, with some brightness and plenty of grip and depth.  Easy three stars now and an easy best value

Check out today's pricing and retail availability for DiGiorgio Family wines.

(c) Copyright 2016 Spirit of Wine, all rights reserved.  If you are a winery, distributor or marketing agent and you would like to see your (or your client's) wine featured at Spirit of Wine, here are two options: 1) Wait, pray and hope - we may find you someday; 2) Submit a wine for review.  No charge.  Particulars are here.   If you are reading this full posting on any site other than Spirit of Wine, chances are it is a copyright violation.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Updated Review: **** $$ Quinta da Cortezia Touriga Nacional, 2005, Vinho Regional Estremadura, Portugal = BEST VALUE

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Original Review, July, 2009: Quinta da Cortezia Touriga Nacional is made from a single local grape varietal of Portugal, touriga nacional, from the Estremadura region, which has been home to a number of excellent value-priced dry red wines. The Quinta da Cortezia estate is located a mere 30 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal's capital city. The grapes are farmed in a sustainable manner. The tourigan nacional bottling is aged in French oak barrels for 10 months, and the 2005 vintage shows up at a robust 14.5 percent alcohol. Many of the other Estremadura region reds come in somewhat lower, generally in the 12.5 percent range.

Quinta da Cortezia Touriga Nacional arrives in the glass showing a medium red tone, moving towards opaque in the center. Upon swirling, the nose is reasonably bold, showing a clean candy-apple red fruit as its most prominent tone, some dark cherry and dust.

Upon sipping, the first impact is deep into the mid-palate, with a shy full fruit blossoming at the back of the mouth once the tannins and acids release it. The dark cherry is still held in check by the big alcohol though, and seems to be trying to fight its way out of the straightjacket. Red fruits - raspberries and red currants - claw up into the reaches of your cheeks, hoisted again by the 14.5 percent alcohol. Finish is clean, but hot.

This will need a serious decant - or a few more years in bottle - before trying again. Right now, three stars because I am curious to come back to this again.
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Updated review, a full four years later, now eight years from vintage date, October, 2013:  The color has moved to a slightly orangish red, still deep.  Unfortunately, aroma shows just a bit of corkiness, which may not yield appropriate tasting notes.  Soft, bright, fresh, deep red fruits on the palate.  Tangy, bold, clean finish.  Solid three stars.  Great value.
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Updated review, almost three more years later, now 12 years from vintage date, September, 2016:  Color is a dark burgundy, with brick edge highlights.  Inspired by this wine: Lying on a comforter in the living room, enjoying some classic old sitcoms.  Solid red fruit, with perkiness and, yet, plenty of tannins that dig the red fruit into your cheeks and allows it to percolate for a full 30 seconds.  Moves to four stars on the Spirit of Wine scale, making this a definite best value.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Review: ***+ $$ Zin Your Face Zinfandel, Cameron Hughes Wine, CA, 2008

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Original Tasting and Review, August, 2010:

By way of background: This is Zin Your Face Spicy Jammy Yummy Zinfandel, CA, a unique labeled offering from Cameron Hughes Wine. The 2008 vintage is finished at 14.9% alcohol.  As described here, most of Cameron Hughes wine offerings have been limited close-outs, labeled by varietal, year, region and lot number.  This one, a more mass-market offering, shows a full-frontal retail label.

In the glass: Zin Your Face shows as deep red, only the faintest hint of purple at the edge.  Surprisingly muted colors for such a new wine.

On the nose: Poured at room temperature with a brief decant and swirled vigorously, this California zinfandel brings forth bright red fruit and alcohol, touched with a wisp of vegetable and bramble.

On the palate: The primary elements on the palate are a rugged red mid-palate, slightly sweet and bracingly bright with acids.  The red currant shows sweet against the high alcohol, holding for a moderate finish.

In summary: Overall, a big and energetic experience - not the more traditional bold and jammy style from California, despite the label.  Rates two stars on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale, with a plus for its exuberant friendliness. 

Following long decant, two days under vacuum in partially-filled bottle: Consistent aromas. On the palate,more of a lush blackberry and light oak come through now, raising the profile and giving this some additional promise with another year of bottle age.
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Updated review, over a year later,  October, 2011:  Still light red in the glass, pinot noir in tone, with no hints of purple any longer. Soft red fruit on the nose, no vegetable tones now. The palate brings rock candy sugar together with red currants for a friendly sip, with acids taking a decidedly back-seat now, merely lifting the tone and holding the finish together for a few moments.  The friendliness lifts this to three stars, making it a best value when achieved on sale.  At retail price, it is value for money.  Following long decant, five days kept cool in partially filled bottle:  Wow.  Both the nose and the palate have held fast, despite an exceptionally long period in air.
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Updated review, almost five additional years later, now eight years from vintage date,  August, 2016:  Consistent color.  The noseless wine reviewer will no longer comment on aromas alone.  On the palate, a sweet-feeling, mid-red fruit lifts to the cheeks, with a nice light acid and deep surround sound.  Raises to three plus stars.  Very impressive at eight years of age, and now a formal good value.

Inspired by this wine:  After a day working the brickyard, buddies and I are headed out for a pint.

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Updated Review: **** $ Earthworks Shiraz Barossa Valley 2006, Australia - BEST VALUE

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 By way of background: Earthworks Shiraz Barossa Valley, 2006, is from the highly-regarded Barossa Valley region of Australia, definitely known and respected for its old-vine shiraz.

Earthworks wine is essentially a negotiant wine, meaning the grapes are collected from farms around the region. Alcohol level is 14.5%, consistent with shiraz from this area.

Original review, May, 2009:

In the glass, Earthworks shows as a deep, dusty, brick-hued red, no hints of purple on this three-year-old specimen.

On the nose: Swirling hurls some of the candy apple aromas into the air. On closer attention, you can pick up some of those deep, ripe plum/fruit aromas along with hints of the inside of a new balloon - almost an overripe funk. That will probably blow off with a short decant.

On the palate, Earthworks touches the middle of your mouth with full fruit, sparkling a bit of spice to the sides. Acids tickle your cheeks, and a nice tannin flush provides for a reasonably-lengthy, slightly sweet finish. Solid stuff. Not so overwhelming that it couldn't accompany a meal. Three stars, making it an outstanding value.

Ready to drink now, but a couple more years in bottle won't do any harm.

Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate gave this 90 points, and wrote, "The 2006 Shiraz saw an identical regimen of tank and barrel. Purple-colored, it exhibits aromas of smoke, sausage, bacon, and blueberry which jumps from the glass. Medium-bodied, ripe, and sweet with no hard edges, this superb value can be enjoyed over the next 4-6 years."
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Updated review, over two and a half years later,  January, 2012:  Consistent color.  The helium aromas are gone from this six-year-old bottle, but the candy apple deep fruit remains.  Consistent notes on the palate, blending deep fruit with a bright acid coating.  Gets a plus for balance and longevity and remains a best value.  

Following long decant, full day kept cool in partially filled bottle: Candy apple has become more candy cherry on the nose.  Deep and sweet.  Thick and deep with a wonderful creamy lift too.  Hits four stars.  Awesome value!

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Updated review, another four and a half years later, now 10 years from vintage date,  August, 2016:  Same color, with the original brick highlights now consistent with the age.  The noseless wine reviewer can't properly judge aromas.  On the palate, deep red fruit, finished by a bright, sparky veneer.  Holding its age extraordinarily well!

Inspired by this wine: Poking the embers in the campfire, they are still keeping us warm!


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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Confessions of a Noseless Wine Reviewer

"Noseless Wine Reviewer":  Probably not the most promising title for a resume, right?  Well, I do feel I owe an explanation for my significantly reduced output of reviews at Spirit of Wine (from reviewer "jorray"); and so I will tell you a brief tale of my odd and improbable path through the land of noseless wine reviewing...

It began innocently enough nine months ago, in November, 2015, with a two mile morning walk to my office.  While crossing one intersection as a pedestrian that morning, a car that was stopped at a light made a right turn on red, running into me as I crossed the intersection and tapping me to the pavement.  The hit was at a slow speed, but the fall caused my head to hit the road.  The resulting damage to my head had ominous descriptions, like: "multiple skull fractures", "concussion", "subdural hematoma", "right occipital, temporal bone and facial fractures", etc, etc.  As I personally experienced it, it was a situation that created vast pools of blood, gave me huge headaches and generated a subsequent loss of memory for most of the time surrounding the accident - plus it left me for a bunch of days in our local hospital's intensive care unit.

Weeks later, many of my most obvious injuries were healing, and I was back home, looking a little less like Dr. Frankenstein's failed first edition of a monster.  At home one day, I applied cologne to my face following a shave, and noticed that it felt like I simply had applied water.  I sought an opinion from a second fully-functional nose nearby, and was assured that, yes, it was, indeed, cologne  on my face - and a quite potent cologne at that.  That gave me pause.  And it also caused me to generate a scary hypothesis- one that had not yet been offered up by my medical practitioners at the hospital.  And, sure enough, further experimentation on my part and some simple online research confirmed my fears - I had entirely lost my sense of smell!  (Medically, this condition has a name - anosmia - and has been reported in as many as 30% of cases of traumatic brain injury.)  The causes can be varied, as are potential paths to recovery, but I won't detail them here.  In the majority of cases, full recovery, if it is ever to occur, generally is said occur within a few months of the accident.

So, at nine months since the accident, without full recovery, I have not been among the luckiest of traumatic brain injury victims, olfactory-wise. (I have been fortunate in my recovery in some other respects, including, in particular, awesome support from family, friends and co-workers.)  As a burgeoning wine-reviewer, home wine-maker and (very modest) wine collector, you can imagine how troubling a prospect it was for me to think of spending the balance of my life without being able to enjoy all those aspects of a wine that come through the sense of smell... the swirl of aromas, the emotions those scents evoke, the anticipation of the flavors to come.  Would these be lost forever to me?  Have they been?

There are two pieces of good news:  First, with a couple of potent doses of pharmaceutical therapies (none of which were any fun), a small portion of my sense of smell has returned.  I'd say I'm at perhaps 20-25% of my previous capacity now.  When I apply cologne to my face, I can at least now tell that it is cologne and not water -  but I can't tell which of my colognes it is!  But, sadly, things like the scent of fresh lavender or of gardenia in blossom are still completely vanished and are perhaps lost forever.  And while, by scent alone, I can today tell you with reasonable probability which of two blinded wines is the sauvignon blanc and which is the cabernet sauvignon (I've tested this),  gone are my days of being able to sniff a shiraz and tell you from which Australian vineyard it came and what oak treatments it may have enjoyed.

So, I offer a lesson to you from this first piece of news:  Please don't take your sense of smell for granted... Scent of a woman...  Scent of a wine...  Life certainly can remain rich without a sense of smell.   But the depths and colors and shadings that this sense brings to your days cannot be overstated.  My own loss of smell has affirmed this fact.  I implore you to appreciate this valuable sense in every respect.  From personal experience, I can assure you that life is not quite the same when a Sea Smoke Pinot Noir carries the same promise in its nose as a Two Buck Chuck!

OK, on to my second piece of good news:  It was interesting for me to discover over weeks and months that I had not lost nearly as much of my sense of taste as I had my sense of smell.  And this is despite the acknowledged wisdom that much of our discrimination in taste is due to smell.  Indeed, by experimentation I found that some aromas that were not simply not available to me through my nose could enter through my palate!  Now, I cannot speak to you about the biology of this - just to my own experience.

So, wines that were relatively inert to me when I swirled them in the glass took on fragrance, depth and character as I sipped them!  Tannins, acids, fruits, smoke, oak were all quite clear to me once the wine passed my lips.  Impressions were formed.  I could assess quality.  I could assess character. I could begin to discriminate wines!  Like a child learning a new skill, I learned to experience wines in a new way. This new experience is based on impressions and sensations delivered through my palate, without pre-judging the wines through any impressions on my nose.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, some of my prior abilities to characterize and judge wines have come back into focus using my palate, with a range of taste and aromatic sensations which that single sense can still bring to the assessment.

And, interestingly, my abilities to form visual and experiential impressions of wine (e.g., what kind of experiences in the world the wine reminds me of)  have remained more strongly intact than my abilities to describe specific characteristics - e.g., the nature of the fruit aromatics in a wine.

So, gingerly, I have resumed preparing limited wine reviews.  Though I can deliver impressions more confidently than I can describe aromatic elements, I am growing increasing comfortable in judging characteristics associated with the palate, like tannins, finish, mouthfeel, acidity and complexity.

When it comes to describing aromatics in my reviews, I can only think of Lennon and McCartney's lyrics, "I'll get by with a little help from my friends."  So, whenever you see a section in my reviews titled:

"On the nose (as agreed by colleagues):"

...you can better understand the kind of help a noseless wine reviewer needs to make it through a day!

Thank you for listening to my confessions - and please lend a nose if someday I must ask you for a sniff!

(c) Copyright 2016 Spirit of Wine, all rights reserved.  If you are a winery, distributor or marketing agent and you would like to see your (or your client's) wine featured at Spirit of Wine, here are two options: 1) Wait, pray and hope - we may find you someday; 2) Submit a wine for review.  No charge.  Particulars are here.   If you are reading this full posting on any site other than Spirit of Wine, chances are it is a copyright violation.