Having spent a lot of time in many of California’s wine-growing regions, it was about time that I made it to Lodi. A couple of weeks back I did exactly that as a guest of the Winegrowers of Lodi. Over a period of four days, the group I was with extensively toured vineyards sites and wineries. Along the way, we tasted something like a boatload of wine — maybe a little more. The trip was designed to open our eyes to Lodi as a premium wine-growing region, and it did just that for me. While I was aware that some fine wine was coming from the area, I had no real idea about the wide array of grapes being grown or how many boutique producers there are doing their own thing. In short, there are a lot of exciting things going on in Lodi, California, and I’ll get to many of them in time. For now, though, I’m focusing on one producer. Bokisch Vineyards was founded after Markus and Liz Bokisch lived for a year in Spain, where Markus spent his summers during childhood. Refreshing this connection to his heritage made an impression on both Markus and Liz. After moving back to the United States, they settled in Lodi and bought land to start their winery. With their obvious love for Spanish wines and culture, their next decision made complete sense: They would focus entirely on Spanish varietals. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest:
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San Luis Obispo is almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s close to the ocean and near another Central Coast region, Paso Robles. I recently sat down and tasted through a diverse package of wines that hail from there, and in addition to the excellent quality, what really stood out was the diversity. Not only are they making some terrific wines in San Luis Obispo, they’re also utilizing varietals that you don’t see very much of in California that fit in perfectly alongside excellent bottles of California’s usual suspects. To read the rest, head over to The Daily Meal.
Imagery Estate Winery is located in the town of Glen Ellen in Sonoma County. This family owned producer is best known for a couple of things. One is their focus on producing wines from lesser known grapes. Sometimes from varietals that don’t get much attention from US Winemakers. Albariño which is the single most popular white grape in Spain for instance does not have much representation in US acreage. Another thing they're known for is the gorgeous labels that adorn their bottles. Each release of a wine features art commissioned by Imagery from contemporary artists. They’re a small winery and their releases are largely available at their tasting room of through their website. Here’s a look at two that are certainly worth the extra effort to obtain. Imagery Estate Winery 2013 Viognier – The fruit for this wine was sourced in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. This offering is 100% varietal. It was whole berry pressed and only the free run juice was utilized. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. 802 cases of this wine were produced and it sells for $29. White peach and toasted almond aromas are prominent on the gorgeous nose of this Viognier. The palate is loaded with appealing stone fruits such as apricot and peach; bits of tropical fruits duck in and out as well. Lychee and bits of honey emerge on the finish which has length, depth and precision to spare. Zippy acidity makes this a wonderful food wine, perfect with a host of lighter fare.
Imagery Estate Winery 2013 Albariño – The fruit for this wine was sourced in Sonoma Valley. It’s 100% Albariño. After whole berry pressing the juice was fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. 313 cases of this selection were produced and it sells for $29. Honeydew and Cantaloupe melon aromas dominate the nose along with hints of grapefruit zest. The lush palate is studded with pineapple, Anjou pear, yellow peach, and a bit of white peppercorn. Lemon curd emerges on the finish which is clean, crisp and refreshing. If you want to pour summer into a glass, a bottle of this Albariño will do the trick.
Both of these wines are perfect for summer sipping and pairing with lighter foods. They’re delicious, well-crafted offerings that will quench your thirst as well as offer lots of depth and complexity. Sure you could pop open another bottle of Chardonnay, but it’ll be there when these wines are gone. So grab something different and delight your sense this summer!
The Rías Baixas region sits in the north of Spain. The predominate grape in this region is Albariño. Within this one relatively small region there are 5 distinct sub-zones. Today I’ll look at a wine from the O Rosal zone which borders the north of Portugal. The Bodegas Terras Gauda 2012 Terras Gauda O Rosal was produced from estate grown fruit. The estate sits on the banks of the Miño River within the Rias Baixas appellation in Galacia Spain. This offering is a blend of three indigenous varietals; Albariño (70%), Loureiro (18%), and Caiño Blanco (12%). Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, utilizing native yeasts. Approximately 1 million cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $24.
Peach aromas dominate the welcoming nose of this wine with bits of crème fraiche peeking thru as well. The palate is loaded with tropical fruit flavors such as mango and papaya. Guava and pear characteristics are in play here as well in a supporting role. Lemon ice, white pepper and a bit of nutmeg all emerge on the finish which has excellent length. Terras Gauda O Rosal shows off Racy acidity and a crisp, clean final impression.
This is an intense, complex white with loads of appealing flavors and layers to consider. For it’s price category it represents an excellent value as it over delivers on complexity, length, charm and overall drinkability factor. Terras Gauda O Rosal is an excellent choice for a summer dinner party if you want to impress your white wine loving friends. And with a million cases produced it should be easy to find. Terras Gauda also makes a varietal Albariño in smaller, but still substantial quantities.
Warm weather is here and with it the desire for many to drink a higher percentage of white and Rosé wines. While the usual suspects like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are still out there in force, wine drinkers have a lot more options these days. It seems like so many wine growing countries have white varietals that are emerging in the US. Argentina has Torrontes, Austria has Grüner Veltliner and the Basque have Txakoli. While Albarino from Spain has been on our shelves for years it’s never gotten the mainstream acclaim it deserves. With our wine drinking as a nation growing up a little each year it may see its day yet. Today I’m going to look at an Albarino from Adegas D’Altamira. The Adegas D’Altamira 2008 Albarino Brandal is 100% varietal. Grapes for this selection were chosen from small blocks in the northwest of Spain. All the fruit was handpicked hand sorted and destemmed. This offering did not undergo malolactic fermentation. 12,000 cases of this Albarino were produced and the suggested retail price is $17.99.
Mango, apricot and vanilla aromas permeate the full nose of this 2008 Albarino. Both white and yellow peach notes are prominent throughout the palate. These are joined by a nice wallop of spice notes. Overall the mouth feel is fuller and juicier than the average Albarino. Hints of lemon zest emerge on the finish along with some savory spice characteristics. The finish is crisp, dry and refreshing. Good acidity keep things balanced and makes this a natural partner for food. That said it’s pretty tasty on its own and will also work that way.
Bonny Doon Vineyard has been cranking out interesting wines for many years now. The blends are often idiosyncratic and unique. The varietal wines are also singular in style. A few years back Randall Grahm sold off the Big House wines that are ubiquitous on store shelves and he re-focused on smaller productions. Even in those Big House blends, that were made in large quantities, I was always impressed with how much character Randall achieved in a $10 bottle of wine. Over the next few days I’m going to take a look at a couple of his current Bonny Doon releases as well as his book. Today I’m going to take a peek at his 2008 Albariño The Bonny Doon 2008 Albariño is made from fruit sourced at the Ca’ Del Solo Estate Vineyard located in Monterey County. In addition to Albariño (75%), Loureiro (21%), and Treixadura (4%) are also blended in. This vineyard is bio-dynamically farmed. 2,500 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $20.
White peach and lemon aromas fill the nose of this wine. Lemon zest, grapefruit, honeysuckle, apricot and peach are each part of the palate of this Albariño and they’re underscored by an herbal flourish. Light touches of granny smith apple and mineral notes emerge on the finish, which has nice length, and is marked by its clean, crisp nature. This wine has terrific acidity and will pair well with light dishes. I tasted it alongside some Manchego cheese and found it to be an excellent pairing.
What has impressed my about Randall’s wines over the years is the sense of place they exhibit and their overall singularity from wine to wine. This 2008 Albariño is no exception. I remember the first Albariño I had a number of years back and being taken by how distinct the varietal tasted. I’m thrilled to find that this wine is true in spirit to excellent Spanish Albariños. This wine does a fantastic job of combining that sense of place, varietal correctness and simply being a delicious and distinct wine, recognizable for what it should be; wonderful fruit flavors, tied to their place of origin.
I drink white wines all year round. In Spring and Summer however my consumption of white wine increases as the weather and foods provide the perfect opportunity to enjoy them. As I did recently with Rosé I've also done with white wine. I tasted through a couple dozen whites from a combination of wineries I was very familiar with to ones I had less experience with. From them I picked 6 wines that I recommend everyone drink this summer. Martin & Weyrich- 2006 Pinot Grigio. Between the industrial stuff emerging in great quantity from Italy and the number of indistinguishable attempts from California and other areas there's a lot of Pinot Grigio to wade through before you find a good one. Thankfully they're out there and this one from Martin & Weyrich in Paso Robles is one of them. The nose is filled with lemon zest and a light vanilla note. Tropical fruit and honeydew fill the palate of this wine. A soft, round mouth-feel is the trademark characteristic to me. The finish features subtle but emerging spice notes that linger. This wine is well balanced with good acid. It'll pair nicely with a wide array of foods as well as drinking wonderfully on its own. This is the sort of white wine I could sit on my porch and drink all day. It's combination of easy drink-ability combined with more than enough complexity to keep it interesting make this a winner. With new world Pinot Grigio of this quality available it's a wonder people still drink so much of the anonymous tasting stuff like Santa Margherita. The suggested retail price is $15.
Sawtooth Winery- 2005 Viognier. This Viognier from Idaho also has Roussane blended in. Copious quantities of floral and citrus notes fill the nose of this wine. From the very first sip there is a richness in the mouth feel that comes from the addition of the Roussane. Vanilla, lychee fruit and a touch of smokiness emerge at the end of the mid-palate and carry through the finish. This wine sips nicely on its own and will be a good match for grilled chicken, pasta salad and other light foods. The retail price for this wine is $10, a terrific value.
Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards- 2007 Gewurztraminer. Lychee fruit is the first thing that emerges from the nose of this wine. From the moment I took the first sip I was hit with an avalanche of apricots. Lemon notes are prominent throughout the palate along with excellent spice characteristics dancing on the tongue. Of these, nutmeg resonates the most. This Gewurztraminer has a soft, lush mid-palate and an excellent, lengthy finish. This wine will be a great match for herb crusted goat cheese as well as light summer cuisine in general. The suggested retail price of this wine is $16. It's one of the better New World Gewurtztraminer's I've had in awhile and at that price it's a nice value to boot.
Rodney Strong- 2006 Chalk Hill Chardonnay. What would a look at white wines for summer be without at least one Chardonnay. This ubiquitous grape is one I love, but am also very finicky about. So I'm always happy when I find a Chardonnay to recommend. Spice, vanilla, citrus fruit and light toasty notes fill the nose of this Sonoma Chardonnay. Oak is present but thankfully unobtrusive as it allows the fruit to shine through wonderfully. The spice notes continue through an above average finish. Good acidity and balance make this an excellent candidate to pair with many foods. Rich, creamy cheeses, lighter grilled meats and hearty entree salads are a couple of things that come to mind. The suggested retail price for this wine is $20. This is a widely available release and wine-searcher shows it can generally be had for closer to $15.
Wild Horse Vineyards- 2006 Viognier. This is the white varietal I reach for first as an alternative to Chardonnay. They tend to be floral, unctuous and full of tropical fruit flavors. This 2006 example from Wild Horse is no exception to that. A bit of Roussane and Verdelho are blended with the Viognier. Both additions add to this wines richness and complexity. Citrus notes at the front and spice and minerality on the finish are the hallmarks of this wine. It'll serve equally well as a stand alone sipper, with white grilled meats or as a match to spicy Asian cuisine. The suggested retail price on this one is $19. At that price or the couple dollars less you're likely to find it for it's a fun and compelling summer wine.
York Mountain- 2006 Albarino. Over the last few years Albarino seems to be making some inroads in California. Most well known examples, emanate from Spain. As this offering shows though, Albarino can be well made in California too. Grapefruit and honeydew are predominate on the nose. All the way from the first sip through to the finish the trademark is of a very dry wine. This is typical of the varietal. Citrus notes emerge throughout and the finish has some mineral notes as well as a touch of tartness and gentle spice notes. This is an excellent wine to pair with appetizers or to serve to your guests as they enter your home. The retail price for this wine is $18.
Up Next: Four more releases from Rodney Strong Vineyards.
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