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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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Imagery Estate Winery - 2013 Viognier / 2013 Albariño

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!

A Tiny Peek at Australia’s Wine Diversity

Australia is a huge wine producing country whose depth is apparent in both the assortment of varietals they can grow well as well as the styles they’re made in. For years our shores were inundated with mostly lower end Australian wines, often in the form of overripe Shiraz. As a result, the bounty from Australia is significantly broader than a lot of wine lovers realize. All across the Unites States a larger and larger swath of terrific Australian wines are filling our shelves. It’s a great time to try some interesting Australian wines; here are six recent releases that I recommend. To read all about them, head over to The Daily Meal.

Visiting Trefethen Family Vineyards in Napa Valley

Trefethen Family Vineyards is a classic Napa valley spot. As you drive north on Route 29 their sign is amongst the very first you’ll see; long before the highway gets crowed with one tasting room after another. If you hang a right turn onto Oak Knoll Avenue you’ll come upon their entryway before long. Ambling up their driveway it’s interesting to note how neatly tucked into the property they are. Eventually you’ll come upon a historic building that dates back to the 1800’s. Once inside the tasting room the atmosphere has a lovely rustic feel. They offer several tasting options as well as tour which is available daily at 10:30 AM by prior appointment. Their Estate tasting which is $15 offers a choice of four wines from their current releases. Their Reserve tasting is $25 and focuses on their more limited offerings. Trefethen also has some special events and after-hours tastings, check their website for specific details. The wines at Trefethen are by and large well balanced offerings that showcase terrific varietal qualities. There wasn’t a wine in their lineup that I wouldn’t be happy to drink on any given day but three of them really stood out to me and here are some details on them.

The Trefethen Family Vineyards 2011 Dry Riesling was produced entirely from fruit sourced at their home ranch on Oak Knoll Road. This offering is 100% Riesling. This is one of their selections which are available nationally and it has a suggested retail price of $22. This is a spicy, dry wine with a hugely aromatic nose, lovely mid-palate loaded with gentle fruit flavors, crisp minerality and continued spice on the finish. Whether enjoyed on its own or paired with lighter foods this is an impressive Riesling sure to leave a lasting memory.

The Trefethen Family Vineyards 2010 Viognier is a small production wine produced from fruit sourced at their home estate. This wine was crafted entirely from Viognier. It’s for sale through the winery at a price of $30. Tropical fruit aromas and hints of vanilla bean lead the nose followed by a palate loaded with unctuous fruit flavors that go on and on. A hint of crème fraiche accompanies spice notes on the finish. This is a beautiful wine all by itself but will pair wonderfully with soft ripe cheeses and roast chicken dishes to name a few.

The Trefethen Family Vineyards 2008 Cabernet Franc was produced largely from fruit sourced at their home ranch (92%), along with a small amount (8%) from their Hillspring Vineyard. This small lot wine is available from the winery for $38. The Franc opens with a huge nose loaded with leather and cherry aromas. The palate has depth and complexity to spare as gently layered flavors just wash over your taste buds. Cherry characteristics continue and give way to graphite, earth and bits of espresso on the impressive finish. This is a perfect wine to pair with a Sunday roast.

If you’re travelling to Napa Valley I highly recommend that you add Trefethen Family Vineyards to your itinerary. They have a long history in Napa that grows with each passing year. Their wines are classically styled offerings that don’t bend to the whims of the day; solid, impressive wines you can buy with confidence to enjoy today or in several cases lay down for later enjoyment as well. It’s always fun to visit the new kids on the block and see what they’re up to. But it can be equally rewarding and delicious to visit with folks who have been getting it done, with class, for decades. The folks at Trefethen are welcoming and knowledgeable people who are happy to pour some wine for you and tell you the history of the property, winery itself or the wine you're tasting. In short you can't go wrong with an hour or two whiled away at Trefethen.

Michael David Winery - 2010 Icognito White / 2009 Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon

Michael David Winery makes a wide array of offerings from fruit sourced in their native region of Lodi California. Their focus is the production of engaging, fruit forward wines loaded with flavor and curb appeal. The offerings the make are widely available across the country at a cross section of budget friendly prices. Today I’ll look at two of their current release offerings. The Michael David Winery 2010 Incognito White was produced using fruit sourced in the Lodi California Appellation. This wine is a blend of Viognier (63%), Chardonnay (21%),Muscat (7%), Sauvignon Blanc (5%) and Roussanne (4%). Incognito White was fermented and aged in stainless steel; this offering had no oak contact. The suggested retail price for this widely available wine is $18.

This white blend is intensely aromatic with Lychee fruit, apricot and white peach aromas all bursting from the glass in a delightful mélange. The palate is studded with honeydew melon, stone fruits and ripe Bartlett as well as Anjou pear flavors. White pepper and zesty lemon cream flavors emerge on the finish which has nice length. This wine has terrific acidity and nice balance. It works equally well as a stand alone beverage or paired with appetizers and cheeses. This wine is loaded with compelling and engaging upfront fruit flavors as well as fine layers of complexity. Incognito White which is my favorite amongst the Michael David Winery whites is a standout value.

The Michael David Winery 2009 Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon was produced utilizing Lodi fruit. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon this wine has some Petite Sirah blended in. After fermentation this wine was aged over 19 months in French oak. Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon is sold nationally and has a suggested retail price of $26.

This Cabernet has a big and heady nose loaded with blackberry, plum and anise aromas. The plum theme continues through the palate where both black and red make their presence known along with blackberry and lots of cherry. Dark chocolate, roasted espresso and bits of earth emerge on the finish which has above average length for the category. The Petite Sirah blended in really provides some heft and structure to the bottom end. They didn’t name this tier of wines “Earthquake” without cause. By and large the offerings in this category are big and beefy. This Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception; it’s a bold and full flavored wine ready to be paired with a substantial meal.

The Michael David Wines do a terrific job of filling their niche. These are accessible wines both stylistically and by retail availability. They’re big and upfront wines studded with bold fruit flavors. However unlike some of their competitors the Michael David Wines continue to show good depth and complexity for the category. These are excellent party wines.

Eberle - 2008 Cotes-Du-Robles Blanc

The Paso Robles region in California has been exploding over the last decade. Both it’s reputation and number of wineries have grown by leaps and bounds. It’s a fascinating region where a wide swath of varietals can thrive. However one of the biggest marks they have been making is with Rhone varietals. Bottled both as stand alone wines and in blends, many grapes known best for theirRhone origins thrive spectacularly in Paso Robles. Today I’ll look at a white blend from Eberle Winery. The Eberle 2008 Cotes-Du-Robles Blanc is a blend of Roussanne (49%), Grenache Blanc (33%), and Viognier (18%). The fruit for this selection was sourced from two vineyard sites; Steinbeck Vineyard and Robert Hall Vineyard. Each varietal was hand harvested separately and inoculated with yeast in stainless steel tanks. Fermentation and aging then took place in French oak (20% new) over a period of 9 months. The components were brought together to form the final blend right before bottling. This offering is currently available at for $22.89

Aromas of Lychee, white peach and apricot are all present on the nose of this wine. Both stone and orchard fruit present themselves on the palate. Pear, apricot and white peach are all prominent and abundant in flavor throughout the palate of this wine which has substantial depth and layer after layer of flavor. An unctuous quality emerges on the finish which also shows off copious spices and bits of clover honey. This wine drinks beautifully on it’s own but will be a tremendous partner for soft cheeses, or pastas with cream based sauces.

Eberle has been a solid name in Paso Robles for quite awhile now. Their take on a white Rhones tyle blend is another feather in their cap. With warm weather here, this wine is a great choice to have on hand for outdoor gatherings.

Cameron Hughes - Lot 117, 2007 Santa Barbara County Grencache Blanc/Viognier

This year I’ve looked at several wines from négociant Cameron Hughes. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, a négociant works as follows. He or she purchases grapes or juice from other growers and sells them under his or her, own label. Cameron Hughes is a California based négociant. And while that is his base of operations, he sources lots of wine from numerous regions, the world over.  Most often a well regarded winery or grower might be selling a finished product which Cameron Hughes Wine bottles or packages. Sometimes they take separate sources and blend them to come up with a unique and perhaps better wine. The goal in each case is to offer a superior product for significantly less than it would cost if it had the original producer or growers name. I’ve been impressed with the across the board quality of the previous Cameron Hughes wines I’ve had. Today I’ll look at a white blend. Cameron Hughes Lot 117 is a 2007 with its origins in Santa Barbara County. This selection is a blend of Grenache Blanc (54%) and Viognier (46%). 300 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $12.

Orange blossom, apricot, mango and vanilla aromas burst forth from the demonstrative nose of this Grenche Blanc/Viognier blend. White peach, honey notes and continued apricot are all part of the palate. Lighter almond and hazelnut characteristics are present as well. Chamomile tea leads the lingering finish. The very impressive close also shows loads of mineral and spice notes. This wine is perfectly dry with crisp acidity.

For $12 you won’t mind opening this wine casually and sipping it on its own or with a quick meal. That’s fine and good, but this is also a serious wine with lots of complexity and charm. It’ll pair beautifully with lighter foods. This is another terrific deal from Cameron Hughes.

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Lionheart Wines - 2007 The Angel's Share

07angelsshareLionheart Wines is another of the Winery's that stood out to me this fall at the Wine Blogger's Conference in Santa Rosa. So when the opportunity to taste through a few of their wines presented itself, I jumped at it. Leon C. Glover, the founder and winemaker, started the label to produce food friendly wines. Many winemakers strive for this goal. Since Leon is also a Chef it seems like an even more natural ambition. I'll look at three of his wines. Up first is a white Rhone style blend. The 2007 Angel's Share is made from fruit sourced at Saralee's Vineyard in Russian River Valley. The blend is 66% Marsanne, 33% Rousanne and 1% Viognier. This wine spent 8 months in close to neutral French oak. A mere 74 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $33.

Honeysuckle, lemon, pear and a host of spice notes such as white pepper and nutmeg burst from this wines effusive nose. There is a persistent core of fruit throughout the palate which is lush, soft and mouth filling. Lemon and orchard fruit flavors are the most notable along with some pineapple and guava. The finish is ever so lightly creamy with some hints of nut and vanilla. The wines acidity is excellent and this will be a great compliment to spicy Thai cuisine, as one example. It drinks phenomenally on its own and I wouldn't hesitate to let this wine stand by itself to impress your guests.

What I like best about this Rhone style blend is that it tastes a lot more complex than its $32 price tag. This boutique wine is a well made gem. While not made for long term aging this offering will improve for a couple of years and hold for a couple after that, certainly longer than the average California white. Well done by Lionheart Wines.

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The Wines Of Summer - Half A Case Of White

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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Mil Piedras - 2007 Viognier

Mil Piedras is a line of wines from Argentine producer Benvenuto de la Serna. Silvio Benvenuto who founded an built the winery with his family is an Itlaian immigrant. Angel Mendoza who is a large piece of what Trapiche has achieved is the enologist. In essence the winery has joined together the wine making tradition of Italy and Argentina. I'll look at several of their wines this week. First up is a Mil PiedraViognier. The 2007 Mil Piedras Viognier un-oaked. 2000 cases of this wine were produced. It sells for around $9.

Lush fruit flavors such as apricot, peach and subtle mango fill the nose and palate of this wine. The mid palate is fruity with a hearty acidity. On the finish fruit notes linger along with subtle white pepper and a hint of honey. This wine is refreshing and crisp making it a good bet as an aperitif or welcome wine. It will also pair well with all manner of Asian cuisine as well as other full flavored foods. Grilled chicken topped with mango chutney comes to mind as a perfect compliment.

What I like most about this Viognier is that it displays plenty of pure varietal character. It's fresh and unburdened by oak. For around $9 this is a wine easily affordable to drink all summer.

Imported by: H & S Specialty Imports Inc.

Up Next: A Sangiovese from Mil Piedras.

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