Tag Archive | "red wine"

Review: 2010 Gifford Hirlinger Estate Tempranillo

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: www.giffordhirlinger.com

Gifford Hirlinger is one of the many family-run, family-owned wineries you’ll find in the Walla Walla area. It produces wines from the estate vineyard around the winery and has won quite a bit of acclaim for its efforts.

This tasty Tempranillo is a good example of how good this varietal can be from Washington State and is one I’d highly encourage both fans of the grape and newcomers to check out.

Review: 2010 Gifford Hirlinger Estate Tempranillo

Technical Data:

  • Vineyard: 100% Estate
  • Blend: 100%Tempranillo
  • Alcohol: 14.4%
  • Total Produced: 98 cases
  • Retail Price: $34.00

On the nose: Peppered plums, shoe leather, dark chocolate and bramble with a hint of forest floor.

On the palate: A nearly sublime mix of spice, blackened fruits, grilled leather, tobacco and spiced dark chocolate. Stellar mid palate with acids that “wake up to greet you” on the mid palate. An absolutely delightful Tempranillo which does a good job of showcasing this varietal from Washington State. If this Spanish varietal is on your brain from Washington, you’ll find few finer.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

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Review: 2010 Double Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://doublecanyon.com

Double Canyon is a new winery in the state of Washington whose initial release is a Cabernet Sauvignon. It sources fruit from the prized Horse Heaven Hills AVA, which is home to some of Washington’s better vineyards as well.

Using land that was originally owned by Don and Linda Mercer, the Double Canyon vineyard site is now in the hands of William Beightol. William has been tending to this area since he was a kid, literally, as he grew up across the street from where the Vineyard is at today.

Review: 2010 Double Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon

Technical Data:

  • Appellation: Horse Heaven Hills
  • Vineyard: Double Canyon
  • Blend: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.5%
  • Cooperage: 20 months in French oak; 35% new
  • Price: $40

On the nose: Ripe raspberries, cherries, clay, herb, peppercorn, leather and cocoa.

On the palate: Very soft tannins for such a young wine and comes across as an “old soul”. There’s a nice combination of red fruits, soil, forest floor and some herbaceousness going on here. Good acids (as is the case with most all of the 2010 Washington Reds I’ve had so far), enticing fruit, and approachable tannins make for a very solid Cabernet.

W.E.P. Rating: 95%

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Review: 2010 Avennia Gravura Red Wine

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://www.avennia.com

Avennia Winery is a relative new-comer to the Washington wine scene and specializes in what I feel is one of Washington’s strong-points and that is red blends. It does make a Sauvignon Blanc and straigh Syrah as well but those are for a different review, in this one, we take a look at the 2010 Avennia Gravura Red Wine.

2010 Avennia Gravura Red Wine

Technical Data:

  • Appellation: Columbia Valley
  • Blend: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 40% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc
  • Vineyards: 31% Red Willow Cab, planted 1985
  • 24% Bacchus Cab, planted 1972
  • 24% Red Willow Merlot, planted 1985
  • 15% Klipsun Merlot, planted 2000
  • 6% Bacchus Cab Franc, planted 1998
  • Ageing: 50% new French oak for 20 months
  • Cases: 350
  • Retail: $35
  • Release: February 2013

On the nose: Violet, bing cherries, raspberry, black licorice, black currant, allspice, old leather glove, dark cocoa and peppercorns.

On the palate: Good complexity of flavors mentioned on the nose but I’m also getting a bit of nice tartness, sort of reminds me of a little rhubarb action and I appreciate that quite a bit. Good acids and tannin structure should help this wine lay down for 8-12 years and go well with beef, blackened salmon, bison or an herb-crusted lamb-chop.

W.E.P. Rating: 95%

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Review: 2009 VaPiano Brunos Blend

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://www.vapianovineyards.com/

Doing blends of various varietals is nothing uncommon but what we don’t see as much of is blending varietals and AVAs – this fun little blend from Va Piano Vineyards is such a wine. It’s under $25, drinks well and should age for a few more years to come – let’s dive in.

Review: 2009 VaPiano Brunos Blend

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Composition: 82% Cab Sauv, 14% Merlot, 3% Cab Franc and 1% Syrah
  • Appellation: Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley
  • Oak: 30% New French Oak
  • Alcohol: 14.4%
  • TA: .54
  • pH: 3.83
  • Price: $23

Nose: Plum jam, blackberry, bramble, peppercorn and black raspberry. leather glove and rose petal.

Taste: Stellar combination of blackberry jam, pepper, macerated cherries and raspberry. Good acidity on the mid palate that leads into a finish that lingers on for hours with notes of licorice, ink and dark chocolate. This is easily a no-brainer red wine for the money and one should be highly saught out.

W.E.P. Rating: 100%

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2009 Va Piano Cab Franc – Review

By Duane Pemberton
& Sarah Bagdon

Winery website: http://www.vapianovineyards.com

Unfortunately, not too many producers make a Cabernet Franc – it’s either because they don’t have access to quality fruit or perhaps worry  that not enough folks would buy it. Thankfully, Justin Wylie of Va Piano Vineyards has neither of those concerns as he has his own estate fruit and has no problems selling all he makes of this wonderful wine only to the winery’s wine club.

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Composition: 80% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot
  • Vineyard Sources: Va Piano Vineyards Block 8 Cab Franc, Va Piano Vineyards Block 3 Merlot
  • Appellation: Walla Walla Valley
  • Oak Composition: 40% New French / 60% Neutral French
  • Barrel Aging: 21 months
  • Chemistry: Alcohol 14.4%
  • pH 3.66
  • TA .59g/100ml
  • Case Production: 150 cases
  • Price:  $48

Nose: Black cherry, hazelnut, cigar wrapper, dark chocolate, cola and tar bubble.

Taste: Raisin fruit roll-up, mocha, pencil lead, match stick and dried blueberries. Firm tannins with a good acidity lead into an inviting finish that begs you for more. This is a new-world-style Cab Franc in that it doesn’t have the “veggie” action we tend to see from the old world. Lots of reach-around on this bottle – should age well for another 10 years or more.

W.E.P. Rating: 95%

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Review: 2005 Panther Creek Willamette Valley Reserve Pinot

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: http://panthercreekcellars.com

Located in McMinnville, Oregon, Panther Creek Cellars has become one of the “go-to” pinot producers of the Willamette Valley because of its continued quality in a variety of price points.

This reserve bottling combines top fruit from various vineyards across the Willamette Valley.

Review: 2005 Panther Creek Willamette Valley Reserve Pinot

Technical Data: 

  • Appellation: Willamette Valley
  • Alcohol: 13.80%
  • Composition: 100% pinot noir
  • Aging: 16 months in French Oak – 30% new
  • $60.00 bottle

Nose: Rubber tire, cranberry pie filling, band-aid, white peppercorns, cedar smoke and a nice hint of tar bubble.

Taste: Stellar flavors of cedar plank, cranberry, smoked raspberry, rubber stamp, allspice and pepper. This is a very well structured pinot in that it hits you with a nice fruit-forward approach with a mid-palate that perks up more condensed flavors and acids. The finish lingers for weeks and simply begs for roasted primal cuts of meat or smoked salmon.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Posted in Oregon Wines, Pinot Noir, ReviewsComments (0)

On the Michigan Peninsula Wine Trail with a Buick

By Duane Pemberton

Michigan is known for a lot of things: cars, Lake Michigan, Detroit, “Motor City”, and more recently, its wine. Of all places, Michigan has a bustling wine scene that is strongest in its white wine quality with some red varietals gaining momentum such as Cab Franc and Pinot Noir – for my palate, the mainstream Bourdeaux varietals are still a ways off – if ever.

I took a 2012 Buick Regal GS for a trip up the Old Mission Peninsula to check out some of the local wine scene around Traverse City.

My first stop was at Black Star Farms winery which has locations on both the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula – this is a winery which produces whites, reds and even some bubbly.  The grapes they produce wines from are: Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sirius, Merlot, Cab Franc and Pinot Noir. In addition, they also produce wines from fruit – Cherry, pear as well as an apple cider.

Next stop was Chateau Chantal – a family-owned winery which sits at the highest point on the Old Mission Peninsula – I had the opportunity to meet with their director of marketing and family daughter, Marie-Chantal Dalese, who gave me a complete tour of the winery and bed & breakfast Inn.

They produce a variety of white and red wines – both sweet and dry as well as a very good tart-cherry port wine. My favorite wine, however, that I had there was a Pinot Noir which frankly was hands-down the best red wine I’ve had from Michigan and shows a good promise of what this region is capable of.

Most of the lower area of Michigan has to deal with extreme cold winter temperatures but these Peninsula areas have water all around which help maintain slightly warmer temps in the winter.

As you can hear in the video above, this winery has a small, family-owned vibe and enthusiasm and at the same time maintains quite a bit of volume and quality.

A couple other wineries worth checking out if you make it up to the Old Mission are Chateau Grand Traverse and Peninsula Cellars – I didn’t have time to do much at either place but the locals have told me they produce good wines.

There were a few things I walked away from after my short time in Michigan:

  • There are a LOT of wine-lovers in this state.
  • The dry whites are very good and still have a long ways to becoming great on the world-stage.
  • Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon don’t do so well here, however, Cabernet Franc is not bad.
  • The reason so many people here prefer sweet wines is due in part to the crappy little tasting glasses the wineries serve – a dry wine in those things tastes horrible; it’s like a slightly larger shot-glass.

I mean, seriously, the stemware used in all four of the tasting rooms I checked out, all use this same piece of crap glass – it’s no wonder sweet wines are the largest-selling in the area.

If you get to the great state of Michigan and decide to check out many of the good wines it can offer, you’ll run into some of the nicest people, good wines, good food and stellar views from many of them – just make sure to bring your own glass.

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Review: 2009 Acrobat Wines

For most Northwest wine lovers, the great state of Oregon produces some of their favorite Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines and there’s no mystery as to why. Oregon is a world class producer of both of these varietals and has done a stellar job with them so far.

King Estate has a label called Acrobat that helps them meet a lower price-point – which in this economy, is a good thing.

2009 Acrobat Pinot Gris – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Alcohol: 12.5%
  • TA: 0.57 g/100ml
  • pH: 3.28
  • Residual sugar: .54%
  • Production: 30,000 cases
  • Fermentation: 100% stainless
  • Aging: 100% sur lie for three months
  • Price: $11.99

Nose: Green apple, lemon zest, spice with kiwi, honeydew melon and mango.

Taste: Definitely get a nice combination of green apples that have been hit with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice. Get some very nice pear, kiwi and baking spice notes coming through on the finish. Good mouthfeel and overall acidity make this a very nice drinker.

2009 Acrobat Pinot Noir – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Alcohol: 13.0%
  • TA: 0.545g/100ml
  • pH: 3.56
  • Production: 18,000 cases
  • Fermentation: 100% Stainless – punched down 2-3 times per day
  • Aging: 6 months on French Oak – 15% new, 21% one year, 30% 2 year and 34% 3 year.
  • Price: $18

Nose: Dried cranberries, cherry-sauce, white pepper, star wars action figure, rhubarb and white peppercorns.

Taste: I definitely get the peppered cranberry action coming through right off the bat. Bright acids and young tannins do bring a bit of the “pucker-action” that I’m sure many folks won’t like, however, to me – it makes this a very food-friendly wine. While it is showing rather young right now it is still in many ways quite approachable. A good effort and one that I’d like to taste with another year or so in the bottle.

On the web: http://www.kingestate.com/wine/#acrobat

Posted in Oregon Wines, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, ReviewsComments (0)

2007 CC Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Review

By Duane Pemberton

CC Wines is a joint venture between famous Sommelier, Richard Betts and Castle Brands – his motto’s are: “I will not drink bad wine” and “wine should be a grocery, not a luxury”. It’s clear to me, after spending time with both the cab, that those concepts have carried through into the wine.

This is a stunning cab in that it’s from Napa – which isn’t cheap these days – and destroys many other Napa-area cabs I’ve had for a fraction of the cost.

Technical Data:

  • VA: .091
  • pH: 3.80
  • TA: .62
  • RS: .07
  • Alc: 15.58%
  • Price: $20-$25

Nose: If you took some rainier cherries, wrapped them up in a dirty old cigar wrapper and found a way to smoke it – that’s what this nose reminds me of. Layers of cherry, chocolate, vanilla and modeling clay.

Taste: Hello smoothness, how fond I am of thee – okay, this is a serious cab and opens up even better after some decant time. The tannin structure is right on the money as is the mid palate and finish. This – to me – this what good California Cab is all about. The crazy thing is, that 15.58 is a bit on the higher side for me, but the fruit does a great job of masking some of the heat ans comes off very well balanced. Complexity, smoothness and a finish that simply is BEGGING you to have a steak with it.

My only real concern with this wine is the misleading pricing from CCWines – they clam it’s $20, however, when you search the online merchants from its website, the cheapest this cab sells for is $23. When I asked CC about this, they claimed that they have no control over what the retailers ultimately sell it for. I know this may seem like I’m splitting hairs but I feel I have an obligation to point out areas that I feel could be potentially misleading.

Having said all that, this wine is still well worth it, even at $25 .


W.E.P. Rating: 120%

On the web: http://www.drinkcc.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wines, ReviewsComments (0)

2007 Smasne Cellars Malbec

Robert Smasne’s wines  have garnered a lot of good press over the past couple of years – he has a good knack for sourcing quality fruit and not dinking with it too much. This is great for folks like me who have a profound appreciation for wines that stay relatively true to the terroir.

Malbec has exploded in the world of wine in that time as well and for food reason. It’s very fruity, has really nice flavors and generally goes great with food as well – especially meat dishes.

Technical Data:

  • Varietal – 100% Malbec
  • Vineyard – Phinny Hill
  • Appellation – Horse Heaven Hills
  • Aged 28 months in 100% French Oak
  • Price:  $35

Nose: Black cherries, blackberry pie filling, pepper, spice and a splash of clove and black licorice.

Taste: Deep black fruits that come thining thru with a hint of peppered venison jerky. Good mouthfeel, tannin structure and overall finish make this an easy malbec to keep going back to.

Conclusion: I’ve had equal quality from Argentina Malbecs for $20 – so for me, it’s kind of a tough sale at $35. Having said that, I understand why it’s priced the way it is – it’s from small production and the cost of fruit is more up here in WA as well. If you want a quality WA malbec and like supporting the “home-team” then give this one a whirl.

W.E.P. Rating: 85%

On the web: http://www.smasnecellars.com

Posted in Malbec, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2008 Crystal Basin Cellars Petite Sirah

Petite Sirah does very well in the heat of California and the vineyards in Ed Dorado country – in the Sierra foothills – are well known for their elevation and cooler nights which is a great combination for great fruit. Crystal Basin Cellars is in this area, in a city called Camino, and has been producing quality red wines for awhile now. I was first introduced to its wines last year and have been a huge fan ever since.

Technical Data:

  • Alc: 14.2
  • Brix: 25.5
  • ph: 3.75
  • Price: $27

Nose: Peppered jerky, bell pepper, blueberries, blackberry and the inside of an old leather shoe.

Taste: Very good combo of black fruit flavors coming through with a light dusting of cinnamon and blueberries. I get a good black licorice-laced leather component across the mid palate with very nice tannin structure. A young wine that drinks good now and should age another 5-8 years or so. Goes great with barbeque, steaks, hamburgers or even wild game.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

On the web: http://www.crystalbasin.com/

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Collio Italy Spotlight: Russiz Superiore / Marco Felluga

Producer Roberto Felluga has a sense of passion and drive in the way he talks about his family’s long-standing (now in its fifth-generation) business.  His family’s winery produces two different brands under the same roof – Marco Felluga and Russiz Superiore and each one has its own distinct style.

Here’s a map so you can see where the two wineries are at geographically:

The wines that have the Russiz Superiore brand are all aged in oak – even the whites and all the grapes come from the immediate property.

On the other hand, Marco Felluga wines are vinified in stainless, the vineyards are in Farra d’isonzo, Cormons, San Lorenzo and San Floriano  – all still within Collio. It’s cellar is in Gradisca d’Isonzo.

Roberto and his staff sat us down at a super-long table and proceeded to pour us each one of their lovely wines – each one had its own distinctness to it and his red was one of the highlights of my trip. I realize, that Collio’s production consists of 80% white but one should not discount their ability to churn out very food-friendly red wine as well.  The thing that strikes me so profoundly about the wines here are their near-perfect “sense of place, this is where it’s made damn-it” – yes, terrior.

Soil, sandstone, rock, basalt, sea-floor – it’s all in there and Roberto does an awesome job of expressing all that in his wines. It’s hard to fully express through pictures alone, what it’s like to walk through a winery like this – one that’s been around so long and has a pedigree of producing such amazing wines – luckily, for us in the USA, they do have an importer so chances are your favorite wine shop may carry these wines already or should be able to order them in.

If you want an awesome expression of Collio and would like to “travel there” without leaving your home, then you should taste the Russiz Superiore or Marco Felluga wines soon.

On the web: http://www.russizsuperiore.it/

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A pair of Argentina Reds from Septima Winery

There’s no question that Argentina – as a wine producing region – is on fire and that has mainly been because of its successful malbec wines. Due to a variety of reasons such as cheaper labor, land and grape prices, you can often find wine from Argentina are far superior quality-per-dollar than other leading regions.

2009 Malbec:

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Composition: 100% Malbec
  • Vineyards: Valle de Uco, 1100 m.a.s.l., Agrelo 1050 m.a.s.l.
  • Oak aging: 6 months in American oak barrels.
  • Analytical Data
  • Alcohol % v / v: 14.
  • Residual sugars: 4.90 g/l.
  • Total acidity tartaric: 5.15 g/l.
  • Volatile acidity in acetic: 0.48 g/l.
  • Color: Intense red with purplish highlights.
  • Price: $12

Nose: Plums, cedar smoke, tanned leather, cocoa, cinnamon and clove with a hint of blackberry.

Taste: I get a good mix of blackberry and plum-pie filling right off the bat – this is very fruit-foward, new-world style malbec. Decent tannins and overall mouthfeel, however, the finish is a bit too short for me – overall not a bad wine for the money.

2008 Cab:

W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Data:

  • Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Vineyards: Valle de Uco, 1100 m.a.s.l.
  • Oak aging: 6 months in American oak barrels.
  • Alcohol % v / v: 14.2.
  • Residual sugars: 4.03 g/l.
  • Total acidity tartaric: 5.17 g/l.
  • Volatile acidity in acetic: 0.60 g/l.
  • Color: Deep ruby red with mahogany shades.
  • Price: $12

Nose: Spiced cherries, top soil, leather, sea foam, chocolate, roses and tar.

Taste: The top-soil effece and tar come on really strong at first and then lead way into a spiced-cherry frenzy. Decent mid-palate, however, the tannins are sort of weak for me and it always doesn’t finsih near as strong as I’d hope for. Not a bad effort at all, however, there are far more interesting cabs out there.

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2008 Gifford Hirlinger Malbec

Family-owned and operated Gifford Hirlinger resides right on the border of Washington and Oregon on well-named Stateline Road near Walla Walla. Its winemaker, Mike Berghan, loves what he does and if you ever get the chance to talk to him, you’ll see the passion teaming from him.

His family started the winery several years ago and have enjoyed a good amount of fanfare, awards and it’s no surprise. His wines tend to do a good job of reflecting the Walla Walla terrior without breaking the bank as many wines of that region tend to do.

Mike uses estate-grown fruit which means he has superior working-knowledge of the vineyard management and that helps help in making wines that don’t get in the way of the terrior coming through.

Technical Data:

  • Case Production: 342
  • Varietal Composition: 79% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Tempranillo
  • Barrel Aging: 18 Months
  • Oak Program: 40% New Hungarian Oak, 60% Neutral Hungarian Barrels
  • Price: $26

Nose: Spicy plums and blackberries have a date with a touch of cedar box and spice. Lots of dark, spicy fruit on the nose here.

Taste: Inky plumsauce with spiced blackberry jam on top. Good tannins, a touch of vanilla and dark chocolate. Really nice finish that lingers nicely.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Winery website: www.giffordhirlinger.com

Posted in Malbec, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

2007 Saviah Cellars Petit Verdot

Some wine lovers out there haven’t even heard of the grape, Petit Verdot so that alone makes them somewhat intrigued. What is it? Well, it’s one of the six red Bordeaux varietals that for the longest time was only used for blending.  The reason for this is because it generally has a longer ripening time than the other Bordeaux grapes in France so it sort of fell out of favor there.  However, in the New World, where hotter temperatures can help it ripen faster, it has attracted a lot of winemakers.

Richard Funk, owner and winemaker of Saviah Cellars in Walla Walla Washington has fallen in love with this wonderful grape and his current 2007 release totally reflects that love and passion.

Technical Data:

  • Appellation: Walla Walla Valley
  • pH 3.63
  • TA 0.54 g/100mL
  • Alcohol 14.7% By Volume
  • Fermentation: 36-hour cold soak; Open top fermenters with cap punched down by hand three times per day. Secondary fermentation finished in barrel.
  • Barrel Aging: 100% New French oak barrels
  • Aged 21 months
  • Cases Produced: 190 cases
  • Bottling Date: June 11, 2009
  • Release Date: October 1, 2010
  • Price: $30

Nose: Smells like a blackened prime-grade New York Steak – very “meaty” on the nose. Good aroma’s have charred wood, plumsauce, boysenberries, blueberry and blackberry jam.

Taste: First off, this wine kicks some major ass – it’s like a Slip-N-Slide flavorama of black licorice, blackberry jam, squid ink, plums and beef. The mouthfeel couldn’t be better and the overall “hang time” of the finish is obnoxiously long – in a good way. Easily the best Petit Verdot I’ve had anywhere at anytime. Would pair well with grilled steaks, veal meatballs or game.

W.E.P. Rating: 120%

Winery website: www.saviahcellars.com

Posted in Petit Verdot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (0)

Review: 2008 Ghost Hill Pinot Noir

Ghost Hill Cellars is really all about the history of the land it sits on which was first bought back in 1906 by the Bayliss family. Even thought it has changed formats during its 100-year tenure – going from dairy to growing grapes – is history is very much a part of what’s in the bottle.

Winemaker, Rebecca Marie, tries her best to pay homage to the land and its history by not getting in the way of what the grapes want to say each vintage. Her wine tends to lean a bit more to the “old world” style where we find higher acids and lower alcohol which I’m always a big fan of.

Review: 2008 Ghost Hill Pinot Noir

Technical Data:

  • Varietal Composition: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Appellation: Yamhill-Carlton District
  • Harvest Date: October 12, 2008
  • PH: 3.6
  • Barrel Aging: 12 months 13%-New Oak
  • Ageability: 7-10 years
  • Bottling Date: November 18, 2009
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Price: $42

Nose: Cranberries, bacon-fat, sour cherries, black pepper and a hint of squash.

Taste: Smokey beef jerky with some nice notes of cedar, allspice, anise and cranberry sauce. Super tight tannins speak to the youth of this wine – it has really nice acids as well. Tons of aging potential on this wine and frankly, I think it kicks more ass than the ghost of Gary Coleman all hopped up on smack. Very approachable now with a good decant and would probably be sublime in another 6-7 years or so.

W.E.P. Rating: 95%

On the web: http://www.ghosthillcellars.com

Posted in Oregon Wines, Pinot Noir, ReviewsComments (0)

Review: A pair of Panther Creek 2007 Pinot Noir’s

By Duane Pemberton
Winery website: www.panthercreek.com

Panther Creek, located in McMinnville Oregon, is passionate about its wine and that passion leads them to source fruit from some of that state’s top vineyard spots who are operated by folks who have a similar passion. Its Pinot Noir has garnered a large number of accolades over the years and has been some of my personal favorite since first tasting them a couple of years ago.

Review: A pair of Panther Creek 2007 Pinot Noir’s

2007 Freedom Hills Pinot Noir – W.E.P. Rating: 100%

Technical Data:

  • Appellation: Willamette Valley
  • Alcohol: 14.10%
  • Composition: Pinot Noir: 100% Freedom Hill Vineyard
  • $40.00 bottle

Nose: Sharpie pen, burnt tire, cranberries, sour cherry, wet cedar and currant.

Taste: Black sour cherries and cranberries hit the front palate with authority. Next up, on the mid-palalte is the flavors of some leather, tobacco, cedar, dark chocolate and the sharpie pen. Good finish that hangs out for awhile and finishes with all kinds of stellar, tart red fruits.

2007 Verde Vineyards Pinot Noir – W.E.P. Rating: 75%

Technical Data:

  • Appellation: Willamette Valley
  • Alcohol: 12.90%
  • Composition: Pinot Noir: 40% Momtazi Vineyard, 30% Temperance Hill Vineyard, and 30% Elton Vineyard
  • $35.00 bottle

Nose: Dried cherries, lavender, shoe polish, cranberries, cinnamon and a touch of cedar.

Taste: Good red fruit on the attack of cherry and cranberries and some nice hints of vanilla and Christmas spices as well. Good mid palate tranisition with both acidity and tannins holding together, however, the finish is actually a bit short for me. Overall, this isn’t a bad pinot for $35 but there are others I’d seek out in its price range.

On the web: www.panthercreekcellars.com

Posted in Oregon Wines, Pinot Noir, ReviewsComments (0)

3 2006 Long Shadows Wines – Review

I can’t think of a more passionate dude in the Washington wine industry than winemaker, Gilles Nicault. His zeal for wine, passion for life and people can only be truly appreciated if you get the chance to meet him in person. One could say that being french-born slanted him to be this way but his level of passion is hard to fake or duplicate. Gilles puts his whole heart into everything he touches and because of that, everyone should have the chance to try his wines – even if at the end of the day your palate doesn’t agree with them.

Long Shadows hires talent from around the world to work with Gilles on various projects – this is part of the success model for the winery as they get to to employ the expertise from some of the world’s most celebrated winemakers.

2006 Pirouette – W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Technical Details:

  • Blend: 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 5% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.6%
  • pH: 3.93
  • TA: 0.53 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: May 2009
  • Production: 1,733 cases
  • Price: $55

Nose: Waves of dark chocolate covered blueberries and blackberries. white pepper, wild game, road tar and spice.

Taste: Nice doses of black and white pepper with fresh deer meat, a touch of baby poo, radishes, blackberry, plusm, anise, and chocolate. This is an interesting wine in that it offers some nice layers of complexity and had good acids, but for a $55 wine the finish seems a bit awkward for me. It finishes with some black licorice, pencil lead and ink but all that goodness gets a bit choked out by being a touch too hot – I’d like to try this wine again in 3-5 years.

2006 Feather – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Details:

  • 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Alcohol: 14.2%
  • pH: 3.72
  • TA: 0.57 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: April 2009
  • Production: 2,238 cases
  • Price: $55

Nose: Cherries, dirt, raspberries, freshly-tanned leather, saddle soap and big-league chew.

Taste: Nice dose of what I’m going to call “dirty cherries” – it’s like you took a handful of cherries, dropped them in the dirt and then ate them – Good stuff. Across the mid-palate, I get some cool flavors of lavender, rose petal, charcoal, black raspberries and leather. Good finish that lingers nicely with flavors of black pepper and spice – would be a great pick for a grilled rib-eye steak.

2006 Saggi – W.E.P. Rating: 95%

  • Blend:42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Sangiovese, 19% Syrah
  • Alcohol: 14.6%
  • pH: 3.81
  • TA: 0.55 grams / 100ml
  • Release Date: October 2008
  • Production: 1,725 cases
  • $45

Nose: Crayola crayons, christmas fruit cake, cherry, blueberry,  glue,  star anise and some fresh road-kill.

Taste: Blackberry-laced leather straps that have been covered in molasses, cherries, pie crust, chocolate, nutmeg and wild game. There is a lot going on in the taste of this wine – it’s very complex, offering a great variety in layers of flavors. Good acidity and tannin structure – for me – make this wine an easy pick for lasagna or meat-filled ravioli or any sort of italian-styled meat and red-sauce dishes. Good velvet-action on the palate with a finish that hangs out like that annoying neighborhood kid who doesn’t “get it” on when it’s time to leave.

On the web: www.longshadows.com

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Reviews, Washington WinesComments (3)

Lynfred Winery Cuvée

By Darin Pemberton

Lynfred Winery is  a 30-something year old establishment just west of Chicago, IL.  The winery opened its doors in 1979 based on the dream of Fred and Lynn Koehler.  Now in a facility encompassing some 24,000 square feet, Lynfred maintains ‘Tasting Devine’ in nearby Wheaton, IL, and Naperville IL.    Like to stay all night? Good – Lynfred also operates Lynfred Suites, Bed & Breakfast! For more info, please see www.lynfredwinery.com

There’s a saying regarding the sum is greater than its parts.  Diving into my latest sampling from Lynfred Winery, I was hoping to find my next-best-favourite wines.  On paper, the Cab Sauv-heavy Cuvee had all the right players, co-starring with Zin, Merlot and Petite Syrah.   While this wine was crafted in Illinois, it features grapes grown in Washington and California, by favorite growers of the wine maker.

Technical details:

  • 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Zinfandel, 14% Merlot, 12% Petite Syrah, 7% Syrah, 5% Petite Verdot, 1% Pinot Noir and 1% Grenache
  • Aging:  French and American Oak
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Residual Sugar: .2%
  • pH: 3.63
  • Total Acidity: 7 g/L
  • MSRP: $30

On the Nose: Sniffing through my Riedel, after sitting open about 20 minutes, I picked up notes of Licorice, Blackberries, Spices, a kind of musty-leather, and the smell of an old, wet Clarinet reed.

On the tongue: Strong vegital mixed with bitter-sweet cocoa. Jammy and fruity – tasted like rose petals and smokey butter.  I drank this wine with a large slab of fresh-grilled T-Bone steak, and frankly, the steak was too much for the Cuvée.  Suggested foods based on the information card received with the wine suggest peppercorn steer, brownies, and New York strip steak.   Because of that I was a little surprised at how the Cuvée had a difficult time with my meal – sides were wasabi mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini.  I suspect the bottle I sampled was a little off, as I was left with a slightly bitter aftertaste.   I’m going to have to give the Cuvée another shot – because the blend, the grapes, and Lynfred’s other products are right up my alley.

While over all the wine was acceptable, and I’d gladly serve it, the bottle I sampled, at an MSRP of $30 left me wanting.   Especially compared with the Zin I’ve recently reviewed from Lynfred, I didn’t feel the Cuvée was right for me at that price point – thus my

W.E.P. Rating:  70%

Posted in Illinois Wines, ReviewsComments (4)

2006 Dusted Valley Reserve Syrah

Dusted Valley Wines, headquartered in Walla Walla Washington, came onto the scene a few years ago and most recently won “Winery of the year”  Wine Press Northwest magazine. Its owners and winemakers launched back in 2003, becoming the 52nd winery to open in Walla Walla.

They’re one of the few wineries in Washington that have gone all screw-cap and that hasn’t seemed to bother their fans nor the critics.

Technical Data:

  • 100% Syrah (100% Free Run) N/A – ALLOCATED PRODUCT
  • Vineyard Sources: Alder Ridge, Lonesome Springs Ranch, Spofford Station, Cougar Hills
  • Total Acidity 0.59 grams/100ml
  • pH 3.8
  • Alcohol 14.5%
  • Oak Program: 25 % New French Oak, 15% New American Oak
  • Production: 242 Cases
  • Price: $35

Nose: Blueberry, cinnamon, allspice, cedar, peppercorn, clove, leather and chocolate.

Taste: Excellent attack of black pepper, cinnamon, blueberry and a nice hint of blackberry coming thru for me as well. I get a spicey chocololate note that picks things up across the mid-palate transisition. The finish brings lingering flavors of blueberry, Christmas spice, leather, dark chocolate and tobacco leaf. This is an extremely solid effort and a Syrah that does a good job of showcasing how well WA State can do this grape.

W.E.P. Rating: 90%

On the web: dustedvalley.com

Posted in Reviews, Syrah, Washington WinesComments (0)