<![CDATA[(Un)Common Grape - Wine Reviews]]>Mon, 16 Jan 2017 19:45:35 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[1998 Etienne Sauzet Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet]]>Wed, 18 May 2016 18:21:46 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/1998-etienne-sauzet-bienvenues-batard-montrachetPicture
I came across this bottle as part of a cellar relocation that I was managing. It fell into the category of "not worth moving" but instead of pouring it down the drain, I figured it was worth trying before we got to that point. So I brought it to a wine friend's house one night to see if it was worth drinking.

Sadly, it was not. While it clearly had been good at one point, it had since turned into a candied, butterscotch and salt water concoction. I bet this had tasted of lovely golden apples at one point, but not there was only a hint of cooked apples. It wasn't all bad as I was happy to drink one glass of it before pouring the rest away.

Nevertheless, I am never ashamed of trying unusual bottles and rarely back down from any bottle of wine. My friend remarked that he always knows I'm going to have something interesting to drink. And that's something. I'd rather take a chance with an interesting bottle than have my expectations met with something predictable. In that way, I guess you could say I'd prefer my wine to be like a box of chocolates, so to speak.

<![CDATA[2013 Corley Family Monticello Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon]]>Fri, 01 Apr 2016 21:32:21 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/2013-corley-family-monticello-vineyards-cabernet-sauvignonPictureI hate using stock photos but I can't seem to find my picture of this bottle so it'll have to do for today.
I've been drinking a lot of Corley Family wine recently. The Corley family makes great wine in Napa Valley and I've had the pleasure of hanging out with two of the brothers in charge of operations recently, Stephen and Chris. Stephen is in charge of the business side while Chris handles the winemaking. Another brother, Kevin, manages all their vineyards.

The Corley family has been making wine in Napa since the 1970's and farms a good deal of land right in the middle of the valley. They're located in the Oak Knoll District which is a small (and lesser well-known) sub-AVA, and is actually the first AVA you come to when traveling north from the city of Napa.

I'm surprised I didn't know more about these guys sooner as I'm now a big fan of this family and the wine they make. The wines are fresh and lively, but definitely have aging potential as well. If I had one criticism, it would be in the name. Technically the winery is "Corley Family Napa Valley." Pretty self explanatory. However, tacked onto it is "Monticello Vineyards," an homage to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. The Corley's have ties to Virginia, but also wanted to honor a man considered to be America's first wine connoisseur. I'm all for that. But it just makes it a bit confusing to try and remember, is it Corley? Is it Monticello? Not to mention there's another Monticello Vineyards actually in Virginia (Stephen explained to me that the Corley's graciously let them use the name since the Corley's had trademarked it first). And, the name "Monticello Vineyards" is most prominent on the label of their Napa Valley tier wines while "Corley" is most prominent on their single vineyard wines.

Either way, they're making great wine and I'm happy to keep drinking it.

<![CDATA[1996 Barnett Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Rattlesnake Hill]]>Sat, 12 Mar 2016 02:00:01 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/1996-barnett-vineyards-cabernet-sauvignon-rattlesnake-hillPicture
Another of my generous friends out in Napa: Fiona and Hal Barnett. I've had the pleasure of knowing them for several years and every time we get together they have some new surprise in store. Last year it was their last bottle of 2004 Merlot that they opened. This year it was a two of the last six magnums of 1996 Rattlesnake Hill Cabernet.

Barnett Vineyards is located way up on Spring Mountain in Napa. The view from there is absolutely breathtaking and their vineyards are pretty spectacular, though admittedly a bit frightening to think about harvesting. The Rattlesnake Hill vineyard is the uppermost part of their property (at 2,050 feet) and consistently produces the deepest, most intoxicating grapes that they really demand to be bottled separately.

The production on this wine is always tiny, however, so it's not an easy bottle to come by (nor inexpensive when you do) but it's worth it. It was ever so kind of the Barnetts to share it with us and great to get some time with their magnanimous current winemaker, David Tate. David is a pretty awesome dude that makes incredible wine, and I think he's pretty under-appreciated. He's worked at numerous places around the world and was at Ridge before coming to Barnett in 2007. Now he makes Barnett and has started his own project called simply Tate. Those wines are incredible as well. But back to the bottle at hand.

Because of its intensity, the Rattlesnake Hill cabernet really takes a while to come around. And so twenty years is a good amount of time to let this bad boy settle down. Even twenty years in, this wine still had loads of life. It was drinking beautifully and was a great pairing for lamb. The fruit was still vibrant and the tannins had softened so that it was silky and elegant. Definitely worth the wait.

<![CDATA[1999 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate le Coste]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2016 02:00:02 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/1999-giuseppe-rinaldi-barolo-brunate-le-costePicture
While out in Napa, our last dinner as a group is always a bit of a low key affair, meaning, it's pretty laid back, and there's no great agenda. For this dinner, there's often great wine being opened, and often anything but Napa as we get pretty inundated with Napa wine every other moment of the week. One of the bottles opened at this dinner was the Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate Le Coste. Even better than that, it was a 1999.

I love Barolo. I REALLY love old Barolo so this was pretty cool.

And it was drinking exactly as it should: beautiful flavors of dried cherry and tobacco with subtleties of mushroom. I love drinking old wine because the flavors are often so much more complex. But you have to be prepared for there to be a lightness as well. In its youth, Barolo is usually bold and tannic (though still elegant). With age, however, it really lightens up and is a much more feminine and graceful wine. Really cool stuff.

<![CDATA[2012 La Maialina Gertrude Toscana]]>Thu, 10 Mar 2016 02:00:03 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/2012-la-maialina-gertrude-toscanaPicture
I've had this wine a couple times before, though never written about it. It's really a great, simple and enjoyable red from Tuscany. It's a pretty typical Tuscan blend of mostly Sangiovese with some Cabernet Sauvginon and some Merlot. There's nothing particularly earth-shattering about it, but it's always a win when I pour a wine for a party and one of our friends tries it and says, "Oh, I like this. And I didn't think I liked red wine."

That friend and I went on to talk about a really great topic when it comes to drinking wine, how do you take your wine drinking to a more serious level? My simple answer was to pay attention. Pay attention to what you're drinking and why; what you like about it and what you don't. While only $10 or $15, at the end of the day, this kind of wine is what it's all about: a wine that helps people try new things and opens their taste buds to new possibilities.

​Yay for pink pigs.

<![CDATA[2014 Saintsbury Chardonnay Sangiacomo Green Acres´╗┐]]>Wed, 09 Mar 2016 02:00:02 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/2014-saintsbury-chardonnay-sangiacomo-green-acresPicture
I consider my friends in Napa to be some of the most generous people around. Especially when it comes to wine. There's no shortage of wine sharing whenever I get out to Napa. Dinner our first night out there was one such occasion. We were having dinner with Richard Ward, co-founder of Saintsbury who makes world-class pinot noir and chardonnay. Frankly, they're better known for the pinot noir, and he showed us why pouring a 2000 single vineyard that tasted like a 2012 (In fact we didn't know what he had poured and so he had us guess. Most of us thought somewhere around 2012; I was a bit closer, only 2 years off).

But this chardonnay was gorgeous and made me wonder why they aren't better known for their white wine. There's a lot going on in this wine, and on the label. Not only is this from Sangiacomo Vineyards, but specifically their hallowed Green Acres vineyard. This is the first vineyard the Sangiacomos planted back in 1969 and one of their most sought after. While Saintsbury has been buying grapes from Sangiacomo for many decades, this is actually only the second vintage of the Green Acres designated Chardonnay. The wine is treated with utmost respect, hand-harvesting at night to maintain freshness, whole cluster pressed to gain as much flavor as possible, and aging in mostly neutral oak so as not to mask the floral aromas. The goal is to preserve beautiful character of the fruit from Green Acres. It produces great grapes for people like Richard Ward to make great wine. Keep it up Ricardo.

<![CDATA[2013 Arianna Occhipinti SP68 Bianco]]>Fri, 04 Mar 2016 02:00:02 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/2013-arianna-occhipinti-sp68-biancoPicture
I was out to dinner one night recently at a great Italian place known for their pasta. In perusing the wine list, there was no shortage of unique looking wines that were sure to be interesting. There was a heavy emphasis on Italian wines, as well as French with surprisingly little domestic selections. But I was okay with that. After a week of drinking lots of big red wines, I was in the mood for something a bit lighter and more refreshing, so I narrowed in on the white selections. I saw wines from expected regions like Piedmont and Alto Adige alongside some more obscure areas like South Tyrol and Lazio.

I ended up narrowing it down to two choices, and at the prompting of a friend at the table with me, we settled on this bottle: the SP68 Sicilian Bianco from Occhipinti. Occhipinti (fun to say isn't it?) is the eponymous wine label of Arianna Occhipinti, a young winemaker from Sicily that focusing on produces natural wines that respect the land and the grapes and the history of the place. The SP68 wines, there's a red and a white, are named for a road that goes through her hometown of Vittoria, Sicily. They are blends and are a great introduction into the wines she makes. She makes a few other reds from either Frappato or Nero d'Avola (or a blend of the two) but this is the only white.

The bianco is a blend of two grapes, Moscato di Alessandria, and Albanello, a grape I'd never heard of. It had quite a heady aroma and reminded me a lot of gewurztraminer. In fact, it was so aromatic that I was expecting the wine to taste a little sweet. Instead, it was full of acidity with bright flavors of citrus and even a little note of olive or sea salt. By far one of the coolest white wines I've had in a long time and completely unexpected.

<![CDATA[2012 Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon]]>Thu, 03 Mar 2016 02:00:02 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/2012-beaulieu-vineyards-bv-napa-valley-cabernet-sauvignonPicture
This was the last of the three classic Napa Cabernets that I tried side-by-side. While I don't drink of lot of BV wines, I remember having dinner a few years ago with winemaker Jeffrey Stambor (his signature is even on the label). At that dinner, I remember being surprised out how good the wines are. I was particularly impressed with the $25 Rutherford Cabernet. But, since I was trying to compare apples to apples, this was the straight up Napa Valley appellation.

And again, I was pretty impressed. For a $20 or so wine, this had a good amount of fruit, but was still reminiscent, if ever so slightly, of the classic Rutherford flavors that I would expect from this property located right smack dab in the middle (from north to south) of Napa Valley. Founded just at the turn of the century by Frenchman George de Latour--for which the winery's top of the line wine is named--this winery has operated continuously since then. It became an iconic wine really beginning in the 1938 when one of Napa Valley's first rockstar winemakers, André Tchelistcheff (say that 10 times fast), took the helm.. Tchelistcheff, a Russian-born French-educated winemaker, became known as "The Maestro" because of his ability to craft and sculpt Napa Valley wines into masterpieces. He was the first to introduce techniques that today are taken for granted in Napa--cold soak fermentation, aging in French oak barrels, malolactic fermentation, and more. He was making wine in the Napa Valley for 20 years before Robert Mondavi started his winery.

Tcheslistcheff was succeeded in 1982 by Joel Aiken who now makes his own wine--darn good wine at that. Aiken handed the reigns over to Stambor. So really, only four winemakers in the winery's 116 year history. The winery, too, has changed hands over time and was sold in 1969 to Heublein which eventually became Diageo through a variety of mergers and acquisitions who owned it until just recently. Diageo sold off all of its US wine properties over the course of this past year. BV is now owned by Treasury Wine Estates (the same company who owns Beringer Vineyards up the road).

<![CDATA[2012 Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon]]>Tue, 01 Mar 2016 23:00:01 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/2012-beringer-napa-valley-cabernet-sauvignonPicture
I've never spent much time with Beringer wine. The winery, started by two German immigrant brothers in the 19th century, holds the title of being the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley (continuous because it continued to make wine through Prohibition). It was family run until 1971 when it was sold to Nestlé--who apparently doesn't just make chocolate--who sold it again. It is now owned by Treasury Wine Estates, one of the top ten wine companies in the world.

I always hope that historic Napa properties will exemplify what makes Napa great. However, in this category I thought Beringer's Napa Valley Cabernet missed the marked. While still a perfectly fine wine, there was nothing incredibly special or expressive about it. And at the $35 retail price, it was a bit too pricey for the quality. I think there's still a lot of good Napa Cabernet out there for under $40, though they are harder and harder to come by, this just wasn't one of them.

However, I will close by saying that there is some redemption for Beringer. Some of the wines they make are outstanding. Not too long ago I had the pleasure of trying a 1997 Private Reserve Cabernet from them that was outstanding. And I still remember a Treasury Wine Estates lunch I attended where they served the Beringer Nightingale dessert wine, a bottle I still look for on wine store shelves. Just last year, the Beringer family returned in some twist of fate when Mark Beringer took over the role of winemaker for the estate. Perhaps this will also return the wines to their former glory.

<![CDATA[2011 Silverado Mt. George Merlot]]>Fri, 26 Feb 2016 19:16:46 GMThttp://uncommongrape.com/wine-reviews/2011-silverado-mt-george-merlotPicture
I've been drinking Silverado Vineyards wine for five or six years now. But I remember the first time I tried their Merlot. Typically an undervalued grape in my opinion, Merlot has a bad rap, largely due to a preponderance of bad Merlot in the '80s and '90s, and perhaps more famously, the movie Sideways(If you haven't seen it, I recommend it as a good wine movie, but back to the point).

Silverado Vineyards was started in 1981 by Diane and Ron Miller and is still a family run business. I first had their Merlot in 2012 and was stunned. This wine comes from the Mt. George vineyard in Coombsville, a sub-appellation of Napa Valley. It's an incredibly powerful wine with loads of flavor and weight. This vineyard is so good, actually, that the winery just started producing a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from it called GEO. I love the herbaceous quality that this wine also has. It mixes nicely with the dark, plummy fruit characteristics.

My only complaint is that it's gone up $10 a bottle since I first started drinking it. C'est la vie!