3 Ways Costco Wine Beats the Competition

 

Every wine drinker should try the 2019 Kirkland Sauvignon Blanc, “Ti Point” from New Zealand.

Not any other vintage, the 2019 which I bought for $6.99.

The 2018 is quite different. Not bad, just different. 

Why try the 2019? Well, primarily because the 2019 is an excellent example of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc. It would be a “perfect” example, but that word is over-used.

The 2019 displays both the good and typical aromas and flavors fans like me look for and it also has the attributes others may find sharp, thin and off-putting.

Another good, even better, reason: it is made by a real winemaker at a real winery.

Tracy Haslam, is a 3rd generation winemaker. Google her. 

And, finally, unlike several popular brands of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc lining shelves everywhere,  it is made and bottled there.

Yes, several big volume Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs are literally shipped to California in giant containers to be unloaded and trucked off to Napa, Acampo, Lodi or Sonoma, and then pumped from the truck to the facility and, finally, bottled. 

Hardly a romantic journey or conversation topic over a glass of wine.

Not saying that the wines shipped and trucked are bad. 

Just saying read the back label.

 

Great Wine Club Discovery

 A Winemaker Rising Above the Radar

Just discovered a winery/wine club that makes high quality wines and, as a bonus, is a two-for-one operation. Located in Paso Robles, winemaker Tyler Russell had created two brands: Nelle and Cordant. As he explains, “Two brands. One mindset.”

Cordant focuses on Pinot Noir and Nelle offers wines from Rhone varietals.

Long story short: the Nelle Syrahs stole the show in my most recent update and tasting.

The mindset seems to be to locate the best vineyards in the Central Coast and then listen to the vineyard. In a Shaksperian aside, the vineyard will say: “to vineyard designate or blend. That is the question.”

In 2017, considered to be an outstanding year, Russell made three Syrahs that should help us understand this mindset.

One is the 2017 Nelle Syrah, “Coastview Vineyard” which occupies one of the high elevation sites in Monterey County. This highly regarded vineyard is part of the Gabilan Mountain Range. 

This Syrah is a deep, dark wine, rich, multi-layered with ripe dark plum

 fruit, that displays the thyme, lavender notes associated with great Syrah. It needs to be decanted/aerated, but keeps on unfolding over time.

115 cases were produced, and the price is $52. My score: 94

Second up is the 2017 Nelle Syrah, Reserve, “The Terraces,” a barrel selection of 50 cases. Well, simply put: this Syrah is amazing. Up there with the best I’ve ever tasted. Reminded me of some great Cornas when I tasted new vintages in the Auguste Clape cellars.  Dense, spicy, leathery, peppery and loaded with flavors but structured and balanced, not over the top, hedonistic style. 

It takes us back to that mindset. As Russell explains:

“The 2017 Reserve Syrah, which we call “The Terraces” happened by chance. We had small few rows at Coastview in a section they call the casita terraces. That we just let hang for a while. The stems developed perfectly with fruit. So we fermented whole cluster. Fermented slowly in the cold room. Put the wine in some nice barrels. I really think this wine is a testament to the vintage. At least for us. My intention was not to make a reserve wine… it just turned out really good so went ahead and did it.” 

115 cases produced. $72. My score: 98

Third, the 2017 Nelle Central Coast Syrah is a blend of fruit from 6 vineyards. Working with grapes from cool climate and warm climate sites, it comes across with only a hint of Paso Robles ripeness and chocolate tones nicely complemented by bright fruit and spice from cooler sites. Make no mistake, this is serious stuff that can be cellared. But, as the French say, “It drinks well.” Sorry, they say this: “Ca boire bien.”

500 cases produced. $40. Score: 93

Contact:

Nelle/Cordant Winery

3310 RAMADA DRIVE SUITE A

PASO ROBLES

(805) 369 – 2313

INFO@CORDANTWINERY.COM

“Two buck Chuck,” the Party Wine of the 90s Is Back

With apologies to Prince: Party like it’s 1999!

“Two buck Chuck,” the party wine of the 90s is back.

Yes, the price was reduced this week at Trader Joe’s.

We are talking about $1.99 a bottle from the Charles Shaw brand.

Bring it on, baby: wood chips, acid adjustment, blending, secret sauce, eye of newt, or whatever it takes.

It certainly drives the point home: wine does not have to be expensive.

Because, fyi, I think cheap (make that inexpensive) Sauvignon Blanc is more challenging to make than Chard or Cab, I checked out the 2018 SB at TJ’s.

My notes:

Slightly greenish color with some spice on the nose. Neither grassy nor herbal and without a melon or gooseberry in sight. Make that without much of an identifiable fruit.  Maybe a hint of grape. Medium bodied with a hint of sweetness but finishes with slightly tart acidity. Totally acceptable.

BTW, I prefer to taste white wines not chilled. Chilling a wine can masks any defects and off things.

Somms will be challenged to find a mineral or a crushed rock, scorched earth component. Or whatever the latest show-off terms are.

And the rest of us will wonder how is it possible to offer any wine at this price.

But for $1.99 in a real bottle with a cork, this SB is a party wine…

Note to dinner guests: “dont even think about it.”

 

Clueless No Longer

 

Wine Sleuthing 2.0

2020 has quickly provided a great, unexpected surprise. No, I’m not going political on you. This discovery relates to the online wine world.

The clues were there but I just kept getting sidetracked by the silly name and seemingly casual attitude. 

 Then this week with the offer of a fabulous Châteauneuf-du-Pape and special Zinfandel,  it was impossible yto ignore the clues.

Winespies, a wine merchant that I’ve been hesitant to write about,  has totally won me over with its exciting daily specials throughout January.

It meets and often now exceeds my 5 basic criteria:  

  1. Sourcing under the radar, first rate wines from non-corporate wineries

    2. Discounting in the 25-50% range, closer to 50%

   3. Providing informative background material about the wine and people

   4. Avoiding over-hyped, point scores and fake reviews

   5. Offering good free shipping options with temperature control

The standout wines in January that helped make me a new fan are an Oakville Cabernet, Napa Valley Merlot, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, Brut Premier Cru Champagne and a knockout Zinfandel blend from the Sierra Foothills.

For more detail about http://www.winespies.com go to: www.robywine.com

 

5 Best Somm Sites & Free Wine Education

Somms have come a long way since my years as a wine teacher. The new breed study hard and pass rigorous exams. Whether full on MS scholars or those having attained certain WSET levels, they have soaked up tons of information about the many facets of wine.

Knowing a subject inside and out is essential as a starting point but it does not make one a good or excellent teacher.

 How to organize and convey information is what sets good teachers apart from the bad and the boring.  Motivating students to continue learning after the class is another key.

That holds true for everyone imparting information on every subject.

Somms and MWs are no exception. 

Focusing on free stuff on the internet is like returning to the Wine Library at UC Davis  Or for me, the Healdsburg Library where I spent many hours.

Oh well, enough nostalgia. I’ve recently been following Somms and a few MWs online. I’ve read numerous background articles, wine reviews, and have viewed too many videos and Podcasts featuring Somms. Yes, I’ve seen the movies as well. 

Regarding wine podcasts, I checked out many, including  “Drunk Bitches” and “Wine to Five.” Neither made my list.

As of now based on the latest, five websites backed by Somms lead the field in free online wine education. All 5 should be approached as team teachers, since each brings a special area of expertise and strength to the immense subject.

In other words, no one stands alone in my mind as “the” wine educator. There is no Kevin Zraly among today’s SOMMS.

But here are the 5, each bringing something powerful and rewarding to wine education:

www.winefolly.com 

Begin here: Best on how to taste and talk about wines.

Madeline Puckette, a certified Somm and member of the Guild of Sommeliers is the outfront personality. She and her partners stated Wine Folly in 2011. As she explains, “The goal of Wine Folly is to share wine knowledge in a way to encourage and inspire new drinkers. “

And she does that. She is not, thankfully, talking to wannabe sommeliers, and she focuses on making wine tasting enjoyable.

 Often relying on blind tasting wines side by side, she brings tremendous enthusiasm to the subject. She is basically teaching viewers how to taste and identify wines, and manages to make it lively, if not exactly entertaining. Other than having the credentials, she comes across, and this seems important to me, as a normal person, not a twit or nerd.

I liked her tasting of 3 under $20 Cabernets purchased at a supermarket. It immediately breaks the association of price and quality so common among new wine lovers. As the wines are evaluated, she tends to focus a lot on the appearance, not just color but the overall appearance. Love her use of the wine aroma wheel!

www.guildsomm.com

Second step: Know your grapes and wine regions.

GuildSomm is “a nonprofit international membership organization for sommeliers and wine professionals that promotes education, collaboration, and healthy debate while maintaining the key values of the sommelier profession: integrity, humility, and hospitality. We’re here to help you expand your knowledge of the wine world.”

MS Geoff Kruth launched the GuildSomm website in 2009, joining his career in wine with his early background in technology. He manages the organization, hosts the GuildSomm podcast, develops content, and leads masterclasses. Feature articles, podcasts, and videos are publicly available and cover varied topics on the world of wine. 

The only drawback with guildsomm is information overload. Some articles go too far in depth and and seem to be factoid upon factoid. We have all had teachers who don’t know how to pace a lecture and keep the student’s interest.  

So, for example,  when reading the article on Merlot which is crammed full of information, I suggest you step away from the screen every so often.

But, that aside, there a wealth of information available here and it is accurate and up to date.

www.sommselect.com

Best for Buying and Enjoying Wines

Although this is an e-commerce, wine club site, the head sommeliers, Ian Cauble and David Lynch share many fantastic, personal insights about wines, wine styles, regions, and the people behind the wines.  

For Italian wines, Lynch is the man. For Burgundy, Cauble is hard to beat. For Pinot Noir, he recently wrote: Let’s not forget that Germany has nearly the same deep history with the grape as Burgundy, and that Germany ranks third in the world (behind France and the US) in total Pinot Noir planting.

For a fresh perspective on lesser grapes, you hear this from him: “Be it Tuscan, Ligurian, Sardinian, or Corsican, Vermentino is a distinctively ‘Mediterranean’ grape we all need to get to know better.” 

www.napawineacademy.com

Best for reminding everyone that wine is about people. Real people.

This online site focuses on classes for students of various interests and levels. You can enroll in these classes and attend at several locations in addition to Napa. Or you can enroll online.

The catch is that these classes are offered on a fee basis, meaning you pay. Yes, this is serious and the major part of the program consists of classes for different WSET levels.

The Wine 101 Foundation course is widely appealing and the fee is $125. That’s a bargain for the price.

But why I include these folks here is that there are free podcasts, audio only. But they are wonderful interviews with wine people, winemakers, winery owners, 

and marketing types. About an hour long, the Cathy Corison audio is wonderful and typical of the others offered.  You can also read the blogs, basically well-researched timely articles on grape varieties, regions, and events.

www.vinosity.com

This site wraps it all up nicely.

The wine world is immense, but wine is all about people and places as well as wine. At vinosity, over two dozen writers report from regions around the world.

The trick here is to be alert and sign up for a two week free trial. Then immerse yourself in articles from writers around the world. Several authors are MWs.

This is Steven Spurrier’s new pet project to revive wine journalism. He has two articles online that are brilliant, one on Okanagan wines and the other on the most recent San Francisco International wine competition.

South Africa’s leading expert, Michael Fridjhon, contributed a lively, insightful view of Stellenbosh. Don’t miss the conversation about Wachau, one of Austria’s amazing wine regions.

And, of course, the update on California Rhone wines goes off the charts.

So, to sum up:

Use these 5 websites offering free stuff to learn as much as you want to about wine.