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A Taste of 'Summer': The 2009 Heart & Hands Pinot Noir

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Finger Lakes region is most known for its Rieslings but the wine I wanted to try most after reading Evan Dawson's "Summer in a Glass" (review) was a Pinot Noir. Perhaps it's not surprising given how much I enjoy Pinot but the story behind the wines being produced at Heart & Hands Wine Company left an impression on me.

I appreciated Heart & Hands owner and winemaker Tom Higgins' focus on Pinot Noir and how he used his background in geology to seek out land rich with limestone because top Pinot-producing regions have a similar composition. He's intent on making world class Pinot Noir in the Finger Lakes.

I was reminded of the book after watching Evan's recent appearance on Gary Vaynerchuk's Daily Grape. They tasted a wine featured in the book - the 2007 Heart & Hands Reserve Pinot Noir. I cracked open a bottle of the 2009.

Here are my thoughts.

2009 Heart & Hands Finger Lakes Pinot Noir
12.6% Alcohol
Around $20

Purchased this after reading "Summer in a Glass" by Evan Dawson. The 2007 Heart & Hands Reserve Pinot Noir was featured, this note is for the 2009 non-reserve bottling.

I'm viewing this through the lens of most domestic Pinot Noir I've consumed - Oregon and California. If I were tasting this blind I'd absolutely guess it was from Oregon. Its woodsy, twangy nose seem aligned with aromatics I've found in Oregon Pinots.

Beyond that I liked the flavor profile. It seemed to strike a nice balance between sweet and austere. Balanced in that sense. Surprisingly flavorful given its relatively-low 12.6% alcohol level.

A really nice value. Nice package too with a reasonably hefty bottle and a unique glass cork I'd not seen before. I dig it.

88/100 WWP: Very Good

Online: http://www.heartandhandswine.com
On Twitter: @FLPinotGuy

Where to Buy: Heart & Hands Pinot Noir on Wine-Searcher

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Two Value-Play Winners From Pricey Catogories: Burgundy and Barbaresco

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Buy a half-case or more at Wine Chateau and get 1/2 off shipping with code "wellesley54"
I came across an interesting story today about how a Wellesley author's father's blogging efforts "robbed" the author of his unique identity as the author of the family. The father recently retired and all he did was play golf, watch soccer, and read books. Sound pretty nice if you ask me. The point that struck a chord was that the father channeled his voracious book-a-day appetite into a unique online review format - published via a blog.

I thought to myself: I usually taste a new wine every day, why don't I write about each of them?

The reason I don't blog every day is because in spite my unrelenting efforts to triangulate professional ratings, low prices, and availability, many wines I try are just "good" or "very good" and don't seem worthy of telling people about.

I try to find interesting stories in wines and relate recommendations that are relevant and interesting. But sometimes I think I should just knock out a post and move on. This is just blogging after all.

With that in mind here are a couple of winners I came across tonight:

2007 Domaine Pierre Janny Bourgogne Blanc Echavon
About $12

The other day I was in Bin Ends picking up some 2003 Albino Rocca Brich Ronchi they had at a great price. Dan Kline asked me if I ever drink white wine. I would have enjoyed a long conversation on the subject but in the interest of time I said "not really" and left it at that.

The reality is I'm often disappointed with white wines and even if I end up liking them I don't look forward to opening them. A few months ago I stopped in and asked for a recommendation in the tricky white Burgundy category. This wine was that recommendation.

I cringed as I opened it thinking it was going to be limited aromatically. However, the wine was an absolute delight to drink. There's no way I would have pegged this as French if I tasted it blind. Such a nice tropical aromatic nose but as you taste it, it reigns in its gregarious nature. Green apples on the palate and a touch of acidity. Perhaps the best thing I liked about it was the linear enjoyable aftertaste - it avoided the quirky flavor markers so many domestic Chardonnays seem to display.

A stunning and pleasant surprise.

I've heard "If you think you found a cheap Burgundy - you probably found a cheap Burgundy." Maybe that applies mostly to reds?

Purchased at: Bin Ends Wine
91/100 WWP: Outstanding


2007 Col Dei Venti Tufo Blu Barbaresco
$31 Release Price

My interest in Barbaresco continues to evolve, and along the way I've been comparing notes for the highly regarded 2007 vintage from The Wine Advocate's Antonio Galloni and Wine Spectator's newly minted Piedmont editor Bruce Sanderson.

Galloni used to pen Piedmont Report and I've found his reviews on Italian wines to be useful. Sanderson's coverage of the region started just recently. In comparing their notes on the 2007 Pelissero Barbaresco Nubiola I found better alignment with Sanderson than Galloni however:

Where's the fruit? I realize this is super-young but I've got to favor WS's opinion over WA on this one. I think Bruce Sanderson nailed it: "Dense and austere in flavor, with a muscular structure dominating any fruit."

Compare this with Galloni's note: "caresses the palate with layers of round, sumptuous fruit. This is a more generous, enveloping style than the Tulin, and shows just an extra touch more depth. Dark red fruit, sweet spices".

Sweet spices? Sumptuous fruit? You've got to be kidding me. This wine is dark, brooding, and austere. It's more like a Barolo than a Barbaresco.

Props to Sanderson for good work in his rookie season covering Piedmont. I'll pay attention to his notes going forward.


The 2007 Col Dei Venti is a wine Spectator's Sanderson thought highly of. At 94 WS/$31 release price it's quite a QPR-bender. Even better if you can snag it for around $25.

The wine is a beauty and incredibly approachable for a young Barbaresco. It's lower in acidity with softer tannins than most Barbaresco I've tasted. It's plush and forgiving.

Flavor wise it's classic Nebbiolo. Each sip starts with light red raspberries and floral aromatics. I noted a striking aroma of Crayola crayons in an elementary school desk drawer. Quite amazing and persistent across a couple glasses. Wow - really interesting.

Purchased at: Wine Connextion 
92/100 WWP: Outstanding

So there you have it. Two outstanding wines in categories notorious for being hard to find value. 

PS That's our 4 year old in the photo above whining at the dinner table while I took the photo. It was a little bit of a rough night but in the interest of knocking a blog post out - there you have it. :)

Question of the Day: Have you had either of these wines? Let me know what you think of them in the comments if you've had them. If not - have you found any good values in Burgundy or Barbaresco lately?

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Another Wine.com Deal: $30 for $60

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I remember the first time I saw a young mom with a shopping cart full of wine at the liquor store. This was before we had kids and it seemed a little strange to me at the time. Now that we have kids it makes perfect sense.

Zulily - who offers "Daily Deals for Moms, Babies, and Kids" is offering this deal:
$30 for $60 from Wine.com

Sale ends 6/20 at 6am pdt

Keep in mind - as with previous Wine.com vouchers offered by group buying/deal sites the voucher cannot be used towards shipping. The first bottle usually costs around $12 to ship which diminishes the 50% off nature of the offer. But it's still a good deal I think - even with Wine.com's often higher-than-average prices. Especially if you've signed up for their Steward Ship shipping program. 

Happy Father's Day!

PS The $35 for $70 from Eversave is active through the end of the day on Father's Day. Check that one out too if you missed it the first time around.

Oh wait - here's another one $35 for $70 from Plum District. My goodness - how many deals can they run? Expired.

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Deal Alert: $35 for $70 from Wine.com

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quick one for you today:
Eversave is offering $70 worth of wine from Wine.com for $35 

Note that as with previous offers they've run, the voucher cannot be applied towards shipping nor tax. On the positive side of things, wine.com can ship to Massachusetts -and- we don't have tax on alcohol here.

To amortize the cost of shipping across more purchases I bought their Steward Ship program last year. It's kind of like Amazon Prime where you pay once for all your shipping for the year. They ran a special on it for $25 last year and the shipping can be extended to gifts as well.

Hit the comments below to share some tips on the best deals they have right now. I went for 2 bottles of the 2008 Belle Glos Las Alturas Pinot Noir for $34.99/btl. More on that wine in this California v. Oregon Pinot Noir showdown.

Offer ends Friday June 17th, 2011.

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Four Luscious Red Wines to Buy Now at Trader Joe's

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brief programming note: The Wellesley Wine Press hit 600 subscribers today. Thanks so much! If you're not one of them and you're interested in receiving notifications of new blog posts on the WWP click here to subscribe.

It's happened to me twice in the past couple months. I open a $20-$30 bottle of wine and it's either flawed -or- just not to my liking for one reason or another. After the first glass I set the bottle aside and crack open a $5-$10 bottle of wine from Trader Joe's and I enjoy it so much more than the original bottle. Good, clean and delicious. Luscious. Affordable. Sometimes they absolutely hit the spot and I wonder why I waste energy tracking down highly rated and almost always more expensive wines.

Slideshow: The Best (and worst) wines at Trader Joe's

Don't get me wrong -  I do find wines worth the effort. The 2008 Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, the 2008 Rhys Alesia Pinot Noir, and the 2007 Felsina Fontalloro are a few recent examples.

But we all need affordable daily drinkers in the rotation, right? And Trader Joe's can step in brilliantly in this department - especially at the ultra-challenging sub-$10 price point.

Still, you have to be careful at Trader Joe's. Sure, the bad wines won't cost you much - but who wants to buy really bad wine and toss it out? Even if it's only $3.99? Recent dumper-outers include the L'Authentique (l'awful!) and Blue Fin Petite Sirah (a sobering offering).

There are indeed gems to be found, but it always helps to have a sherpa guiding the way. I enjoy comparing notes with Jason over at Jason's Wine Blog and tracking down buzzworthy wines he's discovered. Many of these were tips I received from his blog.

All of these were purchased at the Trader Joe's in Framingham, MA in the last few months.

2009 Sebastopol Hills Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
$9.99

My bottle lists the ABV at 13.8%.

It's only 20-30% opaque which bodes well for it behaving like a Pinot Noir. On the nose I get ample fruit, herbal tea, and a tangy (signature?) California Pinot Noir note.

On the palate it's classic domestic Pinot Noir with strawberry flavors, silky smooth texture, and hardly any tannic bite. Doesn't get overly fruity but it's satisfyingly flavorful.

Bottom line: This is legit Pinot Noir for $9.99. The only thing lacking is acidity and perhaps some minerality. But it scores points for what it *doesn't* have: I didn't detect any off-putting aromas or flavors.

Well done and a value at $9.99.  

87/100 WWP: Very Good


2009 Chariot Gypsy
$4.99

First Bottle:
My first taste of the Gypsy and I can see what the buzz is about.

Light-medium bodied with a fruity nose immediately upon opening. Fresh and lively. While it's certainly slighty sweet on the palate I think the baked cranberry notes reign it in nicely. A little spice. No finish really but as a $5 party wine I think it plays well.

Pretty darn good wine for $4.99.

Second Bottle:
Satisfying once again. Notes consistent with prior bottle.

Especially after opening a corked bottle and seeking a clean, tasty bottle of wine - this one hit the spot. 

85-86/100 WWP: Very Good


2009 Cocobon
$6.99

Light and juicy, with slightly sweet streaks of mocha. Very approachable and friendly. Probably works better as a cocktail or right after dinner than paired with food. Nice value.  

85/100 WWP: Very Good




2007 Lost Sonnet Meritage
$9.99

This one caught me a little off guard because it's unlike the Chariot Gypsy and unlike the Cocobon. It's a far more serious wine and needs time to open up. I don't think I've ever seen a Vinturi make such a noticeable difference in a wine and it's better the second day than the first.

That said, I can't enthusiastically get behind it 100% due to some quirky off aromas that were present both upon opening and after some time. Give it a try but don't back up the truck. 

85/100 WWP: Very Good

Further Reading:
Question of the Day: What bargains have you found at your local Trader Joe's lately?

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Tasting Alert: Albino Rocca at Vintages Belmont, MA

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Coming this Friday, June 10th to Vintages in Belmont, MA is a free tasting of wines from Albino Rocca. Angela Rocca himself along with his daughter Daniela will be on hand pouring and describing their wines. It's an event not to be missed. Click here for more information about the tasting.

I first discovered the wines of Albino Rocca at a blind tasting at Adam Japko's last fall arranged by Vintages owner Eric Broege. We tasted through the following 6 Barbareschi - the ones in bold stood out to me as particularly noteworthy:
  • 2004 MARCARINI Barolo "Brunate" (La Morra)
  • 2004 ALBINO ROCCA Barbaresco "Brich Ronchi" (Barbaresco)
  • 2005 ALESSANDRIA Barolo "Monvigliero" (Verduno)
  • 2005 CANTINA del PINO Barbaresco "Albesani" (Neive)
  • 2006 SOTTIMANO Barbaresco "Pajore" (Treiso)
  • 2006 Burlotto Barolo "Cannubi" (Barolo)
I'd rate the 2004 Albino Rocca Brich Ronchi 94 points - outstanding. Last Friday in anticipation of this tasting I cracked open a 2003 Brich Ronchi:

2003 Albino Rocca Brich Ronchi Barbaresco
$68 Release Price
1,500 cases produced
Purchased at Bin Ends Wine

A massive wine of surprising depth for the region. As soon as I opened it, the room was filled with aromas of rustic fruit. On the nose I get signature Nebbiolo minerality, deep rich red fruit and menthol. The mouth feel is rich and supple. The finish goes on for minutes. An outstanding wine from a fantastic Barbaresco producer.

85 Wine Spectator
94/100 WWP: Outstanding

The wines of Albino Rocca have consistently impressed me so I'm looking very forward to attending this tasting. Too often as I'm exploring a new wine category I make the mistake of "nibbling at the low end". What better way to see if you like the wines from a certain region than starting at the high end - for free! I hope to see you at the tasting Friday.

Subscribe to the Wellesley Wine Press and I'll let you know how it goes.

Question of the Day: Have you had Albino Rocca Barbaresco? What are some of your favorite producers in Barbaresco?

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Wine Deal: 2007 Cigliuti Barbaresco

Monday, June 6, 2011

Friends of the WWP will remember my wine of the year last year - the 2005 Cigliuti Serraboella Barbaresco. It's amazing to see the notes pour in on CellarTracker for this wine. I think it's stunning and rated it 96 points but I'm actually on the low side of recent tasting notes. People are regularly reaching up between 97 and 99 points. Unprecedented for a wine just over $50 if you hunt around and interesting since there were no strong buy indicators from pros on the wine - WA 92, WS 89.

Since the 2005 came and went I've been looking for the 2007 vintage. Early reviews of 2007 Piedmont are very positive. The 2007 Cigliuti Serraboella Barbaresco has been slow to appear on Wine-Searcher but made an appearance on Lot18 Monday. Lot18 is a private invitation flash sale site offering up a limited assortment of wines at a discount.

They're offering a two-pack of Cigliuti's Barbareschi - one from the Serraboella vineyard ($72 release price) and another from Vigna Erte ($57). The Serraboella comes from older vines and is the premier wine from Cigliuti, but the Vigna Erte is outstanding as well. I rated the 2004 Vigna Erte vintage between 91 and 94 points across a couple bottles. Either of this wines present a compelling taste of outstanding Barbaresco.

They can't ship to MA but it's worth finagling a way to ship this one to friends in a neighboring state. Pro tip: If you want to hold shipment until the weather is cooler ping service@lot18.com with your request. 

Click here to check out the deal on Lot18

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Newport Winefest Coming in August

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


The 2nd annual Newport Winefest is coming to Rhode Island August 20th and 21st 2011. Tickets for the Grand Tasting range between $45 and $65 when purchased in advance. BuyWithMe has a deal running for the next few days with tickets starting from $25: 
Check it out here

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