Tuesday, August 26, 2014
This event provides an opportunity to taste a few wines from each producer's portfolio, including the famous Sette Ponti Oreno.
See also: Visiting Tenuta Sette Ponti
233 Hanover St
Boston, MA 02113
$85 plus tax and gratuity
Giovanna Moretti (Tenuta Sette Ponti)
Sebastiano Rosa (Agricola Punica)
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Reading a bit more about it, it sounds like these are old world grapes made in a new world style. This particular bottling, E-2 (the E is for Esapana, and this is their second non-vintage bottling from Spain), is comprised of red grapes from some of Spain's most desirable regions: Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero.
For me, Spain is the next best place to look if you've gotten into wine through California and you're looking to branch out. The wines have a similar flavor profile and are more wallet-friendly. You can't just throw darts but it doesn't take much sleuthing to find tremendous value wines from Spain.
So this wine sounds right in my wheelhouse. And tasting it - it is. Rich, juicy fruit - it presents itself with more "sweetness" (a term I hesitate to use as it implies residual sugar, but I don't know how else to say it) than Alto Moncayo Veraton for example. Where Alto Moncayo (Veraton and proper) differentiate themselves compared to this E bottling is that Alto Moncayo brings more savory notes, which I find tremendously appealing when combined with rich fruit and vibrant acidity.
I'd rate the E-2 in the 88-89 point range.
According to Wine.com Robert Parker went nuts for these wines:
If you judge wines on how they taste and the degree of pleasure they offer, they are all incredible efforts. The three new cuvees I tasted are among the finest wine values one could hope to find. Moreover, there are 50,000 cases of each, no easy feat given the grapes Phinney has accessed and the quality he has turned out. As of now, Dave Phinney might be my “value winemaker of the year” candidate. P.S. It’s too expensive for this report, but I am including it as an hommage to what Dave Phinney has achieved. If there are better wines for under $20 a bottle in the world today, please share that information with The Wine Advocate.You can buy this at Wine.com using code AMEX30 to get $30 off $100. Use it to round out a purchase at just over $100. At $17.99 in Massachusetts with 30% off, free shipping and no tax that would bring the price down to ~$12.59 a bottle. More info on how to maximize the Wine.com deal here.
93 Points The Wine Advocate
Click here to shop for this on Wine.com (affiliate link):
Locations by Dave Phinney E on Wine.com
Question of the Day: Have you had any of these Locations wines from Dave Phinney? If so, what did you think?
Friday, August 22, 2014
With a release price of $60 this is a very good deal.
Although 2012 California Pinot Noir was a bit disappointing, 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir might actually be a bright spot for the vintage.
2012 Elk Cove Mount Richmond Pinot Noir
If you're interested in getting a little more cashback (~5%) on the deal go through a portal as outlined in this post.
Subscribe to the WWP and never miss a deal.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Mobile-focused wine retailer Drync is offering an opportunity to refer friends for $20 off their first order. As a referrer you get $10 added to your Drync account.
If you've never ordered from Drync before you can get $20 off your first order using my link:
If you have ordered from Drync before you may want to refer some friends of your own:
If you're not familiar with Drync here's a review.
Another great deal that's going on through the middle of September is Wine.com's $30 off $100 deal that, with the right tricks, can be used to get up to 35%+ of your order. More on that here.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
|2011 Envolve Winery Lennox Vineyard Pinot Noir|
The best shop in town for wine is The Depot. Every time I go in there I'm amazed at the quality and assortment they offer in such a tiny shop in such a small town. The prices aren't bad either. I like to pick up a few summer beers here too but it's always nice to have some red wine on hand for relaxing evening consumption.
See also: Beer's Inherent Summer Advantage
The wine that jumped out at me this year was a bottle of 2011 Envolve Winery Lennox Vineyard Pinot Noir. You might recognize the Envolve name from Bachelor Ben Flajnik's involvement. Ben always struck me as a likable regular guy on the show so I made a mental note to pick up a bottle of his wine if I ever saw it around. Curious what Ben is up to these days? This article provides a nice little summary.
Especially after visiting Sonoma last week (Kosta Browne, CIRQ, Radio-Coteau) I was going through California Pinot Noir withdrawal so this bottle hit the spot.
Envolve Winery is a collaboration between childhood friends Ben Flajnik, Danny Fay and Mike Benzinger (yes the Benzinger wine family). Just so there's no confusion: This isn't a winery that Bachelor Ben started to leverage his fame. Winemaking was his thing when he showed up for the show.
Leveraging his fame from The Bachelor to increase the visibility of his wines must be a tricky proposition. Wine Spectator has done a few articles about Flajnik over the yeras. They've rated the Envolve wines mostly in the 86-89 point range. However, I was surprised to find not a single tasting note for their 2011 Lennox Pinot on CellarTracker. That's unusual even for a low production wine.
I was glad I grabbed it for $35 since it carries a retail price of $59. After tasting the wine I was even more pleased. Here's my note:
2011 Envolve Winery Lennox Vineyard Pinot Noir
$59 Release Price
Appealing black cherry, cola, and dried herbs on the nose. The mouthfeel oscillates between round viscosity and ultra-fine tannins. Long, powerful finish. Very nice stuff.
91/100 WWP: Outstanding
Check 'em out:
Question of the Day: Have you tasted the Envolve wines? Visited them? If so, what did you think?
Monday, August 18, 2014
|Aerial shot of CIRQ Estate's Treehouse Vineyard|
Photo credit: CIRQ.com
|CIRQ Estate's Treehouse Vineyard|
debuted a couple years ago it was exciting news. For the first time Kosta Browne's winemaker (Michael Browne) would have total control over the vineyards. Kosta Browne just recently acquired a parcel of land from one of the vineyards they source (20 acres of Keefer Ranch) so they can technically call a future bottling "estate". But CIRQ offers an opportunity to define the next generation of elite California Pinot Noir from the ground up.
Working with renowed Pinot Noir grower Charlie Chenoweth, CIRQ developed two vineyards: Treehouse and Bootlegger's. We visited Treehouse - an amazing hilltop property in west Sonoma County with red, iron-rich Franciscan soil surrounded idyllically by coastal cypress trees.
|Damon Wong and Kenneth Rochford in the Treehouse Vineyard|
Treehouse is hard to figure out. The vineyard is located eight miles from the Pacific Ocean and yet, 100 yards away, lies a stand of coastal cypress. Nobody can explain it. Why those trees thrive in that place, when every other tree is either a redwood or a fir, is a mystery. Or perhaps, an omen.Source: CIRQ.com
Treehouse is remote and expensive to farm. Irrigation water for the young Pinot Noir vines needs to be trucked in. It's named for a large tree that sits atop the property where they actually plan to build a treehouse. It was early August when we visited. Harvest would be underway a few weeks later.
|Chenoweth Clone Pinot Noir Grapes|
We visited a week ago today and the shoes I was wearing still have red dust on them as if I'd been tromping around Mars. I was curious how separate CIRQ's operations are from Kosta Browne's. Although CIRQ produces their wine at Kosta Browne's facility as a client winery they are surprisingly well separated. The mailing list, marketing, vineyard operations, and fulfillment are completely separate. The only common element is Michael Browne.
As we were finishing up our time at Treehouse we got a chance to taste the 2012 Treehouse that's going to be released this fall. Since they don't have a tasting room we tried it right there in the vineyard.
|2012 CIRQ Estate Treehouse Pinot Noir|
The answer, for me, based on this one tasting is that CIRQ is every bit as intense as Kosta Browne from a flavor perspective. But high acidity and a touch of tannic grip at release make CIRQ an ideal wine for enjoying with meals for special occasions.
The 2012 Treehouse is aged in 50% new French oak for 16 months with no racking. It is a bright and brilliant dark magenta visually. Aromatically it leans towards dark black fruits. It is brambly with prominent acidity and a bit of tannic grip. The intensity of flavor is striking with a pleasing mouthfeel. It presents itself as a brighter wine than most Kosta Browne Pinots.
Although it's tremendously enjoyable to drink now, the winery encourages restraint:
I decided to hold the wine back for a full year after bottling to give it more time for the tannins to integrate and for more complex aromas to develop. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. Our wines definitely benefit from added bottle aging. They emerge relaxed, composed.
In an ideal world, our wine would rest for 3-5 years after release. I know this won’t happen for a good portion of the bottles, wine drinkers being who they are. But with at least a year of bottle age before they’re opened, the wine will present itself the way I intended.I have a feeling they know their clientele. I bet most of the 2011s shipped this spring will be consumed by the end of the year. Hopefully a bottle or two will survive to start getting a feeling for how these wines age.
Wines from Bootlegger's, which we didn't taste, are said to be more elegant, plush and red-fruited. The soil at Bootlegger's is a khaki-colored Goldridge. Treehouse and Bootlegger's are the two vineyards in the CIRQ portfolio.
Is CIRQ worth $100 a bottle? If we look at Kosta Browne's 2012 pricing we see appellation wines at $64/btl and single vineyards at $84/btl. If/when KB releases an estate Pinot Noir it'll probably go for $100/btl. So while CIRQ's pricing at $100/btl sounds audacious at first it wouldn't make sense to price it south of the Kosta Browne wines. Although there are other California Pinot Noir producers up at this price point (Marcassin and Peter Michael come to mind, along with single vineyard bottlings from Paul Hobbs, Foxen, Williams Selyem, and Sea Smoke) I think some were taken aback that CIRQ would debut at an even, confident $100.
It was an absolute pleasure to visit CIRQ and taste this exciting new wine in such an amazing setting. I would love to have a couple bottles of CIRQ in my collection waiting for a special occasion. But the $100 price point is indeed tough for me to get my frugal mind around. But if anyone can convince me to break out the credit card and splurge it's Michael Browne. I'll be watching future releases with interest.
If you haven't already you absolutely have to check out CIRQ.com where you'll find amazing videos describing what makes CIRQ and their estate vineyard special. Highly recommended. While you're there hop on their mailing list for future allocations.
Photos courtesy of John Corcoran
Question of the Day: Are you on the CIRQ mailing list? Have you tried it? Are you on the KB mailing list but couldn't bring yourself to pull the trigger on the $100 CIRQ? I'd love to hear your perspectives on this new project.
Friday, August 15, 2014
|Kosta Browne Winery at The Barlow in Sebastapol|
The no-frills approach worked fine in their formative years. They didn't have a need for a public tasting room since most of their wines are sold out via mailing list and to restaurants. But as the winery has grown they needed more space.
Functionally and aesthetically I think they hit a home run with their new spot in The Barlow - a very cool collection of artisinal food and drink producers in Sebastapol along Highway 12.
We enjoyed lunch at newly opened Vignette - a trendy Neapolitan-style pizza place. Michael Browne happened to be having lunch there too, as were many other Barlow tenants and visitors. Other wineries include MacPhail, and La Follette (just tasting rooms) as well as Wind Gap (which along with Kosta Browne produces wine on-site).
We met with Tony Lombardi, Director of Brand Management & Public Relations. He's really come into his own in this role and fits the Kosta Browne style perfectly. Easy going about the product, confident about the quality, and enthusiastic about sharing the story with fans of the brand.
|Courtyard within Kosta Browne's space at The Barlow|
Tony Lombari (left) and me (Robert Dwyer) on the right
Their space at The Barlow includes winemaking facilities with room to grow. Separate areas for cellaring and offices are in adjoining buildings.
|They're producing some volume these days but there's|
room to grow into this new space
|I don't know much about grape presses but I'm guessing these Buchers are the bomb|
|Me (Robert Dwyer) on the left, Tony Lombardi on the right|
One wine that's truly amazed me each time I've tasted it is their Chardonnay. They've only been making it a few years and they don't make a ton of it but the nose on this wine is magical. Lemon curd and sunshine for days before getting serious on the palate. They've got the Chard on sale at Zachy's at the moment at a nice price considering how hard it is to crack their mailing list and how much fully loaded costs can be. I'd hardly ever consider paying $50 for a California Chardonnay but I'm thinking of getting a couple bottles.
For single vineyard Pinots, we tried the Keefer and Kanzler. Both were a bit darker in style overall than the appellation wines but the single vineyards were satisfyingly serious with a ton of complexity and undenyable site-specific markings. They were both great but the Keefer was probably a bit more to my liking that day. I'd love to go back and spend more time focusing on the wines but it's always such a fun relaxing time at KB I try to just take it all in.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Kosta Browne's new facility at The Barlow is an amazing place. They're not open to the public but if you're on their mailing list it's absolutely worth dropping them a line to ask for a visit - even if you've recently visited them at their old location.
You can join their mailing list here. It took me 2 or 3 years to get an allocation but that was a few years ago. That was before they won Wine Spectator Wine of the Year (for their 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir) but production levels have increased gradually over time so there's hope!
This visit reminded me I should keep buying their wines in moderation and giving myself permission to open them without needing a special occasion. They're pricey but I think relative to the quality they're a value. With shipping to MA hopefully opening next year fully loaded costs and ease of shipment should improve the equation further.
At the end of our visit the guys from Michael Browne's new project CIRQ stopped by to take us on a vineyard tour. Can't wait to tell you about it. I'd love it if you subscribed to the WWP for future updates.
|Climate controlled large-format "trophy" room at Kosta Browne|
Me, Ken and Damon from CIRQ, Tony from KB and my childhood pal Nick
Question of the Day: What's been your experience with Kosta Browne wines lately? On their list? Still waiting for an allocation? How long does the wait list take to crack these days?
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
|Chenoweth Clone Pinot Noir clusters at CIRQ Estate's Treehouse Vineyard|
Wine Spectator's latest issue covers the vintage (subscription required) and their take is that it was a vintage with high yields that led to many thin, tannic wines and uneven quality.
See: Free Alphabetic Listing of Wine Spectator's 2012 CA Pinot Ratings
Perfect weather. Imperfect results. How can that be?
Well, unless vineyard managers dropped fruit at the right times during the growing season clusters were too large, the grapes themselves were too large, and the grapes that remained on the vine were competing for scarce nutrients and the result was plump grapes that lacked concentration.
In talking with winemakers about green harvesting I'm told it's a dicey proposition. You don't want to do it too soon because you don't know how the last months of the growing season are going to shake out. And you don't want to do it too late because once verasion has completed it's ineffective.
Further, there's resistance to it throughout the production chain even with per-acre contracts in place. Nobody wants to take potentially viable fruit and toss it on the ground. But the best producers do and along with thousands of other decisions are able to deliver a product that meets or exceeds expectations.
For me the key thing the 2012s have lacked that the amazing 2009 vintage had was luscious vibrance. Too many of the 2012s just seem to be asleep whereas the 2009s jumped out of the glass and invited another sip. Time will tell whether the 2012s just need time to develop. For now, I'm going to let the remaining 2012s I have rest while exploring prior vintages.
Tasting Report: 25 2009 California Pinot Noirs
So 2010 had a massive heat spike right after many winemakers pruned leaves to help grapes ripen. 2011 had rains (in California!) during harvest season. And 2012 was perfect. But imperfect. You've gotta love it when things don't work out the way you thought they would.
It reminds me my stock picking acumen. Even after reading an earnings report I swear I guess wrong 90% of the time on the way the market is going to react to the news. With 2012 I thought it was time to go all in. Turns out we need to every bit as selective - if not more- than in 2010 and 2011.
2013 looks to be a bumper crop as well, and not necessarily in a good way. Beware of early hype and keep an eye on yields. It looks like it's going to be another vintage where selective purchases from trusted producers while seeking out a few new producers is the way to go for building a balanced cellar.
Photo Credit: John Corcoran
I'll be following up with a report of the 2012 California Pinot Noirs I've tasted along with a trip report to some amazing Sonoma Pinot Noir producers. I recently visited Kosta Browne at their new location in The Barlow, CIRQ Estate, and Radio-Coteau. I'd love it if you subscribed to the WWP for updates.
Friday, August 8, 2014
I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about how to maximize the savings associated with Wine.com's $30 off $100 AmEx Sync deal. But it wasn't until this follow-up post that showed tangible examples of the savings that I got a bunch of emails from eagle-eyed deal hounds asking for clarification on whether it was 30% off or $30 off.
In talking to friends face to face about this the past couple weeks I can see there's some confusion on this deal. And a sense that there's a "this is too complicated" feeling about the deal. That's okay. Because out of confusion and complication comes amazing deals if you're willing to do the work. :)
But the deals can be amazingly compelling if you optimize this opportunity. For example, 2012 Caymus for an effective price of $38.99 if you buy it along with a $40 wine like the 2012 MacPhail Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($42.99 is effectively dropped down to around $27.84 with discounts) to get an order at just over $100 and take advantage of all the savings opportunities.
Again, it takes some sleuthing but I think it's worth it. By the way, those links are affiliate links so if you use them I get a commission. You'd be better off shopping through a portal for an additional 5%+ savings (be your own affiliate!) but if you don't want to hassle with portals it would be great if you used these links.
One aspect of the deal that's important is that you avoid being automatically subscribed to their $49/year StewardShip program. It's a fine program but deal hounds know to avoid subscriptions of all kinds if they can avoid it. So be sure to cancel your StewardShip free trial before 30 days are up.
Step 1: Log into your Wine.com account
Step 2: On the left hand side of the page, click "StewardShip Settings"
The default setting is for StewardShip to auto-renew. But if you opted *not* to save your credit card on file when you placed your order they, kindly, won't be able to charge it to renew StewardShip.
But to remove all uncertainty click "Do Not Renew" (even though it's greyed out).
|Yes, Renewal is spelled incorrectly|
If you signed up for multiple Wine.com accounts, be sure to do this for each of them.
Let me know if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org or @RobertDwyer on Twitter.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
Conclusion and Recommendations
The Capital Grill