Posts Tagged ‘California’

I’m not one for spreading rumors or giving in to peer pressure when it comes to wines, but this one was one of the most talked-about vino at a Pinot Grigio tasting event I’d attended recently. Talked about for its complete undrinkability!

We all agree that though there are pleasing aspects one would associate with a Pinot Grigio, this particular offering was more akin to a Sauvignon Blanc. (…and you all know how much i just adore sauv. blanc…)

Our host had assembled about 6 wines and an impressive FIVE dishes with which to experience the pairings’ interactions:  Chilled oysters on the halfshell, steamed swordfish with miso glaze, lavender-scented grilled chicken bites, veal roulade pinwheels, and hand-made asiago ravioli in a lightly sweet tomato sauce. Every single morsel of food was delicious beyond belief!

The nose is lightly floral with a touch of honey; the only redeeming quality of this vino.  Mouth-feel is watery and overly tangy with an unbalanced grapefruit acidity.  Blessedly short, the finish is a strange aftertaste of sour jasmine.

Can’t recommend, especially at this ~$14 price point.



**image credit:  Cellar No. 8. claims no ownership of image and reproduces under fair use provisions for product review and critique.

This is my very first vino from a vintner whose vines, but for a small body of water; practically straddle appellations.  Examining the viticulture map of California, I can see Sonoma Valley begins just across San Pablo Bay from San Francisco.

Sterling has labeled this vino as Central Coast so the grapes used to produce this Chardonnay are from the vineyards south of San Fran.  So there we have it – chilling in the fridge to ~14°C, grilled chicken seasoned with fresh sage & oregano, roasted smashed potatoes with Mediterranean sea salt, and sauteed haricots vert.

The deep golden color in the glass is a prelude to light scents of butter-cream, pineapple and orange.  The palate is full and mouth-filling, the tropical flavors carrying through to a decent finish, though the pale haze of muddled oak creates a complexity better suited to a mid-palate rather than an aftertaste.    LCBO ~$15/blt.

Humbly, your vinoboy places a “Recommended” check mark on it.  I am not exactly a lover of Chardonnay in-and-of-itself and tend to be extraordinarily picky. The benchmark set by V Sattui’s Caneros Chardonnay makes for quite a challenge for most other Chard’s.




**image credit: Google Image search results. makes no claims to ownership and republishes under fair use provisions for review and critique.

I’ve not sipped any bubbles since my Yuletide binge began with a ghastly Prosecco on Dec 12, 2010 and toasted the new year with Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin at the stroke of midnight, January 1st, 2011.

This special occasion is in celebration of the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I’m pursuing some international education opportunities and moving to the mid-western USA to be with my beloved partner of almost 9 years.

Why Mumm Napa?  We’re planning a winery tour for March 2012 so I thought it a good idea to explore offerings from wineries in and around the northern edge of the Napa Valley.

Once the mousse subsided, the nose is slightly yeasty, slightly spicy, and slightly floral. The dance of bubbles on the tongue assisted in delivering mid-weight mouth-feel, faint flavors of melon and lemongrass, decent acidity and a flat finish.  I was totally unimpressed with the lack of yeastiness that failed to carry through to the finish – ESPECIALLY from a vino produced in the méthode Classique.

Drinkable to be sure, but a vinoboy recommendation, not really. Pricing in Ontario, like certain Australian vinos, is injurious. I’ve seen this vino in the USA at ~$20/btl.  Here in Toronto at the LCBO, this bottle of non-vintage California Sparkling wine cost me ~$39!!



images credit – The Winery. makes no claims to ownership and republishes under fair use provisions for review and critique.

California and its counties are a patchwork of appellations from its southern border with Mexico to its northern border with Oregon.  Much like here in Ontario, there are cellaring wineries that buy grapes from all over to produce wines under their own label.

This wine’s full name as seen on the label is: Stonehedge Reserve Amador County Zinfandel 2008 Special Vineyard Select.

I like quite a few California wines – Napa Valley is, after all; on the same latitudes as Ontario’s viticultural zones.  Seeing the various narrowing of appellations on this label and liking the rich, full-bodied structure of old vine Zins, this LCBO/Vintages purchase at ~$18 seemed like a great value at the time.

In an attempt to refine my wine-tasting skills, with the help of a vino-friend; I’ve been tasting most of my new entries blindfolded.  I carefully ponder all the non-visual aspects of a vino and as I ramble and consider, my vino-friend takes notes.

The alcohol-forward (14.9% alc/vol!!!!!)  nose is jammy and smokey with scents of charred wood and cloves. Very full-bodied and slightly off-dry, the funky charred flavor fills the mouth with dried fruits and concentrated vanilla extract.  The result is an overpowering complex finish that creates the urge to wash my mouth out with Borax.

I must reiterate: I love a lot of California wines and honestly appreciate a good Zinfandel, but this one is TERRIBLE!!!



**image credit – me!  I took this image myself as so many ppl must hate this wine as much as I do to NOT wish to immortalize its likeness online.  Label design and other stuff owned by the winery.  Published under fair use provisions for review and critique.

Not too long ago, a friend emailed me a list of bottles he had in his cellar and the two questions I hear a lot: “How long can I cellar this?” and “Is this still drinkable?”  One such bottle on that list was the J. Lohr Seven Oaks Estates Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

This is a standard Cab Sauv that most people have in their cellar as its reasonable inexpensive, cellarable for 7-10 years after bottling and has, over the years; been extensively reviewed and tasted by both novice and expert alike.  At LCBO/Vintages outlets for ~$22/btl, it may be a bit of a higher-ended moderately-priced splurge for some.

Both bright and lustrous, the aromas of this deep red vino leap from the glass to fill the nose with black fruits and berries. Essences of  vanilla and other deep toasty notes linger before the sipping.  The mouth-filling body is silky smooth with the same flavors carrying through to a slightly oily finish of tar and violets.

Yes, the feeling in the mouth is nice to start, but there just seems to be something over-worked and stressed.  The softness of the tannin feels clammy on the tongue.  This leads to a flabby and fatty smooth feeling like a big lick of margarine just coated the palate with oil.

Drawing on my tasting memories of various other California Cabs, I’m left feeling very blah about this wine.  After writing this review, I searched for others’ tastings to see if I’m not the only one to feel disappointed.  The sentiment is about 70/30 pro/con.

Sorry J. Lohr.  I can’t in good vinoconscience recommend this to my readers.  You guys talk a big game full of hype and popularity, but this wine doesn’t follow though.



**image credit: The Winery.  Republished under Fair Use Provisions for Review and Critique.

California’s Napa Valley is probably one of the most well-known places in the entire United States for the growing of grapes and the production of wine. On one of my many trips to the mid-west, I came across a retailer who was tasting this vino and stopped for a sip. For the record, this trip was around late August of 2008 and I’m drawing on my memory of the trip and my detailed tasting notes….

“How long has this bottle been opened?” I asked as I glanced at the unstoppered bottle.  This is ALWAYS my first question when chancing upon a tasting station.  The attendant glanced at her watch…

“About 2 hours,” she replied. “Its been kinda slow around here today, donchyaknow.”

“That’s not too long,” I lied. “Lets have a swig.”

In the wee plastic cuppy, this wine tasted flabby and weak; like all the life had been sucked out of it.  My experience to date with California Pinot Noirs has leaned towards chunky, bold and full-bodied so I was certain this sample bottle was past its prime.

On a whim, and at only $6.95USD, I bought a bottle to taste properly in the privacy of my hotel room.

Even when done in the true Burgundy tradition, cellared and forgotten about for as long as 20 years, I’ve yet to hear (with the exception of VERY few Russian River California appellations) of a California Pinot Noir that hasn’t turned to mud.  Anyway…

I chilled this bottle for about 30 minutes in the hotel minibar fridge and rummaged for my travel corkscrew.  The synthetic stopper was cleverly scrawled with the winery’s signature “Whoo Whooo COUGH Whooo Whoo” pattern.  I kept the stopper. *grin

With an easily-detectable 13.5% alc/vol and a nose of sweaty gym socks and over-ripe cherries, I was beginning to sense that the $6.95 could have been spent better elsewhere.  A cautious sip brought tears to my eyes with harsh flavors of masticated pomegranate seeds, kerosene and ammonia.  I SURRENDER!!

I don’t think I’ve ever abandoned a bottle of vino faster that this stuff.  I’m sure there’s a dreamy-tasting Burgundy-styled California Pinot Noir out there somewhere, but alas, this Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2006 ain’t that vino. Blech!!!

Value-for-money considered, be VERY glad this isn’t at your local LCBO.



*image credit – Google Images Search – selected image result used under fair-use provisions for review and critique.

oMondo Negroamaro Salento 2009. Great with pizza obviously; I’d say good too with grilled Mackerel in a  Tomato-Cilantro sauce or full-flavored orange cheeses like Colby and Cheddar. I’ll most certainly be picking up a few bottles for my wine rack – at this price its definitely a great budget-priced vino! Yes, that was not a typo: $7.95/btl!


~tvbdonchya know