Smith-Madrone: Wine, Fire, and Economics in Napa

Smith-Madrone vineyard with Mt. St. Helena

Stuart Smith, an outstanding Napa winemaker, studied economics at Berkeley before deciding to take winemaking seriously. He did graduate work in enology at UC Davis and in the autumn of 1971 bought a derelict, steeply sloped vineyard on the top of Spring Mountain (1300-2000’ elevation) originally planted by George Cook in 1884.  By the time Stu bought it, 55 year old Sequoias had reclaimed the vineyard. He cleared the land and, since phylloxera was not present, planted new, self-rooted vines in 1972 acquired from a UC Davis mother block.  It was another 40 years before phylloxera snuck into the vineyard, and Stu and his winemaker brother Charles were forced to replant again.  In this article, we review the current releases of Smith Madrone. Continue reading

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Revisiting Sherry: Bodegas Dios Baco

Bodegas Dios Baco began with the Palomino family in the 18th century, but its fame began when Juan Vergara joined forces with Juan Palomino to create Palomino & Vergara, one of sherry’s most prominent historic wineries.  The winery was sold and resold and eventually landed in the hands of José Páez Morilla who handcrafts small batches of sherry with his daughter Alejandra. We review some current bottlings below.  For more on sherry, see our special report Introduction to Sherry [also available in Spanish as Introducción al Sherry]. Continue reading

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Current Releases from Sicily’s Mt. Etna

Some of Sicily’s most exciting wines are grown on the northern and eastern slopes of Mt. Etna [see map below] where we spent several days for our report on the Wines of Sicily.  Mt. Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world with continuing eruptions of ash and pumice and periodic lava flows. Its soils are loose and well-aerated, allowing the roots of vines to easily penetrate the basaltic substrata in search of water in the dry-farmed vineyards. In this article, we revisit selected wines from some of Mt. Etna’s excellent winemakers—Giuseppe Russo, Marco de Grazia, Emiliano Falsini, and Francesco Tornatore. Continue reading

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The Wines of Ktima Avantis on Greece’s Evia Island

Ktima Avantis is located in the village of Mytikas on the island of Evia about 43 miles from Athens [see map below]. The Mountrichas family has grown grapes in this area since the 19th century.  Today the winery is managed by winemaker Apostolos Mountrichas along with his winemaker-wife-partner Lenga Grigoriadou.  They make well-crafted wines from both indigenous and international grape varieties grown in vineyards at 250-500m elevation.  Fortunately, the winery and vineyards escaped the forest fires that ravaged much of the island in 2021. Continue reading

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Special Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers: Selections from the Finest Wines Reviewed in 2021

What to give a friend who appreciates and is knowledgeable about wine?  In this article, we give our recommendations based on the many fine wines we’ve tasted this year.  The list includes Champagne, Sparkling Rosé, California Pinot Noir, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Chardonnay, Spanish Garnacha, Sweet Wines and Fortified Wines (Madeira, Sherry & Port) & Spirits. We provide summaries of our tasting notes in this article; the full reports can be found by doing a search on our home page www.iwinereview.com or clicking on the links in the notes.  In addition to wines, we recommend a couple of stellar wine books for serious wine enthusiasts. Continue reading

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Champagne, Chardonnay, Countries and Regions, Dessert Wine, France, Italy, Oregon, Portugal, Portuguese, Red Wine, South Africa, Spain, Sparkling Wine, Uncategorized, White Wine, Wine Type | Comments Off on Special Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers: Selections from the Finest Wines Reviewed in 2021

Vriniotis: Modern Greek Wines from the Aegean

Vriniotis is a modern family winery located in Evia (Euboea), which is among the Aegean Islands  in Central Greece.   It was established in the village of Gialtra in 2007 by 51-year old Konstantinos (Kostas) Vriniotis , although  the family’s association with Evia goes back several generations when Kostas’  ancestors planted grapevines in the area in the 1850s.   Evia is the second largest Greek island in area and population after Crete

The winery is located in the northern part of the island, Continue reading

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Winemaker Bill Brosseau’s 2019 Testarossa Pinot Noirs

Testarossa has been successfully making a wide range of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines for well over two decades, quite a feat in the ever changing and trendy world of fine wine.They work with some of the most renowned vineyards in the Central Coast of California, primarily in the Santa Lucia Highlands, but also from Arroyo Grande, the Santa Rita Hills, Santa Maria and their winemaker Bill Brosseau’s family vineyard in the Chalone appellation. Brosseau has been director of winemaking at Testarossa since 2003, and his intimate knowledge of the Central Coast is reflected in his approach and ability to elicit the subtle nuances of so many single vineyard bottlings. He also makes blended appellation wines from Santa Lucia and Santa Rita for both varietals. Continue reading

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Contratto: Excellent Vermouths from the Piedmont

Made from 19th century recipes, the Contratto Vermouth and Vermouth-like aperitifs are some of the most appealing we’ve tasted. While often used as a base for cocktails, they’re also delicious by themselves over ice with a twist of citrus. The Vermouth Bianco and Vermouth Rosso include bark of the China (quinine) tree and thus are technically Chinatos. See our recent article on Chinato for more on this distinctive style of Vermouth.  Also, see our earlier review articles on white and red vermouths to learn more about the rising popularity of these beverages as younger consumers shift from higher alcohol spirits to lower alcohol drinks. Continue reading

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Thanksgiving 2021: Enjoy the Best of American Sparkling Rosés

There is nothing better than sparkling rosé to pair with the variety of dishes of the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  The 15 wines listed below are the best of the American and Canadian sparkling rosés that we tasted earlier this year. They made using the méthode champenoise, and most are blends of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  They are dry, crisp, and flavorful, making them ideal for pairing with turkey, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and other dishes. Most will also pair beautifully with fruity dishes and are sublime with shrimp on the grill, a popular Thanksgiving appetizer. Continue reading

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The 2019 Testarossa Chardonnays from Central California’s Premium Vineyards

It seems like ages since we tasted with Diana and Rob Jensen at their winery in Los Gatos, but then almost everything pre-Covid seems to have happened a long time ago.  We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to again taste their new releases, made by long-time, very talented director of winemaking, Bill Brosseau.  In this article we review the 2019 Testarossa Chardonnays, both appellation blends and single vineyard wines from some of the very best vineyards in Central California. We also taste Diana’s Chardonnay, which is a blend of selected barrels from multiple vineyards and appellations.   These are well crafted wines harvested at optimal ripeness and made to balance rich flavors with fresh acidity and moderate alcohol levels.   We’ll be reviewing the current releases of Testarossa Pinot Noirs next. Continue reading

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