Stellar Values in California Chardonnay from Sonoma County

Modern California Chardonnay is some of the best in the world. It’s fresh, balanced, often elegant and nothing like the too-ripe, oaky, buttery wines of the past.  But the best single vineyard Chardonnays can be expensive (>$50), and the inexpensive (<$15) supermarket blends are often tutti-frutti and dilute.  Is there anything in-between?  Fortunately, we discovered several while doing the tastings for our report on California Chardonnay: Terroir and Winemaking in Sonoma.  Tasting notes on the 20 best values in Sonoma Chardonnay are given below. Continue reading

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Cathy Corison’s Elegant Cabernet Sauvignons from the Special 2018 Vintage

Cathy Corison

Cathy Corison makes some of the Napa Valley’s most elegant and refined Cabernet Sauvignons.  In this article we review her wines from the cool, long-ripening 2018 vintage, including the still to be released wine from the special, old vine Kronos Vineyard.  We’ve tasted her wines over the years but not recently, so this tasting was a very welcome re-introduction to Corison Cabernet Sauvignon.  We came away very impressed with the wines, as reflected in the tasting notes below.  Continue reading

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Wine Art Estate: Creative Winemaking in Macedonia, Greece

Wine Art Estate is a boutique winery established  in 1993 in Drama by Yannis Papadopulous and Yannis Kalaizidis.  Drama is located in a landlocked area bordering Bulgaria in the northern half of east Macedonia (see map below).  While neglected as a wine growing region for centuries,  beginning in the 1980s Drama slowly became  widely recognized as one of the most important wine regions in Greece due to Wine Art Estate and other wineries such as  Costas and Nicos Lazaridis, Ktima Manolesakis and Ktima Pavlidis. Continue reading

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Chinato and Quinquina from Italy’s Piedmont, South Africa’s Swartlands, and the Columbia Valley

While technically not a Vermouth, Chinato is similar in its infusion of herbs and spices. What’s different is the addition of Cinchona. Cinchona is the dried bark of the South American tree that is a source of quinine and used for a variety of medicinal purposes; it’s the national tree of Peru.  The bitterness of the bark and other spices (usually, gentian roots, rhubarb, cardamom, cinnamon, orange) requires the addition of sugar to be palatable. The most famous and historical ones come from the Piedmont, the most famous being made with Barolo.  While not common, producers outside Italy now produce Chinato, too. Oregon’s Cana Feast Winery makes a Nebbiolo-based Chinato, and in South Africa Adi Badenhorst partnered with Danish bar master Lars-Erik Lyndgaard Schmidt to reinvent that country’s version of Chinato. Continue reading

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The White Burgundies of Louis Jadot from the Challenging 2018 Vintage

Domaine des Héritiers

Founded in 1859, Maison Louis Jadot is today one of Burgundy’s most important producers.  We’ve had the opportunity to taste Jadot’s wines both in France and here in the US.  Recently, we tasted several of their white wines from Burgundy, motivated by our extensive tastings (and forthcoming report) on the Chardonnays of Sonoma.  California Chardonnay producers, or, rather, their PR agents, often talk about their wines being Burgundian in character, so we tasted several Sonoma Chardonnays side by side with Jadot Chardonnays from Burgundy.  The results of this comparison can be found in our forthcoming report. Continue reading

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The Wines of Aivalis of Nemea

Hristos Aivalis and son Sotiri

Aivalis is a small artisanal winery  in Nemea, a tiny  appellation in the Peloponnese of Greece.   Established in 1997 by Hristos  Aivalis  (pictured left with his son Sotiri) produces some of the finest Agiorgitiko  in Greece today and is  a widely acknowledged leader among producers in the region.

Aivalis  produces several Agiorgitiko both single variety and blends  from  its own small vineyard plots and others which it leases and manages from other vineyards scattered throughout Nemea.   Over the years, Hristos served as winemaker, having learned his craft from his father.  His wines are well made and authentic expressions of Nemea. Continue reading

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Hanzell Vineyards: Sonoma’s Historic Chardonnay Winery

Winemaker Brad Webb and Ambassador Zellerbach

In this article we review the current Chardonnay releases of Sonoma County’s historic Hanzell Vineyards.  In 1953 James Zellerbach planted Sonoma County’s first commercial Chardonnay vineyard in the foothills of the Mayacamas after returning from Europe where he managed the Marshall Plan for Italy.  Especially fond of French wine, he aimed to produce Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir equal in quality to those of Burgundy.  He even modeled his winery after Burgundy’s fabled Clos de Vougeot. Continue reading

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Ernest Hemingway, Pliny the Elder, Julia Child, Pope John XXIII & Others on Wine

Our favorite is from Ernest Hemingway: “As I ate the oyster with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I began to be happy and make plans.” Continue reading

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Bodegas Ochoa of Navarra: Current Releases

Bodegas Ochoa is a family run firm located in Olite, Ribera Alta, the center of the D.O. Navarra, and the ancient capital of the kingdom of Navarra. The Ochoa family has a long history of winemaking in Navarra; documents record sales of wine to the royal family as early as 1370. In more recent times, Javier Ochoa helped resuscitate the Navarra wine industry in his twelve years as Director of EVENA. We traveled to Navarra and visited Bodegas Ochoa for our earlier report on Wines of Navarra. Continue reading

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Kistler Chardonnay: A Review of the 2018 Portfolio

The Kistler Chardonnay Portfolio

Steve Kistler founded his eponymous, Sonoma winery in 1978 and produced his first vintage in 1979.  Although he was not the first Californian to make single vineyard Chardonnays, his carefully crafted wines from meticulously farmed (and seldom irrigated) vineyards fermented in small oak barrels paved the way for today’s caravan of Sonoma Chardonnays.  Kistler’s Chardonnays quickly found favor with Robert Parker, who wrote in the Wine Advocate, “If the Kistler Winery could be magically transported to the middle of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, it would quickly gain a reputation as glorious as any producer of Burgundy grand crus.”  Kistler’s wines became the most sought-after Chardonnays in America. Even today, when many winemakers have adopted Kistler’s winemaking philosophy, Kistler Chardonnays are highly allocated and mostly sold through a mailing list. Continue reading

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