Budget Wine Review: Leftie Wine Co. Red Blend NV



leftieIn many parts of the country wines made from fruit other than grapes are an important product, especially in northern states that have trouble getting grapes to survive the cold winters. Blackberry wine is one of the better fruit wines. But I’m not sure we need grape wine blended with blackberries.

The geniuses at E.J.Gallo have a new product in which raspberry juice is added during the secondary, malolactic fermentation. I have heard of this technique when making beer and mead but not wine. So in the interests of science I’ll give this a try.

So what does it taste like? Blackberries. You get a strong whiff of blackberry on the nose with some cherry character as well. The palate also is dominated by blackberry but you can detect some chocolate and coffee notes, with discernable sweetness, between off-dry and semi-sweet. The round, full mouthfeel is soft and the short finish shows a bit of drying tannin but overall it lacks acidity.

It’s being sold as something innovative and eccentric, but it’s really just another option for the soft, smooth, and sweet crowd. If you’re tired of coke but can’t quite get your arms around grown-up wine this will do– think of it as gateway juice.  It isn’t awful but it doesn’t taste like grape wine and lacks the punch and zesty acidity of the best blackberry wines.

Kim Petras “A Heart to Break” has enough fluff and bubblegum to resonate with this wine.

Score: 80

Price: $10 (purchase here)

Alc: 13%


Wine Blog Daily Friday 8/17/18


grapes-1952035__340A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Deborah Parker Wong argues that cork is often blamed for off-aromas that have a different source.

Lisa Zimmerman reports on the continuing conflicts between the wine industry and some local residents in Sonoma.

The Wine Curmudgeon lists 5 wine story themes you should never read because they’re uninformative.

Alan Goldfarb reports on the expansion of the wine writer’s collection at the University of California, Davis Library and addresses the cultural role of the wine writer.

The Wine Daily curates the top 5 wine clubs with real expertise behind their selections.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Meg Houston Maker reviews the NV Bouvet Signature Crémant de Loire Brut

Fredric Koeppel reviews the line up from Day Wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

1 Wine Dude profiles Cellar Masroig from Spain’s Monsant region.

Reverse Wine Snob reviews the 2016 Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc

Pull That Cork reviews the  2015 Carlania Celler El Petit Carlania Trepat, a little known grape from Catalunya.

Talk A Vino profiles the affordable, accessible wines of Côtes de Bordeaux.

Pam Strayer profiles organic  Napa producer Oakville Ranch.

Aaron Nix Gomez tastes several back vintages from Rioja producer López de Heredia

Hiking the Cliffs of Cinque Terre



from-boatThe conclusion of our wine and food tour of Tuscany takes us beyond Tuscany as we head into Liguria for a finale of seafood and scenery along Italy’s Riviera—the five fishing villages of Cinque Terre. Today there is lot more tourism than fishing in these colorful towns perched on the side of steep cliffs surrounded by rugged landscapes that are now a national park. There are about 4000 inhabitants that receive 2.5 million tourists each year.

from-trailConsisting of five small coastal villages– Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso—Cinque Terre today is accessible by car if you don’t mind a bit of white knuckle driving, but the villages are ZTL zones meaning no cars allowed and parking on the outskirts is expensive. We were bused into Riomaggiore and traveled by train, boat, and hiking trail to get between villages.

The landscape is gorgeous, the seafood excellent and the shopping apparently productive given the hordes crowding the shops. But the main attraction is the hiking along trails linking the villages.trail These ancient trails used to be the only way to get from village to village and although landslides have closed some of the trails, the ones that are still passable give you stunning vistas and plenty of calorie-burning slopes to work off a week of indulgence.vernazza bar

We took the boat from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, hopped a train to Vernazza, and after a fortifying screwdriver (introduced to the locals by our tour guide Chris) at this hilltop bar, embarked on the two hour hike back to Monterosso. The trail was well worn but steep with handholds where necessary, but the constant elevation changes had me longing for the flatlands by the time we descended into Monterosso.

vineyardsWe weren’t here for the wine, but they do plant wine grapes on terraces painstakingly carved into the cliffsides. contraptionThis rail contraption is used to navigate the hillsides in order to do their vineyard work.  The indigenous wine is a refreshing blend of Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino which was especially crave-worthy after a rigorous two hour hike.  This lobster lunch made the effort worthwhile.lobster

church-and-fortificationsAfter a boat ride back to our hotel the tour ends with a seafood feast.

Tomorrow morning we head out on our own. After a couple days of downtime in La Spezia we take the train to Turin, rent a car and head to the village of Monteforte, near Barolo, to taste Italy’s most prestigious beverage, the King of Wines.

The Tour of Tuscany was researched and executed by Chris Gluck owner of the Wine Vault and Bistro in San Diego

Wine Blog Daily Thursday 8/16/18


harvestA daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

W. Blake Gray reports on optimistic attitudes as California’s harvest begins.

Martin Redmond wonders if flower wine is ready for prime time.

Pam Strayer has the information on 2018’s Biodynamic Association Conference coming to Portland in November.

Bob on Sonoma reports that the biggest problem facing the wine industry today is a labor shortage,

Miquel Hudin reviews 43 Wine Regions: A Practical Guide to the Top Wine Regions and Vintages Around the World by Michael Biddick.

Susannah Gold argues that vintners should be using lighter bottles for environmental reasons as well as cost and convenience.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Deborah Parker Wong reviews C. Elizabeth “Game Farm” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 from grapes grown in unique rocky soils.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s wine of the week is Gordo 2014, a red bend from Spain.

Tom Lee reviews the 2010 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Central Coast

The Reverse Wine Snob reviews the Santa Julia Plus Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.

Vino Sphere reviews the Terra Bella 2008 Estate Syrah, Paso Robles

Wine Review: Amplify “Duke and Ella” White Blend and 2017 Carignane Santa Ynez



amplifyAmplify is the project of Cameron and Marlen Porter, once denizens of the music industry who returned to their Santa Barbara origins to make music of a different sort. Although their wines qualify as “natural” or “low-intervention” using only a little sulfur at bottling as a preservative, they exhibit an intentional style. Cameron explains each wine “starts with an idea of what we’re trying to communicate” yet always with a focus on “how do you amplify the voice of the site” and embracing happy accidents when they occur.

These wines have the zest and lithe body of other “natural wines” but with something different—a richness and polish that sets them apart.

Their “Duke and Ella” white blend for 2017 is a co-fermentation of under-ripe Riesling and very ripe Viognier named for another famous pair—Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Like its namesake, this wine is good natured but intense and remarkably unique. Honeyed, with youthful floral notes, lemon, and subtle smoke on the nose, the palate is medium bodied with a gentle, transparent minerality supported by a elongated, creamy midpalate. The finish is textured with bursts of intensity as if Coltrane had stumbled into Duke and Ella’s session. Unfined, unfiltered, fermented using native yeast and aged in neutral oak for 5 months.

Its good nature is belied by something wild or unsettling, like a good blues tune.

Much of the Duke and Ella songbook is a bit too smiley-face for this wine, but E and D Blues helped along by the abstraction of Ella’s scat settled in nicely.

Score: 92  Price: $22 Alc: 13.1%

Their flagship wine, the 2017 Carignane, a relatively rare varietal in California, is equally unique. Sourced from Camp 4 Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, 30% of the grapes undergo carbonic maceration giving the strawberry and cherry notes a candied aura kept in check by robust orange zest and an earthy background. The palate feels light but the round mouthfeel yields a subtle richness enhanced by plum that provides a sense of depth. There is a steely layer underlying the fruit—this is candy with attitude. Glassy and calm at midpalate, the finish accelerates becoming remarkably active with bursting intensities of dried orange peel. The tannins are soft, a spectral presence adding subtle heft. Barrel fermented and aged 5 months in neutral oak.

The Cindy Lauper tune “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” captures the attitude of this wine, innocent but consumed with latent desire expressed by the plea “I want to be the one to walk in the sun”.

Score: 90  Price: $23   Alc. 13.6

Wine Blog Daily Wednesday 8/15/18


CIMG1343A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

J. Blake Gray leaves the wine beat long enough to explain how to buy Sake in a Japanese market.

The Wine Economist reports on the Cabernet boom and its discontents.

Tom Wark disagrees with Andrew Jeffords thesis that big money is destroying wine.

The Wine Curmudgeon ponders 3-tier, Aldi wines, and the latest innovation in cork.

Jeremy Parzen reports on the Monsanto ruling, Aussie Prosecco labeling, and Italy’s self-defeating marketing.

Tom Jarvis brings us up to date on the increasingly important topic of smoke taint.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts:

The Drunken Cyclist has photos of his bike trip through Burgundy.

Vino Sphere visits North Carolina’s JOLO Winery and Vineyards.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Meg Houston Maker reviews the 2017 Sidebar Syrah Rosé Russian River Valley

Fredric Koeppel reviews the Cantina Schreckbichl/Colterenzio Gewürztraminer 2017, Alto Adige-Südtirol,

Deborah Parker Wong reviews this year’s Best Value Wine winner, Lodi’s Collier Creek 2016 Front Coach Chardonnay

Allison Levine profiles Frescobaldi Toscana and interviews winemaker, Nicolò D’Afflitto

The Swirling Dervish profiles the Tuscan producer, Famiglia Cecci Wines.

Red Wine Please reviews two Italian whites from Gran Passione, there Bianco and Prosecco.

Tom Lee reviews the 2011 Carlisle Zinfandel Rossi Ranch

Wine Rabble reviews the 2015 Winderlea Vineyard Imprint Pinot noir from Willamette’s Dundee Hills.

Wine Blog Daily Tuesday 8/14/18


wine-cellars-808175__340A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Randy Caparoso profiles  single vineyard wines on Lodi’s west side.

The Wine Curmudgeon reports that the winestream media is beginning to pay attention to local wine.

Jamie Goode shares a video introduction to his visit to the Finger Lakes.

Bob On Sonoma opines on how much you have to spend to get good value in a wine.

The Armchair Sommelier profiles Palm Bay International, the large importer/distributor and explains the three-tier system of wine distribution.

Winery Visits and Travel Posts:

The Drunken Cyclist continues his bike tour of Brittany drinking only house wines.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Deborah Parker Wong profiles Picchetti Winery and their Sauvignon Blanc from Arroyo Seco AVA.

Deborah Parker Wong reports on Lodi’s St. Amant Winery’’s Best of Show Award for their Touriga Nacional.

Lisa Johnston profiles Musella Winery reviewing their Valpolicella, Amarone, Ripasso, and Bianco.

Wine Travel Eats reviews the Pacific Rim Riesling from Columbia Valley.

Reverse Wine Snob reviews the Free Public Rosé a canned wine from Columbia Valley.

The Hermeneutics of Mayo Haters


shrimp-with-quite-tooIn an article entitled “How Millennials killed Mayonnaise, boomer Sandy Hingston wonders why, at her summertime family gatherings, few eat her formerly prized, mayo-slathered macaroni salad, Waldorf salad, or deviled eggs. In the face of generational change she notices what no longer appears on the condiment table:

I racked my brain for the source of this generational disconnect. And then, one holiday weekend, while surveying the condiments set out at a family burger bash, I found it. On offer were four different kinds of mustard, three ketchups (one made from, I kid you not, bananas), seven sorts of salsa, kimchi, wasabi, relishes of every ilk and hue …

What was missing, though, was the common foundation of all Mom’s picnic foods: mayonnaise. While I wasn’t watching, mayo’s day had come and gone. It’s too basic for contemporary tastes — pale and insipid and not nearly exotic enough for our era of globalization. Good ol’ mayo has become the Taylor Swift of condiments.

Well, I’m far from being a millennial but this comparison to Taylor Swift is unfair to Swift. Millennials may not have much income these days but they nevertheless have good taste.

Hingston can’t quite figure out why mayonnaise is no longer popular arguing that “mayonnaise isn’t bland; it’s artfully blended. It’s an evocation of the homogeneity of that old, dead American dream.”

That’s faint praise. After considering several implausible explanations for mayo’s demise, she settles on identity politics:

The only reason for this raging mayophobia is a generation’s gut-level renouncement of the Greatest Generation’s condiment of choice.

Ah no. The reason for the demise of mayonnaise is that it masks the flavor of anything you put it on, an effect made much worse when mayonnaise fans insist on shoveling gobs of it on even the most delicate of flavors. I had a fresh seafood sandwich the other day that could have been beef or liver, or beef liver for that matter, it had so much mayonnaise on it.

And as Hingston points out this was its purpose:

One of the reasons for mayonnaise’s early popularity, according to public health historian David Merritt Johns, was that it served to disguise flaws in the ingredients it coated — potatoes past their due date, flabby cabbage, tuna that was less than pristine. Young people like my daughter somehow seem to have extrapolated this masking function from condiment to culture; for them, mayo quite literally whitewashed America’s immigrants into eating dull food.

Yes they did and if mayo fans are now paying for it, well it’s a well-deserved comeuppance. They don’t call it the food revolution for nothin’.

Wine Blog Daily Monday 8/13/18


yering station

Yering Station Wine Bar, Yarra

A daily sample of thoughtful writing and discussion from (mostly) independent wine blogs:

Lisa Zimmerman reports on the fire threat for Oregon and Washington wineries.

Allison Levine reports on the status of Signorello Estate, who lost their winery in the Napa fire last year.

Jamie Goode ponders the negatives of jealously.

When none of the options are great, Kelli White explains how to drink the least bad wine.

Wine stats guru, the Wine Gourd, explains how models are created to help us understand data.

Pam Strayer reports on organic wine winners at this weekend’s Mendocino Wine Competition.

Pam Strayer reports that Monsanto has been ordered to pay damages for failing to warn consumers that weed killer Roundup can cause cancer.

Selected Wine Reviews:

Meg Houston Maker reviews the 2016 Villa Crespia Brolese Rosé Extra Brut Franciacorta.

Jamie Goode profiles Stratus Wines in Niagara, Canada

Fredric Koeppel reviews the Smith-Madrone Vineyards Riesling 2015 and Bonny Doon’s Réserve Vin Gris de Cigare 2016

Jameson Fink reviews the Tiefenbrunner Gewürztraminer 2016 (Südtirol-Alto Adige)

Issac Baker profiles HLR Cellars from Fountaingrove in Sonoma

Reverse Wine Snob finds Target’s California Roots Red Blend to be drinkable

Tom Lee reviews the 1997 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red

Tim Lemke reviews Schmitt’s Kinder, Rosé, Trocken, from Franconia, Germany.

JVB Uncorked reviews several affordable wines from Cariñena, Spain.

Cindy Rynning reviews the Pazo Pondal Albariño 2017 from Rias Baixas.

Red Wine Please reviews the 2016 Domaine de Bila-Haut L’esquerda, a Syrah, Grenach, Carignan blend from Roussillon.

Food Wine Click reviews the Granbazán Albariño Etiqueta Verde Rias Baixas DO 2017  paired with Tapas.

Budget Wine Review: Monte Antico Toscana IGT 2013



monte anticoA budget wine with character? Grazie! Dark cherries wrapped in a leather blanket dragged through dusty earth. An quintessential Italian flavor profile.

Milk chocolate is surprisingly dominant on the palate, which shows a shapely, medium-weight body but with a steely backbone that prevents it from becoming soft. The tannins are firm and medium grain, and  with the acidity give the wine an expansive trajectory and robust finish. This is very much a Super Tuscan, its earthiness and firm tannins set off by very ripe fruit. Far better than your average spaghetti wine, one of the best value wines available.

A blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot, 1 yr. in mostly Slovenian oak.

This is a rockin’ bluesy wine, pairing nicely with Duke Robillard’s “Love Slipped In”

Score: 89

Price: $10

Alc: 13%