Depending on how much you believe in destiny, it will come as no surprise that when, in 1982, Peter Michael established his eponymous estate winery, it was in Sonoma’s Knights Valley. Seven years later, after a long career as an entrepreneur and technology executive, he was made a sir, making his purchase of 640 steep, rugged acres on the western slopes of Mount St Helena even more apposite.
Raised on Bordeaux and Burgundy, Sir Peter credits the taste of a Chateau MontelenaChardonnay while visiting San Francisco in 1973 as the inspiration to make California wine. Many California wineries have similar origin stories, but they usually feature dreams of making the next great California Cabernet rather than world-class Chardonnay. Sir Peter, it turns out, would go on to do both.
Diminutive in both size and profile, the Knights Valley AVA sits between Napa Valley and Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. Its 2,000 acres of vineyards (Napa has more than 45,000) sit mostly on the narrow valley floor, making the Peter Michael estate on steep volcanic hillsides both a world apart and a marvel of viticultural engineering.
This is a tasting report that I wrote for the fine wine magazine, Club Oenologique. Continue reading the complete article here.
“Great wines ought to have a sense of place, and they ought to refresh. But the sorts of wines that are age-worthy and develop complexity tend to be rare and increasingly expensive, and few people have access to them. These sorts of bottles represent a tiny fraction of what’s produced and consumed. At the same time, many people experience greatness in wines that don’t necessarily fall under the classic definition. I know I do.” In the New York Times, Eric Asimov ponders what makes a wine great.
Over the last 50-plus years, the wine club has gone from stuffy boys’ club fodder to niche restaurant selections. The pandemic has led to an explosion of options that go beyond a passive doorstep drop. Megan Krigbaum surveys the wine club scene in PUNCH.
Might our palate be conditioned by visual cues and cultural constructs? In Decanter, Andrew Jefford argues that tasting is a synesthetic experience greatly affected by assumptions and expectations
In Wine-Searcher, Barnaby Eales explore’s France’s newest wine region: Brittany.
In Grape Collective, Marco Salerno talks to Salvo Foti about the human side of winemaking on Mount Etna.
In People, Sophie Dodd pulled together a gift guide for wine lovers.
Grapes for Port have traditionally been crushed by foot, but does that foot need to have a pulse? In Wine-Searcher, Kathleen Willcox reports on the Port producers transitioning to mechanical foot-treading machines.
In the Drop, Janice Williams rounds up the best Cyber Monday wine deals to hop on today.
Also in the Drop, Henry Jeffreys longs for carefree parties and the bad wine served at them.
Dave McIntyre highlights the best wine books of 2021 in the Washington Post.
In Wine Enthusiast, Sean P. Sullivan explores how wine auctions have evolved during the pandemic.
CNN reports on Burgundy’s catastrophic 2021 vintage, and the silver linings discovered at the Hospices de Beaune charity auction.
Meininger’s reports on the Hospices de Beaune auction and how this year’s sale seems to be representative of prospects for the 2021 vintage.
Jancis Robinson recommends a wide range of festive bubbly.
Antonio Galloni shares his notes on new Champagne releases in Vinous.
Welcome to my weekly roundup of the wine stories that I find of interest on the web. I post them to my magazine on Flipboard, but for those of you who aren’t Flipboard inclined, here’s everything I’ve strained out of the wine-related muck for the week.
Brittany: France’s Newest Wine Region
Billionaire pushing buttons.
What Makes Savoie’s Wines So Prized?
Wink Lorch digs into Chignin.
Mechanization Versus Wine’s Human Touch
Do you taste those robotic feet in your Port?
Why Martinborough Pinot Noirs Are New Zealand’s Best
Some are certainly among the top.
Circling back in Napa: what the Araujo family did next
Blake Gray writes about the Aurajos.
Andrew Jefford: ‘A wine’s visual cues shout, stamp, whistle and roar’
Andrew appreciates discombobulation.
Turbocharged by the Pandemic, Wine Auctions Evolve
Sir Peter Michael’s journey from Silicon Valley to Knights Valley
A California wine icon transitions to the next generation.
Everything Old Is New Again: A Completer Septicentennial
I want to attend a 700-year-old’s birthday, too.
Shipping Wine the Old Way Gains Favor
This is a thing now.
The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Beaujolais Nouveau
Maybe, but I’ve moved on to cru.
Fine wine is increasingly the preserve of the wealthy. Who cares?
Robert Joseph response to last week’s Oliver Styles piece on making wines affordable to those who make them.
The New Wave of Cahors Malbec
This is good news.
Fire, frost, smoke: how climate change is threatening the wine industry
From an investor’s perspective.
In Defense of Bad Wine
Not really. It’s defense of the good times, when bad wine is sometimes served.
No Matter How Big the Bubbles, Size Isn’t Everything
A candidate for the Ignobel Prize?
The impatient, disloyal customer
Switching costs are very, very low.
A Master Sommelier in North Texas Faces Sexual Assault Allegations
Local details on Texas victims.
Georgia’s forgotten wine region
BBC goes full Qvevri (video).
The Rich Diversity of Canada’s Top Wines
Good stuff, north of the border.
Scandinavia’s Wine Scene Is Growing, Partially Due to Climate Change
Danish wine, Swedish wine and more.
Tool Frontman Talks How Climate Change Is Affecting His Wine Business, Speaks on Difficulties He Faces
Maynard James Keenan talks climate.
How the man who put California wines on the map is helping others deal with climate change
Winiarski goes for legacy.
What Makes a Wine Great? It’s Not Just Old and Complex.
Eric Asimov gives great context.
A New Era for American Sparkling Wine
It’s getting good.
Turning Point for US Sommeliers?
Robert Joseph weighs in.
History in a glass: Valdiguié encapsulates Napa’s grape growing past
Good ol’ Napa Gamay.
Inside Cava’s Quest to Upgrade its Reputation
A long saga, not ended.
Acker Merrall ‘record-breaking’ sale faces counterfeit claims
Insert eyeroll here.
Nina Caplan’s wine diary from an extraordinary year
Some good stories and some good bottles.
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!
- 2020 Conte Brandolini d’Adda Vistorta Friulano (Friuli-Venezia Giulia): Heady, floral, lemony, and a bit eccentric. $13 B-
- 2017 Cantina Vignaioli Elvio Pertinace ‘Pertinace’ (Barbaresco): Classically structured, with coffee, tobacco, tart red fruits, and a long-a** finish! $52 A-
- 2017 Hic et Nunc Barbera del Monferrato Superiore ‘Monumento’ (Monferrato): Big, bold, bountiful, and beautifully tangy. $NA A-
- 2019 Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay (Chalk Hill): 3 cheers for Ripe, Peachy, & Complex!!! $45 A-
- 2018 Dry Creek Vineyard The Mariner Meritage (Dry Creek Valley): Another Meritage with dark, smoky, chewy and rich merit. $40 A-
- 2019 Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel (Sonoma County): An impossible wine – as in, impossible to stop drinking it. $30 B+
- 2019 Merry Edwards Meredith Estate Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): Authentic, deep loveliness decides to learn King Fu and kick some butt. $100 A
- 2019 Scenic Root Winegrowers Textbook Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): True to its name, in all the immediately hedonistic, inky ways possible. $33 B+
- 2020 Henry’s Drive – Vintage Longbottom Shiraz – Cabernet Sauvignon (McLaren Vale): A head-spinning display of iron, graphite, plums, raspberry, thyme, mint and a lot of other things you’ll need to pick out before the powerful body does you in. $50 A-
- 2020 Henry’s Drive – Vintage Longbottom Shiraz (McLaren Vale): Sexy & characterful to the core, but just make sure you’re a eucalyptus fan before opening. $50 A-
Copyright © 2020. Originally at Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up for November 29, 2021 from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!
Here’s hoping everyone had a happy and safe Thanksgiving break! I hope you all avoided any pitfalls of overcooking the turkey, getting into arguments with relatives, traffic nightmares, etc.
This week, I have a slew of wines from California that would fit well into any holiday gatherings and meals you may have planned for the rest of this chaotic year.
Head High comes through with a nice, value-driven Chard and Pinot. These surf-themed wines from Bill Price, who grew up in Hawaii, get the seal of approval from this surfer/wine lover.
California Chardonnay and Pinot fans likely know the Savoy Vineyard in Anderson Valley, and FEL puts out some really nice expressions of this site, featured this week.
Gary Farrell is another Chard and Pinot powerhouse, two of which featured here showed very well. Sonoma’s Ram’s Gate contributes some good Pinot and Chard as well, but it was the Cabernet in this report that really stole the show. An upcoming Grenache from Lucky Rock and a few other wines round out this report.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.
White and Rosé
2020 Lucky Rock Wine Co. Sauvignon Blanc Country Cuvee – USA, California
Light yellow color. The nose shows lemongrass, white pepper and honeysuckle over top green apple and grapefruit, super fresh and fun. Crisp and bright on the palate with zippy grapefruit and limes against richer peach fruit. There are these chalky, flinty, white pepper and oregano tones that add a lot of complexity. A delightful Sauvignon Blanc that shows a lot of complexity and balance and this price point. Also available in cans. (89 points IJB)
2019 Ram’s Gate Chardonnay Estate – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
Deep yellow color. A wonderful aromatic display of yellow apples and pears, with honeycomb, lemon drops, and these chalky, dried white flowers and hay tones, a lot going on. The palate shows nice depth and racy acidity, which keeps this crisp and lip-smacking from start to finish. Creamy pears and apples with honey, deep yet fresh, and the notes of chalk, flinty minerals, honey and walnut add all sorts of complexity. Harmonious and bright on the finish, I’d love to see this in three or four years. Barrel-fermented with no maloactic fermentation, aged 11 months in 24% new French oak. (91 points IJB)
2020 Head High Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County
Light yellow color. The nose shows sea salt and chalk dust overtop of lemons and ruby red grapefruit, along with white pepper, nettle – a nervy, bright appeal. A brisk and salty vibe on the palate, medium/full-bodied but balanced nicely. Green apple and kiwi fruit blend well with white flowers, perfume, white pepper, some oyster shells. Really fresh and approachable style but shows some good textural depth as well. This is a killer oyster and shellfish kind of wine. (89 points IJB)
2019 Gary Farrell Chardonnay Russian River Selection – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Light yellow color. Lush yet vibrant on the nose with lemons, yellow apples, with chalk dust and saline tones – a lot going on. Crisp acidity frames the wine well, and contrasts well against this deep, lush, creamy texture. Lemon curd, green and yellow apples, the fruit is deep but lively, and matched with these almond, honey, gingerbread, chalk dust tones. Deep but nuanced, this has a whole lot of balance and complexity for the price. Aged nine months in 30% new French oak. (91 points IJB)
2019 FEL Chardonnay Savoy Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
Light yellow color. Gorgeous nose of lemon, yellow apples and apricot with tones of chalk, white tea, sea shells, and walnut. On the palate, this is so precise and focused but shows generous, juicy characteristics as well. Lemon curd and yellow apple fruit blend so well with these chalky, talc, mineral, mountain stream vibes. The richer tones of honey and almond add depth but the wine stays brisk and pristine. A few years should do lovely things for this wine. Aged 18 months sur lie in 45% new French oak. (92 points IJB)
2020 Girasole Vineyards Pinot Blanc – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
Light yellow color. Bright nose of lemons and peaches, mango slices, along with orange blossoms and hints of celery seed. The palate is zesty and bright but shows some nice creamy, peachy texture, a light/medium-bodied wine with peach and lime fruit. Notes of white flowers and basil round out the finish on this delightful, fresh wine. Really nice for the price, here. (87 points)
2020 Rabble Wine Company Rosé – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Light salmon color. The nose rises with tangy strawberries, cherries and raspberries, nice herbal and floral tones with white pepper, dandelion and sliced cucumber. On the palate, this has a punchy and creamy but crisp feel, nicely balanced, dry but generous. Flavors of white cherry and wild raspberry balance well with creamy, honeyed elements and spicy, floral complexity. Fun, reliable, crowd-pleasing pink. Syrah and Grenache. (88 points IJB)
2019 Head High Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
Bright ruby colored. Inviting and lively on the nose with bright strawberries, raspberries, red apple peel, along with cola, rhubarb and hints of white pepper. Crisp and refreshing style on the palate with light tannins and punchy, vibrant raspberry and red cherry fruit. Pepper, rhubarb, rose hips and floral potpourri add some complexity. Bright, refreshing and fun, but shows significant complexity for the price point. Value alert! (90 points IJB)
2019 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Medium ruby colored. A warm, inviting compote of cherries and raspberries on the nose, mixed with leather, rose petals, rhubarb and mint – delightful. The palate shows crisp acidity on a dusty, medium-bodied frame. Raspberry and tart cherry fruit, crunchy and vibrant, blending nicely with spicy, floral, tobacco and earth tones. This is refreshing from start to finish, accessible but shows a lot of depth and character. Aged 10 months in 30% new French oak. (91 points IJB)
2018 Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir Cellar Note – USA, California, Sonoma, Sonoma Coast
Medium ruby color. The nose is fascinating, with ripe cherries, strawberries and raspberries, along with rose petals, rhubarb, subtle pepper and oregano. Medium-bodied with structured yet smooth tannins and vibrant acidity. Strawberry and raspberry fruit, so juicy yet with this zesty knife-edge to the depth. Nuanced cola, root beer, rhubarb, along with white pepper and black tea. There’s a fresh and focused appeal, but this will age wonderfully and show its best in the next two to five, I imagine. 13.8% alcohol, this spends 11 months in 30% new French oak. (91 points IJB)
2018 Ram’s Gate Pinot Noir Bush Crispo Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
Vibrant ruby color. The nose shows a bright mix of red apple peels, fresh cherries and wild raspberries, topped with notes of spicy pepper, rose petals, clove and rhubarb. The palate shows a zippy appeal with supportive but smooth tannins, balanced well with raspberries and tangy cherries and cranberry. The spicy pepper, rhubarb and bay leaf tones add a lot to contemplate, and the wine has an airy, lifted finish. Expressive now but really opens with time and should show best after four or five years. Well done! 15% whole cluster fermentation, aged 16 months in 33% new French oak. (92 points IJB)
2018 Ram’s Gate Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Note No. 1 – USA, California, Sonoma County, Moon Mountain District
Dark purple color. The nose shows a deep core of currants and cherry compote, and a cool mix of black pepper, smoked meats and clove, violets – the complexities go on and on. Full-bodied and solid grippy tannins but vibrant acidity, the balance is just great. Tangy, beautiful currant and blackberry fruit, elegant but concentrated, there’s really a lot to unpack. The unique mix of black tea, mesquite, roasted peppers, tobacco – it’s lovely, and the nuanced cedar and coffee and done well. A real stunner that will reward the patient. Includes 18% Malbec, aged 18 months in 55% new French oak. (94 points IJB)
2019 Barra of Mendocino Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
Light ruby color. The nose shows juicy cherries, plum cake and raspberries, mixed with cool notes of rhubarb and anise cookies. Plush, medium-bodied with soft tannins and medium acidity. Flavors of jammy plums and cherries mixed with some smoky, earthy tones. Fun and accessible, but well-balanced and shows some depth for the price, too. (88 points IJB)
2018 Domaine Anderson Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
Medium ruby colored. The nose really pops with vibrant cherries and raspberries, with warm, inviting tones of rose petals, sage, pepper. Crisp acidity frames this wine beautifully with medium tannins, and the cherry and strawberry fruit is so fresh and juicy. Complex notes of herbs and spices, and the wine maintains a zippy, mineral focus that is really attractive. Should age nicely over the next three to five. A blend of 22 batches, fermented with native yeasts in French oak, 8% new. (91 points IJB)
2019 FEL Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
Deep ruby color. Smells so delightful, with ripe strawberries, cherries and red currants, tossed with a complex and enticing host of violets, rose hips, clove and white pepper. Ripe, plush tannins and fresh acidity carry the lively cherry and strawberry fruit wonderfully. Underlying tones of potting soil, clay, pepper and black tea add complexity, and I get some nuanced walnut and cocoa tones. A delight now or to cellar, you can’t go wrong. Aged 16 months in 30% new French oak. (92 points IJB)
2020 Lucky Rock Wine Co. Grenache Venturi Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
Bright ruby color. Juicy cherries, raspberries, and cranberry relish on the nose, with notes of pepper, spiced tea, bay leaf and rhubarb. The palate shows a juicy, ripe feel and some moderate acidity over red plums and raspberry, jammy but fresh. Notes of black tea, rhubarb and rose petals add complexity. Plush, fun, but shows complexity as well. A small 75 case production wine to be released next year, this is one to watch for. (90 points IJB)