Steele “Shooting Star” Blue Franc (2011)

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20141114_191311Steele “Shooting Star” 

Blue Franc (Blaufrankisch)

YEAR: 2011

REGION: US: Washington: Yakima Valley

AVERAGE RETAIL: $15 

What they say about it:

“This wine is very similar to the wines that I tasted in Austria more than 25 years ago. Unlike other Steele and Shooting Star red wine bottlings, our Blue Franc receives little, or no, oak aging. Some liken our Blue Franc, depending on vintage, to Pinot Noir in lighter years and Zinfandel in the riper vintages. Sometimes it is totally akin to a top-flight Gamay from Beaujolais. The wine is clean, crisp, and unpretentious with tons of fruit, including warm berry pie, complementing the traces of pepper, almond, cherry and cinnamon. Our Shooting Star Blue Franc has soft tannins, medium body, great color and is the perfect red wine to enjoy over the summer with any festive occasion. It is excellent with appetizers, cheeses, BBQ, and picnics. Recently we had the opportunity to try the Blue Franc on the deck with a toasted sandwich of smoked chicken, grilled onion, and avocado a quintessentially quaffable! -Jed Steele”

What I say about it:

Steele Chardonnay was one of the first wines I was introduced to by Russ Martin, a former co-worker and major wine aficionado, who gave me my earliest impressions that wine could be something more than just something to drink. Since then I have become a fan of Steele Wineries and Jed Steele. The “Shooting Star” Blue Franc is very unique and a wine you should try if you can.

So out of the bottle and into the glass….

The color of the wine is a deep rich purple. Clean and clear to the rim with long legs in the glass. The nose of the wine is full of blueberries and blackberries with a touch of cocoa, pepper, slight oak with clove. The taste is packed full of cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries. A little bit of pepper, oak and a bit of a cinnamon, licorice / anise aftertaste. The finish is velvety smooth and lingers with soft tannins. It’s very rich and well balanced. Overall it’s a very well developed wine at an exceptional value. I’d agree with the comparison to Pinot Noir or Gamay and if you are a fan of either, I urge you to find a bottle.

For pairings, I would suggest Blue cheese, Gorgonzola, and Sharp Cheddar, dark chocolate, red meats and really just about anything.

Would Bukowski drink it? “Dave, look at that Shooting Star!” Bukowski then, while I am distracted, steals the bottle and chugs it down. “I think you have my answer.”

Overall Rating: 5 BUKS

5-BUKS

Kunde “Magnolia Lane” Sauvignon Blanc (2012)

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Kunde Sauvignon BlancKunde “Magnolia Lane” Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc

YEAR: 2012

REGION: US: California: Sonoma Valley

AVERAGE RETAIL: $16

What they say about it:

A crisp yet smooth wine offering lemon zest and orange rind aromatics, grapefruit and yellow nectarine flavors, with lovely length across the palate.

What I say about it:

Every once and a while I stumble upon a wine that is exceptional. The Kunde “Magnolia Lane” Sauvignon Blanc from 2012 is one of those wines. Having randomly picked it from the market made it that much more fun of a discovery. After tasting it I am not surprised to find out it’s won the 2013 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Gold Medal and the 2013 Pacific Coast Oyster Award.

Out of the glass and into the bottle….The color of the “Magnolia Lane” Sauvignon Blanc is a clean yellow with a hint of peach to it. Short legs in the glass as the wine is dry.

The nose of the wine is very crisp with big citrus notes: green apples, lemon, grapefruit, orange blossom with honey and vanilla overtones.

The taste is perfectly balanced. Big, bright and crisp with nice acidity with tons of apple, pear, citrus, most notably grapefruit, with a nice full finish. As it warmed slightly I began to pick up more fruit, especially melon. The finish and mouth feel also made me think of the texture of ripe melon. It had a velvety smooth butteriness. There were some slight mineral notes as well.

The Kunde “Magnolia Lane” Sauvignon Blanc will pair well with poultry, seafood and lite savory dishes excellently. For fruits I would recommend dried apricots, figs, apples, and the like. For cheese it will go nice with delicate soft cheese like Brie but even stand up to the robust flavors of a Blue.

Overall this is a fantastic wine and I highly recommend you pick up a bottle to try for yourself. It’s a steal for under $20 as well.

Would Bukowski drink it?  Hey Dave, get a room but leave the bottle. 

Overall Rating: 5 BUKS

5-BUKS

Bogle Vineyards Red Blend “Phantom” (2010)

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Bogle PhantomBogle Vineyards Red Blend “Phantom”

Red Blend: Zinfandel 51% – Petite Sirah 47% – Mourvèdre 2%

YEAR: 2010

REGION: US: California

AVERAGE RETAIL: $18

What they say about it:

“This ruby red spectre entices with rich blackberry and briary boysenberry. Provocative dark fruits envelop the nose and palate, leaving the essence of flavors brought forth by the grapes during winemaking. Black cherry and anise abound, leading to a sturdy finish of black pepper, pipe tobacco and spicy oak. Aged for over two years in 1 and 2 year old American oak focus and intensify the Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Mourvèdre, creating yet another passionate and commanding red wine, impossible to ignore. Welcome the winery ghost into your home again with this latest vintage, and enjoy with full-flavored and hearty meals…before it vanishes again.”

What I say about it:

I love big wines. The Phantom from Bogle is a big bold spicy red that I really enjoy. A complex red blend that is ideal for a dark cold winter night. So out of the bottle and into the glass….

Visually the Phantom is a stunner. Deep ruby red and garnet true to the rim. Rich, bright and clear. Long legs and jammy.

The nose is equally pleasing with a lot of big berry notes – Plums, ripe black berries, and cherries (dark fuits). Also notable spice; cardamom, clove and pepper. Also subtle notes of tar, leather, wood and linseed oil.

The taste is big and a very full finish. Lots of spice with a peppery, fruity, smokey blend. The berry notes I detected in the nose as well as prunes and cassis. Leather and tobacco, pipe tobacco, like Captain Black’s, sweeter and mellow. Oak but not too oaked. Full long but round tannins. Softer yet pronounced. This is a very full bodied dryer wine with 14.5% alchohol.

I really can’t say anything bad about this wine. It pairs excellent with grilled red meats and rich spicey foods as well as hangs out well all on it’s own. For fruits, think complimentary fruits such as red grapes, dried cherries, blueberries, figs and on the contrast side apricots and pears, particually Bosc (for the skin). For cheeese, I would go Spanish, Manchego, Queso de Mahón and to the Blues, even smoked gouda. Break out the salted cured meats too as this wine will marry well with Soppressata and Finocchiona salami.

Would Bukowski drink it?  Get a room Dave. What matters most is how well you walk through the fire. I’d walk a lot easier with a bottle of the Phantom in my back pocket. 

Overall Rating: 5 BUKS

5-BUKS

Charles & Charles “Chardonnay” (2012)

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20131212_195534Charles & Charles “Chardonnay”

Chardonnay

YEAR: 2012

REGION: US: Washington: Columbia Valley

AVERAGE RETAIL: $10

What they say about it:

The aromas start with notes of apple blossoms, lemon peel and subtle mango, and continue into mineral and wet slate notes with background of sweet pear, toasted spices and vanilla. On the palate you’re first hit with crisp apple and orange rind with tremendous focus, and length. The wine walks a beautiful line between rich full flavors and finesse. There’s luscious fruit and a touch of new oak without ever getting heavy or clumsy.

What I say about it:

I spotted this at my corner market for $10 and had to give it a try. Charles Smith Wines have a fantastic reputation and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve tried from them so far. The Charles & Charles refers to Charles Bieler & Charles Smith, two well known makers. If you are looking for a fantastic white or an excellent Chardonnay for $10 – look no further. The Charles & Charles 2012 would easily stand up and beat Chards in the $15-$25 range as well. 

Out of bottle into the glass the wine has a very floral and citrus aroma with a deep straw color. Lemon, apple, a touch of grass and vanilla. Tasting notes included the same with the addition of pineapple and oak, well balanced. Leaned more toward crisp than buttery, but with a nice mouth feel and long finish. Its an elegant wine without the fuss.

The Charles & Charles Chardonnay would go well with fish, poultry and lighter fair. I think it would also accompany Asian dishes nicely as well. I tend to like the crispness of good whites with the sweet and sour of certain Chinese and Thai dishes. For cheese pairing, I think sharp Cheddar, Emmentaler, Brie and Gruyère would all match well. With a great wine this inexpensive, you can splurge on the accompaniments.

Some additional information on the wine: The Charles & Charles project is a collaboration between Charles Smith and Charles Bieler of Three Thieves, Bieler Père et Fils, and Sombra Mezcal. The Charles & Charles portfolio includes a red blend and rosé from Columbia Valley vineyards (also available in kegs). With an abstract play on the American Flag (designed by the historic Nashville poster shop, Hatch Show Print), the labels showcase the intent to provoke thought of the future while honoring the past.

Would Bukowski drink it?  A wine this good for the price of three bottles of Thurnderbird? OK. I’m in. 

Overall Rating: 5 BUKS

5-BUKS

Mark Ryan “The Vincent” (2011)

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Mark Ryan The VincentMark Ryan “The Vincent”

Red Blend: 

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah

YEAR: 2011

REGION: US: Washington: Columbia Valley

AVERAGE RETAIL: $20 

What they say about it:

“The 2011 Vincent Red offers clean, pure aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, cedar-lined spice and vanilla. The palate is bold, with mouth-filling blueberry and blackberry with more warm spice and subtle licorice flavor. The finish is remarkably balanced, focusing firm but round tannins and refined acidity.”

What I say about it:

One of the things that I really love about wine is finding a new winery and tasting their wines. Friends have mentioned Mark Ryan before and I’ve read about the wine maker and his wines from time to time. I finally picked up a few of his 2011 wines and The Vincent was the first I cracked open. I was not disappointed in the least and wish I hadn’t waited this long.

The Nose of “The Vincent” is big and fruity with some herbaceous tones. Black berries, spice, subtle leather notes, clover and a hint of coffee. I did not let the wine breath that long and it was pleasant from bottle to glass. The Vincent has a full long finish with long legs. Full bodied with lush mellow tannins. A deep purple color mixed with complex fruits; plums, prunes, cherry, currants, with background flavors of licorice and orange rind and a slight earthiness.

I enjoyed The Vincent on its own but could easily imagine it paired with blue cheese, olives, fig spread, onion jam, rustic breads, on the lighter side, and it would compliment grilled meats, particularly a nice Rib Eye, BBQ’d, perfectly. I highly recommend this wine and at $20 its a value. Expect more from Mark Ryan in my future reviews.

A little bit more on Mark Ryan: 

Mark Ryan McNeilly founded Mark Ryan Winery in 1999 with the goal of making the best wines in Washington State. Largely self-taught, Mark honed the craft of winemaking through rigorous study and the welcomed advice of some of the area’s most experienced producers.

In the early years the winery was transient. The first vintages of Long Haul and Dead Horse were produced crushed and pressed in garages of friends and family, barrels aged in warehouses in the Seattle Area, and finally settling in Woodinville, WA  in 2003.

Over a decade later, Mark Ryan Winery has grown in size, earned acclaim from wine-lovers and critics alike, and garnered respect from the state’s elite producers. The goal, however, remains the same. Make delicious wines that represent the vineyard from which they come, making every vintage better than the last…

More info: http://www.markryanwinery.com/

Would Bukowski drink it?  

Overall Rating: 5 BUKS

5-BUKS

Frog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc “Rutherford” (2012)

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Frog's Leap Sauvignon BlancFrog’s Leap Sauvignon Blanc “Rutherford”

Sauvignon Blanc

YEAR: 2012

REGION: US: Napa Valley: Rutherford

AVERAGE RETAIL: $20

What they say about it:

“Light-bodied, smooth and juicy, featuring crisp lemon and green apple notes at the core, with aromatic details of fresh thyme and lemon verbena.”

What I say about it:

I had the pleasure of visiting Frog’s Leap Winery and having a special tasting when I was in Napa Valley last Fall for my brother’s wedding. Frog’s Leap is one of my favorite wineries and I really enjoy their whites. The 2012 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc is an excellent example of why I enjoy them so much. Out of the bottle and into the glass. My first impression is it’s fresh crispness, a burst of fruit with peach, citrus and apple as well as a grassy and herby nose with just a slight hint of floral (orange blossoms and the mentioned lemon verbena). It has a freshness that reminds you of summer and sunnier warmer days. I particularly enjoyed it on a rather typical gloomy late Fall evening in Seattle that was about as far from Summer as possible.

Great wines have the ability to not only satisfy but the pallet but also the soul and the Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc from Frog’s Leap is such a wine. I highly recommend trying it. It will stand up well with lighter fair such as pasta, fish, shellfish, oysters, and poultry. It will also pair perfectly with some pears, a nice blue cheese, olives and some rustic bread.

Would Bukowski drink it?  Sometimes you just have to piss in the sink. Sometimes you have to drink good wine too. Crack open another Dave!

Overall Rating: 5 BUKS

5-BUKS