L’Ecole No 41Chenin Blanc “Columbia Valley” (2012)

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20140110_225045L’Ecole No 41Chenin Blanc “Columbia Valley”

Chenin Blanc

YEAR: 2012

REGION: US: Washington: Columbia Valley

AVERAGE RETAIL: $15

What they say about it:

“This fresh and vibrant Chenin Blanc shows abundant expressive aromatics of jasmine, orange blossom, and mango with flavors of star fruit, apple, and peach on a balanced, crisp mineral finish.”

What I say about it:

Amazingly, I think this may be my first taste from L’Ecole, one of the well known and earliest artisanal wine makers in Washington state. They produce in both the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley. The later I hope to visit this summer. The 2012 Chenin Blanc from Columbia Valley was a nice introduction on a Friday night. I sampled it chilled to about 54° F which is where I like whites.

Out of the bottle and into the glass…. The color is yellow to yellow straw. Clean to the edge of the glass with a hint of peach and orange to the hue. More mellow than bright yet clear.

The nose had a lot of floral, grassy and ciitrus notes: orange blossom, marigold,with a touch of wet wool, chestnut, wet earth and mushrooms. 

The taste was equally citrus and balanced with a long slightly mineral finish. Green pineapple, fresh white peaches, green apples with a touch of slate. Medium dry alcohol with a nice acidity.

Overall a really nice wine. Reminded of Spring right after a slight shower, the rain on the slate sidewalk of my childhood house. I’d pair it with lighter delicate cheeses, like brie, Dubliner, Humboldt Fog, along with fruits, pear, apples, and figs, to bring out the fuitiness of the wine more. I can also see this going nice with smoked salmon, lox, as well as most poultry, fish, shellfish and pasta in white or cream sauces. Definitely a wine I plan to come back to for return revisists.

Would Bukowski drink it?  I don’t hate people…I just feel better when they’re not around. When they are around good wine like this helps make life bearable.Crack open another Dave!

Overall Rating: 4 BUKS

4-BUKS

Christopher Michael “Pinot Noir” (2012)

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20131211_233245Christopher Michael “Pinot Noir”

Pinot Noir

YEAR: 2012

REGION: US: Oregon: Willamette Valley

AVERAGE RETAIL: $8-10

What they say about it:

“Blackberries and cherries burst onto the scene and gently taper off into rich chocolate and toasty flavors with subtle hints of black licorice. The wine has lively tannins and a rich and balanced finish. It is open and ready to drink.”

What I say about it:

Spotted another new under $10 Pinot Noir from Oregon and had to give it a try. Not at all familiar with the maker but producers from the Willamette Valley in Oregon produce some of the best wine in the Pacific Northwest, if not the country, especially Pinot Noir. 

Out of the bottle and into the glass, the Christoper Michael Pinot Noir was subtle yet nice plum color with initial notes of cherries, berries, currants and plums. Initial tasting notes was also berries, with a quick tartness (pucker) with some licorice and slight sour cherry. Soft tannins with a slightly chalky, mineral feel. Finish was balanced but a little short.

At best this was an average, drinkable Pinot Noir. I wasn’t impressed but I didn’t empty it into the sink. For an under $10 Pinot Noir from Willamette, I think it’s fine but it’s not “fine wine”. Yes if spoken aloud I would have used air quotes.

Like most Pinot Noir wines this will pair well with red meats or poultry, particularly Turkey. For cheese pairings I would suggest medium to sharp Cheddar, goat cheese / Chevre and softer cheeses.

Would Bukowski drink it?  What the hell are air quotes? Haven’t we learned I’ll drink anything. 

Overall Rating: 2 BUKS

2-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

Alexander Valley Vineyards “Redemption Zinfandel” (2010)

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20131210_023105Alexander Valley Vineyards “Redemption Zinfandel”

Zinfandel

YEAR: 2010

REGION: US: California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley

AVERAGE RETAIL: $18 

What they say about it:

“In the glass there are aromas of blackberry, dark cherry, plum, chocolate, spice, black pepper and vanilla. There is mouth filling texture with spicy flavors of blueberry, black pepper and dark fruits. Kevin Hall says: “this is a big wine with a long finish.”

What I say about it:

Is the bottle half empty? Is the bottle half full? I am referring to the picture of Alexander Valley Vineyards “Redemption Zinfandel” above. In this case, it’s half full. This is my second tasting of the Redemption and I really enjoy this wine. I love Zins and this one is a new favorite.

Out of the bottle and into the glass, the wine is striking. Deep ruby red, long legs, with a lot of spice and berries that are easily recognized while just pouring. Sweet and spicy with just a touch of vanilla. Tasting notes are again full of berries and spice. Particularly blueberry, figs and plums, full and round flavors with touches of pepper, cocoa, smoke and a hint of clover. The Redemption has a very long mellow finish that lingers. 

I had the Redemption solo but previously sampled it with a meal. It went excellent with a grilled ribeye and would be an ideal wine to have with any grilled meats as well as similar full flavored foods. For cheese I would pair with any good blue, Gorgonzola, Gouda, even some drier harder cheeses like Pecorino and Manchego.

Would Bukowski drink it?  Redemption. How Poetic. Pour me a glass or four. 

Overall Rating: 4 BUKS

4-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

Joseph Drouhin “Beaujolais Nouveau” (2013)

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joseph drouhin 2013 beaujolais nouveauJoseph Drouhin “Beaujolais Nouveau”

Gamay

YEAR: 2013

REGION: France:Burgundy

AVERAGE RETAIL: $8-14 

What they say about it:

“Notes on the 2013 Harvest: The region has benefited from summery conditions during the month of July and the first two weeks of August. Hot, sunny and luminous conditions have enabled the vines to develop normally yet without catching up with the delay in growth of the beginning of the year. There were some rain storms, but which did not affect the vines. The grape count indicates a very good harvest in areas where the grapes ripen fast, and a moderate harvest in more slow ripening areas. We estimate the harvest to start around September 23rd to 25th.”- Frédéric J. Drouhin”

What I say about it:

OK well that doesn’t tell me anything about the wine actually…. This was the 2nd 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau I had picked up recently and my first from Joseph Droughin. This like most Beaujolais Nouveau wines was light, fruity, easy to drink and quite enjoyable. The nose had elements of violets, cherries, lavender, berries, and slight touch of vanilla. The texture was smooth, lush with very subtle tannins and a slight tartness with low acidity. Tasting notes included cherries, of the tarter pie cherry variety, berries, strawberry and raspberry, cassis and currants with a slightly earthy undertone. The wine has a striking light garnet color. 

The Joseph Drouhin “Beaujolais Nouveau” 2013 will go nicely with light savory meats and poultry as well as fish, particularly grilled salmon. It will also go nicely with appetizers, fruits and cheeses. Excellent slightly chilled (54-57° F).

Overall this was a great find and a winery I need to investigate further.

Would Bukowski drink it? Louis-Ferdinand Céline, now he was French. 

Overall Rating: 4 BUKS

4-BUKS

Atalaya “Laya” (2012)

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Laya 2012Atalaya “Laya”

Red Blend: 

70% Garnacha and 30% Monastrell

YEAR: 2012

REGION: SPAIN

AVERAGE RETAIL: $10 

What they say about it:

“Laya is 70% Garnacha Tintorera — Alicante Bouschet — and 30% Monastrell planted around 1000 metres (3280 feet) above sea level and aged for 4 months in French oak. Garnacha Tintorera is known for its deep color and here it coats the glass and imparts aromas of brooding black fruits, licorice, espresso, and pepper. Dense, savory, and rich.”

What I say about it:

This wine is another market find. I haven’t been branching out much beyond my safety zone of wines from the Northwest and CA lately so I decided to pick up the red blend from Spain recently. The 2012 Laya is a very big and bold wine and if you are a fan of bold “old world” wines, I recommend it. 

Out of the bottle and into the glass. This is a big wine and a letting it breath (or aerating) opened it up more. A very deep garnet to purple color with very long legs in the glass. My first impressions were deep and rich tones – earthy (flint), licorice, coffee / espresso, leather and tobacco. Oddly the fruit, mainly cherry, hit me afterwards on the finish rather than up front. Slight touch of oak and smoke also noted. Medium body but a little heavy on the tannins. For it’s price, it does have characteristics of older and more expensive wines. Proving that price isn’t the only indicator for a good wine. Overall I liked it. My only reservation, a little too bold on some notes for me, particularly the licorice and espresso, for my taste, but easily recommended.

Would Bukowski drink it?  I ever tell you about this Spanish broad I met at the track? Gimme that wine. 

Overall Rating: 3 BUKS

3-BUKS

Zen of Zin “Old Vine Zinfandel” (2011)

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Zen of ZinZen of Zin “Old Vine Zinfandel”

Zinfandel

YEAR: 2011

REGION: US: California

AVERAGE RETAIL: $11 

What they say about it:

“This Zenful Zin has bright, ripe scents of cherry and strawberry jam; spice vanilla and orange peel complete the exotic aura. Very juicy, fresh, ripe and round flavors give the impression of boldness without heaviness. The finish is long, soft and flavorful.”

What I say about it:

I spotted this wine at my local market on sale for $7.99. I am continually on the search for good wines under $10 and Zinfandel wines are among my favorite reds so I had to give it a try. The Zen of Zin brand is actually made by Ravenswood, reknown for their Zins.

Out of the bottle it was very drinkable. It’s a jammy type of Zin with long legs in the glass. It’s on the fruitier side and would agree that my first impression was strawberry followed by plums. It’s a lighter Zin and I quite enjoyed it. Very easy to drink. Flavorful but not overpowering. I think this is best matched with spicy and savory dishes. I had it with some pizza (topped with sausage, onion and sun ripened tomatoes) which it matched really well. Overall a good drinkable and tasty wine. A steal for $7.99, but just not great.

Would Bukowski drink it?  $7 buck is a steal. Put it on my tab. 

Overall Rating: 3 BUKS

3-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

Northwest Wine Academy “Baywatch Baxter” Rosé Wine (2012)

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20131201_172015Northwest Wine Academy “Baywatch Baxter”

Rosé

YEAR: 2012

REGION: US: Washington State: Columbia Valley

AVERAGE RETAIL: $16

What they say about it:

“Deliciously, mouthwatering and refreshingly dry: bright, with flavors of cherry, rhubarb and cranberry with a hint of white pepper and a bit of creaminess.‘”

What I say about it:

Last night’s lazy Sunday dinner was Thai take out. For me Thai and most Asian cuisine goes best with Rosé wines. This is also a throwback to my earliest wine indulging meals which usually consisted of Chinese food with only the finest white zinfandel (in the largest volume purchasable). Rosé is more readily available in the summer but more and more I am seeing it year round. Luckily my neighborhood market in the Fremont district of Seattle, has a great selection of wines including half a dozen or more Rosé wines year round. The Northwest Wine Academy “Baywatch Baxter” Rosé peaked my interest and I had it once before so I wanted to revisit it.

Like most Rosé wines, the “Baywatch Baxter” is first and foremost a fresh and fruity wine. It is slightly dry but very bright and has a really nice mouthfeel. In addition to the fruits the maker suggests, cherry, rhubarb and cranberry, I also tasted watermelon, particularly watermelon rind. This is actually a flavor / finish I love (not only in wine but also oysters go figure). I felt it paired really well with the spice of the Thai food and would recommend it with similar meals as well as BBQ and grilled meats and fishes. It would also go well with pizza. Very drinkable and quite enjoyable.

Would Bukowski drink it? This sh*t is like candy Dave. 

Overall Rating: 4 BUKS

4-BUKS