This is what our editors and contributors are drinking..
Evan Dawson: Johnson Estate 2006 Chancellor (Chautauqua - Lake Erie)
Every wine region needs to identify what it does best. It's a process that can take many years.
I wonder if the Erie-Chautauqua region has found their most reliable red in Chancellor. This hybrid makes wine with an opaque color that either evokes Leon Millet or Mega Purple -- either way, it's dark.
But it's soft and approachable on the palate. An oaked Chancellor can wear the wood on its sleeve; I'm told this version was aged in stainless steel, but perhaps the folks at Johnson can clarify.
It's a touch foxy, but smooth and nicely done.
It wasn't easy choosing my WWD this week because I was lucky enough to taste several fun and interesting wines (blind) last week at a dinner with some local winemakers, winery owners and wine geeks. There were some impressive upcoming local releases, some older Alsatian wines from the 1980s and this recent release from Red Hook Winery.
There has been a lot said/printed about this project (see our post/comments), but I was glad someone brought this wine to dinner. I've been trying to get my hands on some for weeks.
Blind, I thought it was local cab franc (one of the few I got right that night, by the way) from a cooler year. There was some nice blackberry fruit, but also spice and quite a bit of roasted jalapeno pepper. There is a bit more structure here than I'm used to with local franc (especially in 2008) and someone at the table wondered if there is some merlot blended in to flesh it out a bit.
I'm not sure why, but I expected these Red Hook wines to be less regionally and varietally typical than this. I look forward to tasting more of them and exploring them more.
Once again thanks to higher education I get to try wines meant for a wine evaluation college course. This past week the theme was Italian wine. If there were a region that I’m most comfortable tasting blind this would be it.
That being said, in a line up of six wines, it was all too easy to pick out this Boroli Barolo 2004. With aromas of dark cherries, licorice and tar this wine was clearly in the Italian mold. The mouthfeel was rough and rustic with enormous grip for a six year old wine.
If I would have forked over the $60 for this bottle, I would’ve ultimately been disappointed that I drank it too soon. While I could have left my nose in the glass for days, the palate was just too edgy.
It just needs time or a perfect food pairing at this stage.
I spent last week at a conference in San Francisco, so of course I wanted to visit California wine country. I rented a car and drove up the 101 to Sonoma County, where I visited two wineries.
Both Michel Schlumberger and C. Donatiello poured excellent wines. I was particularly taken with the Donatiello Russian River Sauvignon Blanc, which finished exactly as if I had just eaten a Bartlett pear.
However, the highlight of the trip was stopping at Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, where for $15 we got a flight featuring every beer they were pouring. If you have ever heard of Russian River, then you know this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
The IPAs are very good, including the exceptionally balanced Pliny the Elder, their flagship brew. However, the real stars were the sour ales: Supplication, Temptation and Consecration.
Sour ales brewed with Brettanomyces and other wild yeasts are a hot item among craft breweries lately. These were aged in oak and had a tart, complex, vinous quality that was really outstanding.
Russian River has very limited availability on the East Coast (I think there is a distributor somewhere near Philadelphia), so if you know someone going to California, make sure they bring you back some Russian River!
I bought this wine solely because of the label - something I wouldn't normally do in the States, but here I can afford to experiment a little.
South Africa's WINE magazine has a column that discusses wine packaging, and this shiraz was this month's feature; the label stuck with me and when I saw it in the shop I couldn't resist picking it up.
Sure, the producer is just around the corner from Blaauwklippen and I'm always interested in comparing wines that share our terroir -- but even if that hadn't been the case the simple, refreshingly understated label sold me.
Fortunately, the wine didn't disappoint. The nose is quite subtle at first showing just a little meaty brett action (I'm realizing I'm going to have to review a brett-free wine next time to avoid perpetuating a stereotype!), cherry and baked plum, and some nice floral hibiscus despite an earthy kalamata olive thing happening. Bright cherry/raspberry flavors on the midpalate gave it a down-to-earth, controlled finish.
At US$6 I'd say this was a label-based purchase to which I don't mind admitting guilt.