Loïc Mahé, Gourmandise du Gue d’Orger, Savennières, Loire Valley AoC, France, 12.5% abv, 2015, US$20

Straight from Savennières in the Loire Valley comes this precise, biodynamic red wine made of Cabernet Franc by Loïc Mahé.

On the eyes, it’s translucent ruby with a nose of light raspberry and strawberry, with green leaf, schist and earth.  

The palate is dry with juicy acidity, feathered tannins and flavours of red cherry, plum, raspberry and spring leaf in a stoney frame.

WSET Very Good, there’s a slightly unbalanced lighter nose against the deeper palate.  But otherwise, it’s bright, tart and delicious.

We enjoyed it with barbecued smokies and fresh vegetables to herald in summer.

Take a minute to check out Loïc’s website.  It’s all in French, and is full of interesting information about his philosophy and making wine in Savennières.  You can read a Winellama review of his Anjou Villages red wine here.


Posted in Cabernet Franc, France, Loire, OTHER, RED | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Syrah, Ramey Wine Cellars, Sonoma Coast AVA, California, 2013, 14.5% abv (US$59)

Four years ago this month, I graduated with the WSET Diploma – a credential anyone who works in wine and spirits will know is that difficult.  Drinking lots of interesting things to support my wine studies and habit has never been a problem.  Finding time to record and write about them has. DSC_0003

But last month, I retired from my day job.  So, now I have time and wine.

It still feels a little like an endless holiday.  But so far, I can confirm retirement is the best job I’ve ever had.

In celebration, while in the US, I bought this and opened it in February 2019 at 5 1/2 years old.

Deep garnet on the eyes, this 92% Syrah has a nose elevated with great fruit – blackberry and cassis – alongside purple flowers, light peppermint, pine tips and cured meat.

The palate is developed with layers of blackberry, salami, black olive, cedar, pine, and mint leaves.  Not boozy in the slightest despite the 14.5% abv, it’s absolutely ethereal for a red wine and enjoys a lengthy finish.  The 8% Viognier adds fruit and sets the Syrah to perfection.

And yes, the wine was much better and significantly more complex than the book.

WSET OutstandingDSC_0006

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Barolo, Ferdinando Principiano, Serralunga, Ravera di Montfort, Barolo DOCG, Italy, 2011, 15% abv. C$45

We enjoyed this just inside the recommended drinking window – I’m not patient when it comes to holding wine.

I was very nervous when I removed the capsule to find what looked to be a moldy cork.  It was dry and broke off when I opened it, but the wine was clean and unaffected.

Straight from Piedmonte, this wine is a pretty, translucent ruby on the eyes.  The aromas show a nose of cherry with dried leaf, petal and pomegranate.

The palate is dry with powdery tannins, some fresh and lightly developed fruit – strawberry and red plum – and significant dried grass, tarragon and cedar with dried rose petals.

WSET Very Good, and available worldwide.


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Chardonnay, Wayfarer, Wayfarer Vineyard, Fort Ross – Seaview AVA, Sonoma County, California, 14.5% abv, 2014, US$89

So, a Winellama walks into the new Las Vegas Total Wine and asks whether they carry any wines from California’s Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. “Oh no, most definitely not,” she is told.

Except they do, because after an hour of browsing, I found one.

One bottle – in a store the size of a football field.

It’s at that point that I realize the employee has no idea what an AVA is.

Sigh.  No matter – what a one it is. Gold on the eyes, it has a nose with ripe apricot, fresh Macintosh apple, Meyer Lemon, kernel and rich brioche. With its high acid and juicy palate, it is creamy and deeply layered with flavours of more red apple and peach, honey, spring flower, nuts, French bread and butterscotch. It spent 15 months in oak barrels, and was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

This wine is stunning – WSET Outstanding. Nuanced and light on one hand with the fruit and high acidity and the sparkly minerality, there is at the same time, a contrasting complexity with the creamy body, brioche, nut and butterscotch custard.

Opened and enjoyed at 5 years old in Las Vegas on vacation.

Posted in California, Chardonnay, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Red wine speed tasting at the 2018 Wine Media Conference in Walla Walla, Washington

By the time the long weekend spent at the 2018 Wine Media Conference (WMC) was over, I estimate I had tasted well north of 100 wines.

Winemaker Muriel Kenyon proudly served a Merlot dedicated to her ancestor.

This is why we spit.

While most of these wines were from Washington State and the surrounding Walla Walla, Red Mountain, Lake Chelan, Horse Heaven Hills, and Columbia AVAs, there were others from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and many from Napa Valley and other Californian AVAs.  A special workshop by the Lugana DOC Consortzio who attended from Italy established it as one of my new favourite regions for delicate, white wines.

One of the highlights of each WMC is always the speed tasting.  Think of this as a form of speed dating – but with wine instead of people!

There are always two of these – one for the reds, and one for the whites and rosés.  This involves 1 hour, 10 wines from participating wineries, lots of spitting, and 6 minutes for each wine of fast fingers to type up tasting notes and to post them online simultaneously.  This, as I’m sure you can imagine, is no small or easy feat.

My small table of just three keen wine writers experienced the following wines –

Browne Family Vineyards – Cabernet Franc, 2015 – I bought this the next day which should tell you something about the crunchy red raspberry profile.

Dama Wines – Collage, 2014 – A 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition silver medal winner.

Dunham Cellars – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 – I went to their extremely impressive owner-hosted gala dinner event.  Their wines are delicious, and the cool tasting room is at Walla Walla’s Airport District.

Mansion Creek Cellars – Red Dog, 2015 – I was apparently the only one at the event who knew the grape for this wine, Tinta Cão, means the name of the wine, ‘Red Dog’.  This falls under the category of useless-things-you- learn-when-taking-the-WSET Diploma.  I bought their Field Blend the next day.

Brooks Wines – delicious and from Oregon’s Willamette Valley

Troon VineyardCuvée Pyrénées (62 Tannat + 38 Malbec), 2016 – I visited their Carlton, Oregon tasting room in 2016 and bought their Vermentino.

Stone Hill Winery – Chambourcin, 2015 – This winery is located in Missouri.  I hadn’t tried a Chambourcin before…

Tertulia Cellars – The Great Schism Reserve, 2014 – From Walla Walla, absolutely tasty, and definitely hands down winner of the best bottle labels.

Otis Kenyon Wine – Merlot – Winemaker Muriel Kenyon regaled us with the story of her family history in Walla Walla and who this wine was named for (a struggling dentist who ended up serving time for arson, left town and was presumed dead for decades). I kid you not!

L’Ecole 41 – Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 – The subject of another post and earlier winery visit.

Any way you slice it, the speed tasting events are always fun.  Just remember to enjoy the wine, but spit when you must.

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Viognier/Roussanne, Freyja, Gard Vintners, Lawrence Estate Wines, Royal Slope, Columbia Valley AVA, Washington State, 2017, US$16

Recently I attended the 2018 Wine Media Conference in Walla Walla, Washington.

When I was doing a little legwork in advance of the event about some of the wineries we may meet with, I’d noticed a review by Stephen Tanzer on Vinous about this Viognier/Roussanne blend by Gard Vintners which he called, “Washington’s best white wine bargain.” 

Lo and behold, when we arrived in lovely little Walla Walla, which wine tasting room should I literally happen upon just two blocks from the hotel?  Gard’s, of course (there are literally dozens of wine tasting rooms in this town all within walking distance of each other).

I instantly snapped up a bottle of this US$16 mostly Viognier (64) and Roussanne (36) blend with masterfully balanced fruit and acidity – making it a crowd and food pleaser.

On the nose, this is a lovely, fresh wine with lots of white flowers, citrus zest, and stone fruit.  It’s dry but the fruit gives the impression of sweetness with good body.  Lemon balm, apricot and peach show through with more blossom on the palate for this WSET Very Good white blend.

Gard’s got a winner here – it goes with everything, it’s delicious, and it’s affordable.  Rarely do these virtues come together in one bottle.  Visit one of their three tasting rooms (in Walla Walla where these pictures were taken, Ellensburg or Woodinville), and enjoy!

Posted in Rousanne, Viognier, Walla Walla, Washington State, Washington State, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Salish Sea, Sea Star Vineyards and Winery, Pender Island, BC, 11.5% abv, C$23

Salish?  So delish.

Recently, I went on a long weekend escape on the Salish Sea, and enjoyed a bottle of Sea Star Vineyards and Winery’s aptly named ‘Salish Sea,’ a delicious wine made from Ortega and Siegerrebe grapes organically grown on Pender Island.

These are hybrid grapes originally created in Germany and known especially for their ability to handle short, wet growing seasons because they ripen early and can survive surprise frosts.

Siegerrebe is the child of Madeleine Angevine and Gewürztraminer and Ortega’s parents are Müller-Thurgau and Siegerrebe.  Traditionally, neither are known to produce particularly interesting individual wines, and other versions I’ve come across have tended toward bitter flavours and flabbiness.

This Ortega-Siegerrebe blend, however, is a very happy anomaly.  Winemaker Ian Baker has clearly figured out how to grow weirdo grapes adept to the Pacific west coast climate, pick them at the right moment, and create a delicate 11.5% abv wine with juicy acidity and a tasty palate out of them.  Come to think of it, these grapes are cool because they are so uncool.

Pale lemon on the eyes with aromas of yellow peach, ripe apricot and lemon verbena, the palate is juicy with more Clingstone peach and pear, punctuated by lemongrass and bergamot, a pinch of green kiwi and some soft spring leaf.

Food-friendly and perfect with seafood, salads, chicken and summer fare, the Salish Sea is absolutely ….cool, and delish.

Posted in British Columbia, Ortega, Siegerrebe, WHITE | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment