I’m sure you’re even more tired of reading this than I am of typing it: At Geerlings & Wade (and Winetasting.com), we taste and reject more wines than any other wine seller.
If we cannot find a wine, or tweak an existing bottle blend for the better, or assemble a wine from different components that delivers an optimum price/value ratio for our clients, we always walk away from that wine category. Our house brands -- four featured here in August -- are far, far more difficult, because these are wine categories we have to regularly keep in stock.
The 2008 Grass Tree, Riverina Semillon Chardonnay from South Eastern Australia (AUS299, $11.99) fills both an Australian white blend and Chardonnay alternative category. Production and tasting notes hail from the Riverina winemaking team, based in South Eastern Australia value central where we bottled this wine ... my only real contribution being a slight blend percentages adjustment.
"Warmer than usual January nights [Southern Hemisphere, remember] led to some varieties reaching maturity earlier than usual. Late ‘07 rains and some showers in January ensured fruit in good condition. With an unusually cool February, varieties that had not reached maturity in January took longer than expected to ripen. Nearly all white varieties were harvested before the end of February, with overall quality good."
"The grapes selected are chosen from vineyards that express the desired flavors. The Semillon providing citrus flavors, and the Chardonnay peach and melon flavors. The Semillon and Chardonnay were fermented separately over 12-15 days between 12°C -14°C. Selected parcels were fermented with American Oak. Approx 25% of the blend completed malolactic fermentation. This wine is designed for immediate enjoyment, or can be cellared for up to two years. Perfect with chicken, fish or salads."
Since its initial release, this Grass Tree has earned a bronze, recommended at the 2010 World Wine Championships: "Pale straw color. Aromas of toasted nuts, baked star fruit and grilled limes follow through on a soft entry to a dryish, somewhat hollow light-to-medium body with a hint of balloon dust and praline. Finishes with quick, chalky fade. (Tasted on Mar. 08, 2010.)"
Customer Marie Zonfrelli ranked it 4 stars on May 21, 2010, insisting, "If you like Semillon, you will like this wine ... nice nutty-style, good food wine ... a little sweet."
The 2008 Alazar Winery & Vineyards, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, California (NAP975, $14.99), is the inaugural white our slightly more upscale non-Cabernet Bordeaux varietals produced in California label, Alazar eventually being expanded to encompass several Old World varietals. We worked with Rutherford Ranch's Steve Rued on this wine, who nailed the wine with minimal annoyance from me, hence his notes:
"This Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing. It has delicious stone fruit characteristics and explosive tropical aromas and flavors which distinctively reflect our Napa Valley fruit. We source grapes from warmer areas of the Valley for the grassier characteristics and blend with those from cooler sites, which give us bright tropical notes and flavors. Fermentation in 100% temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks maintain constant cool temperatures, which allow us to showcase fresh fruit aromas and crisp bright flavors."
"This stylish Sauvignon Blanc is the perfect companion to Dungeness crab cakes or a farm-fresh platter of local fruit and artisanal cheeses. The 2008 harvest followed a season of harsh frosts, unusually high temperatures and a record early start. The quality of the fruit is outstanding, producing elegant, well-structured and concentrated wines.”
Since release, this Alazar has earned both a bronze at the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition and a silver at the 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Mira Luna, Crusher & Stemmer Red, California (CAL914, $12.99) is our red field blend and the first Corked comic tie-in wine. Its evolution from vintage Bordeaux blend to non-vintage field blend was adequately chronicled in our Feb. 26, 2010, blog post (When a "Corked" bottle is a good thing) and on our independent comic site, www.corkedthecomic.com.
Crusher & Stemmer Red, named for the dogs named after winery equipment in the strip, is also proudly on display in several of the nation's elite comic shops. Crusher & Stemmer fetched a silver (sorry, bad pun) at the 2010 New World International Wine Competition, and the following notes come from both comics and wine fans:
New England comics retailer Doreen Greely assigned it 5 stars: "Yummy wine! Just what I need after a hard day of selling comics! At first taste, I knew I wanted a case of this wine. Now that it is an International Silver Medalist, I hope I can still get a bottle! I highly recommend this wine!"
Carrie (no last name given) rated it 4 stars: "Little too sweet for my tastes, but overall a good wine for the price." And Sylvia Schafer made my day July 8th with her Facebook message: "I love your Mira Luna Crushers and Stemmers Wine … Fantastic red table wine!"
The 2006 Alazar Winery & Vineyards, Clarksburg Merlot, California (CAL913, $17.99) was the prototype of the entire Alazar line. The success of this California homage to Pomerol, St.Emilion and the extra-cool, early, pre-Merlot boom California Merlots spawned this somewhat upscale Bordeaux varietal produced in California line, which was eventually expanded to other Old World grape types.
Our Nov. 27, 2009, blog post (Alazar's 2006 Merlot) explains my winemaking travails wrestling with a political AVA, and why we keep the vintage in quotes. This Alazar snagged a bronze, recommended at the 2010 World Wine Championships, and is, according to the judges:
"Deep ruby color. Aromas of marinated sour cherries and roasted peppers and salt water taffy are different and follow through on a soft, silky entry to a dryish medium body with honeyed tomato and delicate spice notes. Finishes with a soft, powdery tannin fade. (Tasted on Feb. 03, 2010.)"
Another thing you're probably sick of reading here is: Don't take my word for it; take the words of the competition judges and our customers. To paraphrase Sam Spade to Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon: "We didn’t believe your story; we believed your fifty dollars."
It's my job to get the stuff in the bottle, then to you. Believe the endorsements by people who aren't on our payroll.
Red Brick Cellars, Vintner's Select Cabernet Sauvignon has been our value-priced house brand California Cab since the late 1990's. There have been several Red Brick label designs -- we're debuting Dave Griffin's version with the '09 later this summer (see below).
Possibly the most painful (not just Red Brick) label ever was an indecipherable black line drawing of a brick pizza oven -- it looked more like a poorly executed tattoo -- on a yellow background, with no red in it at all, and vintner's spelled incorrectly, but the gurus of the time felt they saved on printing costs!
We devote a significant amount of work to getting our house brands right re: price/value ratio, and when based in Napa, the heart of Cabernet country, spiritual and ancestral home of the American wine business, the stakes are much, much higher.
The last few years we assembled this wine at Stonehedge Winery, with vintner Shahin Shahabi and winemaker Jon Alexander-Hills, whom we run ragged as we pillage their tanks and barrels in pursuit of the optimum blend for our clients.
Representative Red Brick awards since Stonehedge earned "Red Brick rights" include:
No one on the current team wants to be the first to break the medal chain, so to speak. My sometimes-less-than-flattering, most recent "road to the 09 Red Brick" notes, nastiness that's rarely made public, follow.
March 22, 2010:
08 Stonehedge Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, California (Red Brick Cellars submission).
April 23, 2010:
09 Stonehedge Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, California (base wine Red Brick Cellars submission).
09 Stonehedge Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, California (final blend Red Brick Cellars submission).
May 7, 2010:
09 Stonehedge Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, (93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petite Sirah Red Brick Cellars submission).
09 Stonehedge Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petite Sirah Red Brick Cellars submission).
Follow up on at 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petite Sirah...
May 21, 2010:
09 Stonehedge Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, California (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petite Sirah Red Brick Cellars submission).
09 Stonehedge Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, California (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Syrah Red Brick Cellars submission).
Either '09 Stonehedge is good enough to become Red Brick, am requesting 8% Petite + 8% Syrah to see if we can further bring out the best of both samples...
May 26, 2010:
09 Stonehedge Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, California (84% Cabernet, 8% Petite Sirah, 8% Syrah Red Brick Cellars submission).
Please be on the lookout later this summer for CAL921, '09 Red Brick Cellars, Vintner's Select Cabernet Sauvignon, California, now that you know the brick-by-brick story of its construction. (Sorry, can't resist bad puns.)