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Welcome to the new world of virtual tastings! When the new world of social distancing came into our lives, I had to solve a key issue: How could the KensWineGuide.com Tasting Panel still meet to review wines? Then it hit me… the Tasting Panel still has to come by to pick up their “homework samples,” so how about create a system so they could pick up unmarked samples for a blind tasting as well! From that point on, our virtual tasting was born. Seven of my primary Tasting Panel members each bought a set of eight 4 ounce clear plastic sample bottles with lids numbered 1 through 8. Each Panel member receives a 90 milliliter sample of each wine to review. They are poured about 1 to 2 hours before the tasting, placed in box outside and picked up the same evening.

The Tasting Panel then meets online via Zoom and we go through the wines. The notes and scores are scanned and sent back to me for consolidation. Those wines that qualify as very good or better get posted on the website. The Tasting Panel then cleans and air dries the bottles. They return them in a box to me the following weekend. Each box is labeled with the taster’s name on it. My virus avoidance protocol is to let the box sit until the following Wednesday.

We are meeting weekly during the pandemic, covering 8 wines every Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm. Since we normally meet once a month to do a big blind tasting of 13 wines and then usually have one smaller separate mini-tasting of 8 wines, we are actually covering more wines now with the Panel!

As you can see this is a fair amount of work, but we love it. If you would like to try and attend a virtual tasting, there are lots of variations out there. Our friends at WineSellers have an extensive list of winemakers talking about their wines which seems to be the most common approach. A more involved version is the Flanagan model. Eric is offering to send you his virtual tasting wines at a 50% discount and free shipping before the event. Then you can try the wines together with him and Riley which is a more interactive approach.

No matter what the world brings us, good friends always find a way to come together and enjoy delicious wines and socialize. We at KensWineGuide.com will continue to search for that perfect bottle of wine and pass on our favorites along the way! Cheers – Ken

As each year comes to a close, we like to finish our annual recommendations with a list of Sparkling Wine and Champagne recommendations for our readers to consider for their New Year’s Eve celebrations. We will start with our very good values and work our way up to the more expensive options.

We will start with the Perlage non-vintage “Sgajo Vegan Extra Dry Prosecco” for $12. This 100% Glera wine scored 89 points from our chief bubblehead Tasting Panel member Nicolay. He really liked its red delicious apple flavors with touches of vanilla, chamomile, and a slight hint of caramelized flavors.

The next two values are Cava’s from Roger Goulart. The first is the very impressive 2011 “Gran Reserva Brut Cava” for $20. This stunner was awarded 92 points from Nicolay. The mouthfeel is wide showing tons of bread and custard flavors along with fresh apples, minerality, caramel, and a touch of anise. Nicolay thought it was one of the better sparkling wines outside of Champagne. Also Roger Goulart is the 2013 “Gran Reserva Brut Rose Cava” also for $20. This offering received 90 points from Nicolay. The mouthfeel of this Cava is round with medium-sized bubbles coating every inch of your mouth. The finish is medium to long in length and is pleasant with red fruits intermingling well with its acidity. Clearly these two Cava’s are impressive value worthy of your consideration.

Coming back to United States, we find two 90 pointers that also will not break the bank. We will start with the Scharffenberger Non-Vintage “Brut Excellence” for $20. This Mendocino County based Sparkler is very nice and will be a crowd pleaser. Nicolay points out that this offering is fresh, even though it has quite a bit of weight to it. He enjoyed its golden apple and ginger flavors with hints of lemon zest and a touch caramel towards the end. He would pair this Sparkler with bacon-wrapped scallops. Next we move on the Finger Lakes where Nicolay recommends the 2016 Dr. Konstantin Frank “Brut” for $25. This bone-dry offering is light on the palate, with small bubbles. The flavor profile is rich with green and yellow apples leading towards some hints of caramel, custard and a touch of orange marmalade.

Staying in the US, we return to California’s Anderson Valley. From there we recommend two 90-point offerings from the Roederer Estate. The first is the Roederer non-vintage “Brut” for $27 which was medium to full bodied, round and pleasantly acidic. I really liked its mineral influenced green apple flavors with notes of ginger ale, yellow grapefruit and white tea. I would recommend this one with quiche Lorraine tarts. The other option is the Roederer non-vintage “Brut Rose” for $31. The Tasting Panel described this sparkler as displaying mineral influenced red cherry flavors with notes of bread dough along with a hint of caramel and white pepper towards the end. They suggested pairing this Rose sparkler with shrimp cocktail.

Another winery that has done consistently well with us over the years is Schramsberg. Their North Coast offerings always seem to show very well. This year, we are going to recommend two of their Rose’s. Both of them scored 90 points. We will start with the non-vintage “Mirabelle Brut Rose” for $31. Nicolay described its flavors as strawberry, raspberry and cranberries along with notes of basil and sage. He though this one would pair great with smoked salmon or simply on its own. The 2016 Schramsberg “Brut Rose” for $47 was well received by the Tasting Panel. We found it to be medium bodied and slightly acidic with nutty raspberry flavors and notes of soft minerality, green tea and a hint of lemon. The Panel suggest pairing this Brut Rose with cherrystones or shrimp cocktail.

Our final 90 pointer is the 2010 Gloria Ferrer “Anniversary Cuvee” for $45. This Carneros offering is made mainly from Pinot Noir. It displays pronounced brioche, vanilla, and glazed golden delicious apple aromas. On the palate, it displays flavors of cloudberry and candied Meyer lemon and baking spices like nutmeg and cardamom. This Sparkler is meant to be a standalone sipper. It would be a very nice choice to your New Year’s Eve toast wine.

The next recommendation hails France. The non-vintage Henriot “Brut Souverain” Champagne for $45 received 91 points from Nicolay. The bubbles are light on this one, but allows its flavors to show through. Those tasty flavors are toasty almonds and sweet green tea. This is another very good offering that shines bright enough to be enjoyed on its own.

Another great discovery from earlier this year was the 2014 Iron Horse “Wedding Cuvee” for $45. I scored this gem, 93 points. It opens with slow gliding and streaming bubbles that lead to a fresh bread dough bouquet with a hint of shelled nuts. I found it to be medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and mouthwatering with mineral influenced walnut flavors along with notes of green apple and touch of strawberry mousse towards the end. As the label denotes, this would be a superb wedding wine and a very impressive New Year’s Eve offering.

The 2012 Roederer Estate “L’Ermitage Brut” for $48 was a standout from all sparkling wines that Nicolay sampled this year. He scored it 94 points. He described the palate as an orchestra of flavors that range from sweet to savory and from ripe to a touch tart. Notes of brioche can be found alongside orange marmalade and roasted pecans. The palate continues with the acidity bringing in flavors of Asian pear and Honey-crisp apples. The finish lingers for minutes without subsiding. This one should be served on its own because it deserves it.

Our last recommendation is a bit pricey, so we would suggest sharing a bottle of this gem with someone special vs. a big party. The non-vintage Delamotte “Brut Rose” for $96 won our Big Blind Tasting with an Excellent score of 94 points. This pink colored Champagne displays a lot of tiny streaming bubbles. We loved its medium bodied that was balanced, soft and delicate. Its delicious flavor profile featured tasty gentle mineral and Maraschino cherry flavors with hints of grapefruit and strawberry. The finish was dry and nicely extended. As already noted, the Panel suggested enjoying this elegant Brut Rose Champagne on its own with someone special.

We hope you find can find a few of these for your New Year’s Eve celebration. We are certain if you do, you and your friends will enjoy them all. Happy New Year. – Cheers! – Ken

It’s that time of year once again. It’s time to highlight the best high-end wines of the year. If you can’t find a Christmas gift for the wine lover in your life, then buy them one of these gems and never look back. Below are 30 of the best wines that the Tasting Panel or I have discovered in 2019. The first 15 all scored 94 points or higher. The remaining 15 wines all scored 93 points. Not bad when your honorable mention list is a bunch of 93 pointers. I hope you can find these gems and enjoy them as much as we did.

The first three wines are absolutely stunning. I discovered them at the Carolina trade tasting at the Symphony Hall in Boston. Each year I have the luxury of attending this great event and cover many stunning wines. This year’s best was the 2017 Diamond Creek 2017 “Red Rock Terrace” Cabernet Sauvignon for $250. I scored this wine 98 points. It was my favorite from the 2017 Diamond Creek portfolio. It was medium bodied, nicely balanced, smooth and silky with delicious gentle black currant and graphite flavors. It would be perfect with a dry-aged rib-eye steak. PS (The 2017 “Gravely Meadow” scored 96 points and the 2017 “Volcanic Hill” scored 94 points. Those reviews will be posted in early 2020).

The next two wines covered are also not going to surprise anyone. The 2015 Shafer “Hillside Select” Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stags Leap District for $310 scored 97 points. It was is quite impressive! I found it medium bodied, very well-balanced and super refined with yummy black currant and black cherry flavors and some refined minerality and oak. Like the Diamond Creek, it would be perfect with a dry-aged rib-eye steak. A close third is the 2016 Joseph Phelps “Insignia” for $300. This 97-point Cabernet Sauvignon based gem was also medium bodied. I found it well-balanced, soft and refined. The flavor profile was a mild black currant and mineral blend with notes of gentle plum and oak. This one would pair nicely with a filet mignon.

The next three winners are a bit more full bodied and the top wines from our blind tastings this fall. The 2016 Krupp Brothers “M5” from the Stagecoach Vineyard for $200 stole the show in our first big blind tasting. It was the clear winner. We scored it 96 points. It was full bodied, beautifully balanced, smooth and savory. We loved its delicious blend of black currant and minerality with notes of dark chocolate, black tea and black cherry. We suggested pairing it with a cowboy ribeye steak. In our second blind tasting, the 2016 Quintessa “Red Wine” from Rutherford was the big winner. It costs $190 and also scored 96 points. On the palate, it was full bodied, very well-balanced, silky and smooth. We all enjoyed its very tasty black currant and refined minerality flavors with notes of black olive. This one we would suggest pairing with Grill 23’s Kobe cap steak. The last one from this group was the 2016 La Jota 2016 “Howell Mountain” Cabernet Sauvignon for $150. It was our second-place finisher in our first Big Blind tasting behind the M5. We scored this wine 95 points. It displayed delicious black currant and oak flavors with notes of black cherry and vanilla. The Panel suggested pairing this Cab with beef wellington.

These next two 95 pointers where introduced to me via Tasting Panel members. The 2016 Chappellet “Hideaway” Cabernet Sauvignon for $125 was one of the top highlights from Tasting Panel member, Jeoff’s, distinctive Wine Christmas Party. It was full bodied, balanced, lush and juicy with impressive black plum and black currant flavors with notes of graphite and a hint of nutmeg. Our group thought it would be perfect with a veal chop. The next wine was introduced to me by the Colonial Spirit’s Wine Director and Tasting Panel member Nicolay. This gem that he dropped off was the 2016 Daou “Soul of the Lion” Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles for $150. I scored this wine 95 points. It was full bodied, balanced, concentrated and rich with delicious coconut and dark chocolate flavors along with notes of black currant and nicely integrated oak and gentle minerality. This big boy needs some decanting in the near term. Then you can serve it with a cowboy rib-eye. Look for the review of the 2017 soon as it is in cue for early 2020.

Our last 95 pointer is the 2015 Terra Valentine “Marriage” for $95. Even though I covered this wine last year just before Valentine’s Day, there is surprisingly still a little left. Be sure to secure a bottle or two for this year’s dinner. It is full bodied, nicely balanced and lush. I loved its delicious black currant flavors with notes of flinty minerality, black tea, blueberry and oak. This wine was gorgeous and would be perfect with a well-marbled rib-eye.

Next up is our third-place winner from our first Big Blind Tasting. The 2016 Rocca Family Vineyards “Collinetta Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon from Coombsville for $95 landed an Excellent score of 94 points. This beauty is medium to full bodied with medium acidity. We found its flavor profile to feature mild black currant and graphite flavors with notes of black tea. The Panel described this Cab as terroir driven and Bordeaux-like and suggested pairing it with a New York strip steak. The 2016 Pina “D’Adamo Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa for $85 scored 94 points in our second mini-blind tasting. This wine was full bodied, nicely balanced, mouth-coating and round with delicious and complex flavors. Those flavors were cedar influenced black currant and black cherry with notes of graphite and hints of steeped black tea and black olive. This one was refined enough to pair with a filet mignon.

These last two Cabs are perfect for a rib-eye steak at your favorite steakhouse. The 2015 Robert Foley “Napa Valley” Cabernet Sauvignon for $92 is Excellent! It is full bodied, balanced and savory with very tasty black currant flavors with notes of oak. We also detected hits of amaretto, fig paste and blueberry at the very end. Like all Bob’s Cabs from the past, this one left a lasting impression. Our last 94 point Cab is from Foretell (Terra Valentine) Their 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon for $150 was full bodied, savory and mouth-coating. The Panel enjoyed its mineral infused black currant flavors with notes of black tea and black cherry. It also had very sticky tannins that lasted for a very long time. I will also note that this wine gem held up much better than many of the others over the next 2 to 3 days. So, its aging potential is great!

We will close our detailed recommendations with two excellent 94 point Pinot Noirs. The first is another gem that I covered at the Symphony tasting. The 2016 Burn Cottage “Burn Cottage Vineyard” Pinot Noir from Central Otago in New Zealand was Excellent. For $65 this wine is a steal for a high-end wine. It is light bodied, balanced, soft and so refined. I loved its tasty mineral and pomegranate flavors with notes of old oak and red plum. It would be a perfect match to pair with a Colorado lamb chops. Our last feature is the 2016 Flanagan “Platt Vineyard” Pinot Noir for $115. This gem opened with a heavenly blueberry, oak and cola bouquet with a hint of pencil shavings that we could sniff all day. On the palate, it was medium bodied, well-balanced, smooth and soft. Our mini-tasting group loved its very tasty plum and cedar flavors with notes of boysenberry. We suggest pairing this beauty with a roasted quail with Pinot Noir sauce.

These 93-Point Winners deserve a mention and your attention if you can not find one of the above.
Dutton Goldfield 2016 Pinot Noir “Emerald Ridge Vineyard” $62
Cypher 2016 “Fifth Element Red Blend” $55
Beringer Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Knights Valley Reserve” $70
Priest Ranch 2015 “Double Barrel Red Blend” $75
Lail Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Blueprint” $80
Caymus 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $82
Pina 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Wolff Vineyard” $85
Alpha Omega 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $104
Cade 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Howell Mountain” $110
Blackbird Vineyards 2016 “Paramour” $135
Beaulieu Vineyard 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Georges de Latour Private Reserve” $145
Tom Eddy 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $150
Krupp Brothers 2016 “Synchrony Proprietary Red” $150 
Beringer Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Private Reserve” $170
Chateau Lafleur 2016 Bordeaux “Pensees de Lafleur” $170

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did. Happy Holidays!  Cheers – Ken

The KensWineGuide.com Tasting Panel was offered the opportunity via Flanagan Wines to try a vertical tasting from the well-respected Platt Vineyard in Sonoma Coast. Before we get to the tasting results here is a little bit information about the vineyard. The vineyard was originally planted in 2003 and 2004 by Lew and Joan Platt. Lew passed away in 2005 and never saw his vineyard fully developed. In 2015, Eric Flanagan and his partners at Russian River Partners purchased the 308 acre property. Only 31.3 acres of the estate are dedicated to wine vines. 18.3 acres are dedicated to Pinot Noir and 13 acres are for Chardonnay. The vineyard is 5 miles from the coastline, so we were anticipating cool climate fruit and some good acidity in the wines.

Eric Flanagan allowed us to try his 2015, 2016 and 2017 vintages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. All wines were made by winemaker Cabell Coursey. The Tasting Panel was very much looking forward to this engaging tasting knowing that the winemaker and the vineyard were the same for all three vintages. We were wondering if the wines would all be similar? How much variation do you get vintage to vintage? The results were rather intriguing.

We started with the Chardonnay’s and we definitely found similarities in all three wines. That said, there were differences and we did have our favorites. We start with the oldest wine first. The 2015 Flanagan Chardonnay was medium to full bodied, with medium plus acidity and mouthwatering. We absolutely found the acidity in this one. The flavor profile is very citrusy featuring primarily lemon with notes of pear and oak with hints of butter and nutmeg. It finished dry and its acidity allowed for it to be nicely extended. We thought this offering was food friendly and versatile. We would suggest pairing with Chicken St. Timothy. We scored this wine 91 points. We next tried the 2016 Flanagan Chardonnay. This one was our favorite of the three and we scored it 93 points. We found this one to be the most full-bodied wine. We also felt it was well-balanced and nicely coated your mouth. We really enjoyed its tasty Anjou pear and lemon verbena flavors with notes of nicely integrated vanilla oak and some hints of pineapple and faint minerality. Our group suggested pairing this impressive Chard with baked stuffed lobster. Our last wine was the 2017 Flanagan Chardonnay. This wine was the lightest in color and lightest in terms of mouthfeel, as it was medium bodied and slightly acidic. The flavor profile was a mild pineapple and light lemon blend with nicely integrated crushed stone minerality. The finish had nice extended length. This Chard is very versatile and would pair nicely with chicken francese. We scored this offering 92 points. Overall, we thought the Chardonnays were all very good wines and a nice reflection of this terrific vineyard.

Next we moved on to the Pinot Noirs. We once again started with the 2015 vintage. This wine was more savory than fruity. It was medium bodied and slightly acidic on the palate. It displayed black plum flavors with notes of black tea, oak and graphite with a hint of cumin seed. It drifted away nicely and we would pair this 91 point Pinot with a Colorado lamb chop. Next up was our favorite wine of the entire vertical. The 2016 was Excellent! We awarded this wine 94 points. It opens with a heavenly bouquet featuring blueberry, oak and cola with a hint of pencil shavings. You could enjoy the smell this wine for hours. In the mouth, this wine is medium bodied, well-balanced, smooth and soft. We loved its delicious plum and cedar flavors with notes of boysenberry and a hint of thyme. It closes with some refined moderate sticky tannins that linger for quite some time. We suggested pairing this beauty with a roasted quail with Pinot Noir sauce. Last but not least was the current 2017 Pinot Noir. This offering was a bit young but developed nicely in the glass and bottle with some time and aeration. On the palate, it was barely medium bodied, balanced and delicate. It displayed pleasant mild red plum flavors with notes of red raspberry tea and graphite with just a hint of RC Cola. It initially shows some prominent tannins, but they did fade with some aeration. This vintage still could use some bottle age to reach its full potential. We scored this wine 92 points.

Overall, the Pinot’s appeared to differ more than the Chard’s in terms of vintage variation. What we did find interesting, for both varietals, was a consistent path in terms of what vintages we liked best. 2016 was our clear winner, followed by 2017 and finally 2015. As I always say, vintage does matter and in this case that was true.

We look forward to covering more Platt Vineyard wines in the future to see how these wines evolve over the years. The current producers using Platt fruit are Flanagan, Failla (Ehren Jordan), Crescere (James MacPhail), Sherrer (Fred Sherrer), Purlieu (Julian Fayard), Rivers-Marie (Thomas Brown), Vice Versa (Philippe Melka), Venge Wines, 32 Winds (Matt Taylor) and Dalecio Wines (Philippe Melka). We suggested that perhaps down the road, we could do a single vintage tasting with all the wines produced from Platt. That certainly would be a treat and interesting to see the differences. We strongly encourage readers to try these wines and certainly check out Platt Vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnays when you see them on a menu or retail shelf. You certainly will be pleased. We were for sure!  Cheers – Ken

Ken has been a guest on Connoisseurs Corner with Jordan Rich frequently over the years. This post covers some of the radio spots that played on WBZ this summer. The first segment was on Good Value Wines for this Summer. Then Ken covered the fast growing category of Dry Rose Winners. Listen to Dry Rose Winners Part 1  and Dry Rose Winners Part 2 to discover some real gems. If you are hooked and interested after listening, check out all the recommended Dry Roses on the KWG website. One of Jordan and Ken’s favorite segments is the “Try Something New” spots. They did three segments this summer. One on a couple of “New Whites” and two on new reds.  Check out Part 1 on “New Reds” and Part 2 on “New Reds” to discover something different.  Ken also did a special segment  on Perfect Wines For Grilled Foods to get everyone ready for barbecue season. The last category we will highlight in this post are the Sauvignon Blanc Winners. Like the Rose above, you can also check out all of the Sauvignon Blanc recommendations on the website.  Lastly, always stay in touch with all Ken’s radio spots on the special Radio Spot page on the website. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as Jordan and I had fun making them. Cheers! Ken

Wine Road Barrel TastingWhat are Wine Futures?
When you purchase wine before it is bottled, it is referred to as buying wine futures.  So before you consider buying a wine future, it would be a very good idea to attend a Barrel Tasting.  A Barrel Tasting is just like it sounds—you get to taste unfinished wines, in most cases, directly from the barrel and to your wine glass. Often it is the winemaker or someone who works in the cellar with the winemaker who will be offering tastes of the barrel samples. Being able to talk directly with the winemaker or winemaking staff can give you the inside scoop on the wine. So, if you love what you taste and after asking all your questions about the wine (we’ll get to some sample questions in a minute), now is decision time. Should you buy this wine now before it is bottled? Should you buy this wine future?

What’s the advantage to buying a wine as a future?
1) Many of the wineries along the Wine Road offer an increased discount on wine future purchases.
2) Often the barrel sample wines offered during Barrel Tasting sell out quickly when bottled and released, so buying futures of wine you like now ensures you’ll get some of the finished wine before it sells out.
3) Some wineries have a party when these wines are released, so you’re invited back to the winery for that event and to pick up your wine futures.
4) It is a great way to keep you cellar stocked with your favorite wines.

If you like a barrel sample wine and are considering buying it as a future, here are a few questions you might ask:

  • Is what I’m tasting the final blend or close to it?
    • In layman’s terms, you are asking if the wine from the barrel has been blended with other varietals or even with other barrels of the same wine.
    • Many wines have a small percentage of one or more varietals blended in to help round out the flavors. Zinfandel might have 1 – 5% of Petite Sirah blended in, or Cabernet Sauvignon might have a small percentage of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, or Petit Verdot blended with it.
  • How much longer will this wine be in barrel before it is bottled?
  • When will the wine be released?
  • How long after it is released will I be able to either pick it up or have it shipped to me?
  • Once I get the wine, how long should I let it continue to bottle age before I drink it?

The answers to these questions will help you decide if this is the wine for your life style or type of cellar. If you like to drink your wine as soon as you get it because of storage concerns, then buying 12 bottles of a Cabernet Sauvignon that needs another 1-2 years of bottling aging might not be for you. However, buying a Zinfandel that will be bottled right after barrel tasting, will be released in September, and will be drinkable upon release, is the perfect fit.

My favorite part about buying wine futures is picking up the wine at a future date. It is like buying myself a future present and knowing I’m going to love it.

As I sip that wine I bought as futures, I try to remember what the barrel sample was like and how that differs from the bottled wine I’m now tasting. With each wine futures I purchase, I learn more about what to look for, what I like and don’t like in wines, and how to choose wisely when selecting wine futures.

So are you ready to go Barrel Tasting?  This year 42nd anniversary on the Wine Road. The BARREL TASTING take place over Two Weekends.
March 1-3 & March 8-10, 2019
11:00 am – 4:00 pm each day

Now get your Barrel Tasting tickets, create your plan, and go forth and enjoy the world of wine futures.

Key Points to Remember Before You Get Going
If you want to make the most out of barrel tasting, have a game plan of where you want to go, how and when to avoid crowds, and how to find the wines you’ll like to buy as futures.

    • The Wine Road provides wonderful tools to help plan your wine tasting adventures.
    • Explore the roads less traveled on Saturday, and visit the heavily trafficked wine regions on Friday or Sunday.
    • The Wine Road website offers many tools to help you plan your Barrel Tasting visit, including a list of all participating wineries, an event map, and an event program that lists what barrel sample and futures each participating winery is offering. Some wineries are only participating the first weekend, so be sure to do your homework before you venture out.
    • This is not a food event. Either plan to take a break during the day and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant or deli, or pack a picnic or plenty of snacks.
    • Stay hydrated! Even though there is water at every winery, bringing along extra water is also a great idea. The more hydrated you stay, the better you will be able to taste the wines, and also stay sober!

By Rebecca Germolus for Wine Road, Northern Sonoma County

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Champagne ToastAs we approach the New Year it is time to make your New Year’s Eve Champagne and Sparkling Wine purchases. This year we received another great group of options for you to choose from. In this post we will highlight some of our favorites bubble options!

I will break the post into three categories. White bubbles, Rose bubbles and Bargain bubbles.

White Bubbles

NV Henriot “Blanc de Blancs” (Champagne, France) $68
This was my favorite Champagne that we covered in our recent Big Blind Tasting. The collective Tasting Panel also enjoyed it a lot, as we awarded it with 92 points. It opens with a fragrant bread dough, light lemon and chamomile bouquet. We found it to be perfectly balanced and creamy. We all really liked the mouth feel. Its flavor profile was a very tasty mineral infused lime with notes of almond and lemon zest. This would be a perfect News Year’s Eve toasting wine. You can also serve this gem with bacon wrapped scallop appetizers.

NV Roederer Estate “Brut” (Anderson Valley, CA) $24
This good value sparkler wine with streaming tiny bubbles performed very well in front of the Tasting Panel. They awarded it 91 points. It opens with a very doughy bouquet with hints of bosc pear and baked apple. On the palate, we found it to be medium bodied, balanced and round with mineral infused bread toast flavors. We also picked up some notes of walnut and caramelized apples and a touch of honey. The finish is dry and shows nice length.

NV Schramsberg “Mirabelle Brut” (CA) $29
There is no better way to kick off your holiday party than with a toast to the family for another great year! I would suggest you consider this affordable 90 point sparkling wine from Schramsberg. This sparkler displays tiny streaming bubbles and opens with a green tea and lemon bouquet with hints of honey. The Panel really liked its toasted almond and green apple flavors with hints of candied lemon and earthy herbs. The finish is dry and refreshing. Try it with a fresh bruschetta appetizer!

Rose Bubbles

NV Henriot “Brut Rose” (Champagne, FR) $75
This pinkish dark coral colored Champagne opens with tons streaming bubbles. Its opens with an attractive Maraschino cherry and bread dough bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, slightly acidic and has a nice presence. The flavor profile is a tasty mild mineral infused strawberry and red raspberry blend with a hint of lime. The finish is dry and its flavors linger and last for quite a while. This 93 point “Brut Rose” is very impressive and will be liked by all. Bring it out for a special occasion! Enjoy it with fresh sliced Norwegian salmon.

2015 Schramsberg  “Brut Rose” (North Coast, CA) $46
This 91 point coral colored Sparkling Wine from Schramsberg displays plenty of streaming bubbles. It opens with a fragrant doughy bouquet with a hint of red cherry. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced, gentle and elegant. The flavor profile is a mild mineral infused light red cherry with a hint of golden raisin. The finish is dry and refreshing. This Rose sparkler is food friendly and would pair well with mushroom risotto.

NV Roederer Estate “Brut Rose” (Anderson Valley, CA) $29
This light coral colored Sparkler was well received by our mini-tasting group. We gave it 90 points. It opens with streaming bubbles and a mild strawberry and bread dough bouquet. We found it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. It displays tasty mineral infused tangerine flavors with notes of strawberry and lime. I would suggest serving it as your opening wine with shrimp cocktail.

Bargain Bubbles

NV Gruet Winery “Brut Rose” (New Mexico) $17
Every once in a while, our Tasting Panel finds a diamond in the rough. This gem, is one of the best deals we have ever found in a Big Blind Tasting. We loved this surprise entry. It is a truly a steal at $17! It opens with an inviting red cherry bouquet with hints of raspberry and rose petals. We found it to be medium bodied, nicely balanced, elegant and smooth. It displays very tasty mild mineral flavors with notes of strawberry and tangerine and a hint of red raspberry. It closes with a dry and delicate finish that fades away nicely. The Panel thought this offering would be a huge crowd pleaser. We awarded it 93 points.

2016 Vino Dei Fratelli “Prosecco Extra Dry” (Veneto, Italy) $18
This last one was discovered by our chief Bubblehead Nicolay. He stated that as far as Proseccos go, this is exactly what most folks are looking for. Soft, inviting, with nice notes of wildflowers, ripe peaches, and hints of lychee. The wine has plenty of apple and apricot flavors that is lifted by the acidity and the smaller bubbles. This 89 point well-crafted Prosecco is well-crafted and would pair well with creamy pasta and oven roasted pork.

To see all the Champagnes and Sparkling Wines that we recommend, please check out to these two links that lead to all our recommendations!

Champagnes and Sparklers under $50
Collectible Champagnes and Sparklers over $50

We hope your New Year’s Eve is a wonderful one.  See you next year!

Cheers – Ken

On Friday, November 16th the KensWineGuide.com Tasting Panel covered 13 wines ranging from $85 to $245.
Below is a video of the Top 9 winning bottles in order from lowest score of 91 to the highest score of 93.2.

Below is a list of the Top 9 Winning Wines.
1) Mt. Brave 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Mt. Veeder” (CA) $90 (KWG 93.2)
2) La Jota 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Howell Mountain” (CA) $125 (KWG 92.2)
3) Argiano 2015 “Solengo” (Tuscany, Italy) $85 (KWG 92)
4) Blackbird Vineyards 2015 “Paramour (Napa Valley, CA) $140 (KWG 92)
5) Jim Barry 2013 Shiraz “The Armagh” (Clare Valley, Australia) $245 (KWG 91.3)
6) Ramey 2015 “Annum” (Napa Valley, CA) $100 (KWG 91.2)
7) Pine Ridge Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Stag’s Leap District” (CA) $150 (KWG 91.1)
8) Cakebread 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Benchland Select” (Napa Valley, CA) $121 (KWG 91)
9) Force Majeure 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Mountain, WA) $95 (KWG 91)

We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Also – If you would like to see all of our High End Recommendations – Check out our Collectible Wines page!

Cheers – Ken

Most readers are looking for a deal or steal. Who wouldn’t be? So, years ago, I decided to create a part of the website dedicated to those wines that are inexpensive and over-deliver in terms of value. I decided to call it the “Practical Party Case” in earlier versions of the website. However, since no one knew what that was or meant, the Value Wines link was created. These are a list of “very good” wines $16 or less. In this blog post, I will highlight a few of those select value wines and share the link to this popular page on the website, where readers can easily find the current list.

We will start with a few White Wines.

2016 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc “Columbia Valley” (Washington) $10
We kick off this post with a fantastic value wine that the Tasting Panel discovered in May. This Sauvignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley in Washington is a steal at $10 in terms of quality to price. It is light bodied, slightly acidic and gentle with very tropical flavors that feature gentle lime and mango with a touch of kiwi. We scored this wine 89 points.

2016 Villa Wolf Pinot Gris (Pfalz, Germany) $12
This 90 point Pinot Gris from Germany is a great value and a perfect wine to share with friends on the beach. It is light bodied, pleasantly acidic and juicy with mineral infused lime flavors and some notes of yellow grapefruit and white pepper. This refreshing Pinot Gris from Germany will appeal to Sauvignon Blanc fans and very popular. Serve it chilled on a hot summer day.

2017 Raats Family Chenin Blanc “Original” (Stellenbosch, South Africa) $15
Another great beach wine is this “Unwooded” Chenin Blanc from South Africa that I awarded 91 points. This tasty wine is light to medium bodied and slightly acidic. It features mild mineral infused lemon verbena and ginger flavors with a touch of yellow grapefruit. It finishes dry and refreshing. Pair this food friendly crowd pleaser with grilled scallops.

2016 Red Newt Cellars Riesling “Circle” (Finger Lakes NY) $15
The Tasting Panel consistently recommends the “Circle” Riesling from Red Newt! I always over-delivers for the money. The 2016 vintage is no exception. We gave it 89 points. The “Circle” light bodied, delicately off-dry, and soft. Its flavors are a combination of gentle minerality and ripe Anjou pear with hints of ginger, chamomile tea and a touch of yellow grapefruit. Pair it with baked haddock with a Ritz cracker crumble.

2016 Senda Verde “Albarino” (Rias Baixas, Spain) $13
Our last white wine for this post is a very affordable 89 point Albarino from Rias Baixas would also be perfect on a hot summer day at the beach. It is light bodied, nicely acidic, juicy and mouthwatering with tasty mineral infused lime flavors with hints of pineapple and pilsner beer. It finishes dry and refreshing. Enjoy it oysters!

For Red Wines, we will start with two wines from Portugal. Then wrap up the post with a Malbec from Argentina and a Cab from Washington.

Quinta de la Rosa 2015 “DouRosa Red Wine” (Douro, Portugal) $15
The 2015 “DouRosa Red Wine” is full bodied, slightly acidic and very juicy. I really liked its mineral and oak influenced red currant and black cherry flavors. I also detected some hints of strawberry licorice and black olive mixed in towards the end. It finishes dry and linger for a bit. I would pair this 89 pointer with a juicy Angus burger off the grill.

Rui Roboredo Madeira 2015 “Beyra Reserva” (Beira Interior, Portugal) $16
Our second blend from Portugal is this 90-point gem Beyra region! It is full bodied, balanced and fruit forward. The main flavors are black cherry with notes of blueberry and gentle oak. I also detected some hints of faint minerality. This wine finishes dry with refined tannins that linger and last for quite a while. This wine is a steal and I pair it with grilled marinated bourbon steak tips.

Zuccardi 2016 Malbec “Serie A” (Uco Valley, Argentina) $15
Our next good value red wine is this 89 point Malbec from Argentina. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. I really enjoyed its red plum and cinnamon flavors with hints of cranberry, minerality and oak. It finishes dry and its flavors and moderate tannins stick around for quite some time. This Malbec would pair well with a glazed balsamic roast pork tenderloin.

Columbia Crest 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “H3” (Horse Heaven Hills, WA) $15
The “H3” series from Columbia Crest consistently over delivers. The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. Its flavor profile is black cherry with notes of minerality, plum and oak. I also detected some black pepper and dark chocolate. It closes with mild dry tannins that are friendly. This crowd-pleasing 89 point Cab is very versatile and would pair well with many foods. Try it with a burger or meat lasagna.

To explore all of our recommendations, visit the “Value Wines” page and be sure to bookmark it!  Enjoy and Cheers! – Ken

Dry Rose is one of the fastest growing categories in wine. Although still minuscule is terms of overall sales, it is one of the most interesting subjects in the wine world these days. So why is it so popular? One reason is its price point. In most cases, you can get a very good premium Rose for between $16 and $22. Another reason is these wines are very drinkable. On a hot summer day, some might even say they are quaffable and refreshing. That makes them very easy to like. Finally, another big reason for its popularity is social media. Millennials love their selfies with pink wine in the glass! Hashtag’s galore, like “Rose All Day”, “Yes Way, Rose” and “Brose” for the guys, keep it front and center on the internet. So, with all this popularity winemakers are doing their best to keep up. As a reviewer, I can safely say, everyone is now making a dry Rose. It is my job to sift through the loads of samples submitted to find you the best ones to enjoy. In this blog post, I will present to you several terrific Rose options that I have discovered so far this Spring. I wanted to get this list out to you soon so you to can enjoy them this summer. I hope to provide a second update over the Fourth of July week.

The best Rose that I have found so far this spring is the 2017 Anaba “Rose of Grenache” from the Sonoma Valley. While not inexpensive at $28, it is well worth your investment and time to seek out a bottle or two. This gem is light to medium bodied, very smooth and wonderfully coats your mouth. I loved its very tasty mild tangerine and mineral flavors with notes of wild strawberry and a hint of lemon. It is dry, refreshing and very food friendly. I would enjoy it with steam Nova Scotia mussels. There were only 171 cases of this 92-point beauty made. So, call the winery soon, before it is all gone.

This next grouping is our 91 pointers. These three wines are also very impressive offering that will stun your friends and turn them into dry Rose fans.

We will start in Provence, France with a wine produced by Ferry Lacombe. Their 2017 “Haedus” Rose for $22 is very good. We gave it 91 points. This gem is made from the traditional Provence grapes of 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and some Cinsault & Vermentino. This wine is medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and mouthwatering. It displays classic flavors of upfront minerality with notes of gentle strawberry. We also picked up some vanilla, watermelon and cashew mixed in. It finishes dry and refreshing. I would pair it with grilled tequila-lime shrimp.

Navarro Vineyards up in Anderson Valley is well known for their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and of course their Gewurz. But do not discount their Rose. Their 2017 “Rose of Pinot Noir” for $22 is a knockout. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and has a really nice round mouthfeel. Its flavor profile is a pleasant mineral infused strawberry with notes of white pepper. I also detected a hint of watermelon and touch of lime mixed in. This dry Rose is very food friendly and versatile. I would pair it with a grilled spicy lime shrimp with a creamy avocado cilantro sauce.

Our final 91 pointer is from the Tavel wine region in France. An interesting nugget about Tavel is they only make Rose wines. So, they are very good at it. The 2017 Chateau La Nerthe “Prieure de Montezargues” for $25 is a very good example of this. This wine is made from 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah and the rest Clairette, Bourboulenc and Cinsault. It opens with a mild floral bouquet that features rose buds. Our mini-tasting group found it to be medium bodied, pleasantly acidic and a refined wine. Its flavor profile is a nicely integrated mineral and mild watermelon blend with a hint a red cherry. It finishes dry and its flavors show nice length for a Rose. Our group thought it would pair nicely with a blackened swordfish.

Next up we have five 90 pointers. We will kick off the list with the 2017 Decoy Rose from California. This $20 wine is made from mostly Syrah. It is medium bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. Our mini-group of tasters liked its gentle mineral infused strawberry flavors with notes of red cherry. This Rose will be a crowd pleaser and very versatile. I would pair it with tomato and basil bruschetta.

The next two Roses are both made from Pinot Noir. We will start with the 2017 Merriam Vineyard “Rose of Pinot Noir” from the Russian River Valley. This wine is medium bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. I really liked its mineral influenced light strawberry and red cherry flavors with a hint of clove spice drop mixed in. This wine goes for $22 per bottle, there were only 190 cases made you be sure to secure some soon.

Next up is a bigger production wine from La Crema. Best known for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, La Crema over-delivered with this Rose. Their 2017 “Rose of Pinot Noir” was very popular amongst the tasters at a mini-charity event for Ovarian Cancer that we had at Colonial Spirits in Acton. We found it to be medium bodied, balanced, elegant and very approachable. The group really liked its mild watermelon flavors with hints of red cherry and minerality. We all thought this $22 Rose would pair nicely with delicate foods.

The last two 90 pointers use traditional Rose grapes. The first is from California and the next is from Tavel. We will start with the 2016 Malene Rose from the Central Coast for $22. This offering is made from mainly Grenache with some Cinsault, Vermentino, Mourvedre and Counoise. Our class would it to be light bodied, slightly acidic and friendly. We all enjoyed it’s a mild mineral influenced flavors with notes of faint red raspberry, lychee and a hint of white pepper. The group thought this would pair nicely with a chicken and shrimp paella.

Our last 90 pointer is the 2016 Domaine de la Mordoree “La Dame Rousse Tavel” Rose for $26. This wine is made from 60% Grenache along with Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah, Bourboulenc and Clairette. It is medium bodied, round and well balanced. Its flavor profile, like the nose, is a blend of wild strawberry and red raspberry with a nice amount of minerality woven in perfectly. I also detected some hints of Maraschino cherry and white pepper hiding in the background. It is food friendly and would pair nicely with a pork tenderloin.

Our 89 and 88 pointers
De Morgenzon 2016 Rose “DMZ” (Western Cape, South Africa) $12 (89 points)
This 100% Cabernet Rose from South Africa is a great value. It is pleasantly fruity but dry with a medium body. It has flavors of strawberry, pink grapefruit and reserved minerality. Enjoy it with a grilled turkey burger with guacamole on your deck.

Cline 2016 Rose “Ancient Vines Mourvedre” (Contra Costa County, CA) $13 (89 points)
This coral colored wine from Cline is made with Mourvedre. It is light bodied and displays nice bright acidity. It has nice gentle mineral infused strawberry and lime flavors with hints of kiwi, tangerine and saline. Try this crowd-pleasing Rose with a mahi-mahi sandwich.

Day Owl 2017 Rose (California) $15 (89 points)”
The Day Owl Rose is made from mostly Barbera with a little Grenache. On the palate, it is medium bodied and mouthwatering. It displays tasty mineral infused strawberry flavors with notes of red raspberry and a hint of tangerine. Try it with shrimp cocktail.

Attems 2016 Rose “Ramato” (Venezia Giulia, Italy) $20 (89 points)
This light coral colored wine from Northern Italy is very nice and made from Pinot Grigio. It is light bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. Our class liked its mineral infused red cherry and mild strawberry flavors with a hint of tangerine. Enjoy it poolside on a hot summer day!

Susana Balbo 2017 “Crios Rose of Malbec” (Mendoza, Argentine) $12 (88 points)
This 100% Malbec Rose is medium bodied, vibrantly acidic and mouthwatering. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused ginger ale with notes of watermelon and tangerine with a hint of Maraschino cherry. Pair this good value offering with a bacon wrapped shrimp.

Chateau La Nerthe Rose 2017 “Les Cassagnes” (Cotes du Rhone, France) $15 (88 points) This dark pink colored wine from Cotes du Rhone is medium bodied, balanced and nicely coats your mouth. Our class enjoyed its mild mineral influenced watermelon flavors with hints of gentle strawberry and red cherry mixed in. Pair it with a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich.

Domaine Lafage 2017 Rose “Miraflors” (Cotes Catalanes, France) $16 (88 points)
This very pale pink wine from France comes in an attractive frosty bottle. It is medium bodied, balanced and has a round mouthfeel. It is mainly made from Mourvedre. Its flavor profile is a mild mineral infused gentle tangerine and nectarine blend. Pair it with bruschetta.

Warwick 2016 Rose “The First Lady” (Western Cape, South Africa) $17  (88 points)
This intriguing food friendly Rose is from South Africa.  It is made from 100% Pinotage. It is slightly savory, dry, with a medium body and slight acidity. It displays flavors of white peach, red raspberry, watermelon and honey. Serve it with poached salmon for lunch.

This list represents the winners we discovered so far this spring. Be sure to check back for another post later this summer with more winners for you to try. For a complete list of recommended Rose wines. Please visit our Rose Guide page. If you find a Rose that you love, be sure to share it with our readers via the comments below.

Cheers – Ken

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