Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez Review | Tantalizing Toro

Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez Review | Tantalizing Toro

Teso La Monja Almirez

If you’re a looking for rich, layered, broad-shouldered wines at bargain prices, dare I suggest a tangle with this bull? The Toro Bravo, or Spanish fighting bull, is prized for its aggression and stamina. Oddly enough, the wines of the Spanish Toro appellation share similar characteristics – yet us wine lovers can rejoice in that they don’t share quite the same level of notoriety as the venerable Toro Bravo.

A few years ago, I read an e-mail advertisement for the 2011 Bodega Teso La Monja Almirez touting a huge 94 point Parker score. The review was nothing short of glowing, even going so far as to say that “At this quality level, one would expect the price to be three digits or more.”

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Murrieta’s Well | “The Spur” Red Blend Review

Murrieta’s Well | “The Spur” Red Blend Review

Murrieta's Well

For me, Summer is all about burgers on the grill and debating who has the best pork BBQ in town. The dress, the cuisine, and the attitude are all about being relaxed and casual – so the question becomes finding a well-crafted, flavorful wine that can stand up to hearty summer fare yet isn’t so expensive that you have to take it too seriously. After recently tasting the 2013 Murrieta’s Well The Spur Red Blend, I’m convinced it’s the perfect wine to savor during our last few days of Summer.

Murrieta’s Well produces exclusively estate-grown wines from their 500 acre estate in California’s Livermore Valley. At Murrieta’s Well, acclaimed Winemaker Robbie Meyer takes great pride in identifying key microclimates on the estate and crafts each vintage from a unique blend representing the best of what the estate has to offer. In his nineteen year experience as a winemaker, his wines have earned over ninety 90 point ratings, yet still manage to offer a lot of bang for the buck.

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A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine Post WBC16

A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine Post WBC16

Borra Vineyards Rose

Sharing a bottle of Borra Vineyards Rose with Winemaker Markus Niggli

As many times as I’ve made the arduous but worthwhile cross country trek to explore Sonoma and Napa, I had never been to Lodi – despite it being a relatively easy hour and a half drive from Napa.

I regularly stay in Sonoma and scale the switchbacks of the Mayacamas (this is how I wake myself up for those early morning visits) via Oakville Grade to visit producers in Napa, and vice versa. Depending on where they’re located, that in itself often consumes the better part of an hour. So why hadn’t I made it to nearby Lodi?

The answer is that I didn’t think I would enjoy the wines. Lodi primarily forged its reputation as more of a grower than a producer, and with over 700 growers in Lodi, much of its fruit is still sold to bulk producers. With grape growing serving as the lifeblood of the region, its understandable that Lodi has faced challenges cultivating its brand as a source of premium wine production.

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Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico | Costco Chianti Score!

Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico | Costco Chianti Score!

Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico

There’s just something special about Chianti. When I first started getting into wine, I was turned off its telltale core of tart, earthy fruit which always seems brought to life by zesty, palate cleansing acidity. Now? I simply can’t get enough of these quaffable, food-friendly wines.

So when I spotted the $14 Castello d’Albola Chianti Classico in my local Costco Wine Section with a self-talker touting it’s recent recognition as #46 of the Top 100 Wines of 2015 per Wine Spectator, I knew I had to investigate…

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The Unusual Suspects | Beyond California Cabernet

The Unusual Suspects | Looking Beyond California Cabernet

Kobler Estate

I’m definitely guilty of writing a lot about California Cabernet. I freely admit that I have a real penchant for the sturdy varietal, particularly when it’s built to last. In California, Cabernet is king and sadly many of the best examples fetch a princely sum.

But if the myriad of interesting, lesser-known and even esoteric varietals I encountered on my recent trip to Napa and Sonoma are any indication, Cabernet isn’t all that’s thriving here in Northern California. Not only was I surprised to find Spanish and French stalwarts like Albariño, Tempranillo, Grenache and Malbec being produced at wineries I visited, but I was surprised by just how good they were. Oh, and did I mention I encountered an Aglianico?

The best part? These wines don’t command the regal prices of Cabernet. They lack the cachet, and are often the ‘pet’ projects of winemakers – who produce them because they are passionate about the varietal and love drinking them, while their bread and butter Cabernet and Pinot Noir offerings keep the lights on.

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Ehlers Estate | Where To Start Your Day In Napa

Ehlers Estate | Your Mornings Will Never Be The Same

Ehlers Estate

I’m not much of a morning person. It typically takes me a few hours, and a least as many coffees before I’m completely awake. My morning routine is pretty mundane here in Washington, D.C. Up at 7:20, make a quick coffee and then take the kids to school. After returning home,  I make some fried eggs, another coffee and get to work in my home office. Exciting stuff, right? But after my recent visit to Ehlers Estate, it has been quite the challenge to return to my normal morning routine…

I’ve been to many tastings that start at 10 am, but to my knowledge Ehlers Estate is the only Napa Valley winery offering the opportunity to wake up over a flight of estate-grown wines paired with buttery, flaky croissants delivered fresh from Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Where else but in Napa Valley can you literally wake up to a wine tasting?!

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Chris Carpenter | Sitting Down With The Composer Himself

Chris Carpenter | Sitting Down With The Composer Himself

Chris Carpenter

On the terrace at Cardinale Winery with winemaker Chris Carpenter

Chris Carpenter has become one of Napa Valley’s most respected winemakers, and for good reason. If you’ve read my recent articles about his Cardinale and Lokoya wines, you might get the impression that I’m a fan. Combining his access to some of Napa Valley’s most prized vineyards with his skillful interpretation of what each unique site brings to the table results in a truly compelling portfolio of wines.

Like music to my ears, I can’t get enough of the Lokoya wines for how well they express true sense of place, and Cardinale for its alluring combination of depth and silken texture. The way Chris Carpenter sees it, the top vineyards he has access to are his instruments. The blend for each vintage of Cardinale results in a symphony, Napa Valley style, while the AVA specific Lokoya wines represent the soloists in the orchestra.

His portfolio of wines has been known to make a wine collectors the world over salivate, so when the opportunity presented itself to sit down with the man responsible for making the music, I couldn’t resist!

Chris Carpenter

Click this image to read more about my visit to Lokoya’s new Spring Mountain villa!

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Kirkland Signature Chablis Premier Cru | Top Costco Wines

Kirkland Signature Chablis Premier Cru | Top Costco Wines

Kirkland Signature Chablis

So there I am, wandering around Costco, surreptitiously updating my popular Guide to Costco Wine, when I spot the fabled unicorn: Costco Kirkland Signature Series Premier Cru Chablis for $14.99 per bottle!

Hailing from Burgundy’s Northernmost growing region, the Chardonnays produced in Chablis are world-renowned for their tension, energy, and flinty, mineral-driven personalities. The best examples are both delicate and full of energy, but carry a price tag that’ll knock the  wind out of you. For example, a Google search of [Premier Cru Chablis] yields the following shopping suggestions:

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Madrigal Family Winery | 2012 Madrigal Petite Sirah Review

Madrigal Family Winery | 2012 Madrigal Petite Sirah Review

Madrigal Petite Sirah

My friend Tara recently began an exciting new position as Hospitality and Tasting Room Manager at Madrigal Family Winery, introducing me to this boutique producer located in-between St. Helena and Calistoga in upper Napa Valley. Considering its location in the heart of Cabernet country, it’s no surprise that Madrigal Winery produces three different Cabernet Sauvignons, but it’s the Petite Sirah that vintner Chris Madrigal is especially proud of.

Chris Madrigal’s family history in the Napa Valley dates all the way back to the 1930s, when his Mexican grandparents moved to Napa Valley to seek better opportunities for their family. They soon began farming apples, pears, walnuts and grapes, unknowingly laying the groundwork for what would eventually become a successful vineyard management business in the hands of Chris Madrigals father Jess, currently overseeing some 800 acres.

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Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet | Best Cabernet Under $50

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet | Best Cabernet Under $50

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the historic Robert Mondavi Winery in January and tour the acclaimed To Kalon Vineyard adjacent to their Oakville estate. Widely regarded for its first-growth level quality, To Kalon has gained a near mythical status throughout the wine community in recent years.

Considering that it is arguably Napa’s most famous vineyard, with undeniably the most expensive fruit, it carries some serious cachet to have “To Kalon” on the label. Bottles regularly fetch $150 to $300+, with names like Schrader, Paul Hobbs and Carter Cellars paying record-level prices to Andy Beckstoffer for the rights to purchase fruit from his section of the To Kalon Vineyard.

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet

My view from Mondavi overlooking the To Kalon Vineyard in January. Click to check out more from my Instagram!

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