Under $20 values from Q Collection wines

For many wine lovers, $20 remains a glass ceiling. For some, it’s the most they’ll ever spend on a bottle, and for others, it’s a threshold they only consider crossing for special occasions and holidays. However, there’s a ton of wine available on store shelves all over the country for under $20; the trouble is that so much of it isn’t very good. I’m constantly on the lookout for wines that are well priced, with a sense of their origins and most importantly delicious.

The Q Collection is a label that is putting out a series of regional wines. These offerings are under $20 and each provides drinking pleasure that exceeds the price point. Each one also shows clear typicity, both to the grape in question and the specific area it was grown in. They also clock in at under 14% alcohol. Here’s a look at the individual wines.

Q Collection 2015 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($18)

The Russian River Valley is one of California’s best for Chardonnay, but depending on a ton of factors, there are all sorts of results one might get from Chardonnay grown there. Specifically, when we’re talking about under $20 Chardonnay, the use of oak (often oak chips) can be obtrusive and create elements that seem anything but natural. That’s not a problem here. This Chardonnay is loaded with orchard fruit aromas and flavors. Golden delicious apple, Anjou pear and more dominate the show here. Pie crust and baker’s spices lead the finish, which also shows off a hint of crème fraiche and a subtle mineral component. Firm acid keeps things in check.

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Jamieson Ranch: Napa Valley’s gateway winery

As you travel north and enter Napa Valley, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards sits at the gateway. It’s the winery further south than any other in Napa. Their estate is composed of more than 300 acres. From those vines and other fruit, they craft a portfolio of wines under several sub-labels but all part of the overall Jamieson Ranch umbrella. Considering their Napa Valley location and the quality of their general portfolio, there is a lot to like here for the money.

Even their flagship red, Double Lariat Cabernet, is a bargain compared to wines of similar quality from many of their neighbors. Here’s a look at four current releases that I recommend. It’s worth noting that a portion of the profits from the wines under the Light Horse label benefit the Light Horse Foundation. This organization was founded by the winery to help support at risk people, in particular those with autism.

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Oso Libre embraces sustainability in Paso Robles

The seeds of Oso Libre were planted in 1996 when Chris and Linda Behr purchased 90 acres of property. Over the next 11 years, they took what had been undeveloped land and turned it into a vineyard and cattle ranch. On their property, they utilize sustainable farming methods and also embrace renewable energies. Paso Robles has several distinct growing regions. Oso Libre sits in the Adelaida District, which is way out west in Paso, just 10 miles from the Pacific. Their property sits at an elevation of approximately 1,300 feet. I recently tasted through a selection of the family-owned winery’s offerings and found a lot to like. Everything I tasted was undoubtedly Paso – delicious, loaded with solid fruit, obvious curb appeal and reasonably priced for the quality in the bottle. Here’s a look at four wines to reach for at your next dinner.


Oso Libre 2012 Osezno Zinfandel ($38)

All of the fruit came from the La Vista Vineyard in the Adelaida section of Paso Robles. It was aged over 20 months in a combination of new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (70%) oak. 860 cases were produced. The beautifully engaging nose is loaded with red jam fruit and wisps of vanilla bean. Oodles of fresh, vibrant red fruit and spice flavors dominate the juicy palate. Pepper, hints of cinnamon and continued red fruit flavors are evident on the above average finish. This fruit-driven Zin retains excellent balance and will pair well with a wider array of foods than most Zinfandels.

Oso Libre 2011 Querida Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), some Merlot (10%) was also blended in. All of the fruit came from the Abernathy Vineyard in Adelaida. It was aged over 14 months in new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (30%) oak. 360 cases were produced. Paso is best known for Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. However, there is an increasing number of well-heeled Cabernet’s emerging, and this is one of them. Juicy black and red fruit aromas leap from the nose here along with bits of savory herbs. Raspberry and cherry flavors are evident on the palate, which has good depth. Bits of earth, spice and more appear on the solid finish. This Cabernet has racy acid and approachable tannins. Drink it over the next five years. Pair it with red meat for best results.

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Napa Valley’s Chappellet has a diverse portfolio that delivers quality

Next year will mark 50 years that the Chappellet family has been producing wines on Pritchard Hill in Napa Valley. These days, the second generation has joined the efforts at Chappellet. Their work involves a firm belief in sustainable practices, which they have become vanguards of in Napa Valley. A mere 16% of their 640 acre estate is under vine. The areas that are planted have been certified organic since 2012. Phillip Corallo-Titus joined Chappellet as assistant winemaker in 1981. In 1990, he took over the reins as head winemaker and has been driving the winemaking team ever since.

While their portfolio includes Napa Valley standard bearers such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, they also feature Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, Malbec and more. In short, it’s a diverse offering loaded with wines produced from their Estate, as well as select vineyards that meet their standards. Here’s a look at four current standout releases.

Chappellet 2014 Chenin Blanc ($32)


This wine is comprised entirely of Chenin Blanc from Estate Vineyards on Pritchard Hill, which were replanted in 2004. Fermentation took place in stainless steel, neutral French oak and concrete egg. Not many producers in Napa Valley make a Chenin Blanc, and even fewer do it well, but this offering from Chappellet hits all the right notes for me. This starts with the lovely and somewhat boisterous nose, which features lychee fruit, apricot and bits of citrus zest. Additionally, the even-keeled palate is loaded with stone fruits, minerals and a dollop of spices. All of these characteristics come together on the clean, crisp finish, which has good length and depth.

Chappellet 2014 Napa Valley Chardonnay ($35)

The fruit for this Chardonnay was sourced in a handful of diverse areas in Napa Valley, the common thread being that they are all cool-growing regions, which is ideal for Chardonnay. It sat on the lees for eight months and was aged in one third new French oak. From the first whiff to the last sip, this remarkably delicious Chardonnay is simply loaded with a ton of pure and delicious fruit flavors. Orchard fruit and lemon curd aromas leap from the nose. The deeply layered palate is filled with apple, pear, bits of mango, toasty oak and more. Vanilla bean, crème fraiche and continuing pure fruit flavors are all evident on the long, lush finish.

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Grgich Hills Estate: A Napa Valley legend

There are certain producers whose name must be included when discussing Napa Valley’s rise to prominence in the wine world. Grgich Hill Cellars is on the shortlist. Back in the ‘70s, founder Mike Grgich was the winemaker at Chateau Montelana. It was Mike who produced the 1973 Chardonnay that ultimately won the Paris Tasting in 1976. Up against many French wines, Chateau Montelena won that day. But really it was Napa Valley as a whole that was the beneficiary, and Mike’s wine was what captured the prize. A year later, Grgich Hills Estate was born.

40 years after that tasting in Paris, Mike Grgich’s name is one of the few that must be mentioned in the same breath as Robert Mondavi when discussing the most important people in Napa Valley history. Grgich Hills has continued to make world class wines that speak strongly of their Napa Valley origins. Here’s a look at three of their current releases. These are wines that are available around the country and offer a peek into why Napa Valley is one of the greatest wine-growing regions in the world – not to mention why Mike Grgich is one of the most legendary figures to make wine there.


Grgich Hills Estate 2013 Chardonnay ($43)

The fruit for this wine came from Estate Vineyards in American Canyon and Carneros. It’s composed entirely of Chardonnay. It was fermented and aged in French oak over a period of 10 months in a combination of new (40%) and neutral (60%) oak. 30,300 cases were produced. From the first whiff to the last sip, what stands out most about this Chardonnay is the pure expression of fruit. The oak regimen provides accents but never detracts from that. Aromas of white peach and apple light up the nose. Bartlett pear, subtle nutmeg and golden delicious apple flavors are all present on the palate. Continuing spices and a host of minerals drive the impressive, crisp and refreshing finish. Mike Grgich has been making world class Napa Valley Chardonnay for over 40 years, and this is the latest example.

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