$20 Above

$20 Above: Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2009

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2009

Date Tasted: 5-11-13

Price: Suggested Retail is around $37.00 (purchased for $25.00)

From The Winery: 12.7% alcohol. 100% Chardonnay. Brut. North Coast AVA (69% Napa Valley grapes, 27% Sonoma County, 4% Marin County). 25,881 cases produced.

Impressions/Notes: Schramsberg has been producing the Blanc de Blancs since 1965. A couple of interesting tidbits picked up from Schramsberg’s website – their Blanc de Blancs was America’s first commercially produced Chardonnay-based brut sparkling wine and was the wine of choice for Nixon’s 1972 “Toast to Peace” in China. The 2009 Blanc de Blancs is a real aromatic treat, with Grands biscuits, sliced green apple, refreshing sea air notes, and a whiff of ginger. Acidity was moderately strong, but did not approach the laser-sharp level found in some brut Blanc de Blancs. $37 is a reasonable price for this sparkler and I would certainly recommend a purchase if spotted at a lower price.

Rating: Highly Recommended (90), 3/5 Value

Posted on by Nick in $20 Above, California, Sparkling Wines 2 Comments

$20 Above: Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2010

Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2010

By Shawn Luke

A consistent favorite Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, Adelsheim’s Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir Willamette Valley is one of the wines I seek out every year to evaluate the quality of specific vintages.  So when David Adelsheim made an appearance in Memphis last week, the timing was perfect to try the latest release.  Adelshiem crafts this as their reserve wine, with winemaker David Paige performing a best barrels selection from vineyards throughout the valley.  65% of the 2010 is comprised of estate fruit from five different vineyards with the remainder from an additional seven vineyards.  The wine was aged for 10 months in small French oak barrels (34% new).  From my perspective, the 2010 delivers very high quality, consistent with some of the best vintages, and should see 8-10 years easily.

The colors are very appealing with a glowing deep purple in the glass with a touch of black adding depth to the middle and fuscia-ruby at the margin.  Aromas of fresh red and black cherry, dark raspberry and dark cranberry.  Has a beam of minerality that initially presents more stone-like but emerges to more linear.  A bright earthy forest element emerges in the background with more with time.  Just a hint of white pepper.  The nose speaks of brightness, freshness and purity.  Medium bodied that initially leans to lighter but adds mass as it opens giving a fuller presence and a pleasing textural roundness. Smoothly transitions to finish with the dark-leaning side of red fruits and clean mineral.  Acidity carries the fruits over an extended finish.  This is about elegant style balancing with ripe fruits.  Shows richness, depth, purity and intensity.  93 – 13.4% alcohol.  $55 suggested retail.  Tasted on May 12, 2013.

Posted on by Shawn Luke in $20 Above, Oregon, Pinot Noir 2 Comments

$20 Above: Rasa QED 2009

Rasa QED 2009

Date Tasted: 5/10/13

Price: Suggested Retail is $50.00

From The Winery: 14.7% alcohol. 71% Syrah (Les Collines, Seven Hills, and Portteus vineyards), 14% Grenache (Minnick Vineyard), 12% Mourvedre (Minnick), 3% Viognier (Les Collines). 25% new French oak and 75% neutral French oak. Columbia Valley AVA. 619 cases produced.

Notes/Impressions: It’s no secret that the Navarane brothers are making some special wines in Walla Walla. I visited Rasa last summer and tasted through their magnificent lineup. Though much can be learned by sipping at a tasting room, nothing replaces the experience of popping a cork and tasting over the course of several hours (or a few days). The 2009 QED is the first full bottle from Rasa that I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. It’s a Syrah-dominated blend that I joyfully sniffed and sipped for hours and hours – seasoned meat, garrigue, floral notes, brine, olive juice, toasted oak, campfire, funky mineral, fig, plum and cranberry all make an appearance. Tannins are seamlessly integrated and the flavors are vast. The weight and mouthfeel of this wine really captivated me. It’s one of those wines that’s held in the mouth just a little bit longer than normal before swallowing. Elegant and complex, this is an exciting blend that’s a good buy at $50.00.

Rating: Highly Recommended (93), 4/5 Value

Posted on by Nick in $20 Above, Red Blends, Washington 3 Comments

$20 Above: Delille Chaleur Estate Blanc 2011

Delille Chaleur Estate Blanc 2011

By Shawn Luke

Delille has been making great wines in Washington since 1992.  When I visited the tasting room in Woodinville back in May 2012, I finally was able to taste the exceptional quality across both the Delille and Doyenne lineups.   Joining their wine club was a no-brainer.  Most wines I consume are reds, but in a recent club shipment, Delille sent me a bottle of their 2011 Chaleur Estate Blanc, which was created with a traditional Bordeaux blend of 62% Sauvignon Blanc and 38% Semillon.  The grapes come from some of the very best vineyards in Washington.  The composition includes 24% Boushey Sauvignon Blanc – Yakima Valley AVA, 21% Klipsun Sauvignon Blanc – Red Mountain AVA, 17% Sagemoor Sauvignon Blanc – Columbia Valley AVA, 29% Boushey Semilllon – Yakima Valley AVA and 9% Klipsun Semillon – Red Mountain AVA.

The wine primarily displays a pale and pastel yellow color but some brighter yellow hints do sneak in depending on the light.  The initial aromas are layers of stone fruits with yellow peaches, some white peaches, and apricots.  Then a slightly more-prominent almond brown emerges.   This doesn’t quite get to the citrus fruits but stays on the bright and fresh side of those stone fruits.  A slightly brown wood influence adds richness to the nose.  Delivers a nice medium mouthfeel with a texture that nudges up to oily but then the acidity provides lift that balances it out.  More almond and brown notes mix with the returning bright peaches, with some pear and a little apricot blending in.  There’s a nice smooth transition to the finish delivered by the polished texture.  The finish is quite lengthy with acid-driven stone fruits, then more almond notes and a clean barrel nuance.  The acids lean it up to lemon for a second but then it returns to the stone fruits.  The finish extends for 30-45 seconds, fading gently.  This is very nicely done, showing a deft touch with the oak and the lees along with preservation of the acidity.  The elegance and lengthy finish earn it extra points.  93 – 13.1% alcohol. Suggested retail is $35.  Tasted on May 5, 2013.

Posted on by Shawn Luke in $20 Above, Washington, White Blends 4 Comments

$20 Above: Cuvaison Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Cuvaison Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Date Tasted: 4/17/13

Price: Suggested Retail is $45.00 (Purchased for $30.00)

From The Winery: 14.5% alcohol. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. Mount Veeder AVA.

Notes/Impressions: Cuvaison sources their Cabernet Sauvignon from their Estate vineyard on Mount Veeder, located at an elevation of 1200 feet. Their 2010 Cab presents with a deep purple color, thinning to garnet on the rim. It’s a solid and sturdy wine with an equal ratio fruit to earth aromas and flavors. Red cherry, blackberry, and black currant blend with potting soil and a really nice rocky minerality. In the mouth, the wine approaches full-bodied, with gripping, mouth-coating tannins. It’s approachable now, but has a structure that lends well to aging.

Rating: Highly Recommended (90), 3/5 Value

Posted on by Nick in $20 Above, Cabernet Sauvignon, California 4 Comments