Archive for the ‘review Viognier wine’ Category

Rodney Dangerfield’s Revenge: Murrieta’s Well The Whip 2010

screen shotIn the U.S., white blends have been the Rodney Dangerfield of wine. They aren’t considered elegant, like a White Burgundy, or bold and brassy, like a California Chardonnay. They don’t have the pedigree of a classic Alsatian or German Riesling, or the sassiness of a New Zealand Sauv Blanc. White blends aren’t any one thing at all.

And that’s a problem in the U.S.: Americans want their wine, like their politics, to be cut and dried. They don’t want ambiguity or confusion — they want the label on their wine to say clearly and unequivocally, “Chardonnay,” or “Sauvignon Blanc,” or whatever.

So I was intrigued when I found a white blend called “The Whip”. It’s not one thing, mind you, but the winery, Murrieta’s Well, had the good sense to list all six grapes right there on the front label. We like that in a wine!horse

First, let’s look at some background. The winery dates back to the 1880′s and is named for the watering hole frequented by Mexican gold-miner-turned-desperado Joaquin Murrieta. The spirit of the Old West and California’s Gold Rush Days lives on at the winery. Situated in a sunny valley that benefits from the cool fog and breezes off San Francisco Bay, Murrieta’s Well is known for “The Whip” and its sister red blend, “The Spur.”

The six grapes blended to make The Whip 2010 include Sauvignon Blanc (31%), Viognier (27%), Semillon (15%), Pinot Blanc (11%), Orange Muscat (*%), and Muscat Canelli (8%). Right off the bat (or off the nose), I sensed richness and lushness. Rich aromatics suggested honeysuckle and orange blossom, which always says “Viognier” to me. I expected a similarly rich palate, and I got it. There was honey and exotic fruit that was just about to become cloying, when the acid kicked in and gave me a clean, dry finish.

This blend was well designed. The aromatic grapes set the tone, but the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc create balance and structure. Balance is definitely the key here: perceived sweetness up front, crisp dryness on the finish, and no harsh edges anywhere.

For about $20 retail The Whip makes a nice wine for those who want a great “tween-er” white. I’d like to taste this with Seared Scallops or any kind of Pacific Rim dishes. Let me know what you think, and Cheers!

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Variety is the Spice of…Wine: Kenneth Volk Vineyards

ken vThe wine business is so glamorous … like when Ken Volk first started out, making wine in a neighbor’s garbage can and crushing grapes with a baseball bat. Wow, that sounds kinda crazy, but it shows determination, ingenuity, and a non-conforming personality.

But it turned out all right. Ken Volk ended up building Wild Horse Cellars into a 160,00o case winery and then selling it for what we hope were big bucks to the liquor conglomerate Jim Beam.

I remember meeting Ken back in the Wild Horse days. We were wine distributors at the time and he spent the best part of an afternoon with us, talking and tasting what seemed like dozens of varieties. Heck, there probably were dozens of labels: while he was best known for his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Ken just never held with the common wisdom that you should concentrate your resources and energy on a few “fighting varietals” (you know, Cab, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir). Instead, he experimented with practically every grape he could find, usually with very good results.

And he hasn’t changed a bit. He launched Kenneth Volk Vineyards in  2004 when he purchased a run-down winery facility in the Santa Maria Valley that had been the original Byron winery. After a year of “fix-up,” he started making wine from his estate Chardonnay grapes and fruit sourced from some of the best vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

He’s still known for his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but he’s up to his old tricks and produces several bottlings from what he calls “heirloom varieties.” These are grapes that are rarely seen on California labels, but can make good or great wines. And he’s right — I tried a few and was amazed with his results. Read the rest of this entry »

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