Three whites that delight

Last week, we returned from our Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara and Paso Robles wine country. We learned many new things about the wines from both of these regions and discovered some gems, both bargain and expensive.  We also managed a two-night stay in the Napa Valley following the conference. I was invitied to a media event at Inglenook. It was the Rutherford Dust Society’s 2011 Cabernet release event.  Sad to say, no wine bargains there except for a very nice Cabernet from Provenance for $47, the least expensive we tasted. I did find out one tidbit from the folks who make the Conn Creek Cabernet ($60). They said the 2010 Napa Valley Collection Cabernet is a terrific bargain. You can buy it at Trader Joe’s and the Safeway for about $20. I have not tried it, but when it goes on sale I will grab a couple for sure. Here is brief review on the Rutherford Dust event.

Three summer whites that delight

Ancient Peaks 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

The Ancient Peaks winemaker, Mike Senor was one of the featured speakers at the Paso Robles Pre-conference. Mike spoke about the unique terroir of the Santa Margarita vineyard where this S.B. fruit is sourced. It is not an official AVA, but the Santa Margarita area will be given the AVA designation in 2014. On the way home we stopped in at the Ancient Peaks’ tasting room in Santa Margarita and sampled some wines. Vintage wine taster Mike thinks Ancient Peaks makes one of the best Zinfandels around, but I have to say their Sauvignon Blanc is right up there with their Zin. I see that the wine shelves in my area are still stocked with 2012, but when this 2013 wine appears, try a bottle. It is delicious. It’s very clean, bright, and crisp. It is not New Zealandy in style, with less grapefruit and gooseberry. The Safeway and KL Wines currently have the 2012 for about $12 to $13. This is a worthy Sauvignon Blanc. 89 Points

Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc

Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc

Charles Krug 2013 Sauvignon Blanc

I sampled this wine at the Charles Krug winery in St. Helena. Have you ever been there? They just remodeled and opened the old Redwood Cellar that was built in 1872. The tasting room is one of the most beautiful in all of the Napa Valley.  If you compare this Sauvignon Blanc with the one above, you will find more citrus and tropical fruit flavors. It is seriously crisp and refreshing. BevMo carries this wine for $12.99. I have also seen it at Safeway for less during their periodic 30% off sale. I really like both of these wines for the outdoor life. 89 Points as well for the Charles Krug. Here is a caveat. My sister thought she didn’t like Sauvignon Blanc. When she tasted this one, it changed her attitude toward S.B. That is why it is a good thing to experiment with different producers.

charles krug tasting room

Charles Krug tasting room housed in the Redwood Cellar built in 1872

NxNW 2012 Riesling – Trader Joe’s $6.99 is raving about this wine, but it is $12.99 on their online Website. I found this Riesling at the San Mateo Trader Joe’s. They have a huge display. I found out this wine is made by the King Estate, a Pinot Noir producer in Oregon. The grapes for this Riesling come from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, a sub appellation of the Columbia Valley. It is one of Washington’s top AVA’s. I tasted this wine without food and thought it was so-so. But then I cooked up a chicken taco with a mild salsa, and this wine came alive. It has a tad of sweetness to it, but it is totally offset when you have a spicy dish. The NxNW has a straw color and aroma, typical of Riesling. In the mouth you pick up lots of fruit flavors like apricot and citrus. Wine Enthusiast gives the wine 88 Points, and I rated it the same. If you are serving some spicy food, Mexican or whatever, get over to TJ’s and purchase your supply. It is a good deal!

NxNW Riesling 2012

A very tasty Riesling for $6.99


How the pros taste wine, and what the heck is Quini

how the pros taste wine
This is going to make all of us amateur wine tasters feel very good. At the recent wine bloggers conference, I attended the seminar, “How the Pros Taste Wine.”  The three wine tasting pros were: Steve Heimoff, a well-respected wine writer and blogger, formerly with the Wine Enthusiast and now working social media with Jackson Family Wines.  Patrick Comiskey, a former sommelier who reviews U.S. wines outside California for Wines & Spirits magazine; and finally popular wine blogger Joe Roberts, 1 Wine Dude.   Each “Pro” described how he goes about tasting wine for his reviews. Each had a slightly different approach, but one thing that is very different from the average wine taster compared to the pro is the number of wines tasted daily. These three guys taste many, many wines on a daily basis. We might taste one a day if that. The more you taste, the better taster you will be.  In other words, practice makes perfect. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book ‘The Outliers,” suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something.  I don’t know how many hours these pros have under their belts, but I do know it is far more than I have.  I guess I am destined to remain an amateur wine taster, and that is fine with me as long as I am having fun with it.

In this seminar there were four wines in front of us for tasting. Each pro had selected one wine and the fourth wine was a mystery wine.  Each pro took us through an informative description of the wine he had selected and described the characteristics he enjoyed in the wine. Now here what made me feel good about my wine tasting abilities. All three pros tasted the mystery wine and suggested that the wine was from the old world.  As one said, “Perhaps Italy, and maybe Sangiovese based, but not from Chianti,” the other two nodding in agreement. When the mystery wine was revealed, it was a Grenache from Australia. What?

So what is Quini?

quini appThe Quini’s head man was at the wine bloggers conference pitching Quini. Quini is a new wine tasting App and approaches wine tasting in a very novel way. I have been playing with the Quini App and do think it can help wine amateurs to improve their wine tasting skills and judge wines. Taking advantage of technology,  Quini takes a user through five steps for tasting a wine. It forces one to think objectively, but allows subjective scoring. The five steps are: Eye, Nose, Mouth, Finish, and Opinion. Each step is in the form of a flower petal. I love the fact that you can use your fingers to quickly adjust your score by dragging the petals left to right and up and down. The more you use Quini, the more refined your wine tasting and judging becomes. Quini also has some social media options. You can email your score to your wine friends and post to Facebook or Twitter. I would love to explore Quini as a tool for the Vintage Wine Tasters, or anyone who reads this blog, to share great wine values and bargains. I like it much better on my mini iPad than I do on my iPhone, but on any platform it is very cool.  If you use Quini, let me know what you think and, better yet, suggest some wines for us to try.

Here is a short video on what Quini can do for you and your wine tasting.


Speed Wine Dating


We are just finishing up at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara wine country. One of our favorite activities is this rather bizarre activity called Live Wine Blogging. I call it "speed wine dating." Ten wineries go to a table of eight wine … [Continue reading]

Mobius Cabernet Sauvignon 2012


This will be adventurous week for us. Vintage Wine Taster Mike and Janelle and I are heading down to the 8th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara wine country. Included in the trip will be a pre-conference day and a half in Paso Robles, … [Continue reading]

Morse Mourvedre – Bargain Alert

At the Burlingame Safeway for $9.99 or $9 for a six pack

About the Morse Mourvedre Bargain Vintage Wine Taster Mike reviewed the Morse Mourvedre 2008  in Wine Values & Bargains in February. Mike rated the wine at 90 points and at that time the Safeway was selling this wine for $11. I have also tried … [Continue reading]

Petite Sirah Blind Tasting Results

petite sirah tasting

  Petite Sirah Blind Tasting: On Tuesday of this week the Vintage Wine Tasters gathered for our bimonthly blind wine tasting event. For this tasting, Vintage Wine Taster Jim sought out Petite Sirah wines in the budget category. Jim … [Continue reading]

TorCalvano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The Gran Passione at Whole Foods

The Vintage Wine Tasters wine reviews of the week:  These are wines that can be found in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. We list the price and the source of each review. This week we tout two wines from Italy. TorCalvano  Vino Nobile di … [Continue reading]

Breggo Gewürztraminer

Breggo Gewürztraminer

This week the Vintage Wine Tasters review three wines. We begin with a dazzling California made Gewürztraminer. Breggo Gewürztraminer 2011 - Costco $14.99 A few weeks back we raved about the Breggo Pinot Gris 2012 at Costco. Equally as … [Continue reading]

Wild Horse Pinot Noir 2012

Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2012

Wild Horse Central Coast Pinot Noir 2012 – Costco $11.49 We have had a busy 10 days attending a couple of graduations and a wedding. At one of the grad parties the host was pouring Wild Horse Pinot Noir 2012. The wine is widely available at Costco … [Continue reading]

Kirkland Chateauneuf du Pape 2012

Kirkland S

The Vintage Wine Tasters offer three wine reviews for this week. We begin with the Kirkland Chateauneuf du Pape. The 2011 was a big hit last year and sold out within a few weeks at all Costco stores. Will it be the same this year? Kirkland … [Continue reading]