StickyBeak Toscana

When I saw the name of this wine, it immediately made me think of Australia.  And it turns out that the name StickyBeak is an Australian wine term.  But StickyBeak wine is not from Australia.  Most wine under this brand comes from California, except for this one which is from the Tuscany region in Italy.

The producers of this wine do have a connection to Australia as importers of Australian wines.  The StickyBeak name is a reference to them being “nosy neighbors” who can’t resist sticking their noses into different vineyards to see what others are doing.  Which they eventually transformed into producing wines that allowed them to experiment with what they see around them.  They refer to themselves as “inquisitive vintners.”

Their Tuscan wine is made of primarily sangiovese, one of my favorite varieties from the region.  The exact blend is 85% sangiovese, 10% merlot and 5% syrah.

The aromatics from this wine make it clear that this is a sangiovese-based wine. Bright cherry and floral aromatics dominate the nose, which also reveals some raspberry and vanilla aromas. The palate is a bit thin on body. It has good flavors, like cherry, raspberry, coffee and spice, but there isn’t much depth to those flavors. The acidity is sufficient and soft tannins add some silkiness to the mouthfeel. And the finish is relatively long, with tart cherry flavors. If you like lighter wines, you may enjoy this one. But I found myself wishing it had a touch more depth.  Still it’s tasty.

Wine: StickyBeak Toscana
Variety: 85% sangiovese, 10% merlot and 5% syrah
Vintage: 2011
Alcohol: 13%
Rating: 85
Price: $20.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a sample.

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Picket Fence Pinot Noir

When it comes to cheap wine, a lot of it comes from a handful of big companies.  Although you probably don’t realize that because those companies own a lot of different brand names.  Picket Fence is one of the brands in the portfolio of Bronco Wine Company, one of the biggest producers of cheap wine in the US.

And when it comes to cheap pinot noir, it can be hard to find something “great” but it is possible to find something “good.”  And that’s what we have here.

The Picket Fence pinot noir comes from the Russian River Valley, a cool climate region in Sonoma County, California that is generally good for pinot noir.

This is a light, easy pinot noir.  The nose is lightly-fragrant, offering soft plum, cherry and rose aromatics.  The palate is also only moderate in concentration, bringing tart cherry, raspberry, plum and spice flavors.  The acidity is sufficient and the mouthfeel nice.  The finish is rather short.  This isn’t a knock-your-socks-off wine, but it’s pleasant.

Wine: Picket Fence – Russian River Valley
Variety: Pinot Noir
Vintage: 2012
Alcohol: 13.8%
Rating: 84
Price: $17.99
Disclosure: This wine was received as a sample.

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Calcu Carmenere

I’ve been posting carménère reviews lately and here’s another bargain carménère from Chile.  This one comes from the Colchagua Valley, a region known for its red wines – including carménère.

The spice is pretty heavy on the nose of this wine.  It’s loaded with nutmeg, clove, toasted oak and vanilla.  That’s backed up by plenty of blackberry, blueberry and plum, although I can’t say it’s entirely harmonious.  It’s a little clumsy, but still enjoyable.  The palate is full of ripe fruit flavors, such as blackberry, plum and black currant.  There are also some coffee notes on the palate. The finish is rather spicy, but still has plenty of berry flavors.  The acidity is good as are the tannins.  It’s a drinkable and enjoyable wine, although the balance is a little off.

Wine: Calcu Carménère
Variety: Carménère
Vintage: 2010
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 84
Price: $14.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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Maquis Carmenere

Following up from the last review, here is another Chilean carménère.

This one comes from Maquis in the Colchagua Valley.  The story of Maquis dates back almost 90 years to when the first vineyards were planted on the estate.  For most of its existence the owners only grew grapes to sell to other winemakers, but in 2002 they decided to start producing their own wine and built a winery.  Their vineyard lies between two rivers, ending at their confluence, resulting in a unique micro-climate.

Cedar, black cherry and chocolate aromatics make for a dark and spicy nose.  The palate brings rich tannins, gripping acidity and a dense mouthfeel.  It offers blackberry, plum, black cherry, soy sauce and chocolate flavors.  It has a touch of spice moving into the finish.  This is a pretty big carménère with a good mix of fruit, earth and spice.

Wine: Maquis Carménère
Variety: Carménère
Vintage: 2010
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 86
Price: $19.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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Casillero del Diablo Carmenere

Although carménère has in recent years come to be thought of as a signature Chilean grape, its roots go back to Europe.  More specifically, it is thought to have originated in the Médoc region of Bordeaux.  It was once thought to be the “lost grape of Bordeaux,” having gone extinct from phylloxera in 1867.  But cuttings of the vine had been imported to Chile prior to its supposed extinction where it was thriving in hiding for over a century.

Actually, it wasn’t truly hidden, it was just mistaken for merlot until 1998 when it was officially recognized in Chile.

As I’ve come to know this wine I’m rather surprised that it was confused with merlot, as the two wines have some distinct differences.  Although there are some visual similarities with the vines and grapes, which is what I understand led to confusion.

Unfortunately, I often find that carménère has a strong green pepper aroma, which is a sign that it was harvested before fully ripening.  This particular one from Casillero del Diablo doesn’t suffer that flaw.

Leather, tar and coffee aromas add an earthy quality layered over the fruit such as blackberry and raspberry.  The aromas are all good, but the balance is a little clumsy.  The palate offers black cherry, blackberry covered with chocolate.  The chocolate lingers into the finish.  This is a fairly meaty carménère and should be enjoyed with a meaty meal.

Wine: Casillero del Diablo Carménère
Variety: Carménère
Vintage: 2011
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 85
Price: $12.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.

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3 Spells Rose

Today it’s rainy and icky outside and I’m feeling kind of moody, but things are turning more springlike and for that reason I’m going to focus on a happy wine for spring.  A rosé!

I love rosé and I think it’s an under-appreciated wine in general — although not under-appreciated by me.  When it’s made well, it’s a refreshing, approachable and fun wine that’s easy to enjoy.

This one comes from Spelletich Family Winery, a producer I’ve profiled in the past.  They’re a small producer, so it’s not a wine you’re going to find everywhere, but it’s worth snagging a few bottles of their wine if you do come across it.

Their 3 Spell rosé is made from a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley.  Like many of their wines it’s a small production wine run with only 90 cases produced.

Peach, lemon, bubble gum and wet stone aromas give this wine a cool and refreshing nose.  It smells yummy.  In the mouth, this is everything I want from a rosé.  It’s crisp and offers tasty flavors like apple, strawberry, black cherry, lemon and vanilla.  It’s well balanced and has a personality.  The finish is relatively long and tasty.  It’s a very good rosé.

Wine: 3 Spells Rosé
Variety: Merlot and cabernet sauvignon
Vintage: 2012
Alcohol: 14%
Rating: 88
Price: $25.00


DeMorgenzon DMZ Chardonnay

South Africa is rising quickly on my list of locations for really good bargain-priced wines.  I showed up late to this party, but I’m sticking around now that I’ve found it.

This is the latest in my list of South African wines worth raving about.  And this one is a chardonnay.  I almost never “rave” about a chardonnay.  I know some of you are big chardonnay fans and some of you love to hate it.  In all honesty, I’m often in that latter group but I give credit where credit is due.  While I’ve tasted plenty of crappy chardonnay over the years, I’ve also had some mighty good ones.  And this is the latest to go on that list.

Lemon and straw dominate the nose of this wine, but it also shows some floral and wet stone aromatics.  The palate is vibrant, with crisp lemon flavors supported by green apple, white peach, melon and a dash of salt.  The balance is perfect.  It’s interesting and elegant.  This is a wine that will make you love chardonnay.  It’s delicious.

Wine: DeMorgenzon DMZ Chardonnay
Variety: Chardonnay
Vintage: 2012
Alcohol: 14%
Rating: 89
Price: $17.00 

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