Reviews Wine Reviews

Wine Wednesday: Kung Fu Riesling 2013

This wine with the odd name and funky label from Charles Smith Wines in Washington State has gotten a lot of acclaim — 90 points from Robert Parker, etc. — so I was looking forward to trying it. Riesling is one of my favorite types of wine.

Kung Fu Riesling 2013 has a nice floral aroma, with some citrus and stone fruit. The flavor starts off mirroring its aromatics, but then moves into pear and Fuji apple. Definitely off-dry, verging on slightly sweet. I was hoping for more acidity to balance it out. There is slight minerality on the finish, which I liked. But it also had a waxy mouthfeel that I didn’t care for.

The Kung Fu Riesling is a pleasant wine and easy to drink if you like your Rieslings a little on the sweet side. I can see this going well with a really flavorful dish, like spicy Asian food. At the price — only $10 a bottle — it’s definitely worth trying. But perhaps don’t raise your expectations as high as mine were.

Reviews Wine Reviews

Wine Wednesday: Illuminate Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Illuminate is a new label of wines produced by Kimmel Vineyards in California’s Mendocino County. It first came to my attention when their Chardonnay — which retails for just $10 — won a gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Illuminate recently launched a North Coast Sauvignon Blanc, which I decided to taste. It’s a limited production wine that is aged entirely in stainless steel tanks, with no secondary fermentation.

It’s a dry, light-to-medium wine with some tangy citrus and plum flavors, but it finishes more floral and herbaceous than fruity. It has a good amount of acidity and scant minerals. This is a crisp and refreshing wine, but the alcohol level (13.9%) is on the high side for a Sauvignon Blanc, so be aware of that.

The North Coast Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t have a lot of complexity, but It’s a respectable and pleasing effort, especially at the price point. It would pair well with foods containing green herbs such as basil, rosemary, or cilantro.

Note that the images are of the 2014 vintage, but this review is of the 2013.

Reviews Wine Reviews

Wine Wednesday: Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc 2013

Chenin Blanc doesn’t get as much love as other white wine varietals like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but it can be a great grape in the right hands.

Mostly those hands are French. The top producers of wines made with Chenin Blanc are located in the Loire Valley of France, paricularly in the AOC of Vouvray. But the Americans aren’t completely outclassed with this grape.

Dry Creek Vineyards, located in California’s Sonoma County, does some very nice things with Chenin Blanc. Witness their Dry Chenin Blanc 2013, a delicious summertime wine that goes quite nicely on its own or with shellfish or cheese.

The wine is a light straw color and mildly aromatic. It has a juicy, fruity smell that made me think of red licorice. It is, as the name promises, dry, but not overly so. It’s light-bodied with some pear and pineapple flavors and slight minerality.

A very easy-drinking wine with ripe fruit and medium acidity. I could easily drink a bottle of this at one sitting — but I won’t.

Reviews Wine Reviews

Wine Wednesday: Mascota Vineyards La Mascota Chardonnay 2013

The Mascota Vineyards are located in Argentina’s Mendoza Province, at the foot of the Andes Mountains. This is known as the “Primera Zona” and is generally regarded as the country’s top wine-producing region.

The La Mascota Chardonnay 2013 is a gorgeous golden color, with a bright floral aroma. It’s light-to-medium-bodied and somewhat creamy in the mouth, with just a touch of minerals and medium acidity.

The flavor is slightly sweet, very pleasant, with apple and honey. It dries up enough on the mildly tart finish to be crisp and refreshing.

This wine would go well with the usual Chardonnay suspects, including chicken, seafood, and light pasta dishes.


Reviews Wine Reviews

Wine Wednesday: Marqués de Cáceres Rosado Rosé

Along with Torrontés wines from Argentina (which I wrote about last week), one of my favorite types of wine to drink during summer are rosés. They’re refreshing, fruity, lovely to look at — what more could you ask for?

Unfortunately, a lot of rosés aren’t very good. Although this is true of most (all?) types of wine, rosé seems to suffer especially. So many of them are too sweet and one-dimensional. You’re just as likely to pour the bottle down the sink as finish it.

Fortunately, I’ve found several so far this season that I’ve enjoyed. One of them is the 2014 Rosado Rosé from Marqués de Cáceres, a noted Spanish producer of Rioja wines.

The Marqués de Cáceres Rosado Rosé 2014 is a coral-red color, standing in contrast to the pale pinks of most French rosés. It has a moderately intense aroma, with the smell of ripe red berries paired with a more subtle floral bouquet.

This wine is crisp and medium-bodied — a little fuller than I expected — slightly tart and very fruity. It’s a nicely restrained rosé, dry and well balanced. You could enjoy this as an aperitif or pair it with Mediterranean food, pasta, or grilled chicken. An excellent value for the price.

Reviews Wine Reviews

Wine Wednesday: Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Torrontés 2012

Torrontés is not a wine varietal that a lot of people know, but they should. Grown exclusively in Argentina, this hybrid of muscat and criolla (aka mission) makes a floral and delicious white wine that I love drinking in summer. (And, to be honest, the rest of the year as well.)

The better Torrontés wines I’ve tried are aromatic and fruity (especially tropical fruits) with a nice amount of crisp acidity. They tend to be dry, but can range from light to more medium-bodied. It works very well as an aperitif, but also goes with a wide variety of foods, including spicy stuff and beef (it is from Argentina, after all).

The Terrazas de los Andes winery is located at the foot of the Andes mountains in the Salta region, where many of the best Torrontés wines come from. The grapes themselves are grown at altitude, over a mile high in the Andes. (Does that make a difference? Who knows! But it sounds cool.)

The 2012 Reserva Torrontés has an intense floral aroma and just explodes with tropical fruit and citrus flavors on the palate. I tasted a lot of delicious passion fruit, with just a little spice. It has enough acidity that it’s definitely not sweet, but it’s still bursting with fruit flavor.

I could drink this all day long. A very pleasing and tasty wine that I’d happily serve to guests, especially those who are bored with Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio. Drink it while it’s young and fresh.

Reviews Wine Reviews

Wine Wednesday: Jacques Bourguignon Chablis 2012

Although my primary interest is in cocktails and spirits, I do enjoy a glass of wine on occasion as well. Particularly with food, as I don’t generally drink cocktails with a meal other than perhaps a Margarita.

Like most wine drinkers, I’m always on the lookout for something that tastes good, but doesn’t cost a fortune. So I often scour the shelves at places like Trader Joe’s looking for interesting bottles. That’s where I found this one.

The 2012 Jacques Bourguignon Chablis is a white burgundy from the Chablis region of France. It is the color of pale straw with a light floral and fruity nose. This is an unoaked Chardonnay, so there is none of the wood presence that turns people off to many California Chardonnays.

The flavor is light and crisp, with apples and citrus, and a mildly acidic tanginess. You’ll note that I keep saying “light,” which it is, but it’s certainly not lacking in flavor.

This Chablis is quite refreshing and would go nicely with foods with delicate flavors, such as seafood or simple pastas. Or it would pair well with a cheese or fruit plate.

The Jacques Bourguignon Chablis is a simple, but tasty wine, well-made, and a bargain at the price.

Jacques Bourguignon Chablis wine

Books Reviews

Book Review: Jason Wilson’s “Wine Cocktails (Planet of the Grapes)”

The use of wine in cocktails is a hot trend among today’s top bartenders. But as Jason Wilson’s excellent new book shows, this trend is actually ages old.

I grew up in Bakersfield, California, a community with a large Basque population. (Thus my fondness for the Picon Punch.) One of the most popular drinks with younger Basques is Calimocho, a combination of cheap red wine and Coke. It’s one of those things that sounds revolting, but turns out to be surprisingly good. It makes for a refreshing drink on a hot day — and also helps use up the old wine that doesn’t taste so great on its own.

The Calimocho is far from unique. As long as people have been drinking wine, they’ve been mixing it with other things. Wine and soda of various sorts has long been a staple, as has the ubiquitous Sangria, which is properly made with wine, brandy, fruit, and possibly a liqueur. Different types of Champagne cocktails — including the sly and potent French 75 — have also dominated the field.

But it’s not just the more common types of wine that have featured in mixed drinks. Sherry and port have a rich history of use in concoctions of various types, especially back in Colonial times, when cobblers and sangarees of all stripes were the hot items of the day.

Wine Cocktails explores some of the history and development of these cocktails, along with general background on the wines themselves. Wilson’s writing is as lively and entertaining as always, making this a useful read even if your mixology skills are lacking.

The best part of Wine Cocktails, naturally, is the recipes, and Wilson collects a wide variety both old and new, many of them from top mixologists, utilizing a varieties of wines, spirits, and flavors. These are the real deal, not like so many of the recipes you find on the Internet. You can make these drinks trusting that you’ll end up with a final product that is unique and delicious.

All told, this is an indispensable book for anyone looking to learn more about this fascinating — and very tasty! — trend.

Stormy Weather

Stormy Weather

Recipe by Jason Wilson, as published in "Wine Cocktails"


  • 1 1/2 oz. Dark or Aged Rum
  • 1 1/2 oz. Shiraz or Cabernet-Shiraz Blend
  • 1/2 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1/4 oz. Agave Nectar
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters (optional)
  • Ginger Beer


  1. Shake all ingredients (except ginger beer) with ice, then strain into an ice-filled collins glass. Top off with ginger beer.


Cocktail Recipe: French 75

French 75

French 75


  • 1 oz. Gin
  • 3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 2 oz. Champagne


  1. Shake first three ingredients with ice, then strain into a collins glass filled with cracked ice. Top with Champagne.

Wine Wine Reviews

Wine Wednesday: Pacific Rim Dry Riesling 2008

Pacific rim dry rieslingPacific Rim Dry Riesling 2008

Columbia Valley (Washington State)
Price: $12
Highly recommended

Pacific Rim Dry Riesling is produced in Washington's Columbia Valley, a region growing in regard for its fine Rieslings. Ninety percent of the wine made by Pacific Rim is Riesling of one type or another, so it's no surprise they know what they're doing.

Pacific Rim Dry Riesling 2008 is off-dry, even slightly tart, with prominent citrusy fruit and subtler floral flavors. It has a moderate level of alcohol (13.5%), so it's easy to drink a few glasses if you're having it with dinner. And you should, as it goes very well with food.

Pacific Rim Dry Riesling is aged in stainless steel tanks and never sees oak. That gives it a light, refreshing taste that will especially appeal to those who are looking to try a white wine, but aren't fans of Chardonnay. This is not an overly complicated wine, but it has enough flavor and crispness to please most crowds.