Big Producer tagged posts

A 90 Point Napa Cab for $17 – Buehler… Buehler…

October 21, 2011 Cellar WorthyDaily Drinkers  No comments

Readers have probably noticed that less Napa Cabernet appears on this blog than it once did.  Why is that?  Two reasons: 1) I've gotten more picky about what I write up and 2) the marginal lift in the economy has made bargain Napa Cabernet harder to come by.  Sure, there are more cheap cabs in the market than ever but cheap does not equal value.  The problem with most of these value priced Napa Cabs is they all taste the same and that taste is... unnatural.

Much like Ferris Bueller on his "Day Off", Buehler Vineyards takes their own approach to high production (15,000 case!!!) Cabernet.  What make wine enjoyable is that no two are the same, and the best are downright unique.  Buehler Vineyard's Napa Cabernet tastes like a Cabernet, but it is identifiable and unique, and to my palate,

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2007 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Napa – A sure bet at $16.95 RP90

December 2, 2010 Cellar WorthyDaily Drinkers  No comments

If you read over the pages of this blog, you'll notice that I'm a big fan of large production wineries who create great wines year in and year out.  In Napa Valley, there is perhaps no better example than Robert Mondavi.  Their parent company Constellation Brands (market cap $4.46 billion), owns huge brands like Corona, Kim Crawford and, yes, Arbor Mist.  They can't all be winners right?  But despite, or maybe because of their size, they are able to produce high quality, relatively low priced wines every year.

2007's Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa outperforms the very good 2006.  Dark and opaque in the glass, it looks like a $50 wine as soon as it's poured.  A full 38% of this wine comes from the famed To Kalon vineyard in Oakville where the likes of Schraeder, Paul Hobbs and

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Piper-Heidsieck NV Brut Champagne. Another excuse to celebrate. $27.95

September 23, 2010 High End ValuesSpecial Occasions  One comment

I was in Chicago last weekend and having recently enjoyed the 2000 vintage Piper-Heidsieck, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to give the non vintage version a try.  As you will find out with our soon to be launched (massive) Facebook campaign, I don't need a celebratory excuse to drink Champagne, but in this case I was celebrating meeting up with the family in the Second City.

Much like Chicago, this Champagne is clean, crisp and a little nutty.  Unlike Chicago, it's best enjoyed on ice.  Totally unrelated to Chicago it has a really nice citric note and a creamy mouthfeel with a complexity rarely found in Champagne at this price point.  I loved Piper-Heidsieck's vintage bottling, but at less than half the price I'm having trouble coming up with a reason not to just drink the NV

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2008 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay- Continuing the legacy $27.95 WA94

August 2, 2010 High End Values  No comments

Beringer’s Private Reserve program, hands down, makes some of the best wines coming out of Napa, and they do it at reasonable prices.  In January 2008 Beringer’s head winemaker, Ed Sbragia, transitioned to a consultant role leaving his protégé, Laurie Hook in charge.  If the 2008 vintage of the Chardonnay is any indication, she is doing a fantastic job because this is by far the best 2008 Chardonnay I’ve tasted.

I try to feature wines that are perennial values and Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnay (and Cabernet for that matter) is another one of those wines.  A blend from multiple Napa vineyards, it’s rich and buttery with a unique smoky nose.  An oily mouthfeel is complemented by crisp citric acid and an exceptional finish.  To my taste, this is the best Chardonnay under $30 and I

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Landmark Overlook Chardonnay- Really good every time! $19.95 WS92

July 28, 2010 Daily Drinkers  No comments

Landmark's Overlook Chardonnay is one of those wines that's just great every year.  It's nice to have those bottles that, in a crunch or on a restaurant menu, you know will always be good, regardless of the vintage.  Case in point, this Chardonnay has received a 90 or higher rating from one or more of the major publications for every vintage since 2001.  At $20 it's kind of in the middle price range that wineries avoid- the the high end of daily drinker territory but not splurge territory either.  Don't let that hold you back.  This is better than many $40 Chardonnays out there.

The '07 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay strikes a nice balance between malolactic fermentation richness and acidity.  It's a balance that many winemakers aren't able to achieve but it's magic when they do.  The

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La Crema Chardonnay Sonoma- Always a good bet $14.95

June 17, 2010 Daily Drinkers  No comments

La Crema's Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is one of those rare wines that's an incredible value year after year.  They make almost 500,000 cases of this particular bottling- nearly 6 million bottles- so it really need to be good, otherwise they are going to have a ton of unsold wine!  Every decent restaurant in the country should have this on their menu because it's inexpensive and always delivers.

The last few Chardonnays we've reviewed on these pages have been the no oak, non malolactic fermentation style.  This is not that kind.  The '08 La Crema is buttery and full bodied in the traditional California style.  Our last review, the '07 Vina Robles Huerhuero Vineyard Cabernet, talked a lot about the sense of place in the wine, created because the grapes are all harvested from a single

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Liberty School Chardonnay 2007- Under $10 Value WS87

May 18, 2010 Daily DrinkersWines under $10  No comments

If you're looking for a crisp daily drinker Chardonnay, to enjoy all summer, you can't go wrong with the 2007 Liberty School.  Unlike some of the more buttery California Chardonnay this example doesn't undergo malolactic fermentation so it retains a fresh, clean flavor.

Time for a science lesson: Malolactic fermentation is the process of converting malic acid into lactic acid.  Malic acid is what gives many wines their tart, crisp fruit flavors.  By contrast lactic acid gives Chardonnays their rich, buttery flavor (lactic like lactose- get it?).  Forgoing malolactic fermentation is becoming increasingly popular in Chardonnay because winemakers believe it preserves the varietal's natual flavor and texture.

I like both styles but for those looking for crisp Chardonnay with more apple

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Camelot Highlands Estate Chardonnay 2007- under $25 RP 93 (by Kendall-Jackson)

May 16, 2010 High End Values  One comment

This is ridiculously good for the price.  It's definitely the best Chardonnay I've ever had for under $25 and also the best I've had from one of my favorite appellations, Santa Barbara County.  To my taste, dollar for dollar, Santa Barbara Chardonnay beats the same varietal from Napa, Sonoma or Monterey easily.

I hate to keep driving this point home, but many of the reserve wines from the big producers are knock-out values.  Kendall-Jackson makes over 2 million bottles of their Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay, and it's pretty good.  So when they focus on only 3700 cases of a single vineyard Chardonnay, you know it's going to be something special.  Some might be turned off by the Kendall-Jackson label but those people will just have to miss out, and that just means more for us!

The nose

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Cakebread Chardonnay 2008- Always a great value $34.95

April 22, 2010 High End Values  One comment

I had an unexpected surprise tonight and no, it wasn't my 20 minute conversation with a former American Idol's intoxicated wife, although that was a surprise.  It was that the Chardonnay served while conducting that conversation, at a big convention's opening cocktail hour, was Cakebread (classy right?).  Normally you get a $5 grocery store wine like Mondavi Woodbridge, but tonight was special!

Cakebread is one of my perennial favorites and the 2008 vintage doesn't disappoint.   It's a great mix of fresh green apple flavors with a great mouthcoating buttery texture.  It has new oak, with with a balance that so many California Chardonnays are missing.

I had the pleasure of visiting Cakebread Winery last year and can tell you firsthand that they take their wine very seriously.  We

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2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay- Always a Winner $7.99

April 16, 2010 Daily DrinkersWines under $10  One comment

Columbia Crest is well known for making solid wine at great prices and the 2008 Grand Estates Chardonnay is just that.  My three favorite regions for Chardonnay are Washington, Monterey and Santa Barbara County because their relatively cool climates produce a focused fruity wine.  The great thing about Columbia Crest is their consistency: they produce great wines year in and year out.  We had been drinking this wine as our "house" Chardonnay sine the 2006 vintage and and we finally ran out of the '07, so we decided to try the '08.

Much like the '07 this has a nice mineral nose with the classic apple scents.  It tastes rich but focused and finishes with a lingering clean aftertaste.  This is very well balanced with a nice buttery mouthfeel but it's not as though they pumped liquid oak

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