As I say in many of the notes below, before I tried my first Locations wine from Dave Phinney, I was skeptical: using the license plate bumper stickers as wine labels seemed a bit too gimmicky to me. But no longer.
The concept behind the wines is fairly simple, but in many ways controversial–Dave Phinney wanted to explore what could be done if all the rules were removed, if he ignored the constraining factors of appellations, should he still make quality wines that represent a region?
Well, having tasted through all of the current releases I am sold not only on the idea behind the wines, but the talents of Mr. Phinney as a winemaker. And I have even come around to like the labels.
Locations Corse: Corsica. Retail $19. 100% Vermentino. For some reason, I assumed that this was a red wine (in my defense, the bottle is very big and opaque), but, having never been to Napoleon’s birthplace, I had no idea what to expect. Good fruit and plenty of flavor, but this is one of the few Locations wines that have left me a little nonplussed as it lacks the requisite acidity that I think is desperately needed in Vermentino (or Rolle for those other French snobs out there). Still, that might be a nit-pick—solid effort. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
Locations E-4: Spain. Retail $18. A blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Monastrell, and Cariñena. This is my first Spanish Locations and it did not disappoint with its great fruit, wonderful aromas, plenty of depth, and, yes, a little verve. Dark and brooding with a slightly restrained nose, yet this delivers on several levels: rich, a bit unctuous, and deep, this is an impressive wine. One that could benefit from a little time. Nonetheless, drinking oh so well now. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
Locations Wine I-4: Italy. Retail $20. A blend of Negroamaro and Nero d’Avola from Puglia combined with Barbera from Piemonte. I have had several of Dave Phinney’s Locations wines now, and I have a couple of confessions: First, every time I write Dave Phinney’s name, I first write “Davis Phinney” (a former professional cyclist) and then have to change it. Second, before I opened the first one, I was sure I was not going to like this line of wines, but each bottle proved me wrong. And this just might be the best so far. Dark berry fruit, plenty of spice, and really well-balanced, this is really a nice drinking wine. And for the price? This really delivers. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
Locations Wine P-4: Portugal. Retail $20. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, and Touriga Franca. OK. I Surrender. When I first started down this Dave (not Davis) Phinney road, I wanted to hate the wines. Really. Whenever I feel there is a marketing gimmick at the heart of a wine, I am skeptical. Full stop. But, man, this is yet another really good wine. Dark and gloomy in the glass, but fantastic aromas of black cherry, raspberry, and black currant. Rich, but still respecting its Old World heritage with an earthy component, spice, and a touch of grip. Really, at this point? I would buy a Locations wine without hesitation—there was only one that I thought was, well, a “pass” and that was the one from Texas (but it is apparently impossible to keep in stock here in the Lone Star State since Texans do love their Texas products). Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
Locations Wine F-5 Rosé: France. Retail $20. 100% Grenache. As I have mentioned before, I am completely onboard with these Dave Phinney wines. Yes, before I tried them I was more than mildly dubious, but once I started popping corks, well, I was sold. Just about every wine I have tried has been stellar (the exception being the Texas wine, coincidentally), and while this wine is certainly solid, I have to drop it just a shade below the others. There is certainly a ton of solid fruit—mostly strawberry and some rhubarb (yes, I know that is not a fruit), and while there is a tartness, the overall acidity is a bit less than I had hoped. Still, this is a solid quaffer that will no doubt please many. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
Locations Wine CA-4 White: California. Retail $18. A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Rousanne. I have mentioned it already above, but it is worth repeating: I initially had an adverse reaction to this brand. Why? I thought it was a gimmick. I mean, come on. After tasting through almost all of the current releases, I have become a convert however, and this wine is no exception (but leaves me wanting more Locations Whites). Before I start doing cartwheels though, it is worth noting that this wine seems dominated by the two Rhône varieties (Viognier, Rousanne), which to some might be a bad thing—they tend to be quite floral and viscous. If, however, the consumer is more like me, he will dig it. To me, it is reminiscent of that geeky kid at the beginning of the school year that everyone avoided, but by the end of the term all wanted to date. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.