A few weeks ago, I started a project that was long overdue: I started the process of updating my wine cellar inventory. As I have stated countless times here, I use Cellar Tracker, which many (including me) consider the best online cellar management tool. The problem with any cellar management software is that one needs to be vigilant in adding and subtracting wines. I like to think that I am fairly good at maintaining my inventory, but the truth is more likely that I stink at it.
The other day, when trying to find some space for a couple of cases of champagne, I decided it was time to start opening some of the “second bottles” I have received as samples (many producers send along two bottles in case there is a flaw with the first–but there rarely is).
I decided to start with the second bottles I received for the Fourth Annual Largest Blind Tasting of American Sparkling wine since, well, bubbles.
2020 Dobbes Family Estate “Elements” Oregon Bubbles, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. A pale to medium straw with an above-average effervescence, the nose exudes green apple, cashew, and wet rock. The palate is quite fruity, but also tart–in fact on the verge of “of the charts” tart. Granny Smith apple abounds and the wine is certainly on the dry side (although there is a hint of sweetness just before the finish). Nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2014 Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $58. 67% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay. Based on these blind tastings, it is easy for me to assert that Gloria Ferrer is perhaps the most under-valued brand in the U.S. as all of the wines I have tried from the house, from the entry-level to this upper tier, have been “killer” (California term). This wine is no exception: pale straw in the glass with wonderful fruity aromas (golden apple, nectarine, Bing cherry, strawberry). Yowza. The palate is simply brilliant with the requisite amounts of fruit (that red berry), acidity (tartness off the charts), yeastiness (baked bread a-go-go), and sweetness (actually, I would have preferred a slightly lower dosage, but I nitpick). It all comes together in a Whoa-worthy blend of bubbly bodaciousness. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2018 Hyland Estates Brut, McMinnville AVA, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $58. 68% Pinot Noir, 38% Chardonnay. Light straw color with a tart yet yeasty nose with tree fruit and some minerality. The palate is, well, quite harmonious with plenty of tree fruit, that yeastiness, an active sparkle, and plenty of tartness to hold it all together. Another wine that surprised me and came really close to a Whoa. Really close. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Iris Vineyards Arete Brut Blanc de Noirs, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $34. 100% Pinot Noir. I first tasted this nearly two years ago for the Third Annual Blind Tasting of American Sparkling Wine and I liked it (88 pts.). I still do. Maybe more. Straw to yellow in the glass with golden delicious apple, buttered popcorn, and a bit of minerality in the glass. The palate is very dry, and tart, even quite tart, with Granny Smith apple, and a bit of yeastiness. Like I said, I liked this in 2020 and I think the extra time in the bottle has served it well. Very Good. 89 Points.
2017 King Estate Brut Cuvée, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $40. 83% Pinot Noir, 17% Chardonnay. Another wine that really seems to have improved with a bit of additional time in the cellar. 10 months ago, I loved this wine (92 Points), but now? Yowza. Straw hue in the glass with plenty of yellow and green apple. But the star of the show, from the get-go, is the yeasty yumminess. Holy cow and, yes, a whoa. Rich, nutty, and loaded with brioche, this could easily be confused for a champagne. Easily. The palate continues the masquerade with tree fruit notes, near bracing acidity, and all of that yeasty loveliness. While I am not sure how the extra year benefitted this wine, I do know that it is off-the-charts good. Outstanding. 94 Points.
NV La Crema Pinot Noir Brut Rosé Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $45. 73% Pinot Noir, 27% Chardonnay. Another bottle from the Third Annual Sparkling Wine Tasting and while I really liked it two years ago, again, I think it has actually improved over the last 22 months. Here is what I wrote then: “Another faintly hued wine, which is slightly more orange than pink, but it is definitely in the splitting hairs realm of argument. Tart on the nose, quite lovely, even. Heavy on tartness, subtle fruit, layered. Yeah, I could hang out here for a while, even a long while. Perhaps not to the level of the top wines here, but it is close, really close.” I gave it 91 points then, but I am bumping it up a notch. Excellent. 92 Points.