The online home of Mark “The Cork Head” Stuart, Certified Wine Professional, speaker/educator, judge, and columnist.

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February 2018
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2012 Dry Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ReviewSCORE: Gold

2012 Dry Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Review

Ok, I’ll say it.  I’m not shy…well generally.  Here it goes.

Without any doubt, the 2012 Dry Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Valley is the best USA-born sauvignon blanc I’ve tasted in the fruit forward style. And, at $14.99 with this discount link, it just may be the best wine value of the year, period.

Powerful aromas of lime, tangerine, and lemon attack the nose from every direction. Similar flavors persist on the palate with a strongly delineated pineapple finish that lasts seemingly forever, all complimented by a terroir driven minerality found in the best wines from Dry Creek Valley. Typical of the varietal, the acidity has a laser focus on the tongue adding to the shockingly potent overall affect. Make no mistake, there is nothing thin or light about this stunner either.
In reality, my description above isn’t doing this wine justice. One could spend an our picking out its delineated complexities in a glass and not document them all.

I’d love to have it alongside anything from a cilantro-laced carnitas burrito to smoky sauce-slathered baby back ribs.

Quite simply, this will be the wine I give as gifts this holiday season.

I continue to be blown away by the value and quality of most all Dry Creek Vineyards offerings, but this one truly tops them all.

There.  That’s it!  There simply is nothing more to add.

2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle RieslingSCORE: Gold

Wow, has it been a warm start to the fall season or what!?!

When dinner time comes around with weather like this, the last thing on my mind is a giant plate of lasagna or some other heavy duty dish. I’m more likely to think Chinese food, Thai, or maybe a spicy grilled chicken salad.

My go to wine for dishes and weather like this is the Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling. Riesling??? Yep. Sorry chardonnay fans, riesling is easily the most important white grape in the world of wine, and it is much more food friendly as well.

Year in and year out, the Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling is one of the best wines for the dollar produced in the United States. It hails from the Columbia Valley region of Washington State, where the sun shines long in to the evening and ripens grapes fully, while the cool breezes off the nearby river help the grapes maintain a strong balance of acidity.

I just love this wine’s lime, peach, and overall purity of fruit. Also, the wine is not fermented to full dryness, leaving a small amount of sweetness in there to counterbalance spicy foods in just the right way. As an added bonus, the alcohol content is only 8.5%, so go ahead and enjoy a little extra to cool down after the sun sets on the dog days of summer.

Best of all, it is widely available between 6-9 bucks at Costco, Bevmo, and just about every grocery store in the cooler case.

Honestly, a little CSM Riesling and Chinese food is one of my all time go-to pairings. Give it a shot. You’ll write to thank me.


2007 Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Napa ValleySCORE: 93

So I was wasting a little time at the Vons grocery store in Pacific Beach last week and came across the 2007 Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.

Like most winos I know, we are all suckers for a fairly priced Napa wine, and get especially excited when it is from the famed 2007 vintage.  So, I plunked a couple of them in my 10% discount 6 pack carrier and headed for self checkout.

It isn’t often I use the word “lovely” when describing cabernet sauvignon, but in this case it absolutely fits.  It offered a sound structure for mid-term cellaring, but was soft enough around the edges to please right now.

Over the 2 hours I tasted it, the wine  provided twists and turns as to what it predominantly offered…all I can ask from a bottle priced under $20!

I guess my palate still has it, as I see Wine Enthusiast gave it 93 points.  Certainly one of the best deals around.

Quality, complexity, and varietally correct.  Pick some up and confidently enjoy!

2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa ValleySCORE: Gold

2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

It has been a while since I have had time to post about some of my favorite wines of the year, and I’m glad to have a little now before Monday Night Football to post about what may qualify as my go-to cabernet for 2011.

The folks at Folsom and Associates, the marketing arm for Robert Mondavi Winery, sent me this one a few months ago to give it a test run.  Coming off the staggeringly good 2007 vintage, it has been a while since I tasted something that gave me pause.  This one did.

Retail $28, buy widely available for far less, the 2009 RMW Cab is all it should be:  voluptuous,  with a hearty combination of full ripe tannins, balancing acidity, and complex barrel flavors of cinnamon toast, dark berry fruit, and a whisper of cabernet “sauvage”.

Perhaps one of the reasons I liked it so much is that it barely qualifies to be labeled as a cabernet sauvignon at all, with only 75% of the blend being CS.  Merlot, cabernet franc, and a few percentage points of common blending varietals all come together adding to a wine I just might like a hint better than it’s 2007 counterpart.

High praise indeed.

2007 Schramsberg Blanc de NoirsSCORE: 93

Founded in 1862 by Jacob Schram, Schramsberg Vineyards is not only one of the great sparkling wine houses in the United States, it is also among the most storied. The California Historical Society designated it as an Official Historical Monument in 1957.

The winery is one of the great tours in The Napa Valley where hand stacked bottles line natural caves dug by Chinese laborers over a century ago. Schramsberg Winery stands proud as a romantic marriage of then and now.

The 2007 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs, meaning “White from Reds”, is a limited production wine made from pinot noir and pinot meunier, two of the three traditional varietals which make up Champagne. Flavors of strawberry, cashews, and bread dough ooze from this very special wine made from perhaps the greatest vintage in Northern California history.

I absolutely love this wine for a few reasons.  First, every time I open a bottle I remember the first time I visited their historic property.  The indelible visions of their Victorian home and more than a century old history come flowing back with every sip.  2nd, the processes Schramsberg uses harken back to a different era of Napa…one before limousines and publicly traded companies…err..wineries.  As someone who has spent plenty of time in the Napa Valley, I’ve grown to love the wineries with true character, and ignore those who simply spend money in an attempt to create it.

So, the next time you are in the mood to sit back and relax with a sparkler, grab a 2007 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs.  You’ll thank me for it.

Most important to remember, it is not what is in your glass, it is who you share it with. Great wine always pairs best with friends and family.

2009 Franciscan Estate Sauvignon BlancSCORE: Gold

So I know it has been a while since I posted a wine review.

Honestly, I’ve just been incredibly busy with my job that pays the bills, being a La Jolla real estate agent. Actually, most of my business recently has been in UTC, North Park, and Pacific Beach. Anyway…

I’ve been dying to write about the 2009 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc since I received the sample early this year.

Clearly it is not the grass bomb of New Zealand, nor does it have the piercing minerality of a Sancerre. What it does offer are aspects of both of these sauvignon blanc stalwarts while offering the distinctly Californian touch of ripe fruit and the most pure streak of lime since you licked the saltless rim of a margarita.

This will be one of the top 5 California whites I taste all year.

Though I won’t be offering a point score for this wine, ( it clearly doesn’t need it) I know I will buy it, drink it, and give it as a gift with confidence!

2008 La Follette Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot NoirSCORE: 94

Words such as complex, concentrated, and elegant are thrown about in the wine world like balls in a McDonald’s play pen enclosure.

Well, I’m here to tell you that no 3 words could be more accurate than when applied to the 2008 La Follette Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir.  A wine that is nothing short of magnificent.  Read More

World Wine Challenge CD-ROMSCORE:

world wine challengeCD-ROM author Barry Wiss, CWE, is a leader in the Society of Wine Educators, Vice President of Communications and Trade Relations at Trinchero Family Winery, and helped write The Napa Valley Intensive course for The Culinary Institute of America. Yup…he’s qualified.

Basically it is a question and answer game.  If you get the question correct, you move on to another random corner of the wine world.  If you are incorrect, it spells out why.  Multiple players may participate or one can study on their own. Read More

Best Wine with Thanksgiving DinnerSCORE: Gold

2007 Bonterra Viognier Mendocino County

2007 Bonterra Viognier Mendocino County

When I think of Thanksgiving dishes, I think quantity, variety, and aromatics.  Choosing a wine that matches these traits while offering up a little contrast to make things interesting is often the best choice for such a complex meal.  But how does one find a wine that works with turkey, creamed corn, and green bean casserole all at the same time?

Quantity:  Lots of food, lots of guests, and a long time at the table.  The wine should be lower than average in alcohol…I mean yeah…we’ll be watching football and having fun all day, right?  But, lower alcohol shouldn’t mean it doesn’t have the body style necessary to stand up to all the cream and gravy.  For contrast, the wine should have a little zing of acidity to cut through our close friend’s delectable sausage stuffing.

Variety:   This wine should be complex.  With a dozen different dishes, and some strong ones at that, the wine should bring lots of different aromas and flavorsto the table.

Aromatics:  Thanksgiving is the most aromatic of traditional American meals so it stands to reason we’ll need something with a high degree of aromatics so the food does not diminish its partner.

The winner? 2007 Bonterra Viognier, Mendocino County.

This cool climate wine has under 14% alcohol, offers both floral and fruit aromatics, and has a medium-full and creamy mouth feel.  Without question it is consistently year in and year out one of the great values in viognier, and it is widely available around the country for around $15.  Did I mention it is also Certified Organic?

Remember, its not what is in your glass, but who you share it with.

And, if you use this coupon, you’ll get a discount of $5 of any $75 purchase too!

Most Exciting Wine Find of the SummerSCORE: Gold

Solis Wine Bottle

2009 Solis Winery Fiano Estate

So I can’t say I was angry, but I will say I was disappointed. The wine was nothing short of superb, but my fellow panelists simply didn’t get it.

To set the stage, the “other” whites category at large wine competitions are, shall we say, is The Land of the Misfit Toys. If you’ve never tasted these sorts of wines, well, generally you aren’t missing much. Often times they are comprised of the end-lots of what didn’t make the cut of better quality wines, all mixed up, given a fancy name and sold over the counter at tasting rooms. A winery marketing director will pay a small fee to enter the obscure blend into the competition hoping it will get some recognition to help sell the inventory which would otherwise be flushed. Read More