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

Click here for more info

February 2018
« Nov    

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.


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!

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

2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Russian River Valley ChardonnaySCORE: 93


I really wasn’t in the mood to blog tonight, but when I opened and tasted the 2007 Dry Creek Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay I just had to sit down and pound out  a few paragraphs!

I must admit that I’m a RRV chardonnay honk, as I much prefer the characteristics that come out of this AVA’s best vineyards over her sometimes more heralded Napa and Carneros bretheren.  However, I’ve had more than my fair share of really bad RRV chards before too. Read More

2007 Bonterra Viognier, Organically GrownSCORE: 90

2007 Bonterra Viognier:

If the sensual texture isn’t enough to make you smile, the beautiful perfumed nose of orange blossom, apricot, and beeswax certainly will. A strong impression of stone minerality comes forward on the palate, making this wine act like a squeaky clean “old world” viognier.

Die-hard chardonnay fans typically find a bottle of viognier in front of them at some point and are amazed at how delicious they are.  Bonterra consistently produces a superb quality example, and an organic one to boot.  Read More

2007 Girard Chardonnay, Russian River ValleySCORE: 91

2007 Girard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley:

When chardonnay stays away from the heat of the Napa Valley it retains an entirely different character. Acidity, oak, and fruit harmonize into a beautiful example of why the Russian River Valley is arguably the most important region for this varietal in the United States. Read More

Big House Wine 2008SCORE: ??

Big House Red

Big House Red

So I just got through tasting and reviewing the three Big House wines that were sent to me by the distributor.  While writing my tasting notes a different thought process rolled through my head.  Let me explain…

A few years and beers ago my pal Dale, the bartender at Latitude 32 Grill and Pub in Pacific Beach, CA recanted a story from the previous night where a well dressed woman sashayed through the door of this neighborhood pub and asked to see the wine list.  Ever the clever lad Dale is, he went back to the office where he scribbled in large permanent marker three words on a coctail napkin.  “RED”, “WHITE”, “PINK”.  I don’t think she’s been back.

Read More

2008 Dashwood Sauvignon BlancSCORE: 92

This wine screams “Hey, I’m from Marlborough, New Zealand!”

Lime, passion fruit, and grapefruit flavors abound, plus the obvious and outrageous Marlborough grassiness and a hint of white pepper on the finish.  The fruit and non-fruit features integrate seamlessly in what is an excellent example of the NZ style of sauvignon blanc.

Read More