Goin’ back to Cali, to Cali…

First of all, a big THANKS to Seth Long of Seler d’or Wine Consulting/Blog-writin’ for including me as a guest blogger in his “29 Days of Chardonnay” collaborative effort!  There were some truly inspired posts about the wondrous little grape known as Chardonnay, and I’m glad to have been a part.  For anyone that didn’t read my post, check it out!  I was a little intimidated by all the mad knowledge being dropped by some serious heavy-hitters in the Wine World, so I went with a pretty jovial and interactive post, and I was pretty happy with how it came out.  So by all means, read it!

In honor of the 29 Days of Chardonnay, I wanted to share an awesome Chard we poured recently, and still have in stock.  We also got in a brand new Petite Sirah that I just HAVE to share.  So this has turned into a post about California.  Good old Cali!

funny name, good wine.

So let us begin with the Stuhlmuller Vineyards Chardonnay, 2009 Alexander Valley.  This is by far one of my favorite California Chards I’ve had in a loooog while.  A beautiful bright lemony color, it literally be glimmerin’ and shinin’ in the glass.  Incredibly clear and clean, just looking at it pretty much makes you want to drink it.  Pretty, warm aromas of meyer lemon and other fun fruits like figs, pineapple, kiwi and minerally hints are just gorgeous.  Flavors of green apple, citrus and lemon blossom are beautifully and expressively layered.  Are you an “oakaphobe?”  Try this!!  It’s made with just French oak, only 8% of which was new (the newer the oak, the more of its oakiness it imparts).  Normal retail on this guy is $22.  But if you’re reading this, and you come pick up a bottle (or two or four… til’ they’re gone) at Cellar THIS WEEK ONLY- you can have it for $19.  You just have to tell us you read this!  Wine Enthusiast gave it 91 points and Robert Parker gave it 89!  I actually didn’t know that until I sat down to write this.  Props!

Next up is the Ballentine “Fig Tree Vineyard” Petite Sirah, 2008 St. Helena.  A bit of background on how I came about this wine; from time to time, I have to suffer through different wine companies Portfolio Shows.  I believe I’ve mentioned these before.  So basically there’s a big room, or several rooms, full of open bottles of wine in allllll price ranges, and I have to go through and taste them.  It’s really the absolute worst part of my job.  I mean, open wine and a room full of wine people?  Terrible.  So I came upon this wine at the very end of a long afternoon of wine tasting, and was completely struck by how good it was AND how reasonable it was in price.  This after tasting some serious heavy-hitters.  Also, a ton of our regulars adore Petite Sirah- so I was stoked to find a new one to share.  True to form, this wine was a favorite at it’s first wine sale appearance two weeks ago, and its currently a by-the-glass pour as well!  So you can come taste it any old time you want.  But beware- it’s only 1050 cases produced, so that means it very well could go bye-bye at some point, if we keep selling it at this rate!

Speaking of 1050 cases produced, that is another crucial point- a small-production California wine for this price is pretty unheard of (we’re selling it retail for $20!).  Now lets move on to how it tastes!  A whopper of a palate- big notes of boysenberries, blackberry liqueur, blueberries, a tight core of spice and purple-teeth-inducing density.  It’ll be worth having purple teeth to drink this guy up.  Meaty and manly, yet with soft edges, remarkable smoothness, and no flabbiness.  Nice hints of black pepper, sage, vanilla and caramel.  A truly delicious bottle of wine.  A dream come true for your next rainy day beef stew, roasted lamb or big ‘ol steak.  Enjoy this now while we still have these chilly nights!

Hope you enjoyed this Cali post, I’m gonna wrap it up for today.  I’m jetting off to Vegas on Thursday, so if you follow me on twitter, be prepared to hear about all the ridiculous wine I’ll be drinkin’!


Gen 5 Chardonnay, 2010 Lodi

It’s been a minute since I had a Cali Chard that I really flipped over.  Introducing… the Gen 5 Chardonnay from Lodi!

Nowadays, I feel that I’ve picked up on a slight stigma against Chardonnay, especially those from California.  Almost like it’s uncool to like it.  It still sells well, but the millenial generation, specifically, tends to perceive it as being lame.  Their Aunts and Grandmas love Chardonnay, and they’ve had one too many poor, manipulated, over-oaked, cheap Chards at an art opening or gathering that chances are came out of a jug.  Truly, if I had to name one grape of which there is entirely *too much* of poor quality in existance, it would be Chardonnay.  I don’t often want to spit wine out… but I’ve had a couple Chards in the past that I’d sooner take a razor blade to my tounge than drink again.

Okay, those were some harsh words.  But much like the Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay that I wrote about back in the wee early days of this blog, I really, really LOVE  a good Chardonnay at a good price point.  So, in comes the Gen 5!  I really think this is one of the cleanest, purest, most poignant Chards I’ve had in a long while.  It is focused and perky, with bright notes of kiwi, guava, pineapple, prickly pear and (now that its warmed up just a bit) a little hint of vanilla bean.  Check out its crystalline, clear coloring  (okay, I was just dying to use the word crystalline):

Well, the picture doesn’t do it a ton of justice, but it really is a beautifully clean and clear wine.  Maybe it’s because Gen 5 is a certified Sustainable winery?  Perhaps.  I would love this wine even if I didn’t know that about it, but it’s always awesome to hear that a winery is committed to planet Earth-friendly farming and policies.  Lodi actually has it’s own set of “Rules” and standards for Sustainability.  Yet another reason I need to visit that part of California- the Lodi area seems like a community with a sense of togetherness.  Pretty cool.

So what’s the best part of this wine?  Well, it only costs $13!  How’s about that.  This speaks volumes about this wines awesomeness, because I find that wines labelled as Sustainable are often over-priced.  They could probably sell it for $15 and no one would question it.  Sustainable?  Sure, I’ll pay $15!  Actaully, it’s definitely worth $15.  But how nice that it’s $13!  You can try it at the Wine Sale, TOMORROW!  Saturday, August 27th from 12-2 at Cellar on Greene.



Some white wines for Royal Wedding day!

So, I’ve been up since 4 relishing every detail of the Royal Wedding…

aaaahahahaha!  No I haven’t.  Not at all.  I get the fascination and I’m not a hater, but it’s not my thing.  Although I will admit to browsing Tom & Lorenzo for a few pictures of the dress.  Interestingly, I was enamored of the Maid of Honor’s dress rather than the sea of lace and fabric worn by the bride.  But good choice with McQueen, and it was a pretty amazing piece of craftsmanship.  That’s enough of that!  Let’s move on to things I REALLY like…

WHITE. WINE.  I can’t get enough white wine.  I’ve been trying to write this post for about two weeks.  I started with just picking the Chono Sauvignon Blanc.  Then we got the Anne Amie Muller-Thurgau in and I fell madly in love, so I was going to have it be a dual post.  Then the 2010 Kung Fu Girl came in.  Then just this week, two more favorites arrived.  So, this is a big fat post dedicated to perrenial favorites and new obsessions.

First is my original blog pick, the Chono Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Chile.  Those of you who read me often know I’ve been in a Chile phase for months now, and I think THIS wine might be the root cause of it all.  So deep is my love of this wine.  I love this wine and I love its price ($11).  This is definitely one of those wines that reminds you that is IS possible to drink delicious wine and not pay a lot for it.  It is effortless in its tangy, thirst-quenching, fruity-with-a-hint-of-herbs palate.  Perfect acidity on the finish really make this one refreshing.  There is just enough grapefruit present to make it enjoyable, yet not have the ONLY thing you can think about be the taste of grapefruit, as is the occasional case with New Zealand Sauv Blancs.  Love it.

Next in the procession comes the Anne Amie Muller-Thurgau, 2010 Oregon.  ($16).  I just call it MULL-er for short.  This is one of my favorite weird grapes.  I thought it might have been a fluke when I fell hard for the Colterenzio Muller-Thurgau last year.  But no.  The Anne Amie is representin’ and I’m into it.  There’s lots more wine-nerdy info on Muller in the Colterezio post, so for today we’ll keep it simple and say that Muller is sort of like a cross between an off-dry Riesling and an old world Gewurztraminer.  Aromas of fresh white flowers, melon, yellow apples and light citrus permeate- and then the finish offers a little zing! of spice and minerality.    Yum.  ‘Nuff said.

So to wrap things up for today, here’s a few things that just came in.  The 2010 vintage of the Kung Fu Girl Riesling is here!  and it’s awesome.  The ’10 is probably better than the ’09 by just a hair- read this post of the ’09 and than just take it up a notch on the wow scale.  And it still maintains its nice price of $14.  Lioco Chardonnay, 2009 Sonoma is here, too!  This is a gorgeous Cali Chard that will leave you speechless.  If you’ve EVER uttered the words “I don’t like Chardonnay,” the Lioco will laugh in your face.  And then change your mind.  It’s one of the cool kids.  Lush and fruit-forward with aromas of lemon curd and pears, followed by a really gorgeous, silky mouthfeel.  None of that over-oaked over-buttered Cali Chard business.  Which has its place, but not here.  $19 gets you this bottle.  Last is a literal party-in-a-bottle, the Xarmant Txakolina, 2009 Spain for $15.50.  Never had Chak-oh-lee-na?  It’s awesome.  It’s sort of like Vinho Verde’s step-sibling, as it has a teeny fizz when you open it and it’s lean, tart and focused.  Tons of green apple and notes of lemon thyme and other herbs.  Yet another awesome pool or porch sipping wine.

Hopefully one of these spoke to you!  Actually, ALL of these wines are by the glass at Cellar right now, so you’re welcome to try a taste the next time you’re around to see what you think!  Ciao for today!

Estampa Viognier-Chardonnay, 2009 Chile

Yes, I know.  I just wrote about a Chilean wine.  But I warned you that I’m in a Chile phase, so I’m back at it this week!  And this one is WORLDS different than the last Chilean wine I wrote about.  Most notably that it is white, and the last one was red.  However, it is equally delicious and I am equally obsessed with it!  It’s especially fun to say- es-STAM-pa!  You will start to feel South American just by saying it. 

As you can see, I dipped into this bottle just a wee bit last night- just last night.  Not right now.  Definitely not right now, it’s only 2:30!   I would never do that.  Sure, there’s a glass of it sitting next to me here at the desk, but I’m just using it to remind myself of how it smells.  So let’s get to that, shall we?  Pretty notes of jasmine, fresh flowers and perfume are predominant, as this wine is mostly Viognier (85%).  The Viognier shows off nice hints of apricots and peaches as well- then the Chard kicks in a perfect punch of citrus to give it that pnice acidic quench.   Which is what I always search for in a summer white- you want your thirst to be quenched and to feel refreshed.  While at the same time achieving your optimal level of pleasant afternoon-in-the-sunshine buzz.  When this wine is very cold (which is how you will probably want it once July rolls around) it’s more of a lean-mean-heat-kickin’-machine, but if you let it come to just under room temperature (which is how a lot of hardcore white wine fans like thier wine) it shows off more of it’s round viscosity and hints of nice residual sugar.  It’s a true double personality- but that’s just what makes it more versatile! 

Check out Estampa’s website  for further evidence of why I MUST.GO.TO.CHILE. 


Oh, I almost forgot!  You’re going to love me for this one- this wine’s ONLY $11!  No way?  WAY!  If you don’t believe me, stop in to Cellar this Saturday, March 26th from 12-2 for our next Giant Wine Sale & Tasting and give it a try! 

Well that’s all the wine-nerding I have time for this afternoon, but here’s another little fun nugget for you:  my fellow ginger and Columbia wine nerd, James Alford, has just started a wine blog of his own!  He’s got a shite-ton of information crammed in that little brain of his, so be sure to check it out!   Fun reading.  If you don’t understand all the words he uses, you’re not alone.  That’s why Google was invented.  Just don’t dare play him in Words with Friends, or you might not like him anymore.  Just kidding, J.  Good luck in the blogosphere!

Spring Fevah! the only cure is… white wine.

I’m pretty sure I’ve used that tag line before… but don’t hate.  Will Ferrell in a belly shirt hitting a cow bell never goes out of style.  But as for today- we’re having a small and miraculous dose of SPRING in February!  Isn’t it fantastic!  I love how we, in South Carolina, act like it’s been suuuuch a long winter and we’re SO ready for Spring- when the poor souls in New England (and lots of other places, too) suffer a much longer and more brutal winter than we’ve ever even imagined.  But be that as it may, we still get to throw open our windows for a few hours, air out the house, put a spring in our step and rejoice that we live in a Southern climate. 

Which is why I have had a serious taste for white wine the last few days!  And even though those who know me know that Chardonnay is not exactly my favorite grape- I’ve found two that really put me in my place with their deliciousness!   

First is the Novellum Chardonnay, 2009 Vin de’Pays.  I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a Chardonnay since the Chamisal Stainless I reviewed last year!   First because it tastes good.  But keep reading to find out the most awesome reason.  Robert Parker said this about the 2008 vintage of this wine, which I’ll quote since I can’t really put it better:  “The only reason not to enjoy this often over the coming year is if you insist on making an anti-Chardonnay or big-spending statement.”  So, ARE you one of those people who will insist on making an anti-Chardonnay statement??  That is so uncool.  Even worse are people who insist on making big-spending statements.  Just don’t do it.   Who are you really making the statement TO anyway?

Anyway- lovely, lovely, and more lovely is this wine.  Fresh, lively, gorgeous acidic and mineral content, and knock-out fruit- white peach, granny smith apple, tangerine, and a very pleasant hint of hazelnuts and light caramel.  It’s 30% barrel fermented, which translates to a beautiful silky mouthfeel and viscosity.  I really can’t say enough about this wine.  Oh wait- yes I can!  the best part… IT’S $11!  Oh.Em.Gee.  It’s really pretty stunning that this wine can be so good and so inexpensive.  How do they do it?? 

Next is another perennial favorite in the unoaked California Chardonnay category- Four Vines Naked Chardonnay, 2009 Santa Barbara– worth mentioning because it’s also pretty darn good.  And it’s $12!  That’s nothing to sneeze at.  Wine Spectator gave the 2009 vintage a nice little 88-point rating.  My taste generally points me more towards French Chardonnay, but the Naked is a pretty fun wine- more tropical than the Novellum, with lots of citrus, a nice quenching palate almost similar to a Sauvignon Blanc, and notes of pineapple, melon, and pears.  A ripe, flirty little Chardonnay.  This is the Chard that will leave you wondering why so many people hate on Chard.  So lets hear it- why do you think people hate on Chardonnay?  because Grandma drank it?  because they tasted a really cheap disgusting one (or two or three) at some sort of function and decided it sucked?    I’m curious.  

Before I sign off for today, a few items for consideration: the Novellum is available as part of our $90 Mystery Case this week (a new group of wines will be sent out today or tomorrow, but for last weeks- click here).   Huh?  you don’t get our wine club emails?  Tsk tsk.  $90 plus tax for a case of wine can’t really be beat, trust me.  Email us if you want to sign up!  Also it will be at the Wine Sale this Saturday the 19th (it’s supposed to be 75 degrees out!  holla!) from 12-2. 

AND- check Cellar on Greene out in the Free Times this week!  Bite of the Week- Duck Quesadilla.

Whites You Need for the 4th!

A quick post before our annual summer vacation from July 3rd-7th!  This Thursday night, the 1st, we’re doing a special night of Whites You be Needin’ for the 4th of July.  All of the wines I’m about to blather on about may be consumed for $4 a glass on Thursday night, and then ones you like best may be whisked away with you that very night (after you purchase them, of course)!  Yes, you know you need to stock up that cooler before you high-tail it out of Columbia.  Why do I know you will be doing that?  because that’s what you all did last year!  The night before 4th of July weekend, we had a total of 6 customers at Cellar on Greene.  Columbia was like a ghost town.  Which is fine- have fun, be safe, but STOCK UP!  Especially on some killer summer whites!  What else could you want for the beach?!  Beer, I suppose.  Beer tastes good at the beach.  But so does Opala!  And the rest of the wines I’m about to tell you about….

Opala Vinho Verde (Portugal) really needs no intruduction- it still remains the most visited post out of all the wine rants I’ve created over the last year and a half.  It’s our best seller at Cellar (get it?  seller?  cellar?).  It’s $10 a bottle.  I seriously doubt there’s anyone who hasn’t tasted this wine and not loved it.  It’s light, it’s crisp, it’s a little fizzy, and it’s low in alcohol, so you can practically sip it through a straw while you roast in the sun and never get more than a pleasant buzz.  We have PLENTY in stock, so stop in and grab as much as you need!

Norton Torrontes (Argentina)– this is a new one to me, but I *heart* torrontes, and so do a lot of our regulars.  Stylistically this one’s a bit on the drier side, which is nice for a summer wine.  Torrontes tend to have very flamboyant noses, with lots of bright fruit going on- sometimes hints of candy like jolly ranchers and gummy bears- but then they surprise you when you with their crispness when you get to the palate.  This one has leafy notes, with granny smith apple and tangy lemon flavors.  Delish!  $10 a bottle!


Markham Sauvignon Blanc (California) is definitely an above average Cali Sauv Blanc for this price range ($13 a bottle).  California Sauv Blancs are some of my favorites where Sauv Blanc is concerned- I love New Zealands as well, but occasionally I feel as though I’m chewing either a.) a grapefruit rind, or b.) a mouthful of grass.  The Markham offers delightful tropical hints- passionfruit, guava, gooseberry- finished off with nice lemony and white peach notes.   Fantastic alone or delicious with a fresh green salad and a citrusy viniagrette of sorts.  Fish, chicken, even a lightly prepared pork- perfect!  Very versatile wine.


Pighin Pinot Grigio (Italy).  Okay, I said it- Pinot Grigio is probably my least favorite white wine.  BUT!  When it’s good, I love it!  And it still has a stronghold over people, because it sells like hotcakes in the hot weather.  The Pighin is from Friuli, which gives it a leg up over other Pinot Grigio’s- the grape manages to maintain it’s intensity.  Peachy stone fruits, a silky texture, a h int of hazelnut, and a touch of melon lead into a classic, clean finish.  Yum!  $10 a bottle!


Last but not least, Lonen Charonnay (California).    A lush, rich little Cali Chard, which despite the the amount of “anything but Chardonnay” press there is out there these days in wine-snob land- still maintains strong selling presence… pretty much everywhere.  The Lonen is like a big, ripe basket of exotic fruits- pineapple, mango, light touches of orange blossom and a luxurious, butterscotchy-oaky-toasty finish.  Delicious and a fantastic value for $13 a bottle. 

That’s all I have time for today!  Likewise, if you need some REDS for the 4th, too- just let me know and I will hook it up in a jiffy while you’re sipping away on your $4 glass of white.  And maybe some tuna nachos, too?  That’s what I just had for lunch.  Ah, the benefits of working at Cellar on Greene.  Tuna Nachos whenever I want!

Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay, 2008

So, here I am in the office.  It’s barely noon as I write this, and yet I am dipping into a magnificent glass of wine.  I know, I know… I am at work, and it’s early.  But tonight is my night off!  and this wine is just too good.  I couldn’t possibly write about it thoughtfully without drinking some.  Surely impossible, and inauthentic.  So I consider it an occupational hazard that I must endure for the time being.  Poor me. 

It occurred to me this morning that I have not blogged about a Chardonnay yet.  This is literally a perfect choice to break that spell.  I will also let it be known that I LOVE a good Chardonnay.  Emphasis on the good.  Likewise, I also loathe (in my opinion) a nasty Chardonnay.  In all of 2009, I can’t really say I found a California Chard in this price range that I loved- the last one I recall loving for $14 was  a French Chard called Les Morizottes that we poured by the glass at Cellar and Solstice for quite a while. 

**pause to pour a bit more wine in the glass**

The reason Chardonnay is such a cool grape is that it can take on so many different characteristics.  I read somewhere that it has been called the “chameleon” of grapes because of this.  I find that for my taste, a nice light unoaked chardonnay is where it’s at.  Chardonnay has a natural mineral content that is really beautiful when it is expressed well.  Most people don’t associate this with Chardonnay, as California has made a habit of producing very rich, buttery, oaked Chardonnay.  As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”  I like a rich, elegant Chard too- but from my experience it is harder to find one that is “good” by my standards in the $15 or so price range. 

See?  here it is, in the office with my paperwork…

Which was a loooong winded way of saying (sorry, I get wordy when I drink wine at noon) that this Stainless Chard from Chamisal is DELICIOUS!!!  Fresh, lively, clean and vibrant.  Notes of pineapple, honeydew melon, green apples, citrus, and a nice light spice on the finish.  This is a cheerful, sunny, pretty wine.  Also, on the plus side, it is one of those wines that looks a lot more expensive than it is.  The packaging is simple and tasteful and they call it “stainless” rather than unoaked, which for some reason makes it seem more high-tier.  Sounds like a genius marketing team was at work here, which truthfully, is okay with me.  I love to think about the reasons people buy things, and something as simple as a different wording is enough, psychologically speaking, to boost sales.  Fascinating. 

We will have this at the wine sale tomorrow, Saturday, January 16th from 12-2 at Cellar on Greene in Five Points for $13!!  And I’d venture a guess that we will put it on by the glass starting next week.  If you stop in, ask me for a taste and be prepared to have your ear talked off (in a good way).  Thanks for reading and Cheers to Friday!  Hope you all started off your weekend at noon like I did…