Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09: 3 and 2.5 Cork Wines

In Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09 post, I described how wine bloggers at this year’s North American conference had a chance to do a speed tasting of 11 different wines, each within a 5 minute timeframe. I’ve already made two posts outline my tasting notes—one of the 5 and 4.5 Cork wines and another for the 4 and 3.5 Cork wines. This is the last of my notes from the event.

Thanks again to all the wineries who made the event fun and successful!

3 Corks

2007 Lion’s Pride Pinot Noir (website)
The exciting background on this wine is that the Russian River Valley Winegrowers (RRVW) work with students at El Molino High School to cultivate the vineyard where grapes for this wine are grown.

According to the wine rep, El Molino is the only school in the country that has a vineyard and provides hands-on viticulture instruction. Once the grapes are ripe, the RRVWs make the grapes into a good wine.

The wine itself was a light ruby with very berry flavors—strawberry and cherry—and a bit of residual sugar. It admittedly isn’t a great wine, but it’s solidly a good one and certainly helps a good cause, as all of the proceeds from the wine sales go back into El Molino High School’s viticulture program.

2007 Tandem Chardonnay (vineyard)
According to the wine rep, the grapes for this wine were grown in Mendocino County, and the wine was aged in French oak. The wine had nice floral, lemon, and grapefruit characteristics. Overall, I would like to spend a little more time getting to know this one, although, I admit that my first impression left me feeling that while it was a good wine, the price point was a little high.

2.5 Corks

Pinot Evil Pinot Noir NV (website)
This is actually a French wine that is imported by a CA company, Underdog Wine Merchants. Pinot Evil is a box wine that the representative said leaves 55% less of a carbon footprint than the average wine. The box holds 24 glasses or about 4 bottles, which would work out to be about $5 per bottle.

Outside of the clever packaging, this Pinot Noir left something to be desired. There were some red fruits—raspberry and cherries—both on the nose and in the mouth, but there was something funky that I couldn’t quite identify (maybe ferns or something foresty?) It was light in tannins, acid, and body. For the price, the wine might be worth it, but it won’t offer anything special.

2007 Line 39 Petite Sirah (website)
This wine was very purple, with big, dark legs. It smelled almost creamy, and there were definite dark fruit aromas on the nose. In the mouth, there were buttery black cherries and vanilla, although there was a slightly funny aftertaste. Overall, I thought the wine was ok.

Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09: 4 and 3.5 Cork Wines

As I mentioned in Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09, the Wine Bloggers’ Conference attendees had a chance to taste 11 different wines, each within a 5 minute timeframe—a speeding date with wine, if you will. Thank you to all of the wineries that participated. We may not have had a chance to spend a lot of time with your wine, but we all certainly enjoyed the time we had.

Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of every bottle; however, these wines are ones that I would definitely like to spend more time getting to know.

4 Corks

For some reason, I felt particularly rushed when tasting both of these wines. I wish I had a few more minutes to really play with them, but my first impressions left me wanting more.

2006 Clif Bar Gary’s Improv Syrah (winery)
It had nice, strong black fruit flavors, good spiciness, and strong tannins.

2007 Cline Ancient Vines Mourvèdre (winery)
This wine was dominated by spice flavors, mostly cloves, that mixed with black cherries and plums. There were good tannins, and the wine had a nice finish.

3.5 Corks

2005 Rodney Strong Vineyards’ Rockaway Pinot Noir (vineyard)
The 2005 is the first vintage of this wine, and although it wasn’t quite there for me at this stage, it has potential. There were nice raspberry and cherry flavors, but the wine was a little too “hot” and a little too young to be worth $75. If you see it at a lower price point, though, don’t hesitate to grab it.

2005 Snows Lake Two (vineyard)
The Snows Lake Two is 72% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and 28% Cabernet Franc grapes. The wine was a deep purple, with big legs, and it tasted of dark berries and cedar, with a touch of plums. The tannins were soft and balanced well with the acidity and the body. Honestly, it felt more Cab Franc dominated than it actually was. Overall, this wine would be a good choice, particularly paired with food.

2007 Cupcake Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (vineyard)
The wine rep explained that this Cab was trying to be approachable but complex, and I definitely thought it put forward a good effort. The wine was very purple with a nice, creamy berry flavor and a touch of smoke. The body was surprisingly light, and at $13, it seemed like a good wine for a glass after work.

2007 Foggy Bridge Chardonnay (winery)
$18 suggested retail
According to the wine rep, this Chardonnay tries to bridge the gap between oaked and unoaked Chards. 50% of the grapes are barrel fermented, while the rest are put in stainless steel. Additionally, while they don’t have the certification yet, the vineyard hopes to be organically certified by next year. The wine itself had butter, grapefruit, lime, and mineral notes. The woman sitting next to me also mentioned the taste of toasted marshmallow, which I noticed once she pointed it out. Overall, I expected the wine to have stronger flavor characteristics because it underwent malolactic fermentation, but it actually was surprisingly light and crisp. At $18, this is an enjoyable wine that is definitely worth a glass (or two).

Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09: 4.5 and 5 Cork Wines

As I mentioned post about Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09, conference attendees had a chance to taste 11 different wines, each within a 5 minute timeframe. These wines really stood of for me.

5 Corks

2005 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (winery)
I admit it; this was a winery I was hoping to taste during WBC09. I’ve read numerous reviews of their wines, but admittedly have had a little difficulty finding any. When it turned out to be our last speed tasting wine, I was very excited.

The wine is still on the young side, with a deep purple color that is starting to trend towards ruby.
There were good berry flavors that were matched in intensity with fresh cloves and vanilla. Those flavors were followed with a hint of leather. The wine had good, strong tannins. I think the wine has several years worth of aging potential, and if you’re going to drink it now, I recommend decanting the wine, as the wine opened up as I swirl and sipped.

4.5 Corks

Benovia Winery 2007 Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir (vineyard)
Benovia winery focuses on growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel grapes. The Savoy’s Pinot Noir had nice red berry—raspberry and cranberry—flavors that were followed by some vegetal notes. The wine had good acid, low tannins, and a medium body, which all played well together, although there was something different about it. Overall, it provided a nice, smooth, enjoyable experience.

Speedy Wine Tasting at the WBC09

Someone at WBC09 described the Live Blogging Wine Tasting event as “speed dating” with wine. For each wine, we had 5 minutes to talk with the representative (usually the winemaker), ask questions, taste the wine, and take notes before the next representative was at our table to start the process all over again. I tasted 11 wines total during the speed tasting. The comparison to speed dating was perfect because 5 minutes was enough time for a quick introduction, a little flirting, and a decision as to whether or not there was enough interest for a follow-up, but definitely not enough time to learn everything there was to offer or to really get a detailed impression. For me, though, there were a couple of differences, mainly that I tried to take pictures and to tweet during the event. I would never do (or at least openly do) either of those things during speed dating. That said, although I took a number of pictures, most of them didn’t turn out, and anyone who follows me on Twitter (@Alleigh) knows that I quickly abandoned my attempt to Tweet in order to spend a little more quality time with the wine.

With that in mind, here is a quick overview of how I rated each wine in this post. In an effort to keep this organized and make my notes more searchable in the future, I’m going to put my tasting notes in separate posts that are organized by rating level.

5 Corks
2005 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (

4.5 Corks
2007 Benovia Winery Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir (vineyard)—$55

4 Corks
2006 Clif Bar Gary’s Improv Syrah (winery)—$35
2007 Cline Ancient Vines Mouvedre (

3.5 Corks
2005 Rodney Strong Vineyards’ Rockaway Pinot Noir (vineyard)—$75
2005 Snows Lake Two (
2007 Cupcake Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (
2007 Foggy Bridge Chardonnay (

3 Corks
2007 Lion’s Pride Pinot Noir (website)—$35
2007 Tandem Chardonnay (

2.5 Corks
2007 Line 39 Petite Sirah (website)—$10
NV Pinot Evil Pinot Noir (

Reds, Whites, and Bios! Oh, My!

As if working full time in a 50-60 hour a week job and taking wine classes isn’t enough to keep me busy, I’m also on the Board of Directors for my condo association. One of my BOD responsibilities is chairing the social committee, which clearly meant organizing a wine tasting! After contacting almost all of the wine stores in Arlington about holding the event, I only received responses from two—Grand Cru Wine Bar & Euro Café was by far the easier store to work with. I outlined the association’s budget, and they worked with Republic National Distributing Company wine specialist Andy Hoyle to pick out wine options for our tasting. The BOD decided on 4 wines, although Andy surprised us with several extras, including the Signaterra wines by Benziger.

While I’ll share short overviews of all the wines we tasted, I can’t help but focus on the Signaterra wines. According to Andy, Benziger has been selling limited quantities of these wines onsite, but it’s only recently that they’re appearing in restaurants and wine stores. Therefore, while the wines may not be available at your wine store yet, start asking for them. Besides being unique and tasty, Andy explained that attendees at last night’s wine tasting were among the first in Virginia to try these wines. That was a double bonus for us!

Signaterra uses organic and biodynamic viticulture methods. Biodynamic viticulture is based on the ideas of Austrian philosopher/scientist Rudolf Steiner, and The Wine Anorak has an interesting and thorough explanation of the process, if you’re looking for more information. The Signaterra website describes the philosophy well, though, as they say the wines are about “integrating the right resources of the Earth, the inescapable forces of Nature, and the attentiveness of Man into a distinctive wine. Admittedly, I’m skeptical about the idea that biodynamic methods produce better quality wine, but regardless, all three of these are delicious. I actually ended up buying a bottle of each at the event.

With that introduction…let’s talk about the Signaterra wines—the 2007 Shone Farm Sauvignon Blanc, the 2007 Bella Luna Pinot Noir, and the 2006 Three Blocks.

2007 Benziger Signaterra Shone Farm Sauvignon Blanc
This Sauvignon Blanc had a clean, medium lemon color. On the nose, there were strong fruit aromas—particularly grapefruit, although there was also some lime, peach, and apricot. I found the same fruits when tasting the wine, and they were joined with a hint of wet stone mineraliness that kept the wine from being dominated by fruit. The wine also had a bright, pleasing acidity.

Is this worth a glass after work? Definitely! If you see this wine in the store, grab it; you won’t be disappointed. At $35 a bottle, this wine is not only environmentally friendly, but also palate and food friendly.

Overall: 4 corks

2007 Benziger Signaterra Bella Luna Pinot Noir
The Pinot Noir was hands-down the favorite wine of the night.
Several people came up to me to say that they normally don’t drink Pinots, but that this one was very flavorful and enjoyable. At the same time, I also had a couple of people tell me that they were big Pinot fans and that this was among the best they’d tasted. I thought it was interesting that the Bella Luna was able to straddle the Pinot/Non-Pinot lover line.

The color of the wine was a nice intensity that matched the robust strawberry and red cherry aromas. The red fruit was followed by a hint of white pepper and an earthy depth that gave the wine character overpowering the other aromas. In the mouth, the flavors matched what I found on the nose. The medium tannins and low acidity resembled what you would expect from a Pinot, although the wine had a slightly more substantial body and finish than I anticipated.

Is this worth a glass after work? It’s worth more than one! What are you waiting for? At $55, this wine is a little more expensive than many of the “every day” wines that I review, however, it’s worth every penny. This wine is so smooth and inviting that it’s great for drinking on its own, but also would pair nicely with seasoned meat like a pork tenderloin or with a grilled salmon.

Overall: 5 corks

2006 Benziger Signaterra Three Blocks Bordeaux blend
The Three Blocks Bordeaux blend was my least favorite of the Signaterra wines, although I wonder if I needed more time to really sit and think about the wine, as there was a lot happening with it. The Three Blocks is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon and 36% Merlot, with a deep purplish-ruby color. The wine had strong dark fruit aromas—mostly plums—followed by the smell of powdered cocoa. In the mouth, I found similar plumy flavors, although the cocoa turned into more of a sweet spice taste. The wine had strong tannins, although it was well-balanced. There were some tartrates in my glass, which had some attendees concerned, but, as I mentioned in this week’s TT&T post, tartrates are nothing to worry about.

Overall: 3.5 Corks

The other wines we tasted:

2006 Paso Creek Zinfandel, which I reviewed in March.

2006 Valley of the Moon Barbera (vineyard; snooth), which I will review in a separate post, as I was able to take a leftover bottle home with me.

2006 Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon (vineyard; snooth)
This wine had aromas of burnt tar and blackberry. In the mouth, there were strong tannins that pulled on your gums, but helped contribute to the balance between the bitterness of the tar flavors and the sweetness of the blackberries. This was a big, juicy Cab and would be great with a steak and potato dinner.

Planeta La Segreta Rosso (vineyard; snooth)
This wine had an interesting mix of flavors and aromas, as there was a mix of red and black fruits. The wine is a blend of 50% Nero d’Avola, 25% Merlot, 20% Syrah,5% Cabernet Franc, and had medium tannins and a nice body. Overall, it was good. Not the best wine of the night, but something that is definitely drinkable.

Erath Pinot Gris (vineyard; snooth)
This Pinot Gris smelled and tasted of ripe melons and grapefruit. In the mouth, there was also a hint of mineral. Overall, it wasn’t terribly complex, but it was enjoyable.

2007 Vaca Chardonnay
The Vaca Chardonnay had a strong buttery, tropical fruit smell and tasted like buttered, ripe banana and vanilla. There was a hint of green apple in the finish, but it was very faint. Oaky chardonnay is NMS, so I wasn’t a huge fan. However, the wine was a good quality and had a nice balance, so if it’s a style you like, this is a wine you should check out.