About UsWine ReviewsArchivesAdvertiseContact Us

WRO WINE BLOG

Posted by Robert Whitley on June 5, 2017 at 5:32 PM

Coppola Wines Dazzle Critics

Creators Syndicate

Noted film director Francis Ford Coppola has been a celebrity presence in the California wine industry going on four decades. Despite the celebrity, there was never any question about Coppola’s passion for wine or his savvy about the business.

After he purchased the Napa Valley’s historic Inglenook estate, Coppola promptly made his mark with the now iconic ‘Rubicon’ red blend. In the 40 years since, he’s expanded the Coppola wine empire, first acquiring the chateau and winemaking facility from Chateau Souverain in Geyserville (where most of the Coppola wines are now made) and later the winemaking facility at nearby Geyser Peak (where his Virginia Dare wines are made).

While ramped-up production often precipitates a decline in quality, it has had the opposite effect on the Coppola wines. They’ve never been better.

The two highest scoring wines at the 14th annual Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition over Memorial weekend in San Diego – Archimedes 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley ($90) and 2013 Eleanor Red Wine, Napa/Sonoma Counties ($65) – were both Coppola wines. In addition, 14 other Coppola wines were awarded gold or better in the blind tasting of more than 1200 wines.

The Archimedes, with the top score of 98 points, was given the Directors Award for Wine of the Year and the Francis Ford Coppola Winery was named Winery of the Year for its superb performance across the board.

The Critics Challenge is judged by highly regarded wine journalists such as Ed McCarthy and Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan, authors of Wine for Dummies, former San Francisco Chronicle Wine Editor Linda Murphy, international wine journalist Panos Kakaviatos from Strasbourg, France, and acclaimed wine blogger Joe Roberts. The complete list of winners and judges can be found at CriticsChallenge.com.

Two other California wineries were nearly as impressive. The Napa Valley’s V. Sattui winery captured 19 medals overall, with four platinum awards and five golds. Navarro Vineyards, a small family run winery from Mendocino County’s remote Anderson Valley, took 11 medals, including three platinum and four gold.

V. Sattui also racked up Best Dessert wine, Best Pinot Noir and Best Zinfandel from the directors, while Navarro also took top honors for best Rose Wine and best Pinot Grigio. Moet & Chandon’s 2008 Grand Vintage Brut ($65) was chosen best sparkling wine and Santa Barbara Winery’s 2014 Chardonnay Reserve ($25) was named best white wine. Of course, Archimedes, as Wine of the Year, was also best red wine.

In other notable performances:

Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery from Michigan entered four wines and was four for four, with three golds and a platinum for its 2016 Dry Riesling, Estate, Old Mission Peninsula ($22).

Virginia’s Barboursville Vineyards took gold for its 2014 Nebbiolo Reserve ($35), 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve ($20) and 2014 ‘Octagon’ ($50).

Jean-Charles Boisset entered four wines from his Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma and four wines from DeLoach Vineyards in the Russian River Valley and all eight wines received gold medals. Boisset also took gold for his non-vintage Cremant de Bourgogne, France at $25 and his 2016 No. 5 Rose, Cotes de Provence AOC, France, at $25.

J Lohr Vineyards of Paso Robles had seven wines with gold or better, including a platinum award for a positively brilliant 2015 Mourvedre ($30) under its ‘Gesture’ label.

Lafond Winery of Santa Barbara entered four wines and won four golds, including a knockout 2014 Pinot Noir SRH at the beautiful (for Sta. Rita Hills) price of $27.

Italy’s Tuscan powerhouse, Banfi, racked up four golds plus a platinum (and 95 points) for its value “super Tuscan” Centine Rosso ($12).

Australia’s Jacob’s Creek checked in with three golds plus a platinum (and 95 points) for its 2016 Classic Merlot at the amazing price of $8. Another Aussie producer, Wakefield, took six medals at gold or better, including a platinum (95 points) for its 2015 Shiraz, Reserve Parcel, Clare Valley ($25).

Sodaro Estate Winery, a relatively new player on the wine competition circuit, shared the honor (with Coppola’s Eleanor) for second-highest scoring wine of the Critics Challenge. Sodaro’s 2010 Estate Blend ($100) for its vineyard in the Coombsville sub-appellation of the Napa Valley rang up a score of 97 points. Sodaro also had gold medals for two different Cabernet Sauvignons.

And finally, another relatively new player on the wine competition circuit, Sonoma County’s Westwood Estate, took seven medals of gold or better, with a platinum for its 2016 Roussanne-Viognier-Chardonnay blend at $36.

Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru

Barr Estate, Paso Robles (California) “Dane Head” 2013 ($24)
A neck up silhouette of a Great Dane adorns the front label of this wine -- hence the name -- and the wine is as big as its namesake, carrying black fruit, black pepper, baker's chocolate on a viscous texture through a long fully integrated finish.  A fine foil for grilled beef in just about any expression.  A blend of Malbec, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. 90 Rich Cook

OUR COLUMNISTS
 
Dr. Michael
Apstein
Michael
Franz
Paul
Lukacs
Ed
McCarthy
Linda
Murphy
 
Rebecca
Murphy
Marguerite
Thomas
Robert
Whitley
   
 
 
This Issue's Reviews
 
Grenache: Varied and Vulnerable, but Versatile and Vivacious
Rebecca Murphy

As I enjoy the abundance of Grenache rosés this spring, I am again reminded about what great and distinct wines are made from this grape. Because it is often a blending grape rather than a mono-varietal star, Grenache may be the best grape variety you don't know. Maybe I should say 'Garnacha' since it is considered to be native to Spain, and it is called 'Cannonau in Sardinia,' so one reason it may hold the fame it deserves is that it travels under different names. It is extremely versatile as a cultivar, both in its red and white strains (Grenache Blanc or Garnacha Blanca), that can produce many different wines: Dry red, dry white, dry and sweet rose, as well as fortified red and white. Moreover, Grenache is similar to Pinot Noir in its very broad compatibility with food. At the table, different renditions can range from muscular reds that can stare down a steak to fresh whites that will flirt with an oyster.
The New Beaujolais, but Definitely Not Beaujolais Nouveau
Michael Apstein

A recent tasting of Beaujolais reminded me of tasting wines from the Côte d'Or. Yes, you read that correctly--I am comparing Beaujolais and the Côte d'Or. To be sure, I'm not speaking about just anywhere in Beaujolais, only the crus, the 10 villages in the northern part of the region whose bedrock is either pink granite or a blue-black volcanic stone and whose wines are so distinctive that only the name of the village, without a mention of Beaujolais, appears on the label. Despite different grapes (Gamay versus Pinot Noir), different soil (granite versus limestone) and different exposure (undulating hills versus a constant southeast facing slope), both the northern part of Beaujolais and the Côte d'Or are magical winemaking areas where the particular site is paramount in determining the character of the wine.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Grilled Lamb Chops with Anchovy-Caper Sauce


We love lamb chops with all kinds of different sauces. Anything with mint in it, for example; a cherry Port sauce; a balsamic or buttery red wine reduction--all of these can be delicious. Occasionally, however, we turn to the other side of the flavor spectrum. Instead of a rich and fruity sauce, we drizzle an infusion of citric, briny/salty flavors over a beautifully grilled lamb chop. These Mediterranean-inspired lamb chops seem just perfect, especially for warm-weather dining, and they have the added advantage of being delicious with a wide range of red wines.
On My Table
An Aristocrat of Napa Valley Cabernet
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Napa Valley's history of grape-growing dates to 1839, and its first commercial winemaking dates to 1861. The number of wineries grew to 140 by 1889, but the combined setbacks of the first phylloxera scourge and Prohibition brought Napa Valley's burgeoning wine production to its knees in the early twentieth century. In 1966, Robert Mondavi Winery became the first new winery in Napa Valley since Prohibition. One year later, Chappellet Vineyard became the second. The pinnacle of Chappellet's product line is the limited-production Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, currently available in the 2013 vintage. This is a glorious wine, among the finest Napa Valley Cabs I have tasted. It is rich in aroma and flavor and rich in body, but it is also surprisingly nuanced. It is a wine that speaks of its grapes and its vineyard far more than its winemaking, which is a high compliment to longtime Chappellet winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus.