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Alan Kerr’s June 11th Vintages Release Notes

California Zinfandel has been an addiction of mine for many years; thus I was excited to see Zinfandel being the focus of this coming release at Vintages, due to hit the shelves this coming Saturday June 11th. Sadly there are no new Zins being showcased here and other than the Lytton Springs from Ridge and the Sonoma Zin from Seghesio, there is little to warrant setting an early alarm to be the first in line to shop.

Zinfandel is produced across California in a variety of styles. Some emphasize a softer more elegant character while others can have alcohol levels that can spiral out of control. Balance is the key here and when in tune, a powerhouse Zinfandel can be out of this world. Please read on to get my take on a few of them.

396168 CA’ MOMI ZINFANDEL 2014 Napa Valley $22.95: Sweet and overpowering at first, but tree blossoms, tar, dried berry and lavender start to show. A pleasing mix of tart cranberry and sweet cherry hit the palate followed by a touch of chocolate and dusty tannin. Find this wine

942151 SEGHESIO ZINFANDEL 2014 Sonoma County $29.95: Full of fleshy ripe blackberry and dark cherry fruit enhanced by notes of mint, cake spice, black pepper, coal dust and Xmas pudding. Super concentration on the palate, it is chewy, the fruit is lively, there are teasing’s of sweet black licorice and dusty cocoa. Tannins are discernible, but early decanting will help to soften. My pick of the release. Find this wine

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Two Tablas Creek Rosés and More

Continuing with our survey of warm weather wines of the pink persuasion, I’m pleased to report that the two current selections from Tablas Creek Vineyard are quite delicious, and deliver the goods on every level. We’re unabashed fans of this fine producer, and while we also will offer impressions of the latest versions of a dandy TC white and three of their fine reds, we’re in full-blown rosé mode here at Gang Central, so let’s start with those. (I also want to mention that the Tablas Creek Vineyard Blog, authored by Jason Haas, Partner and General Manager at Tablas Creek Vineyard, is a finalist in the 2016 Wine Blog Awards in the Best Winery/Industry Wine Blog category. Jason pens an excellent blog and deserves your vote!  But hurry, polls close on June 13th.)

2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard Patelin de Tablas Rosé Paso Robles, 68% Grenache, 13% Counoise, 11% Mourvedre, 8% Syrah, 13.0% Alc., $25.00: Pretty salmon pink color; rich, fairly ripe and mineral laden, seemingly with one foot each in the Old and New Worlds. It shows a watermelon and strawberry fruit character, with a good dose of the aforementioned mineral; medium bodied, with zippy acids and good length. Very much in the same style as previous vintages and very much to my liking.
24% Grenache and Counoise from Self Family Vineyard (Templeton Gap)
20% Grenache from Cass (El Pomar)
12% Grenache and Counoise from Clautiere (Geneseo District)
11% Grenache and Tablas-clone Mourvèdre from Hollyhock (El Pomar)
8% Syrah from Derby (Templeton Gap)
7% Grenache from KamRidge (Creston)
7% Grenache and Mourvedre from Paso de Record (Paso Robles Estrella District)
5% Grenache from Beckwith (Adelaida District)
3% Counoise from Old Oak (Paso Robles Willow Creek District)
3% Grenache and Counoise from the Tablas Creek certified organic estate vineyard Find this wine

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Alan Kerr’s Vintages May 28th Release Notes

Hello, here are some notes on several of the wines being released on Saturday May 28th. The release features wines from the “Viva Veneto” and there are some solid Californian wines in the secondary release, the “Judgement Call”.

The latter is honouring the wine tasting of 1976 known as the Judgment of Paris. A wine competition organized on 24 May 1976 by Steven Spurrier, who, at the time was a wine merchant in the city.

French judges carried out two blind tasting comparisons: one of first rate Chardonnay from California and Burgundy and the other, red wines from Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon from California.

Much to their dismay and disbelief, the Californian wines rated best in each category. This was unheard of back then as France was regarded as being the foremost producer of the world’s premium wines.

The American vintners beating the French at their own game is akin to Leicester City wining the EPL. That too was an achievement that most footie fans would have believed impossible.

The repercussions of the Paris Tasting were far-reaching as it seriously raised interest levels for California’s wines in both domestic and international markets. And furthermore, The Judgement of Paris happens to be this year’s theme for the twenty fifth anniversary picnic of MoCool. The date for this extemporary event is August 13th and sign up information is soon to be released. This release showcases current wines from some of the original players who put California onto the world wine map.

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Four Doon Pinks and More

While we often tell anyone who will listen that we enjoy dry rosé throughout the year here at Gang Central, I have to admit, there is something very special about drinking pink as the weather warms and the world emerges from its winter slumber. One of our favorites over the last several years has been Bonny Doon Vineyards’ Vin Gris de Cigare, for its delicious old world character. Frankly, the folks at Doon put out yummy stuff pretty much across the board, and when we found out that they’ve added three new bottlings to go with the Vin Gris, we just had to try them all. (I especially like the fact that all four are labeled as “Pink Wine.”) We started out with the latest vintage of our tried-and-true delight. (Click images to enlarge.)

2015 Bonny Doon Vineyards Vin Gris de Cigare Central Coast Pink Wine, 44% Grenache, 20% Grenache Blanc, 12% Carignane, 11% Mourvèdre, 7% Cinsaut, 6% Roussanne, 13.5% alc., $18: Pale pink in color, with classic dry rosé character, offering mineral-driven strawberry and cherry flavors and aromas. Medium bodied, with zippy acids and good length. So consistent from vintage to vintage, this is probably my favorite domestic pink; it’s certainly in my top three. It does everything I want a good rosé to do. Find this wine

It seems only fitting that, since Bonny Doon added a white Bordeaux-styled offering called Gravitas as a pale companion to their “A Proper Claret” bottling, a pink version would be created as well, and so we have the following selection. As Randall Grahm puts it, “…while the Vin Gris de Cigare is intended for more sober-minded occasions, this is definitely the less buttoned up in style.”

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Three 2014 Ridges

We’re always up for trying new vintages from our friends up on the ridge where they do-do the boogie, and we got the opportunity to do just that last Monday night, courtesy of Ridge Vineyards Regional Sales Manager, Christina Donley. Christina was in town for a few days promoting her portfolio, and she brought these three from 2014 back to Gang Central after pouring them at a trade tasting. Needless to say, we wasted no time in breaking right in to them to see what they had to offer, and we were most impressed with what we tasted. (Click image to enlarge.)

2014 Ridge Vineyards East Bench Zinfandel, 100% Zinfandel, 14.9% alc., $30: Pretty dark garnet in color, with a lovely “Draper perfume;” long time Ridge fans know exactly what this term refers to, which is our pet name for the winery’s classic house style that has remained more or less the same for decades. Big, rich and intense, with earthy black raspberry and blackberry flavors and aromas, laced with spicy nuances, hints of briar/bramble and some sweet American oak that emerges with air, always complementing, rather than detracting from the wine’s personality. Sturdy, but by no means unapproachable, this wants some grilled red meat (lamb for me, please), or pasta with a tomato sauce. I loved the 2013 version when we tried it about 11 months ago, and I’m just as high on this year’s model. This is how Zinfandel should taste, in my not-so-humble opinion. As good as it is now, it’ll be even better in five years, so you can drink it now or drink it later. Find this wine

2014 Ridge Vineyards Paso Robles Zinfandel, 100% Zinfandel, 14.4% alc., $32: Deep and dark in color, almost opaque; the nose only hints at the rich, ripe raspberry and black raspberry fruit found on the palate at first, but becomes more generous as it opens in the glass. The smooth, almost velvet-like texture can’t entirely shroud the substantial structure that will take this several years down the road. Perhaps a little more “claret-like” than the 2013 (a side-by-side would have been instructive), and that’s never a bad thing with Ridge Zins. Shades of subtle earth and hints of chocolate becoming apparent as it opens, and every successive sip brings more pleasure. Find this wine

2014 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville Alexander Valley, 60% Zinfandel, 24% Carignane, 12% Petite Sirah, 4% Mataro, 14.6%, $40: Deep, dark and not quite opaque in color; big and powerful, with many years of development ahead of it. Flavors and aromas of earth, black plum and blackberry, with hints of briar/bramble, so deep and dark, even the American oak only casts a pale shade on this Geezer’s character. Brawny as it is, it’s balanced and not at all unapproachable, especially with food, but I’m inclined to hold off for at least five years before opening another, so patience is advised. If you’re so inclined, you’ll be happy you waited. Find this wine

Many thanks to Christina for the opportunity to taste these wonderful selections from Mr. Ridge. We love ya, darlin’!

Reporting from Day-twah,



I need all the good grace I can get these days, so I was especially pleased to happen upon this little treat whilst leisurely sauntering through the wine department of Royal Oak’s Holiday Market last week. I’m familiar with most of Mawby’s delightful sparklers, but this was the first time I’d ever seen this particular model, so I just had to pick one up, bring it home, chill it down and pop the cork to see what it is all about. I’m pleased to report that it acquitted itself most admirably, and I have since back for several more bottles.

L. Mawby Grace Leelanau Peninsula Brut Rosé NV Cuvee 221, en tirage April 2012, degorgement June 2015, 11% alc., $19.99: Pale salmon color, with a fine active bead and more than ample mousse; lots of yeasty bread dough (just the way I like it) in both flavor and aroma, with a slightly tart and decidedly appealing core of red and green apple and some cherry to boot. Medium-full bodied, with excellent acidity and good length, this is a satisfying glass of wine for a bubble-head such as myself, and worth every penny of the $19.99 price tag.
Pinot noir grapes that are hand picked and carefully whole-cluster pressed. The juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks, then blended with reserve wines and fermented a second time in this bottle and aged en tirage before degorgement. At degorgement a small quantity of regent red wine is added.Find this wine

Every month is Michigan Wine Month.

Reporting from Day-twah,


A Popelouchum Perk

We first heard about the Popelouchum Project during a talk given by Randall Grahm to the assembled group during his appearance at Cloverleaf Fine Wine and Craft Beer in Royal Oak last April. It sounded like the kind of off-the-wall endeavor that one might expect from Mr. Grahm and his wacky cohorts at Bonny Doon Vineyards; “the breeding of 10,000 new grape varieties, each genetically distinctive from one another – and blending them into a unique cuvée that the world has not tasted heretofore.” The project is located at Bonny Doon’s Popelouchum Estate in San Juan Bautista, California.

Not so very long after that, Bonny Doon announced that they had started an Indiegogo crowdfunding initiative, and Kim and I decided to make a financial contribution. A few months ago, we received our little perk for doing so in the form of 12 bottles of this very nice wine.

2014 Bonny Doon Monterey County Grenache Alta Loma Vineyard, 96.4% Grenache, 2.4% Grenache Blanc, 1.2% Roussanne, 14.4% alc.: Clean, dark color; not the most generous nose, but does give some earthy, tarry, peppery black plum and berry. Flavors echo with more fruit and more generosity, with the earth, tar, pepper and fruit all playing off each other nicely. Good weight, depth and structure here, and while it’s more than drinkable now, it will develop and improve over at least the next five years or so. As you’d expect, this gets better with air, and the fruit turns “redder.” Kim and I thoroughly enjoyed sipping on this, and I’m thinking of opening a couple more in the near term to get to know it better, then keeping hands off for a year or two to see just where it will go. Find this wine

Despite the fact that this wine is not for sale to the general public (there wasn’t enough made to go further than rewarding contributors to the project), I have included a Winesearcher link in the event that some might turn up at an out-of-the-way secondary source somewhere down the road. You won’t catch us flipping any of our bottles; however, if you catch us in a good mood during a visit to Gang Central, who knows, we might just twist a cap and share one with you.

Reporting from Day-twah,


Alan Kerr’s Vintages March 19th Release Notes

Italy is split up into twenty principal wine regions with each one producing many diverse and alluring wines. Italy’s vineyards are home to some two thousand grape varieties, but for the most part, the countries more popular wines are made from Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Montepulciano. However, more recently French varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay have found themselves at home in Italian vineyards. “Viva Italia” will put some of these captivating wines onto the shelves for the March 19th Vintages release. Also featured are some unique wines from Israel in the “Passover Perfect” segment that are worth exploring.

Dusty with lots of cave air, sweet red fruit, strawberry, dried shitake and cinnamon aromas. Quite chewy on the palate, where redcurrant comes forth, with cocoa and mocha on the finish. Find this wine

722470 ORNELLAIA 2012 Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany $195.95
Not much has changed since I last reviewed this wine in November of 2015. It is still very tight, but it is showing more dark fruit, the violet aroma is more pronounced and mineral and slate aromas are abundant. Plum, blackcurrant and blackberry liqueur appear on the palate, but the prickly tannins seem to propagate the longer the wine sits in the glass. It is still chewy, laden with dark berries, dusty chocolate and pure goodness. A long way from being even remotely ready to drink though. Find this wine

Blueberry and blackberry aromas combine nicely with hints of caramel, nougat, sweet spice and coffee grounds. The palate carries some sweetness, and the caramel and stewed fruit flavours are interesting. A touch of chocolate on the finish. Find this wine

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Alan Kerr’s Vintages March 5th Release Notes

The March 5th release puts a few wines from California and Brunello onto the shelves and that made my drive to London to taste worthwhile. The Wines featured in the “Classical Coveted Collectable Californian” wines were more than likely purchased before the pre-Canadian dollar crash thus this is probably the last chance to buy US wines before their prices increase substantially. (Click images below to enlarge.)


218941 JONATA TODOS RED 2011 Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County $79.95
Earthy and reminiscent of a terroir focused Euro wine, this blend of 75% Syrah, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Grenache, 4% Sangiovese, 2% Viognier, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Merlot is flavoursome. It is laden with aromas of nutshell, lead pencil, saddle leather and wet soil. Californian fruit leaps across the palate in the form of ripe and chewy sweet cherry, plum and blackberry with globs of sweet oak and silky tannin. I like the nose better than I like the feel of the wine; it is tasty, but too cloying on the finish. Find this wine

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Alan Kerr’s Vintages February 20th Release Notes

G’day mates. “Diverse Aussie Wines” is the feature of the February 20th release for Vintages. Unfortunately I was only able to taste a couple of the wines, but they were both bonza (Aussie term meaning exciting). I am happy to say there are some stellar wines from California that haven’t yet been subjected to the price increase due to the instability of our plummeting Canadian dollar. Get them while you can as I am sure we will see a dramatic increase on the price of American wines in the very near future.


627869 GLAETZER BISHOP SHIRAZ 2013 Barossa Valley, South Australia $39.95
Notes of straw, iron and mineral soon give way to massive jolts of sweet black cherry, the purest black fruit and black licorice. Juicy and ripe on the palate, with some chalky tannins; a well-balanced wine with pristine acidity. Find this wine

246629 MOLLYDOOKER THE MAITRE D’ CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 McLaren Vale/Langhorne Creek, South Australia $29.95
I have always enjoyed wines I have tasted from Mollydooker, Aussie Lingo meaning “left-hander” and this wine is as good as any. It’s vibrant, laden with Cassis, mint, clove, band aid and lead pencil aromas. An inky wine, its texture is silky and full bodied, with an amazing concentration of dark fruit, plum, and currant, well integrated oak and a blast of sweet spice. Find this wine

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