Well, the best and most obvious way to determine if a wine is any good is to pour yourself a glass and try it, of course.  If you are only concerned with price, that’s one thing.  But if you are looking for value and top quality, you can do some preliminary research that will give you enough information to decide whether you should even bother, or move on to another selection.

Questions you should ask before purchasing an unknown brand or label appear at the bottom, but first it is important to understand the phenomenon known as the “Wine Négociant”.

From Wikipedia:

“A négociant is the French term for a wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name.

Négociants buy everything from grapes to grape must to wines in various states of completion. In the case of grapes or must, the négociant performs virtually all the winemaking. If it buys already fermented wine in barrels or ‘en-vrac’ – basically in bulk containers, it may age the wine further, blend in other wines or simply bottle and sell it as is. The result is sold under the name of the négociant, not the name of the original grape or wine producer.”

Négociants may also be vineyard owners and include some of the most famous wines in the world, including such renown producers as Bouchard Père et Fils, Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin, Frederic Magnien and Vincent Girardin in France, to name a few.

Domestic Négociants

The négociant phenomenon has also been employed domestically, but has exploded over the last five years with more vineyards and wineries coming online, and a faltering economy. As a result, many top wineries are selling their “overages” as bulk wine to keep their supply limited, allcoations strict and maintain their price points.

With so much great wine available in finished, or near finished form, it makes sense for négociants to selectively procure these wines, add finishing touches if needed, and bottle them under their own label, since these “overages” can often be purchased at very good prices.

Such is the case with the Stonewood label and the wines below.  Some of my close associates have incredible sources and the winemaking chops to finish the wines (if needed), and bottle some outstanding wines at very nice prices.  (Their sources even make me do a double take!).

I am fortunate to not only have access to these wines, but also frequently get to sit in on trial tastings.

Two New Releases From Stonewood

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and the feedback on the Stonewood 2007 RTR (Red Table Reserve), 2008 Sonoma County Chardonnay and 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir leaves no doubt that the Stonewood wines are top quality.  The fact that the wines sold out in record time speaks volumes!

The two new releases below are admirable followups to these wines, and should be a part of any fan of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals.  These may be some of the best “Monday-Thursday” wines available on the market!

Note: This is a perfect example of how price does not always determine the quality of the wine.  It would be a mistake to dismiss these wines out of hand simply because the prices are so low.

Stonewood 2009 Sonoma County Chardonnay

Stonewood 2009 Sonoma County Chardonnay

Stonewood 2009 Sonoma County Chardonnay

On the heels of a very successful and delicious 2008 version of this wine comes this remarkable, yes remarkable, 2009 Sonoma County Chardonnay.

The Stonewood crew had to actully sign an eight-page nondisclosure statement before acquiring this juice.   The names involved with the making of this wine would make your head spin!

This is an amazing bottle of wine!  It keeps evolving with each sip and each glass.  Peaches and honey, marmalade, citrus oil, apricot, hints of vanilla, nutmeg and walnut.  Flower blossoms, wet stone, mineral, great acidity, freshness, depth, vibrant and alive!  Beautifully balanced.  Wow!   Great long lasting finish.  Still youthful, this beauty should drink well for another 5-7 years.  156 cases produced  ($25)

If this were released on it’s original label many discriminating lovers of wine would gladly pay two-three times this price.

Stonewood 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Stonewood 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Stonewood 2008 Sonoma County
Cabernet Sauvignon

The fruit comes from three distinct vineyards in Sonoma County, ranging from valley floor fruit to a vineyard that rests at 2000 feet elevation, the highest vineyard in Sonoma County.  The wine consists of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% mix of Merlot and Petite Verdot.  The winemaking behind the individual lots involves legendary and historic expertise.

Yes, this wine is still young too, but there is no doubt about what it is and where it is going.

After being opened for about an hour, you get explosive aromas and flavors of chocolate, red berries, black currants and graphite.  Backbone and “stones”, this big boy has some guts.  Hints of forest floor, tobacco, spice box, a touch of vanilla and black licorice.  Decanting recommended for near term consumption.   Only 150 cases produced.   ($23)

You will not believe the quality for this price.

If you would like to purchase these wines, just send an email to gb@wineriff.com.

Questions to ask about unknown brands and labels

  • What are the vineyard sources for the grapes?
  • Who is the viticulturalist or vineyard manager?
  • What was the growing season like for the particular vintage?
  • Who made the wines (winemaker[s])?
  • What was the oak regimen utilized, if any?
  • When was the wine bottled (how much bottle age)?
  • Is the wine drinkable now, or does it need more bottle age?
  • How long will it age?
  • Finally, who is selling the wine (are they a trusted, knowledgeable source)?

The answers to all of these questions may not always be available to the average consumer, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. With the Stonewood wines, we know were they come from and who is involved with the winemaking.  We just may not be able to share that information with you.



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