The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2017

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34  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2017 1 JAB Clear, legible label, solid branding. Pow, right in the kisser. 2 JABS Eye-catching label and memorable branding. This one's got a one-two punch. 3 JABS Creatively inspiring in both packaging and branding. I'm seeing stars and parakeets. 4 JABS A near work of art and meaningful branding. Might not last another round. 5 JABS A masterpiece in packaging and new benchmark in branding. An instant knock-out! September by Jessie Birschbach Our Senior Wine Editor, Jessie Birschbach, Certified Sommelier—or JABS, as we call her in the office—uses her experience as a sommelier and her background in marketing to rate retail wines/spirits/ beer on both the inside and the outside of the bottle. After all, in off-premise environments, it's usually the packaging that hooks us, then it's up to the wine to keep us on the hook. For this reason, we are nixing the traditional rating system and simply employing the "JABS" rating system to assess packaging and brand identity. As for the inside of the bottle, you can be sure that these wines/spirits/beers have met the reasonably high yet unpretentious standard of simply being delicious and drinkable. PHOTO: DOUG YOUNG For info on submitting samples, email C ollect Rocks Day happens to fall during the month of September, so here are some suggestions as to what to drink while polishing your collection. Enjoy, ya thirsty rockhounders! DOWN THE AISLE DOWN THE AISLE A to Z Wineworks Bubbles, Oregon ($18) There's not much happening on this transparent bottle aside from the occasional white bubble, but that's the point. They're relying on the happy pink of this limited-edition Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (10%) sparkling to speak for itself, and indeed it does. Fresh raspberries and strawberries, with a tiny sprinkling of sugar, leads into a lemony yogurt-like midpalate and finishes up in the whiter part of a watermelon. A to Z once again delivers awesome value for this special 15th anniversary bottling. Zinsane 2015 Zinfandel, Lodi ($15.99) The label looks a little bit like a brain-map watercolor paint- ing you might find in a Chico's clothing store, but it is eye-catching and it doesn't even have to compete with the long sweaters and bulbous necklaces! Dr. Pepper, dark cherry, a touch of spicy clove and English breakfast tea in a lighter-medium body. The balance here was a pleasant surprise, especially considering that this is a Zin from Lodi (14.4% ABV). WINE TREES USA Breathless Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County ($30) The label fea- tures a graphic of a precocious- looking redhead perched on the lip of a Champagne bottle, à la the Roaring Twenties. The name is unique–perhaps too unique—but I like that it's owned by three sisters and made by an awesome woman winemaker (Penny Gadd-Coster). Toast smothered in a citrusy, red-berried jam weaves into layers of bright green apple and almond skin in this solid méthode Champénoise sparkler from Sonoma County. The blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay is aged 38 months. T.W. Pitchers' Brewing Co. Tropic Plunder India Pale Ale, San Francisco ($10.99/6-pack) The can features an illustrated underwater scene centering around a treasure trunk of Tropic Plunder. I don't mind it a bit. The beer, or shandy—whatever you want to call it—is creamy and tropical (albeit when I say creamy, I mean creamier than expected from an IPA, even an IPA shandy). The sharp passionfruit counters the saltine-like malt, while the Mosaic and Citra hops works against the touch of sweet, nutty lychee. These guys can make a fruit beer. Herman Story 2015 Tomboy Viognier, Santa Barbara County ($48) Maybe it's because I'm a tomboy myself, but this is a label. It's clean, distinc- tive, and it tells a story. Years ago, I paired this wine with a grilled swordfish and mango salsa dish to impress a girl I was dating—now, we're married. Viognier does not usually start off with an "A" in Mrs. Birschbach's class, but, holy Trapper Keeper, do I love this wine. There's enough smoke and citrus happening to counter the over-the-top floral aromatics and sappy stone fruit that normally makes Viognier so polarizing for wine drinkers. This 2015 vintage is no different; in addition to the smoky grilled ripe pineapple, grilled peaches and handful of roasted almonds, there's also a rich, spiced creaminess here, like a condensed milk cinnamon roll. Unfortunately, Herman Story makes fewer than 300 cases, so it's not widely available, but it's well worth the search.

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