Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sula Sauvignon Blanc 2007

We were introduced to Sula, which means sun, last year while celebrating our friend's Indian Christmas. The wine had great floral aromas and crisp citrus flavors like a nice Californian Sauvingon Blanc. The acidic finish was refreshing and long. I would not have thought of India as a wine region. This winery was started by Rajeev Samant, a Stanford grad who enjoyed visiting wineries while living in CA. Mr. Samant left his job at Oracle in Silicon Valley and moved back to India where he converted the family fruit farm into a vineyard and winery. In fact, it was one of the first wineries in India and has grown to making 18 different wines. Today there are 30 wineries in India. Give this a try if you can find it. Look for the sun on the label. This is a really nice $15 Sauvignon Blanc.

Carema 2003

Recently I tried a bottle of the 2003 Carema from Cantina Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema. This wine is from the northwest region of the Piedmont section of northern Italy. This area is mainly known for its outstanding Barolos and Barbarescos. The grape for all of these wines is the nebbiolo. While the Barolo and Barbaresco are fuller wines, the Carema is a medium bodied, less tannic wine that is grown higher in the Italian Alps. The aroma is sweet like strawberries and roses. A very fruit forward wine with tastes of raspberries and plum. It had a long enjoyable finish. For half the price of a nice Barolo,try this Carema 2003. This will cellar nicely and only get better. Paired very nicely with pork but will be great with most meats and pasta.

Molly Dooker Two Left Feet 2007

Last weekend we made a goulash with lots of paprika and other spices so we decided on the 2007 Molly Dooker Two Left Feet. This is an Australian Shiraz mix with Cabernet and Merlot made by the famous couple Sarah and Sparky Marquis. Molly Dooker is just a start-up winery that Sarah and Sparky started in 2005. Although the winery is new, these famous winemakers have been making wines together since 1994 for such popular wineries as Henry's Drive and Marquis Philips. In 2000, they were selected as the Australian Winemaker of the Year. The Molly Dooker wines are hard to come by as stores sell them faster than they can stock the shelves. This full bodied wine is almost black in color and has an aroma of smokey oak along with black cherry and blueberries. You will have to decant for several hours to get these aromas. The flavors are spicy blue and black fruits. As with many of the Molly Dooker wines, the alcohol content is 16% and is a bit tannic. This is a hard wine to pair with foods unless it is a bold, spicy dish that can hold its own ground. I would cellar this for about 5 more years and then try it again. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate rated this 93 points and the Wine Spectator rated it 88 points. I am closer to the Wine Spectator score. It retails for about $25.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wine vs Water

Enjoy a glass of wine...

As Ben Franklin said: "In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria".

In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia ia coli, (E. coli) - bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of poop. However, we do NOT run that risk when drinking wine & beer (or tequila, rum, whiskey or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting.

Remember: Water = Poop, Wine = Health. Therefore, it is better to drink wine and talk stupid than to drink water and be full of sh*t.

Quote provided by a local Napa area winery proprietor.

Dom. Brunet Pinot Noir 2007

This Pinot is from the Limoux area of Southern France. It had no nose with a bad grape juice taste. We gave this a 2 thumbs down rating. This is a quick pass!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paul Jaboulet Aine Gigondas 2000

Recently we had a very nice wine from the Paul Jaboulet Aine winery in the Rhone region of France. This is a family winery that has been around since 1834. The wine was the Gigondas Pierre Aiguillo 2000 and is made from a mix of 80% grenache, 10% syrah and 10% mourvedre grapes. This is a medium-full bodied red with a pale red color and a nose of currants, chocolate and cherry. On the palate, I picked up some peppery yet sweet fruits and some tobacco with nice ripe tannins. This was rated 87 by Steven Tanzer (2003) and 88 by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (2001). I would have to rate this more in the 88-90 point range. I wonder how they would rate it after another 6-8 years in the bottle?? Since it is not a big hearty wine, it can be served with just about any food. We served it with a pasta dish and it was a very good compliment to the meal. I highly recommend this wine.

Bodegas San Martin Navarra Isolda 2007

This is a medium-bodied Spanish red wine made up of Tempranillo, Granacha, Merlot and Cabernet. It is VERY fruit forward of red berries and jam. However, there is no finish to it. Was like drinking Kool-Aid. Was OK but I would not run out and buy it again. Retails for about $7.

Rivera Il Falcone Riserva 2003 & 2004

This is a very well structured Italian wine from the Puglia region (the heel of the Italian boot)that is a mix of 70% Nero di Troia, 30% Montepulciano. The nose consists of cherries and currants with tobacco and pepper aromas as well. The spicy fruit flavors combined with oakiness and licorice along with some acidity and a nice long finish. Open this early or decant. The label (a picture of a falcon) is homage to Emperor Fredrick II of Swabia who liked to hunt with his falcon on the very grounds where some of the grapes are picked. Wine Advocate gave this wine a 92 point rating and I would absolutely agree. Retails for about $40.

Last night I had the 2004 Riserva and it has a bold structure with some complex flavors of dark berries and pepper. It was a little harsh on the palate along with some chewy tannins and heavy acidity. I was hoping that it would mellow out a little better over time but it did not. This vintage needs some more time in the bottle. It retails for about $35. I would stick to the 2003 Riserva.

Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2007

This South African white wine was produced by the Simonsig Winery in Stellenbosch. It starts with a nice aroma of golden delicious apples and Bartlett pears. The taste is full of flavors from apricots, pineapples and melons along with some honey and raisins from the chenin blanc. This grape was originally from France but is now one of the largest grown grapes in South Africa. A nice dry wine with a fair amount of acidity. This could be paired with an appetizer or with fish. Nice every-day wine that retails for about $10. Imported by Quintessential Wines.

Chateau La Clare 2003

This is a nice French Bordeaux that has a mix of 45% merlot, 35% cabernet sauvignon, 15% cabernet franc and 5% petite verdot. It has a nice aroma of raspberry and tastes of raspberry and black currant with a hint of vanilla. The tannins are nicely structured and ends with a nice long finish. We served it with a lamb tagine, an apricot couscous and a tabbouleh salad. Paired very nicely with the dish. It retails for about $25.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Last week, my friend Anthony Arger and his parents, Dr. Kosta Arger and his wife Julie, were in NYC for a winemaker dinner at Il Postino. They served a 5 course meal paired with 5 different wines. This is a small vineyard in Napa that is owned and operated by the Arger and Martucci families. Dr. Arger is a practicing cardiologist but finds time to make some great wines, in addition to having his own cooking show. Sons Anthony Arger and Vincent Martucci are the day-to-day operators of the winery. Vincent also helps Dr. Arger with the winemaking.

To begin, an antipasta was paired with the 2006 Chardonay from the Carneros region. This dry wine had aromas of nectarine, toasted almonds and cinnamon. On the palate, I tasted apples, mangoes and some spices. The wine was aged in 100% French oak that infused some oakiness into the wine. Overall, a good wine that retails for $20.

Next up was the 2006 Viognier which was produced primarily from Russian River fruit, supplemented by the young vineyard around the winery. This wine was blended with tiny amounts of Gewurtztraminer (2%) and Muscat of Alexandria (2%) to enhance the bouquet and flavor complexity. The bouquet serves up a hint of melon and peaches followed by a mouthful of lush, spicy flavors. The texture is crisp, with good acidity, yet finishes with a softer touch. The flavors of melon and peach with a touch of bananas follow through on the palate. The Viognier retails for $22. One of my two favorite Arger-Martucci wines.

A pasta dish was served with the 2005 Gold Medal winning Syrah. These grapes were harvested in their Odyssey Vineyard on Atlas Peak. This 1,350' peak has produced some exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with grapes being grown above the fog line, thus getting longer time on the vines. These cooler temperatures allow the grapes to ripen slower than the heated valleys, resulting in more flavor and definition. On the nose, there was dark fruits, licorice, and white pepper. They blended the Syrah with 4% Merlot to soften the blow, but was still a knock out. The big cherry flavors were combined with smokiness and oak. A nice powerful punch that retails for $25.

The Odyssey is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petite Verdot. Once again, Dr. Arger described this as having layers of flavors, with black cherry predominating; yet nuances of white pepper, chocolate and cinnamon are present. This has a smooth long finish. The Odyssey retails for $50.

The semifreddo and mixed berry dessert was paired with the 2004 Dulcinea. This is a blend of 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. The sweet juicy peach aromas are continued on to the palate along with some apricots and a creamy honey on the back. A nice ending to any meal. Retails for $45.

Make this a stop on your next trip thru Napa. Ask for Anthony and tell him Jason sent you. Check out their web at www.arger-martucci.com.

Terrabianca Croce Riserva 2004

This winery was purchased in 1988 by Roberto Guldener and his family who had moved to Italy from Zurich Switzerland where the family had been in the clothing business for multiple generations. By 1989, they started replanting the vines and made their first wine,the Campaccio. This was followed by the Scassino and then the Croce. The Terabianca winery is located in Radda, one of our favorite towns in Tuscany. After having a great 2004 Campaccio, I ran across the 2004 Croce which is a Chianti Classico Riserva. It is made from 97% Sangiovese and 3% Canaiolo. It has a great nose of plum with some hints of vanilla. The cherry and spicy fruit flavors are long with very smooth tannins. I may be biased since I have a Swiss wife, but the Terrabianca's are exceptional wines. On my next trip to Tuscany, I will make a stop at this winery. If you are looking for a quaint town with easy access to Siena or San Gimignano or even up to Florence, Radda is highly recommended. This 2004 Croce is a wine you should try also. The 2004 Croce retails for $31.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Valentin Bianchi New Age

After my meeting with Robert Pepi, noted in a previous post, I found the New Age white wine by Valentin Bianchi in a local store. The New Age is a citrusy blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia. It starts with a citrus and flowery nose followed by a crisp fruity taste of lime and lemon. This is a sweet wine with only 9.5% alcohol. Great summer drink. The New Age can also be served on the rocks with a slice of lime. Tonight, we served it with one of our many Swiss meals, raclette, which is made with a semi-soft cow's milk cheese. With the salty cheese, potatoes, paprika, pickles, baby corns and pickled onions, it was a good pairing. Would also be a great fit for seafood appetizers. Retails for $10. Imported by Quintessential Wines in Napa.

Bianchi & Two Angels

I recently had the opportunity to meet and speak with Robert Pepi, the master wine maker for Valentin Bianchi wines from Argentina and Two Angels wines from Napa, CA. We compared similar grapes from each country including a Sauvignon Blanc from Argentina and one from Lake County, CA. The Bianchi Sauvignon Blanc had a mixture of herbal aromas, fresh cut grass, avocado and pear along with pink grapefruit and white peach. The Two Angles Sauvignon Blanc had a more intensely fruit forward nose of lemon peel, gooseberry, dried thyme and sage. The palate also had lemon along with melon and kiwi and a hint of basil.

There was also a comparison of Bianchi Malbec to a Two Angels Petite Sirah.
The 2006 Malbec is a purpleish red colored wine with intense plum, cherries and red berry aromas. The flavors mimic the aromas. The finish is long and silky. The 2006 Petite Sirah from Two Angels is "dark as night" and boasts aromas of dark berry, violets and pomegranate. There is an abundance of fruit flavors that are integrated with toasted oak and roasted coffee undertones.

In addition, we tasted Mr. Pepi's personal label, The Eponymous Cabernet 2004 and the 2003 Red Wine MacAllister Vineyard. The 2004 Cabernet is a full-bodied Cabernet that is rich, full and round from the initial taste that leads to a long, lingering finish. There nose starts off with plum and violets along with some currants. These aromas follow through on the palate along with some coffee and nutmeg.

The 2003 Red Wine MacAllister Vineyard is a scarlet colored wine from the Mayacamas Range near Sonoma and has a complex aroma of cassis, spicy oak and raspberries. The aromas follow through on the palate along with a hint of chocolate and rhubarb.

I highly recommend you tracking down wines from all of these wineries, or contact Quintessential Wines.