Friday, July 31, 2009

Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserve 2004

While in Europe, I had the good fortune of buying the 2004 Ondarre Rioja Reserve from Viana, Spain. This historic town, which is the burial spot of Lord Cesar Borgia, son of Pope Alexander VI, is located in the heart of the Rioja region. The Ondarre vineyards are strongly influenced by the hot, dry Mediterranean climate. This medium-bodied reserve is a mix of 75% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha and 15% Mazeulo with incredible aromas of fresh-picked blackberries and raspberries along with a handful of spices. On the palate were lush raspberries and cranberries combined with some vanilla. The acidity and tannins were perfect and the flavors never ended. It is aged in French and American oak for 16 months before bottling. This is an exceptional wine, and Rioja's are great food wines! I served it at a dinner in Switzerland with a spice rubbed wood-fired chicken and grilled vegetables and it was the perfect match for the rub. Retails for 13 SwissFrancs. Overall, 2004 was a fantastic vintage for Riojas. It could even be held for another 5 years. I will be on the search for the Ondarre wines in the States.  UPDATE:  Just found this vintage in CT on April 14, 2011.  Wine Spectator has now rated this a 91 point wine and included it in the Top; 100 Wines of 2010.  It was the highest rated Rioja under $15.  This is a must buy!!.

Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza 2003

There are three categories of red Rioja's exported from Spain. Crianza wines are exported the most. These are easy drinking, every-day wines that are aged for at least 1 year in the barrels and 1 year in the bottle. Basically, Crianza wines are ready for consumption on release. Next are the Reserva wines. These are aged for at least 1 year in the barrels and two years in the bottle and sometimes longer. Reservas are at their best between 5 and 7 years after the vintage date on the label. Finally, the Gran Reservas. These are aged for at least 2 years in the barrels and 3 years in the bottle. Gran Reservas are best between 10 and 15 years old.

This 2003 Marques de Caceres is a Crianza Rioja that is made from 85% tempranillo and the the remaining 15% from a mix of garnacha and graciano. It has a nice aroma of cherries and blackberries along with our fresh garden herbs. On the palate, I tasted strawberries, cranberries and a hint of cinnamon. The Crianza had subtle tannins but was disappointed in the finish. There was some acidity and oak but well structured and easy drinking. We served this with a pork chop that had been marinated in a Mexican salsa and then grilled over a wood fire. If you are looking for a change, try a Rioja. Retails for about $15. I will buy more of this wine.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Felsina Fontalloro 2004

While in Tuscany 2 weeks ago, we had a very enjoyable visit to the Felsina winery located just outside of Siena. We were welcomed by their staff who shared the history of the family owned winery and then poured their outstanding wines, along with some wonderful olive oils. The 2004 Fontalloro was our favorite. This ruby red colored Chianti is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, but is not a Galo Nero (black rooster seal) because some of the grapes were grown outside the Chianti Classico region. It opens with a spicy cherrys and raisin aroma along with a hint of tobacco. On the palate, there was an abundance of raspberry flavor along with wonderful earthiness and mild spices and a touch of oak. This medium-bodied Chianti has extremely smooth silky tannins and would pair nicely with grilled meats or most pasta dishes. It was aged in barriques for 18 months. This is a MUST buy!! It set the bar for other Chianti's. Since we could not fly it home, we have stored some in the family wine cellar in Switzerland for future visits. It retails for about $35. Steven Tanzer's International Wine Cellar and Robert Parker's Wine Advocate rated this vintage 94 points. Wine Spectator gave a 91 point rating. Be sure to stop at this winery if you are in Tuscany. You could cellar this for another 5-8 years and it will be incredible.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc - Viognier 2007

Pine Ridge winery was the first CA winery to develop this blend (80% chenin blanc and 20% viognier) several years ago and the 2007 is excellent. It is a medium bodied wine with nice pear, melon and citrus aromas and pear, green apple and citrus taste. There is a hint of grapefruit on the back with nice refreshing acidity. This is a great dry wine for a salad, or main course of pork or an asian inspired dish. We served it with a Thai curry dish and it stood up well. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate gave this a 90 point rating. I may have to go slightly higher. This is a $10-$12 wine that is better than some of the $20-$25 wines I have had. We highly recommend this wine, especially at this price.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Black Pearl Oro 2005

The 2005 Black Pearl Oro is a Shiraz (57%) and Cabernet (43%) blend from South Africa. This extremely dark purple wine is full-bodied but the structure was lacking. It has a black fruit aroma with a hint of chocolate. Later in the evening, I noticed a slight eucalyptus smell like an herbal medicine. The taste is bursting with fruit, particularly blackberry and plum, with some licorice and spice. It is aged for 12 months in 2nd and 3rd year oak. Not overly impressed with the 2005 Oro. Retails for about $19.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bodega Norton Malbec 2006

I was given a bottle of the 2006 Norton Malbec from Argentina the other night and opened it while our guests were here. It has a strawberry nose with a little smokiness. Upon first taste, it hits you like berry cough syrup. I was hoping that it would be better the next day, but it wasn't. Retails for about $10.00. This is a definite pass!! If you can find the Norton Malbec Reserve, pick it up instead.

Conn Creek Anthology 2004

The 2004 Conn Creek Anthology from Napa, CA lived up to its reputation. Since the original Anthology in 1991, Wine Spectator has scored this wine 90+ every year. Wine maker Jeff McBride describes this wine as "having red and black fruit aromas and spicy flavors with nuanced expressions of creamy oak and berry cobbler. A robust wine balanced with silky tanins." This is a full-bodied wine made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot. Be sure to decant this wine for 1-2 hours. If you can wait, I would keep it for another 3-5 years. Pairs well with a nice filet. The 2004 Anthology retails for about $50, which is a little high for this wine.

Drylands Sauvignon Blanc 2007

The Drylands winery is located in Marlborough's Golden Triangle in New Zealand. This light yellow colored wine, that was harvested in April 2007 and bottled in August 2007, BURSTS with peach, passion fruit, honeydew and green apple. In fact, there is too much citrus on the nose. The exotic fruits on the initial taste is overbearing. It is a fuller bodied Sauvignon Blanc with heavy acidity, but not a long finish. The wine was less expressive after being open for awhile (2nd glass). Wine Enthusiast gave this a 91 point rating. For my taste, I think this is an agressive rating. Worth the try at $15 but I would pick the Villa Maria, Seresin or Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blancs from the Marlborough region of New Zealand instead.

Luigi Bosca La Linda Torrontes 2008

Luigi Bosca was founded and still run by the Arizu family who moved from Spain to the Mendoza region of Argentina in the late 1800's. However, they didn't export their wines until 1984 when Switzerland received the first shipment outside of Argentina. The Finca La Linda Torrontes wine is a great summer wine made of 100% Torrontes grapes. It has a nice sweet aroma of honey, orange blossoms and lavender and is followed by a nice fruity peach and apricot taste along with some tartness of green apples. This modertly dry wine has great acidity and reminds me a little bit of a Muscat, but not as sweet. Although the alcohol content is 14.5%, it is well disguised. Be sure to keep this COLD between glasses. In addition to appetizers, it would go well with most white meats, seafood or even a spicy indian or asian dish. Robert Parker rated this 89 points. This is a very nice wine that retails for about $10. Give this a try.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Alamos Seleccion Malbec 2007

Argentina has been getting a lot of great press about the nice Malbecs they have been producing. Recently, we served the 2007 Alamos Seleccion Malbec from Mendoza with our wood-grilled pepper crusted steaks and chimichurri sauce. It is a nice medium to full bodied wine that has a smokey, blackberry nose with a hint of vanilla. On the palate are rich blackberry and currant flavors along with a hint of anise. Anise is spice we use frequently in dry rubs. The finish is smooth and long with rounded tannins. We have served the Alamos Seleccion numerous times and it has been consistently good. Wine Spectator and the Wine Advocate both gave this wine a 90 point rating. Great drinking now, but will be exceptional in a few more years. Retails for $15.

Viu Manent Secreto Sauvignon Blanc 2008

According to the bottle, Viu Manent is a family owned winery in Chile that has been in operation since 1935. This particular sauvignon blanc comes from San Carlos, Cunaco in Colchagua Valley. It is made from 85% sauvignon blanc and 15% of other grapes, which the vintner keeps as a secret. Secreto has a golden color with soft citrus, pear and melon aroma. The tropical fruit flavors of passion fruit, nectarine and kiwi transforms you into a vacation mood. There is a sharp acidity and a long finish. This is one of my wife's favorite Sauvingon Blancs, and ranks with the best from New Zealand. Great value wine that retails for about $10-$12. Nice pairing for appetizers or scallops and shellfish.

Renieri Rosso Di Montalcino 2004

The Rosso di Montalcino DOC was established in 1984 as a means of giving Brunello di Montalcino producers the flexibility to continue the tradition of long aging of the region's flagship wine. Rosso di Montalcino is made from 100% Sangiovese grown in the same delineated region as Brunello di Montalcino. However, the wine is required to spend only six months aging in oak and 1 year total aging before release. The 2004 Renieri is a nice medium-bodied, deep ruby colored wine made from 100% Sangiovese with aromas of cherry and blackberry and some cedar as it opens. The spicy berry taste is well accented by the earthiness that nice Italian wines have. Manageable tannins and easy drinking with a long and balanced finish. The wine is aged for 24 months in Barriques. Robert Parker rated this 88 points. Wine Spectator rated this wine at 86 points. I would tend to agree with Parker's rating. Retails for about $25. We have served it several times and it pairs nicely with pasta dishes and braised meats. Cellar this wine for another 2 years if possible.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Indaba Shiraz 2008

This juicy South African Shiraz flaunts lively flavors of ripe blackberry, blueberry and dark chocolate, with hints of white pepper, licorice and spice. It makes a perfect partner for bacon cheeseburgers, grilled sausages, hearty pasta dishes, and lamb chops. We served this with wood-fired burgers with manchego cheese, prosciutto and a chipotle adobo paprika aioli. The Indaba Shiraz is aged in French and American oak barrels for 6 months before bottling. This was a surprisingly good Shiraz, which retails for about $11.

Indaba is known for its commitment to social responsibility. A portion of the proceeds from all global sales is used to support a scholarship program for students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue higher education in the wine industry. Indaba scholars have gone on to pursue opportunities in winemaking, marketing, agriculture, business, and graduate education. Mzokhona Mvemve is currently the head winemaker at Indaba. He was the first ever black South African winemaker to graduate from Stellenbosch University in 2002 and he was the first recipient of the Indaba Scholarship. The program is in its sixth year.

Ruberte Tresor 2007

This Spanish wine from Bodegas Ruberte is made from old vine garnacha and has a ripe berry nose along with a little peppery/spice. The taste is very fruity and sweet, like cotton candy. Garnacha is typically blended, which is what they should have done with this wine. The taste got worse by the minute instead of better. This is a BIG PASS!!!! Retails for about $9.00.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nine Gables Barbera 2006 & 2007

On a recent trip thru CA, I made a detour thru the lesser known Amador County. This region of the Sierra Foothills,which is not as popular as Napa and Sonoma, is warmer than those regions and is known for producing some outstanding zinfandel wines. Nine Gables Vineyard and Winery is a family owned and operated winery of Jerry and Pam Notestine. The name comes from the nine gables on the house they built in 1992. The Nine Gables winery has been producing wines since 1998, although the Notestine's have been crafting wines at other locations since 1978. I had a very enjoyable tasting and conversation with their son Ryan who was very knowledgeable of the winery history as well as each of the wines. I brought home several bottles of the 2006 Ottimista Vineyard Barbera which had a nice dark red color and a nose of red and black berries. The berries were predominant in the initial taste, along with a hint of cherries and even some blueberries. This is a nice medium bodied wine with little tannins. Decant this wine for 1-2 hours and it becomes a very nice wine. It was the perfect match for our pasta with bolognese sauce. Would also go well with pizza. I recently received a shipment of the 2007 Barbara, which I tasted out of the barrel. I hope I can hold off on opening it until 2010-2011. If you are doing a CA wine tour, make a stop in Amador County.

Well, I held off till May 2010.   I just opened the 2007 Barbara from the Ottimsita Vineyard and it was very tasty too.  Although not from Italy, it was  nice Barbera with dark cherry and plum aromas along with mushroom and oak.  I always appreciate the earthy aromas from true Italians wines but this had a some earthiness to it also.  On the palate is dark fruits along with the cherries.  Although very young, the tannins were round and and the acidity was well balanced. The 2007 Barbera retails for $25.  For our taste, the Italian Barbera's are the best but this is a very enjoyable wine.  It retails for $25.  I will hold the next bottle for abother 5 years, hopefully.  Should be a great wine with more cellaring.  We served it with a wood-fired flank steak (local farm butchered) with a spicy chimichurri sauce.  Although it is a medium to fuller bodied wine, it did not overpower the thinly sliced, tender meat and actually complimented the sauce quite well.  Give this wine a try!!!

Domaine d'Esperance Soleil Colombard 2007

This is a cheap ($10) white wine from South Western France that is made from 100% colombard grapes. This flowery grape is typically used for Cognac or for mixing with other varietals because of the high acidity. It was popular in CA prior to 1990 as the base grape for jug wines. Don't waste your money. PASS!!!

Oceana Riesling 2007

One night I was trying to pair a wine with a Chinese meal served at home. Most Chinese restaurants serve Chardonnay, but there are better pairings. I was thinking of a Gewurztraminer because of the spicy peach and ginger flavors. However, my local wine store recommended the 2007 Oceana Riesling from the Oceana Estates Winery in Sonoma, CA. The grapes for this wine are grown in Monterey, CA which has a slightly cooler growing season due to the winds from the Bay and the grapes typically remain on the vines an extra month. As a result, the flavors are stronger and sweeter. This Riesling had some peach aroma but it was being overpowered by a fig newton cookie smell. The wine was quite dry and sweet with the citrus flavors. Interesting blue bottle with a mermaid logo but it will not entice me to buy another bottle, especially at $20. I think the Gewurztraminer would have been a better selection, or an Alsace. Don't be afraid to try wine with spicy ethnic foods.

Baron De Magana 2004

The 2004 Baron De Magana is a red wine from northern Spain that is a blend of 40% merlot, 40% cabernet sauvignon and 20% tempranillo. It has a dark sherry red color with aromas of flowers and roasted coffee beans according to the vintner. I also picked up some smokey toast and currants. My first tastes were cherrys and blackberries, followed up with some spicy currants. The climate in this region makes for richer, fuller wines with sweeter and more polished tannins. Open this wine early as it really needs to open up. An interesting wine that I will try again. I think this wine could be stored away for another 5 years and it will be an outstanding wine. The 2004 Baron De Magana retails for about $17. The Wine Advocate rated this a 90.

Bleasdale Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

The 2005 Bleasdale Cabernet Mulberry Tree from Australia is a medium bodied cabernet that has aromas of currants, cranberry and cedar. The wine is fruit forward with blackberrys and and has subtle tannins with a decent finish. It was aged in American and French oak barrels for 15 months. However, my wife and I both felt it was ok but would not run out to buy it any time soon. Retails for about $16. Rated 90 points by the International Wine Cellar and 89 points by the Wine Advocate. These are generous ratings.

Carneros Creek Pinot Noir Reserve 2005

The Carneros Creek winery was founded in 1972 by the husband and wife team of Francis and Kathleen Mahoney. In 2006, Michael Mondavi, son of the late Robert Mondavi, purchased the winery. And now, in March 2009, Sapphire Wines from Franklin, TN buys the Carneros Creek label. Pinot Noir has been the specialty at Carneros Creek since the Mahoney's operated the winery. This 2005 Reserve is full bodied but has silky tannins and very little oak. It starts with a very nice fruity, cherry and plum nose and has an earthy cherry, red licorice taste. It got more expressive as it opened. We served the 2005 Pinot Noir Reserve at a luncheon, along with some mini open faced steak sandwiches on garlic toast with caramelized onions and provolone cheese topped with a parsley oil. We have served this wine several times and it has always been a hit. Give it a try. This retails for about $22.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Terrabianca Scassino 2005

After trying the Campaccio and the Croce (see previous postings), we had to try the 2005 Scassino. The medium bodied Chianti is made from 97% Sangiovese and 3% Canaiolo and has a nice aroma of raspberries and blueberries, along with a red licorice. Like the other Terrabianca's, it has a soft red fruit taste along with the earthy Tuscan flavors. The Scassino is aged in Slovenian oak barrels for 8 months prior to bottling. Scasso, which means stony soil, best describes the terrain in this region. 2005 wasn't a great year for this region, and like the 2005 Campaccio, this was lacking in flavors and structure. Of the three Terrabianca's that we have tried, the 2004 Campaccio was the best followed by the 2004 Croce Reserva. Robert Parker gave the 2005 a rating of 87 and the Wine Advocate gave a rating of 85. Retails for $24.