Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Luigi Bosca Pinot Noir Reserve 2006

As mentioned in an earlier posting, the Luigi Bosca wines by the Arizu family have been around for a long time, encompassing a large portfolio from the Luigi Bosca wines, the La Linda wines, and the Selectos Familia Arizu wines. The 2006 Pinot Noir Reserve is a medium-bodied wine that has smokey cherries, raspberries and currants on the nose along with some floral notes. The flavors included strawberries, raspberries, cinnamon and chocolate. It also had a slight minty taste on the back. It is relatively dry and the tannins are firm. This reserve was aged 6-8 months in French oak barrels and the oak was well integrated. Pair this with some light foods, pasta or mild cheeses. Jay Miller from the Wine Advocate rated this 89 points and the Michael Schachner from Wine Enthusiast gave it an 87. We would agree with the lower rating. It just doesn't match up to the Californian and Oregon Pinots. The 2006 Reserve retails for $16-$18. This will not be added to the "must buy" list.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bodega Vistalba Corte C 2005

The Bodega Vistalba winery is located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in the Mendoza region of Argentina. The family owned and operated state of the art winery was built in 2002, although the Pulenta family estate has been growing vines since the late 1940's. The Vistalba Corte wines have a bare-bones label and probably one of the most basic names you will find - there is the Corte A, Corte B and Corte C. No fancy names or grape varietals on the label. These names refer to the amount of Malbec found in each blend starting with 40% in the Corte A, 57% in Corte B and 85% in Corte C. The additional blend for the Corte C is 15% Merlot. Upon pouring the first glass, I was shocked by the deep dark purple color. Any hesitation I may have had went away as soon as I got my first sniff of the lush cherries, blackberries and raspberries as well as some cassis and bark. The berries followed through on the palate along with some soft vanilla and oak tones and round tannins. 20% of the wine was aged in French oak for 12 months before bottling. This medium bodied Malbec would be the perfect match for many dishes including grilled flank or skirt steaks, pork tenderloins with a sauce, osso buco, lamb shanks or even a hearty pasta dish. The simplicity of the label and name is followed by a complex yet well balanced and great tasting wine. A great buy for $12.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Clemen Vinho Verde Reserva 2008

A few weekends ago, we invited several couples and their children over for some playtime for all the kids and wines for the parents. While the wood was burning down in the fireplace to the desired red embers for grilling, we opened up a new wine from Portugal's Quinta das Touquinheiras Winery called Clemen. The region where these grapes are grown is located in the northwestern portion of the country along the Atlantic Ocean where the humidity is high and there is plenty of rainfall. It is a really fresh summer wine made from a blend of 50% Trajadura and 50% Alvarinho grapes. The Alvarinho grapes is more commonly known as the albarino grape in Spanish wines. This golden colored wine starts off with amazing aromas of apricots and peaches from the Alvarinho with some floral and mineral aromas from the terroir. On the palate, the fresh fruits continued along with some lemon and honey dew. A wonderful acidity and dryness to this wine makes for a great pairing with shellfish or fish. We served it with hors d'oeuvres of several types of soft cheeses, a French baguette, sliced pears and grapes and a tea-rose petal preserve. Are you looking for a nice white wine outside your normal list, give this one a try. Doug, from our local Wine Wise store, recommended this and I have to say Good Job!! I can probably count on one hand the number of Portuguese wines I have tasted and it was probably the first for our guests but everyone really enjoyed this wine. The Clemen retails for about $10.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Henry's Drive Vignerons

Last week I was invited to a dinner with Kim Longbottom and Renae Hirsch from the Henry's Drive winery in Padthaway, Australia. If you are as unfamiliar with this region of Australia as I am, Padthaway is part of the Limestone Coast in the southeastern corner of Australia. Kim and her late husband Mark became the owners and operators of Henry's Drive Winery, although the property has been in the Longbottom family for 3 generations. They planted their first vines in 1992 and released their first vintage in 1996. Renae Hirsch has been the master wine maker for the past two years. Although she has followed in the footsteps of Sarah and Sparky Marquis (Molly Dooker wines) and Chris Ringland, Renae has impressed me with her own blends in the most recent vintages.

Henry's Drive has an interesting history that the Longbottom's have preserved with their winery. Back in the 19th century, the only mode of transportation was by horse-drawn coach. The coach service was owned by Mr. Henry John Hill and he drove the coach thru the exact property where Mark and Kim built their vineyard and winery. The coach routes back then were known as drives, thus the name Henry's Drive.

The history from this area and postal theme has also been carried over to the names of each of their wines: Parson's Flat for the early settlers of Padthaway; Henry's Drive for the coach operator; Dead Letter's Office for the postal workers who opened undeliverable mail; Pillar Box for the red mailboxes that first appeared in the 1850's when the first postage stamp was introduced by neighboring South Wales; Trial of John Montford who robbed the mail coach a few miles from Padthaway making off with 75 Australian pounds (approx $131); Morse Code for the first wireless communication system; and the Postmistress which is a topic for discussion while drinking their wines. Additionally, the labels for these wines match the names perfectly.

We started with the Postmistress Blanc de Blanc - this 2009 sparkling wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes sourced from a single family vineyard in Padthaway. This is a really nice wine to serve by itself or with an aperitif of scallops and oysters. A plate of fresh fruit/berries would be nice too but be careful that the sweetness from each don't turn into a battle. For a fraction of the price of Champagne, this sparkling wine is a great buy at $20. I generally don't like sparkling wines but this one changed my mind.

Next up was the Morse Code 2009 Chardonnay - this vintage is made from 100% chardonnay grapes also sourced from the Estate's Padthaway vineyards. This wine has nice fruit forward tastes of lemon and melon along with toasted spice and subtle oakiness. I'm a big fan of Brie and other creamy cheeses which would go well with this Chardonnay. Another good buy at $9.00. It will be released in the US by year end.

That was the extent of the white wines. Now we come to the big reds.

The entry level red was the Morse Code 2008 Shiraz made from 100% Shiraz grapes which had a nice red fruit flavor along with some spices and mint. The majority of this wine was unoaked which allowed the fruit to come forward. A nice introduction wine that retails for $9.

Probably the most recognized Henry's Drive wine would be the Pillar Box Red. The 2008 is a blend of 66% Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Merlot which is dense and juicy with flavors of blackcurrant and cherries along with dried thyme and some oak. This is an easy drinking wine that retails for $12.

The 2007 Pillar Box Reserve Shiraz is a dark inky colored wine with intense blackcurrant and plum flavors along with some graphite, cedar and spices. The tannins were firm yet smooth. The Pillar Box Reserve Shiraz retails for $20.

My favorite was the 2007 Dead Letter Office Shiraz which is made from 100% Shiraz grapes from two wine regions - Padthaway and McLaren Vale. This Shiraz had a great nose of red fruits, red licorice and vanilla. The palate starts with lots of McLaren Vale berry and red currant fruits with some spicy notes while the Padthaway character comes thru on the mid-palate with spearmint and lavender. Throughout dinner, I kept tasting this wine and it continud to get better each time. This retails for $28, but is better than many wines that are priced higher than this.

My second favorite was probably the 2007 Trial of John Montford Cabernet. For Cabernet fans, give this a try. The 90% Cabernet Sauvignon was blended with 10% Cabernet Franc. You are hit quickly by the heavy cherry flavors along with some toasted spices. However, the Cabernet Franc mellows out the Cabernet Sauvignon some and adds a little violet to the nose and dried herbs to the palate. This had some chewy tannins but a nice long finish. This wine should only get better with age. The John Montford retails for $30.

The last three wines were Shiraz or Shiraz blends - The Henry's Drive 2007 Shiraz, Henry's Drive 2007 Reserve Shiraz and the 2006 Parson's Flat Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon. These are rather complex wines with dark berry fruits, spices and chocolate. The tannins were a little chewy yet. They ranged in price from $35-$50, which I feel is a little high for these wines.

Each of these red wines tasted are still very young and need to be put away for a few more years. As with other Australian wines, these reds ranged from 14.5% to 16% alcohol content. The terroir is expressed nicely in each of the wines. Kim and Renae have some complex wines but overall very well balanced. These bigger full-bodied reds will all pair well with hearty dishes of grilled meats, stews and goulashes, and strong cheeses. With the exception of the Pillar Box Red (122,000 cases), all the others are small productions of less than 6,000 cases. The Henry's Drive wines are worth searching out. I look forward to following Renae's progression and Kim's history lesson. All of the Henry's Drive wines are imported by Quintessential Wines from CA (see sidebar).

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Crusher Viognier 2007

The Crusher is a new line of wines produced by the Don Sabastiani & Sons winery located in Sonoma, CA. However, the grapes were harvested from the Wilson Vineyards in Clarksburg (the Sacramento Delta). This is a relatively unknown wine region that keeps putting out good wines and should start getting more press. The fourth generation family-run winery was voted American Winery of the Year in 2005 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine and is probably best known for their Smoking Loon line of wines. This past Friday night we opened a bottle from the first release of The Crusher 2007 Viognier and was surprised by the plastic cork. Interesting!! The wine has a straw yellow color with floral aromas along with bananas, apricots and a touch of honey. On the palate, it is a medium bodied rather dry wine starting off with some sweet peaches followed by vanilla and ending with the bitterness of a granny smith apple, my oldest son's favorite apple. This must be paired with food as the alcohol content is 14.9%. Could pair with Asian inspired dishes, per the winemaker, or my favorite a French triple cream cheese. Overall, we both enjoyed this wine which retails for about $15.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pierre Boniface Vin de Savoie Apremont 2007

This is a refreshing white wine that I found at Gary's Wine & Marketplace in Wayne, NJ (see sidebar). The Savoie region of France is situated in the foothills of the French Alps, bordering southwest Switzerland and the northern Piedmont region of Italy. It is made from the Jacquere grape which is a late maturing grape that generally is low in sugars which keeps the wine drier. The Apremont has a low 11.5% alcohol content which is typical for wines with Jacquere grapes. The color is a pale yellow with some greenish tints. The nose is pretty tight but I was able to pick up some citrus aromas along with some garden flowers. On the palate, it was a little more expressive with citrus, green apples, and a hint of summer peaches and grapefruit. There was no evidence of any oak. This could be enjoyed by itself or with an aperitif. I will also pair this with my wife's original Swiss fondue. Retails for $10-$12. If you like Chardonnay, give this a try.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Villa Mt. Eden Grand Reserve Cabernet 2004

This is a winery that I visited a few years ago while in Napa. It is the sister winery of Conn Creek, which the 2004 Anthology was posted earlier. This 100% Cabernet is a medium to full bodied wine that started with some black and red fruit aromas. I also picked up on some chocolate along with a hint of the spice rack. Don't be startled by the oak on the nose as it is pretty well structured along with the plum and black fruit flavors. However, it had some relatively big tannins, so you might want to let this age a few more years. Be sure to decant this wine for at least an hour before drinking. A pretty good value wine that you can find for $14. Would go well with grilled meats or a stew.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

B.R. Cohn Cabernet 2006 Silver Label

While we are on the Rock & Roll theme, B.R. (Bruce) Cohn not only makes wines but has been the manager of the Doobie Brothers since 1969. He has two Cabernet Sauvignon labels, the silver label and the gold label. The 2006 silver label is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes harvested from the Olive Hill Estate Vineyards and the North Coast Vineyards. The nose was interesting with fruity red berries, followed by a eucalyptus cough drop smell and some oakiness. On the palate, I first picked up some cranberry flavors followed by cherry, anise and some funky green bell pepper on the back. Additionally, there was some oak to this wine along with acidity and chewy tannins. Once again, for my palate, this is a decent wine but nothing convinced me to purchase more. The 2006 Silver Label retails for about $15, which is a good price for this wine. I would now like to try the gold label and compare the two.

Mick Fleetwood Private Cellar Cuvee 1998

1998 was a great year for Mick Fleetwood. First he is enshrined into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac and then he produced his first wine. This was just the beginning. To date he has released 17 wines. The Cuvee is a blend of 25% Cabernet Franc and 75% Merlot from the Westerly Vineyards in Santa Ynez, CA that was aged for 30 months in French oak and then another 18 months in the bottle. Cabernet Franc is generally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot in a Bordeaux style blend. This bright red, light to medium bodied wine opened with nice aromas of raspberry, plum, currants and some violets. It was a very easy drinking wine with red berry flavors followed by a hint of tobacco. Mick wanted a wine with light tannins, which he certainly has in this wine. It has a medium finish. For his first attempt, along with wine maker Mike Brown, it was a decent wine. I would like to try other wines from his Private Cellar label. You could pair this with a nice pork tenderloin or an appetizer tray of cheese.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Conundrum 2006

Conundrum is owned by the Wagner family of Caymus Vineyards in Napa, CA but stands on its own as a separate brand. The Conundrum is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Muscat Canelli. This golden colored wine begins with tropical aromas of fresh picked apricots, melons, kiwi and some guava. Along with the fruits, I picked up some bartlett pears in the flavor. There is nice acidity along with some residual sugar on the back that gives the sweetness. An easy drinking wine that can be sipped or served with appetizers. This is a little dryer and not as crisp as the New Zealand whites, but overall a good wine. This retails for $22, but should be priced in the mid teens. It gets the extra pricing because of its association with Caymus.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre 2005

Another interesting wine from the Allegrini winery is the Palazzo del Torre. This wine is a blend of 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella and 5% Sangiovese. 70% of the grapes are vinified immediately after the harvest, the remaining 30% is air-dried (similar to the Amarone) until the end of December. At this point, the wine ferments again with the dried grapes. This dark ruby colored wine is medium to full bodied and starts of with an abundance of black currant aromas along with raisins and a hint of chocolate. The dark fruit flavors are combined with some dried cherries, black tea and spices. I was expecting more chocolate on the palate but there was not much there. The tannins were a little rough and could use some more aging. This is a nice wine, although for my tastes, I would pick the Amarone and the La Grola before the the Pallazzo Della Torre. It would pair nicely with a rack of ribs. The Pallazzo del Torre 2005 retails for about $25. Wine Spectator rated this wine 88 points and the Wine Advocate rated it 89 points. Worth the buy. I am on the lookout for the 2004 vintage.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Montecillo White Rioja 2006

A white Rioja? Curiosity got the best of me. This is a dry white wine that has some subtle pear and nut aromas along with a small amount of apple flavor and dandelions. For $5 I had to try it. Sometimes it is better to be curious and never know than find out the real deal. This is one of those times. Pass on this white Rioja.