Thursday, October 29, 2009

Naia Verdejo 2007

This is another very nice white wine produced by the Bodegas Naia in Rueda Spain. I previously posted the Las Brisas by Naia. This golden colored 100% Verdejo is made from some of the oldest non-grafted vines at 90+ years. The majority of the grapes come from 25+ year old vines. The Verdejo is an aromatic wine with plenty of apricot, lemon and peach aromas along with wonderful spring flowers. The palate is very crisp and refreshing with grapefruit, lime, green apple, lemon and some minerality from gravel located throughout the vineyard. There is nice acidity on the finish which will make this a wine to pair with many foods. There is always the shellfish and seafood but would also go well with sushi or California rolls. You could pair this with chicken, pork or even a salad. This is a $12 wine worth trying. Wine Enthusiast gave this an 88 point rating and I would agree.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chanteauvieux Dole Du Valais AOC 2007

My wife keeps asking when I am going to start posting the Swiss wines. Well, here is the first of many to come. For such a small country, Switzerland has produced some outstanding wines. Then again, nestled between Italy, France and Austria you would expect some great wines. Before someone corrects my geography, I have left Liechtenstein and Germany out of the mix even though they border Switzerland too. Sorry, but they don't compare to the other three countries for wines. Riesling fans will disgree with me. This medium bodied wine comes from the Canton of Valais which is located in the southwest corner of Switzerland along the borders of France and Italy. This is the largest wine producing Canton in Switzerland. The Chanteauvieux Dole is a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay, a grape well known in the Beaujolais region of nearby France. I do not know what the exact percentage of the blend is but it has nice fruity aromas of strawbrries from the Gamay and cherries expected in the Pinot Noir. I also thought there was an abundance of aromas of musty barnyard along with some oak. The fruitiness was present on the palate but was also sour. There was also some mushroom flavors and a hint of truffles. The tannins were very smooth and the finish was medium. You could pair this wine with ham, sausages, white meats and even cheeses. Better yet, serve it with a swiss meal of either cheese fondue or fondue chinoise. I struggled with this wine, but my wife really enjoyed it. After all the great Swiss wines I have had, this would rank in the lower level. Two drawbacks to Swiss wines are their high prices and they are difficult to find. There are not a lot of Swiss wines imported by the US unfortunately. They are extremely good wines.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vina Robles Petite Sirah 2007

Here is another outstanding wine I had at the Distributor's Portfolio Tasting 2 weeks ago. As you know from previous posts, I am a BIG fan of the Girard Petite Sirah from CA. But this Vina Robles is also very good. As I mentioned to the Vina Robles representative pouring that day, this doesn't have that big "in your face" explosion that many CA Petite Sirah's have. It was very complex but structured more like a European wine. She then proceeded to tell me that the owner and winemaker are both Swiss. Hans Nef purchased the property in 1996 and bottled his first vintage in 1999. Winemaker Matthias Gubler likes to be called winegrower over winemaker as he feels great wines start in the vineyard. Mr. Gubler comes from a family of Pinot Noir growers in Switzerland where he got his first start. The 2007 Petite Sirah has a dark purple hue with lush aromas of blackberries, blueberries, cherries and a hint of herbs and spices. The flavors were more from the black fruits along with some plum, cedar and ending with white pepper. The grapes for this full-bodied wine come from 3 vineyards in the Paso Robles - San Luis Obispo region of CA. It was aged in French oak (45% new) for 16 months, so there is some oak in the nose and on the palate. The tannins were relatively smooth. This is a very good wine that I think will only get better over the next 5 years. Be sure to decant this wine before serving. It will pair well with grilled meats and sausages or blue cheeses. You may want to try it with Thanksgiving too. The 2007 Petite Sirah retails for $24-$26. Give this a try.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chateau La Cardonne 2000

We have finally started to tap into the French section of the cellar. Saturday night my wife made another one of her exceptional swiss dinners of Pork Tenderloin Medallions with a honey and curry sauce along with a slice of apple on top. As her father always does in Switzerland, she broke out the Bordeaux. The Chateau La Cardonne is a Cru Bourgeois, a classification dating back to 1932 which was attempted to be revised in 2003 but vetoed by the French Government.   This wine is not only from the Medoc region , but also from the Appellation of Medoc. Typically, there is more Cabernet Sauvignon planted in this part of the appellation than Merlot, but the blend for the La Cardonne is 50% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. The Medoc region is divided into two parts with the northern section called Medoc and the southern portion called Haut-Medoc. I will save the Bordeaux sub-region classifications and discussion for a separate post as it gets very confusing.

As you can see on the vintage chart (see sidebar), the 2000 Bordeaux's from Medoc had outstanding ratings. This wine followed those ratings, though not as high. This had a delicious bordeaux taste with the cabernet franc perfectly integrated. It was a smooth wine with nice rich aromas of red berries, chocolate and some molasses. The French oak was present but had aged well. The wine really opened up as dinner went on.  I recommend decanting this wine.  If you are looking for a nice entry-level Bordeaux at a very reasonable price, $22, then give this a try. The La Cardonne 2000 is ready to be opened. No need to cellar this longer. Wine Spectator gave this an 89 point rating. I would agree.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Huber Gruner Veltliner Hugo 2008

This past week while the boys were off school, we took a short trip to VT to my brother's ski / vacation  house in VT to enjoy the fall foliage and to hike.  On the way, we stopped at the Grafton Cheese Shoppe (Barn) in Brattleboro to pick up some cheese and wines.  The first night we had a bottle of the Huber Gruner Veltliner from Austria.  We have enjoyed other Gruners in the past and we were not disappointed in the Huber.  This light yellow colored wine had a wonderful citrus nose along with some apples and peaches.  The lemon and limes were dominant on the palate along with some grassiness.  It concluded with some acidic grapefruit on the back end.  For $10, this is a good buy.

The Grafton Cheese Shoppe was started in Grafton Village, VT in 1892 but have since opened the Brattlboro production and retail store.  Here, you can watch them make the cheddar cheeses along with sampling about 10 of the 80 cheeses they sell.  They have about 100 different wines for sale that can be paired with the cheese and other specialty foods.  You can also visit the farm animals at the barn.  We were greeted by a peacock when we got out of the car.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bodegas Palacio Glorioso Reserva 2003

Another wine I tasted at the Distributor's Portfolio Tasting last week was a Rioja Reserve by Bodegas Palacio. I tried four of the wines from this Spanish winery and the one that stood out was the Glorioso Reserva 2003. This Rioja is made from 100% tempranillo grapes and has been aged in new French oak barrels for 24 months. This bright red Rioja starts off with aromas of currants, cherries, and raspberries along with some vanilla and oak. The oak is well balanced with the juicy red fruit flavors. I also picked up on some tobacco and a little herbal note on the back. It had a really enjoyable finish with smooth tannins. This wine is in its prime and should be drunk now. This would of course go well with white meats, but is perfect for traditional Spanish dishes like tapas or pringas or Mexican enchiladas or burritos. For $17, this is a good buy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Are you looking for an outstanding US Sauvignon Blanc? I have found it. While at a distributor's portfolio tasting the other day, I stopped at the Long Meadow Ranch table. Long Meadow Ranch is an organic farmed vineyard located in Rutherford, CA. Chris Hall, the son of founder and owner Ted Hall, was pouring for the event. Ted was a self starter who made his first wine in a garage in 1971, along with two college classmates. In 1989, the Hall family purchased the ranch and as they say the rest is history. They produce three reds including Sangiovese and Cabernets, along with this one white. Suprisingly, this is their only white wine and only the fourth vintage of Sauvignon Blanc. Overall, they are a small operation with only about 5,000 total cases of reds and whites produced each year. In addition to their wines, they also sell olive oils, fruits, vegetables, eggs and beef all from the Hall's farm.

This refreshing un-oaked wine had immense aromas of exotic fruits, flowers and some spices followed by smooth fruity flavors of kiwi, apples, grapefruit, and citrus.  In a blind taste, you would not pick the US as home to this wine. A very well balanced wine for Summer that would pair well with fish, shell fish or a nice soft cheese.  Could also be sipped on the patio. The Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2008 retails for $18.  Update: the 2009 vintage received a 91 point rating from Wine Enthusiast.

Midolini Rosacroce Uvaggio Bianco 2007

This northern Italian white wine is a blend of 40% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Tocai Friulano and 30% Chardonnay. As of January 1, 2008, the name Tocai was to be banned by the EU from all labels of wines exportd from the Friuli region in north east Italy. Now the Italians just call it Friulano. The Hungarians argued that the Italian Tocai name was too confusing to their Tocaji. The Tocai Friulano is an aromatic white wine compared to the sweeter Tocaji dessert wine. How can you confuse the two?

For the 2007 Rosacroce, the Sauvignon Blanc and the Tocai were both aged in stainless steel tanks and the Chardonnay was aged for 8 months in French oak barriques. This golden colored wine is a fuller bodied white that has plenty of peach, pineapple, and floral aromas. On the palate, there was some nice pear, apples and citrus coming thru along with some minerality from the terroir. Although higher in acidity, it is well balanced leaving a nice long finish. This could pair well with appetizers or a salad. Better yet, next time you are looking for a wine to serve with Asian or Thai foods, give this a try. We both enjoyed it, although the $29 price tag was high.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Koyle and Terrapura

This past week I had the priviledge of having dinner with winemaker Cristobal Undurraga of the Koyle wines from Santiago, Chile. Cristobal's enthusiasm and love of not only his wines but of the wine industry cannot be matched. The famed Undurraga family has been making wines for six generations dating back to 1885 with their first imports to the US in 1903. Cristobal has learned the business from some of the best around the world having worked at Franciscan Winery in Napa, CA; Rosemont Wines in Barossa Valley, Australia; Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux, France and Vina Kaiken in Mendoza, Argentina. He then returned to Chile to join his father, two brothers and sister to start the Koyle wine label in 2006. The Koyle name came from Cristobal's love of a purple flowering vine that dates back to the Indians. These once endangered vines still grow on the family property.

We began the dinner with four wines from the Terrapura label made by his brother Alfonso. The first wine served with appetizers was the Terrapura Sauvignon Blanc 2009 which is a single-vineyard wine that has an intense aroma of tropical fruit. The flavors follow on to the palate along with some citrus and nice acidity. This does not have the crispness and exotic flavors as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but a wonderfully structured Sauvignon Blanc. This is a must buy! This retails for $11.

Next up was the Terrapura Chardonnay 2008. This 100% Chardonnay has a light yellow color with aromas of apples, pears and slight hints of tropical fruits. Alfonso says there is also a mandarin orange aroma but I did not pick this up. The soft Chardonnay flavors were complimented with some amber honey. This wine is aged in steel tanks for four months with innerstaves of French oak. This will pair well with appetizers as well, or a mild white fish. The 2008 Chardonnay retails for $11.

Those were the only whites we tasted. The Koyle label also has a Sauvignon Blanc, but it has not been shipped to the US as of now. The first red for the evening was the Terrapura Merlot 2008. This had a nice cherry and mulberry aroma, along with some spices and pepper. On the palate, the fruits were well balanced with soft tannins and a medium finish. Like the Chardonnay, this is aged in steel tanks for four months with innerstaves of French and American oak. For the $11 price tag, this a nice Merlot.

The next wine may not be known to alot of people. The Terrapura Carmenere 2008 is a red wine made from 100% Carmenere grapes. This grape was originally grown in the Bordeaux region of France until it was almost wiped out by disease in the mid 1860's. There has been long speculation as to the grape as a possible clone but in 1998 it was officially recognized by the Chilean Department of Agriculture as a seperate distinct variety. As with the Terrapura Merlot, this wine is aged in steel tanks for four months with innerstaves of French and American oak. The Carmenere has a very deep red color and starts off with an abundance of green bell pepper aromas along with some strawberries and spicy peppers. The flavors remind me somewhat of a Cabernet Franc with the more vegetable and herbal notes along with fresh red berries.  The tannis were smooth and mellow. You could pair this with an entree of pasta or would go well with a pork loin. The Carmenere retails for $11. Give it a try.

The final four wines are from the Koyle label. Presently, Cristobal grows seven different varieties of grapes, but hopes to expand to 14 and then eventually to 21. The main vines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Malbec and Syrah. They also grow a small amount of Tempranillo, Petit Verdot and Mouvèdre that they use for blending.

The Koyle Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 was one of my favorites. This dark ruby colored wine is a blend of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Carmenere that came from two regions in Chile - Maipo and Colchagua Valley. There was a wonderful blackberry and blueberry aroma along with tobacco and coffee. The Carmenere added some spiciness to the taste. 60% of the wine is aged in French oak for 12 months and the remaining 40% is aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve the aroma and taste of the grape varietals. They recommend decanting this wine for at least 30 minutes before serving and also feel that this will cellar well for another 5 years. Only 4,000 cases of the Cabernet Sauvignon were produced and it retails for $17. A must buy.

The Koyle Syrah 2007 was the first vintage of this wine and is a blend of 87% Syrah and 13% Carmenere. It is dark violet in color with creamy, intense cassis and graphite notes, along with some chocolate and toasty oak on the nose and palate. The tannins were a little chewy on this vintage but should evolve nicely over the next 5-10 years. This is slightly less acidic than the Cabernet. Be sure to decant the Syrah at least 30 minutes prior to serving, but 60 minutes is better if you have the time. Again, only 4,000 cases were produced. The 2007 Syrah retails for $17.

Another favorite of mine was the Koyle Royale Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, which is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec and 6% Carmenere. The Cabernet grapes are harvested from vines planted in the early 20th century. This dark ruby Cabernet has a complex aroma of black currants, blackberry, violet and black tea. The black fruits continue onto the palate along with some spiciness from the Carmenere, followed by a nice long lingering finish. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. The barrels included 20% new oak, 20% 1 year used, 20% 2 years used and 40% 3+ years. Again, be sure to decant this wine. The 2007 Royale Cabernet, which retails for $26, will cellar nicely for the next 10 years. Another must buy.

The final wine of the night was the Koyle Royale Syrah 2007, which is a blend of 85% Syrah, 11% Malbec and 4% Carmenere. This bright purple full-bodied wine SHOCKED me with a big aroma of grilled meats. Once I got beyond this, there was some cherry and mulberry aromas along with some herbs and a little chocolate. In addition to the blackberry flavors from the Syrah, the Malbec and Carmenere added some plum and peppery flavors. As with the Royale Cabernet, this wine was also aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. This is a very complex wine that should age well.   This Syrah retails for $26.00

Overall, I had a tremendous evening listening to Cristobal's excitement and knowledge of his wines and the wine business and tasting the above noted wines. You really can't go wrong with any of the wines from the Unduragga family. The Chilean wines are still at the lower end of the price scale and have some outstanding buys. If I ever get a chance to visit Chile, Cristobal Undurraga and Koyle Wines will be the first stop on my trip.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Maculan Pino & Toi 2008

This Italian white wine produced by the Maculan family in the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains in the Veneto region of Italy is slightly outside the box. It is a blend of 60% Tocai, 25% Pinot Bianco and 15% Pinot Grigio. I was a little disappointed by this wine. The intial pale yellow, almost white, hue made me think of a flavored water instead of wine. The nose was so tight that at this point I was ready to dump it. There was some aromas of grass, apples and baking yeast. Not a good combination. However,the flavors were slightly more expressive on the palate, although a mild taste. There were pears and apples with some floral notes followed by a bitterness that left a bad after-taste. A very short finish on this wine. We sipped this without food, and maybe that was a mistake. As with many whites, it would pair with appetizers or with fish and shell fish. Maybe a grilled veal bratwurst would work also. I would not serve this with white meats though. Then again, we both agreed that next time we would pass on this wine. The 2008 Maculan Pino & Toi retails for $13.