Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Koyle & Terrapura

Last week, Cristobal Undurraga was back in the States and invited me to dinner at Churrascaria Braza in Hartford, CT.   I met Cristobal last fall for the first time and jumped at the opportunity to join him again.  His love and passion for wine can't 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.  The family sold the eponymous winery, vineyards and family name to a banking consortium two years ago.  As the old saying goes, "you can't keep a good man down".  Shortly after the family business was sold, Cristobal, his father and two brothers jumped right back into the business with the Koyle and Terrapura wines and continue to carry on the quality wines that were always associated with the Undurraga name.    In addition to having wine in his veins, 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. 

We started the evening with the 2009 Terrapura Sauvignon Blanc that was produced by Cristobal's brother Alfonso.   I had tasted this last year with Cristobal and thought it was a nice wine, but it was even better this time around.  There is plenty of grapefruit, lime and kiwi on the nose and a hint of summer flowers.  The flavors of this 100% sauvignon blanc include the grapefruit and lime, along with some lemon, orange peel and lemongrass.  It is a light bodied sauvignon blanc with perfect acidity.  Great for appetizers or would pair well with a shell fish dish or a mild fish.  A must try. The 2009 Terrapura Sauvignon Blanc retails for $10.

Next came the 2009 Terrapura Carmenere.  Carmenere is a grape that is finally starting to get recognized.  As I mentioned in my previous post, 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 separate distinct variety. 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 some strawberries, cherries and spicy peppers and then a hint of chocolate.   This silky wine had a medium body filled with red fruits and a touch of tobacco and a slight cedar flavor on the back end.  In my opinion, the 2009 we tasted at this meal was better than the 2008 we had last year.  Cristobal told me that the 2009 season was a warmer season and and the grapes developed better.  The tannins were much smoother and the tastes reminded me of a nice French wine, although it is from Chile.   The 2009 Carmenere retails for $10.  A great pairing for lamb chops.

Now we switch to Cristobal's Koyle wines.   One trait that he seems to maintain from his days in the Bordeaux region of France is blending of wines.  The first wine from this label was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. This was one of my favorites last year, and it didn't leave me down this year. 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 restaurant owner said he normally does not like cabernets, but he really did enjoy these. They are not as hearty as the CA Cabernets, but are just as good.  Wine Spectator rated this 87 points.

Next up, the Koyle Syrah 2007.  This 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 still a little chewy on this vintage, like the previous tasting, but should evolve nicely over the next 5-10 years. This is slightly less acidic than the Cabernet. The Carmenere really started to stand out this time around.  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.  Wine Spectator rated this 86 points.

Many producers call their better wines Reserves or Reservas, Cristobal calls his Royale.  Great name!!!  The 2007 Royale Cabernet Sauvignon 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.  This is a great bargain buy.  If it was from CA, it would likely retail for around $50+.  It pairs nicely with a beef tenderloin or fillet.  This was my favorite of the Kolye wines. Wine Enthusiast rated this 92 points and Wine Spectator rated this 89 points. Blogger Top 10!

The last wine of the evening was the 2007 Koyle Royale Syrah which is a blend of 85% Syrah, 11% Malbec and 4% Carmenere.  I was curious to try this again as the last time it opened with a big nose of grilled meats. This time, it was still there but not as pronounced as last year.  The extra bottle time seems to be reducing that aroma.  Now I picked up more of the 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, cedar 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 also retails for $26.00  This is a a perfect match for a stew or red meats.  Wine Spectator rated this 85 points.

On your next visit to your local wine store, be sure to ask if they carry Terrapura or Koyle wines.   You can check out some of my other Koyle and Terrapura wine reviews in my October 11, 2009 posting, or click on Chile in the "Labels" section on the sidebar.  Thanks Cristobal for another great evening of conversation and tasty wines.  I look forward to visiting Chile next Spring.

All of these wines are imported by Quintessential Wines.  See sidebar link for their entire portfolio.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Finger Lakes Riesling Festival

The second annual Finger Lakes Riesling Festival will take place on August 14-15  along Lakeshore Drive and Kershaw Park in Canandaigua, NY.  This year, you will be able to sample wines from more than 14 local producers.  In addition to great wines, there will be live entertainment, an arts and crafts marketplace, and a farmers market with outstanding local foods.  Other events include: 

• The Wegmans New York State Craft Beer Tent on Saturday, August 14. Festival-goers will have the chance to sample beer from local brweeries in the Wine Garden while enjoying live entertainment.

• A Battle of The Bands Competition for local bands to participate in on Saturday, August 14. A prize package valued at $1,000 will be awarded to the winning band from Mobile Music in Canandaigua.

• Horse-drawn carriage rides up and down Lakeshore Drive (which will be closed to traffic) for the entire family to enjoy.

• A Classic Car Show on Sunday, August 15. Pre-registration is required and the entry fee is only $10.  Awards will be given for best in show.
Mark your calendars!!!  Come on out to the 2nd Annual Finger Lakes Riesling Festival on August 14-15 and taste some of the best US Rieslings, along with other entertainment for the entire family. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Santorini Assyrtiko 2008

The latest addition to the BrandAction Team's account is the Santo Wines from Santorini.  SantoWines is a 2,500 member cooperative dating back to 1947 and is the largest wine producer on the Greek island.   Myth has it that Santorini was made from a handful of dust dropped into the Aegean Sea. Santorini wines date back to the 3rd millennium B.C. as evidenced from vines and grape drawings that have been exhumed by archaeologist.  This wine is made from 100% assyrtiko grapes, which is a new varietal for us, so I had to do a little research.  The grapes are golden yellow with lots of acidity.  80% of the grapes grown in Santorini are assyrtiko.  Many get blended with other grapes, as well as used for dessert wines.  The vines are grown and pruned in a low circular format just above ground level, which is known as kouloura, instead of the higher trellises normally seen. This helps prevent the vines from being damaged from the high winds off the sea.  Also, the vines are planted in a very lava rich soil which, unfortunately, seemed to give the wine a unusual stony aftertaste.  The nose on this wine is of slightly fragrant flowers with some honey and herbs.  On the palate, there were plenty of citrus flavors that reminded me a bit of a French Sauternes, but the flavors were extremely short lived and then you are hit with the aftertaste I mentioned.  Overall, for our tastes, this was an interesting wine to try but we probably would not go out of our way to find it.  We served is with tilapia which was a good pairing for this wine.  I would probably serve it with some shell fish or a mild white fish.  Thanks Constance for the opportunity to try this Greek wine.  The Santorini Assyrtiko 2008 retails for about $15.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fattoria dei Barbi 2006

This is a family that needs no introduction.  The Colombini family has owned land in Tuscany since 1352, and purchased Fattoria di Barbi in 1790.  Today, the winery is operated by Stefano Colombini who is the 20th generation of wine producers in the family.  The Fattoria dei Barbi label is probably best known for their Brunello di Montalcino.  However, if you can find the 2006 Morrelino di Scansano, be sure to give this wine a try.  It is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot with wonderful aromas of cherries, blackberries and blueberries, along with the Tuscan earthiness of mushrooms growing in the barnyard.  You might pick up a small amount of vanilla from the oak.  On the palate, this medium-bodied wine has some bing cherry flavors combined with blackberries and plums, along with a hint of spices and black tea.  The tannins were realtively smooth but the acidity was a slight bit high for my taste.  Be sure to decant this wine for at least 30 miutes. We served this with a flank steak and a mint chimichuri sauce, and it was the perfect match.  Would also be a great match for a pasta dish.  The Morrelino di Scansano retails for $15.  Give this a try.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grooner Gruner Veltliner 2009

Now this is an eye catching label.  "Perfect for Parties, Great with Food, and Picnics Too" is shown in three boxes on the label.  And the young woman on the label "grooning" is actually the label designer, Toni Silver.  This wine was produced by Meinhard Forstreiter from the Kremstal region in northern Austria along with Monika Caha who was looking to create a wine that could be marketed specifically to the US wine drinkers.  I think she got our attention.  This wonderful crisp and refreshing 100% Gruner Veltliner starts off with a very fruity aroma of pears, apples, lemon zest and a peppery mango.  The flavors were just as robust as the nose with sour green apples that I used to eat from my grandparents trees, pineapple, citrus and a flowery honey along with a hint of pepper.  The acidity was a little overwhelming but still a nice crisp summer wine.  There was a small amount of bitterness on the back end.  I would probably not take this to a picnic unless you could leave it in the ice box with the beer.  This needs to stay cold.  We served it with marinated mahi-mahi tonight and it was a good pairing.  With the tartness, give this a try with an Asian / Thai inspired dish.  The incredible sauces from these dishes would be a great match for this wine. Would, of course, go well with other seafood or shellfish dishes.  The 2009 Grooner Gruner Veltliner retails for about $12. Give this a try.  I want to thank Constance (Brand Action Team) for sending me this to taste and review.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ruffino Il Ducale Toscana 2006

I have had my share of Ruffio Chianti wines over the years, but have never had this blend. Ruffino winery in Tuscany has been producing wines for over 130 years.  The Il Ducale is a wonderful blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah.  This burgundy colored medium-bodied wine has a nice bouquet of fresh blackberries, black currants, plums and plenty of earthiness that I look for in Italian wines.  Every sip you take, you get a nose that only Italian wines can give.  If you love Italian wines like we do, you know the aroma.  The blackberry and currant flavors carry over onto the palate along with lots of raisins, cherries, and some notes of pepper and chococolate with a little toasted oak on the back.  The flavors stay with this wine for a nice finish and has relatively soft tannins.  The Syrah certainly brings some nice spiciness to it.  We served this with a skirt steak grilled over a wood fire.  As you know, skirt steak is a thin cut of beef and is very tender and juicy if cooked properly.  A full bodied wine would be too much for this meat.  This would also go well with pork, veal or chicken.  Even if you are not a Chianti drinker, give this blend a try.  You could hold onto this a little longer, but it is certainly ready to be enjoyed now.  The 2006 Ruffino Il Ducale retails for about $14.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Last week's 92 degrees got me thinking about some new summer wines. What would be a nice light-bodied, crisp, refreshing white wine that could be enjoyed as an aperitif on the patio or served with dinner? I have had other wines by the Chilean Vina Los Vascos-Peralillo winery, but never the Sauvignon Blanc. A more recognizable name on the label is Domaines Barons De Rothschild (Lafite) who manages this property and supervises in the winemaking. Just like their great French wines, this is the perfect summer wine. The color is very clear and brilliant with just a hint of green. The pineapple, lime, grapefruit and lemon aromas just explode from the bottle when the cork is popped. The fruits don't stop there as they hit the palate along with some mango and granny smith apple on the mid palate and green herbs and a small amount of stone on the back end. The Central Valley is one of the largest grape regions in Chile which is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. This would be the perfect wine for relaxing along the Ocean, or on the patio. It has a well balance acidity and crisp refreshing flavors that last longer than the wine. I highly recommend this wine. BUT, be sure to keep it cold. The 2008 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc was given a 90 point rating by Wine & Spirits. This is a steal at $10.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ballentine Vineyards Petite Sirah 2006

Another very nice Petite Sirah that was provided by Ballentine Vineyards for review.  The Ballantine Vineyard dates back more than 100 years between the Pocai family and the Ballentine's.  Today, Betty and Van Ballentine run the winery.  In 1992, they reopened the winery and released their first vintage.  Previously, the family had sold grapes to major wineries including Mondavi, Rombauer, Caymus, Rosenblum and Ravenswood.  The 2006 Petite Sirah was harvested from the Fig Tree Vineyard in St. Helena which took its name from two old fig trees located on the eastern edge of the vineyard.  This big and bold wine has a dark red color with aromas of blackberries and blueberries, along with some black pepper and a subtle hint of oak.  On the palate, there were lots of dark jammy fruits of black cherries, blackberries, mullberries and plums.  Then in the mid palate, a sweetness kicked in of raspberry and bing cherries.  The end was finished off with some pepper and spices from the rack, along with a minimal amount of oak.  The wine was barrelled for 16 months in French oak barrels, of which 15% was new French oak.  The tannins were pretty firm and, although the alcohol content is 14.7%, it did not overpower the wine.  Overall, a nice petite sirah that needs some more time in the cellar.  A great wine for the upcoming grilling season. Would also pair nicely with a beef stew or goulash. Only 300 cases of the 2006 Petite Sirah Fig Tree Vineyard was produced.  It retails for $35, which in my opinion is a little too high for this wine.  Wine Enthusiast gave the 2006 vintage a 91 point rating.  We enjoyed this wine and would recommend you picking it up too.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel 2006

Recently while stocking up at BevMax, the distributor for Rancho Zabaco's Sonoma Heritage Zinfandel was pouring samples.  I picked up a few bottles for an upcoming get together with some of our friends.  This wine is a full-bodied zinfandel with big blackberry aroma along with some spices from the spice rack.  The flavors were very fruit forward with juicy cherries and blueberry. On the mid-palate is some earthy spices along with a hint of chocolate and just the right amount of oakiness on the back end. The tannins were relatively smooth and the flavors were long lasting but with a few extra years this should evolve into a really nice wine.  Like many of the CA Zins, it has a 15% alcohol content.  Our friends were not Zinfandel drinkers previously so I was concerned how it would go over.  It received nothing but good reviews.  It really hit the spot with the chocolate dessert.  This would pair nicely with grilled meats or stews, and a nice chocolate dessert.  Be sure to decant this wine for 1-2 hours. Overall a nice Zinfandel for $12. Wine Enthusiast rates this 89 points, and I would have to agree.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LB Sauvignon Blanc 2007

I was recently passing thru Armonk, NY and noticed a new wine store called Moderne Barn Wines & Spirits (see sidebar).  So of course I had to stop.  I asked the owner, Diana , which white and red wines she would recommend.  (The red will be posted later)  The only caveat I made was it could not be a Pinot Grigio.  She suggested a South African Sauvignon Blanc from the LB Vineyards.  The LB Vineyards is another wine produced by the Bouma family who has owned and operated the Anura Vineyards in the foothills of the Simonsberg Mountain range north of Cape Town since 1990.  LB is named for Lance Bouma, son of Tymen & Jenny Bouma that run the Anura Vineyard.  In addition to the two vineyards, Anura has a second label called Frog Hill.  In a recent blind taste test between South African and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the judges split.  Surprise Surprise that the New Zealand judge picked their own and the South African judge picked their own.  The aromas of this pale yellow wine are fruity with citrus and melon along with some herbs and asparagus.  The flavors were a refreshing lemon-lime, pineapple and grapefruit along with some grassy tones and more minerality than I have tasted in the New Zealand wines.  It had a nice crisp acidity and quite dry.  We paired this with tilapia.  Would also go well with other fish, shell fish, white meats or even an appetizer plate.  If you haven't had a Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, give this one a try.  Overall, an easy drinking and enjoyable wine.  Only 400 cases were made.  It retails for about $12.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Red Virgin

As a first time poster for Wine Blogging Wednesday hosted this month by Joe Roberts from 1WineDude, the topic is "what wine would you pick to introduce a white wine drinker to red wines?"  This was a tough one.  I would not want to blow them away with a big Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Sirah or go too light such as a Rose.  It is tough to pass up an Italian Brunello or Barolo but I will save them for their second tasting.  So, I will go in the middle with a Spanish Tempranillo.  The nose on these wines are full of fresh red fruits and the flavors are just as ripe with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries along with some slight spiciness.  You could also add a little Garnacha or Mazeulo.  The tannins are soft and approachable and the acidity is generally well balanced.  Several of my favorites that were previously posted that I would recommend are the 2003 Cigales Museum Real Reserva, the 2004 Ondarre Rioja Reserva, the 2004 Allende, or the 2004 Tinto Figuero 15.  Welcome to the the other side.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chateau Bellefont-Belcier 2004

I have to admit, I picked up this bottle because of the label.  I was raised in a small town in PA called Bellefonte, so of course seeing a label with the name on it was a must buy.  The Chateau Bellefonte-Belcier estate dates back to the 17th century and was founded by Count Louis Fran├žois de Belcier.   Our tasting of this wine was over a two day period.  This medium to full bodied St. Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux is from the Libournais region in France.  It has a dark purple color and is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  It starts off with a big nose of black fruits, cassis, leather and dark chocolate, along with a hint of vegetables from the Cabernet Franc.  The flavors were filled with black fruits, black cherries and plenty of smokey oak, along with some mushroom/earthiness flavors.  The tannins were very chewy the first day but mellowed slightly on the second day.  Additionally, I thought there was some extra acidity on the back end along with a slight bitterness.  I would hold this for another 3-5 years.  I think the 2004 has great potential and rumor has it the 2005 is exceptional.  I have the 2005 vintage in the cellar and look forward to comparing the two.  However, I think I will hold off for a few more years.  Spring arrived with some great weather for grilling.  This is a nice bottle for grilled chicken, pork or veal.  The Chateau Bellefont-Belcier reatils for about $34.  Wine Spectator gave the 2004 a 90 point rating.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Domaine Mercouri 2005

A few weeks ago, while staying at my brother's ski house, I had a Greek wine that I can actually say I liked this time.  If you remember, I posted another greek wine that was terrible, so I didn't know what to expect this time.  The bottle had been opened the night before we arrived so it had a little extra time to breathe.  The 2005 Vin De Pays des Letrinon is made from a blend of Refosco, an Italian grape, and Mavrodaphne, a Greek grape.  The winery was founded in 1864 by Theodoros Mercouri in southern Greece where he planted Refosco vines that he had carried over from Friuli, Italy.  Following his death in 1897, his son Leonidas built the area's first modern winemaking facility which remained in operation until 1955.  Between 1955 and 1989, the grapes from this estate were sold by Leonidas's daughters (Maria and Kate) to other winemakers.  In 1990, under the new management of Kate's two sons Vassilis and Christos Kanellakopoulos, the entire facility was rebuilt.  In 1992, part of the vines were also replanted. Today, instead of selling their grapes, they are making some nice wines.  This 2005 vintage has a nice aroma of dried cherries and plums along with some leather and spices.  On the palate, the medium bodied wine had a dark cherry and black raspberry flavor along with a mild white pepper and a hint of vanilla.  This relatively dry wine had medium acidity but the flavors were relatively short lived.  The tannins were very mild.  Overall, it was an enjoyable every-day type red wine that could be paired with white meats or a pasta dish.  If you are looking for something out of the normal grape varieties, give this one a try.  I believe it retails for about $20. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

GruV Olympics

In following of the Olympics, we were invited by the Brand Action Team to participate in an Olympics of four Gruner Veltliners from Austria.  Points were given for 10 different catagories and medals were awarded at the end.

In the starting gate, in Lane 1 was the 2008 Austrian Pepper produced by Weingut Pfaffl.  In Lane 2 was the 2008 Lois produced by Fred Loimer.  In Lane 3 was the 2008 GV Vienna Hills produced by Weingut Wieninger.  And in the outside lane was the 2007 GV by Weingut Stadt Krems.

At the gun, Lois came out of the gate strong with a bright color and a well balanced sweetness and acidity but a slight bitterness.  It had nice fruity flavors that were moderatly long.  The Austrian Pepper quickly passed Lois in the first turn with a complex and peppery aroma followed by a silky body with a great balance in acidity and multi-layered flavors of fruits and pepper that continued well after the race.  The Vienna Hills was third out of the gate and put up a nice run.  It had a slightly larger aroma of fruits and pepper than Lois, but less than The Pepper.  This contestant had a slight tartness in the aroma that the other two did not have.  The flavors were robust and fruity but they did not last that long.  Overall, a solid competitor.  And finally, the Stadt Krems.  This competitor was slow out of the gate with a mild aroma, a fairly well balanced sweetness but a slightly tart acidity.  It's body was thin and lacking compared to the other three with a green underripe flavor that quickly faded.  This was no match for the other three.

At the finish line, the Austrian Pepper held on to a slight lead to edge out Vienna Hills, followed by Lois in 3rd and Stadt Krems in a distant 4th.  The Austrian Pepper received the gold medal while Vienna Hills and Lois each received ribbons.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chile Earthquake Relief

Today I received a message from Cristobal Undurraga from the Koyle Winery located just outside of Santiago Chile.  Although he and his family are safe, many others nearby are not.  He mentioned that some small towns nearby have been destroyed by the tsunami and the other destroyed by the earthquake.  Finding water to drink is next to impossible.   I am reaching out to all bloggers and readers to help our friends in Chile by donating to your favorite charity.  Below are just a few that will immediately put your money to work.  Thank you for your donations.  Jason

•Text the word “CHILE” to 25383 to donate $10 on behalf of the Habitat for Humanity

•Text the word “CHILE” to 20222 to donate $10 on behalf of World Vision or

•Text the word “CHILE” to 52000 to donate $10 on behalf of the Salvation Army or 800-725-2769.
American Red Cross - 1-800-Help-Now or

AmeriCares - 800-486-Help or


Friday, February 26, 2010

Wines of Vienna

The other day, I stopped by the Wines of Vienna tasting in NYC sponsored by David Bowler Wine.  I have enjoyed alot of Austrian wines, both here in the States and abroad, but I have only had a couple Viennese wines while visiting there 6 years ago.  Upon speaking with one of the Importers, he told me many of the wines from this region do not make it outside of Vienna.  There seems to be a rivalry going on between the regions.  That is too bad because I had some really nice wines at this tasting, of which all are now imported to the States.  One wine that I was not familiar with was the Gemischter Satz.  This is a blend of Gruner Veltliner and up to 40 other white varieties such as the Riesling, Welschriesking, Rotgipfler, Sauvigon Blanc just to name a few.   There were too many wines to describe so here is a list of wineries who were pouring that day: Wingut Martinshof, Edlmoser,  Goebel, Offner, Weingut Christ, Weingut Cobenzl, , Hajszan, Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz, Roes Haus which is a nich winery by Mayer am Pfarrplatz, Jutta Ambrositsch,  and Zahel.  Although all of these wines are from a very small region, they each had their own unique qualities.  Surprisingly, the Weingut Cobenzl is actually owned by the City of Vienna.  They took over this 80 hectare of vines to prevent urban development.  If you can find any wines from the three small  vineyard sites (Nussberg, Bisamberg or Mauer) surrounding Vienna, give them a try.  For my taste, the Zahel wines were my favorite.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tinto Figuero

This past week, I had the opportunity to dine with Antonio Garcia Figuero and J. Felipe Martin Cabezon from Vinedos y Bodegas Garcia Figuero.  The dinner was held at the Solera restaurant in NYC which is a Spanish tapas restaurant. Jose Maria Garcia and Milagros Figuero founded this family winery in 2001, although grape growing had been in the family for several generations. The day to day operations are handled by their three children and a son-in-law, but Jose still manages to keep his fingers in the business he loves. The Bodegas Garcia Figuero is located approximately 90 miles north of Madrid along the Deuro River in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. Tempranillo is the most popular grape grown in this region and is widely known as the backbone to Rioja wines.  Rioja is a city and region just northeast of Ribera del Duero.

During this dinner, we tasted four fabulous wines that are all 100% Tempranillo and all have been harvested from their Estate. As Felipe explained, they only produce a small amount of wines so their goal is to maintain consistency and quality. In fact, due to the poor weather conditions in 2007, they only produced the Tinto Figuero 4.  Interestingly, instead of labeling them as Roble, Crianza and Reserva, they identify them as 4, 12, 15 and the top wine Noble.  Each of these numbers actually refer to the amount of months the wine was barreled.

I originally tasted the 2006 Tinto Figuero 4 while visiting my wife's family in Switzerland.  According to Felipe, Switzerland is one of their top selling markets. I was looking forward to this evening to try their other wines. My 2006 tasting was posted on August 14, 2009.

Tinto Figuero 4 (Roble) 2007 - this is their entry level wine, but by no means lacking of quality. It has a wonderful aroma of fresh raspberries and cranberries which followed over to the palate along with some black berries and licorice and a hint of the new oak and some earthiness. The grapes for this vintage comes from their younger vines of 10-20 years old. The acidity was minimal and the tannins were very smooth. The wine was aged for four months in new oak barrels, 85% American oak and 15% French oak. Prior to release, it is bottle aged for an additional four months. Less than 6,000 cases of the Tinto Figuero 4 were produced. This is a very nice wine, although I would choose the 2006 over the 2007. It retails for $20. This was served with several tapas and appetizers.

Tinto Figuero 12 (Crianza) 2005 - This deep ruby colored wine was the next step up in terms of structure and flavors. Once again the nose was full of berries, that carried over to the palate along with a handful of blueberries and a slight bit more oakiness. This time, the tannins were a little more chewy. The grapes for the "12" comes from 20-40 year old vines and were aged for 12 months in two-plus year old barrels (70% American and 30% French). It is then bottled aged for 2 additional years before being released for purchase. This wine really opened up to a delicious wine after about 1 hour. Be sure to decant the Tinto Figuero 12. It retails for $29. This was a perfect match for my pork tenderloin. I would also serve this with lamb chops, grilled chicken or a seafood paelle.

Tinto Figuero 15 (Reserva) 2004. The 2004 vintage according to Antonio was one of the best. And after having a glass of this vintage, I would agree. As with the last two wines, the vines are getting older. The grapes for the "15" came from vines more than 50 years old. The wine is aged for 15 months in American (90%) and French (10%) oak and then bottle aged for an additional 21 months prior to being released. This cherry-red wine had one of the best aromas that I have come across in a long time. The flavors were just as incredible. The black fruit flavors were well complimented by some cedar and a slight spiciness. Acidity was balanced and the tannins were perfectly structured. I think I can still taste the flavors after 2 days. This is an outstanding wine that retails for $54. Pair this with any hearty meat or stews. Just over 8,000 cases of the 2004 Tinto Figuero 15 were produced.

Tinto Figuero Noble 2004 - After the Tinto Figuero 15, I asked how could they take it up one more notch. Well, they did. This is the only label that did not refer to the length of barreling. However, the Noble was aged in barrels for 21 months, the first 15 in American oak and the last 6 months in French (Allier, Troncais, Romanian, Russian) oak. Then it is bottle aged for an additional 15 months prior to release. The nose opens with plenty of dark jammy fruit followed by some cigar and cedar notes and then some minty chocolate on the back end. The flavors mirrored the aromas along with some hearty oak. This was decanted for 3 hours prior to dinner and it was still opening up. If you aren't home during the day to open it, decant it before leaving for work in the morning. This is a very young wine that needs at least another 5 years of aging, if not another 10 years if you can wait. With a price tag of $130, this is a wine for a special occasion, like your wife's birthday. With slightly more than 1,100 cases produced, this might be hard to find.

It is not very often, maybe never, that you walk away from a tasting and say that every wine was delicious. I have to say, this is one of those times. Each glass just kept getting better. Although all four wines were made from 100% Tempranillo grapes from the same Estate, they each had some similarities, yet also their unique qualities. Part of this is due to the vintage, the amount of time exposed to oak and the age of the vines. Do yourself a favor and pick up some Tinto Figuero. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stanton Saint Helena Petite Sirah 2007

Now this fits the category of big, dark and delicious.  This wine is made by Dave Phinney, who you may know better from his Orin Swift wine label.   The Stanton family has been growing grapes since 1947, but did not produce their first wine until 1999. All of their grapes prior to this time were sold to other winemakers including Caymus and Duckhorn.  This 2007 Petite Sirah is a 100% varietal that was grown exclusively on the Stanton Estate Vineyard in St. Helena, Napa Valley.    This dark inky colored wine hits you right out of the bottle with a BIG aroma of black fruits, along with black pepper and a hint of toasted oak.  The flavors were just as bold with the layers of black fruits, along with a tad of sweetness from black currants, some nice spiciness, and a piece of dark chocolate on the back end.  For such a big and young wine, the tannins were relatively smooth.  However, I would recommend decanting this wine for at least an hour. Better yet, if you can hold off, I would put this Petite Sirah in the cellar and check back in another 5-7 years.   These grapes came from vey young (6 year old) vines and were aged for 20 months in American and French oak barrels.  This will pair well with filets with a peppercorn crust or some gamey meats.  We served it with a spicy goulash with Hungarian paprika and it hit the spot.  The 2007 Stanton Petite Sirah retails for $45, which is at the high end of the range for Petite Sirahs.   Thank you Doug for your generous gift and introduction to your wines.  We look forward to trying the rest of your wines and spreading the word.  Cheers to Dave Phinney!!!  This was a small production of only 300 cases so get them while they last.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hopler Gruner Veltliner 2008

One of my new favorite stores is All The Best Spirits in Riverside, CT which has recently re-opened following a fire that wiped out the store. This is also the store where I found the Ondarre Rioja (posted last night). Although they have the popular wines that most know, they have a nice selection of smaller boutique wineries that wine drinkers should become familiar with. While there, I ran across a bottle of the Hopler Gruner Veltliner. The GVs being produced right now in Austria are some wonderful, easy drinking white wines that are great for pairing with foods. This Hopler GV was an entry level wine with a light greenish yellow hue that had subtle aromas of apples and pears along with some soft lemon and lime and a hint of stoniness from the terroir. On the palate, the citrus fruits again were lighter than I had expected. The crispness that I have had in other GVs was also missing. The Hopler GV is very light in structure and acidity, along with a mere 11% alcohol content. Additionally, the finish was very short. A Chardonnay drinker might like this but a Sauvignon Blanc drinker will probably not like it. Overall, we weren't excited about this wine but it is an easy drinking white if you are looking for something different. However, the $17 price tag is too high for this wine. Pair this with a milder cheese or a mild white fish.

Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserva 2002

Last night my wife made an Entrecote au Thyme which is a beef tenderloin with some cracked pepper along with a sauce made from port, thyme, beef broth, shallots and some other ingredients. It was one of the most tender pieces of beef I can remember eating and the sauce was delicious. You could literally cut the meat with a butter knife. While I was out shopping, I ran across a Rioja which up until now I could only find in Switzerland - the Ondarre Rioja Reserva. I previously posted the 2004 vintage (EXCELLENT WINE) on 7/31/09. This meal could have been paired with many different wines but I wanted a medium bodied wine that would work with the tender meat and the sauce. This garnet colored Rioja is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo. When I first opened the 2002, I thought the nose was lacking but over the next half-hour, it went from a subtle berry aroma to glass of juicy fruits. The lush aromas of plums, raisins and cherries were followed by some light cedar and a little bit of spices. On the palate, there were wonderful layers of cherries, raspberries and cranberries along with a small amount of oak/vanilla and light pepper. It is a relatively dry wine with velvety smooth tannins and a nice finish. I will definitely be picking up alot more of the this vintage for the cellar. This will still drink well for the next 2-3 years. Decanter Magazine gave it their top rating of 5 stars and Robert Parker gave it a 92 point rating. Unfortunately, Wine Spectator rated the Ondarre Rioja Reserva 2002 only 85 points. They really missed the boat on this one. They should try another bottle and repost their score. For $17, this is a great buy.  However, I still would pick the 2004 vintage over the 2002.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Kracher Beerenauslese Cuvee 2007

I have not had the opportunity to try many white dessert wines but this Austrian Cuvee was an enjoyable finish to a wonderful evening. Like many of the small wineries, this is a family owned and opeated winery too. Alois Kracher Sr. founded the winery in the mid 1900s but his son Alois Jr. really made a name for the family business. "Luis" as he was known by, was a chemist for a pharmaceutical company prior to returning to Kracher Wines in 1989. By 1991, his sweet, dry dessert wines became widely known. Unfortunately, Alois Jr. passed away in 2007 at the young age of 48. His son Gerhard has taken control of the family business, along with Gerhard's mother, and continues to produce outstanding wines. The winery is located near Lake Neusiedl in Eastern Austria along the Hungarian border. The lake and climate is critical to this wine as it stimulates the growth of the "noble rot" (fungus) that forms on these grapes as they allow them to become overripe before picking. The Beerenauslese designation refers to this condition of the grape.
The 2007 Beerenauslese Cuvee is a dark golden colored dessert wine that has rich aromas of peaches and apricots along with a dripping honey comb and some vanilla. My first several sips were not very exciting but it quickly opened up to a nice creamy medium bodied wine with a dried apricot taste along with an older pineapple and peaches and a hint of toasted caramel at the end. The sweetness was not as overwhelming as I was expecting. Overall, it was a well structurd wine with moderate acidity that could be enjoyed with a dessert or biscotti cookies. If you enjoy cooking and entertaining, pick up a bottle of the Kracher 2007 and serve it after dinner.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bogle Petite Sirah 2007

Back in May, 2009 I posted my first Bogle experience with a tasting of the Phantom.  Now, thanks to another PS I Love You member, I have been given the opportunity to try yet another wonderful wine from the Bogle Winery.  Bogle is a family run winery that was started in 1968 in Clarksburg, CA by the father and son team of Warren and Chris Bogle.  In 1989, Patty (Chris's wife) took over the operation of the winery following Chris's passing.  Today, the winery operation has reached the 6th generation of family members.
The 2007 Petite Sirah was produced from grapes harvested in both Clarksbug and Lodi, CA.  It is a dark purple wine that opened with a big blackberry and plum nose along with black pepper and herbal notes.   There were subtle aromas of toasted oak and vanilla also.  The flavors in this medium bodied wine were really well balanced with black fruits and blueberries, pepper and oak.  Although the acidity was slightly lower than the other PSs, the flavors were rich and had a nice long finish.  Unlike some of the other Petite Sirah's, this one did not have an overpowering alcohol content and the tannins were relatively smooth.  If possible, I would cellar this for another few years.  For $11, this is a great buy.  We paired it with my wife's moroccan chili and couscous, and all the peppers and cinnamon from the chili were perfect matches for this wine.  Two thumbs up at our house.  We can't wait to open the 2nd bottle.  Give the 2007 Bogle Petite Sirah a try!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Velt 1 Gruner Veltliner 2007

This GV from Schloss Halbturn Koenigsegg is an Austrian wine that I found in a tiny local market in VT last weekend. It has that yellowish green tint that most of the GVs have. However, it had an unusual nose. Initially, there was some apple and light citrus, but this was followed up with green vegetables like peas or beans and a hint of green tea. The palate wasn't that much different. The citrus was quickly replaced with a grassiness and minerality with a touch of honey. It had a light to medium body but very minimal acidity and a strange after taste. Overall, this is not a wine that I would run out and buy again. It retails for just under $10. Robert Parker gave it an 86 point rating and we would probably agree that this is the high end of the scale for this wine. We served it with multiple cheeses and crackers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Basa Rueda Blanco 2007

This is another very nice, easy drinking white wine from the Rueda appellation in northwest Spain. It is a blend of 50% verdejo, 40% viura and 10% sauvignon blanc, which is very similar to the Las Brias (previously posted) but the Basa has less sauvignon blanc. This wine has a very light, pale yellow hue with a nice big nose of grapefruits, white peaches, lime and a juicy mango. You might also notice the bouquet of tall grass and wild flowers, which brought back memories from our hike in Aspen, CO. On the palate, the citrus and peaches were dominate along with a tartness of a granny smith apple followed by a slight spiciness of white pepper and a touch of stone/gravel. The acidity was lacking though and had a short finish. Overall, it is a fairly well structured wine with a nice light body and enjoyable flavors. This wine must be kept cold. It would go with many appetizers or as an aperitif. Robert Parker rated the Basa 88 points and the Wine Enthusiast rated it 89 points. I think they are right on for this one. The 2007 Basa retails for about $10.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chateau Haut Vigneau 2005

Last weekend the boys and I wanted to make a nice dinner for my wonderful wife and their mother. While I cooked, they set the table and then got dressed up. On the menu was going to be a carmelized apple salad with roasted walnuts, blue cheese and a spicy orange viniagrette (a favorite of ours for years), pork tenderloin medallions with an apple and jalepeno sauce for on top and roasted asparagus with aged balsamic and fresh lemon. What could I find in the cellar to pair with the sweetness from the oranges and apples, yet complement the jalepenos in both sauces and then be subtle enough for the asparagus? With the cellar needing restocked, I reached for the Chateau Haut Vigneau 2005 which is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. This ruby colored bordeaux is from the Pessac-Leognan appellation and more narrowly defined as the Graves subregion. This region is located southwest of Bordeaux. I opened and decanted this wine about 20 minutes prior to plating the food. It started off with aromas of both red and black berries, old plums, milled wood shavings, violet and some earthiness. I probably should have quickly gone downstairs and pulled something else. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine had some black fruits flavors, cherries, clove, toasted oak and some dirt from the gravelly terroir. The tannis were not too chewy for such a young Bordeaux, but the acidity was relatively mild and it really lacked a finish. It received an 88 point rating from the Wine Spectator. We would probably agree with this rating, or slightly lower. However, based on all the empty plates and the smiles, the dinner was a big success. Next time, I would choose a Rioja for this dinner. Unfortunately I was all out. The 2005 Chateau Haut Vigneau Bordeaux retails for about $20.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Miro Petite Sirah 2006

This is another wine that was generously provided by a PS I Love You winemaker - Miro Cellars from Geyserville, CA. Miro Tcholakov is the wine maker who also made the La Storia 2004 Petite Sirah for Trentadue Winery that I previously posted (Petite Sirah Day 2). The grapes for this 100% Petite Sirah were harvested from the Dry Creek Valley and then were barrel aged for 17 months in 40% new European oak barrels. 2006 was a relatively rainy winter with a cooler summer than the 2005 vintage. As a result, the grapes were harvested at a later date, thus producing greater depth and structure. The 2006 harvest was also lower in yield resulting in more intense flavor and concentration. This very dark purple wine started off with intense blackberry and blueberry aromas along with some toasted oak and herbal notes. On the palate, the black fruits dominated but there was a sour cherry flavor on the mid palate that was not very pleasing. On the back end was some nice earthiness along with some spice rack flavors that unfortuantely got covered by the sour cherries. Overall, the wine was well structured with nice acidity and relatively mild tannins, but had missed the mark with the cherries. This big and bold wine would pair well with grilled meats, strong blue cheses and spicy sauces. Be sure to decant this wine for at least a half-hour before serving. The Miro Petite Sirah received a 90 point rating from the Wine Enthusiast. Based on our first bottle, we would be in the 86-88 point range. However, I will taste a second bottle and update this posting following that tasting. This wine retails for about $20.

Friday, January 22, 2010


How? If you aren’t already a Fan of TorreBarolo on Facebook, simply become one by the end of January and you automatically will qualify for the drawing. If you are a Fan of TorreBarolo already, then easy, just continue to support the TorreBarolo Fan’s Page with your comments.

The rules:
1. As of January 31st, all names on the Fan page will be entered into a hat and we will draw a name. If the lucky winner is unable to redeem their prize, then we will draw a 2nd winner … and so on;
2. The prize of 3 nights at TorreBarolo has a value of €375 and is not redeemable in cash. As is standard at TorreBarolo, a security deposit will still be requested upon check-in;
3. The availability period for the winner’s 3 night stay runs from Feb 5th, 2010 to March 31st, 2010;
4. If the winner removes him/herself from the TorreBarolo Fan’s page before their 3 night stay, the winner forfeits their winning;
5. After staying at TorreBarolo, the winner will be requested to enter a review on the TorreBarolo website as well as on TorreBarolo Fan’s page;
6. The winner will be contacted via Facebook directly to their message inbox;
7. The final winner will be announced on the Fan’s page on Feb 1st.

The owner of this beautiful property is originally from CA.  As a lover of great food and great wine, Megan ended up buying Torre Barolo in the Piemonte region of northern Italy.  Check out her web page at

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Moulin De Toulet 2008

This 2008 Vin De Pays Des Cotes de Gascogne is a white Bordeaux from south west France produced by Maison Sichel. The Sichel family moved to France in the mid 1850's from Germany and opened their first wine shop in 1883. Hermann's grandson, Peter Sichel, followed his footsteps to France from England and became one of the top ambassadors for Bordeaux wines. He led the family business for 31 years. Today, his son Allan is the Managing Director of the family empire along with his brothers and their children. This white wine has wonderfully crisp aromas of exotic fruits, summer flowers and a little limestone. On the palate, the exotic fruits are up front followed by some juicy citrus and then a big sweet tangerine flavor on the finish. There is great acidity and length to this wine. It has a mild 11.5% alcohol content and is perfctly structured. If you are a Sauvignon Blanc drinker, you will love this wine. If you are looking for a crisp white with plenty of fruits, this will blow you away. It can be enjoyed by itself or with appetizers. We served this with Chilean sea bass with a lemon and caper sauce along with braised fennel and rice. Perfect pairing. Keep this wine cold. It retails for about $12.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Retsina Malamatina

A few weeks ago, I was coming back from a meeting with some business partners and we stopped at a Greek restaurant for lunch. One partner, who is Greek, said I had to try their specialty. The bottle cap on top should have given me a good idea what I was about to taste. This dry white, or should I say deep yellow, wine dates back nearly 2000 years ago. Back then, without the equipment and bottling we have today, pine resin was added to the wine to keep it from spoiling. Unfortunately, when they started using barrels, they did not remove this ingredient as it was now what they expected from this wine. It has the distinct aroma of pine needles, varnish and some citrus. We had a cleaning detergent that smelled like this as a kid. They claim you should also taste the pine resin, but it tasted just like what shoe polish smells like. I think I would prefer the shoe polish next time. Retsina is the name for a Greek wine that has been flavored with sandarac, a resin obtained from a Calitis tree. Who needs oak when you have pine resin. There is a minimal 11% alcohol content. It retails for about $4-$5. This has to be one of the most unusual wines I have ever tasted. Additionally, this is NOT a wine to pair with foods. No offense Peter but this is a big pass!!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Seven Artisans Petite Sirah 2007

This weekend we wanted to try some more of the Petite Sirah's that the PS I Love You members generously provided. And this one did not let us down. Sometimes a bottle catches your eye by the label and this one does. It does not have a label, rather all lettering is in gold and is hand written onto the bottle. This Petite Sirah is from Jeff Miller's 34 acre property on Clayton Road in the Suisun Valley, just outside of Napa. This big and bold wine was opened and decanted for about an hour before dinner. The aromas were constantly changing. I might even let it sit for another hour next time. It had a complex nose of big blackberries, blueberry jam, boysenberry and black pepper. The dark fruits carried onto the palate along with some red fruit. In the mid to back end was a bit of chocolate, pepper and anise.   There was a nice long finish, but also had big tannins. Even though it had a 14.9% alcohol content, it was masked well.  This is a well structured wine that I would actually hold for another 5 years before drinking. It pours well today but will be outstanding in years to come. The Seven Artisans Petite Sirah 2007 retails for $18. This was a hit in our house and we would recommend you picking some up. Only 435 cases were produced so get it now before it is all gone.  This will pair well with tender filets, ribs, venison or other meats, stews and goulash.

The Artisan Family wines also produces the Sly Dog Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon which I have enjoyed many times in the past. In fact, it was the wine of choice for a large dinner at my brother's ski house a year ago. Pick this one up as well. It retails for about $15.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

R&A Pfaffl Austrian Pepper 2008

The Pfaffl family winery has been producing wines for over 30 years, and in 1986 Roman Pfaffl was named Winemaker of the Year by the Austrian Wine Press. The grapes for this 2008 Gruner Veltliner were harvested in Niederosterreich (Lower Austria) in the Weinviertel (Wine Quarter) region which is situated just north of Vienna. This region is the largest wine producing area in all of Austria with over 30% of the vines being Gruner Veltliner. The Austrian Pepper is a straw yellow Gruner Veltliner that has a bright bouquet of orchard aromas including apples, pears, citrus and herbal notes. On the palate, the crisp citrus flavors of oranges and grapefruit are combined with some softer mellon and pear flavors. And, of course, a nice peppery finish on the back end. This peppery flavor is common to wines from this clay region. We served this on New Year's Eve along with a cheese fondue. This is a wine you could pair with many foods. I would highly recommend the 2008 Pfaffl Austrian Pepper. It retails for about $14-$15.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

The 2005 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Hope family owned and operated winery located in Paso Robles, CA.  The Hope family originally planted cabernet vines in 1978 and then began selling off the grapes to Chuck Wagner from the Caymus winery.  With the help of Hope farms, Mr. Wagner's second label "Liberty School", was started.  This 2005 is a medium-bodied cabernet that has a subtle chocolate covered cherries aroma with a hint of spices and a little vanilla. The fruity cherry and blackberry taste along with a peppery back-end taste is nicely combined with soft tannins. No need to cellar. This is nothing spectacular but if you are looking for an easy-drinking cabernet to drink with a burger or kabobs from the grill, give this a try. I would not pair it with a juicy grilled steak though.  I prefer bigger Cabernets but this one is OK.    Retails for about $14.