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.