Thursday, February 16, 2017

European Wines

We recently moved to Switzerland so I look forward to trying lots of wines from Europe that never make it to the States.  I will update you on my wine adventures shortly.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Wine Riot NYC 2013

Last week I attended the Wine Riot at the 69th Armory in NYC.  I have been to my share of tastings but this one was a little different.  In addition to probably 50 wine tasting booths, there were food stands, a DJ playing music and small areas where they presented 20-30 minute courses dedicated to tastings from regions around the world, such as the Reuda in Spain and the Alsace in France.
The first tasting of the night was with Morne Rall at the Riebeek Cellars booth.  Riebeek is a winery about 40 minutes north of Cape Town in South Africa and has been producing wines here since the early 1940's, although the Riebeek names dates back to the 1600's when Jan Van Riebeek "possibly" received one of the first Chenin Blanc vines brought to South Africa.  I couldn't have picked a better booth to start with.  Morne was an energetic and very knowledgable guy from the marketing team back in South Africa.  I started with the 2012 Chenin Blanc which was probably my highlight of the night.  Chenin Blanc is one of the most planted grapes in South Africa.  This dry wine had a wonderful fruity nose which carried right on to the flavors which included juicy apples, pear, and gooseberries along with some floral notes.  This is a great wine to sit on the patio and drink but could esaily be paired with some cheeses, a summer soup such as a gazpacho or a spicy corn soup or and appetizer of proscutto or melons.  It was such a crisp flavorful wine that had me begging for more.  This is a MUST buy!! It retails for about $12.

That set the bar very high for the night but I had to try more of the Riebeek wines.  Next up was the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.  Another outstanding wine with more of the tropical notes in both aroma and taste.  The grapes for this wine came from various areas along the ocean.  This would pair nicely with appetizers such as beef carpacio, sushi or a spicy asian dish.  The Sauvignon Blanc also retails for about $12.

The third and final white from Riebeek Cellars was the 2012 Chardonnay which is an un-oaked chardonnay with rich citrus flavors such as papaya and .  This golden colored wine had more body to it than the first two wines and would be a nice pairing for fish, rissoto, chicken or pork. The alcohol content is 14.47% compared to the 12% in the Chenin Blanc.  I did find the Chardonnay in CT the following day and served it with crostinis and dips for a get together of several familes.

I will certainly be on the lookout for more of the Riebeek wines and I highly recommend all of these.  I would certainly like to hear if you have tried any of these. 

Next up was another South African wine.  Since my oldest son's name is Max, I had to try The Max from Stonybrook Vineyards in the Franschhoek Valley in the western Cape.  The 2009 Max, named after the winemaker's dog, was a bordeaux blend of 45% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Sauvignon and the remaining 10% being Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot.  This was a very nice wine with deep purple hue, plenty of dark fruit on the nose and palate along with some back end spice.  This was a well rounded wine with soft tanins.   The Max, which retails for about $24, could be enjoyed with most meals from steaks to burgers to lamb chops.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Chateau Beau Sejour Becot Bordeaux 2007

Last summer, our family enjoyed a vacation around France.  After a few days in Paris, we headed to Bordeaux to drink some wine. We stayed at Chateau Camiac in Creon which is located between the "right bank" and the "left bank" of the  Gironde.  This was the perfect spot so we could tour the Saint-Emilion, Fronsac and Pomerol areas on the right and the Medoc, Saint Estephe and Pauillac regions on the left.  The right bank wines are Merlot based and the left bank wines are Cabernet Sauvignon based.  Let me start by saying that Chateau Camiac was outstanding.  The food was the best we had during our trip and the kids loved the pool.  We would definitely stay there again if we were in Bordeaux.

My favorite area was Saint Emilion due to its history, architecture and sites. The cobblestone streets remain and the way in which they carved several of the structures into the limestone hillsides was incredible.  The Famous Monolithic Church and towering bell tower was partially built subterranean.  There are many underground passages throughout town.  Saint Emilion was named after a teenage monk who fled southern France due to religious persecution.  His name was Emilion.  If you get the chance, be sure to visit Saint Emilion.  And of course, let's not forget the phenomenal wines.

We made numerous vineyard tours on both sides of the Gironde but one stood out, the Chateau Beau Sejour Becot in Saint Emilion.  We had a private tour of the property, the wine making facilities and the underground caves where all the wines are stored.  At the end, we had numerous vintages from 1996 - 2007 shipped home for special occasions.  This past weekend, we opened a bottle of the 2007 Premier Grand Cru Classe.  Although it is still very young, and we would recommend cellaring this another 5-10 years, it was still an outstanding bottle.  As they say, you can't replicate the experience of drinking it in the vineyard, but this certainly brought back a lot of great memories.  This medium-full bodied Bordeaux is a blend of 70% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon.  There was plenty of juicy red fruit aromas along with some cassis, plum and hints of chocolate and licorice.  Like most wines, particularly Bordeaux, the aromas and flavors changed frequently over the evening.  On the palate, it was more of dark fruits and black plums along with the stone from the region.  The French oak barrels also were identifiable in the flavor.  The tannins were very soft but had greater acidity.  Overall, a well balanced wine.  The wonderful flavors were long lasting.  I can't wait to open some of the other vintages.  My wife made a beef tenderloin in the oven that melted in our mouths along with a reduction of wine, peppercorns and shallots.  The side dishes included orange glazed carrots and parsnips as well as mashed potatoes with creme fraiche and scallions.  This was better than you can get in most restaurants!! The Chateau Beau Sejour Becot Bordeaux 2007 was perfect for the meal.  This is a hard wine to find in the States but if you do, we highly recommend buying some.  It retails for about $50. Neal Martin from rated this 90-92 points. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Today's Bordeaux 100

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Sona Rai to the Today's Bordeaux 100 wine tasting sponsored by the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB).  The 100 wines selected were chosen out of 300 entries consisting of reds, whites, roses and sweet (Sauternes).  The selection of finalists occurred over a two day period by a panel of five members of "Le Wine Buffs" appointed by the Bordeaux Wine Council along with three distinguished judges (Mr. Levin Dalton, Mr. Carson Demmond and Mr. John Osborne).  It was a pleasure meeting two of the "Wine Buffs" April and Mollie. 

I wish I had 2 days to try all 100 as I am sure I missed a lot of exceptional wines.  I did manage to taste 21 from the list which encompassed all regions and types of wines.  Unfortunately, some of the whites were getting warm while sitting on the tasting tables.  Below, I will mention a few from each category that stood out.

From the 300 entries, only one rose was selected.  This was the Chateau Bonnet Rose 2011.  It was a 50% cabernet sauvignon and 50% merlot blend.  The Bonnett Rose had a wonderful nose of fresh picked strawberries which continued to the taste, along with some raspberry flavors and a hint of  watermelon.  I have to admit I don't drink rose's very often but this was an enjoyable summer wine with great balance and a relatively long finish.  This retails for about $13.

The Chateau Perron 2011 is a white wine made from a blend of 50% sauvignon blanc, 40% semillon and 10% muscadelle.  Unfortunately, the whites from Bordeaux are overlooked by many but are exceptional wines.  This white is from the Graves region of Bordeaux which is mainly known for it's red wines and also one of the first regions to give notoriety to Bordeaux.  The Perron had a floral nose along with the sweetness from the Semillon.  The semillon also gave some body to the wine.  The flavors included grapefruit and orange peels along with a soft hint of honey and oak.  The acidity is low enough that it could pair well with a salad and not compete with the acidity from the dressing.  Would also pair nicely with fish or my favorite lobster.  This retails for about $15.

A second white that I really enjoyed was the Chateau Haut Selve 2011 also from the Graves appellation.  This is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Gris.  This was similar to the Perron with the floral notes along with some green apples and grapefruit.  These followed on the palate along with some vanilla from the 6 months in "new oak" barrels.  This retails for about $25.

On the red side, there were three that stood out for me.  The first was the Chateau Tour de Pressac 2009 from Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Appellation.  Don't confuse this with the Grand Cru classe.  This is a blend consisting of 72% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc,12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Carmenere and 1% Malbec. I am a fan of Cabernet Franc and Carmenere.  This is a medium to full bodied wine that has plenty of red fruits and the Cabernet franc contributes plenty of tobacco flavors along with some nice spices.  There was some vegetal aromas along with some mushroom and red fruits.  I also picked up some black pepper and some slight oakiness.  A well structured wine with long lasting flavors.  I would pair this with my wife's incredible goulash. This red retails for about $35.

The second red worth noting is the Chateau Bernadotte 2004 from the Haut Medoc region.  This was a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36%  Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  This is full-bodied wine that has dark red fruit on the nose and on the palate along with some cedar and coffee on the back end with some noticeable, but acceptable, tannins.  This would pair well with a pepper crusted steak.  This retails for about $27.
The other red that I really enjoyed was the Chateau Gros Caillou 2005 from the Saint-Emilion appellation.  This is a blend of  65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was more of a medium bodied wine with the limestone terrior ever present on the nose and some mineral flavors.  The Caillou also had cherries on the nose with plums, black currant, cedar and pepper on the palate.  A complex but extremely well balanced wine.  This would pair nicely with veal or other white meat.  A great buy at $23.

The final table at the tasting included three Sauternes, which I tried two of the three.  Sauternes are sweet wines from the Sauternais region of the Graves Appellation.  Unlike the other Sauternes that I tasted, the Barton & Guestier 2010 only used 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, where as the other blended with Muscadelle.  This golden colored wine had plenty of honey on the nose along with some dried fruits and nuts.  The honey was predominant on the palate along with apricots and golden raisins. Although I prefer port over a sweet wine, this was smooth and enjoyable.  It retails for $25.

Each of the wines at the tasting are sold in the US and range in price from $9 to $35.  All 100 wines can be found on

Thanks Sona for a wonderful evening of fine wines.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Brian Arden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Here is another outstanding Cabernet from my new favorite CA winery - Brian Arden.  I have posted three other wines by Brian Arden and they are consistently great.  The 2008 Cabernet was harvested from the Delaney Family Vineyards in Northern Sonoma.  The vines were grown along the Limerick Lane Bench near Healdsburg and were hand harvested from multiple blocks.  The grapes were fermented at low temperatures to enhance the rich fruit profile and multiple yeasts were used for character and complexity.  This ruby colored wine has the incredible aromas that were present in the other Brian Arden wines.  There was cassis  and blackberry along with some vanilla and spices.  The structure on this medium-full bodied wine was perfect with medium tannins which will enhance this wine over the next 5-8 years.  The sugars and acidity were well balanced.  The initial flavors were of strawberry, black currants and a hint of blueberrys followed by some toasted oak and spices on the back.  The wine was smooth and elegant and not a big bold CA Cabernet.  The flavors stick around and will keep you coming back for more.  Only 132 cases were made of the 2008 vintage and I can promise you they will be gone quickly once it is available to the public.  Give this wine about 30 minutes to open up or decant if you have one available.  We served this with a hanger steak and a shallot reduction over the top along with asparagus on the side.  The perfect pairing!!   Could also be served with other red meats such as wild boar or venison.  Stay tuned for the release of this wine.  You will be sure to hear alot about Brian Harlan and his wine making for years to come.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Brian Arden Cabernet Franc 2008

Could the Cabernet Franc live up to the Brian Arden Zinfandel or the Syrah that were previously posted?  Unfortunately no.  Then again, that is like following Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell in the Pirate batting order.  Cabernet Franc is typically more of  a blending grape, including one of the Bordeaux blending grapes.  This 2008 BA wine is a blend of 97% Cabernet Franc and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon.  The initial aromas that we loved so much on the other two wasn't present in this one.  It was a little tighter on the nose.  The initial aromas were dried plums and raisins along with some peas.  I also thought there was some old burned wood smell, that I sometimes get from the patio grill.  The initial taste was of the dried fruits along with some earthiness and asparagus.  It ended with a subtle spiciness on the back end.  Other Cabernet Franc's that I have drank have also had a vegetable side to them.  The 2008 Cabernet Franc is leaner than the other two Brian Arden wines previously reviewed and the flavors faded quickly.  This medium bodied, garnet colored wine also had more tannins.  Be sure to give this 20 minutes to open before drinking.  This would pair nicely with lamb chops, pork tenderloins or even a burger.  Don't pair it with any bold or spicy flavors.  Overall, it was OK but would certainly pick the Zinfandel and the Syrah over the Cabernet Franc.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Treat yourself to a first class trip around the world of wine at the 5th Annual New York Wine Expo, March 2nd - 4th. The Grand Tasting offers attendees a chance to sample wines from nearly 190 wineries from around the globe. The Expo is also an opportunity to talk directly with wine makers and pick up tips on serving, pricing and selecting the right vintage. The New York Wine Expo will be held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. The latest in wine accessories and specialty foods will also be on hand at the Grand Tasting. “The New York Wine Expo features wines from the greatest wine-producing regions of the world,” said Ed Hurley, New York Wine Expo Show Director. “But the Expo also includes the biggest trends of the year ahead from smaller local wineries, to organic wines to off beat varietals that you’ll want to pour time and again.”

The show will run from 6-10 p.m. on Friday and from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available online. Use promo code: CORKEDWB and you will receive a $15 discount on the price of a Friday ticket (listed below).  I hope to see you there!

Standard Ticket Prices (without the discount):

Friday, March 2
$75 through 2/24
$85 beginning 2/25

Saturday, March 3 
$85 through 2/24
$95 beginning 2/25

For tickets, updated seminar schedule and event information visit or call 800-544-1660.  Note: The Wine Expo is not open to the general public on Sunday.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brian Arden Syrah 2008

After tasting the Brian Arden Zin (previous post), I couldn't wait to pop the cork on the Syrah.  Syrah was originally from the Rhone region of France and is used by many winemakers as a blending grape.  But not by Brian and Burt.  The 2008 Syrah is 100% syrah and is from the Masked Man Vineyard in Mendocino, CA.  Unfortunately, this was the last vintage from this vineyard as it has been pulled out and replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon vines.  Last night we made home-made pizzas, including the dough, topped with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, Italian salami and some sliced New Mexico peppers, along with a home-made tomato sauce.  What better to go with the peppers and tomato sauce than a tasty syrah.  Upon pouring the first glass, it had a nice deep red color along with a blue tint.  The aromas on the Brian Arden Syrah were as wonderful as those from the Zin with black cherry and plum, along with some green herbal notes and some espresso.  On the palate, the fruit was forward with both cherry and some blueberry flavors along with some subtle white pepper.  I also picked up some slight earthy/stoney flavors. Although syrah's are typically full-bodied and bolder wines, this one was medium to full bodied but is well structured with subtle tannins and acidity.  Again, the flavors lingered for some time.  Overall, another spectacular wine from the Brian Arden Wines.  My wife said "they are in a league of their own".  What a way to start the new year. These will be tough to follow.  As previously mentioned, the Brian Arden Wines are only available in Napa restaurants.  Hopefully soon, it will be more readily available.  Stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Brian Arden Zinfandel 2009

This is a name you all need to remember as it is a relatively new winemaker from Calistoga that you will be hearing rave reviews about in the near future.  The Brian Arden wines are produced by a father (Arden "Burt") and son (Brian) team.  Brian previously worked for the world famous Brix Restaurant where he was introduced to many industry icons.  In 2006 he moved to Calistoga starting in the cellar at Terra Valentine where he worked along side some of the most respected names in Napa winemaking including Kirk Venge, Michael Hirby, Sam Baxter, Bob Engelhoff and Jack Stuart.  Brian also had the privilege of sharing winery space with such luminaries as David Phinney of Orin Swift (WS #7 Best Wine in the world - Prisoner 2005), Steven Hall (Biale), Ray Coursen (Elyse & Falcor), Mark Jessup (Jessup Cellar) and Mike Farmer (Opus One).  The 2008 harvest was their first for Brian Arden wines. Burt also grew up in the farming business where his father (Burton of Burton Ranch) ran a commercial farming operation in the Central Valley including vineyards, prunes, pears and walnuts.

Last night we had our good friends Louise and Jonas, along with their children, over for dinner.  My wife made a braised chicken which was braised in a tomato sauce with pancetta and mushrooms.  The first thought was an Italian red because of the braise.  However, a nice zinfandel with some spice was the perfect pairing.  Burt suggested opening for 15-20 minutes before serving but after popping the cork, I had a hard time letting it sit.  The nose was incredible with dark fruits (black cherry and blackberry) along with some chocolate and cedar. There was also a hint of clove.  After these aromas, it had to be a great wine.  And it was!!!!  The black jammy fruits were followed by some licorice and chocolate and then some spicy pepper on the back end.  This zinfandel was not the typical dark, bold, in-your-face zin that many CA wines are, which was what I really liked about the Brian Arden.  It was structured so well with minimal to medium acidity, some soft  tannins and flavors that never ended.  Although it has a 14.7% alcohol content, it was well disguised. This wine wine made from 100% zinfandel grapes that had been harvested at the Burton Ranch Pump Block from ancient vines, with some dating back to 1886 which produce only 1-2 bunches per vine.  The grapes are smaller than those from the newer vines.

The wine received rave reviews at dinner.  I personally have not tasted a better zinfandel than this one.  If this had been a blind tasting, I would have expected a top name winemaker as opposed to the new kids on the block.  Presently, the Brian Arden wines are only being sold to restaurants, but this will likely change in the near future.  The next time you are in a restaurant in Napa, be sure to order a glass.  I can't wait to try the other Brian Arden wines including the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabernet Franc, the Syrah and the Sauvignon Blanc.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Zero Degrees of Riesling 2010

The first Finger Lakes Riesling that we tasted was the Zero Degrees Riesling produced by Three Brothers Wineries and Estates from Geneva, NY.  The 0 Degrees is 1 of 4 wines in their Four Degrees production.  The 0 Degrees is the driest and the 3 Degrees is their sweet Riesling.  The 0 Degrees wine was harvested in September from the Estate vineyards located on the north east end of Seneca Lake.  The grapes for this wine are from vines 30+ years old.  Upon opening, this wine had a rather tight nose but slowly opened up to some passion fruit and floral notes, along with a hint of slate. The initial tastes included fresh apricots along with some pears. Then, a green apple covered in honey hits you in the mid palate.  Although it is a very dry wine with only 6 grams of residual sugar, the ph was 3.23 and to both my wife and I this was a rather sweet wine.  If the Zero degrees is the driest and the 3 is their sweet Riesling, I can only image how sweet it must be.  We started drinking this while cooking and then served it with our fish dinner.  We both agreed that it completely over powered the fish.  It is a nice wine to drink on the patio with some appetizers or for the first course of a salad with a citrus dressing.  Be sure to keep this wine COLD!!  Also, we tried it the next day and I highly urge you to finish the bottle upon opening.  Overall, a decent wine for relaxing on the patio or to serve with an appetizer.  We now have our base for comparing the other five Finger Lake Rieslings.  I would really enjoy doing a tasting of all 4 wines from the Four Degrees of Riesling production.  The Zero Degrees Riesling 2010 retails for $14.00.

Finger Lakes Wine Country Rieslings

The mayor of Geneva, NY has declared September 22, 2011 as "Riesling Day".  Over the next few weeks, I will be posting six Riesling which I received from the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.  Each of the wines are from the 2010 vintage.  Before I get started, here is an overview of this vintage as provided by the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (

The 2010 Finger Lakes harvest was the warmest growing season in nearly forty years and the wettest since 1973.  Combined with the early bud break in April and adequate rainfall throughout the summer and fall, the wines from this vintage are varied in style but with a slant towards lower acid, intense fruit and wonderful ripeness.  Some vineyards harvested Rieslings early while others chose to let their fruit hang through the end of October resulting in differing styles from the variety.

Riesling grows well in cool-climate and the varied soils of the Finger Lakes.  The lakes and sloping topography create a macro climate protecting the vines from the region's typical cold winters while warding off the high humid levels found in other non-arid wine regions.  Between the lakes, the varying meso and micro climates create Rieslings with incredible diversity and range.  Overall, the region produces wines of outstanding quality and value with most Rieslings retailing for under $20 per bottle.

The Finger Lakes is home to 96 of New York's 231 wine producers.  Although Rieslings are the most recognized wines in this region, other white's that are gaining attention include the chardonnay and the gewurztraminer.  The Rieslings are generally dry, semi-dry, semi sweet or sweet. 
In southern CT, we don't find many wines from the Finger Lake region so I am looking forward to trying these six bottles.   Stay tuned.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Kings Ridge Pinot Noir 2009

Tonight, I stopped into Bruce Park Liquors and asked for a suggestion.  Both employees said one of their favorite wines in the entire store is the Kings Ridge Pinot Noir.  Maybe the distributor was just in.  Anyways, I gave it a try.  This 100% Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes from the Willamette Valley and the Umpqua Valley in Oregon. The Willamette Valley is located in the northwest region of Oregon and has more of a cooler and wetter climate from the mountains.  Although this region is prone to flooding, however, these floods have also brought rich soils from the eastern side of Oregon.  The Willamette Valley has received rave reviews for the outstanding Pinot Noirs produced in this region.  The Umpqua Valley is located in southern Oregon and rivals Willamette for outstanding wines.  Depending on which region of the Umpqua Valley you are in, the climate changes quite drastically.  Southern Umpqua is a much warmer region than the mountainous northern Umpqua.  For the outdoorsman, this is a great area for hiking, camping and is well known as a mecca for fly fishing. 
The Kings Ridge Winery is owned by two partners Ryan Harms and George Hillberry.  How's that name for a winemaker?  The ownership entity is Union Wine Company.  According to the winemaker, 2009 was a tough year due to the rains and then the high temperatures later on when they typically harvest the grapes.  This vintage was allowed to stay on the vines for an extended period of time, which did cause some to dry and shrivel.  Unfortunately, my hopes of this "best wine in the store" was quickly tarnished once I opened the screw-top cap.  This dark burgundy wine had a black fruit aroma along with an alcohol smell that had a burning effect on my nose.  As the wine opened, the alcohol burns went away and the black fruits turned into red berries, along with a leather belt aroma.  Yet ever changing, an aroma of red roses evolved along with some raspberries.  This wine was aged in both new and used French oak barrels.  On the palate, the wine missed the front and middle of the palate and went straight to the back.  There was some red currant flavors along with some herbal notes.  I also picked up some teaberry flavors.  Remember Clark's teaberry gum. The tannins were relatively smooth but there was no back end to this wine, except for an unpleasant after taste.   Overall, I would pass on this next time. The Kings Ridge Pinot Noir 2009 retails for $17.50.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tilia Torrontes 2009

With summer upon us, the Tilia Torrontes is a nice wine to savor on a hot day.  The Torrontes grape has really gained attention in Argentina, yet I feel many white wine drinkers in the US have not ventured into this varietal yet.  Tilia is Latin for Linden, which is the tree represented on the label.  This wine is produced at Bodegas Esmeralda located east of Mendoza. The Tilia Torrontes starts off with a nice floral aroma along with apricots and some citrus.   The flavors are not overpowering of citrus or juicy peaches but more of a white peach along with some cantaloupe and jasmine.  The acidity is perfect and the flavors are long lasting.  This would be a nice aperitif, or better yet, served with an appetizer due to the 13.5% alcohol.  Some people ask what you would serve with a salad and this would be the perfect pairing.  I could even see pairing this with chips and a artichoke dip or other non-spicy dip.  Wine Spectator rated this 85 points.  This wine deserves a higher rating.  The Tilia Torrontes 2009 retails for $10.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Apaltagua Reserva Carmenere 2008

The Carmenere is a varietal that is still unfamiliar to many wine drinkers, but it is catching on quickly.  I, like many of you, had not tasted the Carmenere until Cristobal Undurraga introduced me to it about 2 years ago.  This grape was originally from France and was actually 1 of 6 grapes that could be blended in Bordeaux wines.  Unfortunately, it was a late ripening grape and was not flourishing in the cold weather.  Since being planted in Chile, the varietal has really gained an audience in Chile.  Today, it is one of the most planted grapes.  Historically, it has been used as a blending grape but now it can stand on it's own.  The Apaltagua Reserva is a wonderful wine that is 100% carmenere which was harvested from 60+ year old vines in the Apalta Valley Estate.  This crimson colored wine starts off with aromas of a basket of black cherries and cassis along with some green herbs.  My wife compared it to a fir tree.  There was also a bit of smokiness and spices.  On the palate, the initial cherry and plum flavors are followed up by raspberries and then some spicy dark chocolate and a slight creaminess from the French oak back end.  This unfiltered Reserva was well structured with nice acidity and very smooth tannins with a long finish.  If you are not familiar with Carmenere, give it a try.  It might remind you of a cabernet franc.  For $10-$14/bottle, this might be the next big following.  We served it with a grilled (wood fired) flank steak with a smoked paprika chimichura sauce along with a side of grilled corn and tomato salad.  Paired well with both dishes.  I opened this bottle about 30-45 minutes before dinner was served.  Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar rated this 88 points.  This was a very enjoyable wine and it received two thumbs up at our house.  This was purchased at Wine Wise (see side bar for link).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2009

One of my wife's friends introduced us to the Yealands Sauvignon Blanc.  Yealands was started in 2002 by Peter Yealands who, in such a short period of time, has turned his winery into the leader in sustainable growing. They have received both the Sustainable Winegrowing Certification (SWINZ) and has a CarboNZero Certification, which is shown on the label.  In addition to other techniques, Yealands uses wind turbines and solar panels.  To reduce spraying and tractor mowing, they allow the sheep to graze in the vineyards. Yealands is the largest privately owned vineyard in New Zealand.   2009 was a trying year for the Marlborough region due to the lack of rain in March and April.  The grapes for this vintage were picked a little later than normal.
Last night we opened a bottle of the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc which started with tight aromas of lime and grapefruit and some stoniness.  The Awatere Valley located south of Marlborough is know for its stony ravines and sloping landscape.   On the palate, there is a biting pink grapefruit flavor followed by green apples and green vegetable (asparagus) and some minerality on the back.  The wine was medium bodied with some complexity but the acidity was unusually high and the back end had a bitterness that didn't encourage me to have another glass.  This wine must be kept cold.  Also, I would not drink this as an aperitif.  This could be enjoyed with an appetizer or a main course of scallops and fish.  Overall, a decent wine but I would probably try another sauvignon blanc instead of this one next time.  Wine Spectator gave it an 88 point rating which is probably at the high end of my range.  I think 85-87 is more representative of this wine.  It retails for about $11-$12.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Koyle Wines

My friend Cristobal Undurraga was in town last week and introduced several new wines from Koyle and one from Terrapura.  This is the 4th meeting I have had with him and I have to say the wines just keep getting better.  As mentioned in previous postings, the Undurraga's have been making wines since 1885 when Francisco Undurraga started the family business. They were the first Chilean winery to export to the US in 1903.   In 2006, the family sold the winery, vineyard and brand name to an investment group.  Shortly thereafter, Alfonso Undurraga Mackenna and his three sons, Max, Alphonso and Cristobal purchased 2,718 acres in Los Lingus, in the foothills of the Andes Mountain.  Also mentioned previously, Cristobal has learned the trade not only from his family but some of the top wineries in Argentina, Napa, Australia and France.  His last stop before coming back to the family business was with Aurelio Montes´s Kaiken.  Cristobal's grandfather's motto was "quality before quantity".  And the brothers have certainly lived up to that.  The Undurraga's began working on transforming their winery into a biodynamic winery in 2009 and expect to receive the official designation later this year. When you are ready to give Chilean wine a try, be sure to search out the Koyle and Terrapura wines.
We began the night with the 2010 Terrapura Sauvignon Blanc.  Terrapura is small production by Alfonso Undurraga.  Once I took a "sniffy sniff" (thanks Gary V), I was ready to dive in.  The rich intense aromas of exotic fruits and citrus were overwhelming.  These wonderful fruits followed onto the palate with smooth, crisp acidity.  A perfect aperitif or serve with appetizers.  This was one of the nicest sauvignon blancs that I have tasted in a long time.  Probably my pick of the year. This is a steal at $9.99.

Next we turned to the reds and the Koyle label.  We started with the 2009 Koyle Reserva Carmenere.  Until 2009, Carmenere was primarily used as a blend with other grapes, most notably Syrah at the Koyle winery.  However, the 2009 was so good that it could stand on it's own and then blended with 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Syrah.  Cristobal said they tried other grapes including Merlot but they just didn't work.  The carmenere grape is a late ripening grape with plenty of black fruit and cassis.  There is also a gentle as well as some minerality from the stony terroir.  60% of the wine was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, while the other 40% was aged in stainless steel to preserve the individual characteristics of each grape.  This was served with a lamb chop appetizer.  The Reserva retails for $19.99.

The 2008 Koyle Royale Syrah is a very dark colored wine that is a blend of 93% Syrah and 7% Malbec.  The Royale line of wines from Koyle are the top end wines.  This full bodied Syrah had a wonderful nose of fresh plums, coffee and notes of black pepper .  The black fruits overwhelm your taste buds along with cedar, some smokiness and  minereality from the granite slopes of the Andes Mountains.  The tannins were smooth and silky and long lasting flavors.  The wine was aged for 18 months with 1/2 being aged in new French oak and the other 1/2 aged in 1 year old used French oak barrels.  Just before bottling the wine is blended without filtration.  Although this wine is ready to be enjoyed now, put it away for another 5-10 years and you will have a great wine.  I recommend serving this with grilled meats or a BBQ sauce.  Only 2,200 cases of the 2008 Koyle Royale Syrah were made.  It retails for $25.99.  I really enjoyed this wine and would recommend buying a few bottles.

The 2009 Koyle Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon was a tighter wine with aromas of sweet blackberries and blueberries, along with some vanilla and green vegetables.  The black fruit flavor followed onto the palate along with some currants, tobacco and a hint of mint.  This is a blend of 90% cabernet and 10% malbec with the grapes coming from three lots in the Colchaua Valley: Los Lingues, Apalta and Lolol.  Following maceration, the wine is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months.  The Reserva Cabernet was not as bold as the typical California Cabernet, which also made this enjoyable but the young tannins were still chewy.   You will want to decant this for at least an hour to get the most out of it.  The 2009 Koyle Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon retails for $16.99.  A nice Cabernet that you won't have to break the bank.

The 2008 Koyle Royale Cabernet Sauvignon is a few giant steps above the Reserva Cabernet.  Koyle has 15 hectares (37 acres) of Cabernet.  The 2008 Royale is a dark ruby colored wine that is a blend of 85% Cabernet, 13% Malbec and 2% Carmenere.  Although the nose had more of a juicy  red fruit aroma along with cassis, the black fruits were prevalent on the palate, along with some spiciness and toasty oak.  Unlike the 2009 Reserva Cabernet, this wine had a much fuller and complex structure with perfectly silky tannins and flavors that were never ending.  As similar to the Royale Syrah, the Royale Cabernet is aged for 18 months in French oak and is also unfiltered.  This is a limited production with only 4,000 cases produced. If you are lucky enough to find it, be sure to treat yourself. I suggest decanting this for about an hour.    If this wine had a California label, it would likely be retailed for double the $25.99 that Koyle sells it for.  This will age well for the next 5-10 years.  This was probably my favorite red of the night, although each of the wines were very nice.

Last up was the 2007 CAYU.  This is a wine made from four producers: Larrain, Lasmatres, Toso & Undurraga.  Cristobal went back to Mendoza and created this wine with the five friends from his days working in Mendoza.  CAYU means the number 6 in the the local Mapuche dialect.  The CAYU is a 100% malbec with all grapes coming from a single vineyard in the Uco Valley, southwest of Mendoza City.  Malbec is a grape that came from Europe prior to the phylloxera infestation and thus the vines had the original roots.  Following the outbreak, vines would be grafted onto other grapes roots.   Today, it is one of the most widely harvested grapes in Argentina.  This aromas reminded me of a blueberry pie with some spices on top.  The rich anise and plum flavors were combined with the sweetness of the blueberries and some vanilla on the back end.  The acidity was higher but the tannins were soft and subtle.  Like several of the others, this wine is unfiltered and aged for 24 months in new French oak barrels.  Give this wine about 30-60 minutes of decanter time before serving. I generally have a tough time putting bottles away in the cellar but this will be outstanding in another 5 years.  This was tied with the Royale Cabernet Sauvignon as my favorite red wine of the night.  This is a very limited production with 1,200 (Six-bottle cases) produced.  It retails for $49.99.  

I highly recommend the Koyle and Terrapura wines from Chile.  If you can't find them in your local store, you can purchase them from Quintessential Wines (click on logo on sidebar).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Llai Llai Pinot Noir 2009

Now there is an interesting name.  However, llai llai in the local mapuche language means wind.  And this wine comes from a windy and rainy area of Chile known as the Bio Bio Valley.  The region is located approximately 300 miles south of Santiago and 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean and is rich in red clay soils and volcanic stone.  The Bio Bio (pronounced Bee o) region is slowly catching on for wine making compared to the easier growing climate in northern Chile.  Moscatel is the most prevalent grape in the Bio Bio, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, with Pinot Noir taking up a close 4th.  The Llai Llai is made by Louis Vallet, who is the 5th generation family member that has gone into the wine business.  His father, Bernard Vallet, is well known in the Burgundy circle.  Louis spends 6 months a year in Chile and the other 6 months back in France also making Pinot Noir wines.
Upon opening the 2009 vintage, I immediately thought of meat.  My wife went one step further and said grilled pork.  She was right on.  I had smelled this once before in a wine from Koyle wines, also from Chile, but it was a completely different grape.  Although it had a rather deep red color, it was a very light bodied wine.  It had been aged for 16 months with 40% aged in 2nd use French oak barrels and the remaining 60% aged in stainless steel.  Once you got past the meat aromas, there was some raspberries and cherries along with herbal notes.  On the palate, the initial flavors were black cherry, followed by some currants and some oakiness.  In addition, there was a minerality that came thru on the back end.  The alcohol content was 13.8% and the acidity was medium.  The tannins were also fairly mild.  Overall, an interesting wine that would be the perfect match for fish.  Yes, a red with fish.  We agreed that it might not be a wine that we would pick up again, but would certainly be enjoyed by others.  This can be purchased for $12.98 at "Buy Wine Online" located on the right sidebar of this blog.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Paul Dolan Zinfandel 2007

The Paul Dolan 2007 Zinfandel is a medium-bodied wine that is a blend of zinfandel grapes from Mendocino County (79%) and Amador County (21%).  Mr. Dolan is probably as well known for his organic and bio-dynamic farming as he is for his award winning wines. This Zinfandel is Certified Organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). It is not the full bodied, full flavored Zin that you typically find in CA.  I would guess that these grapes came from younger vines.  In fact, it was more of a French Beaujolais to us than a zinfandel.  This light garnet colored wine started off with a sweet juicy raspberry aroma followed by some leather and pepper.  However, on the palate, there were more black fruits and cherry flavors along with some plum and chocolate.  Although it has a 14.5% alcohol volume, it was well integrated.  The tannins were mild but there was a slight oaky aftertaste.  It was not overly dry either.  As it reminded us of a Beaujolais, we put it in the refrigerator and chilled it and it became a much nicer wine.  This is not a wine to decant.  I would hold this for another 2-3 years if possible.  Wine Enthusiast rated this 91 points.  I think this is a bit high but still a nice overall wine.   The Paul Dolan 2007 Zinfandel could pair nicely with many foods.  For a change, give it a shot with turkey, duck or even ham.  It retails for $22-$25 but can be found at "Buy Wine Online" for $19 on the side bar of this blog.   

Viticcio Toscana Bere 2007

This wine caught my attention because it is from Greve In Chianti, which is a nearby town of our favorite Radda.  Greve in Chianti is the "capital" of the Chianti region with the old Tuscan town square with some small wines shops, butchers and cheese shops.  If you are ever in this area, it is worth the stop.  The Viticcio winery was founded in the early 1960's by Lucio Landini and his wife.  Their first harvest was in 1964 with a total production of less than 20,000 bottles.  Today, the ownership and operations have been taken over by Lucio's son Alessandro.  They have slightly more than 30 hectares (74 acres) and have specialized in Chianti's and super Tuscan blends.  The Bere is a medium to full bodied wine which has a dark crimson color and is a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot.  On the nose, there is a dark fruit aroma, dried raisins and some earthiness.  On the palate, the cherry and currants are the initial taste followed by some chocolate and some of the Tuscan dirt.  There is a slight tartness on the back, but it went away on the second day of being open.  This wine was barreled for 8 months in Slovenian oak.  Overall, this dry wine was well structured with a nice acidity and long lasting flavors.  The tannins were still slightly chewy but did not bother me.  You will want to decant this for about an hour to really get the flavors out.  Wine Spectator rated this 90 points, which is slightly high. I would have thought they would be in the 87-88 range.  It is a very enjoyable and easy drinking wine that is a great bargain for the $12 retail price.  This was paired with Swiss sausages but would also be great with a pasta dish or a sausage and pepperoni pizza.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hall Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Many people head to New Zealand, South Africa or Chile for Sauvignon Blanc but I am here to tell you that there are great Sauvignon Blancs in our back yard - Yountville (Napa), CA.  The Sauvignon Blanc grape is a green skinned grape that was originally from the Bordeaux region of France.  The 2009 Hall Sauvignon Blanc is a powerful medium-bodied dry white wine that starts with a rich and powerful nose of grapefruit, along with some lemon and kiwi and touch of vanilla.  This refreshing and fruit forward wine has a nice crisp acidity with long lasting flavors of peach and lemon to start, some bosc pear in the middle and then a little heat on the back end.  This is a very enjoyable wine.  We served it with a chicken and seafood paella and it was a perfect compliment.  Wine & Spirits Magazine gave the Hall Sauvignon Blanc 2009 a 91 point rating.  I would definitely agree with this rating.  It retails for $22, which is a little high but worth it.  Give this a try.  Another very nice Sauvignon Blanc from Rutherford, CA is the Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (review posted October 13, 2009).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Emilio Moro Finca Resalso 2008

Over the past few weeks, I have been on a Spanish wine hunt.  I have even gone back to some of my favorites, including the Tinto Figuero 15 (tasting posted February 25, 2010) .   I also just found in CT the Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserve 2004 which until now could only find in Switzerland (tasting posted July 31, 2009).  Can't wait to pop that cork.  The other night while having pizza, I tried the Finca Resalso 2008.  The Resalso is from the Leon region of Spain where the tempranillo grape is actually known as Tinto Fino. This dark garnet colored wine made from 100% tempranillo grapes started off with a big powerful aroma of black fruit that quickly changed to cowhide and star anise.  The 2008 had been aged for 4 months in French Oak barrels but the nose led you to believe a lot longer.  I also thought there was an abundance of alcohol on the nose.  On the palate, this medium bodied wine had plenty of red and black juicy berries along with dark chocolate, and again, a slightly elevated alcohol taste and oakiness.  The 2008 has a 13.5% alcohol content.  The earthiness that you sometimes find in the tempranillo wines was completely lost in this one.   I actually went back a day later to try it again but it did not get any better.  There was also a noticeable increase in acidity and a bitter cherry taste on the back end. The sales clerk at the store said he hadn't tried it so I was on my own.  The Wine Advocate rated this 90 points.  Maybe I had a bad bottle but I think they missed the boat on this one.  The Resalso  2008 at $13 or the Ondarre Reserve 2004 at $11 is a no brainer.   This would definitely be a pass next time.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tomaiolo Pinot Grigio 2010

Tonight my wife made mussels with a saffron aioli sauce.  An Italian Pinot Grigio by Tomaiolo was chosen for this dish.  Unfortunately, for my taste, this did not work.  Along with some fruity aromas, it also had a hint of rubbing alcohol.  Additionally, the acidity was overbearing and the taste was more of a gasoline (I would guess) taste and a bitter back end.  Italians are known for picking the Pinot Grigio grapes a little early so the acidity remains high.  The alcohol was only 12% but it smelled and tasted a lot higher.  The producer claims it has an apple blossom scent and flavor but I completely missed those.  This would be a definite pass next time.  For $9, what do you expect.

Monday, April 11, 2011

50% OFF Arger-Martucci Wines

Arger-Martucci is having a blowout 50% sale until Friday, April 15.  Great wines from a family owned and operated winery located in Napa, CA.  Below are the tasting notes.  Several of these wines are previously posted in the blog.  93 point wines at 50% off.  Get it while it lasts.  Call Anthony Arger at (775) 750-6545 and tell him Jason sent you.  Don't miss out on some great wines and great prices.  The prices below are the retail prices BEFORE the sale.  Sale price is only for single cases of one varietal/type of wine.  No mixed cases. 

2009 ILIAD (Proprietary White Blend) ~ Mendocino

The Iliad is a proprietary white blend, which complements our proprietary red blend and estate reserve, the Odyssey. Representing the true art of winemaking, this blend achieves a body, flavor and richness that proves superior to any of its individual varietal components. Harvested from select vineyards in Napa and Mendocino counties, the four aromatic varietals that compose the Iliad are Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat. The bouquet is truly exotic with an immediate impression of melon, pear and even coconut. The mouthfeel is very rich with hints of tropical spice, which suggests Viognier first, then Gewurtztraminer, and finally, a hint of grapefruit from the Sauvignon Blanc. There is a small amount (less than one-half of one percent) of residual sugar, which enhances the richness on the palate. This is the perfect wine to accompany any lighter dish or simply to “sip” on the veranda.  $24.99

2005 PINOT NOIR (Estate) ~ Carneros

Our 2005 Pinot Noir was harvested on September 22 from our traditional source in Carneros. Picked at 24.5 Brix and with excellent acidity levels, the grape cluseters were destemmed, cold-macerated for 48 hours, and then fermented for 16 days on the skins. Once finished, the grapes were gently pressed and finally placed in 100% French Nevers Oak for 14 months. Of note is the color of the wine, which is garnet, not black. The bouquet has a cloak of rich, red fruits from raspberry to red currant. The mouthfeel is smooth and silky with a generous sweet mid-palate that supports an elegant structure with softer tannins. The flavors are dominated by dark cherry, plums and hints of toastiness. Drinkable now, winemaker Kosta Arger believes the wine will continue to mature and improve over the next five years.  $27.99

2005 SYRAH (Estate) ~ Atlas Peak

2008 Orange County Fair Gold Medal Winner
2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Silver Medal Winner

The 2005 Syrah was harvested on November 2nd from our Odyssey Vineyard on Atlas Peak. This vineyard is situated 1,350 feet above the valley floor. The grapes were de-stemmed then cold-macerated for 3 days then fermented for an additional 25 days on the skins. While the 2004 was a classic Napa style Syrah, the 2005 is a bigger mouthful. A bit richer in texture, it gives off the classic white pepper bouquet with hints of black cherry. This wine was so intense we blended it with 4% Merlot to soften it a bit. The result is a rich-textured mouth feel with flavors of cherry and leather that linger on the palate.  $24.99

2005 CABERNET SAUVIGNON (Estate) ~ Atlas Peak

Wine Enthusiast Rated 93 Points (December 2009)
2009 California State Fair Wine Competition Gold Medal Winner

The 2005 harvest was one of the finest in recent memory for the Napa Valley. Most of the harvest was done under perfect conditions. Our Cabernet Sauvignon was hand-picked on October 23-24 at 24.9 brix from our Odyssey Vineyard on Atlas Peak. The grapes were de-stemmed then cold-macerated for 72 hours in small lots, then fermented “on the skins” for 25 days. The wine was aged in our customary combination of Seguin-Moreau French Nevers Oak, 40%, Hungarian Oak, 40% and American Oak, 20% for 22 months. The final blend was made in April, 2007 and bottled in September 2007. This 2005 consists of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot. The bouquet literally jumps from the glass with leathery and plumb overtones. The mouthfeel, or texture, is luscious with nuances of chocolate and cinnamon on the palate. The low yields from our hillside vineyard, which is 1,350 feet above the valley floor, and our clone selection combine to give this wine an intense concentration, unique to great Napa Valley Cabernet.  $39.99

2005 ODYSSEY (Estate) ~ Atlas Peak

Wine Enthusiast Rated 93 Points & Cellar Selection (December 2009)

We consider our Odyssey to be the ultimate in a proprietary estate red wine. This premium wine represents a consistent house style representing Arger-Martucci Vineyards and is 100% estate grown. The grapes are hand-picked from our Odyssey Vineyards, 1,350 feet above the valley floor on Atlas Peak. The Cabernet Sauvignon, composing 39% of the blend, is selected primarily from the French 337 clone planted on a single section of the vineyard. The remainder of this blend is composed of 31% Cabernet Franc, 28% Merlot, 1% Petite Verdot and 1% Syrah. The wine was aged 22 months in predominately French Nevers and Hungarian Oak. The richness of the 2005 vintage is immediately noticeable in this blend. While the characteristics of classic Napa Cabernet are present, no single varietal dominates the blend. The result is an elegant feel in the mouth with nuances of cinnamon and black cherry on the palate. We create our premium estate red to be immediately appealing, yet the soft tannins which result from extended maceration and barrel-aging will make this wine very age-worthy.  $49.99 (Corked Wine Blog Favorite)

2005 CABERNET FRANC (Estate) ~ Atlas Peak

The 2005 Cabernet Franc was harvested on October 23rd at 24.7 brix with excellent acidity levels. Consistent with our low-yield philosophy, only 2.5 tons per acre were produced from our mountainside vineyard on Atlas Peak. The clusters were de-stemmed, cold-soaked for 72 hours and then fermented on the skins for an extended maceration period of 25 days. This prolonged skin to juice contact enables us to extract the maximum intensity which is evident in the intense color and flavor. This wine was barrel-aged in 40% Hungarian oak, 40% French Nevers oak, and 20% American oak. Winemaker Kosta Arger considers oak aging similar to a “spice-rack” in cooking - each type of oak adds different layers of flavor to the profile of the wine. To soften the mouth feel and add complexity, 4% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon were added to the wine. The bouquet gives intense black cherry with nuances of tobacco and vanilla. The wine finishes with phenomenal richness and texture with hints of cherry and leather.  $34.99

2005 PETITE SYRAH ~ Calistoga

2009 West Coast Wine Competition Silver Medal Winner

The Petite Syrah grapes were harvested from 140 year old vines situated in Calistoga. Vines of this age are extremely shy-bearing, producing approximately 4 to 6 clusters per vine. The grapes were harvested on October 27th then cold macerated for 2 days, and fermented on the skins for an additional 24 days. The wine was aged in 100% French Oak for 18 months. The color is almost black as one would expect. The bouquet is that of green olives and intense black pepper with hints of tar and smokiness. The texture is a bit more austere than the 2004, yet still gives a big mouthful of rich Petite Syrah flavors true to the varietal.  $44.99

2006 DULCINEA (Late Harvest) ~ California

The 2006 Dulcinea is comprised of 90 % Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillion, harvested at 35 Brix. The residual sugar was 10.2% by weight. Each grape variety was heavily botrytis and individual bunches were hand selected. The entire clusters were placed in the press and gently squeezed for 3 hours. The wine was then aged in small French and American oak barrels for 19 months. This wine is an incredibly rich, sauternes-style dessert wine. The bouquet gives immediate apricots and peaches that follow through on the palate. The texture is rich, but not cloying on the palate. The complexity of flavors is quite remarkable – peaches, a touch of tropical, and a hint of nutmeg.  $39.99.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Heron Hill Winery

Although a neighboring state, we rarely see wines from the Finger Lakes region of New York here in southern Connecticut.  One fellow blogger, Joe from Why Wine Blog,  has been telling me about the great wines from this region for a few years now.  Heron Hill Winery from Hammondsport, NY sent a few bottles for me to try.  Heron Hill Winery was started in 1977 and still run by the husband and wife team of John and Josephine Ingle.  Although John moved to Denver to go to college, he returned to his "roots", literally. John grew up in nearby Pittsford.  When Heron Hill opened, they suprising focused on Rieslings and Chardonnays.  They were considered the flagship of Finger Lake Rieslings.  Heron Hill and it's Rieslings gained national attention in 2004 for their outstanding 2002 vintage.  John is a popular person in this region, not only for his wines, but also his sustainability and organic farming methods for both grapes and food.  However, when it comes to the wines, he quickly gives credit to his winemakers Thomas Laszlo and Bernard Cannac.  In addition to impressive wines, the Heron Hill Winery was selected as one of the Top 10 Most Spectacular tasting rooms in the the world by Travel + Leisure Magazine.  Only two US wineries made this list.

NY is home to 1,000 vineyards and 120 wineries.  The warm days and cool nights around the lakes and the hilly terrain in the Fingers Lake Region is similar to some of Europe's grape growing regions.  In fact, it is actually on the same latitude as Germany, which is often thought of when mentioning Rieslings.  The Ingle Vineyards are on the west side of the Canandaigua Lake.

2007 Ingle Vineyard Riesling - This medium-bodied riseling had a nice soft nose of grapefruit, lemon and melon along with some stoney/slate from the terroir.  On the palate, the melon and lemon were predominant but also some green apple, grapefruit and lime.  This riesling was not as sweet as the previously posted French riesling.  There was nice acidity and long finish. Very well structured.  This wine received a 91 Point rating from both Wine Spectator and Wine & Spirits.  Nice wine for appetizers or salad, Chesapeake Bay crabs with seasoning, cajun spiced scallops or even a bratwurst on the grill.  This nice dry wine will get even better with another 3 years of aging.

2008 Ingle Vineyard Chardonnay (Unoaked) - This unoaked chardonnay really allowed the rocky terroir to show thru in the taste.  Additionally, there were more green herb aromas and tastes, along with the light citrus. This wine, for our taste, would be a pass next time.  The 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay retails for $15.

2007 Ingle Vineyard Cabernet Franc -  This was our favorite of the four wines.  The medium to full bodied blend consists of 83% cabernet franc, 12% cabernet sauvignon and 5% merlot.  The plum and cherry aromas were followed by lots of juicy blue and black fruit along with a hint of anise and white pepper.  The eurpoean oak also gave a nice final flavor and the tannins were very smooth.  Perfect for a stew or filet.  The 2007 Cabernet Franc retails for $15.  A nice buy at this price.

2007 Ingle Vineyard Pinot Noir - This Pinot Noir reminded me alot of the French Pinot Noir by Gustave Lorentz, in the fact that it was a lighter colored and lighter bodied Pinot than we are used to here in the US.  The aromas of cherries, strawberries and raspberries were predominant upon opening followed by herbal tea and some light oak from the 1-2 year old European barrels.  The red fruits followed thru along with some earthiness and a slight coffee taste.  This would pair well with a game bird such as quail or pheasant or a thicker fish like swordfish or salmon.  The 2007 Pinot Noir retails for $15-$17.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dievole Chianti Classico "Novecento" Riserva DOCG 2004

A few years ago while on vacation, we were introduced to the Dievole wines.  The Plenum Quartus by Dievole (blog review posted 5/20/09)  is still one of our favorite wines.  This week we tried the 2004 "Novecento" which is a medium bodied blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% other estate grapes from the Sessina and Massoni vineyards.  2004 was a mixed vintage throughout Europe but was a very good year in the Tuscan region. This ruby red wine is a little darker than most Chianti's.  The Sangiovese grape was considered one of the first grapes harvested by the Romans and possibly earlier.  The grape is actually a cross between a Tuscan grape and a grape from southern Italy.  The wine opened with a mild nose of red and black fruits, along with some coffee.  On the palate, there were more intense plum, prune and cherry flavors along with  dark chocolate and some slight oakiness.  The acidity on this wine was rather high and the finish was more assertive than other Chianti's.  It also has a 13.5% alcohol content.  We were rushed for time last night so we didn't get to decant this wine, but I would recommend opening an hour before serving.  Overall, the regular $46 retail price is too high for this wine, as was the $29 "on-sale" price.  There are better Chianti's out there for this price.  Two thumbs down at our house.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gustave Lorentz

Last week I had the pleasure of having dinner with Pascal Schiele from the Gustave Lorentz winery in France.    Let me begin with a little background on Pascal.  He was born and raised in the Alsace region and grew up with many winemakers in the family.  Both his great grandfather and grandfather were winemakers and two of his uncles are still winemakers.  Pascal started in the wine exporting business in 1996 and moved to Gustave Lorentz wines in 2001.  Today, he is the Export Director for the winery.  They currently export to 55 countries, and although only the 8th largest exporter of Alsace wines to the US, they will definitely crack the top 5 with the help of their new US Distributor, Quintessential Wines.
The Gustave Lorentz winery is located in Bergheim commune (village) in Haut-Rhin in north-eastern France near the Rhine River and the German and Swiss borders.  Although there were over 160 Alsace villages growing vines in the first millennium, the re-birth of the Alsace came after World War I when the winegrowers adopted a "quality first" policy.  This policy was reinforced by delimitation of the vineyard area, and by strict enforcement of production and vinification legislation.  These efforts were officially rewarded by Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) status: AOC Alsace in 1962, AOC Alsace Grand Cru in 1975 and AOC Cremant d'Alsace in 1976. 
The Lorentz family has been in the wine making business since 1836 and today is the largest family owned producer in Alsace bottling over 150,000 cases.    Gustave Lorentz's Estates vineyard represent 32 hectares (79 acres), of which 1.5 (3.71 acres) are planted on the hills of the Grand Cru Kanzlerberg and 13 hectares (29.65 acres) in the Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim.  In addition, they also buy grapes from another 120 hectares, which are almost exclusively based in Bergheim.  Although they are the largest family business, they don't sacrifice the quality of their wines.  They employ state-of-the-art vinification techniques and equipment and was among the first producers in the Alsace to use stelvin (screw-cap) closures on their wines. In  2009, the winery entered into a partnership with Ecocert to have their entire Estate vineyards certified organic beginning with the 2012 vintage.  The winery is managed by Georges Lorentz, who is the 7th generation in this family run business.
During our tasting, we sampled 10 wines and paired them with different plates of food:
Cremant d' Alsace (non-vintage) -  This is a sparkling wine with small soft bubbles that is made from 33% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Blanc and 33% Pinot Noir.  Like Champagne, this sparkling wine goes thru two fermentation processes with daily bottle rotation, going from horizontal to vertical.  I am not a big fan of Champagne or sparkling wines but I found myself going back for more.  Additionally, the $24.99 price is substantially less than Champagne.  Give it a try.
2009 Pinot Gris Reserve -  This 100% Pinot Gris had a golden color with hints of white fruit and a touch of honey.  Very fruit forward and semi-dry.
2007 Pinot Gris "Schofweg" (single vineyard) - This was a very nice Pinot Gris that was well structured and fuller bodied than the Reserve.  Although these were from two different vineyards, both had notes of the limestone which is common to this region.  Both of the Pinot Gris would go well with appetizers, cheeses or seafood, especially with scallops.  The Reserve retails for $23.99 and the Schofweg retails for $29.99.  For the extra $6, go for the "Schofweg".  This received a 91 point rating from Wine Spectator.
2009 Pinot Blanc Reserve - was also a very nice Pinot Blanc that was not as dry as the Pinot Gris.  It was very fruit forward with lots of citrus, especially lemon along with white peach and a hint of grapefruit.  The flavors of this progressed with some spiciness that was perfect with the crisp acidity.  I would recommend this wine, which retails for $19.99.
2009 Riesling Reserve - is their entry level Riesling.  They produce about 160,000 cases of this wine of this medium to fuller body Riesling.  It has a refreshing acidity and a nice dry finish.  There was some tartness of green apples and a slight unappealing aftertaste.  This is a basic Riesling that retails for $23.99.
2005 Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim - This was probably my 2nd highest ranked wine of the night.  This is a must buy, even though it retails for $49.99.  Only 1,000 cases were produced.
2009 Gewurztraminer Reserve - again the entry level wine, was more than entry level.  It had a wonderful nose of fresh flowers and tropical fruits that followed onto the palate along with some spiciness and orange peels.  The grapes for this wine come from 30-50 year old vines.  This well structured wine retails for $23.99. 
2006 Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Altenberg de Bergheim - This, along with the Riesling Grand Cru were my two favorites.  This is the real deal!!!  A nice semi-dry wine with great tropical fruit aromas and tropical fruit flavors. This golden yellow wine was perfectly structured with a long finish.  This will be great for the next 5 years.  The perfect pairing for many foods from appetizers to white meats and sausages to seafood to spicy ethnic dishes. The 2006 Grand Cru retails for $59.99.
2008 Pinot Noir Reserve.  This was the first red of the evening.  I paired this with a steak and it was the perfect match.  It could  be served with other red meats, but will also go really well with veal and lamb.  I was expecting a bigger wine like the West Coast US Pinot Noirs but this was a softer, less in-your face wine.  As the meal went on, this wine became more expressive and more enjoyable.  Be sure to decant this wine for 30 minutes.  The Pinot Noir Reserve is an un-oaked wine with raspberry and cherry aromas and a hint of red currants.  The red fruits continued onto the palate.  Surprisingly, it was better chilled than slightly warmer.  Although it is very drinkable now, I think a few more years will bring the best out of this wine.  The 2008 retails for $23.99.
Cremant d' Alsace Rose (non-vintage) - This Cremant is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes.  This sparkling rose wine had a nose of cranberries and red rose petals.  Although it was well received by many dinner guests, this one did not work for me.   It was a little too sweet for me and, as mentioned earlier, sparkling wines are generally not my favorite.  The Cremant d' Alsace retails for $24.99.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the Gustave Lorentz wines and would strongly recommend you picking some up.   The Lorentz family takes pride in their food friendly wines.  They are served in the small Brasserie to the highly rated Michelin stared restaurants in France.   Thank you to Lorraine and to Pascal for inviting me to this enjoyable dinner and for the introduction to some very good wines.  I look forward to a tour of the winery this summer.

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.