Friday, November 27, 2009

Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas 2006

With the outstanding 2007 Rhone vintage being released recently, you can expect to see a lot of reviews from me in the coming months from this wonderful region in Southern France. For today, though, we are looking at a red from the Southern Rhone from the 2006 vintage, the 2006 Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas 2006.

Although it can no longer be considered a well kept secret, Gigondas is one of a few appellations in the Southern Rhone that are turning out some outstanding wines, but that are not as well known as the much more famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation. Other appellations in this group include Vacqueyras and Rasteau. In all cases these villages are in pretty close proximity to the famed Chateauneuf-du-Pape region and are making some excellent wines.

Gigondas, which became its own appellation in 1971, is located a mere 10 miles to the southwest of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Gigondas wines are predominantly made from Grenache, and the most common blending varietals are Syrah and Mourvedre. The wines are typically bold and muscular and have quite a bit of stylistic similarity to Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

The Chateua de Saint Cosme Gigondas 2006 has an intense purple color in your glass. This blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault has a bouquet that is dominated by cassis and also brings notes of blackberry, a floral element, and just a hint of raw meat. In your mouth you get a wonderful full body with mixed black fruit flavors. I get quite a bit of black cherry on the palate that I didn’t necessarily pick up on the bouquet as well as some cassis and blackberry. The tannins and very nice acidity give this wine some serious backbone, and the finish is sneaky long.

I decanted the wine for an hour before drinking it, and I have to say that after an hour in decanter it was still pretty tight. It was when I poured my second glass after about two hours in decanter that this Gigondas really started to shine. With some serious decanting, this wine is drinking well now, but with the structure this wine has I suspect it will be drinking much better after a couple more years or even much longer in the cellar.

Retailing for about $35, this wine is an outstanding value. It drinks as well as many Chateauneuf-du-Papes that are almost twice the price. From a pairing standpoint, this would be perfect with a rack of lamb or grilled game.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Domaine La Montagnette Cotes Du Rhone Villages 2007

I love wines from the Rhone Valley. I’m putting that right out there at the beginning of this post. I especially love wines from the Southern Rhone. Whether it’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, or just a Cotes du Rhone, I love the red wines from this part of the world. So when I started hearing all the hype about the 2007 vintage in the Southern Rhone being one of the best ever, I was pretty excited to say the least. I have already started to acquire some 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but those should not see anyplace other than my cellar for the next couple years (although personal history tells me that some of these might get out a little early). So I’m focused now on trying some of the more basic Cotes du Rhones from the 2007 vintage.

The first wine I have tried from 2007 is the Domaine La Montagnette Cotes Du Rhone 2007. Made from 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and the remainder Mourvedre and Carignane, it’s a nice entry level Cotes Du Rhone. Purple red in color it brings aromas of mixed berried and plum as well as some floral elements. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with extremely mild tannins, which leaves me wanting a little more. It does, however, have some very nice acidity, which provides some structure. Flavor wise, you get more of the mixed berry and plum with some spice and a hint of sour cherry on the finish.

Overall, this is a nice, everyday red which provides very good value for a wine in the $12-14 range. As far as pairing go, this would pair very nicely with an herb rubbed, roasted chicken or braised chicken legs. It’s also a nice choice when you just want to sit back and enjoy a glass of inexpensive, easy drinking red wine. More to come soon on the 2007 Southern Rhone but for now this is a nice one to pick up for the everyday rotation.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Clasico Malbec 2008

It’s time for yet another great value from Argentina. This region is producing some very nice wines these days and the beauty of it for me is that many of these wines carry very affordable price tags. Leading the way for value in Argentina is the Malbec varietal, which has become the country’s flagship grape for good reason. Malbec in Argentina is a classic example of terroir on a macro scale. Malbec vines simply produce unique results when grown in the Mendoza region of Argentina. If you compare Malbec from Bordeaux or Cahors in France with Malbec from Argentina, you’d be hard pressed to believe that it’s the same grape. The terroir of the Mendoza region makes that much of a difference, and the really unique thing about this is that it is not only a couple vineyards or a small region but a rather extensive and large region that produces these unique and very good results.

The Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Clasico Malbec 2008 is a great example of the quality that you can get from Malbec in Mendoza for only about $12 a bottle. I should note that althought they call this "Clasico," you won't find that word anywhere on the bottle. It simply says Punto Final Malbec 2008. Made from primarily old vine (50 years) Malbec by winemakers Alberto Antonini and Hector Durigutti (Durigutti also has his own winery that makes a good value Malbec – see the review here ), the wine is made from hand picked and hand sorted grapes from the Perdriel zone in Mendoza.

In your glass you get intense purple color, and the bouquet brings aromas of blackberries laced with notes of mocha. On the palate the wine brings black fruit and lots of it right up front. You also get a hint of chocolate as well as a nice earthy element on the finish. Mild tannins that are just a little dusty provide some nice balance to the fruit, and the finish has decent length for a wine in this price range.

Overall, this wine is an outstanding value at a price of about $12. It is a budget friendly, everyday red that gives you outstanding bang for your wine buck. Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Malbec 2008 would pair perfectly with a grilled strip steak with mushrooms or a flank steak with an authentic chimichurri sauce.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Louis Martini Lot No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Louis Martini’s Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best values in Cabernet Sauvignon just about every year. For a price around $13, this wine gives you consistently good quality at a great price. For me, it’s part of my regular rotation of value wines. For my friend Dan, who has shared many a fine bottle of wine with me, it is the ultimate value Cab. So when I had the opportunity to visit the Louis Martini Winery and pick up one of their reserve wines, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy a bottle of their Lot 1 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon to share with Dan.

The Louis Martini Lot No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 is sourced from the best fruit that Martini has access to from multiple AVAs in Napa Valley. The wine has a beautiful deep purple color in your glass. The bouquet gives you blackberry and black cherry with notes of blueberry. I will note that this was after 3 hours in decanter, and when first poured and for the first couple hours, the fruit aromas were somewhat masked by alcohol. In your mouth, you get a wonderful, rich mouthfeel with sweet cherry and blackberry fruit dominating the palate. The very nice tannins were firm without being overpowering. The finish was decent and had OK length, but I have to say that for the $120 price tag, the finish left me wanting more.

Overall, the Louis Martini Lot No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 was a very nice Cabernet with delicious, fruit forward flavors with nice tannins to give it some backbone. Unfortunately, I think the $120 price tag just isn’t worth it. When you’re shelling out that much of your hard-earned money, you want everything to be just about perfect, and this wine starts off strong but just doesn’t deliver as much as I’d like on the finish. Although there is no doubt that this is a much better wine than the Louis Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, the $13 Sonoma County offering is a much better value.

From a pairing standpoint, this would go very nicely with a prime filet mignon or a Blue Stilton cheese.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fossacolle Rosso di Montalcino 2007

The more I drink wines from Montalcino in Tuscany, the more I like them. This is not a bad thing save for the fact that most of these wines are Brunello di Montalcinos that often retail for $75 and up. Fortunately not all Sangiovese based wines from this region are expensive Brunellos, and every so often you can find a Rosso that is a great wine and a great value. The Fossacolle Rosso di Montalcino 2007 is just such a value.

Fossacolle is a very small producer in the village of Tavernelle in the south of Montalcino. There were only 500 cases of the 2007 Rosso produced, and their entire estate is only about 10 acres. Family owned and operated by Sergio Marchetti and his family, Fossacolle is a very young winery by Italian standards. Their first Sangiovese vines were planted in 1984, and they started producing Rossos shortly after that with their first Brunello vintage to come in 1997. Althought they don't have the hundreds of years of history that so many Italian producers have, their results show no lack of experience.

The Fossacolle Rosso di Montalcino 2007 is a deep, intense red color in your glass. The bouquet brings cherry and plum fruit with notes of vanilla bean and herbs. In your mouth, dark cherry fruit dominates the flavor profile. The wine is medium-full in body with solid tannins and a very nice finish for a Rosso. This Rosso could very well put some lesser Brunellos to shame in a direct comparison.

At a price in the low to mid $20's, this wine is an outstanding value. A versatile food friendly wine, this can be enjoyed with aged Italian cheeses, grilled meats, or Italian veal dishes. Although it can be hard to find, it is well worth it if you can get a bottle.


Friday, November 6, 2009

My Visit to Woodinville, WA Wine Country

I’ve been a roll lately with opportunities to visit wineries while travelling for my real job. This week, I had a free afternoon while working in Seattle, and I took the opportunity to visit some wineries in Woodinville, WA. Woodinville wine country is a short 25 minute drive from downtown Seattle, and it is home to what I found to be some very good wineries. Woodinville is pretty unique among the wine regions I’ve visited in that there are a large number of wineries there, but hardly any grapes are grown in the Woodinville area. Almost all the grapes being crushed and made into wine in the area are grown well east of Woodinville in Eastern Washington’s Columbia Valley. There are multiple AVAs within the Columbia Valley which include Horse Heaven Hills, Red Mountain, and Yakima Valley. Many different varietals are being grown in these appellations although the most successful I found seem to be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

My first stop in Woodinville was the winery that stared it all here in 1976. Chateau St. Michelle was the first to build a winery and visitor’s facility in Woodinville, and they remain one of the biggest and most important winery in the area. They are a very large producer (well over 1,000,000 cases annually), who make wines ranging from inexpensive, simple wines to some very high quality, higher-end fine wines. There visitor’s facilities are large and expansive with multiple tasting rooms and grounds that include an amphitheater for outdoor concerts in the summer. I tasted a number of different reserve wines at Chateau St. Michelle, and although many of them were good, they were somewhat one dimensional. They had nice fruit forward flavors, but not much beyond that in the way of complexity, tannins, or overall structure and balance. One exception was their Cold Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. This was a very nice classic Cab with blackberry and cassis on the nose and the palate with a nice full bodied mouthfeel and silky tannins. It also brought a very nice finish that really set it apart from the other wines I tried at Chateau St. Michelle.

My second stop in Woodinville was the Januik Winery right around the corner from Chateau St. Michelle. Januik was started in 1999 by Mike Januik, who is the owner and winemaker. Mike is a UC Davis grad who spent a number of years at Chateau St. Michelle, and he left there as their head winemaker. After tasting Mike’s wines, I have to believe that his leaving had to be a pretty big blow to Ch√Ęteau St. Michelle. His wines are very, very good. Diane, my outstanding host at Januik poured a number of wines for me to taste. The standout for me here was their Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006. This Cab, which had only 198 cases produced, has a very nice purple color with aromas of blackberry, cassis, and a hint of tobacco. The blackberry and cassis are joined by black plum on the palate, and the wine has smooth tannins with a nice, long finish. Their Klipsun Vineyard Merlot 2006 was also quite good. It was a fine reminder that when Merlot is done well, it can make really nice wine regardless of what Miles from the movie Sideways has to say about it.

My next stop was that hidden gem that I seem to find on every visit I make to wine country. I visited Matthews Estate not knowing anything about it other than the fact that the folks at both Chateau St. Michelle and Januik recommended it. The winery and small, cozy tasting room are in a small, unassuming building, and the winery and all the action going on there at this time of year were visible and audible from the tasting room. There is always an added level of excitement when you visit a winery that is actively making wine. My excellent host here for most of my visit was Jim Rubstello, who is one of the partners at Matthews. They are a small winery with annual production of about 3500 cases with plans to grow to about 5000 cases over the next couple years. Their winemaker, Aryn Morell, spent five years in Napa Valley working for a few wineries including Silver Oak before deciding to return to his native Washington to work for Matthews. The work he is doing here at Matthews Estate is excellent. I tasted four wines at Matthews, and all of them were, in a word, outstanding. Their 2006 Claret, which is their base level Bordeaux style blend, had a nice purple-red color with a complex nose of cherry, red currant, and a bit of earthiness. Pleasant acidity and smooth tannins brought balance and structure to the fantastic cherry fruit on the palate. Their 2005 Red Wine, which is their flagship Bordeaux blend, was an absolutely delicious wine. Aged in 75% new French oak, the 2005 Red Wine brought aromas of blackberry, cherry, and cassis with a bit of a subtle herbal element. The palate follows that up with deep black fruit flavors, solid tannins, and a fantastic finish with very nice length. I felt that this was a truly outstanding wine. Their 2007 Columbia Valley Syrah was also very good. It had a fantastic nose that combined black fruit with orange zest, some spice, and a mild, pleasant barnyard smell. The palate brought cherry and plum fruit with some very nice but mild black pepper and some raw meat. This was a very nice Syrah that was much closer in style to a Northern Rhone than to any New World Syrah or Shiraz.

The final stop on my trip was Alexandria Nicole Cellars. Most of the fruit for Alexandria Nicole Cellars wine is sourced from their estates Destiny Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Julia and Kathie here were very good hosts who were gracious enough to pour wine for me when I arrived at exactly the time they normally close. Alexandria Nicole works with a number of different grapes ranging from Rhone varietals to Cabernet Sauvignon to Tempranillo. The standout wine for me here was their 2006 Destiny, which is a Bordeaux style blend consisting of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot, and 3% Malbec that was aged in French and American oak for 22 months. The nose brings aromas of blackberry, cassis, and a very nice herbal element. In your mouth, you get a medium-full bodied wine with deep, black fruit flavors and solid tannins that bring some structure. Overall it’s a very nice wine from a nice winery.

I have to say that I went into my visit to Woodinville with somewhat limited expectations. Many of the wineries I wanted to visit were not open on Mondays, which is the day I visited. Other than Chateau St, Michelle, I did not know much about the wineries that were open on Mondays, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The wineries I visited and the wines I tasted were very good and in some cases outstanding. If you’re in the Seattle area, a side trip up to Woodinville is well worth the trip.