Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tempo Morellino di Scansano 2008

Just when I thought I was beginning to figure out Italian wines and especially Tuscan reds, along came this fantastic little find from Morellino di Scansano. This little known region (well at least for me) is in Southwest Tuscany. South and west of better know regions for Sangiovese like Chianti Classico, Montalcino, and Montepulciano and a little east of the better know parts of the coastal region of Maremma, known for its Super Tuscans which generally include more Cabernet and Merlot than Sangiovese, the Morellino di Scansano region makes wines that are primarily Sangiovese. In fact, the DOCG requires that all reds from the region must have at least 85% Sangiovese, which is more than the 80% that Chianti Classico or the 75% that Chianti requires. A relatively young region, Morello di Scansano achieved DOC status in 1978 with 10 producers, and they were given DOCG status in 2007. Today there are over 200 producers in this region which seems to be a well kept secret.

The land itself has quite a bit of variety as you move throughout the region. In the west, where you get relatively close to the sea, elevations are as low as 30 feet above seal level, and as you move east you will see vines planted in vineyards as high as 1500 feet. Soils also vary throughout the region and are often a mix of limestone, sandstone, rock or clay.

The Tempo Morellino di Scansano 2008, which is produced by Terre di Talamo is produced from vineyards near the coast that have rock, limestone, and sandstone on the surface with a layer of clay lower down that helps the vines survive the hot, dry summers. In your glass, the wine is garnet red in color. The nose is dominated by cherry fruit but has some undertones of cedar as well as some bell pepper. In your mouth, you get cherry, sour cherry, and red currant with very mild tannins. The very nice, balanced acidity helps this wine to linger quietly on your palate for quite some time. Overall, this is a very pleasant wine, that is well worth the $15.99 price that I paid for it.

Pair this with traditional Italian fare. Pasta with meatballs or sausage, grilled red meats, or even Osso Bucco would be delicious with this nice little find from Morellino di Scansano.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Chateau Arnauton Fronsac 2009

Its time for another in my fall series of Bordeaux bargains. I've made it my mission this fall to discover great values from Bordeaux, and the latest one that I found is the Chateau Arnauton Fronsac 2009.

In your glass, the Chateua Arnauton Fronsac is purple red in color. Made from 98% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc grapes that are grown in some of the highest elevations in the right bank of Bordeaux, the wine brings aromas of blackberry and black cherry fruit with a subtle herbal element. In your mouth you get really nice black fruit that is consistent with the bouquet. The wine has a very silky mouthfeel with soft tannins, and the finish is not overwhelming but has some very nice length to it.

Overall, you get some really outstanding fruit for a Bordeaux. This is yet another very good offering from the 2009 vintage which is looking to be a real winner, and surprisingly this is pretty much ready to drink now given some time in decanter.

From a pairing standpoint, this wine wants rich stews or grilled red meats, and for my money, the silky mouthfeel and flavors of good Merlot are made for rack of lamb. Try it with this if you'd like a really good pairing


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chateau Larose Trintaudon Haut-Medoc 2005

After a long hiatus due to a nasty cold that had my taste buds and sense of smell pretty much out of order, its time to pick up on my series of Bordeaux bargains. Today's subject comes from the rather large region of Haut-Medoc, which can produce a pretty wide variety of wines that come from varying degrees of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot along with other Bordeaux varietals in small amounts for blending.

The Chateau Larose Trintaudon Haut-Medoc 2005 is garnet red in color and brings aromas of cassis and black cherry fruit along with a pleasant earthiness with some herbs and just the slightest bit of barnyard. In your mouth you get more cassis and black cherries that is balanced by some nice acidity and very well integrated tannins. The finish also brings a hint of sweet vanilla to go with the tannins in this full bodied, but not overpowering wine. Overall, you get a fantastic combination of fruit tempered with some subtle earth - just how I like my Bordeaux.

I drank this with red wine braised short ribs, and it made for a phenomenal pairing. It would also go well with grilled steak or rack of lamb, and at a price point of $15 for the wine, you can afford to splurge on your butcher's best.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Montes Alpha Syrah 2007

Terroir. It's that French word that no one really understands until they actually experience it for themselves. What does it mean? Loosely translated it means a sense of place. Flesh it out a little bit, and it refers to the idea that every wine that exhibits it comes from a specific and unique vineyard site that has its own special combination of soil, sunlight exposure, elevation, daytime and night time temperatures, and other factors that makes wine from that site different from any other wine in the world. Sounds a bit like an over-romanticized ideal or a marketing scheme doesn't it? Any one who is serious about wine and has experienced it will tell you pretty emphatically that it's not.

For those who don't believe in terroir, I would recommend going to your local wine shop and getting a Malbec from Cahors in France and then getting a similarly priced Malbec from Mendoza in Argentina. The same grape that was transplanted to Argentina from Cahors will produce wines that are quite different based primarily on the grapes being grown in a very different place. Once you can accept terroir on the grand scale of one wine region vs. another with the same grapes, it is a lot easier to start recognizing the nuances of terroir on a smaller scale.

Oh well, that's enough for my rant on terroir, lets get to the 2007 Montes Alpha Syrah. The wine comes from the Apalta Vineyard in the Colchagua Valley of Chile. It is 90% Syrah with 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Viognier that see a year of aging in French oak. The wine is deep purple-red in color and was tasted after 30 minutes in decanter. The complex nose is dominated by aromas of fresh earth, herbs, and pepper, but underneath that initial layer is some very nice but subtle black fruit aromas. In your mouth you get some black cherry fruit with some peppery spice that is rounded out by still somewhat firm and earthy tannins that should relax over the next few years. This is a Syrah that should drink well for many years to come, but it's drinking pretty well now if it's given some decanting.

Overall, this is a very nice Chilean Syrah that tastes like good Syrah should, but also just tastes a whole lot like Chile. It exhibits some excellent Chilean terroir, and would go very well with a flank steak with a red chimichurri or any grilled red meats. At a price of just under $20, it is money well spent.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chateua Beaulieu Comtes de Tastes Bordeaux Superieur 2009

Bordeaux. It can mean so many things. To some it brings thoughts of wines that are unattainable for most. First growth Bordeaux are often hundreds if not thousands of dollars per bottle. Only industry insiders and the wealthy are really going to get a taste of most of these wines. Even second growth Bordeaux can be pretty darn expensive, but that doesn't mean that there aren't values to be found. In fact, the same argument could be made to a lesser degree about many other regions. Look at Napa - how many of us have actually tasted Screaming Eagle or Harlan Estate's best offerings? There are now probably hundreds of Cabs that cost more than $100 a bottle, and the same could be said for key regions in Italy and Spain. For some reason, though, either its just me or the wine world in general is obsessed with the high end of Bordeaux. Although we would love to get a taste of any vintage of Chateau Petrus, we don't have the thousands of dollars or the right well placed friends necessary to do it. So as things stand for us now, we're making it our mission to find bargains in Bordeaux. We may have to taste through a few bottles of bad wine to discover them, but discover them we will. We won't write about the bad ones, but we will be highlighting a number of Bordeaux bargains on A Couple of Wines over the next few months.

Today we are looking at a Bordeaux Superieur 2009 from Chateau Beaulieu Comtes de Tastes 2009, which comes from the the area of Salignac on the Right Bank. In your glass the wine is garnet red in color. Aromas of black cherry and blackberry fruit are there for your enjoyment along with some cola and fall leaves. On the palate, you are hit up front with black cherry fruit that dominates, but there is also some blackberry. After the fruit starts to fade, you get the fine tannins, which were very enjoyable after 45 minutes in decanter. The wine has a medium body with a very reasonable 13.7% alcohol. What really makes this wine interesting, though, is the finish which brings some mild but really nice earthy elements. Overall this is a very nice and well balanced wine for the $15 that we paid for it. I bought a few bottles of this, and it will be interesting to see how it develops over time. Given some time in decanter, though, this is a 2009 Bordeaux that you can drink now.

From a pairing standpoint, this would be great with traditional French fare such as Coq Au Vin or beef stew. It would also go very nicely with lamb or steak.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chateau Croix-Mouton Jean-Philippe Janoueix Bordeaux Superieur 2009

For a guy who thinks of himself as pretty knowledgeable about wine and many wine regions across the world, I must confess that I still get overwhelmed when trying to find values from Bordeaux. I'm not sure why, but somehow I find the whole classification system and the many subregions within Bordeaux to be pretty confusing. The fact that by law they can hardly put any information on the label doesn't help matters either. Regardless, Bordeaux makes some incredible wines that can have rare combinations of power and finesse. They can bring beautiful fruit without all the weight that so many Cabernets and Merlots from other regions have. The earthy quality can be great, but in full disclosure I will confess that we don't love wines that get overwhelmingly earthy and especially don't like the wet animal smell that some Bordeaux wines exhibit.

The well known, classified growths are somewhat easier to figure out, but they cost a pretty penny. My goal over the next few months is to discover some really good Bordeaux values that can be had for under $20/bottle. This is the first in a series of Bordeaux under $20 reviews that I will be posting at least twice a month for the remainder of 2011.

The Chatuea Croix-Martin Jean-Phillipe Janoueix 2009 Bordeaux Superieur is made from 87% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc with 1 % Petit Verdot that is aged in 33% new French oak and the rest 1 year old oak. The wine was decanted for approximately 45 minutes before tasting. In your glass the wine is garnet red in color. The nose brings blackberries and black cherry with a nice, leathery element to it. On the palate the fruit is a little more subdued but absolutely delicious. The fruit you get up front is nicely balanced by the perfect acidity and fine tannins. The finish has some length to it and brings a subtle earthy element. For $15 a bottle this is one heck of a bottle of wine.

From a pairing standpoint, this is not over the top and has a medium body that makes it pretty flexible. It would work perfectly with Coq Au Vin or a nice stew, but would also go well with grilled red meats or an assortment of cheese.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Novy 2007 Christensen Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Syrah

Back in July we wrote about our thoughts on Syrah vs. Shiraz and our finally coming to grips with the fact that we really prefer Syrah to Shiraz. Since then, I find myself drinking more and more of it, although I sure wish it was easier to find good values in stores. Recently I found a couple nice Syrah's from Novy Family Wines at one of my local retailers and decided to give them a shot.

Novy Family Wines, based in Santa Rosa, was born out of the same family as Siduri Wines. Where Siduri specializes in Pinot Noir, Novy started a second winery to work with other varietals, and they focus most of their efforts on Syrah. What's really interesting to me about Novy, is that the majority of their wines are from single vineyards. Their winemaking philosophy is a non-interventionist one that looks to produce wine that is unique to the vineyard from which it came. To me, this is what makes a great Syrah. The individual character and fine nuances of flavor that the terroir brings is what makes the wine special.

In your glass, the wine is purple-red in color. The bouquet has some complexity to it, and it brings aromas of black raspberry and black cherry fruit along with some pepper and earth. On the palate, you get more of the same black raspberry fruit, but the cherry element leans more towards a mix of black and sour cherries. You also get some pepper and spice as well. The tannins are mild and well integrated, and the acidity is just about perfect. Best of all, all of this goodness just lingers on your palate for quite some time in what is a fantastic finish.

We enjoyed this Syrah with some smoked baby back ribs, and it worked beautifully with the BBQ. It would also work very well with just about any grilled red meats or even pork. The acidity makes it food friendly enough to be really versatile. Overall, this is one heck of a bottle of wine with a price point of around $19, and I'm really looking forward to trying some more wines from Novy Family!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa Navarra 2008

I may begin to sound like a broken record when I talk about this, but I continue to be amazed by just how many little known wine regions in Spain are producing great wines and amazing values. Slowly but surely, wines from Jumilla, Montsant, Toro, Ribera del Duero, Rias Baixas, Calatayud, and others are starting to find their way onto the shelves of American retailers. Thanks to one of my favorite NYC wine shops, Despana Vinos Y Mas, in Soho I am able to get a wide variety of wines from all these regions as well as some gems from many other Spanish regions. Today's subject is an old vine Garnacha from the Navarra region of North Central Spain. Navarra neighbors the much more well known region of Rioja, and Navarra's fame as a region so far has a lot more to do with bull fighting than it does wine. Pamplona, famous for the festival of San Fermin and the annual running of the bulls, is in the region, although it is just a few miles north of the official D.O. Navarra boundary.

Most of the grapes grown in Navarra are red varietals, and Garnacha and Tempranillo make up over three quarters of the plantings in the region. The D.O. also allows Graciano, Mazuelo, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a couple white varietals. Historically the region made a lot of rose wines or rosados as the Spanish call them, but in recent years they have moved away from high yield, not so great rosados to lower yield and high quality reds. Like Rioja to the west, Navarra not only has wines that are all Tempranillo or all Garnacha, but also many blends that have both or other blending grapes included. Soils in the region typically have gravel and chalky limestone, but there is a wide range of altitudes that produce very different results in different microclimates within the region.

Unfortunately Navarra wines are still pretty difficult to find, but the few that I have been able to source here in the US have all been quite good. Hopefully as more people discover these hidden gems, more importers and retailers will start bringing these wines to a wine shop near you. For now we will have to live with what we can find, like the outstanding El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa Navarra.

In your glass the wine is deep garnet red in color. It brings great blackberry and raspberry fruit on the nose along with some caramel and a subtle and pleasant earthiness. In your mouth the wine has much less weight than I expected based on the intense color and bouquet. The flavors include some delicious mixed red and black berries along with some sour cherry fruit. This is all balanced against a frame of smooth tannins, great acidity and pleasant minerality. This is a wine that is built for food. It has the tannins to stand up to grilled red meats, but a light enough weight and the right balance to go with a wide variety of food. It would work well with any Spanish tapas and is perfect for a 12 month or older aged Manchego cheese.

Overall this wine is a really food friendly red that is very versatile and can be had for about $15. Go get this one by the case! Its not easy to find this complete and well balanced a wine for this price.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beso de Vino Seleccion 2009 Carinena

A few weeks ago I wrote this little story about Syrah vs. Shiraz and the fact that I really enjoy Syrah from around the world more than I like Aussie Shiraz. I'm still not quite sure why this is, but it seems to play out pretty consistently for me and my and wife. One theory I have is that Aussie Shiraz tends to be 100% Shiraz or close to it and that other examples around the world will blend in some Grenache/Garnacha or other grape varietals and that the addition of additional grapes adds more depth and interest to Syrah.

Today I'm writing about a Syrah and Garnacha blend from the rather obscure Carinena region of north central Spain. With this wine the Syrah is the lead actor, but the Garnacha plays a small but important supporting role making up 15% of the blend that is aged in French oak for 3 months before bottling. The Beso de Vino Seleccion 2009 is a deep purple-red color in your glass and brings aromas of blackberries and blueberry pie along with some mild pepper and spice. There are also some very subtle caramel notes on the nose. In your glass, the blueberry pie has faded away, but the blackberry and the mellow pepper and spice from the nose stay right there for you to enjoy. With at least 30 minutes in decanter, the tannins are certainly present, but also soft and very pleasant. Overall, this wine is really nice for a price tag just under $10, and I highly recommend it for everyday drinking.

From a pairing standpoint, I wouldn't put this with your best Filet Mignon, but it would be perfect for everyday grilled red meats like flank steak, a cheeseburger, or even some nice smoky pulled pork. So for $10 or less, go get yourself a bottle and fire up the BBQ for some backyard fun.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Juan Gil Jumilla 2008

I've said it before and I'll say it again. With all due respect to Argentina, the best values in the wine world these days are coming out of Spain. Spain is a country whose winemaking pedigree goes back thousands of years. Until recently most parts of Spain including Jumilla, were focused on quantity rather than quality and although they produced a lot of wine, the wine itself was mostly made by large industrial cooperatives destined for a box or a jug.

Jumilla is one of many up and coming regions in Spain that I just love for great values. It was one of the last regions in Europe to be hit by the phylloxera bug and the plague that hit it actually resulted in some good. After being devastated by phylloxera in 1989, Jumilla's production was reduced to one third of what it was, and the local growers and bodegas quickly had to find a way to transform their business. Some of them had the crazy idea of selling less but better wine with a focus on fine wine instead of bulk production. In a way, phylloxera almost forced the local wineries to focus more on quality. I'm here to say I'm happy it happened.

Although the D.O. allows some other grape varieties, 85% of what is grown in Jumilla is Monastrell. This is a native Spanish grape that is called Mourvedre in France and most of the rest of the world. Monastrell based wines tend to be big, ripe, and fruity, and at their best there can be a lot behind all that great fruit.

The Juan Gil Jumilla 2008 is a deep, dark, purple-red in color. The Monastrell grapes are harvested from 40 year old vines (some of the lucky wines that made it through the phylloxera invasion) grown in chalky, rocky soils, and the wine is aged for 12 months in French oak before bottling. The nose brings aromas of blackberry and black raspberry with a hint of blueberry jam and leather. In your mouth the dark berry fruit is just fantastic and is joined by some black cherry flavors. Some structure is provided by the tannins that follow all that juicy fruit. The fruit rides these tannins like a slow-building wave into a finish that has some length to it.

I had the Juan Gil Jumilla with a big old juicy cheeseburger and somehow I just love Jumilla with burgers. It would also work great with any grilled red meats or even some authentic smoky BBQ. At a price of around $14, this is a really good value, and it breaks my own personal norm of generally not liking wines that are 15% alchohol or more. I definitely recommend letting this decant for an hour or so before drinking, but if you give it some breathing time it's really tasty.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Atteca Old Vines Garnacha Calatayud 2008

I am admittedly a huge fan of Spain and Garnacha or Grenache as the French call it, and I love the different expressions of this grape that you will find from varied terroirs in different parts of the world. This native Spanish grape makes wines that are varied in flavors, body, and other characteristics, but to me so many delicious examples can be found throughout the wine world but especially in northeast Spain and southern France. Flavors can range from light red berries to intense dark fruits with all sorts of other elements mixed in. Garnacha is also believed to be heavily influenced by the age of the vines. Many Garnachas claim to be made from "old vines" which is a term that is hard to define, but I found many of these old vine Garnachas to be easy to enjoy.

The Atteca Old Vines Garnacha is made from grapes grown in a hillside vineyard 3000 feet above sea level in the little known but up and coming region of Calatayud. The vineyard was first planted in the late 19th century and many of the vines are 80 years old or even older. In your glass the wine has a very deep garnet color that is slightly tinted purple. The nose brings mixed red and black berries with a pleasant herbal element that I might call garrigue if this were a Southern Rhone Grenache. On the palate I get some really nice blackberry and black cherry fruit that is backed up by very nice tannins. There is also a nice mineral element that really comes through on the rather long finish.

Overall this is a great wine with some up very nice fruit up front and a rocking finish! I would put this up against a lot of $30 to $50 Priorats or Chateuneuf-du-Papes, and I picked this up for $15! This is a great value that would pair very nicely with grilled red meats. Go get yourself a bottle and a nice steak and enjoy!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Domaine des Entrefaux Crozes Hermitage 2009

Its time for me to start admitting to myself that I really enjoy Syrah. It's a grape that can make some really wonderful wines when grown in the right terroir by a winemaker who is on their game. The parts of the world that I've found that are making great Syrah are not all that plentiful, but there are a few. The Northern Rhone in France is certainly leading the pack, but Ive also seen some nice Syrah's from Washington, California (results are mixed here but there are some good ones), and even Spain and South America.

You'll notice that I don't have Australia on my list, which is the second largest producer of Syrah (or Shiraz as they call it) in the world after France. Although they make a lot of Syrah/Shiraz, there isn't too much of it that I've found to be great. In fact, I find most of their Shiraz to be over extracted, one dimensional, and frankly pretty boring and uninspiring. Now my point here isn't to pick on my mates Down Under or inspire people to throw a boomerang at the nearest kangaroo, but I do want people to think about Syrah and not just Shiraz. In the US, wine retailers sell a whole lot more Shiraz than we do Syrah, and many consumers only know Shiraz in the Aussie style. If you fall into this group, give a Syrah from Washington or Argentina a try, and you might find a very different wine than the Shiraz you know. Better yet, try something from the Northern Rhone like the Domaine des Entrefaux Crozes Hermitage 2009.

In your glass, the Domaine des Entrefaux Crozes Hermitage 2009 is a dark purple-red in color. The nose brings cassis and plum with some spice and black pepper. On the palate you get more of the plum and berry fruit, but the fruit is pretty subdued and complemented by some spice. The wine has a very healthy dose of acidity and mild to medium tannins that linger quietly on the very long finish.

Overall, this is a very nice bottle that can be found for just under $20. It is extremely well balanced and more old world in style, and it will pair nicely with a wide variety of meals. So go out and give a Syrah a try, and if you're already a fan of Syrah as opposed to Shiraz, I think you will probably enjoy this one.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Valdrinal Crianza Ribera Del Duero 2004

Although there are many great regions in Spain for Tempranillo, Tinto Fino, or any of the many names that different parts of Spain call this varietal, I have to say that for my money Ribera del Duero gives me the most bang for my buck. This example from the 2004 vintage is no exception to that rule, and delivers whole lot of bold, juicy flavor with finesse for a mere $14.

Made from 100% Tinto Fino that is aged in French and American oak for 12 months, the Valdrinal Crianza Ribera del Duero 2004 is deep garnet red in color. The nose brings cherry and dark plum fruit with an earthy element that brings an added dimension to the bouquet. On the palate you get a healthy dose of cherry fruit up front with notes of earth, cedar, and spice on the finish. Acidity that is just right and very nice tannins that are clearly present but not overwhelming make this a well balanced, very food friendly wine.

Overall, this is one heck of a bargain that brings a fantastic balance between fruit and finesse for under $15! This wine would work very well with a wide variety of dishes, but like any really good Spanish wine, it leaves me wanting some Jamon Iberico, Manchego and Zamarano cheese, and other delicious hot or cold tapas.

On a side note, I got this from the new Stew Leonard's store in Carle Place, NY where the staff was friendly and helpful and very knowledgeable. The key to any good wine store is a knowledgeable staff.



Sunday, June 12, 2011

Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy Vinsobres 2008

Vinsobres is a relative newcomer on the Southern Rhone scene that is producing some very nice wines. For many years wines from this area were simply Cotes-du-Rhone, but after many years of effort Vinsobres was given its own AOC status in 2005. Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy was established around the same time by Gerard Constant and Denise Duquesnoy who acquired the former Domain Les Ausselons and developed the great potential that was in the vineyard there.

The vineyard itself ranges from about 800 to 1350 feet in altitude, with 3/4 of the land being steeply sloped with terraced vines. The earth is a mix of alluvial soils and limestone pebbles that is planted with 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah with the age of the vines ranging from 6 to 50 years. In a short amount of time, the Domaine has put out some really good offerings, and the 2008 Vinsobres is no exception.

The Domaine Constant-Duquesnoy Vinsobres 2008 is an almost opaque, very dark red in your glass. The nose brings cassis and some plum with undertones of leather and earth. On the palate you get beautiful blackberry fruit initially that is followed by some very pleasant stony minerality on the finish. The wine is full bodied without being overdone or syrupy which is somewhat surprising considering the 15% alcohol content, and the tannins are very well integrated.

Overall, this wine is a really nice value that I picked up for about $18. The nose is a little restrained and just teases you with its potential, but once you drink it the blackberry fruit explodes on your palate and is backed up by perfect tannins and the stony element. This would be absolutely delicious with an herbed rack of lamb on the grill.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cave de Rasteau Cotes Du Rhone Villages Rasteau 2008

Trying to follow the 2007 vintage in the Southern Rhone is no easy task. I worry every time that I try 2008 and 2009 wines from the Rhone Valley that I will be disappointed after having had so many great wines from the legendary 2007 vintage. It seems thought that the values just keep coming from the Southern Rhone especially from some of the lesser known and up and coming villages scattered throughout the region.

The Cave de Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages Rasteau 2008, made from 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 10% Syrah, is just such a value. In your glass it is medium red with a little bit of brick like color at the edge which suggests a much older wine. The nose brings mixed raspberries and strawberries with spice and a subtle earthy element. In your mouth you get much more of the same raspberry and strawberry fruit with ample spice to add some depth. The acidity is nice with mild tannins, and the finish has decent length and brings an additional element of sour cherries.

Overall, this is a nice, easy drinking wine that is perfect for everyday enjoyment at a price of $12. This would pair nicely with a grilled pork tenderloin or would certainly work well with an assortment of cheese and olives.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vega Escal Priorat 2006

I am a lover of all things Spanish, but I especially love Spanish food and wine. Many months ago I discovered Despana, a fantastic and authentic Spanish food shop on Broome St in New York City that carries everything from Bomba rice and piquillo peppers to Jamon Serrano and a huge assortment of Spanish cheese. I make a point of stopping in to stock up on goodies every few weeks. Recently on one of my trips I discovered to my delight that they opened up a wine store next door. Despana Vinos y Mas is a small wine shop that carries a huge selection of Spanish wine. Their cozy little shop has over 400 different bottles of wine from all over Spain, and they are very knowledgeable about their wine and the many fantastic and varied wine regions in Spain. My only lament is that I was taking the train home and was only able to carry a box of six bottles back with me. Otherwise I would have walked out with 3 or 4 cases of delicious juice!

One of the first bottles I tried after coming home was the Vega Escal Priorat 2006. Priorat is one of my favorite regions, but there are so few values to be found in lower price ranges. The Vega Escal Priorat 2006 retails for about $20 which is about as low as it goes for a Priorat. The wine is made from 60% Carinena, 30% Garnacha, and 10% Syrah that is aged for 6 months in American and French oak. The wine is deep red in color and has a beautiful, intense nose of black raspberry and cherry with notes of leather and mocha. On the palate you get black raspberry, raspberry, and sour cherry fruit with a hint of dark chocolate on the finish. The acidity and nicely integrated tannins bring some structure. This is a really nice bottle of wine for right around $20.

From a pairing standpoint, this would go very nicely with a flank or hanger steak or it would certainly go well with some Jamon Iberico. If you live in the NYC area, definitely check out Desspana Vinos y Mas and pick up a bottle of this great Priorat value.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008

It's pretty safe to say that the royal family of California wine is the Mondavi family. What started as a small business with Cesare Mondavi and his sons Peter and Robert has spread into something huge, and along the way there have been family dynamics playing out that could provide story lines for any of the remaining daytime soaps.

Robert Mondavi left his family's business many tears ago to start the now better known Robert Mondavi Winery which was sold to Constellation Brands. Robert's sons and daughter are each involved in different ventures now. From Robert's side of the family, you have an outstanding Reserve program from Robert Mondavi Winery, some up and coming really good Cabs from Marcia and Tim's Continuum label, and a variety of wine businesses from Michael.

Peter Mondavi's family on the other hand, has been consistently making wine under the Charles Krug label that Cesare purchased decades ago. Peter's sons Peter Jr. and Marc are more involved than ever, and I'm here to say that the results right now are fantastic. Charles Krug is consistently turning out really good Cabs in the $20 to $30 range that are delicious, balanced, and food friendly. The 2008 vintage is no exception.

In your glass the the Charles Krug Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 is deep purple-red in color. The nose brings blackberry and cassis with a mild floral element. This has the bouquet of a classic Napa Cab. In your mouth you get outstanding blackberry fruit up front, but this is not just just another fruit bomb. The fruit is backed up by very well integrated tannins, nice acidity, and a medium-full body that is restrained compared to so many Napa Cabs that err on the side of syrupy.

Then Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 is simply an outstanding value in the low $20's for a bottle. It brings plenty of fruit but also shows some restraint and it makes for an excellent pairing with any grilled red meats. It would go particularly well with a grilled tenderloin with shallot reduction. The recipe can be found here Treat yourself to a bottle of this delicious cab and give it a try with some nice filets.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Beaulieu Vineyard Chardonnay Carneros 2008

Although its not much compared to the long histories of some of the old vineyards and chateaux of Europe, Beaulieu Vineyard is the longest continually operating winery in Napa Valley. Beaulieu Vineyard or BV as many call it was founded in 1900 by George de Latour, who upon seeing the area in Rutherford that became home to his winery exclaimed "beau lieu" which is French for beautiful place. After some early success, de Latour signed contracts with the Catholic church in 1908 to provide them with sacramental wine, which ended up being a key move for the survival of the winery. Being a key supplier to the church allowed him to keep the winery in full operation through the Prohibition.

The winery not only survived but expanded through Prohibition times, and not long after Prohibition, de Latour hired Andre Tchellistcheff, a native Russian who learned the craft in France, to be his winemaker. Tchellistcheff was a key figure in the development of Napa Valley and brought many innovations to all of Napa Valley at the time. Some of the things he introduced to the fledgling Napa Valley wine industry include cold fermentation of white wines and malolactic fermentation for red wines, which became industry standards. Much of Napa's success is owed to the expertise that Tchellistcheff brought to the valley.

Today BV is still making very many good wines. I recently had the occasion to try their 2008 Carneros Chardonnay on a lazy spring afternoon with an assortment of cheese. The wine is golden straw color in your glass, and the nose brings elements of peach, pear, and a bit of vanilla. In your mouth you get beautifully pure pear fruit with well balanced oak and very nice acidity for a California Chardonnay. The finish is really enjoyable and has a little bit of length to it.

Overall, this is a very nicely done Chardonnay that has full body, some oak, and plenty of fruit without being too over the top like so many other offerings from Napa and Sonoma. Its also one of the few Chardonnays I've seen in the high teens price wise. Usually you see the $13 and under stuff and then jump right to the mid $20's. For about $5 more this is giving you a lot more balance and finesse then you see from the huge pack of California Chardonnays in the $10-$15 range. Drink this with fish, shellfish, or chicken. It would go especially well with lobster tails.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Les Verrieres Coteaux du Languedoc 2006

Today we continue our look at the greater Languedoc-Roussillon region of France with a wine from the Coteaux du Langudoc. Coteaux du Languedoc is the 2nd largest AOC in the region, and rather than being one contiguous area, the classified growing areas are a number of separate areas scattered throughout a large portion of the Languedoc-Roussillon area. The terroir is varied and ranges from maritime to mountainside depending on how far inland you are. Close to 90% of the over 55 million bottled produced annually in this region are made from red wine grapes, with the main varietals being Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, with Carignan and Cinsault also being allowed by the AOC. It is also important to note that the area has only had AOC status for 25 years, and the area anticipates having many additional AOCs in the future as the growers and winemakers find out more about each of the many microclimates in the region.

Made from 45% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 20% Carignan, and 5% Cinsault, Les Verrieres Coteaux du Languedoc 2006 is deep red in color in your glass. The bouquet is loaded with blackberry and cherry fruit and has elements of garrigue much like many of the great wines of the neighboring Rhone Valley. There is also a hint of pepper on the nose. In your mouth, blackberry fruit dominates along with some mild, well integrated tannins. On the finish there is some subtle earthiness, and that finish lingers quietly on the palate for quite some time. Its also important to note that this is one of those wines that just opens up and gets better and better the longer its open and decanted.

Overall, this is a very good wine that delivers big time on value at a price that is just over $12. This would pair very nicely with a grilled steak or any summertime barbecue fare.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Punto Final Reserva Malbec 2007

Ahhhh’s almost unfair to other varietals how easy it is to find good Malbec at a great price from Argentina. The incredible terroir in Argentina has taken a grape that was not so exciting in Cahors in France and made it an everyday red winner that you can easily find in the $10-12 price range. There are also some fantastic higher end Malbecs that are a steal in the $40 to $50 range (for a review of one of my favorites see What I haven’t seen much of on the market, though, is anything between the entry level and the high end reserve that is worth the extra money.

The makers of this Punto Final Reserva, Bodegas Renacer in the Lujan de Cayo area of Mendoza, have finally changed this for me. I have known about their entry level Malbec for years, which you can read more about here but I only recently discovered their reserve Malbec which retails in the high teens to low $20’s. Their wines are made by the team of Alberto Antonini, a flying winemaker from Italy, and Hector Durigutti, who is a very talented winemaker from Mendoza. Their combined effort with this Reserve Malbec is right on. The grapes for this wine are sourced from vines that are over 50 years old in the Uco Valley and Lujan de Cayo, and the wine is aged for 10 months in French oak.

In your glass, the Punto Final Reserva Malbec 2007 is very dark red in color. The nose brings aromas of blackberries, cherry, and a fantastic element of cola. On the palate, black cherry and cola dominate and like so many Argentine Malbecs, there is lots of great fruit up front. Beyond that fruit, however, are some really nice tannins that are neither too mild nor over the top, and the acidity is just right.

Overall this is a really nice Malbec that can be found for under $20 without too much trouble. It is one of the best balanced Malbecs I’ve seen in this price range, and the balance and structure that back up all the fruit really separate this from all the good Malbec out there that can be bought for a few dollars less. The extra money you’ll spend on the Punto Final Reserve is well worth it if you’re making a nice steak with an authentic Argentine chimichurri. Cheers!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Chateau Rivière Cuvee Prestige Minervois 2009

Today I am continuing my exploration of the Languedoc Roussillon region of southern France. The first wines that I tried from this area were all from the AOC of Minervois. Situated in the northwest corner of Languedoc Roussillon, Minervois is a relatively large AOC in the greater region. Formed in 1986, the AOC now has 220 private wineries and 30 co-op wineries. The AOC allows both white and red wines; however, the reds make up 94 % of the region's production. The main red wine grapes allowed by the AOC are Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Cinsault, and Mourvedre, and there must be a blend of at least two varietals for any AOC wines The Chateau Rivière Cuvee Prestige Minervois 2009 is made from a blend of Grenache and Syrah. In your glass you get a wine with a deep red color with a bit of purple hue to it. On the nose there are aromas of blackberry and black raspberry fruit with a little bit of black pepper as well. On the palate you get beautiful and pure blackberry fruit up front with a hint of spice. Mild tannins and decent acidity add a little balance and structure. This wine is a great value at $10 a bottle. There is no single element of it that blows me away, but it's a very well balanced wine that would pair nicely with grilled pork or even a simple beef stew. It would also work very well with assorted cheeses and charcuterie. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cote 125 Corbieres Rouge 2009

As someone who loves wine and spends a fair amount of time researching and writing about it, I start to believe that I know a little bit about the subject. What makes wine so interesting thought is that no matter how much you know, there are always new things to discover that force you to be humble about your knowledge. One new thing that I have discovered lately is that I'm starting to enjoy wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Languedoc-Roussillon is not very well known, even by many who profess to be knowledgeable about wine. Even many of those who might be familiar with the region, don't know all that much about it. I for one was surprised to learn that it is the largest wine producing area in the world. Like many other lesser known regions that are gaining awareness recently, it's wine heritage largely consists of low quality wines produced in high quantity. Over the past few decades, however, that has changed. There is a new found focus on quality wine in the region that is benefiting everyone in the form of very enjoyable wines that won't break the bank. Languedoc-Roussillon is in Southern France and is just west of Provence and the Southern Rhone. Many of the red wine grapes used here are the same grapes you will see in Rhone reds. The climate is hot and dry and will vary quite a bit as you get nearer or further from the Mediterranean. There are also several microclimates as you move east and west in the region. As the region gains in reputation, some of these areas are getting their own AOC designation. This includes regions like Coteaux du Languedoc (or simply Languedoc), Corbieres, and Minervois. Over the next several days, I will be examining some red wines from these varied regions of the Languedoc-Roussillon area. To start, let's take a look at a wine from Corbieres, the Cote 125 Corbieres Rouge 2009. Corbieres is the largest AOC within the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It has very different terroir throughout that includes hillside vineyards and flatlands with heights from sea level to 1600 feet, and the soil itself also changes considerably throughout the region. The region's variety is so strong that the growers have divided the AOC unofficially into 11 different zones, many of which might attain AOC status in the future. The Cote 125 Corbieres Rouge 2009 is dark purple in color and brings aromas of blackberry and raspberry fruit with some very subtle barnyard. On the palate you get blackberry and sour cherry fruit with some very mild tannins from this blend of 50% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 15% Syrah. The acidity is nice and there is a little bit of minerality on the finish. Overall you get decent fruit with just a little bit of tannins and acidity to balance things out. It's certainly not spectacular, but for $10 a bottle it's a pretty enjoyable, everyday red. Pair with everyday fare such as pork tenderloin or grilled pork chops. Cheers!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Archstone Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Napa Valley

Everyday wine. That's what its really all about isn't it? Oenophiles can talk all they want about the best years for a top growth Bordeaux or that $9000 bottle of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti or even a $50 bottle of Napa Cab, but most of the time most of us are drinking wines that we can afford on a regular basis. These everyday wines may not be perfect, but they bring you something that you enjoy and are easy on the bank account.

One of these everyday wines that I recently discovered is the Archstone Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from Napa Valley. Try as I may, I can't find out much about this winery. I have heard from unverified sources that this is a phantom label of Sterling Vineyards, although seeing as they put their name on their Vintner's Collection bottling, there is not that much reputation to protect by going to the phantom label. In your glass the wine is deep purple in color. The nose brings blackberry jam, cassis, and black cherries with a very subtle element of cloves. On the palate, the wine is fruit forward with very nice black fruit flavors and smooth, very mild tannins. Its certainly not a wine for the cellar, but it sure drinks nicely right now. It also has some fruit that lingers very quietly on your palate for quite some time. Its a much better finish than you would expect from a fruit forward Napa Cab, especially in this price range.

Overall this Cabernet delivers a whole lot more than just about anything I've seen from Napa Valley in this price range. I highly recommend spending the $13 and trying some yourself. You might just find an ever day bargain that works for you. Pair this with pot roast or a soft, creamy blue cheese like a Saint Agur.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Domain "La Garrigue" Cuvee Romaine Cotes du Rhone 2009

Time after time, I continue to be amazed at the values I can find from the Southern Rhone. It's like a well kept secret that I'm afraid is going to get out. Really good wines are no longer just coming from Chateuneuf-du-Pape. There are great wines in Rasteau, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and in the plain old Cotes du Rhone appelation.

Today's subject is the Domaine "La Garrigue" Cuvee Romaine Cotes du Rhone 2009. This unfined and unfiltered blend of 75% Grenache and 25% Syrah has a very nice, bold purple color in your glass. The bouquet is heavenly. Intense aromas of sweet black raspberry are complemented by lavender and notes of violet. It smells like a $75 bottle of wine! On the palate, you get lots more of the same black raspberry fruit up front. The wine is medium-full in body and has some strong stony tannins on the finish. This mineral element provides quite a contrast to all the fruit you get at first. The finish is subtly long with much more minerality than fruit.

Overall this wine delivers a nice value at $15, with a caution to those who don't like too much in the minerality or stony tannins department. The fruit is delicious, but you will get a pretty strong complement of minerality to go with it. From a pairing standpoint, I may insult the French when I say this, but this would go beautifully with some slow smoked baby back ribs slathered in your favorite BBQ sauce.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hess Allomi Vineryard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

So many in the wine industry are always after wines with balance, complexity, subtleties, and delicate qualities that result in descriptions so elaborate that I need my dictionary to understand them. Multi-dimensional and complex wines certainly can be awe inspiring, but not every wine needs to have it all. Some wines can bring every day enjoyment by simply doing one or two things really well. Hess Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 is just such a wine. I can imagine that many wine connoisseurs will try this Napa Cab and say, "Where is the structure...the acidity...the balance?" Well I'm here to tell you that I don't miss them all that much when the fruit is this good.

In your glass the wine has a beautiful and rich purple color. The nose brings cassis and blackberry with some nice herbal notes. In your mouth, you get a massive load of black and red fruit right up front, and that is followed by more and more fruit. Although it's a little one dimensional, the fruit is very good, and there is a just a little bit of stony tannins on the finish.

Overall, this is a very approachable, easy drinking Napa Cab, and if you like your wine fruit forward, the Hess Allomi Vineyard Cabernet will give it to you right up front. As far as value goes, this wine delivers a lot of fruit for the price, which seems to vary a lot from store to store. I got this bottle for $19, but many other shops have it as high as $30. For anything under $25, this wine gives you pretty good bang for the buck. You could pair this with a cheeseburger or any backyard BBQ meal, but it is probably best suited for sipping on its own.



Saturday, January 29, 2011

Emilio Moro Finca Resalso Ribera del Duero 2008

I've always been a huge fan of Spanish wines, and after drifting away from them for a little bit, I'm back on a Spanish kick again in a big way. In the last few weeks I've looked at a Rioja and a Toro, so it only seems fair that I look at that other great region for Tempranillo, Ribera del Duero.

The Emilio Moro Finca Resalso 2008 is 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) from the Finca Resalso vineyard that was originally planted in 1932, which also happens to be the year of winery founder Emilio Moro's birth. The wine sees 4 months in French oak and shows a medium red color. The nose has some floral elements as well as notes of caramel and leather that add to the bouquet of red and black fruit. On the palate you get beautiful cherry fruit with a hint of strawberry that is balanced by very nice acidity and very well integrated and mild tannins. Overall this is a very easy drinking wine with a decent amount of depth to it.

Like so many Spanish reds, this wine wants tapas to go with it. It would make for some great sipping with Jamon Serrano, Zamarano cheese, and Marcona almonds. For the price of about $14, its also a very good deal.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Numanthia Termes Toro 2008

Toro. The name is rather appropriate for the wines in this lesser known region of Spanish reds. Toro is Spanish for bull and much like the animal, the wines of Toro are not light and dainty by any means. The red wines of Toro are often big, muscular, and powerful. Although Toro primarily uses the same Tempranillo (although it is often called Tinto de Toro in the region) grape that its more famous neighbors in Rioja have used for centuries, differences in terroir and style generally result in much bigger and bolder wines. The vineyards of Toro generally see altitudes of 2000 to 2500 feet with full sun in the daytime followed by cool nights which gives the vines the ability to produce thicker skinned, riper fruit. Couple that with the touch off the right winemaker, and Toro can produce some delicious, powerhouse reds.

Numanthia Termes Toro 2008 is no exception to the Toro style. It is a big, powerful red that brings just enough balance and depth. The grapes are harvested from 30 year old vines grown in rocky soils, and they see extended maceration on the skins and 16 months in French oak before bottling. The wine is an intense purple-red color in your glass and brings a bouquet of cherry and black plum with notes of leather and pencil shavings. On the palate the cherry and blackberry fruit bring an initial explosion of flavor that lingers quite nicely on the palate in a sneaky long finish. You also get a hint of minerality on the finish which is a nice added dimension. The acidity is pleasant and not overwhelming and the tannins are just about perfect if the wine is given 30 to 45 minutes in a decanter. My favorite pairing for this wine is a glass and my comfy living room chair, but it also pairs rather nicely with Jamon Iberico or other Serrano ham and Mahon cheese. It would also work with grilled red meats.

Overall, this fantastic Toro is a great value, and I will be buying much more of it for a price tag of around $25. Its drinking beautifully now if decanted, and it should drink nicely for many years. To learn more about Numanthia Termes, see their website at and to see reviews of other Spanish wines see



Saturday, January 15, 2011

Montebuena Rioja 2009

I'll start this post by apologizing for my lack of activity in 2010. Due to some changes in my real job, 2010 left me very little time and energy for wine writing, but I'm pleased to say that 2011 is a new year that will have me writing regularly about wine once again.

Today's subject is a red wine from Spain's famous Rioja region. La Rioja is in North Central Spain and has been a leading wine region in that country for centuries. In fact wine has been made in the region since the time of the Roman Empire, and Rioja is the one region in Spain that has been known for quality more than quantity for centuries. I often find myself looking to other regions for values since Rioja is so well established, but every once in awhile I'm lucky enough to discover a great value in Rioja.

Many grapes are permitted by the D.O.C. in La Rioja, and you will see wines that range from 100% Tempranillo to wines that have varying amounts of Mazuelo (Carinena to much of the rest of Spain and Carignan in France), Graciano, and Garnacha depending on the winemaker and what part of Rioja the winery is in. There is also varying levels of oak that different Rioja's will see, which can really change the character of the wine. The Montebuena Rioja 2009 is 100% Tempranillo that brings a very nice medium red color in your glass. The nose brings a great combination of red and black fruit with some spice and a very mild floral element. On the palate you get delicious ripe fruit with just the right acidity and mild tannins. This wine brings incredible balance and depth for a bottle that can be easily found for under $10!

Overall this wine is a great value that drinks like a wine that costs two to three times as much. The acidity and the balance make this a very food friendly wine that will be quite versatile for pairing with many different foods. In fact that versatility makes it perfect for traditional Spanish tapas or small plates where you may be eating many different types of foods. This Montebuena Rioja will work beautifully with Paella, Jamon Serrano, Manchego cheese, Marcona almonds, and a nice mix of Spanish olives. With its great flavor, versatitlity and its incredible $10 price, this is a wine that you should buy by the case!