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Today's review will revolve around the wonderful if somewhat eclectic Bonny Doon Vineyard found in the wonderfully beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in northern California, just a little south of Napa and Sonoma. While I had a chance to visit this area first hand in 2007, my opportunity to visit Bonny Doon slipped from our (that's my wife and I) itinerary and I missed seeing the vineyards for myself. That said, Mr. Randall Grahm was gracious enough to send me a couple samples to peruse at my leisure, with an invitation to visit next time I'm in the area.
Many folks have a quizzical look upon their face when I talk about the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, first they are thinking where the bleep is that and second what is a AVA? Now no one has ever had the courage to ask me, "what are you, some kind of cork-dork" ? I would answer with an enthusiastic nod of agreement and say, "well you could go even further and characterize me as a wine geek, guilty as charged." Purple teeth and purple fingers at times depending on the situation, but I'll save that conversation for another time. It was funny when I mentioned Bonny Doon to someone once, they thought I was speaking of a movie, entitled "Dune".
Ah yes the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA is located just south of San Jose, California. This huge appellation holds over 350000 acres. According to "Vinogusto" it is astonishing, given the hardships (in particular the onset huge fires in 2009) of viticulture in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this appellation hosts some of North America's elite wineries with the likes of Ridge, David Bruce and Bonny Doon and I am a big fan of Byington and Testarossa as well.
So now that you have an idea of where I am talking about in regards to where this wine is from, now it's is time to bring into to focus the subject of this review the Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2005. Literally translated, "Le Cigare Volant" which is French for "The Flying Cigar" or euphemistically speaking, the flying saucer! Sci-Fi fans take note, this is a first-contact wine.
First Swirl: After letting this bottle settle into to its new surroundings (Chez Eyer Wine Vault) for a month or two, I finally cracked open the stelvin closure and poured myself a glass just hour before dinner for its first evaluation. In the glass a near opaque garnet colored core, giving way to cerise colored rim. Like ZZ Top has sung, she's got legs and she know how to use them, get the picture?
First Sniff: Into the glass goes my huge half Irish nose and exploding on my god-given sensory apparatus aromas of tasty brier, black cherry and undefinable gamy note.
First Sip: After giving the wine in my glass another good swirl, it's finally time to imbibe. On the palate, is an impressive concentration, with chewy plum, currant, nice minerality, licorice and tarry notes. Although listed as a California wine, it's is made in an terroir-driven old world style and does not require any long term cellaring, since it is drinking amazingly now. But it does have the stuffing to stand up to another five years in your own wine-vault!
Varietal Composition: The Bonny Doon Vineyard 2005 Le Cigare Volant is a blend, a Cuvée if you will, from fruit sourced at a variety of long-term growers in the Central Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains. This vintage is a blend of Grenache (50%), Mourvèdre (24%), Syrah (22%), Carignane (3%), and Cinsault (1%). This wine is bottled unfiltered and has a stelvin closure.
He also sent a copy of his "new" book,BEEN DOON SO LONG A RANDALL GRAHM VINTHOLOGY
which I am enjoying immensely and will have the review of the book separately from the wine. His style of prose is both humorous and captivating, a great read thus far, stay tuned for the book review.Alcohol and Ageing:
The wines alcohol percentage weighed in at a mere 13.5%
and the different wines which make up this delightful blend were aged separately no doubt and blended together before bottling. The aging process; 18 mos, 1/2 in puncheon, 1/2 in wooden upright, significant batonage.With/without Food:
(yes this is a new category) This wine was a great quaff just by itself, a sure crowd-pleaser
with an appropriate amount of decanting and just a wonderful wine for pairing with many different food combinations. Keep in mind this can't be said of all wines and is a high compliment to the wine maker and the growers of these grapes, well done!Full Disclosure:
Mr. Grahm (winemaker) sent a request to have this wine reviewed by the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog
and I was most flattered and delighted to have the opportunity.Where to Purchase and Price:
Wine can be purchased directly from the Bonny Doon Vineyard
website. This wine can also purchased online and or in their respective brick n mortar locations Woodland Hills Wine Co.
and Wine House
. The prices range from $26.99 to $29.99 depending on where you shop.My Recommendation:
Drink now and drink often, this is a great wine to stock up on, but as there was a little over 1100
cases produced it's going to go fast. So run don't walk, place your order today. The 2005 Le Cigare Volant is as smooth as Jeret "Speedy"
Peterson is on his skis as he catapults himself 60
feet in the air. Oh wait you don't know who that is? Well in the coming year you're going to find out as the Olympic Winter Games are about to get started and I want to wish team USA good luck! I like this quote from Steve Fisher who says's, "People are put on this earth to make mistakes and learn from them. Life is one big classroom."
Well said, it reminds me of challenges and triumphs of Randall Grahm, but with this wine he definitely has a triumph! Until next time cheers everyone!Other voices:
"The 2005 Cigare Volant (50% Grenache and the rest Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault) exhibits peppery, earthy, black currant and black cherry fruit, and medium body. This spicy, hedonistic vin de plaisir should be enjoyed over the next 2-3 years. Purchasers should treat it like a French Cotes du Rhone."Given 89
points by the Wine AdvocateGabe's View
had this to say, "If somehow you’ve never had this classic California offering from Randall Grahm, this vintage is a great place to start. If I could only use one word to describe this wine, that word would be character. Le Cigare Volant 2005
is loaded with it."
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This is the one meal that gets more wine recommendations than any other, and I guess that makes sense as many folks only have one chance a year to get it right. While many writers and experts will take the diplomatic high-road and tell you that there is no one perfect wine for Thanksgiving dinner. If you take a look around the web you're sure to find a plethora of suggestions from a cornucopia of wine writers, wine bloggers and maybe even your parents with picks ranging from Torrontes to Tannat, from Merlot to Muscat and even a Moet & Chandon (White Star). But I'm taking a different tact and I'm recommending "A Passion for Pinot" (not the book but the wine, Pinot Noir) is the ticket to having an outstanding Thanksgiving meal, with a wine that will meld effortlessly with your meal and will garner you high praise from either your guest or your host.
But there is a problem with my recommendations, what is that you may ask? I think the meal itself is the problem. It can be so varied and different in many homes that to name just one wine as "the one" is just a mistake. As we all know there is no one wine which is perfect with every food. Since we are all in agreement that this is the case I going to give a specific recommendation based solely on the traditionally observed Thanks Giving meal. So is you are planning on serving ToFu Turkey or some other substitute well you may want to check into a different wine for your meal and there is nothing wrong with that, this is America after all and variety is the name of the game.
That being said, I am going to suggest a patriotic choice this year and recommend getting yourself an American Pinot Noir and why because of these wines elegant earthiness and lovely berry overtones which makes this the perfect choice. Because in my opinion these are the characteristics which makes Pinot Noir a prime choice for Thanksgiving Dinner. But it's not just my opinion Jordan MacKay, Robert Holmes, Andrea Johnson in their book, "A Passion for Pinot" emphasize that "California and Oregon are home to Pinot's greatest expressions in the New World." With all due respect to our friends across the "pond" in Burgundy, who really make a different "expression" of Pinot, I believe based on tasting plenty of both that American Pinot's high expression style will win the day!
Further, another voice promoting my point of view is a Mr. Eric Asimov who has been quoted to say, "If any grape would be at home in the pose of the femme fatale—smoke curling from its lips, long, irresistible legs crossed as another winemaker is sent to his doom—it would be Pinot Noir."
This quote above should be the slam dunk you need to make up your mind which wine you are going to have with your Thanksgiving meal this year, hands down!
Finally who can deny this statement from the book A Passion For Pinot
where this quote is taken, "Silky, complex, and incredibly versatile, Pinot Noir is the perfect food wine; full of charm and intrigue, it drinks beautifully on its own."
That's well said and I could not agree more, thus I have compiled a list of wines from these regions which should grab your attention and take your Thanksgiving dinner to new and memorable heights.
I've come up with a list of American
(New World) Pinot Noirs that I have recommended over the years and why because these wines are not too hard to find and two, many of them are "reasonably" priced and finally, I've chosen these wines because they are consistent year after year. If you are unable to find a Pinot Noir from the list below and you come across one that has been gathering dust on some wine store shelf for years, that could mean trouble and you may want to avoid it altogether. For example, if the wine has not been properly stored. Meaning, standing upright, inconsistent temperature, in the sun or direct light or a unstable shelf , its palatableness could be suspect. Sorry if I did not name your favorite wine, please don't be offended, instead feel free to offer your choice in the comments sections as I am sure they would be welcomed! Don't be a lurker, feel free to make a suggestion, after all this suppose to be a conversation.Pricing:
The prices which are listed are broadly representative but can vary widely and while I am saying these are great choices they don't represent a best of the best list.Regarding Availability:
While I wouldn't expect many stores to have all of these recommendations, you should be able to find them via the links I have provided below and form an example of wines you may want to consider.
CAMBRIA 07 PN JULIA'S, 2007
(Santa Barbara County). $18.99
. Great acidity, some spice and with all kind of cranberry and strawberry fruit that, obviously, is perfect for the meal. Complex, interesting, affordable and easy to find in most stores.
Taz 2007 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County Taz, 2007 $17.99
This wine had a very soft floral note, leaning toward the strawberry end of the flavor spectrum and the smell (rich and filled with berries). The taste is just classy, well-balanced and don't be afraid of some varietal funk. Nicely intense and won't compete for your palates attention amongst the plentiful bounty before you.
Erath Oregon Pinot Noir 2007 750ml, 2007 $18.99
Baker’s spice notes as well black cherry and blueberry are present in the nose of this Pinot. The palate presents a rich core of opulent fruit. Lots of cherry, blackberry and black plum are underscored by a persistent layer of racy acidity that keeps everything balanced. This wine can also be found at most San Diego Costco's.
2007 Chehalem Pinot Noir 3 Vineyard Willamette Valley, 2007 $19.99
This smooth wine is fruit forward featuring bright raspberry and strawberry nuances, lively acidity, medium-high tannins, medium-high oak, and complex flavors. It is balanced, and has a medium finish. Overall, its appeal is attractive and would compliment your Thanksgiving meal nicely.
Testarossa Sleepy Hollow Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, 2007 $39.99
An explosive burst of cherry and plum with underlying cedar and fruitcake spice notes make up the nose of this single vineyard Pinot Noir. Vibrant Pinot flavors in a very drinkable package featuring bright fruit yet light enough to complement everything on the table without adding yet another big taste.
I want to wish everyone a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, watch some football, eat too much, catch up with family you may only see once a year and by all means enjoy a great glass of wine or two. Until next time, stay thirsty my friends, Cheers!
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Whether you are hosting a soiree or a casual get-together this holiday, your mission is to provide your guests with warm hospitality, lively conversation and a delectable spread of food and drink. Whether the menu is complicated or simple it better be delicious. Serving a sumptuous gourmet cheese course is perfect as a starter or centerpiece of the meal. Not only is the preparation simple (no cooking!) but more importantly, your guests will enjoy discovering and savoring new favorites. As a wine lover and as a host you want to impress with the right pairings but the overwhelming selections of wine and cheese can make your head spin. Relax. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing the right combinations of cheese and wine. Just keep in mind a few simple considerations.
A cheese course is about observing and enjoying contrasting and complementary flavors. For a fool-proof gourmet cheese course, select 3 – 5 cheeses that vary in texture and flavor. Add some crusty bread, fresh or dried fruit, olives and nuts and voila!
Remember, wines are meant to cleanse the palate, wash away the tongue-coating richness of the cheese and prepare your mouth for the next delicious bite. It’s important that your selections don’t overwhelm the cheese and vice versa. Essentially, you’ll want to match wine and cheese of the same intensity level. Just remember “like for like”.
Take a look at the gourmet cheese categories and wine recommendations below for guidance. You’ll see how easy it is to serve an elegant wine and cheese course. For best results, just add friends and family.
Fresh – These cheeses are not aged and usually are white and light in flavor, smooth and sometimes tangy. Try chevre (goat cheese), feta and smoked mozzarella.
Beverage Pairings – Acidic white wines stand up to the tang and milky flavors of fresh cheese. Try a Viognier or a lightly oaked Chardonnay with French goat cheese, Boutari (a white Greek wine produced on the island of Santorini) with Greek Feta and Pinot Grigio with mozzarella.
Bloomy – Encased in a whitish, edible rind, bloomy gourmet cheeses are often velvety, gooey with a mild flavor. Add Brie, Camembert or Pierre-Robert to the cheese board for a decadent treat.
– Seek out a carbonated beverage to refresh the mouth from the rich and creamy flavors. Traditionally, bloomy cheeses are served with French Champagne but also try Cava from Spain and Prosecco from Italy. Another good suggestion would be for a oak-aged Chardonnay from California or Chile which have aromas of vanilla, smoke, toast that will complement the buttery notes in the cheese.Washed Rind
– During the aging process, washed-rind cheeses are usually bathed in a brine or washed with liquor such as wine, beer or a spirits. It’s this brining process that gives the cheese an aromatic quality. Almost all have orange or reddish hued rinds. Not mild and not sharp, washed rind cheeses are full-flavored. Give Taleggio, Drunken Goat, and Epoisses a taste.
Beverage Pairings – The fruity and tannic flavors of red wines work well with the stronger flavors of washed rind cheeses. Try Italian reds such as Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino with Taleggio, a Spanish Rioja with the Drunken Goat and a Cabernet Sauvignon with Epoisses.
Semisoft – These supple cheeses are rich, creamy with stronger flavors. Fontina is herbal and nutty while Morbier offers sweetness with greater pungency.
Beverage Pairings - Sample these with light and fruity reds such as a Pinot Noir or fruity whites such as Sancerre.
Firm – Typically, firm cheeses are still pliable and packed with flavor. The best are a bit crumbly and aged for robust, nutty goodness. Cheddar, Gouda and Gruyere are crowd pleasers.
Beverage Pairings - A pint of English ale is the traditional beverage of choice for Cheddar but a Sauvignon Blanc is complex enough to complement. Gouda is great with a Syrah/Shiraz and drink Beaujolais with Gruyere.
Hard – Hard cheeses are dry, crumbly and aged for intensity. Piave, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Aged Comte boast salty, caramelized, nutty flavors.
Beverage Pairings – You’ll find hearty wines can hold their own against these cheeses. Try a Barbera or Chianti with the Piave and Parmigiano and Merlot with the Comte.
Blue – The bluish-green veins give blue cheese its punch. Listed from strong to strongest in pungency are creamy Gorgonzola, nutty Stilton and salty Roquefort.
– Intense gourmet cheeses like blues can be tamed with sweet dessert wines, liqueurs and even a fruity beer. Port and sherry are traditional blue libations. For a unique treat, try a raspberry flavored beer like Belgian Lambic (look for Lindeman’s Framboise). All can be savored while lingering over dessert.About Sara Kahn:
Even though her passion for gourmet cheese was undying, Sara Kahn found shopping for it to be overwhelming, time consuming and confusing. She established The Cheese Ambassador
to offer a simple way to select and serve the world’s finest cheeses. By providing the perfect combination of exquisite cheese along with a comprehensive cheese course guide, enjoying gourmet cheese is now a deliciously enriching experience.
Wine Friendly Cheeses:
Brie, Cambozola, Camembert, Roquefort, Port-Salut, Fondue Cheese, Frulano and for more suggestion please stop by The Cheese Ambassador
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I had met Dennis and Julie Grimes of Eagles Nest winery in Ramona, San Diego via the Open Wine Consortium online wine community. Their winemaker Dennis invited me over to sample their wines and he wanted me to become familiar with how good wine is being made right here in San Diego.
Honestly, I was skeptical about whether good wine was being made from San Diego grown fruit and could be considered good wine. But I was pleasantly surprised to find they have made some wonderful wines, including these two wonderful Syrahs from their 2007 vintage. Later others would concur with my thoughts and awarded them a gold medal for each wine. These gold medals were earned at the 2009 Temecula Wine Competition. One was made from the their Estate fruit grown on their Ramona Estate and the other was grapes taken from the South Coast Appellation.
This is the story behind my prediction, I had the opportunity to taste these wines just after they were bottled. I was part of the all-volunteer bottling team and it great fun participating in the bottling process. These wines were bottled in May or June, not quite sure of the exact date. But as I recall it was right before the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference. Since Dennis had encouraged me to join them at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference and asked if my wife and I would like to carpool with them, we had a great opportunity on the drive to discuss the wines he and his wife Julie had entered into the 2009 Temecula Wine Competition sponsored by Welcome to the Temecula Valley Wine Society. They were both wondering aloud in the car (Excursion) and contemplating how well their wines would do in this competition. That's when I spoke up, I ask Julie and Dennis about the event and found out that only wines produced from "local" fruit would be allowed in the competition. I had just returned from a two day tasting journey in Temecula. I went to what many considered the "better-wineries" in area and tasted through their wines and considering what I had tasted versus the wine I had tasted at Eagles Nest Winery, I proclaimed that their two Syrahs would win gold medals.
But again I believe in quotes like this one,"Wine has lit up for me the pages of literature, and revealed in life romance lurking in the commonplace. Wine has made me bold but not foolish; has induced me to say silly things but not do them. " Duff Cooper, Old Men Forget
My statement, my prognostication if you will was met with silence then a nervous laughter. I then asked if anyone would like to take my proclamation as a bet? Nobody, bothered to answer me. I was resolute in my statement and told both Julie, Dennis and my wife that of the wines they had entered the two Syrahs would win gold medals. So what did I base my conjecture on? I based it on the fact that not only have I recently tasted a majority wines from the Temecula (their competition)Valley, but I also have been tasting wines from some of the best producers in the States and abroad over the last seven years. So was this just a lucky guess? Perhaps, but maybe it was an educated guess based on years of tasting, evaluating and reviewing wine.
We had just gotten back from the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference
in Sonoma on Monday and on Tuesday the awards ceremony was held, where the announcements of the winners would be made and the medals awarded. Julie and Dennis were at the event and were nervous with excitement and perhaps in the back of their mind, wondering whether or not I may have been right. The announcement finally came and the results; their 07 Estate Syrah won a Gold Medal
in the 2009 Temecula Wine Competition
along with another Gold Medal
for our 07 South Coast AVA Syrah. Wow, my tweet-deck buzzed with the excitement that my prognostication had come true. I was very happy for them both and what this had meant for them and the winery, recognition that their investment of work, long hours (blood, sweat and tears
) and capital had actually meant something, validation. If you click on this link here you can see the results: San Diego Wineries show well at 2009 Temecula Wine Competition
. I wished them well deserved congratulations and never told them, "I told you so" even though I had considered it.
The Eagles Nest 2007 South Coast Syrah and the Eagles Nest Estate Syrah
First Swirl: If your a regular reader of my blog, you may be wondering why I consider the first swirl of the wine? This is my first impression of what's to come, I look for color (read that, extraction and structure). I also look for clarity and viscosity. Their wines had wonderful extraction, body and suppleness. The core was a dark ruby color and faded away to garnet colored rim.
First Sniff: As this wine finished swirling about in my glass, I put my nose in to find wonderful complex, but inviting aromas of earthy truffles, blackberry and a faint touch of vanilla, all mixed with beautiful and subtle scents of freshly baked dark fruit compote. Even when the glass was empty aromas lingered on and on.
First Sip: I can still remember the taste of this wine. I will admit that I have had the opportunity to sample it on more than one occasion. Each time I do it is a wonderful expression of what Syrah should be. Polished, lavish, elegant, fluent throughout the entire palate, bountiful enough without going over the top, chewable, inky, showing top quality fruit, red and dark berries, plum, spices, all underlined by beautiful tannins followed by a long lingering finish. They are both great wines for pairing, as they mingle nicely with many different types of food.
Varietal Composition: Both these wines are 100% Syrah.
Alcohol and Aging: The alcohol is a mere 12% which should surprise you, why you ask? Because a wine which delivers so much is normally associated with higher octane levels. Both wines were aged at least 20 months in oak barrels and were bottled earlier this summer.
Price and where to buy: These wines sell for $20 each and can be purchased directly by calling the winery at (760) 505-8229. I told them that they should sell the Estate for at least $5 more, but they decided to sell it for the same price as their South Coast Syrah.
My Recommendation: I would give them a call as soon as possible, as I believe they made less than 400 cases of both wines. At these prices you could easily buy a case or two. These wines represent what I call a "every day drinker" meaning this a great wine you afford to drink everyday if you wish and not break the bank. It also represents QPR and qualifies as a winner.
Other Voices: Grace Hoffman of Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk had this say, "I couldn't have asked for a nicer wine to start my "proper" Syrah education! It defied my belief that a wine has to have a higher alcohol level to be more flavorful! Definitely a food wine". The 2009 Temecula Wine Competition gave these wines a gold medal each, I think that speaks for itself.
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Some call it Shiraz and others call it Syrah, but whatever you call it this is the Syrah you don't won't to miss out on! This is massive wine from the folks at Olson Ogden. if you are not familiar with Olson Ogden, this review represents a good opportunity to get acquainted.
Some times you wonder what's in a name, and in thinking about the label I wondered about how they came up with the name. In taking a peek at their website it appears Tim Olson has been a winemaker in Northern California for more than 21 years joined forces with John Ogden who manages the marketing, sales and business operations for Olson Ogden Wines and together they are Olson Ogden Wines.
Perhaps you are wondering what is their philosophy and approach to making wine? Well they state it this way; "Our primary goal is to produce balanced, complex and tasty wines that express the terroir and vintage from which they come. In order to make the best wines, we believe it must start with the best ingredients. And that starts in the vineyard. We prefer hillsides to valley floor, organic farming to agro-chemical approaches and we feel the most important variable in the equation is the attitude of the grower and their commitment to excellence. " In my view it is Mission accomplished!
Regarding the labels themselves I was surprised to see that each label is exactly the same size and shape with the same artwork. The only difference is the individual vineyard or AVA designation name on each bottle. There is no wine description or vineyard information on the back label. But since it appears most of the relevant info about wine can be found online it does not pose much of a problem, since most folks carry a PC in their pocket disguised as phone. The only concern I would be worried about is if I was working in a tasting room with nearly identical labels that I may end up giving someone the wrong wine. But from a cost aspect and the laborious labeling requirements this makes perfect sense and in the end is a positive thing for the consumer.
Why is this wine being tagged as a Rhone Ranger? While I was drinking this wine I think I could hear Hermitage calling? Okay really I just thought it was a catchy title, but I think it's important to point out where Syrah got its start. So if you're old pro in the wine world feel free to skip over this brief history and if you're new to wine please click on the links I have provided to give yourself a little more detail. Now according to the French Wine Guide, "The "Coteaux (slope) de l'Hermitage" dominates the small town of Tain l'Hermitage in the Rhône Valley. The first plantations date from the 10th century but it is under Louis the XIV that l'Hermitage obtains its credential letters... Hermitage was the favorite cru of the Tsar court in Russia.The red wines of Hermitage are generous and well balanced, strong aromas and a complete bouquet. Wines from Hermitage, France - Rhone tolerate aging very well and become smooth and mellow when they mature. So to it is with the Olson Ogden Unti Vineyards this wine has the stuffing to age and mature into even better wine than the one I sampled for this review.
The Wine: 2007 Olson Ogden Wines Unti Vineyard Syrah
First Swirl: Here is a wine that's opaque in color with thick legs that cling to the sides of the glass long after swirling the wine. In the glass this wine appears as ripe, fleshy with generous colored blackberry core, giving way to the cerise colored rim.
First Sniff: Just after pouring this wine and putting my nose to it there was a explosive perfumed bouquet which lept from the glass full of raspberry, blueberry, spice-cake, potpourri and anise, with a subtle mocha undertone. I thought to myself, wow this going to be awesome right from the moment cork popped to the very last drop, this wine was everything a Syrah should be and more. The nose knows!
First Sip: On the palate, where chewy cherry-cola and licorice qualities are complicated by notes of violet pastille and black cardamom. Large-scaled, fat and spicy, with strong finishing grip and supple tannins which linger on and on. In other words, this is a phat-wine with no pretense! A drink now and drink often rating of 93 points! If you can wait and cellar there will be an appreciable difference as this was just released this past summer.
Vineyards and Varietal Composition: These grapes were sourced from the Untis vineyard in the Dry Creek AVA of Sonoma. The Unti's began using bio-dynamic vineyard practices in 2004 and as a result has seen a shift in the wines personality! I would say it's this wine has a pretty sunny disposition. As far as I can tell this 100% Syrah.
Full Disclosure: In the interest of full-disclosure, this wine represents one of five samples sent to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog for a review.
Alcohol and Ageing: This wine weighed in at 14.5% alcohol and glided effortlessly on my palate with no appreciable hotness. This wine was aged in 70% New French Oak 17 Months.
Where to Purchase and Price: This wine retails in most markets for about $38.00 and can be found in a few restaurants here in San Diego and a few select wine stores of which I could not find one that had a current selection. But of course this wine can be purchased directly from their website by clicking here Olson Ogden Wines which is located in in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. Just a note to those considering making a trek over to see them, they do not have a tasting room.
Other voices: On March 31, 2007 Wine Spectator gave the 2004 Olson Ogden Wines Unti Vineyard Syrah rated 93 points by Wine Spectator. Want More Info? Connoisseur's Wine Guide gave the 2006 Olson Ogden Wines Unti Vineyard Syrah given 91 points and 2 puffs by Connoisseur's Wine Guide. Need More Info? Do you see a trend? My palate says a hearty Amen to that question.
Enjoy the video below by their wine maker commenting on the best way to taste wine!
This is a lot of wine for the price. At this price point it's not in my everyday drinker category, but it's is a wine of exceptional depth and flavor. Immediately approachable right out of the bottle. The quality of this wine makes it a QPR
winner in my book, because wines of this caliber normally will retail for well over $50 in most cases. So do your self a favor and give them a call or just order some online. They do have some discounts on buying variety packs with free shipping, which is a huge discount as shipping can cost as much as $30-$40 bones depending on many factors. But this is a wine not to be missed and you will be very happy to have some of this wine in your cellar. Until next time, stay thirsty my friends!Stay Tuned:
Their 2007 Olson Ogden Wines Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is the next review in the pipeline and deserves it's own in depth profile.
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If you are not familiar with Brancaia, but you're in love
with Super Tuscans or maybe you just want to become more familiar with wines that have this moniker, then this is a great wine to get a hold of, one thing I can promise you won't be disappointed.
If your new to wine and are looking around your favorite wine store for a "Super-Tuscan" and maybe you don't want to look foolish and you're wondering why there is no ST section, well here's a few tips which may help. While you are in the Italy section of the store, just take a gander at the back of the bottle where you should find in small print, IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) this is one clue that you have a ST in your hand. The second clue is when you see an I.G.T. wine selling at $50.00 you have a pretty good idea it is a ST, but sorry, no guarantees. The third clue in my opinion is the varietal make-up should at least feature a large percentage of Sangiovese or you just have an American styled Meritage.
As you can see my hand was a little shaky taking this picture table side, with no flash. The wine service was a little unusual also, as the waiter came to the table to show us the wine, then turned to the table behind us to uncork the bottle and then sniffed the cork. Then returned to pour the glass, for my first evaluation to see if I agreed with his assessment he derived from the cork, curious.
Vino da Tavola use to be the catch-all category for everyday wines until the super-Tuscan revolution hit Chianti and Maremma. The creation of I.G.T. was made necessary by the inadequacies of the D.O.C. regulations and by the widespread revolt against them by many famous and politically powerful wine producers, when in doubt just follow the money!
Brancaia, located in the Tuscan Maremma, is made up of two estates, Brancia and Poppi, that have been owned by Barbara and Martin Kronenberg-Widmer since 1981. Their consulting oenologist Carlo Ferrini oversees winemaking at Brancaia, which also owns vineyards in the Chianti Classico and Morellino di Scansano zones.
The Wine: 2004 Brancaia Ilatraia Maremma Toscana IGT (Italy, Tuscany ...
Varietal: It's what they call a Proprietary Blend, meaning this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Sangiovese (30%) and Petit Verdot (10%).
Wine Makers Note: The 2004 shows a very pretty Maremma warmth in its expression of sweet dark fruit, herb, tobacco and earthiness, with good length and excellent overall balance.
Aging: It spent 18 months in French oak and bottle-aged another 4 months before its release. This wine can be cellared until 2016, but you probably can't wait that long as this wine is drinking fantastically right now.
Soil Type: The 60 acres of vineyards are stony with clay and lime soil.
Price and Alcohol: Ranges in price from $49 - $64.99 depending on where you shop and the alcohol percentage of fourteen does not scare up any appreciable "hotness". It has the a perfect level of alcohol on the nose for my liking. It should technically be labeled a table wine, because the phrase "table wine" in the US is a legal designation set by the government to denote all wines of less than 14.5% alcohol of which this wines just falls short.
First Swirl: The waiter put the freshly poured glass on the table and I tilted it ever so slightly to the side against the bright-white table cloth, which revealed a deep garnet core fading to a brick toned rim.
First Sniff: This wine had tremendously fragrant and complex nose: A veritable bramble bush of dark fruit aromas on the initial whiff that transitions into cherry, strawberry, flowers, ginger, and cinnamon.
First Sip: While dining at this lovely Italian restaurant, we sipped on this lovely wine with a very fruity and nuanced mouth feel, co-mingling nicely with a tangy spiciness and sweet dark fruit, spice and earth tones. The finish was long and lasting, blending ever so nicely with our meal.
Other Voices: The 2005 92 points: "Aromas of blackberry and mineral, with hints of fresh herbs. Full-bodied, with soft tannins and a long, caressing finish. Balanced and pretty. Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot. Best after 2009. 2,750 cases made." Wine Spectator Rating: The Wine Advocate gave this wine a mere 88 points, which is a crime! Easily 92 points in my book! From WS, James suckling's Recommended Wines FRom Tuscany include the 2007 Brancaia Ilatraia Maremma Toscana with a whopping 96 points.
My Recommendation: I would grab some of the 2007 if you can and also some of the 2004 vintage which is still available. This is one of the best examples of Super Tuscan you are going to find under a $100 dollars anywhere. So if you want to see what all the fuss is about, just use the wine-searcher link on my page to right on your screeen and type in the name, it will give the name of all the shops or online stores who stock this wine, along with the prices. So this is another of my "run don't walk" recommendations. Until next time stay thirsty my friends! Cheers!
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Hey San Diego, it's time to get your wine on! The one and only San Diego Wine and Food Festival is coming soon and if you don't have tickets now is the time to get yours! Sam the Cooking Guy, will be one of those celebrities at this event that you really don't want to miss. I am a big fan of Sam's show and as he is local talent and a all around great guy, make sure you have your tickets to come on down and see him.
The Cuvée Corner Wine Blog has been invited down to cover this event first hand and will be writing up some reviews during the event week and a few wrap-up reports about any new wine discoveries that either fall into the QPR range or are just flat-out fantastic! So you may be asking what's is the 411 in this this event?
An action packed week of festivities for your inner foodie and wine lover!
Well this is what I found out about the event after checking out the website and reading through my press-pack, "The much anticipated 2009 San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival is quickly approaching! Come join more than 8,000 taste makers including legendary winemakers, celebrity chefs and others with great taste (just like you!) on November 18-22, 2009. You won't want to miss the five-day wine and food extravaganza featuring 170 world-class wineries and spirit producers, 70 of San Diego’s award-winning fine dining restaurants, gourmet foods, celebrity chefs, wine dinners, cooking classes, wine tasting classes, live and silent auctions, personalities, wine tastings, and unlimited food samples!"
Who's Pouring: Abundance Vineyards
- Lodi, Alexander Valley Vineyards - Healdsburg, Artesa Winery
– Napa, Cotes Du Rhone Wines
- France, Elizabeth Spencer Wines - Rutherford, Four Vines Winery
- Tempelton, Halter Ranch Vineyard
- Paso Robles, Kenneth Volk Vineyards - Santa Maria
- Paso Robles, Leal Vineyards
- Hollister, Michael-David Winery
- Lodi, Quady Winery
- Madera, Sextant Wines/10 Knots Winery
- Paso Robles
- Chile, Zenaida Cellars
- Paso Robles and many more. The Wineries I have high-lighted above represent some of my favorites and it's a good chance that you will
Meet the Winemakers: Jon Emmerich Winemaker Silverado Vineyards View Profile, Bart Barthélemy Winemaker St. Barthélemy Cellars View Profile, Tyler Heck Winemaker John Tyler Wines View Profile, Stephen Kroener Winemaker/Owner Silver Horse Winery View Profile, Michael Richmond Winemaker Bouchaine Vineyard View Profile, Etienne Cowper Winemaker Wilson Creek Winery View Profile, Brenda Martin Winemaker Vanite Wines View Profile, Don Rhea Executive Winemaker Orfila Vineyards & Winery View Profile , Milla Handley Winemaker, Proprietor Handley Cellars View Profile, Amanda Cramer Winemaker Niner Wine Estates View Profile, Richard Gumerman Winemaker Thunderbolt Winery View Profile,Justin Kahler Winemaker JK Wine Company View Profile, Jeff Ritchey Winemaker Sensorium Wines View Profile, Steve Goldman Winemaker Steven's Cellar View Profile, Alan & Mariela Viader Winemaker Viader Vineyards View Profile, Kevin Hall Winemaker Alexander Valley Vineyards View Profile and many more.
Wrapping up: If you love food and wine like I do, this event is the perfect opportunity to sample and sip your way through a smorgasbord of culinary delights and vineyards selections you may never have the a chance to try. The ticket prices are very reasonable for the amount of wine and great food you will be able partake of, so get your tickets now before it's sold out!
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While the review of the 2007 Calaveras County River of Skulls has been long over-due (I wrote these notes a little over 3 months ago), the timing of releasing this review could not be better. As we approach the forth coming Halloween weekend here in the states, what better wine to bring to the party than Twisted Oaks, River of Skulls. The fearsome skull face painted on the front the bottle is a warning to those who consume this wine, that they could become addicted to the allure of the wonderful aromas and flavors, waiting to be uncorked. This is one addiction I must admit I would be proud to have.
I first ran into Twisted Oak wines on a very hot in Calveras County, just a day before the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, there owner Jeff Stai, "El Jefe" was nice enough to give our group a tour of their immaculate wine-making facilities and the wine cave he had built into the side of a nearby hill. There we had a chance to sample many of their wines straight from the barrel. There winery dog proved he is also a wino at heart and licked the Tempranillo dripping from the end of the wine thief. This winery is what I would call squeaky clean, don't think I ever visited a better looking wine making facility than the one at Twisted Oak.
I was not able try this wine until we went to the WBC 09 and it was poured at a lighting-round tasting where each winemaker had about 15 minutes to pour their wine and quickly discuss its attributes with over 200 other bloggers in attendance. So the picture you see above was taken on our table while Jeff discussed the uniqueness of this wine and what I would call a very unusual, but certainly captivating label. Most of the time when you run into a skull on a bottle, it's an indication that poison is in the bottle. But in this case it's definitely not poison but a lovely elixir of hand crafted goodness just waiting to get into a glass near you. Varietal Composition: Mourvèdre at 88% and Syrah balancing this wine at 12%. This wine is predominately Mourvèdre, a wine that does not suit every one's taste. Although the grape was widely planted in Spain (where it is known as Monastrell), it was generally held in dim regard, and it didn't command any more respect in either California or Australia and often goes by the name Mataro. But Mourvèdre has become a bit of a rising star as of late, if you love a good Southern Rhone wine than you know that the Mourvèdre grape is a huge source used in France's Southern Rhone valley, although it usually assigned a subsidiary role in Châteauneuf-du-Papes which tend to favor Grenache, but it is a primary ingredient in what many consider to be the finest Châteauneuf of all, Château de Beaucastel, need I say more? With Rhone-style wines becoming more fashionable, a growing number of New World producers are trying to turn Mourvèdre into a show horse and this where Twisted Oak comes into the picture, with a their own version called the 2007 Calaveras County River of Skulls
First Sniff: With the brevity of time to examine the nose of this wine, I found it displayed a classic nose of roasted meats, plums and spice and certain earthy elements.
First Swirl: After my glass was poured I allowed it to settle and tilted my glass toward the white table cloth to capture it's color which exhibited a dark ruby core and nearly transparent colored garnet rim.
First Sip: While I had to hurriedly sip my wine, spit than jot a few quick tasting notes about the River of Skulls which said, this wine features abundant quantities of blueberries and blackberries which co-mingle with some subtle gamy, smoky, earthy notes intermixed with hints of licorice leading to a long finessed finish.
Alcohol and Price: This wine sells for somewhere between $28 and $35 bones depending on where you shop and weighed in at 14.7% and was barrel aged 40% New French oak, 20% New American oak, 40% Neutral oak for certain amout of time. (couldn't find the info)
The Vineyards: According to Twisted Oak, "the grapes are sourced from Dalton and Angels Camp vineyard which is in the vicinity of the Calaveras River, AKA the River of Skulls. It is a beautiful vineyard out on Dogtown Road here in Calaveras and is planted with about 8 different varietals.
Other Voices: Bill Daley, Food and Wine Writer for the Chicago Tribune: Tobacco and earth noise. Some shroom? Good cherry notes nice acids like the fruit. Optimistic wine despite River of Skulls name and selling for $35. Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a score of 90 points.
My Recommendation: Since this beautiful wine exhibits stunning concentration, a lithe richness, and length I would definitely pick some up quickly, as they have only made a little over 900 hundred cases (correction, only 300 cases) so you better hurry. Jeff Stai and Twisted Oak in one fell swoop demonstrated that like the folks at Tablas Creek, they are also leading New World practitioners when it comes to producing exceptional wine from this tricky varietal. Until next time stay thirsty my friends!
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Hey Malbec Fans I want to introduce you to the Cruz Andina 2006 Malbec. While this wine may be the new kid on the block, the vineyard where these grapes were sourced from comes from vines planted in 1948 well before I was born, so some sixty years old. This is their inaugural release of Cruz Andina, it is a project of Augustin Huneeus, who produces other QPR styled wines under the Veramonte label, wonderful wines from Chile and on the other end of the spectrum high-quality Napa Cabernet from Quintessa, in Napa Valley. Which I had a chance to visit this past summer at the Grand Tasting Event during the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference. If you find yourself in Napa, Quintessa is a great place to stop, highly recommended!
While this may make them the new kids on the block in terms of producing Malbec from what has become the iconic home of Malbec, the Pulenta Family has been making wine in Mendoza, Argentina for generations and it's here that Agustin Huneeus had his interest fueled and realized a dream he and his father shared for making a wine on the other side of the Andes.
The Wine: 2006 Cruz Andina Malbec, as mentioned earlier is a blend which means it's not pure varietal.
Varietal Composition: The wine expresses Malbec’s exceptional concentration with a soft, supple texture at 85%. Cabernet Sauvignon at 10.5%, Merlot at 3% and Bonarda at 1.5% are blended for complexity, structure and delicate mouthfeel.
First Swirl: In the glass there's a beautiful shimmering nearly opaque core of garnet color, fleeing to the cerise colored rim.
First Sniff: After the wine had been decanted for about an hour or so, I poured the wine in my glass and gave it a couple of good swirls, it offered up superb aromas of toasty oak, violets, mineral, black currant, blueberry, and black cherry.
First Sip: Out onto my palate like a layered cake this wine hit me with gobs of ripe fruit, a plush texture, outstanding balance, and several years of aging potential (not that many buyers will be laying this down). This lengthy, plush effort over-delivers and then some!
Full Disclosure: This wine was a sample sent to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog for review.
The Wine Maker: Álvaro Espinoza who had been working with them at Veramonte. According to WS, "Espinoza is one of Chile’s most talented winemakers (he also gets most of the credit for helping to sort out the Carmenère/Merlot mix up in Chile)" great credentials!
His Approach: In referring to their reasons for having him onboard for this new project it was stated, "Espinoza has a minimalist approach to winemaking and a sensibility for producing elegant wines" which means he's the perfect fit for the style of Malbec Quintessa desired to produce". When I read that statement, before I tasted the wine, I took an subjective step back and thought this going to be an old-world style of wine. After evaluating the wine, nothing could be further from the truth and my pre-formed opinion was instantly changed by the sheer caliber of this wine and apologies to Alvaro, but there's nothing minimalist about this wine, except perhaps the method of production, meaning bio-dynamics. In which case there is a minimalist style in the approach of farming techniques, which does not carry over to what goes into the bottle.
The Vineyards: While the Cruz Andina Malbec comes primarily from the Pulenta Vistalba vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, whose vines are some of the oldest in Mendoza, planted in 1948, at about 3200 feet in the Lujan de Cuyo appellation. Other Malbec fruit was sourced from the Los Alamos area. This wine is a blend and grapes for the other players Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon come from the Los Alamos vineyard in Uco Valley, an appellation just south of Lujan de Cuyo 80 miles from the city of Mendoza. The Los Alamos vines are 25-years old and at an altitude of nearly 4,000 feet above sea level.
Aging and Release Date: This wonderful Malbec spent 16 months in 100% French oak, only 30% of it was new and was just released for sale September 2009. This means if I am doing my math correctly that this wine has been in the bottle for a little over 20 months. The 2006 Malbecs are drinking wonderfully right now!
Price and Alcohol: This wine sells for just under $20 and can be found at Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido. By the way this was the only store in San Diego where I could find this label. The alcohol is 14.5% with no signs appreciable 'hotness'.
Climate and Soil: The area’s well-draining alluvial soils and constant breeze from the Andes moderates growth and provides intensity and concentration in the grapes.
Recommendation: Another QPR Winner! With only 900 cases made and selling for a paltry $20, it would behoove the savvy shopper to buy as much as they can afford. Once the word about this wine gets out and I've already seen a few other reviews on this wine, it's going to sell out very quickly. With nearly three years of separation between vintages, it will be a long wait for 2010, so run don't walk and grab yourself some these great values.
Other Voices: Robert Whitley of Whitley On Wine radio had this to say: Cruz 2006 'Andina' Malbec, Argentina ($19) — An absolutely stunning Argentine malbec for the money, Cruz Andina impresses visually first, with an inky purple hue as it splashes into the glass. The palate is voluptuous, showing layers of blueberry and blackberry fruit, licorice and spice with firm structure. This lip-smacking red seals the deal with a long, sensuous finish. Rating: 92.
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Geez the stuff of legend? Really, you may have been asking yourself as you're reading this review. But according to many that is exactly is what this wine represents. This is the first time I have ever been able to try this wine for myself. I have read about it many time and have always wanted to try, but no samples were fourth coming to this humble wine reviewer. This wine was purchased from the Wine Vault and Bistro here in San Diego, where I purchased the last two on the shelf for a about $32 each. Now, you may have heard of this wine before and wondered what is in the bottle as you won't find a description on the bottle, except one phrase "Red Wine", which is not very descriptive at all. I guess your just suppose to just know or pick up your cell and give them a call or look it up online.
But with that said here is the 411 on what's in bottle, this wine is predominantly Zinfandel with a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blended in, and its composition varies year to year. If you are a huge fan of Zinfandel than you'll want to get your hands on a few of these and this Zinfandel is right up there with the best California Zins which can cost twice as much. Which means it earns the coveted QPR award from the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog! Easy on the wallet and plush on the palate, what else could you ask for?
Many folks are also interested the very different label artwork, which features a man in chains. The image is inspired by an original etching depicting a prisoner in chains Dave Phinney received as a gift from his mother and father (Orin and Swift) and thus you have Orin Swift Cellars Wines. This disclosure also highlights from where the name of the winery is derived. If you are interested Orin Swift also make four other labels, which are Mercury Head Veladora Papillon and Saldo.
First Swirl: In the glass this features a lovely garnet colored core, segueing to a cerise toned rim.
First Sniff: On the nose you will find generous high-toned raspberry, blueberry and red cherry fruits, violet-floral, candied plums, creamy oak, and an overall sweet appeal.
First Taste: Stated simply, this wine is plush and ripe, this is a decadent wine with excellent structure and great complexity and a deep consistent finish. A more precise note find this wine has a creamy vanilla canvas, toffee and blue berry notes are scrawled over the mid-palate while the flavors shift toward sweet pomegranate and deep red fruits flavors. The finish is lingering and never less than silky, and the mouth watering acidity keeps the wines fruitiness from overstating itself.
Composition: The 2007 Prisoner blend is 50% Zinfandel, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah and a dash of Charbono and Grenache or should I say it appears they threw in the kitchen sink.
The Vineyards: Grapes are sourced from Oakville in Napa, California
Price and Alcohol: This wine sells anywhere from $32 - $38 and weighs in at 15.2 %, which I worried about initially that it would be a little hot, but nothing could be further from the truth. Smooth barely describe the way this wine glides across your palate.
My Recommendation: Run out and grab yourself a few of "The Prisoner" for yourself. It is a wonderfully well built wine that will age nicely for a few more years. This a great wine to give someone you know who maybe afraid of "Red" wine, that White-Zin drinker you know or just a great wine to have around for when you may want to impress friends or clients. This wine sells in the thirty dollar price range which a great deal for the caliber of wine you are getting. What ever the case you will enjoy this wine immensely, but don't take too long as this wine sells out quickly! After tasting this and sharing with my wife, the only Prisoner being held is my palates affection for a wonderfully well built and delightful wine! Until next time cheers everyone!
Other Voices: WS 92pts. - According to the Wine Spectator: This wine offers both style and structure, with lively aromas of black raspberry, cracked pepper and mocha, with plush and layered flavors of wild berry, fresh sage and licorice. Ripe tannins sneak in on the finish. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Charbono and Grenache. Drink now through 2014.
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Just a couple weeks ago I received an invitation to preview the new Ivy Ultra Lounge and Wine Bar located in the Ivy Hotel, which is one of San Diego's luxury hotels located in the heart of Downtown San Diego. Inside this 'new' wine bar you'll find row after row of Enomatic type machines made by Napa Technology where guests are able to explore 80 different world wide wines on the menu and at their leisure. There is no pressure, just grab yourself a glass and tell your server or bartender you'd like to purchase a Smartcard. This card which is very much like a pre-charged debit card allows you drop x-amount of dollars on the card and then you’re off to races. After your taste is poured directly into your glass, glance upward to the digital display and it will let you know your balance so there is no embarrassment when you try to pour yourself a taste and are informed that your request was denied. Oh, don't remove your glass to quickly as there is a small hiccup at the end the pour that you won't want to miss.
The Tasting Menu: Each guests will have an opportunity to enjoy wines ranging from high-end “cult” and boutique varietals to the tried-and-true (where I saw a few grocery store wines as well), without paying for steep bottle prices. This type of operation allows guests to explore the wines in three different formats, which are Taste (1.5 oz.), Half (4 oz.) and Full (6 oz.) glasses at the perfect temperature from Napa Technologies new high-tech, interactive enomatic wine machines found in the Ivy Hotel's new Ultra Lounge and Wine Bar.
How does it work:
According to Napa Technology WineStation
with its patent pending CleanPour ™ hygienic dispensing head technology, WineStation delivers the first time taste the wine maker intended
, every time, for up to 60 days (using argon or nitrogen gas) and even lets you prepare, preserve and store your favorite wines when they are out of the unit.
The Jury is still out:
Not completely convinced that the wine station or the Italian made Enomatic - Wine Serving Systems
deliver as promised, "the first taste the wine maker intended every time"
. Making a comparison of a newly loaded wine (just uncorked) and the other wines which were in the machine for days, I still found the wine which just uncorked to be a fresher by comparison to the one held fresh by argon gas.
The wine list:
Eighty different wines on the list range in price from $1.76 for a Taste of the 2007 Willamette Valley Riesling produced by Willamette Valley Vineyards (Oregon) to a full glass of the 2004 Opus One (Napa Valley) for $28.47. They also have a nice selection of Port available for you to explore. These high-tech Wine Stations are designed to keep each vintage at peak freshness, allowing you to create your own tasting experience with a touch of a button. A few of the highlights are; Opus One, Peter Michael “La Carriere” and Shafer “Hillside Select” and a few lowlights the Qupe entry level Syrah.Price Comparison:
Let's take the Opus One (Napa Valley) at $28.47 for a 6 oz. pour times 4.23 (which is 6 oz. divided by 25.4 oz.) and considering there are about 26 and two third ounces of wine in each 750ml bottle and you come out with $120.52 per bottle which is a fantastic price! The lowest price I could find online was $149.00 and the highest price was $189.00. Not sure how they are getting such a great price per bottle, but that is a great benefit for the those wanting to experience a high caliber wine, without the high caliber price tag.The other side of the Coin:
Ah yes the other side of the proverbial coin, do the math. If you take the other wine in this article, the 2007 Willamette Valley Riesling produced by Willamette Valley Vineyards (Oregon) which can be found online anywhere from $8.99 to $10.99 per 750ml bottle and if measured out for $1.76 for a 1.5 oz. pour, which divides into 25.4 ounces (750ml) and equates to 16.9 tastes and that bottle is now $29.74 ouch! So to get the most "bang" for the buck, it would behoove you to go for the full pour.Enhancing the tasting experience:
While you taste the various wines you are invited to munch on some of their lovely appetizers. The highlights that evening included a Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza, Chacuterie Plate, Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Grated Parmesan and Duck Rillets, which were all wonderful. The Executive Chef of the Ivy Hotel, Nathan Coulon created an interesting range of appetizers designed for wine-pairing and some of those wonderful treats were sampled that evening. Wine-friendly desserts incl
ude Strawberry Semi-fredo, Macerated Grilled Peaches and Belgian Chocolate Torte. Now while these appetizers are designed for pairing, it's not necessarily clear which item pairs with what, that guess is left up to you.
Wrapping Up: This is a great place to grab a glass of wine and relax with friends, as they have abundant seating from tables to comfy couches. They also have lovely restaurant to dine in and a place to go dancing if you feel like kicking your heels later. With at least 80 wines by the glass, it represents a good opportunity to try many different wines without the commitment of a whole bottle. If your downtown and would love to just grab a great glass of wine by the glass, I would highly recommend dropping by. Until next time cheers everyone!
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The Montes Live tasting and Webinar, it was just a couple of weeks ago now and after going through my tasting notes and sorting out some of my other projects, I thought it was high time I got the write up done for Montes as they were kind enough to extend an invitation for me to sit on this very informative multi-media webinar.
The Napa Connection:
Montes Winery who, as many of you know has been producing wines of distinction from Chile for many years now, has branched out and has established a few new labels. One is in Napa, with grapes being sourced from Coombsville, Yountville, Oak Knoll and the very well known Oakville area. The label for this project is in keeping with their "Angel" theme calling it Napa Angel
and Napa Angel Aurelio's Selection
which represent their 2006
realease. These wines were produced at the Artesa Winery in Carneros, with the help of a consultant a Mr. Larry Levin, who was formerly the winemaker of Franciscan Vineyards. Man
y wonder why with all the success in Chile, why would they want to come to Napa to make wine? Good question, Aurelio Montes
Sr (Chief Wine Maker) explained their reasoning this way, "to create our own Napa wine has been a long cherished dream as Napa Valley is the wine jewel of the New World's Northern Hemisphere."
Aurelio Sr, also describes Napa this way, "it's one of the cathedrals of winemaking"
along side the likes of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Piedmont. Those are both interesting quotes representing his profound respect for other wine making regions in the world and one I can fully appreciate.
The 2006 Napa Angel Aurelio's Selection:
This wine represents their premium label and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with the fruit sourced from Oak Knoll and Yountville and retailing in the neighborhood of $90
with Michelangelo-like art on the label. Micro Review:
I found this wine to be a deep dark well of ruby color, well structured, nice mouth feel and layered with rich red berry fruits and a hint of smoked tobacco, leading to a plush long finish. I would recommend some more to time in the bottle, for further benefit and total case production of just a little over 4000.This is not your everyday drinker but could be purchased for special occasions or as a gift to good friends or special clients.
The 2006 Napa Angel: This wine represents a more immediately approachable wine and is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the fruit sourced from Coombsville and Oaknoll in Napa. The other 10% is Syrah from the Knights Valley in Sonoma. Retailing in the neighborhood of $50 and featuring a playful Cherubic face with wings. Micro Review: This wine also had a very deep dark ruby colored core, in the mouth layers of ripe red plums and cherry's, broad shoulder in structure, with subtle notes of cedar and roasted vanilla notes mingling ever so nicely on the long smooth finish. This could be a weekend wine that you open when you have friends over or just want to celebrate the end of a long week, with something from the BBQ. No need to rush out and find this wine with over 8000 cases being made, but a wine of this caliber won't last too long either, so do yourself a favor and grab a few soon.
The Argentinian Connection:
So what led Montes to Argentina? Could it be perhaps the search for a new and improved excellent terroir sites outside the borders of Chile or is it perhaps the lure of the rising tide of Argentinian Malbec in the US, as reported by the The Wine Economist
which stated, "In the same issue the results of the Nielsen company wine market survey for the period ending 2/7/2009 are reported and goes on further to report that "Argentinian table wine imports were up 40% by dollar value for most recent year." This compares to a 10 percent increase for Chile, one percent for Italy and a one percent decline for Australia in US markets. That being said, and I sure some of both were a factor in the decision making, Montes
is committed to "preserving the true intent and expression of the terrior and climate"
of Argentinian wines. Montes is producing three labels from Mendoza which are the Reserve Malbec and Ultra Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines reviewed for the webinar are the 2007 Kaiken Reserve Malbec and the 2007 Kaiken Ultra Malbec.The 2007 Kaiken Ultra Malbec:
This wine represents the 20 plus year old vines from the Uco Valley, just outside the city of Mendoza. Micro Review:
In the glass there is lots of color - dark inky hues of purple dominate, then give way to shades of violet on the rim. The nose has a roasted, sweet coffee and caramel aroma mingled with bright fresh floral notes and ripe berry fruit. The 2007 Kaiken
is a full-bodied Malbec just bursting with red and black fruit flavors,
predominately cherry and blackberry, from the first splash to hit the palate to the well-honed finish it is just wonderful. The flavor profile is full of fruit - dark berries and plums, softly restrained with delicate tannins and enveloped in spicy cloves. This Malbec
lovely and is perfect for year round consumption and can be found just under $20
most places which makes this wine easy on the wallet as well. Your food pairing options are really endless, as this wine offers many things to many people.
The 2007 Kaiken Reserve Malbec:
This wine represents what I would call a QPR
winner! It's a blend of 90% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes were sourced from 15 year old vines in the first zone just outside Mendoza. Micro Review:
In the glass you find a deep violet color, warm oak nuances and spice in the nose, with notes of ripe red fruit. In the mouth it displays a wonderful attack of fleshy tannins; while at the same time it's silky mouth feel, followed by a long caressing finish. Overall impression this wine represents a harmonious connection with the wood, which makes this wine a fine example of the Mendoza terroir. Kaiken Malbec - KAIKEN WINES
can be found at many local retailers and this wine sells in what I call the bargain range, coming in around $10-14 dollars depending on where you shop. This is a wine to purchase by the case.
The Re-Discovery of Carménère: Often referred to as the long-lost grape, carmenère had all but disappeared from its original Bordeaux home in the late 1800s during the rise of phylloxera. In fact, it took another century after it was originally imported from Bordeaux before carmenère was rediscovered flourishing, albeit covertly, in Chile. It wasn’t until 1994 that French professor of Oenology Jean-Michel Boursiquot determined that some of the Merlot growing in Chile wasn’t Merlot at all but rather the long-thought-gone Carmenere. Four years later, the Chilean government officially recognized Carmenere as its own separate varietal and it’s been thriving ever since.
it used to be big, really big one of the six “noble”
red grapes allowed in Bordeaux wines, which is no small feat. Okay Carmenere wasn’t quite as big as I've eluded to here and it didn’t command its own 100% varietal wines just yet, but it did hobnob
with other famous grapes like Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot and it cozied up to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon like peanut butter did to jelly. Carmenere has enjoyed quite a renaissance in Chile. Despite the fact that Cabernet is the most widely-planted grape in the country, Chile has become synonymous with Carmenere
, as it is the only country that grows the grape in any volume of note, although you will find it other places, but not in signifcant quanities. Which brings us to third part of this "live"
online tasting which included the 2006 Montes Purple Angel and the 2007 Montes Alpha Carménère, which is the first time and I had the great pleasure to be reviewing these two wines side by side.Montes Purple Angel 2006:
This wine is composed of 92% Carménère and 8% Petite Verdot from the Colchagua Valley. Half of the Carménère fruit and all the Petite Verdot was sourced from the La Finca De Apalta Estate, while the other half of the Carménère comes from the Montes Archangel Estate in Marchigue. After aging in new French Oak barrels for 18 months, it was bottled and laid down a year before release. Micro Review:
In the glass it's dark as night in the bottle (the bottle itself weighs at least 2lbs) and glass, darting to a violet colored rim. In the nose you find, red currants and big hairy red raspberries with definite notes of Creme de Cassis in there as well mingling with scents of bittersweet chocolate. After the first sip, black currants, blackberries and pomegranate pulse upon the palate. The dark fruits dissolve and then evolve upon your palate into even darker flavors as the wine sits in your mouth: more semi-sweet chocolate, tobacco, fennel. The richness of Carmenere won’t and can't be denied, although there will be one notable thing missing from the profile, tannins. That’s the beauty of a well made Carmenere: you never know what you’re going to get, but you’re going to want to come back for more and more again and again. With a $59 dollar price tag it maybe an indulgence not often experienced, but definitely not ruled out!
The 2007 Montes Alpha Carménère: This 2007 is said to be one of the best in the last 25 years. It's has a slightly different profile than the Purple Angel, with a blend of 90% Carménère and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sourced from the Archangel Estate located at the western end of the Colchagua Valley and only 11 miles inland. One of the best things about this wine is the very approachble price tag, weighing in at the $19-$23 price range which makes this wine another QPR winner. I even liked this wine better than its more expensive cousin, it could be that this wine had the highest residual sugar of any wine that day at 2.85 and total acidity of 3.42. Micro Review: In the glass this wine had a deep red core, nearly opacue and a violet colored rim. In the nose you could almost feel the black berries and spice notes tickling your nose, while on the palate, well integrated truffles, red fruit and tobacco skating upon a very soft and smooth finish. This is a winner and one to stock up on for sure, if you have never had one of this wines, do yourself a favor and get on down to your favorite wine shop and confidently ask for a Carménère, you may just get a blank stare. Until next time cheers everyone!
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Well folks it has been a few weeks since I've been back from Italy and I'm still putting together my thoughts and notes about the trip to Italy and more precisely Tuscany. The trip was both arduous and filled with many new discoveries. This was my first time in Italy and my first time to Europe. But it is and was a place my palate and my mind have longed to discover and both were equally rewarded. I ran across this quote online"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” Ashley Smith. I thought this quote fit nicely with the reasons for our trip, besides the obvious need for some downtime (vacation) of which it was and wasn't, a strange pardox indeed.
We (that's me and my wife) were only in Montalcino just one day from the early morning until late afternoon, as I really didn't relish the thought of driving around Italy in the dark, they don't have the same standards of roadway illumination as we do in the U.S. and with me driving as well as visiting there for the first time, I thought it would be wise to not to push my luck. Well before we left on our trip, I had made or requested four appointments for that day and three of the four responded in the affirmative that they would be happy to show us around and talk with us a bit about their winery and maybe give us a tour of their facilities and taste some of their wines. One of the wineries told us, no we don't (and I paraphrase)cater to individual wine writers (aka wine blogger) but that we were more than welcome to stop by their tasting room if we were inclined to do so. The three which responded in the affirmative and said that they would be glad to receive were Poggio Antico, Col D'Orcia and Pian Dell' Orino and all three made us feel very welcome and respected, the fourth which basically dismissed our request will remain unknown.
But it is in this blog that I want to highlight and bring to your attention Pian Dell' Orino, whom as I have eluded to in the title are "blazing a new trail in Brunello" and it's is in the viticulture and the wine-making style where you will find my meaning. If you are not familar with this label and are a fan of Brunello, than you really owe it to yourself to grab a few bottles today and get acquainted. This is what I would call a small estate (compared to lets say Col D'Orcia) and while small in scale it is not small in producing world class Brunello. Their estate is located directly next to Biondi-Santi (which should be grabbing your attention just now) just a mile or so out of town from the down town center of Montalcino.
My wife and I had an opportunity to stop by and visit with their (who is the other half of the team of Caroline Pobiter and Jan) winemaker Jan Hendrick Erbach, who was very gracious and very informative, we really only intended to stay a short time as Jan another appointment in town. But our conversation about his wine and his wonderfully interesting winery took flight and we stayed nearly three hours and never realized it until it was time for him to depart. After tasting through his wines of which only three of their labels make it stateside, which is too bad because their Rosé is very unique and wonderful.
Having been so thoroughly impressed with his wine, one question came to mind and so I asked Jan, "what are you doing different here?" this question was anchored in my comparisons of the other wines I had tasted that day and his reply deflected away our praise as he said, "really it's about the viticulture and that's the real story, because you can only make great wine from equally great grapes" of which I completely agree.
He went on to say further that theirs is a Biodynamic Estate and explained that those farming techniques involved in that process, along with thier unusally shaped, winemaking facility built on circular gravity flow basis gave their wines an advantage others would love to emulate as Jan has had to let go of some of his other consulting positions only because of time constraint, as he has become a very popular consulting enologist in Tuscany.
But pressing him further he admitted to me that while raised in Germany and learning his winemaking at the prestigious Geisenheim Academy and he say's he had really honed his wine-making skills in France and it was that influence which he has brought into his winemaking style. A style which differs from some of the other projects he regularly consults on for other vintners who have their own style and desired outcome for their wine. Even though I only visited two other producers of Brunello and maybe tasted a handful of others in the various Entecos, I would have to conclude that the Brunello here is silky and very smoothe on the palate, yet quite rich and serves as a testament of Biodynamic farming practices and the quality of their grapes. In a nutshell the wine made at Pian Dell' Orino offers excellent fruit concentration, lovely aromatics a have mouthwatering acidity!
Their Wines: Brunello di Montalcino , Rosso di Montalcino
we tasted all three that day and their Rosé which are all fantastic, there is no other way the describe the sheer quality of this wine. I brought home one of each except the Rosé, the Brunello was the 2004 and the other two were the 2007. If you are familar with the current best vintages of Brunello overall it's 2004 which is getting all the attention and if their 2004 is typical of this vintage then it would behoove the average consumer and collector alike to grab a few of these wonderfull wines before they are gone.Their Grapes:
All their wines are 100% Sangiovese, even the Rosé which has a beautiful peach color and enticing aromatics which carry through to the palate and expresses itself wonderfully. The grapes from their self described top-tier wines are made of Sangiovese Grosso grapes, which is loosely held to be indigenous to the commune of Montepulciano, in the province of Siena and was already described in the 18th Century as "Pigniuolo Rosso" but controversy cirlcles around this assertion.
The Sangiovese grape that we know today to supposedly a descendent of Roman era and has led to theories that the grape's origins dated from Roman times
and a translation of Sangiovese's name sanguis Jovis, "the blood of Jove" the
Roman Jupiter. This premise surely makes for some interesting reading for "cork-dorks" like myself.
Their Vineyards: The four estate vineyards -Pian dell’Orino, Pian Bossolino, Cancello Rosso and Scopeta – all produce Sangiovese grapes. The growth system they use is the single spur cordon system.
Their Label: I only mention their label becasue it's very different from any other label you may encounter on the shelf, as you pass your hand over the Pian dell’Orino label it reveals the raised dots of the Braille alphabet. Which is a compassionate gesture that allows the visually challenged to enjoy every single aspect of Jan and Caroline’s wines.
Where to buy: If you want to buy their wine it appears you'll will have to do most of your shopping online and if you follow this link Pian Dell'Orino Brunello di Montalcino 2004 you can find this wine for $58 and their Pian Dell'Orino Rosso di Montalcino 2005 for $28 which seem fair prices for the caliber of wine you will be drinking. You can of course look around the web yourself and find various prices, but finding that wine for $58 is a good price from Stirling Fine Wines and if purchased from anywhere besides NJ you will save a few dollars on taxes. But of course the shipping may jack up the price, as there appears to be no standard in shipping prices charged by various online wine stores and wineries alike.
Here is how Jan and Caroline define their own new "Trail Blazing Difference" in Brunello with their own twelve step program:
“Our” quality in 12 points
· We only grow the autochthonous grape, Sangiovese grosso
· We are organic and certified by the ICEA
· Our maximum yield is a bottle per vine
· We respect the natural rhythms which influence the growth of every plant
· We regularly taste our wines as they age
· Our use of sulphur is kept to an absolute minimum, so that the wines are easily digested
· The wine is not filtered and therefore retains its vitality
· Everything we do is here motivated by our continual search for quality
· Our grapes are picked and treated with great delicacy
· The fermentation is slow and spontaneous thanks to naturally occurring yeasts
· We follow the aging in wood scrupulously
· We are very attentive to the authenticity of our wines – and have never used any added aroma, grape concentrate or other industrial “devilry”
I believe regarding the wines of Pian dell'Orino - Montalcino - Toscana - Italia is like one of the songs which Frank Sinatra sang, "the best is yet to come"! Please visit their website which is easy to navigate and is laid out very smartly. Until next time cheers everyone! Ciao!
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It has been said A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world" - Louis Pasteur and by a wiser man than myself but I will say I whole heartily concur! I found this little beauty while dining with my wife while we were in this lovely little restaurant in Castelleni in Chianti, SI. I was going over the list and saw GAJA next the description and that was all the decision making I needed to make for our dinner that evening.
If you are familiar with the name GAJA and the so-called Crown Prince of Italian wine, Angelo Gaja then you know why my decision was made so easily. Angelo Gaja, owner and president of the Gaja Winery, is a fourth-generation Piedmontese winemaker. Internationally acknowledged as one of Italy's and the world's greatest winemakers, Angelo Gaja has been responsible for bold innovations in the vineyards and the cellars. Frankly I was new to this particular label, but familiar and only by reputation with his other famous labels which have earned him the title, "Crown Prince of Italian Wine".
Many of his other wines are difficult if not impossible to come by and even if you are able to put your hands on a few your wallet will take a big hit to get those other labels home as the average price per bottle is well over $165.00 each, way above my pay-grade please check here for current labels and prices, Gaja Winery, Italy: Current Releases.
For the more frugal shopper which I am, there are three Bolgheri wines (by GAJA) made starting at around $40.00 or so which are the Promis, Magari, and Camarcanda are all blends, using mainly Bordeaux varietals, and come from terroir ideal for creating strong wines with ageing potential. But the wine I want to bring to your attention today is the 2006 Promis
A little insight into why GAJA is so highly regarded and sought after is provided by VINOGRAPHY: a wine blog, "One reason for this celebrity status is that as opposed to the great Chateaux of Bordeaux which produce tens of thousands of cases of their top wines each year, while Gaja produces its DOCG and single vineyard wines in quantities that range from a few thousand to a mere one thousand cases." That being said I was so very glad to have encountered this wine on my trip and the Promis melded blissfully with our meal.
First Swirl: Light garnet core and transparent cerise colored rim and in the glass it appears to be full to medium-bodied.
First Sniff: Bright and fruity with a jammy nose, with expressive notes of lush modern blackberry and cassis fruit mingling nicely with the cola aromas.
First Sip: A wonderful wine, which combines the elegance and round mouth feel of Merlot and Syrah with the restraint of Sangiovese. This wine is what I would call balanced, like your favorite song, it's a pleasure to drink from an early age, and pairs nicely with many Italian inspired meals. The 2006 Promis features well integrated tannins and a lush but firm finish with aging potential of 5-8 years. Composition:
The 2006 Promis it's a blend of A blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, and 10% Sangiovese. Promis represents the combination of grapes from Gaja's two Tuscan estates, Merlot and Syrah come from Ca'Marcanda and Sangiovese from Pieve Santa Restituta. The blend will vary from year to year as Ca'Marcanda's vineyards mature.Vineyards:
As mentioned earlier the fruit which represents this wine is harvested from two of Gaja's Tuscan estates, the Merlot and Syrah come from the Ca'Marcanda Estate and Sangiovese comes from Pieve Santa Restituta.Alcohol and Price:
I can't quite recall the alcohol percentage from my notes as I failed to jot down that information, but I believe it was around 13.5%. Now the selling price of this wine varies greatly and I was not able to find a store locally which carried this wine in the store. But online this wine sells anywhere from a high of $50.00 to $34.99 each. I paid 35 Euro while in Italy which is about $52.50 restaurant wine list price, which is not a crazy markup.Recommendations:
I would say this is a very good wine to be on the lookout for and buying a few of these very good wines while they last. Looking around the web I've seen many wine reviewers saying the Promis 2006 is the best one ever. If you can find this wine anywhere between thirty and forty dollars I would say to grab a whole case.Where to Buy: The Wine and Cheese Place
is selling this wine for $35.09 each plus shipping and with no taxes if you live outside of MO. Wine-Searcher shows a local place here, called the The Wine Connection, San Diego
selling it for $39.99 each plus tax. But it appears they are out of stock, but could possibly order this wine for you. Either way get your hands on this wine and enjoy!Pairing Recommendations:
Serve with fine Italian cuisine, especially veal chops, chicken milanese, pasta with braised rabbit or wild boar which is popular in Tuscany.
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