Posted by Gabe on April 5, 2014
One of my favorite things about covering wine is the opportunity to hang out with winemakers. It’s a lot of fun and also a relief when there’s someone in the room who’s more of a geek about fermented grape juice than I am. The last few years I’ve been really impressed with the offerings being put out by Trione Vineyards & Winery. And while I’ve loved the wines, it was only recently that I visited their tasting room and met their winemaker Scot Covington. I spent most of an afternoon with him and we tasted wines in barrel, tank and of course out of bottle. Trione has vineyards in Alexander Valley and the Russian River; hundreds of acres in fact. Most of the grapes are sold; Scot gets to make wine with the best of the best that their property offers. It’s clear that he loves what he does and the opportunity to select fruit from such a large playground is an inspiration to him. I tasted lots of wine with Scot and I eagerly anticipate re-tasting some of the offerings that aren’t even in bottle yes once they’re released, there’s a ton of promise and upside there. For the moment though here’s a look at three current Trione Wines you can get your hands on.
Trione 2009 Russian River Valley Syrah – The fruit for this wine came from a single block in Russian River Valley that’s planted to clone 470 and 877. The methodology Scot used to make this Syrah is similar to the one he employs with Pinot Noir. 809 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $32. Black and red plum aromas fill the heady nose of this Syrah. Dried black fruit flavors are in strong evidence throughout the palate; blackberry and blueberry characteristics are joined by plum pudding spices. Bits of espresso and smoked meat emerge on the lengthy finish. Firm gripping tannins yield with some air. This Syrah is two-faced in nature, the fruit says new world, the style and methodology say old world. Bottom line, it makes for a delicious and food friendly wine.
Trione 2009 Alexander Valley Red Wine – This wine is a blend of all 5 classic Bordeaux grapes. The majority is Cabernet Sauvignon (69%), with Merlot (12%), Petit Verdot 7%), Cabernet Franc (6%), and Malbec (6%) making contributions too. The wine was aged in French oak for 18 months; 45% of the barrels utilized were new. 2,292 6 bottle cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $48. Sweet, dark berry fruit aromas fill the nose of this Red blend. Plum and blueberry flavors dominate the palate which brings to mind a bowl of fresh berry fruits. Black fruit flavors lead the charge, but bits of red slip in and out making their presence known. Tobacco, leather and chocolate notes are all in evidence on the finish which has solid length. Tannins are firm and gripping, they yield with some air. Along those lines, if you’re going to drink this now, decant it for an hour or so, otherwise lay it down for 5 or 6 years and enjoy it in the 5 or so years after that.
Trione 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon “Block 21” – The single block this Cabernet was sourced from is planted to clone 337. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), bits of merlot (9%), Cabernet Franc (2%), Malbec (2%), and Petit Verdot (2%) were also blended in. Each lot was barrel aged separately for 12 months and then blended, an additional 12 months in barrel followed blending. French oak barrels were uses, 45% of them were new. 981 6 packs were bottled and this wine has a suggested retail price of $64. A potpourri of spice leads the nose of this Cabernet. They’re joined by violets and blueberry aromas. Plum, black raspberry and blackberry flavors are present on the full-bodied but easy-going palate. The finish shows off chocolate covered blueberry and a wisp of chicory. This is an exceptionally smooth and engaging Cabernet Sauvignon that’s as easy to drink all by itself as it is to pair with a wide array of food. Alexander Valley is one of the best areas in California for growing excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. This offering from Trione proves how good Cabernet from Alexander Valley can be. It’s wonderful now, but don’t hesitate to lay it down for 8-12 years.
Trione Vineyards & Winery is releasing some terrific wines that speak to their origins in two distinct Sonoma County Appellations. Winemaker Scot Covington is pushing the envelope one vintage after another. He does this not only by enhancing the portfolio with occasional new releases but more importantly by constantly tinkering and striving to make the best wines he can with the bounty that Trione’s Vineyards offer. If you’re in Alexander Valley, stop off at their tasting room and sample the wonderful Sonoma County Wines they’re offering. And if you’re not going to be in Sonoma County soon, go to your favorite local wine shop and look for some Trione wines; I guarantee a delicious experience.
Posted in Alexander Valley, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Russian River Valley, Syrah/Shiraz | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on April 1, 2014
What do you think of when New Zealand Wine is mentioned? I bet your answer is sauvignon blanc, which is no surprise as it makes up a very large percentage of their crop. So try to imagine New Zealand’s wine identity without sauvignon blanc. It’s hard to do right? Well I recently had dinner with Bill Spence, a man who can imagine just that. It was Bill and his brother Ross who first planted sauvignon blanc commercially in New Zealand back in 1969. A few years later in 1974 they released the first ever commercial vintage of sauvignon blanc in New Zealand. Here’s a look at two wines from Matua that are available in the United States right now and represent excellent values. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest…
Posted in New Zealand, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 31, 2014
Oregon has become a go to destination for those seeking genuine expressions of Pinot Noir. Producers of all shapes and sizes are based there making similarly wide ranging wines. Elizabeth Chambers Cellar is a boutique winery focused on Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. They make several small lot single vineyard wines. They have also just released their first wine into national distribution, a Willamette Valley Cuvée. Even with this somewhat larger production wine they are still a very small winery at only 3,500 total cases. Here’s a look at the inaugural release of their newly launched wine.
The Elizabeth Chambers Cellar 2011 Winemaker’s Cuvée Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced at two vineyard sites. Most of the grapes came from the Freedom Hill Vineyard, the balance from the Lazy River Vineyard. Barrel aging took place over 10 months, largely in previously used oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $32. Wild strawberry, leather and bits of black plum are prominent on the cheerful nose of this 2011 Pinot Noir. Firm black fruit flavors dominate the palate; these are dotted with interspersed bits of red fruit. Plum, cherry and raspberry are the most prominent of these characteristics and they’re accompanied by wisps of nutmeg. Black tea, minerals, cinnamon and a bit of red clay are all part of the long, lush finish. Firm acid and soft, sweet tannins provide nice structure.
This is a delicious and well priced Pinot Noir. It’s ready to drink now, particularly when decanted for about an hour, but will age well over the next 4-6 years. Proportionate, accessible, food friendly Pinot Noir loaded with varietal character is rarely ever inexpensive. This example from Elizabeth Chambers Cellar is a really good value. While it may not represent an everyday drinking price for everyone, it’s a wine most can at least reach to from time to time. If you enjoy well made Pinot Noir, here’s a new entry to try. This release hits my Pinot Noir sweet spot and makes tasting the rest of their portfolio something I need to do.
Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | Tagged: Willamette Valley | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 27, 2014
Each year Gambero Rosso visits the United States and hosts the Tre Bicchieri tastings in several American cities. What they’re showcasing is all of the best, most highly regarded wines from Italy the previous year. I’ve been attending the tasting in New York for the last seven or so years, and I can honestly say there isn’t an annual large-scale tasting I look forward to more. The breadth of excellent Italian wine is stunning. Whether you want to focus on a particular grape or style, or your preference is to wander around and survey the bounty, you’re more than likely to find something delicious at every turn. So when a wine or wines really make a strong impression amid such an imposing gathering, it’s noteworthy. This year one of my single favorites was a beautiful sparkling wine from Rotari, head over to my column at The Daily Meal to read about it.
Posted in Chardonnay, Sparkling Wine, The Daily Meal, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 18, 2014
The folks over at Rodney Strong Vineyards offer a wide portfolio of Sonoma County wines. Their offerings range from wines made with fruit sourced throughout the county, all the way to single vineyard efforts tightly focused on specific parcels of land. One of the things which remain consistent throughout is their ability to offer value at each price point they sell wine. This has stayed true through the many years I’ve been drinking their wine. Here’s a look at two current releases that offer a little window into some of the terrific things they’re doing.
The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was made entirely from fruit sourced in the namesake appellation. Harvesting from different sites took place over a couple of weeks as each achieved maturity. Barrel aging was accomplished over 10 months in entirely French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $25. Wild strawberry, red violets and Madagascar Vanilla bean aromas light up the nose of this 2012 Pinot Noir. The flavors remind me of a bowl of fresh red fruits; continued strawberry is joined by red cherry and bits of rhubarb on a friendly and even keeled palate. Spices such as cinnamon and clove emerge on the finish along with final flourishes of fruit such as pomegranate, strawberry and raspberry. Black tea and mineral characteristics are present as well. This wine is a standard bearer in under $30 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. One vintage after another you can count on it to showcase varietal character and locale, with style.
The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2010 Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon is a single vineyard effort. Rockaway Vineyards sits at an elevation of 750 feet. It was planted in 1994 and features the five predominant Bordeaux varietals. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (88%), this wine has some Malbec (7%), and Petit Verdot (5%) blended in. Barrel aging took place over 20 months in entirely French Oak; 57% of the barrels utilized were new. This Cabernet has a suggested retail price of $75. This Cabernet has a deeply brooding nose that’s just brimming with dense and heady dark fruit aromas. The palate is stacked with layer after layer of fruit; blackberry, plum and black raspberry are all in evidence. Plum pudding spices and chocolate sauce characteristics are present as well. The Rockaway Cabernet has a long, lush finish that shows off black cherry, raspberry, espresso and mineral notes. Firm, chewy tannins yield with some air. This wine is delicious now, particularly after an hour or so in the decanter, however it’ll evolve nicely over the next 5 years and drink well for several after that. This is a fine expression of Alexander Valley Cabernet.
It’s no secret that I really like what they do at Rodney Strong Vineyards. The reasons are many and most of those relate very specifically to what comes pouring out of the bottles. But it also involves the fact that they do the things they do at a relatively large scale. Every time I twist off a cap or pull the cork from a bottle of wine with their name on it, I’m certain I’m going to get a delicious, fairly priced wine. Hats off to the Rodney Strong team for reinforcing that confidence with each and every successive bottle. Not to mention for making sure that even folks in the furthest reaches of the country can easily find wine from a dependable, reasonably priced producer who makes a quality product that speaks to its region of origin. So take my advice, drink their wines, your taste buds will thank you.
Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 17, 2014
In addition to this site and the others I write for, I’m now writing a weekly Wine & Spirits column for The Daily Meal. The latest is about some awesome wines from Gustave Lorentz:
Gustave Lorentz is family-owned Alsatian Winery whose history dates back to 1836. All these years later the winery is still family-owned and operated. Today it’s Georges Lorentz, representing the sixth generation of the family, running the show. Grapes for their wines come from a combination of their own property, they have 81 acres under vine, and fruit purchased through a partnership with about a hundred other local growers. I recently tasted through quite a few of their current releases and here’s a look at five exceptional ones that stood out for me…. Head over to The Daily Meal to read the rest.
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Posted by Gabe on March 13, 2014
Leo Messi is a huge soccer star worldwide. So much so that in countries where soccer is the predominant sport you only need say “Leo” and everyone knows who you’re speaking of. In addition to soccer, Leo is deeply involved in raising money for a good cause. His charity strives to help underprivileged kids with healthcare and education. One of his recent money raising endeavors is a partnership with Argentina’s Valentin Bianchi to produce a handful of wines with his name on them. I recently looked at the Malbec’s and here’s a look at the newly released whit wine in the line.
The LEO 2013 Torrontes was produced and bottled by Valentin Bianchi. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in Mendoza. The Estate vineyard sits more than 750 meters above sea level. This offering is 100% Torrontes. The grapes were harvested and sorted manually. Fermentation took place over 10 days in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. A month of bottle aging followed prior to release. 9,000 cases of this wine were imported into the US and it has a suggested retail price of $16.99. A bright nose filled with Lychee fruit, bits of almond and subtle vanilla bean fills the nose of this wine. The palate is even keeled and dry with stone and tropical fruit flavors accompanied by tingling spice notes. Wisps of zesty citrus lead the finish, along with a touch of limestone, and white melon flavors. This wine works extremely well on its own but is also a versatile food wine. I enjoyed it with a Lemony Lentil Bisque (see below for recipe) and was knocked out by the combination.
The folks at Valentin Bianchi make a wide range of quality wines in an array of price points and styles. Leo Messi chose wisely in aligning himself with them for his line of charity-driven wines. This Torrontes like the other wines they produce is a food friendly offering. It offers complexity and depth for the money as well and most importantly delicious drinking. So buy a bottle of Leo Torrontes and in addition to your taste buds doing a happy dance, you will be helping a good cause.
Lemony Lentil Bisque
2 Celery Stalks
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 ½ cups Split Red Lentils
1 Large Potato, peeled and cubed
1 Large Spanish Onion
1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
3 Bay Leaves
¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
5 Cups of Vegetable or Chicken Stock
10 Minced Garlic Cloves
2 Teaspoons Parsley Flakes
¼ Teaspoon Grated Lemon Zest
2 Un-waxed Lemons
Salt & Pepper to taste
Warm the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Toss in chopped carrots, celery, onion and potato. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened. Stir in garlic, lemon zest, parsley, cumin and cayenne pepper; cook for 5 more minutes. Add in the lentils and stir so they are well integrated. Add in the stock and bay leaves. Slice the lemon in half and add it to the pot. Bring it to a boil, lower it to a simmer, cover it and allow it to cook for about 40 minutes until everything has softened. Remove bay leaves and lemon halves. Squeeze the juice from the lemons into the soup. Using an immersion blender or food processor, completely puree the soup. Add salt if needed and black pepper to taste as well as additional cayenne pepper if you want more heat. Cook an additional 5 or so minutes and serve. Serve with lemon wedges.
Recipe adapted from The Ultimate Soup Bible.
Posted in Argentina, Recipe, Torrontés, Wine | Tagged: Recipe | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 3, 2014
A few months back I had dinner with the chief winemaker for the entire Hardys brand. They’re one of the largest producers in not only Australia but the world. The Hardys umbrella contains a number of labels under the flagship brand. Nottage Hill and William Hardy are two of them. Here’s a look at a wine from each of those that I just tasted and really enjoyed.
Hardys 2012 William Hardy Chardonnay was produced from fruit sourced from 7 different regions, however just less than 60% came from the Padthaway region. Fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel tanks. This Chardonnay has a suggested retail price of $17. The nose here is loaded with a glorious amount of appealing apple aromas that are underscored by bits of stone fruit. Lemon curd is prominent on the palate along with pineapple and a bevy of pear flavors that include both Bartlett and Anjou. Apple pie spices lead the finish along with plenty of minerals and a tiny wisp of crème fraiche. This Chardonnay is crisp, clean and refreshing. It’s as enjoyable all by itself as it will be paired soft cheeses or light appetizers.
Hardys 2012 Nottage Hill Shiraz was produced from fruit sourced in South Eastern Australia. This offering is entirely Shiraz. Nottage Hill wines have been around since the 1967 vintage. It has a suggested retail price of $13. Red and black plum aromas are joined by black currant and cassis on the dark and somewhat brooding nose of this Shiraz. Dark fruit flavors dominate the palate with blackberry, black raspberry and plum leading the charge. The finish shows off kirsch liqueur and bits of chocolate sauce as well as a touch of earth. This is a proportionate and balanced Shiraz that will pair well with both medium and full flavored foods.
These two wines from Hardys are indicative of everything from the portfolio I’ve tasted of late. That is they are true to varietal, well balanced and food friendly. Each of these also represents a solid value. The Shiraz in particular is a steal. For closer to $10 a bottle, if you shop around, it’ll serve as a terrific house wine.
Posted in Australia, Chardonnay, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on February 23, 2014
A few weeks back I was at the Australia Today Trade Show in New York City. While there, I had the opportunity to sample a wide array of wines coming out of Australia. Most of them were current releases, in a few cases there were some older vintages being showcased during a sit down seminar. Most obvious when tasting a wide swath of Aussie releases is the diversity and breadth of the offerings. This is true both in terms of grape varietals and style of finished wines. If overripe Shiraz is your only image of Australian wine, you’re in for a stunning and pleasant surprise. There are wines of all shapes and sizes being made in Australia. Here’s a look at a couple of selections from the event that really stood out.
Running With Bulls 2012 Tempranillo - This wine from the Barossa Valley and it sells for around $17. Aromas of violets and plum leap from the effusive nose of this wine. Cherry characteristics lead a grab bag of warming red fruits and spices on the plate of the Running With Bulls Tempranillo. The finish is above average in length and persistent. Red fruits continue along with bits of earth and leather. This is a well balanced wine that will excel with hard cheeses and pretty much anything that comes off of your grill. It’s a solid example of Tempranillo that shows how adaptable this varietal can be to a region like the Barossa Valley which is so different from its more native Rioja.
St Hallett Old Block 2010 Shiraz - This Barossa Valley Shiraz sells for around $80. This Shiraz shows off a deep, dark hue that is stunning in the glass. Violets and spice lead a welcoming nose. The palate is succulent and juicy. It’s layered with black plum, black raspberry, and cassis. Minerals and earth lead a dense, structured finish that has great length and depth. Black fruits continue their prominence along with pepper and bits of dusty cocoa. This is a classic example of Shiraz; it’s loaded with bold, fruity flavor. Pair it with equally bold, full flavored foods.
Peter Lehmann 1999 Stonewell Shiraz - This Shiraz is a library selection and as such isn’t widely available anymore. However it is more than worth mentioning because it showcases the ability of Australian wines in general and Shiraz in particular to age well under the right conditions. Those conditions of course include the right vintages as well as stylistic choices made when picking grapes and producing the wine. A bit of chocolate sauce leads the nose here along with Kirsch Liqueur. The palate is studded with a seemingly endless array of cherry characteristics, both red and black. At 15 years old there are still loads of fruit here and it shows itself off in a rich, powerful way. It’s muscular and shows off earth that goes alongside the fruit, but it’s also controlled in intensity. All of these elements continue through the persistent finish. It would be a brilliant match for pasta with Wild Boar Ragu, or Pot Roast to name a couple of options.
Shadow Chaser 2012 Grenache - This Grenache is from McLaren Vale and it sells for around $15. The fruit came from two vineyards with over 40 years of age on each. After fermentation it was aged entirely in stainless steel tanks prior to bottling. Raspberry, and strawberry aromas fill the nose of this wine. These red fruits continue through the palate where they’re joined by bits of red cherry and a copious amount of spices. Cinnamon, clove and black pepper are all in evidence. Rhubarb, sour cherries and glycerin notes all emerge in the finish which has above average length for the price category. Grenache can make some of the food friendliest wines in the world. This example certainly fits that bill. It’ll pair with a wide array foods and it’s a terrific value as well.
These wines represent a tiny window into some of the great things being done in Australia today. The breadth and variety is very impressive. There are offerings at every conceivable price point coming out of Australia that represent solid or better values. If you haven’t had any Australian wines in awhile, now is a good time to dive back in, we’re seeing greater diversity on US shelves than ever before.
Posted in Australia, Grenache, Syrah/Shiraz, Tempranillo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on February 21, 2014
Pinot Grigio is a grape that might confuse some people. On the one hand it’s very popular. On the other hand most of the wines spiking Pinot Grigio sales in the United States are at best anonymous and at worst just horrible. The thing is, Pinot Grigio can and does produce lovely wines of distinction. This can be true in various parts of the world, but nowhere more prominently than certain parts of Northern Italy. Here’s a look at one that comes from a small family producer in Friuli.
The Azienda Agricola Ascevi Luwa 2012 Pinot Grigio D.O.C. Collio was produced entirely from fruit sourced in the namesake region. This is a hilly area of Friuli which sits near the border of Slovenia. This offering is 100% Pinot Grigio and the fruit was harvested by hand. Fermentation took place over 20 days in a temperature controlled environment. Both fermentation and aging took place in stainless steel tanks. Bottling took place after approximately 6 months. 1,500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18.99. White flower aromas are joined by bits of Lychee fruit on the expressive nose of this 2012 Pinot Grigio. The palate is loaded with ripe, yellow delicious apple flavors. Hints of lemon zest are present as well along with a nice roundup of spices such as white pepper and a hint of vanilla bean. Tart, green apple flavors emerge on the finish along with limestone, graphite and wisps of tangerine zest. Firm acidity lends to the refreshing and crisp nature of this wine.
Pair this Pinot Grigio with entrée salads, roast chicken, pork loin, or soft cheeses to name a few options. This wine boasts excellent varietal character and plenty of charm. It stands out from the pack because it is quite clearly Pinot Grigio. If you’re tired of spending $20 plus dollars on “Pinot Grigio” that is barely identifiable as wine let alone the named grape (regardless of how famous the name of the Winery is) drink the Ascevi Luwa 2012 Pinot Grigio instead. You’ll spend less and be rewarded with a far greater wine. It’s hard to imagine they’re made using the same grape. This small production wine from a family winery is exactly what I’m looking for in Pinot Grigio. Pass up the over-priced grape juice labeled Pinot Grigio and drink Ascevi Luwa 2012 Pinot Grigio, you can thank me later.
Posted in Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Wine | Leave a Comment »