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.
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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.
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Posted by Gabe on February 15, 2014
For most people Sauvignon Blanc is the primary grape that comes to mind when New Zealand is mentioned. And with good reason, they produce quite a bit of it. Not to mention that they also offer a lot of stunning examples, seemingly at every imaginable price point. Pinot Noir however has been coming on strong for awhile now, and who knows, perhaps someday we’ll think of New Zealand for Pinot first. Here’s an example I just tasted that really made me sit up and take notice.
The Loveblock 2011 Pinot Noir was produced entirely from one vineyard. Someone’s Darling is a 20 acre block located above the mountains of Central Otago in New Zealand. Five clones of Pinot Noir are planted there. The vineyard is sustainably farmed and accredited as such in New Zealand (SWNZ). The grapes were machine harvested and de-stemmed. They had a 5 day cold pre-soak prior to being inoculated with yeast and undergoing fermentation. This wine most often sells for right around $30. Mushroom, leather, red cherry and bits of earth are all present on the expressive nose of this 2011 Pinot Noir. Wild Strawberry characteristics are joined by red and black cherry, along with rhubarb as well as cinnamon and black pepper on a somewhat weighty palate that is studded with appealing flavors. The finish is lingering and impressive in length with mineral notes, earth and hints of sour cherry. If you love good Pinot Noir that speaks of its origins, this wine is for you. It’s impeccably balanced and has firm, racy acidity. Loveblock 2011 Pinot Noir is delicious all by itself. However it’ll pair well with lots of food choices. Anything with mushrooms, pork dishes, and Pasta Bolognese are just a couple of options.
So while Valentine’s Day may have passed I assume we all still have time for love. If so Loveblock 2011 Pinot Noir is a good choice to keep you warm and cozy for the (hopefully) fading days of winter. Pinot Noir is a varietal I’m personally very finicky about. There are unfortunately too many examples that don’t acquit themselves very well. Sometimes they taste like almost anything but Pinot in fact. Thankfully this isn’t the case here. This is a beautiful expression of Pinot Noir that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for anything else. The fruit is a touch darker in spots than typical perhaps, but Loveblock is a delicious, well made example of Pinot Noir. It should also be mentioned that it’s being sold at a fair price when the quality and depth of this offering is taken into account. Good Pinot Noir is rarely (if ever) cheap. Here’s one that, while not cheap, is worth every penny. If you’re drinking it now, decant it for an hour or so. Otherwise it’ll hold for the next 4-5 years.
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Posted by Gabe on February 11, 2014
When it comes to wines in the value category I’m looking for things that have wide appeal, easy drinkability and solid varietal character. In general I’m thinking about wines that will go over well in large gatherings, and have curb appeal. Often times I feel that blends are particularly good for these settings. Here’s an offering I just tried from Australia that hits the mark for me.
Bailey’s of Glenrowan 2012 19 Crimes Red Wine Blend was produced from fruit sourced in South Eastern Australia. This wine is a blend of Shiraz (mostly) with some Durif (Petite Sirah) added in. After fermentation this offering was aged in French oak barrels for just about 6 months. This wine most often sells for $10. Red cherry aromas dominate the generous and ebullient nose of this 2012 blend. The palate is simply stuffed with a mélange of ripe, berry-pie filling notes. Red and black raspberry, cherry and blackberry are all present and accounted for. Bits of cinnamon and black pepper spice provide a nice accompaniment to all the glorious fruit flavors. The finish, which has nice length, features cranberry, hints of sweet chocolate, and a touch of a mineral component. 19 Crimes is very tasty all by itself. That said, it will also serve as a good accompaniment to a host of casual hand foods such as burgers, pizza, ribs and the like.
Whether you’re attending a party where you want to bring a couple of bottles of wine that will win over a crowd or you’re looking for a tasty house wine to purchase a case of, 19 Crimes might be just what you’re looking for. If an easygoing red with good Shiraz character and a nice dollop of darker elements from Durif sounds appealing, grab a bottle of 19 Crimes and indulge. For around $10 the risk / reward factor is high.
Posted in Petite Sirah, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on February 10, 2014
One of the associations people often have with wine is in regard to price. Some regions are well known for providing value and quality at a variety of price points. Other areas are not necessarily thought of that way by every consumer. This is often true of Old World regions which people sometimes associate with higher cost wines. The truth though is that just about every country has regions that offer good values. France for instance has numerous areas that can offer plenty of nice, value priced wines. However due to the numerous classic, higher end wines that have traditionally gotten most of the attention, people’s thoughts aren’t always tuned into the value priced selections that are also available. With that in mind here’s a look at a couple of varietal offerings that I recently tasted and enjoyed immensely.
The Fortant 2012 Coast Select Muscat was produced from fruit sourced in the Languedoc region of France. More specifically all of the vines where fruit was picked for this wine were in vineyards that see coastal influence. This offering is 100% Muscat. The fruit was picked at night and then pressed gently. It was aged for 3 months Sur Lies prior to bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $10.99. Aromas of Lychee and apricot fill the nose of this Muscat; underlying bits of toasted almond are present as well. Mango, nectarine and white peach lead a treasure trove of stone and tropical fruit flavors on display throughout the joyful and expressive palate. White pepper spice and a hint of clove are in play here as well. The finish which is fruity and a bit lusty shows off pineapple, bits of honey and a gentle wisp of chamomile. This French Muscat is incredibly appealing and approachable with enough depth to really keep things interesting. Sip after sip it kept beckoning me back to the glass for more. It will pair well with soft cheeses, entree salads and a broad array of lighter fare.
The Gilles Louvet Mon Pré Carré 2012 Marselan was produced entirerely from organically grown grapes. The fruit all came from the Rhone region. Marselan is a relatively new grape created in France just over 50 years ago. It’s a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. This offering is 100% Marselan. The vines in this case had 20 years of age on them at the time of harvest. Fermentation took place over 7 days in a temperature controlled environment. Aging followed in concrete tanks prior to bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $13.99. The nose of this offering is marked by aromas of red cherry and leather. Strawberry, spices and continued cherry characteristics make up the palate. It is simultaneously easy going, fruity, dry, spicy and a bit savory in nature. Cranberry and dusty bittersweet cocoa notes emerge on the finish which has good length for its price point. This is a medium bodied wine that will be a delight paired with cuisine styles from various parts of Europe. I paired it with a hearty Italian Lentil Stew and it was a killer match.
Both of these wines offer good bang for the buck. They feature lots of character and charm as well as easy drinkability. Each of them is primed to pair with appropriate and diverse food categories too. You don’t have to kill your wine budget to enjoy delicious, well made French wine. These two offerings prove that.
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Posted by Gabe on January 31, 2014
Cabernet Sauvignon comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The folks over at Pina Napa Valley have been farming grapes in the valley for a long, long time. They manage lots of property and have access to many different lots of terrific fruit. The Pina Family uses some of that fruit to make some site specific wines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. Because of their focus on vineyard designate wines, their portfolio really highlights quite a few areas throughout Napa. Here’s a look at one of their current releases.
The Pina 2009 Buckeye Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a single vineyard effort. All of the fruit for this wine came from the namesake vineyard which sits on Howell Mountain. At the time of harvest the vines had between 6 and 12 years of age on them. The Pina family purchased this property in 1996 and released their first wine from it in 2000. This offering is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. After fermentation it spent 20 months aging in entirely French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $85. Aromas of bramble, vanilla bean and crème fraiche emerge from the ready and willing nose of this Cabernet. The palate is studded with dark fruit flavors; black raspberry and black cherry are of particular note. Black pepper spice and a wisp of nutmeg is in play as well. The finish is lush and plush with velvety fruit, espresso and a bevy of earth and roasted espresso notes ringing out with conviction. All of these are joined by a copious amount of spice. The tannins are firm and gripping.
This is a fine example of Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. The rugged, gripping tannins and blast of pure fruit are just part of this Cabernet Sauvignon’s charm. If you’re going to drink this wine now, decanting it for 2 hours or so is recommended. However if you’re patient this will age effortlessly for the next decade and a half. In either case you will be enjoying a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
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Posted by Gabe on January 10, 2014
Puente Alto Vineyard
There are moments in history that set a standard and change the game. For the Chilean Wine Industry the launch of Don Melchor was that sea change moment. This super premium Cabernet Sauvignon that can compete with the big boys from any region of the world served notice to wine lovers when it arrived in 1987. That message indicated with clarity that Chile makes a wide range of wines, not only in the value category but in the premium and luxury categories. Since its inaugural vintage Don Melchor has consistently been among the best Cabs in the world. Chile continues to surprise and impress with a breadth of diverse offerings that expands our understanding of the great things they can do there. Don Melchor stays the course and continues to wow. Here’s a look at the 2008 vintage of this wine.
The Concha y Toro 2008 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced at the Puente Alto Vineyard which is located in the Upper Maipo region of Chile. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (97%), there is also some Cabernet Franc (3%) blended in. The fruit was harvested by hand. After fermentation the wine spent 15 months aging in French oak. Don Melchor has a suggested retail price of $95. Cherry, leather and cigar box aromas fill the sexy nose of this 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate is deeply layered and proportionately intense with cherry, earth and bits of chocolate filling its core. Black pepper spice, minerals and espresso are all present on the finish which is impressively long and persistent. The tannins here are firm but yield with some air. This wine is delicious now but will age gracefully over the next 12-14 years. If you’re going to drink it now, a couple hours in the decanter is recommended.
If you love Cabernet Sauvignon and have yet to experience Don Melchor, it should be on your short list of wines to try. It’s not only one of the best wines from Chile year after year it’s also a benchmark example of Cabernet Sauvignon. Whether you drink it now or lay it down, the 2008 vintage is a fine example of an iconic wine.
Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on December 30, 2013
I’m a firm believer that most of us should be drinking sparkling wine more often. It can be versatile with food, often delicious on its own and quite frankly just plain fun. That said the one day we all seem to agree on when it comes to Sparkling Wine consumption is New Years Eve. With that in mind here are three that I tried recently and really enjoyed. One of them falls into the traditional category of classic Champagne. The other two are new world entries, one traditional in style and intent, and the other leaps and bounds in a different direction. Most importantly each of them is unique and delicious.
Paringa – 2012 Sparkling Shiraz. This wine is composed entirely of Shiraz. The fruit was sourced from 14 year old vines. This sparkler saw a short window of time in French oak. 10,000 cases of this Sparkling Shiraz were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $17.99. Black raspberry aromas lead a huge nose that is fruity and floral. If the nose of a wine could be compared to an invitation, this one is welcoming you to a party that is fun and boisterous. The palate is studded with vibrant black fruit flavors; blackberry and raspberry are most prominent. Molasses, anise, black cherry and a mélange of spices are all present in the above average finish. The bottom line here is that the Paringa Sparkling Shiraz is a fun and delicious wine. Pair it with dessert, a burger or drink it by itself, each alternative will work.
Mumm Napa – Brut Prestige was made from a combination of Pinot Noir (51%), Chardonnay (46%), Pinot Meunier (2%), and Pinot Gris (1%). The first three grapes are the classic triumvirate most often associated with Sparkling Wine; The Pinot Gris is something out of the standard realm that they have added. Fermentation took place primarily in stainless steel. 18 months of aging on yeast followed. This widely available Brut style wine has a suggested retail price of $22. Bits of citrus and white stone fruits fill the nose this wine. This entry level selection in the Mumm portfolio and it’s a classic Brut. The palate is dry and loaded with fruit and spice. Yeast and biscuit characteristics emerge on the finish which has nice length. While the friendly price makes it an obvious choice for holiday celebrations this wine will go very well with food whether it’s paired with a first course during dinner or alongside brunch, you’ll be pleased with the results.
Perrier-Jouet – Grand Brut (NV). This Champagne was composed from a blend of Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (40%), and Chardonnay (20%). After fermentation and racking, more than 300 wines are tasted to assemble this blend. In addition to the current vintage reserve wines from previous vintages amounting to between 10% and 20% are also blended in. The wine is then aged in their estate cellars. This Champagne has a suggested retail price of $50. Aromas of apple, ginger and lemon are all part of the gently expressive nose. Orchard fruit flavors are dominant on the palate along with a core of accompanying spices. Bits of brioche and biscuit are present on the lengthy finish along with lemon zest and white pepper spice. This is a classic example of Brut that shines year after year. It will be a fine accompaniment to lighter foods and also a terrific choice to pop open to celebrate the arrival of 2014.
Drinking more sparkling wine, Champagne or otherwise, is a fine resolution for the new year. Get off on the right foot and finish off 2013 with one or more from this trio, you can’t really go wrong here.
Posted in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wine, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on December 20, 2013
Davis Bynum was the first Winery to truly recognize how special and viable Russian River Valley is for Pinot Noir. Their faith in the area was evidenced when they made the regions first single vineyard Pinot Noir with the 1973 vintage. Today the winery is safely entrenched under the Rodney Strong umbrella. They continue to make wines that are true to their origins. Here are three site specific examples.
The Davis Bynum 2011 River West Chardonnay was produced from fruit sourced exclusively at the namesake vineyard. Blocks of fruit from this vineyard were harvested separately and each batch was pressed and fermented separately. Barrel aging took place over 10 months in entirely French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $30. Gravenstein apple and baker’s spice aromas are in full force on the nose of this Chardonnay. The palate is fruit and spice driven with apples, pear, pineapple, cinnamon and clove all in evidence. Hint of lemon curd lead the finish along with minerals and a copious amount of spice. This Chardonnay is rich and round with crispy acidity. It’s delicious sipped alone but will flourish with lighter fare.
The Davis Bynum 2011 Jane’s Vineyard Pinot Noir was produced using fruit sourced in the namesake vineyard. It is composed entirely of Pinot Noir and features a blend of 7 clones. After fermentation it spent 10 months, exclusively in French oak. It has a suggested retail price of $40. Wild strawberry aromas fill the nose of this classic Russian River Pinot. Black cherry leads a substantial palate which is loaded with concentrated (for Pinot) flavors. Cloves, cinnamon, rhubarb and flint are all part of the focused and lengthy finish. This is a delicious Pinot that benefits greatly from about an hour in the decanter. It has firm acidity and medium tannins. It would be a tremendous match with honey glazed ham.
The Davis Bynum 2011 Jane’s Vineyard, Garfield Block Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced in the single named block. It’s planted exclusively to clone 667. After temperature controlled fermentation it was aged in entirely new French oak for 10 months. This Pinot has a suggested retail price of $60. This Pinot has a heady and intoxicating nose featuring a bevy of fresh red berry aromas. Strawberry, red cherry and interspersing bits of raspberry are part of the fierce palate which is remarkable in its cohesiveness and depth. Black tea, leather, and continued cherry characteristics are all part of the lengthy finish which is particularly distinguished by a refined richness. Garfield Block is a stunning example of Pinot that shows a driven singularity which you’d be hard pressed not to be knocked out by. If you’re looking for specific, vineyard driven Pinot Noir, grab this one!
I’ve had the chance to taste with winemaker Greg Morthole on several occasions. It’s clear to me that with the Davis Bynum wines he works hard to honor Davis’s legacy while moving the ball forward a bit. Quite frankly it’s a smashing success. These are delicious wines that speak of their place quite loudly. By producing excellent single vineyard and block wines they are re-cementing the foundation Davis Bynum first established. This is a beautiful trio of wines, which is also perfectly suited for the Holiday table. Taken as a piece, they’re a fascinating, focused, and delectable look at Russian River Valley. Grab them now, thank me later.
Posted in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir | Leave a Comment »