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Archive for January, 2008

Bodega y Viñedo Fuentecén – 2006 Hemar Joven

Posted by Gabe on January 31, 2008

The fourth wine out of the gate for Spanish Wine Week is from Ribera del Duero. This area is right up there with Rioja for overall quality of wine produced. It’s also been getting more and more attention each passing year. Ribera del Duero is an almost exclusively red wine producing region. like Rioja, Tempranillo rules the day. Smaller quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec and Merlot are also grown. Inevitably these are most often used in blends with Tempranillo.

The 2006 Bodega y Vinedo Fuentecen Hemar Joven is one of four wines from this Jovenproducer I’ll be taking at look at over the next several days. The nose of the wine features a huge bouquet of fresh cut strawberries and a touch of candied plum. This wine is young, fresh and tank fermented. Upon opening, this wine reveals itself almost immediately. There are absolutely no harsh or rough edges to this one. The color is a brilliant black cherry hue. The mid-palate features Bing cherry and copious cherry notes. Joven straddles the line between light and medium bodied. The finish reveals just a tiny bit of tartness and tingly white pepper dancing across the tongue.

This wine has a tremendous acidity that makes it a perfect match for Pasta Primavera or other similarly light fare. Joven also drinks very well on it’s own. Tasting this wine made me yearn for warmer weather so I could sit on my deck and sip the whole bottle at a leisurely pace. At 13% the alcohol is very moderate which also lends to sipping it for a longer period of time. The retail on the Joven is approximately $18. For that price I found this wine to be an incredibly enjoyable one to drink. Not the most complex wine out there, but a real pleasure to drink, and at the end of the day enjoyment is what it’s all about.

Imported by The Ravensvale Group.

Up next is a Spanish white, Palma Real Rueda.

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Paul Boutinot – 2006 Tinta de Toro

Posted by Gabe on January 30, 2008

Today’s wine, a 2006 from Paul Boutinot, is from the Toro region of Spain. The predominate red grapes in this region are Tempranillo and Grenache. Verdejo and Malvasia are the native white varietals.

ToroThe 2006 Toro is 100% Tempranillo. The first thing off of the nose is a bushel of berries. blackberries and blueberries dominate. A hint of oak and a touch of vanilla sneak into the nose as well. Right out of the bottle the wine is closed up, tight and had a few sharp edges to it. It opens up easily and quickly however, with 20 minutes really doing the trick.

Once it opens up this wine proves to be big, rich and mouth-filling with a potpourri of spices on the palate as well as more dark berry fruit. Overall, blackberry notes are the most dominant feature of this wine. An earthiness that was so subtle as to be mostly undetectable before decanting comes out once the Toro has had a chance to breathe. The spice lingers on and is a big part of the above average finish.

This wine is pretty big in the mouth and has more than a bit of a new world feel to it. It would be a good bet with a juicy burger or just about any mushroom heavy dishes.

This wine retails at around $10, and at that price it over-delivers. It’s not likely to improve with bottle age, but it should drink well for the next two or 3 years. A good wine for everyday consumption or to bring to a BBQ.

Imported by Boutinot.

Up Next: The first of four wines from Bodega y Vinedo Fuentecen

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Bodegas Montecillo Crianza – 2003

Posted by Gabe on January 29, 2008

The second wine I looked at for Spanish Wine Week is a 2003 Crianza from the Rioja region. A wine labeled as a “Crianza” is aged at minimum two years, with at least one year spent in oak. Age-wise this is the second rung up in Rioja. The other classifications are Rioja, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Each has specific, minimum aging requirements in oak and bottle to be labeled as such. Tempranillo is the predominant red varietal in this region.

The Bodegas Montecillo Crianza has a nose that gives off cherry, oak and a subtle bit of vanilla. It’s Montecillo Crianzapretty tart and a touch rough around the edges out of the bottle. Decanting for about 45 minutes softens the edges and diminishes the tartness. This wine is light bodied and the mid-palate features sour cherry flavors and white pepper notes. In some ways it’s similar in body and flavor characteristics to Chianti in a similar price range. The finish is below average in length, featuring more of the above-mentioned sour cherry notes. Overall it’s a fairly one-dimensional wine. Not unpleasant to drink, but not really impressive in any way either.

Bodegas Montecillo Crianza retails for around $9.00. With the bounty of great deals on Spanish wines in this price range it’s impossible for me to recommend this bottle. At best it’s a pedestrian offering which does not do a very good job of representing the fine wines coming out of Spain as a whole and Rioja specifically. I should note that I have greatly enjoyed Bodegas Montecillo Reserva and Gran Reserva offerings in the past.

Imported by W.J. Deutsch & Sons, LTD. 

Spanish Wine week continues through the weekend so keep checking back!

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Olivares Altos de la Hoya Monastrell Jumilla – 2005

Posted by Gabe on January 28, 2008

First up this week is a release from the Jumilla area of Spain. The 2005 Olivares Altos de Altosla Hoya is composed of Monastrell.This grape is also known as Graciano which is what it’s generally referred to when grown in the Rioja region of Spain.

The nose of this wine is full of cloves and black cherries. The first few sips out of the bottle are tart. The wine opens up fairly quickly, but a 30 minute decant is recommended with this one to get the most out of it. The mid-palate features subtle dark chocolate notes and copious dark berry and spice flavors that dart along the tongue. This wine is well balanced with good acidity. The finish offers white pepper. For the price (between $8-$10) the finish is above average. It pairs terrifically with grilled meats and medium-strength cheeses.

There are a lot of value priced wines coming out of Spain these days, of course quality varies greatly. For it’s price-point the Olivares Altos de la Hoya offers a significant amount of complexity. This is a good wine to pick up a few bottles of to have on hand when you don’t want to crack anything pricier. That said it’s clearly not meant for long term aging. I’ll bet it drinks well until the end of 2009.

Imported by Polaner Selections.

Stay tuned for coverage of several other Spanish Wines this week.

Posted in Monastrell/Graciano, Wine | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Wine Australia Festival – New York City

Posted by Gabe on January 25, 2008

Yesterday I attended the Wine Australia Festival at Cipriani on Wall Street in New York WACity. Hundreds of wines were available to taste from all areas of Australia.

As it has the last few years, this event sold out in advance. This is no surprise since it’s been a consistently good and fun event to attend. One would have a hard time getting to half the wine, let alone all of it. My strategy was to taste some whites early in the day and then walk around cherry picking between favorite producers I was already familiar with and unfamiliar ones that sounded interesting.

I’m happy to report coming across several wineries I was previously unfamiliar with that impressed. In general there are some terrific wines emanating from some of the burgeoning cooler climate areas of Australia. Yarra Valley is amongst these areas. Several Pinot Noir’s I had from this area as well as Chardonnays were particularly noteworthy. Amongst them was Giant Steps. Successive vintages of their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were standouts. Both were true to their varietals and made in an old world style. They were also well balanced and built for food. Overall the number of wines I tasted yesterday made in this style was impressive.  

Another noteworthy producer was Boggy Creek Vineyards. Several of their wines were quite tasty but my favorite was a Cabernet-Shiraz blend. It was full bodied, loaded with ripe dark fruit, but not overwhelming, or overly alcoholic.

Naturally there was a lot of great Shiraz to be had. Regardless of what style you like your Shiraz, you were bound to find numerous examples to tempt your palate at the Wine Australia Festival. Additionally there were a multitude of different blends, both red and white which were impressive. Some of them were standard types of blends such as the Cabernet-Shiraz I mentioned above. But in other cases they were slightly more unorthodox. One was a Chardonnay-Viogner blend that just knocked me out. It only had a small amount of Viogner in it but it lifted the nose to stratospheric heights. This wine was by Hungerford Hill. It’s in their Fishcage Series. The retail is around $12.00 and it over-delivers at that price.

These are really just a few examples of what was a lot of good and interesting wine. There was also plenty of food placed strategically throughout the room to munch on.  Water was also readily available so everyone could make sure they stayed properly hydrated. I’ve attended the Wine Australia event several times now. If you’re a fan of Australian Wine this is a great way to taste quite a few of them and likely come away with some new favorites. If you are new to Australian Wine this tasting is a good way to familiarize yourself with the wide array of wines and styles they’re producing. The Shiraz tends to get all the hype, and it’s deserved as it is their signature grape. But Australia is doing so much more than that with their wines these days it’s really a very worthwhile country for wine-lovers to delve into and explore.

The event itself was well organized and thought out. In addition to the normal tables where wineries, distributors and importers poured their wares there were also “Regional Heroes” tents. They would pull standout wine from one area and varietal to taste side by side. This was a good idea and a terrific way to compare wines to their counterparts.

The Wine Australia Festival takes place in New York City every January with tickets going on-sale the previous fall. If you missed it in 2008, keep your eyes open for when tickets go on-sale for the 2009 version. It’s well worth the time and ticket price, which was $70.00.

Posted in Events, Wine | 1 Comment »

Caparone – 2003 Aglianico

Posted by Gabe on January 23, 2008

Aglianico is one of those grape varietals that a lot of people aren’t familiar with. It’s mostly Aglianicofound in Southern Italy, but plantings are cropping up in other parts of the world. Most notably it’s being planted in Australia and California.

Caparone Winery in Paso Robles California established the first American planting of Aglianico in the United States in 1988. An interesting article about their work with Aglianico and other Italian varietals can be found on their website.

The 2003 Caparone Aglianico is available, as are all their wines, for $14.00.  It opens with a heady nose of black cherry fruit. The first sip reveals readily apparent but not overwhelming oak. The mid-palate is full of earthiness and a plethora of spices. There is a muskiness to this wine that adds weight to the mouthful. The long finish is highlighted by smoke and pepper notes.

This Aglianico is impeccably balanced with good acidity. As stated oak is readily apparent but doesn’t detract from the fruit at all. It drinks fine on it’s own, but the Caparone wines are built for food. Also like the other wines the Caparone’s make this Aglianico is built for the long term. I’d expect the earthiness on this one to increase with some age. For $14.00 you’re going to have a hard time doing better.

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Dreyer Sonoma Chardonnay – 2005

Posted by Gabe on January 22, 2008

The 2005 Dreyer Sonoma Chardonnay is a value priced bottling. It Comes in at around Dreyer Sonoma$12.00 a bottle. Often it’s hard to find drinkable chardonnay in this price category. Most often if I want an enjoyable Chardonnay in this price range I look towards South America.

This one leads with a nose of baked apple and vanilla. The apple is particularly strong and really provides a heady scent. There’s a touch of citrus on the first sip which leads into the acidity the wine does have. The mid palate features more baked apple, and some mulled spices alongside subtle guava notes. The finish has a fair amount of toasty oak on it, though not so much to overwhelm. For a wine in this price range the finish is pretty decent. Each taste drew me in for another sip which is always a good sign. I found this wine to drink well on it’s own. Paired with grilled chicken the vanilla and spice notes came out in greater prominence.

For the price the Dreyer Chardonnay is a decent value. It does provide true Chardonnay character and the oak doesn’t overwhelm as can so often be the case with California Chardonnay in this price range.

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Sun Winefest at Mohegan Sun

Posted by Gabe on January 20, 2008

WinefestThis weekend Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville Connecticut hosted Sun Winefest. Several events were offered throughout the course of the weekend,  but the centerpiece was the Grand Tasting. This took place both Saturday the 19th and Sunday the 20th from Noon to 5:00 PM. Separate tickets were available for each day. Additionally a weekend pass was available at a reduced rate that would gain you entry for both days.

I attended both days of Winefest and it was a very well organized event. Approximately 1,000 wines were available to be sampled from all over the world. Several hundred spirits and beers were also available for tasting. A handful of exhibitors were there showcasing related products and lifestyle accessories. Numerous area restaurants were on hand to cook signature dishes and provide samples for a small fee that went towards the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. 

Wines were setup at booths throughout the Mohegan Sun convention center. Many of them were poured by the local distributors who bring these wines to market in Connecticut and neighboring states. However in some cases people from the wineries themselves were on hand to pour their wines and answer questions. In several instances the winemakers were available to pour and chat. For folks who may not have had the opportunity to travel to one of the great wine producing regions of the world this was a terrific opportunity to approximate the tasting room experience at a winery.

The wines available to taste ran the gamut from bargains that you could think about drinking everyday, to higher end MSwines aimed at special occasions, or for tucking away in your cellar to age. If you wanted to focus on just white, just red or even one varietal there where enough choices and variety that you could easily fill up the 5 hour event creating any sort of tasting you desired. The foods presented were also a broad range of offerings. At one table I had a delicious Pasta Bolognese while at another across the room I had Corn Dogs made with Kobe Beef Hot dogs. Water was placed strategically throughout the venue so everyone could access it easily. Live cooking demonstrations also went on at a stage towards the entrance to the convention center. There were chairs available so anyone who wanted to take a break from tasting could sit and watch some well regarded chefs cook.

I’ve attended a lot of large scale wine tastings such as the Sun Winefest. Often with crowds as large as the ones gathered at Mohegan Sun this weekend it’s very difficult to get around. Whoever setup the floor-plan knew what they were doing. The layout and flow of the room was better than many tastings of similar scope and size that I have been to. A similar type of tasting at Foxwoods last fall for example was an absolute nightmare to navigate. Perhaps this is a testament to the fact that Mohegan Sun has been hosting their tasting for five years while it’s only been two for Foxwoods.

Entry for one day of Sun Winefest was $65.00. This is an absolute bargain for wine lovers. There are many events throughout the year that cost more, don’t run nearly as long and have nowhere near the selection of wine, spirits, beer and food. For $95.00 you could buy a weekend pass that would get you into the Grand Tasting both Saturday and Sunday. To put the scope of the event in perspective, if you went both days, you would have to taste 100 wines per hour to get to every wine. Not that I’m recommending anything of the sort. It’s better to take the five hours and soak in the atmosphere. Take time to talk to people and learn about them and the wine they’re pouring for you. More than likely, you’ll walk away with a few new wines to seek out for your collection.

If you missed Sun Winefest in 2008 I strongly urge looking into it for 2009. It’s one of the better tastings around and an excellent value to boot.

Posted in Events, Wine | 4 Comments »

Ludo – You’re Awful, I Love You

Posted by Gabe on January 16, 2008

Saint Louis based rock band Ludo are set to release their major label debut on February 26th. They recorded the album in L.A. over a stretch of approximately two months. Matt LudoWallace who has worked with artists such as Faith No More, Maroon 5 and Blues Traveler produced.

One thing many of the artists Matt Wallace has worked with have in common is they feature well crafted songs. Ludo is no exception to this. You’re Awful I Love Youis full of terrific harmonies and hooks. Imagine songs as catchy as the jangly guitar pop Fountains of Wayne creates, and lyrics as cynical as Warren Zevon’s. That would give you an entry point to understand Ludo’s sound. They are however, much more than that.

Their stated motto is to “entertain people without making them dumber.” They achieve that goal on their major label debut. “You’re Awful, I Love You” is an incredibly entertaining, catchy, easily accessible album to listen to. But it has a ton of substance and not only bears but rewards repeated listening. Beneath the amusing lyrics there are layers of musical complexity. On some tunes, guitar is out-front. In other cases the guitar takes a back seat to the Moog Synth that Tim Convy plays to great effect. On every song they manage to create wildly catchy melodic rock with great harmonies and darkly amusing lyrics. If that sounds like your cup of tea I recommend marking the February 26th release date on your calendar and grabbing “You’re Awful, I Love You” before everyone else on your block has it. Ludo sounds like they’re poised for great things. Don’t be the last one to catch on.

Posted in Music | 2 Comments »

Victor Hugo Winery – The Hunchback 2005

Posted by Gabe on January 14, 2008

Victor Hugo Winery in Paso Robles is a family run operation with a focus on red Victor Hugo WInerywines. The one exception is an elegant Viogner that they make each year. They work with all of the red Bordeaux varietals in addition to Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah. In addition to being rich and  lush what is most readily apparent about their wines is that they are well balanced. Alcohol, acidity and upfront fruit are all in check with each other.

In addition to their varietal bottlings Victor Hugo Winery makes two blends. One is Opulence a Meritage/Bordeaux style blend and the other is The Hunchback. Both of these vary each year as they strive to find the best blends to make a great wine. The Hunchback blend seems to vary more significantly from year to year. The 2005 version is 50% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 15% Petite Verdot and 15% Cabernet Franc.

Even though it’s only 15% of the blend the Cabernet Franc is the first thing that stood out to me in the 2005 Hunchback. As is often the case, Cabernet Franc lends itself to a big, inviting nose. In this case it comes in the form of candied blueberry and plum aromas. The first sip reveals a potpourri of spice along with dark berry fruit notes. There are soft but firm tannins on the mid-palate which soften further with 30 minutes or so of decanting. Once the Hunchback opens up further it reveals some mouth filling black cherry flavors and a finish laced with tingly white pepper. Once it breathes a bit the Hunchback has no hard edges, just smooth enjoyable drink-ability. The Hunchback is built for food. it’s a medium bodied red that will stand up to meats and cheeses but won’t overwhelm lighter fare either.The tannic structure it does have suggests to me that it will improve even more over the next couple of years and drink well for three to five. At a retail price of $15.00 the Hunchback is well worth every penny.

I’m a huge fan of the Victor Hugo Winery offerings and encourage anyone who has a chance to seek their wines out.

Posted in Blends, Wine | Leave a Comment »


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