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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for June, 2008

Xumek – 2007 Syrah

Posted by Gabe on June 29, 2008

Readers of this blog will note that I have an affinity for South American Wines. I’m particularly fascinated by those coming out of Argentina. The good ones find a crossroads between quality and value that rivals just about any wine region in the world. I’m going to look at two releases from Xumek.  Their focus is on estate grown, single vineyard wines with limited production. The first offering I’ll examine is their Syrah. Famed winemaker Michael Rolland is involved with Xumek as an external consultant.

The 2007 Xumek Syrah is 100% varietal and all Estate grown fruit. Production is limited to 2,500 cases and the suggested retail price is $18. Looking at wine-searcher though it can be found for $15.

The nose of the Xumek Syrah abounds in blackberry, vanilla and cedar notes. The first sip reveals rich, decadent chocolate covered blackberry flavors. White pepper, nutmeg, cloves and the like fill the mid-palate of this wine along with deep dark berry fruit. The finish brings out earthiness and smoke in abundance along with additional mocha notes.

Decanting this wine for an hour is recommended. The time allows this Syrah to open up wide and achieve an additional level of expression. The Xumek Syrah has a good tannic structure and well integrated oak. This wine should evolve for 3 to 5 years and drink well for a couple more after that. A teriffic expression of Syrah well worth it’s price.

Imported by H & S Specialty Imports.

Up Next: Xumek Malbec.

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Posted in Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Thornton Winery – 2005 Amador County Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on June 27, 2008

In addition the the grapes Thornton Winery farms themselves they source fruit from other areas of California. One of those areas is Amador County. Located in the Sierra Foothills, Amador County is best known for Zinfandel. Many of the Zinfandel vines planted in Amador County are amongst the oldest in California. While the term “Old Vines” is often used loosely throughout California the Zinfandels emerging from Amador County, generally are truly Old Vine. The last wine I’ll be looking at this week from Thornton Winery is in fact an Amador Zinfandel.

The Thornton Winery 2005 Amador County OVOC (Old Vine, Old Clone) Zinfandel was produced from vines over 100 years old. This Zinfandel was aged for 22 months in 45% new French Oak, with the remainder in 2 year old American Oak. Production was limited to 369 Cases, making this a winery direct exclusive. The price of this wine is $44.

This Zinfandel’s nose opens with bright berry fruit and nutmeg spice on the nose. The first sip reveals that this zinfandel is tart out of the bottle and requires some time to open up and express itself. After decanting this wine reveals a lot of dark berry fruit and continued spice notes. The mid-palate brings out dust and brambly earth notes that carry through the long and persistent finish which also includes mocha, white pepper and additional berry. This is a substantial wine and will best be when paired with hearty foods that match it’s robust flavor profile.

This Thornton offering is a classically styled wine made far more in the style of traditional Zinfandels than some of the super ripe, overly jammy wines out there. That said this wine has plenty of bright, open, upfront fruit, however it never comes close to being over the top. This is a well balanced wine with good acidity, and a firm tannic structure. This Zinfandel will evolve over the next 5 or 6 years and drink well for the better part of a decade. This IS your Grandpa’s Zinfandel!

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Posted in Wine, Zinfandel | 2 Comments »

Thornton Winery – 2005 Temecula Valley Syrah

Posted by Gabe on June 25, 2008

Temecula has officially been a designated viticultural area since 1984. For most of those years Thornton Winery has been producing wine there. In addition to the 20 acres Thornton Winery itself sits on they also source some grapes from other specific parcels throughout California. The second wine from Thornton I’m looking at is a Syrah.

The Thornton Winery Temecula Valley Syrah has a suggested retail price of $24.  As with the Merlot, the alcohol level is under 14%, modest for California.

This Syrah opens with a big nose of bright berry fruit. Rhubarb, black cherry, assorted dark berry fruits and black pepper emerge immediately upon tasting this wine and carry well through the mid-palate. Well integrated oak presents itself in the form of cedar and vanilla notes throughout the palate of the wine. The finish features mocha, earth, white pepper, nutmeg and a light chicory note. The Thornton Syrah will be an excellent match for grilled meats.

What stood out to me about this wine is that it features upfront fruit that references an Australian Shiraz but also maintains the balance, earthiness and finesse of some fine Rhone offerings.

While this release is drinking tremendously well now, it’s likely to at least hold where it is for several years. This is an excellent Syrah that offers good value in its price category.

Up Next: An Amador County Zinfandel from Thornton Winery.

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Thornton Winery – 2005 Temecula Valley Merlot

Posted by Gabe on June 23, 2008

Temecula Valley is another of the California Wine Regions that’s been coming on strong over the last few years. More and more consumers are aware of its existence and the fact that quality wine is emerging from this burgeoning region. Over the next few days I’ll look at three releases from Temecula’s Thornton Winery.

First founded in 1988, Thornton Winery is one of the Pioneers of high quality Temecula Valley Wine. Their initial focus was Sparkling Wine. Five years later they introduced varietal wines. Between Sparkling and Still wines they currently produce 15,000 cases annually.

Today I’m looking at the Thornton Winery 2005 Temecula Valley Merlot. This wine has a suggested retail price of $27. Alcohol is a modest 13.9%

The nose of this Merlot presents dark, juicy plum and dust. The first sips through to the mid-palate are full of black cherry fruit, spicy white pepper and subtle mocha notes. Dust and white pepper continue through to the finish, joined by brambly earth, dried cherry fruit and nutmeg spice. The wine will be an excellent match for braised short ribs, lasagna or grilled marinated flank steak.

Most impressive to me about the Thornton Merlot is the excellent varietal character it displays. This is a relatively austere red wine, which leans towards the dark fruits that are often trademarks of Merlot made in a more classic European style as this one is. This wine was a little tight and tart out of the bottle so decanting for about an hour is recommended. This Temecula Valley Merlot has present but not overwhelming oak. A firm tannic structure suggests this wine will evolve nicely for at least 2-3 years and drink well for a couple of years after that.

A well made Merlot that’s a fine example of this great varietal This is worth seeking out.

Up Next: Thornton Winery– Syrah

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Posted in Merlot, Wine | 1 Comment »

Etko Wines – Commandaria – St Nicholas

Posted by Gabe on June 21, 2008

The second dessert wine from Etko Wines I’m looking at is the Commandaria St. Nicholas. As with any wine region Commandaria offers a variety of dessert wines that have been aged and treated differently. Thus there is something to try a different levels of cost with varying complexity and the like.

The Etko Wines Commandaria St. Nicholas is a blend of 60% Xynisteri and 40% Mavro. The suggested retail St. Nicholasprice for this wine is $18. It can be found for a couple dollars less.

The nose of the St. Nicholas is full of fresh apricot and peach with an undercurrent of maple syrup, caramel and sweet burn sugar. From the very first sip through the mid palate, tons and tons of fig notes permeate this wine. Again their accompanied by caramel flavors that ride just underneath that in an almost sly manner. The Finish of this wine continues the fig flavors accompanied by ginger spice, light espresso bean notes and a slight bit of mocha. This wine will be an excellent match for dried fruit, nuts and fairly stinky cheeses.

Compared to the Centurion the St. Nicholas features much fresher fruit flavors. The St. Nicholas offers nice complexity in it’s price category. This is a wine to consider as an alternative to Tawny Ports. For the cost it delivers a lot of favor, sweetness and pleasure. It’s not overly stick, sweet or cloying though. For the price the Etko Wines Commandaria St. Nicholas is a bargain. If you drink dessert wines, look out for this one. If you don’t drink dessert wines regularly this one comes in at a price more than reasonable enough to experiment with. Check it out.

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Posted in Dessert Wines, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Etko Wines – Commandaria Centurion

Posted by Gabe on June 18, 2008

A couple of months back I had the opportunity to try some dessert wines from Cyprus. It was my first experience with wines from this island. Whenever I’m at a large-scale tasting, as I was on this day I keep my eyes open for anyone pouring dessert wines, as they’re of particular interest to me. Much like the larger world of wine itself they’re made from a wide array of varietals in a host of different styles. I’m going to look at several dessert wines from Cyprus. The first two will be from Etko Wines, which is the oldest Greek Cypriot Winery. Additionally the Etko wines are from the Commandaria region, which is the oldest wine appellation in the world. Wines have been made there since 1,000 BC. Etko Winery itself was founded in 1844.

Etko CenturionEtko Wines Commandaria Centurion is a blend of 60% Xynisteri and 40% Mavro. The wine is made from a cuvee ranging in age from 30 to 100 years. Centurion has a suggested retail price of $130. A looked around on wine-searcher and it can be found for around $99. Alcohol is 16%, fairly modest for a dessert wine.

Centurion has an immense nose filled with honey; figs, raisins, apricot and other assorted dried fruits along with gingerbread spice and a hint of espresso bean. The first sips bring out apricot, fruitcake spice, additional fig and date bread notes. These carry on through the mid-palate, which is underpinned by a subtle hint of balsamic vinegar. The finish, which is long, luxurious and persistent in its intensity, has subtle cinnamon notes and hints of chicory, which lend to some earthiness.

Most wine producing regions have a signature style of dessert wine. Some have several. Italy has Vin Santo, France Sauternes and in the US we have late harvest wines. Cyprus has the Commandaria area, which produces some lovely wines. Centurion is a complex, layered and elegant dessert wine befitting its status as a benchmark wine.

At a suggested retail price of $130 this isn’t by any means an inexpensive wine. But it’s a tremendous wine well worth experiencing. Centurion would be a perfect dessert to serve guests at the end of a dinner party or gathering with close friends and family.

Up Next: Another Commandaria Dessert Wine from Etko.

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Locatelli Vineyards & Winery – 2006 Melodia

Posted by Gabe on June 14, 2008

The final wine I’m looking at this week from Locatelli Vineyards & Wineryis a blend. They make several other blends as well. The other red blends are more focused on Bordeaux varietals. Melodia is a distinctly California style blend.

MelodiaLocatelli Vineyards 2006 Melodia is a 50/50 blend of Zinfandel & Petite Sirah. Only 59 cases of this wine were produced and it sells for $35.

Dark plum, violet and vanilla notes comprise the expressive nose of this wine. From the very first sip Melodia proves itself to be a full, mouth-filling wine at both the high and low end of the flavor spectrum. Tons of berry fruit present throughout. On the mid-palate they’re accompanied by fruitcake spices. The finish of this wine is long and persistent with copious dark chocolate and spice notes dominating along with subtle earthiness. The wine would be an excellent accompaniment to roast leg of lamb or other substantial foods.

Melodia is alternately layered, complex, big and beefy. Decanting this wine for at least an hour is recommended to get the best out of it now. I imagine a year or so down the road it’ll be drinking even better than it is at this time. Towards that end I re-tasted this wine after it had been open for a full 24 hours. What I found is a wine that was even more open expressive and ultimately impressive  than it was on the first night.

Zinfandel and Petite Sirah blended together in California are as natural as grape partners come.  Often times It’s a small percentage of one of the other blended into a varietal bottling. In this case they get equal billing. It works tremendously well. I enjoyed all three Locatelli wines I tasted through this week, but Melodia was my favorite. I suspect with that Petite Sirah backbone it might age the best as well. If you’re interested, grab them now I understand the already small production is dwindling.

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Posted in Blends, Petite Sirah, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »

Locatelli Vineyards & Winery – 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on June 11, 2008


A 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon is the second release I’m looking at from Locatelli Vineyards & Winery. Cabernet isn’t one of the primary varietals I think of when Paso Robles comes to mind. But I’m always curious to see what a producer is up to with this much discussed grape.

The 2004 Locatelli Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in a combination of French and American oak for 3 ½ years. This wine sells for $20.

This Cabernet Sauvignon has a big nose full of casis, berry fruit, vanilla and cedar notes. Initial sips find this big, rich Cabernet to be a little tight and in need of some air. Decanting for an hour or so is heartily recommended to allow this wine to show it’s best. Once this offering has opened up it shows big, ripe berry fruit, good acidity and firm tannins. There are loads of blackberry notes in the mid-palate underscored by a persistent mocha note. The finish features dark, dried fruit notes with underlying white pepper and spice notes. Pair this wine with a steak or other suitably big foods.

The bottom line is that there’s nothing small, restrained or gentle about this Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a big, exuberant, full bodied and opulent Cabernet Sauvignon befitting its Paso Robles home. Along those lines if you like big, juicy, fruit forward wines that also have a good level of complexity, this is a wine to check out. If you’re outside of California, contact the winery directly as many of their offerings are limited production.

Coming Up: Melodia, a blend from Locatelli Vineyards & Winery.

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Locatelli Vineards & Winery – 2006 Old Vines Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on June 9, 2008

Over the next couple of days I’ll look at a few red wines from Locatelli Vineatrds & Winery in Paso Robles. They are a family operation, having been founded by Louis Gregory, the Great Grandson of an Italian Immigrant with a long wine making tradition, and his wife Raynette.  Additionally they’re also boutique winery that makes small lots of handcrafted wines.  Their offerings are a combination of blends and varietal bottlings. I’ll take at wine from each of those categories.

LocatelliLocatelli Vineyards & Winery 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel was sourced from Ranchita Canyon Vineyard. A small amount of Petite Sirah was also blended in. 60 Cases of this Estate wine were produced and it sells for $22.

Both bright and dark berry notes along with vanilla and an underlying touch of cotton candy fill the nose of this wine. From the first sip onward black cherry is one of the dominant flavors in this Zinfandel. A ton of white pepper and other assorted and more subtle spice notes emerge on the mid-palate and carry through to the finish. That finish, which is of above average length features some earthiness and a touch of cedar.

This offering is a classic example of Old Vine Zinfandel. Deep, dark fruit, brambly earth notes and lots of spice. It has an intense, persistent palate and a terrific finish. It’s also a smooth wine with no rough edges at all on it. Despite alcohol well over 15% this wine doesn’t drink hot at all. Modestly priced at $22, and limited to 60 cases, if you love Zinfandel this is one to grab before it’s gone. I happen to believe that Zinfandel is one of the varietals that Paso Robles is most notable for. That said, this is a particularly terrific rendition.

Coming Up: Two more releases from Locatelli Vineyards & Winery.

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Posted in Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »

Sebeka – 2006 Shiraz-Pinotage “Cape Blend”

Posted by Gabe on June 5, 2008

Sebeka Wines is a South African brand, launched with the 2006 vintage. Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay are amongst their varietal offerings. Today I’m going to look at one of their blends, the 2007 Shiraz/Pinotage “Cape Blend.” More and more wines from South Africa are popping up on American shelves. For people like me, who love to taste something new and different whenever I have the chance, this is a great development.

The 2006 Sebeka Cape Blend is 60% Shiraz and 40% Pinotage. Each varietal underwent malolactic Sebekafermentation separately before being blended. This suggested retail price for this wine is $8.99.

Aromas of dark berry, cherry, vanilla and subtle mocha are all featured in the nose along with a light underpinning of smoke. The first sip reveals some tartness. Decanting for about 30 minutes is recommended as it really allows this offering to blossom. Once it has opened up there is plenty of cherry and jammy berry fruit throughout. Earthiness, spice and a touch more mocha come out in the mid-palate and linger through a nice finish.

Even though this wine is only 40% Pinotage, the grape makes it’s presence felt with characteristic spice, smoke, earth and cherry flavors starring in this budget priced offering. At its more than reasonable price tag this wine over delivers in it’s category, making it a solid contender for an everyday red. This is the kind of red wine you’ll want to bring to BBQ’s all summer long. It’s complex enough to satisfy red wine drinkers and approachable enough to please and perhaps convert the white wine crowd. Their wide availability also helps make them a go to choice.

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Posted in Blends, Pinotage, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | 1 Comment »


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