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Archive for July, 2008

Wild Horse Winery – 2006 Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on July 30, 2008

Wild Horse Winery in Paso Robles is one of the larger producers in the Central Coast of California. They source their fruit from a diverse array of area vineyards. In my experience they make quite a few wines that are widely available, fairly priced and true to the varietal in question. Today I’m looking at their 2006 Pinot Noir. As with a lot of Pinot Noir fans I’m particularly finicky about this varietal. I was curious to see how Wild Horse was doing with this notoriously difficult grape.

The 2006 Wild Horse Winery Pinot Noir is 100% varietal. This wine spent 10 months in French Oak, with 30% of it being new. Just over 56,000 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $25. Wine-Searcher shows it can often be found priced in the upper teens.

This Pinot opens with wild strawberries, bing cherry, vanilla and nutmeg in the nose. While the first sip I took proved this wine to be immediately appealing and accessible, time in the glass or a decanter does wonders to make it even more inviting. The wines palate is filled with light lavender notes and continued strawberry and cherry characteristics. Mushroom, earth, and spice, particularly lingering nutmeg are the starts of this offerings above average finish. This is a well balanced wine with good acidity. It’ll match a wide array of foods.

What I like best about this wine is its true varietal character. Oak influence is apparent but never overshadows or diminishes the fruit. Finding well made Pinot Noir around the $20 price point can sometimes be a difficult chore. The 2006 Wild Horse Pinot Noir makes it a little easier.

Up Next: The Wines of Summer: Half a Case of Whites.

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Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | 2 Comments »

Opolo Vineyards – 2005 Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on July 26, 2008

Opolo Vineyards in Paso Robles is best known for their Zinfandels. I’ll look at several of those during Zinfandel Week. Today though I’m going to look at their 2005 Pinot Noir. Paso Robles tends to be a very warm growing region and Pinot Noir is one of the last varietals I normally associate with the area.

The Opolo Vineyards 2005 Pinot Noir was produced from Estate Fruit. The wine was aged for 16 months in a combination of French and American oak. Approximately 500 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $32.

Tons of blackberry and earth come through on what is a very big and fairly bright nose. Dark fruit and mocha notes emerge on the first sip and are prominent throughout this wines palate. The finish which is of slightly above average length features vanilla, spice mushroom and toasty oak notes. This is bigger with more upfront fruit than a classically styled Pinot Noir and as such will stand up to richer cuisine. It does have good acidity which helps keep all the bold fruit in check a bit.

If you’re looking for a Burgundian styled Pinot Noir this probably isn’t the wine you’ll want. However if you enjoy rich, new world Pinot Noir with bigger jammy fruit, The Opolo Pinot Noir is a good bet. I found this to be an enjoyable wine to drink, but not exactly a text book Pinot Noir though. Whether you want to seek this offering out or not is going to depend on the style of Pinot you prefer to drink.

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The Wines of Summer – Half a Case of Rosé

Posted by Gabe on July 23, 2008

Drinking Rosé is one of the things I look forward to when warm weather comes around. Of course it’s possible to drink them all year round, but there’s something about enjoying a well chilled Rosé outside on a warm day that sets an indelible mood. Thankfully over the last handful of years there are more and more Rosé’s available in the US. For years a lot of people seemed to shun them, perhaps confusing them with White Zinfandel. But finally, it seems, most people realize the difference between the nuances and joys of dry Rosé versus the insipidly sweet White Zinfandels.

I just tasted through a couple dozen Rosé’s in a varying array of styles. Instead of looking at them all I’m going to highlight a handful that stood out to me for varying reasons. These are the Rosé’s I recommend everyone drink all summer long.

Brutocao Cellars – 2007 Rosé. This selection is 100% Sangiovese and the suggested retail price is $14. It has a bright nose of strawberry and cherry. The mid-palate has an appealing touch of tartness along with all the berry fruit that brims forth from this one. The finish is long and lingering with a nice spice note to close. This is a nice choice for a picnic or light summer foods in general.

Michael David Winery – Incognito Pink. This wine is a blend of 62% Old Vine Cinsault, 20% Grenache and 18% Mouvedre. The suggested retail price of this wine is $14. This one opens with an immense nose absolutely bursting with watermelon notes. Tangerine is more subtle but also present. The mid-plate is rich, mouth-filling and full of bright fruit. The finish is fairly lengthy and features a copious amount of white pepper. Incognito Pink offers good complexity in its price-point.

Clos La Chance – 2007 Pink Throated Brilliant Rosé. This Rosé from Clos La Chance is a blend of 71% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 9% Pinot Noir. The suggested retail price is $14. The nose is incredibly fresh, bright and inviting. Just taking a whiff, with its heady rhubarb notes leaping out, brings summer instantly to mind. This offering really brings to mind the French Rosé’s that set the benchmark for the category. A balance of fruit, minerality and acidity lead to a terrific wine. The finish is refreshing, beckoning the drinker back for sip after sip. Spice notes linger on the finish, well after your last taste.

Mil Piedras – 2007 Brut Nature Rosé. This Argentine release is equal parts Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. 800 Cases were produced and this wine sells for around $10. The nose of the lone non-California Rosé I’m looking at is full of wild raspberry notes. Hints of citrus are evident throughout the palate along with an abundance of bright and dark berry fruit notes. A slight touch of tartness and tingly white pepper are the standout highlights on the finish.

Swanson Vineyards– 2007 Rosato. The Swasnon Rosé is made from 100% Syrah and the suggested retail price is $21. Swanson has been making a Rosé since well before it started to become fashionable in California. This is in fact one of the wines that made me a Rosé drinker to begin with. The 2007 Rosato adds a touch of citrus to the red, mouth-filling fruit that’s the hallmark of this wine each vintage. This is an excellent example of a dry New World Rosé. Whether you welcome guests with this wine as they enter your home, you pair it with the light foods of summer or you simply sip it, the Swanson Rosato is refreshing and consistent.

Mumm Napa – Blanc De Noirs. The Blanc De Noirs is a blend of 85% Pinot Noir and 15% Chardonnay. The suggested retail price for this sparkler is $19. It seems to me that Sparkling Wine in this country is a bit under-enjoyed. People seem to relegate it to special occasions and celebrations. In truth they are often very versatile with a varying array of cuisine, make excellent aperitif or welcome wines and are simply a blast to drink. Wonderful black cherry come out in the nose and carries through the palate of this wine. The mid-palate itself features a ton of biscuit and scone notes. Mineral notes which are hinted at early on, emerge more prominently in the finish along with spice and lingering cherry flavors.

Although they’re made in varying styles from different grapes the wines above have a lot in common. They’re all well made, fun to drink, refreshing and speak of summer.

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Adelsheim Vineyard – 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on July 20, 2008

Pinot Noir is unquestionably the varietal that the Willamette Valley in Oregon is best known for. The relatively cool region approximates Burgundy and makes it possible for vintners to do impressive things with this famously finicky grape. Adelsheim Vineyard makes several Pinot Noirs. The one I’m looking at today is their most widely available Pinot Noir offering. I’d venture to guess it’s also the bottling they’re best known for.

The 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir from Adelsheim Vineyard was produced from 75% Estate Fruit. The other 25% was from 9 other vineyards in the Willamette Valley. 24% of the barrels used were new with the remainder varying in age from one to three years old. Just under 16,000 cases of this Pinot Noir were produced and the suggested retail price is $31. A quick look at wine-searcher shows it can generally be located for closer to $25.

Fresh wild strawberries, rhubarb and light vanilla notes fill the nose of this offering. Earthiness, nutmeg spice and more prominent vanilla fill the mid-palate. Bing cherry and strawberry star throughout. As it should be, the fruit is the feature attraction here. Oak is present but integrated and well in check as part of an overall package, not a distraction. The finish is long, layered, persistent and full of earth, mushroom and nutmeg notes. This wine is impeccably balanced with good acidity. The 2006 Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Noir will be and excellent match for a varying array of foods. A terrific choice when everyone at dinner has very different meals in front of them.

What I like best about this selection is that it’s marvelously typical of the kind of well crafted, varietally correct and pure Pinot Noir often emerging from the Willamette Valley. Considering it’s widely available in the mid $20’s this is an excellent deal on a lovely wine.

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Adelsheim Vineyard – 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris

Posted by Gabe on July 17, 2008

The Willamette Valley in Oregon has been getting more and more recognition over the last few years for the wines they make. As a cooler climate than most of the regions in California they have an edge from nature when growing certain grape varietals. I’ll examine two releases from Adelsheim Vineyard over the next couple of days. Somewhat appropriately I’ll look at releases that represent the 2 varietals that seem to shine the most up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. First up I’ll look at their Willamette Valley Pinot Gris. This wine is part of their Willamette Valley Series. They also have single vineyard and reserve offerings as well as a line of what they’ve termed wacky wines.

The 2006 Adelsheim Pinot Gris had minimal oak influence. 20% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. More than half of the fruit for this offering was sourced in Adelsheim’s own Estate vineyards. Approximately 15,500 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $19.

Honey Dew Melon, peach and pear are the most prominent characteristics to emerge from the nose of this wine. This Pinot Gris is soft, round and lush throughout the palate with no rough edges to speak of. It’s also layered, elegant and complex. The finish is long, spicy and persistent with white pepper notes lingering against the back of the throat for a nice long while. This wine will work incredibly well as an aperitif or welcome wine at your next event. It’ll also pair nicely with light foods, creamy cheeses or a fresh summer entrée salad.

What I like best about the Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Gris is that its overriding characteristic is fresh, unadulterated fruit. This is a clean crisp wine that speaks of its fruit and place not of manipulation.

While the suggested retail price for this wine is $19, wine-searcher shows that it can commonly be found for a couple of dollars less. In either case, this is terrific wine and an excellent value.

Up Next: Adlesheim Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

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Ladera Vineyards – 2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on July 13, 2008

The last wine I’m looking at from Ladera at this time is also a single vineyard offering. It’s noteworthy that in addition to the Cabernets I’ve covered they make several other varietals. Considering the quality of these wines, the others are likely worth drinking as well.

The 2004 Ladera Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal and all from the same vineyard. 50% of the wine was aged in new French oak for 21 months. The remainder spent time in one, two or three year old French oak barrels. 3,000 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $70.

This is a wine with a tremendously dark hue to it. Of the 3 Ladera the Howell Mountain has the most floral nose. Violet notes lead the way, accompanied by berries and cedar. From the first taste, the Howell Mountain Cabernet is chock full of dark, brooding fruit. Throughout the wines palate chocolate notes abound. Again those notes are more prominent than in the other Cabernets from Ladera. Earthiness in the long, luxurious finish is subtle but emerges nicely as the wine opens up along with spice notes. This wine has terrific acidity and a big, tight tannic structure. More so than the other Ladera Cabernets this one really needs to breathe. Match it up with a big, bold meal if you’re drinking it now.

The Ladera Howell Mountain Cabernet is a big, hefty, chewy wine. It’s a delicious wine, but time in the bottle will serve it well. My recommendation would be to put a couple of these away and forget about them for 5 years or so and then enjoy for quite a few years after that. I liked each of the Ladrea wines I tasted a lot for different reasons. The Howell Mountain is likely the most age worthy. As with the other 2 it over delivers in it’s price point.

Up Next: A couple of wines from Oregon’s Adelsheim Vineyard.

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Ladera- 2004 Lone Canyon Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on July 9, 2008

Ladera Vineyards makes two single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons in addition to the Napa Valley that I looked at already. Those three wines combined make up close to 90% of their total production. So clearly they’re committed to Cabernet Sauvignon, which is often referred to as the King of Napa. The first of the two single vineyards I’m looking at is Lone Canyon Vineyard. This is a site of close to 500 acres, 75 of them under vine. Lone Canyon is a mountain location, which borders Mount Veeder.

The Ladera 2004 Lone Canyon Vineyard Cabernet is 100% sourced from this single vineyard. The wine was aged for 22 months in 73% new French oak. 1,900 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $65.

Dark berry and a hint of eucalyptus are the first notes that emerge from this wines nose. Even with a year more bottle age than the Napa Valley Cabernet this selection is a bit reticent at first. Decanting for at least an hour is highly recommended. Once it opens up nutmeg, mocha notes and an absolute avalanche of berry fruit flavors are the story of this wines palate through to the tremendous earthy finish. This Cabernet will surely stand up to your finest steak. However, it’s also restrained and lovely enough to drink well on it’s own.

For me, single vineyard wines epitomize the concept of capturing a sense of place. They can genuinely reflect what happened in that vineyard in a given year.

What I like most about this wine is the absolute purity of fruit and excellent spice component running through it from beginning to end. There is something particularly clean and natural tasting about this offering. This is an intense, persistent, multi-layered and impeccably balanced expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.

While this wine is drinking beautifully now, I’d expect it to age gracefully for the better part of a decade, at minimum. For $65 this isn’t going to be a wine most people drink with Pizza on a Tuesday night. That said it’s an excellent choice to tuck away for a special occasion. Furthermore it’s important to note that this wine is an excellent value in its price point. There’s no shortage of Napa Cabernets in this price range, too few of them are in the Lone Canyon’s class.

Up Next: Ladera’s Howell Mountain Cabernet.

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Ladera Vineyards – 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on July 7, 2008

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the varietals that can seem ubiquitous in California. Especially in Napa, it seems, everyone has at least one Cabernet Sauvignon on their tasting list when you visit a winery. Part of this is of course because Cabernet Sauvignon generally does very well in Napa Valley. But in some cases Wineries seem to produce Cabernet Sauvignon because they feel compelled to do so to keep up with the Joneses so to speak. More often though in Napa, Cabernet Sauvignon is the main focus of quite a few Wineries. Ladera Vineyards is one such winery. They’re a family winery that pays careful attention to every step of the process. They make a couple of other varietals, but Cabernet is their focus. This week I’ll look at three distinct Cabernet Sauvignons in their portfolio. The first one up is a blend of Cabernets from each of their Estate Vineyards.

The Ladera Vineyards 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of Estate fruit from Lone Canyon Vineyard and Howell Mountain. 4% Petit Verdot was blended in. The wine spent 17 months in 47% new French oak barrels with the balance in used French Oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $39.

Berry, cedar and vanilla notes lead a tremendously inviting nose. The first sip brings out casis, blackberry and spice notes. Rich, deep mountain fruit is the hallmark of this wine and it shines throughout the palate. The mid-palate is full bodied, lush and mouth filling. This Cabernets finish has a distinct earthiness that will emerge more as the wine evolves and ages. Significant white pepper and nutmeg spice dance along the tongue and back of the throat as well. This is an elegant example of Napa Valley Cabernet.

What I liked best about this particular Cabernet Sauvignon is how inviting and open it was immediately out of the bottle. Of course decanting helps it open up and achieve an increased level of accessibility and charm, but it shines from the get go. This is a well-balanced wine that features bright fruit, good acidity and a firm tannic structure. It’s drinking well now, should evolve for 5 or 6 years and drink nicely for another handful of years after that.

When you get to the upper thirties in Napa Valley Cabernet you have quite a few choices. The Ladera Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon outclasses its price point. It easily outshines quite a few wines that have more famous names in this price range.

Up Next: Ladera Vineyards – Lone Canyon Vineyard Cabernet

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Madeira Tasting – Park Avenue Summer

Posted by Gabe on July 6, 2008

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend a Madeira Tasting in NYC. Over 50 wines from approximately half a dozen Madeira producers were represented. This is a fascinating and informative way to taste one category of wine side by side. While the history of Madeira is a long one, it doesn’t get as much attention from American Consumers and writers as Port often does. Hopefully with time that will change. Madeira can be just as interesting, complex and age worthy as port. Also like Port, Madeira can be made in a number of varying styles. Each producer that was represented was pouring a broad selection of Madeira.

Of the producers present several stood out for me. However none more so than Broadbent. From their Rainwater which is a Madeira meant to be consumed young through a 10 year old Malmsey and all the way to their oldest and most layered selections, The Broadbent wines were impressive across the board. A house style was evident that led me from wine to wine like a connective taste tissue. However each wine was distinctive in it’s own way. The 5 year old reserve priced in the mid $20’s struck me as the top overall bargain. However I enjoyed each one and hope to take a closer look at a couple of them in the future.

The other wine that most impressed me was the Blandy’s Terrantez 1976. Among other qualities this wine had an excellent finish that seemed to go on forever. Conversely their 1977 was one of my least favorites of the day. The Barbeito Malvasia 30 year old Special Lot Madeira was another standout for me.

At the end of the day, having tasted over 50 wines in varying styles and price ranges from $15 to $500 there is one absolute. There is plenty of excellent and diverse Madeira available. Regardless of your level of drinking sophistication, or budget, you should have no problem finding one to enjoy.


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Posted in Dessert Wines, Madeira, Wine | 1 Comment »

Xumek – 2005 Malbec

Posted by Gabe on July 1, 2008

A lot of terrific wine made from various varietals is coming out of Argentina. Malbec, however, is the varietal that Argentina is best known for. In addition to it being a large part of their production, they simply make more great Malbec than any other country. The second wine I’m looking at from Xumek is a Malbec.

The 2005 Xumek Malbec is 100% varietal and all Estate Fruit. 2,500 cases were produced. It’s finished with a natural cork closure. While the suggested retail price is in the upper teens this wine can be purchased for closer to $12.

The Xumek Malbec has a beautiful deep purple hue. The nose of this Malbec leads with plum, berry, vanilla and toasty oak notes. Mocha notes come out on the entry point, giving way to berry and white pepper spice in the mid-palate. The finish has dark chocolate and blackberry fruit notes along with pepper that tingles the back of the throat a good long while. This wine is well balanced with good acidity and will be versatile at the table.

This offering is more austere and dry than textbook Malbecs. The Xumek appears built to last longer and age more gracefully than many it’s it’s price category. This is smoother than the average Malbec and a step up in elegance and subtle layering. Well worth it’s modest price tag.

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