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Archive for August, 2008

Biondi Santi – 2001 Brunello di Montalcino

Posted by Gabe on August 30, 2008

Fittingly the last wine this week from Biondi Santi is their Brunello di Montalcino. This is perhaps their best known offering year after year and one of the legendary releases to emerge from Italy annually.

The 2001 Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese Grosso. Vineayrds sources for this offering are between 10 and 25 years old. This selection was aged in Slavonian oak for 3 years followed by a minimum of 4 months bottle refining. 4750 cases of this Brunello were produced and the suggested retail price is $190.

Not surprisingly this wine is very reticent at first. If you’re thinking about drinking it now, decant it for 10-12 hours. As it opens the nose shows cherry, eucalyptus, vanilla and cedar notes. Spice is the hallmark of the mid-palate with nutmeg and pepper as the main attractions. These spices are accompanied by fresh fruit flavors of red plum, bing cherry and light wild strawberry. The finish is very long and persistent with spice, earth and terrific mineral notes that cling to the back of the throat as this one closes out. This is is a rich, full flavored wine that should be paired with an equally opulent meal. Osso Buco, Grilled Tuscan Steak and Shepherds Pie come to mind as obvious complements.

What I like best about this wine is the tremendous finish that goes on for a long time, offering great complexity. Right now, though, this wine is a baby. My recommendation would be to sock a couple of these away for an anniversary or other special occasion 15 or more years down the road. By then this wine will have had a chance to resolve itself, secondary flavors will be more developed and it will be more impressive all around. As noted above if you do decide to drink it anytime soon, decant it for at least 10 hours. A tremendous example of a benchmark Brunello in a very good vintage. Kudos to Biondi Santi.

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Biondi Santi – 2003 Rosso di Montalcino

Posted by Gabe on August 29, 2008

The last two selections I’m looking at this week from Biondi Santi are from the legendary estate itself. This winery is not only a well known and regarded Italian Estate but a crucial player in the establishment of Brunello di Montalcino as a region. Today’s selection is a Rosso di Montalcino.

The 2003 Biondi Santi Rosso di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese Grosso. Aging occurred in Slavonian oak for 12 months, followed by 4 months in bottle. Approximately 1,500 cases of this wine are produced each year. The suggested retail price for this offering is $75. Checking wine-searcher shows it’s often available for about $10 less.

This Rosso di Montalcino has a heavily perfumed, concentrated nose featuring vanilla, violets, subtle strawberry notes and a touch of earth emerging once it’s had a chance to open up. Decanting for an hour at minimum is highly recommended. Dried wild strawberry is prominent from the first sip onward. The mid-palate adds dried cherry and red raspberry notes, accompanied by subtle nutmeg, which carries through to the finish. Speaking of the finish, it’s intense, persistent and has more forceful and obvious spice notes. Not surprisingly as with many well made Italian wines this offering is built to pair with food. Spit roasted lamb with rosemary would by my first choice. Failing that, other grilled or roasted meats will be a fine choice as well.

As with the wines from sister winery Villa Poggio Salvi, this selection has excellent acidity and balance. The oak influence is detectable but not obtrusive, adding complexity as it should. This wine will age effortlessly for at least a decade, probably a bit longer.

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Up Next: Biondi Santi- 2001 Brunello di Montalcino

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Poggio di Salvi – 2000 Brunello di Montalcino

Posted by Gabe on August 28, 2008

The third wine from Poggio Di Salvi I’m looking at is the first of two Brunellos. The other one is from Biondi Santi itself. Notes on that are coming up over the next few days. Brunello stands with Barolo and Barberesco as one of the triumvirate of most esteemed Italian Wines. There are restrictions on varietal, aging and the like on all of these wines to make sure, among other things, that quality in these regions stays consistent. All three can be tremendous wines with terrific aging potential when done right.

The 2000 Poggio di Salvi Brunello di Montalcino is 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The grapes chosen for this particular offering are from a group of south west facing vines, all at more than 1,100 feet above sea level. It spent 30 months in Slavonian oak barrels and a minimum of 6 months in bottle before its release. Approximately 6,000 cases of this wine are made each year. This has a suggested retail price in the mid $70′s but can be found for closer to $60.

This 2000 Brunello is incredibly perfumed with notes of violets, leather, cherry and cedar. From the first sip onward dried fruit notes, including sour cherry and red raspberry, are among the hallmark characteristics of this wine. Vanilla appears as a subtle undertone throughout. The finish on this wine is very long and persistent; spice, earth and fruit making their presence known. This will be a good match for mushroom risotto, strong cheeses, and slow-cooked, full flavored meats.

The 2000 Poggio di Salvi Brunello di Montalcino is built with layer upon layer of complexity. It evolves throughout an evening, revealing an impressive structure, refined power and elegance.

What I like best about his Brunello is that it’s full flavored, rich and mouth-filling while never straying close to being too big, or in your face, in style. It is in fact impeccably balanced with tremendous acidity. Between that and the rich fruit, this wine has a nice long shelf life ahead of it. This promises to improve for the next 10-12 years and drink well for 5 or more after that, if not longer. At $60 or so this may not be a choice as an everyday drinker for most people. However, this is a great one to tuck away for a holiday or special occasion.

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Villa Poggio Salvi – 2003 Rosso di Montalcino

Posted by Gabe on August 27, 2008

Montalcino is one of the best known and most highly regarded wine regions in both Italy and the Wine world at large. Brunello is of course the type of wine most associated with Montalcino. However, several other offerings come from this region. There are different criteria placed upon aging and handling in regard to wines which are not Brunello di Montalcino. The next and second most popular designation is Rosso di Montalcino. The wine I’ll look at today from Villa Poggio Salvi is such a wine.

The 2003 Villa Poggio SalviRosso di Montalcino is of course 100% Sangiovese Grosso as per regulation. The fruit was handpicked and spent 12 month in Slavonian  oak. 4 months of bottle fining followed. Approximately 2,000 cases of this wine are produced each year. The suggested retail price is $32.

A ton of cherry and vanilla fill the nose of this Rosso di Montalcino along with a subtle violet undertone.  This wine is filled with spice notes throughout the complex palate. Dried raspberry, cherry and a touch of earth fill this offerings mid-palate. This is a full flavored, medium bodied wine. The long, layered finish is also loaded with spice character, particularly white pepper, along with earthy mushroom notes.

What I like best about this wine is how much bang it offers for the price. It may be a Rosso di Montalcino but it has the layers and structure of many Brunello’s. Decanting this wine for an hour at minimum is strongly recommended. While this is drinking very well now, I’d expect it to improve for 5-6 years and drink well for another 4 or 5 after that.

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Villa Poggio Salvi – 2006 Merlot

Posted by Gabe on August 26, 2008

The diversity of wines coming from Italy surely rivals, if not tops, that of almost any wine producing nation. Aside from the classic and widely known grapes and styles there are literally hundreds of varietals throughout the country. Over the course of this week I’ll look at a number of releases from legendary producer Biondi Santi and their sister winery Villa Poggio Salvi. These will lean towards classic, well known grapes.

Villa Poggio Salvi’s2006 Lavischio Merlot is 100% varietal. The grapes for this wine come from estate vineyards in the Monteriggioni region. The wine spends three months in oak and annual production is right around 3,000 cases. The suggested retail price for this wine is just under $30. Check wine-searcher though and it can be found for closer to $20.

The nose of this merlot presents cherry, plum, vanilla and cedar notes. 45 minutes to an hour in the decanter helped this wine come into its own, as it was pretty closed and tight at first. Once it blossoms the Poggio Salvi Merlot proves to be a medium bodied offering with loads of sour cherry in both the entry and mid-palate. Vanilla notes that came out in the nose are more prominent by the end of the mid-palate and carry through to the finish along with some secondary earthiness and a touch of white pepper. This wine has excellent acidity and will be an outstanding match for hard cheeses or a classic Italian Sunday Dinner of pasta with red sauce.

What I like best about this selection is how smooth, silky and easy to drink it is. This 2006 Merlot is a wine made in it’s local style that speaks of the place it comes from. The 2006 Villa Poggio Salvi Merlot is not built for long term aging and should be consumed in its youth for maximum enjoyment. Drink it over the next couple of years.

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Artesa Winery – 2006 Carneros Estate Reserve Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on August 25, 2008

The last wine from Artesa Winery I’m looking at right now is their 2006 Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir. Coming up in the near future I’ll look at a couple from one of their sister Wineries. I first had this particular Pinot a couple of months back at a large scale tasting. It left an impression and I made a note to re-taste it and take a closer look.

Just over 3,000 cases of the Artesa Winery 2006 Carneros Estate Reserve Pinot Noir were produced. The grapes were harvested from Artesa’s best Pinot Noir blocks and aged in French Oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $40.

Dark cherry, violets, spice and palpable mineral notes make up the nose of this wine. My first sip found the wine to be a bit reticent. I returned to it after decanting for 45 minutes and found it had really started to blossom. Dried raspberry, nutmeg and an earthy mushroom undertone come out throughout the palate. This Pinot Noir won’t hit you over the head; rather its subtle charms sneak up on you and steal your attention with its complex, layered impressive palate. This continues through a finish that’s well above average in length and an impressive microcosm of the rest of the wine. Subtle dark cherry, spice notes and persistent earth are the notes that stay the longest. This Pinot Noir has excellent structure and good acidity. It drinks incredibly well on its own and will pair with many diverse dishes.

What I like best about this offering is that it fulfills the promise of the high quality Pinot Noir that can emerge from Carneros, one of the handful of classic Pinot Noir growing regions in California.

Look for this wine to improve over the next 2-3 years and drink well for at least 2-4 after that. An excellent Pinot Nor, and my favorite of the Artesa selections I looked at these last few days.

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Artesa Winery – Chardonnays

Posted by Gabe on August 23, 2008

Artesa Winery has three Chardonnays amongst its offerings. Two are widely available, while a third is a more limited release. I’ll look at two of them today, both from the 2006 vintage.

The first Chardonnay is from their classic tier. The 2006 Chardonnay Carneros is the largest Chardonnay bottling Artesa produces. More than 30,000 cases of this wine were made. The fruit was hand harvested and 50% of it was barrel fermented. This wine is generally available for approximately $15.

The nose of this wine is loaded with baked granny smith apple, vanilla and nutmeg notes. From the very first sip through the palate apple notes are the most dominant. An undercurrent of citrus comes out in a subtle manner as well. Spice notes carry through the palate as well, along with gentle but persistent acidity. The finish of this wine is above average. Lingering apple pie spice notes are accompanied by a lighter, buttery undertone.

What I like best about this wine is it’s versatility It’s crisp and refreshing enough to drink on it’s own but has enough layers, complexity and overall stuffing to pair with poultry, seared pork or cream based dishes. For about $15 this is a nice value.

The second Artesa Winery Chardonnay is the 2006 Carneros Estate Reserve. The production on this one was just over 3,000 cases.  Half of the wine spent over 9 months in new French oak. The suggested retail on the reserve in $26.

The nose of the reserve presents apple, vanilla and strong smoke characteristics. The palate has scone and biscuit note along with continued apple, spice and smoke. Nutmeg, apple, subtle Asian pear and apple pie crust notes dot the persistent, layered, lengthy finish.

The oak treatment on this wine makes itself known in several of the flavor components but it’s unobtrusive. Compared to the other Chardonnay, the reserve is more structured and far more tightly wound.

What I like best about the reserve Chardonnay is that it’s modestly priced for a reserve, especially one I’d feel comfortable tucking away in my cellar for 3-5 years.

Both of these Artesa wines are fine examples of Chardonnay. The question comes down to what type of Chardonnay you like. The first one with it’s Carneros designation is a great choice for everyday drinking and offers a lot of pleasure. The reserve veers towards, but short of, being in the “California-style” with it’s buttery and oak influenced notes. Personally I lean towards the Carneros over the reserve, but both are well made and fairly priced.

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Artesa Winery -2005 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on August 21, 2008

Today’s selection is the second Cabernet Sauvigon I’m looking at from Artesa Winery. They makes several others in addition to this and the one I looked at earlier. While the one I looked at previously blended Napa & Sonoma fruit, this one is entirely from Napa Valley. Fruit was handpicked from estate vineyards based on the winemakers selections for this reserve wine.

The 2005 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in 60% new French oak for 21 months. Small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec were added to the final blend. Just under 9,000 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $40.

This wine from Artesa has explosive, chocolate covered black cherry notes in the nose. I found this wine to be, not surprisingly, tight out of the bottle. If you plan to drink this now I’d recommend decanting it for an hour at minimum, two would be better. Once it opens up the nose also reveals some subtle earth notes. Dark berry fruits, spice notes, earth and mocha pack the palate of this wine with flavor. This is a layered wine with tremendous complexity. Earth and spice linger in an above average finish. The Artesa Reserve Cabernet is a full bodied, full flavored wine befitting it’s Napa Valley pedigree.

This wine is well balanced and has an excellent tannic structure. I’d expect it to improve over the next 7-8 years and drink well for another 3-5 after that. I went back to this wine after it had been open for a full 24 hours, it was even more impressive. Excellent effort here from Artesa Winery.

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Artesa Winery – 2006 Carneros Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on August 20, 2008

Carneros bridges the southern part of Napa and Sonoma Valleys. It’s a distinct cooler climate AVA than most other parts of either valley. While many other grape varietals are planted and sometimes prosper there Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are their bread butter, not to mention stand out varieties. As I mentioned the other day Artesa Winery makes several examples of each. Today’s wine is a Pinot Noir from their Classic Tier.

The 2006 Carneros Pinot Noir from Artesa Winery was made from hand harvested fruit. The juice was aged in French oak barrels. Just under 13,000 cases of this wine was produced and the suggested retail price is $25.

The Artesa Winery Carneros Pinot Noir is reticent at first, needing some air before it begins to fully emote. 45 minutes in the decanter seemed to do the trick and then it was fully expressive. Major black cherry and vanilla notes are the stars of an inviting nose. Taking the first sip, dark cherry and subtle strawberry notes, followed by star anise, highlight the solidly fruity, lush mid-palate. These characteristics carry though the finish which also features an emerging earthiness, mushroom, clove spice and light lingering toast.. Within the world of Pinot Noir this is a medium bodied wine. It’s balanced by terrific acidity.

What I like best about this offering is that it’s a Pinot Noir made in the proper fashion. Oak influence is present, but never overwhelming. The soft, layered fruit is allowed to be the star. This is a Pinot Noir to drink in the first 3-4 years of its life. This offering is enjoyable on its own and will also be an excellent match for many lighter meals, particularly mushroom based dishes.

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Artesa Winery – 2005 Napa County/Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on August 18, 2008

This week I’ll be looking at an array of releases from Artesa Winery in Carneros. They make a combination of widely available releases in various designations combined with a number of smaller productions that balance things out lineup wise. In total I’ll be looking at six offerings split between their classic and reserve tiers. No surprisingly for a winery in Carneros Pinot Noir and Chardonnay merit several distinct releases each in the Artesa portfolio.

The 2005 Napa/Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon was sourced from a vineyard above Oakville in the Atlas Peak appellation and a Sonoma property within The Alexander Valley. More than 15,000 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $25. Check out wine-searcher though as it can often be found in the mid to upper teens.

The first thing that’s apparent about this wine is that it needs time to open up. If you drink it now I highly recommend that you decant it for at least an hour. Once it’s had a chance to open up and express itself the nose bursts out with lots of sweet blueberry fruit underscored by vanilla and eucalyptus notes. From the first sip throughout the palate blueberry pie notes are prominent and accompanied by spice notes and subtle earth that lead into a lush, layered finish. The Cabernet is rich and mouth-filling. It’s a pretty big wine but within the sub-group of Cabernet Sauvignon its medium bodied.

This effort is drinking pretty pretty nicely now, but time in the bottle will serve it well. A year or so should do wonders, helping the nuances and earthiness that are now subtle on the finish of this wine become far more prominent. There is unfortunately a large amount of bland, anonymous tasting Cabernet Sauvignon coming out of California in this price range. I’m happy to report this is not one of those. This is a fine Cab that over delivers in its price-point when compared to many of its counterparts. Nice effort from Artesa Winery.

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