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Archive for September, 2008

Signorello Vineyards – 2006 Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on September 30, 2008

Today begins The 12 Days of Zin Part II. As with the first part a few weeks back, I’ll spend 12 days covering a vast array of Zinfandels from all over California. Some will be widely available releases from producers that are household names and others will small, limited productions from boutique wineries or medium sized producers making small lots of Zinfandel. The first Zin I’m looking at is from Signorello Vineyards in Napa Valley. They are producers of premium California wines with an aim to highlight what each vineyard best expresses.

The 2006 Signorello Vineyards Zinfandel was produced from a single vineyard source. The Luvisi Vineyard is located on the Silverado Trail in Calistoga. The wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak (35% new). The suggested retail price for this wine is $38. Only 243 cases of this offering were produced.

Blueberry and cherry notes emerge in the nose along with light vanilla characteristics. The entire palate is rich and full of mouth filling fruit that hits ever taste bud with deep, dark, intense flavor underscored by light mocha notes. Chocolate covered cherry leads the way in an impressive, lengthy finish that is also filled with white pepper, nutmeg and emerging earth notes. This wine is impeccably balanced. Not a single note or characteristic is out of whack.

This wines combination of balance and intense palate makes it stand out as an impressive offering. It’s drinking well now but should improve in the short term and provide pleasure for most of the next decade. A noteworthy and classic effort from Signorello Vineyards.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Zin Continues!

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Luigi Bosca – 2005 Reserva Malbec

Posted by Gabe on September 25, 2008

No doubt about it, Malbec is Argentina’s calling card when it comes to wine. Many terrific wines are coming from there, but Malbec is the grape they have mastered more than any other region. It’s amazing how much excellent Malbec can generally be found for a bargain price. Sometimes they are made in a young, exuberant style, meant to be drunk early. At other times they are made in a fashion suitable for aging. Today I’m looking at a 2005 Malbec from Luigia Bosca.

The 2005 Reserva Malbec is 100% varietal. The grapes were harvested from a single vineyard in Mendoza whose vines are 70 years old. The wine was aged for 12 months in French oak and 1 year in bottle before being released. The suggested retail price for this Malbec is $18.

This Malbec’s deep, dark, intensely colored hue is immediately apparent upon pouring. The nose is filled with date, plum and vanilla notes that increase in intensity as it has a chance to breathe. From the first sip onwards, juicy dark berry fruit comes out in droves. The mid-palate is soft, lush and full leading to black pepper, mineral notes, a touch of earth and a hint of tartness on the finish.  This wine is soft and pleasing enough to enjoy on its own but structured enough to stand up to grilled flank steak or similar cuisine.

This malbec has lots of big, pleasing fruit flavors, but the structure, complexity and numerous layers win out making this an impressive multi-dimensional wine. Oak is apparent but well integrated and a positive influnce on this wine. While this Malbec is nice now, it’ll improve with some more bottle age and drink well for at least a decade, perhaps a bit longer. With a suggested retail of $18 and it’s ability to age, this is an excellent wine to tuck away a case of.

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Luigi Bosca – 2006 “El Paraíso” Vineyard Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on September 22, 2008

The difficulty of making great Pinot Noir is legendary in wine circles. There are really only a handful of places that are making this grape in its classic style. Luigi Bosca from Argentina makes a Pinot Noir amongst their wide range of offerings. That’s the wine I’m looking at today. Very few South American PInots have impressed me over the years but I’m always curious to see what’s out there.

The 2006 Luigi Bosca Pinot Noir is 100% varietal. The grapes for this wine were harvested from a single vineyard source in Mendoza. “El Paraiso” vineyard sits more than 780 Meters above sea level. This Pinot was aged for 8 months in French oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $18.

Wild strawberry, bing cherry and subtler but present vanilla notes are the most dominant characteristics in the nose of this Argentine Pinot Noir. Looking at it in the glass it has a slightly darker hue than what is most often typical of Pinot Noir. Think dark cherry in color more than strawberry. From the very first sip sour cherry notes and subtle leather characteristic come out and carry through the mid-palate along with dark plum and emerging earth notes. The earth becomes more prominent on the finish, accompanied by light mushroom and mocha notes. The wine is well balanced with well integrated oak and persistent acidity.

What I like best about this Pinot Noir is how elegant, layered and refined it is for a South American Pinot Noir. It easily outclasses many of the other Pinot’s I’ve had from this region. While it’s a bit fuller in the middle than a typical Pinot from Burgundy or Oregon it still manages to lean towards delicate. For a suggested retail price of $18, this wine offers plenty of true varietal character.

Up Next: Malbec from Argentina’s Luigi Bosca

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Finca La Linda – 2007 Torrontés

Posted by Gabe on September 18, 2008

The first grape that comes to mind when most wine drinkers think of Argentina is Malbec. That’s not surprising since Argentina makes most of the world’s best Malbec. Torrontés, is a white grape and pretty soon it’s likely people will be as aware of it as they are of Malbec today. In general I find Torrontés to be an excellent choice as a welcome wine when you have people over for a party or long meal. Additionally, they tend to pair with a wide array of lighter cuisine.

The 2007 Finca La Linda Torrontés is 100% varietal. Vines for this offering are grown at 1,700 meters above sea level in sandy/stony soil. The suggested retail price for this wine is $10.99.

The nose of this wine is full of honey, lychee fruit and floral notes. From the very first sip there is an avalanche of peach notes. All the fruit in the nose and through the palate gives the impression of sweetness. In actuality this offering is well balanced and presents tremendous acidity. This wine will pair well white meats such as grilled chicken. It’ll also be an excellent match for spicy Asian dishes as well as curry.

What I like best about Torrontés is general is how incredibly aromatic and expressive the nose tends to be. The Finca La Linda Torrontés from Luigi Bosca falls within that tendency. This is a nice little wine that will delight those who are already familiar with this grape and surprise those new to it. Most of the Torrontés available in the US marketplace at this point is under $15. In many cases, as with this example, for around $10, it’s quite a deal.

Up Next: Pinot Noir from Argentina’s Luigi Bosca

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Pedroncelli – 2006 Mother Clone Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on September 15, 2008

It’s fitting to me that the last post during the first round of The 12 Days of Zin is Mother Clone from Pedroncelli in Dry Creek. Sure the winery has an 80+ year history and some of the vines are over 100 years old. But it’s personal for me too. Mother Clone is one of the Zins that made me a fan of the varietal to begin with.  I’ve been drinking it for well over a decade and always like checking in each year to see how the current vintage is drinking.

The 2006 Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel is 88% varietal and 12% Petite Sirah. The wine was aged for 12 months in American oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $15 and it can be generally be found for several dollar less than that.

The current vintage of the Mother Clone as with previous vintages is a bit tight out of the bottle. Right now this wine needs about an hour in the decanter to really shine. It’s time well spent. When it opens up the nose reveals abundant berry along with subtler but present cedar notes. While the nose of this wine gives off an element of jam, the palate is gloriously dry and beautiful. From the mid-palate through the finish black pepper and light earth notes linger for a persistent finish along with a touch of dust. This wine will be a perfect accompaniment to a dish of pasta.

As with Pedroncelli wines in general the Mother Clone features terrific acidity and excellent balance. The Petite Sirah adds structure and substance to this wine. Drinking this wine makes me wish I was in Geyserville. My favorite thing about the Mother Clone is its unerring consistency from vintage to vintage.

Thus ends Part I of the 12 Days of Zin. Stay tuned as The 12 Days of Zin Part II begins at the end of the month!

Up Next: Argentina’s Luigi Bosca

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5 Mile Bridge – 2006 Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on September 15, 2008

Paso Robles has long been one of my favorite spots in California, especially for Zinfandel. So it should come as no surprise that I’d include quite a few Paso Robles releases in The 12 Days of Zin. Today’s look at a Paso Robles Zinfandel is from a relatively new producer. The 2006 release from 5 Mile Bridge is only their second vintage of Zinfandel.

The 2006 5 Mile Bridge Zinfandel is a single vineyard effort sourced from the Margarita Vineyard. This vineyard stands at an elevation of 1,000 feet, allowing excellent sun exposure. 1% Cabernet Franc was blended in with the ZInfandel. This wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak (about 1/3 of it new) for 14 months. Just over 2,900 cases of this releases were produced. The suggested retail price for this wine is $20.

Bright red raspberry, cedar and vanilla fill the nose of this Zinfandel. 30 minutes in a decanter, or a glass, really allows this wine to open up. Blueberry and raspberry fill the wines plate along with white pepper notes. From the mid-palate through the finish, stewed fruit notes linger along with additional spice elements such as nutmeg and a hint of earth. I had this with a porcini mushroom pizza and found it to be excellent accompaniment.

The most impressive thing about this particular Zinfandel is its harmony and balance. Each element is well in check of the other providing an overall enjoyable drinking experience. That’s particularly noteworthy for a wine that’s only in its second vintage. Also of note is the alcohol at 14.2%. This is on the modest side not just for Zin in general but also for Paso Robles. I look forward to seeing what 5 Mile Bridge produces going forward.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Zin Continues!

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Sausal Winery – A Couple of 2005 Zins

Posted by Gabe on September 14, 2008

The Alexander Valley in Sonoma is today’s stop for The 12 Days of Zin. In addition to Zinfandel, when I think of Alexander Valley, tremendous Cabernet Sauvignon comes to mind. The history of Sausal Winery dates back to Leo and Rose Demostene family purchasing the Sausal Ranch in 1956. The winery itself was launched in 1973 by their four children. So their history in Sonoma goes back a ways. While Sausal Winery produces a number of other varietals, all from estate fruit, Zinfadel is firmly at the center of their family operation. Today I’ll look at two of their Zins, both from the 2005 vintage.

The Sausal Winery 2005 Family Vineyard Zinfandel is 100% varietal and all Estate fruit. The vines for this selection have an average age of over 50 years old. This wine spent 18 months in a 50/50 split of French and American oak. Just over 3,000 cases of this selection were produced and the suggested retail price is $19.

Raspberry pie notes, underscored by a touch of vanilla fill the nose of this wine. While giving this Zin a chance to breathe allows it to really open up, it’s ready and jumping out of the glass from the word go. There is an intensity of fruit throughout the palate. It’s solid and even keeled, never relinquishing its core fruit flavors. It persistently delivers solid, approachable, at times big, fruit flavor. Tea notes at the end of the mid-palate lead to a lingering finish dotted with lots of white pepper notes. I had this wine with meatloaf and it matched perfectly.

The 2005 Family Vineyard Zin is a classic example of what can be done with this varietal in the Alexander Valley. While this wine is fruity, full and exuberant it exhibits restraint, stopping short of going over the top. At 3 years old it’s vibrant, fresh and just at the beginning of it’s drinking window. This one will drink well for at least 5 years.

The second Zinfandel I’m peeking at from Sausal Winery is the 2005 Private Reserve. This one was made from estate fruit and vines averaging 90 years of age. This offering spent 19 months in exclusively French oak. It’s also 100% varietal. 2,000 cases of it were produced and the suggested retail price is $23.

From the outset, the differences between the two Zinfandels are apparent. The Private reserve is deeper and darker in both color and fruit characteristics. This one also benefits more obviously and immediately from a solid hour in the decanter. Once it’s opened up, dark plum and blackberry notes accompanied by cedar and subtle vanilla fill the nose. The palate of this wine is full of deeper, richer and more intense fruit than the Family Vineyards Zin. The added age on the vines is apparent in how much more layered and complex the fruit is throughout this wine. The dark fruit notes carry through the finish joined by mocha, spice and earth. Good acidity and a solid tannic structure keep this wine balanced. This one will be an excellent match for bigger meals. Hearty stews, leg of lamb and roasted game are all good choices.

As with the Family Vineyards, the Private Reserve is also an excellent example of Zinfandel from Alexander Valley. The wines share as many similarities as they do differences. The Private reserve is likely to improve in the short term and drink well for a minimum of 8 years. If you like well made Zinfandel in a classic style, you will want to keep your eye out for what Sausal Winery is doing.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Zin Continues!

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Ravenswood Winery – A Couple of Zinfandels

Posted by Gabe on September 13, 2008

One of my goals during The 12 Days of Zin is to cover a wide array of wines. The diversity I’ve aimed for is not only stylistic though. Some of the Zinfandels are small productions from boutique producers, others are large scale releases available at almost every wine shop in the US. Today I’m looking at a couple of offerings from Ravenswood Winery. Joel Peterson, founder and winemaker of this winery is as synonymous with America’s heritage grape as any producer. The range of Zins Ravenswood makes each year runs the gamut from small production, single vineyard offerings to wines that everyone can easily find. The selections I’m looking at today are amongst their most widely available and recognizable by the everyday consumer looking for something to drink with his burger or fajita that very night.

First up is the Ravenswood 2006 Vintners Blend. This wine has a California appellation and the majority of the grapes were sourced in Sonoma, Lodi and Mendocino. All three are regions where Zinfandel has thrived over the years. This wine is widely available for right around $10.

The 2006 Vintners Blend opens with a nose of black raspberry and plum, underscored by light bramble and eucalyptus notes. Berry jam notes are prominent from the first sip onward. This is a medium bodied Zinfandel with a soft but full mouth-feel. Black tea notes dominate the mid-palate and carry through the finish which features light mocha and a host of spice characteristics. The finish is medium in length. This wine has been remarkably consistent over the years and the 2006 is no exception. It’s particularly impressive for an offering made in such large quantities. Priced to be a good go to Zinfandel any night of the week.

The other Ravenswood I’m looking at is the 2005 Sonoma County Zinfandel. 13% Carignane, 6% Syrah and 5% Petite Sirah were blended in with the Zinfandel (76%). All the grapes were sourced from Sonoma County and aged in French oak, 30% of it new. 10,000 cases of this wine were produced. The suggested retail price for this one is $14.99, but it’s generally available for a few dollars less.

The Sonoma County Zin opens with plum vanilla and a touch of earth in the nose. I found this selection the be a bit in need of air at first. Decanting for 45 minutes is recommended. Once it opens up this wine expresses itself with a lovely palate full of spice and fruit flavor. Most of that fruit is of the dark, brooding variety. These characteristics carry through the mid-palate and lead to a finish that features mocha and white pepper notes in abundance. This wine is well balanced and has good acidity. The other varietals blended in add structure and layers of complexity to this wine. While it’s drinking well now it’s likely to improve in the short term and drink well for 5 or more years. This is another solid everyday value.

Both of these wines from Ravenswood accomplish what they set out to. That is, provide good entry level Zinfandels at a price that most can approach on a regular basis. They offer good varietal character and remain consistent year in and year out.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Zin Continues!

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Lang Wines – 2006 Oakmont Vineyards Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on September 12, 2008

The next wine I’m looking at during The 12 Days of Zin is the first of several to be made from fruit sourced in Amador County. Zinfandel happens to be the grape that Amador is best known for. Lang Wines is a boutique producer that also makes Barbera & Syrah each year. Their entire production is right around 1,500 cases annually.

The 2006 Lang Wines Zinfandel is made from fruit sourced at Oakmont Vineyards. These Zinfandel vines are 35 years old. 868 cases of this wine were produced. It sells through their website for $192 per case ($16 per bottle).

The nose of this wine features a cornucopia of berry fruit notes. Blackberry and dark cherry particularly stand out, underscored by subtle gingerbread spice notes. Copious fruit notes fill what is a solid, balanced, full and unyielding palate. From the very first sip luscious berry pie flavors fill this wines palate. Mocha and toasty oak notes which are apparent throughout come out more prominently on the finish. This wine has good tannic structure and solid acidity. This will pair well with just about any meat coming off of your grill as well as a dish of pasta. I also found it to be a real pleasure to drink on its own.

What I like best about this particular Zinfandel is how concurrently smooth and opulent it is from start to finish. There isn’t a rough edge to be found anywhere. As I was drinking this wine I was thinking that it reminded of the title of a Howlin’ Wolf song, “Built For Comfort.” That’s exactly how I view this wine, an absolute treat to drink. For the money this wine is an absolute steal. It’s easy to see why the Lang Wines website emphasizes case sales. It’s likely that if you’re a Zin lover you’re going to want to a steady supply of this offering.

I’ll be looking at their Syrah and Barbera in the near future as well. If they’re anywhere near as impressive as the Zinfandel, they’ll be wines to look out for as well.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Zin Continues!

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Del Carlo Winery – 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on September 11, 2008

The next stop for the 12 Days of Zin, takes me back to Dry Creek Valley. At three years old the Del Carlo Winery is a fairly new operation. However the two families involved in it (Del Carlo & Teldeschi) have deep roots in Sonoma County. Different branches of the family have been winemakers, growers, farmers and/or residents of the Dry Creek Valley dating as far back as 1929. And in fact some of the Zinfandel vines they still farm and get fruit from are over 100 years old. They’re not joking when they say “Old Vine.”

The 2005 Del Carlo Winery Old Vine Zinfandel is 89 percent varietal with the balance being Petite Sirah. 20% of the wine spent 10 months in New American oak. It was then bottle aged for an additional year before release. 294 cases of this Zin were produced. This release sells for $32.

Plum and vanilla notes fill the nose of this Dry Creek Zinfandel. Taking the first sip, blackberry, earthy bramble and persistent but subtle vanilla emerged. While this wine is engaging from the get go, decanting helps and is recommended. White pepper floats through the entire palate along with present but much more subtle nutmeg notes. Mocha and cherry notes become prominent on the mid-palate and carry through the long finish with features continued spice characteristics and an underbelly of earth that emerges as the wine opens up. This wine is balanced by firm acidity and will be an excellent match for a wide array of foods.

After this wine had been open for a full 24 hours I went back and tasted it again. Beyond holding up, it had improved and become even more expressive. This Zinfandel from Del Carlo is well structured and should improve over the next couple years and drink well for another 3-4 after that.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Zin Continues!

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