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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for March, 2009

Cameron Hughes – 2007 Lot 87 Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on March 29, 2009

There are numerous ways that wine gets bottled and ends up on your local shelf. Most people envision a system where one winery grows the lotgroup_3grapes, crushes them, ages them, bottles, and sells them. Of course that’s the way a lot of wines, particularly premium ones, get to your shelf. But of course there are other ways. In Europe, France especially there are many négociant’s. A négociant purchases grapes from other growers and sells them under his or her, own label.

Cameron Hughes is a California based négociant. And while that is his base of operations, he sources lots of wine from numerous regions, the world over.  Most often a well regarded winery or grower might be selling a finished product which Cameron Hughes Wine bottles or packages. Sometimes they take separate sources and blend them to come up with a unique and perhaps better wine. The goal in each case is to offer a superior product for significantly less than it would cost if it had the original producer or growers name.  There are many reasons someone might be selling wine instead of bottling it themselves. In a great vintage they might simply have more juice than they’re prepared, or bonded to produce. Regardless of the reason Cameron Hughes Wine, and consumers are the beneficiaries.

Each offering from Cameron Hughes Wine is given a lot number. Over the next several weeks I’ll look at a number of different lots. Today I’ll look at one of their new release Chardonnays.

Cameron Hughes 2007 Lot 87 Chardonnay is a blend of Alexander Valley (75%) and Russian River (25%) fruit. 8,000 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $12. This selection is an example of the folks at Cameron Hughes blending two existing lots from the same producer to form their own blend.

The nose of this Chardonnay is filled with apple and pear notes; underscored by subtle vanilla tones. The palate is soft and lush, filled with mouth-filling, yet gentle fruit. The finish of this Chardonnay lingers with more pear notes, white pepper, nutmeg, and overall tingly spice notes. This is an impeccably balanced wine with terrific acidity. It’ll drink nicely on its own, as well as pair well with a wide array of foods.

There are two things that are most obvious to me about this Chardonnay. First and foremost it’s a terrific and pure expression of Sonoma County Chardonnay. Secondly this wine is an absolute steal. The $12 price tag is a joke. This wine is easily a $30 Chardonnay. If you love excellent, fruit driven Chardonnay from Sonoma County, buy a case of this and drink it all year.

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Martin & Weyrich – 2005 Il Palio Sangiovese

Posted by Gabe on March 27, 2009

proof102133-1Paso Robles, in the Central Coast of California has been a favorite region of mine for a number of years now. The number of high quality, well priced, and unique wines emerging from Paso seems to increase with each passing year. Rhone varietals and Zinfandels are amongst the first things that come to mind when thinking of Paso Robles. But there are a growing number of Wineries producing Italian varietals with great success. Martin & Weyrich has been in operation since 1981 and Italian varietals are at the core of what they do. Today I’ll look at their current release of Sangiovese

The 2005 Martin & Weyrich Il Palio Sangiovese is made from fruit sourced at two Estate Vineyards. This wine is 100% Sangiovese. Aging was done in French oak; 20% of the barrels were new. Just over 2,100 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $16.

Cherries, vanilla and nutmeg notes are prominent in the nose of this Paso Sangiovese. Throughout the palate red berry fruit and back pepper dominate the flavors. Sour cherry and earth notes tell the story of this wine’s above average finish. This offering has excellent balance and tremendously pleasing acidity, which make this a perfect foil for a wide array of foods. I had it with Pizza and found that it matched well. Meats and hard cheeses would work as well. Italian dishes with red sauce are a no brainer.

What I like best about this wine is that it displays both old and new world elements. I recommend decanting this wine for about 45 minutes; some air really helps it shine. It’s ability to be made in such a wide array of styles makes Sangiovese  Italy’s MVP grape, and star of Chianti and Brunello to name but a few. It’s slowly emerged in the US, specifically in California, here’s hoping it take s a real foothold. If you haven’t had any Sangiovese from California, or just haven’t found one you loved yet, give the Il Palio a shot, it’s well worth its $16 price tag.

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Stoneleigh – 2007 Marlborough Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on March 25, 2009

If the momentum of Wine was compared to vehicles, New Zealand Pinot Noir seems to be picking up steam like a freight train. By and large the sl_pinotnoir_bottle1Pinot Noir’s from New Zealand are well made and crafted in a style true to the essence of this legendary grape. While these offerings are coming from numerous regions, Marlborough is perhaps the most well known at this point.

The 2007 Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir is 100% Pinot Noir. Fruit was sourced from 4-9 year old vines. This wine spent six months in French oak. Alcohol is a modest 13%. This offering has a suggested retail price of $16.

This Pinot Noir has a beautiful dark hue, and it’s a treat to even look at in your glass. The nose is filled with both red and black cherry notes, underpinned by vanilla. Throughout the palate, cherry characteristics continue, accompanied by rhubarb. Sour cherry emerges on the finish along with leather, tobacco, white pepper and a hint of cola. This wine is framed by tremendous acidity and firm but approachable tannins. This Pinot is delicious and quite drinkable on it’s own, but it has the structure to pair with a wide array of foods. Grilled Lamb skewers with portobello mushrooms strikes me as a particularly good match.

What I like best about this New Zealand Pinot Noir is that it’s well made, well balanced, and crafted in the correct style for this varietal. For $16 this wine is a steal. It over delivers for it’s cost, and is a great introduction to the tremendous Pinot Noirs that are emerging from new Zealand.

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Cosentino Winery – 2006 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on March 23, 2009

cozLast week I looked at one of Cosentino’s Cabernet Francs. As I mentioned at the time, I have found them to be a consistent producer. There are several things that I’ve found particularly impressive about their consistency. One is that they maintain high levels of quality and make interesting wines at a diverse range of price points. Secondly they make an incredible array of different wines that manage to be distinct and varietally correct while also maintaining a house style that brands them as uniquely Cosentino. Today I’ll look at one of their current release Pinot Noirs.

The Cosentino Winery 2006 Sonoma Valley Pinot Noir is sourced from two vineyards; one just north of Carneros, and another in Russian River Valley. This wine was aged in barrel for 9 months. 1265 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $40.

This Pinot Noir has a nice nose of wild strawberry and cherry notes. Throughout the palate pomegranate, cherry and vanilla spice notes star. Leather and earth emerge on the finish, alongside continued vanilla and a touch of nutmeg and a subtle hint of cola. This wine is nicely balanced, with fine acidity.

What I like best about this wine is that it’s a classic expression of Pinot Noir made with Burgundian intent. Way too many Pinot Noir’s from California are made in an overblown style that tastes nothing like Pinot. Thankfully this effort from Cosentino is not in that category. This wine is drinking incredibly well right now, especially after 30 minutes in the decanter. It’ll drink well for the next 3-4 years. This 2006 Pinot Noir is another fine effort by the folks at Cosentino Winery.

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Robert Mondavi – 2006 Private Selection Meritage

Posted by Gabe on March 20, 2009

There are few names as synonymous with California wine as that of Robert Mondavi. Over the years, in addition to his namesake Napa Valley rmps_meritage_beauty_shotWinery, numerous subsidiaries became part of the Mondavi empire. The Private Selection wines are one of those off shoots. These wines tend to have a suggested retail just above $10 and can provide a gateway for people at the beginning of their wine exploration, as well as everyday value for more seasoned wine drinkers. Today I’ll look at their current release Meritage and see what it offers.

The 2006 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Meritage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (72%), Merlot (10%), Petit Verdot (10%), and Malbec (8%). The majority of the fruit was sourced in Monterey County (66%), with the balance coming from Santa Barbara (25%), and San Benito (9%). This wine was aged in oak for 15 months, with 30% of it being new. The suggested retail price for this offering is $11.

The nose of this Meritage is comprised of dark berry fruit notes. Black cherry and plum dominate. Throughout the palate, those dark fruit tones continue, along with vanilla, black pepper, and some hints of cedar. This wine has firm, chewy tannins and good acidity. Some earth emerges on the finish along with more dark fruit and spice notes. This wine will be an excellent match for grilled chops, a burger, or strong cheeses.

The question when I taste a wine of this nature, what am I expecting for $11? I hope for a wine that is well made, true to it’s varietal compostion and hopefully somewhat interesting. This low priced Meritage from Robert Mondavi Private Selection, fits the bill. It has sufficient structure to drink well for a couple of years, tastes true to being mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, and has enough length and interesting elements to make it worth it’s price-tag. Truth be told it’s often available for under $1o. For that amount of money, you won’t mind opening it any night of the week.

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Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | 1 Comment »

promisQous Red – A California Table Wine

Posted by Gabe on March 18, 2009

promWhen tasting a wine it’s important to take into account what the intent and purpose is. Some wines are crafted with the goal of scoring 90 + points in major wine publications. Others are made with the intent of producing wines reflective of their place. And then there are wines produced with the purpose of providing everyday drinking value. The promisQous wines seem to aim for that market. I’ll look at their red blend today and see if it hits its mark.

 promisQous Red is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and other red varietals. Fruit was sourced from several areas in California, though 42% is from Lodi. 15% of the wine was aged in barrel. The suggested retail price for this wine is $12. This offering is available at Supermarkets and Target stores that carry alcohol.

The nose of this blend is filled with plum, red raspberry and vanilla. The palate is loaded with both red and black, lush, ripe, fleshy, jammy, berry fruit flavors. Spice notes in the form of pepper emerge on the finish along with a touch of earth. This wine has the structure and acidity to stand up to a wide away of foods.

For me promisQous Red is a classic pizza wine. This is the price bracket most people are drinking in on a regular basis. For $12 you can buy this on your way home from work and pop it open to pair with leftovers or a burger. The blend of varietals offers a broad array of characteristics that emerge as you drink it, offering something pretty interesting for the price range. So, yes this wine fulfills its intent. This is one I’ll keep in mind to bring with me to the first barbecue of the season.

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

Lucas & Lewellen – 2005 Santa Barbara County Cabernet Franc

Posted by Gabe on March 16, 2009

The final stop, for this edition, of the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc is the Santa Ynez Valley. The previous wines I’ve looked at from Lucas & llLewellen Vineyards impressed me. so it felt like a no brainer to taste their Franc for this series. Lucas & Lewellen has vineyards planted in three distinct regions, Santa Maria Valley, Los Alamos Valley & Santa Ynez Valley. From those vineyards they produce a broad array of releases.

The 2005 Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Franc is produced from Estate fruit sourced at their Valley View Vineyard. This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc. This Franc was aged for 19 months in a combination of 1-5 year old French oak. 650 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $26.

The nose of this Franc is big and bright, full of ripe berries and vanilla notes. Those ripe, lush, berry characteristics carry through the palate, along with cherry and spice notes. The finish brings out nutmeg, cloves, and chocolate covered blackberries. This wine has approachable tannins and good acidity.

What I like best about this Cabernet Franc from Lucas & Lewellen is that it’s opulent, explosive and an absolute joy to drink. This wine makes for pleasurable drinking on its own, but will be a good match for full flavored cuisine. A cheese burger with caramelized onions and hickory smoked bacon would work perfectly. This offering is best enjoyed over the next 3-4 years when its fruit flavors are bright, bold, and delightful.

And thus concludes the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc.

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Casa Nuestra -2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc

Posted by Gabe on March 16, 2009

nuestraOne more stop in Napa Valley for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc. Casa Nuestra Winery & Vineyards is located in the northern part of the Silverado Trail. Their annual case production stands at about 2000, and they make close to a dozen different wines each year. CasaNuestra sources some of their fruit, however most of their wine is produced from Estate grown Vineyards. The Majority of their wine is sold by directly through the tasting room (or website) and Wine Club. They produce blends, single varietal offerings and some field blends. Having been to their tasting room I recommend it for the quality and diversity of the wines, as well as an incredibly welcoming atmosphere.

The 2006 Casa Nuestra Cabernet Franc is 100% varietal. Casa Nuestra has been producing Franc from the same vineyard since 1986. 300 cases of this vintage were produced and it sells for $38.

Leather, blueberry and vanilla appear on the nose of this Napa Valley Franc. This is a full bodied wine with a rich palate filled with notes of dried cranberry, blackberry, and a touch of eucalyptus. The lengthy finish brings on earth, French Roast coffee notes, bramble and mineral characteristics. This wine has a firm tannic structure and excellent acidity. I paired this with a roast pork loin sandwich and found it to be a very good match. Other meats will work as well.

If you’re going to drink this wine in the next year or two decanting is necessary to get the best from it. I’d recommend an hour. If you’re patient tuck it away and it’ll improve over the next 3-4 years and drink well for at least 4-5 after that. I love the big structure this Franc has, and the potential for aging it shows.

Up Next: 1 More Cabernet Franc!

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Nevada City Winery – 2005 Cabernet Franc

Posted by Gabe on March 16, 2009

The Sierra Foothills is the first stop today during the final day of the 12 Days 2005-cab-fr-frontof Cabernet Franc. Nevada City Winery has been producing wine since 1980. The birth of their Winery came at the very beginning of a modern growth spurt in Nevada County. In 1980 there was only one small vineyard under vine, today there are more than 300 acres. Their offerings include single varietal bottlings, dessert wines and a host of blends.

The 2005 Nevada City Cabernet Franc is 100% Varietal. 355 cases of this Franc were produced and the suggested retail price is $23.

The big, bright nose of this Franc is filled with black fruit such as cherries and plum, as well as subtle hints of vanilla bean. A core of ripe fruit explodes through the palate which is rich and sensual. Blackberry pie notes are most prominent. Chicory, white pepper and light earth characteristics fill a medium length finish. This wine has a firm but approachable tannic structure that yields with some air.

This is brighter Cabernet Franc whose fruit has some jam aspects to it. It’s relatively big through the palate, though certainly not over the top. It’s very much California in style and more specifically speaks of its Sierra Foothills origin. This is a very appealing wine, that will please both seasoned wine drinkers with its complexity, and novices with its seductive fruit flavors. I look forward to trying other selections from Nevada City Winery in the future.

Up Next: 2 More Cabernet Francs To Go!

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Imagery Estate Winery – 2005 Cabernet Franc

Posted by Gabe on March 15, 2009

imagerySwitching valleys, the next stop for the 12 Days of Cabernet Franc is back in Sonoma. Imagery Estate Winery was founded by Joe Benzinger of Benzinger Family Winery, with the intent of showcasing varietals and regions that don’t get enough attention. Additionally, each label features unique artwork from a worldwide array of artists. When you visit their tasting room you’ll also find a gallery that showcases artwork from all over the world. The pieces on display have either appeared, or will appear on an Imagery label.

The 2005 Imagery Cabernet Franc was produced using Sonoma Valley Fruit. This wine was aged in French oak for 19 months. The label features the work of French artist Phillipe Dufrenoy. 669 cases of this Franc were produced, and it sells for $38.

This Sonoma Cabernet Franc has a big, effusive nose, loaded with plum, nutmeg and clove notes. The palate has a host of fruit characteristics, including black cherry, raspberry, plum and cassis. The lengthy finish included chocolate covered cherries, spice, mineral and light cola notes. This wine has firm, but approachable tannins and good acidity. I found it to match well with pork loin and roasted potatoes.

This is a well made Franc that should improve in the short term and drink well for at least five years. It was pretty immediately accessible, but did open up even more with some air.

Up Next: The 12 Days of Cabernet Franc Continues!

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