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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for April, 2009

Ravenswood – 2007 Vintners Blend Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on April 25, 2009

The Vintners Blend series from Ravenswood started with Zinfandel; vbnot surprising for a Winery that is best known for that grape. They’ve since expanded and now make a number of Vintners Blend Wines. The intent is to provide everyday affordability, while maintaining varietal character and providing a well crafted wine. Today I’ll look at the current release Chardonnay.

The 2007 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Chardonnay is made from fruit sourced throughout California. 5% Muscat Canelli is blended in. This wine was aged in French oak; 25% of the barrels were new. The suggested retail price for this offering is $10.

Mango, apple and nutmeg characteristics are what jumped out at me in the nose of this Chardonnay, along with a hint of toasty oak. The palate features a solid and balanced core of orchard fruit notes. Apple pie spice and buttery crust notes underscore the fruit and provide a nice counter balance. Mineral notes emerge in the finish, joined by continued spice elements. Everything is kept in check by sufficient acidity. This wine drinks nicely on its own and will pair well with lighter foods.

This Chardonnay leans towards the oaky side but it never goes all the way there maintaining that all important balance that makes it enjoyable to drink. In its price point it offers good value. The 2007 Vintners Blend should please people on both sides of the Chardonnay/oak debate as it threads the needle well. Another solid entry in the Vintners Blend series that fulfills its intent.

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Lucchesi Vineyards – 2006 Cabernet Franc

Posted by Gabe on April 23, 2009

cab-franc-05-frontLucchesi Vineyards and Winery is located in the Sierra Foothills. They have 20 acres under vine; planted to a wide selection of varietals that were found suitable for their terrain. The vineyard itself is a steeply terraced one, with southwestern exposure, maximizing the sunlight hours. I’ve come across an increasing number of wines from this region that are well crafted, enjoyable, and good values. Today I’ll look at the Lucchesi Vineyards Cabernet Franc to see if it falls into that category.

The Lucchesi Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc was sourced at their View Forever Vineyard. This offering has 5% Merlot blended in. It was aged in French oak (25% new) for 21 months. 278 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $24.

Plum, berry pie and spice are on full display in the nose of this Cabernet Franc. Throughout the full bodied palate, there is a host of spices; clove, nutmeg, and white pepper, which all accompany the generous wallop of rich, fresh, dark berry fruit characteristics. Towards the end of the mid-palate, chocolate covered cherry notes emerge and carry forward through the long, memorable finish which also features earth, mineral, and black tea reference points. This wine has approachable tannins that give way with some air. Sufficient acidity frames this Franc. This offering will be a good match with hard cheeses, mushroom based dishes, or grilled meats.

I really enjoyed this wines combination of full flavored fruit, indicative of the Sierra Foothills and the true Cabernet Franc characteristics, such as a big nose that shine through. This offering is structured enough to lay down for several years. It’s likely to improve in the short term (3-5 years) and drink well for several years after that.

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Williams & Humbert Dry Sack 15 Sherry

Posted by Gabe on April 21, 2009

drysacksolera-botellaThere are numerous designations for dessert wines in the world. In Europe especially, many countries have their own proprietary dessert wines. These are generally made in strict accordance with local regulations. Italy has Vin Santo, Portugal has Port of course  and Madeira which is specific to the Madeira Islands. Spain is home to several well regarded wine regions and has a bevy of varietals that flourish there, has Sherry as their best known entry in the Dessert category.

Much like Port and Madeira there are numerous classifications and styles within the broader Sherry category. Each of them can be indicative of production method, aging requirements and even level of sweetness. The one I am looking at today is a blend of Oloroso (78%) and Pedro Jimenez (22%). The Pedro Jimenez is added to sweeten and balance the drier Oloroso wine.

The Williams & Humbert Dry Sack 15 is made in the Solera method. As the name indicates this wine was aged for a minimum of 15 years. The suggested retail price for this Sherry is $29.99

The nose of this Sherry has expressive toffee, hazelnut and spice notes. As you take the first sip, reference point to sweetness come out and play a little bit of a trick on your palate. While this wine does have a nice sweetness to it, it’s a touch drier than it seems at first blush. Throughout the palate apricot characteristics play a huge role and are really quite lovely and bold. These are joined by gentler reminders of orange peel, figs, balsamic vinegar, continued hazelnut, and a host of spice notes. The finish of this Sherry is lengthy and clean featuring mineral and tea notes.

What I liked best about this Sherry is how well it threads the needle between dry and sweet. It offers elements of both and thus is a very well balanced wine that will  pair well with a wide array of desserts. Because it isn’t super sweet it’s also easy to drink well on its own without fatiguing your palate. A truly gorgeous wine, and within the realm of dessert wines, this is a bargain.

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Clos du Bois – 2004 Briarcrest Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on April 19, 2009

cdb_label_briarcrest_lr1Clos du Bois is one of the biggest, most well known wineries in California. The variety of wines they make in a number of categories, truly runs the gamut. Amongst those offerings are a number of smaller and mid size production wines that highlight grapes or areas. The Cabernet Sauvignon I’m looking at from them today, is such a wine.

The 2004 Clos du Bois Briarcrest Cabernet Sauvignon is made from fruit sourced at a handful of Alexander Valley vineyards. This offering is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. This Cabernet was aged in all French oak for 24 months; 86% of the barrels were new. 4,150 cases of the 2004 Briarcrest were produced and the suggested retail price is $42.

Wild blueberries, lavender, toasty oak, and plum reference points lead the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Throughout the palate both red and black berry fruits are part of a rich, persistent core which is full flavored but never over the top. Smoke and earth, both indicative of its Alexander Valley heritage also emerge and continue through the finish. Additionally, chicory, dusty baker’s chocolate, black tea, and light mineral notes lead the charge in a lengthy, lingering finish that coats the tongue and back of the throat, staying and staying. This wine is framed by firm tannins which cede with air; a fine acidity keeps everything in check.

What I liked best about this wine is that it’s simultaneously bold and gentle. The flavors are big, but they never overwhelm. This wine is drinking quite well now but will undoubtedly improve for a handful of years and drink well for several more after that. A fine effort by Clos du Bois, that shows off Alexander valley’s proclivity towards excellent Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Angeline – 2006 Mendocino County Gewürztraminer

Posted by Gabe on April 16, 2009

The Martin Ray family of wines comprises several labels, in addition to the ang_mc_gewurz_06main Martin Ray brand. One of those is Angeline. Under that label they source fruit from both their home region in and around Russian River as well as some other appellations. The wines bottled under the Angeline label generally retail in the low to mid teens; some a little lower. Today I’ll look at their Gewurztraminer.

The 2006 Angeline Gewürztraminer was sourced in Mendocino County. This wine is 100% varietal. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. 2,850 cases of this wine were produced. It’s most commonly available for right around $10.

The nose of this Gewürztraminer is filled with apricot, lychee fruit and subtle rose petal aromas. Continued apricot, as well as mineral characteristics are prominent throughout the palate. These are underpinned by hazelnut notes. The finish of this Gewürztraminer is gloriously dry. White pepper notes are prominent and joined by additional spice reference points that linger for a nice close to this wine. This wine drinks well on it’s own but will really perform well when it accompanies spicier Thai foods, as well as light summery dishes.

What I like best about the Angeline Gewürztraminer is that it’s made in a dry style. That style allows its true varietal character to shine. This wine is a very good value in its price category. It’s also another solid wine made from fruit sourced in Mendocino County, which continues to emerge as a region to keep an eye on. Please stay tuned for more coverage of the Martin Ray wines soon.

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Cameron Hughes – 2006 Lot 52 Malbec

Posted by Gabe on April 14, 2009

ch-malbecMost Négociants focus on sourcing wine from one region or country. Cameron Hughes takes a different approach. They source wine for their label from the entire world. This achieves a number of things. First of all it makes their potential portfolio at any given moment quite vast and diverse in terms of wine types, secondly it also allows a broad spectrum of price points. Today I’ll look at their current release of Malbec.

The Cameron Hughes 2006 Lot 52 Malbec is sourced in Mendoza Argentina. This wine is 100% Malbec. 1,800 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $13.

There are some things that go together so naturally that you can’t think of one without the other coming to mind. Argentina and Malbec are two such things for me. Certainly there are many other fine varietals coming out of Argentina, but Malbec is their calling card, it’s the wine that shines most prominently, and often in their country.

The Lot 52 from Cameron Hughes has a nose that exudes plum, blueberry, and most prominently, smoky characteristics. Throughout the palate there is a rich and mouth-filling core of solid dark berry fruit notes. Black Raspberry and Blackberry are the most extroverted of these. The finish has all the earthy charm that’s wonderfully typical of Malbec from the Mendoza region. These characteristics are joined by a fair sized wallop of bacon fat. This wine has firm tannins that yield with some air, and a solid backbone of acidity that keeps everything in check. Grilled meats are the classic accompaniment for this wine.

The two things I like best about this Malbec are that it’s a traditional, well made example of the varietal with all the charm that comes with it. This Malbec from Cameron Hughes also happens to over deliver for its $13 price point. 

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Three Wines For Easter Dinner

Posted by Gabe on April 8, 2009

With Easter a few days away, everyone is probably worried about what to cook. Personally I’m more vested in which wines to serve, to match those foods. So I decided to find a trio of wines I could recommend. Thus I’m presenting a wine for each of three courses; Appetizers, Main Course and Dessert.

moscatoFirst up is the Martin & Weyrich Moscato Allegro. This offering is based on the Muscat Canelli grape. The intent with this wine is to make a Moscato in the Italian style. Martin & Weyrich even used the bottle that is traditional for this in Italy. Alcohol is a modest 7.8%. 65,000 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $12.

The nose of this wine is loaded with orchard fruits such as white peach and apricot. A touch of spice also makes its presence known. Throughout the palate the Moscato Allegro is incredibly refreshing. White peach notes continue and are joined by some lighter citrus notes. Honey notes emerge on the finish, which is zesty and full of lingering spice notes.

This Moscato will be perfect on Easter served as a welcome wine, or paired with just about any appetizer. It’s light bodied with some pleasing sweetness. What I like best about this wine as the starter is that it won’t bog anyone down with too much alcohol or sweetness. It has just enough, and that’s balanced by excellent acidity. It’s likely your Easter guests will be hesitant to move on to the next wine when they get a hold of this one.

The main course wine is from Two Angels, headquartered in Napa. The divinity2006 Divinity is produced from fruit sourced in High valley. This blend is 52% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 20% Mouvedre and 6% Petite Sirah. Grapes were sourced at Shannon Ridge Vineyards. This blend was aged in a combination of French (70%) and American (30%) oak barrels; 35% of them were new. 500 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $25.

Blueberry, plum and raspberry aromas are underscored by touches of vanilla and nutmeg in the nose of this wine. The palate is absolutely loaded with rich, dark, explosive fruit notes that envelop the palate and scream out with unadulterated joy. Hints of white pepper, bright red cherry, and toasty oak emerge in the lengthy finish. This wine keeps beckoning you back to the glass for another sip. Divinity has a firm but yielding structure and excellent acidity.

The question is Ham or Lamb? That’s what most people will serve on Easter in the United States. Either way Divinity has you covered and will make an excellent accompaniment. If you’re Italian like me and your family insists on serving a heavy pasta dish after the antipasto and before the meat course, have no fear, Divinity has your back. This wine will match well with Ravioli, Lasagna or even Angel Hair with Marinara sauce. It’s a delicious wine and will impress both the wine geeks in your family and the novices simply looking for a glass of red to pair with their food.

closDessert is important for any Holiday meal and Easter is no exception. My recommendation this holiday is to go with a Late Harvest Zinfandel. Specifically the 2006 from Clos LaChance. This wine is made from 100% Zinfandel. The fruit is sourced from a specific block of Zinfandel that is grown specifically for this wine. Alcohol is 16%, modest for a Late Harvest Zin. A mere 84 cases of this selection were produced and the suggested retail price is $26.00.

This Late Harvest Zinfandel has a bright nose. Cherries are prominent and are joined by hints of apple that underscore them. Raspberry, strawberry and a host of other berry fruit notes dominate the palate which is full flavored but a touch lighter in body than the average Late Harvest Zinfandel. The finish brings out some chocolate notes, black pepper, lingering light mineral and spice qualities. This Zin can be dessert on it’s own or match it with chocolate or berry topped cheesecake. Either way it’s a perfect, and slightly decadent way to end a celebratory holiday meal.

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Posted in Blends, Dessert Wines, Dining, Moscato, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »

Ravenswood – 2006 Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on April 5, 2009

Ravenswood makes so many different wines it’s hard to keep up with everything they’re doing. Generally speaking there are three designations bottle_napa_zinfto the Ravenswood Family of Wines, Vintners Blend, County Series and Vineyard Designates. The Vinters Blends serve the everyday drinking crowd looking for affordability and value, while retaining varietal character. The County Series seems to take a harder focus on what a particular varietal does in a given area. The Vineyard designates are just that. I’m going to look at one of their County Series Zinfandels today, with a couple more to come in the next few weeks.

The 2007 Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel is sourced from a variety of vineyards throughout the county. This offering is 86% Zinfandel, 13% Petite Sirah and the balance Carignane. Aging was done in French oak for 18 months; 30% of the barrels were new. 22,000 cases of this Zinfandel were produced and the suggested retail price is $18.

There were two things in my head when I sat down to taste this wine. One is the simple fact that when it comes to Ravenswood, Zinfandel is their calling card. The other is that I’m always pleased to see Petite Sirah blended in with Zin or vice versa. They strike me as incredibly natural partners, and the combined effort, is so often, greater than the sum of the parts.

Plum, blueberry and cloves fill the nose of this Napa Valley Zinfandel. Throughout the palate, berry and spice notes continue and fill your taste buds with layers of flavor. Continued berry, emerging earth, and a wallop of additional spices are all part of an impressive finish. This wine has good acidity and a firm tannic structure. This will be an excellent match for a burger, lamb chops, or other full flavored foods.

This Zinfandel is tight out of the bottle right now, and in need of decanting, if you want to enjoy it today at its best. If you can wait, lay it down for several years and it should both soften and come together into an even more impressive package. I went back to this wine 3 times after it had been open for 24, 48 and 72 hours. The first two times I went back it was drinking better than it had previously. The third time it was holding its own. In any case, an impressive Zinfandel for its price-point, which fulfills the intent of showcasing true Zinfandel character and Napa Valley origins.

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Robert Oatley Vineyards – 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot

Posted by Gabe on April 3, 2009

Blends always fascinate me. I always find it interesting to discover if when several oatleycomponents come together, they’re greater than the sum of the parts. In Australia blending Cabernet Sauvignon with Shiraz is very popular. So much so that it seems to have influenced producers in other regions to follow suit. When they’re done well, they can be intriguing blends, with both varietals strutting their stuff, so to speak. The blend I’m looking at today is from Australia, but it’s not Cabernet and Shiraz.

The 2007 Robert Oatley Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot is sourced in Mudgee, New South Wales. This is a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance Merlot. It was aged for 12 months in French oak. Each varietal was harvested, fermented and barrel aged separately before blending and bottling. 5,600 cases of this wine, finished in Screw Cap, were produced. The suggested retail price is $20.

The nose of this wine is filled with bright red cherry notes and a hint of vanilla. Throughout the palate this wine is lush and mouth-filling with balanced fruit flavors from each varietal shining through. Black pepper and hints of sour cherry emerge on the finish which is above average in length. This wine has very good acidity and gentle, yielding tannins. This Cab/Merlot blend will be a good match for a wide array of foods.

What I like about this wine is that is shows off a side of Australian Wine that some folks never think of. Big, bold Shiraz is the Australian calling card, and with good reason, they make a lot of great ones. Here’s a look however at a wine that defies that flavor profile and offers good complexity in a gentler, approachable, food friendly package.

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Wyndham Estate – 2006 Bin 505 Shiraz Rosé

Posted by Gabe on April 1, 2009

we_505_bottleWith Spring here and summer coming down the tracks, my thoughts go to Rosé. There is something about drinking dry Rosé in the summer, that simply can’t be replicated the rest of the year. At this time of year I tend to taste through quite a few examples so I can find the Rosé I plan to lean on that coming summer. Of course I have my standbys, but each passing year there is thankfully more and more Rosé on US shelves. I try to find one I haven’t had before to enjoy going forward. Today I’ll look at an example from down under.

The 2006 Wyndham Estate Bin 505 Shiraz Rosé was sourced from several regions in the South Eastern part of Australia. This wine is all Shiraz. The suggested retail price for this wine is $10.

This Rosé has a gorgeous strawberry hue that shimmers beautifully in your glass. Raspberry, vanilla and wild strawberry notes emerge in the nose. Throughout the palate there is an abundance of bing and black cherry characteristics. The finish has continued cherry this time with a sour tinge. Terrific acidity keeps this wine well balanced and refreshing. This offering will pair well with lighter, warm weather foods. It also drinks nicely on its own and would be a good choice as a welcome wine at your first outdoor event this year.

What I like best about this Rosé is that it hits the characteristics I’m looking for, in a modestly priced package. It’s refreshing, provides  terrific fruit flavors, will be a good match with food and reminds me of fun. At this price it won’t break the bank either. Definitely a contender for my Summer 2009 Rosé of choice.

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