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Archive for May, 2009

Cameron Hughes – 2004 Rioja – Lot 93

Posted by Gabe on May 29, 2009

btl_lot_93Years ago when I started looking for wines with great value, Spain was amongst the first countries that hit my radar. I loved the predominant style of wines from Rioja and found there were a boat load of stunning values coming from there. Fast forward almost two decades and some things have changed and some have stayed the same. The biggest change is that Spanish wines are much better known by US consumers then they were then. What hasn’t changed is that there are still a host of excellent wines coming from Rioja and Spain in general. many of these continue to be excellent values. Today I’ll look at a Rioja from Négociant Cameron Hughes.

The 2004 Cameron Hughes Lot 93 Rioja is of course composed of Tempranillo. 700 cases of this wine wefre produced and the suggested retail price is $21.

Vanilla, cherry and cedar notes are prominent in the nose of this Rioja. When you first open it this wine is a bit tight and an hour or more in the decanter is recommended to get the best out of it now. Licorice, earth, dusty chocolate, star anise, bramble and more are all part of a complex, layered palate that unfolds as this offering opens up. The finish on this wine long, persistent, intense and more than anything else, impressive in both length and scope of complexity. This is and incredibly structured wine with firm tannic structure and excellent acidity. Pair this wine with a steak, or heck have the wine for dinner.

This offering has the benchmark qualities I think of when it comes to Rioja. Good fruit, structure and nice oak treatment. And it over-delivers in its price category. I have found that to be true of Rioja over the years. I haven’t been drinking Cameron Hughes selections as long, but so far he’s delivering a lot of value with each offering I have tasted. At this point I’m comfortable enough that I’d confidently pick up anything with the Cameron Hughes name on it and expect a good deal. By the way you could could easily lay down this particular wine for a decade.

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Posted in Tempranillo, Uncategorized, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Elsa – 2008 Torrontes

Posted by Gabe on May 26, 2009

In the wine world as in other industries things go in and out of favor. That of course has its pluses and minuses. Personally I love the fact that Elsa_Torrontes_Label_mainwe’re getting away from over oaked Chardonnay. Sometimes though a varietal hits our radar for the first time and starts to make inroads. Such is the case with Torrontes. Most familiar with Argentine wine know Malbec. Without question that is Argentina’s signature red grape. How many though know that Torrontes is its flagship white varietal? Thankfully that number has been rising steadily the last few years. Each spring for the last few years it seems there are more and more options on US shelves of this varietal. Today I’ll look at one from Valentin Bianchi, a consistent producer of quality wine across a host of price points.

The 2008 Elsa Torrontes is produced from fruit sourced in San Rafael, Mendoza. This offering is 100% varietal. 2,000 cases of this wine were imported. The suggested retail price is $8.99.

Good examples of this varietal tend to have a lovely nose, and the Elsa does. Citrus, lychee, and orchard fruit are most prominent. The palate is refreshing and dry with continued lychee fruit, hints of hazelnut and oranges notes that echo through the finish. Crisp, clean and mouthwatering are the terms that first come to mind with the medium length finish. This wine beckons you back to the glass for sip after sip. Good acidity keeps everything in check

This Torrontes from Valentin Bianchi is the sort of wine I look towards in Spring and Summer as a “welcome wine” when I have friends over. It’s refreshing, interesting and light enough not to bog anyones palate down out of the box. It also makes an excellent accompaniment to lighter cuisine. Another fine, value priced offering from Valentin Bianchi.

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Monogamy – 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on May 22, 2009

ls_monogamy_cs_frontThis is going to be the second 2006 California Cabernet Sauvignon I’m looking at this week. There are of course many differences. The biggest one is a theme I’ve touched on many tines, intent. The Titus I looked at earlier in the week is clearly a wine built with long life in mind. Monogamy comes with a different approach, mindset and price-point.

The 2006 Monogamy Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon (88%) and Merlot (12%) sourced from various regions in California. This wine spent 14 months in a combination of French and American oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $12.

Bright berry, vanilla and cedar notes are  prominent in the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Throughout the palate, cherry is the star of the show. It’s joined by a host of other characteristics such as blueberry, plum and white pepper notes. Additional cedar, as well as bramble emerge in the finish. The tannins are light and give way easily, lending to a very approachable wine.

This wine is intended for everyday drinking or big gatherings. It’s not built to lay down and age but it’ll be tasty for the next couple of years. The bottom line for me is that it fulfills its intent as an affordable wine that you could pull out on Tuesday night with leftovers or on Memorial Day with a yard full of guests. In either case it provides enjoyable drinking and sufficient varietal character.

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Titus Vineyards – 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on May 19, 2009

In every industry there are names which create an image in your mind as titussoon as you hear them. A couple of the obvious ones when it comes to Napa Valley wine are Mondavi and BV. Then there are the names that sound familiar to a lot of people, but are only truly well known to the converted. Titus Vineyards is in the latter category. They have been turning out exceptional Napa Valley Wine, they’ve received some nice scores and yet they somehow Titus doesn’t have household name status. While they don’t make enough wine to achieve top of mind status like the ones I mentioned above, the offerings I’ve had from them prove they should be on the wish list of anyone who buys premium Napa Valley Wine. Today I’ll look at their current release of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Titus Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from fruit in their Estate valley floor vineyard on Silverado Trail, just past St. Helena. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Petit Verdot (9%), Malbec (9%) and Merlot (5%) are blended in. This selection was aged in French (80%) and American oak (20%); 40% of the barrels were new. 4,402 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $41.

Berry, cloves, and allspice are the most prominent characteristics in the nose of this Cabernet. The palate is rich and persistent, highlighted by an unyielding but balanced expression of pure fruit. An avalanche of ripe cherry is underscored by light pencil lead notes. Earth, bramble and dusty baker’s chocolate notes are all part of an impressively lengthy finish. This offering has chewy tannins, firm structure and good acidity. All of these elements come together as an impeccably balanced wine.

What really stands out about the 2006 Titus Cabernet Sauvignon is that it’s essentially a high end Napa Cab with a mid-range price.  I’ve written quite a bit at my other site, Drink Dry Creek about the relative value of Cabernet available in that region compared to Napa, which can be over priced. Here is an exception. Within its price category this wine over delivers.

If you’re drinking the Titus Cabernet in the next couple of years I recommend decanting it for at least an hour or so. If you’re patient, this Cabernet has everything it needs to improve and drink well for at least a decade.

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | 1 Comment »

York Mountain – 2006 Jack Ranch Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on May 17, 2009

logo_YM_crest_name copyYork Mountain Winery has a history that dates all the way back to 1882. Over that long history they have only changed had a couple of times. The most recent was in 2001 when David & Mary Weyrich, owners of Martin & Weyrich purchased it. They have continued the tradition of producing wines in the York Mountian tradition. Today I’ll look at one of their Pinot Noirs.

The 2006 York Mountain Winery Pinot Noir is made from fruit sourced at their Jack Ranch Estate vineyard. These vines are located in the Edna Valley appellation. The cooler climate there is noted for being a prime spot to grow Pinot Noir. This offering spent 12 months in French oak; 33% of the barrels were new. 212 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $25.

The nose of this Pinot Noir has wild strawberry and touches of cream. Black Cherry, raspberry and generally dark fruit notes dominate the palate. Toasty oak notes emerge in the finish along with sour cherry, vanilla and a touch of earth. This Pinot Noir has excellent acidity and firm tannins.  While this wine will pair beautifully with a wide array of foods, I matched it up with Mushroom Risotto and found it to be a terrific pairing.

Pinot Noir from California can be a mixed bag. Too many examples taste like anything but Pinot. Thankfully this one offers plenty of true Pinot Noir character. Considering the earth of well priced, quality Pinot Noir out there, this selection is a good value in its category.

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Drinking With The Douro Boys

Posted by Gabe on May 14, 2009

A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of tasting wine with the Douro Boys. dbWhat’s that, you don’t know who the Douro Boys are? In short they’re five Winery principals from the Douro Region of Portugal. For the last seven or eight years they’ve joined forces to market their wines and their region together.

While I said I tasted wine with them, it was really so much more than that. These folks present a Masterclass in their wines that’s an excellent introduction, or at the very least enhancement, of the knowledge one has of the Douro. Each of the Douro Boys (one of them is a female btw) exudes passion about the region and its ability to offer unique world class wines. They are of course very different individuals and they approach wine making with divergent thoughts and ideologies. One thing they seem to agree on is this. For the Douro to have a major impact on the global wine market they need to focus on indigenous varietals. The Douro is loaded with old vines, many of them field blends with dozens of varietals planted. It’s in these old vines and Portuguese varieties that they have something to offer no one else does. To plant Cabernet Sauvignon or some other international variety wouldn’t serve them, nor would it offer anything new to wine drinkers.

Of the 23 wines we tasted through four were white, six were ports and the remainder red. I’ll mention some specifics about my favorites below but first a few generalities. The wines we tasted had retail prices starting at under $15 all the way up to over $100. In general the quality was very high and the wines were clearly crafted with care and passion for the art. While I had my favorites, by and large each of them was unique and interesting in its own way. I found the reds to generally have particularly expressive bouquets, often with prominent spice components.

Here are a handful of the wines that stood out most to me:

Amongst the whites, the 2007 Redoma Branco Reserva from Niepoort was my favorite. This wine is composed of about 30 varietals. I found it to be and impeccably balanced white with an excellent finish. Touches of caramel, nutmeg, and toast stood out.

Several of the wines poured are still in barrel back in Portugal. One of these was likely my overall favorite of the day. The 2007 Reserva from Quinta do Vallado is a field blend. The vines it was sourced from are about 80 years of age. I found this wine to have some sour cherry notes, a touch of bacon fat on the finish with a nice bite. Excellent acidity and good balance also stood out here. I found myself crazing roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic when tasting this wine. The suggested retail price for this offering once it’s bottled, will be about $50.

I mentioned the excellent aromatics most of these wines contained, a shining example of that was the Quinta do Crasto 2006 Reserva. 24,000 cases of this beauty were produced from vines with an average age of 65 years. The nose was simply loaded with spice. Clove and nutmeg stood out in particular. For $35 I recall this being an impressive wine that seemed like it would pair with diverse foods.

The Quinta Vale D. Maria Van Zellers 2007 was a wine I found particularly interesting. Approximately 2,500 cases of this offering were produced from purchased fruit. This red was aged in stainless steel. I found it to be a straightforward wine with some Beaujolais like qualities. This is a red wine I’d serve with a hint of a chill on it. An excellent choice for Paella

One of the ports that really stood out was the Quinta do Vale Meão Vintage 2007. This is an incredibly aromatic wine. It offered plenty of dried red fruit characteristics as well as excellent spice. This was a superbly balanced port that I imagine will age nicely. Decanting it and drinking over a long evening would be an interesting study.

The last wine tasted was a Niepoort 1991 Port. This one wasn’t on our tasting drsheet and Dirk van der Niepoort pulled it out after someone commented on his 2005. The 1991 was a real stand out for me. Nuts, caramel and fig notes were the story of a gentle but complex palate. This wine was sweet but restrained. Graceful and elegant are the two words I feel best summed up this lovely finish to an afternoon of tasting and learning.

Anyone tasting these wines, especially with the Douro Boys, would know a lot more about Portugal and the Douro afterwards. The best way to learn about wines is of course to taste them. You can read about them all day, but one sip tells you more than days of research. This Masterclass from the Douro Boys was a case in point. While I’ve had quite a few Portuguese wines in the past, tasting these current and upcoming releases from the Douro was nothing short of a revelation. Going forward I know I’ll have a stronger need to taste the wines of Portugal.

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Twisted Wines – 2007 Pinot Grigio

Posted by Gabe on May 10, 2009

twistedpgWhether you’re headed to a Barbecue, having a casual get together at your own home or eating takeout food on weekday night, you’re probably going to want to pair it with some wine. The difficulty for me in situations like this is picking the right wine. If ‘m headed to a large gathering it’s hard to bring a couple of bottle of high end Chardonnay, Syrah or what have you. But I refuse to bring something I’m not happy drinking myself. So I end up spending a lot of time tasting wines in the under $10 range, looking for a combination of value, wide appeal, and sufficient complexity to keep me interested. Today I’ll look at a Pinot Grigio that fits the bill.

The 2007 Twisted Wines Pinot Grigio was produced using fruit sourced from various regions in California. Alcohol for this wine is a modest 13%. The suggested retail price for this selection is $7.99.

This wine has a lovely pale straw yellow hue. Lemon Zest is most prominent in the nose. What the nose really brings to mind is Lemon Italian Ices. Throughout the palate there is more lemon, pear, apple and honeydew notes. Vanilla and white pepper along with a touch of tart citrus are all part of a medium length finish.

The bottom line for me on this wine is that’s it’s a refreshing white, perfect for large summer gatherings. It has a good price point and sufficient complexity to make it interesting in it’s category. The relatively low alcohol also adds to its warm weather appeal. This wine isn’t going to blow you away, but it’s not intended to. It will however do what it was meant to do which is serve as a nice, refreshing, low priced summer white.

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Martin Ray – 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Reserve Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on May 7, 2009

Chardonnay is planted all over the world. In California most wine making regions grow it. Every grape has the places it really flourishes. When mr_chard_res_07_lbwe’re talking about California Chardonnay there are a couple that seem obvious. Carneros is the first one that comes to mind for me. Lately though I’ve been going out of my way to try Chardonnay grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A nice handful of Chardonnays I’ve had from there, have been terrific. Today I’ll look at a selection from Martin Ray.

The Martin Ray 2007 Reserve Chardonnay is sourced from Bald Mountain Vineyard on the Santa Cruz Mountains. This offering is 100% Chardonnay. Aging was accomplished with 10 months in French Oak barrels. 540 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $25.

The nose of this wine is particularly big and impressive. It bursts from the glass and really provides a welcoming introduction. Apricot, light mango, vanilla and toasty oak are the most prominent aromas. What’s impressive throughout, but most obvious in the mid-palate is an incredible purity of fruit.  Mango and apricot continue along with peach, nectarine and spice notes such as nutmeg and white pepper. The finish is outstanding and lingers, featuring additional spice and a fair sized burst of cream, butter and apple pie crust. This is a very well balanced Chardonnay with excellent acidity. A great match for four cheese Risotto, roasted chicken, or an entree salad.

What I like most about this Chardonnay is the nice complexity and layers of flavor it shows. Oak is relatively prominent, but never distracting. it frames the fruit but doesn’t detract from all that delicious mountain grown flavor. This wine has the structure, balance and solid core of fruit which suggests it’ll drink well for the next 3-5 years. A lovely expression of Chardonnay and  continued evidence of the fine wines coming from the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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Two Wines From Brancott In New Zealand

Posted by Gabe on May 5, 2009

tsBrancott in New Zealand planted the first commercial vineyards in Marlborough more than 30 years ago. In 1979 they made their first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc. This is particularly noteworthy when you consider what an important role that varietal plays in the history, evolution and world-wide recognition of New Zealand’s Wine Industry. Today I’ll look at two of their current release wines, not surprisingly one is in fact a Sauvignon Blanc.

The Brancott 2008 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is made from fruit sourced at two vineyards. This offering is comprised completely of Sauvignon Blanc. The suggested retail price for this wine is $19.

Melon, gooseberry and lemon zest are prominent in the nose. They carry through the palate which also features peach characteristics and hint of grass. Mineral notes, white pepper and some mouth puckering tartness emerge on the finish. Crisp, abundant acidity frames everything and makes this a Sauvignon Blanc that lends itself quite favorably to food.

What stood out most about this Sauvignon Blanc is that even with its hint of grassiness it leans away from the style that normally comes to mind in New Zealand. While that typically grassy Zealand style is often great, I like seeing something different and well done.

The second wine from Brancott is the 2007 Terraces “T” Marlborough Pinot Noir. This wine is of course 100% Pinot Noir. Aging was accomplished in French oak; ages ranged from new to two years old. The suggested retail price for this Pinot Noir is $32.

Black cherry and vanilla dominate the nose of this Pinot Noir. Throughout the palate, raspberry, clove nutmeg and white pepper are prominent along with subtler but present hints of cocoa. The finish of this classy Pinot Noir has an avalanche of deliciously pleasing sour cherry. The structure of this wine is framed by terrific acidity. This is one of those Pinot’s you can order at a restaurant when everyone at the table is eating a diverse array of foods.

What impressed me most about this selection is that it’s clearly age worthy. It should really come together and improve in the short term (2-3 years) and drink well for a couple of years after that. Good and great Pinot Noir is not inexpensive. This is an excellent one at a reasonable price.

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Go Figure – 2005 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on May 3, 2009

With the state of the economy it’s no surprise there are some deals to be had. Sometimes those deals are local and sometimes they’re global. In gfsome cases they’re a little of both. I’ve mentioned négociants a few times lately. Today’s wine is a different spin on that. Gary’s Wine and Marketplace is a NJ retailer with three stores. These stores are run by Gary Fisch and they do a nice job of providing value and selection. I used to shop their Madison store, but am happy they have one in Wayne now, a bit closer to where I live. Over the years Gary has developed relationships with vintners and such as he tastes and buys. On occasion an opportunity to do something unique presents itself. In this case he had the chance to source Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon from what his website says is a “well known” winery. Today I’ll look at that wine.

The 2005 Go Figure Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon was produced and bottled by Girard Winery. Gary’s website doesn’t say that, but the back of the bottle reveals that tidbit. 224 cases of this selection were bottled. Girard has several Cabernt Sauvignon’s which sell for approximately $75, give or take. The 2005 Go Figure sells exclusively through Gary’s for $34.99.

Though I’ve shopped Gary’s over the years, I never had one of the selections he sourced as a négociant, so I was pretty curious. I opened the bottle and found that it was pretty tight at first. No surprise as higher end Napa Cabernet often benefits from some air. The nose started to express itself pretty quickly and I found cedar, vanilla and a host of berry notes. Once it really opened up (an hour did the trick), the Go Figure has a very silky, smooth Mouth-feel filled with a host of berry, chocolate, blueberry, cassis, cherry and tingly white pepper characteristics. Towards the end of the mid-palate chocolate dipped cherry notes became prominent and carried through the finish. White pepper, minerals, dust and a hint of espresso bean make up a lengthy finish.

The bottom line for me is that this wine is a steal. While I understand that $34.99 is still a serious investment for a lot of folks, you’re really getting so much more. Value is relative, but Napa Cabernet of this quality normally sells for at least $60, often more. With only 224 cases, this is a selection to pick up and tuck away for Thanksgiving, Christmas or some other special occasion. Go get  ’em before they’re gone. While I’ve never ordered through their website, if the on-line service is as well run as Gary’s stores are I’m sure it’ll be a smooth transaction.

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | 2 Comments »


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