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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for August, 2009

Valentin Bianchi – Extra Brut NV Sparkling Wine

Posted by Gabe on August 30, 2009

Bianchi_Extra_Brut_BottleI’ve been impressed with the offerings from Valentin Bianchi for several years now. The thing that most hits home with me is their ability to craft well made, value driven wines at numerous price tiers. What I’ve found is that whether you buy one of their under $10 wines or one of their higher end wines such as Enzo Bianchi you’re getting a lot of value for your money. This is true throughout their many tiers of wine.  That’s no small consideration, especially in the economic times we’re in. Today I’ll look at their Sparkling Wine.

The Valentin Bianchi Extra Brut Sparkling Wine is a Non Vintage offering. Fruit for this selection was sourced at two of their vineyards; Dona Elsa Estate and Las Parades Estate. The vines on these two parcels are an average of 760 meters above sea level. This offering is composed of Chardonnay (60%) and Pinot Noir (40%). This Sparkler was produced using the traditional French Champenoise method. 5,000 cases of this wine are produced per year of this wine and the suggested retail price is $29.99.

As I sit on my deck enjoying the one day of sun this late summer weekend has bestowed I continue to wonder why as a people we don’t drink more Sparkling Wine. For some reason it’s largely been relegated to New Years Eve and other celebrations. There is something about popping a cork on some bubbly during those times that signifies a party. But those are all positives, so why don’t we reach for it more often? I can’t answer that, but what I can do is make a more concerted effort to drink Sparkling Wines and cover them here when they stand out. This example from Valentin Bianchi is just another notch on their belt for me as a go to producer of Argentine Wine.

This Extra Brut has a nice yellow hue, slightly tinged by a splash of green bell pepper. Hints of apple, pear and a dash of vanilla are part of the inviting nose. This wine is full flavored and complex. Flaky biscuit, buttery apple pie crust, hazelnut and white pepper join the fruit to form an expressive palate. The finish on this South American Sparkling Wine is lengthy and persistent with spice elements providing a lasting tingle on the tongue and back of the throat.

Whether you choose to drink this Sparkling Wine from Valentin Bianchi with a meal or as a celebratory toast you’re going to enjoy it. This is a well made offering that continues the Bianchi tradition of over-delivering in its price point.

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V-Twin Vineyards – 2007 River Run Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on August 28, 2009

After tasting a couple of Zinfandels from V-Twin Vineyards it’s time to seeRR-Chard what they can do with Chardonnay. I found the Zinfandels quite tasty and was hopeful that the Chardonnay would follow suit.

The 2007 V-Twin Vineyards River Run Chardonnay is produced from fruit sourced in Mendocino. This wine saw no oak treatment. A mere 200 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $15.

Over-oaked Chardonnay is the bane of my existence. Perhaps that’s a bit strong, but you get the idea. I don’t mind some oak but when it’s over the top as it too often is it can ruin some perfectly tasty juice. So I was anticipating tasting this Chardonnay from V-Twin for a couple of reasons. For one I really liked the Zins, and secondly it’s totally un-oaked.

Pineapple, mango and hints of ginger are all part of the fresh and expressive nose of this Chardonnay. From the first sip this wine just hits you with a blast of pure, unadulterated, juicy fruit. That fruit is joined by a tremendous host of spice and mineral notes which pick up mid-palate and carry through the finish which also has touches of cream and Anjou pear. As with the V-Twin Zinfandels this wine will be a good complement with food but doesn’t require it to be enjoyed. This is an excellent white wine to pair with a cheese board presentation.

What I like best about this Chardonnay is the pure expression of fruit it represents. Each of the wines from V-Twin Vineyards has that in common, the fruit shines through. Stay tuned as I look at a couple of wines from Del Fava next week. This is the reserve tier that Scott and his wife have launched in conjunction with V-Twin Vineyards.

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V-Twin Vineyards – 2005 Sonoma County Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on August 25, 2009

VT SC ZinAnother day and a second Zinfandel from V-Twin Vineyards. As I mentioned yesterday Scott Del Fava and his wife are motorcycle enthusiasts. Part of their mission statement is to bring the two worlds together. They aim to make wine a bit less daunting to the average person while also showing that many of their bike riding friends and wine club members are not of the hardcore variety people might stereotypically think of.

The 2005 V-Twin Sonoma County Zinfandel was made from fruit sourced in Dry Creek & Alexander Valley. This wine is a blend of Zinfandel (84%), Carignan (6%), and Alicante Bouchet (10%). This Zinfandel was aged in a combination of French and American oak. Alcohol for this release is a modest 13.8%. 476 cases were produced and the suggested retail price is $24.

V-Twin Vineyards isn’t fooling around when it comes to big Zinfandel. This second offering in two days I’m looking at is as impressive as the Poker Run from yesterday. But there are differences, which is of course key. Raspberry compote and vanilla lead the nose of this Sonoma Zinfandel. The words that came to mind when taking the first sip of this wine were, Raspberry Razzmatazz. There are a quite a few other things going on in this wine to be sure, but raspberry leads the charge. Spice layers underpin the core of raspberry throughout the palate. White pepper, dusty cocoa and nutmeg are all part of the finish which has good length.

This wine is another jammy Zinfandel from V-Twin, though a touch less so than the Poker Run. It’s smoother and more immediately accessible as well. It drinks quite nicely by itself, but sure wasn’t hurt when I paired it with a burger topped with caramelized onions and Manchego cheese.

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V-Twin Vineyards – 2005 Poker Run Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on August 24, 2009

V-Twin Vineyards is Dry Creek Valley based winery that sources fruit from aPRZnumber of locations throughout California to make their wines. In addition to Wine, founders Scott Del Fava and his wife are also major motorcycle enthusiasts. Their future plans for a tasting room includes finding a location where both passions can co-exist for them and their customers. Their website is the first step in that direction with a member photo gallery. I’ll be looking at several of their releases this week, the first is a Zinfandel.

The 2005 V-Twin Vineyards Poker Run Zinfandel was produced from old vine fruit sourced in Alexander Valley. This offering is a blend of Zinfandel (75%), Petite Sirah (15%), Carignan (5%) and Syrah (5%). Oak aging was accomplished over 14 months in a combination of barrel types. 400 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $24.

One of the things that attracts me to Zinfandel is that it can and is made in a very wide variety of styles. As long as they’re well made I can appreciate many of those variations. Speaking of style it’s apparent from the word go that the Poker Run Zin is of the Jammy variety. A huge potpourri of big, bright berry fruit aromas fills the nose of this Zinfandel. Fresh cherries dipped in sweet chocolate are omnipresent throughout the palate of this Zin along darker fruit such as plum and blackberry, not to mention a host of spice notes. Sour cherry, earth, black pepper and hints of vanilla are all part of the remarkably smooth and lingering finish of this wine.

What I like most about this offering is that it’s a classic example of Alexander Valley Zinfandel. It reminds me in some ways of Alexander Valley Vineyards SinZin in style and level of decadence. If you like your Zins big but still balanced, Poker Run from V-Twin Vineyards might just be the wine for you.

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Trapiche – NV Extra Brut Sparkling Wine

Posted by Gabe on August 23, 2009

NV BrutWhen most people think of Sparkling wine, Champagne comes to mind. In truth Champagne represents a small percentage of the sparkling wines out there. As time goes on there are more and more options as additional wineries and regions start experimenting with different styles of Sparkling wines. And of course many counties have long had their own traditions when it comes to them. Today I’ll look at an Argentine example from Trapiche.

The Trapiche Sparkling wine is a non-vintage selection. This offering is a blend of Chardonnay (70%), Semillon (20%), and Malbec (10%). The “Charmat Lungo” method, widely employed for producing sparkling wine in Italy was used.  This wine most often sells for just under $15.

Sparkling wine is a little like Petite Sirah for me. No they don’t have a thing in common. What I mean is that whenever I have an enjoyable example of either it occurs to me that I don’t drink enough of either Petite Sirah or Sparkling Wine.  The Non-vintage Extra Brut from Trapiche has lovely pure yellow hue. Hints of mango emerge in the nose and also continue through the palate which features a serious wallop of pineapple. An edge of creaminess emerges mid-palate and continues forth joined by copious golden delicious apple notes. Towards the back of the palate ginger comes out in force and carries through the finish which has lots of flaky biscuit and yeast elements.

I was impressed with the quality of this wine for the money. Most impressive was the nice finish which lingered. There are hints of sweetness here and there but this is a dry wine. A lot of folks save Sparkling Wine for special occasions. And that’s fine in some ways. But when you can get a tasty and well made sparkler from Argentina for such a reasonable price why wait for a special occasion? Check this wine out and tell me if you agree.  As with the Torrontes, if you like this wine you may want to hit up the folks at Trapiche on their Facebook page.

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Trapiche – 2008 Torrontes

Posted by Gabe on August 20, 2009

When it comes to white varietals from Argentina, Torrontes is poised to be the star of theTorrontes_jpg show. It’s emerging here but not quite on the tip of every wine drinkers tongue yet. The question isn’t if Torrontes is going to break out and be everywhere, it’s when. This is an excellent varietal which most often produces floral wines with diverse food pairing possibilities. Today I’m going to look at a current release from Trapiche. If you shop for Argentine wines the name Trapiche is likely familiar; they make a wide range of offerings in several tiers. The Torrontes I’m examining today is from their varietals tier. These wines are under $15 and aimed at everyday affordability and enjoyment.

The Trapiche 2008 Torrontes is made from fruit sourced in the Mendoza region of Argentina. This offering is 100% Torrontes. This selection can often be found on store shelves for less than $10.

The light yellow hue of this wine is offset by a tinge of green. Hazelnut, vanilla, lemon zest and a touch of Valencia Orange are part of the lovely and evocative nose. Yellow peach and continued underlying citrus characteristics are present through the palate. Toasted nut, white pepper and additional vanilla emerge in the nice finish. This Torrontes has excellent acidity. Trapiche offers a wine that will pair well with a variety of  lighter cuisine. However I really like to use is as a welcome wine when guests first come over.

As I mentioned above Torrontes is primed to become a bigger and bigger player on US shelves in the upcoming years. Right now it’s still under many peoples radar though. That gives you a great opportunity to surprise your friends with something unique they may have not tasted before. While you’re making friends, if you like this wine you may want to hit up the folks at Trapiche who have setup a Facebook page to connect with fans.

Bottom line for me is that this wine is very tasty and well priced. A safe summer bet and one you can bust open no matter how many people you have over.

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Posted in Torrontés, Wine | 1 Comment »

Clean Slate – 2008 Riesling

Posted by Gabe on August 18, 2009

cleanslateI really enjoy Riesling, but over the years I’ve had a hard time finding well priced examples that impress on any level. Too often the offerings on US shelves at an everyday drinking price-point are one dimensional and uninteresting at best. In many casing that single dimension is sweetness. While I enjoy this in a dessert wine, it’s not something I generally look for in table wines.

The 2008 Clean Slate Riesling is from Mosel Germany. The fruit was sourced from a number of vineyards throughout different sections of the Mosel. This wine most often sells for right around $10.

Stone fruit and citrus highlight the aromatic nose of this wine. Throughout the palate white peach notes are prominent and accompanied by underlying touches of lemon zest, tangerine and spice. Terrific acidity, mineral, flint and continued spice are all part of a nice finish. This wine is tasty on its own but it’s really tailor made to pair with food. While Thai cuisine might be the obvious choice, I found it to be an excellent match with a range of Indian dishes I was sampling along with it.

What stands out most to me in this wine is the acidity. It provides a great backbone and gives it the structure to stand up to a variety of foods. This is also a refreshing wine that will keep you coming back to the glass for additional sips. A far cry from the host of cloying and borderline syrupy selections that have often clogged up store shelves over the years. As an everyday selection this provides nice varietal character and represents a solid value.

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Titus Vineyards – 2006 Cabernet Franc

Posted by Gabe on August 15, 2009

A couple of weeks ago when I was out in Napa Valley I had the opportunity to visit Titus Vineyards. They’re right on Silverado Trail yet if you titus francblink there’s a good chance you’ll miss them, which I almost did. Generally they’re not open for public tastings. On this particular occasion they were hosting a blind tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon. Many other folks in the local wine community stopped by with a bottle of wine. Each bottle was in a brown paper bag and had a number assigned. I didn’t count exactly how many there where, or taste every one, but I think it was in the neighborhood of 50 Cabs. It was a fun time and it was nice to say hi to the Titus brothers, who are responsible from some very tasty wines. It put me in the mood to taste and report on more of their selections. Today I’ll look at their current release of Cabernet Franc.

The Titus Vineyards 2006 Cabernet Franc has Cabernet Sauvignon (11%), Malbec (10%), and Merlot (4%) blended in. Barrel aging was accomplished over 20 months in all French oak; 30% were new. 385 cases of this selection were produced. The suggested retail price for this wine is $36.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and been impressed by each release I’ve had from Titus Vineyards. If you add that together with the fact that Cabernet Franc is a varietal I particularly enjoy, you can imagine I was excited to taste this wine. Leather, black fruit and an undercurrent of lavender are the most obvious aromas that emerge from this wine. Dark cherry notes are gloriously prominent and downright exuberant throughout the palate of this Franc. Dark chocolate is also present and echoes throughout this wine from start to finish in varying degrees, reaching a crescendo towards the back of the palate as it leads into the finish. Cloves, mineral and earth are joined by hints of tobacco and black tea on an excellent finish that is marked by it’s length and lingering remnants of excellent acidity which is present throughout. This wine will pair well with roast meats, mushroom based dishes and other flavorful foods.

I went back to this wine after it had been open for 24 hours and it had continued to evolve and improve. If you store this wine properly it’s going to get better in the bottle for the next 5 or so years and drink well for another 5 after that. However, if you’re impatient and plan to drink this Cabernet Franc soon, do yourself a favor and decant it for at least an hour. This wine continues the streak of impressive offerings from Titus Vineyards. The hallmark for me has been a combination of brash and exuberant wines loaded with fruit, that are balanced with excellent structure, firm acidity and the ability to age. Another common trait amongst the Titus wines is that they over-deliver on their price points. If I had paid $55 0r $60 for this wine, it would have still been a fair value. At $36 it’s a tremendous one.

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Posted in Cabernet Franc, Wine | 1 Comment »

Ravenswood – 2006 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel

Posted by Gabe on August 12, 2009

Lodi-zinRavenswood has a long history with Zinfandel. It’s how Joel Peterson made his bones; and while they make many other wines now, Zinfandel is still very much their core. Vineyard Designates, County Series wines, state wide cuvee’s and more make up the array of Zinfandel offerings that Ravenswood produces annually. Each series or tier has different intents and aims in mind. The Vineyard Designated wines for instance are aimed at more seasoned wine drinkers who know Zinfandel pretty well and already understand to some degree, or want to experience that site to site diversity. Today I’ll look at one of the County Series wines. This tier is aimed at the everyday consumer who wants a glass of wine for dinner but needs to keep the cost modest. Wines in this series are often also excellent choices to bring to a large gathering.

The 2006 Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel has Petite Sirah (21%) and Carignane (1%) blended in. This selection spent 18 months in 24-30% new French oak barrels. 84,000 cases of this selection were produced and the suggested retail price is $12.

Black and red raspberry lead the nose of this Old Vine Zinfandel along with a nice helping of vanilla. The palate is loaded with dark, brooding fruit throughout. There are good elements of jam and hints of licorice as well. Tingly, lingering pepper spice emerges on the finish as well as chocolate notes. The Petite Sirah adds nice backbone to this wine and lends to its firm structure which is complemented by sufficient acidity.

This wine fulfills its intent. With 84,000 cases and a $12 price-point you want an offering that tastes like Zinfandel with Lodi characteristics. This wine achieves that and is a solid entry in the category of wines affordable enough for most to drink everyday. Look around and you’ll find it for closer to $9.

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Moon Mountain Vineyard – 2000 Estate Merlot

Posted by Gabe on August 10, 2009

I remember the first time I visited Moon Mountain Vineyard in Sonoma prettyMMmerlot distinctly. It was November of 1998; and it was still called Carmenet Winery. I went with my friend Dave with whom I write the website Drink Dry Creek. We were both impressed with the wines and the facility. It became somewhat of a regular stop for me. Their benchmark wine at the time was their Meritage; a Bordeaux style blend. Today it’s labeled as a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. I believe the intent is the same. In any case they make small quantities of the components that made up the blend. Today I’ll look at such a release from the 2000 Vintage.

The 2000 Moon Mountain Vineyard Merlot was produced from fruit in the Feather Block of their Estate Vineyard. This sits on the southwest side of Mount Veeder at a 1,700 foot elevation. The offering is 100% Merlot. Oak aging was accomplished over 21 months in French Barrels. A mere 196 cases of this offering were produced. At release this wine sold for approximately $30.

I recall tucking this Merlot away about 5 years ago and thinking it would have a really positive evolution with some time in the bottle. So when I popped the cork, more than anything, I was curious if it turned out that way or not. The nose of this Merlot was filled with violets, blackberries and subtle plum notes. The palate still had quite a bit of fruit, but it was softer, and more restrained than it had been on release; becoming lush and smooth. Touches of pencil lead emerged, leading to a finish that was loaded with earth, mineral notes, black tea and dusty cocoa. This wine still had good structure and fine acidity.

This is a beautiful expression of well made Merlot produced from Mountain fruit. I was glad to see that time in the bottle served it well. Of course now I wish I had a case of it tucked away, but alas I do not.

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Posted in Library Selection, Merlot, Wine | Leave a Comment »


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