Gabe's View

Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for January, 2010

Haber Family Vineyards – 2006 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on January 27, 2010

There are winemakers out there who work on numerous projects throughout the year on a consulting basis. Some like Napa Valley’s Bob Pepi consult in several countries as well as work on their own projects. Another California based one who hit my radar over the last few years is Tim Milos. Various wines he was involved with impressed me, but it was Tim’s work with Rubissow that really knocked my socks off. So when I became aware of Haber Family Vineyards, his involvement was one of the reasons I was interested in checking out their wine. They’re a mountain Winery like Rubissow and it takes a particular talent in my opinion to get the best out of mountain fruit. New wineries and small family owned producers are of particular interest to me as well and Haber Family Vineyards, which was started in 2004, fits both bills. While their winery sits on Howell Mountain they also produce a wine from Diamond Mountain. Today I’ll look at that wine.

The Haber Family Vineyards 2006 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon is their inaugural release. This offering is composed entirely of Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel aging was accomplished over a period of 20 months in French oak; 85% of the barrels were new. A mere 380 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $80.

This 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon has a beautiful dark hue that presents strikingly when poured. Deep, dark, brooding, berry notes lead the nose. Subtle eucalyptus, cedar and vanilla aromas also play a role. The palate is generously flavored and loaded with layer after layer of well proportioned and even keeled, but relentless and intense fruit flavors. Plum, cherry and blackberry are the most prominent. A host of spice notes are present as well.  These flavors give way to chocolate covered blackberry and an avalanche of earth that form the core of this wines tremendous finish. This Cabernet has good structure and firm tannins; excellent acidity provides the framework.

If you’re going to drink this wine over the next couple of years, decanting it is highly recommended to get the most out of it. If you have the patience to lay it down, this Mountain Cab will evolve beautifully over the next decade or so. I went back to this Cabernet after it had been open for 24 hours and again when it had been open for 48 hours. In both cases the wine had continued to evolve positively. It might have even been at its best after 48 hours. In any case it was consistently impressive

The lengthy finish and depth of flavor in the palate are both noteworthy. When you take into account that this wine is the first release it’s exciting to consider what Haber Family Vineyards will unleash going forward. It’s also clear that Tim Milos is amongst the folks who have the ability to get at the core of mountain fruit and let it show off its purity and power. This is an excellent wine, well worth its price tag.  

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Sandeman – 20 Year Tawny Port

Posted by Gabe on January 25, 2010

Tawny Port is amongst the categories of dessert wines that I reach for most often. When they’re done right, the combination of flavor and quality in an often very reasonable price point is hard to resist. Throw in the general availability of a great number of standard bearer Tawny Ports and it’s easy to see why a lot of folks look towards them for their after dinner wine needs. All Tawny Ports aren’t created equally of course so I find sampling them a fascinating exercise. Today I’m going to look at an example from long time Port House Sandeman.

The Sandeman 20 Year of Tawny Port was aged in wooden casks. As the name indicates the average age of the wines blended is at least 20 years. The suggested retail price for this Port is $51.99

Fruitcake spice and stone fruit aromas lead the nose of this 20 Year Tawny Port. Apricot and yellow cling peach flavors are apparent on the palate along with honey and various nut characteristics. The finish of this wine is long and lingering with tea notes leading the charge; they’re joined by vanilla and continuing spice. This Sandeman Port is delicious on its own and many may consider this to be dessert in and of itself. I sampled it that way and personally I most often drink Tawny Port on its own. However I tasted it with sweet cranberry-walnut bread topped with a triple crème cheese and found that to be an outstanding match as well.

Two things stood out to me most about this Port. First is the mid-palate of the wine which is simultaneously rich and layered with flavors but yet gentle and even keeled. The finish is also impressive in length. Just when you think it’s going to end, the flavors linger a bit longer. This Sandeman Tawny Port is an excellent entry in the 20 Year category. In its class it offers excellent quality and solid value.

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Simonsig Family Vineyards – 2005 Pinitage

Posted by Gabe on January 23, 2010

Every wine region has its signature grape varietal, some like South Africa have a couple. For white wine its Chenin Blanc and when it comes to reds it’s Pinotage. The varietal was created about 85 years ago when Cinsault and Pinot Noir were crossed. And while there are other reds that do well in South Africa, Pinotage is the varietal that sets them apart from the pack. Today I’ll look at one from Simonsig Family Vineyards.

The Simonsig 2005 Pinotage was made from fruit sourced in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. This offering is 100% Pinotage. Approximately 5,000 cases of this selection are produced each vintage. The suggested retail price for this wine is $14.99.

An extroverted nose, loaded with cherries, mulled spices and cedar leads this 2005 Pinotage. Taking the first sip, fleshy fruit flavors emerge. Both black and blue flavors star with blueberry, blackberry and cherry leading the way. Kirsch liqueur flavors emerge mid-palate and continue through to the finish which features flourishes of burnt sugar and a host of continuing spice notes such as black pepper, cinnamon and cloves. These give way to a savory component that’s joined by a nice closing wallop of sour berry. This wine has good structure and solid acidity.

Both Pinot Noir and Cinsault are generally speaking excellent food wines when they’re made well. It’s no surprise then that a well made and balanced Pinotage would also be a terrific food wine. This Pinotage is both of those things. It’ll pair well with many foods but a hearty and spicy beef based chili would be an inspired pairing. This wine is delicious now but don’t hesitate to hold onto it for several years. The tannins will soften a bit and make this an even more appealing selection. For under $15 this is a very solid value packed with flavor.

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2010 New York Wine Expo Is Around The Corner

Posted by Gabe on January 19, 2010

The 3rd annual NY Wine Expo is coming next month. I’ve attended the first two and found it to be a large scale wine event worth attending for wine lovers. Read my review of the 2009 edition here, and 2008 here. Readers of this site can save $10 on either Friday or Saturday tickets by using the code: GABESVIEW. Specific event details follow:


The 3rd Annual New York Wine Expo is February 26 through 28 at the Jacob Javits Center. In all, the Grand Tasting offers attendees a chance to sample more than 600 wines from over 170 winemakers from around the globe. Seminar presenters include Gloria Maroti Frazee, who oversees Wine Spectator School, and Leslie Sbrocco an award-winning author, and Founder of “Thirsty Girl” a brand new multi-media company focused on wine, food and travel.

New York Wine Expo Hours
Friday, February 26, 6:00 – 10:00 PM; $75, prior to Feb. 19
Saturday, February 27, 2:00 – 6:00 PM   $85, prior to Feb. 19
(Sunday is for trade professionals only)
Go to for tickets and additional information or call 800-544-1660.

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Urraca – 2007 Familia Langley Reserva

Posted by Gabe on January 18, 2010

It was just about a year ago that I first tasted the offerings from Argentine producer Urraca Wines. Since then I’ve gone back to them several times and been impressed each time with their overall portfolio. Their wines hit a different segment of the Argentine wine imports than most. Within the vast number of wines from Argentina, the majority on US shelves are value based. Some of those values are outstanding and provide quality and some are generic. What Urraca does from the get go is to aim higher. They start at a premium level and then also make super-premium offerings. So while the least expensive wine you’re going to find from them is in the mid to high teens, there is value to be had. Today I’m going to look at the current release of their flagship wine. This wine is certainly within the super-premium category. The question is does it still deliver value, or even a bargain, in its price point.

The Urraca 2007 Familia Langley Reserva is made using fruit from the Mendoza region of Argentina. The proprietary blend is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Malbec (30%), and Merlot (30%). Barrel aging was accomplished over 18 months in a combination of French and American oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is approximately $70.

A potpourri of dark berry aromas lead the exuberant nose of this 2007 blend. Blackberry and cherry (both red and black) intermingle along with lots of white pepper and hints of nutmeg throughout the palate of this selection. This wine has serious length. The impressive finish is marked my minerals, earth, black pepper and a hints of charcoal. This wine has firm tannins that soften in the glass. Excellent acidity provides the framework and keeps everything in check.

There are three things which I find equally impressive about this wine. First and quite importantly is its consistency. I was blown away by the 2005 version of this wine and was quite curious to see how the 2007 edition would stack up. Nothing to worry about there, the 2007 is every bit as impressive. The second thing that struck me is the tremendous level of even-keeled intensity that this wine displays from the first sip through the long finish. There are a lot of wines that hit you up front with big fruit and then the flavor drops as if it fell from a cliff. While this wine has little peaks and valleys, it manages to maintain a notable level of complex, layered and concentrated flavors throughout. The third thing that impresses me is the finish on the Familia Langley, which is noteworthy in length.

If you’re going to drink this wine in the short term, decanting for an hour or two is strongly recommended. However if you’re patient and can lay it down for a few years, you will be rewarded by a wine that will show plenty of positive evolution. Yes this wine is $70, and yes for that money it’s still, very much, an excellent value. It compares favorably to many blends from a number of regions of the world that hit the triple digit price point.

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Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Cinnabar Winery – 2007 Paso Robles Merlot

Posted by Gabe on January 14, 2010

Merlot is easily one of the most maligned varietals of the last decade. The film Sideways did little to help its cause. But in my opinion what hurt Merlot’s reputation more was the sea of insipid examples out there. For every excellent Merlot there’s one that’s sweet, flabby and worst of all innocuous. There’s nothing more discouraging than drinking a wine and being unable to distinguish what varietal it is. Thankfully though, along with the solid examples that have always been out there, the tide seems to have shifted a bit. More and more of the Merlot’s I’ve tasted, in a wide array of price categories, from all over the world, actually taste like what they are. Today I’ll look at an example from Cinnabar Winery.

The Cinnabar Winery 2007 Merlot I made from fruit sourced in two sections of Paso Robles. 95% of the wine is Merlot with 5% Petit Verdot blended in as well. Barrel aging was accomplished over 16 months in a combination of American and Hungarian oak; 15% were new. The suggested retail price for this wine is $21.

Dark fruit aromas with an undercurrent of jam fill the inviting nose of this Paso Robles Merlot. Blackberry pie, cherry and plum pudding spice notes are the most prominent parts of the full flavored palate. Chocolate notes as well as hints of graham cracker emerge on the finish which has yielding tannins, good length and a velvety mouth feel. Solid acidity keeps everything in check.

I like this Merlot a lot for a couple of reasons. Most importantly it’s true to the varietal. Secondly it’s a fine example of Paso Robles wine. The combination of fruit from two distinct areas in Paso helps keeps things balanced and provides for a style that shows both the big fruit that Paso is known for as well as the proportion that can be achieved. A nice value.

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A Vertical Tasting of Swanson Vineyards Salon Chardonnay, Vintages 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

Posted by Gabe on January 11, 2010

Once upon a time I was ready to give up on New World Chardonnay. More than anything though it was really California Chardonnay I’d grown weary of. So many of the wines I tasted were overburdened with oak to the point of blunting the fruit. The litany of jokes made in tasting rooms and elsewhere about these wines could easily fill a book. I’m not sure anyone is printing joke books these days. If they were though there’s lots of material. It got to the point where I found it tiresome to even try new Chardonnays. Many of them, were high scored, and well regarded, yet there was a seeming avalanche of sawdust in my mouth. So I drank mostly Chablis, when I had the chance, and when I felt adventurous I’d try one from California.

Then one incredibly fateful day I made my first visit to Swanson Vineyards Salon in Napa Valley. While I liked the first wine they poured Rosato, I was dubious when then Salonnier Shawn Larue said the next wine was Chardonnay. I must have made a face because Shawn assured me that what I was about to taste was not a typical over oaked wine that was in fashion for many years. I thanked him for mentioning it but inside I thought “we’ll see about that.” From the first sip the Swanson Chardonnay was nothing short of a revelation. The fruit starred gloriously and there was complexity to spare. “That’s amazing,” were the first words I recall uttering after the very first sips I ever took of Swanson Chardonnay. More than anything it reminded me of a fine Chablis. I  Joined their wine club soon after in large part so I could have guaranteed access to the Chardonnay. It’s only made in small quantities and if there’s any left after the wine club gets their allotment you can get some through the Salon. I wasn’t taking that chance. I’ve come to love the Swanson portfolio of wines in general. The Chardonnay though, for my money, there isn’t a finer one in Napa Valley.

I was recently going through my cellar and realized I had four vintages of the Chardonnay on hand. It was obvious that the only thing to do was invite some friends over for a vertical tasting. What follows are some of my impressions about these wines and how they’re currently tasting.

The Swanson Chardonnay is available through the Salon in Rutherford. The suggested retail price for the current vintage (2008) is $36.

Swanson Vineyards 2005 Salon Chardonnay – This wine has changed remarkably in the time since it was released. Much of the fruit has dropped off at this point. The spice and mineral elements which were always present have pushed to the fore front. This now lean, mineral laden wine turned out to be the favorite of most during the vertical tasting. A nice showcase for the potential longevity of well made, balanced, white wines.

Swanson Vineyards 2006 Salon Chardonnay – This wine is definitely transitioning at this time. The spice component is present as are hints of minerals. However they’re not as prominent as on the 2005. There is more fruit present right now. I’ll be curious to see how it develops further over the next year and if it gets to the second life the 2005 is currently enjoying.

Swanson Vineyards 2007 Salon Chardonnay – Of the four vintages this is probably the one drinking at closest to its peak efficacy right now. It’s all about personal taste of course but the 2007 still now has all the glorious fruit this Chardonnay features in its youth. There’s plenty of complexity as well with spice, mineral notes and the great length this wine traditionally features. An excellent vintage of a very consistent wine in its peak drinking window.

Swanson Vineyards 2008 Salon Chardonnay – This is the current vintage of this wine, released this past August. Not surprisingly this vintage currently has the biggest fruit of the bunch. Gentle hints of butter are present along with the classic spice elements. Mineral notes are just starting to eek out of this wine and I suspect they’ll become much more prominent over time. While it’s delicious now, history tells me that to my taste I’m going to like this wine even more in about 5-6 months.

Vertical tastings can be fascinating and instructive. This one was no different. While everyone had their favorites, for a variety of reasons, there was some consensus. Regardless of how much the older vintages have evolved, the house style, we agreed was evident throughout. While age and of course vintage variation play a strong role, the consistent quality of the Swanson Salon Chardonnay from year to year was on display.

So the moral of the story here is two-fold. First of all if you like a varietal, don’t give up on it if you run across some examples you don’t like. You may eventually find one you love. The tide may also shift as it has with California Chardonnay. Of course the oak laden butter bombs are still out there. Thankfully though there are less then of them than before. The other part of the story? If you like excellent Chardonnay, that has fruit, complexity, and a good bit of longevity, do what you have to and get your hands on a bottle of Swanson Salon Chardonnay.

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Win 2 Tickets to ZAP !!!

Posted by Gabe on January 9, 2010

ZAP, the organization devoted to Zinfandel is having its 19th Annual Festival in San Francisco this month. And as a reader of Gabe’s View you have the chance to win two free tickets for the Grand Tasting on Saturday January 30th. All you have to do to enter is send me an e-mail and tell me what your favorite Zinfandel is. Use the “Contact Gabe” form at the top of the page to e-mail me. Make sure you include your e-mail address and name. The contest ends at 11:00 PM Eastern on Sunday January 24th, 2010. I’ll randomly pick a name from all the entrants and get in touch with you to arrange the tickets the week of January 25th. Cost of the tickets is $59 per ticket for non ZAP members. Good Luck! If you want a second chance to win (a different set of tickets), you can enter at Drink Dry Creek too, using the “e-mail Gabe” form there. What follows is ZAP’s press release about the event:

2010 Zin in Paradise features celebrity chef Beverly Gannon

Rough & Ready CA, January 2010—-The 19th Annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Festival takes place January 28-30, 2010, in San Francisco. The Festival will ‘headline’ Chef Beverly Gannon, one of the founders of ‘HAWAI`I regional cuisine.’ Chef Gannon is the proprietor of Maui’s world famous Hali`imaile General Store and possibly the most well-known chef in Hawaii. She will develop the “HAWAI`I regional cuisine” menu for Dinner With The Winemakers as well as prepare a signature Hawaiian dish for Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing; she will also be visible throughout the three days of the Festival and her new cookbook, Home Style Meals at The Hali`imaile General Store, will be for sale. To order tickets call 877/772-2545; tickets can be purchased online at
“Meet” Chef Gannon in a series of Skyped-video chats now online on ZAP’s website. Bev explains the magic of Zinfandel from her perspective and gives you a few hints about the Festival.
Chef Gannon’s dinner menu for Evening With The Winemakers will consist of Asian Duck Tostada; Blackened Ahi With Sweet Thai Chili Sauce, Wasabi Micro Greens, Tobiko, Mashed Potato In Filo Cup; Smoked Salmon Pinwheels With Chipotle-Chili Fresh Fruit Salsa; Kalua Pork And Goat Cheese Won-Tons With Mango Chili Sauce; Terrine Of Foie Gras, BBQ Eel, Potato Pineapple Compote, Vanilla Syrup And Spicy Micro-Greens; Lamb Shank Cannelloni With A Poached Fig Demi-Glaze Double-Cut Lamb Chop, Lavender Honey Glazed Baby Carrots and Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart ( and for Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing, she’ll be preparing her Signature Crab Cannelloni with Saffron Cream Sauce and Joe’s Favorite Meatloaf with Hawaiian Sweetbread Roll from the Hali’imaile General Store (more at
The ZAP Festival will include more than 200 Zinfandel-specialist wineries from all across California pouring their barrel samples and new releases for over 10,000 enthusiasts during three days at four separate events.  There will be silent auctions during three events – Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing, The Grand Zinfandel Tasting, and Evening with the Winemakers; proceeds support ZAP’s Heritage Vineyard projects.
Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing takes place on January 28, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Fort Mason Center (Marina Blvd. at Buchanan, San Francisco 94123). Approximately 50 restaurants will pair with wineries. Tickets for non-ZAP members are $125; for ZAP members, $95. A list of the participants and matches can be found at Some tickets may be available at the door, but it is recommended to buy tickets in advance. 
Chef Bev Gannon’s Crab Cannelloni with Saffron Cream Sauce, Chef Gannon’s Meatloaf With Hawaiian Sweetbread Roll, Filet Mignon Tartare, Curried Goat with Mango Chutney, Duck Strudel, Sweet Potato Timbale Filled With a Trio of Cheese, Wild Boar Sliders with Caramelized Red Onion Marmalade, Lamb Lollipops, “Great Balls of Fire” and more….Some of the Good Eats participants are Acorn Winery/Alegria Vineyards with Zin Restaurant & Bar; Alderbrook Winery; Artezin Wines with Knickerbockers’ Catering; B.R. Cohn Winery with Preferred Sonoma Caterers; Barefoot Cellars with Sonoma Cake Creations; Barefoot Cellars ‘2;’ Barnard Griffin Winery; Blaauwklippen Vineyards with Radio Africa Kitchen; D-Cubed Cellars; Deep Purple Winery; Dogwood Cellars; Dry Creek Vineyard with The Peasant & The Pear; Edmeades Winery; Four Vines Winery; Gnarly Head Cellars; Grgich Hills Estate; Guglielmo Winery; Hartford Family Winery; J. Rickards Winery & Vineyards; John Tyler; Klinker Brick Winery; Marr Cellars; Mounts Family Winery; Outpost Estate Wines with Mustard’s Grill; Murphy-Goode; Peachy Canyon Winery with Hali`imaile General Store; Peirano Estate Vineyards; R& B Cellars; Rancho Zabaco Winery; Ravenswood; Ridge Vineyards with Lark Creek Steak; Rockwall Wine Company with Angela’s Bistro; Rosenblum Cellars with Miss Pearl’s Jam House; Saddleback Cellars; Sausal Winery with EOS Restaurant & Wine Bar; Scott Harvey Wines; Sextant Wines; St. Amant Winey with A Chef For You; St. Francis Winery & Vineyard; Terra d’Oro-Trinchero Family Estates with Taste; Three Wine Company with Hali`imaile General Store; Tin Barn Vineyards; Van Ruiten Family Winery; Z-52.
Flights: A Showcase of Zinfandels, a seated tasting with in-depth seminars focusing on limited-production Zinfandels, takes place on January 29 from 10:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., at The InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel’s Peacock Court (1 Nob Hill, San Francisco, 94108, 415/392-3434). Topics will include the role of blending in the world of Zinfandel. Tickets for non-ZAP members are $80; for ZAP members, $65. Tickets are available only in advance and not at the door. Flights will focus on the history and heritage of Zinfandel, also delving into the latest Zinfandel trends and the timely topic on the art of blending. Five top Zinfandel winemakers will each present a quintessential Zinfandel: Eric Baugher (Ridge Vineyards), Matt Cline (Three Wine Company), Jeff Cohn (JC Cellars), Steve Hall (Robert Biale Vineyards) and Morgan Peterson (Bedrock Wine Company). Each panelist will also feature a proprietary Zinfandel-based red wine, blending other grapes with California’s heritage wine, to produce wine styles with flavors from casual to sophisticated. A buffet lunch will follow the tasting.

Evening With The Winemakers: A Benefit Live Auction & Dinner, takes place on January 29 beginning with a reception-tasting at 5:00 p.m., at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco (1 Nob Hill, San Francisco 94108, 415/392-3434). Tickets are $260 for non-members and $210 for ZAP members, available only in advance and not at the door. Participating wineries are Alderbrook Winery, Artezin Wines, Cakebread Cellars, Charter Oak Winery, D-Cubed Cellars, Dogwood Cellars, Edmeades Winery, Four Vines Winery, JR Wines, Mazzocco Winery, Peachy Canyon Winery, Ravenswood, Ridge Vineyards, Robert Biale Vineyards, Rosenblum Cellars, Saddleback Cellars, St. Francis Winery, Starry Night Winery, Terra d’Oro-Trinchero Family Estates and Three Wine Company. Continuing updates are at
The reception will include the opportunity to taste, for the first time, the 2008 Heritage Vineyard Zinfandel (made from ZAP’s experimental vineyard by Tom Mackey of St. Francis Vineyards & Winery). Guests will then enjoy a feast prepared by ZAP’s celebrity chef, Beverly Gannon; guests are seated with a winemaker host at their table. Proceeds from the silent and live auctions benefit ZAP’s Heritage Projects, preserving the historical and viticultural significance of America’s heritage wine. 
The 19th Annual Grand Zinfandel Tasting takes place on January 30 from 2:00 until 5:00 p.m. at the Festival and Herbst Pavilions at Fort Mason (Marina Blvd. at Buchanan, San Francisco 94123). Tickets for non-ZAP members are $59; for ZAP members, $49. Over 200 wineries will pour their wines; a list of participating wineries can be found at There will be a silent auction based at the Festival Pavilion from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., benefiting ZAP’s Heritage Projects. Participating wineries listed at
A ticket to all four events for a ZAP member is $419; for a non-member, $524. A VIP package (for 2) is available at $995—this consists of tickets to all events plus a number of additional benefits including a bottle of The Heritage Vineyard Zinfandel.
“The world of Zinfandel is full of surprises and out-of-the-box thinking,” says Rebecca Robinson, ZAP’s Executive Director. “Since Zinfandel lovers are always looking for new adventures, we anticipate that Chef Gannon’s headlining the Festival will energize wineries and attendees alike,” Ms. Robinson adds.
More about Ms. Gannon:
Continuing updates on events as well as ticket purchasing at
Visit, to join in the enormous online world of Zinfandel lore and socializing or join that conversation at Twitter (, Facebook (Facebook/ZAP-Zinfandel.
The Association of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) is a non-profit, educational 501(c)(3) organization. ZAP is dedicated to advancing public knowledge of and appreciation for American Zinfandel and its unique place in our culture and history. Winegrowers, winemakers and wine enthusiasts combine to form the membership. The common focus is the preservation and recognition of Zinfandel as America’s heritage wine. ZAP’s membership includes approximately 300 winery-members, 6,000 advocate-members and 50 associate members.

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Veramonte – 2008 Ritual Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on January 8, 2010

There’s something about Pinot Noir that can be downright inspirational when it’s made right. When the fruit is allowed to shine and enhanced rather than burdened by oak and its purely Pinot it can be quite magical. At least I know that’s how I feel about Pinot. While I rarely turn down the opportunity to sample one, my expectations are tempered with the knowledge that it takes a lot to impress my palate when it comes to this grape. Today I’m going to look at a brand new release from Veramonte in Chile. Their varietal wines, particularly the Sauvignon Blanc have been consistent values and Primus, their proprietary blend is often a category stand out.

The Veramonte 2008 Ritual Pinot Noir is produced using fruit sourced in the Casablanca Valley of Chile. This selection is 100% Pinot Noir. Barrel aging occurred over 12 months in exclusively French oak; 40% of the barrels were new. Highly regarded winemaker Paul Hobbs was a consultant on this project. The suggested retail price for this wine is $17.99.

Ripe wild strawberry, cherry, and fleshy plum aromas waft enticingly from the nose of this South American Pinot Noir. These are joined by hints of rhubarb. Black cherry and strawberry flavors intermingle throughout the gentle but full flavored palate of this wine. A terrific spice component kicks in around mid-palate and continues through the finish which features hints of cocoa, light cherry cola, white pepper, mushroom and emerging earth notes. This wine has silky tannins, excellent acidity and terrific length. It drinks marvelously on its own and will also pair with a wide array of foods. Roast Pork Loin and Mushroom Risotto are the first to spring to mind.

As I mentioned I think good Pinot Noir can be tricky to find. That’s particularly true in the under $20 category. That said, Ritual from Veramonte is one of the best under $20 Pinot’s I’ve had in ages. The price says $17.99 but when you taste it you’ll find it compares favorably to many Pinots in the $30 price range. If you’re a Pinot Noir fan, this is worth making a special effort to seek out.

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Posted in Chile, Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Finca La Linda – 2007 Bonarda

Posted by Gabe on January 7, 2010

Argentina has long been one of my favorite countries to look towards for wine. They’ve shown over time that there are a wide array of offerings being made in divergent styles and at many different price levels. Right around $10, which I think of as entry level, is where I jumped in when I was first drinking Argentine wines. To this day it’s a category that fascinates me. When I find a wine that speaks to me in that price range its very satisfying. Today I’ll look at an example from Finca La Linda. This offshoot of Luigi Bosca Winery produced a line of varietal wines.

The Finca La Linda 2007 Bonarda is produced using fruit sourced in the Maipu section of Mendoza. This offering is 100% Bonarda. Barrel aging was accomplished in American oak. This selection has a suggested retail price of $10.99.

Aromas of red plum are underscored by hints of smoked meat in the nose of this 2007 Bonarda. The palate is marked by fleshy red fruit notes alongside little reference points to apricot. Black olive, pomegranate, and dusty dark chocolate are all part of the finish. This wine has good balance and sufficient acidity. It drinks nicely on its own but really works best with food. A Corned Beef and Pastrami sandwich would be a perfect match; that said red meats in general are a safe bet. If meat isn’t your thing, grab a loaf of crusty bread, and some hard cheese to pair alongside this tasty wine.

One of the things I really enjoy is introducing friends to varietals they’re unfamiliar with. There is lots of fun to be had in discovery. Bonarda falls into that unknown category for a lot of folks. While more examples are on our shelves then a decade ago it’s still far from a household name. For $10.99, less if you shop around this example from Finca La Linda is a nice place to start.

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