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Archive for February, 2010

The Current Release Wines of Tinto Figuero

Posted by Gabe on February 23, 2010

The other night I had the chance to taste through the wines of  Tinto Figuero with two of the winery principals. The setting was Solera in Manhattan. Spanish wine and food are enough to get any reasonable person excited; I know I certainly was. Part of the excitement was that I’d never before had the Tinto Figuero wines. As I was explaining to someone at this very dinner, given the choice between a wine I know I love and one I’ve never tasted I’m going to go for the wine I never tasted at least nine out of ten times.

Tinto Figuero is a family operation run by three brothers, their brother in law and their father who keeps his hand involved in the winery he started with his wife. Originally grape growers dating back some generations, they eventually turned their attention to starting a winery and producing their own wines. The goals at Tinto Figuero are to make premium wines that are consistent from vintage to vintage, express the sense of place imparted by their spot in the Ribera del Duero, and to make wines that the people who have had them before will know is a Figuero the moment it hits their lips. Those goals are simple, straightforward and lofty all at the same time.

At dinner we tasted through four of their wines. These offerings make up the bulk of their portfolio and are their most widely distributed releases. Each of the wines is 100% Tempranillo, and sourced from their own vineyards in the Ribera del Duero. Grape selection and oak treatment are the major differences in how each wine is produced. My impressions were as follows:

Tinto Figuero – 2007 Roble Four Month In Barrel. Just fewer than 6,000 cases of this selection were produced. As the name indicates, this wine spent 4 months in oak. The suggested retail price is $19.99. Fresh, crushed raspberry aromas mark the nose of this wine. The fresh berry theme continues through the palate and onto the finish which features mineral notes and subtle hints of earth. This is Figuero’s everyday wine. It provides lots of bright, vibrant flavors and will be a good match for casual finger foods such as an assortment of tapas.

Tinto Figuero – 2005 Crianza Twelve Months In Barrel. Just over 20,000 cases of this offering were bottled. Fruit was sourced from vines with 20-20 years (80%) of age and the remainder (20%) over 50 years. Oak aging occurred over 12 months in a combination American (90%) and French (10%) oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $28.99. Red raspberry aromas billow from the nose of this wine. Wisps of vanilla follow; the palate is a couple of steps up in intensity and complexity from the Four Month, Sour blackberry jam notes emerge on the finish which has good length and excellent acidity. A grilled steak would be an excellent match for this wine.

Tinto Figuero – 2004 Reserva Fifteen Months In Barrel. 8,333 six bottle cases of this wine were produced. Fruit was sourced from vines with more than 50 years of age. Barrel aging was achieved over 15 months in a combination of American (95%) and French (5%) oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $53.99. This 2004 Tempranillo opens with a nose so intense, so inviting, and so appealing that it’s almost absurd to try and describe it. More than one person at the table would have likely jumped into the glass to get closer to this wine if that was possible. Kirsch Liqueur is one of the more prominent components of the nose, but that only begins to describe an aroma that is the very embodiment of the term intoxicating. It took me quite awhile to taste this wine as I couldn’t get past the nose to actually focus on tasting it. Once I did sip it, the wine greeted me with wave after wave of intense berry fruit flavor. And if the flavors weren’t quite as intense as the nose, they were certainly well more than adequate. Hints of vanilla and oak emerged at mid-palate to complement the fruit and lead to the finish which was as impressive as the nose. This wine lingers for a good long while. Everything about this selection is delicious. While it’s excellent now it will certainly improve over time in the bottle.

Tinto Figuero – 2004 Noble. 1,166 six bottle cases of this offering were produced. Fruit for this selection was sourced from vines with more than 70 years of age. Oak aging occurred over a period of 21 months. The first 15 months was spent in American oak followed by 6 months in French oak. An additional 15 months of bottle age was allowed before release. The suggested retail price for this wine is $130.99. First and foremost this wine is still a baby. It was decanted for 3 hours before we started to taste it. While it was certainly opening up this wine was still tight. Fresh cherries, leather and cigar box aromas mark the nose. Raspberry, blackberry and huckleberry flavors are all present in the layered palate. Dusty dark chocolate emerges around mid-palate and continues through the prodigious finish which is also marked by hints of chicory and cedar. This offering features chewy tannins, balanced by fine acidity. This is the epitome of a special occasion wine. Tinto Figuero 2004 Noble is the sort of selection you want to grab a couple of to lay down in your cellar and forget about for 5-10 years. If you have that sort of patience, you will undoubtedly be rewarded. If however you plan to drink this in the short term, decant it for 4-5 hours at minimum. Either way this is a terrific wine.

While this was my first experience tasting the wines of Tinto Figuero it certainly won’t be my last. Each of these releases is impressive in its own right and perhaps more importantly achieves the goal it sets out for. There are both substantial differences in these wines as well as a commonality of both house style and a common thread that ties them all together. In speaking to them and tasting their wines the commitment to sustained quality is evident. It’s going to be interesting to follow them over the years and see it play out.

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Posted in Dining, Tempranillo, Wine, Winemaker Dinner | Leave a Comment »

Guerrieri Rizzardi – 208 Soave Classico D.O.C.

Posted by Gabe on February 18, 2010

I’ve been glad to see more and more Soave on US shelves of late. The average wine consumer thinks of Pinot Grigio first in terms of Italian white wines. But over time with any luck Soave will gain ground as another attractive, well priced option. Today I’m going to look at an example from 2008.

The 2008 Guerrieri Rizzardi Soave Classico D.O.C. was produced using fruit sourced at the Rizzardi hillside estate vineyard. Winemaker Giuseppe Rizzardi chose to blend Chardonnay (20%) in with the Garganega (80%). After fermentation this wine spent 3-6 months on the lees in cement vats. 2,000 Cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $15.

Aromas of lemon-lime zest and granny smith apple fill the fresh nose of this 2008 Soave. The palate is full flavored and provides nice complexity.  Pineapple, asian pear, drried mango, white peach and hints of ginger are the most prominent flavors. Lite mineral notes, tangerine and white pepper all dot the medium length finish which is clean, crisp and refreshing. This is a wine whose flavors beckon you back to the glass for another sip. Excellent acidity keeps things balanced and helps make this a natural food wine.

This wine will work quite well with soft cheeses, appetizers and lighter chicken dishes. That said it’s quite good on its own and makes an excellent apertif. It’s light enough not to bog anyone down before a meal. The Guerrieri Rizzardi also has more than sufficient compexity for it’s price point to both keep people interested and to represent a good value.

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337 – 2007 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on February 15, 2010

A couple of years ago I was having lunch and 337 Cabernet Sauvignon happened to be a by the glass pour. I wasn’t familiar with it, so I gave it a shot. I found it to be a very appealing and straightforward Cabernet. My initial impression improved when I tasted it a second time and also when I realized its value based on bottle price. So I ended up writing about it. Since that time I’ve had the wine on a couple of other occasions. It’s a couple of vintages later and this seemed like a good time to revisit and see how the current release stacks up.

The 337 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from Lodi fruit. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (78%), Malbec (15%) and Petite Sirah (7%). Aging is accomplished in a combination of French and American oak as well as stainless steel tanks. The 337 in the name of this wine represents the clone of Cabernet, imported from Bordeaux, that forms the basis of this selection. The suggested retail price for this wine is $12.99.

Black raspberry leads the nose of this 2007 Lodi Cabernet. Cherries dominate the palate and are supported by a layer of vanilla cream. Lush, fruity, hedonistic flavors dominate the appealing, up front flavors of this wines palate. Minerals and earth emerge in the smooth, medium length finish. This wine has soft tannins and sufficient acidity.

The 337 Cabernet Sauvignon has been consistent and the 2007 vintage continues that trend. This wine is a good example of the appealing and fruit forward wines that the Lodi area is known for. This is a Cabernet that is meant for early drinking so it’ll be at its best over the next 2-3 years. For $12.99 (a couple bucks less is you shop around), this wine is a good value, particularly if you’re headed to a party loaded with people with various taste in wine.

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A Global Trio For Valentine’s Day

Posted by Gabe on February 14, 2010

Valentine’s Day is here and to help celebrate the day in style some delicious wine is in order. When organizing a special occasion or Holiday meal I like to plan for several wines for each stage of the day. Certainly if you’re going to spend Valentine’s Day with someone important in your life each part of that celebration should have a wine to go with it. So today I’m presenting a trio of wines that will make for delicious drinking on Valentine’s Day or any other time. It also doesn’t hurt that each of the wines I’m recommending are modestly priced compared to the value they offer.

To start off with you’ll want a wine that’s appropriate to settle in to the day. Something light, yet substantial in flavor, which also pairs as easily with conversation as it does appetizers. My selection is the Graffigna Centenario 2009 Pinot Grigio. This Argentine wine was produced using fruit sourced in the Tulum Valley of San Juan. It’s composed of 100% Pinot Grigio and was fermented in stainless steel. The suggested retail price for this wine is $13.

Mango, citrus and vanilla aromas fill the nose of this Pinot Grigio along with underlying elements of spice. These themes continue through the palate along with apricot and tropical fruit characteristics. Spices kick into full gear with white pepper, nutmeg and vanilla bean amongst the most prominent. Around mid-palate sour tangerine notes emerge and continue through the finish which includes additional wisps of vanilla and peach flavors that linger. Excellent acidity keeps everything in check.

This is a very fresh and lively Pinot Grigio. I’ve found this wine to be consistently delicious over the last several vintages. For $13 (less if you shop around), this wine is an excellent value. It’s going to be a great way to get your Valentine’s Day celebration started.

The second wine you’re going to need is something to pair with the main part of your meal. On these occasions I look for something that will complement a wide array of foods. My tendency is also to look for something with a lush mouth-feel that lends itself to easy drinkability while also providing complexity. My selection this time out is the Campo Viejo 2005 Reserva. This wine is made from fruit sourced in the Rioja region of Spain. As is typical in Rioja this wine was produced primarily from Tempranillo (85%). The balance is made up of indigenous varietals Graciano (10%), and Mazuelo (5%). Barrel aging was accomplished over 18 months in a combination of French and American oak. This wine spent an additional 18 months in bottle prior to release. The suggested retail price for this wine is $14.

Cedar, cherry and wild strawberry lead the nose of this 2005 Reserva from Spain. Cherry continues through the palate along with vanilla, blackberry and hints of smoke. Black pepper notes emerge prominently and lead to the finish which is marked by copious amounts of sour cherry, tobacco, leather, spice box and emerging earth reference points. This wine has medium tannins and very well balanced acidity.

This Rioja is another excellent value and it hits the marks I’m looking for. It has sufficient complexity and will pair with many foods while going down smoothly. It’s wide availability also makes it an easy selection to reach for in a pinch.

The third wine I plan for on a special day is a closer of sorts. It can be a dessert wine but doesn’t have to be. Sparkling Wine could work as well. But it should be something that can pair with your dessert and that you’ll want to continue drinking when dessert is over.  The dessert wine that I recently tasted and was inspired to report on is the Jaboulet Muscat de Beaumes de Venise “Le Chant des Groilles” 2007. This offering is from the Rhone Valley and was produced using only Muscat grapes. Aging was accomplished in cask followed by time in bottle. The suggested retail price for this wine in 375 ml splits is $24.99.

White peach, lychee and mango lead the effusive nose of this wine. Apricots are the star of the palate which has a sweet, honeyed characteristic to it. This is joined by lots of tropical fruit that’s also got a layer of vanilla bean. It all leads to a lengthy finish marked by excellent spice. This wine is very well balanced and shows off good acidity.

The problem with many dessert wines is that they’re too sweet to drink very much of. This Muscat doesn’t have that issue. It’s quite sweet to be sure but the acidity provides excellent balance. Here is a wine you will be glad to drink quite a bit more than a few sips of. Pair it with a fruit tart topped with crème fraiche or a platter of fruits, nuts and soft cheeses. Either way you’ll be in for a treat.

This trio of wines is sure to make for a very satisfying day. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any other time.

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Posted in Muscat, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Johann Donabaum – 2008 Rielsling / 2007 Reserve Grüner Veltliner

Posted by Gabe on February 12, 2010

I recently attended a tasting of Austrian wines. The focus was on Blaufränkisch, which is Austria’s big red gift to the wine world in my opinion. However there were other varietals there. The cross sections of wines and styles were inspiring and I plan on tasting more and more wines from Austria going forward. If the tasting I attended was any indication there will be plenty of selections worth reporting on. Today I’m going to look at two white wines from winemaker Johann Donabaum. This relatively young producer makes a bit less than 6,000 cases of wine. Of these, 60% are Austria’s great white wine Grüner Veltliner.

The first wine I’m looking at is the Johann Donabaum 2008 Smaragd Setzberg Riesling. This wine was produced using fruit from a single vineyard. This wine sells for approximately $40

The nose of this 2008 Riesling is lead by a combination of floral and stone fruit aromas. Honeysuckle, apricot and ginger play supporting roles. The apricot theme continues and in fact builds throughout the palate where it’s joined by yellow peach and subtle mango notes. Lemon zest kicks in around mid palate and shows the way to the finish which is zesty, spicy and lingers memorably. This wine is balanced by crisp acidity.

The finish of this wine goes on and on, quite impressively. That along with the overall balance are the two most impressive hallmarks of this wine. This is a world class Riesling that will stand up to cellaring over the next 7-10 years.

The second wine is the Johann Donabaum 2007 Loibner Reserve Grüner Veltliner.  The fruit for this offering was sourced from select vines in Loiben village vineyards. Their use of the term reserve designates particularly ripe grapes that are left to rest on the lees for an extended period of time. The suggested retail price for this Grüner Veltliner is approximately $40.

Moderate kiwi, citrus and green melon aromas waft from the somewhat reserved nose of this wine. Lemon/Lime zest is apparent throughout the palate along with a cornucopia of spice notes. Minerals and hints of chalk mark the seriously lengthy finish of this wine along with ginger, vanilla bean, and small doses of white pepper. This wine clings to the back of the throat for a nice long while.

As with the Riesling the finish is the single most impressive aspect of this Grüner Veltliner. Hints of sweetness are balanced by excellent acidity keeping everything in check. This is a very well made Grüner Veltliner and a terrific selection to pair with food. This wine will also age gracefully over the next 7-10 years.

Both of these wines from Johann Donabaum are excellent expressions of the respective varietal and fine examples of the serious and well crafted Austrian offerings that are hitting our shores these days. Both of these wines are worth making a special effort to seek out.

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Posted in Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Michael David – 2007 6th Sense Syrah

Posted by Gabe on February 8, 2010

For quite a number of years I’ve been fond of the Michael David Wines. When I see their labels or think of their offerings I’m reminded of wines that tend to be big, bold and widely available. The price points for the wines also tend to be reasonable. Today I’m going to look at their current release of Syrah.

The Michael David 2007 6th Sense Syrah was produced using Lodi fruit. In addition to Syrah, some Petite Sirah is also blended in. Barrel aging was accomplished over 20 months in French oak. The suggested retail price for this selection is $16.

The 2007 vintage of 6th Sense Syrah opens with Black Mission Fig aromas, along with hints of leather, and wisps of vanilla. The palate is loaded with plum, blueberry, and a host of other dark, fleshy fruit notes. Chocolate, espresso, and burnt sugar characteristics mark the smooth, lingering finish of this Syrah. This wine has soft tannins and sufficient acidity.

This wine has been consistent from vintage to vintage. If anything I found the 2007 to be ever so slightly more restrained than recent vintages. It has better balance and a bit more structure to boot. Overall though, if you have liked this in the past you’re more than likely going to enjoy it now. If you’ve never had 6th Sense Syrah, it’s modest price point and wide availability make it a safe bet to reach for the next time you’re hosting or attending an event with wine lovers of all stripes. This wine is both a good value and an excellent example of Lodi fruit.

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Posted in Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Bodega Septima – 2007 Gran Reserva

Posted by Gabe on February 7, 2010

Single varietal wines are probably the ones most American consumers have historically identified with and looked for. There now seems to be a growing segment in the US that realizes the power of blended wines. As we mature as a wine consuming culture in the US there are more and more folks that are comfortable straying outside of their safe zone and experimenting. Blended wines, whether classic Bordeaux style blends or otherwise can offer many positives. Of course at their best the goal is to achieve the best possible wine using the highest quality fruit a producer has available. In addition to that sometimes its as simple as some Merlot being blended in to a Cabernet for additional complexity. In any case while the single varietal expressions have their place too, blended wines are their own unique discipline. Today I’ll look at one from  Bodega Septima.

The Bodega Septima 2007 Gran Reserva was produced using fruit sourced in several distinct parts of Mendoza. This wine is a blend of Malbec (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), and Tannat (10%). Each varietal was barrel aged separately in a combination of French and American oak. After 12 months in barrel the final blend was assembled prior to this offering being bottled. The suggested retail price for this wine is $25.

When this 2007 blend is poured, the deep purple hue is striking. Blackberry, blueberry and vanilla aromas waft enticingly from the nose of this wine. The palate is loaded with intense layers of fruit flavor. These are joined by spice and chocolate notes that coat the tongue and back of the throat with flavor and good intensity. Espresso, earth and mineral reference points make up the lengthy finish. This wine has firm tannins and good acid structure. In it’s powerful youth this wine will work best paired with hearty, full flavored dishes that can match its intensity.

What I like best about this wine is the balance on display between the Malbec and the Cabernet Sauvignon. The lusty fruit of the Malbec shines through, along with the depth of flavor and structure that the Cabernet provides. The softer and lighter bodied Tannat acts as a bridge, bringing it all together. While this wine is delicious now, particularly after a solid decanting, it will undoubtedly improve for the next 5-6 years and drink well for several after that. A nice wine and a very good value.

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Posted in Blends, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Bodega Septima – 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on February 2, 2010

When it comes to South American wine Cabernet Sauvignon was the first varietal I started drinking. It was my realization back then that there was great value in the Cab category that started me on tasting wines from both Chile and Argentina. Perhaps because it was the first thing from there I started that I still get excited when I find a solid Cabernet Sauvignon value from South America. Over the last few months I’ve had the chance to taste a number of wines from Bodega Septima. During the next couple of days I’m going to report on a few recent examples I’ve really liked. Today I’m going to look at their current release of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Bodega Septima 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was made using fruit sourced in Luján de Cuyo, south of Mendoza. This selection was producing 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel aging was accomplished over six months in American oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $11.99.

Dark berry, thyme, toast and vanilla bean aromas fill the nose of this 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet berry fruit notes lead the palate. Pie crust flavors emerge around the mid-palate making Blackberry pie the predominate reference point. Black pepper and hints of smoke lead the finish followed by earth and chicory. This wine has soft tannins and solid acidity. The Bodega Septima is an excellent choice to pair with burgers or pasta in red sauce.

This 2007 Cabernet from Bodega Septima hits the marks I look for in this category. For $12 or less you get a wine that has solid varietal character as well as sufficient complexity. It’s meant for short term drinking but should hold its charms for the next couple of years. This is a good value.

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | Leave a Comment »


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