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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for March, 2010

Introducing “Lola Kay” by Rubissow Wines

Posted by Gabe on March 31, 2010

One of the producers that have hit my radar over the last couple of years is Rubissow. This Mt. Veeder based producer has been doing impressive things with estate grown Mountain fruit dating back to the mid 80’s. Of late, they’ve ratcheted things up to another level. By dropping production levels and also physically dropping fruit on their vines they’ve shifted to a more concentrated, full bodied style of wine.

Now they have also launched a new project: Lola Kay. Lola Kay is essentially their second label. What this represents is more than that though. With the Lola Kay imprint they source their fruit from friends, neighbors and other local vineyards that have some extra high quality fruit they can’t use for one reason or another. While the vineyard names aren’t on the label let’s just say they all come from the nice part of town. By taking advantage of surplus they get excellent deals and pass the savings on to consumers.

The first release is a blend of Cabernet Franc (52%), Merlot (35%), Syrah (10%), Cabernet Sauvignon (2.5%), and Petit Verdot (0.5%). It was aged in all French oak, 40% of the barrels were new. Lola Kay 2006 Napa Red Wine has a suggested retail price of $20. The grapes used for this project normally go into wines that sell for $40 – $50.

I tasted this wine at Rubissow last summer, and while I don’t have specific notes on it, I recall that it was a tasty wine that complemented the main portfolio well. From my memory I recollect it representing a very nice value as well. It’s good to see that it’s out on shelves now.

Look for an extensive interview with Peter Rubissow to be posted here soon.

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Posted in Blends, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Pellegrino – 2008 Passito di Pantelleria

Posted by Gabe on March 29, 2010

Dessert wines come in all shapes and sizes. Port and port style wines are perhaps the most recognizable to the average wine drinker. But just like most growing regions, or counties at least, have their own take on Sparkling Wine, so to do most of them have their own styles of dessert wine. Throughout Italy there are several. One of the grapes often used for making sweeter wines is Moscato. Today I’ll look at a Moscato based wine from Sicily.

The Pellegrino 2008 Passito di Pantelleria was produced from 100% Moscato grapes. The fruit was sourced from the family’s own vineyards in Sicily. The vines average 20-30 years of age. This family owned winery has close to 1,000 acres under vine, mostly planted to indigenous varietals. Geographically Pellegrino is located about 80 miles south of the Marsala region. Pure alcohol is added to stop fermentation. Approximately 20% of the grapes used are dried. The suggested retail price for this selection, in standard 750 ml bottles, is $27.99.

Aromas of Nectarine and Apricot with a lighter floral undertone highlight the nose of this 2008 Sicilian dessert wine. The apricot theme continues on the palate along with both white and yellow peach notes. Tangerine and orange flavors chime in as well, helping to produce a rounded and full flavored contingent of sweet, juicy fruit flavors. Both white pepper and nutmeg characteristics are present in the above average finish of this wine; they cling to the back of the throat, leaving a lasting impression.

What most impressed me about this wine is that it has a refreshing quality that is not often present in dessert wines. Way too often dessert wines are overly sweet and cloying, making it difficult to enjoy more than a small portion. The 2008 Passito di Pantelleria is the antithesis of this. Yes it’s sweet and full flavored, but it’s not overly sticky. In fact it’s not hard to imagine sharing a bottle of this wine over a long evening with a friend or two. For a retail price of $27.99 it also represents a nice value. While this wine works perfectly well at room temperature, don’t be afraid to put a slight chill on it during the warmer months of the year. Appetizing on its own, this wine will be an excellent match for soft, ripe cheeses.

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

Two Angels – 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

Posted by Gabe on March 28, 2010

With spring here and summer on the way it’s the perfect time to enjoy lighter more refreshing wines. One of the varietals that scream warm weather to me is Sauvignon Blanc. This adaptable varietal is made in many of the world’s major wine regions. And as is the case with a red varietal like Cabernet Sauvignon, the different regions of the world impart their own stamp upon it. High Valley, north of Napa in California is an area that has been making some interesting and noteworthy Sauvignon Blanc the last few years. Today I’ll look at one from Two Angels.

The Two Angels 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was made exclusively from fruit sourced at Shannon Ridge Vineyards in High Valley. Two separate lots were chosen for this wine, picked 10 days apart. These vineyards sit approximately 2,200 feet above sea level. This offering is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Just over 2,500 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $15.99.

Citrus, green melon and grass aromas fill the expressive nose of this 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. Gooseberry, honeydew melon and continued citrus themes make up the generously fruity palate of this wine.  Subtle peach and apricot notes along with hints of apple kick in around mid-palate and continue to the crisp and refreshing finish along with white pepper and hazelnut characteristics. This wine has terrific acidity and very good balance.

What stands out to me about this wine is that it features elements of both citrus and grass leaning Sauvignon Blancs. That said it falls towards the citrus side of things. The bottom line is that the Two Angels Sauvignon Blanc is a delicious wine that exemplifies the best of the style that is being produced these days using fruit from High Valley. Whether you drink it alone or pair it with lighter foods, this Sauvignon Blanc will shine.

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Laurenz V. – 2008 Singing Grüner Veltliner

Posted by Gabe on March 23, 2010

Both consciously and subconsciously Austrian wines have been creeping into my mind more and more. Part of the reason for that is that there are a larger number of them available to us in the US than ever before. The variety has also increased and the quality has been steady. All those factors have come together to make Austria one of the countries whose wines I take every opportunity I can to taste. Grüner Veltliner is the varietal that has been leading the charge on our shores for the Austrian wine industry. That said many other interesting wines are starting to get here too. Today I’ll be looking at a Grüner Veltliner, but keep your eyes open for additional coverage of all manner of Austrian wines in the months ahead.

The Laurenz V. 2008 Singing Grüner Veltliner was produced using fruit from the Niederosterreich appellation. This selection is 100% Grüner Veltliner. Fermentation was accomplished in stainless steel. 20,000 cases of this wine were bottled and the suggested retail price is $12.99.

Orange blossom, lemon and lime notes all contribute to the collection of bold citrus aromas in the nose of this 2008 Grüner Veltliner. The citrus theme, particularly the lemon-lime, continues in the palate along with apple and other orchard fruit characteristics. There is an overriding impression of gentleness to the palate that’s belied by layers of spice notes that emerge as this wine opens up. Gripping acidity and lingering grapefruit notes are part of the crisp finish of this wine.

There are a couple of key things about this wine that are really important to mention. First of all is that there is a ton of good varietal character at play here. For a wine in this price range that’s important, especially since there are still plenty of folks out there who have yet to experience Grüner Veltliner. If you’re amongst their number, rest assured that The Laurenz V. 2008 Singing Grüner Veltliner will be a solid introduction. The other key point is that while this wine should most definitely be chilled, don’t serve it too cold and risk missing out on the subtle charms that emerge when this Grüner is at the right temperature. For Grüner Veltliner I find that 50 degrees is just about perfect most of the time.

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Hugel et Fils – 2006 Pinot Blanc “Cuvée Les Amours”

Posted by Gabe on March 20, 2010

There is a lot of really nice Gewürztraminer and Riesling being produced in Alsace; as a result not nearly as much attention is usually paid to Pinot Blanc. In my opinion that’s a shame. There are examples of this wine out there that are lovely, well priced and most importantly quite delicious. Today I’m going to look at a widely available offering from Hugel. Their yellow label wines are on the shelf of most wine shops that have an Alsace representation.

The 2006 Hugel et Fils Pinot Blanc “Cuvée Les Amours” was produced using fruit sourced from local growers under long standing contracts. This selection is 100% Pinot Blanc. Fruit is hand harvested and the presses are filled by gravity. The juice in the first part of the pressing is the only one used in the yellow label “Hugel” wines. Bottling occurs the spring after harvest. The wine is then bottle aged until ready for release. The suggested retail price for this offering is $16.99.

A potpourri of fresh flower aromas is joined by lychee fruit and vanilla in the nose of this 2006 Pinot Blanc. The lychee theme continues in the palate where its joined by apricot and hazelnut flavors. A terrific spice component emerges at mid-palate and continues forward from there through the finish. This wine is crisp and refreshing with solid acidity.

You could pair this Pinot Blanc with light appetizers or drink it on its own. In either case it’s a very solid white entry that I’ve found you can depend on from one vintage to the next.

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Blackstone – 2007 Sonoma Reserve Merlot

Posted by Gabe on March 17, 2010

Blackstone Winery is perhaps best known for the California Merlot they produce in large quantities; there are quite a few other selections in their line. With their Sonoma Reserve tier of wines Blackstone has aimed to offer alternatives to their budget friendly line of wines. Today I’ll look at the Merlot in their Sonoma Reserve series and see how it stacks up both on its own and as a counterpart to their more ubiquitous release of the same grape.

The 2007 Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Merlot was produced from fruit sourced in Alexander Valley (45%), Dry Creek Valley (22%), Sonoma Coast (15%), Carneros (10%), Sonoma Valley (2%), and San Joaquin County (6%). The fruit for this wine was handpicked. In addition to Merlot (85%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), Ruby Cabernet (6%), and Petit Verdot (2%) were blended in. Barrel aging occurred over a period of 20 months in a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak; both new and older barrels were utilized. 27,000 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $20.

First off I should mention that I found that this 2007 Merlot really benefits from aeration. An hour in the decanter really helped it come to life and shine. Blackberry and boysenberry pie aromas fill the extroverted nose of this wine along with hints of chocolate. The berry theme continues through the palate though it’s supplanted by vibrant red cherry notes as they take the lead role. Tons of earth, chicory, and dark, dusty baker’s chocolate emerge in the finish. This wine has a fine tannic structure and solid acidity.

The 2007 Blackstone Sonoma Reserve Merlot is a solid wine for the money. If you normally drink their California Merlot you’ll find that this is a couple of steps up in complexity, structure and length. With 27,000 cases out there it won’t be hard to find either.

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Posted in Merlot, Wine | 1 Comment »

Lamberti – Rosé Spumante (NV) Sparkling Wine

Posted by Gabe on March 15, 2010

When speaking to friends, readers and other wine lovers in general it seems that by and large Sparkling Wine falls victim to a couple of preconceived notions. The most common is that often people aren’t very familiar with how many wine regions make Sparklers and instead think only of Champagne. Personally I find that just like any other category of wine each regions styles, productions methods and sense of place make for some interesting sipping. Of those who do venture to other areas of the world for Sparkling Wine, many limit themselves to special occasions for its enjoyment. In my opinion that’s a mistake. Sparkling Wine could conceivably have as much of a place on your table alongside a meal as it does next to your party hat on New Years Eve. Today I’m going to look at one from Italy that I just tasted and enjoyed.

The Lamberti Rosé Spumante is a non vintage sparkling wine. This selection was produced using a blend of Pinot Bianco (34%), Raboso (33%) and Pinot Nero (33%). This fruit was sourced from hillside vineyards throughout Trevisio in the Veneto. After pressing, the juice was immediately separated from the pomace to avoid adding more color than desired. The Charmat method was used in production. This is the same method used for Prosecco and Asti. The suggested retail price for this wine is $14.

This Spumante has a light salmon hue. The vibrant nose has fresh wild strawberry aromas in spades along with a lighter but present floral undertone. Berry mousse flavors form the core of the palate which is richly flavored and leads to additional hints of creaminess that carry out to the finish. Strawberry and raspberry notes are joined by yeasty characteristics and cream scone reference points. The finish lingers in a refreshing manner, beckoning you back to the glass for more.

This is a fun Sparkling Wine that works well on its own and will also complement lighter appetizers; fruit based desserts or soft cheeses. Throughout the palate this wine has a good, pleasing weight. It feels and tastes substantial, belying its $14 price tag. There really is quite a bit going on here and this is an interesting selection that also provides good value. Lamberti Rosé Spumante is an inexpensive and tasty way to break out of the sparkling wine for special occasion’s rut.

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Posted in Rosé, Sparkling Wine, Wine | 1 Comment »

Graffigna – 2007 Centenario Malbec

Posted by Gabe on March 11, 2010

Malbec stands as the signature grape of Argentina. Lots of other varietals flourish there but Malbec is the varietal that they do like no one else does and perhaps can. That said not every Malbec from Argentina is good. Consistency can be particularly difficult to achieve in the budget category that a lot of readily available Malbecs fall into. With that in mind I decided to take a look at one from Graffigna that I really enjoyed a previous vintage of.

The Graffigna 2007 Centenario Malbec was made from fruit sourced in the Pedernal Valley of San Juan. This selection was produced using 100% Malbec. Hand harvesting was employed. Fermentation took place in stainless steel. Oak aging was accomplished over 12 months in a combination of French (50%) and American (50%) oak. After the lots were blended the wine was bottled aged for an additional sic months prior to release. The suggested retail price for this wine is $13.

Effusive blackberry Jam aromas are supported by gentle wisps of crème fraiche in the lively and fresh nose of this 2007 Malbec. The palate of this wine is loaded with blueberry and plum flavors among others. It really brings to mind a bowl of juicy, dark berry fruits. Sour berry compote, white pepper and minerals are all part of the medium length finish. This selection has soft tannins and sufficient acidity.

This offering from Graffigna shows off the exuberance that makes Malbec so pleasing and accessible to lots of folks. Additionally, this wine has a fair amount of structure. Most importantly for me though this wine shows a consistent amount of quality from the previous vintage. Considering that this wine is most often available for right around $10 this is a very good value.

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Cornerstone Cellars – 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon / 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on March 8, 2010

It was about a year ago that I tasted the wines of Cornerstone Cellars for the first time. My initial impression was strong and favorable; so I took a closer look. Since that time I’ve had the chance to taste these wines a few other times. Notably at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference I was able to taste several vintages side by side. That experience underscored the quality of the wines and showcased the inherent ability these wines have to age. It also showcased the consistency from vintage to vintage that this boutique producer has established. Today I’m pleased to take a look at their current releases of Cabernet Sauvignon.

First up is the Cornerstone Cellars 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit for this selection was sourced from four vineyard sites. This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel aging was accomplished over two years in French oak; a year of bottle aging followed. 1,200 cases of this vintage were produced and the suggested retail price is $65.

The deep, dark purple hue of this wine is striking the moment it’s poured from the bottle. Berry, eucalyptus and cedar aromas follow and fill the nose in a profoundly exciting manner. Rich berry flavors accompanied by spice are prominent throughout a layered palate that is tight at first, but opens with some air. Earth, pencil lead and espresso notes are al part of the lengthy and lingering finish. Firm tannins and solid acidity form the backbone of this wine.

If you’re going to drink this Cabernet now, decanting is in order and highly recommended. An hour will be good, 2-3 would be better. However if you have the patience lay this down for a few years and you’ll be rewarded by a wine that is more resolved and expressive than it its now in its exuberant youth. Either way this is a terrific Cabernet.

The second wine is the Cornerstone Cellars 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. 100% of the fruit for this wine was sourced at their organic vineyard block on Howell Mountain. This offering is also 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Barrel aging was accomplished over two years in French oak; two years of bottle aging followed prior to release. 433 cases of this selection were produced. The suggested retail price is $100 (However it’s currently $75 at their webiste).

Wild strawberry, red raspberry, cassis, mushroom and eucalyptus aromas are all part of the highly expressive and ostentatious nose of this 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Cherry leads the way throughout a palate that is layered, complex, full flavored, intense, balanced, and in a word, impressive. Spice notes accompany the cherry and lead to the finish which shows off black tea, chocolate and earthiness that emerges more and more as this Cabernet opens up. The finish on this wine is very lengthy and particularly striking for the level of balanced intensity it maintains. Firm tannins and solid acidity lend to a wonderfully structured wine.

This Howell Mountain Cabernet is really just a baby right now. Yes it’s delicious, particularly after several hours of air, but it really should be put away for 5 or more years to truly come into its own. If you insist on drinking it now definitely decant it for several hours and pair it with something hearty. This is another excellent and exciting release from Cornerstone Cellars.

There are a lot of great Cabernets coming out of Napa Valley from producers of all shapes and sizes, so its hard to get to anywhere near all of them. Here are two tremendous ones that are well worth an extra special effort to locate. Cornerstone Cellars impressive run of top notch Cabernet Sauvignon continues with these releases.

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | 2 Comments »

Jacob’s Creek – 2001 Johann Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on March 7, 2010

When it comes to Australian wine, Jacob’s Creek is amongst the ubiquitous names. Many of the wines in their “Classic” and “Reserve” tiers are widely available on US shelves. A bit harder to locate, are the “Heritage” line of wines. Today I’m going to look at one of the wines in that range.

The Jacob’s Creek 2001 Johann Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon was produced using fruit sourced from a number of vineyard blocks. The varietal breakdown is 64% Shiraz and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon. The parcels were fermented and aged in oak separately. After 18 months In barrel the blend was created using the components they felt would best show off both the Shiraz and the Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is named after Johann Gramp, a Bavarian immigrant who planted the first commercial vineyard in the Barossa Valley. This wine most often sells for about $70.

Plum, blueberry and blackberry aromas fill the nose of this 2001 Australian blend. The palate of this wine is full flavored, layered and complex. Wave after wave of delicious dark berry fruit flavors are in evidence. That said this wine manages to retain balance and never go over the top. Vanilla, sour berry, white pepper and plum pudding spices emerge at mid-palate and continue through the impressive finish which also features copious mineral and white pepper notes. This wine has firm but yielding tannins and good acidity.

What I like best about this selection is the length of the finish coupled with the overall restraint the wine shows. While this offering, the benchmark wine of Jacob’s Creek, is full flavored it’s also impeccably balanced and structured. At nine years old now it still shows plenty of life. I expect this offering to drink well for the next 5-8 years. And while this will be a little harder to locate than their general release wines, the effort will be rewarded

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


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