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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for November, 2010

Tempra Tantrum – 2009 Tempranillo /Shiraz

Posted by Gabe on November 29, 2010

Spain has quite a number of producers with lengthy histories as family wineries. One of those is the Osbornes. Rocio Osborne is a member of the 6th generation of that family in the wine business and he produces wines under the Tempra Tantrum label. The wines under this label are blends that use Tempranillo at their heart. Today I’ll look at a new release that blends it with Shiraz.

The Tempra Tantrum 2009 Tempranillo/Shiraz was produced using fruit from the Osborne Family Estate in Malpica de Tajo. This is located approximately an hour from Madrid. This offering blends 60% Tempranillo and 40% Shiraz. Fermentation took place at cool temperatures followed by micro-oxygenation and minimal bottle aging. This offering has a suggested retail price of $11.99.

Aromas of dried red fruit and black pepper fill the nose of this 2009 Spanish blend. Cherry, blackberry and huckleberry flavors are all on display throughout the palate which is vibrant and full of flavor. Hints of smoked meat emerge on the finish along sour red fruits that have a bit of a savory edge. This wine is soft and lush with sufficient acidity.

This blend from Tempra Tantrum is made to be enjoyed in its youth. It’s a well priced wine that is suitable for large gatherings or casual evenings at home. It has the flavor profile to stand up to heartier foods, but is also proportionate enough to pair with medium flavored ones as well. For less than $12 this is an interesting blend which provides good value.

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

Fontanella Family Winery – 2008 Chardonnay / 2008 Zinfandel / 2007 Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on November 23, 2010

During a summer 2009 trip to Napa Valley a friend recommended Fontanella Family Winery to me. I stopped by and tasted their wines, which were impressive. You can read about my experience here. So with 2010 almost out it seemed like a good time to taste their current releases and see if I felt as strongly about these as I do the previous vintages. My impressions of them follow.

First up is the Fontanella Family Winery 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay. This wine which is all Chardonnay was produced using fruit from Mt Veeder (50%) and Carneros (50%). It was aged in French oak for 9 months; 30% of the barrels were new. It has a suggested retail price of $30. Note: The 2009 has recently been released; it’s a Mt. Veeder selection and also sells for $30.

The nose of this 2008 Chardonnay shows off orchard fruit, baker’s spices, and light hints of toasty oak. A host of fruit types are on display through the palate. Mango, nectarine, pear, apple and hints of peach are all in strong evidence. In truth it’s a very appealing potpourri of fruit flavors with a prominent vein of spices running through it. The stone fruits in evidence hang on through the lengthy finish along with continued spice such as nutmeg and white pepper. There’s a touch of unctuousness in the finish which is generally quite fresh and vibrant with racy acidity. This wine has terrific complexity and is clearly an example of Chardonnay that is enhanced by judicious use of oak.

Next up is the Fontanella Family Winery 2008 Zinfandel which was produced from fruit sourced in several prime Napa Valley Appellations; Mt Veeder and Oakville are the most prominent. This offering is 100% Zinfandel. Oak aging occurred over 11 months in American barrels. 442 cases of this release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $36.

Right up front the nose opens with a burst of jam laden fruit. This is underscored by wisps of vanilla and bramble. Both blackberry and raspberry are prominent through the palate which is rich with layer after layer of sweet, appealing berry fruit flavors. Chocolate sauce leads the finish and really lingers right through persistently as the last note echoing on your taste buds. Along with it the fruit flavors and spice notes such as black pepper and a hint of plum pudding spice also join in. This is a Zinfandel that can easily be enjoyed either on its own or with a meal. It’s hefty and hearty but also quite well balanced and proportionate.

Finally we have the Fontanella Family Winery 2007 Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. 100% of this fruit was sourced on Mt Veeder. 92% is Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% is Merlot. Barrel aging occurred over 20 months in French oak; 83% of the barrels were new. 650 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50.

Eucalyptus, toast, and vanilla are the first aromas out of the chute. They’re followed immediately by a heady brew of dark leaning berry fruit. As with the Zinfandel this wine is loaded with layers of complexity that simply don’t stop. Most of the flavors lean towards dark fruits; plum, blackberry, boysenberry and quite prominently, black cherry to name a few. Chicory, dusty baker’s chocolate and hints of earth all emerge in the lengthy finish. This wine his firm tannins that yield with some air. If you’re going to drink this Cabernet now, I’d recommend a couple of hours in the decanter for maximum pleasure; however if you have some patience, lay it down for a few years and you’ll be rewarded with an even more beautiful wine.

The wines from Fontanella Family Winery are distinct and elegant. In their price points they represent fine values. The Cabernet Sauvignon in particular is an excellent deal. Terrific Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t cheap. With that in mind; this offering is actually a bit of a bargain. If you haven’t had a chance to try the wines from Fontanella Family Winery yet, now is as good a time as any. Highly recommended.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Wine, Zinfandel | Leave a Comment »

Matetic Vineyards – 2009 Corralillo Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on November 22, 2010

Pinot Noir is amongst the varieties that I’m pickiest about in terms of style. To start with I’m a pretty firm believer that nothing else really belongs blended in with Pinot Noir. Of course it should also be planted in an appropriate spot and be treated right every step of the way. There’s a purity and a beauty that can be achieved with this grape when it’s appropriately handled that is distinct and impressive. Of late I’ve run across more and more examples from South America that hit my sweet spot for well made Pinot that stays true to varietal character. Today I’ll look at one from Chilean producer Matetic Vineyards. They have been farming with organic practices and are also taking the appropriate steps to become Biodynamic. To achieve this they’ve worked with noted expert in the field Alan York. His reputation as a Guru of Biodynamic Farming practices is amongst the very best.

The Matetic Vineyards 2009 Corralillo Pinot Noir was produced using fruit from two estate hillside vineyards located in their home region of San Antonio Valley Chile. This offering is 100% Pinot Noir. After fermentation with select yeasts the wine was aged in French oak. 900 cases of this vintage were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $27.99.

The hue of this wine is a bit darker than the average Pinot Noir, it approximates deep red cherry in color. Wisps of tobacco and mushroom emerge from the nose of this 2008 Pinot Noir. The cherry theme continues on the palate. Black Cherry leads the way and hints of red cherry are interspersed in there as well. Touches of juicy strawberry also play a role. Black tea notes lead the finish along with cranberry, rhubarb and a spice parade led by pepper and cardamom.

This is a terrific example of Pinot Noir as well a further proof that exciting things are happening with this grape in Chile. The long, lingering finish and the wines overall balance and elegance are its most noteworthy characteristics. This wine is impressive enough to serve at a special meal, but inexpensive enough to indulge in regularly.

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

Fred Loimer – 2009 “Lois” Grüner Veltliner

Posted by Gabe on November 21, 2010

Most things evolve over time and wine is certainly among the number of ones that do. Fred Loimer has been making this Lois release for a decade now. It was initially conceived as a lighter style of Grüner Veltliner; perhaps one that would be easier for the uninitiated to enjoy and begin to understand. Over the last decade it’s become an even more focused release with a sense of place more deeply ingrained within its contents. Today I’ll look at that 10th vintage release.

The Fred Loimer 2009 Lois Grüner Veltliner was produced using fruit sourced in vineyards near Langenlois and Kamptal. Fermentation occurred in stainless steel tanks, followed by bottling in January of 2010. This wine is 100% varietal. This wine can most often be found on shelves for $12 or $13. An interesting little extra on this bottle is that the back label is doubled. The top one peels off to reveal one of many different fun lower labels. This was the wineries gift to this release on its 10th birthday.

Aromas of fresh cut grass, lime and herbs are all present in the lively nose of this 2009 Grüner Veltliner. Apple reigns supreme throughout the palate. Both tart green and a hint of yellow delicious make their presence know. Citrus chips in as well and continues through the finish along with limestone, a touch of bell pepper and a wallop of spices including white pepper. This wine is incredibly fresh, vibrant and appealing.

What I like most about this Grüner Veltliner is its versatility. Not only will this wine drink well on its own and pair nicely with food it will also have wide crowd appeal. Whether you’re new to Grüner Veltliner or have been drinking it for years this wine has something for you. At $12 or $13 it’s an excellent value and good candidate for everyday drinking.

Posted in Grüner Veltliner, Wine | 1 Comment »

Oveja Negra – 2008 Lost Barrel

Posted by Gabe on November 17, 2010

While I’ve been drinking Chilean wine for many years I feel reinvigorated to taste more and more of them lately. For several decades now we’ve been able to find lots of value in Chilean Wine on US shelves. But now we’re also seeing greater and greater numbers of wines in all price categories. Prices, styles and quality vary; but the bang for the buck is pretty constant across all tiers. Of course not every wine is great, but there are a lot out there to love. Today I’ll look at a Chilean blend from the Maule Valley.

The Oveja Negra 2008 Lost Barrel was produced using fruit sourced in the Maule Valley of Chile; more specifically from the winery’s San Rafael Vineyard. This blend is a combination of Syrah (40%), Carignan (40%), Carménère (18%), and Petit Verdot (2%). The Carignan vines have 40 years of age on them. The wine was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. It has a suggested retail price of $25.

Aromas of dark plum are joined by hints of eucalyptus and a touch of thyme to form a lovely nose. Cherry flavors with a just a touch of kirsch liqueur to them emerge in the palate. Additional characteristics take the form of dried fruits which show up in spades. Black tea also plays a role and leads towards the finish which shows off hints of smoked meat, dark chocolate and a touch of earth. This wine has yielding tannins and firm acidity.

What I love most about this red blend is how well it pairs with food. Quite frankly it’s a food lovers dream. The dried fruit characteristics and firm acidity, which form the backbone of its pairing ability, also put me slightly in the mind of good Chianti stylistically. The finish which is above average is another noteworthy aspect of this wine. Bottom line for me is that for $25 or a bit less if you shop around you’re getting an excellent value.

Posted in Blends, Carignane, Carmenere, Chile, Petit Verdot, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

V. Sattui – 2008 Vittorio’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

Posted by Gabe on November 15, 2010

Regardless of the grape variety in question there are always an assortment of styles and differentiations to be had. This is based on where it’s grown, how it’s grown, the manner in which it’s handled, winemaking technique and of course the year to year vagaries of weather. All that on the table, I believe Sauvignon Blanc stands as one of the varieties with the greatest number of styles and expressions. Today I’ll look at one from V. Sattui Winery in Napa.

The V. Sattui 2008 Vittorio’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc was produced using estate fruit. Vittorio’s Vineyard sits right next to the winery itself. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc (99.8%), this wine also contains a splash of Semillon (0.2%). The majority (82%) of the wine was fermented in stainless steel with the balance (18%) in neutral French oak. 773 cases of this release were produced and it sells for $22.

This pale straw color of this Sauvignon Blanc stands out immediately upon pouring. Fresh vibrant aromas of citrus and tropical fruit are part of a lively, zingy nose. The full, round palate shows off mango and papaya as well as citrus and stone fruits such as peach, apricot, nectarine and lemon. Orange ice emerges on the finish as well as wisps of white lemon pepper.

This Sauvignon Blanc from V. Sattui is food friendly and incredibly appealing. It’s easy to like style makes it a sure winner for large groups with varying palates. It also features enough depth and complexity to keep more experienced wine lovers engaged. This wine has a definite “wow” factor that will light people up when they taste it. This is a truly excellent value.

Posted in Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Visiting Domaine Carneros in Napa

Posted by Gabe on November 7, 2010

Every time I travel to California Wine Country I undergo a lot of internal tussling. Honestly long before I even book a flight I’m thinking about where I want to go to taste wine. There are of course hundreds of options. But making the choice even tougher is the lure of old favorites, sitting on my shoulder and whispering in my ear like a comfortable, well known angel.  There’s something to be said for revisiting something you love, particularly the attraction of new vintages. On the other shoulder sits the unknown. This angel doesn’t look familiar but he whispers to me about unusual delights that I have yet to experience. In the end I try to strike a balance between the two with the unknown angel getting a little more of my attention. Each trip I also attempt to come up with some places I have been meaning to visit but somehow have managed to elude me. I visited one such spot a couple of days ago, Domaine Carneros. I’ve driven past Domaine Carneros more often than I could possibly count, and I’ve had some of their wine before. But for one reason or another I was always passing by on my way somewhere with a clock ticking.

I had a 3 PM appointment for a tour and tasting and I arrived in their entryway just before that and was warmly greeted. Moments later a gentleman by the name of Jean Claude came over and introduced himself. He was our guide for the tour, and so much more. I’ve been on many wine tours and it was immediately obvious that this was going to be a noteworthy one. Jean Claude has a passion for his subject, an ability to read his audience that many don’t posses, and enough personal warmth to fill a room. The tour I was on had a total of 10 people on it; Jean Claude managed to connect on some level with every one of them. Along the way he showed us around the facility and told us about the history of Domaine Carneros as well as the Carneros appellation itself. We tasted a quartet of Sparkling Wines on our journey, from their most widely available release, to wines that are a bit harder to come by on store shelves. In short a well planned cross section of their Sparkling Wines. In an engaging and easy to follow manner that never spoke down to anyone Jean Claude went through the production of Sparkling Wine. As we did this we made our way through the facility and saw different parts of it. It was an A to Z on Sparkling Wine that provided good basic knowledge for a newer wine lover but also a level of detail that would hold the attention of a more veteran taster.

When we were finished with the Sparkling wines we sat down in a lovely bar area and Jean Claude guided us through a trio of Pinot Noirs from the Portfolio. He spoke about these as well and we enjoyed them alongside a light snack of nuts.

At the end of the tour I was lucky enough to get a chance to spend time with still Winemaker TJ Evans. He poured me an additional sparkling wine I had yet to taste and then we headed to the barrel room.  Once there TJ showed me some lots of wine with varying age on them. Some were specific clones and others a blend of more than one. I was able to get a real window into his winemaking philosophy and where the Pinot Noir Program at Domaine Carneros is headed. In his time there he’s added a few releases to the line and it looks like he’ll continue to tinker and add things when he feels the fruit justifies it.  After going through some barrels TJ showed me some older wines. While he didn’t make the 2000 and 2001 Pinot Noir he poured for me tasting them was an eye opener as he’s working with the same vines. It’s clear that the fruit those vines produces can make Pinot Noir which has the ability to age.

Taking a tour at Domaine Carneros costs $25 and lasts approximately 90 minutes. In that time you’ll learn quite a bit about the Estate, their wines, Sparkling Wine and Pinot Noir in general and Carneros. We tasted seven wines in that period and they were well spaced out with plenty of time to enjoy and contemplate them. Domaine Carneros is a beautiful property and they make terrific wines, both still and sparkling. If you’re going to be in the Napa area, don’t wait as long as I did, get to Domaine Carneros, it’s well worth your time, effort and money. I should also note that if you don’t have time for a tour there are also numerous tasting options available as well. Check their website for details. My initial instinct was right on, this was a noteworthy tour and visit.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wine, Wine, Winery Visit | Leave a Comment »

Visiting The House of Sandeman in Portugal

Posted by Gabe on November 3, 2010

One of the many highlights of my recent trip to Portugal was visiting Sandeman Cellars in Porto. Tasting a producers wine is one thing, you can conceivably do that anywhere. But the experience is always heightened for me when I get to do it in the winery itself. When you consider that Sandeman has a history dating all the way back to 1790 it’s immediately obvious that a visit there is at least, partially a step back in time. By the same token the upkeep on the facility is staggeringly on point. The sections that could and should be modernized are, the portions that are best as they were, remain intact with care.

Being in close proximity to the water and walking into Sandeman Cellars was breathtaking. The history contained in the city and even in that single facility is stunning. There’s something impressive and regal about Sandeman Cellars as an edifice even as you approach it. Perhaps it’s the Sandeman Don looking down on you, or it’s the stucco and stone work that has weathered beautifully over time. In any case it’s hard not to be swept up in the times gone by. But then you have to consider that this is very much a working facility. In earlier days the Port was vinified on site. Now it’s made elsewhere, up in the Douro, and stored in casks and barrels of varying size in Porto. Walking through the cellar I felt as if the wine angels and ghosts of Ports past were walking alongside me. I practically felt them over my shoulder when I tasted some of the wines too.

George Sandeman

George Sandeman, who is a descendent of the founder, guided us through the facility on my visit and he was a wealth of information. The tour included a look at lots of historical Sandeman artifacts encompassing documents, classic artwork and even older bottle styles. Looking at pictures of these sorts of things is one thing, to see them inches away a whole other experience. The all-inclusive tour includes a short film that serves to fill visitors in on the history of Sandeman and their production of Port. Again watching it is one thing but doing it a few feet away from barrels full of port, a very different experience. The same can be said for tasting Port not only in Sandeman, but in the very heart and soul of Porto. This is the mother of fortified wines and to taste it in its true birthplace and natural home felt as right as enjoying a glass of wine can.

The coup de grace for me was something that admittedly not every visitor will get to experience. I want to mention it however as it left a deep impression. The group I was travelling with had the good fortune to enjoy dinner in the Sandeman boardroom. We were graciously hosted by George Sandeman and several other terrific folks who work in a variety of capacities for Sandeman. In addition to the great food, the kicker was tasting several of the ports as well as other Portuguese wines alongside dinner. I’m a firm believe that wine is really an important part of a meal, so that’s my preferred method of enjoying it. Tasting Sandeman Ports alongside Portuguese cuisine is even more effective because you get to taste the wines precisely as the winemaker might when they’re putting together blends and making decisions on what works and what doesn’t.

While I was in Porto I took the time to scope out a number of Port producers. As you’d expect there are a lot of them, many of them well worth your time. However if you only have the time to visit one producer in Porto, I believe Sandeman Cellars is a perfect choice. They have the history that will wow you, the consistency of quality that will keep you coming back vintage after vintage, and the stylistic variety to appease most every palate. Once you sample the Sanedman Ports you’ll want to procure them again back home. So it’s also important to note the wide availability of the lion’s share of their different port wines. If you like Port wine and haven’t had a Sandeman, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. If you’re new to Port the wide berth of styles and price points available under the umbrella that is their portfolio makes them a natural place to start.

Posted in Dining, Port, Wine, Winery Visit | Leave a Comment »

Grape Festival at Ca’Mea in Hudson New York

Posted by Gabe on November 1, 2010

As you can probably imagine I’ve been to wine tastings of all shapes and sizes, winemaker dinners and the like. Quite frankly I thought I’d experienced every type. That was until I heard about The Grape Festival that was held last week at Ca’Mea Restaurant in Hudson NY. This event was put on by Importer Quintessential Wines in association with the restaurant. Quintessential Wines is an importer of wines that I’ve been familiar with for a number of years. More so I’ve been impressed with their overall portfolio which focuses on family owned and operated wineries the world over. Each of these wineries features not only handcrafted wines, but a good story to boot. So when I heard that they were going to pour 17 of their wines at Ca’Mea in Hudson and pair them with Italian food I was in. Great food and wines with names like La Tunella, New Age, Valentin Bianchi, Simonsig, Two Angels, Koyle, Tinto Figuero, Fratelli, Quinta Do Vallado, and Dead Letter Office? Try to keep me away!

This was to be my first trip to Hudson NY and I didn’t know exactly what to expect. What I found was a charming town with a downtown area that brings to mind old time Americana with a hip, modern flair. All located just off the Hudson River in Columbia County NY. Entering the restaurant I was taken by the homey vibe with Tuscan flourishes. Sure I was in NY, but the warmth of the staff, the ambiance, and the smells coming from the kitchen told me I could have just as easily been in a small town in Italy. Ca’Mea has been in operation for about 8 years. It was started by Roy Felcetto and his partner of late has been Max Cenci from Cortona Italy. His restaurant back in the homeland has been in operation for 18 years and is now run by his family. In addition to dining both indoors and in a courtyard garden Ca’Mea offers lodging. They offer two buildings with accommodations, one right next door and another a block away. Both are older buildings that have been lovingly restored and feature all the modern amenities one would expect from fine, country lodging. I stayed overnight myself and was really taken by the feel of the place as well as how it’s both right in the middle of town, but also serene.

So wine and food you ask, what made this tasting so unique. The host for the evening in addition to the owners of Ca’Mea was Al De Winter from Quintessential Wines. Al has been around wine for quite awhile and what he presented was a real eye opener for the eager group in attendance. The seventeen wines he poured and spoke about each represented a specific grape variety. From white through red and from Pinot Grigio through Petite Sirah, Shiraz and a Moscato D’Asti for dessert and a lot of other stops in between Al hit on 17 grapes, and eight different countries. Speaking about the grapes and their style as well as encouraging everyone to pair the wines with the food that was served seemed to open a lot of eyes. I spoke to some folks who weren’t necessarily wine drinkers but were regulars at Ca’Mea and they thought they’d check out the event. It’s fair to say that a number of people have a new appreciation and understanding of wine from the everyday manner in which Al presented good information about wine and why it works with a variety of foods. The bottom line don’t be afraid to try slightly unusual sounding pairings. The results might please you a great deal.

And speaking of food; oh what food. The items that Max prepared for the tasting were nothing short of sensational. Some of it was quite traditional like Pasta in Bolognese sauce, other things like a roasted apple topped with Mascarpone cheese, truly palate awakening. Potato Croquettes were delicious and addictive. Roasted pork wrapped in Bacon with an applesauce accompaniment was delectable, seasonal and a killer pairing with at least half of the 17 wines. Bottom Line, I didn’t taste a single thing that didn’t make my mouth water. Later on in the evening I had Gnocchi with fresh tomato and basil. There are many places I simply won’t order them because of the industrial tasting, heavy as marbles things that some restaurants try to pass off as Gnocchi. I was confident this wouldn’t be the case at Ca’Mea and boy was I right. Max makes his pastas in house, by hand. The Gnocchi was airy, fluffy and just imbued with the right amount of potato flavors. The fresh sauce, basil and cheese on top the appropriate accompaniment. Having the opportunity to enjoy this dish with a glass of wine talking about food with Max, Roy and Al made the experience all the better. We sat in the courtyard where heat lamps were ready to keep us warm if there had been a chill, but there wasn’t. It was the perfect Indian Summer evening.

Did I mention how homey and terrific the ambiance and welcome at Ca’ Mea are? It’s as hard for me to overstate that as it is easy to see why this absolutely killer restaurant has a dedicated local clientele of regulars, who have become their friends really, eating there night after night. Let me put it another way, I live 100 miles away from Ca’Mea, making it hard for me to be a regular, but I can tell you I’ll definitely make the drive a couple of times a year, at least. If you’re local or travelling through the area I recommend Ca’Mea heartily. If you’re looking for a place to kick up your boots for a night or two, check into one of their rooms and enjoy their hospitality at the table and the Inn.

Posted in Dining, Wine | Leave a Comment »

 
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