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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for February, 2011

Rodney Strong – 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on February 25, 2011

Rodney Strong Vineyards in Sonoma County is a producer whose core releases you can find on the shelf of any decent wine shop in the United States. Many of their releases are ubiquitous in their availability. And that’s a good thing for wine consumers looking for solid go to wines that deliver consistent quality vintage after vintage. It also makes them a go to choice when you want to step things up and spend a few extra bucks on a bottle of wine for a particular occasion or to age gracefully in your cellar. With all that they do well, I believe the winemaking team at Rodney Strong Vineyards has a particularly deft hand when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon. Today I’ll look at the current release of the reserve Cabernet from Alexander Valley.

The Rodney Strong 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was produced using fruit sourced in Alexander Valley. This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Select blocks of fruit from each vineyard were chosen. Fruit was hand picked and each lot was fermented and barreled separately. After approximately 6 months the best lots were chosen for blending. Once the blend was complete the wine was returned to barrel for approximately 14 months. In total the wine was barrel aged for 20 months in 100% French oak. This offering has a suggested retail price of $45.

Blackberry, cedar and vanilla bean aromas fill the nose of this Cabernet which simply explodes from the glass with brooding intensity. Cassis, blueberry and continued blackberry are all apparent throughout the powerful palate of this wine. Loads of spice notes show up as well. Dark, dusty baker’s chocolate, espresso bean and a earth notes are all part of the finish which has terrific length. This wine has firm gripping tannins and excellent acidity.

If you plan to enjoy this Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Rodney Strong Vineyards over the next couple of years I highly recommend decanting it for a couple of hours. That will allow it to open up and really spread its wings. If you have some patience you could lay this wine down for 5 or 6 years to let it really come in to it’s own; it’ll drink even better in the 5 or so years after that. This is another fine example of the good work being done by the folks at Rodney Strong Vineyards.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Domaine Serene – 2008 Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on February 23, 2011

Pinot Noir remains one of the trickiest varieties in the world. There are a host of reasons for this. It prospers in some areas and doesn’t do well at all in others. Sometimes a couple areas in question can be quite close to each other, relatively speaking. But aside from the regions and sub-regions where Pinot either thrives or not there are questions of intent. While there are folks passionate about just every grape in the world, Pinot Noir has a particularly dedicated legion of believers. The treatment of the grapes and the style it’s produced in garners as much praise or criticism as the location it’s from. For most of those passionate about Pinot that means things like restrained use of oak and wines that are 100% varietal to name but a couple. One of the regions in the world where Pinot Noir thrives and is produced in a variety of styles is Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Today I’ll look at a current release from Domaine Serene.

The Domaine Serene 2008 Yamhill Cuvée Pinot Noir was produced using fruit sourced mostly from the winery’s estate vineyards in the Eola Hills and Dundee Hills. The fruit used is three distinct Pinot Noir Clones, Pommard (51%), Dijon (38%), and Wadenswil (11%). Barrel aging was accomplished over 12 months in French oak; 51% of the barrels were new. 7,500 cases of this wine were produced in the 2008 vintage and it has a suggested retail price of $42.

Aromas of red raspberry, wild strawberry and leather fill the nose of this 2008 Pinot Noir from Oregon. Throughout the palate black cherry, nutmeg and blueberry each play key roles. The middle of this wine is simply loaded with copious amounts of red and black fruit characteristics as well as equal amounts of spice. The lengthy finish shows off both black and white pepper as well as rhubarb, sour cherry, hints of cola and cedar. This wine has fairly firm tannins that yield with some aeration.

This 2008 Cuvée from Domain Serene is an excellent example of the world class Pinot Noir emerging from Oregon. If you like Pinot Noir pure and true to varietal, Oregon is certainly already on your go to list. I recommend making sure Domain Serene is one of the producers you look to. This wine is also a relative value in its price category. For best results, decant this wine for about 90 minutes.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | 2 Comments »

Mastroberardino – 2005 Radici Taurasi Aglianico

Posted by Gabe on February 19, 2011

Aglianico is one of the Italian grapes that I’ve been pretty excited about the last few years. It’s a unique variety that flourishes in its homeland and we’ve been seeing more and more examples of it on US shelves as time goes on. And while our history of Aglianico in the US is pretty short, its story in Italy dates back a couple of thousand years. Today I’ll look at one from long time producer Mastroberardino.

The Mastroberardino 2005 Radici Taurasi was produced using fruit sourced from two vineyards. These vineyards sit approximately 1,800 feet above sea level.  This offering is 100% Aglianico. Fermentation took place over 15 days in stainless steel tanks. Aging took place in barriques and casks of varying size and age. French and Slavonian oak were both employed; new, 2 year and 3 years barrels were all part of the program. 80,000 bottles (approximately 6,600 cases) of this wine were produced. It has a suggested retail price of $65 and is currently available at for less than $46.00.

Aromas of leather, wild strawberry and cigar box fill the intoxicating nose of this 2005 Aglianico. Dried fruit flavors, both red and black, dominate the palate of this wine. Raspberry, cherry, strawberry and a hint of blackberry are all present. Hints of tobacco leaf underscore things. The finish shows off sour fruits, black pepper, rhubarb and a veritable avalanche of earth notes. This wine has medium tannins and firm acidity.

This is a classic example of Aglianico and as is the case with the majority of great Italian wine, it wants to be paired with food. Hard cheeses, pasta dripping with your grandmas red sauce and roasted meats are all examples of food that will pair terrifically with this wine and allow it to express al its charms. If you like Aglianico, give this one a shot.

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Waterstone – 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on February 15, 2011

There is so much Cabernet Sauvignon coming out of Napa Valley that it can be a bit dizzying. It’s hard, heck it’s practically impossible, to visit a winery in Napa without tasting Cabernet. They come in all shapes, sizes and price-points, so for me examples that over-deliver in their price-bracket are noteworthy. Today I’m looking at such an example from Waterstone.

The Waterstone 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced using fruit sourced at a number of vineyards throughout Napa Valley. Hillside vineyards play a large role in the blend and fruit from Rutherford and Oakville dominate while Coombsville and Diamond Mountain also have their place. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (79%), this wine also contains Merlot (17%) and Cabernet Franc (4%).Barrel aging was accomplished over 22 months in French oak; 80% of the barrels were new. 8,900 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $26.

Black currant, plum and vanilla bean aromas fill the powerful nose of this 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate of this Cab is layered and loaded with rich, dark berry fruit flavors. Blackberry, black cherry, and raspberry flavors all play a part. The avalanche of cherries continues through the lengthy finish which also shows off cedar, spice, earth, chocolate and espresso flavors. This wine has medium tannins that yield with some air and firm acidity.

This Cabernet will pair well with medium flavored foods; it’s also quite enjoyable on its own. For $26 this represents an excellent value in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has a depth of flavor and length of palate that is most often found in offerings that sell for $40 or more. With almost 9,000 cases produced it should be reasonably easy to locate as well.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Kracher – 2007 Trocken Pinot Gris

Posted by Gabe on February 10, 2011

Pinot Gris is one of those varieties that, for my money, doesn’t get nearly the acclaim it deserves. Sure like any other varietal there are some forgettable examples out there. But when the fruit is grown in the right spot and the winemaker treats it with respect, the results can be dazzling. For Pinot Gris this mostly means a handful of spots in Germany, Oregon, Italy and Austria in my opinion. Today I’ll look at a release from Austria.

The Kracher 2007 Trocken Pinot Gris was produced using fruit sourced in their home region of Burgenland Austria. This wine is 100% Pinot Gris. After fermentation it was aged in large oak barrels for six months. 8,000 cases of this Pinot Gris were produced and it normally sells for right around $17.

White flower and golden delicious apple aromas fill the nose of this 2007 Pinot Gris from Austria. Peach and apricots lead the palate with is even keeled and loaded with engaging flavors. Hints of spice emerge as well and lead to the finish which shows off hazelnuts, white pepper, vanilla bean and touches of honeycomb. This wine has a crisp, clean finish and firm acidity.

This Austrian Pinot Gris is a really nice example of the varietal. It’s easy drinking, but layered with subtle nuances that kept me intrigued and engaged as I tasted it. This wine is absolutely lovely and delicious on its own but will also pair well with lighter foods. If you have friends who claim they don’t like Pinot Gris, here’s one that will change their minds.

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

Castello Monaci – 2008 Piluna Primitivo Salento IGT

Posted by Gabe on February 7, 2011

One of the varieties that has made its mark on US shores from Southern Italy the last decade or so is Primitivo. It has strong genetic ties to Zinfandel, of course, and depending on the style its made in the similarities can be strong. Often enough however due to the differences in place of origin and handling they are pretty distinct. Today I’ll look at a Primitivo from Castello Monaci.

The Castello Monaci 2008 Piluna Primitivo Salento IGT was produced using fruit from the wineries own estate vineyards. This offering is 100% Primitivo. Hand harvesting occurred overnight to assure cool temperatures. Fermentation took place over a 2 week period in a temperature controlled environment. Once fermentation was complete some of the wine was aged in a variety of French barriques with different degrees of toast; the balance was left in stainless steel. This wine has a suggested retail price of $12.99.

The nose of this 2008 Primitivo is loaded with red raspberry; underneath that hints of vanilla and cedar pop through. The palate is loaded with layer after layer of dry red fruit flavors. Touches of anise and fresh blackberry poke their heads through as well. The finish is relatively long and somewhat lusty. Earth, sour red fruits and cocoa all make their presence know here. Firm acidity keeps everything in check.

This Primitivo is delicious, and it’s also a particularly good bargain. If you wanted to drink Zinfandel with this level of quality it would cost no less than $20. Pour this for friends over a nice leisurely meal and they’ll be knocked out when they discover it’s only $12.99.

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Parducci – 2007 True Grit Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on February 2, 2011

Mendocino’s Parducci Wine Cellars has a long and storied history with Petite Sirah, dating back to the 1940’s. In addition to a couple of separate bottlings of Petite Sirah, they use this great varietal in blends. Today I’ll look at the current release of their True Grit Petite Sirah.

The Parducci 2007 True Grit Petite Sirah was produced using fruit sourced exclusively in Mendocino. In addition to Petite Sirah (88%), this wine has Syrah (12%) blended in as well. Barrel aging was accomplished over 24 months. 4,800 cases of this vintage were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $29.99.

This 2007 Petite Sirah is gorgeous from the moment you pour it. A deep, dark purple hue fills the glass with brilliant color. Plums, violets and blackberry aromas leap from the glass and provide a heady nose. Baked blueberry cobbler characteristics lead the palate which is full-bodied, deeply flavored and simply loaded with dark, brooding and intense flavors. These bruising purple fruits lead to pencil lead, espresso, sour black fruits, earth and black pepper on the lengthy and lusty finish. This wine is big and beefy with firm tannins and excellent acidity.

I have tasted this wine over numerous vintages and find the Parducci True Grit to be one of the best and most consistent Petite Sirahs in its price range. This wine is delicious now, particularly if you enjoy the vigorous enthusiasm of young Petite Sirah. However, if you have the patience to lay this wine down for a decade you’ll be rewarded with a subtler, earthier bottle. Whenever you decide to drink this wine, if you like Petite Sirah, you’re in for a real treat.

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181 – 2008 Merlot

Posted by Gabe on February 1, 2011

The 181 2008 Merlot was produced using fruit sourced at Clay Station Vineyards in Lodi California. After picking and de-stemming the grapes sat in tanks for approximately 48 hours, allowing them to warm up to appropriate fermentation temperatures. Once the wine underwent primary and malolactic fermentation it was oak aged in a combination of French and American oak for four months. This wine has a suggested retail price of $12.99

Aromas of red fruit are underscored with hints of toasty oak aromas in the inviting nose of this 2008 Merlot. Dry red and black cherry flavors dominate the palate. Hints of Kirsch Liqueur show up as well, providing a nice counterbalance to the dry fruit characteristics. The palate is even keeled and very approachable. Earth and black pepper are both prominent on the finish which has good length. Soft tannins and solid acidity provide good framework.

When I think about wines in this price range there are a few things I’m looking for. I want the wine to have varietal character. These are the kinds of wines many of us serve at large gatherings or bring to a party, so they should also have wide appeal. The 181 Merlot like its sister wine 337 Cabernet Sauvignon does just that. It’s loaded with appealing flavors and it’s affordable. A solid choice if you’re looking for a California wine to buy a case of to keep around as a house wine. This is a Merlot aimed at immediate enjoyment; drink it over the next two years for best results.

Posted in Merlot, Wine | Leave a Comment »


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