Posted by Gabe on November 29, 2011
For years a lot of the Pinot Noir in California was grown in some questionable (for Pinot) locations. Over time vineyard managers and winemakers learned more about the unique spots that are best for this legendarily finicky grape. One appellation that was long ago indentified as a Pinot Noir haven is the Russian River Valley. Today I’ll look at a trio of new releases from Matrix Winery.
The Matrix Winery 2009 Buoncristiani Vineyard Pinot Noir was made using Russian River Valley Fruit. This is a single vineyard effort made entirely from Pinot Noir. The Buoncristiani Vineyard which was planted in 2002, and sits 150 feet above sea level, features clones 115 and 777. After hand harvesting the fruit was fermented utilizing native yeasts. Barrel aging took place over 19 months in French oak. 199 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $36.
Aromas of cherry, spice, earth and mushroom are all present on the nose of this Pinot Noir. Fruitcake spices, strawberry, and plum flavors are all in evidence through the palate which has nice depth. Rhubarb and sour cherry highlight the finish which is long and warming. Red fruits star and are tinged by hints of black. This is a classic example of Russian River Pinot Noir. It’s delicious all by itself and will pair well with a wide variety of foods.
The Matrix Winery 2009 Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir was produced using Russian River Valley Fruit. This is a single vineyard effort with all of the fruit sourced at the namesake vineyard. This offering is 100% Pinot Noir. The Bacigalupi vineyard which was planted in 1995 and 2003 features 2 clones, 667 and Wadensville. After being hand picked the fruit was fermented utilizing native yeast. The wine was aged over a period of 18 months in French oak. 199 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $38.
Bright red cherry aromas fill the nose of this 2009 Pinot Noir. Hints of cedar and herb are in evidence as well. Strawberry, cherry and earth are joined by vanilla bean throughout the flavorful palate. Black cherry and rhubarb are both on hand through the finish which has good length. This wine is balanced by fine acidity. It drinks particularly nicely on its own and will also complement food. However, it’s a particularly nice bottle to sit in the corner and contemplate life with. It’s a little tight out of the bottle showing its youth. If you’re drinking it now I recommend decanting it for 90 minutes or so.
The Matrix Winery 2009 Nunes Vineyard Pinot Noir was made using Russian River Fruit. This single vineyard effort is made up of 100% Pinot Noir. The Nunes Vineyard was planted in 2000; it featurtes clones 115 and 777. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in all French oak. 199 cases of this release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $42.
Aromas of dry wild strawberry and hints of green herbs fill the nose of this Pinot Noir. Cherry dominates the palate with both black and red fruits checking in; red raspberry is of particular note. The finish on this wine is quite long and loaded with spices, black tea and sour black cherry flavors. It has finely ground tannins and firm acidity making this a surefire bet with a vast multitude of different food styles. This wine is tasty now but is sure to be even better in a year or so. If you’re drinking it over the next 12 months, decant if for at least an hour for best results.
This is a fine group of releases from Matrix Winery. In addition to showcasing the appropriate nature of Russian River Valley as a bastion for Pinot Noir they also highlight the specific vineyards beautifully and distinctly. These are well priced, small lot wines that will each age nicely. In fact this entire trio, particularly the Nunes will really benefit from some additional time in the bottle. If you’re a fan of new world Pinot Noir these efforts from Matrix are worth your time and money.
Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 21, 2011
Rodney Strong Vineyards makes quite a few Cabernet Sauvignons. In fact over the last few years they have expanded their portfolio to add several single vineyard Cabs on the higher end. Those as well as their Reserve selections are worthy of consideration for any special event. However on a day in and day out basis the Rodney Strong lineup offers many well priced wines to consider. Today I’ll look at the current release of their Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced using fruit sourced at several estate vineyards within the appellation. Fermentation and aging took place in a combination of French and American oak over a period of 16 months. This widely available wine has a suggested retail price of $25.00. If you shop around though you can easily find it for right about $20, sometimes a few dollars less.
Aromas of bramble, toast and red berries fills the nose of this 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate is studded with cherry flavors, both red and black. Plum and raspberry flavors are present as well alongside lots of spice such as nutmeg and close. Hints of candied cherry and white pepper emerge on the finish which has good length. The 2009 Alexander Valley Cab from Rodney Strong has medium tannins that yield easily and fine structure. This wine is primed to pair with a wide array of foods.
Rodney Strong Vineyards produces many wines that offer consistent quality vintage after vintage. None however might offer more value in its category than the Alexander Valley Cabernet does. This wine is widely available for around $20 and offers a real window into the hallmarks of why Alexander Valley and Cabernet go together so well. If you drink California wines, Rodney Strong Vineyards is a go to name that should be on your shopping list.
Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 16, 2011
The Malan Family has been making wine outside Stellenbosch under the Simonsig Family Vineyards label since 1968. A couple of years later, in 1970 they introduced the first red. They’ve continued to push the quality envelope over time and widen their portfolio with complementary offerings when and where they fit in well. Their flagship wine however remains the Chenin Blanc; I’ll take a look at the current release today.
The Simonsig Family Vineyards 2011 Chenin Blanc was produced using fruit sourced in several locations; the majority comes from the greater Simonsberg area. This offering is 100% Chenin Blanc. Fermentation took place in stainless steel, utilizing a select South African yeast. This 2011 release represents the 43rd vintage that Simonsig has produced Chenin Blanc. 28,000 cases of this widely available wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $11.99.
Aromas of hazelnut, Lychee, and papaya leap forth from the fresh, vibrant and welcoming nose of this 2011 Chenin Blanc. Bartlett pear, apricot, guava and an overall tropical mélange really shine through the palate of this wine which has a nice weighty, mouth-filling quality to it. Honey, nectarine and white pepper emerge on the finish which has good length and clings to the back of the throat for awhile. The Simonsig Chenin Blanc is well suited to drink on its own as well a pair with lighter foods. In particular it works well with appetizers.
Simonsig’s Chenin Blanc continues to be both a terrific value in general and a very nice example of how Chenin Blanc shines in South Africa in particular. If you shop around you can find it for right around $10 which is a bargain. With the holidays coming, stock up; this is a wine that will make all your guests smile.
Posted in Chenin Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 14, 2011
The 2007 vintage of Luce from Luce della Vite was produced using fruit grown in Montalcino. This offering is a blend of Sangiovese (45%) and Merlot (55%). Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel over 12 days. Barrel aging was accomplished over 24 months in a combination of new (90%) and once used (10%) barriques. 4,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $93.
The deeply perfumed nose of this 2007 Tuscan blend is loaded with Aromas of dried red fruits and rose petals. Dried fruits continue on the palate where cherries, strawberries and intense spices join black tea, rhubarb and pepper to fill out layer after layer of flavor. Earth, minerals and a veritable truckload of red cherry emerges on the finish which has tremendous length and persistence. This selection is a food wine that’s balanced by even structure and terrific acidity. Pair Luce with an Italian feast.
If you’re going to drink the 2007 Luce now, decant it for a couple of hours to achieve best results. However if you’re patient lay it down for 10-15 years and you’ll be rewarded with an even lovelier and more impressive wine. These two grapes work well together to form a wine that has excellent aromatics, structure and intensity. What most distinguishes the 2007 vintage of Luce is its absolutely remarkable depth of palate which is loaded with complex favors both overt and subtle; additionally the incredible length of the finish which goes on well after the last sip is swallowed is quite notable and exciting.
Posted in Blends, Merlot, Sangiovese, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 9, 2011
The Mercer Estates 2008 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced at three different locations within Columbia Valley at large. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), this wine also contains small amounts of Merlot (5%), Syrah (4%), and Petit Verdot (1%). The fruit was harvested and fermented separately as individual blocks achieved desired ripeness. After malolactic fermentation the wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak for a period of 18 months. Just fewer than 3,200 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $23.99.
This Cabernet Sauvignon has an incredibly fresh nose marked by red berry aromas in particular and to a smaller degree by hints of black fruit. Red raspberry, blackberry and cherry flavors dominate the palate which also shows off bits of Herbes de Provence as well as black pepper. Chicory, earth and a ton of black cherry characteristics emerge on the finish which has outstanding length for its category. This wine has lush tannins and fine acidity making it an excellent partner for a wide array of foods.
This Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon is an impressive effort for its price. Its chief attributes are good length, solid backbone, loads of appealing fruit as well as excellent proportion and balance. At around $20 this is a selection many wine lovers will be able to try if they’re so inclined. Whether it’s for an everyday meal or served to guests this is a solid and appealing wine.
Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 8, 2011
Piña Napa Valley has two specialties. The family has had their feet firmly planted in the Napa Valley for many, many years. They first established themselves as vineyard managers. Now they’ve also become well known for wine. Given that they manage so many acres in Napa it’s no surprise that they have access to lots of interesting lots of fruit. Their specialty is small lot single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Today I’ll look at two of their current releases.
First up is the Piña Napa Valley 2008 Firehouse Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced at the namesake vineyard located in the Rutherford section of Napa Valley. This offering is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Piña family has owned the property since 1960 and the current vines were planted in 2002 and 2005. Barrel aging took place over 20 months in all French oak; 67% of the barrels were new. 236 cases of this Cabernet Sauvignon were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $85.
The deep, brooding nose is loaded with explosive dark fruit aromas and oodles of spice such as clove, nutmeg and allspice. This Cabernet Sauvignon has a full throttle palate that’s layered with blackberry, plums, black raspberry and chocolate. Kirsch Liqueur flavors leads the finish which also features oodles of earth and dark chocolate. This is a big wine that just oozes intense flavors from beginning to end. Firm acidity keeps things in check. If you’re going to drink this over the next couple of years, decanting for about 90 minutes or so is recommended.
Next up is the Piña Napa Valley 2008 Buckeye Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. All off the fruit for this wine is from the namesake vineyard located on Howell Mountain. This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Piña family has owned this property since 1996 and the vines were planted in 1997 and 2005. Barrel aging occurred over 19 months in 100% French oak; 76% of the barrels were new. 359 cases of this release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $85.
Aromas of toast and bramble underscore lots of dark berry compote characteristics. The palate is a who’s who of dark fruit flavors with blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry, black currant and plum flavors all making their presence known. Clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom are also in evidence throughout a palate that has an impressive depth. Espresso, dark chocolate and a boatload of cherry characteristics are all part of the finish which goes on and on. The Buckeye Vineyard Cabernet has firm tannins that soften nicely with aeration. More than anything it’s a classic example of terrific Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. It possesses structure, depth, length and brawny power while maintaining balance and precision. Decant it for a couple of hours if you’re drinking it in the short term, otherwise lay it down for 10-12 years.
Piña Napa Valley is turning out excellent examples of site specific Cabernet Sauvignon. If you’re a fan of powerful Napa Cabernets that showcase their place of origin, as well as have the ability to age, you’ll want to try some of the wines from Piña.
Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 6, 2011
The Grooner – 2010 Grüner Veltliner was produced using fruit sourced in Austria’s Niederösterreich appellation. This offering is 100% Grüner Veltliner. This wine was made by Meinhard Forstreiter whose family has been making wine in this region since 1868. Under his stewardship the Winery has reached new heights in several aspects of their operation such as the implementation of sustainable farming practices. For the last several years he’s partnered with Monika Caha & Tony Silver from Caha selections to bring Grooner to the masses in the US. Their mission is to help educate the US consumer about this grape that they may be unfamiliar with and whose name they may have a difficult time pronouncing. The 2010 Grooner is widely available and has a suggested retail price of $13.
A potpourri of citrus aromas fills the nose of this 2010 Grüner Veltliner. Orchard fruits in the form of apple characteristics are present as well. Lemon ice and papaya flavors lead an avalanche of citrus and tropical fruit flavors throughout the juicy, bright, concentrated palate. This wine just explodes in your mouth and offers loads of tasty appealing flavors. The citrus elements take charge through the finish and they’re joined by hints of white pepper and some tart green apple. This wine is marked by racy acidity that adds to its refreshing quality. Grooner is delicious all by itself but will also pair well with things like soft cheeses and light appetizers.
Over the last three vintages Grooner has really achieved its mission. It provides an accessible example of Grüner Veltliner that will easily appeal to those new to the varietal as well as providing sufficient complexity for those already familiar with it. Anyone who likes crisp, refreshing whites should give Grooner a shot.
Posted in Grüner Veltliner, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 4, 2011
The Robert Mondavi Winery hardly needs an introduction; simply put it’s a legend. Sometimes though we take those legends for granted and it’s useful to remind ourselves they’re there and remember why they achieved their status to begin with. With that in mind I’ll take a look today at two of their current releases.
The Robert Mondavi Winery 2010 Pinot Noir was produced using mostly fruit sourced in Carneros (93%); the remainder of the fruit is from the Russian River Valley (7%). This offering is 100% Pinot Noir. The fruit was hand-picked and some of it was whole cluster pressed while the balance was de-stemmed. After fermentation this Pinot Noir was aged in French oak for 7 months; 34% of the barrels were new. This offering has a suggested retail price of $27.
Aromas of cherry, spice, and earthy mushrooms fill the nose of this 2010 Pinot Noir. Copious red and black cherry flavors are prominent on the palate along with wild strawberry and bits of pomegranate. Sweet and sour cherry flavors continue through the finish which also shows off lots of clove, nutmeg, white pepper and hints of cinnamon. This wine has fairly firm, gripping tannins that yield with some aeration. This Pinot Noir is tasty now but look for it to improve significantly in the next year and drink well for a couple of years after that. The Robert Mondavi 2010 Carneros Pinot Noir is a fine example of this grape in this appellation at a fair price.
The Robert Mondavi Winery 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced using fruit sourced in Stag’s Leap and Oakville; 31% comes from the well regarded To Kalon vineyard. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), this wine also contains small amounts of Merlot (11%), Cabernet Franc (10%), Syrah (2%), Petit Verdot (1%) and Malbec (1%). After hand harvesting the fruit was fermented in a combination of stainless steel and oak tanks. 17 Months of barrel aging followed in French oak; 15% of them were new. The Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet has a suggested retail price of $28.
Cigar box and eucalyptus support strong bramble aromas on the dark and inviting nose of this 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Red raspberry and black cherry flavors lead the palate along with hints of sweet chocolate, toasty oak, blackberry and pepper. The solid finish shows off lots of earth, crushed cherries, and dusty dark cocoa. This wine has supple tannins that yield with air and time as well as firm acidity. This is an approachable Cabernet Sauvignon that will be at its best over the next 5-8 years.
These two wines are polar opposites of perception for me personally. The Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the first wine that comes to mind for me with the Mondavi Winery. It’s a release that has been a solid example of the varietal for decades as well as a good value; it continues to be exactly that. Pinot Noir on the other hand, for whatever reason isn’t a varietal I associate as quickly with the Mondavi Winery. That being said I’ve had this wine on numerous occasions over the years and It’s been a solid performer. The 2010 provides really nice varietal character, sense of place and good value to boot. If you haven’t checked in with the Robert Mondavi Winery in awhile, these releases are a good reason to.
Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 3, 2011
Do you like Chardonnay? That’s a loaded question I know. Your answer is probably a return question asking what sort, or style of Chardonnay I’m talking about. There might not be another grape that is so wildly popular on the one hand and inspires so much debate on the other. The basic concept folks tend to wrestle with when it comes to this grape is oak treatment. What has become known in many circles as “California Style Chardonnay” is what really gets a lot of people talking. The trouble with that term is that it only describes a very small amount of Chardonnay from California. There are tons of different Chardonnays made in different styles with varying intent and incredibly divergent price-points. Some producers present a look into the differences in this grape within a single portfolio. One such producer is Sonoma County’s Rodney Strong Vineyards. They make a trio of Chardonnays, that one vintage after another provides a small window into the various disciplines of Sonoma County Chardonnay. I’ll take a look at the current releases of each today.
First up is the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2010 Sonoma County Chardonnay. This wine was produced using estate grown fruit as well as grapes sourced at other local Sonoma Vineyards. After harvesting this wine was fermented in a combination of barrel (60%), and stainless steel (40%); 5 months of barrel aging followed for the juice already in oak. This widely available wine has a suggested retail price of $13.50.
Bright, fresh orchard fruit aromas fill the nose of this Sonoma County Chardonnay. Bartlett pear, Golden Delicious apple and hints of lemon zest are present throughout the palate of this wine along with nutmeg and clove spices. The Sonoma County Chardonnay has a crisp, clean finish with zippy acidity and underlying wisps of creaminess. This wine is quite tasty by itself but will also pair well with lighter foods. Rodney Strong’s Sonoma County offering continues to be a tremendous everyday value in everyday Chardonnay from Sonoma County.
Next up is the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2009 Chalk Hill Chardonnay. This wine is composed entirely of fruit from the Chalk Hill appellation. 86% of this wine was fermented in French oak, the remainder in stainless steel; 10 months of barrel aging followed for the 86%. This wine is available nationally and has a suggested retail price of $20.
Subtle toast and vanilla aromas join up with loads of fresh fruit aromas and a hint of hazelnut on the nose of this Chalk Hill Chardonnay. The palate of this wine is incredibly even keeled and balanced with appealing orchard fruit and spice sharing the bill with mineral characteristics and, to a lesser degree, bits of tropical fruit and lemon ice. A bevy of spices such as nutmeg, cardamom and white pepper are part of a creamy, layered finish. The oak used here is judicious and well integrated; it adds but does not detract. I’ve been fond of the Chalk Hill Chardonnay for a number of years now. In the $20 category this wine remains a go to choice.
Finally today is the Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Russian River Valley Reserve Chardonnay. This wine was produced using fruit sourced at a variety of Russian River Valley Vineyards. The Reserve Chardonnay was entirely fermented in French oak; 14 months of oak aging followed with 46% of the barrels being new. This wine is available across the country and has a suggested retail price of $35.
Apple pie aromas are joined by toast and hints of toffee on the layered and complex nose of this 2008 Chardonnay. Tropical fruits and hints of citrus appear on the palate which is loaded with apple and pear characteristics. Baked pie spices are plentiful as well. Minerals lead the lengthy finish which shows off toasty oak, bits of butter and a creaminess that brings to mind crème brulee. This wine is the epitome of California style Chardonnay; but to be crystal clear an example that is done remarkably well. The oak is well integrated but easily detectable and a key element like a prominent spice, however the fruit is still, as it should be the key. This wine is good on it’s own but excels paired with rich dishes.
This is a distinct trio of wines that could easily provide a mini-tour of Sonoma County Chardonnay and a bit of an eduction all by themselves. Depending on how much you’re looking to spend on a Chardonnay or even more importantly what your desired style is, Rodney Strong Vineyards likely has one you’ll enjoy. Each is a well made wine that delivers excellent value in its category. However I personally reach for the Chalk Hill most often as it comes closest to my personal Chardonnay sweet spot. Rodney Strong Vineyards continues to be a large Sonoma County Producer with readily accesible wines, wherever you live in the US, at more than reasonable prices.
Posted in Chardonnay, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on November 2, 2011
Every country has a grape or style of wine that’s King. Napa has Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia has Shiraz. In Italy a couple of things come to mind immediately for wine lovers. But while Sangiovese based wines such as Chianti and Brunello get a lot of deserved attention, Barolo is the rock star. Today I’ll look at a new release Barolo from producer Paolo Manzone.
The Paolo Manzone 2007 Barolo DOCG was produced entirely from Nebbiolo. The vines this fruit was sourced from have 15 years of age on them; they sit on a hillside approximately 400 meters above sea level. The fruit was hand harvested and then fermented in a temperature controlled environment. Barrel aging occurred in French oak over a period of 24 months; 16 months of bottle aging followed prior to release. 500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $59.99.
Violets, rose petals, and dry red fruit aromas fill the intensely fragrant nose of this 2007 Barolo. Flavors of red cherry and dried cranberry are joined by gentle spices throughout the palate which is deeply embedded with layer after layer of flavor. Earth and hints of black tea emerge on the finish which continues to show off red fruit flavors. Terrific, racy acidity and firm tightly wound tannins provide excellent structure. This is a powerful Barolo that has prodigious depth of palate and tremendous length. This wine is nice now particularly paired with food; however it will benefit from another 6-8 years of bottle aging after which it will be even more accessible and perform more brilliantly.
Posted in Barolo, Nebbiolo, Wine | Leave a Comment »