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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for December, 2011

Gabe’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide

Posted by Gabe on December 19, 2011

The 2011 Holiday Season is here and with it comes shopping and gift giving. There are all sorts of gifts to consider but I think wines and spirits are excellent gifts for those that appreciate such things. With that in mind I decided to compile a list of some items in that category. To make my list the items below had to meet some particular criteria: 1) it has to be something I heartily recommend. 2) It needs to be a good value. 3) It should be relatively easy to locate. 4) The list should take into account peoples various budget sizes. With that in mind here are 8 offerings that the wine and spirits lovers on your gift list will be happy to receive.

The Lamberti Prosecco Veneto D.O.C. was made from fruit sourced at hillside vineyards throughout Treviso. This sparkling wine was produced utilizing the Charmat Method. This wine is widely available and has a suggested retail price of $13.99. This Prosecco has an effusive nose that shows off spice and fruits. Stone and citrus fruit flavors star through the palate along with loads of tingly spices. Brioche and hints of crumbled biscotti emerge on the finish which has good length. This wine shows off hints of sweetness and is a very appealing wine. It’ll work well on its own or paired with food. It would be a particularly nice choice for a Brunch. Sparkling wine generally makes people happy. Here’s a tasty choice that makes a perfect, modestly priced gift.

The Apaltagua 2009 Envero Carménère was produced from fruit sourced in the Apalta section of Chile’s Colchagua Valley. This is an estate vineyard 60 hectares in size. The 2009 vintage is a blend of Carménère (93%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (7%). Barrel aging took place over 12 months; an additional 6 months of bottle aging followed prior to release. This wine has a suggested retail price of $16.00. This Carménère has a fresh and lively nose. It shows off red and black fruit aromas as well as hints of eucalyptus. Juicy black currant and cherry flavors lead the palate as well a host of spices. This Carménère has a solid finish that lingers with sour black fruits and continued spices. Yielding tannins and firm acidity mark the structure and make this a terrific food wine. Carménère has been making inroads with US wine lovers over the last few years. This is a grape with lots of appeal to a wide array of folks. It’s ready to please fruits, as well as the fact that it’s still a discovery grape for some make this a particularly excellent gift for the newer wine lovers on your list.

The Sandeman Founder’s Reserve Port was produced from fruit sourced in the Douro Region of Portugal. Fermentation of this wine was stopped with the addition of chilled Brandy. This Port is aged for at least 5 years prior to release. It has a suggested retail price of $19. The Founder’s reserve has a deep red color, looking most like a young Vintage Port. The aromas it gives off lean towards red fruits laced with copious spices. Cherry flavors drive the palate and lead to a wonderful compote of dark, brooding berry flavors which are joined by plum pudding spices. Warming red fruits and loads of sweet dark chocolate mark the finish, which has tremendous length for the price point. The Founder’s Reserve is a great choice to drink while your Vintage Ports are aging. For its reasonable price tag it makes an affordable gift that offers lots of flavor and quality. This is an adaptable Port that’s delicious on its own, paired with desserts or used as the base of an inventive cocktail. It’s also currently available in decorative tins, perfect for gift giving.

The Biltmore Estate 2007 Blanc de Blancs Brut was produced using méthode champenoise. This offering is 100% Chardonnay, produced from fruit sourced in the Russian River Valley. After temperature controlled fermentation at cold conditions this wine underwent a secondary fermentation in bottle and aged for approximately 24 months prior to disgorging. This wine has a suggested retail price of $24.99. Lemon Zest and hints of brioche fill the nose of this 2007 Sparkling Wine. Apple, citrus and Bartlett pear flavors are all on display throughout the palate. Hints of ginger and flaky biscuits emerge on the finish which has nice length. This is a perfectly dry wine which is particularly well suited to pair with dinner. It’s fine on it’s own but excels when matched with the right dish. This is highly recommended for those who are open to New World Sparkling Wines.

The Frescobaldi 2006 Montesodi Riserva Chianti Rufina DOCG was produced from fruit sourced at the Castello di Nipozzano Pelago home estate. This vineyard sits roughly 1,300 feet above sea level. The vines have an average age of 16 years on them. This wine is 100% Sangiovese. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats over 10 days. Aging took place in Barriques over 24 months; 6 months of bottle aging followed.  The Montesodi Riserva Chianti is only made in select vintages. This wine has a suggested retail price of $52. Violet, rose petal, and dried red fruit aromas fill the nose of this Chianti Riserva. Dried fruit flavors, cherry and blueberry in particular, star throughout the palate which has impressive depth and complexity. Layers of spice emerge and lead to the finish which shows off black tea, and hints of dusty chocolate. This wine has tremendous length, awesome acidity and terrific overall structure. This is everything you would want in top shelf Chianti. It’ll drink well for at least a decade, if it’s being consumed in the short term it should be decanted for a couple of hours for best results. This is a tremendous gift for the Gourmand in your life who likes to slave over a great meal and pair it with a fabulous wine.

The Rodney Strong 2008 Alexander’s Crown Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced in a single vineyard. It was from this vineyard in 1971 that Sonoma County’s first single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was produced. This offering is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aging took place over 22 months in all French oak; 47% of the barrels were new. This wine has a suggested retail price of $75. Deep, dark berry aromas, toast and vanilla fill the bold nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate here is simply overrun with blackberry, black plum, raspberry and cherry flavors. Black pepper and clove spices also make their presence known. Roast espresso, sweet dark chocolate and additional spices emerge on the finish which has excellent length and remarkable depth. This is a big, bold, brash, spicy mouthful of Cabernet Sauvignon that does a tremendous job of showing off its Alexander Valley roots. While Alexander’s Crown is delicious now it’ll benefit from time in the bottle. Those with the patience to lay this down for a decade will be justly rewarded. If someone on your holiday gift list loves California Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll have a hard time finding a more appropriate gift than this wine which is a jewel in the Rodney Strong Portfolio.

The Sandeman 30 Year old Tawny Port was aged in wooden casks. Over a period of time the fortified wine receives slow exposure to air which ages it and changes the color to the beautiful caramel typical of Tawny Ports Throughout their life the wines utilized are racked from time to time. As the name indicates the average age of the wines used to assemble this Tawny Port is 30. This Port has a suggested retail price of $99.99. Stone fruit in the form of Apricot underpinned by yellow peach lead the nose of this Port along with fruitcake spice and. Apricot flavors continue through the palate where they are dominant. Honey, hazelnut and almond characteristic are present along with white pepper spice. The impressively long finish shows off chamomile tea as well as a bit of caramel and continued spices and stone fruit flavors. This Port can certainly act as dessert all by itself. That said it works extremely well paired with food. A cheese course would be my top pick to match it with. In any case if there’s a Port lover in your life this would be a wonderful gift they will be sure to treasure.

It’s not often that I stray from the wine world here. However sometimes the mood or occasion calls for a beverage not made from grapes. Single Malt Scotch is one of the spirits that often has crossover appeal to those who like to sit and philosophize over their wines. So With that in mind here’s a look at a Single Malt that has really hit the spot for me on a number of occasions.

The Balvenie 12 Year DoubleWood is a Single Malt Scotch. During the aging process it’s moved from a traditional oak cask to a European Sherry cask. This Scotch sells for about $49.99. This Scotch has a great big nose that really develops over 15 or so minutes in the glass. Vanilla and hints of apricot are present. From the very first sip this Scotch distinguished itself by presenting lots of depth and a range of flavors. It is simultaneously fruity and spicy with a nice overall bite. The finish is above average in length and has rich, honeyed flavors and a bit of warmth in the final note. It’s apparent that the use of two types of wood for varying lengths of time really added to the complexity and finesse of this Scotch. If someone on your list is into Single Malt’s this offering from Balvenie is an excellent choice. It’s a distinct expression that stands apart from many of the 12 years Single Malts in its price range.

The selections above provide some excellent choices for gift giving this Holiday Season. I happily stand squarely behind them as good values in their respective categories as well as really tasty products that I enjoy a great deal. Happy Shopping.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chardonnay, Chianti, Port, Prosecco, Sangiovese, Single Malt Scotch, Sparkling Wine, Whiskey, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Bodegas Muriel – 2005 Crianza / 2005 Reserva

Posted by Gabe on December 8, 2011

Bodegas Muriel was founded close to 30 years ago in the Rioja region of Spain. While many Rioja producers blend small quantities of other local varietals into their red wines, Bodegas Muriel is one of those that use Tempranillo exclusively. Today I’ll look at two of their current releases.

The Bodegas Muriel 2005 Crianza was produced from fruit sourced in the Rioja region of Spain. This selection is 100% Tempranillo. The vines in question have a median age of 30 years on them. Fermentation took place over 20 days in temperature controlled stainless steel. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in American oak. 1,700 cases of this offering were imported to the US and it has a suggested retail price of $16.99.

Wild Strawberry and rose petal aromas are both prominent on the nose of this 2005 Crianza from Bodegas Muriel. This wine has full, weighty palate that features tons of tremendous fruit characteristics, cherry in particular. Pepper spice and bits of anise are present as well. Black tea and raspberry flavors emerge on the finish which has good length. This wine is really round and smooth with supple, yielding tannins and fine acidity. Bodegas Muriel is a fine example of Crianza that is well priced and suited for regular consumption.

The Bodegas Muriel 20005 Reserva was produced using fruit sourced at two vineyards in Rioja; Alta and Rioja Alavesa. The Vines have an average age of 40 years on them. This wine is 100% Tempranillo. Fermentation took place over a 25 day period in temperature controlled stainless steel. Barrel aging occurred over 24 months in a combination of French and American oak. 600 cases of this wine were imported and it has a suggested retail price of $19.99.

Cherry, wild strawberry and plum aromas are all present on the heady nose of this 2005 Reserva. The palate is fresh and lively with red fruit flavors taking center stage. Cassis and fruitcake spices lead the finish which has hints of black fruits interspersing with the continuing red fruits. Earth and chicory are present as well. This wine has firm tannins, terrific acidity and above average length. This is a charming Reserva, particularly in the under $20 price-point.

Both of these wines from Bodegas Muriel are fine examples of Rioja. They’re well priced for their quality level and will drink nicely for a number of years. As with many well made Rioja’s these wines will shine when paired with food.

Posted in Tempranillo, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Parducci – 2009 “Small Lot Blend” Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on December 7, 2011

Inexpensive Pinot Noir that actually looks, smells and tastes like what the label says is an all too uncommon thing. Pinot is a tough grape to grow as legions of winemakers will attest. Its popularity as a varietal causes there to be way too many poor examples on store shelves. So I’m always looking for good Pinot and I’m particularly interested in examples that are appropriate for everyday drinking. Parducci Wine Cellars recently unveiled a smaller production Pinot. I’ll take a look at it today.

The Parducci 2009 Small Lot Blend Pinot Noir was produced using select, individually vinified lots of wine. This offering is 100% Pinot Noir. The fruit comes from both Mendocino where Parducci is based and the Sierra Foothills. All of the fruit utilized is sustainable as with all Parducci wines. Barrel aging took place over six months; 15% in new French oak and the balance in a combination of seasoned oak and Redwood tanks. 6,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $12.

Earth, cherry, toast and rose petal aromas fill the deep nose of this 2009 Pinot Noir. The palate on this wine is gentle and layered with red fruits; cherry and strawberry are both of note. Chicory and spice emerge on the finish which has good length. This wine has soft, pliable tannins and firm acidity. This is a fine Pinot to sip on its own or better yet pair with a meal.

For $12 this is a tremendous value in Pinot Noir. It blows away most of the other examples in this price range. Most importantly it’s genuinely Pinot Noir. This would be an excellent wine to consider a case purchase of as a house wine. Parducci routinely turns out very good value wines that are emblematic of their Mendocino origins. This Pinot Noir is another in that line.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Michael Torino – 2011 Malbec Rosé

Posted by Gabe on December 5, 2011

I love Rosé. There’s something about this style of wine, when it’s well done that appeals to me on a deep level. Of course I consume more of it in warm weather months than in fall and winter. However I do find time and desire to drink it in the colder months, particularly if it’s a little bit bigger and bolder a style of Rosé. Today I’ll look at an example from Argentina that fits perfectly into the profile of the sort of Rosé I enjoy while I’m waiting for the weather to warm back up.

The Michael Torino 2011 Malbec Rosé was produced from fruit sourced in the Cafayate Valley of Argentina. All of the vineyards utilized sit between 3,000 and 5,000 feet above sea level. This selection is 100% Malbec. After a short period of skin contact this wine is fermented and vinified utilizing the same practices employed for their white wines. A short period of aging, roughly five months, takes place prior to release. This wine is widely available for right around $12.

Aromas of red cherry and flowers are prominent on the nose of this Rosé. Tons of wild strawberry, cherry and bits of pepper are apparent through the full flavored and fruit forward palate. The bright fruit flavors continue through the finish along with a hint of vanilla bean. This wine is very refreshing with good acidity. This Malbec Rosé is made to be paired with food. It has a bit of extra heft allowing it to stand up to a wider array of cuisines than the average Rosé. If you’re drinking this in the cooler months, I’d recommend only putting a slight chill on it.

Posted in Malbec, Rosé, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Frisk – 2011 Prickly Riesling

Posted by Gabe on December 1, 2011

Admittedly Australia isn’t the first or even the third wine growing country I think when Riesling comes to mind. However over the last few years I’ve seen more and more evidence that this might just be the next varietal from Australia that makes a large impact on US shelves. Many of the examples are well priced, tasty and aimed at everyday consumption. That rings a similar bell to the manner in which Aussie Shiraz made its mark. I’m not saying Riesling is going to have the same overall effect, just that some of the hallmarks are similar. Today I’ll look at an example from Frisk.

The Frisk 2011 Prickly Riesling was produced using fruit sourced in the Victoria section of Australia. In addition to Riesling (89%) this wine also has Muscat Gordo (11%) blended in. This wine was fermented in stainless steel using select yeasts. The modest alcohol checks in at 9.8%. This Riesling has a suggested retail price of $11.

Ginger and white flower aromas fill the nose of this 2011 Riesling. The palate is filled with lemon, peaches, papaya and lychee fruit as well as bits of white pepper. This finish has more than reasonable length; it’s crisp and refreshing, inviting you back to the glass for sip after sip. This wine is light and shows off bits of sweetness and tingly spice throughout. It’s a perfect aperitif or welcome wine at the beginning of a dinner or other event.

Posted in Riesling | 1 Comment »


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