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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

Archive for June, 2012

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery – 2010 Sauvignon Blanc / 2009 Pinot Noir

Posted by Gabe on June 25, 2012

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery has a distinguished history in Sonoma County as a producer. They’re best known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made with Burgundian intent. Their portfolio offers several other varietals as well. Today I’ll look at two of their current releases.

The Gary Farrell 2010 Sauvignon Blanc was produced from fruit sourced at Redwood Ranch in Sonoma County. This vineyard sits at the very southern end of Alexander Valley. The vines sourced for this offering were planted in 1997. The Gary Farrell 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is a 100% varietal wine. This wine was bottled n January 2011 after a short time in oak. Just over 1,500 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $25. Pear and citrus aromas fill the nose of this 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. Copious quantities of citrus and topical fruit flavors such as yellow plum, mango and lemon zest are layered throughout a welcoming and weighty mid-palate. Spice and continued fruit flavors fill the impressively lengthy finish of this Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer Sauvignon Blanc that leans towards the tropical and fruity side, this beauty is for you.

The Gary Farrell 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was produced from fruit sourced at a small handful of Vineyards. These well known growers within Russian River Valley are regarded specifically for Pinot Noir. The fruit was hand picked over a period of roughly 30 days as each source came to maturity. Barrel aging took place over roughly 8 months. 3,230 cases of this widely available offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $42. Wild Strawberry, clove, cardamom, and tobacco aromas are all in evidence on the engaging nose of this 2009 Pinot Noir. Black cherry and leather emerge from the palate along with continued strawberry and spice. Black pepper, graphite and bits of cola along with sour cherry, pomegranate and a touch of toast are present on the finish which has above average length. Firm acidity marks the fine structure of this wine which is delicious now but will improve over the next handful of years and drink well for a decade.

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery has long been associated with quality wines from Sonoma County that exhibit a wonderful sense of place. Both of these wines continue that story and each of them is well worth seeking out.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Poggiotondo – 2011 Vermentino IGT / 2010 Rosso IGT

Posted by Gabe on June 20, 2012

Italy is well represented on the shelves of good US wine shops. Whether you’re looking for a Barolo, Chianti Classico or Amarone you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you’re in the mood for. Over time the availability of some varietals that are lesser know to us in America are increasing as are the number of blends that utilize both indigenous and international grapes. Here’s a look at a couple of current releases from Poggiotondo that fall into those categories.

The Poggiotondo 2011 Vermentino IGT was produced from fruit sourced in the winery’s home region of Tuscany. This offering is 100% Vermentino. Fermentation took place in a combination of stainless steel (85%) and French oak (15%). Their estate which is over 123 acres has both vines and olive trees on it. After fermentation this wine saw two months of contact with the lees during aging. This wine has a suggested retail price of $20. Lemon zest, hazelnut and mango aromas are all prevalent on the nose of this Vermentino. Bartlett pear and yellow delicious apple flavors are on display throughout the palate along with hints of grapefruit. An impressive amount of minerality is in evidence throughout, particularly on the finish which has excellent length. The Poggiotondo Vermentino has lively acidity and nice structure; it’s a pleasure to drink on its own but it’s truly made to pair with food. I enjoyed it alongside a roasted beet salad with goat cheese which worked perfectly. This wine is best served a couple of degrees warmer than the average white wine. That really allows it to open up and show its true charms.

The Poggiotondo 2010 Rosso IGT is a blend of Sangiovese (40%), Merlot (30%) and Syrah (30%). The fruit for this wine comes from their home estate in the north-western end of Tuscany. After hand harvesting the grapes underwent a pre-ferment and cold soak. Fermentation followed in stainless steel tanks followed by 8 months of aging. A final two months of time in bottle was allowed prior to release. This wine has a suggested retail price of $11. Red cherry, earth and hints of green herb are prominent on the nose of this Red Tuscan blend. Blueberry, raspberry and cherry flavors (black and red) emerge on the palate of this wine along with bits of leather. Cranberry, rhubarb as well as bits of smoke and spice are part of the finish which has good length. Firm zippy acidity helps make this a nice everyday food wine. This is a good selection for Pizza night or with grilled meats.

These wines from Poggiotondo represent good values for everyday consumption. They each show off good character and are fruit driven wines that will work particularly well with food. Both should be consumed over the next few years for maximum pleasure.

Posted in Blends, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, Vermentino, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery – 2009 Chardonnay / 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on June 15, 2012

Sometimes wine lovers bemoan the state of Napa Valley. People are heard to complain about the number of ostentatious wineries and tasting room that have taken hold of the Valley and along with that they talk about how it was in the old days when Napa had a small number of producers and a visit meant tasting with the owner who was often also the winemaker. The trouble with that line of thought is that there are still many family owned Wineries in Napa Valley that belie the image of Napa as only lavish tasting rooms and over the top facilities.

Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery is a shining example of a small family owned and run Winery. A visit there is in some ways a visit to a simpler time in Napa Valley. They’re a boutique producer that focuses on Estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Riesling. When you visit you’ll see their property with either Stu or Charles Smith or if you’re really lucky both of them. They grow the grapes, make the wine and do pretty much everything from soup to nuts that’s involved in bringing their wines to your table. That’s the way it’s been since they were founded in the very early 70’s. Their location up on Spring Mountain is a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of the valley floor, but it’s not a far ride. Once you’re up there though you’ll feel like you’ve traveled to a magical land where all that matters is the way the grapes are grown, picked and vinified to make offerings that represent the location they came from.

I recently had dinner with Stu Smith who started the winery in 1971. It’s been my fortune to spend some time with Stu on a few occasions and I’m always impressed by how unvarnished, real and without pretense he is. The truth is you can discover the very same thing simply by drinking their wines. They make approximately 4,000 cases of wine each year entirely from their own property. Everything about Smith-Madrone comes from the two brothers. They planted the vines and in the 41 years they’ve been in operation have replanted sections of the vineyard in some cases too. They are as truly Napa Valley as any producer on the map. Their wines are made in a genuine style that lends itself to immediate enjoyment upon release as well as age ability. These are not wines that are produced in a vacuum with the idea of trying to gain high scores on someone’s point system. These are wines grown, pressed and aged in the same ecosystem, every vintage, for over 40 years. The Smith-Madrone wines are alive, delicious and most importantly a true representation of the spirit and desire of two brothers to make great wine in their little corner of the world. With that here’s a look at a couple of the wines I tasted over dinner with Stu and then re-tasted a couple of days ago.

First up is the Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery 2009 Chardonnay. All of the fruit for this wine came from their home ranch on Spring Mountain. Their Chardonnay vines have 37 years of age on them. This offering which is entirely Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged in entirely new French oak over a nine month period. Just over 500 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $35. Apple pie aromas dominate the nose of this Chardonnay and they are underscored by pleasing hints of lemon curd. The palate is marked by the intensity of its Chardonnay character in the form of pure and unadulterated fruit. Apple flavors dominate things here with spice and minerals galore to add to the complexity. Nutmeg, clove and continued mineral characteristics are all in evidence on the finish which has excellent length. Firm, zippy acidity adds to the wonderful structure and balance of this Chardonnay. The Smith-Madrone Chardonnay is nothing short of an absolute joy to drink. It’s also a wine that will age gracefully and be quite enjoyable and drinkable over the next 8 or so years at minimum.

The second wine today is the Smith-Madrone Vineyards and Winery 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the fruit came from their home ranch in the Spring Mountain area of Napa Valley. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), this wine contains Merlot (6%), and Cabernet Franc (9%). The vines had 34 years of age on them at the time of harvest. This Cabernet spent 22 months aging in American oak. The Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Just fewer than 1,500 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $45. Aromas of fresh black fruits such as blackberry, currant, and black cherry fill the inviting nose of this 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Wisps of toast and herb characteristics are present as well. There is a depth, power and complexity to the palate of this wine that immediately impresses as soon as you take a sip and let it envelop your senses. This wine is intense but precise and measured. As with all of the Smith-Madrone wines it’s balanced and proportionate. Cherry flavors, both black and red dominate the palate along with hints of mushroom and leather as well as black pepper. The finish here is long and lush with the depth that is often associated with great Napa Mountain Cabernet. Earth, baker’s chocolate, black tea and hints of graphite are all present. This Cabernet will certainly age and improve in the bottle over the next 15 or so years. However it’s quite ready to drink now, a benefit of Charles and Stu holding their wines until they are drinkable. If you do drink it now you have the choice of decanting it for an hour or so or watching as it develops in your glass over a leisurely meal. In any case you’ll be drinking one of the very best Cabernet’s from Napa Valley regardless of price point.

If you have yet to taste the wines of Smith-Madrone I urge you to do so at your earliest convenience. In addition to being well made and delicious they are also fairly priced. The Cabernet Sauvignon in particular is a terrific bargain relative to many of the Napa Cabernet’s of similar quality. In addition to drinking these offerings, I urge anyone travelling to Napa Valley to take the time and make an appointment so you can visit the lovely folks at Smith-Madrone; your time there will undoubtedly become a memorable visit you will cherish as you drink the wine you will have brought back home with you. So don’t bemoan the over the top tasting rooms at some Napa Wineries, enjoy them for what they are. But when you want to get to the pulse of Napa Valley, point your car up Spring Mountain either literally or via your local wine shop and enjoy the wines of Smith-Madrone.

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

Tasting the Wines of Villa Huesgen with Winemaker Adolph Huesgen

Posted by Gabe on June 7, 2012

Wines originating from some countries have filled our shelves for years, and in the case of other countries we are just starting to see a representative sampling of offerings. Wines from Germany are sort of in a third category; we’ve had wines from there available for many years but often many of the options weren’t as appealing as they could be. For the range of styles and wines that are made there, the majority of releases we saw were a bit limited in diversity. Thankfully that has been changing quite a bit the last few years. We are seeing more well made German wines. Case in point; A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to have lunch with and taste three releases made by Adolph Huesgen. He is the 9th generation owner and winemaker for his family’s Villa Huesgen. The focus at Villa Huesgen is laser like and aimed squarely at Riesling. As Adolph explained their vineyards and microclimate are perfectly suited for Riesling more than any other grape, therefore their aim is to make the best Rieslings they can. In the last few months their wines have entered the US market for the very first time. They are a boutique winery making relatively small quantities of authentic Riesling; in short precisely the sort of producer lovers of German wines will want to embrace. What follows are some details and impressions of the three releases.

First up is the Villa Huesgen 2010 Nine Generations Riesling. The fruit is from their home region in the Mosel.  The vines sourced have between 5 and 10 years of age on them. After undergoing soft air pressing the juice is moved to stainless steel where it sits for about 12 hours before moving to tank, 9,000 cases of this release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $19.99. White and yellow stone fruit aromas fill the nose of this wine. Peach and apricot are of particular note. Those characteristics continue on the palate where they’re joined by mineral notes, racy spices and lemon zest. This wine has a crisp finish that leaves a lasting impression with tingly white pepper providing the final note. Of the trio this is the wine that I enjoyed best as a standalone offering. It will pair with lighter foods as well but it doesn’t need them.

Next up is the Villa Huesgen 2010 Schiefer Riesling. The grapes for this wine are from the Mosel; the vines sourced have 3o to 35 years of age on them. Fruit was soft air pressed and transferred into stainless steel tanks for 12 hours before being moved to tank for the fermentation process. 4,000 cases of this release were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $34.99. Apricot, Lychee fruit and yellow cling peach aromas burst forth from the glass of the Schiefer Riesling. The palate is rich and concentrated with powerful (relatively speaking as these are wines of finesse) Riesling character. Peaches and apricot are joined by a subtle hint of hazelnut and a touch of lemon crème. The finish of this wine is above average in length and the layered, complex and concentrated flavors continue. Lingering apricot notes tinged with spice provide a lasting impression. This wine paired wonderfully with both a rice-flour battered chicken dish and an artichoke risotto. It would work equally well with pungent cheeses and other dishes of some substance. The Schiefer Riesling wine was enjoyable  on it’s own and it also worked phenomenally paired with food.

Finally we come to the Villa Huesgen 2010 Kabinett Riesling. Fruit for this wine was sourced in theMosel. The vines utilized have an average of 30 to 35 years of age on them. The soft air pressing, fermentation, and aging process is the same as the two prior wines. 2,000 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $39.99. From the first whiff of this wine its semi-dry nature is apparent. The aromas of apricot, mango, nectarine and lemon zest come together and form a lovely nose that immediately inspires you to take a sip. The palate is quite a bit more mellifluous in nature than the other two wines with there being both more actual sweetness as well as a greater impression of sweetness simultaneously. Each of the fruits apparent in the nose has corresponding flavor components in evidence here as well. The finish has good length and leaves a lasting kiss of sweetness on the tongue and back of the throat. This wine will pair fabulously with spicy Indian cuisine as well as well selected desserts. That said it will work just as well all by itself.

This is an impressive trio of Rieslings from Villa Huesgen. Alcohol content for all 3 is well under 12% making them wines which you can easily enjoy several glasses of without your palate tiring. Tasting them side by side is a nice window into several sides of one grape. Each of these wines is distinct, well made and quite importantly worth your money. My personal favorite is the Schiefer, however I’d gladly enjoy any of these on a given day. These are proportionate wines which are delicious today but they will each drink well for a number of years. I highly recommend heading to your local wine shop and welcoming Villa Huesgen to the states by purchasing and enjoying one of their very fine Rieslings.

Posted in Dining, Riesling, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Bodegas Sumarroca – 2010 Temps de Flors

Posted by Gabe on June 4, 2012

The Bodegas Sumarroca 2010 Temps de Flors was produced from fruit sourced in the D.O. of Penedès near Barcelona. This offering is a blend of Muscat (40%), Xarel-lo (48%), and Gewürztraminer (12%). Xarel-lo is a local indigenous grape that is often utilized in the production of Cava, which Bodegas Sumarroca is recognized for. This wine widely available wine was named for the Temps De Flors that occurs in Girona Spain over nine days each May. It has a suggested retail price of $12.99.

The Temps De Flors has an impressively expressive and aromatic nose that is loaded with Apricot and Lychee Fruit characteristics. The plate is impeccably balanced and shows off sweet fruit flavors such as peach and apricot as well as zesty citrus and sour white fruits. Hints of white pepper and subtle wisps of cardamom emerge on the finish which has good length.

Someone apparently figured out how to bottle summer. This wine will work perfectly as a welcome wine and it will also pair well with lighter spicy foods. Indian Cuisine would be a terrific match. The low alcohol (12%) also makes this an easy choice to drink without worry about your palate tiring. This is precisely the sort of well made, light, refreshing and fun wine that’s perfectly suited for summer gatherings with friends or just a casual meal on your deck any night of the week. You’ll find this wine for closer to $10 if you shop around and it represents a very nice value for such an appealing and fun to drink blend.

Posted in Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Wine, Xarel-lo | Leave a Comment »

Craggy Range – 2011 Kidnapper’s Vineyard Chardonnay

Posted by Gabe on June 1, 2012

The Craggy Range 2011 Kidnapper’s Vineyard Chardonnay is a single vineyard wine produced exclusively from fruit sourced at the namesake site. Kidnapper’s Vineyard is located in the Hawkes Bay appellation of New Zealand. After harvesting fermentation took place in a combination of vessels; both large and small oak containers were used as well as stainless steel tanks. Some of the fruit had been de-stemmed prior (25%), while the balance was whole cluster pressed. Barrel aging took place over 5 months in a combination of French oak barriques, puncheons and cuves; 12% of the oak utilized was new. This widely available wine has a suggested retail price of $21.99.

Lemon zest, vanilla bean and wisps of toasted nuts fill the vibrant nose of this 2011 Chardonnay. Apples and white peach flavors lead the palate which is impressive for its pure and unadulterated blast of pure Chardonnay fruit. Continued fruit and nut characteristics are joined by a bevy of spices such a clove and nutmeg on the finish which has excellent length. This is a balanced Chardonnay that shows off firm acidity and a lovely structure. The Kidnapper’s Vineyard Chardonnay is going to be equally adept at quenching thirst on it’s own as it will be paired with the lighter foods that are prevalent in warm weather months.

There are a ton of Chardonnay options on our shelves, emanating from just about every corner of the globe. The styles and flavors are almost as diverse as the number of options. This particular wine is a great choice if you’re looking for a Chardonnay that showcases rather than hides its brilliant fruit flavors. For less than $20 if you shop around this wine is also more than fairly priced.

Posted in Chardonnay, Wine | Leave a Comment »


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