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Archive for November, 2012

V. Sattui Winery – 1998 Vintage Port

Posted by Gabe on November 30, 2012

V. Sattui Winery in Napa Valley is a producer who sells all of their wine direct to consumer. Some of it through their website and the rest right through their hugely popular tasting room just south of St. Helena in the heart of Napa. In addition to tasting wine when you visit, of which they have a plethora, an array of foods are available. Their cheese selection in particular is quite varied. Picnic grounds are on hand and for a lot of folks this is a great lunch stop. Today I’ll take a look at current release of one of their numerous dessert wines.

The V. Sattui Winery 1998 Vintage Port was produced using some of the same classic varietals used in Portugal: Tinto Cão, Souzão, and Touriga Nacional. Neutral spirits were added to the wine partway through fermentation to halt it. After that the wine was aged in small French oak barrels for 8 years. It was then bottle aged for several more years prior to being released. Less than 1,000 cases of this wine were produced and it sells directly through the winery for $46.

Boysenberry, plum and burnt sugar aromas lead the welcoming nose of this 1998 Vintage Port from V. Sattui Winery. Clove, nutmeg and cardamom spices light up the palate and support the abundant dark fruits such as black mission fig and plum. Bits of rum raisin, plum pudding spice, and a hint of sweet balsamic vinegar emerge on the finish which has fine length and persistence. This Port is delicious on it’s own but it works fantastically with strong, pungent cheeses.

What I enjoyed most about this selection is that it balances sweetness with a an inherent lightness of palate that keeps it from bogging down your senses. Some Ports and Dessert wines go over the top with either sweetness or overall weight and heft. The 1998 Vintage Port from V. Sattui Winery does neither of those. Instead it’s a well proportioned wine that makes a fantastic ending to a meal.

Posted in Port, Wine | Leave a Comment »

The Balvenie – 17 Year Old DoubleWood Single Malt Scotch

Posted by Gabe on November 28, 2012

The Balvenie, a range of Single Malt Scotches from the Speyside region of Scotland, has recently added a new release to their portfolio. The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood was released this year to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of their Malt Master David Stewart. Among the things that set The Balvenie apart are the strict control they retain over several aspects of the production process. Growing their own barley and employing their own staff of coopers to handle every cask are but two examples. I’ve been a fan of the Balvenie range for a bit now, and the 12 Year Old DoubleWood is one I go to on a regular basis. So it was with particular interest that I sat down to taste the 17 year DoubleWood to see how it stacks up.

The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood was matured in two diverse types of oak casks. First it spends a greater than normal period in traditional Whisky Casks. What follows is a shorter period of time in Oak Sherry Casks. This last period lasts between several months and a year. It’s a hands on process that requires the Whisky being checked regularly to ascertain that it’s taken out of the Sherry Casks at precisely the right time to achieve the desired influence. While this new release has been added to celebrate David Stewart’s Anniversary it is now part of The Balvenie Core range of offerings. The 17 Year Old DoubleWood is available nationally and has a suggested retail price of $129.99.

The beautiful light copper hue of The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood is striking as soon as you pour this Single Malt Scotch into your glass. The nose is a bit reticent at first but just a few minutes of air work magic and aromas of toasted hazelnut, vanilla bean and light spices emerge. The flavors here have an impressive purity, depth and layered precision. Dried orchard fruits, warming spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom are all in evidence and tinged by honey. This is a remarkably smooth Scotch from the initial taste through the persistent echoes of the lengthy finish which shows off orange zest, bits of toffee and continued reverberating spices.

This new addition to The Balvenie range is an impressive selection that is worthy of their portfolio. There are some common threads as well as numerous distinct differences between it and the younger 12 Year DoubleWood. If you are already a fan of The Balvenie Family of Scotches you’ll certainly want to give the 17 Year DoubleWood a shot. If you’re new to their range this is certainly an impressive place to start your journey.

Posted in Single Malt Scotch, Whiskey | Leave a Comment »

Viña Ventisquero – 2012 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc / 2011 Reserva Pinot Noir / 2010 Grey Carmenère / 2009 Grey Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Gabe on November 26, 2012

When I was in Chile last month I participated in a virtual Blogger tasting. I’d taken part in previous tastings of that kind from home before. But on this occasion I was onsite in an adjacent room while the winemakers discussed their varied offerings a few feet away. Getting to mingle with a roomful of winemakers before and after the tasting was one of many highlights that dotted a wonderful week in Chile. There were several standouts for me that day; one of them came from producer Viña Ventisquero. The Cabernet Sauvignon from their Grey tier of wines really made an impression, so once I was back home I decided to take a closer look at a few of their current releases. Here are my thoughts on four of them including the Cabernet Sauvignon I tasted while in Chile and had the opportunity to revisit for this story.

The Ventisquero 2012 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc was produced using fruit sourced in Chile’s Casablanca Valley. This wine is 100% varietal. After fermentation the wine was aged on the lees for a period of four months. This offering has a suggested retail price of $12.99. The nose here is fresh and lively with citrus and orchard fruits in abundance; hints of spice play a supporting role. A grassy undercurrent underlies the palate which is framed by lemon zest, orange and grapefruit characteristics. Limestone, white pepper, and a touch of vanilla bean lead the finish which is light, fruity, zesty and crisp. This Sauvignon Blanc will pair wonderfully with entrée salads, soft cheeses and roasted veggies to name a few choices. It’s also quite delicious all by itself. There are quite a few excellent Sauvignon Blanc’s coming out f Chile at a host of different price points with a variety of intents. In the roughly $10 range this selection from Ventisquero is a terrific value that is indicative of the great things being accomplished with this grape in Chile. Drink this wine over the next year or so when it’s young, vibrant flavors are at their most exuberant.

The Ventisquero 2011 Reserva Pinot Noir was made utilizing fruit sourced in Casablanca Valley. This offering is 100% Pinot. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled open tanks. The wine was aged in a combination of French oak (70%) and stainless steel (30%) over a period of 10 months. This Pinot has a suggested retail price of $12.99. Bing cherry, wild strawberry and vanilla bean characteristics are in full evidence on the nose of this wine. Hints of mushroom and gentle red fruit flavors make up the even keeled palate. Cranberry, pomegranate leather and spices are part of the finish which has solid length and persistence. This is a perfectly dry wine with tons of varietal character, two things often not in evidence in Pinot Noir at this price level. The bottom line is this wine is an extraordinary Pinot Noir for the price. This would be an excellent wine to buy a case or more of. If you’re searching for a wine to have around the house to give out as stocking stuffers or last minute gifts look no further. Your Pinot loving friends and family will thank you for turning them on to this tremendous little value.

The Ventisquero 2010 Grey Carmenère was produced from fruit sourced at Trinidad Vineyard in Chile’s Maipo Valley. This is a 100% varietal offering. Fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks followed by aging in French oak over 18 months. 33% of the barrels utilized were new. An additional 8 months of bottle aging occurred prior to release. This wine has a suggested retail price of $23.99. Boysenberry, vanilla and violet aromas burst out from the nose of this Carmenère. The palate is juicy and pleasing with plums, blackberry and berry fruit flavors galore. Green herb notes underscore things here and play a supporting role. Black tea, plum pudding spices, minerals and black pepper all emerge on the finish. There is a lovely balance in this wine with loads of eager fruit buoyed by lots of spice and a lovely collection of herbaceous characteristics. The Ventisquero Carmenère works equally well paired with full flavored foods as it does on its own.

The Ventisquero 2009 Grey Cabernet Sauvignon was made using fruit sourced from within Block 38 which is a hillside section of the Trinidad Vineyard in Maipo Valley. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (94%), this wine also has some Petit Verdot (6%) blended in. This wine was entirely aged in French oak over 18 months; 33% of the barrels were new. No less than 8 months of bottle aging followed prior to release. The Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon has a suggested retail price of $23.99. Cherry and raspberry aromas dominate the nose of this 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. White pepper and hints of anise support the plate which is loaded with red fruits in the form of wild strawberry and cherry. Hints of black fruits are present as well and they dart through from time to time. Clove, cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg emerge on the finish along with cocoa, minerals and continued cherry and other warming red fruit flavors. This is an elegant, well structured and beautifully proportioned wine for the money. A Cabernet at this level of quality from some other regions would easily retail for $35-$40. This wine is delicious now and will drink well over the next 8 or so years. However it’ll be at its best over the next 5.

It’s fair to say I was highly impressed with this quartet of wines. The Reserva line offerings are excellent buys in their price range. If you drink wines for around $10 you’re going to be really happy with what you get for your money here. The Pinot Noir in particular is brilliant. There are very, very few Pinot Noirs under $15 that are worth spending much time talking about. This example from Ventisquero is amongst their tiny number. The Grey tier wines are quite lovely as well. It was nice to see that the Cabernet Sauvignon was equally notable when I re-tasted it at home roughly a month after sampling it in Chile. Their portfolio, like that of many Chilean producers is vast, with the quality of these 4 selections I look forward to exploring it further and reporting on my findings; I suspect their will be some other gems to be had.

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chile, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Rodney Strong Vineyards – 2011 Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc / 2009 Symmetry Red Meritage

Posted by Gabe on November 21, 2012

Rodney Strong Vineyards has a large portfolio of wines that crosses many price tiers. Whether you’re looking for an everyday value in the $10 range or site specific wines for a lot more than that, they have them and many in between as well. I continue to be impressed with their reliability across those layers and consider them a go to producer for a variety of wine needs. Here’s a look at two vastly different current releases from them.

The Rodney Strong Vineyards 2011 Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc was produced from fruit sourced in Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley. 90% was fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel at low temperatures; the balance in French oak. This widely available wine has a suggested retail price of $15 but can most often be found selling for closer to $11. Lemon ice, white pepper and mineral aromas fill the excitable nose of this 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. Citrus characteristics dominate the palate along with bits of orchard fruit and a gentle hint of pineapple as well. The finish is clean and crisp with mineral and spice notes reverberating well after the last sip has been swallowed. Year after year this wine delivers awesome flavor for a very small price. This is a terrific Sauvignon Blanc for the money and one you can bank on one vintage after another.

Rodney Strong Vineyards 2009 Symmetry is a Red Meritage. This selection is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (79%), Malbec (14%), Merlot (6%), and Cabernet Franc 1%). Most of the fruit for this wine was sourced in the same Alexander Valley Vineyards that they use for their Single Vineyard Cabernet’s. Barrel aging occurred over 22 months in all French oak. This wine which has been part of the Rodney Strong Portfolio for over 15 years has a suggested retail price of $55. It can often be located for about $45. Red and black raspberry as well as black cherry aromas roar out of the nose of this 2009 Meritage. The palate is loaded with a stunning array of fresh and dry red and black berry fruit flavors that are buoyed by complementary spice notes. The cherry characteristics steal the show here and appear in droves from the first sip to the very last. Earth, chicory, black pepper and sweet dark chocolate notes are all part of the lengthy and harmonious finish. This wine will drink well over the next 8 or so years. However it’s so willing, juicy and ready to give of itself now that there’s simply no reason to wait. This delicious wine is a real pleasure to drink both on its own and paired with hearty foods.

I’m a big fan of Rodney Strong Vineyards and the dependability their wines represent. You can plunk your money down for their offerings with the confidence that you’re going to get value back. Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc is on my short list of a small handful of California Sauvignon Blanc’s that deliver eminent drinkability, quality and consistency vintage after vintage for a nominal price. Symmetry is precisely what I believe a Meritage wine should be; it seamlessly blends the varietals together to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. In its price category it also represents a terrific value.

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Trione Vineyards & Winery: Looking at a Tasty Quartet of Sonoma County Wines

Posted by Gabe on November 20, 2012

For more than 30 years the Trione Family has been growing and selling grapes in Sonoma County from their own property as well as vineyards they manage. In 2005 they launched Trione Vineyards & Winery to bottle their own wines. They hired Scot Covington as winemaker. He brings both winemaking experience in Sonoma County and elsewhere to the table as well as winery building and design knowledge. Here’s a look at a few of their current releases, all made from fruit sourced in Sonoma County.

First up is the Trione 2008 Russian River Valley Syrah. The fruit for this wine was sourced from 2 blocks within their Russian River Ranch. Fermentation took place in small open top tanks. Barrel aging occurred over 18 months in French oak; 40% of the barrels were new. 678 cases of this Syrah were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $32. Black plum, violet, rose petal, and vanilla aromas fill out the nose of this 2008 Syrah. Dried Blackberry, cherry and blueberry fruit characteristics are all in evidence on the palate. Dusty cocoa, earth, chicory and savory herbs all emerge on the finish which has terrific length. This Syrah shows off beautiful structure, firm acidity and medium tannins that yield with some air. This is a new world Syrah that shows off old world inspired style.

The Trione 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir was made utilizing fruit sourced at four blocks within their property. These blocks are planted to clones 115, 667 and 777. The fruit was harvested by hand and fermented in small open top tanks. Barrel aging took place over 15 months in entirely French oak; 45% of them were new. 1,114 cases of the 2009 Trione Pinot Noir were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $32. Cherries, white pepper and wisps of mushroom aromas fill the nose of this 2009 Pinot Noir. Wild strawberries, continued cherries, loads of spice notes and a subtle hint of cola are all in evidence throughout the palate. Black tea, pomegranate and earth characteristics emerge on the finish which has substantial length and persistence. This Pinot was a bit tight on opening but its charms came out in droves after it had a bit of aeration. My recommendation is to decant for an hour or so if you’re going to drink it over the next 2 years. Alternately, lay it down for a few years if you have the patience. In either case this is a fine example of Russian River Pinot Noir.

Trione’s 2008 Alexander Valley Red Wine is a Bordeaux inspired blend. This offering includes Cabernet Sauvignon (53%), Merlot (22%), Petit Verdot (11%), Cabernet Franc (10%), and Malbec (4%). The fruit for this wine came from three properties within Alexander Valley. Each varietal was fermented separately. Barrel aging took place over 18 months in French oak; half of them were new. 2,435, 6-pack cases of this blend were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $48. Fresh red and black berry aromas, vanilla bean and green herbs illuminate the nose of this 2008 blend. The plate is studded with dried red fruit flavors interspersed with black fruits and spice elements such as black pepper and cardamom. Sour cherries, black tea and a host of minerals are in evidence on the finish. This wine has terrific structure and is well proportioned. It will age gracefully for at least a decade.

Last but not least is the Trione 2007 Alexander Valley Block 21 Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the Cabernet comes from the Trione Cloverdale Ranch which is in the northern portion of Alexander Valley. The vines sourced were planted in 2001 to clone 337. In addition to Cabernet (85%) this wine has small amounts of Merlot (10%) from Geyserville as well as Petit Verdot (2.5%) and Malbec (2.5%) from Cloverdale. This wine spent a total of 24 months in barrel, 12 months prior to blending and another 12 after. All of it was French oak and 45% of the barrels were new. 733 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $64. Boisterous dark berry aromas are buoyed by cardamom and hints of toast on the nose of this 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate is laden with an avalanche of sweet, dark berry flavors laced with just a speckle of green herbs. Minerals, earth, clove, white pepper, black cherries and cinnamon are all in evidence on the finish which has excellent length. What’s most impressive to me about this wine is the depth and purity of fruit favors that just beam forth from the glass from the first impression to the final sip. At 5 years old this Cabernet Sauvignon is at the beginning of its true accessibility. It will drink well over the next 8-12 years. This is a fine example of how good Cabernet from Alexander Valley can be.

This is a diverse and appetizing quartet of wines from Trione Vineyards & Winery. The common threads that run through them are character, balance and elegance. These are all lovely offerings that will drink well for a number of years. This was my first time trying their wines and I look forward to drinking future releases from them to see how they progress as a producer.

Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Exploring Terroir: A Peek into Chile’s Top Shelf, Site Driven Wines

Posted by Gabe on November 19, 2012

Terroir is one of those ideas that is thrown around a lot as a buzz word in the wine industry. Depending on who it is bringing it up there can be a bit of controversy surrounding it. And while it may seem a little out there to some folks to think that Cabernet Sauvignon for example planted in a specific spot can be imbued with very different characteristics than a Cabernet Sauvignon planted a few hundred feet away, the truth is in the bottle. All one really needs to better understand the concept of Terroir is a taste, once you’ve experienced it first hand it’s easier to believe. Of course it’s a sliding scale and not every wine or more specifically every place will impart that. Furthermore some wines are made in such a style that their Terroir ends up being masked. That’s a different part of the subject for another day. This is about wines that do show their sense of place. I attended Vinos De Terroir hosted by Wines of Chile. The concept was a focused look at 10 great examples of Terroir driven wines from Chile. The event took place at Colicchio & Sons, hosted by Pedro Parra PhD and Terroir expert, author Mark Oldman and Sandy Block Master of Wine. Over the course of a couple of hours we took a long hard look at 10 wines in a classroom style format. After that we sat down for lunch and the same 10 wines were available to taste with our meal. These wines were uniformly excellent examples of Terroir. What follows are some reflections on the ones that were my personal favorites.

The one white wine from this particular tasting was the Casa Marín 2011 Cipress Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. This is a 100% Varietal wine sourced from a vineyard at the very top of a hillside. The fruit came from 6 blocks within this specific vineyard. It sits 4 km from the ocean and is one of the most extreme plantings in all of Chile. The conditions are very windy and result in low yields. This wine has a suggested retail price of $28. There’s a huge burst of lemon characteristics that explode from this Sauvignon Blanc. They’re joined by bits of green herb to form a pleasing nose. Citrus, tropical fruits and lots of mineral notes are all part of the complex and layered palate which has excellent weight. Lemon curd, bits of candied tropical fruits and a bevy of spice notes are part of the persistent finish. This Sauvignon Blanc is a real knockout, impressive in every way. It’s well worth making a special effort to locate. I can’t overstate how phenomenal this Sauvignon Blanc is, grab some and taste its excellence for yourself.

Concha y Toro’s 2008 Carmín de Peumo is a blend of primarily Carménère (90%), with Cabernet Sauvignon (7.5%) and Cabernet Franc (2.5%) blended in. The vineyard this fruit was sourced from has river bench soils with alluvial clay loams. It’s a cool area that promotes a long growing season. The wine was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. This offering has a suggested retail price of $150. Bits of green herb emerge from the nose of this wine along with red and black fruit aromas. Blackberry and cherry flavors are in strong evidence on the palate along with spices to spare, and minerals aplenty. The finish is tremendously pleasing and impressive in length and perseverance; sour black fruits, hints of smoked meat and continued spice and mineral notes all play a role. This is an impeccably balanced example of Carménère that shows off oodles of eager fruit as well as the wisps of green herb that are part of this varietal when it’s well made. When Carménère isn’t properly grown or handled it goes too far in one direction or the other. This wine sits perfectly in the middle. Carmín de Peumo is a stunning and world class example of a varietal that’s on the rise.

Lapostolle’s 2009 Clos Apalta is a blend of Carménère (78%), Cabernet Sauvignon (19%), and Petit Verdot (3%). The fruit for this selection came from hillside vineyards in Apalta that feature diverse soils. Aging occurred in entirely new French oak over a period of 24 months. This wine has a suggested retail price of $90. The 2009 Clos Apalta has a nose loaded with mission figs and plums with bits of red fruit interspersed as well. The juicy and willing palate is absolutely studded with velvety, dark fruit flavors, savory spices and bits of graphite. There is tremendous depth here from the first sip to the last impression this wine leaves. Fruit, spice, minerals and bits of earth reverberate for a long while after the last bit has been swallowed. This has been one of the benchmark wines of Chile for a number of years now. The 2009 vintage simply continues that reputation forward and proves again that it’s a well deserved one. If you have never tasted Clos Apalta before you owe it to yourself to do so; the 2009 vintage is as good a jumping off point as any.

Finally we have the Montes 2009 Folly. This is a 100% Syrah wine. The fruit for this wine came from the highest slopes of the La Finca de Apalta vineyard. Aging of this wine occurred over 18 months in New French oak. The suggested retail price is $90. Dark fruit aromas gush from the nose of this Syrah with stunning conviction. Blackberry and plum flavors dominate the palate along with minerals, spice, coffee, chocolate sauce and more. The finish shows off dusty cocoa as well as continued spice and dark fruit flavors. This is a wonderful example of Syrah that is delicious today but will benefit from a couple of years of bottle age. It will work particularly well paired with full flavored foods.

There are two things exhibited by this quartet of wines as well as the others tasted alongside them. First is the fact that terroir does matter and it is being utilized in Chile to make wonderful site specific wines. Second, these wines underscore the notion that Chile is producing wines at a wide array of levels, including offerings that can compete with the best in the world. The bottom line is whatever sort of wine you’re looking to drink and regardless of how much money you want to spend, Chile should be on your radar.

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chile, Petit Verdot, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | 1 Comment »

Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cellars – 2010 North Coast Red Rocks

Posted by Gabe on November 16, 2012

Cornerstone Cellars has been making exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley for just over 20 years. For the last few years they have also been making wine under their Stepping Stone label. These wines are produced from fruit sourced in Napa as well as some other regions in California. Additionally they have a few releases sourced in Oregon. Today I’ll look at the newest vintage of a Stepping Stone release.

The Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cellars 2010 North Coast Red Rocks blends together Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot. The lots of fruit for this wine were sourced in Lake County, Sonoma and the Napa side of Carneros respectively. Just more than 1,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18.

Blackberry and vanilla aromas leap with some intensity from the nose of this 2010 red blend, those aromas are augmented by bits of smoke and bacon. Lots of red and black fruit flavors are in evidence from the first sip to the last one. This is a very tasty, appealing, and easy to drink red wine. Willing and eager fruit flavors complemented by bits of spice continue through the finish which has decent length. This is a terrific little blend for the money and a fine example of a new world wine that is enthusiastic and loaded with fruit flavors but still even keeled.

What I like best about this wine is that it’s a fun, well priced wine that will appeal to large crowds of wine drinkers. It’s also a well made wine that will pair with a wide array of foods. It’s primed for immediate drinking so enjoy this over the next 1-2 years to get the most out of its agreeable, young fruit flavors.

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

Pedroncelli – 2009 Family Vineyards Petite Sirah

Posted by Gabe on November 10, 2012

If there’s a better Petite Sirah for under $20 than the one Pedroncelli releases vintage after vintage I have yet to taste it. And as much as I love Petite Sirah I sample every example can get my hands on. At some point it would stand to reason that someone would challenge them in this category. But with fruit that’s under their control, a very long track record of making affordable wines in Sonoma County and the fact that Dry Creek Valley is the epicenter of the best Petite Sirah in the world, the Pedroncelli family has an advantage. With all of that in mind I sat down to taste their latest release of Petite to see how it compares to my somewhat lofty expectations.

The Pedroncelli 2009 Family Vineyards Petite Sirah was made from fruit sourced at two vineyards within Dry Creek Valley that have family connections for the winery. Roughly half came from their own estate vineyard and the balance was sourced at a vineyard owned by John and Jim Pedroncelli’s niece. Barrel aging occurred over 17 months in a combination of French and American oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $16.

Violets and black plum aromas fill the nose of this 2009 Petite Sirah along with hints of vanilla and cardamom. From the first sip through the very last a core of dried black and purple fruits are revealed with red fruit characteristics making a cameo appearance here or there. Blackberry, plum and blueberry are the stars here. The firm tannins cling to the back of your throat pleasurably. This finish shows off earth, continued dark fruits and hints of minerals. This wine will absolutely flourish paired with hearty and full flavored foods such as roasted meats and stews or mushroom heavy dishes. However It’s a delicious and glorious wine all by itself.

I’m thrilled to report that the 2009 vintage of Petite Sirah from Pedroncelli is in keeping with previous vintages when it comes to quality, value and eminent drinkability. This is quite simply the best Petite Sirah on the market for under $20. It’s delicious today but has the tannins and structure to age gracefully for a decade. 10 years from now you’d have a softer wine that is silky smooth and even earthier. However it’s so damn good now and they literally keep making more so my advice is to knock it back.

Posted in Dry Creek Valley, Petite Sirah, Wine | Leave a Comment »

Visiting Viña Santa Rita and Tasting Their Generous Portfolio

Posted by Gabe on November 6, 2012

My recent trip to Chile was impressive on a number of different levels. One thing that stood out to me in particular was the diversity of the winery properties we got to visit. They ranged in size, scope and style. One of the more beautiful and historic was Santa Rita. The property there is simply gorgeous. Beautiful gardens within large expanses of property, a chapel, historic hotel and an authentic restaurant and more come together to form a wonderful destination for wine lovers as well as anyone who enjoys a beautiful slice of the earth. They offer a diversity of touring and tasting options that should appeal to visitors of all sots. Check their website for specific details.

While at Santa Rita we toured the property and facility, had lunch at Doña Paula their onsite Restaurant; most importantly however we tasted through the portfolio. As is common in Chile Santa Rita has several tiers of wines. Their entry level wines start at around $9 dollars and their top shelf selection runs around $75; in between are a host of selections in various prices with varying styles, intents and palates in mind. In total we tasted through 15 selections during our formal sit down tasting, what follows are my impressions of a handful of my personal favorites from that day.

Santa Rita 2011 Reserva Sauvignon Blanc D.O Casablanca Valley: This is a 100% varietal wine made from estate fruit. The cool climate of Casablanca is one of several areas in Chile that are particularly well suited for this grape. The Reserva tier of wines has a suggested retail price of $12.99. Pineapple aromas and flavors are apparent throughout this wine which has a lovely nose and medium weight palate. Pear and citrus flavors play a role as well. This wine has a crisp finish and zippy acidity. All three Sauvignon Blanc’s we sampled were well made and appealing. However I found this one to be the knockout value of the trio.

Santa Rita 2009 Reserva Malbec D.O. Colchagua Valley: This release is a blend of primarily Malbec (85%) with a healthy dollop of Merlot (15%) blended in. This wine was aged in American and French oak barrels for approximately 8 months. It has a suggested retail price of $12.99. This is a classically styled Malbec where black fruit aromas and flavors dominate. The palate is layered and persistent with plum and raspberry flavors. Hints of espresso emerge on the finish along with copious spices. The tannins are chewy and substantial but yield with some air. This is an excellent Malbec that has plenty of willing fruit flavors but also isn’t overwrought in any way. For the money this is an outright steal that may just completely change your view of the quality of under $15 Malbec forever.

Santa Rita 2009 Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon D.O. Maipo Valley: This wine is predominately Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) with a touch of Cabernet Franc (5%) blended in. The vines utilized have 15 years of age on them. Barrel aging occurred over 14 months in a combination of 1st, 2nd and 3rd use oak. The Medalla Real range of wines has a suggested retail price of $19.99. This wine has a classic Cabernet Sauvignon nose of red and black berries laced with hints of toast and wisps of vanilla bean. Boatloads of cherry flavors dominate the palate and lead to pomegranate characteristics on the finish along with earth and black pepper. This is a remarkable Cabernet Sauvignon for under $20. A Cabernet of this quality, depth and persistence from Napa Valley to use one point of comparison would easily fetch $35-$40.

Santa Rita 2007 Triple C, D.O. Maipo Valley: This offering is a blend of Cabernet Franc (65%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), and Carménère (5%). The Carménère vines utilized have more than 70 years of age on them. Barrel aging took place over 20 months in new French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $35. Triple C is lead by an explosive nose loaded with cherries, leather and violets. Throughout the complex palate cherry flavors continue to dominate the show, Pencil lead, earth and spices reverberate throughout the lengthy finish. Firm but yielding tannins mark this wines impressive structure. This blend is a bit on the young side now, but oh so delicious and impressive. For it to really shine it needs a couple of years in the cellar or 2-3 hours in the decanter. In any case it’s a lovely blend that it sure to impress. This is one of a number of wines I tasted on my trip to Chile that indicate with confidence that Blends will be the key to Chile’s rise in the wine world over the next few years.

This tasty quartet of wines represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Santa Rita portfolio. What I had the opportunity to taste was a well made array of wines whose tiers are well defined. Sometimes tasting 3 or 4 examples of one varietal from a single winery leaves me shaking my head. That’s because they are often far too similar because a house style has prevailed over letting the fruit speak. This was most definitely not the case at Santa Rita. Tasting these wines side by side the distinction between vineyards, range and stylistic choices guided by the winemakers was clear. I urge you to try a wine from Santa Rita in a price range you’re comfortable with and them dabble in various directions after you discover what I did: how well made, delicious and value driven their wines are regardless of price-point. And if you’re in Chile, make Santa Rita one of your destinations.

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chile, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine | Leave a Comment »


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