Posted by Gabe on March 23, 2013
Ravenswood Winery under the direction of Joel Peterson became known for Zinfandel. Whether it’s cuvee style offerings from different appellations or single vineyard wines, to this day Ravenswood has a Zinfandel for just about every budget and palate. And in addition to Zinfandel they make some other wines of note too. Most of these are small production offerings that are found in better wine shops and some restaurant wine lists. One of these is Pickberry Red; I’ll look at the current release today.
The Ravenswood 2008 Pickberry Red is a single vineyard effort. All of the fruit was sourced at the namesake vineyard which is located on Sonoma Mountain. This offering is a blend of Merlot (59%), Cabernet Sauvignon (39%), Malbec (1%) and Petit Verdot (1%). This wine was aged over 22 months in entirely French oak; 22% of the barrels utilized were new. 600 cases were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50.
Dark fruits such as black cherry and plum fill the nose of Pickberry Red. The palate is also loaded with deep, inky fruit flavors which are simultaneously intense, layered and proportionate. Black cherry characteristics lead the way along with black raspberry and blueberry playing roles as well. Minerals and spice offer a nice counterpoint. Earth, violets and black pepper are all part of the finish which has terrific persistence. This wine has chewy tannins that soften with some air and firm acidity at its backbone. While the 2008 Pickberry Red is delicious today it’s built for the long haul. If you have the patience to lay this down for 8-12 years you’ll be justly rewarded. This is a new world wine that brings to mind old world flavors and style. Pair it with a delicious meal for best results.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on March 5, 2013
Last week Franciscan Estate threw what amounted to a birthday party, for Magnificat their flagship wine, in Manhattan at Calliope Restaurant. I was glad to be in attendance at this event which showcased the Franciscan Bordeaux blend. Bordeaux blends have been made all over the world for many years, including in Napa. However, it has now been 25 years since the term Meritage was introduced and along with it Franciscan’s first vintage of Magnificat. As such it was a noteworthy milestone to mark, and an excellent reason to take a look at Magnificat alongside some of its peers. Franciscan Winemaker Jay Turnipseed was on hand to speak about his wines as well as to offer some insight in a general sense about all of the Bordeaux inspired wines.
Those peers helped make the event particularly interesting. They were part of a blind tasting of six wines composed of Bordeaux varietals from around the world; Magnificat was of course amongst their number. Tasting them blind was a fine exercise in testing each of our abilities to nail regional characteristics and styles. The sense I got was that most of us gathered had about 2/3 of the regions picked out correctly. All of the blends tasted were from the 2009 vintage. The regions in play were New Zealend, Bordeaux (Left and Right Banks), Walla Walla Washington, South Africa and of course Napa Valley. I was pretty happy getting 4 out of 6 regions correct. The Magnificat stood out to me immediately probably for a few reasons, not the least of which being I’ve been drinking it consistently since the 90’s.
After the blind tasting we sat down to dinner where we were poured several Franciscan wines. This included the current vintage of Magnificat again, side by side with the 2003. The older vintage was actually darker in color that the 2009. Often at about 10 years old the color starts to morph a bit, but this wine was vibrant in color and flavors. While it certainly has a number of years of enjoyable drinking to come, The 2003 Magnificat is in a really lovely place right now. Secondary characteristics have started to kick in and the fruit flavors are ever so slightly tamed. Earth and espresso bean were prominent on the finish.
The current release is the Franciscan Estate 2009 Magnificat. This vintage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignn (64%), Merlot (26%), Petit Verdot (5%), Cabernet Franc (3%), and Malbec (2%).It was fermented and macerated over a 22 day period. Barrel aging followed over 20 months in French oak; 70% of the barrels were new. Just over 6,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50. Booming, black fruit aromas emerge from the nose of this wine. The flavors are ripe and eager. Blackberry, raspberry and cherry flavors are all in evidence. There’s dark chocolate and chicory on the lengthy finish along with black pepper and a hint of nutmeg and vanilla bean. The 2009 Magnificat does an excellent job of threading the needle. It’s powerful and elegant at the same time. The flavors are big but never over the top and the tannins firm but not overpowering. In short this is an excellent vintage of Magnificat a wine that is one of the standard bearers of Meritage. It’s delicious today but there’s no need to rush, it will certainly drink well for the next 15 years if stored properly.
Tasting the current vintage of Magnificat alongside counterpart wines from around the world, another vintage of Magnificat and several other Franciscan wines throughout the night really helped showcase its beauty. Happy Birthday Magnificat!
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on January 14, 2013
I’ve personally been drinking wines from Napa Valley’s Franciscan Estate Winery since the early 1990’s. In that time they’ve remained a solid player that offers appealing wines sold at consumer friendly prices. Their portfolio has occasionally expanded a bit but they have mostly remained focused on their core offerings. Here’s a look at three current releases that make up a large portion of the backbone of their operation.
The Franciscan Estate 2011 Napa Valley Chardonnay is a 100% varietal wine. All of the fruit comes from the winery’s home appellation of Napa Valley. Barrel aging occurred over 7 months in a combination of French and American oak; 20% of the barrels utilized were new. 74,000 cases of this widely available offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $18. Golden Delicious apple and vanilla bean aromas emerge from the nose of this Chardonnay Orchard fruit and apple pie spice are in abundance throughout the even keeled palate. A bit of crème fraiche leads the crisp finish along with cloves, white pepper and an undercurrent of lemon zest. This is an easy to find Chardonnay that is well made vintage after vintage. If you’re looking for a New World Chardonnay that showcases its appealing fruit flavors this is one to consider.
The Franciscan Estate 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from Napa Valley Fruit. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), small amounts of Merlot (11%), Syrah (3%), and Malbec (1%) were also blended in. Barrel aging took place over a period of 20 months; 25% of the barrels utilized were new. 117,000 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $28. Blackberry and blueberry aromas star on the nose of this 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Loads of dark berry flavors dominate the palate, interspersed with bits of red fruit throughout. Copious spices are present as well and add to the depth and complexity of this eager and appealing Cabernet. Minerals and earth are prominent components of the finish which shows good length for its category. Medium tannins yield with some air. This is a textbook example of a Napa Valley Cabernet that is meant for relatively short term consumption. It’ll hold up over the next 5 or 6 years, but it’s appealing, well priced and perfect to drink now, no reason to wait.
The Franciscan Estate 2008 Magnificat is a Napa Valley Meritage wine. This Bordeaux inspired blend has been produced since the 1985 vintage. The 2008 version blends together Cabernet Sauvignon (69%), Merlot (23%), Petit Verdot (6%), and Malbec (2%). This wine spent 20 months aging in oak; 70% of the barrels utilized were new. Just over 7,000 cases of the 2008 Magnificat were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50. Bramble, red and black raspberry, as well as bits of vanilla bean are present on the nose of this 2008 Meritage. The palate here is studded with sumptuous black fruit flavors, lead by blackberry as well plum and accompanied by a vigorous spice component. Dark chocolate, espresso, earth and black pepper are all in strong evidence on the lengthy and persistent finish of the 2008 Magnificat. This is one of the longest standing and also most consistently excellent Meritage wines coming out of Napa Valley. At $50 a bottle it offers a combination of quality level and relative bang for the buck that is hard to beat. There are similar style blends selling for more than twice the price that can’t touch Magnificat. Whether you purchase it to drink today, or you want to lay it down for a special occasion a decade or so from now, you’re going to get a terrific bottle of wine at a very good price.
The Franciscan wines are standard bearers in Napa Valley. This is producer that makes fairly large quantities of wine that are easy to find all over the country. Their wines also represent a consistent level of quality and offerings that are fairly priced. These wines are well worth your time and money.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah/Shiraz, Wine | Leave a Comment »
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 »
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 »
Posted by Gabe on October 30, 2012
Some of the Diversity I tasted in Chile
Cabernet Sauvignon was king when I first started drinking Chilean wines some 20 years ago. And not just Cabernet in general, but specifically bargain priced Cabernet. Most wine drinking folks I know rifled through bottles of $6 or so Cabernet Sauvignon looking for gems; we found quite a few. And for many people that’s the lingering impression of Chilean Wine. The trouble is it’s no longer a valid image. Sure you can still find a bargain and some of them are Cabernet Sauvignon, but there is so much more Chilean wine on U.S. shelves deserving your attention and your dollars that it would be a real shame to limit yourself. I knew this before I went to Chile last week. So one of my goals in visiting was to verify it and see what they had going on that might be less obvious from 5,000 miles away. So I’ve compiled a handful of strong impressions of Chilean Wines gleamed from the trenches.
- Argentina gets the attention but Chile makes some ass kicking Malbec: It’s Argentina’s signature grape so they should be at the forefront. In some ways they are, the general public thinks about Argentina first for Malbec. Some of them are terrific, but unfortunately way too many examples are made in an overtly fruit forward style with a lackluster body and no finish to speak of. I was a little surprised with the number of Malbecs I got to taste in Chile. While I knew it was there, its presence is larger than I would have guessed. More importantly the ones I tasted where almost all uniformly well made. By and large they were elegant, balanced and well proportioned. Often times they were made from old vine fruit. I hope we start seeing Chilean Malbec on our shelves in reasonable numbers soon.
- Tiers baby: I’ve often written about wineries like Rodney Strong in Sonoma County whose tiered approach to their portfolio is consumer friendly. This is true in a very large percentage of Chilean Wineries. They often have 3 or 4 tiers of wine. Often the entry-level wines retail for around $10 on our shelves and they have a top-level that might reach into the $30’s and $40’s, as well as occasionally higher. In between are wines in the teens and $20’s. What’s remarkable is that there is more often than not quality, value, and diversity to be had at each tier. In Chile wineries that produce what we view as very large quantities of wine often do so at a high level. One of the main reasons for this is simple: estate fruit. By owning the vineyards outright or having fruit under long-term contract they have a say in precisely how the vineyards are maintained. This can (and often does) lead to high quality in the bottle at each price point. The intent of a producer’s $8 Sauvignon Blanc and their $20 one are often quite different as are their appeals and projected end user. But what’s important is getting value regardless of price; in Chile that is often the case.
- There are some delicious small production wines being made: Sure there are lots and lots of excellent Sauvignon Blancs coming from Chile and some tasty Pinot Noirs now too, but that’s not all. I had the opportunity to taste a delicious and marvelously dry Gewürztraminer made by Nimbus (part of the Santa Carolina Family of wines), as well as a lovely sparkling wine from Cono Sur to name a couple. Viognier is making some ripples in Chile too and hopefully before long we’ll see a greater number of them available in the US as well. I’ve mentioned a few whites but the same can be said for reds. More than one example of varietal Petit Verdot I had was lovely as were a couple of tastes of Carignan. In some cases these wines aren’t on our shelves in the US yet, but they’re important to mention for the coming diversity and quality they represent.
- Blends will set Chile apart: Almost every winemaking culture has some blends. In places like Bordeaux they’re everything. In a lot of other places, well quite frankly they’re doing their best to mimic Bordeaux. Certainly Chile works to make great wine and learning lessons from places like Bordeaux or Napa to name two examples is part of the equation. But I also got the very strong sense that Chile is happy to be writing their own rule book when it comes to blends. Sure some of them contain the usual suspects of Bordeaux varietals. However grapes like Carménère that have been marginalized or fallen by the wayside in Bordeaux often steal the show in Chile. Additionally with red blends Syrah often makes a mark too as well as some others. Some of the most impressive wines from Chile I’ve tasted over the last 5 years have been blends. This remained constant on my trip last week where I tasted lots of delicious blends. It’s important to note that with blends like with varietal wines there are values at many price levels.
- Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon can still be a great value: While there are no longer boatloads of awesome deals on $6 Cabernet Sauvignon there are still many deals to be had. Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile when it’s grown in the right spot and treated properly in the winery can blow away a lot of countries on QPR. What I found on this trip is that the Cabernets in the $15-$25 range were particularly noteworthy in terms of value. These are balanced wines that are often perfect for everyday enjoyment as well as drinking over the next few years. At a higher cost there are some truly age-worthy wines. One example was the Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Rita. We tasted both the current release (2009) and a 15 year old bottle (1997). Jameson Fink, a fellow writer who was on the same trip wrote about this particular experience and it’s well worth a read.
- Diversity is King of Chile now: Everywhere we went there was something unique to taste. In some cases it was a Sparkling Rosé made from an almost lost grape. Sometimes it was a Moscato that stunned us all by how lovely and dry it was. On one occasion it was an Old Vine Sauvignon Gris. These are just a couple of examples. Chilean winemakers are experimenting in the vineyards with new farming techniques as well as plantings of new varietals or the reclamation of abandoned old vineyards. In the Winery they’re also experimenting with how they utilize oak, what they blend together and frankly just about every decision they make. What that means to us is we’re going to get to taste a wide swath of different wines from Chile.
In short I was pretty knocked out by what they have going on in Chile. I’ve really enjoyed drinking the wines from there for a long time now. But in 2012 instead of thinking of them for one thing, I think of Chile for an ever widening variety of different varietals, blends and more. Grab some Chilean wines and taste the quality, value and diversity I was lucky enough to witness firsthand.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chardonnay, Chile, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Moscato, Rosé, Sparkling Wine, Wine | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on October 24, 2012
On Property at Viña Vik
In the late 1970’s when Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild where planning Opus One Winery In Napa Valley they had a singular vision; to create one wine that could stand alongside any other in the world in terms of quality and recognition. That’s a monumental undertaking but they had a bit of a head start. The Mondavi Family for their part chipped in with prime vineyards in the heart of Napa Valley as well as significant experience making wine in that very place. The Rothschild’s brought their experience of many years, and both families invested a lot of capital to achieve execute their plan for one great Bordeaux inspired wine.
Norwegian businessman Alexander Vik has gone to Chile with a similar vision; to make one world class wine. Unlike the Opus One Project he started from scratch assembling a team and providing the financial resources. To start the team he assembled visited more than 50 vineyard sites before settling on the land Mr. Vik eventually purchased. In studying the land they were about to purchase they spent a full year with the soils, pulling 6,000 samples. In short he has invested massive resources into this project, a bet of sorts on his vision for greatness. This week I had the opportunity to visit Viña Vik and meet some of the members of his wine-making team.
And what a property it is 4,325 hectares of which 382 are currently planted to vine. The plantings are all high density something which is becoming increasingly popular in Chile. That said the average is currently 4,500 per hectare. Our group was given an extensive tour of the property which is breathtaking in its size and scope as well as the attention to detail being paid to each block of fruit. Each one gets its own tank and its about 15 months after vinification that they begin to work on making a final blend of their wine. We were able to taste the 2009 and 2010 vintages of the finished wine as well as components that are under consideration to be used when they assemble the 2011.
The Viña Vik 2010 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (56%), Carménère (32%), Cabernet Franc (5%), Merlot (4%) and Syrah (3%). It was fermented with native yeasts and spent 23 months in barrel prior to bottling this past April. This wine has a spectacular nose loaded with Cherry and leather characteristics. The palate is layered with depth and complexity to spare. Cherry and hints of black fruits star. This is a juicy and mouth-filling wine with an impressively lengthy finish. It’s a young wine that will benefit from proper cellaring and should have at least 10 years of enjoyable drinking ahead of it. We tasted it several times both by itself in a formal setting and paired with lunch where it had been decanted. When it had the opportunity to showcase itself alongside food it really impressed.
This wine will sell in the U.S. for around $135. There is no question that they have made a wine that should make Chile proud. As the vines gain age, the team learns their property even better, there is a likelihood that future releases will be of even higher quality. Case in point the 2010 vintage was significantly more elegant and noteworthy than the 2009. They are a massive property in the process of building an impressive underground winery and they are making one wine in small boutique quantities. For those willing to spend that sort of cash on a bottle of wine whether it’s to age, drink today or have Chile’s version of a trophy wine in their cellar, there’s no question it’s a very nice wine. I’ll be quite curious to follow their story on a go forward basis to see how they do and how future vintages of this wine turn out. The pieces are in place to win their bet, now we’ll see how the market responds. People love a story and they love to have collectibles, the bet here is that they will be successful.
Posted in Blends, Chile, Winery Visit | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Gabe on September 10, 2012
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the wines I first became familiar with in the Franciscan Estate portfolio back in the 90’s. Soon after enjoying those I looked towards their other releases to see what else they were up to. Eventually that led me to their red blend Magnificat, which is their flagship offering. When I’ve gone back to it from time to time over the years I’ve found it to be a consistently well made wine that represents the best of what the folks at Franciscan are up to. Today I’ll look at the 2007 vintage of this wine.
The Franciscan Estate 2007 Magnificat is a Bordeaux inspired blend. This wine was produced exclusively from fruit sourced in Napa Valley. The blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon (71%), Merlot (26%), Petit Verdot (2%) and Malbec (1%). Fermentation and maceration took place over 22 days. Magnificat was aged over 20 months in oak; 89% of the barrels utilized were new and 82% were French. Just fewer than 22,000 cases of this wine were produced in the 2007 vintage. It has a suggested retail price of $50.
Cherry, and Black Raspberry aromas are the most prominent components on the nose of this 2007 Blend. Hints of Eucalyptus chip in as well. Black cherry characteristics carry through the palate along with bits of blackberry, dusty cocoa and copious quantities of spice as well as a gentle kiss of anise. Dark, dusty chocolate notes emerge on the finish along with minerals and continued spice. This is a well structured wine marked by firm acidity and chewy tannins. It’s a bit on the younger side now so I recommend decanting for drinking over the next couple of years. Otherwise hold it for the next decade or so and be prepared to be rewarded for your patience. The bottom line for me is that the 2007 Magnificat is a particularly fine vintage of a wine that is almost always a winner to begin with. It’s well priced for its category and a very solid choice for a special occasion meal.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Wine | 1 Comment »
Posted by Gabe on September 5, 2012
Benessere Vineyards is a boutique sized winery in Napa Valley that’s also a treasure to those lucky enough to discover it. They produce varietally correct wines sourced from their estate vineyards. The fact that they lean towards Italian varietals such as Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio makes them somewhat unique in the valley. Their property is beautiful and the wines are by and large delicious and fairly priced. Today I’ll look at the current release of Phenomenon, their red Super Tuscan inspired blend.
The Benessere Vineyards 2007 Phenomenon is a proprietary blend. This Napa Valley wine was made entirely from fruit sourced at their Estate Vineyard in St. Helena. Cabernet Sauvignon (49%), Sangiovese (38%), Merlot (11%), and Syrah (2%) were fermented and barrel aged separately. They were then assembled and barrel aged for two additional years prior to release. Just fewer than 500 cases of this offering were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $50.
The nose of this 2007 blend is loaded with dark fruit aromas and spice. Plum and blueberry characteristics lead the way and they’re accompanied by cardamom, clove, cinnamon, and a hint of eucalyptus. The plate of this wine is impressively loaded with a terrific array of expressive flavors that are lead by deep, dark fruit flavors such as black cherry, and plum. Earth, chicory, black tea and continued waves of spice reverberate on the finish which has terrific length. The 2007 Phenomenon is a great example of what a blend should be; each of the varietals comes together seamlessly to form a cohesive unit. This wine is delicious on its own, but really shines when paired with food. Roasted meats and dishes with red sauce will work well as will medium strength cheeses and charcuterie.
Benessere Vineyards did well to release to release this wine when they did. It’s inviting, engaging and ready to drink now. While it’ll certainly continue to improve for a few years and drink well over the next 6-8, it’s delicious and hard to resist right now. So I vote to pop that cork sooner rather than later. And when your travels take you to Napa Valley, be sure to visit this terrific winery.
Posted in Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, Uncategorized, Wine | Leave a Comment »
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 »